Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

‘We Own It’ Planning Day of Protest Against Hancock’s NHS Privatisation

June 11, 2021

It seems Matt Hancock and the Tories haven’t given up on their wretched plans to privatise the NHS. The Health Secretary is planning to introduce legislation that will allow private healthcare companies on to the management of NHS organisations. Apparently, this has already happened with Virgin sitting on the board of the NHS in Bath And North-East Somerset. The anti-privatisation organisation We Own It is planning a day of protest against this latest move to break up the health service next Thursday, with symbolic tugs of war taking place between the public and private healthcare companies up and down the country. I got this email from them yesterday.

“Matt Hancock is planning legislation that will let private companies make decisions about our NHS care.

It’s already starting to creep in – Virgin were given a seat on the new NHS body in Bath and Somerset.

You can help to stop this in its tracks by making an impression all across the country with a clear image: this is a TUG OF WAR between you and private companies. 

Will you join in the National Day of Action on July 17th and organise a local ‘tug of war’ stunt to say NO to the private takeover of our NHS?

I will join in the National Day of Action

We think this legislation is coming to parliament quite soon.

So NOW is the time to get organised.

By organising an eye-catching ‘tug of war’ stunt, with private companies on one side ❌and US on the other ✊, you’ll be helping to get the news out and show our collective outrage.

Don’t worry if you’ve never organised an action like this before, we’ve got you covered!

If you want, you can come to a training session and there’s a step by stepp here.

The stunt doesn’t need to be big. It just needs you, a few friends and a rope!

Will you be part in the National Day of Action on July 17th to stop Virgin making decisions about our health and our NHS?

I’ll take part in the Day of Action

The government is trying to put on a spin on this bill, saying it will end privatisation, because they know privatisation of our NHS goes down like a lead balloon.

So it’s VITAL that together we get a huge amount of coverage for the Day of Action.

Find out more about organising for the day, with our handy step by step!

We can support you every step of the way.

What about the rest of the UK? This bill will mean disintegration of our NHS in England. Luckily the rest of the UK is not going ahead with these plans yet.

But it is not a good sign for the direction of our NHS as a whole, long term.

We’ll have action for everyone take on July 17th to say no to this private takeover.

Thank you for being part of this fight. You’re not alone in fighting for our NHS.

In solidarity,

Cat, Zana, Johnbosco, Chris, Alice and Pascale – the We Own It team”

I’m afraid I’m too ill at the moment to take part in this myself, but I’m putting it up in case anyone else wants to get involved.

This is extremely ominous, as it definitely won’t be the end of the privatisation of the NHS, whatever lies Hancock spouts. After it’s gone through, the Tories will find yet another pretext to hand it over to private healthcare companies until it is totally transformed into a fully private, for-profit system like America’s. It has to be fought every step of the way.

Starmer should be doing this, but like the good Blairite he is, when it come to tackling capitalism he’s nowhere to be seen.

Excellent! Motion Coming Before Bristol South Labour Party Condemning Academies

June 10, 2021

Next week Bristol South Labour constituency Labour party is holding its monthly meeting. One of the issues to be discussed is a motion that’s already been passed by the Knowle branch condemning the academy schools and Ofsted. The introduction to this motion runs

Knowle Ward believes that the purpose of education is to enable our  children to develop an informed and independent voice, to prove to  students that their lives are valuable, and that the achievements of  each and every school, college and university leaver in the country, at  whatever level, shall have a genuine and lasting meaning. To this end  we call upon the leadership of the party to seize the initiative, and  include in its election manifesto the replacement of the privatised  Academy system with a return to a local control of education policy,  the replacement of OFSTED with a politically independent system of  inspection, a new determination that sport, music, drama and art be  seen as fundamental to a successful education, and, crucially, to insist  that each of our communities shall have its own, independent and  single place of learning, representing the needs of that community,  and celebrating its particular identity.

I fundamentally and wholeheartedly support this motion, and intend to vote for it at the meeting. The academies are a massive fraud and waste of public money. Indeed there’s a book published about them, when Tory Tony Blair was introducing the wretched things, that called them exactly that: The Great Academy Fraud. They are no more successful than ordinary state schools are, if those state schools had the millions spent on them that the academies have had. There have been issues with the educational content taught in those schools, such as Creationism and very hard-line, narrow and intolerantly religious norms in some Muslim schools. Other problems include very repressive discipline that has humiiated school children. For example, children have soiled themselves when they have been refused permission to use the toilet and girls have not been allowed to change their sanitary towels. Quite often their academic achievements have been at the expense of less intelligent children, or kids with behavioural problems. They find reasons to exclude them while keeping the more intelligent and disciplined children. It really is selective education.

As for the recognition that sport, music, drama and art also form a fundamental part of education, this should be automatically accepted as true. Since the educational reforms of the 19th century it was recognised that proper education meant a broad, humanistic education that should cultivate all areas of the minds and characters of the developing sprogs. Sport was included in the curriculum along with PE because children’s physical health is important, and organised sport is supposed to be character-building. But the humanities have been sidelined as successive governments have pushed the STEM subjects at their expense. Now there are warnings that this short-sighted policy is actually a serious danger to Britain’s cultural industries.

It’s about time the academy chains were closed down. They were a failure when Thatcher and Kenneth Baker tried introducing them in the 1980s. The Tories were actually closing them down, but Blair fished them out of the dustbin of crappy neoliberal ideas, revamped them, and set them off again. And children’s education has suffered as a result. Schools need to be brought back under local authority control.

But I have no doubt that this will be opposed by Starmer and the Blairite bureaucracy, as it’s a Tory policy so it must be right. And besides, there’s all that money to be made from corporate donations.

So expect anyone supporting this to be accused once again of being a Trotskyite or Commie.

Richard Dawkins Stripped of Atheist Award for Questioning the Trans Ideology

May 5, 2021

This story was over a number of right-wing and gender critical websites last week, and it’s interesting as it shows the comparative power of the trans rights lobby against both organised religion and one of atheism’s fiercest polemicists. Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and anti-theist activist, was stripped of his Humanist of the Year Award because he’d posted a comment on Twitter comparing trans people to Rachel Dolezal.

