Posts Tagged ‘Buses’

Blairite MP Siobhain Mcdonagh Claims Anti-Capitalists Anti-Semitic

March 5, 2019

The Nye Bevan News blog reported yesterday that Blairite Labour MP Siobhain Mcdonagh had appeared on Radio 4 that morning, 4th March 2019, and told presenter John Humphreys that the anti-capitalists in the Labour party were anti-Semitic. Humphrey had asked her if the party was taking anti-Semitism seriously. She replied

I’m not sure that some people in the Labour party can, because it’s very much part of their politics – of hard left politics – to be against capitalists, and to see Jewish people as the financers of capital.

Humphreys then asked her if you had to be anti-Semitic to be anti-capitalist. She replied

Yes. Not everybody, but absolutely, there’s a certain strand of it and these people are not Labour, have never been Labour but we now find them in our party.

Humphreys then asked her if they didn’t become Labour when they joined the party. To which she gave the following answer

Not as far as I see it. I believe that the Labour party has a very strong set of values related to how we see society should be run and about being anti-racist, which they cannot be part of. 

The MP went on talk about Jenny Formby not releasing the figures for anti-Semitic incidents in the Labour party, although the Nye Bevan News blog notes that Formby had actually done so some time ago. She also criticised Formby for saying she reported to the NEC, not Labour MPs, and praised Tom Watson for wanting to interfere with the process, despite them being against data protection rules.

The article concluded:

It is clearly very problematic and actually borders upon anti-semitism in itself to immediately make the association between Jewish people and banking/financing – repeating an anti-semitic trope on national radio is appalling.

See: https://nyebevannews.co.uk/labour-mp-siobhain-mcdonagh-to-be-anti-capitalism-is-to-be-anti-semitic/

Martin Odoni, a Jewish Labour party member and dedicated anti-racist, is in absolutely no doubt that Mcdonagh’s comments were anti-Semitic. He posted a template email on his website requesting Jenny Formby suspend Mcdonagh pending a full investigation. He points out that not only would many Jews find the implication of her claim that anti-capitalism is anti-Semitic, that Jews are therefore bourgois and capitalistic, not just offensive but also anti-Semitic under the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism that the party has adopted. She is also to be suspended because her endorsement of Watson’s demands to see personal information in order to interfere in anti-Semitism cases, which contravenes data protection laws, is therefore solicitation to commit a criminal act.

See: https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/suspend-siobhan-mcdonagh-from-the-labour-party-with-immediate-effect-template/

Now it’s true that you can find examples of disgusting anti-Semitism in the views of leading socialists, communists and anarchists from Marx onwards. But the view that Jews equal capitalism, and particularly financial capitalism isn’t the view of socialists and anti-capitalists, but that of fascists and Nazis. The ideology George Orwell described as ‘the socialism of fools’. But the smear that socialism and anti-capitalism is innately anti-Semitic is that of the transatlantic extreme right in books such as Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. It is also being pushed by the Republicans in America and the Tories over here as a means of defending the super-rich one per cent from criticism. This is the section of predominantly western society that own capital and industry, and who demand the policies of privatisation, welfare cuts, job insecurity and the reduction of the tax burden on them that are causing so much misery and poverty across the world. But for the right, criticism of the one per cent is absolutely forbidden. It’s anti-Semitic, you see, because of the way the Nazis equated the Jews with the rich and finance capitalism. But when socialists, communists, anarchists and other anti-capitalists, as well as genuine liberals, talk about the 1 per cent and their destructive policies, they mean the global elite regardless of colour, race or religious affiliation. They do not mean ‘Jews’.

It’s the same tactics the right used to try to defend bankers from criticism a few years ago, when they were all giving themselves massive bonuses after the crash at the expense of the rest of us, who had to bail them out. They used the same tactic, saying that if you were criticising the bankers and demanding their punishment, you were a Nazi. Because Jews equal bankers to anti-Semites. But again, only Nazis and Fascists equate Jews with banking, and the left-wingers demanding punishment for bankers were demanding it for those, who had caused the crash, regardless of their race or religion.

Mcdonagh is clearly, at heart, a Red Tory, who has taken over these views, and is desperately keen to preserve the present, corrupt system and its enrichment of the few at the cost of the impoverishment of the many.

She’s also at the same time pushing the lie that Blair and his followers represent the real Labour party and those further to the left are communist or Trotskyite entryists. But it was Blair, who was the real entryist. He was a Thatcherite, who removed Labour’s commitment to socialism and was determined to follow Thatcher’s agenda of privatisation, destruction of the welfare state and creating a fluid Labour market. Which meant creating job insecurity. Traditional Labour party members, who wanted a genuinely mixed economy, we forced out of positions of leadership in the party. Many ordinary members left. Corbyn, with his policies of nationalising the utilities, renationalising the NHS, restoring trade union power and extending workers’ rights, represents solid traditional Labour party values. They values and policies that gave us thirty years of growth and prosperity after the War.

And then there’s her views of Labour party anti-racism. Well, Tony Benn was genuinely one of the most anti-racist MPs, giving his wholehearted support to the boycott of Bristol Bus Company by Black Bristolians because of its refusal to employ non-Whites. And he was a staunch advocate of a mixed economy, industrial democracy, trade unions and everything that Mcdonagh, as a Blairite, fears and despises. As is Ken Livingstone, whose leadership of the GLC was reviled and hated by the Tories as a centre of ‘political correctness’. The campaign against racism by Labour party members began long before Blair took over.

And as for the Blairites’ own attitudes towards racism, Tony Greenstein has pointed out their hypocrisy in a post on his blog this morning. He contrasted Watson’s and the others’ screams about supposed anti-Semitism with their total indifference over May’s victimisation of immigrants and the deportation of the Windrush migrants and their children.

As a Blairite, Mcdonagh is just another disloyal intriguer smearing those who really stand for traditional Labour values and real anti-racism – not just against the hatred and persecution of Jews, but also against that of Blacks, Asians and particularly Muslims. Her claim that anti-capitalism is identical with anti-Semitism is nothing but an attempt to defend the exploitative rich against those who want real change. She should apologise immediately, or reconsider her position in the party.

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Book on Industrial Democracy in Great Britain

January 12, 2019

Ken Coates and Anthony Topham, Industrial Democracy In Great Britain: A Book of Readings and Witnesses for Workers Control (MacGibbon & Kee, 1968).

This is another book I got through the post the other day. It’s a secondhand copy, but there may also be newer editions of the book out there. As its subtitle says, it’s a sourcebook of extracts from books, pamphlets, and magazine and newspaper articles on workers’ control, from the Syndicalists and Guild Socialists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, through the First World War, the General Strike and the interwar period, the demands for worker participation in management during the Second World War and in the industries nationalized by Clement Attlee’s 1945 Labour government. It also covers the industrial disputes of the 1950s and ’60s, including the mass mobilization of local trade unions in support of four victimized workers evicted from the homes by management and the Tories. These later extracts also include documents from the workers’ control movements amongst the bus workers and dockers, establishing works councils and laying out their structure, duties and operating procedure.

