Posts Tagged ‘Sexism’

80s Space Comedy From Two of the Goodies

May 26, 2020

Astronauts, written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, 13 episodes of 25 minutes in length. First Broadcast ITV 1981 and 1983.

I hope everyone had a great Bank Holiday Monday yesterday, and Dominic Cummings’ hypocritical refusal to resign after repeatedly and flagrantly breaking the lockdown rules aren’t getting everyone too down. And now, for the SF fans, is something completely different as Monty Python used to say.

Astronauts was a low budget ITV sitcom from the very early ’80s. It was written by the two Goodies responsible for writing the scripts for their show, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, and based on the personal conflicts and squabbling of the American astronauts on the Skylab programme six years earlier. It was about three British astronauts, RAF officer, mission commander and pilot Malcolm Mattocks, chippy, left-wing working-class engineer David Ackroyd, coolly intellectual biologist Gentian Fraser,and their dog, Bimbo,  who are launched into space as the crew of the first all-British space station. Overseeing the mission is their American ground controller Lloyd Beadle. Although now largely forgotten, the show lasted two seasons, and there must have been some continuing demand for it, because it’s been released nearly forty years later as a DVD. Though not in such demand that I didn’t find it in DVD/CD bargain catalogue.

Low Budget

The show’s very low budget. Lower than the Beeb’s Blake’s 7, which often cited as an example of low budget British science fiction. There’s only one model used, that of their space station, which is very much like the factual Skylab. The shots of their spacecraft taking off are stock footage of a Saturn V launch, the giant rockets used in the Moon landings and for Skylab. There also seems to be only one special effects sequence in the show’s entire run, apart from outside shots. That’s when an accident causes the station to move disastrously out of its orbit, losing gravity as it does so. Cheap matte/ Chromakey effects are used to show Mattocks rising horizontally from his bunk, where he’s been lying, while Bimbo floats through the bedroom door.

Class in Astronauts and Red Dwarf

It’s hard not to compare it with the later, rather more spectacular Red Dwarf, which appeared in 1986, three years after Astronaut’s last season. Both shows centre around a restricted regular cast. In Red Dwarf this was initially just Lister, Holly and the Cat before the appearance of Kryten. Much of the comedy in Red Dwarf is also driven by their similar situation to their counterparts in Astronauts – personality clashes in the cramped, isolated environment of a spacecraft. The two shows are also similar in that part of this conflict from class and a Conservative military type versus working class cynic/ liberal. In Red Dwarf it’s Rimmer as the Conservative militarist, while Lister is the working class rebel. In Astronauts the military man is Mattocks, a patriotic RAF pilot, while Ackroyd, the engineer, is left-wing, Green, and affects to be working class. The three Astronauts also debate the class issue, accusing each other of being posh before establishing each other’s place in the class hierarchy. Mattocks is posh, but not as posh as Foster. Foster’s working class credentials are, however, destroyed during an on-air phone call with his mother, who is very definitely middle or upper class, and talks about going to the Conservative club. In this conflict, it’s hard not to see a similarity with the Goodies and the conflict there between the Conservative screen persona of Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie’s left-wing, working class character.

Class, however, plays a much smaller role in Red Dwarf. Lister is more underclass than working class, and the show, set further in the future, has less overt references to contemporary class divisions and politics. The humour in Red Dwarf is also somewhat bleaker. The crew are alone three million years in the future, with the human race vanished or extinct with the exception of Lister. Rimmer is an ambitious failure. For all he dreams of being an officer, he has failed the exam multiple times and the B.Sc he claims is Batchelor of Science is really BSC – Bronze Swimming Certificate. Both he and Lister are at the lowest peg of the ship’s hierarchy in Red Dwarf. They’re maintenance engineers, whose chief duties is unblocking the nozzles of vending machines. Lister’s background is rough. Very rough. While others went scrumping for apples, he and his friends went scrumping for cars. The only famous person in his class was a man who ate his wife. The three heroes of Astronauts, however, are all competent, intelligent professionals despite their bickering. Another difference is that while both series have characters riddled with self-loathing, in Red Dwarf it’s the would-be officer Rimmer, while in Astronauts is working class engineer Ackroyd.

Britain Lagging Behind in Space

Other issues in Astronauts include Britain’s low status as a space power. In a speech in the first episode, the crew express their pride at being the first British mission, while paying tribute to their American predecessors in the Apollo missions. The Ealing comedy The Mouse on the Moon did something similar. And yet Britain at the time had been the third space power. Only a few years before, the British rocket Black Arrow had been successfully launched from Woomera in Australia, successfully taking a British satellite into orbit.

Personal Conflicts

There are also conflicts over the cleaning and ship maintenance duties, personal taste in music – Mattocks irritates Ackroyd by playing Tubular Bells, publicity or lack of it – in one episode, the crew are annoyed because it seems the media back on Earth have forgotten them – and disgust at the limited menu. Mattocks is also shocked to find that Foster has been killing and dissecting the mice he’s been playing with, and is afraid that she’ll do it to the dog. Sexism and sexual tension also rear their heads. Mattocks fancies Foster, but Ackroyd doesn’t, leading to further conflict between them and her. Foster, who naturally wants to be seen as an equal and ‘one of the boys’ tries to stop this by embarrassing them. She cuts her crew uniform into a bikini and then dances erotically in front of the two men, before jumping on them both crying ‘I’ll have both of you!’ This does the job, and shames them, but Beadle, watching them gets a bit too taken with the display, shouting ‘Work it! Work it! Boy! I wish I was up there with you boys!’ Foster also objects to Mattocks because he doesn’t help his wife, Valerie, out with the domestic chores at home. Mattocks also suspects that his wife is having an affair, which she is, in a sort-of relationship with Beadle. There’s also a dig at the attitudes of some magazines. In the press conference before the three go on their mission, Foster is asked by Woman’s Own if she’s going to do any cooking and cleaning in space. Beadle and his team reply that she’s a highly trained specialist no different from the men. The joke’s interesting because in this case the butt of the humour is the sexism in a certain type of women’s magazine, rather than chauvinist male attitudes.

