Posts Tagged ‘Austerity’

Radio 4 Programme on Journalistic Impartiality

April 16, 2019

According to next week’s Radio Times, for 20th-26th April 2019, Radio 4 are due to broadcast a programme questioning the notion of journalistic impartiality, ‘Call Yourself an Impartial Journalist?’, hosted by Jonathan Coffey. The blurb for the programme by Simon O’Hagan on page 138 of the magazine runs

In a febrile political age, fuelled by social media, the BBC has felt the heat as possibly never before – guilty, in its accusers’ eyes, of failing to reflect the full spectrum of opinion over not just Brexit but such culture-wars issues as transgenderism. With the BBC due to publish a new set of editorial guidelines in June (the first since 2010), Jonathan Coffey explores the idea of impartiality and whether any sort of consensus around it is possible. Contributors include the Spectator columnist Rod Liddle, the BBC’s director of editorial and policy standards, David Jordan, and Kerry-Anne Mendoza, the editor of online media The Canary.

The programme’s on at 11.00 am.

I don’t think there’s much doubt about the Beeb’s political bias. Academics at the media monitoring units of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff universities found that the Beeb was twice as likely to seek the opinions of Conservative MPs and financial experts as Labour MPs and trade unionists. Barry and Savile Kushner also describe how the Beeb pushed the austerity agenda in their book, Who Needs the Cuts?, to the point that the opponents of austerity were rarely invited onto their news and politics programmes to put their case. When they were, the presenters actually tried to silence them, even by shouting them down. And years ago Tony Benn in one of his books said that the Beeb considered itself impartial, because its bias was largely slightly to the left of the Tories at the time, but way to right of everyone else.

There could be some interesting things said on the programme, particularly by the excellent Kerry-Anne Mendoza, but my fear is that it’s going to be like the Beeb’s programme, Points of View, and just be an exercise in the corporation justifying itself and its own bias. 

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Handbook of Disability History in Latest Oxbow Book Catalogue

March 31, 2019

I got the latest issue of Oxbow Book News, for Spring 2019, through the post the other day. Oxbow are specialist booksellers and publishers for archaeology and history. The Book News is really a catalogue of what they have in stock. And in the latest issue was The Oxford Handbook of Disability History, edited by Michael Rembis, Catherine J. Kudlick and Kim Nielsen (Oxford: OUP 2018). The blurb for it in the catalogue runs

Disability history exists outside of the institutions, healers, and treatments it often brings to mind. It is a history where the disabled live not just as patients or cure-seekers, but rather as people living differently in the world. The Oxford Handbook of Disability History is the first volume of its kind to represent this history and its global scale, from ancient Greece to British West Africa. The twenty-seven articles, written by thirty experts from across the field, capture the diversity and liveliness of this emerging scholarship.

Unfortunately, this book is going to be well beyond most people’s pockets. It’s hardback, and the listed price is £97.00, which means that it’s only really going to be affordable to the very affluent. On the other hand, you might be able to order it from your local library, assuming that the Tories haven’t shut it down already.

What is interesting is what its publication on its own says about this as an emerging area of scholarship. It says that the history of disabled people themselves is coming to be recognised as a field of historical research and endeavour by itself, alongside other disciplines in social history like Black, women’s, and gender history. It’s possible that this is part of a change in general cultural attitudes towards the disabled, in the way that the Black civil rights and feminist movements directly caused the emergence of Black and women’s history. Unfortunately, despite this apparent change in academic attitudes, popular attitude towards people with disabilities still has some way to go. We still have the Tories closing down services for disabled people in the name of austerity, efficiency and all the hypocritical cant about concentrating resources where they’re really needed. And we still have the wretched Tory press and media demonising them as welfare scroungers. A week or so ago Zelo Street put up a post about the Spectator’s Rod Liddle attacking people with ME as malingerers, who didn’t have a real illness. To which the answer is, no, Rod, it is, they are, and you’re a soulless Murdoch hack. This wasn’t the first time he’s taken a swipe at the disabled either. A few years ago he wrote a piece about how he’d like to get a disability, that would allow him to get off work without really being disabled. Once again, he went for ME and fibromyalgia. I’ve known people with ME. They’re not malingerers, and it’s a real illness which leaves them wiped out through chronic fatigue. And it’s a long time since doctors seriously doubted whether it really existed. I think that stopped with the end of the 1980s. But obviously not in Liddle’s squalid excuse for a mind. And if you need convincing that fibromyalgia is a real disease, go over to Mike’s blog and look up some of the posts, where he mentions the suffering it’s caused Mrs. Mike. This is real, genuine pain, and definitely not imaginary. Unlike Liddle’s pretensions to objective journalism.

