Posts Tagged ‘Housing’

Video Shows Humans Prefer to Be Served By Humans, Not Machines

September 15, 2022

I found this video on Carl Vernon’s channel on YouTube. I don’t usually watch his material as I got the impression, he’s another right-winger who likes to laugh at the left. But I agree wholeheartedly with this. It begins with a Tweet from a woman called ‘Shawty’ saying ‘I want to applaud every soul who silently and quietly said NO in Bradley Stoke Tesco yesterday, who took the time to queue and be served and not be forced to the new self serve’.

The video shows a long queue of ordinary people standing to be served by a human and very definitely not going for self-service.

Bradley Stoke is a small town in south Gloucestershire in the wider Bristol area. Back in the 1980s there was a scandal as the builders of the new houses there used too much sand and not enough cement in the mortar, so that you could literally push walls over with your bare hands. But I absolutely approve of this video and Shawty’s tweet. Self-service tills aren’t for our convenience. They’re just a means to boost profits by not employing people.

Michael Eavis Donates Land and Funding for Social Housing

September 2, 2022

Maximum respect to Michael Eavis, the man behind the Glastonbury festival. My mother takes the People’s Friend, and according to that ancient and venerable magazine, Eavis has donated land and promised to pay for the tools and material for the construction of 20 social houses. These are to go to locals who are being priced out of the housing market.

This is a serious issue in Somerset and many other rural areas, as houses are bought up by wealthy outsiders either moving permanently to the country, or picking them up as holiday homes. There’s a desperate need for social housing about the country as whole, as I don’t need to tell anyone reading this blog. It’s therefore really great news to hear that Eavis has stepped in to do his bit for his community.

If only others were the same, but somehow I doubt that another Somerset magnate, Jacob Rees-Mogg, will do anything similar any time soon.

Academic Historian T.O. Lloyd on British Immigration Policy After World War III

August 8, 2022

I’ve turned to T.O. Lloyd’s Empire to Welfare State: English History 1906-1985, 3rd edition (Oxford: OUP 1986) to try and make sense of Simon Webb’s claims that the Windrush migrants weren’t invited here, but were merely taking advantage of cheap cabins, and that London Transport appealed to Caribbean bus drivers to migrate in order alleviate political unrest in Barbados and Jamaica. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find anything about these claims one way or another, but the history, published as part of the ‘Short Oxford History of the Modern World’, does contain some interesting snippets of information about immigration policy in this period. For example, he writes of the the wave of immigration in the 50s

‘Citizens from Commonwealth countries had always been allowed to enter England freely, but they had not made much use of this right before the 1950s. Citizens of the white Commonwealth occasionally came on shorter or longer visits, but nobody took any notice. In the fifties a flow of West Indians, Indians,, and Pakistanis began to come to England. From the economist’s point of view the country seemed to have found a fund of labour to draw on in the way West Germany drew on East Germany and Italy, or France and Italy drew on their underemployed agricultural labour. This development was not welcomed by the people who found themselves living near the immigrants. Occasionally it was suggested that immigrants took low wages and undercut the market rate, and it was sometimes said they were violent and noisy. While some of them were bachelors earning more than they had ever earned before, behaved as might be expected, most of them were quiet people with fairly strict ideas about family life. The hostility to them came simply from a feeling that black men were undesirable, just as Irish Catholics had been though undesirable in the 19th century and European aliens had aroused hostility earlier in the 20th century because they were different. The shortage of housing made matters worse; the immigrants were blamed for it, and then were blamed for living in slums. The Immigration Bill was welcomed by public opinion although it was condemned by a good deal of the Conservative press and by the Labour party. It allowed immigrants to come if they had certain skills, or if they had relations in the country, or if they had jobs waiting for them. The sentiment of liberally minded people was against the Bill partly on grounds of humane feeling and partly to promote economic growth., but most of these humane and tolerant people did not understand that other people, who were relatively uneducated and unaccustomed to novelty suffered real problems when immigrants came and lived near them.’ (p. 199).

Lloyd also writes about the shortage of labour created by the national plan of 1964, and the effects this had on immigration policy. It’s a lengthy passage, but I think it’s worth reproducing in full.

‘The point at which the planners had most clearly not accepted the constraints of reality was the supply of labour. They had accepted a target of expanding the national income by 23 per cent by 1970s, which meant a rate of growth of a fraction under 4 per cent, but their figures showed that to do this about 200,000 more workers were needed than seemed likely to be available. The prices and incomes policy was intended to check the tendency to inflation that had persisted in the economy ever since Beveridge’s definition of full employment – more vacant jobs than workers to fill them – had been tacitly accepted, but no incomes policy could prevent a rise in wages if there was a steady demand for 200,000 workers than could be found. Employers would naturally bid against each other, by offering higher wages or fringe benefits. If it was carried out, the National Plan would reproduce the very high level of demand that had existed under the 1945-51 Labour government, without the stringent physical controls that had been available just after the war. The government had in 1964 forbidden further office development in London, but in general it was ready to operate the economy with very little compulsion. This may have reassured economists that effort could not be diverted into the wrong channels by government decree, but it did leave open the possibility that a shortage of labour would lead to large wage increases.

More workers could easily have been found: Commonwealth citizens from the West Indies, India, and Pakistan were ready and eager to come. During the election the question of Commonwealth immigration had been lurking just below the surface, but the results suggest that the Labour party lost three or four seats on the issue in areas where there had been a certain amount of immigration and where local conditions of life were generally unpleasant enough to make the voters want to blame somebody. The bad housing conditions in Smethwick or Slough were not the fault of the immigrants, but the inhabitants thought differently and were influenced by the slogan ‘If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Labour’.

