Posts Tagged ‘SDP’

How Can I Trust Keir Starmer to Protect the NHS When Blair Wanted to Privatise It?

April 9, 2021

The parties have been running their election broadcasts this week in the run up to the local, elected mayoral and other elections in May. I caught a bit of Labour’s the other night, and wasn’t impressed. The piece I glimpsed consisted of Starmer sitting in front of the camera, urging people to vote Labour to protect it from the Tories’ privatisation. And the Tories are privatising the NHS by stealth, all under the cover of bringing in best practice from the private sector. And the Lib Dems have been exactly the same. They were the Tories’ partners in David Cameron’s wretched coalition government, which carried on the privatisations. Nick Clegg did nothing to stop it. Indeed, he gave every assistance to the Tories and seemed to be fully behind the handing over hospitals and doctor’s surgeries to private enterprise to run. Just as the Liberals and SDP were way back in 1987, when the two allied parties had declared that it didn’t matter whether doctors and hospitals were public or private, provided that the treatment was free. Except that the Tory privatisation of the NHS will definitely not retain free treatment at the point of use, as provided by the terms of the NHS’ establishment. The Tories wish to turn the NHS into a fully private system funded by private medical insurance like the American health system.

There are Labour MPs who are fighting tooth and nail to protect the NHS. I’m thinking here of the people on the Labour left, such as Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon, Diane Abbott, Rosina Allin-Khan. I also believe that others from the Labour right are doing so. At one meeting of my constituency party here in south Bristol, our local MP Karen Smyth said she joined the Labour party and became an MP because she was so appalled at what Cameron and co. were doing to the Health Service.

But I find Starmer’s claim that he will protect our NHS much less than credible. He’s an arch-Blairite, who has spent his tenure as leader so far in conjunction with the wretched NEC trying to purge the party of left-wingers and socialists. This has involved all the usual trumped-up, fake charges of anti-Semitism. And sometimes there’s no explanation given at all, like when the NEC barred three of leading Labour contenders for elected mayor of Liverpool. Worse than that, he has broken all of his leadership promises. He claimed that he would continue to uphold Labour’s manifesto promises of returning the utilities to state ownership, reversing the NHS’ privatisation and properly funding it, strengthening the welfare state and workers’ rights and restoring power to the unions. But in practice he hasn’t done any of that. It might put off all those rich donors he’s trying to attract. He has shown no real opposition to Johnson’s government, and what little he has shown has been glaringly opportunistic. So opportunistic, in fact, that right-wing windbag and broadcasting egomaniac, Julia Hartley-Brewer, asked him if there was anything in fact he stood for when he appeared on her wretched show on LBC radio.

And if this isn’t ominous enough, the fact remains that Tony Blair also went ahead with the right-wing programme of privatising the NHS. The polyclinics and health centres Blair set up were opened up to private management. He continued handing over doctors’ surgeries and hospitals to private healthcare firms. And the Community Care Groups, the groups of doctors which were supposed to manage local NHS doctors’ budgets, were granted the ability to buy in services from private sector companies, and raise money from the private sector. His Health Minister, Alan Milburn, wished the NHS to be reduced to a kitemark logo on services provided by private industry. And I fear Starmer will do exactly the same.

Brian Burden, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted this comment noting Starmer’s telling lack of opposition to another Tory appointment.

Hi, Beastrabban –

I refer you to p19 of the April 7 issue of Socialist Worker: Samantha Jones, formerly of Openrose Health, owned by US health insurance giant Centene Corporation, has recently been appointed a top adviser to Boris Johnson. Openrose took over scores of NHS GP surgeries earlier this year. Centene has faced a number of fraud and corruption law suits in USA. Socialist Worker believes that Johnson is moving towards the full privatisation of the NHS. Not a whisper from Starmer about any of this.

I wasn’t aware of this appointment, though I haven’t been paying much attention to the news recently. Not that I think it would be in the news. Ray Tallis and Jacky Davis have a whole chapter in their book, NHS – SOS to how the BBC has supported the privatisation of the Health Service. I’m not a fan of the former Socialist Workers’ Party, but I’ve no doubt they’re correct about this and are right to publicise it. And Starmer’s silence is telling.

I doubt very much that Starmer’s serious about protecting the NHS. And everyone else seems determined to privatise it with the exception of the much-reviled Labour left.

So forget the vile propaganda and smears against them and support the real people of principle who are standing up for this most precious of British institutions.

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.

Frank Field’s 1980s Campaign against His Own Party in Wales

July 19, 2020

Yesterday Zelo Street put up a piece about the various right-wing Blairite politicos, who deliberately campaigned against Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, who have now been rewarded with nominations for peerages from BoJob. They were Gisela Stuart, Ian Austin, John Woodcock, and Frank Field. Field, according to the Street, resigned the Labour whip last year and stood as an Independent candidate in Birkenhead. He was obviously expecting to beat his former colleagues, but was given a rude awakening when it was shown to him and the metropolitan elites who backed him how little he was regarded there personally.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/arise-lord-and-lady-turncoat.html

But that wasn’t the only time he stuck the knife into the backs of people in his own party. Private Eye in its ‘HP Sauce’ column in its edition for Friday, 21st August 1998 describes how he actively campaigned against the Labour Party during the European elections in north Wales in 1984. The snippet reads

Frank Field’s apparent desire to speak the unspeakable on welfare reform is not the first time he has kicked against the pricks in his party.

