Posts Tagged ‘Northern Ireland’

Tory Lawbreaking Mentality: The Fuhrer Protects Justice

September 10, 2020

Zelo Street has put up an article today further exposing the Tories’ proposed legislation breaking our previous agreements with EU. It quotes from the FT’s article about this, noting that the new law goes much further than has been commonly reported and enters a world of such official contradiction that not even Orwell predicted it. Zelo Street writes

‘Take, for instance, the last line of Paragraph 44, which says simply “Certain provisions to have effect notwithstanding inconsistency or incompatibility with international or other domestic law”. So it’s illegal? No problem – it’s now legal.

‘The scope of the proposed legislation should also give concern: it defines “relevant international or domestic law” very broadly indeed. Included here are “any provision of the Northern Ireland Protocol … any other provision of the EU withdrawal agreement … any other EU law or international law … any provision of the European Communities Act 1972 … any provision of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 … any retained EU law or relevant separation agreement law”. And then it goes further. Much further.

Here we proceed through the looking glass: “any other legislation, convention or rule of international or domestic law whatsoever, including any order, judgment or decision of the European Court or of any court or tribunal”. It is possible that even the Enabling Act passed by the Nazis in 1933 was less blatant in its disregard of democracy.’

This a fair comment. One of the accusations used against Jeremy Corbyn, if I remember rightly, was that he approved the quote ‘everything Hitler did was legal’. But the quote was correct: Hitler’s rise to power was entirely constitutional. As was his passage of the Enabling Act, the law which granted him absolutely power as dictator. The German constitution provided the head of state to take absolute power and rule by decree during a period of emergency, which could last up to four years before expiring. Then the law would have to be renewed. Hindenberg, the last German president, was already ruling by decree thanks to a deadlocked Reichstag in which none of the parties had a majority and the pillars of the German Weimar coalition were now no longer working with each other. After the Reichstag fire, the Nazis were able to declare a state of emergency. And so Hitler became constitutionally Germany’s absolutely dictator. And every four years, he recalled the Reichstag, packed full of Nazis who were the only permitted party, and got it to renew the declaration of the state of emergency.

Even the massacre of the SA during the Knight of the Long Knives had a legal justification. It was formulated by the brilliant, radical right lawyer Carl Schmitt, who later became disenchanted with Hitler and his murderers. He published a piece ‘The Fuhrer Protects Justice’. Roughly summed up, the argument was that Germany had entered a state of lawlessness. In order to restore law and order, any actions by the authorities were justified, even if they in turn broke the law.

The Tories didn’t get their ideas about passing legislation allowing the violation of existing laws and international treaties from the Nazis. I believe a more immediate inspiration was George W. Bush’s odious Tort Reform law over in the Land of the Free. The Smirking Chimp wanted to help firms get round laws guaranteeing certain workers’ rights. Instead of repealing the legislation, his way of circumventing them was to pass another law, which banned anyone from using them to sue their employers.

Passing one law to make another illegal. That’s what Shrub did, and what the Tories have done now.

This comes on top of Priti Patel continuing her attacks on ‘activist lawyers’ trying to protect the rights of asylum seekers crossing the channel in flimsy, dangerous boats. Even after her department was told that such language was illegal.

Zelo Street’s article quotes lawyer and commenter David Allen Green on the Tories’ move to illegality:

‘“The Conservatives, once the part of law and order, are going to deliberately break the law … on the issue of State Aid, a legal cornerstone of Thatcherite economics … because they agreed a border in the Irish sea, even though they are nominally a ‘unionist’ party. Weird”.’

He also quotes Thatcher herself, who told her party at their 1975

The first duty of Government is to uphold the law. If it tries to bob and weave and duck around that duty when it is inconvenient, if Government does that, then so will the governed, and then nothing is safe – not home, not liberty, not life itself”.’

He then dryly remarks that they used to revere her every world, and concludes:

Any MP who votes in favour of this Bill is not only not a democrat, but is unfit to serve. We have arrived at a dangerous moment. Britain is close to becoming a very dark place.

Absolutely. This is a real step towards the creation of a lawless, authoritarian state where legislation can be invoked or violated at whim like Putin’s Russia.

To mangle one of Orwell’s metaphors from 1984, the Tories are taking out the jackboot ready to stamp on our faces forever.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/09/tory-law-avoidance-law-revealed.html

The Tories Are the Implacable Enemies of Free Speech

September 7, 2020

Since 75 members of Extinction Rebellion decided to do what so many people have wanted to and blockade Murdoch print works in England and Scotland, Boris Johnson and his rabble have been pontificating about democracy and the need to protect a free press. This is all crass, hypocritical rubbish, and the truth, as with so much of Tory policy, is the exact opposite. In all too many instances, the Tories are the inveterate enemies of free speech and press freedom.