Tension and dissatisfaction over immigration rose after the election, with some Conservatives suggesting that their party ought to take a more determined stand against immigration than it had done in the Commonwealth Immigration Act. The government decided that it could not hold the existing position, and issued a White Paper indicating the way it would interpret the Commonwealth Immigration Act in the future. The policy laid down was decidedly more restrictive than in the past, at least so far as entry to the country was concerned; the White Paper also suggested ways in which the immigrants might be cared for more effectively once they were inside the country, and legislation against discrimination in public places was passed. Some people argued that legislation was not the best way to deal with the problem, though in fact other countries faced with the same situation had, in the end, fallen back on legislation after feeling at first that there must be less formal ways of acting.

The White Paper stated that no more than 8,500 Commonwealth immigrants, of whom 1,000 would be from Malta, were to be allowed work permits every year. All questions about freedom of movement and Commonwealth solidarity apart, this closed one of the ways in which the labour shortage revealed in the National Plan might have been made up. Rapid economic growth has, more often than not, been associated with rapid increase of the working population; there was no underemployed rural population in England to draw into the economy, as there was in the countries of Europe that had been thriving since the war, but an inflow of people from the underdeveloped parts of the Commonwealth might have enabled the economy to grow as intended. Public opposition to immigration was not inspired by a conscious choice between growth and keeping England white, because most of the people who opposed immigration did not realize that they had such a choice before them, but this was the effect of the policy in the White Paper.'(pp. 397-9).

These passages don’t say anything about whether there was a labour shortage in the immediate aftermath of the war, which immigrants from the Caribbean came to fill. But it does say that there a labour shortage created by the 1964 National Plan, which was prevented from being filled by opposition to immigration.

I looked through the book to see what sources Lloyd used for the pieces on immigration. In those chapters, he seemed to have relied on Paul Foot’s Race and Immigration in Britain of 1964.

There might be more information in more recent treatments of the issue, like Bloody Foreigners: Immigration and the English.

PoliticsJoe Video Showing the Sheer Dementedness of Liz Truss

August 7, 2022

PoliticsJoe posted this video on YouTube yesterday. Its title declares that its about ‘Just Liz Truss Being Fully Mental’, which I supposed is one way of describing some of the antics and pronouncements of this contender for the Tory leadership. It consists of a series of clips, not edited together to have her singing a stupid, satirical song about herself, as PoliticsJoe has done, but something just as damning: it shows some of her deranged political statements, together with her failing to answer tough interview questions about her broken promises and falsehoods from people like Andrew Neil. And mixed in with that is previous footage from years ago of her speaking at a Lib Dem conference when she was a young activist with them.

The younger Truss seems like a normal, sane, politically idealistic and passionate human being. She praises Paddy Ashdown and the political potential and right to self-government of the British people. A self-government that is being denied by the monarchy, whose abolition she demands. It’s a very radical proposal, and one which you tend to hear from those further left, such as the left-wing of the Labour party. But by the time she’s a Tory MP and cabinet minister, she’s been transformed. The eyes have got madder, though not nearly as bog-eyed as Nicky Morgan, and the voice has taken on a harsher edge, so that at one point she did sound a bit like Anne Widecombe. And instead of radical democratic change, she was wibbling on about having secured a prize deal for exporting pork to China. Just like she steered through a deal to export cheese to Japan, where most of the country is lactose intolerant. And other great results for Brexit.

What should really bring her down is her lies and broken promises. She’s asked by Neil how many of the 200,000 social houses she declared she was going to build were actually put up. She can’t remember. Neil tells her that it’s not hard to know how many: zero. And the end of the video shows her being patiently asked by a female journo about various promises she made when she was in office, one after another, all of which she broke.

This is the woman now trying to get her backside into No. 10, and in many ways a true protege of Boris Johnson and the Tory machine. A woman who ditched democratic idealism for class reaction, Brexit and just telling one lie after another, while gripping desperately at the tiniest success in the Brexit negotiations in order to show it as some kind of magnificent success for Britain.

The Tories are destroying the British economy, and have only succeeded in making this country’s great people desperately poorer. Brexit has actively damaged our industry, agriculture and even the financial sector, which the Tories and New Labour have favoured so much. And Truss has been a vital part of all that under Johnson and before.

Johnson out!

Truss out!

Sunak out!

Tories out!

Bristol and Labour’s Elected Mayor, and the Arguments Against

April 26, 2022

On the fourth of May parts of the country are due to go to the polls again. These are mostly council elections, but down here in Bristol it’ll be for a referendum on the system of elected mayors the city has had for the past few years. At the moment the elected mayor is Marvin Rees for Labour. His predecessor, Ferguson, was supposedly an Independent, but he had been a Lib Dem. He personally promoted himself by wearing red trousers, even at funerals when he toned the colour down to dark claret. His first act was to change the name of the Council House to City Hall for no real reason. His administration was responsible for running through a programme of immense cuts. He intended to make £90 million of them, but told Bristolians that they shouldn’t be afraid. He also turned down grant money from central government to which the city was qualified and untitled. I heard at a meeting of the local Labour party that he left the city’s finances in a colossal mess, and it has taken a great effort for Marvin’s administration to sort them out.

The local Labour party has thrown itself four-square behind the elected mayoralty. It’s being promoted in the election literature from the party, boasting about how, under Rees, 9,000 new homes have been built, green power and other initiatives invested in. The opposition parties, by contrast, have wasted council taxpayers’ hard earned money on trivialities.

I think the party is also holding an on-line meeting tonight to convince members that the system of elected mayors is a positive benefit. Speakers include Andy Burnham amongst other prominent politicos. One of the claims being made is that elected mayors are democratic and transparent, whereas the previous committee system meant that decisions were taken behind closed doors.

