Posts Tagged ‘Chris Patten’

Starmer Runs Away from Green New Deal Campaigners – Anyone Surprised?

August 13, 2021

Mike today posted a tweet containing a video from a young woman and man from the campaign group, Green New Deal Rising, On Wednesday, the pair had attempted to confront Starmer about his policies towards the Green New Deal and the climate crisis. According to them, Starmer ran away protesting that he was too busy to talk about it. So they tackled him today about his refusal to take an action and failure to back the Green New Deal. The video shows Starmer running away from them faster than Boris Johnson searching for a fridge to hide in. He does speak to the pair eventually from behind a line of railings, talking about tackling climate through international negotiations at the forthcoming conference. They’re not impressed with him, neither is Mike and frankly, I’m not either. The group end their tweet with “Words mean nothing Keir. We need urgent action. We need you to #BackTheBill” Mike notes that Starmer was right behind the bill when it was one of Corbyn’s policies, but now has utterly reversed his position. Noting that the Labour leader is actually avoiding campaigners against climate change, Mike asks ‘How does he think this is acceptable?’

I’m not remotely surprised by this. Starmer has broken every one of Corbyn’s policies, and has shown just how right-wing he is by writing his despicable piece in the Financial Times about how he wishes to return the party to the glory days, as he seems to see it, of Blair. This is the Tony Blair who accelerated and expanded the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS, the destruction of the welfare state, the wholesale implementation of the Private Finance Initiative as a general governmental principle and the further impoverishment of Britain’s great working people. And this is apart from his international crimes – the illegal invasion of Iraq and the bombing of Libya to overthrow Colonel Gaddafy. The result has been the descent of those relatively secular societies with welfare states into sectarian violence and chaos. Half of Libya has been overrun by Islamist fanatics, who have opened slave markets selling Black migrants travelling through the country in the hope of reaching Europe. The western occupation of Iraq and the neo-Cons attempts to turn the country into a low-tax, free trade capitalist utopia has utterly wrecked their economy. But western multinationals have done extremely well for themselves, looting and taking over the country’s state-owned enterprises as the spoils of war. And Aramco, the American-Saudi oil company, has stolen Iraq’s oil industry and its reserves. Indeed, they’ve actually written into the country’s new constitution a clause stating that the Iraqis may not renationalise it.

This was the real aim of the invasion all along.

As was the invasion of Afghanistan. Like Iraq, it had nothing to do with liberating the country from the murderous rule of a brutal regime. Quite the contrary. George Dubya Bush’s administration had been in talks with the Taliban about opening up an oil pipeline there. It was only when the Taliban started stalling and looked ready to turn down the proposal, that Bush’s bunch of bandits then drew up plans to invade the country if an opportunity presented itself. Which it did with 9/11.

For further information about this, read any of William Blum’s critiques of American imperialism and Greg Palast’s Armed Madhouse.

Blair himself was a corporatist. He gave positions in government to senior figures from private industry, often on the very bodies that were supposed to regulate those industries, in return for their generous donations. This included the NHS, where he took in various advisors from private healthcare companies. See George Monbiot’s Captive State. I’ve seen absolutely no evidence that Blair was ever worried about saving the planet. Not when he was determined to reward the same businesses that are wrecking it. One of the horrors left over from the Iraq invasion is the pollution from the armaments coated with depleted uranium, which have been responsible for a massive increase in birth defects among the Iraqi population.

I don’t see Starmer as being remotely different. He’s already shown his contempt for the Labour party’s rank and file, whom he’s ignoring in order to try to recruit prospective MPs and officials from outside the party. Just as Blair was far more welcoming to Tory politicos who had crossed the floor to join him, like Chris Patten, than his own party and particularly its left-wing. My guess Starmer is probably hoping for more corporate donations, including from the fracking companies wishing to start operating over here.

Right now, he looks exactly the same as David Cameron. Cameron boasted that his would be the greenest government ever. He even put a little windmill on his roof to show how serious he was. But when he finally slithered his way into No. 10, that windmill came down and it was full steam ahead for fracking and hang anyone worried about its damage to the environment and their drinking water.

Starmer’s going to be no different. Which is why he’s turned his back on the Green New Deal and run away from its campaigners. He doesn’t want to hear them, just as he doesn’t want to hear from ordinary working people and Labour supporters and members.

