Posts Tagged ‘Camden’

Private Eye’s Anti-Semitism Smear Attack on Labour Appartchik Thomas Gardiner

March 22, 2019

This fortnight’s Private Eye for 22nd March – 4th April 2019 carried yet another attack on the Labour party by their columnist, ‘Ratbiter’, on page 10. Entitled ‘Gardiner’s Question Time’, attacking Labour Party bureaucrat Thomas Gardiner for not doing enough to combat anti-Semitism in the Labour party. It is, of course, coincidental that the article also mentions that Gardiner is a close aide of Jeremy Corbyn. The article runs

LABOUR apparatchik Thomas Gardiner came to Eye readers’ attention last June as the helpful chap whom Jeremy Corbyn’s aides advised suspended members to contact if they wanted readmission to the party, after general secretary Jennie Formby brought him in to run Labour’s compliance unit (Eye 1472).

Earlier this month, the Observer and Times revealed emails which showed Gardiner opposing recommendations from the party’s investigations team to suspend members accused of Jew-baiting, despite Corbyn’s promise of “zero tolerance for anti-Semites”.

Kayla Bibby, for instance, shared an image of an alien creature marked with the Star of David wrapping its tentacles round the Statue of Liberty. “The most accurate photo I’ve seen all year!” she wrote, having specifically requested a copy of the picture from Incog Man, and American Neo-Nazi site. Incog Man’s talk of the “parasitic, whitish looking, chameleon Jew” didn’t appear to bother Bibby … or indeed Labour, since Gardiner ruled the image was “anti-Israel, not anti-Jewish”.

Gardiner also supported Camden Labour activist Mohammed Joynal Uddin, who had claimed Jews believe Jesus was “boiling in semen in hell and that the Virgin Mary is a whore.” Labour said Gardiner did not know about Uddin’s views when he backed him, and in any case had recused himself from the case. Gardiner meanswhile disappeared on holiday.

With Labour coming under scrutiny by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, party figures suspect that Corbyn’s aides are no lining up Gardiner to be the fall guy. Political hacks think so too, and their editors are prepared to get out the cheque book if he will tell all about Corbyn, Formby and Labour communications director Seumas Milne.

Will he grass up his comrades? The formbook suggests not: Gardiner, a Camden councillor, promoted a motion at the Hampstead and Kilburn Labour party in 2016 dismissing the anti-Semitism scandal as an assault on the Left and condemning “the factional use which a few within the party have tried to make of anti-Semitism”. Yet can Formby be sure he will stay silent? Or will she have to reach into Labour’s depleted reserves and present him with a deal that outbids anything the hacks can offer?

From the evidence is presented here, it seems the case against Gardiner is pretty damning: he’s covering up the massive anti-Semitism in the Labour party in order to protect Corbyn, Formby and co, who also have dirty, guilty secrets that the press are keen to publish. But there are real problems with the story and its sources, which mean that nothing in this should be taken at face value.

‘Ratbiter’: Warmonger and Libeller

Firstly, there’s the credibility of ‘Ratbiter’ himself. On Tuesday I put up extracts about him from a longer post against the anti-Semitism smears against Labour by the veteran campaigner for truth and justice, Tony Greenstein. ‘Ratbiter’ is Nick Cohen, a hack for the Graun and Absurder, who used to be a decent human being until 9/11. Then he morphed into an Islam hating neocon warmonger, who backed Blair’s illegal invasion of Iraq. Cohen is also someone else, who has a problem with the actualite, and publishes lies and distortions about the victims of the anti-Semitism smear campaign. One of them is Greenstein himself, who, after pointing out the many lies Cohen had said about him, said that the only reasons why he wasn’t suing him was because he was already suing the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, and wanted also to have a go at the equally mendacious Jewish Chronicle and a certain unnamed councillor.

