Posts Tagged ‘Peter Hitchens’

Vox Political: Torygraph Spreading More Lies about Break-Away Labour Group

May 11, 2017

It seems the Torygraph will publish any old rubbish, not matter how hackneyed and obviously wrong, to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. Yesterday Mike put up a piece about an article in it, which claims that about 100 Labour MPs are in talks with potential donors about setting up a new ‘Progressives’ group in parliament if Corbyn stays on after a Tory landslide.

As Mike says, this is just the same old rumours that right-wing Labour MPs were planning to split the party that were circulating just before Corbyn won his second leadership election with a landslide.

He concludes

This is just a stupid smoke-and-mirrors bid to sap support for Jeremy Corbyn after Labour’s storming campaign launch and yet more blunders from ‘Team Terrible’ – I mean, Team Theresa.

I notice the name of the Torygraph reporter is ironically appropriate – C Hope? There’s no hope for Tories to see here.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/10/how-many-times-must-we-read-this-twaddle-about-mps-breaking-away-from-corbyns-labour/

A little while ago Florence, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted this remark about similar rumours of a Labour split:

It seems you may not have long to wait, as rumour has it that Blair is indeed trying to found a new party (or should that be a New Party?), with Sainsbury’s money being redirected from Progress to the New Blair Party. I have no doubt at all that this will claim to hold the middle ground as long as the ideals of neoliberalism seem centrist and “moderate”. I also have no doubt that this is yet another attack on the working people of the UK.

Let’s just stick with the current Labour party, that has promised to represent the 99%, and not the 1%?

My guess is that the Torygraph writer has heard some of these same rumours, and decided to repeat them as fact. It might be true that Blair wants to set up a new ‘Progressives’ party – the title of this new ‘moderate’ – read: neoliberal – group touted by the Torygraph seems to be based on ‘Progress’, the Blairite faction in Labour. Blair himself wants to return to British politics and was in the papers a week ago spouting on about how he wishes to spread ‘moderate’ politics.

I doubt he would have any chance of forming a new party. As Richard Seymour has pointed out in his book on Jeremy Corbyn, Progress is tiny numerically. It’s only causing trouble because its members have seized key position in the party. Furthermore, Blair himself is politically toxic, though like Thatcher he has no idea that he is long past his political sell-by date. Mike and Seymour in his book have pointed out that from 2002 to the end of their administration, Labour lost five million votes. He alienated voters with his right-wing policies.

And even some Tories despise him for reasons that are entirely right and correct. The Mail on Sunday columnist, Peter Hitchens, refers to him as ‘the Blair creature’ and voices his intense disgust at him for starting the needless wars in the Middle East which have cost so many brave men and women their lives and limbs.

My guess is that if the 100 Labour MPs did split off from Labour, it would result in them immediately losing their seats. The party would then be able to put up proper left-wing candidates, who would support Corbyn – or a suitably left-wing successor. These proper Labour MPs would then win the seats previously held by their Blairite predecessors.

But as Mike said, rumours of these splits have run before, and been wrong. The Blairite MPs themselves have been desperate to hold on to their nominations as Labour MPs by any means, fair or foul. We’ve seen whole local Labour parties suspended on trumped up charges because they’ve scared the Tom Watson and his minions by threatening to deselect their Blairite MP.

And Barry Davies, one of the long-term commenters over on Mike’s blog, raises the spectre of what happened to the SDP:

Well let’s honest if they “moderate’s” broke away what are they going to do, renew the social democrats?, start another party? join the lib dems, whatever they would be assured of losing their cushy jobs.

Yes, what did happen to the SDP? They were supposed to be about to break the mould of British politics. I can remember David Owen telling his troops to go back home and prepare for government.

It didn’t happen.

But he did get an invitation from Screaming Lord Sutch to join the Monster Raving Loony Party. Sutch said in his autobiography, Life As Sutch, that if Dr Owen had joined them, he’d be in government by now.

This looks like wishful thinking at best from the Torygraph. They’ve been one of the most venomous and persistent of Corbyn’s critics in the media. Possibly this is due to the paper’s very blatant right-wing bias, made worse by its ownership by the weirdo Barclay Twins, and desperation to ingratiate itself to potential advertisers by spiking stories that reflect badly on them. According to Private Eye, this prostration before the advertisers has resulted in readers leaving it in droves. I got the impression that this has resulted in mass sackings by doddery CEO Murdo McClellan and the Gruesome Twosome in order to keep the paper’s share price up.

Either way, it’s the Torygraph that’s in dire straits, not Labour. And hopefully one result of a Labour victory will be to utterly discredit the Telegraph and the other right-wing denizens of Fleet Street as influential opinion-formers.

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Peter Hitchens Spearing BBC Anti-Russian Propaganda over Syria

May 7, 2017

Peter Hitchens is somewhat of a political maverick. He started his political career as a Trotskyite, before gradually abandoning Marxism and embracing Conservativism. He’s not a supporter of gay marriage, although he admits that opposing it is a lost battle. He supports the reintroduction of the death penalty, the return of grammar schools and more stringent punishments as a deterrent to crime. He’s also very strongly anti-cannabis.

Against that, he has opposed the selling off of council houses and does not believe that private firms should run prisons, as the maintenance of justice and its machinery of punishment and correction should be the exclusive preserve of the state. He got up the nose of his editors at the Mail of Sunday for persistently referring to David Cameron as ‘Mr Slippery’, or similar derogatory names.

And he absolutely despises Blair, whom he terms ‘the Blair creature’, for his invasion of the Middle East. Hitchens has made it very clear in his column that he loathes Blair for sending so many courageous men and women to their deaths in an illegal conflict.

And he is also very definitely not going along with the current Beeb propaganda against the Russians over the war in Syria.

This short video of his appearance last year on the Andrew Marr Show by Scot TV, Hitchens refuses to go along with the general condemnation of the Russians for bombing Aleppo. He makes the point that the al-Nusra Front, whom we are now being told to support by our government and media, are Islamist terrorists, and a form of al-Qaeda. He states that the footage we see of noble white helmeted rebels rescuing the injured victims of Assad and Putin is propaganda footage. We are not allowed into those areas, so we don’t see what’s really going on. Also, we are not shown the horrors that our shelling and attacks, or those of the rebels we are currently backing, have perpetrated on Assad’s supporters.

Hitchens is absolutely correct, but his stating this horrifies Marr’s two other guests.

In recent months there have been well-documented reports of the supposed heroic rebels massacring those trying to flee rebel-held areas. In the last incident, a suicide bomber scattered crisps and food in front of train, so that the children of those fleeing would first leap out of the train to scrabble for them. He killed 68 people. 12 of these were kids.

There has also been the suggestion that the victims of the poison gas attack, which was falsely blamed once again on Assad, were in fact pro-government villagers kidnapped by the rebels, and then killed by them, their bodies then used as macabre props for a very nasty piece of propaganda.

