Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

Chuka Umunna Cynically Joins Lib Dems – Collapse Imminent!

June 16, 2019

Okay, after years of rebuffing their advances Chuka Umunna has finally given in and joined the Lib Dems. The MP for Streatham is going to stand as their candidate in a safe Labour seat. So much for the man, who said that he would never put on the yellow rosette. I can understand why the Lib Dem leadership want him – he’s young, Black and ambitious. He was angling for leadership of the Labour party until he was defeated by Jeremy Corbyn. And as a good New Labour Thatcherite, he’s spent the past few years intriguing and campaigning against the Labour leader.

And now, six months after splitting from the Labour party to form Change UK with the other splitters and quitters, he’s now decided that they aren’t a grand enough vehicle for their ambitions. So he’s departed from them and joined the Lib Dems. It’s not wholly unexpected – Change UK and a similar, minuscule ‘centrist’ party, Renew – were talking about some kind of alliance with the Lib Dems. But forging a party alliance is different from betraying it altogether and joining a different and competing party.

Mike has argued in his article on this sordid incident that Umunna was probably moved to do this by the Lib Dem success at the Euro elections. He believes they’re on a winning streak, but ignores the fact that this success was based on them positioning themselves as the party of Remain in an election that had zero to do with the actual Brexit negotiations. I’ve no doubt that the Lib Dem leadership will be highly delighted, but you can bet there’s a lot of rancour and discontent in the local party about it.

Umunna is, after, all toxic and deeply untrustworthy. He’s shown himself to be cynical, opportunistic and disloyal. His support and membership of political parties seems to be determined solely by how he can use them to boost his own ambitions. He was blocked from the leadership in the Labour party, so he tried to remove its leader, and undermine his support and that for the party generally in order to discredit not just Corbyn, but also the move to traditional Labour values and policies. When this failed, he loudly and publicly split, clearly expecting far more than the eight former MPs who joined him to follow suit. And when Change UK proved to be a dud, he showed his complete absence of sticking power and party loyalty by abandoning them as well. It’s a career that should tell the Lib Dem leadership that they can’t trust him even remotely. His loyalty to them is always going to depend on whether or not he thinks he can be better served elsewhere. It really wouldn’t surprise me if he grows tired of them eventually, and throws in his lost with the Tories if they appeal to him as a centrist Remainer.

As for the local party, you can bet than many of them are going to be furious, as long-term members and activists will no doubt now be sidelined after their years of loyal service in his favour.

Hopefully at the next election, whenever it comes, Umunna will lose massively and spectacularly to the Labour candidate, as he should. And then it’ll be interesting to see whether he sticks with the Lib Dems, or throws another strop and tries appealing to someone else to give him the power he craves.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/06/14/chuka-umunna-announces-end-of-his-political-career-hes-joined-the-lib-dems/

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The Tories and Blairites Cannot Be Trusted to Defend the NHS from Trump

June 11, 2019

Last week the orange generalissimo managed to cause massive offence and outrage on his state visit here. And it wasn’t just for merely being present, although that was certainly a major factor in the protests his visit provoked. No, Trump and his spokesman were touting for a trade deal with Britain after Brexit. And he demanded that ‘everything should be on the table’, including healthcare.

Which means the NHS.

MPs from all sides of the House immediately swung into action to condemn the Fascist cheeto’s demands that the NHS should be opened up to private American healthcare companies. There were a string of high profile Tory MPs, including former health secretary Andrew Lansley, loudly denouncing Trump’s demand, and stating that they weren’t going to include the NHS as part of the Brexit deal and were going to defend this most precious of British institutions. Lansley in particular was scathing about Trump’s opposition to the way the NHS controlled drug prices. He was afraid that if Trump has his way, this would be discarded to allow predatory American pharmaceutical companies to charge excessive and unaffordable prices for needed drugs.

He’s absolutely right.

One of the current scandals with the American private, insurance-driven healthcare system is that the drug companies can and do charge whatever they like for their products, which means that these are often beyond the ability of ordinary Americans to afford. I’ve blogged on here about a piece from The Young Turks about how Americans are hoarding drugs or buying those intended for animals from vets because they can’t afford them. And the worst example of a drug company actually raising prices is the case of Martin Shkreli. When he took over one company, he raised the price of an anti-AIDS drug to well over $300 a pill. He said he only wanted rich Americans to be able to use it, not poor Indians. He was rightly massively vilified for his gross racism and profiteering, but continued to defend himself, as he really couldn’t see that he had done anything wrong.

But while it’s heartening to see all these politicians stand up to defend the health service, I don’t believe them. With one exception, of course: Jeremy Corbyn. The Tories and the Blairites simply can’t be trusted to defend the NHS because they haven’t done it up to now. Indeed, they’ve done the exact opposite, all the while denying it.

Remember how Maggie Thatcher loudly declared that the NHS was ‘safe with us’, and she would keep her wretched claws off it. She even put it in her memoirs, denouncing the claims of the Labour party that she was planning to privatise the health service as lies. But she herself was lying. Cabinet minutes released a couple of years ago showed that she very much wanted to privatise the NHS. She was only stopped because of a massive cabinet revolt and the fact that her Personal Private Secretary, Patrick Jenkin, had visited the US and had seen personally what a travesty American private healthcare was.

So she satisfied herself with cutting its budget and trying to encourage Brits to take out private health insurance instead. She was aiming for about 11 per cent of the British population to take out such insurance.

She was followed by John Major, whose health secretary Peter Lilley was, I believe, one of the others who attacked Trump’s demand for a slice of NHS action. But Lilley was responsible for the Private Finance Initiative, under which private firms were to be allowed to bid for NHS contracts and building and running hospitals in partnership with the government. It was deliberately introduced with the intention of opening up the health service to private healthcare companies. And Lilley was advised in his health policies by John Lo Casio of the American private health insurance fraudster, Unum.

