Posts Tagged ‘Prisons’

Austerity and Prison Violence

January 15, 2020

A week or so ago Mike put up a piece reporting and commenting on the death of a disabled man in prison. From what I remember, like many such instances the man’s own special needs had been ignored and he was actually in prison for a minor offence. At least, one that should not merit his murder. Mike connected this to the Tories’ ongoing campaign of mass murder against the disabled.

In fact, violence, including self-harm, has risen massive in British jails since the Tories launched their wretched austerity. Joe Sim has authored an entire chapter on it in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity. Sim has his own particular view of the crisis. He considers that prison violence hasn’t itself been created by austerity. It’s always been there, and is part of society’s brutal maltreatment of the poor and marginalised. But it has been massively intensified by the Tories’ cuts.

The stats are horrifying. Between 2011 and 2016, sexual assaults almost doubled. In 2014-15 there were over 400 serious incidents requiring the intervention of the specialist National Tactical Response Group, In 2015 an average of 160 fires were started each month. Self-harm rose by 40 per cent in two years, so that in 2015, 32,313 incidents were recorded.

321 died in the year to June 2016, an increase of 30 per cent on the previous year. 105 of these were self-inflicted, a rise of 28 per cent. Deaths by natural causes rose by 26 per cent to 186. Between January 2010 and December 2016, 1637 prisoners died, 542 of which were self-inflicted.

In 2015-15 there were nearly 5000 assaults and acts of violence against the different groups of people working in prisons. These included 423 on prison officers below the rank of principal officer, 828 on nursing auxiliaries and assistants, 640 on nurses, 535 on care workers, and 423 on welfare and housing associate professionals.

Sim states that to many commentators, including the media, Prison Officers’ Association and mainstream politicians, the cause of this increased violence are the cuts to the prison budget. These amounted to £900 million between 2011 and 2015, or 24 per cent of its overall budget. The Prison Reform Trust said that it was

[n]o mystery that violence, self-harm and suicide rise when you overcrowd prisons, reduce staff by almost one third, cut time out of cell and purposeful activity. The backdrop is a more punitive climate, increased injustice and uncertainty which have sucked hope out of the system for prisoners and staff.

I’m not disputing that very many of those incarcerated are guilty of the most heinous offences, and fully deserve their incarceration and punishment. But it is very clear that austerity has resulted in a massive deterioration in conditions which fueling violence in prisons against staff and prisoners. There’s obviously a long and complicated debate about the purposes of prison – to punish, reform, or even both – but it is clear that neither staff nor prisoners deserve the maltreatment and violence the cuts have generated.

This isn’t reformative. It isn’t proper punishment. It is carnage.

But the Tories just love killing and death when it’s directed against the poor and powerless.

English History through the Broadside Ballad

December 24, 2019

A Ballad History of England: From 1588 to the Present Day, by Roy Palmer (London: BT Batsford 1979).

From the 16th century to the 20th, the broadside ballad was part of the popular music of British working people. They were written on important topics of the day, and printed and published for ordinary people. They would be sung by the ballad sellers themselves while hawking their wares. This book is a collection of popular ballads, assembled and with introductory notes by the folklorist Roy Palmer. It begins with the song ‘A Ioyful New Ballad’ from 1588 about the Armada, and ends with ‘The Men Who Make The Steel’ from 1973 about the steelworkers’ strike. Unlike the earlier songs, it was issued as a record with three other songs in 1975. The ballads’ texts are accompanied by sheet music of the tunes to which they were sung. Quite often the tunes used were well-known existing melodies, so the audience were already familiar with the music, though not the new words which had been fitted to them.

The ballads cover such important events in English and wider British history as a Lincolnshire witch trial; the draining of the fens; the Diggers, a Communist sect in the British Civil War; Oak Apple Day, celebrating the narrow escape of Charles II from the Parliamentarians in 1660; the defeat of the Monmouth Rebellion; the execution of Jacobite rebels in 1715; the South Sea Bubble; Dick Turpin, the highwayman; the Scots defeat at Culloden; emigration to Nova Scotia in Canada; Wolfe’s capture of Quebec; the enclosures; the Birmingham and Worcester Canal; the 18th century radical and advocate for democracy, Tom Paine; the mechanisation of the silk industry; the establishment of income tax; the death of Nelson; the introduction of the treadmill in prison; the Peterloo Massacre and bitter polemical attacks against Lord Castlereagh; Peel’s establishment of the police; body snatching; the 1834 New Poor Law, which introduced the workhouse system; poaching; the 1839 Chartist meeting at Newport; Queen Victoria’s marriage to Albert; Richard Oastler and the factory acts; the repeal of the Corn Laws; Bloomers; the construction of the Oxford railway; Charles Dickens visit to Coketown; the Liverpool Master Builders’ strike of 1866; agitating for the National Agricultural Union of farmworkers; the introduction of the Plimsoll line on ships; an explosion at Trimdon Grange colliery in County Durham; a 19th century socialist song by John Bruce Glasier, a member of the William Morris’ Socialist League and then the ILP; the Suffragettes; soldiers’ songs from the Boer War and the First World War; unemployed ex-servicemen after the War; the defeat of the General Strike; the Blitz; Ban the Bomb from 1958; and the Great Train Robbery. 

It also includes many other songs from servicemen down the centuries commemorating the deaths of great heroes and victories; and by soldiers, sailors and working people on land protesting against working conditions, tax, and economic recessions and exorbitant speculation on the stock markets. Some are just on the changes to roads, as well as local disasters.

