Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

The Sky At Night Looks at Britain in Space

October 19, 2018

I just managed to catch the weekday repeat a day or so ago of this month’s Sky at Night, in which presenters Maggie Aderin-Pocock and British astronaut Tim Peake looked at the history of Britain in space, and forward to the country’s future in the deep black. The programme’s changed a bit over the past few years in the case of its presenters. It was famously presented by Sir Patrick Moore from its beginning in the 1950s until he passed away a few years ago. This made the programme the longest-running show presented by the same person. Aderin-Pocock joined it before Moore’s departure. She’s a black woman scientist, with a background in programming missile trajectories. She’s obviously very intelligent, enthusiastic and very definitely deserves her place on the show. But I wish she’d done a job that didn’t involve the military use of rocket technology, however much this is needed as part of national defence.

Aderin-Pocock was speaking to one of the management officials from Orbex, a new, British company, which has developed a rocket launcher and intends to open a spaceport in one of the more deserted areas of Scotland. The rocket will stand about 17 meters tall, using propane and High Test Peroxide as fuel. High Test Peroxide is a highly concentrated version of the hydrogen peroxide used by hairdressers to bleach peoples’ hair. The use of propane is particularly important, as it’s lighter than conventional rocket fuels, meaning that the rocket doesn’t have to carry as much fuel to lift off into space. Advances in satellite design have also allowed the rocket to be smaller than other spacecraft used elsewhere. British universities have succeeded in developing microsatellites – satellites that are much, much smaller than some of the satellites put into orbit, but which can perform the same functions. As these satellites are smaller and lighter, they only need a relatively smaller, lighter rocket to launch them.

The Scottish launch complex also wasn’t going to be as big as other, larger, major launch complexes, such as those of NASA, for example. I think it would still contain a launch tower and control buildings. As well as the official from Orbex, the show also talked to a woman representing the rural community in the part of Scotland, where they were planning to build it. She admitted that there would be problems with building it in this part of the Scots countryside. However, the community was only going to lease the land, not sell it to Orbex, and care would be taken to protect the farms of the local crofters and the environment and wildlife. Like much of rural Britain, this was an area of few jobs, and the population was aging as the young people moved away in search of work. She looked forward to Orbex and its spaceport bringing work to the area, and creating apprenticeships for the local young people.

The programme went on to explain that this would be the first time for decades that a British company was going to build a British rocket to launch a British satellite. From what looked the British space museum in Manchester, Time Peake stood under the display of Britain’s Black Knight rocket and the Prospero satellite. He explained how the rocket launched the satellite into space from Australia in 1975. However, the project was then cancelled, which meant that Britain is the only country so far which has developed, and then discarded rocket technology.

But Black Knight wasn’t the only space rocket Britain developed. Peake then moved on to talk about Skylark, a massively successful sounding rocket. Developed for high altitude research, the rocket reached a maximum of altitude of 400 km in the few minutes it was in flight. At its apogee – its maximum distance from Earth – the vehicle briefly experienced a few minutes of zero gravity, during which experiments could be performed exploring this environment. The Skylark rocket was used for decades before it was finally cancelled.

Aderin-Pocock asked the official from Orbex how long it would be before the spaceport would be up and running. The manager replied that this was always an awkward question to answer, as there was always something that meant operations and flights would start later than expected. He said, however, that they were aiming at around the end of 2020 and perhaps the beginning of 2021.

Orbex are not, however, the only space company planning to open a spaceport in Britain. Virgin Galactic have their own plans to launch rockets in to space from Cornwall. Their vehicle will not, however, be launched from the ground like a conventional rocket, but will first be carried to a sufficiently high altitude by an airplane, which would then launch it. I’m not a betting man, but my guess is that of the two, Orbex is the far more likely to get off the ground, as it were, and begin launching its rocket on schedule. As I’ve blogged about previously, Branson has been telling everyone since the late 1990s at least, that Virgin Galactic are going to be flying tourists into space in just a few months from now. This fortnight’s Private Eye published a brief list of the number of times Branson had said that, with dates. It might be that Branson will at last send the first of his aspiring astronauts up in the next few months, as he claimed last week. But from his previous form, it seems far more likely that Orbex will start launches before him, as will Branson’s competitors over the pond, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

When asked about the company’s capability of perfecting their technology, Orbex’s manager not stressed the skill and competence of the scientists, technicians and engineers working on the project. This included not just conventional space scientists, but also people, who had personally tried and failed to build their own spacecraft. He said that it was extremely important to fail to build rockets. He’s obviously referring to the many non-professional, hobby rocketeers out there trying to build their own spacecraft. He didn’t mention them, but one example would be the people at Starchaser, who started out as a small group of enthusiasts in Yorkshire but have gone on to create their own space company, now based across the pond in America. I think it’s brilliant that amateurs and semi-professionals have developed skills that the professionals in the industry find valuable. And the failures are important, as they show what can go wrong, and give the experience and necessary information on how to avoid it. I don’t think the rocket will be wholly built in this country. The manager said that some of it was being constructed in Copenhagen. This sounds like Copenhagen Suborbitals, a Danish team of rocket scientists, who are trying to put a person into space. They’re ex-NASA, I believe, but it’s a small, private venture. They have a webpage and have posted videos on YouTube, some of which I’ve reblogged. They’ve also said they’re keen for people to join them, or start their own rocket projects.

