Posts Tagged ‘Somerset’

‘I’ Predicts Laboratory Produced Meat Could Be on Sale in Two Years’ Time

November 25, 2020

More news about the rapidly approaching Science Fictional society on the horizon. Last Friday’s edition of the I for 20th November 2020 carried a piece by Madeleine Cuff, ‘Biofarm to fork: Lab-grown meat on supermarket shelf in two years’, which reported that an Israeli company has had such success growing meat in a lab, that it may be sufficiently commercially viable to compete with traditionally farmed meat. The article ran

Steak grown in a laboratory could be hitting dinner plates within two years, after an Israeli food start-up this week unveiled a “commercial prototype” of its cultured steak.

Aleph Farms’ steak slices are grown in a laboratory – they prefer the term biofarm – using cells extracted from a living cow. The firm claims its “slaughter-free” product has the taste, texture, aroma, and nutritional value of meat reared the traditional way.

It is not the first firm to produce lab-grown meat that mimics traditional meat, but it is the first to say it can produce lab-grown meat cheaply enough for the average shopper. Aleph claims its production system will soon be able to produce lab-grown steak slices as cheaply as conventional meat.

“One of the big challenges of cultivated meat is the ability to produce large quantities efficiently at a cost that can complete with conventional meat industry pricing, without compromising on quality,” said Didier Toubia, co-founder and CEO of Aleph Farms. “We have developed five technological building blocks unique to Aleph Farms that are put into a large-scale production process, all patented by the company.”

The slices are being unveiled today at an innovation conference in Singapore, ahead of a pilot launch at the end of 2022. The firm has raised $12m (£9m) in funding, including backing from the multinational Cargill, Swiss supermarket Migros and Israeli food manufacturer Strauss Group to fund its plans.

Aleph Farms says its system of meat production – which will take place in specially developed “Bio-Farms” – uses a fraction of the resources needed to rear livestock for meat. Beef is one of the most carbon-intensive foods, in part because it requires large amounts of land, food and water to rear cattle.

Switching to lab-grown meat would also curb the use of antibiotics in farm animals, one of the major drivers of antibiotic resistance around the world, Aleph Farms said.

But many consumers are still uncomfortable with the idea of eating so-called cultured meat, and farmers are expected to mount stiff opposition to its roll-out. In the US the beef lobby is already pressuring the US Department of Agriculture to define meat as a product that comes from the carcass of an animal.

This looks to me like it might be another industry puff-piece, like the glowing report a week or so ago that the rapid transit vacuum tube train system had been successfully tested. I’m starting to wonder if Lebedev or whoever owns the I now has shares in these companies.

SF writers and scientists have been predicting the development of lab-grown meat for decades now. I think it’s one of the targets the SF writers Pohl and Kornbluth take solid aim at in their 1950s satire of consumerism and advertising, The Space Merchants. It also appears in one of the Gregory Benford’s ‘Galactic Centre’ cycle of novels, where he describes the endless production of cloned turkey – lurkey- to feed an interstellar expedition sent to the centre of the Galaxy to find allies against an invading civilisation of intelligent machines. Outside SF, the late botanist David Bellamy gave an interview in the Sunday supplement for the Heil way back in the 1980s, in which he looked forward to the advent of lab-grown meat. This would end the cruelty of current farming, and cattle would then be reared as pets.

It’s an inspiring vision, and many people naturally have qualms about the way animals are reared and slaughtered. And there are plenty of veggies out there, who still want to enjoy the taste of meat. Hence the growth of vegetable substitutes.

But I’ve also got strong reservations about this. Firstly there’s the health aspect. What happens if you clone endlessly from a limited set of cells? I can see the nutritional value of such meat declining over time. I also don’t think it’s a good idea to get the meat from such a limited stock. One of the causes of the Great Potato Famine in Ireland was that the strains used by the Irish were too restricted. Other varieties of spud, which could have resisted the fungus which devastated the crop, weren’t available. And so when the fungus appeared, it destroyed such a high proportion that millions either starved to death or were forced to emigrate. And the British government was so unsympathetic, that immense bitterness was left that added a further spur to the Irish nationalists. I can see a similar problem devastating clone food.

I also worry about the potentially dehumanising effect this will have on us as well. One of the complaints we hear regularly from educators and agricultural/ nature programmes like Countryfile is that many children don’t know where their food comes from. Hence the schemes to take kids, especially from the inner city, to farms. For many people meat, and other foodstuffs, is simply what comes from the shops or supermarkets. But people aren’t robots or disembodied minds. As Priss says in the film Bladerunner, ‘We’re not computers. We’re biological’. And I’m afraid if we go down this route and begin the mass consumption of lab-grown meat, we’ll contact with that biology, to our own spiritual detriment.

