Posts Tagged ‘Cardiff’

Demonstrations Across the UK Today Against Trump’s Muslim Ban

January 30, 2017

Mike has put up news that there are going to be mass demonstrations across the UK today against Trump’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim majority countries. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has demanded that Trump’s state visit to Britain should be cancelled. And, almost predictably, Theresa May has failed to say very much about it. She has asked Boris Johnson and the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to raise the issue of the travel ban with their opposite numbers in the US administration. But this seems to be less than altruistic. She’s not worried about the ban on Muslims going to the US so much as how it would affect the Tory MP, Nadhim Zahawi.

The demonstration in London is due to be held this evening at 6.00 pm outside Downing Street. There are also demos in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Falmouth, Glasgow, Hastings, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Preston in Lancashire, Sheffield and York. The demos are organised by Momentum, but people of other views are welcome to join them.

There is also a petition currently being compiled against a state visit by Trump to the UK, which people may also wish to sign. And Mike has also suggested that those with a Tory MP may also like to write to them in protest about it, using the tools provided by Write To Them for creating such messages.

For further information, please go to Mike’s website, where there are appropriate links to the internet pages of the organisations mentioned.

Mike’s article also has a few Tweets from those disapproving May’s silence on this critical issue. One of them is Gary Lineker, wondering when May’s going to speak out. The other is Hugh Terry, who aptly describes May as not a prime minister, but a ‘fascist apologist arms dealer disguised as a rancid old school-marm!’ Which is an accurate description of May, and indeed, of that great, golden Tory icon, Maggie Thatcher.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/29/join-demonstrations-across-the-nation-january-30-2017-against-trumps-muslimban/

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Vox Political on Ian Hislop and the Beeb’s Anti-Corbyn Bias

December 17, 2016

Mike early today put up a post commenting on another example of the Beeb’s bias against Jeremy Corbyn, this time on last night’s Have I Got News For You. Hislop had made the comment, When you find yourself agreeing with Jeremy Corbyn, you know the country is in a mess.’

Mike states

If the BBC had any real interest in its stated commitment to political impartiality, one of the other panel members, or guest host Gary Lineker, would have jumped in to say that agreeing with Theresa May and the Tories is what put the country in a mess in the first place. But that didn’t happen.

And concludes

This man is the editor of Private Eye. Do you think he bothers to keep his political bias out of the magazine? Neither do I.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/17/hislops-jeremy-corbyn-jibe-what-happened-to-bbc-impartiality/

I don’t have to speculate if Hislop is keeping his own personal political bias out of Private Eye. I’ve stopped reading it because he blatantly hasn’t. There are plenty of stories attacking Corbyn and the ‘click-bait’ web site that supports him, The Canary, but absolutely none supporting the Labour leader. The satirical magazine has been running a feature, Focus on Fact, which is devoted to attacking him. This seems to come from embittered Blairites, as many of the stories in there seem to be about internal party disputes from the 1980s.

I’ve blogged before about how I’ve stopped reading the Eye because of this consistent bias against Corbyn, despite the excellent work the magazine has also done attacking privatisation, including that of the NHS. But it needs to remembered that Private Eye and its founders were very much part of the establishment. Richard Ingrams, Willie Rushton, Auberon Waugh, Peter Cook and Ian Hislop himself are all very middle class, ex-public schoolboys. Auberon Waugh was notorious for his own extremely Tory and reactionary views, writing columns for the Torygraph sneering at the Greenham women and teachers, for example. His family were also connected to MI5, and he may have been one of the conduits for the intelligence agency’s attempt to smear Harold Wilson as a KGB agent in the 1970s, according to Lobster.

The Eye is not just biased about domestic politics. It has frequently run pieces about the Ukraine in its Letter from… column, which has unwaveringly presented the line that the current vile regime in Kyiv is entirely democratic and is under threat from Putin, the new Grand Duke of Moscow, who is trying to set himself up as the next Tsar of all the Russias and the true heir to Ivan the Terrible. There is no mention that the current Ukrainian regime includes neo-Nazis, determined to persecute genuinely independent journalists, and who have beaten and brutalised members of the Ukrainian left, just as the regime is genuinely responsible for persecuting ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

As for the BBC, I recently posted a piece about a book I found in Waterstones, The BBC and the Myth of Public Broadcasting, which makes the case that the BBC is extremely biased towards the corporate establishment and the Conservatives. This should surprise no-one on the left. Mike and several other left-wing blogs have published articles about the finding by academics at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities that the Beeb is more likely to favour Conservative MPs and managing directors and spokespeople for the stock exchange over Labour MPs and trade unionists. And the Corporation is also very culpably silent about the privatisation of the NHS.

Hislop’s comment last night is another example of this bias. It’s also the reason why I don’t buy Private Eye, and indeed, can no longer stand watching Have I Got News For You.

New Book on BBC Bias

November 18, 2016

Looking through the Cheltenham branch of Waterstone’s today I found a new book on institutional bias at the BBC. It’s Tom Miller’s The BBC and the Myth of Public Service Broadcasting. I didn’t buy it, but glancing at the blurb on the back cover, it seemed to be about how the Beeb is biased towards power, and the establishment.

