Posts Tagged ‘Fishing’

To Win in the Countryside, Labour Can Start by Defending the Small Farmers

September 8, 2020

Mike put up a piece yesterday reporting the prediction that if Boris and the Tories get the no deal Brexit their paymasters, the hedge funds, want, 1/3 of Britain’s farmers will go bust in the next five years. These are going to be the small farmers, who were suckered into believing that leaving the EU would make things better for them. They were wrong, and Mike asks how much sympathy we should have for them, considering they voted for Brexit. Actually, it’s not difficult to understand how. We were taught about the EEC as it was then in geography at my old school, including the Common Agricultural Policy. I can’t remember the details, but this was geared to granting subsidies and rewarding the much-less efficient farming systems of France and Germany, and penalised our agricultural sector, which is much more mechanised and employs far fewer people. The system of subsidies, if I remember correctly, also tranferred money and funding from the advanced agriculture of northern Europe to the less developed farms of the grain belt around the Mediterranean. Given that the Common Agriculture Policy actually put our farmers at a relative disadvantage, it isn’t hard to see why our farmers, like the fishermen, wanted to leave.

However, the big farmers were advised not to vote for Brexit, didn’t, and probably won’t suffer quite as much as their smaller cousins. However, I do think this crisis offers Labour an opportunity to show Britain’s rural communities that it hasn’t forgotten them. There have already been discussions about how Labour could win in the countryside, including a Fabian pamphlet about the issue. Well, I think Labour can start by following the example of the Swedish Social Democrats in the 1920s and 1930s. I can’t remember where I read it, but I read somewhere that the Social Democrats’ 50 year stay in power began in the 1920s when it backed the small, peasant farmers against the threat of bankruptcies and land seizures. I think the party and its members not only opposed these in parliament and local councils, but actually physically turned out to stop the bailiffs seizing individual farms and evicting the peasant farmer.

There’s a crisis going on in the countryside. If you watch the Beeb’s Countryfile, you’ll have seen reports about British farmers rural communities being under threat. Apart from the continuing problems of British agriculture, many rural communities are also suffering from cuts to local services and a lack of housing that local people can afford, rather than rich outsiders. Also, if you read George Monbiot’s Captive State, you’ll also know how the corporativism of New Labour and now the Tories actually harms farmers and local small businesses. Corporativism gives government subsidies and positions to big business in return for their donations. New Labour especially favoured the big supermarket chains, like Sainsbury’s, and gave it’s chief, David Sainsbury, a position on one of regulatory bodies, because Sainsbury at the time backed the party and donated to it. However, the supermarkets offer their cheap food at the expense of the producers, who are bound into manipulative and highly exploitative contracts. One of the supermarkets boasted a few years ago about the money it was giving to charity. In fact, none of that money came from the supermarket itself – it was all taken from its producers. At the same time, supermarkets undercut small businesses, like the local butcher, greengrocer and so on. But this also creates unemployment, because small businesses like theirs employ more people. If Labour wants to improve conditions in the countryside for small businesses like Arkwright’s in the classic Beeb comedy series, Open All Hours, it has to attack corporativism and the big supermarket chains. But I can’t see that happening under a Blairite like Starmer.

I expect that most of Britain’s farmers are probably Conservatives. But this doesn’t alter the fact that, whatever they believe, the Tories have abandoned them and their policies are actively harming small farmers and businesses and rural communities. The Labour party can start winning back the countryside by actively and obviously defending those hit by Tory policies.

And that means protesting against the closures of small farms when the Tories’ no deal Brexit hits them.

The Labour, Pro-Working Class Arguments for Brexit

December 22, 2019

The decisive factor which swung 14 million people to vote Tory in the general election two weeks was Brexit. Labour’s programme of reforms was popular, despite the predictable Tory attacks on it as impractical, costly, too radical, Marxist and so on. 60 to 70 per cent of the public in polls supported the manifesto, and the party received a slight boost in popularity in the polls after its public. The areas in Labour’s heartlands in the midlands and north that turned Tory were those which voted ‘Leave’. Craig Gent in his article for Novara Media on the lessons Labour must learn from this defeat lamented this. By backing Remain, Labour had ceded Brexit to the Conservatives, allowing them to shape the terms of the debate and the assumptions underlying it. But Gent also argued that it could easily have gone the other way.

Indeed it could. Labour’s policy, before the right-wing put pressure on Corbyn to back a second referendum, was that Labour would respect the Leave vote, and try for a deal with the EU that would serve Britain the best. Only if that failed would Labour consider a general election or second referendum. This is eminently sensible. The referendum was purely on whether Britain would leave the European Union. It was not on the terms under which Britain would leave. Despite Johnson’s promise to ‘get Brexit done’, he will have no more success than his predecessor, Tweezer. The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has stated that the negotiations are going to take far long than the eleven months Johnson claimed. The people who voted for him are going to be sorely disappointed.

