Posts Tagged ‘John Major’

How Can I Get My Book and Pamphlet Against NHS Privatisation Out to the Wider Public?

February 1, 2023

Okay, a few years ago – I was when Cameron was in power – I was so worried about NHS privatisation that I wrote a couple of pieces of literature about it. One was just a pamphlet consisting of a few pieces of A4 folded together giving the main points about NHS privatisation and how it was killing the health service. Another was a short book, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, which I self-published through Lulu, the print on demand service. Since doing so, I’ve had next to zero interest in them. I have a page about them on this blog. Simply go to the relevant bar, and look at ‘pages’ and you’ll find them there, along with other books I’ve self-published. Here’s the pieces about them from that page.

Don’t Let Cameron Privatise the NHS, David Sivier, A5, 10pp.

This is a brief critique of successive government’s gradual privatisation of the NHS, beginning with Margaret Thatcher. Tony Blair’s New Labour were determined to turn as much healthcare as possible over to private companies, on the advice of the consultants McKinsey and the American insurance companies. The Conservatives under David Cameron have continued and extended Blair’s privatisation, so that there is a real danger that the NHS, and the free, universal service it has provided for sixty-five years, will be destroyed. If the NHS is to be saved, we must act soon.

Long Anti-NHS Privatisation pic

Privatisation: Killing the NHS, by David Sivier, A5, 34 pp. This is a longer pamphlet against the privatisation of the NHS. It traces the gradual privatisation of the Health Service back to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, John Major’s Private Finance Initiative in the 1990s, the Blair and Brown ‘New Labour’ governments, and finally David Cameron and the Conservatives. There is a real, imminent danger that the NHS will be broken up and privatised, as envisioned by Andrew Lansley’s, the author of the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act of 2012. This would return us to the conditions of poor and expensive healthcare that existed before the foundation of the NHS by the Clement Atlee’s Labour government in 1948. Already the Tories have passed legislation permitting ‘healthcare providers’ – which include private companies – to charge for NHS services.

The book is fully referenced, with a list of books for further reading, and organisations campaigning to preserve the NHS and its mission to provide universal, free healthcare.

If you would like one of the pamphlets, please get in touch using the contact form below. All details will of course be kept strictly confidential, and will not be passed on to third parties. If you only want single copies of the above, let me know and I’ll post them free to you.’

Now with the NHS facing a truly devastating crisis and the Tory and hard-right sharks circling and demanding its privatisation, I want to get these out to as many people as possible. And I’d be grateful for any ideas.

Of course, one way would simply be to have multiple copies of these pamphlets printed off and to set up a stall in town, and especially right when there’s a strike. But I only have a very small number of copies of the books around at the moment. Also, the myeloma means that I am not as mobile as I once was, and the council and bus companies in their infinite wisdom have cut the direct route from where I live into the centre of Bristol. But I’m hoping this might still be an option.

For the self-published book, one solution might be to go to see the buyer for my local branch of Waterstone’s and see if they would be interested in stocking it.

I’m also considering writing to my local Labour party and asking if they would be interested in stocking them, as well as contacting my local Labour MP to see if she would also like copies. I’m hesitant to do this, however, as I put the blame firmly where it lies – not just with Thatcher and the Tories, but also with Blair and New Labour. Kier Starmer is a true-blue Thatcherite and devoted follower of Blairism. He has said some ominous things about using the private sector to aid the NHS, even though it’s due to privatisation, as well as underfunding, that is responsible for this crisis. The local MP for south Bristol, Karen Smyth, is very firmly on the side of the health service, but she’s also an admirer of Starmer. Reading her messages about the health service, while she says much about how it’s been run down, she doesn’t condemn outsourcing. I can therefore see the pamphlets being extremely unwelcome in certain right-wing Labour circles.

Beyond this, any suggestions?

I’d be interested to know if there are any left-wing organisations that would be willing to accept copies of the book and pamphlet and/or publicise them. I’ve tried looking on Google for small press associations and organisations that might be suitable, but none have so far turned up. One possibility could be contacting some of the left-wing news and comment sites on YouTube and the Internet, but I’m not sure how willing they’d be to say anything about them. I haven’t had much luck in the past when I sent some of my literature to the Canary and a few others.

If you therefore have any ideas, please let me know in the comments section below.

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.

Kwasi Kwarteng – Diversity Hire, or Just Another Member of Truss’ Government of Mediocrity?

October 2, 2022

It’s been a few days since I commented on a video by Simon Webb of History Debunked, so here’s one now. A few days ago, he put one up questioning Kwarteng’s qualifications for office as Chancellor of the Exchequer and wondering if he was only chosen because he was Black. Was his appointment simply a case of Truss giving him a job in order to show how diverse her government was? Given how disastrous the minibudget is, Kwarteng does not strike me as a brilliant economist. But then, neither does Truss herself, who strikes me as another absolute mediocrity. The same with Therese Coffey, who I wouldn’t trust to run a corner shop or local whist club. As for Jacob Rees-Mogg, I think he’s cleverer than the rest in that he has clever people working for him and is sufficiently slick with his patrician diction and general demeanour to conceal his absolute incompetence from much of the public. But none of them, absolutely none of them, strike me as intellectual powerhouses. Quite the opposite.

