Posts Tagged ‘Bristol’

Answering Simon Webb’s Question about the Contribution of the Windrush Migrants

June 23, 2022

Yesterday, right-wing Torygraph reading internet historian Simon Webb over at the History Debunked channel responded to the Queen’s speech, in which Her Maj referred to the ‘profound contribution’ of the Windrush generation. Webb asked what that was. He’s put up another video today repeating the question, and commenting that nobody was able to give him an answer. A number of people told him he was racist for asking it. So he repeated it, giving as an example of a profound contribution made by an immigrant community the Gujarati shopkeepers who kept their shops open up to eight or nine in the evening rather than shutting at five O’clock. This is a benefit, because it’s led to a change in opening hours which means you can buy whatever you want at any time without having to worry about a rush when the shops open a nine.

I’ve left a reply there answering his question. Here it is:

Okay, Simon – it’s a fair question, so I’ll bite. After the War there was a labour shortage which the Black Caribbean immigrants helped to fill. They were particularly needed in nursing and the care sector. Not a spectacular contribution, but a contribution nonetheless. And here in Bristol the St. Paul’s Carnival is a major local event and very popular, despite that part of the city’s poverty and crime. There’s also a statue up in one of the more multicultural parts of Bristol to a Black writer, actor and playwright of that generation.

Okay, the actor and playwright is obscure – he was mentioned a few months ago when racists vandalised the bust to him, probably in reprisal to the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue. And the St. Paul’s carnival is local to Bristol. Nevertheless, it is spectacular and very popular, with White Bristolians coming into to see it and it is one of the major events in the city’s calendar. As for Black Caribbean workers helping to fill the labour shortage, that’s true whether they did so in response to national appeals for workers or if they were simply looking for better wages and opportunities. And I’d also say that Bristol was made morally better by the boycott of the local bus company because it wouldn’t employ Blacks. The bus boycott was given great support by the-then Bristol MP, Wedgie Benn.

I think Webb might be asking the wrong question, or expecting the wrong kind of answer. He clearly wants to hear about a distinctive contribution made by the Windrush generation. Something revolutionary. But even if the Windrush generation’s main contribution was as workers, the same as White Brits and the other New Commonwealth immigrants that arrived at the same time, that’s still an important contribution. And our hospitals and care homes did need their nurses and ancillary staff.

And just before the Windrush arrived, we were assisted during the War with workers and soldiers from the Caribbean. There’s a bit about them in an anthology of articles on Black and Asian British history, Under the Imperial Carpet. There was, I believe, even a Black RAF pilot, who I’m sure deserves to be better known. As for the post-War years, I’d say that the most profound contribution of the Afro-Caribbean community in Britain has been in the performing arts and particularly music. Apart from some great Black musicians, they also introduced into Britain new musical genres like Ska and Reggae, which were also taken up by White performers. Oh yes, and they introduced the steel band to Britain. One of the school’s in Bristol’s St. George’s ward had one.

I’m very much aware that the Black British community has its problems – higher rates of unemployment, low academic achievement, drugs and crime. But nevertheless they’ve also brought benefits and made a genuine contribution to British society, and Her Maj was quite right to talk about it.

Lotus Eaters Now Blaming Migrants for the Housing Crisis

June 21, 2022

I had to blog about this, as it’s another example of the right-wing media only telling you one side of the story. Yesterday or the day before the Lotus Eaters put up a video claiming that the housing crisis was a result of immigrants taking up so much housing, and no doubt looking at the channel migrants in particular as they did so. Because they should all be deported to Rwanda, of course. They argued that immigration was the source of the housing shortage, and thus all the new building work that is threatening to cover our green and pleasant land with concrete, as the British birth rate is 1.24, below that needed to maintain the population. The reason why our population is growing, however, is because of immigration. Now the Lotus Eaters are fervent Brexiteers, hate Woke and are very strong opponents of immigration. But they’re not wrong. I believe the Pears Cyclopedia 1984 edition said the same nearly 40 years ago. It’s solid fact, rather than racist myth. Mind you, I also believe that that the population has grown also because people are living longer and not dying off as young as they did, and so there’s a younger generation growing up at the same time as its grandparents and great-grandparents are still alive. But possibly for not much longer if Johnson and his foul effluvium have their way. In the past decade they’ve been in power, life expectancy has gone into reverse so that the present generation has a shorter life expectancy than we did.

Now for what John, Callum and Sargon aren’t telling you. The welfare state and capitalism need a population that’s stable or growing. Years ago, the Financial Times wrote that the welfare state was maintained by the contributions of the present generation of workers, which were needed to maintain the level of benefits to support the older generation. Fewer people being born means less money being paid into the welfare state,, equals cuts to welfare provision. This presumably is the thinking behind the Tories’ decision back in the ’90s to try and get people paying into private ‘workplace’ pension schemes rather than the state pension, and why the state pension’s been kept low. It’s also no doubt being used to support the cuts to the welfare state in general, following Thatcher’s line that we now can’t afford to support everybody and people should have to look out for themselves. This may not affect the Lotus Eaters, as their smug sneers about ‘socialism’ and ‘leftists’ and general support for unfettered capitalism suggests to me they come from monied backgrounds. But I could be wrong.

But capitalism also requires a stable or growing population. It’s all about consumer demand, you see. The more people, the more demand for goods and services, which in turn stimulates production and should produce more profits and less unemployment as workers are taken on to produce the goods. If you have fewer people, you have less demand, declining profits and rising unemployment.

Immigrants help solve these problems, because they tend to put more into the welfare state than they take out in terms of benefits and so on. And by maintaining or expanding the population, they help to create the demand that powers industry.

