Posts Tagged ‘BBC 1’

Lib Dems Now Claiming that Only They Can Stop Tory Majority

November 30, 2019

The Lib Dems have started changing their tactics, I see. According to an article in last Monday’s I, 25th November 2019, Jo Swinson has scaled back her ambitions. She is no longer saying that the Lib Dems are going to form a government. Instead, she’s just claiming that it’s only her party that can stop the Tories forming a majority. The article by Nigel Morris reads

Jo Swinson says the Liberal Democrats are best placed to prevent Boris Johnson securing a majority as her party continues to scale back its election ambitions.

The party no longer portrays its leader as a prime minister in waiting as it struggles to make headway in opinion polls.

Ms Swinson acknowledged the Prime Minister appeared to be ‘on course’ for victory at the moment. And she signalled the Lib Dems were changing tack to argue that Remain supporters should support them to stop Mr Johnson winning a majority for his version of Brexit. Surveys yesterday suggested the party averages around 15 per cent in the polls, which could leave them with fewer than the 21 seats they held when the election was called.

Ms Swinson suggested on BBC 1’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday that she could give the go-ahead for Mr Johnson’s Brexit blueprint as long as it was conditional on a second referendum.

This should raise red flags for anyone, who really think the Lib Dems are progressive and are actually the party of Remain. It has always seemed to me that Swinson’s support for the Remain campaign was tactical. Only two per cent more of her party support Remain than the number of Labour supporters who do so. And she is absolutely not a progressive in any sense of the word. She’s an arch-Thatcherite. She consistently voted with the government under the Tories, in fact far more so than many leading Conservatives. And she wants to put up a statue to Thatcher.

This looks to me that she’s trying to imply that she’s willing to form a coalition with Labour when she absolutely isn’t. She’s said that she would prefer a Conservative government to Corbyn, and that’s definitely the way she’ll go. If there is another hung parliament and it’s a choice between the two parties, she’ll do exactly what Nick Clegg did and join Boris in government without a moment’s hesitation. And I think that in negotiations between the parties, her commitment to a second referendum will be jettisoned. Or postponed. Or something, so she doesn’t have to act on it.

Don’t be misled. Swinson is preparing to sell out Lib Dem voters yet again. Just like her party did under Clegg.

 

Hooray! BBC War of the Worlds Adaptation Begins on Sunday

November 13, 2019

At last! The BBC is set to screen its adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic SF novel, The War of the Worlds, on Sunday 17th November 2019 on BBC 1 at 9.00 pm. The blurb for it on page 64 of the Radio Times runs

Dramatisation of the HG Wells’s classic Sci-Fi tale, set in Edwardian England. Lovers Amy and George are among the first to notice when a mysterious capsule lands on Horsell Common near Woking in Surrey. Some thing it is an asteroid, but then it starts to shudder and move.

The additional article about the drama on page 63 by Alison Graham says of it

There’s an angry red planet, burning with fury, and its murderous emissary is falling to Earth, ready to destroy life as we know it by landing directly on, er, Woking. Blameless Woking in Surrey, the heart of the Home Counties. Surely it can’t be a twisted dislike of middle-class southerners that powers this gigantic beast?

The HG Wells sci-fi classic is dusted off in a thumping adaptation, with Rafe Spall as journalist George and his “wife” Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson), who have scandalised the town by living together unwed. She’s very progressive, considering this is Edwardian England, having a degree and a job as an assistant to an astronomer, Ogilvy (Robert Carlyle). 

But one night there’s a shattering noise, strange clouds fill the air and soon an unspeakable foe stalks the land, killing at will. Woking will never be the same again.

The I wrote a little piece about the adaptation yesterday, but instead of talking about the plot concentrated instead on the changes to the female lead, who is barely mentioned in the book, and that the astronomer, Ogilvy, is now gay. Peter Harness, who has adapted it, said that this made the story more interesting as Amy and Ogilvy were both outsiders. It’s definitely an attempt to make it more contemporary. Amy’s character obviously has been changed in order to introduce a strong female lead, and I suspect the decision to make her a scientist follows the campaign to get more women into science and engineering. As for the pair’s domestic arrangements, this seems partly based on some of the ideas circulating in very radical circles at the time – that marriage was a burden to women, and should be abolished and free love practised instead – and Wells’ own promiscuity. The decision to make Ogilvy gay also seems to me to be an attempt to make the story more contemporary. Or it might simply be following the lead of Dr Who, which has had a series of gay characters since its revival.

Regardless of the precise reasons for the changes, it looks excellent. It’s also been a long time in coming. It was due to be released last October and I wondered if it was ever going to be released at all. Now it seems it will, and I’m looking forward to it.

