Posts Tagged ‘House of Lords’

Open Britain on the Tory Attack on Democracy

January 17, 2023

I got this email from the pro-democracy organisation, Open Britain, on the Tories’ continued campaign against democracy in our fair country. It runs

Dear David,

Over the last four years, we have witnessed a rapid reduction in the fairness and inclusivity of UK politics. Rishi Sunak seems determined to continue Boris Johnson’s all-out assault on the rights, institutions, and norms designed to hold the government to account. Academics have a term for this process: “democratic backsliding”.

It’s worth reflecting on recent years through the lens of backsliding to understand where Johnson, Truss, and Sunak are taking us – and how low we’ve already sunk. Researchers at University College London have identified the following critical elements of backsliding:

  1. Breakdown in the norms and standards of political behaviour
  2. Disempowerment of the legislature, the courts, and independent regulators
  3. The reduction of civil liberties and press freedoms; and/or
  4. Harm to the integrity of the electoral system 

On the first element, it’d be nearly impossible to deny that norms and standards in UK politics have become warped beyond recognition, largely thanks to Boris Johnson.

The sheer quantity of Johnson’s absurd lies to the public. The blatant PPE contract corruption. The unlawful attempt to prorogue Parliament. The repeated partying throughout the pandemic. Truss’ appointment of Mark Fullbrook as chief of staff. Rishi Sunak’s refusal to sack Suella Braverman amid egregious security violations. Take your pick.

But norms have also been eroded at a deeper level. The government now appears comfortable with breaking international law whenever it suits their needs.

The Internal Markets Bill (2020), the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill (2022), the planned Bill of Rights Bill, and the plans to offshore asylum seekers to Rwanda all undermine the UK’s long-held reputation for upholding international agreements on human rights and trade agreements (many of which UK ministers and officials helped to draft). Our government is clearly quite comfortable ignoring its citizens and the international community. It’s safe to say that the first box on that list is checked.

On the second element, backsliding may not be as apparent, but close inspection reveals some seriously concerning changes here too.

The government has attracted robust criticism from the Hansard Society for rushing bills through Parliament and abusing the ‘statutory instruments’ mechanism to limit Parliament’s ability to scrutinise bills properly.

They have also drawn widespread criticism for taking steps that inevitably undermined the powers and independence of the Electoral Commission. Boris Johnson removed the Commission’s powers to prosecute and attempted to give a (then) Tory-dominated committee control over its operations, and a number of Conservative MPs even called for its abolition.

It’s not just the Electoral Commission either. Former Commissioner for Public Appointments Peter Riddell also accused the government of “packing” appointment panels to blatantly place political allies in the House of Lords.

On the third element, we’ve also seen that this government is willing to toss aside fundamental rights and freedoms when they become politically inconvenient. The Policing Act (2022) was a significant affront to our right to protest, including giving police the right to shut down “noisy” protests.

That is now followed by the Public Order Bill (2023), currently in the Lords, which seeks to expand these measures further, giving police the right to pre-emptively crackdown on protests before they happen and keep registers of known activists based on facial recognition data. If that’s not an infringement of civil liberties, then nothing is.

And let’s not forget Dominic Raab’s grubby plans to overturn the Human Rights Act. 

We’ve also recently seen the press and the labour movement under fire from the government. Several journalists were arrested while covering climate protests last November, despite showing valid press IDs. And the government’s plans to privatise Channel 4 last year – finally abandoned under public pressure this January – and their continued hostility towards the BBC betray an instinct for threatening vital public news services when they are perceived to be getting in the way.

The Sunak government’s latest priority is to crack down on the right to strike by introducing government-set minimum service standards, once again choosing authoritarian mandates over dialogue or compromise. It’s hard to deny backsliding is also occurring in this area.

On the final element, it has been clear for some time that the integrity of the voting system used for general elections is in jeopardy. The Elections Act (2022) now requires voters to show ID at polling stations, something that creates a barrier to legitimate electors being able to exercise their democratic right to vote. Worse, the government’s choice of valid ID seems to disadvantage people from demographics less likely to vote Conservative. That bill also mandated the use of FPTP for Mayoral and Police Commissioner elections, entrenching a broken system that does not accurately reflect the true will of the electorate. 

It’s clear that the UK is indeed in a phase of democratic backsliding. But that doesn’t mean we have to continue on this path. 

As we move forward in 2023, OB will continue to work, alone and with partners who share our ambitions and values, to ensure UK democracy is striding forwards, not sliding backwards.

The Open Britain team

P.S. We and a number of partners in the democracy sector are working to put pressure on Labour to commit to making the changes we need to renew our political system. You can help right now by signing our joint petition here to get Keir Starmer to support proportional representation.

