Posts Tagged ‘Thangam Debonnaire’

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

September 4, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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Jeremy Corbyn in Bristol: It Is Important Children Understand the History of the Empire

October 14, 2018

This is a short clip, of just over a minute, of Jeremy Corbyn at Bristol’s City Hall, put on YouTube on Thursday by the Daily Fail. Corbyn speaks on the need to educated children about Britain’s role in the slave trade and the British Empire, and mentions Bristol as one of the cities involved in the trade, like Liverpool, and some of whose merchants became rich from it. He states that it’s important people understand the treatment of Black people across the Empire and the contribution they made to it. He says that Windrush has highlighted this need, and the making sure all our children understand the history of the Empire will make our communities stronger. The video shows him descending the ramp leading up to the Council House’s entrance, and inside standing in a dock watching a video on the Empire, or slavery.

The blurb for the piece runs:

Jeremy Corbyn today unveiled proposals to ensure schoolchildren are taught about the legacy of Britain’s role in slavery and colonialism. The move comes on the same day as Labour faces accusations that it is ‘putting ideology first and children second’ with its plans to impose a new rule book on all schools. The National Curriculum already recommends that children learn about the slave trade, the British Empire and colonies in America. Mr Corbyn said that ‘in the light of the Windrush scandal’ it is ‘more important now than ever’ that children learn ‘the role and legacy of the British Empire, colonisation and slavery’. Pictured top right, a drawing showing a slave ship and bottom right, immigrants arriving on the Empire Windrush in 1948.

Thangam Debonnaire, the Blairite MP for Bristol West, also got into the I on a related issue. She had stated at a council meeting that the statue of Colston in the centre of Bristol should be taken down. Colston was a Bristol slave trader, who spent most of his life actually in Mortlake in the London area. He used some of the profits he made from his slaving to do charities in Bristol, including Colston Girls school. Redcliffe School, an Anglican faith school in Bristol, which Mike and I attended, was also endowed by Colston. Every year there is a Colston Day service at which a select group of pupils are given a Colston bun. The big concert hall in the city centre is also named after him.

He’s obviously a very controversial figure, and the Black community has been demanding since the 1990s to have the statue of him taken down. Debonnaire has added her voice to the campaign, saying that we shouldn’t commemorate those who have oppressed us.

Mark Horton, a professor of archaeology at Bristol University, was also on the local news programme for the Bristol area, Points West, on Thursday as well, talking about the statue, the debt Bristol owes to Africa and the need for museums here on slavery or Africa. When asked about Colston’s statue, he made the point that it wasn’t even a very good statue. It’s not actually very old, dating from the late Victorian period. He felt that instead there should be a plaque explaining Colston’s role in the enslavement of Africa’s people, and the statue should be packed in a crate in the City Museum.

He stated that if we wanted our children to be world citizens, we should also have a museum dedicated to slavery and Africa, like Liverpool’s Museum of slavery. David Garmston, the co-host of the news programme, said that Bristol already had a gallery on slavery at the M Shed here in Bristol. Horton agreed, but said that it was a small one. He then referred to the exhibition at the City Museum back in the 1990s, entitled ‘A Respectable Trade’, which went on at the same time as the TV series of the same name, based on the novel by Philippa Gregory. This had a huge number of people attending. Mark said that he had worked in Africa, and had seen for himself the damage imperialism had done, and a museum to Africa was the least we could do.

Listening to him, it struck me that what was really needed was for the Empire and Commonwealth Museum to be revived and brought back to Bristol. I did voluntary work in the slavery archives of that museum from the 1990 to the early 2000s. It was a private museum housed in one of the engine sheds in Bristol’s Temple Meads station. And it did a good job of representing the peoples and cultures of the British Commonwealth, including marginalized indigenous peoples like the Australian aborigines. Unfortunately, in the early part of this century the Museum was offered the premises of the Commonwealth Institute in London. They accepted and went off to the capital. The Museum failed, and the last I heard its former director, Dr. Gareth Griffiths, was being investigated for illegally selling off the Museum’s exhibits. He claimed he was only doing so as the trustees hadn’t given him enough money to keep it running. In my opinion, the Museum should never have been moved from Bristol. If it had still remained here, I’m sure it would still have been running, and would have been a major part of Bristol heritage sector.

I’ve got mixed feelings about these proposals. I’ve no objection to a museum of slavery in Bristol. Liverpool has one, and other cities around the world also have them. Roughly at the same time Bristol was mounting its ‘Respectable Trade’ exhibition, Nantes was also mounting a similar one on its history as France’s main slaving port, called ‘Les Annees du Memoir’. The slave fort at Elmina in Ghana, one of the main areas from which western ships collected their human cargo, also has an exhibition on its part in the slave trade. However, I feel that every care needs to be taken to prevent such exhibitions being used to inculcate White guilt, to express the attitude that White Bristolians are somehow indelibly and forever guilty because of what their ancestors did.

