Archive for the ‘Disability’ Category

Ian Lavery on the Need for Working Class Labour MPs

February 27, 2021

This is another excellent article from Labour Outlook, whose messages I stand solidly behind. Lavery’s a member of the socialist group of Labour MPs. In this piece, he describes how Labour lost its traditional heartlands, the very communities in which the party was born, because it no longer represented them. This was because a professional political class had developed, very few whose of members were working class. It was also because of the attitude within New Labour that the working class could be ignored and taken for granted because they had nowhere else to go. As a result, many of Labour’s traditional supporters either stayed home, or voted for others. They felt betrayed by Labour’s stance on Brexit and alienated by the ’90s socially liberal legislation. I am particularly impressed with the two final paragraphs, which run

But there is more to it that just that. Labour representatives cannot focus group their way to a better society. We need people with the heart and instincts that can only come from the bitter sting of personal experience. Parliament is desperately short of people who have claimed benefits, gone through life with disabilities or struggled day in day out in bad employment. This past year we have seen key workers carry the country on their backs, yet the green benches are sadly lacking in them too. We desperately need people with this experience to rebuild our country.

Labour has a history of promoting positive discrimination and it has an even longer history of championing the cause of working people. It is time that we remember our roots and embrace protected places for working class candidates throughout of our movement. If we do not trust in the power of people from our heartlands, why should they ever again put their trust in us?

I think Lavery is absolutely right. The Tories have been able, unfortunately, to position themselves as the real champions of the working class partly because they are able to reflect genuine working class concerns, though often in a crudely distorted form and with simplistic, deeply unjust solutions. For example, rather than blame unemployment on the cyclical crises of capitalism, they use scapegoats such as immigrants, who they falsely claim are taking away British jobs. They often speak in the language of ordinary people, while New Labour was notorious for its managerial attitude and jargon. Socialism always has had a very strong intellectual tradition because of its roots in the analysis and examination of the failings of the aristocratic and capitalist social orders. But all too often this has meant that socialism could be attacked as elitist, the product and concern of academics and intellectuals with no real experience or interest in real, working class life. This is despite the fact that many of the great intellectual pioneers of socialism were very definitely working class. Extreme right-wing mouthpieces, such as the internet radio host Alex Belfield, play on their working class origins while advocating policies which have hurt and will continue to hurt and exploit the very class from which they claim to come. It’s time this was challenged, and Labour put up their working class candidates.

Here’s the article as a whole:

‘Labour suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of the Tories in 2019 losing the very working-class communities where we were born as a party. Whilst there has been a meagre upswing in our polling position, the figures behind the headline tell a sorry tale about our position in the places Labour held for decades.

As Jon Trickett, Laura Smith and I have argued for some time the Labour Party has simply lost touch with working class communities. As a professional political class took over the institutions of the party three decades ago, inside Labour a shift took place and in too many instances our elected politicians were no longer representative of the communities that they served. An almost authoritarian level of social liberalism pervaded our party. But the consequences at the time were near non-existent.

That was in part because the New Labour machine tapped into a wildly successful electoral project that was built on the premise that the working-class backbone of the Labour vote had nowhere else to go. But as always short-term gain is built on sand. As the optimism of the 90’s and 2000’s gave way to cynicism, those working people who had felt ignored and even ridiculed by their party begun to stay at home and as time went on if they did come out to vote, it wasn’t for us.

As the party flounders seeking solutions to its current woes, I can say with certainty that “getting the band back together” and trying to emulate New Labour simply will not work. Neither will the current strategy based on following focus groups and repeating confusing messaging. It is Labour’s job to articulate an easily understood vision of a better future based on the principles on which our party was founded, and we need to make people believe we can deliver it.

In 2017 we ended up only a few thousand votes away from a fundamental break with a system which for too many has caused hardship. That the positive aspects of that campaign should never be forgotten is one thing and something that has been extensively covered. But as a party member and elected representative for decades it concerns me greatly that it could be decades until we see a Labour government again. So many of our traditional voters who for so long had not bothered came out to support us, to back a message of hope and to put their trust in us, perhaps one last time. I suspect many will be looking now and wondering what happened.

There is no easy way forward for Labour. Rebuilding long held bonds, severed by a feeling of betrayal over Brexit, will not be an easy task. Standing shoulder to shoulder with workers and communities in their struggles through deep roots is the way we must do this. But there is something else Labour must take seriously.

Whilst in recent decades our party has been at the forefront of diversifying Parliament, fewer and fewer of our senior politicians come from a working-class background with a few notable exceptions. This is a huge issue if we ever again hope to form a government. Labour cannot represent the country it seeks to lead without being representative of it. Winning trust back amongst these voters means selecting deep-rooted candidates with a track record of standing up for their communities. Being the drop off point of a conveyor belt full of “professional” politicians is simply not an option.

But there is more to it that just that. Labour representatives cannot focus group their way to a better society. We need people with the heart and instincts that can only come from the bitter sting of personal experience. Parliament is desperately short of people who have claimed benefits, gone through life with disabilities or struggled day in day out in bad employment. This past year we have seen key workers carry the country on their backs, yet the green benches are sadly lacking in them too. We desperately need people with this experience to rebuild our country.

Labour has a history of promoting positive discrimination and it has an even longer history of championing the cause of working people. It is time that we remember our roots and embrace protected places for working class candidates throughout of our movement. If we do not trust in the power of people from our heartlands, why should they ever again put their trust in us?’

