Posts Tagged ‘Secret Courts’

‘Lib Dems Offer Strong Opposition to Tories’ – Who’s Farron Trying to Kid?

April 18, 2017

May’s just called a snap election for June, hoping that she’ll get a 2/3 majority in parliament. She claims it’s about Brexit, and that she needs to challenge the Scots Nationalists and the House of Lords, some of whom – naughty boys and girls – are undermining her, and she wants a united front in dealing with Europe. I’m sceptical about this claim. I think it’s also, as Ian Duncan Smith, the former minister for disabled death, has admitted, about beating the Labour party when they’re weak. The BBC pollsters have put Corbyn 20 to 21 points behind May.

There are good reasons for doubting these figures. Guy Debord’s Cat has written a long article, pointing out that polls are done by newspapers and Conservative interest groups, in order to manufacture public support for the Tories. They aren’t about presenting an objective gauge of how the public feels about politics, as a form of ‘manufacturing consent’, in Chomsky’s words. See https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/how-polling-works/ Even so, I am terribly afraid that the British public will be taken in by the media and Tory spin, and vote for May.

And the lying has already started. Ignoring the lies coming from the Tories, every word of which is sheer is a carefully crafted falsehood, Tim Farron has started lying on behalf of the Lib Dems. He was in Cornwall campaigning. Speaking from Truro, he made the claim that, unlike Labour, the Lib Dems would offer ‘strong opposition’ to the Tories.

Eh? Who’s he trying to kid.

Remember the 2010 election? The first thing Nick Clegg, the leader of the Lib Dems at the time, did was arrange to go into a coalition with the Conservatives. He claimed that he had negotiated with Labour, but that they had refused to remove Gordon Brown as their leader. This was, apparently, one of his conditions to entering government with them. Not having got what he wanted, he then switched to the Tories.

Except it was lies. Clegg had already made his decision to go with them anyway.

Just like Clegg also lied about opposing tuition fees for students. Soon as he got into power with the Tories, he was in favour of raising them. Far more so than Cameron, who was prepared to compromise with him on this. But Clegg was determined to raise them, and so student debt was increased to an even more crippling amount.

The Lib Dems were also more than willing to continue the Tories’ and New Labour’s privatisation of the NHS.

They were also eager to join the Tories in getting rid of Habeas Corpus and setting up secret courts, so you can be tried in secret, using evidence withheld from your lawyer, for reasons of ‘national security’. Just like Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

And there was a whole branch of Farron’s party – the ‘Orange Book’ Liberals, all slavering enthusiasts for massive privatisation, the destruction of the welfare state and workers’ rights. One of the noxious pratts promoting this bilge was the Lib Dem MP for Taunton Dean, who came from a very privileged background, having grown up in Kenya and other exotic locales.

It might be that Farron has been a new broom, sweeping all this away. But I doubt it. The Lib-Dems claimed to have opposed the Tories before. They also claimed to be a moderating force against Tory excesses when they were in power with them. That was not true. And I doubt it is now.

The Real Reason the Government Wants British Terrorist Suspect Tried in Secret Courts

March 18, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, Mike also commented on the case of two Pakistani men, who had been rounded up on suspicions on terrorism offences by Britain and then handed over to the Americans, where they then spent the next 13 years or so held at Bagram in Afghanistan. There is now pressure for the men to be given a proper trial. However, May’s government has decided that this should only be done in a secret session to preserve sensitive official secrets important to national security. Mike asks the obvious question of how such information, which is now 13 years old, can possibly still be relevant to Britain’s security. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/05/are-we-really-expected-to-believe-13-year-old-national-security-information-justifies-secret-court-hearing/

This blogger can think of two reasons at least why May would not want these men’s cases to be heard in open court, which have absolutely nothing to do with ‘national security’, and far more to do with normal justice and human dignity.

Firstly, depending on how the men were caught, they may be entirely and embarrassingly innocent of the charges. William Blum, the ‘West Bloc Dissident’, who has spent much of his career documenting and denouncing the horrific and multitudinous crimes of the American empire, has pointed out in his blogs and books that many of those imprisoned on suspicion of terrorism offences were guilty of nothing of the sort. What happened was that the American government offered a bounty to various Middle Eastern and other governments if they rounded up terrorists. And so countries like Pakistan duly found suitable suspects, even to the point of imprisoning innocents, simply for the reward money. I don’t know if Britain offers a similar bounty, and unless someone comes forward to state clearly whether or not this is the case, we may never know. But it is a possibility that this may have happened here.

It’s also likely that the men may have been tortured in order to force a confession out of them. International law supposedly forbids countries from using torture, or sending criminal suspects to countries that use torture. Britain has violated these provisions through colluding with the Americans in their programme of ‘extraordinary rendition’ – that is, of handing terrorist suspects over to countries like Pakistan and the various Middle Eastern states, where they would be tortured. And America itself has plenty of previous when it comes to torture. Blum in his books and on his blogs has described the torture manuals and training produced by the CIA and its military training apparatus, like the infamous School of the Americas, for the various death squad regimes it supported in Latin America. In the 1950s and 1960s the US navy also used to torture is its own recruits, the details of which formed the basis of one of the stories in the 90s anti-superhero comic strip, Marshal Law. If the men were tortured, then this would also be a serious embarrassment to the government, which is adamantly refusing to pull out of its policy of sending suspects to states which use torture.

There are other reasons too, which might account for the government’s refusal to allow the men an open try, as previous required under the principles of Magna Carta. There have been reports of friction between US and allied troopers and their Afghan counterparts over the latter’s activities on US bases. American and European squaddies based in Afghan have apparently complained about Afghan soldiers bringing little boys onto the base to sexually abuse, how they also torture dogs on the base for fun, and that their Afghan allies can be dangerously untrustworthy. There have been instances where an Afghan soldier quartered in the base has turned his gun on his western comrades. Many of these allegations have been made on the islamophobic sites. This does not, however, necessarily mean that they’re wrong. If such abuses are occurring, and were disclosed to the general public in open court, it would do much to undermine public support for the continuing occupation of Afghanistan.