The right-wing campaign for leaving the EU heavily exploited racism and xenophobia. Not only had Britain lost her sovereignty to Brussels, but it was because of the EU that Britain was being flooded with immigrants taking jobs and placing a burden on the social and economic infrastructure. In fact, the Black and Asian immigrants entering Britain were permitted, as Mike showed on his blog, through UN agreements covering asylum seekers. Moreover immigrants and foreign workers were a net benefit to Britain. They contributed more in taxes and took less in benefits. But with this was drowned out, along with other, vital Remain arguments in the Tory rhetoric of hate.

But there was always a part of the Labour movement that also distrusted the European Union for democratic, socialist reasons. The late Tony Benn devoted an entire chapter to it in his 1979 book, Arguments for Socialism. One of his primary objections to it, as he outlined in a 1963 article for Encounter magazine, was

that the Treaty of Rome which entrenches laissez-faire as its philosophy and chooses its bureaucracy as its administrative method will stultify effective national economic planning without creating the necessary supranational planning mechanisms for growth and social justice.

Like right-wing Eurosceptics, Benn also objected to Britain joining the EU because of loss of national sovereignty and democracy through inclusion into a European superstate. He was also worried about the threat from Brussels to British industry. The European Union hated Britain’s nationalised industries, and Benn said that he was told by Brussels bureaucrats that investment, mergers and prices in the former British steel industry would have to be controlled by them. Every issue of state aid to British manufacturing industry would have to be subject to the European commission. He was very much afraid that British manufacturing would be unable to compete against the better financed and equipped European firms, and so close. And he also argued that membership in the European Union would create higher unemployment through the EU’s economic policy, which was exactly the same as that tried by Conservative premier Ted Heath’s first government. He believed that EU membership would leave British workers with a choice of either being unemployed at home, or moving to Europe to seek work. Only the directors and shareholders in European companies would profit. He then gives the statistics showing how much Britain was paying to the EU for policies like the Common Agricultural Policy, that penalised Britain’s highly efficient farming system in favour of that of the continent, and the disastrous effect EU membership had had on British industry and jobs. The devastation caused to some sectors of British industry and agriculture also formed part of Conservative attacks on the EU. The former Mail, now Times journo, Quentin Letts, bitterly criticises the EU in his book, Bog Standard Britain, for the way the common fisheries policy drastically cut back our fishing fleet to a fraction of its former size.

It also seems that Ted Heath also used some very underhand, dirty tricks to rig the initial referendum to give the result he wanted: that the British people agreed with him and wanted to join Europe. This was the subject of an article in the parapolitical/ conspiracy magazine, Lobster some years ago.

I’m a Remainer. I was as shocked by the Tories’ victory as everyone else on the Left. I expected that they would win because of the vast propaganda and media resources they had poured in to attacking Labour and Corbyn personally. But I was astonished by how large the victory was. I believed that the continuing failure to secure a deal with Europe would have made Brexit less popular, not more. The result of the original referendum was so narrow that I believed a second would reverse the decision. How wrong I was.

Some of the Eurosceptic arguments against Europe are overstated or simply wrong. The EU was a threat to our nationalised industries, but it seemed nothing prevented the French, Germans and Dutch from retaining theirs and buying up ours, as the Dutch firm, Abellio, was awarded the contract for some of our rail services. Britain’s entry into the EU did not result in us losing our sovereignty. We retained it, and all law passed in Brussels had to become British law as well. And I believe very strongly that leaving Europe, especially under a no-deal Brexit, will badly damage our trade and economy.

But understanding Brexit and the arguments against EU membership from the Left from people like Tony Benn, may also provide a way of winning back some at least of the support Labour lost at the election. Labour can show that it understands the fear some people in those communities have about the loss of sovereignty, and the effect EU membership has had on trade, manufacturing and employment. But we can also point out that the Tories are using the same set of economic principles as the EU, and that this won’t change so long as Boris is Prime Minister. And any trade agreement he makes with the Orange Generalissimo will be worse than staying in the EU. It won’t secure British jobs or support British industry, manufacturing or otherwise. Indeed, it will cause further damage by placing them at a disadvantage against the Americans.

A proper Brexit, that respected British workers and created a fairer, better society, could only be brought in by Labour. But the Thursday before last, 14 million people were duped into rejecting that. But Labour is learning its lesson, and people are getting ready to fight back.

Labour can and will win again, on this and other issues. Brexit may have got Johnson in, but it may also be the issue that flings him out. 

