Posts Tagged ‘Conservative’

Jackie Walker on the Right’s Stance against Anti-Semitism

March 8, 2019

I’ve found an interesting video on YouTube of Jackie Walker talking to the members of Jewish Antifa Berlin. It’s nearly an hour long, so I haven’t watched all of it. But what I have seen has been very insightful.

Walker is, as you know, a Jewish Black historian and anti-racism activist. She was the vice-chair of Momentum until she was smeared as an anti-Semite by the libelous scumbags of the JLM and CAA. The real reason she was attacked was her opposition to Zionism and Israel’s horrendous persecution of the Palestinians. The video is interesting as clearly Jewish Antifa Berlin are definitely not going to tolerate even remotely a genuine Nazi. Not with their and their parents’ and grandparents’ experience of Nazi persecution and the Holocaust. Hosting the event is a young woman, who begins by asking some questions herself and then opening it out to the audience. She begins by asking Walker about some of the groups now declaring their opposition to anti-Semitism. Such as the various right-wing parties and organisations, including the Daily Mail. The mention of the Heil brings a snort from someone in the audience, so even over in Merkel’s Bundesrepublik the Heil is notorious for its racism and bigotry. Walker in her response states that the Right is keen to attack anti-Semitism because it shows they are anti-racist, without actually doing something about those, who are genuinely underprivileged and under-represented. This does not, however, mean that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist. They also talk about the really horrifically anti-Semitic parties and regimes that have arisen in eastern Europe, whose heads then go off to Israel and meet Netanyahu.

This is a good point. There is, unfortunately, still anti-Semitism in Britain. But Tony Greenstein has pointed out time and again that as a group, Jews are not persecuted and not marginalised. Sociologically they are comfortably upper middle class. They don’t suffer the prejudice and discrimination like Blacks or Muslims. None of Britain’s Jews has been seized and forcibly deported, for example, like the Windrush migrants and their children. And for that matter, they don’t have to suffer Rod Liddle proclaiming that the Tory party needs to be more intolerant of them, as Muslims have had. And so the Tories and the Tory press can proclaim their opposition to anti-Semitism because it costs them absolutely nothing. While underneath, as we have seen, there’s a seething mass of venomous, Nazi hatred, including anti-Semitism and its conspiracy theories about the Jews plotting the destruction of the White race.

Watching anything Walker says, it’s very clear that the Israel lobby and the Labour right had good reason to fear her. She’s very sharp, with a clear grasp of the issues involved and an ability to communicate it easily to an audience. It’s a video that I will have to watch in full, and then post on.

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TYT Nation on Calls for the Deportation of Jews & Immigrants and ‘Liberal Genocide’ at Trump Rally

March 12, 2017

More militant racism and hate from Trump’s Fascistic supporters. In this piece from TYT Nation, Jeff Waldorf, the host, comments on a video produced by Dan Cohen of the Real News of a pro-Trump rally at Maricopa County. This is only part of a much longer report by Cohen, which Waldorf urges his viewers to see. The clip shows some of the attendees, speakers and the emcee, Tim Horn, pouring out their hatred of the above groups. One man states that America is a Christian country, and that if immigrants don’t like it, they should leave. Another man, a Vietnam War veteran, claims that the Communists and ‘sharia law Muslims’ are in cahoots to bring down America, and that when ‘Sharia law Muslims’ enter a classroom, they kill all the children and other people in it. One of those interviewed is the 13 year old boy, who proudly claims to have started the chant ‘Build that wall!’ at one of the Orange Generalissimo’s rallies. As he’s speaking, the lad looks aside for one moment, and casually comments, ‘If she’s really that Jewish, she should go back to her own country’. One man also rants about how gays should go to Gaza. One of the speakers also declares that if they want to take their country back, they should free a few people from prison, and jail some others.

Horn claims that the Democrats are really ‘the Socialist Party of America’, because ‘liberals hate this country’ and have got into the schools and universities to brainwash its children and destroy it. One man even comments that he ‘can’t wait for that Liberal genocide’.

