Posts Tagged ‘Tax’

Richard Tice Calls for the Partial Renationalisation of the Water and Power Companies

February 1, 2023

Reform posted this short video, just over two minutes long, on their YouTube channel. In it, their current fuehrer calls for the partial, and rather half-hearted renationalisation of the water and power companies. He tries to connect this with Brexit, and has a dig at Starmer for initially backing it and then dropping it, saying he was no longer interested. Tice begins by stating that we are being badly served by the water companies, who are foreign-owned and so use various dodges to avoid paying tax. No other country allows vital parts of their infrastructure to be owned by foreigners. This is quite true, and Mike has been pointing this out on Vox Political since forever and day. This has been the case since they were privatised by the Tories great, molten idol of private enterprise, Maggie Thatcher, in the 1980s. He wants them partly renationalised – 50 per cent owned by the state, 50 per cent owned by pension funds, and placed under private management. This, he feels, will bring it the best of both state and private enterprise.

He’s wrong, of course. There is no magic solution behind private industry. When they’ve been handed state enterprises or institutions, their policy has always been the same: sack people and make those who remain work for less in poorer conditions in order to deliver profits and shareholder dividends. This has been done in the NHS, when hospitals and doctors’ surgeries have been handed over to private companies. In the case of GPs, this has also resulted in unprofitable patients being dumped and their surgeries closed. It also reminds me slightly of the restructuring of industry under the Nazis. Companies were linked together in a series of industrial associations, set up as private companies but membership of whom was mandatory under the Nazi regime. These associations were under the direction of the state planning apparatus running the economy. And the head of these industrial associations always came from private industry, even when the companies under him were state-owned. Obviously Tice isn’t calling for an extension of this system to British industry as a whole or its transformation into a centrally-planned economy. But he makes the same assumptions that Hitler and the Nazis, as well as the Italian fascists did, about the superiority of private industry. And as a true-blue Brexiteer he tries to link it to Brexit by saying that, as with the departure from the EU, this is all part of Britain taking back control.

Still, Tice has got something right, even though I think his speech is partly influenced by a BBC report today that Oxford Council has called for the end of water privatisation, as well as the outrage of the massive profits the private power companies have been making while energy bills have rocketed.. He’s clearly looking around for policies which he thinks will resonate with the public, and so has recognised, albeit grudgingly from the half-hearted way he wants it done, that the majority of the British public want the renationalisation of the public services. Of course, he’s still extremely right-wing in demanding more cuts to the welfare state, which he’s justified with the bogus explanation that British people need to move into low paid jobs in order to stop the British state importing more foreigners to do them. I posted a piece yesterday rubbishing that, and you should also read the comments on the piece left by the greater people reading this blog, who have added much more relevant information. But it is interesting that in this area of policy, Reform has moved left of Labour.

Not that I’ll believe they’ll keep their promises, anymore than I believe Starmer will.

The Fascist Argument Against Free Market Capitalism

January 15, 2023

I notice that as the failure of contemporary free market capitalism becomes every more obvious, its right-wing supporters are out on the net telling everyone how wonderful capitalism is. Capitalism, according to them, has lifted more people out of poverty than any socialist state has ever done. You find this repeated by the Lotus Eaters, and I recent found yet another video on YouTube put up by a right-winger.

Now there is something to this. Marx in the Communist Manifesto was impressed by the global achievements of capitalism, and industrialisation and trade has produced development and prosperity in Britain, the West and elsewhere, and lifted people out of the poverty of agricultural subsistence economies. But this hasn’t been done by capitalism alone. Trade unions have also been part of the development of mass prosperity in the industrialised nations through demands for increased wages, better working conditions and so on, a fact ignored by the right. And working people in the west enjoyed their greatest period of prosperity when capitalism was regulated as part of the post-War consensus. In Britain this took the form of a mixed economy in which the utilities were owned and operated by the state. The privatisation of these utilities, the devastation of the welfare state and the deregulation of the economy has led to a massive transfer of wealth upwards, so that the poor have become colossally poorer and the wealth of the rich even more bloated and obscene. Properly regulated, capitalism does raise people out of poverty. But free market capitalism, of the kind frantically promoted by right-wingers like the Lotus Eaters, has done the reverse.

But let’s grant them that the 19th century was an age of industrial and agricultural expansion in which people enriched themselves. Mussolini expressed this view in his speech about the corporative state he was introducing into Italy. The fascist corporations were industrial organisations, one for each industry, which included representatives of the trade unions and the owners’ organisations. The Italian parliament was dissolved and reorganised into a Chamber of Fasces and Corporations, in which these organisations were supposed to debate economic policy. In fact, it just served as a rubber stamp for the Duce’s decisions. It was, however, important for propaganda purposes, to show that Mussolini’s regime had transcended capitalism and socialism.

The Fascists weren’t enemies of capitalism, far from it. Mussolini’s constitution made private industry the basis of the state and economic life, which is why I’m using it his critique of free market capitalism against the free marketeers. Mussolini had been a radical socialist, but when the Fascists seized power he declared them to be true followers of Manchester School capitalism. In other words, free trade. This was accompanied by a programme of privatisation. In Germany Hitler gave a speech to the German equivalent of the Confederation of British Industry, saying that capitalism could only be preserved through a dictatorship. He stated that he would not nationalise any company, unless it was failing. During the Nazi dictatorship industry was organised into a series of interlocking associations subject to state control. But they were not nationalised, and the leadership of the organisations was always given to private industrialists, not the managers of state industries.

