Posts Tagged ‘Archbishop of Canterbury’

Schools Display and Document Folder on the 1920s General Strike

March 13, 2017

The General Strike: Jackdaw No.l05, compiled by Richard Tames (London, New York and Toronto: Jackdaw Publications Ltd, Grossman Publishers Inc., and Clarke, Irwin and Company 1972)

I picked this up about 20 years ago in one of the bargain bookshops in Bristol’s Park Street. Jackdaw published a series of folders containing reproduction historical texts and explanatory posters and leaflets on variety of historical topics and events, including the Battle of Trafalgar, the slave trade, the voyages of Captain Cook, Joan of Arc, the Anglo-Boer War, the rise of Napoleon, Ned Kelley and Wordsworth. They also published another series of document folders on specifically Canadian themes, such as the Indians of Canada, the Fenians, Louis Riel, Cartier of Saint Malo, the 1867 confederation of Canada, the vote in Canada from 1791 to 1891, the Great Depression, Laurier, and Canada and the Civil War.

This particular folder is on the 1926 general strike, called by the TUC when the Samuel Commission, set up to report into the state of the mining industry, published its report. This recommended that the mines should be reorganised, but not nationalised, and although the miners were to get better working conditions and fringe benefits, they would have to take a pay cut. The folder included a poster giving a timeline of the strike and the events leading up to it, and photos of scenes from it, including volunteer constables practising self-defence, office girls travelling to work by lorry, the Conservative prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, and buses and train signal boxes staffed by volunteers. There’s also a Punch cartoon commenting on the end of the Strike. It also contains a leaflet explaining the various documents in the folder, along suggested projects about the issue and a short bibliography.

Poster and timeline of the Strike

Leaflet explaining the documents

The facsimile documents include

1. A leaflet arguing the Miner’s case.

2. Telegram from the Transport and General Workers’ Union to a local shop steward, calling for preparations for the strike.

3. Pages from the Daily Worker, the official paper of the T.U.C. during the Strike.

4. Notice from the Met calling for special constables.

5. Communist Party leaflet supporting the Strike.

6. Handbill giving the proposals of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the leaders of the Free Churches for an end to the Strike.

7. Handbill denouncing the strike as ‘The Great ‘Hold-Up’.
The accompanying pamphlet states that this was very far from the truth, and that it was a government lie that the T.U.C. were aiming at a revolution.

8. Emergency edition of the Daily Express.

9. Conservative PM Stanley Baldwin’s guarantee of employment to strike-breakers.

10. Contemporary Analysis of the causes of the Strike’s failure, from the Public Opinion.

11. The British Gazette, the government’s official paper, edited by Winston Churchill.

12. Anonymous letter from a striker recommending that the T.U.C. shut off the electricity.

13. Appeal for aid to Miner’s wives and dependents.

14. Protest leaflet against Baldwin’s ‘Blacklegs’ Charter’.

The General Strike was one of the great events of 20th century labour history, and its collapse was a terrible defeat that effectively ended revolutionary syndicalism and guild socialism as a major force in the labour movement. It left a legacy of bitterness that still persists in certain areas today.

The jackdaw seems to do a good job of presenting all sides of the issue, and the final section of the explanatory leaflet urges children to think for themselves about it. And one of the folder’s features that led me to buy it was the fact that it contained facsimile reproductions of some of the papers, flyers, letters and telegrams produced by the strikers arguing their case.

Looking through the folder’s contents it struck me that the strike and the issues it raised are still very much relevant in the 21 century, now almost a century after it broke it. It shows how much the Tories and the rich industrialists were determined to break the power of the unions, as well as the sheer hostility of the press. The Daily Express has always been a terrible right-wing rag, and was solidly Thatcherite and anti-union, anti-Labour in the 1980s. Since it was bought by Richard Desmond, apparently it’s become even more virulently right-wing and anti-immigrant – or just plain racist – than the Daily Heil.

The same determination to break their unions, and the miners in particular, was shown by Thatcher during the Miner’s Strike in the 1980s, again with the solid complicity of the media, including extremely biased and even falsified reporting from the BBC. It was her hostility to the miners and their power which partly led Thatcher to privatise and decimate the mining industry, along with the rest of Britain’s manufacturing sector. And these attitudes have persisted into the governments of Cameron and May, and have influenced Tony Blair and ‘Progress’ in the Labour party, who also bitterly hate the unions and anything that smacks of real working class socialism.

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Vox Political: Public Sides with Archbishop of Canterbury against Scrooge Farage

December 29, 2016

This story adds one piece more to the pile of evidence screaming out how thoroughly, grottily mean-spirited Nigel Farage is. On Christmas Day, Rev. Justin Welby, the current archbishop of Canterbury, tweeted the following message:

“Jesus came to us homeless and in a manger. This Christmas, please pray with me for the poor, hungry and homeless, here and abroad.”

This was too much for Farage, who tweeted back

“Merry Christmas! Ignore all negative messages from the Archbishop of Canterbury and have a great day!”

As a result, a social media campaign has been launched, where users of the site have been posting messages supporting the Archbishop under the hashtag #ImWithJustinWelby”.

