Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Simon Webb Now Pushing NHS Privatisation

February 6, 2023

With the NHS crisis the Tories the Tories have created, the sharks really are circling in the water. Nana Akua of GB News seems to be one of those plugging its privatisation, along with broadcaster, stalker and jailbird Alex Belfield. And now they’ve been joined by Our Favourite Internet (non)Historian, Simon Webb. He put up a post this morning with the title ‘What’s So Bad About Privatising the NHS?’ It’s short, but I haven’t watched it on the grounds that I’d find it too infuriating. Webb is, of course, far right, and seems to get most of his views from the Torygraph, which has also been pushing this nonsense. As someone who takes history seriously, Webb should know what an immense difference the NHS and the welfare state made to the lives of ordinary Brits. I’ve blogged about it, citing my sources. But some of those I’ve used were by social worker types, the kind of people the Tory party has been trying to discredit for donkey’s years, and so someone like Webb would simply ignore them out of hand. But I’ve also used books from the time looking forward to the foundation of the NHS, as well as Jackie Davis’ and Ray Tallis’ excellent NHS – SOS. In contrast to what the privatisers will tell you, private healthcare is not more efficient. It’s less. Private hospitals are smaller, and in order to make a profit private healthcare largely ignores the long-term sick in order to concentrate on people who are mostly well. When private healthcare companies have taken over doctors’ surgeries in this country, they’ve closed down those they consider unprofitable, leaving thousands without a doctor. Also, private healthcare spends a large proportion of their running costs on administration, so as a consequence these costs have risen in the NHS as a consequence of its privatisation.

At the moment there seems to be a trend among the political class to be looking at the continental healthcare systems, where medical costs are paid by a mixture of state and private health insurance. But this also neglects the simple fact that these countries also spend much more on their healthcare generally than we do. The privatisation of the NHS won’t improve healthcare, but it will give private healthcare firms the support of the state sector, which is what they want.

And it seems to me that what the Tories really want is a completely private healthcare system, funded by private health insurance, like America. And that really would be disastrous. Except for their corporate friends, of course, who would get all those great profits.

A few years ago I wrote a book and a pamphlet against the privatisation of the NHS. Here’s their description. The pamphlets are available from me, if you want one, while the book’s available from Lulu.

Privatisation: Killing the NHS, by David Sivier, A5, 34 pp. This is a longer pamphlet against the privatisation of the NHS. It traces the gradual privatisation of the Health Service back to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, John Major’s Private Finance Initiative in the 1990s, the Blair and Brown ‘New Labour’ governments, and finally David Cameron and the Conservatives. There is a real, imminent danger that the NHS will be broken up and privatised, as envisioned by Andrew Lansley’s, the author of the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act of 2012. This would return us to the conditions of poor and expensive healthcare that existed before the foundation of the NHS by the Clement Atlee’s Labour government in 1948. Already the Tories have passed legislation permitting ‘healthcare providers’ – which include private companies – to charge for NHS services.

The book is fully referenced, with a list of books for further reading, and organisations campaigning to preserve the NHS and its mission to provide universal, free healthcare.

Don’t Let Cameron Privatise the NHS, David Sivier, A5, 10pp.

This is a brief critique of successive government’s gradual privatisation of the NHS, beginning with Margaret Thatcher. Tony Blair’s New Labour were determined to turn as much healthcare as possible over to private companies, on the advice of the consultants McKinsey and the American insurance companies. The Conservatives under David Cameron have continued and extended Blair’s privatisation, so that there is a real danger that the NHS, and the free, universal service it has provided for sixty-five years, will be destroyed. If the NHS is to be saved, we must act soon.

Here’s the video I made years ago for my book against the privatisation of the health service.

I also put up this video, which only four people have watched, asking people to vote Labour to defend the NHS. I hope people will, as some Labour MPs will defend it. But I’m not at all sure about Starmer.

How Can I Get My Book and Pamphlet Against NHS Privatisation Out to the Wider Public?