The book’s blurb reads

The issue of workers’ control in British industry is once more n the air. As a concept, as something still to be achieved, industrial democracy has a long and rich history in fields outside the usual political arenas. The newly-awakened movement that revives the wish to see workers given a voice in business affairs is, in this book, given its essential historical perspective. From the days of ‘wage-slavery’ we might at last be moving into a period of fully-responsible control of industry by those who make the wealth in this country. While this notion has generally been scoffed at – by working class Tories as much as members of the capitalist groups – there is now a formidable body of evidence and thought to give it substance and weight.

The editors’ theme is treated in four main sections: the first covers the years from 1900 to 1920, when people like Tom Mann, James Connolly, G.D.H. Cole were re-discovering ideas of syndicalism, industrial unionism, guild socialism and so on. The second traces the development of the shop stewards’ movement on the shop floors. Much of this material is especially interesting so far as the period 1941 – 45 is concerned. Section three deals with the nationalized industries’ relations to unions, and here the centre of interest lies in the relations between the unions and Herbert Morrison in the thirties and beyond. The last section deals with the re-invigorated growth of the post-war efforts to establish some form of workers’ control. It is the conviction of their editors that the movement they document so thoroughly has only just begun to develop seriously and it is therefore something that both business and political parties will have to take increasing account of. The book is both anthology and guide to one of the important issues of our time.

After the introduction, it has the following contents.

Section 1: Schools for Democrats
Chapter 1: Forerunners of the Ferment

1 Working Class Socialism: E.J.B. Allen
2. Industrial Unionism and Constructive Socialism: James Connolly
3. The Miners’ Next Step: Reform Committee of the South Wales Miners, 1912
4. Limits of Collective Bargaining: Fred Knee
5. Forging the Weapon: Tom Mann
6. The Servile State: Hilaire Belloc
7. Pluralist Doctrine: J.N. Figgis
8. The Spiritual Change: A.J. Penty
9. The Streams Merge?: M.B. Reckitt and C.E. Bechofer
10. Little Groups Spring Up: Thomas Bell

Chapter 2. Doctrines and Practice of the Guild Socialists

1.The Bondage of Wagery: S.G. Hobson and A.R. Orage
2. State and Municipal Wagery: S.G. Hobson and A.R. Orage
3. Collectivism, Syndicalism and Guilds: G.D.H. Cole
4 Industrial Sabotage: William Mellor
5 The Building Guilds: M.B. Reckitt and C.E. Bechhofer
6 Builders’ Guilds: A Second view: Raymond Postgate

Chapter 3 How Official Labour met the Guild Threat

1 Democracies of Producers: Sydney and Beatrice Webb
2 ‘… In no Utopian Spirit’: J. Ramsay MacDonald

Chapter 4 Eclipse of the Guilds and the Rise of Communism

1 In Retrospect: G.D.H. Cole
2 Revolution and Trade Union Action: J.T. Murphy
3 Action for Red Trade Unions: Third Comintern Congress, 1921

Section II: Shop Stewards and Workers’ Control; 1910-64

Chapter 1 1910-26

1 Shop Stewards in Engineering: the Forerunners: H.A. Clegg, Alan Fox, and E.F. Thompson
2 The Singer Factory: The Wobblies’ First Base: Thomas Bell
3 A Nucleus of Discontent: Henry Pelling
4 The Sheffield Shop Stewards: J.T. Murphy
5 The Workers’ Committee: J.T. Murphy
6 The Collective Contract: W. Gallacher and J. Paton
7 Politics in the Workshop Movement: G.D.H. Cole
8 The Shop Stewards’ Rules: N.S.S. & W.C.M.
9 The Dangers of Revolution: Parliamentary Debates H. of C.
10 What Happened at Leeds: the Leeds Convention 1917
11 A Shop Stewards’ Conference: Thomas Bell
12 After the War: Dr B. Pribicevic
13 An Assessment: Dr B. Pribicevic
14 Prelude to Unemployed Struggles: Wal Hannington
15 Defeat; The 1922 Lock-out: James B. Jefferys
16 Shop Stewards on the Streets: J.T. Murphy
17 T.U.C. Aims: T.U.C. Annual Report 1925
18 ‘The Death Gasp of that Pernicious Doctrine’: Beatrice Webb

Chapter 2 1935-47

1 ‘… The Shop Stewards’ Movement will Re-Appear’: G.D.H. Cole
2 Revival; The English Aircraft Strike: Tom Roberts
3 London Metal Workers and the Communists: John Mahon
4 The Communists’ Industrial Policy: CPGB 14th Congress, 1937
5 ‘… A Strong Left Current’; John Mahon
6 Shop Stewards against Government and War: National Shop-Stewards’ Conference, 1940
7 The A.E.U. and the Shop Stewards’ Movement: Wal Hannington
8 For Maximum Production: Walter Swanson and Douglas Hyde
9 Joint Production Committees: Len Powell
10 The Employers Respond: Engineering Employers’ Federation
11 How to get the Best Results: E & A.T.S.S.N.C.
12 The Purpose of the Joint Production Committees: G.S. Walpole
13 A Dissident Complaint: Anarchist Federation of Glasgow, 1945
14 The Transformation of Birmingham: Bert Williams
15 Factory Committees; Post-War Aims: J.R. Campbell
16 After the Election: Reg Birch
17 Official View of Production Committees: Industrial Relations Handbook
18 Helping the Production Drive: Communist Party of Great Britain

Chapter 3 1951-63

1 Post-war Growth of Shop Stewards in Engineering: A.T. Marsh and E.E. Coker
2 Shop-Steward Survey: H.A. Clegg, A.J. Killick and Rex Adams
3 The Causes of Strikes: Trades Union Congress
4 The Trend of Strikes: H.A. Turner
5 Shop-Stewards and Joint Consultation: B.C. Roberts
6 Joint Consultation and the Unions: Transport and General Workers’ Union
7 Strengths of Shop-Steward Organisation: H.M.S.O.
8 Activities of Shop-Stewards: H.M.S.O.
9 Local Bargaining and Wages Drift: Shirley Lerner and Judith Marquand
10 The Motor Vehicle Industrial Group and Shop-Stewards’ Combine Committees: Shirley Lerner and Judith Marquand
11. Ford Management’s view of Management: H.M.S.O.
12. The Bata Story: Malcolm MacEwen
13 Fight against Redundancy: Harry Finch
14 How They Work the Trick: Ford Shop Stewards
15 I work at Fords: Brian Jefferys
16 The Origins of Fawley: Allan Flanders
17 Controlling the Urge to Control: Tony Topham

Section III: Industrial Democracy and Nationalization

Chapter 1 1910-22

1 State Ownership and Control: G.D.H. Cole
2 Towards a Miner’s Guild: National Guilds League
3 Nationalization of the Mines: Frank Hodges
4 Towards a National Railway Guild: National Guilds League
5 Workers’ Control on the Railways: Dr B. Pribicevic
6 The Railways Act, 1921: Philip Bagwell