Mike and Vox Political have both shown this in their articles reporting that the Council of Europe has issued a level 2 media alert warning about Johnson’s government. This was because MoD press officers refused to deal with Declassified UK, a website focusing on foreign and defence stories. This was because Declassified’s journos had been critical of the government’s use of our armed forces. The Council issued a statement that they did so because the act would have a chilling effect on media freedom, undermine press freedom and set a worrying precedent for other journalists reporting in the public interest on the British military. They said that tough journalism like Declassified’s, uncomfortable though it was for those in power, was crucial for a transparent and functioning democracy. This puts Boris Johnson’s government with Putin’s Russia and Turkey, who also have a complete disregard for journalistic freedom.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/09/06/heres-the-shocking-reason-your-tory-government-is-more-guilty-of-attacking-press-freedom-than-extinction-rebellion/

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/09/free-speech-tories-speak-with-forked.html

We’ve been this way before, and it’s grim. Way back in the 1980s, Maggie Thatcher withdrew LWT’s broadcasting license over a similar piece of journalism that severely criticised the military. This was the documentary Death on the Rock, about the SAS’ shooting of a squad of IRA terrorists in Gibraltar. The documentary presented clear evidence that the squad had been under surveillance all their way down through Spain, and that the army could have arrested them at any point without bloodshed. This means that the SAS’s shooting of them was effectively an extra-judicial execution. They acted as a death squad.

This wouldn’t have been the first or only instance of such tactics by the British state in Northern Ireland. Lobster has published a number of articles arguing that special SAS units were active under cover in the province with the deliberate task of assassinating IRA terrorists, and that the security forces colluded secretly with Loyalist paramilitaries to do the same.

I heartily condemn terrorism and the murder of innocents regardless of who does it. But if ‘Death on the Rock’ was correct, then the British state acted illegally. The use of the armed forces as death squads clearly sets a dangerous precedent and is a violation of the rule of law. Most Brits probably agreed with Thatcher that the IRA terrorists got what was coming to them, and so would probably have objected to the documentary’s slant. But as the Tories over here and Republicans in the US have argued again and again about freedom of speech, it’s the freedom to offend that needs to be protected. Allowing only speech that is inoffensive or to which you agree is no freedom at all. Thatcher was furious, LWT lost their broadcasting license, which was given to a new broadcaster, Carlton. No doubt named after the notorious Tory club.

Then there was Thatcher’s interference in the transmission of another documentary, this time by the BBC. This was an edition of Panorama, ‘Thatcher’s Militant Tendency’. This argued that, just as Kinnock’s Labour party had been infiltrated by the hard left Militant Tendency, so Fascists from the National Front, BNP and others had burrowed into the Tories. In fact there’s always been concern about the overlap in membership between the Tories and the far right. In the 1970s there was so much concern that the Monday Club, formerly part of the Tory party until David Cameron severed links with it, opened its membership books to the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The Panorama programme was also too much for Thatcher, who had it spiked.

At the moment, the Tories are running a campaign to defund and privatise the Beeb under the specious claims that it’s biased against them. They were moaning about bias back in the ’90s under John Major and then Tony Blair, because Jeremy Paxman, among the Beeb’s other journos, insisted on asking tough questions. This resulted in Michael Heseltine walking off Newsnight, tossing his mane, as Ian Hislop described it on Have I Got News For You. Right-wing internet radio hack Alex Belfield has been ranting about how the BBC is full of Guardian-reading lefties in the same way Jeremy Clarkson used to about ‘yogurt-knitters’, who also read the same paper. Guido Fawke’s former teaboy, Darren Grimes, has also been leading a campaign to defund the Beeb. He should know about dictatorships and a free press. His former master, Paul Staines, was a member of the Freedom Association when that body supported the Fascist dictatorship in El Salvador. They invited to their annual dinner as guest of honour one year the leader of one of its death squads.

Belfield and the rest of the right-wing media have been loudly applauding the announcement that the new Director-General will cancel left-wing comedy programmes like Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week. Because they’re biased against the Tories. Er, no. Have I Got News For You was as enthusiastically anti-Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as the rest of the media establishment, to the point where I got heartily sick and tired of watching it. And I haven’t watched Mock the Week for years. I don’t even know if it’s still on. Both the programmes are satirical. They mock the government as well as the rest of the parties. And the dominant, governing party over the past few decades has been the Tories, with the exception of New Labour from 1997-2010 or so. Which means that when they’ve been attacking the Tories, it’s because the Tories have been in power. A friend of mine told me that Ian Hislop, one of the regular contests on HIGNFY and the editor of Private Eye, was once asked which party he was against. He replied ‘Whoever’s in power’. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was a Conservative, but that is, ostensibly, the stance of his magazine. The Tories have been expelling much hot air about how a free press holds governments to account. But in the case of the BBC, this is exactly why they despise it.

The Tories hate the BBC because it’s the state broadcaster, and so is an obstacle to the expansion of Rupert Murdoch’s squalid empire of filth and lies. They’d like it defunded and privatised so that Murdoch, or someone like him, can move in. Not least because Murdoch has and is giving considerable support to the Tories. And in return, the Tories and then New Labour gave Murdoch what he wanted, and he was allowed to pursue his aim of owning a sizable chunk of the British press and independent broadcasting with Sky. This has alarmed those concerned about the threat posed by such media monopolies. It’s why Extinction Rebellion were right to blockade Murdoch’s papers, as both Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out. We don’t have a free press. We have a captive press controlled by a handful of powerful media magnates, who determine what gets reported. John Major in his last years in office realised the political threat Murdoch posed, but by this time it was too late. The Tories had allowed Murdoch to get his grubby mitts on as much of the British media as he could, and he had abandoned the Tories for Blair. Who was all too ready to do the same and accede to his demands in return for Murdoch’s media support. Just as Keir Starmer is desperate to do the same.

Murdoch’s acquisition of British papers, like the Times, should have been blocked by the Monopolies and Mergers’ Commission long ago. There were moves to, but Thatcher allowed Murdoch to go ahead. And Tony Benn was right: no-one should own more than one paper. If the Beeb is privatised, it will mean yet more of the British media is owned by one of press and broadcasting oligarchy. And that is a threat to democracy and press freedom.

