Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

Real Steampunk Inventions from the Pages of ‘The Engineer’

May 29, 2017

I’ve posted up several pieces this weekend about some of the real inventions of the Victorians, and how they have inspired and resemble the science and machines of steampunk Science Fiction. This is a branch of SF, which imagines what would have happened had the Victorians invented space travel, computers, time machines and were able to journey to parallel worlds. One of the founding works of the genre was William Gibson’s and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine, which was set in an alternative Victorian Britain, which had entered a steam-driven computer age after building Charles Babbage’s pioneering mechanical computer, the Difference Engine of the title.

Some of the most amazing examples of Victorian and Edwardian engineering and technology can be found in the pages of The Engineer. This was the industry’s trade magazine, founded in 1856 by Charles Healey. In 1976 the magazine issued a glossy book celebrating the history of the magazine and the legacy of its founder. The book said of him

Healey has been described as a man of great strength of mind and character who always had ‘a smile, a question, and a penetrating look’. He had financial interests in railways in the Bourdon gauge, and among his many friends were leading men in railway engineering including Robert Stephenson, Isambard Brunel, and Sir William Fairbairn. But there is no evidence Healey used his editorial pages to promote his financial interests.

The magazine’s purpose, as it confessed in January 1916

was to spread the gospel of engineering. ‘Whilst engineering knowledge was the possession of but few men great progress was impossible, and it is the object of the paper to expand and distribute technical and scientific information. In so doing so it may fairly claim to have been a factor of no little importance in the great developments that have taken place during the late 60 years.’

And the magazine celebrated the practical work and achievements of engineers over the more abstract theorising of scientists. The book states

The Engineer pointed out that men of abstract science had done something, ‘but not much for us’. While applied science ‘has done for the physical world everything which science so far provide capable of accomplishing at all – railroads, manufactories, mines, the electric telegraph, chemical factories. And by who is it applied? Why the civil engineer, the mechanical engineer, the mining engineer and the shipbuilder who himself represents an important branch of engineering.

‘The wide earth over, we find the engineer working on principles, dealing with physical truths, using the investigations of those who have preceded him as stepping stones to knowledge, and leaving behind him through each generation mementoes of his labours. Mementoes, the result of a perfect acquaintance with such physical truths as men of the most exalted intellects have discovered-mementoes which will endure when the existence of the “leading journal” has become a matter of history’.

The ’70s were a period of economic depression, and part of the purpose behind the centennial volume was to counteract the mood of the times and inspire a new, fresh generation. The magazine declared

Today, when the economy is depressed, is an opportune moment to produce a book which will remind industry of its glorious past and act as a spur to project it into the future. It will also remind engineers and manufacturers of the power, grace and majesty of engineering.

Very much the same could be said today. Later this week, one of the topical issues programmes on Radio 4 will be discussing Britain’s critical lack of engineers, and asking how more young people can be persuaded to enter the profession. I’ve said in my previous blog posts that one way could be to link it to the interest people have in restoring and repairing motor vehicles, and the cyberpunk milieu of Science Fiction enthusiasts, who design fashions and exotic machines for this Victorian technological age that never was.

Much of the material in the book is about industrial machines and processes, which to most lay people, myself included, probably isn’t that interesting. Such as various types of manufacturing machines, industrial smelters, metal and chemical refining processes, pumping engines and so on. There’s also a chapter on railway engines, which is clearly of interest to steam enthusiasts and the people, who played with Hornby Railway sets when they were children.

But the machines and buildings I find the most interesting, are where the Victorians’ ideas prefigure those of modern technology, both real and in the imagined worlds of SF.

In architecture, the magazines shows two designs for a colossal tower for London, that was intended to rival the Eiffel tower in Paris. One of these shows very clearly the influence of the French structure.

Another was more straightforwardly British in design. Except for its size. It was going to be 1,240 feet.

We’re almost looking here at the soaring tower blocks of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, or indeed, Judge Dredd’s Megacity 1.

Instead of a channel tunnel, a massive bridge was proposed to span La Manche, and link Britain to France.

And to warn ships of dangerous rocks and water, they also designed a floating lighthouse.

As well as normal railways, they also designed an overhead railway and rainwater collector.

The book also showed contemporary illustrations for the steam carriages and buses that were being developed in this period as the first precursors to modern vehicles driven by the internal combustion engine.

This included the Randolph Steam Coach of 1872.

Other vehicles included Goodman’s velocipede of 1868, which could reach the amazing speed of 12 mph, and the Liquid Fuel Company’s steam van of 1985, which was entered in a competition the magazine ran for road carriages.

There was also an illustration of a one horse power road steamer, which could carry two people.

It also included the schematics for another vehicle, the Serpollet Steam Phaeton of 1891.

From this, it looks like a budding car enthusiast could possibly build one of these machines, in the same way people also build their own custom cars, and cyberpunk inspired machines like the one I posted up yesterday.

A Mr Nairn, an engineer from Leith in Scotland, also published his design in 1870 for a three-wheeled steam omnibus.

There was also this illustration of an early motorcycle, Duncan and Superbie’s bike of 1894.

and an early car, Panhard and Lavassor’s two-seater from 1894.

And to show that waiting at traffic lights were also a blight that afflicted the Victorians, there’s an illustration of the traffic signals at Bridge Street in Westminster in 1868.

The Victorians and Edwardians were also experimenting with new ways to move vehicles across ground, such as caterpillar tracks. These included traction engines, such as Ingleton’s Automatic track of 1868. This was engineered to allow the tracks to be raised when the engine reached the end of the field, and needed to make a tight turn.

Even after petrol began to supersede steam in the early 20th century, some firms were still experimenting with caterpillar tracks on the new petrol-driven tractors. The photo below shows the caterpillar tractor and train produced by the Holt Manufacturing Company of Peoria in America.

In some cases, the search for alternative means of locomotion went so far as reinventing the wheel. In 1909 Diplock patented a design for putting ‘walking feet’ on a wheel.