Mike speculates that this may be part of a sea change against the various rightwing windbags like Farage and, indeed, the entire Tory cabinet, who have been promoted by their parties far beyond their meagre abilities, and have been responsible for making 2016 the dire mess it has been.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/29/imwithjustinwelby-and-against-nigel-farage-who-in-their-right-mind-wouldnt-be/

You actually begin to wonder what kind of society the Tories and ultra-Tories like UKIP have created, when a politico like Farage finds the Archbishop’s message offensive or controversial. Christian religious leaders and laypeople have been exhorting their co-religionists to remember the poor at this time of year since, well, actually since Charles Dickens first invented the modern Christmas way back in the 19th century with A Christmas Carol. The story was a piece of deliberate social engineering by the great novelist. Dickens was appalled by the poverty he saw in the Britain of his time – hence the term ‘Dickensian’, because of the care he took to describe it. Dickens felt that part of the solution to this problem would be to re-awaken the Christian conscience through stressing the spirit of generous charity at this festival. It was his rebuttal to the sentiments he puts in Scrooge’s mouth, about the poor finding relief from starvation through prison or the workhouse.

But this very traditional Christmas message – which has been repeated just about every year since Dickens effectively revived and reinvented its celebration in Britain – is now seen by the Fuhrage as some kind of dangerous moralistic ploy to spoil everyone’s fun. It isn’t. It’s inclusive. It’s about sharing the fun around, to combat poverty and social alienation.

And Britain might now be a largely secular society, but many atheists and secular people would agree with central point of the Archbishop’s message: that as the nation settles down to enjoy itself, it should also remember those less fortunate than themselves.

Farage’s reaction to the Archbishop’s message also shows how used the Tories are to automatically attacking any comment about social conditions from the Church. Ever since the Anglican church issued the first of a series of reports in the 1970s condemning the Tory party for increasing poverty in Britain, the Tories have been sneering and attacking them in their turn. There’s even a wretched blog, Cranmer, which states that it has been set up to support all rightwing Christians, particularly Anglicans, now that the Anglican clergy are turning to politics. The Tories’ reaction to such comments has now become instinctive. As soon as a senior clergyman dares to point out that poverty still haunts Britain, even in such a mild, inoffensive and entirely non-controversial form as the Archbishop’s Christmas tweet, someone like Farage has to stand up and denounce it.

And so, in the spirit of selfish greed and indulgence, we have Farage demanding that everyone should ignore the poor and homeless, and concentrate on stuffing themselves.

His statement also shows up another glaring moral fault in UKIP in the party’s attitude to immigration and non-Whites. Despite what the Fuhrage has said, his party is full of racist bigots, Islamophobes and White supremacists, who see Blacks and Asians as a dangerous threat to the British way of life and morality. But over Christmas, a number of Asian take-aways and restaurants have shown far more of the Christmas spirit than Farage. Mike put up a story about a fish and chip shop in Brum, run by two Asian brothers, which was going to supply free meals to the homeless and elderly on Christmas Day. I also heard that some of the Asian restaurants were also going to do likewise in Cheltenham. This spirit wasn’t confined to the Asian community – other hostelries, like a pub in Glastonbury, were also doing the same. I’m not here claiming that Blacks or Asians are any more virtuous than Whites. But the simple fact that so many Asian restaurants were doing so amply demonstrates that the obvious isn’t automatically true either. It shows how bigoted UKIP are, and their lack of compassion for society as a whole.

A few years ago one of the TV companies ran a show which adopted an interesting take on the issue of immigration. The show worked on the principle of ‘one in, one out’. Every week, the presenters gave the case for letting a particular person into the country, and canvased their viewers on who they’d like to see deported. One of those the great British public wanted to see thrown out of the country by a very long margin, according to Private Eye, was the editor of rabidly xenophobic Daily Mail, Paul Dacre. I think we should adopt the same attitude here. The Archbishop should be fully supported, and everyone who gave their time, money or other help to the poor and homeless at Christmas needs to stay, regardless of their ethnic or religious origins. Nigel Farage, however, must go.

Farage is Scrooge. Deport him now!

Vox Political on Tory Outcry against RMT Chief for Stating They Should Be Killed for Murdering the Poor

February 3, 2016

Mike has this story over at Vox Political surrounding the outcry the Tories have raised against the comments by the senior assistant general secretary of RMT, Steve Hedley, on a debate on LBC hosted by Shelagh Fogarty: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/03/rmt-chiefs-demand-for-execution-of-tories-for-murdering-sparks-anger-against-him/. Hedley was justifiably outraged by the number of disabled people, who have died due to their welfare cuts. He declared the Tories were murdering them, and that for this they should be taken out and shot.

Mike makes the point that the ensuing outcry is the reason he won’t allow similar demands or recommendations of violence against the Tories on his blog, for the reason that the Tories would use it to drown out the main message – that their wretched welfare reforms are killing the disabled – and use it as an excuse to attack it.