And I’m not sure that it will be good for the animals either. Yes, I know the arguments. Cows need much space and vegetation, and their flatulence gives off such amounts of methane that it’s a major contributor to global warming. A little while ago a vegetarian organisation appeared on the Beeb local news programme for the Bristol area, Points West, to present their argument that if everyone in the Bristol, Somerset and Gloucestershire region turned veggie, the amount of land used for farming could be drastically reduced. The vast tracts of unused land could be rewilded, thus aiding the environment. But what humanity has no use for in the environment, it destroys or allows to become extinct. The wolf is extinct in Britain, and it’s been argued that the only reason the fox has survived is because there was precious little else left to hunt after the number of deer was reduced. And despite official protection, birds of prey are also under threat because they prey on grouse and so threatened that alleged sport and its profits in Scotland. Cattle continue to be farmed, but the previous varieties bred by our ancestors have become rare as their place has been taken by more profitable animals. If lab-grown meat takes off, then I’m afraid that cattle as a species will also become rare.

Whatever the environmental advantages, this looks like another step towards the kind of overly technological, dehumanizing dystopia SF writers have been warning us about. It’s an interesting idea, but it needs much more debate and caution.

Radio 4 Next Week Serialises Biography of Black Haitian Revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture

November 11, 2020

Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’ next week, according to the Radio Times for 14-20 November 2020, is Sudhir Hazareesingh’s Black Spartacus, a biography of Toussaint L’Ouverture. L’Ouverture was the leader of slave rebellion in what is now Haiti in the late 19th century, which threw out the French and turned their former colony into the first Black republic. The piece about the serial on page 130 of the Radio Times by David McGillivray runs

Book of the Week: Black Spartacus – the Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture

In 1791 enslaved Africans on the island now known as Haiti rose up against their French masters in the world’s first and only successful slave revolution. Their leader was the brilliant general and diplomat Toussaint Louverture, subject of a new book by Mauritian-born lecturer in politics at Balliol College Oxford, Sudhir Hazareesingh. Using correspondence and military reports in French archives, Hazareesingh brings startling new insights into the life of the man largely responsible for the establishment of the first black republic. Louverture, a real-life black superhero, fought not only the French but also the British and Spanish. “It was the greatest revolution of all time,” the author says. The serialisation is read by Adrian Lester.

The programme’s on at 9.45 each day, Monday to Friday. The blurbs for the days’ instalments are as follows:

Monday

1/5 Adrian Lester reads from Sudhir Hazareesingh’s biography of the former slave who headed an insurrection that led to the Haitian Revolution. The first instalment looks at Toussaint’s early life, his progress to coachman and his education by the Jesuits. Abridged by Libby Spurrier.

Tuesday

2/5 Following the Saint Domingue uprising, Toussaint show himself to be both a focused military leader and a man of compassion.

Wednesday

3/5 In 1798, Napoleon sends an agent, Gabriel de Heouville, to reduce Tousaint’s power in Saint-Domingue.

Thursday

4/5 Toussaint’s sweeping reforms of both public and private activity help to bring about huge rises in productivity and exports, but his authoritative leadership style inspires rebellions, led by his nephew Moyse.

Friday

5/5 Napoleon Bonaparte and Toussaint Louverture engage in a fierce battle of both wit and force over Saint-Dominge. After three months of fighting, Toussaint seeks to negotiate a truce, but is arrested and embarks on his first sea voyage – one way – to France.

Louverture was clearly a brilliant and gifted leader. His revolution was an inspiration to slaves across the Caribbean, and the sought to emulate his success in their own revolts. These also included the British West Indies, alarming the colonial authorities there and the government at home.

However, there was also a serious negative aspect to the revolution. Major Moody used the condition of the former slaves in Haiti after the revolt as part of the argument in his parliamentary report in the 1820s that slaves in the British Caribbean weren’t ready for their freedom. After the revolution, the government had been faced with a financial crisis due to possible loss of their export commodity, sugar. The country was therefore divided up between Louverture’s generals, and the former slaves were forbidden to leave their plantations. Each plantation was given a quote of sugar to produce. If they failed to produce this quota, then the generals and army moved in and started executing those workers. I believe they were burned to death. I don’t know whether this came after Louverture was removed from power, although it might have been during his rule when the book says that rebellions broke out against his ‘authoritative’ leadership.

Moody’s conclusion surprised contemporaries, because he certainly wasn’t personally racist. He lived in Somerset with a Black wife. His report is interesting because it also includes letters from a former American slave, who had been freed by his mistress in Louisiana. The former slave had travelled to Haiti, and obviously felt a strong attachment to his former mistress by writing letters to her about his new adopted country and its conditions.

The report also discusses issues that are still, unfortunately, very relevant today. He felt describes the greater numbers of Blacks than Whites in American prisons, and concluded that there is so much prejudice against Blacks in America and Britain that the only way they can possible succeed as equals would be if they had their own country. This is the view of Black radical groups like the Nation of Islam. Let’s work together to make sure it’s mistaken.