Kayla Bibby and the CAA Smears against Mike and Jackie Walker

And then there’s the matter of the two people accused of anti-Semitism, Kayla Bibbi and Mohammed Uddin. Can we really believe the allegations? Both sound like the kind of accusation the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and ‘Gnasherjew’ make. ‘Gnasherjew’ is the pseudonym used by the repugnant David Collier, a vile individual who would have fitted in very well with the East German Stasi, Mussolini’s OVRA, Reinhard Heydrich in Nazi Germany, and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, all of whom bugged their enemies. In the case of the last three, this included their personal enemies in the Nazi and Fascist parties and the American political machine. The Campaign Against Truth and Collier specialise in looking through people’s past electronic communications, pulling them out of context and then sending them as a dossier to the compliance unit. This is what they did to Jackie Walker and I’m assuming they also did it to Mike. Walker was smeared as an anti-Semite on the basis of a private conversation in which she said that her people the chief financiers of the slave trade. It was sloppily worded. She admits that she should have said that her people were among the chief financiers of the slave trade. She was also smeared because she said that the I.H.R.A. definition of anti-Semitism wasn’t one she could work with. As I and many others have said, ad nauseam, ad infinitum, Walker’s definitely not an anti-Semite. The party’s compliance unit admitted that the case against her was ‘weak’. But on the basis of this weak case, her life has been ruined and she now gets threats and abuse from nutters telling her that she should be lynched, or cut up and put into bin bags.

The smear merchants tried the same tactics recently against Mike over an image he put up on Vox Political. This showed the state of Israel in America, and was included in a piece he wrote against the smear attack on Naz Shah. The Witchhunters claimed he’d taken it from a Neo-Nazi website. Not so: Mike took it from Norman Finkelstein, a Jewish critic of Israel, who is the son of Holocaust survivors. And needless to say, Finkelstein has also had the anti-Semitic abuse heaped upon him, accused of being self-hating and all the rest of it. There’s a clear parallel here to Kayla Bibby’s case. So was Bibby the victim of the same tactics? Did she really get the image from Incog Man, or was it a similar image? And if she did, was she aware Incog Man was a Nazi? And even if she did, does it make her an anti-Semite if she qualifies it and says she talking about Israel, not Jews? If she really did take the image from a Nazi site, then she’s stupid and deserves criticism for it. But if she is genuinely making a comment about Israel, and not about Jews, then she’s no more than that.

Mohammed Uddin and What Is Not Being Said

Uddin’s case also should be treated with scepticism. Did he really say what he is alleged to have said about Jews and Christ? And if he did, what is the context? It’s possible he was quoting someone else, or reacting to something someone else has said along the same lines. We aren’t told. Furthermore, looking carefully, this doesn’t seem to be the original accusation against Uddin. Gardiner is quoted as saying that he didn’t know about Uddin’s views when he defended him. Now I doubt that the witchhunters simply made a complaint about Uddin just saying that he was an anti-Semite and wanted him suspended, and then left it like that. They must have provided some substance to their accusation. And Gardiner clearly found this evidence unconvincing. Then they dredged up, or invented, this remark about the Jews and Christ. As for recusing himself, this is what you’re supposed to do in a court of law if you know the accused. So it looks like Gardiner may well have acted entirely properly in the circumstances as they unfolded.

The Campaign to Unseat Corbyn

And underlying this sordid tale are Cohen’s true intentions. Gardiner is an enemy of the witchhunt, which really is against the Left and particularly against Israel’s critics. As a Blairite neocon, Cohen wants Corbyn out. This is the ultimate goal of the witchhunters. It’s why they accused Chris Williamson of anti-Semitism last week, because he had the horrible audacity to state that Labour was being too apologetic about it. And it’s no coincidence that Williamson is a close Corbyn ally. This is all about smearing and getting rid of Corbyn’s chief supporters before attacking and unseating the man himself.

As for the newspapers Cohen cites in his article, the Absurder and the Thunderer, neither have shown themselves even remotely to be impartial and trustworthy when it comes to the anti-Semitism smears, having published them with the same zeal as the rest of the press. Just as Private Eye has done, and no doubt for the same reasons.

This attack on Gardiner therefore looks like just another Blairite/Tory hit piece on a close Corbyn aide, consisting of nothing but lies and, at best, half-truths, from liars like David Collier, the CAA and Cohen himself. It’s disgraceful that such vicious smear merchants should be given such space by the media, and it’s a damning indictment of the Eye that it has also followed them in doing so.