He’s right. When faced with any really tough rhetoric, the Tories immediately claim victimhood and whine, bitch and moan. In their minds, they represent dignified civil discourse against the slovenly manners, fecklessness and hooliganism of the Great Unwashed. And they are always, always unjustly maligned by thuggish opponents. Even when the reverse is true. And their welfare benefits are killing people, and reducing those in genuine need to utter poverty. Mike on Vox Political, Stilloaks, Jayne Linney and other disability bloggers have catalogued the various deaths that have resulted.

I actually wonder how the Tories would react if they were faced with really forthright criticism. Such as, for example, from the pen of Hunter S. Thompson, the journalist and author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Thompson was the inventor of Gonzo journalism, and didn’t mince his words when it came to describing those politicos that aroused his hate and disgust. In his piece on Richard Nixon, he described the former president as ‘so crooked he had screw his pants on in the morning’. He also said that instead of giving him a land burial, they should have buried him at sea, or flushed him into the sewers with the other turds.

And the bile didn’t stop with the Watergate conspirators. He also expressed his utter contempt and loathing of the Oliver North, Pat Buchanan, Admiral Poindexter and the others in the Reagan administration responsible for the Iran/Contra affair. One of them was described as being ‘so crooked it took three Whitehouse aids to screw him into his pants’. He thought they should be shut in a bamboo cage to be poked with sharp sticks, and flogged all the way along Route 66. As for Ed Meese, Reagan’s equally crooked attorney general, he said that he should have been hung upside down from a lamp post.

Maggie Thatcher also disgusted him. In a piece he published, replying to a letter from his illustrator, Ralph Steadman, he called Thatcher a ‘denatured hog’, and said that Steadman’s delinquent son was quite right to smash windows. Any young person who didn’t want to smash windows in Thatcher’s Britain was probably brain-dead.

This is strong language indeed, especially in the American press, which is now very cautious and respectful. In Britain it would result in paroxysms of Tory fury, as any criticism, no matter how small, of the Blessed St Margaret of Grantham is regarded as the vilest blasphemy. The Conservatives – traditionally the party of the Anglican establishment – have no scruples about attacking the Archbishop of Canterbury, or indeed any other clergyman or woman, if they dare to speak out on their dreadful welfare policies. But the sanctity of Maggie Thatcher, the patron saint of monetarism and South American dictators, must be defended with all their might.

Mike’s quite right to be worried that comments urging violence would give them ammunition to ignore and distort what’s actually said on his blog. Their past masters at that. Hedley’s statement that they should be shot gave them all the material they needed to distort the debate. But they are monstrous thugs, whose policies are killing tens of thousands of people, and who can’t stand the kind of criticism their atrocities deserve.

Guy Debord’s Cat on the Tory Party Conference

October 7, 2015

Buddyhell over at Guy Debord’s Cat, has some very pertinent observations on the Tory party conference, beginning with their complete absence of democracy, their ranting smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Left, Cameron’s recruitment of Blairite Andrew Adonis, and particularly journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer’s outrage at people spitting and throwing eggs at the Tories attending the conference. The Cat’s article begins

If anyone was ever in any doubt as to the Tories’ loathing of democracy, then they need look no further than this latest conference or, indeed, previous conferences. Speaker after speaker mounted the platform to address the conference, all of whom either syruped praise on their leadership or smeared their opponents. Policies are never openly debated or voted upon at Tory Party conferences. The unspoken dictum is, as ever, “we speak and you will listen”. The Conservative Party’s members have little or no say in how their party operates or how policies are decided. It is, for all intents and purposes, a dictatorship. Is it any wonder why Tory governments act to crush democracy in this country when there is so little of it within their own party?

This conference also showed us how far into themselves the Tories have retreated since Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the Labour Party leadership, and the hundreds of thousands who have joined the party since his victory. In contrast, the Conservatives are estimated to have less than 100,000 ageing members. So watching the Tory Party conference was, for me at least, a little like witnessing the last days of the Roman Empire. Degenerate and decadent, they can only look inward and indulge themselves in a little mutual masturbation for a bit of comfort. Indeed, it could be said that the security barrier surrounding the conference centre was the physical manifestation of their bunker mentality.

This is exactly right, and it’s been well-known for decades. I can remember being told about it by members of the Socialist Society back at College. They were outraged at the way the Tories under Thatcher were making much of the division in the Labour ranks over the Militant Tendency, and contrasting it with the supposed tranquil orderliness of their own party. In fact, the Tory party has never been a democracy, and given its history, this should come as no surprise whatsoever. The Tories started out as the party of the Anglican aristocracy. The Anglican Church has since clashed with the Tories several times on important social issues. I can remember Norman Tebbit’s frothing outrage when the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, dared criticised St. Maggie of Grantham on her contempt for the poor. However, the aristocratic attitude of patrician leadership over the masses continues. The major decisions are always made in private behind closed doors. The Cat notes that the Tories are now down to a bare 100,000 members – coincidentally – or not – the numbers the Italian Fascist and Nazi party in Germany claimed they would limit the membership of their parties to in order to make them truly elitist. Part of the reason the Tory party has shrunk so massively is that the rank and file members feel that they are being shoved aside and ignored in favour of rich donors and the party leadership.

