Posts Tagged ‘Sunday Express’

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’.

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Woodrow Wyatt, Conspiracies and the Anti-Semitism Smears

March 21, 2018

I’ve put up a number of pieces already taking apart one of the arguments used to smear Mike as an anti-Semite. This is because he described the plotting by Shai Masot of the Israeli embassy with his Zionist colleagues in the Tories to have certain politicians removed from the Cabinet and replaced by those, who were more favourable to Israel, as a conspiracy. His use of the term was anti-Semitic, because it supposedly harkened back to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other noxious, paranoid fantasies about the Jews secretly running the world and conspiring to destroy the White race and enslave gentiles. In fact, as I pointed out in recent blog post, Masot and his associates were indeed conspiring, and it is entirely fair and reasonable to describe what they were doing in precisely this term. Real conspiracies, like Masot’s, do occur. They are short-term plots in which clandestine or private groups meet together in order to achieve certain limited goals. Like the examples Jeffrey M. Bale provided in his Lobster article, in which he cited as example the influence of the Italian Masonic lodge, P2, in promoting Fascist violence in Italy as part of the ‘strategy of tension’ in the 1970s, and the Afrikaner Broederbond in South Africa, which succeeded in setting up the system of apartheid. These conspiracies are in stark contrast to anti-Semitic or other bogus conspiracy theories, as the latter are always much bigger. The groups involved in these conspiracy theories are seen as being active throughout history, pursuing a unity of purpose and omniscience and omnipotence which is actually quite superhuman. This type of conspiracy theory acts as a psychological explanation for the existence of whatever those who believe them consider to be wrong in the world. It thus acts as a malign mythology to explain the faults of contemporary society in terms of a uniquely evil other.

But this does not mean that real conspiracies don’t exist. They do. And the people involved in them may also frankly describe their plotting as such. One of them was Woodrow Wyatt, an arch-Tory, who acted as the conduit for IRD propaganda about the Communist threat in the ’70s and ’80s, and also acted as Murdoch’s go-between in his negotiations with Thatcher and then John Major.

Wyatt’s journals, edited by Sarah Curtis, were published in three volumes at the beginning of this century, 2001/2, and were reviewed in Lobster 42 by the magazine’s long-term contributor, John Newsinger, in his article, ‘Confessions of a Crawler’ on pages eight and nine. In his introduction, Newsinger describes exactly just what a repulsive character Wyatt was. He wrote

Woodrow Wyatt’s diaries are quite remarkable. Any normal persons would have tried to conceal such a career of arse-licking sycophancy, but Wyatt positively revels in it. The result is really quite disgusting. Wyatt is revealed as a thoroughly contemptible individual and the great and bad against whom he rubbed himself are inevitably diminished. he was a power and wealth fetishist and these are the diaries of a pervert. But are they of any interest other than the prurient? Yes, indeed. First of all, there is what they don’t reveal about Wyatt’s connection with the secret state and dirty tricks (he had ben an important Information Research Department conduit). Much more important is what they do reveal about how contemporary Britain is ruled, and the word ruled is used very deliberately. In the period covered by these diaries, Wyatt was Rupert Murdoch’s fixer in London and, in particular, acted as his go-between, first with Margaret Thatcher, and later with John Major. This material is extremely interesting, providing, among other things, an insider’s account of Murdoch’s embrace of Tony Blair and New Labour. In a country with a more robust democratic tradition what Wyatt reveals would be a scandal. In Britain we have become so used to governments courting Murdoch that it hardly draws comment. (p. 8).

I also seem to remember that Wyatt also had a column in the Sunday Express, before that rag collapsed in the ’90s. This shows how Thatcherite and far right that newspaper was.

What I found particularly interesting in Newsinger’s review, was a passage from the diaries he discusses, which describe a meeting Wyatt attended with various members of the British secret state and a far right pressure group on the 2nd June 1986. In his diary Wyatt explicitly described himself and the others there as ‘conspirators’. He wrote

Meeting with conspirators, Brian Crozier, Julian Lewis and a man from Aims of Industry whose name I’ve forgotten and another man who I never identified. How to make the public realise that Labour is still dominated by the extremists.

Brian Crozier was a member of the British secret services, who was active in a number of anti-Communist, anti-Soviet propaganda campaigns, as well as against the general British left. Aims of Industry was another far right group of British businessmen, vehemently anti-Socialist and determined to destroy the trade unions. Newsinger observes that, apart from this passage, there isn’t much in the diaries about his involvement in schemes and plots by the secret state. He suggests this may be due to his editor removing them, or Wyatt having the discretion not to record them. But Wyatt does record how he persuaded the electricians at Wapping to provide Murdoch with blackleg labour, and openly describes how Murdoch deliberately intended to provoke the printers into striking. When the print workers walked, Murdoch showed Wapping around his plant and told him that

the police were ready in case there were pickets and they had riot shields stored in a warehouse nearby and every now and again a police helicopter came over to see that there was no trouble. (p. 8).

Which shows you how, in addition to the miners, Maggie used the police as her own private army to break the unions.

But what is particularly interesting in Mike’s circumstances is the passage where Wyatt describes the British agents and others from right-wing business groups as ‘conspirators’. He’s right. That’s exactly what they were. Just as Shai Masot and his friends in the Israel lobby were also conspirators, when they met to plot who they wanted in May’s cabinet. It’s entirely reasonable to describe them as such when the term is also used of gentile plotters like Wyatt and his grotty colleagues. Describing the meeting by Masot and the others as a conspiracy certainly does not imply that they were part of any wider, stupid, bogus global conspiracy, like those murderous fantasies about the Jews or reptoid aliens. It is simply an apt description of what Masot and the others were doing.

