Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

How Can I Trust Keir Starmer to Protect the NHS When Blair Wanted to Privatise It?

April 9, 2021

The parties have been running their election broadcasts this week in the run up to the local, elected mayoral and other elections in May. I caught a bit of Labour’s the other night, and wasn’t impressed. The piece I glimpsed consisted of Starmer sitting in front of the camera, urging people to vote Labour to protect it from the Tories’ privatisation. And the Tories are privatising the NHS by stealth, all under the cover of bringing in best practice from the private sector. And the Lib Dems have been exactly the same. They were the Tories’ partners in David Cameron’s wretched coalition government, which carried on the privatisations. Nick Clegg did nothing to stop it. Indeed, he gave every assistance to the Tories and seemed to be fully behind the handing over hospitals and doctor’s surgeries to private enterprise to run. Just as the Liberals and SDP were way back in 1987, when the two allied parties had declared that it didn’t matter whether doctors and hospitals were public or private, provided that the treatment was free. Except that the Tory privatisation of the NHS will definitely not retain free treatment at the point of use, as provided by the terms of the NHS’ establishment. The Tories wish to turn the NHS into a fully private system funded by private medical insurance like the American health system.

There are Labour MPs who are fighting tooth and nail to protect the NHS. I’m thinking here of the people on the Labour left, such as Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon, Diane Abbott, Rosina Allin-Khan. I also believe that others from the Labour right are doing so. At one meeting of my constituency party here in south Bristol, our local MP Karen Smyth said she joined the Labour party and became an MP because she was so appalled at what Cameron and co. were doing to the Health Service.

But I find Starmer’s claim that he will protect our NHS much less than credible. He’s an arch-Blairite, who has spent his tenure as leader so far in conjunction with the wretched NEC trying to purge the party of left-wingers and socialists. This has involved all the usual trumped-up, fake charges of anti-Semitism. And sometimes there’s no explanation given at all, like when the NEC barred three of leading Labour contenders for elected mayor of Liverpool. Worse than that, he has broken all of his leadership promises. He claimed that he would continue to uphold Labour’s manifesto promises of returning the utilities to state ownership, reversing the NHS’ privatisation and properly funding it, strengthening the welfare state and workers’ rights and restoring power to the unions. But in practice he hasn’t done any of that. It might put off all those rich donors he’s trying to attract. He has shown no real opposition to Johnson’s government, and what little he has shown has been glaringly opportunistic. So opportunistic, in fact, that right-wing windbag and broadcasting egomaniac, Julia Hartley-Brewer, asked him if there was anything in fact he stood for when he appeared on her wretched show on LBC radio.

And if this isn’t ominous enough, the fact remains that Tony Blair also went ahead with the right-wing programme of privatising the NHS. The polyclinics and health centres Blair set up were opened up to private management. He continued handing over doctors’ surgeries and hospitals to private healthcare firms. And the Community Care Groups, the groups of doctors which were supposed to manage local NHS doctors’ budgets, were granted the ability to buy in services from private sector companies, and raise money from the private sector. His Health Minister, Alan Milburn, wished the NHS to be reduced to a kitemark logo on services provided by private industry. And I fear Starmer will do exactly the same.

Brian Burden, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted this comment noting Starmer’s telling lack of opposition to another Tory appointment.

Hi, Beastrabban –

I refer you to p19 of the April 7 issue of Socialist Worker: Samantha Jones, formerly of Openrose Health, owned by US health insurance giant Centene Corporation, has recently been appointed a top adviser to Boris Johnson. Openrose took over scores of NHS GP surgeries earlier this year. Centene has faced a number of fraud and corruption law suits in USA. Socialist Worker believes that Johnson is moving towards the full privatisation of the NHS. Not a whisper from Starmer about any of this.

I wasn’t aware of this appointment, though I haven’t been paying much attention to the news recently. Not that I think it would be in the news. Ray Tallis and Jacky Davis have a whole chapter in their book, NHS – SOS to how the BBC has supported the privatisation of the Health Service. I’m not a fan of the former Socialist Workers’ Party, but I’ve no doubt they’re correct about this and are right to publicise it. And Starmer’s silence is telling.

I doubt very much that Starmer’s serious about protecting the NHS. And everyone else seems determined to privatise it with the exception of the much-reviled Labour left.

So forget the vile propaganda and smears against them and support the real people of principle who are standing up for this most precious of British institutions.

Tory Flag-Waving Now Reaching Reaganite Proportions

April 6, 2021

Patriotism, someone once said, is the last refuge of the scoundrel. And the Tories have done their best to show how true this is, especially last week when it seemed that they wasted no opportunity to wave the flag. This also led them to generate more synthetic outrage towards the BBC. Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty raised Tory ire when Stayt joked about the relatively small size of the union flag on display during an interview with Matt Hancock or one of the other Tory ministers. This led to howls from the Tory press that the Beeb was sneering at the flag. They weren’t. They were laughing about the Tory’s sheer opportunistic use of it.

It’s no accident that they’ve started waving the flag in the weeks running up to the local elections. Their performance on health, the economy, Brexit and just about everything else has been dire. They’re still trying to privatise the health service by stealth, they insulted the nurses with a 2 per cent pay rise, which is in real terms a cut in their salaries, wages are still frozen, more people are being forced into real, grinding poverty, the queues at the food banks are as long as ever, or longer. The Brexit that Boris has been so desperate to ‘get done’ is spelling disaster for Britain’s manufacturing industry, and businesses dealing with the continent and ordinary Brits wishing to travel abroad are now faced with mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy. Bureaucracy which the Brexiteers blithely assured us wouldn’t happen. Hopefully this year will see us coming out of lockdown and the Coronavirus crisis. We’ve a far higher rate of peeps receiving the vaccine than the EU, but that shouldn’t distract attention from the colossal way the Tories have mismanaged the Covid crisis as a whole. As Mike’s pointed out in one of his articles, Tory bungling and corruption – they gave vital medical contracts to companies owned and run by their friends and supporters, rather than to firms that could actually deliver – that over 100,000 people have died of the disease. One of the good peeps on Twitter has shown how this compares to the numbers killed in some of the genocides and ethnic massacres that have plagued recent decades. And the report, which was supposed to show that Britain isn’t institutionally racist, has been torn to shreds with some of the academics cited claiming they were not properly consulted and seeking to distance themselves from it. And then there are the mass demonstrations up and down the land against their attempts to outlaw any demonstration or protest they don’t like under the guise that it would be a nuisance.