Dolezal had been kicked out of the White chapter of NAACP – the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People – because she’d declared she considered herself ‘transracial’. Although White, she identified as Black. This obviously left many people very offended, and so she was expelled. Dawkins followed this with the comment ‘Now we have men identifying as women and women identifying as men. Discuss.’ As commenters like Graham Linehan and Sargon’s and his fellow Lotus Eaters said, it’s a very mild criticism, couched as an invitation for discussion. And indeed Dawkins tried to excuse it as just that – an invitation to discuss the issue. But it was enough to bring down on him the wrath of the trans rights activists and their supporters in the various atheist and sceptic groups. American Atheists accused him of minimising the persecution of marginalised groups, and the British Humanist Society stripped him of his Humanist of the Year Award, which he’d been given in 1996. Dawkins then made an apology, saying that he had no wish to minimise the suffering of trans people, and did not want to ally himself with ‘Republican bigots’.

This is the man, who has a deep, bitter hatred of organised religion and its supporters. Dawkins is the author of the God Delusion, which was published with the explicit aim of destroying people’s belief in the Almighty and converting them to atheism. He was the leader of the ‘New Atheists’, who were notorious for their bitter invective. Dawkins has described raising a child as a member of a particular religion as ‘child abuse’ and called religious people ‘faithheads’. He has also been accused of islamophobia because of comments he has made about that religion’s traditional attitude towards women and the practice among many Muslims of Female Genital Mutilation. HIs attitude towards religion is so bitter and intolerant, that it has actually alienated many more traditional, tolerant atheists. See for example Kim Sterelny’s foreword for his book, Darwin Wars, about the feud between Dawkins and the late Stephen Jay Gould over their differing interpretations of Darwinian evolution. But Dawkins has carried on undaunted with the same bitter polemic. But when faced with attacks for simply questioning trans ideology, he automatically caved in.

This shows the comparative power of organised religion compared to the trans rights lobby, at least within the sphere of progressive politics. Critics of the ideology have described how the trans lobby has captured a plethora of organisations, including the gay rights organisation Stonewall, various, mostly left-wing political parties and have advised organisations like the police and feminist organisations. The only political parties resisting them are those of the conservative right, which explains why Dawkins didn’t want to be seen supporting the Republicans. The problem is, however, that there is a feminist dimension to Republican opposition to trans rights, and that Dawkins asked a perfectly reasonable question.

Sargon of Gasbag and the Lotus Eaters made a video about this last week, pointing out that the academic magazine Hypatia had published an article defending trans-racialism. Hypatia describes itself as a journal of feminist philosophy. It had asked why it should be acceptable for people of one sex to identify as members of the other, but not people of one race to identify as members of a different ethnic group. Historically, there have been other Whites, whose admiration of Black America and its culture has led them to try to live as much as possible as Blacks. Years ago in the 1940s, I believe, one man went so far as to paint himself with melanin in order to live as a Black man. He then published a book about his experiences with the deliberate intention of challenging racism and bringing Whites and Blacks together. The Hypatia article stated that the arguments for transgenderism and trans-racialism are exactly the same, and there is no logical reason why one should be acceptable and the other not.

One of the objections to the transgender movement is the feminist concern that it will disadvantage natural, born women in sports. On average, men are stronger and more powerful than women. Hence there is the entirely justifiable fear that if biological men and boys are allowed to compete in female sports it will put biological females at a disadvantage. Natural women are at risk of being pushed out of their own sports. This has implications for university careers, as it means that sports scholarships to universities will go to transwomen rather than natural women. Hence Republican politicians in Maine and New Hampshire have put forward a bill banning biological men competing as women in women’s sports as a deliberate defence of the latter.

These are issues that at the very least need to be discussed calmly and logically, without accusations of bigotry and persecution. In my opinion, those attacking the trans ideology are right and are actually on the side of traditional feminism, and no amount of abuse will change this.

For all his deeply unpleasant intolerance towards religion, Dawkins was perfectly right in wanting it discussed.

Here’s the Lotus Eater’s video on the issue.

Here’s Black American feminist Karen Davies on the bill in Maine to protect women’s sports.

Election Promises of Labour and TUSC Candidates in Bristol Mayoral Elections

April 23, 2021

Down here in Bristol we not only have elections for the city council looming, but also for the elected mayor and police and crime commissioner. Because of health issues, not just my own but also other members of my family, we’ve arranged to have postal votes. The ballot papers arrived the other day, and enclosed with them were booklets produced by the local authority explaining the voting procedure, answering various FAQs and giving policy statements and promises from the candidates. Not only does Bristol have a Labour candidate, the present elected mayor Marvin Rees, but there’s also one from the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, Tom Baldwin. Here’s their election promises from the booklet for the mayoral election.

Mayor Marvin’s runs

Delivering for Bristol

Building a City of Hope

It is an honour to serve as Mayor of Bristol, the city I am proud to be from and where I am bringing up my family.

Together we have led Bristol in the face of the pandemic, economic downturn, social change and instability, and climate change, with the added uncertainty of Brexit. Many of us have experienced real loss this year, as people have come together like never before to support each other.

Working with partners all over Bristol, we are building a city where nobody is left behind underpinning our ambition with compassion and our commitment to sustainability. We are focused on protecting and creating jobs, and delivering for residents, we are creating jobs by bringing employers like Channel 4 to our city, bringing hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment into Bristol, and delivering our mass transit system.

Together, against the odds, we are making a difference.

On 6 May, we are proudly standing on our record of delivery – including all our 2016 pledges and more. With your support, we can all keep building a more sustainable, inclusive, and ambitious Bristol: our City of Hope.”

There then follows a list of what Labour has already achieved.

“9,000 new homes, tripling affordable house-building, rough sleeping down 80%

12,000 work experiences and £9m for south Bristol construction skills centre.

