Posts Tagged ‘Leeds’

Samuel Smiles’ Condemnation of the Evils of Laissez-Faire

September 26, 2019

Samuel Smiles was the author of Self-Help, a 19th century manual on how the working classes could escape poverty by helping themselves. He’s been seen as a cornerstone of Conservative values, to whom Maggie Thatcher harked back when she promoted her attack on the welfare state as giving people more self-help. Andrina Stiles’ discusses how Victorian philanthropy is seen by some historians as an attempt to create ‘a docile, subservient working class out of a large, ill-educated and potentially revolutionary mass of people’ and that ‘the whole basis of Victorian involvement in charitable enterprise as an exercise in social control based on Samuel Smiles’ teaching about self-help’ in her book, Religion, Society and Reform 1800-1914 (London, Hodder & Stoughton 1995). But she also states that this view has been challenged by other historians. These argue that while he moderated his views on laissez-faire in later life, he did not believe it adequate to tackle social problems. And she provides as proof a passage from Smiles in which he bitterly condemns it. She writes

But other historians now believe these views to be a travesty of Samuel Smiles’ teaching. Although his book Self-Help was not published until 1859, they point out that its contents had been delivered as a series of lecturers to working-class audiences in Leeds 14 years earlier at a time of social conflict; and that in those lectures Smiles was not preaching quiescence but radicalism. Although he later moderated his political views and came to agree with laissez-faire in economic matters, he never accepted it was the right policy in dealing with social abuses, writing passionately of the need for outside intervention where self-help by the poor was obviously an inadequate remedy:

When typhus or cholera break out they tell us Nobody is to blame. That terrible Nobody… Nobody adulterates our food. Nobody poisons us with bad drink… Nobody leaves towns undrained. Nobody makes thieves, poachers and drunkards. Nobody has a dreadful theory – laissez-faire – leave alone. When people are poisoned with plaster of Paris mixed with their flour ‘let alone’ is the remedy … Let those who can find out when they are cheated. When people live in foul dwellings, let them alone, let wretchedness do its work; do not interfere with death. (p. 98).

So much for Thatcherite ‘Victorian values’. They killed people in the 19th century, and they’re killing them now as the Blairites and the Tories make obtaining welfare benefits for the unemployed and disabled as difficult and humiliating as possible. The result is that over a quarter of a million people are only kept from starvation by food banks, tens of thousands of disabled people have died after being thrown off benefits due to being assessed as fit for work, and there is a chronic housing shortage through Maggie’s determination to sell off council housing and forbid the building of any more.

But the Tories and the Libertarians keep singing the old refrain. Things will be better with more self-help, less state reliance and regulation. Private enterprise and capitalism will make everything better. A few months ago Dave Rubin and Candace Owens of the American right-wing group, Turning Point, tried to convince Brits when they came over to push their vile, outmoded views on this side of the Pond. Libertarianism was devised by extreme right-wing businessmen, most notably the Koch brothers, in order to defend depriving working people of state support and trade union power, whilst enriching big business. It always was close to Nazism. In the 1970s the American Libertarian rag, Reason, even published an issue pushing Holocaust Denial. Over this side of the Atlantic, the Libertarian organisations, like the National Association For Freedom, or the Freedom Association as it became, used to support the South American dictators. This included Paul Staines, of the Guido Fawkes blog, who was a member of one of these societies. One year the guest of honour at their annual dinner was the head of one of Central American dictator Rios Montt’s death squads. When Staines wasn’t out of his head raving with the machine elves on psychoactive chemicals, of course.

Laissez-faire in its Conservative and Libertarian versions brings nothing but poverty, sickness and death to the masses. Smiles knew this and condemned it. But the Thatcherites are still pushing it, because it keeps the poor poor and very much under the control of the rich.

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The Jewish Establishment’s Extension of Control over 19th Century Eastern European Jewish Immigrants

September 26, 2019

There’s a very interesting section in Andrina Stile’s Religion, Society and Reform 1800-1914 (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1995) discussing the challenge the Sephardic Jewish establishment faced in the 19th century from the influx of Ashkenazi Jews fleeing persecution in eastern Europe. The British Jewish community was assimilated, and shocked by the poverty and lack of education of the new immigrants. They therefore tried to assist them and help them to integrate into British society. However, while this assistance was well-intentioned, they were also afraid of the immigrants’ political radicalism. Many of them were Socialists, and they challenged the Jewish religious establishment by setting up independent charities and prayer groups, the chevroth, that acted as alternatives to the established synagogues and centres of Jewish culture and learning. As a result, the Chief Rabbis began a campaign to centralise their power and authority, leading to the establishment of the United Synagogue.

