Posts Tagged ‘Neil Kinnock’

Florence on the Sanctions System and its Architect, Yvette Cooper

May 4, 2018

A few days ago I posted up a piece about the death of Jody Whiting, another victim of the sanctions system. Whiting had been sanctioned because she missed a jobcentre interview. In fact, she was in hospital at the time, being treated for a cyst on the brain. In despair at having no money to support herself and her children, she went into a local wood and hanged herself. She joined hundreds of others, who have died of starvation or taken their own lives.

Florence, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted these observations on how the system contravenes UN human rights legislation, and is scathing about its architect, the Blairite Labour MP Yvette Cooper.

Under the UN Treaty on Human Rights it is illegal to use starvation as a punishment, I understand. Yet this is exactly what the sanctions are designed to do – it is stated in the DWP Handbook which state that sanctions will produce physical and mental “discomfort”.

(And while Yvette Cooper is being lauded for her “Windrush” success by the RW journalists and PLP (ignoring Diane Abbot, David Lammy and the others who have done all the work – racist much?) she was the one who designed the DWP system much as it is today, persecuting the people who need the Social Security safety net. Yes, the Tories have made it worse, but she gifted them this system of assessments and sanctions. Yet even after the UN report on the abuse of human rights by the DWP, she made election promises to be “harder than” IDS on the ‘scroungers and frauds’. I hope that she is not proposed again as a contender for the Labour Leadership, she is unfit on that very simple, human test.)

The sanction system has gone far beyond physical and mental discomfort, and is responsible for real suffering and death. Medical doctors and psychiatrists have reported how it has pushed patients into depression and anxiety, and made those, who already suffer from it worse. Much worse.

As for the media ignoring the attacks on the Windrush deportations by Diane Abbott, David Lammy and others to concentrate on Yvette Cooper, this does show racial bias. The right-wing media hate Diane Abbott and do everything they can to attack and humiliate her, because she is left-wing and passionately anti-racist. David Lammy, I believe, was one of those responsible for Operation Black Vote in the 1990s. This was to encourage more Black people to vote in elections, so their issues would be taken more seriously by politicians and there would be more BAME people elected to parliament. Which is certainly enough to bring down the rage of the Sun and the Mail. And I can remember how racist the right-wing press were in the 1980s, and their attacks on the Black MPs then elected to parliament, like Diane Abbott.

The media has also been constantly promoting and supporting the Blairites against Corbyn and the real Labour moderates. It’s because the Blairites are all Thatcherites, and share their hatred of nationalisation, workers’ rights and the welfare state. A little while ago when the Blairites looked like they were facing the threat of deselection, the Torygraphy/Mail journo, Simon Heffer wrote a piece claiming that they were ‘thoroughly decent people’ being bullied and undermined by the evil Fascist Trotskyite Marxists of Momentum. I’ve no doubt they’d like to promote her as the British version of Hillary Clinton, just as they were supporting all the female candidates against Corbyn in the Labour leadership elections. If one of them was elected head of the party, it would be a success for women. Despite the policies they stand for – more austerity, low pay, privatisation, including that of the NHS, and outsourcing harming women the most.

Cooper’s statement that a Labour government would be even harder than the Tories on the unemployed showed just how out of touch she was with the realities of life on the breadline. It also showed that whatever they were, the Blairites aren’t ‘thoroughly decent people’. They did everything they could to smear and undermine Corbyn and his supporters. Heffer and the right were claiming that Momentum is some kind of far left entryist group, and compared them to Militant when that group was intriguing against the right-wing members of the Labour party when Kinnock was leader. But Momentum represents traditional Labour politics and voters. The real intriguers, who have constantly been trying to rig everything in their favour, are the Blairites.

Cooper isn’t solely responsible for the sanctions system. As Jo, another of the great commenters on this blog said, the Tories didn’t need to pick it up. But they did, and massively expanded it. So there is now something like a quarter of million people, who can only get their food from food banks because of the deliberate poverty the Tories have inflicted through the system.

Cooper and the Blairites are a disgrace. They should either back the real Labour activists and supporters standing behind Corbyn, or else they should resign and go to a right-wing party, that better reflects their political beliefs.

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Marc Wadsworth’s Expulsions: Are the Blairites Trying to Give London to New Party, Renew

April 29, 2018

The prominent Black anti-racism activist, Marc Wadsworth, has been expelled from the Labour party for anti-Semitism in a profoundly controversial decision that makes a mockery of justice. Wadsworth was accused of anti-Semitism by the Blairite MP, Ruth Smeeth. He saw her at a meeting passing on information to a Torygraph journo sat next to her. So he made a comment about certain Labour MPs working with the Tory press.

He said absolutely nothing about Jews, but Smeeth did what the Blairites and the Israel lobby tend to do when criticised by their opponents: scream that they are being abused and demand their critics’ expulsion. In this case, Smeeth declared that it was anti-Semitic abuse, because she’s Jewish.

Wadsworth didn’t even know that she was. But this didn’t stop the right-wing media pillorying him as a ‘vile anti-Semite’ who made Smeeth weep.

In fact, Wadsworth had made a fair comment about a long-standing issue. Labour MPs have in the past joined forces against their leaders. I can remember when I was briefly a member of the Fabian Society one of the issues being debated was whether Labour MPs should be allowed to write columns in the Tory press. This was in the 1980s when the press and the rest of the media, including the Beeb, was doing its level best to attack the Labour party under first Michael Foot and then Neil Kinnock.

Under the definition of anti-Semitism the Israel lobby wants the Labour party to adopt, an alleged anti-Semitism remark must be judged according to whether there is hate behind it. Instead, the NCC decided that the remark was anti-Semitic purely because they were advised that it could be perceived as such.

As the Tories themselves hollered when Labour brought in more sweeping legislation against hate speech, perceptions are no ground for condemning a comment as racist because of their subjective nature. You need better, more objective standards of proof, such as showing that there was racial hate behind it.