See: Labour cannot focus group the way to a better society – we need working-class MPs. Ian Lavery MP Exclusive. – Labour Outlook

Working Class Comedian on Radio Next Week Sending Up Benefits System

February 26, 2021

This could be really good. According to next week’s Radio Times for 27th February – 5th March 2021, Radio 4 begins a new series at 11.00 pm Wednesday night with the comedian Tom Mayhew, in which he recounts his own experience of the benefits system. It’s called Tom Mayhew Is Benefit Scum, which accurately sums up the Tory attitude towards the unemployed, long-term sick, disabled and indeed anyone claiming benefits. The blurb for the programme on page 137 of the Radio Times runs

The working-class comedian presents and autobiographical journey through the benefits system in a stand-up series that takes a wry look at prejudices towards benefits claimants and turns those assumptions on their heads.

The additional piece about it on the opposite page, 136, gives this information

There’s an endearing ruefulness about stand-up comedian Tom Mayhew. He seems to understand that the way to get comic mileage out of the less than advantageous hand life has dealt him is not to get too angry about it. This show, which started life on the Edinburgh Fringe, is based on his experience of the benefits system, and although it wasn’t available at the time of going to press, we can possibly glean things from routines he’s put up online. I like his line about how – jobless in 2010 – he found his Pokemon cards were worth more than his A-level certificate.

Assuming this programme does what the Radio Times claims it does, it could be very, very good. The treatment of people claiming benefits in this country is absolutely scandalous, thanks to the Tories and New Labour, and well deserves to be sent up. It looks like its going to be a gentle mocking, rather than the vicious attack the murderous system and the unindicted crims behind it deserve. It’ll be interesting to see what the press makes of it. They’ll either ignore it, or else rant about how the Beeb is glamorising welfare dependency and so should be privatised.

But programmes like this demonstrate the opposite. They’re why we need proper public service broadcasting, as we won’t get this kind of material from Murdoch.

Are the Tories’ Concentration Camps for Asylum Seekers A Deliberate Anti-Immigration Deterrent

February 11, 2021

This is another piece simply based on my impressions of the titles of a couple of videos I’ve come across on YouTube, so again, I may be prejudiced and incorrect in my assumptions. But I don’t think I am. A few days ago some of the anti-immigration channels on YouTube put up videos about the demonstrations by asylum seekers incarcerated in the new detention centres set up by the grinning racist, Priti Patel. There has also been a fire at Napier Barracks, which one of the videos seemed to insinuate was an act of arson by the immigrants there in protest at their conditions. If you believe liars like Alex Belfield, illegal immigrants to Britain are living in the lap of luxury at the British tax-payer’s expense. In fact, as Mike has pointed out, the conditions in the new detention centres are appalling with inadequate showers and hygiene facilities and arrangements for social spacing. He compared them to concentration camps. Now, according to one of these right-wing videos, the asylum seekers incarcerated in them are trying to escape back to Europe. At least according to the wretched channel, We Got A Problem.

It struck me that this wasn’t unintended. Thatcher’s whole attitude to welfare support was based on the Victorian idea of ‘less eligibility’. You make the conditions of state support deliberately harsh, humiliating and degrading to deter people from seeking it. It was the idea behind the workhouse. Now it seems the Tories have created workhouses for asylum seekers in Patel’s new detention centres as a deliberate deterrent to stop them from either coming to this country in the first place, or to encourage them to leave if they’re here.

Tony Benn warned that what governments did to immigrants was what they’d like to do to the rest of the population, if they were able Ten years ago right at the beginning of this long period of Tory rule, I was alarmed by the possibility that the Tories were considering the restoration of the workhouse system. It was only abolished in 1947 with the creation of the welfare state, and Thatcher wanted to destroy the latter. Food banks were originally set up for asylum seekers after Blair removed state support. Then the Tories expanded the system to include domestic citizens, who were thrown off state benefits thanks to the wretched welfare reforms.

Which means if this carries on, will the Tories start building camps like Napier barracks for the unemployed and disabled, as a cheap alternative to the present benefit system and to deter more of poor from seeking them? Just like they’re now doing to asylum seekers?

Right-Wing YouTubers Praise Priti Patel for Wanting to Repeal Blair’s Anti-Hate Speech Legislation

January 30, 2021

The noxious, smirking, ambitious idler Priti Patel was in the noxious Express last Sunday, delighting various right-wing Youtubers with her comments about the laws Blair passed against hate speech. These, she apparently declared, undermine proper free speech and so should be scrapped.

One of those applauding her was Alex Belfield, of whom I have previously blogged many times. Belfield is constantly reviling left-wing activists against racial and other prejudices of being oversensitive ‘snowflakes’. Instead of getting upset and moaning about comments or portrayals they find offensive or hurtful, they should instead grow up, stop whining and get over it. This is more than a bit rich coming from Belfield, as he is very ready to moan about anything which he feels casts unfair aspersions on White folks. For example, a week or so ago he got very annoyed at a sketch in a BBC comedy show, ‘Bamous’, or something like that. The show’s cast are Black, and it seems aimed very much at a Black, Asian and minority ethnic audience. The sketch that raised Belfield’s blood pressure was ‘the Black Broadcasting Corporation’, which portrayed what it would be like, or what it’s cast thought it would be like, if the Corporation’s management were all Black and they casually patronised and humiliated Whites who had suggestions for programmes and wanted to climb up the career ladder in television. Belfield tore into the sketch as yet another example of the Beeb’s ‘woke’ racism against Whites, and yet again demanded that the Corporation should be defunded.

