Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category

From 25 years Ago #2: Tory Welsh Minister Suppresses Report on Poverty in Wales

January 26, 2020

Here’s another very revealing piece from the same Private Eye issue, 16 June 1995, that reported that John Birt had been seen in the company of Tory MPs touring the west Highlands of Scotland. The piece ‘For Richards or poorer’ in the ‘footnotes’ section of the satirical magazine described how the-then junior Welsh Minister for John Major’s Tory government, Rod Richard, had suppressed an official report into conditions in Wales because it showed that 30 per cent of the people in the rural parts of the principality were living in poverty. The article ran

When civil servants in Wales heard that a survey on English rural life was being carried out by a team headed by Professor Paul Cloke of University College, Lampeter, Wales, they decided to ask the professor is he would do a similar job for rural Wales.

The professor obliged. He and his team sent out 1,000 questionnaires with exactly the same questions they had sent to 3,000 people in England. The answers were analyzed and the report compiled in exactly the same way. The three sponsoring bodies – the Welsh Office, the Welsh Development Agency and the Development Board for Rural Wales – worked closely with Cloke’s team, and when the report was produced last year the Welsh office indicated that it would soon be published by the government, as the English report had been.

They reckoned without Rod “The Rod” Richards MP, the eccentric junior Welsh minister who learned his politics in the intelligence services. Richard was outraged when he read the report’s very mild conclusion that 30 per cent of the people of rural Wales are living in poverty.

The report wasn’t published and the Welsh office politely says: “We weren’t happy with the research.” Officials there are embarrassed by the truth – that Rod Richards regarded the whole exercise as communist propaganda.

The Tories have been suppressing official government reports revealing the poverty they’ve caused for a very long time. And this is having lethal consequences, as Mike has shown when he tried to get them to release the figures for the number of disabled people, who died having been declared fit for work. They stonewalled, appealed against his Freedom of Information Act request, and when they finally did release the figures, they were not quite those Mike had requested.

And they’re still withholding information. Or refusing to collect it. In a piece today, Mike talks about the statement by Tory Employment Minister Mims Davies that no impact assessments had been made into the effect of benefit sanctions on claimants. This is despite studies by Salford City Council, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and statements by charity officers, like Manzoor Ali, the director of Barakah Food Aid, that benefit sanctions are devastating and leaving claimants suicidal.

Ministers STILL won’t assess impact of benefit sanctions – in case it PROVES a link to suicide?

Their economic and welfare policies are creating mass poverty and driving people to suicide. But their only response is to continue lying and suppressing the truth.

‘I’: People Want Rough-Sleeping Law Scrapped

January 23, 2020

Here’s a piece of optimistic news from today’s I. Apparently the majority of people in this great nation want the laws against rough-sleeping repealed. The paper’s brief report on page 2 runs

More than half of people think that the Government should prioritise scrapping a law that makes rough sleeping illegal, according to a survey by a homelessness charity. Crisis has described the Vagrancy Act, which also makes begging illegal in England and Wales, as an ‘antiquated law’. 

The Vagrancy Act dates, if I remember correctly, from the 16th century when a massive economic downturn threw a large section of the population out of work. This was when European society was emerging from feudalism into the modern capitalist consumer economy. Capitalism suffers from periodic crises and recessions, though this was not known to the Elizabethans, who therefore struggled to find a solution. They attempted to tackle it by setting up the first workhouses and passing laws against vagrancy, which were intended to stop beggars from becoming a burden on what support there was from the parish vestry. Since the Tories introduced austerity, local authorities have also introduced their modern versions of the Vagrancy Act against rough sleeping and begging in certain areas, like town centres. This is intended to hide the ugly reality of Tory welfare cuts and neoliberal economic policy from the public, who might be distressed by the sight.

It’s great that people want these antiquated laws scrapped, but that’s not enough to tackle homelessness. The root cause – forty years of Thatcherite economics – needs to be tackled, as well as a solid commitment to building more genuinely affordable housing.

And I don’t see either of that happening under Boris’ government, no matter what charities and a majority of the public say.

‘I’: ‘Poor People Getting Sicker’

January 21, 2020

This morning’s I for 21st January 2020 has a piece by Joanna Crow reporting that poor people’s health is getting worse. She writes

Poor people in Britain have worse health than those born a century ago, a University College London study found.

More than 200,000 working age people in England, Wales and Scotland were asked to rate their overall health as part of the General Household Survey for 1979-2011.

The study created three-year “health” snapshots of the generations born between 1920-22 and 1968-70. 

The gaps between the richest and poorest households widened over time, with inequalities in the prevalence of long-term conditions doubling among women and by one-and-a-half times among men.

