Posts Tagged ‘Bill of Rights’

Tony Benn on ‘Spycatcher’ and the Wilson Smears

January 8, 2019

Tony Benn was a passionate defender of civil liberties and an advocate of expanding democracy further against the attempts of the establishment to limit it. He was therefore a critic of Britain’s intelligence agencies and their repeated attempts to destabilise and undermine the left. The publication of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher in the ’80s caused massive controversy, because of its description of the activities by them. Thatcher invoked the Official Secrets Act to suppress its publication in Britain, but it was freely available elsewhere in the world. In his 1988 book, Fighting Back, Benn discusses the book and its revelations about just what the CIA and MI5 were up to, including their smears against the former Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson.

Among the pieces Benn quotes and discusses was Wright’s statement that MI5 bugged and burgled their way across London on behalf of the state, while civil servants looked the other way;

that during the Suez crisis, MI6 planned to assassinate Nasser using nerve gas;

that James Angleton, the head of the CIA, wanted to expand their London station and infiltrate and absorb MI5 completely;

that the intelligence agencies had always taken information from peoples’ national insurance files, and were setting up a computer link to do the same;

and that Angleton believed that Wilson was a Soviet agent, based on an anonymous Soviet source. (Benn, Fighting Back, pp. 237-8).

He then goes on to quote Wright on how MI5 was plotting to smear Wilson from the end of the Heath government. Wright wrote

As events moved to their political climax in early 1974, with the election of the minority Labour Government, MI5 was sitting on information, which, if leaked, would undoubtedly have caused a political scandal of incalculable consequences. The news that the Prime Minister himself was being investigated would at the least have led to his resignation. The point was not lost on some MI5 officers.

Wright continued on page 369 of his wretched book

The plan was simple. In the run-up to the election which, given the level of instability in Parliament, must be due within a matter of months, MI5 would arrange for selective details of the intelligence about leading Labour Party figures, but especially Wilson, to be leaked to sympathetic pressmen. Using our contacts in the press and among union officials, word of the material contained in MI5 files, and the fact that Wilson was considered a security risk would be passed around. Soundings had already been taken, and up to thirty officers had given their approval to the scheme. Facsimile copies of some files were to be made and distributed to overseas newspapers, and the matter was to be raised in Parliament for maximum effect. It was a carbon copy of the Zinoviev letter, which had done so much to destroy the first Ramsay MacDonald Government in 1928. [sic] ‘We’ll have him out’ said one of them. ‘this time we’ll have him out.’ Shortly afterwards Wilson resigned. As we always used to say in the office ‘Politicians may come and go, but the security service goes on forever. (Both quotations in Benn, p. 238).

Benn then went on to say about these revelations that

If any of them are true MI5 officers were incited to break the law, have broken the law, did attempt, with CIA help, to destroy an elected government, and any responsible Prime Minister should have instructed the police to investigate, with a view to prosecution, and the Courts should have convicted and sentenced those found guilty. The charge which the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor, the Law Officers, the Police, have to face is that they have all betrayed their public trust, and the judges who have upheld them are in clear breach of the Bill of Rights of 1689. For if ministers can arbitrarily suspend the law, and claim that issues of confidentiality, or national security, justify a ban on publication; and if the judges issue an injunction, there could be no limit to the suppression of any information which might embarrass any government. (Benn, p. 239).

The Wilson smears have again become relevant after the recent revelations from the Anonymous hacking group, which the government admitted following a question by Labour minister Chris Williamson, that the Tory government was funding a private company, the Institute for Statecraft, to publish anti-Putin propaganda on the internet as part of its programme, the Integrity Initiative. This propaganda included smearing European and American politicians and officials, who were held to be to close to Putin. And so they smeared Jeremy Corbyn, just as the press a little while ago also tried smearing him as a Czech spy. Investigation has shown that the Institute for Statecraft and the Integrity Initiative uses staff from MI5 and the army’s internet counterintelligence units, to the point where journalists investigating it have described it as a British intelligence cut-out.

It is over forty years since Harold Wilson left office, but the British intelligence services are back up to their old tricks of smearing Labour leaders as Russian agents. Benn wanted legislation put in place to make the British secret state fully accountable to parliament. The British conspiracy magazine, Lobster, has making the same argument since its foundation in the 1980s.

Benn and Lobster are right. Our intelligence agencies are out of control, and a danger to democracy.

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Vox Political on the Difference Between May and Corbyn over Apartheid

May 7, 2017

Mike has also put up a post asking Tory voters where Theresa May was during the 1980s, when Jeremy Corbyn was actively protesting against apartheid. He has a picture of the leader of the Labour party from back then, showing him being marched off by the rozzers. He has a placard around his neck urging people to join a picket against it.

Mike goes on to point out that May was nowhere to be seen. She was busy earning great wads of cash for herself at the Bank of England.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/07/tory-voters-where-was-theresa-may-when-jeremy-corbyn-was-protesting-against-apartheid/

This doesn’t surprise me. Many people at the time were entirely uninterested in the issue, and there was a sizable section of the Tory party that actively supported it and the South African government. When David Cameron was PM and making noises of support for Nelson Mandela, Mike put up an article reminding everyone how ‘Dodgy Dave’ was a member of the Tory party’s youth branch at the time when many of its members did openly support apartheid South Africa, and were only too keen to have Mandela jailed, along with everyone else in the ANC.

