Posts Tagged ‘Billy Connolly’

Michelle and Craig Murray on the Fake Owen Smith

July 26, 2016

In response to one of my previous posts about Owen Smith, Michelle posted this comment about an article by the former ambassador Craig Murray discussing Smudger, and his fake credentials as the ‘soft left’ alternative to Jeremy Corbyn. She wrote:

I also read that “Owen Smith is a strong supporter of Trident and assiduously courts the arms industry. He is a regular at defence industry events” ref: . https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2016/07/entirely-fake-owen-smith/

Smudger’s attendance at arms fairs and defence industry events should make him genuinely anathema to anybody, who takes seriously the Labour party’s proud tradition of campaigning for peace.

Or who simply thinks that the British taxpayer deserves to get value for money. A little while ago I blogged about an article in a past issue of the parapolitical magazine, Lobster, where its editor, Robin Ramsay, reviewed a book that laid bare just what an horrendous scam the arms industry is. Put simply, it’s a way for the arms companies to sell massively overpriced and frequently seriously defective equipment to the government, boosting their profits massively in the process. And all this quite apart from the actual morality of the trade in weapons.

There was a time a few years ago under John Major and then Tony Blair when it seemed the arms industry was never out of the pages of Private Eye for the above reason. The big arms companies were selling extremely expensive and often seriously defective kit to the government, often way behind schedule and well over budget. These stories were also very revealing, in that during the negotiations for these armaments the revolving door between the arms industry and senior civil servants in the Ministry of Defence loomed very large. This is noxious enough, but some of the substandard kit that has been fobbed off on the British armed forces is so faulty, that it has cost the lives of servicemen and -women.

As for Trident, looking through the Cheltenham branch of Waterstones on Friday, I found a book criticising it, called simply, The Case Against Trident. I’m afraid I can’t remember who wrote it, or who the publisher was, but I expect that you should be able to find it out easily enough through a quick search on Amazon. As for whether the wretched missile would even work, I can remember the Scots comedian Billy Connolly taking the mick out of the arms industry on that score in the 1980s on his album, Billy and Albert. He made the point that nuclear weapons could be filled with all kinds of rubbish, as ‘you can exactly take it down the car park and try it out.’ No, indeed, and a lot of the rubbish the arms industry has sold the Ministry of Defence and the British taxpayer, has been passed off precisely because you can’t.

But Murray’s article is also interesting because of what he says about Smiff’s attitude to the NHS. A day or so ago I published another piece reporting that Smudger had been a PR spin doctor for Pfizer, during which time he was a very keen supporter of the Blairite’s programme of privatising the NHS. He quotes Smudger as saying

“The focus groups also explored areas of choice that do not yet exist in the UK – most specifically the use of direct payments and the ability to choose to go directly to a specialist without first having to see the GP.”

He also notes that Smiff went to Pfizer directly from a job with the Labour government, and has been the Head of Policy and Government Relations for Pfizer. And the pharma company has donated handsomely to Progress – £53,000.

He concludes

I do not doubt Owen Smith’s expertise in brand positioning. I expect that there are indeed a large number of Labour Party members who might vote for a left wing alternative to Corbyn. But I also suspect that Smith has adopted the PR man’s typical contempt for the public, who are not as stupid as he seems to think. There is no evidence whatsoever that Smith is a left winger. There is every evidence that he is another New Labour unprincipled and immoral careerist, adopting a left wing pose that he thinks will win him votes.

People will notice, Owen. They really are not that stupid.

Please go to Murray’s article. It’s well worth reading, especially as Smiff’s history contradicts his excuse of his job of Pfizer that it was before he was a member of the Labour party. This shows that it’s a porky. He already was a member of the Labour party, and left it to go to Pfizer.

There really is nothing trustworthy or remotely admirable about him whatsoever. He really is another Red Tory desperate to sell of the Health Service and grind down the poor to get his share of the big profits his corporate masters want. Now wonder he so despises Corbyn and Momentum.

Economy Food for Toffs: Cheap Means Under £20 per portion

December 13, 2014

I’ve just reblogged a couple of piece from Tom Pride and Johnny Void criticising Baroness Jenkins and similar patronising rich journalists, who have written in the Telegraph about how they would do a better job of feeding themselves than the dirt-poor folks, who actually have little choice about the type and quality of food they can afford.

The good Mr Pride shows the double standards behind Baroness Jenksins’ opinion that the poor should eat porridge instead of going to food banks. She may find it offensive that the poor are foregoing this simple meal in order to rely on public charity, but she and her brother, Bernard Jenkins, have absolutely no qualms about taking money from the public purse themselves.

