Posts Tagged ‘Bremner’

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

May 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vote Labour on June 8th.

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Vox Political on Chilcot’s Damning Verdict on Blair, and What His Readers Think

July 7, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has reblogged a piece from the Guardian by Owen Jones, laying out how damning the Chilcot report is of Tony Blair and his decision to lead the country into war. Owen Jones is a fine journalist, who clearly and accurately explains the issues. I’ve read and quoted from his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, which is very good, and has rightly received great praise. He also has another book out The Establishment: Who They Are and How They Get Away with it. I’ve been thinking about that one, but have avoided buying it so far on the grounds that it might make me too furious.

Mike also asks what his readers think of the Iraq War. He asks

Do any of you believe the war was justified, as Ann Clwyd still does (apparently)? Have any of you come to believe that? Did you support the war and turn away? Do you think Saddam Hussein had to go, no matter the cost? Do you think the war contributed to the rise of new terrorist groups like Daesh – sometimes called Islamic State – as laid out in the ‘cycle of international stupidity’ (above)? Do you think it didn’t? Do you think Blair wanted a war because they put national politicians on the international stage? Do you think he improved or diminished the UK’s international standing? Do you think the UK has gained from the war, or suffered as a result?

The Issues, Arguments and Demos against the War at its Very Beginning

Okay, at the rest of alienating the many great readers of this blog, I’ll come clean. Back when it first broke out, I did support the war. I can’t be a hypocrite and claim that I didn’t. This was despite many other people around me knowing so much better, and myself having read so much that was against the war. For example, one of the 1.5 million or so people, who marched against the war was my local parish priest. One of my friends was very firmly against the war. I was aware from reading the papers and Lobster that the dodgy dossier was fake, and a piece of propaganda. I also knew from watching Bremner, Bird and Fortune that there was absolutely no connection between Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’ath regime, which was Arab nationalist, and the militant Islamism of Osama bin Laden, and that absolutely no love was lost between the two. And as the war dragged on, I was aware from reading Private Eye how so much of it was driven by corporate greed. The Eye ran a piece reporting on how Bush had passed legislation, which gave American biotech companies the rights to the country’s biodiversity. The Fertile Crescent in the Middle East in Turkey, Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt and what is now Israel, as well as Arabia and Iran, was the location for the very first western civilisations. Iraq, Syria and Turkey, I believe, were the very first centres where humans settled down and started domesticating wheat. The ancient grains that supported these primitive communities, like emmer and so on, still exist in abundance in these countries, along with other crops and plants that aren’t grown in the west. They represent a potentially lucrative field for the biotech companies. And so the American biotech corporations took out corporate ownership, meaning that your average Iraqi peasant farmer could be prosecuted for infringing their corporate copyright, if he dared to continue growing the crops he and his forefathers and mothers had done, all the way back to Utnapishtim, Noah and the Flood and beyond. More legal chicanery meant that American corporations could seize Iraqi assets and industries for damages, even if these damages were purely speculative or had not actually occurred. It’s grossly unjust, and aptly illustrates how predatory, rapacious and wicked these multinationals are.

And then there were the hundreds of thousands killed by Islamist militants, Iraqi insurgents, and the bodies of our squaddies coming back in coffins, along with a line of the maimed and mentally scarred.

All this should have been a clear demonstration of how wrong the war was. And it is a clear demonstration of its fundamental wrongness.

Hopes for Democratic Iraq Despite Falsity of Pretext

But I initially supported the war due to a number of factors. Partly it was from the recognition that Saddam Hussein was a brutal thug. We had been amply told how brutal he was around Gulf War I, and in the ten years afterwards he had brutally suppressed further rebellions – gassing the Kurds and murdering the Shi’a. In the aftermath of the invasion, UN human rights teams found the remains of his victims in vast, mass graves. The Financial Times also ran a piece on the massive corruption and brutal suppression of internal dissent within his regime. So it seemed that even if the reason for going to war was wrong, nevertheless it was justified because of the sheer brutality of his regime, and the possibility that a better government, freer and more humane, would emerge afterwards.

That hasn’t happened. Quite the reverse. There is democracy, but the country is sharply riven by ethnic and religious conflict. The American army, rather than acting as liberators, has treated the Iraqi people with contempt, and have aided the Shi’a death squads in their murders and assassinations of Sunnis.