99 new biogas buses, RPZ fees frozen, 75 miles of segregated cycleways

Kept all our libraries and children’s centres open

Building new schools, creating mental health training and free breakfast clubs

Best core city for recycling, deep-cleaned 700 streets, planted 60,000 trees

Won Channel 4 relocation, invested in sport and leisure centres – giving control to communities”

This is followed by his promises for the future

“Building our underground, with free travel for apprentices and students

Protecting jobs and building a living wage city

Investing £1 billion in clean energy and doubling our trees

Investing in more schools and quality work experience

Building 2,000 new homes a year – 1,000 affordable

Investing in social care, helping older people stay in their homes.”

The pages for Tom Baldwin of the TUSC state has the statement ‘TUSC Against Cuts’, and then proceeds as follows:

“Tom says: “The pandemic has exposed the huge injustices and the divide between workers and big business. We’ve had to fight for our safety as the bosses and government put profits first. Now we have to fight to protect jobs and services as they try to make us pay for the crisis.

Bristol needs a mayor who will stand up for ordinary people. I stand for a socialist society run for people not profit.”

‘The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition organises to give a voice to working-class people who have been abandoned by the main parties. It includes the RMT union and the Socialist Party, of which Tom is a member.

Tom is 37 and lives in Aston. He is an active trade unionist and campaigner.

Bristol needs a fightback

Defend jobs and services – Vote Tom Baldwin

A Socialist mayor for the millions, not the millionaires

If elected Tom will…

  • Build a mass united struggle of workers and young people to win back the council funding taken by the government.
  • Reverse all cuts to council jobs and services, move budgets based on Bristol’s needs.
  • Oppose and reverse outsourcing and privatisation.
  • Never increase council tax, rents and charges faster than wages rise
  • Push for a publicly owned, top quality and affordable public transport network, run for need not profit
  • Address the housing crisis by building thousands of council homes and capping private rents
  • Defend the right to peaceful protest
  • Fight for decent jobs. Support all campaigns to protect safety, jobs, pay and conditions, including strike action by workers
  • Stand for jobs and homes for all. Oppose racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and all other forms of oppression and division.
  • Only take the average wage of a worker in the city, not the inflated £79,000 mayoral salary.’

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

As you know, I despise Keir Starmer and his continuing destruction of the Labour party, including the purge of left-wingers and socialists, in order to turn it into a Blairite neoliberal party. I’ve also got criticisms of the way Marvin Rees has run the city, but in general I think he’s done a good job and has been a far better mayor than his predecessor, ‘Red Trousers’ Ferguson.

I’ve been told by some of the great peeps on this blog that the TUSC were formed by the people in the Labour party, who were thrown out for opposing Blair’s cuts and policy changes, though I’ve also heard that the Socialist Party is the former Militant Tendency, a group that infiltrated and tried to take over the Labour party in the 1980s. But their policies are what the Labour party should be standing for. The mayoral elections are run according to proportional representation. I would therefore urge people to consider giving the TUSC their second vote.

If more people vote for them, to the point where it’s a significant number, perhaps the leaders of the Labour party will take note, and move the party further to the left. Or it will encourage the present Labour left to continue the struggle against the Blairites by showing them that real, socialist policies are popular and can win.

Disabled Girl Gets Bionic Arms Based on Movie ‘Alita’s’ Heroine

April 3, 2021

Okay, I’m sorry I haven’t put anything up for the past week or so. It’s the usual reasons, I’m afraid: I’ve been busy with other things and for the most part, I simply haven’t found the week’s news inspiring. I felt there was precious little I could add to the excellent coverage and analyses given by Mike and Zelo Street. And so, rather than simply repeating what they had to say, I preferred to keep silent. But there are some stories that do need further comment, and I certainly intend to cover them. But before I do, here’s a more positive, rather heartwarming piece I found on YouTube.

It was put up by the tech company, Open Bionics, which makes state of the art, and very stylish, prosthetic limbs. Narrated by Hollywood director James Cameron, it tells how the company created a pair of superb artificial arms for British teenager Tilly Lockey. Lockey had lost her arms from septicaemia caused by meningitis. But, as Cameron shows, she had never let her disability hold her back, and the video shows Ms. Lockey as a junior school girl painting using an artificial arm. Cameron’s best known as the director of such hits as Aliens, The Terminator, Terminator 2, Avatar and Titanic, but he was also the producer of the film Alita – Battle Angel. Based on the Manga of the same name, Alita is the story of a mysterious cyborg girl, found by a doctor rummaging around the rubbish dump below an airborne city in which Earth’s rich and powerful live, far above ordinary masses, who live in the city below it. The doctor repairs the girl, who has lost her memory. Slowly Alita begins to recover bits of her history, joins the other cyborg players in a murderous sports race, attempts to become one of the cyborg warriors fighting crime and evil in this future world, and is forced to confront the villains controlling this new society from the floating city above it.

Cameron points out that cybernetic limbs are expensive, but the company is working to make them affordable. They’re also trying to make them attractive, which is why they’ve based those they’ve give to Tilly on the arms of Alita’s heroine. As well as getting the arms, the girl also got to attend the film’s premier.

I have a feeling Open Bionics might be based in Bristol. If I’m right, they used to be part of the cybernetics lab at the University of the West of England, which has done some impressive robotics research. The lab set up a commercial company to produce artificial limbs based on characters from Science Fiction movies.

As for Alita, I think it got mixed reviews. Some critics were spooked by the character’s large eyes, but I think that was simply following the artistic conventions of Manga comics and translating it to a live action film. Some critics said that while it wasn’t that good, it was actually far better than some of the rubbish being produced by Hollywood at the time. I’ve got it on video and liked it. There are rumours of a sequel being made, which would be great if they were true. But unfortunately the Coronavirus lockdown has meant that many Hollywood projects have had to be put on hold. The release of Denis Villeneuve’s much-awaited version of Dune has been postponed to October, when hopefully the cinemas will re-open.

The video’s obviously a piece of corporate promotion, but it’s great that the company and its talented engineers are working to make technologically impressive artificial limbs at affordable prices, and that they’ve given them to this spirited young lady. I have a feeling she’s also one of the women featured on the Shake My Beauty YouTube channel, which features other disabled women talking about life with their prosthetic limbs. While also demonstrating that having mechanical arms and legs certainly doesn’t make them less beautiful or capable of enjoying normal, physical activities including sports.

