Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

Book on Britain’s Medieval Jewish Heritage

July 10, 2017

Bristol is one of the few cities to have a miqveh, a Jewish ritual bath, surviving from the Middle Ages. It’s a chamber cut into hillside of Jacob’s Wells Road, if I remember correctly. It was identified as a miqveh as it has an inscription in Hebrew, ‘Zaklim’, which means ‘Flowing’. Not all archaeologists and historians are convinced that it is a ritual bath, as it’s some way away from the city’s medieval Jewry, and it’s also closer than was usually permitted to a Christian church, in this case that of St. Michael’s Hill. Nevertheless, they believe that it may still have been an important source of water for Bristol’s medieval Jewish community.

Looking through the Oxbow Book Catalogue for Autumn 2015, I found a book listed, Jewish Heritage in Britain and Ireland, by Sharman Kadish, published by Historic England, paperback price £20.00. The blurb reads

Jewish Heritage in Britain and Ireland celebrates in full colour the undiscovered heritage of Anglo-Jewry. First published in 2006, it remains the only comprehensive guide to historic synagogues and sites in the British Isles, covering more than 300 sites, organised on a region-by-region basis. The new edition has been completely revised and features many new images including, for the first time, of sites in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

I don’t know how many of this blog’s readers are interested in medieval history, but this book appears to be a useful exploration of this part of Britain and Ireland’s medieval heritage. One that came to an end in England when Edward I expelled them from England, which set off a series of similar ethnic cleansings which saw many other countries forcibly remove their Jewish citizens, expulsions which some medieval historians have compared to the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany.

Soft-Spoken Aristo Thug Jacob Rees-Mogg Joins Boris as Latest Tory Celebrity

July 9, 2017

On Friday, Mike also put up a piece commenting on how Jacob Rees-Mogg, the son of William Rees-Mogg, the former Times and Independent journalist, has developed a cult following. Apparently he has his own fan group, dubbed Moggmentum in imitation of Corbyn’s greater and far better supporter’s group. Mike also supports his comments with a couple of Tweets from fans, who rave about how he has ‘class’, is better than ‘left-liberal misfits who would ruin the country’, and how ‘England needs him’.

As Mike then goes on to show, Jacob Rees-Mogg is the kind of right-wing politico Britain really doesn’t need. He is, of course, Eton-educated, and as his voting record shows, he believes in punishing the poor simply for being poor, while also demanding that Tory Toffs like himself get generous state handouts to retain their position of power.

In a long list of the policies favoured by the man dubbed ‘the minister for the 18th century’, Mike shows that

He generally votes against laws to extend equality and human rights.
Consistently votes for cuts to welfare spending.
Consistently votes against gay rights.
General votes against laws to tackle climate change.
Consistently supports the extension of the surveillance state.
Consistently voted against raising support payments for the long term ill or disabled.
Consistently votes against government spending to create jobs for young people, who have been unemployed for some time.
Nearly always votes for restricting the right of EU nationals to remain in Britain.
He was also nearly always in favour of reducing access to legal aid.
He was also a solid supporter of tuition fees, the bedroom tax and against raising unemployment benefit in line with rising prices.

As Simon Renshaw says in his Tweet, which Mike has also posted in his article, Rees-Mogg is not amusing. He is cruel, deplorable and dangerous. And another Tweeter, Paul, also commented

Sperminator Rees-Mogg would not govern for the people, he would rule for his class with a selective dose of his religion thrown in.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/mogg-mentum-the-tories-are-losing-their-grip-on-reality/

This last comment is extremely accurate. Rees-Mogg began his career as a politician by campaigning for the Tories in a depressed fishing area in Fife in Scotland. When asked what he would be campaigning on, Rees-Mogg declared that he would be trying to convince the locals that the country would be best served by retaining an unelected, hereditary House of Lords. Somehow, I’m not surprised he didn’t succeed on this occasion. The Scots aristocracy, led by the Duke of Buccleuch, had a greater degree of political power north of the border than their counterparts further south, until the guid Duke and his ilk were stripped of them by the Labour government in 1975. And obviously, the unkempt masses weren’t keen to bring them back. Given the spectacle of this strange, gangling figure stalking about the streets and vennels and addressing the locals in a cut-class, pukka Etonian accent, I suppose it was almost inevitable that the SNP would suddenly receive a massive boost in support. Heaven knows how he’d have got in Govan or the rougher parts of Glesgae toon.