Back to Italy, Mussolini described how this initial period had begun to decay. The old family run firms declined, to be replaced by joint stock companies. At the same time, firms organised themselves into cartels. In America, these cartels demanded intervention from the government. Mussolini announced that, if left unchecked, this would lead to the emergence of a state capitalism that was every bit as pernicious as state socialism. His solution was that capitalism needed to be more ‘social’. It would be subordinated to the state through the corporations, where workers and management would cooperate to make Italy a great power once more.

Something similar has happened over the past four decades. Under this new corporativism, representatives of private industry have entered government as advisors and officials, often in the departments charged with regulating their industries. At the same time, industry has received massive subsidies and tax breaks so that much of the tax burden has moved lower down on working people. Mussolini was correct about private industry demanding state intervention, however much this is denied and state planning attacked by free market theorists. And the result is corporativism, which the free marketeers denounce as not being true capitalism. But it’s been pointed out that the type of capitalism they believe in has never existed.

Free market capitalism is a failure. The solution is not a murderous dictatorship, but the old, regulated, mixed economy of the social democratic consensus. An economy that includes private industry, but which recognises that it alone does not create wealth, and which demands the inclusion of working people and their organisations in industrial negotiations and policies in order to create prosperity for working people.

John Bird and John Fortune Skewer the Iraq Invasion: Yes, It Was All About Oil

January 10, 2023

The satirist and actor John Bird passed away just a week or so ago over Christmas. As well as appearing in the short-lived BBC comedy series Chambers and Absolute Power, he and John Fortune appeared on Bremner, Bird and Fortune on Channel 4 as ‘The Long Johns’, whose satirical dialogues expertly lampooned the rich and powerful. This had the same view Private Eye’s Ian Hislop stated on a radio 4 show some time ago, that satire should also have a serious intent and show what was really going on underneath the surface. It was incisive, witty stuff that revealed the reality behind the fine words uttered by politicians, businessmen and elite bankers to show the greed, double-standards and predatory exploitation underneath. Many of the dialogues had a simple formula. They took turns playing George Parr, who changed his profession to match the topic of the day. One week he could be a general, another an admiral, or a senior civil servant. Other characters included Washington diplomats and the dictator of an anonymous African country, who was happy to see his people mired in starvation and poverty so long as he could take the money from the Chinese building his nation’s infrastructure. The other John would play a journalist interviewing him. The questions would result in bizarre denials from the official, which would show the contradictions in the official’s story or decision and lead to them actually revealing the real reasons for the decision or policy in spite of themselves.

In this piece from 2007, posted on theDossier’s YouTube Channel, the two discuss the-then recent admission by Alan Greenspan, the head of the Federal Reserve in America, that it was embarrassing to have to admit it, but yes, the Iraq invasion really was all about oil. As everyone knew. The official denies that this was the case, pointing out that before the war Blair had passed a resolution stipulating that the oil reserves should stay in Iraqi hands. This was revoked a year later after the war, when Blair passed another resolution saying that the allies should have it for safekeeping or something. As a measure of generosity, the allies allowed the Iraqis to keep 17 oil wells out of a total of 80, and promised to give 20 per cent of the profits from their oil fields to the Iraqi government. Iraq nevertheless contains an extremely large proportion of the world’s oil, whose worth is in the trillions.

The former Guardian journo Greg Palast amply demonstrated in his book, Armed Madhouse, that the Iraq war was an attempt by the American and Saudi oil industries to seize the Iraqi oil fields and their wealth, as well as the Neo-Cons attempting to seize the country’s state industries for America and create the kind of low tax state founded on free trade they wished to see in America. The result was the absolute collapse of the Iraqi economy with soaring bankruptcies and unemployment. Not to mention the chaos and bloodshed caused by the war and the sectarian violence that followed it, and the unrestrained, murderous, Nazi criminality of the private military contractors – read: mercenaries – who were hired by the Americans as part of the peace-keeping forces.

This is political satire at it’s best, and some of the commenters on YouTube have compared Bird and Fortune with the superb BBC comedy, Yes, Minister, which is also still relevant even after all these decades. John Fortune died some years ago, and was much missed, as John Bird will be, for his part in these dialogues. You wonder what they’d have to say about Sunak and the present government. It, and it’s equally incompetent and corrupt predecessors, would have been excellent material for them to send up.

Richard Tice Claiming that Immigration Responsible for Low Wages, Not Thatcherism

January 3, 2023

I just caught the headline of a video on YouTube, which I think was posted by GB News. They’ve been plugging Reform’s head honcho, Richard Tice, who has been claiming his party would beat the Tories and Keir Starmer at the next election. I’m doubtful of that, as no matter how Tice may talk the party up, Reform is basically the reheated leftovers of UKIP. And despite the way Farage and his party were hailed by the media as a threat to the mainstream, traditional parties, like the SDP in the 1980s it significantly failed to break the mould of modern politics. Indeed, UKIP imploded when Farage bailed out and he was replaced by Gerard Batten, who invited far-right YouTubers Mark Meacham and Carl Benjamin to join. All the genuinely anti-racist members left, the Swindon branch protested against Benjamin being appointed their candidate for the parliamentary elections and the Gloucestershire branch broke away altogether.