Then there’s the little matter of Cameron’s tirade against Corbyn. Corbyn has stated that he wants a united Ireland. This, apparently, is the basis for Cameron’s denunciation of him as ‘friend of terrorists’. This looks very much like a piece of grossly malicious slander.

A lot of people in the Labour party want a united Ireland. One of the reasons for this is that a lot of Labour party members are themselves, or are descended from, working class Irish Roman Catholics. Clare Short was one of these. I can remember an interview with her on Radio 4, in which she talked about her Irish working class roots, and how she had made pilgrimages to the sites deep in the Irish countryside where her descendants were forced to worship secretly when the Roman Catholic church was banned by the British. Short was a very controversial figure, notably for her campaign to ban page 3 of the Sun. She was not, however, to my knowledge a supporter of terrorism. Neither is Corbyn.

Cameron here is trying to use one of the major lies Thatcher used against the Labour party in the 1980s. Some sections of the Labour party aroused extreme controversy for supporting Irish Republicans, including talking to Sinn Fein. Thatcher, by contrast, portrayed herself as resolutely defying the terrorists with her usual posturing of Churchillian patriotism.

It was all a lie.

All the time she was declaring her firmness of resolve never to give in Irish Nationalist terrorists, she was in peace negotiations with them. In fact, the Tories had tried to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the Troubles under Ted Heath, but that collapsed due to the obstinate refusals of the Unionists. And when a peaceful settlement was eventually found, the impetus for it was not the shocking violence and loss of life created by terrorist atrocity after terrorist atrocity from the paramilitaries on both sides of religio-political divide. No, it was purely monetary. It was when the IRA bombed Canary Wharf. Suddenly realising that the IRA could wreck the multi-billion pound financial hub of the City of London, Thatcher and Major finally decided to stop pretending military force was the only solution and talk to the Republicans.

Let’s get this straight: for all the Tories maudlin rhetoric about the victims of the IRA, what they really cared about, what really frightened them, was the IRA might force the bankers and financiers out of the capital, thus dealing a severe blow to the financial sector that they favour so strongly. Human lives don’t count. Elite money does.

As for supporting terrorists, this is another piece of massive hypocrisy. The Cat has already published numerous pieces about the connections between the Ulster Unionist parties and the various Loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. Moreover, there is considerable evidence that the British secret state heavily supported the Loyalist paramilitaries, using them to gather intelligence and act as death squads against leading Republicans.

As for spitting on and throwing eggs at politicians, the Cat rebutted Hartley-Brewer’s argument by putting up footage of Edward Heath having eggs thrown at him. There was a flurry of it in the 1980s under Thatcher, mostly directed against Keith Joseph. So much so that it became a joke in the spoof Dear Bill diaries published in Private Eye. As for it being only a feature of the Left, well, not quite. Some of us can still remember the incident when John Prescott punched a young Welsh farmer. The lad had thrown an egg at him, and Prescott responded with his fists. A thuggish, but perfectly understandable reaction.

So, as the Cat’s article shows, the Tory Conference shows the elitist contempt for democracy, and the revival of the kind of lies and smears used by Thatcher. It’s the politics of desperation, although you could be forgiven for thinking that the opposite was true. The Beeb was practically falling over itself yesterday about how exciting and optimistic it all was. The female newsreader on Points West, the Corporation’s regional news programme for Bristol and Somerset, even went and declared that it was ‘bubbly’. She seemed positively overjoyed.

It’s all forced. The fact that Cameron is claiming that Corbyn is a supporter of terrorism, simply because he wants a united Ireland, is proof of that. Behind the smiles is the looming spectre of despair.

The Cat’s article is entitled ‘Tory Party 2015 Conference: Some Thoughts’. Go and read it at https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/tory-party-conference-2015-some-thoughts/ for an effective deconstruction of the Tories’ bile and hypocrisy.

Vox Political: Channel 4 Documentary and Churches’ Report against Mass Sanctions

March 2, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has a piece on a documentary tonight by Channel 4’s Despatches, Britain’s Benefit Crackdown. The documentary covers a recent report into the appalling consequences of the sanctions regime by a coalition of Baptist, Methodist, the United Reformed Church, and Welsh and Scottish churches, Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions. The churches condemn the sanctions regimes because of the hardship it inflicts on the poor, the sick and the disabled. They point out that the sanctions regime is worse than the criminal justice system and ordinary employers. The courts cannot order a convicted criminal to be denied food, and ordinary employers can’t stop peoples’ wages for petty infractions, like coming to work ten minutes late. But jobcentres not only can, but do.

And Mike is most infuriated by the harm this does to children. His piece is called Coalition government condemned over sanctions regime that tortures children. It begins with the horrifying statistic of the number of children, who have been the victims of sanctions.

Around 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions between the beginning of April 2013 and the end of March 2014, according to a new report.

In the same period, nearly seven million weeks’ worth of sanctions were handed out to benefit claimants.

The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, will feature in this evening’s episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches, entitled Britain’s Benefits Crackdown.

The report – Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions – is published today by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church Action on Poverty, the Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. It contains new data on the severity and length of sanctions under ‘welfare reform’, and on how sanctions affect vulnerable groups such as children and those with mental health problems.

