Archive for the ‘England’ Category

Trotsky on the Failure of Capitalism

January 16, 2020

I found this quote from Trotsky on how capitalism has now outlived its usefulness as a beneficial economic system in Isaac Deutscher and George Novack, The Age of Permanent Revolution: A Trotsky Anthology (New York: Dell 1964):

Capitalism has outlived itself as a world system. It has ceased to fulfill its essential function, the raising of the level of human power and human wealth. Humanity cannot remain stagnant at the level which it has reached. Only a powerful increase in productive force and a sound, planned, that is, socialist organisation of production and distribution can assure humanity – all humanity – of a decent standard of life and at the same time give it the precious feeling of freedom with respect to its own economy. (p. 363).

I’m not a fan of Trotsky. Despite the protestations to the contrary from the movement he founded, I think he was during his time as one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution and civil war ruthless and authoritarian. The Soviet Union under his leadership may not have been as massively murderous as Stalin’s regime, but it seems to me that it would still have been responsible for mass deaths and imprisonment on a huge scale.

He was also very wrong in his expectation of the collapse of capitalism and the outbreak of revolution in the Developed World. As an orthodox Marxist, he wanted to export the Communist revolution to the rest of Europe, and believed that it would be in the most developed countries of the capitalist West, England, France, and Germany, that revolution would also break out. He also confidently expected throughout his career the imminent collapse of capitalism. This didn’t happen, partly because of the reforms and welfare states established by reformist socialist parties like Labour in Britain and the SPD in Germany, which improved workers’ lives and opportunities, which thus allowed them to stimulate the capitalist economy as consumers and gave them a stake in preserving the system.

It also seems to me that capitalism is still actively creating wealth – the rich are still becoming massively richer – and it is benefiting those countries in the Developing World, which have adopted it, like China and the east Asian ‘tiger’ economies like South Korea.

But in the west neoliberalism, unregulated capitalism, certainly has failed. It hasn’t brought public services, like electricity, railways, and water supply the investment they need, and has been repeatedly shown to be far more inefficient in the provision of healthcare. And it is pushing more and more people into grinding poverty, so denying them the ability to play a role as active citizens about to make wide choices about the jobs they can take, what leisure activities they can choose, and the goods they can buy. At the moment the Tories are able to hide its colossal failure by hiding the mounting evidence and having their hacks in the press pump out favourable propaganda. But if the situation carries on as it is, sooner or later the mass poverty they’ve created will not be so easily hidden or blithely explained away or blamed on others – immigrants, the poor themselves, or the EU. You don’t have to be a Trotskyite to believe the following:

Unfettered capitalism is destroying Britain – get rid of it, and the Tories.

Medic Attacks Tory Claims to Have Built 18 New Hospitals as Misleading

January 12, 2020

This weekend’s edition of the I carried a report that a leading medic, Dr Susan Crossland, had said that the Tories were misleading the public by claiming that they had built 18 new hospitals. The report by Paul Gallagher, ‘Tory claim to have built 18 new hospitals ‘misleading” ran

A leading medic has accused the Government of misleading the public after it claimed 18 new hospitals had opened in the past 10 years.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) made the claim in documents released under an I Freedom of Information request, but the figure includes existing hospitals either refurbished or redeveloped.

At least 11 of the projects are redevelopments, refurbishments or changes to existing hospital sites, such as integration or relocation.

Dr Susan Crossland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said “The conflation between new hospitals and refurbishment of existing hospitals is misleading to the public.

“Whilst investment in the crumbling infrastructure of the NHS property portfolio is welcome, at the time we are seeing unprecedented demand on hospital beds we call into question whether this will ease the current pressures we see. And we call on the Government to be honest and account to the tax-paying public. Are there going to be any more beds in the system, or are we going to continue to see further reductions?”

Pressed on how many of the 18 projects could be described as “whole new hospitals” the DHSC did not respond.

NHS staff union Unison said the lack of “whole new builds” was “shocking”. It said “at least half” of the projects are a legacy of the previous Labour government, so there has been “next to nothing” under the Tories.

The revelation calls into question the Government’s ability to honour its manifesto pledge to build 40 hospitals in the next 10 years. The Tory manifesto promised the NHS “its biggest ever cash boost, with 20 hospital upgrades and 40 new hospitals.”