And I suspect some of the demand for new housing is local to certain parts of the country. A few years ago the ‘Communist’ BBC as the Lotus Eaters no doubt think of the Corporation produced a documentary following a prospective Romanian immigrant as he tried to find accommodation over here. He ended up sleeping rough in one of the London parks. At one point he went north seeking available homes. He found a whole street-load, boarded up and deliberately kept empty. Because some obscure reason of capitalism. He was obviously not impressed, and made the obvious comment that it was stupid to have houses go empty when people needed them.

I think – and this is only my impression – that some of the migration pushing up house prices and creating demand is internal. People from the declining north, or some of them, are moving south in search of work and opportunities. People in the countryside are being priced out of local homes by rich outsiders seeking second homes. And respect to the council the other day that was reported to have banned this! Here in Bristol local people are being priced out of the housing market due to recent migrants, not from Africa, Asia or Jamaica, but from London. As a result, some Bristolians are looking towards places like Wales and the borders for affordable homes, which is going to push the prices up there. And so there’s a knock-on effect.

And last but not least, the Tories and the Heil can take some of the blame. In order to keep the economy afloat, I think it was George Osborne who linked some part of our financial performance to house prices. As a result, house prices have to be kept high. Quite apart from the Daily Heil in the ’90s constantly advising its readers on the ‘money’ pages to invest in brick and mortar as part of the ‘buy to rent’ boom. People have done that, leaving less homes around for people, who actually want to live in them to purchase.

Yes, I think there are a lot of problems surrounding immigration that need proper discussion and solution. There are problems of assimilation and integration, and while I don’t like Kemi Badenoch’s party, I think she is right about growing segregation. That’s been going on for some time, since at least the beginning of this century. The concentration on race is probably a part of it, but only a part. But you can’t blame immigrants solely for the housing shortage and new building work.

Hidden behind this is also an anti-feminist agenda. Sargon and the other Lotus Eaters have the same anti-feminist views as American conservatives. In their view, the population decline is due to modern women choosing not to settle down and marry but concentrate on having careers. They’d like to return to the old traditional family in which mum stayed at home to raise the kids and Dad worked to support them. Now I think that if they were given the choice, more women probably would stay home to look after their children. But they don’t have a choice. Since women entered the workforce, it’s been argued that the economy has responded so that families need the income from both parents to pay off mortgages and buy the family groceries. However, this claim also needs examination as I’ve also read that long before the 70s families needed both parents to work. And back in the 30s and 40s, women didn’t have a choice about not working. Some of the firms in Bristol would not employ married women with children, which was a real problem for women running away from abusive or criminal husbands.

The decline of the existing, traditional populations is also one of the arguments against abortion. If all the kids lost to abortion were allowed to come to term and live, then the population would be growing. This isn’t necessarily a racist argument. Turning Point, an arch-conservative think tank, put up a video of one of its presenters challenging a young woman on the issue. He argued that the reason the Black population has remained at 13% in the Land of the Free is due to abortion. If there was less abortion, the population would expand. She was obviously racist for being in favour of abortion, and hence fewer Blacks, while he wanted more of them. I don’t want to get into the politics of abortion, except to say that it includes major issues of bodily autonomy, female healthcare, the dangers of a return to backstreet abortions and poverty. What happens in the case of women too poor to bring their children up? Conservatives like Thomas Sowell already blame the welfare state for the decline of the Black family, but without it many women would be too poor to have the children Conservatives would like them to. In the 1920s Mussolini got very worried about falling Italian birthrates, and one of the methods he chose to tackle it, apart from getting women out of the workplace, was providing something like the equivalent of family allowance. Perhaps, if the Tories want women to stay at home and raise their families they should consider providing them with a state income for doing so. But I can imagine the screams and horror from the right if someone dared suggesting that. They shouldn’t, not if they’re good classicists. The later Roman emperors were so worried about the declining population of their empire, they passed legislation giving first Italians, and then all Roman citizens throughout the empire, a kind of family allowance. Possibly not something Johnson wants to be reminded of, for all he goes on about how wonder the Romans were.

Years ago New Scientist covered this issue with an interview on demographics. A declining birthrate is happening not just in the West, but also in Japan and China. Way back in the 90s one of the leading Japanese newspapers was so worried about it that they published an article that declared that if it carried out, in one thousand years the Japanese would be extinct. They also tried encouraging men to take an extra day off work to improve marital relations with their wives and so make more little Japanese. This got an angry response from a housewife, who said that relations between married couples didn’t improve simply because the husband was at home. China and India are also suffering from a shortage of women because of generations of infanticide. What the New Scientist demographer noted, was that the countries that have the highest birthrate have the less macho cultures and men are prepared to share the childrearing. Thus Scandinavia has a higher birthrate than Italy, and China and Japan, which have the same traditional attitudes to the division of labour, also have a low birthrate. In the case of Japan, there’s also the problem that young Japanese aren’t dating and having sex. Some even say that it revolts them. A decade ago there was a Radio 4 programme reporting this phenomenon and asking why it was so. I honestly don’t know, but I’m sure someone will blame video games.

The birthrate is also falling all over the world, although obviously in developing countries it is still much higher than over here. But Africa loses very many of its infants to appalling rates of infant mortality, so its population is very stable. In fact, there are fears that if the population continues to fall in some of these nations, their population will actually decline.

Which bring me to another point: the same demographer predicts a population crash throughout the globe in the middle of this century. This obviously contradicts the predictions of the various scientists and experts of the ’70s, who were worried about the ‘population bomb’. If this happens, countries will instead compete with each other to attract migrants. P.D. James’ SF film, Children of Men, showed that. It’s a dystopian movie in which the human race has become infertile. As a result, there’s massive political instability, but Britain has managed to keep order by becoming a quasi-Fascist state. But migrants from the rest of the world are invited, as shown by Arab mule trains around London. The hero in the story is charged with protecting an immigrant woman, who’s become the first in a very long time to become pregnant. Its a chilling movie, and one which marks a departure from the detective novels with which she made her name. But it was chilling realistic and had a point.