There should be absolutely no surprise whatsoever about this. Clinical studies have shown across the world that people’s health has deteriorated considerably since the introduction of austerity and the cuts to welfare, including state health provision following the 2008 crash. It’s why we still need to get the Tories out, and elect a leader of the Labour party someone who will actually strengthen the welfare state rather than continue the Thatcherite programme of dismantling it.

Sargon of Gasbag on How the Norf Went Tory

January 11, 2020

A few days ago Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin put up a video, in which he presented his idea of why the north of England and the midlands went Tory. It was based on a cartoon from 4chan’s Pol Board, and so presented a very caricatured view of the north. Sargon is the extreme right-winger, who personally did much to destroy UKIP simply by joining it. This ‘classical liberal’ – meaning libertarian – with his highly reactionary views on feminism and racism was too much even for the Kippers. His home branch of Swindon wanted him deselected when the party chose him as the second of their two MEP candidates for south-west England, and the Gloucestershire branch closed down completely. And according to Sargon, the ‘Norf’ went Tory because Blair turned the Labour party from the party of the working class throughout Britain into the party of the liberal metropolitan elite, and turned its attention away from class issues to supporting Islam, refugees, radical feminism and gay rights. This conflict with the social conservative values of working people, and particularly northern working people. As a result, they voted for Johnson, who had the same values they had.

The strip depicts the northern working class as Norf F.C., a local football team. They have their counterparts and rivals in Sowf F.C., a southern football team, and in the Welsh and Scots. The north is presented as a region of fat skinhead football hooligans, poorly educated, and suffering from scurvy and malnutrition, but who love their families, their communities and their country. In the strip’s view, these communities were traditionally Labour. But this changed with the election of Tony Blair, an Oxford educated lawyer, who took over the party. Under his aegis, it no longer was the party of the working class, but instead had a lower middle class membership. These were over-educated officer workers, who turned it towards Communism with the election of Jeremy Corbyn. They supported racism witchhunts, gay rights and flooding White communities with coloured immigrants, and were pro-EU. They despised natural, healthy patriotism. The result was that when Boris appeared, despite being an Etonian toff they recognised themselves in him. He would do something about Brexit and immigration, and would attack the radical left who support Muslim rape gangs and wanted to chop off their sons’ genitals. And who would also put the ‘bum boys’ in their place. It led to the massive defeat of the Labour party, and in particular ‘Communists’ like owen Jones and Ash Sarkar of Novara media.

I’m not going to show the video here, but if you want to see it for yourself, go to YouTube and search for ‘How the Norf Went Tory’, which is his wretched video’s title.

To Sargon, Corbyn is a friend of Hezbollah and Hamas, and to show how threatening the feminists and LGBTQ section of the Labour party he shows various radical feminists with T-shirts saying ‘White People Are Terrorists’ and a trans-activist with a baseball bat and the tattoo ‘Die Cis Scum’, referring to cis-gendered people – those who identify with their biological gender. The over-educated lower middle class people he sneers at are graduates of gender studies, who work in McDonalds, or have submitted to what he describes as ‘office serfdom’.

It’s very much a simplistic view, but there’s much truth in it as well as great deal of distortion. Let’s go through it.

The UKIP View of the North

Firstly, it represents very much the UKIP view of events. The academic study of UKIP, Revolt on the Right,  found that its members were poorly educated, working class people in the north. They had socially Conservative views, hated the European Union, resented immigration, particularly Black and Asian, and felt abandoned by the traditional parties. He is also right in identifying the change from working class representation to middle class representation with Blair’s leadership. Blair didn’t like the working class. He wanted to get the votes of the swing voters in marginal constituencies. As Sargon’s video acknowledges, he supported the neoliberalism that had devastated the northern economy and which made so many northerners hate the policy’s architect, Maggie Thatcher. Within the party, Blair sidelined working class organisations like the trade unions in favour of courting and recruiting business managers.

The Labour party was keen to represent Blacks and other ethnic minorities, women and gays due to its ideological commitment to equality. This policy became particularly important after Thatcher’s victory in 1979, when it appeared to some that the White working class had abandoned the party. I’ve also seen books published in the ’70s lamenting the right-ward movement within the Labour party due to its membership becoming increasingly middle class, so this trend actually predates Blair somewhat. However, it acquired a new importance under Blair because of the emphasis his administration place on BAME rights, feminism and gay rights. In my view, this was partly as an attempt to preserve some claim to radicalism and progressive values while abandoning socialism and the working class.

