Posts Tagged ‘Shirley Williams’

Charity Claims Brits Turning Away from Parliamentary Democracy to Strong Rulers

April 8, 2019

There’s an ominous piece in today’s I, Monday, 8th April 2019, reporting that a charity, the Hansard Society, has found that British people are increasingly fed up with parliamentary and looking instead for a strong ruler that govern without its consent. The article by Joe Gammie, ‘Britons want new rules – and new leaders’ runs

Growing public dissatisfaction with Britain’s political system is leading people to entertain “radical solutions” which challenge the core tenets of democracy, a charity has warned.

The annual Hansard Society audit of political engagement found that nearly three-quarters of people felt the UK’s system of governing needed “quite a lot” or “a great deal” of improvement.

At 72 per cent, this is the highest level in the 15 years the audits have been published – worse than the previous peak of 69 per cent in the 2010 study which was taken in the aftermath of the MPs’ expenses scandal and the financial crises.

The research and education charity warned that the increasing public dissatisfaction with the system of governing meant some people were saying Britain needed a “strong leader willing to break the rules” and that the country’s problems could be better deal with if the Government did not not have to worry about parliamentary approval.

Dr Ruth Fox, the director of the Hansard Society, said: “This year’s audit of political engagement shows that the public are not apathetic about politics, but they are increasingly dissatisfied with the way our system of governing works – so much so that sizeable numbers are willing to entertain quite radical solutions that would challenge core tenets of our democracy. (p.6).

The article seems to be saying that a majority of Brits now want a strong ruler, who gets things done without parliamentary checks. It means they’re turning to centralised, authoritarian, personal government. And the end of that road are the highly authoritarian regimes of leaders like Putin, or outright dictatorship.

I have some caveats about the article. It doesn’t describe how the polling was conducted, how large the canvassed groups were, or its composition. There is no information on precisely which sections of society made up the polled group, or their voting preferences or political allegiances. I’ve also read similar scare stories in the press before, where an organisation claimed they had found, for example, that 2/3 of Brits would support a strongly anti-immigrant party of the type of the BNP or National Front. In fact, while there is massive demand for restrictions on immigration, and as we’ve seen with successive governments, a very harsh, punitive approach to immigrants and asylum seekers, there’s very little support for the parties of the extreme Right. They’re a danger, and shouldn’t be encouraged, but they attract only tiny minority of supporters. People instead look to the mainstream parties to formulate and carry out policies against immigration. I think the same attitude underlies the comments here, if they can be believed. Those demanding a more centralised, personal government doubtless want it carried out within the system, rather than parliamentary democracy to be smashed and completely overthrown by an aspiring dictator like Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists tried in the 1930s.

If there is such radical dissatisfaction with parliament, my guess is that it’s being fueled by the continuing debacle over Brexit, where the different factions in the Tory party are tearing each other to pieces, coupled with Tweezer repeatedly trying and failing to get it all past parliament. In these circumstances, it looks like the 72 per cent demanding a strong leadership against parliament are supporters of Tweezer, who have swallowed her lies and those of the Tory press that the reason no progress is being made is entirely due to treacherous MPs blocking her proposed deal. And not because the deal itself is rubbish and massively unpopular. If there’s a problem, then it’s not with parliament, or rather, not directly, and the solution is not to take power away from it and give it to a Russian-style silovik, or strong man. The proper solution would be to demand a general election to break impasse, one that would put a Labour government and Jeremy Corbyn into No. 10, and allow some real progress to be made.

But this is completely unacceptable to the Tories, for obvious reasons, and the rest of the neoliberal media-industrial complex, who wish to keep the Tories in No. 10 and blame parliament, not the PM, for the continuing massive failure of Brexit.

And this is extremely dangerous. When parliamentary democracy fails, Fascism seizes power. Both Hitler and Mussolini gained power through the failure of parliamentary democracy. In both Germany and Italy, the mainstream parties elected to parliament refused to work with each other. Hitler and Mussolini were then invited by the governing party to join a coalition in order to give them a majority. They did so, and then passed legislation giving their parties an overwhelming majority, and then destroying parliamentary democracy altogether through banning rival parties and elevating Hitler and Mussolini to positions of supreme leadership, Fuehrer in German, Duce in Italian.