Private Eye Attacks Facebook Group for People Suspended from Labour

June 15, 2018

Private Eye has published much excellent material, and over the past few days I’ve blogged about some of the material revealed in this fortnight’s issue. But the magazine does have a very pronounced anti-Corbyn bias, and does seem to have swallowed, and regurgitated all the bilge smearing Corbyn and his supporters in the other parts of the lamestream media. It does seem to take as fact that the smears that Momentum is full of abusive misogynists and anti-Semites, and that the Labour leader and his supporters are ‘hard Left’ and Trotskyites. They aren’t. Corbyn and Momentum really are just traditional Labour, standing for the old Social Democratic policy of a mixed economy, and strong and healthy NHS and welfare state. All of which is anathema to the Thatcherite right – the Blairites – who have tried to position themselves as moderates when in fact the truth is, they’re the extremists. They’re extreme right. And outside the Labour party this is also unwelcome to the Tories and the mainstream media and its bosses pushing for more privatisation and further policies to destroy the welfare state and push the working class further into poverty. Because they see it as good for business having a cowed workforce on poverty wages.

In this fortnight’s Eye, for 15th-28th June 2018 on page 10, the pseudonymous ‘Ratbiter’ has published an article attacking a Facebook group for those suspended from the Labour party, and the attempts of its members to make contact with officials close to Corbyn to obtain justice or redress. It accepts absolutely uncritically the charges against them. And the end of the article once again repeats the claim that those suspended for anti-Semitism are automatically guilty, with an example of an anti-Semitic post from one of those in the group.

But many of those suspended from the Labour party for anti-Semitism and other offences are anything but, as shown in the cases of people like Mike, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker and very many others. As I’ve blogged about ad nauseam, ad infinitum. The article therefore needs to be carefully critiqued. It runs

Suspended Animation
Facebook has a secret and carefully vetted political group called Labour Party Compliance: Suspensions, Expulsions, Rejections Co-op. As the ungainly title suggests, it is a online hangout where Corbyn supporters facing disciplinary action for abuse, anti-Semitism and other loveable quirks can nurse their grievances in private. Or so they think.

Screenshots of the site obtained by the Eye show that the outcasts are not so far out in the cold they don’t have access to the highest levels of Corbyn’s Labour.

Take 17-year-old Zac Arnold, who has been suspended from the Forest of Dean Labour Party. He revealed he had “been given the email of someone called Thomas Gardiner by James Schneider at JC’s office, who said he would be a useful contact over my suspension”. He asked his fellow pariahs “what your thoughts are and if you know him”.

They certainly knew Schneider. “I have chatted with James,” said Caroline Tipler, the founder of the “Jeremy Corbyn Leads Us to Victory” Facebook group. “I def think it would be useful to make contact”. The best way to get back into the party would be to start by “making a tentative enquiry and gauge from the response whether to progress it from there”.

The “someone called Thomas Gardiner” to whom young Zac referred is a Labour councillor from Camden. When Corbyn assumed total control of the Labour machine in March by installing Jennie Formby, Len McCluskey’s former mistress, as Labour’s general secretary, Formby’s first act was to call in Gardiner.She sent John Stoliday, the head of Labour’s compliance unit, on gardening leave and put Gardiner in charge of overseeing complaints against members. So he is certainly a “useful” man to know for as any Corbyn supporter facing troublesome allegations – as indeed is Schneider, who works in the leader’s office alongside fellow Old Wykehamist Seumas Milne as Corbyn’s director of strategic communications.

Suspended members appear to think that, so long as they discuss their prejudices in private, they will be fine. Their Facebook group is splattered with posts painting Labour activists as victims of a Jewish conspiracy. “They will try to silence you,” reads one. “They will try to discredit you. Because you are not allowed to criticise Jewish politics.” But their own group suggests
that you are, as long as you aren’t caught and have friends in high places.

So what’s going on here? Well, first of all, the fact that Ratbiter claims to have had screenshots passed to him of the Facebook page shows that it’s not based on his research. It’s from an outside organisation. From the way this is about smearing Corbyn supporters as anti-Semites, it looks like it’s the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism or the Jewish Labour Movement up to their vile tricks again. The CAA’s modus operandi is simply to go back over people’s internet conversations in search of something vaguely anti-Semitic they can use, and then grossly distort it so that they can smear them. They did it to Mike, taking his comments out of context and grossly misreporting what he actually said. They did it to Jackie Walker and her conversation with two others on Facebook about the Jewish participation in the slave trade. Again, a serious issue, which reputable historians are discussing. Walker never said that Jews were responsible for the slave trade, or that they were exclusively in charge of it. She said that the ultimate responsibility lay with the Christian monarchs and states which employed them. There are, however, real anti-Semites, who claim that the Jews were responsible for the slave trade, and so the CAA smeared her, a practicing Jew with a Jewish partner, as an anti-Semite. Just like they’ve smeared Ken Livingstone, because he dared to talk about an embarrassing truth: that the Nazis did reach an agreement with the Zionists to send Jews to Israel, before they decided on the Final Solution. And then there was that entirely artificial controversy a month or so ago, where they smeared Corbyn himself as an anti-Semite, because of a post he made admiring a piece of street art showing bankers around a table resting on the bodies of black men. Only two of the bankers were Jewish, but nevertheless, the CAA and the Board of Deputies of British Jews frothed that it was ‘anti-Semitic’, trying to link it to all the vile theories about the Jewish banking conspiracy.