And so, with all this discontent, they’ve fallen back to Thatcher’s tactics of waving the flag at every opportunity. One of the hacks at the Absurder in the 1980s said that Britain had three parties – the patriotic party, who were the Tories, the loony party, which was Labour, and the sensible party, which was the SDP/Liberals. Which showed you the paper’s liberal bias even then. The SDP, Liberals and their successors, the Lib Dems. have sold out utterly, while after four decades of Thatcherism Michael Foot’s Labour party looks far less than loony. But the hack was right about the Tories and patriotism. Thatcher waved the flag as frantically as she could and constantly invoked the spirit of Winston Churchill and World War II. One particularly memorable example of this was the Tory 1987 election broadcast, which featured Spitfires zipping about the sky while an overexcited voice told the world ‘Man was born free’ and concluded ‘It’s great to be great again’.

Here’s another feature of Fascism that’s been adopted by the Tories to add to those on Mike’s checklist. Fascism is an ideology of national rebirth and revival. Thatcher was claiming she was making us great again, just as Donald Trump claimed he was doing for America. Just as Oswald Mosley called one of his wretched books The Greater Britain. And unfortunately, as Zelo Street has also pointed out, Fascists like the Nazis have also used people’s natural loyalty to their flag as a means of generating support for their repulsive regimes. British Fascism was no different. Mosley also made great use of the flag at his rallies, and this tactic was taken over by his successors in the National Front and BNP. This has been an embarrassment to ordinary, non-racist Brits, who simply like the flag. One of my friends at school was a mod. At the time, the union flag and British bulldog formed a large part of mod imagery without meaning that the person was a racist or White supremacist. During one of the art lessons my friend started painting a picture with those two elements – the union flag and bulldog. The teacher came over and politely asked him not to do so, as he was afraid people would like at it and come to the wrong conclusion. This was just after the 1981/2 race riots, so you can understand why. But it is frustrating and infuriating that ordinary expressions of reasonable patriotism or simple pop culture iconography have become suspect due to their appropriation by the Far Right.

But the real excesses of flag-waving were to be seen over the other side of the Pond in Reagan’s America. Reagan was wrecking his country with privatisation and an assault on what the country had in the way of a welfare state, while murdering the people of countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua by supporting Fascist dictators and their death squads. But, like Thatcher, he did everything he could to use the symbols of American nationhood. Like the Stars and Stripes. A Republican party political broadcast in 1984 or thereabouts showed the American flag being raised no less than 37 times. This was so bizarrely excessive that one of the Beeb’s foreign correspondents commented on it. As far as I am aware, no-one took him to task for sneering at it.

This flag-waving is part of the Tories attempts to present themselves as the preservers of British national identity, tradition and pride against the assaults of the left, particularly Black Lives Matter and their attacks on statues. I’m not impressed with the attacks on some of the monuments, like that of Winston Churchill, even though he was a racist. But in Bristol the only statue attacked was that of the slavery and philanthropist Edward Colston. None of the other statues in and around Bristol’s town centre of Edmund Burke, Queen Victoria, Neptune and the sailors who made my city a great port, were touched. And then there was the protest last week against the new school uniform policy at Pimlico Academy in London. This ruled out the wearing of large afro hair styles. So the students started protesting it was racist. The headmaster also raised the union flag, which led the statement from one of the students, Amna Mukhtar, that it weirdly felt like they were being colonised. And then some idiot burnt the flag in protest. The headmaster has now rescinded the school’s uniform code and taken the flag down. Now I gather that one of the Tories is now calling for every school to fly the union flag.

It all reminds me of the comments the late, great comedian Bill Hicks made when Reagan and his supporters were flying the flag and their outrage when a young member of the Communist party burned it. After making jokes about the Reaganite rage and hysteria, Hicks said that he didn’t want anyone to burn the flag, but burning wouldn’t take away freedom, because it’s freedom. Including the freedom to burn the flag.

Quite. And the Tories are wrecking our country and taking away our freedoms while cynically waving the flag.

So when they start spouting about it, use your scepticism and think of Hick’s comment instead. And vote for someone else.

No! Black Lives Matter Had Zilch to Do with Bristol Riot

March 23, 2021

More lies and racism from Nigel Farage and Andy Ngo. Yesterday’s big story was the riot in Bristol on Sunday night. A crowd had gathered during the day to protest the Tory’s wretched and abominable Police and Crime bill. This is another landmark in the Tories’ push to turn Britain into a Fascist state, as it would ban all protests or demonstrations if someone considered them a nuisance, as well as place further restrictions on Travellers. At the moment, the leaders or organisers of an illegal demonstration can be prosecuted and forced to pay a £10,000 fine. It may have been to avoid this that yesterday’s demonstration appeared not to have any clear leadership or organisational structure and this may have been one of the reasons it turned violent.

The crowd had originally been peaceful, assembling on Bristol’s College Green outside the Council House, sorry, ‘City Hall’. Most of the demonstrators had apparently left and gone home by the evening, when the crowd marched on the police station in Bridewell Street for a sit down protest. It was there that the protest became a riot. The police station was attacked, windows smashed and graffiti scrawled on the wall. Cars were also set at light, and the mob fought the police. Four policemen were reported to have been hospitalised, and seven protesters arrested.

