Posts Tagged ‘Norwich’

Jackie Walker on the Abuse of Anti-Semitism to Silence Israel’s Critics

March 25, 2019

This is the second video put up on YouTube in March 2017 by Brighton and Hove Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement. In this first, Tony Greenstein, the veteran Jewish anti-racism and anti-Zionism activist, spoke about how false accusations of anti-Semitism were used by the Israel lobby to defend the indefensible – Israel’s brutal maltreatment of the Palestinians. In this video another great anti-racism activist, Jackie Walker, continues the theme.

Targeting Walker and Jeremy Corbyn

She begins by introducing herself as a life-long anti-racist activist, teacher, trainer and writer, and that as a young woman she was involved with SWAPO, the anti-apartheid movement in Namibia, and went on from that as a natural progression to supporting the Palestinians and criticism of Israel. She states that it is very clear from watching documentaries like the al-Jazeera film, the Lobby, that the reason her posts were so delved into and organisations like the Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish Labour Movement had such an attraction for her is because they target anyone, who is any way prominent (as a critic of Israel). She states that she’s only a minor figure, as Tony Greenstein keeps reminding her, but he’s right. And this shows the level of paranoia and resources that is going into the campaign against activists like her.

She says it’s no coincidence that they had no problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party until Jeremy Corbyn, one of the best-known anti-racists on the left, became leader of the Party. Can you imagine what happened in Tel Aviv, she asks the audience. She states that she will get into trouble for saying it, so she’ll say it again: accusations of anti-Semitism have become weaponised. It’s a weapon that doesn’t just affect individuals like her, but affects communities, families, Labour parties, and people who support the struggle to have better human rights. She states that she doesn’t have a problem with those on the Right and Zionists. They’re just doing their jobs. They’re our enemies. Her problem is with people, who are supposedly on the Left, who are actually undermining the campaign for justice in Palestine all the time.

The Alt-Right and Zionism

The reason Israel has put millions of pounds into undermining the BDS is not for no reason. It is a recognition of the fact that what’s happening in Gaza is being steadily raised. And as it is, we see this strange thing happening with international leaders who seem to be getting closer and closer to Israel. We see it in particular in America. And most people find that link between the Alt Right and support for Zionism very strange. But as an anti-racism campaigner, it makes total sense to her. All nationalist ideologies have more in common than things that separate them. Trump can speak a language that the Chair of the Board of Deputies of British Jews can understand, particularly when he supports Jewish settlements, or even now beginning to lay the groundwork for suggesting that the two-state solution is dead. And this plain-speaking at last may be a good thing. She thinks that for most of them this might clear the ground, as the establishment of Jewish settlements has shown that the two-state solution is unworkable. She says that as someone, who has relatives living in the settlements in Israel. ‘And let me tell you’, she states, ‘there’s no way those people are leaving’.

BDS a ‘Strategic Threat’ to Jews

Netanyahu has branded the BDS movement and people like them ‘a strategic threat’. They’re up there with Iran’s nuclear weapons, Hamas and no doubt a few other enemies of Israel. She finds it extraordinary that she, at the age of 63 and a grandmother of three, is up there with Hamas. It’s even more crazy in that the Wiesenthal Centre, who compile a list of the top ten threats to Jews in the world included Jeremy Corbyn and her at No. 2.  Yes, she’s the No. 2 threat to Jews, not Hamas. This is why the campaign against them is led by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and why they’re really gearing up on it. She makes it clear that it is not easy thing for her to resist what’s happening to her. She’s making light of it, but it’s destroyed her life, because she’s become that crazy woman who won’t be silent about the injustice she sees, or be bullied by them. She won’t allow people, who tell her that they want to see her put in a plastic bin and burnt, or put in a concentration camp, or call her any of the names they want to, silence her. And one of the reasons is that she has had racial abuse as a Black person for 63 years, and she’s got to that point you do when you get older when you can’t be a***ed any more. But she no longer has a job or young children to look after. She’s told her adult children to come off twitter so they don’t see what’s being said about their mother. She then tells the story about how she shared a platform in Norwich with a young teacher, who had the temerity to read out a poem that his children had written about children in Palestine. This man almost lost his job due to the wave of criticism that was sent to his headmaster. Every single time she goes to a meeting there are attempts to shut it down. This is even to the point that they had a security officer come into the middle of the room, as someone had said that there was a rabid racist speaking and it was going to cause trouble. This was one of the nicer techniques they use, along with the new definition of anti-Semitism, which makes it more difficult for people to speak out. This is what is happening to free speech.