From the headline it appears that Tice is now blaming low wage immigration for keeping wages low. He may have a point, in that plentiful unskilled labour means that employers don’t have to worry about offering high wages to attract workers for those jobs. But this seems to be part of a general Brexiteer, right-wing accusation that elite liberals are in favour of mass immigration as it provides them with a source of low paid labour. You find this attitude stated every so often, but there’s never any evidence cited for it, and I’ve never come across it from the left. I have come across the assertion, stated in a book published nearly 20 years ago attacking the Neo-Cons, Confronting the New Conservatism, that the Neo-Cons of both the left and the right are in favour of affirmative action programmes, so long as they don’t affect their children. I’ve also seen the argument that immigration is good for the country because on average immigrant workers pay more in tax than they take in benefits – contrary to what you’d hear from the right – and so support the state and welfare system with their taxes. Also, they do the jobs White British tend not to want to do.

So if immigrants aren’t responsible for low wages, who is? Easy – Margaret Thatcher and the Tories. Thatcher preached wage restraint and freezes in order to keep inflation low. This is leading to millions of working Brits, of all colours, now earning literal starvation wages, well below the rate of inflation. Many families are only keeping their heads above water through food and warm banks, where they have a choice between eating, heating their homes or paying the rent or mortgage. The Tories in particular have offered pay rises well below the inflation rate, so that they are in fact cuts. Hence the current wave of strikes as workers are fed up with it. Also, the 19th century classical economists from whom the Tories take their ideas recommended that the government should keep ‘a reserve army of the unemployed’ in order to keep wages low by providing a ready source of labour. I’ve got a feeling Blair and Gordon Brown had much the same idea when they talked about the need to keep the labour market fluid.

It is Thatcherism that’s really responsible for the mass impoverishment of this country’s working people. Tice is merely trying to divert attention away from this by playing the race card against immigrants. Don’t vote for him, and don’t vote for the Tories.

Simon Webb’s Speech to the Traditional Britain Group: A Critique

December 29, 2022

One of the great commenters on this blog asked me the other day if I’d watched Simon Webb’s speech to the Traditional Britain Group, which has been posted up on YouTube. Webb is the man behind History Debunked, in which he criticises, refutes and comments on various historical myths and distortions. Most of these are against Black history, as well as racial politics. Occasionally he also presents his opinions on gay and gender issues. Like other YouTubers and internet commenters, you need to use your own discretion when watching his material. Sometimes, when he cites his sources, he’s right. At other times he’s more probably wrong. As much of his material is against mass immigration, particularly Black and Asian, and he believes that there is a racial hierarchy when it comes to intelligence, there’s some discussion of the man’s political orientation. He’s definitely right-wing, reading the Torygraph and attacking Labour as ‘high spending’. But it’s a question of how right-wing. Some people have suggested he’s English Democrat or supports a similar extreme right fringe party.

The other day he gave a speech at the Traditional Britain Group, which is a particularly nasty set of rightists within the Conservative party. There was a scandal a few years ago, you’ll recall, when Jacob Rees-Mogg turned up at one of their dinners. Mogg claimed he didn’t know how far right they were, but was shown to be somewhat economical with the actualite when someone showed that he’d actually been warned against associating with them. They are fervently against non-White immigration and some of them have a dubious interest in the Nazis and the Third Reich. I’ve also been told that their members include real Nazis and eugenicists, which is all too credible. They also want to privatise the NHS. I found this out after finding myself looking at their message board a few years ago. They were talking about how they needed to privatise the health service, but it would have to be done gradually and covertly because at the moment the masses were too much in favour of it. Which has been Tory policy for decades.

Webb’s speech is about half and hour long, and takes in slavery, White English identity and how Blacks have taken ownership of the subject so that it’s now part of theirs, White guilt over it and the industrial revolution and how White Brits are being made to feel ashamed of imperialism. He also blamed Tony Blair for mass immigration and claimed that it was due to this that the health service was collapsing.

The British Empire

He started off by saying that when he was young, everyone believed that the British Empire was a good thing and that we had brought civilisation to Africa and other parts of the world. I don’t doubt this. He’s older than me, and so I can believe that the received view of the Empire in his time was largely positive. Even the Labour party broadly supported imperialism. Its official stance was that Britain held these countries in trust until they were mature enough for self-government. This has changed, and there is a general feeling, certainly on the left, that it’s something we should be ashamed of. But this has come from historians and activists discussing and revealing the negative aspects of colonialism, such as the genocide and displacement of indigenous peoples, enslavement, forced labour and massacres. The end of empires tend to be particularly bloody, as shown in the various nationalist wars that ended the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and the French possession of Algeria. Britain fought similar bloody wars and committed atrocities to defend its empire, as shown in the massive overreaction in Kenya to the Mao Mao rebellion. Jeremy Black, in his history of the British Empire, also argues that support for the empire fell away from the 1970s onwards as British youth became far more interested in America. I think the automatic condemnation of British imperialism is wrong and one-sided. It’s also somewhat hypocritical, as the same people condemning the British Empire don’t condemn other brutal imperial regimes like the Ottomans. It’s also being used by various post-colonial regimes to shift attention and blame for their own failings. But all this doesn’t change the fact that some horrific things were done during the Empire, which politicians and historians have to deal with. Hence the shame, although in my view there should be a space for a middle position which condemns the atrocities and celebrates the positive.

