Posts Tagged ‘Minister’’

RT America Fights Back with Spoof of Corporate American Smears

October 28, 2017

This is a great little video from RT America, where their Editor-in-Chief, Margarita Simonyan, responds to the political and corporate witch-hunt against RT by pretending to show how the Russian-owned broadcaster really operates. It shows her counting out her ill-gotten gains in the company of a bear, natch – this is a Russian company. She moves around dressed in the characteristic Russian fur hat, as do many of her workers, who are shown as the bullied drones of Russian industry. And even the cleaning ladies take their orders directly from Moscow. The expats are kept shackled in the basement as evil defectors, and in the studio for foreign news all the supposed ‘live’ footage from places like Syria are in fact fakes, generated through computer graphics and the green screen. Further consultation with her senior staff takes place in a darkened room where everyone is wearing Red Army uniforms. And the news readers themselves are kept chained to their desks.

The clip concludes with a selection of various quotes on the screen by alarmed political figures and former journalists with the network, all going on about how it’s a terrible threat to American freedom and democracy. You won’t be surprised to see that amongst the Republicans there are various figures from Hillary’s branch of the Democrat Party.

The video then ends with the promise ‘Don’t worry – we’ll keep annoying them!’

This puts the lie to the stereotype that the Russians are naturally dour with no sense of humour. Yes, they have a word for ‘funny’ – it’s ‘smeeshno’, and this is very smeeshno indeed. And much of that humour was expressed in political satire. Try Gogol’s The Government Inspector. Written in the 19th century by the great Ukrainian writer, this is about a corrupt post office manager, who opens the letters coming through his office and reads them.
The late Peter Ustinov, in an interview in the 1980s described how he was walking around Moscow when a spiv sidled out of an alley. The man asked him if he wanted to buy any videos. So Ustinov said he was interested, and followed him back down the alley, wondering just what videos the man had for sale. The black marketer opened his coat to reveal-

-videos of the British Whitehall sitcom, Yes, Minister.

This was during Perestroika, and the Russians liked it, because it satirised state bureaucracy, just like so much of their great literature.

There are issues of bias, of course. The presenter of The Empire Files, Abi Martin, left RT, or was sacked, because she criticised a Russian military action on air. But that should not put people off watching RT, any more than watching the Beeb uncritically support the current regime of gangsters and Nazis in the Ukraine. I watch and reblog videos from RT on this site, because they cover issues from a left-wing perspective that you don’t see in the mainstream media. And if RT is growing, it isn’t because they are engaged in a fiendish plot to bring down our governments. It’s because they’re actually doing their job as journalists, and holding government and corporations to account, which the Western media has given up doing since they were taken over by big corporate conglomerates in the 1980s.

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Labour Promises £37 Billion More for NHS While Hunt Peddles Away from Media

May 16, 2017

The current crisis hitting the NHS isn’t an accident. The Tories – and Blairites – have had a decades-long policy of privatising the NHS and starving it off funds going back to the days of the molten Tory tin goddess herself, Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS as part of her campaign to destroy the welfare state as a whole. That she couldn’t was down to two things – there was a massive cabinet revolt, as they realised it would be, er ‘highly courageous’ in the words of Sir Humphrey in ‘Yes, Minister’. In other words, they knew it would cost them the next election. Also, her private secretary Patrick Jenkin actually visited America and found that there healthcare system is rubbish, with 55 million people unable to afford their health insurance before Obamacare, and about 30,000 folks dying every year due to lack of medical care.

But this didn’t stop her or them. She wanted to engineer a situation where 25 per cent of Brits would have private medical insurance. And over the next three decades and more the Tories and the Blairites opened up more of the NHS to private industry through the Private Finance Initiative and other schemes whereby private hospitals and clinics are now contracting in to provide services for the NHS, while the NHS is being privatised, starved of funds and broken up.

Even as far back as the 1970s Britain actually gave less funding to its health service than the other countries in what is now the EU. And that funding has been further slashed as part of a spurious programme of cutting the deficit by the Tories.

Jeremy Corbyn has said he intends to reverse this. He will find an extra £37 billion for the NHS, including £10 billion to correct the hardware problems, which left our health service vulnerable to hackers last weekend.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/15/a-tale-of-two-jeremys-corbyn-offers-37bn-to-help-the-nhs-hunt-runs-away/

So where does this leave the Tories?