This really should come as no surprise to anyone. Despite the frothings of the right, which claims that the Beeb has a liberal bias, Edinburgh, Glasgow and I think, Cardiff University have studied the Beeb’s news bias, and found that it is significantly biased towards the Right. The two Scots universities found that it was far more likely to talk to Conservative MPs and businessmen, than to Labour MPs and trade unionists. The Kushner brothers, in their book, Who Needs the Cuts? state that they were prompted to write the book because of the way the Beeb and the rest of the media automatically accepted, quite uncritically, that the cuts were needed. When trade unionists appeared on the Today programme on Radio 4, and said that the cuts weren’t needed and were harmful, he was interrupted by the presenter. And then there’s Laura Koenigsberg, who is outrageously and blatantly biased. But you mustn’t accuse her of beings so, according to the Graoniad, because if you do you are only doing so because you’re a misogynist. Rubbish. People are criticising her because she is biased, and she’s a disgrace. It has nothing to do with her gender. Another of the Beeb’s reporters, who is also flagrantly biased is Nick Robinson. Remember how Robinson and his team careful cut footage of a question and answer session with Alex Salmond, the leader of the SNP, during the Scots Referendum? Robinson asked Salmond about whether he was worried that the main Scots financial firms would move down to London if Scotland gained independence. Salmond said no, and explained why he believed they wouldn’t. The Beeb then edited the video, first to make it appear that he evaded the question, and then claimed he hadn’t answer it all. I’m not fan of the SNP and its attacks on the Labour Party, but Salmond had answered the question, calmly and fully. It was pure falsification, a lie of the type you’d expect from the state dominated media in eastern Europe under Communism, for example. But it didn’t come from a wretched totalitarian dictatorship. It came from the Beeb, which is constantly congratulating itself on how ‘impartial’ it is, and what a world leader in quality broadcasting it constitutes.

Well, it’s biased towards the right, and more and more people are waking up to that fact, as this book appears to show.

Hope Not Hate on Kipper Candidate Christopher Michael Baksa

May 4, 2016

It’s not just Renshaw and the Nazis of National Action and the Fascist Fringe that have been making viciously racist speeches and comments. Hope Not Hate also reports that Christopher Michael Baksa, the UKIP candidate for the Luddenfoot & Walsden ward in Calderdale has been making similarly disgusting comments on his Facebook page against Muslims. The organisation reports that amongst the rest of the racist rubbish, there’s a video posted by someone calling themselves Birmingham Crusader England, showing a fracas in Cardiff, which Baksa claims was the fault of ‘liberals’ and ‘migrants’. Except that it wasn’t. According to Hope Not Hate, the fight started when people started hurling abuse and drinks at a pro-Palestinian demonstration. Baksa’s page also contains some extremely vicious comments left by his readers directed as Muslims, demanding they leave Britain and predicting a civil war between Muslims and non-Muslims. As well as just plain, foul abuse.

See the article at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/ukip/foul-islamophobia-of-ukip-calderdale-candidate-christopher-michael-baksa-4871

Hopefully, tomorrow the good folk in Calderdale will vote against Baksa and his nonsense, and give their considered electoral support to anyone but him.

Greenpeace Meeting Tonight in Bristol on Tidal Power at Cardiff

March 24, 2016

Michelle, one of the commenters on this blog, has asked me if I would let people know that there’s a meeting in Stokes Croft in Bristol tonight about a Cardiff project that could supply clean, green energy to the people of Wales for 120 years using power from the tidal lagoon at Swansea.

Here’s the publicity release for it.

“TIDAL LAGOON POWER” PRESENTATION 7pm THURSDAY 24 th March 2016 “FREEDOM ROOM” HAMILTON HOUSE 80 STOKES CROFT BS1 3QY
Hosted by The Bristol GREENPEACE GROUP [E= wilfman@btinternet.com]
Presented by Joanna LANE
Tidal Lagoon Power’s[TLP] mission is to drive a critical change in the UK’s energy mix by developing infrastructure to harness natural power from the rise and fall of the tides. Tidal lagoons represent affordable and sustainable infrastructure that can: indigenous, low carbon electricity at scale; create long term UK employment; catalyse a long term UK hydroelectricity manufacturing and engineering industry; promote biodiversity; promote local community resilience and pride; and allow UK institutions and the general public to invest in and take longterm ownership of our natural power assets TLP’s first project, Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay, establishes a scalable blueprint for our programme. Beyond this, they aim to develop, construct and operate a fleet of tidal lagoons to meet up to 8% of UK electricity demand. At this meeting you’ll get an introduction to Tidal Lagoon Power’s future projects, which aim to harness natural power from the rise of fall of the tides in the Severn Estuary. These proposals are at an early stage. So far TLP has requested a Scoping Opinion for Tidal Lagoon Cardiff from the and will continue to develop proposals in conjunction with stakeholders, independent experts and the public. We aim to deliver: The UK’s first fullscale energygenerating lagoon, with between 1,800MW and 2,800MW installed capacity and an annual output of 4 TWh and 6 TWh – the equivalent of powering all Welsh homes Clean, renewable and entirely predictable power for 120 years A real contribution to the local economy and natural environment Conservation, restocking and biodiversity programmes Improved and enhanced coastal flood protection in the region For more information on our project, please contact us at or register for updates Tidal Lagoon Cardiff is Tidal Lagoon Power’s second project site. For more information on the first site in Swansea Bay, please visit:
Please contact us on +44 (0)1792 274006 email info@tidallagoonpower.com or write to: Tidal Lagoon (Swansea Bay) plc, Unit 6, J Shed, Kings Road, Swansea, SA1 8PL.
For Tidal Lagoon Power’s head office, please contact +44 (0)1452 303892 or write to Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd, Pillar & Lucy House, Merchants Road, The Docks, Gloucester, GL2 5RG.
Media enquiries should be directed to Lisa Jenkins on 07908 738763 e: lisa.jenkins@tidallagoonpower.com. 