Wyatt states in his diary that he was part of a conspiracy. Shai Masot was also a conspirator. And describing him and his colleagues in such terms is certainly not anti-Semitic.

David A. Hardy on Terraforming the Solar System

December 31, 2016

As well as colonising the other planets in the solar system with self-contained, sealed environments to protect their future human inhabitants, it may also one day be possible to terraform them. This means transforming them from their currently hostile conditions to an Earthlike environment. At the moment, the planet considered most suitable for terraforming is Mars, because of all the planets it seems to present the least obstacles to this form of planetary engineering. I can remember reading a piece in the Sunday Express way back in the 1980s, which discussed James Lovelock’s suggestions for creating an earthlike atmosphere on the Red Planet. Lovelock is the creator of the Gaia hypothesis, the theory that Earth’s biosphere acts like a gigantic, self-regulating organism. This became a favourite of several of the New Age neo-pagan religions in the 1990s, where it was incorporated into worship of the Earth Mother. Lovelock believed that while nuclear weapons were a serious danger to all life on Earth, they could be used creatively on Mars to produce an environment that would support life. Mars has large amounts of carbon dioxide locked up at its polar regions in the form of dry ice. he believed that this could be melted using nuclear missiles. Specially targeted nuclear explosions would cover the polar regions with an insulating layer of soil. This would keep the heat in, which is currently radiated back into space, reflected by the white ice. The rise in temperature would cause the dry ice to sublimate into carbon dioxide gas. This would then start a greenhouse effect, which would see more carbon dioxide and other gases released into the Martian atmosphere. This would eventually create an environment, where the atmosphere was thick enough for humans to be able to move around without space suits. They would, however, still need oxygen masks and tanks to be able to breathe. Lovelock was extremely optimistic about how many weapons would be needed. He believed that you’d only need four, if I remember correctly.

Lovelock’s ideas are wrong, but other scientists and Science Fiction writers have also suggested ways of transforming the Red Planet into a place where life can thrive. Back in the 1990s, Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a trilogy of books set on a Mars that was being colonised and terraformed by humanity, beginning with Red Mars. The veteran SF writer, Arthur C. Clarke, also produced a book in which he used to a computer programme to show what Mars may look like as it’s being terraformed. Over hundreds, perhaps even a thousand years, rivers, seas and oceans develop and green spreads over its land surface as vegetation begins growing on its previously barren surface.

David A. Hardy, the space artist, who has illustrated a number of books on space, including several with the late Patrick Moore, also described the various ways in which the Moon, as well as Mercury, Venus and Mars, could be terraformed in his 1981 book, Atlas of the Solar System (Kingswood, Surrey: World’s Work). He writes

Taking the concept of manned bases on other planets still further, there is the staggering possibility of ‘planetary engineering’ or terraforming – a term coined in 1942 by science fiction writer Jack Williamson. The idea is simply to make other worlds habitable by humans. An early suggestion, in 1961, by Carl Sagan was to ‘seed’ the atmosphere of Venus with blue-green algae, converting the carbon dioxide into oxygen and at the same time reducing the pressure and temperature (by eliminating the greenhouse effect). The upper clouds would condense and rain would fall, forming oceans.

A more recent alternative, now that we know how hostile Venus really is, is to ferry in ice asteroids 15 km or so in diameter, put them into orbit around Venus and aim them, using rocket jets, at a specific spot on the surface. Each crashes at nearly 100 km/s, at such an angle that Venus’ rotation is increased until a 24-hour day is approached, while at the same time water is provided as the ice melts. Then the atmosphere is seeded with blue-green algae.

The same could even be done with the Moon: once given a breathable atmosphere by baking oxygen out of the rocks with giant parabolic mirrors, it would remain for thousands of years, even if not replenished. The time factor for the operation is remarkably short. Mercury would need to be shielded from the Sun by a ‘parasol’ of rocky particles put up by mass-driver, or by a man-made ring. Mars would need to be warmed up, perhaps by reflecting sunlight on to the poles with huge, thin metal-foil mirrors, increasing the energy-flow at the poles by 20 per cent. or we could spread dark material from its carbonaceous moons on them with a mass-driver. Rich not only in carbon but in oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen, this is excellent raw material for fertiliser. One the atmosphere was thickened, the greenhouse effect and carefully chosen plant life should do the rest. (pp. 86-7).

The process of transforming these planets into habitable worlds would take quite a long time – decades, if not centuries, and at present it is the stuff of science fiction. But I hope that there will be a time when we can move out from Earth to create new homes for life and civilisation on these worlds.

NHS Doctors Now Required to Ask Patients to Use Private Health Insurance

September 7, 2016

I’ve been putting off looking at some of the NHS stories Mike’s posted up over at Vox Political, on the grounds that the Tory and New Labour privatisation of the Health Service makes me both extremely depressed and absolutely boiling mad. But the issue’s far too important to leave alone.

