Posts Tagged ‘Norman Baker’

Woodcock Tweets in Support of Amber Rudd, But Hasn’t Been Forced to Resign

April 29, 2018

Here’s another example of the double standards used by the Blairite right in the Labour party. Yesterday Mike put up a piece about the outrage amongst Labour supporters when John Woodcock tweeted in favour of Amber Rudd. Woodcock acknowledged that Rudd had ‘screwed up’ and that there was ‘a big question mark over her competence’, but then said that Labour had more in common with her than others in the Conservatives, and that we should be careful what we wished for.

Mike posted some of the tweets from Labour members, pointing out that the Labour party has, or should have, absolutely nothing in common with a racist, xenophobic party that is deporting its citizens, and depriving them of medical care, welfare support and their livelihoods.

Others criticised Woodcock for his complete indifference to the suffering involved. It didn’t happen to him, so he wasn’t bothered.

And a couple of people stated that it showed real attitude of the so-called ‘Centrists’ to a far right, Fascistic government. They have repeatedly been quite content to facilitate them and their policies.

This is exactly right, and it comes from the fundamental nature of Blair’s New Labour. Fearing he would never win against the Right, Blair effectively gave in. He rejected socialism and moved the Labour party rightward, so that it ignored its traditional working class base to try to gain the votes instead of the aspirational middle classes. At the same time, he also tried to win over the Tory press. Cabinet ministers have said that Rupert Murdoch was a silent presence at meetings, as Blair and his coterie worried about their policies would go down with the media baron. He was also eager, but unsuccessful, to gain the support of Paul Dacre and the Heil.

Many of New Labour’s policies were Tory cast-offs. The Private Finance Initiative was devised by Peter Lilley as a way of getting private industry into the NHS. Academy schools were another Tory policy that had been tried under Maggie Thatcher by Norman Baker, though under a different name. They were a failure, but that didn’t stop the scheme being revived once again by Blair and loudly hailed as the way to reform the British school system.

Blair was a Thatcherite. She called him her greatest success, and was the first person he invited to visit in 10 Downing Street. The Labour right aren’t ‘centrists’, ‘moderates’ or any of the other mendacious names the right-wing media has given to them. They are Thatcherite entryists. In fact, it’s fair to call them right-wing extremists, as one of the tweeters Mike has reposted states.

And several of the Blairite MPs share the Tories hatred of the unemployed and immigrants. Or at least, they do if there’s votes in it. Remember when one female MP announced before Corbyn won the leadership election that Labour would be even harder on the unemployed than the Tories? This clearly came from someone, who had never spent time unemployed, desperately searching for work, or being humiliated by Jobcentre workers, with the threat of sanctions and the food bank never far away.

And then, when the Tories seemed to be gaining a bit of popularity by whipping up yet more hatred of immigrants, another so-called moderate declared that, if Labour wanted to get elected, they should listen to and embrace the anti-immigration sentiments of the British public.

Which is very much what Labour would be doing, if it collaborates in keeping Amber Rudd as Home Secretary. I’m aware that there are probably people much worse behind her, waiting for her job. But the ‘better the devil you know argument’ shouldn’t apply here. Rudd has presided over a vile, racist policy that has seen 7.600 odd people deported from their homes in Britain as illegal immigrants, despite the fact that they have a perfect right to live here as British citizens. It shows that for some of the so-called moderates genuine anti-racism can be conveniently forgotten in the pursuit of votes and alliances with the other Thatcherites on the opposite side of the House.

Woodcock has already been reported to the Whips for his criticism of Corbyn’s handling of the Salisbury poisoning. Mike has also pointed out that his tweet in support of Rudd constitutes the support of a political opponent. Woodcock, however, remains an MP. He therefore states that the National Executive Committee and NCC should call on him to resign, and expel him if he does not. One of the tweeters also made the point that Woodcock’s comments also put the party into disrepute. This is another offence that results in a reprimand or suspension, at least as it has been applied to the Corbyn supporters the Thatcherites in the party have tried to purge.

