Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Queen Victoria on the Relative Threat Posed by the Working and Upper Classes

September 15, 2020

I really don’t think Queen Victoria can be seen as an ardent advocate of democracy. I’ve seen her opinions described as ‘Whiggish’, which would suggest that although she was in favour of reform, it was very limited. But I do like this quote, which is another one from Peter Vansittart’s Voices 1870-1914:

‘Danger lies not in the power given to the Lower Orders, who are becoming more well-informed and more intelligent, and who will deservedly work themselves up to the top by their own merits, labour and good conduct, but in the conduct of the Higher Classes and of the Aristocracy.’ (p. 12).

Looking back on the decade of Tory misrule by David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson and their cabinets of upper class, Eton-educated horrors, I’d say her maj’s case was proven.

A British Utopia: The Webbs’ Constitution for a Socialist Britain

September 5, 2020

Okay, I’ve finally finished reading Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s A Constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain, first published in 1920 and then again in 1975 by the LSE and Cambridge University Press. It’s very dated and clearly shows how very different things were when it was written and today.

The Advance of Socialism

Firstly, it’s an optimistic book. Democracy had finally arrived in Britain and the mobilisation and state industrial planning introduced during the First World War seemed to the Webbs to show very clearly that capitalism was in retreat. One of their earlier books, cited in this text, was on the decay of capitalism. The vast increase in efficiency and the production and distribution of goods through the state management of the economy in the War years also seemed to them to provide a further demonstration that capitalist was a wasteful, inefficient system that was destined to be superseded by socialism. The industries and businesses taken into state, municipal or cooperative ownership would be able to produce goods more cheaply and affordably than capitalism with its class system and exploitation. The Webbs were not just impressed with the arguments for state ownership, but the way local authorities up and down Britain were also operating and managing local services, including medical care, electricity and gas companies. Another powerful motor driving the march of socialism and its transform of Britain was the cooperative movement and the trade unions. Millions of Brits belonged to their local coop store. The businesses handled millions of pounds, owning subsidiary companies and trading with other, similar businesses right across the globe. At the same time, the trade unions were resisting capitalism and, with the entry of working men into parliament, providing proof that the working class could manage industry and govern.

The Problems of the Cooperative Movement and Workers’ Control

There were problems with both of these latter movements, however. The coop’s managers and directors were unimaginative in the development of new goods and services, and as exploitative as capitalist business when it came to the treatment of their employees. The trade unions were divided with a hodge-podge of very different and often contradictory constitutions and frequently in conflict with each other and their leaders. Some times this conflict was physical, as when one group of trade unionists broke into their headquarters and physically removed their leaders from power. At the same time, against the syndicalists and Guild Socialists, the Webbs argued that the management of industry solely by the workers was always unsuccessful. When it had been tried, it had shown that the workers always managed their firms for themselves, so that they either became uncompetitive with conventional capitalist firms, and ignored the demands and requirements of the wider community.

Criticisms of Parliamentary System

At the same time, the traditional British parliamentary system was also inadequate to deal with the increase in political business created by the nascent welfare state and emergent state sector. The Webbs took seriously contemporary Conservative criticism about the decay of parliament. Their solution was to recommend the creation of two different, separate assemblies. One would be a political parliament, that would follow the traditional 19th century view of what constituted politics. This would deal with criminal law, defence, foreign relations and the Empire. The second would be a social parliament, that would manage the economy, industry and social and cultural matters, including education. The members of both parliaments would be elected, but, in contrast to the arguments of the syndicalists, this would be by geographical constituency, not by trade. The conventional system of government by cabinet ministers was also unsuitable and incapable of dealing with the demands of the new political and economic realities. Thus the Webbs instead recommended that the parliaments should operate under the system of committees used by local authorities.

Local Government

The book also shows the state of local government at the time it was written in its recommendations for that sector’s reform. This was a time when the functions of what would later become local councils was split between a number of different boards. There was one for the poor law, another for sanitation, and others for education, medical care and so on, each of whose members were separately elected. At the same time, local councillors themselves were unpaid volunteers, which meant that it was dominated by landlords and businessmen, who governed in their own interests. The Webbs therefore demanded what is now the obvious, established practice: the creation of local authorities which would absorb and carry out the functions of the various boards, whose elected councillors would be paid. At the same time, the local ward would be the basis building block of local democracy, and the local authorities would be free to unite in larger, composite organisations where this was suitable, even to the point where they could compete in the management of industry with the social parliament.

Nationalisation, State Control and Personal Freedom

The Webbs believed that nationalisation would actually involve very few industries. Only those that affected the nation as a whole, such as the mines, the railways and natural resources, that would need to be carefully protected and managed for the future, would be taken into state ownership. These would in practice be managed by individual industrial boards and organisations, not by the social parliament itself. This would confine itself to supervision and matters of general investigation and legislation. That was partly so that, if there was an industrial dispute, it would not be seen as an attack on the state requiring the intervention of the armed forces. At the same time the Webbs were keen to stress that the new system should take every step to preserve individual liberty. Legislation should be scrutinised to ensure that it did not take away personal freedom, and no-one should be compelled to use a socialised firm if they preferred a capitalist alternative. Local authorities would also set up a range of businesses and services for the benefit of their communities. Yet others would be owned and operated as cooperatives, including the press. This would solve the problem of its use to spread capitalist propaganda. While firms would continue to be managed by a salaried, professional staff, their boards would also include the representatives of the workers.

Active Public Involvement in Industry

At the same time, the Webbs were also keen to include the British public in the management of industry and conduct of politics. Consumers’ groups were to be encouraged and their suggestions for improved conduct and services should be taken seriously. In contrast with capitalism, where firms kept their operations very secret, the British public would have access to all the facts and figures about the management and conduct of industry and economy presented in government publications and reports from their own MPs and councillors. They were to be encouraged to take an active interest in government and the economy, and be ready to make their own criticisms and recommendations. At the same time professional and trade associations like the British Medical Association, law society and scientific and engineering associations, including the trade unions, would also be encouraged to develop high standards of morality and professionalism with their occupations.

Protection of Indigenous Peoples

They also recognised that there would be ethical problems with a socialist Britain trading with other countries, who remained capitalist, and with less developed countries. They therefore looked to the new League of Nations and other institutions as new guardians of a new international morality, who would protect the indigenous peoples of the world from capitalist exploitation.

Socialism Cutting Down on Capitalist Bureaucracy

They also take care to refute two particular objections to socialism. One is that it would be too bureaucratic. Instead, they argue that uniting different firms into a single industrial organisation, as would be done for the mines and railways, for example, would actually reduce bureaucracy. At the time they were writing these industries were split between a number of different companies all with their own separate management boards.

