Posts Tagged ‘George Osborne’

Kenneth Surin on Brexit and May’s Corporate Attack on the Poor

April 20, 2017

On Tuesday, Counterpunch published a long piece by their contributor, Kenneth Surin, on Theresa May’s plans for Brexit, and how this will inevitably harm the poor and the working people of this Sceptred Isle. And it’s what you’re already expecting, if you’ve read the Groaniad, those bits of the I newspaper that are still even remotely genuinely liberal, and bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political, the Canary, Another Angry Voice, The Void and so on. May, he predicts, will talk a hard Brexit in order to counter some of the opposition from the Tory Right, but will leave some room for a soft Brexit. She, Boris Johnson, and the other vicious grotesques currently infesting the halls of power, want to use it to turn Britain into a tax haven. So he predicts that the City of London and its connections to some very dodgy individuals – he has a paragraph giving the names of some of them – will get even murkier. But, as he points out, Britain already is a tax haven through the Channel Islands.

He states that we are likely to be given a very hard deal by the EU. He states that there was friction between Britain and the European Union as while the EU represents the power of corporate capital, it draws a line on their direct influence in government. The lingering Social Democratic tradition in these countries, like France, Germany, and the Scandinavian nations, means that the government governs for industry, but is not run like an industry. Unlike the Neoliberal vision, exported to Britain from the US, which wants government to be run exactly like a business.

He also predicts that May and her grotty team will inflict further misery on the poor, because that’s what appeals to the right-wing British press, like ‘the foreigner Murdoch’ and the ‘tax-dodging, Nazi-supporting Rothermere family’. The Tories will follow Farage, and privatise the NHS, just as the are already privatising services and levying charges for them.

He also rebuts May’s feigned concern for those ‘Just About Managing’, or the JAMs. Despite all the crocodile tears she and her cronies shed, she has done absolutely nothing for them. Wages are still stagnant, the opportunities to upgrade one’s skills are similarly being cut, as are welfare services to support the poor and unemployed.

Surin begins his article also by pointing out that when it comes to the day, the vote on Brexit is likely to be influenced by factors and issues that aren’t really relevant. He also talks about the way May has already shot herself in the foot by trying to promote Brexit using images of places, which have actually benefitted from the EU. Like the northern shipyards, which were given a million pound grant.

Surin begins his piece

“So at this moment of change [Brexit], we must respond with calm, determined, global leadership to shape a new era of globalisation that works for all”.

— Theresa May

“My plan for Britain is not just a plan to leave the EU but a plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, underpinned by genuine economic and social reform. To make Britain a country that works for everyone, not just a privileged few”.

— Theresa May

The UK’s Brexit roll-out is a constantly evolving project, zig zagging along because the Tories in charge of it, like everyone else, have no real idea of how it will culminate. So far it has been ad hockery all the way, though one or two of the project’s connecting threads are starting to be visible.

One week, Theresa “the woman without qualities” May, who voted against Brexit, is in favour of a “hard” Brexit (basically one involving no deal of any kind with the EU regarding the single market and immigration), the next she softens her tone and hints that a more placative agreement with the EU, amounting to a “soft” Brexit, might be welcomed in whatever hoped-for way.

Nothing was more symbolic of this chaos and muddled-thinking than the most recent pro-Brexit television broadcast by May, which showed her against the background of ships moving in the Scottish port of Aberdeen.

Oops– the port of Aberdeen was granted a €258 million loan from the European Investment Bank on 20 June 2016, just 3 days before the UK voted to leave the EU!

It all seems to depend on how much heat the pro-Brexit right-wing of her party, citing that chimerical entity “sovereignty”, can turn on her.

Her predecessor, “Dodgy Dave” Cameron, weary of feeling this heat, called the Brexit referendum to cool down his party’s right-wing, absolutely confident in his nonchalantly patrician way that Brits would consider themselves better-off by remaining in the EU.

Such referenda, although purportedly on a single-issue, tend invariably to have outcomes determined very much by the mood of the electorate, which is affected by a plethora of considerations having nothing specifically to do with the issue officially on the table on referendum day.

***

May’s calculation requires her to “talk” a hard Brexit, to neutralize the right-wingers who ended her predecessor’s political career, and to gain the support of the right-wing press– owned by the foreigner Murdoch, the Nazi-supporting and tax-dodging Rothermere family, Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond (the former head of a soft porn empire), the tax-dodging Barclay brothers, and a Russian oligarch.

This overseas-domiciled and tax-dodging (in the cases mentioned) crew have set the low-information agenda for those inclined towards Brexit, so May’s strategy, if we can call it that, has been accommodating towards their hard Brexit stance, while leaving things vague enough for loopholes to enable a “softish” Brexit if needed.