This is a kind of social history, a history of England from below, apart from the conventional point of view of the upper or upper middle class historians, and shows how these events were viewed by tradesmen and working people. Not all the songs by any means are from a radical or socialist viewpoint. The ballad about Tom Paine is written against him, though he was a popular hero and there were also tunes, like the ‘Rights of Man’ named after his most famous book, celebrating him. But nevertheless, these songs show history as it was seen by England’s ordinary people, the people who fought in the navy and army, and toiled in the fields and workshops. These songs are a balance to the kind of history Michael Gove wished to bring in a few years ago when he railed against children being taught the ‘Blackadder’ view of the First World War. He’d like people to be taught a suitably Tory version of history, a kind of ‘merrie England’ in which Britain is always great and the British people content with their lot under the benign rule of people like David Cameron, Tweezer and Boris. The ballads collected here offer a different, complementary view.

Michael Brooks Applauds Labour’s Election Video

November 22, 2019

Michael Brooks is the titular presenter of an American left-wing internet news and comment show. He’s also a co-presenter with Sam Seder on the latter’s Majority Report. In this video, Brooks looks at and gives his approval to Labour’s election video.

Before going into the video, Brooks says that he thinks the election video is fantastic, that the initial polls look good and that Labour’s Brexit strategy is pretty smart. It’s smart from a tactical perspective of dealing with the competing demands from within their own party. He says of the Liberal Democrats that they are ‘utterly exposed’. They had an opportunity to form a government purely on the basis of making sure there wasn’t a no-deal Brexit. They rejected it because they care infinitely more about corporations and austerity and right-wing economic policies than stopping Brexit.  Brooks then attacks the Tories, stating that Boris Johnson is the UK’s own contribution to the global embarrassment list – Trump, Netanyahu, Duterte and so on. Of Labour’s video, he says that he watched a conversation earlier that day between Alistair Campbell and John McDonnell, Corbyn’s no. 2.  Brooks says that they’re really good politicians, because they’re putting so much on the table from the perspective of healthcare, workers’ cooperatives for a 21st century democracy, ‘that it’s not an opportunity to pass up.’ The video also shows they’re taking the campaign seriously, strategically and ‘presentationally’.  They then show the video.

Labour’s election video begins with Corbyn’s election as head of the Labour party in 2015. It then moves through his career, and shows how he has forced the Tories to backtrack on some of their horrendous policies, while seeing off Prime Ministers David Cameron and Tweezer. In front of the relevant scenes are the following captions, beginning with Corbyn’s election. Corbyn’s shown saying ‘Poverty isn’t inevitable, things can and they will change. And they already have, says another caption. Tweezer is shown walking on, and then walking off backwards with the caption ‘Tories forced to backtrack on’ – dementia tax, winter fuel cuts, fox hunting ban, – ‘and many more’. A list of other policies blocked rolls up the screen too fast to catch, but they include grammar schools, police funding cuts, diesel tax, solar panel tax, tampon tax, Brexit deal vote, National Insurance, Brexit impact reports, Saudi prison contracts, Sunday trading hours,  and triple lock on pensions.

There’s then footage of a reporter stating that polls show the Tories on 48 per cent, and Labour half that. Which is followed by John Snow saying ‘We, the media, the pundits, know nothing’. The captions then states that Labour had the biggest campaign growth since polling began. And that Corbyn bid farewell to two prime ministers, showing Tweezer and Cameron. It says he defeated May’s Brexit deal once, twice and then three times. He blocked Johnson’s disastrous no-deal Brexit. It then shows footage from the Labour conference of Corbyn saying that the party ‘will commit to unleash the biggest people-powered campaign we’ve ever seen in this country and in this movement.’ A caption then appears and says ‘To totally transform our society from grass roots upwards. To radically change our rigged economy so that it works for everyone.’ At this point there’s an image of Johnson meeting various people and Rees Mogg lounging on a Commons’ bench. The caption goes on ‘To urgently respond to the climate crisis with our green industrial revolution. To get Brexit sorted by giving the people the final say.’ It goes back to Corbyn against, who says, ‘We achieve all of these things by being a party and a movement totally and absolutely united to our common cause and purpose.’

The captions then appearing, saying ‘This is our chance, once in a generation  to rebuilt Britain and put wealth and power in the hands of the many not the few. It’s time for real change’. And there it finishes with the Labour Party logo.

Brooks remarks, ‘That’s a good ad. They’re on point. I would really recommend if you’re in the UK you do absolutely everything you can for Labour. I’m incredibly excited to see what they put forward.’ He and the crew then discuss which date the election is on, before concluding that it’s the twelfth December. Brooks ends that section of the video by saying that he thinks it’s fantastic they have such a short election cycle.

The reason why the election cycle is so short, is because all the Tory governments have collapsed ever since Cameron’s wretched decision to call the Brexit referendum.

I think it’s brilliant that Michael Brooks thinks the video is so great, and gives his unqualified support for Labour. Brooks and Seder are both supporters of Bernie Sanders and his campaign to bring about the radical change America needs to empower its ordinary working people, and give them jobs and prosperity instead of more neoliberal lies, poverty and despair from the Republicans and corporatist Democrats. And what America most desperately needs is medicare for all. It’s a disgrace that a massive economic and geopolitical giant like America does not provide properly funded medicine to all of its people. The claims by the Republicans and right-wing Democrats like Hillary Clinton that the country can’t afford to is a flat-out lie. Bernie’s serious about correcting this glaring injustice in American healthcare, just as Corbyn’s determined to revive and regenerate our National Health Service.