There is also another danger to parliamentary democracy right at the opposite pole to political fragmentation. This is when it becomes discredited when MPs from an opposition party join the government without a mandate from their own party or constituency. For example, last week Tom Watson, the conniving deputy leader of the Labour party and other right-wing Labour MPs announced that they would be willing to join Tweezer and the Tories in a government of national unity. Watson has spent his time as deputy leader intriguing against the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has the overwhelming support of party members. A sizable section of the parliamentary Labour party has also plotted to undermine and overthrow Corbyn, against the wishes of their own constituency parties and the members of the Party as a whole. The result has been a series of ‘no confidence’ votes against right-wing, Thatcherite MPs like Joan Ryan and Luciana Berger. Who responded by smearing their opponents as Communists, misogynists and anti-Semites, and then split to help form Change UK, thus betraying the Labour supporters and activists that got them elected. It’s been pointed out that Watson and co. do form a coalition with Tweezer, it would effectively be an anti-democratic coup, carried out by parliament against the wishes of the wider electorate.

Parallels have also been drawn between this and the coalition government of 1929, when Ramsay McDonald, then leader of the Labour party, joined forces with the Tories to introduce a series of cuts that hit the working class. This split the Labour party, and McDonald was thrown out. He has been reviled ever since as a traitor to the party. This may well be what Watson wants, as he and other Labour right-wingers were talking of coups and forming splinter groups long before The Independent Group finally took the plunge. It’s part of their plot to marginalise genuine socialism, and retain power under the name of the Labour party for Thatcherite entryists like themselves. But if they do take this step, it will discredit parliament, and the result could a further turn to radical solutions demanding the removal of parliamentary democracy or its radical curtailment.

It’s also similar to the plans for a coup in the mid-’70s to overthrow Harold Wilson’s minority government. The Times then was demanding a government of national unity, to include moderate Labour MPs like Shirley Williams alongside the Tories. This was to be achieved by a military coup and everyone else further left was to be rounded up and interned.

If the Hansard Society is correct, and people are becoming radically dissatisfied with parliamentary government, then the solution isn’t the greater centralisation of power in the Prime Minister. Tweezer is the cause of this problem. She has put her own personal interest in remaining premier, and her vile party’s determination to cling on to power at whatever the cost to the British people ahead of her duty to the country. Just as the Labour right has put its own privileges and Thatcherite agenda before the wishes of their constituents and the needs of the British people. The solution to these problems should be more democracy, so that Tweezer has no choice but to obey the wishes of parliament, and cannot pass the buck by blaming them for her own failures. At the same time, Watson and the rest of the Thatcherites should be brought to heel and made to represent their constituents, not their own selfish interests.

But this is too much for the British establishment and media, who will continue to support Tweezer against parliament, until people really are completely fed up with the whole charade. And then will come the real danger of demands for proper authoritarian government. But if it’s against the Left, this will certainly be backed by the Times and the rest of the press. All in the interests of national unity, of course.

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

April 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

February 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Discreet, Poisonous Corporatism of the Labour Party Quitters

February 19, 2019

Yesterday, a group of seven MPs formally split from the Labour party. Now going independent, this glittering array of third raters, has-beens and deadbeats were supposed to form the nucleus of this new, shiny Blairite ‘centrist’ party that has been mooted for the past year or so. The group included such luminaries as Gavin Shuker, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey. They were all Blairites, who had been trying to overthrow Corbyn or undermine his leadership since he was elected head of the party. Or else had been threatening to quit.