Readers of this blog of a certain age and taste in comedy will remember Glasgae toon’s guerrilla philosopher, Rab C. Nesbitt, and his biting view of Scots politics and the treatment of the poor and the underclass from the bottom of a pint glass. In one episode, Nesbitt crossed paths with the local Tory politician, a political nonentity looking forward to great things because Tory prime minister John Major was in office, and ‘this is the age of the mediocrity’. Ah, how that was the joke at the time! John Major was the grey man, a boring, uninspiring individual following the all-too vivid figure of Margaret Thatcher. Major himself wasn’t economically deft or competent, as his privatisation of the railways and the collapse of the pound during Black Wednesday showed. But compared to Truss and her crew, he was statesman of positively Churchillian proportions.

A week or so ago I went to an online meeting where members of the Labour left, like Richard Burgon and members of the TUC responded to Truss’ minibudget. They pointed out what a right-wing nightmare it was, along with her highly authoritarian attempts to strangle the unions with fresh legislation. Truss was promising nothing to the British working class except more poverty while massively cutting taxes for the rich. But the panel was also encouraged by the fact that people were determined to resist, and mobilising strikes and protests up and down this Sceptred Isle. And as for Truss and the rest of the minions, they saw them as the last of the Thatcherite True Believers. Thatcherism has run its course. It’s now looking threadbare. People are abandoning it. And Truss and co are the last of the market fundamentalists, more right-wing than Thatcher herself. And that’s saying something, given how she was a fan of real Fascists like General Pinochet!

If I read what the Labour people were saying rightly, this means that, as the last of the true-blue Thatcherites, Liz, Kwarteng and co are the scrapings from the bottom of the Tory barrel. In which case, Kwarteng didn’t get his post because he’s a diversity hire. He got his job because he shared the views and the same lack of ability as Truss and the rest of her followers.

And unfortunately, that means we’ve got to suffer his and Truss’ doctrinaire incompetence.

Their colour is immaterial. All that matters is their grotesque hatred and victimisation of the poor to benefit the extremely, obscenely rich.

Get them out now!

Grotty Daily Mail Shills for People to Abandon NHS and Go Private

August 26, 2022

I’ve just been to the barbers for a haircut, and while waiting I leafed through some of the papers left out. One was the Heil, so I looked through that. Okay, I’m not proud of it, but it was something to read while waiting. Needless to say, it was as it usually is. There’s a story about the cost of housing asylum seekers and the channel migrants. But what really disgusted me was an opinion piece. This was by a supposed NHS consultant urging patients to ‘beg, borrow or steal’ to go private.

This is essentially the Tory strategy for running down the NHS, ever since Maggie Thatcher. She wanted the health service privatised and replaced by an American-style healthcare system funded by private health insurance. She was only stopped by a cabinet revolt and the finding of her personal secretary, Patrick Jenkin. Jenkin had been to America and knew exactly how poor in comparison the American system was. So Thatcher had to content herself with aiming to get 10 per cent of the population to take out private health insurance.

She also began process of piecemeal privatisation, selling off or opening up the ancillary services to private competition. This process was carried on by John Major’s administration and then by Tony Blair, who was ostensibly Labour. And Cameron, Tweezer and Bozo have in turn continued the wretched process. Private healthcare firms are allowed to compete with the NHS itself for contracts for medical services. Thanks to this privatisation, administration costs in the NHS have sky-rocketed where they approaching the levels -25 per cent or so – which the American private health system spends on administration. Privatisation does not bring savings. Quite the opposite. At the same time, the Tories have cut spending on the NHS, and grotty Tories like Truss and Mogg are saying they’ll cut more NHS ‘waste’. Meaning, presumably, more expensive privatisation and cuts.

The only way to cut waste is to renationalise the NHS.

But the article shows the direction of travel British healthcare is taking under the Tories: a two-tier system, with poor NHS services for the people at the bottom, and expensive private healthcare for those who can afford it. And the Tories stand to profit from it personally. Under Cameron, 100 MPs had personally connections to private healthcare firms.

If you really want to ensure that you and the rest of this great nation has the healthcare it needs and deserve, then kick the Tories and the other privatisers out, and demand the renationalisation of the NHS!

Tories Pumping Sewage in Rivers: We Were Warned

October 26, 2021

One of the major stories this week has been that the Conservatives have voted to allow the water companies to dump raw sewage into our rivers and seas. This is, as Mike has pointed out, threatening to bring back cholera, and no doubt many other lethal Victorian diseases. Mike and the good peeps on Twitter have put up a list of the various Tory thugs, who passed this noxious motion, and the excuses have started already. Mike’s local MP, Fay Jones, was telling everyone that the amendment would cost the taxpayer £600 billion or so to replace the Victorian sewage infrastructure. But it wouldn’t. It would cost the government that, who might have to raise taxes as a result. But it shouldn’t be raised from them. The cost would have to be borne by the privatised water companies. I remember when the water companies were privatised under Thatcher the head of the local company down here in Bristol, Hooper, was all in favour and declared that it would allow them to raise more money for investment. So if any expense is involved, it should come from their profits, shareholder dividends and customers, not the British taxpayer. Jones also complained that people attacking the government’s actions over sewage obscured the brilliant work they were already doing reducing discharge from storm overflows. But there’s precious little evidence of this, either. So once again, the Tories are lying.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/10/25/get-your-cholera-jab-booked-mps-wont-stop-pumping-raw-sewage-into-our-waters/

This was after David Davies started crying that he was being abused and subjected to online hate, because Catrin Maby had asked him an awkward question about allowing untreated effluent into our watercourses. It’s deeply distasteful coming after the murder of David Amess, a murder that seems to be an act of premeditated Islamist terror rather than caused by online hate. So once again, we have the Tories wrecking peoples’ health but claiming they are somehow the innocent victims, while presenting precisely no evidence to support their assertion.