The Left Particularly Under Attack

She goes on to address those of the audience, who are in the Labour Party, mentioning that she’s on her second suspension, and who think this is just a fringe problem. She asks them to think about, because it is people on the Left, who are being picked off, attacked and gagged. She is sure that had she gone quietly, they’d leave her alone. But she won’t go quietly, and there are things that are going to happen which people should look out for. Addressing the audience again, she says that those of them, who saw the film the Lobby will have seen the involvement of the Jewish Labour Movement. The Jewish Labour Movement have an affiliation with the Labour party for historical reasons, and are actively lobbying for all the changes that will come in at Conference this year. This will mean that any kind of criticism of Israel will become such a hot potato that it will become very hard to discuss it in the Constituency Labour Parties.

The Jewish Chronicle and the Other Papers

She goes on to make the point that her second suspension wasn’t for anti-Semitism, although she knows that the papers said it was. They lie. They lie in a very interesting way. She doesn’t think it’s a conspiracy, but what happens is that the Jewish Chronicle  gets a story, runs it, and the other newspapers then run the same story. But they don’t come back to you to question it. They run exactly the same story. She also says, in reply to those, who’ve asked her why she hasn’t sued them, it’s because she’s not a millionaire. According to her lawyers it would cost half a million pounds to run something because of the type of case it would be, so if people would give her the money, she would be quite happy to run a case of defamation both against the Jewish Chronicle and the Board of Deputies. 

The JLM and the Labour Party

JLM are very much building up their position within the Labour party. She points out that you don’t actually have to be Jewish to be a member, and may be what needs to happen is that ‘you lot’, meaning the audience, should all join the JLM. And so there’s a question about the validity about the JLM being the voice of Jews. But what the JLM is, is a very effective voice of the Right. As such they now have a position on the NEC, and a position on the Equalities Subcommittee. That means that when people like herself and Greenstein are being suspended for being racist – because that’s all anti-Semitism is, there’s nothing special about anti-Semitism, it’s just racism, and every racism has its particularity – they’ll come up with their own ideas about what anti-Semitism is. She states that she would like to ask the Labour party, and has asked the Labour party about it, and it would be interesting to see their answer, that she was suspended the second time for comments she made at a training session. She asks the labour party if they have investigated who leaked that to the press, because it was during the Labour party conference and you couldn’t get in unless you were a party member. She has suggested that the person who brought the Labour party into disrepute was the person, who leaked that tape. There are also people, who think they know what that person was. But she hasn’t had a reply on that at all.

She concludes by telling her audience to keep their ears out, it’s an ongoing situation, they’re here in a struggle, they’re up against extraordinary forces, and she promises that, as insignificant as she is, so long as she can keep annoying them, she will keep buzzing.

Walker and Greenstein’s experience of being vilified, smeared and abused as anti-Semites is typical of those of the many other decent members of the Labour party, who’ve also been libeled as anti-Semites. And they’re also stymied in their campaigns to clear their name because of the huge expenses of the British judicial system. Jenny Randles, a UFO investigator, who was smeared with a different accusation connected with the world of UFOs, declared that the British legal system considers you guilty until declared rich, which aptly describes the situation. Mike and Tony Greenstein, however, have been helped by being able to start a crowdfunding appeal on the internet. But even so, considerable obstacles have been placed in their way of ever obtaining justice.

Walker’s revelation that, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, she and Corbyn are the number two threat to Jews around the world just shows how skewed and perverted the Zionist worldview is. That they consider two anti-racist older people, one of whom is a Jewish granny, a major threat to Jews above Hamas and many other explicitly anti-Semitic groups, is a twisted obscenity. I can remember the various documentaries celebrating Simon Wiesenthal when I was growing up. He was a Nazi hunter, and rightly admired and celebrated for bring people, who had perpetrated the most horrific crimes against humanity to justice. For the Wiesenthal Centre to mix entirely decent people like Walker and Corbyn in with real Nazis devalues Wiesenthal’s work, and should discredit the Centre itself.