Well, the government changed with Labour’s 1997 electoral victory, but the Thatcherite privatisation of the NHS remained on course. Blair was an unashamed Thatcherite, and she had reciprocated his feelings by calling him and New Labour her greatest achievement. Blair also took over Lo Casio and Unum as his advisers on health policy, and continued the stealth privatisation of the NHS. The Community Care Groups of GPs he set up to contract in healthcare services were given the power to purchase it from the private sector and to raise funding privately themselves. The health centres and polyclinics he set up were to be run by private healthcare firms, like Circle Health, BUPA and Beardie Branson’s Virgin Health. NHS contracts, including out of hours services in many regions were privatised and the contracts awarded to private healthcare firms.

And yes, American healthcare firms were among them. Private Eye reported how Blair was surrounded by American public sector contractors, all lobbying for their share of British state business. Like the private American prison company, Wackenhut. And this included private healthcare companies. Blair was particularly impressed by the private American healthcare provider, Keyserpermanente, which he thought provided better value for money than the traditional NHS structure. It doesn’t, but that was ignored, and the American company provided the model for his NHS reforms. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wanted the NHS to become nothing but a kitemark for services provided by private companies.

And this continued under David Cameron and Tweezer. Despite the loud shouts by Lansley and Jeremy Hunt that they ‘treasure’ the NHS, both of them preferred private healthcare and previously stated that they wanted the NHS effectively abolished and the lines blurred between state and private provision. There’s also a solid block of Tory politicians that would like the NHS sold off completely. Like the Devon Tory MEP, Daniel Hannan, dubbed by Guy Debord’s Cat ‘the Lyin’ King’ because of his gross mendacity. The majority of NHS contracts are being awarded to private healthcare firms, rather than kept in-house, and they have been angling to win the contracts for whole regions. Which brings the complete privatisation of the NHS even closer.

Andrew Lansley’s convoluted Health and Social Care Act of 2012 also enabled its privatisation by removing the obligation of the health secretary to provide healthcare to everyone in the UK, which had been a statutory requirement since the founding of the NHS in 1948. The Tories have also consistently voted to introduce charges for certain NHS services. Mike over at Vox Political has frequently given the voting record of some of the worst Tories, who have not only done this, but also supported other attacks on the poor like cutting welfare services, raising tuition fees and supporting the bedroom tax.

And I don’t trust the Lib Dems either. They went into coalition with the Tories and did absolutely nothing as their partners in government continued to attack the welfare state and the NHS. Indeed some of them, like the former MP for Taunton Dean, strongly supported it.

I have to say that I think that the outrage from the Tories at Trump’s demands is largely hypocritical. They’d very much like to make a deal with Trump, that includes the NHS along with other essential services that should only be run by the state. But, as with the cabinet revolt against Thatcher, they’re afraid that if they agree, they will be voted out in a devastating landslide, possibly never to get back into power.

The only person, who can be trusted to defend the NHS and keep it safe from Trump and the other privatisers, is Jeremy Corbyn.

Don’t trust the Tories. They still want to and  are privatising the NHS. Nor the Lib Dems or ‘Centrist’ Labour, who are exactly the same. The only real hope of defending and reviving the NHS is with Corbyn and the victory of a genuine, socialist Labour party at the next election. 

Examining Jeanette Winterson’s Ideas on AI and Literature

June 4, 2019

Last Saturday’s I for 1-2 June 2019 carried an interview in its ‘Culture’ section with the literary novelist, Jeanette Winterson, about her latest work, Frankissstein. This is another take on Frankenstein, with one strand of the book set in the contemporary world and exploring AI, the downloading of the human mind into computers and literature. Winterson’s the second literary novelist, following Ian McEwan, to turn to the world of robotics for their subject matter. I’ve critiqued both of them, based on reviews in the papers, because this comes across to me very much of another instance of ‘literary’ novelists appropriating Science Fiction subjects and issues, while disdaining and ignoring the genre itself.

Winterson’s interview with Max Liu was also very interesting in other respects, and worth reading. While I am not remotely inclined to read her book, and have real objections to some of her statements on philosophical grounds, I also found that there was much that she said, which I agreed with. Particularly about the exploitation of British communities under Brexit.

The Interview

The article, on page 49, was prefaced with the statement Jeanette Winterson talks to Max Liu about AI and why the novel could die if it doesn’t reinvent itself’. It ran

Jeanette Winterson would like to upload her brain to a computer. “It were possibl, I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to find out what it’s like to live without a body,” she says when we meet to discuss Frankissstein, her new novel about artificial intelligence. “I had a very religious upbringing, so to me, the idea that the body is just a house is normal.”

The 59-year-old wrote about her Pentecostal childhood in her semi-autobiographical debut novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), and her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011). For the past couple of years, she has been reading about AI and robotics at the same time as thinking about Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic, Frankenstein. In her latest novel, the young Shelley appears as a character.

“I started writing about Mary in Italy at the beginning of the 19th century then worked my way to the present,” says Winterson. “There was no point setting a novel about AI in the future, because I wanted readers to realise the future is here. We don’t know how far big money has gone in developing AI, but I suspect it’s much further than we think.”

Winterson believes “we’re living in an ahistorical world where people don’t know how we got here”, the pace of change since the Industrial Revolution leaving us bewildered. “By its nature, reading slows us down,” she says,”so I’m pushing against the acceleration of modern life, creating imaginative space for readers to inhabit. Anybody who can imagine something is in control.”

Her new novel’s present-day characters include Ry, a transgender doctor, and Winterson says: “One of my godchildren identifies as transgender and I’ve been reading a lot about that because I thought I needed to understand. The idea of identity being provisional fed into this novel. Much Western thought rests upon the idea that there is a core self that we can know and perfect, but probably there isn’t.

Ray falls in love with Ron, who is trying to make his fortune by designing sex dolls. Ron plans to exploit post-Brexit tax breaks by opening a factory in Wales. “I hate to see how my class has been manipulated by people who have no thought and no care for them,” says Winterson. “I’m ashamed of my country for turning its back on a European project and choosing nationalism.”

