Posts Tagged ‘Gloucestershire’

Unison: Money from Tax Cuts for Rich Could Have Funded Social Care

July 9, 2019

Yesterday’s I, for 9th July 2019, carried a story on page 8 by Alex Jones, reporting that Unison had said that the money the Tories had given away to the rich in in tax cuts could have been spent on solving the social care crisis. The article, ‘Tax cuts for rich ‘could have gone to social care’ ran

Tax cuts for the rich in recent years have deprived the public of almost £14bn – money that would fund plans to end the social care crisis for two years, a study has suggested.

The trade union Unison said the Government’s decision to cut the top rate from 50p to 45p in 2013 had saved the richest taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds, while local authorities have been starved of funds and services cut, contributed to social care problems across the country.

Unison calculated that the savings for those with incomes of more than £1m a year have reduced payments to the Treasury by £13.98bn between 2013 and the current financial year.

The union said its analysis of HM Revenue & Customs statistics published last week shows the number of taxpayers earning more than £1m each year has risen from 15,000 to 21,000 since George Osborne introduced the tax cut.

Dave Prentis, Unison’s general secretary, said: “Instead of helping the rich line their pockets, the Government should be ploughing money into services which make a real difference in society”.

Absolutely – this is what the Tories always stand for: tax cuts to make the rich richer, and cuts to services to hit the poor. All in the name of a trickle-down economics, which has never worked and has been proven not to work.

But Boris and Hunt have started lying again, promising they’ll increase funding for a range of services, like the police. This is a sick joke. Numerous left-wing bloggers have pointed out that both these charlatans have consistently voted to cut public spending, privatise what they could, including the NHS, and reduce the welfare state. And they very keenly backed the savage reduction in police officers. Oh, they’ll promise any amount of public spending from the ‘magic money tree’ they claim doesn’t exist, except when the Tories need it, but the reality is very different. None of these promises are to be taken remotely seriously. On the other hand, Boris’ initial promise where he told the rich he’d cut their taxes even more, are definitely what he really intends.

As for the concern some Tories express over the crisis in social care, this won’t lead them to anything that’s really needed to correct it. A few weeks ago Points West, the local BBC news programme down here in Bristol, Gloucester, Somerset and Wiltshire, ran a story about the deplorable state of funding for social care in Somerset and the closure of many homes due to council cuts. A local Tory MP, one Fysh, raised the issue in parliament. This was also covered on the programme, and he was interviewed about it by anchor Dave Garmston. Garmston asked him what he believed should be done about it. Should people be encouraged to take out private insurance to cover it. Fysh said that one way would be to introduce a surcharge for people, who didn’t have such coverage, as this was done in some countries. What about raising taxes to fund it? Fysh’s reply was quick and dismissive: ‘Oh, let’s not go back to tax and spend.’

Bog standard attitude from a bog standard Tory: Wants to do something, or to be seen doing something about a crisis, but is resolutely against taxing the rich to help the poor. Like Johnson, Hunt and all the rest of them, whatever they may now be claiming in their desperation to look like acceptable candidates for occupancy of No. 10.

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Safety Fears over Brexit Debate with Sargon at Bristol’s UWE

May 15, 2019

This was on the local news for Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, Points West, this morning. The debating society at the University of the West of England here in Bristol has been warned by the uni and the rozzers not to go ahead with a planned debate about Brexit because of concerns about people’s safety. The debate is due to include Carl Benjamin, aka ‘Sargon of Akkad’, the notorious far right candidate for UKIP in the southwest.

This is the notorious Sargon, who has made numerous videos attacking feminism, supporting the use of offensive epithets against Blacks, Jews, gays, Asians and the mentally challenged. The vlogger, who said that he could be quoted as saying it’s all right to sodomise young boys, because they did it in ancient Greece. Who answered a question about whether sex with underage children was right or wrong by saying ‘it depends on the child’. The guy, who sent a tweet to Labour’s Jess Philips saying ‘I wouldn’t even rape you’. The same Sargon, who seems to believe he’s centre left, when in actual fact he’s a complete libertarian, who would like to see all public enterprises privatised, including the NHS, and the welfare state dismantled. And when asked what his policies were by a reporter for Sky News, couldn’t find an answer except to say that he opposed political correctness and Islam.

As a result of his antics, the head of UKIP in Swindon wants him deselected and the party’s Gloucestershire branch has closed down. When he traveled to Gibraltar on his campaigning tour, the country’s governor, Fabian Picardo, refused to meet him and tweeted that Sargon’s comments were hate speech, which had no place there. He has been refused entry to a restaurant because of his vile views in one of the cities in which he campaign, and a protester threw a milkshake at him in Cornwall.

And then there’s the question of the hatred and threats spewed on social media by some of the Brexit crowd. You can understand why the University and police fear violence at the debate if it goes ahead.