Sargon Doesn’t Understand Class and Communism

Sargon also doesn’t understand either what Communism is. He seems to believe in the rantings of the contemporary right that it’s all about identity politics and changing the traditional culture from above. That’s one form of Marxist politics coming from the ideas of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. But traditional, orthodox Marxism emphasised the importance of the working class and the class structure of society. Marx’s theory of Dialectical Materialism held that it was the economic base of society that defined ideology, not the other way around. Once the working class came into power and socialised the economy, the ideologies supported and created by capitalism would disappear. Gramsci’s ideas about changing ideology and culture became fashionable in left-wing circles because it was believed that the working class was actually in decline as society changed. Demographers noted that increasing numbers of people were becoming lower middle class. Hence the movement on the left towards that sector of society, rather than the traditional working class.

Corbyn More Politically Committed to Working Class

Yes, Corbyn also supported anti-racism, feminism and gay rights, but these had been key values of the left since the 1980s. I remember then how the Labour party and leading figures like Michael Foot and Ken Livingstone were vilified as Communists and Trotskyites, and how the party was caricatured as standing for Black lesbians. There were all those stories circulating in the Scum, for example, about how radical teachers in London schools had decided that ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ was racist, and insisted children sing ‘Baa Baa Green Sheep’ instead. Corbyn does come from a privileged background, but his views and the Labour manifesto are far more working class in the sense that they represent a return to traditional socialist economic policies than Blair’s. And certainly far more than Johnson’s and the Tories.

I have to admit that I’m one of the over-educated officer worker types Sargon sneers at. But I never did gender studies, not that I’m sneering at it or those who studied it. My first degree is in history. And I am very sure that most of the legions of graduates now trying to get any kind of paid work have a very wide variety degrees. I also think that many of them also come from the aspirant working class, who went into higher education in order to get on. Also, if you were interested or active in working class politics in the 1980s, you were exposed and took over the anti-racism and anti-sexism campaigns. Ben Elton was notorious as a left-wing comedian in the 1980s, but he defended the working class and ethnic minorities against the Tories.  It was not the case that the White working class was viewed with suspicion as a hotbed of racism, although sections of it, represented by such grotesques as Alf Garnet, certainly were. But it was that section of the working class that the Scum and the Tory party addressed, and so it’s now surprise that they see themselves represented by Boris.

Their belief in Boris is ultimately misplaced, however. Boris will betray them, just like he has betrayed everyone else.

He isn’t going to get Brexit done. He is going to continue with his privatisations, including that of the NHS, and dismantlement of the welfare state. The people in the northern and midlands communities that voted for him are going to find themselves still poor, and probably much poorer, under him.

But the lessons for Labour should be that there should be no return to Blairism. 

David Rosenberg and many other left-wing bloggers have argued from their own personal experience that the way of winning working class voters back to Labour and away from the far-right is through the hard work of knocking on doors and neighbourhood campaigning. This is what Blairism didn’t do. Jones showed in his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class that it was Blair that turned away and demonised them, and simply expected them to continue voting Labour as they didn’t have anywhere else to go. And it was the Blairites and Tories, who viewed the White working class as racist and vilified them as such. Although it also has to be said that they also courted them by appealing to their patriotism and their feeling of marginalisation in an increasingly multicultural society. And the fact that Jones took the trouble to attack this refutes Sargon’s attempt to present Jones as a ‘Communist’, who was against their interests.

Yes, you can find the misandrists, and the anti-White racists and extreme gay and trans rights activists in the Labour party. But they’re an unrepresentative minority, who are going to be controversial even in their own small circles. Attempts by the Tories to magnify their influence are deliberately deceptive in order to stop people from believing that the Labour party means to do anything for ordinary working people. Just as Sargon has tried to do in his video.

Winning back the working class from Boris does not mean a return to Blair and attempting to turn the party into the Conservatives 2.0. But it does mean returning to working class activism, representation and continuing to support real policies to benefit the working class, whether Black, White or Brown, Christian, atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or whatever.

And that has to be a return to genuine socialism.

English History through the Broadside Ballad

December 24, 2019

A Ballad History of England: From 1588 to the Present Day, by Roy Palmer (London: BT Batsford 1979).

From the 16th century to the 20th, the broadside ballad was part of the popular music of British working people. They were written on important topics of the day, and printed and published for ordinary people. They would be sung by the ballad sellers themselves while hawking their wares. This book is a collection of popular ballads, assembled and with introductory notes by the folklorist Roy Palmer. It begins with the song ‘A Ioyful New Ballad’ from 1588 about the Armada, and ends with ‘The Men Who Make The Steel’ from 1973 about the steelworkers’ strike. Unlike the earlier songs, it was issued as a record with three other songs in 1975. The ballads’ texts are accompanied by sheet music of the tunes to which they were sung. Quite often the tunes used were well-known existing melodies, so the audience were already familiar with the music, though not the new words which had been fitted to them.