Tom Mayhew Skewering the Lies about Benefit Claimants with Laughter

March 18, 2021

Okay, I finally stayed up last night to listen to Radio 4’s Tom Mayhew Is Benefits Scum. I blogged about this programme a little while ago when I first read about it in the Radio Times. I said that it looked like it was worth listening to, as it seemed that it would tell the truth about what it’s really like to live on benefits. This is as opposed to the various ‘poverty-porn’ documentaries like Benefits Street, that seek to portray everyone on welfare as a scrounger. Unfortunately, it’s on at 11.00 pm on Wednesday evenings, which is a bit past my usual bedtime. But last night I actually managed to stay up and listen to it.

It’s not long, only a quarter of an hour in length, and mixes staged recreations of meetings with Jobcentre staff and benefits advisors, and stand-up, observational comedy based on Mayhew’s own experience of the benefits system. He also had a guest performer, Francesca Inez, a disabled woman, who gave her own perspective on how unfair and humiliating the system’s treatment of the disabled is.

It started out in the Jobcentre, where Mayhew was being asked by the clerk if he had really been spending 35 hours a week looking for work. Had he gone for that job as a miner as he should have done? Going out, he found his friend Francesca lying on the floor. She had gone through the process of seeing what would be the ideal job for her, and told it was ballet dancer. She had fallen over trying to practise. Mayhew commiserated with her, telling her that the machine had told him his ideal jobs were footballer, boxer and the Queen’s butler.

This sketch led into Inez herself talking about the grotesque injustice of the benefits system. She said people ask her what should be the proper relationship between government agencies and the disabled over benefits. She said it should be a partnership between the government and the claimant’s doctor. Unfortunately, this had been scrapped by New Labour, who had decided that a sizable number of claims for disability benefit were fraudulent, and so had introduced the Work Capability Test. In fact, the proportion of fraudulent claims was 0.05 per cent, so it was in fact easier for Mayhew to get a job as a footballer than to commit benefit fraud. She asked who would seriously want to be unable to go out on their own, to go to the toilet on their or prepare their own food, all for the sake of £100 a week. She was also massively unimpressed by the clerks the Department for Work and Pensions send round to make sure that claimants really are disabled. ‘Oh, I’m just here to see if you’re still wobbly’, she imitated one saying. He reply was ‘Well, I’ll give you a wet shave, and then you tell me.’

Mayhew also attacked the sanctions system. He thought you were only sanctioned if you deliberately tried to mislead or play the system. But no! He found himself sanctioned for eight weeks simply because he’d sent the wrong form in. But he’d been told that it would take eight weeks for his case to be reviewed. How strange, then, that he had his benefits restored after only four after he’d written to him MP. He then gave a shout-out to David Gauke, a Tory, saying how weird it was that a Tory MP should actually help someone on benefit.

He argued that it was wrong to call welfare payments ‘benefits’. Benefits sounds like something extra on top of one’s wages. Instead it should be called ‘Survival Money’, because you needed it to survive. This would make it difficult to have people thrown off it as well. Depriving someone of benefits sounds much better than removing their survival money. And as for sanctions, how does being hungry make someone better at finding work?

He also joked about the massive lack of self-esteem people on benefits have. He told one story of how he’d been accosted by a man while walking back from the Jobcentre. The man had told him that he should carry himself with a bit more confidence, head held high, because if he’d been a mugger, Mayhew would have been an easy target. It was, Mayhew jested, a Virtual mugging in which he’d been robbed of his self-respect. He then told another one about a mugger marching him to a cash machine, telling him he was going to leave him with nothing. ‘How kind of him to clear my overdraft!’

More seriously, Mayhew told a chilling anecdote which showed how easy it is for desperate, starving young men to be reduced to selling their bodies for sex. He’d met someone at a gathering, and they promised to get in touch with each other again via email. A few months later he got one from this man. Mayhew replied to him, saying he was in a bad patch financially, and asked him for £50. He told him he’d be able to pay him back in two month’s time. The man replied that he couldn’t give him any money, but he would pay him £200 to have sex with him. Mayhew joked that he didn’t, as he wouldn’t do anything like that for less than £350. But for a moment he was tempted. Poverty has often forced desperate women into prostitution, but this story showed it could also happen to men.

I had a great, appreciative comment by Mayhew to my original blog piece about his programme. He asked me if I could do something to further publicise his programme, because he’d been going through the papers and hadn’t found any reviews of it. Listening to his programme, it was easy to understand why: he was too sharp, and told the truth.

Right-wing rags like the Heil, the Scum and the Depress sell copies by spreading moral panic about benefit claimants. They actively paint them as scroungers and malingerers, as does right-wing internet radio host Alex Belfield. Although rather more polite, the same attitude also pervades the Torygraph and the Times. These papers very definitely do not want their Thatcherite ideals contradicted by people, who’ve been at the sharp end of the system, showing their readers they’re perfectly decent, honest people and telling them how dysfunctional, humiliating and malign the system really is.

And unfortunately I don’t see the supposedly left-wing press being much better. The Mirror, the Graun and the Absurder have all struck me as being Blairite New Labour, who wholeheartedly embraced Thatcher’s contempt and persecution of the unemployed, the sick and the disabled. The Graun has many times urged people to vote Lib Dem in recent elections, so again, these papers won’t want their readers disabused of some of their received notions.

Added to this is the current campaign by the Tories and their lapdog press to destroy the Beeb. This is partly because the Tories depend for their propaganda on the favour of Rupert Murdoch and his papers, who hates the Beeb as an obstacle to his domination of the global media. They also hate the idea of a state TV broadcaster as part of their opposition to any kind of state intervention, as well as the idea of an impartial, public service broadcaster. Hence the attempt to set up various rivals to the Beeb by the Times.

As a result, the papers have been running stories about how the BBC is too left-wing and too ‘woke’. Belfield put up a video a day or two ago rejoicing over the cancellation of Nish Kumar’s The Mash Report. Director-General Tim Davie had supposedly cancelled it because it was too biased towards the left. Belfield went further, and claimed that the real reason it was axed was because it wasn’t funny and was helmed by a ‘box-ticker’ – his term for a person of colour or other minority, who’s been given a job because of their identity rather than talent. Kumar’s Asian, so Belfield’s comment looks just a tad racist to me. Belfield claimed that cancelling Kumar’s show wouldn’t make any difference, as the Beeb as a whole is too left-wing and needs to be privatised.