And there are grave problems with any museum of slavery which does not include the wider background to the European transatlantic slave trade. Slavery has existed in various forms across the world since antiquity. The Arabs also conducted a trade in Black slaves from Africa. They were driven across the Sahara into the North Africa states, and sometimes beyond. During the Middle Ages, they were imported into Muslim Spain. The Arabs also exported them across the Indian Ocean to what is now India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as Arabia. Indigenous African peoples were also involved in the trade. One of the chief slaving states in West Africa was Dahomey. In East Africa, in what is now Kenya, Uganda and Malawi, the slaving peoples included the Swahili and Yao. The Europeans didn’t, as a rule, enslave Africans directly themselves. They bought them off other Africans, who could also make immense profits from them. Duke Ephraim, one of the kings of Dahomey, had an income of 300,000 pounds a year in the 1820s, which was larger than that of many English dukes.

After the British banned the slave trade and then slavery themselves, they launched a campaign against it across the globe. the east African countries that became Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and Rhodesia were invaded and conquered as they were centres of the Arab slave trade and the British wanted to prevent them from exporting their human cargo to British India. In some parts of Africa, slavery lingered into the early years of the 20th century because those countries weren’t conquered by the British. Morocco continued importing slaves from Africa south of the Sahara until c. 1911 because the British prevented the other European countries from invading. At the same time, North African Arab pirates preyed on and enslaved White Europeans until Algeria was invaded and conquered by the French. It is estimated that 1 1/2 million Europeans were enslaved over the centuries in this way.

Slavery also existed in Indian society, and the British were responsible for trying to suppress that also in the 19th century. Then Indians, and also the Chinese, were also virtually enslaved too in the infamous ‘Coolie Trade’ in indentured Indian servants, who were imported into the British Caribbean and elsewhere, to replace the Black workers, who had been freed. The Indian and Chinese workers were technically free, but were bound to their masters and worked in appalling conditions that were actually worse than those endured by the former Black slaves.

The history of slavery is complex. It is not simply a case of White westerners preying on people of colour, and I feel strongly that any museum set up to show the history of this infamous trade should show that.

Vox Political: 3 Pro-Corbyn Labour Councillors Purged in Bristol

September 21, 2016

This is another story about the anti-Corbyn shenanigans in Bristol. A few weeks ago one of the city’s Labour MPs, Thangam Debonnaire, attacked Jeremy Corbyn. Now the local Labour party has purged three councillors, who support the Labour leader. They are Harriet Bradley, the councillor for Brislington West, Mike Langley, of Brislington East, and Hibaq Jama of Lawrence Hill. As a result of these purges, the local party has destroyed its slim majority on Bristol city council. They used to have 37 councillors. Now that they’ve purged these three, it’s gone down to three.

Mike asks the obvious question: what kind of politician destroys their own party’s majority in a major city council, simply out of spite against a leader they don’t like? He states that it’s exactly the type of behaviour he criticised the NEC for in a previous article, and state that the people responsible must be named, shamed and disciplined. They’ve harmed the Labour group on the council and made the party the subject of ridicule and disrepute. He states very clearly: Not in my name.

Labour loses its majority on Bristol City Council after Corbyn supporters are purged

The I newspaper adds a few more details to the story. It states that

Bristol was one of the success stories of Mr Corbyn’s mixed local election results earlier this year, with the party taking over the mayoralty and controlling it alongside the elected council for the first time since the post’s creation…

Labour’s national office said it does not comment on the reasons why people are suspended from the party. The Bristol City Council Labour group whip Christopher Jackson confirmed the councillors had had their whips removed “as per the usual”.

The three councillors could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

The paper also quotes a Labour spokesman as saying

“The Labour party has a robust validation process for all votes to ensure every vote cast is eligible in keeping with the Labour Party rules.”

This affects me as a Bristolian. My local councillor was one of those, who signed a petition against Corbyn, so this purging of the three pro-Labour councillors basically tells me that the party does not want my support, or those of people like me, and regards they and me with fear and contempt. The party hasn’t given any reason why the three were purged. Simply trying to shrug it all off as ‘as per the usual’ is nowhere near sufficient. Quite honestly, I don’t think they have a good reason, just as they haven’t for all the 130,000 Labour party members Smudger and the NEC have purged.