Waldorf makes some highly incisive observations on the way these people have themselves been misinformed and deliberated deceived by their leaders, the rich. The Left doesn’t hate America. They want to introduce free healthcare and better opportunities for the poor and immigrants, because they love their country and its people, and want everyone to benefit, including Republicans. He also points out that there are no plans to murder Republicans, but if we’re talking about Communists and Muslims, well, Ronald Reagan and the Republicans armed the Mujahideen to fight the Russians when they invaded Afghanistan. He goes on to say how these people are terribly afraid, afraid of anyone different from themselves, to the extent that they want to build this wall around America. It’s a fear based on ignorance. And as for that wall, it’s supposed to cost $25 billion, although no-one knows how that money is going to be raised, and it may well cost more far more. And that wall is not going to protect the rest of the country. ‘Good luck with building ‘sky-walls in New York to defend the city from planes’, Waldorf remarks sarcastically.

As for the Jewish girl, who’s supposed to go back to her own country, well, how can she? She’s an American. This is her country.

He also makes the point that the rich are behind this, deliberately creating and stoking this fear in order to keep the poor and middle class divided, so they can pick their pockets.

There are a number of points that leap out looking at this video. The first is the conspiracist thinking that believes that ‘the Left’ hates America, and has a deliberate policy of infiltrating America’s educational institutions. This is the old rubbish about ‘cultural Marxism’ trying to introduce ‘Communism’ by attacking European and American Christian, capitalist White culture. As for the stupid theories of an alliance between Islamists and Communists/ Leftists, the British novelists Anthony Burgess believed in that load of nonsense. Back in the 1980s he wrote a riposte to George Orwell’s great dystopian novel, called 1985. In this wretched book the trade unions ally with radical Muslims to bring about a totalitarian revolution. Burgess was one of the great figures of 20th century British literature, and used to make a great show of his erudition. Thus Private Eye called him, ‘the most pretentious man in English literature’. Well, it doesn’t matter how great a literary giant he was, he was still talking nonsense with that book. More recently, writers like Frederick Raphael have been spouting the same nonsense about how the remains of European Socialism will unite with the Muslims to start another holocaust of the Jews. Raphael gave a glowing review of a book with just this theme, set in the 2020s, about a decade ago in the page of the Spectator.

As for ‘sharia law’ Muslims killing children in American schools, no, they won’t. From what I’ve heard over here, much of the information warning the authorities of possible attacks from the Islamists comes from Muslims, who would like to live under Islamic law. There is clearly a problem here, as implementing such law would be divisive and deprive liberal or secular Muslims of the opportunity and ability to integrate into wider British society. Nevertheless, the point needs to be made that just because a Muslim believes in sharia law does not mean that they automatically support terrorism.

But if we are talking about extremely conservative Muslims, who have killed schoolchildren, then we should mention Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a country governed by an extremely narrow and intolerant version of sharia law. Its armed forces have deliberately killed children, and other civilians in attacks on mosques, hospitals, factories and schools in neighbouring Yemen as part of their campaign against Shi’a Islam. The weapons they have used in these atrocities, including cluster bombs, which are banned under international treaty, have been sold to them by America and Britain.

Waldorf is also correct when he says that these fears are being stoked by the rich to divide America in order to pick the pockets of ordinary people. This is absolutely correct. Since Margaret Thatcher in England and Ronald Reagan in America took power at the dawn of the 1980s, there has been a massive transfer of wealth upwards from the poor and middle class to the rich as welfare programmes have been closed down, and industries privatised and deregulated. Wages have been deliberately kept stagnant. The earnings of the rich 1% have been massively inflated as they have enjoyed generous tax cut after tax cut. Meanwhile, those taxes have been transferred to the poor.

This policy is continuing under Donald Trump. Trump is repealing Obamacare, which will see millions of poor Americans deprived of affordable health insurance. He has done this in order to give even more tax cuts to the rich, while the poor will receive absolutely nothing of the kind. This is because corporations and the rich fund America’s politicians, who respond by doing exactly what their paymasters want. And what they want is a poor, cowed workforce deprived of all but the most minimal rights. It’s also the guiding vision of the British Conservative party.

The way to give prosperity back to ordinary Americans – and Brits – is for the ordinary people to unite, and not let themselves be deceived by lies and fearmongering about ‘liberals’, non-Whites, Jews and Muslims. We need to stand together, whatever our race or religion, to make sure that ordinary people, of whatever religious or non-religious persuasion or colour, have decent jobs, a proper welfare support infrastructure, and proper healthcare. Everything, in fact, which Trump in America and Theresa May in Britain wishes to deprive them.

