Posts Tagged ‘Marc Almond’

Starmer Takes Labour to Far Right with Appointment of Yvette Cooper and David Blunkett to Shadow Cabinet

December 1, 2021

Well, Starmer has had his cabinet reshuffle, and as Mike and the good folks on Twitter are saying today, the poor, the unemployed, the disabled and immigrants should beware. Because he’s just made Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary. Cooper previously had the job from 2011 to 2015 when, according to Damian Willey, she was all but invisible except for the times she deigned to give us all the benefits of her views on immigration. In 2014 she denounced Tweezer’s immigration bill as too soft on it, the same bill which caused the illegal deportation of the Windrush migrants. She also wanted to stop immigrants and asylum seekers claiming child benefit for children living abroad, and her voting on immigration is comparable to Priti Patel’s. Daniel Grigg summed up just what her appointment means on this issue: “Nothing says couldn’t give a toss about migrants’ rights more than promoting David Blunkett and Yvette Cooper. So this is Labour now is it?”

The vile woman was responsible for the introduction of the Work Capability Test in 2008. These were subsequently kept in place by those Tory monsters, Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVile. Kahlisee is right when he says, “In policy terms, it would appear Cooper has more in common with the Tories than she does with Labour values.” And other Tweeters described how Cooper’s fitness for work tests would dock points from the disabled for the following:

Amputees using their stumps to lift objects.

People being able to walk using an imaginary wheelchair.

People with speech problems who can nevertheless write down what they want to say, and deaf claimants who can read it.

On international issues, she voted for the illegal invasion of Iraq five times, 14 times voted against an inquiry into it, voted eight times for the use of British armed forces in overseas operations, and also voted to replace Trident with another nuclear missile. She and Ed Balls also flipped their homes three times. Ed Poole said of her appointment: “Yvette Cooper is an ableist nightmare. Among other things. If you need any more evidence that Labour is finished as a force for equality, democracy, socialism or just plain human decency her promotion is it.” And Julie Harrington said, “Labour is now a hard right party.”

And then there’s Starmer’s appointment of David Blunkett to his ‘skills council’. This has proven something of an embarrassment as the internet never forgets, and his critics were able to find a clip from years ago in which Blair’s former cabinet minister made a homophobic slur about legendary Queen singer, Freddie Mercury. Aaron Bastani posted a piece on Twitter which seems to be an extract from a longer film about Queen or Mercury. It begins with members of the band, including awesome axeman and astrophysicist Brian May, describing how hurtful some of the comments were when their friend and bandmate passed away of AIDS in 1991. This is followed by a clip of a much younger Blunkett on some kind of panel show saying that he didn’t want people idolising Mercury because of his ‘bizarre and perverted lifestyle’.

Now you could be generous, and argue that this is not homophobic but just fair comment about rock and pop stars. Gay, straight or whatever, pop music, especially Heavy Metal, is associated with debauchery and excess. Sex, drugs and rock and roll, as the old saying goes. I can remember the rumours going around college that the name of American rockers, WASP, was an acronym standing for ‘We Are Sexual Perverts’. Other suggestions are that it also stands for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, or, as their lead singer answered a question about it on a chat show, ‘We Aren’t Sure, Pal’. Some of us can also remember that momentous occasion in the ’90s when Motorhead’s Lemmy got a letter of complaint and an apology published in one of the Brummie papers. They claimed that he’d hung a woman upside down from a cupboard for a day during about of rock and roll debauchery. No, corrected the late Mr. Kilminster. It was three days, and he tied her to a bed. The newspaper was happy to print apologise and print the correction. Which must be one of the few instances where someone has written to the press complaining that their article about them has made them appear less degenerate and degraded than they want to be known.