Today Mike posted up a little snippet from The Canary, which reported that NHS chiefs are now asking doctors to politely ask their patients if they have private health insurance. If they answer ‘yes’, the doctor is supposed to gently remind them to use it. The Canary states that this signals the end of the NHS, and universal free healthcare.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/06/theres-a-question-doctors-are-now-being-urged-to-ask-patients-and-it-signals-the-end-of-the-nhs-the-canary/

Absolutely, and it’s what over three decades of right-wing administrations have wanted going all the way back to Maggie Thatcher. Despite her protestations in her autobiography, she really was considering privatising the NHS. She discussed it with the cabinet and Douglas Hurd, nearly provoking a rebellion. This wasn’t because her cabinet believed in the NHS. They just saw the writing on the wall and knew that if she went ahead, that would be the end of the Tory party at the next election. She also decided against it after she sent her private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, to the States. He came back and told her precisely how dreadful the American system was.

Nevertheless, she still stated that she wanted a greater role for private medicine, and enacted policies designed to encourage people to take out private health insurance. She wanted 25 per cent of the population to have it, and was disappointed when very few in actual fact did so. Amongst the newspapers pushing this policy was the Express, which published a long piece raving about how those with such insurance should have tax cuts in its Sunday edition.

The privatisation of the NHS continued with the Tories’ introduction of the PFI and the expansion of the scheme and break up the NHS by Tony Blair’s New Labour. Hospitals have been taken out of the bureaucratic structure of the NHS and encouraged to become self-financing. They’ve also been handed over to private management, and the clinics and walk-in centres set up by New Labour were also intended to be privately managed. Well over half of all operations are now carried out by private healthcare firms. The Care Commissioning Groups, which were introduced with loud noises about giving doctors the power to run their own practices are able to commission private healthcare firms to contract for services, and can themselves raise money through private finance. This was taken over by the Tories, and has been expanded even further. At the last parliament, I reposted a meme that showed just how many Tory and Lib Dem MPs had connections to private healthcare firms hoping to profit from the demise of the NHS. It was a lot – about or over 100, if I recall correctly. The Angry Yorkshireman and Mike have also reported comments by Jeremy Hunt, the current health minister, and other Tories attacking the NHS. Hunt, or one of them, has described it as ‘an abomination’. My guess is that this anger probably comes from the Tory hatred of having to pay for public services, which they almost personally resent as the state forcing them to pay for someone’s else’s benefit. I also believe they despise it because it’s a state-run service, and so excludes them for profiting. It’s why Peter Lilley introduced the Private Finance Initiative all those decades ago when John Major was in power: he wanted to find a way to open up the NHS to private investment.

And now New Labour and the Tories are moving another step closer to the final privatisation of the health service. This is being done through a manufactured financial crisis. Blair and Brown did much damage to the NHS, but when they left office it was in budget and did not need further reform. That has changed, due not least to Jeremy Hunt. Even now, Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis in their book, NHS-SOS state that the problem isn’t that the NHS is underfunded – it’s that NHS funds are being squandered and misdirected due to the introduction of private enterprise into the service. The bureaucracy in these firms and their shareholders profit, while soaking up money that would otherwise go to providing services.

The privatisation of the NHS is a national scandal. There are activist groups pledged to defending it, like the NHS Action Party and doctors’ groups and organisations. These and their on-line addresses can be found in Davis’ and Tallis’ book.

At one time the assaults on the NHS would have resulted in a wave of strikes, public protests and demonstrations. But the Tories have all but destroyed the unions, and cowed the public with a mixture of massive debt and job insecurity. And it’s going to get worse when Brexit takes effect.

Don’t let the mass media deceive you with the pro-Tory, pro-New Labour bias. When you read the papers attacking Jeremy Corbyn and praising Theresa May, just like the Beeb does on TV with Laura Kuenssberg, remember that these are the policies Smith in the Labour party, and his backers Benn et al, and the Tories stand for. Corbyn has said that he wants to renationalise the NHS, and that’s too much for the Tories and Blairite corporatists. These people should be thrown out of power as quickly as possible, before more people die or are harmed by their greed and mendacity.

Benn, Livingstone, Tatchell and Scargill, Popular Socialists Not Communist Dictators

June 5, 2016

One of the aspects of press policy that comes across most strongly in Mark Hollingworth’s book on the hounding and vilification of left-wing politicians, the Greenham women and the miners in the 1980sThe Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship, is the repeated tactic of concentrating on a particular politician, and trying to present them as crazed and dictatorial. I’ve described in a previous post yesterday how Tony Benn was compared to Adolf Hitler, complete with a retouched photo to show him with Adolf’s toothbrush moustache. This was very much despite the fact that Tony Benn had served as an RAF pilot during the War. The same tactic of smearing a brave man, who had fought for his country as a traitor was repeated a few years ago by the Daily Heil on Ed Miliband’s father, Ralph. They ran an article denouncing Ralph Miliband as ‘the man who hated Britain’. Miliband was indeed a Marxist intellectual, who hated the capitalist system and therefore much of the class-based structure and institutions of British society. But he also fought in the British army against Fascism during the Second World War.

Scargill and the Miners

Arthur Scargill was another working-class political figure the press smeared with comparisons to Hitler, and claimed was a dictatorial monster during the Miner’s Strike.

Maggie Thatcher in one of her rants had described Scargill and the NUM as ‘Red Fascists’, and so the press followed suit. On 19th April 1984 the Daily Express ran a piece by Prof. Hans Eysenck comparing Scargill and the striking miner’s to Hitler and the Nazis, entitled ‘Scargill and the Fascists of the Left – from the Man who Witnessed the Rise of Hitler: A Warning We Must Not Ignore’. The Sunday Express under its editor, John Junor, ran a similar piece.