I did find what little I saw of it offensive, and I only saw the clips Belfield included in his video, so I don’t know if this accurately reflected the sketch as it was originally broadcast. But I think the sketch reflected the anger of various Black actors and writers at having their ideas repeatedly turned down by the corporation. The historian David Olasuga said in an interview that he suffered from depression after having his ideas for programmes rejected, while Lenny Henry and others have also criticised the Corporation for not being sufficiently inclusive.

It also struck me that the sketch wasn’t all that original either. Previous comedy series by ethnic minorities have also lampooned White British racism through the same strategy of role reversal. Goodness Gracious Me, the Asian comedy show which ran on BBC 2 on the ’90s with the sketches ‘Going for a Blandi’, in which a group of Asian friends go to a restaurant serving traditional British food. And a friend of mine said he never realised how condescending shows like Great Indian Railway Journeys were about India and its people until Goodness Gracious Me sent it up in a sketch in which they looked at the British railway system making the same type of comments. Not that Goodness Gracious Me was anti-White. It also sent up British Asian culture and the bigoted attitudes of some Asians towards Whites. For all I know, Bamous might do the same to Black culture.

Belfield’s criticisms would also carry more weight if two of his comedy heroes didn’t specialise in racist material. He’s a friend of the notorious Jim Davidson, with whom he hosts a programme on his internet radio show in the week. He also seems to be a fan of the late Bernard Manning. Last week he put up a video praising Mark Lamarr and wondering what happened to the former host of Never Mind the Buzzcocks. The clips he used to show Lamarr’s skills as a interviewer came from a video in which he talked to Bernard Manning. And as older readers are probably all too aware, Manning was infamous for his racist jokes, although he always maintained that he was not personally racist. They were just jokes, right?

But those jokes are really hurtful to the Blacks and Asians, who were the butt of them. Way back in the ’90s Mike and I were on a bus coming home from an evening out drinking. We got talking to one of the other passengers, an Asian lad who’d been sent home from work. He was a waiter in one of the swish restaurants in town. Davidson had turned up for a meal, and the lad had been ordered to serve him. He refused because hated Davidson’s jokes about people of his colour. The manager insisted, the lad refused again, and was sent home. And I’m on the lad’s side and respect him for sticking to his guns against serving someone whose material he found deeply abhorrent.

I’m no fan of Blair, and do think that right-wing critics of the legislation against hate speech do have a point. I think they are stifling a proper and very necessary debate about immigration and race relations. But I also feel that they are also necessary. I think the first such laws in Britain were passed in the 1930s or thereabouts and were intended to stop the demonisation of Jews by Fascists, like Mosley’s BUF. At the same time, the BBC had a very strict code over what could and couldn’t be said on air. There was a list of about 200 words that couldn’t be used by presenters. This included slang terms, such as ‘lousy’, for something that was simply bad or poor in quality, and the crude and insulting terms for people of different ethnic groups. When the Goons started in the 1950s the Corporation also had a list of subjects which were strictly forbidden for comedy. These were religion, the monarchy, disability, the colour question and ‘effeminacy in men’. These prohibitions went a long time ago, especially regarding religion and the royal family, although they remain very sensitive subjects. Issues of race and racism can be lampooned, it seems, but only from the point of view of ethnic minorities or which sends up racism. But Belfield would, it appears, like to overturn this and return television to the days of the 1970s when Manning and Davidson were both telling their jokes on mainstream TV.

If the jokes manning and Davidson told about race had no effect, and people took them as just jokes, then perhaps there’d be an argument for allowing that material back on television. I don’t believe that the producers of Love Thy Neighbour, a comedy about a racist White man who finds out that his new neighbours are Black, were being deliberately offensive or trying to promote racism. But there was much more overt racism then, including jokes going round playground and workplace that really did show a contempt for people of colour. I think one of the issues with racist jokes is that, even if they are meant to be innocuous, they can and do reinforce real racism in wider society.

Speech and the attitudes expressed matter. Sir Alan Burns, the last governor of Ghana, says in his book, Colour Prejudice, that much could be done to tackle racism simply through courtesy and politeness. His book, published in 1948, is clearly very dated, but that observation is undoubtedly very true. The legislation against hate speech, and the attitudes against racist comedy that has accompanied them, are really an attempt to make this courtesy mandatory.

It appears very much to me that Patel and Tories like her want to repeal all of the 1970s anti-racism legislation. The attack on Blair’s legislation against hate speech is just the beginning, and the explanation that they stifle free speech just a pretext. They’d like to drag us all back to the days when businesses could refuse service and employment to people on the grounds of their colour or nationality. When hotels and guesthouses could put signs up in their windows saying ‘No dogs, no Blacks, no Irish’. And when the Tory party could put up posters telling the British public that if they wanted Blacks for neighbours, they should vote Labour. But they should vote Conservative if they didn’t.