The ballads cover such important events in English and wider British history as a Lincolnshire witch trial; the draining of the fens; the Diggers, a Communist sect in the British Civil War; Oak Apple Day, celebrating the narrow escape of Charles II from the Parliamentarians in 1660; the defeat of the Monmouth Rebellion; the execution of Jacobite rebels in 1715; the South Sea Bubble; Dick Turpin, the highwayman; the Scots defeat at Culloden; emigration to Nova Scotia in Canada; Wolfe’s capture of Quebec; the enclosures; the Birmingham and Worcester Canal; the 18th century radical and advocate for democracy, Tom Paine; the mechanisation of the silk industry; the establishment of income tax; the death of Nelson; the introduction of the treadmill in prison; the Peterloo Massacre and bitter polemical attacks against Lord Castlereagh; Peel’s establishment of the police; body snatching; the 1834 New Poor Law, which introduced the workhouse system; poaching; the 1839 Chartist meeting at Newport; Queen Victoria’s marriage to Albert; Richard Oastler and the factory acts; the repeal of the Corn Laws; Bloomers; the construction of the Oxford railway; Charles Dickens visit to Coketown; the Liverpool Master Builders’ strike of 1866; agitating for the National Agricultural Union of farmworkers; the introduction of the Plimsoll line on ships; an explosion at Trimdon Grange colliery in County Durham; a 19th century socialist song by John Bruce Glasier, a member of the William Morris’ Socialist League and then the ILP; the Suffragettes; soldiers’ songs from the Boer War and the First World War; unemployed ex-servicemen after the War; the defeat of the General Strike; the Blitz; Ban the Bomb from 1958; and the Great Train Robbery. 

It also includes many other songs from servicemen down the centuries commemorating the deaths of great heroes and victories; and by soldiers, sailors and working people on land protesting against working conditions, tax, and economic recessions and exorbitant speculation on the stock markets. Some are just on the changes to roads, as well as local disasters.

This is a kind of social history, a history of England from below, apart from the conventional point of view of the upper or upper middle class historians, and shows how these events were viewed by tradesmen and working people. Not all the songs by any means are from a radical or socialist viewpoint. The ballad about Tom Paine is written against him, though he was a popular hero and there were also tunes, like the ‘Rights of Man’ named after his most famous book, celebrating him. But nevertheless, these songs show history as it was seen by England’s ordinary people, the people who fought in the navy and army, and toiled in the fields and workshops. These songs are a balance to the kind of history Michael Gove wished to bring in a few years ago when he railed against children being taught the ‘Blackadder’ view of the First World War. He’d like people to be taught a suitably Tory version of history, a kind of ‘merrie England’ in which Britain is always great and the British people content with their lot under the benign rule of people like David Cameron, Tweezer and Boris. The ballads collected here offer a different, complementary view.

The Election: It’s Due to Brexit and Smears, Not Rejection of Labour Policy

December 14, 2019

As I’m sure everyone following this blog knows, the Tories won Thursday’s election. I had a horrible feeling they would, because despite Labour’s excellent manifesto and the polls showing that support for the Labour party had risen so that they were close behind them, the Tories are masters of deception. They’ve had the mass media, almost without exception, lying to the electorate for the last ten years. And I was afraid people would believe Johnson’s lies when he said he was going to build 40 new hospitals, recruit more coppers and nurses. All demonstrable lies, but people believe them. Just as they believed the lies put out by Thatcher and Major when their reforms were causing mass unemployment, poverty and misery, and ruining the Health Service. But I was unprepared for the extent of the Tory victory. They now have a majority of 78 seats.

Like very many people, I felt extremely bitter and angry, and spent yesterday trying not to think about politics, though it was inevitable. And now I’m ready to start analysing and making sense of this mess.

Martin Odoni has already written a very good piece about it, which is well worth reading. He argues that the result had zip to do with the public rejecting Labour’s manifesto, and everything to do with Brexit. He writes

It is absolutely self-evident, and was even so as the results were unfolding, that the biggest factor in the outcome by a country mile was Brexit. At almost every turn where Labour’s support had slumped, a similar number of votes had been claimed by the Brexit Party, by the Tories, or by a combination of the two – the two parties that are most rigorously pursuing British departure from the European Union. Most of Labour’s lost support was in traditional working class territory in the north of England, the north of Wales, and the Midlands, and most particularly in areas where there was a high Leave vote in the 2016 Referendum.