The Tories are defending the freedom of the press and broadcasting. They’re attacking it.

Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s Demand for the Abolition of the House of Lords

August 4, 2020

This weekend, our murderous, clown Prime Minister Boris Johnson added more weight to the argument for the House of Lords. At the moment the membership of the upper house is something like 800+. It has more members than the supreme soviet, the governing assembly of assembly of China, which rules a country of well over a billion people. Contemporary discussions are about reducing the size of this bloated monster, many of whose members do zilch except turn up in the morning in order to collect their attendance before zipping off to what they really want to do. Since Blair, it’s become a byword for corruption and cronyism, as successive prime ministers have used it to reward their collaborators, allies and corporate donors. The Tories were outraged when Blair did this during his administration, but this didn’t stop David Cameron following suit, and now Boris Alexander DeFeffel Johnson. Johnson has appointed no less than 36 of his friends and collaborators. These include his brother, who appears to be there simply because he is Johnson’s sibling, Alexander Lebedev, a Russian oligarch and son of a KGB spy, who owns the Metro and the Independent,  which is a particular insult following the concerns about Russian political meddling and the Tories’ connections to Putin; the Blairite smear-merchants and intriguers, who conspired against Jeremy Corbyn to give the Tories an election victory, and Claire Fox.

Fox has managed to provoke outrage all on her own, simply because of her disgusting views on Northern Irish terrorism. Now a member of the Brexit Party, she was a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party which fully endorsed the IRA’s terrorism campaign and the Warrington bombing that killed two children. She has never apologised or retracted her views, although she says she no longer believes in the necessity of such tactics. But rewarding a woman, who has absolutely no problem with the political killing of children has left a nasty taste in very many people’s mouths. It shows very clearly the double standards Johnson and the Tories do have about real terrorist supporters. They tried smearing Corbyn as one, despite the fact that he was even-handed in his dealings with the various parties in northern Ireland and was a determined supporter of peace. Ulster Unionists have come forward to state that he also good relations with them and was most definitely not a supporter of terrorism. The Tories, however, have shown that they have absolutely no qualms about rewarding a real terrorist sympathiser. But even this isn’t enough for Johnson. He’s outraged and demanding an inquiry, because he was prevented from putting his corporate donors from the financial sector in the House of Lords.

Demands for reform or the abolition of the second chamber have been around for a very long time. I remember back c. 1987 that the Labour party was proposing ideas for its reform. And then under Blair there were suggestions that it be transformed into an elected senate like America’s. And way back in the first decades of the twentieth century there were demands for its abolition altogether. I’ve been reading Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s A Constitution of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain, which was first published in the 1920s. It’s a fascinating book. The Webbs were staunch advocates of democracy but were fiercely critical of parliament and its ability to deal with the amount of legislation created by the expansion of the British state into industry and welfare provision, just as they were bitterly critical of its secrecy and capitalism. They proposed dividing parliament into two: a political and a social parliament. The political parliament would deal with the traditional 19th-century conceptions of the scope of parliament. This would be foreign relations, including with the Empire, the self-governing colonies and India, and law and order. The social parliament would deal with the economy, the nationalised industries and in general the whole of British culture and society, including the arts, literature and science. They make some very interesting, trenchant criticisms of existing political institutions, some of which will be very familiar to viewers of that great British TV comedy, Yes, Minister. And one of these is the House of Lords, which they state very clearly should be abolished because of its elitist, undemocratic character. They write

The House of Lords, with its five hundred or so peers by inheritance, forty-four representatives of the peerages of Scotland and Ireland, a hundred and fifty newly created peers, twenty-six bishops, and half a dozen Law Lords, stands in a more critical position. No party in the State defends this institution; and every leading statesman proposes to either to end or to amend it. It is indeed an extreme case of misfit. Historically, the House of Lords is not a Second Chamber, charged with suspensory and revising functions, but an Estate of the Realm – or rather, by its inclusion of the bishops – two Estates of the Realm, just as much entitled as the Commons to express their own judgement on all matters of legislation, and to give or withhold their own assent to all measures of taxation. The trouble is that no one  in the kingdom is prepared to allow them these rights, and for ninety years at least the House of Lords has survived only on the assumption that, misfit as it palpably is, it nevertheless fulfils fairly well the quite different functions of a Second Chamber. Unfortunately, its members cannot wholly rid themselves of the feeling that they are not a Second Chamber, having only the duties of technical revision of what the House of Commons enacts, and of temporary suspension of any legislation that it too hastily adopts, but an Estate of the Realm, a coordinate legislative organ entitled to have an opinion of its own on the substance and the merits of any enactment of the House of Commons. The not inconsiderable section of peers and bishops which from time to time breaks out in this way, to the scandal of democrats, can of course claim to be historically and technically justified in thus acting as independent legislators, but constitutionally they are out of date; and each of their periodical outbursts, which occasionally cause serious public inconvenience, brings the nation nearer to their summary abolition. Perhaps of greater import than the periodical petulance of the House of Lords is its steady failure to act efficiently  as revising and suspensory Second Chamber. Its decisions are vitiated by its composition  it is the worst representative assembly ever created in that it contains absolutely no members of the manual working class; none of the great classes of shopkeepers, clerks and teachers; none of the half of all the citizens who are of the female sex; and practically none of religious nonconformity, or art, science or literature. Accordingly it cannot be relied on to revise or suspend, and scarcely even to criticise, anything brought forward by a Conservative Cabinet, whilst obstructing and often defeating everything proposed by Radical Cabinet.

