Posts Tagged ‘Privatisation’

Excellent! Motion Coming Before Bristol South Labour Party Condemning Academies

June 10, 2021

Next week Bristol South Labour constituency Labour party is holding its monthly meeting. One of the issues to be discussed is a motion that’s already been passed by the Knowle branch condemning the academy schools and Ofsted. The introduction to this motion runs

Knowle Ward believes that the purpose of education is to enable our  children to develop an informed and independent voice, to prove to  students that their lives are valuable, and that the achievements of  each and every school, college and university leaver in the country, at  whatever level, shall have a genuine and lasting meaning. To this end  we call upon the leadership of the party to seize the initiative, and  include in its election manifesto the replacement of the privatised  Academy system with a return to a local control of education policy,  the replacement of OFSTED with a politically independent system of  inspection, a new determination that sport, music, drama and art be  seen as fundamental to a successful education, and, crucially, to insist  that each of our communities shall have its own, independent and  single place of learning, representing the needs of that community,  and celebrating its particular identity.

I fundamentally and wholeheartedly support this motion, and intend to vote for it at the meeting. The academies are a massive fraud and waste of public money. Indeed there’s a book published about them, when Tory Tony Blair was introducing the wretched things, that called them exactly that: The Great Academy Fraud. They are no more successful than ordinary state schools are, if those state schools had the millions spent on them that the academies have had. There have been issues with the educational content taught in those schools, such as Creationism and very hard-line, narrow and intolerantly religious norms in some Muslim schools. Other problems include very repressive discipline that has humiiated school children. For example, children have soiled themselves when they have been refused permission to use the toilet and girls have not been allowed to change their sanitary towels. Quite often their academic achievements have been at the expense of less intelligent children, or kids with behavioural problems. They find reasons to exclude them while keeping the more intelligent and disciplined children. It really is selective education.

As for the recognition that sport, music, drama and art also form a fundamental part of education, this should be automatically accepted as true. Since the educational reforms of the 19th century it was recognised that proper education meant a broad, humanistic education that should cultivate all areas of the minds and characters of the developing sprogs. Sport was included in the curriculum along with PE because children’s physical health is important, and organised sport is supposed to be character-building. But the humanities have been sidelined as successive governments have pushed the STEM subjects at their expense. Now there are warnings that this short-sighted policy is actually a serious danger to Britain’s cultural industries.

It’s about time the academy chains were closed down. They were a failure when Thatcher and Kenneth Baker tried introducing them in the 1980s. The Tories were actually closing them down, but Blair fished them out of the dustbin of crappy neoliberal ideas, revamped them, and set them off again. And children’s education has suffered as a result. Schools need to be brought back under local authority control.

But I have no doubt that this will be opposed by Starmer and the Blairite bureaucracy, as it’s a Tory policy so it must be right. And besides, there’s all that money to be made from corporate donations.

So expect anyone supporting this to be accused once again of being a Trotskyite or Commie.

No, Blair – Wokeness Didn’t Cost Labour the Elections, You Did

May 12, 2021

The recriminations from last week’s elections continue. Unindicted war criminal Tony Blair crawled out from whichever stone he’s been hiding under since leaving office to give his tuppence worth on the reasons Labour did so badly. The headline from one of the papers says that he blames ‘wokeness’ and warns that Labour could ‘cease to exist’. Well, many people are saying the latter. And one of the reasons for its poor performance and disengagement with the working class isn’t ‘wokeness’, the new term that’s overtaken ‘political correctness’ to describe anti-racism, feminism, and an attitude against forms of prejudice, but Blair himself.

Let’s start with an obvious issue that united people across the political spectrum. Blair launched an illegal war against Iraq as part of George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terror’. Saddam Hussein was supposed to have aided Osama bin Laden. He hadn’t, but Blair put pressure on the intelligence services and falsified evidence – he ‘sexed up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ – to show that Hussein had. Hussein was a monster who butchered his own people, but he hadn’t moved out of Iraq since his failed invasion of Kuwait. Experts on the Middle East said that there he was regarded as a joke. The real reason for Bush and Blair’s invasion was partly to defend Israel, because Hussein occasionally funnelled aid to the Palestinians whenever he felt like it, but mostly to grab the Iraqi oil reserves. They’re the biggest in the Middle East outside Saudi Arabia. They also wanted to steal Iraqi state enterprises, while the Neocons were keen on turning the country into the low-tax, free trade state they wanted to create in America. The result has been chaos, sectarian bloodshed, war crimes, and the destruction of the Iraqi economy and secular society.

Despite the loud backing of hacks from the Groaniad, millions of ordinary Brits knew better. Two million people, including one of the priests at my local church, marched in protest. Blair shrugged it off and the invasion went ahead. It was contrary to international law, and there have been abortive efforts to have Blair and Bush arrested for their crimes and tried in the Hague. The Tory party opposed the war, as did the Spectator. I think in many cases this was just simple opportunism and opposition for the sake of being seen to oppose, as when they’re actually in power, there doesn’t seem to be a war the Tories don’t like. But some Tories, to be fair, were serious. The right-wing journalist Peter Hitchens honestly despises the ‘Blair creature’ for the way he sent our courageous young men and women to their deaths for no reason. People chanted ‘Blair lied, people died’. Absolutely. But somehow he’s being treated as some kind of respectable statesman.