It features the stories of people like James [not his real name] who have had their benefits sanctioned: “During the first three weeks of my sanction I continued to look for work as I was required to.

“By the fourth week, however, I was exhausted, unwell and no longer had it in me. I was not eating as I had no food and was losing a lot of weight. I told the Jobcentre I was unwell through not eating, but was sanctioned for another three months for not looking for work properly,” he added.

The churches are also concerned with the degradation and humiliation inflicted by the sanctions regime, which they feel contravenes the proper respect and love due to all humans as created by the Lord.

“But sanctions don’t just have a financial impact. The people we’ve spoken to have told us of the shame, demoralisation and loss of self-worth caused by this system. As Christians we believe that everyone is loved, valued and made in the image of God, and we have a responsibility to challenge any structure or system that undermines that dignity.”

Mike also points out that the deliberate infliction of hunger also contravenes the UN Convention on Human Rights, Article 3, as also contained in the Human Rights Act. The British civil liberties organisation, Liberty, also considers this to be the case. Mike provides the link.

He also quotes Dr Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, who is also concerned that the DWP guidelines knowingly discuss the use of hunger and deprivation on benefit claimants. The good churchman also makes the point that the amount of suffering the sanctions regime has inflicted in Wales may be much greater, but he doesn’t have the statistics on it. They haven’t been released, despite requests for them under the Freedom of Information Act.

Mike’s article concludes

It is clear that the DWP is in breach of the Human Rights Act and is subjecting benefit claimants to torture as punishment for late attendance at appointments.

This report by the churches is to be welcomed. Now, what can they do to punish the government for torturing its own citizens?

It’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/02/coalition-government-condemned-over-sanctions-regime-that-tortures-children/.

No doubt after the Despatches programme tonight, the Tories will start their using moaning about ‘left-wing liberal bias’. They’ll say the same thing about the churches’ report. Just as they did to the 50-page letter attacking benefits drafted by the Anglican bishops under Archbishop Welby. The Tories like to pretend that they are the protectors of Christianity against secularism and militant Islam. In fact, as their behaviour to the various churches shows, they have absolute contempt for them when their social attitudes and theology is not in absolute agreement with theirs. And that’s shown in the derisory treatment the Archbishop of Wales and his team have received from them in the government’s blatant withholding of information. Just as they also treated Mike and the other inquirers with contempt and disdain when they requested this information.

The sanctions regime is a criminal, humanitarian disaster. It should be scrapped, and those behind it humiliated and forced to leave office.

Conservatives Lose a Third of their Support from Evangelical Christians

February 23, 2015

The Huffington Post has this story Christian Support For Conservatives Drops By A Third, Evangelical Alliance Report Says. It reports that forty per cent of British Christians are changing their electoral allegiance. It begins

Conservative support among Christians has dropped by a third since the last election, in new research that will lend weight to the Tories allegations of a left-wing allegiance in the Church.

Almost 40% of Christians surveyed by the Evangelical Alliance said they intended to change who they vote for in this election, and both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have seen significant drops in support from a community where almost double the national average intend to vote.

The Faith in Politics? report follows a survey of 2,020 evangelical Christians, conducted by the Evangelical Alliance between August and September 2014, shows that poverty and inequality is the single most important issue for evangelicals, compared to only 4% of the general population saying the same.

The article states that this will lead to fresh accusations about left-wing bias in the churches after the Anglican bishops’ 52 page letter to prime minister, which included topics such as the European Union, Trident and welfare. Indeed, Nadine Dorries has attacked the bishops’ letter for its supposed left-wing bias. Christian support for the Greens and UKIP has increased massively, while the Tories have lost a third of their support and the Lib Dems half. The party that now has the largest Christian support is the Labour party, according to the Huff Post.

The articles at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/02/19/christian-conservatives_n_6712218.html.

This will doubtless enrage the Tories, who have since Thatcher’s administration attacked the archbishop of Canterbury and any other cleric for being ‘left-wing’ whenever they criticised the government since Maggie Thatcher. The Cranmer blog for Conservative Christians, mostly Anglicans, was deliberately set up to muster their support for the Tories.

If this latest attack on the Tories’ attitude to poverty follows previous criticisms from the churches, you can expect the Tories, in addition to moaning about left-wing bias, to start ranting about how the clergy should keep to preaching Christianity, and if they did, their congregations might start going up. That’s the line they used to take under Thatcher.

It isn’t about simply preaching Christianity. It is about living the Christian life, and manifesting Our Lord’s concern for the poor and marginalised.

I am very much aware that some Tories are deeply religious, and give generously to charity. A survey in America found that politically Conservative Christians gave far more to charity than secular liberals. Surveys have also shown that, in contrast to the popular perception of theologically conservative protestants – Evangelical Christians, half of them are left-wing, with many being much more Left than American Roman Catholics.

Part of the change in political attitude amongst British Evangelicals may well come from experience working for charities and especially food banks. Many churches have started collecting food for them. This experience brings you face to face with the poor and starving in Britain today, as the blog Diary of a Foodbank Helper documents.