I’d been looking forward to that edition of the Sky at Night for the past week, but when the time came, it slipped my mind that it was on. I’m very glad I was able to catch it. If Orbex are successful, it will be the first time that a British satellite will launch a British satellite from here in Britain. And it sounds really optimistic. Not only will Britain be returning to space rocket development, but the Scots spaceport sounds like it will, hopefully, bring work to a depressed area. I’m also confident that the local environment there will also be preserved. The launch complex around NASA is necessarily so remote from other buildings, that it’s actually become a wildlife haven. So much so that it’s now a location for birdwatching.

When it was announced that they were planning to build a new spaceport in Scotland, I assumed it would be for Skylon, the British spaceplane. There had been articles in the paper about the spacecraft, which stated that it would be launched either from Scotland or Cornwall. It seems I was wrong, and that it’s Orbex’s rocket which will be launched there instead. But nevertheless, I wish Orbex every success in their venture, and hope that sometime soon Skylon will also join them in flight out on the High Frontier.

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JBIS Article on the Skylon British Spaceplane

October 9, 2018

In my last article, I discussed the forthcoming edition of the Beeb’s long-running space and astronomy programme, the Sky at Night, on the history of Britain in space. The programme will be presented by Tim Peake, and the blurb about it this week’s Radio Times looks forward to the opening of Britain’s first spaceport in Scotland within the next few years. The Radio Times doesn’t mention it, but recent newspaper articles have stated that such a spaceport will be built sometime in the very near future for launching the Skylon spaceplane. This is an unmanned vehicle, which has been developed as the successor to the 1980s HOTOL spaceplane.

Two of the scientists and engineers involved in the project, Richard Varvill and Alan Bond, published an article describing the plane in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 57, no. 1/ 2, for January/February 2004. The JBIS is the technical magazine of the British Interplanetary Society, founded in the 1930s to encourage British research into rocketry and space travel. The article runs from p.22 to p.32. The article itself is too long to reproduce, but its abstract runs as follows:

SKYLON is a single stage to orbit (SSTO) winged spaceplane designed to give routine low cost access to space. At a gross takeoff weight of 275 tonnes of which 2202 tonnes is propellant the vehicle is capable of placing 12 tonnes into an equatorial low Earth orbit. The vehicle configuration consists of a slender fuselage containing the propellant tankage and payload bay with delta wings located midway along the fuselage carrying the SABRE engines in axisymmetric nacelles on the wingtips. The vehicle takes off and lands horizontally on its own undercarriage. The fuselage is constructed as a multilayer structure consisting of aeroshell, insulation, structure and tankage. SKYLON employs extant or near term materials technology in order to minimize development cost and risk. The SABRE engines have a dual mode capability. In rocket mode the engine operates as a closed cycle liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen high specific impulse rocket engine. In airbreathing mode (from takeoff to Mach 5) the liquid oxygen flow is replaced by atmospheric air, increasing the installed specific impulse 3-6 fold. The airflow is drawn into the engine via a 2 shock axisymmetric intake and cooled to cryogenic temperatures prior to compression. The hydrogen fuel flow acts as a heat sink for the closed cycle helium loop before entering the main combustion chamber. (p. 22).

Schematic of the SKYLON spaceplane in the above article.

I’m delighted that the spaceplane is now set to enter service and look forward to the opening of the new spaceport in Scotland.

Outrage at Sun and Israel Lobby After Jackie Walker Film Cancelled due to Bomb Hoax

September 28, 2018

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, 25th September 2018, a film about the vicious smearing and attacks on the former vice-chair of Momentum, Jackie Walker, was due to have its premier at Blackburne House, Liverpool. It was to be shown as a fringe event of the Labour conference then being held in that fair city. Directed by Jon Pullman, it took its title, The Political Lynching of Jackie Walker, from a blog post written by the redoubtable critic of Zionism, Tony Greenstein, The Jewish Labour Movement and its Political Lynching of Jackie Walker. There has also been a play about her mistreatment, The Lynching.

The film was shot in Britain and Europe, and followed Walker’s activities for over a year, as she worked, performed and interviewed her across her kitchen table, including comments from her friends and enemies, in order to get the real issue behind the headlines, and show the woman behind the activist.

Walker, you will remember, was smeared as an anti-Semite because members of the Jewish Labour Movement hacked into a private conversation she was having on Facebook about Jewish involvement in the slave trade. They took her words out of context and passed them on to that libelous rag, the Jewish Chronicle. They claimed that she had said that Jews were responsible for the slave trade. Walker has made it very clear that this is absolutely untrue.

She said

Yes, I wrote “many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”. These words, taken out of context in the way the media did, of course do not reflect my position. I was writing to someone who knew the context of my comments. Had he felt the need to pick me up on what I had written I would have rephrased – perhaps to “Jews (my ancestors too) were among those who financed the sugar and slave trade and at the particular time/in the particular area I’m talking about they played an important part.”

For the record, my claim, as opposed to those made for me by the Jewish Chronicle, has never been that Jews played a disproportionate role in the Atlantic Slave Trade, merely that, as historians such as Arnold Wiznitzer noted, at a certain economic point, in specific regions where my ancestors lived, Jews played a dominant role “as financiers of the sugar industry, as brokers and exporters of sugar, and as suppliers of Negro slaves on credit, accepting payment of capital and interest in sugar.”