Unable to unseat Corbyn at the leadership elections, the Blairites and the Israel lobby have been trying to oust him gradually by suspending and smearing his supporters. As happened to Mike. The CAA’s vile article smearing him was passed on to the Labour party, who suspended him just as he was about to fight a council election as the Labour candidate in his part of mid-Wales. As Mike has blogged, he has appealed against his suspension, but was tried once again by another kangaroo court, very much like the one that decided that the veteran anti-racist campaigner, Marc Wadsworth, was an anti-Semite. The Labour party’s compliance unit is so determined to refuse justice to expelled or suspended members on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism, that there is now an organisation set up to fight them on this issue: Labour Against the Witch Hunt, one of whose organisers is the redoubtable Tony Greenstein. I think another is Walker herself. As for Wadsworth, he has gone on a triumphant tour defending himself up and down the country. His campaign was launched in London with Alexei Sayle. Sayle’s parents are Romanian Jews, who were card-carrying Communists, and Sayle himself was one of the leaders of the new, politically correct Alternative Comedy in the 1980s. He was very anti-racist, anti-sexist and pro-gay rights, as were the others that emerged at the same time. So he is very definitely not anti-Semitic.

Clearly, the movement to discredit the smear campaign against decent people unfairly libelled as anti-Semites is gaining ground, otherwise Ratbiter wouldn’t bother writing the article, and attacking and revealing the officials close to Corbyn, who may be prepared to give assistance to them.

Now let’s deal with their quotation that ‘you are not allowed to criticise Jewish politics’. Is this anti-Semitic? Or is simply a clumsy way of expressing a truth: that any criticism of Israel, or support for the Palestinians, will result in you being smeared and suspended. I strongly believe it’s the latter. And the issue of Israel has been deliberately confused with Jews by Israel and its satellite, Zionist organisations themselves. Netanyahu a few years ago declared that all Jews, everywhere, were citizens of Israel. Of course, it’s a risible statement. Many Jews don’t want to be citizens of Israel, a land with which they have no connection, and certainly not at the expense of the country’s real, indigenous inhabitants. Netanyahu and the other maniacs in his coalition don’t want all Jews to be citizens of their country either. Liberal or genuinely left-wing Jews, or Jews, who simply ask too many questions about the Palestinians and dare to think for themselves, rather than swallow Likudnik propaganda, aren’t let in. or if they’re there already, they get thrown out. As have dissident Israelis, like one historian now at Exeter University, Ilon Pappe, who was driven out of his homeland because he dared to describe and protest his nation’s long history of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians.

The organisations behind the smear campaign are Jewish organisations, or claim to be pro-Jewish, like the CAA and the Jewish Labour Movement, which was formerly Paole Zion, ‘Workers of Zion’. Now these organisations clearly don’t represent all Jews. They only represent those, who are fanatically and intolerantly pro-Israel. They also have gentile members, so it’s highly questionable just how ‘Jewish’ these Jewish organisations are. Those smeared by them include self-respecting and Torah-observant Jews, and they have subjected them to the kind of abuse, which would automatically be considered anti-Semitic if it came from a non-Jew. Indeed, many of the Jews smeared by them feel that there is a particular hatred of Jewish critics of Israel. Just like the founders of Zionism were absolutely dismissive of diaspora Jews.

Given this, it should be no surprise if a non-Jew, who has been smeared, becomes confused and says that you can’t criticise ‘Jewish politics’, meaning Israel. Because these Jewish organisations, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, insist that you can’t. And deliberately so, in order to make it easier to claim that all critics of Israel are anti-Semites.

This is a nasty, mischievous and deceitful article. It is designed to further isolate Corbyn by smearing his supporters and attacking the official close to him, who may be able help them. And it repeats the lie that all of those smeared are anti-Semites. It’s publication is a disgrace to Private Eye.