Well, as the TV host Victoria Derbyshire tweeted, they had seventy years to solve the problems of the NHS, but didn’t.

One of the journos at the Beeb, Jon Ironmonger, doorstepped Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, for his comments on Labour’s pledge. The result is very telling. Hunt kept his mouth firmly shut, and peddled off as fast as he could into the London traffic.

Like May, Hunt depends on first being programmed by the spin doctors at Tory Central Office. Without Linton Crosby to type the soundbites into ZX 81 1 Kilobyte powerhouse that is his brain – for those of you, who remember ’80s home computers – Hunt and the rest of them have nothing to say. And so they disappear as fast as they can into the smoke and petrol fumes.

Vox Political on Tory Claim that He Was Approached by 3 Anti-Corbyn Plotters

August 21, 2016

Mike’s also put up another piece commenting on an article in today’s Torygraph by Kate McCann. This reports the claim by the Tory MP, Andrew Bridgen, that he was approached by three Labour MPs, who support his demand for a snap general election. They hope that Labour will lose the election, and this will give them they excuse they need to oust Corbyn as leader. Mike reports that none of the MPs are named, so the article could well be the product of McCann’s fevered imagination. As for Bridgen, Mike’s article has a picture of him, which was clearly taken at some posh function. It shows him in a dinner suit with another, similarly dressed young man in the background, standing in the kind of pose politicians adopt when they’re trying to be a Churchillian ‘man of destiny’. It’s the kind of posture Jim Hacker used to adopt in Yes, Minister, when he was consciously trying to be a statesman of similar Churchillian proportions. It looks pompous, and Bridgen himself appears in the photo to be, er, ‘tired and emotional’, as Private Eye put it to avoid libel suits.

Mike states

The possibility that any Labour MP would stoop so low as to try to sabotage their own party – and doom the UK to another five long years under Conservative rule – to rid themselves of a leader who stands for Labour values is nothing short of an abomination.

Perhaps it would be best to try to kill it before it can be put into operation.

If you have a Labour MP, please contact them (preferably by Twitter so their answers are public) and ask if they would rather have Labour “wiped out” in an election than accept him as democratically-elected leader.

The rest of the article also claims that around 6,000 Labour party members have been reported to the NEC for on-line abuse, anti-Semitism and supporting other political parties. This quotes an unnamed ‘senior source’, claiming that the party is no longer safe for women or Jews. Mike notes that the source isn’t named, and the official investigation concluded that the Labour party was no better or worse in that regard than the Tories or even, for that matter, the Torygraph. He also makes the very good point that the article does not say from which section of the party these 6,000 come from. If they even exist. As the Eye might say, ‘Perhaps we should be told!’

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/21/how-can-anyone-try-to-have-labour-wiped-out-at-an-election-and-still-claim-to-be-acting-in-labours-interests/

This clearly comes after three Lambeth councillors were caught in the week writing emails to Tories and Lib Dems, trying to get them to join the party to oust Corbyn. This gives Bridgen’s claim some verisimilitude. Or it could simply be that it supplied the basis for a deliberately destabilising lie. This is, after all, the Torygraph, the newspaper that told its Tory readers to join the Labour party and vote for Corbyn, in order to render the party unelectable. Now they’re claiming that unnamed Labour MPs are approaching
Tories to make the party unelectable, and so oust Corbyn. There’s a variation on a theme here.

As for the anti-Semitism claims, so many of them have been made against Jews and avowed anti-racists – Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Red Ken Livingstone, Rachel Nesbitt, to name only a few, that many of them lack any validity. It’s just the boy crying ‘wolf!’ by the Israel lobby, in order to smear and destroy its opponents. Israel’s founders, Chaim Herzog, David Ben Gurion and others had absolute contempt for the Jews, who preferred to stay in their traditional European homelands, and adopt a highly racist policy of segregation against the Mizrahim, Arab Jews. They were European cultural supremacists, who were afraid that their superior western culture would be diluted by contact with these culturally inferior orientals. And so Arab Jews were kept away from European Jews, given the lowest, worst jobs. And there’s also a scandal currently unfolding in Israel about the theft of Mizrahi babies after Israel’s establishment, who were given to childless European Jewish couples to raise, in order to make sure the children had the approved cultural upbringing. As Counterpunch pointed out, this is exactly what was done to indigenous children in America, Canada and Australia. It was also done to the children of political prisoners during Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’, and to the Poles by the Nazis. The Israel lobby has absolutely no business accusing anyone of racism.