But I am not convinced by any means that the elected mayoralty is a benefit.

Bristol South Labour MP Karin Smyth has stated that she is also no fan of the system. She has made it plain that she is not criticising Marvin’s administration, and is very diplomatic in her comments about his predecessor. But she has described the system as ‘too male’ and believes that the city should go back to being run by the council, whose members were elected and in touch by their local communities. The anti-male sexism aside, I agree with her. There have been studies done of business decision-making that show that while a strong chairman is admired for leadership, collective decision-making by the board actually results in better decisions. And one criticism of Rees’s government in Bristol is that he is not accountable to local representatives and has zero qualms about overruling local communities.

Here’s a few examples: a few years ago there were plans to build a new entertainment stadium in Bristol. This was due to be situated just behind Temple Meads station in an area that is currently being re-developed. It’s a superb site with excellent communications. Not only would it be bang right next to the train station, but it’s also not very far from the motorway. All you have to do if your coming down the M32 is turn left at the appropriate junction and carry on driving and your at Temple Meads in hardly any time at all. But Marvin disagreed, and it wanted it instead located in Filton, miles away in north Bristol.

Then there’s the matter of the house building at Hengrove Park. This is another issue in which Rees deliberately overruled the wishes of local people and the council itself. Rees decided that he wanted so many houses built on the site. The local people objected that not only was it too many, but that his plans made no provision for necessary amenities like banks, shops, doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies and so on. They submitted their own, revised plans, which went before the council, who approved them. If I remember correctly, the local plans actually conformed to existing planning law, which Marvin’s didn’t. But this didn’t matter. Rees overruled it. And I gather that he has also done the same regarding housing and redevelopment in other parts of south Bristol, like nearby Brislington.

Rees definitely seems to favour the north and more multicultural parts of the city over the south. And I’m afraid his attitude comes across as somewhat racist. South Bristol is largely White, though not exclusively. There are Black and Asian residents, and have been so for at least the past forty years. Rees is mixed race, but his own authoritarian attitude to decision making and the reply I got a few years ago from Asher Craig, his deputy-mayor and head of equalities, suggests that he has little or no connection to White Bristolians. When I wrote to Asher Craig criticising her for repeating the claim that Bristol was covering up its involvement in the slave trade, despite numerous publications about the city and the slave trade going all the way back to the ’70s, in an interview on Radio 4, she replied by telling me that I wouldn’t have said that if I’d heard all the interview. She then went on about the ‘One Bristol’ school curriculum she had planned and how that would promote Blacks. It would be diverse and inclusive, which she declared was unfortunately not always true about White men. This is a racial jibe. She may not have meant it as such, but if the roles were reversed, I’m sure it would count as a micro-aggression. And when I wrote to her and Cleo Lake, the Green councillor from Cotham, laying out my criticisms of her motion for Bristol to pay reparations for slavery, I got no reply at all.

A few years ago I also came across a statement from a Labour group elsewhere in the city, stating that Blacks should ally themselves with the White working class, because they did not profit from or support the slave trade. This is probably true historically, but it also reveals some very disturbing attitudes. Support for slavery has become something of a ‘mark of Cain’. If you have an ancestor who supported, you are forever tainted, even if you are the most convinced and active anti-racist. And Critical Race Theory and the current craze for seeking out monuments to anyone with connections to the slave trade, no matter how tenuous, is part of an attitude that suspects all Whites of racism and tainted with complicity in the trade, except for particular groups or individuals. It disregards general issues that affect both Black and White Bristolians, such as the cost of living crisis and the grinding poverty the Tories are inflicting on working people. These problems may be more acute for Black Bristolians, but they’re not unique to them. Working people of all colours and faiths or none should unite together to oppose them as fellow citizens, without qualification. But it seems in some parts of the Labour party in the city, this is not the attitude.

Rees’ overruling of local people in south Bristol does seem to me to come from a certain racial resentment. It seems like it’s motivated by a determination to show White Bristolians that their boss is a man of colour, who can very firmly put them in their place. I may be misreading it, but that’s how it seems to myself and a few other people.

Now I believe that, these criticisms aside, Rees has been good for the city. He was very diplomatic and adroit in his handling of the controversy over the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue, despite the obvious disgust at it he felt as a descendant of West Indian slaves. But Rees ain’t gonna be mayor forever. Indeed, he has said that he isn’t going to run again. There is therefore the distinct possibility that his successor won’t be Labour. And then there’ll be the problem of opposing someone, who always has the deciding vote and can overrule the decisions of the council and the rest of his cabinet.

The people of Bristol voted for the system following a series of deals between different parties to get control of the council, where the individual parties by themselves had no clear majority. It convinced many people that the system allowed them to get into power over the heads of the real wishes of Bristol’s citizens. Now the Lib Dems and the Tories are demanding an end to the system. It’s clearly a matter of self-interest on their part, as obviously they are trying to abolish a Labour administration and the system that supports it.

But I believe that on simple democratic principles the elected mayoralty should go and the city return to government by the council.

Oh yes, and they should start calling it the Council House once again, instead of continuing with Ferguson’s egotistic name for it.

A Black Conservative Call for Racial Uplift Based on Entrepreneurship not Political Power

March 3, 2022

Jason L. Riley, False Black Power (West Conshoshocken: Templeton Press 2017).

This is another book analysing the plight of Black America from a Black conservative perspective. According to the book, Riley’s a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes for the Wall Street Journal and contributes to Fox News. But the book does quote statistics and sources, which means it’s almost certainly more trustworthy than that news network. When academics from the American universities reviewed Fox’s content, they found that people who took no news at all were better informed about the world than the people who watched Fox. America is indeed being ‘dumbed’ and Murdoch’s part of it. But this book is absolutely fascinating and, if accurate, is a much needed refutation of some of the myths about Black American history.

