Posts Tagged ‘Oxford University’

We Own It Appealing for People to Attend Planned Protest Against NHS Privatisation

January 20, 2023

I’ve also had this email from the pro-NHS, pro-nationalisation organisation, We Own It about a planned demonstration they’re holding against the privatisation of the NHS in February. They’re appealing for people to go to it. I can’t, due to expense and illness, but I’m putting it up here in case there are people interested in it, who may be able to attend.

‘Dear David,

BREAKING: private health companies donated £800,000 to the Conservative Party over the last decade. Now we know why the government is doing nothing about NHS privatisation!

A recent Oxford study linked NHS privatisation to the preventable deaths of 557 people.

It is time to make the government feel the power of organised people over organised money.

Can you sign up to become one of 557 people in Parliament Square from 2 – 4pm on Saturday, 25th February demanding an end to NHS privatisation?

So far, 541 people have signed up. We need 89 people to reach our final goal of 630 (that is, 557 people representing the victims of NHS privatisation, 43 people to help carry signs and banners and 30 stewards to help manage the event).

Sign up to become one of the remaining 89 people on Saturday 25th February in Parliament Square

You are involved in our NHS campaign because you believe that our NHS should work for people, not the greedy private companies that donate to the government.

Unite the Union, Just Treatment, Doctors for the NHS and Socialist Health Association fully agree with you. That is why they are now supporting our action.

It is time we make the government feel the power of organised people over organised money.

We want to bring together 557 people representing the 557 people whose deaths are linked to NHS privatisation to put on a powerful display that can get into the papers.

More press coverage means more pressure on the government. The more of us there are at the action, the more likely the action is to get press coverage.

We need 89 more people to reach our goal. Can you sign up now to join us?

Sign up to take action from 2 – 4pm on Saturday 25th Feb in Parliament Square

Because of the incredible efforts of our NHS nurses and ambulance workers who are fighting to save our NHS, the government is already feeling pressure.

With the recent study that links NHS privatisation to 557 preventable deaths, there is no better time than now to pile onto that pressure they are feeling.

The government already knows that over 75% of the public, according to our last poll, want to end NHS privatisation. But they don’t feel that people will fight to see that happen.

You can show them from 2 – 4pm on Saturday 25th February in Parliament Square that you will.

The more people join this action, the more powerful it will be. The more powerful it is, the more likely it is to receive coverage from the press.

This coverage will pile on the pressure on the government and start forcing them to take action.

I will stand up and fight to force an end to NHS privatisation

We need 557 people to represent the 557 people whose deaths are linked to NHS privatisation, according to a recent Oxford study.

But we need even more people to make sure the action is big and effective. So after signing up, please send the link to your friends and family, especially those who live in London and ask them to sign up too.

Thank you so much for always standing up against NHS privatisation.

Cat, Johnbosco, Matthew, Kate – the We Own It team

PS: 30 years ago today the British Coal and British Rail (Transfer Proposals) Act 1993 was passed, paving the way for privatisation of our railway. We’ve put together a list of 30 top failures of rail privatisation from the last 30 years. Take a read and share with friends and family.’

Jeremy Bentham’s Radical Political Beliefs

January 13, 2023

Jeremy Bentham was a British 19th century philosopher. He was the inventor of Utilitarianism, a moral philosophy that states that something is good if it creates the greatest happiness for the greatest number. This, however, fails as it neglects the fact that some things are inherently good or evil even though they may be popular. One of the examples of this would be a case where a mob demands the execution of a wrongly accused man. It is still wrong to execute an innocent person, even if this is massively popular and demanded by the majority of people. Bentham was also interested in prison reform and design. In his view, prisons should be laid out so that the prisoners and their activities were all under surveillance from a central hub, the panopticon. This constant surveillance would, he believed, lead to prisoners acquiring the habit of behaving decently and legally and so reform their characters ready for release back into society. Modern critics consider it a chilling, totalitarian surveillance society in miniature. Another of his ideas is truly bonkers. He believed that people – presumably members of the aristocracy and people accustomed to public service and social prominence – should preserve their ancestors after death through mummification and embalming, and put them on display as ‘autoicons’. The intention behind this bizarre idea is that people, surrounded by their dead relatives and antecedents, would then feel themselves encouraged to emulate their virtues. Bentham had himself preserved, and is on display in a glass case at Oxford University, except for his head, which is a waxwork. His real head is in a case somewhere, and not displayed.

However, the Utilitarians were behind the early 19th century hygiene reforms that cleaned up Britain’s cities by demanding proper sewage and the removal of waste from the streets to improve the inhabitants’ lives and health. And he was also a very much a political radical. He outlined his democratic views in Democracy – A Fragment. He believed that people weren’t naturally virtuous and public spirited, and that they acted primarily in their own interest. This meant that those governing also acted in their own interest, which was to expand their power against everyone else. They could only be kept in line through democracy and all adults possessing the vote. And he meant all adults. The franchise should be extended to include not just all adult men, but also women. He also wanted the abolition of the monarchy, the House of Lords and the disestablishment of the Church of England. This was in the 1820s, and it was nearly a century before British women acquired the right to vote. As for the abolition of the monarchy, the Lords and the disestablishment of the Anglican Church, Tony Benn was reviled as a Communist for advocating them, plus nuclear disarmament in the 1980s. They’re not policies I support, though the House of Lords needs radical reform as at the moment it has more members than the ruling general assembly of the Chinese Communist Party. But I am impressed with his staunch advocacy of democracy, especially at a time when many would have regarded it almost as seditious because of the excesses of the French Revolution.

And unfortunately he does have a point about the corruption of the governing class. We’ve seen it in the way the Tory administrations of the past eleven years have passed endless laws to benefit their class at the expense of Britain’s working people, and themselves personally. As when one of their number decided to relax the planning laws while angling for a lucrative property deal in London.