But as nasty as all this is, we can’t say we weren’t warned.

When Brexit was first being mooted critics warned that once Britain was out of the EU and their environmental regulations no longer applied, the Tories would allow this and other abuses to happen. It was even shown in a short-lived cartoon strip in Private Eye. This was ‘The Ukippers’, and featured a fiercely patriotic couple who believed that everything would be absolutely brilliant once we have left the EU. One edition showed the two celebrating the new, higher environmental standards we were promised after Brexit by running into the sea for a swim. The two were undeterred by the fact that the water was foul and brown, and filled with what Billy Connolly used to describe as ‘jobbies’. Despite the foul state of the water around them, the pair were still convinced that it was much cleaner than it had been under the EU. It’s an attitude I’m afraid will probably come true at some point, as Tory voters repeat the lie that somehow it’s all cleaner, which I’m sure that Boris and his cronies will tell at some point.

In fact the Tories have a history of allowing pollution into the water. It started in the 1980s the moment Thatcher – or was John Major? – decided to privatise it. I can remember reading articles in Private Eye, once again, about how the Tories were passing legislation to strip the National Rivers Authority of its powers to prosecute the newly privatised water companies for pollution. I’ve got a feeling similar legislation to reduce its powers even further has also been passed. And there have also been a series of scandals, also covered by Private Eye, in which various water companies were caught violating environmental regulations with the dumping of sewage or chemicals into rivers.

This latest attack on the British environment was predicted, because the Tories have been doing it for decades.

Brexit Britain’s Collapse also Reveals Failure of Free Market Capitalism

September 26, 2021

I wonder sometimes if the Communists and Trotskyites didn’t throw in the towel too soon. They were always looking for the collapse of capitalism, and while that didn’t happen and probably won’t, they would have realised that Thatcherism, at least, isn’t working and made real efforts to make the British public realise it. Communism collapsed with the velvet revolution in eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the countries of the former Soviet bloc threw off their chains and embraced democracy and free market capitalism. Francis Fukuyama declared that it was ‘the end of history’. Liberalism in the broad sense of the mixture of liberal democracy and capitalism, had seen off its rivals and would now reign supreme and unchallenged as the global ideology bringing peace, freedom – both political and economic – and prosperity to everyone.

But it hasn’t worked out like that.

Thatcher’s privatisation of the public utilities here in Britain haven’t brought the necessary investment these sectors needed. As Ken Loach’s superb documentary, The Spirit of 45, makes very clear, the power, water and railway industries are natural monopolies that need national planning and support. This has been particularly shown time and again in the management of the railways. Major’s privatisation of British Rail in the 1990s and its breakup into separate companies resulted in a spate of horrendous train crashes. Insult was added to injury by the rail companies passing the buck and accusing each other of responsibility for the disasters. As a result, the company owning the railway network itself, Railtrack, had to be renationalised in 2002. Privatisation did not work. And it has continued to fail with the private railways companies. Several have had to be taken back into state administration after providing poor service. However, this has always been excused as a temporary measure and the government has insisted on finding some other private company to run those services afterwards. After a series of such failures, this strategy now looks more than a little desperate. It’s an attempt to fend off the obvious: that private enterprise isn’t providing a proper, decent rail service and the only way to run it properly is to renationalise it.

It is very much the same with the government’s part-privatisation of Britain’s schools. Declining standards in state schools led Thatcher to experiment with privately-run schools outside the control of Local Education Authorities. These were then called ‘city academies’. They were another failure, and her education secretary, Norman Fowler, was forced to wind them up quietly. Unfortunately, Tony Blair thought it was a wizard idea and it became a major part of New Labour education policy. Simply called ‘academies’, these schools would be run by private companies. Some of these would specialise in particularly subjects, such as Maths and science. Expertise from private industry would ensure that standards would be high, and they would provide a powerful incentive through their competition for the remaining state schools to improve their performance. Except that didn’t happen either. The academies don’t perform any better than ordinary state schools once the massive difference in funding is taken into account. An academy may receive tens of millions of funding compared to a fraction of million that the Local Education Authority receives to spend on all the schools it runs. Furthermore, many of the academies have only been able to maintain their high standards through being highly selective about their intakes. Pupils that may not reach the marks demanded by the schools, including those with behavioural problems or who come from poorer families, are often excluded and expelled. Educational performance and standards in many academies has been so abysmal that the chains managing them have collapsed and the schools once again taken into public administration. But private enterprise under the Tories cannot be allowed to fail, and so we had the grim spectacle a few years ago of Nicky Morgan, the Tory education secretary, repeatedly not answering the questions on the Andrew Marr show why the government was pushing ahead with turning schools into academies when just a little while ago 25 academies had had to be taken over by the government again.

Now, thanks to a mixture of Brexit and global problems elsewhere, the gas industry is in crisis. There are shortages of gas, a number of the smaller companies have already collapsed and customers are being faced with sharp price rises. Novara Media have even said that the government has admitted that if there are severe problems with the major gas suppliers, then they will have to be nationalised.