The introduction starts with an attack on the idea that the decline of the Black American family was caused by slavery. It’s true that slavery did destroy Black family life, as slave families were frequently split up, with fathers separated from their wives and children, children separated from the parents and so on. This, so the argument goes, has made it difficult for Black men to develop the necessary feelings of attachment to form permanent, two-parent families. As a result, most Black American families are single-parent, headed by the mothers. But Riley cites Herbert Gutman’s 1976 book, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925, examined a variety of sources to the show that the disruption of the slave family did not persist into emancipation. Looking at Confederate plantation records, the testimony of former slaves and the records of Black families in Buffalo and New York City, showed that from the second half of the 19th century to the 1920s, these communities were predominantly two-parent. In Buffalo between 1850 and 1920, the figure was 82 to 92 per cent. In New York in 1925 the figure was 85 per cent. (p. 5).

Riley’s argument is that the present poverty and misery experienced by many Black American communities cannot be blamed solely on racism and the legacy of enslavement. He and the authors he cites don’t deny that racism and discrimination exist, rather that the main cause of the present troubles of family breakdown, crime, unemployment and welfare dependency are due to the misplaced social programmes of the 1970s. Like Shelby Steele, he believes that Black Americans have taken the wrong road to uplift. Since the civil rights movement, they have concentrated on acquiring political power, resulting in the election across America of Black politicos, mayor and other officials. But these have not helped ordinary Blacks. He states at one point that Black politicians will ignore the underclass just to stay elected just as White politicos will, and cites a couple of scandals were Black politicians on their constituencies’ education boards were caught fiddling the exam results. He argues instead that Blacks should have followed the example of other impoverished communities, like the Chinese and Pennsylvania Germans, who eschewed acquiring political power in favour of economic uplift. He contrasts these groups with the 19th century Irish. These had political power, but nevertheless the Irish community itself remained poor and marginal.

Riley cites a number of other authors that show the explosion of Black entrepreneurialism after the end of slavery, as Blacks took over and entered a wide variety of professions. These scholars have argued that by the end of the 19th century Black communities also had their own business districts like White communities, as well as excellent schools. The 1913 Negro Almanac boasted of this achievement, comparing the capital accumulated by Blacks with that of the former Russian serfs. The former serfs had collectively $500 million in capital and a literacy rate of 30 per cent. Black Americans had $700 million and 70 per cent ‘had some education in books’. (74). In Chicago in 1885 there were 200 Black-owned businesses operating in 27 different fields. (75). And this trend continued, with the emergence in other areas of a small, but significant Black clerical class. At the same time, the number of Black Americans owning their own homes increased massively. Black prosperity increased during the years of the two World Wars,, when Blacks took on White jobs. They were still below that of Whites, but were catching up. As were Blacks in education. Blacks typically left school four years before Whites. But as the 20th century went on, this fell to two. Between 1950 and 1960 the number of Black doctors, lawyers and social workers expanded so that in 1953 a real estate journal called Blacks ‘the newest middle class’. (77). But this professional, educational and economic rise and expansion somehow came to an end in the 1970s.

At the same time, Riley cites the statistics to show that the American cops are not gun-happy racists bent on shooting Blacks. Rather, a study by Roland Fryer, a Harvard economist, found that Blacks are 23.8 per cent less like than Whites to be shot by the police. (63). As for New York’s stop and frisk policy, that was shown to stop Blacks 20-30 per cent below the appearance of Blacks in the description of suspects.(64). As for police shootings, these fell massively in New York from 1971 to 2015. In the former year, the cops shot 314 people, killing 93. In 2015 they shot 23 people, of whom 8 were killed. (65). He also notes instances where there was still friction between the Black community and police even when the town’s leaders and senior police officers were Black.

On a less serious note, he talks about the Barbershop films and their unsparing, humorous look into the condition of Black America. Set in a Black barbershop and with a majority Black cast, these films showed Blacks making jokes at the expense of revered leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, decrying their kids’ fashion sense – trousers being worn low on the hips to expose the buttocks – and worrying about gangster culture and Black on Black violence. This upset Black activists like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, but Riley maintains that they nevertheless accurately reflected the way Blacks talk when Whites aren’t around. The same concerns are held by many other Blacks, including one mayor, Nutter, who gave a similar speech at a Black church. He advised people not to dress in a threatening manner if they wanted anyone, of any race, respect them, and called for the kids to work hard at school and pull their trousers up. The crowd gave him a standing ovation, chanting ‘Buy a belt! But a belt!’ But his speech was angrily attacked by Black liberals because it didn’t reflect their priorities of blaming everything on racism. Riley also described the way Obama was often pilloried for his outspoken comments about poor standards in the Black community, while playing the race card himself. Riley also argues that the decline in Black educational standards also has its roots in dysfunctional attitudes among Black youth. If you’re too nerdy or bookish in these communities, you’re going to pilloried for ‘acting White’. This is a controversial position, but, Riley argues, the evidence for it is convincing and solid.

Despite being written from a conservative viewpoint, there are aspects of the book that can also be embraced by those on the left. Firstly, the expansion of Black businesses, jobs, and professions after slavery demonstrate that Black America is as talented as every other racial group in America. I found it a convincing refutation of the genetic argument that states that Black poverty and lack of achievement is somehow because Blacks are, on average, biologically intellectually inferior to Whites and Asians. And the argument that Blacks achieved more when they had stable, two-parent families, would have strongly appealed to a section of the British Labour party. British socialism was influenced, it has been said, more by Protestant, Methodist nonconformity than Karl Marx. Years ago the Spectator reviewed a book on the reading habits of the British working class. They found that the favourite reading matter of a solid working class Welsh community in the teens or twenties of the last century was the Bible.