Yet discontent with the House of Commons and its executive – the Cabinet – is to-day  a more active ferment than resentment at the House of Lords. The Upper Chamber may from time to time delay and obstruct; but it cannot make or unmake governments; and it cannot, in the long run, defy the House of Commons whenever that assembly is determined. To clear away this archaic structure will only make more manifest and indisputable the failure of the House of Commons to meet the present requirements. (Pp. 62-4).

When they come to their proposals for a thorough reform of the constitution, they write of the House of Lords

There is, of course, n the Socialist Commonwealth, no place for a House of Lords, which will simply cease to exist as a part of the legislature. Whether the little group of “Law Lords”, who are now made peers in order that they may form the Supreme Court of Appeal , should or should not continue, for this purely judicial purpose, to sit under the title, and with the archaic dignity of the House of Lords, does not seem material. (p.110)

I used to have some respect for the House of Lords because of the way they did try to keep Thatcher in check during her occupation of 10 Downing Street. They genuinely acted as a constitutional check and wasn’t impressed by the proposals for their reform. I simply didn’t see that it was necessary. When Blair was debating reforming the Upper House, the Tories bitterly attacked him as a new Cromwell, following the Lord Protector’s abolition of the House of Lords during the British Civil War. Of course, Blair did nothing of the sort, and partly reformed it, replacing some of the peers with his own nominees. Pretty much as Cromwell also packed parliament.

The arguments so far used against reforming the House of Lord are that it’s cheaper than an elected second chamber, and that there really isn’t much popular enthusiasm for the latter. Private Eye said that it would just be full of second-rate politicos traipsing about vainly trying to attract votes. That was over twenty years ago.

But now that the House of Lords is showing itself increasingly inefficient and expensive because of the sheer number of political has-beens, PM’s cronies and peers, who owe their seat only because of ancestral privilege, it seems to me that the arguments for its reform are now unanswerable.

Especially when the gift of appointing them is in the hands of such a corrupt premier as Boris Johnson.

Channel 4 Programme on the Queen’s Role in the 1953 Coup against Iran’s Mossadeq

June 10, 2020

Another interesting programme listed in next week’s Radio Times is Channel 4 documentary on Sunday, 14th June 2020, The Queen and the Coup. This is about how MI6 and the CIA conspired to overthrow Iran’s last democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, and how the Queen was manipulated by the intelligence agencies as part of it. Mossadeq had committed the crime of nationalising his country’s oil industry, which was owned by the British company Anglo-Persian Oil, which eventually became BP.

The blurb for the programme runs

It’s February 1953, the first anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, but the monarch is unaware that she is about to be deployed in a US plot to topple Iran’s democratic leader in favour of an all-powerful shah. Planned by MI6 and executed by the CIA, the coup destroyed Iran’s democracy and damaged relations between Iran and the West for many decades; this documentary reveals how the truth about the Queen’s role was hidden, even from her.

The piece about it by David Butcher a few pages earlier reads

This is one of those brilliantly detailed documentaries on recent history that uses declassified documents to explore a bizarre and little-known episode.

Professors Rory Cormac and Richard Aldrich have unearthed a paper trail in national archives showing how the 1953 coup d’etat to unseat Iran’s elected leader (Mohammed Mossadeq, whose crime had been to national British oil assets) relied at a crucial moment on using the young Queen Elizabeth’s name – unbeknownst to her.

It’s a fascinating, at times farcical yarn of MI6 and CIA intrigue, and the events had a huge effect on global politics; relations between Iran and the West never recovered.

The programme’s on at 9.00 pm.

Historians have known about the 1953 coup against Mossadeq for some time. The parapolitics/conspiracies magazine Lobster has published articles about it. I’ve posted pieces about it on this blog. However, it’s been largely ignored by the establishment because it is a real, genuine government conspiracy of the type that Britain and the US supposedly don’t commit. Lobster has been lamenting for decades how the majority of historians don’t take seriously the existence of real conspiracies committed by covert governmental, political or industrial groups as it contradicts the accepted idea of how politics operates and is conducted.

One of the presenters, Rory Cormac, is the author of a book on British official conspiracies and plots, Disrupt and Deny: Spies, Special Forces, and the Secret Pursuit of British Foreign Policy (Oxford: OUP 2018). This revealed how the British government, armed forces and intelligence agencies had secretly conspired and interfered in countries right across the globe from Northern Ireland in Britain itself, to Africa, Indonesia and elsewhere, removing leaders, rigging elections and overthrowing regimes that were an obstacle to British foreign policy. One of those countries was Iran, and the anti-Mossadeq coup is discussed in Chapter 5, ‘Operation Boot: Regime Change in Iran.’

This is all historical fact. But the coup was authorized and supporter by Boris’ hero, Winston Churchill. I wonder what the reaction of the Tory press to it will be? Assuming they deign to notice, of course.

Starmer Snubs Scotland by Appointing Nandy Shadow Foreign Secretary

April 8, 2020

More bad new for traditional, old Labour centrists like myself – the real Labour centrists, not the neoliberal, Thatcherites that came in with Blair. Keir Starmer has appointed Lisa Nandy his shadow Foreign Secretary. She’s another Blairite like him, but her appointment also means that he’s given up any hope of winning back Scotland for Labour. Nandy once offered her opinion on how to deal with Scottish independence by saying that we should look to Spain on how they dealt with separatism. Mike in his article stated that Scots would regard her as violent and offensive.