My guess is that any or all of these issues may well be the real reason why May and the British government doesn’t want to give these men a fair, open trial. And this makes it even more necessary that they should.

Vox Political: Snoopers’ Charter Allows State to Lie When Evidence Gather through Spying

December 7, 2016

I’ve also written several pieces over the past few days talking about the slow death of democracy and freedom in America. Obama has taken over and made permanent all the infringements on Americans’ constitutional freedoms set up by George Dubya Bush, the Democrats and corporate media have taken to smearing leading left-wing journos and website as disseminators of Russian propaganda, and a Conservative student group is compiling a black list of left-wing college professors.

But civil liberties and the rule of law are also under attack here as well. Tony Blair also tried to set up secret courts in Britain when he was prime minister. David Cameron and Nick Clegg also passed legislation establishing them, and expanding the powers of the British surveillance state. Theresa May is determined to do the same with her Investigatory Powers Bill.

Mike today has put up a piece commenting on the way the May’s ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ demands that the prosecution lie in court to avoid revealing that the evidence has been gathered through spying. Section 56 of her wretched Act makes it an offence not only to reveal that the evidence was obtained by lying, but also that spying is, was and/or will be going on. This includes a clause meaning that the legislation also acts retrospectively. In other words, you can be charged and convicted of doing this before this pernicious piece of legislation was ever passed.

This means that the state can lie to secure a conviction. And there seems to be little way to defend against it. Mike has suggested that there is a possible way out, if the defence can show that the evidence could not have obtained it in the normal ways, but crucially does not state that it was obtained through spying. But Mike states that this is no more than a suggestion, and asks his readers for their opinions.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/07/if-the-snoopers-charter-allows-the-state-to-lie-in-court-how-can-the-innocent-foil-it/

The whole issue of secret courts is profoundly anti-democratic and a real and present danger to civil liberties. Under the legislation introduced by the Conservatives and their Lib-Dem enablers, Cameron and Clegg, a court case may be held in secret if a public trial is believed to constitute a threat to national security. The accused may not see the evidence against them, nor the identity of their accuser, again, all to safeguard ‘national security’. Now you may not even be told that you have been spied on.

I’ve pointed out before that this is exactly like the judicial system set up by the totalitarian states of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, and also Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The Iraqi legal system contained a series of secret clauses, whose disclosure to the public was a crime. Thus someone under Saddam’s regime could be charged with a series of offences he was not aware he had committed, and could not legally be made aware.

Franz Kafka, the great Czech writer, described all this in his novels The Trial and The Castle. These are about people hauled through convoluted court proceedings, tried and executed, without being told what crime they have committed or indeed anything much about the supposed offence. These are praised by the connoisseurs of great literature and historians, because they prophesy the gross miscarriages of justice at the heart of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. I think Kafka was probably less serious about his novels’ intentions. If I remember correctly, he had been a clerk for an insurance company, handling sickness claims, and his books are satires on convoluted bureaucracy. I think he even described them as long jokes. But dry, and ironic in style of the Middle European sense of humour.

But there is nothing remotely funny or joking about this piece of legislation. This is the corporate establishment using brutally authoritarian methods to hang on to its power and suppress dissent. All the while telling us that it’s all for our own good, because of the threat of Islamist terrorism. After politicians like Theresa May, Cameron and Clegg have finished, I shall be surprised if we have any freedom left for ISIS or al-Qaeda to destroy.

Vox Political on Blair’s Proposed New Institute for Centre Ground Politics

December 2, 2016

Mike today put up a piece, which asked rhetorically how we should receive Tony Blair’s statement that he is setting up a new institute to promote centre-ground policies. Blair, apparently, is concerned about the resurgence of left- and right-wing populism. The new institute will be launched in the New Year, but will not be party political.

Mike in his comment to the story makes the point that Blair is a creature of the reactionary right. Margaret Thatcher, who began the decades-long destruction of this country, its institutions and industries, and the impoverishment and immiseration of its working people, considered Blair and New Labour her greatest achievement. And when Cameron came to power, he began by consciously modelling himself on Tony Blair’s mixture of neoliberalism and social reform.

Mike comments that the best reaction to the news is probably that put out on Twitter by Matt Turner. This shows Jeremy Corbyn having a dam’ good laugh.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/02/how-should-we-react-as-tony-blair-announces-new-institute-for-centre-ground-politics/

Actually, you could go a bit further than Mike in the characterisation of Tony Blair. He is indeed a creature of the reactionary Right. He is also a crook of almost Reaganite dimensions. Reagan, remember, implemented Thatcher’s policies in America as a reaction to the liberalism of the 1960s. He was a thug who supported right-wing Fascist death squads all over south and central America, who committed appalling atrocities in order to keep the peoples of that continent in thrall to their upper classes and American corporate and political interests. Just as Tony Blair fully and heartily cooperated with Bush in launching an illegal invasion of Iraq, an invasion that has similarly seen the rise of death squads armed and supported by our allies in Washington.

Reagan and Blair also deregulated the financial sector. In Reagan’s case, this was the savings and loans societies – the American equivalent of our building societies. And the results were identical. Massive greed and mismanaged by the financial whizzkids resulted in financial crashes in which some of the very poorest lost their money. This included the cowboys, the remaining agricultural workers on America’s ranches, who Reagan’s supporter, Clint Eastwood, claimed symbolised sturdy Republican values – self-reliance, and having a piece of land of your own. Thanks to Reagan in America, millions of Americans had the opportunity to own a piece of property of their own taken away from them. Just as, decades later, Tony Blair did it to the working people over here.

