Rising joblessness in Europe: thanks for nothing, Brussels.

This piece of mine appears in The Week/The First Post.

Neil Clark: Collapse of SeaFrance and the ban on Iranian oil prove EU bigwigs are dangerously out of touch

YOU MIGHT think that with 23m people out of work in Europe, the EU and its organisations would be doing everything they could to preserve European jobs and help Europe's beleaguered economies. Think again.

This week there have been three examples of how the EU is working against economic recovery.

You can read the whole of the article here.

Fixed 5 Year Term Is A Gimmick.

It is possible the next UK general election will be held in May 2015, but i would not be surprised if it was earlier.The Tories will want to wait until after the parliamentary new boundaries are passed in 2013, but after that I can't see how the Lib Dens can stop Cameron calling an election. Am i missing something? The Lib Dems are flatlining on around 10% in the polls and unlikely to get anywhere near the 23% they got in 2010. So they will want to hang on as long as possible and hope for the best. The Tories however, once they have their new boundaries and have kicked a few million more poor people off the electoral register, will know that even the 36% they got in 2010 will deliver them a majority. This is because it will be very hard for a smaller party like the Libs to re-establish themselves in the radically different and larger new constituencies. The Tories also know that their economic policies and welfare smashing will have done more damage the later they wait. The 10.7m votes they got in 2010 - about 20% of all electors will do fine thank you vy much. This is the problem with fixed terms. They sound great but how can you enforce them. Libs beware. You have sown the seeds of your own and sadly the British public's demise. I also do wonder why the Tories were so scared of a 2014 Scottish referendum?

Scots Will Stop Cameron's Hat Trick.

The economy is the least of the Tory's concerns. Their main aims are defeating voting reform (achieved), fiddling the boundaries to gain a majority (on the way) and stopping the Scots gaining real power (big headache).

Cameron and Osborne's clumsy intervention in trying to bully the SNP to bend to their will is disgraceful and if Alex Salmond has any sense will tell the Tories where to go.

The Tories claim they want a 'fair and legal' referendum. They want the Electoral Commission to run it. I bet they do. After the way the EC ran the AV referendum, I can imagine why. Was the AV referendum fair? The media campaigned almost exclusively for a no and the public could get no impartial information from public sources. Millions, if not a majority of the electorate never received the info mail-out that the EC promised and nowhere - not libraries or anywhere else had any literature to distribute. Add in the poor performance of the Yes campaign and this was the most misinformed and biased referendum in the history of the UK. If that is what the Tories have in store for Scotland, then the Scots should tell them to get stuffed.

The Tories have the cheek to say that Scots will be brainwashed if we don't have the referendum in the nest 18 months and that the SNP should not offer a question on a devolution-lite option that most Scots say they want. These Tory tactis remind me of the AV referendum, how we were denied a choice of voting systems and were brainwashed by the Tory media. But better than this, the Tories are saying they will refuse to accept any referendum that they lose because it is not run on their terms. If Scots vote for more powers or to leave the UK, the Tories plan to challenge the result in the courts. Democracy Tory style eh? Don't you just love it?

Don't believe the myth that Thatcherism 'saved' Britain

With ‘The Iron Lady’ playing at cinemas up and down the country I think its timely to link to this piece of mine from 2009, on the neoliberal myth that Margaret Thatcher 'saved' Britain.

And in case you missed it, here’s Seumas Milne’s great piece on Thatcher’s legacy in last week’s Guardian.

Her government's savage deflation destroyed a fifth of Britain's industrial base in two years, hollowed out manufacturing, and delivered a "productivity miracle" that never was, and we're living with the consequences today.

Vaclav Havel and his legacy: A Czech perspective

 I  received this email from a reader who grew up in the former Czechoslovakia. They've very kindly given me permission to publish it in full here.

Dear Neil,

I just wanted to congratulate you on your article:

I grew up in what was then Czechoslovakia in the 1980s and eventually left Czech Republic in mid-90s with my father. I return regularly, and have seen some of the effects of free market capitalism on the country since then.

Although most of the population under Communism wanted a change, it was mainly a) to be able to govern themselves, and b) to have their individual freedoms - ability to travel abroad for example. These were not economic or social motives.

After the initial celebration following the Velvet Revolution, large sections of the society began to mourn the socio-economic value system under Communism, with the Communist party actually increasing its (now somewhat more genuine) support.

My own father, who left because he was very much a Havel follower in the 70s and 80s and an active anti-Communist now lives in the UK and has changed his outlook, now understanding that what was perceived as completely false propaganda about the west and inequality, poverty and wealth hoarding had a grain of truth in it.

I still respect what Havel has achieved in his pursuit of certain freedoms and rights, which were very much lacking under a Communist regime, however the other side of the story, as you have put it, is rarely told. I hope it will be explored more and I was disappointed to see so many ignorant comments responding to the article. I'm sure you have spoken to other Czech people who told a range of stories and I hope mine is in some way a helpful addition.

Help fight fare rises and push for railway renationalisation

This piece of mine on the shocking rise in Britain’s rail fares, appears on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website.

Neil Clark: The latest price increases show Tory serial privatisers got it very wrong in the 90s. Join the protests to put things right

“Whichever way one looks at it, privatisation is a giant asset-stripping process. It is a very efficient way of taking money out of taxpayers' pockets". Gwyneth Dunwoody, the Labour MP who uttered those words during a debate in parliament on rail privatisation in February 1995, deserves some sort of posthumous New Year honour for calling it exactly right.

While Tory ministers claimed that selling-off the railways would bring "benefits to passengers and taxpayers", and scoffed at opposition concerns, the latest above-inflation price increases in Britain's rail fares – already by far and away the highest in Europe – shows once more that the serial privatisers of John Major's Conservative government got it very, very wrong.

You can read the whole of the article here.