My exclusive interviews with people you may have heard of…
When I meet Loach at Sixteen Films’ office, a creaky old building on Wardour Street with Lilliputian wooden-beamed ceilings and warm white walls studded with posters of past glories from the director’s distinguished career, he is happy to sit still for twenty minutes. But behind his measured, methodical speech, that energy and passion remain. For Loach is helping to found a new political party – Left Unity – in answer to the political vacuum that has existed in Britain for decades.
Chavs author, Independent writer and Labour activist Owen Jones talked to Salman Shaheen about the People’s Assembly and the prospects for resistance to austerity. If the People’s Assembly could be summarised in a word, it would be optimism. From the opening speeches it crackled, infusing enthused activists with the idea that austerity – a failure both in terms of restoring growth to the economy and protecting society’s most vulnerable – could be defeated with united action from the left.
Opposition member of Parliament Catherine McKinnell is the Shadow Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury. If Labour win the next election, McKinnell could be the UK’s next minister for tax and her ideas on transparency and tackling avoidance in the UK and abroad may take global tax policy in a bold new direction. Salman Shaheen talks to McKinnell about where she believes the government is going wrong and what she would do differently.
Margaret Hodge, Chairman of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC), hauled Google, Amazon and Starbucks over the hot coals for avoiding UK taxes. She tells Salman Shaheen how transparency measures such as country-by-country reporting and FATCA can be used to ensure companies pay their fair share of tax and calls for HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to step up its game.
Natalie Bennett was elected leader of the Green Party of England and Wales earlier this month. Salman Shaheen talks to her about her priorities, the future of the party and how she hopes to make it a more radical and national force than ever before.
Clare Short, chair of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and former UK Secretary of State for International Development, tells International Tax Review about her efforts to introduce country-by-country reporting and how the EITI’s model of transparency could be expanded to other sectors.
As the Labour leadership contest enters its final leg, party members will be receiving their ballots in the post today. But while the national media is zooming in on a two-horse race between the two Milibands – one the candidate of continuity, the other of modest change – The Third Estate talks to Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, sofa star of This Week and the only contender for Brown’s vacant throne offering genuine left-wing reform.
Michael Meacher, former UK Minister of State for the Environment under Tony Blair, stepped up the fight against tax avoidance in the House of Commons last month with his general anti-tax avoidance principle (GATAP) Bill. Salman Shaheen talks to the Labour Member of Parliament about his campaign and how it is gaining momentum.
It can’t be easy, being the leader of Britain’s third major political party. Caught between a disintegrating New Labour and a resurgent Conservative Party waiting for its coronation, convincing the British public that what you have to say can make a difference to their lives is an uphill struggle from the start. In an exclusive interview with Salman Shaheen, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg sets out his vision for change.
Walking through security at Portcullis House, the fabulously expensive building standing adjacent to the Houses of Parliament, is a bit like going through any airport anywhere in the world. But making your way through the spacious courtyard, past green trees and sun-dappled water features under the enormous sparkling glass dome towering overhead, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is still the seat of power of a great empire. The man I’m here to see, however, is one of the country’s most vocal critics of imperialism. George Galloway rises from his computer to shake my hand as I enter his office. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he says. I remind him we met once before when he came to destroy a pro-war American politician at the Cambridge Union many years ago. “You’re far too young to say that,” he laughs.
I’m a Guardian reader. Middle-class, well educated, long-haired and liberal, I don’t exactly dispel the stereotypes associated with the paper whose readers think they ought to run the country. Nor, as one of those lefty, anti-war, environmentalist types who grew up worrying about the state of the world, should it come as any surprise that the Guardian columnist I’ve always had the most time for is George Monbiot. And with the state of the world looking more worrying than ever, in the midst of an economic crisis and on the verge of an environmental one, it’s only natural that the fifth in my series of interviews for The Third Estate should be with the man who made print journalism and saving the world seem an attractive career path to me. So, on the eve of the most crucial climate change conference the planet has ever seen, as world leaders struggle to implement a strategy to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2C, I caught up with the author-activist to ask him for some happy news.
It’s that time of year again. The silly season has ended, Parliament is getting ready to return from recess and, with swine flu beginning to look like a fuss about not very much and the worst of the recession said to be over, the British media is beginning to turn its attention to the party conferences. The buzzword this year is cuts. Labour, Tory and Lib Dem alike are at pains to explain how best to slash the country’s budget deficit, walking a tightrope of public expectations over a media circus. Against the fanfare and furore of the big three scrambling to shore up their support, however, there’s one party that often goes overlooked. On the back of their best results in twenty years, the Greens are on the rise and optimistic about their chances. Coming out of their last conference before next year’s general election, I caught up with their leader, Caroline Lucas MEP, and grilled her on the big issues, from the party’s future to their more controversial policies and just why she disagrees with James Lovelock.
To many of my generation, who were born in Thatcher’s Britain and whose politics were shaped by the stark reminder one morning in September 2001 that history was far from over, Tony Benn is a hero. It was another left-wing icon, Bob Dylan, who described a hero as “someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.” And whether he’s speaking to two million people in Hyde Park on the largest demonstration in British history, to a packed out Left Field every year at Glastonbury, or to one interviewer for The Third Estate, Tony Benn – a former cabinet minister under Wilson and Callaghan who retired from Parliament to “spend more time involved in politics” – has always known what that responsibility is. To inspire. Perhaps that’s too strong a term for a man of Benn’s unassuming humility. But to encourage? “If anybody asked me what I want on my gravestone, I would like ‘Tony Benn, he encouraged us’,” he once said. And in this dark climate, amidst war and recession, occupation, terrorism and environmental destruction, Tony Benn was kind enough to talk to me about the future of the Labour Party, about Afghanistan and Iraq, and to give me a few words of encouragement.
There’s a bit in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan where the eponymous character starts paraphrasing Moby Dick. “I’ll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before I give him up!” he cries. Tracking down comedian Mark Steel can be a bit like that. Between appearances on shows like QI, Have I Got News For You and Mock the Week, and his stand-up performances, including this year’s Mark Steel’s In Town broadcast on Radio 4 from the more obscure parts of Britain, it’s hardly surprising he has a somewhat hectic schedule. But, in the wake of the disastrous European Elections, Steel was kind enough to talk to me about that perennially gloomy topic, the state of the Left today, and the few rays of light he’s seen.
Friends, lefty bloggers, socialists, I’ve got a guilty secret. I’ve been actively campaigning for the Green Party in the upcoming European Elections on June 4th. It’s been a difficult time for me politically. With the split in Respect, the failure of John McDonnell and the Labour left to leave a scratch on the New Labour hegemony and the absence of that new mass party of the working class that’s been promised for so long, I’ve found myself in search of a new political home. To a lot of people on the left, the Greens are, unfairly I think, still perceived as a soft option, a middle-class environmentalist party first with a few social policies tacked on. This is an image that many in the Green Party are seeking to shake off, and none more so than a certain human rights activist who stood for Labour in 1983, stood up to Mugabe in 1999 and wouldn’t stand for homophobia or hypocrisy when it came to The Pogues in 2007. In a Third Estate exclusive, I quizzed Peter Tatchell on what makes the Green Party much more than just a green party, their prospects for the future and why they are the only thing standing between Nick Griffin and the European Parliament.