I haven’t come across this particular book before, but there have been other works recently published about the Black revolutionaries of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. One of these is The Black Jacobins. Louverture was inspired by the French Revolution, which attempted to end slavery as well as liberating the White serfs from their aristocratic masters. I don’t think the French were able to restore serfdom after the revolution’s failure, but they were successful in restoring Black slavery. This led to the growth of French anti-slavery movements like Amis des Noirs.

Hey-Ho for Hallowe’en

October 31, 2020

It’s October 31st, Hallowe’en. This is supposed to come from the pagan Irish festival of Samhain, but over a decade ago now Dr Ronald Hutton, a history professor at Bristol University, published an article criticising this view in the Earth Mysteries/ Alternative Archaeology magazine 3rd Stone. One of the postgraduate students in the religion department at Bristol University was studying it, however, and she found that it did come from Ireland. So what the real origin of Hallowe’en is I have no idea.

One of the children’s books I had when I was young was The Beaver Book of Creepy Verse, which had this little rhyme:

Hey-ho for Hallowe’en

And the witches to be seen.

Some black and some green.

Hey-ho for Hallowe’en.

Which is obviously great fun if you’re a small child, but isn’t going to win any literary awards.

In Somerset the Jack O’ Lanterns made at this time of year were called ‘punkies’ and there was a doggerel verse about how this was ‘punkie night’. Not obviously to be confused with punks, however, despite the physical similarity some people might have to pumpkins.

Thanks to the Coronavirus, going to parties is out of the question. Many cities are ascending the tiers of restrictions the government has imposed, and I’ve heard that it’s likely that the government will imposed a general lockdown sometime next week. But I hope everyone will nevertheless have a great day, and a bit of spooky fun if they want. Even if it just watching a horror video with the peeps in your social bubble.

Private Eye Shows Blatant Pro-Starmer Bias in Review of Ernest Bevin Biography

July 30, 2020

I’ve blogged many times about the vicious anti-Corbyn bias Private Eye shares with the rest of the media. Like the rest of the country’s corrupt and mendacious press and broadcasting establishment, Private Eye has consistently pushed the smears and lies against the former Labour leader. It has vilified him as an anti-Semite and, some kind of Commie or Trotskyite infiltrator. Even now that Corbyn is no longer head of the party, the attacks continue. This fortnight’s edition, for 31st July – 13th August 2020 contains an article rejoicing over the threats to sue Corbyn and the party by the Blairite intriguers and anti-Semitism smear merchants for libel. The anti-Semitism smears always were politically motivated. They were mobilised by the Zionist Jewish establishment – the chief rabbinate, Board of Deputies of British Jews and the various Friends of Israel parliamentary organisations in order to rebut criticism of the Israeli state’s 70 + years of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The wider British political establishment used them in order to protect Israel as an outpost of British and western power in the Middle East. And the Blairites used them from a mixture of political expediency and genuine political conviction. Blair, Mandelson and the rest were strong supporters of Israel anyway, and Blair had obtained his financial independence from the unions he despised through donations from pro-Israel Jewish businessmen through Lord Levy. And the anti-Semitism allegations were another way of discrediting Corbyn after he and the traditional Labour moderates gained control of the party.

Well, Starmer is now head of the party, and is continuing the campaign to maintain Blairite control through purging the party Left, all under the pretext that he is just clearing out the anti-Semites. This is while real, anti-Black racists are allowed to thrive and fester in the party as many of them appear to be the Blairite intriguers, who conspired to undermine the party’s election campaign.

But there is also an ideological as well as a tactical campaign being fought by the Blairites in their attempts to win control. According to Private Eye’s literary column, this includes a new biography of Ernest Bevin by New Labour’s Andrew Adonis, Ernest Bevin: Labour’s Churchill. This is reviewed in the magazine’s recent issue as ‘Ernest toil’.

Bevin is a major figures in Bristol and Somerset labour history. He was a Somerset agricultural worker, who was instrumental in forming the union for this part of the rural workforce. He then moved to Bristol, where he became a major figure in trade union and Labour party politics, helping to found the Transport and General Workers’ Union. During World War II he served Churchill as Minister of Labour, and then under Clement Attlee as Commonwealth Minister.

The Eye’s review of Adonis’ biography is deeply critical. It notes that there are already several excellent works on the great man, on whom Adonis’ own work is very strongly based. Adonis has conducted no deeper research into Bevin – the book draws very heavily on the previous biographies. Adonis doesn’t bring any fresh insight to his subject either, and the book is stylistically marred by the use of contemporary management-speak and 21st century jargon. So why has it been written?