This should, of course, be what happens. He should be formally disciplined and expelled. But it won’t, because of the double standards of the Blairites in charge of the disciplining process, and their determination to undermine Corbyn while hanging to power whatever the cost.

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The Threatened Return of Tony Blair to British Politics

November 23, 2016

The I newspaper today carried the news that Tony Blair wants to return to British politics. Apparently, the former PM thinks that his reputation is ‘recoverable’. There wasn’t much more to the piece than that, the rest of the small snippet being composed of two other newspapers reactions to this news. One of them quoted Owen Jones, the author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, who claimed that without Blair making Britain join Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the Labour party would not be led by Jeremy Corbyn today.

I can see his point. Blair’s participation in an illegal war, which has turned the country into a blood bath, facilitated the rise of Daesh, and led to the deaths of so many brave men and women, simply so the multinationals and the Saudis can loot the country’s oil and other industries, is one of the major reasons why voters became increasingly disenchanted with the Labour party and its Tory leadership. But there were many other reasons besides.

Basically, Blair was responsible for many of the disastrous policies that are gutting our precious health and school systems. They were expanded by Cameron, and are being carried on apace by Theresa May, but Blair was responsible for starting them.

These policies include

* The privatisation of the NHS, with the piecemeal dismantlement of the Health Service into ‘community care groups’, intended to be able to commission private health care companies to provide medical services; the expansion of the Private Finance Initiative, launched by the Tories’ Peter Lilley, which has burden hospitals with massive debts, all for the profit of private companies; deliberate outsourcing of medical services to private healthcare companies; and the establishment of ‘polyclinics’ or walk-in medical centres, again as private firms. Alan Milburn had the goal of reducing the NHS to a kitemark on services provided by private healthcare providers.

* The launch of the disastrous academies. These were set up by Blair as City Academies, and based on an idea Norman Baker rolled out under Thatcher, but which had to be abandoned because even they realised it was rubbish. The academies are monstrously expensive, in many cases costing nearly ten times as much as the budget given to the LEA for all the schools in its catchment area. They are highly selective, and in many cases also extremely discriminatory, using mass expulsions and exclusion to get rid of difficult pupils, or students, who are less able than their fellows, in order to keep their academic ratings artificially high. Despite this, about 80 per cent of them are no better than the LEA schools against which they compete, and the excellent results of the other 20 per cent are no more than you would expect, if each individual state school received £20-£30 million in funding.

* The massive expansion of corporate power into the mechanism of government, with unelected managing directors and company heads being given positions on government committees and quangos.

* Massive backing for the supermarkets, despite these harming local businesses and exploiting their suppliers through highly unfair and manipulative contracts.

* Continuing the Tory policy of deregulating and favouring the financial sector, with the result that all the safeguards that could have prevented the 2008 crash were removed. And that led to the current situation, where ordinary people are being pushed further into poverty, while the bankers are back enjoying massive bonuses and corporate bail-outs.

* The further cutting of the benefits system, including the introduction of the Work Capability Tests, which have seen tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of disabled people thrown off benefits, declared ‘fit for work’, and left to struggle and die in poverty. Several hundred have so far died as a direct result of being left without an income due to these tests.

* Privatisation of the prison service. Blair was approached and lobbied by American private prison operators, like Wackenhut, about handing the running of British prisons over to them.

* The passage of further legislation intended to weaken whatever remained of the power of trade unions.

* Oh yes, and the privatisation, or at least the part-privatisation, of the Post Office.

He was also responsible for the further, massive expansion of the surveillance state, secret courts and expanding the length of time prisoners can be held without charge.

I realise that these policies weren’t new. Many of them, like the PFI and the City Academies, were recycled Tory ideas, as were his privatisations, including the NHS, and the welfare reforms, which were deliberately intended to cut welfare support to the unemployed and long-term sick. But Blair did not have a mandate for them, and in opposition had explicitly condemned them. And in fact, Blair 1997 election victory was such that he could have comfortably reversed them with no threat of losing votes to the Tories.