The producers had hoped that it would be shown as part of Momentum’s The World Transformed event, but Momentum refused, banning not just the film but also Free Speech on Israel and Labour Against the Witch-Hunt. The film was cancelled in its new venue after the organisers received an anonymous call claiming that there was a bomb in the building.

Mike, Tony Greenstein and Martin Odoni have all written pieces about this. Mike believes that the hoaxer may have been inspired by a piece in the Scum by one Hugo Gye. The Scum had been outraged by Momentum’s refusal to allow their journalists into their event, and bitterly complained. Then Gye wrote his piece in the rag describing the film and play. He called Walker herself a ‘far-left activist who was kicked out of Labour for making anti-Semitic slurs’, and quoted the Labour MP and member of the Israel lobby, Louise Ellman, as saying that it was ‘disgraceful’ for other party members to tolerate banned activists. This nasty piece of character assassination masquerading as journalism also included an image of a flier for the event, giving its date and venue.

See Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/25/did-walker-movie-bomb-threat-arise-from-bitchiness-by-the-sun-over-momentum-ban/

Martin has cautiously suggested that the hoaxer may well have been a Zionist, noting that there have been a number of attempts by Zionists to disrupt meetings of left-wing Jews over the past couple of years, including one of Jewish Voice for Labour this same week. Martin goes to ask

Perhaps Labour right-wingers like Margaret Hodge and Luciana Berger, with their ridiculous histrionics-for-the-cameras with needless bodyguards, and comparisons to the Holocaust, would like to consider that a real threat is being aimed at the very people by whom they claim to be threatened? There is every chance that this threat was made by one of Hodge’s/Berger’s allies. If that is the case, what will they have to say about that?

See: https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/breaking-news-bomb-threat-against-jackie-walker/

Greenstein, however, believes very strongly that the hoaxer was probably inspired by Marie van der Zyle (pictured below) and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Yes, the joke’s getting old now, but it’s still funny.

Zyle and the Board have done their level best over these past few years to stop Walker speaking. When Walker and Greenstein spoke in Brighton and Nottingham, the Board phoned the venues beforehand and tried to get them to cancel them. They did the same in 2016, when Walker was due to speak at a church in Bradford, slandering her as ‘an unapologetic Jew-baiter’. They also tried the same stunt to stop her appearing at the Edinburgh Festival.

Greenstein writes

Even if the hoax bomb caller was unknown there can be no doubt that he was doing the work that Marie van der Zyl, Jonathan Arkush and the Board of Deputies have been doing these past two years.

Even if their methods were slightly different the objective was the same. To prevent Jackie Walker exercising her right of free speech. Defence of the pernicious and racist Israeli state was the aim of both Marie Van Der Zyle and the hoax bomb caller. Whereas Ms Zyle merely threatened, cajoled and lied to the owners of venues which she contacted, the anonymous person who phoned on Tuesday simply promised to blow people up Israeli style.

Both Martin and Greenstein also describe the immense hypocrisy of the Board and the Groaniad, who have tried to make political capital out of the incident by describing it as ‘anti-Semitic’. The Groan’s headline about the incident was so misleading that one Peter C. Burns, tweeting about it, apparently believed that it was the Zionists, who had been threatened.

Greenstein points out in his article that the hoaxer did call it a ‘Jewish event’ in his phone call, even though it wasn’t. And it’s rich that the Board has used it to tweet a message about how we must all stand together against anti-Semitism, when they themselves have been whipping up hatred against Walker, libeling her as an anti-Semite. This has resulted in Walker being sent vicious abuse, expressed in foul and anti-Semitic language from other Jews. Because, as Greenstein himself has experienced, Zionist Jews hated Jewish critics of Israel more than gentile anti-Semites.

Greenstein also notes the monumental lack of interest in this by the media, with the exception of the Guardian. He observes that if this had happened at a Zionist event, then Luciana Berger, Ellman and Margaret Hodge would all be shouting about how they were being victimized and needed protection.

Both Mike and Greenstein write in their articles that far from shutting down interest in the film, this will only make more people interested in it. And Mike asks if her accusers’ case is so fragile, their only answer to Walker and her film is to try to stop it being thrown through bomb threats.

Greenstein’s article is at: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2018/09/bomb-hoax-in-liverpool-we-shall-not-be.html

It also includes some prize examples of the abuse Walker has received. It’s nasty, racist and viciously misogynist stuff. ‘Lying sack of excrement’ is one of the least foul terms her abusers use. So decent, sensitive souls be warned.

On a more positive note, he also includes a brief trailer for the film, which is very much worth watching.

Al-Jazeera on the First Test Flight of India’s Space Shuttle

September 19, 2018

In this short clip, just over two minutes long, from Al-Jazeera, posted two years ago in 2016, Tariq Bezley reports on the first test flight by the Indian Space Agency of their space shuttle. The shuttle was launched into space on top of a rocket fired from India’s launch facility north of Chenai. The craft separated from the rocket at an altitude of 70 km and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, which heated it up to 2,000 degrees.

A female scientist speaking for the Observer Research Foundation, Rajeswari P Rajagopalan talks on the video about how it was necessary to test the shuttle’s heat shield.