We need and deserve Corbyn to win over here, and Bernie to win in America. And then we can make a better world by destroying four decades of Thatcherism and Reaganomics.

Priti Patel and the Barbarity of the Reintroduction of the Death Penalty

July 27, 2019

Yesterday, Mike put up a piece reporting that Boris Johnson, the raging, incompetent blond beast now in charge of the government, has appointed Priti Patel as his home secretary. And she supports the reintroduction of the death penalty.

I’m not surprised. Johnson is a man of the Tory hard right, and there’s a section of the British public that has been demanding the return of the death penalty for years. I think support for capital punishment is probably spread between both parties, but I’m reasonably sure it’s much stronger in the Conservatives. This is the party that, after all, tries to project itself as the party of law and order and keeps demanding tougher sentencing for criminals. And that includes the death penalty for murder. It’s clear that Bozza is now very much appealing to that constituency with his appointment of Patel, although he himself won’t say whether he favours it himself.

I very well understand why some people want it back. There are unrepentant criminals responsible for the most sickening crimes, who do make you feel that they should pay the ultimate penalty. Like the Nazis at Nuremberg, who planned and presided over the horrific murder and torture of millions of individuals and the proposed extermination of entire races. Before Eichmann was executed he said something about regret and remorse being for the weak and inferior. Himmler in a notorious speech to the SS at the death camps actually boasted about the horrors they were committing, claiming that it was deeply moral and that though it was hard unpleasant, they would come through it with the moral character intact, still pure. With such twisted morality, such deep evil, you feel that death really is too good for them. And the same with serial killers and child murderers, like the Moors Murderers.

But as Mike showed in his piece, there are very, very strong arguments against capital punishment. Not least is the fact that innocent people have been convicted of murder in gross miscarriages of justice. This was Ian Hislop’s argument in a clip from Question Time he put up in his article, in which the editor of Private Eye mopped the floor with Patel. Hislop said that over the years his magazine had uncovered many such cases, and that if we had had the death penalty, then the people wrongfully convicted would be dead. He also pointed out that if we had it, we would also have turned some very unpleasant people into martyrs. By that, he means the various terrorists that have shot and bombed their way across Britain since the return of Irish nationalist terrorism in the 1970s. And some of those convicted of Irish Republican terrorist offences were victims of the miscarriage of justice. Like the Birmingham Six, who were wrongfully jailed for the Birmingham pub bombings. If these men had been executed for the crime, not only would the British state have killed innocent people, but that fact would have been picked up and strenuously broadcast by the IRA as yet more evidence of British oppression. And the Islamist terrorists responsible for 7/7 and other outrages see themselves as shahids – martyrs for Islam. At one level, executing them would be giving them exactly what they want. And their deaths would be used by the other zealots for propaganda, as righteous Muslims going to their eternal reward for killing the kufar.

All Patel could do in the face of this argument was bluster about being absolutely sure of the accused’s guilt before sentencing. That’s right – judges were obliged to point out to juries in murder cases during capital punishment that if they had any doubt whatsoever, they should not convict. But as Hislop then went to argue, innocent people were still convicted even with the weight of the burden of proof. And then Patel fell back on the old canard that it acted as a deterrent. There’s no evidence of that. A friend of mine, who’d actually read Pierrepoint’s memoirs, told me that Britain’s last hangman had said that in his experience, it didn’t act as a deterrent at all. According to Peter Hitchens, who is very much one of the law and order brigade – he’d like to see people jailed for drunkenness, for example – Pierrepoint changed his mind about this just before he died. But I think the evidence is that it doesn’t. In fact, it seems to encourage violence. I can remember reading in article in one of the papers back in the ’90s – the FT perhaps, or the Independent – that there’s actually a rise in violent incidents around the time of executions in the US. The article said that it was almost as though people felt that if the state could inflict violence, so could they.

I’d also argue that there are some murderers, who should be punished, but who also can be rehabilitated. When I was working as a volunteer at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, some of my co-workers were convicts at the end of their sentence. They were working towards being finally paroled and released back into the community. It was quite an experienced working with these people. Although they were murderers, they weren’t monsters. They were articulate, and often creative and highly educated. Some were so inoffensive, you wondered what circumstances led to them committing their crime. I realise that the people I knew may not be entirely representative. The Museum only took those who were genuinely willing to work there, rather than just exploit the system. And I am not suggesting for a single minute that murder should be treated leniently. I am merely arguing that there are some people responsible for this crime, who can be usefully rehabilitated after their punishment. And there may well be mitigating circumstances in individual cases that should rule out the death penalty.

And sometime, letting a murderer live and contemplate his guilt can be more terrible than simply killing them. One of the priests at my local church in south Bristol was a prison chaplain. He told us once how a murderer in one of the prisons in which he ministered told him one day, that he had no idea how difficult it was for the prisoner to live with the knowledge of what he’d done.

Way back in the 12th century, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the cleric who wrote the constitution for the Knights Templars, once saved a murderer from execution. He had him taken down from the scaffold. When the crowd objected, he told them he was going to take the man to do something far harder than simply being killed, and led him off to become a monk. This was during the great age of monastic reform, when life in some of the new orders being founded was very hard.