Chapter 2 1930-35

1 A Re-Appraisal: G.D.H. Cole
2 A works Council Law: G.D.H. Cole
3 A Fabian Model for Workers’ Representation: G.D.H. Cole and W. Mellor
4 Herbert Morrison’s Case: Herbert Morrison
5 The Soviet Example: Herbert Morrison
6 The T.U.C. Congress, 1932: Trades Union Congress
7 The Labour Party Conference, 19332: The Labour Party
8 The T.U.C. Congress, 1933: Trades Union Congress
9 The Labour Party Conference, 1933: The Labour Party
10 The Agreed Formula: The Labour Party

Chapter 3 1935-55

1 The Labour Party in Power: Robert Dahl
2 The Coal Nationalization Act: W.W. Haynes
3 George Brown’s Anxieties: Parliamentary Debates H. of C.
4 Cripps and the Workers: The Times
5 Trade Union Officials and the Coal Board: Abe Moffatt
6 Acceptance of the Public Corporation: R. Page Arnot
7 No Demands from the Communists: Emmanuel Shinwell
8 We Demand Workers’ Representation: Harry Pollitt
9 The N.U.R. and Workers’ Control: Philip Bagwell
10 The Trade Unions take Sides: Eirene Hite
11 Demands for the Steel Industry: The Labour Party
12 The A.E.U. Briefs its Members: Amalgamated Engineering Union
13 Making Joint Consultation Effective: The New Statesman
14 ‘Out-of-Date Ideas’: Trades Union Congress
15 A Further Demand for Participation: The Labour Party

Chapter 4 1955-64

1 Storm Signals: Clive Jenkins
2 The Democratization of Power: New Left Review
3 To Whom are Managers Responsible?: New Left Review
4 Accountability and Participation: John Hughes
5 A 1964 Review: Michael Barratt-Brown

Section IV: The New Movement: Contemporary Writings on Industrial Democracy

Chapter 1 The New Movement: 1964-67

1 A Retreat: H.A. Clegg
2 ‘We Must Align with the Technological Necessities…’ C.A.R. Crosland
3 A Response: Royden Harrison
4 Definitions: Workers’ Control and Self-Management: Ken Coates
5 The New Movement: Ken Coates
6 The Process of Decision: Trades Union Congress
7 Economic Planning and Wages: Trades Union Congress
8 Seeking a Bigger Say at Work: Sydney Hill
9 A Plan for a Break-through in Production: Jack Jones
10 A Comment on Jack Jones’ Plan: Tony Topham
11 Open the Books: Ken Coates
12 Incomes Policy and Control: Dave Lambert
13 Watch-dogs for Nationalized Industries: Hull LEFT
14 Revival in the Coal Industry: National Union of Mineworkers
15 Workers’ Control in Nationalized Steel Industry: The Week
16 Workers’ Control in the Docks: The Dockers’ Next Step: The Week
17 The Daily Mail Takes Notes: The Daily Mail
18 Labour’s Plan for the Docks: The Labour Party
19 Municipal Services: Jack Ashwell
20 The Party Programme: The Labour Party
21 Open the Shipowners’ Books!: John Prescott and Charlie Hodgins
22 A Socialist Policy for the Unions. May Day Manifesto

The book appropriately ends with a conclusion.

The book is clearly a comprehensive, encyclopedic treatment of the issue of workers’ control primarily, but not exclusively, from the thinkers and workers who demanded and agitated for it, and who occasionally succeeded in achieving it or at least a significant degree of worker participation in management. As the book was published in 1968, it omits the great experiments in worker’s control and management of the 1970s, like the Bullock Report, the 1971 work-in at the shipbuilders in the Upper Clyde, and the worker’s co-ops at the Scottish Daily News, Triumph of Meriden, Fisher Bendix in Kirkby, and at the British Aircraft Company in Bristol.

This was, of course, largely a period where the trade unions were growing and had the strength, if not to achieve their demands, then at least to make them be taken seriously, although there were also serious setbacks. Like the collapse of the 1922 General Strike, which effectively ended syndicalism in Great Britain as a mass movement. Since Thatcher’s victory in 1979 union power has been gravely diminished and the power of management massively increased. The result of this has been the erosion of workers’ rights, so that millions of British workers are now stuck in poorly paid, insecure jobs with no holiday, sickness or maternity leave. We desperately need this situation to be reversed, to go back to the situation where working people can enjoy secure, properly-paid jobs, with full employments rights, protected by strong unions.

The Tories are keen to blame the unions for Britain’s industrial decline, pointing to the disruption caused by strikes, particularly in the industrial chaos of the 1970s. Tory propaganda claims that these strikes were caused by irresponsible militants against the wishes of the majority of working people. You can see this view in British films of the period like Ealing’s I’m All Right Jack, in which Peter Sellars played a Communist union leader, and one of the Carry On films set in a toilet factory, as well as the ’70s TV comedy, The Rag Trade. This also featured a female shop-steward, who was all too ready to cry ‘Everybody out!’ at every perceived insult or infraction of agreed conditions by management. But many of the pieces included here show that these strikes were anything but irresponsible. They were a response to real exploitation, bullying and appalling conditions. The extracts dealing with the Ford works particularly show this. Among the incidents that provoked the strike were cases where workers were threatened by management and foremen for taking time off for perfectly good reasons. One worker taken to task by his foreman for this had done so in order to take his sick son to hospital.

The book shows that workers’ control has been an issue for parts of the labour movement since the late nineteenth century, before such radicalism because associated with the Communists. They also show that, in very many cases, workers have shown themselves capable of managing their firms.

There are problems with it, nevertheless. There are technical issues about the relative representation of unions in multi-union factories. Tony Benn was great champion of industrial democracy, but in his book Arguments for Socialism he argues that it can only be set up when the workers’ in a particular firm actually want, and that it should be properly linked to a strong union movement. He also attacks token concessions to the principle, like schemes in which only one workers’ representative is elected to the board, or works’ councils which have no real power and are outside trade union control or influence.

People are becoming increasingly sick and angry of the Tories’ and New Labour impoverishment and disenfranchisement of the working class. Jeremy Corbyn has promised working people full employment and trade union rights from the first day of their employment, and to put workers in the boardroom of the major industries. We desperately need these policies to reverse the past forty years of Thatcherism, and to bring real dignity and prosperity to working people. After decades of neglect, industrial democracy is back on the table by a party leadership that really believes in it. Unlike May and the Tories when they made it part of their elections promises back in 2017.

We need the Tories out and Corbyn in government. Now. And for at least some of the industrial democracy workers have demanded since the Victorian age.

Helping Labour to Win in the Countryside: Financial Support to Farmers

December 16, 2018

A year or so ago Mike over at Vox Political asked what could be done to enable the Labour party to win in the countryside. It’s a good question, as Britain’s rural areas tend to be Tory/Liberal strongholds. The countryside is in crisis. We have seen a number of agricultural crises force small farmers out of business, while at the same time local people are being forced out of their villages because they are unable to afford the house prices there, as housing is bought up by rich outsiders. Local services in these areas are also being cut back. Bus companies have reduced the services to rural areas, post offices, pubs and banks are closing around the country, not only in rural areas but also in towns. This also hits local businesses, and so the small businesses in these areas may also be forced to fold. The danger is that if these trends continue, Britain’s countryside and villages may decline from real, living communities to dormer suburbs consisting of retirement accommodation for the rich.

