Posts Tagged ‘Brent’

Radio 4 Programme Next Thursday on the Repatriation of Looted Museum Exhibits Following Black Lives Matter

August 18, 2020

The Radio Times also states that next Thursday on Radio 4 at 11.30 am there’s a documentary on the debate about the repatriation of looted African artefacts now on display in British museums. The blurb for it on page 125 of the Radio Times runs

In the wake of protesters in Bristol pulling down a statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston, Gary Younge talks to museum curators as they review what is on display.

There’s an additional piece by Simon O’Hagan on the previous page, 124, which adds

Museums might be closed, but curators are keeping busy reassessing what they have on display – minds focused by the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol in June. In the words of one curator, “in Britain you’re never more than 150 miles rom a looted African object.”

Presented by Gary Younge, who discovers that when the public is re-admitted to museums after lockdown, there is a distinct possibility that some display cases may have notable absences.

The debate over the return of looted and seized objects to indigenous communities around the world has been going on for several decades. Much of it is about the display of human remains. A few years ago a series about the British Museum showed that august institution repatriating a set of indigenous Australian burials to Tasmanian people from which they were seized. It’s not just African and indigenous peoples demanding that their ancestors and their property should be returned. The Greeks have famously been demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles for decades, if not since they very moment Lord Elgin collected them in the 19th century. In very many cases, I don’t doubt that the moral argument is with those demanding their return, and that it’s the right thing to do.

The mention of the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol adds a dimension that complicates the issue. The repatriation of these objects is supposed to be about modern, western museums correcting the moral injustices of an imperial past. But many of the looted objects themselves are the products of slaving societies, and were seized by British forces during wars fought to extirpate the slave trade.

The Benin Bronzes are case in point. These are superbly sculpted bronze heads, which were made as part of shrines to the chief’s oba. Literally meaning ‘right arm’, the word also denotes his spiritual power, rather like the numa of the pagan Roman emperors. However, Benin, then Dahomey, was a major centre of the African slave trade. It had a plantation economy centred on cotton production like the American Deep South, and was a major exporter. So much so that the British launched a war against them from 1850 to 1852 after their king, Guezo, refused to give it up and continued trading. The bronzes were seized by the victorious British forces.

Nobody was talking about their repatriation until the 1980s, when ‘African radical’ and the highly controversial leader of Brent council, Bernie Grant, demanded their return. I’ve no doubt that Grant was motivated by genuine indignation about the humiliation of an African nation by the British empire. But there is an irony here in that such a very outspoken opponent of anti-Black racism should have been seeking to return objects that had been taken as part of military action against an African slave state. And one that had absolutely no qualms, and grew rich, from enslaving the ancestors of Black Brits, West Indians and Americans like Grant.

Ditto with some of the objects that may have been returned to Ethiopia. A year or so ago the I reported that a particularly holy cross belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which had been seized by the British army in the 19th century, had also been repatriated to its country of origin. I wondered if the relic had also been looted in a similar campaign launched in that century to stop Abyssinian slave-raiding across the border into Sudan and what is now Kenya. If so, then it could be argued that it should not be repatriated, as it was a legitimate spoil in a war the British were justified in waging.

And let’s not be under any illusion that the African slaving nations wouldn’t also have enslaved the British servicemen they fought. One of the documents I found cataloguing the materials on slavery in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol was a parliamentary blue book on the British action against the African slavers in Lagos. One of the chiefs involved stated that if he won, he was going to shave the head of the British commander and make him carry his palanquin. Which sounds very much like a declaration that he intended to enslave him.

I think the area of the repatriation of objects looted from Africa is much more complicated morally than is being discussed and presented, and that African involvement in and culpability for the slave trade is being quietly glossed over in order to present a cosy, straightforward narrative of imperial aggression and guilt.

 

Russell Howard Stops Show Because of Audience Filming, But Alex Bellfield Blames Dawn Butler

August 15, 2020

This is in itself an inconsequential story, but I’m putting it up here because it shows how desperate the Tory media and their baying public are to smear Dawn Butler. Alex Bellfield is the host of some kind of small, independent radio show, ‘Celebrity Radio’, and puts videos of some of them and his rants up on YouTube. It’s bog-standard, Tory right-wing stuff – disabled people are scrounging off the state, Cressida Dick and Sadiq Khan are personally responsible for the crime wave in London because they’re too soft on Blacks because of fears of racism, Labour did nothing about the Asian sweatshops in Bradford and the rest. The other day he took it upon himself to post up a 2-3 minute long opinion piece linking Russell Howard stopping a show with Dawn Butler filming the police as she was stopped while driving.

