Posts Tagged ‘Lancashire’

Private Eye on Parliamentary Committee Scrutinizing Arms Trade

March 11, 2016

I found this piece in Private Eye for the 15th-28th November 2013 reporting the questioning of representatives of the arms trade by a parliamentary committee in that issue’s ‘Called to Ordure’ column. It’s still relevant now, after nearly three years, because of the way we are still selling arms to brutal, anti-democratic regimes like Saudi Arabia.

Please don’t call them “missiles” or “landmines”, and certainly not “tools of military repression”. They are, according to the arms trade, “goods”, and the foreign regimes that buy them are “the ultimate end users of the goods”.

So heard MPs more than once when Westminster’s arms export controls select committee took evidence from four “defence exporters” (to use another euphemism). Unofficial leader of this genteel quartet was middle-aged Brummie called David Hayes from the Export Group for Aerospace and Defence, a trade lobbying group which uses the acronym Egad. Egad, indeed.

Alongside Hayes: arms-trade consultant Michael Bell; Susan Griffiths from weapons manufacturer MBDA; and Bernadette Peers, from the Strategic Shipping Company, a company name so bland you might believe it was exporting nothing more dangerous than cauliflowers to the Canaries.

MPs noted that government reporting on arms dealers has been reduced, Whitehall’s Export Control Organisation (ECO) now doing only an annual report of statistics instead of the quarterly updates it used to offer. The people from Egad were breezily unconcerned by this, insisting it made no difference. Hayes said there was a “very, very low risk” that less frequent reporting of special arms-sale licences wold be detrimental to transparency.

Three critics of the arms trade also gave evidence. Roy Isbister, from conflict-reduction group Saferworld, said that the reduction in ECO’s reports had come as “a bombshell”. You can say that again, Roy. Several bombshells, really, packed and ready for shipping. Oxfam had sent along one Martin Butcher. With that surname, shouldn’t he have been on the other side of the argument?

Committee chairman Sir John Stanley (Con, Tonbridge & Malling) wondered if the arms dealers were concerned about “extra-territorial” prosecutions, under which a British arms trader may be guilty of wrongdoing if he or she breaks British law while abroad. Bell was most aggrieved by this. “We have reservations of principle!” he declared, this peddler of munitions with a highly-tuned sense of ethics.

Extra-territorial prosecutions meant that a business executive would be “subject to two jurisdictions for the same actions” and that offended Bell’s strong sense of morality. Bell also had “reservations of practice” because “the only people who suffer are the compliant”.

Richard Burden (Lab, Birmingham Northfield) noted that the United States had recently relaxed its arms-trade licence requirements, meaning US weapons manufacturers can now export pretty much willy-nilly to 36 countries where they would previously have faced greater government checks. Hayes argued that with one of these countries being Turkey, “American exporters are at a clear advantage over UK exporters”. Western government might want to beware, because it was hard to know who would be “the ultimate end user of the goods” in an arms deal. Interesting to hear an arms trader make this argument; it is usually heard from the peaceniks.

Bell pointed out that one of the countries covered by the US’s new, looser rules is Argentina. Uh oh. The MPs went a rather greeny-grey tinge. The tension was relieved only when Ann Clwyd’s mobile trilled into life at high volume with a Gangnam-style ringtone. Clwyd (Lab, Cynon Valley) didn’t know how to turn the device off and had to leave the room to take the call. Good to see the arms trade being scrutinised by such tech-savvy legislators.

The meeting was not just about multi-million pound weapon systems. The committee heard about the enthusiastic exporting of machetes, police whips, handcuffs and sjambok-style truncheons to troubled countries, where, presumably, democracy-hungry protestors can draw comfort from being gored, whacked and manacled by “goods” made in Blighty.

Surprise, surprise, the kingdom of GCHQ (and, er, the late News of the World) is also a world-leader in producing “anti-privacy equipment” as Stanley put it. Isbister flourished statistics about how arms licences to the Middle East recently have, er, rocketed and now form half our arms exports. Perhaps it is no wonder the government was so keen to life the arms embargo on Syria and why it has given “priority market” status to Libya, despite that country’s alarming political instability.