And it was Blair who started the British working class’ disillusionment with Labour. He was far more interested in capturing Tory votes and those of swing voters. Under him, the party became pro-private enterprise, including the privatisation of the NHS, and continued Thatcher’s dismantlement of the welfare state. It was Blair who introduced the ‘work capability tests’ for the disabled and continued Thatcher’s programme of making the process of claiming unemployment benefit as humiliating and degrading as possible in order to deter people from signing on. But he retained the party’s commitment to anti-racism and feminism as some kind of vestige of the party’s liberalism. The result has been that large sections of the White working class felt that they were being deliberately ignored and abandoned in favour of Blacks and ethnic minorities. This is the constituency that then voted for UKIP, and which I dare say has now gone over to supporting Boris Johnson’s Tories.

As far as ‘wokeness’ goes, yes, the shrill, intolerant anti-racism and feminism is off-putting. I am definitely no fan of Black Lives Matter, but it has immense support amongst British Blacks and Asians because of the deprivation of certain parts of those communities. Labour BAME supporters also felt abandoned because of Starmer’s tepid, offhand support for it, and his protection of those credibly accused of racist bullying. They started leaving the party as well.

The Labour party did badly at the elections not because of the lingering influence of Jeremy Corbyn, but because of Blair’s abandonment of the White working class, and Starmer’s contemptuous attitude towards the party’s non-White supporters.

Labour may well be on the verge of ceasing to exist, but it won’t start winning in England again unless to rejects Blairism and returns to proper, traditional Labour values and policies.

One Struggle: The People Oppressing the Indian Farmers Are Also Donors to the British Tories

May 5, 2021

As I’ve mentioned previously, last Friday I went to a Virtual pre-May Day rally on Zoom, put on as part of the Arise festival of left Labour ideas. It lasted for nearly an hour and a half, and featured great speakers from across the world, including our own Jeremy Corbyn. The international guests included Daniele Obono, a Black socialist politician from across the Channel in France, and peeps from Ghana, India and Latin America. They spoke about how people everywhere had to fight against exploitation from their own national elites, as well as combating racism, colonialism and the legacy of slavery. One of the speakers graphically showed how the poor African countries are very much at the mercy of the big multinationals with a story about Kenya and Vodaphone. The Kenyan government had asked the phone company not to give its shareholders their dividends this year, because the pay out would bankrupt the African nation.

I was also very much interested in the talk by an Indian lady about the appalling policies of Modi’s Hindu Supremacist government. This is the Indian nationalist BJP, which is extremely right-wing and bitterly intolerant of Islam, Christianity and Sikhism, as well as liberal Hindus, who believe in a secular, tolerant, pluralist India. The BJP are trying to privatise the state purchasing mechanism for the agricultural sectors. This was set up to guarantee a fair price to India’s farmers. However, the BJP are neoliberals and so want to hand it over to private entrepreneurs. This will force down prices, sending millions of farmers into abject poverty. There have been mass demonstrations and strikes against it right across India. She said that it’s the biggest protest movement in the world, number 250 million people. And Modi and his crew have reacted brutally, sending the police in to break up the protests, beat demonstrators and arrest the journalists covering them.

And guess what? Some of the businessmen backing Modi’s privatisation are also donors to the Tories over here.

This also shows how multinational capital is operating across the globe to impoverish and exploit working people.

A few months ago we had as guest speaker at a Virtual meeting of my local Labour party here in Bristol a member of Sikh community to talk about Modi’s attacks on the Indian farmers. Most of the farmers affected are Sikh, and so there are Sikh charities in this country which are giving aid to their coreligionists in India.

But it’s also very clear that working people across the world also need to unite to tackle the poverty and oppression created by capitalism because of the impact of globalisation. I am very definitely not a Communist, but Marx made this very clear in the slogan on the Communist Manifesto.

We really do need the workers of the world to unite. Because if we don’t, we will be in chains.

Election Promises of Labour and TUSC Candidates in Bristol Mayoral Elections

April 23, 2021

Down here in Bristol we not only have elections for the city council looming, but also for the elected mayor and police and crime commissioner. Because of health issues, not just my own but also other members of my family, we’ve arranged to have postal votes. The ballot papers arrived the other day, and enclosed with them were booklets produced by the local authority explaining the voting procedure, answering various FAQs and giving policy statements and promises from the candidates. Not only does Bristol have a Labour candidate, the present elected mayor Marvin Rees, but there’s also one from the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, Tom Baldwin. Here’s their election promises from the booklet for the mayoral election.

Mayor Marvin’s runs

Delivering for Bristol

Building a City of Hope

It is an honour to serve as Mayor of Bristol, the city I am proud to be from and where I am bringing up my family.

Together we have led Bristol in the face of the pandemic, economic downturn, social change and instability, and climate change, with the added uncertainty of Brexit. Many of us have experienced real loss this year, as people have come together like never before to support each other.

Working with partners all over Bristol, we are building a city where nobody is left behind underpinning our ambition with compassion and our commitment to sustainability. We are focused on protecting and creating jobs, and delivering for residents, we are creating jobs by bringing employers like Channel 4 to our city, bringing hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment into Bristol, and delivering our mass transit system.

Together, against the odds, we are making a difference.