Patel’s Asian, and so is potentially one of those affected by such prejudices and the removal of the laws protecting people of colour. She obviously feels she’s exempt because of her lofty position as a government. Or perhaps she feels that British society has changed so rapidly these laws aren’t necessary. I think they are, and no matter how secure she is, others aren’t so lucky. And there is a real danger that the vicious racism these laws are designed to combat will return all too quickly.

For those reasons, the laws should stay and it doesn’t matter how funny some Tories think Manning and Davidson are. The racism the laws are intended to combat is very definitely no laughing matter.

Disaster Predicted for Labour in May Elections – Will They Blame the Left?

January 29, 2021

As if this question needs to be asked. Mike this morning put up a piece commenting on recent forecasts that Labour under Starmer’s leadership will actually lose seats in the local elections in May. Only 4 per cent of Tory voters are predicted to switch to Labour. This will be a disaster for Labour, and should be a catastrophe for Starmer as it shows that his policy of turning Labour into the alternative Tory party isn’t working. Starmer isn’t winning support for Labour because he has violated the first rule of an opposition party: this is to oppose. Instead, Starmer has offered support and ‘cautious criticism’. This has often come after Tory policies have been proven to be failures, so that Johnson ridiculed him from the Dispatch Box as ‘Captain Hindsight’. And his lack of any decisive alternative alternative vision to the wretched Tories also allowed Johnson to sneer at him as ‘General Indecision’.

Worse, Labour is losing its core voters thanks to Starmer’s own war on the left. He has scrapped Corbyn’s manifesto policies, which were genuinely popular despite the media’s and political establishment’s successful vilification of Corbyn himself. Starmer has carried on purging the left under the pretext of cracking down on anti-Semitism. He has alienated Labour’s traditional supporters in the Black and Asian communities by his half-hearted gestures of support for Black Lives Matter and his refusal to punish the real racists in the Labour Party, who bullied Diane Abbott and other Black MPs and activists. And it’s fairly obvious why. These racists are all from the right, the section of the party that supports him. He also has not punished the various conspirators who deliberately plotted to sabotage the party’s election campaign in 2017 and 2019. Again, these are all right-wingers, so safe from punishment for their misdeeds. And to make his and his faction’s grip on the party secure, David Evans has suspended members and constituency parties that have dared to criticise the Dear Leader and passed fresh regulations stipulating that electoral candidates must meet with his approval as suitable prospective MPs. Which means, as Mike’s pointed out, that no-one from the left will be accepted, even if they have the full backing of their local parties.

If the predicted electoral disaster does occur – and I’ve no doubt it will – then it should rightly be the end of Starmer and the Blairites. The Blairite tactic of triangulation – finding out what will appeal to Tory voters, donors and the media, and then doing it – isn’t working. The public has seen through the New Labour tactic of copying Tory policies while claiming that, once in power, Labour will be better at them. Tory voters are going to stick with the Tories, because why should they accept a pale imitation under Starmer? Johnson’s defeat should be an open goal. This week the number of people, who’ve died from the Coronavirus hit 100,000. This truly horrendous death toll is a direct result of Johnson’s selfish, inept and half-hearted policies, the corruption that has led him to award vital medical contracts to firms owned by his friends, which then catastrophically can’t fulfil them. And instead of the great, radiant victory for British independence, business and entrepreneurialism, Brexit is rapidly showing itself to be another disaster. It is hitting British business hard with extra bureaucracy and tariffs for trading with the EU. It is expected to decimate our already severely stricken manufacturing industry.

The fact that Starmer is losing to Johnson should mean that Starmer should vacate the Labour leadership following the May elections, assuming that Labour does as poorly as predicted. By I predict that won’t happen. That would leave the leadership open to someone from the real Labour centre. Someone determined to support Corbyn’s policies of a nationalised National Health Service, publicly owned utilities, a proper, functioning welfare state that the gives the support the poor, the unemployed, the long-term sick and disabled they really need, protects working people with proper employment rights and strong trade unions, and ends the wretched pay freezes and exploitative gig economy. These were all genuinely popular. But they frighten big business and the Tory and New Labour media. Hence the determination to bring down Labour by any means possible. Hence the smears of Corbyn and his supporters as Communists, Trotskyites and Jew-haters. And they’ll do it again.

The Blairites have shown through their electoral sabotage and their attempted coups that they mean to hang on to power whatever the cost. Even if it destroys the party. Thus I predict that if Labour does fail miserably in May’s elections, Starmer will stay. He and the media will claim that this was because the stain of anti-Semitism is still hanging over the party. More purges of the Corbynite left will be demanded and follow. And it won’t do a bit of good. The party will remain unpopular, possibly even more so.

But Starmer won’t care how unpopular it is, so long as he and the Blair have a secure grip on it. And at some point he’ll even be rewarded with a peerage just like the turncoats and plotters.

For further information, see: Labour isn’t winning back Tory voters by trying to be Tory. What will Starmer try next? | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

BBC Documentaries Next Week on the History and Prejudice against the Disabled

January 14, 2021

Next week the Beeb is showing two programmes, one on the history of disabled people and the other on the prejudice, discrimination and cruelty they experience. The first of these programmes is Silenced: The Hidden Story of Disabled Britain, on BBC 2 on Tuesday, 19th January 2021, at 9.00 pm. The blurb for it on page 88 of the Radio Times runs

Writer, actor and presenter Cerrie Burnell tells the story of how disabled people have had to fight back following more than 100 years of being shut out of society, denied basic human rights and treated with fear and prejudice. The former CBeebies host, who was born without the lower part of her right arm, discovers how modern attitudes to disabled people were formed in Victorian Britain’s workhouses, and hears stories from the brave pioneers who have changed the lives of those affected forever.