Nye Bevan on Women Losing Out with Private Healthcare

February 13, 2016

Republicans Women's Rights

A few days ago I put up this meme, about the way the Republicans will force American women to refight all their grandmothers’ battles if they get in again. In my opinion, the meme probably refers specifically to abortion as the issue that most widely and obviously affects women’s health and legal freedom.

But it also covers a whole plethora of other areas and issues. The Republicans recently defunded Planned Parenthood, on the spurious ground that they were providing abortions and selling the body parts for science. In fact, only three per cent of the Planned Parenthood’s activities were abortions. The majority of them were general family planning and gynaecological/ women’s health advice and procedures, given to poor women, who clearly fell at least partly outside private medical care.

As for the bodies of the aborted children, they were not sold. They were donated for scientific research, and the fees charged by the organisation were for transport, not for the bodies themselves. I have very strong sympathies for the anti-abortion lobby, and frankly I’d rather no children were aborted except in cases of medical necessity. But the wider point here needs to be made: the claim that they were being sold was an emotive, retailed by the Republicans for their own benefit.

And there was more than an element of hypocrisy in the Republicans’ denunciation. One of those making it was Carly Fiorina, who herself sat on the board of a private healthcare company that did medical research using tissue from aborted foetuses. It all proves what a Conservative friend of mine used to say, ‘The Tory party is an organised hypocrisy’. I think he was quoting old Oscar Wilde, but it’s true, and applies on both side of the Atlantic.

Nye Bevan pic

Nye Bevan, the architect of the NHS, was also acutely aware of the way ordinary women suffered under the private health care system that put medicine out of the reach of the poor. In his chapter on the health service in his book, In Place of Fear Bevan writes

Much sickness and often permanent disability arise from failure to take early action, and this in its turn is due to high costs and the fear of the effects of heavy bills on the family. The records show that it is the mother in the average family who suffers most from the absence of a free health service. In trying to balance her domestic budget she puts her own needs last.

The Tories are keen on trying to promote themselves as the natural choice for women. It’s based largely on Maggie Thatcher, and the number of female Tory MPs. They’re also trying to show that, like Labour, they stand for female equality and empowerment. When it suits them, they make feminist noises about guaranteeing women equal pay and breaking the glass ceiling etc.

It’s all just noise. Women have been hit particularly hard by their wretched austerity programme, as the jobs that are traditionally done by women have seen their budgets cuts and jobs shed. And the Tories’ privatisation of the Health Service will also lead to women suffering particularly hard, as they neglect their own needs for the benefits of their families and children, just as Bevan saw it in the Britain of the first half of the 20th century.

And this also affects the current election campaign in America. Madeleine Albright and the veteran feminist leader, Gloria Steinem, have both urged women to vote for Hillary Clinton. She would clearly be a great feminist trailblazer if she got in. She’d be the first female president of the US. I also have no doubt that she would encourage more women to enter politics, and be particularly good for high-flying female executives like herself.

But Bernie Sanders’ programme for universal healthcare would be better for women generally, as well as men and children, by giving them access to health care which the present private healthcare system denies them. Just as the mass of British women benefited from the NHS.

Forget Fracking – Space Solar Power is the Real Alternative to Middle East Oil

December 18, 2015

Solar Power Satellites

An Array of Space Solar Power Satellites from O’Neill The High Frontier.

Mike over at Vox Political has posted a number of articles about the threat fracking poses to our homes, our communities and our environment. The Greens and community groups are very concerned about environmental damage done by such shale oil extraction. In America, the dangers posed by fracking has been highlighted by the documentary, Gasland, which shows areas where the water table has been so heavily contaminated by the gases pumped in to free the oil, that there’s footage of people setting the drinking water from their taps alight. I’ve seen other claims from the right that dispute the authenticity of that footage, at least as it applies to fracked chemicals. But there is much other evidence that fracking is unsafe and poisonous. Much like the Tories and the Republicans, who are its biggest supporters.

In the West Country near where I live, the residents of Keynsham have been concerned about fracking on their doorstep. And this week Mike reblogged a report that the Tories had passed legislation permitting fracking under the National Parks, the most beautiful areas of our Sceptred Isle. One of the arguments the Repugs have trotted out in America to justify and promote fracking is that this will somehow make America independent of Middle Eastern oil. Good, patriotic Americans need never have to worry about their dollars getting into the hands of oppressive Middle Eastern regimes or Islamist terrorist groups.