On 6 May, we are proudly standing on our record of delivery – including all our 2016 pledges and more. With your support, we can all keep building a more sustainable, inclusive, and ambitious Bristol: our City of Hope.”

There then follows a list of what Labour has already achieved.

“9,000 new homes, tripling affordable house-building, rough sleeping down 80%

12,000 work experiences and £9m for south Bristol construction skills centre.

99 new biogas buses, RPZ fees frozen, 75 miles of segregated cycleways

Kept all our libraries and children’s centres open

Building new schools, creating mental health training and free breakfast clubs

Best core city for recycling, deep-cleaned 700 streets, planted 60,000 trees

Won Channel 4 relocation, invested in sport and leisure centres – giving control to communities”

This is followed by his promises for the future

“Building our underground, with free travel for apprentices and students

Protecting jobs and building a living wage city

Investing £1 billion in clean energy and doubling our trees

Investing in more schools and quality work experience

Building 2,000 new homes a year – 1,000 affordable

Investing in social care, helping older people stay in their homes.”

The pages for Tom Baldwin of the TUSC state has the statement ‘TUSC Against Cuts’, and then proceeds as follows:

“Tom says: “The pandemic has exposed the huge injustices and the divide between workers and big business. We’ve had to fight for our safety as the bosses and government put profits first. Now we have to fight to protect jobs and services as they try to make us pay for the crisis.

Bristol needs a mayor who will stand up for ordinary people. I stand for a socialist society run for people not profit.”

‘The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition organises to give a voice to working-class people who have been abandoned by the main parties. It includes the RMT union and the Socialist Party, of which Tom is a member.

Tom is 37 and lives in Aston. He is an active trade unionist and campaigner.

Bristol needs a fightback

Defend jobs and services – Vote Tom Baldwin

A Socialist mayor for the millions, not the millionaires

If elected Tom will…

  • Build a mass united struggle of workers and young people to win back the council funding taken by the government.
  • Reverse all cuts to council jobs and services, move budgets based on Bristol’s needs.
  • Oppose and reverse outsourcing and privatisation.
  • Never increase council tax, rents and charges faster than wages rise
  • Push for a publicly owned, top quality and affordable public transport network, run for need not profit
  • Address the housing crisis by building thousands of council homes and capping private rents
  • Defend the right to peaceful protest
  • Fight for decent jobs. Support all campaigns to protect safety, jobs, pay and conditions, including strike action by workers
  • Stand for jobs and homes for all. Oppose racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and all other forms of oppression and division.
  • Only take the average wage of a worker in the city, not the inflated £79,000 mayoral salary.’

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

As you know, I despise Keir Starmer and his continuing destruction of the Labour party, including the purge of left-wingers and socialists, in order to turn it into a Blairite neoliberal party. I’ve also got criticisms of the way Marvin Rees has run the city, but in general I think he’s done a good job and has been a far better mayor than his predecessor, ‘Red Trousers’ Ferguson.

I’ve been told by some of the great peeps on this blog that the TUSC were formed by the people in the Labour party, who were thrown out for opposing Blair’s cuts and policy changes, though I’ve also heard that the Socialist Party is the former Militant Tendency, a group that infiltrated and tried to take over the Labour party in the 1980s. But their policies are what the Labour party should be standing for. The mayoral elections are run according to proportional representation. I would therefore urge people to consider giving the TUSC their second vote.

If more people vote for them, to the point where it’s a significant number, perhaps the leaders of the Labour party will take note, and move the party further to the left. Or it will encourage the present Labour left to continue the struggle against the Blairites by showing them that real, socialist policies are popular and can win.

Private Eye on Johnson’s Appointment of Neocon as Anti-Extremism Chief

April 14, 2021

A few weeks ago the Labour left staged an event on Zoom in which a series of Labour MPs and activists, including the head of the Stop the War Coalition, explained why socialists needed to be anti-war. They stated that after going quiet following the debacles of the Iraq invasion, Libya and elsewhere, the Neocons were being rehabilitated. There was therefore a real danger that the ideology behind those wars was returning, and Britain and America would embark on further imperialist, colonialist wars. And now, according to this fortnight’s Private Eye, for 16th – 29th April, 2021, Boris Johnson has appointed Robin Simcox, a Neocon, as head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism. Simcox is a member of the extreme right-wing Henry Jackson Society, firmly backing the wars in the Middle East. He also supported the rendition of terrorists to countries, where they would be tortured, as well as drone strikes and detention without trial. And when he was in another right-wing American think tank, the Heritage Foundation, he objected to White supremacist organisations also being included in the American government’s efforts to counter violent extremism.

The Eye’s article about his appointment, ‘Brave Neo World’, on page 14, runs

Robin Simcox, appointed as the new head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism (CCE), has neoconservative view that will themselves seem pretty extreme to many observers. He replaces Sara Khan, the first head of the CCE, which Theresa May set up in 2017 as “a statutory body to help fight hatred and extremism”.

Simcox was researcher at the neoconservative think tank the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), before leaving for the US to become “Margaret Thatcher fellow” at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He was also a regular contributor to Tory website ConservativeHome, writing there in 2011 that David Cameron was wrong to criticise neoconservatives “what has been happening in the Middle East is proving the neocons right” (ie that invasions could build democracies.