I think the debate is also overshadowed by a disturbance at another university event featuring Sargon a few years ago. As Sargon was speaking, a load of black clad people in balaclavas waving an Antifa flag rushed in, only to be beaten off by Sargon and his supporters. Who captured their flag. There are clips of the incident on the Net, and many commenters have suggested that the incident was fake. It may have been staged to make Sargon look good, as the brave defender of free speech against anti-racist intolerance.

Despite this the debating society has said that they intend to go ahead with debate on Friday. If it does, I hope it all goes well for them, and that Sargon gets a sound intellectual and verbal, but not physical, drubbing. 

In the meantime, here’s another video from Kevin Logan briefly showing some of the highlights of Sargon’s campaigning so far to suitable musical accompaniment. This includes Sargon having fish and the milkshake thrown at him. It ends with a statement of where UKIP now lies in the polls – 2% – accompanied by Woody Guthrie’s ‘All You Fascists Bound to Lose’.

Enjoy!

Marc Wadsworth Speaking at LAW’s ‘Justice4Marc’ Event

March 2, 2019

This is another great video from Labour Against the Witchhunt, a group formed to defend decent Labour party members, who have been suspended, expelled and smeared as anti-Semites, amongst other lies. It was filmed on 15th May 2018. Marc Wadsworth is the Black Labour party anti-racist activist, who was smeared as a Jew-hater by the vile Ruth Smeeth, because he embarrassed her by commenting on her passing information to a journo from the Torygraph at a press event. He was prevented from getting a fair hearing partly because a group of White Labour MPs and Zionist smear merchants descended on the tribunal to pressure them into giving a ‘guilty verdict’.

Hew begins by thanking the audience for turning up, and the people who organised the event, Tina Workman, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Moshe Machover, and others. He states that they have been ratcheting up the party passing reinstatement motions. This is going really well. Ealing North and Luton South have passed resolutions, as well as places he hasn’t even heard of, like Stroud in Gloucestershire. All around the country there is a great upsurge of anger, of rage, at an injustice. And it isn’t about him, as Alexei [Sayle] has said. It’s about an attack and turning back the tide of having a socialist for the first time as leader of the Labour party, and all his allies, like myself, Tony [Greenstein] and Jackie [Walker] are collateral damage because they’ve dared to defend him and, in a sense, take a bullet for him. That’s what he was doing when he spoke out at the Shami Chakrabarti report on the 30th June 2016. He says that they will remember the fraught political atmosphere that surrounded that meeting with people, who the organisation he then belonged to, Momentum Black Connections, described as ‘traitors’, the 172 who signed a motion of ‘No confidence’ in Corbyn. They included an individual he personally got into trouble for. He’s not going to big them up any more, and give them fame from his name, but his audience knows who they are. This is a battle that has been lost. But they are fighting a war, and they will win, but they will throw everything at them.

He then say what a spectacle it was when the 18,19,20 – they say 40 or 50, but he can count, and it wasn’t that many – of white MPs, led by Wes Streeting – and they have to think of a nickname for him – marching on his hearing, against one Black man, to influence the outcome of that NCC kangaroo court. He’s free to call it that now, as that’s what it was. He faced a panel of that famous left-wing from the GMB, Maggie Cousin, and the wingman, Douglas Fairbairn, from the steelworkers’ union – never says a word, just nods every time Maggie says something. And he’s says he’ll leave the name of the Unite member out of it for now, as he’s a member of Unite and a very loyal person, but he can’t help what others may find out as a result of doing due diligence. He quotes Chris Williamson, who said it was a perverse decision. The hearing took two days. People like Graham Batch put in a witness statement, Mike Kushman, David Rosenberg, Naomi Winborne-Idrissi. Fantastic Jewish support. This is not Black people versus Jewish people. This is Jewish people and Black people fighting side by side for justice on a cause. And let them never divide us, for that is what they seek to do! He says that he’s not an anti-Semite, his audience knows he’s not an anti-Semite, and the MP who accused him knows he’s not an anti-Semite. In fact when she went out of the room and put that statement out attacking Corbyn, he was just collateral damage. She didn’t have a clue who he was. He was just some Black awkward bugger, who’d called her out doing something she didn’t ought to with the Daily Telegraph, another Labour supporting paper.