It may also have been a clumsy attempt to point out the dangers of getting AIDS through promiscuous sex. Part of the problem was that at the time there were parts of the gay community that were extremely promiscuous. I can remember one of the gay journos on the Observer writing an article about it back in 1984, with the detail that there was a self-group, Orgiasts Anonymous, in either LA or San Francisco. The group was set up to like Alcoholics Anonymous, but to help talk gay men out of going to the bathhouse every time they felt the overwhelming urge. Not that the dangers of catching the disease was limited to gays. It also affected promiscuous straight people having unprotected sex, as well those who caught it from their partners and haemophiliacs from contaminated blood products. It would have been possible to make a comment about the dangers of excessive sex without sounding anti-gay. But Blunkett didn’t. His comment about a ‘bizarre and perverted lifestyle’ sounds like the standard denunciations of homosexuality.

In fact Mercury’s sexuality really wasn’t all that remarkable, and not what he was celebrated for. The 1980s had seen the appearance of a number of openly gay and gender-nonconforming pop stars – Marc Almond and Jimmy Summerville with the Communards and Bronski Beat; Boy George of Culture Club, Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Marilyn and the Pet Shop Boys. I can’t remember if Elton John and George Michael had come out of the closet by the time of Mercury’s death. And Mercury didn’t, as far as know, have the reputation of being the most promiscuous of them. There were rumours, for example, that either Almond or Summerville, I forget which, had had to have their stomach pumped following various shenanigans with a rugby team. I honestly don’t remember any such rumour about Freddie. And I think there were probably far more angry headlines in the Heil and other right-wing papers about Marc Almond and Frankie’s relax video than I ever remember about Mercury. People didn’t idolise him because of his sexuality or lifestyle, although I did notice than there was a fashion among young gays at the time to dress like him. What people celebrated him for was what he was: a superb performer with an incredible vocal range that even now few others can match.

Mercury passed away thirty years ago, but is still a towering presence in British pop music with legions of fans, many of whom will not have been best pleased by Blunkett’s denigration of their hero. As I doubt will many gays and their allies. Tony Blair was the Prime Minister who set the ball rolling for gay marriage with the introduction of civil partnerships, and this makes Blunkett’s comment seem very homophobic after the intervening years. And if Bastani hadn’t forgotten Blunkett’s views on Mercury’s death, you can bet others won’t have either. Quite apart from the other vile policies Blunkett shares responsibility for as a member of Blair’s cabinet.

Starmer has appointed as part of his team people who have caused untold suffering to the poor, the disabled, asylum seekers, immigrants and been responsible for the destruction and looting of an entire country, Iraq, for the benefit of the oil industry and multinationals. These are good reasons for anyone concerned about the massive growth of poverty and inequality and real imperialism and exploitation to despise Starmer and what he is turning the Labour party into.

Get Starmer, Cooper, Blunkett and the rest of the Blairites out before they do further damage.

isttps://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/11/30/starmtrooper-cooper-new-shadow-home-sec-will-compete-with-pritipatel-in-race-to-the-right/https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/11/29/starmers-reshuffle-disaster/

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Media Lies Exposed Again: Most Misogynist Abuse Comes from the Tories

September 6, 2017

Mike today put up a piece blowing away another lie that the Tories and their servants in the media have hawking: that the Left is full of misogynists, who harass and abuse women MPs. In fact Amnesty International have published a report showing that the opposite is true: most abuse comes from the right. And the female politico, who most often suffers it is Diane Abbott.

Who in the Left is honestly surprised by this? There are Conservative varieties of feminism, as you’d expect, but feminism, or women’s lib as it was known in the 1970s, is most often associated with the Left. And as the Austrian democratic socialist Marxist, Karl Kautsky argued, socialism is all about equality. This is why they champion the working class, and why left-wing governments, particularly Communist, have encouraged women to enter politics and the workplace, even if their countries’ traditional culture is very sexist, as it is in Russia and some of the countries of the former eastern bloc.