In a 2013 study for the HJS, Simcox argued: “Rendition, drones, detention without trial, preventative arrests and deportations are the realities of the ongoing struggle against today’s form of terrorism; they are not going to disappear, because they have proved extremely effective.” Rendition meant the US and UK handing terror suspects over to nations such as Libya or Egypt so they could be tortured for information. He complained that politicians “failed to adequately explain to the public” why these methods were needed and were “failing to explain that the complexities of dealing with modern-day terrorism meant that not all roads lead to a court of law”.

Simcox spent many years looking at Islamist terrorism, but at the Heritage Foundation he argued that making “white supremacy” the subject of a “countering violent extremism policy” was mostly driven by “political correctness” and could be “overreach”, regardless of the terrorist acts by white racists in the UK, US and elsewhere.

Simcox has been appointed interim lead commissioner of the CCE, possibly because bring him in as a temp means his recruitment wasn’t subject to the same competition and inspection as a permanent appointment.

Johnson has therefore appointed as head of the commission an extreme right-winger, who supports unprovoked attacks on countries like Iraq and Libya. The argument that these invasions were intended to liberate these nations from their dictators was a lie. It was purely for western geopolitical purposes, and particularly to remove obstacles to western political hegemony and dominance of the oil industry in the region. In the case of Iraq, what followed was the wholesale looting of the country. Its oil industry was acquired by American-Saudi oil interests, American and western multinationals stole its privatised state industries. The country’s economy was wrecked by the lowering of protectionist trade tariffs and unemployment shot up to 60 per cent. The country was riven with sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia, American mercenaries ran drugs and prostitution rings and shot ordinary Iraqis for kicks. The relatively secular, welfare states in Iraq and Libya, which gave their citizens free education and healthcare vanished. As did a relatively liberal social environment, in which women were to be regarded as equals and were free to pursue careers outside the home. And western intervention in the Middle East created an environment leading to the further, massive growth in Islamist extremism in al-Qaeda and then Daesh. And this has led to the return of slavery. This was Islamist sex-slavery under Daesh in the parts of Iraq under their jackboot, while Black Africans are being enslaved and sold by Islamists in slave markets that have reappeared in Libya.

Domestically, Simcox’s appointment is also ominous. He clearly doesn’t believe in human rights and the protection of the law. Just as he doesn’t believe in tackling White supremacist extremism, even though at one point there were more outrages committed by White racists than Islamists.

His appointment is part of continuing trend towards real Fascism, identified by Mike over at Vox Political, of which the Tories proposed curtailment of the freedom to demonstrate and protest in public is a major part. At the same time, it also appears to bear out the Labour left’s statement that the warmongers responsible for atrocities like Iraq and Libya are coming back. And I fear very much that they will start more wars.

The people warning against this and organising to defend real freedom of speech is the Labour left, whatever the Tories might say about ill-thought out legislation designed to outlaw ‘hate speech’. We need to support left politicos like Richard Burgon, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Diana Abbott and Apsana Begum. The last three ladies, along with former head of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, held another Zoom event as part of the Arise festival of left Labour ideas, Our right to resist – the Tory attacks on our civil liberties & human rights, in March. We need to support the Stop the War Coalition, because I’m afraid the Tories and the Blairite right in the Labour party will start more wars.

Blair lied, people died. And Johnson lies as easily and as often as other people breathe. If not stopped, the Neocons will start more wars and more innocents will be massacred for the profit of big business.

Tory Flag-Waving Now Reaching Reaganite Proportions

April 6, 2021

Patriotism, someone once said, is the last refuge of the scoundrel. And the Tories have done their best to show how true this is, especially last week when it seemed that they wasted no opportunity to wave the flag. This also led them to generate more synthetic outrage towards the BBC. Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty raised Tory ire when Stayt joked about the relatively small size of the union flag on display during an interview with Matt Hancock or one of the other Tory ministers. This led to howls from the Tory press that the Beeb was sneering at the flag. They weren’t. They were laughing about the Tory’s sheer opportunistic use of it.

It’s no accident that they’ve started waving the flag in the weeks running up to the local elections. Their performance on health, the economy, Brexit and just about everything else has been dire. They’re still trying to privatise the health service by stealth, they insulted the nurses with a 2 per cent pay rise, which is in real terms a cut in their salaries, wages are still frozen, more people are being forced into real, grinding poverty, the queues at the food banks are as long as ever, or longer. The Brexit that Boris has been so desperate to ‘get done’ is spelling disaster for Britain’s manufacturing industry, and businesses dealing with the continent and ordinary Brits wishing to travel abroad are now faced with mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy. Bureaucracy which the Brexiteers blithely assured us wouldn’t happen. Hopefully this year will see us coming out of lockdown and the Coronavirus crisis. We’ve a far higher rate of peeps receiving the vaccine than the EU, but that shouldn’t distract attention from the colossal way the Tories have mismanaged the Covid crisis as a whole. As Mike’s pointed out in one of his articles, Tory bungling and corruption – they gave vital medical contracts to companies owned and run by their friends and supporters, rather than to firms that could actually deliver – that over 100,000 people have died of the disease. One of the good peeps on Twitter has shown how this compares to the numbers killed in some of the genocides and ethnic massacres that have plagued recent decades. And the report, which was supposed to show that Britain isn’t institutionally racist, has been torn to shreds with some of the academics cited claiming they were not properly consulted and seeking to distance themselves from it. And then there are the mass demonstrations up and down the land against their attempts to outlaw any demonstration or protest they don’t like under the guise that it would be a nuisance.