Now, I have no doubt Corbyn was a factor in some voters’ rejection of Labour – no politician will be everybody’s cup of tea. And given how brutally and relentlessly he has been smeared by the media, including many supposedly ‘left-leaning’ periodicals, there can be no doubt that the wider public’s view of Corbyn has been unfairly coloured. But the general results do not offer any specific evidence of a rejection of Labour’s policy platform as a whole. The shift was very definitely Leavers, with their maddening tunnel-visioned obsession with Brexit, moving to parties boasting their determination to ‘Get Brexit done’.

Either way, a personal objection to Corbyn does not constitute an objection to his policies. When discussing the Labour Manifesto, people were usually very enthused – Labour’s polling numbers did improve substantially rather than deteriorate after it was launched – just as they had been in 2017. On that occasion, Labour scored forty per cent of the vote, and it seems unlikely that huge numbers have suddenly reversed that position.

Absolutely. When Labour were mooting their new policies – of renationalising the NHS, and taking water, electricity and the railways back into public ownership – the polls showed that the public largely supported them. Which is why the Tories and the mass media had to fall back to smearing Corbyn personally with the false accusations of anti-Semitism and that he was some kind of Communist, IRA-supporting threat. Also, analysis of the grassroots membership of UKIP also showed that they’re largely in favour of nationalising the public utilities. What they don’t like is the EU, immigration and the new morality – the acceptance of the LGBTQ community. UKIP always was much smaller than the impression given by the media, and collapsed when it spectacularly failed to win any seats at the last election. The reasonable, or at least, less bonkers section of its membership went over to Fuhrage’s Brexit party, which has now also collapsed.

I conclude from this that it’s not Labour’s manifesto that’s the problem, despite Piers Morgan and the rest of the media and Tory establishment, including the Labour right, all claiming that it’s ‘far left’. It isn’t, and never was. It’s properly centrist in the true Labour tradition of a mixed economy.

I also think it would be difficult for the Labour to win under the circumstances. The anti-Semitism smears began when the Jewish Ed Miliband was elected leader. He was far more moderate than Corbyn, but dared to utter a mild criticism of Israel and so was subjected to a storm of smears. And Maureen Lipman flounced out of the party for the first time. Corbyn was then subjected to further smears and abuse for his support of the Palestinians – which does not equal anti-Semitism nor even a hatred of Israel, except in the minds of the ultra-Zionist fanatics. This was pushed by the media and the Conservative Jewish establishment, as well as the Labour right. They also misrepresented his work helping to negotiate peace in Northern Ireland as support for terrorism and the IRA. Oh yes, and he’s also supposed to be a supporter of Islamist terrorism. There’s also a nasty touch of racism in some of the other reasons I’ve heard for people not giving him their support. I’ve been told that Labour are in favour of open borders, and would flood the country with immigrants. Diane Abbott is also bitterly hated, and among the sneers I’ve heard thrown at the Labour leader is the accusation that he had an affair with her. Well, he might have, but that’s his own business and doesn’t affect his policies or how he intends to govern. Abbott is perceived by many as anti-White. I remember the quotation the Scum attributed to her in the 1987 general election ‘All White people are racist’. I don’t know if she really said it, but I doubt she believes it now. She’s friends with Michael Portillo, so I don’t think she regards him as racist. But her continuing anti-racism means that she is perceived by some as anti-White. And this also extends to Corbyn through their close professional relationship. And then there are the antics of the Labour right and their determination to bring Corbyn down through splits, rumours of splits,  right-wing female Labour MPs trying to claim that he’s a misogynist and the endless lying and partisanship of the media.

It reminded me very much of the elections in the 1980s and the abuse and smears hurled at the Labour leaders Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock. Labour lost those elections, and Lobster has published a number of articles explaining how, under the circumstances, it would have been difficult for Labour to win.

But I don’t believe that we should give up hope just yet.

Labour’s manifesto was popular. People do want a return to the old social democratic consensus of a welfare state, mixed economy, and nationalised NHS. Prviatisation hasn’t worked, services are still crumbling and Boris will soon show how empty his promises about building hospitals and putting more money into the Health Service are. It’s just that, for the people who voted Tory in the north and midlands, Brexit took precedence.

And I feel that Corbyn has also given people hope. Before Corbyn’s election, I was extremely pessimistic about the survival of the NHS because all of the parties were participating in its privatisation. But Corbyn showed that its privatisation was not inevitable, at least at the hands of Labour. Which is no doubt partly the reason why the Labour Thatcherites are now queuing up to blame him for the election defeat. I do feel very strongly that Corbyn has set a very firm basis for a future Labour party to build on and grow from here, provided it finds a suitable successor.

