Posts Tagged ‘Northern Ireland’

Protest Against the Cost of Living in Northern Ireland

September 26, 2022

There have been marches against the cost of living in London and Ireland. There’s foorage and discussion of the marches against it in Dublin and Cork on YouTube. I found this video of another such protest in Belfast. The protesters carry placards demanding the nationalisation of the energy companies and also attacking the tax cuts for the rich. One of the speakers, a man, attacks the Stormont administration for not passing the measure that would help out ordinary working Ulstermen and women. He also talks about the £300 payment that some people in the province will receive. He doesn’t begrudge anyone getting the money, but as inflation is running at over 1000%, people should get a thousand pounds instead. A female speaker attacks the tax cuts and points out that it will be working people that end up paying.

This comes from the Daily Mail, who must have had to restrain themselves at the sight of working people protesting in favour of nationalisation and against the rich getting tax cuts. But the speakers are absolutely right. Bravo and respect to them, and everyone across Britain, Ireland and Europe who’s protesting against such policies.

Does the Handshake between King Charles and Sinn Fein Indicate Better Relations Between Irish Nationalists and the British State?

September 20, 2022

Maximilien Robespierre also put up a rather optimistic video a few days ago. During his brief appearance in Northern Ireland, King Charles met and shook hands with the head of Sinn Fein in province. Or at least, the head of Sinn Fein in the Stormont assembly. Robespierre played a clip of an interview with one of the Irish politicians talking about the importance of the handshake. It looks trivial, but it represents an enormous development in the party’s attitudes towards government and the British state. Robespierre said they used a variety of methods in their campaigns for Irish reunion, some of which he didn’t agree with. Well, yes. When I was growing up Sinn Fein were notorious for the very close relationship they had with the IRA and for their defence of the terrorists’ atrocities. Long before the Good Friday Agreement, the late Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein were campaigning in Ulster under the slogan ‘the ballot bomb’. The mere fact that they had shaken King Charles’ hand suggested that political relations had entered a new phase where Sinn Fein were no longer a threat to the British state, and the British state were no longer a threat to Sinn Fein.

If I interpret that correctly, it means that Sinn Fein will go about their aim of achieving Irish reunification through peaceful, democratic methods without fighting a war with the British state. And thus, in the eyes of Robespierre, if I remember correctly, there should be no obstacle for them taking up the leadership of Ulster, as provided by the Good Friday Agreement. I believe that Sinn Fein became the largest party in the assembly at the last election and so their leader should have become First Minister and formed a Sinn Fein majority government under the Agreement. They were prevented from doing so because the DUP refused their support. Democratic government once again fell into abeyance in the province.

I have to say that I don’t care whether Ulster joins Eire or not. That decision should be for the people of Northern Ireland alone. But I do care about democratic government and an end to bloodshed. And I really hope that handshake between the Sinn Fein politico and our new Lord and Sovereign does mean that democracy will return and there will be peace between us and Sinn Fein. My only fear is that the hardliners may see the handshake as Sinn Fein selling out and so split with them and return to violence. I hope this never happens.

In the meantime, I salute our king and Sinn Fein for this gesture of peace. Long may it last.

Book Re-Evaluating Jim Callaghan as a Skillful Politician

August 7, 2022

One of the other books featured in the Postscript catalogue for this month is James Callaghan: An Underrated Prime Minister?, edited by Kevin Hickson and Jasper Milne (Biteback: 2020). Callaghan’s tenure of No. 10 has almost become something of a byword for political failure, and is regularly trotted about the Tories as an example of how terrible the Labour party were and are and how everything was a mess in the 1970s until the glorious assumption of the throne, sorry, election victory of Margaret Thatcher. Now it seems Callaghan and his leadership of this country is being evaluated and a more positive view is emerging. The blurb for this runs

‘Since his defeat by Margaret Thatcher in 1979, James Callaghan’s premiership has been widely regarded as a period of failure and decline. This collection of essays by politicians, journalists, advisors and academics offers a reappraisal. Focusing on his handling of party management, economic policy, industrial relations, Northern Ireland and Europe, it reveals a skilled tactician balancing conflicting interests in one of the most turbulent periods of British politics.’

This looks interesting. Very interesting. But it shouldn’t be alone.

What we really want as well is a reappraisal of Maggie Thatcher which sums her policies up as the massive failure they are.

That’d cause Tory heads to explode.