But he didn’t. He carried on with the policies he’d inherited from Thatcher and Major, policies which have been in turn passed on and expanded by Cameron and May. These policies also played no small part in creating the disenfranchisement of large sections of the working class from British politics, and alienating traditional, working class Labour voters as Blair chased the votes of the middle class and rich. And these policies on their own should be enough to make people heartily sick and tired of him. Coupled with his illegal, murderous wars in the Middle East, they present an overwhelming argument against him making a comeback.

Blair possibly believes that if he returns to British politics, his presence will be enough to rally the neoliberal troops in the Labour party, oust Jeremy Corbyn, and make the party ‘electable’, or rather, palatable to Britain’s corrupt, bloated and exploitative establishment again.

Let’s show the vile, corporate warmonger that he’s very, very wrong.

Lib Dems Aim at Winning Blairites from Labour

September 21, 2016

Also in the I newspaper today, right opposite the report about the three pro-Corbyn councillors, who have been suspended from the local party in Bristol, was the news that the Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has made a bid to win over right-wing Labour voters in his speech at their party conference.

The article states

Tim Farron cast himself as the heir to Tony Blair yesterday as he delivered a direct appeal to disillusioned Labour voters to switch allegiance to the Liberal Democrats.

Only his party can prevent a 25-year-long Conservative “stranglehold over government”, he insisted in his keynote speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton.

Mr Farron coupled praise for many of Tony Blair’s achievements in office with a stinging attack on Jeremy Corbyn for viewing winning general elections as a “bourgeois distraction”…

Targeting the centrist Labour supporters, the Lib Dem leader said he believed Mr Blair made many serious mistakes, but admired him for achievements such as investing in schools and hospitals and introducing the national minimum wage.

“I respect him for believing that the point of being in politics is to get stuff done, and you can only get stuff done if you win. Otherwise, you’re letting your opponent get stuff done instead, ” Mr Farron said.

Farron and his supporters are keen to promote the idea that the party is undergoing a revival after losing all but eight seats in the elections last year. The same article quotes him as saying that by next year, his party will be the only thing standing between another Tory election victory.

But Farron has already confirmed my negative opinion of his party, and my decision that I won’t vote for them. Tony Blair and his supporters aren’t centrists. By the standards of the 1980s, they’re actually extreme right-wing Tories. I don’t mean they’re extreme right in that they’re racist, misogynist or hate gays. They’re not. But they are extremely right-wing in that they took over Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal policy of privatising everything she could, including parts of the NHS. Blair took this over and massively expanded it. Alan Milburn wanted to reduce the health service to a logo on services provided by the private sector. See NHS-SOS by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis. As for investing in hospitals, this is a moot point that needs qualification. Blair did invest in hospitals under the PFI initiative, a policy set up by that prancing snob Peter Lilley deliberately to open up the NHS to private investment. Under the PFI, the hospitals built are smaller than those constructed using conventional financing methods, and are actually much more expensive. These costs are met by closing and amalgamating other hospitals. Farron might consider these as mistakes, but they are an integral part of the system. Blair was responsible for closing down local hospitals in order to create a part-privatised system that was more wasteful than the previous, wholly state-owned, state-funded NHS. But it got him plaudits from the Right as the true anointed heir of Thatcher, barrels of money given to him and his continuity group, Progress, from donors in the private medical industry.

Much the same could be said of his education policy. This essentially consisted of the Simpering Scrounger taking over Norman Baker’s policy of city colleges outside the Local Education Authorities, which even the Tories ditched as a useless dud. Just as he did with Anderson Consulting, who had also been ditched by the Tories, Blair picked them up and adopted the policy as his own. The only difference is that he tried to make the wretched scheme look better by calling them ‘city academies’ and then just ‘academies’. Like the PFI hospitals, they’re massively more expensive than ordinary schools. They can cost something like £24-35 million, far more than the funding given to LEAs for all the schools they have to run. And like the PFI hospitals, it’s another part-privatisation where the taxpayer effectively picks up the bill. They’re given over to the management of second-rate entrepreneurs, often with extreme dodgy ideas on what counts as proper education. Poor, and children with exceptional needs, like the less academic, or disruptive pupils, are not taken, or expelled at an alarming rate in order to keep the wealthy, intellectually able kids the schools needs to show they’re improving standards. But they don’t. They’re actually little better than state schools. Where they have improved standards, it’s simply due to the vastly larger funding they’ve been given. These would have also improved standards in state schools, if they had been so fortunate as been given them. See Francis Beckett’s The Great City Academy Fraud.