Cold War Espionage

Other subjects include the tense geopolitical situation of the time. Mattocks is revealed to have been running a secret espionage programme, photographing Russian bases as the station flies over them in its orbit. The others object, and Ackroyd is finally able to persuade Beadle to allow them to use the technology to photograph illegal Russian whaling in the Pacific. This is used to embarrass the Russians at an international summit, but the questions about the origin of the photos leads to the espionage programme being abandoned. The crew also catch sight of a mysterious spacecraft in the same orbit, and start receiving communications in a strange language. After initially considering that it just might be UFOs, it’s revealed that they do, in fact, come from a lonely Russian cosmonaut. Foster speaks Russian, and starts up a friendship. When Mattocks finds out, he is first very suspicious, but then after speaking to the Russian in English, he too becomes friends. He’s the most affected when the Russian is killed after his craft’s orbit decays and burns up re-entering the atmosphere.

Soft Drink Sponsorship

There are also digs at commercial sponsorship. The mission is sponsored by Ribozade, whose name is a portmanteau of the British drinks Ribeena and Lucozade. Ribozade tastes foul, but the crew nevertheless have it on board and must keep drinking it. This is not Science Fiction. One of the American missions was sponsored by Coca Cola, I believe, and so one of the space stations had a Coke machine on board. And when Helen Sharman went into space later in the decade aboard a Russian rocket to the space station Mir, she was originally to be sponsored by Mars and other British companies.

God, Philosophy and Nicholas Parsons

The show also includes arguments over the existence or not of the Almighty. Mattocks believes He exists, and has shown His special favour to them by guiding his hand in an earlier crisis. Mattocks was able to save them, despite having no idea what he was doing. Ackroyd, the sceptic, replies that he can’t say the Lord doesn’t exist, but can’t see how God could possibly create Nicholas Parsons and Sale of the Century, one of the popular game shows on ITV at the time, if He did. As Mattocks is supposed to be guiding them down from orbit, his admission that he really didn’t know what he was doing to rescue the station naturally alarms Foster and Ackroyd so that they don’t trust his ability to get them down intact.

Red Dwarf also has its jokes about contemporary issues and politics. Two of the most memorable are about the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer being covered with a gigantic toupee, and the despair squid, whose ink causes its prey to become suicidal and which has thus destroyed all other life on its world in the episode ‘Back to Reality’. Other jokes include everyone knowing where they were when Cliff Richard got shot. Red Dwarf, however, is much more fantastic and goes further in dealing with philosophical issues, such as when Rimmer is incarcerated in a space prison where justice is definitely retributive. If you do something illegal, it comes back to happen to you. This is demonstrated when Lister follows Rimmer’s instruction and tries to set his sheets alight. He shortly finds that his own black leather jacket has caught fire.

Conclusion

Red Dwarf is able to go much further in exploring these and other bizarre scenarios as it’s definitely Science Fiction. Astronauts is, I would argue, space fiction without the SF. It’s fictional, but based solidly on fact, including generating gravity through centrifugal force. But critically for any comedy is the question whether its funny. Everyone’s taste is different, but in my opinion, yes, Astronauts is. It’s dated and very much of its time, but the humour still stands up four decades later. It had me laughing at any rate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bristol South Letter about Leaked Report and Its Inquiry to Labour Party

April 27, 2020

The officers of my local constituency Labour party, Bristol South, sent a copy of a statement they had written to the national party attached to the email update they sent to members. In it they expressed their concerns about the leaked report into the plotting and sabotage of Labour’s election campaign and the forthcoming inquiry into it on behalf of the constituency party’s members. It runs

Statement from Bristol South Constituency Executive Committee members to:
Keir Starmer MP Leader Angela Rayner MP Deputy Leader and Labour Party Chair,
Andi Fox NEC Chair and Jennie Formby General Secretary

The undersigned members of the Bristol South Constituency Executive are extremely
concerned about the alleged pattern of extensive misconduct in the 851 page document leaked last week. The document outlines how some Labour Party staff members have made a concerted effort to undermine our democratically elected Leadership, compromise our Election Campaigns, even wishing or working for our defeat, and contributed to or impeded the fight against anti-semitism, racism, bullying and sexism within our party.

Labour Members have contacted us expressing their frustration, anger and feelings of being let down by these alleged actions and factional behaviours within the party. So many members have volunteered their time, money, skills and energy to get Labour representatives elected at all levels, in order to build a better society, only to find that their efforts have apparently been mocked and nullified by the very people who should have been supporting them.

The report does document the improvements in complaint handling and proactive work against anti-semitism since Jennie Formby was elected as General Secretary, and whilst we appreciate the recently announced independent investigation by the Leadership Team, we call for:
 The NEC as our ruling body should hold an emergency meeting to set out the terms of
the independent inquiry and a transparent process for investigating the alleged
misconduct
 To publish a timetable for that inquiry and when it reports, that reflects urgency and a
quick turn around
 The full report on the independent investigation to be made available to Labour Members along with any and all recommendations for action
 Administrative suspension, pending investigation be applied for alleged gross misconduct for those named and documented in the report
 Accountability for alleged misuse of funding
 A commitment to cultural and procedural change in the party at national, regional and
local levels

We are concerned about the wellbeing of members who the document has shown to be abused and members who are distraught at its contents, whilst recognising the rights of those accused. The Labour Party needs to work together if we are to be successful; we all need to work to build a more inclusive, democratic, and accountable party at all levels where all members can feel safe and free from the kind of bullying that this report documents. 

This is an opportunity to learn lessons; the membership and our voters need to be shown thatchanges have been made to ensure this can never happen again.