A Lesson from the 1980s Mitterand Government: Labour Needs to Keep to Socialist Values

October 7, 2020

I used to be a member of the Fabian Society in the 1980s, and still have a few of their pamphlets around. One of those is by the Labour MP Denis MacShane, French Lessons for Labour. This discusses Francois Mitterand’s Socialist Party government which was in office from 1981 to 1986, its positive achievements and failures, and why it lost the 1986. Even after thirty-four years, some of the points made by the pamphlet are still very relevant. And one is particularly so now that Keir Starmer is leader of the Labour party and trying to return it back to Blairite Thatcherism. Because of the reasons MacShane considers Mitterand’s government failed to get re-elected was because they didn’t govern according to traditional socialist values.

This is very clearly argued in the passage ‘The need for socialist values’ in the pamphlet’s final chapter, ‘Conclusion: What Lessons for Labour?’ This runs

The relative failure off the French Socialists to set the economy moving in the right direction or to develop a positive partnership with the unions may be related to their dropping of the ideas and values of socialism soon after the election. By the end of the five years’ government, Socialist ministers were openly saying that their main achievement had been to show that they could alternate with governments of the right. This may be so but it was a major scaling down of ambition and unlikely to mobilise mass support.

Mitterand’s and ministers’ assumptions of the “national” or “above party” mode so quickly after the 1981 election and thereafter until very shortly before the 1986 contest was more than a choice of language. It was a suspension of that part of the socialist project aimed at developing egalitarian values and practices in society. In country that attaches great importance to parole, headed by a Socialist president with an extraordinary command of the language the adoption of the discourse of “modernisation” , “flexibility”, “dynamism” is to dilute the reference to politics with the nostrums of the Wall Street Journal. The qualities listed above may be necessary but to emphasise them to the exclusion of other values that distinguish socialist from conservative governments is a mistake. On all French coins the three words “Liberty”, “Equality” and “Fraternity” are inscribed. They predate Marx but each is an important element of socialist values. Of thee, the concept least applied by Mitterand was equality. Studies of the last Labour Government in Britain also showed that inequalities widened and poverty increased. If a democratic socialist government is to lessen those inequalities then some sense of necessary austerity, some imposition of standards of citizenship will have to take place. There must be some link between sacrifice and equality – that, in addition to economic growth, is perhaps the beginnings of the modern socialist project. The call to equality, the call to sacrifice was not heard clearly throughout the five years of socialist government in France. They began by thinking they could please everyone and ended by being voted out. (pp. 33-4).

I realise that Blair adopted much the same policy when he took office. His government included former Conservative MPs like Chris Patten in a ‘Government Of All the Talents’. His first act in No. 10 was to invited Margaret Thatcher round to visit. He had also managed to get Clause IV, the passage in the Labour Party constitution committing it to nationalisation, dropped earlier in the 1980s. Instead of pursuing traditional socialist policies, Blair claimed his government instead had found a ‘Third Way’. In practice he followed Thatcherite orthodoxy by continuing privatisation, including that of the NHS, and dismantling the welfare state. Blair was intent on winning over swing voters in marginal constituencies and turned away from the party’s traditional working class base. In reward for this, he was supported by the Murdoch press and received donations from big businesses that had previously donated to the Tory party. New Labour stayed in power from 1997 to 2010, so it might be thought that his policy of simply becoming ‘Tory Lite’ is successful. However, Blair lost the support of traditional Labour voters and members. He won with a lower number of votes, I believe, than Jeremy Corbyn had when he lost the 2017 election. It’s been said that by 1997 the public were so sick of the Tories, that Blair simply didn’t need to adopt their policies. He could simply have carried on with the real, socialist, Labour party policies of nationalisation, a mixed economy, publicly owned and properly funded NHS and a welfare state that genuinely supported the sick, unemployed and disabled. Policies that this country desperately needs.

For all Corbyn’s personal unpopularity, created by a vicious, libellous media, his policies – which were and are those of the traditional Labour party – were very popular with the public. But Keir Starmer has turned away from them in order to return to those of Blair. He and his grotty supporters no doubt believe this will win votes and the next election. This will probably not be the case. Blair had the support of the Murdoch press, and the Tories were more unpopular than Labour. Boris’ popularity has massively declined due to his massive incompetence in tackling the Coronavirus and is currently below Starmer’s according to recent polls. But the Labour party is still less popular than the Tories despite the Blairites telling us all that with Corbyn gone, they’d be 20 points or so ahead.