Now we are expected to believe that May and her party are convinced anti-racists, who can be trusted as guardians of our civil liberties post-Brexit. Because they want to remove all that nasty foreign legislation guaranteeing our civil rights put out by the EU, and replace it with a thoroughly British Bill of Rights. Despite the fact that the EU legislation was formulated with considerable input from British lawyers.

This goes beyond just May’s disinterest in the issue of apartheid. It affects basic British freedoms. The Conservatives and their Lib Dem enablers have passed legislation providing for secret courts, and repealing Habeas Corpus. Under these courts, if it is deemed necessary for reasons of national security, the defendant may be tried in secret, using witnesses, whose identity he is not given, and where the evidence against him may be withheld from his lawyers. As Mike and so many other left-wing bloggers, including myself, have said before, this is precisely the grotesque travesty of justice Kafka describes in his book, The Trial and The Castle, and which became a horrifying reality in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

And in South Africa under apartheid, the system of repression was so great that people risked arrest simply for talking about Nelson Mandela. I can remember listening to a programme on Radio 4 in which the speaker, a Black South African, described how he first came to hear about the country’s national hero. It was in school, and by a teacher, who risked her job and liberty. He described how she moved around the room, carefully closing the curtains, saying, ‘His name is Mandela’.

Is this the kind of state terror we can expect from May’s party following Brexit? Our genuine constitutional protections for the ancient liberties of freedom of speech, conscience and assembly stripped away and replaced with a constitutional fig leaf to disguise the real absence of any freedom in this country? And all done by a party who were not only indifferent to monstrous injustice perpetrated by right-wing regimes around the world, from South Africa to the death squads of Chile, and who, if they read Kafka, thought it all sounded like a good idea?

Book Defending Health and Safety Legislation

September 14, 2016

Spokesman also publish Safe at Work? Ramazzini versus the Attack on Health and Safety, by Dave Putson, with an introduction by Mark Serwotka. This is a defence of health and safety legislation against the attacks and derision with which it’s now regarded. Putson shows that such legislation comes from the real need to protect people against injury, illness or deaths at work. He also criticises Tories like David Cameron, who’d like to get rid of it all as a burden to private industry. The blurb for it on Spokesman’s website, taken from Serwotka’s introduction, runs

‘This is an important time to write the history of health and safety in the UK, given the near derision that the term now evokes in the media and from the Government. What Dave Putson demonstrates in writing this book is that health and safety, far from being the product of a more litigious society or the political agenda of overbearing bureaucrats, is rooted in human need, protecting people.

This book describes how, over the last 300 years, an evolving body of surveys, research, legal challenges and often tragic experiences led to an emergence of, at first, quite limited protections. Some of these histories will be familiar to the reader, like the match girls and ‘phossy jaw’, but others, like the seminal legal case of Priestley vs Fowler, are not. What the varied and fascinating histories indicate is that health and safety evolved to improve not only the workplace, but also our homes, our communities, our roads, our waterways, and public and environmental health …

Today, there are desperate attempts to reverse those gains. Our Prime Minister echoes the worst of the 19th century’s irresponsible industrialists when he says health and safety is an ‘albatross around the neck of British businesses’. The burden to take reasonable and practical steps to ensure workers can come home at night is what Cameron objects to when he says he wants to “kill off the health and safety culture for good”. Despite this supposedly rampant culture, the HSE records that around 175 people died in 2011/12 from injuries sustained at work while, according to the Hazards campaign, up to 50,000 die each year from work-related illnesses, including 6,000 from occupational cancers.

Workers only got these rights and protections because they organised and fought for them. It is a depressing but familiar tale of history that, today, we need to fight those same battles again. I hope you enjoy reading this detailed, fascinating and engaging history as much as I did. But most importantly, I hope it inspires you to think and to act.’

The situation is all the more urgent, with Theresa May’s government planning to scrap the European Human Rights legislation, and replace it with a British ‘Bill of Rights’, which will be far weaker in protecting British citizens from state surveillance, arrest and detention by the authorities, workers’ rights and so on.
Cameron and his fellow profiteers want to see a cheap labour force with no rights, who they can sack as they please, and force to work in appalling conditions without any legal protection. As an example of how terrible conditions were before the introduction of health and safety legislation, at the time of the First World War more people were killed at work in Britain than in the trenches. That’s the reality, which the Tories and papers like the Daily Fail won’t tell you when they bang on with scare stories about looney councils forcing children to wear goggles while playing conkers or whatever.

Vox Political on Those, Who Believed Blair’s Lies about Iraq

July 5, 2016

Yesterday Gloria de Piero, one of the Blairites, published a piece in the Scum calling on ‘moderate’ Labour supporters to join the party to vote out Jeremy Corbyn. Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece today quoting a piece by one of those, who has, and asking if the person, who wrote it is really as left-leaning as they seem, and do people want someone like that in the Labour party?