Back in 1980 the Eye welcomed him into parliament (New Boys, 483) recalling his nickname of “Judas”. This was earned in Labour circles for his outspoken attacks on the Wilson government when he was director of the Child Poverty Action Group. This was nothing compared to the bizarre events associated with him during the Euro elections in north Wales in 1984, however.

Labour candidate Ian Campbell found himself discredited in a series of quarter-page advertisements in the local papers, which claimed that Frank Field MP urged Labour party supporters to support Tom Ellis, the candidate for the SDP/Liberal Alliance, who was then standing on a straightforward Liberal ticket.

Pleas from Campbell to Field to retract these reported views, and to canvas with him to disprove such presumably false claims, found no response. Neither did the demands of the Labour party’s general secretary for a retraction: he was forced in a conversation with Campbell to admit that Field was simply a “maverick” over whom the party had no control.

Labour lost the seat by a small margin and Field never denied the views attributed to him – views which, according to the rules, should have led to his expulsion from the party.

When a politician says they’re going to ‘speak the unspeakable’ on welfare reform, or ‘slay the sacred cows’, they always but always mean they’re going to cut it. And there’s absolutely nothing unspeakable about it. It’s been Thatcherite orthodoxy for forty years. Field was one of the Tories’ favourite Labour MPs because of his anti-welfare stance. the British religious Right ‘Cranmer’ blog praised him in a post nearly a decade ago, and said that if he crossed the floor to the Tories he’d be most welcome. He didn’t quite do that, but he certainly campaigned for them.

And his squalid attacks on his colleagues in north Wales shows he had all the qualities of a New Labour politico then: the willingness to brief against others in his party, the intriguing and desire to see a competing party win at the expense of his own.

And it also shows how the Labour Party was willing even then to tolerate and reward behaviour from the Right that it never did from the Left.

Manifesto for a Truly Democratic, Socialist America

January 23, 2020

Bhaskar Sunkara, The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality (London: Verso 2019).

Introduction

This is a superb book, though conditions have changed since the book was published last year through Labour’s election defeat and the fall of Corbyn, that the new age of socialist activism and success Sunkara looks forward to is now far more doubtful. Sunkara is an American radical journalist, and the founder and editor of the left-wing magazine, Jacobin. Originally from Trinidade, he immigrated to the USA with his family when he was young. Growing up in New York, he read extensively in the Big Apple’s public library, where he came to realise the country’s dependence on services provided by the state. He immersed himself in the history and literature of socialism, finally joining the Democratic Socialists of America. He is also a registered Democrat.

The book comes praised by Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, Naomi Klein and Owen Jones. The book was partly inspired by the success of Jeremy Corbyn over here and Bernie Sanders in America in bringing socialism back into the political arena after decades of neoliberalism. This is made clear by the blurb on the dust jacket’s inside flap. This states

Socialism was pronounced dead when the Soviet Union collapsed. But with the success of Jeremy Corbyn’s left-led Labour party and increasing economic inequality, the politics of class struggle and wealth redistribution is back on the agenda. In The Socialist Manifesto Bhaskar Sunkara offers a primer on socialism for the twenty-first century, outlining where it came from, what it is, and what a socialist political system might look like.

Tracing the history of some of socialism’s highs and lows – from the creation of Germany’s Social Democratic Party through bloody communist revolutions to the predicaments of midcentury social democracy – Sunkara contends that, in our global age, socialism is still the only way forward. Drawing on history and his own experience in left-wing activism, Sunkara explains how socialists can win better wages and housing and create democratic institutions in workplaces and communities.

In showing how and why socialism can work today, The Socialist Manifesto is for anyone seeking a real solution to the vast inequalities of our age.

The Way to Socialism in America

The book begins with a ‘Day in the Life of a Socialist Citizen’, which maps out one possible path for the transformation of America into a socialist state. Sunkara asks the reader to imagine himself as a worker at Jon Bongiovi’s pasta sauce business in Texas to show that, even under a benign and paternalistic employer, the capitalist system still leaves the workers poor and powerless. In order to compete, the firm must not only make a profit, but invest in machinery while at the same time either cutting wages or laying people off. However, the workers are empowered by a new wave of strikes and left-wing activism that sees the election of President Springsteen. Springsteen establishes a welfare state, which allows the workers to devote more of their time and energy to pressing for their demands without having to fear for their livelihood. The worker’s movement continues making gains until the economy has become nationalised. Individual firms still exist, and are run by the workers themselves rather than the state. Some of them fail. But there are also government banking schemes to help workers set up their own businesses, though still state-owned and collectively managed, when they have a good idea and are fed up with their present job. Like bottling pasta sauce. America is still a vibrant democracy, and there are a number of other parties, including a capitalist party, though that is waning in popularity. It’s not utopia, but it is a system where workers are genuinely valued.