Brexit may also have an impact on this process. At the moment farmers are, or have been supported by a number of subsidies from central government and the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy. Any subsidies from the EU may vanish if and when we leave the EU. How then can we save our farmers from bankruptcy?

Some indication of how this may be done could come from Roosevelt’s New Deal, as described by John Strachey in his A Programme for Progress (London: Victor Gollancz 1940). In it, Strachey discusses how the Roosevelt administration tried to give help for farmers by reducing the rate of interest on their mortgages and extending credit to them. Strachey writes

It was not, then, mainly by means of transforming the Reconstruction Finance Corporation from being an agency for the relief of big business in distress to a method of providing cheap credit to the American people generally, that the Roosevelt administration began to show it progressive character. It did so rather by a variety of methods of both lending and of spending (distributing money) directly to various sections of the community. Let us pass these methods in review.

The American government began in 1933 to distribute money to two classes of the population-namely the farmers and the unemployed. In the case of the farmers the Government not only spent (i.e. distributed money), but also lent. The farmers were dealt with by the Farm Relief Act which the President signed on May 12th, 1933. This Act was in two parts. The first part set up the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. The Second part, called “The Emergency Farm Mortgage Act of 1933”, was designed to reduce the rate of interest paid by farmers on their mortgages. The principle on which they Agricultural Adjustment Administration, or A.A.A., worked is well known. Substantial payments were made to farmers on condition that they restricted their production of all the basic farm crops and products in accordance with the directions of the Department of Agriculture. The money for these payments did not, however, come out of the Federal Treasury as such, but was raised by a special processing tax, imposed up0on the output of these same farm products as they passed on their way to the consumer.

The second part of the Act established the Farm Credit Administration, to which farmers could apply for loans with which to pay off their existing mortgages. This measure appears to have resulted in a reduction of the interest rates paid by farmers from over 5 per cent to 3 1/2 per cent. Moreover, the average period of these government loans was raised to thirty years, instead of the five years, which was the average period during which the private loans had to be paid off. By September 1934 these government credit agencies held 37 per cent of the farm mortgage debt of the country. This, the less spectacular part of the Act, is often forgotten. But its effect has been of great importance, since it has driven down the whole structure of interest rates on farm mortgages. It affords a model example of the use of government credit to depress interest rates at a particular important point. (pp. 188-9).

I am not saying that this precise policy needs to be introduced, as I understand that at the moment interest rates are low and that, if this country does suffer food shortages due to loss of imports following Brexit, we may need our farmers to increase production rather than reduce it. But it is an example of the general type of policy that may need to be put into practice to regenerate the countryside: aid to farmers and country dwellers to be able to buy their properties and maintain them as proper communities in which people live and work.

Bonfire Night Fun as Effigy of Boris Goes Up in Flames

November 6, 2018

I hope everyone had a great Bonfire Night yesterday or at the weekend. And that if you have pets, I hope they were safe and well, and not frightened too much by the noises.

This weekend, the famous Edenbridge Bonfire Society chose Boris Johnson as the subject of their celebrity guy to be burnt on the bonfire. This is a short video posted by RT UK on YouTube yesterday, November 5th 2018 of the event with a few comments from some of the organisers.

One woman explains that they have a celebrity effigy who appears on their field every year, the celebrity effigy gets voted by the public and what happens is all the votes, all the nominations get put forward get discussed in a committee meeting and a decision is made. And this year they have Boris Johnson who perhaps made one gaffe too many and that’s why he has ended up in their effigy hall of fame.

Another woman wearing an enormous pink hat and a dress adorned with poppies, which are also painted on the side of her face, also explains that Boris is a sort of caricature person, by which she means that its really easy to caricature him, because he gives us all these ideas when you google him. As she’s explaining this, there’s a clip of Boris diving for the ball during a football match and coming a cropper. She goes to say that his messy hair is the biggest thing, isn’t it, she asks, before continuing that he’s a keen cyclist so they had to put the helmet in and his funny shorts, and they wanted to put a little bit of Brexit in with the cake and the buses.

RT Video Shows the Awkward Facts about Safid Javid

May 2, 2018

This is another short, excellent little video from RT. It states that its about the uncomfortable facts the media is trying to cover up about this son of a bus-driving dad. When he was working for Deutsche Bank, his annual salary was £3 million a year. He voted 16 times against a tax on bankers’ bonuses. He was responsible for a speech vilifying Momentum as the ‘hard-left Fascist group’. ‘Hard left’ and ‘Fascist’ are contradictions in terms, as Fascism is far right, whatever Tories and American Republicans try to argue. Momentum is actually neither. It’s traditional centre left, Labour’s traditional post-war political stance before the destruction of the social democratic mixed economy and the welfare state under Thatcher. Oh yes, and he was responsible for the government’s failed promises to the Grenfell victims, and just this week warned that the government was about to break another one. They weren’t going to be rehoused any time soon. So much for Tweezer’s claim that they’d all be rehoused within twenty weeks, and it would be a top priority.

In short, Safid Javid is another massively overpaid, corporate banker. Like Rees-Mogg he votes consistently for the benefit of the rich, his own class, and cares nothing for those beneath him. Which includes the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.

He and the rest of the Tories should be sent a message through the council elections tomorrow that people are sick of them, their contempt for ordinary people, their own monstrous, unrestrained greed and their vile treatment of the poor – the victims of Grenfell fire, the members of the Windrush generation they’ve deported, and just about everyone their policies have attacked and reduced to insecurity and misery – the unemployed, the disabled and those on low incomes, who are now having to choose between eating and paying the bills. Vote them out!

‘No Confidence’ Vote Needed Against Racist May’s Betrayal of the Windrush Generation

April 20, 2018

This is another issue that’s so glaringly unjust, I can’t let it go. This week it’s been revealed that Tweezer, when she was Dave Cameron’s Home Secretary, had all the landing permits awarded to the generation of immigrants that came with the Empire Windrush. And not only that, the piece of legislation that specifically protected them from being deported as illegal immigrants, was removed in secret.

How utterly disgraceful!

As a result, the people of that generation, who have every right to live here in the UK, have been denied the proof they need to show it. About 7,600 people have already been deported in ‘secret flights’, many of them shackled in various ways, including leg restraints.

These are men and women, who came to this country to work. They were given the worst, dirtiest and lowest paid jobs that we didn’t want. But we benefited enormously from their hard work and their skills. You think of the various Pakistani doctors and Jamaican nurses, who entered and expanded our health service. Quite apart from all the others, who worked as cleaners, street sweepers, domestic staff, or on the buses. They had to put up with horrific racist abuse. In Bristol there was a colour bar on the buses against employing Blacks. Bristol’s Black citizens launched a campaign against it, which was backed by the great socialist legend himself, Tony Benn. And the Whites, who befriended them could also get abuse and vilification from the racists. One of my aunts had it done to her in the 50s or 60s, because she had a Black friend. It’s commonplace now, and almost completely unremarkable. But at the time people were attacked for having Black friends. Never mind interracial romances and marriages.

It should be very obvious to everyone that these deportations are monstrously unjust, and that the person responsible for them should be sacked. Which would be Theresa May.