More Lies and Bilge from Boris: Hard Brexit Will Not Mean Hard Border in Northern Ireland, Because Camden and London

February 28, 2018

I lost patience with Boris Johnson a very long time ago. As one of the columnists in the I wrote a week or so ago, Johnson’s a politician, not anyone’s gaffe-prone friend. Quite. He’s a ruthless politician, and his image as some kind of lovable oaf, or so he imagines himself, is a weapon he wields in order to gain a popular following. He’s a very nasty, ruthless intriguer, as shown by the way he started out supporting ‘Remain’, and then jumped ship and stabbed David Cameron in the back. He would undoubtedly argue that he did so because he was persuaded by the ‘Leave’ campaigners arguments. To me it just seems to me that he changed his views quite cynically because he though that the Leavers offered him a better chance of getting the top job.

As for the gaffes, there’s nothing cute or amusing about them. If they only embarrassed Johnson, it would be a different matter. But they embarrass the country, make international tensions worse, and have seen years added to an innocent woman’s jail term by a tyrannical regime, in the case of the British Iranian woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, accused of spying by the Iranians. She wasn’t. She was visiting her Iranian family for the New Year. But that didn’t bother Boris and his mate, Michael Gove, who immediately shot their mouths off and gave the Mullahs more ammunition with which to persecute this poor woman. There is nothing remotely cute or funny about the incident, which on its own clearly shows Johnson’s complete lack of competence to serve as Foreign Secretary.

Now BoJo has opened his mouth once again, to claim that Brexit won’t lead to the return of a hard border between Ulster and the Republic. Why? Because there’s a border between Camden and another part of London, which millions of people pass through every day, and they are not stopped or inconvenienced by a hard border with checkpoints. The government just takes the money from the costs of their transport.

Johnson’s remark has been widely ridiculed for the obvious reason: the border between Camden and the rest of London is absolutely not like the border between Northern Ireland and Eire. Camden and London are both in Britain, unless Johnson has plans otherwise. It is not an international border, while the border between Ulster and Eire is.

And the danger with Brexit is that if there isn’t a very carefully negotiated open border between the two parts of the Emerald Isle, the Good Friday Agreement will collapse, and we will once again be mired in the bloody conflict of the Troubles, which took so many lives and maimed and ruined so many others. I was at school during it, and can remember the IRA’s bombing campaign over here. The last thing I want is a return to the murder and killing.

And I’m heartily sick of Johnson’s lies and the sheer rubbish he spouts. He lied repeatedly about Britain’s contribution to the EU, claiming that after Brexit it would go to the NHS. It didn’t, and Johnson was there spinning madly, trying to get out of the fact that this lie was spread across the sides of buses across the country. Then a month or so ago, he revived the lie again. And again.

I don’t know if he honestly believes this latest piece of rubbish, or if it’s a very cynical piece of rhetoric intended to win people over to his side. Because Boris is media celeb, who’s been on Have I Got News For You, and so it must be true. In some ways, it doesn’t matter, because if Johnson does get his way with a hard Brexit, we will see a hard border in Northern Ireland, and that will lead to increased conflict between Nationalists and Loyalists. If it doesn’t automatically lead to outright violence.

Once again Boris has opened his mouth, and the consequences of what he plans are horrific. He’s incompetent, a liar, and a ruthless self-publicist. And others are paying dearly for his so-called ‘gaffes’. And I’ve had my fill of him. Get him out of government now, before his stupidity leads us back to the horrors of sectarian violence. His stupidity has already got one innocent woman spending more years in jail. If he’s in charge of Brexit, it could end with nothing less than mass murder and assassination.

Private Eye on the Extreme Right-Wing Views of Tory MP Chris Philps

June 9, 2016

One of Private Eye’s regular columns is ‘The New Boys and Girls’, in which they run unflattering profiles of newly elected MPs. In this fortnight’s issue for 10-23 June 2016, the new bug selected for criticism and having their skeletons taken out of their closets is Tory MP Chris Philp. Philp is one of those, who used to boast thirty years ago about being ‘Thatcherite achievers’ – in other words, Yuppies. He comes from a working class background. His grandfather was a lorry driver in Peckham. He went to Oxford, and after graduating founded a series of companies. The Eye points out that in contrast to all his self-promotion and boasts of success, the reality was a series of bankruptcies and cheated creditors.

