Monday, 13 June 2016
Tim Martin (pictured), Chairman of J D Wetherspoon PLC, stopped off in Oldham last Wednesday, while on a visit to some of his pubs in Greater Manchester.
Born in Belfast and brought-up in New Zealand, Mr Martin has recently attracted a great deal of media attention for the way in which he has used his in-house corporate magazine, ‘Wetherspoon News’, and even 200,000 beer mats, to persuade his army of customers to vote ‘out’ in the forthcoming EU referendum on 23 June.
As the Chairman and sole founder of JD Wetherspoon, it cannot be said that the mullet-haired, Mr. Martin, hides his light under a bushel. Although a Daily Mail reader for 40-years and an ardent ‘Brexiteer’, - like the Mail - he used his “Tim’s Viewpoint” column in Autumn 2015, to attack Jonathan Harmsworth, alias ViscountRothermere, the influential proprietor of the Mail, for “breath-taking hypocrisy” after he wrote that Rothermere lived as a tax exile in France.
The spat between Martin and the Mail occurred after he became irked by an article written by Mail City editor, Alex Brummer, who wrote:
“Tim Martin of JD Wetherspoon is throwing down the gauntlet to rivals with the 99p coffee to be sold at each of his 880 pubs with free refills. The price of breakfasts is also being slashed by 20 per cent. Coffee served with the fine aroma of stale beer and urine by workers on zero hour contracts. Such fun.”
No doubt this criticism is a little unfair and as a Wetherspoon customer myself, this is not a picture that I recognise. But the point about zero hour contracts is fair comment and it went unchallenged. To be sure, many of the staff who work for Wetherspoon, are on zero hour contracts and have been paid the minimum wage. It is also a fact, that if the multi-millionaire Mr Martin, would have had his way, staff working for Wetherspoon, would not have had the ‘National Living Wage’ pay increases in April. The Chairman of JD Wetherspoon PLC has been one of the most vocal and vociferous opponents of the National Living Wage and it is rumoured that in order to cut costs, staff are already having their hours cut. According to ‘This is Money.Co.Uk’, in September 2015, Wetherspoon’s pre-tax profits fell 25.1% to £58.7m for 52 weeks to July 26, down from £79.4m the previous year. Wetherspoon also announced they were putting 34 pubs up for sale.
The latest issue of Wetherspoon News, Summer 2016, (“READ BY 2 MILLION CUSTOMERS”), is an EU Referendum Special and Mr Martin’s rant against Britain’s membership of the EU. Mr Martin clearly thinks that something called the ‘UK’, would be better off out of the European Union, which presupposes that all of us, who live and work in the UK, have the same identical interests, both socially and economically. Martin wheels out and quotes various businessmen such as Michael O’Leary of Ryanair and Willy Walsh of British Airways, to support the economic case for opting out of the EU, when he must surely know, as he almost concedes himself, that nobody can be really certain how leaving the EU would affect the British economy. Carolyn McCall, CEO of ‘EasyJet’, is on record as saying that a Brexit would raise the cost of foreign travel and that Britain’s influence inside Brussels, was essential to minimise disruption and administration between countries. However, Mr Martin’s chief crib against the EU is that he believes that it is fundamentally undemocratic (so is the British House of Lords and many other bodies) and that by voting ‘Leave’, we can take back control and be as “Mega-successful” as America. He also believes that democracy is the biggest protection against war and that “democracy, prosperity and freedom, are inextricably linked.”
While Martin believes that democracy is deeply enshrined in the American constitution, he overlooks the fact that the U.S. in order to further its own imperialist aims and objectives, instigated a CIA backed coup in 1973 to topple Dr Salvador Allende, the democratically elected leader of Chile, and has waged wars, against numerous countries, since then and before, in order to install US puppet regimes. Indeed, in spite of all the talk of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘taking back control’, many people look on countries in Europe, such as England, as mere vassal states of the US - a place where the US flies its B52 bombers from to invade countries like Grenada. It also seems to escape Mr Martin’s attention that one country, China, which is now one of the most powerful economies in the world, is neither democratic or free, even though, it may be prosperous for some people. Incidentally, forty-six million people in the US live below the poverty line and more than a quarter, earn what are officially classified as “poverty-level wages.” Last year, the OECD, also said that the share of UK economic growth enjoyed by workers, was now at its lowest level since the second world war.
In his rant against the EU, Martin refers to the visit by US President Barack Obama who wants Britain to stay in Europe because he thinks it serves American interests to have the British, playing the role of a fifth column, against a more social market orientated Europe, instead of a more neoliberal Europe. One of the purposes of Obama’s recent visit to England, was to talk about TTIP – which Martin does not refer to in his article - the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Under TTIP, there is what is called the ‘Investor State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS), that would allow corporations to sue national governments if their policies cause a loss of profits. TTIP did not originate within the EU but is the invention of corporate lobbyists, as the ‘Euro’, is said to have been the brain-child of the secretive ‘Bilderberg Group', and if it were adopted, it would mean that un-elected transnational corporations could dictate the policies of democratically elected governments. Although some European countries have expressed disquiet about the ISDS, the British Tory government have written to the EU commission demanding that it stay in as part of TTIP. So much for sovereignty and retaining control! And leaving the EU, would mean many more TTIP type agreements being negotiated by the British government who are fully behind TTIP.
I suppose it is a truism to say that whatever way you vote, whether it is in a General Election or a referendum for staying in the EU, the capitalists always get in. Never the less, I favour the ‘REMAIN’ camp because I don’t care for the alternative of a more insular, nationalistic, xenophobic, pull-up-your-drawbridge, conservative little England. I think it is reasonably certain that a BREXIT would be bad for the British economy and would lead to a further independence vote in Scotland, as the Scots – who want to remain in the EU – would not want to be saddled with an England out of the EU. A Brexit could also have a domino effect that could have serious consequences. Already, we are seeing the rise of right-wing nationalist populism across Europe – Jobbik, in Hungry, PiS, in Poland, Front National, in France, Slovakia’s, far-right ‘People’s Party’, and the ‘Attack Movement’ in Bulgaria. It is also known that Russian money is being loaned to many anti-EU parties as Vladimir Putin, would like to see the break-up of the EU and NATO alliance. A vote for BREXIT will almost certainly lead to Cameron losing the leadership of the Conservative Party and being replaced by another leader, possibly, the half-witted public school boy, Boris Johnson, and the likelihood of even more Conservative governments in Britain.
Of course, this is not how Mr. Martin sees it. He would do well to read Adam Smith’s, ‘The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’, written in 1776. He is often quoted highly selectively, because much of what he says in his book, makes uncomfortable reading for some. In the book Smith says:
“Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or those who have some property against those who have none at all.” And,
“Any proposal of law or regulation that comes from manufacturers ought always to be listened to with great suspicion. They have an interest in deceiving the publick and even to oppress the publick.”