This is interesting, as H.G. Wells’ The Land Ironclads was about warfare conducted using machines some have seen as predicting the tank. The land ironclads of the title, however, are much more like contemporary naval vessels. They are long, contain rows of snipers along their sides. And unlike tanks, they walk across the ground on mechanical legs like vast, mechanical millipedes, somewhat like the Walkers in Star Wars, but with more legs.

The Victorians were also keen to solve the problems of ships navigating shallow waters. Bourne’s Steam Train, proposed in 1858, attempted to solve this problem through using the paddle wheels as terrestrial wheels, allowing the vessel to climb over sandbanks, and the engine could be geared down to provide more power.

It struck me looking at this that if it had been developed further, you’d have had amphibious landing craft like the DUK of World War II.

This was also the age in which people were making their first attempts at flight. One of the bizarre vehicles featured in the book was Carlingford’s aerial chariot of 1854. This was launched from a pole ranging from 6 to 9 feet in height, carried forward by a falling weight. This was like the Wright Brother’s early planes. Unlike the Wrights’, the aerial chariot didn’t have an engine and the pilot tried to crank the propeller by hand.

The magazine also published illustrations of the British military’s experiments with balloons in 1874.

As well as wings, engineers were considering more exotic methods of flight. In 1916 there were a series of designs for planes held aloft by spinning discs. Looking at them, it is hard not to see them as the first predecessors of the helicopter.

As for balloons, this led to the development of dirigibles like the Zeppelin, a 1923 design for which was also published in the magazine’s pages.

Petrol driven cars and motorbikes are now ubiquitous, though there is still great affection and interest in vintage, veteran and historic road vehicles. One businessman in Leckhampton, one of the suburbs of Cheltenham, proudly displayed his early motorcycle from about the time of the First World War in his shop window.

The steam vehicles weren’t as efficient as modern petrol and diesel vehicles. They also faced stiff political opposition from traditional, horse drawn vehicles. Nevertheless, you do wonder what Britain would have been like if these machines had caught on to the point where they were the preferred method of transport, rather than horse-drawn carriages.

And these carriages, and the other machines and designs shown above, still have the potential to fire the imaginations of fans of historic technology, steam enthusiasts, and Cyberpunks. And perhaps, if more people saw some of these machines and their designs, some of them might try to make some of them. This would not only bring them to life, but also possibly inspire more people to take an interest in engineering and the great heritage of invention.

Foul-Mouthed Tories Curse and Swear at the Public

May 16, 2017

In the last piece, I noted how Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May both tend to have little to say unless it’s been programmed into them by Linton Crosby and the other PR spin doctors at Tory central office. Having no answers to opposition questions themselves, they wisely decide to keep silent. Or else simply recite the soundbites they’ve memorised.

Unfortunately, not all Tory politicos have the sense to realise when saying nothing is better than saying what they’d like to say.

Mike on Sunday put up a piece about two such idiots. One was Tory councillor Nick Harrington of Warwick, and the other was James Heappey, the Tory MP for Wells in Somerset.

After Ireland gave Britain ‘nul points’ in the Eurovision on Saturday, Harrington felt moved to tweet that the Irish could keep their f’king gypsies, and they were going to have a hard border imposed.

Heappey was visiting Millfield school in Somerset, an independent school that charges parents £12,000 a year to educate their sons and daughters. He asked the young citizens of the future what they thought of Scots independence. When one girl, who was Scots, said she’d vote for it, he told her to ‘f*** off back to Scotland’.

Charming!

Mike commented

Will the people of Wells be keen for James Heappey to represent them, after his foul-mouthed outburst at a schoolgirl? Are the people of Warwick happy to have Nick Harrington as a councillor after his racist tweet about Ireland?

Perhaps this is why Theresa May keeps telling us the General Election is about voting for her, and not the Conservative Party – the Conservative Party is an absolute, contemptible scandal.

He also notes that these idiots think they can carry on like that without suffering the consequences. Unless we throw them out on their backsides and vote in people who do match up to the requirements of the job.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/14/tories-disgrace-politics-with-foul-mouthed-outbursts-both-online-and-in-real-life/

I’m shocked that the two behaved as they did. I’m particularly disgusted by Heappey. Swearing at a child, who gives a perfectly reasonable, polite response to a question as a visitor to her school is absolutely unacceptable.

But I’m not surprised by all this. The Tories have a lot of previous. Of course, there’s a hatred of Eire running through the Tory party. I can remember the comments of one Tory MP as reported in the Heil in the 1980s, when the Irish Republic were demanding a role in the government of Northern Ireland. Instead of issuing a polite but firm refusal, as he could, he told them they could ‘stick their noses in their own trough’.

And there have been endless scandals where one of the old guard, who clearly fancies himself as someone who talks straight in disregard of ‘political correctness’ shows himself to be another racist in comments about immigrants, Blacks, Asians or foreigners in general.

You can also read similar tales in the ‘Rotten Boroughs’ column in Private Eye, about local councillors making disparaging remarks about their constituents, along with reports on local corruption.

David Cameron tried to weed out the racists in order to market the party as entirely respectable and comfortable with multicultural Britain. But as these comments show, the embittered Little Englander section of the party is still going strong. And it’s ready against all opposition from the Celtic fringe, whether it be in petulant, racist sneers brought on by the Eurovision Song Contest, or insulting schoolchildren.

Labour to End Tory Persecution of Sick, Disabled and Poor

May 16, 2017

This is excellent news for anyone on a low income, or who suffers from a long term sickness or is or cares for a disabled person. And it’s going to send the Tories, the Blairites and the parasites in the private insurance industry, who recommended the current high persecutory disability policies, absolutely incandescent with fury.

Mike over on his blog has reported that Labour have made the following promises in their manifesto:

* to scrap the work capability assessments and Personal Independence Payment assessments.

* to stop the endless reassessments of people with severe long term conditions.

* Scrapping sanctions.

* Scrapping the bedroom tax.

* Increasing ESA for people in the work-related activity group, and reversing the cuts in UC LCW.

* Uprating carers allowance.

* reinstating housing benefit for young people under 21.

* Reversing the cuts to the bereavement support payments.

