The food blogger Jack Monroe has joined the Green party. Photo: YouTube screengrab
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The Greens welcome Jack Monroe and other new members for seeing through "phoney migration rhetoric"

The chef and campaigner who once appeared in a Labour campaign video has joined the Greens.

Labour is engaged in wars on several fronts, and, like the Conservatives, is strategically figuring out where voters are going, and what it is that they need to do or say to tempt them back. They seem to have concluded that if Ukip is the problem, then a tough line on immigration – rather than anything else – must be the solution.

In running a direct mail campaign in North East London, they appear to be targeting white, working-class voters with a four-page leaflet ostensibly about health. One section though, has the toxic heading “Labour’s tough new approach to immigration.”

Today, one former party member and activist has said that it is this direction in which Labour are heading that has resulted in her not feeling able to support them any longer. In doing so, food blogger and campaigner Jack Monroe has risked raising the ire of a fair few powerful Labour PR people who will consider her defection a snub, and not a little embarrassing, too.

As the Green immigration spokesperson I am pleased to welcome anyone to the party who shares our ideals, and can see the phony rhetoric over migration for what it is: simple fear-mongering.

Our two largest parties continue to disseminate a “drawbridge” message by instilling a reputation for the UK as somewhere that even skilled people and bright, foreign-born students aren’t welcome. Well done, Jack Monroe – and every other new member of the Green Surge – for rejecting this approach.

The UK is an attractive destination for people who come to our shores to work, study or join their partner. Our historical ties and reputation for defending human rights have also made the UK a destination for desperate people seeking sanctuary and freedom from warfare, oppression and political persecution – a reputation that those parties have sought to undermine. Unfortunately, in the time left before the general election we will hear more negative rhetoric about migration in a contest to see who is toughest and most divisive. I am proud to say that the Greens will not be joining this depressing contest.

Jean Lambert is a Green MEP for London and tweets @GreenJeanMEP

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BHS is Theresa May’s big chance to reform capitalism – she’d better take it

Almost everyone is disgusted by the tale of BHS. 

Back in 2013, Theresa May gave a speech that might yet prove significant. In it, she declared: “Believing in free markets doesn’t mean we believe that anything goes.”

Capitalism wasn’t perfect, she continued: 

“Where it’s manifestly failing, where it’s losing public support, where it’s not helping to provide opportunity for all, we have to reform it.”

Three years on and just days into her premiership, May has the chance to be a reformist, thanks to one hell of an example of failing capitalism – BHS. 

The report from the Work and Pensions select committee was damning. Philip Green, the business tycoon, bought BHS and took more out than he put in. In a difficult environment, and without new investment, it began to bleed money. Green’s prize became a liability, and by 2014 he was desperate to get rid of it. He found a willing buyer, Paul Sutton, but the buyer had previously been convicted of fraud. So he sold it to Sutton’s former driver instead, for a quid. Yes, you read that right. He sold it to a crook’s driver for a quid.

This might all sound like a ludicrous but entertaining deal, if it wasn’t for the thousands of hapless BHS workers involved. One year later, the business collapsed, along with their job prospects. Not only that, but Green’s lack of attention to the pension fund meant their dreams of a comfortable retirement were now in jeopardy. 

The report called BHS “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. It concluded: 

"The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. 

“The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners.”

May appears to agree. Her spokeswoman told journalists the PM would “look carefully” at policies to tackle “corporate irresponsibility”. 

She should take the opportunity.

Attempts to reshape capitalism are almost always blunted in practice. Corporations can make threats of their own. Think of Google’s sweetheart tax deals, banks’ excessive pay. Each time politicians tried to clamp down, there were threats of moving overseas. If the economy weakens in response to Brexit, the power to call the shots should tip more towards these companies. 

But this time, there will be few defenders of the BHS approach.

Firstly, the report's revelations about corporate governance damage many well-known brands, which are tarnished by association. Financial services firms will be just as keen as the public to avoid another BHS. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said that the circumstances of the collapse of BHS were “a blight on the reputation of British business”.

Secondly, the pensions issue will not go away. Neglected by Green until it was too late, the £571m hole in the BHS pension finances is extreme. But Tom McPhail from pensions firm Hargreaves Lansdown has warned there are thousands of other defined benefit schemes struggling with deficits. In the light of BHS, May has an opportunity to take an otherwise dusty issue – protections for workplace pensions - and place it top of the agenda. 

Thirdly, the BHS scandal is wreathed in the kind of opaque company structures loathed by voters on the left and right alike. The report found the Green family used private, offshore companies to direct the flow of money away from BHS, which made it in turn hard to investigate. The report stated: “These arrangements were designed to reduce tax bills. They have also had the effect of reducing levels of corporate transparency.”

BHS may have failed as a company, but its demise has succeeded in uniting the left and right. Trade unionists want more protection for workers; City boys are worried about their reputation; patriots mourn the death of a proud British company. May has a mandate to clean up capitalism - she should seize it.