And so, with all this discontent, they’ve fallen back to Thatcher’s tactics of waving the flag at every opportunity. One of the hacks at the Absurder in the 1980s said that Britain had three parties – the patriotic party, who were the Tories, the loony party, which was Labour, and the sensible party, which was the SDP/Liberals. Which showed you the paper’s liberal bias even then. The SDP, Liberals and their successors, the Lib Dems. have sold out utterly, while after four decades of Thatcherism Michael Foot’s Labour party looks far less than loony. But the hack was right about the Tories and patriotism. Thatcher waved the flag as frantically as she could and constantly invoked the spirit of Winston Churchill and World War II. One particularly memorable example of this was the Tory 1987 election broadcast, which featured Spitfires zipping about the sky while an overexcited voice told the world ‘Man was born free’ and concluded ‘It’s great to be great again’.

Here’s another feature of Fascism that’s been adopted by the Tories to add to those on Mike’s checklist. Fascism is an ideology of national rebirth and revival. Thatcher was claiming she was making us great again, just as Donald Trump claimed he was doing for America. Just as Oswald Mosley called one of his wretched books The Greater Britain. And unfortunately, as Zelo Street has also pointed out, Fascists like the Nazis have also used people’s natural loyalty to their flag as a means of generating support for their repulsive regimes. British Fascism was no different. Mosley also made great use of the flag at his rallies, and this tactic was taken over by his successors in the National Front and BNP. This has been an embarrassment to ordinary, non-racist Brits, who simply like the flag. One of my friends at school was a mod. At the time, the union flag and British bulldog formed a large part of mod imagery without meaning that the person was a racist or White supremacist. During one of the art lessons my friend started painting a picture with those two elements – the union flag and bulldog. The teacher came over and politely asked him not to do so, as he was afraid people would like at it and come to the wrong conclusion. This was just after the 1981/2 race riots, so you can understand why. But it is frustrating and infuriating that ordinary expressions of reasonable patriotism or simple pop culture iconography have become suspect due to their appropriation by the Far Right.

But the real excesses of flag-waving were to be seen over the other side of the Pond in Reagan’s America. Reagan was wrecking his country with privatisation and an assault on what the country had in the way of a welfare state, while murdering the people of countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua by supporting Fascist dictators and their death squads. But, like Thatcher, he did everything he could to use the symbols of American nationhood. Like the Stars and Stripes. A Republican party political broadcast in 1984 or thereabouts showed the American flag being raised no less than 37 times. This was so bizarrely excessive that one of the Beeb’s foreign correspondents commented on it. As far as I am aware, no-one took him to task for sneering at it.

This flag-waving is part of the Tories attempts to present themselves as the preservers of British national identity, tradition and pride against the assaults of the left, particularly Black Lives Matter and their attacks on statues. I’m not impressed with the attacks on some of the monuments, like that of Winston Churchill, even though he was a racist. But in Bristol the only statue attacked was that of the slavery and philanthropist Edward Colston. None of the other statues in and around Bristol’s town centre of Edmund Burke, Queen Victoria, Neptune and the sailors who made my city a great port, were touched. And then there was the protest last week against the new school uniform policy at Pimlico Academy in London. This ruled out the wearing of large afro hair styles. So the students started protesting it was racist. The headmaster also raised the union flag, which led the statement from one of the students, Amna Mukhtar, that it weirdly felt like they were being colonised. And then some idiot burnt the flag in protest. The headmaster has now rescinded the school’s uniform code and taken the flag down. Now I gather that one of the Tories is now calling for every school to fly the union flag.

It all reminds me of the comments the late, great comedian Bill Hicks made when Reagan and his supporters were flying the flag and their outrage when a young member of the Communist party burned it. After making jokes about the Reaganite rage and hysteria, Hicks said that he didn’t want anyone to burn the flag, but burning wouldn’t take away freedom, because it’s freedom. Including the freedom to burn the flag.

Quite. And the Tories are wrecking our country and taking away our freedoms while cynically waving the flag.

So when they start spouting about it, use your scepticism and think of Hick’s comment instead. And vote for someone else.

Tom Mayhew Skewering the Lies about Benefit Claimants with Laughter

March 18, 2021

Okay, I finally stayed up last night to listen to Radio 4’s Tom Mayhew Is Benefits Scum. I blogged about this programme a little while ago when I first read about it in the Radio Times. I said that it looked like it was worth listening to, as it seemed that it would tell the truth about what it’s really like to live on benefits. This is as opposed to the various ‘poverty-porn’ documentaries like Benefits Street, that seek to portray everyone on welfare as a scrounger. Unfortunately, it’s on at 11.00 pm on Wednesday evenings, which is a bit past my usual bedtime. But last night I actually managed to stay up and listen to it.

It’s not long, only a quarter of an hour in length, and mixes staged recreations of meetings with Jobcentre staff and benefits advisors, and stand-up, observational comedy based on Mayhew’s own experience of the benefits system. He also had a guest performer, Francesca Inez, a disabled woman, who gave her own perspective on how unfair and humiliating the system’s treatment of the disabled is.