Socialism Means Expanding Private Property

The second is that socialists are totally opposed to private property. This is not so, declare the Webbs. They are not opposed to private property, and active want its expansion. What they are opposed to is the private ownership of industry. But they want people to have their own homes and gardens, and for an expansion of personal property as ordinary people are able to afford a wider range of goods and possessions which at present are only confined to the wealthy.

The Individual Professional in a Socialist Economy

The Webbs also believe that there will be a place in the socialist economy for some capitalist, private industry. This particularly includes individual professionals, who provide their professional expertise for a fee. They also look forward to an expansion of education. They believe that socialism will lead to rapid improvements in technology and industrial management, which will mean that some workers will become unemployed. Those workers will be retrained and taught new skills. Those unable to master these will not be allowed to starve, but will instead be given good pensions on which to live.

The Webbs’ Vision and Contemporary Reality

The Webbs’ vision is obviously more than a little Utopian. They have been proven right in their recommendations for the reform of local government, some of which they were actually responsible for. At the same time, they’ve been proven right in the expansion of education. At the time they were writing, most working people left school around age 12. Now the government wishes half of all school leavers to go on to university, which in their case means they complete their education at 21.

On the other hand, the cooperative movement has failed to transform British society and is now effectively just another retail chain. Parliament has also shown itself competent to deal with both the increased business and areas of government, like industry and the economy so that there is no need for a separate, social parliament. It’s just that it’s been a disaster that the country is governed by doctrinaire Tories, who have wrecked the economy, society and manufacturing industry, not to mention health and education, in favour of the free market. But there are still strong arguments for nationalisation and for the inclusion of the workers themselves in the management of their firms. As for the British Empire, it’s now long gone and has been transformed into the Commonwealth. However the neocolonial system of tariffs imposed by the developed world prevent their former colonies in Africa from developing their own manufacturing industries and have imposed a new system of capitalist exploitation.

Capitalism Creating Misery and Poverty

But conditions in the early 21st century also show that, if the socialist utopia hasn’t materialised, capitalism hasn’t fulfilled its promise either. The free market economy zealously promoted by Thatcher and Reagan is very definitely and obviously not bringing prosperity. Rather it is a just returning us to the poverty and misery of the 19th century, coupled with the threat of global climate change and the ecological crisis. The problems that the Webbs and other socialists believed could only be solved through socialism.

Conclusion

Socialism probably doesn’t have all the solutions. But it still has many of them. Even though it’s very dated, this book is still worth reading. At its heart is a vision of socialism which would lead to greater prosperity and for working people to be able to develop and improve themselves. At the same time, individual freedom and the rights of the individual would be secured. A state bureaucracy would govern the nationalised industries, that of the local authorities those under their control. But there would be a range of companies and industries created and managed through ordinary people themselves through cooperatives they would be encouraged to found. Instead of entrepreneurs being limited to a small class of individuals, the public as a whole would become business owners and managers, actively interested in their companies and enterprises. This would be too much for many. It’s arguable that most people in this country have little interest in politics or industry and are content to leave it to others. Hence the persistence of capitalism and the electoral success of the Tories.

The Webbs’ constitution is an attempt to provide an alternative system to capitalism and its failures. It’s dated, but still inspiring. And real socialist solutions are as necessary now as they were when it was written. I hope that more people discover it, as I have, and that it also inspires them.

Adele’s Adoption of Black Style Is In a Long Tradition of White Anti-Racism and ‘Allyship’

September 1, 2020

One of the controversies that has now broken out in the wake of Black Lives Matter has been over the dress and hairstyle Adele adopted yesterday. She was hoping, like many folks, to attend the Notting Hill carnival. But it was cancelled due to the restrictions on large gatherings imposed by the Coronavirus. I’ve heard that they held a Virtual one online instead. Adele decided to signal her support for the carnival by posting a picture of herself in a bikini showing the Jamaican flag and with her done in a Black hairstyle. So the league of those wanting to find any excuse to be offended have accused her of ‘cultural appropriation’.

I really don’t accept this. I believe that she wore the bikini and the hairstyle as a genuine gesture of support to the Carnival and the Black culture that created it. And moreover, without people like Adele adopting Black fashions and Black music, Black culture would not have the acceptance it does among Whites and the racism Black people experience would be much, much worse.

Real Appropriation of Black Music and Culture

I am very much aware that cultural appropriation has occurred. Black people have complained for a long time that ‘the White man stole the Blues’. One of the great stars of the Big Band era, Benny Goodman, is a case in point. Goodman was a White man, but all his hits were written by Black Jazzers. One of the most notorious cases is that of ‘Tar-ra-ra Boom-de-ay’ in the 19th century. It’s credited to a White musician, but he heard it from a Black lad singing it on the streets. And cultural appropriation also doesn’t just apply to Blacks. Native Americans are also uncomfortable when Whites adopt their traditional culture, like some of the New Agers and pagans, who have adopted aspects of their religion. And I can’t say I blame them. But what Adele has done is the opposite, and goes right back to the 1920s and before when White youths began adopting Black fashion and music.

The ‘White Negroes’ of Jazz and Rock-n’Roll and Anti-Racism

One of the first in the 1920s was ‘Mezz’ Mezzrow. He was a White kid, who first immersed himself in the emerging Jazz scene. He adopted Black culture to such an extent that he has been called ‘the first White Negro’. Later on, one the ‘White Negroes’ – I’ve forgotten which one, painted himself with melanin in order to see what being Black in America was really like. I think he got an unpleasant surprise. But this didn’t stop him writing a book pleading for reconciliation between Whites and Blacks. And after Jazz faded with changes in youth culture, it’s place was taken by rock’n’roll. The books on music I’ve read state clearly that it’s a hybrid musical genre – a mixture of White Country music and Black barrel house Jazz. I’ve got a feeling that the primacy given to the guitar in rock and pop, rather than the piano or keyboard, comes from the old Blues master Howlin’ Wolf when he was performing in Chicago. Little Richard, who passed away recently, once claimed in an interview that it was thanks to him Blacks and Whites started dancing together. Before he started performing, he noticed that White the dance floors were full of Blacks tripping the light fantastic, the Whites just stood around the edges watching. ‘White spectators, we used to call ’em’, he reminisced. Then he started playing and they suddenly joined the Blacks on the floor. ‘So a decade before Dr. Luther King, we had integration’.