It’s unclear who was responsible for the riot. Politicians from across the political spectrum yesterday condemned the rioters, including Bristol’s brilliant elected mayor, Marvin Reese. Reese called the riot ‘politically illiterate’, and made the point that it actually strengthened the Tories’ arguments for tougher measures against demonstrations. But people, who were at the demo claimed that the riot broke out when the police attacked the crowd. Mike’s put up a series of Tweets on his blog from one of the protesters, Adam Johannes, a Bristolian, who said that the police pushed people, kicked those on the ground, when the crowd pushed back, police in riot gear struck protesters on the head and sent in the attack dogs. Novara Media’s TyskySour discussed the riot and what it meant for left-wing protests in this country in their edition last night. They spoke to two people, who were present, one of whom was a journalist from the Bristol Cable. The journo believed that the riot was caused by the protesters. The other person believed that the police had started it with unprovoked attacks.

I don’t know which is true. The police have launched unprovoked attacks on demonstrators before, which the media has spun as the protesters attacking the police. The most notorious example of this was the police attack on the strikers at Orgreave colliery during the Miners’ Strike. The BBC reversed the footage of the attack to falsely accuse the strikers of attacking the police. One of the my cousins saw the police attacking members of the crowd during the Poll Tax demonstrations nearly thirty years ago. On the other hand, there are idiots who join demonstrations in order to provoke them to riot. One of my friends ran into one of these morons when he went to a Poll Tax demonstration with his mother.

But one this is clear. The riot had absolutely zero to do with Black Lives Matter. Or, indeed, any other left-wing organisation. But this hasn’t stopped the Fuhrage and Andy Ngo claiming that it did. Andy Ngo’s an Asian-American, but this hasn’t stopped him from supporting the American far right. He posted a series of Tweets stating that Bristol was England’s Portland, and that the rioters had raised hammers and sickles. The main groups at the riot, according to this observer from across the Atlantic, were Black Lives Matter, Antifa and Extinction Rebellion, among others. Well, he’s either lying or desperately needs glasses, because nobody in Britain has mentioned any of these groups. From what was shown on TV, the protesters were all, or overwhelmingly White. There was absolutely no connection to Black Lives Matter. As far as I can make out, there were no Antifa, Extinction Rebellion weren’t there either, and absolutely no-one, but no-one, was waving hammers and sickles. This is all just the product of Ngo’s fevered, Alt-Right imagination.

This didn’t prevent the man one of the commenters here calls ‘Niggle Frog-Face’ from also claiming that BLM were somehow involved. The Fuhrage tweeted “In Bristol tonight we see what the soft-headed approach to the anti-police BLM leads to. Wake up everyone, this is not about racial justice. These people want all-out anarchy and street violence … The BLM protests were anti-police, it is a key goal of the organisation. The worrying events in Bristol tonight are an extension of that. We have given into and encouraged the extreme left, and this is the result”. The peeps on Twitter responded by pointing out that Farage was only doing this because he was racist and hoping to stoke up further racism in the UK.

However, unfortunately I do feel that Farage may have a point. The right has accused the police of treating Black Lives Matter with a leniency that was not extended to White counter protesters. And it does seem that they are right. At some of the riots the police took the knee before the BLM protesters. There’s also video footage of the cops running away from BLM rioters, although such footage can be manipulated to present a false impression, as with the Orgreave film. On the other hand, the right-wing protesters, who turned out to stop further Black Lives Matter attacks on statues do seem to have been attacked and treated more harshly by the police. It is possible that the police’s admirable restraint in refusing to defend Edward Colston’s statue when it was pulled down by a group of BLM protesters in the summer may have encouraged some of the militants in the demonstration to believe that the police would act with a similar restraint if they rioted.

Whether that was the case or not, I don’t know. It’s a possibility. But what isn’t in doubt is that neither BLM nor the other groups were involved in Sunday’s riot. As for Bristol being England’s equivalent of Portland, I don’t know. I’ve never been to Portland. It might be a very nice place, despite being the scene of many of last year’s BLM riots. But, apart from the attack on Colston’s statue, Bristol hasn’t had any BLM riots. And the mob attacking the old slaver’s statue didn’t attack any of the other monuments in the area, property or police. Farage and Ngo are simply lying.

As for the wretched Police and Crime Bill, this certainly is an attack on our civil liberties which needs to be very strongly resisted.

But rioting will only strengthen the hands of those determined to turn this great nation into a Fascist police state.

For further information, see: Did POLICE turn Bristol ‘Kill the Bill’ protest into a riot? | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Zelo Street: Bristol – Farage Does A Racism (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Policing Bill Sparks Riots In Bristol | #TyskySour – YouTube

Tom Mayhew Skewering the Lies about Benefit Claimants with Laughter

March 18, 2021

Okay, I finally stayed up last night to listen to Radio 4’s Tom Mayhew Is Benefits Scum. I blogged about this programme a little while ago when I first read about it in the Radio Times. I said that it looked like it was worth listening to, as it seemed that it would tell the truth about what it’s really like to live on benefits. This is as opposed to the various ‘poverty-porn’ documentaries like Benefits Street, that seek to portray everyone on welfare as a scrounger. Unfortunately, it’s on at 11.00 pm on Wednesday evenings, which is a bit past my usual bedtime. But last night I actually managed to stay up and listen to it.

It’s not long, only a quarter of an hour in length, and mixes staged recreations of meetings with Jobcentre staff and benefits advisors, and stand-up, observational comedy based on Mayhew’s own experience of the benefits system. He also had a guest performer, Francesca Inez, a disabled woman, who gave her own perspective on how unfair and humiliating the system’s treatment of the disabled is.

It started out in the Jobcentre, where Mayhew was being asked by the clerk if he had really been spending 35 hours a week looking for work. Had he gone for that job as a miner as he should have done? Going out, he found his friend Francesca lying on the floor. She had gone through the process of seeing what would be the ideal job for her, and told it was ballet dancer. She had fallen over trying to practise. Mayhew commiserated with her, telling her that the machine had told him his ideal jobs were footballer, boxer and the Queen’s butler.