She was referring, of course, to the Spanish government sending in troops and militarised police into Catalonia after the head of the regional government there declared independence. I realise that the issue isn’t quite as black and white as it might appear, and that not all Catalans were behind their president’s decision to secede. But many people were appalled by this use of force on a democratically elected regional government, and the authoritarian brutality with which it was suppressed and its members and activists arrested. Tony Greenstein was one of those, for example, who decried it on his blog, and the refusal of the EU government to intervene in the Catalans’ favour.

Which raises the question of what Nandy believes a British government should do if something similar happens in the UK. If Nicola Sturgeon unilaterally held another independence referendum, and the majority of Scots voted in favour so that Sturgeon began formal moves to secede, would Nandy really support sending the troops in? That would turn even more Scots against Britain, and would create a situation north of the border very similar to Northern Ireland after we sent troops in there. It would create resentment and disaffection, which would in turn lead to violence in the shape of protests and terrorism.

I can’t really see this scenario happening. Sturgeon definitely wants a second referendum, but I’ve seen no indication yet that she means to break the law and hold one without the support of the UK government. But she was, however, determined to press for one. Nandy’s comment may well have been no more than a thoughtless remark given on the spur of the moment, rather than a genuine, deeply held opinion. But even so, it won’t endear her to the Scots or anyone else who believes in the democratic process of debate, elections and negotiations, rather than the use of the mailed fist.

And away from Scotland, it also doesn’t say much for her suitability as Foreign Secretary. Her stupid remark about Spain, with its implicit approval of the Spanish government’s actions, isn’t just offensive to Scots and Catalans. The Basques also have a very strong independence movement, which included a terrorist wing, ETA. Nandy obviously should not condone or support terrorism, but her comment also bodes ill for a peaceful Basque government, should they declare independence. As it does for any independence movement, anywhere. She has shown that she will support the dominant national government against separatists, and that has very serious implications for those movements in countries, whose government is definitely brutal and oppressive. One of the great iniquities of the late 20th century was that no government raised a protest against Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor in 1971 or thereabouts. Yet during the following thirty years the Indonesian government and its troops massacred about a third or a half of the island nation’s people.

The case of Catalonia is also disturbing, because for many people across Spain and Europe the government’s actions were reminiscent of Spain’s former dictator, General Franco, and his brutal regime. Franco seized power by overthrowing the democratically elected Republican government. This included a range of political parties, from Liberals to Socialists and Communists, and so was not a Communist regime, as its opponents tried to paint it. However, the Anarchists had seized power in Catalonia, and so Franco made a deliberate point of retaking that region before taking Madrid and formally ending the war. His regime then embarked on a reign of terror, massacring their former opponents. Their mass graves are being excavated by archaeologists, as people demand that the memories of the brave men and women, who died fighting Franco, be commemorated and their sacrifice recognised and celebrated. It’s controversial, because there are figures on the right, who would rather this did not happen. And the squalid dictator’s own mausoleum is the focus of particular rancour and controversy. Franco claimed it commemorated all the victims of the war, but in reality it’s just a monument to Franco and his goons, the Fascists and Falangists. Modern Spain’s suppression of Catalan independence may well carry overtones of Franco’s brutal suppression of the province. This might be a superficial impression, but if it’s there, it’ll be a powerful feeling of renewed historical grievances. And Nandy definitely should not say anything to stoke them.

Domestically, her appointment also shows that Starmer and the Blairites aren’t interested in appointing someone more suitable, who would stand a chance of reviving Labour up there. And without Scotland, there’s no chance of Labour winning a general election, which means we’re going to be faced with more years of Tory rule.

And that show you in turn how malicious the Blairites are. They would rather Labour lost elections and the Tories continued their campaign of privatisation, including the selling off of the NHS, and the dismantlement of the welfare state, rather than have a socialist in charge of the Labour party and in power at No. 10.

I hope I’m wrong, and that Nandy turns out to be a better shadow minister than she appears and that Starmer at least tries to win back Scotland. But for now the omens aren’t good.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/06/nandy-appointed-shadow-foreign-secretary-labour-has-no-plans-to-regain-scottish-seats/

A Multiple Language Dictionary for Archaeologists

March 26, 2020

Anna Kieburg, The Archaeological Excavation Dictionary (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Archaeology 2016).

This was another book I got from the bargain book mail order company, Postscript. It’s a dictionary of archaeological words, with over 2,000 entries, in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Turkish and Arabic. The Arabic and Greek words are also given in those languages’ alphabets as well as in an English transliteration.

I’m putting this up as archaeology truly is an international discipline. Both professionals, students and volunteers travel across the world to work on digs. There is a guide book, published annually, for volunteers wishing to work on various digs right across the globe, in Europe, America and elsewhere. Also, I’ve noticed that some of the books published by the archaeological publishers, like Oxbow, are also in foreign languages. In the case of Oxbow, it’s mostly French or German.

Archaeology is a truly international subject, with professionals, students and volunteers travelling to digs right across the world. There’s a guide, published annually, for people to wishing to work on them, listing sites in the Americas, Europe and so on, and what they need to take with them. I’m putting the book up on this blog as I thought it might be useful for other archaeologists, or ordinary people interested in archaeology, once the world’s recovered from the Coronavirus and everything’s started up again.