Nazi Hatred of the  White Adoption of Black Culture

And those Whites that did adopt Black music got real hate for it from the real racists. It comes from the old biological determinism that sees culture as the product of biology. By this standard, Whites are somehow betraying their race and degrading themselves by adopting Black music and fashion. Back in the 1980s there was a book, The Best of Signal, which published articles from the big popular Nazi mag of the Third Reich. It was published by a mainstream publisher as I think one of the very many titles on the Nazis, the Third Reich and World War II that appear every year. I found a copy in a secondhand bookshop. One of the articles in it was an explicit attack on the contemporary Jazz scene in America. It showed a groups of American youths – I can’t remember whether they were White or Black – wearing the characteristic ‘Zoot suits’ and made it very plain what the writer and the vile regime he served thought of them. When White kids in the 1950s started listening and dancing to rock’n’roll, Conservative voices accused them of taking over ‘Negro sensuality’.

And the same criticisms was still being voiced in the 1990s. That was the decade that saw the emergence of the Militia movement in the US and the gathering of various neo-Nazi outfits in the Hayden Lakes area, where they started building communes and compounds. These are real Nazis, not the casual racists who are often simply called it for their vile opinions. I think Louis Theroux went to one of them in his Weird Weekends. It was built like an armed fort or concentration camp, complete with watchtowers and barbed wire fencing. The obergruppenfuhrer Theroux interviewed proudly showed him the stack of greeting cards he’d had printed for his storm troopers to send. For most people, it would have been blasphemy, as it showed Adolf Hitler as Santa coming down a chimney bringing presents. In the interview I read, the writer tried to tackle one of these Nazis on the subject of Whites. The reply they got was that contemporary White culture had been corrupted by Black. They listened to Black music, wore Black fashions and danced like Blacks. Except he didn’t say Blacks. He said ‘N***ers’. It’s the same sentiments David Starkey got rightly panned for in 2012 or so when he was asked what was responsible for the riots. He blamed Black music. When it was pointed out to him that a fair proportion, at least, of the rioters were White, he stated that ‘they have become Black’. I don’t doubt that same White racists would condemn Adele for her choice of dress and hairstyle yesterday.

Blacks and Musical Apartheid

And these sentiments are contributing to apartheid in music. One of the complaints that has been voiced in the wake of the Black Lives Matter has been by Black musicians about the racism in their industry. I remember reading newspaper interviews 25-30 years ago by Black British musicians complaining about the musical apartheid they found when they toured America and parts of the continent, like Austria. They found there that music was strictly compartmentalised between ‘White’ and ‘Black’. One section dealt with Black performers another with Whites. I can’t remember who the Brit muso was, but she was really shocked because back here in Blighty she performed for people of all colours. But when she went to America, there was an expectation in the record company that she’d only perform for Blacks. At the same time, she and other Black musos, when they toured Austria, found their CDs and records put in the section of the music stores devoted to Black music.

I’ve also heard since then about the racism and abuse Black artists have had to face when they’ve tried performing in ‘White’ genres. A friend of mine told me a little while ago about the amount of hate the founder of the Heavy Metal band, Living Colour, got. Living Colour was an all-Black band, who wanted to produce awesome Rock. And apparently they got a lot of hate from both sides, Blacks as well as Whites, for daring to play a ‘White’ style of music. A month or so ago Radio 4 one started broadcast a piece about a Black American Country and Western performer. I can’t remember who he is, but I think he’s pretty old and has been playing it for a long, long time. And he’s suffered the same kind of abuse from the same type of people. It’s hard for me not to think that by accusing Adele of cultural appropriation, her critics are supporting the same kind of racist attitudes that would keep Whites and Blacks from appreciating and performing music outside very strict racialised boundaries.

Whites and Black Fashions and Hairstyles

As for Whites adopting Black hairstyles, I’m old enough to remember the ’70s and the big Afros that were in style then. From what I understand, they did so as part of the ‘Black is beautiful’ movement. Instead of adopting White hairstyles, Blacks in America and Britain wanted to wear their hair more naturally. And because of the influence of Black musical culture, so did many Whites. Leo Sayer had one, and when I was child I honestly thought he was Black. I don’t know if anyone from the Black community complained, but as this was also when the NF were back on the rise over here, along with organisations like the ‘Anti-Paki League’ – that’s what they called themselves – I think people had colour had worse to worry about.

I only came across the accusations of cultural appropriation for Whites adopting Black culture in the 1990s, and that was only in the American satirical comedy, Spin City. This starred Michael J. Fox in one of his last roles, as the head of the communications team for a fictional New York senator. In one episode, his Black co-workers are upset because one of the Whites has moved into a Black neighbourhood. And to fit in, he’s started wearing stereotypically Black clothes. Like turning up in an African robe. Fox’s character tries to explain that the man isn’t trying to be racist. He’s just trying to identify with the people of his new community. He also tries to explain to the man that he is, inadvertently, causing offence. The next day the guy comes in very obviously wearing a hat. Fox whips it off to reveal that the guy’s had his hair dressed in dreadlocks.

At roughly the same time that was on, I knew White people with dreads. As there still are. And the Black people I’ve known and worked with had absolutely no problem with it. They told me they had White friends, who looked good with it. Victor Lewis Smith, the satirist, TV critic and practical joke responsible for such shows as TV Bile and Inside Victor Lewis Smith, used to wear dreadlocks. Now I’ve got very mixed views about Smith. Some of his material I found funny, but in other ways he could be anything but. And he was an ex-public schoolboy, and so could be accused of cultural appropriation. But I don’t think anyone did.

Western Black Traditional Culture, Hip Hop Fashion and Ethiopian Dreadlocks

It seems to have begun with some Black Americans claiming Whites were stealing Black culture when they took over Hip Hop fashion in the 1990s. But I also remember one Black celeb scornfully pointing out that expensive trainers and the designer accessories also aren’t a traditional part of Black culture. And then a few years ago there was a video clip going round on YouTube of any angry Black female student haranging a young White lad in an American university because he had his hair in dreads. It was clipped and repeated in posts by Conservative Whites attacking the aggressively intolerant anti-racist culture in parts of American academia. And now that same attitude appears to have crossed the Atlantic.