There have been voices on the internet claiming that democracy is in crisis and that people are giving up on it. If that’s the case, then it’s because we don’t have enough democracy in Britain. Last year we saw three prime ministers come and go, but were not allowed to elect any of them. It’s high time this changed.

More democracy, Tories out!

Video on Archaeology’s Challenge to Enlightenment Accounts of Origins of States and Inequality

December 8, 2022

This is a fascinating video I found on Novara Media’s channel the other day. In it, host Aaron Bastani talks to archaeologist David Wengrow about the origins of the state and the development of social inequality. Wengrow argues that the evidence from archaeology challenges assumptions that prehistoric and preliterate peoples were incapable of rationally deciding for themselves what kind of societies they wished to live in. He gives examples from prehistoric Europe and North and South America to show that ancient and indigenous peoples not only did decide on the kind of societies they wanted, but were perfectly capable of reversing trends in their societies towards authoritarianism. One of the examples of this, which I found truly jaw-dropping, was one of the city states the conquistador Hernan Cortes made alliance with against the Aztecs. Unlike the Aztec empire, that state city was a democratic republic. He also talks about the influence on Enlightenment critiques of western society of a Huron Indian chief in Canada, who was an intelligent conversationalist able to hold his own in conversations about the nature of society to such an extent that French, British and Dutch colonial authorities invited him to dinner to talk this matter over.

Wengrow starts off by stating that modern political theory about the origins of society, as taught in politics courses, is completely divorced from archaeological accounts. The theory is based on the speculations of foundational Enlightenment thinkers like Hobbes and Rousseau, who admitted that they were speculating. But these accounts are now taught as fact. Archaeological research, however, is overturning previous ideas about the origins of urban society. For example, it was believed that agriculture and urbanisation were linked and appeared together as part of the Neolithic Revolution. But this is not the case. Excavations of the ancient city of Catalhuyuk in Turkey show that while it was an urban centre, although Wengrow hesitates to call it a city, show that its people were still hunter-gatherers, living by foraging rather than agriculture. And the same is true of the settlement at Amesbury at the time Stonehenge was being built. The people then had given up agriculture, although they retained animal husbandry. It appears they had tried growing crops and then rejected it in favour of foraging.

He then goes on to talk about the Huron Amerindian chief. He inspired a colonist from New France, who had been expelled from the colony, to write a book based on the chief and his dinner conversation when the colonist was penniless in Amsterdam. This became a massive Enlightenment bestseller, and inspired other books by Voltaire and others in which Chinese, Tahitians and other outsiders criticise European society. Wengrow states that the Indian societies surprise western Europeans because they were much less hierarchical than they were, and contact with these societies and the indigenous critics of western civilisation did influence European political philosophy. We easily accept that Europe took over many material products from these nations, but are much less ready to accept the idea that they influenced our ideas, even though the Enlightenment philosophers said that they had.

He also talks about Cahokia, a great pyramid and city state in the Mississippi valley in America. This appears to be another example of a society, in which people rebelled or simply walked away from authority and hierarchy. It was also another indigenous monument that was ascribed to everyone else but the native peoples when it was first discovered, and is now disrespected by having a road driven through it. When it was constructed, the local society seems to have been hierarchical. At the top of the mound is a structure from which all of the city could be viewed. But sometime after its heyday it was abandoned. The traditional reasons are that the climate changed, but Wengrow finds that unconvincing. What seems to have happened instead is that people simply got tired of living in such a society and walked away.

Tenochtitlan, one of the great cities in ancient Mexico, is another example of a strongly hierarchical society that underwent profound social change and became more democratic. Wengrow states that it’s a massive state, and they owe a debt to the French scholar who produced detailed maps of it. When it first emerged, it was hierarchical but then the nature of society changed. People started living in high-quality, single-floor homes. These were so good they were originally thought to be palaces, but now it appears they were villas occupied by ordinary citizens. At some point, the people of Tenochtitlan decided that they wanted a more equal society, to the extent that some scholars believe that there was a revolution.

Then there is the case of the democratic city state Cortes encountered. This really was democratic, as there are accounts of the debates in its assembly. This astonished the conquistadors, as there was very little like it in Europe at the time, except some of the Florentine republics. This all challenges the notion that once society develops to a certain extent and becomes complex, inequality also emerges and is very difficult to challenge or remove. These cases show that indigenous peoples could and did. He also argues that the same may have been true of slavery. The only successful slave revolt that we know of is Toussant L’Ouverture in Haiti. But Wengrow suggests there could have been thousands of other successful slave revolts in prehistory of which we are unaware. Slavery came about, he argues, from the expense of laying out offerings for the dead. In order to leave food and drink for the dead, the bereaved had to have access to the foods themselves and so they became indebted and dependent on the people who owned those resources.

He also talks about the problems in describing some of these urban centres as cities. There are huge sites in the Ukraine, but archaeologists are hesitant about calling them cities with some preferring other terms such as ‘mega-sites’ because they aren’t centralised.

Bastani asks him at one point about the problem of pseudo-archaeology. I think this came up because Graham Hancock is currently fronting a series on Netflix claiming that way back in prehistory there was an advanced society, but that it was destroyed in a global cataclysm. Wengrow states that quite often pseudo-archaeology is based on old and discarded idea, such as Atlantis. The people involved tend not to be anyone who’s ever been on an archaeological dig, and view archaeologists as spending their lives trying to hide some momentous secret from everyone. But it can act as an entry for some people to archaeology, and he doesn’t really like the sneering attitude of some archaeologists towards it.