Vox Political: Turkey, More Scaremongering by the Express and the Leave Campaign

May 23, 2016

Mike on Saturday also put up another piece about the latest scaremongering story run by the Express. This had, apparently, conducted a poll of 2,600 people in Turkey, across 27 provinces, which concluded that 17 million Turks would like to come to Britain. The country has a population of 80 million, and those, who wanted to come were mostly the unemployed and students. The Express is profoundly xenophobic, and it’s probably no surprise that its proprietor, the pornographer Richard Desmond, is a supporter of UKIP. Mike in his article observes that this looks like another Kipper/Brexit move to make us all afraid of Europe because immigrants from the Middle East were going to flood the country through its open borders policy. Just like they told us that over a million people from Romania were due to arrive, and that didn’t happen.

Mike asks if anyone, even the people, who write this rubbish, actually believe it?

See:http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/21/they-said-it-about-romania-and-it-didnt-happen-now-theyre-saying-12m-turks-want-to-move-to-the-uk/

Unfortunately, I know people, who have read it and believed it. This is after all the line UKIP has been running for over a year, and the Eurosceptic movement in general for nearly a decade or more before that. Quite apart from the general debate over immigration that has been going on ever since the Windrush and the encouragement of Black and Asian workers and professionals to settle in Britain to solve the labour shortage after the Second World War.

In fact, as I can remember Yes, Minister, pointing out, you can get the answer you want out from people using an opinion poll depending on how you phrase the questions. It’s why the reputable polling companies like Gallop and Pew are very careful about how their questionnaires are phrased. You also have to be careful to make sure the demographics polled are genuinely representative. For example, if you conduct a poll only in an area where White supremacy is strong, you could conclude that the British people are all racists. A quite different answer would be received in a Black, Asian, or more racially mixed area. And some of the interpretations of poll results by some groups and newspapers can be much different from what the figures actually say. For example, a poll which shows that more people are worried now about crime could be interpreted by a newspaper to show that crime has gone up, or that people fear that the government takes a too soft policy on it. But a closer examination of the figures could also show that in fact the incidence of crime hasn’t gone up, nor is the government actually more soft on crime, only that the fear of crime has increased. And I was taught while studying ethnology for a religious studies course at College that in fact the maximum percentage of questionnaires mailed out to people to gauge their attitudes, which are returned is 15%. There is a real question of how representative those forms are, when such a low number return them.

In short, this looks the Express once more bending the stats to make us all afraid of foreigners and want to leave Europe. It’s rubbish, and should be ignored. Like Desmond’s mighty organ that published it.

Quentin Letts and the Tory Attack on Short Money

January 21, 2016

Last week or so Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece about the Tories wishing to abolish Short money. This is the funding given by the state to opposition parties. I’m not actually surprised the Tories want to get rid of it. They’re authoritarians anyway, who hate any kind of opposition. But I’m particularly not surprised they’ve decided to attack Short money, as it’s one of the issues criticised by Quentin Letts in his 2009 book, Bog Standard Britain (London: Constable and Robinson Ltd).

Letts is the parliamentary sketch writer for the Daily Heil. He’s been one of the panellists at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature, and also on at least one edition of Have I Got News For You. Here’s what he has to say about it in his book:

Our political class has a horror of losing its perks. Nothing new. In 1970, soon after losing the general election, Harold Wilson was seen queuing for a taxi late one night outside the Members’ Entrance to the Commons. Friends of Wilson were distraught. A few days earlier he had been Prime Minister but there he now was, waiting for a cab like the rest of humanity. Instead of seeing this, as they should have done, as eloquent testimony to the ephemeral nature of elected office, Harold’s cronies secured him a state-paid limo and chauffeur.

