Posts Tagged ‘Oliver Letwin’

Rees-Mogg Hurls Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Insult at Tory MPs, Press Silent

September 15, 2019

Zelo Street has just put up a cracking story credibly accusing Jacob Rees-Mogg’s anti-Semitism. It seems that during the heated Commons debate on Brexit on the 3rd of this month, September 2019, Rees-Mogg opened his patrician gob to hurl a very loaded insult at his fellow Tory MP, Oliver Letwin, and John Bercow. He called them ‘Illuminati’. John Mann, the Tory’s Anti-Semitism Tsar, and the press seem to have missed all this completely. They have uttered not a word about it. There has been no outraged article by Gabriel Pogrund and Jake Wallis Simons. But one person, who did notice it was Michael Berkowitz, a historian at University College London, who posted a piece about it, on which the Zelo Street article heavily draws.

Berkowitz states that he found it extremely unsettling, as an historian of anti-Semitism, to hear Rees-Mogg use it of two MPs of Jewish background. He states that the Illuminati were originally a late Eighteenth century fraternal organisation, and cites three sources that use the term. He then explains that common to these sources is the view that the Illuminati infiltrated the Jewish bankers during the late 19th century. They follow the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion in regarding the Illuminati/Jews/bankers as behind the Bolshevik Revolution, the creation of the Federal Reserve banking system in the US, the Council on Foreign Relations, and then what the Far Right calls the New World Order, which also includes the United Nations and the European Union.

Berkowitz ends his post with the comment

There is no other, anodyne usage of this term in current political discourse … With his nod to ‘Illuminati’ – pointed at Letwin and Bercow – Rees-Mogg is knowingly trafficking in the portrayal of Jews as underhanded and sinister … while studiously avoiding the word ‘Jew’, he has exhumed, embellished, and rebroadcast one of the most poisonous antisemitic canards in all of history”.

The Sage of Crewe comments ‘Rees-Mogg bang to rights’, and concludes

‘As he’s entirely consistent, I expect John Mann to be down on Rees Mogg like the proverbial tonne of bricks, camera crew and all. Once someone has explained it to him.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/09/rees-mogg-anti-semitism-exposed.html

It’s not quite that straightforward, unfortunately. The Illuminati were a Bavarian secret society of freethinkers, founded by Adam Weisshaupt, which infiltrated the Freemasons. They were then stamped out by the authorities in Bavaria, Austria and other countries. There is no evidence that the order has survived to today. However, following the French Revolution a number of works were published blaming the Freemasons for the French Revolution and various other conspiracies and revolutionary movements, including the Russian Revolution of October 1917. These conspiracy theories gradually became increasingly anti-Semitic. At first it was claimed that the Freemasons recruited the Jews to help them in their work of overthrowing the traditional western social order. Then the theories changed so that it was the Jews, who were responsible for these conspiracies. The idea that the Illuminati were ultimately behind these movements was put forward in the 20th century by the extreme Right-wing John Birch Society in America. Following them, they are regarded as the force behind a global conspiracy to create an evil, Satanic world government with a single universal, anti-Christian religion. And yes, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group, Trilateral Commission, Jewish bankers like the Rothschilds, the EU and the UN certainly are regarded as part of this conspiracy.

To be fair, not everyone who believes in the Illuminati conspiracy is an anti-Semite by any means. Some of the Evangelical Christians, who believe it, are genuinely philo-Semitic. When they talk about the Illuminati, they mean a giant conspiracy which includes the giant banking families, like the Rothschilds, but which is not driven by the Jews. And indeed, Jews may be the Illuminati’s victims, such as the Jews murdered by the Nazis, who were funded during the War by the Rothschilds even when their persecution was known. But there are other versions of the theory in which the Illuminati are viewed as Jewish. During the 1990s these bonkers conspiracy theories expanded to include the alien abduction phenomenon and the tales of secret government collusion with the aliens. Bill English in his book Behold a Pale Horse claimed that the government had made a pact with the aliens in which they were allowed to abduct and experiment on humans in exchange for giving us their technology. This was all part of a nefarious global conspiracy against humanity. To prove the existence of this conspiracy, English quoted passages from the notorious anti-Semitic forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. However, he advised his readers that instead of ‘Jews’ they should insert the word ‘Illuminati’. This was fiercely attacked because it seemed to advance and sanitise the real murderous anti-Semitism of the Protocols. Due to English’s book’s malign influence, a branch of Waterstones in one of the northern cities actually stocked copies of the Protocols.

Even if Rees-Mogg was not deliberately being anti-Semitic, when he accused Letwin and Bercow of being ‘Illuminati who are taking the powers to themselves’, he was using a real, genuine anti-Semitic trope. He should have been robustly rebuked for it, and made to explain himself. However, he was not. The comments on this piece are well-worth reading, as they show the immense hypocrisy of the press and John Mann. Neither of them are really interested in questions of genuine racism and anti-Semitism, except as sticks with which to smear and beat Jeremy Corbyn. One commenter describes how he tried to inform Mann of real racism on the part of Stella Creasy after he appealed for people to send him information of such incidents. He didn’t receive any reply, and no action was taken.