Wengrow himself is an interesting character. He didn’t want to be an archaeologist originally, but came to it from acting. He also worked in the BBC Arabic service. He decided at one point he wanted to get a degree, applied to the best university he could, Oxford, and sent reams of applications to its various colleges. They turned him down. Then he was told that he should apply for a place on a course that was just being set up. One of the colleges was just setting up an archaeology course, so he did. When it came to the interview, he told the interviewer that he had always wanted to be an archaeologist. At which point she held up all the previous letters he’d written. But they admitted him, and he has now had a career teaching and excavating in places like Egypt.

He states that sometimes the pseudoarchaeology about a period or culture misses the point about what’s really interesting about it. He talks about the idea that the Sphinx was constructed before the pyramids, and admits that it’s actually a reasonable question. But if you go back to the predynastic period a thousand years before the pyramids were built, you come to the burial sites of one of Egypt’s first kings. This is fascinating, although you wouldn’t know it from the dry way it has been discussed in conferences and museums like the Petrie Museum. Excellent though these are, they talk about highly specialised subjects like pot typography which is excruciatingly dull if you want to know the wider picture. The early king’s tomb is composed of room after room of the bodies of the people and occasionally the animals that were slaughtered to accompany the king into the afterlife.

The interview is based on a book Wengrow wrote with a colleague, The Dawn of Everything. Sadly, after spending a decade writing it, the co-author died just a few weeks after its completion. The book has been widely praised, and has even inspired artistic pieces. He talks about a French woman, who composed a piece of music based on it. He regrets he was unable to attend its performance thanks to jet lag coming back from somewhere, but later met the lady when she came to Britain.

I know a little about some of what he’s talking about to have no doubt that he’s absolutely right. One of the seminars in the archaeology department at Bristol, which I attended, was about how cities like Catalhuyuk were established before the appearance of agriculture. One of the huge Neolithic sites in the Ukraine is discussed in the La Rousse Encyclopedia of Archaeology. The great mound of Cahokia is also discussed in a book I bought years ago on North American Indian archaeology. I wasn’t aware that the people of Stonehenge had given up growing crops, nor of the democratic city states in South America and Mexico. This is fascinating stuff.

He’s right about archaeology contradicting the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers about the origins of society, though I’m not sure how much of a problem this is. The philosophers he discusses – Hobbes and Rousseau – were Social Contract theorists. Social Contract theory is the idea that the state and society were set up when men came together to select an authority under whom they would live, so that their lives and property would be protected. Thus the first kings. These princes are the representatives of the people, and so from the 17th century onwards the idea developed that sovereignty lay with the people, who could revoke the power they had delegated to the prince. This was the view of John Locke. However, subsequent philosophers showed that this was just conjecture, and that it could have happened like that as the people at the time were using concepts that only subsequently developed after the foundation of states and kingdoms. I thought Social Contract theory was dead, and he closest it had to a modern advocate was John Rawls in his Theory of Justice. Rawls argued that if people were just disembodied entities wishing to chose the kind of society in which they would care to live, they would choose one that had the maximum freedom and justice for everyone, as that would also include them. Away from centrist politics, the anarchists have been keenly interested in anthropology and those indigenous societies where there is no central authority.

I’m not sure how well some of this would go down with Sargon of Akkad and the Lotus Eaters. They’ve developed an interest in archaeology, recently posting a video discussing Homo Erectus, along with the Norman Conquest and ancient Rome. But Sargon is a huge fan of John Locke and describes himself as a classical liberal. I don’t know whether archaeology’s findings about the origin of early states would contradict his ideas or not.

Sketch of Astronomer Heather Couper

December 3, 2022

This is quite an obscure one, but I’ve drawn her because she was an important pioneer and science populariser in her way.

The Wikipedia page on her begins with this potted introduction to her life

Heather Anita CouperCBE FInstP FRAS[1] (2 June 1949 – 19 February 2020) was a British astronomer, broadcaster and science populariser.

After studying astrophysics at the University of Leicester and researching clusters of galaxies at Oxford University, Couper was appointed senior planetarium lecturer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. She subsequently hosted two series on Channel 4 television – The Planets and The Stars – as well as making many TV guest appearances. On radio, Couper presented the award-winning programme Britain’s Space Race as well as the 30-part series Cosmic Quest for BBC Radio 4. Couper served as President of the British Astronomical Association from 1984 to 1986, and was Astronomy Professor in perpetuity at Gresham College, London. She served on the Millennium Commission, for which she was appointed a CBE in 2007. Asteroid 3922 Heather is named in her honour.[2]

The online encyclopedia states that she was encouraged in her career after writing a letter to Patrick Moore about it when she was 16. He replied, ‘Being a girl is no problem’. She studied astronomy and physics at Leicester University in 1973, where she met her long-term collaborator, fellow astronomy student Nigel Henbest. The two formed a working partnership, Hencoup enterprises, devoted to popularising astronomy. She then carried out postgraduate research as a student of Linacre College, Oxford, in the university’s Astrophysics department. She became the senior lecturer at the Caird Planetarium at Greenwich. In 1984 she was elected president of the British Astronomical Association. She was the first female president and second youngest. I can remember her appearing on Wogan and playing down the fact that she was the first woman to become president, far preferring to be noted as the youngest. She also served as the President of the Junior Astronomical Society, now the Society for Popular Astronomy. In 1988 the London Planetarium invited her to write and present its major new show, Starburst. In 1993 she was appointed professor of astronomy at Gresham college. She was the first woman to hold the position in 400 years and remained professor until her death.

She wrote and co-wrote with Henbest over 40 books, as well as writing articles for a range of magazines such as BBC Sky at Night, BBC Focus and Astronomy. She also presented a lecture on the solar eclipse in Guernsey in 1999, and led expedition to view other eclipses in Sumatra, Hawaii, Aruba, Egypt, China and Tahiti. She also made numerous public appearances and talks about the cruise liners Arcadia, Queen Mary 2, and Queen Victoria. She was aboard Concorde when it made its first flight from London to Auckland. She also appeared and spoke at various science festivals, including Brighton, Cheltenham, and Oxford. She also spoke at corporate events for British Gas, Axa Sun Life and IBM.

