Posts Tagged ‘Michael Gove’

The Tories and the War on Drugs

June 16, 2019

There’s been some amusement to be had this past week with various leading Tories coming out and admitting to having used drugs. Michael Gove confessed to having snorted cocaine, and Rory Stewart admitted that he’d smoked opium once, 20 odd years ago, when he was backpacking around Iran. It was at a wedding. He claimed that it couldn’t have affected him much, as he was walking 25 – 30 miles a day. My guess is that in reality he’d have been stoned out of his tiny patrician brain. It’s generally the lean, fit people, who are most affected by intoxicants, as you can see by all the tales about champion marathon runners and other athletes, who become massively drunk when they celebrate with half a pint of booze afterwards. Then there’s Paul Staines of the Guido Fawkes blog. He hasn’t come out of the stoner closet, but he was notorious as a Libertarian for taking and advocating DMT as a mind-expanding drug. My guess is that he’d need it. As a member of an organisation that was so right-wing, it invited the leader of one of Rios Montt’s death squads from El Salvador to be their guest of honour at their annual dinner, Staines would need some powerful hallucinogenics to convince himself he was a decent human being.

Boris is also widely suspected of having done drugs, and it’s almost certain that the allegations are true, and of continuing to use them. But he hasn’t confessed to it. When asked whether he had at a press conference about his candidacy for the Tory leadership, he brushed the question aside by claiming that he thought the British public were more interested in what he intended to do as politician than whether he took illegal substances. He might be right for some people. We’re so used to public figures, like actors, rock stars and other media celebrities, coming forward to admit that they took drugs some time in their lives, that it almost seems unremarkable. In some parts of the entertainment industry, it’s even to be expected, as with tales of pop musicians, which have become part of the general pattern of rock excess. However, Boris’ own political career isn’t any recommendation for him as Prime Ministerial material either. He’s been so egotistical and massively incompetent that many people would have to take large amounts of illegal chemicals to be persuaded otherwise.

Author’s impression of Theresa May with potential voter.

There’s more than a little fun to be had out of all this furore. Some wag with a better grasp of video editing than yours truly could provide us all with a laugh by cutting their speeches with bits from notorious films about drugs from the past. Like the 1950s anti-cannabis film, Reefer Madness, or David Cronenberg’s ’90s flick, The Naked Lunch, based on the notorious book by William S. Burroughs. This latter film is roughly based on Burrough’s own life, and is about a pest exterminator, who gets high on the ketamine he’s using to kill the insects. As the drug takes effect, he hallucinates that he’s some kind of SF spy, and has to make his report to Interzone before flying to Morocco after accidentally shooting his wife while they were playing William Tell. The hallucinations include the hero seeing everyone in a bar as mugwumps – humanoid lizards – and a gay talking typewriter-beetle. You could have some fun showing Boris sitting down to type his statement for the leadership election, but showing the hands of Cronenberg’s hero typing away at the beetle creature. Though as the beetle-typewriter then goes on to declare how wonderful homosexuality is, this scene might not be appropriate. The Tories have declared themselves at ease with the gay community, and no-one could ever accuse Boris of it. Another excellent film candidate for mixing with the Tory leadership speeches would be Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson, illustrated by Ralph Steadman. Which also has a bar full of hallucinatory lizards, bats coming down out of the desert sky, and Richard Nixon erupting out of a TV set, amongst other bizarre visions.

But there’s also a very serious side to all this. The great commenters on Mike’s blog, when he covered this story, made some very good points about these people’s hypocrisy. They’ve all done drugs, and got away scot-free, in contrast to more ordinary users, who’d been to jail. One commenter told how he had a friend, who now suffers from PTSD because of what he’d experienced in prison after being convicted of a drugs offence. And the whole affair also seems to me to be a replay of a similar scandal back in 2004, when a number of other Tories confessed to having used cannabis.

The furore was started when Anne Widdecombe announced that she wanted harsher sentences for drugs, quite at variance with the party stance on the issue at the time. A number of Tories then came forward to announce that they’d taken it. Matthew Parris then gave his view about it all in an article he wrote for the Spectator. One Tory revealed that he had smoked cannabis at Oxford. This didn’t shock Parris, who was far more outraged by the way the august gentleman had consumed it. Parris declared that he could have been smoking cowpats for all he cared. What offended him was that the pretentious so and so had put it in his pipe. He smoked a pipe! It’s something you can imagine Rees-Mogg, the MP for the 18th century, doing. If he were inclined towards the substances used by Thomas De Quincy and Coleridge, of course.

This came at the time the government was considering changing its policy towards drug abuse. Much had been in the news about the success the Scandinavian countries, Portugal and Switzerland had achieved in their battle with illegal drugs, in contrast with Britain’s failure to combat or contain its growing drugs problem. These nations had a softer approach to tackling drug abuse. Addicts were treated not as criminals, but as sick people, who needed to be helped. But this was too namby-pamby for Widdecombe and those like her. Parris wrote that this had also been the policy in Britain, and had been giving positive results. But it all changed with the election of Ronald Reagan. Reagan wanted a war on drugs, and as American’s ally and the Special Relationship, we had to follow suit. The result was harsher sentences for drug offences, which actually had a negative effect on what they were trying to achieve. Treating drug addiction as a sickness makes sense, as no-one wants to be sick so they seek help. Criminalizing it, however, gives it a kind of glamour. You ain’t sick, you’re gangsta! Public enemy No. 1. And so far from deterring people from using drugs, the policy actually helps to promote it.