The only person, who’s shown a genuine commitment to restoring standards and the integrity of our schools and health service, after these have been decimated by nearly four decades of Tory and New Labour misrule, is Jeremy Corbyn. By aiming to win the Blairites over to his party, Farron has shown that he effectively supports all the policies Blair and the Tories have done ever since Maggie. The rise of mass starvation in our society, and the incalculable poverty, disease and despair that will result if the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS goes ahead, show that these are policies are country cannot afford. Like the Tories, the Lib Dems should not be given any power in forthcoming elections.

Pamphlets Written Against NHS Privatisation and Austerity

July 26, 2016

Yesterday I added a new page to this blog giving a few brief details about five pamphlets I’ve written on various subjects. I wrote them to get the information about some of the most pressing issues I’ve discussed on this blog out to a wider readership. I wanted to have something I could physically give to people if they asked for information, such as at demonstrations. They’re only short leaflets, produced on the computer and printer at home, and folded over, but I hope they do the job. They are the following:

Medieval Science Pamplet Pic

The Advancement of Learning: Science in the Middle Ages, A5, 14 pp.
This is based on a talk I gave at Uni, and an article I put up on this blog, to show that, contrary to the received wisdom, the Middle Ages was also a period of great scientific and technical discovery, and that from the 12th century onwards scholars took a positive interest and delight in the scientific endeavour.

Anti-Academy Pamphlet Pic

Academies: Failing Schools for Corporate Profits, A5, 14pp.

This traces the history of academy schools right back to their origins as City Technology Colleges, a Thatcherite policy set up under Kenneth Baker, which was terminated because it was a failure. It was then revived as City Academies by Tony Blair in 2000, before being renamed as just ‘academies’. It argues that they’re a form of educational privatisation, they don’t raise standards, and are taking the country back to a period before the 1944 Education Act that made universal secondary education free and universal.

Anti-NHS Privatisation Pamphlet pic

Don’t Let Cameron Privatise the NHS, A5, 10pp.

This gives a brief history of the governments’ attempts to privatise the NHS gradually from Maggie Thatcher onwards, culminating in Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act, which threatens to completely privatise it. It also reproduces the arguments against the private healthcare system that Thatcher and Tony Blair wanted to introduce made by Robin Cook in a Fabian pamphlet published in the 1980s. A longer pamphlet on the same subject is also in preparation.

Anti-Work Test Pamphlet pic

Stop the Work Capability Test – Before More People Die, A5, 6pp.

Short leaflet describing the introduction of the Work Capability Test, the flawed models of sickness on which it’s based, and the assumption behind it that most people claiming long term sickness or disability benefit are malingerers. It attacks the commercial interests behind it – it was drawn up on the advice of Unum, an American insurance company that was prosecuted in the Land of the Free for not paying out on its insurance schemes, and was labelled a ‘disability denier’ by the American authorities. This scheme is scientific nonsense, designed to enrich corrupt private corporations and has led to suffering and deaths of the people, who have been thrown off their benefits as a result.

Empowering Precariat Pamphlet pic

This briefly discusses Guy Standing’s idea that a new class has arisen, the precariat, and his recommendations for ending their poverty. The precariat are those people, who have become less than citizens, through having the rights taken away through punitive employment legislation and welfare cuts. They are often highly educated individuals, forced to accept work below their educational qualifications, simply to make ends meet. They are trapped in a series of low paid jobs, interspersed with periods of unemployment. This is a result of flexible employment policies, such as zero hours and short term contracts. They are forced into poverty through welfare cuts, benefits sanctions, and workfare. This class also includes migrant workers, who travel around the world in search of work, and find themselves similarly trapped in poverty without the rights of their host nation’s citizens. Standing’s recommendations for ending their poverty include restoring citizenship, giving migrants and the unemployed the same rights as fully employed citizens, and ending the sanctions system, workfare and the work capability tests.

