Posts Tagged ‘Boris Johnson’

Resign! Recording of Interview with Evans Suggests He Deliberately Stripped Corbyn Supporters of Their Rights

September 26, 2021

Depressingly, David Evans won the vote about remaining Labour’s general secretary, and so will stay to continue his and his fellow Blairites’ wretched purge against socialists and critics of Israel. But further evidence has emerged that these purges really are politically motivated, and are all about getting rid of Corbyn’s followers. The group Red Collective put up an audio recording, which Mike has reblogged on his article about Evans’ winning the vote. In it, Evans says that they were concerned that Corbyn was overshadowing the rest of party, and so they decided to strip members of their rights. He waffles about how this didn’t come easy to him, as he believes in freedom of expression. I doubt that. I doubt that very much, as he and the NEC have been suspending people for too long and for too little for this to be remotely credible. It’s simply a mantra he and other authoritarians say to stop people accusing them of being dictatorial, intolerant authoritarians.

The recording strongly suggests that Evans and his followers have been deeply involved in an organised campaign to subvert Labour party democracy, acting from factional interests against the left. If there was any decency still left amongst the party’s bureaucrats and leadership, this should cause serious questions to be raised about Evans’ suitability to remain as General Secretary. Mike has also said that it is actually a resigning issue. I agree, especially as there are now concerns that the election that confirmed Evans as General Secretary may have been rigged.

Unfortunately, standards in public life have fallen to such an extent that those officials and government ministers responsible for the most appalling incompetence, maladministration and corruption remain in office. Which is how Boris still remains as our blustering, grasping and utterly inept Prime Minister as Brexit Britain collapses from food and petrol shortages.

NHS Privatisation: Do You Want to Pay the Equivalent of $200 to See a Doctor?

September 20, 2021

This comes from a video on YouTube I was watching the other day. It wasn’t about health services except that at one point the person talking mentioned that where she was – America – you have to pay $200 simply to see a doctor. And that’s before he treats you or gives you medicine.

At a very rough estimate, that’s about £130 or so. Very roughly, and I might be wrong.

But it used to be like that over here as well before the establishment of the NHS by the 1945 Labour government. And people suffered and died because they couldn’t afford to pay for it. I’ve been watching Ken Loach’s excellent film on the establishment of the British welfare state, The Spirit of ’45. This is another flick I fully intend to blog about in due course and highly recommend it to anyone interested in the origins not just of the welfare state, but of the mixed economy that gave us jobs and prosperity for thirty years before the election of Thatcher. And it clearly shows as well how and why capitalism is failing but still being pushed, and why we must never allow the NHS to be privatised. It mixes archive footage from the period, including speeches by Clement Atlee, Nye Bevan, George Lansbury and others with filmed interviews with politicians, activists, writers, union representatives and ordinary working men and women. These include not only the awesome Tony Benn, but also Jacky Davis, a consultant radiologist who co-edited NHS: SOS against the privatisation of the NHS with Ray Tallis. Doctors appearing in the film explain that before the NHS was established, you had to pay half a crown simply to see the doctor. Very poorly paid workers, like agricultural labourers, could be paid five shillings a week. If they fell ill, one of those shillings would be taken in doctor’s fees. And doctors employed debt collectors to get money owing from patients, who’d paid on credit.

This is what is going to happen if Johnson and his jackals privatise the NHS.

I mention this because there was a news report last week that more people are taking out private health care. This is not by accident. It is a deliberate Tory policy. Thatcher would have liked to have privatised the NHS, but she was prevented by a cabinet revolt. Patrick Jenkin, her private secretary, had visited America and was shocked by the American private healthcare system. Unable to get her way, Thatcher instead aimed to get a certain percentage of the British public to take out private health insurance.

As Mike has pointed out again and again, the way the right prepares industries for privatisation is by starving them of funding until they are near collapse and then claiming that privatisation will provide more investment and improve services.

And this is what the Tories have been doing since they got into power eleven or so years ago. The NHS is in crisis with cancelled operations and treatment due to priority being given to combating the Coronavirus. But the Tories never waste a crisis, and they are using it to demand further privatisation. The mad internet radio host, Alex Belfield, released a video last week yet again demanding the privatisation of the NHS because of the crisis and the suffering it was causing his listeners, some of whom had relatives die as a result.

I have every sympathy for them. But the truth is that people are suffering and dying not because of any inherent fault of the NHS but because it is deliberately being run down so the Tories can privatise it.