But what was said about Hip Hop style not being part of traditional Black culture, could also be said about dreadlocks. Don’t mistake me – they are an authentic part of African Black culture. They were taken over by the Rastafarians from the hairstyle worn by Ethiopian warriors. They did so because at the time – I don’t know if they still do – they revered the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie Makonnen as the Black messiah they believed was foretold in the Bible, who would liberate western Blacks from their bondage. But it’s a hairstyle that was introduced from Africa, not one that was preserved in the traditional culture of Black slaves and their descendants. And many of the Blacks who wear it just do it because they like the style, but aren’t Rastafarians. Which, if we’re strict about the issue of cultural appropriation, raises all kinds of awkward questions. If it’s wrong for Whites to adopt Black styles, it could be argued that it’s also wrong for western Blacks, as the same dress and hairstyle properly belongs to its original African people.

Black Performers in White Makeup

And then there’s the question of how you judge Black performers, who have adopted White hairstyles and makeup. There are a number of videos, for example, where Beyonce actually looks White. She has straight hair, which appears blond rather than brown or black, and her skin has been made up to appear very pale. Certainly much paler than she appears in other videos, where she appears much darker. I am not accusing her of racism. But if people start flinging accusations of cultural appropriation around, then it could be applied to Black musos like Beyonce.

Skin Whiteners and the Damage to Black Skin

And incidentally, I am also very much aware of the harm being done to Black people by the feeling that somehow they should try to make themselves appear more ‘White’. Akala apparently discusses his book on race and racism the use of skin lighteners by many Blacks in a desperate attempt to appear Whiter. It’s nasty stuff. These chemicals work by taking off the top layers of skin. Other Black and ethnic minority writers have attacked their use. And there was a nasty incident that got into the pages of Private Eye’s ‘Funny Old World’ column. It was during a boxing match in Ghana. One of the boxers had been using these wretched potions, and as a result he lost the skin on part of his face after a particularly vicious blow from his opponent. Which provides an extreme, and very graphic argument why people shouldn’t use them. Skin has its own natural beauty, whatever shade it is.

I realise this is a long article and that some of the outrage is understandable coming after the condemnation of certain comedians for appearing in makeup as Black characters, like Bo Selecta and Lucas and Walliams in Little Britain. But Adele was not in Blackface, and she is nowhere near the Black and White Minstrels, who were subject of massive controversy in the ’70s before being axed in ’80s because they did perform the old Black minstrel songs in Blackface.

But Adele seems to be coming from a completely different direction. She’s following a century-old tradition in which the White aficionados of Black culture have shown their appreciation by adopting it. People like Mezzrow, who would now be viewed, using the jargon of intersectional feminism, as ‘allies’.

White Youth, Black Music and the anti-Racism Campaigns of the 1980s

It was people like Adele, who helped push back against the NF and BNP in the 1980s. Rock Against Racism before it collapsed thanks to a takeover attempt by the Socialist Workers Party brought Black and White youth together through a series of concerts by some of the great bands of the day. But I’ve friends, who are worried we’re losing that musical culture. I was watching the old episodes of Top of the Pops one of the cable/ satellite channels has been repeating. Yeah, I know it was cheesy and some of the bands that appeared were jokes even in their time. But some of the bands were awesome. The first pop video I ever bought was UB40. In case you’re too young, they were a reggae band with Black and White performers. I bought the video of their tour in Russia. They were one of the first western groups that were able to play when Gorby gave the country glasnost. And they rocked! The video shows the crowd dancing after their translator tells them that they can. This was the country that banned Boney M’s ‘Ra-Ra Rasputin’ as evil and subversive. There were other bands, too, who mixed White and Black performers. Quite apart from White groups like Madness, who played Ska- more Black music – and wore the characteristic suits. Yes, they took over Black music and culture, but it came from a place of affection and solidarity. The kids of my generation saw them bands like them on TV, in concert, heard them on the radio and absorbed the general anti-racist message as it was coming out.

A New Apartheid in Music?

But my friend was afraid that this is being lost because of hardened attitudes that Black and White performers should stay to certain genres within very racially defined boundaries. So racially mixed bands can’t come forward and perform. Because it’s cultural appropriation, or somehow betraying Black culture or some nonsense. Whatever it is, it’s still segregation.

Conclusion

I think before accusations of cultural appropriation are directed at people like Adele, there are some, who should do a bit of reading first. About Mezrow and the adoption of Black culture and music by alienated Whites. There are some classic studies of it. I think one of them has the title ‘White Youth and Black Culture’. They should understand why the Punks took over the Pogo – it came from the jumping style of dancing of the Masai. And at the same time they did so, they were mixing it on the streets giving the real Fascists – the NF, BNP and the rest of the scumbags the hiding they deserved.

Adele’s trying to show anti-racist solidarity. And it’s the people denouncing her for cultural appropriation who are strengthening real racism.

Because the opposite side of that coin is that the Whites, who do adopt Black culture are somehow betraying their Whiteness. And that’s always been an argument for real racism and apartheid.

 

 

MoD Records Show Britain Training Repressive States

August 30, 2020

There was a very interesting piece by Cahal Milmo in yesterday’s edition of the I, for Saturday, 29th August 2020. The MoD has released a series of papers in response to a question in parliament, showing that the British armed forces are training those of 17 states guilty of human rights violations. The article, ‘Britain trains soldiers for repressive regimes’ runs

The British military has provided training to the armed forces of a succession of repressive regimes from Belarus to Bahrain, according to official records.

A list of countries receiving training from UK armed forces since 2018 includes 17 nations formally designated by the British government as “human rights priority countries”, where there is particular concern about repression or other abuses. 

The training ranges from instruction on piloting state-of-the-art fast jets for allies such as Saudi Arabia to officer training for China.

In Belarus, where the authorities have this month been condemned for a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and armed forces have been placed on a state of high alert, Britain provided an advanced command course for senior officers.

The training,k detailed in records released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) following a parliamentary question, drew condemnation from campaigners who said it put Britain at risk of becoming “complicit” in gross breaches of human rights.

Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: “Many of these armies have appalling human rights records and have been linked to brutal oppression as well as international aggression.

“By training and collaborating with despots, dictatorships and human rights abusers, the UK risks making itself complicit in the abuses that are being inflicted.” The group said it wanted to see an investigation into precisely which military forces the UK had given training to and whether they had been subsequently linked to repressive actions or other breaches of basic liberties.

However, the defence ministry insisted that all of its training abroad emphasised the observation of human rights protections.

A spokesman for the MoD said: “Every defence relationship is taken on a case-by-case basis. Any defence engagement is designed to educate where necessary on best practice and compliance with international humanitarian law.”

The figures suggest that more than half of the 30 countries on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s human rights priority list have received training assistance from British forces. They include Uzbekistan, Sir Lanka, Bahrain, Egypt and Pakistan.