A few years ago, Private Eye did a little feature on him as part of their series on the new boys and girls, who had entered parliament after that year’s election. Not only does Rees-Mogg expect people to defer to him because of his class, he also expects close family members to protect him personally in uncomfortable situations. By which I mean that once, at Glyndebourne, he got his nanny and his wife to hold a book over his head to protect him from the sun.

The aristocracy are also known for inflicting stupid names on their children. Rees-Mogg is no exception. Along with the normal names he has given his new-born son, Dominic and Christopher, he also inflicted ‘Sextus’ and ‘Dominic’ on the poor little mite. ‘Sextus’ is Latin for ‘Sixth’, and the little chap is his sixth sprog.

So why would anyone become a fan of this weird creature? I think part of it’s because he is so strange, as well as being personally very polite. He has a diffident, gentlemanly manner while at the same time he stands out as something of a character. He’s similar to Boris Johnson in this respect, who’s built his career on a very carefully crafted persona of being a good-natured chump, while he’s anything but in real life. Quietly spoken with a slightly diffident manner, it makes Rees-Mogg look for more harmless and reasonable than he actually is. But as his voting record shows, his political views are those of a typical vengeful Tory thug with all their class hatred and contempt for working people.

Rees-Mogg is a particular presence in my part of the world, because he’s the MP for North-East Somerset, which is just south of my bit of Bristol. I’m not surprised he got in down there. This is the same part of rural Somerset, where the Waldegrave family have their seat. There’s even a pub called ‘The Waldegrave Arms’ in Green Ore, one of the villages there on the Waldegrave estate. This is a part of Britain, where they still feel people should be tugging their forelocks in deference to the lord of the manor.

As for his supporters, from what I’ve heard personally, they’re deeply reactionary, true-blue members of the upper middle class, who really do want to drag us all back to the 19th century, when the upper classes were in power and the proles knew there place – in hovels, suffering from malnutrition and cholera.

There’s some speculation that the Tories are looking to put him into No. 10 at one point. Mike states that he’s not likely to go away, and we shall all do our best to make sure he doesn’t get in. If he does, you can bet that all the poverty, despair, joblessness and starvation the Tories have inflicted on the working class, disabled and poor in this country really will reach truly 19th century levels.

More Hypocrisy from the Tories and the Daily Mail as They Accuse Labour of Bigotry and Intolerance

July 8, 2017

The Conservatives and Daily Heil are back to the old tricks of accusing the Labour party and its supporters, particularly those in Momentum for Jeremy Corbyn, of intolerance, vandalism and intimidation. Sheryll Murray, the Tory MP for South East Cornwall, whined in an article in the Fail about her treatment by Labour supporters. She claimed that

“I’ve had swastikas carved into posters, social media posts like ‘burn the witch’ and ‘stab the C’, people putting Labour Party posters on my home, photographing them and pushing them through my letterbox. Someone even urinated on my office door.”

Dominic Sandbrook, one of the rag’s journos, then went on to opine that “The fact is the overwhelming majority of the abuse, bullying and intimidation comes from the Left.”

Tory MP Nadine ‘Mad Nad’ Dorries put up a photograph of one of these vandalised posters with the accusation that it was done by Momentum supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, along with her judgement that Britain was heading back to the 1930s.

As Mike has pointed out on his blog about the article, citing Tom Clarke, the Angry Yorkshireman, neither Murray, Dorries nor Sandbrook has absolutely any evidence that this was done by Labour supporters. It’s just another unfounded accusation to smear the Labour party.

And Murray herself also has form when it comes to intolerance. At one of her rallies, she stated that she’s glad there are food banks in Cornwall. When a section of the crowd, not unreasonably, shows its anger, she first tries to wave it off by saying, ‘Let’s ignore these, shall we?’ As Mike also asks rhetorically, what does she mean when she refers to the protesters as ‘these’? When they continue, she threatens to call the police.