According to FullFact.org the Government has committed the money to upgrade six hospitals by 2025. Up to 38 other hospitals have received money to plan for building work between 2025 and 2030, but not to actually begin any work.

Mr Johnson has been criticised for refusing to say how much the promised new hospitals will cost, where they would be, or where the money involved would come from. The only detail given in the six NHS trusts that would receive £2.7bn to rebuild existing acute hospitals in England by 2025, and £100m “seed money” to 21 other English trusts to work up plans for similar projects. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that if most were new hospitals in city centres containing state-of-the-art equipment, the cost might be between £12bn and £24bn.

A DHSC spokesman said: “We’ve launched the largest hospital building programme in a generation which will deliver at least 40 new hospitals over the next decade.”

So the Tories have been caught lying again. They  haven’t built 18 new hospitals. If 11 of those they cite are just refurbishments, it means at most they’ve built just 7. And it seems most of those 18 hospitals were built by the Labour government. And the claim that they’re going to build 40 new hospitals over the next ten years is just specious promises.

The reality is that they’re going to run down the NHS while making token gestures towards building and renovation to disguise what they’re doing, read for privatisation.

Sargon of Gasbag on How the Norf Went Tory

January 11, 2020

A few days ago Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin put up a video, in which he presented his idea of why the north of England and the midlands went Tory. It was based on a cartoon from 4chan’s Pol Board, and so presented a very caricatured view of the north. Sargon is the extreme right-winger, who personally did much to destroy UKIP simply by joining it. This ‘classical liberal’ – meaning libertarian – with his highly reactionary views on feminism and racism was too much even for the Kippers. His home branch of Swindon wanted him deselected when the party chose him as the second of their two MEP candidates for south-west England, and the Gloucestershire branch closed down completely. And according to Sargon, the ‘Norf’ went Tory because Blair turned the Labour party from the party of the working class throughout Britain into the party of the liberal metropolitan elite, and turned its attention away from class issues to supporting Islam, refugees, radical feminism and gay rights. This conflict with the social conservative values of working people, and particularly northern working people. As a result, they voted for Johnson, who had the same values they had.

The strip depicts the northern working class as Norf F.C., a local football team. They have their counterparts and rivals in Sowf F.C., a southern football team, and in the Welsh and Scots. The north is presented as a region of fat skinhead football hooligans, poorly educated, and suffering from scurvy and malnutrition, but who love their families, their communities and their country. In the strip’s view, these communities were traditionally Labour. But this changed with the election of Tony Blair, an Oxford educated lawyer, who took over the party. Under his aegis, it no longer was the party of the working class, but instead had a lower middle class membership. These were over-educated officer workers, who turned it towards Communism with the election of Jeremy Corbyn. They supported racism witchhunts, gay rights and flooding White communities with coloured immigrants, and were pro-EU. They despised natural, healthy patriotism. The result was that when Boris appeared, despite being an Etonian toff they recognised themselves in him. He would do something about Brexit and immigration, and would attack the radical left who support Muslim rape gangs and wanted to chop off their sons’ genitals. And who would also put the ‘bum boys’ in their place. It led to the massive defeat of the Labour party, and in particular ‘Communists’ like owen Jones and Ash Sarkar of Novara media.

I’m not going to show the video here, but if you want to see it for yourself, go to YouTube and search for ‘How the Norf Went Tory’, which is his wretched video’s title.

To Sargon, Corbyn is a friend of Hezbollah and Hamas, and to show how threatening the feminists and LGBTQ section of the Labour party he shows various radical feminists with T-shirts saying ‘White People Are Terrorists’ and a trans-activist with a baseball bat and the tattoo ‘Die Cis Scum’, referring to cis-gendered people – those who identify with their biological gender. The over-educated lower middle class people he sneers at are graduates of gender studies, who work in McDonalds, or have submitted to what he describes as ‘office serfdom’.

It’s very much a simplistic view, but there’s much truth in it as well as great deal of distortion. Let’s go through it.

The UKIP View of the North

Firstly, it represents very much the UKIP view of events. The academic study of UKIP, Revolt on the Right,  found that its members were poorly educated, working class people in the north. They had socially Conservative views, hated the European Union, resented immigration, particularly Black and Asian, and felt abandoned by the traditional parties. He is also right in identifying the change from working class representation to middle class representation with Blair’s leadership. Blair didn’t like the working class. He wanted to get the votes of the swing voters in marginal constituencies. As Sargon’s video acknowledges, he supported the neoliberalism that had devastated the northern economy and which made so many northerners hate the policy’s architect, Maggie Thatcher. Within the party, Blair sidelined working class organisations like the trade unions in favour of courting and recruiting business managers.