And the rebels have also faked poison gas attacks several times in order to draw America into the war, setting of chemical weapons themselves as ‘false flag’ attacks.

Hitchens is very much a member of the Tories, but I respect his integrity and independence on this issue. Just as I like him for his manifest disrespect to David Cameron, although his reasons may not be the same as mine.

He is absolutely right about Syria, and it is refreshing to see him speak in contradiction of the lies and propaganda we are being fed by the government and news media.

George Galloway and Peter Hitchens on Blair and the Iraq War

August 30, 2016

This is another very interesting piece from YouTube, again featuring George Galloway. It’s not really a video, as it’s just recorded dialogue, presumably from his radio show. In it, he talks to the right-wing columnist and broadcast, Peter Hitchens. The two are from completely the opposite ends of the political spectrum, but on the matter of the Chilcot Inquiry and the Iraq War they are largely in agreement. Galloway acknowledges that he has profound disagreements with Hitchens, but also some overlap. Most of the talking in conversation is done by Hitchens, who makes some very interesting points.

Hitchens points out that, although the Chilcot Inquiry made Blair the sole culprit responsible for the Iraq War, there were many others involved, who have been exonerated, such as Alistair Campbell. Hitchens is not greatly impressed with Blair’s intellectual abilities. He states several times that he was only a figurehead, and the real leadership of New Labour was elsewhere. Blair, he contends, didn’t really understand what was going on around him. At one point Hitchens states that Blair didn’t really want to be a politician. He wanted to be Mick Jagger. He probably had the intellectual ability to be Jagger, but certainly lacked the necessary brainpower to be prime minister. He also argues that Blair was really only a figurehead for New Labour. He was found and groomed by the real leaders of the faction, who wanted someone who would be ‘the anti-Michael Foot’. They settled on Blair, and prepared him for the role without him really understanding what was going on.

Hitchens and Galloway also discuss the allegation that everyone was in favour of the War, and it was only the Left that was against it. Hitchens states that he was initially in favour of the War, but if he had the sense to turn against it in 2003, it shows that you didn’t have to have any great prophetic ability to be against it. Hitchens states that he feels that people were led to support the War, because of the myth of the ‘Good War’. This is based on the belief that the Second World War was a straightforward, uncomplicated struggle against evil. Ever since the War, our leaders have been fancying themselves as Churchill or Roosevelt, and casting every opponent as Hitler. They did it with the Iraq War, and they’re doing it now with the Russians and Vladimir Putin. They’re presenting Russia as an expansion power, and preparing for another war with Russia by sending troops to Estonia and Poland, when the reality is that Russia is not an expansionist threat and has actually ceded hundreds of miles of territory. Hitchens also informs Galloway and his listeners that Britain has actually sent troops into the Ukraine.

Hitchens goes on to state that much of the West’s destabilisation and attempts to destroy opposing regimes is done covertly, through the funding of opposition movements, the manipulation of aid, and – here Galloway supplies the words – ‘moderates’. This happened in Syria, where considerable damage was done before we started bombing them. But people don’t realise it, as this will never show up in a newsreel. As for how warmongers like Blair can be stopped, it can only come from parliament. Hitchens remarks approvingly on the way parliament stopped Cameron when he wanted to bomb Syria. Unfortunately, Hitchens concludes that turning Blair into an object of ridicule is the only justice we can expect. He is pessimistic about there being any tribunal that can bring war criminals like Blair and Bush before it, and so here there’s a difference between those, who have and those who don’t hold a religious belief. For religious believers, you hope that there will be an ultimate judgement coming. Galloway concludes by saying that he believes that there is such a punishment coming to Blair.

It’s an interesting dialogue, as the two clearly have pretty much the same perspective on the Gulf War. They’re both religious believers, as they themselves make clear. Hitchens converted from Marxism and atheism to Christianity, while I think Galloway has said that he’s converted to Islam. As believers in two of the Abrahamic religions, they share the faith that God does judge the guilty in the hereafter. Galloway is very supportive of Hitchens in this video as well. Hitchens states at one point that he’s going to publish a book on the myth of the ‘Good War’. Galloway asks him when it’s going to come out. Hitchens then replies that he hasn’t written it yet, to which Galloway then tells him to come on, as he wants to read it.

Hitchens is right about the manipulation of protest movements, humanitarian aid and opposition groups by the West to destabilise their opponents around the world. This is what happened in Chile and Iran with the overthrow of Salvador Allende and Mossadeq respectively. It happened in the Ukraine during the Orange Revolution, and I’ve no doubt Hitchens is exactly right about it occurring in Syria. The parapolitical magazine, Lobster, has been saying this more or lest since it was founded in the 1980s. It laments that very few, in any, academic scholars are willing to accept the fact that so much diplomacy and politics is done through covert groups.

I think Hitchens is also correct about Britain and the West always casting themselves as the heroic ‘good guys’ in their wars, though I strongly disagree with Hitchens’ reasoning behind it. Hitchens has made clear in his books, column and website that he believes Britain should have stayed away from the Second World War. He correctly points out that it was not about saving the Jews from the Holocaust, but honouring our treaty with the French to defend Poland. he also thinks that if Britain had not declared War, we would still have the Empire.

I’ve blogged before that I believe this to be profoundly wrong. We did the right thing in opposing Hitler, regardless of the motives of the time. The Poles, and the other nations threatened by Nazi Germany needed and deserved protection. Churchill’s motives for urging Britain into the War was that Nazi Germany would be a threat to British naval power in the North Sea, if they were allowed to conquer Europe. This is a correct evaluation. A Europe under Nazi domination would see Britain pushed very much to the periphery. The Nazis believed that it was control of the Eurasian landmass which would determine future economic and political power and influence. If Britain was deprived of this, she would eventually stagnate and decline as an international power.

Nor do I believe we would have kept the Empire. The first stirrings of African nationalism had emerged before the Second World War. Ghana had taken a momentous first step in being the first African colony to have indigenous members of its governing council. The Indian independence movement had been growing since the 19th century, and was gathering increasing support and power under the leadership of Gandhi. Orwell, remarking on a parade of Black troopers in French Morocco in the 1930s, stated that in the mind of every White man present was the thought ‘How long can we keep fooling these people?’ The War accelerated the process of independence, as, along with the First World War, it taught the indigenous peoples of the Empire that the British alongside whom they fought were not gods, but flesh and blood, like them, who suffered sickness and injury. The War also forced the pace of independence, as Britain was left bankrupt and exhausted by the War. As part of their reward for aiding us, the Americans – and also the Russians – demanded that we open up the Empire to outside commerce and start to give our subject people’s their independence. This was particularly welcome to the leaders of the Jamaican independence movement. This had also started in the 1930s, if not before. It was partly based on the dissatisfaction of the Jamaican middle class at having their economy managed for British interests, rather than their own. They hoped that independence from Britain would allow them to develop their economy through closer links with the US.