Comparisons have been made to the Labour split in the 1980s which saw the notorious ‘gang of four’, including Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams form the short-lived Social Democratic Party. They ended up shortly forming an alliance with the Liberals before finally merging with them to form the Liberal Democrats. At the time there much verbiage in the press about the SDP ‘breaking the mould’ of British politics. It didn’t happen, despite the TV critic Clive James in his Observer column sneering at Tony Benn, who said that support for the SDP had peaked. But, as Zelo Street has pointed out, the comparison also doesn’t do the Quitters any favours in another way. Some of the MPs, who formed the SDP were actually first rate politicos. As Home Secretary in the 1960s, Roy Jenkins oversaw some profound changes in the liberalization of British society. Like the partial decriminalization of homosexuality, for which, among other things, he’s still bitterly resented by the Tory right today. Reading Shirley William’s 1979 book, Politics Is For People, it’s clear that she did have a powerful mind with strong, distinct views on how socialism should improve British society and industry.

This bunch, by contrast, don’t seem to have any distinct views or anything more to offer than rehashed, warmed up Blairism. Before their website crashed yesterday, Zelo Street was able to get on it and read what they had to say. Which seemed to be a lot of flannel. More fine-sounding words about democracy which didn’t actually come down to meaning very much. The website said

Our primary duty as Members of Parliament is to put the best interests of our constituents and our country first. Our free media, the rule of law, and our open, tolerant and respectful democratic society should be cherished and renewed. We believe that our Parliamentary democracy in which our elected representatives deliberate, decide and provide leadership, held accountable by their whole electorate is the best system of representing the views of the British people. Zelo Street remarked that the first part of this statement, about cherishing and renewing free media, rule of law and democratic society doesn’t actually mean anything, while the second – about parliamentary democracy being the best method of representing the views of the British people – is just what every MP in the House believes.

But what the group really stands for is best shown by the group’s legal organization and its members’ very cosy relationship with private enterprise. The group’s website was set up in 2015 in a tax haven. The new party actually isn’t a party. It’s been registered as a private corporation, Gemini A, which means that it doesn’t have to identify its backers. This also, apparently, makes it exempt from the spending restrictions on campaigning which apply to genuine political parties.

And then there’s Angela ‘People of funny tin…’ Smith’s connection with private water companies. Smith is chairman of the all-party water group, which is mainly funded by private water companies like Wessex Water and Affinity Water. Talking to Smith on This Morning Yesterday, Ash Sarkar pointed out that her group were some of the very few people left, who still believe in water privatization. She predicted that people would like at Smith’s leadership of the group and say, ‘You know what, that stinks of corruption’.

Sarkar isn’t going to be wrong either. The Canary in their article on this pointed out that 83 per cent of the population want the water companies to be renationalized. And Blair’s very strong links to private industry were very heavily criticized when he was power. Blair was a corporatist, who gave business leaders and senior management key positions in government in exchange for donations. This whole, nasty web of corporate links was exposed by the Groaniad’s George Monbiot in his book, Captive State, which lists various businessmen and the government positions Blair gave them. Even at the time Blair’s government was notorious for doing political favours in return for donations, as Blair did for Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One magnate, in return for something like a million pounds of corporate dosh.

‘Bevan Boy’ described what other Blairite policies this crew probably also stand for in this tweet, quoting by Mike in his article on them:

What will this new “Centrist” party stand for?
More Austerity?
Rampant marketisation & uncontrolled capitalism?
Neoconservative Thatcherism?
I suspect all of the above under a pro EU banner. The policies are being rejected & thank Christ they are.
We need a socialist LAB govt!

And what the splitters really think of democracy is shown by the fact that none of them actually want to hold a bye-election and give their constituents a say in whether they want them to represent them in parliament. It’s been pointed out that only one per cent of voters say that they actually vote for the individual MP, rather than the party. But these avowed democrats really don’t want to give their constituents the opportunity to decide whether they want to keep them as their MP or whether they want to elect someone else.

Which is what you could expect from a group that includes Luciana Berger. Berger, or should that be Lucrezia Borgia?, was facing a vote of no confidence from her local constituency. She then declared that they were bullying her, and demanded Jenny Formby expel the constituency party from Labour. Formby told her that she had no cause to do this and refused.