Many of the early Christians under the Roman Empire also had very strong views against the judicial system and its punishments. They objected to the death penalty, because Our Lord had been unjustly condemned to death by the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, Christians had no choice but to adopt and become responsible for the trial and punishment of criminals. But some bishops and clergy remained firmly against it to the end. One clergyman stated that he could not see how any Christian could have a man tortured or sentenced to death, and then lie back in ease and luxury on cushions afterwards. The Christians, who object to the death penalty are heirs to this tradition.

The reintroduction of the death penalty cannot be justified, not least because of the very real danger of wrongful conviction. By appointing Patel, one of its supporters, Johnson has shown how amoral he is in pandering to such vindictive populism. He, Patel and the other horrors in his cabinet are an affront to British justice. Get them out!

The Tories and Blairites Cannot Be Trusted to Defend the NHS from Trump

June 11, 2019

Last week the orange generalissimo managed to cause massive offence and outrage on his state visit here. And it wasn’t just for merely being present, although that was certainly a major factor in the protests his visit provoked. No, Trump and his spokesman were touting for a trade deal with Britain after Brexit. And he demanded that ‘everything should be on the table’, including healthcare.

Which means the NHS.

MPs from all sides of the House immediately swung into action to condemn the Fascist cheeto’s demands that the NHS should be opened up to private American healthcare companies. There were a string of high profile Tory MPs, including former health secretary Andrew Lansley, loudly denouncing Trump’s demand, and stating that they weren’t going to include the NHS as part of the Brexit deal and were going to defend this most precious of British institutions. Lansley in particular was scathing about Trump’s opposition to the way the NHS controlled drug prices. He was afraid that if Trump has his way, this would be discarded to allow predatory American pharmaceutical companies to charge excessive and unaffordable prices for needed drugs.

He’s absolutely right.

One of the current scandals with the American private, insurance-driven healthcare system is that the drug companies can and do charge whatever they like for their products, which means that these are often beyond the ability of ordinary Americans to afford. I’ve blogged on here about a piece from The Young Turks about how Americans are hoarding drugs or buying those intended for animals from vets because they can’t afford them. And the worst example of a drug company actually raising prices is the case of Martin Shkreli. When he took over one company, he raised the price of an anti-AIDS drug to well over $300 a pill. He said he only wanted rich Americans to be able to use it, not poor Indians. He was rightly massively vilified for his gross racism and profiteering, but continued to defend himself, as he really couldn’t see that he had done anything wrong.

But while it’s heartening to see all these politicians stand up to defend the health service, I don’t believe them. With one exception, of course: Jeremy Corbyn. The Tories and the Blairites simply can’t be trusted to defend the NHS because they haven’t done it up to now. Indeed, they’ve done the exact opposite, all the while denying it.

Remember how Maggie Thatcher loudly declared that the NHS was ‘safe with us’, and she would keep her wretched claws off it. She even put it in her memoirs, denouncing the claims of the Labour party that she was planning to privatise the health service as lies. But she herself was lying. Cabinet minutes released a couple of years ago showed that she very much wanted to privatise the NHS. She was only stopped because of a massive cabinet revolt and the fact that her Personal Private Secretary, Patrick Jenkin, had visited the US and had seen personally what a travesty American private healthcare was.

So she satisfied herself with cutting its budget and trying to encourage Brits to take out private health insurance instead. She was aiming for about 11 per cent of the British population to take out such insurance.

She was followed by John Major, whose health secretary Peter Lilley was, I believe, one of the others who attacked Trump’s demand for a slice of NHS action. But Lilley was responsible for the Private Finance Initiative, under which private firms were to be allowed to bid for NHS contracts and building and running hospitals in partnership with the government. It was deliberately introduced with the intention of opening up the health service to private healthcare companies. And Lilley was advised in his health policies by John Lo Casio of the American private health insurance fraudster, Unum.

Well, the government changed with Labour’s 1997 electoral victory, but the Thatcherite privatisation of the NHS remained on course. Blair was an unashamed Thatcherite, and she had reciprocated his feelings by calling him and New Labour her greatest achievement. Blair also took over Lo Casio and Unum as his advisers on health policy, and continued the stealth privatisation of the NHS. The Community Care Groups of GPs he set up to contract in healthcare services were given the power to purchase it from the private sector and to raise funding privately themselves. The health centres and polyclinics he set up were to be run by private healthcare firms, like Circle Health, BUPA and Beardie Branson’s Virgin Health. NHS contracts, including out of hours services in many regions were privatised and the contracts awarded to private healthcare firms.

And yes, American healthcare firms were among them. Private Eye reported how Blair was surrounded by American public sector contractors, all lobbying for their share of British state business. Like the private American prison company, Wackenhut. And this included private healthcare companies. Blair was particularly impressed by the private American healthcare provider, Keyserpermanente, which he thought provided better value for money than the traditional NHS structure. It doesn’t, but that was ignored, and the American company provided the model for his NHS reforms. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wanted the NHS to become nothing but a kitemark for services provided by private companies.