The Rise and Transformation of Socialism from Marxism to Reformism

The socialism, whose history the book tells and advocates, is that the Marxist and Marxist derived parties, Communism and social democracy, rather than the Utopian socialism of the generation before Marx and the more extreme versions of anarchist communism and syndicalism. The book naturally describes the career of Marx and Engels, and the formation of the German SDP. This moved away from revolutionary Marxism to reformism under the influences of Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky, who believed that capitalism’s survival and the growing prosperity of industrial workers had disproven crucial aspects of Marxist doctrine. Initially pacifist, like the other European socialist parties, the SDP voted for war credits at the outbreak of the First World War. This caused a split, with a minority forming the Independent Socialists (USPD) and the Communist Party. When the 1919 revolution broke out, the majority SDP under President Ebert moved to crush it using right-wing Freikorps brigades. Although the SDP was one prop of the Weimar coalition, it was never able to establish socialism in Germany, and so fell with the other parties in the collapse of the Republic to the Nazis.

Russian Communism

Sunkara’s account of the rise of Russian communism is interesting for his argument that the Bolsheviks originally weren’t any more dictatorial than their rivals, the Mensheviks. Even Kautsky recognised the need for a strong, centralised party. But Lenin originally was no dictator. Pravda rejected 44 of his articles, and the were other voices as strong or stronger within the party. What pushed it towards first authoritarianism and then totalitarianism was the stubborn opposition of the rival socialist parties, the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries. They were invited to join a government coalition with the Bolsheviks, but walked out and began active opposition. The Revolution was then threatened by the revolt of the Whites, leading to the Civil War, in which Britain and other western countries sent troops in order to overthrow the Bolshevik regime. This, and the chaotic conditions created by the Revolution itself led to the Bolshevik party assuming a monopoly of state power, partly as the only means available of restoring order. This began the party’s journey towards the murderously repressive state it became, though interparty democracy was still alive in the 1920s before the rise of Stalin.

Mao and China

The emergence of communism in China, its seizure of power and the reign of Chairman Mao is also covered as an example of socialism in the Third World. The nations of the Developing World, like China, took over revolutionary socialism – communism – rather than reformism, because conditions in Russia more closely resembled those in their nations. Russian had been a largely agricultural country, in which the majority of its citizens were peasants. Industrial workers’ similarly represented only a minuscule fraction of the Chinese population, and so Mao turned to the peasants instead as a revolutionary force. This chapter concludes that Chinese communism was less about empowering and liberating the workers than as a movement for national modernisation.

Sweden and the Rise and Fall of Social Democracy

The book also examines the rise and progress of Swedish social democracy. The Swedish socialist party took power early through alliances with the Agrarians and the Liberals. This allowed them to introduce generous welfare legislation and transform the country from one of the most socially backward, feudal and patriarchal states in Europe to the progressive nation it is today. But there were also losses as well as gains. The Swedes compromised their commitment to all-out socialism by preserving private industry – only 5 per cent of the Swedish economy was nationalised – and acting to regulate the economy in alliance with the trade unions and industrialists. This corporative system collapsed during the oil crisis of the 1970s. This caused inflation. The government tried to resist wage rises, which the unions resisted. The industrialists resented the growth of working class activism and began measures to counteract them. Olof Palme, the country’s prime minister, then moved in a left-ward direction through establishing funds that would allow the trade unions gradually to buy up companies. The industrialists recognised an existential threat, and succeeded in overthrowing the government.

The Swedish model, meanwhile, had been highly influential through Labour party MP Anthony Crosland’s The Future of Socialism, which in turn led to Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’ as the Labour government in Britain moved from social democracy to a more left-wing alternative to neoliberalism. Other European socialist parties followed, such as the German SDP. France’s President Mitterand in the 1980s tried to break this pattern in the 1980s, but his government was also overthrown through capital flight, the industrialists taking their money out of the French economy. Mitterand tried to hang on by promising to safeguard industry and govern responsibly, but it was no use.

Socialism and America

The chapter on socialism in America is particularly interesting, as it shows, contrary to the impression given by America’s two-party system, that the country has a very strong history and tradition of working class parties and socialism, from combative unions like the IWW to organised parties like the Knights of Labor, Democratic Socialists of America, and the Socialist Labor, Populist, Progressive and Communist Parties. However, socialism has never gained power there, as it has in Britain and Europe, because of a variety of factors. These include the extreme violence of the state and private industry, the latter hiring gunmen, to put down strikes; factional infighting between socialist groups, partly caused by the extreme range of socialist opinions and the restriction of some socialist groups to particular ethnicities, and the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War.