This is what the judgement did not do. An innocent man has been expelled merely on the say-so of a right-wing MP, who herself admitted that she was trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. And understandably there has been massive outrage amongst Black and other ethnic minority supporters of the Labour party.

Mike has posted a couple of articles on this. In one he describes how the party escorting Smeeth to the ruling were all white, as were all the officials, who decided Wadsworth was guilty. He compared it to a lynching. Black critics of the decision have denounced the court for the racist way it treated Wadsworth. One woman said that they spoke to him as if he was a servant, and did not take into account how difficult many Blacks find it to speak up against powerful Whites. Grassroots Black Labour have also issued condemnations of the judgement and its treatment of Blacks.

Mike today has asked whether the Labour party has just blown its chances of winning London. New Labour lost the support of many Blacks, just as it lost the support of working class Whites, because it took them for granted and ignored them. It expected them to continue voting Labour, because they had nowhere else to go. Instead, many of them, like many White working class folks, simply didn’t vote.

The Conservatives’ position in the metropolis is shaky. So shaky, that a few weeks ago there were rumours that London Tories were going to split and form a separate party. But that seems to have gone by the wayside. Labour did have a very real chance of taking London, but this has been put in jeopardy by this grossly unjust decision.

And I wonder if this wasn’t done deliberately. As the Blairites showed when they threatened to split the Labour party during their Chicken Coup against Corbyn, they have no qualms against making the Labour party unelectable, just as long as they can hold on to power.

And a few weeks ago, the press was full of a new, centrist party, financed to the tune of £50 million, being set up by businessmen and donors. It was going to be pro-European. This had Euan Blair, the son of Tony Blair, as one of its members. As Blair himself has also made comments about the need for a centrist, pro-European party, there has been some speculation, including by myself, that he’s somehow involved in this all.

Then last week, buried in the pages of the I, was a little report about a new, pro-European, centrist party, Renew, which was fielding candidates in London. The article said that they were hoping to win over Tory voters dissatisfied with Brexit. It sounds like the party being touted by the press a few weeks ago. If it isn’t, it’s very similar.

Which raises the question: have the Blairites deliberately passed an unjust decision against Wadsworth to alienate BAME Londoners, in the hope of either boosting support for Renew, or simply handing London to the Tories?

If they have, then it’s supporting an opposing party, which is an expulsion offence. But the Blairites have the attitude that such things only apply to the centre-left, not to free market Thatcherites and supporters of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians like themselves.

Labour needs to win back the support of it Black and ethnic minority members and supporters. Along with everybody else, who is sick of decent, anti-racist activists – which have included very many Jews – of being smeared, suspended and expelled on false charges of anti-Semitism.

The decision against Marc Wadsworth, and other decent people like him, should be overturned. The recommendations contained in the Chakrabarti Report should be implemented to stop further travesties of justice. Allegations of anti-Semitism should, like other allegations, be examined and fairly and impartially. And the party should absolutely not give into those, who make such false allegations purely for political gain.

Does Anybody Really Believe that Alan Sugar Ever Really Supported Labour?

April 6, 2018

Alan Sugar, the multi-millionaire host of the British version of the Apprentice got himself into the news this week. He’s another one, who has joined the chorus of rich industrialists and Conservatives denouncing Corbyn as an anti-Semite. On Wednesday he put up on the Net a photoshopped picture of Corbyn riding in a limo with Adolf Hitler. Faced with a storm of criticism for this outrageous smear, Sugar took it down. But crucially, he didn’t apologise. Then yesterday he put up a nasty poem attacking Corbyn.

This little ditty was denounced by at least one female Corbynite as misogynist. And rightly so. In one of its stanzas, it describes Corbyn having sex with Diane Abbott, who ‘lies back and thinks of Russia’. Corbyn is supposed to have had an affair with Abbott. But as the female critic pointed out, it also shows the misogynist fixation with female sexuality, and discomfort at the fact that women are free to have sex with whomever they choose. In this instance, Sugar’s like the White supremacists of the Alt Right, who have a similar fixation with controlling women’s sexuality, as well as denying them the right to vote. There’s also a nasty undercurrent of racism in this as well. Most of the racist and sexist abuse sent to MPs is actually centred on Diane Abbott. She was one of the first Black MPs elected to parliament in the 1980s, and is notoriously concerned with combating racism. So much so, that the Scum quoted her in their infamous anti-Labour campaign during the 1987 election as saying that ‘All White people are racist’. I don’t know if she said it or not. If she didn’t, it wouldn’t be the first the Scum libelled someone. Not by a very long chalk.

As for thinking about Russia, this is just more of the Tory ‘Red Scare’ drivel that the party’s been running ever since the Zinoviev Letter in the 1920s. Labour is supposed to be full of Communists, ready to do Moscow’s bidding. Or, now that Communism’s fallen, Putin’s bidding. Sugar then goes on in the poem to rant about how Corbyn supports our enemies, listing them as the IRA, Hamas and Russia. All of which we’ve heard before, and despatched. He never supported the IRA, but recommended that the British government should talk to them. Which Margaret Thatcher was doing, all the time she was loudly denouncing the Labour party for daring to suggest that she should. Well, as someone once said, the Tory party is an organised hypocrisy. As for Hamas, I’ve seen allegations that they were either created, or helped into power, by the Israeli state, who thought that this would make it easier to control and disinherit the Palestinians. Corbyn isn’t an enemy of Israel, but he does want a just settlement for the Palestinians. Hence the outrage of the Israel lobby, who can’t bear anyone taking their side, even if they’re actually not opponents of Israel or anti-Semites.

He also claimed that Corbyn was the worse Labour leader ever. Well, I can remember the Tories making the same accusations, minus those of anti-Semitism, against Neil Kinnock in the 1987 election, and before that against Michael Foot and Harold Wilson in the 1970s. The CIA, MI5 and the Tories, including Maggie Thatcher, were convinced that Wilson was a KGB spy. He wasn’t, but they still smeared him.