Gas, like electricity, should never have been privatised in the first place. When it was initially privatised, the company was not split up into separate, competing companies and so it was able to dominate the market as a private monopoly. Now some of those companies are suffering because they are unable to cope with free market conditions. This says to me very much that Jeremy Corbyn was right – that the public utilities need to be publicly owned and rationally managed as part of an integrated system. This is another point that Ken Loach’s documentary makes very well.

And Brexit has created further problems. The establishment of a customs border with Eire overturns one of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and so threatens to return Northern Ireland to sectarian violence and chaos. There is a shortage of CO2 as a result of which some foods and other goods may suffer shortages. And there may be further shortages, including petrol and other fuels, because Brexit has also resulted in fewer haulage drivers. Some are even now predicting a new ‘Winter of Discontent’, like that in 1979 that resulted in the defeat of the-then Labour government and the election of Maggie Thatcher.

I remember the petrol crisis of the ’70s, when OPEC suddenly raised oil prices and there were queues at petrol pumps. Just as I remember how Ted Heath’s dispute with the coal miners resulted their strike, the three-day week and power cuts. It got to the point that by the middle of the decade the right were expecting a Communist takeover and the end of civilisation as we know it. There were supposedly private militias being formed by bonkers right-wingers while parts of the establishment wanted to overthrow the minority Labour government in a coup to be replaced by a kind of coalition government composed of representatives from all the parties. Well, that was what the Times discussed in its articles. The security services, however, were forming plans to round up trade unionists and left-wing politicians and activists and intern them on a Scottish island somewhere. The editor of the Mirror went to Sandhurst to interest them in overthrowing the government but was met with a no doubt polite refusal. I think he, or one of the other plotters, even went as far as Paris to see if that old Fascist, Oswald Mosley, would be interested in leading the new government.

All that has been used in the Tory myth that socialism doesn’t work, and only creates the economic and political chaos that helped bring Britain to its knees. Chaos that was only ended by the glorious reign of Maggie.

Except that these problems look like they’re coming back, and this time the fault is Brexit and the free market.

I think Boris will be able to find temporary solutions to alleviate, but not cure, some of these problems. He has, for example, introduced new legislation to encourage lorry drivers from the continent to come over here. But the underlying structural problems remain. The only way to solve them is through nationalisation.

The Labour party is in an excellent position to drive this home, at least in the case of gas. Even if it doesn’t go that far, it should still be landing hard blows on Johnson and the Tories because of Brexit’s massive failures. But Starmer isn’t doing that. Instead, as Zelo Street pointed out in a piece published a day or so ago, the Labour leader is more intent instead on destroying democracy in his party as part of his war on the left.

Which is why I’m almost nostalgic for the old Socialist Workers’ Party. They’re still around, rebranded as ‘the Socialist Party’, but they’re nowhere near as active as they were. Whenever there was any kind of crisis or major issue you could count on them turning up with their megaphones and copies of their newspaper to harangue the masses and demand further action against the problem. Unfortunately, in many cases the Socialist Workers’ Party were the problem. They colonised left-wing issues in an attempt to turn protest groups into front organisations, which they could then use to produce further discontent. Rock Against Racism collapsed when the SWP took over the leadership of that organisation, formed to protest against the rise of Fascism. They were also busy infiltrating the Labour party and other left-wing parties here and abroad with the intention of radicalising them. I think the eventual hope was to create some kind of mass revolutionary movement. It didn’t work, and has only resulted in purges, such as that of Militant Tendency by Kinnock in the 1980s. In fact, the policy has helped strengthen the right in the Labour party, as they smeared Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as Trotskyite infiltrators as the pretext for their continue purge.

The Trotskyites lived, however, in the firm belief that capitalism would eventually fail. Well, it isn’t doing that now, but it should be abundantly clear that Thatcherite free market capitalism isn’t working. The SWP would have realised that and tried to get the message across. The Labour left, which isn’t remotely Trotskyite, realises too that Thatcherism isn’t working. Their solution is simply a return to the mixed economy of the social democratic consensus. This wasn’t perfect, but it operated far better than the free market shambles we have now. And no, mixed economies are not ‘Communist’, ‘Trotskyist’ or ‘far left’. The real Communists and Trotskyists hated it as a form of capitalism, just as they hated reformist socialist parties like Labour.

But Starmer’s leadership is pledged to propping up the same wretched free market capitalism. Which is why I really feel there should be a mass movement driving home the point, again and again, that Thatcherism is ideologically and economically bankrupt. It is doing nothing but producing chaos in the economy and industry, and poverty and starvation to Britain’s working people. And this poverty will get worse. This is why I’m almost nostalgic for the wretched SWP, as they would have been determined to drive this home. And who knows? Perhaps if they behaved like a reasonable party, they might have gained further support and forced the Labour party to rediscover its socialist heritage in order to head off a challenge from real Communists.

The Axing of the Mash Report Won’t Satisfy the Beeb’s Right-Wing Opponents

March 13, 2021

Mike has report on his excellent blog this morning that Tim Davey, the Director-General of the Beeb, has cancelled Nish Kumar’s The Mash Report on the grounds that it was biased towards the left. Apart from further demonstrating the corporation’s own right-wing bias, it also shows Davey trying to appease the Beeb’s right-wing critics. They’re constantly attacking the Corporation for what they claim is left-wing bias, and demanding its privatisation or the removal of the license fee and its replacement by subscriptions.