Britain and Slavery

He then talks about how slavery is now identified solely with Black transatlantic servitude. But he argues that the White English can also claim slavery as part of their identity. He talks of the first mention of the English in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, when pope Gregory the Great saw some English children for sale in the slave market in Rome. Asking who such beautiful children were, he was told they were Angles. At which Gregory punned, ‘Non Anglii, sed angeli’ – ‘Not Angles but angels’. At the time of the Domesday Book 10 per cent of the English population were slaves. And the mob that tore down Colston’s statue in Bristol were unaware that the city had been exported English slaves over a millennium before. These were shipped to the Viking colonies in Ireland – Dublin, Wexford and other towns – from whence they were then trafficked internationally. Slavery existed long before Black transatlantic slavery. The first record we have of it is from 4000 years ago in the form of document from the Middle East recording the sale of slaves and pieces of land. While they weren’t aware of transatlantic slavery at school, they knew slavery existed through studying the Bible. The story of Joseph and his brothers, and the Israelites in Egypt. But slavery has now become identified exclusively with Black slavery and is part of the Black identity. It’s because we’re supposed to feel guilty about slavery and feel sorry for Blacks that Black people over overrepresented in adverts, on television dramas and even historical epics, such as the show about the Tudors where half the actors were Black.

Webb is right about slavery existing from ancient times. There are indeed documents from the ancient near eastern city of Mari in Mesopotamia recording the sale of slaves along with land and other property, as I’ve blogged about here. One of the problems the abolitionists faced was that slavery existed right across the world, and so their opponents argued that it was natural institution. They therefore also claimed that it was consequently unfair and disastrous for the government to abolish it in the British empire. He’s right about Pope Gregory and the English slaves, although the word ‘Angli’ refers to the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that settled and colonised England with the Saxons and Jutes after the fall of the Roman Empire. Angles in Anglo-Saxon were Englas, hence Engla-land – England, land of the Angles, and Englisc, English. Bristol did indeed export English slave to Ireland. Archbishop Wulfstan preached against it in the 11th century. We were still doing so in 1140, when visiting clergy from France were warned against going for dinner aboard the Irish ships in the harbour. These would lure people aboard with such promises, then slip anchor and take them to Ireland. The Irish Vikings also imported Black slaves. One chronicle reports the appearance of a consignment of blamenn, blue or black men in Old Norse, in Dublin. David Olasuga has also claimed that they imported 200 Blacks into Cumbria. Bristol’s export of White English slaves is mentioned in a display about it in the city’s M Shed Museum, which also contains the statue of Edward Colston. I do agree with Webb that there is a problem with popular attitudes towards slavery. Its presentation is one-sided, so that I don’t think many people are aware of it and its horrors outside the British Empire, nor how White Europeans were also enslaved by the Muslim Barbary pirates. I very strongly believe that this needs to be corrected.

Black Overrepresentation on TV

I don’t think it’s guilt over slavery alone that’s responsible for the large number of Black actors being cast on television, particularly the adverts. I think this is probably also due to commercial marketing, the need to appeal to international audiences and attempts to integrate Blacks by providing images of multiracial Britain. Many adverts are made for an international audience, and I think the use of Blacks has become a sort of visual shorthand for showing that the company commissioning the advert is a nice, anti-racist organisation, keen to sell to people of different colours across the world without prejudice. At home, it’s part of the promotion of diversity. Blacks are, or are perceived, as acutely alienated and persecuted, and so in order to combat racism the media has been keen to include them and present positive images of Black life and achievement. There are organisations dedicated to this task, such as the Creative Diversity Network, as well as systems that grade companies according to how they invest in multicultural enterprises, such as television and programmes with suitably racially diverse casts. Webb has himself talked about this. He’s also stated that Blacks are disproportionately represented on television, constituting only 6 per cent of the population but a very large proportion of actors in TV programmes and adverts. This might simply be because other, larger ethnic groups, such as Asians, aren’t so concerned with entering the entertainment industry and so aren’t represent to the same extent. Hence, Blacks sort of stand in for people of colour as a whole. As for adverts, I’ve also wondered if some of this might be purely commercial – a concern to sale to an emergent, affluent, Black market, perhaps. It also struck me that it might also be a make work programme. As I understand it, there are too many drama graduates for too few roles. This is particularly going to hit Blacks and other ethnic minorities because Britain at the moment is still a White majority country. There have consequently been demands for colour blind casting, as in Armando Iannucci’s recent film version of Oliver Twist. A year or so ago one Black actor announced that there should be more roles for Blacks or else they would go to America. As for the casting of a Black woman as Anne Boleyn, this seems to follow the theatre, where colour blind casting has existed for years. I think it also follows the tacit demand to create an image of the British past that conforms to modern multicultural society rather than how it really was. And some of it, I think, just comes from the feeling that as modern Blacks are as British as their White compatriots, so they should not be excluded from appearing as historical characters who were White. I think these considerations are just as likely, or more likely, to be the causes of the disproportionate number of Blacks appearing on camera than simply pity for them as the victims of slavery.

Blair Not Responsible for Mass Immigration

Now we come to his assertion that Blair was responsible for mass immigration. When he made this declaration, there were shouts, including one of ‘traitor’. I don’t believe that Blair was responsible for it, at least, not in the sense he means. The belief that he was, which is now widespread on the anti-immigrant right, comes from a single civil servant. This official claimed that Blair did so in order to change the ethnic composition of Britain and undermine the Tories. But did he really? This comes from a single individual, and without further corroboration, you can’t be sure. In fact Blair seems to have tried to cut down on immigration, particularly that of non-Whites. In order to dissuade people from coming here, he stopped immigrants from being able to apply for welfare benefits. The food banks now catering to native Brits were originally set up to feed those immigrants, who were no longer eligible for state aid. I also recall David Blunkett stating that they were going to cut down on immigration. The Guardian also accused Blair of racism over immigration. He had cut down on non-White immigration from outside Europe, while allowing White immigration from the EU and its new members in eastern Europe. The right had also been concerned about rising Black and Asian immigration for decades, and in the 1980s Tory papers like the Depress were publishing articles about unassimilable ethnic minorities. This started before Blair, and I don’t think he was deliberately responsible for it.