Mr Arthur Scargill has clearly been flicked in the raw by suggestions that he has been acting like Hitler. But isn’t he? Hitler used his thugs to terrorise into submission people disagreed with him. Isn’t that precisely what is happening now at night in Nottinghamshire mining villages? Hitler had an utter contempt for the ballot box. By refusing the miners a right to vote, hasn’t Mr Scargill against invited comparison? There the serious similarity ends. For although Mr Scargill may be a stupid man, I do not think he is an evil one.
(pp. 275-6).

Peregrine Worsthorne, the editor of the Torygraph, compared Scargill to Oswald Mosley of the British Union of Fascists. The Daily Heil on the 1st April 1984 ran a piece with the headline, ‘Coal Boss Hits Out at Union ‘Nazis”. But it was the Scum that really went overboard with the accusations of Nazism. It ran headlines like, ‘Mods in Fury at “Adolf” Arthur’, showed a photo of Scargill with his right arm raised, greeting other miners, with the headline, ‘Mine Fuhrer’, and then ran another piece comparing Scargill’s determination to fight to the bitter end with Adolf Hitler in his bunker.

But Scargill personally was far from a dictator. Hollingworth points out that Scargill did not start the strike, but was simply following the directions of the union’s members quite democratically. Hollingworth writes

In fact, the dispute began in Yorkshire when mass pithead meetings were held at every colliery to decide whether to support the fight to oppose the closure of Cottonwood. A Yorkshire NUM Area Council meeting was then arranged which took the decision to sanction all-out industrial action. Scargill didn’t attend or speak at any of these meetings. Nor does he have a vote on the miners’ National Executive Committee. (pp. 272-3).

The miners themselves repeatedly told the press that they weren’t blindly following Scargill, and that the situation was in fact the reverse: he was doing what they told him. This was repeated by the Coal Board’s Industrial Relations director general, Ned Smith, stated ‘I don’t think Scargill has kept them out. That is nonsense. A lot of the areas have a great deal of autonomy. It’s simply not true to say it’s Scargill’s strike.’ (p. 273).

Hollingworth also notes that the press had a personal obsession with Red Ken. When he took over the GLC, the Scum declared ‘Red Ken Crowned King of London’. Hollingworth, however, describes how Leninspart was again, very far from a bullying egotist monopolising power. Bob Quaif in a published letter to the Evening Standard stated that he was a Liberal/SDP, supporter, but he was impressed with the pluralist and democratic terms in which Livingstone expressed his opinions. Moreover, the Labour group when it took power removed some of the patronage powers from the leader, and gave them to elected committees. Ken controlled overall policy, but real power was held by the Labour group which met every Monday. Livingstone himself said of his role

I act more like a chief whip, co-ordinator and publicist of the group. I go out and try to sell the message and to hold the group together… people really only come to me when there is a problem. I never know anything that’s going right. I only get involved in all the things that are going wrong. Committees run into problems with the bureaucracy and I come along and stamp on it. (p. 84).

Hollingworth goes to state that if Livingstone had been personally ousted from power in the Autumn of 1981, the council would still have had much the same policies under the leadership of Andy Harris or John McDonnell.

Livingstone, Scargill and Tatchell Smeared as Communists

Throughout all this, Livingstone, Arthur Scargill and Peter Tatchell were all smeared as Marxists and Communists. The Sunset Times described the miner’s strike as ‘Marxist inspired’, with Hugo Young declaring ‘Call Scargill a Marxist, and correctly identify members of the NUM executive as Communists, and you seem to have solved the entire analytical problem’. The Daily Express even published a piece entitled ‘Scargill’s Red Army Moves In’, ranting about the miner’s had been infiltrated by militant Marxists, determined to prevent changes to union rules which would make striking more difficult. The piece, written by Michael Brown, stated

The militant Red Guards responsible for most of the pit strike violence will attack against today when Arthur Scargill attempts to rewrite his union’s rules. A rabble of political activists plan to invade the streets of Sheffield to browbeat any opposition to a delegates conference designed to reduce the majority needed for strike action … It will be orchestrated by a ‘5th Column’ of political activists who have taken over the running of the miners’ strike. All are handpicked men, some with university training who have Communist, Marxist or Trotskyist backgrounds. They run the flying pickets and handle funds for paying them. (p. 266). There was absolutely no evidence for this, and the papers didn’t provide any.

The Sunday Express and the Scum also claimed that Livingstone was a Marxist, an accusation that lives on in Private Eye’s nickname for him as ‘Leninspart’. But again, Hollingworth states that there’s no evidence that he is either a Communist or Trotskyite. Roy Shaw, the moderate Labour leader of Camden council, who did not share Ken’s left-wing views and opposed him on many issues, stated of ‘Red’ Ken ‘He embraces Marxism if he thinks it will be of advantage to him. But he is certainly not a Marxist. He plays along with them and uses a lot of their methods, but he certainly is not one of them.’

The press also claimed that Peter Tatchell was a member of Militant Tendency, the Marxist group was that was allegedly trying to take over the Labour party. The Daily Mirror claimed Tatchell was linked to Militant and Tariq Ali. The Torygraph also claimed he was a member, as did the Daily Star, while the BBC on 2nd August 1982 on a late-night news bulletin called him ‘the Militant Tendency candidate for Bermondsey’. To their credit, both the Graun and the Absurder published interviews with members of the local Labour party, who said that Tatchell was most definitely not a member of Militant.