February 1, 2023

Okay, a few years ago – I was when Cameron was in power – I was so worried about NHS privatisation that I wrote a couple of pieces of literature about it. One was just a pamphlet consisting of a few pieces of A4 folded together giving the main points about NHS privatisation and how it was killing the health service. Another was a short book, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, which I self-published through Lulu, the print on demand service. Since doing so, I’ve had next to zero interest in them. I have a page about them on this blog. Simply go to the relevant bar, and look at ‘pages’ and you’ll find them there, along with other books I’ve self-published. Here’s the pieces about them from that page.

Don’t Let Cameron Privatise the NHS, David Sivier, A5, 10pp.

This is a brief critique of successive government’s gradual privatisation of the NHS, beginning with Margaret Thatcher. Tony Blair’s New Labour were determined to turn as much healthcare as possible over to private companies, on the advice of the consultants McKinsey and the American insurance companies. The Conservatives under David Cameron have continued and extended Blair’s privatisation, so that there is a real danger that the NHS, and the free, universal service it has provided for sixty-five years, will be destroyed. If the NHS is to be saved, we must act soon.

Long Anti-NHS Privatisation pic

Privatisation: Killing the NHS, by David Sivier, A5, 34 pp. This is a longer pamphlet against the privatisation of the NHS. It traces the gradual privatisation of the Health Service back to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, John Major’s Private Finance Initiative in the 1990s, the Blair and Brown ‘New Labour’ governments, and finally David Cameron and the Conservatives. There is a real, imminent danger that the NHS will be broken up and privatised, as envisioned by Andrew Lansley’s, the author of the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act of 2012. This would return us to the conditions of poor and expensive healthcare that existed before the foundation of the NHS by the Clement Atlee’s Labour government in 1948. Already the Tories have passed legislation permitting ‘healthcare providers’ – which include private companies – to charge for NHS services.

The book is fully referenced, with a list of books for further reading, and organisations campaigning to preserve the NHS and its mission to provide universal, free healthcare.

If you would like one of the pamphlets, please get in touch using the contact form below. All details will of course be kept strictly confidential, and will not be passed on to third parties. If you only want single copies of the above, let me know and I’ll post them free to you.’

Now with the NHS facing a truly devastating crisis and the Tory and hard-right sharks circling and demanding its privatisation, I want to get these out to as many people as possible. And I’d be grateful for any ideas.

Of course, one way would simply be to have multiple copies of these pamphlets printed off and to set up a stall in town, and especially right when there’s a strike. But I only have a very small number of copies of the books around at the moment. Also, the myeloma means that I am not as mobile as I once was, and the council and bus companies in their infinite wisdom have cut the direct route from where I live into the centre of Bristol. But I’m hoping this might still be an option.

For the self-published book, one solution might be to go to see the buyer for my local branch of Waterstone’s and see if they would be interested in stocking it.

I’m also considering writing to my local Labour party and asking if they would be interested in stocking them, as well as contacting my local Labour MP to see if she would also like copies. I’m hesitant to do this, however, as I put the blame firmly where it lies – not just with Thatcher and the Tories, but also with Blair and New Labour. Kier Starmer is a true-blue Thatcherite and devoted follower of Blairism. He has said some ominous things about using the private sector to aid the NHS, even though it’s due to privatisation, as well as underfunding, that is responsible for this crisis. The local MP for south Bristol, Karen Smyth, is very firmly on the side of the health service, but she’s also an admirer of Starmer. Reading her messages about the health service, while she says much about how it’s been run down, she doesn’t condemn outsourcing. I can therefore see the pamphlets being extremely unwelcome in certain right-wing Labour circles.

Beyond this, any suggestions?

I’d be interested to know if there are any left-wing organisations that would be willing to accept copies of the book and pamphlet and/or publicise them. I’ve tried looking on Google for small press associations and organisations that might be suitable, but none have so far turned up. One possibility could be contacting some of the left-wing news and comment sites on YouTube and the Internet, but I’m not sure how willing they’d be to say anything about them. I haven’t had much luck in the past when I sent some of my literature to the Canary and a few others.

If you therefore have any ideas, please let me know in the comments section below.

Megaphone Urges People to Join Protests Against Sunak’s Anti-Strike Legislation

January 31, 2023

Rishi Sunak, our unelected Prime Minister, has pushed through parliament his wretched anti-strike legislation. Put working people are organising to push it back. I got this message from Megaphone, the internet campaigning branch of the TUC. There’s a wave of protests planned for tomorrow, and the Megaphone is naturally keen for people to get involved.