I’m not surprised by any of this. We already sell armaments to vicious, repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia. Britain has also used private mercenary companies as a method of unofficially sending military assistance to repressive regimes, such as Keenie Meenie Services, (KMS), founded by retired Brigadier Mike Wingate Gray, a friend of Maggie Thatcher, and whose son Arthur is a mate of princes William and Harry. Among other nasty regimes, KMS has provided troops for Sri Lanka, the Nicaraguan Contras and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, as well as Sultan Qaboos of Oman. On the other hand, they don’t seem to have provided any assistance to the Khmer Rouge during the 1980s. This was probably done by the SAS. See ‘Profiting from War’, John Newsinger’s review of Phil Miller’s Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away with War Crimes (London: Pluto Press 2020) in Lobster 79, Summer 2020 . See https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster79/lob79-keenie-meenie-review.pdf

I’ve no doubt that the training given by the official British armed forces does stress the observance of human rights. However, this still does not absolve us of training the troops of brutally oppressive regimes, which those providing the assistance must know will ignore anything they are taught about observing human rights.

The mercenaries, however, are rather different. They don’t just providing training, but have actually participated in atrocities. During the proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the head of the CIA’s Afghan Task Force declared that Thatcher was to the right of Attila the Hun and remarked on the lack of any legal restraint on MI6. Miller’s book quotes him as saying that they had a willingness to do jobs he wouldn’t touch. This comes from a senior figure in the organisation that helped overthrow Salvador Allende in Chile and install the Fascist dictatorship of General Pinochet.

Britain has spent too long training and providing guns and troops to the world’s thugs and butchers. It’s long past time we stopped. But the last time anyone suggested we should have an ethical foreign policy was Robin Cook under Tony Blair. Which after the Iraq invasion sounds like a very sick joke.

John Suchet’s Acid Comment on Boris’ Latest Excuse for Exam Fiasco

August 28, 2020

I’m afraid I don’t have any footage of this, so you’ll have to settle for a written description instead. Last night Channel 4 News’ John Suchet briefly appeared on a trailer for the bulletin, giving his own short, pithy view on Johnson’s latest attempt to blame someone or something else for the downgrading of the schoolchildren’s exam results. Suchet said something like ‘Coming up at Ten, Boris Johnson blames exam results on ‘mutant algorithm’ before adding very clearly, ‘Of course he does.’

This withering comment tells you exactly how much faith Suchet, and probably the rest of the Channel 4 News team, put in Johnson and his waffle. And I don’t doubt that if it the Beeb dared to say it, we’d now be seeing a stream of Tories angrily claiming yet again that the Corporation is massively biased against them and should be privatised, for the benefit of their corporate paymaster, Rupert Murdoch.

Not that their excuses and ranting change anything. It wasn’t a ‘mutant algorithm’ that let down those children. It was a computer programme consciously devised to make poorer pupils in state schools appear to perform worse than rich, privileged public schoolboys and girls. Because the Tories need working and lower middle class people to fail in order for the rich to maintain their dominance in British society, industry, arts and culture.

But that hasn’t been the only devastating observation on Johnson voiced on TV this week. Mike yesterday put up a fine video on his blog of one young lad’s reaction to Johnson appearing at his school to tell them how it was safe for them to return. As Johnson waffles on, you can hear in the background one small voice say ‘asshole’.

Quite. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, I think.

While Johnson blathers about schools being safe, a pupil is caught saying what we all think

BBC Proms Row: ‘Land of Dopes and Tories’

August 28, 2020

The best comment I’ve seen about the current furore over the BBC’s supposed decision to ban the lyrics of ‘Rule, Britannia’, and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ at the Last Night of the Proms has come from the Labour MP Wes Streeting  He’s said that it’s a distraction to divert attention away from the Tories and their repeated failures. And he’s right. More people are in grinding poverty, the Coronavirus rates appear to be heading back up, they’ve wound up the public body tasked with combating the outbreak right in the middle of the pandemic, and given it to a woman, who has no qualifications for the job apart from the fact that she’s close to Johnson’s coterie, the government’s exam algorithm unfairly marked down 40 per cent of schoolchildren, the vast majority from poor backgrounds, the public deficit has hit over a trillion pounds, thus destroying any credibility the Tories can claim for being the party of sound fiscal management, and they’re still trying to get away with the illegal deportation of the Windrush migrants. While blaming ‘activist lawyers’ of course. Then there’s the cronyism and corruption, as one after another government contracts are given to firms run by or with connections to the Tory party itself and its leaders. The mighty Ash Sarkar of Novara Media has also weighed in on the issue on YouTube with a video describing these claims as ‘a paranoid fantasia’.

But these aren’t the real issues! No! The real issue is that the Beeb is full of evil, unpatriotic, subversive lefties determined to blot out every last trace of British national pride and greatness. And they’re starting by banning the lyrics to ‘Rule, Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. Except they didn’t. The decision not sing them was due to the general restrictions on singing imposed by the lockdown. It’s for the same reason that, although churches are now open, worshippers can’t sing the hymns. It’s purely for health reasons, nothing more. But never mind, Boris Johnson has appeared and condemned the Beeb’s decision, thus rescuing us all from this latest Black Lives Matter attack on Britishness.

I have absolutely no problem with either of the two songs. I really enjoy them, and enjoyed the Proms itself when I went with a friend years ago. But I also remember that there have also been spoof versions of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ down the years. One of them was released in the mid-1990s by the Devon band, the Amphibians from Outer Space, fronted by the cryptozoologist Jon Downes. This had the title ‘Land of Dopes and Tories” and was a bitter comment on Britain under the-then Tory government of John Major. I can’t remember the lyrics exactly, but they went something like this:

Land of  dopes and Tories,

Game shows and TV.

The land our fathers fought for

Don’t seem the same to me.

Land of idiot violence 

Where innocent blood is shed

Land where only the assholes

Heard what Mosley said.

Downes clarified the last line, explaining that it referred to Mosley’s prediction that, who ever won the War, Britain would be finished as a world power. Mosley was right about that, but it still doesn’t make him less of a Fascist ***hole himself, who was responsible for so much of the idiot violence in his time.

The song went on for a few more lines before ending with Downes’ declaration that

Anarchy and freedom is everything I want.

With the recent riots in America and the horrific mess of the former anarchist commune in Seattle, anarchy looks much less attractive. But I think the parody, like so much of the bitter social comment of the 1990s, is still very relevant. Boris Johnson’s government is very like that of Major’s in its sleaze, corruption, privatisations and indifference to real, mass poverty. Except, compared to Johnson, Major seems to be a pillar of competence and statesmanship. And this from someone who was considered mediocre at best when he was actually in power.