Boris and his cronies would like to take us to a completely private healthcare system, financed through private health insurance. And if that happens, people will once again have to pay money simply to see a doctor.

And so we come back to the question: do you have the equivalent of $200 to see a doctor? Because this is what it’s going to cost you if Johnson and the private American healthcare companies that want a bit of NHS action get their way.

Peak Trans Refutes the Argument that TERFs Are Right-Wing

September 18, 2021

This is another video attacking the trans ideology and some of the arguments made by Trans Rights Activists against gender critical feminists, whom they call TERFS – Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists. Peak Trans is a channel specialising in videos challenging such arguments, and this is one in a series of them. This one attacks the accusation that opponents of the gender ideology are somehow right-wing, beginning with the very common claim that ‘TERFs are Fascists, literal Fascists’. This is not only repeated by ordinary people, but also by tenured academics who really ought to know better. Judith Butler, apparently, wrote a piece in the Guardian stating that gender critical feminists are the closest thing now to real Fascism.

It’s an absurdly stupid claim. Peak Trans made a list of the real horrors the Nazis and their allies were responsible for. These include the mass murder and extermination of whole ethnic groups, particularly the Roma and the Jews; forcible medical experiments on humans; mass atrocities against other populations including the disabled, gays, and so on. A moment’s calm reflection shows that gender critical feminists don’t stand for any of that. It’s an absurd claim, and perhaps more than a little insulting to the real victims of Nazi and Fascist atrocities. But Trans Rights Activists are more than capable of what could be seen as inciting violence, publishing tweets and memes celebrating violence and the killing of ‘TERFs’. Peak Trans provides a few examples.

Other accusations are that they are somehow Conservative, especially as anti-trans activists appeared at a conference of the Heritage Institute, a very right-wing group in America. Peak Trans points out that she has no time for their politics at all. The gender critical activists were there because the Heritage Institute is one of the very few organisations that offered them a space to air their views.

As for opposition to the trans ideology being Conservative, Peak Trans shows how it actually isn’t a straightforward left-right issue. Some left-wingers are gender critical, while some Conservatives, including former PM Tweezer, have been in favour of pro-trans policies, such as gender self-ID. Johnson and the present government don’t support trans ideology, but that doesn’t mean all of the Tories do.

Gove’s Old Speeches Show His Real Views of Racism, the North and Homosexuality

September 15, 2021

The Independent dug up a few of Michael Gove’s old speeches in which he expressed opinions that really should cause him considerable embarrassment. Should, but probably won’t, as this government seems to be impervious to any kind of shame or guilt. One came from a speech he made as president-elect of Oxford University’s debating society in 1987. Speaking for the motion ‘This house believes the British Empire was lost on the playing fields of Eton’, Gove used the term ‘fuzzy-wuzzies’ for Black people. This caused a member of the audience to shout ‘Shame!’ I know it was a different time then, and racist jokes and material were more acceptable then than they are now, but times were changing. Racist language like that wasn’t acceptable.

He also had similarly grotty views on the north, celebrating Thatcher’s humiliation of the region and its people:

 “We are at last experiencing a new empire, an empire where the happy south stamps over the cruel, dirty, toothless face of the northerner. At last Mrs Thatcher is saying I don’t give a fig for what half the population is saying, because the richer half will keep me in power. This may be amoral. This may be immoral. But it’s politics and it’s pragmatism”.

The happy south? I live in Bristol, and I don’t recall this bit of the south being at all happy under Maggie Thatcher. Not when there was rising unemployment, St Paul’s exploded into riots along with Brixton in London and Toxteth in Liverpool, cuts to unemployment benefit, the ending of student grants, the introduction of privatisation into the NHS, cuts to education budgets so that many schools didn’t have the funding to repair decaying premises and so on. Presumably by ‘happy south’ Gove is talking about those rich areas inhabited by himself and his extremely wealthy and complacently happy chums.