Mabel Hahner, Chair David Meacham, Vice Chair Membership
Jane Britton, Vice Chair Zoe Goodman, Campaign and Data Co-ordinator
James Tuite, Secretary Lee Starr-Elliott, Disability Officer
Gwyneth Brain, LGBT Officer Hribhu Mendiratta, Youth Officer
Bianca Rossetti, Policy Officer Ajay Kumar, Political Education Officer (share)
Ted Powell, TULO Officer (share) Victoria Coddington, Social Media Officer (share)
Thomas Pearce, TULO Officer (share) Geraint Evans, Social Media Officer (share)
Lynn Parfitt, CLP Fundraising Officer Corey Miller, Political Education Officer (share)
Daisy Carter, Women’s Officer Mohammed (Ajmal) Miah, BAME Officer

The local party’s chair, Mabel Hahner, states in the email update itself that it is regrettable that unredacted versions of the report containing people’s identities and their locations are circulating, and states that she nor the local party have passed around copies of the report.

The statement was not marked ‘confidential’, so I believe I can post this up here. I’m doing so because it shows very clearly that my local party, and no doubt very many others, want there to be a genuinely fair inquiry into this matter.

I must say, however, that I differ from the local officers in that I strongly believe from the conduct of those making the accusations of anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn, his supporters and indeed the Labour party itself, as well as the excellent character of very many of those accused, that the truth was the complete opposite of the impression of rampant anti-Semitism under Corbyn’s leadership. There has been ample testimony from pro-Corbyn Jews and Jewish organisation, like Jewdas, Jewish Voice for Labour, Shraga Stern, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni and too many others that these allegations were false and entirely politically motivated. Many of them were personally victims of this witch-hunt, along with the entirely decent, anti-racist non-Jews like the Black anti-racism activist Marc Wadsworth, Ken Livingstone and my brother, Mike Sivier. I find it absolutely abhorrent that those people, Jews and gentiles, should be viciously smeared and libeled by a corrupt, right-wing political and media establishment.

I personally wish that there was also a will genuinely to tackle and refute the anti-Semite witch-hunt, which would exonerate and restore the memberships of those unfairly libeled and expelled. This may well be far too much to hope for under Starmer’s leadership.

Nevertheless the letter from the local Labour party shows how strong feelings about this affair are in our constituency party and no doubt very many others, and there will be pressure on Starmer and his team to conduct a fair inquiry.

 

 

Right-Wing NEC Members Try to Suspend Whistleblower, Protect Racists

April 24, 2020

After the leak of the suppressed report showing that Blairite members of Labour’s bureaucracy were responsible for plotting against Corbyn, including deliberately sabotaging Labour’s attempts to win the 2017 and 2019 general elections, the right-wing members of the NEC are doing everything they can to protect the guilty and target the innocent. Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting that certain unnamed right-wing extremists on the committee called for the suspension of those they suspected of leaking it. They had no evidence whatsoever. Furthermore, as Tony Greenstein has pointed out in the first part of his piece about the right-wingers plotting, bullying and corruption, there are laws protecting whistleblowers. And the first thing an organisation does, which has been accused of wrongdoing by one of its employees or staff, is trying to identify the whistleblower, because these organisations are really guilty of wrongdoing. In the end, the move was not agreed by the committee. Mike states that

(I)f it had been, then Labour’s more than half a million members would have had grounds for an immediate vote of no confidence in the committee. I urge all party members to watch these representatives closely.

In the meantime, as he also points out, Labour’s NEC has done absolutely nothing to suspend those accused of the plotting and sabotage. This is despite the fact that they were attempting to stop Corbyn himself taking action against alleged anti-Semitism in the party. Mike has pointed out that the plotters aren’t anti-Semites themselves, nevertheless they were aiding and abetting it. There continued membership of the party is in stark contrast to the members actually accused of anti-Semitism, who were suspended with little or no opportunity to defend themselves. So once again, it seems that the right-wingers are determined to hang on to power through abusing their positions and double standards.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/23/labourleaks-right-wingers-on-nec-try-to-suspend-people-they-suspect-without-evidence/

Where are the suspensions connected to the leaked Labour anti-Semitism report?

Meanwhile, the Skwawkbox has reported today that a right-wing BAME NEC member, Unison activist Carol Sewell, tried to get racism excluded from the references of the committee’s investigation of the leaked report. The Skwawkbox was told by another committee member, who was outraged at her conduct, that Sewell wanted to have it omitted because it would predetermine the report’s outcome. The anonymous speaker said that in the end they managed to get racism, sexism and discrimination included in the terms of the report’s investigation, but the attempt to get it dropped shows the right’s contempt for the membership and equalities. Sewell changed her vote when she saw that her proposal wasn’t going to be accepted, but did nothing to strengthen the references of the investigation. And the contributions from all three of the new, right-wing NEC members who were elected to their positions the same day Starmer was declared the Labour leader were all ‘pretty bad’.

I appreciate that Black people really don’t like being called Uncle Toms by Whites, and completely understand why. But considering how the report describes the horrendous racist abuse inflicted by the Blairites, I really don’t think she can be fairly described any other way. Sewell as supported in her election to the NEC by the Blairite groups Labour First and Progress, and her conduct reflects extremely badly on them. It provides more evidence that they aren’t remotely interested in genuinely battling racism, only in using the anti-Semitism smears to protect Israel and oust their opponents.

New right-wing NEC BAME member ‘spoke against including racism’ in scope of ‘Labour leak’ investigation

Many Labour members are extremely unhappy about both Starmer’s election and the way the NEC wishes to conduct its investigation into the leak. People are talking about suing Labour and demanding their subscription money back because of the Blairite’s plotting and sabotage. If Starmer refuses to listen to them, and protects the Blairites instead, he may well be the leader who destroys the party. Which is no doubt how the Blairites would like it, because they’re determined to wreck the party rather than have a left-wing – or, more properly, a genuinely centrist – Labour leader carry the party to victory.

Cartoon: Carry on Apprentice

March 14, 2020

Hi, and welcome to another of my cartoons. This is one is a little bit different. I’ve decided to lighten the mood a little bit, and so it’s a bit of a break from satirising the Tory party and its monstrous denizens. This time it’s a mock movie poster for a ‘Carry On’ film of the Beeb’s The Apprentice. It’s because I noticed a certain physical similarity between Alan Sugar and Nick Hewer with Sid James and Kenneth Williams. And I have to say I’d rather watch Joan Sims than Tory shill Karen Brady.