And this continued under David Cameron and Tweezer. Despite the loud shouts by Lansley and Jeremy Hunt that they ‘treasure’ the NHS, both of them preferred private healthcare and previously stated that they wanted the NHS effectively abolished and the lines blurred between state and private provision. There’s also a solid block of Tory politicians that would like the NHS sold off completely. Like the Devon Tory MEP, Daniel Hannan, dubbed by Guy Debord’s Cat ‘the Lyin’ King’ because of his gross mendacity. The majority of NHS contracts are being awarded to private healthcare firms, rather than kept in-house, and they have been angling to win the contracts for whole regions. Which brings the complete privatisation of the NHS even closer.

Andrew Lansley’s convoluted Health and Social Care Act of 2012 also enabled its privatisation by removing the obligation of the health secretary to provide healthcare to everyone in the UK, which had been a statutory requirement since the founding of the NHS in 1948. The Tories have also consistently voted to introduce charges for certain NHS services. Mike over at Vox Political has frequently given the voting record of some of the worst Tories, who have not only done this, but also supported other attacks on the poor like cutting welfare services, raising tuition fees and supporting the bedroom tax.

And I don’t trust the Lib Dems either. They went into coalition with the Tories and did absolutely nothing as their partners in government continued to attack the welfare state and the NHS. Indeed some of them, like the former MP for Taunton Dean, strongly supported it.

I have to say that I think that the outrage from the Tories at Trump’s demands is largely hypocritical. They’d very much like to make a deal with Trump, that includes the NHS along with other essential services that should only be run by the state. But, as with the cabinet revolt against Thatcher, they’re afraid that if they agree, they will be voted out in a devastating landslide, possibly never to get back into power.

The only person, who can be trusted to defend the NHS and keep it safe from Trump and the other privatisers, is Jeremy Corbyn.

Don’t trust the Tories. They still want to and  are privatising the NHS. Nor the Lib Dems or ‘Centrist’ Labour, who are exactly the same. The only real hope of defending and reviving the NHS is with Corbyn and the victory of a genuine, socialist Labour party at the next election. 

UN Calls for Inquiry into Torture by British Troops in Iraq

May 21, 2019

Saturday’s issue of the I had this article, ‘UN calls for inquiry into torture by Army’ on page 2, which runs

A United Nations body has called for an inquiry into allegations of unlawful killings, torture and ill-treatment by British troops in Iraq. The Committee against Torture, which monitors the implementation of the convention against torture, said the UK should “refrain from enacting legislation that would grant amnesty or pardon where torture is concerned”.

This reminds me very strongly of Abu Ghraib, the US interrogation and detention centre where it was revealed US squaddies were abusing Iraqi prisoners. As much as I’d like to believe that British troops are different and morally superior to the rest of the world, it strikes me as all too possible that some of our troops were also doing the same. Britain was involved in the secret renditions of terrorists or terrorist suspects to countries, where they could be tortured. Furthermore, it has also been revealed that the American troops and mercenaries in Iraq ran amok in a reign of terror, according to shocked American diplomats. The mercenaries ran prostitution rings and shot innocent Iraqi civilians for sport as they drove past them. It was also revealed that American troops also collaborated with Shi’a gangs in running death squads.

I don’t know, but unfortunately it wouldn’t surprise me if British troops were involved in similar atrocities. But I wonder if we will ever find out about it, considering how unwilling the mainstream media were in promoting the War in Iraq, at least in America, and the way the British state still has very strong powers to block Freedom of Information requests and any inquiries into its dodgy activities.

Islamophobe Tommy Robinson Campaigning to Become MEP in Manchester

April 26, 2019

Well UKIP and Farage’s equally noxious Brexit party, both stuffed with racists and bigots, have announced their candidates for the European elections. And they’ve now been joined by that other long-term fixture of the populist extreme right, Stephen Yaxley Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson. Robinson’s past in the EDL and the BNP mean that he’s actually forbidden by their constitution to become a member of UKIP, which is why Gerard Batten has taken him on as the party’s special adviser on Islam and prisons. Because Robinson despises Islam and has spent quite a bit of time at her majesty’s pleasure on various charges, like assault, contempt of court likely to prejudice trials, that kind of thing. As he can’t be a member of UKIP, Robinson is trying to get himself elected to the European parliament as an independent.

Last week he announced that he was planning to buy his own political battle bus, equipped with screens outside and inside, so he could bring his message of hate to the British public directly without being banned by the authorities or having his videos taken down by YouTube and the other social media companies. And he’s appealed to his followers to send him their hard-earned cash so he can buy it. On Thursday he began his campaign to become the MEP for England’s north-west region in Wythenshawe, a suburb of Manchester. He chose the place because it’s where many of the support workers for Manchester airport live. He claimed that the local people had been forgotten and betrayed at every level, and the Labour party no longer represented ‘who we are’, and called for people to stop supporting them and turn to him instead. He was introduced by Ann-Marie Waters, the struggling Fuhrerin of For Britain, another far right, Islamophobic party. For Britain’s members, according to Hope Not Hate, are former BNP and EDL storm troopers, who are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Water’s leadership.