The author of the piece seems to have been taken in by all the vile Blairite spin and propaganda. Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are racist, anti-Semitic and misogynistic, and have no interest in doing anything positive for the people of this country. They also state that they joined the party because they supported the invasion of Iraq and the consequent overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Curiously, they seem to believe that Iraq is now a genuinely functioning democracy. The invasion, they declare, is one of the UK’s finest achievements since World War II. And then they proudly announce that they’re deliberately rejoining the Labour party on the 4th July, stating that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, should also be our aspiration.

Blairite Atlanticism and the Worship of the American Constitution

Looking at the piece, it’s so over the top that I genuinely wonder if whoever wrote really is an ordinary member of the public. Blair and his cronies, including Broon, Ed Balls and so on, were fervent supporters of America. Blair himself was a product of the Reaganite British-American Project for the Successor Generation, or BAP. This was set up by the Gipper in the 1980s to train the next generation of British politicians to support the Atlantic Alliance. Its alumni went on courses in America to study the country’s political traditions. Before Blair went on one of these jaunts, he was a supporter of CND. After he came back, he was very definitely in favour of Britain keeping its nuclear deterrence. Broon and Balls also studied at American universities. And in government, Blair was so keen to emulate JFK or Roosevelt, I forget quite which, that he and Mandelson called each other by the names of those politicos.

There are many people, who would like Britain to have a written constitution, so that we can hold our rulers to account when they break it, or traduce reasonable standards of democracy. But the idealisation of the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence tends to be far more characteristic of the American Right, who love the idea of limited government, the defence of private property and gun rights. Cameron’s statement that he wants to repeal European human rights legislation and replace it with a British Bill of Rights looks like an attempt to introduce that aspect of American political culture over here. Especially as very many of the Conservatives also have business and political connections in America, and admire the American tradition of laissez-faire capitalism and minimal worker’s rights and welfare state.

The Undemocratic Invasion of Iraq

Then there’s that rubbish about Blair’s invasion of Iraq being the greatest of this country’s achievements since the Second World War. This is quite preposterous. I can think of many better achievements: the setting up of the welfare state, decolonisation and the transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth (with caveats), the abolition of the death penalty and the launch of the Black Knight British-Australian space rocket, which put a British-built satellite in orbit in 1975. Other greater British achievements I would argue include Jodrell Bank, Jocelyn Bell-Purnell’s discovery of Pulsars, Crick and Watson’s discovery of the structure of DNA and the Mini. Oh yes, and the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the sheer fact that Ozzie Osborne is still with us. In fact, just about everything peaceful Britain has done after World War II, which hasn’t involved us invading anyone or stealing their industries and resources.

Which is what happened in the invasion of Iraq.

Of course, there were and presumably still are people, who’ve been taken in by Blair’s lies. That he had weapons of mass destruction. Which he didn’t. That he was ready to invade at 45 minutes notice. He wasn’t. That he aided Osama bin Laden. A really grotesque lie – Hussein was a secular nationalist. Bin Laden hated his regime and everything it stood for.

And the greatest lie of all: that the war was fought for democracy. This one, the worst of them all, had some plausibility because Hussein was indeed a brutal dictator. He gassed the Kurds when they rose up, and massacred the Shi’a minority. He was a brutal thug. And he had started out as our thug. He was on the American’s payroll to assassinate leading Iraqi politicians in the 1950s, but was never able to carry it off, and escaped back into Syria. See the book A Brutal Friendship on how bloody the relationship between Britain and the comprador elites in the Arab nations really is. The invasion of Iraq also formed part of a narrative in which Britain unselfishly sends her troops all over the world to give evil foreign dictators a good kicking and liberate their grateful peoples. That was the way Gladstone sold the Empire to us in the 19th century, even when members of his cabinet were writing ‘a love of empire is a love of war’. It was the rationale behind Britain sending troops to Bosnia and Kosovo to fight the Serbs and protect the local Muslim populations. Many liberals no doubt supported the invasion because they genuinely believed it was, for all its faults, another humanitarian police action. There was even a book, reviewed in Lobster, which aimed to present a Socialist case for the Neocons’ foreign policy.

But it was never about democracy. It was simply about oil. And Israel, and pure economic imperialism.

The Republicans in America and Israel’s Likud party had put together joint plans for the invasion of Iraq way back in the 1990s. Hussein was arming and supporting the Palestinians. The oil barons wanted him out the way, as his erratic policy on oil exports was causing massive fluctuations in price. And both the Americans and the Saudis wanted to get their mitts on the Iraqi oil industry and its reserves, which are the largest outside Saudi Arabia itself. And the Neocons wanted to privatise the Iraqi economy so that American multinationals could loot all the profitable Iraqi state enterprises, and they could play at real politicians by creating their low tax, free trade state.