A strategy for Success

Thechapter ‘How We Win’ contains Sunakara’s own observations and recommendations for socialist campaigning and the construction of genuine socialism in America. These are

1. Class-struggle social democracy does not close down avenues for radicals; it opens them.

2. Class-struggle social democracy has the potential to win a major national election today.

3. Winning an election isn’t the same as winning power.

4. They’ll do everything to stop us.

5. Our immediate demands are very much achievable.

6. We must move quickly from social democracy to democratic socialism.

7. We need socialists.

8. The working class had changed over the past hundred and fifty years, but not as much we think.

9. Socialists must embed themselves in working class struggles.

10. It is not enough to work with unions for progressive change. We must wage democratic battles within them.

11. A loose network of leftists and rank-and-file activists isn’t enough. We need a political party.

12. We need to take into account American particularities.

13. We need to democratise our political institutions.

14. Our politics must be universalist.

15. History matters.

Conclusion

This is the clarion call for genuinely radical activism. It will almost certainly start right-wing alarm bells ringing, as Sunkara calls for left-wing activists to join main parties like the Democrats in the US and Labour in Britain. They are not to be infiltrators, but as people genuinely committed to these parties and working peoples’ causes and issues. The claims that the working class has somehow died out or no longer has radical potential is overstated. It has changed, but 60 per cent of the population are still employees drawing wages or a salary, and who have no money of their own. And the book shows very clearly that the transformation to a genuinely socialist economy is needed. Social democracy has won considerable gains for working people, gains that still persist despite constant right-wing attack. But these aren’t enough, and if left unchallenged, capital will always try to destroy them.

The book’s angled towards the US, but its lessons and many of its recommendations still apply of this side of the pond. The resurgence of genuine socialist activism in Britain is now far less certain in Britain. But hopefully this book will help show to more people why it’s still possible and needed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boris and the Tories’ Deniable Incitement to Violence and Intimidation

September 27, 2019

A couple of days ago the Supreme Court ruled that Johnson’s prorogation of parliament was wrong and illegal. Yesterday the honourable ladies and gentlemen filed back into the House to take their seats according to the democratic mandate they have received under the British constitution and from their constituents. Boris was stymied in his attempt to set himself up as temporary generalissimo, and he and his supporters in the Tory press showed it through colossal displays of bad grace and ill temper. Like Boris refusing to acknowledge John Bercow, the Speaker, when he left the chamber yesterday. But worse than that, BoJo has resorted to highly inflammatory language about his political opponents, which have left women MPs in particular frightened for their lives. Boris attacked the MPs – who come from across the political spectrum – who passed the legislation preventing him from getting a No Deal Brexit as ‘traitors’. He denounced the Act itself as a ‘surrender’ act, a ‘capitulation’ act, and a ‘humiliation’ act. His words alarmed six lady MPs, notably the Labour MPs Jess Philips and Paula Sherrif. Sherrif said that the language he was using was that of the people, who send death threats to MPs.

“We should not resort to using offensive, dangerous or inflammatory language for legislation that we do not like, and we stand here under the shield of our departed friend with many of us in this place subject to death threats and abuse every single day.

“They often quote his words ‘Surrender Act’, ‘betrayal’, ‘traitor’ and I for one am sick of it.

“We must moderate our language, and it has to come from the prime minister first.”

Philips stated that BoJob’s language was deliberately phrased to be as offensive and divisive as possible.

So how did Boris defend himself from these accusations? He denounced Sherrif’s statement as ‘humbug’, and in reply to concerns that his rhetoric would lead to another assassination like the murder of Jo Cox by a member of the Fascist outfit Britain First, he blamed it all on his opponents. It’s their fault for stopping Brexit that people are angry with them, and the best way they can honour her memory was by finally leaving the EU. Cox herself was a Remainer, and her husband Brendan commented that the debate had descended into a “bear pit of polarisation” and MPs had fallen into a “vicious cycle where language gets more extreme, the response gets more extreme and it all gets hyped up.

“It has real-world consequences… It creates an atmosphere where I think violence and attacks are more likely than they would have been.”

See Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/26/boris-johnson-used-the-language-of-death-threats-deliberately-he-is-a-danger-to-lives/

Earlier, the Times had temporarilyh released infamous right-wing hack Quentin Letts from his cage there, and sent him to join the baying hordes at the Scum. Where he penned what amounts to little more than an incitement for extremely intrusive scrutiny of the Supreme Court judges themselves. In fact, it was tantamount to a call for people to doxx them, revealing intimidate personal details of the judges themselves, their partners and their children. The odious Letts ranted that the judgment “could make life immeasurably hotter for judges and senior lawyers in Britain. From now on, their political leanings, their family and professional backgrounds, their social media records and all those juicy perks they enjoy at their Inns of Court are going to be fair game for public scrutiny”, and continued “Where do these top lawyers live, which clubs do they belong to and what are the political views of their spouses? All these – and more – will in future be legitimate fare” He then went on to say  “But let’s consider other questions. Who did you sit next to at your last posh dinner? What charities do you support? Who gave your children their work experience internships? Do you have any overseas investments? Did you pay tax on them?”.