Jeanette Winterson’s Cyberfeminist New Tale of Frankenstein, AI and Sex Robots

May 26, 2019

A week or so ago I put up several articles criticising Ian McEwan’s latest book as another example of mainstream, literary writers’ appropriation of Science Fictional subjects. As I said in these articles, what annoys me about this is the higher respect given to these works, even though genre authors have frequently tackled the subjects much better. Private Eye in its piece describing how the literary set were turning to robots and AI said that after McEwan’s book would come one by Jeanette Winterson. This is Frankissstein: A Love Story, which was reviewed in Friday’s issue of the I, for 24th May 2019 by Lucy Scholes, on page 44 of the paper.

I realise that it’s dangerous to comment on a book you’ve never read, and that reviews can be notoriously inaccurate guides to what a book or other work is actually like. I can remember the Oxford poet, Tom Paulin on the Late Review about two decades or more ago really attacking the Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, as a piece of Nazi cinema in precisely so many words. He had a point in that some groups had felt that the film was somehow racist and discriminatory, particularly in the portrayal of Jar Jar Binks. Binks, it was held, was a caricature of Blacks, Hispanics or gays. But many others didn’t find anything racist or homophobic in the movie, and Paulin’s attack was itself a grotesque misrepresentation of the movie itself.

But Scholes’ brief description of the book and its themes raise issues that deserve comment and criticism.

The Plot

The book is split between two periods. The first is that night in 1816 in the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva when Byron, his lover, Claire Clairmont, the Shelleys and their doctor, John Polidori, all met to write a ghost story, the evening which saw the birth of Mary Shelley’s tale of the monstrous creation of artificial, human life, Frankenstein. The second is a contemporary tale about a romance between a young transgender doctor, Ry Shelley, who meets and falls in love with the charismatic Victor Stein at a cryonics facility in the Arizona desert. Stein is a leader in the field of Artificial Intelligence, who, according to the review, ‘envisions a bodyless utopia in which race, faith gender and sexuality no longer exist.’

Caught up in this tale is Ron Lord, a millionaire, who has made his fortune from advance sex robots, and his partner, the evangelical Claire, who has designed a version for Christians, and an investigating journalist, Polly D. Ron Lord’s empire of sex robots its misogynistic. His deluxe model offers three orifices and interesting conversation, in which they tell the user he’s very clever and asks him if he knows anything about Real Madrid. Looking at their names, it seems very clear to me that they’re supposed to be the modern counterparts of Byron’s party 200 years ago. But it’s a moot point how accurate this portrayal is about what they would be like if they lived now. As for Claire’s invention of the ‘Christian Companion’, this seems to be a gibe by Winterson at Christian hypocrisy. Winterson’s a lesbian, who had a miserable childhood growing up in an extreme Christian sect. This formed the basis for his book Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, which was adapted as a TV drama by the Beeb. This seems to have established the 9.00 Sunday night slot as the venue for intense dramas about gay women. It was followed a few years later by Fingersmith, a lesbian drama set in the Victorian underworld. And now there’s Gentleman Jack, now playing on BBC 1, based on a real Victorian aristocratic lady, who married her gay lover. I’m very much aware that many Christians do hate gays, and that in response many gay men and women have turned away from Christianity and religion. But this isn’t necessarily the case. I know one woman, who was brought up by her mother and her lesbian partner, who grew up perfectly well adjusted. She was deeply religious herself, and went on to marry a vicar. She also loves her mother, and respects her for the excellent way she feels her mother brought her up.

Cyberspace as Disembodied Platonic Realm

Some of the ideas in Winterson’s book also seems strangely dated. Like the idea of AI as offering a utopia in which people are disembodied entities without race, gender, sexuality or religion. This sounds like it’s based on the views of some of the cyberfeminists back in the 1990s. They hailed the internet as forum in which women would be free to participate as individuals without gender. Now there is a real issue here with misogyny on the internet. There are some sites and forums which are very hostile to women, so much so that a few years ago there were comments that there no women on the internet, as those who were seemed few and far between. But the solution to that problem is to create a culture in which women are free to participate and interact without their gender being issue, rather than forced to disguise or deny it.

It’s also vulnerable to the opposite criticism from feminist academics like Margaret Wertheimer. In her The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace, Wertheimer criticised cyberspace for being too masculine. It was a disembodied, Platonic realm of mind like the heaven of religious belief. Women weren’t interested in such ideal states, and so were put off it. This idea was influential. One of the museums and art galleries held an exhibition of Virtual worlds created by artists experimenting with the medium. One of the women artists, whose work was featured, included as part of her world the sound of the viewer breathing as they entered her artificial reality. She had done so, she told New Scientist, because the absence of any kind of physical interaction in these Virtual worlds was the product of male scientists and engineers, who made the passage through them like that of a disembodied being. As a woman, she wanted to rectify this through the inclusion of details that made it appear that the viewer was physically there.

It’s over 20 years since these arguments were made, and much has changed since then. There are now very many women on the internet, with female sites like Mum’s Net and the feminist Jezebel. And some of the online games and worlds, like Second Life, do allow their users to interact as physical entities as the games’ characters or citizens.