This looks like it could be a very interesting volume. It’s too bad it’s price puts it beyond the reach of most of us. Hopefully this will lead to further scholarship, some of which will be aimed at a less restricted audience beyond academia, and will be at a more affordable price. And I hope some of it is also taken up by activists, who use it to challenge the assumptions of Liddle and the rest of the close-minded bigots in the right-wing press and Tory party.

Ofcom Now Investigating BBC for Bias

March 8, 2019

Yesterday Mike posted up a piece reporting that the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, was investigating the Beeb for bias, and it wasn’t looking good for Auntie.

Mike began his article with his tweets criticising Jo Coburn of Politics Live for continuing describing the attack on Corbyn as an egging, when in reality the Labour leader had been punched in the head. He also noted the contradictions in its reporting of the anti-Semitism witchhunt in the Labour party. On the one hand he was being berated for his lack of leadership and doing too little, while on the other he was supposed to be personally interfering. These two assertions together violate one of the fundamental laws of logic discovered by Aristotle, the Law of Non-Contradiction. But logic and reason don’t matter a jot to the right-wing media.

The broadcasting regulator has said that its investigating the Beeb because people are worried about fake news on the internet. The Beeb has a central role in providing trusted news, but people feel that the beeb’s television and radio news is less impartial than its other news output. And so Ofcom is examining in detail the Corporation’s delivery of its first Public Purpose, the first point of which is

“to provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them. The BBC will provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.”

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/03/07/ofcom-is-investigating-the-bbc-for-bias-and-its-looking-bad-for-auntie/

The BBC has a very long history of right-wing bias. During the miners’ strike in the 1980s they reversed footage of the police attack on the picket line at Orgreave to make it appear to show the miners’ attacking the police. The Kushners in their book Who Needs the Cuts show how the Corporation marginalises those politicians, trade unions and activists, who reject austerity in favour of its promoters. When dissenting voices do appear, they will be talked over or shouted down by the presenter. Studies by Scots academics have also shown that the Corporation prefers to interview Conservative politicians, bankers and industrialists about the economy than Labour politicians and trade unionists. And the Corporation’s coverage of the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn has been massively one-sided.

None of this is remotely surprising, considering how the Beeb’s newsroom is stuffed with Tories, like the Macclesfield Goebbels Nick Robinson, who was head of the Tory association at Manchester University.

The Beeb should face some tough questioning over its bias, and it’ll be very interesting what Ofcom concludes.

 

Private Eye on the Connections between the Independent Group, Progress Centre and New Labour

March 6, 2019

This fortnight’s Private Eye for 8th -21st March 2019 has an article on the connections between Chuka Umunna’s Independent Group, the Blairite think tank Progress Centre and Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson. It suggests that Paul Myners, who sits on the think tank’s advisory board, could be funding it. The article on page 7 runs

MYNERS STRIKE

AS WELL as launching “The Independent Group” (TIG) of MPs, Chuka Umunna also chairs a think-tank called Progressive Centre UK. Last August this “next generation ideas lab” gave him a £65,000-a-year (for 12 hours a month) chairing its advisory board.

As TIG launched, the Progressive Centre paid for polling that “shows real appetite for new party” – which was handy for TIG, as its PR people admitted it did not yet have the cash to fund its own polling. The Progressive Centre also published work by academic Steven Fielding arguing that “despite what many believe, the future of the Independent Group might be very bright indeed”.

The most heavyweight member of the Progressive Centre’s advisory board is Lord (Paul) Myners, Gordon Brown’s City minister from 2008 to 2010, and deeply involved in the bank bailouts during the financial crisis. Indeed, the Commons treasury committee criticised Myners over his “City background and naivety” for allowing the disgraced Fred Goodwin to escape from the bailed-out RBS with an £8m pension top-up.

Myners, who also chairs PR firm Edelman and is vice-chair of Peter Mandelson’s lobbying firm Global Counsel, gave Umunna £9,000 for office costs in 2016-17. This was when Umunna was believed to be raising funds for a leadership bid, which was called off when Jeremy Corbyn failed to crash adn burn in the 2017 election.

Could Myers be funding the Progressive Centre itself? The think-tank doesn’t say who funds it – but if he is backing it, it could at least get his name right. On its “People” page its website lists him as “Peter Myners”.