It’s interesting, he says. You can judge people from the company they keep. On the one side you have Kevin Schofield, the former Sun journalist, who’s now running PoliticsHome. You’ve got Richard Angel, director of Progress, I can’t remember whether he was on the left or the right, but it doesn’t matter as he’s very much on the right, Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel. That was the little crew that was out that day to get Corbyn. And don’t forget that the Chakrabarti report was against anti-Semitism and all forms of racism. So he had every right, didn’t he? – to talk about the underrepresentation of African, Caribbean and Asian people in that room, and among the staff and the journalists? All of that was lost as the journalists, who turned on him as one of their number, had no interest in the report and its issues. They were out to get Corbyn that day. They were like a pack of wolves, and he has never seen anything like it in forty years of journalism. They were rabid. He then mentions that Tina Godshaw, from the press office of the National Union of Journalists was present, and that they’ve worked very closely together at Lambeth Momentum. And so they were on a mission.

But he’s slowly rowing back. He’s got a rebuttal strategy. He’s taken on the Jewish Chronicle. It’s been settled by IPSO and 14 stories have been corrected. They had to take the word ‘abuse’ out of those stories, as he did not abuse that MP. He says he was heckled in the meeting ‘How dare you! How dare you! How absolutely dare you!’ A Black man daring to speak up at a nearly all White meeting about Black representation. ‘How dare I!’ Perhaps, he muses, that’s the slogan for a future T-shirt.

But they’ve made progress. A poll of nearly 3,000 people, ordinary members of the public, came out more than 94 per cent against his expulsion. Expulsion revulsion! There’s been an outcry. The Black community is stirring. He was on a radio station. He was supposed to be on for half an hour, they wouldn’t let him go after an hour. He identifies the station as Genesis Radio, and points out Jennifer Lee, who was the programme’s presenter that night, and who would be speaking later. Nana Asante of the Black Labour Movement has run a fantastic petition campaign, which is on Change.org. Sometimes as Black people, they’re slow to stir – a sleeping giant – but when they get on the move, you saw the Civil Rights movement, the anti-apartheid movement, the Panthers and the Black Power movement. They are mighty. Small but tallowa, as they say in Jamaica. Small but mighty. And they’re beginning to stir. The Voice newspaper carried a story supporting the campaign. Last week it was the story that had the most views. It’s beating stories about Black American celebrities, like Megan Markle in terms of hits.

How do they go forward? London is just the beginning. This is just a springboard to a national tour, where he will be able to talk directly to the public, as some people have raised questions. Like after watching a fifty-five second video clip that’s online of him talking at the Chakrabarti meeting, they ask ‘Surely he can’t have been chucked out of the party at that meeting because of what he said? There must be more.’ Well, there is no more. In the hearing over two days they played that clip about 15 times and dissected it, every bit of it. And there is no more. There were two charges of which he was found guilty. One is the incident in the video, and the second charge was that he dared defend himself in an article in The Voice and on his own website, The Latest.com, and retweeted a few of Tony Greenstein’s sage offerings online and some others. And so he is guilty in some way of exacerbating the original charge. So it’s just nonsense. He has a brilliant team of lawyers, about four of them at the last count, and they’re putting together a case, on Monday the Labour party will get a very heavy-duty letter from his lawyers, who have said that he has substantial grounds for the Labour Party having breached its own rules on contract, on human rights, and there’s a small issue of defamation. There are a few individuals he may have to go after.

‘Let me,’ he says, ‘leave you with this insight into the hearing’. When his fantastic barrister Althea Brown of Doughty Street, a great Black woman, challenged the Party to give a definitive definition of what it had adopted as its version on anti-Semitism, they couldn’t answer. They had to call an adjournment. And they accused Walker of daring to say in that private JLM meeting, which she thought was a safe space to have a debate about all matters Jewish and anti-Semitism, when she asked for a good working definition of anti-Semitism. The party themselves couldn’t come up with that definition. They couldn’t. Was it the I.H.R.A.? Was it the I.H.R.A. couple of sentences? Was it the I.H.R.A. couple of sentences plus examples, seven of which are about Israel? They didn’t know. They had to call an adjournment, and they came back into the room with four lawyers, all disagreeing with each other and saying well, maybe they can take into account the examples. But that’s not party policy, is it? That’s making it up as you go along.

So we’ve got a problem. And the problem isn’t pockets of anti-Semitism in the party, it’s the fact that certain unscrupulous right-wing individuals have weaponised false accusations of anti-Semitism and that must be fought against. ‘I am totally and utterly opposed to anti-Semitism,’ he concludes, ‘and all forms of racism, bigotry and prejudice, and I’ve fought them all my life, and I will continue to fight them side by side with Jewish sisters and brothers. Thank you for coming today. Thank you very much indeed.’ 

Rees-Mogg Would Like to Be the Pope, But Would Left-Wing Catholics Want Him?

February 21, 2019

One of the most ridiculous things Jacob Rees-Mogg said this week was during an interview on Points West with host David Garmston. Points West is the local news programme for the Bristol, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire area. Mogg is the local MP for Bath in Somerset, and now one of the leading personalities in the Tory party. Garmston went to visit him at his palatial home in the Georgian city.