It’s obvious from this that the right-wing media, then, aren’t going to give a good review to an explicitly left-wing comedy show. I also think that class is also an issue here. New Labour, it has been pointed out, was liberal but not socialist. Blair had turned his back on the working class, and instead New Labour concentrated on trying to recruit the middle classes. The left-wing elements of New Labour ideology was a concern with combating racism and other forms of prejudice, such as against gays, and promoting feminism and better opportunities for women. I think defending and promoting the disabled is in there, so long as they are properly respectable and not benefit scroungers. Mayhew is working class, and so isn’t of interest according to New Labour ideology.

All of which means that, unfortunately, the press isn’t prepared to give a hearing to something like this. Which is a pity, as it’s very good. Mayhew tells his stories and his jokes in a normal, conversational tone. He doesn’t harangue or shout for effect, as many comedians do. And he’s actually very witty. To simulate a studio audience, the show used canned laughter because it was impossible to have a live audience due to the Coronavirus. Mayhew made a couple of jokes about how the imaginary audience hadn’t paid for their tickets. He then told how, after one gig, he’d been accosted by an unhappy audience member. Why didn’t he get a proper job instead of standing there complaining, asked the man. To which he replied, ‘Have you seen my show?’ He then commented that at least he was a Tory who had paid for his ticket. He also made jokes about other people, being paid to do nothing all day. Like MPs.

It’s a pity the shows on so late on a weekday night, as it’s a funny, necessary antidote to the constant propaganda being pumped out about benefit claimants being scroungers. I don’t know anything about Francesca Inez, but from what I heard she deserves a place with the other disabled comedians, who have appeared on TV. At the very least, she deserves an endorsement from DPAC because of the way her comedy tries to bring their concerns to public attention. The show also demonstrates very clearly why we need a public service broadcaster, as it’s only a broadcaster like the Beeb that would take a chance on a show like it.

I think it’s only a four part series, and concludes next week. If this sounds like the kind of thing that tickles your funny bone and you also agree with its message, then please tune in.

I hope this is the start of a great career for Tom Mayhew, and that the show later gets repeated in an earlier slot when hopefully more people can hear it.

Twitter Peeps Educate Universities Minister About What Decolonising the Curriculum Really Means

March 3, 2021

It’s not about censoring history but about including the ignored or omitted perspectives of the colonised peoples themselves.

Zelo Street put up a brilliant piece on Sunday refuting nonsense printed in the Torygraph by their reporter Christopher Hope. Hope had been talking to the universities minister, Michelle Donelan, who was extremely concerned about the ‘culture war’ being waged in the universities. She was afraid that those unis, who were decolonising their curricula were engaged in a massive piece of historical censorship. Like the former Soviet Union, they were removing those incidents that were not regarded as stains. This greatly concerned her as a former history student who was also a vehement champion of preserving our history.

This provoked a number of academics and/or students, whose universities were involved in this restructuring of their history curricula, to put her right. They informed her that this wasn’t about removing awkward parts of British colonial history, but adding to it by including the perspectives of the subject peoples we ruled and all-too frequently abused and exploited.

Alex Stevens from the University of Kent put this up:

Dear [Michelle Donelan] ‘Adding stuff in to enrich our understanding’ is *exactly* what decolonising the curriculum is doing at my university”.

Edward Anderson of Northumbria University also agreed, posting the following

When we decolonise curricula, it’s almost always ADDING more stuff in: scholarship & perspectives from the Global South, source material of the colonised not just coloniser, etc. [Michelle Donelan] must know this, but chooses to peddle a straw man, fictitious idea of what uni’s do”.

Coventry University’s Andrew Jowett backed this up with his remark

She has no idea what she’s talking about. It’s not about ‘taking things out’ of the curriculum, it’s about contextualising what is taught and ensuring other cultures and indigenous peoples are represented in the curriculum. Maybe she should attend a webinar on it”. 

And then came Dr. Priyamvada Gopal, who teaches colonial literature at Cambridge

 “Let’s break this down for [Michelle Donelan]. When we ‘decolonise’, we put the ‘offensive’ bits BACK IN. To give a random example, we tell [the] story of Winston Churchill not just as unimpeachable war hero–but as a man of empire & race science. We don’t pander to white snowflakery”.

Gopal was the centre of controversy last summer in the Black Lives Matter protests, when she was falsely accused of hating Whites because she’d put up a tweet ‘White don’t matter as White lives’, which I think she intended to mean that White lives have no more or less intrinsic value than anyone else’s. Their value lay simply in being human lives. This was in response to an enraged White chap flying over a local football match on a plane towing the banner ‘White Lives Matter’. I think another of Gopal’s tweets had been altered and the fake version reproduced by the right-wing press to present Gopal as wishing for a real White genocide. Gopal sued for libel, and I believe won.

The comments about Churchill were provoked by the denunciation s of the Great Man at a conference on his legal at Churchill College, Cambridge. Churchill was denounced by some of the speakers as responsible for the horrific Bengal famine, which killed 3-6 million Indians, and a White supremacist. Kehinde Andrews, a prominent Black racial activist, was present at this event, who is notorious for claiming that the British Empire was worse than the Nazis.

This provoked a reaction from offended Tories, like Nicholas Soames, who declared that if they were going to denounce the British wartime PM, then they shouldn’t use his money. The right-wing historian of Africa and the British Empire, Andrew Roberts, also wasn’t impressed. He is the co-author of a paper, published by the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange, defending Churchill. But I think that the allegations against Churchill are absolutely correct. He was an imperialist and White supremacist. It was the dominant ideology of the time and obviously very strong in the British and colonial ruling class. He was also responsible for the Bengal famine through the sequestration of their grain in order to feed British troops in Europe. The result was mass starvation in India, while the emergency requiring its use never came. Nevertheless, Churchill refused to release it to where it was really needed, blaming the Indians themselves for their plight. It was all their fault for having too many children. His attitude shocked many senior British officers and colonial administrators, who compared him to the Nazis.