But I believe he was responsible for it in the sense that many of the migrants come from the countries Blair, Bush, Obama and Sarco destroyed or helped to destroy in the Middle East, such as Libya, Iraq and Syria. Blair had made some kind of deal with Colonel Gaddafy to keep migrants from further south in Libya, rather than crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. This was destroyed when Gaddafy’s regime was overthrown by Islamists. The result has been the enslavement of Black African migrants, and renewed waves of refugees from North Africa fleeing the country’s collapse.

He also stated that the industrial revolution, which was something else that was traditionally a source of pride, is now considered a cause for shame instead. Britain had been its birthplace and given its innovations to the rest of the world. However, we are now expected to be ashamed of it through its connection to slavery. The cotton woven in the Lancashire mills came from the American slave south, while sugar came from the slave colonies of the Caribbean. We’re also supposed to be ashamed of it because it’s the cause of climate change, for which we should pay reparations.

The Industrial Revolution and Climate Change

Okay, I’ve come across the claim that the industrial revolution was financed by profits from the slave trade and that it was based on the processing of slave produced goods. However, this is slightly different from condemning the industrial revolution as a whole. You can lament the fact that slavery was a part of this industrialisation, while celebrating the immense social, technological and industrial progress itself. After all, Marx states in the Communist Manifesto that it has rescued western society from rural idiocy. The demand that Britain should feel ashamed about the industrial revolution because of climate change comes from Greta Thunberg. It is, in my view, monumentally stupid and actually shows an ignorance of history. It’s based on an idealisation of pre-technological societies and an idealisation of rural communities. It’s a product of European romanticism, mixed with contemporary fears for the future of the planet. But the agrarian past was no rural idyll. People in the agricultural societies before the urbanisation of the 19th century had very utilitarian attitudes to the environment. It was a source of resources that could be used and exploited. The nostalgia for an idealised rural past came with the new generation of urban dwellers, who missed what they and their parents had enjoyed in the countryside. And rural life could be extremely hard. If you read economic histories of the Middle Ages and early modern period, famine is an ever present threat. It still was in the 19th century. The Irish potato famine is the probably the best known example in Ireland and Britain, but there were other instances of poverty, destitution and starvation across the UK and Europe. Industrialisation has allowed a far greater concentration of people to live than would have been possible under subsistence agriculture. Yes, I’m aware that overpopulation is a problem, that industrial pollution is harming the environment and contributing to the alarming declining in animal and plant species. But technological and science hopefully offer solutions to these problems as well. And I really don’t want to go back to a subsistence economy in which communities can be devastated by crop failure.

The call for climate reparations, I think, comes from Ed Miliband, and in my view it shows how out of touch and naive he is. I have no problem the Developed World giving aid to some of those countries threatened by climate change, such as the Pacific islands which are threatened with flooding due to the rise in sea levels. But some countries, I believe, are perfectly capable of doing so without western help. One of these is China, which also contributes massively to carbon emissions and which I believe has also called for the payment of climate reparations. China is an emerging economic superpower, and I see no reason why the west should pay for something that it’s doing and has the ability to tackle. I am also very sceptical whether such monies would be used for the purposes they’re donated. Corruption is a massive problem in the Developing World, and various nations have run scams to part First World donors and aid agencies from their money. When I was at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum one of these was a scheme for a hydroelectric dam in Pakistan. The Pakistani government was calling for western aid to finance the project. Britain refused, sensing a scam, for which we were criticised. Other countries happily gave millions, but the dam was never built. All a fraud. I suspect if climate reparations were paid, something similar would also happen with the aid money disappearing into kleptocrats’ pockets. There’s also the problem of where the tax burden for the payment of these reparations would fall. It probably wouldn’t be the rich, who have enjoyed generous tax cuts, but the British working class through indirect taxes. In short, it seems to me to be a colossally naive idea.

But these ideas don’t seem to be widespread. When he announced them, there were shouts from the audience to which Webb responded that it was coming, and they should wait a few years. Perhaps it will, but I’ve seen no enthusiasm or even much mention of them so far. They were mentioned during the COP 27 meeting, and that’s it. Thunberg’s still around, but after all these years I think she’s somewhat passe. At the moment I don’t think these ideas are issues.

Mass Immigration Not the Cause of NHS Crisis

Now let’s examine his statement that it’s due to immigration that the NHS is in the state it’s in. This is, quite simply, wrong. He correctly states that while Britain’s population has grown – London’s has nearly doubled and Leicester’s grown by 30 per cent – there has been no similar provision of medical services. No new hospitals have been built. As a result, where once you could simply walk into your doctor’s and expect to be seen, now you have to book an appointment. And when it comes to hospitals, it’s all the fault of immigrants. He talks about a specific hospital in London, and how the last time he was in that area, he was the only White Brit in the queue. This was because immigrants don’t have GPs, and so go to the hospital for every problem. We also have the problem of sick and disabled people from the developing world coming to the country for the better services we offer. A woman from the Sudan with a special needs child will therefore come here so that her child can have the treatment it wouldn’t get in the Sudan.