May, craving electoral success, has to cater to all sides and eventualities. The results are likely to be calamitous for the UK.

Why is this?

May’s primary objective is to convey the impression that Brexit will “work for all”.

Alas there is no evidence for this claim.

***

The UK’s pro-Brexit movement, in the absence of anything resembling a Lexit, is not going to be shackled by this or that constraint previously imposed by the EU.

For instance, the UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Trump’s non-American sycophant par excellence, though a minimal figure, has always advocated the privatization of the NHS. And this is exactly what the Tories have been pursuing by stealth since 2010.

***

May has already said she “stands ready” to use Brexit as an opportunity to turn the UK into a tax haven, or as the financial press euphemistically puts it, “a low-tax financial centre”. It is already one of course (this being the primary function of the islands of Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, and Gibraltar).

What May clearly means is that London’s financial sector, which is already awash in murky water, will become an even muddier swamp able to match similar swamps in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Panama, Hong Kong, Singapore, and so forth. Dwellers of these swamps include assorted drug dealers, human traffickers, gun runners, owners of illegal gambling syndicates…

***

In addition to May desiring this state of affairs for the City of London, it is clear from the composition of the team put together by the secretary of state for international trade Liam Fox to negotiate post-Brexit trade deals, that Brexit UK is going to pursue a thoroughgoing pro-corporate agenda.

***

This corporate bonanza will probably be accompanied by a weakening of environmental regulations, since most of the leading Brexiteers are climate-change deniers or supporters of fracking (and in most cases, both).

Pro-Brexit climate-change deniers include Farage, Michael Gove (who tried to ban climate change from the school curriculum when he was education minister), the foreign minister Boris “BoJo” Johnson, Thatcher’s finance minister Nigel Lawson, and the above-mentioned Liam Fox.

***

This hugely attractive and compassionate bunch (sic) are not going to be too concerned about pollution, biodiversity, natural habitats, animals abused by industrial farming, climate change, the prohibition of lethal pesticides, declining fish stocks, the international trade in endangered species, and the use of GMOs, when the agribusiness corporations howl about environmental regulation being a burden to them.

There will be no remotely green agenda under this ghastly crew.

***

May prates on about her deep concern for “just about managing” families (JAMs), but the austerity agenda passed on by the disastrous former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is being implemented with only a slight cosmetic tweak here and there.

The UK economy has grown since 2010, but, according to the Guardian, 7.4 million Brits, among them 2.6 million children, live in poverty despite being from working families (amounting to 55% of these deemed poor) — 1.1 million more than in 2010-11.

The report cited by the Guardian, produced by the reputable Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), shows that the number living below the Minimum Income Standard – the earnings, defined by the public, required for a decent standard of living – rose from 15 million to 19 million between 2008/9 and 2014/5. The UK’s population is 65 million.

These 19 million people, or just under 1/3rd of the UK’s population, are its JAMs.
***

Social care is becoming increasingly unaffordable for them, the NHS is starting to charge for treatment as it undergoes a backdoor privatization, they have fewer opportunities for upskilling in order to raise their incomes, and so on. This while their wages are stagnant even as the cost of living is increasing for them.

***

Such important and pressing issues need to be addressed as a matter of urgency, but they are not.

The Tories pro-corporate Brexit agenda has become the proverbial tail wagging the dog.

***

Many have a name for what is really and truly going on in the UK and US: class warfare.

The bastards have the underprivileged by the throat. All the mainstream political parties are terrified of offending them, if they haven’t already thrown their lot in with the bastards.

What is desperately needed, for the dispossessed and disadvantaged, is a reversal of this situation, in which many firm hands turn round and grasp the throats of those responsible for the misery of tens of millions of people.

Is there anyone in the almost moribund Labour party, torn apart by infighting caused by its still significant Blairite remnant, capable of saying any of the above unequivocally?

Go read the rest of the article at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/18/the-calm-determined-stronger-fairer-uk-brexit-zig-zag/

In answer to Surin’s final question, yes, there are plenty of people in the Labour party willing to point all this out. They’ve tried to do so ad infinitum. But the Blairites and the Tory media are doing their best to stop that message getting out. They never report what they say about the detrimental attacks the Tories and Blair have made on the welfare state, the NHS and the economy, but selectively quote them in order to make it all fit the narrative that Corbyn and his wing of the party are ignoring these issues. And it’s done deliberately to fit the narrative of Corbyn as a Trotskyite entryist.

It’s why I’m afraid that the next two months will be a very hard struggle for everyone desperate to save Britain from the corporatist swamp created by the Thatcherites and their media lickspittles.