Add to this the secret courts that Dodgy Dave Cameron pushed through, in which you can be tried in secret, without you or your defence knowing the identity of your accusers and evidence withheld from you if the authorities deem it necessary for reasons of national security, and we really are heading towards what some commenters call ‘a democratic deficit’.

I didn’t realise this, but the tribune was the Roman magistrate charged with defending the rights of the plebs and the army. Hence the phrase, ‘a tribune of the people’. The late 18th century French revolutionary communist, Gracchus Babeuf, also recommended a panel of officials charged with making sure local politicos performed their duties. If they didn’t, their constituents had the right of recall and out they would go. I like this idea, and the fact that the Romans knew that you needed officials to protect democratic rights and freedoms shows, in my opinion, just how wise they were. Not wise enough not to be ruled by a bunch of raving psychopaths, but you can’t expect too much from past ages.

Boris claims to be a great admirer of ancient Rome. It’s a pity the tribunes aren’t one of them. Instead from the Tories we get a lot of bluster about democracy and free speech right when they trying to undermine all of it.

Jeremy Bentham’s Radical Political Beliefs

January 13, 2023

Jeremy Bentham was a British 19th century philosopher. He was the inventor of Utilitarianism, a moral philosophy that states that something is good if it creates the greatest happiness for the greatest number. This, however, fails as it neglects the fact that some things are inherently good or evil even though they may be popular. One of the examples of this would be a case where a mob demands the execution of a wrongly accused man. It is still wrong to execute an innocent person, even if this is massively popular and demanded by the majority of people. Bentham was also interested in prison reform and design. In his view, prisons should be laid out so that the prisoners and their activities were all under surveillance from a central hub, the panopticon. This constant surveillance would, he believed, lead to prisoners acquiring the habit of behaving decently and legally and so reform their characters ready for release back into society. Modern critics consider it a chilling, totalitarian surveillance society in miniature. Another of his ideas is truly bonkers. He believed that people – presumably members of the aristocracy and people accustomed to public service and social prominence – should preserve their ancestors after death through mummification and embalming, and put them on display as ‘autoicons’. The intention behind this bizarre idea is that people, surrounded by their dead relatives and antecedents, would then feel themselves encouraged to emulate their virtues. Bentham had himself preserved, and is on display in a glass case at Oxford University, except for his head, which is a waxwork. His real head is in a case somewhere, and not displayed.

However, the Utilitarians were behind the early 19th century hygiene reforms that cleaned up Britain’s cities by demanding proper sewage and the removal of waste from the streets to improve the inhabitants’ lives and health. And he was also a very much a political radical. He outlined his democratic views in Democracy – A Fragment. He believed that people weren’t naturally virtuous and public spirited, and that they acted primarily in their own interest. This meant that those governing also acted in their own interest, which was to expand their power against everyone else. They could only be kept in line through democracy and all adults possessing the vote. And he meant all adults. The franchise should be extended to include not just all adult men, but also women. He also wanted the abolition of the monarchy, the House of Lords and the disestablishment of the Church of England. This was in the 1820s, and it was nearly a century before British women acquired the right to vote. As for the abolition of the monarchy, the Lords and the disestablishment of the Anglican Church, Tony Benn was reviled as a Communist for advocating them, plus nuclear disarmament in the 1980s. They’re not policies I support, though the House of Lords needs radical reform as at the moment it has more members than the ruling general assembly of the Chinese Communist Party. But I am impressed with his staunch advocacy of democracy, especially at a time when many would have regarded it almost as seditious because of the excesses of the French Revolution.

And unfortunately he does have a point about the corruption of the governing class. We’ve seen it in the way the Tory administrations of the past eleven years have passed endless laws to benefit their class at the expense of Britain’s working people, and themselves personally. As when one of their number decided to relax the planning laws while angling for a lucrative property deal in London.

There have been voices on the internet claiming that democracy is in crisis and that people are giving up on it. If that’s the case, then it’s because we don’t have enough democracy in Britain. Last year we saw three prime ministers come and go, but were not allowed to elect any of them. It’s high time this changed.

More democracy, Tories out!

David Hume’s Plan for an Ideal Commonwealth

January 12, 2023

David Hume is the Scottish philosopher best known for his attack on natural theology and the arguments for the Lord’s existence from nature. He was conservative in his political opinions, believing that the British constitution as it existed in his time was perfect and could not be improved. Nevertheless, he also indulged in utopian speculation himself in his ‘Idea for an Ideal Commonwealth’. John Plamenatz writes of it in his Man and Society From Montesquieu to the Early Socialists (Harlow: Longman 1992)