Johnny Void has a more serious, factual piece about the comparative costs of the cheap foods that could feed a family living on the edge of starvation. This gives the lie to the Baroness’ statement that somehow porridge is a cheap food. It isn’t.

Just as important is the nutritional content of the food. As we all had it drummed into us at school, you need a balanced diet with the right amount of vitamins, protein and veg. You cannot survive and live healthily on just porridge. Back in the 1990s there was an urban legend going round about a student at Edinburgh University. Instead of spending his student loan on good, nutritious meals for himself, this particular lad decided instead to buy a vast amount of oats and live off porridge for the year. By the end of this, he was then taken off to hospital as the first person to come down with scurvy in the Scots capital for 200 years.

It’s an urban legend, and so not true, but it does give some idea of the dangers of trying to follow the stupid advice given by people like Jenkins, who haven’t a clue what they’re talking about.

A more glaring, and grotesque example of this is a cookbook a friend of mine had given to him. This claimed to be a book showing how one could eat well by making cheap meals. What they meant by a ‘cheap meal’, was one that cost about £20 per person. One of the recipes was for a salmon dish, which advised the reader to try and purchase the best salmon from a fishmonger. All the recipes were in this price range, so that my friend estimated that if you actually followed the book’s advice, then the cost of cooking all this for a family of four for a week would be about £500.

Billy Connolly made jokes about this type of cookbook in one of his shows. He’d got hold of a book of recipes from the 1920s, and compared its contents with the reality of buying food when he was growing up in Glasgae toon. One of the recipes included melons. The book advised its readers to be selective, and choose only the best melons from Afghanistan. Connolly compared the book’s attitude with the way veg was sold out of vans when he was a lad, and imagined what would have happened if you’d asked if the melons they had were Afghan. ‘Ah dinnae,’, replies the greengrocer, ‘Ah dinnae whaet it is. Ah thought it was just some kind of weird apple’. It wasn’t just in Scotland that people bought their vegetables from mobile vans. The same thing happened down south here in Bristol when I was growing up in the 1970s as well. And I imagine you’d have got pretty much the same response from the greengrocer if you’d started asking picky questions about whether or not they were Afghan too.

The impression my friend had from the cookbook was that it was written by and for the extremely affluent, who really did seem to think, like certain Tory MPs, that if you had an income below £60K you really were slumming it. It’s the same snobbish attitude that informs Baroness Jenkins’ ignorant pronouncements, and the patronising recipes in the Torygraph.

And while these rich aristos and journalists waffle on about things they know nothing about, the truly poor are starving unnoticed in front of their eye, but beneath their contempt.

Bite the Ballot, The Coalition and Youth Voter Apathy

February 5, 2014

Bite the Ballot

This morning, the BBC’s breakfast TV show covered the activities of a new group, Bite the Ballot, which is attempting to combat voter apathy amongst young people and encourage them to vote. The programme showed one of their members explaining to a group of young people that unless they vote, they have no voice in determining important government issues and that somebody would be voting for them. They also interviewed one young woman, who gave the reasons she believed that young people didn’t have an interest in politics. She didn’t take much interest in it, because she felt she didn’t know enough about it. Politics, and the differences between the parties, for example, weren’t taught in schools. And without a proper grounding in these issues, young people simply had no interest in it or voting.

The programme also remarked on the influence of members of the older generation, like Russell Brand, and their cynical attitude to politics and politicians. Brand caused controversy a few months ago by telling people not to vote, because of the complete lack of interest in representing the public by politicians. I distinctly remember Billy Connolly saying much the same thing a few years ago. The Big Yin declared himself to be an anarchist, and urged his audience, ‘Don’t vote – it only encourages them!’

This cynicism and apathy is partly caused by the venality and mendacity of politicians themselves. The expenses scandal that broke out doubtless confirmed many people’s belief that politicians were all corrupt and just in it for themselves. Nor would recent revelations about Clegg and Cameron’s lies about the NHS and tuition fees contradict such opinions. Mike has blogged on the report on the Guardian, pointed out to him by one of the great commenters on his blog, that Cameron made his statement that he would not privatise the NHS, and Clegg declared that he would not raise tuition fees before the general election with the intention that they would not keep these promises once elected. The public was lied to by a pair of cynical media manipulators of whom Goebbels would have been proud.

George Sorel

Georges Sorel: Radical Syndicalist who believed all politicians were liars.

The radical anarchists of the 19th century attacked parliamentary democracy for the way they believed politicians lied to and exploited the expectations of the voting public. The revolutionary Syndicalist, Georges Sorel, declared in his work, les Illusions du Progres that

‘Democracy succeeds in confusing people’s minds, preventing many intelligent persons from seeing things as they are, because it is served by advocates skilled in the art of confusing issues, thanks to captious language, a supple sophistry, and a monstrous apparatus of scientific declamation. It is especially with respect to the democratic era that one may say that humanity is ruled by the magic power of big words rather than by ideas, by formulas rather than by reasons, by dogmas the origin of which no one ever dreams of seeking rather than by doctrines founded on observation’.