Florence on Oliver Letwin and Thatcherite Anti-Welfare Think Tanks

November 27, 2016

This morning I put up a piece about the report in Friday’s I newspaper that Margaret Thatcher had continued planning to dismantle the welfare state, including the NHS, even after her own cabinet had revolted against it. Thatcher was keen to follow the plans outlined by the CPRS, a right-wing think-tank, to whom she had given the task of formulating plans to transform Britain into a free market economy. Amongst their proposals was the abolition of free universal healthcare, meaning the NHS, and the introduction of compulsory school fees, quite apart from the destruction of the rest of the welfare state.

I said in the article that it would be good to know who the people responsible for the CPRS were, as they should take their share of the blame, rather than just the politicos who fronted the reforms. As it stands, unfortunately it seems to me that even when one politician espousing the views of one of these wretched groups goes down, the members of the think tank just slink away to another job advising someone else. Like the various right-wing groups that jumped from the Tories to New Labour under Blair.

Florence replied:

I would suggest Letwin is the thread running through the whole sorry tale. Elected to a safe seat in 1997, he finished his academic studies (PhD) in 1982, and almost immediately became part of the CPRS in 1982. That was coincidentally when the ideas initially proposed in 1978 became part of the assault on the individual budget holders began in earnest. He then moved on to working with the CPS think tank.

In fact Letwin was associated with some of the most controversial policies – such as using Scotland as a testing ground for the POl Tax, and other unpopular policies. He is associated with racist memos written for Thatcher. He was also the author with Redwood of the 1988 CPS pamphlet that is the blueprint for the 2012 Act, which had itself been under preparation since 2007 -8 (ish).

The CPS was founded in 1972 by the “Mad Monk” Keith Joseph, and Alfred Sherman and Thatcher, to champion “liberal thinking” (now called neo liberalism). “In her own words, its job was to ‘expose the follies and self-defeating consequences of government intervention….’to think the unthinkable’ ” (Margaret Thatcher The Path to Power (London 1995), p. 253). The proposals on the NHS certainly fulfilled that objective, and seem to have arisen from within this coterie and melting pot while the Tories were in opposition in the 1970s. Other notable members of the CPS who are still influential in the Tory party include John Redwood, Dave Willitts, and Michael Fallon. Letwin of course was the main back-room grandee for Cameron and Osborne. He has since left the Downing Street role but his policies continue to be implemented.

Friedman, Joseph and Sherman were the main right-wing influences on Thatcher, but through Friedman and the Chicago School there were links directly to Pinochet in Chile (the Chilean “Chicago Boys”) and into the economic ideologies of nations across the globe. In the Wiki entry for Chicago school for the UK it sparsely notes that Thatcher implemented the Chicago school neoliberal policies and these were left intact and some were completed by Blair including the entry of private medicine into the NHS.

Getting information in who the members of the CPRS and the CPS were during those years is surprisingly difficult.

From my own reading about the subject, Keith Joseph was certainly Thatcher’s mentor, and she was very definitely influenced by Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys, who were also responsible for General Pinochet’s grotty economic policies. Friedman even went down to Chile to see how his ideas were being put into practice. As for Alfred Sherman, he’s another shadowy figure responsible for much of the neoliberal suffering around the world. I’ve got a feeling he’s the subject of a number of articles in the parapolitical magazine Lobster, as well as possibly being mentioned by Guy Debord’s Cat in his blog. The ‘Deep Politics’ angle – meaning covert manipulation by the secret state – probably explains why information on the CPRS is so difficult to obtain. They were a conspiratorial group within the heart of the establishment, and the establishment most definitely does not want their perfidy exposed.

Chunky Mark on Angel Eagle and the Other Unelectable Labour Rebels

July 11, 2016

On Saturday, Angela Eagle announced that she was going to run against Jeremy Corbyn for head of the Labour party. In this video, Chunky Mark, the artist taxi driver, gives his view of Angela Eagle, her support for Blair, the Blairites’ policies and their effective trashing of the Labour party. It’s an impassioned, shouty rant, as you’d expect from the big man. But he’s got a point, and with everything he shouts about, there’s a reason to scream and be angry.

He discusses how Eagle was interviewed by Andrew Neil yesterday, who asked her whether Blair should face prosecution for his invasion of Iraq. Eagle replied, ‘Well, Tony’s gone through the mill recently.’ Neil responded, ‘so he’s suffered enough?’ The artist taxi driver is right to be outraged. Blair is not the wounded party here. As Chunky Mark points out, his actions have destroyed an entire country, killed untold millions and led to the rise of ISIS. Eagle has said that Corbyn is ‘unelectable’. But Chunky Mark points out that thousands are joining the Labour party. The reverse is true. It’s Eagle and her soft left fellows, who are unelectable. The shadow cabinet of Eagle, Hilary Benn, Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt were soundly defeated at the last election. Ed Balls lost his seat. And they absolutely destroyed the Labour party in Scotland.