‘David,

Last night, the government rammed its shameful anti-strike bill through the House of Commons.

Instead of tackling the cost of living crisis, the Prime Minister is attacking key workers and clamping down on our most basic rights. 

The campaign to protect our right to strike does not end here. The Bill will now be debated in the House of Lords and there is still time to have these laws scrapped. But that will only happen if we take to the streets. 

On Wednesday February 1st (tomorrow!), working people are coming together at rallies and picket lines up and down the country to defend our right to strike. 


We now have more than 80 events registered on Megaphone, with more being added every hour.

With close to half a million workers on strike tomorrow, it’s the biggest day of industrial action in a decade.

Let’s march together to show our teachers, firefighters, civil servants, rail workers, NHS workers and countless others that we support their action to defend pay, jobs and services. Let’s send a clear message to the government that we will not be ignored. 

Defend the right to strike:

Find a Feb 1st action near me!

Enter your postcode to find your closest event. 

It’s so important that we can strike for fair pay, safe conditions and to protect each other. Without this, we have no right to choose.

As the cost-of-living crisis continues to hurt workers everywhere, we need to be able to stand together and choose to strike when we must.

Join an event near you on Wednesday, February 1st.

In Unity,

Anthony

Megaphone UK’

The protest in Bristol starts at 10.45 am and is at Defra Horizon House, BS1 5AH. I really don’t know where that is, and am unable to attend due to sickness. But I am full square behind the protesters in Bristol and elsewhere in the country.

Get Sunak and the Tories out!

Breaking News from Arise: Firefighters Vote Overwhelmingly for Strike Action

January 30, 2023

Just got this from the Arise Festival of Left-wing Ideas:

BREAKING: Firefighters deliver emphatic mandate for industrial action

Hello David

We are writing to share the breaking news that Firefighters have delivered a decisive mandate for strike action, with 88% voting Yes on a 73% turnout. You can:

Yours in solidarity.
The Arise & Labour Assembly volunteers.

This is so overwhelming that the vote would still be valid and binding even under Sunak’s proposed cruddy legislation to stifle strikes. We’ve seen the firefighters before lock horns with the government over pay and redundancies. This is shows how massively discontented they are, and with good reason.

So maximum support to our firefighters, and out with Sunak and the Tories.

Open Britain: Tories Using Brexit to Scrap Laws Protecting Consumers, Workers and the Environment

January 20, 2023

Here’s another update on the Tory attack on democracy, this time using the pretext of Brexit to scrap up to 4,000 British laws protecting ordinary Brits and the environment against big business exploitation.

‘Dear David,

The Brexit campaign did not end when the UK left the EU. High priests of the cause, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, continue to influence government priorities and push damaging legislation such as the Retained EU Law Bill.

They say that the Retained EU Law Bill is a simple administrative tool to tidy up UK law following our messy departure from the EU. But the truth is altogether more sinister.

What that Bill actually does is give government ministers powers to scrap up to 4000 perfectly sensible UK laws that enforce environmental standards, protect workers’ rights and help consumers hold big business to account…and all without any further reference to our elected representatives in Parliament.

This Bill is a blatant attempt to further entrench the interests of big business over those of ordinary people and the environment. No wonder they are attempting to rush it through at an indecent pace; it would never pass proper democratic scrutiny.

The fact of the matter is that the Brexit purists in this Sunak government don’t care about democracy. They are only interested in delivering for their wealthy paymasters (spoiler: that’s not you and me), and if that requires them to pass regressive legislation behind a smokescreen of anti-EU sentiment and dangerous xenophobia, then so be it.

They will do anything to perpetuate the illusion that Brexit is something other than a cruel ruse carried out on behalf of the elite beneficiaries of a harsh economic model that puts excessive profits first and people and the environment last.

The Retained EU Law Bill demonstrates the general recklessness of the ongoing Brexit project. Ministers are taking ‘Henry VIII’ powers for themselves and have imposed a deadline of December 2023, beyond which any of the laws on their list that have not been given a reprieve will simply fade into the ether.

