Posts Tagged ‘Commonwealth’

Katy Balls Writes about ‘Liberal’ Tories, But Do They Really Exist?

May 5, 2018

Katy Balls, one of the columnists on the I newspaper, wrote a long column on Wednesday claiming that liberal Tories were a dying breed. This branch of the Tory party includes, apparently, Amber Rudd, Justine Greening and Damian Green in England, and ‘Rape Clause’ Ruth Davidson north of the border. With the resignation of Amber Rudd, their ranks are seriously depleted. She then went on describe how the Tories were planning to compensate for their losses in London by attacking weak Labour seats in the north, stressing a social conservative programme.

Social conservatism is the right-wing ideology that stresses traditional western social attitudes against gay rights, immigration and multiculturalism. It’s also very traditional in its attitude to gender roles. Put simply, it’s the attitude of the Daily Mail, which is vehemently racist, and has published no end of pieces arguing that women and society would be better off if they returned to their traditional roles as wives and mothers.

Reading Balls’ article, I wonder who these liberal Tories were, and if they ever really existed. I’ve seen no evidence that Rudd, Davidson, Greening and Green have ever been liberal at all in their treatment of the poor, the disabled and the unemployed. In fact there’s plenty of evidence against it in the Tories’ attacks on these groups through workfare, benefit sanctions, their cuts to vital welfare services and their support of the low wage economy. And while Dave Cameron made a lot of noise about cleaning the racists out of his party, the Tories are still very much against immigration and racist. Rudd’s supposed to be a liberal, but that didn’t stop her presiding over the deportation of the Windrush migrants, though she wasn’t responsible for the policy or the legislation behind it. That was done by Tweezer when she was Dodgy Dave Cameron’s home secretary. As for Ruth Davidson, the only quality she has which might be described as liberal is the fact that she’s a lesbian with a wife, who is now expecting a child. Tolerance of gays is a policy usually associated with the left, and the embrace of gay rights was another, liberal policy adopted by Cameron. But as Private Eye pointed out at the time, the Conservatives always have had slightly more gay MPs than Labour. So it wasn’t much of a break from the Tories’ existing attitudes, at least regarding their own ranks.

The only thing that marks these people out as liberal is they may be less prejudiced against Blacks and ethnic minorities, and far more tolerant of gays than the rest of the party. But they’ve still shown themselves to be viciously persecutory towards working people and the poor. And their supposed anti-racism didn’t stop them from deporting British citizens with a right to stay in this country, simply because they were Black or Asians from the Commonwealth. Or, indeed, that the party as a whole is less racist, although it might be more disguised and expressed less openly. If Balls hadn’t claimed that Rudd, Greening and Green were liberal, it wouldn’t have struck me that they were so. I’ve seen no evidence myself, and I doubt many others have. And despite her sexuality, Ruth Davidson is extremely illiberal, especially when it comes to rape victims and child benefit.

What Balls seems to mean is that if this crew go, then the Tories will become more overtly racist, anti-feminist, Islamophobic and homophobic. This will lead to increased prejudice against gays, Muslims and ethnic minorities, as well as renewed attacks on women and feminism. But it could also show them to be even more out of touch with society and less electable, whether or not they’re campaign in the north.

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Counterpoint on the Stupidity of Boris Johnson as Foreign Minister

July 23, 2016

Counterpunch, an American radical leftwing magazine and site, has put up a piece by Brian Cloughey on the utter stupidity of Boris Johnson’s appointment as Foreign and Commonwealth Minister. He describes the political machinations and manoeuvrings of Johnson and Gove as they jockeyed for power, how Johnson stabbed Cameron in the back over Brexit for no reason other than that he thought it would bring him to No. 10; the many lies Johnson has spun over his career, and the ignorant, bigoted and sheer racist comments that have made him at once a laughing stock to the rest of the world, and a danger to Britain’s peaceful relations with foreign nations.

Cloughey states that Johnson was sacked from the Times because he made up a quote. In 2004, the-then Conservative leader, Michael Howard, sacked him from his job as front bench spokesman for lying about his adulterous affair with Petronella Wyatt, whom he made to have an abortion. Cloughey describes Johnson as

clever and has a certain juvenile attractiveness for some people because his private life is colorful and chaotic while he has a certain facility with words and gives the impression that he could be all things to all men and to a certain number of women…

The trouble for Britain is that although Johnson is a twofaced, devious, posturing piece of slime who can’t be trusted to tell the time of day, he was most effective in capturing the public’s attention and helping persuade a majority to vote to leave the European Union.

He describes how he lied about the amount Britain contributed to the EU, and notes how after Gove’s betrayal of the treacherous Boris, the Tories ditched him and elected Theresa May instead. He considers Johnson, and the poisonous, racist rhetoric of the Leave campaign to be responsible for the increase in ‘hate speech’ and attacks and harassment of Blacks, Asians and Eastern Europeans which rose to 3,000 incidents in the weeks before and after the Referendum.