Brexiteer Michael Heaver Reveals Reclaim Party’s Exciting Warmed-Up Tory Leftovers Policies

July 26, 2022

Michael Heaver’s another right-wing, Brexiteer YouTuber. Most of his content seems to be about how wonderful Brexit it, or would be, if it wasn’t for those evil whining remoaners and the European Union trying to sabotage it all the time. He seems to have gone from the Tories to backing the Reclaim party, as well as wanting the return of Johnson. Today he put up a piece revealing Reclaim’s new, (ahem, cough, cough) policies. Laurence Fox’s party will be fielding 600 candidates, which, if true, is definitely a challenge to the Tories and the other established parties. Their policies are:

Do Brexit properly.

Net Zero immigration.

Cut taxes.

I think there’s also something about getting rid of the Green agenda. And I also think they want to support Johnson’s return to power, because the other Tory leadership candidates are so terrible and will hand the government over to Starmer. Or such is the fear amongst some Tories.

This is hogwash. Let’s go through them.

Do Brexit properly: Can’t be done. Uh-huh, no way. It’s simply impossible, like squaring the circle or redefining PI as equalling four, which is what the Nebraska legislature did way back in the 19th century. If this had gone ahead, it would have meant that clocks would have gained fifteen minutes everyone hour. But like ‘Get Brexit done’ it makes a good slogan. You can’t enact Brexit without reneging on one of the key policies of the Good Friday Agreement, which was an open border with the Republic. It’s either that, or the Irish backstop in the middle of the sea, thus alienating the Loyalists. Johnson got into power claiming that he’d ‘get Brexit done’. Well, he did, and it’s been chaos. Britain’s trade with the EU has taken a massive hit, there are real threats to British industry and agriculture, the financial sector the Tories and Blairites have been so keen to protect and establish London as a international hub has also been threatened. By Brexiteer Tories, like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who moved his investment business across the briny to Dublin. All while he was telling the rest of us that Brexit would be A Very Good Thing Indeed. There were delays at Dover months or even years ago because of the additional red tape added to hauliers and other travellers going to the continent now that we were no longer part of the EU. That red tape is also damaging our music industry, as it’s made it extremely difficult for British musicians and performers to travel over there to perform.

We were told that the Tories had an ‘oven ready deal’ with Europe for Brexit.

We were told that the millions saved on our EU contributions would be spent on the NHS.

We were lied to.

And this, as the late, great Max Headroom used to say, is simply ‘more of the same’. Except that he was talking about epic, rocking 80s pop music and videos.

Net zero immigration. More red meat for the Tory faithful, and other sections of the population worried about immigration. Mostly non-White immigration. And there are real moral and practical problems with that. Firstly, there’s the moral question of denying asylum to people, who may very well be in real danger of persecution in their countries of origin. I think many of the prospective migrants properly are coming here for economic reasons. One former channel migrant was interviewed on GB News or Talk TV, and he said that most of the other immigrants he was with were trying to dodge military service in their home countries and hoped to settle so that they could bring their families over. I can’t say I entirely blame them for wanting to do so, especially when these countries are dirt-poor, corrupt dictatorships like Eritrea. But nevertheless, I think there are people trying to get here because they face real threats to their lives for their views or simply because of their ethnicity or religion. Gay people around the world face persecution, particularly in Africa. Go back a few years, and there were the Yezidis, whose women were raped and enslaved for sex by ISIS. Last year there were Afghans desperate to escape the Taliban takeover. And in the past few months Britain and other European nations have taken in refugees from Ukraine, escaping Putin’s genocidal onslaught. I don’t see how you can morally turn at least some of these away.

Then there’s the economic aspect. As Buddyhell over on Guy Debord’s Cat, and just about everyone else on the web has point out, Britain needs immigrant doctors, nurses and other workers for the NHS. Yes, we should be training our own. But we haven’t been doing so ever since one of the Tory ministers – I think it may even have been Enoch Powell – decided in the 1960s to solve the shortage of NHS doctors by encouraging them to come from Pakistan and India. I can’t see the Tories wanting to spend the money to pay for the proper training for doctors and other medical professionals. Not when they seem content to drive them away by not paying them what they deserve and overburdening them with work and paperwork.

People also immigrate to Britain and settle down and raise families as part of their work. I know a number of people, who came to this country to work, and particularly on ground-breaking scientific or engineering projects. This country is short of scientists, engineers and skilled technicians. These are precisely the type of people we should be encouraging to come here, if only so that they can pass these skills on to Brits.