Much more questionable is the apparent link between the affirmative action programmes of the 1970s and the persistence of Black poverty. Riley doesn’t anywhere show why or how they failed, and correlation is not causation. Just because their introduction was in a period of economic decay and impoverishment for Blacks doesn’t mean that they caused it. And I wondered how much of the decline was due to general, structural changes in the American economy that have also badly affected Whites. For example, Bristol used to have a flourishing print industry. There still are printers in the city, but the industry has declined considerably from what it was and many of those skilled jobs have been lost, along with those in other industries. Many Brits and Americans were hit hard by the oil crisis of the 1970s and the consequent recession and unrest. Thatcher, and then Blair, favoured the financial sector over manufacturing, which destroyed many working class jobs. And then there’s the whole nasty complex of welfare cuts, outsourcing, zero-hours contracts and wage freezes that have kept working people in Britain poor. And the same situation is true in America. This impoverishment and economic restructuring is going to hit Blacks especially hard as the Black community is poorer and less affluent. And I don’t doubt for a single minute that there are problems causes unique to the Black community, of which racism is going to be one.

But this is nevertheless a fascinating and important book, and I think it should have its place in schools if they’re teaching Critical Race Theory. That pernicious doctrine holds that Blacks are being held back solely by White privilege, in which all Whites benefit. The government recently stated that teachers must present controversial ideas impartially and was duly denounced by activist groups and the left for doing so. But I believe the truth in this issue lies somewhere between both sides, and that, if these ideas are being taught, children should be exposed to both sets or arguments. And then make their minds up.

And then, after hearing a variety of viewpoints, we might be more successful in creating a more equal society and truly enabling Black achievement.

Labour Elected Mayor Marvin Rees’ Policies for Bristol

January 28, 2022

I got this newsletter from Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin Rees, via email yesterday. In it he lays out his policies for Bristol and how his administration is working to stamp out housing discrimination against people on benefits. He also promotes the Labour candidate for the Southmead ward in the forthcoming council by-election, Kye Dudd. The mayor writes

‘I hope you’re keeping well.

I’m writing to you regarding the Council’s budget – including our plan for homes – and the upcoming election. If you have any questions, then please do get in touch.

On Tuesday, our budget came to Cabinet for sign-off. Drafting this budget was always going to be difficult. The circumstances are challenging: a decade of Government austerity and the pandemic which has simultaneously reduced council revenues and increased the need for council services. This has resulted in us needing to find £19m worth of savings in the General Fund. 

These are challenges facing councils across the country. Across Britains major cities budget gaps average £30m and range from £7m to £79m. In Bristol we’ve worked hard to protect our frontline services by delivering these savings by reducing the Council’s internal expenses, such as through selling off buildings and leaving unfilled posts vacant.  As a result, we remain the only Core City to still maintain the 100% Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which means Bristol’s most vulnerable don’t have to pay any Council Tax. We have protected all of our libraries and children’s centres, our parks, and our social care plans that enable people to stay in their homes for longer. Budget decisions are never easy, but I’m proud that we have managed to find a way to prioritise helping the worst-off and our transition to net-zero.

It’s important that our General Fund is not taken in isolation, because it is only part of the budget. We have also set the Housing Revenue Account which commits £1.8bn of investment in housing delivery, and a separate investment budget for social housing. This is one of the most ambitious plans in the country and will enable the Council to:

  • Build over 2,000 council homes by 2028, and 300 more every year after
  • Invest an additional £80m in to retrofitting (making council homes more energy efficient, saving them money and reducing Co2 output) bringing funding to a total of £97m.
  • £12.5m to upgrade council tenants’ bathrooms improving quality of life and improving water efficiency in thousands of homes
  • £8.7m investment into communal areas
  • £350k for council tenants’ in financial difficulties
  • £13.5m funding to adapt homes to make them more accessible

Building affordable, quality homes is one of the single most significant policy tools we have for shaping life chances and the carbon and ecological cost the planet will pay for meeting our population’s needs. Housing remains at the forefront of our priorities. 

Benefits discrimination

Cllr Tom Renhard, Cabinet Members Homes and Housing Delivery, recently put forward a motion to stamp out anti-benefits discrimination in Bristol. If you have tried to rent a home in Bristol, you will be familiar with seeing advertisements listed as ‘working professionals only’, meaning people on benefits aren’t allowed to rent the property. This is discrimination – plain and simple – and we’re committed to eradicating this practice from Bristol.

In the past few years, we’ve been expanding our Landlord Licensing scheme, meaning rogue and slum landlords are no longer allowed to rent out properties in Bristol. This has driven up standards where it’s been in place and we intend to expand the scheme to cover the whole of Bristol.  This, combined with our anti-discrimination motion, means that landlords who discriminate against people on benefits won’t be allowed to let properties in Bristol.

It will take some time to expand the licensing scheme citywide so in the meantime, we will be carrying out other policies to help renters. The Council will now assist tenants’ efforts to take discriminatory landlords to the appropriate authorities, will run a public awareness campaign on tenants’ rights, and will create a local action plan to formulate policies to build on these in future – among other things.

Southmead by-election

As former councillor Helen Godwin stood down in the new year, a by-election has been called to fill her vacant seat in Southmead. I am delighted that Kye Dudd has been selected as our candidate for the seat. Kye has been a stalwart of the trade union movement, working for the Communication Workers’ Union for fifteen years, and has served as the Cabinet Member for Transport, Energy, and Connectivity – leading our work to expand our bus and active travel infrastructure, develop our work on mass transit, and decarbonise our energy systems. More recently, he has been working with Empire Fighting Chance, a boxing charity who work with some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable young people in our city.