Stiles’ writes

This great influx of immigrants completely destabilised Anglo-Jewry for a while, socially, economically and religiously. The majority of the newcomers were poor and uneducated, used to a life of violence and prone to riot. A campaign of education and training was begun by the Jewish elite, not in an attempt to keep down a potentially dangerous proletariat and maintain the social status quo, but to turn the newcomers into respectable citizens, wean them away from socialist politics and integrate them into existing society. Schools, hospitals and charitable institutions of all kinds were established and adult education was vigorously pursued in the hope of instilling bourgeois values; but the immigrant populations in London, Leeds and Manchester remained stubbornly unwilling to co-operate. Not only was the Hebrew Socialist Union formed in 1875 with the aim of organising workers in the East End of London, but there was also a sudden and spontaneous growth of religious confraternities, chevra. These chevra provided spiritual, social and material comfort for those in need. Groups of ‘poor foreigners’ who could not afford to attend the synagogues, where they were not made welcome, would combine to form the necessary quorum of ten men for worship. In any room they could borrow or rent cheaply they held their own services. However unsalubrious, crowded and uncomfortable, a chevroth ‘supplied them not only with their religion, but with their art and letters, their politics and their public amusements. It was their home as well as the Almighty’s’. The failure of the synagogues to provide for the poor probably explains why, according to the 1851 Religious Census, only 16 per5 cent of Jews attended the official Sabbath service.

The Jewish elite disliked these independent organisations for their religious extremism, their encouragement of class divisions and their radical politics and looked for a way to counter the influence of the chevra. They found it in the development of a strong, hierarchical and centralised religious government under the leadership of the Adler family. Father and son, the Adlers filled the office of Chief Rabbi for 66 years (1844-1911), during which time they gather into their hands complete control of all religious matters. Social affairs were co-ordinate in 1858 by the formation of the Jewish Board of Guardians and the process of centralisation was completed when hitherto autonomous religious congregations were brought together by the creation of the United Synagogue in 1870. (p. 143-44).

This seems to parallel some of the conflict with British, American and western Judaism today over the support for Israel. And it strongly appears to me that right-wing Zionist Jewish establishment in Britain isn’t just frightened about falling support for Israel and its vile colonialist programme of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. They also seem to be very much afraid that the great-grandchildren of the Jewish radicals of the 19th century are rediscovering their Socialist heritage.

David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group has described on his blog how the Board of Deputies of British Jews in the 1980s accused the GLC of anti-Semitism because Ken Livingstone dared to give them a small grant. The Board were infuriated because the JSG wasn’t affiliated to them. Rosenberg himself celebrates the tradition of the Bund, the 19th century eastern European Jewish party, which wished to create a socialist order while remaining in their traditional European homelands. Their motto, in Hebrew, translated as ‘Wherever we are, that’s our homeland’. They wished to be equal, fellow citizens with the gentile peoples with whom they lived. This was completely unacceptable to the Zionists, who were a minority among the eastern European Jewish masses.

Jeremy Corbyn has been bitterly denounced as an anti-Semite for his support of equality and dignity for the Palestinians by the Conservative establishment, including the Blairite ‘moderates’ in Labour itself. And they’ve also accused him and his supporters of being Communists, Trotskyites and Stalinists because they stand for a return to the post-War social democratic consensus. A strong welfare state, a nationalised National Health Service that carries out its commitment to provide universal healthcare free at the point of delivery, and workers’ rights and effective trade unions, are too much for the right-wing establishment, Jewish, gentile or whatever, to tolerate. Among those on the receiving end of this campaign of smears and vilification have been left-wing, Corbyn-supporting Jews, like Jackie Walker. Corbyn has a proud tradition of supporting the Jewish community, as bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political, the Skwawkbox and very many others have shown. And he enjoys the respect and support of part of the Jewish community. This includes the ultra-Orthodox Haridi, whose campaign to preserve their burial ground he and Dianne Abbott supported when the local synagogue wanted to redevelop it. Within the Labour party Corbyn is supported by Jewish Voice for Labour, and he spent Passover with the radical Jewish group, Jewdas. Which sent the Board and the witch-hunters berserk once again. They howled ‘anti-Semitism!’, because he dared to celebrate a Jewish holiday with ‘the wrong sort of Jews’. You know, people who may have seen themselves as in the tradition of the Hebrew Socialist Union, rather than respectable business types.