Hollingworth describes Tatchell’s politics views and how they differed, at times very dramatically from Militant, and states that he was merely part of the Bennite Left of the Labour party. Indeed, Militant itself did not like Tatchell, and backed him only reluctantly. Hollingworth writes

But Militant’s stance towards Tatchell’s candidature was based on clear ideological differences. On many issues, the two were diametrically opposed. Broadly speaking, Tatchell belonged to the radical Left of the Labour party which rallied round Tony Benn’s banner during the 1981 deputy leadership campaign. According to Michael Crick’s excellent book on Militant. The ‘Bennite Left’ are often described as ‘petty bourgeois reformists by Militant supporters. For Tatchell one of the major differences was on the structure of a socialist society:

I see socialism as being essentially about the extension and enhancement of democracy, particularly in the economic realm. Militant have a very centralised vision of command socialism. Mine is more decentralised and concerned with empowerment. In other words, giving people the power to do things for themselves. Militant take a Leninist view based on a vanguard centre.

On specific policies the discrepancies between Tatchell and Militant are also stark. For several years the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) was Labour Party and TUC policy and Tatchell supported it fully. Import controls, one of the main proposals of the AES, was seen by Militant as ‘nationalistic’ and ‘exporting unemployment’. Other policies on wealth tax, planning agreements and industrial democracy are rejected by Militant as not going far enough.

When it came to social issues, Tatchell and Militant may as well have been in different parties. Tatchell supports ‘Troops Out’ of Northern Ireland, while Militant is against withdrawal. Positive action for women and ethnic minorities, backed by Tatchell, are seen as ‘bourgeois deviations from the class struggle’ by Militant. The issue of gay rights has only one been raised at the Labour Party Young Socialists conference since Militant took over Labour’s youth section in 1970. According to Michael Crick, Militant supporters are often hostile to gay Party members. (pp.158-9).

So while Scargill, Livingstone and Tatchell were certainly left-wing Labour, they weren’t dictators and definitely not Communists. It was all a smear. But it shows how the press and political establishment were convinced that any serious left-wing Socialist attack on the establishment had to be connected to Moscow. Hence Frederick Forsythe’s wretched little book, which has the British intelligence services battling a Communist plot to infiltrate the Labour party, ready to turn Britain into a Soviet satellite when Labour win the election. It’s says everything about Thatcher that she declared he was her favourite writer.

And Now Corbyn

And this type of abuse hasn’t stopped, either. The most recent victim is Jeremy Corbyn, who is again being smeared as a Communist. Hollingworth writes that it is an old tactic used against the radical Left – to single out a leader, and then go for the jugular. They couldn’t use it against the Greenham women, as they had a very decentralised and non-hierarchical ideology. There were no leaders, and those women, who did speak to the press, made it clear they were only articulating their own views. If they spoke to the press more than a certain number of times, they then refused to speak any more and directed the press to talk to someone else. In extreme cases they even left the camp.

They are, however, determined to use again and again. I found a book on Militant in the politics section of Waterstones recently, and on the back, with the usual approving quotes, was someone stating that the lessons from Militant were relevant once again with the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour party. This is just a smear, along with all the baseless smears against Livingstone, Scargill and Tatchell before him. It shows how little the tactics of the Tory press change in their campaign to discredit genuinely principled and democratic radicals.

Dodgy Dave’s Offshore Tax Havens and the French Revolution

April 19, 2016

The big story last week was undoubtedly the public fury over the rich using offshore tax havens to avoid paying tax. And one of the offenders seeking to avoid paying his share of the tax burden was our own Prime Minister, Dave Cameron. I did very little blogging last week, as I was involved in other things. Also, I couldn’t think of much I could add to what was already being said by the protestors themselves, and to the comprehensive coverage being given to it by Mike over at Vox Political and the other bloggers.

This is a scandal that has been going on for decades. I think Microsoft was one of the first in the 1980s, when it went offshore to avoid paying corporation tax. And tax evasion both using offshore companies and more ordinary forms of the extremely rich trying to get away with paying the bare minimum, if at all, has also been going on for decades. Private Eye has been attacking the Tax Office since the days of New Labour, and possibly long before that, for the way in which its heads have had numerous lunches with the big industrialists and the major accountancy firms, all to sort out ways of allowing the corporate rich to minimise their tax contributions. There has also been an open ‘swing door’ between the tax office and treasury, and the accountancy firms, as they have sent people to assist the government in formulating its tax policy. It’s yet another example of the corporatist policies corrupting British politics.

As for dodgy Dave, he lied to parliament, used it to enrich himself through avoiding paying tax on money left to him by his father. And he probably genuinely doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. The attitude of the financial sector and in business generally is that you do what you can legally to avoid paying tax. I can remember when I worked very briefly – for all of three days – for a group of extremely dodgy independent financial consultants in Bristol’s Berkeley Square – we were taught some of the ruses. Like you make all your assets over to the business, and try to include everything that could possibly be considered an expense or a loss. When I objected, because somebody has to pay for the roads, police, armed forces, hospitals and so on, I was told, ‘You’re a real p*nis if you want to pay tax.’

Dave’s a member of the aristocracy, and the aristocracy have been doing this since before the days of the French Revolution. Indeed, one of the causes of the Revolution was that the aristos not only weren’t paying their taxes, they were shifting the tax burden onto the poor. And this has also been one of the major aims of the Tories. And yes, it also started under Thatcher. I can remember a book came out in the early 1980s that advocated all manner of Right-wing policies, and was very enthusiastically received by the books page of the Sunday Express. One of its suggestions was getting rid of income tax, and replacing it with indirect taxes – VAT. It was another way of giving tax cuts to the rich, and shifting the burden on to the poor.