Mike concludes

This Writer reckons the Tories are on the back foot, and this is a desperate attempt to regain credibility with the public.

It must not succeed.

So, if you see a Tory trying to defame the Left in this manner, don’t let it pass; challenge it.

We’ll see how long their feigned indignance lasts when they’re made to produce evidence – or shut up.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/06/tories-accuse-the-left-of-intolerance-and-bigotry-without-evidence-pot-kettle-black/

There are a number of issues underlying the petulant shrieks of intolerance by the Tories, some going back to patrician attitudes to the working classes that predate democratic politics.

Firstly, as Mike and the Angry Yorkshireman point out, there’s absolutely no evidence linking any of this to the Labour party. Indeed, some of it is just as likely to come from the Lib Dems or indeed just from people of no fixed political opinions, who are fed with the Tories. In rural areas like parts of the south west, the main rivals to the Conservatives aren’t Labour but the Liberal Democrats, and I’ve heard from former Conservative local politicians that the real hatred isn’t between Labour and the Conservatives, between the Tories and Lib Dems.

Secondly, the Tories’ attitudes in many ways is simply a display of the old, upper class suspicion of the working class. Way back in the early 19th century the upper classes hated and feared the Labouring poor as prone to rioting, and potentially subversive and disloyal. The only way to keep the unwashed masses in line was through outright repression and stern policing. This attitude vanished, or at least was seriously weakened when the great unwashed turned up at the Great Exhibition. And instead of wanting to burn the place down, showed themselves orderly, responsible and interested. But this latest accusation from the Fail with its petit bourgeois readership shows that the old hatred and fear of the working class as a seething mass of social disorder, yobbishness and violence, still remains.

Thirdly, it shows just out of touch ‘Nads’ Dorries, Murray and Sandbrook are. If people are lashing out at Tory MPs and their propaganda, it’s because they’ve been driven to it by grinding poverty and an administration that ignores everyone except the richest quarter of the population. Many areas of rural Britain, including Cornwall, have high unemployment. There’s also a problem of getting housing, which is often well out of the price range of locals thanks to wealthy people from outside the area buying it as second homes. I’ve a friend from Cornwall, who was particularly angry about this nearly a decade ago. I can remember him getting up to tackle a group of ‘upcountry’ people about it in a pub, when he overheard them talking about how cheap property was down there.

Then there are the national problems of acute poverty, caused by stagnating wages and cuts to basic welfare support. People want and deserve proper unemployment and disability benefits, and very definitely not to be forced to support themselves through charity and food banks.

And then there’s the whole issue of the privatisation of the NHS. A few months ago I wrote another pamphlet about that, in addition to the one, whose contents I put up here a week or so ago. While writing this, and documenting the way a long line of right-wing governments have been aiming to privatise the NHS since Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s, I felt so furious that I really couldn’t face any kind of Tory propaganda. I felt so bitterly angry at the way the health service is being run down, in order to soften it up for privatisation and purchase by largely American private healthcare companies.

Given all this, the British public has an absolutely right to be angry, and while I don’t approve of people urinating in anyone’s letter box, I honestly can’t blame them for vandalising the posters. In Bristol popular anger against the Tories could be seen just before the general election in a piece of graffiti scrawled outside the Eye Hospital near the BRI. It read: Donate Tory Blood – It’s Worth More!

Nads’, Murray’s and Sandbrook’s sneering about ‘left-wing intolerance’ shows the complacency and complete indifference to suffering of the Tory middle and upper classes. They’re very comfortably off, thank you very much, and the Tories are serving them very well. So they have no idea, and indeed react with absolute horror at the very idea that part of the masses hates them with a passion, because they have no understanding, or sympathy, with the real poverty and deprivation many people are struggling with. We’re back indeed in the territory of Matthew Freud’s comments about how the poor should be more flexible than the rich, as they have less to lose.

There’s also an element of the old Tory landlord class, who expect their workers to put up and tug their forelock to the master, no matter how badly they were treated. A few years ago one of the BBC history programmes covered the Highland Clearances, the period in the late 18th and 19th centuries when the Scots aristocracy enclosed and forced their tenant farmers off their land so they could devote it to sheep rearing. The image of the wild, romantic Scots countryside actually post-dates this process. Before then the countryside north of the border was filled with rural communities – townships – and their people. It only became a wilderness when these people were forcibly evicted and their crofts and other homes pulled down.