Zelo Street described Donelan’s interview and her views as

Once again, we have a Government minister apparently not in command of their brief, with their ignorance amplified by a shameless propagandist for the sole purpose of riling up his paper’s base and demonising purveyors of inconvenient thought.

He concludes that, as for her reference to the Soviet Union, that is exactly where her government is taking us, but you won’t read it in the papers. Quite. We have a very authoritarian government, which really is determined to censor history. And the press are right behind her.

This looks like an attempt by a failing government to whip up some popularity by playing the race card. The approved Tory view of the British Empire as essentially benevolent is under attack from evil lefties, and so must be defended at all costs. Just as Britain is being invaded by all those evil refugees crossing the Channel in dinghies.

Meanwhile, people continue to die from the Coronavirus, and the government is determined to push through the welfare cuts which Mike has documented as killing the poor, the disabled and the unemployed.

But we mustn’t look there. They’re just welfare scroungers. We must be worried about the attack on our imperial history and great leaders like Winston Churchill. Even when those attacks are historically accurate.

See: Zelo Street: Decolonising Drivel Deceives No-One (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

A Real Steampunk Car and Motorcycle

February 19, 2021

Steampunk is a form of Science Fiction which speculates on what the world would have been like if they’d managed to invent cars, computers, aircraft and space and time travel. It follows Bruce Sterling’s and William Gibson’s novel, The Difference Engine, set in an alternative past where Charles Babbage’s pioneering computer, the difference engine of the title, has been built and Britain is ruled by Lord Byron. It’s heavily influenced by early SF writers such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. But some of the machines and inventions in the genre are very close to reality. In fact there was a history book published the other year with the title The Real Victorian Steampunk, or something like that. George Cayley in Britain invented a glider, while a Frenchman, Giffard, developed a dirigible airship in the 1850s and successfully demonstrated it by flying around the Eiffel Tower. And from the first years of the 19th century onwards, inventors were busy developing the first antecedents of the modern car and motorcycle, driven by steam, of course.

I found these two videos on Wildlyfunny’s channel on YouTube. They look like they’re from a steam rally somewhere in eastern Europe, though the blurbs for them doesn’t say where and I’m afraid I don’t recognise the language. This one below is of the 1886 Baffrey Steam Car.

Steam car Baffrey 1886 / Parní vůz Baffrey – YouTube

This second video looks like it’s from the same rally, and is of the 1869 Roper steam motorcycle, invented by Sylvester Howard Roper and demonstrated at fairs and circuses across the US. According to a couple of the commenters, Roper became the first motorcycle casualty when he was killed in a race against seven, ordinary human-powered bicycles.

The FIRST Steam Motorcycle in the world, ROPER 1869 year! – YouTube

The sheer inventiveness of the Victorians never ceases to amaze me, and you do wonder what would have happened had these machines taken off before the invention of the modern internal combustion engine. One of the reasons why they didn’t, and it was only until the invention of the modern petrol/ diesel driven automobile in the later 19th century that cars became an effective rival to horse-drawn transport, is because steam engines weren’t a sufficiently effective power source. It’s also why they were unable to develop steam-driven airplanes. Nevertheless, these machines are still awesome in their ingenuity and a fascinating episode in the history of the automobile.

Real Boob Armour from the Middle Ages?

January 3, 2021

There was a bit of controversy a few months ago over an episode of the Star Wars spin-off TV show, The Mandalorian. The Mandalorians are a race of mercenaries, one of whom was the Star Wars film villain, Boba Fett. The show’s titular character roams the Galaxy with a baby clone of Yoda righting wrongs as law and order has broken down in the battle between the Empire and the Rebellion. Or I think that’s what the show’s about. The row erupted over an episode which showed female Mandalorians wearing fitted breastplates shaped for women’s breasts. Feminist critic of video games and the SF/Fantasy genre was not impressed, and posted a tweet expressing her disapproval.

She was then answered by the show’s fans, who certainly did not believe that such armour was sexualising or demeaning women. Many of those rebutting Sarkesian were women. One of them posted an interesting piece by a female veteran of the Iraq invasion, who described how uncomfortable the breastplates worn by American squaddies are, particularly for women. She wanted breastplates shaped for women’s breasts. Others pointed out that women boxers today wear breastplates to protect their boobs.

I found this picture of a set of armour from the later Middle Ages at Churburg in Frederick Wilkinson’s Arms and Armour (London: Hamlyn 1978) p. 66. As you can see, the breastplate really is only a strip across the upper torso, leaving the stomach, throat and shoulders protected by chain mail. I don’t doubt that the armour was made for a man. There are records of women fighting in armour during the Middle Ages, such as Joan of Arc, but they were very much exceptions to the rule. When they did fight, they wore men’s armour. However, looking at the Churburg armour, it does seem to me to be the kind of armour women may have worn if they were a regular part of medieval armies and it was made especially for them.

There’s an awful lot of SF and Fantasy in which the women warriors do indeed wear very little. But I don’t see the female breastplates on the Mandalorian as sexualising the women mercenaries. Indeed, from the above illustration – which is admittedly for a man – it does seem to be the kind of armour fighting women would wear in such a society.

Talk Radio’s Kevin O’Sullivan and Rod Liddle Get Upset about British Universities’ Dictionary of British Slave Traders

January 1, 2021

And now for a much more serious subject. The day before yesterday, 30th December 2020, Talk Radio posted this video on YouTube of one of their presenters, Kevin O’Sullivan, talking about the compilation of a Dictionary of British Slave Traders by a group of British universities with that fixture of the right-wing press, Rod Liddle. The project is led by a professor Pettigree, and involves the universities of Lancaster, Manchester and University College London. O’Sullivan quotes Prof. William Pettigree, who said that after Black Lives Matter it was important that there should be further, accurate information on the breadth of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade. As you can imagine, neither O’Sullivan nor Liddle are fans of the project. Some of their arguments are good, but others are just them using the issue to ride the usual Conservative hobby horses of attacking state education.