This sketch led into Inez herself talking about the grotesque injustice of the benefits system. She said people ask her what should be the proper relationship between government agencies and the disabled over benefits. She said it should be a partnership between the government and the claimant’s doctor. Unfortunately, this had been scrapped by New Labour, who had decided that a sizable number of claims for disability benefit were fraudulent, and so had introduced the Work Capability Test. In fact, the proportion of fraudulent claims was 0.05 per cent, so it was in fact easier for Mayhew to get a job as a footballer than to commit benefit fraud. She asked who would seriously want to be unable to go out on their own, to go to the toilet on their or prepare their own food, all for the sake of £100 a week. She was also massively unimpressed by the clerks the Department for Work and Pensions send round to make sure that claimants really are disabled. ‘Oh, I’m just here to see if you’re still wobbly’, she imitated one saying. He reply was ‘Well, I’ll give you a wet shave, and then you tell me.’

Mayhew also attacked the sanctions system. He thought you were only sanctioned if you deliberately tried to mislead or play the system. But no! He found himself sanctioned for eight weeks simply because he’d sent the wrong form in. But he’d been told that it would take eight weeks for his case to be reviewed. How strange, then, that he had his benefits restored after only four after he’d written to him MP. He then gave a shout-out to David Gauke, a Tory, saying how weird it was that a Tory MP should actually help someone on benefit.

He argued that it was wrong to call welfare payments ‘benefits’. Benefits sounds like something extra on top of one’s wages. Instead it should be called ‘Survival Money’, because you needed it to survive. This would make it difficult to have people thrown off it as well. Depriving someone of benefits sounds much better than removing their survival money. And as for sanctions, how does being hungry make someone better at finding work?

He also joked about the massive lack of self-esteem people on benefits have. He told one story of how he’d been accosted by a man while walking back from the Jobcentre. The man had told him that he should carry himself with a bit more confidence, head held high, because if he’d been a mugger, Mayhew would have been an easy target. It was, Mayhew jested, a Virtual mugging in which he’d been robbed of his self-respect. He then told another one about a mugger marching him to a cash machine, telling him he was going to leave him with nothing. ‘How kind of him to clear my overdraft!’

More seriously, Mayhew told a chilling anecdote which showed how easy it is for desperate, starving young men to be reduced to selling their bodies for sex. He’d met someone at a gathering, and they promised to get in touch with each other again via email. A few months later he got one from this man. Mayhew replied to him, saying he was in a bad patch financially, and asked him for £50. He told him he’d be able to pay him back in two month’s time. The man replied that he couldn’t give him any money, but he would pay him £200 to have sex with him. Mayhew joked that he didn’t, as he wouldn’t do anything like that for less than £350. But for a moment he was tempted. Poverty has often forced desperate women into prostitution, but this story showed it could also happen to men.

I had a great, appreciative comment by Mayhew to my original blog piece about his programme. He asked me if I could do something to further publicise his programme, because he’d been going through the papers and hadn’t found any reviews of it. Listening to his programme, it was easy to understand why: he was too sharp, and told the truth.

Right-wing rags like the Heil, the Scum and the Depress sell copies by spreading moral panic about benefit claimants. They actively paint them as scroungers and malingerers, as does right-wing internet radio host Alex Belfield. Although rather more polite, the same attitude also pervades the Torygraph and the Times. These papers very definitely do not want their Thatcherite ideals contradicted by people, who’ve been at the sharp end of the system, showing their readers they’re perfectly decent, honest people and telling them how dysfunctional, humiliating and malign the system really is.

And unfortunately I don’t see the supposedly left-wing press being much better. The Mirror, the Graun and the Absurder have all struck me as being Blairite New Labour, who wholeheartedly embraced Thatcher’s contempt and persecution of the unemployed, the sick and the disabled. The Graun has many times urged people to vote Lib Dem in recent elections, so again, these papers won’t want their readers disabused of some of their received notions.

Added to this is the current campaign by the Tories and their lapdog press to destroy the Beeb. This is partly because the Tories depend for their propaganda on the favour of Rupert Murdoch and his papers, who hates the Beeb as an obstacle to his domination of the global media. They also hate the idea of a state TV broadcaster as part of their opposition to any kind of state intervention, as well as the idea of an impartial, public service broadcaster. Hence the attempt to set up various rivals to the Beeb by the Times.

As a result, the papers have been running stories about how the BBC is too left-wing and too ‘woke’. Belfield put up a video a day or two ago rejoicing over the cancellation of Nish Kumar’s The Mash Report. Director-General Tim Davie had supposedly cancelled it because it was too biased towards the left. Belfield went further, and claimed that the real reason it was axed was because it wasn’t funny and was helmed by a ‘box-ticker’ – his term for a person of colour or other minority, who’s been given a job because of their identity rather than talent. Kumar’s Asian, so Belfield’s comment looks just a tad racist to me. Belfield claimed that cancelling Kumar’s show wouldn’t make any difference, as the Beeb as a whole is too left-wing and needs to be privatised.

It’s obvious from this that the right-wing media, then, aren’t going to give a good review to an explicitly left-wing comedy show. I also think that class is also an issue here. New Labour, it has been pointed out, was liberal but not socialist. Blair had turned his back on the working class, and instead New Labour concentrated on trying to recruit the middle classes. The left-wing elements of New Labour ideology was a concern with combating racism and other forms of prejudice, such as against gays, and promoting feminism and better opportunities for women. I think defending and promoting the disabled is in there, so long as they are properly respectable and not benefit scroungers. Mayhew is working class, and so isn’t of interest according to New Labour ideology.

All of which means that, unfortunately, the press isn’t prepared to give a hearing to something like this. Which is a pity, as it’s very good. Mayhew tells his stories and his jokes in a normal, conversational tone. He doesn’t harangue or shout for effect, as many comedians do. And he’s actually very witty. To simulate a studio audience, the show used canned laughter because it was impossible to have a live audience due to the Coronavirus. Mayhew made a couple of jokes about how the imaginary audience hadn’t paid for their tickets. He then told how, after one gig, he’d been accosted by an unhappy audience member. Why didn’t he get a proper job instead of standing there complaining, asked the man. To which he replied, ‘Have you seen my show?’ He then commented that at least he was a Tory who had paid for his ticket. He also made jokes about other people, being paid to do nothing all day. Like MPs.