I also think that the belief of most British people in the rightness of the Wars we fought also comes from British imperial history. Part of the Victorian’s legacy was the Empire and the belief that this was essentially a benign institution, which gave the less developed peoples of the world the benefits of modern British rule, medicine, technology and so on, while downplaying the atrocities and aggression we also visited on them. It’s a rosy view of the Empire, which is by no means accepted by everyone. Nevertheless, it’s the view that the Tories would like to instil into our schoolchildren. This was shown a few years ago by their ludicrous attack on Blackadder and demands for a more positive teaching of British history. Unlike the Germans, who were defeated and called to account for the horrors of the Nazis and Second World War, Britain has never suffered a similar defeat, and so hasn’t experienced the shock of having to re-evaluate its history and legacy to that level. And because Hussein was a brutal dictator, Blair was indeed able to pose as Churchill, as Thatcher did before him, and start another War.

Owen Jones Meets Critic of Neoliberal Economics, Ha-Joon Chang

August 16, 2016

Ha-Joon Chang Pic

In his series of videos on YouTube, Owen Jones, the author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, goes to meet with various public figures. These include Jeremy Corbyn, Peter Hitchens and so on. In this video he talks to Ha-Joon Chang, a South Korean economics professor at Cambridge University. Chang’s interesting as he’s a critic of Neoliberalism, the free market economics that has been this country’s political dogma since the Margaret Thatcher. I put up a post a little while ago on Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.

The conversation begins by Chang attacking the government’s decision to cut public spending in order to shrink the debt. He says that public debt represents public demand, and if you shrink it, the economy will also shrink, and you’ll still be left with a massive debt. This is what has happened to Greece. It’s far better actually to put more money into the economy. When Jones asked him if Osborne was stupid for pursuing this policy, Chang states very clearly that Osborne did it for other reasons – to undermine and destroy the welfare state, and make the country more like America.

The two then discuss whether it really is a case of capitalism for the poor, and Socialism for the rich. The welfare net for the poor is being destroyed, but there are massive subsidies for the rich. Chang makes the point that big business demands these subsidies, but when the issue of taxation is raised, that’s an entirely voluntary matter, and they’ll start an offshore bank account to avoid paying it. He also discounts the Libertarian attitude that ‘taxation is theft’. He makes the point that wealth is socially created. The attitude that taxation is theft may have made sense in the 16th century, when most people were independent farmers, but it doesn’t apply today, when you need a whole ranges of services to create wealth. They also remark on the double standards about the issue of inequality and greed. Libertarians and neoliberals like greed, because it supposedly stimulates the economy. But as soon the poor start resenting the excessive wealth of the rich, then they denounce them for being envious. Chang states that you can’t have inequality, as it means the poor and rich aren’t living in the same world. They might inhabit the same geographical area, but it’s like one was living in the 22nd Century and the other in the 18th and 19th.

Jones makes the point that whenever anybody discusses nationalisation, they automatically go back to the 1970s and the inefficiency of the services then. Chang states that nationalisation isn’t necessarily the answer, as if something is properly regulated you can have the benefits of nationalisation without it. However, there are examples where private enterprise, or at least unregulated private enterprise doesn’t work. He compares the British and Japanese rail networks. The British rail network now consumes massive subsidies, and is the most expensive in Europe. It doesn’t work, because you can’t have a competitive system on the same piece of railway.

Jones also tackles him about the welfare state. Isn’t it true that it’s bloated, and encourages people to be lazy and feckless. Chang states that there is one aspect to that question that he does agree with. He believes the welfare state does need some reform, as it was created in the 1940s-50s. Now people are living longer, nearly 30 years after their retirement. But he says there’s little evidence that it makes people lazy, and criticises the way people have stopped talking about it as an important form of social security. He makes the point that in countries with a strong welfare state, people are much more willing to accept corporate restructuring. Such as in Sweden, for example. This is not to say they prefer it, but they are willing to accept it. In countries like America where there is little in the way of a welfare state, workers, even if not unionised, are much more resistant to change because they can lose everything.

Chang also talks about the difference between classical liberalism, democracy and neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is a return to the economic doctrines of the 18th and 19th century, when the only form of liberty that mattered was the liberty to own and use property how you wanted. Initially, liberals weren’t democrats, because they feared that democracy would limit the freedom of the property-owners to do as they wished. Neoliberalism is a return to this system, with a bit of democracy. However, the political situation is altered so that democracy does not interfere with the liberties of the propertied classes. For example, they’re in favour of an independent central banks, as then it doesn’t have to be accountable to government over interest rates and the effect that may have on society. They’re also in favour of independent regulatory authorities, as that won’t allow government to interfere with private industry either.

Lastly, Jones asks him if he believes that the system will ever change. Chang makes the point that the past several decades have seen changes that people did not believe would happen. He talks about how Maggie Thatcher 25 years ago said that there would never been Black majority rule in South Africa. If you go back fifty years, then the leaders of the African independence movements were all hunted men in British prisons. It may not happen for decades, but eventually change will come. He quotes a proverb, which says that you must be a pessimist in your head, and an optimist in your heart. Above all, you have to keep fighting, as they won’t give you anything.

Here’s the video:

Jimmy Dore: Stop and Search Policing Now Shown to Be Rubbish

July 11, 2016

This is another fascinating piece from the American comedian Jimmy Dore, who turns up regularly on The Young Turks internet show. In this video he discusses an article in one of the New York Papers, reporting a study that has shown ‘broken windows’ policing to be complete rubbish. ‘Broken windows’ policing is the name given to the police strategy of prosecuting people for minor offences – what are called ‘quality of life’ offences, like graffiti, riding your bike on the pavement and so on, in the expectation that cracking down on minor crimes will lead to a drop in major felonies. It includes ‘stop and frisk’ – what over here is called ‘stop and search’ – in which people are stopped and searched at random by the rozzers.

The ‘broken windows’ strategy takes its name from an official experiment, in which a car was left in the road with its bonnet up in two different neighbourhoods. One, I think, was a rough part of New York. Within hours, the car had been stripped. They then left a similar vehicle in an upmarket neighbourhood in California – Palo Alto. The car was left alone. So the experimenters broke one of its windows. It was only after they did that, that the car was gutted. And so they came to the conclusion that to cut down on major crime, you have to start with minor misdemeanours.