In fact, there is already a scientific alternative to oil, that deserves serious consideration because of it potential to alleviate pollution and the industrial pressure on Earth’s fragile ecosystem: Space Solar Power. Gerard K. O’Neill, one of the major pioneers and advocates of space colonisation, was strongly in favour of developing power stations out in space that would turn the Sun’s rays into energy that could be safely beamed back to Earth. Such energy could then be used to power vehicles, homes and industry without the harmful environmental impact of fossil fuels. Margo R. Deckard, a member of the Space Frontier Foundation, also described its immense ecological potential in her paper ‘A Technology for A Better Future: Space Solar Power An Unlimited Energy Source’ in the third edition of O’Neill’s book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space (Ontario: Space Studies Institute/Apogee Book 200). She wrote

A fundamental challenge in the next century is how to meet the world’s growing energy needs from an environmental perspective. We must meet this challenge to provide the opportunity for prosperity to all humans. Fortunately, the Sun supplies the Earth with an abundance of clean and natural energy. Space Solar Power or SSP, is a means of collecting that energy and beaming it down to the Earth wherever it is needed. SSP may be the key to meeting this challenge. SSP could be an environmentally friendly, economical energy producing technology that simultaneously promotes the human realization that the Earth is an open system while protecting the Earth’s fragile biosphere.

She is also very much aware of the power of the Green lobby and an increasing ecologically aware public, and the potential of these groups to support the development of such power systems as well as world governments.

The following chapter, ‘Space Solar Power stations for the 21st Century’ by Peter E. Glaser further outlines the advantages of this technology. He argues

The concept of SSPS has been validated by studies undertaken by the international technical community, and supported by academic institutions, industry and governments. The results of these studies are reported in the substantial literature on the associated technical, economic, ecological and societal issues.

There is a growing consensus that SSPS could deliver sufficient energy in the form of electricity for most conceivable future human needs thereby:

* Increasing the standard of living of all inhabitants on Earth,
* Stabilising population growth,
* Safeguarding the ecology of the Earth,
* Averting potential global instabilities caused by efforts to control increasingly scarcer terrestrial energy resources, and
* Enabling the development of a spacefaring civilisation.

Space Solar Power Stations have been studied for 45 years or more, since the first international meeting was convened in the Netherlands in 1970. Among the nations that have researched such power stations are the US, Ukraine, Russia, the European Union, Japan and China. Glaser also notes that all nations are legally entitled to benefit from such energy resources under the UN Treaty Principles governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies.

And the current crisis in the Middle East should show how solar power, and particularly Space Solar Power, is a reliable and viable alternative to oil. Science Fiction frequently provides a literary Gedankenexperiment for writers to explore the possibilities in science, technology and human society that could emerge in the future. Donald Kingsbury’s short story, The Moon Goddess and the Son, is about a romance between a teenage girl, who has run away from her violent father in the hope of settling on the Moon, and the son of one of Moon colony’s leading engineers, who heartily loathes the place. The story was first published in 1979. Despite their difficulties, all ends well for the star-crossed couple. The son learns to love the Moon, and settles down as one of the engineers there. He marries the girl, who makes her living running the local bar and restaurant. The story takes place against a backdrop of political instability in the Middle East. Funding for the lunar colony looks uncertain, until there is a Communist revolution in Saudi Arabia. At which point, funding suddenly increases as Congress decides they desperately need to find an alternative energy source to oil. Space Solar Power is one of these. Eventually the Communists are defeated and the Saudi royal family restored. The lesson has been learnt, and the colony continues to develop.

Okay, so there are significant differences to today. Fortunately, the Saudis haven’t been toppled, and the threat is Islamism rather than Communism. However, there is still a threat to global oil supplies, and the Islamists are hoping to use their oil wealth to finance their wretched regimes. It would seem the opportunity is right for the development of such space-based power industries.

As for the cost of setting up such stations, it would admittedly be extremely expensive. However, way back at the start of this century I went to a meeting of the British Interplanetary Society in London about the development of space tourism. One of the speakers, a specialist in construction, stated that the costs of developing a space hotel would be equivalent to building a high-rise building on Earth. As for space power, I think he argued that it would be comparable to setting up the national grid today. In other words, they’re very expensive, but no more so than conventional, terrestrial buildings and industries, whose construction is definitely not seen as excessive.