Last week, dodgy Dave and a whole host of others got caught out by the release of the ‘Panama Papers’. It added further evidence that whatever Dave said, we weren’t all in this together. This was pretty obvious from the beginning, but the material from Mossack Fonseca made it pretty much incontrovertible. Or at least it did in the case of the Prime Minister.

Of course, the Tories were furious, though I don’t set much store by their rage. I’ve no doubt that many, perhaps even most of them, have done much the same. Something like 75% of British MPs are millionaires, and the Tory party has always considered itself the party of business, with a natural right to lead. My guess is that some of the rage is simply that Cameron got caught. Either way, it shows the absolute double standards used by the Prime Minister for himself and his rich friends. And Private Eye is right. The whole system of offshore tax havens should be closed down. And furthermore, the corporatist influence on politics should be cleaned out. The big accountancy firms should be debarred from sending their personnel to advise the tax office, along with the other big firms seeking to sponsor and donate to the parties in order to get a slice of state business later.

Mark Steel on the Press’ Hypocrisy over Polish Immigrants

April 4, 2016

Much of the debate about immigration is now dominated by concerns about the mass influx of asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East, rather than about migrant workers from the rest of the EU. However, concerns about the rise in immigrants from eastern Europe were extremely prominent a few years ago, and my guess is that the same fears are still present and underlie much of the debate about Brexit, although on the surface much of the argument is about the potential harm to the British economy and industry.

I found the following piece by Mark Steel attacking the British press and media for stirring up fears about EU migrants, and specifically the Poles, in the collection of radical tracts and writings, The People Speak: Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport, edited by Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove (Edinburgh: CanonGate 2013). It’s taken from his weekly column in the Independent for 9th September 2009.

The Poles Might Be Leaving But the Prejudice Remains

Over the last few years it’s become one of our quaint English traditions that on any day following the announcement of immigration figures, certain newspapers display headlines such as ‘TEN MILLION OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT POLES TO SWARM INTO BRITAIN LIKE PLUMBING LOCUSTS!!! And they plan to BUGGER OUR KITTENS!!!’

These newspapers would compete with each other until they seemed to insist the number of Poles coming was more than the number of Poles in the world, but even then they’d have replied, ‘Yes-well, that’s because they[‘re planning to bring ten million of their dead, to make use of our soft-touch spirit welfare scheme.’

But the latest figures, released yesterday, have spoilt this game becaue it turns out half the Poles who came here have gone back to Poland. Presumably these newspapers will get round that by screaming ‘Poland on brink of disaster as it’s invaded by millions of Poles!!!’

‘Our hospitals simply can’t cope with the numbers coming in,’ said an unnamed doctor. ‘I’m not racist but we’re already full up.’

Like all panics about immigration, the anti-Polish version has created an almost artistic level of irrationality. A landlord of a pub in Lincolnshire who seemed otherwise charming and eloquent told me, ‘The trouble with Poles is they walk in groups of four on the pavement, so you fall in the road trying to get round them.’ I said, ‘I’m sure just as many English people walk in groups of four on the pavement.’ He said, ‘Yes, but at least they do it in a language I can understand.’ Which at least is an original way to be annoyed, to snarl: ‘I don’t mind falling in a puddle, as long as it’s with the right mix of vowels and consonants, but when it’s with three or even FOUR Zs it’s time we took a stand.’

Now that more are leaving than coming, the anti-immigration newspapers have to revert to more traditional complaints. For example, one paper told us that, ‘One immigrant is arrested every four minutes.’ But they must have been short of space, because they left out how the average for the whole population is one arrest every THREE minutes. Now they’ll print a story that: ‘Immigrants are refusing to adapt to our way of life by only being arrested once every four minutes. If they don’t want to follow our customs they should go back to where they came from.’

Even then it turned out these figures were taken disproportionately from London, where the immigrant population is higher than across Britain, and anyone arrested for murder who didn’t fill in the box marked ‘nationality’ was assumed to be an immigrant. Because say what you like about a British murderer, at least they have the manners to complete a form in full afterwards.

But the most peculiar side of the obsession with foreigners coming over here disturbing our population figures is they have little to say about the British citizens living in other countries, the number of which has now passed five million. And yet they often have features about finding the perfect retirement home abroad: ‘Judith and Roger eventually settled on their delightful rustic cottage in the heart of the Loire, complete with two acres of arable pastures and a goat, from where they could suck dry the overstretched resources of the long-suffering local council. “I’m a stranger in my own bleeding village,” said one fed-up neighbour.’

There are 760,000 of us living in Spain, one-twelfth of the population of Cyprus is now British, five per cent of New Zealand and so on. And we can hardly claim that on our travels we ‘adopt the customs of the local community’, unless the travel companies claim: ‘Our popular party game of seeing who’s first to drink a bottle of absinthe and puke in an egg cup topless is not only lots of fun, but also a tribute to an ancient fertility ritual here in Crete, and as such enhances the tourists’ understanding of regional history and culture.’