For the Eye, the answer is that Adonis is attempting to use Bevin as an ideological bolster for the Starmerite faction in the Labour party. Adonis is impressed by Bevin’s embrace of Keynsian economics and proclaims that the stood for a ‘liberal socialism’ apart from nationalisation and the unregulated free market. This is the position of Starmer and his faction, whom the Eye gives absolutely no doubt should have the leadership of the party. Their anonymous reviewer writes

So what is Adonis up to? Well, like the Imperialist burghers of late-Victorian Bristol busily erecting statues to Edward Colston a century after his death, Gordon Brown’s former transport secretary is keen to harness the past to the somewhat shaky equipage of the present. According to this assessment, Bevin is worth reading about now not only for the startling achievements of his ascent through life – he was an orphan boy from the West Country sent out to work in the fields at the age of 11 – but for what he has to tell us about the politics of 2020.

Item one on Adonis’ list is Bevin’s friendship with John Maynard Keynes and his enthusiasm for the latter’s plan to borrow money to fund better public services. Item two is the touting of something called “liberal socialism”, in which, quoting Keynes, “the solution lies neither with nationalisation nor with unregulated private competition; it lies in a variety of experiments, of attempts to get the best of both worlds.” Item three, naturally, is Bevin’s lifelong quarrel with the Left, exemplified by his wiping th floor with the Labour party’s pacifist leader George Lansbury at the party conference of 1935.

Bevin, you see, was not only a visionary politician (although this being 2020, Adonis has to take up several paragraphs apologising for his unreconstructed ideas about “Empire”), he was also an old-style Labour bruiser able to stitch up the right-wing trade union vote in the service of the parliamentary front bench. Clearly, what we need right now is a sensible, moderate Labour party with a raft of policies that will encourage social justice without scaring off big business and the middle classes while doing to the Jeremy Corbyn’s o this world what Bevin did to Lansbury.

“Britain needed Bevin once,” Adonis signs off. “Now we need his kind again.” If this isn’t a piece of semaphoring in the direction of Sir Keir Starmer, I don’t know what is. Will Lord Adonis play a part in making sense of our post-coronavirus world an emergency by the way, “of a kind Bevin relished”). We can only hope and pray. (My emphasis)

I’ve got a biography of Ernest Bevin on one of the bookshelves here, because of his importance to national history and that of Bristol’s working class. But the policies Starmer supports and wishes to impose seem just to be standard ‘Third Way’ Blairism. It’s just more Thatcherism and neoliberalism. We’ve seen again and again that the privatisation of the public services, the utilities and the NHS, have been an absolute failure. They haven’t improved performance. Far from it – they’ve made it worse. And thanks to the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS pushed through by Blair and Brown as well as the Tories, there is a real danger that this country will get a private healthcare system as disastrous and malign as America’s, and run by much the same firms. We desperately need to renationalise gas, electricity, water and the NHS. While the Tories, Blairites and the media succeeded in turning the public against Corbyn, these policies were still immensely popular with the public. My guess is that they still are, and would put Starmer and the party in an excellent place for power if he bothered to promote them. But Starmer won’t, because as a Blairite he believes absolutely in the primacy and success of private industry, even when its failure is obvious to anybody else.

Contrary to the rubbish put out by the right-wing political establishment, Corbyn really was never a radical. His programme for the renationalisation of the NHS and the utilities is simply a return of the old social democratic consensus that gave Britain growth and prosperity from 1948 to Thatcher’s miserable election victory in 1979. By traditional Labour standards, Corbyn’s actually a centrist. But after 40 years of free market Thatcherism, even this moderate position is viewed as dangerously radical by the self-appointed guardians of political orthodoxy.

And that orthodoxy is shared uncritically by Private Eye, even though the magazine has consistently revealed its failure, particularly in the Private Finance Initiative. But it’s the ideology adopted by what passes as the left-wing media set. It’s been pushed by the Groaniad, for example, whose hacks are now in a screaming rage that the left-wingers they’ve been sneering at and gaslighting all these years are abandoning their wretched rag. Sales of the Groan are disastrous and massive job cuts on the way. And the magazine has only itself to blame.

My guess is that Private Eye shares some of the same assumptions as the hacks at the Groan, or at least the left-wing members of the magazine’s staff. Britain’s newspaper hacks, with certain exceptions, seem to come from the same class and my guess is that much of Private Eye may also come from the same journos in the rest of the press, published anonymously.

And so we have the spectacle of the Eye openly revealing its own partisan bias in support of Starmer. Which confirms just how fake the anti-Semitism smears were. The real issue was always the Blairite’s fear of a genuine socialist Labour party that would genuinely empower the working class. The Eye’s anonymous reviewer, through their hopes and prayers for Starmer’s leadership, as just made that very clear.