I know I’m not going to be alone in being outraged by this. A few months ago there was a mass demo of Corbyn supporters on College Green outside the Library, Council House and Cathedral here in Bristol. The great man himself also appeared to address the crowd. But this has been too much for the Blairites on the local council. No doubt they will start cooking something up about the three having brought the party into disrepute through abusive emails, but the fact that Jackson just shrugged off demands for an explanation saying, ‘as per usual’ simply indicates that they’re so arrogant the Blairites can’t even be bothered to make up any kind of pretext for the purges. They just say, ‘the usual’, and hope the rest of us will swallow.

We’re not. I’m very tempted to write a letter to the local Labour party complaining about this and demanding an explanation. I do not want to see the Labour party in my city taken over by people, who are Tories in all but name, and who, as Blairites, are complicit in supporting his privatisation of the NHS, the welfare cuts, the work capability test and all the rest of the foul policies Blair introduced to grind the working people of this country down so he could get votes from ‘aspirational’ – read, ‘snobbish and embittered’ ex-Tory voters.

Short 3-4 Minute Video of Jeremy Corbyn at Bristol Rally

August 11, 2016

I’m afraid I haven’t posted much over the past several days. Some of this is due to having other things to do, and its partly just pure laziness and the desire to take a little break. But I found this excellent little video of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, speaking at a rally in Bristol on Monday.

Corbyn talks about Bristol and the anti-racism campaign by the Black bus drivers led by Paul Stephenson, and backed by Tony Benn. He mentions that Benn was also against the human rights abuses perpetrated by the British government against the Mao Mao rebels in Kenya. He congratulates Marvin Rees on his victory as Bristol’s elected mayor. He then talks about the general housing crisis, and how it’s there’s a shortage of council houses in Bristol. This has become so acute that even those from well-off families can no longer afford to own their own homes. The situation has been made worse in Bristol, as the council has been told it must sell off the higher quality properties.

He promises that his government will build more homes, so that people have a roof over their heads, that they can look forward to owning their homes and having affordable electricity. He promises to improve public services. The video ends with his pledge to create a society in which no section of the population or person is left behind.

Now, I’ve only seen this edited and highly compressed version, but from it I see absolutely no evidence that Corbyn is somehow a bad speaker, who cannot sway crowds with his oratory. He speaks here with urgency and passion, and the crowd are shown listening respectfully and recording him. Despite Thangam Debonnaire’s backing of the Chickencoup over in Bristol East, the impression I had is that Corbyn is massively popular with grassroots Labour supporters in Bristol. There was a rally in support of him in the city a couple of weeks ago, before he arrived here.

Vox Political on the Suspension of Wallasey Constituency Labour Party

July 21, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political also put up a piece today about the suspensions of Wallasey constituency Labour party by the Labour Party’s general secretary, Ian McNicol. Apparently, there had been complaints about bullying and intimidation, though the real reason may have been that the party had voted to deselect Angela Eagle, and was planning another meeting at which the deselection would be approved. It was also planning to pass other decisions, which would be sent to the national party.

Mike wonders whether it Mr McNicol has bothered to investigate the complaint, or whether it is a case, where the authorities have used unsupported excuse of there having been a complaint to stop an event they didn’t like. In Mike’s case, this was where the local council would ban any event they didn’t want using that excuse. The accuracy of the complaint was never investigated, so there was never any proof.

He also makes the point that it does not seem that Mr McNicol issued the party with a written warning before he suspended it, as he is required to do under Chapter 6 of the party’s rule book.

If there is no proof that there was bullying and intimidation in the party, and if no written warning was issued, then Mr McNicol is liable to be investigated and suspended for his infraction of the rules.

See Mike’s article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/20/angela-eagles-local-labour-party-suspended-but-the-decision-may-be-against-the-rules/

This seems to show just how desperate the parliamentary Labour party is to cull Corbyn supporters from the membership, and the complete contempt the Blairites have for the grassroots. They’ve already suspended Brighton, the biggest constituency Labour party. There were allegations of intimidation of anti-Corbynistas in the local Labour party for Bristol East, though Mike has reported that despite the local Labour MP Thangam Debonnaire giving her support to the supposed victims, other people at the meeting claimed it was no rowdier or threatening than usual.

Of course, Blair had similar intolerant attitudes to possible sources of dissent in the Labour party. He had the public schoolboy’s hatred of the trade unions, and one of the first things he did when he took over the Labour party was threaten to cut the party’s ties with them. As the Labour party was partly founded by the unions to represent working people in parliament, this was an attack on a core, founding element of the party.