And then there’s the racism of the War on Drugs. Hillary Clinton deliberately played on White American fears of Black criminality when she announced Clinton’s new, tougher policies on drugs back in the 1990s. She talked about ‘superpredators’ – at the time, a term that was only used about Black men. The laws were also framed so that it targeted Blacks rather than Whites. Although studies have shown that Whites are just as likely to use drugs as Blacks, the majority of those arrested and convicted are Black. And I suspect that the situation is similar over here. Certainly it’s been clear to me from talking to Black friends that they believe that Blacks suffer disproportionately harsher punishment than White drug abusers. I know many Blacks, who won’t touch the stuff, and they make the point very clear to Whites trying to encourage them to do so.

It seems very clear to me that we need a return to a saner, more effective drugs policy. One that discourages it as it helps the victims by treating it as a disease, rather than giving it a spurious glamour it doesn’t deserve by criminalizing it. A policy that punishes and cures White and Black equally, instead of playing to White fears and racism.

But for me, the most toxic drug not mentioned in the Tory leadership contest is Conservatism. This has destroyed whole communities, and comprehensive wrecked Britain, creating poor healthcare, unemployment, despair, depression and general poor mental health, all while fostering racism, bigotry and bitter resentment against the poor, disabled and marginalised. It has done this while creating illusions of prosperity and national greatness. It’s time it was stopped. The pushers of this vile drug – Johnson, Gove, Leadsom and the rest of them – should be properly punished by losing any and every election they take part in. And the literature that encourages this vile drug – the Times, Torygraph, Mail, Sun and Express, should be binned at once and readers should turn to proper news outlets.

Only then can we look forward to a saner society, less afflicted by drugs.

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Jean-Claude Juncker Tells May to Follow Corbyn’s Plan to Avoid Irish Backstop

January 28, 2019

A jubilant and highly amused Chunky Mark posted this little video up on YouTube on Saturday, reporting a very interesting development in the Brexit crisis that the lamestream press really didn’t want to put on their front pages. The head of the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker told Tweezer in a private phone call on Friday that they’d only be prepared to renegotiate the Irish backstop if Britain became a permanent part of the customs union. Which, as Chunky Mark delightedly reminds us, is Corbyn’s plan.

The news was released over the internet. It was in the Guardian, but not in its sister paper, the Observer. But it shows that Corbyn was right all along. The Artist Taxi Driver then declares that the world and its institutions should be recognizing Corbyn as the real head of the UK, not Theresa May.

Absolutely. And clearly the anti-socialist press don’t want to put it on their front pages because if they do, it scuppers everything they’ve said about Labour having no proper policy on Brexit, or that he’s not supporting the remain campaign as strongly as he should. And in the state of Tweezer’s party over the mess they’ve made of Brexit, where they’re near total collapse and are bringing down the country with them, it would have given Corbyn a significant boost.

It would have shown everyone that Corbyn should be in charge of Brexit, and that only he has a chance of resolving this wretched crisis Cameron, Tweezer, Boris, Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg have dragged us into. And that’s the last thing the anti-socialist press of Blairites and Tories, constantly demanding greater privatization and welfare cuts, wants to do.

Enough of this! It’s time to get May out, and Corbyn in!

Post-Slavery Exploitation and the Beeb’s ‘Long Song’

December 19, 2018

Okay, I haven’t been watching The Long Song, the Beeb’s historical drama set in the Caribbean during the dying days of slavery, which has been running on BBC 1 at 9.00 pm this week. It’s in three parts, the final of which is tonight. The series is based on Andrea Levy’s book of the same name, as is about a young slave girl, Kitty, who is taken away from her mother to become the personal servant of Caroline Mortimer, the sister of the plantation owner. It’s not something I would usually watch, and the description by the I’s TV critic, Sean O’Grady, that it’s ‘like Downton Abbey with added racism and sadism’ seems about accurate.

But I did catch a brief glimpse of a clip from the show on breakfast TV this morning. This showed the planter telling the slaves that they could be evicted if they didn’t work hard enough, and that they would be paid wages, but there would be a little deduction for rent.

This seems to me to be entirely accurate historically. After the final abolition of slavery in 1838, the planters and the colonial and British governments became concerned that the slaves weren’t working hard enough, and that they would leave the plantations to occupy unused land in the interior. This would leave the plantations without the labour needed to work them and harvest their crops, the country would return to subsistence agriculture and the entire colony would be ruined. they therefore set about devising methods to force the former slaves to remain on the plantations and to work hard.

Now there was some truth to their fears. Some colonies – I think one of them was Jamaica – reported that the slaves stopped working for the two months after abolition. When they returned to work, they demanded wages which the plantation masters considered too high. They also made a point of working less hard than previously. It was reported that they considered working as hard as before to be selling their ‘free’, and that if they did so, they were unworthy of their newly gained liberty.

Some of the planters did threaten their slaves with eviction, and one female slave was thrown out of her plantation home with all her belongings. They also introduced the truck system from Britain, in which employees were paid in tokens, which could only be spent in the company shops. They also used a payment system called ‘tenancy-at-will’ to keep the slaves where they were. This combined the slaves’ wages with deductions for rent. But the rents were always higher than the wages. For examples, if they were paid 5 shillings per week in wages, then the rent would be eight shillings. It was an evil system that has rightly been compared to debt peonage in Latin America.

To stop the former slaves buying vacant crown land in British Guiana, now Guyana, the government raised the price of the plots for sale so that they were far above their ability to afford them.

Obviously the freed people of the Caribbean didn’t take this lightly, and there were Strikes, riots and protests against these and other forms of official oppression and exploitation for decades afterwards. There was also the continual fear that the colonial governments or the British would reintroduce slavery. One former slave said that the Queen, Victoria, had abolished slavery with a charter, and so could just as easily put it back again. And there were a series of rebellions by the former slaves, such as that at Morant Bay in Jamaica as a result. Given this, it is no surprise that there is a continuing resentment at their treatment by some people of West Indian heritage.