Education is a major part of this. There’s a movement of academics, both teaching staff and students, between countries and across continents. Most university’s, I’d say, have international students, some of whom are going to try to settle down here. Academics also take up posts at universities and colleges right across the world. When I was studying archaeology at Bristol, several of the department staff were foreign. One was Portuguese while another was German, for example. At the same time, archaeological work takes people right across the globe. At the time I was there, there was great excitement about Neolithic discoveries in Ukraine. One of the lecturers had also helped carry out excavations of archaic homo sapiens remains in Romania. Another leading member of the department had also been excavating in Iran. Some of these academics will no doubt wish to settle down and make their home here. Either way, I can see Brexit and a zero-net immigration policy causing real problems with universities obtaining needed foreign academic staff.

And it’s going to be hypocritical. The Tories have, in my recollection, shown themselves perfectly willing to grant British citizenship to anyone rich enough. Just as Rishi Sunak got his green card to work in America by paying a million dollars. I strongly suspect that if Reclaim got in, we’d have more of the same. It would be easy immigration for the global super-rich, and keep out for everyone else.

Cutting taxes: More of the twaddle you’ve been hearing from the Tory leadership candidates. What this means is cutting taxes for the rich while passing the burden on to ordinary people at the bottom. This is supposed to encourage more investment, and hence more jobs. Balderdash. The money saved simply rests in the elite’s bank accounts. Meanwhile, because there’s less money going into the exchequer, the Tories and Reclaim after them will tell us all that cuts need to be made, more pushing of the mythical NHS waste, profligate spending on the welfare state, too many civil servants and so on. The result, more punitive cuts to the NHS, more destruction of the welfare state, more people struggling to survive on food banks, more starvation, malnutrition and grinding poverty.

Attacking the Green Agenda: The scientific consensus supports climate change, and the Green New Deal promises more jobs as well as combating threats to the environment. But the right don’t believe in climate change, and, with money coming in from Big Oil, they really don’t want to end our dependence on fossil fuels any time soon. All last week while the rest of us sweltered they told us that the rising heat was nothing to worry about, was not cause by global warming, and we were all wimps and weaklings for thinking otherwise. I wonder if Reclaim and its bosses also have their places booked for the biodomes the rich will no doubt retreat into as the deserts march on London, Birmingham and anywhere else.

Bring back Johnson: Really? There are people who really won’t be told. There’s a petition up for his return. Just like there are Americans who want the return of Trump. That’s incredible. Aside from the party politics, Trump was a disastrous president. A friend lent me a book on his presidency, and what came across most strongly was how incompetent he was. He quarraled with his leading generals, one of whom actually swore at him while telling him precisely what he was in the White House. He made up policies on the spur of the moment and then changed his mind just as suddenly. Appointments were made with important visitors, but not kept. Or he didn’t tell his staff about them, just forgot them. He deliberately undermined leading White House staff, replacing them and then doing the same to the new replacements, all of whom were determined to undermine their predecessors and competitors. And rather than draining the swamp, Trump was massively corrupt giving government contracts to friends and anybody else, including the Russians, who were prepared to stump up cash. Government monies that were intended to protect workers on bread and butter issues like pensions vanished in various politicos pockets, where they gave it to their favourite businessmen.

Johnson has been similarly incompetent. He was grotesquely tactless and incompetent as foreign secretary. Once he got his behind in No. 10 he showed himself unwilling to knuckle down and do some actual work. It seemed that every few weeks he was heading off to Chequers for a holiday. He caught Covid because he personally broke lockdown rules. And he gave valuable PPE contracts to his friends and other Tory donors. The result was problems with supply. But no worries, eh? His mates were all right. The parties were just a symptom of a man, who doesn’t like to work, loves the power and the popularity that comes with it, at least in his own imagination, and really, really, has zero sympathy with ordinary working people and their problems.

And he’s still clinging on to power, just like Gordon Brown tried to do with a deal with the Lib Dems after he lost the election to Cameron. Ian Hislop got very excited about this on Have I Got News For You, calling him ‘Mr Barnacle’. Well, Johnson is behaving exactly like the marine mollusc, and the same should apply: ‘get ye gone!’ It says something about the effectiveness of establishment propaganda that someone really thinks he’s done such a good job they want to keep him in power.

But back to the Reclaim party, there’s nothing new here. It’s just the same old Brexiteer Tory policies, promoted by a few new faces. And I honestly can’t see many of them getting a seat. Some might, but I foresee a lot of lost deposits, compounded with them splitting the Tory vote in certain quarters so that a Lib Dem or possibly Labour candidate get in.

I have a feeling they’ll go the way of UKIP and the Brexit party as another right-wing group trying to ‘break the mould of British politics’.