* Reviewing the cuts to work allowances in Universal Credit.

* Reviewing the decision to limit tax credits and Universal Credit to the first two children in a family. Which is, as Mike points out, the Rape Clause. This odious piece of legislation was defended in Scotland by an equally odious piece of work, Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Tories up there.

Mike states

The Labour Party manifesto, released today (May 16) has confirmed what we all saw in the leaked version last week – a bonfire of the cruel legislation that has led to the deaths of thousands upon thousands of vulnerable people.

But remember – this is only what Labour would do, if elected back into office on June 8.

With the mass media lining up to attack Labour over any slightest quibble, that will be hard to achieve.

So please make sure all 12 million sick and disabled people, and all of the unemployed and under-employed get to see this.

He also applauds Labour’s promises to end the way the Jobcentre staff and the benefit system itself demonises those with disabilities and the unemployed, so that it becomes more supportive and enabling.

He gives due credit to Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, saying that this confirms what he has known about her, that she is a woman of strong professional integrity, who will act on her promises.

Mike concludes

If YOU have a long-term illness or disability, this is all the reason you need to vote Labour on June 8. If you don’t, but know somebody who does, please share this information with them.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/16/confirmed-labour-will-end-tory-persecution-of-the-sick-disabled-and-poor/#comments

I agree with Mike on just about every line of this. And I won’t be remotely surprised when the Tories and their lapdogs in the press and media go absolutely insane at this.

It is a direct reversal of the welfare policies introduced by Blair and the Tories, at the behest of American private healthcare firms and insurers. The wretched work capability tests were recommended by John Lo Cascio, the head honcho of the American insurance fraudster, Unum. This was based on bogus science, that has now been comprehensively refuted. I’ve reblogged material from Johnny Void and Kitty S. Jones and many, many others over the years, which provide a very detailed critique which absolutely demolishes its pretension to scientific fact. But still the Tories tout it.

And Labour’s pledge to stop the demonization of the sick and poor is a direct attack on one of the fundamental principles of Thatcherism: that those dependant on welfare payments, the sick, disabled and unemployed, must be humiliated as much as possible, in order to deter them from becoming a burden to the taxpayer. Meaning the rich, who must be given tax breaks and corporate subsidies at every opportunity.

It’s called the principle of Less Eligibility, and it was the reason why the workhouses were such places of degradation and misery. But Thatcher celebrated it as one of her ‘Victorian values’, which she really wanted to call ‘Victorian virtues’, but her spin doctors wouldn’t let her.

Like the Tories, the Blairites are Thatcherites, who adopted her vicious, spiteful and punitive attitude to poverty.

This is also a comprehensive rebuttal to the refrain you also hear from Tory voters when the work disability assessments are criticised: no, they’re not going to vote Labour, ’cause Labour introduced them.

Well, they can’t use that excuse now, because Labour’s committed to scrapping them.

This will be bitterly resented by the Tory press, not just because it is a strong attack on decades of Tory policies, but because newspapers like the Torygraph make their money from advertising, and are afraid to do anything that will offend their advertisers. The Torygraph is particularly sensitive to this, as they’ve been spiking stories that would offend their advertisers. It was the reason one of the columnists, Peter Oborne, walked out and very publicly denounced them in the rest of the media, including Channel 4, a few years ago. As the Torygraph seems determined to lock itself into a death spiral of continuing cuts and sackings in order to maintain its share price, while its readership plummets, I’m not remotely worried if these policies help put another boot into the Tory paper.

And, of course, it’s going to inflame the already fevered tempers over at the Daily Mail massively. The Heil has been one of the papers that has been at the very forefront of demonising people on disability benefit as scroungers. Mike has shown that the true statistics for benefit fraud is 0.7 per cent – a vanishingly small amount. But thanks to the Tories and the lies of the press, the British public believe that it’s 27 per cent.

And the rich, who have been pushing for these policies so they can enjoy ever greater profits and tax breaks are afraid.

How else can you explain today’s headline in the I, which screams that Labour intends a ‘tax grab on the rich’. The term ‘tax grab’ seems to show a little panic on the part of the editor, no doubt on behalf of the Russian oligarch who owns the paper.

So don’t be deceived by the lies and hysterical denunciations of these policies. Unlike the rubbish spouted by May, these are sincerely meant, and if implemented will lead to a better, fairer, and healthier Britain.

Because the destruction of the sanctions regime and the work capability tests will stop people dying. Look at Stilloak’s website and the site Atos Miracles to see how many have died in poverty, misery and starvation due to these vile and evil policies.

So please vote Labour on May 8.

Richard Falk: Another Pro-Palestinian Scholar Smeared as an Anti-Semite

May 9, 2017

Another week, another decent person smeared by the ultra-Zionists as an anti-Semite.

Another decent, self-respecting Jew smeared as ‘self-hating’.

This time, the victim of the smears was Richard Falk, the Albert G. Milbank emeritus professor of international law at Princeton, and Visiting Distinguished Professor in global and international studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Professor Falk describes his experience of Ultra-Zionist abuse and harassment in an article in Monday’s Counterpunch. He had just had his book, Palestine’s Horizon: Towards a Just Peace, published by Pluto Press a few weeks ago, and was on a speaking tour about his book of universities in England and Scotland. The book was published at the same time the UN issued a report concluding that Israel was indeed an apartheid state. This led to such a campaign by the special snowflakes of Zionism against Professor Falk, that the universities of East London and Middlesex cancelled his visits for reasons of health and security. He states that one factor in their decision may have been the highly disruptive behaviour adopted by the Ultra-Zionists when he gave an earlier talk at the LSE.

He states that he had never previously had universities cancel his visits, even though considerable pressure had been exerted on them to do so. And in addition, he suffered personal attacks on him as ‘anti-Semitic’ and ‘self-hating’.

Back in the US, the Zionists attempted to prevent his book selling by writing negative reviews about it on Amazon. He went on Facebook to encourage his friends to write positive reviews of the book. The Ultra-Zionists then resorted simply to writing one or two sentence attacks on the book, which just attacked it without even engaging with the content of the book itself.