Were she to live for another 100 years, Winterson says she would retrain as a scientist. Does this mean she doesn’t see a future for the novel?

“The novel is only on its way out if it doesn’t change,” she says. “In the 80s, it was too middle-class and too male. Then Angela Carter came along and was so fresh, but she had a terrible time initially. The example of English literature’s conservatism that kills me is when Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac won the Booker in 1984 and Carter’s Nights at the Circus wasn’t even shortlisted. It was the year before I published Oranges and I just thought: “This is so dull.”

In Frankissstein, one character says the urge to write comes from vanity, but Mary counters that it’s about hope. Which is it from Winterson? “My writing is a message in a bottle. I won’t be here long enough to get my brain uploaded, so I’m chucking this message overboard in the hope it will move the conversation on.”

Moravec, Transhumanism and Max Headroom

It would be interesting to find out what Winterson had been reading as her research for her book. My guess it would almost certainly include Hans Moravec and the downloaders and transhumanists. They aim to upload their minds into machines. A little while ago they held a party at which they avowed their intention to meet each other on the other side of the Galaxy in a million years’ time. Which is some ambition. I think Moravec himself believes that by this middle of this century the technology should have been perfected that will allow a human brain to be read in such minute detail that its functions can be reproduced on computer. This was the premise behind the Max Headroom pilot, 20 Minutes into the Future. In this tale, broadcast on Channel 4 in the 1980s, Headroom, a computer-generated TV personality, is created when his human original, an investigative journalist in a dystopian future London, knocks himself unconscious going through a crash barrier to escape the villains. The journo’s body is retrieved, and used by a teenage computer whizzkid, Brice, who seems to spend his whole life in the bath, to create Headroom as an experiment. The character takes his name from the last thing his original sees before he goes through the barrier: a sign saying ‘Max Headroom’.

Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect

I also wonder if she read any of the SF literature about downloading and cyberspace, including one of the first novels to tackle the subject, John Sladek’s The Muller-Fokker Effect, published in 1970. This is about Bob Shairp, a man reduced to date and stored on computer tape. I haven’t read it, but according to Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove in their history of Science Fiction, The Trillion Year Spree,

it is a deeply satirical book, homing in on the US Army, evangelism, newspapers and the like for its target, with an overall sense of fun reminiscent of the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick and Sheckley. (p. 307).

Future Shock and the Global Rate of Change

Winterson’s comment that it was useless to set the book in the future, as the future is already here, is very similar to the remarks I heard about two decades ago by William Gibson, one of the founders of the Cyberpunk SF genre. Speaking at the Cheltenham Festival of literature, Gibson said that the future was already here, it was just wasn’t spread out the same everywhere, so there were parts of the world, such as the developing countries, where it wasn’t present to the same extent as the more advanced West. As for her comments about living in an ahistorical age, where people don’t know how we got here, and the pace of change is accelerating, this sounds very close to Alvin Toffler and his idea of future shock, where societal change is now so advanced and rapid that it is profoundly disorienting. But it is possible to exaggerate the speed of such changes. I can remember reading an article a few years ago, that argued that the impact of modern technology is vastly overestimated. The internet, for example, it was claimed, isn’t half as revolutionary as it is made out as it is only a development of earlier technologies, like the telegram. It’s a contentious claim, but in many ways the most rapid technological, social and economic changes were in the century following Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1937. That was when Britain was transformed from an agricultural, almost feudal country into a modern, industrial society. Britain’s empire expanded massively, communications improved allowed the rapid movement of information, goods and people across the globe. It was the period when new transport technologies like the railway, the automobile, the electric tram, dirigible balloons, aeroplanes and the rocket were created, along with inventions like the X-Ray, electric light, the telegram, telephone, radio and the first experiments in television, and, of course, sound recording and the cinema. Contemporary technological advances can be seen as refinements or improvements on these, rather than completely new inventions.

Transgender People and the Question of Core Personality

I also have objections to her comments about whether or not there is a core, human personality. I’ve no doubt that one argument against it is that many people would be very different if they had had a different upbringing. If they’d been born into a different class, or allowed to study a particular subject at school or university, or if they’d decided to pursue a different career. And, obviously, if they’d been born a different gender. But twin studies suggest that people do have some aspects of their character determined by their biology rather than their upbringing. And I don’t think she makes her argument by pointing to transpeople. As I understand it, many transpeople believe very strongly that they have a core personality or nature. It’s just that this is at opposition to their biological gender. Hence their desire to change. It isn’t simply that they simply decide at some point that they want to change their sex, which would be the case if it was simply the case that they had no core personality. But perhaps Winterson’s godchild is different.

Computers and the Existence of Self 

I’m also suspicious of the idea, as it sounds rather close to the ideas of Daniel Dennett and Susan Blackmoore that consciousness is an illusion and that the brain is simply a meat machine for running memes, discrete units of culture like genes are discrete units of biological information. On the other hand, when she says that existing as a disembodied entity on a computer doesn’t seem strange to her because of her religious background, she’s in agreement with Paul Davies. In his book, God and the New Physics, he stated that he’s prepared to accept that life can exist outside the body because of the way computers could be used to simulate human personalities. I can remember reading that the wife of one of the leading downloaders was a Methodist minister. He commented about this apparent contradiction between their two disciplines by saying that they were both trying to do the same thing, but by different methods.

The Manipulation of the Working Class

I do agree wholeheartedly, however, with Winterson’s comments about how her class is being manipulated by people, who give them no thought and no care for them. The idea that the creation of tax breaks for businesses after Brexit would allow an amoral entrepreneur to build a factor for sex robots in Wales is all too credible. Just as I agree with her about Britain turning it’s back on the EU, though I also have strong criticisms of the European Union. But Brexit has been and is being used by the Tory extreme right and its related movements, like UKIP and Farage’s noxious Brexit people, to manipulate the working class and exploit them. If you look at what Boris Johnson and Farage want, the privatisation of the NHS to American private healthcare firms is very much on the table.