So here it is. The slogan reads ‘There’s no decorum in the boardroom of Alan Nookie PLC’. I’ve also written a number of fake quotes for it like those that appear on movie posters. They are

‘Good rollicking fun’ – The Sun

‘Sheer sexist filth’ – Everyone born after 1980

‘Waugh! Waugh!’ – the late Side James.

I don’t think you could revive the ‘Carry On’ films today, as society has moved on so much from their heyday in the ’60s and ’70s’. The last film, Carry On Columbus, released in 1992 during 50th celebrations of Columbus’ discovery of America, was a flop despite having a cast that included Maureen Lipman, Julian Clary and Alexei Sayle. However, some of that style of humour would still be acceptable. Some of the visual gags in the Austin Powers movies, for example, owe something to the Carry On films and I can’t see some of the other gags causing offence, either. Like the cry of Kenneth Williams’ Julius Caesar in Carry On Cleo as he’s assassinated ‘Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!’ And then there’s that sequence in Carry On Screaming when Harry H. Corbet’s detective and his sidekick, played by Peter Butterworth, try working out on blackboard what the clues mean.

‘Right – is it fair play, or foul?’ asks Corbet.

‘Oh, foul, Inspector’. Corbet writes ‘foul’ on the blackboard.

‘Right, what makes us think it was foul?’

‘The footprints.’

‘Feet, right’. He writes ‘Feet’ on the board. ‘Anything else?’

‘The smell, Inspector’.

‘The smell!’ He write ‘smell on the blackboard.

‘What else?’

‘They saw something, something horrible’.

‘Something horrible’, he writes this on the board.

Corbet stands back. He asks, ‘And so, looking at the board, what have we got?’

Butterworth reads out ‘Foul feet smell something horrible’.

Okay, it’s schoolboy humour, but I still find it funny. And unlike the attitudes in the movies to sex and women, which are very ’70s, that kind of humour and punning could still be included in movies today without causing offence. Possibly also the double entendres. Julian Clary and others have said that they enjoyed the camp humour of radio shows like Round the Horne, which are similar to those of the Carry On films in that regard. This would require far more care, though.

Anyway, I hope this gives you a laugh. And don’t let the Tories give you nightmares.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn Butler Defends Labour Manifesto, Says Tories Stole Labour Policies

February 11, 2020

Last Saturday’s I for 8th February 2020 carried a piece about Dawn Butler by the paper’s political editor, Hugo Gye, ‘Butler: as deputy leader, I’d be like John Prescott without the violence.’ This consisted largely of an interview with Butler followed by how well the various deputy leadership contenders were faring. Butler argued that she should be leader as she was ‘the experience candidate’, having served under two Labour Prime Ministers. She also claimed that she could unite all sections of the party, and was therefore the unity candidate. She also stated that as deputy leader she’d be like John Prescott without the violence, because she doesn’t intend to punch anyone. As for her chances of winning – the favourite is Angela Rayner – she said that throughout her life as a Black female she’d always had someone telling her she had no chance.

But this isn’t what I found interesting. That was what she said about the positive reception she’d experienced of Labour’s manifesto, and that the Tories had stolen Labour’s policies. Gye wrote

I’ve put up several pieces about Butler, criticising her demand for all-Black shortlists and her statement that she intends to fight misogyny. The all-Black shortlists could make racism even worse, as some Whites in majority ethnic neighbourhoods with a Black MP may feel excluded. Her statement about misogyny is questionable because of the way what is considered misogynist has been expanded to include not just definite cases of sexism, but more dubious areas like microaggression. These are supposed to be the tiny, everyday pieces of sexism that affect women’s confidence and feeling of self-worth. Like calling them ‘Love’. At the same time, Private Eye has claimed that, rather than not having been a member of any coup against Corbyn, as she claims, Butler was very definitely one of the participants. This casts doubt on her position as a left-wing candidate.

But I think she is almost certainly right about the positive response of the public to Labour’s policies. In polls Corbyn’s policies of renationalisation and the restoration of workers’ rights and the welfare state were well-received. It’s why the Tory media had to resort to portraying him as an anti-Semite and communist or Trotskyite. And the Tories have been forced to appear to steal Labour’s policies. After Labour announced its policies on the NHS, the Tories announced they were going to invest a record amount in the health service and built more than 40 new hospitals. This is all lies, but it shows how they have been forced publicly to move away from their real policies of starving the NHS of funding and closing hospitals. Just as they have been forced to renationalise Northern Rail, although some of that was an attempt to divert attention away from the problems caused by government failures in the construction and maintenance of the tracks and infrastructure, on which the trains run, which is still government-owned. Just as the Tories have also promised – again, it’s just lies – a massive campaign of house construction as well as the expansion of the rail network.

I feel that even though Labour will be out of power for the next five years, it can still do much good by maintaining those left-wing policies and trying to force the Tories to move left, so that when the Tories – and they will – their right-wing policies will be soundly contrasted with Labour’s socialist programme that will be far more successful. If this is done properly, it will show to the public that socialism hasn’t been superceded by Thatcherism. Quite the opposite – it is Thatcherism that is now obsolete.

My fear, however, is that if Starmer and Rayner get into power, they will turn the clock back to Blair, and Britain will be further decimated, economically and socially, by the Thatcherite policies of privatisation of industry, schools and the NHS, and the destruction of the welfare state.

Private Eye: Despite Denials, Dawn Butler Did Conspire Against Corbyn

February 5, 2020

This fortnight’s Private Eye for 7th – 20th February 2020 has a piece about Dawn Butler, the Shadow Equalities Minister, who is one of the candidates for the Labour Party deputy leadership. Butler has been claiming very loudly that she never took part in any coup to unseat Jeremy Corbyn, in a bid to gain support from the party’s left. Or rather, to old Labour types like myself, the real Labour centre and mainstream. However, Private Eye has contradicted this and said that it simply isn’t true. The article on page 9 runs

Labour politicians who thought they had seen it all have been left gasping in goggle-eyed astonishment at the shameless brass neck of “Red” Dawn Butler. She is prepared to say or do anything in her quest for party’s deputy leadership.