Lenny Henry, who plays one of the slaves in the series, has said in an interview that children need to be taught more about slavery. He’s right. Salman Rushdie once remarked that the British didn’t know much about their history, because so much of it happened abroad. Which is also true. This country is affected by events that occurred outside in the colonies, episodes which are known to the people of those countries but not to us, and so some of the post-imperial resentments left over are a surprise.

We do need to know more, and not the sanitized, patriotic version that Tories like Michael Gove want our kids indoctrinated with. It’s only then that we can understand some of the stresses in our multicultural society, and hopefully move beyond them.

Protests in Edinburgh against Steve Bannon Speaking to the European Broadcasting Union

November 19, 2018

This is a report from RT, broadcast last Thursday, 15th November 2018, about the protests in Edinburgh against Steve Bannon’s address to the European Broadcasting Union.

Bannon, you will remember, was another Far Right activist and member of Trump’s cabinet, before the Orange Generalissimo gave him the heave-ho. He was interviewed in Edinburgh by journos from the Beeb. The video has a clip of Bannon’s speech, in which he states that present media coverage at the White House is at the level of playground gossip. There is no real coverage of the issues, partly because of economics but also because of a lack of investigative journalism.

The report states that he was met with protests from anti-racism demonstrators, which include United for Grenfell. The protesters chant ‘Stop Trump’, hold placards with the slogan, ‘Ban Bannon: Racists Never Welcome’ and ‘No To Racism, No To Trump’. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, withdrew from the even in protest, and the anti-racism group, Stand Up To Racism, has asked those involved in the interview to complain to the BBC.

There’s a clip of the joint head of Stand Up To Racism, Sabby Dahlu, explaining that they don’t agree with him being given a platform and treated as a normal journalist. He isn’t. He may have had links with Far-Right websites like Breitbart, but he was also Donald Trump’s chief of staff, and chief political strategist. He was sacked, but is now building a Far Right political movement across Europe, including Britain. Bannon has met Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory right, and funding the Fascist Free Tommy Robinson campaign. She therefore questions why the Beeb is presenting him as a respectable journalist when he isn’t. And the real danger is that if people like Stand Up To Racism don’t speak out, organisations and individuals like them will be treated as normal. And that is how Nazism started.

The European Broadcasting Union said it had a duty to present all views and give him a platform. They said that he was a key influencer in the rise of populism, one of the dominant political trends of our time. He was invited to News Xchange this year because his views are relevant to today’s society at large and therefore to the media industry. They also said it was their journalistic responsibility to scrutinize and share a variety of relevant viewpoints in the framework of balanced debate.

The Beeb defended their decision to be part of this with a statement that

Good journalism in a world of fake news and disinformation is more vital than ever. Journalism is about asking tough questions and understanding what is happening in the world and why. A conference designed to analyse the big issues impacting that world isn’t an endorsement of anyone or anything – it is a function of what journalism is.

In fact, this isn’t the first time that the Beeb and the British media has chosen to interview a Fascist, not by a very long chalk. Some of us can still remember the controversy the Beeb caused when they invited Nick Griffin, the-then head of the BNP, to appear on Question Time. And Buddy Hell has made the point over at Guy Debord’s Cat that the media is always soft when it comes to interviewing the Far Right, illustrating this with an interview with John Tyndale, the head of the National Front, in the ’70s.

And Sabby Dahlu’s right: there are real dangers to this approach. The number of people voting for the Nazis in Weimar Germany was derisory, comparable to the number of people voting in Britain for the BNP and the other bizarre Fascist grouplets today. One of the factors which aided their rise to power until they became a mass movement with a membership in the millions was that influential members of German society took them up and promoted them.

And there are real questions too about the impartiality of Edinburgh council. One protester was arrested on a charge of breach of the peace for holding a placard saying ‘Nae Nazis in Edinburgh’. Tony Greenstein pointed out that under Scots law, this isn’t a minor offence. It can carry an unlimited sentence. He also wondered what was so offensive or dangerous about the placard that the man holding it was arrested.

Bannon is a White supremacist and a real menace to civilized European society, and to its ethnic minority citizens. A week ago, on the 12th, Hope Not Hate put up a report about a mass march in Warsaw organized by the Fascist National Radical Camp or ONR, named after a viciously anti-Semitic organization in the 1930s, and All-Polish Youth, another Far Right outfit that is also militantsly homophobic as part of the celebrations commemorating the centenary of Poland finally gaining its independence in 1918. The march also included foreign fascists like the Italian Forza Nueva, a group of British skinheads, the Canadian Alt-Right YouTube personality Stefan Molyneaux, and Tommy Robinson and a group of his stormtroopers. 200,000 people attended the march.

See: https://www.hopenothate.org.uk/2018/11/12/fascism-march-warsaw/

Jewish anti-racist activist David Rosenberg has also described this procession in a moving article about a tour of Auschwitz and a tour of Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter of Krakow, which he was involved in organizing. He notes that as well as the Nazis, anti-Fascists also made their presence felt. He writes

But the spirit of anti-Fascist resistance was also present in Warsaw as progressives held an alternative march and anti-fascist rave. This march was led by two banners in Yiddish and Polish held side by side, translating to “For your and our freedom”. This slogan was first used in a Polish rising against the Tsarist Empire in 1831, then revived in the Spanish Civil War by the Botwin Company of the Dombrowski Battalion, and later by Bundists in the Warsaw Ghetto resistance.

https://rebellion602.wordpress.com/2018/11/16/sadness-and-rage-auschwitz-2018/

Fascism is on the march again, and Bannon is a part of it. And if you want to see what real Fascism does, contrary to all the nonsense Richard Spencer has spouted about a ‘peaceful ethnic cleansing’, all you need to do is look at Auschwitz. Or simply read the rest of Rosenberg’s article above.

Fascism and Nazism aren’t simply just another political movement. They are a direct threat to democracy and the lives and dignity of millions of people. Their leaders should never be given a platform from which to spread their vile doctrines.