Besley states that so far only the US, USSR, Japan and Europe have launched reusable shuttles. He states that NASA’s Space Shuttle flew 135 missions in 30 years before it was finally decommissioned. It has been replaced by the US air forces X-37B test vehicle. This unmanned vehicle was on its third mission, and had been up there for a year. However, the secrecy surrounding its missions have provoked speculation that it is a spy satellite, or is being tested to deliver weapons from space.

He then goes on to discuss the Dreamchaser, the spaceplane being developed by the private Sierra Nevada firm to service the International Space Station. Its first flight is planned for 2019. India’s space shuttle is in a much earlier stage of development, and it’s estimated that it’ll be 10 or 15 years before it is ready to fly.

Besley also discusses how India successfully put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars in 2014, becoming the first Asian nation to do so.

Rajagopan states that China has flourishing military space programme, which is a direct challenge to India, and India has to respond if it is not to be left lagging behind.

Further tests will be carried out on the Indian spacecraft, including on the supersonic scramjet engine which the Indians hope will one day power the spaceplane. The Indians say that their Mars mission cost a tenth of that of other missions to the Red Planet. Besley concludes that if their space shuttle can achieve the same savings, space travel will become much more affordable for all.

A number of countries have developed plans for different spaceplanes. The Russians had their own version of the Space Shuttle, Buran, which looked exactly like the American. It has been mothballed since the Fall of the USSR and has never flown. The French designed a small spaceplane, Hermes, which was to go on top of their Ariane rocket in the 1990s. This was very much like the American Dynosoar spaceplane proposed in the 1950s, but never actually built. The Germans also designed a spaceplane, Sanger, named after one of their leading rocket scientists. This would consist of two craft, a larger plane acting as a first stage, which would piggy-back a second plane into orbit.
And then there was the British HOTOL project of the 1980s which also used airbreathing ramjet engines to take the plane into space. This was never completed because of problems with those same engines. The technology has since been perfected, and a new British spaceplane, Skylon, has been developed. It has been forecast that it will come into service sometime in the next few years, possibly flying from spaceport launch sites in Cornwall or Scotland.

The video shows how sophisticated India’s space programme is, and I’ve no doubt that their entry into space will lower launch costs significantly. While the American shuttle was an amazing piece of engineering, it was massively expensive. It only became competitive as a launch vehicle against Ariane and the other rockets because it was heavily subsidized by the American government.

I look forward to the development of India’s spaceplane and that country joining the US and Russia in launching manned space missions. Perhaps if more countries develop reusable spacecraft, humanity will at last enter a real age of crewed space exploration and colonization.

Frightened Davidson Tells May to Concentrate on Funding NHS

May 31, 2018

A day or so ago I put up a post arguing that Corbyn’s promise to renationalise the NHS had Tweezer and the Tories rattled, as there had been a story in the I that May had held the promise of repealing some of Andrew Lansley’s vile Health and Social Care Act. This is a long, convoluted act which basically absolves the Health Minister of the requirement to provide universal healthcare free at the point of delivery to everyone in Britain. It’s one of the major landmarks on the long campaign of the Thatcherite right – both Tory and New Labour – to privatise the NHS. May was also talking about increasing taxes to mend the funding deficit in the NHS. This was, however, spoilt by May acting true to form as a Tory. She immediately declared that everyone would have to pay this tax, which could be as high as £2,000. Mike’s posted a piece on his blog about how this was worked out, and pointed out that not everyone should have to pay the same amount. We have progressive taxation in this country, which means that the rich pay higher rates of tax than the poor, who can’t afford it. The Tories, however, hate progressive taxation, because they’re solidly on the side of the rich and despise the poor. And so Thatcher, Major, Cameron and now May have done their best to shift the tax burden onto the poor, in order to lower the tax rates on their rich friends. And Thatcher came unstuck in 1990/1 when she tried to promote the poll tax.

Like May’s proposed tax increase for the NHS, this was supposed to be a uniform rate charged on rich and poor alike. It was expected to replace the rates, which were charged on the value of your property. So a rich Tory donor living in a mansion was going to be charged the same amount of money as someone on unemployment benefit living in a simple terraced house. Never mind: Thatcher and her cabinet of grotesques claimed this was ‘democratic, because we all pay the same’. The British public didn’t agree, and there were massed protests and riots against it. I also know of a number of magistrates, who resigned because of it. As Justices of the Peace, they would be required to enforce this piece of legislation, which they personally felt was terribly unjust. And rather than find people guilty in support of a law, with which they profoundly disagreed, they obeyed the calls of their consciences and resigned. And I have every respect to these people for doing so. Thatcher was then outed in a coup, Major installed as her replacement, and unfortunately the Tories carried on in power until Blair’s victory in 1997.

It struck me at the time, as I said in my previous article, that May was probably trying to scare people with the £2,000 figure, which many poorer people wouldn’t be able to afford, so she could claim that the NHS is unaffordable as it stands. Cue more privatisation. Despite the fact that we could easily afford it if we took a leaf out of the European’s book and spent more on the NHS, and increased the tax rates for the rich instead.

But the fact that May is holding out the prospect of undoing her predecessor’s legislation, and raising taxes for the NHS, shows that Corbyn’s got her rattled.

And not just May. It also seems to have worried ‘Rape Clause’ Ruth Davidson north of the Border. The I ran a story on Tuesday reporting that Davidson had warned may to concentrate on increasing funding for the NHS, and ditch plans for more tax cuts. If she didn’t, she risked relegating the Tories to history.