She also presented a number of programmes and series on astronomy on the radio. These included Starwatch and The Modern Magi on Radio 4. She also presented an Archive Hour programme on the same channel on Britain’s Space Race, for which she received an Arthur C. Clarke award. She also appeared on Radio 2, and Radio 5Live, as well as making other appearances on Radio 4. She also presented a series of thirty 15-minute episodes on the history of astronomy. Her shows for the BBC World Service included A Brief History of Infinity, The Essential Guide to the 21st Century, and Seeing Stars, which was co-hosted by Henbest.

She made frequent appearances as the guest expert on various TV programmes, mostly on Channel 4. She made her first TV appearance on The Sky at Night, In 1981 she presented the children’s TV programme, Heaven’s Above, on ITV with Terence Murtagh. I think I remember watching this when I was about 14 or so. She then presented the series The Planets for Channel 4, which was followed by The Stars. She also presented the ITV show Neptune Encounter, the Horizon episode ‘A Close Encounter of the Second Kind’, and Stephen Hawking: A Profile on BBC 4.

Couper, Henbest and the director of her series, The Stars, founded a production company, Pioneer Productions. The Neptune Encounter, which covered Voyager 2’s flyby of the planet, was its first programme. She was also the producer for the Channel 4 shows Black Holes, Electric Skies and Beyond the Millennium. She later left the company to concentrate on more general radio and TV appearances.

In 1993 she was appointed a member of the Millennium Commission. Of the nine commissioners appointed, only she and Michael Heseltine continued until it was wound up.

Outside her work on astronomy, she was also a guest presenter on Woman’s Hour, as well as the John Dunn programme and Start the Week on the radio. She was also interested in local history and literature, and so appeared on Radio 4’s With Great Pleasure and Down Your Way. She also appeared on Radio 3’s In Tune selecting her ‘pick of the proms.’ She was also the narrator on a number of other factual programmes, including Channel 4’s Ekranoplan: The Caspian Sea Monster, and Raging Planet on the Discovery Channel.

So, a huge science populariser, but probably one whose achievements are obscured by other, more prominent, celebrities.

As well as the children’s astronomy programme, I also once saw her speaking on about Mars and the question of life on the Red Planet at the Cheltenham Festival of Science. She had a rather mischievous sense of humour. There’s a real possibility that life in some form has existed on Mars and may exist now, but if it does, it’s almost certainly at the level of microbes. At the time, however, various individuals who had spent too long looking at photos of the planet claimed to have seen much larger lifeforms on the planet. There was a programme on Channel 4 in which a Hungarian astronomer appeared to describe how he believed there were massive mushrooms growing there. People also thought the saw giant ‘sand whales’ crawling about its surface, like the sandworms in Dune. These were, in fact, geological features left by some of the dune’s slumping, which created a trail that looked like the segmented body of a worm. One of the peeps taken in by this was the late Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke rang her up from Sri Lanka, asking her if she’d seen them and telling her that he really didn’t know what to make of it. She commented that for a moment she thought he’d gone mad, then covered her mouth like a naughty child caught saying something she shouldn’t.

For all that she played down her importance as a female pioneer in astronomy, I think she did prepare the say for more women to enter it and become television presenters. There’s now a drive for more women in the hard sciences, and we’ve science had a Black woman presenter, Aderin-Pocock, on the Sky At Night, and female astrophysicists and mathematicians appearing on the radio and TV.

History Debunked Wonders Why a Historic Chinese Visitor to Britain Became a Librarian, While Black Briton John Blank Was a Trumpeter

November 22, 2022

Yeah, this is yet another post about Simon Webb and History Debunked. It’s my attempt to answer a question he posed yesterday in a video talking about a Chinese visitor to Britain, or possibly emigrant, who ended up as a librarian helping with the Chinese manuscripts in the Bodleian. Webb asked why this gentleman was unknown, despite there having been Chinese communities in Britain for centuries, while the advocates of Black History had been doing everything they could to turn Tudor trumpeter John Blank into a household name. Blank, he said, was probably Portuguese, and only here for a couple of years. Why didn’t British Chinese people feel the need to celebrate their history in this sceptre’d isle as the Blacks?

I’ve discussed this question before, and I think it’s because Chinese and Indian Brits are much more culturally self-confident than Black Brits. If you look through any history of inventions, an enormous number before the modern period come from those great nations. Just as they do from Islam, although Muslims lag behind Whites, Chinese and Indians in educational and professional achievements. I think people of Indian and Chinese heritage are very much aware of their nations’ cultural and scientific achievements and so don’t feel the need to have them explored by a wider public in order to boost their performance in wider society. It’s the opposite with the Black community. They have a greater feeling of alienation and that their people’s history and achievements aren’t appreciated, leading to racism amongst Whites and poor social and economic performance among Blacks. If White people were more aware of their long history here, there would be less racism against them on the one hand, and Blacks would also have a greater sense of belonging and acceptance on the other. Hence the insistence of the importance of rather marginal figures like Blank.

But Webb also asked about the way these two also conformed to racial stereotypes. The Chinese gentleman was a learned scholar, while Blank was a musician. I don’t think there’s much mystery there either. The Chinese fellow came to Britain in the late 17th century. I think this was the age of the great Jesuit missions to the Middle Kingdom, and also an age when European merchants were beginning to trade directly with the Chinese. Chinese civilisation had been known about for centuries and its products highly admired. Scholars and merchants were clearly keen to know as much about the country as they could, and so would have been eager to acquire Chinese manuscripts and scholars able to interpret them.