If you’d like any of these pamphlets, go to the page for them and use the contact form there. Or simply get in touch using the comments below, and I’ll get back to you. If you only want a single issue of any of these pamphlets, let me know, and I’ll post it to you free of charge.

Vox Political: Tories Suppressed Reasonable Drug Policy, Lib Dems Claim

December 29, 2014

Mike over at Vox Political has a piece on the departure of the Lib Dem minister, Norman Baker, from the Home Office. Baker threw in his job the department because he believed that it was blocking a genuinely reasonable and effective policy to combat drug addiction. The article’s title is Tories turned down ‘reasonable and practical’ drugs policy proposals – Baker, and it’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2014/12/27/tories-turned-down-reasonable-and-practical-drugs-policy-proposals-baker/. It begins

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat who quit his Home Office job earlier this year claiming it was “like walking through mud”, has released details of proposed drugs policy reforms that he says Home Secretary Theresa May suppressed.

When he left, he said the will “to take forward rational evidence-based policy” had been in “short supply”, referring in particular to a Home Office report published in October, which found “no obvious” link between tough penalties and levels of illegal drug use.

He has now outlined his backing for three suggestions which he said the Home Office had drawn up:
◾Treating addicts with prescribed heroin under clinical supervision
◾A “Portuguese model” in which those who commit minor drug offences are offered treatment rather than facing criminal charges
◾Medicinal use of cannabis for certain conditions.

This isn’t the first time the Lib Dems have criticised the government for its policy on drugs. There is a section of the Lib Dems that periodically calls for the legalisation of cannabis. This has been debated on and off since I was at school. It even had some support from senior police officers. I can remember when this was debated back in 1983 or so when Thatcher was the elected dictator a chief constable saying he didn’t object to its legalisation. He tried it, and all it made him do was giggle.

Dangers of Cannabis Use

Cannabis does have its dangers, just like nearly every other kind of drug. Unlike heroin, it is not physically addictive. Excessive use may cause ‘cannabis psychosis’, where the user is tipped over into a form of insanity, though I know some mental health workers, who dispute this. It can also cause sterility in boys, who smoke it before puberty.

Medical Benefits of Cannabis

It’s significant here that Baker has not called for its blanket legalisation, only for its medical use to be legalised. This is perfectly reasonable, as cannabis has been known to be an effective treatment for the pain from MS, certain forms of arthritis and some people have found that it helps reduce the nausea from chemotherapy for cancer. There is therefore quite a strong case for its use as a medical drug, under strict supervision.

Benefits of Heroin vs. Methadone for Addicts

As for treating heroin addicts with that drug, again under medical supervision, this sounds shocking but is actually also entirely reasonable. Years ago I attended a computer course at one of Bristol’s FE colleges. One week it was running a drugs education campaign, in which members of one of the anti-drugs organisations wandered around attempting to persuade the students not to get involved in it. I think they were former addicts. Certainly the one I spoke to was. He told me that he believed that the current treatment of heroin addiction with methadone should be discontinued, and replaced with heroin as methadone was more harmful and more addictive than the drug it was intended to treat. It takes longer to come off methadone than it does heroin. Methadone does more damage to the system than heroin, and actually makes the user feel physically sicker than heroin. So while the use of heroin instead of methadone to treat heroin addiction seems simply wrong, even, perhaps, something of a reward for getting on the drug in the first place, like the use of marijuana for medical purposes there is actually good evidence to support it.

Matthew Parris’ Criticism of Tory Drugs Policy

There is little doubt that the current drugs policy is a shambles. Surprisingly, there’s a large section of the Tory party that actually knows this and agrees. One of them is Margaret Thatcher’s former Personal Private Secretary, Matthew Parris. Parris had got the sack from that post, after he replied to a letter addressed by an elderly lady to the Leaderene. The letter writer had complained about the poverty she was experiencing due to Maggie’s policies. Parris responded by telling her to shut up and stop complaining. The news of this got to the Mirror, and Parris got the sack. He later appeared on Radio 4 saying that his dismissal wasn’t quite like it was reported in the press, as the lady’s letter was a general rant about a number of topics, including being disturbed, so he claimed, by the noise from the local Asian children.