May, however, did what Tories always do, and started lying to protected her sorry rear end. First of all she claimed the decision to destroy the documents had been taken in 2009 by Labour. A lie. It was taken by her, a year after in 2010. Then she blamed that convenient scapegoats, civil servants. I’ve absolutely no respect for the upper ranks of the civil servants, many of whom have been promoted way beyond their ability, and seem to be as snobbish and class-ridden as the rest of the establishment. You think of the name of their ‘staff association’ the ‘First Division’. That’s so smug and self-congratulatory, that it just about says it all about the mentality of the people who named it. But civil servants don’t take action except on the authority of ministers. Someone must have told them to do so. And that person was Tweezer.

She’s now got herself into the papers, saying that the decision was wrong, and no-one will be deported. Too late. People have been. And the British public aren’t happy. Mike put up a stream of comments from his Twitter feed from people condemning May’s decision, and the racism that underpinned it.

Yes, racism. The Tories have always been against immigration. I can remember the Mail and Depress railing in the 1980s against the hordes of ‘unassimilable’ immigrants. There was one article I remember in particular, which complained how disgusting it was that Black folks from the Caribbean had a greater right to enter this country than Whites from Canada under the-then immigration rules. And a few days ago I blogged about how I found in Bristol Central Library a book of articles, arguing that the British regarded race as the defining feature of ethnicity, not culture. With contributions from the extreme right-wing Salisbury Review, and journos from the Torygraph, Mail and Express.

One of the best comments I’ve seen from the peeps on Twitter was from Michael Rosen, the children’s poet laureate. He said that May’s demands for documentation, which she had deliberately arranged so that the Windrush people couldn’t provide it, wasn’t Fascist, but was certainly Fascistic. Mr Rosen’s Jewish, and so I’m confident that his family know about this from personal experience of Nazi persecution. As do so many other British Jews.

Mike was so outraged, that he urged people to get on Twitter and demand a ‘no confidence’ vote on May. Absolutely. I totally agree. It’s too early to call a general election, but May should go, because of the immense harm her government is doing to the poor, the disabled, the unemployed, the way they’re destroying the welfare state and privatising the Health Service. And, of course, because of their carefully camouflaged racism. Despite all their smooth assurances, nothing has been done for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. And in fact the Tories have repealed even more fire safety legislation, so that horrific accidents like that are now even more likely.

And then there’s the issue of the vans May sent round, trying to encourage illegal immigrants to hand themselves in. Some Tory called Nick Timothy got on Twitter to claim that May was against them, and that the decision for them was taken when she was absent on holiday.

Well, as the host says on the Beeb panel game, Would I Lie to You, ‘it was a lie’. May wasn’t happy with the message on the vans, but only because they weren’t nasty enough. She thought people might think the Tories were being too soft on illegal immigrants.

Which tells you all you need to know about the Tories, the people who vote for them, and the supporters in the press. Since Thatcher, governments have been desperate to curry favour with them and particularly with Murdoch. Enough’s enough. May’s the racist leader of a racist party, although I know individual Tories, who are very definitely anti-racist. Tories, who will be as shocked at this as people on the Left. The time’s long past that May and the rest of her vile crew were gone.

I back Mike’s call for a ‘no confidence’ vote. She’s a disgrace, and this attack on people, who came here seeking a better life and to make our great country their home, is particularly deplorable. And her wretched decision then also has implications for the children of people, who came here from the EU, after Brexit.

Get her out, before she and her storm troopers humiliate and deport even more decent, law-abiding people.

Boris Back to Lying about Giving Money from Brexit to the NHS

September 19, 2017

Late last week, Boris Johnson threw the Tories into further chaos as he published his own, 4,000 word document outlining his vision for Brexit. It’s clearly another bid for power from someone, who desperately wants to be in the driving seat and doesn’t care what he says or who he betrays to get there. May responded by calling him a ‘backseat driver’ and insisted that she is in control. Well, as people have commented, if she has to say it, then she obviously isn’t.

And Mike the other day put up a piece showing that Johnson is back to repeating the old Brexit lies he used last time. Yup, he’s told the British people once again that we pay £350 million a year to the EU, when with rebates and other considerations it’s far less than that, and in fact Britain has a net benefit from remaining within the European Union. And he’s also trotted out the old lie that some of this money will be spent on the NHS when we come out.

In fact, Johnson and his fellow Brexiteers have absolutely no intention of doing this. No surprise there. They didn’t when Britain narrowly voted to Leave the European Union. Instead, Johnson did what Tories always do, and reneged on the promise. He made a lot of huffing and puffing about not actually having promised to give that money to the NHS, and only said that if we left the EU, some of that money, for example, could be spent on the Health Service.

Despite the fact that the buses that went round the country clearly stated that the money would be spent on the NHS.

Johnson lied. And he’s doing it again.

It’s all part of his cynical maneoevrings to get himself into No. 10. He was a Remainer, until he decided to throw in his lot with Michael Gove. Whom he then betrayed. And how far he really believes that leaving the EU will benefit Britain is a very good question. From the ashen expression on his face when the result came in that Britain, well, really only England, had voted to Leave, he doesn’t believe in it at all.

The man has no principles, and is just cynically repeating an old, tired lie to get himself a bit closer to becoming PM. Don’t be taken in.

Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.

As George Dubya nearly said correctly.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/09/18/boris-johnsons-350-million-eu-claim-is-still-a-lie-no-matter-how-he-dresses-it-up/

Mike’s article is also worth reading for what the folks on Twitter have to say about this latest resurrected falsehood from Johnson. One of the more interesting observations comes from a Beeb journo, who reports that they were under pressure from their bosses to find a positive story about how Brexit would benefit the UK. They couldn’t find any. Eventually, they were going to have to settle for the news that the vaping canisters for e-cigarettes would be bigger. But even that was wrong.

And the piccie Mike uses for that article is also quite fun. It shows one of the buses with Johnson’s infamous lie on its side, stuck halfway up a cliff face.

Which is rather like one of the urban legends that went round in the 1990s, and which got into the pages of Private Eye. According to this tale, American police had found the remains of a chevy out in the Nevada Desert. It seemed the former owner, with a need for speed that went beyond even Jeremy Clarkson’s, had had the bright idea of sticking a JATO engine on his car’s roof. These are small rocket engines that are used to assist air force jets to take off from small runways. This clown forgot just how powerful these engines are, and was completely unprepared for the 8 G acceleration which kicked in when he fired it. According to the story, under its thrust the car left the road and ‘the surly bonds of Earth’, flying five miles before ending its journey by crashing 30 feet up into a cliff face. The impact was so severe that all that was left of the driver was his false teeth.

Fortunately, this story turned out to be untrue. It was a lie, just like Johnson’s porkie about £350 million being paid to the EU, and how that will instead go to the NHS. It never happened, though there isn’t actually anything improbable about the details. Burt Rutan, a former NASA engineer, and the man designing SpaceShip Two for Beardie Branson’s Virgin Galactic, built his own spacecraft, the Volksrocket, for $70,000 using rocket motors that the government had manufactured, then discarded in the local rubbish dump. It shows what private individuals could and are doing in developing space technology, that has the potential to make space vastly more accessible.