The result has been sheer, unmitigated chaos. The results of the American economic policy has been that the Iraqi unemployment rate shot up to 60%. Community relations between the various tribes and sects in Iraq has been destroyed. There are peace walls – barricades – between the Sunni and Shi’a quarters of Baghdad, which didn’t exist before. Members of the American armed forces, who are supposed to be paragons and democratic virtue, instead behave as Nazis. The real-life soldier, who formed the basis for the hero in Clint Eastwood’s Sniper, was a racist butcher. The mess he ate and drank in was festooned with Nazi insignia, and the army, to the shock of one of Obama’s diplomats, is permeated with a deep, visceral hatred and contempt for the Iraqi people. This goes far beyond hating the remnants of Hussein’s army, or the Islamist terrorists that have expanded into the power vacuum. It includes ordinary Iraqi civilians. The Sniper mentioned above claims to have shot ordinary Iraqis. One very senior American officer in charge of the occupying forces provided American aid to Sunni death squads, which murdered and terrorised the Shi’a. American squaddies and private military contractors – what in the old days we called ‘mercenaries’ – have been found running everything from prostitution rings. They’ve even gone on shooting sprees, committing drive-by killings of ordinary Iraqis just for fun.

And the country is less than a functioning democracy. It is effectively a US client state. Much of it has been taken over by the ISIS’ thugs, while the Iranians are also seeking to expand their influence with the country’s Shi’a. Some of this mess comes from the fact that George W. Bush, Blair’s Best Friend and the rest of the Neocons had no clue about Arab and Middle Eastern politics and culture, beyond their own crappy ideology. And they believed the lies spouted by one Ahmed Chalabi, who claimed that he led the Iraqi resistance, and they would be welcomed as liberators when they invaded.

The invasion has not created a stable democracy. It has instead produced little beyond misery and carnage. It also amply demonstrates something Jacob Bronowski said in his blockbusting popular science series, The Ascent of Man. Clausewitz famously coined the phrase, ‘War is politics by other means’. Bronowski was a Fabian Socialist as well as a scientist, and had a much bleaker, colder view of armed conflict: ‘War is theft by other means’. In Iraq’s case, he was right.

A Blairite PR Piece?

Looking at the piece, it seems less to me to be a genuine statement by an ordinary member of the public, and more like another piece of PR guff from the Blairites. New Labour was notorious for spin and lies. After all, they ‘sexed up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ with falsehoods in order to justify the invasion. And just because they’re out of power hasn’t stopped them carrying on. Jack Straw’s son’s PR outfit, Portland Communications, was behind the staged heckling of Jeremy Corbyn at a gay pride rally, and a T-shirt demanding the eradication of ‘Blairite vermin’ was the product of the fetid little mind of another Blairite, Anna Philips, and her pet ‘Creative Consultant and Media Guru’. One of Corbyn’s promises is that he intends to prosecute Blair for war crimes. Blair was on TV recently claiming he wasn’t worried, and trying to justify the debacle. But as this piece shows, clearly he and very many of his followers are worried.

What Has the European Convention on Human Rights Ever Done for Us?

April 25, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has just posted up another brilliant TV skit, showing precisely what the European Convention on Human Rights actually has done for us. Starring Patrick Stewart, Adrian Scarborough and Sarah Solemani, this short, five minute sketch is about a Europhobic prime minister (Stewart), who asks rhetorically what the Conventions has ever done for us.And he is then told, at length, by his cabinet colleagues. They also point out that the Convention is part of the peace-keeping legal arrangements in Northern Ireland, and removing it would mean going through the whole, awkward and painful rigmarole all over again. He then says we shouldn’t be pushed around by the ‘frogs’ and ‘krauts’, and should write our own Bill of Rights and enforce it on them. They tell him that, indeed we have. It was done at the end of the Second World War. And in reply to his next question, they tell him that it’s ‘the European Convention on Human Rights’.

As the credits tell you, it’s based on the section ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. It’s the kind of razor-sharp political sketch that was the stock in trade of Bremner, Bird and Fortune, the latter two famous as the Long Johns. And before then it was part and parcel of the Beeb’s Yes, Minister.

Patrick Stewart is a keen supporter of human rights, and does belong to at least one human rights group, though don’t ask me which one. He has said in an interview that he joined after a group of actors were arrested for performing in a play their government judged was subversive. He realised then how precious the freedom was, which he as an actor took for granted.

This conspicuously tells you exactly what the European Convention of Human Rights does for us, and by implication why Cameron wishes to deprive us of it in favour of a much weaker British Bill of Rights. And if you’re wondering which one of the two is most probably correct, it’s probably the man, who played Captain Picard all those decades ago.

Mike’s got the sketch at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/25/confused-about-human-rights-theresa-may-heres-sir-patrick-stewart/

Go there to learn things Theresa May either doesn’t know, or doesn’t want you to.

Boris Twists Facts on Europe and LGBT Rights to Promote Brexit

April 5, 2016

Tory Lies Drawing

It goes without saying that the mendacity of this government runs so deep, that every liberal claim they make should be taken with a whole mountain of salt. To get at the truth, all you have to do is listen to what Cameron or the other lying puppets of the corporate elite say, and turn it through 180 degrees. You will automatically be correct.