And to add insult to injury, those workers, who managed to keep their jobs were expected to tug their forelocks and sing the praises of their masters. The programme mentioned how one ‘improving’ landlord, who was actually English, or half-English, got very upset when he decided to have a statue put up of himself. He expected his workers to pay for it, and was furious when many of them were less than enthusiastic.

It’s the same attitude here. The Tories still expect absolute feudal loyalty and subservience. When this is not forthcoming, and anger is shown instead, their own selfish indifference to the plight of the lower orders comes out, and they start screaming about how it’s all so unreasonable, intolerant, and, by implication, disobedient.

And lastly, it’s also massively hypocritical. The Tories have absolutely no business accusing anyone of intolerance, and especially not the Daily Heil. Not when sections of the party is still bitterly racist, with Mail and the Tory party championing even more stringent state censorship and surveillance of what we may read and post online, or say on the phone or other forms of social media. Not when they’ve created the legal infrastructure for secret courts, where you can be tried without trial, with having your lawyer see vital evidence against you, or even know who your accuser is, if the government decides this would all be against ‘national security’. Just like Stalin’s Russia, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy!

And the Tories certainly have no problem with violence and intolerance when it directed against the left. I remember how the Scum put up an approving story during the Miner’s Strike, about how an old lady struck the then head of the NUM, Arthur Scargill, with a tin of tomatoes she’d thrown. This old dear was praised for her pluck and daring at the evil Commie, who was destroying the mining industry and forcing all good, right-thinking Thatcherite miners out of the pits. Yet when the reverse occurs, and someone throws eggs at the Tories, they start frothing and screaming at their intolerance.

And if we’re talking about the Right’s intolerance during the Miner’s Strike, then how about the way Thatcher used military-style policing, including unprovoked charges, against the miners. This was done officially, and covered up by a complicit media, including the Beeb. Violence, and the savage beating of protesters, ain’t intolerance when it’s done by the Tory forces of law and order.

Dorries, Murray and Sandbrook show themselves with this article, to be intolerant hypocrites themselves. They’re all too happy to see people ground into the most extremes of poverty and misery, but panic when some few show their dissent by tearing down their propaganda.

Hope Not Hate: Far Right Activists Obtain Ship to Prevent Rescue of Migrants from Mediterranean

July 1, 2017

More hate and persecution of immigrants and asylum seekers from the racist right. Hope Not Hate, the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism magazine and website, reported on Wednesday that a group of Identitarians, Defend Europe, had secured a ship with which it intended to patrol the Mediterranean, harassing the Italian naval and coastguard vessels charged with rescuing migrants from Africa and the Middle East crossing the Med. Early in May, activists from Germany, Austria, France and Italy, and the Canadian and US social media journalists, Lauren Southern and Luke Rudkowski, travelled to the Italian towns of Catania, where they blocked a rescue ship from leaving port. Over the course of the month and then into June, they travelled to Olbia, Modena, Brescia, Bolzano and other towns to explain their mission to the locals.

They were also crowdfunding on social media to raise sufficient money to obtain a ship to stop rescue boats at sea. They have also been collecting information on the international organisations dedicated to rescuing immigrants, and their individual members.

See: http://hopenothate.org.uk/2017/06/27/far-right-secure-ship-disrupt-mediterranean-ngos/

According to a later report, the ship

is actually a Finnish-made research ship named ‘Suunta’. It is nearly 40m long and has a gross tonnage of 422 tonnes. According to Defend Europe the ship has “a range of 3000 nautical miles”, a “place for a crew of 25”, and a “crane for RIBs [small inflatable boats]”

We have tracked down the Suunta to the port of Djibouti off the east coast of Africa, which fits in with the Identitarians own claims that their “biggest problem now is, that our ship is not on the Mediterranean sea. It needs to be transferred from a different ocean.”