But Borgia, sorry, Berger, has carried on whining about bullying and intimidation nonetheless. Just as all the Quitters have moaned about anti-Semitism. The truth is, anti-Semitism is not the reason they’re splitting. It never has been. It has only been a convenient stick with which to beat Corbyn and his supporters. In fact anti-Semitism in the party has fallen under the Labour leader. It is lower in the Labour party than in the others and in the general British population. And the anti-Semitism accusations against him and the majority of those accused are nothing but contrived smears.

The real truth is that Berger, Umunna, Shuker, Leslie, Smith, Coffee and Gapes are corporatist anti-democrats. They wish to hang on to power against the wishes of their constituents, in order to promote the power of private corporations. Just as Mussolini and Hitler promoted private industry and gave it a seat in government and the management of the economy in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

For further information, see:
https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/18/mps-split-off-from-the-labour-party-voters-say-good-riddance/

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/18/mps-split-off-from-the-labour-party-voters-say-good-riddance/

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-independent-group-on-way-out.html

https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2019/02/18/ash-sarkar-takes-down-a-resigning-blairite-mp-so-brutally-a-bbc-host-intervenes/

Shirley Williams on the Industrial Democracy

January 5, 2019

Before she left with other members of the Labour right to form the SDP, it seems that Shirley Williams did have some genuinely interesting views on socialist issues some would associated more with the Labour left. Like industrial democracy.

The ’70s were the decade of the Bullock Report, which recommended putting workers on the management boards of Britain’s major industries, and this was still an issue a couple of years later. In her 1981 book, Politics Is For People, Williams discusses some of the problems of industrial democracy. She acknowledges that the trade unions were divided on the issue and management positively feared it. She also recognized that there were problems about how it could be achieved, given the complexities of the representation of the different trade unions in British workplaces on management boards. But she supported its introduction in Britain’s businesses, and suggested that it would be made easier through the information and computer technology that was then also appearing. She wrote

Through the need for participation in the introduction of new technologies, management and unions are having to establish consultative machinery where none exists. Those firms who want to move ahead quickly will achieve trade union cooperation if they offer participation in exchange; otherwise they will face resistance and obstruction. The new technologies offer an opportunity to widen industrial democracy at the plant and office level, where it matters most. Whether joint consultation at that level leads on to participation in the boardroom is a matter that can be left to each company and its unions to decide.

More difficult is the question of how the workforce in each firm should be represented. In the Cabinet committee which drew up the 1979 White Paper on industrial democracy, there were differing views on whether workers should elect their representatives to plant and company committees or whether they should be nominated by the trade unions (the ‘single channel’). The issue is far from simple. In Sweden and the Federal Republic of Germany most firms have only one trade union,, so there is no need to secure agreement among them before candidates for election can be put forward. In Britain, as many as twenty unions may represent the employees of large firms, and four or five unions in a firm are commonplace. In these circumstances, a straightforward election would be likely to lead all the representatives coming from the biggest unions, the rest being unrepresented.

But the nomination of a single list by agreement between the unions in a plant or firm offends the principle of democratic choice. The workers may object to one or more of the people selected to represent them, yet they would have no power to reject him or her other than by the rejecting the whole slate and jeopardizing participation itself. One way out of this dilemma would be for the unions in a multi-union plant to agree on constituencies representing each union on a weighted basis, with an election based on a secret ballot between candidates who were members of the appropriate union, some of whom might carry official endorsement.

Industrial democracy has not attracted consistent support from most trade unions, and the trade unions themselves are profoundly divided on the form it should take, many preferring a consultative structure to one statutory participation on the lines proposed in the Bullock Report. If the unions are divided, however, much of management feels threatened by the idea of industrial democracy. So for years there has been a stalemate on the subject, and government intervenes at their peril. Yet, if only beca8use there has to be effective consultation on technological change, the position cannot be left where it is. Indeed, in my view industrial democracy could usher in much better relations in industry, greater cooperation in improving the productivity of all factors of production and a better understanding of the need for voluntary incomes and prices policies to combat inflation. Many of Britain’s economic problems are rooted in institutional rigidities or, as in this case, institution conservatism. This one reform could bring in its wake a long-delayed rejuvenation. We should not be daunted by the difficulties, but rather invigorated by the possibilities.