The Progress Centre sounds like a standard Blairite political faction. Myners is a banker and the head of a PR firm, and New Labour was notorious for its insistence on a light regulatory touch for the financial sector, as well as its connections to industry and banking. It was also notorious for PR and spin, instead of real policies. And like the Blairite faction in the Labour party, it’s trying to sound progressive and forward-thinking while in fact it’s just more of the same, shop-worn Thatcherism.

And the Progress Centre and the Independent Group also have another feature in common: they’re heading their financial backers.

As for the Independent Group’s prospects for the future, I think Fielding and his pollsters are being wildly optimistic. The mood of the public is moving left. Labour’s policies are massively popular with the public, unlike those of the Tories and Blairites, who aren’t offering anything except more privatisation and austerity.

As they are now, both the Progress Centre and the Independent Group are also a positive threat to democracy. They won’t reveal who their backers are, but following standard Blairite practice, it’s more than likely that they represent those backers’ interests, rather than that of the British public. They represent more Blairite and Conservative corporatism. And as six out of the eight Labour founders were members of Labour Friends of Israel, including Joan Ryan and her connections with Masot and the Israeli embassy, it’s likely that they’re also receiving money from them. And so they’ll also represent Israeli interests, rather than those of the constituents, who elected them.

John Heartsfield’sAnti-Hitler Poster and Tory, Blairite and ‘Independent’ Corporatism

February 24, 2019

I remember coming across the image below when I was at college, stuck up on the walls of the Religious Studies department. As you can see, it’s of Hitler making his usual, lazy salute with his hand flung casually back, into which a giant figure representing capitalist big business is giving him wads of notes.

The original was by John Heartsfield, born Helmut Herzfeld, a radical German-born artist. He was a member of the Dada avant-garde artistic movement and a Communist. The original work had the legend Millionen Stehen Hinter Mir – Millions Stand Behind Me’, as well as Kleiner Mann bittet um grosse Gaben – ‘Small Man Asks for Big Donations.’

The image is obviously about how big business funded the Nazis. It’s not entirely accurate, as the Nazis were first ignored by the large corporations, and they were funded instead by small businesses and the lower middle class. But Hitler later appealed to them and once in power Nazi policy always favoured monopoly capitalism.

But you could easily replace the photograph of Hitler with that Tweezer, Tony Blair or one of the Independents. Especially the Independents. As I’ve discussed many times, they’re all corporatists, who let their donors in big business decide their policies and send their staff to ‘assist’ them, and give their donors posts in government, in return for their funding. They are also, all of them, hostile to working people. They are anti-union, for privatisation and austerity, and against the welfare state.

And that is why they, and the media, so viciously hate Jeremy Corbyn. Not only does he intend to turn back Thatcherism and actually empower people, he and Bernie Sanders in America are doing so by appealing to ordinary party members and their money rather than big business.

So get corporate money out of politics, the Blairites, Independents and Tories out of government, and Jeremy Corbyn in. And may Bernie do the same to the corporate Democrats and Republicans in America!

Jeremy Corbyn Attacks the Independents for Supporting Austerity

February 24, 2019

Here’s another cheering little video, although unfortunately it is from the Grauniad so you will have to hold your nose. It’s of Jeremy Corbyn at the rally in Broxtowe really putting the boot into the Labour defectors. He says what they really stand for: austerity and protecting the rich against the poor.

The video begins with Corbyn saying that he’s very sad at the people, who’ve left the party. He says this to them, that on June 2017 he was elected on a manifesto, a manifesto that promised to end austerity. A manifesto that promised to end student fees. A manifesto that promised to bring into public ownership rail, mail, and water. It was a manifesto that was to be transformative for the lives of people of this country. And so when the media talk about the bravery of those who walk away, Anna Soubry voted for austerity and said it was a good thing. Almost immediately after leaving, Chris Leslie tells us that we should not be ending university fees, we should not be increasing corporation tax for the rich of this country, we should be cutting corporation tax and increasing the burden on others. He then shouts,

‘I tell you what, the Labour party believes in equality and justice. That was what was at the centre of our manifesto, and that is what will be at the centre of the next manifesto, whenever that election comes.’

He then goes on to talk about the increase in the Labour vote at the 2017 election, which was the biggest in any election since 1945. That was because the party campaigned, the community campaigned, people got together and started talking about politics, about life, about how our society could be run. It wasn’t the old transactional politics, but the new involved politics of the future. And what’s different about Labour is the membership is three times bigger, but it’s also much more involved, much more involved with the communities, and it is those communities and those members that will be making the policies that will write the manifestos for the future.