The Beeb interviewer asked him if he’d like to be Prime Minister. It’s a good question, as it’s clear that Mogg is very ambitious, and there are those in the party that would desperately like him to be in charge and in No. 10. But Mogg denied that he had any plans in that direction. Instead, he declared, he’d rather be Pope. Garmston then asked him the natural question: how could he be, when he’s married with six children? Oh no, Mogg declared, any Roman Catholic man could be.

Now this is news to me, and to just about everyone else, I should imagine. The pope is the bishop of Rome, and so should already be a member of the clergy of a sufficiently high rank. Like a cardinal. Or so it seems to me, as an Anglican, looking at the history of the Roman Catholic church. If laymen have been made pope, I can only assume that this occurred sometime during the Middle Ages as part of the political maneuvering surrounding the papacy. For example, after the collapse of the Roman Empire the only form of government left in many towns in Gaul and elsewhere were the bishops. Hence there were instances where, after the death of the previous incumbent, local townspeople chose laymen, including pagans, to become their bishop. Those laymen, who accepted the demand, then had themselves baptized and converted to Christianity. There are accounts of such conversions and the election of lay people in Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks. Or so I believe. I did medieval history at school, and these are the only instances I can remember, in which a layman entered the episcopacy directly, let alone the papacy.

Of course, Rees-Mogg is saying all this just to present himself as a good Roman Catholic. But I wonder how many Roman Catholics would actually want someone as right-wing as him as a member of the clergy, let alone sovereign pontiff. There’s a range of political views amongst Roman Catholics, just as there is in any religion or metaphysical ideology. And there’s also a strong tradition of genuinely social, left-wing activism. For all that elements within the Roman Catholic church during the War and after have supported Fascist regimes, I got the distinct impression that most Roman Catholics in Britain and the British colonies were actually left-wing. Certainly in Australia Irish Catholics formed the backbone of the Ozzie Labor party, and the Roman Catholic members of my own family were very staunch Labour. Radical organisations for Roman Catholics have included Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement, and I have the impression that, as well as Quakers, there were many Roman Catholics involved in CND and other peace movements. One of my Catholic aunts was a member, and I can remember her telling us that when she was on a march, she found herself next to a group of Franciscan friars.

A little while ago I bought a book on Roman Catholic social thought, which is broadly left-wing, although outside formal party politics. This includes activism and work on behalf of the poor, for peace and on behalf of women. This latter obviously doesn’t include supporting contraception or abortion, which feminists obviously see as central women’s rights. And there have been Roman Catholic prelates, who have been martyred because of their advocacy of the poor. Like Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was gunned down by a Fascist death squad in one of the central American countries, who brutal dictator Reagan was supporting. He was assassinated outside his church. After his murder, the assassins scrawled on the wall, ‘Be a patriot – Kill a priest’.

The present Pope, Francis, seems to have moved the papacy closer to supporting the poor, defending the environment and even stating that it is not his place to judge gays. Some of that may reflect the wider changes in social attitudes, at least in the developed West. For example, right-wing Roman Catholic traditionalists, like Peter Hitchens, who are against same-sex marriage, have said that they feel the battle against it, is lost. It may also reflect a genuine horror on Francis’ part against the vicious homophobia that exists in some parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. But also the centre of Christianity, and Roman Catholicism, is moving towards the global south as the developed West becomes more secular. Thus the Church has to speak out on issues that directly effect the peoples of the developing world. Like poverty, hunger, exploitation, the rape of the environment. Issues that also concern other Christians around the globe.

I can’t see Rees-Mogg being interested in any of that. Indeed, his voting record shows he’s strongly against it, although I’ve no doubt that, like Margaret Thatcher, he is probably personally very generous. It seems to me that Mogg’s comments may partly have been to appeal to the religious right within the Tories. Like Ian Duncan Smith also stressed what a good Catholic he was, and how he was very concerned at poverty in Britain. Their appeal goes beyond Roman Catholics, of course. Under aIDS the DWP seemed to be stuffed with right-wing Christians of various denominations. Mogg may have made his comments partly with an eye to inheriting the Gentleman Ranker’s grubby mantle.

But no matter how pious he appears, I can’t imagine any left-wing Roman Catholic wanting to see him anywhere near an official position in the Church, just as an increasing number of Christians of all denominations are turning away from the religious right and their vile policies.

Hypocrite Brextremist James Dyson Abandons Britain for Singapore

January 23, 2019

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece reporting that James Dyson, the multimillionaire inventor of the vacuum cleaner that bears his name, has abandoned Britain for Singapore after strongly promoting Brexit. He was one of the leading industrialists in Britain supporting the ‘Leave’ campaign, and when they won, he told the rest of us that leaving the EU’s single market would liberate the UK’s economy and allow us to make other trade deals with the rest of the world. He also said that we should leave the EU without worrying about an interim deal, because ‘uncertainty is opportunity’, and that they would come to us if we just walked away.