But thinking about archaeology and languages, I wonder if anyone’s ever published such a dictionary for the Celtic languages in the UK? I know the vast majority of people in Britain can speak English, and I doubt if anyone on a site has ever been asked if they could explain what they’ve found in Welsh, Gaelic or Erse, but still, there might be a demand by local people in areas where those languages are spoken for someone to say something about them in them, if only as a source of local pride and individuality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Conservative Accusation of Liberal Bias at the Beeb

February 15, 2020

Robin Aitken, Can We Trust the BBC (London: Continuum 2007).

Robin Aitken is a former BBC journalist, and this book published 13 years ago argues that the BBC, rather than being unbiased, is really stuffed full of lefties and the broadcaster and its news and politics programmes have a very strong left-wing, anti-Conservative bias. Under Lord Reith, the BBC upheld certain core British values. Its news was genuinely unbiased, giving equal time to the government and opposition. It also stood for essential institutions and such as the monarchy, the constitution, the British Empire and Christianity at home, and peace through the League of Nations abroad.

This changed radically between 1960 and 1980 as the BBC joined those wishing to attack and demolish the old class-bound institutions. Now the BBC stands for passionate anti-racism, ‘human rights’, internationalism and is suspicious of traditional British national identity and strongly pro-EU. It is also feminist, secular and ‘allergic to established authority whether in the form of the Crown, the courts, the police or the churches.’ This has jeopardised the ideal at the heart of the Corporation, that it should be fair-minded and non-partisan.

Aitken does marshal an array of evidence to support his contention. This includes his own experience working for BBC Scotland, which he claims was very left-wing with a staff and management that bitterly hated Margaret Thatcher and made sure that the dismantlement of the old, nationalised industries like shipbuilding was properly lamented, but did not promote it as ‘creative destruction’ as it should, nor the emergence of the wonderful new information industry north of the border. A later chapter, ‘Testimonies’, consists of quotations from other, anonymous rightists, describing how the Beeb is biased and bewailing their isolated position as the few Conservative voices in the Corporation. He is particularly critical of the former director-general, John Birt. Birt was recruited in the 1990s from ITV. He was a member of the Labour Party, who brought with him many of his colleagues from the commercial channel, who also shared his politics and hatred of the Tories. He goes on to list the leading figures from the Left, who he claims are responsible for this bias. These include Andrew Marr, the former editor of the Independent, and the left-wing, atheist journo and activist, Polly Toynbee.

Aitken also tackles individual topics and cases of biased reporting. This includes how the BBC promoted the Labour Party and the EU before Labour’s landslide victory in the 1997 general election. The Conservatives were presented as deeply split on the issue and largely hostile to EU membership. The EU itself was presented positively, and the Labour Party as being united in favour of membership, even though it was as split as the Tories on the issue. Another chapter argues that the Beeb was wrong in challenging the government’s case for the Iraq Invasion. He claims that in a poll the overwhelming majority of Iraqis supported the invasion. The government did not ‘sex up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ in order to present a false case for war, and it was wrong for the Beeb to claim that Blair’s government had.

The chapter ‘The Despised Tribes’ argues that there are certain ethnic or religious groups, who were outside the range of sympathy extended to other, more favoured groups. These include White South Africans, the Israeli Likud Party, Serb Nationalists under Milosevic, the Italian Northern League, Le Pen and the Front National in France, the Vlaams Blok in Belgium, American ‘Christian Fundamentalists’, conservative Roman Catholics, UKIP ‘and other groups who have failed to enlist the sympathies of media progressives’. These include the Orange Order and Ulster Protestants. He then claims that the Beeb is biased towards Irish Republicans, who have successfully exploited left-wing British guilt over historic wrongs against the Roman Catholic population. He then goes on to claim that Pat Finucane, a lawyer killed in the Troubles, was no mere ‘human rights’ lawyer but a senior figure in the IRA.

The chapter, ‘The Moral Maze’ is an extensive critique of a Panorama documentary claiming that the Roman Catholic condemnation of premarital sex and contraception was causing needless suffering in the Developing World through the procreation of unwanted children and the spread of AIDs by unprotected sex. This is contradicted by UN evidence, which shows that the African countries with the lowest incidence of AIDS are those with the highest Catholic populations. The Catholic doctrine of abstinence, he argues, works because reliance on condoms gives the mistaken impression that they offer total protection against disease and pregnancy, and only encourages sexual activity. Condoms cannot offer complete protection, and are only effective in preventing 85 per cent of pregnancies. The programme was deliberately biased against the Roman Catholic church and the papacy because it was made from the viewpoint of various groups with an explicit bias against the Church and its teaching on sexuality.

Aitken’s evidence is impressive, and I do accept part of his argument. I believe that the Beeb is indeed in favour of feminism, multiculturalism and human rights. I also believe that, the few remaining examples of the Beeb’s religious programming notwithstanding, the Corporation is largely hostile to Christianity in ways that would be unthinkable if applied to other religions, such as Islam. However, I don’t believe that the promotion of anti-racism and anti-sexism is wrong. And groups like the Northern League, Front National and other extreme right-wing political and religious groups, including UKIP, really are unacceptable because of their racism and should not be given a sympathetic platform. Their exclusion from the range of acceptable political and religious views is no bad thing.