Mann’s and the media’s silence is troubling for another reason. They show how the political and media establishment will cover up genuine anti-Semitism, or something very close to it, when it’s done by one of themselves. Left-wing bloggers like Buddy Hell, Zelo Street and Mike have pointed out how Mann and other Labour ‘moderates’, as well as the Tories, are free to attack Romanies and other Travellers in racist terms, despite the Nazi attempts to exterminate them as well as the Jews and the disabled. Despite calls from the Muslim community and genuine anti-racists, the Tory party will not launch an inquiry into the real islamophobia in its ranks. And the media and anti-Semitism witch-hunting organisations like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Jewish Labour Movement and the Community Service Trust seem more interested in attacking and manufacturing accusations of anti-Semitism on the Left than on the Right. And the vast majority of anti-Semitism by far comes from the extreme Right.

Many of the people smeared as anti-Semites are left-wing Jews, who have very often been the victims of real anti-Semitic abuse and assault. But they suffer from anti-Semitism again following the accusations of the media and the witch-hunters against them because they support Jeremy Corbyn and a just deal for the Palestinians. They are the ‘wrong kind of Jews’, another anti-Semitic motif.

This raises the terrible question that if someone in the Tory party did start a genuine campaign of discrimination and terror against this country’s Jewish citizens, would it be reported? The silence surrounding Rees-Mogg’s comments says that it probably wouldn’t, at least not in the initial stages. And according to the media and the witch-hunters, it’s Corbyn who is an existential threat to the Jews!

 

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Loser Johnson Loses Majority, Loses Vote and Purges Rebels

September 4, 2019

Ho ho! Things definitely aren’t going too well for the Blonde Generalissimo. Yesterday he lost his majority in the Commons when Philip Lee crossed the floor to join the Lib Dems while he spouting something about the G7 summit. Lee gave his reason for joining them his opposition to the immense harm being done to this country by Brexit. He declared

“This Conservative government is aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways. It is putting lives and livelihoods at risk unnecessarily and it is wantonly endangering the integrity of the United Kingdom. More widely, it is undermining our country’s economy, democracy and role in the world. It is using political manipulation, bullying and lies. And it is doing these things in a deliberate and considered way.

“That is why today I am joining Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats.”

Even with the odious DUP supporting him, BoJob only had a majority of one. Now he doesn’t even have that. Which means that, democratically, he can’t pass any legislation whatsoever.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/03/tory-mp-defects-to-lib-dems-now-dictator-johnson-has-no-majority-in-parliament-at-all/

But the humiliation got worse. The 21 Tory MPs who were threatening to rebel against Johnson over the vote whether to debate a bill preventing a no deal Brexit put their money where their mouths were and actually did it. They voted with the opposition. From today backbenchers have control of commons business. The Old Etonian Duce becomes the first Prime Minister since Pitt the Younger to lose his first vote.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/03/mps-defeat-government-theyll-debate-bill-to-prevent-no-deal-brexit/

The Tories, who voted against him were Ken Clarke, Philip Hammond, Guto Bebb, Rory Stewart, Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve, David Gauke, Nicholas Soames, Richard Benyon, Steve Brine, Alistair Burt, Greg Clark, Justine Greening, Sam Gyimah, Stephen Hammond, Richard Harrington, Margot James, Anne Milton, Caroline Nokes, Antoinette Sandbach and Ed Vaizey. Clarke is, I think, the father of the House, and was Chancellor of the Exchequer under John Major. Hammond was also Chancellor until a few weeks ago, while Oliver Letwin and Nicholas ‘Fatty’ Soames have been prominent, even notorious, Tory politicos since the days of Thatcher, as I recall. And unlike many Tory chancellors, such as George Osborne,Clarke did seem to understand something about economics. When a prominent MP like him rebels, the fault’s very much with Johnson, not with him.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/03/the-21-tories-ejected-from-their-party-for-voting-with-their-consciences/

But BoJob also reacted as he threatened. He removed the whip from them, effectively expelling them from the Tory party. But there are also rumours that, following the advice of his adviser Dominic Cummings, he also removed their parliamentary passes so that they’d find it difficult getting into the Commons today to vote against him. One of the rebel MPs, Sam Gyimah, was reported by Sky News to have said that it seemed he had disabled their passes when they came in yesterday evening.

This was followed by the bizarre behaviour of the Polecat himself. It seems that with nothing to do during the debate except wait, Cummings retired to the bar, where he became, as Private Eye would have said, ‘tired and emotional’. Peter Walker, one of the Groaniad’s hacks, spotted him wondering down the parliamentary press corridor, lost and clutching a bottle of red wine, looking for the office of a particular newspaper. Then Cumming lurched over to Portcullis house where, according to Tim Shipman, the political editor of the Murdoch propaganda sheet the Sunday Times, he started yelling at Jeremy Corbyn ‘Come on Jeremy, let’s do this election, don’t be scared’. Shipman claimed the Labour leader was then whisked away by horrified aides. The Labour MP Cat Smith tweeted that, ‘As one of several shadow cabinet members stood right next to Jeremy (who was on the phone at the time) I just thought there was some loud bloke who stunk of booze yelling at us’. Commenting on this bizarre spectacle, Brexitbin tweeted ‘ Drunk & disorderly in Westminster is a new low even for him. The way to beat these people is not to play their game. Put them under pressure and they crack”. To which Zelo Street added ‘Didn’t need much pressure, did it?’ and concluded ‘Cummings is cracking up. Expect more pissed apparitions before he is taken away.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/09/dominic-cummings-go-home-youre-drunk.html

Did Boris Johnson really cancel Parliamentary passes of rebel Tory MPs? And what did drunken Dominic do?