Blair’s government notwithstanding, one of the lessons Mitterand’s government has to teach us on this side of La Manche is that the Labour party needs to govern, and be seen and heard to govern, according to the values of equality and fraternity. And we need to get rid of austerity for ordinary working people. We’ve had nothing but austerity for the past ten years, and the result is nothing but bloated pay rises for the obscenely rich, and starvation and misery for the poor. It’s about time this stopped, and a proper taxation policy imposed on the rich for the benefit of everyone in this great nation.

Starmer Throws Away Corbyn’s Popular Socialist Labour Policies

May 13, 2020

I really shouldn’t be surprised at this whatsoever. It was inevitable, and everyone saw it coming the moment Starmer entered the ring in the Labour leadership contest. But I hoped against hope that he would still have some sense of honour and remain faithful to his election pledges. But he hasn’t. He’s finally taken his mask off and revealed his true, Blairite neoliberal face. And in the words of Benjamin J. Grimm, your blue-eyed, ever-lovin’ Thing, ‘What a revoltin’ development’ it is.

On Monday Mike put up a piece reporting that Starmer had given an interview to the Financial Times in which he blamed his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, for last year’s election defeat. He claims that Corbyn’s leadership was the chief topic of debate. That’s probably true, but only up to a point. The long, venomous campaign against Corbyn certainly did whip up a vicious hatred against the former Labour leader amongst a large part of the electorate. Some of the people I talked to in my local Labour party, who’d been out campaigning, said that they were shocked by the vicious, bitter hatred the public had for him. One woman said that it was as if they expected him to come up the garden path and shoot their dog.

But Starmer was also one of the reasons for Labour’s defeat. It was due to Starmer’s influence that Labour muddled its policy on Brexit by promising a second referendum. Johnson’s message of getting Brexit done was much simpler, and more popular. It’s almost certainly why Labour lost its historic strongholds in the north and midlands. These were areas which voted heavily for Brexit. But obviously, as the new leader of the Labour party, Starmer doesn’t want to mention that.

Then he goes on to blame the defeat on Labour’s policies. He claims Labour had overloaded its manifesto with promises to nationalise several utilities, issue £300 billion of shares to workers and promising another £83 billion in tax and spending. However, these policies, contrary to what the habitual liars and hack propagandists of the Tories and Lib Dems claim, had been properly costed.

Now I don’t doubt that the manifesto was overloaded by too many promises. When analysing what went wrong in the local constituency meeting, some felt that it was because the manifesto was too long, contained too many such promises and felt that they were being made up on a daily basis as the election progressed. But the central promise of renationalising the electricity grid, water and the railways were genuinely popular, and had been in the previous election in 2017. And Starmer promised to honour the policy commitments made in last year’s manifesto.

And now he’s shown in this interview that he has no intention of doing so.

He’s also demonstrated this by appointing as his shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson, another Blairite, who attacked Labour’s 2017 manifesto for offering too much to voters. Mike also reports that a leaked letter from Phillipson to other members of the shadow cabinet shows her telling them that from now on any policies that involve spending must have the approval of both Starmer and the shadow Treasury team before they’re even put in the planning stage.

Mike comments

Clearly, Starmer wants an “out-Tory the Tories” spending policy of the kind that led to then-Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves promising to be “tougher than the Tories” on benefits, in just one particularly out-of-touch policy from the Miliband era.

Absolutely. He wants to show Tory and Lib Dem voters that Labour stands for responsible fiscal policy, just like it did under Blair, who was also responsible for massive privatisation and a further catastrophic dismantlement of the welfare state.

Blair also made a conscious decision to abandon traditional Labour policies and its working class base in order to appeal to Tory voters in swing marginals. And the first thing he did was to recruit former Tory cabinet ministers, such as Chris Patten, to his own to form a Government Of All the Talents (GOATS). Starmer’s trying to make the same appeal. And it’s shown glaringly in the choice of newspaper to which he gave the interview. The Financial Times is the paper of the financial sector. Way back in the 1990s it was politically Liberal, although that didn’t stop one of its writers supporting workfare. According to Private Eye, the newspaper was losing readers, so its board and director, Marjorie Scardino, decreed that it should return to being a Tory paper. It has, though that hasn’t helped it – it’s still losing readers, and has lost even more than when it was Liberal. Starmer’s trying to repeat the Labour Party’s ‘prawn cocktail’ offensive, begun under Neil Kinnock, in which it successfully tried to win over the banking sector.

The rest of Mike’s article is a dissection of Starmer’s promises to stop landlords evicting their tenants because of the Coronavirus crisis. These look good, but will actually make housing scarcer and actually increase the problems renters have finding rent. Critics of Starmer’s policy see him as protecting landlords, rather than tenants.