Vox Political: Six MPs Explain Why They’re Voting against Bombing Syria

December 1, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has posted six individual pieces about Labour MPs, who are against bombing Syria, in which they give their reasons for opposing the government’s policy.

They are

Cat Smith, the MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood,
http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/cat-smith-labours-lancaster-and-fleetwood-mp-will-not-support-air-strikes/

Jo Stevens, the MP for Cardiff Central
http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/cardiff-central-mp-will-vote-against-air-strikes-in-syria/

Matthew Pennycook, the MP for Greenwich and Woolwich
http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/greenwich-and-woolwich-mp-weighs-in-against-air-strikes-in-syria/

Paula Sheriff, the MP for Dewsbury and Mirfield
http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/paula-sheriff-labours-dewsbury-and-mirfield-mp-opposes-air-strikes/

John Mann. Mann has criticised Corbyn about the way he handled setting out Labour’s policy, putting his own beliefs ahead of everyone else’s. But he is also going to vote against bombing Syria.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/john-mann-is-a-corbyn-critic-but-like-corbyn-he-opposes-air-strikes-in-syria/

And Keir Starmer, the Labour MP for Holbourne and St. Pancras, formerly Director of Public Prosecutions
http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/former-dpp-keir-starmer-is-no-pacifist-but-he-wont-support-air-strikes-in-syria/.

These give various reasons for not supporting Cameron’s decision. These include the lack of UN and international support, concern for the ordinary people caught up in the bombing and the further destabilisation that will occur, and the belief that bombing alone will not solve the problem. Starmer in particular makes it clear that Cameron’s statement that there are 70,000 fighters already in Syria willing to take our side is wholly unrealistic.

Mike has also written another long piece observing that the media seems desperate to make Labour seem responsible for Britain’s bombing of Syria, if this goes ahead, despite Corbyn and the majority of Labour members opposing it.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/01/syria-have-the-uk-news-media-ever-been-as-desperate-to-convince-the-public-of-a-lie/

This bias is shared not just by newspapers like the Metro, but also by the Beeb’s own Newsnight programme. The narrative being spun here is that if some Labour MPs do vote with the government, the bombing will be due to division in the Labour party. Mike observes that they’re desperate for a war and more blood spilt, but want to blame it on the Labour party instead of with the government.

I can’t say I’m surprised at the tactic. When Thatcher and Major were in power, the constant refrain from the Tories was that Labour was divided by factionalism, and hence a shambolic mess that shouldn’t be in power. Quite different from the confident and monolithic Tories, whipped into line by Maggie. This changed with the control-freakery of New Labour, but now that Cameron has emerged from the Left of the party – actually, the traditional centre ground before Bliar took it to the right – they’ve simply dusted off and revived that bit of Tory rhetoric. They’ve also remembered how unpopular the invasion of Iraq was, and how deeply Bliar and his crew have been resented for that. And so they’re determined to pin this on Corbyn’s Labour. Even though they’ve been loudly denouncing Corbyn for being somehow unpatriotic and openly supporting terrorism from the IRA to Osama bin Laden.

It’s unsurprising that most of the Tory media are against Labour. It’s also almost to be expected that Newsnight would follow suit. The Beeb is currently fending off Tory plans to strip it of the licence fee, or privatise it. Their response has been to roll over and adopt a fawningly pro-government position in the hope that it will somehow appease them. It won’t.

It’s also a strategy by which the media can hide their own volte face in supporting the bombing. Nearly a decade and a half ago, many Conservative MPs opposed the invasion of Iraq, and various Tory rags like the Spectator also took an anti-War line. Now they’re pro-war, in contrast to the grassroots of the Labour party, which is opposed to it. But it’s clearly an uncomfortable position. After all, Private Eye and other consistent critics of humbug by the great and good make a point of showing up cases where MPs and the media have changed their opinions when it’s been convenient. Their support for bombing now could cause people to question whether their opposition to the Iraq invasion came from genuine conviction, or simply because this time the calls for military action came from the Labour party. So they have to pass responsibility for bombing onto Labour, in order to avoid criticising their favoured party, the Tories, or appearing to contradict themselves by supporting military action in circumstances similar to Bliar’s invasion of Iraq.