He points out that they despise Jeremy Corbyn as he stands for building more not-for-profit homes, decent healthcare, free education. They despise him because he’s like a hippy, a member of the old Left threatening to drag the country back to the 1970s, complete with the smell of patchouli oil. The artist taxi driver asks, ‘What’s wrong with free education?’ and then he asks them why they abstained from one of the Tories’ austerity bill, cutting benefits even further for the poorest.

He points out that Eagle and her fellow co-conspirators are Red Tories. They don’t believe in democracy. They’re trying to keep Corbyn’s name of the election papers. Their attitude is that only ‘the preferred candidate should win’. That means they don’t think people like us should have a say. They represent the establishment. They are the people, who sent men and women to die in Iraq for the banks and corporate profit.

Eagle and the rest of the Blairites put up such poor resistance to the Tories as they fundamentally agree with them. Blair tailored his campaign to winning the votes of middle class voters in swing marginals. And so the Blairites stand for exactly the same things the Tories stand for: privatisation and welfare cuts, including the privatisation of the NHS. These are bankrupt policies. They always were, but they’ve increasingly been to shown to be so through the massive unemployment they’ve generated, the immense poverty and hardship, and the fact that despite his constant promises, Osborne has not ended the recession. The Blairites have nothing to offer, except more poverty and rubbish services for everyone else, and massive profits for the very few.

Ken Clarke and Malcolm Rifkind on the Incompetence of the Tory Leadership Candidates

July 7, 2016

Michelle sent me this link to the news footage, in which Ken Clarke and Malcolm Rifkind make unguarded and highly indiscreet comments about the challengers for the Tory leadership, including Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May. Among the various unflattering comments, Clarke said he was glad Gove got rid of Boris Johnson, but thought that if Gove got in he’d have us fighting three wars at the same time. He though Leadsom was wrong in thinking we’d have a glorious future outside the EU, while Theresa May was a ‘difficult woman’, but then, he said to Rifkind, ‘you and I both worked for Margaret Thatcher.’

http://news.sky.com/story/watch-ken-clarke-ridicules-tory-candidates-10423744

Clarke’s right, far more than he knows or would agree to. All of the candidates for the Conservative leadership are appalling – extreme rightists, who do want to privatise the health service, destroy the welfare state, and return this country to the sweatshop conditions of the Victorian factory masters. They would wreck this country’s economy even further than Cameron and Osborne already have, all the while praising each other to the rafters for making Britain more competitive and entrepreneurial. It’s a race where they’re all equally wrong, and ideally should all lose.

Brexit: A Catastrophe, with Some Positive Aspects

June 25, 2016

Like very many people, the Brexit vote on Friday left me depressed. I thought it might be a narrow vote to remain like a number of other people I knew, including some who were actually in favour of it. The result, unfortunately, has been a very narrow vote to leave. I have to say that I think the relatively small majority involved means that there should have been a minimum number of votes established for the motion to succeed. This is a major constitutional change, and so I think something like the two-thirds majority many nations demand for changes to their constitutions should have been the minimum number of votes the Brexiters should have needed to win. This has not happened, and I can the rancour and division arising from the vote and the fact that it was so narrowly passed continuing for several years yet. And especially once the negative effects of the vote kicks in.

Cameron Has Destroyed Britain

Let’s start with the fact that Cameron has destroyed the United Kingdom. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU. As a result of England and Wales voting ‘Leave’, Nicola Sturgeon is now pressing for yet another referendum on Scottish independence. This time the SNP may well succeed. Even if they don’t, it will still lead to considerable constitutional friction as the desires of the Scots to remain in the EU clashes with the English and Welsh vote to leave. The result is going to be more division and acrimony.

And in Northern Ireland, that could be deadly. Despite the Good Friday Agreement and the peace initiative, there’s still very much sectarian tension in Ulster, and there is the threat anyway of a renewed terrorism campaign by dissident Irish nationalists. My own feeling is that the open border with Eire has had some effect in calming the political situation by giving the Irish Nationalists the opportunity for free contacts with the south, even if Ulster itself still remains a province of the UK. Very many people, including Mike over at Vox Political, have pointed out that the ‘Leave’ vote could cause further violence as the common membership of the EU was at the heart of the Good Friday agreement. That’s gone, and the treaty with Eire and the different parties at Stormont will have to be negotiated all over again. And if a referendum is called for the province becoming part of a united Ireland, the result could be further violence, especially from the radical sections of the loyalist community, who passionately wish to be part of the UK.

The referendum, so far, has done little except seriously to imperil the centuries-old union between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

More Attacks on Workers, More Austerity, More Racism

There are many good left-wing reasons for leaving the EU. However, the ‘Leave’ campaign was orchestrated by the Tory extreme right – Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Priti Patel and Gisela Stuart. Their main concern was to get Britain out of Europe so they could undermine further what few remaining rights workers have in this country, and so return Britain to the sweatshop conditions of the 19th century. People have died and seen their mental health made much worse already through benefit sanctions. Johnson, Gove and Patel will want to destroy the minimal welfare state that’s been left, including the NHS. The result will be further poverty.