Dyson has shown how much faith he has in the British economy now that they’re due to leave the EU and the possibility of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit is unfortunately all too strong: he’s decided to abandon his present headquarters in Malmesbury for Singapore. He hasn’t any, and Mike’s article on this has a series of tweets from people criticizing him for his decision. One of those is ‘Shop Steward’, who tweeted

“The thing is he’s a multimillionaire so he could stay here and still make a profit In fact he could stay here, improve workers pay & conditions, and still make a profit …but greed won’t allow that. No, profit must be maximised at all costs because enough is never enough.”

Quite. Another commenter, Paul Bernal, asked how many other Brexiters have to leave the UK, either personally or just their businesses, before voters realise they were being conned. Gavin Esler, who I remember was the name of one of the Beeb’s foreign journalists, reported that P&O has just re-registered its UK fleet to Cyprus before Brexit.

Deeply Unhelpful Shelly responded to this with the observation that are probably very many others, who won’t make it public because they fear being attacked by the ladies and gentlemen of the media. Mike also observes that while P&O didn’t promote Brexit, they are sending a message to other businesses that they should get out while they can.

As for Dyson, Mike says

Dyson is on record, not just as a Brexiteer but as a Brextremist, and his decision reeks of the worst kind of hypocrisy.

He supported Brexit; he influenced other people to support it; and now he is abandoning us to the consequences while he scarpers, taking his business and any benefit it has for the economy with him.

Make no mistake: This man is toxic.

He has helped inflict economic ruin on the UK, both by encouraging us into Brexit and by taking his business out of the country before it happens.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/23/taking-vac-control-how-many-brextremist-bosses-will-leave-before-we-realise-weve-been-conned/

I’m not surprised that Dyson has run off to Singapore. He has previous on this. Here in the West Country, Dyson was regarded as one of the great molten gods of local business. Following the success of his vacuum cleaner, he appeared several times on the local news programme in the Bristol/ Somerset/Gloucestershire/Wiltshire are, Points West, whenever there was an item about local authority initiatives to boost business. But as I reported in a previous article, Dyson has moved his business out of Britain before. A few years ago he demanded that Bath council should allow his factory in the area more space to expand. The council told him they couldn’t. So Dyson picked up his ball like a grumpy child unable to get its way, and went elsewhere. I think he moved his business to Indonesia, or somewhere else in the Far East.

He didn’t have to do that. His business was perfectly profitable here in the UK. If there wasn’t enough space for it to expand in the area around Bath, he could have moved it elsewhere in the West Country or Britain. There would have been plenty of other places in Britain which would have been delighted to have him bringing work and jobs, particularly in the depressed areas of the North.

But Dyson didn’t take that option. He went to the Far East, where he knew he could make even bigger profits through exploiting the lower wages and poorer working conditions in the Developing World. This is the logic of neoliberalism. It’s done to allow capital to move their businesses around the world in order to reduce wages and take advantage of lower taxes in these countries. Just as Jacob Rees-Mogg has part of his money invested in Far Eastern companies through his capital management firm. And you can bet that the wretched authors of Britannia Unchained, who also believe that Brits should work longer hours for less pay in order to compete with the Developing World, are likewise also ready to run out on Britain the moment it suits them.

Dyson is a massive hypocrite, but he’s just one of many rich, Brexiteer businessmen, who promise that Brexit will bring prosperity and jobs to Britain, but realise only too well that it won’t. They’re now running off to the real low wage, low tax havens in the rest of the world, whose people they really want to exploit.

He’s toxic, and so are the rest of them. And they’re determined to wreck Britain. His attachment to Britain and the West Country was always questionable. We’ve lost nothing by his departure, but we should never have listened to him and those like him in the first place.

Why I Believe Leaving the EU Will Be Particularly Bad for Bristol, Gloucestershire and Somerset

February 22, 2016

Since David Cameron raised the issue of the EU referendum last week, there’s been a flood of posts about the subject. I’ve blogged about the dangers to British workers and the middle class if we leave Europe, and the human and workers’ rights legislation contained in the EU constitution and treaties. The Lovely Wibbley Wobbley Old Lady has put up her piece explaining the issues involved in Britain leaving the EU, as have a number of others. In this piece I won’t discuss the general issues, just give some of my thought on why it would be disastrous for Bristol, Somerset, Gloucestershire, and areas like them elsewhere in Britain if the country decides to leave.

