Dr Rory Ridley-Duff

Support for the thinking business

In the Press

Please find below letters recently published by broadsheet newspapers in the UK, and a few web-blog contributions.  Click the headline to read the letter:

Ending Barclays' tax avoidance (18th February 2011)

Extending the 'right to buy' (16th Dec 2010)

Scandal of the Irish bail-out (23rd Nov 2010)

Preparing for the next meltdown? (18th Oct 2010)

Cable heralds a new economy (29th Sept 2010)

Tax the casino capitalists (14th May 2010)

Making a balls up of co-operative policy (24th Feb 2010)

New alignment in British politics (25th Nov 2009)

The case against Rover (14th Sept 2009)

BA and sharing risk (18th June 2009)

Victory for cooperativism? (30th May 2009)

Sweep away the party political system (12th May 2009)

Does feminism discriminate against men? (14th Aug 2008)

Diana inquest verdict (2nd April 2008)

Discussed by the Press

Your desk or mine? (Sunday Times

Cooperatives: a model solution? (Personnel Review)  

Major project to provide insights into Pakistani culture (Sheffield Hallam News Archive)

New social enterprise model rules adopt 'surplus sharing philosophy (PrLog)

New course teaches organisations how to run Cameron's coops (Social Enterprise Live)

Ending Barclays' Tax Avoidance

In light of the most recent revelations that Barclays Bank believes it is acceptable to pay only 2.5% corporation tax on its earnings, can I request that MPs sponsor a private bill?  This new bill would allow taxpayers in this country (individually or collectively) to apply to the courts to remove the 'legal person' status of an incorporated organisation if it pays less tax (as a % of its earnings) than a basic rate tax payer.  Charities would be exempt.
The Act can empower the courts to grant other legal and natural persons a right to recover the balance owed and transfer it to named local authorities, government departments, charities, industrial and provident societies (IPS) or community interest companies (CIC).  Secondly, without 'legal person' status, a corporation cannot own property.  The courts, therefore, can accept applications to transfer property to the value of the balance owned to incorporated organisations that pay tax at the same (or greater) rate as a basic rate tax payer.  This way, the vast amounts of tax owed by out-of-control corporations (25.5% of earnings in the case of Barclays) can be allocated by taxpayers to the public services, social enterprises and socially responsible businesses worthy of their support.
What better way to breath life back into the concept of the Big Society?
- Open letter to National Newspaper Editors, 19th February 2011


Extending the 'right to buy'

As edited by The Independent

The new rights announced by Eric Pickles giving social enterprises, mutuals, co-operatives, charities and community groups the "right to buy" local assets (or run a local service) is a clear indicator of this government's support for a social economy.

Why is this right not extended to the private sector? There are a great many private businesses that fail to survive the retirement of their founders, or which fail to survive insolvency proceedings, because business advisers and insolvency practitioners never consider the mutualisation of assets under the control of the workforce.

This government has set itself on a course to embrace worker co-operatives as an instrument of public policy. If it pursues this course only in the public sector then it will be creating an uneven playing field that prevents fair competition.

The integrity of the Coalition Government is at stake if it fails to legislate on this issue to allow worker co-operatives to take over insolvent firms, with the same rights to prepare business plans, and with sufficient time to secure finance.

The Independent, 16th December 2010.

NOTE: The sentences in bold (below) were cut by The Independent

If it pursues this course only in the public sector then it will be creating an 'uneven playing field' that prevents fair competition.  If cooperatives, mutuals and charities are able to bid for public assets, they must also be free (under the rules of fair competition) to bid for private assets.  Anything else would be an indefensible privileging of the private sector over the public sector.  The integrity of the coalition government is at stake if it fails to legislate on this issue and allow worker co-operatives to take over insolvement firms, with the same rights to prepare business plans and have sufficient time to secure finance.  If the government is serious about protecting and creating jobs, it will waste no time extending this policy to the private sector in order to stimulate the development of the social economy.

Scandal of the Irish bail-out

How much longer must the public wait for politicians to defend their interests against international capital? Each time capital interests use speculative trading to force another "bail-out" of a financial or state institution, it is taxpayers who foot the bill. Each bail-out results in a massive transfer of wealth from hard-pressed working people to state and corporate interests (report, 22 November).

Until governments co-ordinate their policies to tax financial and currency speculation out of existence (and use the tax revenues to reimburse the public), we will continue to see the destruction and subversion of our democratic institutions.

We should be in no doubt that each and every attempt to subvert nation states and force their submission to international capital interests is a political war against our elected governments and an economic war against working people.

If EU governments are unable to defend us against international capital, we will have no other choice but to take direct action against those failing governments and out-of-control banks.

The Independent, 23rd November 2010


Preparing for the next meltdown?

The world financial system was brought to the brink of meltdown by allowing financial institutions to give large loans to people who were not in a position to pay them back. And now we learn that a new proposal is to be laid before Parliament to reform the university system by ... er ... forcing a generation of young people to take out loans of £30,000-£40,000 to pay for their education, in the expectation that many will never be in a position to pay them back. This, we are told, is "progressive".