Latest Train-Wreck Idea from Hunt: Recruit Business Leaders as Ambassadors

November 1, 2018

I hope everyone had a great Hallowe’en yesterday. I can remember going to Hallowe’en parties as a child, and enjoying the spooky games and dressing up as witches, wizards, ghosts and goblins and so on. At the time, it was good, harmless fun, based on children’s fantasy stories. Adults had their own parties, of course, and there was also something in keeping with the season on TV or the radio. One year, the Archive Hour on Radio 4 looked back on the history of horror stories on the wireless, going all the way back to Valentine Dyall and The Man in Black, and Fear on Four. Actually, I think the only really frightening part of a genuinely traditional British Hallowe’en were the stupid section of the trick or treaters, who threw eggs and flour at your front door, and Carry on Screaming on the TV. This is the Carry On team’s spoof of Hammer Horror movies, in which Fenella Fielding appeared as the vampire Valeria. Fielding died a month or so ago. She was a very accomplished actress, but sadly got typecast because of her appearance in the movie. She was also a staunch Labour supporter, in contrast to her brother, who was a Tory MP. The film was a spoof, but it terrified me when I was in junior school. One critic of such movies once reckoned it was more horrific than anything Hammer produced. All good fun in its time, but I completely understand why some Christians and churches prefer to ignore it.

The Tories, however, chose yesterday to announce something equally ghastly. Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, has decided that he wants to create a thousand more ambassadorial posts. And he’s looking to fill at least some of these with business leaders.

Mike reported on this latest bad idea, and put up a few Tweets from Andrew Adonis. Adonis was a minister for New Labour, and he was very scathing about the idea. In one of them he said

we have 20 yrs experience of recruiting Trade Ministers from ‘business.’ Each of them have lasted about a year, having bagged the peerage & achieved little if anything. Think Digby Jones.

He also challenged Hunt to name one business leader who has been a successful ambassador, pointing out that they are different skill sets. It is, he said, the difference between being a successful foreign secretary and a student politician.

Mike also reminded everyone how the Tories tried a similar scheme with their free schools project. They decided to release free schools from all that stifling legislation the requires them to hire properly qualified teachers. The schools hired unqualified staff, and standards plummeted.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/10/31/hare-brained-hunt-wants-to-hire-business-leaders-as-ambassadors-remember-when-free-schools-hired-untrained-teachers/

It’s not hard to see that Michael Gove’s plan accomplished for schools, Hunt’s wheeze will do for British diplomacy. Ultimately, it comes from the peculiar social Darwinism the Tories share with their Republican counterparts over in the US. They consider businessmen the very best people to run everything, including essential state functions and services. Adam Curtis ripped into this idea, which was developed by the Libertarians in the 1990s, in one of his documentaries. This featured a clip of a Libertarian declaring that, in contrast to politicians, business leaders were better suited to running society because they knew what people wanted and were eager to give it to them through the profit motive. It’s a complete falsehood, as you can see from the way public services and the NHS have deteriorated thanks to Tory and New Labour privatization. Its part of the corporate takeover of the state, which has seen important posts in government go to businessmen and women, a process that has been extensively described by George Monbiot in his book, Captive State.

It also doesn’t take much intelligence to realise that not only are the skill sets involved in business and diplomacy different, but that the appointment of businesspeople in government leads, or can leads, to conflicts of interest. Trump caused controversy when his daughter attended him during talks with the Japanese. This was unethical and inappropriate, as she was the head of a business which could gain a material advantage over its competitors from the information she gained at these talks. Trade negotiations have always been a major part of diplomacy, with ministers and foreign office staff flying off to different parts of the world in the hope of achieving a trade agreement. It really isn’t hard to see how business leaders would be tempted to use their position as ambassadors to enrich themselves and their businesses.

And its also blindingly obvious that this situation will also lead to some deeply unethical foreign policy decisions. Just about the first story in this fortnight’s Private Eye is about how the government’s connections to the arms industry has kept them selling arms to the Saudis despite the butchering of civilians, including women and children in Yemen. Human rights activists and opposition groups have been calling for an end to the war and arms sales to Saudi Arabia. However, Private Eye notes that

The final decision on licensing falls to international trade secretary Liam Fox. His priority is business at any cost, and his department is judged on exports and investment into the UK.

See ‘Flying Fox’ in Private Eye, 2nd-15th November 2018, p.7).

Which shows you the Tories’ priorities in these cases: trade and business first, with Human Rights a very long way behind. But it will stop the government suffering embarrassments from ambassadors, who get concerned at the way the British government is propping up foreign dictators simply for the sake of profitable business deals. Like Craig Murray, who was our man in one of the new, central Asian states that emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union. He was appalled at the way Britain was doing just that with the local despot, spoke out, and was sacked and smeared for doing so.

It’s also a move which seems squarely aimed at preventing further social mobility. A few years ago, the government had a policy of recruiting ambassadors and staff from suitably capable people of working class background. I don’t know if the policy is ongoing. Somehow I doubt it, given the nature of this government. In theory, as currently ambassadorial staff are part of the civil service, anyone from any background can apply, provided they have the necessary skills and qualifications. In practice, I’ve no doubt most of them come from upper middle class backgrounds and are privately educated. But the ability of working class people to get these jobs will become much harder if they’re handed over to business leaders. A little while ago the newspapers reported that about half of the heads of all businesses had inherited their position. Also, by definition, working people don’t own businesses, though many aspire to have their own small enterprises, like shops or garages. But these posts are very definitely aimed at the heads of big business, and definitely not at the aspiring Arkwrights of these isles.

Hunt’s decision to start recruiting ambassadors from the heads of business will lead to the further corporate dominance of British government and politics, less social mobility for working people, more corruption and conflicts of interests. And Britain continuing to sell military equipment to despotic regimes that don’t need them and which use them to murder civilians in deeply immoral wars. But it’s a Tory idea, so what else can you expect.