It’s a pity the shows on so late on a weekday night, as it’s a funny, necessary antidote to the constant propaganda being pumped out about benefit claimants being scroungers. I don’t know anything about Francesca Inez, but from what I heard she deserves a place with the other disabled comedians, who have appeared on TV. At the very least, she deserves an endorsement from DPAC because of the way her comedy tries to bring their concerns to public attention. The show also demonstrates very clearly why we need a public service broadcaster, as it’s only a broadcaster like the Beeb that would take a chance on a show like it.

I think it’s only a four part series, and concludes next week. If this sounds like the kind of thing that tickles your funny bone and you also agree with its message, then please tune in.

I hope this is the start of a great career for Tom Mayhew, and that the show later gets repeated in an earlier slot when hopefully more people can hear it.

Radio 4 Comedian Next Sunday Discusses Working Class Male Culture

March 17, 2021

It seems that Radio 4 and the Beeb might be discovering working class men. On Sunday, 21st March 2021 at 7.15, the channel’s broadcasting Jacob Hawley: Class Act. The Radio Times blurb runs

Stand-up comedian Jacob Hawley, who grew up near Stevenage, dissects his journey from working-class banter boy to oat milk latte-sipping, inner-London feminist.

The additional piece about it on the facing page by Tom Goulding states

Having deftly touched the thorny issues of sex and drugs, Jacob Hawley returns ot the BBC with this politically charged comedy special. Class Act deals with another taboo subject: working-class male culture. Hawley charts his journey from banter boy to inner-London feminist and asks whether working class men have been dismissed as hopeless cases: excluded from the UK’s cultural discourse on topics as diverse as women’s rights and mental health. Hawley won plaudits for his On Drugs podcast, in which he interviewed friends and experts on the UK’s attitude towards recreational drug use. Here, he again proves capable of bringing a light touch to heavyweight subjects.

A few years ago the BBC broadcast a series of films on race, one of which asked the question of whether the White working class was being overlooked. It’s been reported that the most underprivileged group in the UK is actually White working class boys. UKIP’s core vote were White working class people who felt overlooked and ignored by the mainstream parties. This campaign by right-wing populists to capitalize and exploit White working class discontent continues. The right-wing New Cultural Forum has a video up on The Demonisation of the White Working Class. On the left, Owen Jones wrote a very good book on the subject a few years ago and the left-wing of the Labour party is consciously trying to appeal to White working class voters with policies that will benefit all of the working class as well as criticising the way the Tories are trying to divide them from Blacks. One of the serious points the Private Eye strip ‘It’s Grim Up North London’ made through its humour was the alienation of its north London heroes from the White working class. Aesthetes with a taste for the latest international fads, to them ordinary White working class Brits were an exotic species they didn’t understand and wondered at. In one cartoon the pair are seen in a cafe or pub listening with wonder at the exotic conversation of the two on the next table. In fact, they’re a pair of Geordies wondering what the two are doing staring at them. Following the series Tom Mayhew Is Benefit Scum, it looks like Radio 4 is rediscovering the British working class and its issues.

Radio 3 Play on Sunday About the Zong Atrocity

March 17, 2021

The Zong Atrocity was a massacre of slaves in the 18th century during the sea voyage from Africa. The captain of the Zong threw ship’s sick slaves overboard during a storm, so that he could state that they were ‘lost at sea’ and so claim on the insurance. It was a massive scandal, and was painted by Turner nearly fifty years later in 1839. On Sunday, 21st March 2021, Radio 3 is broadcasting a play, The Meaning of Zong, at 7.30 pm. The blurb for it in the Radio Times reads

Olivier-winning Giles Terera (Hamilton) stars in his own debut play about the notorious massacre aboard the slave ship Zong in 1781, and how uncovering its story galvanised the growing abolitionist movement in the UK. This collaborative work was developed by Bristol Old Vic and the National Theatre. Broadcast as part of the BBC Lights Up festival of theatre, which brings a series of stage dramas to radio and television.

I’m especially interested in this, as it was produced in my home town. The Bristol Old Vic is one of the oldest theatres in Britain, and its stage school has helped launched the careers of a number of great British thesps.

The Axing of the Mash Report Won’t Satisfy the Beeb’s Right-Wing Opponents

March 13, 2021

Mike has report on his excellent blog this morning that Tim Davey, the Director-General of the Beeb, has cancelled Nish Kumar’s The Mash Report on the grounds that it was biased towards the left. Apart from further demonstrating the corporation’s own right-wing bias, it also shows Davey trying to appease the Beeb’s right-wing critics. They’re constantly attacking the Corporation for what they claim is left-wing bias, and demanding its privatisation or the removal of the license fee and its replacement by subscriptions.

Tory threats to privatise the Beeb are nothing new. Thatcher also made much noise in the 1980s about removing the license fee, and there was a debate over whether it should be funded through advertising like ITV. This stopped because most of the British public were against it. Then the Tories did it again under John Major, attacking the corporation for its supposed left-wing bias because Paxo was regularly giving them a mauling on Newsnight. This was accompanied by more threats not to renew the corporation’s charter and privatise it.

But if Davey thinks that axing the Mash Report will appease the Tories, he’s very, very much mistaken. The Tories hate the Beeb for the same reason they hate the NHS: it’s a state-run organisation, and so out of the hands of the media magnates that fund them. Like Rupert Murdoch, who views it as an obstacle to his own domination of the British media and a rival to Sky. Hence the Murdoch mafia have been running the Corporation down and taking every opportunity to attack and vilify it for the past forty years. The Tories also hate the very idea of public service broadcasting and the idea of media impartiality. Any broadcaster that does not support them absolutely is, according to them, terribly biased and an affront to British free speech. It doesn’t matter what Davey does, they will continue to attack the Beeb no matter how many supposedly left-wing presenters and programme he throws to the wolves.