But the book also ignores the copious documentation from the various media study units at Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh universities of massive BBC Conservative bias. Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis have a chapter in their book on the gradual, slo-mo privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, on the way the media has promoted the Tories’ and New Labour’s project of selling off the health service. And this includes the Beeb.  The Corporation was hostile to Labour after Thatcher’s victory, promoting the SDP splinter group against the parent party in the 1983 election, as well as the Tories. This pro-Tory bias returned with a vengeance after the 2010 Tory victory and the establishment of austerity. Barry and Savile Kushner show in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, how the Beeb excludes or shouts down anyone who dares to question the need for cuts to welfare spending. Tories, economists and financiers are also favoured as guests on news shows. They are twice as likely to appear to comment on the news as Labour politicians and trade unionists.

And we have seen how the Beeb has pushed the anti-Labour agenda particularly vigorously over the past five years, as it sought to smear Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as institutionally anti-Semitic at every opportunity. Quite apart from less sensational sneering and bias. The guests on Question Time have, for example, been packed with Tories and Kippers, to whom presenter Fiona Bruce has shown particular favour. This has got worse under Johnson, with the Beeb now making it official policy not to have equal representation of the supporters of the various political parties in the programme’s audience. Instead, the majority of the audience will consist of supporters of the party that holds power in that country. Which means that in England they will be stuffed with Tories. Numerous members of the BBC news teams are or were members of the Tory party, like Nick Robinson, and a number have left to pursue careers at No 10 helping Cameron, Tweezer and Boris.

The evidence of contemporary bias in favour of the Tories today is massive and overwhelming.

With the exception of particular issues, such as multiculturalism, feminism, a critical and sometimes hostile attitude towards the monarchy, and atheism/ secularism, the BBC is, and always has been, strongly pro-Tory. The Birt era represents only a brief interval between these periods of Tory bias, and I believe it is questionable how left-wing Birt was. Aitken admits that while he certainly was no Tory, he was in favour of free market economics.

This book is therefore very dated, and overtaken by the Beeb’s massive return to the Right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew Neil Shows Staggering Ignorance of Irish Politics

February 3, 2020

Zelo Street put up this story on Saturday, and it’s one of those that makes you wonder just how intelligent and insightful certain highly paid Beeb journos and political pundits really are. In this instance, the journalist in question is Andrew Neil, former editor of the Sunday Times and the Economist, and chairman of the board running the Spectator. Is he really this ignorant, or is he just pushing Brexiteer propaganda?

Zelo Street notes that next Saturday there’s a general election over in the Emerald Isle. This is also important for us over on this side of the Irish Sea because of the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace back to Northern Ireland. Panelbase, a polling company, conducted a survey of Irish voters, and concluded that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael party was down four points. Neil picked this up, and told his followers on Twitter that it was due to the party campaigning on an ‘anti-British’ small country ticket.

Er, no. No, it wasn’t. And various Irish Tweeters let Neil know that it very definitely wasn’t. Jonathan Mills posted this explanation of the real reason Fine Gael were down in the polls:

For UK ppl reading this; FG are down in the polls for good domestic reasons to do with health waiting lists and homelessness (we’ll get them on the economy next week). Their Brexit performance is about the only thing they have going for them. They are the pro-British party”.

Others cast aspersions on Brillo’s abilities as a journalist. ‘Ban Normality’ commented

I’m surprised that Andrew is following this line but it is still slightly worrying that such an established, supposedly informed politically commentator tweets something like this. Does he believe there is a correlation in Ireland that FG stance on Brexit has lost them votes?

Paul O’Kane went further, and tweeted

Any journalistic credibility you ever had in relation to Irish politics has just evaporated in a single tweet”.

Irishmonk called him a junior reporter, and told him there was such a thing as being informed, and advised him to use Google.

And Irish Times writer Conor Gallagher went further and observed how this reflected badly on the British press as a whole. He said

One of the most striking things I’ve noticed since Brexit started was how badly the British people are served by their media”.

Yes, we are very badly served by our media. It has become particularly dire after Brexit, but it was always terrible. However, the real rot set in about 1980 with the toxic combination of Maggie Thatcher in No. 10 and Rupert Murdoch owning the Scum and the Thunderer. He made these newspapers much less about journalism and all about pushing Tory ideology, and set in motion a trend that has affected all the British newspapers. And the Beeb and television in general also became far more about promoting Tory propaganda rather than objective reporting, with a few notable and honourable exceptions, of course.

Neil’s tweet hasn’t completely destroyed his journalistic credibility by any means. He’s still highly paid and respected, and isn’t as massively ignorant about Brexit as Julia Hartley-Brewer. She’s shown several times that she knows less than zero about it, as Nigel Molesworth would put it, and simply repeats pro-Brexit lines even when anyone, who really does know anything about the EU, knows that the reality is the complete opposite. But Neil’s tweet does raise questions about the limits of his knowledge. Surely someone with his reputation and career should know more about Irish politics than this? And have more concern for the facts than to say something that anyone could check and see was wrong?

Or is Neil really not bothered at all with getting his facts right and keeping the British public properly informed, but just with pushing the Conservative/ Brexiteer line regardless. Like pretty much the rest of the BBC newsdesk.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/02/andrew-neil-youre-embarrassment.html

British Diplomat Resigns Over Brexit Half-Truths

December 9, 2019

Another set-back for the Tories was the resignation of Alexandra Hall Hall, the leading Brexit negotiator, in protest at politicians’ deceit and half-truths about it and its effects. This was also reported in Saturday’s I in the article ‘British diplomat quits with tirade at ‘half-truths”, written by Jane Merrick. This ran

A senior British diplomat in Washington has resigned, saying she can no longer “peddle half-truths” on behalf of a government she does not “trust”.