Of course, you don’t have to go into space to get power from the Sun. Hundreds of thousands across the country are probably doing it by having solar panels on the roof of their homes and businesses. And that’s clearly annoyed the Tories, as they’re cutting funding for solar power and other renewables, just as their Republican counterparts across the Pond are doing in the Land of the Free.

The real reasons for it have less to do with the supposed disadvantages of solar power, and far more to do with the massive subsidies the oil companies receive from the US taxpayer due to giving donations to finance the campaigns of their pet politicians. And I strongly suspect that the same applies over here, especially in the Tory party, which has always promoted itself as ‘the party of business’.

Don’t be fooled by Dave Cameron gazing rapt at the TV screen as Tim Peake heads off into space. He wants the elan of backing Britain in space, but he doesn’t want us to develop the High Frontier’s vast potential for clean power, or have to put government money into anything that isn’t strictly terrestrial and won’t benefit his corporate backers. And that means he is definitely not going to put his or anybody else’s money into solar power, whether in space or down here. Why develop clean, renewable energy when his paymasters will make billions trashing the environment?

Farage and the Tories Will Privatise the NHS Meme

March 26, 2015

I also found this meme over at the SlatUKIP site reminding everyone that Farage and the Tories want to privatise the NHS. I’m posting it here because it is a handy and striking image of what they really stand for.

Farage Privatised NHS Tories Meme

From 2012: Private Eye on Bad Atos Decisions and Flawed Government Reports

January 20, 2015

In their 27th January – 9th February 2012 issue, Private Eye reported the case of Keith Tilbury, a man who had suffered severe physical and psychological harm after being accidentally shot by a police firearms instructor. Despite the severity of his injuries, Mr Tilbury was nevertheless judged fit for work by Atos. The same article also criticised the government report which forms the basis for the government’s replacement of the Disability Living Allowance with the Personal Independence Payment. It ran:

Fit-For-Work Tests
Shits in the Dark

In the Eye’s growing post-bag of appalling decisions made by French service company Atos in assessing sick and disabled people as being ~”fit for work~”, one of the most shocking concerns Keith Tilbury.

Mr Tilbury spent 13 days in a coma fighting for his life after he was accidentally shot in the stomach by a police firearms officer. The bullet smashed a rib, damaged his sternum and put a hole in his liver. He had to have part of a kidney removed and lost part of his bowel. He had massive entry and exit wounds, muscle and other extensive soft tissue damage.

Since that disaster in 2007, Mr Tilbury has suffered two heart attacks, two while undergoing surgery, a quadruple coronary bypass, two transient ischemic attacks (mini-strokes), one full-blown stroke resulting in reduced vision 9in his eyes, post-operative complications – and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Tilbury, 60, says: ” I have had many hours of cognitive behaviour therapy with a psychotherapist trying to work out why a Thames Valley Police firearms instructor would fire Dirty Harry’s weapon of choice – a.44 magnum – in a seminar room.”

Given his well-documented health records, Mr Tilbury, who had been a civilian emergency call centre operator, is trying to establish how on earth the Atos nurse or doctor – he is not sure which – could decide that he is fit to work without “dropping down dead” when there has been no improvement in his health since his last assessment.

Like thousands of others, Mr Tilbury is having to go through the ordeal of appealing against the decision. He sees the box-ticking Atos test – drawn up with the help of US insurance giant Unum, which was fined millions in the US for cheating its clients – as no more than a government tool to slash the benefits of people who through no fault of their own can no longer work.

As the Eye has extensively reported (see issues 874, 1300, 1301 and 1302), Unum has been helping both Tory and Labour government with so-called welfare reform, going right back to Peter Lilley’s 1994 social security “Incapacity for Work” shake-up.

Atos, which boasts that its contract with the current government is worth “approximately 100m a year”, happened to be the only other private company sitting alongside Unum on the then Labour government’s panel which reviewed and came up with the hated “work capability test” which is now failing Mr Tilbury and thousands like him.

Companies like Atos and Unum (which markets its insurance on the back of welfare reform) now stand to make even more millions, however, as the coalition presses ahead with its plans for similar assessments for those receiving disability living allowance (DLA). By replacing DLA with a personal independence payment which is subject to regular review and face-to-face assessments, the government says it can save £1bn because it claims many people no longer require the support.