As for Corbyn being extreme left, he stands for the renationalisation of the health service, a partial renationalisation of the electricity grid, and the renationalisation of the railways, as well as an end to the murderous benefit cuts. This is a return to something like the post-war social democratic consensus, and very far from the total nationalisation demanded by the genuine far left, like the Socialist Workers’ Party. Not that this bothers the Tories, who never let the truth get in the way of a good lie.

And I have always been uneasy about Sugar as a supporter of Labour. It never seemed quite genuine. There are, and always have been, businesspeople who supported the Labour party. But I don’t think Sugar was really one of them. I might be wrong, but I seem to remember Sugar appearing on Terry Wogan’s weekday talk show way back in the 1980s. He poured scorn on the idea that you needed an extensive education to become successful in business, and talked about how he’d begun his career aged fifteen selling things from the back of cars. Or something like that. I can remember my father looking at me, and remarking that he was the type who’d have children climbing up chimneys again.

Sugar left Labour three years ago, about the time Corbyn was elected leader, so he’s definitely no supporter of the current Labour leadership. It seems very much to me that he was one of the big businessmen Blair ingratiated himself with, and who were given seats in government in return for their support. Like David Sainsbury, who was another donor to New Labour, now departed. He’s basically another Tory, who was drawn to New Labour because Blair was continuing the Thatcherite programme of privatisation and benefit cuts, but was electorally more attractive than the Tory party itself under John Major.

His poem was basically another Tory screed of lies and hate, from someone, who only seems to have joined Labour out of political and commercial opportunism. There’s absolute no reason to take him, or his opinions seriously.

No, Tweezer! It’s Not Labour that’s Attacking Investment, but Tory Privatisation

January 20, 2018

More lies from Theresa May, the lying head of a mendacious, corrupt, odious party. Mike put up another piece earlier this week commenting on a foam-flecked rant by Tweezer against the Labour party. She began this tirade by claiming that Labour had turned its back on investment. This was presumably out of fear of Labour’s very popular policies about renationalising the Health Service, the electricity industry and the railways.

But Labour hasn’t turned its back on investment. Far from it. Labour has proposed an investment bank for Britain – something that is recognised by many economists as being badly needed. It was one of Neil Kinnock’s policies in 1987, before he lost the election and decided that becoming ‘Tory lite’ was the winning electoral strategy.

The Korean economist, Ha-Joon Chang, who teaches at Cambridge, has pointed out that privatisation doesn’t work. Most of the British privatised industries were snapped up by foreign companies. And these companies, as he points out, aren’t interested in investing. We are there competitors. They are interested in acquiring our industries purely to make a profit for their countries, not ours. Mike pointed this out in his blog piece on the matter, stating that 10 of the 25 railway companies were owned by foreign interests, many of them nationalised. So nationalised industry is all right, according to Tweezer, so long as we don’t have it.

The same point is made by Stewart Lansley and Joanna Mack in their book, Breadline Britain: the Rise of Mass Poverty (Oneworld 2015). They write

The privatisation, from the 1980s, of the former publicly owned utilities is another example of the extractive process at work, and one that hs brought a huge bonanza for corporate and financial executives at the expense of staff, taxpayers and consumers. Seventy-two state-own enterprises we4re sold between 1983 and 1991 alone, with the political promise that the public-to-private transfer would raise efficiency, productivity and investment in the to the benefit of all. Yet such gains have proved elusive. With most of those who landed shares on privatisation selling up swiftly, the promised shareholding democracy failed to materialise. In the most comprehensive study of the British privatisation process, the Italian academic Massimo Florio, in his book The Great Divistiture, has concluded that privatisation failed to boost efficiency and has led to a ‘substantial regressive effect on the distribution of incomes and wealth in the United Kingdom’. Despite delivering little in the way of unproved performance, privatisation has brought great hikes in managerial pay, profits and shareholder returns paid for by staff lay-offs, the erosion of pay and security, taxpayer losses and higher prices.
(P. 195).

They then go on to discuss how privatisation has led to rising prices, especially in the electricity and water industries.

In most instances, privatisation has led to steady rises in bills, such as for energy and water. Electricity prices are estimated to be between ten and twenty per cent higher than they would have been without privatisation, contributing to the rise in fuel poverty of several years. Between 2002 and 2011, energy and water bills rose forty-five and twenty-one percent respectively in real terms, while median incomes stagnated and those of the poorest tenth fell by eleven percent. The winners have been largely a mix of executives and wealth investors, whole most of the costs – in job security, pay among the least well-skilled, and rising utility bills – have been borne by the poorest half of the population. ‘In this sense, privatisation was an integral part of a series of policies that created a social rift unequalled anywhere else in Europe’, Florio concluded.
(pp. 156-7)

They then go on to discuss the particular instance of the water industry.

Ten of the twenty-three privatised local and region water companies are now foreign owned with a further eight bought by private equity groups. In 2007 Thames Water was taken over by a private consortium of investors, mostly from overseas. Since then, as revealed in a study by John Allen and Michael Pryke at the Open University, the consortium has engineered the company’s finances to ensure that dividends to investors have exceeded net profits paid for by borrowing, a practice now common across the industry. By offsetting interest charges on the loan, the company will pay no corporation tax for the next five to six years. As the academics concluded: ‘A mound of leveraged debt has been used to benefit investors at the expense of households and their rising water bills.’
(P. 157).

They also point out that Britain’s pro-privatisation policy is in market contrast to that of other nations in the EU and America.

It is a similar story across other privatised sectors from the railways to care homes. The fixation with private ownership tis also now increasingly out of step with other countries, which have been unwinding their own privatisation programmes in response to the way the utilities have been exploited for private gain. Eighty-six cities – throughout the US and across Europe – have taken water back into a form of public ownership.
(Pp. 157-8)

Even in America, where foreign investors are not allowed to take over utility companies, privatisation has not brought greater investment into these companies, and particularly the electricity industry, as the American author of Zombie Economics points out.