Mike Gapes (Lab, Ilford South) had unearthed statistics on gun exports. These included 24,000 assault rifles, 9,000 rifles, 1,000 “super rifles” and 3,000 “sporting guns” to places such as Sri Lanka, the Seychelles and the Maldives. I say, Jeeves: how is the grouse shooting in the Maldives this season?

These guns were exported without much paperwork because they were listed as being required for “anti-piracy” purposes. Gapes suggested that “some of these weapons might be diverted to othe5r purposes than anti-piracy”. Surely not! Sir Malcolm Bruce (Lib Dem, Gordon) said that some 40,000 firearms had been shipped from Britain under the anti-piracy label and wondered if “there is a danger a perfectly genuine concern about piracy could be a cover for getting more weapons” sold to foreign governments.

Oliver Sprague from Amnesty International was worried that such weapons were often sold to countries where there was not much “human rights training”. Human rights training? Perhaps that can become the next growth area for British exports.

With the Middle East now forming over half the market for British arms exports, this explains why David Cameron was so keen to boast about having sold ‘wonderful things’ to Saudi Arabia and places like it in his visit to the BAE plant in Wharton, Lancashire.

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Vox Political: Tories Want to Leave EU to Scrap Workers’ Rights to Paid Holidays

March 1, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political on Sunday posted up a piece reporting that Angela Eagle, Labour’s shadow business secretary, had warned on the Andrew Marr show that many Tories wanted Britain to leave the EU, so they could scrap the various workers’ rights that were written into EU law. These include equal pay for men and women, rights for part-time workers, and the right to paid holidays. Mike concurs, stating that she’s ‘absolutely right on this’.

Tories want to quit EU to “scrap workers’ right to paid holiday”

She is. Very much. UKIP’s leadership is drawn very much from the ranks of the Conservative extreme right, and the hate workers’ rights with a passion. It’s a passion they also share with those organs of the embittered chattering classes, the Daily Heil and the Express. The Mail, for example, has ranted on against the maternity and paternity leave, because of the financial burden this places on businesses. It’s argued that it should be scrapped because maternity leave makes it expensive to employ women, who are then likely to get time when they get pregnant. In addition to paying to support them, the company also has to pay another, temporary worker, to do her job.

As well as UKIP, the Tories and Lib Dems a few years ago were also discussing the possibility of removing the right to paid holidays. Mike put up several pieces about this on his blog. This should tell you how reactionary the Tories are, as the legislation giving employees the right to a paid holiday dates back to the late Nineteenth century. As well as harming workers, the scrapping of this right will, needless to say, damage the tourism industry, including Britain’s own. Resorts like Blackpool came to the fore in the 19th century due to the legislation giving workers the right to paid holiday. Blackpool, for example, thrived because it became the holiday centre for industrial workers from the Lancashire textile industry. Before then, resorts such as the various spas, like Bath and Tunbridge Wells, were places where the wealthy and aristocratic came to take the waters. I don’t think the poorer sections of society could afford to visit them, although they certainly did attract their fair share of customers and patrons from all over Europe.

Presumably, this is what the Tories want to return to. An early Nineteenth-century Britain, where the workers just slave away all day long for the factory masters, without sickness or holiday pay, where only the rich are able to take holidays, safe from the danger of mixing with the great unwashed.

Hillary Clinton Sold Arms to Saudi War Criminals

February 27, 2016

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece about Cameron’s visit to a BAE aircraft factory in Warton, Lancashire, in which he boasted about selling ‘brilliant things’ to Saudi Arabia. He felt this was a matter of pride. Mike pointed out that in fact it was a disgrace, as these weapons are being used by the Saudis to kill civilians in what the United Nations has described as possible war crimes.

In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski similarly marks out Hillary Clinton for criticism and opprobrium. Clinton, as Secretary of State, approved a $29.4 billion weapons deal to Saudi Arabia, which supplied them with American arms, including warplanes made by Boeing. These have been indiscriminately used by the Saudis in Yemen, to kill civilians as well as military targets. 2,800 civilians have been killed. Among the casualties have been rescue workers and taxi drivers, for example. The places hit have included three hospitals run by Medecins Sans Frontieres, a wedding hall, and a chamber of commerce. The Saudis aren’t targeting just Houthi rebels, but are actively engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Shi’a Muslims.