Conservatism, Sexism, Literature and Literary Snobbishness

She was also right about the conservatism and sexism of the literary world in the 1980s. Private Eye’s literary column attacked Hotel du Lac for its snobbishness at the time. And the Orange Prize for literature was set up because it was felt that women were being unfairly excluded from the main literary prizes. However, the remarkable success of women writers in winning the mainstream awards has also, in the view of Private Eye a few years ago, also called into question the reason for Orange Prize. Why have a separate prize for women when that year the lists were dominated by female writers? And as for Angela Carter, I wonder if some of the problems she had didn’t just come from her writing feminist magic realist tales and fairy stories, but also because the genre SF/Fantasy crowd liked her. Flicking through an old SF anthology I found in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday, I found a piece by her about literary theory along with pieces by other, firmly genre figures. A few years ago Terry Pratchett commented that the organisers of the Cheltenham Festival looked at him as if he was going to talk to his fans about motorcycle maintenance, and he was certainly subject to appalling snobbery by the literary critics when he started out. I think it’s therefore quite possible that Carter was disdained by those who considered themselves the guardians of serious literature because she was too genre. But I also wonder if Winterson herself, despite her deep love of Carter’s work, doesn’t also have the same attitude that sees genre fiction as somehow not proper literature, as she, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and the others write.

I have to say that I don’t see the death of novel being anywhere near imminent. Not from looking along the shelves at Waterstone’s, and particularly not in the genre fiction, crime, horror, and SF. But it says something about the apparent lack of inspiration in literary fiction that it is turning to SF for its subjects. Winterson said some fascinating things in her interview, but to me, genre SF still did AI, robots and downloading first and better than the mainstream novelists now writing about it.

 

May Resigns, But Her Replacement Will Be as Bad or Worse

May 25, 2019

On Friday, after months of obstinate refusal May finally gave in to pressure and metaphorically fell on her sword. She resigned as Tory leader, but has said that she will stay on as Prime Minister until June 7th, when her party will select her successor. According to one of the videos of her resignation speech put up by one of the newspapers, she was quite lachrymose about it. The video’s title was about how she cried at her resignation.

Well, call me hardhearted, but I’ve no sympathy at all. May has been a disastrous Prime Minister, and before that was a disastrous home secretary. And her party has had no sympathy for Britain’s working people, and particularly the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. She was part of Cameron’s cabinet when he was pushing through the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS, the massive rise in tuition fees for students, the establishment of workfare, and the expansion of the benefit sanctions regime and the infamous work capability tests. She was there when they cut public spending, froze wages and allowed the establishment of highly exploitative part-time and zero hours contracts. It was Cameron’s Tory government that instituted the bedroom tax, and created the mess we have today where most people now cannot afford to buy their own home, and an increasing number of people are priced out of even rented property. All this was done in order to reduce the tax burden on the super rich elite. This would all somehow reduce public debt and create more jobs and prosperity. With prudent Tory financial management, the economy would soon be back on its feet and we could call an end to austerity.

It hasn’t worked. As Mike’s shown on his blog, the debt’s higher than ever. And the time when it will finally be cleared keeps getting put back and back. The I today ran one article on her, listing the arguments for and against. One of the arguments for her was that she had ended austerity. This is, in my opinion, a flat out lie. She said that austerity was over, but has not reversed her policies. The poor are still seeing their services cut. Actions, it is said, speak louder than words. And the actions say that austerity is still very much Tory policy. They also listed under the ‘for’ column her announcing that £260 million or so extra cash would be pumped into the NHS. But an examination of that announcement reveals that it’s much less impressive than it sounds, as it’s still far short of the money needed to restore the NHS. And I got the distinct impression when the announcement was made that there were no promises on how this would be financed, or when and how the money would be put it into the health service. It seemed another one of Tweezer’s promises, promises that are always broken.

And to add insult to injury there’s the continuing lies and denials about the number of people, who have been killed by the Tories’ welfare cuts. It’s now tens of thousands, and the poverty that the Tories have inflicted is so horrific that they stand condemned – again! – by the UN.

Now I realise that Tweezer wasn’t directly responsible for these policies under Cameron’s administration, and that the Ian Duncan Smith, Esther McVey and the other heads of the DWP are responsible for the horrors of the benefit cuts. But May never raised her hand against them, as far as I know, and she certainly continued them once she got her rear into No. 10.

But as the Home Secretary she was responsible for the government’s racist immigration policy. This included posters encouraging people to inform on illegal immigrants, vans going round to pick up any illegals, who wanted to hand themselves in. She was responsible for the hostile environment policy. A policy that found its lowest expression in the forced, illegal deportation of the Windrush peeps and their children. These were immigrants who, under the terms of the immigration treaties at the time, were perfectly entitled to remain here. Many of the people deported had never seen the country to which they were to be returned, or had last seen it when they were very young. But Tweezer wanted to show she was hard on immigration, as the racists in her party wanted, and so broke the law to have these people removed from their real homes hjere in Blighty.

Far from lamenting her departure, my initial reaction was to quote the Wizard of Oz: ‘Ding Dong, the Witch is dead!’

Unfortunately, her successor is likely to be as bad or worse. We now have a selection of contenders which includes Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom. Even Esther McVey threw her hat into the ring a few days ago, when she gave a speech to the Blue Collar Conservatives group. She was obviously trying to pose as the one thing she is not and has never been, the working man’s and woman’s friend to get the populist vote. As for the Blue Collar Conservatives, I could write a whole rant about them. The whole organisation strikes me as being made up of the type of people Johnny Speight drew on for his monstrous creation, Alf Garnet. I got the impression that BoJo is probably the bookies’ favourite. He has received Murdoch’s blessing, as his papers have been praising him and presenting him, despite all the evidence to the contrary, as some kind of future statesman. Instead he’s a vain, treacherous incompetent with the same savage hatred of the poor and a long streak of racism.