The Tories, however, have consistently denied that such grinding poverty exists, and, indeed, the need for them at all. A succession of Tory MPs and apparatchiks have opened their yaps to claim that people are only using food banks, because they’re offering free food, not because they’re starving.

This is an egregious lie, as you have to have a chit from the jobcentre stating that you are absolutely poor in order to go to them. Such lies are an effective slap in the face to the people, who give to food banks, and who work there. As a result, many Christians are rightly turning their backs on the Tories and their Lib Dem collaborators, and seeking out other parties with better attitudes to poverty.

Vox Political on Private Healthcare Overcharging the NHS

January 27, 2015

Rapacious Quack

18th Century Satirical Print: The Rapacious Quack. It depicts a poor family at the mercy of a doctor, who has taken away a flitch of bacon in lieu of unpaid fees. Its caption reads
‘The Rapacious Quack quite vext to find,
His patient poor, and so forsaken
A thought soon sprung up in his mind
To take away a piece of bacon.’
Which just about describes the grasping attitude of the private healthcare firms mentioned in the report.

Earlier this evening I blogged a piece on Mike’s story over at Vox Political on Ed Miliband’s promise to rebuild and strengthen the NHS. The piece is Will voters support Labour’s vision for the NHS? and it’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/01/27/will-voters-support-labours-vision-for-the-nhs/. It offers hope for an NHS decimated by the Tories, but also by Blair and Brown.

Mike also wonders in the piece whether Alan Milburn, Blair’s former health secretary, is really a member of the Labour party, or a Tory, who has worked his way into Labour to undermine it. He isn’t the only one. A few weeks ago, Johnny Void pointed out how one of the authors of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s report suggesting the establishment of a national network of food banks was Frank Field, and made the same comments about him. Field is notorious for recommending further cuts to the welfare state to encourage unemployed hoi polloi to find work. And it isn’t only his critics, who have suggested he should join the Tories. He also has admirers within that party, who’ve actually made the invitation. The politically Conservative Cranmer blog actually invited Field to cross the floor and join the Tories.

And the same comments could have been made about much of the New Labour leadership. Remember the computer programme back in the 1990s that made anagrams from politicians’ names, supposedly revealing their real character? Michael Portillo was ‘a cool, limp Hitler’. Blair came out as ‘I am Tory Plan B’. Lobster compared Blair to Ted Heath. Both were men leading the wrong parties. Giles Brandreth, who served on John Major’s Tory cabinet in the 1990s, on Have I Got News For You described the Blairs, both Tony and Cherie, as natural Tories. They were, and they similarly pursued a policy of privatising the NHS piecemeal.

In the first few years of this century Patricia Hewitt wanted to sell of the £64bn commissioning and supply arm of the NHS, but ended up having to reject the plan, claiming it was mistaken. She therefore just privatised hospital management. And one of the brilliant ideas of Blair’s administration was the inclusion of private healthcare companies to pick up work that could not be done by an overstretched NHS. Who was the brains behind this, ahem, operation?

Alan Milburn.

And in 2009 Private Eye carried a story about an independent report that concluded the private healthcare providers were overcharging the NHS, including billing for work they did not carry out. The article was in their edition for the 15th – 30th May. Here it is.

NHS Plc.
ISTCs: A Crying Sham

Another crumbling New Labour initiative, independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs) for NHS operations, has ben exposed as a shambolic waste of money.

ISTCs were supposed to provide low-cost operations to an overstretched NHS. But the have long been suspected of creaming off the most lucrative ones under favourable contracts without providing the quality to be found in the NHS.

A 2006 parliamentary report questioned their value for money and asked the National Audit Office to look into it. Several billions of pounds of public money were at stake, but the audit body has oddly shied away from the subject despite reportedly expressing some concern over the ISTCs’ performance and £100m+ procurement costs 18 months ago.

Now academics Allyson Pollock and Graham Kirkwood at Edinburgh University have obtained the contract for one ISTC under Scottish freedom of information laws (contracts in England remain confidential). This shows that the NHS in Tayside paid an ISTC run by Amicus Healthcare – a joint venture of private equity firm Apax and South Africa’s Netcare – for 90 percent of referrals even though the centre only performed 32 percent of them. The academics estimate that Tayside’s overpayments could be dwarfed by those across England, where the NHS could have been stung by up to £927m for operations not performed.

The £5bn ISTC programme was pushed through by the Department of Health’s commercial directorate, set up in 2003 by the then health secretary, Alan Milburn, now earning £30k a year from the private equity firm Bridgepoint that owns ISTCs through Alliance Medical. The directorate was run by American Ken Anderson (since decamped to Swiss bank UBS’s private health investments) and was exposed by the Eye two years ago as home to 220 consultants on an average £238k a year, much channelled through tax-efficient service companies. It has since been quietly disbanded without ever having faced the scrutiny it warranted.

This effectively explains why Milburn was so keen to pour scorn on Miliband’s plans for the NHS: he’s working for a private equity firm that will lose work in that area if Miliband starts to take seriously the NHS’ commitment to providing free state medicine.

It also shows how better governed Scotland is than England. The two academics are able to get details like this through the Scots freedom of information act, which is denied to citizens south of the Border.