‘Of the actual scheme of government imagined by Hume, I need say very little. It owes more to Harrington’s Oceania than to any earlier model. It is elaborate, ingenious and moderate. Everyone with a moderate property has the vote, and there is therefore a large electorate: the voters elect one hundred separate county assemblies which between them have the legislative power; these assemblies elect the county magistrates and the national Senate, which has the executive power and appoints the Protector, the Secretaries of State and various councils; all proposals of law are debated in the Senate before they are referred to the county assemblies; the representatives or magistrates of any county may send a law to their senator for proposal to the Senate. Hume thinks that all free government should consist to two councils, a smaller and a larger; because the larger, which represents the people directly , would lack wisdom without the smaller (the Senate), and the smaller would lack honesty without the people. The people, through their representatives, must debate the laws and not merely vote on them. If they were to do this in only one large national assembly, there would be confusion. But divide them into many small assemblies, and they can be trusted, properly enlightened by the Senate, to act in the public interest. Hume’s scheme is one of checks and balances meant to give some power to all men of property, but much more to the rich and educated than to the rest. Its purpose, to use Hume’s words, is to ‘refine the democracy’, from the lower sort of people, who merely elect the county representatives, upwards through these representatives, to the Senate and the higher magistrates, who between them direct the business of the whole State as distinct from the business of the counties’. (P.86).

It’s a hierarchical political idea from a man of a much more hierarchical age. But it’s not too different from representative democracy, in which the people elect a class of governors to represent them, on the assumption that they are better able to do it than they are. As for the county assemblies electing the Senate, I think in the Netherlands the upper house is elected by the local authorities, which isn’t too far away from Harrington’s and Hume’s recommendation. I thought I’d put up a piece about here as Starmer has once again mooted reforming the House of Lords, and it’s interesting seeing the ideas previous ages had for the ideal consitution.

Starmer Brings Back Labour Plan to Abolish House of Lords

December 13, 2022

Last week it was revealed that Keir Starmer intends to abolish the House of Lords. Before I go any further, I should say that I have no idea what he wants to replace it with. I caught a few seconds of a video put up by GB News or one of the other god-awful right-wing YouTube channels of a Starmer being laid into on this issue by Peter Hitchens. From the few seconds I saw, Hitchens was accusing him of wishing to make all the members of the upper house appointed by the Prime Minister. Hitchens stated that this would be undemocratic, which is absolutely right, if true. But the debate is also more than a little familiar. Back in 1986 or 87 the papers carried reports that the Labour party then wanted to abolish the House of Lords. I think they also plans to reform the House of Commons to make it more democratic, which would have involved giving more power to the speaker. Then there were Tony Blair’s reforms in the late ’90s and early part of this century.

Blair took on the objection to the House of Lords that it was an unelected, undemocratic anachronism. It is. It is, or was, a remnant of feudalism, the old medieval grand council in which the king or the prince was advised by the kingdom’s great lords. It goes all the way back to the witangemot, the council of wise men, in Anglo-Saxon England and similar feudal assemblies in the Carolingian Empire and other states on the continent. Such an assembly is outdated and against the basic principles of democratic representation. On the other hand, it had the advantage of being cheap. Or so I heard it said at the time these reforms were being mooted. The other argument, put forward by really reactionary Tories, was that the hereditary peers deserved the place because they were better fitted to it through centuries of breeding and education. Which is the old Tory argument that all the great civilisations had an aristocracy that cost them an election in the early part of the past century. I don’t think it’s a vote winner, but I’ve no doubt that Jacob Rees-Mogg probably believed in it. He started his career as an aspiring MP campaigning for the seat of a Scots fishing town. He proudly announced that he was standing on a platform of trying to convince the local people that an unelected, hereditary upper house was actually a great institution. Obviously he didn’t succeed, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the SNP vote didn’t increase in that constituency as a result.. Blair reformed the House partly by appointing some of its members, and subsequent Prime Ministers have done the same, so that the number of peers is now 800-odd, far more than the House of Commons and even the governing political assembly of the Chinese Communist party. The peers get an allowance for turning up, and so there have been scandals and accusations that many of them just stick their head through the door long enough to claim their cheque before zooming off to business elsewhere. And the opposition objected at the time that Blair’s reform was hardly democratic. He was denounced as a new Cromwell, who was packing parliament with his supporters, just as England’s Lord \Protector and the butcher of Ireland had done during the Interregnum.

The suggested alternative was to transform the upper house into a senate like America’s. It would still have the duty of checking and amending legislation, but would be elected. According to Private Eye, there was no real enthusiasm behind this idea. People didn’t want to have to go through another round of elections, and the lack of popular support for such a chamber would mean that only mediocrities would serve in it. This must have been the view of the powers that be, or something similar, because the plan seems to have vanished soon after.