Butler has decided the route to victory lies in feeding the belief of left-wing members that Corbyn would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those meddling MPs. “We have some real selfish MPs,” she said as she outlined her plan colleagues’ treachery at the deputy leadership hustings at the end of January. After “Jeremy” was elected as leader, they thought it was OK to “join a coup” and deselect him. They “lost us” the 2017 election.

Butler’s own loyalty stood in stark contrast to their backstabbing. “I supported Jeremy the first time and I supported him the second time but I was more angry the second time because it should never have happened.”

The Eye apologises for baffling readers with the arcane jargon of academia, but Butler was talking what political scientists call “total bollocks”. As a matter of record, leading the MPs who resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet was the “False” Dawn herself. Her colleagues have also noted the effectiveness of Butler’s fight against what she described in the Mirror on 24 January as the “disgrace” of poverty in “one of the wealthiest countries in the world.”

She almost certainly has no intention of allowing poverty to disgrace her. The expenses scandal revealed that, even though she was a London MP and did not appear to need a publicly funded second home, she still had one house in Wembley and another in Stratford, and claimed for a jacuzzi-style bath to be fitted. “Labour must put aspiration at the heart of the class struggle,” Butler told the Mirror. This contest is revealing that nothing is closer to Butler’s heart than her aspirations for herself.

Now I assume this is all correct, but it should be noted that over the past five years or so that Corbyn has been head of the party, Private Eye has been consistently attacking him. He’s head of the Labour Party, so it’s natural that the magazine would attack him simply as a matter of course, same as it would the other political leaders. However, part of the Eye’s campaign against him was pushing the anti-Semitism smears against both himself and his supporters. The Eye was founded by former public schoolboys, and is still very much establishment. Possibly far more so now than when it started out, as it did initially support the Labour party. Or at least right up until the time the Tories fell and they entered government. The Eye showed that it feared and hated Corbyn as someone who took socialism and working class aspirations and needs seriously, as well as his internationalism and very open support for the Palestinians. This means that it will definitely have a bias against Butler, at least now that she is positioning herself as from the Party’s Left. Butler also has a point that part of the reason Corbyn never succeeded in taking Number 10 was because he was always being undermined by plotting and intrigue from the Blairite right, even if she was a part of it at the time.

I’ve posted up a piece already, split into two parts, criticising her plans for Black and Asian only shortlists and her determination to fight misogyny. Praiseworthy as these ideals are, in the current political climate there are real questions and drawbacks to both. If they aren’t carefully handled, they could increase and create new forms of racism and sexism, rather than combat them.

I therefore leave it up to the reader to decide for him- or herself whether Private Eye is right about her, and whether they are publishing this as a genuine exposure of her mendacity, duplicity and greed. Or whether they’re simply doing it because they want to discredit her as someone now claiming to represent the Labour left.

 

The Labour Party, Affirmative Action and the Problem of Liberal Prejudice, Part 2: Sexism, Misogyny and Misandry

February 4, 2020

In the first part of this post, I discussed some of the problems that may arise from all-Black and Asian election shortlists, as suggested by one of the candidates at the recent Labour party deputy leadership hustings in Bristol. In this part I wish to examine some of the problems of the same candidate’s declaration that they were determined to fight misogyny. I am certainly not denying that sexism exists in society, and that women are very far from being equal. I realise that many women have struggled and continue to struggle to make themselves accepted in male-dominated professions and workplaces. I realise that there are many jobs not considered suitable for women. And I also realise that despite some women managing to break the ‘glass ceiling’ and reach the very heights of management, there are still very few female managing directors or chairs of companies. However, the situation is changing in some areas, and this is not reflected in the debate about sexism, sexual harassment or gender and violence, at least not at the level of the popular press.

One of the issues is education. Since the 1990s boys have been falling behind girls at school and I gather that the majority of university students are also women. I know very well that women have had to struggle to get to this point. When I was growing up in the 1980s I remember reading a number of articles about brain sex stating that women would never be equal with men in certain subjects, like maths and science. But this has been shown to be false too. There are a number of factors affecting boys’ performance. One is the importance of sport, sex and violence over ‘book-larnin”, so that one academic commenting on the issue in the 1990s said that boys weren’t interested in the ‘3 Rs’ as the ‘3 Fs’ – football, fighting and, well, you can guess. Another factor may be that teaching is now very much a female-dominated profession, to the point where some schools have been described as ‘man deserts’ because of the lack or total absence of male teachers.

Other factors are class and those jobs traditionally viewed as masculine. Traditional working class male jobs, like mining, emphasised strength rather than academic performance. It may well be the case that, among some working class boys, academic performance is discouraged as effeminate and ‘poofy’. But class has also been a factor. A friend of mine grew up in rural Suffolk and went to the local comprehensive school. As he tells it, it had been a grammar school and still retained a very snobbish class ethos. The school ran classes in its sixth form to prepare pupils for going to university. My friend is highly intelligent, and he told me that despite achieving very good grades, the school never put him in this class. He came from a very working class background, and the school did not consider working class children to be suitable for university. And I’m afraid that there are some teachers that are very sexist in their attitudes to the children in their charge. I’ve heard horror stories decades ago of headmasters, who set up two classes for the bright and less bright. All the boys were in the first, and all the girls in the second. At the same time, I’ve come across two teachers in my time in school, who in my experience did not like boys and treated them worse than the girls. One was female, one was male.

These are issues that need to be examined if boys’ academic performance is to be improved. But there is a problem whether a political and social culture, that has and is making great effort to improve girls’ and women’s academic performance, is also able to to devote the same kind of effort and energy to boys. If boys also need special treatment to help them achieve their potential, then some feminists may resent that as an attack on the schemes that have helped women to make such great strides in achieving theirs.