Unwillingness to Criticise Blair and Labour

Some of my support for the war was also based in a persistent, uncritical support for Blair and the Labour party. Many of the war’s critics, at least in the West Country, were Tories. The Spectator was a case in point. It was, at least originally, very much against the war. So much so that one of my left-wing friends began buying it. I was highly suspicious of the Tory opposition to the war, as I thought it was opportunist and driven largely by party politics. When in power, the Tories had been fervently in favour of war and military action, from the Falklands, to Gulf War I and beyond. Given their record, I was reluctant – and still am very reluctant – to believe that they really believed that the war was wrong. I thought they were motivate purely from party interests. That still strikes me as pretty much the case, although I will make an allowance for the right-wing Tory journo, Peter Hitchens. Reading Hitchens, it struck me that his opposition to the war was a matter of genuine principle. He has an abiding hatred of Blair, whom he refers to as ‘the Blair creature’ for sending so many courageous men and women to their deaths. He’s also very much a Tory maverick, who has been censured several times by his bosses at the Mail for what he has said about David Cameron. ‘Mr Slippery’ was one such epithet. Now Hitchen’s doesn’t respect him for liberal reasons. He despises him for his liberal attitudes to sexual morality, including gay marriage. But to be fair to the man, he is independent and prepared to rebel and criticise those from his side of the political spectrum, often bitterly.

The Corrosive Effect of Endemic Political Corruption

My opposition to the war was also dulled by the sheer corruption that had been revealed over the last few decades. John Major’s long administration was notorious for its ‘sleaze’, as ministers and senior civil servants did dirty deals with business and media tycoons. Those mandarins and government officials in charge of privatising Britain’s industries, then promptly left government only to take up positions on the boards of those now private companies. Corporations with a minister or two in their back pocket won massive government contracts, no matter how incompetent they were. And Capita was so often in Private Eye, that the Eye even then was referring to it as ‘Crapita’. Eventually my moral sense was just worn down by it all. The corporate plunder of Iraq just seemed like another case of ‘business as usual’. And if the Tories are just as culpable as Blair and his allies, then there’s no reason to criticise Blair.

The Books and Film that Changed my Attitude to the War

What changed my attitude to the Iraq War was finally seeing Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 on Channel 4, and reading Greg Palast’s Armed Madhouse, and the Counterpunch book End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, as well as Bushwhacked, a book which exposes the lies and sheer right-wing corruption of George W. Bush’s administration. Palast’s book is particularly devastating, as it shows how the war was solely motivated by corporate greed and the desire of the Neocons to toy with the Iraqi economy in the hope of creating the low tax, free trade utopia they believe in, with precious little thought for the rights and dignity of the Iraqi people themselves. End Times is a series of article cataloguing the mendacity of the American media in selling the war, US politicians for promoting it, and the US army for the possible murder of critical journalists. Other books worth reading on the immorality and stupidity of the Iraq War include Confronting the New Conservativism. This is a series of articles attacking George W. Bush and the Neocons. Much of them come from a broadly left-wing perspective, but there are one or two from traditional Conservatives, such as female colonel in the Pentagon, who notes that Shrub and his coterie knew nothing about the Middle East, and despised the army staff, who did. They had no idea what they were doing, and sacked any commander, who dared to contradict their stupid and asinine ideology.

And so my attitude to war has changed. And I think there are some vital lessons that need to be applied to the broader political culture, if we are to stop others making the same mistakes as I did when I supported the war.

Lessons Learned

Firstly, when it comes to issues like the invasion of Iraq, it’s not a matter of ‘my party, right or wrong’. The Tories might be opposing the war out of opportunism, but that doesn’t mean that supporters of the Labour party are traitors or somehow betraying the party by recognising that it was immoral, and that some of the Tories, who denounced it did have a point.

Secondly, the cynical attitude that all parties are corrupt, so it doesn’t matter if you turn a blind eye to Labour’s corruption, is also wrong and misplaced. Corruption has to be fought, no matter where it occurs. You almost expect it in the Tory party, which has always had a very cosy attitude towards business. It has much less place on the Left, which should be about defending human rights and those of the weak.

Blair: Liar and War Criminal

And so I fully support the Chilcot report, and Jeremy Corbyn’s denunciations of Blair. He was a war criminal, and surely should have known better never to have become embroiled in the Iraq invasion. I’ve heard the excuse that he joined the war only reluctantly and was a restraining force on George Dubya. It’s a lie. He was eager to join the invasion and get whatever he thought Britain could from the spoils. And the result has been 13 years of war, the destruction and occupation of an entire nation, and the spread of further chaos and bloodshed throughout the Middle East.

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.

The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah on Donald Trump’s Fascist Week

March 5, 2016

This is a piece of excellent satire – it makes you laugh, but like Bremner, Bird and Fortune and The Last Leg, there’s a deadly serious point to the jolly japes.

In this clip from The Daily Show, Trevor Noah goes through a list of the features of Fascism from the New York Times to show how they fit the attitudes and comments of Donald Trump.

Those features are:

* A cult of action.
* A celebration of aggressive masculinity
* an intolerance of criticism
* a fear of difference and outsiders
* Intense nationalism
* Resentment of national humiliation.

The Cult of Action
Trump: ‘I get things done. Better than anybody’.

Intolerance of Criticism
‘For those guys back there, the media, they are the worst’.