My Message for We Own It Against NHS Privatisation

June 11, 2022

My last post was about the email I received earlier today about We Own It’s campaign today against the government’s intention to place private healthcare companies on the boards of the NHS. Among their activities they were asking people to write the following message on a piece of paper “Dear [*write the name of your town here*] NHS leaders, let’s rebuild our local NHS together and keep private companies out”, then take a selfie of you with the message and tweet it or, if you’re not on Twitter or in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, email it to them at nfo@weownit.org.uk .

I’ve done this, and here’s my piccie with the message below.

Yeah, I know it’s faint and hardly legible, but I hope it still makes the point.

We Own It on Their Day of Action Against NHS Privatisation Today

June 11, 2022

I got this message this morning from the pro-nationalisation, anti-NHS privatisation organisation We Own It stating that today is their day of action against the Tories’ plans to put private companies on NHS boards. Amongst the forms of protest they’re organising is a photo campaign in which people take photos of themselves with a message on a piece of paper addressed to their local NHS manager stating their opposition of this new phase of Tory privatisation. The email runs

‘Dear David,

Today is your Day of Action  – can you help ramp up the pressure on your local NHS chair to put people before profit as they prepare to reorganise the NHS in England on the 1st of July?

Even if you do just one of these three actions, you can have a HUGE impact today:

1. Send a message directly to your local NHS chair in 3 easy steps:

  1. On a plain sheet of paper, write out the message: “Dear [*write the name of your town here*] NHS leaders, let’s rebuild our local NHS together and keep private companies out”
  2. Take a selfie with your message.
  3. Click the button below to use our tool to tweet your picture (or email it to us at info@weownit.org.uk if you don’t use Twitter, or if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland!)

2. Join a local action near you today. Find out where actions are happening below.

3. Distribute leaflets by yourself or with friends and family on your local high street. This action is only for people who have received leaflet deliveries from us.

Tweet your picture

Find out if there’s a group action near you

8 local NHS chairs have now come out and pledged that they will BAN private companies on their boards.

When you started this campaign a month ago that number was a grand total of 1.

This happened because 20,500 of you emailed your ICS chairs, or boosted the numbers by sharing the action if you live outside of England. 

Your actions have an impact. By doing even just one of the actions today, you will help protect your local NHS from greedy private companies

1. Send a message directly to your local NHS chair in 3 easy steps:

  1. On a plain sheet of paper, write out the message: “Dear [*write the name of your town here*] NHS leaders, let’s rebuild our local NHS together and keep private companies out”
  2. Take a selfie with your message.
  3. Click the button below to use our tool to tweet your picture (or email it to us at info@weownit.org.uk if you don’t use Twitter, or live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – your photos will show that people across the UK oppose private companies making decisions about our healthcare!)

2. Join a local action near you today. Find out where actions are happening below.

3. Distribute leaflets by yourself or with friends and family on your local high street. This action is only for people who have received leaflet deliveries from us.

Tweet your picture

Find out if there’s a group action near you

We are working with Keep Our NHS Public and Unite Community to make sure local NHS chairs feel the heat today. 

As they prepare to reorganise local NHS’ across England on the 1st of July, you can remind them that you want the NHS to work for people not profit.

This reorganisation currently only impacts the NHS in England, but it sets a precedent that will have repercussions for the NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. By taking a stand and showing resistance to private companies sitting on boards in England, you will help stop this setting a dangerous new normal for healthcare in the UK. 

NHS leaders need to know that profiteering private healthcare companies cannot be allowed to have a role in our healthcare.

Send them a simple message today by doing one of the three actions below:

1. Send a message directly to your local NHS chair in 3 easy steps:

  1. On a plain sheet of paper, write out the message: “Dear [*write the name of your town here*] NHS leaders, let’s rebuild our local NHS together and keep private companies out”
  2. Take a selfie with your message.
  3. Click the button below to use our tool to tweet your picture (or email it to us at info@weownit.org.uk if you don’t use Twitter or live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland)

2. Join a local action near you today. Find out where actions are happening below.

3. Distribute leaflets by yourself or with friends and family on your local high street. This action is only for people who have received leaflet deliveries from us.

Tweet your picture

Find out if there’s a group action near you

his campaign is already getting results because people like you are standing up and taking action. Thank you so much for all you do to protect our NHS. 

Cat, Alice, Jack, Matthew, Kate, Johnbosco – the We Own It team’

I realise that this is very last minute, but I’ve put it up here for those who want to be involved.

There are protests right across England, but the one in Bristol is run by Bristol Protest our NHS at 60 High Street, Hanham, BS15 3DR, and its running from 3-4 this afternoon..