And then there’s the whole process of the mass privatisation of industry. Reagan started that off, along with the attacks on the American welfare system, using arguments that were also repeated over here by the Blairites in the Labour party. He also flagrantly violated the American Constitution with the Iran-Contra affair, although he managed to escape and it was Oliver North who ended up going to the slammer. Blair’s backing of the Iraq invasion was similarly illegal, but under international law, as our country doesn’t have a written constitution like the US. He was also responsible for some of the policies that are chipping away at our liberties as free citizens. Like Major, Blair was a fan of the surveillance state, wishing to introduce mandatory identity cards, for which we, the ordinary citizens, would have to pay for the privilege of having. He also wanted to expand the powers of the surveillance state and introduce secret courts. These have also been taken over by the Tories and Lib Dems. Blair was also a liar, in that his government was determined to privatise the NHS, but like Thatcher, knew that actually telling people they were doing so would lose them the election. And so, like the Tories before and afterwards, he carefully hid what he was doing.

And then there’s the man’s personal character. He and his wife, Cherie, were massively greedy. They took money from businessmen in a series of sleaze scandals of the type that disgraced John Major’s administration. Corporate donors were given favours and places on government committees and quangos. Cherie Blair, who tried to pass herself off as a human rights lawyer, was quite prepared to work for some of the most brutal and reactionary nations and dictators the world over, if the money was right.

And what kind of left-winger, never mind Socialist, spends his holidays enjoying the hospitality of Berlusconi, whose ruling right-wing coalition included the post-Fascist Alleanza Nazionale, and the Northern League. The latter were so right-wing, they despised the Italian south as foreigners, sneeringly referring to it as ‘Egypt’. Their dream was an independent state in the north of Italy. And the core of their supporters were Fascists. There’s a documentary on YouTube by an Italian journalist, who went in search of the Northern League in his home country. He found them, and they’re very scary. They were, as you’d expect, militantly anti-immigrant. And there’s one scene where he filmed them in a café singing the old Fascist squadristi songs, and reminiscing about the old days under Il Duce. The documentary’s in English, so there’s no problem for Anglophone viewers seeing for themselves how unpleasant these rightists were.
And Blair’s greed was so much that the Italians nicknamed him ‘the scrounger’.

He then followed this up a year or so ago, by being George Dubya’s guest at a Republican Convention, though he wouldn’t say whether or not he was a Republican.

As for being aghast at the rise of populism on both right and left, Blair’s neoliberalism, his attacks on the welfare state and wars in the Middle East are directly responsible for this. His destruction of Iraq, which subsequent regimes have expanded into Syria and Libya, have displaced millions, who can see no future in their home countries. Hence they try to get into western Europe, where they believe they will have safety, jobs and prosperity. At the same time, Blair attacked the welfare state over here, as well as trying to destroy the unions further, and reduced employment rights and working conditions. The result is that millions of Brits are now plunged in precarity, making a meagre living from insecure, low-paid, and often temporary jobs, and saddled with debt. Their scared, and resentful of a corporatist elite, which only offered sanctimonious platitudes about civil rights and racial and gender equality, while making living conditions for ordinary people much worse. And people frightened for their jobs, and acutely afraid that they are being denied welfare payments, are going to be resentful of the immigrants they fear may take those things away from them. Hence the massive xenophobia that has spread alarmingly across Britain in the wake of Brexit.

Blair’s responsible for all that. But he stupidly believes that the answer to this fear and poverty is going to be, well, more of what he stood for: more neoliberalism, more rationed welfare services, more privatised healthcare, more tax cuts for the obscenely right. But somehow made palatable by mellifluous verbiage and lies about increasing opportunity, personal choice, and greater opportunities for women and minorities.

But working people, women and minorities ain’t buying it. There’s an long article in Counterpunch by two of their female columnists discussing why a very large number of American women voted for Trump against Hillary. This was even after it had become abundantly clear that The Donald was a boorish misogynist, who had no qualms about sexual assault. These two women, who both were staunch feminists, made the point that American women were largely unimpressed with Killary’s claim that they should vote for her, because it was about time a woman was in the White House. This didn’t impress the female electorate, who reasoned that Killary’s victory would not be a triumph for all women, but only entitled, rich women. Ordinary, middle class and blue collar women, were still faced with the fear of keeping their jobs and providing for their families in an economic regime in which they could be laid off and their jobs moved halfway around the world. They were faced with the harsh realities of paying the bills and finding affordable medical care when wages hadn’t risen in decades. The two authors made the point that the kind liberalism promoted by Clinton’s establishment Democrats, and Tony Blair and his ilk in Britain, doesn’t actually care about looking after the poor. They care about making sure a fair proportion of those enjoying the top jobs and position are women and members of ethnic minorities, while doing their level best to make sure the majority of people remain in poverty and insecurity for the benefit of the corporate elite.

The reason why Trump and Farage are on the rise on the Right, and Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn on the Left, is for the simple reason that ordinary people have got sick and tired of the lies uttered by people like Blair and the Clintons, that provide an egalitarian cloak for a harshly unequal and exploitative system.

Blair’s intention to launch this new institute also reveals something else about him as well: not only did he take over Thatcher’s politics, he also shares her egotism. Thatcher couldn’t accept that her time was over either when the Tories ditched her in favour of John Major. She kept trying to come back, interfering like a back seat driver. Private Eye made this point on one of their covers, where they showed Thatcher apparently trying to get her way once more by twisting Major’s hand. Plus all the sketches on the latter series of Spitting Image, which showed her as a sad, embittered old woman, constantly saying, ‘I used to be Prime Minister, you know.’

The same thing’s now happened to Blair. He can get used to the fact that he is now politically irrelevant, if not actually a liability.

So let’s treat him like one, and give his institute the derision it deserves.

The Threatened Return of Tony Blair to British Politics

November 23, 2016

The I newspaper today carried the news that Tony Blair wants to return to British politics. Apparently, the former PM thinks that his reputation is ‘recoverable’. There wasn’t much more to the piece than that, the rest of the small snippet being composed of two other newspapers reactions to this news. One of them quoted Owen Jones, the author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, who claimed that without Blair making Britain join Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the Labour party would not be led by Jeremy Corbyn today.