This was shown very clearly in a video right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host Alex Belfield posted up about the Mash Report’s cancellation yesterday. The man dubbed Bellend by some of my commenters claimed that it was cancelled, not because it was left-wing, but because it was unfunny, had low ratings, and was hosted by ‘a box ticker’. This is the term Belfield uses for a Black or Asian person, who he believes has been given a job simply because of their colour rather than talent. Which sounds just a bit racist to me. The Corporation, he claimed, was still full of ‘woke’ lefties.

I never watched the Mash Report and can’t say I’ve seen enough of Nish Kumar to make any comment on him one way or the other. From what I saw of him he seemed pretty much like many of the other comedians the Beeb has had on over the years, neither better nor worse. But the right hated him because he was a Remainer, and dared to show how ridiculous Brexit is and the lies behind it in his act.

This is all about politics, not talent. The Conservatives and their lapdog media are determined to destroy the Beeb regardless, and it won’t matter how hard Davey tries to satisfy them by making it another Tory mouthpiece. The demands for the sacking of allegedly biased presenters, personalities and shows won’t stop with Kumar and the Mash Report.

They’ll continue until the Beeb is privatised and another right-wing broadcaster owned by Murdoch.

I Condemn the Racist Abuse Against Labour Deputy Mayor Asher Craig

March 13, 2021

Last night the BBC local news programme for the Bristol area, Points West, reported that the city’s deputy mayor, Asher Craig, and the elected mayor himself, Marvin, had received 6,000 racially abusive messages. This followed the toppling of the statue of the slaver Edward Colston last summer, and the passage of the motion supporting reparations for slavery by the council. The motion was actually proposed by the Green councillor for Cotham, Cleo Lake, but seconded by Craig. Which was natural, as Craig is also the city’s head of equality.

I have to say that Craig is very far from my favourite politico, though I think that in general Marvin has been very good for the city. He’s much better than his predecessor, Ferguson, of red trousers fame. Ferguson cut funding for services to the bone, if not beyond, and turned down money from central government to which the city was entitled. And this is a very small, insignificant point, but it irritates nonetheless. Ferguson in his vanity changed the name of the city’s seat of government from the Council House to City Hall. Because the latter sounded better. But it always was the Council House, and, to me, always should be.

As I’ve made it very clear on my blog, I have strong criticisms of the reparations motion, which I’ve laid out in previous posts. While I believe very strongly that the motion is deeply flawed, I agree with its Tory opponents that it came from a good place. I do appreciate that she is trying her best for Bristol’s Black community, which is, in general, marginalised and disadvantaged.

And in any case, no-one should have to suffer abuse, whether racist or not, although the latter is particularly offensive and distasteful.

My Letter to BBC Local News Against the Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign Against David Miller

March 9, 2021

Last week the right-wing British press and the Zionist Jewish establishment launched another smear campaign against someone for criticising Israel. This was Dr David Miller, an academic at Bristol University, who had been one of the speakers at an event about defending free speech in the Labour party. Dr Miller committed the heinous crime of saying that Zionism needed to be ended. The Daily Heil, Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Community Security Trust, as well as the university’s Jewish Society, all went bug-eyed with rage and accused him of anti-Semitism. The issue has been on the local BBC news programme here in Bristol, Points West. Various members of the Jewish establishment have appeared on the programme ranting about how this is somehow preparatory to demanding full scale anti-Semitic persecution, hinting at the holocaust. One very angry gent on Sunday morning’s edition said of it that ‘we all know where that goes’ – clearly implying that Miller’s comments about Zionism, not about Jews, were tantamount to a call for pogroms and another Holocaust. They also claimed that Jewish students no longer felt safe and comfortable at the university thanks to Dr Miller’s comments. Which is peculiar coming from the right, which likes to rant about left-wing snowflakes. Well, there’s more than a bit of snowflakery going on here.

I’ve discussed this latest controversy in a previous article. As usual with these witch hunts, it’s nothing to do with real, vicious Jew hatred, but simply the right-wing British press and the Zionists of the British Jewish establishment seeking to defend Israel and its horrendous persecution of the Palestinians. They do this by smearing any and all critics or simply respectable journalists, who accurately report atrocities committed by the Israelis and their allies, as anti-Semites. They did it to Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, including such principled, self-respecting Jews as Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein. They did it to Marc Wadsworth, a Black anti-racist activist, who had worked with the Board to combat real anti-Semitic attacks on Jews by the scumbags of the NF/BNP in the 1980s. They did and are doing it to more ordinary members of the Labour party like Mike Sivier and Martin Odoni. All the above are genuinely anti-racist with no sympathy whatsoever for Fascism, and Martin’s also Jewish. But this means nothing to these moral frauds, who are determined to vilify and demonise decent people in their zeal for defending the indefensible.

Other speakers at the conference including Dr Norman Finkelstein, a respected American academic and passionate opponent of the Israeli state, and Ronnie Kasrils, a former minister in Nelson Mandela’s cabinet in South Africa. Both of them are Jewish, which clearly demonstrates that whatever the British Jewish establishment claims, they do not speak for all of Britain’s diverse Jewish community. This is also a repeat of a campaign these organisations launched against another academic at Bristol Uni, Dr Rachel Gould. Dr Gould was also guilty of making anti-Israel comments, despite being Jewish herself.

I am heartily, heartily sick of this witch-hunt and demonisation of decent people. I therefore wrote to BBC Points West to express my outrage as a way to make my feelings about this whole sorry affair public. Normally I would have written to the paper, but as all of the papers are solidly behind the witch hunters and against their victims, BBC Points West looked like the best and only option available. Here’s the text of the letter:

Dear Sir,

Thank you for coverage over the current controversy about Dr David Miller of Bristol University and the accusations of anti-Semitism that have been levelled against him. I am writing to you to express my utter disgust at what I see as a campaign of vilification against him for making a legitimate criticism not of Jews or Judaism, but of a political ideology. I am an historian and archaeologist, who was educated at school and as an undergraduate at College by Christian teachers and professors, who had a profound respect and warm sympathy for the Jewish people. They were acutely aware of the horrors Jews have suffered down the centuries, and taught their students about the Holocaust long before it became government educational policy. I myself have had the good fortune to enjoy the friendship of many people of Jewish descent and heritage.  I have also studied the history of Fascism and its loathsome doctrines, and its racism and violence towards Jews and people of colour.