Just flicking through the I today I also caught headlines predicting that if a hard Brexiteer is chosen, confidence in the Tory party could collapse and a general election called. And the Labour party, or at least one of its leaders, has indeed called for one. Quite right. I’m sick of Prime Minister’s handing on the reigns of government to their successors safely in their allotted term, so that the next general election somehow acts as a public acclamation of the new Premier, rather than a proper democratic selection. It’s just a way in which democracy effectively becomes a rubber stamp for a transition of power really done by the party elite. As far as I can remember, it came in with Thatcher. She was ousted part-way through her term, and Major installed by the party faithful. He then went on to win the next election. It doesn’t always work – Blair tried it with Gordon Brown, who lost spectacularly, but the process carried on with Cameron’s departure and the installation of May. And now the Tories are set to do it again with May’s successor, whoever he or she is.

I’m sick of it. I’m sick of the Tories. I’m sick of the misery, the starvation, the deaths and deportations. I want them all gone, not just May.

It’s time we had proper general election to decide her successor. One that will hopefully get rid of them and her, and put Labour and Jeremy Corbyn in instead.

Safety Fears over Brexit Debate with Sargon at Bristol’s UWE

May 15, 2019

This was on the local news for Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, Points West, this morning. The debating society at the University of the West of England here in Bristol has been warned by the uni and the rozzers not to go ahead with a planned debate about Brexit because of concerns about people’s safety. The debate is due to include Carl Benjamin, aka ‘Sargon of Akkad’, the notorious far right candidate for UKIP in the southwest.

This is the notorious Sargon, who has made numerous videos attacking feminism, supporting the use of offensive epithets against Blacks, Jews, gays, Asians and the mentally challenged. The vlogger, who said that he could be quoted as saying it’s all right to sodomise young boys, because they did it in ancient Greece. Who answered a question about whether sex with underage children was right or wrong by saying ‘it depends on the child’. The guy, who sent a tweet to Labour’s Jess Philips saying ‘I wouldn’t even rape you’. The same Sargon, who seems to believe he’s centre left, when in actual fact he’s a complete libertarian, who would like to see all public enterprises privatised, including the NHS, and the welfare state dismantled. And when asked what his policies were by a reporter for Sky News, couldn’t find an answer except to say that he opposed political correctness and Islam.

As a result of his antics, the head of UKIP in Swindon wants him deselected and the party’s Gloucestershire branch has closed down. When he traveled to Gibraltar on his campaigning tour, the country’s governor, Fabian Picardo, refused to meet him and tweeted that Sargon’s comments were hate speech, which had no place there. He has been refused entry to a restaurant because of his vile views in one of the cities in which he campaign, and a protester threw a milkshake at him in Cornwall.

And then there’s the question of the hatred and threats spewed on social media by some of the Brexit crowd. You can understand why the University and police fear violence at the debate if it goes ahead.

I think the debate is also overshadowed by a disturbance at another university event featuring Sargon a few years ago. As Sargon was speaking, a load of black clad people in balaclavas waving an Antifa flag rushed in, only to be beaten off by Sargon and his supporters. Who captured their flag. There are clips of the incident on the Net, and many commenters have suggested that the incident was fake. It may have been staged to make Sargon look good, as the brave defender of free speech against anti-racist intolerance.

Despite this the debating society has said that they intend to go ahead with debate on Friday. If it does, I hope it all goes well for them, and that Sargon gets a sound intellectual and verbal, but not physical, drubbing. 

In the meantime, here’s another video from Kevin Logan briefly showing some of the highlights of Sargon’s campaigning so far to suitable musical accompaniment. This includes Sargon having fish and the milkshake thrown at him. It ends with a statement of where UKIP now lies in the polls – 2% – accompanied by Woody Guthrie’s ‘All You Fascists Bound to Lose’.

Enjoy!

Nigel Farage’s Deception of the Voting British Public

May 13, 2019

Despite the horrific views and antics of UKIP and its leading activists Carl ‘Rape Tweet’ Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, Mark ‘Nazi Pug’ Meechan, alias Count Dankula and Paul Joseph Watson of Infowars, the real Fascist threat comes from the Fuhrage and his wretched Brexit party. That’s the view of Kevin Logan and his guests Mike Stuchbery and The Cognitive Society, as they argued on the latest edition of Logan’s Let Them Eat Kek anti-Fascist Youtube broadcast. And it’s hard to argue against them. UKIP’s vote has collapsed. In recent polls, they score 0.O%. The Brexit party, on the other hand, is scoring somewhere like 30%. It’s set to be the winner of the Euro elections in Britain. In some areas, according to some polls, it’s taken over from the Tories. But its success is based on deception and an increasing appeal to militant, intolerant nationalism.

Some of that success is based on the idea that getting the Brexit candidates into the EU parliament will somehow achieve a no-deal Brexit. Which is a lie. The Brexit deal has to be made by the British parliament and the EU. It can’t and won’t be done by a tiny minority in Brussels, as Mike points out in his blog.

But Farage and his dodgy crew also owe their popularity through presenting Brexit as the cure for all the ills of British society, while offering little in the way of concrete suggestions or proposals. The Brexit party has issued no manifesto, and Farage apparently got very stroppy on Andrew Marr’s show when Marr dared to ask him what his policies were. Farage also positions himself as somehow a man of the people, despite the fact that he is the most fake, most inauthentic politico of the lot.

Mike in his article about him today has a meme from The Left Bible pointing out that in reality, the Fuhrage couldn’t give a crap about the working class. He has abstained on voting for help for small farmers, abstained on voting for help for minimum wage workers, abstained on voting for help for workers on Zero hours contracts, and turned down EU funding for food banks.

Who’s spreading the lie that voting for the Brexit Party in the EU elections will actually make Brexit happen?