But a recent detailed study, Responsible Reform, accuses the government of consistently using inaccurate figures to exaggerate the rise in DLA claimants, while concealing the overwhelming opposition to its latest reform. The detailed 40-page study – dubbed the Spartacus report and written and funded by disabled people receiving DLA, excluding those with mental health conditions, had remained remarkably stable.

One of the authors, Kaliya Franklin, said: “cutting spending on DLA will increase the burden on local authorities, the NHS and community services at the very time they seeking to find savings by reducing eligibility, particularly for social care support.”

There is no point in subjecting people with permanent disability to regular assessments and those whose conditions do improve would welcome reform – and indeed assessments – if they were simplified and considered robust, fair and transparent. But as Mr Tilbury and so many like him have found, the government’s work capability test, delivered by Atos, is none of those things.

PS: After the shooting incident in which Mr Tilbury was injured, Thames Valley police was fined £40,000 with £25,000 costs and the PC fired the weapon, David Micklethwaite, £8,000 and £8,000 costs, for breaching health and safety regulations.

Although Atos have now pulled out of administering the test, the same deep flaws remain. The test itself, as reported by many bloggers such as Johnny Void, and Mike over at Vox Political, is based on discredited pseudoscience, the biopsychosocial model of illness. Johnny Void has also blogged the other day about how the new contractors for the test, Maximus, will pursue exactly the same policies and recruit many of the same personnel. The only difference is that they’re better at PR, and are seeking to conceal their involvement behind a front company. And Unum are still pressing for further contracts and the dismantlement of the welfare state.

As for the discontinuation of the DLA and its replacement with PIP, many bloggers, including Mr Void and Mike have criticised this. Bloggers like Glynis Millward and the people at DPAC also posted on the findings of the Responsible Reform report.

The Work Capability Assessment is rubbish, and has been shown repeatedly to be rubbish. But as Johnny Void has reported, some Labour shadow ministers continue to think that the system only needs to be reformed.

It doesn’t. It needs to be scrapped completely, along with the parasitic and malign companies, Unum and Maximus, that formulated and administer it.

From Private Eye 2010: Cameron Privatises NHS Nursing Agency

January 20, 2015

I’ve got a stack of stories on the government’s attack on the NHS, and the failings of the workfare companies from old copies of Private Eye that I’ve been meaning to post for some time now. I didn’t get round to it, because I’ve been too busy with other things. Now that I’ve finally got them out the way, I can get round to posting some of them, at least.

In their issue for the 1st – 14th October 2010, Private Eye published this report into the government’s privatisation of the NHS nursing agency, NHS Professionals, in their ‘In the Back’ section.

Private Nursing
What a SWIIS!

Many commentators were surprised by the Tories’ recently floated plan to privatise NHS Professionals, the government’s non-for-profit nursing agency.

It was set up to save NHS hospitals some of the big money they were spending with agencies, so selling it off could in the long run end up costing the NHS (and taxpayers).

The Conservatives may feel more warmly disposed towards private nursing agencies since Dev Dadral gave the party £60,000 this year to help them with the election., Dadral’s enthusiasm for the Conservatives also included a £25,000 donation to Chris Grayling, now a work and pensions minister.

Dadral of course owns the SWIIS employment agency, which has a substantial nursing agency business. His firm recently won multi-million pound nursing agency contracts with the NHS in Scotland and Wales; and if NHS Professionals is sold off, he may get the chance to win some more.

As you can see, that has all the hallmarks of the Tory administration right from the beginning. The privatisation of a section of the NHS because it actually saves taxpayer’s money, for the profit of private businesses run by Tory ministers themselves and their donors. For a very full list, see the meme produced on this point giving the names and faces of every Tory and Lib Dem minister, who stands to profit from the privatisation of the NHS, produced by Another Angry Voice, and reposed by many other left-wing bloggers, like Mike at Vox Political, since.

And as any fule kno, the title is something of a pun, as Dadral’s firm, SWIIS, is similar to the word ‘swiz’, meaning a ‘chiz’ or swindle, according to that great polymath, Nigel Molesworth. Which exactly describes every one of the government’s policies, chiz, chiz, chiz.

