Voice From the Back

The Third Way
The government deplores the forces of conservatism. It detests Old Labour. And now the Home Secretary Jack Straw is a ferocious critic of “woolly-minded” liberals. The only constituency and philosophy that draws its uncritical admiration is business. It was the fact that businesses in Manchester might make losses with the cancellation of the Tyson fight, explained Mr Straw last week, that had decisively influenced his decision to alter the law of the land and admit a convicted rapist. Thus the Labour Party enters its centennial year: as the declared enemy of liberalism and of the use of the state to redistribute wealth; an uncertain custodian of public services, and the firm friend in every circumstance of business, entrepreneurship and profit. Observer, 16 January.

Cause and effect
The rich got richer last week. City bonuses went through the roof, with 2,500 staff at investment bankers, Goldman Sachs sharing £100m in salary top-ups . . . Elsewhere in Britain, 2 million children are living in homes where no one has a job. According to a Joseph Rowntree Foundation study published last Thursday, the first years of a Labour government have done little to close the gap between rich and poor. There are 14 million people living below the poverty line—a line which defines “poor” as having an income of £132 a week. That’s half the national average income. Independent on Sunday, 12 December.

African capitalism
Close to 60 families were left homeless yesterday at Farm No. 1270, Malkerns, owned by Matsapha businessman, Tom Kirk , after their homes were demolished in their presence . . . A strong force of 85 fully armed police officers from Hhohho, Manzini and Operational Support (OSSU) was in full guard to make sure the squatters’ houses were brought down and to counter any resistance . . . A number of grieving families interviewed were very angry with the exercise as they had thought the king was going to save them, after his speech over the weekend when he arrived from the trip to Malaysia and Singapore. The king made a general statement that the evictions of squatters in farms should not be encouraged. From a Swaziland newspaper, 5 August 1999.

The childhood of capitalism
Last week the national security adviser to India’s Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on a goodwill visit to London met Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. He warned them privately of India’s fear of being locked out of vital Western markets because of the country’s heavy dependence on child workers. India is likely to raise the issue with Tony Blair during next weekend’s gathering of heads of Commonwealth governments in South Africa. A few years ago, India’s fireworks industry calculated that employing children saved around 32 million rupees a year in labour costs. A survey of children employed to stitch footballs in Sialkot, Pakistan, revealed that they provided nearly a quarter of their families’ annual earnings. Almost all worked to pay for basic items such as food and clothing. Observer, 7 November.

Giving up
The Samaritans, the organisation which has helped save the lives of thousands of desperate people, has seen an alarming slump in its number of volunteers . . . While fewer people are willing to listen and assist, suicides among young males have increased sharply during the Nineties, claiming the lives of 17 out of every 100,000 young men in 1997. Independent on Sunday, 12 December.

The Utopians
[Amory] Lovins is visiting England to promote his new book, Natural Capitalism: The Next Industrial Revolution. The product of an intense two-year collaboration with his wife, Hunter, and US green business guru Paul Hawken, it attempts to set an agenda for “the next industrial revolution”, based on “capitalism as if living systems mattered”. Earth Matters, Winter 99.

Bleak Christmas
An estimated 4500 children without a permanent roof over their heads face a bleak Christmas, Shelter Scotland claimed yesterday . . . The study reveals between 16,000 and 24,000 children become homeless in Scotland every year, with between 4000 and 4500 living in temporary accommodation at any one time. Domestic violence is the root cause of homelessness for nearly 4000 families every year. The Herald, 16 December.

Religion still pays
He was the mastermind behind the cynical marketing ploy that gave the world Death brand cigarettes. Now BJ Cunningtham is lighting up the soul of business. He is among the young entrepreneurs bringing back religion to the boardrooms, with executives keen to prove that profit and principle can mix. The trend has taken root in the US and there are signs that a wave of spirituality is spreading to the UK . . . Californian hippie Walter Cruttenden, who runs E*Offering, an internet business that brings ethical companies to the stock market is one example of the new spiritual entrepreneur. A follower of mystic Paramahansa Yogananda, he gets up at 4.30am each day for meditational yoga . . .”I come out of meditation with a clear idea of how to solve a business problem.” Financial Mail on Sunday, 9 January.

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