This again, was a new tactic to him. He describes it as

‘an innovative version of digital book burning, and while not as vivid visually as a bonfire, its vindictive intentions are the same.’

He states that beyond the attacks on him and his book there is a wider campaign by Israel against its critics, including the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, defying UN NGOs, banning foreign tourists from visiting Gaza or the West Bank, and smearing the country’s critics as ant-Semites. As part of this campaign, the entire body of US senators sent a letter to Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, demanding a new, friendlier approach to Israel, an attitude Professor Falk describes as ‘arrogant’ and ‘blue-washing’.

He states that Israel has now embarked on a war of cultural aggression, aided by groups such as UN Watch, GO Monitor and AIPAC, aided by ‘flame-throwing militants’ at street level who resort to symbolic forms of violence. This sets a very dangerous precedent and is profoundly anti-democratic as it is leading government to close down debate on policies affecting the lives of a long oppressed people.

Professor Falk concludes

There are two further dimensions of these developments worth pondering: (1) In recent years Israel has been losing the Legitimacy War being waged by the Palestinians, what Israeli think tanks call ‘the delegitimation project,’ and these UN bashing and personal smears are the desperate moves of a defeated adversary in relation to the moral and legal dimensions of the Palestinian struggle for rights. In effect, the Israeli government and its support groups have given up almost all efforts to respond substantively, and concentrate their remaining ammunition on wounding messengers who bear witness and doing their best to weaken the authority and capabilities of the UN so as to discredit substantive initiatives; (2) while this pathetic spectacle sucks the oxygen from responses of righteous indignation, attention is diverted from the prolonged ordeal of suffering that has long been imposed on the Palestinian people as a result of Israel’s unlawful practices and policies, as well as its crimes against humanity, in the form of apartheid, collective punishment, ethnic cleansing, and many others. The real institutional scandal is not that the UN is obsessed with Israel but rather that it is blocked from taking action that might exert sufficient pressure on Israel to induce the dismantling of apartheid structures relied upon to subjugate, displace, and dispossess the Palestinian people over the course of more than 70 years with no end in sight.

See http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/08/israels-new-cultural-war-of-aggression/

This is precisely right. And it hasn’t just happened to Professor Falk, as we’ve seen. The Israel lobby’s determination to stop any criticism of their country’s oppression and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians, and their support for the Blairites in the Labour party, were behind the spate of anti-Semitism accusations against Labour members and activists last year, including Ken Livingstone. Mike’s defence of those unfairly accused has seen him also vilified and suspended from the Labour party on the utterly spurious and contemptible accusation that he is an ‘anti-Semite’.

He isn’t. Neither are the people he defended. Many of them were convinced anti-racists, and included Jews, who had suffered real assault and intimidation because of their ethnicity, and gentiles, who had suffered the same for their solidarity with their Jewish friends and comrades.

As Professor Falk makes clear, this is all part of a campaign to prevent proper debate and scrutiny of Israel, and give the Palestinians the peace and justice they deserve.

In the meantime, I find it shameful that British universities have caved in to this foul bullying. Just as it is repulsive and abhorrent that decent people are being slandered as anti-Semites.

I cannot say that I’m entirely surprised by Prof. Falk’s statement that in their cultural war against his book, the Ultra-Zionists had to resort to writing one or two lines, which didn’t engage with the book at all. My impression of the Zionists waging this war is that they’re not just moral pygmies, but also stunted intellectually. They can’t refute what their critics are writing, and so their only recourse is abuse and misrepresentation.

Mike has asked the police to investigate those, who have libelled him, including the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Zionist front group responsible for the smear. There is also a petition by Tony Greenstein urging the Charity Commissioner to strip them of their charitable status on Change.org. Mr Greenstein states that the CAA provides no public benefit and only smears critics of Israel, while having little or nothing to say about the real Fascists and anti-Semites running amok. Mike has a link to the petition on his blog post discussing the libel and deselection: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/06/no-council-seat-for-vox-political-writer-because-of-politically-motivated-interference/

Vox Political Commenter on Pro-Tory BBC Bias on the Radio

May 8, 2017

Mike posted this little piece about the biased reporting of the BBC. This time it was on the radio and concerned the Beeb’s coverage of the Brexit negotiations with the EU. Steve Fox, one of the many commenters on Mike’s blog, told how he had been moved to write a letter of complaint to the BBC because of a piece by their reporter, Katia Adler. Adler had asserted that EU leaders are hoping for a “strong” leader to emerge from the UK general election, and that when “she” does, negotiations will be better.

As Mr Fox points out, the only ‘she’ in the election is Theresa May. So in effect, the Beeb was telling us that EU leaders are hoping that May wins the general election. And this is what Emma Duff from the Beeb’s complaint’s team, told him in their reply. They said that Katya was simply reporting her understanding, as European Editor, of the sentiments of leading European Union figures on this subject. This was followed by more verbiage about BBC reporters trying to be impartial and objective.

Mike concludes

Oh, so she was saying the European Union’s top brass want Theresa May to win the general election – but that’s not going to sway anybody voting in a poll that the same Theresa May wants us to think is about Brexit?

Give us a break, BBC.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/06/this-tale-of-blatant-bbc-pro-tory-bias-could-bring-tears-to-your-eyes/

This is one more incident to add to a growing pile of stories about the Beeb’s pro-Tory bias. We’ve had Laura Kuenssberg belittling and attacking Labour and Jeremy Corbyn at every turn, Nick Robinson carefully editing footage of Alex Salmond at the debates on Scots independence to make it seem that he didn’t answer one of the Macclesfield Goebbel’s questions when he did. And this all just seems part of general policy at the Beeb not to cover Jeremy Corbyn in particular in any positive or objective manner, but only to give him limited, negative coverage. It’s more Project Fear. Saville and Barry Kushner have described how the Beeb’s coverage of austerity never questions the need for it, even though it is not the self-evidently true solution to the debt crisis it claims to be. Indeed not. Rather than cut the deficit, it has massively increased it. Academics from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities have shown that the Beeb’s more likely to show interviews with Tory MPs and financiers, than with Labour MPs and trade unionists when covering the economy. And those Tory MPs and bankers are also more likely to be treated sympathetically by the Beeb.