 

Canine Protest Against Brexit, Farage and Rees-Mogg

May 7, 2020

Well, the best bit of tonight’s edition of Have I Got News For You for people down here near Bath And North-East Somerset was right at the end of the programme when they show funny photographs making jokes about how they’re of a certain event. BANES is the stomping ground of a certain Jacob Rees-Mogg, and they showed a picture of a dog peeing on a photograph of the Honourable Member for the 18th century. The joke was that it was Somerset council’s way of making sure that dogs urinate in the correct areas. Here’s the photo:

The photo seems to come from a demonstration against Brexit, entitled ‘Brexit Is A Dog’s Dinner’. Other photos showed demonstrators’ pooches expressing forthright views on the former leader of UKIP, now Fuhrer of the Brexit corporation, sorry, party.

Hope this gives everyone a laugh. If only they’d had the vote at the referendum!

 

 

Cartoon: Up Pompous

April 13, 2020

As I said, I’m glad Boris Johnson has recovered enough from the Coronavirus to be sent home. I really don’t want anyone to die from this disease, including BoJob. But his recovery also means that I can at last put up the cartoon below. I was drawing just when it was announced that Johnson had been taken into hospital, and to lampoon the man when he was fighting for his life would have been unacceptable. But Johnson’s illness doesn’t change what he is, or what he and his party stand for. And so they’re still suitable subjects for ridicule and satire.

Johnson prides himself on his classic learning. He presented a series a few years ago on ancient Rome, and had a column in the Spectator when he was its editor, in which he discussed what lessons the classics had for us today. I remember one piece he did in his series about Rome, in which he contrasted the early empire, which was governed by just 12 men, with the army of MEPs and bureaucrats that administer the EU. The obvious lesson there was that smaller government equals good government. Of course the argument falls apart when you consider the vast distance in time, morals and social and technological sophistication, as well as the simple fact that the EU and its constituent nations are meant to be democracies. Ancient Rome wasn’t. It was an oligarchy, in which only a narrow section of the population had the vote, and the only real political power was that of the emperor and the army. The senate continued to meet under the empire, but their debates were so meaningless that I think they more or less stopped having them. One emperor was forced to send them a message requesting them to debate something. With his background in the classics and admiration for ancient Rome, it therefore made sense to lampoon Boris as a Roman politician.

But readers of this blog of a certain age will also remember the late, great Frankie Howerd and the comedy, Up Pompeii. This was set in the famous Roman city, and starred Howerd as the slave, Lurcio. It would start with Lurcio leaving the house, sitting down on a convenient seat, and saying ‘Salute, citizens. And now, the prologue -‘ at which point he would be interrupted by some commotion. And thus would begin that week’s episode. It was a ’70s BBC TV show, but in the winter of 1990-1, it was revived by ITV. Howerd was once again Lurcio. But the show had moved with the times and changed one character. In the original series, I think the son of the family that owned him was supposed to be gay, and the butt of various jokes about effeminacy by Lurcio. This was before the gay rights movement had had quite the impact it has now, when jokes about gays were still acceptable. By the 1990s they weren’t, and so the gay son was replaced by a eunuch, so they could still carry on making the same jokes about lack of masculinity. Sadly, it only lasted one episode, as Howerd died after the first episode was shown.

His material, like the ‘Carry On’ films, is dated now, but Howerd was a great comedian and genuinely funny man. He lived in the village of Mark in Somerset, and after his death his home was turned into a museum. He was very popular and respected there, because whenever they had a village fete, he’d turn up to do a turn and give them his support. He also, I heard, used to rehearse in the church hall. A friend of mine told me he’d actually been in a church service while Howerd was rehearsing, and his lines could be heard coming through the hall. Let’s hope they weren’t the monologue where he pretended to be a vicar, and joked about how last Sunday he held a three-hour service for the incontinent. ‘There wasn’t a dry aisle in the house’, is the punchline to that one.

So I’ve drawn Johnson as a Roman patrician politician, being jeered and pelted with mud, cabbages and buckets of water by the mob. Behind him is Howerd’s Lurcio, looking at once shocked and puzzled, and underneath is one of Howerd’s catchphrases ‘Titter ye not’.

As Johnson and his party are authoritarian and extremely right-wing, I’ve tried to show their Fascistic tendencies in the decoration at the top. The pattern around the panel is based on a Roman design, although I’ve taken a few liberties. If you look at it, it’s composed of repeating swastikas. It also has the fasces, the bundle of rods with an axe attached. This was the ancient Roman symbol of the lictor, a Roman official. The rods symbolised his right to beat, and the axe to behead, Roman citizens. It was also adopted by Mussolini’s Fascists and their counterparts in other nations, like Oswald Mosley’s disgusting BUF.

Here’s the cartoon. I hope you enjoy it, and it helps cheer you up in these dreadful times.

 

Corbyn Warns that Fighting Against Corona Virus Will Be Harder Due to Tory Cuts

March 13, 2020

Yesterday the papers were falling over themselves to praise BoJob’s wretched budget to the rafters. It was the first populist budget since Maggie Thatcher! There would be more spending on the NHS to help it combat the corona virus. The Tories were now committed to spending more on the economy and the infrastructure. Boris was giving the public what they wanted. It was all A Very Good Thing indeed.