‘I’ Article on McDonnell Receiving Death Threats

November 7, 2019

Also in Tuesday’s I was a brief article by Patrick Daly reporting that McDonnell had told a meeting of NHS workers that he receives death threats weekly. The article ran

Labour’s shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, said he regularly receives two death threats a week, as he called for calm as the general election campaign gets under way.

He said politicians had “exploited” the Brexit result to “unleash forces” that were “dividing society”.

He made the comments after being told by a migrant NHS worker how he and a surgeon colleague had been verballed abused following the 2016 referendum decision.

Speaking to London NHS workers at Unison’s headquarters, Mr McDonnell said he wanted more politicians to “follow the advice” given by the Archbishop of Canterburty. The Most Rev Justin Welby warned the Prime Minister and MPs last week that it was “extraordinary dangerous to use careless comments” in what he described as a “very polarised and volatile situation”S.

Mr McDonnell said: “We’ve all had continual death threats. I usually get about two a week now.

“That’s the sort of politics we have got at the minute.”

This potentially explosive situation has been fanned by Johnson’s own highly inflammatory rhetoric and that of the Tory press towards anyone, who dares to oppose Brexit, or their version of it. Remember how the Fail slandered the judges, who declared one of their Brexit initiatives illegal, ‘enemies of the people’. Which mirrors exactly the rhetoric used by the Nazis against the democratic Weimar authorities before they seized power in Germany.

But it’s also a notable for a number of other reasons. The first is that it contradicts the Tory, Blairite and media narrative a few years ago that Corbyn’s followers were evil, raging misogynists sending abusive messages to ‘moderate’ – read Thatcherite – Labour women. Like Luciana Berger and the rest. This gave the misleading impression that only these ladies received abuse. But as the I also revealed a few days ago, half of the abusive messages sent to Labour politicians go to Diane Abbott, a close ally of Corbyn. And while I’ve no doubt that some of they did receive abuse and threats, some of the messages they claim to have received, on examination, didn’t exist. But I have no doubt that McDonnell’s statement is absolutely true.

As is the statement by the migrant NHS worker about the abuse he and a surgeon colleague received after the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Not everyone, who voted for Brexit are racist or xenophobic by any means. Some Labour voters did so in some communities because European policies has harmed their industries. The British fishing industry is a case in point, and used as an example of destructive EU policies by the Times sketchwriter, Quentin Letts, in his book Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain. Some Old Labour voters no doubt voted for Brexit because of the way neoliberalism and privatisation are written into the EU constitution and economic structure. But many others did. They were lied to by the Tories and UKIP, told that by leaving the EU there would be less foreigners taking their jobs and pushing down wages. And that meant Black and Asian immigrants. One of the most noxious examples of this was Nigel Farage and his wretched UKIP poster showing a line of immigrants from Syria and North Africa, which exactly matched Nazi posters against Jewish and eastern European immigration.

Last year I went into hospital for treatment for a form of blood cancer here in Bristol. I received excellent care, as I have done through the process generally, from the doctors, nurses and other medical and ancillary staff. Very many of these are foreign workers, not just from other parts of Europe, but also Africa and the Caribbean. They were conscientious in their care, and in my experience, had an excellent and supportive attitude towards the patients. We are very fortunate to have such people working for us.

But they are being abused. There was a piece on the local news for the Bristol region, Points West, the other day, reporting that one of the city’s hospitals in Southmead has been forced to put in place a zero tolerance policy because of people abusing staff, including, I believe, threats of violence. Threats and abuse to hospital workers and medical professionals isn’t new. There have been posters up warning patients against it for years, as well as reports and denunciations in the press and media. But now it seems it’s becoming particularly serious.

This is disgraceful. It needs to be stopped, now. Before there’s another assassination like that of Jo Cox.

 

‘I’ Newspaper: Aristocracy Have Doubled Their Wealth in Past Decade

July 22, 2019

The cover story on Saturday’s I for 20th July 2019 was a report that Britain’s landed gentry had doubled their wealth in a decade. Beneath the headline declaring that very fact were the lines

  • Dramatic surge in fortunes of British nobility since the 2008 financial crash, I learns
  • 600 aristcratic families now as wealthy as they were at the height of the British Empire.

The story on page 12 of the paper by Cahal Milmo was based on the research of two academics, Dr Matthew Bond and Dr Julien Morton, lecturers, sociology lecturers at the London South Bank University, who had examined probates, or settled wills, of 1,706 members of the aristocracy going back to 1858. However, the article made the point that these wills only represented part of the aristocracy’s immense wealth, and their real fortunes is likely to be much higher because their lands, property, art collections and business investments are very frequently held in separate trusts which cannot be examined.