I can’t say that Russell Howard is one of my favourite TV comedians, despite the fact that he comes from Keynsham. It’s a small town between Bristol and Bath, just down the road from me in south Bristol. Some of its simply because I don’t find some of the jokes funny, and some of its because, as someone from Bristol, I’m not so keen on some of jokes about people from my fair city. But I don’t hate him or his show. It’s just not something I’m particularly keen on.

According to Bellfield, Howard had stopped one of his gigs that week and walked off stage after an audience member stood up and started filming him on their mobile or whatever. Bellfield didn’t blame Howard for doing this, and went after millennials instead. More Tory rubbish – they hate millennials because they’re all left-wing, entitled, SJW ‘snowflakes’. But this time it was because, he decided, millennials can’t simply enjoy actually being present in the moment at a gig or an event. They have to film it to show they were there. And so the audience member showed their ignorance, and Howard walked out.

This is actually fair comment on the attitude of a number of people, but it began long before the millennials. At the Cheltenham Literary Festival back in the 1990s I remember the organisers telling the audience that they were not allowed to film. I think some venues actually check your bags to make sure that you aren’t carrying filming or recording equipment. This was slightly before mobile phones, when it was digital cameras. I think it’s not just a case of bad manners, but there are also copyright issues involved.

Bellfield didn’t blame Howard for stopping his show, because, as he went on, it was somehow Dawn Butler’s fault. She was encouraging and enabling all these rude millennials filming where they shouldn’t, because she had filmed the cops as they stopped her on a ‘stop and search’. And it’s a good job she did, because the Tory lies about her have been coming thick and fast. You only have to look at some of the rumours Zelo Street has dispatched in his articles debunking them. Like she had a White passenger with her – she didn’t – or she deliberately flipped the video to make the police look bad, which she didn’t either.

Dawn Butler is another politico about whom I have strong reservations. She’s intelligent, passionate and a good speaker. I saw her at the hustings for the Labour party deputy leadership. As a woman of colour, she’s obviously very keen on stamping out racism. My problem was that she might be too keen. We’ve already had a witch hunt in the Labour party using anti-Semitism as a purge against the left and critics of Israel. There was Rebecca Long-Bailey demanding similar action against critics of the radical Trans movement. And I remember some of the antics of Bernie Grant down at Brent council in the 1980s. Grant had a rigidly inflexible attitude to racism, which he found everywhere. Decent people, who weren’t racist at all were accused, and books purged from schools and libraries which he and coterie considered racist, but which it could be argued were no such thing. This angered other members of the left, and Martin Barks made a sharp attack on this censorship in his book Comics: Ideology, Power and the Critics, which takes a sharp aim at the way critics of the funny papers have attacked them from both the left and right. I was afraid Butler would start something similar in the Labour party.

Now it’s clear that she’s right about the rampant racism. It’s by the Blairites, who were bullying Black MPs and activists, including – no surprise! – Diane Abbott. And they’re determined not to go the way they treated those they’ve falsely smeared, because they’re being vilely smeared themselves and have expensive lawyers. As Mike and the others have said, if they’re so sure they’re being misquoted, then they should release the full text of what they said to show otherwise. And definitely not try to have any investigation into them suppressed.

And Butler was right to film the police. Excessively forceful and violent routine searches of Black people, who are guilty of simply driving about in expensive cars, have been going on for years. I found one such example in an old copy of Private Eye from around 20 years ago. And the cops in demonstrations in London have also used dirty tricks to seize and hold members of the protesting crowd in order to disrupt them. I therefore don’t blame anyone for filming the rozzers. They aren’t the Klan, as Sasha Johnson, the leader of the mighty Black Lives Matter LARPer army in Brixton has declared. But, unfortunately, there are some forces that definitely need watching and, if you’re innocent, you do need to have evidence in your defence. Especially if you’re Black.

But this is obviously too much for Bellfield and his Tory cohorts. Unable to smear Butler, he had to fall back on trying to blame her for something, even when she wasn’t responsible and was taking reasonable steps to protect herself against possible falsehood. But she’s a left-wing Black woman, and so has to go.

It was a desperate smear, and shows how low the Tories will go in smearing their opponents. Well, I’m also sorry that Howard stopped his gig. I hope his others are going better, and if it’s a choice between seeing him and Bellfield, you’re far better off laughing with the funny man from Keynsham.

Just as you are believing Butler against the lies of a viciously racist Tory pack and media.