And at the heart of this campaign has been terrible xenophobia, particularly directed against Muslims. Indeed, Farage criticised the early ‘Leave’ campaign because it was based on economic performance and the negative effects staying in Europe had on British business and the welfare state. Now the Brexit crew have admitted that their statement about the £350 million a year or so they claimed was going to Brussels, would go instead to the NHS, was a lie. Some people are going to feel betrayed. They should. But more likely this frustration and anger will be directed at the immigrants, who will continue to be blamed for taking British jobs and welfare benefits, even though this too has been exposed several times over as a lie. The result of this will be that Britain moves closer to the American far right, with Farage or Boris assuming the role of a British Donald Trump. Mike pointed out in an article on Thursday that Brexit will not substantially affect the number of immigrants coming to Britain. Over half of them are university students, another few more are coming to fill jobs where no British workers are available, and the refugees coming to Europe are covered by the international legislation on refugees, established in the 1950s, not by European law. I doubt if there will be a rise in membership of the Fascist right, as this has collapsed since it reached its peak a few years ago. What will happen is that probably more people will join UKIP, and there will be increased racist violence against Blacks and Asians. And you can guarantee that it will be stoked by papers like the Daily Heil, the Scum and the Express.

More Poverty, as Foreign Firms Pull Out

Mike over at Vox Political also put up a piece yesterday stating that Britain is likely to lose a number of foreign firms, such as the various American, Chinese and Japanese companies, that have set up business here so that they can have access to the European market. Honda in Swindon have been one, and there have been others across Britain, in places like Sunderland, which voted to leave. Now that Britain is about to leave the single market, and tariffs may be imposed on goods from Britain exported to Europe, there’s no advantage for these firms to remain here. So many will consider leaving.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/24/euref-the-fairy-tale-is-over-and-the-ending-wont-be-happy/

A Few Small Reasons for Hope

I don’t think that, as appalling as the Brexit is, it’s necessarily entirely bad. It gives a little more space to save the NHS and renationalise some of the industries privatised by Maggie. One of the reasons why the defenders of the NHS against privatisation, such as the authors of the book NHS SOS have been so insistent on taking action as quickly as possible, is that neoliberalism is written into the EU’s constitution and particularly its laws on competition. These state that once an industry or state concern has been privatised, it may not be renationalised, and other countries’ firms should be allowed to compete with it. This was due to come into force this year, when foreign firms were to be allowed to compete to run the railways. This piece of legislation locks in privatisation, and would mean that under the current EU legislation, we could not renationalise the NHS when Cameron, Osborne and Hunt finally privatised it.

Now Mike rightly points out that the squalid Brexit crew will want to lock in privatisation, especially with the Transatlantic Trade Partnership the Tories are so keen to sign. This needs to be very strongly resisted. Nevertheless, I don’t think the Brexit vote has been entirely bad, if England and Wales can use the opportunity it’s provided to stop the completion of the process of privatisation. But this is going to demand a considerable amount of work, and will be blocked not just by the Tories, but also by the Blairites in the Labour party.

Vox Political: Brexit and Tories Damaging EU Protection for British Steel Industry

June 1, 2016

Mike yesterday put up a fascinating piece discussing and reproducing Stephen Kinnock’s detailed statements on the way the Tories’ commitment to free market Neoliberalism and the Brexit campaign are actively damaging the British steel industry. Kinnock was one of those sent to negotiate with Tata Steel about the closure of the plant in Port Talbot, and wrote the article after he returned from meeting the company’s directors in Mumbai.

He states that the Conservatives are actually planning to pass legislation to allow China to continue dumping its steel without any protective tariff blocks. They are trying to get China granted Market Economy Status. If granted, this would mean that neither the EU nor anyone else could raise tariffs to stop them wrecking their domestic steel industries by dumping their steel. As for the status itself, that’s highly questionable, considering that China’s steel industry is 80 per cent owned by the state. The Tories have also turned down the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, which gives money to states so that they can re-train workers thrown out of work through globalisation.

As for the two models for our future relationship with the EU outside it, the Canada model would result in our losing much of our industry, as it is hit by the loss of the vast market and 53 individual states that constitute the European Union. The Norway model would continue to allow us to trade with the EU, but it would force us to accept EU legislation without debate or participation, as a condition for continuing trading. And, it could be added, it still wouldn’t stop the mass migration across the continent, which has generated so much fear and support for Brexit and the Tories. Norway has been forced to accept EU levels of immigration as part of the deal for their continued trade links to Europe.