This really doesn’t look good for BoJob. Corbyn could seize power, as the Skwawkbox says, it Jo Swinson wasn’t so determined to preserve Tory power in order to keep him out. https://skwawkbox.org/2019/09/04/johnsons-majority-shattered-lab-could-form-govt-if-mps-really-want-to-stop-no-deal-time-to-revisit-corbyns-offer/

Johnson has also confirmed that he’s a Stalinist by purging the Tory rebels, who now have absolutely nothing to lose by voting against the government and bringing it down. And as various bloggers, like Zelo Street, have already remarked, it also shows up the horrendous hypocrisy of the press. They were howling a few months ago that Corbyn was an evil Stalinist because he gave the constituency parties the power to deselect their MPs. How terrible and dictatorial, reinforcing internal party democracy like that! In fact, Corbyn hasn’t deselected anyone. But Johnson has. And the Tories are likely to have been embarrassed by it. When BoJob first made the threat, James Cleverly – surely a misnomer? – tweeted out that the party has no mechanism for deselecting MPs. Perhaps not, but Duce Boris has still kicked them out of the party nonetheless. Still, it could have been worse. Dictator Boris could have gone full Hitler and had them all killed like the SA during the Night of the Long Knives. I wonder who would have taken the part of the SS? Conservative Future, perhaps? They seem to be racist enough, if not necessarily that violent.

Here’s the Guardian’s video of Philip Lee crossing the floor:

I hope these are just the first of many defeats leading to this vicious, murderous government finally collapsing. And hopefully taking the whole Tory party down with it for good.

Florence on Oliver Letwin and Thatcherite Anti-Welfare Think Tanks

November 27, 2016

This morning I put up a piece about the report in Friday’s I newspaper that Margaret Thatcher had continued planning to dismantle the welfare state, including the NHS, even after her own cabinet had revolted against it. Thatcher was keen to follow the plans outlined by the CPRS, a right-wing think-tank, to whom she had given the task of formulating plans to transform Britain into a free market economy. Amongst their proposals was the abolition of free universal healthcare, meaning the NHS, and the introduction of compulsory school fees, quite apart from the destruction of the rest of the welfare state.

I said in the article that it would be good to know who the people responsible for the CPRS were, as they should take their share of the blame, rather than just the politicos who fronted the reforms. As it stands, unfortunately it seems to me that even when one politician espousing the views of one of these wretched groups goes down, the members of the think tank just slink away to another job advising someone else. Like the various right-wing groups that jumped from the Tories to New Labour under Blair.

Florence replied:

I would suggest Letwin is the thread running through the whole sorry tale. Elected to a safe seat in 1997, he finished his academic studies (PhD) in 1982, and almost immediately became part of the CPRS in 1982. That was coincidentally when the ideas initially proposed in 1978 became part of the assault on the individual budget holders began in earnest. He then moved on to working with the CPS think tank.

In fact Letwin was associated with some of the most controversial policies – such as using Scotland as a testing ground for the POl Tax, and other unpopular policies. He is associated with racist memos written for Thatcher. He was also the author with Redwood of the 1988 CPS pamphlet that is the blueprint for the 2012 Act, which had itself been under preparation since 2007 -8 (ish).

The CPS was founded in 1972 by the “Mad Monk” Keith Joseph, and Alfred Sherman and Thatcher, to champion “liberal thinking” (now called neo liberalism). “In her own words, its job was to ‘expose the follies and self-defeating consequences of government intervention….’to think the unthinkable’ ” (Margaret Thatcher The Path to Power (London 1995), p. 253). The proposals on the NHS certainly fulfilled that objective, and seem to have arisen from within this coterie and melting pot while the Tories were in opposition in the 1970s. Other notable members of the CPS who are still influential in the Tory party include John Redwood, Dave Willitts, and Michael Fallon. Letwin of course was the main back-room grandee for Cameron and Osborne. He has since left the Downing Street role but his policies continue to be implemented.

Friedman, Joseph and Sherman were the main right-wing influences on Thatcher, but through Friedman and the Chicago School there were links directly to Pinochet in Chile (the Chilean “Chicago Boys”) and into the economic ideologies of nations across the globe. In the Wiki entry for Chicago school for the UK it sparsely notes that Thatcher implemented the Chicago school neoliberal policies and these were left intact and some were completed by Blair including the entry of private medicine into the NHS.

Getting information in who the members of the CPRS and the CPS were during those years is surprisingly difficult.

From my own reading about the subject, Keith Joseph was certainly Thatcher’s mentor, and she was very definitely influenced by Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys, who were also responsible for General Pinochet’s grotty economic policies. Friedman even went down to Chile to see how his ideas were being put into practice. As for Alfred Sherman, he’s another shadowy figure responsible for much of the neoliberal suffering around the world. I’ve got a feeling he’s the subject of a number of articles in the parapolitical magazine Lobster, as well as possibly being mentioned by Guy Debord’s Cat in his blog. The ‘Deep Politics’ angle – meaning covert manipulation by the secret state – probably explains why information on the CPRS is so difficult to obtain. They were a conspiratorial group within the heart of the establishment, and the establishment most definitely does not want their perfidy exposed.

Basu and Stuckler on the Privatisation of the NHS

July 22, 2016

Body Economic Pic

Earlier this week I put up a piece about The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills, by the medical researchers David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu (New York: Basic Books 2013). The book shows, using examples of recessions from the Great Depression of the 20s and 30s, to contemporary Britain and Greece, and the massive privatisation of the Russian economy after the Fall of Communism, how recessions and the austerity programmes that Conservatives use to try and correct them, also cause health crises. Conversely, welfare states that support people, not only give their peoples good health, but also create prosperity.