See also: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/08/dawn-butler-enter-racist-liars.html

MP stopped by police in London for ‘driving around whilst black’

Senior Labour staff urged to publish WhatsApp messages IN CONTEXT if they think #LabourLeaks report misrepresented them

 

One Positive Feature of Black Lives Matter: It Doesn’t Include the Nation of Islam

July 21, 2020

Unlike Mike, I have grave reservations about the Black Lives Matter movement. It has excellent intentions, but I feel it is unintentionally divisive and open itself to criticism for its simplistic view of racial hatred. But flicking through some of the old newspaper cuttings I kept in my scrapbook, I really that it has made one positive step over the mass anti-racism protests following the murder of Stephen Lawrence over twenty years ago. No idiot has invited the National of Islam over here.

Stephen Lawrence, as older readers of this blog will remember, was a Black teenager murdered in a racist attack by a White gang. It became a national scandal due to the Met police’s complete lack of interest in prosecuting the crims responsible, who were all the sons of leading London gangsters. It was incompetence on a massive scale, with elements of corruption and showed the institutional racism in the capital’s police force. It resulted in mass anti-racism demonstrations across Britain.

And joining these demos were the racist extremists. Lawrence’s parents made appeals for their son’s death not to be exploited. The BNP were threatening to turn up at some these. They had been active spreading lies about the late teenager, falsely claiming that he had been a gang member, who terrorised his schoolmates in order to shake them down for their dinner and other money. And from the other side, ‘African radical’ Bernie Grant, the head of Brent council, took it upon himself to invite into the country the Rev. Louis Farrakhan and his legions from the Nation of Islam.

The Nation of Islam has precious little to do with genuine Islam, whether Sunni or Shi’a. It’s a weird mixture of Sudanese Sufism, Black Freemasonry, and UFO space brothers contact ufology. It’s based around the worship of W.D. Fard, a Syrian immigrant to the US, who on his immigration papers was listed as ‘White’. It was while he working in a car factory that Fard was worshipped as another incarnation of the Almighty. This is incredibly heretical to orthodox Muslims. While Mohammed described Christ as ‘the purest of the Prophets’, conceived through divine action in the Virgin Mary, and that God poured out his spirit upon Him when He was a child in the cradle, they differ from Christians in that they strongly reject the doctrine of the Incarnation. The Nation of Islam naturally believe that Christ was also Black, a belief not confined to them, of course.

But there’s a large SF element to the religion as well. They also belief that Black people are the original human race, and arrived here millions of years ago from the Moon. They are superior to everyone else biologically, intellectually and spiritually. Eons ago they created a super-scientific civilisation. White people are albinistic mutants created by the evil Mekkan scientist Shaitan to destroy Blacks and their achievements. You won’t be surprised to hear that they’re also viciously anti-Semitic, wrongly blaming Jews for slavery. Farrakhan himself believed that he was taken aboard a UFO while meditating on the top of a Mexican mountain. He was transported to a giant Mother Wheel orbiting the Earth, which they conveyed him to Venus, where Fard and Jesus now reside, directing the war against Whites. Although their manifesto states that they believe in the dignity of all races and their right to self-determination, the National of Islam was are racial separatists. They demand that Blacks be given a separate country of their own, comprised of four states taken from the southern USA.

The Nation of Islam is also very strongly opposed to the welfare state, which they believe takes away Black people’s self-reliance. This alone should have had Grant thrown out of the Labour party, as it’s clearly incompatible with the core Labour doctrines of supporting the welfare state. And their separatism should have been incompatible with Labour’s ideas of anti-racism. Grant defended his invitation by saying that he had his views, and Farrakhan had his, and they didn’t always agree, but he regarded Farrakhan as ‘an elder statesman’. Well, he was, but chiefly in spreading more racist friction and especially anti-Semitism. He was a political liability, and effectively killed Jesse Jackson’s campaign to become America’s first Black president 15 years before Obama when Jackson started cosying up to him. Al sharpton was also trying to get into Britain at the same time. He’s still around, and seems to have quietened down somewhat with age. But in the ’80s and ’90s one of his tactics was to try to call attention to the terrible living conditions for Blacks in America by leading marches through White areas with highly racially charged chants. He claimed that by referring to them as his ‘troops’ he was only being metaphorical. May be so, but many feared that they would turn violent and they were deliberately provocative.

Farrakhan’s proposed visit to Blighty was opposed by a number of organisations, including Jewish groups, who had every right to be concerned. Racial extremists like him should never have been invited in the first place. The Black Lives Matter protests, although not without faults – there have been violent confrontations with the police – are mostly peaceful multiracial, including Whites and Asians as well as Blacks. They have been at pains to point out that they aren’t against Whites or trying to start a race war, just against anti-Black racism.