And Private Eye has been railing for years at the Beeb’s patronising attitude, which denies any kind of bias at the Corporation, even when it is blatantly obvious.

There has even been published an entire book about how the Beeb’s claims of providing public service broadcasting is a myth.

At the moment, the Beeb, like it’s counterparts in the Tory press, is trying desperately to tell us all the Corbyn is unpopular and unelectable. Don’t believe the lies. The Labour leader’s policies are sound, far sounder than the Tories, and he is massively popular at the grassroots.

Which is what the Beeb and the press fear the most. It puts the lie to their claim pretensions to be opinion-formers that everyone should take notice of, and which brings in support from business and advertisers.

Don’t believe the Beeb. Believe in Corbyn!.

Five Reasons Why the Tories Should Never See Power Ever Again

May 2, 2017

This excellent video was posted on YouTube by Scot TV. I’ve no doubt he’s a Scots Nationalist, but it also holds true for the rest of Britain. He states in his explanation that an extra zero could be added to the five, but for the sake of brevity he’s leaving it to the lower number. Those five reasons are:

1. Tory election overspending. He notes that the charges have now been dropped, but about 20 or so Tory MPs are still being investigated.

2. The NHS. This is being starved of cash, so that patients are suffering appalling delays and a consequent disastrous decline in the quality of care. The NHS is at breaking point. Meanwhile, the Tories are privatising it by the back door. This part of the video shows headlines from various papers about the government selling off and handing over NHS hospitals and services to the usual private healthcare companies and outsourcing giants, like Circle Health and SERCO. There is also another funny segment from Jeremy Pie in which the comic reporter rants about how it isn’t outsourcing, it is straightforward privatisation. Pie makes the point that if the NHS needs money, then why can’t it simply be given it.

3. Benefit Cuts. This part of the video documents the terrible effect benefit cuts and sanctions are having on disabled people. It gives the facts and figures on the effects it has had on them. One of the clips is of an MP asking questions in the House about why disabled people are required to go through the Work Capability Tests, when so many – he gives the appropriate figures – die before, during and after the tests. He also shows the complete contempt the Tories have for those forced into misery by the tests, when Ian Duncan Smith didn’t have time to respond to questions about them, but very much did have the time to have his portrait painted. The video also correctly says that the attacks on the poor and disabled were so severe, that the UN was forced to intervene. He also give the sneering response from the Tories, where one snotty MP remarked that the UN rapporteur should mind her own business, just like he didn’t know about poverty in Costa Rica or wherever she came from. The video praises Dennis Skinner’s pointed remarks in parliament, where he called Cameron ‘Dodgy Dave’, and took him to task for having his mortgage paid for by the state while denying state help to others. The video calls this ‘a welcome poke in the eye’ for the Tories.

4. The Panama Papers. This was the scandal that erupted a few years ago when documents came to light showing how the Conservatives had moved their business dealings into offshore accounts in the Caribbean in order to avoid paying tax in the UK. As usual, this was mixed with contempt and sneering towards ordinary people. The clip shows the Tory MP, Alan Duncan, standing up on his hind legs in the House to attack their critics. They are, he claimed, moved solely by hatred of anybody who’s wealthy, and if people like them had their way, the House of Commons would be stuffed full of incompetents and mediocrities, who had never run a business.

5. Tory behaviour during the referendums. Here the video includes clips of the Tories, including David Cameron, once again scaremongering, with ‘Project Fear’ directed at the Scottish Nationalists in the referendum over Scottish independence, and then more of the same in the referendum over whether to leave the EU, with the Tories trying to scare people into voting Remain.

While I am a Unionist, who voted to Remain in Europe, I wholeheartedly agree with the rest of Scot TV’s reasons for kicking out the Tories and keeping them out. They did break the rules on electoral spending. They are deliberately running down the NHS so that they can privatise it by the back door. They are killing the disabled and the poor through benefit cuts. They do add insult to injury by sneering at those concerned with the poverty and suffering they inflict, at ordinary working people. And Ian Duncan Smith was vain. He was also cruel and cowardly, surrounding himself with armed guards when required to give his testimony to the parliamentary committee investigating his conduct. That was when he finally deigned to appear before them. And as Mike showed on his blog, Smith did his level best to stop the mortality figures ever getting out.

They are corrupt, with one set of standards for themselves and another for the poor. They see themselves as a favoured elite, who should be allowed to dodge as much tax as they can, while shifting the tax burden onto those who can least afford it. Half of all millionaires have actually done nothing to deserve their money, as it’s inherited. But they still see a system, that so massively rewards them while penalising the poor simply for being poor as just, and themselves as uniquely deserving their position and power. Hence Alan Duncan’s sneer about their critics being just jealous of the rich, and wanting to have parliament stuffed with mediocrities. It was the sneer of the Tory right in the 19th and 20th centuries, when they wanted to stop the working class getting the vote at all costs.

And even though I wish Scotland to stay in the Union, Scot TV is correct about the Tories running a dirty campaign of fearmongering during the independence referendum. They also ran a Project Fear campaign to get us out of Europe. The impetus for Brexit comes from the Tory right and UKIP, whose leadership are right-wing Tories. They want us to leave because they hate, loathe and detest the minimal rights granted to workers under the Social Charter.

The Tories are vile. They should be voted out and kept out. I urge people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party to preserve what remains of the British welfare state, and renationalise the NHS.

Vox Political’s Long List of Tory Lies

May 2, 2017

On Saturday, Mike posted a piece asking why anyone should believe the Tories about Jeremy Corbyn considering their long record of lying. He then gave a few examples, such as May’s promise that she wouldn’t call a snap election, her promise that she would seek an agreement with three other nations in Britain – Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland before triggering Article 50 for Brexit; David Cameron’s pledge not to cut Child Tax Credits; the Tories’ promise that they wouldn’t increase NI contributions, and that they would reduce the deficit.

And those are all just starters. They come from a video about the Tories’ broken promises and flagrant lying, that is included in Mike’s article.