Except that it doesn’t. An official study shows that it has no effect. Dore and the others off camera describe how such arrests can wreck a person’s life in the US. If you’re arrested for a felony, you can’t get a student loan and you automatically lose your right to vote, along with other disastrous consequences. Stop and frisk policing is similarly false. 87 per cent of those stopped are Black or Latino in America, but in only six per cent of cases does this lead to an arrest, and only half of those result in a conviction. Meanwhile, as they point out, it’s a massive way to increase Black and Latino alienation from the cops. Dore mentions some of the many over-reactions of the police to perceived Black criminality. Like a case where a teenage boy was followed by helicopter, because he jumped a turn-style. Meanwhile, according to Dore, a CCTV camera elsewhere had recorded the cops choking a man to death.

‘Broken windows’ policing and stop and frisk also have no effect on crime, which has been declining in America for decades anyway. So there’s no reason why these policies, which are only punishing ethnic minorities unfairly, and driving them away from the police, should be continued.

I’m reblogging this, as although the study relates to America, it is clearly relevant to the situation over here. There have been complaints by the Black community in London against the police using ‘stop and search’ there. As for ‘broken windows’ policing, something similar has been advocated by members of the Conservative right, like Peter Hitchens. (In fairness, I should qualify that: Hitchens was not in favour of Thatcher’s sale of council housing, and does not support private prisons, both of which seem to be standard Tory, and New Labour, policies). In his Mail on Sunday column a few years ago, Hitchens cited the pattern of policing before the First World War as the reason for that time’s comparatively low rate of serious crime. This was a time when people were arrested and jailed for very minor crimes like drunkenness, sleeping rough and so on. I think Hitchens’ attitude is that if people are punished for ‘quality of life’ offences, they’ll acquire some self-respect and start to behave like responsible citizens. This shows that they won’t.

Vox Political on Chilcot’s Damning Verdict on Blair, and What His Readers Think

July 7, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has reblogged a piece from the Guardian by Owen Jones, laying out how damning the Chilcot report is of Tony Blair and his decision to lead the country into war. Owen Jones is a fine journalist, who clearly and accurately explains the issues. I’ve read and quoted from his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, which is very good, and has rightly received great praise. He also has another book out The Establishment: Who They Are and How They Get Away with it. I’ve been thinking about that one, but have avoided buying it so far on the grounds that it might make me too furious.

Mike also asks what his readers think of the Iraq War. He asks

Do any of you believe the war was justified, as Ann Clwyd still does (apparently)? Have any of you come to believe that? Did you support the war and turn away? Do you think Saddam Hussein had to go, no matter the cost? Do you think the war contributed to the rise of new terrorist groups like Daesh – sometimes called Islamic State – as laid out in the ‘cycle of international stupidity’ (above)? Do you think it didn’t? Do you think Blair wanted a war because they put national politicians on the international stage? Do you think he improved or diminished the UK’s international standing? Do you think the UK has gained from the war, or suffered as a result?

The Issues, Arguments and Demos against the War at its Very Beginning

Okay, at the rest of alienating the many great readers of this blog, I’ll come clean. Back when it first broke out, I did support the war. I can’t be a hypocrite and claim that I didn’t. This was despite many other people around me knowing so much better, and myself having read so much that was against the war. For example, one of the 1.5 million or so people, who marched against the war was my local parish priest. One of my friends was very firmly against the war. I was aware from reading the papers and Lobster that the dodgy dossier was fake, and a piece of propaganda. I also knew from watching Bremner, Bird and Fortune that there was absolutely no connection between Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’ath regime, which was Arab nationalist, and the militant Islamism of Osama bin Laden, and that absolutely no love was lost between the two. And as the war dragged on, I was aware from reading Private Eye how so much of it was driven by corporate greed. The Eye ran a piece reporting on how Bush had passed legislation, which gave American biotech companies the rights to the country’s biodiversity. The Fertile Crescent in the Middle East in Turkey, Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt and what is now Israel, as well as Arabia and Iran, was the location for the very first western civilisations. Iraq, Syria and Turkey, I believe, were the very first centres where humans settled down and started domesticating wheat. The ancient grains that supported these primitive communities, like emmer and so on, still exist in abundance in these countries, along with other crops and plants that aren’t grown in the west. They represent a potentially lucrative field for the biotech companies. And so the American biotech corporations took out corporate ownership, meaning that your average Iraqi peasant farmer could be prosecuted for infringing their corporate copyright, if he dared to continue growing the crops he and his forefathers and mothers had done, all the way back to Utnapishtim, Noah and the Flood and beyond. More legal chicanery meant that American corporations could seize Iraqi assets and industries for damages, even if these damages were purely speculative or had not actually occurred. It’s grossly unjust, and aptly illustrates how predatory, rapacious and wicked these multinationals are.

And then there were the hundreds of thousands killed by Islamist militants, Iraqi insurgents, and the bodies of our squaddies coming back in coffins, along with a line of the maimed and mentally scarred.

All this should have been a clear demonstration of how wrong the war was. And it is a clear demonstration of its fundamental wrongness.

Hopes for Democratic Iraq Despite Falsity of Pretext

But I initially supported the war due to a number of factors. Partly it was from the recognition that Saddam Hussein was a brutal thug. We had been amply told how brutal he was around Gulf War I, and in the ten years afterwards he had brutally suppressed further rebellions – gassing the Kurds and murdering the Shi’a. In the aftermath of the invasion, UN human rights teams found the remains of his victims in vast, mass graves. The Financial Times also ran a piece on the massive corruption and brutal suppression of internal dissent within his regime. So it seemed that even if the reason for going to war was wrong, nevertheless it was justified because of the sheer brutality of his regime, and the possibility that a better government, freer and more humane, would emerge afterwards.

That hasn’t happened. Quite the reverse. There is democracy, but the country is sharply riven by ethnic and religious conflict. The American army, rather than acting as liberators, has treated the Iraqi people with contempt, and have aided the Shi’a death squads in their murders and assassinations of Sunnis.

Unwillingness to Criticise Blair and Labour

Some of my support for the war was also based in a persistent, uncritical support for Blair and the Labour party. Many of the war’s critics, at least in the West Country, were Tories. The Spectator was a case in point. It was, at least originally, very much against the war. So much so that one of my left-wing friends began buying it. I was highly suspicious of the Tory opposition to the war, as I thought it was opportunist and driven largely by party politics. When in power, the Tories had been fervently in favour of war and military action, from the Falklands, to Gulf War I and beyond. Given their record, I was reluctant – and still am very reluctant – to believe that they really believed that the war was wrong. I thought they were motivate purely from party interests. That still strikes me as pretty much the case, although I will make an allowance for the right-wing Tory journo, Peter Hitchens. Reading Hitchens, it struck me that his opposition to the war was a matter of genuine principle. He has an abiding hatred of Blair, whom he refers to as ‘the Blair creature’ for sending so many courageous men and women to their deaths. He’s also very much a Tory maverick, who has been censured several times by his bosses at the Mail for what he has said about David Cameron. ‘Mr Slippery’ was one such epithet. Now Hitchen’s doesn’t respect him for liberal reasons. He despises him for his liberal attitudes to sexual morality, including gay marriage. But to be fair to the man, he is independent and prepared to rebel and criticise those from his side of the political spectrum, often bitterly.