This shows just how far the panic is spreading in the Tory party. Quite apart from Davidson and Gove forming a think tank – surely an oxymoron in their cases – to reinvigorate the Tory party with new ideas. Because, they warn, if they don’t have them, the Tories may be out of power for a whole generation.

Well, I’d just love to see this vile party and its horrendous politicians thrust out of power, and not just for a generation. That’s too short a time.

As for the gurning, smirking leader of the Tories in Scotland, today’s I carried pieces from a couple of newspapers predicting that Davidson is too young, ambitious and talented to be content to remain head of the Tories in Scotland. According to them, she will most probably try to head down south to forge a political career in Britain and Wales. What a terrible prospect! Davidson is responsible for trying to implement the government’s wretched austerity campaign in Scotland, including its demand that women, who’ve had more than two children due to rape, should have to prove this is the case when claiming child benefit. Hence her soubriquet of ‘Rape Clause’. It’s a nasty piece of vindictive legislation which punishes already vulnerable women, who have been traumatised by their sexual assault. But this is the Tories, who have absolute contempt for the poor, the weak and the underprivileged. Davidson is supposed to be a ‘liberal’ Tory, but there’s no evidence of that except her sexuality. And despite May’s attempts to position herself as a feminist, this is a thoroughly misogynist piece of legislation. The last thing the rest of Britain needs is for her to come down south to spread even more misery down here.

Actually, reading between the line, it’s possible that Davidson may not have a choice. For all that she’s supposed to have masterminded the revival of the Tories in Scotland, she didn’t actually increase their vote. Instead, the SNP’s vote decreased and Labour’s revived, which split the opposition and allowed the Tories to emerge as the largest single party, even though most
Scots voted against them. Which is another argument in favour of proportional representation. Given the parlous situation of the Tories in Scotland, it’s possible that the Scots may vote them out. This would result in the party looking around for a new leader, and Davidson given her marching orders. In which case, if she wanted to continue her career, she’d have to go south.

I don’t want her coming to England and Wales, but I look forward to the Scots voting out the Tories and their thoroughly grotesque and objectionable leader.

British Man, Who Has Never Left UK, Threatened with Deportation to Uganda

May 21, 2018

This grim little video was sent to me by Jo, one of the great commenters on this blog. It’s a video from that nefarious Russian propaganda outlet, RT. And it’s about yet another immigration scandal.

It’s an interview with Kyle Herbert, a British fast food worker, who has never left the UK, who was told by the immigration authorities that he was here illegally and threatened with deportation. As a result, he was suspended without pay for two weeks while he sorted the problem out. He wanted to carry on working, but was told by his supervisor to go home, because if he didn’t, the firm would be fined £20,000 for employing him as an illegal alien.

This happened two years ago, and the video dates from the 3rd May, 2018. Herbert decided to come forward with his story now because of similar recent scandals over immigration. The immigration service states that they have corrected the mistake, and apologised.

This shows the dangerous mistakes that are occurring in the immigration service, quite apart from the very deliberate attempts to deny people benefits or citizenship. On Friday, Mike put up the story of Stevie Leishman, a Scots gent, who had returned to Blighty after spending seven weeks backpacking around the world. He then made a claim for Universal Credit, only to be turned down. The reason given was that they were unsure whether he would be an habitual resident of this country, as he made his claim too soon after he returned. The DWP then informed him that he must be treated as someone ‘who is not in the UK’.

Which is truly astonishing. Mike’s post includes comments from both Leishman’s and Mark Andrews’ Supporting Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell Facebook pages expressing their sheer incredulity at the DWP’s decision. And Mike himself comments

It is clearly part of the “hostile environment” policy, even though it isn’t being administrated by the Home Office.

Other examples quoted in the comment thread under Mr Andrews’s post include a homeless person who was excluded for spending four months abroad picking fruit – after 16 years in the British Army, and a woman who left her abusive husband in Dubai and fled to the UK.

It seems if anyone has been out of the UK for two consecutive weeks in two years, they may be defined as a foreigner and denied benefit.

If anything, this is worse than the Windrush scandal.

That travesty concerned people who were born abroad but had the right to stay in the UK.

This targets people who have always been UK citizens.

And Theresa May is at the heart of it. How many times do we have to hear these accounts before she – and her government – are removed?

This is clearly using individual’s travel abroad as an excuse to deny them benefits, just like benefit sanctions are imposed on the flimsiest pretexts and the work capability tests are also imposed to define seriously ill people as ‘fit for work’ so that they too can be thrown off benefits. It’s all part of the Tories’ schemes to deny benefits and real support to the poor, in order to create a cowed workforce, willing to accept starvation wages, zero hours contracts and absolutely no job security. Oh yes, and give massive tax breaks to the rich.

This whole network of depriving the poor, the unemployed and the disabled of needed benefit money has to end now. We desperately need to get May and her vile Tory government out, and a proper, Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn in.

George Galloway: Torygraph Publishes Piece Speculating on Coup to Overthrow Corbyn

May 12, 2018

This is an excerpt from George Galloway’s Talk Radio Show, which I found on YouTube. He begins with talking about a conversation he had with James Whale, a fellow presenter, about the dangerous situation in the Middle East, where Israel is now facing an Arab, Russian and Iranian enemy. He pours scorn, however, on the juvenile scribblers, as Galloway sees it, who claimed that the missiles shot at the Golan Heights had entered Israel. Galloway states that the Golan Heights were illegally seized by Israel from Syria, and so are not part of Israel, no matter what the hacks say.