Black Africa was somewhat different. It was cut off from extensive European contact through geography and climate. I think Europeans knew about Abyssinia, if only through the legends about Prester John, the ruler of a great Christian empire somewhere in Africa or Asia. It was to find Christian allies in Africa that Prince Henry the Navigator launched the first voyages of exploration to the continent below the Sahara. But he didn’t find any. There were great Black empires there – that of Mali, for example, but I think that the Black African states Europeans contacted were pagan. While these were culturally sophisticated in their own way, I don’t think they were literate and as scientifically and mathematically advanced as the Muslim kingdoms. Hence, when Blacks were imported into Europe, it would have been as slaves or artisans, not scholars. As for music, Arab racial stereotypes at the time said that Africans had a great sense of rhythm. One of the comments one Arab writer made about them was that if a Black man fell from heaven, he’d keep good time with his feet right up until he hit the ground. I can therefore see how Blacks would have a musical career in Europe, just as they had in later centuries. I think Beethoven wrote the Kreutzer sonata for a specific Black violin virtuoso of the period. One of the contemporary depictions of Blacks in 18th century Britain in Gretchen Herzen’s excellent Black England: Life Before Emancipation, is of a group of Black servants making music in Cornwall.

But that isn’t to say that there weren’t Black or African scholars in Europe. I can’t remember the details, but during the Middle Ages and 16th/17th centuries I think there were people from North Africa and Abyssinia, who were Christians, who ended up at the Vatican helping their scholars and researchers into these cultures. Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, was Christian and literate with a civilisation going back millennia. It’d be very interesting to know if there were any Abyssinians in Britain before the 20th century, and if they were ever employed in scholarly pursuits.

‘Led By Donkey’s’ Potted Biography of the Horror That Is Jacob Rees-Mogg

October 23, 2022

I found this brief biography, ‘Who Is Jacob Rees-Mogg’ on the Led by Donkeys channel on YouTube. It covers Mogg’s life and career from his birth to today and shows exactly why he shouldn’t be anywhere near government – the greed, snobbishness, mendacity, duplicity and sheer governmental incompetence. Here’s a summary of its contents.

Mogg was born in May 1969 in London, the son William Rees-Mogg, the editor of the Times. He was naturally educated at Eton. In 1982, while he was a twelve-year old schoolboy, he was the subject of a French documentary as he was a financial trader and supporter of Thatcher. In one interview for the programme he said, ‘I love money. I always have done.’ When asked if he wanted to get married, he replied ‘No’, as he didn’t want to get divorced and his wife to get his money. In 1997 he campaigned for the Tories in the traditional Labour seat of East Fife. The image accompanying this shows him stepping over a fence looking exactly like John Cleese as the Minister for Silly Walks, but without the bowler hat. The locals were bemused by the fact that he was accompanied by his nanny, who was there to iron his shirts. 1998 – according to a biographer, his maid and his nanny took turns holding a book over his head at a picnic at Glyndebourne to make sure he didn’t get sunburnt. That same year he campaigned in the Wrekin, where he also lost. In 2006 he made a statement comparing people who weren’t privately educated and who never went to Oxford and Cambridge to potted plants and implied that they were incapable of writing an articulate letter. The next year, 2007, he and two of his friends set up Somerset Investment Capital. This committed itself to business ethics, but then stated that environmental, social and governmental concerns would not form the basis of their ethical policy.

In 2010 he finally succeeded in getting his wretched backside elected to parliament in the Somerset Northeast constituency. Three years later in 2013, Mogg distinguished himself by denying that workers have a right to a paid holiday. Then he took the decision to attend the annual dinner of the far-right Traditional Britain Group, despite being briefed about them by anti-Fascist organisation and magazine, Searchlight. He only decided to disassociate himself from them when they issued a statement denouncing Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered Black teenager Stephen Lawrence, as a ‘monstrous disgrace’ and recommending that people like her should be asked to leave the country. He also described man-made global warming as ‘much debated’ – totally wrong, as the vast majority of scientists are convinced it exists. The next year, 2014, Mogg advises that humanity should adapt to rather than attempt to mitigate climate change. He also lies about a UN report, claiming that it states that if measures were adopted to combat climate changes today it would take hundreds or a thousand years to produce results. The report said no such thing. In March the same year it was revealed his investment company was making a cool £3million from mining and £2.4 million in oil and gas.

In 2015 he stated his opposition to gay marriage and followed this in 2016 with a statement backing Donald Trump, who was then running a very racist, sexist and bigoted campaign. A year after that, in 2017, he revealed that he had never changed a nappy despite having six children. He also lied again, this time claiming that Labour had deliberately not told people they could get help from food banks. He also said that he thought the idea of people giving to these charities was ‘uplifting’. This was much mocked at the time. It is uplifting that people are willing to give to them, but utterly despicable that they have to exist in the first place. He also still opposed marriage equality and abortion in all circumstances as well as the morning after pill. Thus, he suffered no little embarrassment when it was revealed that he had investments in a company producing a stomach pill widely used in illegal abortions in Indonesia. He also had shares in a company producing drugs for legal abortions in India. He sold these shares, but retained those in tobacco, oil and gas companies. He also met Trump’s aide, Steve Bannon, a journalist for the far-right news outlet Breitbart, discussing how the right could win both in American and Britain. This segment has footage of the torchlight fascists marching in the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville. In 2018 it was revealed that Somerset Capital had also invested in Sberbank, a Russian bank that had been sanctioned by the EU since 2014 because of the Russian occupation of Crimea. It was also revealed a year later in 2019 that he’d made £7 million in profit from the Brexit vote. But backing Brexit didn’t stop him establishing two funds in Dublin to take advantage of the fact that it was still in the EU while London was not. Somerset Capital was paying him £15,000 per month and he owned 15 per cent of the shares. His firm was managed by subsidiaries operating perfectly legally in the tax havens of the Cayman Islands and Singapore.