Gove Thinks Poor People Eat Junk Food to Get ‘Solace’ in their ‘Difficult Lives’

June 7, 2018

Mike today has put up a piece commenting on articl3e in Mirror Online attacking Michael Gove for yet another utterance showing how completely out of touch he is. The Minister for the Environment, in charge of Britain’s food, has declared that the reason poor people eat unhealthy junk food, is not because healthy food is too expensive. No, it’s because eating unhealthy food makes them feel better. Gove said

“If you have got a difficult life and you have less money, then one of the things that can be a source of comfort, solace and pleasure will be buying and eating and consuming food that is not always going to be best for you in the long term.”

The Mirror article goes to state that critics have been lining up to point out to him the reality of the situation. And Mike comments, after pointing out that this is the man Some Tories want to take over from Tweezer after she’s forced out of Downing Street,

Michael Gove’s comments are typical of the privileged, entitled, out-of-touch toffs who currently hold the UK in a vicelike death-grip.

His words deny a simple fact of life for poorer people – that healthier food is more expensive and they simply cannot afford it, because Tory ‘reforms’ of benefits and wages have put it out of their price range.

He goes further, and says that if Gove really does believe this, then he must be a sad, squalid, blinkered little creep, and ends his article with the statement

This is certainly not the kind of man who could be hailed as a future leader of this – or any – country.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/07/hopelessly-out-of-touch-michael-gove-claims-poor-people-eat-junk-food-to-find-solace-in-their-difficult-lives/

Mike’s exactly right about this, and the way it reflects the received wisdom in the Tory party. And this goes back decades. Way back in the 1990s I used to listen to Joe Queenan’s Postcard from Gotham on Radio 4. This was a programme talking about current events in America, hosted by the American comedian, Joe Queenan, and his guests. On one edition they were discussing the obesity epidemic then beginning to hit America. One of the other voices on the programme was a journo from the Torygraph, who said pretty much exactly what Gove has said: that poor people eat fatty, junk food, like chips, burgers and pizza, to make themselves feel better. This was about 20+ years ago, so it shows how long that attitude has been around in Tory circles.

There’s an element of truth there, in that people do ‘comfort’ eat when they’re low or under stress. But as Mike points out, it isn’t really an explanation for the poor having a bad diet. Low ages and the greater expensive of healthier food is. And there are other factors as well. A few years ago, Jamie Oliver rocked up in Manchester or one of the other northern towns to teach the local people how to cook healthy food. He criticised one mum, who had joined the scheme, for not including many vegetables. This upset her, because she had no choice: there wasn’t a greengrocer near her, and she had only been able to buy from the shops she could reach, which didn’t stock much in the way of greens. And I’m sure this woman isn’t alone. We have seen the decline of local shops since the growth of the big supermarkets. When I was at school the local shops on our estate included a greengrocers and butchers. Now there are very few independent butchers around, and the greengrocers, at least in my neck of Bristol, seem to be similarly disappearing. There was one over on the rank of shops on the neighbouring estate, but they closed last year. If you want vegetables, you have to go to the local supermarket. And this might be difficult for some people.

Another reason why those on low incomes may be more inclined to eat junk food is because they’re quick and convenient. Not only have wages been held down, but working hours, for many people, are very long. Not everyone may have the time to cook a proper meal. And so for the temptation is buy a takeaway instead.

And there are also probably other reasons why Gove doesn’t want to go too far in trying to understand for himself why the poor, or some of them, eat unhealthily. And those reasons may be to do with corporate political funding and the power of the fast food companies. The Tories get much of their money from donations from big business. It’s why they ignore the wishes of their grass roots, to the point where many constituency Tory parties have either closed or are moribund, and concentrate instead on doing what their donors want. And you can tell just how powerful the fast food industry is by some of the adverts that appear on television and on hoardings. If you look at the adverts on TV, amongst the various car and perfume adverts are those for pizzas, KFC and McDonald’s. This advertising costs, though I don’t doubt that if someone suggested it should be banned, as happened with alcohol, the fast food industry would immediately respond with specially commissioned research claiming that they have no effect on how people eat at all. Way back in the 1990s Private Eye revealed in one of its issues just how many Tory MPs were connected to the drinks industry. There were calls to regulate alcohol advertising then. This has succeeded, but it’s only recently that some parts of Britain, like Scotland, have put the price of booze up in order to discourage binge drinking. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if a large number of Tory MPs were either on the boards, or getting donations from companies like McDonald’s.

But Gove isn’t about to criticise them, despite the fact that one of McDonald’s salads was actually found to have more fat in it than their burgers. The Tories believe in unregulated capitalism, consumer choice, as repeated ad nauseam by Maggie Thatcher, and that whatever happens to you in the name of free enterprise is your own fault. And so they aren’t going to admit that the reason the poor may not eat as well as they could is because of low wages and long working hours. Indeed, I’m amazed that Gove even admitted that they have ‘difficult’ lives, considering how the poor have been demonised as feckless, ignorant, lazy chavs by both the Tories and New Labour, and particularly by the Daily Heil. They also aren’t going to criticise the supermarkets, which have killed off many community small businesses, because of the way Sainsbury’s and the rest have contributed very handsomely to party coffers. And the last thing they want to do is stop all those valuable donations coming in from the fast food merchants themselves.

So instead of placing the blame on poor working conditions and practices, and changes in retail capitalism, Gove did what the Tories always do: blame the poor. Just as they’ve blamed them for eating badly for decades.

This shows not just how unfit Gove is to succeed May, but how the entire Tory party – and corporate New Labour, when it comes to it – are for government. They don’t have any solutions to the real causes of poverty and obesity, only cod psychology. Get them out. Now.