Conservatives, on the other hand, stress the importance of tradition, and despite having given Britain two female prime ministers, Maggie Thatcher and now Theresa May, this usually also means stressing and promoting traditional gender roles. Thus, while the right-wing broadsheets may earnestly discuss the issue of getting more women into the boardroom, and equal pay, the Daily Heil has been telling its female readers that stable families, and indeed western civilization as a whole, needs women to concentrate on staying at home to raise children, rather than both pursuing independent careers. The image the right projects of feminism is of angry misandrists, which has been a factor in why so many young women a few years ago rejected the term ‘feminism’, even when they had strong feelings about winning equality and rejecting sexism.

There’s also more than a little racism on the Tories’ side as well. The Tory right has always had links to Fascist right, including inviting members of central American death squads over to their annual dinners. A few days ago I put up a piece about Owen Jones’ video on YouTube, in which he commented on an odious conversation by the Tory youth movement, Activate, about gassing chavs and shooting peasants. This wasn’t the first time they had made Nazi comments and bullied the poor and underprivileged by a very long chalk. Jones discussed some prize examples of their foul behavior. This included the members of Oxford University Conservative society goose-stepping around like the real Nazis, singing songs about ‘Dashing through the Reich … killing lots of ****’, the last a very unpleasant terms for Jews. Their comrades north of the border ain’t no better either. This crew thought it would be jolly fun for one of them to dress up as a slave master, while another cringed before him as a slave. It wasn’t that long ago that the Tories in Scotland were known as the Unionist party, and their antics and Thatcher’s complete dismissal of the country was a large factor in the decision of so many Scots to vote for the SNP.

As for the Tory press, they’ve been consistently against coloured immigration since Windrush. And long before then, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they were busy campaigning against allowing ‘aliens’ – that is, eastern European Jews, to enter this country as asylum seekers fleeing the pogroms in eastern Europe. This anti-immigration stance has frequently been blatantly racist. Private Eye, when covering the prosecution of the Scum yet again for racism by the Press Complaints Commission, as it then was, noted that the wretched paper had had 19 judgements against it previously for its racist content. I can remember how the Torygraph, Mail and Express back in the 1980s railed against ‘unassimilable’ immigrants and the way they were forming little ghettoes.

Racism became a major issue in that decade following the 1981/2 riots, and the publication of government reports that revealed a massive culture of institutional racism and Black deprivation in Britain. To the Tory press, however, the riots were all the fault of racist Blacks. While there have been Black and Asian politicians before, Diane Abbott was one of the group of very visible Black politicians and activists to achieve public office during the decade, along with Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant, the leader of Brent Council. They were all very vocal in their opposition to racism. Grant died the other year, and I think Boateng more or less vanished into the depths of Whitehall. There are a number of other Black politicos, like David Lammy, Chuka Umunna and Oona King, but Abbott is one of the longest-serving and most reviled. The Scum tried running a Communism scare against the Labour party in the 1987 election, by putting up a two-page spread with the photographs of Labour MPs and candidates, below which was a few brief quotes or comments showing how they were a threat to British society. Red Ken is supposed to have said that he wasn’t in favour of the British army, but wanted the workers to be armed so they could guard the factories. Under Abbott’s was a quote, ‘All Whites are racist.’

That was very much the image she had at the time. She’s supposed to be very keen on tackling racism, because she felt that her mother’s career was blocked because of her colour. This is actually quite likely. But it’s highly questionable that she’s anti-White. Many of the stories the press published about the supposed hard-left extremists in the Labour party at the time were either exaggerations or completely made up. Ken Livingstone, whom the Eye has frequently mocked under the nickname, Ken Leninspart, really did believe in worker’s control. But he was never a Marxist, and in fact worker’s control used to form only a small part of the subjects he discussed with the, um, ‘gentlemen’ of the press. Most of the time it was rather more mundane. But they played up the worker’s control, and attacked it, because it frightened their proprietors and editors, quite apart from the rest of the middle class. The veteran gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, who was also beginning his career as a Labour politico, was another who was made to appear much more extreme than he was. At one point the papers published a story about him going on holiday to one of the great gay centres on the American west coast. Except that he hadn’t, and didn’t even know the place existed. They also did the same thing to Marc Almond. In his case, they didn’t think he looked sufficiently effeminate, and so retouched his photograph.