 

Absolutely. And it’s because Labour’s policies are inspiring, and that the party is empowering people, that Red Tories like Berger and Leslie have joined true blue Tories like Soubry. And they and the media are attacking Corbyn and smearing him as an anti-Semite, because they have nothing else to use. Their policies are old, outmoded and massively unpopular. It’s time they, and the Tories themselves, were gone. 

 

 

 

 

 

Chunky Mark Video of Corbyn Rally in Broxtowe

February 24, 2019

Here’s an antidote to all the ant-Corbyn smears and propaganda by the Tories, the media and the ‘Independents’. It’s this two and a half minute video put up by Chunky Mark the Artist Taxi Driver of a Labour party rally for Corbyn in Broxtowe.

The video shows the immense crowds there, and the banner for East Midlands Labour Party. Mark asks one of the ladies speaking there what she thinks of Anna Soubry, the austerity supporting former Tory, who joined the Independents the other day. The lady replies

‘She’s a Tory! She’s a Tory! The new Independent grouping has cuddled up to Tories. What do they think they’re doing? All their doing is propping up the Tory government. It’s disgraceful.’

She’s not alone in condemning them. Another woman says ‘Anna Soubry’s resigned from her party so we’re looking forward to a bye-election and getting some in place, who can sort out the problems around here. The cuts have had a detrimental effect on elderly people, on schools – I’m a teacher’ A young woman says that the party needs to pull together and get behind Corbyn. They should be fighting the Tory government, not among themselves. What is important is to get a socialist into No. 10.

A young man appears, who says that he thinks it really is important that there should be a bye-election, and that Anna Soubry should do the right thing. She has no mandate to represent people on the new basis here. An Asian gent says it’s nothing to do with politics. Soubry should resign and have a bye-election. Mark asks him why he thinks she won’t resign. He replies that it’s because she wants to stay and a hold on to power.

The video then moves on to show the first lady on the podium telling the crowd that the Independents are wrong, and they just don’t care. They would rather see a Tory government than a real, socialist Labour government. They would rather support the politics of austerity, the draining of our public services of the money that they need. They would rather see the bitterness and appalling unfairness of Universal Credit.

The video then goes to an elderly White man, who says that it’s a continuation of what Thatcher started, and it’s got even worse. He thought Thatcher was bad enough, but… And then he shakes his head, saying ‘I don’t know what’s really happening.’

The video then moves back to show the first lady telling the crowd ‘Stand tall! Stand firm! Be proud! Our future is coming and it is coming soon! I introduce to you the next prime minister, Jeremy Corbyn!’ There is rapturous applause.

Back to the elderly gent, who says, ‘Corbyn – they’re frightened of him. And they’re frightened of all the their privileges and wealth dwindled away’.

The video ends with a picture of Chunky Mark with a cardboard placard reading ‘2019: Get Rid of the Tories’.

Absolutely! Get rid of them both within and without the Labour party!

The Discreet, Poisonous Corporatism of the Labour Party Quitters

February 19, 2019

Yesterday, a group of seven MPs formally split from the Labour party. Now going independent, this glittering array of third raters, has-beens and deadbeats were supposed to form the nucleus of this new, shiny Blairite ‘centrist’ party that has been mooted for the past year or so. The group included such luminaries as Gavin Shuker, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey. They were all Blairites, who had been trying to overthrow Corbyn or undermine his leadership since he was elected head of the party. Or else had been threatening to quit.

Comparisons have been made to the Labour split in the 1980s which saw the notorious ‘gang of four’, including Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams form the short-lived Social Democratic Party. They ended up shortly forming an alliance with the Liberals before finally merging with them to form the Liberal Democrats. At the time there much verbiage in the press about the SDP ‘breaking the mould’ of British politics. It didn’t happen, despite the TV critic Clive James in his Observer column sneering at Tony Benn, who said that support for the SDP had peaked. But, as Zelo Street has pointed out, the comparison also doesn’t do the Quitters any favours in another way. Some of the MPs, who formed the SDP were actually first rate politicos. As Home Secretary in the 1960s, Roy Jenkins oversaw some profound changes in the liberalization of British society. Like the partial decriminalization of homosexuality, for which, among other things, he’s still bitterly resented by the Tory right today. Reading Shirley William’s 1979 book, Politics Is For People, it’s clear that she did have a powerful mind with strong, distinct views on how socialism should improve British society and industry.