The Independent, 18th October 2010

Cable heralds a new economy

All credit to Vince Cable for challenging out-of-touch bankers, calling into question the credibility of capitalism, and responding to false claims about Marxism. A new generation of co-operative and social entrepreneurs have been laying the foundations for a new economic system for at least 30 years. These are starting to transform local and regional economies, and it is now only a matter of time before they start to transform national and international economies.

New social and financial institutions are starting to change the social norms for investing and trading, both locally and internationally, and within a generation these will challenge both capitalist and state-socialist forms of socio-economic development.

So, Vince Cable is not alone. Nor does he need to apologise to the CBI. He is among many people entering a brave new world, joining an intellectual alliance in support of a new type of entrepreneurship that develops a social (rather than a private or public) economy. Social and community co-operatives, fair-trade organisations, community-interest companies, venture philanthropists and social investors are working together in a broad alliance to grow enterprises while the private and public sectors decline.

The CBI can whinge all it likes, but it is time for it to accept that capitalist business models are as much in decline as state welfare models.

The Independent, 29th September 2010

Tax the casino capitalists

Both David Cameron and Gordon Brown have nailed their political colours to the mast. They agree that any person who is currently getting public money, and who refuses to contribute to the economy, should lose access to public funds. I like the policy, but it is targeted at the wrong people.

Casino capitalists contribute nothing of value to our economy. Speculators trade shares worth more than the global economy every single day. There is an army of investment brokers doing no productive work whatsoever and we are now supporting them through a massive public subsidy. Let's target them instead of cutting public (or private) sector jobs. Not only will this be much more fun, it makes more economic sense and will rapidly reduce government debts.

Make the investment banking industry an offer it would be unwise to refuse: invest in manufacturing capacity or pay off global debts.

Employees who participate in a share incentive plan normally have to wait three years before they can receive benefits from their shareholding without paying any tax. There is also a cap of £3,000 per year on this benefit. Let's level the playing field and apply this to investment banking. If a broker suggests a speculative investment (including currency speculation) in excess of £3,000 value, and the purchase is held for less than three years, the broker (like the employee) must pay a 20 per cent tax on the value of the transaction.

Targeting brokers, like targeting drug dealers, makes sense. Better to punish the supplier than the addict.

The Independent, 14th May 2010

Making a balls up of co-operative policy

The emergence of employee-ownership and co-operatives as a theme in Conservative Party election policy is a curious but welcome development. Labour, and particularly Ed Balls, would do well to review the intellectual sources underpinning the Conservative position, as they expose the intellectual weakness of New Labour's leadership on the issue of co-operative economics and participatory democracy.

However, if the argument for employee and co-operative ownership is so good, why is the policy only being suggested for public sector institutions? Why is David Cameron not championing this for the banks (as Mutuo are doing)? Why is he not arguing for workers to have a right to take over insolvent companies (as happens in Argentina and Venezuela)? Why is he not championing employee-ownership as a business succession policy (as both the Employee Ownership Association and Cooperatives UK argue)?

The UK is one of only four EU countries without co-operative law: an appalling indictment of a government that includes Cooperative Party MPs. Hopefully, the current news story will move them to action. New Labour need a credible position on this issue rather than a lame and unprepared response by Ed Balls.

The Independent, 24th February 2010.

New alignment in British politics

It seems that the a new alignment in British politics is emerging before our eyes. In less than a generation, mutual and employee-ownership has not just swept the ranks of the radical left and right with its logic, but also the mainstream ranks of the Labour, Tory and Liberal Democratic political parties.

It is heartening that workplace democracy, based on the assumption that a workforce should own and control the services and products it delivers to the marketplace, is finally emerging as the business form of choice. Making it work in practice, however, will take a generation of learning and refinement.

The implications of such a transformation in organizational thinking has not yet been fully thought through. It will necessarily require a radical rethinking of business school education: co-owners cannot be managed using the employment laws or planning systems designed for multinational companies. Nor can entrepreneur-centred financial and business support services be easily reapplied to institutions based on cooperative entrepreneurship. These too need to be replaced by new institutions.

A new era is upon us, based on the cooperative and mutual business principles that were lost from our culture in the early C20. Patience, it seems, really is a virtue.

Respublica, 25th November 2009.

The case against Rover

If ever there was a case to justify wholesale reform of our business culture, that case is Rover. That no Rover executive broke the law is irrelevant. Company and employment law is currently designed to legalise theft from the workforce, in the same way the MPs' expenses system was designed to legalise theft from the taxpayer.

The Government missed its chance to radically reform our business culture when it gave into pressure during the Company Law Review, 2000. We must now press all political parties to end "shareholder interest" as the dominant arrangement, and build on EU laws that have introduced works councils. Shareholder boards can retain their role raising investment in money markets, and play a partner role in strategic management, but the time to take democratic control over remuneration and conditions of employment has come.