Shirley Williams, Politics Is For People (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1981) 139-40.

Some of the issues Williams talks about here are very dated. Inflation is no longer the critical issue it was in the ’70s. It’s now very low, and this has caused problems in its turn. Profits and management pay have risen immensely, but this is not reflected in the salaries of ordinary workers. Quite the opposite. Their pay is still below inflation, and the result is that many of the quarter of a million people using food banks are actually in work. Mike has also today posted up a piece about how parents are starving themselves in the week because there isn’t enough to feed both them and their children on their wages. And this is not a recent development. Mike has published a number of articles about this over the past few years since the Tories took power under Cameron.

And the new technology to which Williams looked forward also hasn’t been an entirely liberating force. Some businesses instead are using to restrict and spy on their workers. Private Eye in their ‘Street of Shame’ column printed a story about how the weirdo Barclay Twins, who own the Torygraph, tried to fit the motion detectors used in call centres to monitor the movements of staff there to check to see if there hacks were leaving the desks. Other firms are fitting devices to their workers ankles to monitor their movements. And the spectre of Big Brother-style surveillance loomed even larger a month or so ago, when the I reported that a Swedish firm had developed an implantable chip that could be inserted into a firm’s staff.

British workers also don’t have the strong unions they enjoyed in the 1970s, which have left British workers vulnerable to low pay, the removal of employment rights and job insecurity.

However, Williams is right in that industrial democracy offers a genuine opportunity to empower working people, and benefit industry through proper cooperation between workers and management. It’s proper implementation won’t come from Williams and her fellows, who are now part of the Lib Dems, and who seem to have thoroughly forgotten it. It will only from Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party.

Helping Labour to Win in the Countryside: Encouraging Rural Industry

December 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

George Galloway: Torygraph Publishes Piece Speculating on Coup to Overthrow Corbyn

May 12, 2018

This is an excerpt from George Galloway’s Talk Radio Show, which I found on YouTube. He begins with talking about a conversation he had with James Whale, a fellow presenter, about the dangerous situation in the Middle East, where Israel is now facing an Arab, Russian and Iranian enemy. He pours scorn, however, on the juvenile scribblers, as Galloway sees it, who claimed that the missiles shot at the Golan Heights had entered Israel. Galloway states that the Golan Heights were illegally seized by Israel from Syria, and so are not part of Israel, no matter what the hacks say.

He then goes on to talk about Theresa May’s volte face, which has meant that victims of the Grenfell Tower fire will now be allowed onto the board investigating it. After that, he moves on to talking about how the Brexit negotiations are an appalling mess, and the whole affair something which all of us will have difficulty getting out of.

But the main subject of his ire is a piece published by Paul Carter in the Torygraph the day before, which may be 10th May 2018. The Torygraph had speculated on the possibility of a military coup against Corbyn. Galloway describes the article as chilling, and states that its author, Paul Carter, has no footprint in social media. The article claims that this coup would occur if the labour leader was elected to power and proceeded to enact to enact three particular policies. These were conducting a referendum to abolish the monarchy, taking us out of NATO, and taking us out of the western foreign policy consensus. Galloway himself wishes Corbyn would do all these, but the Labour leader will certainly not do any of them. The proximate cause of the Torygraph article is that it is 50 years since Mountbatten and the editor of the Mirror met to plan a coup against the Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson. Galloway states that Wilson was a political giant, who dominated the sixties and much of the seventies. He was right-wing Labour, a social democrat. But he had his house burgled and his mail intercepted because it was suspected that he was a Russian secret agent. If the coup had gone ahead, the country would probably be led by Mountbatten from the Despatch Box, probably from the House of Lords, unless he resigned and fought a bye-election. Not that such constitutional niceties would bother people, who had just overthrown their democratically elected leader.