At the same time, he and his wretched party are trying to get the voting public to forget that Farage is a millionaire venture capitalist, that he’s a pal of the rich and greedy, and his schemes would set our fair nation to be asset-stripped by his fellow disaster capitalists. They are also trying to get the British people to ignore how authoritarian the party is, and its sheer racism. Logan, Stuchbery and Cog also discussed in their video how appeals for ‘Brexit’ have been interpreted as more than simply a call to leave the EU, but a justification for racism and the deportation of immigrants.

A few days ago Zelo Street put up a piece in the style of 1984, which points out exactly how Orwellian Farage and his crew are. They are like the Party in 1984, deliberately deceiving the public, in Zelo Street’s parody personified by Winston Brit, whom they exploit and oppress while telling them that everything will be great after Brexit. The article ends

So Winston Brit voted for Big Brother Farage. He belonged. He mattered. But one day, when he sat there in his modest little home, with no work and no income, and reached out to The Party, there was no-one there. Only then did he realise that Brexit had not made things Better for him, that Farage had indeed been taking the money and giving nothing back, that The Party was a vehicle for unprincipled freeloaders, and he’d been had.
Sadly, by then it was too late. Winston Brit had lost his job, his democratic rights, his hard-won protections against exploitation, his clean water, his good air quality, and food standards. His country had been sold out by those disaster capitalists he thought did not exist. Brexit meant his country was now owned by another, much larger, country.
The Party sought power entirely for its own sake. Welcome to Farage’s 1984.
https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/05/nigel-farage-says-welcome-to-1984.html
A friend of mine works in one of the deprived areas of Gloucester. This is an area of acute poverty, afflicted by crime and drug addiction. Many of the people she sees, who have absolutely nothing, are determined to vote for Farage. Because somehow he’s one of them. He’s a man of the people. She asked me if people really were voting for him, because every time he appears he’s got a pint in his hand.
But that’s it, or part of it. He drinks, he smokes, traditional pleasures that are now being discouraged. He has an easy speaking manner with him, appears confident when he appears on shows like Marr’s, and is constantly presenting himself as somehow being the ordinary man against the Establishment. Despite the fact that he very definitely not an ordinary man, and very much part of the Establishment. And his supporters, and those of UKIP, get very angry whenever anyone points out that these two parties are not on the side of ordinary working people. Anyone who says they are is immediately denounced as spreading Establishment propaganda.
In many ways the type of people Farage is appealing to are the same type of people Johnny Speight based the monstrous, racist Alf Garnet on. Speight was a left-winger, and based on the character on working class Conservatives. People for whom the Tories had done nothing, and who lived in poor homes with smashed windows. Extreme patriots with a hatred of coloured immigrants and gays.
American Conservatives often quote a line from Republican president Gerald Ford, the man who was so thick, he couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Ford said that ‘a state can give you everything you want, can take from you everything you have.’ But it my experience, that’s also done by unfettered capitalism and free market private industry. The private industry that Ford, and Farage, stand for. As Logan, Cog and Stuchbery have pointed out, the concept of Brexit Farage is promoting is so nebulous, that it leaves its supporters able to project their own hopes on to it, no matter how these may conflict with those of others.
But it’s an illusion. A no-deal Brexit won’t benefit Britain. Brexit won’t benefit Britain, and it won’t be a blow against the Establishment. It’ll be a blow for the super-rich establishment, including Farage, and they will use it to take from us everything we have and cherish, from our civil liberties, to whatever remains of the welfare state and NHS. A vote for Farage is a vote for autocracy and exploitation.

 

 

Zelo Street Publishes Piece Supporting Mike Against Anti-Semitism Smear Merchants

May 5, 2019

Thanks to everyone, who’ve sent donations to Mike to help him fight the libel threats brought against him by rich, bullying z-list celebs Rachel Riley and Tracey-Ann Oberman. They’re threatening anyone and everyone, who says anything about them they don’t like, with writs, and alleging that because they’re Jewish, their detractors must be anti-Semites. Mike’s one of those they’ve tried to bully into silence, because he, like so many others, blogged about how the gruesome twosome had ganged up and bullied a vulnerable sixteen year old schoolgirl. A young woman with anxiety, whom they smeared as an anti-Semite.

As Mike points out, his article was a perfectly valid opinion piece. Mike is a trained journo, and they have to know the law. Mike has also sought counsel from m’learned him friends, who have told him that Riley and Oberman don’t have a case. But he needs money just in case they try to bring it anyway. It’s a nasty piece of legal strategy called lawfare, where an individual or group tries to silence their critics using the law, even when they know they don’t have a case. They bring the actions knowing that fighting them and employing lawyers will cost tens of thousands of pounds, and hope that the legal costs alone will frighten their critics into silence. It’s the action of bullying scoundrels. Riley and Oberman also have the advantage over ordinary schmucks like Mike, in that, as celebrities, they can also count of the support of their legions of fans and their fellow ‘slebs. Riley was on the Jonathan Ross show a couple of months ago, for example, where she thanked all the people supporting her in her spurious campaign against anti-Semitism.

But Mike also has his supporters, who know perfectly well that he’s very, very far from any kind of anti-Semite, and appreciate all the work he’s done on behalf of the disabled and vulnerable. The great folks who sent in £5,000 worth of donations in a single day last week were some of these people, as were the peeps, who defend him online, unasked, against the anti-Semitism trolls.