Please see Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/05/11/keir-betrayal-starmer-rejects-policies-that-made-him-labour-leader/

Starmer’s policy does seem to be succeeding in winning Tory and Lib Dem voters.

According to a survey from Tory pollster YouGov, Starmer has an approval rating of +23, higher than Johnson. People were also positive about his leadership of the Labour party. 40 per cent think he’s done ‘very well’ or ‘well’ compared to the 17 per cent, who think he’s done fairly or very badly.

When it comes to Tories, 34 per cent think he’s doing well compared to 25 per cent, while regarding the Lib Dems, 63 per cent think he’s doing well compared to 53 per cent of Labour people.

Mike states that this is humiliating for Starmer, as it comes from people, who have a vested interested in a duff Labour leader.

Starmer gets approval rating boost – courtesy of Tory and Lib Dem voters

And Starmer has been duff. He’s scored a couple of very good points against Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions, but he’s largely been conspicuous by his absence. This has got to the point where the Tory papers have been sneering at him for it, saying that Piers Morgan has been a more effective opposition. It’s a point that has also been made by Tony Greenstein. See: https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/05/if-labour-wants-to-win-next-election.html

Even if these stats show that Tory and Lib Dem voters are genuinely impressed with Starmer, that does not mean that he has popular mandate. Tory Tony Blair won over Conservative voters, but that was at the expense of traditional Labour voters and members. They left the party in droves. It was Corbyn’s achievement that he managed to win those members back, and turned the party into Britain’s largest.

But Starmer and the Blairites despise the traditional Labour base. As shown by the coups and plots during Corbyn’s leadership, they’d be quite happy with a far smaller party without traditional, socialist members. And Starmer was part of that. He was one of those who took part in the coups.

Starmer is once again following Blair’s course in wanting to appeal to Tories and Lib Dems instead of working class voters, trade unionists and socialists. He wishes to return to orthodox fiscal policies, which will mean more privatisation, including that of the NHS, and completing their destruction of the welfare state.

He wants it to become Tory Party no. 2, just as Blair did. And for working class people, that means more poverty, disease, starvation and death.

 

 

Alexei Sayle on Comedy and Politics in Yesterday’s ‘Metro’

September 28, 2019

Alexei Sayle, one of the pillars of the ’80s Alternative Comedy wave which spawned The Young Ones, French and Saunders, the Comic Strip and Ben Elton was interviewed in yesterday’s Metro (27th September 2019). The man’s 67, but still angry – although the interview also says he’s mellowing – and stars in a series on Radio 4 set in a sandwich bar and due to have a headline gig at the Southport Comedy Festival. Speaking to the paper’s Jade Wright, Sayle talked about his career, the state of modern comedy and attacked austerity, the Tories and supposedly ‘moderate’ politicians, who support them. It’s interesting in that Sayle also champions Jeremy Corbyn, without the paper trying to attack the Labour leader in response or a snide aside. The interview on page 51 and continued on page 54 is entitled ‘Sayle Now On’. It’s too long for me to type it up as a whole, but here’s the bits where he mostly talks about politics, along with his family background and the lack of left-wing comedians today.

Alexei Sayle might have been in the comedy business for 40 years, but he’s not lost any of his flair for contemporary analysis. His take that ‘austerity is the idea that the 2008 financial crash was caused by Wolverhampton having too many libraries’ has been spreading like wildfire on social media. May that’s because, as he claims, there’s a surprising shortage of anti-establishment comedians.

‘There’s a gap in the market. Even if they didn’t believe in it, you’d expect someone to do it, just for the money,’ he says. ‘there were loads of left-wing comedians in the 1980s. Where are the new Ben Eltons now?’

His new Radio 4 show, Alexei Sayle’s Imaginary Sandwich Bar, in which the Wolverhampton library gag first appeared, is the Liverpool comedian on his usual erudite, and angry, form. As is evident from the show, he’s become a passionate advocate for Jeremy Corbyn and the grassroots movement he has created. ‘When people sneer at Jeremy Corbyn, it drives me nuts,’ Alexei says. ‘To hear him being called a racist by racists, it’s beyond belief. And yet I have friends who are taken in by this s**t.’

‘I hear him talk, and it makes sense, then it gets deliberately misrepresented by people who have something to gain from that, people who are very much part of the establishment.