.I believe that the current House of Lords needs to be cut down, and no, I don’t want membership of the House to be by prime ministerial appointment. But I also don’t see any point in reforming it radically. The precise nature of the House of Lords doesn’t actually bother me to anywhere near the extent that this country needs a return to the social democratic consensus pre-Maggie. Privatisation has failed, and the Tory welfare reforms are leaving people cold and starving. We need to renationalise the utilities and the railways, as well as the NHS, which should be properly funded. We needed to reverse the destruction of the welfare state so people aren’t left dependent on food banks and private charity to feed themselves if they’re unemployed or disabled. And we need to make sure working people are paid a proper wage for exactly the same reason, not to mention nationalising the energy companies so that people pay less for the fuel and electricity bills and aren’t faced with the decision whether to heat their homes, pay the rent or eat. All this is far more pressing and important than tinkering with the constitution.

But I think the mooted reform of the House of Lords is another example of Starmer wishing to emulate Blair. And Blair wanted to make Britain more like America. But our political system is different. It’s parliamentary, not presidential, and that does apparently affect the results of Blair’s reforms, including his changes to the judiciary. There’s a very interesting video of David Starkey explaining this, put up by the New Culture Forum. Starkey is, of course, a terrible old reactionary while the New Culture Forum are the cultural wing of the Institute for Economic Affairs, a right-wing Buxton Street think tank that wants to privatise everything Thatcher, Major and Blair haven’t already sold off, including the NHS. But Starkey makes a very good case for the incompatibility of British and American constitutional systems.

But most of all I’m afraid that this constitutional tinkering is in lieu of practical policies, that will make a real difference to Britain’s poor and working people. Such as the return to proper, socialist, or at least social democratic politics. Blair changed the constitution, but didn’t change Tory government policies. He just carried on with them once he was in power. In fact, he ramped them up and went much further in the privatisation of the NHS than the Tories had dared.

And I’m afraid Starmer will do likewise.

Questions for the Mosleyites of Correct, Not Political

December 9, 2022

They’ve done it again. The man behind the extreme right-wing vlog and group, Correct, Not Political, held another livestream this week. And once again they gave an indication of their true political colours by prefacing it with black and white newsreel footage of Mosley marching with his BUF storm troopers, all to weeping string music, of course. The group go around staging counter-protests against Drag Queen Story Hour, gay pride, environmentalists, pro-immigrant groups, and people they class as ‘socialists and commies’. They were out today at the ‘Solidarity with Postal Workers’ demonstrations, which they declared to be ‘commies’. Now to be fair to them, they aren’t violent and just try to catch their victims out with awkward questions. They are less fascist in that way than antifa and the militant trans rights protesters, who do threaten violence, scream abuse and hurl smoke bombs around as well as making death threats. But I wonder how well they understand or agree with Mosley’s ideology. For example, at one point their main man said he was a ‘free speech absolutist’. In that case, why support a monster like Mosley? He didn’t, and he tells you over and again he didn’t. It’s in his autobiography, My Life, where at one point he says that free speech is worthless if you’re starving on a park bench. If, God help us! – Mosley had actually got into power and become dictator, the only free speech he would have permitted is the freedom to agree wholeheartedly with whatever nonsense he was spouting that day. If you watch the Channel 4 series about him, there’s one scene at a political meeting where Mosley is expounding his fascist views. And the other politicians condemn it as an attack on traditional British liberties. He denies this, and says it is just marshalling all the forces of the state. But his opponents knew far better.

I also have doubts about their education and intellect. In one of their videos, they urge people to boycott Selfridges, Bella Freud and other stores, whose goods are well out of the price range of ordinary people. Their reason for doing so is because they’re selling branded goods supporting Allen Ginsburg. Ginsburg was a beat poet, and a friend of William S. Burroughs of Naked Lunch infamy and Jack Kerouac, the author of On The Road, a classic of mid-20th century American literature. Except their guy couldn’t pronounce ‘Kerouac’. He got as far as ‘Ker-, Kerw-‘, before giving up. In fact their attack on Ginsburg is actually quite reasonable. They didn’t like him anyway, ’cause he was a Commie, who kept getting thrown out of Communist countries for supporting gay rights. But he was also a paedophile, and the play a recording of him talking about his attitude to people enquiring about NAMBLA, the main American paedophile organisation. Ginsburg didn’t want members to reply, in case it was an attempt to entrap them. If that’s true, then Ginsburg isn’t someone to be celebrated. But I also wondered if lurking behind this boycott there wasn’t a bit of anti-Semitism as well. I don’t know, perhaps there isn’t, but it’s too much like the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.