Going back to the far-right, in 2019 he retweeted a comment by the leader of Germany’s Alternative Fuer Deutschland. He was also interviewed by Trump-supporter James Delingpole for Breitbart. The ousting of Tweezer by Johnson that year was also due in no small part to his machinations and that of his European Research Group. He also chose to show precisely what he thought about a debate on Brexit by lying down and appearing to go to sleep on the hallowed green benches of parliament. He also implied in a radio interview that the victims of the Grenfell fire died because they were too stupid to leave the building. He then mysterious vanished from the campaign trail, suggesting that his aides had advised him to lie low for a while. When a voter did try to ask him about his comment, he fled.

This year Truss made him Minister for Brexit Opportunities, despite profiting from investments in a Russian gas company, whose chair was one of Putin’s chums. He did, however, promise to divest himself of these investment after the invasion of Ukraine. Truss then appointed him Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He backed the disastrous minibudget to the hilt, which has resulted in catastrophic mortgage hikes and the reimposition of austerity. Rather than accept responsibility, he blamed the mess on the Bank of England. The video ends with a young female journalist at the Financial Times describing this as ‘bollocks’.

This is who is now in government. And he’s only just down the road from me in Bath and Northeast Somerset. Uuurgh!

And after watching that video, here’s something that might cheer you up. Mogg’s frank statement that he loved money made me think of the Flying Lizard’s cover of the Beatle’s class, ‘Money’. Here it is, also from the TopPop channel on YouTube.

We Own It Petition against Local NHS Privatisation

October 21, 2022

Not only have We Own It launched a petition against the general privatisation of the NHS they’ve also launched one people can sign directed at their local NHS leaders against the privatisation of local services as well. I got this email earlier today and have, of course, signed it. If you’re also concerned about your local NHS services being privatised, you may like to do the same.

‘Dear David,

If you could take a 2 minute action to STOP the outsourcing of your local NHS services to profit-greedy private companies, would you do it? 

There is something you can do that will have a HUGE impact.

Sign the petition to ask local NHS leaders to commit to end NHS outsourcing.

Sign the petition to your local NHS leaders

For over a decade, the ideology of privatisation has been gaining a strong foothold in our NHS.

We were told that outsourcing was ‘the most efficient way to provide services’.

But you always knew that this wasn’t true. And now you’ve been proven absolutely right.

The evidence is clear. The preventable deaths of 557 people have been linked to the outsourcing of NHS services. 

Once you’ve made your voice heard, NHS leaders will have to face the facts: privatisation fails our health. 

Can you add your voice to the petition and demand that your local health leaders commit to end outsourcing in your local NHS now?

Sign the petition – make your voice heard

Last night we launched our End NHS privatisation, save lives campaign with over 300 other campaigners.

New research has linked 557 preventable deaths to the outsourcing of NHS services.

Ben Goodair, the Oxford academic behind the research, told us at the campaign launch rally last night:

“My research found that wherever privatisation increased, deaths from preventable causes also increased. It is clear that there is a connection there.

“I am grateful to everyone that is doing something about this – you are saving lives.”

Whether you live in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, your local NHS leaders need to know that you’ve had enough of the deaths and the outsourcing.

Demand that your local health leaders save lives now – sign the petition

This fight in your local NHS is totally winnable. We just need to mobilise thousands of people in your area to add their voices to this demand.

They simply cannot ignore thousands of voices.

That is how we are going to win. And we have won before.

We’ve worked with Keep Our NHS Public campaigners in London to force local NHS leaders to kick American multi-national company Centene out of multiple GP surgeries. 

We’ve worked with Save Our NHS campaigners in Bath to get Virgin Care removed from their local NHS board.

Together with you we got the NHS in 11 regions to pledge to ban private companies from their boards.

We can win – YOU can win – if we make our voices heard in our thousands.

Make your voice heard now by signing the petition

We are so excited about this campaign because we know that when we come together and fight, nothing and no one can stop us winning.

Sign the petition and share it with your friends and family. And if you can do more, sign up HERE to receive leaflets from us to distribute to houses on your street.

Thank you for everything you do to protect our NHS from privatisation. 

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

Tariq Ali on His Book on the Times and Crimes of Winston Churchill

October 14, 2022

Here’s a very provocative little video I found on the YouTube channel for left-wing publisher Verso. It’s a 27 minute long talk by 60’s radical Tariq Ali about his book, Winston Churchill, His Times, His Crimes. It’s entitled ‘The Churchill Cult Is Out of Control: Tariq Ali on Winston Churchill’. Ali explains how he was initially reluctant to write about the great war leader, not least because he didn’t want to waste his time reading what Churchill himself wrote, until he was finally persuaded by another historian. He states that the students at Oxford protesting for decolonisation, demanding that Churchill college change its name and who poured paint over his statue were quite right. Churchill, by his own admission, was a racist and White supremacist. He supported Mussolini in Italy and General Franco in Spain. In fact, Franco’s three greatest supporters in Europe were Hitler, Mussolini and Churchill. He talks about Churchill’s imperialist wars around the world against non-Whites, but also his atrocities in Ireland during the Irish revolution when he was Home Secretary. Churchill is also bitterly resented in Wales for sending in the troops during the Tonypandy strike. According to Ali, when there was a collection for him on his death, not one Welsh council contributed. He also states that it is a complete lie that the experience of the Second World War changed him. It didn’t. After the war, in the 1950s, when the Tories were discussing what slogan they should adopt for their election campaign, Churchill responded, unprompted, with ‘Keep Britain White’.