Robot-Human Romance and Sex

As for her view of sex robots, it’s true that the creation of an artificial woman purely as a sex slave is misogynist. At the moment such machines aren’t really much more than sophisticate sex dolls, and some of those, who use them do seem to be very misogynist. One of the denizens of the Manosphere, the Happy Humble Hermit, who really does despise women and feminism, apparently has a link on his web page to a firm making them. But despite dire warning that these machines are a threat to women’s status and real, genuine, loving or respectful sexual relationship, the existing sex robots aren’t popular. A Spanish brothel which specialised in them has had to get rid of them because of lack of custom. Women don’t have to fear being replaced by compliant, subservient female robots, as in Ira Levin’s Stepford Wives, just yet.

But science fiction also shows that there is an interest, at least among some people, for genuine romantic relationships between robots, and humans and robots. One of the Star Wars spin-off books published in the 1980s was Hardware Honeymoon, whose cover showed C-3PIO holding hands with a female robot. The robot seems to have become the subject of some women’s fantasies. One of the independent comics from California was Wet Satin, whose female creator based her stories on women’s sexual fantasies. One of these was about a robot, which looked remarkably similar to the Star Wars robot. Rather less luridly, Tanith Lee wrote a book in the 1980s about a woman having a romance with a robot in The Silver Metal Lover. You could go on. There is a desire for sex with robots, but this seems in most cases to be within the framework of a romantic relationship with a genuinely sentient being, not a mechanical sex slave.

Stein’s Disembodied Utopia Horrific

As for Stein’s idea of a post-human utopia of disembodied minds, this is profoundly unattractive, as Scholes herself says in her review, saying ‘As with all brave new worlds, though, the reality is rarely perfect’. It seems to be based on the Transhumanists hope that in the near future technology will have advanced so far that that humans will be able to download their minds into computers, so that they can exist as pure disembodied entities in cyberspace, or move into robot bodies, like the hero at the end of the South African SF film, Chappie. But Winterson’s, or Stein’s cybernetic dream of posthuman, post-flesh utopia is horrifically sterile. Part of what makes diversity and multiculturalism such powerful ideologies is that people are naturally drawn, fascinated with and treasure difference. It’s why western tourists travel around the world, to Asia, Africa and South America, to enjoy the experience of different cultures and meeting people of different races and religions. There is friction and hostility between different peoples, all too often exploding into horrific violence. But the reduction of humanity to disembodied minds doesn’t solve the problem. It doesn’t genuinely promote tolerance, equality and the feeling of common humanity so much as negates the problem by destroying the physical and spiritual differences that form the basis of human identity. It’s certainly not an idea that’s popular in SF. In just about all the Science Fiction I’ve read, people retain their gender and other aspects of their identity even after they cross over into cyberspace. When they appear, either in cyberspace itself, or conjured up in computer displays for characters in the real world, they appear as they did in life, complete with their gender and race. And I’ve no doubt that the vast majority of people would find that far more preferable to the strange disembodied existence Stein offers in Winterson’s book.

LGBTQ and Transgender Issues With Winterson’s/ Stein’s Utopia

Which also raises the question about its handling of LGBTQ issues. The inclusion of a transgender character seems to be a deliberate attempt to make the book very relevant to contemporary issues, now that transgender rights have overtaken gays as the issue of the moment. Some transgender people seem to look forward to a future without physical gender. I can remember reading an interview with the first, or one of the first, people to undergo the operation, April Ashley, in an interview in one of the Daily Mail’s Sunday supplements years ago. She looked forward to a time when humanity would have moved beyond gender, and pregnancy would become a matter of simply taking a pill. But I think such people are a very small minority. Back in the 1990s there was a demand from gay Science Fiction fans for Star Trek to tackle homosexuality and include gay characters or stories. This was several years before the new, revived Dr. Who did so, and so would have been extremely controversial. Star Trek – The Next Generation tried to make an effort in that direction with a story in which Lieutenant Riker formed a relationship with a member of an alien species, the J’Nai, who had evolved past gender. However, from time to time there were throwbacks, who were persecuted. They would be hunted down and then treated so that they were proper neuter members of their society. The alien with whom Riker has fallen in love is one such throwback, a female. She is caught by the authorities. Riker tries to free her, but it is too late. She is now neuter, and so has no interest in any sexual or romantic relationship with him. The story’s a metaphorical attempt to deal with the underlying issues around homosexuality, gender identity and forbidden sexuality, but was bitterly criticised by gay SF fans because it didn’t tackle the issue of homosexuality overtly. The Federation was, remember, an organisation in which humanity had moved beyond racial and cultural prejudice and sexism, and gay Trekkers and their supporters felt that the prejudice against homosexuality would also have no place in such a future. But they were also highly critical about how the story presented gays. They felt that it showed them unfairly as wanting to abolish gender. And Winterson’s book does seem to do the same with its depiction of a romance between the transgender character, Ry Shelley, and Stein, with his dream of an asexual disembodied world.