The Corrosive Effect of Endemic Political Corruption

My opposition to the war was also dulled by the sheer corruption that had been revealed over the last few decades. John Major’s long administration was notorious for its ‘sleaze’, as ministers and senior civil servants did dirty deals with business and media tycoons. Those mandarins and government officials in charge of privatising Britain’s industries, then promptly left government only to take up positions on the boards of those now private companies. Corporations with a minister or two in their back pocket won massive government contracts, no matter how incompetent they were. And Capita was so often in Private Eye, that the Eye even then was referring to it as ‘Crapita’. Eventually my moral sense was just worn down by it all. The corporate plunder of Iraq just seemed like another case of ‘business as usual’. And if the Tories are just as culpable as Blair and his allies, then there’s no reason to criticise Blair.

The Books and Film that Changed my Attitude to the War

What changed my attitude to the Iraq War was finally seeing Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 on Channel 4, and reading Greg Palast’s Armed Madhouse, and the Counterpunch book End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, as well as Bushwhacked, a book which exposes the lies and sheer right-wing corruption of George W. Bush’s administration. Palast’s book is particularly devastating, as it shows how the war was solely motivated by corporate greed and the desire of the Neocons to toy with the Iraqi economy in the hope of creating the low tax, free trade utopia they believe in, with precious little thought for the rights and dignity of the Iraqi people themselves. End Times is a series of article cataloguing the mendacity of the American media in selling the war, US politicians for promoting it, and the US army for the possible murder of critical journalists. Other books worth reading on the immorality and stupidity of the Iraq War include Confronting the New Conservativism. This is a series of articles attacking George W. Bush and the Neocons. Much of them come from a broadly left-wing perspective, but there are one or two from traditional Conservatives, such as female colonel in the Pentagon, who notes that Shrub and his coterie knew nothing about the Middle East, and despised the army staff, who did. They had no idea what they were doing, and sacked any commander, who dared to contradict their stupid and asinine ideology.

And so my attitude to war has changed. And I think there are some vital lessons that need to be applied to the broader political culture, if we are to stop others making the same mistakes as I did when I supported the war.

Lessons Learned

Firstly, when it comes to issues like the invasion of Iraq, it’s not a matter of ‘my party, right or wrong’. The Tories might be opposing the war out of opportunism, but that doesn’t mean that supporters of the Labour party are traitors or somehow betraying the party by recognising that it was immoral, and that some of the Tories, who denounced it did have a point.

Secondly, the cynical attitude that all parties are corrupt, so it doesn’t matter if you turn a blind eye to Labour’s corruption, is also wrong and misplaced. Corruption has to be fought, no matter where it occurs. You almost expect it in the Tory party, which has always had a very cosy attitude towards business. It has much less place on the Left, which should be about defending human rights and those of the weak.

Blair: Liar and War Criminal

And so I fully support the Chilcot report, and Jeremy Corbyn’s denunciations of Blair. He was a war criminal, and surely should have known better never to have become embroiled in the Iraq invasion. I’ve heard the excuse that he joined the war only reluctantly and was a restraining force on George Dubya. It’s a lie. He was eager to join the invasion and get whatever he thought Britain could from the spoils. And the result has been 13 years of war, the destruction and occupation of an entire nation, and the spread of further chaos and bloodshed throughout the Middle East.

Owen Jones on the Chilcot Report, the Iraq War and Tony Blair

July 6, 2016

The news today has been dominated by the Chilcot report, and its findings about the launch of the Iraq War by Tony Blair. In this video from Owen Jones, the author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, gives his view on the moral and possible legal culpable of Blair for starting a war that has killed hundreds of thousands, destroyed an entire nation, and caused the entire Middle East to descend further into chaos and carnage.

He states that the report’s publication and its conclusions gives him no satisfaction, but it does vindicate what opponents of the war had said. He quotes a Labour MP, Simpson, who used to be his boss, who stated that Blair was desperate to join Bush in a war regardless of the cause; that the country was being pushed to war. He notes that Chilcot has also confirmed that the intelligence reports, which formed the basis for Blair’s decision to go to war, were ‘flawed’. He quotes Christian Aid, a charity, not a political organisation, who also opposed the war because they believed it would lead to further internal violence in Iraq, and that Iran would seek its own advantages. Jones notes that at the time the anti-War protesters were attacked and vilified by a press determined to promote the war. He also urges his viewers not to be taken in by Blair, when the man the Italians dubbed ‘The Scrounger’ (but in Italian, obviously) says that it’s all obvious in hindsight, but couldn’t be known at the time. Jones makes it very clear from all the above that it was very clearly understood by the war’s opponents at the time how dreadful it would be and the terrible consequences.

Jones states that the report doesn’t conclude whether there is a legal base for prosecuting Blair. He hopes that is the case, and that there will now be moves to see if such a trial is possible. But even if he isn’t legally liable, he is morally culpable. He, and the media that enabled and promoted the war, have to live with that. And the consequences of this conflict will be with us for decades to come.

Jones is correct, and his video is cut with shots of anti-war protests and demonstrators. It’s refreshing to see on this video quotations from the Labour and Left-wing protesters against the war, like Jones’ old boss, Simpson, and the late Robin Cook. Cook resigned because of the war, and was arguable the man, who should have led the Labour party. I can remember seeing Simon Hoggart, the journalist and compere of the News Quiz on Radio 4, Giles Brandreth, a former Tory cabinet minister, before he became one of the faces on The One Show, and Brandreth’s Labour opposite number, talking about political diaries at the Cheltenham Literary Festival one year. Brandreth said that Cook was the man the Tories were dreading would lead Labour, because of his incisive, forensic intelligence. At the time, here in my part of the West Country, most of the voices raised in protest were Tories. On the local news this evening the Bridgwater MP, Tom King, and two other Tories have appeared commenting on the Report and how they were against the war at the time. This is true. Peter Hitchens, the former Marxist, now right-wing journo, has always made it very clear that he despises Blair for starting wars that have sent good men and women to deaths for absolutely no good reason. And while I don’t like Hitchen’s views on the return of the death penalty, or his tough stance on law ‘n’ order, I respect him for his views on Blair. I am much more suspicious about other members of the Tory party, because of the way they threw their weight behind Maggie’s and Major’s wars – the Falklands and then Gulf War I. I wondered at the time how much of their opposition was due principle, and how much was simply because Blair had stolen their mantle as the ‘war party’, just like he stole so much of Conservatism. Their opposition to the war did have some effect. One of my friends, who’s actually very left-wing, started reading the Spectator for a time, because it ran articles by a leading Tory – possibly Matthew Parris, but I couldn’t swear to it – attacking the war. It’s good to be reminded that there were those on the Left as well, who marched and protested against it. And not just the supporters of George Galloway.