This bunch, by contrast, don’t seem to have any distinct views or anything more to offer than rehashed, warmed up Blairism. Before their website crashed yesterday, Zelo Street was able to get on it and read what they had to say. Which seemed to be a lot of flannel. More fine-sounding words about democracy which didn’t actually come down to meaning very much. The website said

Our primary duty as Members of Parliament is to put the best interests of our constituents and our country first. Our free media, the rule of law, and our open, tolerant and respectful democratic society should be cherished and renewed. We believe that our Parliamentary democracy in which our elected representatives deliberate, decide and provide leadership, held accountable by their whole electorate is the best system of representing the views of the British people. Zelo Street remarked that the first part of this statement, about cherishing and renewing free media, rule of law and democratic society doesn’t actually mean anything, while the second – about parliamentary democracy being the best method of representing the views of the British people – is just what every MP in the House believes.

But what the group really stands for is best shown by the group’s legal organization and its members’ very cosy relationship with private enterprise. The group’s website was set up in 2015 in a tax haven. The new party actually isn’t a party. It’s been registered as a private corporation, Gemini A, which means that it doesn’t have to identify its backers. This also, apparently, makes it exempt from the spending restrictions on campaigning which apply to genuine political parties.

And then there’s Angela ‘People of funny tin…’ Smith’s connection with private water companies. Smith is chairman of the all-party water group, which is mainly funded by private water companies like Wessex Water and Affinity Water. Talking to Smith on This Morning Yesterday, Ash Sarkar pointed out that her group were some of the very few people left, who still believe in water privatization. She predicted that people would like at Smith’s leadership of the group and say, ‘You know what, that stinks of corruption’.

Sarkar isn’t going to be wrong either. The Canary in their article on this pointed out that 83 per cent of the population want the water companies to be renationalized. And Blair’s very strong links to private industry were very heavily criticized when he was power. Blair was a corporatist, who gave business leaders and senior management key positions in government in exchange for donations. This whole, nasty web of corporate links was exposed by the Groaniad’s George Monbiot in his book, Captive State, which lists various businessmen and the government positions Blair gave them. Even at the time Blair’s government was notorious for doing political favours in return for donations, as Blair did for Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One magnate, in return for something like a million pounds of corporate dosh.

‘Bevan Boy’ described what other Blairite policies this crew probably also stand for in this tweet, quoting by Mike in his article on them:

What will this new “Centrist” party stand for?
More Austerity?
Rampant marketisation & uncontrolled capitalism?
Neoconservative Thatcherism?
I suspect all of the above under a pro EU banner. The policies are being rejected & thank Christ they are.
We need a socialist LAB govt!

And what the splitters really think of democracy is shown by the fact that none of them actually want to hold a bye-election and give their constituents a say in whether they want them to represent them in parliament. It’s been pointed out that only one per cent of voters say that they actually vote for the individual MP, rather than the party. But these avowed democrats really don’t want to give their constituents the opportunity to decide whether they want to keep them as their MP or whether they want to elect someone else.

Which is what you could expect from a group that includes Luciana Berger. Berger, or should that be Lucrezia Borgia?, was facing a vote of no confidence from her local constituency. She then declared that they were bullying her, and demanded Jenny Formby expel the constituency party from Labour. Formby told her that she had no cause to do this and refused.

But Borgia, sorry, Berger, has carried on whining about bullying and intimidation nonetheless. Just as all the Quitters have moaned about anti-Semitism. The truth is, anti-Semitism is not the reason they’re splitting. It never has been. It has only been a convenient stick with which to beat Corbyn and his supporters. In fact anti-Semitism in the party has fallen under the Labour leader. It is lower in the Labour party than in the others and in the general British population. And the anti-Semitism accusations against him and the majority of those accused are nothing but contrived smears.