He also hated the Labour movement. He sneered at Clement Attlee for beating him in an election. The only Labour politician he did like was Ernest Bevin, who was a nationalistic, and jingoistic as he was, and anti-Semitic to a certain extent. Churchill was also unpopular in the Conservative party for being very right-wing and changing parties when it suited him. Talking about his crimes, Ali mentions the Bengal Famine but also a very obscure incident that he says is only mentioned in one book. Churchill was behind the British expeditionary force sent in to topple the Bolshevik revolutionaries. But Churchill wanted to go even further and use chemical weapons against Bolshevik villages and territories. There was a mutiny in the force, which resulted in the court martial of a South African officer. Churchill was also proud of the overthrow of the democratic regime of Prime Minister Mossadeq in Iran. He also says that Britain was hampered during the War by the very class-bound nature of the officer corps. He gives the comparison of Rommel, one of the Nazi’s great generals, and quotes one authority who said that if Rommel had been British, he wouldn’t have risen above sergeant. The class-bound nature of the officer corps was recognised by the junior officers.

Churchill was also responsible for the brutal suppression of the Greek resistance movement because it was led by the Communists. One of the tactics of the British forces was to decapitate their enemies, put their heads on poles and carry them around outside prison camps. This was justified with the statement that it was the only thing they would understand.

Ali states that Churchill was not as popular as he is now, when he is the centre of what Ali calls a cult, until the 1980s and the Falklands. He quotes from a 1970s play by a radical British playwright, in which two soldiers carrying his coffin talk about how horrible the great man was. Churchill then bursts out of his coffin waving a union jack and with an unlit cigar, his face a mask. Ali considers that most of South America and the world considered the Falkland Islands to be properly Argentina’s and states that the islands were defended by the alliance between Thatcher and General Pinochet. Churchill’s image was part of the propaganda movement for the war, which the British Labour party under Michael Foot supported.

Ali believes the cult of Churchill has arisen because the British political establishment and ruling class, including Labour, are still fixated on the empire. This has partly been done in order to retain some small independence against the Americans. After the War the European empires fell, or were taken over by the Americans, as in Vietnam. Churchill was saddened, but cheered that they were going to another, White, Christian power. The special relationship was also his creation, because he was half-American. Other countries, such as Scandinavia, have been able to find a role after the War, but Britain is still obsessed with the empire. He states that what emerged after the war was a form of social democratic planning, as well as the NHS and the nationalisation of the mines, which was a particularly sore point. The miners’ leaders wondered why it had been left for so long. This wasn’t particularly socialist, and other countries were doing the same. The ruling class has persisted in Britain because they were able to co-opt Labour and the trade unions. The cult around Winston Churchill is very much an English phenomenon. It doesn’t exist in Wales and hardly exists in Scotland. If Wales leaves, then the Churchill cult will form the heart of an English nationalism. The Churchill myth will continue for some time, but all myths eventually fall, and the British people will eventually turn against this one.

We Own It Zoom Rally Next Thursday against NHS Privatisation

October 14, 2022

I also got this email from the pro-nationalisation, pro-NHS group We Own It, notifying me that they are holding an online rally on Zoom next Thursday 20th October, at 6.00 pm, and inviting people to register for the event. I’ve done so, as the Tories have brought the NHS damn near close to collapse. Here’s the message:

‘Dear David,

It’s time to put ending NHS privatisation firmly on the agenda of your local NHS leaders.

Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of We Own It supporters, we smashed the our fundraising target.

You’ve made the launch of “End NHS privatisation, save lives” possible – our new campaign to fight back against NHS privatisation in the 42 new NHS England regions as well as in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Join the online campaign launch rally at 6pm on Thursday 20th October.

Grab your ticket to attend the Zoom launch rally

236 We Own It supporters have set up a new regular donation, which will enable us take the fight against NHS privatisation to local NHS leaders across the UK for the long-term.

328 more of you have made one off donations, totalling almost £8,000. 

With these kind and generous donations this campaign is on the strongest footing possible to have the biggest impact. 

Now let’s launch the campaign with a bang! 

Join campaigners and other special guests at the launch rally – come and be inspired to fight and get wins against the privatisation for our precious NHS. 

Can you join the online rally on Thursday 20th October, at 6pm?

I want to join the Zoom rally on Thursday 20th October

557 people – that is the number of people whose preventable deaths were linked to NHS privatisation, according to a new study by the University of Oxford.

One person dying from the impact of outsourcing is already too much. 

Our local NHS leaders have a duty of care to our communities. Their job is to make sure we get the care we need and to prevent deaths.

If they are allowing NHS privatisation, they are putting people at risk. 

So it is time we firmly put the issue of ending NHS privatisation on their agenda. 

We know the public despise NHS privatisation – people don’t want private companies making huge profits from illness and causing deaths.

This campaign will mobilise MASSIVE public pressure in each local area to force our NHS leaders to pledge to end NHS privatisation.

Join the Zoom launch rally at 6pm on Thursday 20th October

These generous donations will now make it possible for us to:

  • Ramp up the pressure on every NHS leader in the UK, letting them know about the deaths caused from outsourcing and pushing as many of them as possible to sign our new pledge
  • Work closely with local NHS campaigners and supporters around the country, providing materials like leaflets and demanding that NHS leaders bring key contracts in house instead of outsourcing them
  • Bang home the message – make sure NHS leaders and politicians are aware of the evidence showing that privatisation and outsourcing are linked to extra deaths. We’ll get hard-hitting media coverage by organising an event with 557 people outside parliament representing those who have died

Sign up to join our campaign launch rally at 6pm on Thursday 20th October.

Register now to join the rally

Thank you so much for everything you do to protect our NHS from privatisation. We couldn’t possibly do this without you.