There are issues with immigration, but it ain’t the sole cause of the housing shortage, nor is the solution the Lotus Eaters want underneath it palatable to today’s women wanting independence. It may not even be one that works. We might instead be better off passing legislation giving greater assistance to manage family and work, like perhaps more maternity leave, and encouraging dad to share some of the housework more. But those aren’t good, Conservative attitudes and involve capitulating to feminism and greater state legislation of industry. But this terrifies the Lotus Eaters, and so they ain’t going to tell you about it. Except to argue against it.

Message from We Own It about Their New Website and Campaign Against Channel 4 Privatisation

June 14, 2022

I got this email from anti-privatisation campaign group We Own It informing me about their new website and their continuing campaign against the government’s proposed sell-off of Channel 4.

‘Dear David,

What do Armando Iannucci, the Archbishop of York and Siobhán McSweeney from Derry Girls all have in common?

They’re all taking a stand against Nadine Dorries’ plan to privatise Channel 4.

They’re not the only ones. 27 independent production companies, actor Jon Pointing, comedian Jack Rooke, and the Bishops of Ripon and Leeds are taking a stand too.

They’ve come together today to send a message to the divided Conservative Party: Channel 4 ain’t broke. Don’t fix it. Conserve it.

Thanks to donations from hundreds of you, today we were able to launch an ambitious new campaign which hit the front page of the Yorkshire Post, the Evening Standard, the Independent, the National and local papers across the country.

Check out the beautiful new website and share it to spread the word! We need YOU to make this big launch even bigger! This is a campaign we can win.

Share the new campaign on Twitter

Share on Facebook

Check out the website and forward the link by email to friends and family

THANK YOU so much for showing this government where you stand.

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Jack and Kate – the We Own It team

PS Thanks so much to everyone who took part in the day of action for the NHS on Saturday. You were all over the press for that campaign as well!’

I very much support this campaign, not least because Bristol is one one of the various cities in which the broadcaster is located. I’m afraid that if the government privatises the station it will have to close down its offices or studios in Bristol and the other towns, and that these local broadcasting industries will be severely damaged. A little while ago I wrote to my local Labour MP, Karin Smyth, to express my fears about the loss of local broadcasting in Bristol. She very kindly wrote back stating that she also was going to oppose Channel 4’s privatisation.

I think the channel has declined in quality since the 1980s and 1990s, but it has been a vital part of British broadcasting and cinema. There have been a stream of British films made either by, or with the participation of Channel 4 films. And when it was first launched in the 1980s, it offered a genuine alternative to mainstream broadcasting. It showed Indian films in a slot entitled ‘All India Goldies’ as well as an adaptation of the Indian national epic, the Mahabharata. It also provided excellent opera coverage, and really did much to bring it to a genuinely popular audience. It also gave Britain the wit and wisdom of the journalist and TV critic, Clive James, who had his own show on a Sunday night. James published a trio of books of his TV criticism, as well as his travel journalism and an autobiography, Unreliable Memoirs. His writing could be hysterically funny, as when he covered the extremely excitable remarks of over-the-top sports commenters. In one of his articles he described how one of the cars broke down or crashed during a race ‘and Murray Walker exploded’. At other times, when discussing the horrors of the Holocaust and the surviving Nazi and Fascist leaders like Albert Speer, Baldur von Schirach and Oswald Mosley, who turned up on British television, he was deadly serious and scathing. As he also was when writing about Stalin’s famine and purges and Mao’s China. He interviewed a number of great personalities on his show, including a very young Victoria Wood and the late, great Peter Cook. For fantasy enthusiasts, there was The Storyteller, a series of tales adapted from folk stories, narrated by John Hurt, with puppet creatures, including the Storyteller’s dog, created and operated by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Henson and Frank Oz were the geniuses behind the Muppets. They also made the fantasy movie The Dark Crystal, in which every character is a non-human creature. In the 1990s Henson’s Creature Shop also created the various aliens in the Australian-American SF series Farscape. I am very much afraid that if Channel 4 is privatised, then this history and pool of great broadcasting talent and skills will be permanently lost.

And it will be lost not because there’s anything wrong with Channel 4, but because the Tories’ backers, like one Rupert Murdoch, want British state broadcasting to end so their own cruddy networks can move in and take its place.

We Own It on Their Day of Action Against NHS Privatisation Today

June 11, 2022

I got this message this morning from the pro-nationalisation, anti-NHS privatisation organisation We Own It stating that today is their day of action against the Tories’ plans to put private companies on NHS boards. Amongst the forms of protest they’re organising is a photo campaign in which people take photos of themselves with a message on a piece of paper addressed to their local NHS manager stating their opposition of this new phase of Tory privatisation. The email runs

‘Dear David,

Today is your Day of Action  – can you help ramp up the pressure on your local NHS chair to put people before profit as they prepare to reorganise the NHS in England on the 1st of July?

Even if you do just one of these three actions, you can have a HUGE impact today:

1. Send a message directly to your local NHS chair in 3 easy steps:

  1. On a plain sheet of paper, write out the message: “Dear [*write the name of your town here*] NHS leaders, let’s rebuild our local NHS together and keep private companies out”
  2. Take a selfie with your message.
  3. Click the button below to use our tool to tweet your picture (or email it to us at info@weownit.org.uk if you don’t use Twitter, or if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland!)

2. Join a local action near you today. Find out where actions are happening below.

3. Distribute leaflets by yourself or with friends and family on your local high street. This action is only for people who have received leaflet deliveries from us.

Tweet your picture

Find out if there’s a group action near you

8 local NHS chairs have now come out and pledged that they will BAN private companies on their boards.

When you started this campaign a month ago that number was a grand total of 1.

This happened because 20,500 of you emailed your ICS chairs, or boosted the numbers by sharing the action if you live outside of England. 