He also makes the point that there were plans to intern 4,000 other leftists, including journalists, on the Shetland Islands. Galloway himself was too young at the time, but if they did launch a coup against Corbyn, this would be the last you’d hear of him for a long time, unless he managed to get onto Radio Free Shetland. He notes one expert, who has said that it would be much harder to launch a coup now that people have mobile phones and social media. It was easier fifty years ago when it was the editors of the newspapers to overthrow the government. But Corbyn would be wise to keep his mobile phone handy. If they did launch a coup, then millions would pour onto the streets to defended their elected leader? Or would they? Galloway leaves this as a matter of discussion for later in the programme. He says that eventually the plans for the coup were abandoned, because the conspirators thought better, including the government’s scientific advisor, Solly Zuckerman. But Galloway thinks this is false, and that they simply got cold feet.

Galloway then closes the segment with a piece about how popular the woman presenting the weather reports is becoming.

This is worrying, as it looks like a combination of smear piece and speculation by the Torygraph. Corbyn hasn’t any intention of trying to abolish the monarchy, taking us out of NATO or acting against the current foreign policy consensus, so it’s a smear to suggest that he might. The absence of any social media footprint for Paul Carter suggests that this is a pseudonym. And this in turn invites speculation that it’s someone from MI5 or another branch of the security services.

This wouldn’t be the first time MI5’s been acting against the government, if this is the case. The agency was convinced Wilson really was a KGB spy, and Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, have suggested that it was behind the smears circulating then about the Labour leader.

As for the coup they’re discussing, the plotting occurred later than the article claims. Mountbatten and the editor of the Mirror were making their plans in the mid-70s. And the Times was also looking forward to Wilson being toppled, though replaced by a civilian government of trusted members of the Labour party, like Shirley Williams, as well the Tories. These plots are discussed in Francis Wheen’s book, Strange Days Indeed: Paranoia in the 1970s, and by Ken Livinstone in his book Livingstone’s Labour. The date’s out, but otherwise everything that Galloway’s said about the proposed coup is correct. One of the reasons it failed is because one of the plotters approached Sandhurst, to ask if the old colonels there would help. They said they wouldn’t, and sent him away. Hurrah for Sandhurst!

Galloway says at the beginning of his discussion of the article that no-one else was talking about it. Which suggests that this is purely speculation and wishful thinking by the Weirdo Barclay Brothers and the paper’s managing director, Murdoch McLellan, and whoever is now the editor of this wretched rag. The paper’s been running articles attacking Corbyn, claiming that he’s an anti-Semite and so on, along with the Daily Mail. But this shows more than a hint of real desperation. For all the Tory and media talk about ‘peak Corbyn’, it seems they really afraid he’ll win the election. In which case, they want the troops to overthrow him. Not because they’re afraid he’ll do all the things they claim he will, but because his very mild socialist programme will cause the end of the Thatcherite consensus. The corporate rich could no longer look forward to a privatised NHS and railways, and parts of the electricity grid would also be renationalised, would which would also upset corporate profits. Not to mention that they could no longer rely on having a cowed, cheap workforce of the desperate on poverty wages, on zero hours contracts and kept in line by the threat of benefit sanctions and starvation.

This is all too much for the Torygraph and its scribblers. So they’ve started fantasising about the possibility of a coup. Just like the British stock exchange cheered the Fascists when they revolted against the Republican government at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

The Torygraph has just about gone full Fascist with this article. And its publication is more than a bit hypocritical for the Tories. Not after they went berserk and accused Hilary Mantel of encouraging terrorism when she published her short story, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. But this shows just how far Corbyn has rattled the Tories, and shown how some of them, at least as for the Torygraph itself, have started hankering after a coup to stop him.

Vox Political: Red Cross Called in Because of Lethal Tory NHS Cuts

January 7, 2017

Mike today put up a post commenting on the report in today’s Guardian that the Red Cross has been called in to help the NHS manage the crisis in care this winter. As a result of the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS and their deliberate starvation of the Service of funds, 50 hospitals have said they cannot cope, and two people have died needless at a hospital in Worcestershire. Mike states

It is no coincidence that the money handed over to private healthcare – to part-fund their shareholders’ profits – along with the administration costs that go with the part-privatised system add up to around £22 billion.