As for the intelligence that Blair used to take us to war, Chilcot is too kind, or perhaps just understandably cautious, when he refers to it as ‘flawed’. It wasn’t. It was deliberately doctored. And from what I understand from Lobster – which is a vociferous opponent of British intelligence services – the pressure to inflate and distort the evidence came, not from the intelligence services, but from Blair and his cabinet.

Jeremy Corbyn has made it very clear that he wishes to prosecute Bliar for war crimes. I don’t know if that will ever happen, as I can imagine the political and media class closing ranks very quickly to shut down that possibility. But the Chilcot report does show that Bliar is morally, if not legally culpable, as Jones points out. The rhyme was right:

Blair lied:
People died.

And the tragedy and injustice is that people have gone on and will go on dying, long after Blair has receded from public life.

Thatcher Wanted to Block Anti-AIDS Adverts to Stop People Knowing about Anal Sex

December 31, 2015

Sorry about the sexual explicitness of this article, but it shows how bizarre and prudish Thatcher’s attitude to sexual awareness was.

Amongst the documents released under the thirty year rule yesterday were a number that revealed the battle between Norman Fowler and Maggie over how much the general public should be told about the transmission of HIV. There was a serious fear in Britain and the rest of the world that unless action was taken, AIDS would become a massive epidemic that would carry off millions of lives. It has, it is true, done so, and continues to do so, especially in Africa. The fear in Britain and other parts of the western world was that the contagion would be far more severe, perhaps even comparable with the Black Death which destroyed between a third and a half of the European population in the late 14th century.

Governments in Britain, America, New Zealand and Australia rushed out public information films to inform people of the dangers of this terrifying new disease. The one shown in Australia/NZ was particularly horrifying, as it showed Death knocking down people like bowling pins. In America, the approach was rather more subtle. All governments were urging their peoples to use condoms during sex to prevent the spread of the infection. American prudishness and sensitivity meant that in their films, contraception couldn’t be explicitly mentioned. The film therefore showed someone putting on a sock to protect his feet, while giving a little speech urging people to put similar items on if they wanted to protect themselves while having sex. A number of comedians made jokes about how ridiculous and spectacularly uninformative this was at the time.

But Maggie Thatcher seems to have shared some of those prudish attitudes. Fowler wished to publish a string of adverts in newspapers and magazines pointing out the particular dangers of anal sex. At the time this accounted for 85% of all cases. Thatcher, however, wanted to block this, as she was afraid that if the great British public found out about it, they’d start doing it.

At which point, you begin to wonder precisely where Thatcher got her ideas on sex from, and how much she really understood the people over whom she ruled. Perhaps well brought up ‘gels’ of her class and generation weren’t supposed to know about such things, rather like the massive sexual ignorance that plagued 19th century England. Unfortunately, even my grandparents’ time, such basic biological facts as menstruation weren’t taught in schools, so that many girls were frightened and bewildered by the changes that their bodies underwent at puberty.

And in the first half of the 20th century, when homosexuality was illegal, a number of people really didn’t know it even existed until they were in the early adulthood. I can remember a friend of mine telling me about one writer or actor, I’ve forgotten quite who, who said that he was in the 20s when he found out that there were such things as gays. And even then, his first reaction was that the person who told him was pulling his leg.

But by the time Thatcher got into power in the 1980s, people knew about gays and anal sex all right. All Thatcher needed to do to find out about this was to have one of her cabinet ministers tell her some of the coarse jokes being bandied around bars and pubs. Or school playgrounds. I found out about it all in secondary school, where there were some very crude jokes. Many of the circumlocutions used for gay men also referred obliquely to anal sex. In 19th century England one of such euphemisms was ‘gentleman of the back door’. Lenny Henry had a section on his TV show at the time, sending up the contemporary vogue for screen adaptations of novels set in pre-independence India. These were The Jewel in the Crown and A Passage to India. Henry spoofed them and the racial attitudes behind them as ‘The Jewel in India’s Passage’, which is surely a double entendre on the back passage, the human rectum. Just a few years ago Julian Clary made the same double entendre in the title of his autobiography, A Young Man’s Passage.

Or Thatcher could simply have turned the TV on. The 1980s saw a number of dramas, which included gay characters, or dealt with gay relationships. Gay sex could not be shown on TV, along with masturbation and bestiality, but even so there was a new sexual frankness there. And some of the comedies could be extremely explicit and very coarse, despite the traditional constraints on what was fit for broadcast. One of the programmes I remember on ITV at the time was Spooner’s Patch’, a police comedy about a particularly coarse and boorish police captain and his unit. It was written by Galton and Simpson, the pair responsible for the classic Steptoe and Son, who really should have known better. One episode included homosexuality, and had Spooner making a number of very coarse and bigoted comments about ‘brown hatters’. These were very clear in describing homosexuality in terms of anal sex, even if they didn’t describe it in those exact terms. It was all a very long way away from the 1950s, when comics and comedy writers were told they could not makes jokes about ‘effeminacy in men’, along with other taboo subjects such as religion, the monarchy, disability or the colour question.

What made Thatcher’s views even more anachronistic and misplaced is that a few years previously there had been the massive scandal surrounding the gay affair Jeremy Thorpe had with a male model, leading blackmail demands and a hitman allegedly being hired to shoot the man’s dog. This was so notorious that it led to schoolchildren using ‘Jeremy’ as a term of abuse.

All this shows just out of touch and petit bourgeois Thatcher and her sexual attitudes actually were. Now there are genuine issues about how much children should be taught about sex in schools, including homosexuality. Children do need some, if only to understand their bodies, the physical changes that go with puberty, and the need to protect themselves against STDs, and not just AIDS. There are those, who would prevent them knowing even about that. Peter Hitchens, the Conservative journalist and writer for the Mail on Sunday, opposes sex education on the grounds that it was started in Hungary in order to break the power of conservative Christian parental attitudes. He believes it encourages promiscuity. This is news to me. I remember the sex education we had at school, how awkward some of out teachers looked talking about it. And despite raging teenage hormones, the dry descriptions of the act were quite enough to put you off it. In the same way, Thatcher must have been out of her tiny little mind to think that knowing about anal sex would make the rest of British society want to try it. Anyone already interested in experimenting with gay sex was far more likely to be influenced by David Bowie and the sexual ambiguity of his Ziggy Stardust persona than get even remotely turned on by an advert warning of the dangers of a terrible and debilitating disease.

There are reasonable limits to how much children should be taught about sex and when. But adults reading newspapers and magazines are different. People need to be informed. And, to paraphrase the slogan used about the disease at the time, it’s not just AIDS which will kill you due to ignorance.