He will be running on a campaign of:

  • ·        Investing in Southmead’s youth services
  • ·        Investing in Council homes
  • ·        Protecting local green spaces
  • ·        Making Southmead safer for all
  • ·        Supporting the community-led regeneration of Arnside’

It ends with the statement that it is vitally important to get Mr Dudd elected and the email address Southmead Labour party if I wanted to be involved.

I broadly support mayor Marvin, as I think he has done a good overall governing the city. He has tried to remain impartial about the controversy over the wretched statue of Edward Colston, despite his justifiable hatred of it as a man of colour. I believe the policies outlined here are excellent. My problem is with the Labour party as it stands under the leadership of Keef Stalin. Starmer has done everything he can to purge the left and turn it into another version of the Tories. One of his favoured MPs, the vile Rachel Reeves, added insult to injury a few days ago when she described those who have left the party in disgust at Starmer’s factionalism and treachery as ‘anti-Semites’. As I’m sick of saying, the people Starmer and his collaborators in the NEC have smeared and purged are most definitely not Jew-haters. They are decent people, many of them with proud records of fighting racism and anti-Semitism. About four-fifths of those he’s thrown out are actually Jewish, decent, self-respecting people, often the victims of real anti-Semitic abuse and vilification. They are not ‘self-hating’. But then, truth means nothing to the liars of the right, the British media and political establishment, and the Israel lobby.

I had a series of emails from the Labour party over the past week or so asking me if I would care to campaign for Mr. Dudd and help get Boris out, and Starmer in. Well, my health at the moment prevents me from getting out much. Southmead isn’t my ward, and the buses from where I live have become very unreliable, so I simply won’t be able to join them. And obviously I do want to get Bozo out.

But I don’t want Starmer in.

I see no difference whatsoever between him and Johnson. Both are lying, treacherous right-wingers with precious little real ability to govern and an intense contempt for the working class. They both want to privatise whatever has been left, including the NHS. I don’t trust him to restore the welfare state to anything like the level that’s needed, nor to strengthen the trade unions. He won’t give workers much needed rights at work. And he definitely won’t do anything to improve public services by nationalising them, despite the obvious fact that they’re decaying as we look under private ownership.

And the voting public aren’t enamoured of Starmer either. I’ve got the impression that at the moment Labour’s haemorrhaged support to the Greens so that they’re almost neck and neck with Labour on the local council.

Now I do support Marvin and hope Mr. Dudd wins the council election when it comes.

But I very much do not want Starmer to get anywhere near No. 10 and definitely want him out as leader of the Labour party.

Children’s Literature and Non-Binary Indoctrination

January 19, 2022

One of the issues that concerns the opponents of the trans ideology is the massive expansion of the number of people identifying as trans or non-binary. Before the emergence of the trans craze a few years ago, there were relatively few trans people coming forward each year for treatment and these were mainly men. Now the number has dramatically increased and the majority of those now identifying as members of the opposite sex are young women. For writers and researchers like Abigail Shrier, this indicates that this is not a natural development but a social phenomenon, comparable to the growth of anorexia amongst girls and young women in the 1970s.

At the same time the number of young Americans declaring themselves to be gay has also expanded. Whereas the number of gay people in a population across the world was about 6 per cent, 3 per cent gay men, 3 per cent lesbian women, it’s now increased in the younger generation to 30 per cent. The gay American Conservative YouTuber, Matt Walsh, and Arielle Scarcella, a lesbian critic of the trans ideology on YouTube, have made videos about this. Walsh put it down to the ideological promotion of gayness by the woke, while Scarcella in her video considered that it was due to a massive mental health crisis amongst America’s kids. I think this is quite likely. The present generation of young people are facing worse lives and lower living conditions than their parents due to the Thatcherism and Reaganomics the previous generations embraced. The welfare net is being destroyed, right to work legislation in America has decimated the unions as has similar legislation over here, wages have stagnated while the cost of living is rising. Youngsters are encouraged to go for a college education, but the fees and costs are now exorbitant so that many will be saddled with debt for life. When I was at Bristol uni doing the Ph.D. ten years ago, i heard of American students saying that because of the money they were spending on their education, they would never be able to own property. Thatcher sold Brits the dream of owning their own homes when she sold off the council houses. That dream has turned sour, so that there is a massive housing crisis, not least due to the prohibition on building further council housing and a lack of genuine affordable housing. The pressures of the Covid lockdown, the isolation it has caused as well as job insecurity and further poverty, as the furlough cut incomes to 80 per cent of what they were and people are naturally worried about whether their jobs and businesses will survive, has increased this pressure. It’s no surprise that the medical authorities in Britain are reporting an alarming increase in anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.

It also seems to me to be quite likely that these pressures might lead some people to obsess over their sexuality, especially if gayness is presented as a positive, attractive identity. One of the gay critics of the trans movement a while ago commented on the adoption of the ‘queer’ identity by straight people. He felt that it was being taken up by them, even though they weren’t really gay, because they were allies and wanted to be part of the LGBTQ community. I wonder if something similar is going on with the people, who now identify of gay. In some parts of contemporary popular culture, gay people are depicted as virtuous victims of straight persecution. See the Batwoman tv series, for example, and the type of ‘SJW’ comics denounced by right-wingers like Ethan van Sciver of Comicsgate infamy. The positive depiction of gays in comics and popular culture in itself isn’t unreasonable. It’s no doubt much better now, but I remember the vicious homophobia of the 1980s. I am also not suggesting that people can choose the sexuality. What I am suggesting is that, in the absence of other ways to express their pain and distress, some young people may become convinced they’re gay as that’s the only way to respond to the terrible pressures put on them. It’s the only way they feel they can respond to their sense of persecution by a hostile, social and economic environment.