And one of Mike’s defenders is the good fellow in Crewe, who puts up the Zelo Street blog. Yesterday he put up a piece defending Mike against the anti-Semitism smears of Riley and Oberman, ‘The Shameful Silencing of Mike Sivier’. After explaining who Mike is, and his work attacking the DWP and discussing issues like climate change, health, the Labour party, Brexit and the colossal ineptitude of the Tory party, he tells how Mike has been accused of anti-Semitism by Riley and Oberman. He states that Mike isn’t, and those papers that tried to smear him as one have been forced to retract their allegations by IPSO. He also describes how Mike’s target of £5,000 to help him fight the terrible twosome’s threats was raised in one day, though leaves it an open question whether this is a measure of Mike’s popularity or a sign of displeasure at the behaviour of Princess Countdown and her mate, Tracey-Anne Cyberman. He makes the point that their threat to Mike came after they had similarly threatened other people on social media for supporting an article against them written by Shaun Lawson. Who, for some reason, they haven’t threatened. Zelo Street then asks

Why should this be? Perhaps Ms Riley and Ms Oberman would care, in the fullness of time, to impart that information to the world. Perhaps they would also like to tell Mike Sivier, or his legal team, what specifically he has said in regard to either or both of them which they consider libellous. Because Sivier does not appear fazed by the claim, and nor do his lawyers, which suggests they are confident of having the action struck out.

He then provides a couple of quotations from Mike, which might have provoked the ‘orrible pair into threatening him, pointing out that one is no more than a statement of opinion. The second is one, where Mike describes how the two try to justify their bullying behaviour by claiming it is part of their campaign against anti-Semitism. Zelo Street attacks this by asking

How can anyone be combating anti-Semitism by threatening someone who concludes that you’ve been indulging in bullying? Is bullying an anti-Semitic code-word?

He states that Countdown and Cyberwoman have a problem in that it looks very much like their word against Mike’s, and that as Mike’s comments are like those of Lawson’s, who hasn’t been threatened, Lawson’s comments are the key to this case. He concludes

Attacking those who campaign for the weak against the strong in an attempt to silence them inevitably leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I’ll just leave that one there.
See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-shameful-silencing-of-mike-sivier.html
As for Jonathan Ross, I stopped watching his show years ago, mostly because I simply don’t find it interesting. He is a very clever man, and I share some of his taste in trash and popular culture. But Wossy also wants to be a bit edgy himself, and so indulges in puerile jokes, like the phone call to Andrew Sachs with Russell Brand that got him into so much trouble.
And when he was on the radio I think he was trying to be as close as he could to an American-style ‘shock jock’ within the limits of the Beeb and the broadcasting regulations. So he couldn’t be as openly politically biased nor as racist as some of them are. Nor can he be as sexually explicit. Howard Stern had on his Christmas show, for example, a gay choir singing ‘I’m dreaming of a little light torture’, but Wossy on his show for years had a gay singing group ‘Four Poofs and a Piano’. I’ve absolutely no objection to them appearing on his show, but it does seem to be an example of Wossy following the Americans’ taste, which he genuinely shares, for the transgressive and camp.
But I do wonder how he gets away with some of it. A few years ago while looking for something else on lunchtime radio, I accidentally got his lunchtime programme. Wossy was talking to the late, great Dale Winton. On finding out that Winton was Jewish, Wossy announced that he himself was half-Jewish, and then asked him if he was circumcised.
Eh? What has that got to do with anything? That’s a personal question, which is between a bloke and his rabbi. It’s not a question you ask, and certainly not on the radio at a Saturday lunchtime.
A more reasonable question might be how his Jewish background has influenced him as a person or a performer. Many performers come from a religious background, and various Christian actors and musicians took their first step in showbusiness in the church choir. I don’t know if something similar has inspired Jewish showbusiness peeps through membership of their synagogue. In traditional Judaism, for example, the readings from the Hebrew Bible were chanted by the cantor. This chant, cantillation, was often sung very beautifully, and in the 19th century the best cantors in European Jewry enjoyed a celebrity status like that of opera singers in mainstream society. It seems to me that asking whether the Jewish musical tradition, whether religious or secular, would be a far better and fairer question than making such a personal inquiry.
But Wossy had to ask him, no doubting counting that as someone, who was part Jewish, he wouldn’t be accused of anti-Semitism for it, which he certainly would if he was a gentile. It’s stupid, puerile antics that like that which rightly stop people wanting to watch his show or listen to him on the radio.

Tweezer’s Brexit Party Woes for Euro Elections

April 23, 2019

Another piece of woe for Tweezer. Not only are Labour 10 points above them in the polls, but according to yesterday’s I, over half of all Tory activists are planning to vote for the Fuhrage’s wretched Brexit party in the European elections. They want to send May a clear message to get lost.

The article by Nigel Morris, ”Over half of Tory activists’ plan to support Brexit party’ in the paper’s edition for 22nd April 2019, on page 8, ran

Almost 60 per cent of Conservative activists are planning to switch sides and vfote for Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party in next month’s European elections, a survey has revealed.

Mr Farage predicted that his party would “sweep the board” in the UK part of the contests expected on 23 May, claiming it was attracting large numbers of Tory and Labour voters alike.

Amid growing predictions of a Conservative meltdown at the ballot box, the senior MP Sir Graham Brady will warn Theresa May that 70 per cent of her MPs want her to step down by the end of June.

The 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, which is chaired by Sir Graham, will meet tomorrow, when Parliament returns following a truncated Easter break.

It is understood that they will discuss whether the party’s rules can be changed to bring forward a challenge to her leadership.

The scale of the grassroots backlash over the Prime Minister’s handling of the Brexit process was revealed in a survey for the ConservativeHome website.

It found that 61.7 per cent of Tory members intended to support the Brexit Party in the elections , which will take place if Mrs May fails to win a Commons majority for her Brexit proposals within the next five weeks.

Just 23.1 per cent said they were still loyal to the Conservatives.

Paul Goodman, the website’s editor, described the findings as “the most astonishing we have ever published.”

He suggested that a “really bad result” next month for the Tories could lead to Mars May being forced out of office.

The findings reinforced a Survation survey for the Mail on Sunday in which 40 per cent of Tory councillors said they prepared to support the Brexit party.

Just over half -52 per cent – said that they would vote Tory, but that figure would rise to 65 per cent if Mrs May was replaced by Boris Johnson.

Mr Farage said yesterday: “Westminster has just underestimated how the country feels about this.”