Firstly, Bristol is a port city. It’s not so much now, after the docks in Bristol have been closed to industry, and the port itself moved to better deep water facilities over in Avonmouth. Nevertheless, a sizable amount of trade goes through port facilities. The EU is Britain’s major trading partner, and my fear is that if Britain leaves Europe, trade will be hit, and the income and jobs generated by that trade will plummet. This will, of course, hit British industry generally, but it’ll also affect the ports as the centres of the import/export trade.

Bristol furthermore has a proud tradition of aerospace research through BAE and Rolls Royce at Filton. Further south in Somerset there is the former Westland helicopter firm, while in the Golden Mile in Gloucestershire there are engineering firms, such as Dowty, that specialise in aircraft instrumentation and control systems. The sheer cost of developing and manufacturing modern high-performance civil and military aircraft means that many of these projects are joint ventures between aviation companies across Europe. Airbus is one of the most obvious examples, as is the Eurofighter. And then, back in the 1970s, there was Concorde, which was a joint project between Britain and France. Hence the name. Parts of the aircraft were built in France, but the wings and a other components were manufactured here in Bristol.

The same is true of space exploration, and the satellites and probes sent up to the High Frontier. Several of these, or parts of them, have also been manufactured by British Aerospace at Filton. I’ve got a feeling the Giotto probe that was sent to investigate Halley’s Comet in 1986 was also partly made in Bristol. Again, like aviation, space travel can be enormously expensive. The costs are literally astronomical. So many of the space projects are joint ventures across Europe, between aerospace firms and contractors in Britain, France and Italy, for example. This was always the case going back to ESRO in the 1950s and ’60s. This was a joint European attempt to create a rocket launcher, involving Britain, France, Italy and Germany. Unfortunately the project collapsed, as the only section of the rocket that actually worked was the British first stage. Nevertheless, the French persevered, and out of its ashes came Ariane, launched from their base in Kourou in French Guyana.

ESA, the European Space Agency, operates under a system of ‘juste retour’. Under this system, the country that supplies the most funding for a particular project, gets most of the contracts to make it. Despite various noises about the importance of space exploration and innovation in science and technology by various administrations over the years, space research by and large has not been well-served by the British government and mandarins at Whitehall. It has a very low priority. Opportunities for British firms to benefit from European space research have been harmed by the British government’s reluctance to spend money in this area. I can remember one of Thatcher’s ministers proudly informing the great British public that they weren’t going to spend money just to put Frenchmen into space. It’s partly because of this attitude that it’s taken so long to put a British astronaut into space with Tim Foale. Those of us of a certain age can remember Helen Sharman’s trip into space with the Russians in the 1980s. This was supposed to be a privately funded joint venture with the Russians. It nearly didn’t happen because the monies that were supposed to come from British capitalism didn’t materialise, and in fact the Soviets took Sharman to the High Frontier largely as a favour.

The aerospace industry in Bristol and the West Country has contracted massively in the past few decades, as the aviation industry throughout Britain has declined along with the rest of our industrial base. I’m very much afraid that if we leave Europe, we will lose out on further commercial aerospace opportunities, and that part of Britain’s scientific, technological and industrial heritage will just die out. We were, for example, invited to take part in the development of Ariane, but the mandarins at Whitehall didn’t want to. Rather than invest in the French rocket, they thought we’d be better off hitching rides with the Americans. The problem with that is that the Americans naturally put their own interests first, and so tended to carry British satellites only when there was a suitable gap in the cargo. It also meant that British satellite launches were limited to the times the Space Shuttle was flying. These were curtailed after the Challenger explosion. If we’d have stuck with the French, we could possibly have had far more success putting our probes into space.

I’m sure there are very many other ways Bristol and the West Country could also be harmed by the decision to leave the EU. It’s just what occurs to me, as someone with an interest in space exploration, from a city that was a centre of the aeroplane, rocket and satellite industries. I also decided to post this, because I know that Bristol’s not unique in its position. There are other working ports and centres of the aerospace industry across the country, that will also suffer if we leave Europe. And so I firmly believe we should remain in.

School Student Ruby Hill Organises Anti-Bombing March in Bristol

December 9, 2015

Points West, the local news programme for the Bristol, Somerset and Gloucestershire, has just reported a march by young people in the Bristol against bombing of Syria. I think the march is happening right now, as it was definitely early evening with a black sky. The marchers were walking down Park Street in a crowd, the Beeb’s reporter estimated numbered 600. He said it was remarkable, as it was organised by 16-17 year old school students on social media. He then interviewed one of them, Ruby Hill. She stated that they organised it because young people of that age group don’t have a voice. He asked her whether it was pointless, as the decision had already been made. She replied that she didn’t think so, as if politicians really are for the people, as all parties claim, then they should take notice.