I do not want another Blair.

Also, my guess is that this defeat will also make the true Labour supporters more determined. Always remember: an animal is most dangerous when it is cornered. I’ve heard tweets from people calling for new, more aggressive forms of resistance like the occupation of Jobcentres. And these will come. People will think up new ways of getting Labour’s message across.

And Boris hasn’t and won’t solve this country’s problems. Sooner or later some people, at least, will have to realise what I sham and a fraud the Tories are.

Let’s make it sooner.

Labour Party: 16 Year Olds Should Have Vote in EU Referendum

December 10, 2019

Last Saturday’s I also said that Corbyn has promised to extend the vote to 16 year olds in a future EU referendum. The article, by Harriet Line, ran

Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed that he would want voters aged 16 and older to be able to take part in an EU referendum under Labour.

“You ask about people voting in the referendum. We have been very clear from our previous manifesto, as well as this one, that we will lower the voting age to 16 as we think that’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Sixteen-year-olds already vote in Scotland and in Wales, and we think that should be extended across the whole of the UK. I see absolutely no complications in that at all.”

Speaking at a press conference in London he added: “It’s young people’s future that’s at stake here. Let them take part in that discussion and in that debate. We will be doing that as a priority in a Labour government.”

I realise the extension of the franchise to 16 year olds was controversial when it was introduced in Scotland. Many argued that young people of that age were too young and inexperienced to have the responsibility of voting for their government. Against that is the argument that the parties have been trying to overcome voter apathy by appealing to school students and trying to get them interested and enthusiastic about politics. Part of the rejection against the lowering of the voting age in Scotland came from the Tories, who objected to it because young people up there were more nationalistic, and so more likely to vote SNP, than their elders. In Britain generally, young people are also more likely to support remaining in the EU. Support for UKIP, and now, I suppose, the Brexit party, is strongest amongst the over 50s.

But the Labour party is right. The question of EU membership directly affects young people’s future, and so it is entirely right that they should have the vote for it.

And it also shows that Labour is serious about extending democracy, unlike the Lib Dems, who seem to have thrown out John Stuart Mill and his concern with political and joined the Tories in wanting to keep effective power restricted to a very narrow elite.

The Tories’ Brexit Cover-Up on Northern Ireland

December 9, 2019

It wasn’t a good weekend for the Tories. For one thing, Jeremy Corbyn used leaked Treasury documents to show that the Tories were covering up the effects Brexit would have on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. This was reported in the I in the article ‘Corbyn accuses Tories of Brexit cover-up’ by Hugo Gye. This ran

Jeremy Corbyn has accused the Conservatives of trying to hide the true effects of their Brexit deal, claiming it would put a border in the Irish Sea despite Boris Johnson’s denials.

The Tories insisted Labour is indulging in “wild conspiracy theories” after the party produced leaked Treasure documents on the implications of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The new Brexit deal puts Northern Ireland in a different customs and regulatory regime from the rest of the UK. The Prime Minister has told Northern Irish business leaders that if they are asked to fill in forms when transporting goods to or from Breat Britain, they should “throw that form in the bin.”

But the Treasury documents say: “Exit summary declarations will be required when goods are exported from NI to GB.” It adds that the Government “will need to balance the benefits of unfettered access against the risks of reduced control over imports”.

The dossier adds that increased friction on trade across the Irish Sea will increase the price of high street goods and hit business profits. It is the equivalent of imposing tariffs on 30 per cent of all purchases in Northern Ireland, officials wrote.

Mr Corbyn said: “For trade going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain the Government cannot rule out regulatory checks, rules of origin checks and animal and public health checks.

“And for trade going the other way from Great Britain to Northern Ireland there will be all of the above plus, potentially damaging tariffs. This drives a coach and horses through Boris Johnson’s claim that there will be no border in the Irish Sea. It’s simply not true.”

Asked about the leak, Mr Johnson said: “I haven’t seen the document you are referring to but that’s complete nonsense.

“What I can tell you is that with the deal we have, we can come out as one whole UK – England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, together.”

His own ministers have previously admitted that some form of checks will be needed on goods crossing the Irish Sea. 

So the Treasury predicts that there will have to be customs checks for goods going to and from Northern Ireland, despite the Tories’ assurances to their DUP allies that this wouldn’t happen. And there is the danger of a 30 per cent rise in the cost of goods in the Six Counties. And, note, Boris has offered absolutely no evidence to back up his denial that this will occur.