Alexei grew up in Liverpool. His mum, Molly, was a pools clerk from a Lithuanian Jewish family and his father, Joseph, was a railway guard. Both were members of the Communist Party. But, while always political, he was keen from a young age to find his own voice. ‘I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think things are changing’, he says. ‘Voters are seeing through the politicians who claim to have moderate views, but actually what they’re saying is really quite extreme.

‘For a long time the politicians from all parties were all fighting over the votes in the middle. Politics went from strongly right-wing to mildly left-wing and there were lots of voices that didn’t get heard at all, loads of people who didn’t vote.

‘You had all these modern, careerist MPs who were almost indistinguishable from each other. But austerity has disproportionately affected young people and other groups who felt there was no one to speak for them. There are new people registering to vote all the time. Maybe they have more hope now.’

So is Alexei more hopeful, too? ‘Yes,’ he says, before pausing. ‘Maybe. More so lately. Suddenly, from nowhere, they have a genuinely left-wing leader and new voices who are vocally opposing austerity as the political ideal it is.’

‘It was never a necessity for force terminally ill people to look for jobs or to close libraries. That was a series of political decisions that didn’t really save any money any way. Now we have a leader who will speak up.’

I was never a fan of Sayle’s comedy myself, as I simply didn’t find it funny. Much of it just struck me as just abuse, without anything really deep being said. But here he’s pretty much right. The only thing I differ from him here is when he says that things have gone from extreme right to mildly left-wing. Blair was always a member of the Thatcherite extreme right. He and the rest of New Labour really did want to sell off the NHS, although I think he definitely believed in making sure that medical care was free. And he also introduced the work capability tests that have caused so many desperately ill people to be thrown off benefits, to live and die in starvation and misery. What differed about Blair is that he was genuinely anti-racist, pro-gay and anti-sexist – so long as they supported him – and was careful to sound slightly left-wing. Even when he was aiming at the same voting constituency as the Tories, using the same ministers, who had crossed the floor from the Tory party, like Chris Patten, and was taking money from the same corporate donors.

But people are waking up to how they were fooled and the country run down by the ‘moderates’ as well as the Tories and the Lib Dems. People do feel they have hope for a better future under Corbyn. As for comedy, the complaint on the right is that there are few right-wing comedians and that it’s all biased against the Tories. Which is rubbish. Buddy Hell over at Guy Debord’s Cat also wrote a blog piece complaining that the contemporary aspiring comedians he’d seen really don’t have anything funny to say. Their act simply consists of them telling the story of their life. I’m not in show business, so I have no idea why this should be so. It might simply be that the people who aspire to be comedians have been inspired by the autobiographical, observational comedy of people like Sayle, but don’t really have anything to say. It may also simply be that as the left-wing comedians of the 1980s matured and were overtaken by other comics, there was a reaction against the older generation’s political comedy. Even so, shows like The Last Leg are still managing to put a well aimed kick to the Tories. But perhaps, if more people are being inspired politically by Corbyn, this will also spur a new generation of angry left-wingers to subject the establishment to bitter scorn and derision. While showing that there can be a better world without people like Johnson, May, Cameron, Swinson and the rest of them, of course.

 

Private Eye Covers Shows Blairites’ Real Policy towards Traditional Labour Members

September 18, 2018

This is the cover of a very old Private Eye for Friday, 2nd October 1998. The caption reads ‘Blair Calls For Unity’, and has Blair saying in the speech bubble ‘There’s a leftie – chuck him out!’

This was the time when Blair was trying to modernize the Labour party by removing Clause 4, the part of its constitution formulated by the Fabians and other socialists, which committed the party to the nationalization of the means of production and distribution. In short, socialism. Blair instead was determined to turn it into another Thatcherite party committed to privatization, including that of the NHS, welfare cuts, and job insecurity. Its traditional working class base were to be ignored and the party instead was to concentrate on winning swing voters, who might otherwise vote Tory. He attempted to win over the Tory press, including the Murdoch papers. Despite owing the start of his career to union sponsorship, he was determined to limit their power even further, and threatened to cut the party’s ties with them unless they submitted to his dictates. His ‘Government Of All the Talents’ – GOATs – included former Tory ministers like Chris Patten. Tories, who crossed the floor and defected to New Labour were parachuted into safe seats as the expense of sitting MPs and the wishes of the local constituency party. Blair adopted failed or discarded Tory policies, including the Peter Lilley’s Private Finance Initiative and the advice of Anderson Consulting. This was satirized by a computer programme that made anagrams from politicians’ names. Anthony Blair came out as ‘I am Tory Plan B’.