It started out in the Jobcentre, where Mayhew was being asked by the clerk if he had really been spending 35 hours a week looking for work. Had he gone for that job as a miner as he should have done? Going out, he found his friend Francesca lying on the floor. She had gone through the process of seeing what would be the ideal job for her, and told it was ballet dancer. She had fallen over trying to practise. Mayhew commiserated with her, telling her that the machine had told him his ideal jobs were footballer, boxer and the Queen’s butler.

This sketch led into Inez herself talking about the grotesque injustice of the benefits system. She said people ask her what should be the proper relationship between government agencies and the disabled over benefits. She said it should be a partnership between the government and the claimant’s doctor. Unfortunately, this had been scrapped by New Labour, who had decided that a sizable number of claims for disability benefit were fraudulent, and so had introduced the Work Capability Test. In fact, the proportion of fraudulent claims was 0.05 per cent, so it was in fact easier for Mayhew to get a job as a footballer than to commit benefit fraud. She asked who would seriously want to be unable to go out on their own, to go to the toilet on their or prepare their own food, all for the sake of £100 a week. She was also massively unimpressed by the clerks the Department for Work and Pensions send round to make sure that claimants really are disabled. ‘Oh, I’m just here to see if you’re still wobbly’, she imitated one saying. He reply was ‘Well, I’ll give you a wet shave, and then you tell me.’

Mayhew also attacked the sanctions system. He thought you were only sanctioned if you deliberately tried to mislead or play the system. But no! He found himself sanctioned for eight weeks simply because he’d sent the wrong form in. But he’d been told that it would take eight weeks for his case to be reviewed. How strange, then, that he had his benefits restored after only four after he’d written to him MP. He then gave a shout-out to David Gauke, a Tory, saying how weird it was that a Tory MP should actually help someone on benefit.

He argued that it was wrong to call welfare payments ‘benefits’. Benefits sounds like something extra on top of one’s wages. Instead it should be called ‘Survival Money’, because you needed it to survive. This would make it difficult to have people thrown off it as well. Depriving someone of benefits sounds much better than removing their survival money. And as for sanctions, how does being hungry make someone better at finding work?

He also joked about the massive lack of self-esteem people on benefits have. He told one story of how he’d been accosted by a man while walking back from the Jobcentre. The man had told him that he should carry himself with a bit more confidence, head held high, because if he’d been a mugger, Mayhew would have been an easy target. It was, Mayhew jested, a Virtual mugging in which he’d been robbed of his self-respect. He then told another one about a mugger marching him to a cash machine, telling him he was going to leave him with nothing. ‘How kind of him to clear my overdraft!’

More seriously, Mayhew told a chilling anecdote which showed how easy it is for desperate, starving young men to be reduced to selling their bodies for sex. He’d met someone at a gathering, and they promised to get in touch with each other again via email. A few months later he got one from this man. Mayhew replied to him, saying he was in a bad patch financially, and asked him for £50. He told him he’d be able to pay him back in two month’s time. The man replied that he couldn’t give him any money, but he would pay him £200 to have sex with him. Mayhew joked that he didn’t, as he wouldn’t do anything like that for less than £350. But for a moment he was tempted. Poverty has often forced desperate women into prostitution, but this story showed it could also happen to men.

I had a great, appreciative comment by Mayhew to my original blog piece about his programme. He asked me if I could do something to further publicise his programme, because he’d been going through the papers and hadn’t found any reviews of it. Listening to his programme, it was easy to understand why: he was too sharp, and told the truth.

Right-wing rags like the Heil, the Scum and the Depress sell copies by spreading moral panic about benefit claimants. They actively paint them as scroungers and malingerers, as does right-wing internet radio host Alex Belfield. Although rather more polite, the same attitude also pervades the Torygraph and the Times. These papers very definitely do not want their Thatcherite ideals contradicted by people, who’ve been at the sharp end of the system, showing their readers they’re perfectly decent, honest people and telling them how dysfunctional, humiliating and malign the system really is.

And unfortunately I don’t see the supposedly left-wing press being much better. The Mirror, the Graun and the Absurder have all struck me as being Blairite New Labour, who wholeheartedly embraced Thatcher’s contempt and persecution of the unemployed, the sick and the disabled. The Graun has many times urged people to vote Lib Dem in recent elections, so again, these papers won’t want their readers disabused of some of their received notions.

Added to this is the current campaign by the Tories and their lapdog press to destroy the Beeb. This is partly because the Tories depend for their propaganda on the favour of Rupert Murdoch and his papers, who hates the Beeb as an obstacle to his domination of the global media. They also hate the idea of a state TV broadcaster as part of their opposition to any kind of state intervention, as well as the idea of an impartial, public service broadcaster. Hence the attempt to set up various rivals to the Beeb by the Times.

As a result, the papers have been running stories about how the BBC is too left-wing and too ‘woke’. Belfield put up a video a day or two ago rejoicing over the cancellation of Nish Kumar’s The Mash Report. Director-General Tim Davie had supposedly cancelled it because it was too biased towards the left. Belfield went further, and claimed that the real reason it was axed was because it wasn’t funny and was helmed by a ‘box-ticker’ – his term for a person of colour or other minority, who’s been given a job because of their identity rather than talent. Kumar’s Asian, so Belfield’s comment looks just a tad racist to me. Belfield claimed that cancelling Kumar’s show wouldn’t make any difference, as the Beeb as a whole is too left-wing and needs to be privatised.