The two authors are also very much aware that the British National Health Service is being privatised, and are very critical of this. They write

Today the NHS’s founding principles are being forgotten, as the conservative Tory government seeks to make the NHS more like the American profit-driven, market-based system. When the Tory government came to power, they revisited a pamphlet developed under the previous Tory government of John Major that called the NHS a “bureaucratic monster that cannot be tamed” and in need of “radical reform”. In 2004, Oliver Letwin, the pamphlet’s lead author, said the “NHS will not exist” within five years of a Tory election victory. Indeed, after the Tories came to power they proposed the Health and Social Care Act, which embodied the free-market principles of the radical pamphlet.

It was difficult for us to understand this decision. Overall in 2010, before the Tory government began dismantling the NHS, the UK spent less of its GDP on health (8 percent) than Germany (10.5 percent), France (11.2 percent) or the United States (19 percent). Ultimately, the Tories’ position was not based on evidence but ideology-the idea that markets, competition, and profits would always be better than government intervention.

A highly divisive public debate over the Health and Social Care Act ensued. Over staunch opposition from the Royal College of Nursing and almost all of the medical Royal Colleges (the UK equivalents of the American Medical Association), Parliament approved the Act in 2012. Thus began what many regard as a major move towards privatization of the NHS. Repeatedly, David Cameron promised the British public that the Act was not “privatising the NHS” and that he would “cut the deficit not the NHS.” The Liberal-Democratic leader Nick Clegg said, “There will be no privatisation.”

The Department of Health website even stated that “Health Ministers have said they will never privatise the NHS.” But the data tell a different story: increasingly, the government is transferring large swaths of healthcare provision to private contractors.

Private profiteers are replacing dedicated doctors. In October 2012, the government awarded 400 lucrative contracts for NHS services, worth a quarter billion pounds, in what was called “the biggest act of privatisation ever in the NHS.” Virgin, for example, won lucrative contracts to deliver reproductive care (no pun intended). But the result was not the efficiency of private enterprise, but what had already been seen in the US market model-profits at the expense of patients. One journalist found this to be the case at health clinics in Teesside, northeast England. After Virgin won contracts to take over the services, the clinic repeatedly missed targets for screening people for chlamydia. It was a simple task that the NHS fulfilled easily. The journalist found a memo that revealed “staff were asked to take home testing kits to use on friends and family to help make the numbers up.” In Oxford, patients complained about increasing wait times to see their doctors after Virgin took over a local practice. Virgin responded that the practice had been underperforming when it was taken over, and that “there are still improvements to be made but we’re pleased that progress so far was recognised and applauded by councillors.” And so began what continues to be a highly sophisticate public relations campaign.

The UK’s next step toward US-style market-based medicine is moving forward at the time of this writing. It encourages patients to spend out of their pockets for healthcare rather than use the government-funded NHS. The Tory government is extending pilot projects to offer those with chronic illnesses “personal budgets” so that they themselves can make choices about how to manage their care, with few safeguards against profit-seeking swindlers or predatory insurance companies despite a government evaluation that highlighted many problems with this approach.

Early evidence suggests the Health and Social Care Act may in fact be hazardous to the health of the citizens and residents of the United Kingdom. Just before the Coalition government came into power, the NHS had the highest patient approval ratings in its history, over 70 percent. Within two years, approval fell to 58 percent, the largest decline in three decades. There are already warning signs that the healthcare situation in Britain may come to resemble that in the US before Obama. Patients are being turned away from privately managed clinics, some of which simply close their doors after meeting a daily quota to fulfill their contractual obligations. And in the first year of reform, emergency room visits jumped to the highest in the decade- perhaps because more people are neglecting preventive care, like Diane. As the editor of the Lancet warned, “people will die.”

Whether the British people will fully accept this radical privatisation of their healthcare system remains unclear. But once market incentives take hold of a public system, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to reverse course. In the UK, the recession-fueled combination of austerity-and-privatisation seems to be creeping into every dimension of the social protection system. But evidence of its harms should give us all pause. (pp. 105-7).

Part of the way the government is selling its privatisation of the NHS to the public is through artificial funding crises, in which hospitals develop massive budget deficits. They are then amalgamated with another hospital under a PFI scheme, or given over to a private healthcare company to manage. Points West, the local BBC news programme for the Bristol region, last night revealed that Southmead hospital was also in the red to the tune of £48 million. And I suspect a similar fate is being lined up for it here.

This privatisation must be stopped, and those who support it – the Conservatives, and the Blairites in New Labour, must be thrown out of office immediately. Only Jeremy Corbyn has said that he will reverse the NHS privatisation. It is up to us to support him, regardless of the smears from the media and the Right.

NHS SOS: Further Resources against NHS Privatisation

June 19, 2016

NHS SOS pic

As well as the information and resources Michelle has kindly posted as a comment to my piece on the cuts to the service at my local health centre as a result of the government’s creeping privatisation of the NHS, I’m also putting up the list of further resources included in Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ book, NHS SOS. This is a very detailed description of the long campaign against the NHS from Maggie Thatcher onwards, and in particular its latest phase introduced by Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act of 2012. As well as describing the attacks on the NHS, the book also includes chapters on the failure of the press and medical profession as a whole to bring down the whole process of privatisation when they could. It’s a very good book, clearly written, but it will leave you depress and furious.