Vox Political on the Day of Action against Maximus

March 2, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has also published a piece supporting the day of action against the new administrators of the Work Capability Test, Maximus,It’s time to take a stand against the Coalition’s new benefit-reduction enforcer. This gives the location of the protest in Cardiff and Edinburgh. It begins

Today’s the day, people! It’s time to show the government what you think of its new Work Capability Assessment company – Maximus.

Demonstrations against the American insurance provider, which is said to have a long history of denying the existence of medical disability in claimants (in order to avoid paying out on claims), are taking place up and down the United Kingdom.

This writer has been asked to mention the campaign outside the Atos/Maximus assessment centre on St Agnes Road, Heath, Cardiff CF14 4YJ, taking place between 1pm and 4pm. Readers from Cardiff or parts nearby are urged to go along and show the strength of their feelings about this firm.

The main demonstration is in London, at the address in the image at the top of this article.

In Edinburgh, it is at Argyle House, 3 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9SJ.

Maximus has been hired by the Coalition Government after ending the contract with Atos due to “significant quality failures”. The contract is worth no less than £595 million over three years – nearly £200 million per year. No doubt public sector employees could have provided the service cheaply and more efficiently but right-wing ministers like the Tories always prefer contracting-out; it means they have someone to blame when things go wrong.

He points out that the company has been involved in a number of costly fraud cases in America, where it was sued by the government for falsifying Medicare claims, and for discrimination against the disabled. He points out that claimants and disability groups and campaigners here are upset that the government has hired this company, as it shows they have reneged on the duty of care the government owes to the disabled. He points out that the disabled and those suffering from long-term illness have also paid their taxes, and so are owed their benefits.

And as Johnny Void has said in the article I’ve just reblogged, Maximus in Australia are no better. They too have been caught falsifying benefits in order to get people sanctioned.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/02/its-time-to-take-a-stand-against-the-coalitions-new-benefit-reduction-enforcer/. There’s also a link to DPAC, so you can see if there’s a protest against them in your area you could join.

The Tories’ View of the Rest of Britain: Bantustans to Serve the London Rich?

November 11, 2014

Norman Tebbit was in the news again last week. Thatcher’s no. 1 cabinet enforcer was angry that people in the provinces were having the audacity to criticise the government’s almost exclusive concentration on the metropolis, leaving the rest of the country, and particularly the north, to languish and die. A few years ago Private Eye likened Tebbit to a pre-human fossil, Boxgrove Man, that had recently been discovered, and hailed as Britain’s oldest man. The Eye showed a picture of a skull of Heidelberg Man, the type of human that gave rise to the Neanderthals in Europe, the Caucasus and Israel, and modern humans, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, us, in Africa. The Eye’s satirical headline asked ‘Is this the World’s Oldest Tory?’ It then went on to state that although Chingford Man had a very small brain, it was still capable of getting on a bike and looking for work. It’s an appropriate comment, as Tebbit doesn’t seem to have changed his views on the unemployed since the 1980s, when he advised them to follow his father’s example and ‘get on (their) bike(s) and look for work’. Criticism of the Tories’ favouring of London was simply envy, declared the cadaverous one. Rather than be jealous of the metropolis and its success, people in the rest of the country should support themselves by coming down and working in the capital for two days.

There’s a section of the Tory party that has always favoured leaving Britain’s declining towns to wither and die. A little while ago cabinet documents from Thatcher’s time were released, in which senior Conservatives advised the Leaderene to let Liverpool die, and deprive it of any government help to recover. The other year the art critic and broadcaster, Brian Sewell, interviewed on the subject of class by John Prescott, expressed similar sentiments about the ‘dreadful mill towns in the north’ which should all be demolished.

Tebbit’s comments are, of course, petty, spiteful and unrealistic. People have a perfect right to criticise the Tories’ promotion of the capital and the way it harms their own communities. His idea that you could somehow make enough money to support yourself by working in the capital for a couple of days each week is simply unrealistic. Transport and accommodation costs would simply eat up any money most people had made working there. If they were able to find suitable work in the first place. It’s all rather reminiscent of the time the Tories told people in mid-Wales that they shouldn’t worry about unemployment in their town, as they could get on a bus and be in Cardiff in an hour. This blithely ignored the fact that, thanks to Tory cuts, there were no buses running to Brecon. Furthermore, there were already people from that area forced to work in Cardiff, who already found the journey difficult and barely economic. Added to which was the fact that it was also difficult to find work there. Tebbit had learned nothing from this. I doubt he was even aware of it, and so was able to make his ignorant comments without any awareness of how daft they were.

It does, however, also show how a kind of economic apartheid is emerging in Britain under the Tories. The protestors against the ‘poor doors’ in London, segregated entrances to keep working and lower middle class people apart from the super-rich in their luxury apartments, have noted that this is a kind of apartheid, and drawn parallels with South Africa and its segregation of White and Black. Under apartheid, much of the poor Black population was forced to work away from their homelands as well. There was little or no work available in the Bantustans, the tribal homelands established to confine and isolate the Black peoples from the White population. This was deliberate, and the best land with the greatest resources had been reserved for the Whites. Young men from different tribes were therefore forced to live away from their homes and families in order to find work.