But I also believe that ideological indoctrination also plays a part. James Lindsay has shown that the Queer Theory underpinning the modern trans movement is not about helping gay and trans people deal with their problems or find a place in existing bourgeois capitalist society. Rather it’s about increasing their mental problems in order to create unstable, angry personalities susceptible to radical Marxist indoctrination. And even if this is not the aim, popular culture does seem to be playing a part.

Clive Simpson is a gay, anti-trans YouTuber. He posted a disturbing video a few days ago about a little American girl, Chloe, who has now decided that she’s non-binary and wishes to be known as Clarke, with the corresponding changes in gender expression. This came after her mother was reading a book to her, which was intended to explain non-binary people. It said that some people are boys, some are girls, and some don’t believe they’re either boys or girls. The child said that was her, and that was how she felt.

Simpson cites a medical paper on the development of children’s sexual identities. It states that they usually develop it by age three, but it may not become fixed until they are seven. So some children’s gender identity is rather fluid until it naturally settles down. The book the mother was reading from was aimed at 4-8 year olds.

If the paper is correct, then the mother may have intentionally done immense harm to her daughter’s psycho-sexual development. What might have been merely a passing phase that many children go through has now been turned into a permanent identity, with the sense of alienation from society and one’s own biology this may bring.

I can understand the mother wishing to teach her daughter the same liberal values she holds, but it appears from this that teaching children about such issues so young may harm the child’s own psychology.

It would be much better if this was left later to an age when the child could understand it without it undermining their own gender identity.

Loach’s Documentary Shows Why We Still Need the Attlee Government

October 4, 2021

The Spirit of ’45, director Ken Loach, Dogwoof, Sixteenfly Limited, British Film Institute & Channel 4.. Running time 92 minutes, with 420 minutes of extras, 2013 release.

This superb documentary provides great evidence for one of the real reasons Keef Stalin has purged Loach from the Labour party. Quite apart from being a staunch critic of Israeli barbarism, Loach is a socialist whose films show the misery, poverty and degradation inflicted by capitalism. This documentary shows not just the great achievements of Attlee’s reforming government of 1945, but why we still need these reforms today. Why, indeed, we do need to turn the clock back against the Thatcherites to 1945 again. And as an ardent Thatcherite, that’s something Keef and his cohorts really can’t tolerate.

The film consists of interviews with ordinary men and women, former workers in the affected industries, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals as well as academics, along with interviews and footage from the period. These include tales of real struggle and hardship, often moving, and sometimes inspiring anger. It begins by describing the horrendous conditions people lived in before the foundation of the welfare state. One man describes how, as a child, he and his four siblings lived in a slum crawling with vermin. They had to sleep in the same bed, infested with lice and fleas. This is accompanied by footage showing a hand turning over blankets in a bed in which just about every inch was alive with such parasites. And the man recalls that after a night of this, he was beaten at school for having dirty knees.

The film states that the welfare state and its founders were determined not to repeat the situation following the First World War, where demobbed troops returned to unemployment, depression and poverty. The film is divided into sections for each part of the economy that was nationalised – coal, the Railways, the NHS, housing and electricity.

There had been demands for the nationalisation of the coal industry for decades. It was divided between various coal companies, some of which were extremely small. These companies were individually too poor to pay the miners a decent, living wage. Former miners describe how hard and dangerous conditions were. Miners were paid according to the amount of coal they hewed. They weren’t paid for putting up the props that stopped the mine shafts collapsing. As a result, not enough props were put up and terrible accidents followed. One man recalled seeing one his workmates killed in just such a rock fall because not enough props were put up. Nationalisation resulted in much better conditions, but disappointed many of the miners. They were hoping for something like workers’ control. Instead the same people were left in charge, including one manager, who was appointed leader of the industry, who had written extensively against nationalisation. Naturally this left many miners angry and disappointed.

Medicine before the NHS for working people was poor and expensive. Some workers were covered by insurance schemes for their industries, allowing them to see panel doctors. This did not, however, according to the film, cover their families. I’m not sure about this, because my mother remembers cases in Bristol where family members were seen by the panel doctor, but this may have been the exception. You had to pay to see a doctor, and they weren’t cheap. Very low paid workers, like farm labourers, were paid six shillings a week, and seeing the doctor could cost one of those. Patients were very often in debt to their doctors, who employed debt collectors. Death from disease was common. One man angrily recalls how he became an atheist after the death of his mother, who died following complications in childbirth because she could not afford proper treatment or an abortion. One former GP tells how he went round to call on a family of his patients the very day after the foundation of the NHS. When he inquired after the boy he’d been treating, the mother informed him he was well. But the man could hear coughing, and so continued to ask. The mother replied that the coughing was his brother, who was recovering because they’d given him half of the bottle of cough medicine he’d given to the other boy. When the doctor said he could still hear coughing, the woman replied that it was her mother. When the doctor offered to treat her, she refused, saying they couldn’t afford him. The doctor replied that this morning they could. This part of the documentary includes comments from Jacky Davis, a great campaigner for the NHS and one of the editors, with Ray Tallis, of the excellent book, NHS – SOS.

The railways before nationalisation were in a comparable state as the mines. The rail network was divided between different companies, who also owned their own track. As a result, services by the different railway companies frequently interfered with each other. One old railways worker recalls how one train going to Exeter was held up for half an hour by a train from another company. And the system was incredibly bureaucratic. The first thing to go at nationalisation was the clearing house. This was a massive office of 50+ clerks just passing chits to each other as the various companies billed each other for the use of their services. I suspect something similar goes on in the privatised railways when you buy a ticket that involves more than one network.