And in that they’re a definite improvement over the Stephen Lawrence protests and the way that Bernie Grant and the National of Islam tried to exploit them.

 

Dawn Butler: Black MPs Under ‘Escalated Threat’

July 10, 2020

Today’s I for Friday, 10th July 2020, has a tiny snippet reporting on page 2 that the Black Labour MP for Brent Central, Dawn Butler, has said that she and her office and staff are under a ‘drastically escalated’ threat of an attack. This has come in recent months after she has spoken out against racism. Starmer has condemned the ‘racist abuse’ targeted at her and other Black MPs.

I don’t doubt for a single minute that she and other Black MPs really are receiving real, vile racist abuse and threats. Some of this is no doubt because of the heightened racial tension generated by the Black Lives Matter protests. The protests weren’t intended to be anti-White, and Mike and others bloggers have put up an image of a cute little Black girl holding up a placard stating this. The footage of the protests shown on the mainstream news channels included Whites as well as Blacks. In Bristol the mob that tore down the statue of Edward Colston and threw it in the docks were also made up of people of all colours. Several of those in the crowd, who were interviewed about it were White. But nevertheless, for some people, particularly on the right, the protests were seen as an attack on Whites and White identity.

But even before the present controversy over Black Lives Matter, Butler and a number of other Black MPs were receiving abusive messages. Over half of all the abuse sent to female MPs is targeted at Diane Abbott. And Keir Starmer has not helped the problem. He has condemned the abuse now, but the leaked report into Labour anti-Semitism showed the right-wing plotters and conspirators against Jeremy Corbyn bullying and sending racist abuse to left-wing Black MPs. I think Diane Abbott was one, along with Clive Lewis. But so far Starmer has done nothing against the bullies responsible. It’s one of the reasons that Black members, and anti-racist Whites are leaving the party in droves. Starmer’s lack of support for Black Lives Matter, apparent indifference to the issue of racism and his inaction on the bullying of these MPs and activists, has unfortunately left them feeling abandoned by the party.

Starmer has condemned the abuse now, but he needs to show he means it by taking disciplinary action against those responsible. Instead of just reserving it for decent people smeared as anti-Semites simply for their opposition to Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Media Lies Exposed Again: Most Misogynist Abuse Comes from the Tories

September 6, 2017

Mike today put up a piece blowing away another lie that the Tories and their servants in the media have hawking: that the Left is full of misogynists, who harass and abuse women MPs. In fact Amnesty International have published a report showing that the opposite is true: most abuse comes from the right. And the female politico, who most often suffers it is Diane Abbott.

Who in the Left is honestly surprised by this? There are Conservative varieties of feminism, as you’d expect, but feminism, or women’s lib as it was known in the 1970s, is most often associated with the Left. And as the Austrian democratic socialist Marxist, Karl Kautsky argued, socialism is all about equality. This is why they champion the working class, and why left-wing governments, particularly Communist, have encouraged women to enter politics and the workplace, even if their countries’ traditional culture is very sexist, as it is in Russia and some of the countries of the former eastern bloc.

Conservatives, on the other hand, stress the importance of tradition, and despite having given Britain two female prime ministers, Maggie Thatcher and now Theresa May, this usually also means stressing and promoting traditional gender roles. Thus, while the right-wing broadsheets may earnestly discuss the issue of getting more women into the boardroom, and equal pay, the Daily Heil has been telling its female readers that stable families, and indeed western civilization as a whole, needs women to concentrate on staying at home to raise children, rather than both pursuing independent careers. The image the right projects of feminism is of angry misandrists, which has been a factor in why so many young women a few years ago rejected the term ‘feminism’, even when they had strong feelings about winning equality and rejecting sexism.

There’s also more than a little racism on the Tories’ side as well. The Tory right has always had links to Fascist right, including inviting members of central American death squads over to their annual dinners. A few days ago I put up a piece about Owen Jones’ video on YouTube, in which he commented on an odious conversation by the Tory youth movement, Activate, about gassing chavs and shooting peasants. This wasn’t the first time they had made Nazi comments and bullied the poor and underprivileged by a very long chalk. Jones discussed some prize examples of their foul behavior. This included the members of Oxford University Conservative society goose-stepping around like the real Nazis, singing songs about ‘Dashing through the Reich … killing lots of ****’, the last a very unpleasant terms for Jews. Their comrades north of the border ain’t no better either. This crew thought it would be jolly fun for one of them to dress up as a slave master, while another cringed before him as a slave. It wasn’t that long ago that the Tories in Scotland were known as the Unionist party, and their antics and Thatcher’s complete dismissal of the country was a large factor in the decision of so many Scots to vote for the SNP.