I can see his point. Blair’s participation in an illegal war, which has turned the country into a blood bath, facilitated the rise of Daesh, and led to the deaths of so many brave men and women, simply so the multinationals and the Saudis can loot the country’s oil and other industries, is one of the major reasons why voters became increasingly disenchanted with the Labour party and its Tory leadership. But there were many other reasons besides.

Basically, Blair was responsible for many of the disastrous policies that are gutting our precious health and school systems. They were expanded by Cameron, and are being carried on apace by Theresa May, but Blair was responsible for starting them.

These policies include

* The privatisation of the NHS, with the piecemeal dismantlement of the Health Service into ‘community care groups’, intended to be able to commission private health care companies to provide medical services; the expansion of the Private Finance Initiative, launched by the Tories’ Peter Lilley, which has burden hospitals with massive debts, all for the profit of private companies; deliberate outsourcing of medical services to private healthcare companies; and the establishment of ‘polyclinics’ or walk-in medical centres, again as private firms. Alan Milburn had the goal of reducing the NHS to a kitemark on services provided by private healthcare providers.

* The launch of the disastrous academies. These were set up by Blair as City Academies, and based on an idea Norman Baker rolled out under Thatcher, but which had to be abandoned because even they realised it was rubbish. The academies are monstrously expensive, in many cases costing nearly ten times as much as the budget given to the LEA for all the schools in its catchment area. They are highly selective, and in many cases also extremely discriminatory, using mass expulsions and exclusion to get rid of difficult pupils, or students, who are less able than their fellows, in order to keep their academic ratings artificially high. Despite this, about 80 per cent of them are no better than the LEA schools against which they compete, and the excellent results of the other 20 per cent are no more than you would expect, if each individual state school received £20-£30 million in funding.

* The massive expansion of corporate power into the mechanism of government, with unelected managing directors and company heads being given positions on government committees and quangos.

* Massive backing for the supermarkets, despite these harming local businesses and exploiting their suppliers through highly unfair and manipulative contracts.

* Continuing the Tory policy of deregulating and favouring the financial sector, with the result that all the safeguards that could have prevented the 2008 crash were removed. And that led to the current situation, where ordinary people are being pushed further into poverty, while the bankers are back enjoying massive bonuses and corporate bail-outs.

* The further cutting of the benefits system, including the introduction of the Work Capability Tests, which have seen tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of disabled people thrown off benefits, declared ‘fit for work’, and left to struggle and die in poverty. Several hundred have so far died as a direct result of being left without an income due to these tests.

* Privatisation of the prison service. Blair was approached and lobbied by American private prison operators, like Wackenhut, about handing the running of British prisons over to them.

* The passage of further legislation intended to weaken whatever remained of the power of trade unions.

* Oh yes, and the privatisation, or at least the part-privatisation, of the Post Office.

He was also responsible for the further, massive expansion of the surveillance state, secret courts and expanding the length of time prisoners can be held without charge.

I realise that these policies weren’t new. Many of them, like the PFI and the City Academies, were recycled Tory ideas, as were his privatisations, including the NHS, and the welfare reforms, which were deliberately intended to cut welfare support to the unemployed and long-term sick. But Blair did not have a mandate for them, and in opposition had explicitly condemned them. And in fact, Blair 1997 election victory was such that he could have comfortably reversed them with no threat of losing votes to the Tories.

But he didn’t. He carried on with the policies he’d inherited from Thatcher and Major, policies which have been in turn passed on and expanded by Cameron and May. These policies also played no small part in creating the disenfranchisement of large sections of the working class from British politics, and alienating traditional, working class Labour voters as Blair chased the votes of the middle class and rich. And these policies on their own should be enough to make people heartily sick and tired of him. Coupled with his illegal, murderous wars in the Middle East, they present an overwhelming argument against him making a comeback.

Blair possibly believes that if he returns to British politics, his presence will be enough to rally the neoliberal troops in the Labour party, oust Jeremy Corbyn, and make the party ‘electable’, or rather, palatable to Britain’s corrupt, bloated and exploitative establishment again.

Let’s show the vile, corporate warmonger that he’s very, very wrong.

Review: The Liberal Tradition, ed. by Alan Bullock and Maurice Shock

November 6, 2016

(Oxford: OUP 1967)

liberal-tradition-pic

I picked this up in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. I am definitely not a Liberal, but so many of the foundations of modern representative democracy, and liberal political institutions, rights and freedoms were laid down by Liberals from the 17th century Whigs onward, that this book is of immense value for the historic light it sheds on the origins of modern political thought. It is also acutely relevant, for many of the issues the great liberal philosophers, thinkers and ideologues argued over, debated and discussed in the pieces collected in it are still being fought over today. These are issues like the freedom, religious liberty and equality, democracy, anti-militarism and opposition to the armaments industry, imperialism versus anti-imperialism, devolution and home rule, laissez-faire and state intervention, and the amelioration of poverty.

Alan Bullock is an historian best known for his biography of Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, which remains the classic work on the Nazi dictator. In the 1990s he produced another book which compared Hitler’s life to that of his contemporary Soviet dictator and ultimate nemesis, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. The book has an introduction, tracing the development of Liberalism from its origins to the 1930s, when the authors consider that the Liberal party ceased to be an effective force in British politics. This discusses the major issues and events, with which Whig and Liberal politicians and thinkers were forced to grapple, and which in turn shaped the party and its evolving intellectual tradition.

The main part of the book consists of the major historical speeches and writings, which are treated in sections according to theme and period. These comprise

Part. Fox and the Whig Tradition

1. Civil Liberties.

Two speeches by Charles James Fox in parliament, from 1792 and 1794;
Parliamentary speech by R.B. Sheridan, 1810.
Parliamentary speech by Earl Grey, 1819.
Lord John Russell, An Essay on the History of the English Government and Constitution, 1821.
Lord John Russell, parliamentary speech, 1828.