Alexandra Hall Hall, the lead envoy for Brexit at the embassy, accused ministers of “misleading or disingenuous” claims about the UK’s departure from the EU which had made diplomats’ jobs promoting democracy abroad “that much harder”.

The blistering resignation letter will fuel concerns over a lack of trust in Boris Johnson and his arguments on Brexit, highlighted by the leaked Treasury documents obtained by Jeremy Corbyn showing there will be customs checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain under the Prime Minister’s deal.

Ms Hall Hall’s letter was sent to her bosses in the Diplomatic Service this week and obtained by CNN. She said her position had become “unbearable personally and untenable professionally”.

She added: “I am also at a stage in life where I would prefer to do something more rewarding with my time than peddle half-truths on behalf of a government I do not trust.”

Ms Hall Hall’s job was to explain the UK Government’s Brexit strategy to politicians and officials on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

Her letter is all the more astounding because diplomats rarely criticise the government they have worked for, even after resigning.

She argued that ministers’ actions in the UK had made it harder to British diplomats to uphold “core values” abroad.

She added: ” I have been increasingly dismayed by the way in which our political leaders have tried to deliver Brexit, with reluctance to address honestly, even with our own citizens, the challenges and trade-offs which Brexit involves; the use of misleading or disingenuous arguments about the implications of the various options before us; and some behaviour towards our institutions, which, were it happening in another country, we would almost certainly as diplomats have received instructions to register our concern.

“It makes our job to promote democracy and the rule of law that much harder, if we are not seen to be upholding these core values at home.”

Ms Hall Hall said she was not “for or against Brexit, per se”, adding: “I took this position with a sincere commitment, indeed passion, to do my part, to the very best of my abilities, to help achieve a successful outcome on Brexit.”

But she added: “Each person has to find their own level comfort with this situation. Since I have no other element to my job except Brexit, I find my position has become unbearable personally, and untenable professionally.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We won’t comment on the detail of an individual’s resignation.”

In short, Ms Hall Hall, a conscientious and extremely capable diplomat, felt unable to do her job because of the massive deceit coming from Boris Johnson’s government. This deceit is so great, that it is comparable to that of the undemocratic governments British diplomats have the job of protesting against.

Boris Johnson is not only a threat to democracy in the UK, but a threat to Britain’s role in spreading democracy throughout the world.

This is blistering condemnation and should be taken very seriously by anyone, who thinks that Johnson is somehow standing up for patriotic British values because of Brexit.

He isn’t. He’s a real and present threat to them. Get him out, and someone else in who will defend democracy and genuinely open and transparent government: Corbyn.

The Tories’ Brexit Cover-Up on Northern Ireland

December 9, 2019

It wasn’t a good weekend for the Tories. For one thing, Jeremy Corbyn used leaked Treasury documents to show that the Tories were covering up the effects Brexit would have on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. This was reported in the I in the article ‘Corbyn accuses Tories of Brexit cover-up’ by Hugo Gye. This ran

Jeremy Corbyn has accused the Conservatives of trying to hide the true effects of their Brexit deal, claiming it would put a border in the Irish Sea despite Boris Johnson’s denials.

The Tories insisted Labour is indulging in “wild conspiracy theories” after the party produced leaked Treasure documents on the implications of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The new Brexit deal puts Northern Ireland in a different customs and regulatory regime from the rest of the UK. The Prime Minister has told Northern Irish business leaders that if they are asked to fill in forms when transporting goods to or from Breat Britain, they should “throw that form in the bin.”

But the Treasury documents say: “Exit summary declarations will be required when goods are exported from NI to GB.” It adds that the Government “will need to balance the benefits of unfettered access against the risks of reduced control over imports”.

The dossier adds that increased friction on trade across the Irish Sea will increase the price of high street goods and hit business profits. It is the equivalent of imposing tariffs on 30 per cent of all purchases in Northern Ireland, officials wrote.

Mr Corbyn said: “For trade going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain the Government cannot rule out regulatory checks, rules of origin checks and animal and public health checks.

“And for trade going the other way from Great Britain to Northern Ireland there will be all of the above plus, potentially damaging tariffs. This drives a coach and horses through Boris Johnson’s claim that there will be no border in the Irish Sea. It’s simply not true.”

Asked about the leak, Mr Johnson said: “I haven’t seen the document you are referring to but that’s complete nonsense.

“What I can tell you is that with the deal we have, we can come out as one whole UK – England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, together.”

His own ministers have previously admitted that some form of checks will be needed on goods crossing the Irish Sea. 

So the Treasury predicts that there will have to be customs checks for goods going to and from Northern Ireland, despite the Tories’ assurances to their DUP allies that this wouldn’t happen. And there is the danger of a 30 per cent rise in the cost of goods in the Six Counties. And, note, Boris has offered absolutely no evidence to back up his denial that this will occur.

It’s more waffle from a waffling, mendacious, deceitful government, and a party, which has done so much to break up the centuries-old union between England, Scotland, Wales and Ulster.

Corbyn is right, and is the right man if anyone is, for sorting out Brexit and creating a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. A peace that has been thrown into grievous jeopardy by Brexit and the Tories.