As for Amicus Healthcare, I remember Amicus as the American rival to Hammer films way back in the 1970s. Although American, they used much of the same actors and production staff. Sadly, Hammer and Amicus passed away, though the horror continues under the Amicus name.

Vox Political: Liverpool Man Crushed to Death While Looking for Food in Bin

December 17, 2014

Mike over at Vox Political has the story, given by Vince Hessey, a member of the board of Birkenhead YMCA, of a man crushed to death by a refuse lorry. This poor soul was starving, having been sanctioned for 17 weeks. He was killed when the lorry picked him up when he was scavenging in a bin for food.

Mike’s article goes further to critique the latest suggestion for combating starvation, Feeding Britain. This is a national organisation of food banks. This seems similar to the suggestion made by the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, which was bitterly attacked by Johnny Void a few days ago. It has its own dangers, quite apart from the government’s own absolute indifference to the suffering of the unemployed and desperate.

The article’s entitled Benefit deaths: Man was crushed to death by refuse lorry while scavenging in bins, and is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2014/12/16/benefit-deaths-man-was-crushed-to-death-by-refuse-lorry-while-scavenging-in-bins/. Go and read it.

Mike illustrates the article with a photo of a man in Chelyabinsk, Russia, looking for food in a bin. Even before the collapse of Communism, Russia had a serious homelessness problem. The Soviet homeless were dubbed bomzhi, meaning ‘people without abode’. Many of the Moscow homeless lived rough in the town rubbish dump. The Soviet authorities were so concerned with the homelessness problem that, at least in some republics, the rigid clampdown on private initiative was waived to allow people to build their own homes.

The situation didn’t get any better with Yeltsin and the introduction of capitalism, either. Yeltsin mass privatisation of Soviet industry saw the economy go into meltdown and millions thrown out of work. Rampant inflation saw the value of Soviet citizens’ savings and pensions wiped out. As the Soviet system provided work for everyone, except those blacklisted as dissidents, there was no welfare safety net. As a result, thousands were faced starvation or were thrown onto the streets.

This was the new global economy created by the introduction of capitalism. And it’s not too different from here, where the Tories devastated British industry by selling it off en masse and destroying the welfare state for their own profit.

So we’re back once again to Marx: ‘Workingmen of all countries, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains’.

Peasants of Britain Unite and Kick Out the Pay Day Loan Sharks

May 29, 2014

In my last blog post, I looked at the similarities between a community power company set up by the people of a village here in England, and the various schemes for the cooperative reorganisation of society from Thomas Spence’s Land Plan, for the communal ownership of land by each parish community, and Bulgarian Agrarian National Union’s plans for a national and then international society of cooperative peasant communities.

There’s another policy of the party of the Bulgarian peasantry, which I feel very strongly should be adopted by 21st century Britain: legislation and the reform of the banks to cut out and suppress the pay day loan companies, like Wonga and the rest of the sharks. After the liberation from Ottoman rule hundreds of villages in rural Bulgaria had been forced into serious debt to private moneylenders. Many of the Muslim and ethnic Turkish landowners had emigrated or fled to Turkey, leaving large amount of land available for the Bulgarian peasants. There were, however, no banks available to provide them with the loans and credit they needed to purchase the land and essential tools, and so they turned instead to private moneylenders.

The Bulgarian peasants’ party, BANU, and the peasants’ union which preceded it, attempted to combat this by establishing credit cooperatives. After BANU took power in 1919, they attempted to prevent the moneylenders from reappearing by passing legislation insisting that the banks lend money to the cooperatives on reasonable terms.

Britain too in the 21st century has seen the return of the loan shark and moneylender as thousands, perhaps millions, have got into serious debt. Some of this has been through the absurdly easy credit that was offered in the boom years, when people were encouraged to spend as much as they could through credit cards. Other causes include rising rents and mortgages as well as an increase in prices, while pay has been frozen or even cut. The government’s cuts to unemployment benefit have also forced some to turn to private moneylenders, as the amounts provided by Jobseekers’ Allowance is inadequate, sanctions are imposed seemingly arbitrarily according to the whim of the government and the targets set by the DWP to get people off benefit. Those, who are considered to have left their job without good reason are denied benefit for weeks, and the government is considering imposing a waiting time of about three weeks for new claimants before they can get their money.

As a result, Britain has seen a resurgence, not just in criminal loan sharks, but also in the payday loan companies, like Wonga, which offer easy loans at truly extortion rates. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Julian Welby, is recommending a system of Credit Unions to tackle this. Critics fear this will be inadequate. It may well be, but that doesn’t mean that Credit Unions need not part of a broader programme to combat this. We need legislation to cut down the rates at which Wonga and the other loan companies can lend, to reduce them from the 5,000 per cent odd interest rate they are at the moment to something far more manageable. In America, surely one of the most capitalist nations in the world, they aren’t allowed to lend at over 20 per cent. Passing legislation to insist that everyone gets a living wage would also be a massive improvement, as would a complete stop on benefit sanctions, delays in payment and actually raising the amount of money paid to something people can actually live on.