Hope Not Hate believe that the ship is due to leave Djibouti to reach Port Suez on the 13th of this month, in order to travel up through the Suez canal.

http://hopenothate.org.uk/2017/06/29/details-far-right-mission-hinder-ngo-rescue-missions-med/

This is quite horrific. Conditions on these boats are appalling, with the human cargo frequently packed against and on top of each other, with little sanitation. Many of them are forcibly drugged to prevent them causing problems during the voyage. These people are some of the world’s most desperate, fleeing countries torn apart by war or an oppressive, persecutory government. Many of these ships sink during the crossing. The Identitarians aim of stopping migrants from being rescued from these ships means, quite simply, that they will die from drowning.

Not that such carnage would cause many pangs of conscience amongst the Far Right. ‘Millennial Woes’, a Scots member of the Alt Right, who has since left for America, stated on one of his wretched videos that preventing further non-White immigration would mean shooting down the migrant ships. He considered this a dreadful necessity. And Sun rentagob Katie Hopkins had to apologise a little while ago, after she ranted about destroying migrant boats.

Yesterday I got the following email from the magazine, which it asked me to share.

An important update regarding the “Defend Europe” ship, the boat that has been chartered by the European far right to try to stop refugees from North Africa reaching Europe.

We have been able to track down the ship to a port in Djibouti, on the east coast of Africa, and we have eyes on its movements. We know that the boat is due to set sail next week and will reach the Mediterranean, via the Suez Canal, in two weeks’ time.

This is a very real threat. Defend Europe has two main aims: to block aid agency ships from making life-saving rescue missions, and to patrol the sea and prevent crossings from taking place.

A number of the NGOs working in the area have already recounted stories of being threatened by far right activists and fear a hostile and intimidating environment in which to carry out their essential work.

Thank you to the thousands of supporters who have shared their thoughts on how we should oppose this action. Right now, the most important thing to do is to create as much attention around this as possible.

These people really are low, to deny life-saving aid to desperately poor people fleeing from terror at home aboard such dangerous craft. They have to be stopped before their actions lead to someone dying.

Does the ‘I’ Really Believe People Hate May Because of her Gender?

June 7, 2017

On the front page of the I, the paper boasted that it had an article by novelist Philippa Gregory on the eight prejudices that have historically been levelled against women rulers.

Is this supposed to imply that opponents of Theresa May are motivated solely by sexism?

It wouldn’t surprise me. After all, the paper gave a lot of support to the various female Blairites, who claimed that voting for Jeremy Corbyn and not for his female rivals in the Labour leadership elections was very, very sexist indeed. Despite the fact that Corbyn had far better policies for women, while the Harriet Harman and Angela Eagle had all been Blairite neoliberals, who had backed the failed economic and social policies that have actively harmed women.

If this is what the newspaper intends, then I have got news for them.

May’s gender is completely irrelevant to me.

I would loathe and despair her, even if she was a bloke called Terry. Just as I despised her male predecessors, the unfunny comedy double act David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

I despise May because she has

* Cut and done everything she could to privatise the NHS, running it into the ground.

* Cut and done everything she could to privatise the education system.

* Maintained the current system of tuition fees, which are loading students with mountains of debt.

* Carried on with Cameron and Clegg’s policies of massive welfare cuts, including the Bedroom tax and the humiliating and murderous Work Capability Tests, which have thrown thousands off benefits and into misery and starvation.

* Cut the numbers of police, armed services, border guards and other services back so that Britain was left dangerously vulnerable. A policy that ultimately allowed the Manchester and London terrorists to commit their horrendous crimes.

* Lied about her intention to put British workers in the boardroom, while she’s done just about everything in her power to get rid of workers’ rights.

* Her policies have also resulted in stagnant wages and maintained high levels of unemployment, to the point where most of the people on benefit are those ‘hard-working’ folk she and the Tories have patronised with their condescending rhetoric.

* Shown that she is completely incompetent to negotiate a fair deal for Brexit, which will enable British firms and other organisations contact with the EU and access to their markets.

* Done everything in her power to support the erosion of our precious civil liberties begun by Major, Blair, Cameron and Clegg. This means the massive expansion of the surveillance state and the malignant system of secret courts, in which you may be tried without knowing the crime, the evidence against you, who your accuser is, and behind closed doors. Like Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union.

* Cut taxes for the rich, while transferring the burden to the poor. Which, incidentally, was one of the reasons behind the French Revolution.