Tory threats to privatise the Beeb are nothing new. Thatcher also made much noise in the 1980s about removing the license fee, and there was a debate over whether it should be funded through advertising like ITV. This stopped because most of the British public were against it. Then the Tories did it again under John Major, attacking the corporation for its supposed left-wing bias because Paxo was regularly giving them a mauling on Newsnight. This was accompanied by more threats not to renew the corporation’s charter and privatise it.

But if Davey thinks that axing the Mash Report will appease the Tories, he’s very, very much mistaken. The Tories hate the Beeb for the same reason they hate the NHS: it’s a state-run organisation, and so out of the hands of the media magnates that fund them. Like Rupert Murdoch, who views it as an obstacle to his own domination of the British media and a rival to Sky. Hence the Murdoch mafia have been running the Corporation down and taking every opportunity to attack and vilify it for the past forty years. The Tories also hate the very idea of public service broadcasting and the idea of media impartiality. Any broadcaster that does not support them absolutely is, according to them, terribly biased and an affront to British free speech. It doesn’t matter what Davey does, they will continue to attack the Beeb no matter how many supposedly left-wing presenters and programme he throws to the wolves.

This was shown very clearly in a video right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host Alex Belfield posted up about the Mash Report’s cancellation yesterday. The man dubbed Bellend by some of my commenters claimed that it was cancelled, not because it was left-wing, but because it was unfunny, had low ratings, and was hosted by ‘a box ticker’. This is the term Belfield uses for a Black or Asian person, who he believes has been given a job simply because of their colour rather than talent. Which sounds just a bit racist to me. The Corporation, he claimed, was still full of ‘woke’ lefties.

I never watched the Mash Report and can’t say I’ve seen enough of Nish Kumar to make any comment on him one way or the other. From what I saw of him he seemed pretty much like many of the other comedians the Beeb has had on over the years, neither better nor worse. But the right hated him because he was a Remainer, and dared to show how ridiculous Brexit is and the lies behind it in his act.

This is all about politics, not talent. The Conservatives and their lapdog media are determined to destroy the Beeb regardless, and it won’t matter how hard Davey tries to satisfy them by making it another Tory mouthpiece. The demands for the sacking of allegedly biased presenters, personalities and shows won’t stop with Kumar and the Mash Report.

They’ll continue until the Beeb is privatised and another right-wing broadcaster owned by Murdoch.

Starmer’s Flag-Waving and Fixation on Celebrities Shows Hollowness of New Labour

February 11, 2021

I know this is another piece of old news, which Mike has commented on already but there are a few more things to say about it. A few days ago Mike posted up a piece about an idea from the Labour party about winning more members and votes. This new, exciting strategy for gaining the support of the British public was for Starmer to be seen more with the Union Jack. Yep, Starmer’s leadership, which is already determined to copy Tory economic policies, also wants to follow them and be seen as the party of flag-waving – some critics called it’ flag-shagging’ patriotism.

The Tories have been draping themselves in the flag and waving it at every opportunity just about since they emerged in the late 17th and 18th centuries. Their aggressive projection of themselves as the party of British patriotism became particularly acute under Maggie in the 1980s. Thatcher was deeply inspired by Winston Churchill’s heroic vision of the British people and their history, and so was constantly invoking his memory and legacy. Thus we had Torygraph headlines quoting the Leaderene, screaming ‘Don’t Call Them Booj-wah, Call Them British’, while the spirit of the Battle of Britain was invoked in the Tory 1987 election broadcast. This featured Spitfires zooming about the sky, while an excited voice intoned ‘We were born free. It’s our fundamental right’. It’s a misquotation of the great Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. His book, The Social Contract, one of the first works advocating democracy and a major influence on the French Revolution, begins: ‘Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains’. You can see why Thatcher didn’t want to include the second part of that sentence. Commenting on it on Radio 4’s News Quiz, the late Alan Coren drily called it ‘the Royal Conservative Airforce’ and made the point that all the servicemen, whose memory and sacrifice Thatcher was exploiting all came back and voted Labour. Now Starmer apparently wants to wave the flag as well in order to win over Tory voters.

The new strategy was proposed by a focus group, which were used by Blair’s New Labour to devise party policy, or put the rubber stamp on those the Dear Leader had already decided upon, when the grinning butcher of Iraq was in office. It was part of the Blairite’s centralisation of decision-making, their managerialism and their pointed determination to ignore the demands and recommendations of grassroots members. Now it seems we’re back to the same tired old attitudes and strategies.

Mike and the peeps on Twitter saw past this threadbare strategy immediately. They quoted Dr. Johnson, who said that ‘patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel’. But I remember Jon Downes, the frontman for the Devon band Jon Downes and the Amphibians from Outer Space making another observation: ‘a patriot is a man with nothing left to say’. This was in a song entitled ‘Land of Dopes and Tories’. It was a commented on Major’s Conservative party, which carried on the flag-waving while handing over vast tracts of Britain’s historic landscape to English Heritage, which promptly erected fences around them to keep the British public out, as at Stonehenge. Major’s Tories were ideologically bankrupt. It was Thatcherism with the nasty bits cut off and a marked paucity of ideas. His big notion for galvanising the British public behind his party was a ‘Cones Hotline’. This was a number you could call if you thought their were too many cones clogging up the roads. It’s hardly a grand vision, and was rightly ridiculed by Spitting Image and the rest of the media.