Given this long record of telling porky pies about radical politicians, you can’t be sure that Abbot made the above comment, or that it represents her views now. But as Sid James remarked to Tony Hancock in ‘The Scandal Magazine’, mud always sticks, boy. They’ve carried on portraying her as a threat to White history and culture. A few years ago, the Daily Mail ran a story about how the London borough she represents in parliament decided to replace the paintings in their civic offices. Down came the traditional portraits of the White guys, who had previously served on the council, and up came paintings of Black children.

The story was part of a larger article about her, and didn’t offer any details about this, nor the reasons for the decision. Without putting it in so many words, it was presented merely as Abbott’s coterie of angry Blacks removing Whites from the history of the borough. How this supposed racist anger compares with her appearing regularly alongside Michael Portillo on Andrew Neil’s The Daily Politics, where she appears perfectly calm and genial with her White presenters, as befits a grande dame of British politics, I really don’t know.

Nevertheless, she remains a Tory bete noir, and given the fact that there have always been members of the party, who can’t understand why a Black person could ever object to golliwogs, the Black and White Minstrels or why you can make derogatory comments about Black people’s supposed character defects as a race, or use the unpleasant terms previous generations used to insult them, and it becomes quite easy to see why she should be the target for so much abuse.

As for the supposed sexism in the Labour ranks, there was never much substance to that anyway. It was never more than an attempt by wealthy, entitled right-wing Labour female politicians to smear their male rivals. These women had nothing to offer ordinary working Brits, including women. While ordinary women are finding it difficult to pay the bills and feed their families, thanks to the ravages of neoliberalism, these female politicians simply offered more of the same. More cuts, more privatization, more precarity. But like Hillary Clinton, from whom they got the tactic, they wanted to present themselves as representing women in general, even if in fact they only represented rich, entitled women like themselves. And so just Clinton was outraged by the popularity of Bernie Sanders, these women were infuriated by Jeremy Corbyn. Clinton claimed that she had been vilified by the ‘Bernie Bros’, who didn’t actually exist. And so her counterparts in the Labour party over here decided to follow her, and lie about how they were the victims of savage misogyny from Corbyn and the Old Left.

The reality is the opposite. I don’t doubt that there is racism and sexism on the Left. But there’s far less of it than on the right. But the press are still liars for claiming otherwise.

Radical 80s Anti-War Pop: Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes

August 6, 2016

A week or so ago I put I blogged about Sting’s great anti-war song, Russians. Based on a tune by Prokofiev, and with the haunting refrain, ‘Do the Russians love their children too?’, this was Sting’s protest against the new Cold War between America and Russia in which both sides were condemned for their militarism. The video I used here was of a performance the great songster made a few years ago on Russian TV, which shows how far the world has come since I was a schoolboy in the 1980s. Then, Russia and the rest of the former eastern bloc were very much closed off to the West, although as the political climate thawed, the BBC did launch a fascinating series of films on the Soviet Union. This included an edition of antenna on Soviet TV. I was moved to put up the video as a reminder of great pop challenging the horrific spectre of nuclear war by the arms build up in the West and increasing tension between NATO and Russia. There’s been a series of manoeuvres in Estonia, Poland, Romania and the other Baltic states against the possibility of a Russian invasion, despite the fact that the Russians have said that they have no intention of doing any such thing. This follows a book by a NATO general predicting that by May next year, Russia will have invaded Latvia, and our nations will be at war. This should terrify everyone, who grew up in the 1980s and remembers the real threat of nuclear Armageddon then, along with the horrific spoutings of some generals about fighting a ‘limited nuclear war’ in Europe.