As Zelo Street pointed out, this was an incitement to doxx, and the very language used is that which led to the radicalisation of Thomas Mair, Jo Cox’s assassin.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/09/letts-doxx-supreme-court-judges.html

As for BoJob’s own inflammatory rhetoric, the Sage of Crewe commented

‘if this language carries on, and is not only tolerated, but cheered on, by the Tory front bench, we won’t get Brexit done. We’ll get another Jo Cox. And that’s why all those baying Tories, and their pals in the press still prepared to back Bozo, need to stop and think, although they are not big enough, or sensible enough, to do so.

Tolerating a Prime Minister who is shamelessly and blatantly trying to echo Donald Trump in his ability to cause offence and dispense inflammatory language will lead, with the grim certainty of night following day, to a body count. Someone is going to get killed.
And that is not a price anyone should be prepared to pay to keep Bozo in a job.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/09/if-you-tolerate-this-your-mp-will-be.html

These aren’t idle fears either. Philips in her speech attack BoJob’s language demonstrated how his rhetoric and those of the idiots and fanatics sending death threats to her were one and the same by reading out one of the threats she’d received.  Now it seems her fears were justified. Last night a man was arrested outside her offices. He had apparently tried to terrorise them by banging on the windows, attempting to smash them, and shouting ‘Fascist’ at them.

Philips is very far from either Mike’s or my favourite MP. Along with Luciana Berger, she formed a lynch mob of privileged White Blairites to support the fake and malicious accusations of anti-Semitism against Marc Wadsworth by Ruth Smeeth. Much of the abuse she receives I believe she calls down on herself through her obnoxious views and behaviour. But this time she is a genuine victim.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/26/man-arrested-after-terrorising-staff-at-office-of-jess-phillips-did-they-use-the-panic-room/

Let’s be clear about this. These are Fascist tactics and Nazi rhetoric. Hitler’s thugs used the same language to describe the Treaty of Versailles and the democratic parties that became the cornerstone of the Weimar Republic – the SDP, Catholic Centre Party and the two Liberal parties. They also vilified and smeared the judicial and police authorities, that also tried to maintain the new, fledgling German democracy. One of the left-wing bloggers – I’ve forgotten which one – has gone further and described the kind of language now being used by BoJob as a deliberate incitement to violence and assassination. They said the people using it – he was referring to Trump and his demonisation of immigrants – were well aware of the effect their rhetoric was having stirring up hatred and encouraging the far right in their attacks. Like the violence by the Proud Boys and other American Fascists at Charlottesville. However, they were careful not to make their incitement to assault and murder explicit, so they could always deny it.

And this is what BoJob and the Tory front bench are doing now. And if they’re not careful, someone will get killed. 

 

 

Johnson’s Yellowhammer Coup – Prepared by New Labour?

September 22, 2019

This fortnight’s Private Eye, for 20th September – 3rd October 2019, carries an article on page 12 confirming that Project Yellowhammer includes plans to draft military personnel into the ranks of local government officials in the event of chaos following a No Deal Brexit. The article also claims that this is based on legislation, which includes the suspension of civil liberties,  passed 15 years ago by New Labour. The article, titled ‘Not-So-Secret Army’ runs

The last Eye reported on Operation Yellowhammer’s contingency plans for the army to take over local government in the event of a “no deal” Brexit. In response to the article, various navy and air force officers have come forward to confirm that they too have received instructions to take over key civilian posts in local government under the Yellowhammer plans.

Furthermore, they take issue with ministers’ pretence that the leaked August document was already “out of date” and had since been updated. “Many of these documents haven’t been updated since May, or even March,” one officer says, “because we kept being told that it looked bad to be seen to be making preparations for ‘No deal’ when the government wasn’t really expecting ‘No deal’; and so we were told to stop making preparations.

The placements are being made under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, which provides for emergency transfers of power between public servants. While there has been feverish speculation among Leavers and Remainers as to what would happen if the act were ever invoked, it ignores the fact that Yellowhammer already involves triggering the act.

As was pointed out by peers and constitutional experts at the time of its passing, the legislation is severely flawed. Once triggered, it allows the government to bypass parliament and over-ride existing legislation by having “a senior Minister of the Crown” issue “temporary emergency regulations”, valid for 30-day renewable stretches. It even enables habeas corpus to be over-ridden – as well as the Bill of Rights, the succession ot the monarchy, the five-year time limit on parliaments and the checks on a prime minister’s power to appoint an unlimited number of peers. Back in 2004, these were all specific areas where Tory and Lib Dem peers tried to insert some safeguards, but without success.

Fifteen years on, Labour politicians may now be kicking themselves for having passed this legislation, which would give Boris Johnson and his inner circle such far-reaching powers after any “no deal” Brexit.