There’s a bit more about the programme by Alison Graham on page 86:

Cerrie Burnell, who was born without the lower part of her right arm, reads from a newspaper story about parents’ complaints when she became a CBeebies presenter in 2009. She was, apparently, “scaring children” and will always be remembered as “the woman with one arm”.

Burnell carries that quiet anger throughout this powerful film looking at society’s treatment of disabled people throughout history.

It’s a litany of casual cruelty, misguided “kindness” and downright wickedness, as men, women and children were put, out of sight and often for decades, in institutions.

The following day, Wednesday 20th January 2021, there’s Targeted: the Truth about Disability Hate Crime, on the same channel, BBC 2, also at 9.00 pm. The blurb for this in the Radio Times on page 98. runs

Testimony from a handful of the nation’s 14 million disabled people reveals just how tough it is to live with a disability in 21st century Britain. Among those telling their stories are Hannah, a young mixed-race woman who has cerebral palsy and is clear about the fact that it is her disability, not her skin colour, that provokes discrimination. Andrea, who has dwarfism, says she is routinely treated with contempt and reveals how she was left with a fractured skull and being kicked in the head. Dan, who has autism and just wants to fit in, finds himself a social outcast and now suffers from severe depression having fallen prey to random violent attacks.

Radio 4 has also been running a ten part series on the history of the disabled for several weeks now, Disability: A New History. The 5th instalment, which is on next Sunday, 17th January 2021 at 2.45 pm, is entitled ‘Finding a Voice’. The blurb for it says

‘Peter White highlights the work of William Hay, an 18th-century MP born with spinal curvature.’

I’m mentioning these programmes, especially that on hate crime, because the Tories and New Labour have both been determined to demonise disabled people and find ways to throw them off benefits. The work capability examinations, devised in conjunction with American insurance fraudster Unum, are based on the assumption that a particular percentage of claims for disability are fake and that those making the claim are malingering. This has seen jobcentres falsify the evidence given by claimants in order to fulfil the number of claimants they are required to deny benefits. As for the violence experienced by the disabled, a friend of mine told me he had been abused several times while out with his wife, who had to use a wheelchair. He blamed one of the characters on Little Britain for the rise in prejudice. This was the disabled character, who gets up from his wheelchair to run around when his carer leaves him. I’m no fan of Little Britain, but I think a far greater cause of prejudice and hostility is the Tory. This consistently vilifies the disabled and other benefit claimants as scroungers and malingers, to the extent that the British public think 27 per cent of all claims for benefit are fraudulent, while the true figure is less than one per cent. Mike over at Vox Political has put up very many posts covering this topic, as well as the numerous deaths of people with severe disabilities, who were wrongfully and grotesquely thrown off the benefits they needed to survive. I hope this will also be covered in the documentaries. But as it’s the Beeb, it probably won’t.

Britain Takes a Step Towards Real Fascism with Patel’s Concentration Camp for Migrants

January 3, 2021

Nearly a week ago, on 27th December 2020, Mike put up a piece reporting that smirking, treacherous and bullying Home Secretary Priti Patel was planning to open what has been described as a ‘concentration camp’ for migrants by New Year’s Day at Barton Stacey, Hampshire. The camp will have no drainage, sewage or mains water. Even the local Tory MP, Caroline Nokes, was appalled at these conditions. He quotes her as saying

“It will be like a prison camp and conditions will be appalling. There are no plans to provide healthcare services on site, which will add to the strain on local GPs. I am shocked anyone could think this is a good idea.”

See: Patel plans concentration camp for 300 refugees with no mains water | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Mike followed this up with a description of the terrible conditions at the Pennally migrant camp in Wales. The food there is an inadequate and poorly cooked, the only showers that worked are shared and toilet facilities are also inadequate. Social distancing is difficult. Face masks are only available on request, the wearing of which is only enforced in the dining area. Hand sanitisers and soap dispensers are either empty or not working.

See: If you think conditions in Priti Patel’s planned concentration camp are bad, you should see them in the ones she already has | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

It’s good that Mike has put this up, because there have been a series of videos by right-wingers on YouTube about the camp and about migrants generally. The channel ‘We Got A Problem’ views Black and Asian migrants as a real threat to the British public. It concentrates on crimes committed by migrants and asylum seekers, as well as Pakistani grooming gangs with a specific focus on the dangers of rape, child abuse and violence from what the gravel voiced man behind the vlog describes as ‘imported Labour voters’. He also abuses them as ‘scumbuckets’ and other terms too vile to be used in a family blog. He, Belfield and Farage have seized on the fact that many of these migrants have now had to be accommodated in four star hotels to present the image that violent, sexually dangerous migrants are living in luxury at the expense of the British taxpayer. When one of the inmates of these hotels went berserk a while ago and attacked five people, it was presented as a result of this person’s greed – he was upset at the food and lack of internet connections – rather than any wider problems with conditions at the hotel.