He then goes on to talk about Theresa May’s volte face, which has meant that victims of the Grenfell Tower fire will now be allowed onto the board investigating it. After that, he moves on to talking about how the Brexit negotiations are an appalling mess, and the whole affair something which all of us will have difficulty getting out of.

But the main subject of his ire is a piece published by Paul Carter in the Torygraph the day before, which may be 10th May 2018. The Torygraph had speculated on the possibility of a military coup against Corbyn. Galloway describes the article as chilling, and states that its author, Paul Carter, has no footprint in social media. The article claims that this coup would occur if the labour leader was elected to power and proceeded to enact to enact three particular policies. These were conducting a referendum to abolish the monarchy, taking us out of NATO, and taking us out of the western foreign policy consensus. Galloway himself wishes Corbyn would do all these, but the Labour leader will certainly not do any of them. The proximate cause of the Torygraph article is that it is 50 years since Mountbatten and the editor of the Mirror met to plan a coup against the Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson. Galloway states that Wilson was a political giant, who dominated the sixties and much of the seventies. He was right-wing Labour, a social democrat. But he had his house burgled and his mail intercepted because it was suspected that he was a Russian secret agent. If the coup had gone ahead, the country would probably be led by Mountbatten from the Despatch Box, probably from the House of Lords, unless he resigned and fought a bye-election. Not that such constitutional niceties would bother people, who had just overthrown their democratically elected leader.

He also makes the point that there were plans to intern 4,000 other leftists, including journalists, on the Shetland Islands. Galloway himself was too young at the time, but if they did launch a coup against Corbyn, this would be the last you’d hear of him for a long time, unless he managed to get onto Radio Free Shetland. He notes one expert, who has said that it would be much harder to launch a coup now that people have mobile phones and social media. It was easier fifty years ago when it was the editors of the newspapers to overthrow the government. But Corbyn would be wise to keep his mobile phone handy. If they did launch a coup, then millions would pour onto the streets to defended their elected leader? Or would they? Galloway leaves this as a matter of discussion for later in the programme. He says that eventually the plans for the coup were abandoned, because the conspirators thought better, including the government’s scientific advisor, Solly Zuckerman. But Galloway thinks this is false, and that they simply got cold feet.

Galloway then closes the segment with a piece about how popular the woman presenting the weather reports is becoming.

This is worrying, as it looks like a combination of smear piece and speculation by the Torygraph. Corbyn hasn’t any intention of trying to abolish the monarchy, taking us out of NATO or acting against the current foreign policy consensus, so it’s a smear to suggest that he might. The absence of any social media footprint for Paul Carter suggests that this is a pseudonym. And this in turn invites speculation that it’s someone from MI5 or another branch of the security services.

This wouldn’t be the first time MI5’s been acting against the government, if this is the case. The agency was convinced Wilson really was a KGB spy, and Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, have suggested that it was behind the smears circulating then about the Labour leader.

As for the coup they’re discussing, the plotting occurred later than the article claims. Mountbatten and the editor of the Mirror were making their plans in the mid-70s. And the Times was also looking forward to Wilson being toppled, though replaced by a civilian government of trusted members of the Labour party, like Shirley Williams, as well the Tories. These plots are discussed in Francis Wheen’s book, Strange Days Indeed: Paranoia in the 1970s, and by Ken Livinstone in his book Livingstone’s Labour. The date’s out, but otherwise everything that Galloway’s said about the proposed coup is correct. One of the reasons it failed is because one of the plotters approached Sandhurst, to ask if the old colonels there would help. They said they wouldn’t, and sent him away. Hurrah for Sandhurst!

Galloway says at the beginning of his discussion of the article that no-one else was talking about it. Which suggests that this is purely speculation and wishful thinking by the Weirdo Barclay Brothers and the paper’s managing director, Murdoch McLellan, and whoever is now the editor of this wretched rag. The paper’s been running articles attacking Corbyn, claiming that he’s an anti-Semite and so on, along with the Daily Mail. But this shows more than a hint of real desperation. For all the Tory and media talk about ‘peak Corbyn’, it seems they really afraid he’ll win the election. In which case, they want the troops to overthrow him. Not because they’re afraid he’ll do all the things they claim he will, but because his very mild socialist programme will cause the end of the Thatcherite consensus. The corporate rich could no longer look forward to a privatised NHS and railways, and parts of the electricity grid would also be renationalised, would which would also upset corporate profits. Not to mention that they could no longer rely on having a cowed, cheap workforce of the desperate on poverty wages, on zero hours contracts and kept in line by the threat of benefit sanctions and starvation.

This is all too much for the Torygraph and its scribblers. So they’ve started fantasising about the possibility of a coup. Just like the British stock exchange cheered the Fascists when they revolted against the Republican government at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

The Torygraph has just about gone full Fascist with this article. And its publication is more than a bit hypocritical for the Tories. Not after they went berserk and accused Hilary Mantel of encouraging terrorism when she published her short story, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. But this shows just how far Corbyn has rattled the Tories, and shown how some of them, at least as for the Torygraph itself, have started hankering after a coup to stop him.

Katy Balls Writes about ‘Liberal’ Tories, But Do They Really Exist?