This also reminds me very strongly of the actions of the Parliamentarians during the Civil War. This was ‘Pride’s Purge’, when Colonel Pride entered parliament on 6th December 1648 to arrest 45 MPs and prevent 78 more from taking their seats. Twenty more MPs refused to take their seats. As a result, the ‘Rump’ parliament was the acquiescent tool of the army. It’s presumably this piece of history which has inspired the name of Tom Pride’s blog, ‘Pride’s Purge’. The rump parliament differs from the current Labour administration in that it was actually very radical. It abolished the House of Lords, the monarchy and declared Britain a commonwealth. Blair reformed, but did not abolish the House of Lords, packing it with more of his supporters. And economically, his followers were very determined to maintain and expand the status quo in the form of capitalism and the power of private industry.

There is one other similarity between the Cromwellian interregnum and Tony Blair, however. Both began terrible invasions of other countries, which has resulted in massive bloodshed and a legacy of terrible national and social division. Cromwell invaded Ireland, an event which is notorious in Irish and British history for the terrible atrocities inflicted on the Roman Catholic population. And Blair joined Bush in the illegal invasion of Iraq, which has also destroyed the country and resulted in massive bloodshed and atrocities.

Anti-Corbyn Controversy Hits Bristol East

July 12, 2016

This Saturday the local BBC news for the Bristol region, Points West, reported that a meeting of the Bristol East Labour party had become intensely heated over the issue of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. So much so, that two of the anti-Corbyn opposition claimed that the anti-Corbynites had been abused. One of them, a young woman, said that one of her male comrades had left in tears, saying that this was ‘not his party’. The Bristol East Labour MP, Thangam Debonnaire, then was interviewed outside her home, declaring that Jeremy Corbyn was ‘too divisive’ and should leave. The report then passed to Angela Eagle, also shown coming out of her front door, to denounce Corbyn as ‘unelectable’ and ‘divisive’, and announce that she would be running for leadership of the party, and would unite everyone. A spokesman for Momentum made the point that the Labour party had massively expanded under Corbyn, and stated that the incident didn’t happen.

Now, if the Blairites at the meeting were genuinely abused, I feel sorry for them. People should have controlled their tempers, and their should have been more personal respect. If all that was said was true…

But that’s a big ‘if’. The Blairites have lied, and lied again, in a sequence of mendacity that would have made Goebbels proud. They made much of Corbyn being heckled at a gay rights rally, when the heckler was actually a member of the Lib Dems. Another stunt was the product of Tom Mauchline, an employee of Portland Communications, the PR company owned by the son of Jack Straw. They produced a Tee-shirt proclaiming ‘Eradicate Blairite Scum’, which was shown off to smear the Corbynites, when in fact it was produced by yet another Blairite and her pet ‘media guru’. Or, to put it in plainer language, ‘pretentious IT moron’. Mike last week also carried a story that at a meeting over on the other side of the country, the Corbynites had subjected the Blairite faithful to a volley of homophobic abuse. Except that they hadn’t. One of the women present had a daughter, who had recently married her same-sex partner. This lady had very definitely attended the wedding. She was, therefore, obviously not a woman who would tolerate homophobic abuse. This lady claimed that nothing of the sort of happened, and was very clear about it. Frankly, I don’t believe that Corbynites would indulge in homophobic abuse. They’re too left-wing. The Labour left, which emerged in the 1980s, and of which Corbyn and his deputy, John McConnell, were a part, were very firmly anti-racist, anti-sexist and pro-gay rights. You think of the fury in the press when one of the London constituencies put up Peter Tatchell. And all the jokes about ‘looney-left’ councils like Brent advertising for non-gender specific personnel, and run by Black lesbians. It’s rubbish.

And then there’s the whole matter of the anti-Semitism accusations, which has seen decent, sincerely anti-racist opponents of anti-Semitism, some of them even Jewish, smeared for what were actually fair criticisms of Israel and its appalling maltreatment of the Palestinians.

As for the Blairites’ claim that Corbyn is unelectable, the opposite is true. Corbyn has won three bye-elections. He has massive grassroots support in the Labour party. It is the 172 rebel Labour MPs, and their leader, Angela Eagle, who are divisive. And if anyone’s betrayed the working class, it’s them. For twenty years the Blairites carried out a programme of privatisation, including the privatisation of the NHS, for corporate interests, along with the dismantling of the system of welfare benefits. Jobs in government were given to the most mendacious and exploitative of the captains of industry. Blair himself had a wide-eyed admiration of Thatcher, private enterprise and the rich.

If Eagle had any decency, she and the others would rethink their basic policies, renounce their intentions to oppose Corbyn, and stand down to let others, who will support him, take their place. And if they can’t do that, they should leave the party.