He also made a number of, er, forthright comments about homosexuality. He said that gays thrive on short-term relationships and praised Thatcher’s policies as “rigorously, vigorously, virulently, virilely heterosexual”. To be fair, the Observer, writing about the rise of AIDS amongst American gays, stated that most relationships between gay men were short-term and rarely lasted a year, in contrast with the much longer-lasting connections between lesbians. I’m not sure whether this is still true. As for Thatcher’s policies being ‘heterosexual’, there’s nothing heterosexual or otherwise about privatising everything that wasn’t nailed down and looking forward to selling off the NHS and ending the welfare state, because the poor should look after themselves. On the other hand, Thatcher did try to stop the promotion of homosexuality in schools with the notorious Clause 28. This resulted in massive protests by gays and straight people, who feared it would be the start of real persecution, including incarceration. He also claimed that John Maynard Keynes was also a ‘homosexualist’. I’ve heard those rumours too, and to be fair, I think some of them come from gay rights campaigners. Keynes did have close relationships with men, but he was also happily married for 20 years to the ballerina Lydia Lopokova. Of course, it could have been a ‘lavender marriage’ designed to hide his real sexuality, but it’s doubtful. And in any case, what Keynes did in private with consenting adults was his own business. What matters is his ground-breaking economic theory, which has lasted a dam’ sight better than Thatcher’s wretched Monetarism. Gove’s allegations of homosexuality looks a bit like an attempt to discredit the theory by making insinuations about the man.

But it seems Gove’s own sexuality may also be open to question. According to Zelo Street, there was a recent piece in the Spectacularly Boring in which Mary Wakefield, Dominic Cumming’s wife, says that David Cameron was worried that Gove and Cummings were having an affair. Now there would be a ‘gruesome twosome’. She dismisses the idea, stating that it’s all rubbish but the rumour mill goes on. The Street, however, is not so sure, and convinced that at least one of the newspaper groups knows the truth. He urges them to come forward with it, as we’re now in the 21st century. Except for the Tories, of course.

Ah yes, the Tories and homosexuality. I remember how, under Thatcher and Major, it seemed that every week a Tory MP or cabinet minister would have to resign due to extra-marital shenanigans. Gay rights activists took particular delight in outing vociferously anti-gay Tories, who were then caught with their male lovers or rent boys. This reached the point under Major that Private Eye joked that when he talked about going ‘back to basics’, what he really meant was ‘back to gay sex’. And if it wasn’t homosexuality, it was old-fashioned heterosexual adultery with mistresses and prostitutes.

The remark about ‘fuzzy-wuzzies’ is the kind of racist comment that has caused Tories to resign in the past. I doubt it will do that to Gove because of how long ago it was made. Gove’s comments about homosexuality also seem to be par for the course in a certain section of the Tory party. Despite David Cameron promoting openly gay Tory MPs, Boris Johnson himself managed to upset the gay community by calling them ‘tank-top wearing bum-boys’. Well, I remember back in the 1970s it seemed everyone was wearing tank-tops, so it wasn’t only gays who were fashion victims.

I suspect if any of his comments does any damage, it should be that about the north. Because that shows the real hatred and contempt metropolitan Tories had for Britain’s former industrial heartland.

And that hatred and contempt is still there, despite the Tories having somehow convinced the northern working class to vote for them.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2021/09/michael-gove-and-homosexuailty.html

We Own It Tear Apart Boris’ NHS Funding Bill

September 9, 2021

Mike’s already put up an excellent piece ripping apart Johnson’s proposal to raise National Insurance to pay for increased funding for the NHS and social care. And Mike and so many others are pointing out, this is actually a disastrous tax on the poor, while once again the rich are protected from the taxman.

I got the following email from We Own It yesterday evening. They point out that £36 billion may sound a lot, but the NHS will still be dangerously underfunded. Furthermore Johnson’s plan does nothing to reverse the disastrous privatisation of the health service and so much of that money will find its way into the pockets of shareholders. Here’s the email.

“£36 billion for the NHS and reforming social care – that sounds like a plan from Boris Johnson. Or does it?

Putting aside the major issue of whether a National Insurance tax is a fair way of increasing funding (it isn’t), here are four reasons why Boris Johnson’s plan isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

1) Our NHS has been underfunded for a decade, and this new funding isn’t anywhere near enough. As we said in the Mirror yesterday, ‘Since 2010 our NHS has lost 20,000 beds, more than 100 A&Es and it’s short of 90,000 staff. This Government has been underfunding the NHS for 10 years. We have to fund our NHS at the level of countries like Germany.’

2) £36 billion over three years sounds like a lot, but in terms of the NHS budget of around £140 billion a year (and especially given how budgets have been squeezed for 10 years) it isn’t actually that much, especially to cover health and social care. For example, the government handed out £37 billion for Serco and Sitel’s privatised Test and Trace operation, it failed badly and the government didn’t even blink – let alone set up a new tax to cover the cost.