It’s obvious from this that the right-wing media, then, aren’t going to give a good review to an explicitly left-wing comedy show. I also think that class is also an issue here. New Labour, it has been pointed out, was liberal but not socialist. Blair had turned his back on the working class, and instead New Labour concentrated on trying to recruit the middle classes. The left-wing elements of New Labour ideology was a concern with combating racism and other forms of prejudice, such as against gays, and promoting feminism and better opportunities for women. I think defending and promoting the disabled is in there, so long as they are properly respectable and not benefit scroungers. Mayhew is working class, and so isn’t of interest according to New Labour ideology.

All of which means that, unfortunately, the press isn’t prepared to give a hearing to something like this. Which is a pity, as it’s very good. Mayhew tells his stories and his jokes in a normal, conversational tone. He doesn’t harangue or shout for effect, as many comedians do. And he’s actually very witty. To simulate a studio audience, the show used canned laughter because it was impossible to have a live audience due to the Coronavirus. Mayhew made a couple of jokes about how the imaginary audience hadn’t paid for their tickets. He then told how, after one gig, he’d been accosted by an unhappy audience member. Why didn’t he get a proper job instead of standing there complaining, asked the man. To which he replied, ‘Have you seen my show?’ He then commented that at least he was a Tory who had paid for his ticket. He also made jokes about other people, being paid to do nothing all day. Like MPs.

It’s a pity the shows on so late on a weekday night, as it’s a funny, necessary antidote to the constant propaganda being pumped out about benefit claimants being scroungers. I don’t know anything about Francesca Inez, but from what I heard she deserves a place with the other disabled comedians, who have appeared on TV. At the very least, she deserves an endorsement from DPAC because of the way her comedy tries to bring their concerns to public attention. The show also demonstrates very clearly why we need a public service broadcaster, as it’s only a broadcaster like the Beeb that would take a chance on a show like it.

I think it’s only a four part series, and concludes next week. If this sounds like the kind of thing that tickles your funny bone and you also agree with its message, then please tune in.

I hope this is the start of a great career for Tom Mayhew, and that the show later gets repeated in an earlier slot when hopefully more people can hear it.

The Axing of the Mash Report Won’t Satisfy the Beeb’s Right-Wing Opponents

March 13, 2021

Mike has report on his excellent blog this morning that Tim Davey, the Director-General of the Beeb, has cancelled Nish Kumar’s The Mash Report on the grounds that it was biased towards the left. Apart from further demonstrating the corporation’s own right-wing bias, it also shows Davey trying to appease the Beeb’s right-wing critics. They’re constantly attacking the Corporation for what they claim is left-wing bias, and demanding its privatisation or the removal of the license fee and its replacement by subscriptions.

Tory threats to privatise the Beeb are nothing new. Thatcher also made much noise in the 1980s about removing the license fee, and there was a debate over whether it should be funded through advertising like ITV. This stopped because most of the British public were against it. Then the Tories did it again under John Major, attacking the corporation for its supposed left-wing bias because Paxo was regularly giving them a mauling on Newsnight. This was accompanied by more threats not to renew the corporation’s charter and privatise it.

But if Davey thinks that axing the Mash Report will appease the Tories, he’s very, very much mistaken. The Tories hate the Beeb for the same reason they hate the NHS: it’s a state-run organisation, and so out of the hands of the media magnates that fund them. Like Rupert Murdoch, who views it as an obstacle to his own domination of the British media and a rival to Sky. Hence the Murdoch mafia have been running the Corporation down and taking every opportunity to attack and vilify it for the past forty years. The Tories also hate the very idea of public service broadcasting and the idea of media impartiality. Any broadcaster that does not support them absolutely is, according to them, terribly biased and an affront to British free speech. It doesn’t matter what Davey does, they will continue to attack the Beeb no matter how many supposedly left-wing presenters and programme he throws to the wolves.

This was shown very clearly in a video right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host Alex Belfield posted up about the Mash Report’s cancellation yesterday. The man dubbed Bellend by some of my commenters claimed that it was cancelled, not because it was left-wing, but because it was unfunny, had low ratings, and was hosted by ‘a box ticker’. This is the term Belfield uses for a Black or Asian person, who he believes has been given a job simply because of their colour rather than talent. Which sounds just a bit racist to me. The Corporation, he claimed, was still full of ‘woke’ lefties.

I never watched the Mash Report and can’t say I’ve seen enough of Nish Kumar to make any comment on him one way or the other. From what I saw of him he seemed pretty much like many of the other comedians the Beeb has had on over the years, neither better nor worse. But the right hated him because he was a Remainer, and dared to show how ridiculous Brexit is and the lies behind it in his act.

This is all about politics, not talent. The Conservatives and their lapdog media are determined to destroy the Beeb regardless, and it won’t matter how hard Davey tries to satisfy them by making it another Tory mouthpiece. The demands for the sacking of allegedly biased presenters, personalities and shows won’t stop with Kumar and the Mash Report.