The Young Turks on Republican Willingness to Kill Families of Terrorists

December 23, 2015

This is another fascinating piece from The Young Turks showing the brutality and thuggishness in the Republican candidates Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. I’ve already put up a piece by the Turks on the Gallup poll that shows fewer Muslims in Muslim majority countries support the killing of civilians – 14% – than in Britain and America – 33% and 50% respectively. This section of the debate amongst the Republican candidates shows just how far we in the West are losing the moral high ground.

The Turks on commenting on the candidates’ answer to a question whether they would support the deliberate killing of the families of terrorists. If they did, would this not violate the international treaty demanding that civilians should not be targeted in war. Rather than take a decent, moral position that they would not target the terrorists’ families, Trump, Carson and Cruz nearly fall over each other stressing their willingness to murder non-combatants. Trump starts ranting about how we need to be ‘firm’ with them, and makes entirely spurious comments about how the mother of two Islamist killers in San Bernardino must have known what they were doing. Carson seems to believe killing civilians is a necessary evil, and compares it to removing a tumour from a child’s brain. At first the child is resentful about having his head opened up, but afterwards they’re grateful. And Cruz doesn’t seem to know the difference between targeted bombing and carpet bombing. Here’s the clip:

Now the Turks are exactly right when they state that this is the mentality of the mob, and Islamist butchers like al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS. They are also right when they state that it contradicts the teachings of Christ in the New Testament. They are absolutely right. Apart from the teachings of Christ, St. Paul himself states in his letters that Christians are not supposed to compete in evil with the wicked. So we are definitely not supposed to sink to their level. It was medieval theologians in the Roman Catholic West who formulated the modern rule of justice that the families of criminals should not be punished for the crimes of their relatives if the other family members themselves were innocent. The rule of collective guilt, that the families of criminals should be punished along with the criminals themselves, was revived by the non- and actively anti-Christian regimes of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Hitler revived it on the grounds that it supposedly came from ancient Germanic law. And Stalin revived it because he was an amoral thug and butcher. In his case, it supposedly comes from the tribal and clan warfare practised in the Caucasus. Either way, it’s a step backwards. Trump, Carson and Cruz’s support for lumping the families of terrorists in with them put them on exactly the same level as the North Korean regime and its persecution of Christians. Under the latest Kim, not only are Christians themselves arrested and executed in North Korea, but also their parents and grandparents, even if they’re atheists. Trump, Carson and Cruz have got the same vicious totalitarian mindset.

As for the willingness to prosecute war ruthlessly, without concern over civilians deaths being somehow Churchillian, this neglects how controversial Britain’s carpet bombing of Germany is, particularly in the case of Dresden. Dresden was hit so hard that the whole city was just about razed in the fireball. Many of the victims died without a mark on their bodies, suffocated because the fireball consumed all the breathable oxygen. Kurt Vonnegut, the satirical writer, was so profoundly affected by his experience of it as a prisoner of war near the city at the time, that it coloured his entire worldview, inspiring such novels as Slaughterhouse 5. The novel’s title is a reference to the abbatoir in which he and the other American POWs were incarcerated. Ironically, it was this that saved them.

The bombing of Dresden has become a stain on the Alllied conduct of the War. And while modern Germans are pleased that Hitler and the Nazis defeated, and their country liberated to become one of the most prosperous and democratic in Europe, they aren’t pleased about the destruction of Dresden. Far from it. One German playwright in the 1960s wrote a play about it, arguing that it showed Churchill as a war criminal, because Dresden at the time was not a centre of military operations. The bombing took place apparently purely as an act of terror.

There was intense controversy under John Major’s government back in the 1990s when the Tories decided to put up a statue commemorating ‘Bomber’ Harris, the head of the British airforce, who launched the carpet bombing of Germany. Many liberals in Britain felt it was entirely inappropriate to celebrate a man, who had deliberately caused so many civilian deaths. And the carpet bombing of Germany, the deliberate bombing of civilian areas, was controversial at the time. One Anglican churchman, a bishop, if I recall properly, resigned in protest. It’s probably this action by a man of faith and conscience that provided the inspiration for a Christian priest in the 1980s Dr Who serial, ‘The Curse of Fenric’. Played by the veteran actor and panel show host, Nicholas Parsons, the priest is a man, who has lost his faith thanks to his nation deciding to kill civilians in bombing raids. It clearly seems to have been inspired by the example of the real clergyman.

Interestingly, this churchman remains an inspirational figure to at least one, highly independent member of the British Christian Right: Peter Hitchens. Hitchens has some bizarre and vile views. He believes – wrongly – that Britain shouldn’t have entered the Second World War. But he is also an opponent of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. His reasoning here seems to be that these latter wars have sent good, brave men to die unnecessarily simply for the political advantage of the man he terms ‘the Blair creature’. So, contrary to Carson, Churchill’s bombing of civilians isn’t the action of a great war leader that Carson seems to think it is.

I differ with the Turks’ comments about the Repug candidates’ advocacy of killing terrorists’ families being part of the psyche of fundamentalist Christians. A little while ago a Jewish researcher published a book on theologically conservative Christians. He found that conservative religious views did not necessarily coincide with Conservative political views. In fact, he found that about half of Evangelical Christians were politically liberal, and tended to be more so than American Roman Catholics. See the book The Truth about Evangelical Christians. The Turks themselves have also noted that in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, people who make their religion the centre of their life, whether Christians, Muslims or whatever, tend to be far less in favour of attacking civilians. In the case of America, the willingness to kill civilians as well as terrorists seems to be due to other, shared cultural factors common to both people of faith and secular people.

Vox Political: Police Considering Handing 999 Calls to G4S

November 12, 2015

Mike has posted a number of very important, ominous pieces about Tory reforms to the police force, reforms which will undermine the police as a public, state institution tackling crime, and deny those arrested of their fundamental right to legal representation and a fair hearing.

All this is being done in the name of private profit and cutting costs.

Last week Mike revealed the news that the government was considering putting 999 calls in the hands of G4S. Even without their record of incompetence, which has included letting prisoners escape while under their escort to the courts for trial, this would still be a matter for concern for corruption and conflict of interest. On of the company’s major shareholders is the husband of Theresa May, the current head of the Home Office.

See Mike’s story: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/08/police-forces-consider-company-part-owned-by-theresa-mays-husband-to-handle-999-calls/

The next day, Mike posted up this story, expanding on the news: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/10/more-cuts-mean-privatised-police-for-profit-theresa-may-call-it-what-it-is/

Not only are Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire police forces considering granting the operation of their 999 lines to the company, but Theresa May has announced that she intends to give G4S and other private security firms and government contractors like it police powers. This will be ‘when the time is right’, of course. Mike points out that this is truly policing for profit, whatever May says to the contrary.