And the various nationalisms certainly do have more in common with each other than differences. It’s why Alt Right figures like Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, Milo Yiannopolis and the islamophobe Tommy Robinson have been welcomed in Israel. In fact the founder of the Alt Right has declared himself to be a ‘White Zionist’, and wants to create a White ethnostate in America the same as Israel is an ethnostate for Jews. Zionism is simply another form of racial nationalism, and so their enemies aren’t those on the extreme Right so much as the real anti-racists, and opponents of anti-Semitism, like Greenstein, Walker, Martin Odoni, Mike, Ken Livingstone and so many others. The Right has a near monopoly of the press, and even left-wing newspapers like the Guardian and the Mirror repeat the anti-Semitism lies and smears.

But the truth is coming out through the internet, and the more the establishment lies, the more people are increasingly seeing through them. And I hope this process goes on, until the press and the Israel lobby is completely discredited, and the reputations of those they have smeared vindicated and restored. 

 

 

Advertisements

TYT Cover Panel on the End of Neoliberalism at Labour Party Conference

October 22, 2017

This is another video produced by the progressive American news service, The Young Turks, of the Labour conference at Brighton the week before last. The panel was entitled ‘Welcome to the End of the Neoliberalism’. Held in a dingy nightclub, the female host jokes about how her audience can say exactly where they were when neoliberalism ended, and that, as with nearly all revolutions, the women were first and the men came late.

With her on the panel were Paul Mason, a former Channel 4 journo, playwright, documentary film maker, and the author of the book ‘Postcapitalism’; Jo Littler, an academic, who specialises in cultures of consumption, and the author of a book on meritocracy, pointing out that this is precisely what it isn’t, as meritocracy is a system that reinforces minority, elite rule; Valary Alzaga, a labour organiser working with the people at neoliberalism’s sharp end in precarity; and Clive Lewis, the MP for Norwich.

Paul Mason begins the discussion by trying to describe what neoliberalism is in reality, rather than neoliberalism as a collection of ideas. In doing so he states that he has annoyed the Adam Smith Institute. And he includes not only the perfect, ideal capitalist states of the West, but also mercantilist states like China, as they are now part of the same global system. He states that you could go back to the German ordoliberals to describe it, and to people like Von Hayek and the Chicago School. But he begins with Peugeot’s definition of its aims at a meeting in Paris in 1938. This described precisely what neoliberalism is not: it is not traditional laissez-faire economics. The early neoliberals realised that if markets and market forces were left on their own, the result would be monopolies that would be nationalised by the state, according to Marxist doctrine and praxis. So they sought to enforce competition at every level. This means not only privatisation, and the introduction of legislation to force companies to compete, but also the creation of competition as a mindset to keep working people isolated and competing against each other.

The result can be seen in the favelas – the deprived slums – of Latin America, where you have poor people living in former factories that have closed down. Then the housing association is dissolved, and the mob moves in, as only through organised crime is there safety. And Mason states very clearly that it isn’t only in Latin America that this process has occurred. It’s also happened in many of the towns in the north of England, where industry has been gutted and forced overseas, and the result has been a massive upsurge in crime.

He goes on to state that at first neoliberalism was devised so the rich West could exploit Latin America. But after the Fall of Communism opened up the 20 per cent of the world market that was the former eastern bloc, it became a global system. However, neoliberalism is now collapsing. It produces a series of crises, and so rightwing politicians like Trump, rather than destroying it, are producing nationalist versions of neoliberalism. That is, they are turning away from it as a system of international trade, but still enforcing it in their own countries as a system of private ownership that excludes and exploits the poor.

Jo Littler says much the same as Mason in a much briefer speech. She refers to it as ‘disembowelling’ the public, meaning the enforced privatisation of public services. She also describes how two of the sources for neoliberalism were the German Ordoliberals, who turned away from the state-managed economy of the Nazis, and von Hayek and the Chicago school. She also mentions how it was first proposed by the Montpelerin meeting in Paris. And she also makes the point that it took a long time for them to have their ideas accepted, as until the Chicago School, Pinochet and Thatcher they were isolated cranks and weirdoes.