As for the Tory press, they’ve been consistently against coloured immigration since Windrush. And long before then, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they were busy campaigning against allowing ‘aliens’ – that is, eastern European Jews, to enter this country as asylum seekers fleeing the pogroms in eastern Europe. This anti-immigration stance has frequently been blatantly racist. Private Eye, when covering the prosecution of the Scum yet again for racism by the Press Complaints Commission, as it then was, noted that the wretched paper had had 19 judgements against it previously for its racist content. I can remember how the Torygraph, Mail and Express back in the 1980s railed against ‘unassimilable’ immigrants and the way they were forming little ghettoes.

Racism became a major issue in that decade following the 1981/2 riots, and the publication of government reports that revealed a massive culture of institutional racism and Black deprivation in Britain. To the Tory press, however, the riots were all the fault of racist Blacks. While there have been Black and Asian politicians before, Diane Abbott was one of the group of very visible Black politicians and activists to achieve public office during the decade, along with Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant, the leader of Brent Council. They were all very vocal in their opposition to racism. Grant died the other year, and I think Boateng more or less vanished into the depths of Whitehall. There are a number of other Black politicos, like David Lammy, Chuka Umunna and Oona King, but Abbott is one of the longest-serving and most reviled. The Scum tried running a Communism scare against the Labour party in the 1987 election, by putting up a two-page spread with the photographs of Labour MPs and candidates, below which was a few brief quotes or comments showing how they were a threat to British society. Red Ken is supposed to have said that he wasn’t in favour of the British army, but wanted the workers to be armed so they could guard the factories. Under Abbott’s was a quote, ‘All Whites are racist.’

That was very much the image she had at the time. She’s supposed to be very keen on tackling racism, because she felt that her mother’s career was blocked because of her colour. This is actually quite likely. But it’s highly questionable that she’s anti-White. Many of the stories the press published about the supposed hard-left extremists in the Labour party at the time were either exaggerations or completely made up. Ken Livingstone, whom the Eye has frequently mocked under the nickname, Ken Leninspart, really did believe in worker’s control. But he was never a Marxist, and in fact worker’s control used to form only a small part of the subjects he discussed with the, um, ‘gentlemen’ of the press. Most of the time it was rather more mundane. But they played up the worker’s control, and attacked it, because it frightened their proprietors and editors, quite apart from the rest of the middle class. The veteran gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, who was also beginning his career as a Labour politico, was another who was made to appear much more extreme than he was. At one point the papers published a story about him going on holiday to one of the great gay centres on the American west coast. Except that he hadn’t, and didn’t even know the place existed. They also did the same thing to Marc Almond. In his case, they didn’t think he looked sufficiently effeminate, and so retouched his photograph.

Given this long record of telling porky pies about radical politicians, you can’t be sure that Abbot made the above comment, or that it represents her views now. But as Sid James remarked to Tony Hancock in ‘The Scandal Magazine’, mud always sticks, boy. They’ve carried on portraying her as a threat to White history and culture. A few years ago, the Daily Mail ran a story about how the London borough she represents in parliament decided to replace the paintings in their civic offices. Down came the traditional portraits of the White guys, who had previously served on the council, and up came paintings of Black children.

The story was part of a larger article about her, and didn’t offer any details about this, nor the reasons for the decision. Without putting it in so many words, it was presented merely as Abbott’s coterie of angry Blacks removing Whites from the history of the borough. How this supposed racist anger compares with her appearing regularly alongside Michael Portillo on Andrew Neil’s The Daily Politics, where she appears perfectly calm and genial with her White presenters, as befits a grande dame of British politics, I really don’t know.

Nevertheless, she remains a Tory bete noir, and given the fact that there have always been members of the party, who can’t understand why a Black person could ever object to golliwogs, the Black and White Minstrels or why you can make derogatory comments about Black people’s supposed character defects as a race, or use the unpleasant terms previous generations used to insult them, and it becomes quite easy to see why she should be the target for so much abuse.

As for the supposed sexism in the Labour ranks, there was never much substance to that anyway. It was never more than an attempt by wealthy, entitled right-wing Labour female politicians to smear their male rivals. These women had nothing to offer ordinary working Brits, including women. While ordinary women are finding it difficult to pay the bills and feed their families, thanks to the ravages of neoliberalism, these female politicians simply offered more of the same. More cuts, more privatization, more precarity. But like Hillary Clinton, from whom they got the tactic, they wanted to present themselves as representing women in general, even if in fact they only represented rich, entitled women like themselves. And so just Clinton was outraged by the popularity of Bernie Sanders, these women were infuriated by Jeremy Corbyn. Clinton claimed that she had been vilified by the ‘Bernie Bros’, who didn’t actually exist. And so her counterparts in the Labour party over here decided to follow her, and lie about how they were the victims of savage misogyny from Corbyn and the Old Left.