2. Opposition to the War against Revolutionary France

Speeches by Charles James Fox, from 1793, 1794 and 1800.

3. Foreign Policy and the Struggle for Freedom Abroad

Earl Grey, parliamentary speech, 1821;
Marquis of Lansdowne, parliamentary speech, 1821.
Extracts from Byron’s poems Sonnet on Chillon, 1816, Childe Harold, Canto IV, 1817, and Marino Faliero, 1821.

4. Parliamentary Reform

Lord John Russell, parliamentary speech, 1822.
Lord Melbourne, parliamentary speech, 1831.
T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1831.

Part II. The Benthamites and the Political Economists, 1776-1830.

1. Individualism and Laissez-faire

Two extracts from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, 1776.
Jeremy Bentham, A Manual of Political Economy, 1798.

2. Natural Laws and the Impossibility of Interference

T.R. Malthus, Essay on Population, 1798.
David Ricardo, The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, 1819.

3. Free Trade

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations,
David Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy,
Petition of the London Merchants, 1820.

4. Colonies

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations.

5. Reform

Jeremy Bentham, Plan of Parliamentary Reform, 1817.
David Ricardo, Observations on Parliamentary Reform, 1824.
Jeremy Bentham, Constitutional Code, 1830.
John Stuart Mill, Autobiography.

Part III. The Age of Cobden and Bright.

1. Free Trade and the Repeal of the Corn Laws

Petition of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce to the House of Commons, 20 December 1838.
Richard Cobden, two speeches in London, 1844.
Cobden, speech in Manchester, 1846,
Lord John Russell, Letter to the Electors of the City of London (The ‘Edinburgh Letter’) 1845.

2. Laissez-Faire

Richard Cobden, Russia, 1836.
Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1846.
T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1846.
Joseph Hume, parliamentary speech, 1847.
John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, 1848.

Education

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech 1847.
John Bright, parliamentary speech 1847.

4. Religious Liberty

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1833.
John Bright, two parliamentary speeches, 1851 and 1853.

5. Foreign Policy

Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1849;
Viscount Palmerston, speech at Tiverton, 1847;
Richard Cobden, parliamentary speech, 1850; speech at Birmingham, 1858; speech in Glasgow, 1858;
John Bright, letter to Absalom Watkins, 1854;
W.E. Gladstone, parliamentary speech, 1857;

6. India and Ireland

T.B. Macaulay, parliamentary speech, 1833;
John Bright, four speeches in parliament, 1848, 1849,1858, 1859;
Richard Cobden, speech at Rochdale, 1863.

Part IV. The Age of Gladstone

1. The Philosophy of Liberty

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859;
John Stuart Mill, Representative Government, 1861;
Lord Acton, A Review of Goldwin smith’s ‘Irish History’, 1862;
Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity, 1877.
Lord Acton, A Review of Sir Erskine May’s ‘Democracy in Europe’, 1878.
Lord Acton, letter to Bishop Creighton, 1887.
Lord Acton, letter to Mary Gladstone, 1881;
John Morley, On Compromise, 1874.

2. Parliamentary Reform

Richard Cobden, two speeches at Rochdale, 1859 and 1863;
John Bright, speech at Rochdale, 1863; speech at Birmingham, 1865; speech at Glasgow, 1866; speech at London, 1866;
W.E. Gladstone, speech at Chester, 1865; speech at Manchester, 1865; parliamentary speech, 1866;

3. Foreign Policy

W.E. Gladstone, two parliamentary speeches, 1877 and 1878; speech at Dalkeith, 1879; speech at Penicuik, 1880, speech at Loanhead, 1880; article in The Nineteenth Century, 1878.

4. Ireland

John Bright, speech at Dublin, 1866 and parliamentary speech, 1868.
W.E. Gladstone, two parliamentary speeches, 1886 and 1888.

Part V. The New Liberalism

1. The Philosophy of State Interference

T.H. Green, Liberal Legislation or Freedom of Contract, 1881;
Herbert Spencer, The Coming Slavery, 1884;
D.G. Ritchie, The Principles of State Interference, 1891;
J.A. Hobson, The Crisis of Liberalism, 1909;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911;

2. The Extension of Democracy

Herbert Samuel, Liberalism, 1902;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Plymouth, 1907;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Newcastle, 1909;
H.H. Asquith, speech at the Albert Hall, 1909.
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911.

3. Social Reform

Joseph Chamberlain, speech at Hull, 1885, and Warrington, 1885;
W.E. Gladstone, speech at Saltney, 1889;
Lord Rosebery, speech at Chesterfield, 1901;
Winston S. Churchill, speech at Glasgow, 1906;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Swansea, 1908;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 8th July 1912;

4. The Government and the National Economy

H.H. Asquith, speech at Cinderford, 1903;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Bolton, 1903;
D. Lloyd George, speech at Bedford, 1913, and speech at Middlesbrough, 1913;
L.T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, 1911.

5. Imperialism and the Boer War

Sir William Harcourt, speech in West Monmouthshire, 1899;
J.L. Hammond, ‘Colonial and Foreign Policy’ in Liberalism and the Empire, 1900;
J.A. Hobson, Imperialism, 1902;
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at Stirling, 1901.

6. Armaments

Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, speech at London, 1905;
William Byles, parliamentary speech, 1907;
Sir E. Grey, two parliamentary speeches from 1909 and 1911;
Sir J. Brunner, speech at the 35th Annual Meeting of the National Liberal Federation, 1913.