In my last piece about the Project Yellowhammer plans, I compared it to the way the Nazis seized power in Weimar Germany using legislation that provided for dictatorial rule during a state of emergency. Cooperation between the four parties that had provided democratic government during the Weimar Republic – the Social Democrats, the Catholic Centre Party and the two Liberal parties – had broken down. The Reichstag was at an impasse and the President, Hindenberg, was ruling by decree. He invited the Nazis into power to break the deadlock. They used the Reichstag fire to declare a state of emergency, and immediately seized power. In the following weeks the other parties and the trade unions were banned, Hitler declared Fuhrer, and the anti-Semitic legislation put in place. Jews, gypsies and political prisoners were rounded up and sent to the concentration camps. This further information on the legislation underpinning Yellowhammer makes the similarities even closer. Frighteningly closer.

However, if the article is trying to discredit the Labour, it doesn’t quite manage it. The Civil Contingencies Act was passed by Blair, Brown and New Labour. Who were very definitely authoritarian, as shown by Blair’s determination to silence and expel any opposition within the party. And which is shown today by the Blairites’ determination to do the same to Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, using fake accusations of anti-Semitism. Blair was a Thatcherite, and his policies reflected the demands of the right-wing political and industrial elite. He ignored the party’s base in favour of political donors, who were allowed to shape government policy and even staff government departments. He obeyed the City’s demands for light financial regulation, listened to the same right-wing think tanks and private healthcare companies that influenced Peter Lilley and John MajorAnd he was also guided by the right-wing, Tory press, particularly Murdoch’s vile rags. New Labour under Blair was another Tory party.

Blair was also anti-democratic in that he tried to pass legislation establishing secret courts, in which the normal laws of evidence did not apply if the government decided that it was for reasons of national security. The press and public were to be excluded from these trials. Defendants and their counsel need not be told, contrary to natural justice, who their accuser was or what the evidence against them was.

But Blair was not alone in trying to pass this. When they got in, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition actually did it.

And the coalition also removed the right of habeas corpus

So much for the Tories’ and Lib Dems’ concern to preserve  constitutional government and Britons’ historic civil liberties.

Since then, however, the leadership of the Labour party has changed. And Jeremy Corbyn has a very strong record of voting against the government, including Blair’s. If anyone can be trusted to block the operation of this pernicious legislation, it’s him. Despite the fact that Eye has been as bug-eyed as the rest of the press in trying to smear him as an evil Communist/ Trotskyite/ Stalinist, who will stamp his iron heel on this country’s free people. Particularly the Jews.

The truth is undoubtedly the opposite. Against this government and this plan, the only people who are going to stand up to preserve democracy is a Corbyn-led Labour party. It certainly will not be the Tories under Generalissimo Boris and their collaborators, Swinson’s Lib Dems. 

 

6 of Its Leading Members Leave the Change Party

June 4, 2019

Ho ho! What was all that rubbish about the Change Party changing British politics? Earlier this evening I just caught a snippet on the Six O’Clock News that six of Change UK’s MPs have left the party following its poor performance at the elections and the recriminations against its leader, Heidi Allen. Some, but not all, would probably go to the Lib Dems, with whom the party has said they wish to have closer ties.

So much for all that nonsense about being a completely new form of politics, which the British public were crying out for. The British public looked at them, and drew the conclusion that they were the same old politics, pushed by the ambitious and arrogant, who definitely weren’t going to broaden British democracy. Not when they refused to fight by-elections after their defections. They were going to be the next SDP. Well, that got merged with the Liberals, and at their height the SDP were far more politically distinguished than Change UK. Their founding members, included David Owen, Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams, who were senior politicos with quite distinct ideas. All Change UK offered and offers is the same threadbare corporatism and neoliberalism, under a pro-Remain banner. They don’t offer anything which the Tories, Lib Dems and Blairites in the Labour Party already aren’t.

With luck, this will be the beginning of the party’s complete collapse. They won’t be missed.

Embarrassment for Army as Squaddies in Afghanistan Filmed Shooting at Corbyn Poster

April 3, 2019

This is another little scandal that’s Mike reported on today. The Ministry of Defence has ordered an urgent inquiry following the release of a video on social media showing squaddies from 3 Para in Afghanistan shooting at a poster of Jeremy Corbyn. Mike’s piece includes the video embedded in a tweet from Alistair Bunkall, a reporter at Sky News. Bunkall said that the MoD has confirmed that the footage is legitimate, and quoted an army spokesperson, who said

We are aware of a video circulating on social media, this behaviour is totally unacceptable and falls well below the high standards the army expects, a full investigation has been launched. 

Burkall also said he’d been told that the rounds fired were simulated paintball round, rather than real bullets. But nevertheless a senior defence source said it was ‘a terrible look’. Mike also states that there were figures of other celebrities at the range, but they were there to be protected, not shot at.

Mike states that this footage raises the serious issue of whether British soldiers are being trained to consider one of their political leaders as an enemy. Thus, we need to know who authorised it and why, and what the soldiers, who took part in it thought they were doing. He states that at a time when the Labour leader has already suffered one physical attack, other politicos have received death threats and it is only three years after the brutal assassination of Jo Cox, the possibility of the British military being trained to consider him an enemy could be considered a threat to British democracy. Mike asks if this means that the army will turn on Corbyn if he becomes Prime Minister.