Faye Hallam Plays Dave Allan Theme at Jazz Club – Nice!

April 27, 2022

Here’s a bit of fun for a Wednesday morning. I’m a great fan of the late Irish comedian Dave Allan. He is, to me, one of the very greatest of the television funny men. His style was that of a bar room philosopher, sat on a bar stool taking the occasional sip of whisky, cigarette smoking quietly away in an ashtray, while he made his wry observations on the absurdities of human nature and the world. Mixed with this on his series on the Beeb were sketches, some of which were just jokes, such as the tourist who brings down Stonehenge like a string of dominoes simply by leaning on one of the trilithons. Others were a kind of morality play, like the one about a man who spots a tenner trapped under a car wheel. He goes into a cafe to wait until the car moves off and he can grab the money, only to find that everyone else in the cafe was had the same idea. Religion was a frequent target of his humour. He hated the Roman Catholic church in particular because of the brutal discipline at his old Catholic school, a situation which I know has resulted in many Catholics lapsing. He was also no admirer of Ian Paisley at the time, for keeping the murderous sectarian bigotry in Ulster alive from the Protestant side. This was decades before the Good Friday agreement and the warm friendship between Paisley and Gerry Adams, which resulted in the two getting the nickname, the Chuckle Brothers. Some of his jokes and sketches were based around sex, and got very ‘near the knuckle’, as the saying goes. But mostly it was good humoured and simply fun. Allan died a few years ago, but there are a selection of his sketches and monologues on DVD, and, of course, on YouTube. He’s much missed by his legions of fans. The show’s theme was written by Alan Hawkshaw, who also wrote, among other TV themes, that for Grandstand. There are videos of him playing this and his other compositions also on YouTube.

Now Brent Wants to Change Name of Place Called after Gladstone

April 19, 2022

This story has been exercising GB News and History Debunked’s Simon Webb. According to the Torygraph, the leader of Brent council, Mohammed Butt, wishes to rename Gladstone Park in his borough. Apparently the sprogs in the local schools were given a talk on racial inequality and the murder of George Floyd by a ‘racial expert’, before being asked for their views on the park’s name and what they thought should replace it. Suggestions included ‘Rainbow Park’, ‘Diversity Park’, ‘BAME Park’ – which is clearly racist as it very definitely excludes Whites – and ‘Diane Abbott Park’. The move follows similar attempts to rename places named after Gladstone and remove monuments commemorating him elsewhere in Britain, ‘cos his father, Ewart Gladstone, was connected to the slave trade. It’s also part of a general move by Sadiq Khan to rename places in London so that they reflect the capital’s multicultural population.

GB News’ Mercy Muroki, who’s black, was not impressed. She objected to children being used to support what was clearly a decision made by Butt and his cronies. She took as an example of the way young children think her own seven year old. She stated that the child was bright and imaginative, but that you wouldn’t ask him questions like that because he wouldn’t know anything about it, nor who Gladstone was. As for Diane Abbott, she stated that she had many excellent qualities. She had risen from her working class origins to become Britain’s first Black woman MP. Quite. Abbott’s certainly not thick, despite what the Tories say about her, although some of her comments on race certainly have me grinding my teeth. She’s a good role model for Black women and girls looking for a career in politics. But she isn’t in the same league as someone who was four times British Prime Minister.

And this is one of the problems. It’s been claimed by the right that the ‘woke’ left have no awareness nor interest in anything but very recent history. This would seem to bear that out. I dare say that to many modern Brits Gladstone is just a name with no relevance to the present day. But this is a mistake. Gladstone, and his opposite number in the Tories, Disraeli, are two of the 19th century political titans that have shaped modern Britain and the British empire. And Gladstone was hardly any kind of Fascist monster. Rather, it’s been said that he became ‘the voice of the Nonconformist conscience’. I firmly believe that if he had succeeded in granting Ireland home rule, the modern history of Ireland would have been far less bloody.