This argument against Brexit is stronger now than when it was written

This is the complete and opposite of what Cameron and Osborne want to tell us. They are not defending Britain nor making us more competitive. They are destroying British industry in favour of the Chinese. But this is quite acceptable. To Conservatives, only organised labour, like Socialists and trade unionists, are ever considered traitors and a threat to this country’s economy and industry.

Dennis Skinner on Cameron and Osborne

May 30, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has published pieces on the number of Tories now demanding a no-confidence vote in David Cameron. These include ‘Mad’ Nad Nadine Dorries and Bill Cash, while other opponents and Tory MPs questioning his ability include Andrew Bridgen, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Priti Patel. Which is somewhat ironic, considering that all of them are either incompetent or frankly dangerous, and should be kept well away from political office themselves.

See Mike’s articles http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/29/will-the-eu-referendum-be-camerons-waterloo/

Conservative civil war: Clarke bashes Boris, Cash lays into Cameron

Mike in the last piece reports that 72 per cent of voters in Telegraph poll, as of 4 O’clock today, May 30th, wanted Cameron out of office.

So let’s add a bit more fuel to the flames, shall we?

Dennis Skinner in his book, Sailing Close to the Wind: Reminiscences has a few things to say about Cameron and Osborne – about their vacuity, short-tempers and marked lack of intelligence, and his personal tussles with them in the House. Here’s his description of them, and one of his stories about how he engaged them in a struggle of wits.

David Cameron and George Osborne are a couple of posh boys who get angry when you don’t show them the deference they think they are entitled to by birth. You could see Cameron was ambitious the moment you clapped eyes on him. the friendly smile is deceptive. Everything about how he dresses, carries himself and opens his mouth speaks of ambition. Dodgy Dave was a new MP and had only been in the Commons a couple of years when Iain Duncan Smith, enduring a torrid time as leader of the Tories after 2001, appointed Cameron as shadow deputy leader of the House.

On Cameron’s second week in the post Eric Forth, his line manager as shadow leader of the House, was away, so the new boy was pun charge at Business Questions. the beauty of Business Questions is we may ask for a statement or debate on any topic under the sun. I uttered a few words of mock greeting as Cameron stood there terrified, his hands gripping the despatch box, looking for all the world a lost young gentleman. Cameron tried to explain the Shadow Leader of the House was away but mixed up his words and said the Shadow Deputy Leader was absent. You’ve a split second to heckle. ‘he wants the top job already,’ I shouted and we laughed to take him down a notch. Cameron appeared embarrassed. You always remember a debut, it’s a big moment no matter what you do. He won’t forget he stumbled.

I described Cameron as a media creation on Radio 4’s Week in Westminster in late 2005 when he was running for the top job, and nothing I’ve seen or heard since has made me change my mind. He was elevated on the back of a puff of wind and lacked the substance of David Davis, the Tory he beat. The figure the Conservative Party could’ve picked and overlooked in successive contests was ken Clarke, who was easily the best candidate.

I’d watched Cameron as shadow deputy leader of the House and at local government and education, and he never sparkled. When it suited him, he posed as the heir to Blair. He’s dropped the act now and come out as the child of Thatcher he always was. Cameron never had Blair’s ability or temperament, let alone the Labour politics. Blair never lost his temper at the despatch box. Unlike Cameron, who struggles to his under control.

The Cameron mask slipped when he called me a dinosaur. I’m no shrinking violet and if you dish it out some will come back your way. We used to sing as kids that sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt us. the trigger was relatively innocuous. I’d asked if Cameron would appear before Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into media standards, given he’d once employed former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as press adviser. Cameron replied he’d be delighted, then Flashman lost control of his short fuse and added:

‘It’s good to see the honourable gentleman on such good form. I often say to my children “No need to go to the Natural History Museum to see a dinosaur, come to the House of Commons at about half past twelve”.

I held up my hands and shrugged my shoulders, trying to look bemused rather than triumphant. Our side protested angrily. I could see most of the Tories were horrified, although there were a few laughing. Blair knew how to appear prime ministerial. Cameron is petulant. Paul Flynn, a Labour MP only a few years younger than me, raised a point of order immediately after Prime Minister’s Questions to ask if it was appropriate to criticise each other on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, disability or vintage. Another Labour MP, Brian Donohoe, proposed that the PM ‘should come back to this place and apologise to Dennis Skinner.’

I wasn’t the first MP to be looked at down Cameron’s nose. Dave the Sexist displayed a misogynist side in telling Angela Eagle, a member of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, to ‘Calm down, dear’ and later played the innocent when the Michael Winner slogan was wrapped around his neck. I must be the only dinosaur to ride a bike 12 miles on a Sunday. Once again the postbag ballooned with letters and emails flowed into the inbox on my computer. there must have been 150 of them. Cameron’s rudeness had gone down poorly. One of the notes was from a vicar in Cornwall who accused the PM of lying to God!