May’s Popularity with Tories in Negative Figures as Corbyn Beats Her at PMQs

June 6, 2018

Earlier today, Mike put up a piece commenting on a report by Evolve Politics and a tweet by Robert Peston that the Tories are finally losing patience with Theresa May’s spectacular lack of leadership. According to Peston, a former supporter of Tweezer said that they can’t go on with her for much longer, as her lack of leadership and inability to make decisions was creating a vacuum which allowed the Remainers to run riot. After the votes are in next week, she will have to go. The article in Evolve Politics commented on this tweet, and pointed out that only 48 signatures are needed for force the Tory chairman Brandon Lewis to hold a vote of no confidence in Tweezer. And the latest revelation of her plunging popularity means that the figure could be easily reached.

Mike himself went on to suggest that her days as PM could be numbered, and possibly in single digits at that, particularly after Corbyn scored points against her and her government again and again at Prime Minister’s Questions today. He attacked Tweezer Brexit, and her failure to publish a White Paper on it, or to negotiate it properly with the EU and also the ridiculous buffer zone idea for Northern Ireland. The Labour leader commented that her government had produced more cancellations and delays on Brexit than Northern Rail.

Mike’s article ended with another tweet from Dazza, who said that May wants to be put out of her misery. They should call another general election, which the public will use as a second referendum.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/06/weak-pmqs-performance-will-only-fuel-tory-plans-to-backstab-theresa-may/

This came after the Conservative Home website published its ‘league table’ showing how popular May and various members of her cabinet were. This was reported by RT in the video below. For some reason, Gove is in the lead, with an approval rating of 72.5 per cent. Just behind him is Sajid Javid with 70.4 per cent. Tweezer is in minus figures, -9.5. But there is someone even more unpopular than she is: Jeremy Hunt with -25 per cent.

So much for Theresa May, and the Tory party’s attempts to brand her as Margaret Thatcher Mark 2, and all that rubbish last year about her being ‘strong and stable’. Instead, as Mike pointed out in a series of articles on his website, she’s very weak and wobbly indeed.

Quite why Gove should be the favourite amongst the Tory faithful is still a mystery, however, as he’s as stupid and incompetent as she is. It was Gove, who managed to get Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s sentence increased by the Iranians when he came on TV to bail out his equally incompetent chum, Boris Johnson, who’d also managed to get her sentenced increased through his wilful ignorance. Gove declared that the government didn’t know what the poor woman was doing in Iran, which played into their hands and allowed them to claim that she had been spying. She hadn’t; she’d been there on holiday, and had taken her daughter to meet her Iranian relatives. This shabby incident shows how absolutely unfit for leadership Gove is. He is, after all, the man, who managed to run down the British educational system when he was minister for it a few years ago. If he looks better now, it’s probably only because ‘Thicky’ Nicky Morgan, his mad-eyed successor, was even worse. Nevertheless, the Tories seem to love him, at least for the moment. According to Chunky Mark, one Tory donor has even called on the party to ditch May and put Gove in No. 10 instead.

For the rest of us, this wouldn’t change anything. All of the Tories are incompetent and malign. The best thing that could happen for us is that they hold a vote of No Confidence, and then collapse amid a frenzy of backstabbing and infighting, leaving Corbyn to enter No. 10.

Evening Standard Set to Sell Editorial Independence to Big Business

June 4, 2018

This is a very sobering video from Novara Media, which shows precisely how degraded the mainstream media is becoming, and implicitly, why independent news outlets like Novara and the other news sites and shows I repost here are so necessary.

Aaron Bastani reports and comments on an article put up by Open Democracy last Wednesday that the Evening Standard is due to sell its editorial independence to big business tomorrow, 5th July 2018. This move, led by editor George Osborne, who not at all coincidentally used to be Dave Cameron’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, will see the paper sell positive coverage to firms like Google and Uber for £3 million. Bastani states that this is important, as it breaks down the divide between journalism and paid-for advertising content. But, he continues, it’s nothing new.

He then talks about how the Evening Standard is owned by a collection of shady Russian oligarchs, and reflects their business interests. He goes on to describe how the media is increasingly dominated by Tory politicians. The first person to interview Donald Trump when he became president was Michael Gove in the Times. Danny Finkelstein is a Tory lord, and the Standard’s Associate Editor. Robbie Gibb, who is the brother of a Tory MP, and was Theresa May’s head of communications, edited the Beeb’s Daily and Sunday Politics. Boris Johnson has a column at the Torygraph, even though he’s Foreign Secretary.

Bastani concludes that the revolving door between politics, industry and the media has vanished, and those hitherto separate areas have become fused. He makes the point that while quality journalism is a public good, if it’s left to Osborne, Johnson, Gove and Lebedev we will have ‘a profoundly broken society’.

Bastani’s right, but this is just the latest development in a process that has been going on for a very long time. Editorial independence in many papers declined in the 1980s, when newspapers like the Observer were bought up by magnates with interests in multiple industries. Tiny Rowland, who owned the Observer, owned mining concerns in Zimbabwe, and so spiked stories that paper wanted to run exposing human rights abuses there. I also remember how, in the 1990s, Private Eye also ran articles every so often revealing how the Observer had published yet another glowing article about a country or corporation, without revealing that it was a puff piece paid for by the nation or company featured.

It’s also been the case that politicians very often have had their own columns in the papers, or written the odd article about a particular issue. Sometimes this happened after they left office. For example, David Blunkett was given a column in the Sun by Rupert Murdoch. As for Robbie Gibb at the Beeb, Mike’s put up a number of articles about the way the news department at the Beeb is dominated by members of the Tory party, including Nick Robinson and Laura Kuenssberg. And it seems every couple of months someone else leaves the Beeb to work for the Tories. But the Corporation still keeps on pompously denying that it’s biased, despite its vicious attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.