The lyrics for ‘Rule, Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ haven’t been banned for any left-wing ideological reasons. The Tories are lying when they tell you they are. And Downes’ spoof lyrics accurately describe them, and the Britain of hatred and violence they’ve created.

Private Eye on Dido Harding and the Cheltenham Coronavirus Outbreak

August 27, 2020

There’s an interesting little snippet in this fortnight’s Private Eye for 28th August – 10th September 2020 suggesting that Dido Harding, the new chair of the interim public health authority taking over from Public Health England, may have been personally responsible for the decision to go ahead with the Cheltenham Festival in March. Among her various other posts and jobs, Harding is a jockey and sits on the board of the Jockey Club. But it seems she may not just be a board member. According to the article ‘No Horse Sense’ on page 9, she was seen meeting the Cheltenham Festival’s managing director shortly before it was decided to go ahead with the racing. Unsurprisingly, this has been widely criticised down here in the Gloucestershire/ Bristol area because it led to a Coronavirus outbreak in the town. The article runs

Baroness (Dido) Harding, chair of the new National Institute for Health Protection, is not an instinctive guardian of public health, it seems. One recent episode suggests she’s happy to sacrifice it for a day at the races.

Perhaps one of the most ill-advised events in public-health terms for some time was the Cheltenham Festival of horseracing between 10 and 13 March this year, organised by the Jockey Club – of which Baroness Harding was and is a board member.

Even before the racing started, cases in the UK had accelerated to more than 300 and policy had moved from “containment” to “delay”. Most observers were incredulous that an even crowding 250,000 people tightly together across four days would go ahead when other large gatherings were being cancelled.

Now a witness at the course early on the first morning between 6.30 and 7 am, reports Harding meeting Cheltenham managing director Ian Renton and others to decide whether to proceed or announce a late cancellation. In other words, rather than merely being a board member at the Jockey Club (as Eye 1522 revealed in connection with her test-and-trace role), Harding was central to the final decision – taken as Covid alarm mounted – to go ahead with the event. The Department of Health declined to comment on the incident.

If this is true, then it shows that Harding is completely unsuited to her new position as she clearly believes in putting the economy and corporate profit before safety and human lives. But as that’s the attitude of Boris, Cummings and the rest of them, who believed in herd immunity at the expense of the deaths of the weak and the elderly, she fits right in. 

Private Eye Criticises Rachel Riley for Hypocrisy over China

August 23, 2020

Could the media support for Rachel Riley be waning just a little? This last fortnight’s edition of Private Eye for 14th – 27th August 2020 carried a piece calling her out for hypocrisy. She’d published a link to a petition against the persecution of the Uyghurs by the Chinese government, urging people to sign it. However, a few months ago Riley had also declared that she’d made a deal with the Chinese-owned company, Tiktok, to help it produce maths tips. The Eye’s article runs

Countdown mathematical whizz Rachel Riley recently tweeted a link to a petition drawing attention to the plight of the Uyghur Muslims. It called on the UK government to impose sanctions on China for its human rights violations. “We’re listening, we’re with you… Thanks to everyone who signed this,” she wrote.

Is this the same Rachel Riley who tweeted “This should be fun” in response to an announcement in June that she’d signed up to help TikTok’s move into the UK education market, producing mathematics tips for the platform?

The Chinese-owned video sharing app has long attracted privacy concerns and has been banned by the Indian government after claims that it was using data illegally and secretly collecting information from phones when the app was downloaded. Meanwhile, TikTok’s domestic Chinese version, Douyin, is heavily censored under Chinese government rules.

Most concerning to Riley, however, might have been the news in November that TikTok had suspended the account of 17-year-old Feroza Aziz after she highlighted human rights abuses against … the Uyghur Muslims. As Riley puts it, this should indeed be fun.

I’ve got absolutely no problem with Riley supporting a petition against the vicious genocide being waged against the Uyghurs. She’s quite right to point it out and demand government action. And I don’t find her support for TikTok particularly hypocritical either, even if it does conflict with her new attitude towards the state persecution of the Muslim people by the Chinese authorities. What I do find hypocritical is her own vicious bullying and smearing of decent, anti-racists and genuine opponents of anti-Semitism, simply because they support Jeremy Corbyn or are critical of the Israeli state’s 70 year long campaign of ethnic cleansing against the indigenous Palestinians. Riley certainly isn’t alone in this. The smears were made and repeated by just about the entire right-wing British political and media establishment, including Private Eye. Which makes the Eye’s article, now criticising Riley for hypocrisy, somewhat ironic. Riley and her best buddy Tracy Ann Oberman were given extensive support for their accusations and smears by the media, who have promoted her as some kind of doughty campaigner against anti-Semitism. Except, when it comes to critics of Israel, in my opinion she isn’t. She’s confusing it with anti-Zionism. Anti-Semitism, as defined by Wilhelm Marr, who founded the League of Anti-Semites in 19th century Germany and coined the term, is hatred of Jews simply for being Jews. Zionism is a political ideology, which has historically been adopted by both Jews and non-Jews. In the early 20th century Zionism was itself so closely associated with real anti-Semitism, that one sympathetic German nobleman refused to support Theodor Herzl’s movement because he was afraid that people would think he was a Jew-hater. And Israel, of course, is a country. It is not synonymous with the Jewish people as a religion or people, no matter how much legislation Netanyahu passes declaring that it is. And it is definitely not anti-Semitic to criticise it for its barbarous maltreatment of the indigenous Arabs.

But Rachel Riley and Oberman appear to believe that it is. As an example of how twisted their views are, one of the two even compared the Durham Miners’ Gala last year to the Nazis because the band played ‘Hava Nagila’. Which they do every year. And their response to personal criticism appears to be to threaten their critics with a libel action. Mike is currently fighting Riley, because he reblogged and commented on her calling a 16 year old schoolgirl with anxiety an anti-Semite on social media. This led to the girl being attacked online by a crowd of Riley’s supporters, all because the girl had declared her support for the former Labour leader. And a few days ago, Oberman threatened Gary Spedding with a libel action for stating that she had her faults. These included, according to Spedding, not standing with Jewish people of colour. Oberman decided that Spedding was accusing her of racism, and so threatened him with a writ. See https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/08/tracy-ann-oberman-meltdown.html

In my view, Oberman and Riley are legalistic bullies, seeking to close down legitimate political and personal criticism through malicious accusations of anti-Semitism and suits for libel. I don’t quite know what has caused the Eye to publish an article critical of Riley, but it might be that some in the media might just have realised that just as Riley and Oberman can threaten and sue ordinary members of the public, so they can also turn on them. Of course, it may also be that the Eye is entirely disinterested in this matter, and is just calling out what they view as double-standards by another celeb.