Cameron scraped in at the 2010 election, when he wasn’t voted into power, by pretending to be more left-wing and liberal than Tony Blair. Philip Blonde, his political mentor, filled his book, Red Tory, with pages about how the Conservatives had passed laws benefiting the working class in the 19th century (true), and said nice things admiring the great Russian Anarchist, Kropotkin. The book was also full of accurate criticisms of neo-liberal economics. Reading the book, you could fool yourself, if you didn’t know otherwise, into thinking that the Tories were then going to reposition themselves slightly to the left of Bliar. Well, the Speccie had taken an ant-War stance against the invasion of Iraq, so it could seem vaguely plausible. Cameron himself strode around claiming that he was going to ring fence NHS spending to save it from the austerity cuts that were coming to sort out the problems with the banks. Essential services were going to be preserved. He even claimed that his government would be the ‘greenest ever’, and stuck a windmill on his roof, to show he meant it.

Of course, he didn’t mean any of it. Not a single word. Once in he started cutting the NHS budget massively, and vastly expanded the creeping privatisation that was coming in under Bliar and New Labour. The Public-Private Finance Initiative, which Osbo said he would abolish, has also been kept, along with the wretched sanctions regime over at the DWP. And no, he definitely had no intention to abandon workfare, not while it was supplying so much cheap labour at starvation level to his corporate backers. As for Green policies, he’s doing his level best to introduce legislation to allow the fracking companies to trash the environment. Renewables are being cut, and nuclear power is suddenly the way forward again. Always assuming the Chinese don’t decide they’re not, after all, going to build the power station at Hinckley point.

And that windmill has definitely come off his roof.

Boris, a man even the Tories decry as an utter cad and a wrong’un, has shown his own duplicity by throwing his lot in with Brexit, to the dismay of Dave Cameron, and the high delight of everyone, who enjoys a good fight in the Tory ranks. And, still being a Tory, BoJo has decided that he’s going to try to promote Brexit by presenting it as a liberal movement, which will benefit oppressed minorities. The Open Democracy website has posted a story about how the notoriously heterosexual Mr Johnson, has appeared on a video with the LGBT Brexit group, Out and Proud. Johnson claims that staying in Europe is a major threat to the civil rights gay and trans people have won over the past few years. He claims that this is all due to the benign views of the Tory government. And of course, the European Union is poised to take them all away.

The truth, of course, is exactly the reverse. Cameron did finally grant gays the right to get married, though this was in the teeth of determined back-bench Tory opposition. It also built on previous Labour legislation, which sort of opened the door to it in the form of Civil Partnerships. The OpenDemocracy article begins:

In his recent video for the LGBT Brexit group, ‘Out and Proud’ Boris Johnson, with typical disregard for the facts, asserted that the U.K.’s progressive attitudes on LGBT rights were entirely the work of “us, the British people”. By implication, ‘Europe’ had contributed nothing. The reality is very different. Europe’s two main organisations, the Council of Europe and the EU together did much to create the momentum for change in the late 1990s and early 2000’s. This followed 17 years of Conservative government which, far from progressing LGBT rights, supported the introduction of a law that prohibited local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality.

The Council of Europe’s main contribution came through a series of rulings against the UK under the European Convention on Human Rights. These condemned discrimination in a number of areas, including the criminal law in Northern Ireland, the unequal age of consent, the ban on LGB employees in the armed forces, and the failure to provide adequate legal gender recognition procedures for trans people. They compelled the Blair government to initiate legislation, leading to extensive parliamentary debates over a number of years that in themselves did much to change public attitudes.

Yup, it was the Council of Europe and the EU that challenged the legal discrimination in British law. And Mike points out in his article on this issue that the Tories attempted to keep a lid on the teaching of progressive views on homosexuality in schools with the notorious Clause 28 introduced by Maggie Thatcher. That was the one that banned schools from promoting homosexuality as an equal lifestyle to schoolchildren.

The article goes on to discuss how Boris is warning about the terrible position of gay and trans folk in eastern Europe – in Poland, Hungary and other parts of eastern Europe. That’s true, and some of the most brutal persecution is in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. The article describes the armed attack by the police and local authorities on a gay rights march in Ukraine. However, it points out that Ukraine, and the other former eastern bloc nations have had to revise and tone down their hatred of homosexuals and the transgendered, if they wish to get into the EU, or establish good relations with it.

And on the subject of homophobic governments, Putin’s regime in Russia has come in for considerable criticism because of his attempts to clamp down on gays in his country. The last time I looked, however, Russia wasn’t part of the European Union. So whatever he’s doing to gay people there, he’s not doing it as an EU leader.

The OpenDemocracy article is at: https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/nigel-warner/boris-is-wrong-lgbt-people-should-oppose-brexit

Mike’s article is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/05/boris-is-wrong-lgbt-people-should-oppose-brexit-opendemocracy/

And Mike’s article makes it very clear that if Britain leaves the EU, all the legislation that currently protects gay people is vulnerable. The Tories hate and despise the EU because of the Social Charter, which gives workers some minimum rights, as well as its human rights legislation, which they’d also like to get rid of. They’d much rather replace it with a British Bill of Rights, which would be much weaker.