Conclusion

I may well be doing Winterson’s book a great disservice, but it does seem peculiarly dated for a book which is trying so desperately to be acutely relevant. And I do feel that readers would probably get a better idea of the issues about cyberspace and AI by going elsewhere. I think there’s probably a better fictional treatment of these subjects waiting to be written. And as for human-robot romance and sex, this has also been very extensively explored in genre SF. And some of this almost certainly represents what people really want from such relationships than simple sex robots.

As for the book’s inclusion of Mary Shelley, Byron, Claire Clairmont and Polidori, Brian Aldiss also did it, or something like it, in his 1970’s SF story Frankenstein Unbound. This was filmed by B-movie maven Roger Corman. It’s not supposed to be a good film, but even so, it seems far more to my taste than Winterson’s book.

 

 

 

Post-Slavery Exploitation and the Beeb’s ‘Long Song’

December 19, 2018

Okay, I haven’t been watching The Long Song, the Beeb’s historical drama set in the Caribbean during the dying days of slavery, which has been running on BBC 1 at 9.00 pm this week. It’s in three parts, the final of which is tonight. The series is based on Andrea Levy’s book of the same name, as is about a young slave girl, Kitty, who is taken away from her mother to become the personal servant of Caroline Mortimer, the sister of the plantation owner. It’s not something I would usually watch, and the description by the I’s TV critic, Sean O’Grady, that it’s ‘like Downton Abbey with added racism and sadism’ seems about accurate.

But I did catch a brief glimpse of a clip from the show on breakfast TV this morning. This showed the planter telling the slaves that they could be evicted if they didn’t work hard enough, and that they would be paid wages, but there would be a little deduction for rent.

This seems to me to be entirely accurate historically. After the final abolition of slavery in 1838, the planters and the colonial and British governments became concerned that the slaves weren’t working hard enough, and that they would leave the plantations to occupy unused land in the interior. This would leave the plantations without the labour needed to work them and harvest their crops, the country would return to subsistence agriculture and the entire colony would be ruined. they therefore set about devising methods to force the former slaves to remain on the plantations and to work hard.

Now there was some truth to their fears. Some colonies – I think one of them was Jamaica – reported that the slaves stopped working for the two months after abolition. When they returned to work, they demanded wages which the plantation masters considered too high. They also made a point of working less hard than previously. It was reported that they considered working as hard as before to be selling their ‘free’, and that if they did so, they were unworthy of their newly gained liberty.

Some of the planters did threaten their slaves with eviction, and one female slave was thrown out of her plantation home with all her belongings. They also introduced the truck system from Britain, in which employees were paid in tokens, which could only be spent in the company shops. They also used a payment system called ‘tenancy-at-will’ to keep the slaves where they were. This combined the slaves’ wages with deductions for rent. But the rents were always higher than the wages. For examples, if they were paid 5 shillings per week in wages, then the rent would be eight shillings. It was an evil system that has rightly been compared to debt peonage in Latin America.

To stop the former slaves buying vacant crown land in British Guiana, now Guyana, the government raised the price of the plots for sale so that they were far above their ability to afford them.

Obviously the freed people of the Caribbean didn’t take this lightly, and there were Strikes, riots and protests against these and other forms of official oppression and exploitation for decades afterwards. There was also the continual fear that the colonial governments or the British would reintroduce slavery. One former slave said that the Queen, Victoria, had abolished slavery with a charter, and so could just as easily put it back again. And there were a series of rebellions by the former slaves, such as that at Morant Bay in Jamaica as a result. Given this, it is no surprise that there is a continuing resentment at their treatment by some people of West Indian heritage.

Lenny Henry, who plays one of the slaves in the series, has said in an interview that children need to be taught more about slavery. He’s right. Salman Rushdie once remarked that the British didn’t know much about their history, because so much of it happened abroad. Which is also true. This country is affected by events that occurred outside in the colonies, episodes which are known to the people of those countries but not to us, and so some of the post-imperial resentments left over are a surprise.

We do need to know more, and not the sanitized, patriotic version that Tories like Michael Gove want our kids indoctrinated with. It’s only then that we can understand some of the stresses in our multicultural society, and hopefully move beyond them.

Panorama Next Week on the Universal Credit Crisis

November 6, 2018

According to next week’s Radio Times, for the week 10-16 November 2018, Panorama next Monday, 12th November, will be about ‘The Universal Credit Crisis’, as the programme is titled. The blurb for it in the Radio Times runs

As the government’s new benefits system universal credit is rolled out, Catrin Nye spends time with families forced to survive on handouts from food banks while their claims are being processed. She also asks whether the Chancellor Philip Hammond’s extra 17 billion pounds of funding is too little, too late.