May 5, 2018

Katy Balls, one of the columnists on the I newspaper, wrote a long column on Wednesday claiming that liberal Tories were a dying breed. This branch of the Tory party includes, apparently, Amber Rudd, Justine Greening and Damian Green in England, and ‘Rape Clause’ Ruth Davidson north of the border. With the resignation of Amber Rudd, their ranks are seriously depleted. She then went on describe how the Tories were planning to compensate for their losses in London by attacking weak Labour seats in the north, stressing a social conservative programme.

Social conservatism is the right-wing ideology that stresses traditional western social attitudes against gay rights, immigration and multiculturalism. It’s also very traditional in its attitude to gender roles. Put simply, it’s the attitude of the Daily Mail, which is vehemently racist, and has published no end of pieces arguing that women and society would be better off if they returned to their traditional roles as wives and mothers.

Reading Balls’ article, I wonder who these liberal Tories were, and if they ever really existed. I’ve seen no evidence that Rudd, Davidson, Greening and Green have ever been liberal at all in their treatment of the poor, the disabled and the unemployed. In fact there’s plenty of evidence against it in the Tories’ attacks on these groups through workfare, benefit sanctions, their cuts to vital welfare services and their support of the low wage economy. And while Dave Cameron made a lot of noise about cleaning the racists out of his party, the Tories are still very much against immigration and racist. Rudd’s supposed to be a liberal, but that didn’t stop her presiding over the deportation of the Windrush migrants, though she wasn’t responsible for the policy or the legislation behind it. That was done by Tweezer when she was Dodgy Dave Cameron’s home secretary. As for Ruth Davidson, the only quality she has which might be described as liberal is the fact that she’s a lesbian with a wife, who is now expecting a child. Tolerance of gays is a policy usually associated with the left, and the embrace of gay rights was another, liberal policy adopted by Cameron. But as Private Eye pointed out at the time, the Conservatives always have had slightly more gay MPs than Labour. So it wasn’t much of a break from the Tories’ existing attitudes, at least regarding their own ranks.

The only thing that marks these people out as liberal is they may be less prejudiced against Blacks and ethnic minorities, and far more tolerant of gays than the rest of the party. But they’ve still shown themselves to be viciously persecutory towards working people and the poor. And their supposed anti-racism didn’t stop them from deporting British citizens with a right to stay in this country, simply because they were Black or Asians from the Commonwealth. Or, indeed, that the party as a whole is less racist, although it might be more disguised and expressed less openly. If Balls hadn’t claimed that Rudd, Greening and Green were liberal, it wouldn’t have struck me that they were so. I’ve seen no evidence myself, and I doubt many others have. And despite her sexuality, Ruth Davidson is extremely illiberal, especially when it comes to rape victims and child benefit.

What Balls seems to mean is that if this crew go, then the Tories will become more overtly racist, anti-feminist, Islamophobic and homophobic. This will lead to increased prejudice against gays, Muslims and ethnic minorities, as well as renewed attacks on women and feminism. But it could also show them to be even more out of touch with society and less electable, whether or not they’re campaign in the north.

Jody Whiting: Another Victim of Tory Benefit Sanctions

May 3, 2018

It isn’t just the Windrush Migrants, who have been savagely persecuted by the Tories. They’re just the latest victims in their ongoing campaign to humiliate, degrade and impoverish the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, BAME people, in fact anybody who isn’t rich and a member of the corporate elite.

Whiting was a young mother, who tragically took her life a few weeks ago. She had been thrown off benefits because she missed a jobcentre interview. She had good reason. She was in hospital at the time, being treated for a cyst on the brain. Common sense should tell you that this is a severe illness, and that treating it comes very much before attending jobcentre interviews, or indeed, anything else. The jobcentre didn’t see it that way, and stopped her benefits. Just as they stopped them for so many other seriously ill people in exactly the same situation.

Fearing that she would be unable to cope without state support, she took her own life. She dropped her kids off at school, went to the local forest and hanged herself. She had appealed the decision, and her benefits were reinstated. This came too late for her, after she was dead.

Mike put this up on his blog. It’s been a scandal in Scotland, and someone pointedly shouted to ‘Rape Clause’ Ruth Davidson about her, when she appeared to defend the Tories’ record before the Scots parliament. But Whiting is just one of nearly a thousand or more victims of Tory benefit sanctions, who have either starved to death penniless, or taken their own lives out of sheer desperation. There are so many that I’ve lost count. Stilloaks, one of the great commenters to this blog, has published a list on his site, as have disabled organisations and a number of other left-wing bloggers, including Johnny Void.

Many of these people left suicide notes explaining that they were killing themselves because of benefit sanctions. But all you hear from the Tories, when this issue is raised, is the constant refrain that there is no evidence to link their deaths with government policies.

It’s vile, murderous lie, to cover up what Mike and other bloggers are calling the genocide of the disabled.

Stop the deaths. Vote out May and her murderous crew.

Esther McVie and the Rape Clause: Adding Lies and Insults to Traumatic Assault

April 20, 2018

I really can’t let this go without comment. In one of the history books I’ve got here at home, there’s an observation that you can tell how civilised a culture is by how high the status of women is. I think it’s in part of the book discussing the ancient Egyptians, where the status of women was very high for the ancient world. If that’s the case, then Esther McVile and the Tories are dragging us back into real barbarism.