The direction in which Blair wanted the party to move was clearly shown by him inviting Margaret Thatcher to 10 Downing Street to visit the day after he was elected. And she thoroughly approved of him, declaring that New Labour was her greatest legacy.

Blair and New Labour were also staunch supporters of Israel. It was money from Zionist Jewish businessmen, raised by Lord Levy, whom Blair had met at a gathering at the Israeli embassy, that allowed him to be financially independent from the trade unions.

Now all that is being threatened by Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. Which is why Blairite apparatchiks and MPs have done their level best to purge the party of them by smearing them as Trotskyite and Stalinist infiltrators and anti-Semites. The charges are ludicrous, hypocritical and offensive. Corbyn and his supporters aren’t far left: they’re traditional Labour, supporting a mixed economy. And far from being anti-Semites, the vast majority of those accused are decent, anti-racist people, including self-respecting Jews and dedicated campaigners against anti-Semitism. People like Marc Wadsworth, Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, Tony Greenstein, Mike over at Vox Political, Martin Odoni and many, many others. Many of the Jews smeared as anti-Semites are Holocaust survivors or the children of Holocaust survivors, but this is never reported in the media. Except when the person supposedly attacked is a good Blairite or member of the Israel lobby.

The cover was made in jest when it came out, though it had an element of truth even then. Now it’s even more true. Blair has left the party leadership, but his supporters in Progress and similar groups are determined to cling on to power by carrying out a purge of Corbyn and his traditional Labour supporters.

Just as Blair himself emerged to urge Blairite MPs and Labour members to leave and join his proposed ‘Centrist’ party.

Observer Unveils Launch of New ‘Centrist’, Corporatist Party

April 10, 2018

On Sunday, the Absurder covered the launch of a new ‘centrist’ party, which it was claimed would break the mould of British politics. And talking about it with Mike, I certainly got the impression that the party sounded very mouldy indeed. It has been launched with £50 million worth of funding, backed by businessmen and donors.

Yes, businessmen and donors. This looks to me like more continuity Blairism: claiming to represent the centre, while instead promoting the policies and business interests of the corporate elite. Just like Blair did in New Labour, when he gave government posts to a whole slew of businessmen in return for their cash and support. The party’s launch was also covered by the Mirror, which quoted two of the leading officials in the Labour party about it. One described it as ‘a party for the rich, by the rich, and with the rich’, which sounds very true, although it also describes the Tories, Lib Dems and the Blairites in Labour. Another leading member mocked the new party for having no members, no rule book and no ideology.

Well of course it doesn’t. It looks very much like Tony Blair trying to claw his way back into British politics. I don’t know if he’s behind this, but he certainly made murmurings about starting a new party. This party has been set up a party to appeal to the ‘centre ground’ he thinks are being alienated from Labour by the ‘far’ left Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, Corbyn is centre left, and is actually becoming increasingly popular as the corporatist, Thatcherite policies pursued by Blair and the Tories before and after him are increasingly shown to be failing.

He also doesn’t seem to have learned that far from being attracted by corporatism, voters are actually repelled by it. Blair’s time in office was marked by numerous exposes of his rewarding greedy donors, as well as George Monbiot’s book, Captive State, which described how, under Blair and his predecessors, the British state had been made into the vehicle for the interests of big business. Like the supermarkets, led by New Labour donor David Sainsbury, amongst others. Far from this attracting voters, the Labour party actually lost them as Blair continued to ignore the party’s traditional base in the working and lower middle classes in order to appeal to ‘aspirational’ middle class voters.

And its lack of ideology is part of its Blairite nature. Blair too described New Labour as having left ideology behind, by which he meant socialism, and would use instead what worked. By which he meant private industry, which spectacularly hasn’t. It also appears that Blair believes that this new party will also borrow, or work with members of other parties where necessary or appropriate. Which is back to Blair’s ‘Government Of All the Talents’, which included leading Tories like Chris Patten.

So far from breaking the mould, this new party is simply more of the same from Blairism. It’s also highly debatable how different it is from the other, existing parties. The Tories are dominated by corporate interests, which they have been representing since the 19th century. So too are the Lib Dems under Vince Cable. Statistics gathered way back in 2012 or so showed that 77 per cent of MPs had one or more directorships. This is a major problem for those trying to get our elected representatives to work for ordinary people, rather than the corporate elite. The same problem is particularly acute in America, which is why Harvard University issued a report stating that America was no longer a functioning democracy, but an oligarchy. Once elected to office, American politicos follow the wishes of their corporate donors, not their constituents.