Parris was, however, an opponent of the government’s attempts to stamp out drug use hard through tough legal penalties. He didn’t believe it worked, and wrote an article in the arch-Tory magazine, The Spectator, explaining why. The article appeared over a decade ago now. It’s immediate cause was unilateral declaration by Anne Widdecombe that if the Tories entered government, they would come down even harder on drug use. This alarmed many others in her party, who didn’t share her opinions. There was, no doubt, a utilitarian aspect to this, as some of them may have been alarmed at the prospect of losing support from the Libertarians, who generally support drug liberalisation. Several very senior Tories came out to criticise the woman, who’s been dubbed ‘Doris Karloff’. A number even said that they’d tried cannabis themselves, and it had done them no harm. One had even smoked it in his pipe at Uni. This last revelation shocked Parris, who said that he couldn’t care less what the Conservative gentleman smoked – it could have been cowpats for all he cared. What he found shocking was that the man had smoked a pipe.

Treat Addiction as Disease, not Crime

The furore coincided with a general debate on the government’s drugs policy. It’s interesting that Baker points to the Portuguese system as a successful model for treating drug addiction. At that time in the early Noughties, the country that was held up as a suitable model for a successful drugs policy was either Switzerland or Austria. The approach, however, appears similar in that drug use and addiction is treated as a medical problem, rather than a crime. The result has been that those countries that have taken such an approach have a much lower incidence of drug addiction than Britain. Parris’ article pointed this out, and explained the reason for it. Basically, it’s the old one that if you make something a crime, then it becomes glamorous and seductive. It becomes ‘forbidden fruit’, and so some at least are drawn to it, simply because it is forbidden. If you make it a disease, which needs treatment on the other hand, it becomes much less attractive. No-one really likes being sick.

This approach was not, however, pioneered in Portugal, Austria or Switzerland. What is not mentioned in these reports, but was in Parris’ article, is that it was the system used in Britain under Ted Heath and Jim Callaghan. And according to Parris, it was beginning to pay off, with the number of addicts falling. In fact, according to Parris, the government may even have felt that they had beaten the drugs problem.

Then Maggie came along, and reversed it.

Why?

Reagan and the War on Drugs

According to Parris, Thatcher was forced to due to pressure from the Americans. Reagan had just entered the White House, and launched his ‘War on Drugs’. This was the renewed offensive against drugs, which domestically saw children encouraged to inform on their parents for smoking the weed. Internationally, it saw American troops launched into Latin American countries, like Colombia, to destroy the drug trade and the international gangs that deal in it at source. The result has been a bitter devastating war that has cost tens of thousands of lives in countries like Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and which shows no signs of stopping. The drug gangs in those countries are deeply unpleasant and responsible for truly horrific crimes and atrocities. They need and deserve to be stamped out. Military force, however, is not sufficient for this. A new approach is needed, which acts against the trade and the gangs that support it by reducing consumption in the affluent global north and west. One way of doing this is simply by reducing its attractiveness.

Conclusion: Make Drugs Less Attractive by Showing Them as Disease

Instead of looking at drugs as part of a rock ‘n ‘roll lifestyle, where young, hip rebels live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse, the view should be that the reality is that drugs will leave you poor, sick and dead. And due to the ravages of the chemical disease, you definitely won’t be beautiful.

From what I understand, the approach Norman Baker recommended isn’t a case of being ‘soft’ on drugs. In Portugal, Switzerland and the other countries that have adopted it, drugs are still illegal and their medical use tightly controlled. It really is a case of simply moving from treating it as a crime to a disease, which needs to be cured. This was, after all, the British policy, before Reagan decided that the troops needed to be sent in, and Maggie obediently complied.