Clinton pushed very hard for the arms sales, and the reasons weren’t just because the Saudis were America’s allies. Both Boeing and Saudi Arabia made contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and Boeing has also financially supported Hillary’s current presidential campaign. Kulinski states that Hillary’s probably the worst candidate, as she has multiple fronts for corruption. Donors can give directly to her campaign. She also raises money through her Super-PAC. Neither of these are particularly remarkable, as many other politicians have them. Bernie Sanders does not, to his credit, have a Super-PAC. Hillary has got an income through speech-making. He states that Clinton will give a speech to Goldman Sachs telling them they’re oppressed, take $675,000 for doing so, and then, of course, once she gets in the White House, of course she’s going to be returning the favour. She also has another income stream from the Clinton Foundation, which takes not only money from rich corporate donors, but also from other countries and governments around the world. Including what Kulinski describes, entirely justifiably, as ‘the Salafi terror state’.

He makes the point that the Saudis are indeed an Islamic fundamentalist terror state. They are very hard-line, fundamentalist Muslims, who share much of their interpretation of Islam with ISIS. And they have actively funded Islamist terrorism. Private emails leaked from when this deal was finalised in 2011 show Clinton and her supporters hailing the deal as ‘good news’ and ‘not a bad Christmas present’.

Kulinski therefore makes the excellent point that Hillary has no business whatsoever stating that ISIS is the major threat to America, when she has sold arms to Saudi Arabia, itself an oppressive Salafi regime, and which has funded terrorism, including 9/11.

Vox Political on Cameron’s Boasting about Selling Arms to Saudi Arabia

February 26, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has a report from the Guardian about Cameron boasting about his arms sales to Saudi Arabia on a visit to the BAE Systems factory in Warton, Lancashire. He did so on the same day that the European Parliament voted for an arms embargo because of the country’s indiscriminate killing of civilians in Yemen. Mike in his comments says that Cameron simply doesn’t appear to understand why selling arms to these people is wrong. It is, according to Mike, the most indictment of him.

David Cameron boasts of ‘brilliant’ UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia

Mike’s right: this is truly scandalous. The Saudi regime has been condemned by a number of international bodies for its bombardment in Yemen. This has included the indiscriminate killing of civilians in what has been cautiously described as possible war crimes. In addition to killing Houthi rebels, the Saudis have also targeted Shi’a mosques, destroyed four hospitals operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres. They’ve also destroyed factories and even taxi drivers. The weapons dropped include cluster bombs, which remain to kill and mutilate in former war zones long after the war has actually stopped. They’re still a real problem in the former Yugoslavia, where people are still being killed and maimed by them, or at least they were a few years ago, long after the war in Bosnia and Kosovo officially ceased. International observers have stated that Saudi Arabia’s campaign in the Yemen looks very much like an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Shi’a. By selling the country arms, Cameron is making Britain complicit in their crimes against humanity.

And Saudi Arabia has also funded terrorism, including al-Qaeda and ISIS, under its head of intelligence, Prince Turki al-Faisal. They’ve had something of a volte-face since then, after ISIS told the Saudis that they were next and issued an ultimatum urging its people to rise up. Nevertheless, we have no business arming a state which, while claiming to represent peace and stability in the region, actually gives aid and succour to our enemies.

The arms trade to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere is extremely lucrative. I’ve blogged elsewhere that Cameron has sold weapons to autocratic states, and countries like South Africa, which have neither need for them, nor the ability to maintain them properly. It’s simply Cameron lining the pockets of the ‘merchants of death’.