Robinson began his campaign with a barbecue on Brownley Green, opposite the local Methodist church. And the locals really didn’t want him to turn up. He was asked not to come by the local Christian, Jewish and Muslim community leaders. Wythenshawe Community Housing Group told Robinson that the green is their land, and they were refusing him permission to use it. Madeleine Monaghan stated that the area was unsuitable for large gatherings as it was in an area of family homes, with narrow streets, children and old people. Nevertheless, Robinson ignored them and went ahead anyway.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/tommy-robinson-barbecue-banned.html

In the event only 300 local people turned up. And the cops, who informed Robinson he may have broken electoral law. This forbids politicians from offering money or other gifts to induce people to vote for them. It’s a law which was passed in the 19th century to stamp out the corruption of 18th century politics, including the rotten and pocket boroughs controlled by a single landlord. Politicalite also issued a tweet stating that the event was hosted by the Australian News Network, aka Avi Yemini. Yemini is an unindicted Australian-Israeli war criminal. He boasts of having shot unarmed Arabs when he was a soldier in the IDF. He is also not a British national. It is also against electoral law for political parties and candidates to be sponsored by foreign individuals and organisations. As there was a complaint against UKIP for handing out free sausage rolls at one of their electoral rallies a few years ago, Robinson may well find himself up before the Electoral Commission trying to explain himself.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/tommy-robinson-campaign-may-have-broken.html

See also this piece by Hope Not Hate, who have also started a campaign to stop him.

Stephen Lennon wants to go to Brussels

A vote for Robinson is a vote for Fascist thuggery, no exaggeration. He’s campaigned with the Football Lads’ Alliance, an organisation of football hooligans. And his method of dealing with his opponents on social media is to turn up mob-handed with his storm troopers at all hours of the day and night at the homes of his detractors and their families. He’s done it to the good blogger at Zelo Street, to historian and anti-racist YouTuber Mike Stuchbery, and to an unnamed blogger in Luton. In the latter case, Robinson drove all the way from his own home in Luton to the man’s parents’ home in Cumbria, arriving in the early hours of the morning.

This isn’t how proper, democratic politicians behave. It’s how the squadristi of Mussolini’s Fascists behaved in Italy, and Hitler’s Nazi thugs. It’s the tactics of the secret police of totalitarian states, like Stalin’s KGB, the Nazis’ Gestapo and Mussolini’s OVRA. Quite apart from Robinson’s own message of hatred against innocent, law-abiding Muslims, simply for being Muslims.

He is, along with Batten’s UKIP and Farage’s Brexit Party, a threat to democracy and the peace and safety of ordinary British citizens. In the event, only 300 local people actually turned up. Let’s hope the next time he invades an area looking for votes, local people also recognise him for what he is. And support British democracy by staying away or protesting against him.

Don’t Be Fooled: Farage’s Brexit Is Still a Far-Right Nasty Party

April 26, 2019

Nigel Farage has also unveiled his new anti-EU vehicle, the Brexit Party. They’re currently eating UKIP alive at the polls as old UKIP supporters abandon the party because of Batten’s embrace of far right controversialists and racists, like Mark Meechan, Carl Benjamin and Tommy Robinson. But while UKIP have lurched towards the far right in pursuit of relevance and seeking new members, even under Nigel Farage it had a reputation for racism and contacts with the Fascist right. This was despite the party’s constitution absolutely forbidding it from accepting anyone, who had previously been in a racist or Fascist party. Which is why Tommy Robinson, who was formerly in the EDL and BNP, can only be Batten’s special adviser, not an actual member.

Zelo Street this week has also put up a very timely piece going through the Brexit party’s candidates and leading members, to show just how nasty they also are. They include Bill Etheridge, who is a friend of the White Pendragons, a Fascist group who turned up at a rally against London mayor Sadiq Khan complete with a gallows. They claim they aren’t racist, but this is somewhat contradicted by their reason for objecting to Khan being mayor: he’s a Muslim. And despite claims to the contrary, there is nothing playful about carting round a gibbet like you really are threatening to lynch someone. Etheridge himself was forced out of the Tory party and joined UKIP after he and his wife posted pictures of themselves on Facebook posing with golliwogs in 2011. And his former girlfriend, Lorraine Chew, called him a ‘dirty, disgusting cheat’ believing he was having an affair, after finding a half-used tube of Viagra in his car.

Also joining the party is Lance Forman, who has previously been a member of far-right group Turning Point UK. This is British branch of the American ultra-conservative organisation Turning Point. They provoked controversy a few weeks ago when Black American conservative activist, Candace Owens, declared that Hitler wasn’t a nationalist, but a globalist, and that he would have been all right had he stuck to Germany. Which is very, very obviously offensive, dangerous nonsense.

They were also joined by Claire Fox, who is supposed to be a woman of the Left. She isn’t. She’s a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Zelo Street states that RCP lost a lawsuit in the ’90s against ITV News at the same time they were denying the Srebrenica massacre by the Serb forces during the war in Bosnia. The Revolutionary Communist Party were always a disgusting organisation. Francis Wheen in his book on paranoia in the 1970s, Strange Days Indeed, states that their leader actually encouraged the lawlessness and violence during their training camps, in which a Black man was stabbed to death and a girl raped, because he wanted to make his members hard and tough ready for the revolution. After leaving the RCP, Fox became a member of the Libertarian far right. Yep, she’s another who wants to privatise everything and destroy the welfare state. She also allegedly defended Gary Glitter’s right to download images of child abuse.

And then there’s the Fuhrage himself, whom the great man of Crewe succinctly describes thus:

Nigel Farage, expenses cheat, the MEP whose European Parliament attendance record is one of the worst of all 750 or so MEPs. Nigel Farage, who wants the NHS replaced by something more in line with the wishes of his pals in the USA. Nigel Farage who has been named in Congress as the go-between who delivered that memory stick to the Ecuadorian embassy. Nigel Farage who endorsed Roy Moore.