I don’t think there’s any question of any of that. One of the stories in today’s I paper is that food bank use has gone up 13% due to problems with universal credit. And the top reason for people using food banks has been delays and problems with getting benefits.

The government is coming under very serious pressure because of universal credit, and I hope this programme adds even more. It’s on at 7.30 pm, on BBC 1.

Theresa May’s Britain: Three Million Children Go Hungry in the Holidays

September 12, 2017

I’m sure Mike and the other left-wing bloggers and vloggers have posted up this statistic before, but I came across it again last night. It shocked and outraged me. Inside Out West, the local documentary programme on BBC 1 for the Bristol area, did a piece on child poverty. They interviewed one woman, a single mother, one of whose children was disabled. She was starving herself so she could feed her children. There were a few words from her non-handicapped son, who said it upset him that his mother was denying herself food, and he tried to persuade her to eat something. Sebet Chaudhary, the presenter of that part of the programme, then said that national statistics showed that 3 million children were going hungry in the holidays. When they go back to school, they are months behind their classmates. The programme then moved on to interview a man, who had a scheme to change all this.

I wasn’t really following the programme, so I can’t give you a complete description of what it said. Only that I was deeply annoyed by the stats.

Three million children in Britain do not have enough to eat.

In Britain, one of the richest nations in the world.

This is absolutely disgraceful, though I’m sure there are other, less delicate terms to describe it.

No wonder many people were reading a piece I put up a few years ago about a food line of starving children in early 20th century Britain, before the introduction of the welfare state.

It’s recurring, and due to the same stupid, laissez-faire, free trade, corporatist, neoliberal policies.

And the people behind this are the Tories, with some help from their Lib Dem enablers. This is what Maggie set out to do when she ranted about rolling back the frontiers of the state. She wanted to privatize everything, including the NHS, and dismantle the welfare state. And part of her wretched ‘Victorian Values’ was less eligibility, the policy of making life on benefit so hard, that people would be deterred from relying on state aid.

And so we had Iain Duncan Smith and David Cameron presiding over a vicious sanctions regime, in which claimants were denied benefits for the flimsiest of reasons, humiliated at their interviews, and the desperately and incurably ill were told that they were well enough to work. Even those terminally ill in comas.

The benefits system was drastically curtailed, so that more people are being forced to rely on food banks.

All the while we have Theresa May lying about how she’s ‘strong and stable’ and will give Britain a good deal with Brexit. She hasn’t so far. All she’s done is lie.

And to add insult to injury, we have Jacob Rees-Mogg being touted as the next leader of the Tory party, while the inbred, single-helix upper class morons and closet Nazis of ‘Activate’ make jokes about gassing chavs and shooting peasants.

Rees-Mogg is the spawn of privilege. He’s an upper-class, seriously entitled Tory, who started his political career telling the guid fisherfolk of Fife that they should vote for him to maintain an aristocratic House of Lords. His voting record shows that he is massively opposed to the welfare state, and in favour of increased taxation on the poor. When it comes to people earning over £100,000, he’s dead against it.

And to cap it all, he was in the Mirror the other week, which reported that his private investment firm had earned him a cool £4 million.

Well, he’s not the only one. 77 per cent of MPs are company directors, often holding multiple directorships. He, and the other Tories like him, neither know nor care anything about the real, grinding poverty they and their vile policies have inflicted on this country. They are only interested in filling their own pockets at the expense of the rest.

The sooner they’re voted out, the better.

Amber Rudd’s Closing Speech On the Leader Debate – Like a Rory Bremner Impression + Soundbites

May 31, 2017

Okay, I confess, I didn’t watch the leader debates on BBC 1 this evening, as I afraid it would annoy me. I did, however, catch the closing speeches from Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems and Amber Rudd. The Lib Dems made the entirely valid point that Theresa May was not the ‘strong and stable’ leader she’s claiming to be, because she wasn’t there.

Exactly true. May does not like meeting the public. When she does, it’s all very carefully stage-managed. They’re held on private premises, and tend to be invitation-only, so that the proles don’t show up and ask awkward questions.

When she does try meeting the public, she’s either met with a barricade of closed doors, as she was in Scotland, or else is booed out and by angry locals, as she was recently at a housing estate in Bristol.

Corbyn, by contrast, is given a rapturous welcome by people, who genuinely want change and an end to Tory austerity, cuts to public services, the dismantlement of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS.

Standing in for May was Amber Rudd, whose final speech, minus the soundbites, sounded like Rory Bremner’s mickey-take of Tory leader Michael Howard back in the 1990s.

So what was Rudd’s final argument for voting Tory?

Well, she claimed that a vote for any other party than the Conservatives would let Jeremy Corbyn in. She sneered at the other parties as ‘the coalition of chaos’, and claimed that May is the strong leader Britain needs to negotiate a good Brexit and deliver a strong economy.