3) The organisations representing NHS trusts said they needed £10 billion this year, in the next six months, to tackle waiting lists and cover Covid costs. Instead the government has offered them £5.4 billion. (The new money and tax won’t kick in until April 2022.) This means waiting lists will continue to be an ongoing issue. Many of you have shared your stories about how this affects you and some of these have been published in the Evening Standard and the Mirror – read more of your stories here.

4) Boris Johnson’s plan does nothing to stop public money leaking out of the system into shareholders pockets. In our NHS, the new Health and Care Bill would mean more privatisation. And social care – both care homes and care work (where carers visit people in their homes) – is largely privatised and outsourced. A plan for social care should involve bringing it into public ownership so it can work for people not profit.

Together with you, we did our best to make the call for NHS funding as loud and clear as possible – the photos from our weekend protest are everywhere! (See the Times, the IndependentITV and lots of local newspapers..)

But in the last few days Johnson has done his best to reframe the narrative on NHS and social care funding. He’s turned the conversation into one about tax, instead of about what these public services need.

So we have to keep getting the message out there.

Our NHS needs serious funding after years of cuts and the money is there – it’s a question of political will. We need to kick the private companies out of NHS structures and oppose the Health and Care Bill (Corporate Takeover Bill) that would give them a seat at the decision making table. There’s no point in a plan for social care that doesn’t look at how money is leaking out to private shareholders.

Sadly, our NHS won’t be fixed by Johnson’s plans, and neither will social care.

The fight for OUR public services, for people not profit, continues…we’ll be in touch soon with more actions you can take.

Solidarity – and thank you for everything you do.

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Zana and Anna – the We Own It team

PS Tonight at 7pm, Keep Our NHS Public is holding a rally on how to protect our NHS from the Health and Care Bill (aka the Corporate Takeover Bill). Cat is speaking alongside actor Julie Hesmondhalgh, Michael Rosen and Jon Ashworth MP, Labour’s shadow health secretary. Sign up here.

Johnson’s NHS funding bill looks to me like another piece of Tory deception. It looks like their increasing funding to the NHS while all the time carrying on with the same policies that will lead to its privatisation.

Lookalikes: Boris Johnson and Simian Double

September 5, 2021

Okay, I know it’s rather ad hominem, but it’s too good not to use. Private Eye have carried column for years entitled ‘Lookalikes’ which shows picture of various public figures, politicians, actors, sportsmen and women and pop stars, next to things that look like them for comic effect. I found a picture of Snowball the albino gorilla in an illustrated dictionary we’ve had since the 1970s, I was struck by the uncanny similarity to the simian creature now occupying No. 10.

Way back in the ’70s and ’80s there was nasty racist joke going round. It was a picture of Black man and a gorilla, and asked what the difference was. I’m not going to go further, because it is offensive, but you could ask the same about Boris and Snowball. What’s the difference between them? The gorilla is gentler, more intelligent, and doesn’t make the poor even poorer for the benefit of the rich.

Petition from pro-NHS Group We Own It for Greater NHS Funding

September 5, 2021

I got this petition from We Own It yesterday, calling on the government to increase funding to the NHS by £10 billion a year, with £10 billion needed this year to combat Covid 19 successfully, the training of 90,000 doctors and nurses, an increase in hospital beds and the reopening of the A&E departments the Tories have closed, as well as stopping the selling off of hospital land and a similar increase in funding for social care.

The petition also includes a link, where you can send a short, prepared message about this to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak. The petition runs

“Dear David,

Today we launch our waiting lists campaign.

There are millions of people across the UK who are waiting for treatment right now. 

You might even be one of them. 

We’re seeing rises in the number of people on waiting lists for treatment across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In England alone, there are currently 5.5 million people waiting.

This is an emergency. Our NHS needs us.

That’s why we’re calling on the government to give our NHS all of the funding it needs to reduce waiting lists as quickly as possible and give patients the care they need.

I’ll sign the petition to give our NHS the funding it needs

Our NHS is amazing. It’s helped so many of us in our hour of need. Incredible NHS staff have been working round the clock to look after us during the pandemic. 

But they’re also having to deal with a mounting backlog – caused by Covid and a decade of underfunding and privatisation.  