Lansley and Mack then go on to discuss the noxious case of the Private Equity Firms, which bought up care homes as a nice little investment. Their debt manipulation shenanigans caused many of these to collapse.

So when Tweezer went off on her rant against Labour the other day, this is what she was really defending: the exploitation of British consumers and taxpayers by foreign investors; management and shareholders boosting their pay and dividends by raising prices, and squeezing their workers as much as possible, while dodging tax.

Privatisation isn’t working. Let’s go back to Atlee and nationalise the utilities. And kick out Theresa, the Tories and their lies.

Kenneth Surin on Media Bias, and the Tories Feasting while Millions Starve

April 21, 2017

Kenneth Surin, one of the contributors to Counterpunch, has written a piece giving his analysis of the obstacles facing Jeremy Corbyn in his battle with the right-wing media, the Blairites, and the Tories. He points out that the tabloids, with the exception of the Mirror, are solidly right-wing, or owned by the very rich, who will naturally be biased towards the Tories. The Groaniad is centre, or centre-left, but its hacks are largely Blairites, who will attack Corbyn. He suggests that some of this vilification comes from the fact that Corbyn is not a ‘media-age’ politicians, but speaks as ordinary people do, rather than in soundbites. He makes the point that the Tories have copied Blair in trying to promote a Thatcherism without Thatcher’s scowls and sneers, and so Labour has no chance electorally if it decides to promote the capitalist status quo. He notes that Labour lost Scotland to the SNP, partly because the SNP placed itself as rather more Social Democratic than Labour. As for Labour ‘rust-belt’ heartlands in the Midlands and North of England, he thinks their dejected electorates now find UKIP and its White nationalism more palatable. He also states that the less educated working class, abandoned by Labour’s careerist politicians, also find UKIP more acceptable.

He suggests that if Labour wants to win, it should have the courage to abandon Thatcherism, and also attack the millionaires that invaded the party during Blair’s and Miliband’s periods as leader. These, like the Cameron’s Chipping Norton set, are obscenely rich when 8 million people in this country live in ‘food-insecure households’. And he goes into detail describing just what luxurious they’re eating and drinking too, far beyond anyone else’s ability to afford. Artisanal gin, anyone?

He also recommends that Labour should embrace Brexit, as this would allow the country to get rid of the massive hold a corrupt financial sector has on the country.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/20/the-uk-general-election-corbyns-vilification-and-labours-possible-fight/

I agree with many of his points, but profoundly disagree on others. Promoting Brexit won’t break the dead hand of the financial sector over this country. Quite the opposite. It’s being promoted by the financial sector because it will allow them to consolidate their stranglehold on the British economy by making the country an offshore tax haven for plutocratic crims.

I also think he overestimates the electoral strength of UKIP. Since Brexit, they’ve been on their way down and out. Many of the people, who’ve voted Leave have since been aghast that they won. They only wanted to give the establishment a nasty shock. They did not really want to leave Europe. Also, UKIP at heart was a single-issue party. Alan Sked founded them to oppose European federalism. Now that the Leave campaign succeeded – sort of – they’re struggling to get votes, and have been going through leaders as though it was going out of fashion. They have tried to pick up votes through some very unpleasant racist and Islamophobic policies and statements by their leading members. This has contributed to a disgusting rise in racist incidents. However, UKIP’s electoral base tend to be those aged 50 and over. The younger generations are much less racist and prejudiced against gays. Please note: I realise that this is a generalisation, and that you can find racist youngsters, and anti-racist senior citizens. Indeed, it was the older generation that did much to change attitudes to race and sexuality in this country. So the demographics are against UKIP. Racism and White nationalism also won’t save them from defeat, at least, I hope. The blatantly racist parties – the BNP, NF, British Movement and the rest of the scum – failed to attract anything like the number of votes or members to be anything other than fringe parties, often with trivial numbers of members. One of the contributors to Lobster, who did his doctorate on the British Far Right after the 1979 election, suggested that the NF only had about 2000 members, of whom only 200 were permanent. Most of the people, who joined them were only interested in cracking down on immigration, not in the intricacies of Fascist ideology. Also, many right-wingers, who would otherwise have supported them, were put off by their violence and thuggery. One of the Tories, who briefly flirted with them in the early ’70s quickly returned to the Tory party, appalled at their violence. Since then, the numbers of people in the extreme right have continued to decline. As for UKIP, even in their heyday, their strength was greatly – and probably deliberately – exaggerated. Mike and others have shown that at the time the Beeb and the rest of the media were falling over themselves to go on about how wonderful UKIP were, they were actually polling less than the Greens.

But I agree with Surin totally when it comes to throwing out once and for all Thatcherism and its vile legacy of poverty and humiliation. He’s right about the bias of the media, and the massive self-indulgence of the Chipping Norton set.

Surin writes

The context for analyzing this election must first acknowledge that the UK’s media is overwhelmingly rightwing.

Only one tabloid, The Daily Mirror, avoids hewing to rightwingery.

Of the others, The Sun is owned by the foreigner Rupert Murdoch, known in the UK for good reasons as the “Dirty Digger”.

The Nazi-supporting and tax-dodging Rothermere family have long owned The Daily Mail.

Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond (the former head of a soft porn empire) owns The Daily Express.

A Russian oligarch owns The Evening Standard.

Of the so-called “quality” newspapers, only The Guardian is remotely centrist or centre-left.

All the other “quality” papers are owned by the right-wingers or those on the centre-right.

Murdoch owns The Times, basically gifted to him by Thatcher, who bypassed the usual regulatory process regarding media monopolies to bestow this gift. The Times, which used to be known in bygone days as “The Old Thunderer”, is now just a slightly upmarket tabloid.

The tax-dodging Barclay brothers own The Daily Telegraph.

Another Russian oligarch owns The Independent.

The BBC, terrified by the not so subtle Tory threats to sell it off to Murdoch, and undermined editorially by these threats, is now basically a mouthpiece of the Tories.

This situation has, in the main, existed for a long time.