But Bastani’s piece does show how far this process has gone, and is set to go, with the Evening Standard providing puff pieces for global corporations as news, while being packed, like the rest of the right-wing media, with Tory MPs. It’s almost a case of life imitating art. Or rather satire. Remember a few years ago, when people started satirising the corporate media with comments like ‘And now for our corporate approved content’, and slogans like ‘Remember: Corporate loves you.’ It now looks almost like Osborne saw the satire, but thought it was a good idea.

Until the mainstream media reforms itself, it has shown that it absolutely cannot be trusted. And people are far better off taking their news from the alternative media instead.

Frightened Davidson Tells May to Concentrate on Funding NHS

May 31, 2018

A day or so ago I put up a post arguing that Corbyn’s promise to renationalise the NHS had Tweezer and the Tories rattled, as there had been a story in the I that May had held the promise of repealing some of Andrew Lansley’s vile Health and Social Care Act. This is a long, convoluted act which basically absolves the Health Minister of the requirement to provide universal healthcare free at the point of delivery to everyone in Britain. It’s one of the major landmarks on the long campaign of the Thatcherite right – both Tory and New Labour – to privatise the NHS. May was also talking about increasing taxes to mend the funding deficit in the NHS. This was, however, spoilt by May acting true to form as a Tory. She immediately declared that everyone would have to pay this tax, which could be as high as £2,000. Mike’s posted a piece on his blog about how this was worked out, and pointed out that not everyone should have to pay the same amount. We have progressive taxation in this country, which means that the rich pay higher rates of tax than the poor, who can’t afford it. The Tories, however, hate progressive taxation, because they’re solidly on the side of the rich and despise the poor. And so Thatcher, Major, Cameron and now May have done their best to shift the tax burden onto the poor, in order to lower the tax rates on their rich friends. And Thatcher came unstuck in 1990/1 when she tried to promote the poll tax.

Like May’s proposed tax increase for the NHS, this was supposed to be a uniform rate charged on rich and poor alike. It was expected to replace the rates, which were charged on the value of your property. So a rich Tory donor living in a mansion was going to be charged the same amount of money as someone on unemployment benefit living in a simple terraced house. Never mind: Thatcher and her cabinet of grotesques claimed this was ‘democratic, because we all pay the same’. The British public didn’t agree, and there were massed protests and riots against it. I also know of a number of magistrates, who resigned because of it. As Justices of the Peace, they would be required to enforce this piece of legislation, which they personally felt was terribly unjust. And rather than find people guilty in support of a law, with which they profoundly disagreed, they obeyed the calls of their consciences and resigned. And I have every respect to these people for doing so. Thatcher was then outed in a coup, Major installed as her replacement, and unfortunately the Tories carried on in power until Blair’s victory in 1997.

It struck me at the time, as I said in my previous article, that May was probably trying to scare people with the £2,000 figure, which many poorer people wouldn’t be able to afford, so she could claim that the NHS is unaffordable as it stands. Cue more privatisation. Despite the fact that we could easily afford it if we took a leaf out of the European’s book and spent more on the NHS, and increased the tax rates for the rich instead.

But the fact that May is holding out the prospect of undoing her predecessor’s legislation, and raising taxes for the NHS, shows that Corbyn’s got her rattled.

And not just May. It also seems to have worried ‘Rape Clause’ Ruth Davidson north of the Border. The I ran a story on Tuesday reporting that Davidson had warned may to concentrate on increasing funding for the NHS, and ditch plans for more tax cuts. If she didn’t, she risked relegating the Tories to history.

This shows just how far the panic is spreading in the Tory party. Quite apart from Davidson and Gove forming a think tank – surely an oxymoron in their cases – to reinvigorate the Tory party with new ideas. Because, they warn, if they don’t have them, the Tories may be out of power for a whole generation.

Well, I’d just love to see this vile party and its horrendous politicians thrust out of power, and not just for a generation. That’s too short a time.

As for the gurning, smirking leader of the Tories in Scotland, today’s I carried pieces from a couple of newspapers predicting that Davidson is too young, ambitious and talented to be content to remain head of the Tories in Scotland. According to them, she will most probably try to head down south to forge a political career in Britain and Wales. What a terrible prospect! Davidson is responsible for trying to implement the government’s wretched austerity campaign in Scotland, including its demand that women, who’ve had more than two children due to rape, should have to prove this is the case when claiming child benefit. Hence her soubriquet of ‘Rape Clause’. It’s a nasty piece of vindictive legislation which punishes already vulnerable women, who have been traumatised by their sexual assault. But this is the Tories, who have absolute contempt for the poor, the weak and the underprivileged. Davidson is supposed to be a ‘liberal’ Tory, but there’s no evidence of that except her sexuality. And despite May’s attempts to position herself as a feminist, this is a thoroughly misogynist piece of legislation. The last thing the rest of Britain needs is for her to come down south to spread even more misery down here.

Actually, reading between the line, it’s possible that Davidson may not have a choice. For all that she’s supposed to have masterminded the revival of the Tories in Scotland, she didn’t actually increase their vote. Instead, the SNP’s vote decreased and Labour’s revived, which split the opposition and allowed the Tories to emerge as the largest single party, even though most
Scots voted against them. Which is another argument in favour of proportional representation. Given the parlous situation of the Tories in Scotland, it’s possible that the Scots may vote them out. This would result in the party looking around for a new leader, and Davidson given her marching orders. In which case, if she wanted to continue her career, she’d have to go south.

I don’t want her coming to England and Wales, but I look forward to the Scots voting out the Tories and their thoroughly grotesque and objectionable leader.