The Labour party was keen to represent Blacks and other ethnic minorities, women and gays due to its ideological commitment to equality. This policy became particularly important after Thatcher’s victory in 1979, when it appeared to some that the White working class had abandoned the party. I’ve also seen books published in the ’70s lamenting the right-ward movement within the Labour party due to its membership becoming increasingly middle class, so this trend actually predates Blair somewhat. However, it acquired a new importance under Blair because of the emphasis his administration place on BAME rights, feminism and gay rights. In my view, this was partly as an attempt to preserve some claim to radicalism and progressive values while abandoning socialism and the working class.

Sargon Doesn’t Understand Class and Communism

Sargon also doesn’t understand either what Communism is. He seems to believe in the rantings of the contemporary right that it’s all about identity politics and changing the traditional culture from above. That’s one form of Marxist politics coming from the ideas of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. But traditional, orthodox Marxism emphasised the importance of the working class and the class structure of society. Marx’s theory of Dialectical Materialism held that it was the economic base of society that defined ideology, not the other way around. Once the working class came into power and socialised the economy, the ideologies supported and created by capitalism would disappear. Gramsci’s ideas about changing ideology and culture became fashionable in left-wing circles because it was believed that the working class was actually in decline as society changed. Demographers noted that increasing numbers of people were becoming lower middle class. Hence the movement on the left towards that sector of society, rather than the traditional working class.

Corbyn More Politically Committed to Working Class

Yes, Corbyn also supported anti-racism, feminism and gay rights, but these had been key values of the left since the 1980s. I remember then how the Labour party and leading figures like Michael Foot and Ken Livingstone were vilified as Communists and Trotskyites, and how the party was caricatured as standing for Black lesbians. There were all those stories circulating in the Scum, for example, about how radical teachers in London schools had decided that ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ was racist, and insisted children sing ‘Baa Baa Green Sheep’ instead. Corbyn does come from a privileged background, but his views and the Labour manifesto are far more working class in the sense that they represent a return to traditional socialist economic policies than Blair’s. And certainly far more than Johnson’s and the Tories.

I have to admit that I’m one of the over-educated officer worker types Sargon sneers at. But I never did gender studies, not that I’m sneering at it or those who studied it. My first degree is in history. And I am very sure that most of the legions of graduates now trying to get any kind of paid work have a very wide variety degrees. I also think that many of them also come from the aspirant working class, who went into higher education in order to get on. Also, if you were interested or active in working class politics in the 1980s, you were exposed and took over the anti-racism and anti-sexism campaigns. Ben Elton was notorious as a left-wing comedian in the 1980s, but he defended the working class and ethnic minorities against the Tories.  It was not the case that the White working class was viewed with suspicion as a hotbed of racism, although sections of it, represented by such grotesques as Alf Garnet, certainly were. But it was that section of the working class that the Scum and the Tory party addressed, and so it’s now surprise that they see themselves represented by Boris.

Their belief in Boris is ultimately misplaced, however. Boris will betray them, just like he has betrayed everyone else.

He isn’t going to get Brexit done. He is going to continue with his privatisations, including that of the NHS, and dismantlement of the welfare state. The people in the northern and midlands communities that voted for him are going to find themselves still poor, and probably much poorer, under him.

But the lessons for Labour should be that there should be no return to Blairism. 

David Rosenberg and many other left-wing bloggers have argued from their own personal experience that the way of winning working class voters back to Labour and away from the far-right is through the hard work of knocking on doors and neighbourhood campaigning. This is what Blairism didn’t do. Jones showed in his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class that it was Blair that turned away and demonised them, and simply expected them to continue voting Labour as they didn’t have anywhere else to go. And it was the Blairites and Tories, who viewed the White working class as racist and vilified them as such. Although it also has to be said that they also courted them by appealing to their patriotism and their feeling of marginalisation in an increasingly multicultural society. And the fact that Jones took the trouble to attack this refutes Sargon’s attempt to present Jones as a ‘Communist’, who was against their interests.