He also gives a few more example of Conservative mendacity, beginning with their lies to the rozzers about their election spending. They have also lied about not cutting the NHS, about helping people with disabilities – in fact, their lies, as repeated in the press, have helped fuel a 213 per cent rise in hate crime against disabled people, about the Trident missile test, their denials that their policies are actually causing a fall in British life expectancy.

The list just goes on and on.

And Mike also reblogs Eoin Clarke’s list of 30 U-turns the Tories have made since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party.

Mike’s conclusion is the obvious one: Despite all the ranting, the Tories are weak and liars.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/04/29/tories-lie-about-so-many-things-why-should-we-believe-them-about-jeremy-corbyn/

A few years ago I suggested that Ian Duncan Smith should really be called ‘Matilda’, after the lying heroine of the famous cautionary poem by Hilaire Bellocq, ‘Matilda told such dreadful lies, it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes’. Etc. But this shows that the whole party should be called ‘Matilda’, given their own contempt for truth.

Closed Doors Greet Theresa May in Aberdeenshire

May 1, 2017

Mike has posted another great piece today, reblogging Eoin Clarke’s question on Twitter: ‘Did we ever get round to thanking Scotland for the treatment they gave Theresa May?’ This comes with a clip from Sky News showing ‘strong and stable’ May getting a very cold reaction from the guid folk of Aberdeen as she goes from door to door with an aid while ‘Rape Clause’ Ruth hangs around in the background.

It’s Scot TV on YouTube, who called Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Tories north of the border ‘Rape Clause Ruth’, after she stood on her hind feet in the Scots parliament to defend the odious decision of this government, that rape victims, who have had children because of the assault, can only claim child benefit if it’s their third child by telling the authorities this. As the majority of rapes are not reported because of the humiliation felt by the victims, this is just another further humiliation heaped on extremely vulnerable women to deprive them of benefits.

Scot TV put a clip of Davidson making her speech defending this policy but with an appropriate comment in the description box. They’re exactly right. It’s a vile speech, defending a vile policy by a vile party. Davidson’s openly gay, so her appointment as the Tories’ leader in Scotland presumably was part of Cameron’s campaign to persuade the electorate that, hey, the Tories are all nice cosy liberals now, at ease with people of different ethnicities and sexuality. Except that it’s all just cosmetic. Despite the appearance of openly gay Tory politicians like Alan Duncan, they’re still the nasty party underneath, determined to abuse, humiliate, victimise and degrade the weak and vulnerable whenever possible.

The response of the good people on that street begins with a polite ‘No thank you’, from the first house May tries, followed by very firmly closed doors and a stony silence. Clarke comments that this shows that May is definitely not ‘fake news’, and those, who say so, are just haters.

And for your further viewing pleasure, there’s the Benny Hill version, in which she’s slightly speeded up and the music of ‘Yakkety Sax’ is added.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/01/did-we-ever-thank-the-scots-for-the-treatment-they-gave-theresa-may/

So let’s thank Scotland for shutting the door on these awful bullies.

As for May herself, ‘Yakkety Sax’ is an appropriate piece of music for her. Despite her campaign to be taken seriously as a leader, she’s a clown. A particularly unfunny one. And the only people who are laughing are the Tory rich, as her policies criminalise, impoverish the already poor and disabled.

Kenneth Surin on Media Bias, and the Tories Feasting while Millions Starve

April 21, 2017

Kenneth Surin, one of the contributors to Counterpunch, has written a piece giving his analysis of the obstacles facing Jeremy Corbyn in his battle with the right-wing media, the Blairites, and the Tories. He points out that the tabloids, with the exception of the Mirror, are solidly right-wing, or owned by the very rich, who will naturally be biased towards the Tories. The Groaniad is centre, or centre-left, but its hacks are largely Blairites, who will attack Corbyn. He suggests that some of this vilification comes from the fact that Corbyn is not a ‘media-age’ politicians, but speaks as ordinary people do, rather than in soundbites. He makes the point that the Tories have copied Blair in trying to promote a Thatcherism without Thatcher’s scowls and sneers, and so Labour has no chance electorally if it decides to promote the capitalist status quo. He notes that Labour lost Scotland to the SNP, partly because the SNP placed itself as rather more Social Democratic than Labour. As for Labour ‘rust-belt’ heartlands in the Midlands and North of England, he thinks their dejected electorates now find UKIP and its White nationalism more palatable. He also states that the less educated working class, abandoned by Labour’s careerist politicians, also find UKIP more acceptable.

He suggests that if Labour wants to win, it should have the courage to abandon Thatcherism, and also attack the millionaires that invaded the party during Blair’s and Miliband’s periods as leader. These, like the Cameron’s Chipping Norton set, are obscenely rich when 8 million people in this country live in ‘food-insecure households’. And he goes into detail describing just what luxurious they’re eating and drinking too, far beyond anyone else’s ability to afford. Artisanal gin, anyone?

He also recommends that Labour should embrace Brexit, as this would allow the country to get rid of the massive hold a corrupt financial sector has on the country.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/20/the-uk-general-election-corbyns-vilification-and-labours-possible-fight/

I agree with many of his points, but profoundly disagree on others. Promoting Brexit won’t break the dead hand of the financial sector over this country. Quite the opposite. It’s being promoted by the financial sector because it will allow them to consolidate their stranglehold on the British economy by making the country an offshore tax haven for plutocratic crims.