And there are other events and figures from further back in our history that also deserve to be remembered, but may also be lost if the attitude persists that the only people worth remembering are those of the near present. Magna Carta is celebrated as the first check on royal power and the beginning of English liberty. An Anglo-Norman phrase from about the time declared that the country was ‘the commune of England, where each man had his view’. But there’s also the British Civil War, which commenced a long process of political speculation as writers and politicians attempted to formulate ideas about the ideal state, correct forms of government, the rights of the individual and political and religious tolerance. Carl Benjamin of the Lotus Eaters harks back to John Locke, who laid the foundations for liberal, democratic government, but there were many others. Socialists and the Labour party have looked to the Levellers and Diggers, and their plans for an expansion of the franchise, the creation of state education, hospitals and almshouses for the elderly and in the case of the Diggers the establishment of a Christian communist utopia. The Glorious Revolution finally established the supremacy of parliament over the crown, and the Bill of Rights that followed is another key document in the development of British political liberty. Then in the 18th century there’s Edmund Burke and his classic foundational text of modern Conservatism, Reflections on the Revolution in France and Thomas Paine’s defence of the American and French Revolutions, Common Sense and The Rights of Man. And this is before you get to the bitter political struggles and leading politicians of the 19th century. Now no-one is suggesting that these figures and events should somehow be erased from commemoration or official British history. The commemoration of the Glorious Revolution and the accession of William of Orange to the throne was played down, however, particularly in Northern Ireland in the 1980s because of fears that it would spark further sectarian violence. But I am afraid that the mentality that demands that Gladstone be cancelled because of his personal family history may expand to demand the removal of other important British political figures, merely because someone feels they don’t properly represent the values of modern Britain.

I am also afraid Khan’s decision to have places renamed according to the area’s modern ethnic composition will also prove divisive. There’s been a movement of Whites away from inner city areas, which have become increasingly dominated by Blacks and Asians, dubbed ‘White flight’. Many of these area’s Black and Asian inhabitants are genuinely upset by this. A BBC documentary discussing this a few years ago in the case of the dwindling White population of the East End featured an imam, who said he regretted that his son would never meet a White person from the area. Part of the reason for this exodus is that many Whites no longer feel a proper part of those areas. They feel outsiders, and so move away to areas with a higher proportion of Whites. Predictably, those Whites who’ve said that they feel like foreigners in these areas because of their colour have been attacked as racist, but they’re simply expressing the same kind of sentiments many Blacks have when moving into a majority White area.

A few years ago there was a similar bit of controversy when the Heil ran a story about the Bangladeshi part of the Smoke renaming itself ‘Banglatown’ and having the street names written in both the Latin and Indian scripts. I think part of the idea was to raise the area’s profile by making it into a piece of local colour that would make it stand out. ‘Banglatown’ was a nickname given to the area by the storm troopers of the NF/ BNP, and its adoption as an official name may have been an attempt to reclaim it as source of pride by the Bangladeshi community, in the same way that some Blacks have tried reclaiming the ‘N’ word and some gays ‘Fag’. This move predated Khan’s tenure of the elected mayoralty by some years. However, it cause outrage because it was felt, understandably, that Bangladeshi identity was being privileged and British culture erased. And this latest move by Khan and Butt may be set to be similarly controversial and divisive.

Not to mention that it’s a gift to the Tories, who are trying to make the most of the culture war because of the increasingly grotty state of Britain after over a decade of Tory misrule makes it difficult for them to claim that Brits are materially better off.

Glasgow Council Report Criticises Statues of Livingstone, Peel and Gladstone for Slavery Links

April 5, 2022

GB News and the Heil carried reports a few days ago attacking Glasgow council for a report compiled by a highly respected Scottish historian about the city’s historic involvement in the slave trade and its statues commemorating figures connected with it. The council felt that, unlike Liverpool and Bristol, and the city had not faced up to its history as one of the other major British centres of the slave trade. It compiled a list of seven statues that were particularly questionable because of their subjects’ links to the trade. These included the missionary and abolitionist, David Livingstone, Robert Peel and William Ewart Gladstone. The reports concentrated on the criticism of Livingstone, as the man was a fervent abolitionist and it demonstrates how ridiculousness the iconoclasm by the anti-slavery activists is. According to reports by GB News, the Heil and the Glasgow Herald, it’s partly because Livingstone started work at age 10 in factory weaving and processing slave-produced cotton from the West Indies. They make the point that as a child worker, Livingstone had absolutely no control over what the factory did. I doubt very much that he had much control, as someone who could be called a ‘factory slave’, over his choice of employment either. Later videos from GB News and further down in the articles from the Herald and the Heil is the statement that he also defend the cotton masters, believing that they were paternalistic. He may well have done so, but this hardly discredits him because of his life’s work in Africa.