Consumer protections…gone. Workers’ rights…gone. Environmental standards…gone. For the Brexit puritans, this would be a proud victory; for the British public, an abject and undemocratic disaster.

By taking this approach, government ministers are effectively cheating Parliament, and therefore the British people, out of our right to scrutinise the laws we must live by. Sunak is effectively placing critical elements of Britain’s future in the hands of a minority of Brexit radicals. No one voted for that, and we should not accept it.

It’s no secret why he’s doing it, either. This Sunak government is so weak that it cannot do anything without the agreement of their most radical faction: those who were never going to be satisfied with Brexit and who want to push this country further into the realm of right-wing extremism. (Just this week, the cranks in that faction forced the government to table an amendment to the Online Safety Bill that would make it illegal to share videos of small-boat Channel crossings if they were presented in a “positive light”. Wow!)

It’s important to remember where all this started…in the poisonous Brexit referendum campaign. There is a direct line between the lies and fear-mongering of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson in 2016 and the Conservative playbook in 2023. Unfortunately for us, neither of those two charlatans shows any sign of going away. Almost everything Farage says these days suggests he is planning to unleash another wave of Brexit-level political chaos in the coming elections. And just last week, we saw press reports that Johnson received a record-smashing £1,000,000 donation from a wealthy Brexiteer, which some have speculated could fund a campaign to retake Number 10 if/when the Conservatives take a kicking in May’s local elections.

All of this demonstrates why Open Britain’s fight against the “Farage-isation” of UK politics has never been more important or more urgent. We’re determined to ensure that these political wreckers can never exert their will over us again.

Despite their self-congratulation and the symbolic victories they claim, the Brexit campaign has achieved nothing positive for the people of this country, especially the most vulnerable, who endorsed it with the hope that it would improve their lot. As elections approach, we must all resolve to use our democratic power to put this dangerous ideology to bed once and for all.

The Open Britain team

PS – A quick reminder that we and a number of partners in the democracy sector are working to put pressure on Labour to commit to making the changes we need to renew our political system. You can help right now by signing our joint petition here to get Keir Starmer to support proportional representation.

This is all deeply alarming, though not entirely unexpected. We warned a few years ago that the Tories wished to replace EU, or EU inspired human rights legislation with a British Bill of Rights, which would be far weaker.

Going through this, I found the legislation banning people from sharing videos of the channel migrants particularly pernicious. I’d seen something about this in the titles of videos from various anti-immigrant groups and people on the web. The impression given was that the government was doing this to stop people knowing about the large numbers of migrants crossing the channel in order to protect the migrants themselves and the supposed official policies protecting and encouraging them. But according to Britain, this is absolutely not the case.

The Tories really are getting desperate. Sunak is flailing around with no new ideas against a wave of strikes which have popular support. Hence the attempts to make the right to strike all about illegal, and repeal EU legislation in order to appease the Brxiteers. People like Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

We have to stand firm and get them out.

Open Britain on the Tory Attack on Democracy

January 17, 2023

I got this email from the pro-democracy organisation, Open Britain, on the Tories’ continued campaign against democracy in our fair country. It runs

Dear David,

Over the last four years, we have witnessed a rapid reduction in the fairness and inclusivity of UK politics. Rishi Sunak seems determined to continue Boris Johnson’s all-out assault on the rights, institutions, and norms designed to hold the government to account. Academics have a term for this process: “democratic backsliding”.

It’s worth reflecting on recent years through the lens of backsliding to understand where Johnson, Truss, and Sunak are taking us – and how low we’ve already sunk. Researchers at University College London have identified the following critical elements of backsliding:

  1. Breakdown in the norms and standards of political behaviour
  2. Disempowerment of the legislature, the courts, and independent regulators
  3. The reduction of civil liberties and press freedoms; and/or
  4. Harm to the integrity of the electoral system 

On the first element, it’d be nearly impossible to deny that norms and standards in UK politics have become warped beyond recognition, largely thanks to Boris Johnson.