Now, instead of investing in our healthcare service, the government is going to start funnelling yet more money into the private sector. They’re going to pay £10 billion to run private hospitals using NHS staff to deal with NHS waiting list patients – with £200 million going towards shareholder profits.

This is not a sustainable, long-term solution. There should be no place for profiteering in our healthcare system.

Instead of handing out billions to the private sector, the government must commit to new funding for our NHS in its autumn budget update.

Will you call on Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid to give the NHS the funding it needs?

Yes, I’ll call on the government to fund our NHS, not private healthcare

The government will make a decision on NHS funding very soon. This week the NHS Confederation, NHS Providers and the Labour Party all called for serious cash and a recovery plan for our NHS.

That’s why now is the moment to call for proper funding – and to say every penny must go to our NHS, not private healthcare.

If the government hears this message loudly and clearly from enough people right now it could really influence how much money goes to our NHS.

We want our NHS to get the funding it needs. That means:

  • Funding of at least £10 billion revenue a year to cover ongoing Covid costs and care backlogs 
  • Funding of at least £10 billion capital this year to urgently maintain and upgrade hospitals and vital equipment like ambulances and scanners 
  • Funding for the extra 90,000 NHS staff that are needed – increasing the number of doctors, nurses and healthcare staff through training and encouraging staff to stay with better pay, terms and conditions 
  • Funding for hospital beds – reopen the 22,000 beds closed since 2010
  • Funding for A&Es – reopen the 100+ A&Es closed since 2010
  • No more selling off hospital land, no more outsourcing NHS staff
  • Funding and a plan for social care so that people are cared for when they leave hospital

Let’s send a clear message that the government needs to give our NHS the funds it needs to tackle rising waiting list times and rebuild from the pandemic.

I’ll send a message to give our NHS the funding it needs by signing the petition

We don’t want this waiting list crisis to push people into paying for private healthcare.  

We don’t want to be forced into a two-tier system like the US.

Our NHS has always been there for us. Together, we can be there for our NHS.

Thank you so much for taking action today. By signing the petition to cut waiting lists by funding our NHS, we’re showing that a healthcare service that cares for everyone is our top priority. 

Solidarity,

Cat, Johnbosco, Alice, Anna, Matthew and Zana – the We Own It team

PS Can you join our campaign launch today? We’re raising the alarm across the country to ramp up the pressure on the government and call on them to give our NHS all the funding and extra capacity it needs to care for people. You can find out how to get involved here!

I got the email yesterday, so I’ve missed the chance at being part of the launch of their campaign. I’ve put up numerous petitions, messages and other materials from We Own It, fighting NHS cuts and privatisation. Mike has several times put up that quote from Noam Chomsky, where he states that right-wing governments begin privatisation by starving a state industry of cash, then using its failure as an excuse to hand it over to the private sector. This is what is occurring here. I have therefore had absolutely no trouble signing the petition and sending the prepared statement to the audience clown masquerading as our PM and his vile chancellor, Rishi Sunak. I would ask everyone who is also worried about NHS privatisation to do so too.

Especially as Keir Starmer seems to be doing precious little to stop it.

Johnson Insults Low Paid Workers by Telling Them to Rise through their Own Efforts

August 29, 2021

This comment from the incompetent, libidinous, blustering, greedy clown infesting No. 10 clearly demonstrates the absolute contempt he and his fellow Tories really have for working people. Yesterday Mike put up a piece from a Mirror report, in which Johnson told low paid British workers claiming benefits to make ends meet that they will have to see their wages rise through their own efforts. This is his ‘strong preference’, which he thinks is shared by the vast majority of people in this country. He’s not going to pass legislation to raise wages and doesn’t want them to claim benefits, which is money raised through taxing other people. This is at a time when those on Universal Credit are facing a cut of £1,000 per year. Of course, this is rich coming from the man who got Tory donors to pay for his new wallpaper, a nanny and whined that he couldn’t live off his £150,000 a year salary, as the good peeps on Twitter, including Angela Rayner, reminded us all. And this grasping attitude is shared by his cabinet, as Daniela Nadj pointed out. Rishi Sunak is building a new swimming pool in his garden and Dominic Raab spends £40,000 on a holiday. But for the rest of us, there’s 2,000 food banks and hundreds of baby banks.