The real truth is that Berger, Umunna, Shuker, Leslie, Smith, Coffee and Gapes are corporatist anti-democrats. They wish to hang on to power against the wishes of their constituents, in order to promote the power of private corporations. Just as Mussolini and Hitler promoted private industry and gave it a seat in government and the management of the economy in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

For further information, see:
https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/18/mps-split-off-from-the-labour-party-voters-say-good-riddance/

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/18/mps-split-off-from-the-labour-party-voters-say-good-riddance/

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-independent-group-on-way-out.html

https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2019/02/18/ash-sarkar-takes-down-a-resigning-blairite-mp-so-brutally-a-bbc-host-intervenes/

Video Debunking Rees-Mogg’s Poisonous Revisionist Lies about British Concentration Camps in Boer War

February 18, 2019

Yet more evidence to add to the growing mound of it that Jacob Rees-Mogg is a monster, who should not be let anywhere near high office, and that Question Time is horrendously biased. After John McDonnell made his remarks in an interview with Politico during the week, in which he said that Churchill was a villain because he sent in the British army to shoot down striking miners during the Tonypandy riots, Churchill’s legacy was apparently taken up and debated on Question Time. One of the guests on the panel was the Young Master, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who declared that the concentration camps in which Afrikaner women and children were imprisoned during the Boer War, also called by historians the Anglo-South African War, were beneficial to their residents, ‘humanitarian’ and that the death rate in them was no higher than in the Glasgow at the time.

This is, quite simply, a pack of utterly odious, reprehensible lies. The death toll in them was horrifically high, and generations of historians have condemned them as an atrocity. Rees-Mogg’s comparison of their death rate with that of Scotland’s great industrial toon provoked articles in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. I also found this video below on YouTube on the A Different Bias channel very effectively demolishing it and denouncing Mogg for what he is.

The presenter, Phil, begins by saying that there are two types of people on the subject of the British Empire. There is one set, who believe it is over and done with, while for another the Empire has not gone away. It has merely declined, and that is a good thing. He makes the point that there are misapprehensions of history on both sides, and that these need correcting. Because those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

He describes the background to the debate, and says that John McDonnell was naïve. Politico had set a trap for him, and instead of walking into it, declaring Churchill was a villain, he should have said, ‘Second World War – Hero’ and left it at that. He then moves on to talk about the concentration camps. He states that he believes the term ‘concentration camp’ first appeared during the Boer War. This erupted when the British tried to take over the gold fields in the free Afrikaner republics. The Afrikaner government granted concession after concession to the British, but this was not enough for Lord Milner, who wanted everything. And so War broke out.

However, despite the British forces outnumbering those of the Afrikaners, we were losing. We didn’t know the terrain; the Afrikaners did, and resorted to guerrilla warfare to defeat us. Lord Kitchener, the chief of the British forces, responded with a scorched earth policy. Boer farms were raised, their crops destroyed and livestock slaughtered. As a result, Afrikaner civilians displaced by the war fled to the camps, which were initially refugee camps. This became official military policy, with the British forcibly moving Afrikaner civilians into them. It was a deliberate attempt to defeat the Afrikaners through the detention of their women and children.

Inside the camps, conditions were atrocious. Hunger and disease were rampant. 50,000 died, 80 per cent of whom were children. This is illustrated very clearly by the photo Phil uses as the background for his talk, which shows a skeletally emaciated Afrikaner child. And the death rate at the time was nowhere near that of contemporary Glasgow. The death rate in the camps was 50 per cent. In Glasgow it was about 2 per cent. He gives the exact figures in the video. Furthermore, the suffering in the concentration camps was deliberately inflicted, while no-one was trying to kill the Glaswegians, except possibly other Glaswegians on a Friday night. The camps’ horrors were widely reported in the British press, creating a storm of public outrage. The government commissioned a committee of inquiry hoping to whitewash it all. Instead of finding that the reports were mistaken and the suffering exaggerated, the committee found that in fact conditions were actually far worse. As a result, the British government was forced to hand over management of the camps to the committee, who managed to reduce the death rate to 2 per cent.

At the beginning of his video, Phil asks rhetorically if there’s anyone who believes that concentration camps are beneficial to those interned in them, or that they do anything but bring shame upon their masters. He concludes, ‘No’, and so goes on to discuss them. He states that when Rees-Mogg came out with this vile nonsense, he was clapped by the audience and the presenter did not interrupt him.

Phil also recognizes that there are many shameful incidents in the past, which are only seen as atrocities in hindsight today, through the lens of our modern values. But the concentration camps aren’t one of them. They were seen as abnormal and barbaric at the time. He ends by describing Mogg as a monster, and he is ashamed and concerned that he has such a grip over the British people.

Absolutely. One of the people I worked with at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum was a White anti-racism activist, who had lived for a time in the former Rhodesia and had friends in South Africa. I gathered from him that while the Afrikaners liked us, referring to us as ‘nefe Brit’ – ‘nephew Brit’, the concentration camps and the atrocities of the Boer War were still bitterly resented. There was a museum to them, and one of the items on display was supposedly the bits of glass and nails that were put into the prisoners’ food.