This new party isn’t going to reinvigorate democracy. It’s unnecessary, unwanted, and if anything a real danger to it by standing to give even more political power to business people as its members and donors. It looks less like a serious contender, and more like a vanity project by Blair, trying to show that the public still want him and his increasingly worn out policies.

Lobster on Politically-Motivated False Accusations of Anti-Semitism

May 2, 2016

I found this very interesting and pertinent quote from Uri Avnery’s paper, ‘Manufacturing Anti-Semites’ in Tom Easton’s article, ‘Terrorism, Anti-Semitism and Dissent’, in Lobster 47, Summer 2004: 3-8. The article’s an analysis of the role of the Neo-Cons in Britain and America, and the Israel lobby, in the invasion of Iraq and the new imperialism in the Middle East. The article’s based on four books, Covert Action: The Roots of Terrorism, ed. Ellen Ray and William H. Schaap, The Politics of Anti-Semitism, ed. Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair, The Betrayal of Dissent: Beyond Orwell, Hitchens and the New American Century by Scott Lucas, and George Galloway’s I’m Not The Only One. He writes

Uri Avnery’s ‘Manufacturing Anti-Semites’ is a very powerful attack on the present government of Israel by one of its own citizens.

‘The Sharon government is a giant laboratory for growing the Anti-Semitism virus. It exports it to the whole world. Sharon’s propaganda agents are pouring oil on the flames. Accusing all critics of his policy of being anti-Semites, they brand large communities with this mark. Many good people, who feel no hatred at all towards the Jews but who detest the persecution of the Palestinians, are now called anti-Semites. thus the sting is taken out of this word, giving it something approaching respectability.’

In America, he says, ‘the Jewish establishment is practically straining to prove that it controls the country’. Avnery describes how in 2002 a young black congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, ‘dared to criticise the Sharon government, support Palestinians and (worst of all) Israeli and Jewish peace groups. The Jewish establishment found a counter-candidate, practically unknown black woman, injected huge sums into the campaign and defeated Cynthia. All this happened in the open, with fanfares, to make a public example – so that every senator and congressperson would know that criticising Sharon is tantamount to political suicide.’

Easton in his paragraph quotes the absolute dominance of the Israel lobby over congress, and the disastrous effect this has had on relations between America and the rest of the world.

This theme is taken up by George Sutherland, the pen name of a ‘senior congressional staffer’, in describing what he calls ‘Our Vichy Congress’. He writes: ‘For expressions of sheer grovelling subservience to a foreign power, the pronouncements of Laval and Petain pale in comparison with the rhetorical devotion with which certain congressmen have bathed the Israel of Ariel Sharon.

After detailing several examples of the way the Israeli lobby operates, including preventing an investigation of the Israeli ‘arts students’ saga, he concludes:

‘Israel’s strategy of using its influence on the American political system to turn the US national security apparatus into its own personal attack dog – or Golem – has alienated the United States from much of the Third World, has worsened US ties to Europe among rancorous insinuations of anti-Semitism, and makes the United States a hated bully.’

Sutherland quotes the words of EU commissioner Chris Patten in The Washington Post: ‘A senior Democratic senator told a visiting European the other day: “All of us here are members of Likud now.”(p.5).

Avnery, and Israeli critics of their country’s foreign policy and maltreatment of the Palestinians, are, not surprisingly, subject to intense hostility in their homeland. In one poll, a majority of Israelis declared that those of their countrymen who defended the Palestinians should be stripped of their citizenship. Avnery also has a point about the way the cavalier use of accusations of anti-Semitism have cause the word to lose much of its sting. The Cynthia McKinney affair was reported and remarked on in the Libertarian blog, Vox Day, which is highly critical of Israel and does have a very pronounced tone of anti-Semitism.

The accusations directed at Naz Shah, Ken Livingstone and now Jeremy Corbyn are in line Sharon’s strategy of trying to silence his critics with the same accusation. And the more it’s used, the more likely it will have the opposite effect.