Whatever the reality, Riley and Oberman’s malicious behaviour, as I see it, needs to be stopped. Which is why it’s important that Mike wins the case they have brought against him. Perhaps if Riley and Oberman meet with enough failure, the rest of the media may also stop giving the two their uncritical support.

BBC Chief Says Corporation Could Axe News Programmes

August 22, 2020

Here’s another piece from yesterday’s I, for 21st August 2020. Written by Adam Sherwin, it reports the comments by the Beeb’s Fran Unsworth in an interview with the Torygraph that the corporation could axe the 6 O’clock and 10 O’clock News from its mainstream channels in a decade. The article runs

The BBC’s News At Six and News At Ten could disappear from television screens as the corporation’s coverage shifts to digital, its head of news has said.

Fran Unsworth said that a push to attract younger viewers meant that the BBC’s flagship bulletins could move from broadcast channels to the iPlayer within a decade.

Ms Unsworth said: “Ultimately, in 10 years’ time, we probably won’t be consuming linear bulletins. I might be wrong about that but I doubt it. There might be one (bulletin) a day, but video will just be in a different space… you know, iPlayer, your tablet, your iPhone.

One of the flagship bulletins, whose audiences have doubled during the pandemic, might survive, she told The Daily Telegraph.

Figures released at the start of lockdown showed news programmes’ ratings had risen.

In the week to 28 March, five of the 10 most-watched broadcasts were editions of the BBC News At Six, with the bulletin on 23 March attracting a TV audience of 8.3 million, nearly double its typical rating so far this year. The 10pm programme had reported audiences of six million.

But Ms Unsworth said that while young viewers had discovered the BBC delivered information they could trust during a crisis, the surge in TV news viewing was a temporary phenomenon.

The corporation has announced already that it will axe the Newsround afternoon bulletin, which has run for nearly 50 years.

The BBC is slashing more than 500 jobs from its news division in a bid to make savings of £80m. Reports and interviews will be shared between BBC outlets.

This is going to delight the Tories and the Murdoch empire, who would like to see the Beeb privatised completely. About 70 per cent of news consumed in the UK comes from the Beeb, and obviously Murdoch and his squalid minions would like to see this greatly reduced so that they can move in. And that means extremely biased right-wing news, like Fox in America. Or Sky News Australia, which is so right-wing it can only get further to the right by beginning with an evocation of the Eureka Stockade and calls for the reintroduction of the White Australia policy.

The Beeb is having trouble attracting a young audience. According to the reports I’ve read, they simply aren’t interested in it. And unless the corporation can find ways of attracting them, that means the Corporation won’t have an audience and so consequently, no future.

However, many young people have learned that the Beeb doesn’t produce information they can trust. Not after its constant, vicious smearing of Jeremy Corbyn and its blatant anti-Labour bias. And Scots viewers, I’ve no doubt, will remember how Nick Robinson very carefully edited down SNP leader Alex Salmond’s full answer to a question about the impact Scottish independence would have on Edinburgh’s financial sector. Salmond stated fully that they’d gone into it, and Edinburgh’s banks would remain in the Scots capital after independence. They wouldn’t leave for London. But this didn’t satisfy the Macclesfield Goebbels, and his answer was first cut so that Robinson claimed he hadn’t properly answered it, and then completely edited out so that he finally claimed that Salmond hadn’t answered it all. It was a piece of propaganda worthy of a totalitarian state. I realise that Salmond, despite his acquittal, is still under the shadow of the multiple rape accusations. But this is a different issue, and shows how desperate the Beeb and the British establishment were to discredit him when it came to Scotland leaving the union.

Millions have learned that the Beeb does not produce information they can trust. That’s why they’re turning to alternative news sources, like those on the Net.

I think it would be disastrous if the Beeb did abandon proper news bulletins on its broadcast channels, leaving that space to be filled by Murdoch and the other media magnates. I want it to get better, not to go completely. But through its concerted campaign against the Labour party, the Beeb has successfully alienated the very people, who would have otherwise supported it the most against Tory demands for its privatisation.

And so the Beeb has only itself to blame for the crisis it is now facing, whatever delusions Unsworth might have about winning back young people.

 

 

The British Class Room War and the Tory and Elite Feminist Promotion of Private Education

August 15, 2020

There’s massive outrage at the way the education authorities in England, Wales and Scotland have downgraded pupils’ marks according to a set a algorithms. This has unfairly affected the mass of these children, damaging the hopes of all-too many for a university education. In the poorer areas, according to an I headline yesterday, 36 per cent of students have been affected. This is despite the hard work, time and effort these children and their teachers have put in despite the lockdown and necessary school closures. Teachers are angry, students and their parents are angry, and the schools are protesting. The Scots are trying to correct their errors, but there’s been precious little from the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, except excuses and bluster. And only the mildest criticism from the useless Blairite leader of the Labour party, Keir Starmer.

Private Schools and the British Class System

But strangely, none of this downgrading has affected students at the elite private schools, like the Eton from which our clownish, mass-murdering prime minister Boris Alexander, DePfeffel Johnson and so many of his cronies and cabinet have attended. Mike has published a couple of excellent articles pointing out the class dimension to this marking down of the hoi polloi on their schools.

And he’s right. This isn’t accidental. The elite private schools are an intrinsic part of the British class system. They supply and educate this country’s elite, who heartily despise not just those below them, but the state schools that educate them.

Britain is one of the few country’s in Europe that has this devotion and the attendant promotion of elite private schools. It simply doesn’t exist in France and Germany, where most children, I believe, attend state schools. Private schools exist, but there isn’t the same cult surrounding them. There have at times been attempts to introduce it in Germany, but it’s failed. And a Fabian pamphlet on education I read in the 1980s stated that in France many pupils at private schools were there because, er, they were less intelligent than those at the state schools.