The sheer quantity of Johnson’s absurd lies to the public. The blatant PPE contract corruption. The unlawful attempt to prorogue Parliament. The repeated partying throughout the pandemic. Truss’ appointment of Mark Fullbrook as chief of staff. Rishi Sunak’s refusal to sack Suella Braverman amid egregious security violations. Take your pick.

But norms have also been eroded at a deeper level. The government now appears comfortable with breaking international law whenever it suits their needs.

The Internal Markets Bill (2020), the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill (2022), the planned Bill of Rights Bill, and the plans to offshore asylum seekers to Rwanda all undermine the UK’s long-held reputation for upholding international agreements on human rights and trade agreements (many of which UK ministers and officials helped to draft). Our government is clearly quite comfortable ignoring its citizens and the international community. It’s safe to say that the first box on that list is checked.

On the second element, backsliding may not be as apparent, but close inspection reveals some seriously concerning changes here too.

The government has attracted robust criticism from the Hansard Society for rushing bills through Parliament and abusing the ‘statutory instruments’ mechanism to limit Parliament’s ability to scrutinise bills properly.

They have also drawn widespread criticism for taking steps that inevitably undermined the powers and independence of the Electoral Commission. Boris Johnson removed the Commission’s powers to prosecute and attempted to give a (then) Tory-dominated committee control over its operations, and a number of Conservative MPs even called for its abolition.

It’s not just the Electoral Commission either. Former Commissioner for Public Appointments Peter Riddell also accused the government of “packing” appointment panels to blatantly place political allies in the House of Lords.

On the third element, we’ve also seen that this government is willing to toss aside fundamental rights and freedoms when they become politically inconvenient. The Policing Act (2022) was a significant affront to our right to protest, including giving police the right to shut down “noisy” protests.

That is now followed by the Public Order Bill (2023), currently in the Lords, which seeks to expand these measures further, giving police the right to pre-emptively crackdown on protests before they happen and keep registers of known activists based on facial recognition data. If that’s not an infringement of civil liberties, then nothing is.

And let’s not forget Dominic Raab’s grubby plans to overturn the Human Rights Act. 

We’ve also recently seen the press and the labour movement under fire from the government. Several journalists were arrested while covering climate protests last November, despite showing valid press IDs. And the government’s plans to privatise Channel 4 last year – finally abandoned under public pressure this January – and their continued hostility towards the BBC betray an instinct for threatening vital public news services when they are perceived to be getting in the way.

The Sunak government’s latest priority is to crack down on the right to strike by introducing government-set minimum service standards, once again choosing authoritarian mandates over dialogue or compromise. It’s hard to deny backsliding is also occurring in this area.

On the final element, it has been clear for some time that the integrity of the voting system used for general elections is in jeopardy. The Elections Act (2022) now requires voters to show ID at polling stations, something that creates a barrier to legitimate electors being able to exercise their democratic right to vote. Worse, the government’s choice of valid ID seems to disadvantage people from demographics less likely to vote Conservative. That bill also mandated the use of FPTP for Mayoral and Police Commissioner elections, entrenching a broken system that does not accurately reflect the true will of the electorate. 

It’s clear that the UK is indeed in a phase of democratic backsliding. But that doesn’t mean we have to continue on this path. 

As we move forward in 2023, OB will continue to work, alone and with partners who share our ambitions and values, to ensure UK democracy is striding forwards, not sliding backwards.

The Open Britain team

P.S. We and a number of partners in the democracy sector are working to put pressure on Labour to commit to making the changes we need to renew our political system. You can help right now by signing our joint petition here to get Keir Starmer to support proportional representation.

Add to this the secret courts that Dodgy Dave Cameron pushed through, in which you can be tried in secret, without you or your defence knowing the identity of your accusers and evidence withheld from you if the authorities deem it necessary for reasons of national security, and we really are heading towards what some commenters call ‘a democratic deficit’.

I didn’t realise this, but the tribune was the Roman magistrate charged with defending the rights of the plebs and the army. Hence the phrase, ‘a tribune of the people’. The late 18th century French revolutionary communist, Gracchus Babeuf, also recommended a panel of officials charged with making sure local politicos performed their duties. If they didn’t, their constituents had the right of recall and out they would go. I like this idea, and the fact that the Romans knew that you needed officials to protect democratic rights and freedoms shows, in my opinion, just how wise they were. Not wise enough not to be ruled by a bunch of raving psychopaths, but you can’t expect too much from past ages.