Most of the apocalyptic warnings of Eastern European takeover could be traced back to the organisation MigrationWatch, quoted uniformly by the most hysterical anti-immigration papers. But now the Poles are going the other way: Instead of issuing a statement reading, ‘Whoops, sorry,’ they’ve declared the UK population is still destined to rise to an unsustainable 80 million in the next forty years, because millions are coming here from Africa. That’s it – Africa, BILLIONS of them, and they’re bringing Mount Kilimanjaro because of our soft-touch summit payments, and all their giraffes and the Sahara desert…’

This is very relevant, because the papers that do report the migration crisis in such terms are exactly the same that have encouraged their readers to travel abroad and buy homes there. And while it seems to have died down recently, it is a serious problem. I read a piece a little while ago – I’m afraid I can’t remember where from – but it said that there was a problem with rich people from northern Europe buying homes and colonising the poorer areas in the south, such as Greece. And thirty years ago, when I was at school, I can remember reading a story in the Sunday Express about protests in either Greece or Crete about the way Brits were buying up the available homes there. The local politicians were objecting to it and attempting to pass measures against it on the grounds that it was more British imperialism. I haven’t heard of anything like that since then, but if it did recur, then they would certainly have a point. As opposed to the Express, the Heil and pretty the whole of the right-wing press, which has long ago lost any decent reason for its existence. Except possibly to provide sources of outrage and comedy for writers and broadcasters like Mr Steel.

Republicans Attacked Unions as Terrorist Supporters after 9/11

February 21, 2016

This afternoon I put up a piece showing the continuity between Trump’s plans to exclude Muslims from the US and compel the registration of those already in the country with the round up of Arabs and other Middle Easterners as ‘suspicious persons’ under George Dubya after 9/11.

I’ve also been alarmed that Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic will move from interning Muslims and persecuting other minorities, such as Mexicans and Blacks in America, to incarcerating left wing and labour activists. In the 1970s at the head of the paranoia about Harold Wilson MI5 and MI6, along with elements in the Tory party, were planning a coup. They investigated the possibility of setting up an internment camp for 40 MPs, ‘not all Labour’, and a total of 5,000 others, including journalists, youth, minority and senior citizens’ activists, as well as trade unionist, and members of the Socialist Workers and Communist parties.

It seems that after 9/11, certain sections of the Republican party also wanted to do the same. John Kampfner in his book Freedom for Sale: How We Made Money and Lost Our Liberty describes how in 2003 the office of the House majority leader, Tom DeLeay, sent out a letter appealing for donations to supporters of the National Right to Work Foundation. This is an anti-union pressure group. The letter stated that organised labour ‘presents a clear-and-present danger to the security of the United States at home and the safety of our Armed Forces overseas’. It attacked ‘big labour bosses’ who were ‘willing to harm freedom-loving workers, the war effort, and the economy to acquire more power.’ (p. 244.)

Kampfner traced the DeLay’s office’s assault on the unions to the Red Squads that were set up by the police forces in major cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles in the 1920s to combat ‘subversives’. These included Communists, Anarchists, civil rights activists, feminist activists, trade unionists and just about anybody else they thought was a threat to good, Right-wing patriotic American values. (p. 243).

I blogged the other day about the Tories’ plans to build a special prison for radical Islamists following Mike’s article on this. Mike considered this approaching the Nazi concentration camps. I concur. It looks very much like the first steps towards creating internment camps. And it won’t just be Muslims that will eventually be interned. There are enough people on the British Right, who share the Republicans’ attitudes that trade unionists and organised Labour are a subversive threat.

Much has been written recently about the various employers’ groups, who compile black lists of trade unionists and other ‘disruptive’ workers and pass them on to firms so that those same workers don’t get jobs. There have been a number of excellent documentaries on them since the 1980s. One of them was Hakluyt, but there are others. Hakluyt was the successor of a much older organisation dating from the 1920s, the Economic League against Industry Subversion.

And several of the national papers have also demanded that striking workers should be jailed. I can remember reading a piece in the 1980s in the Sunday Express, which recommended that laws should be passed preventing workers in essential industries from going on strike. Those who did, like air traffic control personnel in America, should then be arrested and jailed.

Cameron has already passed a series of legislation designed to emasculate the trade unions. In the latest of these, he allowed employers to hire scab labour from agencies, though reducing the right to strike to being merely symbolic. This has been criticised by the International Labour Organisation in the UN. It also follows a long line of anti-union legislation passed by the Tories, and similar actions intended to break up strikes by the Italian Fascists and Nazis in Germany. And members of his own party attacked part of his anti-union legislation. This was the clause demanding that trade unionists on pickets should give their names to the police. Even David Davies, the right-winger’s right-wing, found that a step too far and called it ‘Francoist’.

Given the authoritarianism and intolerance of Cameron and his aristo cronies and the way they and their Lib Dem enablers pushed through the establishment of secret courts to try accused terrorists, I think it is all too possible that after the Republicans in America and Tories over here have finished rounding up the Muslims, they’ll start on trade unionists and organised labour. All while loudly claiming that they stand for freedom, transparency and democracy, of course.

Cameron’s Francoist Attack on the Unions

October 6, 2015

A few weeks ago Cameron also launched another Tory attack on the trade unions and their right to strike peacefully. Under the new legislation passed by the Tories, a strike is now illegal if a majority of the union’s members do not vote. This is even if the vast majority of those voting are in favour of strike action.

There is also a personally vindictive and totalitarian element in the legislation. Picketers are now required to give their names to the police. It shows very much how the Tories regard strikers and trade unionists as potential, if not actual criminals. Clearly, it’s so the rozzers can keep tabs on them, ready to arrest them the moment someone in the Tory party or the CBI decides that this has gone too far.