I also think he overestimates the electoral strength of UKIP. Since Brexit, they’ve been on their way down and out. Many of the people, who’ve voted Leave have since been aghast that they won. They only wanted to give the establishment a nasty shock. They did not really want to leave Europe. Also, UKIP at heart was a single-issue party. Alan Sked founded them to oppose European federalism. Now that the Leave campaign succeeded – sort of – they’re struggling to get votes, and have been going through leaders as though it was going out of fashion. They have tried to pick up votes through some very unpleasant racist and Islamophobic policies and statements by their leading members. This has contributed to a disgusting rise in racist incidents. However, UKIP’s electoral base tend to be those aged 50 and over. The younger generations are much less racist and prejudiced against gays. Please note: I realise that this is a generalisation, and that you can find racist youngsters, and anti-racist senior citizens. Indeed, it was the older generation that did much to change attitudes to race and sexuality in this country. So the demographics are against UKIP. Racism and White nationalism also won’t save them from defeat, at least, I hope. The blatantly racist parties – the BNP, NF, British Movement and the rest of the scum – failed to attract anything like the number of votes or members to be anything other than fringe parties, often with trivial numbers of members. One of the contributors to Lobster, who did his doctorate on the British Far Right after the 1979 election, suggested that the NF only had about 2000 members, of whom only 200 were permanent. Most of the people, who joined them were only interested in cracking down on immigration, not in the intricacies of Fascist ideology. Also, many right-wingers, who would otherwise have supported them, were put off by their violence and thuggery. One of the Tories, who briefly flirted with them in the early ’70s quickly returned to the Tory party, appalled at their violence. Since then, the numbers of people in the extreme right have continued to decline. As for UKIP, even in their heyday, their strength was greatly – and probably deliberately – exaggerated. Mike and others have shown that at the time the Beeb and the rest of the media were falling over themselves to go on about how wonderful UKIP were, they were actually polling less than the Greens.

But I agree with Surin totally when it comes to throwing out once and for all Thatcherism and its vile legacy of poverty and humiliation. He’s right about the bias of the media, and the massive self-indulgence of the Chipping Norton set.

Surin writes

The context for analyzing this election must first acknowledge that the UK’s media is overwhelmingly rightwing.

Only one tabloid, The Daily Mirror, avoids hewing to rightwingery.

Of the others, The Sun is owned by the foreigner Rupert Murdoch, known in the UK for good reasons as the “Dirty Digger”.

The Nazi-supporting and tax-dodging Rothermere family have long owned The Daily Mail.

Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond (the former head of a soft porn empire) owns The Daily Express.

A Russian oligarch owns The Evening Standard.

Of the so-called “quality” newspapers, only The Guardian is remotely centrist or centre-left.

All the other “quality” papers are owned by the right-wingers or those on the centre-right.

Murdoch owns The Times, basically gifted to him by Thatcher, who bypassed the usual regulatory process regarding media monopolies to bestow this gift. The Times, which used to be known in bygone days as “The Old Thunderer”, is now just a slightly upmarket tabloid.

The tax-dodging Barclay brothers own The Daily Telegraph.

Another Russian oligarch owns The Independent.

The BBC, terrified by the not so subtle Tory threats to sell it off to Murdoch, and undermined editorially by these threats, is now basically a mouthpiece of the Tories.

This situation has, in the main, existed for a long time.

The last left-wing leader of the Labour party, Michael Foot, was ruthlessly pilloried by the right-wing media in the early 1980s for all sorts of reasons (including the somewhat less formal, but very presentable, jacket he wore at the Cenotaph ceremony on Remembrance Sunday).

Every Labour leader since then, with exception of Tony Blair, has been undermined by the UK’s media. Blair’s predecessor, Neil Kinnock, was derided endlessly by the media (“the Welsh windbag”, etc), even though he took Labour towards the right and effectively prepared the ground for Blair and Brown’s neoliberal “New Labour”.

***
Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, has been vilified ever since he was elected as party leader by a percentage higher than that achieved by Blair when he was elected leader (59.5% versus Blair’s 57% in 1994).

The disparagement and backbiting of Corbyn has, alas, come from the Blairite remnant in his party as much as it has come from the Conservatives and their megaphones in the media.

But while this is to be expected, a powerful source of anti-Corbyn vituperation has been The Guardian, supposedly the most liberal UK newspaper. Its journalists– most notably Polly Toynbee, Jonathan Freedland, Suzanne Moore, Anne Perkins, and Owen Jones– have done as much as Murdoch to undermine Corbyn.

To some extent this viciousness on the part of the Blairite faction, and its media acolytes, is understandable. Corbyn, who voted against the war in Iraq, believes Blair should be in the dock of the international court at The Hague for war crimes. The Conservatives, always a war-loving party, want no such thing for Blair, even though he defeated them in 3 general elections. Blair however is a closet Conservative.
***
Labour needs to go on the attack, on two fronts especially.

The first is Thatcher’s baleful legacy, entrenched by her successors, which has been minimal economic growth, widespread wage stagnation, widening inequality as income has been transferred upwards from lower-tiered earners, mounting household debt, and the extensive deindustrialization of formerly prosperous areas.

At the same time, the wealthy have prospered mightily. Contrast the above-mentioned aspect of Thatcher’s legacy with the world of Dodgy Dave Cameron’s “Chipping Norton” social set, as described by Michael Ashcroft (a former Cameron adviser who fell out with Dodgy Dave) in his hatchet-job biography of Cameron. The following is quoted in Ian Jack’s review of Call Me Dave: “Theirs is a world of helicopters, domestic staff, summers in St Tropez and fine food from Daylesford, the organic farm shop owned by Lady Carole Bamford”.

The Tories and their supporters are partying away as a class war is being waged, and Labour has been too timid in bringing this contrast to the attention of the electorate: the Chipping Norton set feasts on Lady Carole’s organic smoked venison and artisanal gin (available to the online shopper at https://daylesford.com/), while UN data (in 2014) indicates that more than 8 million British people live in food-insecure households.

“New” Labour did have a credibility problem when it came to doing this– Ed Miliband had at least 7 millionaires in his shadow cabinet, and another 13 in his group of advisers. So, a fair number of Labour supporters are likely to be connoisseurs of Lady Carole’s luxury food items in addition to the usual bunch of Tory toffs.

The austere Corbyn (he is a vegetarian and prefers his bicycle and public transport to limousines) is less enamoured of the high life, in which case the credibility problem might not be such a big issue.

Organic, artisanal food, holidays in St. Tropez, helicopters, smoked venison – all this consumed at the same time as Dave and his chums were claiming that ‘we’re all in it together’. We weren’t. We never were.