Your actions have an impact. By doing even just one of the actions today, you will help protect your local NHS from greedy private companies

1. Send a message directly to your local NHS chair in 3 easy steps:

  1. On a plain sheet of paper, write out the message: “Dear [*write the name of your town here*] NHS leaders, let’s rebuild our local NHS together and keep private companies out”
  2. Take a selfie with your message.
  3. Click the button below to use our tool to tweet your picture (or email it to us at info@weownit.org.uk if you don’t use Twitter, or live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – your photos will show that people across the UK oppose private companies making decisions about our healthcare!)

2. Join a local action near you today. Find out where actions are happening below.

3. Distribute leaflets by yourself or with friends and family on your local high street. This action is only for people who have received leaflet deliveries from us.

Tweet your picture

Find out if there’s a group action near you

We are working with Keep Our NHS Public and Unite Community to make sure local NHS chairs feel the heat today. 

As they prepare to reorganise local NHS’ across England on the 1st of July, you can remind them that you want the NHS to work for people not profit.

This reorganisation currently only impacts the NHS in England, but it sets a precedent that will have repercussions for the NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. By taking a stand and showing resistance to private companies sitting on boards in England, you will help stop this setting a dangerous new normal for healthcare in the UK. 

NHS leaders need to know that profiteering private healthcare companies cannot be allowed to have a role in our healthcare.

Send them a simple message today by doing one of the three actions below:

1. Send a message directly to your local NHS chair in 3 easy steps:

  1. On a plain sheet of paper, write out the message: “Dear [*write the name of your town here*] NHS leaders, let’s rebuild our local NHS together and keep private companies out”
  2. Take a selfie with your message.
  3. Click the button below to use our tool to tweet your picture (or email it to us at info@weownit.org.uk if you don’t use Twitter or live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland)

2. Join a local action near you today. Find out where actions are happening below.

3. Distribute leaflets by yourself or with friends and family on your local high street. This action is only for people who have received leaflet deliveries from us.

Tweet your picture

Find out if there’s a group action near you

his campaign is already getting results because people like you are standing up and taking action. Thank you so much for all you do to protect our NHS. 

Cat, Alice, Jack, Matthew, Kate, Johnbosco – the We Own It team’

I realise that this is very last minute, but I’ve put it up here for those who want to be involved.

There are protests right across England, but the one in Bristol is run by Bristol Protest our NHS at 60 High Street, Hanham, BS15 3DR, and its running from 3-4 this afternoon..

Chumbawamba Sing Their Farewells to Maggie Thatcher

May 6, 2022

Okay, I’ve put up a series of left-wing and socialist music videos over the past couple of days laying into the Tories and other right-wing pundits and blowhards like Piers Moron and ‘Depeche Toad’ Farage. The results of the council elections are coming in, and it seems the Tories haven’t done terribly well. Not as disastrously as I’d like, but they’ve lost several councils to Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens. And I thought I’d rub it in a bit further with this musical reminder that Maggie is no longer with us. This is a performance by the pop band Chumbawamba singing their song anticipating Thatcher’s death, ‘In Memoriam – So Long So Long’ at a concert in Bedminster, one of Bristol’s suburbs, way back in 2009. It was put up on Random Planet’s channel on YouTube in 2013.

The song was written and performed before Thatcher’s death and the band were going to release it as an EP. Hence they ask people not to put it up on YouTube just yet, and also give instructions on how you can order it directly from them. As the performance is over a decade old, it’s doubtful this arrangement is still working. You can, however, hear the full EP on YouTube as well. This includes a short piece in Spanish which is supposed to be General Pinochet’s regards from beyond the grave, as well as Frankie Boyle’s joke that when Thatcher dies, the Scots are going to dig a hole so deep they’ll be able to hand her over to Satan personally. It’s an interesting piece musically. It’s jazz-inflected and actually really laid back, for all that it’s celebrating Thatcher’s demise.

Thatcher’s long gone, but unfortunately Thatcherism still remains a force in British politics as zombie economics – a doctrine long shown to be dead and useless, but which is still propped up into a kind of ghastly semblance of life by right-wing politicians and the media. It’s about time it was laid to rest as well.

Stop the War Coalition Holding Anti-War Meeting in Bristol Tonight

April 27, 2022

I got this email from the Stop the War Coalition c. 1.00 pm today, but have only just seen it. There’s a meeting tonight in Bristol in Stokes Croft. The email reads

Stop the War in Ukraine – Russia Out – No to NATO Expansion

Bristol Stop The War Coalition ‘In-Person’ Public Meeting
Weds 27th April, 6.45pm
Events Space, Hamilton House, 80 Stokes Croft, Bristol, BS1 3QY

Click Here for Full Info

This notification may come too late for those reading my blog in Bristol, who may want to attend. But I’m posting it up here in case people are able.

Bristol and Labour’s Elected Mayor, and the Arguments Against

April 26, 2022

On the fourth of May parts of the country are due to go to the polls again. These are mostly council elections, but down here in Bristol it’ll be for a referendum on the system of elected mayors the city has had for the past few years. At the moment the elected mayor is Marvin Rees for Labour. His predecessor, Ferguson, was supposedly an Independent, but he had been a Lib Dem. He personally promoted himself by wearing red trousers, even at funerals when he toned the colour down to dark claret. His first act was to change the name of the Council House to City Hall for no real reason. His administration was responsible for running through a programme of immense cuts. He intended to make £90 million of them, but told Bristolians that they shouldn’t be afraid. He also turned down grant money from central government to which the city was qualified and untitled. I heard at a meeting of the local Labour party that he left the city’s finances in a colossal mess, and it has taken a great effort for Marvin’s administration to sort them out.

The local Labour party has thrown itself four-square behind the elected mayoralty. It’s being promoted in the election literature from the party, boasting about how, under Rees, 9,000 new homes have been built, green power and other initiatives invested in. The opposition parties, by contrast, have wasted council taxpayers’ hard earned money on trivialities.