Anti-Fracking Protester Vanessa Vine demolishes Peter Lilley on Channel 4

February 13, 2014

This is a video of Channel 4 New’s report on the anti-fracking protests at Barton Moss on 26th January 2014. As well as reporting the protest itself, and David Cameron’s speech supporting fracking, the programme also included a debate between one of the protesters, Vanessa Vine, and Peter Lilley. As well as a Conservative minister, Lilley is chairman of the Conservative’s energy committee, and also on the board of Tethis Petroleum, a fracking company drilling in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.

In the debate Vine shows herself extremely well-informed, with all the facts to hand. Vine has talked to people from across the globe, from Pennsylvania, Queensland, Rumania to Poland. She catches Lilley out lying about the damage done by fracking to the environment, properties, humans and their livestock, and the way he has repeated his lies since she met him in September last year. Despite Lilley’s sputterings, she manages to get him to retract one of his points.

This shows not just how very well founded the objections to fracking are. It also demonstrates yet again the government’s mendacity, and the way it is strongly intertwined with multinational big business, that is completely indifferent to the lives and wellbeing of the ordinary citizens affected by this.

An open letter to Michael Gove

September 17, 2013

This is an excellent piece by a teacher trying to explain to Michael Gove just how hard teachers work, after Gove has threatened to lengthen the school day and make school holidays shorter. Teachers have been attacked by successive administrations since Thatcher got in in 1979. They’re an easy target. Everyone remembers the poor or vicious teachers they had when they were at school, and there are any number of loudmouths who believe that anybody can teach, ’cause all you have to do is stand in front of a blackboard and talk. Or something like that. My first college was an Anglican teacher training institution, and three quarters of the students there were training to be teachers. From my own experience of talking and studying with them, I know that most are conscientious and work extremely hard, often in demanding and sometimes dangerous circumstances. I’ve met one young woman, who was sexually assaulted by one of her pupils. Others were threatened with violence by irate parents. Despite claims by successive administrations, including New Labour, that they support teachers and are trying to reform the profession, teachers have become demoralised by the lack of any real sympathy and support from government. The Uphill Struggle here has attempted to set the record straight, and accurately described just how hard teachers like her work.

Channel 4’s Benefit Britain and the Expansion of the Welfare State after 1948

August 14, 2013

Last night Channel 4 broadcast their latest contribution to the ‘poverty porn’ programming genre, Benefits Britain. This showed a group of modern welfare claimants attempting to live as they would have done on the benefits available in 1948. The perceptive and extremely well-informed Scriptonite Daily blog has already strongly criticised the programme for presenting welfare claimants yet again as idle scroungers, who, under the modern benefits system, ‘have never had it so good’ in Supermac’s phrase.

I didn’t watch the programme on the grounds that I had a fair idea that this was the way they would present their subject. I am also completely unsurprised by the fact that the claimants on the programme found the 1948 welfare system very had. It was, and researchers and social workers from the 1950s found that often horrific poverty still existed. The existing system was inadequate, and they demanded that action should be taken expand the system to support those, who had not been helped by the 1948 provisions.

One of those campaigning for the system’s reform was the social worker, Audrey Harvey, who had worked in the East End of London since 1955. In her 1960 Fabian Tract, Casualties of the Welfare State, she presented the case that poverty still existed. She attacked the attitude of the middle classes that too much was being done for the working class, and noted that working class people were most concerned with having independence, rather than reliance on the welfare state. She also presented the case that the tax system disproportionately affected the working classes, rather than the rich. These arguments are still valid today, now that Cameron and his henchmen are keen to destroy the welfare state, and grinding poverty is increasing. Here is part of her pamphlet addressing these issues:

What is Wrong?

That we have a divided society, which is rapidly becoming more sharply so, is painfully obvious …

This may be partly due to loss of contact between people of different education and employment, different resources and ways of living; partly, too, to an over-estimation – encouraged by both the big political parties – of the extent to which working people have benefited by the reforms. At any rate reaction has set in, bringing with it pressure to chip bits off the services; while among the armchair critics of the Welfare State it is axiomatic that ‘they’ – meaning roughly the working class – ‘get too much done for them nowadays’ while ‘we’ have to foot the bill.