McVile was before the Scots parliament this week to give her testimony regarding child benefit, and the infamous ‘rape clause’. You can only receive child benefit for two children, but it is available for rape victims, provided they can show that their third child was conceived through rape. This in itself is immensely controversial, and Ruth Davidson, the head of the Tories in Scotland, briefly earned herself the soubriquet ‘Rape Clause Ruth’ after she got up on her hind legs to justify the rape clause. That was repulsive enough. Now the Tories have gone even lower and got Esther McVie to try to defend the indefensible.

And what did the Wicked Witch of the Wirral say? That the rape clause offered victims the chance to talk about their assault, and offered them ‘double support’.

It does no such thing. Everything about the modern Job Centre interview is design to humiliate, bully and degrade the prospective claimant. It’s all part of Thatcher’s sacred Victorian values. She followed the ‘less eligibility’ ideology of the workhouse, in which claiming benefits was to be made so harsh and degrading that only the very desperate would willingly go on them.

As for the psychological harm rape does, I know very little about it. But I do know that it leaves victims traumatised and mentally scarred. They may irrationally blame themselves, and definitely do not want to relive the experience over and over again. I can remember watching a documentary on Channel 4 about new advances in neuroscience and mental health, which included a piece about doctors in Canada, who were treating a French Canadian lady. This poor woman was still massively depressed and anxious a year or more after her assault. And it goes without saying that there are any number of rape victims like her. They don’t like talking about their experience, and they feel so deeply ashamed that in general they really don’t want other people knowing about it.

And the DWP is not known for its sensitivity. Like when its wretched servants ask depressives why they haven’t committed suicide yet. No depressed person should be asked this question. And no rape victim should be required to describe the event for an unsympathetic bureaucrat, whose only concern is to find some excuse to sanction their benefits.

One of the many great commenters on Mike’s blog, Aunty1960, posted this about their experience of the way the DWP handles rape claims.

I have witness statements on my After Atos feedback survey from rape and child sex survivors who say they have to recount their ordeal up to ten times every time they are called for an assessment as they have to again go through it with GP social worker, psychiartrist, DWP physiotherapist counsellor etc etc in order to get each bit of paper and supportive documentary evidence.

The assessors are not understanding or supportive and can ask really inappropriate and insensitive questions.

One witness statement says that all the work that has been done over the years has been totally undone because of having to go through the assessments and retell it and relive it everytime. No closure and respect for PTSD triggers, just keep opening the wound over and over again.

Some very inappropriate comments by assessor on women and their sexuality and sexual experiences. Even outright disapproval of a woman being a lesbian and inappropriate comments.

A lot of work undone and lost. and that includes physical ailments where interventions have been completely undone and undermined.

I cannot stand most people most of the time and professionals about sexual abuse and social discrimination and prejudice, Same ideas still there. This just reinforce and compounds it 100 times more.

But McVile’s statement is designed to play to that part of the Tory-voting public, who are fortunate never to have stepped into a jobcentre, at least, not recently. The people, who are prepared to take the Tories comments about their welfare reforms at face value, and swallow all the lies about how they’re not cutting benefits, their simply refocusing them to help people better. The lies that workfare isn’t about giving cheap, subsidised forced labour to big business, including the supermarkets, but about helping people into work by giving them new skills and other such specious rubbish. Quite apart from the morons that believes the lies put out by the Scum, the Heil and the Depress that all benefit claimants are really scroungers, no matter how severe their disability. ‘Cause these papers says so, and they saw that character in a wheelchair running about in Little Britain. Oh yes, and single mothers only have babies to claim the child and other benefits.You can read off the standard Tory attitudes of the people, who will believes McVile’s monstrous, platitudinous lies, almost like ticking boxes in a list.

Not the Scots, however. The day after McVile uttered this bilge, they organised a demonstration against her. Bravo! and maximum respect! McVie is truly vile, along with the rest of the squad running the DWP – Damian Green and his predecessor, Ian Duncan Smith. All of them should be cleaned out and charged with crimes against humanity for their role in manipulating the benefits system to cause the victims of their sanctions to starve to death or commit suicide.

Unfortunately, they’re likely to be rewarded instead. Rape Clause Ruth was in today’s papers because Time magazine has named her one of the 20 most influential women, or at least, influential women in Scotland. Which is enough to have millions of Scots voting SNP because of Nicola Sturgeon. Although I’d rather see named as more influential than Davidson the actress, who played Mary Hen, Rab. C. Nesbit’s long-suffering wife.

Apart from being offensive in itself, McVile’s stupid comments are dangerous because they try to justify a system that is causing people harm. And her words themselves are likely to upset victims of sexual assault and their families. One of the things I’ve learned from being made redundant along with others is that it isn’t just an official action that hurts. It’s also the dull platitudes management offer to try and make it more palatable. I used to be a civil servant years ago, and one day a whole group of us were called in individually to be told we were going to be made redundant. One young lad left in tears. Talking to him afterwards, he told me that it wasn’t the redundancy itself, but the nonsense the manager came out with about the possibility of getting jobs elsewhere in offices in the area. The lad knew that there was no hope of that. The redundancy stung, and what made it all the worse was the smooth assurances made by someone from outside the office to make it all seem better. McVie’s comments are like that, but much worse because of the horrific nature of the crime to which these women have been subjected.

McVie deserves her nickname. She really is vile, and so are the rest of her corrupt and mendacious crew. Get them out, and Labour in!