Cloughey remarks on the insulting comments Johnson has made about other leading foreign politicians and heads of state. He described Shrillary as having “dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital”, Obama was ‘downright hypocritical’, and Putin a ‘ruthless and manipulative tyrant’. As for Trump, he described the Donald as ‘out of his mind’ and suffering from ‘stupefying ignorance’.

He referred to the crisis in Turkey as ‘the crisis in Egypt’, declared that ‘Chinese cultural influence is basically nil, and unlikely to increase’. He also claimed that it was said that the Queen loved the Commnwealth “partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.” He was no less sneering about the peoples of the Congo. When Tony Blair went off to visit the country, he declared “No doubt . . . the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.”

Cloughey writes that Johnson has tried to excuse his comments by saying that they were taken out of their proper context, without actually saying what the proper context was. And although many people would agree with some of what he said about the various foreign leaders, they are hardly the kind of comments that you want in a foreign minister, part of whose job is speaking diplomatically and trying to establish a good relationship with those with whom he’s negotiating.

Cloughey concludes:

Britain’s prime minister would do well to reconsider her decision to appoint this gobbet of slime to a position of responsibility in her government. He will not serve Britain well.

Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon

Johnson is a clever man, if only in the way he has skilfully creating an entirely false image of a rather Billy Bunterish, lovable buffoon. But his comments about Black Africans and the Chinese are likely to cause offence, and really don’t bode well for Britain’s relations with the rest of the world. Apart from the dated, offensive terms used, like ‘picaninnies’ and ‘watermelon smiles’, the ignorance behind his dismissal of Chinese culture really is stunning. The contribution of the Chinese to science and technology is immense. You only have to open a text book on the history of science to find that many of the most fundamental scientific discoveries, from printing, to paper, to watermills, rockets and so on were made by someone in the Middle Kingdom. The influence of Chinese culture is rather less, but it is there.

Let’s deal with the very obvious modern Chinese influences in British society. One of the most obvious are Chinese takeaways, restaurants and cuisine. It may not be high art or great literature, but it is a very obvious Chinese cultural influence. Very many people in modern Britain like Chinese food, and Chinese restaurants and chip shops are a very common feature of our modern high streets. Then there’s the influence of Chinese cinema. A few years ago the Chinese won critical acclaim for a number of art films, but probably far more influential are the Hong Kong Chinese action and martial arts movies, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, ever since Bruce Lee sprang into action in the 1970s. This encouraged generations of children to learn the eastern martial arts. Many of those taught are Japanese, but they include Chinese techniques too, such as Kung Fu. And then there’s the influence of Chinese literature and religion. In the 1970s and ’80s a generation of British schoolchildren were exposed to the Chinese classics The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Wu Chen-Ang’s Journey to the West through the TV series The Water Margin and Monkey. There were even two translations of Chen-Ang’s classic novel issued, both abridged, one of which by Denis Waley. The influence of the Monkey TV show and the novel behind it have persisted to this day. The BBC promotional trailer for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 were very much based on Monkey, and made by the same company that made the videos for the Gorillaz pop group. And I noticed that the other night on Would I Lie To You, Gaby Roslin’s response to a stuffed monkey produced by one of the other guests, as to do a mock martial arts move, and intone ‘Monkey’ in the type of strangulated squawk that characterised some of the voices in that series.

Going further back, there was the craze in the 18th and 19th centuries for chinoiserie, Chinese art and porcelain. You only have to turn on one of the antique shows to see at least one of the experts talking about 18th century pottery, exported to Europe, examining pieces of jade, reproduction Shang bronzes, or 18th century wallpaper, depicted with Chinese designs, usually of people going about their business. Quite apart from the very stereotypical images of the country’s art, like the paintings of the two loves on the bridge.
China has also, naturally, had considerable influence on the culture of its neighbouring and other Asian countries. This is clearly an area for someone who knows far more about these nations’ histories and culture than I do. One example of the Middle Kingdom’s considerable influence is Japan. Buddhism was introduced by Chinese monks, and for centuries the Chinese classics formed the most prestigious part of Japanese literary culture. Further west, many of the people depicted in Persian painting have a distinctive Chinese look to their features. This was because of the cultural links and exchanges between those cultures during the Middle Ages.

In short, a moment’s thought reveals that Chinese cultural influence is certainly not negligible. Nor is it likely to remain so. The country has turned into an economic superpower, and has made considerable inroads into Africa. And way back in the ’90s, its space programme was so advanced that the Quantum Physicist and SF writer, Stephen Baxter, published an article in Focus magazine predicting that the first person to walk on Mars was very likely going to be Chinese.