The reality is the opposite. I don’t doubt that there is racism and sexism on the Left. But there’s far less of it than on the right. But the press are still liars for claiming otherwise.

Vox Political: Tory School Privatisation will make Standards Worse

March 27, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has a very interesting piece from the BBC. The leaders of the Conservative, Liberal and Labour groups in the Local Government Association have written a joint letter to the Observer, stating their opposition to the government’s plans to turn all schools into academies. The stats actually demonstrate that all academy schools actually perform worse than the schools under state/ local government control. There’s also a graph with the article that demonstrates this.

Mike asks the obvious question of why, if Academy Schools are so poor, are the Tories so keen to convert all our schools into them? Is it because they don’t want an educated, critically-thinking electorate, but indoctrinated drones that will take low-wage jobs because they lack the qualifications for anything else? Or is it because they know that everybody else’s children are more intelligent than they are, and can’t handle the competition?

Mike’s article is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/27/tory-academisation-plan-will-worsen-education-standards/

My guess is that the Tories are keen on privatising our schools for a number of reasons, not excluding those Mike has outlined. They firstly want to privatise them for the economic profit of their paymasters in big business, including one Australian-American media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, who also has an educational arm to his business empire. I think it’s called Aspire, rather than something more suitable, like ‘Despair’.

Secondly, it’s carrying on from Thatcher’s campaign to create a class of schools removed from local authority control. Like Mussolini, Maggie Thatcher is, to the Tory faithful, always right. Anything she does cannot be criticised in any shape or form and is absolutely correct, whatever happens. To quote the old scientist, it is very much a case of where there’s a difference between theory and reality, so much for reality. Thatcher was basing her campaign against state education, and more broadly, teachers, on the popular resentment in the 1970s and ’80s about teachers from the ‘loony Left’ indoctrinating children in state schools, teaching them that gays were equal and making them anti-racist, when they should instead have been teaching them good, hearty Tory values. Remember the clause in her education bill attacking the teaching of homosexual propaganda in school? And I can remember her also delivering a foam-flecked rant to the Tory faithful about how ‘Fabians’ were teaching children ‘anti-racist mathematics’. At the time, there were concerns about the failures of those schools which had adopted ‘progressive’ educational policies. Like one school in inner London, where the teachers decided not to teach, as this would ruin children’s innate creativity. There were also horror stories run in the press about Brent and Lambeth councils, and the bizarre, highly authoritarian attitude they took to education, in which nearly everything was suspected of racism. They were supposed to have altered the old nursery rhyme, ‘Baa, Baa, Black Sheep’, to ‘Baa, Baa, Green Sheep’ to make it less racist. It’s been stated several times since that this was just an urban myth, and that the Sun has admitted it made it up. On the other hand, I’ve met people, who did go to school in those boroughs, who claimed they did have to sing it. So I honestly don’t know. Given the mendacity and racism of the Scum, it wouldn’t surprise me if they had made it up.

Thirdly, there was and is a strong perception that comprehensive education, which was mostly introduced by Labour, but which also had some Tory support, had failed, and that standards had fallen. The older generation in particular looked back to the grammar schools with nostalgia as institutions where standards were much higher. It looked very much like Thatcher was using this nostalgia to try and reintroduce them, albeit in a slightly different, updated form. In actual fact, the Labour party under Crossland had decided to introduce comprehensive schools because the grammar schools were elitist. Very few working-class children were sent there. Instead, they were considered more suited to the secondary moderns, where they would be taught a manual trade. Grammar schools were reserved for those set on clerical careers and the like, and so were very much bastions of the middle classes.

There were immense problems with some of the comprehensives. Some of them were too large, too underfunded, and hampered with the kind of teaching staff that have become stereotypical amongst the Right. Hartcliffe, one of the comprehensive schools in my part of Bristol, had an unenviable reputation for poor academic performance, and chronic theft and bullying amongst its pupils. It has changed greatly since then. It’s been divided into two buildings, rather than a single huge one, and standards have risen markedly in the past few decades with a change of headmasters.