I’m sure that when the candidate spoke about misogyny, she meant instances of clear hostility and aggression to women. Like discrimination, sexual harassment, abuse or violence specifically towards women. Domestic violence, and the stuff that Harvey Weinstein has been accused of. However, what makes this problematic is the way some feminists have extended it to include even trivial gestures, which many people of both sexes wouldn’t consider aggressive or demeaning. For example, one feminist academic has claimed that women’s self-confidence is knocked through ‘micro-aggressions’ such as calling them ‘love’. This was heavily criticised in the press, with some male writers pondering whether they were being treated with aggression and contempt when women called them ‘love’. Last week an expert from the Chartered Institute of Management appeared on Sky, I believe, and declared that management should stop men talking about sport in the workplace, as this excluded women and led to other laddish behaviours, like boasting of sexual conquests. This was also attacked by anti-feminist bloggers and vloggers like Sargon. Benjamin stated that he’d worked in offices, that were overwhelmingly female and where the topics of office conversation were typically female: makeup and men. Which obviously left him isolated. I’ve also worked in offices where the staff were overwhelmingly female, some of whom were extremely crude. In my first job, one of the girls one day told the rest of the office about how she had been to see a male stripper the night before. I’ve no doubt that if the situation was reversed, feminists, if not ordinary women, would find that unacceptable. But is there now a double-standard in that talk of such excursions is acceptable, if the strippers are men?

Ditto with sexual harassment. This is always discussed as something that men do to women, never the other way round. A few years ago there was a scandal about MPs groping parliamentary staff. This focused very much on women, who were leading the protest. But the Beeb report, as far as I can remember, also mentioned that half the victims were men. Nothing then was said about how they were affected or what steps were being taken to safeguard them. Did that mean that men’s safety in this regard was not as important as women’s? Again, the other year there was a report about the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment at universities. One report in the I said that 75 per cent of women students had experienced it. It also said that 25 per cent of men had also. The article then described how universities were trying to tackle it by laying on courses educating students about the issue. But the rest of the article only discussed it as a problem that affected women. The men were mentioned and forgotten.

Domestic violence is also an issue that is framed almost exclusively as something that men inflict on women. I’m very much aware that throughout history, this has been very much the case. However, a friend of mine, who is a former nurse, told me that when he was being trained, they were told that both sexes were sent to the hospital in equal numbers by the partners. Men were, however, much more likely to kill their wives. I certainly do not mean here, to suggest anything to prevent vulnerable women from being given the help and protection they need against violent and dangerous men. The Tories have left such women increasingly vulnerable through cuts to women’s refuges and centres. While it is recognised that men also suffer from domestic abuse from women, you don’t hear that women hospitalise as many men as the other way around. Nor have I come across many articles talking primarily about men as victims of female violence. In fact, I can’t think of one. But I’ve also come across some extremely foul-tempered, violent women. I’ve no doubt discussion of the issue is constrained by some men feeling emasculated by talking about it. No man really wants others to think him ‘pussy-whipped’. And there is the attitude that men should just be a man about it all, and take it. At the same time, I think some women and feminists may also have qualms about discussing gendered violence towards men with the same kind of concern that’s given to women in case in detracted from the campaigns to end violence against women. But clearly such violence exists, and so needs to be tackled.

A campaign to tackle genuine misogyny is entirely praiseworthy. But it overlooks the way men can be similarly affected, and a narrow focus solely on women threatens to create new forms of sexism, rather than combat it. 

 

 

Sargon of Gasbag on How the Norf Went Tory

January 11, 2020

A few days ago Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin put up a video, in which he presented his idea of why the north of England and the midlands went Tory. It was based on a cartoon from 4chan’s Pol Board, and so presented a very caricatured view of the north. Sargon is the extreme right-winger, who personally did much to destroy UKIP simply by joining it. This ‘classical liberal’ – meaning libertarian – with his highly reactionary views on feminism and racism was too much even for the Kippers. His home branch of Swindon wanted him deselected when the party chose him as the second of their two MEP candidates for south-west England, and the Gloucestershire branch closed down completely. And according to Sargon, the ‘Norf’ went Tory because Blair turned the Labour party from the party of the working class throughout Britain into the party of the liberal metropolitan elite, and turned its attention away from class issues to supporting Islam, refugees, radical feminism and gay rights. This conflict with the social conservative values of working people, and particularly northern working people. As a result, they voted for Johnson, who had the same values they had.

The strip depicts the northern working class as Norf F.C., a local football team. They have their counterparts and rivals in Sowf F.C., a southern football team, and in the Welsh and Scots. The north is presented as a region of fat skinhead football hooligans, poorly educated, and suffering from scurvy and malnutrition, but who love their families, their communities and their country. In the strip’s view, these communities were traditionally Labour. But this changed with the election of Tony Blair, an Oxford educated lawyer, who took over the party. Under his aegis, it no longer was the party of the working class, but instead had a lower middle class membership. These were over-educated officer workers, who turned it towards Communism with the election of Jeremy Corbyn. They supported racism witchhunts, gay rights and flooding White communities with coloured immigrants, and were pro-EU. They despised natural, healthy patriotism. The result was that when Boris appeared, despite being an Etonian toff they recognised themselves in him. He would do something about Brexit and immigration, and would attack the radical left who support Muslim rape gangs and wanted to chop off their sons’ genitals. And who would also put the ‘bum boys’ in their place. It led to the massive defeat of the Labour party, and in particular ‘Communists’ like owen Jones and Ash Sarkar of Novara media.

I’m not going to show the video here, but if you want to see it for yourself, go to YouTube and search for ‘How the Norf Went Tory’, which is his wretched video’s title.

To Sargon, Corbyn is a friend of Hezbollah and Hamas, and to show how threatening the feminists and LGBTQ section of the Labour party he shows various radical feminists with T-shirts saying ‘White People Are Terrorists’ and a trans-activist with a baseball bat and the tattoo ‘Die Cis Scum’, referring to cis-gendered people – those who identify with their biological gender. The over-educated lower middle class people he sneers at are graduates of gender studies, who work in McDonalds, or have submitted to what he describes as ‘office serfdom’.

It’s very much a simplistic view, but there’s much truth in it as well as great deal of distortion. Let’s go through it.