They’ll continue until the Beeb is privatised and another right-wing broadcaster owned by Murdoch.

Bristol South Labour Party Passes Motion of Solidarity with Indian Farmers

February 16, 2021

Bristol South CLP held its monthly meeting last Thursday, and passed a number of motions. Due to the Coronavirus, these are now held over Zoom, like many meetings up and down the country generally. A number of motions were debated and passed during the meeting, one of which was solidarity with the Indian farmers. Explaining the issues was a guest speaker, Dal Singh, from the Sikh community. According to Mr Singh, the central issue is the poverty caused by the BJP’s government’s privatisation of the state purchasing apparatus for agricultural goods. The Indian government had a state organisation that bought up the farmer’s produce, giving them a fair price. But now Modi is handing this process over to private entrepreneurs, who are paying starvation prices for the produce purchased. Singh said that as a result, the farmers are going to be in debt for the rest of their lives. The farmers affected and involved in the protests aren’t all Sikhs, but Sikhs form a majority of those affected. When asked what the attitude of the Sikh community was to it, Mr Singh seemed to indicate that they were more or less resigned to it. He called it a ‘genocide’ several times, and said that Sikhs regarded it as part of the long history of their people’s suffering going back to the horrors of the partition of India and the British occupation of the Punjab. He also described how the police and armed forces were being used by the Modi government to brutalize protesters and muzzle the press, with the arrest and beating of journalists covering the protests. As well as explaining the situation, Mr Singh also gave details of charities to which people could donate to help the affected farmers, though I’m afraid I’ve forgotten what they were.

I had absolutely no problem supporting the motion. Socialists are internationalists, as the Style Council song reminds us, and we have to stand in solidarity with working people around the world. ‘Workingmen of all countries, unite!’ as Marx and Engels said in their little Manifesto. I am very pleased that others agreed, and that the motion was passed.

Someone at the meeting commented that the Indian farmers were yet more victims of Neoliberalism. Absolutely. Around the world, working people are being pushed further and further into poverty as wages are slashed, hours increased, rights at work taken away, industries privatised and deregulated. The book Falling Off the Edge, which is a critical examination of this process, the poverty it’s causing, and the violence and terrorism that it engenders as a backlash, describes very clearly how its affecting the average Indian worker. And this poverty is the creation of Modi’s BJP Hindufascist government.

Hindufascist? Yes, absolutely. The BJP is a nationalist organisation, which actively persecutes non-Hindus like Christians, Sikhs and Muslims. One of Modi’s fellow BJP politicos was the governor of a province, which took absolutely no action when pogroms broke out against the Muslim population back in the 1990s. The BJP also have connections to the RSSS, a Hindu nationalist paramilitary outfit modelled on Mussolini’s Fascists. Not only has the BJP followed the standard Neoliberal policies of privatisation, deregulation and low wages, they’ve also been trying to abolish the affirmative action programmes intended to improve the conditions of the Dalits, the former ‘Untouchables’. Debt slavery was one of the forms of exploitation and servitude that afflicted many Indians, and Mr Singh’s comment that Modi’s privatisation will mean that farmers will not be able to get out of debt certainly makes you wonder if the scumbag is actively trying to bring it back.

It’s not only non-Hindus and the lower castes Modi is persecuting. The BJP, or at least parts of it, have a real, bitter hatred of Gandhi and his influence on Hinduism, because he preached tolerance and the inclusion of the Muslims rather than turning India into a Hindu state. The party also actively persecutes liberal Indian journalists and writers. Tony Greenstein, the long term campaigner against Zionism, racism and Fascism, has also rightly criticised Labour party leader Keir Starmer for supporting Modi. Yes, I know – India is now a global powerhouse. Yes, it’s a vital trade partner with this country. But the country’s prosperity should not come through the exploitation of its working people. Just like ours shouldn’t. But this seems lost on Starmer and the rest of the Blairites.

I am very glad, however, that my local Labour party has made this gesture of support for the Indian farmers, and hope this will give them strength in their struggle with a Fascistic, exploitative government.

Does Starmer’s ‘Pro-Business’ Mean ‘Anti-Workers?’

February 11, 2021

Okay, I might be jumping the gun here, but I came across a video from the awesome Novara Media. I haven’t watched it, so this might be just me showing my prejudice. I just looked at the video’s title, which seemed to say everything. I can’t remember it precisely, but it was something on the lines of Starmer declaring that Labour would be ‘pro-business’.

This should set alarm bells ringing, because when a politico talks about being ‘pro-business’ he always, but always means the same thing: further tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and privatisation on the grounds that this will set the forces of private enterprise free and provide financial incentives for the rich to invest and expand their businesses and economy. For ordinary people it means low wages, more welfare cuts and the destruction of workers’ rights in order to get people off state support and making the labour market fluid, so employers can hire and fire at will without going through all the pesky business of negotiations with trade unions and industrial tribunals.

That’s what ‘pro-business’ meant under the Tories, and that’s what it was also under New Labour. With the addition that under New Labour, big business was further rewarded through the appointment of leading management to positions in government as part of the corporate capture of the state.

I might be wrong here, but if Starmer has made noises about being ‘pro-business’, it means he’s going back to the Blairite policies of awarding government posts to big business in exchange for corporate donations, and making the rich even richer at the expense of Britain’s working people.