Boris claims to be a great admirer of ancient Rome. It’s a pity the tribunes aren’t one of them. Instead from the Tories we get a lot of bluster about democracy and free speech right when they trying to undermine all of it.

Calendar of Coming Left-Labour Events

January 17, 2023

I’ve had some of this blog’s great commenters wondering what the Labour left is doing to challenge Starmer’s stranglehold on the party and his determination to turn it into another version of the Tories. And not necessarily one further to the left. The Labour left is still around and organising events. I’ve had some emails about them, but didn’t put them up as they were in-person meetings in London, and so difficult to get to for people like me in the provinces, or they were about foreign politics, like Latin America, which I didn’t think many people would be interested in. Yesterday I had another email from Matt Willgress through the Arise festival of left ideas and the Labour Assembly against Austerity, giving details about events coming up in what remains of this month and February.

Let’s make 2023 the year of growing waves of resistance.

Read my article here // Retweet it here to spread the word // Register for Feb.1 here

Hello David

Last week, Tory ministers met numerous unions to discuss public-sector pay, but no movement was made, meaning that strike action is set to escalate, including with the PCS announcing 100,000 will be on strike on what is shaping up to be a major day of industrial and other forms of action on February 1st, the day of our #BuildingtheFightback rally.

The Tory refusal to budge on pay is the logical follow-on from locking-in austerity for years. On the Left we need to understand the scale of what we are up against politically, the extent of the crisis Britain is facing, and the nature of what is to come if the Tories aren’t forced out, including that this is an increasingly authoritarian Government.

We need to be organising resistance  right now – and we need to be backing those movements taking direct action and backing those workers taking industrial action. Let’s make 2023 the year of  growing waves of resistance to the Tories – join us at Building the Fightback on February 1 (details below) in solidarity with workers in struggle and to map out our next steps.

Yours in solidarity,
Matt Willgress, on behalf of the Arise volunteers.
 

RALLY: Building the fightback in 2023.

Online rally, 6.30pm, Wednesday February 1. Join us on to hear about & build on a day of action across the country!
Register here // Invite & share here // Retweet here.

Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary // Diane Abbott MP // Dave Ward, CWU GS // Richard Burgon MP // Helen O’Connor, GMB Southern Region & Peoples Assembly // Liz Cabeza, Acorn (Haringey) // Nabeela Mowlana, Young Labour // Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No // Matt Wrack, FBU GS & more.

Join leaders of key industrial disputes – and who are at the forefront of fighting proposed anti-union laws – at this vital event! Now is the time to build the growing fightback, co-ordinate the resistance & popularise policies that put people before profit. 

Hosted by Arise – a Festival of Left Ideas. All other pages listed on social media are kindly helping to promote the event. 

OTHER 2023 DIARY DATES:

1) FORUM: The economic crisis – was Marx right?


Online. Monday January 23, 2023. Register here // share & invite here // retweet here to spread the word

Here in Britain and around the world the economic crisis is deepening. Join economist Michael Roberts for debate and discussion – was Nye Bevan right, wrong, or both when he said “Marxism put into the hands of the working class movement… the most complete blueprints for political action the world has ever seen?”


Labour Outlook forum as part of the Socialist Ideas series – kindly streamed by Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas.

2) CONFERENCE: The World At War – A Trade Union Issue

Register here. Saturday 21 January 2023, 10.30am, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD (Nearest tube: Euston/Kings Cross). 

Jeremy Corbyn MP // Mick Whelan, ASLEF // Salma Yaqoob // Fran Heathcote, PCS // Alex Gordon, RMT // Ricardo La Torre, FBU & more.

Organised by the Stop the War Coalition.

3) DIARY DATE: A Society in Crisis – Building a Progressive Policy Platform.

Sat 11 Feb, 2023, 10:00am, Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London, WC1B 5DQ. Register here – Retweet here.