It also the following resources people can use to fight the cuts and privatisation. Here they are:

National Campaigns on the NHS

* Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) – runs a national campaign as well as local groups across England. Campaigns for a publicly funded, publicly delivered and publicly accountable NHS. Website: http://www.keepournhspublic.com; Twitter @keepnhspublic.

* London Health Emergency (LHE) – campaigning against cuts, closures and the privatisation of the NHS since 1983. Website: http://www.healthemergency.or.uk; Twitter @JohnRLister

* NHS Support Federation – an independent pressure group that campaigns to protect and improve the NHS, true to its founding principles.

* National Health Action Party (NHAP) – campaigning for a publicly funded, publicly delivered and publicly accountable NHS.
Website: http://www.nationalhealthaction.org.uk; Twitter @NHAparty.

Allied Organisations

* Centre for Health and the Public Interest – a new independent health think tank.
Website: http://chpi.org.uk; Twitter CHPIthinktank.

* Medsin – Student network and registered charity tackling global and local health inequalities through education, advocacy and community action.

Website: http://www.medsin.org/; Twitter @medsinuk

* NHS Consultants Association – organisation of hospital doctors who support the NHS and campaign to end market-based policies.
Website: http://wwwnhsca.org.uk/

* OpenDemocracy – ‘free thinking for the world’. Running ‘OurNHS’, a new three-year project dedicated to reinstating a genuine National Health Service in England.
Website: http://www.operdemocracy.net/ournhs/about; Twitter: ‘OurNHS_oD

* Spinwatch – works for lobbying transparency, promotes greater understanding of the role of PR and propaganda.
Website: http://www.spinwatch.org/; Twitter @Spinwatch.

* 38 Degrees – online organisation that brings people together to take action on the issues ‘that matter to you and bring about real change’.
Website: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/; Twitter: ’38_degrees

Further Reading and Watching

* Health Policy Reform: Global Health versus Private Profit, by John Lister (Libri Publishing, 2013).

* NHS plc: The Privatisation of Our Health Care by Allyson M. Pollock (Verso Books, 2004).

* The Plot Against the NHS by Colin Leys and Stewart Player (Merlin Press, 2011).

* Privatising the World: A Study of International Privatization in Theory and Practice by Olive Letwin (Cengage learning EMEA, 1988).

* ‘The NHS and the Section 75 regulations: Where next?’ by Bob Hudson. Guardian healthcare network, 30 April 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/healthcare-network/2013/apr/30/nhs-section-75-regulations-where-next. This helpful article covers some additional actions that can be taken by opponents of the health care reforms.

* Conflicts of Interest and NHS Privatisation, video by the National Health Action Party, http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/component/k2/item/s441-conflicts-of-interest-and-the-privatisation-of-the-nhs.

* Take a Tour of Lansley’s Private Healthcare Supporters.
Video by Spinwatch, http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/component/k2/item/S336-take-a-tour-of-Lansleys-private-health-care-supporters.

* The Spirt of ’45, a film by Ken Loach, for screenings and availability, see http://www.thespiritof45.com.

Letwin and Alienated Inner City Youths

January 4, 2016

Nye Bevan pic

Nye Bevan – Miner, Statesman, Founder of the Welfare State

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political put up another piece about Oliver Letwin, and his racist, bigoted views on Blacks and inner city youths. In his 1999 book, The Purpose of Politics, Letwin held forth about the underclass, and specifically drug riddled gang members, who were more alienated than the medieval serfs. See the article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/03/oliver-letwin-inner-city-youth-more-alien-than-the-serfs/. Letwin claims that these comments show his commitment to equality of opportunity. As everyone else but him has already realised, they don’t. They show the complete opposite.

They are actually bog-standard Tory views about ‘the democracy’, as the upper classes used to refer to us proles back in the 19th century, and they could have come from any time from the 17th century right into the 19th and beyond. The upper classes feared and hated the urban working classes as immoral, criminal and potentially subversive. Hence the harsh legislation enacted against trade unions and other potentially seditious assemblies and organisations. What eventually disproved this image was the Great Exhibition of 1854, when large numbers of working class people turned up at Crystal Palace showing themselves to be well-behaved, and generally not rioting, or trying to overthrow the government.

And youth culture has been particularly viewed with alarm and suspicion by the authorities since the 17th century, when the Mohocks ran wild in the streets of London. These were a group of thugs, who got their name from their Mohawk hairstyles taken from the Amerindian people. There’s even a book written about the historic distrust of working class popular culture Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears. Thatcher, of course, hated the working class with a passion. She saw them as treacherous and subversive. Letwin is basically following the views of his leader, Maggie Thatcher, in that respect. Except that Thatcher was careful to craft an image of herself as somehow working class, with all that rubbish about living above the family shop.

And Letwin’s comments about alienation ignores the fact that such an attitude may be completely justified by the nature of society and the way it treats its least fortunate members. One of the clearest statements of political alienation in modern literature came from the pen of Aneurin Bevan, the architect of the welfare state and NHS. In his 1952 book, In Place of Fear (London: William Heinemann Ltd) Bevan describes his feelings as a member of the working class and the feeling he experienced when he entered parliament, the bastion of ruling class privilege and power.

“The past lies like an Alp upon the human mind.” The House of Commons is a whole range of mountains. If the new Member gets there too late in life he is already trailing a pretty considerable past of his own, making him heavy-footed and cautious. When to this is added the visible penumbra of sic centuries of receding legislator, he feels weighed to the ground. Often he never gets to his feet again.