And this, it seems, is the Tory vision for Britain. The poor are to be kept isolated, away from the rich, in poorly served areas, with high unemployment and few resources and opportunities. They will, however, make some kind of meagre living coming to work for their social superiors in the metropolis, on which the Tories will concentrate their resources and policies in order to provide a luxuriously high standard of living for the super-rich, who settled there. No doubt these new, migrant workers will be forced to live in shanty towns just outside the gentrified districts.

Miliband, Blair, the Financial Sector and Labour’s Rejection of the Working Class

March 27, 2014

Eye Miliband pic

Private Eye’s satirical view of Labour leader Ed Miliband from the cover of their edition for 5th -18th October 2012.

There has been increased criticism of Ed Miliband this week after an open letter signed by 28 left-wing activists was published in the Guardian criticising Miliband’s electoral strategy. Many traditional Labour supporters and voters have been increasingly alienated by Labour’s move to the Right and its policy of adopting harsh Tory policies and attitudes towards the poor. Miliband has stated that he wants to reach out to the middle classes, and this week ordered the parliamentary Labour party to vote with the government for the imposition of an overall benefit cap. Although Labour would be better by far than another Tory government after 2015, Miliband’s leadership seems to demonstrate many of the problems and attitudes of the modern political elite: very middle class, with little awareness of or sympathy for the problems and hardship experienced by the poor, the working class, the disabled, and unemployed.

Tony Blair and the Neglect of the Working Class

Much of this attitude began under New Labour with Tony Blair. Own Jones in chavs describes how the political elite have played down the existence of class in order to ignore the working class to concentrate on gaining middle class votes, quoting the politicians Jon Cruddas and Matthew Taylor, one of Blair’s aides.

Jon Cruddas is in no doubt that politicians of all colours have a vested interest in denying the existence of class. It has proved an effective way of avoiding having to address working-class concerns in favour of a small, privileged layer of the middle classes. “They devise ever more scientific methods of camping out on a very small slice of the electorate … those who are constituted as marginal voters in marginal seats.’ Working class voters were taken for granted as the ‘core vote’ who had nowhere else to go, allowing New Labour politicians to tailor their policies to privileged voters.

No New Labour politician personified this attitude more than Tony Blair. Matthew Taylor offers an interesting insight into Blair’s political approach. ‘I worked for Tony Blair, and the point about Tony is that Tony would always say when I would say to him, or other people would say to him: “What about a bit more kind of leftism in all this? What about a bit more about poverty and justice and blah blah blah? …”‘ Blair’s response was blunt, to say the least:

Tony would always say, fine, but I don’t need to worry about that, because that’s what everybody else in the Labour Party wants, and that’s what everybody else in the Cabinet wants, and that’s what Gordon [Brown] wants, and that’s kind of fine. And I’ll leave them to do that, because I know that’s how they’ll spend all their time. They don’t want to do public service reform, they don’t want to wealth creation, they’re not interested in any of that, they’ll just kind of hammer away at that agenda. My job is to appeal to the great mass of people on issues that the Labour Party generally speaking is just not interested in.

The near-obsession with ignoring working-class voters meant inflating the importance of a very small tranche of wealthy voters who were misleadingly construed as Middle England. After all, an individual in the very middle of the nation’s income scale only earns around £21,000. ‘You’re probably right that we did misportray Middle England,’ admits Matthew Taylor, ‘But that again, I’m afraid, is not just a Labour characteristic. It’s characteristic of the middle classes as a whole.’

Chavs, 100-101.

Lobster on Kinnock and the Development of New Labour

The parapolitical magazine, Lobster, has printed a number of articles analysing and critiquing Blair, New Labour and their policies. One of the most important accounts of the origins of the New Labour project is the article, ‘Contamination, The Labour Party, Nationalism and the Blairites’ by the editor, Robin Ramsay, in no. 33, Summer 1997, pp. 2-9. Ramsay views the emergence of what later become known as New Labour in Neil Kinnock’s change of policies following their 1987 election defeat. Kinnock had previously been very left-wing. In his book Making Our Way, according to Ramsay ‘had come close to a radical, anti-finance capital, anti-overseas lobby, pro-domestic economic policy’. This changed after the election defeat, when Kinnock and his economic advisor, John Eatwell, enthusiastically embraced the free market and EEC. He notes that when a group under Bryan Gould produced the report, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, Eatwell, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair objected to the sections recommending a return to national ownership.

An Economic Secretariat was created under John Smith, including advisors from the City of London. Kinnock and Smith became pro-EEC and were convinced that Britain should join the Exchange Rate Mechanism. At a Shadow Cabinet meeting on the 16th November 1989, the Labour leadership followed Smith’s advice that the state could not stimulate the economy, either through the nationalised industries or local councils, because this was prohibited under the rules of the ERM. The Labour Party thus launched the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ to win over the City of London, in which John Smith and Mo Mowlam assured the bankers that they would not attempt to limit their profits any more than Thatcher had. This resulted in the establishment and expansion of a series of groups creating links between the Labour party and the financial sector. These included the Smithfield discussion group, the Labour Finance and Industry Group, and the Industry Forum. The Labour Finance and Industry group represented the interests of the domestic sector, while the Industry Forum and the Norton group presented the interests of the overseas lobby – the City of London and the multi-nationals.