But back to Mosley. Fascism is a weird mixture of the radical left and capitalist, pro-private enterprise right. Mussolini believed, if the opportunist believed anything, that Italy should be governed as a corporate state. Industry was to be organised into corporations, in this case the successors to the medieval guilds, in which trade unions, management and proprietors represented their industries in a ‘council of fasces and corporations’ which replaced parliament. Mosley initially believed the same, before he rejected it as ‘too bureaucratic’. Under him, the House of Lords would be abolished and replaced with a similar industrial chamber. It’s an interesting idea, but if it was like Mussolini’s Italy, it wouldn’t have done anything except cheered and clapped Mosley and automatically pass every piece of legislation he proposed. But it’s a good question to ask Correct, Not Political. Would they want to replace the House of Lords with a similar industrial chamber following the theories of the corporate state. My guess is that they’d be horrified by the idea, because trade unions = commies. When one of the rival fascist groups wanted to ally themselves with Mosley, he asked them what their views on the corporate state were. They immediately denounced it as Communism. At which Mosley left them. My guess is Correct, Not Political have the same views.

Ditto Mosley’s views on Europe. After the War he turned up, promoting ‘national syndicalism’, his term for his version of the corporate state and calling for the formation of a united Europe, again along fascist lines, against the Communist threat. I think he later claimed to be a pioneer of the idea of the EU, which I’ve no doubt would have horrified the real founders. So, are Correct, Not Political also for the idea of a united Europe against the threat of plutocratic capitalism and Communism? As I’m sure they’re all Brexiteers of the racist stripe, that’s probably another one which would cause them difficulties.

I may well be misjudging them. Perhaps they do have a strong grasp of Mosley’s ideas, and could provide well-informed answers to those awkward questions. But perhaps not.

38 Degrees Petition to Expel Tory PPE Profiteer Michelle Mone from the House of Lords

December 2, 2022

As you can see, I’m clearing the backlog I’ve built up of various emails from the petitioning organisations and activist groups. I got this one on Monday about Lady Michelle Mone, who pocketed a very tidy sum from recommending to the government a company producing faulty PPE. This has caused immense outrage, and people want her out. I concur, and I’ve signed the petition. If you’re as annoyed at this piece of Tory cynicism and venality as I am, I hope you will too.

David, it’s all over the news. Conservative Peer Michelle Mone is under fire for reportedly pocketing £29 million from the taxpayer by supplying dodgy PPE during the pandemic that was deemed totally unfit for purpose. [1]

Ministers are being asked to explain how they let our nurses and NHS staff go without proper PPE, all the while handing over hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers money, to a reportedly dodgy company linked to a friendly Conservative Peer. [2]

What’s missing is pressure from us, the British public who want her kicked out of the Lords and taxpayers who want our money back.

Since we launched the petition a few days ago, more than 85,000 of us have added our names calling for Michelle Mone to be kicked out of Parliament and to hand back EVERY PENNY of the £29 million that she reportedly took from the taxpayer, at the very least.

Right now, your name is missing, David.

Will you help make it to 100,000 signatures by the end of today and send a message from the British public that they can’t ignore? Add your name with one click by hitting the button below:

To: The Lords Conduct Committee

Expel Michelle Mone from the Lords immediately

ADD MY NAME

Corruption has no place in politics. Conservative peer Michelle Mone is reported to have secretly pocketed £29 million of public money during the pandemic for unsafe PPE that couldn’t even be used – all while our NHS heroes were putting their lives on the line – including by wearing DIY PPE to protect themselves and the public during the pandemic.

We – the undersigned – are calling on the Lords Conduct Committee to investigate and expel Michelle Mone from the House of Lords and ensure that every penny in profit that she took from the taxpayer is repaid immediately.

ADD MY NAME

Or if don’t want to sign, you can tell us why here:

I’M NOT SIGNING THIS PETITION BECAUSE…

Thanks for being involved,

Tom, Jonathan, Ellie, Kate and the 38 Degrees team

NOTES:

[1] The Guardian: Revealed: Tory peer Michelle Mone secretly received £29m from ‘VIP lane’ PPE firm
[2] The Guardian: Ministers face pressure to explain PPE Medpro contracts decision
The Guardian: PPE Medpro declines to say how it would repay millions if told to do so

38 Degrees Petition Against Liz Truss Enjoying PM’s Perks and Appointing New Peers

October 28, 2022

I got this petition early today from internet democracy group 38 Degrees. One of their community, Vicky Ropner, has put up a petition calling for Liz Truss to be prevented from enjoying the perks of ex-prime ministers. These include the ability to appoint new peers to the House of Lords. Truss was only Prime Minister for three months and was simply too disastrous as premier to enjoy these benefits. I completely agree and have very definitely signed it. It is grossly unfair that she should enjoy the privilege of elevating her cronies when her wretched policies have resulted in horrific levels of inflation and increased mortgage rates. Not to mention something like a quarter of this great nation’s children relying on food banks and people having to use ‘warm banks’ to keep warm ’cause they can’t afford to heat their homes.

No to perks for Truss.