So don’t be fooled. BoJo is lying yet again. He can’t help it: it’s in his nature and that of his party. If Britain does leave Europe, the position of gay people will be consequently weaker. And if the homophobic wing of the Tories gain ascendancy, any liberal legislation conceding equality to gay men and women is very vulnerable.

Welfare Weekly: Tories to Repeal Human Rights Act by Next Summer

October 19, 2015

Welfare Weekly have published an article claiming that the Tories intend to fast track the repeal of the Human Rights Act and its replacement with a Bill of Rights by next summer. The article begins

The Government are planning to fast-track a British Bill of Rights, aiming to get the extremely controversial legislation made statute by next summer.

A Bill of Rights was a Conservative manifesto pledge, but is strongly opposed by civil liberties groups that say it will restrict freedoms that are guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Independent reports that a 12-week public consultation on the Conservative Bill of Rights will start in November or December this year. It will be worded to clarify that the UK will not pull out of the European Convention of Human Rights, as some critics have feared, (and actually, as David Cameron has pledged previously) it will even mirror much of the ECHR language in an effort to “calm opposition.”

The Conservative Bill of Rights will go straight to the House of Commons without a Green or White Paper, which are usually introduced before legislative scrutiny.

Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron MP, said not allowing proper scrutiny of the Bill “makes a mockery of parliament”. He added: “Fundamental British rights should not be treated in this haphazard way. Generations before us died for them.”

Mr Farron’s concerns have been echoed by the leading human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC, who described the Government’s intention as an “outrage”.

The complete article is at http://www.welfareweekly.com/tories-to-scrap-human-rights-act-by-next-summer/.

The article states that the Human Rights Act is based on the 1950 convention on human rights, which was formed to prevent any further atrocities such as those committed by the Third Reich. It was strongly supported by Winston Churchill. It makes very clear just how dangerous the government’s repeal of the Human Rights Act is, despite Cameron’s attempts to allay fears by making the new Bill of Rights reflect the wording of the EU convention on human rights and by retaining members of the Convention.

I’ve reblogged several pieces today on the way Cameron and his Tory cronies are gradually undermining our civil liberties using legislation that purports to do just the opposite. This is another case, where the rights the Tories will grant us in the Bill will be much weaker than those currently protected by existing legislation. Cameron and the Tories are totalitarians, and this just one more move in their overall strategy our destroying our constitutional freedoms in the interests of creating an authoritarian state for their big business paymasters.

Hannan: BNP Is Left-Wing because It Doesn’t Support the Monarchy

April 5, 2014

Daniel Hannan

Daniel Hannan, Tory MEP who thinks BNP Must be ‘Left-Wing’ as Don’t Support the Monarchy. Wrong on Both Counts.

I’ve blogged before about the way the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, and other Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic, have attempted to smear the Left with the argument that Fascism is actually a form of Socialism. Guy Debord’s Cat has posted a series of detailed critiques of Hannan’s various spurious statements about this. In his post for the 24th July 2010, Hannan Doesn’t Know His Right from His Left: Quelle Surprise!, the Cat attacks this remark from Hannan, that the BNP must be left-wing, because it doesn’t support the monarchy. The Cat writes

So when I had a peek at Hannan’s blog, I saw him pretty much repeating the same lie as the US right wingers I had encountered on Delphi Forums. In the title he declares that “The far- Left BNP has never supported the monarchy“. For someone who likes to pat himself on the back for his classical education, he seems to be a remarkably thick individual.

Fascist Attitude to Monarchy Ambiguous, but Very Often Supportive

This is just plain wrong. While Hitler maintained in his Table Talk that Germany should be a Republic, and that the Socialist did the right thing for the wrong reasons when the Kaiser was forced to abdicate, Fascism has had an ambivalent relationship with it. When Franco got round to drafting a constitution for Spain, he declared it to be a kingdom, and was careful to secure the accession to the throne of Juan Carlos, even while isolating his father, the heir to the throne and neutralise the Fascists of the Phalange, who did want a Republic. Mussolini’s Italy retained the monarchy, even though its power was usurped and limited by that of il Duce himself. Other Fascist parties, like the Belgian Rexists, wanted a return to absolute monarchy.

The British Union of Fascists and Tudor Absolute Monarchy

In Britain, Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists also supported a powerful, centralised monarchy against the centuries of the British tradition of representative government. Richard Thurlough in his book, Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1986, describes the ideology of Mosley and the BUF, including their weird and perverse interpretation of British history. For the British Union of Fascists, England reached its pinnacle of greatness under the absolute monarchy of the Tudors. This, however, had been undermined by the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which overthrew the last Stuart king, James II in favour of William of Orange. While this coup had terrible repercussions in Ireland, where the War between James’ and William’s armies have added to the legacy of hatred and bitterness, it was one of the key events in the development of British constitutional freedom. Parliament had invited William to take power, and had a far weaker claim to the throne compared to James, who was the rightful occupant of the throne by royal descent. William’s victory thus marked the supremacy of parliament over the monarchy. It was parliament that now had the power to raise and depose British kings. In addition, William had to satisfy his British subjects that he would continue to uphold their traditional liberties against any attempt to establish an absolute monarchy similar to those on the Continent. He was therefore forced to issue a Bill of Rights, which became one of the foundations of modern British constitutional liberty. This, however, was seen not as the cause of Britain’s rise to imperial grandeur, but as the cause of its decline by the BUF.