Yes, you can find the misandrists, and the anti-White racists and extreme gay and trans rights activists in the Labour party. But they’re an unrepresentative minority, who are going to be controversial even in their own small circles. Attempts by the Tories to magnify their influence are deliberately deceptive in order to stop people from believing that the Labour party means to do anything for ordinary working people. Just as Sargon has tried to do in his video.

Winning back the working class from Boris does not mean a return to Blair and attempting to turn the party into the Conservatives 2.0. But it does mean returning to working class activism, representation and continuing to support real policies to benefit the working class, whether Black, White or Brown, Christian, atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or whatever.

And that has to be a return to genuine socialism.

UK Police Targeting Non-Violent Protest Groups as Terrorists

January 11, 2020

Mike this morning has put up a piece about the police in the south-east of England placing Extinction Rebellion on a list of extremist organisations and ideologies, which should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent programme. This comes from the Guardian, which states that the environmental activist group is included in a 12 page document, Safeguarding Young People and Adults from Ideological Extremism along with Islamism and neo-Nazism. This is, of course, of concern because Extinction Rebellion are actually non-violent, unlike Nazis and Islamists. I think they’re included because of their tactics of direct action. They deliberately try to stop and block traffic. This is an immense pain, and I don’t blame the commuters, who tried to pull one of them off a train they’d stopped to give him a beating, although I don’t approve of them wanting to beat him up. But Extinction Rebellion not violent, and don’t deserve to be treated as terrorists.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/01/10/terrorism-police-listed-extinction-rebellion-as-extremist-why-does-boris-johnson-get-off-the-hook/

But Extinction Rebellion aren’t alone. There is a chapter in The Violence of Austerity by Rizwaan Sabir, ‘Policing Anti-Austerity through the ‘War on Terror’, on the way anti-austerity activists are viewed almost as terrorist groups by an increasingly militarised police. Sabir tells how he obtained copies of the City of London’s police’s ‘Terrorism/extremism communique’ and similar documents through a Freedom of Information request after the communique had appeared on the net in 2011. These documents included UK Uncut, Occupy London and a number of other, peaceful groups, alongside al-Qaeda and the Columbian rebel group, FARC. One of the terrorist attacks the police believed were being planned was a ‘yoga and mediation flashmob’ by the group, Wake Up London.

When queried, the City of London Police claimed that the document’s title was a mistake and that they did not intend Occupy London to be included as a terrorist organisation. Sabir finds this unconvincing, as the information would have to have been collected by Special Branch and the Counter-Terrorism Department, and they’d done this seven times before. It was less of a mistake than a habit. Furthermore, the City of London police had a project to counter ‘hostile reconnaissance’, Servator. This refers to ‘criminals’, including extreme protest groups, organised crime and terrorists’. He also describes how the police used unlawful terror tactics to harass and intimidate protesters and journalists at Climate Camp’s 2008 protest against a power station in Kent.

He concludes that the use of coercive tactics used against activists and campaigners as counter-terrorism measures is neither new nor unique. The police see such activists as terrorists, and so feel justified in using violence and coercion against them. And the blurring of the boundaries between peaceful activism and terrorism leads the public to become indifferent to the criminalisation of protesters and the militarisation of the police. He concludes

Such policing practices undermine the UK’s purported commitment to human rights processes and its claim that it upholds principles of liberal democracy.

But you can’t really expect otherwise from the Tories.

Video of the V-9: the German Missile Against America

December 26, 2019

Hi peeps! I hope you had a great Christmas Day, and are enjoying Boxing Day.  Here’s another piece about German World War 2 aerospace technology. It’s a video from Mark Felton’s channel on YouTube about the America Rocket. Felton posts vlogs about World War II fighting machines, and in this video he describes how the rocket was designed by Werner von Braun to hit New York. It was a two-stage version of the V-2. Unlike its predecessor, however, it was to be piloted. The German guidance system couldn’t work over such a long range without beacons. The German navy tried placing these in Greenland and other places on the other side of the Atlantic, but they were quickly found and destroyed by the Allies. This left them with creating a piloted version of the missile their only option. It was not, however, a suicide weapon like the Japanese kamikaze. Just before or during its final dive, the pilot was expected to bail out and parachute to safety. Lack of funding and the turn of the War against the Nazis meant that this was fortunately never built. If it had been, not only would the Nazis have built the world’s first ICBM, but they would have been the first nation to put a man in space.