The last left-wing leader of the Labour party, Michael Foot, was ruthlessly pilloried by the right-wing media in the early 1980s for all sorts of reasons (including the somewhat less formal, but very presentable, jacket he wore at the Cenotaph ceremony on Remembrance Sunday).

Every Labour leader since then, with exception of Tony Blair, has been undermined by the UK’s media. Blair’s predecessor, Neil Kinnock, was derided endlessly by the media (“the Welsh windbag”, etc), even though he took Labour towards the right and effectively prepared the ground for Blair and Brown’s neoliberal “New Labour”.

***
Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, has been vilified ever since he was elected as party leader by a percentage higher than that achieved by Blair when he was elected leader (59.5% versus Blair’s 57% in 1994).

The disparagement and backbiting of Corbyn has, alas, come from the Blairite remnant in his party as much as it has come from the Conservatives and their megaphones in the media.

But while this is to be expected, a powerful source of anti-Corbyn vituperation has been The Guardian, supposedly the most liberal UK newspaper. Its journalists– most notably Polly Toynbee, Jonathan Freedland, Suzanne Moore, Anne Perkins, and Owen Jones– have done as much as Murdoch to undermine Corbyn.

To some extent this viciousness on the part of the Blairite faction, and its media acolytes, is understandable. Corbyn, who voted against the war in Iraq, believes Blair should be in the dock of the international court at The Hague for war crimes. The Conservatives, always a war-loving party, want no such thing for Blair, even though he defeated them in 3 general elections. Blair however is a closet Conservative.
***
Labour needs to go on the attack, on two fronts especially.

The first is Thatcher’s baleful legacy, entrenched by her successors, which has been minimal economic growth, widespread wage stagnation, widening inequality as income has been transferred upwards from lower-tiered earners, mounting household debt, and the extensive deindustrialization of formerly prosperous areas.

At the same time, the wealthy have prospered mightily. Contrast the above-mentioned aspect of Thatcher’s legacy with the world of Dodgy Dave Cameron’s “Chipping Norton” social set, as described by Michael Ashcroft (a former Cameron adviser who fell out with Dodgy Dave) in his hatchet-job biography of Cameron. The following is quoted in Ian Jack’s review of Call Me Dave: “Theirs is a world of helicopters, domestic staff, summers in St Tropez and fine food from Daylesford, the organic farm shop owned by Lady Carole Bamford”.

The Tories and their supporters are partying away as a class war is being waged, and Labour has been too timid in bringing this contrast to the attention of the electorate: the Chipping Norton set feasts on Lady Carole’s organic smoked venison and artisanal gin (available to the online shopper at https://daylesford.com/), while UN data (in 2014) indicates that more than 8 million British people live in food-insecure households.

“New” Labour did have a credibility problem when it came to doing this– Ed Miliband had at least 7 millionaires in his shadow cabinet, and another 13 in his group of advisers. So, a fair number of Labour supporters are likely to be connoisseurs of Lady Carole’s luxury food items in addition to the usual bunch of Tory toffs.

The austere Corbyn (he is a vegetarian and prefers his bicycle and public transport to limousines) is less enamoured of the high life, in which case the credibility problem might not be such a big issue.

Organic, artisanal food, holidays in St. Tropez, helicopters, smoked venison – all this consumed at the same time as Dave and his chums were claiming that ‘we’re all in it together’. We weren’t. We never were.

And remember – many members of the media, including people like Jeremy Clarkson, were part of the Chipping Norton set. And some of the BBC presenters are paid very well indeed. Like John Humphries, who tweeted about how he was afraid Labour was ‘going to punish the rich.’

As he is benefitting from a massive shift in the tax burden from the rich to the poor, it’s fair to say that he, and the wealthy class of which he is a part, are literally feasting at the poor’s expense. Furthermore, the affluent middle and upper classes actually use more of the state’s resources than the poor. So Labour would not be ‘punishing the rich’ if they increased their share of the tax burden. They’d only be requiring them to pay their whack.

Vox Political: Neil Kinnock Due to Attack Corbyn on Panorama Tomorrow

September 18, 2016

Mike today has also put up a piece commenting on an article from BBC News that Neil Kinnock has warned that the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader would be disaster for the party. He is quoted as saying “Unless things change radically, and rapidly, it’s very doubtful I’ll see another Labour government in my lifetime.” He calls the current situation the ‘greatest crisis’ in the history of the party. Mike pointedly asks whether he’s referring to the possibility of having a real socialist in charge of the Labour party, or genuine democracy in the party, and states, ‘Methinks he doth protest too much.’

Lord Kinnock warns against Jeremy Corbyn re-election (again – at length)

I don’t take Kinnock’s comments seriously for a variety of reasons. Firstly, as some of the commenters point out, he rapidly changed his ideological tune after losing two elections. Pjay Mac, Pablo N and Nanma Vanda make the point that Kinnock entered the House of Lords after years of violently opposing it, and that he’s speaking now as a member of that very privileged group. After he left office in Britain, Kinnock also went off to the EU to accept a very well paid post there as a Commissioner, all paid for by the European taxpayer, of course. And yes, it is precisely the type of unelected office that UKIP made much of in their pronouncements about the anti-democratic nature of the EU.

What hasn’t been mentioned yet, but should, is that Kinnock is directly responsible for New Labour. A few years ago Lobster published a little piece arguing that Kinnock was right in his 1986 book, Making Our Way (Oxford: Basil Blackwell). This was when he was still a socialist. The former Labour leader realised, quite correctly, that British manufacturing had suffered from underinvestment due to the concentration of Thatcher’s government in promoting the financial sector and the City of London. Then Kinnock lost the 1987 election, and began the process of ‘modernising’ the party in line with Thatcherism and the perceived ascendancy of free market neoliberalism. It was Kinnock, not John Smith, who began the process of abandoning manufacturing industry, embracing privatisation, and crucially the winning the support of the City of London through promising them that a future Labour government would deregulate the sector and govern with a ‘light touch’. As part of his campaign, he launched the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’, in which Gordon Brown and Mo Mowlam dined with leading bankers and financiers.