I was evidently under Cameron’s skin because, a few months after the dinosaur jibe in January 2012, he snapped once more in the Commons. In answer to a question about whether Jeremy Hunt should keep his job as culture secretary over close links to Rupert Murdoch, the PM jumped off the deep end. He stupidly whined I had a right to take my pension and added: ‘I advise him to do so.’ History was repeating itself. The remark was widely condemned as graceless, the insult boomeranging on a haple4ss Cameron. It was more water off a duck’s back and Cameron could carry on undermining himself for all I cared. In fact it was best that he did. The penny must have dropped with him, however, and at the next Prime Minister’s Questions he apologised.

‘I deeply regret my last intervention, it was a bit sharper than it should have been. I hope he will accept my apology for that,’ Cameron said, before smirking a smarmy ‘He is a tremendous ornament of this House and always remains the case.’

It’s not an apology for calling me a dinosaur or giving me pension advice that I seek, but a resignation letter apologising for the pain and damage he has caused to millions of people with the austerity imposed by the ConDem coalition. The Tories imitate the extreme Tea Party in the US. What the Conservatives are doing to the disabled, unemployed, working poor and homeless is unforgivable. the destruction of the NHS, carved into bite-sized pieces ready for privatisation, is criminal.

George Osborne is Cameron’s partner in crime. Another of the Bullingdon snobs, Osborne is educated beyond his intelligence. I applied the description to Paul Channon, a millionaire minister in Thatcher’s time. it is even more apt for a chancellor of the exchequer clueless of life outside his gilded circle. His skin is as thin as Cameron’s, as I saw when he resented the reminder that he’d appeared in a newspaper photograph with a line of white powder and the dominatrix who sold sex and pain. These posh boys don’t like it up ’em, as Corporal Jones would shout. (Pp. 276-8).

Let’s hope it isn’t too long before we get that resignation letter from Cameron.

Vox Political: Grayson Perry Sculpts Bell-End to Represent Bankers

May 21, 2016

Mike also put up another hilarious article on Thursday about a piece of work Grayson Perry produced to represented the financial sector. Perry’s a Turner-prize winning artist, specialising in pottery and ceramics. He found the world of banking and finance to be increasing male the further one went up the hierarchy. To symbolise this, he sculpted a giant phallus, embossed with pound coins, and the heads of bankers, including George Osborne.

See the article at:http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/19/artist-embosses-sculpture-about-bankers-with-george-osbornes-face-heres-what-it-looks-like/ Warning for those easily shocked: it’s got a picture of the pottery penis in question.

Perry states that it’s not his most subtle work. Possibly not, but it is accurate. There have been a number of scandals about the lack of women in the upper levels of the financial sector, and it is a very, very masculine environment. One report about the imbalance said that not only were there very sexist attitudes towards women – they were divided up into ‘babes’, ‘mums’ and ‘dragons’ – but that the bankers themselves had a very cynical and exploitative attitude to their clients. Indeed, they often boasted about how they had shafted them. This is the world of the Wolf of Wall Street and Gordon Gecko.

And quite often members of the financial sector do describe themselves in phallic terms. One financial whizzkid, whose book was reviewed back in the 1990s by Private Eye, even described himself as ‘a big swinging dick on the stockmarket floor’.

You can also find support for Perry’s ceramic penis from the sociobiological interpretation of mythology. One academic used sociobiology, or as it is now, evolutionary psychology, to explain the phallic shape of ancient Greek herms, or boundary markers. He noticed that troops of baboons similar post guards with erect willies as sentries when out foraging, and males also engage in ‘penis fencing’. He therefore concluded that the shape of the herms was a similar primate display of masculine guardianship over place. You could therefore argue that Perry’s pottery penis is thus an apt sociobiological comment on the extremely culturally phallocentric culture of the financial sector.

Or am I reading too much into this?

As Freud said, ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.’

H.G. Wells’ The Rights of Man Back in Print

May 16, 2016

This probably may not be news to many of you. Looking along the politics section of the Bristol branch of Waterstones this afternoon, I found that Penguin have reissued H.G. Wells’ The Rights of Man, which is his defence of human rights, written during the first two years of the Second World War. The blurb for it on Amazon states

H. G. Wells wrote The Rights of Man in 1940, partly in response to the ongoing war with Germany. The fearlessly progressive ideas he set out were instrumental in the creation of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the EU’s European Convention on Human Rights and the UK’s Human Rights Act.