The Conservative Jewish establishment seems to feel that its power is being challenged, both in terms of foreign policy – support for Israel – and domestically in that there are independent Jewish organisations following left-wing politics. And so these decent people are also smeared as ‘self-hating’, anti-Semitic and ‘the wrong kind of Jews’, just as the Israel lobby as a whole smears anybody, who decries Israeli ethnic cleansing.

Dictator Johnson Unites Country Against Him

September 2, 2019

On Wednesday there were demonstrations against BoJob’s proroguing of parliament the same day as he, or rather, the West Country’s answer to the Slender Man, Jacob Rees-Mogg, persuaded the Queen to sign his wretched order. Even more followed on Saturday, with people marching up and down the country holding banners and placards, making it very clear what Johnson is: a dictator.

Jeremy Corbyn spoke to protesters in Glasgow denouncing BoJob’s decision. The Labour leader also issued a tweet thanking everyone who had taken to the streets both their and across the country, and pledging the Labour party to oppose BoJob’s attack on British democracy and stop a no-deal Brexit.

In London, demonstrators marched on Buckingham palace to make their feelings very known about the Queen’s decision to give in to his demand to assume authoritarian rule. The were also demonstrations in Hereford, Staffordshire, Nottingham, Oxford, King’s Lynn, where the local radio station for West Norfolk, KLFM 967 came down to cover the demo; and in Trafalgar Square in London.

Please see Mike’s blog for the images peeps posted on Twitter of these demonstrations: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/31/britons-take-to-the-streets-across-the-country-to-stopthecoup/

One of the most sharply observed was the banner at the beginning of Mike’s article, showing BoJob wearing a swastika armband and Nazi officer’s cap, flanked either side by the evil clown from Stephen King’s It, with balloons above them showing his and Rees-Mogg’s heads. This bore the slogan ‘Before 1933 People Thought Hitler Was A Clown Too…’. Yes, they did. One of the characters in Bernardo Bertolucci’s cinematic classic, The Conformist, makes that exact same point. The film’s about a man, who becomes a Fascist assassin after believing he has shot and killed the paedophile, who had attempted to assault him. In one scene, one of the characters reminisces how, when he was in Germany in the 1920s, there was a man, who used to go round the beer halls making speeches and ranting. ‘We all used to laugh at him’, the character recalls, and adds that they used to throw beer glasses at him. He then sombrely concludes ‘That man was Adolf Hitler’. And before he came to power, some Germans used to go to his rallies just for the fun of seeing who he would abuse next. Presumably this was in the same manner that people used to tune in to the genuine comedy character, Alf Garnett, although Garnett was very definitely a satirical attack on racism and the bigotry of working class Conservatism. Another banner made the same comparison with the Nazi machtergreifung: ‘Wake Up, UK! Or Welcome to Germany 1933′. Again, this is another, acute pertinent comparison. Everything Hitler did was constitutional, as was Mussolini’s earlier coup in Italy. Democracy collapsed in those countries because of its weakness, not because of the Fascists’ strength. And they were helped into power by right-wing elites in the political establishment, who believed that including them in a coalition would help them break a parliamentary deadlock and smash the left.