As for Johnson, all I can say is that I hope his lies about Brexit, and indeed his entire political ambitions, go the same way as the JATO propelled rocket in the story, and meet a very sudden, and well-deserved end.

Counterpunch on the Dangers of the Driverless Car

July 1, 2017

Ralph Nader in an article posted on Tuesday’s Counterpunch took to task the current hype about driverless cars following a day long conference on them at Washington University’s law school.

Driverless cars are being promoted because sales are cars are expected to flatten out due to car-sharing, or even fall as the younger generation are less inclined to buy them. Rather than actually investing in public transport, the car industry is promoting driverless automobiles as a way of stimulating sales again.

Nader is rightly sceptical about how well such vehicles will perform in the real world. There are 250 million motor vehicles in the US. This means that real driving conditions are way more complicated than the simple routes on which these vehicles are developed and tested. And while the car industry claims that they will be safer than human-driven vehicles, the reality is most people won’t want a car that they can’t control, whose guiding computer can malfunction or which could be hacked into, whether by the manufacturers or others. Along with such vehicles come increased pressure from the manufacturers for less protective regulation for their drivers, passengers and the general American public.

As for developing a driverless car, which can be taken over by its human occupant in an emergency, researchers at MIT have already shown that this won’t work. Instead of producing driverless cars, we’d be better of concentrating on creating vehicles that are safer, more efficient and less harmful to the environment.

He concludes

The driverless car is bursting forth without a legal, ethical and priorities framework. Already asking for public subsidies, companies can drain much-needed funds for available mass transit services and the industry’s own vehicle safety upgrades in favor of a technological will-o’-the-wisp.

He also links to a report by Harvey Rosenfeld into the dangers posed by driverless cars. It’s quite long – 36 pages. This makes it very clear, however, that driverless cars are disastrous. They’re literally a car crash waiting to happen. The report also claims that much of promotion of such vehicles comes from the insurance. Although driverless cars are likely to be much less safe than ordinary cars, the claims that they will be less liable to accidents will allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums for those driving ordinary vehicles.

Driverless cars have been under development since the 1980s, but I can’t see them becoming a viable reality any time soon. Last year the industry proudly announced two types of driverless car, one of which was called the Tesla, after the great Serbian physicist and inventor of Alternative Current. These were withdrawn after accidents in which people were killed.

I have to say, I don’t know anybody who wants one. The various pieces I’ve read about them say that for their owners, using them will actually be quite boring. This is despite the claims that people will be able to read, work or relax instead of driving. But you can do all of that anyway by simply travelling by bus, rail or tube.

Then there’s the threat of unemployment. Two-thirds of all jobs are expected to be lost to automation in the next decade. There are about 40,000 truckers in Britain. That’s 40,000 people, who may lose their jobs if driverless lorries are every produced. And they have been trying to develop them. I can remember Clarkson nearly bursting with excitement while riding in one during an episode of Top Gear a few years ago.

My guess is that the reasons behind their development is far more sinister, and almost certainly connected to the military. For years the military has been trying to develop autonomous, robotic weaponry. I’ve blogged about some of the war robots that have been created and which were featured a few years ago in the popular science magazine, Frontiers. These included various types of jeep, which had been altered so that they carried guns. Such machines have been under development for a very long time. Kevin Warwick, a robotics scientist at Reading University, describes how the US army created a robotic jeep equipped with a machine gun way back in the 1950s. This looks like another step along the way to producing the type of autonomous war robots, which Warwick and some other robotics scientists fear may pose a very real threat to the human race as they become more advanced and their intelligence greater. We are creating war machines very close to the Daleks of Dr. Who or The Terminator franchise.

It also seems to me that the navigation software and computer hardware needed for driverless cars will also find a major general applications in other types of robot. Despite claims by some neuroscientists that the human brain is a load of inefficient ‘kluge’ created by blind evolutionary forces that select for survival, rather than particular skill, cyberneticists have found it very difficult in practice to replicate the way living things, from insects all the way up to humans, actually navigate their way around the world.

Think about the way robots have to work their way around objects. They have to estimate exactly how far away the obstacle is, then work out a path around it, all done using maths. A human, meanwhile, rather than estimating how many steps it takes to the object, and then planning a path of some many steps, precisely laid out, are needed to walk around it, simply does it.

An example of how difficult robots actually find such navigation in practise was given by Warwick when he appeared at the Cheltenham Festival of Science over a decade ago. There’s been a kind of robot Olympics held in Reading. The various competing teams had tried to produce robots that could navigate their own way around the town. Warwick’s team had created a robot with an infrared detector, which would simply follow the light source planted on the back of the human running in front of it. Which to me sounds very much like cheating.

All went swimmingly, until suddenly the robot veered off the road and started shooting off somewhere else entirely, before it collided with something, fell over and stopped. Warwick and his team wondered what happened until it finally occurred to them that the robot had fixed on that big, infrared light source in the sky, the Sun, and ran off trying to pursue that.

This was a decade or so ago. I’ve no doubt that things have improved since, but I doubt that they’ve improved quite so much that driverless cars, or completely autonomous robots, are going to be appearing in the next few years.

And until they do, I shall be very suspicious of the hype.

Real Steampunk Inventions from the Pages of ‘The Engineer’

May 29, 2017

I’ve posted up several pieces this weekend about some of the real inventions of the Victorians, and how they have inspired and resemble the science and machines of steampunk Science Fiction. This is a branch of SF, which imagines what would have happened had the Victorians invented space travel, computers, time machines and were able to journey to parallel worlds. One of the founding works of the genre was William Gibson’s and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine, which was set in an alternative Victorian Britain, which had entered a steam-driven computer age after building Charles Babbage’s pioneering mechanical computer, the Difference Engine of the title.

Some of the most amazing examples of Victorian and Edwardian engineering and technology can be found in the pages of The Engineer. This was the industry’s trade magazine, founded in 1856 by Charles Healey. In 1976 the magazine issued a glossy book celebrating the history of the magazine and the legacy of its founder. The book said of him

Healey has been described as a man of great strength of mind and character who always had ‘a smile, a question, and a penetrating look’. He had financial interests in railways in the Bourdon gauge, and among his many friends were leading men in railway engineering including Robert Stephenson, Isambard Brunel, and Sir William Fairbairn. But there is no evidence Healey used his editorial pages to promote his financial interests.

The magazine’s purpose, as it confessed in January 1916

was to spread the gospel of engineering. ‘Whilst engineering knowledge was the possession of but few men great progress was impossible, and it is the object of the paper to expand and distribute technical and scientific information. In so doing so it may fairly claim to have been a factor of no little importance in the great developments that have taken place during the late 60 years.’

And the magazine celebrated the practical work and achievements of engineers over the more abstract theorising of scientists. The book states

The Engineer pointed out that men of abstract science had done something, ‘but not much for us’. While applied science ‘has done for the physical world everything which science so far provide capable of accomplishing at all – railroads, manufactories, mines, the electric telegraph, chemical factories. And by who is it applied? Why the civil engineer, the mechanical engineer, the mining engineer and the shipbuilder who himself represents an important branch of engineering.