Again, I should say that while I’m impressed with the scientific and engineering expertise in the development of the V-2 and this missile, I despise its purpose. The V-2 was responsible for thousands of deaths in London, and the prospect of a missile that could hit New York is terrifying. Particularly if the Nazis had succeeded in developing nuclear weapons. And the Third Reich was, of course, a brutal dictatorship dedicated to the enslavement and extermination of millions.

After the War there was a plan by the British Interplanetary Society to adapt a captured V-2 so that it could carry a man into space. Nothing came of it, however, as when the plan was finalised the Ministry of Supply weren’t interested and the missiles and their parts were no longer available.

Book/Magazine on the Secret Warplanes of the Third Reich

December 24, 2019

Luftwaffe Secret Project Profiles, text by Dan Sharp, illustrations Daniel Uhr (Horncastle, Mortons Media 2018).

This is one of those curious magazines, which are really soft-cover book. I found this leafing through the magazine racks of W.H. Smith last Friday, along with the modelling magazine on present day spacecraft. Morton’s have published a series of books on the strange aircraft the Nazis developed during the Second World War. Desperate to snatch away the Allies’ impending victory, they encouraged German aircraft designers and engineers to produce innovative aircraft. And some of these were very weird indeed. They included rocket planes like the ME 163 and Bachem Natter, as well as bizarre planes that incorporated rotor blades around the fusilage and propellers mounted both fore and aft. This book doesn’t cover the weirder designs, but many of those it does include are very unorthodox. The Nazis had developed jet technology, the most well-known examples are the ME 262 and the pulsejet engine that powered the infamous V1 Flying bomb. As this book shows, German engineers also developed other planes incorporating both rocket and jet power.

The blurb for the magazine reads

The constantly evolving nature of the air war from 1939 to 1945 meant existing aircraft types on all sides required constant upgrades and requirements for new types were regularly passed on to aircraft manufacturers.

The German government had already put huge resources into aviation research and development before the War – resulting in significant technological progress. So when the Luftwaffe asked for new aircraft, firms such as Messerschmitt, Focke-Wulf, Heinkel and Henschel were able to draw on cutting-edge aerodynamic research in formulating their designs to meet those requirements.

Competitions were held and the firms’ designs were measured against one another and against the German government’s strict standards – and the result was further evolution and development of even the most advanced aircraft proposals.

Luftwaffe: Secret Project Profiles focuses on the jet-propelled aircraft designs of the German aircraft manufacturers during the Second World War, beautifully illustrated by aviation artist Daniel Uhr.

More than 200 high-detailed full colour profiles cover the full range of German jet ‘secret projects’ from the war years, accompanied by details of why the designs were produced and how they fared against their competitors – based on the latest archival research.

Offering a host of different colour schemes and detailed notes, this is indispensable reading for enthusiasts and modellers alike. 

After the introduction, the book has chapters on

  1. Early jet designs of Messerschmitt
  2. Messerschmitt Me 262 versions
  3. Arado Ar 234 versions
  4. Rocket fighters
  5. Interim night fighters
  6. The 1000 x 1000 x 1000 bomber. This took its name from its intended ability to fly 1,000 km at 1,000 kph carrying 1,000 kilos of bombs.
  7. Pulsejets
  8. The 1-TL-Jager, intended to replace the ME 262
  9. The Volksjager, or ‘People’s Fighter’. This would be an airplane that even untrained pilots could fly into combat.
  10. Ramjet fighters
  11. The first jet bombers

The concluding chapter is on miscellaneous jets.

The designs produced included aircraft with swept or delta wings and a single dorsal fine in the tail, like the ME 163 rocket plane. Some were also tailless, such as the plane designed by Horten. It has recently been suggested that this is what Kenneth Arnold saw when he reported a group of ‘flying saucers’ over the Rockies in 1947. It has also been suggested that the Soviets were planning to stage a fake alien landing using an adapted version of the aircraft with children surgically altered by Mengele, which just seems to me to be distasteful bullsh*t. Some of the planes had twin tails, or replaced the standard tail fin with a V-shaped arrangement, or had two dorsal fins at the end of the lateral fins. There was also a flying wing design, and a ramjet plane which would have replaced the tail with a large dorsal fin containing the cockpit. Other unusual planes were two-stage aircraft. Some of these had a rocket engine as the first stage, one of which was very like the V-2 rockets that hit London. Another design consisted of a carrier aircraft, from which another plane was launched.