In other words, as Max Headroom used to say, ‘more…of the same’. It was the same tired old clichés and outright lies: ‘coalition of chaos’, ‘strong and stable’, ‘Brexit’, ‘strong economy’. You could probably play a form of bingo with the Tories, in which you have a card marked with these clichés and soundbites. First person, who crosses all of them wins the right to buy something nice to get over the horror of having to listen to more Tory bilge.

Let’s deal with some of these claims. The French Philosophical Feline, Guy Debord’s Cat, has knocked flat the Tory rhetoric about a ‘strong economy’. He points out that when they say they’re going to create one, it clearly implies that we don’t have a strong economy already. And we clearly don’t, because otherwise we would have money being poured into the NHS, people would not be forced to use food banks, public sector workers would not have their wages cut year on year, and people would have other jobs available to them than those which are only part-time or short-term contracts.

https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/the-strong-economy-soundbite/

As for the ‘coalition of chaos’, this goes back to the old Tory lie that Labour would form a coalition with the Scots Nats. As Corbyn himself said yesterday that it ain’t going to happen, no matter what Nicola Sturgeon may say, this has been blown away.

But if you want to talk about a ‘coalition of chaos’, how else would you describe the Tory-Lib Dem coalition of David Cameron and Nick Clegg? Cameron very effectively weakened the Union by calling the referendum on EU membership, in a bid to silence the Eurosceptics in his party. The result is that England largely voted to Leave, while the rest of the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, wanted to Remain.

This means even further divisions between the constituent nations of the UK itself. And in Northern Ireland, that division is potentially lethal. It was a condition of the 1990s peace agreement that there should be an open border between Ulster and the Republic. If the UK leaves the EU, then it could mean the imposition of a border between the North and the rest of Ireland. And that could mean a return to real chaos and bloodshed.

Nobody in Northern Ireland wants a hard border. That was shown very clearly this morning when the Beeb’s breakfast team interviewed a load of Ulster politicos on the beach at Portrush, except for the Sinn Fein candidate, who was in his constituency office. All but one wanted the border to remain open, including the spokesman for the UUP, while the Sinn Fein candidate wanted Ulster to have a special status within the EU to guarantee the open border.

So congratulations, Cameron and Clegg: You’ve come just that bit closer to destroying the 300-year old union between England, Wales and Scotland, and the almost 200-year old union with Ireland, or rather, with the small part of Ireland that wanted to remain British after the establishment of Eire.

And her cuts to the police, the emergency services, the border guards and the armed forces have led to chaos in this country. They weakened our security, so that it was made much easier for the Manchester suicide bomber to commit his atrocity.

And that isn’t all. The Tories have caused massive chaos in the NHS through their cuts and piecemeal privatisation; millions are living in poverty, thanks to benefit cuts and sanctions, stagnant and falling wages, and zero hours contracts.

As for May being a strong leader, well, no, she isn’t that either. Mike’s put up a post pointing out the number of times she’s made a U-turn. The most obvious was her decision to call a general election, after telling everyone she wouldn’t.

She has also, very manifestly, failed to get a good deal for Britain on Brexit. Despite her waffle to the contrary, when she turned up in Brussels, the rest of the Euro politicos all turned their backs on her. She also showed that she didn’t have a clue what she was doing a little while ago by repeating endlessly the oxymoron, ‘Brexit means Brexit’, and then looking down her nose at the questioner as if they were thick when they tried to ask her what that nonsense meant.

As for her statement that a vote for any other party meant that Labour will get in, Rory Bremner sent that one up on his show, Bremner, Bird and Fortune. This featured the great impressionist posing as Michael Howard, the then leader of the Tory party, and saying into the camera ‘Vote Conservative. If you don’t vote Conservative, Labour will get in.’

And that was, pretty much, all that the Tories could really offer that time.

And, as I saw tonight, that’s pretty much all Amber Rudd and the Tories have to offer now, except for two soundbites.

It’s a threadbare argument, and they know it. That’s why they have to attack Jeremy Corbyn personally, just as the Tories back in the 1990s tried to frighten people with images of Blair as some kind of horrific, demonic beast.

Don’t be fooled.
Don’t let the Tories’ campaign of chaos plunge this country into more bloodshed, poverty, starvation and death.

Vote Labour on June 8th.

Inside Out West on the Break-Up of the NHS Into Regions

January 19, 2017

Monday’s regional current affairs programme for the Bristol and Somerset area on BBC 1, Inside Out West, was on the dire condition of the NHS. It asked whether we now had a national health service, when healthcare provision could vary greatly between different regions. One of the people interviewed was a West Country man, who’d contracted hepatitis B. Unfortunately, the drugs he needed to treat his disease weren’t available locally under the NHS, and he’d been forced to spend £1,300 of his own money. However, treatment for the disease was free in the north east.