He is the politician ultimately responsible for the creation of New Labour and Tony Blair. As such, he is hardly likely to give his backing to an old fashioned socialist like Jeremy Corbyn. This would mean effectively writing off three decades and more of ideological change, and recognising that he has led the party up a social and economic dead end. Just as Thatcherism has done to the politics of not just this, but many other nations around the world.

As he is very definitely not going to do that, his opinion simply has no validity.

It’s not even historically true. The Labour party has suffered a series of profound crises in its long career. It has split several times. The ILP and Social Democratic Federation left in the 1920s and 30s. It was also divided over the question of forming a coalition government in the ’30s. The party’s defeat in the 1951 general election also led to a reformulation of what it stood for, in which Hugh Gaitskell tried to drop Clause 4, and Tony Crosland argue instead that the party should abandon any attempt at further nationalisation, and concentrate instead for ‘taming’ capitalism so as to provide better wages and conditions, not just for the workers, but for everyone. The infighting that breaks out within the Labour party has been so regular, that a BBC commenter way back in the 1980s or 1990s one remarked that every generation has seen a battle for the party’s soul.

I think there is one difference, in that the infighting this time is particularly bitter as the Labour Right – the Blairites are so right-wing and have effectively stopped being members of the Labour party in terms of ideology and policy. They have little in common with traditional socialists, like Corbyn, who are actually centre-left, let alone the real far Left, despite the guff spouted by Kinnock and the other neoliberal cheerleaders.

Kinnock is wrong about Corbyn, and definitely wrong about the wonders of privatisation, the unregulated free market and cutting welfare. He is simply another Tory chattering voice attacking the real socialists and Labour members supporting Corbyn. Treat him as such.

Chunky Mark on Owen Smith as the Official Labour Challenger to Corbyn

July 20, 2016

More Chunky Mark, the Artist Taxi Driver, I’m afraid. I’m reblogging him because he does have genuinely pertinent and incisive observations about the current leadership challenge against Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour party.

He begins this rant by talking about how the media just repeats its lies and smears against Corbyn, until people automatically believe they’re the truth. He doesn’t mention it, but this is exactly the tactic advocated by Goebbels and Hitler for spreading Nazi propaganda. You start with a big lie, keep the message simple, and carry on banging away at it until enough people believe it. And they will.

He then moves on to discussing how Angela Eagle has lost her bid for leadership to Clive Owen, who boasted that he was normal man, married, with three kids. Chunky Mark sees this as a further rejection of socialist values in the Labour party, in that a female candidate once again lost to a man. He notes that Condoleeza Rice, the woman of colour in George Dubya’s cabinet of neocon monstrosities, observed that Corbyn’s opponents are all men, but they use the testimony of women as their weapons against Corbyn. ‘So this is it,’ asks the Chunky One rhetorically, ‘women are just cannon fodder for the men in this contest?’ At the heart of his outrage here appears to be the allegation that Smith was deliberately playing on anti-gay prejudice when he stressed his family background, as Eagle has said she’s a lesbian. I don’t know how far that was the case. Eagle had on 6 per cent of the vote before she started out, so I think it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that she’d lose. But this doesn’t mean she wasn’t used along the way.

As for Owen Smith himself, he’s another shabby PR spin doctor, like David Cameron. And he’s not untouched by scandals. Among the firms he worked for was a big pharmaceutical company that was fined $762 million for promoting their anti-cancer drug in such a way that it would cause people to die. And before then, Smith worked for Pfizer, another profiteering big pharma company. Smith quotes Stephen Kinnock, the son of Neil Kinnock, himself now an MP, who has said that if Corbyn wins, it’s all over for Labour. Chunky Mark observers caustically that this is what the Labour values now come down to, being a PR merchant for a corrupt pharma company that miss-sells drugs and kills people.

Chunky Mark notes that the real plotters are the 172 Labour MPs. The Labour party, thanks to Corbyn, is the biggest political movement in Europe, but the Labour MPs can’t stand it because it doesn’t represent their ideas for the world. He states that he was there at the election with John Snow, when one after another the Labour MPs walked out in a huff after he won. Corbyn represents the dreams of people, who believe another world of possible. And the Chunky One goes on to state that this is all about your dreams, who represents you in parliament, not big business.

John McConnell Promises National Investment Bank and £500 Billion Credit for UK

July 19, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up another piece today, which reports that Jeremy Corbyn’s deputy, John McConnell, has promised to set up a National Investment Bank, tied in with a network of regional banks, to regenerate Britain’s communities and revive Britain’s industries after years of neglect. The bank is based on the German Development Bank. In addition, he promised £500 billion of investment. This follows Owen Smith’s promise when launching his leadership campaign this week end, to introduce a British ‘New Deal’, and an investment programme of £200 billion.

See Mike’s article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/18/labour-pledges-national-investment-bank-to-mobilise-500bn/

Both McConnell and Smith are right about investment in British firms by the British state being sorely needed. But McConnell is absolutely correct about the necessity of a special British investment bank to channel the money and provide the necessary credit. It’s been needed for decades. The authors of the 1s987 book, Socialist Enterprise, noted that the British financial sector was structured into investing abroad, and recommended the creation of such a bank. Neil Kinnock, in his 1987 book, Making Our Way, recognised the need for it. G.D.H. Cole, in his book, Great Britain in the Post-War World, written as long ago as 1942, recommended a similar radical reform of the banking industry. That should tell you how desperately it’s needed, and why McConnell is right.

Han-Joon Chang, in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, argues in one of his chapters that it simply isn’t true that we are living in a post-industrial society. Britain still has a manufacturing industry, and it’s still immensely important. It only appears unimportant, because it hasn’t grown as much as the financial sector. It is, however, still of fundamentally vital importance to our economy.