Most telling is the childish joy in which he described the arms and warplanes sold as ‘brilliant things’. It reminds me of a spoof of a NATO general way back when I was a lad in the early 1980s. It was on a sketch show called End of Part One. That particular skit was about a British general going to buy nuclear warheads, rather like a young boy trying to buy fireworks, and saying really childish comments like, ‘I want that one. It goes ‘whizzzzzz”, and throwing a tantrum when they don’t have those he wants in stock. The sketch was directed at Britain’s military establishment at the time when Thatcher’s and Reagan’s new Cold War was at its height, and there were real fears that a nuclear war was about to break out. CND was on the rise again, and so the sketch attacked Britain’s generals and its supposed nuclear deterrent as literally puerile warmongers, intent on seeing big bangs without any thought of the consequences, the mass death and mutilation these weapons cause. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the sketch, as it seemed a mite too simplistic. And besides, it simply wasn’t funny or very subtle. On the other hand, it does describe part of Cameron’s attitude and rhetoric here.

David Cameron boasts of ‘brilliant’ UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia

Cameron’s a disgrace, a wannabe dictator over here, and the enabler of autocrats and dictators around the world through the arms trade.

Vox Political: Tories Slash Police Funding until No Longer Able to Fight Crime

November 4, 2015

This is another story from Vox Political, based on a report from the Mirror. Six regional police and crime commissioners, for Devon and Cornwall, Thames Valley Forces, Merseyside, Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire, as well as Stephen Greenhalgh, London Deputy Mayor for policing, have written a letter to Tory policing minister, Mike Penning, complaining of cuts to their budget. They fear that the cuts will seriously prevent them from doing their job of solving and protecting the public from and crime. The group has stated that the cuts have meant that Lancashire will lose “almost all of its proactive crime fighting and crime prevention capacity by 2020.”

In response, Penning has come out with the usual Tory rubbish that their policies are working, and crime is falling. It’s what they always say. And I’m always sceptical, as the government is nearly always manipulating the figures when it says this. The Tories attacked New Labour when they were in power, for allegedly altering the statistics so that certain crimes weren’t counted or reported, and this practice has gone on since they got into power.

Mike also wonders if this is a ploy to cripple publicly funded policing and encourage the hiring of private security forces instead?

His article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/04/first-doctors-now-police-tories-seem-determined-to-halt-all-public-services-by-christmas/

This is a very good question. I can remember as far back as Maggie Thatcher and John Major, the Tories were looking forward to a Britain, where policing would be done by private security firms hired by individual neighbourhoods. There was an article back then in the Mail on Sunday going on about how wonderful this, and similar Tory ideas were, and how they would be put it into practice if women had the majority of seats in parliament. It’s a Libertarian/ Anarcho-Capitalist idea which ultimately goes back to Rothbard in America. Among his ideas was that justice could be improved if the courts were privatised. This would work, he believed, as even hardened criminals would accept the need for abiding by the decisions of a recognised fair and impartial court, and so the private-enterprise court with the best judge would establish itself as the most widely accepted source of justice.

It’s such a whacky idea that not even the Tories have taken it on board, despite having adopted so much else from the Libertarian New Right. But, it seems, they still support the idea of private police forces, as used in places like South Africa.

The Mail on Sunday’s article was a cynical attempt to drum up support for Tory ideology amongst women. The Daily Mail has always positioned itself as female-friendly paper, despite the fact that Conservative reforms, going back to Maggie Thatcher herself, have always hit women the hardest. Traditionally, women have always worked at the poorest paid and most insecure jobs, quite apart from the pressures of fulfilling their traditional roles as homemakers, looking after the house and bringing up children – state aid for which has persistently and continually been cut by the Tories, along with reforms and state institutions to give women a better chance at competing successfully with men in the workplace.

This is another ‘reform’ that could leave women feeling particularly vulnerable. I think if you look at the statistics, you find that men are most likely to be the victims of crime, or violent crime. However, women in particular feel especially worried about it. One explanation, I believe, for them not suffering as much as men is that they are more careful about their personal safety because of their greater concerns about attack and violence.

It wasn’t so long ago that the Tories posed as the party of law ‘n’ order, staunchly supporting the police against the forces of crime. Especially if it was left-wing crime, done by the unemployed, trade unions, Blacks, gay people and all the other groups they didn’t like, and who Maggie decided were ‘not one of us’. Like the miners. Indeed, one very senior policeman – it may even have been the Chief Constable – declared that Maggie used them as her private army during the Miners’ Strike.