Transatlantic Background of New Labour Leadership

Blair, Brown, Balls, David Miliband and the rest of ‘New Labour’ all had extensive links to America and American interests. Gordon Brown, for example, used to spend his summer holidays in the library of Harvard University. Blair went on a trip to America, which was part of a scheme sponsored by the US government to aspiring young British MPs. David Miliband, took an MA at MIT, Ed Balls studied at Harvard and, before he joined Brown, was about the join the World Bank. As for Mandelson, in his final year at Oxford University he became Chair of the British Youth Council, which had originally been set up in the 1950s by the CIA and SIS as the World Assembly of Youth in order to combat the Soviet youth fronts. Ramsay states

In short, the people round Blair are all linked to the United States, or the British foreign policy establishment, whose chief aim, since the end of the Second World War, has been to preserve the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ to compensate for long-term economic decline. The Blair’ group’s orientation is overseas: this is the territory of the Foreign Office and its think tank satellites like the Royal Institute of International Affairs – the political and propaganda apparatus of the overseas lobby. (p.7).

New Labour and the City of London and Overseas Lobby

Blair himself also announced before the annual conference of Murdoch’s News Corp that the Americans had also insisted that Britain should adopt a more pro-European policy. Due to the massive expansion in overseas investment under Thatcher, Britain was second only to America in this regard and so looked to American political and military power and influence to protect those interests. The result was an increase in support for Labour over the Tories in the London establishment over the Conservatives. The result was a complete reversal of attitude towards the City of London. Whereas the Labour report, Meet the Challenge Make the Change: A New Agenda for Britain had been highly critical of the influence of City of London, the latter was held up as a great success seven years later by Mandelson and Roger Liddle, in their book, The Blair Revolution. Liddle, incidentally, now writes for the Spectator.

Under Bryan Gould, the Labour report had stated of the City’s destructive dominance over the British economy that

‘The concentration of power and wealth in the city of London is the major cause of Britain’s economic problems’… and that Britain’s economic policy had for too long been dominated by City values and run in the interests of those who have assets rather than those who produce.

The Blair Revolution, however, described the City of London and the new, de-industrialised British economy in glowing terms.

Britain can boast of some notable economic strengths – for example, the resilience and high internationalisation of our top companies, our strong industries like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, retailing and media; the pre-eminence of the City of London.

Consequence of City Influence: Everywhere else in Britain Suffers

Ramsay goes on to describe what this change of attitude actually means for everyone else in Britain outside the elite financial circle of the metropolis.

That the British economy policy is ‘outward-looking, internationalist and committed to free and open trade’, in Blair’s words, is precisely the problem from which non-metropolitan Britain has suffered. These are the values of the overseas lobby, the Home Counties financial elite, people for whom Bradford or Norwich, let alone Glasgow and Cardiff, are far away places about which they know nothing – and care about as much.

British politics has been stood on its head. The Conservative Party, traditionally the party of financial and overseas interests, has been replaced in that role by Labour. Instructed by its new friends in the City, Labour has become the party of financial- that is pre-Keynsian – orthodoxy. Gordon Brown looks determined to re-enact the role of Philip Snowden in 1931. The last three years of the Major regime saw Chancellor Kenneth Clarke running the kind of orthodox Keynesian policy – increasing government deficits in response to the recession – which Labour, under Wilson or Callaghan, would have run, but which is anathema to ‘Iron Chancellor’ Brown. (p. 8).

Miliband’s Apparent Lack of Interest in Poverty and Working Class due to New Labour

Ramsay notes the way Labour adopted the rhetoric of ‘One Nation’ Toryism and appeals to British patriotism. This was to disguise their promotion of the overseas economy at the expense of domestic industry. He concludes

The Blair faction will fail. ‘One nation’ rhetoric, continuing membership of the institutions of the New World Order – which is essentially the same old American post-war order minus the Soviet challenge – and leaving economic policy to the overseas sector won’t affect the real structural problems of the British economy. When it does finally dawn on the Parliamentary Labour Party that it won’t work, they will have to look elsewhere. The wrong turning was taken at the point when Bryan Gould was defeated by John Smith and the party leadership decided to surrender to the overseas lobby. To that disjunction it will have to return. (p. 9).

This is the origin of New Labour and the background to Miliband’s continuing attempts to appeal to the Middle Class and the financial elite at the expense of the poor and working class. And it needs to change urgently. Even so, a Labour government would be far preferable to another Tory government. If nothing else, Labour have said that they will stop the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS. But for Labour truly to start tackling poverty and unemployment in this country, it will have to jettison much of the New Labour project and start returning to its working class roots.

Thinking the Unthinkable: Move Parliament out of London

October 19, 2013

From Hell, Hull and Halifax, good Lord deliver us

-16th Century beggars’ prayer.