* Repealed legislation protecting our environment, so she can sell off Britain’s forests and trash our green and pleasant land with fracking for the profit of her friends in the oil industry.

* Supported Tory policies that have, instead of drawing the peoples of our great island nation together, have instead caused even further division by supporting islamophobia, fear and resentment of immigrants, and general racial intolerance.

* Not that she’s simply worked up racial intolerance. She and the Tory press have also done their utmost to whip up prejudice against the disabled to justify cuts in their benefits. The result has been a massive increase in hate crime against people with disabilities.

* Carried on with policies which will result in the break-up of the United Kingdom after three hundred years in the case of Scotland and England, and two hundred in the case of Britain and Northern Ireland.

The ‘Celtic Fringe’ – Scotland, Wales and Ulster don’t want Brexit. The Welsh and Scots Nationalist leaders want their nations and Ulster to be part of the Brexit negotiations. And all of the Northern Irish parties want to keep the open border with Eire. But all this is in jeopardy through May’s high-handed attitude to the nations, and her determination to promote only ‘Leave’ supporters to manage Britain’s departure from the EU.

And I could probably carry with more. Much more.

This is why I despise Theresa May and want her voted out, along with the party that chose her and has done so much serious harm to this country and its people for seven years.

I therefore urge everyone to vote Labour tomorrow to get her and them thrown out.

Labour’s Warning of the Destruction of the NHS under the Tories

June 6, 2017

I caught Labour’s election broadcast last night, and found it deeply moving and very informative. The short film featured interviews with doctors and other healthcare professionals talking about the current crisis in the NHS. One of the speakers was a senior doctor, who explained that the NHS is being underfunded by 3 per cent per year. This debt has accumulated to a shortfall of 10 per cent, and is expected to grow to 30 per cent. He and the other medical professionals made the point that this was part of the Tories’ campaign to privatise the NHS.

They made the point that the NHS is on the verge of collapse and privatisation. Over half of NHS services are now commissioned from private healthcare providers. There are record levels of people waiting for operations and increases in diseases such as cancer.

The senior doctor was visibly moved to the verge of tears when he described one boy, who had a serious illness, but the nearest hospital that could take him was in Scotland, despite the fact that he and his family lived in England. They thus had to make a four hundred mile round trip to visit him.

This section was followed by a teacher, a young Asian woman, talking about the way education too, and teachers, was being deliberately starved of funds. She and the doctor made the point that the Tories were only interested in running services for profit.

And this will include the NHS.

The doctor warned that if the Tories win another Term, they’ll destroy it.

This is exactly what Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis have been warning about in their book, NHS-SOS. As has Dr. David Owen in his book, and very many others.

Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS, but stopped due to a cabinet revolt and warnings about how appalling the American private healthcare system was. Nevertheless, she carried on with a campaign to encourage 25 per cent of British people to take out private health insurance.

And it was Peter Lilley, the prancing pratt with the ‘little list’ of people he hated at a 1990s Tory conference, who set in motion the handing over of NHS hospitals and services for private companies like Circle Health, Virgin Healthcare, et al to run, because he wanted to open up the state sector occupied by the NHS to private industry.

This programme of privatisation has been carried on by Blair, Brown, Cameron, Clegg and now May.

Don’t believe May’s lies about increasing NHS funding. She and her party have lied so often before you can’t trust anything she says.

Believe Labour.
And vote for them, to reverse the privatisation of the NHS on June 8th.

This may be our last chance to save the NHS.

Amber Rudd’s Closing Speech On the Leader Debate – Like a Rory Bremner Impression + Soundbites

May 31, 2017

Okay, I confess, I didn’t watch the leader debates on BBC 1 this evening, as I afraid it would annoy me. I did, however, catch the closing speeches from Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems and Amber Rudd. The Lib Dems made the entirely valid point that Theresa May was not the ‘strong and stable’ leader she’s claiming to be, because she wasn’t there.

Exactly true. May does not like meeting the public. When she does, it’s all very carefully stage-managed. They’re held on private premises, and tend to be invitation-only, so that the proles don’t show up and ask awkward questions.