What I found interesting wasn’t so much about his repeated failures as a businessman, but his connections to the extreme Thatcherite right. The Eye claims that as well as being a member of the Tory party, Philp flirted with the Freedom Association and wrote a pamphlet praising workfare for the Taxpayers’ Alliance:

Chris Philp is one of the most ambitious Tory MPs of the 1015 intake and – as a millionaire tax-avoider – a politicians for our time.

After he narrowly lost to Glenda Jackson in Hampstead and Kilburn by 42 votes in 2010, the Camden councillor was parachuted into Croydon South, one of capital’s safest Conservative seats. He arrived for his selection meeting in south London as a generous party donor and a former member of the Bow Group who had dalliances with the far-right Freedom Association. He was the author of Work for the Dole, published by the Taxpayer’s Alliance, which advocates community work and training for the unemployed in return for benefits. (p. 13).

The Freedom Association is an extreme neo-liberal outfit, which first emerged in the 1970s as the National Association for Freedom (NAFF), before they found out what this word meant. They stand for privatising everything that ain’t nailed down, ending the welfare state and banning trade unions. They were involved in trying to break a number of strikes in the 1970s. Worse, they also gave their support to the various South and Central American Fascist dictators and their death squads in the 1980s, even inviting one of them to come to one of their dinners as a guest of honour. They also supported South African Conservatives, who defended Apartheid. Guy Debord’s Cat has run a series of articles on this organisation and its squalid history, if you want further information.

Workfare is another policy that first emerged in the 1980s under Thatcher. I can remember various Tory politicos enthusing about it on Breakfast Television when I was at school. It was an idea that they took over from the Republicans in America. It’s a nasty idea that I, and many other bloggers, including Mike, the Angry Yorkshireman, Johnny Void and Tom Pride, to name just a few, have attacked as little more than slavery, designed to provide cheap labour to big business, especially the supermarkets.

As for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, these pass themselves off as an independent organisation, and regularly interviewed as such by the Beeb. They’re nothing of the kind. They’re a Tory astroturf organisation. The Alliance isn’t affiliated to the Tory party, but its tax-dodging leadership are all members. When they aren’t being prosecuted for tax evasion, as several are.

This then, is the political background to Chris Philp, a fan of extreme right-wing politics, who wants to exploit the poor for as much as he can get out of them while dodging tax himself. Exactly the kind of person to expect promotion under tax-dodging, exploitative right-wing, Dave Cameron and his cabinet of unreformed Thatcherite thugs.

Sainsbury’s Exploitation of Charity and the Free Labour of Others

May 15, 2016

Mike yesterday put up a piece about the anger provoked when the Camden branch of Sainsbury’s put an advert in the local paper for an artist to redecorate the staff canteen. The multi-million pound corporation, which had profits last year of £587 million to March 12, did not offer to pay the luck artist. Instead, they tried to get away with saying that s/he would get ‘valuable experience’ in the creative industries. It was posted on Twitter by Adam Hess, who also posted his personal response, “Hi Sainsbury’s, I now take food from you without paying because it is a great opportunity for you to impress me’.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/14/hi-sainsburys-i-now-take-food-from-you-without-paying-because-it-is-a-great-opportunity-for-you-to-impress-me/

George Monbiot in his book Captive State, about the corporate ownership of Britain, devotes a whole chapter to the supermarkets and their highly destructive effect on British society and agriculture. In contrast to what David Sainsbury and the rest of the supermarket CEOs would have us all believe, they do not create jobs. They destroy them. The areas in which supermarkets establish themselves have higher rates of unemployment than areas with plenty of small independent retailers, who employ more staff. These are also being driven out of business by the supermarkets. And unlike your local greengrocer or butcher, the supermarkets buy their stock from a limited number of suppliers. They also sell their food more cheaply only in more affluent areas, where the rich have the ability to go elsewhere for their food. And they are extremely exploitative towards their suppliers. They make very detailed demands, including for huge discounts, knowing that they can ruin a supplier by not stocking them.

Also shocking is their attitude to charity. Many of these supermarkets, like Sainsbury’s, like to be seen as giving generously to charity. But it’s all hypocrisy. Very often, as Monbiot shows in his book, the charitable donations do not come from the supermarkets themselves. They are made by the supermarkets’ suppliers, who have no choice. They are instructed to make the donation by the supermarkets, who then pass the donation off as their own.