Many of these radical designs never made it off the drawing board. Others seem to have resulted in a few prototypes, but never went into mass production. The stranger planes look like spacecraft from Science Fiction, or else they were what Dastardly and Muttley from the Hanna Barbara cartoons would have designed if they were set in World War II rather than World War I.

Some of these new designs influenced the development of post-War aircraft. It is no accident that one delta-winged bomber appeared a little like the later RAF Vulcan. After the War the captured aircraft designs and information were taken back to Britain and America. German research on delta-wings, which resulted in the ME 163 rocket interceptor, were used in the development of the Vulcan, and probably Concorde, because delta wings were then able to withstand extremely high speeds better than conventional wings.

This is a fascinating piece of aviation history and will, I’m sure, appeal to people with a genuine interest in the real unconventional craft the Germans were producing. But admiration with wartime German technical innovation should never obscure the fact that the Nazi era was a monstrous dictatorship that had at its heart the organised slaughter of millions.

But also looking at these planes, I also wonder what secret designs we were also producing in the same period, which have yet to be publicised.

Video on My Model of the Neolithic Mortuary House at Loftus in Britain

December 21, 2019

A bit more archaeology now, for those interested. Four years ago in 2015 I made this video about the model I’d made of the Neolithic mortuary house and palisade around its forecourt discovered beneath a long barrow, also from the Neolithic, at Loftus in Cleveland, Britain by Blaise Vyner during excavations from 1979 to 1981. The Neolithic was the period c. 4,000 BC when hunter-gatherers were settling down into settled communities and farming. The built long barrows to house the remains of their dead. The remains come from many different skeletons, and are often sorted according to body part. Long bones, for example, may be stored in one chamber while other parts of the skeleton were kept in another. Many of the barrows also have forecourts, some of which have traces of burning dating from the time they were built and used. From this archaeologists have suggested that the barrows were also the centres of religious ceremonies in which parts of the skeletons were handled in order to commune with the ancestors.

Mortuary houses are structures in which the bodies of the dead are kept during decomposition, after which they are buried for a second time with appropriate rituals. It’s a funerary practice found in many different society throughout the world, including North American First Nations and the people of Madagascar.

Incidentally, today is the winter solstice, which some archaeologists believe was the real time the stone circle at Stonehenge was built to mark. This is the shortest day of the year, after which the sun returns and the days start lengthening again. This would be seen by the monument’s ancient builders as the return of warmth, light and the revival of life after the cold of winter, and so an important event for early agricultural communities.

But considering how cold and miserable it’s been, I think it’ll be a very brave set of pagans, druids and hippies, who would go down there to celebrate it today. But I’ve no doubt some hardy souls will do it.

 

Scots Government Considering Nationalising Railways

December 19, 2019

But only in Scotland, of course. Today’s I carries a piece by Chris Green, ‘Scotrail may be nationalised after franchise cut short, reporting that the Scottish government is considering nationalising the rail contractor. Here’s a snippet from the article

The public sector could soon take over the running of Scotland’s railways after ministers decided to terminate the current ScotRail contract with Abellio three years early.

Abellio has been operating the service since 2015 and its contract was not due to expire until 2025, but it has faced growing anger over cancellations, overcrowding and delays.

The Scottish Government announced yesterday that it had activated a break clause in the contract, meaning that it will come to an end in March 2023.

The decision clears the way for a public sector bid for the franchise, which would honour a commitment made by the SNP ahead of the last Holyrood election in 2016.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson told MSPs that after examining the Dutch firm’s plans for the remainder of the contract, he was “not satisfied” it would provide value for passengers.

Mr Matheson said that the current franchising system had “failed” and called for the UK Government to devolve total control over the railways to Scotland, which would allow for full nationalisation.

The article goes on to report that the Tories are accusing the SNP of trying to duck out of its own failure in awarding the contract to Abellio in the first place. It also says that changes to rail franchising system were recommended by the Williams Review commission, but the government’s response has not been published. It also gives the response of Abellio, which states that it has invested more than £475m in train services, added 23 per cent more seats and created more than 500 jobs. This is supposed to be the greatest investment in trains and stations in over 150  years.