Valary Alzaga explains that she is a care worker, who are some of the most poorly paid workers with the most precarious jobs. She describes how, under neoliberal capitalism, care homes have been privatised, bought up by hedge funds and venture capitalists, who have then gone on to sell off whatever was profit-making. As for care workers, neoliberalism means that if they try to form a union, they are immediately sacked. Under socialism and Keynsianism there was a social pact, by which employers and the state recognised the rights of workers to form trade unions and bargain for better pay and conditions. This no longer exists.

Clive Lewis, who to my mind looks like a younger version of Noel Clarke, the actor, who played Rose Tyler’s boyfriend in Dr. Who, is an economics graduate. He describes how, when he was studying it, he and the other students were filled with its doctrines, but no-one ever mentioned the word. He only woke up to what it was and really meant when he happened to go on a summer course about it. He describes this in terms of a religious revelation. He says it was as if he’d been deprogrammed. When he returned, his friends complained that it was as if he’d joined a cult, because all he talked about was neoliberalism, neoliberalism and neoliberalism.

He states that the goal of von Hayek wasn’t to set up an independent party, as he was asked by one of his followers. He wanted instead to permeate the academic institutions, like the universities and take over the whole system. And so this resulted in Blair and Brown accepting it as absolutely true, and introducing it into the Labour party. He refers to the story, which he thinks was apocryphal, about Thatcher being asked what her greatest achievement was. Instead of pointing to one of her wretched privatisations, she said it was Tony Blair and New Labour. Lewis states that their adoption of neoliberalism is unforgivable with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight but you have to understand the state of British politics at the time.

This is a fascinating analysis of the rise and destructive effects of neoliberalism. Robin Ramsay, the editor of ‘Lobster’, also studied economics in the late ’60s – early ’70s, and he states that Thatcher’s beloved Monetarism was considered so much rubbish that his lecturers didn’t even bother arguing against it. And before Thatcherism turned to mass privatisation and the idolatrous adulation of the free market after 1981-2, neoliberalism was considered very much an extreme doctrine held only by cranks. Which is what it should return to being.

As for annoying the Adam Smith Institute, they have been pushing for the complete privatisation of all state assets, including the NHS since the 1970s, so annoying them is, in my view, a good and holy occupation. And in amongst their dissection of neoliberalism they also have a gibe at Jacob Rees-Mogg, which is also always a good thing.

Monbiot’s List of the Corporate Politicos in Blair’s Government: Part Two

April 23, 2016

Stephanie Monk

Human Resources director, Granada Group plc., which appealed against an industrial tribunal to reinstate workers sacked for going on strike after their pay was cut from £140 to £100 a week.

Member of the Low Pay Commission on the minimum wage, and the New Deal Taskforce.

Sue Clifton

Executive director, Group 4, criticised for mishandling of child offenders after escapes, bullying, riots and attacks on staff.

Advisor to the government’s Youth Justice Board on how young offenders should be handled.

Keith McCullagh

Chief executive of British Biotech. This company has been repeatedly censured by the Stock Exchange, particularly when it was revealed that it’s leading drug product didn’t work.

Chairman of the government’s Finance Advisory Group to help high-tech companies gain financial investors’ confidence.

Sir Robin Biggam

Non-executive director, British Aerospace, which sells weapons to Turkey, some of which are used against the Kurdish separatists.

Chairman of the Independent Television Commission. This revoked the license of the Kurdish satellite station Med TV because of complaints from Turkey that it gave a platform to Kurdish separatists.

Neville Bain

Non-executive director, Safeway, one of the supermarkets which was swallowing branches of the Post Office.

Made chairman of the Post Office.

Robert Osborne

Head of Special Projects division of Tarmac Plc, one of the major constructors of PFI hospitals.

Chief Executive of the Department of Health’s Private Finance Unit. In 1998, returned to Tarmac to run PFI division.

David Steeds

Corporate Development Director of Serco Group Plc.

Chief executive of the government’s Private Finance Panel.

Tony Edwards

Director of the TI Group, which owned Matrix Churchill, the company which provided machine tools to manufacture arms to the Iraqis. He is the company’s chief executive, which is engaged in 150 military operations around the world.

Head of the government’s Defence Export Services Organisation, advising the government on granting licenses to companies wishing to sell arms to different countries around the world.

Neil Caldwell

Director of PTBRO, the distributor of the government’s landfill tax money, for which it receives 10 per cent of the amount handled in administration fees.