Zelo Street also covered the demonstrations against Johnson’s attempt to become generalissimo. The Sage of Crewe noted that not only were people marching in London, and large provincial cities like Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Brighton, but they were also occurring in middle ranking towns like Shrewsbury, Bournemouth, Cirencester, Lichfield, Stroud, Colwyn Bay, Clitheroe, Oxford, Swindon, Middlesborough, Exeter, Southampton, Derby, Weston-super-Mare, Falmouth, Bangor, York, Poole, Leamington Spa. Cheltenham Spa, Chester and others. ‘Places that do not usually do protests’. And the protesters are not, whatever BoJob’s focus groups say, going to vote for him.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/stop-coup-people-speak.html

I doubt that the demonstrations will personally have much effect on Johnson himself. He’s a typical Tory, and so has absolutely nothing but contempt for popular protest. However, the march on Buckingham Palace may have made an impression on the genuine guardians of the British constitution. The monarchy is supposed to be one of Britain’s central institutions, like parliament. Prime ministers come and go, but the monarchy is a central pillar of the British constitution. And its guardians in the British establishment may not take kindly to Johnson dragging the Queen down with him. There may also be some hope in that it was popular demonstrations and dissatisfaction with an unjust policy – the poll tax – that culminated in the removal of Thatcher. I hope it isn’t long before BoJob goes the same way.

 

 

 

Weak and Wobby May Gets Hit with the Mugwumps

April 29, 2017

Which can be very painful, and requires careful treatment.

Mike yesterday put up a piece describing the way the ‘strong and stable’ Tories, led by weak and wobbly Theresa May were disintegrating before our very eyes. This features some cool video and sound clips clearly showing May looking and sounding lost. Literally, in one case, where she really doesn’t know where she is.

Boris Johnson had attacked Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘mutton-headed mugwump’. So when May appeared on his show, Chris Doidge of Radio Derby asked her if she knew what it was. Listen to it. She doesn’t answer him, but immediately answers a completely different question, about how the Tories represent ‘strong and stable leadership’. Thus giving those trying Mike’s Tory election drinking game their first sup of booze of the day.

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable defines the term as

An Algonkin word meaning a chief; in Eliot’s Indian Bible the word “centurion” in Acts is rendered mugwump. It is now applied in the USA to independent members of the Republican party, those who refuse to follow the dictates of a Caucus, and all political Pharisees whose party vote cannot be relief upon. It is also used in the sense of “big shot” or “boss”.

Johnson was probably thinking of this definition to insult Corbyn by reminding him of the way many members of his party had conspired against him. But it’s also something of a Tory own goal, as there’s clearly opposition to her in her own party. Otherwise, why would the Sun have put such bug-eyed headlines as ‘Crush the Saboteurs’ on their front page?

Of course, in the David Cronenberg’s 1991 film of William S. Burrough’s novel, The Naked Lunch, the mugwumps are the weird lizard-like creatures the hero sees, thanks to the hallucinatory effects of the pest poison to which he has become addicted.

A mugwump and friend discuss May’s strong and stable Tory leadership.

Ah, but who knows what rarified pleasures go on behind the closed doors of the Bullingdon Club!

Then there’s the clip of her appealing to people to come to ‘this particular town’. As one of the Tweeters Mike quotes points out, she doesn’t know where she, and isn’t pleased to be there. Another Tweeter also points out that she looks to the right and down, which is a classic ‘tell’ of liars.

Thursday she turned up in Leeds to give a speech at a workplace. Another Tweeter stated that the clip of that, too, is deceptive. She gave her talk after work, to an audience that as exclusively invited. Far from being a great popular speaker, like Corbyn, it’s all very carefully stage-managed.

There’s a comparison to be made there with Stalin and Mussolini. Stalin also wasn’t a great public speaker, contrary to the impression that mad dictators bent on genocide are always great orators. He used to give his speeches at the annual May Day parades via gramophone records, with a very carefully vetted audience as far away from him as possible.

As for il Duce, the old thug was surrounded wherever he went with members of his secret police in plain clothes. Thus he was always guaranteed an appreciative audience to the exclusion of any real members of the public, who may have wanted to see him. At one public gathering, he asked all the plain clothes thugs to take a step back so that he could see the genuine public. Well, they did, and he didn’t: the crowd was entirely made up of secret policemen, like one of the jokes from G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday.

And Nero also surrounded himself with a sycophantic claque of followers, whenever he fancied himself as the great lyric poet at the theatre. He’s infamous for fiddling while Rome burns. Which is a fair analogy for May’s performance in Britain under Tory leadership. She’s also warbling on to a hand-picked claque, posturing as the great orator, while the country collapses in poverty thanks to her party’s massive economic mismanagement and determination to grind working people down through welfare cuts, wage freezes and the privatisation of the NHS.