I think the party is also holding an on-line meeting tonight to convince members that the system of elected mayors is a positive benefit. Speakers include Andy Burnham amongst other prominent politicos. One of the claims being made is that elected mayors are democratic and transparent, whereas the previous committee system meant that decisions were taken behind closed doors.

But I am not convinced by any means that the elected mayoralty is a benefit.

Bristol South Labour MP Karin Smyth has stated that she is also no fan of the system. She has made it plain that she is not criticising Marvin’s administration, and is very diplomatic in her comments about his predecessor. But she has described the system as ‘too male’ and believes that the city should go back to being run by the council, whose members were elected and in touch by their local communities. The anti-male sexism aside, I agree with her. There have been studies done of business decision-making that show that while a strong chairman is admired for leadership, collective decision-making by the board actually results in better decisions. And one criticism of Rees’s government in Bristol is that he is not accountable to local representatives and has zero qualms about overruling local communities.

Here’s a few examples: a few years ago there were plans to build a new entertainment stadium in Bristol. This was due to be situated just behind Temple Meads station in an area that is currently being re-developed. It’s a superb site with excellent communications. Not only would it be bang right next to the train station, but it’s also not very far from the motorway. All you have to do if your coming down the M32 is turn left at the appropriate junction and carry on driving and your at Temple Meads in hardly any time at all. But Marvin disagreed, and it wanted it instead located in Filton, miles away in north Bristol.

Then there’s the matter of the house building at Hengrove Park. This is another issue in which Rees deliberately overruled the wishes of local people and the council itself. Rees decided that he wanted so many houses built on the site. The local people objected that not only was it too many, but that his plans made no provision for necessary amenities like banks, shops, doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies and so on. They submitted their own, revised plans, which went before the council, who approved them. If I remember correctly, the local plans actually conformed to existing planning law, which Marvin’s didn’t. But this didn’t matter. Rees overruled it. And I gather that he has also done the same regarding housing and redevelopment in other parts of south Bristol, like nearby Brislington.

Rees definitely seems to favour the north and more multicultural parts of the city over the south. And I’m afraid his attitude comes across as somewhat racist. South Bristol is largely White, though not exclusively. There are Black and Asian residents, and have been so for at least the past forty years. Rees is mixed race, but his own authoritarian attitude to decision making and the reply I got a few years ago from Asher Craig, his deputy-mayor and head of equalities, suggests that he has little or no connection to White Bristolians. When I wrote to Asher Craig criticising her for repeating the claim that Bristol was covering up its involvement in the slave trade, despite numerous publications about the city and the slave trade going all the way back to the ’70s, in an interview on Radio 4, she replied by telling me that I wouldn’t have said that if I’d heard all the interview. She then went on about the ‘One Bristol’ school curriculum she had planned and how that would promote Blacks. It would be diverse and inclusive, which she declared was unfortunately not always true about White men. This is a racial jibe. She may not have meant it as such, but if the roles were reversed, I’m sure it would count as a micro-aggression. And when I wrote to her and Cleo Lake, the Green councillor from Cotham, laying out my criticisms of her motion for Bristol to pay reparations for slavery, I got no reply at all.

A few years ago I also came across a statement from a Labour group elsewhere in the city, stating that Blacks should ally themselves with the White working class, because they did not profit from or support the slave trade. This is probably true historically, but it also reveals some very disturbing attitudes. Support for slavery has become something of a ‘mark of Cain’. If you have an ancestor who supported, you are forever tainted, even if you are the most convinced and active anti-racist. And Critical Race Theory and the current craze for seeking out monuments to anyone with connections to the slave trade, no matter how tenuous, is part of an attitude that suspects all Whites of racism and tainted with complicity in the trade, except for particular groups or individuals. It disregards general issues that affect both Black and White Bristolians, such as the cost of living crisis and the grinding poverty the Tories are inflicting on working people. These problems may be more acute for Black Bristolians, but they’re not unique to them. Working people of all colours and faiths or none should unite together to oppose them as fellow citizens, without qualification. But it seems in some parts of the Labour party in the city, this is not the attitude.

Rees’ overruling of local people in south Bristol does seem to me to come from a certain racial resentment. It seems like it’s motivated by a determination to show White Bristolians that their boss is a man of colour, who can very firmly put them in their place. I may be misreading it, but that’s how it seems to myself and a few other people.

Now I believe that, these criticisms aside, Rees has been good for the city. He was very diplomatic and adroit in his handling of the controversy over the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue, despite the obvious disgust at it he felt as a descendant of West Indian slaves. But Rees ain’t gonna be mayor forever. Indeed, he has said that he isn’t going to run again. There is therefore the distinct possibility that his successor won’t be Labour. And then there’ll be the problem of opposing someone, who always has the deciding vote and can overrule the decisions of the council and the rest of his cabinet.

The people of Bristol voted for the system following a series of deals between different parties to get control of the council, where the individual parties by themselves had no clear majority. It convinced many people that the system allowed them to get into power over the heads of the real wishes of Bristol’s citizens. Now the Lib Dems and the Tories are demanding an end to the system. It’s clearly a matter of self-interest on their part, as obviously they are trying to abolish a Labour administration and the system that supports it.

But I believe that on simple democratic principles the elected mayoralty should go and the city return to government by the council.

Oh yes, and they should start calling it the Council House once again, instead of continuing with Ferguson’s egotistic name for it.