“The economic, social and environmental crises we face mean the need for a transformative policy agenda is more urgent than ever. For this reason, on February 11, I will be bringing together academics, think tanks, policy researchers and experts, campaigners and others to develop a progressive policy platform – and hope you can join us there.” – John McDonnell MP.

Organised by Claim the Future & Influencing the Corridors of Power’

It’s a pity the last meeting is in London, as this is what the left really need to challenge neoliberalism, in the Labour party as much as anywhere else. Perhaps they’ll release a video of it later on YouTube.

Gladstone’s Defence of Jewish Emancipation

January 13, 2023

Among the various texts and speeches in Alan Bullock’s and Maurice Shock’s The Liberal Tradition from Fox to Keynes is one of Gladstone’s advocating Jewish emancipation. Traditionally Jews, along with Roman Catholics and Protestant Dissenters had been legally barred from public politics and offices through the Test and Corporation Acts. During the 19th century these legal disabilities were removed so that the members of these religious groups were able to vote and hold public offices, serving as MPs and local councillors. When it came to the Jews, Gladstone made a brilliant speech urging their emancipation and rebutting the various prejudices against them. These were that they hated Christians, had no love for the country and were money-grubbing. Gladstone attacked these by saying that if Jews hated Christians, it was because Christians had persecuted them. If they had no love for their country, it was because their country still only half accepted them. And they were only money-grubbing because banking had been the only profession they had been allowed to pursue. But the Jews were nevertheless a great people, and he compared their glorious past, when they possessed the splendid temple in Jerusalem and merchants fleets plying the seas, when at the time the British were still savages living in mud huts.

Gladstone is something of a paradoxical figure. He started as a right-wing Anglican before moving left and becoming one of the leading voices for the non-conformist conscience. He also wanted the disestablishment of the Anglican church and Home Rule for Ireland. If he’d been able to get it, this may well have prevented so much violence and bitterness this past century. He believed strongly in political freedom and the Liberals were critics of imperialism, but it was during Gladstone’s tenure as prime minister that the British empire expanded the most.

I felt I should put up a piece about him and his defence of the Jewish people and their freedom, because last year following Black Lives Matter and the current debate over slavery there were a couple of attempts to remove memorials to him. The students at one of the Liverpudlian universities decided to rename one of their halls of residence named after him because his family had got their wealth from slavery. The new hall was instead named after a Black communist woman schoolteacher. I’m sure she was a fine and inspiring lady, but she’s not in the same league as Gladstone. In London, Sadiq Khan’s decision to rename public amenities according to the present ethnic composition of their areas lead to an activist coming into a number of schools in Black and Asian majority areas to urge that the local park, named after Gladstone, should be renamed. Two of the suggestions were ‘BAME Park’ and that it should be renamed after Diane Abbott. Again, as one of Britain’s first Black MPs, she deserves to be memorialised, but again, she isn’t a political titan like Gladstone.

People are not responsible for the actions of their ancestors, and however much we despise the source of his wealth, Gladstone was not only one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers, but one of the 19th century architects of British liberty and democratic institutions. People need to know far more about him, and the other great politicians, rather than having him erased from public memory because of present controversies over the source of their money. Because if people like Gladstone are removed from public memory, so too is their achievement in helping to build a free Britain in which people can express their hatred of slavery and tyranny.

Jeremy Bentham’s Radical Political Beliefs

January 13, 2023

Jeremy Bentham was a British 19th century philosopher. He was the inventor of Utilitarianism, a moral philosophy that states that something is good if it creates the greatest happiness for the greatest number. This, however, fails as it neglects the fact that some things are inherently good or evil even though they may be popular. One of the examples of this would be a case where a mob demands the execution of a wrongly accused man. It is still wrong to execute an innocent person, even if this is massively popular and demanded by the majority of people. Bentham was also interested in prison reform and design. In his view, prisons should be laid out so that the prisoners and their activities were all under surveillance from a central hub, the panopticon. This constant surveillance would, he believed, lead to prisoners acquiring the habit of behaving decently and legally and so reform their characters ready for release back into society. Modern critics consider it a chilling, totalitarian surveillance society in miniature. Another of his ideas is truly bonkers. He believed that people – presumably members of the aristocracy and people accustomed to public service and social prominence – should preserve their ancestors after death through mummification and embalming, and put them on display as ‘autoicons’. The intention behind this bizarre idea is that people, surrounded by their dead relatives and antecedents, would then feel themselves encouraged to emulate their virtues. Bentham had himself preserved, and is on display in a glass case at Oxford University, except for his head, which is a waxwork. His real head is in a case somewhere, and not displayed.