I don’t doubt that if Patel does start building concentration camps for migrants, it will be popular with a certain section of the British public. People like ‘We Got A Problem’, Farage and Belfield. Belfield put up a video a few days ago praising the government for passing legislation preventing illegal immigrants, or as Belfield calls them, ‘dinghy day-trippers’, from receiving benefits for five years.

This should set off warning bells for everyone else. Not only is it unjust as it is, but whatever the government do to migrants, they ultimately do to the British public. Food banks were first set up to support asylum seekers after Tony Blair passed legislation preventing them from claiming state benefits. Then the Tories pushed their wretched and abhorrent welfare reforms, which have stopped a large section of the poor and needy from receiving state support, so that now very many people are forced to rely on them. Real poverty and starvation is growing, but Tory MPs like Jacob Rees-Mogg think it’s wonderful food banks are there for them. I’m impressed with the generosity of the British public, the people who volunteer at these banks too. But the point is, there should be no need for them. The disabled and unemployed should be given support by the state at a level when they can afford to buy food, pay the rent and clothe themselves and their children. And it should begin immediately. They shouldn’t have to wait over a month. But Belfield thinks the British public are a bunch of scroungers anyway. He’s put up a number of videos baldly stating it. The Tories would like to dismantle the welfare state. It’s what Thatcher and her coterie discussed in the 1980s, though they were prevented from actually going through with it. But I’ve no doubt that if the Tories get away with banning migrants from receiving benefits for five years, they’ll try to extend the time ordinary Brits will be unable to claim benefits.

And if they can build concentration camps for migrants too, how long will it be before they build the same for ordinary Brits as well. They’ll be used first to house criminals as a quick solution to the problem of prison overcrowding. And then we might see the unemployed being sent there, both as a form of support and to teach them the value of hard work. Like the Nazis did with the ‘asocial’. And then perhaps it would be expanded to include people, whose political views are a threat to the establishment. Like all these ‘cultural Marxists’ the Tories and their supporters claim are running the country.

Patel’s concentration camps are a dangerous symptom of a real Fascist tendency in the Tory party. A tendency that will start with migrants but could end up with the British version of Dachau.

Time Team Creator Tim Taylor Attempting to Bring Back Show through Patreon on YouTube

December 14, 2020

Remember Time Team? That was the popular archaeology show on Channel 4 that ran from the late 1980s to the early part of this century. Presented by Tony Robinson, who played Baldrick in the Blackadder series, the show broadcast each week a short archaeological investigation of a different site. These investigations only lasted three days and attempted to solve a particular historical or archaeological. It would begin with the questions raised by the site they were excavating that week. Was it really the location for a Roman villa, lost Norman castle, or medieval manor house, for example? Robinson would lay out what has been found so far, stating what they hoped to find and saying a bit more about the excavation and who would be taking part, before finishing, ‘And, as usual, we’ve got three days to find out’.

It was immensely popular, at least for Channel 4 shows and archaeology programmes. It spawned a number of tie-in book and publications. Some of the programmes were written up as pamphlets in a series of Time Team Site Reports. In the spring/summer of 2004 or 5 the show also embarked on their Big Dig. This was a piece of mass archaeology involving the general public. The goal was to get the British public digging test pits up and down the country in their back gardens or other premises, and see what they found. And the British public joined in with enthusiasm. Some of the excavations were carried out, not just by the fit and able, but also by people with learning difficulties and/or physical disabilities. It was part of the show’s ethos to get everyone involved. They were also keen to demonstrate that archaeology wasn’t just about the rich, kings, princes and the nobility, but also about ordinary people. Hence there were a number of shows devoted to excavating industrial sites, such as a very early, pioneering factory in Birmingham dating from the industrial revolution. This was important not just for its role in the country’s industrialisation, but as a place where ordinary peeps worked. The Team also excavated further abroad. In one edition, they went to St. Kitt’s to dig on a former sugar plantation. This dated from the period of British transatlantic slavery. The show therefore discussed Caribbean plantation slavery and its horrors, and also excavated the site of the quarters of the estate’s enslaved workers. In another edition, Robinson also described the horrendous living condition of the urban working class in the 19th century, as recorded by the inspectors. This described people living in cellars mouldy with damp and with rags stuffed into the cracks in windows. One of these hovels also had a dead baby on the floor. He also described how factory owners would also purchase children from the workhouses to labour in the factories. Robinson’s a member of the Labour Party, and there was real anger in his voice when describing these horrors.

Time Team sort of fizzled out a few years after the death of one of its founders, Dr. Mick Aston, and a row over choice of presenters. One of the Team had been dropped, and replaced by a model. The new presenter had actually done a degree in archaeology, but this caused a nasty background argument. I believe the lady at the centre of row chivalrously offered to step down.

Now it seems the show might be coming back, though on YouTube rather than television. Tim Taylor, the show’s creator, posted a video on YouTube on the 11th December 2020 giving an update on how the attempts were progressing so far, and what remained to be done. The show’s being financed through subscriptions on Patreon, and the video’s partly an appeal for more people to join. The show also has its own Patreon Channel, on which videos will appear over the next few days of Helen Geake, Carenza Lewis and Phil Harding discussing the plans for Stage 1. They’ve started looking at sites and contacting key team members. Stages 2 & 3 will involve more research, site mapping on their new digital database, collecting key paperwork for each site, assembling potential experts, talking to local communities, and then creating a PD – Project Design, the archaeological strategy. They will also be auditioning new field archaeologists for Stage 3, with the possibility of a ‘dig off’. That will be when they really build the Team. They managed to get 1,000 patrons in 3 days, but in order to get Stages 2 & 3 underway they need to have 3,000 patrons by the end of January 2021. When 2 & 3 are complete, they’ll share the list of sites, so that people can choose which sites go forward to stage 4, where they visit those locations. Taylor states that the show depends on people supporting them on Patreon and appeals for more people to become members and patrons. He tells the viewers that they’re posting an old Time Team episode on their Time Team Classic YouTube channel on Sunday – yesterday, 13th December 2020. The show ends with a message of support from Robinson.