I dare say some of this analysis is correct. Britain’s population has grown largely due to immigration. One statistic released by a right-wing group said that immigration was responsible for 80 per cent of population growth. It’s probably correct, as Chambers Cyclopedia stated in its 1987 edition that British birthrates were falling and that it was immigration that was behind the rise in the UK population. I don’t know London at all, and I dare say that many of the immigrants there may well not have had doctors. I can also quite believe that some immigrants do come here for our medical care. There was a case a few weeks ago of a Nigerian woman, who got on a flight to London specifically so that she could have her children in a British hospital. I think this was a case of simple health tourism, which has gone on for years, rather than immigration.

But this overlooks the fact that the problems of the NHS has been down to successive Thatcherite regimes cutting state medical care in Britain all under the pretext of making savings and not raising taxes. Thatcher closed hospital wards. So did Tony Blair, when he wasn’t launching his PFI initiative. This was supposed to build more hospitals, but led to older hospitals being closed and any new hospitals built were smaller, fewer and more expensive. Cameron started off campaigning against hospital closures, and then, once he got his backside in No. 10, carried on with exactly the same policy. Boris Johnson claimed that he was going to build forty hospitals, which was, like nearly everything else the obese buffoon uttered, a flat lie. And Tweezer, Truss and Sunak are doing the same. Doctors surgeries have also suffered. Many of them have been sold off to private chains, which have maximised profits by closing down those surgeries that aren’t profitable. The result is that people have been and are being left without doctors. If you want an explanation why the NHS is in the state it is, blame Thatcher and her heirs, not immigrants.

Conclusion

While Webb has a point about the social and political manipulation of historical issues like the slave trade and the British Empire, these aren’t the reasons for the greater appearance of Black actors and presenters on television. Blair wasn’t responsible for mass immigration, and it’s underfunding and privatisation, not immigration, that’s responsible for the deplorable state of the health service. But he’s speaking to the wrong people there anyway, as the TBG would like to privatise it.

I am not saying it is wrong to discuss these issues, but it is wrong to support a bunch of Nazis like the TBG, who will exploit them to recreate all the social inequality, poverty and deprivation of pre-modern Britain.

Sketches of Another Three British Comedy Heroes

November 22, 2022

Here are three more pictures of British comedy legends of a certain era for your enjoyment: Ken Dodd, Tony Hancock and Michael Bentine.

Ken Dodd is also remembered for the Diddymen from Knotty Ash, which I think was the suburb of Liverpool where he came from. I can remember him being on television with them when I was very young. They were originally puppets, but I can remember a later programme in which they were played by children in a musical number. Dodd was a real trouper, carrying on performing right to the end of his life. He was also notorious for running well over time. I heard at one performance in Weston-Super-Mare, a seaside town just south of Bristol, he carried on performing so long after he was supposed to have ended that the janitor threw the keys onto the stage. As well as the Diddymen his act also involved his notorious Tickling Stick. It was years before I realised it was an ordinary duster and you could get them in Woolworths.

He ran afoul of the taxman in the late 80s/ 90s, and I’ve heard two versions of that story. One is that he really was dodging taxes and had all the money he owed the Inland Revenue hidden in boxes in his attic. This was supposed to be because he had a very poor childhood and that had made him reluctant to part with money. The other version I heard was that he sent it all to the taxman, as demanded, but didn’t say which department and so it just got lost. His problems with the taxman was at just about the same time the jockey Lester Pigott also got caught not paying it. This resulted in a postcard I found in Forever People in Bristol showing Ken Dodd and Pigott on stage in pantomime. Pigott was riding a pantomime horse, while down from the sky was a giant hand pointng at them, saying ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell undeclared income!’

Although he’s been off the TV for years now, there are still DVDs of his performances, particularly the Audience he did on ITV. And way back in the 90s I also found a tape of him telling jokes. Since his heyday in the ’70s, comedy has become far more observational, but his jokes were still funny. One I remember went, ‘What a day, what a day, missus, for going to Trafalgar Square and throwing white paint over the pigeons shouting, ‘Hah! See how you like it!’

Tony Hancock – what can you say? He truly is a British comedy legend. He’s been called a genius, though one critic said that his genius really consisted in performing the scripts written by Galton and Simpson. Even so, they were absolute classics of British comedy and a couple of them, The Radio Ham and The Blood Donor, really are comedy classics. On the radio he was supported by a cast of brilliant actors – Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Bill Kerr and Hattie Jacques. This was cut down to Sid James when the series was transferred to TV, and then even further until Hancock became the sole regular character. His series were on record – I used to listen to them when I was at school and are also on DVD. He also made a series, not written by Galton and Simpson, when he was in Australia. That’s also available, I think, though I deliberately avoided watching it. It may just be prejudice, but I didn’t think it could ever be a patch on Galton and Simpson’s scripts.