‘The wide earth over, we find the engineer working on principles, dealing with physical truths, using the investigations of those who have preceded him as stepping stones to knowledge, and leaving behind him through each generation mementoes of his labours. Mementoes, the result of a perfect acquaintance with such physical truths as men of the most exalted intellects have discovered-mementoes which will endure when the existence of the “leading journal” has become a matter of history’.

The ’70s were a period of economic depression, and part of the purpose behind the centennial volume was to counteract the mood of the times and inspire a new, fresh generation. The magazine declared

Today, when the economy is depressed, is an opportune moment to produce a book which will remind industry of its glorious past and act as a spur to project it into the future. It will also remind engineers and manufacturers of the power, grace and majesty of engineering.

Very much the same could be said today. Later this week, one of the topical issues programmes on Radio 4 will be discussing Britain’s critical lack of engineers, and asking how more young people can be persuaded to enter the profession. I’ve said in my previous blog posts that one way could be to link it to the interest people have in restoring and repairing motor vehicles, and the cyberpunk milieu of Science Fiction enthusiasts, who design fashions and exotic machines for this Victorian technological age that never was.

Much of the material in the book is about industrial machines and processes, which to most lay people, myself included, probably isn’t that interesting. Such as various types of manufacturing machines, industrial smelters, metal and chemical refining processes, pumping engines and so on. There’s also a chapter on railway engines, which is clearly of interest to steam enthusiasts and the people, who played with Hornby Railway sets when they were children.

But the machines and buildings I find the most interesting, are where the Victorians’ ideas prefigure those of modern technology, both real and in the imagined worlds of SF.

In architecture, the magazines shows two designs for a colossal tower for London, that was intended to rival the Eiffel tower in Paris. One of these shows very clearly the influence of the French structure.

Another was more straightforwardly British in design. Except for its size. It was going to be 1,240 feet.

We’re almost looking here at the soaring tower blocks of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, or indeed, Judge Dredd’s Megacity 1.

Instead of a channel tunnel, a massive bridge was proposed to span La Manche, and link Britain to France.

And to warn ships of dangerous rocks and water, they also designed a floating lighthouse.

As well as normal railways, they also designed an overhead railway and rainwater collector.

The book also showed contemporary illustrations for the steam carriages and buses that were being developed in this period as the first precursors to modern vehicles driven by the internal combustion engine.

This included the Randolph Steam Coach of 1872.

Other vehicles included Goodman’s velocipede of 1868, which could reach the amazing speed of 12 mph, and the Liquid Fuel Company’s steam van of 1985, which was entered in a competition the magazine ran for road carriages.

There was also an illustration of a one horse power road steamer, which could carry two people.

It also included the schematics for another vehicle, the Serpollet Steam Phaeton of 1891.

From this, it looks like a budding car enthusiast could possibly build one of these machines, in the same way people also build their own custom cars, and cyberpunk inspired machines like the one I posted up yesterday.

A Mr Nairn, an engineer from Leith in Scotland, also published his design in 1870 for a three-wheeled steam omnibus.

There was also this illustration of an early motorcycle, Duncan and Superbie’s bike of 1894.

and an early car, Panhard and Lavassor’s two-seater from 1894.

And to show that waiting at traffic lights were also a blight that afflicted the Victorians, there’s an illustration of the traffic signals at Bridge Street in Westminster in 1868.

The Victorians and Edwardians were also experimenting with new ways to move vehicles across ground, such as caterpillar tracks. These included traction engines, such as Ingleton’s Automatic track of 1868. This was engineered to allow the tracks to be raised when the engine reached the end of the field, and needed to make a tight turn.

Even after petrol began to supersede steam in the early 20th century, some firms were still experimenting with caterpillar tracks on the new petrol-driven tractors. The photo below shows the caterpillar tractor and train produced by the Holt Manufacturing Company of Peoria in America.

In some cases, the search for alternative means of locomotion went so far as reinventing the wheel. In 1909 Diplock patented a design for putting ‘walking feet’ on a wheel.

This is interesting, as H.G. Wells’ The Land Ironclads was about warfare conducted using machines some have seen as predicting the tank. The land ironclads of the title, however, are much more like contemporary naval vessels. They are long, contain rows of snipers along their sides. And unlike tanks, they walk across the ground on mechanical legs like vast, mechanical millipedes, somewhat like the Walkers in Star Wars, but with more legs.

The Victorians were also keen to solve the problems of ships navigating shallow waters. Bourne’s Steam Train, proposed in 1858, attempted to solve this problem through using the paddle wheels as terrestrial wheels, allowing the vessel to climb over sandbanks, and the engine could be geared down to provide more power.

It struck me looking at this that if it had been developed further, you’d have had amphibious landing craft like the DUK of World War II.

This was also the age in which people were making their first attempts at flight. One of the bizarre vehicles featured in the book was Carlingford’s aerial chariot of 1854. This was launched from a pole ranging from 6 to 9 feet in height, carried forward by a falling weight. This was like the Wright Brother’s early planes. Unlike the Wrights’, the aerial chariot didn’t have an engine and the pilot tried to crank the propeller by hand.

The magazine also published illustrations of the British military’s experiments with balloons in 1874.

As well as wings, engineers were considering more exotic methods of flight. In 1916 there were a series of designs for planes held aloft by spinning discs. Looking at them, it is hard not to see them as the first predecessors of the helicopter.

As for balloons, this led to the development of dirigibles like the Zeppelin, a 1923 design for which was also published in the magazine’s pages.

Petrol driven cars and motorbikes are now ubiquitous, though there is still great affection and interest in vintage, veteran and historic road vehicles. One businessman in Leckhampton, one of the suburbs of Cheltenham, proudly displayed his early motorcycle from about the time of the First World War in his shop window.

The steam vehicles weren’t as efficient as modern petrol and diesel vehicles. They also faced stiff political opposition from traditional, horse drawn vehicles. Nevertheless, you do wonder what Britain would have been like if these machines had caught on to the point where they were the preferred method of transport, rather than horse-drawn carriages.

And these carriages, and the other machines and designs shown above, still have the potential to fire the imaginations of fans of historic technology, steam enthusiasts, and Cyberpunks. And perhaps, if more people saw some of these machines and their designs, some of them might try to make some of them. This would not only bring them to life, but also possibly inspire more people to take an interest in engineering and the great heritage of invention.

How Labour Can Become a Party of the Countryside

April 2, 2017

Last Thursday Mike put up a piece asking ‘How can Labour become the party of the countryside again?’, following the announcement by the Fabian Society that it was launching a project to investigate ways in which the Labour party could start winning over rural communities in England and Wales. The Society stated that the government had promised to match the subsidies granted to farmers and rural communities under the Common Agricultural Policy until 2020. However, farmers are faced with the devastating prospect of losing access to European markets, while being undercut by cheap foreign imports. Environmental regulations are also threatened, which also affect the continuing beauty of the English and Welsh countryside.

The Society recognises that agriculture isn’t the only issue affecting rural communities. They also suffer from a range of problems from housing, education, transport and the closure of local services. Rural communities pay more for their transport, and are served worst. At the same time, incomes in the countryside are an average of £4,000 lower than in the towns, but prices are also higher. Many market towns, pit villages and other rural communities have been abandoned as their inhabitants have sought better opportunities in the towns.