I hope the Scots go through with it and nationalise the service. This would show the rest of the UK that nationalisation really is a realistic long-term option. Failing railway companies in England have been nationalised several times over the past decade or so, but they’ve always been handed back to a private contractor. But the problems continue. It’s time that this ended, and we had a proper, nationalised railway.

Bring back British Rail!

The Election: It’s Due to Brexit and Smears, Not Rejection of Labour Policy

December 14, 2019

As I’m sure everyone following this blog knows, the Tories won Thursday’s election. I had a horrible feeling they would, because despite Labour’s excellent manifesto and the polls showing that support for the Labour party had risen so that they were close behind them, the Tories are masters of deception. They’ve had the mass media, almost without exception, lying to the electorate for the last ten years. And I was afraid people would believe Johnson’s lies when he said he was going to build 40 new hospitals, recruit more coppers and nurses. All demonstrable lies, but people believe them. Just as they believed the lies put out by Thatcher and Major when their reforms were causing mass unemployment, poverty and misery, and ruining the Health Service. But I was unprepared for the extent of the Tory victory. They now have a majority of 78 seats.

Like very many people, I felt extremely bitter and angry, and spent yesterday trying not to think about politics, though it was inevitable. And now I’m ready to start analysing and making sense of this mess.

Martin Odoni has already written a very good piece about it, which is well worth reading. He argues that the result had zip to do with the public rejecting Labour’s manifesto, and everything to do with Brexit. He writes

It is absolutely self-evident, and was even so as the results were unfolding, that the biggest factor in the outcome by a country mile was Brexit. At almost every turn where Labour’s support had slumped, a similar number of votes had been claimed by the Brexit Party, by the Tories, or by a combination of the two – the two parties that are most rigorously pursuing British departure from the European Union. Most of Labour’s lost support was in traditional working class territory in the north of England, the north of Wales, and the Midlands, and most particularly in areas where there was a high Leave vote in the 2016 Referendum.

Now, I have no doubt Corbyn was a factor in some voters’ rejection of Labour – no politician will be everybody’s cup of tea. And given how brutally and relentlessly he has been smeared by the media, including many supposedly ‘left-leaning’ periodicals, there can be no doubt that the wider public’s view of Corbyn has been unfairly coloured. But the general results do not offer any specific evidence of a rejection of Labour’s policy platform as a whole. The shift was very definitely Leavers, with their maddening tunnel-visioned obsession with Brexit, moving to parties boasting their determination to ‘Get Brexit done’.

Either way, a personal objection to Corbyn does not constitute an objection to his policies. When discussing the Labour Manifesto, people were usually very enthused – Labour’s polling numbers did improve substantially rather than deteriorate after it was launched – just as they had been in 2017. On that occasion, Labour scored forty per cent of the vote, and it seems unlikely that huge numbers have suddenly reversed that position.

Absolutely. When Labour were mooting their new policies – of renationalising the NHS, and taking water, electricity and the railways back into public ownership – the polls showed that the public largely supported them. Which is why the Tories and the mass media had to fall back to smearing Corbyn personally with the false accusations of anti-Semitism and that he was some kind of Communist, IRA-supporting threat. Also, analysis of the grassroots membership of UKIP also showed that they’re largely in favour of nationalising the public utilities. What they don’t like is the EU, immigration and the new morality – the acceptance of the LGBTQ community. UKIP always was much smaller than the impression given by the media, and collapsed when it spectacularly failed to win any seats at the last election. The reasonable, or at least, less bonkers section of its membership went over to Fuhrage’s Brexit party, which has now also collapsed.

I conclude from this that it’s not Labour’s manifesto that’s the problem, despite Piers Morgan and the rest of the media and Tory establishment, including the Labour right, all claiming that it’s ‘far left’. It isn’t, and never was. It’s properly centrist in the true Labour tradition of a mixed economy.