Dr Miller has been accused of anti-Semitism because he called for the end of Zionism at a recent conference on free speech in the Labour Party. This has provoked a campaign against him by the Daily Mail, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. This is profoundly and utterly wrong. Zionism is a political doctrine and is certainly not synonymous with the Jewish people or their faith. From what I understand, the Jewish people have never been the monolithic community claimed by anti-Semites. They have always held a variety of views on religious and political issues, including Zionism. Indeed, many Jews have strongly rejected Zionism because they viewed it as an internalisation of gentile anti-Semitism. Non-Jewish anti-Semites have claimed that a special state should be created for Jews, not out of sympathy for them, but simply in order to remove them their own countries. One example of this was the Fascist scheme to settle Jews in Madagascar. Jewish opposition to Zionism was famously expressed on the graffiti on a Jerusalem wall which stated ‘Zionism and Judaism are diametrically opposed.’ Several of the other speakers at the conference where Dr Miller made his comments were themselves Jewish, and also opponents of Zionism or critics of Israel. They included the noted American scholar, Dr Norman Finkelstein, and Ronnie Kasrils, a former minister in Nelson Mandela’s government.

I find it a matter of deep concern that the Daily Mail, the Board of Deputies and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, as well as Bristol University’s Jewish Society, are accusing Dr Miller of anti-Semitism through confusing Jew-hatred with anti-Zionism, just as was done four years ago to another academic at Bristol University, Dr Rachel Gould. Dr Gould was also accused of anti-Semitism because of comments she had made about Israel, despite she herself being Jewish. But the real existential threat to Jews in my opinion comes not from decent people criticising Israel, but from real Nazis like the utterly repellent and extremely violent National Action.

I am also astonished by the claim that Jewish students do not feel they are welcome at Bristol University because of Dr Miller’s comments. These were, as I said, about Zionism, not about Jews. One of the most important aspects of a university education – what makes it education rather than mere instruction – is the exposure to different views, opinions and perspectives. This should be able to include criticism of Zionism as a political doctrine while excluding the real political doctrines that threaten Jews and other minorities, like Fascism. Yet not only is it claimed that criticism of Zionism is supposedly anti-Semitic, but that Jewish students are too sensitive and delicate to be allowed to hear arguments against it for fear of offending them. This belittles these students’ resilience and ability to engage in robust debate.

I am also utterly disgusted at the way the organisations leading the campaign against Dr Miller are invoking the spectre of real, vicious anti-Semitic persecution and the Holocaust. Dr Miller has certainly said nothing to support such persecution. I am acutely aware that very many British Jews lost family and friends to the Nazis’ appalling persecution, and that their descendants and relatives are still traumatised and haunted by its horrors. I therefore find the invocation of such persecution by the Mail, CAA, and the Board of Deputies to be nothing less than grossly repulsive scaremongering in order to turn decent people away from a person who is, as far as I can see, completely innocent of real Jew-hatred.

I feel very strongly that Dr Miller is innocent of the anti-Semitism of which he is accused, and that it is his accusers, who are behaving in a vile and disgraceful fashion. I have no issue with his opponents defending Israel and challenging his views on Zionism, but feel it is utterly contemptible to do this by confusing it with real anti-Semitism. At the very least, abusing the accusation of anti-Semitism in this way robs it of its power to shock and identify real Nazis and anti-Semites.

Yours faithfully,

I don’t know if this will do any good or even be read. After I sent it I got an automatic message back from the programme telling me that it had been received, but they were receiving so many messages that it was impossible for them to reply individually. But I felt it had to be done, and will let you know if I get a reply from the programme.

No, It Is Not Anti-Semitic To Question Whether Jews Are An Ethnic Minority

March 3, 2021

Ever keen to bash the Beep, the Torygraph printed another story yesterday accusing the Corporation of anti-Semitism. Benjamin Cohen, the CEO of Pink News, had been invited on to Politics Live to debate whether Jews should be included as an ethnic minority in the national census. Coming out of the show, Cohen tweeted how offended he was by the question, and that he was the only Jewish person facing a panel of four gentiles. He was absolutely sure that Jews should be treated as an ethnic minority, and asked rhetorically if the Beeb would have asked that question of a Black or Asian guests.

Actually, it’s a very good question whether Jews are an ethnic minority, and colour is a part of the issue. Before the rise of biological racism, Jews were largely persecuted in Christian Europe because of their religion. The persecution generally ceased if they converted. Before the outbreak of Nazism and the horrors of the Third Reich, the majority of Jews in Europe did not wish to be seen as a separate people from those the countries in which they lived. The British Jewish establishment opposed the Balfour Declaration because they believed that Jews were ‘Englishmen of the Jewish religion’. The British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, they feared, would lead to Jews being viewed as foreigners, whose ultimately loyalty was to the new state, rather than loyal British citizens.

Even now there is a healthy debate within Judaism about whether it is a ethnic group, a religion or a descent group. Not all Jews are happy with being considered an ethnic minority. The comedian, opera director and broadcaster, Dr Jonathan Miller, is one of them. One of the team of satirists in Beyond the Fringe, along with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett, Miller was once introduced as a Jew on a programme covering the jolly funsters. Miller responded by stating that he was a ‘Jewish’. He had not interest in being an ethnic minority.

Jews also differ from the other groups regarded as ethnic minorities in terms of race, and socio-economic status. Traditional, indigenous European Jews are White, as the founder of modern scientific racial classification, Ludwig Blumenbach, maintained. Some of them, like Tracy-Anne Oberman, are more ‘Aryan’ in appearance than the Nazi scumbags, who abuse them. Which shows how wrong scientifically Nazism is, as well as evil. Where there has been anti-Semitic abuse and violence, it has been generally directed against Orthodox Jews, no doubt because of their characteristic dress and appearance.