The Society is asking Labour members in rural communities to fill out a survey, to which Mike’s article is linked, and give their views on how the party can succeed in the countryside.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/28/how-can-labour-become-the-party-of-the-countryside-again/

This is a fascinating project, and if successful would see Labour challenge the Tories and Lib Dems in their heartlands. The Tories in particular seem to see themselves as the party of the countryside since the 18th and 19th centuries, when they represented the Anglican aristocracy, who tried to emphasise the rural traditions of a mythical prosperous ‘merrie England’ against the threat of the towns of the growth of the Liberal middle class.

Mike states that one of the problems he’s faced as a Labour party campaigner in his part of rural Wales is the myth that ‘Labour wants to nationalise farms’. Clearly, this is the part of the same complaint I remembering hearing from middle class children at school that ‘Labour wanted to nationalise everything’. It was to allay these suspicions that Blair went off and got rid of Clause 4 as part of his assault on Labour as the party of the working class. But even before then it was nonsense.

Following Labour’s defeat in the 1950 elections, the party halted its programme of nationalisation. Labour was in any case committed to nationalise only when it was necessary and popular. Thus, Atlee’s government set up the NHS and nationalised the utilities, with very little opposition from the Tories, but did not proceed further. And the Social Democratic section of the party, led by Tony Crosland, argued very strongly against nationalisation on the grounds that it was not only unpopular, but the benefits of nationalisation could be achieved in other ways, such as a strong trade union movement, a welfare state and progressive taxation.

This held sway until the 1970s, when the Keynsian consensus began to break down. Labour’s response in 1973 was to recommend a more comprehensive programme of nationalisation. They put forward a list of 25 companies, including the sugar giant, Tate & Lyle, which they wanted taken into public ownership. How large this number seems to be, it is far short complete nationalisation.

The party was strongly aware of the massive problems the Soviet Union had in feeding its population, thanks to the collectivisation of agriculture. Most of the food produced in the USSR came from the private plots the peasants were allowed on their kholkozy – collective farms. Tito’s government in Yugoslavia had attempted to avoid that by letting the farms remain in private hands. At the same time, only companies that employed more than 20 people were to be nationalised.

Even in the 1930s and 40s I don’t think the nationalisation of farmland was quite an option. Looking through the contents of one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham, I found an old copy of Production for the People, published by the Left Book Club in the 1940s. This explored ways in which Socialists could raise production in industry and agriculture, to the benefit of working people. The section on agriculture was almost wholly devoted to the question of subsidies and suitable government infrastructure to support farmers. I can’t remember there being any mention of nationalisation. The closest the book came was to argue for an expansion of rural cooperatives.

This project may well embarrass the Fabian Society. I’ve got the distinct impression that the Society is now staffed very strongly with Blairites, and it is Blairism as a barely left extension of Thatcherism that is at the heart of so many of the problems of rural communities. Blair, for example, like Major and now the administrations of Cameron and May, strongly supported the big supermarket chains. But the supermarket chains have done immense damage to Britain’s small businessmen and farmers. They force small shopkeepers out of business, and impose very exploitative contracts on their suppliers. See the chapter on them in George Monbiot’s Captive State. Yet national and local governments have fallen over to grant their every wish up and down the country. David Sainsbury even had some place in one of Blair’s quangos. I think he even was science minister, at one point.

If Labour would like to benefit farmers and traders, they could try and overturn the power of the supermarket chains, so that farmers get a proper price for their products and are not faced with the shouldering the costs while Sainsbury’s, Tescos and so on reap all the profits. At the same time, your local shops together employ more people than the local supermarket. So if you cut down on the number of supermarkets in an area, you’d actually boost employment. But this is unlikely to go down well with the Blairites, looking for corporate donations and a seat on the board with these pernicious companies when they retire or lose their seat.

At the same time, rural communities and livelihoods are also under attack from the privatisation of the forestry service. Fracking is also a threat to the environment, as is the Tories campaign against green energy. A number of villages around Britain, including in Somerset, have set up local energy companies generating power from the sun and wind. But the current government is sponsored heavily by the oil and nuclear companies, and so is desperate to close these projects down, just like the Republicans are doing in America.

The same goes for the problems of transport. After Maggie Thatcher decided to deregulate bus services, the new bus companies immediately started cutting unprofitable services, which included those to rural areas. If Labour really wants to combat this problem, it means putting back in place some of the regulations that Thatcher removed.

Also, maintaining rural communities as living towns and villages also means building more houses at prices that people in the countryside can afford. It may also mean limiting the purchase of housing stock as convenient second homes for wealthy urbanites. The Welsh Nats in the ’70s and ’80s became notorious for burning down holiday homes in Wales owned by the English. In actual fact, I think it’s now come out that only a tiny number – perhaps as low as 1 – were actually destroyed by Welsh nationalists. The rest were insurance jobs. But I can remember my Welsh geographer teacher at school explaining why the genuine arsonists were so angry. As holiday homes, they’re vacant for most of the year. The people, who own them don’t live locally, and so don’t use local services, except for the couple of weeks they’re there. Furthermore, by buying these homes, they raise the prices beyond the ability of local people to buy them, thus forcing them out.

This is a problem facing rural communities in England, not just Wales, and there are some vile people, who see nothing wrong with it. I’ve a friend, who was quite involved in local politics down in Somerset. He told me how he’d had an argument on one of the Somerset or rural British websites with a very right-wing, obnoxious specimen, who not only saw nothing wrong with forcing local country people out of their homes, but actually celebrated it. This particular nutter ranted on about how it was a ‘new highland clearances’. I bet he really wouldn’t like to say that in Scotland!

Labour may also be able to pick up votes by attacking the myth of the fox hunting lobby as really representing rural Britain. Well, Oscar Wilde once described them as ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible’. Which about accurately describes them. They were resented in the early 19th century, when some farmers and squires started ‘subscription hunts’. Their members where wealthy urban businessmen, off for a day’s ‘sport’ in the country. At the same time, harsh laws were passed against poaching, which saw starving farm workers transported.

Mike’s put up statistics several times on his blog, which show very much that very many, perhaps even the majority, of rural people do not support fox hunting. And I know people from rural Britain, who actively loathed and detested it. I had a friend at College, who came from Devon. He bitterly hated the Tories and the fox hunters, not least because the latter had ridden down a deer into school playing field and killed it in front of the children.

Another friend of mine comes from East Anglia. He told me how many of the tenant farmers over there also hated the fox hunting crowd, not least because of the cavalier way they assumed they had the right to ride over the land of the small farmers in pursuit of the ‘game’.

The fox hunting crowd do not represent rural Britain as a whole, and their claim to do so should be attacked and shown to be massively wrong at every opportunity. As for the Tories’ claim to be the party of the countryside, they have represented the interests only of the rich landed gentry, and the deregulation and privatisation introduced by Maggie Thatcher and carried on by successive right-wing administrations, including May and Cameron, have done nothing but harm real working people in rural Britain. The bitter persecution of the farmworker’s unions set up in the 19th century clearly demonstrate how far back this hatred and contempt goes.