The UKIP View of the North

Firstly, it represents very much the UKIP view of events. The academic study of UKIP, Revolt on the Right,  found that its members were poorly educated, working class people in the north. They had socially Conservative views, hated the European Union, resented immigration, particularly Black and Asian, and felt abandoned by the traditional parties. He is also right in identifying the change from working class representation to middle class representation with Blair’s leadership. Blair didn’t like the working class. He wanted to get the votes of the swing voters in marginal constituencies. As Sargon’s video acknowledges, he supported the neoliberalism that had devastated the northern economy and which made so many northerners hate the policy’s architect, Maggie Thatcher. Within the party, Blair sidelined working class organisations like the trade unions in favour of courting and recruiting business managers.

The Labour party was keen to represent Blacks and other ethnic minorities, women and gays due to its ideological commitment to equality. This policy became particularly important after Thatcher’s victory in 1979, when it appeared to some that the White working class had abandoned the party. I’ve also seen books published in the ’70s lamenting the right-ward movement within the Labour party due to its membership becoming increasingly middle class, so this trend actually predates Blair somewhat. However, it acquired a new importance under Blair because of the emphasis his administration place on BAME rights, feminism and gay rights. In my view, this was partly as an attempt to preserve some claim to radicalism and progressive values while abandoning socialism and the working class.

Sargon Doesn’t Understand Class and Communism

Sargon also doesn’t understand either what Communism is. He seems to believe in the rantings of the contemporary right that it’s all about identity politics and changing the traditional culture from above. That’s one form of Marxist politics coming from the ideas of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. But traditional, orthodox Marxism emphasised the importance of the working class and the class structure of society. Marx’s theory of Dialectical Materialism held that it was the economic base of society that defined ideology, not the other way around. Once the working class came into power and socialised the economy, the ideologies supported and created by capitalism would disappear. Gramsci’s ideas about changing ideology and culture became fashionable in left-wing circles because it was believed that the working class was actually in decline as society changed. Demographers noted that increasing numbers of people were becoming lower middle class. Hence the movement on the left towards that sector of society, rather than the traditional working class.

Corbyn More Politically Committed to Working Class

Yes, Corbyn also supported anti-racism, feminism and gay rights, but these had been key values of the left since the 1980s. I remember then how the Labour party and leading figures like Michael Foot and Ken Livingstone were vilified as Communists and Trotskyites, and how the party was caricatured as standing for Black lesbians. There were all those stories circulating in the Scum, for example, about how radical teachers in London schools had decided that ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ was racist, and insisted children sing ‘Baa Baa Green Sheep’ instead. Corbyn does come from a privileged background, but his views and the Labour manifesto are far more working class in the sense that they represent a return to traditional socialist economic policies than Blair’s. And certainly far more than Johnson’s and the Tories.

I have to admit that I’m one of the over-educated officer worker types Sargon sneers at. But I never did gender studies, not that I’m sneering at it or those who studied it. My first degree is in history. And I am very sure that most of the legions of graduates now trying to get any kind of paid work have a very wide variety degrees. I also think that many of them also come from the aspirant working class, who went into higher education in order to get on. Also, if you were interested or active in working class politics in the 1980s, you were exposed and took over the anti-racism and anti-sexism campaigns. Ben Elton was notorious as a left-wing comedian in the 1980s, but he defended the working class and ethnic minorities against the Tories.  It was not the case that the White working class was viewed with suspicion as a hotbed of racism, although sections of it, represented by such grotesques as Alf Garnet, certainly were. But it was that section of the working class that the Scum and the Tory party addressed, and so it’s now surprise that they see themselves represented by Boris.

Their belief in Boris is ultimately misplaced, however. Boris will betray them, just like he has betrayed everyone else.

He isn’t going to get Brexit done. He is going to continue with his privatisations, including that of the NHS, and dismantlement of the welfare state. The people in the northern and midlands communities that voted for him are going to find themselves still poor, and probably much poorer, under him.

But the lessons for Labour should be that there should be no return to Blairism. 

David Rosenberg and many other left-wing bloggers have argued from their own personal experience that the way of winning working class voters back to Labour and away from the far-right is through the hard work of knocking on doors and neighbourhood campaigning. This is what Blairism didn’t do. Jones showed in his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class that it was Blair that turned away and demonised them, and simply expected them to continue voting Labour as they didn’t have anywhere else to go. And it was the Blairites and Tories, who viewed the White working class as racist and vilified them as such. Although it also has to be said that they also courted them by appealing to their patriotism and their feeling of marginalisation in an increasingly multicultural society. And the fact that Jones took the trouble to attack this refutes Sargon’s attempt to present Jones as a ‘Communist’, who was against their interests.

Yes, you can find the misandrists, and the anti-White racists and extreme gay and trans rights activists in the Labour party. But they’re an unrepresentative minority, who are going to be controversial even in their own small circles. Attempts by the Tories to magnify their influence are deliberately deceptive in order to stop people from believing that the Labour party means to do anything for ordinary working people. Just as Sargon has tried to do in his video.

Winning back the working class from Boris does not mean a return to Blair and attempting to turn the party into the Conservatives 2.0. But it does mean returning to working class activism, representation and continuing to support real policies to benefit the working class, whether Black, White or Brown, Christian, atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or whatever.

And that has to be a return to genuine socialism.

Letter in Private Eye Defending Labour and Corbyn Against Racism Accusations

January 9, 2020

This fortnight’s Private Eye also published the letter below from Peter Collins, refuting the accusations made by another reader in last fortnight’s edition that Labour lost partly because it was full of racists and anti-Semites. He also pointed out that while Labour isn’t, Boris Johnson and the Tories certainly are. Here’s the letter

Sir,

Re “Sneer and Loathing” (Letters, Eye 1512). Peter Kimpton and I certainly have different opinions on the EU, and he’s entitled to his of course. But his assertion that “rampant racism” has “taken hold of Labour” cannot go unchallenged. It will certainly come as news to the many black, brown, and, yes, Jewish members with whom I canvassed for several weeks before polling day, for I’m sure they would not have put their hearts and souls into trying to get such a party elected. I’m a white, middle-class, middle-aged man, but I would have nothing to do with a party that was rampantly racist and/or anti-Semitic. It’s not.