All of this, of course, will be unwelcome news to the Tory party and New Labour. Both of these turned to subsidising and supporting the financial sector as an alternative to, and at the expensive of, manufacturing. One of the functionaries Blair appointed to the Bank of England was an American banker, Deanne Julius, who stated that Britain should give up manufacturing products and leave that to America. As for the Conservatives, half of their funding at the last election came from the City of London. They have no interest and absolutely no desire to aid a British manufacturing revival. Not if it means having to spend government money, rather than rely on a bail-out by a foreign firm.

Way back in the 1970s the late Tony Benn tried something similar. The government set up various zones, and schemes in which firms could receive government grants to renovate and modernise plant and equipment. I don’t think it was taken up, and British firms continued to lag behind their foreign competitors. And the result has been the decimation of British industry in the decades since Thatcher took power.

McConnell and Benn stand for British industry, and investment to create real jobs and economic growth. All Maggie Thatcher did was cut, and hope foreign firms would come in to invest in what was left. All the while favouring the financial sector and her friends in the City. It also shows the hollowness of the Tories’ claim to represent British industry. They don’t. Labour represents industry, and the people who work in it. The Tories simply represent capital and those, who own it. The very people, who seem to enjoy increased bonuses and share options by cutting down to the point of destroying the very firms they manage.

John Strachey’s Socialist Programme

July 11, 2016

Strachey Socialism pic

The Socialist writer and activist, John Strachey, laid out his programme for a radical reform of society and the economic system in his 1940 book A Programme for Progress (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd). He was deeply impressed with Roosevelt’s New Deal in America, which formed the second part of his book. The third was devoted to Fascism, its connections to monopoly capitalism, and why it had led the world into war. He was acutely concerned with the way the banks and financial sector worked, not to benefit society, but to keep the whole capitalist class in power at the expense of the rest of the population. He therefore wished to see the banks taken over by the state, and subject to fundamental reform so that the operated a zero, or very low interest rate, which would benefit working people, and the country as a whole, rather than just generate profits for the wealthy.

He laid out his six point programme at the beginning of ‘Chapter XII: Conclusions’. These were

(1) The promotion of all kinds of public, or mixed, investment and enterprise, which is not, or is not wholly, dependent on the expectation of profit as its incentive.

(2) The lowering of the rate of interest to all intending borrowers, thus making investment and enterprise more attractive to all private borrowers at a given expectation of profit, and more possible to all public borrowers.

Both these expansionist measures should be financed, so long as general unemployment exists, by the methods which will be made possible by the fifth and sixth measures of this programme.

(3) The redistribution of income from the rich to the poor, effected by means of those kinds of taxation which are not mainly, or not at any rate not entirely, reckoned as a part of the costs of production (e.g. death duties).

(4) The payment of greatly increased pensions and allowances, and other social services, so long as general unemployment exists, out of newly created money rather than out of taxation.

(5) The development of a national, and public, as opposed to a commercial and profit-making banking system.

This is the decisive point in the programme. Unless this is accomplished, nothing else can be done. for the secure establishment of a genuinely national, public and non-profit-making banking system would mean that the main stronghold of that financial, and essentially monopolistic, interest which is to-day strangling the life of the community had fallen. That interest is the parent of Fascism. Leave it in control, and political reaction is bound to follow. Break it by united and well-directed popular action, and the road to progress is open.

(6). A strict public control over the balance of foreign payments.

This measure, too, though not so central as the fifth point is indispensable. For it alone provides an adequate protection against the counter-offensive which monopolistic finance is certain to loose against any progressive programme.

Without these last two measures of control it is not, then, possible to take the four former measures, designed to increase general purchasing power and so effectively to combat the curse of the unemployment of the working population.

It must be clearly understood that such a programme as this is not put forward as a substitute for the more familiar proposals of the progressive parties, such as the raising of wages, the shortening of hours, the institution of holidays with pay, the nationalisation of this or that industry, the democratisation of our political system, the development of a democratic foreign policy, etc. On the contrary, the above-described expansionist programme is submitted for serious consideration as providing an indispensable economic basis, without which all the other invaluable work of a progressive government will inevitably be wasted. (pp151-3).

Ha-Joon Chang in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, in one of the very first chapters shows that state industries can not only be profitable, they are also more stable than conventional companies, run for the benefit of the shareholders, as the state has a vested interest in their continued profitability and operation. Shareholders, on the other hand, are interested in immediate, short term profits, and will pull out if the company experiences difficulties. He notes specific cases where companies have destroyed themselves through their refusals to invest in new plant and machinery, and actually sold off their assets and shed staff, in order to keep the share price high, until they’ve killed themselves off through their own cost-cutting.

Strachey is also right about the financial sector. It is not geared to investment in the UK, as has been argued over the years by very many socialist politicians, including Neil Kinnock in his book, Making Our Way. The current austerity regime has been inflicted because of the massive incompetence of the financial sector, brought about through decades of right-wing administrations demanding greater deregulation, culminating in Labour’s ‘light touch’. The banks have been bailed out and their profits assured, at the expense of everyone else. In Europe, Greece is being looted and remains prostrate at the extreme of poverty because of ruthless austerity measures imposed on them by the European banking system. And then there’s the continuing scandal of the massive debt repayments demanded of the nations in the Developing World.

I don’t know if Strachey’s financial reforms would work, but we desperately need to curb the power of the banks and make sure they serve us, rather than the other way round.

The Anti-Semitism Accusations, Blair and the Israel Lobby

May 7, 2016

I’ve blogged a number of articles last week pointing out that the accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour have precious little to do with any genuine anti-Semitism, but are simply part of a strategy by the Blairites to hang on to power within Labour, and the Israel lobby to deflect criticism of the state’s appalling treatment of the Palestinians.

I’ve posted up a number of pieces from the parapolitics magazine, Lobster, about the connections between the Zionist lobby and New Labour. And in the case of Blair his circle of MPs and activists, the connection was very close indeed. For example, in the article ‘Yo, Blair!’, in Lobster 52 for Winter 2006/7, editor Robin Ramsay noted that Lord Levy’s fundraising activities amongst the Jewish community was aided by a member of the Israeli embassy.