Director of Entrust, the regulatory body supervising the distribution of landfill tax money.

Judith Hanratty

Company Secretary, BP-Amoco Plc, one of the most controversial mergers of the 1990s as it amalgamated two of the world’s biggest companies.

On the board of the Competition Commission, monitoring and regulating corporate mergers.

John Rickford

On the board of BT, which has been frequently attacked for having too great a share of the market.

On the board of the Competition Commission.

Sir Alan Cockshaw

Chairman of Construction Company AMEC
Watson Steel, part of AMEC group, won contract to build the masts and cables on the Millennium Dome.

Chairman of the government’s Commission for New Towns. Chairman of the government agency English Partnerships, which is supposed to help ensure that new developments meet public needs.

On the board of the New Millennium Experience Company, firm set up by government to supervise the millennium celebrations.

Michael Mallinson

Property of industry lobby group for property developers, the British Property Federation.

Deputy Chairman, English Partnerships.

Peter Mason

Group Chief Executive, AMEC plc. In 1997 the company was the seventh largest recipient of support from the government’s Export Credit Guarantee Department for construction work in Hong Kong.

The trade body to which it belonged, The Export Group for the Construction Industries – has lobbied against the inclusion of environmental and human rights conditions in the Export Credit Guarantee Department’s loans.

On the Export Guarantees Advisory Council, which governs the payment of government money by the Export Credit Guarantee Department. Liz Airey, a non-executive director of Amec, is another member.

Professor Sir John Cadogan

Research Director of BP.

Director-General of the Research Councils, which are supposed to fund scientific work that doesn’t have an obvious or immediate application for industry.

Sir Anthony Cleaver

Chairman of the Atomic Energy Authority Technology Plc, which oversaw the organisational changes at Dounreay. These were criticised by the Health and Safety Executive as leaving the company in a poor position to decommission the site. Some researchers believed that Dounreay was the most dangerous nuclear site in Western Europe.

Chairman of the government’s Medical Research Council, which has been repeatedly criticised for failing to provide research funds for investigating the medical effects of radiation. Also member of the government’s panel on sustainable development.

Peter Doyle

Executive director, Zeneca Group Plc. Zeneca’s a major biotechnology firm, and was the foremost developer in Britain of GM crops. The company was engaged in a ten-year deal with the John Innes Centre in Norwich to find profitable applications for biotechnology.

Chairman of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, which gives substantial funding to the John Innes Research Institute. Employees of Zeneca sit on all seven of the BBSRC specialist committees.

Member of the government’s advisory committee on Business and the Environment.

Professor Nigel Poole

External and Regulatory Affairs Manager of Zeneca Plant Science; sits on five of the taskforces set up by EuropaBio, the lobbying organisation seeking to persuade European governments to deregulate GM organisms.

Member of the government’s Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment.

Professor John Hillman

Member of the board of the Bioindustry Association, the lobbying group seeking to ‘enhance the status of the industry within government’.

Director of the government’s Scottish Crop Research Institute, charged with supervising government-funded research projects and providing the government with impartial advice on biotechnology.

Antony Pike

Director General of the British Agrochemicals Association Ltd; Managing director of Schering Agrochemicals/ AgrEvo UK Ltd.

Chairman of the government’s Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA), carrying out and funding research into cereal crops. It has not funded any projects aimed at improving organic cereal production.

Professor P.J. Agett

Head of the School of Medicine and Health, University of Central Lancashire. This has received support for its research from three companies producing baby milk. Agett has personally received fees from two companies producing baby milk, including Nestle. The promotion of baby milk to developing nations is one of the most controversial issues in food and nutrition.

Chair of the Department of Health’s Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA). Three other members of COMA have either directly benefited from payments from the baby milk manufacturers or belong to academic departments which have. One of those, who personally received payments was a Nestle executive.

Professor Peter Schroeder

Nestlé’s director of research and development.

Director of the government’s Institute of Food Research.

Sir Alastair Morton

Chairman of the Channel Tunnel construction consortium, Eurotunnel. This had debts of £9m.

Advised John Prescott on financing of Channel Tunnel Rail Link; Chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority responsible for advising the government on the use of significant amounts to the industry, and ensuring that rail transport gives good value for money.