Now clearly, British industrialists and financiers are very much aware of how powerful China now is. You can see it by the way they’re desperately trying to encourage the Chinese to invest, or buy up, British industry, just as they were a few decades ago with the Japanese. No-one wants potentially advantageous trade deals to be scuppered through a few tactless comments from the Foreign Minister.

And BoJo’s comments may very well cause offence. Johnson made much about his suitability for the role on the world stage, because of his position as one of the British team negotiating with the Chinese during the Beijing Olympics. But his comments also suggest that he could well have the opposite effect as well. The Chinese are, as a nation, a very proud people, and I gathered from working in one of the local museums here in Bristol that there is still a considerable feeling of humiliation about their defeat and occupation by Britain and the other foreign powers in the 19th century following the Opium Wars. Many of Britain’s former colonies are very sensitive to what they see as condescension. A few years ago there were diplomatic ructions when one of the Developing Nations – I think it may have been India – accused Britain of showing ‘colonialist and imperialist’ attitudes towards it.

Johnson with his comments about ‘picaninnies’ and ‘watermelon smiles’ uses the rhetoric and vocabulary of 19th and early 20th century racism. If he uses them when he’s foreign minister, he will cause offence, possibly starting another embarrassing diplomatic row. Let’s hope he keeps his mouth shut, and leaves the talking to others better informed.

And just to remind you, here’s the opening and closing titles from the Monkey TV show. Which, even though it’s now thirty odd years old, definitely has more style and class than Boris Alexander de Feffel Johnson.

Barbara Castle Talks about Leading an Anti-Apartheid Demonstration during Commonwealth Summit

May 12, 2016

This is another clip I found of an historic Labour politician. Yesterday I found one of the Nye Bevan talking about the foundation of the NHS, which is even now being attacked and privatised piecemeal by the Conservatives. This is a clip of Barbara Castle, one of Britain’s most famous female politicos. Lobster published an article a few years ago about James Callaghan’s period as head of the Labour party and Prime Minister in the 1970s. The article said at one point that Castle was one of his rivals as head of the party, and could possibly have become Britain’s first woman prime minister. No-one really knows quite what would have happened, if something had occurred, despite the various ‘counterfactual’ history books informing us what could have happened if Hitler had one the War, or Napoleon won a particular battle. It’s possible that Castle would have been a better premier than Callaghan, had she won, and certainly she would have been much better for the country had she been the first female leader of Her Majesty’s Government. It would, at any rate, have taken away the Tory’s claim to be more progressive than they really are, because of Maggie’s leadership. Thatcher has been held up as a feminist pioneer, who should be admired and supported by every woman, despite the fact that Thatcher didn’t see herself as a feminist, and her policies largely hit women the hardest.

In this clip, Castle talks about her work in the early 1960s leading a 48 hour silent vigil outside Lancaster House in protest at the Sharpeville massacre of Black protesters by the South African government. She states that she spent two days in the basement of the House of Commons plotting it with Abdul Minty, the head of the anti-apartheid campaign. There was a Commonwealth meeting at the Lancaster House, and Castle and Minty organised the vigil to put pressure on the Commonwealth leaders to have South Africa thrown out. They organised the vigil to be carried out by people in two hours shifts, everyone just standing there in silence. Coffee and other refreshments were provided. She states that during the night, some journos came to see if they really would go all through the night with the protest. They believed it was just a hoax. They were wrong. ‘But’, she says, ‘we were there.’

Vox Political on The Government’s Victory to Keep Discussions with Prince Charles Secret

April 19, 2016

Earlier today Mike put up a piece reporting that the government had won its battle to keep details of discussions between Prince Charles and government ministers out of the press, despite the fact that the Information Commissioner has stated that it is in the public interest for it to be released.

Mike makes the point that it is wrong for the government to wish to keep this information secret on the grounds that its release would compromise Charles’ privacy, while seeking ever greater power to invade that of ordinary citizens. See his article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/19/it-is-wrong-for-the-taxpayer-to-fork-out-for-prince-charless-privacy-when-the-tories-are-trying-to-take-it-from-us/

Mike’s correct, of course, but this is the way government works in Britain. It has a profound fear and suspicion of the people it governs, and is perpetually concerned to protect its secrets while trying to garner as much information as possible on the rest of us. Under Thatcher this mania for secrecy became so extreme, that the various cabinet ministers, who were members of different cabinet groups, could not tell their cabinet colleagues what was being discussed in these different committees, despite the glaringly obvious fact that as cabinet ministers, they should all automatically have been expected to have had the clearance to share the information with their colleagues, who were at the same level of trust.