My Objections to the Removal of the African Statue on Stroud’s Town Clock

April 21, 2022

More iconoclasm driven by current sensitivities over historic slavery and contemporary racism. The local news for the Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire area, Points West, reported that Stroud council was expected to vote for the removal of the statue of an African from the town clock. I’m not surprised, as there were demands last year from a local anti-racist group, Stroud Against Racism, demanding its removal, and I really thought it had been taken down already. Stroud’s a small town in Gloucestershire, whose historic economy I always thought was based on the Cotswold wool trade rather than something more sinister. Stroud Against Racism seems to be a group of mainly young Black people, led by a local artist, who’ve had terrible personal experiences of racism in the town. In an interview on BBC local news, it seemed that they particularly resented the figure as representation of the racist attitudes they’d experienced. They assumed it was a slave and demanded its removal, with one young Black woman complaining about the statue’s grotesque features which she obviously felt were an insulting caricature.

The African ‘Slave’ Figure on Stroud Town Clock

While I entirely sympathise with them for the abuse they suffered as victims of racism and appreciate why they would want the statue removed, I believe it is profoundly mistaken. Firstly, while the local news has been describing the statue as a slave, there’s no evidence that connects it directly to slavery and the slave trade. They know the name of the clockmaker, and that’s it. No evidence has been presented to suggest he had any connection with the slave trade or slavery at all. Further more, there are no marks on the statue to suggest slavery. There are no chains or manacles, as seen in this image of Black African slaves captured by a group of Arab slavers below.

Arab Slave Coffle

Nor does the figure look like the poor souls on sale in this 19th century picture of an American slave market.

American Slave Market

It looks far more like African chief and his people, shown making a treaty with British officers in this painting from 1815, following the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1807.

British Officer Meeting African Chiefs to Make a treaty, 1815

As Europe expanded to colonise and establish trading links with the outside world from the 15th century onwards, so Blacks and other indigenous peoples began to enter European art. Sometimes they were depicted as servants and slaves, but at other times simply as symbols of the exotic. See this picture of the 17th century painting, Vanitas, by Jaques de Gheyn.

Jacques de Gheyn, Vanitas, 17th century

The statue also looks somewhat like the depictions of a Black Brazilian family by the `17th century Dutch artist, Albert Eckhout, between 1641-3. These are part of a series of 8 paintings commissioned by the Dutch governor of Nassau, intended to be anthropological studies of Brazil’s non-White peoples.

Blacks also appear as decorations on the musical instruments of the time. For example, negro heads often adorned the pegboxes of citterns, a 17th century ancestor of the guitar. It therefore seems to me that the statue of the Black African on Stroud’s clock is not that of a slave, but simply of the sculptor’s idea of an indigenous Black African. The modelling isn’t very good, but I suspect this is less due to any animosity on the part of the sculptor than simple lack of artistic training or skill. It’s more an example of folk art, rather than that of someone with a proper academic artistic education.

I therefore think that it’s wrong to assume that the Stroud figure is a slave. The assumption that it is seems to be a result of the general attack on anything vaguely connected to historic slavery and the slave trade following the mass protests in support of Black Lives Matter. It also seems to be directly influenced by the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol, further to the south.

In fact, I believe that rather than suggesting Black degradation and slavery, the statue could be seen in a far more positive light as showing Stroud proudly embracing Blacks as trading partners as well as symbols of exoticism and prosperity.

One Third of Teachers Planning to Leave Over Next Five Years

April 19, 2022

I hope everyone had a great Easter bank holiday weekend. I said I wouldn’t post anything then, partly because a few days earlier I felt too ill but mostly because it was just such a beautiful spring weekend that I didn’t want to spoil it by putting up material that would get me angry and depressed. The weekend has passed, and I’m now ready to tackle the serious issues. But it’s still a beautiful day, or at least it is in Bristol. So if it gets too much, there’s always the sunny spring weather to enjoy for a breather.

One of the headlines I caught a few days ago was that a third of British teachers apparently are planning to leave in the next five years. I’m honestly not surprised. My mother was a junior school teacher and I did my first degree at a teacher training college. And despite what the right-wing press would have us all believe, teachers don’t have it easy.

One of the issues is that both Labour and the Tories have used education as a political football, demanding every more additions to the curriculum and increasing responsibility for teachers while at the same time cutting wages and funding for schools. Teachers don’t just stand in front of whiteboards talking to their pupils about algebra, poetry or whatever the subject is. They also have to mark the students work, as well as run various extracurricular activities like the school sports teams. And the responsibility and the workload seems to have increased during the Covid crisis, as pupils still have to receive an education. And then there’s the appalling fact that, because of the grinding poverty Johnson and the Tories have inflicted on working people, they’ve had to supply free school meals to kids in the summer holidays because otherwise the kids’ families would be able to afford to feed them.

As for the messing around with the curriculum, some of us can still remember when Dave Cameron’s government added so many extra subjects that they couldn’t fit into the school day. Add to this the constant requirement for testing school children and the immense pressure this places on the children as well as the school. I said on this blog a few years ago that there seems to be something in the Tory psyche that wants to crush all the joy out of education. Yes, children should work hard, but they should also be allowed to enjoy school and childhood. The Tory vision of education seems to want to make it just one long round of joyless drudgery. And there are also issues with the league tables the Tories set up to monitor the school performance. Some schools are left near the bottom for no fault of their own. I’m thinking here of those schools serving areas with large immigrant populations, where English isn’t the first language of many of the pupils. These pupils may struggle initially, but then make huge improvements. However, it may still be because of linguistic difficulties and so on that these schools are still below the national average, despite the immense improvement those children may have achieved in the few years they’re there. Improvements that aren’t reflected in the league tables.

And then there’s the problem of pupil behaviour. Depending on the school and the area, this can extremely disruptive and even dangerous. Back in the ’90s, when Private Eye was still worth reading, they did a supplement on teaching reflecting the views and concerns of teachers themselves. Some of them said that they seemed to spend most their lessons simply trying to keep order and they felt they’d achieved something when they actually got around to teaching something. One teacher described meeting parents for a talk about their child coming to school without the proper equipment. The father immediately blamed the mother, who shuddered. Which definitely suggests domestic violence back home. Now there’s the problem of children bringing knives to school and the threat of lethal violence. I remember the case a few years ago when a gang stabbed a headmaster to death outside the school gates after he came to confront them when they turned up looking for one of the pupils. It also seems that female teachers are also at risk from sexist remarks and treatment by pupils. There was a report in the Groan that 70 per cent of teachers had experienced misogyny at work. The feeling among many teachers as reported by the Private Eye article was that they were overworked, harassed and underappreciated. They complained that they received little help for difficult situations with problem pupils from their headmasters. Given all this, I’m not remotely surprised many teachers want to leave.