The Tories have, no doubt. made noises about how they’re increasing democracy in the trade unions and accountability. It also shows the amazing double standards operating within the Tory party. Cameron is claiming this is democratic, despite the fact that under the same principle, his government is also invalid. The vast majority of the British people did not vote for his government. I suspect that, if past general elections are anything to go by, the majority of British voters decided that there wasn’t much between the political parties, and so didn’t vote at all. If the same principle was applied to Cameron’s government, then it would have to be dissolved, and his nibs face prosecution under the law. But as the old saying has it, ‘The Conservative party is an organised hypocrisy’, and so no such logic has been applied.

The Tories have, of course, hated trade unions since the days of the Combination Acts in the 19th century. They were illegal on the grounds that they were a threat to the operation of the free market. Then, after they were repealed, there was the Taff Vale judgement, which made trade unions liable for damages caused by picketing.

And the Tories have been particularly keen to smash the unions since the coal miners defeated Heath’s government. Their resentment fuelled their determination to destroy the unions and their power utterly with the miner’s strike in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher. Following the highly militarised suppression of that strike, the Tories have passed increasingly restrictive legislation. This is just the latest, and nastiest, to date.

Even David Davies, one of the most right-wing of the Tories, recognised its totalitarian implications. He denounced it as ‘Francoist’. And indeed it is, if not actually Nazi.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler: Banned Trade Unions as he claimed they exploited the German worker

I know this is close to becoming another example of Godwin’s Law, which states that whenever there’s an argument on the internet, sooner or later someone will accuse the other of being a Nazi or like Adolf Hitler, but in this instance, this is exactly what it is. Under the Nazis trade unions were banned, and their members and organisers sent to concentration camps. Hitler justified his attack by claiming that he was defending the working class from being exploited by them.

And the Tories have made exactly the same arguments. In the 1980s the Sunday Express made much the same arguments in its violent attacks on trade unions. It demanded tough legislation against them on the ground that union bullying was exploiting the honest, British, Tory-voting worker. In particular, it praised the American laws that made strikes in certain vital industries illegal, and which was used to break a strike by American air traffic controllers. It hardly needs to be said that you can read the same kind of arguments, with the same Nazi attitudes, in the Daily Mail.

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David Cameron and the Tories: want to ban trade unions because they are undemocratic and exploit the British worker

As for taking the names of strikers, this is similar to the tactics used against demonstrators and social activists in that beacon of Asian democracy, Singapore. Under their laws, you can make speeches in public about nearly any topic you like at their equivalent of Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. In order to do so, however, you have to notify the police when you will be speaking, what you will be speaking about, and give your name and address. So far there have been very few people willing to make use of their democratic freedom. Somehow I don’t think the similarity of the Tories’ trade union legislation with this piece of anti-democratic legislation is at all coincidental. The Tories have, after all, told us in the page of Britannia Unchained, that British workers should prepared to work under pretty much the same conditions as the Developing World in order for the country to compete globally. Singapore was one of the Asian ‘Tiger’ economies, whose massive economic growth was admired in the 1990s. Clearly the Tories have decided that if they can’t make the economy grow like theirs, they can at least import their highly illiberal legislation and attitudes.

And once it’s been done to lock up strikers and trade unionists, you can bet it will be used against peaceful demonstrators. They’ve already passed legislation against them on the pretext that they are protecting neighbourhoods from the nuisance caused by masses of people marching through their areas.

It’s another nail in the coffin of British democracy and the destruction of British political freedom and free speech.

Throwing Stones in Glass Houses: Cameron Criticises Miliband for Having Two Kitchens

March 14, 2015

The Tories have been demonstrating their own double standards again. Mike over at Vox Political has this story, ‘Two-kitchens Miliband’, Tories? At least he didn’t use public cash like Cameron! about the latest Conservative ad hominem attack on the Labour leader. The Tories have accused him of not really being a ‘man of the people’, because in addition to the main kitchen, he has a ‘functional kitchenette’ in his home.

As Mike points out, this is all rather hypocritical coming from team Cameron. Miliband may have two kitchens, but at least he spent his own money. Unlike Cameron, who according to the Guardian spent £680,000 of our money in 2011 renovating 10 Downing Street. And part of the money was also spent on improvements they’d made the previous summer to No. 11.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/14/two-kitchens-miliband-tories-at-least-he-didnt-use-public-cash-like-cameron/. Go to it for the fuller story, plus piccies.

This is not, of course, by any means the first time the Tories have made a personal attack on a Labour leader and his domestic life. Some of us can remember how way back in the 1980s, when Kinnock was head of the party, the Sunday Express really laid into him. Part of the suggestion there was that he wasn’t the perfect father. Supposedly his children had been playing happily with a train set, until he came up to show them how it was done. He was so bad at this, that his children were supposed to have left the toys crying, leaving him the only one still using it.

My guess is that, if this incident really happened, it was pretty much has happened in thousands of families up and down Britain and across the world ever since Adam and Eve. A lot of dads try to show their kids how to work a toy properly, only to find it much harder than they thought. It’s provided material for humourists right across the generations. Like Michael Rosen’s poem, ‘My Dad’s Thicker Than Your Dad’, in which two children compete to see which of them has the most stupid father. Nothing to see here, and nothing to show that Kinnock was a bad father, or particularly incompetent either.

Of course, there was never any suggestion that Maggie and Dennis were less than the perfect parents to Carol and Thickie Mork. Mind you, I don’t think I read any story about Dennis actually playing with the children, let alone the Leaderene. Probably beneath their dignity.