The article stated that

A hereditary title is now worth an average of more than £16m – nearly twice the value it stood at proior to the 2008 financial crisis, I can reveal. their fortunes contrast starkly with the decade experienced by the vast majority of Britons, whose inflation-adjusted wages remain stuck at 2005 levels.l Since the Thatcher era, the value of a hereditary title has also increased four-fold.

The academics’ research also

shows that the minimum value of one of these (aristocratic) titles now stands on average at £16.1m. The same figure, adjusted to reflect current purchasing power, stood at £4.2m between 1978 and 1987.

The four-fold increase suggests the aristocracy has prospered spectacularly under the era of financial deregulation and economic liberalisation ushered in by Margaret Thatcher when she came to power in 1979.

The I also stated

The figures represent a sharp recovery in the fortunes of the nobility, which went into a decline during the Second World War and the post-war consensus, which brought in more progressive taxation and the welfare state. From a pre-war high of £23m, average fortunes fell to £4.9m by the 1980s.

The data suggests that Britain’s wealthiest aristocrats have more than weathered the economic problems caused by the 2008 financial crisis, apparently using existing assets to take advantage of low interest rates to buy up stocks and shares and other investments which have rocketed in value. In the decade to 2007, the average wealth of the nobility stood at £8.9m – suggesting it has nearly doubled in the decade since. (pp. 12-13).

The article also looked at the educational background of the ten richest toffs. And what a surprise! They nearly all went to Eton and Harrow, before going on to Oxbridge.

Of the ten largest probates between 2008 and 2018, seven of the deceased attended Eton or Harrow, with the remaining three also attending major public schools. Six of the 10 went to either Oxford or Cambridge universities. (p. 13).

The newspaper also asked the Labour MP, Chris Bryant for his views about this. Bryant was the author of A Critical History of the British Aristocracy, published two years ago in 2017. He responded

“For more than a century the landed aristocracy have been moaning about their terrible impoverishment. Ostentatiously sitting in dilapidated drawing rooms with buckets and pails catching drips from the beautiful but bowed stucco ceiling, they have extended the begging bowl.

“Yet the last century has seen many do remarkably well. The end result is that eh great old landed, crested and hallmarked families of the UK are still in possession of most of the land and a large part of the wealth of the nation.” (p. 13).

The I was at pains to state that the study itself takes no view on the social role of the aristocracy, whose fans argue that it plays a valuable role supporting rural communities through fishing and farming. It quoted Morton as saying

“It may well be that having a rich and vital aristocracy is good for the country. We are interested in understanding this group as objectively as possible.”

Well, that might be the case, but they’ve also been severely bad for the rest of us. The I doesn’t mention it, but one of the ways the aristocracy has almost certainly increased their wealth is through the massive tax cuts the Tories have given high earners. They’ve been enriched through the Thatcherite doctrine that taxes and government spending have to be cut, the welfare state destroyed and everything, including the NHS privatised, in order to benefit the upper classes. Their wealth will then magically trickle down to the rest of us, as they open new businesses, pay higher wages and so forth. Except they don’t. They simply take the money and put it in their bank accounts, where it stays. And far from opening new businesses, business proprietors simply carry on as before, laying off staff in order to enrich themselves and their shareholders. The Young Turks and a number of other left-wing American internet news shows, like the Jimmy Dore Show, have put up videos about various companies that have made thousands unemployed after they were given tax cuts by Trump.

As for the British aristocracy, way back in 1988 Private Eye published a very critical review, ‘Nob Value’, of Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd’s The Field Book of Country Houses and their Owners: Family Seats of the British Isles, as well as the-then emerging ‘heritage’ sector. Massingberd, who wrote a ‘heritage’ column in the Torygraph, was a massive fan of the aristocracy to which he belonged, and, of course, Maggie Thatcher. In this book he loudly praised her policies, and looked forward to a ‘social restoration’ that would see the blue-bloods return to power. The Eye wrote

The ‘heritage’ mania has softened us up for a return to inherited wealth. Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd may be a richly Wodehousian figure, but his book, lauding the privately owned, is symptomatic. It is the correlative to Peregrine Worsthorne’s recent articles about the desirability of large inheritances and the return of a rentier class: the desirability in short of ‘a social restoration’. Come the day, of course, Massivesnob knows where he will be – in his seat again. But the fans of his snufflings seem curiously unaware of where that leaves them: which is sat upon. 

In Francis Wheen, ed., Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion (London: Verso 1994), 320-2 (322).