Paul Merton, who seems to have given up performing comedy for appearing on panel shows, is a massive Hancock fan. A few years ago, he performed as Hancock in a series of remakes of classic Hancock episodes. I deliberately didn’t watch them, because with remakes I find that it doesn’t matter how good the actors are, you’re always comparing them with the original stars, and they just can’t compete. One of the cable/ satellite channels a few years back tried to remake Yes, Minister with a different cast. This flopped. I think it may have been that the audience it was aimed simply far preferred to see repeats of the original series with Paul Eddington and co. As well as TV, he also appeared in a number of films, such as Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, and starred in two: The Rebel and The Punch and Judy Man. The Punch and Judy Man, in which he plays that character in a seaside resort, is supposed to be the better film, but I prefer The Rebel. In this movie he plays an office clerk, who gives it up to become a painter in Paris. He’s a failure but becomes a celebrity artist after passing off a friend’s paintings as his own. It all comes crashing down when he’s invited aboard a millionaire’s yacht and the man’s wife wants to run off with him, just as he’s run out of the other fellow’s paintings to sell. Again, he has an excellent supporting cast, including John Le Mesurier as his exasperated boss and Irene Handl as his landlady, outraged at the nudity of his sculpture ‘Aphrodite at the Waterhole’. It’s also on DVD, and I think it’s brilliant.

Michael Bentine – another great actor and writer. He was, as I’m sure many people reading this well know, a member of the Goons, whom he left quite early on. He also had a number of his own series, including Square World and the one I remember, Michael Bentine’s Potty Time. This featured small ‘Potty’ puppets acting out various historical events, like the Battle of Waterloo. He had a similar puppet series, the Bumblies, which got MI5 interested in him. The Bumblies were puppets, but they were supposed to be operated by remote control. This would have been quite an advance at the time, as radio control was impossible because it interfered with the cameras and other equipment. According to Bentine, he left his house and got on the bus to go to work as usual one morning when he was met by someone from the security services, who asked him to follow him upstairs for a little chat. He wanted to know how the Bumblies worked. Bentine explained that they were puppets and not radio controlled at all. ‘Oh thank God!’ said the Man from the Ministry, ‘we thought you were going to defect!’ That gave Bentine the vision of Bumby Six hurtling towards Russia on a missile.

He was also very much into the paranormal, following his father, an engineer who was keenly interested in psychical research. Like the other Goons, he also fought in the Second World War, though he was a member of a bomber crew in the RAF. He was deeply anti-Fascist, and strongly believed that the Nazis had come to power through real black magic. In the 90s he toured the country with his one-man show, From the Sublime to the Paranormal. I and a few friends went to see him when it came to Bristol. He was a hilarious raconteur, especially when describing how the army chased him round Britain to get him to join up when he was touring in repertory theatre. Wherever they were playing, his name was naturally on the cast list. When he asked the army, why they had ignored the posters for the theatre company when they finally caught up with him, they replied that they thought it was a ruse! During the performance he also demonstrated the power of the Nazis use of light and sound to mesmerise their audience. He described the Nuremberg rallies and the way it would start with the great searchlights blazing up into the sky as a ‘temple of light’. Then the drumbeats would start up, performed by the Hitler Youth, the twisted version of the boy scouts, and the soldiers and Nazis would start chanting ‘Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Fuhrer!’ He repeated this, getting louder each time, and the lighting in the theatre dropped. The atmosphere immediately changed, became far more sinister. Then he snapped out of it, and said, ‘Sorry to scare the sh*t out of you.’ A friend of mine told me later that wasn’t the reason he cut that bit short. He reckoned it was because some people were responding to it in the way the Nazis intended. He asked me if I hadn’t noticed the pair in one of the boxes who were nearly out of their seats giving the salute. He was very critical of the power of television and the way it could be used for propaganda and mass brainwashing and urged people to complain if they saw anything they found offensive.

I think he was also very scientifically interested and literate. He appeared a long time ago on the Beeb’s popular science programme, Tomorrow’s World, presenting his own scheme for turning the Amazon jungle into productive farmland. And then there was the flea circus. This was entirely mechanical but was supposed to be worked by fleas performing high dives and so on. He was interviewed by Wogan when the dulcet-toned Irishman took over from Parkinson back in the 1980s. He told the broadcasting legend that he’d been stopped by customs when he tried to take it into America. The customs officer thought that he was bringing real fleas into the country. And so Bentine had to show him the entire act in order to convince him that it was, indeed, mechanical.

From the Sublime to the Paranormal was broadcast on the radio back in the ’90s. I don’t know whether it’s available on CD or on YouTube. He also wrote his autobiography and two books on spiritualism and the paranormal, The Door Marked Summer and Doors of the Mind. He was truly another great titan of British comedy.

Left-Labour Online Meeting on Monday

November 19, 2022

Those good peeps at the Labour Assembly Against Austerity are holding another online meeting this coming Monday with the title ‘Tax the Rich’. Here’s the notice

Speakers so far include: 

  • Richard Burgon MP
  • Zarah Sultana MP
  • Prem Sikka, leading tax expert
  • Özlem Onaran. Professor of Economics, University of Greenwich
  • Fran Heathcote, PCS President

Register your place for the online seminar here

Taking place on Monday November 21st, 7pm, this is part of a regular series of policy events organised by the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs in partnership with the Labour Assembly Against Austerity & Momentum.

Message from Rachel Reeves Promoting Labour

November 19, 2022

I got this message on Thursday. I’m glad that the Labour party are preparing to confront the Tories, but I am concerned by the serious lack of detail about policies. I think Labour’s already been challenged about that in parliament this week, and it looks like Starmer is just playing the game of letting the Tories hang themselves rather than present any real concrete alternatives. If he’s anything like Blair, he’ll just pick up their old policies and carry on as they did. Or go even further and complete his betrayal of Labour’s real activists and supporters.