He goes on to state that any squaddie firing on Jeremy Corbyn, even in effigy, is a security risk as they should be trained to defend all citizens of the UK. Anyone who can’t should be drummed out of the forces. He also wonders how many British soldiers may also be shooting at Corbyn in effigy, and fears that it may be just the beginning of the scandal.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/04/03/soldiers-in-afghanistan-were-filmed-shooting-at-a-poster-of-jeremy-corbyn/

This comes after another nasty political scandal a month or so ago, when a group of squaddies were filmed with former EDL supremo and now UKIP special advisor, the notorious islamophobe Tommy Robinson. This raised questions about whether the army shared or endorsed Robinson’s vicious hatred of Muslims, and wished to have in its ranks squaddies, who shared his Fascist views.

Mike also speculated in his piece that the soldiers involved would just claim it was all ill-judged humour. That wouldn’t surprise me either. A few years ago squaddies in the German army were caught making a video in which they play acted at committing atrocities, raping and killing civilians and so forth. This obviously caused a massive scandal because of the horrific atrocities committed by the armed forces during the Third Reich. But there has also been a more recent scandal following this, in which it was revealed that the German army had discreetly cleared out a faction of real Fascist officers and men, who were secretly plotting a military coup. It’s possible to ask the same question here: does this bit of squaddie ‘humour’ hide something much more serious, a faction in the British army that would prefer to see a military dictatorship than a Corbyn government?

It’s a serious question. A month or so ago Mike reported on his blog that Tweezer had passed legislation providing for the deployment of the British army on the streets in the case of civil unrest following Brexit. Mike speculated then that she might be planning a military coup in order to retain power. And members of the Tory party and media have begun to speculate about forming a government of national unity to avert a crisis with Brexit. Tom Watson showed once again how treacherous he was by stating that he would be willing to serve in it, rather than let the government fall. The Skwawkbox made the point that by stating his willingness to collaborate with the Tories, he was betraying his own party and its aim of overthrowing May and putting Corbyn into No. 10.

See: https://skwawkbox.org/2019/03/30/as-skwawkbox-predicted-watson-now-talking-national-unity-govt-and-its-grounds-for-expulsion/

The last time I can remember a government of national unity being discussed, it was back in the mid-1970s when the CIA, MI5 and the Tory right were convinced that Harold Wilson was a KGB spy and the country was suffering a wave of industrial discontent resulting in a series of strikes. Papers like the Times were proposing that the only way to solve the crisis was for the overthrow of Wilson’s government in a coup and the installation of a government of national unity, which would include moderate Labour MPs like Shirley Williams. Who later left with David Owen, Roy Jenkins and other splitters to form the SDP. Along with this were plans by the secret state to round up left-wing activists, trade unionists and journalists and intern them. This plot is discussed by Ken Livingstone in his book, Livingstone’s Labour.

Sky News in its report about the squaddies using Corbyn for target practice included a statement by the Tories’ Mark Harper about Corbyn lacking necessary security credentials, and stating that the army held similar views. Their reporter, however, stressed that the British army still had to be apolitical.

See: https://skwawkbox.org/2019/04/03/video-sky-news-responds-to-soldiers-shooting-corbyn-effigy-by-repeating-security-concerns-smear/

We are therefore entitled to ask if something similar to the 1970s plots is going on here. Is the establishment hatred of Jeremy Corbyn so great, that sections of the political-media and military complex really are conspiring to use armed force to overthrow British democracy and keep Corbyn and a genuinely socialist government from taking power?

 

How Long Before the Labour Splitters Ask to Join Tweezer’s Cabinet?

February 20, 2019

Looking at the has-beens and deadbeats, who split from Labour the other day reminded me of another possible point of comparison with the SDP split in the 1980s. They were also members of the Labour right, who left the party to form their own, declaring that they were going to ‘break the mould’ of British politics. In fact, they did no such thing, and rather than being a serious rival to Labour they were forced into an alliance with the Liberals before finally merging with them to form the Lib Dems.

Unfortunately, their decision to separate did split the Labour vote, with the result that Maggie Thatcher got in again. However, it’s questionable how much this harmed Labour’s electoral chances. I can remember reading an article in Lobster which suggested that the factors against Labour winning an election against Maggie were so strong, that probably the SDP’s departure didn’t make much difference. But even if they didn’t do that much damage to the party electorally, they certainly didn’t help it.

And some members of the SDP were so personally desperate for power, that they were ready and very willing to jump into bed with the Tories. I can remember reading a piece in the Sunday Express that reported that Dr. David Owen had said that he would be willing to accept a place in Maggie’s cabinet. Of course, he had absolutely no chance. To Maggie and her minions, he was definitely not ‘one of us’. And the Sunday Express certainly expressed strong contempt for defectors from the opposition benches. The wretched Tory rag used to have a cartoon called ‘No.10’, which was supposed to be a comic look at politics from the vantage point of the PM’s residence. Well, I suppose it might have been funny, but only to Tories. It wasn’t exactly well-drawn either. The comics many teenagers draw in their bedrooms, dreaming of being the next Frank Hampson, Kevin O’Neil or Dave Gibbons were probably better. And its jokes were as weak as its execution. The only piece from the strip that I remember was two Tory flunkeys watching a clockwork toy figure march across a table before falling off. This toy, they declared, was ‘the Labour defector’.