And remember – many members of the media, including people like Jeremy Clarkson, were part of the Chipping Norton set. And some of the BBC presenters are paid very well indeed. Like John Humphries, who tweeted about how he was afraid Labour was ‘going to punish the rich.’

As he is benefitting from a massive shift in the tax burden from the rich to the poor, it’s fair to say that he, and the wealthy class of which he is a part, are literally feasting at the poor’s expense. Furthermore, the affluent middle and upper classes actually use more of the state’s resources than the poor. So Labour would not be ‘punishing the rich’ if they increased their share of the tax burden. They’d only be requiring them to pay their whack.

Richard Seymour on the Dubious Electability of the Blairites

April 20, 2017

I’ve put up a few pieces about Richard Seymour’s criticisms of the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and his refutation of them in his book Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics. While I don’t agree with the book’s overall view – that Labour has never been a Socialist party, and has always compromised and taken over establishment economic policies – he does make some excellent points refuting some of the smears directed at the Labour leader – that he and his supporters are misogynists and anti-Semitic. In discussing the ‘Project Fear’ campaign against Corbyn, he also attacks the oft-repeated claim of the Blairite ‘moderates’ that they are far more likely to win an election than Corbyn. Seymour writes

The problem for the ‘moderates’ is this: they aren’t actually anywhere near as good at winning elections as they like to think.

Even in their reputed ‘golden age’, beginning in the bright summer of 1997, New labour was the beneficiary of timing and fortune far more than of the strategic genius of Mandelson and company. The Tories had already decisively lost the support of a stratum of ‘secular’ voters who tend to vote with their wallets. Any general election held after the 1992 ERM crisis would have been Labour’s to lose. (admittedly, that is no surety that they would not have lost it; Mandelson’s savvy did not prevent the loss of the 1992 election.) New Labour’s first term in office, between 1997 and 2001, saw their electoral coalition shrink by 3 million voters, largely from the poorest parts of the country. Were it not for the ongoing crisis wracking the Conservative Party, and the oddities of Britain’s electoral system – two factors over which electoral gurus and spinners have little control – such a haemorrhaging of support could have been fatal; leaving Blair another one-term Labour Prime Minister.

Blair’s third general election victory in 2005 was obtained with just over a third of the popular vote, and a total number of votes (9.5 million) similar to the achieved by Ed Miliband (9.35 million) in the disastrous 2015 election, in which Labour finally lost the majority of Scotland. What was the bid difference between a record third election victory and crushing defeat? The revival of the Conservative vote. The Tories had undergone a detox operation, with a youthful, glabrous-cheeked leader doing his best Blair interpretation. The deranged Right had largely decamped to UKIP. A period in coalition government with the Liberals had persuaded middle-ground voters that the Tories were no longer dominated by rancorous flag-wavers and pound-savers. (one might add, since it has become a psephological commonplace, that the credit crunch was ‘Labour’s ERM crisis’, but this is only partially true: Labour decisively lost this argument in retrospect, and it was by no means inevitable that they should have done so.

What about today? Whatever they think of Corbyn’s electoral chances, the Blairites’ own electoral prospects are not necessarily better. Polls taken of the prospective Labour candidates before the leadership election found that of all the candidates, Corbyn was the favourite. The ‘moderates’, lacking an appealing message, were also about as charismatic as lavatory soap dispensers. Labour’s poll ratings under Corbyn are poor, but hardly worse than before despite the ongoing media feeding frenzy. There is no reason to believe that any of his lacklustre rivals would be doing any better than Corbyn presently is.

Why might this be, and why have the pundits been so easily impressed by the claims of Labour’s right-wing? Thinking through the electoral arithmetic on the Blairites’ own terms, it was never obvious that the electoral bloc comprising people who think the same way they do is even close to 25 per cent. The reason this hasn’t been a problem in the past is that elections in Britain’s first-past-the-post system are usually decided by a few hundred thousand ‘median’ voters based in marginal constituencies. As long as Labour could take the votes of the Left for granted, they could focus on serenading the ‘aspirational’ voters of Nueaton. Even the erosion of ‘heartland’ votes didn’t register, so long as this erosion was happening to mountainous, seemingly unassailable majorities.

What happens, however, when left-leaning electors defect in sufficient numbers and sufficient geographic concentration to pose serious questions about Labour’s medium-term survival? What happens when it is no longer just the odd Labour seat going to George Galloway or Caroline Lucas in sudden unpredictable surges, but the whole of Scotland being lost in a single bloodbath? What happens when votes for left-of-centre rivals surge (the SNP vote trebling, the Green vote quadrupling), millions of potential voters still stay at home, and all of this takes place while the Conservatives reconstitute themselves as a viable centre-right governing party? This is one of the reasons why Corbynism has emerged in the first place: in that circumstance, Blairite triangulation turn out to be as useful as a paper umbrella, only any good until it starts raining.
(Pp. 51-3).

This is a good analysis, and it’s what Mike over at Vox Political, Guy Debord’s cat and others have been saying for a long time: the Blairites actually lost voters by chasing the Tory vote in marginal constituencies. Corbyn has actually won them back to the party. And the electoral success of the Greens and the SNP was based on them presenting themselves as a genuinely left-wing alternative to a Labour party that was determined to turn itself into Conservatives Mark 2. There is one thing which I differ with this article on: the metaphor with lavatory soap dispensers. I think the soap dispensers are actually more charismatic than the Blairites. They perform a useful service for personal hygiene, helping to prevent the spread of disease. This is very different from Blair and his coterie, who have succeeded in doing the precise opposite in Britain and the rest of the world. Thanks to Blair’s pursuit of Thatcherite policies, the way was open for the return of malnutrition and the diseases linked to poverty under the Tories. And by joining Bush in his wars in the Middle East, they have murdered millions, from the violence of the war itself and vicious sectarian and ethnic conflicts that came afterwards, the destruction of these nations’ economies, and malnutrition and disease as sanitation and health services collapsed.

The Blairites’ claim that they are more electable than Corbyn are self-promoting lies. They aren’t, and the policies they pursue are, like the Tories they took them from, actively dangerous.