Demonstrations Across the UK Today Against Trump’s Muslim Ban

January 30, 2017

Mike has put up news that there are going to be mass demonstrations across the UK today against Trump’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim majority countries. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has demanded that Trump’s state visit to Britain should be cancelled. And, almost predictably, Theresa May has failed to say very much about it. She has asked Boris Johnson and the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to raise the issue of the travel ban with their opposite numbers in the US administration. But this seems to be less than altruistic. She’s not worried about the ban on Muslims going to the US so much as how it would affect the Tory MP, Nadhim Zahawi.

The demonstration in London is due to be held this evening at 6.00 pm outside Downing Street. There are also demos in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Falmouth, Glasgow, Hastings, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Preston in Lancashire, Sheffield and York. The demos are organised by Momentum, but people of other views are welcome to join them.

There is also a petition currently being compiled against a state visit by Trump to the UK, which people may also wish to sign. And Mike has also suggested that those with a Tory MP may also like to write to them in protest about it, using the tools provided by Write To Them for creating such messages.

For further information, please go to Mike’s website, where there are appropriate links to the internet pages of the organisations mentioned.

Mike’s article also has a few Tweets from those disapproving May’s silence on this critical issue. One of them is Gary Lineker, wondering when May’s going to speak out. The other is Hugh Terry, who aptly describes May as not a prime minister, but a ‘fascist apologist arms dealer disguised as a rancid old school-marm!’ Which is an accurate description of May, and indeed, of that great, golden Tory icon, Maggie Thatcher.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/29/join-demonstrations-across-the-nation-january-30-2017-against-trumps-muslimban/

Vox Political: Israeli Embassy also Conspired to Oust NUS President

January 11, 2017

Al-Jazeera’s sting of Shai Masot, the chief political officer at the Israeli embassy, continues to get some extremely embarrassing skeletons out of the closets. As Mike states in his article, the worms are all coming out of the woodwork now.

As part of their investigation into the covert influence of the Israeli embassy, the news channel sent one of the their undercover reporters, ‘Robin’, to pose as a pro-Israel activist seeking the embassy’s advice on how to combat the BDS movement. This is the campaign which urges people to boycott, divest and sanction Israeli companies and products from the occupied Palestinian territories. The journo secretly recorded Masot and Maria Strizzolo, an aid to the current head of education, Halfont, talking about ‘taking down’ the Tory MP, Alan Duncan. Duncan’s a fierce opponent of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and their illegal settlements there. Hence the hostility to him by the Israelis.

‘Robin’ also recorded himself talking to the vice president of the National Union of Students, Richard Brooks, who was introduced by Masot as the head of Young Labour Friends of Israel. Brooks states that he had accepted a trip to Israel, organised by the Union of Jewish Students. He and ‘Robin’ then talk about removing from office the head of the NUS, Malia Bouattia. Mike asks in his article whether the Union of Jewish Students is also to be considered an Israeli embassy front organisation.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/11/revealed-nus-official-colluded-with-israeli-embassy-to-oust-student-leader-middle-east-eye/

Actually, it’s a good question. The Union’s pro-Israel stance, and it’s influence in the Labour won’t surprise readers of the parapolitical website and journal, Lobster, which has covered it and its connections to the Blairites. It’s also questionable how representative of Jewish students the Union actually is. I recall that polls have stated that 75 per cent of British Jews have said that Israel was important to their identity. But that still leaves 25 per cent of British Jews, who have little or no interest or feelings of connection to the country. Where does the Union’s Zionism leave them? Many of those smeared as anti-Semites in the Labour party were Jews, or those of Jewish heritage, like Jackie Walker, whose partner is Jewish, and who has sent her daughter to a Jewish school. She and they were smeared because they dared to criticise Israel and thus, according to the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by Netanyahu and his Zionist collaborators, were anti-Semites. Even when they opposed racism and anti-Semitism.