It seems it was only Jeremy Corbyn, who struck a more sober, realistic note. According to a piece in yesterday’s I, by Richard Wheeler and Sophie Morris, the former Labour leader warned that fighting back against the virus will be harder because of 10 years of cuts. The article ran

Jeremy Corbyn urged the Government to be straight with people about how the coronavirus response will be “much tougher” after 10 years of “deeply damaging” cuts.

The Labour leader welcomed Budget steps taken by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to head off the economic impact of the spread of Covid-18.

But the UK enters the crisis with its public services “on their knees” and with a “fundamentally weak” economy, Mr Corbyn added.

Replying to the Budget, the Opposition leader said: “The Chancellor shows not some but a lot of brass neck when he boasts that measures to deal with coronavirus are only possible because of his party’s management of the economy.

“Look outside – in the real world, we’re still living through the slowest economic recovery in a century. Our economy is fundamentally weak.”

He told the Commons: “The steps the Government has announced today to head off the economic impact of the coronavirus are obviously welcome, but I have some points I wish to raise.

“We have to be straight with people, it is going to be much tougher because of the last 10 years of deeply damaging and counterproductive cuts to all of our essential public services.”

He added the Budget “doesn’t come close” to delivering on the Government’s election promises to working-class communities.”

Bristol South Labour MP Karin Smyth on the Budget

I was at a meeting of the local Labour Party in south Bristol yesterday. Our MP, Karin Smyth was there to give her report to us all. And she was very scathing about the Budget and the Tory response to the coronavirus. She said first of all that the Tories should not be congratulated for doing something they’d destroyed. The money they promise to put back into the economy will not restore it to 2009/10 levels. And at the moment, it’s just headlines. The money has not been allocated and there is no infrastructure. She didn’t say it quite like this, but this is what is: guff. Empty, vapid guff and promises. She also said that it showed how far removed from the lives of ordinary people that they really didn’t understand how Statutory Sick Pay worked, or that people with the virus would have to go into work because otherwise, thanks to their cuts, they wouldn’t have any money.

Her comments on the state of the NHS and social care also bore out Corbyn’s comments. Before she became a local MP for Bristol, she was involved in the CCGs – the commissioning groups set up within the NHS by Tony Blair – in north Somerset and then in Bristol. She stated that Bristol was well placed to tackle the coronavirus, but this was only through the work of the local authority. The party’s LGBT officer stated that Bristol was also strongly placed to tackle the disease, as she worked in the virus labs. However, this was solely due to the local authority and NHS groups working to develop the machinery to deal with emergencies like the virus themselves. The Tories had destroyed the national machinery to deal with them with the introduction of Andrew Lansley’s pestilential Health and Social Care bill of 2012.

Tory NHS reforms and partial privatisation have damaged this country’s ability to respond to the coronavirus. 

I ended up talking about the coronavirus emergency with the taxi driver coming home. He too was mightily unimpressed with BoJob’s response. And he was furious at Johnson’s statement that people would die. Now I think Johnson meant it as a mere statement of fact, but the driver, and many others I’m sure, have taken it to mean that Johnson is completely indifferent to the deaths of the poor, the disabled and the elderly. Mike has commented to that effect. So has Zelo Street. And they’re right. Johnson’s government has repeatedly shown that they have no interested in preserving the lives of the vulnerable. Quite the opposite – they do seem to see the mass deaths they’ve inflicted through the work capability cuts and the benefit sanctions as ‘culling the herd’.  Which brings me back to another comment Smyth made – that the government’s welfare reforms means that the welfare safety no longer exists. And the effects will get worse towards the end of this government in 2024.

People are going to die because Johnson and the Tories hate the welfare state for keeping the poor and vulnerable alive and imposing taxes on the rich.

The Mysterious Vanishing Tories – Jacob Rees-Mogg

December 5, 2019

Mike over at Vox Political has been putting up a number of articles about how publicity-shy various Tory candidates are. Some of them are so wary of actually talking to the media that they’ve actually been spotted running away from them and members of the public. Yesterday he put up a video from EvolvePolitics about the Tory candidate for Peterborough, Paul Bristow, who had gone into self-imposed media silence. Channel 4 news had been looking for him to get an interview about what he felt about the challenge from a rival candidate for the Brexit Party. But, like Jo Swinson for the Remain campaign during the EU referendum, he was nowhere to be seen. The journo ended up waiting for him outside his house after their attempts to contact him about arranging an interview got absolutely nowhere. Eventually he turned up, and when they ran towards him he started closing the door, claiming that he couldn’t speak to them because he had a meeting. He told them to phone or email his office. The hack told him they had, and got through to one of the gentlemen with him, but had got nowhere. But the door closed, and so another Tory remained silent. Safe from media scrutiny.