So the Conservative Government – Jeremy Hunt, Theresa May, the current cabinet, and previous ministers including David Cameron and former health secretary Andrew Lansley – have engineered this crisis and would rather pay public money, your money, into the bank accounts of shareholders in Virgin Health (for example) than use it to save people who are dying on hospital trolleys as you read these words.

His article also includes a long list of tweets from people, who recognise this artificial crisis for what it is. As well as rightly blaming Jeremy Hunt and the Tories, they also make it clear that this crisis was also caused by the Lib Dems, and in particular Shirley Williams, supported Andrew Lansley’s bill. To be fair, one of the chief opponents of the bill has been David Owen, who is trying to have it reversed and has written his own book on the attempts of the politicians of New Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories to privatise it. Owen is a medical doctor, and clearly sees the danger to British healthcare, which the others don’t.

But this crisis, and the Tories’ continued demands that the NHS budget should be cut, also show how mendacious the Tories have been in their promises made in the run-up to the 2010 election. Cameron and his team claimed that they were the defenders of the NHS against the cuts inflicted by Tony Blair. They campaigned against the closures of A&E and maternity departments, and claimed they would reverse the cuts once in office. Of course, once Cameron was safely in No. 10 and Lansley head of the health department, they completely jettisoned this promise, and were back to closing everything they could and announcing that the NHS needed to be reviewed.

Of course, recently the Tories have also claimed that they’re going to give extra funding to the NHS. But these claims need to be read with care. The article in the I which reported this, several weeks ago, then followed it by stating that the Tories still intended to cut the NHS budget by so much. So what the Tories were in fact saying was that they intended to cut the NHS, only not by as much as they originally intended. If you believe them – and there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t. But by placing the news of extra funding first, it gives the impression that they really are going to give more money to the NHS. And so skewed reporting and clever press statements help the Tories cover up their continuing dismemberment of the NHS.

Labour Rebels Want to Create Party within a Party, and Corbyn’s Response

July 31, 2016

Mike’s put up two pieces reporting and commenting on the plan of unnamed Labour rebels to set up a separate party within the Labour party against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

It was reported in the Mirror and Torygraph that senior Labour rebels were so convinced that Corbyn would win the leadership, they want to create virtually a second party, with its own shadow cabinet and leader. They would also issue a legal challenge to get control of the Labour party’s name and assets, and would petition John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, to nominate them as the official opposition.

Mike comments that the idea seems ‘hopelessly naive’. He makes the point that if they did carry out their plans, they would disrupt opposition to the Tories, and convince the majority of Labour members and supporters that they are really ‘Red Tories’ – Conservatives in disguise. Any attempt to gain the party’s name and assets would fail without the support of the majority of members. Mike also notes that they are also making a huge assumption that the majority of their rebel MPs would stay with them, when one of them, Sarah Champion, has already recanted and re-joined the Corbynites. He also notes that none of the leaders of this supposed plot have had the courage to reveal their identities, thus demonstrating once again the cowardice that has led their detractors to call them the ‘Chicken Coup’. And without knowing their identities, for all we know the story may have been made up by the Mirror and Torygraph. He concludes by stating that the only thing this will do is undermine Owen Smith’s own bid for the leadership.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/contempt-for-democracy-labour-rebels-plan-to-start-their-own-party-within-a-party/

Later yesterday Mike also put up a piece from the Groaniad, reporting Corbyn and McDonnell’s response to news of the plot. Corbyn said

“We are getting into some fairly bizarre territory here where unnamed MPs, funded from unnamed sources, are apparently trying to challenge – via the Daily Telegraph, very interesting – the very existence of this party.”

He stated that the Labour party was founded by pioneers, brave people, and that under the registration of parties act, they are the Labour party. There isn’t another, and he was very proud to be the leader of the Labour party. He also stated that it was nonsense that his leadership could cause a split, as membership had doubled since he became leader, and activity had increased.