There is absolutely no doubt that the concentration camps were an atrocity and are very definitely a deep stain on the history of the British Empire. Rees-Mogg’s attempts to justify them on Question Time really can’t be seen as anything less than an act of historical revisionism, as noxious as any other attempt to erase atrocities from historical memory. Mogg is polite, and studied history at Oxford, though no-one seems to know precisely what period or subjects he studied. He’s either thus deeply ignorant or a liar. I think he’s probably the latter. He should have been stopped, and someone with better knowledge of this period allowed to speak. Now the video does show Mogg making these terrible statements, and a female panelist looking incredulous at him and trying to rebut him. But he goes on with them nonetheless.

It’s the responsibility of historians to look at past events critically and try to strive for accuracy and objectivity, not matter how uncomfortable, distressing or shameful the subject. Mogg has not done so. He has shown himself indifferent to human suffering, both of past generations and of the present, where people are being reduced to starvation through the Tories’ wretched austerity programme and Brexit. As for those, who clapped him, well, what can you say? They have shown themselves to be the ‘gammon’ of fervent Brexiteers that get outraged whenever anyone dares to challenge their conception of Britishness or right-wing British values. And they can’t bear to acknowledge that we were also responsible for committing atrocities in our imperial heyday.

Mogg indeed is a monster. He is unsuited to be an MP, and, like Boris Johnson, his patriotic, Tory views of the past and the Empire are a threat to British people at home, and our standing and friendship with other nations in the wider world. And the ignorance and bigoted nationalism of his followers are also a threat and a disgrace. Just as it is also disgraceful that they are the audience the Beeb’s Question Time now seems determined to play up to.

John Quiggin on the Absolute Failure of Austerity

January 9, 2019

One of the other massively failing right-wing economic policies the Australian economist John Quibbin tackles in his book Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2010) is expansionary austerity. This is the full name for the theory of economic austerity foisted upon Europeans and Americans since the collapse of the banks in 2008. It’s also the term used to describe the policy generally of cutting government expenditure in order to reduce inflation. Quiggin shows how, whenever this policy was adopted by governments like the American, British, European and Japanese from the 1920s onwards, the result has always been recession, massive unemployment and poverty.

He notes that after the big bank bail-out of 2008, most economists returned to Keynesianism. However, the present system of austerity was introduced in Europe due to need to bail out the big European banks following the economic collapse of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, and the consequent fall in government tax revenue. Quiggin then goes on to comment on how austerity was then presented to the public as being ultimately beneficial to the public, despite its obvious social injustice, before going on to describe how it was implemented, and its failure. He writes

The injustice of making hospital workers, police, and old age pensioners pay for the crisis, while the bankers who caused it are receiving even bigger bonuses than before, is glaringly obvious. So, just as with trickle-down economics, it was necessary to claim that everyone would be better off in the long run.

It was here that the Zombie idea of expansionary austerity emerged from the grave. Alesina and Ardagna, citing their dubious work from the 1990s, argued that the path to recovery lay in reducing public spending. They attracted the support of central bankers, ratings agencies, and financial markets, all of whom wanted to disclaim responsibility for the crisis they had created and get back to a system where they ruled the roost and profited handsomely as a result.

The shift to austerity was politically convenient for market liberals. Despite the fact that it was their own policies of financial deregulation that had produced the crisis, they used the pretext of austerity to push these policies even further. The Conservative government of David Cameron in Britain has been particularly active in this respect. Cameron has advanced the idea of a “Big Society”, meaning that voluntary groups are expected to take over core functions of the social welfare system. The Big Society has been a failure and has been largely laughed off the stage, but it has not stopped the government from pursuing a radical market liberal agenda, symbolized by measures such as the imposition of minimum income requirements on people seeking immigrant visas for their spouses.

Although the term expansionary austerity has not been much used in the United States, the swing to austerity policies began even earlier than elsewhere. After introducing a substantial, but still inadequate fiscal stimulus early in 2009, the Obama administration withdrew from the economic policy debate, preferring to focus on health policy and wait for the economy to recover.

Meanwhile the Republican Party, and particularly the Tea Party faction that emerged in 2009, embraced the idea, though not the terminology, of expansionary austerity and in particular the claim that reducing government spending is the way to prosperity. In the absence of any effective pushback from the Obama administration, the Tea Party was successful in discrediting Keynesian economic ideas.