Bliar’s introduction of the Freedom of Information Act was a step in the right direction, but it was weak even when it was introduced. And since then, the Tories and New Labour apparatchiks like Jack Straw have been determined to make it even weaker. It’s not hard to see why both political groups distrust the Act. It makes government difficult, because it opens it up to public scrutiny. It’s so much easier to ride roughshod over people by not letting them know about important government decisions, and taking the attitude that, as members of the public, they cannot possibly know what is really in the public interest. Or in the case of Thatcherites everywhere, the private good of big business.

And they definitely, really don’t want information about Prince Charles’ dealings with the government getting out at all. The monarchy and royal family is supposed to be above politics, and they are not supposed to influence government policy. It’s probably because they are supposed to be apolitical, that the monarchy has survived in this country, while other nations have become republics. Political interference from an unelected source is always resented. And so the concern to keep the monarchy out of politics. Hence the monarchy’s ire when Gove or whoever it was in the ‘Brexit’ campaign claim that the Queen also wanted us to leave the EU.

Charles’ negotiations are sensitive, because he’s violated that cardinal rule. The Independent, some of whose columnists had a strongly republican bias, covered several stories in which Charles’ correspondence with various governments over the years was a source of embarrassment, and which they were desperate to stop being released to the public. Among his pet subjects were the closure of the grammar schools. Lugs was thoroughly against this, and wrote numerous letters to the government to try to get them to change this policy and reopen them. The ministers at the receiving end of his correspondence were forced to reply that this was no longer an option.

This is why the government really doesn’t want to release the details of Prince Charles’ discussions with ministers about the environment to the Mail on Sunday: it compromises the position of the monarchy. Not that the Daily Heil is necessarily worried about this in the specific case of Prince Charles. From what I can remember, it has had a profound dislike of the heir to the throne, and has run no end of stories about how he is an embarrassment to the Crown. At one point it ran a story that ‘ministers’ were considering amending the rules of succession, so that it could skip a generation and go either to his sons, or it would pass to the eldest child. In which case, Princess Anne would succeed her mother.

There was a rival of these stories of constitutional tinkering in Private Eye last week in connection to the Commonwealth. The Eye claimed that many Commonwealth countries aren’t impressed with him either, and would also like to change the constitution of the Commonwealth, so that its head was elected. I can see how the various independent countries across the globe would prefer this system, rather than be ruled by the hereditary monarch of the country that invaded and colonised them, as a general principle. But the Eye didn’t mention any of that. Instead, it was just about stopping Charles becoming head of the Commonwealth.

And so the government remains desperate to keep a lid on whatever it is that Prince Charles has said to ministers, while even more enthusiastically snooping on everyone else. And I’m sick of it. I’d far rather we had a government like that of Kurt Eisner, the German Socialist head of Bavaria during the ‘Council Revolution’ of 1919. Eisner was a Jewish theatre critic, who saw Russian-style workers’ soviets not as a replacement for democracy, but as extension. And he had no time for government secrecy. His office was open to everyone, and he quite happily showed members of the public papers marked ‘government secrets’. Unfortunately, he was beaten to death by the Freikorps when they stormed Munich to put the Revolution down. Eisner and his regime may well have been too extreme, but we desperately need some of his faith in genuinely popular and open government here across the North Sea in the 21st century.

Fight the Right-Wing Parties: Register to Vote!

February 9, 2015

Warning! This piece does contain some strong language. As it’s about UKIP and the Tories, this is only to be expected. But viewer discretion is advised.

Politicians and political commentators from all shades of the political spectrum are worried about the increasingly low turn-out at elections. They rightly fear the death of democracy from apathy and cynicism. However, UKIP, it seems, have managed to energise people to go out and register to vote.

Just not their supporters.

Instead, it’s the very people they demonise and campaign against, as this highly amusing piccie shows.

Black Anti-UKIP Voter

I found it on the Slatukip page. It’s a great response to Farage and his army of swivel-eyed loons.

The Tories have passed legislation making it more awkward to register to vote. As a result, about 700,000 people, mostly students, have fallen off the electoral register.

This isn’t an accident. Too many people despise the Coalition. Students particularly resent the Lib Dems for reneging on their promise not to support tuition fees. And the right takes very seriously the perceived wisdom that young people are more likely to be left-wing than the old and middle aged.

The Tories are also considering stripping Irish people, and citizens of Commonwealth nations resident in the UK of their right to vote as well. Because Irish, Pakistanis, Indians and Africans tend to vote Labour.

So here’s my considered response to the Tories and their electoral reforms.

Screw Cameron Drawing

And just to remind you how long and hard Black people had to fight for the vote, just remember that in 196th century America a Black man was shot dead for daring to try to cast a vote at an election.

Dead Black Voter

Regardless of whatever race or creed you are, don’t let the Tories take your right to vote away!