McDonnell urged Smith to condemn the minority of MPs supporting his campaign, who were trying to subvert the election and damage the Labour party. Smith, when asked for a comment, said he refuses to indulge in gossip.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/bizarre-labour-rebels-can-never-steal-the-partys-name-and-assets-corbyn/

The Labour party has suffered a series of splits over its century-long history. Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation, which was one of the Socialist groups involved in the foundation of the party, later split away in the 1920s to form, with other groups, the Communist Party. Keir Hardie’s ILP also split, to carry on as a radical Socialist party. One of its most distinctive policies was a complete rejection of the wages system. Outside the Labour party it very swiftly declined. The last time I heard anything about it was thirty years ago, when I found a copy of its magazine/ newsletter in Cheltenham Public Library.

The most recent and notorious of the splits was that of the SDP in the 1980s, formed by the right-wing Labour MPs Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins and David Owen. They claimed to be ‘breaking the mould of British politics’, and Owen at the 1987 election told the party faithful to go back home and prepare for government. There was then, almost inevitably, a Tory victory. Screaming Lord Sutch later offered Owen a place in his Monster Raving Loony Party, saying cheekily that if Owen had joined them, he would be preparing for government. The SDP forged an alliance with the Liberals, and the two eventually merged to become the Liberal Democrats. They have also signally failed break the mould of British politics, despite the Guardian telling everyone to go out and vote for them at the 2010 elections. As for Owen, in the 1980s he was so desperate for power that at one point he even offered to support the Tories in a coalition, just as thirty years later Clegg decided to get into bed with Cameron.
And the SDP were also influenced by the neoliberal ideas of the Chicago School. Ann Soper, their Shadow Education Minister, was a fan of Milton Friedman’s ideas for school vouchers, which parents could use either on state education, or private.

If such a split did occur, it would be extremely unpleasant indeed. The wrangling about party assets and name could take years to settle. The vast majority of grassroots members would depart, and stay with Corbyn. And I’ve no doubt that rather than establishing themselves as the ‘official’ Labour party, the coup plotters would find the British public turning their backs on them as treacherous and untrustworthy intriguers. They’d decline into another rump party, while Corbyn’s faction would probably expand. They might also go the same way as the SDP, and try to join the Liberal Democrats after the number of their MPs declined past a certain point, no doubt all the while grumbling about ‘unelectable’ Corbyn being somehow responsible for the misfortunes they had all brought down on themselves.

The Tory Privatisation of the NHS: List of NHS Services for Which Fees May Be Charged

June 7, 2016

NHS SOS pic

I’ve been reading the book, NHS SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, with growing fury. I bought it a week ago so I could learn a bit more about the Tories and Lib Dem’s privatisation of the National Health Service. The book provides a very detailed description of this process, and the very limited opposition Lansley’s wretched Health and Social Care bill received as it passed through the Commons. One of those, who actually stood by the NHS and fought it was David Owen, one of the founders of the SDP. And one of those, who added their crucial support to the bill, was his Lib Dem colleague, Shirley Williams.

As it stands, the bill effectively dissolves the NHS as a single administrative unit responsible for the entire country. The Secretary of State is no longer responsible for the Health Service as a whole, but merely in charge of commissioning. Vast areas of the NHS have been given over to private healthcare companies, and funding by private health insurers. The book also details how what remains of the state-run parts of the NHS are being deliberately starved of cash, which is now being funnelled to private healthcare providers.

And the government has also repealed the statutory duty of the NHS to provide a universal health service free of charge. Instead, the law has been amended so that fees may be charged for the following services:

* Services and facilities for pregnant women, women who are breast-feeding.
* Services for both younger and older children.
* services for the prevention of illness.
* Care of persons suffering from illness and their after-care.
* Ambulance services.
* Services for people with mental illness.
* Dental public health services.
* Sexual health services.
(See the above book, p. 194).

Which looks like just about every part of health care in this country.

This is part of a long campaign, going right back to Margaret Thatcher’s review of the Health Service and plans for the dismantlement of the welfare state in the 1980s.

It’s disgusting. And we must fight against it with every fibre of our beings.