Well, this is a typical Tory attitude and it goes back centuries. Way back in the 19th century one of the leading politicians of the day – and it might have been a Liberal rather than a Tory – told a meeting at one of the northern industrial towns that the means of prospering was within their grasp. It’s the old nonsense that if you work hard and have talent, you’ll get on. If you don’t, it’s your own fault. This particular speech was made at time when industrial workers could have a working day going up to 18 hours in poorly ventilated, dangerous factories, and families could be crammed into overcrowded basements.

And when Cameron was in power he declared that he was going to make work pay, not by actually raising wages, but by cutting benefits. Because working people didn’t want to see the closed curtains of their unemployed neighbours. As for the comments about taxation, that sounds like a populist move, but it’s really about not taxing the rich fairly for their share, just like he doesn’t want to damage their profits by making them pay a real living wage.

This is all about protecting and enriching the bloated elite even further by playing on the petty jealous and resentment within certain sections of the working class. All the while supported by the underlying message that we somehow live in a fair society in which full of opportunities to get on. Which is why there are so many graduates now working in burger bars or signing on.

For further information, see:

Tokyo Bans Sale of Comics ‘Subversive of the Social Order’ to Children

August 28, 2021

It seems to me that there’s a real war going on in ostensibly democratic countries against freedom of speech and conscience. I don’t think this is confined to either the left or right either. In Britain we have had a successions of governments that have been determined to limit the right to public protest from David Cameron to Johnson with his wretched Criminal Justice Bill. And before then there was Tony Blair and his attempts to control what was being said about him and his coterie on state broadcasting, just as Berlusconi was doing to the Italian state media. John Kampfner wrote a rather good book about it, Freedom for Sale, a few years ago, arguing that governments from Blair to Putin were trying to bargain with their peoples. They got material prosperity in return for severe infringements on their ability to protest against their governments. Well, Blair was wretched, but he did at least tackle poverty with no little success. Cameron, Tweezer and Johnson are simply increasing it.

On the other side of the political aisle, the right are complaining about the imposition of curbs on free speech as part of the campaign against hate crime and the ‘cancel culture’. Some of this is exaggerated. Zelo Street demolished some of the claims Toby Young, Douglas Murray and the rest were making about right-wingers being prevented from speaking at universities by giving the precise statistics. These showed that, while it had happened, the percentage of speakers cancelled was minute. But I do think they have a point. For example, it should be accepted that trans people should not despised, persecuted or suffer discrimination. But I think there are legitimate issues and questions voiced by gender critical feminists about trans activism and that there are spaces that should only be reserved for ‘cis’ women. But to some people, simply voicing what to many people are reasonable questions and criticisms constitute hate speech. There are similar problems regarding the reporting and discussion of racial issues. Nobody should want to empower real bigots and Fascists, but it does seem that legislation put in place to protect minorities from real hate has now expanded into Orwellian thoughtcrime.

And these attempts to limit freedom of speech have got into what is permissible in comics. One of the astonishing snippets I found while flicking through Paul Gravett’s Comics Art yesterday, was that in 2011 Tokyo municipality expanded its ban on the sale of certain comics (manga) and animated movies (anime) to children under 18 by including materials ‘excessively disruptive of the social order’. (Page 72). I realise that Japan is a very conservative society. The right-wing Liberal Democratic party were in power for fifty years or so after the end of World War II. The country is very Confucian in that one respects one’s elders and superiors. Gender roles are very traditional, as are conceptions of nationality. I don’t know if it’s still the case now, but under Japanese law at one time a person could only be a Japanese citizen if both their parents were ethnic Japanese. I gather that there are ways you can become a naturalised citizen, but it’s extremely difficult. It’s also supposed to be a very conformist society, in which children are taught at school that ‘the nail that stands up must be hammered down’. But this attack on comics is extreme.

Such attacks on the four-colour funnies and related media haven’t been restricted by Japan by any means. In the 1950s there was a moral panic in America and the United States against comics, one of the major figures in which was the Austrian psychiatrist, Dr Frederic Wertham. Wertham was one of a number of left-wing, emigre intellectuals who believed that popular culture had assisted the Nazis into power. He believed that American youth was being corrupted into crime and sexual deviancy by comics. He accused Superman of being a Nazi, despite the fact that the character’s only similarity to Nietzsche’s superman is the name, and that the Man of Steel’s creators were American Jews. Batman and Robin were an idealised homosexual couple, an accusation that has continued to plague attempts to reintroduce Robin in the strips. Oh yes, and Wonder Woman was a sado-masochist feminist lesbian. I doubt any of these accusations would have been recognised by the kids who actually bought and read the strips. But Wertham’s denunciations were taken up by a variety of groups, from the religious right to the Communist party and led to the passing of laws across America banning or restricting the sale of comics to children. The ban led to the collapse of particular comic genres, specifically the horror and true crime comics, which were particular targets of the legislators’ ire. It also affected the SF comics, because some of them strayed into politically dubious areas. The superhero comics survived, not because they were the most popular, but because they were the type of comics least affected by the new regulations.