Some of this difference in attitude comes from the different history of education on the continent. In France following the French Revolution, there was a bitter conflict over schooling between the Church and the liberal, secularist authorities. This has been decided in favour of the latter, so that French republican society has an official policy of laicism – secularism. Germany also had its Kulturkampf with the Roman Catholic church in the 19th century over the Roman Catholic schools. But I think both countries, as well as Italy, had a very strong tradition of state support for schools and state or parish school provision. There was mass illiteracy in these countries in the 19th century, but I got the general impression that after the Napoleonic invasions where education was provided, it was through local school boards. In Britain education tended to remain a matter of private industry and provision. I’d also argue that the attitude that Eton and the rest of the private schools represent the acme of the British education system is actually only quite recent. Well into the 19th century wealthy children had a broader education at the grammar schools – the public schools were criticised for their narrow specialisation on the Classics – and bullying and brutality by the teachers was rife. The diet was also so poor that the pupils boarding there sometimes died of starvation. This changed after Matthew Arnold became the visionary headmaster at Rugby, and his massive improvement in the standards there and influence across elite private education.

There is, apparently, also a class divide in France in their secular, state education system. The children of the technocratic elite attend a set of similarly exclusive, but state-run schools, which are very difficult for someone outside that class to get into. This was part of the argument the Daily Heil advanced in favour of the British public school system in article back in the 1990s, when Eton and its fellows were coming under attack again as bastions of class privilege. According to this article, British public schools were superior because they developed in their pupils an independence of thought impossible in the French state system. This was roughly at the same time the journo Danny Danziger was interviewing old Etonians in his book, Eton Voices, who droned on about how wonder the old school was, praising it for its tolerance. How ideologically independent private school education is, is a highly questionable point. I’ve met a number of ex-public schoolboys who have rebelled against their upbringing and affected a very working class persona. But for the most part, since Arnold there has been a definite emphasis on moulding character – no bad thing in itself – and the existence of these schools and their very narrow class background is responsible for the maintenance of the British class system and all its attitudes against those further down the British social hierarchy.

Tory Hatred of State Education

And the Tories themselves hate state education. Some of us can still remember how they tried to part-privatise it in the 1980s by encouraging schools to leave the Local Education Authorities to become City Academies. That failed, and was quietly wound up. Until it was revived and expanded again by Blair and New Labour. And the Tories have continued, expanding the academy chains and even trying to bring back grammar schools to absolutely zero enthusiasm. I also remember the ignorant pronouncements of some Tory businessmen in the 1980s, who showed their own contempt for education. Pupils, according to these ignorant blowhards, should just be taught reading, writing and arithmetic. Nothing else was necessary, and they should then be sent out to work. But although it wasn’t said, they probably didn’t mean children from the upper and upper middle classes.

Elite Feminist Attacks on State Education

And part of the defence and promotion of elite private schools has come from ex-private schoolgirls arguing from feminism. There’s a reasonable point there, but it’s mixed up with much elite class ideology. And it includes the liberal, Blairite elite as well as Tories. Way back in the 1980s there were articles in the paper during the debate about girls’ education which pointed out that girls in single-sex schools had better grades than their sisters in mixed schools. Girls tended to be pushed into the background in school performance by boys. I don’t know if this has changed, but since then there has been a reversal in academic performance between the sexes. Girls have been outperforming boys for several years now, and the worse performing demographic are White working class boys. Despite this reversal, feminist arguments are still being used to defend what it basically class privilege. Single-sex schools are centres of female excellence, and away from boys, more girls take STEM subjects. So said an article by one of the female hacks in the I. I don’t doubt she’s right.

But this does create some very skewed attitude towards state education in ex-private schoolgirls. I came across about a decade ago when I studying for my Ph.D. at Bristol Uni. Passing through campus one day, I overhead two former private school inmates, who I think I had just met, who were overjoyed to find that they both had the same educational background. They were glad to find another you woman, who went to the same type of school. Which, one of them declared, was better than ‘the little woman thing they teach in state schools.’

What!

Not in my experience, nor my mother’s. I went to the local primary school, and my mother was a teacher in one of the other primary schools in Bristol. Mike and I were also lucky to get into a church school. This had been a grammar school, but was now a state-assisted comprehensive. And in none of them was there any teaching about the ‘little woman thing’. Now there was a debate within the education system at the time about gender and schooling. There was an article in an edition of Child Education about whether girls should be allowed to play with traditionally boys toys in school, like Meccano sets. But this debate, I think, has been settled a very long time ago. And I do remember that there was a positive attitude towards feminism amongst some of the staff at the Church school. I was in our house master’s office one day – I honestly can’t remember why, but I don’t think it was as a punishment for anything – when one of the women teachers came in. She had some materials on the Suffragettes she wanted to show him. ‘Ah, excellent!’ said the housemaster, ‘a bit of feminism!’

By  contrast, I’ve also come across teachers of both sexes, who in my opinion couldn’t teach boys. One of them was a male teacher, who gave sneers and put downs to the boys if they couldn’t answer questions or gave the wrong one, but was extremely encouraging to the girls. He clearly thought that girls needed gentle encouragement, while boys needed to be kept in line by shaming and humiliation. But it gave the impression he didn’t like teaching them. I’ve also come across some horror stories about the way girls have been treated in schools as well. Another story I heard back in the ’80s was about the headmaster of a London school, who immediately decided to divide the pupils into two classes, an ‘A’ and ‘B’. And all the boys ended up in ‘A’, and the girls in ‘B’. The headmaster, apparently, was Turkish, and this looks like the product of a traditionally Islamic cultural attitude to education. It was mostly definitely not common throughout the British state system and there were very loud complaints.

Blairite Feminism and Class Snobbery

My guess is that these skewed ideas about the sexism of state education are shared not just by Tories, but by Blairite liberals. The hacks writing in newspapers like the Groaniad and the I, although that’s technically non-aligned politically, seem to come from the same wealthy, privately educated class. And I think they share the same attitudes towards social class as the Tories, but argue for it from a liberal, feminist perspective. A few years ago the I carried a piece about a female Labour MP or activist, who was very definitely a Blairite. She commented on how male-dominated the old, trade union dominated Labour movement had been. And so we see the same attitude directed towards state education, by people, who have never once set foot in a state school except perhaps on an official visit.

Conclusion

Boris Johnson famously declared that every school should be like Eton. Well, every school could if it had the money spent on it Eton has. As for the academies, ditto. Once you account for the masses of money they have had spent on them, far in excess of the state sector, and the way they skew their results by excluding difficult and underperforming pupils, they are very definitely not better than state schools. See the book The great Academy Fraud for a very detailed discussion of their failings.

But ‘failing state schools’ is a nice mantra to justify the privatisation of the education system, even though one academy chain has gone down the toilet after the other. The Tories hate state education, and, in my opinion, will do anything to sabotage it. As will the Blairites.

And that includes deliberately marking down state school pupils, while awarding high marks and grades to the privately educated children of the elite.