The film also describes the massive improvement in housing that came with the government’s programme of building council houses. There were queues to get into these, with many workers amazed that they would live in such massively improved conditions.

The film also covers the nationalisation of the electricity network, with an historian stating that it was generally agreed that it made more sense to nationalise it and amalgamate it into one company than leave it in the hands of a multitude of competing small companies.

The film moves on to the destruction of the welfare state following the election of St. Margaret of Monetarism. All of these have been disastrous. The spit up of the railways led to a series of terrible train disasters, with the companies involved refusing to accept responsibility and blaming each other. It was so appalling that the track had to be renationalised in 2002.

As for the NHS, service is becoming worse as the government has privatised more of it. NHS workers and ordinary folk made it very clear how much they hate its privatisation. One gentleman says that those who want to see it sold off should be put in a bottomless boat, sent out in the North Sea, and told to swim back. I quite agree. Jacky Davis makes it clear that this isn’t making the service cheaper or more economical. Under the NHS, administration costs were 6 per cent. A little while ago they were 12 per cent. Now they’re heading up to American levels of 18-24 per cent.

The NHS has become less efficient because of four decades of Thatcherite privatisation, all for the profit of private healthcare companies.

The film is a superb piece of social history and documentation, directed by one of the masters of British cinema. And makes a very strong case for socialism. Attlee and his government weren’t without their faults, but they created the modern welfare state following the Beveridge Report. This shaped British society for more than three decades afterwards, and which still demands our support against the attacks of the likes of Blair, Starmer and Boris.

No, Europeans Didn’t Introduce Ironworking to Africa during the Slave Trade

October 2, 2021

I have several times posted about and reposted some of the videos made by Simon Webb of the History Debunked channel. Those I’ve reposted are usually criticisms of Black Lives Matter or falsehoods repeated as truth in Black history. I’ve said that Webb should be taken with caution as he’s a Telegraph-reading Tory. Where he quotes historical and mainstream scientific texts, I think he’s correct. But occasionally he comes up with falsehoods of his own which show he needs checking. Yesterday he put up a video on the transatlantic slave trade and how it benefited west Africa. Now he’s right that the slave trade did bring some benefits to west Africa. The African states who supplied the European slave merchants, Dahomey and Whydah, for example, grew extremely rich. Duke Ephraim of Dahomey had an income of £300,000 a year, and the abominable trade plugged Africa into the wider global economy. According to mainstream academic historians, it introduced modern commercial methods into Africa and allowed capital accumulation.

But Webb seems instead to make a very curious claim. Noting that the Black African professionals people may meet tend to be Nigerian or west African, Webb says in this video that its because Europeans brought iron working and civilisation to Africa. Before the arrival of the Europeans, Webb claims, most buildings were made of mud. Bronze was used for decoration – I assume here he’s talking about the Benin bronzes, sculptured heads what were produced as shrines to the king’s spirit. But iron was unknown. This is bizarre, as it’s very much not the view of conventional historians and archaeologists.

I looked in Colin McEvedy’s The Penguin Atlas of African History (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1980) to see when sub-Saharan African entered the Iron Age. He notes on page 30 that iron-working communities emerged around Nok in what is now Nigeria c. 202 BC. Iron-working also existed in Nubia by AD 200. C. 200 AD is started reaching the rest of Africa as the Bantu peoples expanded east and south, pp. 34, 36. I don’t actually know why Webb should think that they only developed iron working with the slave trade. I think it perhaps comes from the fact that Europeans did trade iron bars for slaves. These were made into objects called manilas, shaped like bracelets. A few of them are on display in the slavery gallery in Bristol’s M Shed. Webb has said that metallurgical analysis has shown that some west African artefacts now at the centre of demands for repatriation, were ironically made using metals that could only have been introduced by European traders. I’ve no doubt this is true, but it doesn’t contradict the fact that Africans were perfectly capable of producing iron for themselves. It may just indicate that Africans were willing to import European iron because it may have been cheaper, better or more easily accessible than that domestically produced. Just a Britain now imports cars despite having a domestic car industry.

HIs claim that Africans also built in mud is also questionable. They certainly did in west and other parts of Africa, so that it’s largely true. The city of Whydah was built of wood, and the Dahomeyans certainly used mud brick to build their towns. But the Islamic states of the Sahara, including Nubia, built in stone. And the Swahili were using coral blocks to construct their cities from the 9th century onwards, roughly as the same time when the ancestors of the Shona built the fortress of Zimbabwe.

This seems to come from Webb’s view that Africa didn’t produce any real civilisations. This was very much the view of 19th and early 20th century historians. On the other hand, one commander of the West African Squadron, Captain Denman, testified to parliament that the mass murder of slaves by one of the African cultures was remarkable, given that the people there had made such progress in the arts of civilisation. Which shows that at that time in the 19th century, not all Europeans thought Africans were uncivilised savages.

I think its undoubtedly true that Europeans introduced modern science and technology to Africa during colonialism, even if this was to exploit the countries and their peoples. They also benefited from the introduction of modern education and literacy, when it was available. If Nigerians are more prevalent among Black African professionals in Britain, it may well be due to a number of factors that have little to do with the slave trade. It may simply be that Nigeria is a richer country than many other African nations, and so has a larger middle class able to afford an education. It also possesses its own university, though I don’t know if it has a medical faculty. It is certainly more populous than some African countries, with a population of about 100 million. It may also have stronger ties with the west and particularly Britain, so that it’s people go here rather than to France or Portugal, the other African colonial powers.

It is therefore far more likely to be due to the education, science and technology introduced to Nigeria and west Africa during colonialism, and the enduring ties with Britain forged during this period, that have led so many west Africans to migrate here rather than the slave trade. Which certainly did not, in any case, usher in the Iron Age in Africa.