The Celebration of Aggressive Masculinity
‘Big hi-fives, smiling, laughing, I’d like to punch him in the face.’                                              
‘I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.’

Resentment of National Humiliation
‘We never win. We just don’t win’.

Intense Nationalism
‘I’m going to make America great again!’

Fear of Outsiders
‘A complete shutdown of all Muslims from the United States’.

Trump also retweeted a quote from the Fascist Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini ‘It is better to live one day as a lion, than 100 years as a sheep’. Noah points out that the quote itself isn’t particular offensive. You could probably find similar comments posted up all over gyms across America. But it’s acceptability changes once you find out the source of the quote. Trump was asked by one of the news anchors if he was disturbed by it coming from il Duce. He said that was all right, it was from Mussolini, but it was still a good quote. Did he want to be associated with Fascists? No, he said, he wanted to be associated with good quotes. But Noah says he had to think a long time about that one.

He points out that Trump’s statement that if he gets in, he’ll pass new libel laws so that they can sue critical journalists ‘and win lots of money’ is one of the key features of Fascism. It violates the principle that journalists cannot be sued for accurately reporting the bad actions and attitudes of politicians. If that happened, then the media could never report on his dodgy business dealings, shady policies or the fact that he wants to bang his daughter.

He also comments on Trump’s refusal during an interview to distance himself from David Duke, a former grand wizard of the KKK. Noah asks the question how he could possibly state that he was ignorant of the KKK, and plays a clip from an interview when he was running for the Reform Party, where he denounced Duke as a racist and a bigot and said he didn’t want him in his party. Noah ends by saying, ‘There’s a lot of Republicans saying that now too.’

He also makes a good point when he says, ‘It almost stops being funny the more you get into it.’ Totally. It looks funny, because we’re so used to comedians making fun of democratic politicians by comparing them to Nazis. But the laughter fades when you realise that with Trump, the comparison isn’t just superficial, but real. Noah says he’s not calling Trump a Fascist, but he is saying he has had a Fascist week. He’s right. Trump is Fascistic.

And that’s no laughing matter.

The Young Turks: Alex Jones Freaks Out, Challenges Bill O’Reilly to a Boxing Match

February 28, 2016

I’m putting this piece from The Young Turks up simply as a piece of light relief from some of the more serious issues. It shows some fine, table-pounding ranting from the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, and from the Turks’ own anchor, Cenk Uygur. Jones was furious because Bill O’Reilly included a clip from Alex Jones’ Infowars programme on a piece he was presenting on hate speech on the internet, and how Facebook was under pressure to take it off. Jones, never one to keep his own anger in check for too long, then begins a long rant about what a bully O’Reilly is, and finally challenges him to a boxing match. In fact, he invites O’Reilly to bring a friend, as with two fighting him he might just keep awake.

The piece also shows Uygur losing his temper big time with USA today. His anger was provoked by that newspaper publishing the lies that Saddam Hussein was in league with al-Qaeda, and partly responsible for 9/11, thus justifying the western invasion. Uygur makes the point amongst the ranting that 58 per cent of Americans are against the war in Iraq. Or at least, they were when that clip was recorded. Unfortunately, 43 per cent believe that somehow Hussein was responsible for 9/11. He wasn’t. Bremner, Bird and Fortune on their show on Channel 4 pointed out that Hussein wasn’t involved, and that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein loathed and detested each other, not least because Hussein’s Iraq was an officially secular state. In fact, they even played part of a propaganda message from Osama bin Laden threatening Hussein. It was in Arabic, but they supplied an English translation. Bin Laden was ranting about how he’d destroy Hussein in extremely florid tones. At one point he starting going on about how Hussein’s towers would fall. Uygur makes the point amid his own furious shouting that if USA Today had actually done its job, the number of people, who believe the lie about Hussein and bin Laden would be far less, and the number of people opposed to the war would be greater.

Uygur has a point, and while the rant is not quite what you’d expect from a professional news presenter, it’s entirely justified. The war was manufactured through lies, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, have died as a result. Not just Iraqis, but also US troopers sent in to fight for the enrichment of America’s leading corporations, the paymasters of the Neo-Cons and their lackeys in the White House and Pentagon. Uygur’s own background is Turkish Muslim, and my guess is that his rage was also partly due to the fact that it hits close to home. He’s very definitely American, but Bush’s war and the devastation it has wreaked on the Middle East and its people is clearly much more immediately painful to him.

I’ve even got some sympathy for Alex Jones. Jones is an extreme right-winger. He’s an opponent of Obamacare, and has made some extremely violent verbal attacks on Bernie Sanders. On the other hand, he does talk about the corporate takeover of America, and he is right when he attacks the globalists plans to subvert and reduce national governments for their own corporate profits. And Bill O’Reilly, one of the main presenters on Fox News, is a paid shill for Murdoch, and so deserves all he gets.

So sit back and enjoy the show!