And Starmer’s leadership really doesn’t have any ideas. His policy so far has been to agree with the Tories, then criticise them in retrospect. He seems determined to copy their disastrous economic and social policies of privatisation, including that of the NHS, the destruction of the welfare state, and low wages, just like Blair. The only difference is that Blair and Starmer claimed that they would be able to carry out these Tory policies better than the Tories themselves.

Starmer really, really doesn’t have anything left to say. A fact also confirmed by another recommendation. This was that he should be seen with celebrities. Well, that was another feature of Blairite New Labour, which was also very relaxed, as Peter Mandelson put it, about people getting rich. Hence Blair’s desire to be seen with such celebrity businessmen as Beardie Branson and Alan Sugar. But Mike and the other Twitter peeps pointed out that, thanks to his attack on Corbyn, Starmer might find recruiting other celebs to endorse him difficult. Robert Webb apparently has torn up his Labour membership card.

I realise Angela Rayner also returned to make a speech claiming that Labour was still behind the policies laid out in last year’s election manifesto – nationalised public services and welfare state, strong unions, workers’ rights and so on, but Mike asked the pertinent question of whether you could trust her or him on this issue. And you can’t. They’ve shown repeatedly that they’re not prepared to honour the manifesto.

The flag-waving and celebrity-seeking isn’t going to win over traditional Labour voters, who will see past it. Some may even be repelled by it because of the way the Tories appropriated British patriotism and mixed it with aggressive imperialist nostalgia and xenophobia. And it isn’t going to win over Tories. There is a hard rump of extreme right-wing Tory types, who regard the Labour party as the enemies of Britain. The anti-immigrant YouTube channel, We Got A Problem, refers to asylum seekers and illegal immigrants as ‘imported Labour voters’. There are people who honestly believe the allegation that Blair deliberately encouraged mass non-White immigration to this country to destroy the largely White society at the heart of Tory visions of Britain. The same type of people, who believe that the Jews are also encouraging non-White immigration to destroy the White race, the Kalergi plan and the Great Replacement. These people aren’t going to be won over by Starmer waving the flag. They are, of course, probably not going to vote Labour anyway because of Labour’s avowed commitment of multiculturalism. Blair also waved the flag during ‘Cool Britannia’, but it also included Blacks and Asians along with more traditionally British images to project the view of a new, multicultural Britain. That was two decades ago, and while it impressed many, the super-patriotic right still regard it as some kind of betrayal of British identity through its inclusion of non-White culture. Starmer waving the flag won’t get them to change their political allegiances.

In fact, there is a sense that traditional Labour was and has always been the true party of patriotism. George Bernard Shaw pointed it out years ago in his book The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Capitalism, Socialism, Fascism and Sovietism. He stated that socialists wanted money to be spent here, in Britain, developing its industries and aiding its working people. The Tories, on the other hand, allowed the idle rich to spend their wealth abroad, while undercutting domestic industry with products from the colonies, whose people could be exploited more cheaply. Just like under slavery.

Mike made the point that you could connect British patriotism to a desire for a fairer society where people were supported by a proper welfare state. You could also begin by presenting the Labour party as the party of true British patriotism by saying that it was opposed to the rich hiding their immense wealth away in offshore tax havens, as well as benefiting from tax cuts while the rest of the population have to shoulder the tax burden. Oh yes, and industries that, instead of being owned by the British people, were owned by multinational corporations which simply took their profits without reinvesting in them.

But that would be seen as horribly xenophobic and attacking the free trade and foreign investment the Neoliberals are trying to promote, and so would probably be denounced as horribly racist. Even as the Tories continue to demonise immigrants and asylum seekers.

Will Johnson Quit or Be Forced Out, Once He Has Wrecked the Country For Brexit?

December 15, 2020

Also in Lobster 80 for Winter 2020 is a very interesting piece by Simon Matthews, whose observations about Johnson’s real motives for running for PM and supporting Brexit I discussed in my previous blog post. Matthews has a piece, ‘Time for the Pavilion (or: there are 365 Conservative MPs)’ pondering whether Johnson will either retire as PM or be forced out by angry members of his own party, once he has successfully ruined the country with a hard Brexit.

And Matthews makes some very interesting observations. Johnson’s majority looks impressive, but is actually very fragile. 50 Tory MPs, for example, voted against the imposition of the second national lockdown at the beginning of November. And many of the 80 new MPs forming the Tories’ parliamentary majority actually have very small majorities in their own constituencies. He writes

Secondly, and less remarked upon, Johnson’s majority of 80 is actually quite fragile. No fewer than 78 Conservative MPs have a majority of 5,000 or less, and of these 34 have a majority of 2,000 or less. Indeed,
all the fabled ‘red wall’ seats that Johnson gained are in this category. Any MP in this situation would be aware that it really wouldn’t take much of an electoral swing to oust them.

Also, although the background of the typical Tory MP is privately educated, with a background in the financial sector, think tanks and policy groups, and is strongly anti-EU, there are still 102 Tory MPs who support the European Union.

Finally, and a puzzling anomaly, there are still 102 Conservative MP’s who were pro-EU in 2016. Admittedly, some of these may have been so at that time because it was party policy (i.e. now party policy has changed,
their views will have changed, too); and there will be others who were ‘pro-EU’ on the basis of Cameron’s re-negotiation of 2015-2016. But, nevertheless, amongst those 102 there must be some (40? 50?) who would much rather the UK stayed as close to the EU as possible, including membership of the Single Market, Customs Union and the EEA rather than exit everything, in its entirety.