The British Jewish community is also largely more prosperous than other ethnic groups. The mighty Tony Greenstein has cited sociological studies that have shown that 60 per cent of British Jews are upper middle class. Furthermore, while there is still anti-Semitic persecution and hostility, Jews don’t suffer from the same level of prejudice as Blacks and Asians. Tony again has quoted statistics showing that 77 per cent of Brits have positive views of Jews. Those that don’t generally regard them as no better or worse than anyone else. The number of people with negative views of Jews has risen from 5 to 7 per cent, but they’re far outweighed by the mass of the Brits who don’t share their opinions. This is no doubt one of the reasons the NF decided to stop goose stepping about in Nazi uniforms in the 1970s. When National Action turned up in Liverpool a couple of years ago screaming their hatred, the good peeps of that fair city, including socialists and trade unionists, chased them out of town. Literally. They had to retreat to the train station to await the next train out of there.

While the persecution of the Jews has been particularly vicious, it’s reasonable to compare it to the persecution of dissident Christian groups in Europe. Such as the Manichaean heretics in the Middle Ages, and Protestants in Roman Catholic countries. In Britain before Roman Catholic emancipation and the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, Catholicism was banned. It had to go underground in Ireland, and worship was carried out at secret locations in the countryside. British Protestant nonconformists, such as Quakers, Baptists and Methodists, were barred from serving on juries or in local and national government. By law their chapels had to be built five miles away from towns. You can also compare the British Jewish community’s current prosperity with the Quakers. The actual membership of the Society of Friends was small, but they became influential and prosperous businessmen because of their exacting standards of commercial conduct. You could trust them. A book I read a few years ago on the history of the Jewish people, written by an Anglican clergyman, made the same claim about them. The Jewish laws governing food purity meant that, if you bought a wheaten loaf from a Jew, that’s exactly what you got. Instead of being full of cheats determined to defraud gentiles, Jewish businessmen could be trusted. As for the traditional Jewish prohibition against marrying outside the religion, there are also Christian sects, such as the Exclusive Brethren and Particular Baptists, who also reject marriage with those outside the sect.

In short, Jews are integrated and accepted into British society to a far greater extent than Blacks and Asians, who are obviously different because of their colouring, dress and religion. Muslims are particularly subject to suspicion and abuse following 9/11, and are, with Blacks, generally poorer and more marginalised than the rest of British society.

I suspect the issue here isn’t so much about the question of whether Jews constitute an ethnic group in themselves, but over the benefits membership of an ethnic minority confers. Ethnic minorities are specifically protected by law against persecution, and in the case of Blacks and Asians may be assisted by affirmative action programmes. Even though Jews don’t suffer the level of violence and prejudice that Blacks and Asians do, they are still regarded as particularly vulnerable. As a result, they enjoy a degree of protection far greater than other ethnic minorities. For example, there’s the Community Security Trust, a paramilitary vigilante set up to protect Jews, synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and other Jewish sites and monuments from attack. The group is supposedly trained in self-defence by members of the Israeli security services. This is, as far as I know, unique. I am not aware of any other ethnic group or religion being permitted their own private police force. Far from it. When the Islamofascists in London launched their Muslim Patrols harassing non-Muslims outside their mosques, they were rightly pounced upon by the authorities and arrested. But the CST is allowed to continue, stewarding Zionist and pro-Israel rallies despite reacting violently to counterdemonstrators. At several of these rallies, Muslim and Jews marching together in protest against Israel were forcibly separated and beaten. The victims included elderly Jewish women and rabbis.

The Zionist Jewish establishment were also able to exploit the general high regard and acceptance of Jews in British society by mobilising it to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his followers as anti-Semites. This is part of the general ultra-Zionist campaign to suppress criticism of Israel and its monstrous persecution of the Palestinians. Mass rallies and protests were arranged, and the lies and mendacious denunciations repeated in the national news and press.

Other ethnic groups have not nearly received such sympathy and support. For example, while the Labour party actively complied in the witch-hunt against suspected anti-Semites in the party, it has been extremely reluctant to investigate and punish those responsible for the racist bullying of Black and Asian MPs and activists. Probably because the racist bullies were the Blairite plotters and saboteurs, who collaborated with the anti-Semitism smear campaign as part of their own attempts to oust Corbyn. The affirmative action programme designed to assist Blacks and Asians achieve the same level of prosperity and acceptance as Whites are still extremely controversial. And rather than support allegations of racism by members of those ethnic groups, the reaction of the right-wing press has largely been to denounce them.

It therefore seems to me to be a good question whether Jews should be treated as an ethnic group, rather than simply a religion practised or not by some Brits, not so very different from various traditional Christian sects, which were also persecuted by which are now accepted as integral parts of British culture. I think that the determination by Jews like Cohen to retain their demarcation as an ethnic minority is doubtless partly motivated by a quite understandable fear of the return of the biological racism which led to the monstrous horrors of the Holocaust.

But I also wonder how much also comes from Zionist ideology. The IHRA definition of Zionism claims that it is anti-Semitic to deny Jews their national aspirations. Jews are a nation, and so it is supposedly anti-Semitic to deny them the right to their own state, Israel. But these national aspirations become highly questionable if Jews are not seen as a nation or ethnic group, but as a religion. Zionism becomes spiritual, not political. Jerusalem and Israel become the spiritual centres of the Jewish faith, just as Christians regard them as the spiritual centres of their religion. But this does not necessarily translate to a desire to return to the Promised Land. Some Jewish denominations removed the traditional Passover toast, ‘Next year in Jerusalem’. Many other Jews simply repeated it as part of the revered ritual celebrating their deliverance from Pharaoh’s persecution in Egypt without actually meaning it.

All this makes me wonder whether the Torygraph’s article isn’t really about whether British Jews really constitute a separate ethnic group or not, but whether it’s was just a way of exploiting the anti-Semitism witch hunt to attack the Beeb, a favourite Tory target, on the one hand, while subtly trying to reinforce support for Israel on the other.