When she does try meeting the public, she’s either met with a barricade of closed doors, as she was in Scotland, or else is booed out and by angry locals, as she was recently at a housing estate in Bristol.

Corbyn, by contrast, is given a rapturous welcome by people, who genuinely want change and an end to Tory austerity, cuts to public services, the dismantlement of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS.

Standing in for May was Amber Rudd, whose final speech, minus the soundbites, sounded like Rory Bremner’s mickey-take of Tory leader Michael Howard back in the 1990s.

So what was Rudd’s final argument for voting Tory?

Well, she claimed that a vote for any other party than the Conservatives would let Jeremy Corbyn in. She sneered at the other parties as ‘the coalition of chaos’, and claimed that May is the strong leader Britain needs to negotiate a good Brexit and deliver a strong economy.

In other words, as Max Headroom used to say, ‘more…of the same’. It was the same tired old clichés and outright lies: ‘coalition of chaos’, ‘strong and stable’, ‘Brexit’, ‘strong economy’. You could probably play a form of bingo with the Tories, in which you have a card marked with these clichés and soundbites. First person, who crosses all of them wins the right to buy something nice to get over the horror of having to listen to more Tory bilge.

Let’s deal with some of these claims. The French Philosophical Feline, Guy Debord’s Cat, has knocked flat the Tory rhetoric about a ‘strong economy’. He points out that when they say they’re going to create one, it clearly implies that we don’t have a strong economy already. And we clearly don’t, because otherwise we would have money being poured into the NHS, people would not be forced to use food banks, public sector workers would not have their wages cut year on year, and people would have other jobs available to them than those which are only part-time or short-term contracts.

https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/the-strong-economy-soundbite/

As for the ‘coalition of chaos’, this goes back to the old Tory lie that Labour would form a coalition with the Scots Nats. As Corbyn himself said yesterday that it ain’t going to happen, no matter what Nicola Sturgeon may say, this has been blown away.

But if you want to talk about a ‘coalition of chaos’, how else would you describe the Tory-Lib Dem coalition of David Cameron and Nick Clegg? Cameron very effectively weakened the Union by calling the referendum on EU membership, in a bid to silence the Eurosceptics in his party. The result is that England largely voted to Leave, while the rest of the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, wanted to Remain.

This means even further divisions between the constituent nations of the UK itself. And in Northern Ireland, that division is potentially lethal. It was a condition of the 1990s peace agreement that there should be an open border between Ulster and the Republic. If the UK leaves the EU, then it could mean the imposition of a border between the North and the rest of Ireland. And that could mean a return to real chaos and bloodshed.

Nobody in Northern Ireland wants a hard border. That was shown very clearly this morning when the Beeb’s breakfast team interviewed a load of Ulster politicos on the beach at Portrush, except for the Sinn Fein candidate, who was in his constituency office. All but one wanted the border to remain open, including the spokesman for the UUP, while the Sinn Fein candidate wanted Ulster to have a special status within the EU to guarantee the open border.

So congratulations, Cameron and Clegg: You’ve come just that bit closer to destroying the 300-year old union between England, Wales and Scotland, and the almost 200-year old union with Ireland, or rather, with the small part of Ireland that wanted to remain British after the establishment of Eire.

And her cuts to the police, the emergency services, the border guards and the armed forces have led to chaos in this country. They weakened our security, so that it was made much easier for the Manchester suicide bomber to commit his atrocity.

And that isn’t all. The Tories have caused massive chaos in the NHS through their cuts and piecemeal privatisation; millions are living in poverty, thanks to benefit cuts and sanctions, stagnant and falling wages, and zero hours contracts.

As for May being a strong leader, well, no, she isn’t that either. Mike’s put up a post pointing out the number of times she’s made a U-turn. The most obvious was her decision to call a general election, after telling everyone she wouldn’t.

She has also, very manifestly, failed to get a good deal for Britain on Brexit. Despite her waffle to the contrary, when she turned up in Brussels, the rest of the Euro politicos all turned their backs on her. She also showed that she didn’t have a clue what she was doing a little while ago by repeating endlessly the oxymoron, ‘Brexit means Brexit’, and then looking down her nose at the questioner as if they were thick when they tried to ask her what that nonsense meant.