BoJob’s position is very precarious. If things get very desperate, and the Tory party does decide it wants to form a ‘government of national unity’ in a coalition with Labour and the Lib Dems, it would only take 45 Tory MPs to oust him.

The article then goes to discuss the problems Johnson faces from Brexit, and particularly the challenge it poses to the integrity of the UK, and opposition from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the EU and the Americans, and members of both chambers of parliament. He’s also got severe problems with the Covid crisis, and the havoc this and the consequent lockdown has played with the economy. The sacking of Dominic Cummings could be seen as a warning shot to Johnson from Brady and the party’s donors out in the tax havens, who feel they are being ignored by the PM. But he notes that the donors and corporate backers really don’t seem to have an idea of the massive damage that Brexit will inflict on the UK economy. It will destroy 60-65 per cent of UK manufacturing, and although stockpiling of food and other goods has been going on since 2017, these supplies can only last for so long. So that Britain will return to the food queues of the ’60s and ’70s at the borders.

He makes the point here that the majority of British ports are foreign owned. In footnote 7 he writes

The owners of the UK’s main trading ports are Associated British Ports (owned in Canada, Singapore and Kuwait), Forth Ports (Canada), Hutchison Port Holdings (Singapore), Peel Group (the Isle of Man and Saudi Arabia), PD Ports (Canada) and Peninsular and Oriental Group (complex, but seemingly Dubai, China and Hong Kong). The latter group include P&O Dover Holdings Ltd, which operates most of the ferry services out of Dover, and is owned by the Peoples Republic of China. (The other ferry services at Dover, DFDS, are owned in Denmark). The intention post-Brexit of declaring many UK ports ‘free ports’, when so many can be connected back to tax havens anyway, is striking, and one wonders to what extent the owners of these ports have lobbied for that outcome.

Matthews concludes that Boris is on such shaky grounds that he may well decide to jump before he’s pushed.

The truth is that Johnson can now be ambushed by so many different groupings for so many different reasons, that the chances of him remaining PM after he has delivered the hard Brexit his backers require
must be doubtful. And why would he anyway? He looks bored most of the time and wants money. Leaving Downing Street – and the cleaning up – to others, gives him time to spend with his many different families, time to write his memoirs for a hefty advance, the chance of a US TV show and time to kick on, as all ex-UK PMs do, with earning serious money on the US after-dinner speaking circuit. The possibility that some formula will be devised to facilitate his exit, possibly a supposed medical retirement, looks likely.

After all, he’s been sacked from every job he’s ever had. Why would he wait until he is sacked from this one?

See: Time For the Pavilion (Winter 2020) (lobster-magazine.co.uk)

I found this interesting in that it showed that there is grounds for optimism amongst the gloom. The Tories have a huge majority, but it’s fragile. Very fragile. If Starmer actually got his act together and started behaving like a leader of real opposition party, he could start cutting it down significantly. But he doesn’t, perhaps because, as a Blairite, the only policy he has is stealing the Tories’ and winning the support of their voters, and backers in big business and the Tory media. Hence his silence and his determination to persecute the socialists in the Labour party.

It also shows just how much damage the ‘No Deal’ Brexit Johnson seems determined to deliver will do to Britain. It’s going to wipe out nearly 2/3 of our manufacturing industry. This won’t matter for the Tories or Blairite Labour. Blair took the view that British manufacturing was in decline, and that it could be successfully replaced by the financial sector. This hasn’t happened. Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism argues very clearly that the British and other economies still depend very much on the manufacturing sector. The fact that it appears comparatively small to other sectors of the economy merely means that it hasn’t grown as much as they have. It does not mean that it is irrelevant.

And it also shows once again how this chaos and poverty is being driven by a desire to protect the Tories’ backers in the financial sector, and the foreign companies owning our utilities, as well as the British rich squirreling their money away in tax havens. Shaw pointed this all out in once of his books written nearly a century ago, condemning the way the idle rich preferred to spend their money on their vapid pleasures on the continent, while the city preferred to invest in the colonies exploiting Black Africans instead of on domestic industry. He stated that while the Tories always postured as the party of British patriotism, the opposite was the truth: it was the Labour party that was genuinely patriotic, supporting British industry and the people that actually worked in it.

Shaw was right then, and he’s right now, no matter how the Tories seek to appeal to popular nationalistic sentiment through images of the Second World War and jingoistic xenophobia about asylum seekers. The Tories haven’t backed British industry since Thatcher and Major sold it all off. The only way to build Britain back up is to get rid of her legacy.

Which means getting rid of Johnson, the Tories and Starmer.

Another Lesson from France: How to Maintain a Diverse, Pluralist Press

October 10, 2020

There’s a very interesting passage in Denis MacShane’s 1986 Fabian Society pamphlet, French Lessons for Labour, where he describes how the French have been able to create a diverse and pluralistic press. Apparently it’s the most diverse in Europe with the exception of Sweden. This has been achieved partly through legislation drafted at the country’s liberation during World War II, but which was never enforced, which would have removed newspapers from the ownership of Nazi supporters and collaborators, the nationalisation of the distributors and state subsidization.