The show next interviewed a woman from that area, who’d had trouble obtaining treatment there for the disorder she had. I’ve forgotten now quite what she suffered from, but taken together, the two provided very strong evidence, backed with statistics, that the NHS was being broken up, and healthcare could be very much a ‘postcode lottery’, with patients in areas with poor healthcare provision having to pay for their treatment themselves.

At the end of the programme, the presenter gave the Department of Health’s view of the matter. Unsurprisingly, they claimed that more people than ever before were being treated, and came out with a statistic that claimed to show there were more cancer operations than ever. But they didn’t send anyone to be interviewed on the point.

This is the kind of spin the Tories have been coming out with ever since Thatcher got into power. We’re back to Theresa May claiming that there is no NHS crisis, and trying to shut up any healthcare professional that dared to say otherwise. The programme also interviewed several medical professionals, including doctors, who said that the NHS was very definitely being broken up and healthcare rationed. Most of them were anonymous, but one very famous medical man did appear on camera. This was the avuncular Dr. Robert Winston, the fertility specialist and science presenter, who stated very clearly that we now very much didn’t have an NHS providing universal coverage with the same standard throughout the country. He recognised that there had always been variations in the quality of healthcare in Britain, but now it had got much, much worse.

The fact that the Department of Health didn’t send any of their apparatchiks to argue the point shows that they’re very much aware their own position is open to serious questioning.

This situation is very much what the Tories and Blairites wanted. They wanted to break up the local health authorities and replace them with other administrative structures, in order to encourage competition between regions. Because competition is supposed to improve quality according to capitalist economic doctrine. Blair tried to roll back some of this, but simply replaced the Tory administrative structure with his own in order to encourage the regionalisation of the NHS and the privatisation of the health service, based on the pattern of American private healthcare providers like Kaiser Permanente. This is all described by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis in their book, NHS-SOS. Cameron and May have taken this process further, passing laws that exempt local health authorities from having to provide a range of services free of charge, including ambulances. The legislation is convoluted, but it also means that the Minister for Health is no longer responsible for making sure people have access to state healthcare.

This is all very deliberate. And the effect is that increasingly more people are having to spend their money on healthcare that should be free to all, according to the founding intention of the NHS that it should be universal and free at the point of use.

Don’t believe the Tory rubbish that they are not privatising the NHS. They are.

Support the NHS. Kick out May and Jeremy Hunt.

Gloucester Homeless Hotel and Victim of Bedroom Tax on Bristol Local TV

February 16, 2016

Last night – 15th February 2016 – the regional current affairs programme, Close Up West, did a feature on the Dorchester Hotel in Gloucester, contrasting it with the extremely posh and swanky establishment of the same name in the Metropolis. Whereas London’s Dorchester is reserved for the high paying filthy rich, Gloucester’s is basically a skid-row hotel for the homeless. One of these was a young woman, who had been forced out of her council house because of the Bedroom Tax. She had not been able to find regular, alternative private accommodation because she refused to give up her dog. As it appeared on camera, the animal appeared well-behaved and contented, and a well appreciated why she did not wish to be parted from him.

The hotel’s owners and managers were shown answering the telephone from homeless people, inquiring if there were any vacancies. There weren’t. The manager stated that they had six such phone calls a day, making about 30 each week. This she blamed on the current economic climate and the government’s welfare cuts.

While this is hardly news to the people reading Mike’s blog over at Vox Political, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, Britain Isn’t Eating and so many other left-wing blogs reporting from the front line of poverty, it does add yet another small piece of evidence to the overwhelming mountain showing how aIDS wretched welfare reforms are damaging the people of Britain, and throwing them onto the streets. The only people who don’t accept this are obviously the Tories, and particular the Spurious Major himself. Ian Duncan Smith, however, is so sure of his policies that when challenged about them on a factual basis, he splutters about ‘belief’. That it is if you can find him. Mostly he runs away, and embarrassing documents tend to disappear from cyberspace. Others elsewhere in the Tory cabinet also share his cowardice. Jeremy Hunt last Friday ran away from the junior doctors when they threatened to turn up at the fundraiser in Fareham. Never mind. Perhaps aIDS will let him have the use of the laundry basket he’s been known to hide in.

Huff Post on Kipper Throwing Strop at Bristol Uni on Any Questions

March 1, 2015

Radio 4’s political debate programme, Any Questions on Friday was at Bristol Uni. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the radio equivalent of BBC 1’s Question Time. A different panel of politicians appear at various locations up and down the country each week, and are asked questions by the audience. On the panel this last week was David Coburn, a UKIP MEP. Coburn’s odd in that he’s openly gay, yet opposes same-sex marriage. He’s accused its supporters as ‘equality Nazis’. Which is weird, considering that the Nazis most certainly did not favour equality, and were very firmly against male homosexuality. During the Third Reich gay men were sent to the concentration camps, and identified with a pink triangle on their camp uniform. It’s quite bizarre, considering that in the bio that was sent to the audience, he described himself as ‘a big, screaming poof’.