Non-White Slave Trade Ignored

The Dictionary will have 6,500 entries, including small investors, women, and people, whose involvement in the Abominable Trade has not been mentioned before. O’Sullivan claims that this is a device for finding out whether a perfectly respectable living person had an ancestor 350 years ago, who invested £5 in a plantation, and then make their blameless descendant into a pariah and get them sacked. He states that we need the Dictionary ‘like a hole in the head’, denounces the obsession with the slave trade as a ‘national sickness’. Liddle, who is introduced as writing for the Sun, the Spectator and the Sun on Sunday, agrees, calling it ‘self-flagellating imbecilic obsessiveness’. He states that the Dictionary isn’t about anyone, but specifically the White English. It doesn’t mention the Ottoman Empire, the people, who profited from the slave trade in the West African countries, specifically Ghana. He states that he was in a cab a couple of months ago, whose driver was Ethiopian. The driver told him how much he hated Britain. When Liddle asked why, he was told that it was because Britain was the country that invented slavery and enslaved whole nations. He’d never heard of the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire or the slavery that continued in his own country for hundreds of years after Britain had stopped it. He’d never heard of the fact that Britain was the first country to abolish it. Liddle also makes the point that Ethiopia, where it continued, had never been colonised. Liddle goes on to claim that universities are implanting in people’s minds the notion that it was only the British, who were slavers and had this wickedness. This is, he said, reflected in ‘that very stupid woman, who is head of the British Library’, Liz Joly, who said that ‘White people invented racism’. Liddle goes on about how we also invented television, the printing press, democracy, but we invented slavery, sin and mosquitoes. It’s utter rubbish and time we got over it.

The Coronavirus Lockdown Prevented Criticism of BLM at Football Matches

O’Sullivan dismisses Pettigree’s comments about the need for the Dictionary as nonsense, and describes the obsession with the slave trade as a kind of ‘national insanity’. He asks why the country is obsessing about the actions of slave traders who lived three centuries ago. Liddle says we’re not obsessing. It’s a tiny, tiny minority, who are obsessing. And they’ve been partly able to get away with it because of the Coronavirus. This has allowed footballers to take the knee in support of an organisation that wishes to abolish the family and capitalism. This wouldn’t have happened if there had been fans in the ground, because as soon as fans were allowed, they booed. This occurred not just at Liddle’s club, Millwall, but also at Colchester and Dallas in the US. They’ve got away with this because this year has meant the lone voice of the common sense public has not been heard. O’Sullivan agrees with him, stating that the people have been eclipsed by the lockdown and the authorities in politics and football have been allowed to proceed without comment from the public and fans. Liddle states that it’s a salutary lesson that when these restriction are placed on our lives, there is nothing they won’t try to get away with. He then goes to tilt at the Beeb, stating that they used the Coronavirus as an excuse to ban the words to ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘Rule, Britannia’.

Liddle Attacks his Daughter’s State School for views on British Empire

O’Sullivan agrees with him that the obsession with slavery and the ‘Woke’ thing is that of a tiny, tiny minority, who are vocal and noisy. He hopes that in this coming year, 2021, the Dictionary never gets published, and that the people’s voice gets heard and we are able to push back against these noisy people. Liddle then describes how, when his daughter went to state school last year, she was taught in her history lessons, which went uncontested, that the reason Africa was in poverty was because of colonialism. He states that this is easy to disprove, as Ethiopia, which was never colonised, is exactly the same as Eritrea. Both countries are equally impoverished and despotic. Liberia, which was never colonised, is as badly off as Sierra Leone next door. Singapore, on the other hand, was colonised for 200 years, and is the most affluent country in the world. There is, Liddle claims, a reluctance to face the truth because of this liberal mindset. This is based on a fallacy, which falls apart if you pick at it.

O’Sullivan then asks Liddle if they teach Critical Race Theory at his daughter’s school. This ‘controversial and very dubious philosophy’ is being taught in schools all over the country, which states that if you’re White, you’re racist, even if you don’t think you are. He states that it’s fine if adults want to learn this nonsense, but really dangerous to teach it to children in schools. Liddle again agrees with him, says he’s sure his daughter was, and that they got her out of it not just because they were teaching ‘that rubbish’, but because most of the time they weren’t teaching at all. There were no lesson during the Covid outbreak, not even online, O’Sullivan jokes that it was probably better that she was getting no lessons at all then. Liddle replies that she got lessons from him on how the British Empire brought decency and democracy to the world as a corrective for five minutes.

Rod Liddle criticises ‘self-flagellating’ Dictionary of British Slave Traders – YouTube

There are several issues to unpack here. Firstly, if the Dictionary was only an academic exercise in researching the depth of British public involvement in the slave trade, then I don’t think there should be any objection to its compilation and publication. There’s already been considerable research on the subject. A little while ago one historian of the subject said that they were actually astonished by how widespread participation in the slave trade and slavery was, with ordinary members of the public investing their money in it. In fact you could easily produce a list of British slaveowners simply by going through the government’s Blue Book published c. 1840 for the compensation given to the slaveowners after abolition. From the 1820s onwards the British government passed legislation designed to halt the illegal importation of slaves in their colonies by passing legislation demanding that all slaves be registered. This could also be used. The compensation returns and slave registries might have some surprises for those, who believe that only White people owned slaves. Several of the slaveowners in the Caribbean included the Maroons, the free Black communities outside British law. I also believe, though I’m not sure, that the free people of colour, the free Black population, may also have owned slaves.