Roy Moore is the American Republican politico, who has been credibly accused of a string of sexual assaults against underage girls.

And now the party also boasts former Tory cabinet minister Anne Widdicombe, who supported manacling women prisoners, even when they were in hospital giving birth.

As Zelo Street says, the Brexit party really is the new nasty party.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/04/nigel-farage-new-nasty-party.html

Farage Ready to Launch New Brexit Party?

February 5, 2019

Buried in the pages of the I last week – I’m afraid I can’t quite remember when – was the news that Nigel Farage, the quondam Fuehrer of UKIP, is preparing a new party ready to fight for a proper Brexit. Or rather, what he sees as a proper Brexit, which is properly going to be quite different from most normal people’s idea. Farage declared that people were disappointed in the government’s handling of Britain’s departure from the EU, and he had a new party almost ready to enter the next election to fight for something better. The new party had nearly 7 million pounds of funding as well as legions of candidates ready to field.

This piece of earth-shattering non-news was reported in a small article dwarfed by much bigger reports of the government’s and Labour’s actions and policies on the same and facing page. Which is probably why it doesn’t seem to have caused much sensation. I haven’t really been looking for any news about it, but I haven’t seen anyone else on the blogs I usually follow, including Mike, talking about this latest promise to revitalize British politics.

And I’m not surprised. We’ve been here before. Remember all those years ago round about 2004 when Robert Kilroy-Silk announced he was a launching a new party to campaign against foreign immigration and demand Britain leave the EU? Which I think had the backing of Joan Collins, now living in France. Kilroy caused immense anger with his bigoted remarks about foreigners in general, and specifically about Arabs and Muslims. This in turn gave the British public immense amusement when a couple of rightly offended Muslims poured ordure over him as he was filmed opening his mouth to spout xenophobic bilge and leading questions. For all the outrage and controversy Kilroy caused, his party went absolutely nowhere. It fizzled out, and vanished without a trace. The same is likely to happen very soon with UKIP, and is almost certain to happen with the Fuhrage’s new outfit, whatever the former Kipper generalissimo may say to the contrary.

Farage, one of his books was titled Flying Free, departed UKIP claiming that it was now too racist for him. But under Farage the party was hardly a haven of multicultural tolerance and gender equality. It contained more than its fair share of racists and former members of the Fascist right, as well as homophobes, Muslim-haters and anti-feminists, if not out-and-out misogynists. And there were claims that Farage himself was just as bigoted, going right back to the time he was a public schoolboy. Anti-racists, LGBTQ activists and feminists didn’t just protest his party, but also him. Like on one occasion when a group of the above, including Muslims and drag queens turned up at a pub in which he planned to have a lunch time pint and began protesting against him. Which included the Muslims praying to show that they were no threat to anyone and were the victims of his and his party’s prejudice. Farage’s party won’t be treated any differently, if it every launches. Which is a very good question.

UKIP was always a single issue party. It stood for Britain’s departure from the EU. Other policies, like the bigotry and racism were simply additions, although I’ve know doubt that to many Kippers they were fundamental reasons for their joining. But the fundamental issue at UKIP’s core, its very raison d’etre, was simply Brexit. And that was achieved, more or less, when the Leave campaign won. The referendum was called by the Tories, who were then re-elected as the governing party – unfortunately – and who then began the consequent botched negotiations and stupid, self-interested politicking that has produced the current mess. UKIP had been given what they primarily wanted, and were shut out of the whole process. As a result, they started to decline. Rapidly.

And it’s because they’re irrelevant that Kipperfuehrer Batten has now lurched even further, or just most obviously, to the far right. He’s taken on veteran islamophobe, former BNP member and jailbird Tommy Robinson as his advisor on Islam and prison reform, Tommy Robinson, and right-wing YouTube personalities Mark ‘Count Dankula’ Meechan and Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin because he thinks they’ll bring in more members. The unnamed Kipper official, who tried to dissuade Benjamin from joining in the leaked audio recording told him that they wanted Robinson in, because he was likely to bring with him also several thousand of his followers, who would take the whole process of campaigning and leafleting seriously. Unlike, it has to be said, Sargon, who was personally uninterested in actively campaigning for the party except for the content on his blog, and whose followers showed how seriously they took real political activism by getting smashed in a pub and shouting ‘Free Kekistan!’ out the window at passing cars. Sargon, Dankula and Robinson are notorious bigots, and I’ve put up a video of one, non-racist Kipper railing angrily against their joining, who made it very clear that Batten had destroyed the party for him and he wanted to leave. And somehow I don’t think for a moment that he’s alone.

Batten undoubtedly is going to lose members. But before the Kipper leadership resorted to appealing to extremists, they tried a more moderate approach. A year or so ago they were also claiming that Brexit wasn’t being delivered properly, and issued their demands for their view of how it all ought to be done. And no-one was remotely interested. Hence, presumably, Fuehrer Batten’s decision to try recruiting people even more openly extreme than many of the existing members. It’s a desperate tactic to halt the party’s dwindling membership and prevent its decline into total irrelevance and obscurity.

And I predict the fate of Farage’s proposed new party will be absolutely no different. Always assuming it ever gets launched, of course.