7. Foreign Policy

House of Commons debate 22nd July 1909, featuring J.M. Robertson and Arthur Ponsonby;
Sir E. Grey, two parliamentary speeches, 1911 and 1914;
House of Commons debate, 14th December 1911, featuring Josiah Wedgwood and J.G. Swift MacNeill;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 1 August 1914;

Part VI. Liberalism after 1918

1. The End of Laissez-faire

J.M. Keynes, The End of Laissez-Faire, 1926;
Britain’s Industrial Future, the Report of the Liberal Industrial Inquiry, 1928;
J.M. Keynes and H.D. Henderson, Can Lloyd George Do It? 1929,
Sir William Beveridge, Full Employment in a Free Society, 1944.

2. The League and the Peace

Viscount Grey of Fallodon, The League of Nations, 1918;
Gilbert Murray, The League of Nations and the Democratic Idea, 1918;
Manchester Guardian, leading article, 24th June 1919;
J.M. Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1919;
D. Lloyd George, speech at London, 1927;
Philip Kerr, The Outlawry of War, paper read to the R.I.I.A., 13 November 1928;
The Liberal Way, A survey of Liberal policy, published by the National Liberal Federation, 1934.

Epilogue

J.M. Keynes, Am I a Liberal? Address to the Liberal summer school at Cambridge, 1925.

In their conclusion, Bullock and Shock state that Liberal ideology is incoherent – a jumble – unless seen as an historical development, and that the Liberal party itself lasted only about seventy years from the time Gladstone joined Palmerstone’s government in 1859 to 1931, after which it was represented only by a handful of members in parliament. The Liberal tradition, by contrast, has been taken over by all political parties, is embodied in the Constitution, and has profoundly affected education – especially in the universities, the law, and the philosophy of government in the civil service. It has also inspired the transformation of the Empire into the Commonwealth. It has also profoundly affected the British character at the instinctive level, which has been given expression in the notion of ‘fair play’.

They also write about the immense importance in the Liberal tradition of freedom, and principle. They write

In the pages which follow two ideas recur again and again. The first is a belief in the value of freedom, freedom of the individual, freedom of minorities, freedom of peoples. The scope of freedom has required continual and sometimes drastic re-defining, as in the abandonment of laissez-faire or in the extension of self-government to the peoples of Asia and Africa. But each re-definition has represented a deepening and strengthening, not an attenuation, of the original faith in freedom.

The second is the belief that principle ought to count far more than power or expediency, that moral issues cannot be excluded from politics. Liberal attempts to translate moral principles into political action have rarely been successful and neglect of the factor of power is one of the most obvious criticisms of Liberal thinking about politics, especially international relations. But neglect of the factor of conscience, which is a much more likely error, is equally disastrous in the long run. The historical role of Liberalism in British history has been to prevent this, and again and again to modify policies and the exercise of power by protests in the name of conscience. (p. liv).

They finish with

We end it by pointing to the belief in freedom and the belief in conscience as the twin foundations of Liberal philosophy and the element of continuity in its historical development. Politics can never be conducted by the light of these two principles alone, but without them human society is reduced to servitude and the naked rule of force. This is the truth which the Liberal tradition has maintained from Fox to Keynes – and which still needs to be maintained in our own time. (pp. liv-lv).

It should be said that the participation of the Lib Dems was all too clearly a rejection of any enlightened concern for principle and conscience, as this was jettisoned by Clegg in order to join a highly illiberal parliament, which passed, and is still passing under its Conservative successor, Theresa May, legislation which is deliberately aimed at destroying the lives and livelihood of the very poorest in society – the working class, the disabled and the unemployed, and destroying the very foundations of British constitutional freedom in the creation of a network of universal surveillance and secret courts.

These alone are what makes the book’s contents so relevant, if only to remind us of the intense relevance of the very institutions that are under attack from today’s vile and corrupt Tory party.

Vox Political on Clem Atlee’s Great Nephew’s Suspension for Satirical Cameron Meme

September 15, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has posted a piece commenting on the real reason behind the suspension of John MacDonald, Clement Atlee’s great-nephew, by the ‘Compliance Unit’. They told MacDonald that he’d been suspended because of a piece he put up on the 8th August. The trouble is, he hadn’t put up any post on social media on the 8th of August this year. He had, however, posted up a piece on the 9th, with Cath Atlee, urging everyone to vote for Corbyn as the only surviving relatives of Labour’s greatest prime minister, and one of the very greatest premiers this country has ever produced.

Now it appears that the real reason Mr MacDonald was purged was because of a meme he put up of Cameron as Adolf Hitler, along with a quote from the Fuhrer stating that the way you deprive a people of their freedoms is to take it away a little at a time, so that they don’t know you’re doing it. The New Labour apparatchiks in the Compliance Unit claimed that the meme was ‘abusive’. Mike puts them right by showing that it isn’t. It’s satire. It makes a very strong point, but in a humorous manner. He also points out that it doesn’t attack other members of the Labour party, and that the Tories are fair game for such comments, otherwise noted enemies of the Tories, like Dennis Skinner, would have been purged a long time ago. He also points out that rummaging around social media to support punishing someone for breaking a rule that is only a month old is insupportable. Mike concludes

The best outcome Labour’s NEC – in charge of the ‘compliance unit’ – can hope for is to restore Mr Macdonald’s vote to the count and issue an apology so grovelingly abject that we’ll all become so distracted by it that we won’t remember what it’s for. Good luck with that, folks!

Meanwhile, the rest of us can look forward to the day – not far away – when an inquiry is launched into the activities of this ‘compliance unit’, and action taken over the behaviour of its absurdly-overpaid members.

The article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/14/suspension-of-attlees-nephew-proves-labours-compliance-team-does-not-understand-satire/

There’s a lot more that can be said about this. Firstly, the meme makes a fair point. It isn’t abusive. If you want a real example of abuse, one of the instances that comes to mind was way back when William Hague was leader of the Tory party, and one of the Labour MPs sneered at him and compared him to a fetus. This shocked many people, and the MP had to apology. That’s abuse.