Vox Political on Peter Oborne’s Resignation Article in Open Democracy

February 19, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this article on Peter Oborne’s resignation, entitled Oborne’s resignation article lifts the lid on Torygraph corruption. This reports on Oborne’s article giving his reasons for resigning from the Torygraph, including extracts from the article. While the newspaper’s cover-up of tax avoidance and money-laundering was the immediate reason Oborne took the step of walking out, this was only one of a number of instances where the newspapers content had been grotesquely distorted to suit the interests of the advertisers. Other examples include a puff-piece about Cunard’s Queen Mary II; extremely minimal news coverage given to the pro-democracy protests in China, with another puff piece by the Chinese government urging the British people not to let events in Hong Kong ruin the relationship between the two countries; further puff-pieces about the wonders of Tesco, while the false accounting scandal at the company was, like Hong Kong, barely mentioned.

The virtual black-out on any adverse news about HSBC, including its investigation by the Swiss authorities, began two years ago in 2013. Quite simply, the bank was a such a major advertiser, that journalists were told that they simply couldn’t afford to lose the account. And so they did everything they could to appease it.

Oborne further makes the point that the Telegraph is only one case of the corruption of British journalism in general. He attacks the way the newspapers, with the honourable exception of the Guardian, were silent during the phone-hacking scandal, regardless of whether or not they were involved.

He makes the excellent point that this has extremely serious implications for democracy. Newspapers aren’t just entertainment, and they aren’t their to appease big corporations and rich men. ‘Newspapers have a constitution duty to tell their readers the truth’.

Mike himself is a trained journalist, and as he says, has personal experience of this. He walked out on two jobs because of management interference in the contents of the newspapers he was with to suit their advertisers.

The article begins

Peter Oborne has written an enlightening article on OpenDemocracy, covering his concerns about the Daily Telegraph’s editorial enthrallment to its advertising department and the effect on its news coverage.

Passages like the following are particularly disturbing:

The reporting of HSBC is part of a wider problem. On 10 May last year the Telegraph ran a long feature on Cunard’s Queen Mary II liner on the news review page. This episode looked to many like a plug for an advertiser on a page normally dedicated to serious news analysis. I again checked and certainly Telegraph competitors did not view Cunard’s liner as a major news story. Cunard is an important Telegraph advertiser.

The paper’s comment on last year’s protests in Hong Kong was bizarre. One would have expected the Telegraph of all papers to have taken a keen interest and adopted a robust position. Yet (in sharp contrast to competitors like the Times) I could not find a single leader on the subject.

At the start of December the Financial Times, the Times and the Guardian all wrote powerful leaders on the refusal by the Chinese government to allow a committee of British MPs into Hong Kong. The Telegraph remained silent. I can think of few subjects which anger and concern Telegraph readers more.

On 15 September the Telegraph published a commentary by the Chinese ambassador, just before the lucrative China Watch supplement. The headline of the ambassador’s article was beyond parody: ‘Let’s not allow Hong Kong to come between us’. On 17 September there was a four-page fashion pull-out in the middle of the news run, granted more coverage than the Scottish referendum. The Tesco false accounting story on 23 September was covered only in the business section. By contrast it was the splash, inside spread and leader in the Mail. Not that the Telegraph is short of Tesco coverage. Tesco pledging £10m to fight cancer, an inside peak at Tesco’s £35m jet and ‘Meet the cat that has lived in Tesco for 4 years’ were all deemed newsworthy.

The article can be read at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/18/obornes-resignation-article-lifts-the-lid-on-torygraph-corruption/.

The Guardian and Observer haven’t exactly been as entirely blameless or free of such contagion as Oborne describes. In the 1990s and 2000s they often featured in the pages of Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column for running the same kind of puff-pieces Oborne describes. Frequently, these were articles extolling the virtues of extremely authoritarian countries, like Indonesia, which at that time was pursuing its brutal occupation of East Timor through terror and genocide, and similarly harshly suppressing and persecuting political dissidents. Nevertheless, it should be said that Groaniad and Absurder still published articles criticising such regimes.

And Murdoch’s might empire also has form in this. Australia’s Minister for Public Enlightenment was personally horrified by the Tianamen Square massacre. Nevertheless, Murdoch was keen to expand his global empire into the Chung Kuo. Thus when Chris Patten tried to publish his book describing his experiences and perspectives as the last British governor of Hong Kong, it was turned down by HarperCollins. The publisher was owned by Murdoch, who didn’t want to upset the Chinese, and so lose his chance of subjecting the citizens of the Middle Kingdom to the same kind of moronic bilge he inflicts on the rest of the population.

The corruption of the British press goes back decades. The Torygraph and HSBC are merely the most extreme and recent example. Let’s hope this prompts people to strike back and demand a genuinely free and informative press.