When first published, this manifesto was an urgently topical reaction to a global miscarriage of justice. It was intended to stimulate debate and make a clear statement of mankind’s immutable responsibilities to itself. Seventy-five years have passed and once again we face a humanitarian crisis. In the UK our human rights are under threat in ways that they never have been before and overseas peoples are being displaced from their homelands in their millions. The international community must act decisively, cooperatively and fast. The Rights of Man is not an ‘entirely new book’ – but it is a book of topical importance and it has been published, now as before, in as short a time as possible, in order to react to the sudden and urgent need.

With a new introduction by award-winning novelist and human rights campaigner Ali Smith, Penguin reissues one of the most important humanitarian texts of the twentieth century in the hope that it will continue to stimulate debate and remind our leaders – and each other – of the essential priorities and responsibilities of mankind. See: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rights-Man-H-G-Wells/dp/0241976766?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Looking at the Amazon entry, it appears it came out last year in 2015, so obviously I’m somewhat late in just noticing it. Or perhaps it’s only recently that it’s found its way onto the bookshop shelves. I didn’t buy it, but I’m mentioning it here in case there are people, who are interested. And the blurb is right: human rights in Britain are under attack, and the millions of displaced people around the globe have been left without homes through murderous and oppressive regimes, so it is, as the blurb says, still very relevant.

I also thought I’d mention the book because, as the Channel 4 skit Mike put up on his site pointed out, the team that drafted the European Convention on Human Rights included British lawyers. Traditional, historic British conceptions of what constitute our inalienable human rights are a fundamental part of the European Human Rights legislation Cameron, Osborne and IDS despise, and wish to replace with a much weaker British Bill of Rights. And they, like Bliar and Broon, are totalitarians, who wish to expand the secret state while doing everything they can to prevent public scrutiny of government and officialdom. They were trying to find ways to water down the Freedom of Information Act to prevent the release of information they may find awkward or embarrassing. In the view of the present Tory administration, information released under the Act is only to be used to understand how a particular official decision was made, not to challenge that decision. And they have done their best to protect the firms that have signed up to workfare by steadfastly refusing to release their names, in case public pressure forced them to withdraw from this highly exploitative scheme and it ceased to work.

This is a government hell-bent on taking our rights away, and reducing Britain to what Jeremy Corbyn has rightly described as ‘a zombie democracy’, a political sham, which retains some of the forms of democracy, but where they substance has long been hollowed out and removed. In this ominous political climate, it’s good that Wells book is being republished.

Bakunin on Workers’ Suicide to Escape Poverty and Hunger

April 30, 2016

I read this passage from the great Russian Anarchist revolutionary, Mikhail Bakunin, and thought of the victims of the DWP’s sanctions regime, who have taken their own lives.

From this it follows that the abyss which already divides the wealthy and privileged minority from the millions of workers whose physical labour supports them, is always widening, an that the wealthier the exploiters of the people’s labour get, the poorer the workers get. Simply juxtapose the extraordinary affluence of the great aristocratic, financial, commercial and industrial world of England to the wretched predicament of the workers of that country. Simply read once more the unpretentious, heartrending letter recently written by an intelligent, honest London goldsmith, Walter Dugan, who voluntarily poisoned himself, his wife and his six children just to escape the humiliations, the poverty, and the tortures of hunger. You will have to acknowledge that from the material standpoint this vaunted civilisation means only oppression and ruination to the people.

Mikhail Bakunin: From out of the Dusbin: Bakunin’s Basic Writings 1869-1871, ed. and trans. by Robert M. Cutler (Ann Arbor: Ardis Publications 1985) 112.

I’m not a big fan of Bakunin. He’s a fascinating figure, who was absolutely dedicated to the Anarchist cause and fought in many of the great workers’ uprisings of the 19th century. He even surprised one of his Anarchist comrades in London – I think it might have been Kropotkin – by turning up on his doorstep after the Russian government had exiled him in Siberia. He’d escaped, got on a boat to Japan, and from then went to America and thence to England. One of the other revolutionaries said of him, ‘On the first day of the Revolution, he is a perfect treasure. On the second day he ought to be shot!’ Bakunin in many ways represents the purely destructive side of Anarchism. With Nechaev he produced a book that gloried in bloodshed and chaos, and some historians have wondered why he did so. He’s notorious for his statement that ‘Even destruction can become a creative act’.

But you can’t read that section without thinking of the 590 people, who have died from poverty thanks to DWP sanctions, some of whom have taken their own lives, like Walter Dugan, in sheer despair. And this is at a time when Britain is supposedly becoming richer, thanks to Neo-Lib economics. Mostly, we’re undoubtedly better fed, better educated and wealthier than our forebears in the 19th century. But poverty, real, grinding poverty, is returning. And while I don’t support Bakunin’s anarchism, his remarks on capitalism as the cause still remain fundamentally acute. Or at least in so far as it describes the capitalism of the Neo-Libs, Cameron, Osborne and the Blairites in Labour.