Even when the police investigation into Lord Levy’s fundraising activities for the Labour Party overlapped with the Israeli assault on Lebanon, to my knowledge none of the major British media, looking at Blair’s support for the Israelis, thought it relevant to mention that his successful capture of the Labour Party owed much to the money provided by Lord Levy, money which came, we are told, from British Jews, and that this arrangement, which enabled Blair to be financially independent of the Labour Party’s resources – and thus to all intents and purposes beyond their control – was facilitated by Gideon Meir, then with the Israeli embassy in London. (P. 16).

Ramsay also ran another piece on ‘New Labour and Israel’ in ‘New Labour Notes’ in Lobster 44, Winter 2002, 16-17. He wrote

In Lobster 43, p. 9, I referred to Tony Blair’s membership of the Labour Friends of Israel. That body was the subject of ‘Byers plots a comeback with pro-Israel pressure group’ by the Times’ political editor, David Cracknell, which included the following:

‘Stephen Byers is bidding to make an early political comeback just two months after quitting the government. The former transport secretary is the front runner to take over the chairmanship of the influential Labour Friends of Israel pressure group. the body is one of the most prestigious groupings in the party and is seen as a stepping stone to ministerial ranks for Labour MPs. Several recent incumbents have been backbenchers who have gone on to be appointed to government….Tony Blair consults members of the Friends of Israel over Middle East policy and Byers would have the opportunity to regain access to Downing Street on a vital area of policy without attracting unwelcome headlines.’

In ‘Tony Blair, New Labour Trumpet Boy!’, Diane Langford of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, added the following information on LFI.

* The Director of Labour Friends of Israel is David Mencer, former research assistant and electoral agent for Gwyneth Dunwoody, ‘life president’ of LFI.

*The parliamentary register of Members’ interests shows that recent visitors who have had flights and accommodation paid by Labour Friends of Israel include Ivor Caplin, Paul Clark, Oona King, Ashok Kumar, Ivan Lewis, Anne McGuir, Rosemary McKenna, Margaret Moran, former LFI Chair Jim Murphy, Sandra Osborne, Gareth Thomas, Frank Roy, Joan Ryan, Angela Smith, Graham Stringer, Rudi Vis, David Watts, Gillian Merron, Peter Pike, Lorna Fitzsimons, Louise Ellman, Caroline Flint, Linda Perham, Douglas Alexander, Fabian Hamilton, Anthony Colman, LFI former Chair Stephen Twigg, LFI Vice Chair Mike Gapes, and Dan Norris.

Ivan Lewis, in the list above, was PPS to secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Stephen Byers MP.

* Since 1997 57 Labour MPs have visited Israel, mostly with the Labour Friends of Israel.

* The have been 14 official trade missions to Israel from the UK since 1997. The BRITECH agreement signed by Trade Secretary Stephen Byers means there is now a £15.5 million joint fund to encourage co-operation between British and Israeli hi-tech industries in research and development for their own benefit.

In the even the puff for Byers in the Times came to naught. the new chair of Labour Friends of Israel is the MP James Purple.

Further information on the Labour Friends of Israel appeared in the article ‘Terrorism, Anti-Semitism and Dissent’ by Tom Easton in Lobster 47 for Summer 2005, pp. 3-8.

Gwyneth Dunwoody’s researcher and election agent for some time was David Mencer, a former member of the Israel armed forces, and now secretary of the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). Stephen Byers, one of the few remaining defenders of the New labour Project, is a senior figure in LFI whose parliamentary chairman is now James Purnell. the latter was elected to Parliament in 2001 after working at No. 10.

Purnell, Stephen Twigg, Lorna Fitzsimmons, Jim Murphy and Sion Simon (a columnist for Conrad Black’s Daily Telegraph before becoming an MP in 2001) were all members of the New Labour ‘Praetorian guard’. Before becoming MPs they all cut their teeth in student politics with the help of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS). Numerically small – its website said it had 5,000 members in 2001 – it can afford 10 full-time workers. It played an important role in the 1990s in working with the National Association of Labour Students (later Labour Students) in keeping Israel off the campaigning agenda of the National Union of Students (NUS).

Of an older generation of student politicians is Mike Gapes, who came to work for the Labour Party after the NUS as a foreign policy researcher. He was part of the small team around Neil Kinnock who shifted the party away from its critical stance of the US and unilateralism. Elected to Parliament in 1992 he is now vice-chairman of Labour Friends of Israel. He wears another hat, that of chairman of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), a tax-funded operation similar to the NED in the States. Earlier this year Gapes chaired a WFD gathering at which Neocon NED chief Carl Gershman was a speaker.

This is just scratching the surface of the old Atlanticist networks with a newer Israel dimension, but it is sufficient to suggest that much of it in Britain centres around New Labour. And just as Avnery describes the pride the Israel lobby takes in its power over the US political process, so we have a parallel here around Tony Blair.

We not only can piece together the evidence; we can hear the words of one of Blair’s main links to the business community John Mendelsohn. this is what Mendelsohn told Jews Week (www.jewsweek.com) on September 8, 2002.

‘Blair has attacked the anti-Israelism that had existed in the Labour Party. Old Labour was cowboys-and-Indians politics, picking underdogs. The milieu has changed. Zionism is pervasive in New Labour. It is automatic that Blair will come to Friends of Israel meetings.

In a signed 2001 election advertisement in The Jewish Chronicle, Blair said:

‘Since 1997 a record 57 Labour MPs have visited Israel, mostly with Labour Friends of Israel, swelling the numbers of MPs willing to ensure balance on the Middle East in the House of Commons. More labour MPs have visited Israel than from any other party.’

How many of those Labour MPs voted against the invasion of Iraq? This is now important to the future of British politics. (p.8)

Elsewhere in the article Easton notes that the journos promoting the Iraq war worked for Murdoch, Black and Richard Desmond, who were all very strong supporters of Israel. (p. 6)