This idea overlooks the fact that only about 4 per cent of the population do not use the State services at all and do not draw family allowances, pensions or insurance benefits or apply for grants for further education of their children at the State-subsidised universities. It neglects the fact, too, that it is chiefly the middle classes who have benefited from the provision of free medical services and entitlement to a full retirement pension after only ten years of contributions…

But while it is obvious that taxation, and particularly indirect taxation, often hits the poor harder than the well-to-do- as do National Insurance contributions – these are not the only payments which State-dependent families may have to make for essential services…

There are assessed charges for the home help service and the school meals service unless inability can be provded; and assessed charges for the care of children in children’s homes and ay nurseries; and for badly-off people not receiving assistance, there is the whole range of health service charges, from £3 for a surgical boot to £2 for a doctor’s report needed for an accident claim. Again and again ‘they’ are still forced to plead poverty…

Something for Nothing?

This is not to suggest that the principle of paying for certain special services is necessarily a wrong one or that it is resented. The outstanding quality of the people I have met in the course of my job is independence. There is a pronounced loathing among families of low income of anything that smacks of charity, and the number of those trying to get something for nothing is, in actual experience, very small indeed. This is also the experience of the National Assistance Board. Its report for 1957 stated that only 65 men on assistance were prosecuted for neglecting to work when able to do so, and that there were only 750 prosecutions for fraud out of a total of over 1 1/2 million people (excluding dependents) then receiving assistance…

Going on Assistance

…In 1958 the National Assistance Board had to make 1,119,000 weekly allowances to supplement inadequate pension and benefit rates, and this represented no less than 68 per cent of all allowances in payment.

We know, therefore, that over a million people in this Welfare State were living below subsistence level for this reason alone, and were granted assistance. We also know that for 780,000 of all assisted people the minimum rates of assistance were considered by the Board to be insufficient … since this was the number of discretionary allowances made … for extra fuel, special diet and other requirements, in addition to which 152,000 single payments for shoes, clothing and bedding had to be provided for people in the most extreme need.

These figures do not precisely tally with the axiom that ‘poverty has been abolished’. But if we can feel little complacency about the numbers of the poor or the extent of their relief … we can feel even less about the incalculable number in bitter need who di not even apply for help …

Why is there so much aversion from seeking its help?… Even if the officers are kind and tactful, as they often are, the applicant is, in fact, pleading poverty; and since that poverty must be checked, he must be visited at home and asked questions which, to the sensitive, are often embarrassing, and which may involve relatives and other people living in the house;.

The price of application is, therefore, a surrender of personal privacy and a strong deterrent is the fear that, even when this price is paid, assistance may not be forthcoming…

We have been deluded into thinking not only that we have already achieved a Welfare State … but this it is second to none. Our National Health Service is still unrivalled, but in other matters we are falling behind. The Scandinavian countries are ahead of us in providing better old people’s homes and up-to-date hospitals; New Zealand enables young families to buy their own houses by advancing Family Allowances. France does not invariably deny a family allowance to the first child of a family as we do; Germany gives better insurance coverage in illness and is spending half as much again on social security as we are …’

There have been many changes to the welfare system since then. Many of the welfare payments that directly benefited the middle classes, or rather, the lower middle classes, have been abolished, like student grants and the payment of tuition fees. This has created the ‘squeezed middle class’, who find themselves increasingly impoverished through taxation and denied the remaining welfare benefits available to the working class. The result has been to drive something of a wedge between the two classes, as the lower middle class becomes increasingly resentful of working class privilege. Looking at the above extract, and Audrey Harvey’s comments that the middle classes benefited the most from the welfare state, It does seem to me that this gap in welfare provision between the working and lower middle classes seems to have been deliberately engineered. That way the Tories can always claim they’re responding to public concern by the voters, or at least the middle class readers of the Daily Mail.

Despite the changes to the benefit system, the core arguments remain the same. There are people, who don’t like claiming welfare. Social security fraud is much less than the Conservatives and their friends in the Right-wing press have claimed. The essential point remains the same: the reason why the benefits system was expanded after 1948 was that this was genuinely inadequate in combatting the real poverty that existed in post-War Britain.

Moreover, thanks to the Coalition, poverty in Britain is actually increasing. What we need are fewer programmes purporting to show how generous modern welfare provision, and more that show how the Coalition’s policies and cuts are actually making it more widespread. Perhaps we should have a few programmes in which the poorest claimants are shown living on the more generous allowances of the past, and the difference this makes in their lives. I suspect, however, that such a programme would never be made. It would be attacked as another example of Left-wing media bias. It would also conflict with the think-tanks and received opinion of the media movers and shakers that guide public programming and dictate public attitudes to these matters.