Last week The Economist recommended that the government cease trying to revive declining northern towns and leave them to die. The main example of such a town, where further intervention was deemed to be useless, was Hull, but the magazine also mentioned a number of others, including Burnley. The Economist is the magazine of capitalist economic orthodoxy in this country. Its stance is consistently Neo-Liberal, and the policies it has always demanded are those of welfare cuts and the privatisation of everything that isn’t nailed down. It has loudly supported the IMF’s recommendations of these policies to the developing world. Some left-wing magazines and organisation like Lobster have pointed out that the IMF’s policies effectively constitute American economic imperialism, citing the IMF’s proposals to several South and Meso-American nations. These were not only told to privatise their countries’ state assets, but to sell them to American multinationals so that they could be more efficiently managed.

The Economist’s advice that economically hit northern towns should be ‘closed down’ also reflects the almost exclusive concentration of the metropolitan establishment class on London and south-east, and their complete disinterest and indeed active hostility to everything beyond Birmingham. This possibly excludes the Scots Highlands, where they can go grouse shooting. It was revealed a little while ago that back in the 1980s one of Thatcher’s cabinet – I forgotten which one – recommended a similar policy towards Liverpool. Recent economic analyses have shown that London and the south-east have become increasingly prosperous, and have a higher quality of life, while that of the North has significantly declined. The London Olympics saw several extensive and prestigious construction projects set up in the Docklands area of London, intended both to build the infrastructure needed for the Olympics and promote the capital to the rest of the world. It’s also been predicted that the high-speed rail link proposed by the Coalition would not benefit Britain’s other cities, but would lead to their further decline as jobs and capital went to London. A report today estimated that 50 cities and regions, including Bristol, Cardiff, Aberdeen and Cambridge would £200 million + through the rail link. The Economist’s article also demonstrates the political class’ comprehensive lack of interest in manufacturing. From Mrs Thatcher onwards, successive administrations have favoured the financial sector, centred on the City of London. Lobster has run several articles over the years showing how the financial sector’s prosperity was bought at the expense of manufacturing industry. Despite claims that banking and financial industry would take over from manufacturing as the largest employer, and boost the British economy, this has not occurred. The manufacturing has indeed contracted, but still employs far more than banking, insurance and the rest of the financial sector. The financial sector, however, as we’ve seen, has enjoyed massively exorbitant profits. The Economist claims to represent the interests and attitudes of the financial class, and so its attitude tellingly reveals the neglectful and contemptuous attitude of the metropolitan financial elite towards the troubled economic conditions of industrial towns outside the capital.

Coupled with this is a condescending attitude that sees London exclusively as the centre of English arts and culture, while the provinces, particularly the North, represent its complete lack. They’re either full of clod-hopping yokels, or unwashed plebs from the factories. Several prominent Right-wingers have also made sneering or dismissive comments about the North and its fate. The art critic and contrarian, Brian Sewell, commented a few years ago that ‘all those dreadful Northern mill towns ought to be demolished’. Transatlantic Conservatism has also felt the need to adopt a defensive attitude towards such comments. The American Conservative, Mark Steyn, on his website declared that criticism of London was simply anti-London bias, but didn’t tell you why people were so critical of the metropolis or its fortunes. This situation isn’t new. At several times British history, London’s rising prosperity was marked by decline and poverty in the rest of the country. In the 17th century there was a recession, with many English ports suffering a sharp economic decline as London expanded to take 75 per cent of the country’s trade. The regional ports managed to survive by concentrating on local, coastal trade rather than international commerce, until trade revived later in the century.

It’s also unfair on the North and its cultural achievements. The North rightfully has a reputation for the excellence of its museum collections. The region’s museums tended to be founded by philanthropic and civic-minded industrialists, keen to show their public spirit and their interest in promoting culture. I can remember hearing from the director of one of the museum’s here in Bristol two decades ago in the 1990s how he was shocked by the state of the City’s museum when he came down here from one of the northern towns. It wasn’t of the same standard he was used to back home. What made this all the more surprising was that Bristol had a reputation for having a very good museum. Now I like Bristol Museum, and have always been fascinated by its collections and displays, including, naturally, those on archaeology. My point here isn’t to denigrate Bristol, but simply show just how high a standard there was in those of the industrial north. Liverpool City Museum and art gallery in particular has a very high reputation. In fact, Liverpool is a case in point in showing the very high standard of provincial culture in the 19th century, and its importance to Britain’s economic, technological and imperial dominance. Liverpool was a major centre in scientific advance and experiment through its philosophical and literary society, and its magazine. This tends to be forgotten, overshadowed as it has been by the city’s terrible decline in the 20th century and its setting for shows dealing with working-class hardship like Boys from the Black Stuff and the comedy, Bread. Nevertheless, its cultural achievements are real, quite apart from modern pop sensations like the Beatles, Cilla Black, Macca and comedians like Jimmy Tarbuck. The town also launched thousands of young engineers and inventors with the Meccano construction sets, while Hornby railways delighted model railway enthusiasts up and down the length of Britain. These two toys have been celebrated in a series of programmes exploring local history, like Coast. Hornby, the inventor of both Meccano and the model railway that bore his name, was duly celebrated by the science broadcaster, Adam Hart-Davis, as one of his Local Heroes.