Time Team ANNOUNCEMENT Next steps and news from Tony Robinson! – YouTube

This is really interesting, and I’d like to see the show come back, but have mixed feelings about it. While the programme has been immensely influential and has doubtless got people interested in archaeology, it has not been without its detractors. The criticisms I’ve heard are that the Team never wrote up their findings and didn’t fill in the sites after they’d finished. This is only what I’ve heard, and so I couldn’t swear it was true, though I did hear about them not filling in their digs from two different sources. This has led to accusations that they have been trashing sites. That said, the Team were professional archaeologists with the exception of Tony Robinson, and some of the TV presenters brought in for the specials, such as Sandi Toksvig when they were digging up Viking York. She was obviously chosen because she’s Danish. They also had the support of some very senior British archaeologists, such as Francis Pyor, who was the head of one of one of the major British archaeological societies. Mick Aston, a founding member of the Team, was a lecturer at Bristol University, as was Dr. Mark Horton, who appeared on several of the shows before going off to front Coast. Raksha Dave, another member of the Team, has also subsequently appeared on various history/ archaeology shows. Although nothing is said about her ethnicity, Dave’s Asian, and I think her presence on the programmes wasn’t just due to her skills as an archaeologist, but also to try and widen the discipline’s appeal and include people from ethnic minorities. Like very many other academic subjects, there’s a concern in archaeology to recruit more people of colour. Mark Horton is particularly keen to see more people in general take up archaeology. When Bristol University launched its exhibition on the city’s involvement in the Slave Trade, ‘A Respectable Trade’, back in the ’90s the Uni also launched a scheme to interest young people, in which a prospective future archaeologist would be sent to work on an excavation in the Caribbean. Again, nothing was said, but it’s the kind of project, which I think they devised in the hope that it would appeal particularly to Black youngsters.

It’ll be very interesting to see if Taylor’s successful, and show comes back, if only YouTube. And there’s clearly a space there for more people from ethnic minorities to enter the subject and, perhaps, join the show as presenters.

Hopefully, if it does get off the ground, it will inspire more people, of all colours, to get involved in archaeology. The future’s yours, folks! Get those trowels ready!

An 18th Century Rabbi’s Defence of Religious Criticism of the Rich and Powerful

November 23, 2020

Whenever any clergyman or religious figure dares to criticise them, the Tories always issue this refrain: that the reverend gentleman has no business doing so, and if he stuck to promoting his religion, the seats in his place of worship would have more worshippers on them. This has been largely directed at the Tories’ critics in the Anglican Church, especially since the Church’s report published under Archbishop Runcie about the increase in poverty in Britain. I also recall that arch-Thatcherite Norman Tebbitt also made some insinuations, based on the sing-song voice and other mannerisms characteristic of a certain type of Christian clergyman at the time, that Runcie somehow was totally wet and weedy. This was in complete ignorance that Runcie had been an army chaplain and so ferocious that he was known as ‘Killer Runcie’.

But an 18th century German rabbi, Jonathan Ben Nathan/ Nata Eybeschuetz/ Eybeschitz, had an answer to such accusation. He felt that religious people had the right to attack the conduct of public figures and that this made them more popular with ordinary people, not less. I found this stated in the article on him in Bowker’s Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. This says that

In his work as a rabbi, he took the view that religion is n ot confined to ‘the religious’, i.e., that teaching and preaching must reach out to affect the conduct of public life. ‘It is regrettable that our preaching is dealing constantly with out duties to God. Let the preacher protest, with a prominent voice, against the malpractices of prominent men, and the people will come to love him and delight in his sermons. (p. 332).

So clearly criticism of the rich and powerful hadn’t driven people away from religion, at least in his experience. I’m aware that explicitly party political statements by people of faith, or statements that may be interpreted as such, can be divisive. There are as many people repelled as attracted when right-wing Christian ministers start attacking gay marriage, for example. But there should be a place for religious criticism of the powerful and their policies, and especially when they harm the poor and defenceless. That’s been a vital element of the Jewish and Christian witness ever since the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, which states very clearly that the Almighty defends the poor, weak and marginalised against the rich and powerful.

Jeremy Corbyn was in no way an anti-Semite, and he had no lack of Jewish supporters because of the depth of his commitment to defending their interests as part of his staunch opposition to every kind of racism. As did Ken Livingstone, who said on an interview with George Galloway on RT’s Sputnik, that Jews greeted him on the street and told him they knew he wasn’t an anti-Semite.