His first impression is that he is in church. The vaulted roofs and stained-glass windows, the rows of statues of great statesmen of the past, the echoing halls, the soft-footed attendants and the whispered conversation, contrast depressingly with the crowded meetings and the clang and clash of hot opinions he has just left behind in his election campaign. Here he is, a tribune of the people, coming to make his voice heard in the seats of power. Instead, it seems he is expected to worship; and the most conservative of all religions – ancestor worship.

The first thing he should bear in mind is that these were not his ancestors. His forebears had no part in the past, the accumulated dust of which now muffles his own footfalls. His forefathers were tending sheep or ploughing the land, or serving the statesmen whose names he sees written on the walls around him, or whose portraits look down upon him in the long corridors. it is not the past of his people that extends in colourful pageantry before his eyes. They were shut out from all this; were forbidden to take part in the dramatic scenes depicted in these frescoes. In him his people are there for the first time, and the history he will make will not be merely an episode in the story he is now reading. It must be wholly different; as different as is the social status which he now brings with him.

To preserve the keen edge of his critical judgement he will find that he must adopt an attitude of scepticism amounting almost to cynicism, for the Parliamentary procedure neglects nothing which might soften the acerbities of his class feelings. In one sense the House of Commons is the most unrepresentative of representative assemblies. It is an elaborate conspiracy to prevent the real clash of opinion which exists outside from finding an appropriate echo within its walls. It is a social shock absorber placed between privilege and the pressure of popular discontent.

That’s a very strong statement of acute alienation from parliament, with all its ceremony, and the pomp and iconography of the ruling class. And Bevan is exactly right: for centuries the working class were excluded from any kind of power, and expected to serve and show due difference to their social superiors, if not betters. And despite all the slogans Cameron mouths about expanding opportunity, parliament is still the seat of privilege. Something like 90 % of MPs are millionaires. And the Tory party has always boasted of being the party of the ruling class.

Bevan was perfectly in his rights to be alienated. Just as contemporary working and lower middle class people are entirely within their rights to be cynical about a system and a party that is reducing them to desperate poverty. All while the Letwins of the British politics mouth off about how they are committed to equality of opportunity.

Oliver Letwin’s Memo and Tory Racism

December 31, 2015

Yesterday, documents released to the public under the thirty-year rule included a memo Oliver Letwin wrote to Maggie Thatcher on the riots in 1985. These included a number of racist statements revealing Letwin’s contempt and absolute lack of any kind of sympathy or understanding of Black Britons and the problems facing them at that time. He denied that the rioting was due to racism, despite the fact that this was extremely well-documented in the Met police. He stated that riots, and the problems of crime, and social inequality plaguing the Black community were due to their moral defects and declared that White people didn’t riot. This comes as news to me, as one of the areas in Bristol that has been hit by rioting is Hartcliffe. This was a council estate, built in the 1960s as dormer suburb to house the workers at the local Wills tobacco factory. It also has had its problems with high crime and increasing marginalisation. It’s population is also largely White. Letwin also didn’t want to see ‘positive discrimination’ introduced, and sneered at welfare spending on the Black poor stating that they would merely use the money for discos and drugs.

Mike has covered the report at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/30/the-5-most-shocking-quotes-in-oliver-letwins-racist-memo/

Letwin has apologised for the memo. Nevertheless, it’s contents are so offensive that the long-time Black activist, Darcus Howe, has stated that it borders on the criminal. He had no confidence in David Cameron to do anything for the Black people of Britain, and called on Corbyn to use this incident to show his support for British Blacks, and that Labour was no longer the party of Blair and the two Milibands.

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/31/oliver-letwin-memo-borders-on-criminality-says-darcus-howe/

I’ve mixed feelings about Howe. At times his attitudes are too bitter, and he does seem determined to put the worst racist interpretation on matters. A few years ago at the turn of the century one of the terrestrial TV channels did a programme in which he looked at the Caribbean today, and its heritage. The tone was almost unrelentingly bitter. He seemed to hate the fact that portraits of the historic leaders of one of the Caribbean nations were still on the walls of the country’s legislature, and condemned the four hundred years or so of British rule in the West Indies for the suffering this had inflicted on his people. In this, obviously, he has a point. The economies of the Caribbean nations were built on slavery almost from the moment they were colonised by Europeans. Many of the leading figures in colonial society – the governors and presidents – were slave-owners and the architects of the racist social and economic system on the islands. Having said that, there is still an argument for keeping their pictures around, as they are part of the history of the Caribbean nations. Regardless of how immoral the regime over which they presided was, they were still founders of the modern Caribbean states and so need to be remembered, even though their racial attitudes and policies totally deserve to be condemned.

Elsewhere, Howe seemed to have missed the point. There was a group of White West Indians, including a few White Brits, down by the docks toasting the victories of the British navy over the Spanish. Howe raged that they were celebrating the enslavement of his people. But they weren’t. They were celebrating the British navy repeatedly defeating the Spanish. Now at the time those victories were part of the British campaign to wrest the Caribbean from the Spanish Empire, and developing it using slave labour. But the Brits did not toast the introduction of slavery or the enslavement of Blacks. It was a nationalist, rather than racist, celebration. And really all about jolly British tars like Walter Raleigh singeing the king of Spain’s beard. Slavery was not mentioned.