All this, however, would mean abandoning the harsh, neoliberal economic orthodoxy that demands that the poor be penalised, simply for being poor, under the pretext that somehow their poverty is their own fault. And the Tories and their Tory Democrat allies really don’t want to do that by any means. It’s time for the British peasants to follow the Bulgarians of 1919 to throw out the payday loan companies, and kick the Tories out of office.

The Medieval Church on the Duties of the Rich to the Poor

February 21, 2014

Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols, who has attacked fellow Catholic Iain Duncan Smith's benefit cuts as a "disgrace". [Image: Liverpool Echo]

Vincent Nichols, Roman Catholic Bishop of Westminster

Last Sunday, the Roman Catholic bishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, criticised the government welfare reforms for their attacks on the poor. Needless to say, this annoyed the Prime Minster, who has now declared his belief in the essential morality of the government’s welfare reforms. Previous churchmen, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, have criticised the government’s attacks on the poor and vulnerable. Dr Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, criticised Margaret Thatcher, as has his successor, Justin Welby, attacked Cameron. I can also remember the Church of Scotland looking mightily unimpressed when Thatcher addressed them on St Paul’s text, ‘If a man does not work, he shall not eat’. There’s a lot of theological discussion about that text, and it certainly is not a pretext for denying the unemployed benefit.

There was considerable debate during the Middle Ages about the moral status of wealth, whether the unemployed should be given alms to support themselves if they were not working, and the relationship between the rich and the poor. There was a belief in the Middle Ages that the rich had the moral duty to support the poor, with damnation as a possible consequence if they did not.

One of the major Middle English texts that debated this question was Dives and Pauper, a dialogue between a rich and poor man. In it, Pauper says

All that the rich man has passing his honest living after the degree of his dispensation it is other mens and not his, and he shall give well hard reckoning thereof at the doom… [the Last Judgement] For rich men and lords in this world be God’s bailiffs and God’s reeve to ordain [=provide] for the poor folk and for to sustain the poor folk.

The Fathers of the Church believed that superfluous wealth belonged to the poor. The great medieval theologian and philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, stated that

According to natural law goods that are held in superabundance by some people should be used for the maintenance of the poor. This is the principle enunciated by Ambrose … It is the bread of the poor you are holding back; it is the clothes of the naked which you are hoarding; it is the relief and liberation of the wretched which you are thwarting by burying your money away.

St. Basil, in his sermon ‘On Mercy and Justice’, stated that if the rich did not making offering to God to feed the poor, they would be accused of robbery. This was reflected in another of Pauper’s statements

Withholding of alms from the poor needy folk is theft in the sight of God, for the covetous rich withdraw from the poor folk what belongs to them and misappropriate the poor men’s goods, with which they should be succoured.

Ambrose went further and stated that those, who did not provide food for the starving killed them. Pauper also made the same statement when he referred to the Fifth Commandment: Thou shalt not kill.

If any man or woman dies for lack of help, then all who should have helped, or might have helped, or knew the person’s plight, but who would not help are guilty of manslaughter.

Mrs Thatcher herself was personally very generous, and part of her argument was that private charity could provide better relief to the poor, that state support. She also believed that it was more moral, because there was an element of choice involved. Now Albertus Magnus, Aquinas’ predecessor, believed that almsgiving should also be a matter of personal choice, but that this only involved donations beyond the moral compulsion to provide for the poor out of superfluous wealth.

Unfortunately, at various times during its history the Church has not lived up to its moral responsibility to provide for the poor. This was certainly the case during the Thirteenth century, when a number of churchmen attacked their clergy for taking the money provided for poor relief. The result was that in many parishes the lay congregation put up ‘poor tables’ in parish churchyards, on which bread was to be doled out to the poor. There was a feeling amongst some churchmen that the poor had rights. Just as a vassal had the feudal right of diffidatio, or rebellion against an unjust overlord, so the poor could also spiritually rebel against the rich. Johannes Teutonicus declared that a pauper had the right to denounce a rich man publicly and excommunicate him. By the 16th century the belief had developed that God paid particular attention to the prayers of the poor against the rich. If a pauper was refused alms, and so prayed to God for His help or judgement against the rich person, who had refused him, his prayer would be answered answer the rich miser suffer as a consequence.

Nor at various periods in history was almsgiving entirely voluntary. In France during the 17th century it was compulsory for parishioners to donate to poor relief in their parish. In England giving was supposed to be voluntary, but it was strongly urged by the clergy in their sermons.

Cameron has maintained that his welfare reforms are moral. I’ve reblogged a piece by Mike over at Vox Political, which shows that Cameron and his wretched policies are morally bankrupt. As for the statement of Ambrose, Basil and the rest of the Church Fathers that refusing to support the starving makes a person responsible for their murder, it should be borne in mind that so far as many as 38,000 per year may have died as a result of being refused benefits by Cameron and the Coalition. The poor are very definitely being denied their rights. In this argument between His Grace the Bishop of Westminster and Cameron, the moral authority and traditions of Fathers are very definitely on the good bishop’s side, not Cameron’s.

Let the wailing, grinding and gnashing of teeth at Tory Central Office now begin.