Well, no more. The Tories have decided to cut the police force, just as they have forced through swingeing cuts to the armed forces and so much of the rest of the economy. All with a view to improving efficiency, which is the usual excuse.

And the dominant idea amongst the Tories is that private enterprise is always better, even when it is not. As the armed forces have been cut back, private armies have expanded, and are being used in Iraq. When I was at school we were taught that private armies had been made illegal since the victory of Henry VII at Bosforth Field back in 1485. It was Henry VII, who laid the foundations for the modern, centralised British state by outlawing the barons’ ability to form private armies composed of their personal retainers – their affinity, as their retinues were known at the time.

This unfortunately came back under Tony Bliar. And with that precedent in mind, unfortunately it does seem all too credible that the Tories do want to see the police reduced and partly replaced by private security firms.

In the meantime, despite the rubbish spouted by Penning, people will be left at greater risk of crime by these cuts. Except for the rich, who like their counterparts in South Africa, will have the money and influence to purchase protection with private security firms.

Tunes for Toilers: A Political Christmas Carol, Part 2

May 26, 2014

Peterloo Massacre

George Cruikshank’s Cartoon, Manchester Heroes, attacking the Peterloo Massacre of 1819.

Yesterday I put up the sheet music to the 19th century ballad, A Political Christmas Carol, from Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England. Unfortunately, I hadn’t noted the words when copying down the tune, so I had little idea of what it was actually about. Jess has kindly filled me in on this, pointing out that it’s by the radical journalist, William Hone. It attacks Lord Castlereagh, the prime minister responsible for the Peterloo Massacre, in which a crowd gathered to listen to the radical politician, ‘Orator’ Hunt, were charged by the a group of Hussars as a seditious mob. It also prompted Shelley to write his bitter attack on Castlereagh and the Conservative social order, The Mask of Anarchy. She states

You are almost certainly referring to this piece by William Hone, published, with an illustration by George Cruikshank, in 1820

“God rest you, merry Gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember we were left alive,
Upon last Christmas day,
With both our lips at liberty
To praise Lord C———h
With his ‘practical’ comfort and joy!

He ‘turn’d his back upon himself’
And straight to ‘Lunnun’ came,
To two two-sided Lawyers
With tidings of the same,
That our own land must ‘prostrate stand’
Unless we praise his name –
For his ‘practical’ comfort and joy!
‘Go fear not’ said his L——p
‘Let nothing you affright
‘Go draw your quills, and draw five Bills,
‘Put out yon blaze of light;
‘I’m able to advance you,
‘Go stamp it out then quite –
‘And give me some “features” of joy!’

The Lawyers at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their friends a staring
To go and raise the wind,
And straight went to the Taxing-men
And said ‘the Bills come find –
‘For “fundamental” comfort and joy!’

The Lawyers found majorities
To do as they did say,
They found them at their mangers
Like oxens at their hay,
Some lying, and some kneeling down,
All to L—d C———h
For his ‘practical’ comfort and joy!

With sudden joy and gladness
Rat G-ff—d was beguiled,
They each sat at his L——p’s side,
He patted them and smiled;
Yet C-pl-y on his nether end,
Sat like a new born Child, ­-
But without either comfort or joy!

He thought upon his Father,
His virtues, and his fame,
And how that father hoped from him
From glory to his name,
And, as his chin dropp’d on his breast,
His pale cheeks burn’d with shame: –
He’ll never more know comfort or joy!

Lord C———h doth rule yon House,
And all who there do reign;
They’ve let us live this Christmas time –
D’ye think they will again?
They say they are our masters –
That’s neither here, nor there:
God send us all a happy new year!”

Also cited here
http://ruthmather.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/a-political-christmas-carol/
From Roy’s book

It is directed against Castlereagh, the target of Shelley’s ‘I ‘Mask of Anarchy’, and the butt of countless contemporary radical poets.

“The Mask of Anarchy
(Written on the occasion of the massacre at Manchester.)
“As I lay asleep in Italy
There came a voice from over the Sea,
And with great power it forth led me
To walk in the visions of Poesy.

I met Murder on the way—
He had a mask like Castlereagh—
Very smooth he looked, yet grim ;
Seven blood-hounds followed him :

All were fat ; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.