The Huffington Post’s article, Ukip MEP David Coburn Got Slow Hand-Clapped So Called BBC Audience Names, reports how the students were definitely not impressed by Coburn’s remarks about immigrants pricing British people out of the housing market. So they started to give him the slow handclap. This enraged Coburn, and he started ranting about how the audience was ‘Green’ and full of ‘Lib Dems’. The article begins

Ukip MEP David Coburn appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions programme on Friday evening. He got slow hand-clapped by members of the audience. So he called them names.

Coburn got into a fight with the audience at Bristol University during a discussion about housing. “How would we know how many houses we need? Because we don’t know how many people are coming into the country,” he said, having dismissed the “wind” from Labour’s shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds.

Coburn, Ukip’s MEP from Scotland, said Britain should leave the EU in order to be able to properly understand how many houses needed to be built. Members of the audience then started to loudly slow handclap the MEP.

“This is a blatantly Green [Party] audience,” Coburn shot back, as host Jonathan Dimbleby tried to keep things calm. “Many of these people sitting around here, all very nice bourgeois Greens and whatever and so on and so forth, what about the working man? How can he afford a house if he is competing with open door immigration?”

The article’s at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/02/27/ukip-mep-david-coburn-was-slow-hand-clapped-by-bbc-audience_n_6772468.html. There’s an audio file with it, so you can hear this broadcasting train wreck for yourself.

Now I don’t know how many people in the audience were Green party members or Lib Dems. I’m sure there were a number, but probably far less than Coburn believes. The Lib Dems have lost a lot of student support, and created a great deal of hostility for themselves on campuses up and down the country through raising tuition fees. I’ve been at conferences on medieval history, where speakers have compared Nick Clegg with some of the Middle Ages most notorious liars and slippery customers. It’s one of the reasons why I believe that Labour’s plan to cut tuition fees from £9,000 down to £6,000 should be a vote-winner.

The party political allegiances of the students there probably wasn’t the only reason they showed their disapproval so audibly. There’s now a global market in education, and people come to British universities from all over the world. And increasingly vice-versa. Brits are now also choosing to study in America, and also at continental universities, such as Paris and Brussels. Many members of the academic staff are also foreign. Among the lecturers at the archaeology and anthropology department at Bristol, for example, were academics from across Europe – Greece, Germany and Portugal. There were also visiting speakers, who gave seminars and lectures to the Arch-Anth Soc (Archaeology and Anthropology Society) from across the world. The students were no less diverse, coming from places like Greece, America, Canada, India and Thailand. This is part of what makes going to uni such an enriching experience. Quite apart from the purely academic study, you get to meet and mix with people from different, often vastly different backgrounds and cultures.

And your own understanding of the world, its immense problems and vast opportunities, is broadened.

With so many in the audience either foreign, or the friends and fellow students of people from outside the UK, it really isn’t surprising that the audience disliked Coburn’s comments so strongly. They are simply narrow and xenophobic. And many of the foreign students are going to find them particularly hollow, as the fees for them were much higher than those for domestic students. They were, however, living in the same halls of residence, and the same types of student accommodation. So they probably didn’t feel that they were pushing house prices up.

Quite apart from the experiences of foreign students and their circumstances, Coburn’s attempt to link it to immigration from the EU, or anywhere else, is quite wrong. There have been cases recorded in the right-wing press, like the Daily Mail, where large numbers of immigrants have placed a strain on available stocks of council housing. However, the root cause of the lack of affordable housing is because the incomes of the very rich have increased far beyond those of the working and lower middle class, regardless of ethnicity or immigrant status. Not enough houses have been built, and since Thatcher the government has been trying to get rid of council housing. In fact Thatcher expressly forbade any more from being built. As for affordable housing, for many people this is a grim joke. The rents for affordable homes are pegged at 80 per cent of the market rate, which for many people in London still means that they will be unable to afford them. The rich, through their immense wealth, push up property prices, beyond the ability of the lower income groups to rent or purchase.

And if immigrants from the continent really were pushing us all out of house and home through their sheer numbers and obscene wealth, why is it then that, according to the stats Johnny Void has put on his blog, 34 per cent of rough sleepers in London are foreign?

The only areas of which I can think, where Coburn’s comments about immigrants pushing up property prices might be true, is in the very affluent parts of London, like Kensington and Knightsbridge, where luxury apartment have been built aimed at the global super-rich, such as the Chinese, or bought up by Russian oligarchs. Now the last time I looked, China and Russia were not part of the EU.

Coburn was given the slow hand-clap by Bristol Uni’s students, not just because some of them were left-wing, though that was probably also part of it. But also because they knew from their own experience at Uni that Coburn was talking dangerous, xenophobic nonsense. And they reacted accordingly.