And if that happens, it’ll take more than trying to turn even more schools into academies or screaming about bringing back grammar schools to restore the education system.

The Republican right in America keep pushing for more state schools to be transformed to charter schools, which I gather is the American equivalent of the academies over here. They also advocated home schooling children. There’s a real, ideological hatred of state education. And the Tories certainly share it, to the point where I’m starting to wonder if the threats of a mass exodus of teachers is all being engineered by them to harm state education over here.

Labour Witch-Hunters Put Me on the Naughty Step

April 9, 2022

I’ve been meaning to put up something about this ever since I got the wretched message from the Labour’s party’s wretched Disputes Team in the Governance and Legal Unit, but didn’t get round to doing so. As some of you may remember, I got a series of emails from the Disputes Team or whoever a little while ago telling me that I was being investigated for anti-Semitism because of a particular blog post. Naturally I argued very strongly against the accusation, and demanded to know the identity of my accusers as per natural justice in a British court of law. I was told they wouldn’t divulge that information, and Labour party investigations aren’t part of the British justice system. This is very true, as the principles of justice that are supposed to animate our legal system are completely foreign to it, as numerous people falsely accused of anti-Semitism can attest.

Several months later, on the 22nd March of this year, 2022, I got the following email from the Labour party. They decided that I had contravened the provisions on anti-Semitism and racism in the party, and that this was hampering the party’s fight against racism! But they haven’t expelled me. No, I’ve been issued with a formal warning, which will stay on my record for 18 months. Here’s the text of their message

Notice of Outcome of Investigation: Formal Warning

We are writing to inform you that the Labour Party (the Party) has concluded its investigation into the allegation that you had breached Chapter 2, Clause I.11 of the Party’s Rule Book (the Rules).

A panel of the National Executive Committee (the NEC Panel) met on 18 March 2022 and considered all of the evidence that the Party put to you and any evidence submitted by you in response.

Summary of the Findings of the NEC Panel

The NEC Panel found on the balance of probabilities, that you posted an article on your blog on 05 December 2020.

The NEC Panel concluded that your conduct was in breach of Chapter 2 Clause I.11 of the Rules. In particular, your conduct undermined the Labour Party’s ability to campaign against racism. In coming to this conclusion, the NEC Panel considered that your conduct contravened the provisions of the Code of Conduct: Antisemitism and other forms of racism.

Taking into account all relevant evidence the NEC Panel concluded that the appropriate outcome is to issue you with this Formal Warning pursuant to Chapter 2, Clause I.1.D.iii of the Rules.

The NEC Panel wishes to make clear that your conduct has fallen short of the high standards expected of Party members and to remind you of the importance of behaving consistently with the Rules and Codes of Conduct at all times.

This Formal Warning will remain on your Labour Party membership record for a period of 18 months. If you commit any further breach of the Rules during that period, an NEC Panel may take this Reminder of Conduct and the behaviour that led to it into account in dealing with that breach.

Consequently, any restrictions that the Party may have imposed on your membership rights pending the outcome of this investigation have now ended. This includes any administrative suspension of your membership that may have been in place.

Conduct Expected of Labour Party Members

The Party expects you, in common with all members, to engage in civil, measured discourse, online and offline.

It also expect members to conduct themselves in a manner that avoids any discrimination or harassment on grounds of race, religion or any other protected characteristic inside the party and in wider society and support, and not to undermine, the Labour Party’s ability to campaign against all forms of racism and prejudice.

Members of the Party agree not to engage in any conduct that is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party. This includes any conduct that demonstrates hostility or prejudice based on a protected characteristic; sexual harassment; bullying or intimidation; and unauthorised disclosure of confidential information.

Members must also comply with the provisions of the NEC’s Codes of Conduct, which are publicly available online here:

The Party urges you to read the NEC’s Codes of Conduct carefully and bear them in mind whenever you are involved in Labour Party activities and in discussion and debate, online and offline, about political issues and ideas.

Yours sincerely,

Disputes Team

Governance and Legal Unit

The Labour Party

c.c.

Labour South West’

I’ve been late posting anything up about this because my reaction to it is that of Catherine Tate’s schoolgirl Lauren: ‘Am I bovvered? Do I look bovvered? I ain’t bovvered’. I was expecting to be thrown out, as so many excellent people have been before me. Indeed, considering the calibre of people purged or accused of alleged anti-Semitism, like Mike, Martin Odoni, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Mark Chilson, Marc Wadsworth, Asa Winstanley, Moshe Machover and far too many others, it’s almost a badge of honour to be included with them.