We have much to learn from the most profitable, productive and accountable organisations in Europe – the members of the Mondragon Co-operative Corporation. For the past 30 years, they have limited executive pay by asking the workforce (at a local level) what is acceptable as a ratio between the highest and lowest paid within each company. The ratio of 6:1 has been stable for almost 30 years, and can only be modified by a further vote involving each workforce. Only once has an executive group run a campaign to overturn this arrangement, and the proposal was defeated in all but one of the 150 or so member businesses. The message went out loud and clear that if executives want to earn more, they must increase the remuneration of the lowest paid within the company.

Such workplace reforms do more to tackle social exclusion and poverty, and close the pay gap between rich and poor, than all the government schemes and initiatives introduced during the reign of the New Labour government.

The Independent, 14th September 2009

BA and sharing risk

If British Airways’s management wants to share the risks of getting through the economic downturn (report, June 16) it should compensate staff for that risk.  By issuing new share options, staff would get a bonus each time the company is profitable and retain the option of recovering their lost salary at a later date by selling their shares at a better price when the market recovers.  Share the risk; share the benefits.

The Telegraph, 18th June 2009

Victory for cooperativism?

Much as I am saddened by the sporting loss of Manchester United to Barcelona (United fold without a fight, Sport, 28 May), I am hearted by another victory for co-operative ownership and social enterprise over private sector capitalism. Will historians record this as a turning point in our economic history? Will Francis Fukuyama be forced to revise his thesis on the "end of history"? Barcelona's supporter-owned football club stands as an inspiration to co-operative entrepreneurs and social enterprises around the world.

Guardian, 30th May 2009

Sweep away the party political system


The row over MPs’ expenses (reports and letters, May 11) highlights the need to do much more than reform the expenses system. We need to sweep away the party political system that has led to a culture of “entitlement” and advance a new system with MPs who take no whip, no party loyalties, who are elected for their free-thinking spirit and intelligence, and who collaborate on a case-by-case basis depending on the merits of any potential legislation.

Britain was the first to introduce a system of parliamentary democracy based on multiparty politics. Why abandon that pioneering spirit? Let it also be the first to introduce a parliamentary system where MPs depend on public (not party or parliamentary) support to win their seats in the House. The irony is that we already have a system that can bring this about. All it would take is for the public to refuse to vote for any candidate who belongs to a political party, and to choose among the remaining candidates on the basis of what they say during any election campaign.

The Times, 12th May 2009

Does feminism discriminate against men?

(Book Review by Mary Evan of Warren Farrell's new book for Oxford University Press)

As a university lecturer who has also taught and written on Equal Opportunities issues, I could not disagree more with the views of Mary Evans about this book. It is a welcome and overdue addition to the literature on gender relations and sex discrimination.

Warren Farrell is one of the foremost liberal thinkers in the men's movement for equality, and in this book his arguments are pitted against those of James Sterba, with input from over a dozen established feminist academics.

The organisation of the book is excellent: both Farrell and Sterba use the same chapter titles to construct their arguments on key topics. This is a useful approach that enables both lecturer and student to study arguments and counter-arguments on a series of contentious issues. The writing style is accessible, and also supported with appropriate academic references.

The value of this book is that for three decades, a men's movement for sexual equality has been gathering and organising arguments for progressive change. In many cases, their arguments are an evolution of, rather than a challenge to, feminist ideas on equality that developed in the 1960s. Despite this, a power shift in the late 1960s radicalised the women's movement and debate shifted (unconsciously?) away from advancing "equal rights" to advancing "women's rights". The radicalisation of the feminist movement blocked the dissemination of Farrell's work in the mass media (although he has been able to publish six books and develop a strong following for his work). 

When I started presenting academic papers exploring Farrell's perspectives, it quickly became apparent that antipathy to Farrell's work was mostly based on prejudice and not careful reading of his work. This book is, therefore, ground-breaking as it marks a point where alternative equality arguments are considered serious enough to warrant serious discussion amongst contemporary feminists. 

For those with an interest in philosophy, this book represents a stage in a Kuhnian paradigm shift (a stage where new theoretical arguments are becoming so influential that they can no longer be ignored or disparaged). For this reason, I encourage all lecturers with an interest in gender relations / social science to examine this book and consider its value as a core text to reinvigorate the teaching of gender relations. 

Times Higher, 14th August 2008

Diana inquest verdict

I have followed the Diana inquest closely and been absorbed by the contradictory evidence. I simply cannot accept that the coroner has any right to withdraw from the jury the opportunity to find that she was "unlawfully killed" by a third party. While I can appreciate that no evidence to implicate the Duke of Edinburgh has emerged, there certainly is evidence for unlawful killing by a third party other than the paparazzi or Henri Paul. As Michael Mansfield QC has repeated throughout, it is for the jury to determine the truthfulness or otherwise of the evidence. The jury will now not be able to pass their verdict on the contradictions in the evidence surrounding Henri Paul's postmortem, Diana's engagement and pregnancy, the claims of her friends, employees and family, or the less than convincing evidence of the security service and police officers, who failed to provide relevant evidence to the coroner at the earliest opportunity.

Guardian, 2nd April 2008