In fact, France, partly by design, partly by chance, has the most pluralist press in Europe outside Sweden. The design lies in the laws passed at the liberation in 1944/45 which dispossessed the owners of the right-wing papers which had supported Hitler before 1939 and the Vichy regime after 1940. A right of reply law and, more important, one that nationalised the press distribution agency were also passed. The latter means that left-wing newspapers and magazines are on sale in the most remote parts of France and the distribution censorship which is exercised in Britain by the two main wholesale/retail companies does not exist in France. In addition, the Government subsidises the press with cheap postal tariffs, zero VAT rating and, on occasion, direct subsidy.

The chance lies in the willingness of businessmen or corporations to put up money on left-of-centre newspapers and to support them during periods of low or zero profits. Le Matin, Liberation and the left-wing weekly Le Nouvel Observateur (circulation 400,000) all provide a width of reporting and comments In addition, Le Monde, whose independence is assured by the right of journalists to elect its editor, maintains an objectivity and authority, and an influence because of those two values, which are not automatically hostile to a socialist government. (P. 17).

However, attempts to pass similar legislation to the 1944/5 laws in order to stop the Vichy collaborator Robert Hersant from owning 19 national and provincial papers in 1984 and 1986 was a failure, partly due to a press freedom campaign from the right.

This issue of media ownership and bias is acutely relevant on this side of the Channel as well. Since the 1980s, the press and media in Britain has been owned by a decreasing number of powerful individuals, who may also have other business interests. These individuals, like Rupert Murdoch, have been able to exert oligarchical control of the media, maintaining a strong Tory bias. Media and press bias against Labour was particularly acute during Thatcher’s administration and was certainly a factor in the 1987 general election. It has also been very much in evidence over the past five years, when even supposedly left-wing newspapers like the Mirror, the Guardian and the Observer, ran stories attacking Labour and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as well as the radio and television networks.

Media bias has also partly been responsible for the right-ward movement of the Labour party itself under Tony Blair. Blair was backed by the Murdoch press, and former ministers have said that Murdoch was an invisible presence at every cabinet meeting as Blair worried how his policies would be viewed by the press magnate. He was also able to gain the support of other papers with the exception of the Heil, but continued to hope that he would eventually win over that rag. I think it’s likely that press ownership will become even more restricted if some papers go under due to the Coronavirus lockdown. Even before the lockdown, the Express changed owners as its former proprietor, the pornography Richard Desmond, sold it to the Mirror group.

The willingness of businessmen to support left-wing newspapers is a crucial factor. When the Daily Herald went bust in the 1960s, to be bought by Murdoch and relauched as the Scum, it actually had a higher circulation that many of the other papers. What brought it down was the fact that it was unable to attract advertising. And I’ve encountered censorship by the distributors myself. Way back in the 1980s during the period of glasnost and perestroika introduced by Gorbachev, an English edition of Pravda was briefly available in some British newsagents. This was an exciting time as Gorbachev signed arms limitation treaties with Reagan ending the Cold War, and introduced reforms in the Soviet Union intended to turn the country into a multi-party democracy. I tried ordering it from my local newsagent in Bristol, but was told it was impossible. It was only being carried by one of the two national distributors. The one that served my area simply wouldn’t carry it.

And the newsagent chains can also exercise their own censorship. When it started out, Private Eye was seen as very subversive and viewed with distaste by many people. Many newsagents wouldn’t stock it. And at least one of the newsagents in the ‘ 90s refused to put its edition satirising the public attitude at Princess Di’s funeral on their shelves. When I asked what had happened to it when it wasn’t on sale in my local newsagents, I was told that it hadn’t come in yet. Well, there seemed to be many other newsagents, who hadn’t had it delivered either. After it returned to the shelves a fortnight later, the Eye published a series of pieces, including letters from readers, who’d had similar problems finding a copy, revealing what had actually gone on. One of the newsagents, John Menzies, had objected to the issue and its cover, and so refused to sell it.

Britain would definitely benefit considerably from similar policies towards the press as that of our friends across Le Manche. But I think getting such legislation through would be almost impossible. There were demands for workers’ control of the press in the 1980s, partly as a reaction by journalists on papers bought by Murdoch as he expanded his noxious empire. They were also concerned about editorial control and bias as the press passed into the hands of fewer and fewer owners. Those demands were obviously unsuccessful. Any attempt to pass legislation providing for state subsidisation of left-wing papers would be howled down by the Tory press as interference in press freedom and the state bailing out failing companies in contravention of the Thatcherite doctrine that market forces should be allowed full reign and failing companies and industries should be allowed to go under.

And I can’t imagine any law to deprive former collaborators or supporters of Hitler of ownership of their papers going down at all well with the Daily Mail, which is notorious for its support of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists and articles praising Hitler before the outbreak of the War. John Major in the last days of his administration wanted to pass legislation breaking up Murdoch’s empire, but by that time it was too late – Murdoch had already switched to Tony Blair and the Labour party and Major’s government was in no position to do anything about Murdoch’s pernicious control of the press.

This problem is likely to become more acute if some newspapers fold due to lack of sales during the lockdown and the impact of the internet. Media ownership is restricted enough as it is, without Murdoch trying to destroy the Beeb so that Sky and the other cable/satellite stations can take its place. It may not be too long before Murdoch’s hold on the media becomes a true monopoly. In that event, government action to break it up will become a necessity. But given the uniform opposition it would face from the press, it’s questionable if it would be successful.

Or as governments increasingly ingratiate themselves with the Murdoch press in return for its support, even be considered as an option.