It’s an inspiring sight, and I think Ms Hill and her friends and colleagues are to be absolutely congratulated on organising the march. She’s right about the disconnection many young people feel about politics. They don’t have a voice, but the government has made major decisions affecting their future. Like introducing and raising university tuition fees. Sixteen-seventeen is about the age many young people become seriously interested in politics. I can remember that when I was in the Sixth Form all that long ago, one of the additional studies we had to do was ‘topical issues’. This was usually held on a Wednesday afternoon, and involved debating some issue of the day with the teacher. The point was not to indoctrinate us – this was made very clear at the very beginning of the lessons, but just to get us into the habit of carefully thinking about issues in order to prepare us for the civic responsibility as future citizens. The school also encouraged us to watch the news and take notice of political events.

And some of those students may well have personal reasons to be worried. In a year or two they will be 18, by which time Cameron may well decide that really, conscription is the only way to contain the terrorist threat, just like the Americans did in Vietnam. And like Vietnam, we risk losing our young people in a pointless imperial war.

Lobster Reviews Ulf Schmidt on British Human Medical Experiments

October 17, 2015

Experimental Human Animals Art

A page of classic comics art depicting humans as experimental animals. I got it from the 70s Sci-Fi art page on Tumblr. Not quite the image IDS wants to project with his comments about the disabled as ‘Stock’.

This is another book review, which reveals something of the dark history of human medical experimentation by the military in this country. It’s a review of Secret Science: A Century of Poison Warfare and Human Experiments, by Ulf Schmidt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) £25, h/b. This is the type of book the Daily Mail really hates. As their blustering against the Brazilian human rights rapporteur shows, one of the many irritants that really send the Mail into a xenophobic screaming fit is when foreigners dare to criticise Britain’s increasingly poor human rights record. Their usual response is to accuse the foreign critic, whether judge, human rights activist, whatever – of hypocrisy, and to try to smear them by pointing out the human rights abuses in their countries.

That won’t work here, for the simple reason that Mr Schmidt is professor of Modern History at the University of Kent, and has been Wellcome Trust’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford. He has also published several works on Nazi experimentation on humans during the Third Reich, such as Medical Films, Ethics and Euthanasia in Germany, 1933-1945 (2002), Justice at Nuremberg (2004), and Karl Brand: The Nazi Doctor: Medicine and Power in the Third Reich (2007). He is clearly very definitely both a senior, respected academic and someone, who has not been afraid to confront his country’s Nazi past, and the experimentation on humans there that would make most civilised people sick. Also, as an academic text, the book is far outside the type of book the Daily Mail and its readers are likely to read or review. And so you can be quite sure that the Tory press are very definitely going to ignore it.

Much of the book is about the experiments on humans to judge the effect of chemical and biological weapons. Although the book includes America and Canada, much of its focus is on Britain and the research carried out by Porton Down. Schmidt acknowledges that the soldiers upon whom the experiments were carried out were volunteers, but raises the awkward question of whether they were properly informed of the possible consequences of the experiments. Several squaddies have died and many left seriously disabled. He mentions the case of one serviceman, Leading Aircraftman Ronald Maddison, who died after being exposed to Sarin in 1953. If the death alone was not scandalous, there is the fact that it took his family fifty years to find out the true circumstances of his death. He also notes that the Americans were interested in the resistance of different racial groups to mustard gas, and that Porton Down released a ‘plague-like bacterium’ on to the underground in 1963.

The review also states that the book also has a lot of loose ends and opportunities for further research. Like the case of British officers, who were sent to investigate Nazi medical experiments and the gassing of the Jews for Nuremberg. Nobody, however, seems to know what they did with the information and there remains a strong possibility for an ‘Operation Paperclip’, in which the Nazi doctors involved were recruited by their former enemies. He also discusses how Porton Down followed America in pursuing research into the military application of LSD, like the US’ MKULTRA. One of the doctors involved was an American, who sought other human guinea pigs amongst the mentally ill shut up in America’s psychiatric wards. The book’s reviewer, Frewin, discusses the possibility that some of the British doctors mentioned in the book seems just as shady. He raises the possibility that one of two of them were conducting similar experiments over here.

It’s interesting that, just as this book’s been published, Points West, the Beeb’s local news programme for the Bristol, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire are did a feature on Porton Down and its history. It seems the facility had been making some kind of public outreach, which looks like a bit of PR to allay possible public fears. Rather more disquieting is the way Ian Duncan Smith referred to disabled people as ‘stock’, and suggested that the poor could make money by offering themselves for medical experimentation. Mike over at Vox Political pointed out that his was very close indeed to the attitude of the Fascist doctors experimenting on humans in the dystopian future Britain of V for Vendetta.