My guess is that the changes that occurred to Hartcliffe, have also been common amongst failing schools throughout the country. Standards in state education have risen. But this counts for nothing, as the Tory Right is ideologically opposed to state education. Tory toffs like Cameron, Gove, Osborne and Thicky Nikki seem to look back for their view of a good education system to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when schools, or at least, the grammar schools, were largely private, and the proles were given just enough education to allow them to get a job once they left school, which was at 12, then 14. Changes in industry mean that you now need a more educated, technically proficient workforce, and so they can’t get away with sending children that you out to work. So the higher education sector has expanded, but the Tories would like that to be the nearly exclusive province of the monied classes, and so have raised tuition fees to exorbitant heights after they were introduced by Bliar.

And so contemporary schoolchildren are going to suffer because of a political orthodoxy that started with Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s, and has continued through a mixture of greed and ideological inertia. Oh yes, and the Goebbels-like determination to keep pushing a good lie if it gets you votes.

The Disgusting State of Detroit Schools

January 23, 2016

Okay, I know this is another American story, but it mirrors the way our state schools in the UK are being run down by the Conservatives. I’ve got a particular interest in teaching, as my mother was a teacher, and I took my first degree at what was an Anglican teacher training college. The school, in which Mum taught was also part of an exchange programme with an American school. As part of this exchange, one of her teachers went to the Land of the Free, while one of theirs also crossed the Pond to Blighty.

Last Wednesday school staff in Detroit went on strike because of the disgusting conditions in the schools, in which they were expected to teach. The photos from the twitter site @Detroitteach, show a very grim story: mouldy bread given to pupils for breakfast, mushrooms growing on class room walls, and cockroaches and other insects infesting the floors. These are the conditions, which the authorities want the future citizens of American brought up and educated in. As you can see, they had the support of parents and pupils. As for the last pic, which shows the gentleman responsible for this mess, there’s now a massive scandal in Flint, Michigan, after the local water company poisoned the water supply with massive amounts of lead, including water at the local hospital. This guy was also responsible for that debacle.

Detroit School 1

Detroit School 2

Detroit School 3

Detroit School Protest 1

Detroit School Protest 2

This is also an issue that has its counterpart in British politics. The Tories do not like teachers and state education, and have been trying to run down both of them since Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s. We’ve had denunciation after screamed denunciation, both in Britain and America, about left-wing teachers supposedly indoctrinating their students to be militant atheists/ Communists/ Trotskyites, and filling their heads with militant anti-racism or gay rights. Remember how Maggie sneered at one of the Tory conferences about ‘champagne Socialists’ and Fabians indoctrinating the dear kiddies with ‘anti-racist mathematics’, while the Sun claimed that schoolchildren in Brent were being made to recite ‘Ba, Ba, Green Sheep’, instead of ‘Black Sheep’ as part of a loony-left anti-racism drive? And the absolute frothing hysteria about protecting young minds from gay indoctrination? This has all provided the pre-text the Tories and Republicans have used to denigrate state education, and try to break the power of the teaching unions.

Most teachers, regardless of their personal political beliefs, aren’t motivated by a burning desire to radicalise the young and impressionable. They just want to stand in front of a class and teach, with the hopeful intent of getting the class to realise their potential. This has become increasingly difficult with the way education has become little more than a political football, and the profession has seen itself progressively starved of the support it needs from the authorities. Many teachers work in extremely challenging circumstances, including having to deal with threats of violence, including rape. And there is no support from the government, and especially not from Thickie Nikky Morgan, who can’t tell you what 7 X 8 is, or how many academies last year had to be returned to state control, but can prate about the need to privatise, or part-privatise even more.

Education on both sides of the Atlantic needs more funding, and a far more supportive attitude from the education authorities than just right-wing populist demagoguery from officially appointed morons, who have never put a foot in front of a class except as part of a very carefully scripted publicity campaign. Get the Right out of politics, and proper funding into the schools.

The Tories’ Use of ‘Red Scares’ in Teaching

September 18, 2013

privatisaOne tactic that Conservatives have frequently used against the teaching profession is to create ‘Red Scares’ about ‘loony left’ political indoctrination in schools. This generally takes the form of one or more of the Right-wing newspapers publishing a supposed expose of how the teachers in a particular area are attempting to indoctrinate their vulnerable charges with radical Left, anti-racist or gay or feminist propaganda. Under Thatcher in the 1980s there was a controversy over the inclusion of Peace Studies in the curriculum in some schools. The Conservatives also passed the notorious Clause 28, which attempted to stop schools from promoting homosexuality. In one of her speeches, Mrs Thatcher also attacked ‘anti-racist mathematics’ introduced by ‘Fabians’ and ‘champagne socialists’. The Express ran a story about teachers in Yorkshire teaching explicitly Communist propaganda. The Evening Post in Bristol followed a similar line about a Communist pamphlet that had been circulated amongst the pupils by staff in one of the city’s schools. Most notoriously, teachers in Lambeth and Brent in London were supposed to have altered the nursery rhyme ‘Ba Ba Black Sheep’ to ‘Ba Ba Green Sheep’ to remove the rhyme’s racist content. It’s been revealed since as an urban legend, though I’ve met a number of people, who came from the boroughs, who remember being taught it. These stories then get expanded into an attack on teachers as a whole. From being separate incidents in particular areas, they are then presented as being representative of all of the profession.