I also think it would be difficult for the Labour to win under the circumstances. The anti-Semitism smears began when the Jewish Ed Miliband was elected leader. He was far more moderate than Corbyn, but dared to utter a mild criticism of Israel and so was subjected to a storm of smears. And Maureen Lipman flounced out of the party for the first time. Corbyn was then subjected to further smears and abuse for his support of the Palestinians – which does not equal anti-Semitism nor even a hatred of Israel, except in the minds of the ultra-Zionist fanatics. This was pushed by the media and the Conservative Jewish establishment, as well as the Labour right. They also misrepresented his work helping to negotiate peace in Northern Ireland as support for terrorism and the IRA. Oh yes, and he’s also supposed to be a supporter of Islamist terrorism. There’s also a nasty touch of racism in some of the other reasons I’ve heard for people not giving him their support. I’ve been told that Labour are in favour of open borders, and would flood the country with immigrants. Diane Abbott is also bitterly hated, and among the sneers I’ve heard thrown at the Labour leader is the accusation that he had an affair with her. Well, he might have, but that’s his own business and doesn’t affect his policies or how he intends to govern. Abbott is perceived by many as anti-White. I remember the quotation the Scum attributed to her in the 1987 general election ‘All White people are racist’. I don’t know if she really said it, but I doubt she believes it now. She’s friends with Michael Portillo, so I don’t think she regards him as racist. But her continuing anti-racism means that she is perceived by some as anti-White. And this also extends to Corbyn through their close professional relationship. And then there are the antics of the Labour right and their determination to bring Corbyn down through splits, rumours of splits,  right-wing female Labour MPs trying to claim that he’s a misogynist and the endless lying and partisanship of the media.

It reminded me very much of the elections in the 1980s and the abuse and smears hurled at the Labour leaders Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock. Labour lost those elections, and Lobster has published a number of articles explaining how, under the circumstances, it would have been difficult for Labour to win.

But I don’t believe that we should give up hope just yet.

Labour’s manifesto was popular. People do want a return to the old social democratic consensus of a welfare state, mixed economy, and nationalised NHS. Prviatisation hasn’t worked, services are still crumbling and Boris will soon show how empty his promises about building hospitals and putting more money into the Health Service are. It’s just that, for the people who voted Tory in the north and midlands, Brexit took precedence.

And I feel that Corbyn has also given people hope. Before Corbyn’s election, I was extremely pessimistic about the survival of the NHS because all of the parties were participating in its privatisation. But Corbyn showed that its privatisation was not inevitable, at least at the hands of Labour. Which is no doubt partly the reason why the Labour Thatcherites are now queuing up to blame him for the election defeat. I do feel very strongly that Corbyn has set a very firm basis for a future Labour party to build on and grow from here, provided it finds a suitable successor.

I do not want another Blair.

Also, my guess is that this defeat will also make the true Labour supporters more determined. Always remember: an animal is most dangerous when it is cornered. I’ve heard tweets from people calling for new, more aggressive forms of resistance like the occupation of Jobcentres. And these will come. People will think up new ways of getting Labour’s message across.

And Boris hasn’t and won’t solve this country’s problems. Sooner or later some people, at least, will have to realise what I sham and a fraud the Tories are.

Let’s make it sooner.

Labour Party: 16 Year Olds Should Have Vote in EU Referendum

December 10, 2019

Last Saturday’s I also said that Corbyn has promised to extend the vote to 16 year olds in a future EU referendum. The article, by Harriet Line, ran

Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed that he would want voters aged 16 and older to be able to take part in an EU referendum under Labour.

“You ask about people voting in the referendum. We have been very clear from our previous manifesto, as well as this one, that we will lower the voting age to 16 as we think that’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Sixteen-year-olds already vote in Scotland and in Wales, and we think that should be extended across the whole of the UK. I see absolutely no complications in that at all.”

Speaking at a press conference in London he added: “It’s young people’s future that’s at stake here. Let them take part in that discussion and in that debate. We will be doing that as a priority in a Labour government.”

I realise the extension of the franchise to 16 year olds was controversial when it was introduced in Scotland. Many argued that young people of that age were too young and inexperienced to have the responsibility of voting for their government. Against that is the argument that the parties have been trying to overcome voter apathy by appealing to school students and trying to get them interested and enthusiastic about politics. Part of the rejection against the lowering of the voting age in Scotland came from the Tories, who objected to it because young people up there were more nationalistic, and so more likely to vote SNP, than their elders. In Britain generally, young people are also more likely to support remaining in the EU. Support for UKIP, and now, I suppose, the Brexit party, is strongest amongst the over 50s.

But the Labour party is right. The question of EU membership directly affects young people’s future, and so it is entirely right that they should have the vote for it.

And it also shows that Labour is serious about extending democracy, unlike the Lib Dems, who seem to have thrown out John Stuart Mill and his concern with political and joined the Tories in wanting to keep effective power restricted to a very narrow elite.