And speaking of electoral irrelevance and obscurity, what happened to this new, shiny centrist party that Blair was backing and which was supposedly ready to launch? You know, the one that was supposed to have rich corporate donors, and which was ready to accept all the right-wing Blairite Labour MPs ready to defy Corbyn and depart en masse from the party? The exciting new party that was later revealed to have no real policies and a miniscule membership, which got even smaller before it was ever launched when one of its disgruntled founders picked up his ball and walked out. It was supposedly all set and ready to go early last year, if not before. But now it’s February 2019, and we’ve not heard a dicky bird from them since. Though the right-wing Labour MPs are muttering once again about departing. But not, apparently, to that new party, which seems to have died the death before it ever got going.

Pretty much as we can expect Farage’s party to do.

Bakunin on the Sociological Origins of Crime

December 28, 2018

Here’s another passage from the anarchist Bakunin that’s still very relevant today, in Tory-run Britain. Bakunin was strongly impressed by sociology, and believed, like the French philosophes of the Enlightenment, that humanity and society were governed by laws. So strong was this belief, that he rejected free will completely. I very much reject this philosophical stance, along with his atheism and denial of divine providence, which he claimed made science impossible.

Humans do have free will and not just meat machines, running according to a set of biological or sociological imperatives, and while sociology is a powerful tool for investigating the basis of society and suggesting solutions to social problems, it’s very different from the natural sciences based on experiment and prediction. People are still responsible for their actions. Nevertheless, sociological influences are a powerful cause of crime. Bakunin discusses this in his piece ‘All Round Education’, quoting the stastician Lambert Queteler on the sociological origins of crime, which he believed were completely responsible for its incidence. Bakunin writes

A science of statistics is possible only because of this natural and social inevitability. This science is not satisfied with ascertaining and enumerating social facts but looks for their links to and correlation with the organization of society. Criminal statistics show, for example, that in a given country, in a given town, over a period of ten, twenty, thirty or more years, the same crime or misdemeanor occurs every year in the same proportion [to the total], if the fabric of society has not been altered by political and social crises. Even more remarkably, a given modus operandi recurs from year to year in the same proportion, for example, the number of poisonings, knifings, and shootings, as well as the number of suicides committed one way or another, are almost always the same. This led the famous Belgian statistician Quetelet to utter the following memorable words: ‘Society prepares the crimes while individuals merely carry them out.’

In Robert E. Cutler, Mikhail Bakunin: From Out of the Dustbin: Bakunin’s Basic Writings 1869-1871 (Ann Arbor: Ardis 1985), p. 122.

Now I can remember one of the postgraduate archaeological students at Bristol University making much the same point as Bakunin in a talk she gave explaining her research into the physical structure of one of Bristol’s historic hospitals. She said that the total number of prison and mental hospitals tends to remain the same, although the proportions of people going to one or the other changes. She went on to discuss the beneficial effects of natural light and contact with the natural world in healing hospital patients and reforming criminals. Despite pressures from government across the political spectrum to cut costs in the prison service and abolish them, prison farms have remained because of their demonstrably strong influence in reforming convicts.

At present, Britain is suffering a very high incidence of crime and suicide. The media has reported the shocking number of knife crimes in the capital. There has been a rise in hate crime, not just against ethnic minorities, including Muslims, but also against the disabled. Suicides have also increased, and as Mike, Stilloaks, Tom Pride and so many other left-wing and disability rights bloggers have pointed out, these have included disabled people, who were left in misery and starvation due to being thrown off their benefits. Several left notes explicitly stating that they were ending their lives due to sanctions by DWP, or being judged ‘fit for work’ under the Work Capability Tests.

Predictably, the Tories have held up their hands and claimed that there is no absolutely no link between their shabby, degrading and vicious welfare policies and the tragic deaths of these people.

This is a lie. The anti-immigration rhetoric and stance of many of the leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign, and anti-EU parties and organisations like UKIP has led to an increase in racist hate crime. And the Tories are also responsible for stoking this hostility through their campaigns to get illegal immigrants to turn themselves, their attempt to deport the Windrush generation, despite the fact that they had a perfect right to stay in Britain, and the racist and islamophobic comments of many of their members. Like Boris Johnson and his wretch article describing women wearing the niqub as looking like dustbins and letterboxes. Only a tiny minority of Muslim women wear it, and many pro-Muslim political figures, like George Galloway are opposed to it. But Galloway also believed that women had a right to wear it, and condemned Johnson’s comments as racist. He was also bitterly critical of Johnson’s remarks along with many other people, including Mike on his blog, because after Johnson made them attacks on women wearing the burka increased. At least woman was killed. Despite this, the Tories concluded that BoJo’s article wasn’t racist, but ‘tolerant’ and ‘respectful’.

There have also been vicious attacks on the homeless and the disabled, again due to Tory policies and the rabid right-wing press, which demonizes the poor and the unemployed as scroungers and the disabled as malingerers. Thanks to rags like the Scum and the Heil, people believe that a quarter of all benefit claims are fraudulent, while the reality is that fake claims account for less than 1 one per cent of them.

The crime figures, and particularly the increase in hate crimes, clearly shows that the Tories have had a disastrous effect on British society, making it more suspicious, hateful and violent. Individuals are still responsible for the crimes they commit, but Quetelet’s and Bakunin’s views are correct. Society is a powerful influence in the amount of crime and suicide.

And the conclusion is undeniable: the Tories have prepared these crimes by deliberately creating a society where they are carried out, however much they scream and try to deny it. They have to be got out, before they cause any more attacks and deaths of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.