The BNP and the ‘Monarchical Revolution’

Mosley himself did not advocate the restoration of an absolute monarchy. He saw himself as the great Spenglerian Caesar, whose absolute dictatorial power would reverse the coming collapse of British civilisation. Nevertheless, elements of the British Far Right did seem to support the establishment of an absolute monarchy. In the 1980s I did hear rumours that the BNP supported a ‘monarchical revolution’ that would place active government firmly in the hands of the Crown, who would no longer be merely heads of state with little real power. Hannan is therefore completely wrong with his statement that the BNP couldn’t be Fascist because it didn’t support the monarchy. The BNP did, and is. Meanwhile, the Cat’s article attacking this statement and the rest of Hannan’s argument can be found at: http://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/hannan-doesnt-know-his-right-from-his-left-quelle-surprise/

Resisting Cameron’s Contempt for Parliament: Books Giving a Historical Perspective on British Democracy and Constitution

January 17, 2014

This evening I’ve reblogged Mike’s piece over at Vox Political commenting on the Coalition’s response for parliament’s call for an inquiry into the alarming rise of poverty in the UK. Cameron has ignored it, despite the fact that it was passed by a majority of 127 to 2. Mike and the commenters to his blog have justifiably viewed this as the death of democracy, the day when parliament’s ability to the hold the government of the day to account was finally suppressed. At the moment this isn’t quite true, but it does not bode well for the future. Tony Blair’s tenure as prime minister was harshly attacked by the Conservative press for its very presidential style. The Tories particularly objected to the way Blair ignored parliament when it suited him, quite apart from his reform of the House of Lords. The Conservatives saw him as a real danger to the British constitution and our ancient liberties, and there were a number of books by right-wing authors and journalists proclaiming this very clearly on their covers. Cameron is continuing and possibly accelerating this process and the transformation of the post of prime minister into something like the American presidency, and in so doing running over the constitutional checks to the power of the prime minister.

One of Mike’s commenters has said that for people to be able to challenge this gradual accumulation of power by the prime minister, without recourse to or check by parliament, they need to be informed of how parliament actually works. I haven’t quite been able to find a book I bought a while ago on parliament. I have been able to find a number of books, which give an important historical insight into the development of democracy and the extremely long struggle for a truly representative, democratic parliament. Here are the books I recommend:

Eric J. Evans, The Forging of the Modern State: Early Industrial Britain 1783-1870
(London: Longman 1983)

Forging Modern State

This is a general history of Britain. I’ve selected it here because of its chapters on the constitutional changes which vastly increased the electorate in the 19th century. These were the Great Reform Act of 1833, and then Disraeli’s further expansion of the franchise in 1870, and the agitation and popular movements that demanded them, such as the Chartists. These show just how hard won the vote was, though it wasn’t until 1918 that every adult in Britain had the vote. The 1870 electoral reform enfranchised most, but certainly not all, working class men, and still excluded women from the franchise.

The book also describes the other major events and crises of that part of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, including the establishment of something like a public educational system in Britain, the enfranchisement of religious Dissenters so that they could participate in politics, the repeal of the Corn Laws, industrialisation, the Factory Acts, and poverty. The 19th century is very much a part of political discourse today by both the Left and Right because it was the age in which modern Britain really took shape, and the debate over ‘Victorian Values’ introduced by Maggie Thatcher. Evan’s book as an overview of Britain in the period offers valuable information on that crucial period.

John Miller: The Glorious Revolution (London: Longman 1983)

Glorious Revolution

This was an other vital period in the creation of British parliamentary democracy. It was when the Roman Catholic, Stuart king, James II, was overthrown and the crown given instead to William of Orange. It is obviously an immensely controversial topic in Northern Ireland, because of the way it cemented the exclusion of the Roman Catholics from power, which was held by a very narrow, Protestant elite. Back in 1988, the year of its tricentennial, Margaret Thatcher’s government deliberately chose not to celebrate it because of its highly divisive legacy in Ulster. It’s importance to British democracy lies in the fact that it gave real power to parliament. True, Britain was still a monarchy, not a republic, but its kings and queens now ruled by the consent of parliament. Furthermore, William of Orange was forced to reassure his British subject that he would not override parliament and the traditional constitutional checks and liberties by issuing a Bill of Rights. This became one of the founding documents of the British Constitution during the 18th and early 19th century.