He claimed his new party already had more than 60,000 registered supporters paying £25 each – with a new recruit signing up every 12 seconds.

There was also a report in a box on the same page that Conservative members of Derbyshire County Council had last week informed Tory HQ that they would not deliver leaflets or canvass for Tory candidates next month.

While it’s fun watching May destroy the Tories almost single-handed, there are also serious problems with this. Farage, and presumably his new Brexit Party, are far-right neoliberal privatisers. They may not be as openly racist as Batten’s UKIP, but Farage himself was dogged with very credible allegations of racism and Fascist sympathies, and UKIP under his aegis was still beset with scandals about racism and connections to far right groups.

And Mike has rightly pointed out that we shouldn’t wish Tweezer gone, because her replacement would probably enjoy a honeymoon period in which they would destroy the welfare state even further and privatise the NHS, selling it to some American megamillionaire like Trump.

So we should just hope that Tweezer remains in power, and continues the Tory meltdown, ready for the replacement of the entire party by a Corbyn Labour government at the next elections.

Lyra McKee and the Return of the Troubles in Northern Ireland

April 20, 2019

Yesterday Mike reported the death of Lyra McKee, a crusading journalist in Ulster, who was shot dead during rioting at the Creggan estate in Derry. Police had been despatched their to search for arms and ammunition that it was feared would be used by Republican terrorists, hoping to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising with a return to violence and bloodshed.

Mike makes the point that there are no reasons good enough to justify murder, and that 21 years after the Good Friday agreement there must be a commitment instead to friendship. Power must once again be restored to the Stormont Assembly, and the people of the Six Counties should be shown that the Irish border will remain open, whatever Britain’s relationship with the EU is like.

He states that the best way to shut down violence is to remove the cause for it. But Tweezer has instead stated that ‘nothing has changed’. Well, problems with a political cause need a political solution, and so he asks May squarely why nothing has changed.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/04/19/journalist-shot-dead-in-northern-ireland-21-years-after-good-friday-agreement-why/

I think we all know the reason for that. Devolved government in Northern Ireland has collapsed through a failure of the two coalition parties to cooperate. And Tweezer has increased insecurities over the Irish border through her determination to hold on to power at the expense of a proper Brexit deal or alternative government, that could find one. And she is being propped up by a Loyalist party with very extreme views, linked to political corruption and terrorism.

The people of Ulster and the British people need and deserve better.

One of the problems Jerry Adams faced in selling the Good Friday agreement to the Republicans was that to many of them, it was simply a return to the situation before the Troubles. Northern Ireland had a devolved assembly, but it’s government was taken over by Westminster after the Troubles broke out. And there was a ‘hard border’ with Eire. Now that the government of the Six Counties is once again in the hands of Britain and there is again a prospect of a hard border returning, it is not surprising that anxiety among the Nationalist community in Ulster is rising and that dissident Republicans are seeking to exploit this and begin the terrorist campaign again.

It’s time this was stopped before it began, as Mike said. It’s time there was a renewed commitment to making democracy work in Northern Ireland, no hard border with Eire, and Tweezer and her wretched Brexit scheme out from No. 10. And preferably Corbyn in, who was never a supporter of terrorism, and had the respect of all the parties in Northern Ireland. And we need this immediately, before more innocents are killed.

Torygraph Predicts Labour Set to Win General Election

April 16, 2019

Ho ho! An article in yesterday’s I for Monday, 15th April 2019, might explain why the Sunset Times was so keen to try another anti-Semitism smear against the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn the day before. The article, entitled ‘Labour on course to win general election’ by Cahal Milmo reported the findings of a poll by the Sunday Torygraph that in a general election, Labour would defeat the Tories, taking 59 seats from them. The article ran

The Conservative Party faces being swept from power by Jeremy Corbyn with the loss of nearly 60 seats in the event of a general election, according to new polling.

Labour would become the largest party in the House of Commons with prominent Tories, including the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and arch Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith at “high risk” of losing their seats.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that the steep fall in support was being fueled by anger among Conservative voters at the party’s failure to deliver Brexit on 29th March, despite repeated promises by Theresa May that the date would not be changed.

Professor Sir John Curtice, president of the British Polling Council, told the paper that it appeared Leave voters were being drawn back to Ukip or Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

The “poll of polls” by Electoral Calculus, based on surveys of 8,561 people between 2 and 11 April, found that in the event of an immediate general election Labour would become the largest party with 296 seats against 259 for the Tories – a net loss of 59 MPs for Mrs May’s party.

But despite such a victory, Mr Corbyn would not automatically become prime minister – he could only form a government if he secured support from other parties such as the SNP.

“The Conservatives’ failure so far to secure Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union is at risk of costing them dearly,” said Sir John. (p. 6).

While it’s refreshing to read a story that predicts Labour winning a general election, obviously it’s still incredibly biased. It comes from the Torygraph, and follows that rag’s pro-Brexit line. But while I don’t doubt that the Tories’ continued incompetence, factionalism and May’s stubborn determination to hang on to power and force through the same tired, discredited and utterly unwanted deal, there are other powerful factors that might bring about a Labour victory.

Firstly, as Mike has also pointed out this week, Remainer Tories are also being drawn towards the Tinge Group, Change UK, thus disproving their claims to be ‘centrist’ Labour. And secondly, Labour’s policies are massively popular. People want the health service renationalized and restored, electricity, water and the railways taken back into state ownership, the trade unions strengthened, workers given better employment rights and places in the boardroom, as well as the creation of a proper welfare state. All the policies that the Tories and the rest of the neoliberal establishment hate with a passion, and revile as just a return to the policies of the 1970s.

But Labour are very definitely ahead in the polls, but rather than admit that this is because the Party is genuinely popular and neoliberalism and Thatcherism are dead, zombie economics, the Torygraph is trying to spin this to discredit the ‘Remain’ camp within the Tory party. But hopefully it won’t be too long before there is a Labour election victory, and the entire Tory party is swept from power and kept out for decades.