Private Eye on the Failure of Private Law Enforcement Firms

March 3, 2016

One of the ideas floated by the Tories under John Major way back in about 1992-3 or so was that law enforcement should be privatised. Instead of the police patrolling our neighbourhoods to protect us from crime, citizens should be free to hire private security firms to do the same. It’s an idea they nicked from the American Libertarians, though unlike Rothbard, the author of the idea, they didn’t go as far as recommending the privatisation of the courts. The Mail on Sunday ran an article promoting this and other Neo-Lib Tory ideas in their issue that winter.

In their issue 9th – 22nd December 2005, Private Eye ran an article on how one Private Law enforcement firm, had not lived up to the hype, and had spectacularly failed to catch many criminals.

Private Equity
Drake’s Progress

The woeful performance of private law enforcement firms has been exposed once again in a Norwich courtroom.

The Eastern Daily Press recently reported how the firm paid to enforce arrest warrants on people failing to serve community punishment orders managed to catch on 31 out of 260 offenders over the summer, while its success rate before then wasn’t much better.

The company responsible, Drakes (“total civil enforcement and debt recovery solutions”), is one of a breed of companies operating in the criminal justice system that are part of the secretive and avaricious private equity industry. it is part of the Bridgman group that says that it is owned by funds managed by an outfit called Gresham, including the mysterious South Place Zurich Partnership 2002, none of which supply accounts.

Bridgman gets nearly all its funding in the form of loans totalling £10m from anonymous creditors at inflated interest rates, a standard feature of the private equity industry that allows financiers to strip out profits asap and often leads to the kind of cost-cutting that makes chasing offenders look distinctly uneconomical.

Gresham is unabashed about its approach, boasting of its “strategy for exit to deliver maximum value to all investors”. So the uncooperative small-time crooks of East Anglia might soon be somebody else’s problem, but not before the private equity funds have got away with a few quid.

Many of the care homes that collapsed a few years ago, or were so disastrously run that the inmates were abused and neglected, were also owned or managed by these private equity firms. It’s clear that these firms can’t manage services, as they’re simply not interested in them, except as a source of profit.

Equal Lives Protest Against Sanctions Tomorrow in Norwich

April 19, 2015

DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) have announced on their website that Equal Lives are holding a demonstrations against sanctions tomorrow from 12.30-1.30 pm. at the Kiln House Jobcentre Plus in Pottergate. The notice also includes a contact email for all media inquiries.

This is right over the other side of the country to me. I wish them all the best for their demonstration, and hope they get the point across that sanctions are destroying lives. We have regularly seen the news of yet another poor soul, who has starved to death, or committed suicide due to the deprivation and misery built into Iain Duncan Smith’s wretched welfare reforms. Stilloaks, Tom Pride, Johnny Void, Mike over at Vox Political, myself and many others have posted the lists and biographies of some of those, who have died. The last time I counted it was over 40. It’s gone way beyond that by now. Mike over at Vox Political has estimated that at least 52,000 people are dying per year due to IDS, Cameron, Clegg and their vile chequebook genocide of the poor, the sick and the disabled.

And the Conservatives and their Lib Dem collaborators have even demonstrated their complete lack of shame or self-awareness by using the infamous words above Auschwitz, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’, ‘Work Makes You Free’, in their self-serving articles justifying workfare and sanctions.

The time is long past that they were gone. Vote them out and make sure they stay out on May 7.

Miliband, Blair, the Financial Sector and Labour’s Rejection of the Working Class

March 27, 2014

Eye Miliband pic

Private Eye’s satirical view of Labour leader Ed Miliband from the cover of their edition for 5th -18th October 2012.

There has been increased criticism of Ed Miliband this week after an open letter signed by 28 left-wing activists was published in the Guardian criticising Miliband’s electoral strategy. Many traditional Labour supporters and voters have been increasingly alienated by Labour’s move to the Right and its policy of adopting harsh Tory policies and attitudes towards the poor. Miliband has stated that he wants to reach out to the middle classes, and this week ordered the parliamentary Labour party to vote with the government for the imposition of an overall benefit cap. Although Labour would be better by far than another Tory government after 2015, Miliband’s leadership seems to demonstrate many of the problems and attitudes of the modern political elite: very middle class, with little awareness of or sympathy for the problems and hardship experienced by the poor, the working class, the disabled, and unemployed.