It has also been used to attack the funding and control of education by local councils. In the 1970s schools were financed and controlled by the Local Education Authority, which were also responsible for maintaining standards. Under successive Conservative administrations, their role has been radically reduced. This has partly been done as part of the Conservatives’ ideological commitment to the free market. The idea has been that if schools become independent from local authority control, and are able to control their own budgets, competition between schools will result in higher standards. They also claimed it would give parents greater choice in education by allowing them a variety of different schools from which to choose. It has also been promoted as a way of freeing schools from the influence of ‘loony left’ local government officers intent on promoting their ideological agenda in education.

Now some of these fears aren’t unreasonable. Before the introduction of the National Curriculum the subjects taught and the materials used could differ greatly between schools. This could be difficult for children moving between schools, such as when they moved house. Educational standards in some schools could be low due to the extremely radical political views of the staff. The most notorious of these was a school in London where the staff subscribed to an extreme form of the view that children should be encouraged to learn only what they want to learn in their own time. In this school, children simply weren’t taught at all, but encouraged to go and play under the view that this would develop their creativity. When someone told one of the teaching staff that the pupils there couldn’t read, he remarked ‘Well, neither could they in the Middle Ages, but they built cathedrals.’ Eventually the scandal became so great that there was an official inquiry and the teachers dismissed, never to teach schoolchildren again. It was partly due to this and similar, less extreme cases that the Conservatives introduced the National Curriculum. The question of how much children should be taught about sex and at what age is also a very good, and extremely important question, especially as children are becoming increasingly exposed to explicitly sexual material at younger and younger ages. In some areas, the Thatcherite Conservatives have lost the debate. Many schools now run projects for Black History week in October, as a way of correcting what they see as the White bias in the history curriculum and tackling low educational performance amongst many Black pupils. More traditional Conservatives have complained that Clause 28 has for some time been a dead letter. As Cameron himself has now backed gay marriage, it is unlikely that it will be revived although the issue has caused sharp division with his party.

It is not true, however, that teachers as a whole are intent on using their position to indoctrinate, rather than educate, their students. Indeed, current legislation explicitly prevents them from doing so. The law states that they may not promote a particular political ideology or religion, except in faith schools. If the teacher’s own religious or political views are raised during teaching in class, they cannot present their views as objective fact. They may only say that they personally believe them.

In any case, from my experience most teachers aren’t members of the hard Left. They include people with a wide range of very different views across the political spectrum. Some are Left-wing, others Conservative, some Liberal, and many aren’t terribly interested in politics at all. Most teachers have entered the profession, not because they see it as a platform for advancing a particular ideology or cause, but simply because they want to stand in front of a blackboard and teach their subject or subjects. Privately they have their own beliefs, and may, and often are, concerned about government policies and the way this affects their job and the educational achievements of their pupils. In front of their class, however, the vast majority of them are rightly very careful about what they say.

The question of whether Thatcher’s reforms have really benefited the educational system, and provided parents with genuine choice is a separate issue, and one which I hope to tackle later. In this blog post I merely want to rebut the use of scare tactics over radical teachers by the Conservatives to attack the teaching profession as a whole, and promote their own policies of an increased workload, reduction of pay and conditions, and privatisation. With a very few, notable exception, teachers simply want to teach – Maths, English, science, whatever. They aren’t interested in turning the next generation of schoolchildren into wild-eyed Che Guevara-style revolutionaries, intent on destroying the bourgeois order. Unfortunately, it is all too often ignored. I’m aware that the examples I’ve used have come from thirty years ago back in Maggie Thatcher’s administration. These were the most extreme instances of the tactic, which I particularly remember. Nevertheless, it is still being used, both here and across the Atlantic. I’ve seen it used in Conservative blogs against teachers in America and Canada. I’ve no doubt that if the Conservatives meet with further opposition from the teachers and their unions, it will be used once more against them over here. That this image of teachers is largely untrue and unrepresentative of them as a profession really needs to be remembered and brought to public attention, the next time the Mail or the Express runs a story about ‘Loony Left’ teachers pushing Communism or trying to turn them all gay.