However, a great many people seem to ahve been happy to vote for someone who considers black people to be “picaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, Muslim women to look like letterboxes, children of single mothers to be “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”, and gay men to be “bumboys”. That, of course, is simply Boris Johnson being Boris Johnson, and nothing to do with racism, Islamophobia, sexism and homophobia. And of course it is all to be forgotten in the glorious paradise that will be post-Brexit Britain. Keep up with what looks to me like your very even-handed work.

I’ve no doubt that the letters defending Corbyn will be followed by more from the Blairites, Tories and Israel lobby claiming that Labour is awash with anti-Semites. And it hasn’t stopped the Eye publishing in this edition a piece by the odious Ratbiter reporting that various Blairites and Zionists are suing Corbyn and his supporters for libel for stating that they were inventing incidents of anti-Semitism. One of those suing is our old friend, Rachel Riley.

But at least the Eye published some material defending Corbyn.

The Abuse No-One’s Talking about: Ultra-Zionist Smears, Intimidation and Threats

December 14, 2019

The media’s been full of stories about how politicians are being sent abuse and death threats, with many of these stories focusing on the internet. It’s been going on for some time, and the Labour right tried to weaponise the issue against Corbyn. Following Hillary Clinton’s lie that Bernie Sanders’ supporters were all misogynist ‘Bernie Bros’, various right-wing female MPs tried the same smear against Corbyn’s supporters. They claimed that they were receiving sexist and misogynist abuse from them. Many of these stories fell apart on inspection, and by and large I don’t think the Blairite women were getting more abuse than anyone else. Half of the abuse directed at female MPs in the Labour party goes to Diane Abbott. Some of the tales of abuse couldn’t be supported, as it seems that the messages sent could not be found or shown. And other messages weren’t sent by members of the Labour party, and so Corbyn couldn’t be responsible.

The same smears of abuse were also used by the Israel lobby – Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement. And the same criticisms apply here. The existence of some of these abusive texts couldn’t be corroborated, some weren’t sent by members of the party and the actual numbers of real anti-Semites in the party is actually minuscule. But nevertheless the press was full of smear stories by Blairites like Ruth Smeeth and others that the Labour Party was not a safe space for Jews, not since Jeremy Corbyn became leader.

But what the press and media do not report is the extensive smearing and bullying by the Israel lobby and ultra-Zionist activists. This is immense and horrific. Anyone – anyone at all – who dares to make the mildest criticism of Israel and its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians is immediately accused of anti-Semitism. And this is particularly true of Jews. I’ve blogged about the way Jackie Walker receives horrific abuse after her smearing as an anti-Semite and expulsion from the Labour party. Jackie, despite being Jewish by faith and blood, is told she isn’t a Jew because she’s a woman of colour. They also call for her to be lynched – an especially serious threat, as her mother was a Black civil rights activist from the American Deep South – and her body to be set on fire and stuffed into bin bags. Tony Greenstein has received emails telling him that he and his family should have been murdered in the Holocaust. He has also been assaulted by an angry Israeli.

And it goes on. Peter Oborne in his programme on the Israel lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches ten years or so ago showed how respective journalists at the Guardian and BBC were subjected to the same smears by the Board of Deputies of British Jews when they reported massacres and atrocities committed by the Israelis or their allies, the Christian Phalange, in Lebanon. These accusations were leveled at Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin. When David Attenborough stepped in to deny them, he too was accused of being an anti-Semite. And this abuse has been hurled at people like Mike and other Corbyn supporters in the Labour party. Lobster also cites former Guardian reporter Nick Davies in their review of a book dismantling the anti-Semitism smears, Bad News for Labour. Davies described in Flat Earth News how reporters and journalists were subjected to horrific abuse and allegations from Israel’s supporters. John Booth, the author of Lobster’s review, writes

‘Journalists who write stories which offend the politics of the Israel lobby are subjected to a campaign of formal complaints and pressure on their editors; most of all, they are inundated with letters and emails which can be extravagant in their hostility,’ he writes.
‘Robert Fisk of The Independent has been told that his mother was Adolf Eichmann’s daughter, that he belongs in hell with Osama bin Laden, that he is a “hate peddler”, “a leading anti-semite and protofascist Islamophile propagandist” and a paedophile.’

This abuse has reached the point that according to the Lobster article, Jewish journalists are afraid to publish articles critical of Israel. Evening Standard journo Mira Bar-Hillel, who was born in Jerusalem, says that they fear retribution if they do.

And left-wing supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have also received this horrific abuse in the Labour party. Sally Eason, the founder of Labour Left Voice, was forced to leave the Labour party because of her criticisms of Israel. Eason’s Sephardic Jewish on her mother’s side. And so she was targeted for concerted abuse and trolling by a network of right-wing scumbags, including David Collier and the Gnasherjew troll farm, which was cheerfully reblogged by ‘jobbing actor’ Tracy Ann Oberman. Mike also suffers vicious abuse from people, who continue to believe the smears that he’s an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier despite his success in getting these utterly false allegations retracted from the papers that printed them. And last week I was insulted by someone angry at my support for Corbyn against the anti-Semitism smears. They sent the comment ‘Fuck you. From a Jew’. It was only one such insult, and it’s mild compared to that sent to people like Mike, Tony and Jackie. But it does show the abusive nature of Israel’s most ardent supporters.

But if you believe the media, the abuse is all one way. It’s all those evil anti-Semites in the Labour sending hatred and death threats to women and Jews. The reality is that Corbynites have also been on the receiving end of horrific abuse, much of the abuse the Blairites claim was sent to them seems to be nonexistent. And some of the most vicious, and viciously anti-Semitic abuse is that sent by the Israel lobby and supporters of Britain’s Jewish establishment. And thanks to the abuse sent by people like David Collier and his friends in Gnasherjew, Israel-critical Jews do not feel safe.

That is real, viciously dangerous anti-Semitic abuse. And it is not reported in the Media. Disgusting!

Lobster’s review of the book, Bad News for Labour: Anti-Semitism, the Party and Public Belief, by Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller is at: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster78/lob78-bad-news-labour.pdf