It’s more waffle from a waffling, mendacious, deceitful government, and a party, which has done so much to break up the centuries-old union between England, Scotland, Wales and Ulster.

Corbyn is right, and is the right man if anyone is, for sorting out Brexit and creating a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. A peace that has been thrown into grievous jeopardy by Brexit and the Tories.

Jeremy Corbyn Denounces Universal Credit at Bangor University in Wales

December 8, 2019

Please hold your noses for this, as it’s a video from the Torygraph. It’s of part of speech Corbyn made at Bangor University in Wales in which the Labour leader denounces Universal Credit, pledges not to sell off the NHS, make Social Care universally available, bring the utilities back into public ownership, give remote communities broadband internet, and compensate WASPI women. And the pride with which he describes his announcement that the Labour party would end Universal Credit in Iain Duncan Smith’s own constituency is a direct challenge to the wretched policy’s architect. The Labour leader begins

In 2010 a political choice was made. They could have invested for the future. Instead, they decided to cut for the present and damage the life chances of a whole generation of people all across the UK. And that austerity started off with Universal Credit being rolled out. Universal Credit, which is cruel in the way it operates, brutal in the way it does PIP assessments, Work Assessments, the way in which it does not give support to children in larger families…

I was very proud to go to Chingford and Woodford Green in the northeast of London, a constituency represented by Iain Duncan Smith and announce a Labour government will end Universal Credit. This is greeted with applause.

You can’t cut your way to prosperity! You invest your way to prosperity! And there’s no more important investment than investing in young people, children and the next generation. And that is what – applause – and that is what I want our Labour government to do. More applause.

Under Labour our NHS is not for sale to anybody… I want Social Care available for everybody all across the UK and I’ll save this today(?) to make that available. Applause.

Our manifesto here, this wonderful red book, I’ve got two red books, one in which I write my memoirs, notes and speeches,  and this one is the manifesto – they’re actually much the same thing really….

We, the Labour government, will compensate the WASPI women. Applause.

I’ll give you an example. Less than 18 hours after he’d become Prime Minister he came to parliament to make a statement and announced there were going to be 40 new hospitals. I was very impolite and asked him where they were going to be. Corbyn then imitates Johnson’s blustering manner, saying there’s no answer to that, old boy, it’s not possible, how can I possibly know…

A Labour government will be one that will empower people but will also ensure that public ownership comes back for rail, mail and water, the national grid,  and that we will – applause – we will invigorate poor and remote communities by broadband to every part of the UK within 10 years. 

These are great policies which will make this country a better, more prosperous and more equal place. A place were it’s people will get the health and social care they need and deserve, women the pensions they should have had, if it weren’t for the Tories, and an end to the austerity that has killed 130,000 people at minimum.

And against that the Tories are offering just more poverty, privatisation, starvation and misery, but are trying to deny this with smears and lies.

Get them out, and Corbyn in!

Private Eye’s Demolition of Cameron’s Book about His Government

December 1, 2019

Way back at the beginning of October, our former comedy Prime Minister, David Cameron, decided to give us all the benefit of his view of his time in No. 10 with the publication of his book, For The Record by William Collins. The review of it in Private Eye was not kind. Reading it, it appears that Cameron was deeply concerned to present a rosy, highly optimistic view of his years as Prime Minister. His was a government that gave Britain prosperity and growth, and had improved conditions in the NHS. The current, wretched economic and political situation is all due to everyone else, not him. It’s entirely false, as the Eye’s review made abundantly clear, citing Cameron’s book again and again as it he tries to claim success in tackling an issue, only to show the present grim reality and how Johnson actually made it all worse with Brexit.

The review, titled ‘Shed tears’, in the magazine’s issue for 4th – 17th October, runs

John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln at a Washington theatre inspired the quip: “Apart from that, Mrs, Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” David Cameron’s autobiography leaves the reader asking: “Apart from Brexit, Mr Cameron, how did you enjoy being prime minister?”

“I liked it,” he declares, and so should we. At 800 pages, this account of his generally tedious career – apart from Brexit – is only 200 pages shorter than Churchill’s Second World War memoirs. Indeed, Dave may have originally matched Winston, for the Mail reported his publishers cut 100,000 words from the manuscript.

The verbose special pleading William Collins so sadistically allowed to survive tries to anesthetise readers into accepting that – apart from Brexit – they should applaud his playing at being prime minister too.

When Cameron stood for leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, he recalls, “Everyone said that I was too young. That I had no ministerial experience.” Instead of worrying that a gentleman amateur would lead the country to perdition, we should have rejoiced. “However new and inexperienced” he was, young Cameron saw himself “inheriting the mantle of great leaders like Peel, Disraeli, Salisbury and Baldwin.”