And definitely ‘No’ to the Tories.

Here’s the petition

‘Dear David,

Liz Truss left her position as Prime Minister after being in the job for less than 2 months. [1] But despite being in the job for such a short amount of time, she could still be allowed to put through a resignation honours list and choose people to promote to the House of Lords. [2]

That’s why Vicky, a 38 Degrees supporter, set up a petition demanding Truss is denied the privilege. She believes an “incompetent and disgraceful” Prime Minister should not get such rewards.

Recently, the House of Lords Appointments Committee – who decides whether or not approve new members of the House of Lords – rejected a number of nominations, and spoke out against unsuitable candidates being put forward. [3] Huge public pressure could convince them to step in and stop Liz Truss’ honours list being approved.

So, if you agree with Vicky and believe a Prime Minister forced to resign after just a few weeks should not be allowed to reward their friends with jobs for life in the Lords, can you sign the petition today? [4] It only takes 30 seconds, and we’ll hand the petition in to those in charge in the next few days!

“Campaign created by Vicky Ropner

Sign the petition

To: The Conservative Party, Parliament and the House of Lords Appointments Commission

What: Liz Truss and the Conservative party need to realise that the public mood is for her to leave quietly without an honours list or any other perks of the job. She has been an incompetent and disgraceful Prime Minister.

Why is this important: Liz didn’t even last 3 months, there is no other occupation that would grant you anything for that, no honest one anyway. Instead she fell at the first hurdle, making huge and avoidable mistakes because of her arrogance. Consequently the people of the UK experienced even more worry and suffering.

It now must be made law that a PM that resigns or is forced to go before a year has passed, has no rights to the perks of the job after leaving. It is insulting and ridiculous that she should be able to set her friends up in the House of Lords, receive severance pay and other perks after being such an appalling PM. She blamed circumstance and not herself. She chose such an appalling cabinet that wasn’t fit for purpose.

She managed one thing, she attended the Queen’s funeral, even Larry the cat could have managed that if they’d provided a comfy enough chair!

Stop this nonsense NOW!

Read more…

Sign the petition

Thanks for being involved,

David, Megan and the 38 Degrees team

PS. Not everyone reading this email will agree with the concept of the House of Lords at all, but one thing we can all agree on, is it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. So we should be able to expect representatives in the House of Lords to be chosen because they want to do the best for our country, not because of who their mates are.

PPS: Vicky Ropner started their petition on the 38 Degrees website.

With 38 Degrees anyone can start their own campaign with the click of a button. But that’s just where your journey begins. Creating a petition, then sharing it with friends and colleagues, can soon give you a groundswell of support. Perhaps you’ll end up changing something really important.

Use this link to get your campaign started today, it takes just a couple of minutes and we’ll support you every step of the way: https://link.38degrees.org.uk/start-campaign.

NOTES:

[1] The Guardian: Liz Truss resigns as PM and triggers fresh leadership election
[2] Evening Standard: Outrage as Liz Truss gets a resignation honours list
[3] Yahoo!news: Four of Boris Johnson’s peerage nominations ‘rejected by Lords watchdog’
Times [Paywall]: Lords watchdog snubs Tory peers
Times [Paywall]: Stop nominating unsuitable peers, Tories and Labour told
[4] 38 Degrees: Liz Truss should go without an honours list or any other perks!

History Debunked Explores British Asian History in Opposition to Black History Month

October 24, 2022

My favourite internet historian, as some commenters have dubbed him, Simon Webb, has put up a couple of videos yesterday and today on the great, forgotten figures of British Asian history. These were men and women of real achievement, and he uses them to ask an important question: if Britain really was as racist as it has been claimed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, why did these men and women succeed, largely through their own merits? Why, therefore, is it only Blacks who have their own special history month, but not Asians, who seem content not to have one? These are actually good questions, and I think they show much about the difference in situation between Blacks and Asians.

He began yesterday with a video contrasting Mary Seacole, the restauranteur and entrepreneur, who is often claimed to be a Black counterpart of Florence Nightingale, with an Indian female doctor, Annie Wardlaw Jagganadham. This lady was born in 1864 in Adhra Pradesh, India and studied medicine at Madras. She came to Britain to study medicine at Edinburgh university, qualifying as a doctor in 1890. She then became house surgeon at the Edinburgh Hospital for Women and Children. Her brother was also a doctor, as were her nephews.

She was one of a number of other Indian medical students in this country in the 1890s including Gandhi, who qualified in 1891.