Tony Blair and the Neglect of the Working Class

Much of this attitude began under New Labour with Tony Blair. Own Jones in chavs describes how the political elite have played down the existence of class in order to ignore the working class to concentrate on gaining middle class votes, quoting the politicians Jon Cruddas and Matthew Taylor, one of Blair’s aides.

Jon Cruddas is in no doubt that politicians of all colours have a vested interest in denying the existence of class. It has proved an effective way of avoiding having to address working-class concerns in favour of a small, privileged layer of the middle classes. “They devise ever more scientific methods of camping out on a very small slice of the electorate … those who are constituted as marginal voters in marginal seats.’ Working class voters were taken for granted as the ‘core vote’ who had nowhere else to go, allowing New Labour politicians to tailor their policies to privileged voters.

No New Labour politician personified this attitude more than Tony Blair. Matthew Taylor offers an interesting insight into Blair’s political approach. ‘I worked for Tony Blair, and the point about Tony is that Tony would always say when I would say to him, or other people would say to him: “What about a bit more kind of leftism in all this? What about a bit more about poverty and justice and blah blah blah? …”‘ Blair’s response was blunt, to say the least:

Tony would always say, fine, but I don’t need to worry about that, because that’s what everybody else in the Labour Party wants, and that’s what everybody else in the Cabinet wants, and that’s what Gordon [Brown] wants, and that’s kind of fine. And I’ll leave them to do that, because I know that’s how they’ll spend all their time. They don’t want to do public service reform, they don’t want to wealth creation, they’re not interested in any of that, they’ll just kind of hammer away at that agenda. My job is to appeal to the great mass of people on issues that the Labour Party generally speaking is just not interested in.

The near-obsession with ignoring working-class voters meant inflating the importance of a very small tranche of wealthy voters who were misleadingly construed as Middle England. After all, an individual in the very middle of the nation’s income scale only earns around £21,000. ‘You’re probably right that we did misportray Middle England,’ admits Matthew Taylor, ‘But that again, I’m afraid, is not just a Labour characteristic. It’s characteristic of the middle classes as a whole.’

Chavs, 100-101.

Lobster on Kinnock and the Development of New Labour

The parapolitical magazine, Lobster, has printed a number of articles analysing and critiquing Blair, New Labour and their policies. One of the most important accounts of the origins of the New Labour project is the article, ‘Contamination, The Labour Party, Nationalism and the Blairites’ by the editor, Robin Ramsay, in no. 33, Summer 1997, pp. 2-9. Ramsay views the emergence of what later become known as New Labour in Neil Kinnock’s change of policies following their 1987 election defeat. Kinnock had previously been very left-wing. In his book Making Our Way, according to Ramsay ‘had come close to a radical, anti-finance capital, anti-overseas lobby, pro-domestic economic policy’. This changed after the election defeat, when Kinnock and his economic advisor, John Eatwell, enthusiastically embraced the free market and EEC. He notes that when a group under Bryan Gould produced the report, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, Eatwell, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair objected to the sections recommending a return to national ownership.

An Economic Secretariat was created under John Smith, including advisors from the City of London. Kinnock and Smith became pro-EEC and were convinced that Britain should join the Exchange Rate Mechanism. At a Shadow Cabinet meeting on the 16th November 1989, the Labour leadership followed Smith’s advice that the state could not stimulate the economy, either through the nationalised industries or local councils, because this was prohibited under the rules of the ERM. The Labour Party thus launched the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ to win over the City of London, in which John Smith and Mo Mowlam assured the bankers that they would not attempt to limit their profits any more than Thatcher had. This resulted in the establishment and expansion of a series of groups creating links between the Labour party and the financial sector. These included the Smithfield discussion group, the Labour Finance and Industry Group, and the Industry Forum. The Labour Finance and Industry group represented the interests of the domestic sector, while the Industry Forum and the Norton group presented the interests of the overseas lobby – the City of London and the multi-nationals.