In 2010, with the world in crisis, he followed his illustrious predecessors and produced one of the “most stable and I would argue, most successful governments anywhere in Europe”. That Brexit has subsequently produced a paralysed parliament, culture war without end in England, the highest support for Welsh independence ever recorded, a revitalised Scottish National Party and a clear and present danger to the peace in Ireland must be someone else’s fault.

Only Ukraine is a less stable European country now. Not that Cameron can admit it. The Brexit referendum was “a sore confronted”, he says, as if he were a doctor who had healed wounds rather than a quack who had opened them. His greatest regret is for himself, not his country. “I lament my political career ending so fast,” he sighs. Brexit ensured that he went from private citizen to national leader to private citizen again in 15 years. “I was a former prime minister and a retired MP at the age of 49.”

He shouldn’t despair. His work experience on the British now completed, Cameron could be ready to hold down a real job should one come his way.

As for his supposed successes, in his own terms he would have a point – were it not for Brexit. “When I became prime minister my central task was turn the economy around,” he says. Now the British Chambers of Commerce reports that companies are living through the longest decline in investment in 17 years. He left Downing Street in 2016 “with the economy growing faster than any other in the G7”, Cameron continues, showing that whatever else he learnt at Eton, it wasn’t humility. The UK is now bottom of the G7 growth table, while the governor of the Bank of England is warning a crash out could shrink GDP by 5.5 per cent.

By the time Brexit forced his resignation, “hospital infections, mixed-sex wards and year-long waits for operations were off the front pages.” In the very week his book appeared, patients were preparing as best they could for a no deal Brexit cutting off drug supplies, while NHS trusts were wondering what would happen to the 8 percent of health and social care staff they recruit from the EU.

“It was clear to me that reasserting Britain’s global status would be one of our biggest missions in government,” Cameron says of the premiership, while failing to add that the Britain he left was both a warning and laughing stock to the rest of the world.

Regrets? Come off it. “One of the core ideas of my politics,” Cameron tells those readers who survive the long march through his pages,m “is that our best days are ahead of us and not behind us, I don’t think Brexit should alter it.” The bloody fool does not realise his best days are behind him  and he (and the rest of us) have nothing to show for them – apart from Brexit.

It’s not the comprehensive demolition that Cameron’s mendacious book deserves. It hasn’t just been Brexit that’s caused mass poverty, starvation, despair and misery to Britain. It was the policies he and his government both inherited from New Labour, and ramped up and added a few of their own. He continued the Thatcherite policy of the destruction of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS, as well as the wage freeze and pushing zero-hours and short term contracts. As well as allowing firms to make their workers nominally self-employed, so they don’t have to give them things like sick pay, holidays or maternity leave. Thanks to his policies, as continued by Tweezer and then Boris, a quarter of a million people have to rely on food banks for their daily bread, 14 million people are in poverty and an estimated number of 130,000 people have died after being found ‘fit for work’ by the DWP.

As for the tone of lofty self-assurance with which Cameron makes his assertions, that can only come from someone, who has enjoyed immense privilege throughout his life, and never suffered uncertainty due to the advantages bestowed by his background. He got a job at Buckingham Palace, remember, because they actually rang him up and asked for him. Thatcher’s former Personal Private Secretary, Matthew Parris, in his book Great Parliamentary Scandals observes that MPs, contrary to received wisdom, are not polished all rounders. Rather they are more likely to be the lonely boy at school. They have huge, but fragile egos due to the respect the public gives them tempered with the humiliation they receive at the hands of the whips and the awareness of how little power they really have. All the decisions are made by the Prime Minister. Parris’ own career as a cabinet minister came to a sharp end when he sent a rude reply to a letter sent to the former Prime Minister. Clearly, Cameron himself has never suffered, or appears not to have, from any kind of personal or professional uncertainty. He’s always been supremely confident in his own ability, choices and decisions. It’s this arrogance that has caused so much suffering to the country and its working people. But he certainly hasn’t suffered the consequences. Instead of trying to do something about the mess he created with Brexit, he left it for others to do so. And we’re still grappling with that problem nearly four years later.

Cameron’s was the start of a series of Tory governments that have actually left this country far worse than Tony Blair’s administration. Blair was determined to sell off the NHS, but he kept it well funded and he had some success in tackling poverty. It was the Tories who massively expanded the use of food banks instead of giving the disabled, unemployed and poor the state support they needed.

Cameron’s book is therefore one mass of self-delusion and lies. As have all the statements about how well the country is doing from his successors. Don’t vote for them. Vote for Corbyn instead.