Livingstone had a genuine, deep hatred, as many British Christians had at the time, of slavery. He travelled to Africa to spread Christianity and to combat slavery as its sources. He was also a doctor, and had worked hard after work to educate himself. One of the guests on the GB News debate about it was a right-wing historian of Africa. He pointed out that Livingstone is still very much loved in Africa, and there are plaques to him in Malawi, Zambia, Tanganyika and three other African countries. I have no doubt this is absolutely true. A few years ago I took out of Bristol’s central library a history of Malawi. The book was even-handed and objective. It did not play down massacres by the British army committed when we annexed the area during fighting with the slaving tribes. It described how, under imperialism, White Malawians tended to look down on the indigenous peoples and the dissatisfaction with imperial rule that resulted from the use of forced labour. But neither did it omit or play down the enslavement of indigenous Africans by the other native peoples. These included the Yao, Marganja, Swahili and Arabs, who preyed on the other tribes for the Arab slave trade, sending their captives to Zanziba, Kilwa and across the Indian ocean. To gain their victims’ trust, they’d settle down with them for a year, working alongside them as friends before finally turning on them. They also set up a series of forts to defend the slave routes. One of these, set up by Zarafi, one of the most infamous slavers, had a palisade on which were impaled 100 severed heads. As for the akapolo slaves used in the local economy, they were made very much aware of their status. They had to work with broken tools, and eat their meals off the floor. The chiefs, meanwhile, seemed to have spent much of their time relaxing and having their hair done.

Livingstone, whatever his faults, hated all this and his settlement became a refuge for runaway slaves. As did many of the other settlements he or his followers founded for this purpose. These settlements have since expanded to form some of Malawi’s towns.

William Ewart Gladstone was the leader of Britain’s Liberal party, serving as prime minister, in the latter half of the 19th century. The scandal here is that Gladstone’s family got its money from slave estates in the West Indies. I know Conservatives who genuine hate slavery, who despise Gladstone because of this. So it isn’t just ‘leftists’ that have issues with the Grand Old Man, as Gladstone’s supporters dubbed him. But Gladstone is immensely important because of the social legislation he enacted. He was an Anglican, who, in the words of one historian, ‘became the voice of the Nonconformist conscience’. He wanted the disestablishment of the Anglican church at a time when Christian Nonconformists were still required to pay it tithes and other duties that left them disadvantaged. He also wanted to give Ireland home rule. Of course this faced immense opposition, and I think it was one reason why he failed to win elections as the century wore on. But it seems to me that if he had been able to enact this policy, then perhaps Ireland’s subsequent history may not have been quite so bloody. One of the surprising facts about Irish history is that there was in the 18th century an alliance between Roman Catholics and Protestant Nonconformists. This was before Roman Catholic emancipation, which legalised it and granted Roman Catholics civil rights. At the same time Protestant Nonconformists were tolerated, but still suffered deep political disabilities. As a result, one of Ulster’s historic Roman Catholic churches was build with donations and subscriptions from Ulster nonconformist Protestants. This surprising fact was included in a BBC Radio 4 series, Mapping the Town, which traced the history of British and UK towns through their maps.

I don’t know much about Robert Peel, except that he introduced free trade as a policy for the Conservatives, or a section of the Conservatives. But what he is primarily known for is founding the metropolitan police force. I’ve got a feeling he might also have been responsible for reducing the 100-odd crimes that carried the death penalty to three. These included murder and treason. It might be because of Peel that we’re no longer hanging people for stealing a loaf of bread or impersonating a Chelsea pensioner. But long before Glasgow council decided he was problematic, there was also a demonstration by masked protesters in London demanding that his statue should be removed. And last year the right were also getting in a tizzy because one of Liverpool’s universities was removing him as the name of one of their halls. The student union replaced him with a Black woman, who was a Communist and teacher. She is, no doubt, perfectly worthy of commemoration, but hardly in Gladstone’s league.

Part of the problem is that iconoclasts want to judge everything by a very strict, modern morality. Slavery and the slave trade was an abomination and was rightly abolished. Good people have been continuing the struggle against global slavery since then. But not everybody, who was connected to the trade, is such a monster that they should be blotted out of history in the same way Stalin’s historians removed all mention of his opponents.

One of the things you are taught, or at least were taught, in history at university level is not to play ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ with historical figures. There is no set outcome to the historical process. If events had been different in the past, then modern society would also be different. If, horribly, Wilberforce and the abolitionists had lost, then slavery would still be unchallenged today. At the same time, you need to use the historical imagination to understand why people in the past behaved as they did, and why good people by the standard of their times were capable of attitudes that are deeply morally repugnant to us.