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

Sarah Phillimore Talks on GB News about Academic Reports Labelling Critics of the Trans Movement as Terrorists

August 29, 2022

This is absolutely unbelievable. Sarah Phillimore is a lawyer and writer, who has co-authored a report with Harry Miller of the Bad Law Project of a report entitled Transphobia as Security Threat: The Danger of Conflating Political Speech with Violence. This is a response to the three reports into gender critical people declaring that they are terrorists, simply for what they believe. There are three such reports, two of which were written by universities. One was published by Northumbria university, another by one of the Oxford colleges. The reports don’t define one what ‘trans’ is, and neither do they therefore define ‘transphobia’. But it is important, when writing an kind of academic study to define first the subject under discussion. These reports all state that opponents of the trans craze are security risks simply for not believing that trans people are genuine members of the sex to which they have transitioned. Because of this, they are considered to be real Fascists and terrorists.

If gender critical feminists were organising themselves into terror cells to attack transmen and -women, then these reports would be fair. But they aren’t. Phillimore says that she found herself described as a terrorist in one of these reports by Northumbria university. She wrote to the uni inquiring about this, only to get no reply. She later found that she had been put in some kind of email dumpbin or something without anyone telling her. She found out that one of the writers of the report was a Craig McRitchie. This person no longer exists. There is someone, however, called Anne McRitchie, who is evidently the same person through looking through their biography and publications. She feels it was wrong for that fact not to be disclosed. Obviously, there is a problem in the report being written by someone who has a clear personal interest in the issue. Her co-writer, Harry Miller, is a former policeman as well as founder of the Bad Law Project. I think he was prompted to form it after having his collar felt by the rozzers for putting up a tweet against the trans cult. Despite the absence of any terrorist activity from the gender critical crowd, the argument is that they are still a security threat because of the Alpert Scale. This scale states that it all starts with what Phillimore describes as ‘naughty tweets’ and culminates in a full scale genocide. She describes how she has been subjected to abuse and intimidation by trans activists. This includes doxxing, as they have put a picture of the house which she shares with her daughter online. She describes the people responsible for this and other death threats as mentally ill, entitled narcissists. At which point her interviewer, who I think may be gay himself, says that she doesn’t mean all trans people, of course. No, she replies. Trans people should be protected from discrimination and sacking. But it was absurd for men to think that simply putting on a bit of lippy and a dress made them women. And the people responsible for the threats and violence were mentally ill, entitled and narcissistic.

The interviewer states that it’s ridiculous to call the critics of the trans movement, left-wing socialist lesbians, fascists. Phillimore that anti-trans activists are always accused of being far right or the tools of the far right. She and her organisation have been accused of receiving money from the Heritage Foundation. In fact, she got all her money from personal donations and nothing from that particular right-wing group. Yes, gender critical feminists agreed on some issues with extreme right-wing Christians, but were firmly against them on other issues, such as gay rights as a whole and abortion. She also made the point that thanks to these reports about opposition to the trans movement, which simply hold a point a view which most people in this country share, Britain has been referred to the Council of Europe as the most homophobic country, along with the Turkey. This is clearly grotesque and simply wrong.

I am well aware that some of the readers and commenters on this blog don’t share my opinions about the trans movement. I appreciate the comments some of them have made that some of the people criticising the trans rights movement are doing it for their own right-wing agenda, like Matt Walsh and GB News itself. And they’ve also made me aware of a piece on BBC News reporting that transwoman was abused by a mob when she was taken ill and had to be taken away in an ambulance. I will also state once again that I condemn anyone being abused, persecuted or discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender identity.

It is clearly wrong, however, to label someone a security threat like a real far right or Islamist terrorist, simply for rejecting the trans ideology and standing up for women’s sex-based rights. And from what I’ve seen, the overwhelming majority of the abuse and death threats come from trans rights activists, who are often not trans people themselves, at gender critical feminists. You can see some of this in the videos Kelly-Jay Keen has put up of her protests in Manchester and Bristol. These show very aggressive and menacing behaviour from the trans rights activists and their fellow counter-protesters from Antifa. These turn up dressed in black and wearing black balaclavas, waving the Antifa banner and hurling abuse. At the protest in Manchester they tried to push one of the feminist protesters over all a small wall. In Bristol they were dressed exactly the same and accompanied by a contingent from Bristol Anarchist Federation. This crew tried to push through the police cordon. When the protest ended and Keen and her people went off to the pub they followed them, still being unpleasant. And while they didn’t follow them into the pub, Keen’s part were told to move on after a while by the police because the cops couldn’t protect them.

Remember that Keen’s party and her organisation, Standing For Women, are largely, but not exclusively, women. And they were faced by an angry mob in paramilitary guise.

And I think some of the trans rights activists are mentally ill. Not just to post death threats and dox people simply for holding a different belief than their own, as unfortunately this seems all too common amongst some denizens of the internet. What makes them appear mentally ill to me is the constant assertion that there is a trans holocaust going, or that if they don’t get their way and are allowed into all women’s spaces, such a genocide will begin. Well, there was no trans holocaust going on ten or so years ago when this phase of trans activism started and it isn’t going on now. In the past few years only three trans people were murdered and none were killed last year. Obviously, that’s three trans people too many, but it’s not the systematic mass murder which constitutes a holocaust or genocide. When one of the trans activists who asserted that there is a trans holocaust was confronted about it, they stated that it was only just beginning.

And it isn’t just the threat of arrest and imprisonment of gender critical feminists that is in jeopardy here. These reports set a precedent for the state to arrest and imprison people as threats to the state simply for opinions that have traditionally fallen outside the definition of terrorism.

And this means such reports are danger to everyone’s freedom of belief.

This is why I believe they should be firmly rejected, whatever your personal stance on the trans issue.