Today, Webb has put up another video on Dadabhai Naoroji, an Indian Zoroastrian, who was elected MP in 1892. When taking office, he swore his oath not on the Bible, but on the Zoroastrian holy book, the Zend Avesta. In 1919 another Indian gent, Satyendra Prasanna Sindh, became a member of the British government and simultaneously the House of Lords, becoming the First Baron Sindh. Webb’s a man of the right, and he could have added to this list of Indian MPs Shapurji Saklatvala, a Communist who stood as a Labour party candidate and was elected first Labour MP for Battersea North in 1922 and then Communist MP for the same constituency in 1924. But I suspect that would have been too much for his right-wing principles. But he made a video a few years ago about an Indian raja who became a Tory MP in the 19th century.

Whatever the political point Webb is trying to make, these are really interesting figures. Saklatvala and his White British comrade Newbold, were deeply concerned with imperialism and the oppression of the indigenous peoples, speaking about Ireland, India and Mesopotamia, as Iraq was known at the time.

As for the reason why Chinese and Asian Brits seem uninterested in having their own special history month, I suspect part of this might be because they are culturally more self-confident and economically more self-reliant than Blacks. China, India and Islam have a long history of cultural achievement and scientific invention. If you look through popular books on the history of scientific inventions, you see any number in the ancient and medieval worlds that were discovered or created by Chinese, Indians and Muslim mathematicians, doctors, engineers and scholars. And their descendants are well aware of them. This has found its way into jokes. One of the characters in the Asian comedy show, Goodness Gracious Me, was an Indian father who shouted ‘India!’ at the mention of various inventions and discoveries, whether they were actually made by Indians or not. Then there was an episode of Lovejoy, in which the dodgy antiques trader was trying to procure an ancient Chinese piece of art for a Chinese Hong Kong banker. This businessman spoke only Chinese and was accompanied by his Chinese interpreter. The character was passionately proud about his country’s heritage of invention, announcing at every opportunity that something or other was a Chinese invention, even when it wasn’t. This eventually reached the point where his interpreter had to say to him, ‘Oh no, Mr. – I don’t think we invented motorcycles!’ These are clearly jokes laughing at Indian and Chinese pride, but I don’t recall anyone taking offence.

Both Chinese, Indians and other Asians have been victims of racism over here, and their countries conquered and exploited under imperialism, but it seems to me that they are confident enough in their own achievements that they don’t feel the need for an Asia history month. They also seem much more determined to raise their economic and social position through their own efforts, something the Black American conservative writer, Jason Riley, wishes Black Americans would do rather than concentrate on gaining political power.

Blacks are in a slightly different position. Those of West Indian descent are acutely aware that their ancestors were slaves while the Black community as a whole seems to know little about African history. African civilisations have suffered from the prejudice of White scholars. It’s depressing reading through the book Colour Prejudice, published in the late 1940s, and seeing so many western scholars declaring that Black Africans had made no innovations and their civilisations were worthless. Some of this doubtless was due to racism, but another problem may have been that many African cultures didn’t have a written literature and built with wood a highly perishable material in the Africa climate, and so archaeological evidence of these cultures were easily obscured over time. Also, a lot of Black history necessarily happened overseas and so isn’t taught in British history. Hence the arguments for Black History month to make Blacks aware that they also have a history of achievement in the hope of inspiring them to go and raise their social and economic position to the same level as Whites and mainstream society.

Indian born Communist MP for Battersea North Shapurji Saklatvala. From James Klugman, History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Formation and Early Years, Vol. 1 1919-1924 (London: Lawrence & Wishart 1968).

38 Degrees Petition Against Government Attempts to Put Protesters in Ankle Tags

October 12, 2022

I just got this petition this evening from 38 Degrees. It’s against renewed plans by the government to put people attending protests in ankle tags. I don’t doubt that this is part of a wider clampdown on public protests, which the Tories have been carrying on since the days of David Cameron. Remember when he wanted to introduce a law to stop public protests and demonstrations from being held if they were going to cause a public nuisance? It really wouldn’t surprise me if this isn’t being presented as just a measure to protect people from the disruption and trouble caused by Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain and similar groups. I’ve signed this petition. Please feel free to do the same if you also object to this nasty piece of legislation.

‘Dear David,

On Monday the Government’s plans to put innocent people on ankle tags – just for attending a protest – are being debated in Parliament. [1]

The Public Order Bill is trying to give police more powers when it comes to protests, but campaign group Big Brother Watch say it could lead to innocent people being blocked from attending marches. That’s why they’ve set up a petition calling on the Government to scrap these plans – and they’re handing it in first thing on Monday. [2]

The new Prime Minister won’t want yet another a big fight this early into her new term, but if we’re going to get her to scrap this bill it’ll take more of us speaking out. So, David, will you sign the petition today, before we hand it in, and help defend our right to protest? It takes 30 seconds to sign:

SIGN THE PETITION

Thanks for being involved,

David, Megan and the 38 Degrees team

PS: As 38 Degrees supporters, it’s not just our voices we use to make the country fairer, more respectful and more sustainable. We also chip in our time, our money, our creativity and more, because small acts from each of us can add up to a big collective impact.