We have been paying ever since for Leaders of the Opposition to be thus pampered. In 1974, having regained the premiership, Wilson returned the compliment by slipping the shadow cabinet a wad of public money. This ‘Short money’, named after Edward Short, the Labour minister who presented the proposal to Parliament, is now worth some £7 million a year to the Opposition parties. short money was given on the premise that an Opposition would be improved by having researchers who could prepare meaningful policies. It would result in better government. Nice one! In practice, Short money allows an Opposition to save its money for election campaigning. This creates an arms race of electoral fundraising which in turn results in dodgy donors being given undue pre-eminence over the political parties’ mass membership. Short money also allows Opposition spokesmen to keep large retinues which makes them feel important and saves them having to do so much thinking for themselves. Result: an overblow secretariat, lazy parliamentarians, hefty bills which have to be picked up by the taxpayer. Short money is an expensive con. All it has done is expand a professional political class. And all because socialist Harold’s friends thought it was improper that he should have to queue for a taxi. (pp. 219-20).

Letts’ party political bias is evident here. He despises ‘Socialist’ Harold Wilson, for having money given to him and his party after he left office. I’ve no idea whether the story about the limo and Wilson waiting at a taxi stand is true. I assume it is. But that’s not the reason the Tories want to get rid of it, nor is the explanation that it’s all about curtailing the bloated retinues and pomp of the political class. If that were the case, then Cameron would be happy to see greater clarity of the political process through the Freedom of Information Act, and by quite happy to see MPs’ expenses scrutinised by the press.

In fact, the opposite is the case. Cameron and his hand-picked cronies, including Jack Straw, are doing their best to rip the guts out of FOIA. They don’t like people challenging government decisions, and particularly not when it comes to MPs’ expenses. Hence the government got very huffy when the Independent asked for them under the Freedom of Information Act. Campaigners and journalists making such requests have been told that the Act is to allow people to understand how government decisions are made, not for them to challenge them. So shut up, run along, and do what we tell you. We’re back to the old slogan of Mussolini:

Believe.
Obey.
Fight.

As for forcing parties to rely on their grassroots’ members’ subscriptions, rather than contributions from wealthy donors, that’s a load of hogwash as well. The Tories are raking huge wads of cash from their backers in business, as well as corporate largesse from courtesy of lobbyists. And they have absolutely no interest in what their ordinary members have to say. The local, constituency parties have complains again and yet again that they are ignored at Westminster. The effect of corporate funding on the parties has been that they’ve all shrunk, both Labour and the Tories. The Tories are now under 100,000 members. That’s a massive fall for the party that was, not so long ago, Britain’s largest, with at least a quarter of million members.

They simple fact is that the Tories want to stifle the opposition anyway they can. And they’re trying to do it by starving them of funds. This explains the latest Tory attack on the union levy. And simply by their attack on the Freedom of Information Act, it seems to bear out that the Short money must actually be doing the task for which it was intended, namely, allow the Opposition to frame policies better. That’s clearly a danger as they’re trying to stop people using the Freedom of Information Act, not just by narrowing even further what may be released under it, but also by raising the fees charged.

This is clearly a very, very frightened government.

Well, if Cameron wants to play that game, then I suggest Labour also plays it too. Mike suggested that Labour should immediately cease any co-operation with the Tories, such as the pairing agreement, which states that if one Tory MP can’t make it to a debate, his Labour opposite number must be drop out as well. The Tories only have a majority of 16. Let’s make it impossible for them to govern.

Way back in the 1970s and ’80s, any government that consider cutting Short money could count on being told by the Mandarins in Whitehall that the policy was ‘very courageous’. Meaning, to those who used to watch Yes, Minister, that it was likely to lose them election. Let’s put that into practice, and make sure that it does.

‘I’ Newspaper Reports Cabinet Secretary Happy with Freedom of Information Legislation

December 23, 2015

Today’s ‘I’ newspaper has a report on page 4 that the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, who declared that some elements of the FOI Act have “a chilling effect” on the workings of government, is now ‘broadly happy with the way the current rules operate’. This is apparently despite the accusations that he has been accused of advocating that the public’s right to government information should be diluted under the current government review into its operation. The article also states that the Civil Service has also made no representations about the review.

I’ve repeatedly covered on here the struggle Mike over at Vox Political, and the efforts other disabled people and carers, to gain access to the figures on the number of people, who have died after being declared ‘fit for work’ by ATOS and their successor, Maximus. As I said in my last blog post, they have been repeatedly denied the information by the DWP. Their reasonable requests have been turned down as ‘vexatious’, and even when they have launched a successful appeal, the government has stonewalled, delayed releasing the information, appealed against the Information Commissioner’s decision, and finally deliberately supplied the wrong information.