Quite. It’s as true now as it was then, after Downton Abbey on the Beeb and now with the Tory party dominated by two toffs, Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, coming after another Eton educated aristo, David Cameron, all of whom very much represent the interests of their class against the poor.

The only chance for the rest of us to shake them off, and go back to having a society where ordinary people have a decent standard of living, can enjoy good wages, proper welfare support and a truly national, and nationalised health service, is by voting for Corbyn.

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Tory Self-Delusions

March 31, 2018

I found this little gem in the ‘Pseud’s Corner’ column of an old copy of Private Eye. Amid the usual, very pseudish remarks from football pundits and cookery writers comparing that last goal by Arsenal to Julius Caesar crossing the Tiber, or literary types extolling the virtues of their last excursion around the globe, where they took part in the ancient tribal ceremonies of primal peoples, was a truly astounding quote from the Young Master. This is, of course, the current darling of the Tory party, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who declared.

“I am a man of the people. Vox populi, vox dei!”

This was in response to Andrew Neil questioning him about the influence of public schools on British political life.

Rees-Mogg probably does see himself as ‘man of the people’. He’s in a party, which considers itself the natural party of government. Decades ago, the Tory ideologue, Trevor Oakeshott, tried to justify the overpowering influence of the middle classes by saying they were the modern equivalent of the barons who stood up to King John, in providing a bulwark against the power of the state. True in some case, but very wrong when the middle classes are in power, and the state functions as their servant.

Rees-Mogg has never, ever, remotely been a man of the people. He’s an aristo toff, who has made his money from investment banking. He holds deeply reactionary views on abortion and homosexuality, which are very much out of touch with those of the genuinely liberal middle and lower classes. And he has always represented the aristocracy and the rich against the poor, the sick, and the disabled. He began his political career in Scotland trying to folks of a declining fishing community that what this country really needed was to keep an unelected, hereditary House of Lords. In parliament, he has continued to promote the interests of the rich by demanding greater subsidies and tax cuts for them. For the poor, he has done nothing except demand greater tax increases on them, to subsidise the already very wealthy to whom he wants to give these tax cuts, and voted to cut welfare services and state funding for vital services. No doubt he genuinely believes all that Thatcherite bilge about making life as tough as possible for the poor in order to encourage them to work harder and do well for themselves.

Personally, he comes across as quiet-spoken, gentlemanly and polite. But he is not a man of the people. He hates them with a passion, but clearly thinks of himself as their champion and saviour against the dreaded welfare state.

Let’s prove him wrong and throw him out of parliament!

The Klan in 1981 Showing the Fascist Reality of Anti-Migrant Boats for the Med

March 17, 2018

I found the above picture in Morris Dees and James Corcoran’s book, Gathering Storm: America’s Militia Threat (New York: HarperCollins 1996). it shows an anti-immigrant vessel crewed by members of the Texas Emergency Reserve, a 2,500 man paramilitary army set up and headed by Louis Beam, The boat terrorised Vietnamese fishermen by running ‘gunboat’ near the docks and their fishing fleets. Dees is a member of the Southern Poverty Law Centre, an anti-racist groups which prosecutes Fascists and right-wing extremists. The book states that the SPLC brought a lawsuit against them, which forced Beam to disband his army of racist fanatics. As you can see, a couple of these Nazis are wearing Klan costumes.

I’m putting this up, because there have been demands for similar boats to deal with the migrant ships crossing the Mediterranean. Lauren Southern, a Canadian Alt-Right propagandist, was involved with a project by a group of European Fascists to set up an anti-migrant patrol boat, until it was scuppered by a campaign by Hope Not Hate. But other Fascists groups are making the same demands, like CasaPound, an insignificant Italian Fascist party, a video on which I put up about a week ago. And Katie Hopkins, the rightwing bigot and loudmouth, whose career on this side of the Pond spectacularly imploded a few weeks ago when she became too toxic for even the Scum and the Mail to employ, was responsible for a particularly odious tweet in which she recommended gunning down migrants and their boats without remorse. She then dared the TV presenter, Philip Schofield, to challenge her on these monstrous sentiments. This came a day or two before the bodies of the migrants aboard one such ship, which had sank, washed ashore, including the infant son of a man, who had stayed behind in Turkey.

Although this photo is from another time and place, it shows you exactly the kind of Fascist patrol boat the Fascists are demanding today. And it isn’t pretty.