But Cameron has taken away people’s freedoms, gradually, all the while claiming to be protecting democracy, in a manner very much like that recommended by Hitler. Cameron and Nick Clegg passed legislation providing for secret courts from which the press and public are excluded in cases involving national security. In these cases, the accused may not know who his accuser is, or the evidence on which he is being tried, nor even what his crime is. These are all breaches of the fundamental principles of justice laid down in Magna Carta. Even in the Middle Ages, a criminal could only be tried if someone actually stood up in open court to accuse them. There were known malefactors, who the sheriffs, as the crown’s administrator and agent in the shires, had to arrest. Once they had them under lock and key in their dungeons, they then frequently appealed to a member of the public to accuse them of a crime so that they could be properly tried. It’s a peculiar situation when the Middle Ages starts to appear far more just than a piece of modern legislation passed by a supposedly democratic regime.

On a related point, one of the fundament principles of justice is that legislation cannot act retrospectively. You cannot arrest someone for doing something before it was made a crime. But this is what the Compliance Unit have done in this case, as in so many others. As Mike has pointed out.

Cameron, as part of the Tories’ ongoing attempts to destroy the unions, also wanted to pass legislation compelling strikers on a picket line to give their names to the rozzers. This was condemned as ‘Francoist’ by David Davis, one of the most right-wing of the Tories. Not that it’s particularly different from legislation the Tories briefly passed to stop strike action in the 1970s. Ted Heath also passed a law that would have banned strikes and seen wage claims passed to an industrial court. This was similar to legislation proposed a few years earlier by Barbara Castle in her paper, In Place of Strife. Heath went further, however, and included a clause, that would have allowed the authorities to identify who was responsible for calling the strike. As for the system of labour courts, that was introduced by Mussolini as part of his ‘Charter of Labour’ in Fascist Italy. The revival of similar legislation in supposedly democratic Britain convinced many political theorists that we were seeing the appearance of ‘Fascism with a human face’. That meant, Fascism without the strutting militarism and brutality of the archetypal right-wing dictatorships.

And Cameron was also very keen on expanding state surveillance, to keep us all safe from Muslim terrorists, or whoever. Again, very similar to the massive secret police and surveillance in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Franco’s Spain. Nazi Germany justified itself constitutionally as a response to political crisis, such as the attack on Germany by leftists in acts like the Reichstag fire. Every four years or so, Adolf Hitler had to go back to the Reichstag and pass a law stating that the crisis was not over, thus allowing him the constitutional power to go on ruling without the Reichstag for another four years. Again, like Cameron, the Fascist leaders claimed they were doing so to protect the public.

So the meme, while undoubtedly emotive, was perfectly justified. Cameron was, and Theresa May is, extremely authoritarian, and determined to chip away hard-won British freedoms in the manner described by Adolf. He’s also like another Nazi in his former profession. Cameron worked in PR, a profession not known for objective truth. Goebbels, Hitler’s ‘Minister for Public Enlightenment’ was a former adman, if I recall correctly.

The meme’s fair comment. Also, it’s pretty much to be expected that a politician, who is perceived to be dictatorial will be compared to Adolf Hitler. Just like they were compared to Napoleon before he arose. Such comparisons are so common, that unless they’re very unfair and say something monstrously untrue, they’re hardly worth censure. Those who do tend to make themselves look ridiculous, and furthermore seem to bear out the comparison.

And Mike’s right about other members of the Labour party having made similar comparisons. The classic example of such invective was Nye Bevan’s comment that ‘Tories are vermin’. It’s been used against the Labour party from time to time ever since. But that didn’t mean that Bevan didn’t have a right to say it. Bevan was Welsh coalminer, when there was grinding poverty in the Welsh coalfields. The Conservative government under Baldwin called in the British army to shoot strikers during one of the disputes in the 1920s. It might even have been during the 1926 General Strike. Accounts of the strike say that many of the miners were dressed in rags. In a situation like that, when men, who are starving are being shot down for daring to demand a higher wage, Bevan had an absolute right to hate the party that impoverished and killed them with all the venom that he did. Especially as the Tories in the First World War had demanded legislation that, in the words of one right-wing, would allow them to beat the unions like jelly.

I also wonder why the Compliance Unit should be so upset about a meme attacking David Cameron. Surely any decent opposition party should be attacking Cameron’s government for its assault on precious British freedoms. But not so those Blairites in the Compliance Unit. Perhaps they’re afraid it’ll bring back memories of similar legislation, also providing for secret courts, introduced by Blair and Jack Straw. Or perhaps they’re afraid it’ll offend all the Tory voters, whose votes they hope to steal by copying everything the Tories do, but promising New Labour will do it all better.

Either way, Mike’s right. It’s time the Compliance Unit and its bloated apparatchiks were wound up and investigated for their role in disrupting Labour party democracy and bringing the party into disrepute.

Judge’s Ruling Stops Deportations of Foreign Students

March 28, 2016

The Politics.Co.UK yesterday reported that a judge, Mr Justice McCloskey, had ruled that the Home Office’s deportation of thousands of foreign students was illegal and unfair. The article begins:

The ruling could hardly be more damning. It found Theresa May deported thousands of students from Britain on the basis of unscientific hearsay evidence. The Home Office behaved like a tin-pot dictatorship: detaining innocent people, accusing them of made-up charges without providing anything to back it up, denying them their day in court and then deporting them.

Today’s ruling could open the doors to the return of thousands of students to the UK, if – of course – they wish to come back to a country which has treated them so appallingly. And it brings to a shuddering halt Theresa May’s mass deportation programme of students. It also raises serious questions about the legal and operational functions – as well as the basic morality – of the Home Office.

The Home Office started rounding up foreign students after Panorama aired a programme on how students at a single London school were cheating to pass the ETS language test. Instead of just treating this as a single instance, the Home Office decided that everyone, who had taken the test must also be guilty of fraud. The students themselves were rounded up in dawn raids, husbands and wives were separated. And they were also not allowed to see the evidence against them. Which from the point of view of the government was just as well, as there was none.