However, the Utilitarians were behind the early 19th century hygiene reforms that cleaned up Britain’s cities by demanding proper sewage and the removal of waste from the streets to improve the inhabitants’ lives and health. And he was also a very much a political radical. He outlined his democratic views in Democracy – A Fragment. He believed that people weren’t naturally virtuous and public spirited, and that they acted primarily in their own interest. This meant that those governing also acted in their own interest, which was to expand their power against everyone else. They could only be kept in line through democracy and all adults possessing the vote. And he meant all adults. The franchise should be extended to include not just all adult men, but also women. He also wanted the abolition of the monarchy, the House of Lords and the disestablishment of the Church of England. This was in the 1820s, and it was nearly a century before British women acquired the right to vote. As for the abolition of the monarchy, the Lords and the disestablishment of the Anglican Church, Tony Benn was reviled as a Communist for advocating them, plus nuclear disarmament in the 1980s. They’re not policies I support, though the House of Lords needs radical reform as at the moment it has more members than the ruling general assembly of the Chinese Communist Party. But I am impressed with his staunch advocacy of democracy, especially at a time when many would have regarded it almost as seditious because of the excesses of the French Revolution.

And unfortunately he does have a point about the corruption of the governing class. We’ve seen it in the way the Tory administrations of the past eleven years have passed endless laws to benefit their class at the expense of Britain’s working people, and themselves personally. As when one of their number decided to relax the planning laws while angling for a lucrative property deal in London.

There have been voices on the internet claiming that democracy is in crisis and that people are giving up on it. If that’s the case, then it’s because we don’t have enough democracy in Britain. Last year we saw three prime ministers come and go, but were not allowed to elect any of them. It’s high time this changed.

More democracy, Tories out!

Charles James Fox’s Solution to Social Unrest – Listen to the Protesters and Address Their Grievances

January 9, 2023

In his 1792 speech to the parliament in which he denounced the government’s closure of the various republican and democratic societies supporting the French Revolution and attempts to dictate British public opinion, Fox also stated what he would also do to solve the social unrest then breaking out. His recommendation was simple: actually listen to the protesters and do something to solve the issues against which they were protesting. Moreover, he stated that he believed strongly that every man should be able to approach parliament with their complaints. He said

‘But, it may be asked, what would I propose to do in times of agitation like the present? I will answer openly. If there is a tendency in the dissenters to discontent, because they conceive themselves to be unjustly suspected and cruelly calumniated, what would I do? – I would instantly repeal the Test and Corporation Acts, and take from them, by such a step, all cause of complaint. If there were any persons tinctured with a republican spirit, because they thought that the representative government was more perfect in republic, I would endeavour to amend the representation of the Commons, and to show that the House of Commons, though not chosen by all, should have no other interest than to prove itself the representative of all. If there were men dissatisfied in Scotland or Ireland or elsewhere, on account of disabilities and exemptions, of unjust prejudices, and of cruel restrictions, I would repeal the penal statutes, which are a disgrace to our law books. If there were other complaints of grievances, I would redress them where they were really proved; but above all I would constantly, cheerfully, patiently listen. I would make it known that if any man felt, or thought he felt, a grievance, he might come freely to the bar of this House, and bring his proofs: and it should be made manifest to all the world that where they did exist they would be redressed; where they did not, that it should be made evident. If I were to issue a proclamation, this should be my proclamation: ‘If any man has a grievance, let him bring it to the bar of the Commons’ House of Parliament with the firm persuasion of having it honestly investigated.’ These are the subsidies that I would grant to government.’

In Alan Bullock and Maurice Shock, The Liberal Tradition from Fox to Keynes, (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1956) 3.

Definitely a lesson for Rishi Sunak, who does not want to listen, let alone do anything to address the strikers’ complaints, except to make it difficult for them to strike.