J.W. Allen, A History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century (London: Methuen)

16th Century Politics

This was first published nearly a century ago in 1928. Nevertheless, it’s still a very useful book. The 16th century was the period when politicians, theologians and philosophers across Europe began to inquire into the origins of their countries’ constitutions, and debate the nature of political power. It was an age of absolute monarchy, when it was considered that the king had total power and whose subjects had no right to resist him. This view was attacked by both Protestant and Roman Catholic political theorists, who developed the idea of popular sovereignty. St. Augustine had introduced into Christianity the ancient Greek theory of the idea of the social contract. The theory states that right at the beginning of human society, people came together to elect a leader, who would rule in order to protect their lives and property. As well as claiming a divine right to rule, medieval kings also claimed the right to rule as the people’s representative, given power through this original contract between the primordial ruler and his people. Under theologians and philosophers like the Spanish Jesuit, Suarez, this became the basis for a true theory of national sovereignty. Just as kings owed their power to the will of the people, so the people had the right to depose those kings, who ruled tyrannically.

These are just three of the books I’ve found useful in presenting the history and development of some of the aspects of modern British theories of constitutional government and parliamentary democracy. I intend to post about a few others as well, which I hope will keep people informed about our democracy’s origins, how precious it is, and how it must be defended from those modern politicos, like Cameron, who seem intent on overthrowing it.

The Heads of Grievances of 1689: The Origins of the British Bill of Rights

July 6, 2013

After William of Orange’s invasion and accession to the British throne in 1689, Parliament met to present him with a list of grievances. These were a mixture of the constitutional violations that had been made by James II, which they wished to see corrected and removed, and further provisions strengthening parliamentary liberty and placing constitutional limits on royal power. The second half of the list of grievances was dropped completely, but the first was amended to become the Declaration of Rights and then the Bill of Rights. This last is the closest Britain has to a written constitution.

The List of Grievances

The said Commons so elected, being now assembled in a full and free representative of this nation, taking into their most serious consideration the best means for attaining the ends aforesaid, do in the first place (as their ancestors in like case have usually done) for the vindicating and asserting their ancient rights and liberties, unanimously declare,

That the pretended power of dispensing or suspending of laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of Parliament, is illegal;

That the commission for erecting the late court of commissioners for ecclesiastical causes and all other commissions and courts of like nature are illegal and pernicious.

That levying of money for or to the use of the crown, by pretence of prerogative, without grant of Parliament, for longer time, or in other manner, than the same is or shall be granted is illegal.

That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal.

That the raising or keeping of a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law.

That the subject which are Protestants may provide and keep arms for their common defence.

That election of Members of Parliament ought to be free.

That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.

That excessive bail ought not to be required; nor excessive fines imposed; nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

That jurors ought to be duly impanelled and returned; and jurors which pass upon men in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders.

That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void.

And that for the redress of all grievances and fort he amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently and suffered to sit … And towards the making a more firm and perfect settlement of the said religion, laws and liberties, it is proposed and advised … that there be provision by new laws … to the purposes following, viz.

For repealing the Acts concerning the militia and settling it anew;

For securing the right and freedom of electing members of the House of Commons, and the rights and privileges of Parliaments, and members thereof, as well in the intervals of Parliament as during their sitting;

For securing the frequent sitting of Parliaments;

For preventing the too long continuance of the same Parliament; boroughs and plantations against Quo Warrantos and surrenders and mandates and restoring them to their ancient rights;

None of the royal family to marry a Papist;

Every King and Queen of this realm at the time of their entering into the exercise of their regal authority, to take an oath for maintaining the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this nation; and the coronation oath to be altered;

For the liberty of Protestants in the exercise of their religion; and for uniting all Protestants in thematter of public worship, as far as may be;

For regulating constructions upon the statutes of treasons, and trials and proceedings and writs of error in cases of treason;

For making judges’ commissions quamdiu se bene gesserint; and ascertaining and establishing their salaries, to be paid out of the public revenue only; and for preventing their being removed and suspended from the execution of their offices, unless by due course of law;

For better securing the subjects against excessive bail in criminal cases and excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishments;

For reforming abuses in the appointing of sheriffs and in the execution of their office;

For securing the due impanelling and returning of jurors and preventing corrupt and false verdicts;

For taking away informations in the Court of King’s Bench;

For regulating the Chancery and other courts of justice, and the fees of officers;

For preventing the buying and selling of offices;

For giving liberty to the subjects to traverse returns upon habeas corpuses and mandamuses;

For preventing the grants and promises of fines and forfeitures before conviction;

For redressing the abuses and oppressions in levying the hearth money;

And for redressing the abuses and oppressions in levying and collecting the excise.

The British List of Grievances and American Guns Rights?

Looking through the list it struck me that the provision, that British Protestant could keep guns for the common defence is, shorn of its sectarian conditions, the origin of the American 2nd amendment: that Americans have the right to bear arms. The American Constitution was strongly influenced by Locke, and 17th century British theories of constitutional government. It seems to me that the strong feeling amongst the American Right, that people should have the right to own guns ultimately has its origin in this clause, which was intended to protect British Protestants from persecution by an absolute and tyrannical monarchy.

While the anti-Roman Catholic nature of these grievances meant that it was not until the 19th century that Roman Catholics enjoyed civil rights in Britain, and led to immense hardship and oppression in Ireland, nevertheless the List of Grievances can be seen as one of the fundamental elements of modern, British constitutional democracy.