Martin Odoni: Lack of Brexit Impact Assessments Means Government Should Go

December 7, 2017

There were calls last week for David Davis to reveal the 60 or so impact assessments on Brexit, that the government had compiled and was supposed to be suppressing. Davis himself was facing accusations of contempt of parliament for refusing to release them. Now he has revealed that, actually, there aren’t any. Mike over at Vox Political has put up a short piece from Martin Odoni over the Critique Archives, who makes the obvious point: the government is seriously negligent, and should go. The members of every opposition party in parliament should unite and demand their resignation. He makes the point that the referendum was conducted so that Cameron could get the Tory right on board, and that in the 2 1/2 years since it is absolutely disgraceful that the Tories simply haven’t bothered to work out how Brexit would affect Britain.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/12/07/if-there-are-no-brexit-impact-assessments-the-entire-tory-government-is-grossly-negligent-and-must-go/

I can’t agree more. Every day brings fresh news of how Brexit is damaging Britain’s economy and world status. Today there was a piece on the news reporting that universities are finding it difficult to recruit foreign graduates, thanks to Brexit. We have lost three regulatory bodies to Europe in the past week. Mike has also reported that Britain’s scientists will also losing funding due Brexit, as they will no longer be quite so much a part of the European science infrastructure.

At the same time the Tory right is trying to strip the human rights and workers’ rights legislation out of British law, to make it even easier to fire and exploit British workers. And British businesses are wondering how well they will fare without access to the single market.

Brexit is a mess. And you could tell it was going to be a mess, from the way the Maybot mechanically intoned ‘Brexit means Brexit’ whenever anyone asked her what Brexit meant, all the while staring at the interlocutor as if they, not she, were the stupid one. The Tories have no plan, only slogans and lies. In this case, we’ve seen Michael Gove pop up again and again to give his spiel about how wonderful everything will be after Brexit. As has Young Master Jacob Rees-Mogg. Gove was on the One Show Last Night in an article about the crisis hitting the British fishing industry. And guess what – he said that Britain would once again have the largest, or one of the largest fishing fleets in the world, after Brexit.

As Christine Keeler said all those years ago, well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Many people voted for Brexit because they were genuinely sick and tired of the neoliberal policies forced upon Britain and the other European countries by the EU. This was quite apart from the nationalist and racist fears stoked by UKIP about foreign, and specifically Muslim, immigration.

In fact, Brexit has been promoted by the financial sector and its Tory cheerleaders so that Britain can become another offshore tax haven. It’s part of a very long-standing Tory policy going right back to Maggie Thatcher, that has seen the financial sector given priority over manufacturing. The attitude became official policy under Blair, when it was announced that we shouldn’t try to restore our manufacturing industries, and should concentrate on the financial sector and servicing the American economy.

It’s a profoundly mistaken attitude. Ha-Joon Chang in his books on capitalism states very clearly that manufacturing is still vitally important for the British economy. If it occupies less of the economy, it’s because it hasn’t grown as much as the financial sector. But it’s still the basis of our economy.
But I doubt that will cut much ice with Tory grandees like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who makes his money through investments, rather than actually running a business that actually makes something.

And so the British economy is being wrecked, British businesses are looking at ruin, and British workers looking at precarity and unemployment, because the government in this issue is guided by tax-dodging bankers.

The Tories have been colossally negligent to the point of treating the British public with absolute contempt. Mike and Mr Odoni are absolutely right.

They should resign. Now.

Scientists for the EU Explains Why the Heaton-Harris Letter Is So Dangerous

October 28, 2017

On Thursday, the news broke that Chris Heaton-Harris, a Tory whip, had written to the universities demanding details of the courses they were running on international relations, and particularly those on Brexit, asking for the names of the lecturers taking the course.

In this video lasting six minutes, the speaker takes you through the issues involved and explains the danger of a personal witch-hunt instigated by a Eurosceptic government. It’s clear that the speaker is a British scientist, who teaches at one of our unis. The blurb for the video runs

The letter from Tory Eurosceptic whip Chis Heaton-Harris to University V-Cs demanding “names of professors” that lecture on Brexit is sinister. What could the purpose of his efforts be, if not to make some kind of report to attack universities or individuals? For example, though the tabloid press? This is a classic totalitarian tactic, from Lenin to McCarthy, to politically go after and remove wider societal resistance to a government line. Universities are a common target to both left & right-wing totalitarianism because of their public voice. To drive public opinion against universities for political/power expedience is damaging both to trust across wider society and to the independence of universities. We already saw this during the referendum when Daniel Hannan peddled the notion that British Universities are paid off “sock puppets” of the EU and part of an elite, not part of “the people”.

Apparently, Hannan initially started by claiming that the universities would love it, when they were freed of EU control. When he found out that most were against leaving the EU, he then changed his tune to this populist, anti-intellectual rhetoric.