‘Dear David,

As we approach the end of 2022, we find ourselves in a worse place than where we started.The mess we are in is not just a result of 12 weeks of Conservative chaos, but 12 years of Conservative economic failure.

Inflation is spiralling. Growth is plunging. Living standards are falling.

And today, Jeremy Hunt delivered a fiscal statement with less for public services and more tax rises for working people.

Yet again with this Tory Government, it is working people who will foot the bill. 

David, Britain is a great country, with fantastic strengths. But the Tories are holding us back.

They have pick-pocketed the purses and wallets of the entire country.

A double whammy of frozen tax thresholds and inflation eroding people’s wages.

The stealth taxes, excuses and unfair choices announced by Jeremy Hunt make one thing very clear: the Tories do not deliver for working people.

No plan to deliver economic growth, no plan to fix our crumbling public services and crucially, no plan for the future.

What we need is a serious, long-term plan to get our economy growing again – powered by the talent and effort of millions of working people and thousands of businesses.

We need a greener, more dynamic economy, creating jobs across every part of the country, with a modern industrial strategy where government works hand in hand with business.

That is what Labour will deliver.

David, after 12 years of failure, Britain can no longer afford the Tories. It’s time for a fairer, greener future with Labour.

Thank you,

Rachel Reeves MP
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer’ 

Email from We Own It Asking People to Share Their Petition for Publicly Owned Energy Company on Social Media

November 18, 2022

This is another message I got yesterday. However, I’m not on Twitter, Whatsapp or Facebook, so I’m sharing it here, and letting those who are on those social media share it if they wish.

‘Dear David,

Today Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt announced their plan for ordinary people to pay for the cost of living crisis while the rich get richer. 

You know this is wrong. There is another way – and taking our energy into public ownership should be top of the list. 

That’s why you signed the petition calling for public ownership of energy NOW! Can you share the petition to show Sunak and Hunt that the public sees through their spin?

Share on Twitter

Share on Facebook

Share via Whatsapp

Share via email

While millions of us struggle to afford food or heating, Moët, the luxury champagne brand, has announced unprecedented demand.

So who’s popping champagne corks right now? It’s the shareholders who own our privatised utilities and services.

This quarter BP raked in a whopping £6.9bn, and Shell has taken £26bn this year. Meanwhile, millions of us are holding off turning the heating on in the face of astronomical bills. 

Today Hunt announced that the windfall tax on energy company profits will be raised to 35%, but this is nowhere near enough. From April, the government is raising the energy price cap to £3,000 – meaning households spend even more on bills. 

Share on Twitter

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Share via email

This is the moment to let as many people know as possible that it doesn’t have to be this way. 

By sharing the petition calling for public ownership of energy, you can make it clear that there is a real alternative. Right now, the government has the power to: 

  • Introduce a permanent windfall tax on oil and gas companies like Shell and BP, at a rate of 56% (on top of corporation tax)
  • Stop wasting money bailing out failing energy supply giants – set up a publicly owned energy supplier instead
  • Bring the privatised monopolies of the National Grid and regional distribution into public ownership
  • Set up a new state-owned renewable energy company to help tackle the climate crisis

Sunak and Hunt think they can get away with their choice to protect profits over people. By demanding an alternative, you can show them that the public sees right through this!

Share on Twitter

Share on Facebook

Share via Whatsapp

Share via email

We will only get louder with our call for public ownership as the real solution. 66% of the public already agree – let’s get that even higher. 

THANK YOU for signing and sharing the petition. Together we’re reaching more people every day, challenging the stories told by politicians and companies.

You’re helping to spread the message that public ownership is the answer, not austerity. 

Solidarity, 

Cat, Alice, Matthew, Kate and Johnbosco – The We Own It team

PS You can also share the petition by visiting our website and copying the link here: https://weownit.org.uk/act-now/public-ownership-energy-petition

Message from the Megaphone: Triple Lock Pensions Reinstated, But People Still Need to Join a Union against Tories

November 18, 2022

I got this email from the Megaphone yesterday, with which I absolutely fully agree.

‘Dear supporter

Today the government announced in its Autumn Statement that the state pension triple lock will be reinstated for 2023.

Unite’s petition to defend the triple lock gathered over 20,000 signatures and demonstrated how strongly workers feel about the issue.

This is therefore an important victory which will mean that the state pension is protected against soaring inflation during the current cost of living crisis.

However, the campaign for a new workers’ economy must continue.  The full package of measures announced in the Autumn Statement amounts to a new austerity budget.

Commenting on the Autumn Statement, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:

“Our economy is broken. This Autumn Statement is not for working people. The chancellor has taxed income over wealth, backed City bankers instead of nurses and chosen profiteers over public services. He has made political choices based on rules that he himself has the power to change.

“Austerity and tax rises for workers will do nothing to create decent jobs or put money in our pockets. As a country, we must now begin a discussion on how to do things differently. We need different rules and to make different choices. We need an economy that works for all.”

To fight back we need a united, organised working class.  This starts with joining a union and getting actively involved.  You can join Unite today with membership options for those in work, out of work and retired from work:

https://join.unitetheunion.org/

In solidarity

Unite for a Workers’ Economy

Website
Twitter: @UniteEconomy
Facebook: Unite4WorkersEconomy
Instagram: Unite4WorkersEconomy

Yes, it’s a recruitment drive by Unite. But the message being given by the left generally is that with the Tories’ new austerity drive, working people do need to join unions and do need to unite to resist them.