Following Republican victories in the 2010 congressional elections, the administration accepted the case for austerity and sought a “grand bargain” with the Republicans. It was only after the Republicans brought the government to the brink of default on its debt in mid-2011 that Obama returned to the economic debate with his proposed American Jobs Act. While rhetorically effective, Obama’s proposals were, predictably, rejected by the Republicans in Congress.

At the state and local government level, austerity policies were in force from the beginning of the crisis. Because they are subject to balanced-budged requirements, state and local governments were forced to respond to declining tax revenues with cuts in expenditure. Initially, they received some support from the stimulus package, but as this source of funding ran out, they were forced to make cuts across the board, including scaling back vital services such as police, schools, and social welfare.

The theory of expansionary austerity has faced the test of experience and has failed. Wherever austerity policies have been applied, recovery from the crisis has been halted. At the end of 2011, the unemployment rate was above 8 percent in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the eurozone. In Britain, where the switch from stimulus to austerity began with the election of the Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government in 2010, unemployment rose rapidly to its highest rate in seventeen years. In Europe, the risk of a new recession, or worse, remains severe at the time of writing.

Although the U.S. economy currently shows some superficial signs of recovery, the underlying reality is arguably even worse than it now is in Europe. Unemployment rates have fallen somewhat, but this mainly reflects the fact that millions of workers have given up the search for work altogether. The most important measure of labour market performance, the unemployment-population ration (that is, the proportion of the adult population who have jobs) fell sharply at the beginning of the cris and has never recovered. On the other hand, the forecast for Europe in the future looks even bleaker as the consequences of austerity begins to bite.

The reanimation of expansionary austerity represents zombie economics at its worst. Having failed utterly to deliver the promised benefits, the financial and political elite raised to power by market liberalism has pushed ahead with even greater intensity. In the wake of a crisis caused entirely by financial markets and the central banks and regulators that were supposed to control them, the burden of fixing the problem has been placed on ordinary workers, public services, the old, and the sick.

With their main theoretical claims, such as the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and Real Business Cycle in ruins, the advocates of market liberalism have fallen back on long-exploded claims, backed by shoddy research. Yet, in the absence of a coherent alternative, the policy program of expansionary austerity is being implemented, with disastrous results. (pp. 229-32, emphasis mine).

As for Alesina and Ardagna, the two economists responsible for contemporary expansionary austerity, Quiggin shows how their research was seriously flawed, giving some of their biggest factual mistakes and accuracies on pages 225 and 226.

Earlier in the chapter he discusses the reasons why Keynes was ignored in the decades before the Second World War. The British treasury was terrified that adoption of government intervention in some areas would lead to further interventions in others. He also quotes the Polish economist, Michal Kalecki, who stated that market liberals were afraid of Keynsianism because it allowed governments to ignore the financial sector and empowered working people. He writes

Underlying the Treasury’s opposition to fiscal stimulus, however, was a fear, entirely justified in terms of the consequences for market liberal ideology, that a successful interventionist macroeconomic policy would pave the way for intervening in other areas and for the end of the liberal economic order based on the gold standard, unregulated financial markets, and a minimal state.

As the great Polish economist Michal Kalecki observed in 1943, market liberal fear the success of stimulatory fiscal policy more than its failure. If governments can maintain full employment through appropriate macroeconomic policies, they no longer need to worry about “business confidence” and can undertake policies without regard to the fluctuations of the financial markets. Moreover, workers cannot be kept in line if they are confident they can always find a new job. As far as the advocates of austerity are concerned, chronic, or at least periodic, high unemployment is a necessary part of a liberal economic order.

The fears of the Treasury were to be realized in the decades after 1945, when the combination of full employment and Keynsian macro-economic management provided support for the expansion of the welfare state, right control of the financial sector, and extensive government intervention in the economy, which produced the most broadly distributed prosperity of any period in economic history. (p. 14).

So the welfare state is being dismantled, the health service privatized and a high unemployment and mass poverty created simply to maintain the importance and power of the financial sector and private industry, and create a cowed workforce for industry. As an economic theory, austerity is thoroughly discredited, but is maintained as it was not by a right-wing media and political establishment. Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, said in one of his columns that when he studied economics in the 1970s, monetarism was so discredited that it was regarded as a joke by his lecturers. He then suggested that the reason it was supported and implemented by Thatcher and her successors was simply because it offered a pretext for their real aims: to attack state intervention and the welfare state. It looks like he was right.