Boris Blusters as Thornberry Tells Him to Resign

May 24, 2018

I’ve already put one piece up, commenting on how Boris ran from the chamber when Emily Thornberry rose to ask for the government’s comment about the Gaza massacre. Just as he also ran away from her in February, when she terrified him with a question about Northern Ireland. And in this short video from RT, she lays into Johnson again, over the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Mike reported last week that the Iranians had added yet another trumped up charge to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s list of spurious crimes, and increased her sentence. This time she has been charged with spreading propaganda. It’s sheer nonsense, of course, but it shows the arbitrary, despotic nature of the regime.

However, this woman’s plight has been compounded by the sheer, hamfisted incompetence of the current Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. The Iranian government claimed that she was really spying, and had been teaching journalism during her stay in the country. She hadn’t. She’d actually been taking her daughter, Gabrielle, to meet her Iranian family. Boris, however, decided to leap in with both feet, and claimed in a TV interview that she had indeed been teaching journalism, thus apparently confirming the Iranians’ charges.

There was naturally an outcry against Boris for so ignorantly making the situation worse. So Michael Gove decided to exercise his minuscule intellect, and appeared on television to defend BoJo. And he made matters worse, by stating in an interview that ‘we don’t know what she’s doing’. In fact, the government knew perfectly well what she was doing, and BoJo and Gove only had to look at the briefing papers. Neither of them appear to have bothered. This wouldn’t have surprised Ken Livingstone, who said that Boris often didn’t read them.

Mike in his article about the issue raised the obvious question of why Boris Johnson is still Foreign Secretary, considering all he’s done is make matters worse. He concluded that he is only there, because someone wants him there, not because he has any talent.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/21/innocent-brit-faces-more-years-in-iranian-jail-tory-who-failed-to-rescue-her-is-still-foreign-secretary/

In the video, Thornberry turns her attention to Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case, and asks how many times more times must Boris this happen? How many more times must he insult our international partners and damage our international relations, and imperil British nationals abroad, before Tweezer sacks him? And if she doesn’t, because she doesn’t have the strength or authority perhaps Boris himself should show a bit of personal authority that this job, where words have gravity and actions have consequences, is not for him.

BoJo then bounces up and starts blustering, stating that it is unfair to attack the Foreign Office, that have been working day and night so secure Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release. To which Thornberry simply mouthes ‘Just you’, pointing to the fatuous buffoon. He then goes on to claim that her comments are a distraction from the people, who are really responsible for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s situation.

This then provokes heated remarks from both sides, with the Deputy Speaker crying for order.

Boris is right that the people really responsible for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment are the Iranians. But they’ve been assisted in this by Boris’ massive incompetence. It’s also very clear to me that they’re holding her as a political bargaining chip. When they first imprisoned her, Boris ended flying out to Tehran, and Britain mysteriously unlocked about £250 million of Iranian funds, that had previously been frozen in banks over here. Both sides claimed that this was unrelated to Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment, but it looks far too much that it was very much connected for the excuse that it was all coincidence to be at all convincing. The problem is that the Iranians have learned that all they have to do is retain Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and add a few more years to her sentence, and the government will automatically try anything to secure her release. Try and fail, because she’s too big an asset for them to throw away now.

And I think that the fresh charges they’ve drummed up against Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe are not unrelated to the current crisis in American-Iranian relations. America has imposed sanctions on Iran, and has blocked them from using the dollar as their currency of international trade. Even third party companies, who are not American, are prevented from trading with Iran in dollars, if they wish to do business in America. This is intended to make it difficult for the Iranians to trade oil, as the Americans have made the dollar the international trade currency for it. This has the benefit, for the Americans, of boosting their economy. If the world stopped using the petrodollar, and switched to another currency, the American economy would be devastated. Hence one possible motive for the Americans’ overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi was because the Libyan dictator was planning to ditch the dollar, and set up the dinar as an alternative trade currency. Venezuela was also planning to ditch the dollar. And the Russians and Chinese have also made similar plans.
And the Iranians have gone through with theirs, and replaced the dollar with the euro. This has resulted in Trump and his colleagues going berserk, and threatening all kinds of reprisals against Iran and Europe.

Also, while many Iranians are probably quietly in favour of better relations with the West, official Iranian ideology demonises both America and Britain. America is ‘the great Satan’, while Britain is ‘the little Satan’. And there is much popular suspicion and hatred of Britain as the country’s former colonial master. The country was never formally incorporated into the British Empire, but we owned their oil industry and interfered many times in their politics from the 19th century onwards. The Qajar shahs were overthrown and replaced with the Pahlavis because they took out loans with us for modernisation, which they could not repay. And we overthrew their last, democratically elected president, Mossadeq, because he nationalised the Iranian oil industry. The Iranians therefore have a saying, ‘If there’s a pebble in your path, it was put there by a Brit.’

The Iranian dissident, Shirin Ebadi, has said that so great is this popular hatred of Britain, America and the West, that it is actually harmful for them to support Iranian dissident movements. When that is done, the Iranian authorities try to undermine them by claiming that these are subversive movements working against Iran with the country’s colonial enemies.

It therefore seems clear to me that the Iranians are keeping Zaghari-Ratcliffe as a possible bargaining chip in case of further confrontations with America over their switch from the petrodollar to euro. As well as Trump withdrawing from the nuclear treaty Obama signed with the Iranians. And the Iranian authorities are probably also keen to exploit the propaganda value of continuing Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment, while Britain impotently pleads for her release.

Boris is right that the real villains in this are the Iranians. But they’ve been assisted by his and Gove’s massive incompetence. Thornberry is right. It’s long past time Johnson was sacked. Not just because of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, but because of all the other stupid mistakes he’s made, which have threatened our international relations, business interests and the welfare of our citizens abroad.

But Mike’s right. May won’t sack him, because he’s too dangerous to her outside the cabinet. So he will continue in his post as foreign secretary for as long as she’s in power.

Which means that, if we want to do something to improve diplomatic relations and free Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, they’ll both have to go.