Now the group that formed the SDP did have some great minds in it. Roy Jenkins was responsible for the decriminalization of homosexuality and other liberal reforms, for which the Tories still cordially hate him. Shirley Williams was also, at the time, a strong left-wing intellectual. The Maleficent Seven, as they are called, are, by contrast, very second rate. About how of them were deselected, or facing deselection by their constituency parties. It looks to me very much that these were desperate failures leaving before they were pushed, trying to grasp one last hope of hanging on to their seats.

Well, they’ve had that. Their refusal to hold bye-elections speaks volumes. It looks very much like they’re afraid to, because they know they’d be annihilated, probably by a fresh candidate put up by the very party they left. They want to hang on to their seats as long as possible in order to maximise their chance at retaining it. But they’re still duff no-hopers, and they’ll still lose big time at the next election.

In the meantime, I wonder which one of these desperately ambitious mediocrities will follow Owen, and abandon all pretence of being a ‘centrist’ or ‘independent’ and ask Tweezer, or her successor, if they could have a place in her cabinet.

My guess is that the most likely is Chuka Umunna, who threatened to leave a little while ago claiming that the Labour party was ignoring aspirational people. If it didn’t reform, he warned, more aspirational Blacks and Asians like himself would leave. In fact, research has found that regardless of ethnicity, most Labour supporters simply aren’t interested in aspiration. However, the Tories have been desperate to disguise their own racism with a veneer of racial tolerance by looking for Black and Asian candidates to fight elections and put in the cabinet. Umunna may well think he has a chance with the Tories, who have always been the party of business. But if he does, I expect, like David Owen before him, he’s going to be disappointed. The Tories already have Black and Asian MPs and cabinet members like Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and others, and so won’t want to embrace a Labour defector. Just as the ‘No.10’ strip back in the 1980s sneered at them.

But that doesn’t mean that Umunna, or indeed any of them, won’t try. And in so doing they really will bear out the description of them as ‘red Tories’.

Helping Labour to Win in the Countryside: Encouraging Rural Industry

December 16, 2018

As well as helping to bail out farmers, Labour could also help to reverse the decline of the countryside by encouraging businesses to relocate there. Shirley Williams, the former Labour politician who defected to found the SDP, which merged with the Liberals to form the Lib Dems, discusses this possibility in her 1981 book, Politics Is For People, published by Penguin as an example of what may be done to promote small businesses. She writes

The Wilson Committee jibbed at setting up a Small Business Agency, though the case for its seems strong. What the Committee did propose was a loan guarantee scheme, under which loans to small businesses would be partially underwritten by the banks, and an English Development Agency with similar powers to those of the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies in relation to small firms. Thresholds for government support schemes which small firms are unable to cross, the Report said, should be reviewed.

This would be a useful start, but if the long drift towards concentration is to be reversed, much more is needed. The new agency should positively go out and look for products and services which small firms can produce, as COSIRA (Council for Siting Industry in Rural Areas) has done so successfully in rural areas. New firms should be able to qualify for capital loans at a subsidized interest rate, and they should be entitled to similar help when they reach the breakthrough point of rapid growth. This is the stage at which many small innovatory firms go under, because they cannot finance expansion on the scale needed to meet demand. Good legal and accounting services should be readily available through the new agency, which should also offer advice on government schemes that may be helpful. Red tape and form-filling needs to be kept to a minimum, since small firms rarely have the bureaucracy to cope with complicated application forms. The Microelectronic Applications Project introduced by the Labour government of 1976-9 has been successful in attracting several thousand requests for its consultancy scheme, not just because the government met the first 2,000 pounds of the consultant’s fees, but because the procedure for applying is so simple. (p. 121).

Williams is far from my favourite politician because of her role in founding the SDP and its subsequent move to the right. She is also personally responsible for helping the passage of Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care bill, which is part of the Tories’ continuing privatization of the NHS, through parliament by voting for it when others, like Dr. David Owen, voted against. But the book has interesting ideas. It struck me that IT is industry that could easily me moved to the countryside, if only in the form of software developers, who may not need quite so much expensive plant.

Many working people have dreams of running their own businesses, and G.D.H. Cole in one of his books on socialism argued that socialists should make common cause with small businesspeople against the threat of big business. And it is big business that is also threatening the countryside. As George Monbiot has described in his book, Captive State, the big supermarkets drive out the small businesses in their areas. This has a devastating effect on the area generally, as these industries employ more people than the supermarkets themselves. Furthermore, the supermarkets use very exploitative contracts to force their suppliers to provide them with goods at very low prices. New Labour and no doubt the Tories after them have done much to harm the country generally as well as rural areas by supporting the big supermarkets, like Sainsbury’s, against local shops like grocers.