Real Danger of Innocent People Demonised for Ancestors’ Involvement

O’Sullivan’s claim that the book would be used to denounce and pillory perfectly decent people for what their ancestors did hundreds of years ago is hysterical, but unfortunately also a real possibility. I had to make a similar decision myself when I was working in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum. It seemed that there was a strong possibility that some of the people described as slavers may have been the remote ancestors of people I knew personally. I had to think very carefully about telling them, and was eventually advised against it by one of their close friends. They told me that I shouldn’t tell this person about their possible connection to the slave trade, because they were very anti-racist themselves and the information would only upset them. I’ve no doubt that this is true of very many people. I also think that behind some of outrage from O’Sullivan and Liddle, but which goes unspoken, is the fear that it will be used by activists to demand reparations for slavery. I’m not sure how much this will affect ordinary people, though. In the 18th and 19th centuries most people in this country were the ‘labouring poor’, who comprised 90 per cent of the population. These had problems enough paying for food, clothing and accommodation. They wouldn’t have had the disposable income to invest in anything, never mind slaves or plantations, even if they were so inclined. Really we’re only talking about the middle classes and aristocracy as investors and slaveowners. Reparations for slavery are a different issue, but this has its dangers too. Over time, many of the wealthy or comfortably off people, who owned slaves, will have lost their money. All it would take to cause real controversy and angry backlash is if poorly paid people struggling to make ends meet get a demand for reparations from richer Black people. If that happens, you can expect the story to be all over the Heil, Depress and the rest of the press like a rash.

Need to Teach Extra-European, Islamic and Asian Slavery and Slave Trade

I also agree with O’Sullivan and Liddle that more should be taught about extra-European slavery. This includes that of the Arabs and Muslims in north Africa, the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic slave trade from east Africa across the Indian Ocean. Liddle is also quite right about the Ethiopians practising the slave trade. Way back in the 19th century we sent a punitive expedition into Abyssinia to stop them raiding British territory for slaves. One of the books we had in the library at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum was Major Darnley’s Slaves and Ivory. This was published in the early part of the 20th century and described Darnley’s own personal undercover investigation of slavery within the Abyssinian empire. Darnley published the book to make the public aware that the Abyssinians were still raiding British Uganda for slaves, and that the Ethiopian princes were destroying whole regions of their own empire through such raids. He wished to generate sufficient outrage that public opinion would swing behind a British invasion of the country. Dame Kathleen Simon, a determined foe of slavery, actually praised Mussolini and the Italian Fascists in her book on it for their invasion of Abyssinia, which she felt would at least extinguish slavery there. I do think there is a real need to teach this aspect of the slave trade to counter the notion that it was only Britain that was only, or primarily responsible for it. Britain wasn’t the first country to outlaw it – that was Denmark – but we were the leading country to do so and insist that other nations follow.

The East African Slave Trade in the 19th Century, from James Walvin, Atlas of Slavery (Harlow: Pearson Education 2006) 129.

Concentration on Western Slave Trade Product of Black Rights’ Movement

Research into the historic slave trade has been linked with the campaign for Black liberation since the time of W.E.B. Dubois. Hence the fixation on it by contemporary anti-racist activists. Driving this is the continued impoverishment and disadvantaged condition of the Black community as a whole. But real, Black chattel slavery has re-emerged in Libya and in sub-Saharan African countries like Uganda. There is little interest in combating slavery there. When right-wing critics urged western anti-racist activists to do so, the response has been that it should be ignored as a distraction from continued demands for racial equality here in the West. Kate Maltby, a White contributor to the I, made that argument in its pages a few months ago. She has a point, but it’s still no reason to ignore real slavery as it exists now in order to concentrate on angry denunciations for past crimes. There are books published on non-European slavery. Jeremy Black includes it alongside western slavery in one of his books. James Walvin includes maps of the African and Indian slave trade and routes alongside transatlantic slavery in his Atlas of Slavery. There are books on African slavery, and there is a particular study of the Islamic slave trade, Islam’s Black Slaves: A History of the Other Black Diaspora, by Ronald Segal. I think, however, that there may be some objection to teaching about these slave trades from some anti-racist activists, who may feel that it would somehow be racist or even islamophobic to do so.

Liddle Promoting Privatisation of State Education with Comments

But as you can hear from the video, O’Sullivan and Liddle were also determined to use the issue of slavery to attack other right-wing bugbears. Like the Coronavirus lockdown. This is there to save lives, but it’s too much for the right, who favour the economy at the expense of people’s lives. Hence the rant about footballers taking the knee for Black Lives Matter. Liddle also uses it, surprise, surprise! – to attack state education. We’ve been this way before. I remember the rants of the right-wing press under Thatcher, when the Scum, Heil, Depress and the rest ran stories about children in state schools being indoctrinated with left-wing propaganda, like Peace Studies, while anti-racist fanatics in Brent forced them to sing suitably altered nursery rhymes like ‘Ba Ba Green Sheep’. That was a lie put out by the Scum, supposedly, but I’ve met people, who swore they sang it at school. Thatcher used those fears to push through her creation of academy schools, telling the British public that it would put them in control of their children’s education. And this would be taken out of the hands of evil, left-wing Local Education Authorities. In fact, Thatcher’s academy school programme was a complete flop. It was being wound up by Norman Fowler before Blair took the idea out of the Tory dustbin, dusted it off and then made it official Labour policy. And unfortunately the wretched schemes been going ever since. In fact academy schools are not better than state schools and are far more expensive. They should be wound up and education renationalised. But this would upset the parasites running the academies. I don’t think it’s an accident that Liddle came out to rant against state education when he writes for the Scum, as Dirty Rupe would like to move into education as well.

Neo-Colonialism and African Poverty

As for the terrible condition of modern Africa and the legacy of British colonialism, it’s quite true that much of the continent’s problems don’t come from it, but from the rapacious venality and ruthless tyranny of their post-independence rulers. But we took over these countries partly to exploit their resources, and their poverty is partly caused by the Neo-colonial economic system that prevents them from industrialising and confines them to exporting raw materials to the Developed World. I can remember being taught all this in ‘A’ Level Geography nearly forty years ago from teachers, who were definitely not Marxists trying to indoctrinate us. As for the success of Singapore, this can be used to support the socialism Liddle and O’Sullivan fear and despise. Singapore’s leaders were influenced by the Fabians and their belief that the state should take a leading role in the economy. Singapore ain’t a socialist country, but its success does refute Thatcherite free market economics.

While O’Sullivan and Liddle thus are quite reasonable in their criticisms of the proposed Dictionary, they are using it as a tool to promote a wider, right-wing agenda. One that will cause further poverty and endanger lives, but will benefit their paymasters in the press barons and big business.