Next came Fraud, and he had on,
Like Lord Eldon, an ermined gown ;
His big tears, for he wept well,
Turned to mill-stones as they fell.”
……..
http://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/Classic%20Poems/Shelley/the_mask_of_anarchy.htm

Castlereagh’s part in Lord Liverpool’s administration, along with Sidmouth, made him universally loathed.

Twenty years later Chartists would denounce the regime that gave the country Peterloo and Oliver the Spy. So hated was the government of the time that several armed insurrections were attempted, Spa Fields in 1817, Scotland’s Radical Rising of 1820 (and associated attempts in Lancashire and Yorkshire) along with Cato Street the same year

Shelley, incidentally, was an occasional customer of Clio Rickman, bookseller, printer, radical and close friend of Paine mentioned elsewhere.

Hone and Rickman frequented similar circles, though Rickman was also closer to the various Spenceans in his neighbourhood, forming business partnerships with them occasionally to publish radical ditties.

I might also add that Rickman printed and edited the second, expanded edition, of the first identifiably radical songbook.in 1798.

So, this is another ballad to remember and hum the next time an innocent person is killed or injured by the police, heavy-handedly trying to control a crowd of protesters. Especially as Boris Johnson is now trying to purchase those three water cannon from the Germans. They also suffered massive radical demonstrations in the 1960s and 1970s after a left-wing demonstrator was killed by one.

Cato Street is, from what I can remember, also quite significant from the point of view of Black history. One of the conspirators caught drilling on Spital Fields and prosecuted for preparing to take in an uprising against the government was the mixed-raced son of a West Indian planter and one of his slaves. I’m afraid I really can’t remember the man’s name, but apart from his involvement with the radical Spenceans he had launched a huge debate in the press about the morality of slavery as he denounced the system, which had allowed his father to exploit his mother. I believe he’s one of the Black lives covered in Gretchen Herzen’s book on the history and lives of Black Brits before the abolition slavery, Black England: Life Before Emancipation.

Dictators in their Own Imaginations: Joshua Bonehill and the National Worker Party

April 8, 2014

Tom Pride over at Pride’s Purge today posted a piece about Joshua Bonehill, a would-be Fascist leader with about 24,000 followers on Twitter, including one Brigadier-General John E. Michel. He naturally wondered if Michel’s following of the great dictator was merely due to the military gentleman having a laugh, or something more serious. My guess is that it’s probably the former. And Bonehill himself reminds me of the great British Fuhrer, Lt. Colonel Graham Seaton Hutchinson, the head of the 1930s National Worker Party.

Lt. Colonel Hutchinson claimed that his Fascist party had 20,000 members in Mansfield, with many more stormtroopers spread all over Lancashire and other areas. His organisation had its own journal, the National Worker, which had a print run of hundreds of thousands. In the early 1930s he approached Rotha Lintorn’s Orman’s British Fascists with suggestion that the two be merged into a single movement, the British Empire Fascist Party. The British Fascists have been described by Richard Thurlow in his Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1986 as ‘a cross between a glorified boy scout movement and a paramilitary group’. It was a Die-Hard Conservative quasi-paramilitary organisation, set up to defend the country from the Socialist menace. Despite Orman’s admiration for Mussolini as the man, who had saved Italy from Socialism, she actually seems to have known very little about Italian Fascism.

The British Fascists collapsed in 1935 when it was declared bankrupt after a series of splits. The first was when a group of 100 left to form the National Fascists and a second occurred when several members split to join Mosley’s BUF. There were plans to turn it into an Ulster Loyalist organisation, as well as another to merge it with the Imperial Fascist League. The proposed merger with the National Worker Party collapsed when it turned out that was indeed well named, and that Lt. Colonel Hutchinson was the Worker of the National Worker Party. There doesn’t seem to have been anyone else.

Bonehill’s group seems to be a similar group, whose massed Fascist legions number exactly one. Looking through his website I couldn’t decide whether he was seriously mentally ill, or actually having a post-modern laugh at the expense of the British Far Right. I suspect that most of his followers are doing so for the same reason. A more sobering thought is that he, and some of his followers, might be in deadly earnest.