Hannan himself is a vile specimen. He’s a Dorset Tory MEP, and so, as the speaker here points out, like Nigel Farage is more than willing to get his salary from the EU. But he resents British universities, who only have a little money from the European Community, getting funding from them. The French philosophical feline, Guy Debord’s Cat, has also pointed out in frequent posts that Hannan is, or used to be, a columnist for the Torygraph Blogs. Not only is he Eurosceptic, but he also openly wants to privatise the NHS. And he lies so much that Buddy Hell calls him ‘the Lyin’ King’.

The Scientist for the EU also goes on to state that Heaton-Harris’/ Daily Heil’s anger that the overwhelming majority of universities don’t reflect the wider views of British society is wrong by pointing out that other parts of British society also don’t. Like the fishing community. But no-one tells them that 48 per cent of fishing people should now support the Remain campaign. He states that different sectors of British society have different views on the issue, according to the circumstances as it affects them.

Americans Who Still Speak with a British Accent

August 30, 2017

This is a bit of regional interest. This is a clip from an American programme about different accents in America. It’s about the folk in the fishing communities in North Carolina, who speak with a very marked accent derived from their British and Irish ancestors. The blurb for it on YouTube says that they sound West Country – Cornish and Bristol. With ‘oi’ sound for the ‘i’ in standard English – they say ‘hoi toid’ instead of ‘high tide’, they actually sound more East Anglian to me. We were taught when we were studying American history at College that most of the British settlers of New England came from that side of the country, and the local dialect is similar in some ways to American English. For example, like Americans they call autumn ‘fall’, and as in other British and Scots dialects the ‘u’ sound is pronounced ‘oo’. So ‘dune’ is pronounced ‘doon’, and the man’s name ‘Hugh’ is pronounced ‘Hoo’.

However, very many people from the West Country and Bristol did emigrate to the nascent British colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. I think there are 30 towns and cities called Bristol in the US. One of the local presses in Cornwall has also published a book on Cornish emigrants to the US.

Apollo Astronaut Michael Collins on Sexism, the Fragile Earth and Banning Guns in Space Colonies

July 13, 2017

Last week I put up a post about a clip of Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, pulling faces at a rambling, incoherent speech made by Donald Trump. Trump was signing into law an act affirming America’s commitment to the space programme. His speech about it was less than inspiring however, and Aldrin, who not only went to the Moon himself, but has also been a staunch supporter of opening the High Frontier up to ordinary women and men, was very definitely less than impressed.

One of the books I’ve been reading recently was Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut’s Story, written by the third member of the Apollo 11 crew, Michael Collins. Collins was the pilot, who flew the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon, and then waited in lunar orbit while Armstrong and Aldrin made their historic landing, before flying back with them on the return journey to Earth. The book is Collin’s account of how he came to be astronaut. Determined to be a pilot after being allowed to hold the joystick of a passenger aircraft on which he and his family were travelling as a child, he joined the USAF and became a test pilot. He then moved on to join NASA’s space programme. He describes the rigorous training required, and his first flight into space with John Young in Gemini 10 in July 1966. He also explains how he came, reluctantly, to leave the astronaut programme for a variety of reasons, not least was the way it was stopping him from spending time with his family. And in his final chapter he, like Aldrin, looks forward to the future spread of humanity throughout the Solar system and beyond, with humans going to Mars and then Titan, a moon of Saturn, which may hold the key to the origin of life.

This isn’t an explicitly political book. Nevertheless, Collins does comment on specific issues as they affect the racial and gender composition of the astronaut programme, his perspective on the importance of the environment and why he believes guns would be banned by the inhabitants of a space colony. These are all issues which Trump, his supporters and donors in the gun manufacturers and lobbyists would strongly oppose.

In the passage where he discusses how he and the other astronauts became part of a panel, whose job was to select a fresh batch of astronauts, makes a point of explaining why only white men were selected. He then goes on to comment that although this was what was done at the time, he believes and hope that this will change, and that Blacks and women are just as capable of flying air- and spacecraft equally well. He points out that the highly technological nature of modern aircraft means that there is absolutely no biological obstacle to women piloting such high performance machines. He writes

Note that I have said “he”, because there were no women in the group, nor where there any blacks. In thinking about that, it seems to me that there were plenty of women and blacks who could get the highest marks in categories 1 and 4 [their intelligence and how badly they wanted to be astronauts], but in 1966 categories 2 and 3 [education and experience] tended to rule them out. There simply did not seem to be aeronautical engineers and experienced test pilots, who were black or women. I think, and hope, that will change in the future. Flying a modern jet aircraft does not require a great deal of strength, for one thing. Hydraulic flight controls, like power steering in a car, prefer a light touch, and women should do as good a job as men. Obviously, an airplane has now way of telling the skin colour of the person flying it. (pp. 72-3. My comments in brackets).