Transatlantic Background of New Labour Leadership

Blair, Brown, Balls, David Miliband and the rest of ‘New Labour’ all had extensive links to America and American interests. Gordon Brown, for example, used to spend his summer holidays in the library of Harvard University. Blair went on a trip to America, which was part of a scheme sponsored by the US government to aspiring young British MPs. David Miliband, took an MA at MIT, Ed Balls studied at Harvard and, before he joined Brown, was about the join the World Bank. As for Mandelson, in his final year at Oxford University he became Chair of the British Youth Council, which had originally been set up in the 1950s by the CIA and SIS as the World Assembly of Youth in order to combat the Soviet youth fronts. Ramsay states

In short, the people round Blair are all linked to the United States, or the British foreign policy establishment, whose chief aim, since the end of the Second World War, has been to preserve the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ to compensate for long-term economic decline. The Blair’ group’s orientation is overseas: this is the territory of the Foreign Office and its think tank satellites like the Royal Institute of International Affairs – the political and propaganda apparatus of the overseas lobby. (p.7).

New Labour and the City of London and Overseas Lobby

Blair himself also announced before the annual conference of Murdoch’s News Corp that the Americans had also insisted that Britain should adopt a more pro-European policy. Due to the massive expansion in overseas investment under Thatcher, Britain was second only to America in this regard and so looked to American political and military power and influence to protect those interests. The result was an increase in support for Labour over the Tories in the London establishment over the Conservatives. The result was a complete reversal of attitude towards the City of London. Whereas the Labour report, Meet the Challenge Make the Change: A New Agenda for Britain had been highly critical of the influence of City of London, the latter was held up as a great success seven years later by Mandelson and Roger Liddle, in their book, The Blair Revolution. Liddle, incidentally, now writes for the Spectator.

Under Bryan Gould, the Labour report had stated of the City’s destructive dominance over the British economy that

‘The concentration of power and wealth in the city of London is the major cause of Britain’s economic problems’… and that Britain’s economic policy had for too long been dominated by City values and run in the interests of those who have assets rather than those who produce.

The Blair Revolution, however, described the City of London and the new, de-industrialised British economy in glowing terms.

Britain can boast of some notable economic strengths – for example, the resilience and high internationalisation of our top companies, our strong industries like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, retailing and media; the pre-eminence of the City of London.

Consequence of City Influence: Everywhere else in Britain Suffers

Ramsay goes on to describe what this change of attitude actually means for everyone else in Britain outside the elite financial circle of the metropolis.

That the British economy policy is ‘outward-looking, internationalist and committed to free and open trade’, in Blair’s words, is precisely the problem from which non-metropolitan Britain has suffered. These are the values of the overseas lobby, the Home Counties financial elite, people for whom Bradford or Norwich, let alone Glasgow and Cardiff, are far away places about which they know nothing – and care about as much.

British politics has been stood on its head. The Conservative Party, traditionally the party of financial and overseas interests, has been replaced in that role by Labour. Instructed by its new friends in the City, Labour has become the party of financial- that is pre-Keynsian – orthodoxy. Gordon Brown looks determined to re-enact the role of Philip Snowden in 1931. The last three years of the Major regime saw Chancellor Kenneth Clarke running the kind of orthodox Keynesian policy – increasing government deficits in response to the recession – which Labour, under Wilson or Callaghan, would have run, but which is anathema to ‘Iron Chancellor’ Brown. (p. 8).

Miliband’s Apparent Lack of Interest in Poverty and Working Class due to New Labour

Ramsay notes the way Labour adopted the rhetoric of ‘One Nation’ Toryism and appeals to British patriotism. This was to disguise their promotion of the overseas economy at the expense of domestic industry. He concludes

The Blair faction will fail. ‘One nation’ rhetoric, continuing membership of the institutions of the New World Order – which is essentially the same old American post-war order minus the Soviet challenge – and leaving economic policy to the overseas sector won’t affect the real structural problems of the British economy. When it does finally dawn on the Parliamentary Labour Party that it won’t work, they will have to look elsewhere. The wrong turning was taken at the point when Bryan Gould was defeated by John Smith and the party leadership decided to surrender to the overseas lobby. To that disjunction it will have to return. (p. 9).

This is the origin of New Labour and the background to Miliband’s continuing attempts to appeal to the Middle Class and the financial elite at the expense of the poor and working class. And it needs to change urgently. Even so, a Labour government would be far preferable to another Tory government. If nothing else, Labour have said that they will stop the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS. But for Labour truly to start tackling poverty and unemployment in this country, it will have to jettison much of the New Labour project and start returning to its working class roots.