Sainsbury’s and the rest of them are convenient, but in very many ways they’re a huge blight on society, exploiters of the worst kind. And their sense of entitlement to the free labour of others, as shown by their request for an artist to work for them for free, is part of the general demand for such labour, under the guise of internships. And they try to sell this exploitation to aspiring youngsters in exactly the same way, whether it’s an office post, a job in journalism, or as artistic project, above: it’s always good experience.

It’s time internships and similar freebies for the big corporations were ended, and they started paying their unpaid workers.

Britain Becomes South Africa: Primary Teachers Bring Food for Starving Pupils

March 6, 2014

Monica Caro Foodbank

Monica Caro, Campaigner against the government’s benefit cuts, outside the Royal Free Hospital in Camden

A few years ago I used to work with an academic, who was very involved in civil rights work to improve conditions for the Black community. He later moved with his family to the new, post-Apartheid South Africa. Talking to him later, I found that he was appalled at the poverty in his local area, and was trying to find donors, who would provide much-needed equipment for the local school. Apart from the poverty that still afflicts the vast majority of Black South Africans, there area suffered from unemployment. As a result, many of the schoolchildren were coming to school hungry. To combat this, the government had launched the ‘Nelson Mandela Feeding Programme’. This gave schoolchildren a meal when the came to school. My friend told me that it was only a peanut butter sandwich. It’s hardly enough, but it was something. It was often the only meal they would have all day.

South Africa was, of course, notorious for having an immensely wealthy White ruling class, which excluded from power and dignity the Black and ‘Coloured’, or mixed race, population. The townships into which the Black population had been segregated was notorious for poverty and the violence this engenders. It was hoped and expected that with the fall of Apartheid and the ascent of Mandela to the presidency, this would end and Black and White South Africans could finally march together in peace and create a land of prosperity and justice for all.

This has, however, not come about. The ANC has become massively corrupt, so that its members now have enriched themselves and joined the ruling White elite, while conditions for the vast majority of the Black population are as poor than they were previously. They are not, however, alone in their poverty. Since the 1990s there has appeared a class of White poor, similarly trapped in grinding poverty. This was recently shown on British television by a Black British DJ on his programme about South Africa. Ten Years ago this class of poor Whites was the subject of a photographic exhibition, Outlands, put on by a White South African photographer, intended to show an aspect of South Africa, that was unknown in Europe.

Starving Schoolchildren in Britain

Unfortunately, Britain seems to be joining South Africa in the emergence of a corrupt, obscenely wealthy elite, while the mass of its population are depressed into poverty and destitution, a poverty that includes children coming to school hungry.

Yesterday I posted a piece about Monday’s Panorama documentary on the massive expansion of food banks across the UK. One of the commenters to this blog, AmnesiaClinic, remarked that there had been reports in Britain of schoolteachers bringing in food to pupils from homes that had been hit by benefit sanctions. AM-FM has kindly provided the link to one report of this.

It’s an article from the newspaper, Ham&High, published on September 29 2013. Entitled ‘Camden primary teachers bring food into classes to feed hungry pupils hit by benefit cuts’, it reported the finding by Monica Caro, the vice-chair of the Camden Association of Street Properties, that schoolteacher in Camden were bring their own food from home into school to feed primary school pupils aged five to seven, whose parents had been hit by cuts to their benefit. Ms Caro, a volunteer and carer, was working with Petra Dando, a prominent campaigner in the borough against the government’s cuts. She was also shocked that the Royal Free Hospital had also opened a food bank. The hospital had opened a stall asking for residents to donate food.

Ms Caro said: “I thought, ‘Oh my god, if the Royal Free is now making a Comic Relief-style appeal for food then surely the government can hear that things are really desperate.’ I voted for the Conservatives and I wish I never had.

“It’s like living in Robin Hood times, they are taking from the poor to give to the rich.”

The article notes the effect of the government’s benefit cap, which means that no family can earn more than £500 in benefits, as well as the notorious bedroom tax. It stated that hit by the tax could lose between 14 and 25 per cent of their benefits.

The article quoted the comments of local lawyer, Rebekah Carrier, who was working on a number of challenges to the benefit changes in the High Court, who was particularly critical of the benefit cap. She said

“The people most badly affected by the benefit cap are families with three or more children. Often all of their benefits go on paying their rent and they have nothing with which to feed their children.”