One of the SF comics singled out for censorship was a story in which an astronaut from Earth travels to a world populated entirely by robots. His face hidden in his spacesuit, he tells the robots that they’re being considered as candidates for joining a galactic federation. Shades of Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets by a slightly different name here. However, the robots are divided into two types, blue and orange, and there is hatred and conflict between them. At the end of the story, the astronaut informs them that they have been rejected because of these divisions. It was only when the people of Earth rejected their differences and united, that real progress was made, he states at the end of the story. In the last panel he removes his helmet, and reveals that he’s Black.

Shock horror! An anti-racist message! This was too much for one New York judge, who wanted the strip banned on religious grounds. He believed that God had only given speech to humanity, and hated the idea of talking robots. But the underlying issue is obviously its attack on racism at a time when Jim Crow was still very much in force. Eventually the judge had to back down, and the issue degenerated into a fight between the publisher, EC, and the authorities over how many beads of sweat they could show on the Earthman.

Well, at least there were comics creators in America prepared to deal with the issue. Pat Mills, the creator of zarjaz British comic 2000 AD, says in his book about British comics and his career in them, Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! that even in the late 1960s, the policeman heroes in British comics were making quite racist comments about Blacks. Part of what made 2000 AD’s predecessor, Action, so controversial was that Mills and the other creators there had been determined to make it as relevant as possible to contemporary British youth culture and deal with the issues and stories affecting and demanded by the young readership of the time. It was originally going to be called ‘Boots’, after Dr Martens’ distinctively rebellious footwear, followed by the years. So ‘Boots 1977′, Boots 1978’ and so on. But this was too much for the publishers, and the name Action settled on instead. In the end, the comic only lasted a couple of years because it was so controversial, with the major criticism that it was far too violent. 2000 AD was its successor, but here, unlike Action, the violence would be done in support of the law. This led to Judge Dredd, who was deliberately designed as a Fascist cop. The strip’s founding artist, Carlos Ezquerra, was Spanish, and so incorporated into Dredd’s uniform the style of the Fascists then making life a misery in Franco’s Spain, the helmet, the shoulder pads and the eagle badge. And I don’t think it’s an accident that the light reflected in Dredd’s visor looks like ‘SS’. Dredd was thus partly a comment by Mills and Wagner on some of the authoritarian trends in contemporary policing. Other strips tackled issues of racism and religious bigotry – Strontium Dog and Nemesis the Warlock, for example, and sexism, like The Ballad of Halo Jones. There was also a strong anti-war message in the ABC Warriors. Mainstream American comics had been tackling some of these issues for a decade or so previously. There were issues of Spiderman, for example, that tackled racism, and the Blaxploitation craze of the 1970s led to the appearance of Black superheroes like Powerman, Brother Voodoo and the Black Panther. Since then, and particularly since the collapse of the Comics Code Authority in the 1990s, comics have become an accepted and critically respected medium for the discussion of political and social issues. This has reached the point where Conservative and more traditional fans and comics creators believe that the medium and related forms of popular culture, such as SF and Fantasy film and television has become too politicised. In their opinion, contemporary comics writers and artists are too concerned with pushing overt messages about racism, sexism and gay rights at the expense of creating good, likeable characters and engaging plots and stories.

Martin Barker describes how comics have always been the subject of suspicion by the left and the right, going back to the Bloods and Penny Dreadfuls of Victorian Britain, and the cheap, popular novels being read by ‘the democracy’ in his Comics, Ideology and Power. Girls’ comics seem to me to have come in for a particular bashing. They were attacked by conservatives for being too radical and challenging traditional female roles. The left attacked them for being too conservative and not teaching girls their proper, traditional place. Barker shows how these attacks were way off, tearing to pieces specific criticisms of various strips. He argues that children actually subtly negotiate the content of the comics they read. They accept only those elements of the strips which appeal to them and ignore the rest. They do not simply accept everything they read. Barker’s final chapter is a passionate attack on those, who were trying to censor comics at the time he was writing. This included Thatcher and the Tories, but he was also angry at his own camp, the left. Brent and Lambeth councils were also leading an attack on popular literature through their zeal to purge their municipal libraries of anything they considered racist.