But here Howe does have a point. And, despite Letwin’s apologies, and recent Tory attempts to win over Black voters, I really don’t think attitudes have changed in the Tory party. I’ve been told by former party members that the Tory party generally doesn’t like Blacks. Mind you, they also despise the White poor.

The attitude of the Conservative party and New Labour is that poverty is caused by the moral failings of the individual. If you’re poor, it’s because you’re lazy, or ‘feckless’, in the words of Gordon Brown. ATOS and now Maximus were called in to administer the ‘fitness for work’ tests in order to prevent as many people as possible claiming invalidity benefit. As very many bloggers have pointed out, including the Angry Yorkshireman and Johnny Void, modern Tory welfare policy is centred on the Victorian concept of ‘less eligibility’. Welfare is supposed to be made as difficult and demeaning as possible in order to deter people from claiming it.

And I’ve no doubt the majority of Tories really are afraid that giving the poor money is wasteful, and that they will just use it on ‘discos and drugs’, or alcohol and superfluous consumer products that they shouldn’t be able to afford.

So I’m not impressed by Letwin’s apology either. It may well be that he’s moved on, and is no longer as racist as he was. But the same attitudes towards poverty and social exclusion remain at the very centre of the Tory party and their attitudes towards the poor and working class, and particularly, but by no means exclusively, Blacks.

Private Eye on Think Tanks Funding Political Conferences

February 16, 2015

One of the key causes in the corruption of British politics has been the way the different political parties are being lobbied and funded by the same, almost exclusively right-wing think tanks. These organisations provide the parties with advisors and sponsor debates and events at the various political conferences. As a result, while the parties themselves have changed, the Thatcherite policies they have pursued have remained unchallenged. Not only is this influence corrupt in itself, but it’s also led to the British voting public becoming alienated and disenfranchised. They feel with some justification, that there is little difference between the parties, and that they are being sidelined and ignored in favour of big business.

Private Eye published a piece on this issue in their edition of 21st September – 4th October 2012, listing the various think tanks and describing their links to various politicians and ministers.

Conference Callers

Party members may see conference season as their chance to be heard, but judging by the brochures put out by think tanks, the grassroots will have a job making it past better-funded rivals from the business lobby.

Over the summer, the Eye acquired prospectuses from several think tanks looking to recruit sponsors for debates at the forthcoming Tory, Lib Dem and Labour conferences.

Reform, a think tank with Tory links, tells potential sponsors it can set up “successful events attended by ministers and shadow ministers, special advisors, MPs, MEPs and council leaders”, among them minister for welfare reform Lord Freud, housing minister Mark Prisk, employment minister Mark Hoban and the Foreign Office’s Henry Bellingham.

Lest anyone mistake the purpose, any “partner organisation” – ie company willing to pay for access – can use roundtable events or dinners with “around 20 high-level participants” to put their own “insights into the relevant policy debate at the beginning of the meeting”.

Not to be outdone, ResPublica, run by David Cameron’s “Red Tory” guru Phillip Blond, offers potential “partners” a chance for “intimate discussion over diner with select stakeholders and policymakers”, plus the opportunity to “contribute” to the choice of subject and speaker for meetings with ministers.

Meanwhile the Social Market Foundation (SMF) is touting “an excellent standard of service to our sponsors”, including the chance to “shape the key questions for debate” and “input into the speaker line-up”, with top totty on offer to include Lord Freud (again), Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin, prisons and probation minister Crispin Blunt, universities minister David Willetts and chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

Trendy think tank Demos urges companies to cough up for events and roundtables potentially hosted by the prime minister or chancellor, with sponsors getting the chance for “conversations that link their policy agenda to contemporary political issues”. And Policy Exchange, the Cameroonian think tank, trumpets its “competitive sponsorship package”: as well as potential access to ministers, a few broad themes scheduled for debate will be honed after … conversations with sponsors.

Think tanks have tax-free charitable status based on their lofty aims to improve public policy. How does offering commercial interests the chance to pitch ideas to ministers over dinner fit that mission?

Clearly, it doesn’t. If politics in Britain is to be improved, and its people to be given a genuine choice between the parties, and have a real voice in how their country is governed, the corporatists think tanks need to be thrown out. Removing their charitable status, except for those rare occasions where they might, actually, represent charities, would be a start.

Another Angry Voice on the Tory Destruction of the NHS

February 21, 2014

Jeremy-Hunt

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. In 2009 he, Michael Gove and another Tory MP called for the dismantling of the NHS.

The Angry Yorkshireman over at Another Angry Voice has another, very important article on the Coalition’s destruction of the NHS. If you are at all worried about the government’s policy towards the Health Service, then I urge you to read it. It begins

Before the Tory party were enabled back into power by the Liberal Democrats, the NHS was one of the most efficient and popular health services in the world. In fact, public satisfaction with the service reached an all-time high immediately before the Tories got their hands on it.