None of them are or have been in any way racist or anti-Semitic. And neither was the blog post that so offended someone that they felt they just had to complain about me. The post criticised Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. This is the state of Israel, not Jews and not Israelis either. Through reading material by Jews critical of Israel, like Tony Greenstein’s and David Rosenberg’s blogs, as well as Ilan Pappe’s 12 Myths About Israel, as well as online presentations by the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, it’s massively apparent that there are very many Jews and Israelis who despise the Israeli state’s decades long ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Arabs. The Jewish people have never been a homogenous, monolithic group. The Talmud, Judaism’s second holy book, contains the records of disputes over the Law by the sages and great rabbis of antiquity. Quite often these disputes ended with ‘and so they differed’. It’s no different today. There is a wide diversity in Jewish belief, observance and political and social attitudes, just as there is in every community. However, former president Netanyahu and the Israel lobby would like us all to believe that all Jews everywhere are citizens of Israel and passionately support it, to the extent that any criticism of the country is a terrible assault on their identity. Which isn’t necessarily the case. American Jewish young people are becoming increasingly less interested, even opposed, to Israel. One American Jewish vlogger put up a video stating that he found it ridiculous that he somehow had a right to settle in a country he’d never visited – he came from Anchorage, Alaska, while his Palestinian friend, who was born there, was forbidden to return. In fact, far from speaking for the majority of British Jews, organisations like the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Chief Rabbinate don’t speak for anyone except the United Synagogue, which is only one of a variety of Jewish denominations. But the Board and the Chief Rabbis were very vocal in the anti-Semitism smear campaign against the Labour party and specifically against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. Despite the sectarian nature of their support, they did their level best to present themselves falsely as the true voice of British Jews, speaking for the majority.

As for the specific charges against me, I was accused of anti-Semitism because I said that before the Second World War Zionism was a minority position among European Jews. It was. Pappe’s book, and Tony Greenstein’s and David Rosenberg’s blogs have made it very clear that it was, quoting chapter and verse from scholarly studies of Jewish history. The majority of European Jews wished to remain proud citizens of the countries in which they were born, with equal rights and respect as their gentile fellow countrymen. Ditto for Jewish Americans. As late as 1969 one of the Jewish Zionist magazines lamented that there was little interested in Israel among Jewish Americans.

My anonymous accusers also disliked me stating that all ideologies should be open to examination and criticism. Well, they should. There is nothing anti-Semitic in that. It’s one of the cornerstones of real political freedom. Presumably this alarmed them because it means that Zionism should also be examined and criticised. Which is true. Zionism, as I’ve also pointed out, is a political ideology. It is not synonymous with Jews or Judaism. In fact for many years it was just the opposite. The return of the Jews to Israel was first proposed by Christians wishing to hasten Christ’s return, long before Theodor Herzl and Jewish Zionism. Even now the largest Zionist group in America is Pastor Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. It was also supported by real anti-Semites, like Richard Wagner and the various European Fascist parties before the Second World War as a way of removing them from their countries.

I also blotted my copybook defending awkward historical facts, which had resulted in the witch-hunters accusing other Labour party members of anti-Semitism. Ken Livingstone was smeared and then thrown out as an anti-Semite, because the Commie newt-fancier dared to state that Hitler supported Zionism. This is factually correct. It was the short-lived Ha’avara Agreement, in which the Nazis covertly supported the smuggling of Jewish Germans to Palestine. It’s in mainstream histories of Nazism and the Jews, and is mentioned on the website of the Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem. But it does not support the myth the Zionists have constructed to present themselves as devoid of any collaboration with the Nazis.

Now let’s dismantle the Labour party’s statement that, because of my blog post criticising Zionism, I am harming the party’s efforts to fight racism. The simple answer is ‘No’, to the point where recent events in the Labour party make this sound like a sick, unfunny joke. The majority of the witch-hunt’s victims have been self-respecting Jews like Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein, to the point that they comprise 4/5 of those purged. From this angle, it very much looks like it’s the witch hunters who are motivated by a sectarian anti-Jewish prejudice. Because peeps like Jackie and Tony ain’t the right kind of Jews. Marc Wadsworth, another victim, is Black and has campaigned tirelessly against racism. He got Stephen Lawrence’s family to meet Nelson Mandela, and in the ’80s worked with the Board to put in place legislation against real anti-Semitic attacks by the BNP in the East End. But they accused him of anti-Semitism and so had him purged.

At the moment, the Labour party is losing many of its Black and Asian members. Some of this is undoubtedly for the same reasons the party’s losing members generally: the party no longer represents the genuinely popular polices put forward by Jeremy Corbyn, policies that inspired so many to join the party that under Corbyn’s leadership it became the largest socialist party in Europe. But there’s also been a rise in anti-Black and anti-Asian racism in the Labour party as well as islamophobia under Starmer. Black and Asian MPs and activists like Diane Abbott were bullied and racially abused. One third of Muslim members say they have encountered islamophobia. But Starmer has done absolutely nothing about this. And the reason is simple:

He doesn’t care.

Starmer describes himself as ‘100 per cent Zionist’. The people he wishes to appease is the Israel lobby, and so avoid the same charges of anti-Semitism that brought down Corbyn. He does not seem to care about racism against Blacks or Asians or hostility and prejudice against Muslims. And the party’s attitude to what it considers to be anti-Semitic is highly partisan.

Starmer has been using fake charges of anti-Semitism to purge the Labour left, and so make the Blairite grip on it permanent and unchallengeable. Blair did something similar when he was in power. He ignored the left and traditional Labour voters in favour of middle class, Thatcherite swing voters. He assumed that traditional Labour voters and supporters would continue supporting the party because they had nowhere else to go. As a result, many Labour supporters stopped voting, so that even when he won elections, the percentage of people voting Labour actually declined. Some of the party’s working class supporters may have gone over to UKIP, whose supporters were largely older working class Whites who felt left behind and ignored by the existing parties.

And today there are a number of competing parties. A poll a few months ago found that there would be massive support for a new party led by Jeremy Corbyn. A number of left-wing organisations are considering allying to form a competing party, not to mention the Trades Union and Socialist Alliance, which has been around for years. And the Green Party is also growing in popularity. At the moment it’s only just behind Labour in the number of seats it holds on Bristol city council. I’m sure it’s similar in other cities up and down the country.

Starmer’s playing a very dangerous game with his purges, because rather than people keeping on voting and joining Labour because there’s nowhere else, they may very well join or set up rival parties.

This could destroy the Labour party, but I really doubt Starmer and his allies care, just as long as they retain control of the party. And it doesn’t matter how many decent people they purge and smear as anti-Semites, Communists, Trotskyites or whatever.