And they attack on popular literature has carried on. I remember the furore at the beginning of this century against the Harry Potter books. American Evangelical Christians accused J.K. Rowling of leading children into Satanism and the occult. Well, I admit I’ve only seen the films, not read the books, but I must have missed that one. It’s always seemed to me that the Harry Potter books actually were part of a long tradition of supernatural fantasy in children’s literature going right back to E. Nesbitt and beyond, and including The Worst Witch and Gobbelino the Witch’s Cat. Their attacks on Potter contrast with the Pope’s, who praised them and J.K. Rowling for encouraging children’s imaginations. There was also a rabbi, who wrote a piece praising Potter as a kind of model for Jews.

I’m not a free speech absolutist. I believe the promotion of certain opinions should be outlawed. Obvious examples include anything that encourages the sexual abuse of children or real hatred and violence towards minorities. I have no problem with the law banning the incitement to racial hatred. This was introduced in the 1920s or ’30s with the aim of combating the rise of real Fascism in the form of Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, Arnold Leese’s The Britons and other violent, deeply racist and anti-Semitic outfits. I also believe that parents have every right to exercise concern and control about what their children read or listen to, or are taught at school regarding certain highly controversial issues.

But I am afraid that the rules against certain types of hate are being used to silence perfectly reasonable criticism. One of the quotes that my accusers have cited to show that I am an evil anti-Semite is a statement where I say that every state and ideology should be open to discussion and criticism, even Israel and Zionism. There is absolutely nothing anti-Semitic in that. Even the wretched I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism states that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic only if it is applied solely to Israel. But that sentence makes it very clear that I don’t single out Israel and Zionism for especial criticism. I simply state that they should not be above it. But to the anti-Semitism hunters, this is obviously too much.

I am very much afraid that freedom of speech, discussion and conscience and true liberty of the press is under attack. The Conservatives want to close down any view that isn’t their own, all while arguing they’re simply standing up for free speech against the censorious ‘woke’ left. And there are forces on the left trying to close down reasonable debate and criticism under the guise of protecting people from hate.

We have to be careful, and defending freedom of speech and publication from attacks, whether by left-wing councils like Brent and Lambeth in the 1980s, or right-wing local authorities like Tokyo and its law of 2011.

This should not be a partisan issue, but should stretch across the political spectrum. But my fear is that it won’t. And as both sides struggle to establish the kind of censorship they want, real freedom of expression will die.

Johnson’s Potemkin Hospitals

August 28, 2021

This government lies like Goebbels and the worst excesses of the former official Soviet press agency, TASS, combined. You cannot trust anything they say. Well, actually, I think there is probably a way to get to the truth from an official Tory statement. You do what Private Eye recommended you do for young Jacob Rees-Mogg’s father, William. You read what he says carefully, and then turn it all 180 degrees and then believe the exact opposite. Then you will have the real, exact truth.

Boris and his ministers have been boasting that they’re opening 40 or perhaps 48 new hospitals. They’re not. They’ve ordered the press to report every bit of building work on existing hospitals as the building of a new one. Yes, we’re dealing with ‘Potemkin villages’ here. Or rather, Potemkin hospitals. Potemkin was the Russian prime minister under Catherine the Great. Catherine shared Peter the Great’s determination to modernise and westernise Russia. It was she who opened the country’s first universities and imported western, chiefly German professors to teach there. The result was the growth of a Russian intelligentsia, highly educated, who were acutely aware of how backward their country was. Hence the development of a class of radically alienated, revolutionary intellectuals. Potemkin also claimed he was going to do something about the wretched condition of the Russian peasantry. New, modern villages were going to be built to raise their living standards. In practice, however, this is was impossible. So Potemkin had built a number of show villages, which I understand consisted simply of impressive facades with nothing behind, rather like the fake western towns built as movies sets for the cowboy flicks to display to Catherine. The term ‘Potemkin village’ has thus become proverbial for anything like that which is all done for show but lacks any substance. And this is what Johnson and his crappy crew are doing now.

Boris Johnson, our Potemkin prime minister, destroying the NHS by falsifying construction and improvement. All spouted by a compliant and complicity lying media.