Cameron Pic

Nick Clegg

David Cameron and Nick Clegg: Two of the politicians trying to prove Sorel right.

This exactly describes the Coalition, which has indeed deceived – and continues to deceive – the British public, and whose doctrine are neither exhaustively scrutinised by the Fourth Estate, but simply repeated as obvious common sense, nor are founded on observation. In fact, IDS deliberately seeks to obstruct proper examination of his policies by dragging his feet over giving any information to the Work and Pensions Committee, and blocking release of the figures showing the number of people, who’ve died after being thrown off benefit by ATOS.

There are dangers to this cynicism. Sorel’s radical anti-parliamentarianism, and his cult of violence expressed in Reflexions sur la Violence, influenced both the Bolsheviks in Russia and Mussolini’s Fascists. When he died both countries sent delegations to pay their respects.

However, the atrocities committed by the great totalitarian regimes like the above in the 20th century have had an effect in turning many people off politics. Certainly very few now have any time for extremist political doctrines like Communism or Fascism. The result is that most of the population, rather than seek radical answers outside parliament, or the reform of politics itself to make it more representative and more responsive to the needs and desires of the electorate, simply turn away. Faced with dissimulation and corruption, people simply change channels on the TV, or turn to the celeb gossip or the sports pages in the newspapers. ‘How do you tell when a politician is lying? His lips move’, as the old joke went on the late, and very great Max Headroom show.

Which may be exactly what the politicos want. Political journalists noted that Blair’s government was highly suspicious of the general public, and was very careful to stage manage congresses and meetings with them to present Blair in the best possible light. Mass membership of the Labour party declined, as voters felt Blair was not interest in the views of the little people, only in rich donors. The same attitude pervades the Conservative and Liberal parties, which have also seen their membership decline for very much the same reasons.

Not that this bothers Cameron and Clegg. These are upper-class aristos, leading a government of upper-class aristos. I get the impression that their background and temperament makes them instinctively distrustful of modern, mass politics. They’d far prefer that of the 18th and early 19th century, when there was a proper property qualification to vote, which excluded all but 20 per cent of the population from having the vote. This left government in the hands of the aristocracy, like themselves. Mike has reported how the government’s reforms of the registration system for voting will leave many confused and so disenfranchised, which certainly seems in line with such an attitude. Possibly in dark corners of smoke-filled rooms in Whitehall or Chequers Cameron, Clegg and the rest of the old Etonians gather round to complain about how it all should have stopped with the Great Reform Act of 1833, or at least with Disraeli’s expansion of the franchise in the 1870s. After all, the rotten and pocket boroughs weren’t all bad, and at least guaranteed the right sort of people a place in parliament.

nixon

Richard Nixon: the corrupt politician’s corrupt politician. But at least he knew how he put young people off politics.

Richard Nixon had the self-awareness to recognise that his attempts to overthrow the American constitution had put the young and idealistic off politics. In his interview with the late David Frost, ‘King Richard’ said he’d like to apologise to the young kid, who now felt all politicians were liars and frauds. His apology wasn’t sincere. Rather than being spontaneous, he’d carefully prepared it in order to gain public sympathy and wrongfoot Frostie. But even if he said it for purely selfish reasons, he at least was honest about the effects of his actions. There has been no such honesty from Cameron and Clegg. Mind you, they’ve got away with it. Nobody’s impeached them. But we live in hope.

Bite the Ballot are doing an excellent job of encouraging young people to take an active interest in politics. Public turn out at elections is declining alarmingly, to the point where I feel there is a real danger of politics simply becoming the preserve of an elite managerial class, which is funded and co-opted – not elected -from their friends in industry, with the masses kept a very poor second, if at all. If politicians really want people to start turning out at elections and give them a mandate for their policies, then the tenor of much modern politics needs to be changed. The political parties need to turn their attention to recruiting and representing the public, not rich donors. We also need politicians and governors, who can speak simply, clearly and without the management jargon that has now got into modern politics. People with a more ordinary background, who know what it is like to be a member of the working and lower middle classes, who have worked 9 to 5 jobs worrying about take home pay, rents and mortgages, and the difficulties of getting the kids into a good school, rather than the ambitious young things straight out of politics, philosophy and economics courses, and who understand that world only from the statistics they’re given by think tanks, Special Advisors and whichever management consultants or financial firm is the current governments flavour of the month.

But most of all, they can start by actually telling the truth to the public, and not cynically lying just to get a few more votes.