And Liverpool is certainly not the only city north of London with a proud history. Think of Manchester. This was one of Britain’s major industrial centres, and the original hometown of the Guardian, before it moved to London. It was a major centre of the political debates and controversies that raged during the 19th century, with the Guardian under Feargus O’Connor the major voice of working class radicalism. It was in industrial towns like Manchester that working class culture emerged. Books like The Civilisation of the Crowd show how mass popular culture arose and developed in the 19th century, as people from working-class communities attempted to educate themselves and enjoy music. They formed choirs and brass bands. Working men, who worked long hours used their few spare hours to copy sheet music to sing or play with their fellows. The various mechanics institutes up and down the country were institutions, in which the working class attempted to educate itself and where contemporary issues were discussed. It’s an aspect of industrial, working class culture that needs to be remembered and celebrated, and which does show how strong and vibrant local culture could be in industrial towns outside London.

Back in the 1990s the magazine, Anxiety Culture, suggested a way of breaking this exclusive concentration on London and the interests of the metropolitan elite to the neglect of those in the provinces. This magazine was a small press publication, with a minuscule circulation, which mixed social and political criticism with Forteana and the esoteric, by which I mean alternative spirituality, like Gnosticism, rather than anything Tory prudes think should be banned from the internet, but don’t know quite what. In one of their articles they noted that when a politician said that ‘we should think the unthinkable’, they meant doing more of what they were already doing: cutting down on welfare benefits and hitting the poor. They recommended instead the adoption of a truly radical policy:

Move parliament out of London.

They listed a number of reasons for such a genuinely radical move. Firstly, it’s only been since the 18th century that parliament has been permanently fixed in London. Before then it often sat where the king was at the time. At various points in history it was at Winchester near the Anglo-Saxon and Norman kings’ treasury. It was in York during Edward I’s campaign against the Scots. In short, while parliament has mostly been resident in London, it hasn’t always been there, and so there is no absolutely compelling reason why it should remain so.

Secondly, London’s expensive. The sheer expensive of living in the capital was always so great that civil servants’ pay including ‘London weighting’ to bring it up to the amount they’d really need to live on in the capital, which was always higher than in the rest of the country. The same was true for other workers and employees. As we’ve seen, these inequalities are growing even more massive under the Tories, and there is talk of a demographic cleansing as poorer families are forced to move out of some of the most expensive boroughs in the capital. MPs and the very rich may now afford to live in luxury accommodation in the metropolis, but I wonder how long it will be before the capital’s infrastructure breaks down because so many of its workers simply cannot afford to live there. The government has declared that it is keen on cutting expenses, and public sector employees’ salaries have been particularly hard hit. The government could therefore solve a lot of its problems – such as those of expense, and the cost in time and money of negotiating the heavy London traffic – by relocating elsewhere.

Birmingham would be an excellent place to start. This has most of what London has to offer, including excellent universities and entertainment centres, such as the NEC, but would be much cheaper. Or York. During the Middle Ages, this was England’s Second City. It’s an historic town, with a history going back to the Romans. The excavations at Coppergate made York one of the major British sites for the archaeology of the Vikings. It also has an excellent university. One could also recommend Durham. When I was growing up in the 1980s, Durham University was considered the third best in the country, following Oxbridge. Manchester too would be an outstanding site for parliament. Apart from its historic associations with working class politics, it has also been a major centre of British scientific research and innovation. Fred Hoyle, the astronomer and maverick cosmologist, came from that fair city. While he was persistently wrong in supporting the steady-state theory against the Big Bang, he was one of Britain’s major astronomers and physicists, and Manchester University does have a very strong tradition of scientific research and innovation. British politicians are also keen to show that they are now tolerant with an inclusive attitude towards gays. Manchester’s Canal Street is one of the main centres of gay nightlife. If parliament really wanted to show how tolerant it was of those in same-sex relationship, it would make sense for it to move to Manchester.

Furthermore, relocating parliament to the north should have the effect of reinvigorating some of these cities and the north generally. The influx of civil servants and highly paid officials and ministers would stimulate the local economy. It would also break the myopic assumption that there is nothing of any value outside London. If the government and its servants continued to feel the same way, then they would have the option of actually passing reforms to improve their new homes by providing better road and rail links, improving local education, building or better funding theatres, orchestras and opera companies, investing in local businesses to support both the governmental infrastructure, but also to provide suitable work for themselves and their children, when they retire from the Civil Service. In short, moving parliament out of London to the midlands or the North would massively regenerate those part of England.

It won’t happen, because the current financial, political and business elite are very much tied to the metropolis as the absolute centre of English life and culture. They won’t want to leave its theatres, art galleries and museums, or move away from nearby sporting venues, like Ascot. They would find the idea of moving out of London absolutely unthinkable. But perhaps, as Anxiety Culture suggested twenty years ago, it is time that these ideas were thought, rather than the banal and all-too often ruminated policies of cutting benefits and penalising the poor.