But these Jews were sidelined and deliberately ignored by a political establishment that feared Corbyn as the radical, genuinely socialist leader working Brits of all colours, ethnicities and religious views need. Instead they parroted the smears of him and his supporters as anti-Semites by a true-blue Tory Jewish establishment. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis had even sent a message congratulating Theresa May when she became Prime Minister. And the Board then went berserk accusing Corbyn of snubbing the Jewish community when he chose to spend a Passover Seder with the left-wing Jews of Jewdas. Well, the Board of Deputies and the Chief Rabbinate really only represent the United Synagogue, which has taken upon itself to try and present itself as the sole true Jewish community, despite that there has never been a monolithic Jewish community. No rabbi has more authority than any other, and there is the old Jewish saying I’ve found ‘Two Jews, three opinions’. Jewdas are a part of Britain’s diverse Jewish community, and they almost certainly invited him, so his attendance at their Passover Seder definitely wasn’t a snub to the Jewish community. Only the rich, pompous Tory section.

The Tories should stop trying to shut their left-wing critics, both Jews and Christians, up. They have a right and religious duty to defend the poor and meek against the rich and powerful.

And it’s high time that the media dropped the partisan anti-Semitic contempt for left-wing Jews, and allowed them to speak. Because the Thatcherite, Tory policies Ephraim Mirvis appears to approve of are harming working, sick, disabled and elderly Jews and well as gentiles.

Bristol South Passes Motion of Solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn

November 20, 2020

As Mike has reported in his piece about Jeremy Corbyn calling in m’learned friends, Bristol South has passed a motion of solidarity with the former Labour leader. This was one of four motions, one of which commented on the EHRC report on anti-Semitism in the party.

Bristol South is my local Constituency Labour Party, and I was at the meeting. Due to the lockdown, it was held on Zoom and was packed. It was a long meeting, partly because of problems some members had accessing the meeting and the polling system with their machines.

The current secretary, David Evans, has issued a diktat stating that it was ‘not competent business’ for local Labour parties to repudiate the EHRC report or comment on the disciplinary proceedings against members. Hence the meeting was very rigidly controlled in order to prevent people unfortunately breaking those rules. The four motions were present to the members, who were called on to suggest amendments. However, because of the danger of transgressing Evans’ decrees, people were not allowed to discuss them. This was naturally resented by many members, but the local party leadership made it clear that they were not going to change their rules for the evening.

One of the motions was, I think, passed unanimously or almost so. This was presented by the CLP’s LGBTQ+ officer. It noted that there was rising levels of prejudice and abuse against other minority groups, such as Blacks, Asians and ethnic minorities, gay and transfolk, and the disabled as well as Jews. It called for the party to treat hate and discrimination against them as seriously as anti-Semitism, for officers dealing with cases to receive special training.

The first motion commented on the EHRC and there was some bitter opposition to it and to the motion of solidarity with Corbyn from those members, who I assume are members of the party’s right-wing or have been taken in by the lies of the establishment smear merchants. These members wished the motions to be altered to omit a number of clauses. One of these was a condemnation of the political interference now being done by the leadership, because it was bringing the party into disrepute, just like the political interference in the anti-Semitism cases condemned by the EHRC in their report. Others stated that it was a pity that the EHRC had not waited until the party’s own reports into the handling of anti-Semitism cases had been published before publishing theirs. The motion also contained a clause requesting the party issue clear guidance on how anti-Semitism cases should be handled. Despite very strong opposition, the proposed amendments to remove them failed and the clauses remained in the motion.

A young man tried to amend the motion of solidarity with Corbyn so that it removed all reference to him and became instead a pledge of unity that the party would go forward to combat racism, Fascism and anti-Semitism. This chap clearly believed that Corbyn was a terrible anti-Semite, but his motion was also defeated. It’s noxious for a number of reasons. The most important of these is obviously that Jeremy Corbyn is not and never has been an anti-Semite, despite the screaming lies by the right-wing British establishment. Secondly, the reason why Corbyn and his supporters have all been grossly libelled as anti-Semites is because Corbyn is an opponent of Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. The supporters of the current Israeli government have tried to defend the indefensible by decrying the country’s critics as anti-Semites. They’ve been doing that since the 1980s, which is why one Jewish critic of Israeli racism, Norman Finkelstein, has called the Israel lobby a machine for manufacturing anti-Semites. Thirdly, you cannot pick and choose which racism you oppose if you are serious about combating racism. You cannot, say, denounce and fight anti-Black racism or Islamophobia while ignoring anti-Semitism. At the same time, you can’t oppose institutional racism against Blacks while defending the Israeli apartheid system which viciously discriminates against the Palestinians. This is why Jackie Walker, a Jewish Black woman, came to become an opponent of Israeli apartheid. She had been a member of the movement against South African apartheid in the 1970s, and somebody asked her how she could oppose that, but not Israeli discrimination against their indigenous population. She couldn’t, and so became an opponent of Israeli racism along with the other noxious varieties. This is why the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement took it upon themselves to smear her as an anti-Semite, as they have done so many Jewish critics of Israel, despite her Jewish heritage, marriage and faith.

I am very glad that these motions have been passed, and fully appreciate the reasons for the very tight restrictions the local party leadership placed on their debate. As the secretaries made clear, these are very emotive issues, quite apart from the fact that it has been made clear that any breach of Evans’ rules would result in disciplinary action.

I hope the current leadership will take these motions on board and reinstate Jeremy Corbyn fully, restore the whip to him and adopt the recommendations of the other motions in order to make the party more just and fair in dealing with cases of prejudice and discrimination.