The case rests on the performance of a voice recognition test run by an American firm, ETS. This claimed that it had run thousands of tests comparing its software with humans. When it came to the court case, however, ETS did not appear. It sent no witnesses, and gave no evidence one way or another.

The article raises the following questions about this sorry affair.

How did the Home Office get to the point where it started deporting innocent people on the basis of unreliable hearsay evidence and without any proper judicial remedy? Why did the home secretary breach her duty of candour with those being accused of fraud? How is a private firm contracted to do public service work for the UK government issuing fantastical information to the Home Office? Why is it getting away with shutting up shop and refusing to comply with a tribunal? How did the Home Office end up being completely reliant on a foreign private contractor in the first place? And what is the home secretary going to do to contact the people who were unlawfully removed from this country so that they can now return to the UK?

The article is at http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2016/03/23/disaster-for-theresa-may-as-legal-ruling-brings-student-depo

What struck me was the sheer lack of any kind of proper legal process from the accused. They were just rounded up and deported. If they were tried, they weren’t allowed to see the evidence against them. I’ve already commented about the real, serious threat to democracy the government’s system of secret courts present, and how this is very close to the perverted court system set up by the Nazis. Under these courts, those accused of terrorism may not be allowed to see the evidence against them, or know who their accuser is, and the court proceedings carried on in closed session if this it is felt there is a threat to national security. This case shows how the same unjust procedures have been expanded to cover immigration. It’s hard to see how these foreign students en masse constitute such a threat that they could not see the evidence presented against them. Of course, the real reason they couldn’t see it, was because it didn’t exist. The government just wanted to throw them out of the country.

Well, it started with those accused of terrorism. Now it’s been extended to cover possible illegal immigrants. I don’t doubt that the government is hoping they can extend it even further to the general public, and specifically those sections Cameron doesn’t like: the poor, the ill, trade unionists and left-wingers. His proposed trade union bill, remember, would have required strikers on picket lines to give their names to the police. It was a measure too far for even David Davis, who described it as ‘Francoist’. And, like Franco, Cameron no doubt ultimately aims for the arrest and detention of left-wing opponents of the regime, whether they’re trade unionists on strike or protestors holding a march. This is the beginning of a police state. And Mr Justice McCloskey is to be applauded in upholding justice against Theresa May for combatting this piece of it.

The Tories, Adolf Hitler and the Secret Courts

March 24, 2016

One of the most grotesque and illiberal piece of legislation that the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers passed in the last parliament was a law providing for secret courts to try cases involving national security. These courts are Kafka-esque travesties of justice, where the defendant may not the evidence against him, or who his accuser is, or even the precise charges against him if this is felt to be sensitive information, which would be harmful to national security if divulged. They are also to be closed to the public and the press for the same reasons.

I’ve blogged before on how these courts resemble the perverted system of justice under the Third Reich and Soviet Russia. The Nazis set up a system of Special Courts from March 1933 onwards. These were to try political crimes without the use of juries. In 1934, the following year, Adolf and his fellow stormtroopers set up People’s Courts to try cases of treason. These did have juries, but they were drawn from the Nazi party.

Cameron and the Tories are a real threat to British democracy and traditional British freedom. They should be thrown out of power for good before it’s too late.

Private from 2000 on MI6 and the Observer

March 8, 2016

This is another ominous piece from Private Eye for Friday, 16th June 2000.

Two years ago, a dozen hacks from the Observer sent an indignant letter to the Eye protesting at our suggestion that the paper’s foreign editor, Len Doyle, was “rather too close to British intelligence for comfort.”

Doyle, they insisted, “is a respected friend and highly regarded journalist and innuendo about his lack of impartiality does him a grave injustice”.

Lo and behold, in this Monday’s Guardian, ex-Observer hack David Leigh belatedly confirmed that Doyle was indeed “in contact with MI6”, and encouraged his staff to pursue leads provided by “the men in shiny suits”, as he called them. “We … had ended up, in effect, acting as government agents,” Leigh concluded, though he hastily added that Doyle always “behaved scrupulously”.

This doesn’t quite tally with the experience of the Observer’s former diplomatic editor, shyam Bhatia, who on 24 September 1997 was taken to lunch by Doyle with one of the shiny-suit brigade, a senior MI6 officer called Peter Noonan. They had barely ordered their drinks before Noonan revealed that MI6 boss Sir David Sedding was furious at a piece about him in that day’s Grauniad by Francis Wheen. Noonan was determined to find out everything he could about the wretched Wheen. Where did he live? Was he married? Did he have children?

To Bhatia’s astonishment and dismay, Doyle did his best to provide the information required. It may or may not be coincidence that Bhatia left the Observer soon afterwards.

Meanwhile Doyle is now foreign editor of the Independent (sic). Do the paper’s editor and directors share his apparent view that journalists should inform on their colleagues to the spooks of Vauxhall Cross?

Now British intelligence has long had connections in Fleet Street. Ken Livingstone mentions in his book, Livingstone’s Labour, that a former head of the Mirror was one. I’ve also read rumours, but no actual proof, that Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil, now of the Daily Politics, also had intelligence connections when he was at the Sunday Times.

The piece was sinister enough when it was published, with the implication that the heads of the intelligence services would devote resources and manpower into monitoring and manipulating the press, and pursuing personal vendettas against journalists, who they considered troublesome. It’s even more sinister when you take into account the revelations that MI5 at one point in the 1970s were looking at opening an internment camp for subversives, including ’50 MPs, not all Labour’, in Shetland or one of the other Scots Islands.

It is even more troubling sixteen years later, after governments have passed successive acts vastly expanding the powers of the surveillance state and providing for a system of secret courts, in which you can be tried without the public and your family knowing your location, and from which the press and public are excluded. These courts also allow witnesses to present their evidence anonymously, and that evidence itself may not be disclosed to you. All in the name of national security and combating terrorism. All this makes you wonder how free the press truly is, and for how long.