Terrified Tories are running from media scrutiny

Like the current leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg. Mogg was due to appear at a hustings in Midsomer Norton at 7.00 O’Clock this evening. Points West, the local news programme for the Bristol, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire area, was also down there hoping to catch him when they were on air at 6.30. But he hadn’t shown up. It seems Mogg has also been told told to keep his head down by the Tory party. He hasn’t given an interview for a month since he opened his mouth on LBC and made his highly ill-advised comments about the victims of the Grenfell fire. The programme said that the Tories had stated he hadn’t given interviews and would not give any for the next month. The Beeb’s journo then did a vox pop of three members of the public, who had turned up for the hustings. They were not impressed with Mogg’s avoidance of public and media scrutiny. A young woman said that it showed a disrespect for the public. An older man said that he wasn’t surprised Mogg wasn’t talking after his comments about Grenfell. They were disgraceful! He also spoke to the candidates for the other parties – the Greens, Lib Dems and Labour, who were hoping to tackle Mogg at the hustings. And they had the same view of Mogg as the ordinary citizens the Beeb had just interviewed. Their man in Midsomer Norton ended that part of the programme by saying that the Tories had assured them that Mogg would be at the hustings, and they’d give an update to the story at a later bulletin.

This tells you all about the high confidence the Tories have in their candidates. They really don’t want anyone interviewing them, asking them any awkward questions. And they’re doing their best to run away from the cameras and microphones as fast as their legs can carry them. Mind you, with people having written ‘Get Mogg Out’ on the top of a slag heap near Midsomer Norton earlier today, perhaps it’s unsurprising that Mogg was in no hurry to get to the hustings there.

But the peeps on the programme were right. The behaviour of Mogg and his fellow Tory candidates trying to keep themselves out of the media, so they don’t put their feet in it, does show a basic contempt for the voting public. As well as their hypocrisy. After all, it wasn’t that long ago they were calling Corbyn ‘chicken’.

Mates Jacob Publishes His Dossier of Tory Islamophobia

November 22, 2019

Last Friday, Zelo Street put up a very informative piece about Mates Jacob’s decision to publish his dossier about the rampant islamophobia in the Tory party. Mates Jacob is the internet personality, who published details of the racism, anti-Semitism and islamophobia he found on Twitter and other internet groups for supporters of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. And it was a very nasty, seething mass of bigotry and hate he uncovered. They demanded the usual stop to immigration before moving on to deportation and even assault and murder against Blacks and Asians, and particularly against Muslim politicians like Sadiq Khan.

Zelo Street reports that Mates Jacob had refrained from publishing his dossier on islamophobia in the wider Tory party in the hope that chairman James Cleverly would do something about it. Well, Cleverly and they had their chance, and they blew it. This is going to be another inquiry the Tories will hold after the election. So Mates Jacob has published it. And Zelo Street has in its turn blogged about a selection of Tory politicos in the dossier, and their vile views. They are:

Councillor Roger Taylor of Calderdale council,

Councillor Beverley Dunlop of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council,

Councillor Christopher Newbury of Wiltshire council,

Councillor Danny Scott of Blackpool council,

Councillor Vera Walters of Walsall council,

Councillor Duane Farr of Bournemouth Council,

Councillor Alistair Redman of Argyle and Brute council,

Councillor Malcolm Griffiths of Redcar and Cleve Council,

Councillor Paul Marks of Kettering council,

Councillor Nick Colbert of South Somerset council.

They have been caught expressing such delightful opinions, like wondering why the anti-racist journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is still in Britain, demanding an inquiry into Muslim rape gangs targeting White girls; worrying about Marseilles becoming Europe’s first Muslim majority city, describing Muslims as ‘barbarians’ and wondering why anyone has a problem with PEGIDA; stating that Muslims have been terrorising and seeking to dominate everyone who isn’t of their faith for over a thousand years through imperialist, colonialist wars; demanding a halt to immigration from Africa and describing famine as a natural method of depopulation; admiring the way the BNP doesn’t shy away from tackling issues others wouldn’t due to political correctness;  promoting a video from Paul Joseph Watson entitled ‘The Islamic State of Sweden’; describing the Afghan boy who attacked and injured four people on a train in Germany as ‘chopping them up’ and remarking sarcastically that it must have something to do with Brexit; and claiming that voter fraud was massive, when it’s so small it’s insignificant, and that it’s all down to women in hijabs handing over ballot papers to imams.

Now it’s true that Islam has expanded through imperialist wars, as has Christianity. But this is only part of the religion’s history, just as it is only part of Christianity’s.  And it doesn’t reflect the attitudes of all Muslims, many of whom are the victims of horrendous persecution, like the Rohingya in Burma and the Uyghurs in China.