Before the election David Cameron lied, and, lied, and lied about his intentions towards the NHS.
•David Cameron said he wouldn’t cut the NHS – then launched a £20 billion programme of cuts.
•David Cameron said “no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS” – then launched the biggest top-down reorganisation in the entire history of the institution.
•David Cameron promised that he wouldn’t privatise the NHS – then proceeded to carve it up into little pieces and sell them off to the private sector.
•David Cameron said that the NHS would be safe in his hands – then set about deliberately dismantling it from within.
The true Tory intentions towards the NHS should have been obvious. The Tory party has an ideological hatred of the public sector and consider the NHS an abomination. They know that more than 80% of the public support the NHS, so they very rarely admit their desire to dismantle it, but sometimes the truth slips out.
•In 2004 Tory MP Oliver Letwin reportedly bragged to a private meeting that the Tories would destroy the NHS “within five years” of getting back into power.
•In 2009 Tory MEP Daniel Hannan described the NHS as a “60 year mistake” and rubbished the service on Fox News.
•In 2009 three Tory MPs (Michael Gove, Greg Clark and Jeremy Hunt) called for the NHS to be dismantled. Incredibly Jeremy Hunt is now the government health secretary, meaning that he is in charge of an organisation that he has openly stated that he wants to dismantle.
•In 2011 the former Tory leadership candidate Michael Portillo admitted that Cameron and the Tories had lied to the public about their intentions towards the NHS: “They did not believe they could win an election if they told
they told you what they were going to do because people are so wedded to the NHS.”

The complete article’s at: http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/the-destruction-of-nhs.html. As with everything posted at Another Angry Voice, it is extremely well-researched.

The Tories hate the NHS and are privatising it piecemeal. It needs to stop, and people need to wake up to it. Now.

Cameron and Ceaucescu: United in Opposition to Journalistic Freedom

February 3, 2014

I’ve reblogged Mike’s and David Hencke’s pieces about the threat to journalistic freedom posed by recent government legislation that would force journalists to reveal their sources to the police. If they do not, then the police may seize their records, including their computers.

Make no mistake, once this passes into law, these powers will be used. There have been a number of cases already where British journalists have had their computers, notes and records seized by the police after they have released information that the authorities would rather have kept under wraps. The EU can be just as bad. One German journalist working in Belgium had his computer and documents seized by the police after he started revealing just how corrupt the European Union was. He was lucky. One of the female officials inside the EU itself, who started raising awkward questions about the amount of corruption, ended up falling from the top floor of a Brussels multi-storey car park in highly suspicious circumstances. The EU is, of course, one of the bête noirs of the Tory Right, but this hasn’t stopped the Tories from emulating them in this attempt to suppress free speech.

David Hencke’s piece about it reports that some journalists’ organisations are protesting about the legislation. The Angry Yorkshireman over at Another Angry Voice wondered how the Right-wing press will react when they’re at the sharp end of this piece of legislation. I have to say I doubt they will make much fuss at all, except if this is done by a Labour government. Then it will be seen as another example of their Marxist perfidy. The parapolitical magazine Lobster has several times stated that a number of right-wing newspapers, like the Sunday Times under Andrew Neil, were used as conduits for disinformation by the British secret state. And there are certainly a number of journalists all too ready to collaborate with the harassment and intimidation of their fellow journalists, who are not prepared to betray their sources to the authorities.

About a decade ago Private Eye ran a story about a female journalist on one of the broadsheets, who had been working on a story about the activities of the terrorist organisations in Ulster. This attracted the attention of one of her male colleagues, who made much about his supposed links to British intelligence. He approached her several times saying that his masters ‘wanted a word’, and demanded to know, who her sources were. When she made it very plain that she was not going to end her career as a journalist by betraying them, he threatened her with the words, ‘Well, we can do this the nice way, or the nasty’.

Now I’ve made my disgust at terrorism of any variety very plain on this blog. However, it goes without saying that to get a story, and give the public a clearer picture of what’s really going on, good journalists sometimes have to talk to some ‘bloody nasty people’, to use a phrase describing certain members of the British Far Right. A lot of intelligence work, supposedly, simply involves going through the papers every morning. It’s hard to see how a piece of legislation that allows the police ample powers to force journalists to reveal their sources can serve the interests of national security, as it would have a chilling effect on journalists investigating anything that remotely touches on terrorism, or organised crime or anything else that would remotely excite the interest of Inspector Knacker. The press would be simply reduced to reporting safe subject, and repeating the statements passed on by their governmental superiors.

Pretty much like Tass did during the days of the former Soviet Union.
Hmmm… now I know what the business model for the new, Coalition-friendly BBC is. Possibly German radio under the Nazis would be a closer analogy. I wonder if Oliver Letwin is going to change his job title to ‘Minister for Public Enlightenment?

Either way, the Coalition has taken another step towards totalitarianism with this latest assault on free speech and free journalism. Ceaucescu, the Communist president of Romania, was so paranoid that his secret police, the Securitate, held copies of the typescript from all the typewriters in the country, just in case someone, somewhere, was writing all that nasty samizdat stuff that got authors like Solzhenitsyn and Pasternak published in the USSR. It’s only a short step to that from the government’s desire to allow the police to force journalists to reveal their sources without the current judicial checks and balances. Ceaucescu also caused massive starvation within his own country by exporting most of their agricultural products to get hard currency, leaving his own people poor with little food on sale in the state shops. Obviously this is not at all like the glorious, Thatcherite administration of David Cameron, where there is plenty of food in the shops, affordable to all, except the unemployed, who have to rely on foodbanks and skips, in hardship and famine created by his welfare policies. But then, which apparatchik in any of the totalitarian parties had much time for the ‘narod’, the people, the lower orders?

It took centuries for Britain to develop a genuinely free press. It’s now under sustained attack. If this succeeds, then we will be back in the 18th and 19th century, when journalists were regularly sued and put out of business for publishing ‘subversive libel’ when they attacked government policy or its ministers. And this would suit David Cameron, Osborne, and the rest of the pukka-Etonian establishment now in power just fine. After all, you can’t have the proles rocking the boat, can you?