The great British philosopher, Sir Isaiah Berlin, was an admirer of the 17th-18th century Italian historian Vico. Vico believed, as Berlin later did, that there were no objective moral values. He noted how they changed over time, and that to properly understand a past epoch, you needed to understand also its art and culture. I don’t think he was a cultural relativist, however. Berlin certainly wasn’t – he believed that while there were no objective moral values, there were certainly those which acted as if they were. He was fiercely anti-Communist, partly because his family were Lithuanian Jews, who had seen their logging business seized by the Bolsheviks and had fled the Russian Revolution. He was a major figure during the Cold War in establishing western contacts with Soviet dissidents like Nadezhda Mandelstam, who wrote moving accounts of her experience of the gulags under Stalin.

I don’t share Berlin’s Conservatism and strongly believe in the existence of objective moral values. But I strongly recommend Berlin’s books. He wrote a series of potted intellectual biographies, including on the early Russian revolutionaries like the 19th century anarchist, Bakunin. Even though he hated what they stood for, his books are notable for his attempts to see things from his subjects’ point of view. So much so that some people, according to Berlin, though he was pro-Communist. They’re fascinating and highly readable, even if you don’t agree that someone like the French utopian socialist Saint-Simon was ‘an enemy of freedom’.

There are statues of slavers and the people connected with the trade that deserve to be torn down. There had been calls for Colston’s statue to be removed since the 1980s. It was highly controversial all those decades ago, though many Bristolians would have defended it because he gave away most of his money to charity. But other historical figures deserve to be still commemorated despite their connections to the ‘abominable trade’ because of their immense work that has benefited both Britain and nations like Malawi. And I believe that some of those, who find figures like Gladstone objectionable, could also benefit from reading Vico and Berlin. In the meantime, it should be noted that Glasgow council has no plans to tear any statues down.

Slavery is a great moral evil. But historic slavery should not considered so grave and unforgivable, that it is used to blot out the memory of figures like Livingstone, Gladstone and Peel, whose work has so helped shape modern Britain for the better.

Angela Rayner Has Forgotten the Shooting of Charles Menezes

February 21, 2022

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, managed to kick up a storm of protest last week. I haven’t read any more than the headlines, but I gather she said that when it came to terrorists, the police should shoot first and ask questions second. I have absolutely no sympathy for any terrorists, regardless of their colour, religion or political cause. But this is an extremely dangerous attitude as it has already resulted in the death of a completely innocent man in the turmoil following 9/11 and 7/7.

Charles Menezes was a Brazilian student studying over here in London. His only crime was that he lived in the same block of flats as a suspected Islamist terrorist. The house was being watched by an armed police team. Unfortunately, only one of them knew what the real terrorist suspect looked like, and he’d gone off to relieve himself. The others saw Menezes leave the house and, thinking he might be the suspect, shouted to him to stop. I think there was some kind of issue with their uniform, as it appears that Menezes didn’t recognise that they were police. In Brazil apparently one of the tactics used by armed robbers is to disguise themselves as policemen, and it may have been that Menezes thought that something like that was happening to him. He ran away and the police gave chase. Reaching the railway station, he jumped over the barriers and got on the train. So did the coppers, who then shot him in the head.

It was a horrific killing of an entirely innocent chap through massive police incompetence and a ‘shoot first’ policy. The government and police were worried that if terrorists were given any warning by the cops, they’d set off their suicide belts. And so it was official policy to shoot first and ask questions later. In the inquiry that followed,, this policy was abandoned. But Rayner’s statement suggests she would drag us back to it, and so cause potentially cause more innocent people to be shot by mistake.

And possibly not just by mistake. Way back in the 1980s there was scandal of the shooting of an IRA terrorist group in Gibraltar. As revealed in the World In Action documentary, ‘Death on the Rock’, the terrorists were needlessly killed. They had been tracked by the British army all the way down through Spain and could have been rounded up without bloodshed at any time. But it looks like the British government wanted to send a message to the IRA and so set up what was, in effect, a death squad to exterminate them. The programme caused such a scandal and enraged Thatcher to such an extent that she withdrew London Weekend Television’s broadcasting licence, and gave it instead to Carlton. This wasn’t the only instance of lawlessness by the British army in Northern Ireland. Rory Cormac has a number of other examples in his book, Disrupt and Deny, about the underhand, covert operations and real conspiracies by the British state. Some of these were so controversial and repugnant that many Conservatives were also opposed to them.

I’m very much aware that the terrorist threat is very real. But we need sensible policies regarding the armed response to it in order to prevent the deaths of innocents, like Mr Menezes, and our government and security forces behaving like Fascist death squads.

But Rayner, it seems, forgot all that in an attempt to appear tough and ruthless to appeal to all those Thatcherite Tories Starmer thinks will flood into Labour now that he’s ditched that awkward thing, socialism.