Right now in some areas of the country our NHS is critically low on blood. There are thousands of us reading this email right now. If those of us that are able to, were to give blood, we could really help out our NHS.

If you’ve never donated before, don’t worry it’s quite nice and easy, someone will walk you through the whole process and it only takes 5-10 minutes, plus you get a sugary snack at the end.

If you’re able to help, then simply click here to find out more and book a slot to donate.

NOTES:
[1] Bills.Parliament: Public Order Bill
UK Government: Public Order Bill: factsheet
The Mirror: Queen’s Speech to criminalise protests as Boris Johnson brings back defeated law
[2] 38 Degrees: Don’t electronically tag innocent people for attending protests – – – – – – –

In case you missed it, here’s the original email:

Dear David,

This is scary. The Government is pressing ahead with plans which would allow police to put innocent people on electronic ankle tags and ban them from attending marches and demonstrations. [1] The plans are part of new laws Priti Patel is trying to introduce to give the police more power when it comes to protests. [2]

So campaign group Big Brother Watch have set up a petition against these measures. [3] They believe protest banning orders and electronic tagging should be removed from the new Public Order Bill, as it could lead to innocent people being unable to attend marches and demonstrations. [4]

The Government will be counting on the public to quietly accept this, so we need to show them just how loud we can be. Can you join thousands of other people from across the UK and sign the petition? It only take 30 seconds:

SIGN THE PETITION

These changes could harm our freedom to protest. And after shocking police behaviour last year towards grieving women at the Clapham vigil for Sarah Everard some worry these extra measures could lead to further abuse. [5] There is no place for police monitoring and oppression of people simply campaigning for change.

This is just the latest attempt by Priti Patel to re-introduce measures that have been widely criticised and were previously blocked by the House of Lords as part of a new police bill. [6] The public have spoken out about their concerns once already and now we need hundreds of thousands of us to do so again.

Can you add your name today to make sure our right to protest is not damaged?

SIGN THE PETITION

Thank you for all you do,

David, Megan and the 38 Degrees team

NOTES:
[1] UK Government: Public Order Bill: factsheet
[2] The Mirror: Queen’s Speech to criminalise protests as Boris Johnson brings back defeated law
[3] 38 Degrees: Don’t electronically tag innocent people for attending protests
[4] See note 3
[5] BBC News: Sarah Everard: Met Police chief will not resign over vigil scenes
[6] The Guardian: Priti Patel in fresh bid to push through strict anti-protest measures

We Own It Ask People to Sign Open Letter Against NHS Privatisation

February 1, 2022

On Friday the house of Lords debates the Tories’ wretched bill that will allow private companies to sit on NHS health boards, thus going a stage further in their stealth privatisation of the NHS. The pro-public service organisation, We Own It, has drawn up an open letter against the move and are asking people to sign it. I’ve done so, and if you also feel strongly about this issue, I encourage you to do so as well. The email reads

“We have just 48 hours to capture a huge opportunity to amend the Health and Care Bill to ban private companies sitting on NHS decision-making boards.

The current stage of the Bill in the House of Lords ends on Friday, 4th February, then it enters the stage when peers will vote on amendments.

That means you ONLY have until Wednesday to add your voice to our letter asking the leaders of the different groups in the Lords to whip their peers to vote to ban private companies on NHS boards.

Sign on to the letter now and send them a strong message.

Sign on to the letter now

Time is running out to make sure they get the message.

If you become a signatory to the letter, you will be demanding that they back amendments to:

  • ban individuals with a financial interest in private healthcare (including those who work for them private healthcare companies) sitting on the new Integrated Care Boards and,
  • make NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts the default providers of all NHS care, which will begin to lead us away from outsourcing NHS services

  • If the letter to the leaders of each of the Lords groups has thousands of signatures, it will show them that you and thousands of others are paying attention.

It will put them under enormous pressure to do the right thing

Sign on to the letter now.

Add your voice to the letter now

Our strategy is really simple and clear:

if every Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Crossbench peer votes for these amendments, we will hand the government a defeat of epic proportions.

But we don’t even need all 188 Crossbench peers to vote for them. We just need 99 of them.

Hundreds of you have already joined our Adopt A Peer campaign engaging directly with Crossbench peers.

Writing to the leaders of the groups of peers that we need to win will get us even closer to achieving our goal.

But we are running out of time to make sure they get your message.

Can you sign on now?

Become a signatory now

Thank you so much for everything you’ve done to protect our NHS from the Health and Care Bill – including signing the letter. It makes a real difference.

Cat, Alice, Zana, Tom, Matthew, Jack, Johnbosco – the We Own It team”