There’s a problem here in pursuing research into human experimentation in Britain by the massively secretive nature of the British political establishment. Americans were informed about the true extent of their nation’s experimentation on service personnel, the poor and disadvantaged racial minorities with the passage of the Freedom of Information Act by Clinton in the 1990s. This resulted in the release of a torrent of declassified documents revealing a very dark history of drug and nuclear experimentation, frequently on people, who had no knowledge of what was being done to them. One of the documents revealed how an Indian woman was regularly injected with radioactive material at a nuclear facility, which she was led to believe was a hospital and the doctors were treating her for cancer. It’s secret history that forms the basis for American conspiracy culture and the massive suspicion many Americans feel towards their own government, from Alex Jones and Info Wars to the type of people portrayed in the X Files in the form of the Lone Gunmen.

The problem is that, for all America’s faults, they are a much more open society than Britain. Possibly because of its origin in aristocratic political discourse, where important decisions were to be kept to responsible gentlemen in smoky rooms, and the proles kept at arms length, the British state has always been very reluctant to divulge any kind of potentially embarrassing information. It might upset confidence in the Establishment, as well as cause some ex-public schoolboy various other ministers and civil servants went to school with to lose his pension and his career. It was, for example, only a few years ago that Britain acknowledged the true extent of the terror tactics it employed to quell the Mao-Mao rebellion in Kenya. Blair’s passage of a British version of the Freedom of Information Act has done much to make the British states less secretive, more open and transparent. This is, however, now being undermined by the Tories and their collaborators in this from New Labour, like Jack Straw. So we probably don’t know the true extent of human experimentation over here. Another factor that makes me wonder if we ever will is that at the time some of these experiments were performed, Britain still had an Empire and the tests were done in some of our former colonies. Nuclear weapons, for example, were tested on south sea islands. So many of the victims may well now be the citizens of independent nations, and so considered less important and more easily ignored than British citizens.

UKIP’s Leaflets in Cheltenham: Printed in Germany

April 14, 2015

According to today’s Gloucestershire Echo, the party’s leaflets for their campaign in Cheltenham were printed by a Bavarian company, Onlineprinters, at Neustadt an der Aisch. Which kinda makes a mockery to the party’s slogan of ‘Believe in Britain’.

UKIP’s spokeswoman, a Mrs Simmonds, said that it was a simple business deal, as the Gloucestershire printers couldn’t provide the same quality and price.

The article’s at http://www.gloucestershireecho.co.uk/General-Election-2015-Cheltenham-UKIP-s-Believe/story-26325765-detail/story.html

So much for UKIP’s patriotism, but it does show you their real values. They have absolutely no interest in protecting the country economically. Indeed, they seem to stand four-square behind the Tories’ privatisation of Britain’s assets, which have been sold to companies outside the UK.

What they are really against are mass immigration, and, of course, Britain’s own working class. Hence the demands to remove workers’ rights like maternity leave, sickness pay, paid holiday.

As for criticising the Tories for their ‘broken promises’, this is mendacious coming from the Kippers. They promise to provide another £3 billion in funding for the NHS. As Nigel Farage wants to replace it with an insurance based system, and Paul Nuttall and other senior Kippers have said they want to privatise it, the reality is that probably the NHS won’t see any money from them at all. Except in so far as a temporary boost in investment may make it attractive to the highest bidders.

Bristol Mayor George Ferguson Goes on Homeless Sleep-Out

March 3, 2014

Mayor George Ferguson

Bristol’ Elected Mayor, George Ferguson, surveys the great city his administration is wrecking

The Western Daily Press this morning carried a small piece about Bristol’s elected mayor, George Ferguson. Ferguson had been on a sleep-out on the streets to call attention to the plight of the homeless. He stated that it was shaming there were so many people forced to sleep rough in the city, and was going to give money from the Mayor’s Fund to organisations for the homeless.

Well, it’s something. It’s a better attitude to the homeless than that of the Tory grandee, who said of them ‘Oh, the homeless? They’re what you step over when you’re coming out of the opera’. However, on it’s own it’s not enough. Ferguson has launched £90 million worth of cuts in the city, vainly trying to reassure Bristolians that ‘they shouldn’t be afraid of them’. This will have an immense effect on poverty within the city, as more money is taken out of the local economy and available services are pared back even further to the very minimum. Fortunately, he has not implemented the government’s bedroom tax, though there’s no guarantee he won’t in the future.

The cuts aren’t, of course, all Ferguson’s fault. Local governments across the country have seen their funding from central government slashed. The local news has covered the debates on Gloucestershire and Somerset councils about cuts, and Bristol is, in that respect, no exception. Fergus is nominally an independent, but he was previously a Lib Dem. Despite his resignation of his party membership, he still clearly shares their Neo-Liberal ideology and enthusiasm for cutting spending. And this is damaging the city. While his support for the homeless is very welcome, I believe that there will only be real progress, both here and across the board, with a complete change of attitude towards funding and expenditure. And I don’t see how that will be done without Ferguson leaving as well.