Even those 75 per cent of Jews, for whom Israel is important to their identity, may not be safe from these allegations. The campaign against the construction of the illegal settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes includes Israelis, and foreign Jews of Israeli heritage. Rabbis have laid down in front of bulldozers and of the two parties that exist in Israel to defend and represent Palestinians, one is open to Israelis as well as Arabs. Most American Jews, according to polls cited in the chapter on modern Israel in The Modern Middle East, edited by Albert Hourani, believe in a two-state solution. One of the people critical of George Dubya and the Neocons featured in the book Bushwhacked!, which is a very critical treatment of the policies of the former US president, is an American Jewish businessman, who really does put his money where his mouth is and gives equally to Israeli and Palestinian causes. Netanyahu and the rest of his ghastly right-wing coalition have made it extremely clear they have no interest in a two-state solution, no matter how they may piously invoke it. With a leadership keen to see the Palestinians further robbed of their land and expelled, the Jewish student who opposes these policies is therefore in a potentially precarious situation. Their views are likely to make them extremely unwelcome to the Union’s leadership.

This is a potentially very dangerous situation. The all too genuine anti-Semites of National Action, an explicitly Nazi ‘youth’ organisation, have stated that they intend to recruit on university campuses. I can’t see them being very successful, myself. Universities are keen to present themselves as centres of anti-racism and diversity, and student politics has traditionally been concerned with these issues. Some of us can still remember the case in the 1980s when one member of the NF or similar Fascist party, Patrick Harrington, had it made it very clear to him by his fellow students that he was definitely not welcome on campus. They pointedly turned their backs on him. And Hope Not Hate, the anti-racist, anti-religious extremist organisation, reported that one of the leaders of National Action had had to leave Leeds University because of his vile political views.

Nevertheless, National Action still wants to recruit on universities. Matthew Collins in his book, Hate, which describes his inglorious career amongst the Far Right, has a chilling passage where he describes the chaos and intimidation one of the Fascist groups to which he belonged inflicted on one of the London unis when someone arranged for them to meet there. And back in the 1980s I did hear stories of Fascist gangs coming on to university grounds in some of the northern unis to pick fights with the Muslim students. Clearly, Jewish students do need to be protected from potential attack. But the extreme Zionist bias of the Union of Jewish Students suggest that any non- or anti-Zionism students will not be welcome in it, or the protection it could potentially offer.

Shock! Horror! Cadaverous Author of Macabre Novels Calls Slumlords What They Are! Channel 4 Newsreaders Amazed!

October 5, 2013

It’s been an interesting week for the Coalition and their supporters receiving a drubbing by journalists. Mike, over at Vox Political, has put up a good piece about the way Mehdi Hassan demolished Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail on Question Time. Hassan had rebutted Letts’ arguments by asking who the person, who really hated Britain was: Miliband senior, a Jewish immigrant, who fought for his country, or the Daily Mail. This is the newspaper, he reminded us, that insinuated that Stephen Gately’s death was somehow due to his homosexuality, attacked Danny Boyle for including a mixed race couple in the Olympic Games opening spectacle, called Olympic champion Mo Farah a ‘plastic Brit’, despises immigrants and Muslims, and seeks to undermine the NHS.

Last night, Have I Got News For You also laid into the Daily Heil. They covered the Mail’s slander of Ralph Milliband. Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye naturally showed the Mail’s hypocrisy by pointing out its pro-Nazi past, complete with its headlines screaming ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ and opinion piece praising Nazi Germany and dismissing the allegations of Nazi atrocities. Hislop also pointed out that Paul Dacre, the Mail’s editor, also showed a signal lack of patriotism, as he did not pay any tax to his country, avoiding it through a complex network of offshore companies based in the Bahamas. He also said that it was a bit rich for Dacre to accuse others of totalitarian sympathies, considering that Dacre’s own staff call him ‘Mugabe’ because he’s ancient, won’t retire and despises the opposition.

The day before this, on Thursday, Channel 4 covered the brilliant state of the housing market under the Coalition in an investigatory feature entitled ‘Generation Rent’. It showed that the present, younger generation have little chance of getting on the housing ladder due to the lack of properties being built. This was due to the recession. Mortgages on the properties that were available were exorbitantly high, so that most young people simply cannot afford them. They were thus forced to rent. This also was difficult and expensive, due to a lack of affordable properties. Many of the homes and flats were aimed at the affluent, not ordinary peeps wanting a roof over their head. The programme talked to a number of landlords, as well as tenants forced to rent due to property prices. Among the landlords interviewed was one, who bought properties simply to rent out to other landlords.