Sally Gimson, a local councillor in Highgate, said she had been told by residents that they are skipping meals in order to make ends meet due to the bedroom tax.

It also reported that the Highgate Newtown Community Centre was going to open lunch clubs from the 4th October that year, where people in need could get a cooked meal for £1. The Centre’s director, Andrew Sanalitro, was pessimistic about the effect of the coming winters. He stated “There will be a spike in problems when winter comes because of heating bills. It’s just becoming a lot harder for people to cope.”

The article can be found at: http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/camden_primary_teachers_bring_food_into_classes_to_feed_hungry_pupils_hit_by_benefit_cuts_1_2691248.

This is disgusting and shameful. Britain, unlike South Africa, is an immensely wealthy country. I believe it is the seventh biggest economy in the world, but many of its people are facing the return of the grinding poverty our great-grandparents faced in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Malnutrition is also returning, along with diseases like rickets, that were common in the desperation and squalor of Victorian slums. It had been hoped such poverty had been banished through the welfare state, the expanding economy and the increased prosperity of the post-War years. ‘You’ve never had it so good!’, boasted the Conservative Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan. Well, the country as a whole is still immensely wealthy, even if Gideon, sorry, George Osborne has managed to stall the economy with his daft Neo-Liberal policies. Yet poverty is increasing. A quarter of all households have seen a decline in their income and standard of living through inflation and the Coalition’s imposition of wage restraint. And conditions for the very poorest are becoming increasingly desperate. So desperate, that they resemble South Africa, a country struggling to shake off the legacy of Apartheid and afflicted with massive corruption and the emergence of a non-racist, but still brutally exploitative ruling class. Which pretty much describes Britain under the Coalition, although racism still seems prevalent in the Tory party, despite Cameron’s attempts to root it out and protestations to the contrary. Witness the vans the Coalition circulated in Black and Asian areas to encourage illegal immigrants to go home.

Such poverty should have no place in 21st century Britain. It can only get worse, much worse, under the Coalition. If Scotland leaves the UK, taking its North Sea oil with it, then I believe we will see true conditions comparable to the Third World in what’s left of the UK.

The Coalition has to go, and Neo-Liberalism rejected and thrown into the dustbin of daft and exploitative economic policies.

Private Eye on American Health Company’s Closure of British GPs’ Surgeries

July 20, 2013

Last year the American healthcare company, UnitedHealth, was in the news after it sold off three doctors’ surgeries in Camden to another healthcare company, The Practice, leaving 4,700 patients without a doctor. The Eye covered the story in their 15th June to 28th June edition. Here it is

Closing Down Sale

NHS officials have admitted they were powerless to prevent American health giant UnitedHealth from suddenly flogging off its privately run GP surgeries in north London to another firm – leading to 4,700 patients losing their doctors.

An inquiry set up by Camden council heard how bosses at the North Central London NHS sector trust contacted lawyers over last year’s sale to The Practice Plc but were told the deal was legal – thanks to a flaw in the contract. As a result, the new operators had not been vetted by their NHS paymasters, patients were not informed at any stage and there was no tendering process. One practice closed altogether, with patients being allocated new doctors miles away or being left to find their own.

The alternative provider of medical services (APMSO contracts by which United secured three Camden practices were brought in as part of New Labour’s health reforms designed to ramp up competition in the NHS. Under “goodwill” regulations, practices were not supposed to be able to be sold on in this way, but as the Camden inquiry has shown these regulations are not worth the paper they were written on.

Eye readers may recall that UnitedHealth won the contract five years ago byu undercutting the local GPs’ bid by 25 per cent – and undercutting the services.

The inquiry heard that since UnitedHealth took over there has been an unexplained and curious decline in recorded illnesses such as depression, cancer and respiratory disease. As Camden doctors’ representative Dr Paddy Glackin told the inquiry: “Either patients have become much healthier or these conditions are not being identified.” He suggested the high turnover of locum doctors and loss of long-standing GPs after UnitedHealth arrived could explain the mysterious disappearance of the illnesses in one of Camden’s most deprived wards.

Neither UnitedHealth nor the Practice agreed to give evidence to the inquiry, which poses a question: as Andrew Lansley’s health reforms dramatically increase the role of private companies’ in running the NHS, how will they be held to account.’

This is the future of the NHS under Lansley’s reforms. Private healthcare firms are primarily interested in making a profit, not in effectively treating disease. They should not be involved in the NHS.