The sage of Crewe concludes his piece by pointing out that these are only ten of many more in the Tory party, who hold similar views, and that Cleverly hasn’t done anything about them. He states

‘There is only one major political party that is institutionally racist. And it is the Conservative Party.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/tory-islamophobia-laid-bare.html

Well, there’s also the Brexit party and the remnants of what used to be UKIP, but it’s a fair point. The Tories have no business smearing Corbyn and Labour as anti-Semites, when there is so much more hatred and bigotry in their ranks. And they aren’t going to do anything about it, because as we’ve seen from the Hostile Environment policy and the Windrush deportations, and indeed from the contents of papers like the Mail and Depress, they use racism to promote themselves.

 

Brexit Bias on the Beeb: Points West Goes to Weston-Super-Mare

September 4, 2019

The Beeb, as has been pointed out by countless left-wing websites and academics, ad nauseam, has a very strong Tory bias. It’s shown in its determination to vilify the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn at every chance it can get, while packing news shows like Question Time with Tory MPs, supporters and members of right-wing think tanks. And this right-wing bias seems to go right down to local news. Points West is the local news programme for the Bristol area, covering not just Bristol, but also Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. Yesterday, as part of the coverage of the Brexit debates in parliament and the demonstrations both pro- and anti-, they decided to gauge local attitudes in our part of the West Country. This meant talking to three local MPs, Thangam Debonnaire in Bristol, the Tory MP for Tewkesbury and another Tory from the Forest of Dean. They wanted to talk to the latter because he was one of those who threw their hat into the ring when the party ousted Tweezer and started about deciding her successor. And it was very clear that he was a Brexiteer, who wanted the whole debate to be over and done with and everyone get behind BoJob. He couldn’t, however, say what benefits Brexit would bring his constituents in the Forest, and didn’t answer the question when David Garmston, the interviewer, asked him what he was going to tell them what they would be for his constituents. Instead he just waffled about how he was sure they wanted it over and done with as soon as possible, or were fully informed of the Brexit debate. Or something.

Then it was down to Weston-Super-Mare for a vox pop. The split, their presenter announced, between ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ voters was very narrow, 52% versus 48%. They were down in the north Somerset resort town because attitudes in Weston closely followed those nationally. But this wasn’t evident from the people they showed speaking. Points West put out two deck chairs, labelled ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and invited people to sit in them in answer to the questions ‘Do you want an election?’ and ‘Do you support Brexit’. I think they showed four people, of whom only one was Labour and a Remainer. The rest were Tories and very definitely Brexiteers. And what specimens of humanity they were! One was an elderly lady with a Midlands accent, who ranted about Remainers being ‘Remoaners’ and ‘snowflakes’, all the while making gestures suggesting that she thought they all ought to be thrown into the sea. She then went off giggling like an imbecile at what she thought was her own wit. She was followed by an elderly gent, who declared that he wanted a general election that would return the Tories with a massive majority. And then there was a young man from Salisbury, who was also behind Boris Johnson and Brexit.

These loudmouths reminded me of the Bill Hicks joke about evolution having passed by some pockets of humanity. ‘In some parts of our troubled world, people are shouting ‘Revolution! Revolution! In Kansas they’re shouting ‘Evolution! Evolution! We want our opposable thumbs’. Evolution isn’t supposed to go backwards. But you wonder. All the anxiety about food and medicine shortages – I know people, who are stocking up on their medicines already – as well as the devastation to the economy, manufacturing industry, jobs, all that went unmentioned by the Brexiteers on the sea front. Listening to the old chap declaring that he wanted an overwhelming Tory majority, I wanted to ask him, who he thought would continue paying his pension and if he had private medical insurance if this happened. Because the Tories are determined to cut pensions, one way or another, and they are selling off the NHS. And Nigel Farage has said very openly that we may need to change to an insurance-based system. Which is a not-very-coded way of saying that he’s in favour of it. But obviously these people weren’t concerned about any of that. They just believed everything they read in the papers, like the Heil, the Scum and the Torygraph.

And I doubt very much that these talking heads were representative of the good folks down in Weston-Super-Mare. If attitudes in the city really are like those nationally, then the people sitting on those chairs should be equally split. Instead it looks like the report was very carefully staged to favour the Brexiteers. Just like rather more Tory MPs were interviewed on the programme than Labour.

The programme was on tonight about Sajid Javid and how he grew up in his parents’ fashion shop in Stapleton Road in Bristol. Apparently he still proud of his roots there, despite the fact that it is a run-down area with a reputation. It’s topical, but I still wonder if it was anymore objective than last night’s edition about Brexit. I didn’t watch it, only catching a brief glimpse of it, when one of the interviewers was asking other Asian small businessmen in the area if they shared the national fears about the harm Brexit would do to businesses like theirs. It’s possible that the programme really was more unbiased. But somehow, given the nature of last night’s programme, I doubt it.