The Tories have been floating the idea of privatising the police force for nearly a quarter of a century. In Christmas 1991 I recall the Mail on Sunday running a story about the wonderful, Minarchist Tory Britain that would be ushered in the majority of MPs were women. This included a privatised police force, hired by individual communities. It’s an idea ultimately lifted from Rothbard and the American Libertarians. It was put into a feature about a future parliament controlled by women, as the Daily Mail has always aimed at a female readership, despite having a highly reactionary attitude to feminism, and an attitude towards women that comes dangerously close, and at times has crossed over into misogyny. If you want an example, think about the various articles the Mail has run demanding that women return to their traditional roles in the home. Or the photographs of underage, teenage girls, accompanied by sexual captions commenting on their attractiveness.

The Mail was hoping with this story to capitalise on the support the party had received from women, partly due to the election of Margaret Thatcher. This was despite the fact that Maggie had no women in her cabinet, and most of her policies actually harmed them as women form the majority of workers in the low-paid sectors.

It was also about this time that they launched the old propaganda line about national economics being similar to budgeting for a household. The article claimed that women automatically knew to vote Tory, as they naturally have a better understanding of men through handling the household budgets. This is a bit of specious, condescending flattery, as running a household is not like running a national economy, even if the word ‘economics’ ultimately does come from the ancient Greek term for ‘household management’. And it doesn’t impugn anyone’s ability to run a home to point this out.

The story was run at the beginning of Major’s ministry, and much was made of his inclusion of women in his cabinet, like Virginia Bottomley and Edwina Currey. If I remember correctly, the article claimed that the privatisation of the police was a police particularly favoured by Bottomley. Now nearly a quarter of a century later, it’s being announced by another female politico, in this case Theresa May. I wonder if this is entirely coincidental, or if the Tories feel that this would look far better being announced by a woman. Perhaps they hope that by specifically appealing to women, they can make it look like some kind of neighbourhood policing, done by corporations that know the needs and requirements of their local communities, rather than what it is: the assumption of authoritarian powers of arrest and detention by a private corporation, acting only for the profit of its senior management and shareholders.

If they are trying to present it as such, which I recall the Daily Mail article attempting to do, then backing G4S and other government contractors seems to me to be a grave error of judgement. Apart from letting their prisoners escape, I also remember that one of them was involved in serious riots in a refugee detention centre, which employed them. The inmates had risen up in protest at a series of abuse committed by the centre’s wardens, who were not state screws, but security guards in one of these private firms.

I also wonder if the person, who dreamed up this idea, has also seen some of the same Science Fiction films I have. Like the Heavy Metal movie and Robocop. The Heavy Metal movie was an ’80s animated film, based on the adult comic of the same name, which was the Anglophone version of the French Metal Hurlant. It was an anthology based on the comic’s various strips, linked by a story in which a young girl is led to realise that she is a warrior woman with cosmic powers, dedicated to fight evil.

One of the stories is set in a decaying future, where the police act like a private detective agency. The victim comes in, reports the crime, and then is expected to pay for the costs and manpower of the investigation.

The other film is another flick from the ’80s, Robocop. This was set in a decay, near-future Detroit, where crime was rampant and the police force had been privatised and handed over to a private corporation, OCR, or Omni-Consumer Products. Beset by bad management and suffering from an appalling death rate at the hands of local criminal gangs, Detroit’s boys and girls in blue go on strike. Meanwhile, the company has been trying to crush crime by using robots. These are failures, the prototype malfunctioning lethal during a boardroom demonstration in which it fatally shoots one of the corporation’s executives pretending to be an armed villain.

So the company decides to try again, this time using a machine which will also be part human. They set a new, rookie policeman, Murphy, up to suffer a brutal shooting in order to supply a suitable subject for transformation.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven, it’s a fast-paced, ultra-violent action movie. One of my mother’s friends went to see it at the cinema when it came out, and left feeling physically ill because of the graphic violence. Despite this, it is a good movie, with a sympathetic treatment of the resentment and anger of the demoralised cops, and the central character’s own struggle to remember who he is and regain what little he can of his lost humanity. It also makes the point that what people need on the streets isn’t efficient machines, but real people with compassion and empathy towards the victims, as well as the aggression and determination needed to tackle offenders. In one scene, Murphy as Robocop saves a woman from rape by shooting her attacker in the crotch. The victim runs to him to offer her thanks. But the Robocop machine can only diagnose her as traumatise, and impersonally calls a rape crisis centre on her behalf before going on to his next assignment.

And just as Superman is powerless when his enemies wield Kryptonite, so Robocop also has a built-in weakness. His manufacturers have built into his programming a secret protocol that prevents him from apprehending or harming any of the corporation’s employees or management. It is only when the board chairman – the Old Man – sacks the villain that Robocop is finally able to get justice and avenge himself by shooting him.

Robocop is, of course, very definitely SF, though possibly not so far away from reality. I doubt that we will ever be able to create cyborg super-cops any time soon. Detroit was and is a declining city with a severe crime problem. Furthermore, the storyline’s partly based on the city’s privatisation of its services. It did not, mercifully, privatise the police.

Now a privatised police force in the system May and her bosses are advocating clearly wouldn’t charge individuals for investigating crimes. But they are going to charge the state for their services. And in order to make sure they remain profitable and give a dividend to their shareholders, they will have to economise and make cuts. Mike has already reported on the concerns by the police that Tory cuts to their budgets of up to 25 per cent will leave them unable to properly investigate and prevent crime, and arrest offenders. So it looks like handing over police powers to the likes of G4S will actually increase it, not cut down on crime.

And as with Robocop, there is the problem of corruption in the assumption of the state’s powers of arrest and punishment by a private corporation. There have been major scandals over corruption in normal police force, particularly the Met and the West Midlands forces. People have been wrongfully arrested and suspects beaten, as well as collusion between the police and criminal gangs. It has been hard enough bringing these cases to justice. I doubt very, very much that the task will be any easier if policing is handed over to private companies. How many private policemen or women would dare to risk arresting a manager or senior boardmember?

And finally, there is the matter of principle that justice should always be public, and only the state should have fundamental right and trust to arrest, detain and punish offenders. The Mail on Sunday’s Peter Hitchens, while in many respects a highly reactionary arch-Tory, has stated that he opposes private prisons on this exact point.

So just on considerations of efficiency, competence, and the philosophical foundation of the state as the public arbiter of justice, this is an appalling decision. But this all counts for nothing when the Conservatives see an opportunity to turn a quick buck from privatising a public utility.

I doubt very much, however, that they will go as far in their privatisation of the justice as Rothbard advocates. That would mean the privatisation of the courts themselves, so they could receive all the benefits of commercial competition in a free market economy. That’s anarchism, and whatever the Tories say they stand for in terms of personal freedom and free enterprise, they have always stood for a highly authoritarian society backed by the use of force against the lower orders. The very last thing they want to do is dismantle that. Rather, they are doing everything in their power to reinforce and strengthen it.