The programme’s guest commentator for this section of the programme was Will Self, the cadaverous novelist, whose grisly works include Great Apes and How The Dead Live, as well as other tales of mayhem, mutilation, perversion and horror. Self’s own private life has supplied much newspaper copy in its time. He was for years a drug addict, whose finals in philosophy while a student at Oxford were interrupted by his arrest for the chemicals. One newspaper also printed a long, spurious story in which it was alleged that the master of the modern macabre had found the company of John Major so insufferably dull while sat next to him on a plane trip, that he resorted to heroin to liven the journey up. Self’s clean of drugs now, and like that other master of the extreme and transgressive, his friend, J.G. Ballard, Self lives in bourgeois domesticity with his wife and child.

He’s probably not the best person to provide a sympathetic view of the housing market and industry. A year or so back the roof of Self’s own house collapsed, and he duly appeared on the News talking about the incident. When Snow asked him what he thought about the issue, Self described the landlord, who rents to other landlords as a ‘rackman’. Snow blanched at this. No doubt with the spectre of Outraged of Tunbridge Wells writing in to denounce yet more Channel 4 left-wing bias, he said that Self could say it, but they couldn’t. Self’s reply was short, ‘I don’t know – I don’t think it’s actionable.’

But Self’s description is accurate. It precisely describes the situation many young people now face, in which they cannot afford to buy, and the rents on those properties they can afford are raised so that they eat up a progressively larger proportion of their income.

What also was not remarked on the programme was that this situation had created a further potential for racial/ nationalist friction. One of the developers interviewed was Francis Liu, a Chinese businessman, who specialises in the construction of one-room apartments. These combine bathroom, living room and bedroom in the same space in a kind of even smaller bedsit. They look horrendous, like Bruce Willis’ cramped home in the Fifth Element, but without Moebius’ and Besson’s visual flair and style. Channel 4’s reporters interviewed some British people, who were forced to live in them now, because that’s all they could afford. Liu’s apartments weren’t particularly cheap at £70 a week. They were also aimed at foreign investors from the Far East. This looks to me like a recipe for danger.

Globalisation and Neo-Liberal economics has succeeded in creating a trans-national elite that have more in common with each other, than with the citizens of their countries of origin. Hence all over the world there’s a growing indifference to the plight of the poor by the super-rich. Mass immigration, as populations from the Developing World move to the developed West and North in search of jobs and better opportunities, is already a major political issue. It has led to the rise of far-Right movements across Europe, like the Golden Dawn in Greece, and increasingly harsh anti-immigrant measures in Italy and elsewhere. It is also not only Western culture that has racist elements. There is also racism in Chinese culture. I can remember finding in Waterstone’s in Bath nearly two decades ago a large, hardback academic book on Chinese Racism. One of the Chinese students I knew at university told me a few years ago that he was horrified at the level of anti-Western prejudice and hatred in his country. Some of this hatred is due to the immense feeling of humiliation felt by the Chinese at their defeat in the Opium Wars, and the division and virtual colonisation of their great nation by the European powers.

The racist and nationalist Right in Britain and the rest of the world is motivated by resentment at the way foreigners are, or are perceived to be, given preferential treatment to the indigenous, host population. The Daily Mail and other right-wing tabloids have frequently attacked the government’s immigration service for accommodating asylum-seekers in luxury housing. With Liu and developers like him building properties mainly or exclusively for rich foreigners from the Far East, then it’s easy to see how this might enrage the existing, poorer local population, excluded from this luxury market. Liu was building his properties in Leeds, which I think may also have suffered from the effects of poverty and unemployment resulting from Thatcher’s decimation of British industry. The local population likely to be priced out of properties like Liu’s is not only White, but also Black and Asian, including families of Chinese descent, who’ve been British since coming here in the 19th century. Years ago I read a book on Japan by a Times journalist. He noted the resentment and controversy that had erupted in Australia when Japanese developers began building luxury beach complexes, which were to be owned solely by the Japanese. The construction of luxury rented properties, aimed at the Far Eastern rich, threatens to create similar tension and conflict over here.

Regardless of their ethnic origins, the landlords taking advantage of the current housing market to raise rents to ludicrous levels are Rackmans, has Self described them. It’s another example of how the Coalition’s policies are increasing the gap between rich and poor in the name of liberalisation.