As for her statement that a vote for any other party meant that Labour will get in, Rory Bremner sent that one up on his show, Bremner, Bird and Fortune. This featured the great impressionist posing as Michael Howard, the then leader of the Tory party, and saying into the camera ‘Vote Conservative. If you don’t vote Conservative, Labour will get in.’

And that was, pretty much, all that the Tories could really offer that time.

And, as I saw tonight, that’s pretty much all Amber Rudd and the Tories have to offer now, except for two soundbites.

It’s a threadbare argument, and they know it. That’s why they have to attack Jeremy Corbyn personally, just as the Tories back in the 1990s tried to frighten people with images of Blair as some kind of horrific, demonic beast.

Don’t be fooled.
Don’t let the Tories’ campaign of chaos plunge this country into more bloodshed, poverty, starvation and death.

Vote Labour on June 8th.

The ‘I’: People Want Increased Taxes, Trust Labour More than Tories on NHS

May 31, 2017

It’s no wonder that the biased BBC was crowing about its supposed victory on Woman’s Hour yesterday, when Jeremy Corbyn forgot the figures for Labour’s promise on free childcare. A YouGov poll for the Times concluded that the gap between Labour and the Tories in the polls was only 5 per cent, and that Labour were set to take eight Tory seats, with Tories unable to take any from Labour.

Hence John Pienaar’s excited yelling that Labour needed to convince more people in the marginals, and the Beeb’s footage of two Midlands ladies praising Theresa May to the rafters. They had to. May’s popularity is plummeting, and in some areas the Tories are actually way behind Labour.

Yesterday’s I carried a story by Dominic Kirby, ‘Voters Back Tax Rise to Fund Improved NHS’, which showed that not only were the people of this great nation prepared to put up with more taxes for the health service, but also that Labour were trusted more than the Tories with it. The article read:

More than half of people in every region of Britain say they believe NHS services have worsened over the past three years, according to a survey for I.

The figure rose to 67.2 per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber, and fell as low as 54 per cent in Scotland, according to a poll of more than 8,300 people in partnership with Google Surveys.

It also suggested most people in all regions felt the private sector should have no role in running the NHS, with the highest opposition in the North-east, at 74.3 per cent.

There was also widespread support for the Lib Dem policy of putting an extra penny in thre pound in income tax to raise an estimated £6bn a year for the NHS.

The strongest support was in the south-west of England, where 81.5 per cent of respondents said they would be prepared to pay the extra.

But even in the region with the lowest support – the south-east of England, 72.l per cent said they would pay.

Labour is the most trusted party when it comes to the NHS in every region apart from Scotland, the survey says. As many as 67.9 per cent gave the party their backing over health in some parts of the north.

Even in the English region where Labour did worst – the south-east – it was still the party most trusted on the NHS, ahead of the Conservatives.

English voters were offered a choice of four parties – the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party – and asked which one they trusted most with the future of the NHS.

In the north-west, some 67.9 per cent went with Labour, compared with 21 per cent for the Conservatives, 6 per cent for the Lib Dems and 5.1 per cent for the Greens.

In the north-east, Labour was the choice of 63.7 per cent and the Tories 25.5 per cent, while in Yorkshire and the Humber the split was 63.3 per cent Labour and 23.6 per cent Conservative.

The highest levels of support for the Tories were found in the south-east and east of England.

In the south-east, 33.3 per cent said they trusted the Tories most with the future of the NHS – but 48 per cent said they trust Labour most.

In the east, 35.1 per cent went for the Conservatives, while 48.2 per cent for Labour.

It was a different story in Scotland, where voters were asked to choose between the SNP, the Conservatives, labour and the Liberal Democrats. There, 42.9 per cent said they trusted the SNP most with the health service, while 32.4 per cent went for Labour, 19.;5 per cent the Conservatives, and 5.2 per cent the Lib Dems.

So, no wonder that the I paper is reporting that May is falling back on personal attacks on Corbyn as her lead in the polls collapses. It also explains perfectly why she’s now fallen back on plugging herself as the best person for Brexit, and why one of the Tory papers today is claiming on its front page that Labour has a secret plan to increase migration.

The fear amongst May and the Tories is so great, you can practically smell it.

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.