Unfortunately, that possibility has just come a step nearer after the statement on Morning Joe, an American news programme hosted by Joe Scarborough, that he had been told by a foreign policy expert that in discussing the subject with Donald Trump, the coiffured clown asked him three times why America hadn’t used nuclear weapons. As I said in my last post, this is a very good argument for keeping the pratt out of the White House, if not the society of decent humans. If you only needed one argument for not wanting to see Trump as president, regardless of the endorsement of violence, the misogyny, the racism and Islamophobia, this would be it. Trump shouldn’t be president, because he’s a threat to all life on Earth.

Sting wasn’t the only pop musician to release a piece in the 1980s against the militaristic posturing between East and West. So too did Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Frankie … were a band that managed to shock the British public with the release of their single, Relax, and the homoerotic imagery of both the song and the accompanying video. It was so shocking, that the Beeb was supposed to have banned. This, of course, had the usual effect of making it massively popular, and it shot to Number 1 in the charts. The band’s frontman, Holly Johnson was gay, as was I think, one of the other band members, but most of them were straight. Bands like Frankie…, and other gay pop stars like Marc Almond, Jimmy Summerville and Boy George helped to challenge the popular prejudice and real hatred there was for gays there still was then, over a decade after gay sex in private between consenting adults had been legalised.

Two Tribes continued their trend of edgy music by presenting the confrontation between East and West as a bare knuckle boxing match between someone, who looked very much like Ronald Reagan, and an opponent, who was clearly based on one of the Russian presidents of the time. I can’t work out quite who the Russia is based on, as he looks a bit like Brezhnev, but not quite, and I can’t remember who Andropov and Chernenko, the last two Soviet presidents before Mikhail Gorbachev, looked like. To my mind, he looks more like Boris Yeltsin, the former mayor of Moscow, who succeeded Gorby as president of Russia. Unlike Gorby, Yeltsin wasn’t a Communist, but a capitalist-in-waiting, who sold off just about everything that wasn’t nailed down. The result was that Russian economy went into meltdown, millions across the former USSR were thrown out of work without any of the welfare safety nets in place in Europe or America, while rampant inflation wiped out people’s savings. Despite his generally pro-Western, pro-capitalist stance, he could also be belligerent. Sometime in his presidency, a Norwegian sounding rocket went off course, and landed somewhere in Russia. Yeltsin appeared on TV pounding his desk and declaring that he had been quite prepared to respond with nukes, if such an event seemed to be an attack on Russia. He was also, like many of the Russia politicos, including Brezhnev, massively corrupt. A lot of the state enterprises he privatised mysteriously ended up in the hands of his cronies, and people, who were prepared to fork over a lot of roubles. He was also a figure of western media amusement, as he appeared to be permanently smashed, unlike his predecessor, who appeared far more temperate and had launched a strong anti-drink campaign. The mass privatisation of the Soviet Economy had a devastating effect on its citizens’ health, which Basu and Stuckler discuss in their book, the Body Economic, on how economic austerity harms people’s physical health. Putin, with his promise of economic stability and national pride, is very much a response to the chaos of the Yeltsin regime. I’ve got a feeling Yeltsin might be dead now, but if anyone needed a good drubbing, it was him, though by the Russian people, who had a better reason to hate him than Ronald Reagan.

Frankie’s Two Tribes shows the violence in the ring escalating, until the audience of other international dignitaries begin fighting amongst themselves, to the consternation of the ringside commentator. The video ends with the Earth itself being blown up, a graphic comment on the real danger of the conflict. The song’s title, Two Tribes, also gives a very cynical take on the conflict. This isn’t about politics, human rights or the effectiveness and justice of economic systems. This is just pure tribalism, the primitive, nationalistic aggression that has haunted humanity since the Stone Age. I can’t say I was ever a fan of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and just about everyone I know is repulsed and disturbed by the Relax video. But Two Tribes is a classic piece of ’80s pop with a very relevant political message, and one that deserves to be given another hearing. Before Trump gets anywhere near the White house, and starts ranting and threatening like Reagan.