Private Eye has also made an FOI request to gather information on the vast amounts of British land that is now held by offshore companies. And guess what? They have similarly been turned down on the grounds that their request is also ‘vexatious’.

This is not open government. This is a return to the kind of Whitehall secrecy that was regularly portrayed and lampooned in the classic comedy series, Yes, Minister. With the exception that we don’t have a premier as fundamentally well-meaning and likable as Jim Hacker, the bumbling Minister for Administrative Affairs. And even the Machiavellian and suavely devious Sir Humphrey was more benign in his way than the current crew of official bandits and snobs now in government. If Jeremy Heywood is happy with the way Freedom of Information Act operates, then this is hardly an endorsement. Quite the opposite. He is happy, because the government is denying people information.

Mike and the disabled have suffered it.
Private Eye is now suffering it.
Johnny Void has made it very clear that those campaigning against workfare have suffered it.

And the government has stated that they are opposed to giving the public information, as they use it to attack government decisions, when they should really be putting up with it all and simply use the information to understand how the decisions are made.

This is not ‘freedom of information’ under any except the most limited definition of the term. The cabinet and the senior civil service are natural elitists and authoritarians, who object to public involvement in government with every fibre of their being. As for the review into FOIA, it is being led by two of the worst authoritarians in government. One of these is the former Home Secretary, Jack Straw, who has stated that the Freedom of Information Act was a terrible mistake.

This is disgusting. The review should be terminated immediately. Or better yet, its members and leaders should be sacked, and a new one drafted, which would demand greater transparency. But that won’t happen until we get to the fundamental problem: the Conservative government and its wretched collaborators, like Heywood.

The Russian Revolutionaries on the Democratic Right to Recall Politicians

March 19, 2014

Soviet Poster

Russian Revolutionary poster showing the slogan ‘All Power to the Soviets!’

One of the promises the Tories and Tory Democrats have also gone back on was that they would give people the right to have their MP suspended or dismissed if they were guilty of misconduct. The promise was made during the expenses scandal, and was obviously far too radical for the Coalition. In the words of Sir Humphrey in BBC’s political comedy, Yes Minister, it was very ‘courageous’. This meant that it might lose them the next election. After all, what would happen if even more Tory or Liberal MPs were caught fiddling their expenses or some other, worse activity, like sexual assault? And so it was announced the other week that the policy had been dropped.

The Russian revolutionaries also initially demanded the right to recall unsatisfactory delegates to their national assembly. On the 7th December the All-Russian Executive Committee of Soviets issued the following resolution, stating clearly their demands for such a right:

However a body of elected representatives may be constituted, it can only be considered truly democratic and representative of the will of the people when the right of the voters to recall their representatives is recognised and implemented. This founding precept of democracy applies to the Constituent Assembly as to all other representative bodies … The Congress of the Councils of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ delegates, which is constituted on the basis of parity, has the right to call for new elections to all bodies representative of citizens, peasants or any other groups, and this includes the Constituent Assembly. At the request of more than half the electors in the constituency in questions, the Councils must order new elections.

Karl Kautsky: ‘Dictatorship and Democracy’, in Patrick Goode, ed. and trans. Karl Kautsky: Selected Political Writings (London: Macmillan 1983) 124.

at the time the All-Russian Executive Committee of Soviets issued the demand, Russia was still in a state of turmoil. The Bolsheviks hadn’t yet seized power, although the Tsar had been overthrown. There were thus demands for the formation of a constituent assembly to decide the constitution and political form of the new Russia. In the event, this demand was also much too radical for the Bolsheviks. The provisional government and its elected ministers were overthrown, and the Bolsheviks installed as the only permitted political party. Nevertheless, the idea that citizens should have the right to recall their political representatives would be a powerful democratic right.

It will not, of course, ever be implemented in Britain, and especially not by the Tories or Tory Democrats. As has been shown by the government’s attitude to parliament, where demands for a cumulative impact assessment in to the terrible effect the government’s cuts to disability benefit was having on disable people and their careers, and Ian Duncan Smith’s refusal to explain his department’s conduct and policies before the Work and Pensions Committee, Cameron and the rest do not see themselves as responsible to the honourable gentlemen and ladies of parliament, let alone the British electorate. Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and IDS are all aristos who assume, they have a natural right to govern. They need to be shown that they do not, and that they are responsible to the people.