He describes how looking at the Earth from space made him aware how fragile it was, and of the importance of preserving the environment.

I will never forget how beautiful the earth appears from a great distance, floating silently and serenely like a blue and white marble against the pure black of space. For some reason, the tiny earth also appears very fragile, as if a giant hand could suddenly reach out and crush it. Of course, there is no one giant hand, but there are billions of smaller hands on earth, working furiously to change their home. Some of the changes being made are good, and others bad. For example, we are learning more efficient ways of catching fish, and that is good because it means more people can be fed from the oceans. If, on the other hand, these new methods result in the disappearance of species, such as whales, then that is bad. The automobile gives us great mobility, but pollutes our atmosphere. We cook cleanly and efficiently with natural gas, but we are running short of it. Newspapers and books spread knowledge, but require that trees be chopped down. It seems that nearly every advance in our civilisation has some undesirable side effects, Today’s young people are going to have to acquire the wisdom to see that future changes help our planet, not hurt it, so that it truly becomes the beautiful, clean, blue and white pea it seems to be when viewed from the moon. The earth truly is fragile, in the sense that its surface can easily shift from blue and white to black and brown. Is the riverbank a delightful spot to watch diving ducks, or is it lifeless greasy muck littered with bottles and tires? More people should be privileged to fly in space and get the chance to see the fragile earth as it appears from afar.
(p. 146).

Further on in the book, he states that future orbiting settlements would get their power from solar energy, as this would not only be abundant and free, but also clean, unlike coal. (pp. 150-1).

He also remarks on the way the Apollo missions differed from previous historic expeditions in that the explorers were unarmed, and suggests that the future inhabitants of a space colony at one of the libration points where the gravity of the Earth and Moon cancel each other out, and so named ‘Libra’, would similarly see no need for carrying weapons.

Apollo set a precedent for the future in another interesting way. It was probably the only major human expedition in which no weapons were carried. In similar fashion, no weapons would be permitted on Libra and Librans simply would not be able to understand why earth people continued to shoot one another. On Libra, if people felt hostile, they would be urged to put their energies into athletic contests or other competitive events, or simply to let off steam by going flying.

He then describes how the lower or zero gravity in the colony would allow people to fly aircraft power by their own muscles. (pp. 154-5).

Most of this is, or at least should be, non-controversial. Scientists have been warning us about the immense danger to our ecosystem, and the horrific decline in its natural wildlife as more and more habitats are destroyed, and an increasing number of species threatened with extinction, since the early ’70s. Among those warning of the ecological perils to the planet was the inspirational astronomer and NASA scientist, Carl Sagan. And indeed, one of the most powerful images that stimulated ecological awareness and the burgeoning Green movement was that picture of the Earth as a fragile, blue orb hanging in the blackness of space taken from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts. Way back in the mid-1990s the Beeb’s popular science programme, Horizon, devoted an edition, ‘Icon Earth’, to how this photo had influenced politics and culture.

The picture hasn’t just made more people aware of the urgent need to protect the environment. Some of the astronauts have spoken about how it brought home to them how artificial racial and national divisions are. They point out that there are now boundaries visible from space. Helen Sharman, the British astronaut who flew with the Russians to Mir in the 1980s, states in her book about her voyage that space helps to foster international understanding and cooperation. She observes that astronauts are the least nationalistic people.

As for guns, it doesn’t take much imagination to realise that shooting in the enclosed environment of space habitat could have truly disastrous consequences through the damage it could do to the machinery and fabric of the colony itself, and their ability to preserve human life in the harsh environment of space. A bullet through the outer skin of a spacecraft could lead the escape of its air, causing those within to die of suffocation and decompression.

Trump, however, is supported by the racist and misogynist Alt Right, who would like to roll back Black Civil Rights and women’s social and political gains since the 1960s, while the Republican party as a whole is generously funded by the NRA and the gun lobby, and the Koch brothers and other industrial magnates. The Koch brothers own much of the American petrochemical industry, and so, like many of the other multimillionaire businessmen, are very strongly opposed to any kind of environmental protection. The Kochs in particular are responsible for closing down awkward parts of the American meteorology and environmental science laboratories when they dare to issue warnings about the damage industry is causing to the country’s natural beauty and wildlife. They are then replaced with other institutions, also funded by the Kochs and those like them, which then conveniently deny the reality of climate change. The Republicans and their supporters in industry have also set up fake ‘astroturf’ Green movements, like Wise Use, which seek to undermine the genuine environmental movement.

Given the way the experience of looking back at our beautiful planet from space has transformed political, social and cultural perspectives all across the world, you can understand why some astronauts just might feel they have excellent reasons for pulling faces at their president.