Posts Tagged ‘the Courts’

Tory Voter ID Scheme Is a Devise to Stop People Voting

May 9, 2018

The council elections last Thursday were also the occasion for the Tories to test their latest wheeze regarding people’s right to vote. This purports to stamp out electoral fraud by demanding that only people carrying proof of their ID should be allowed to cast a vote at the polling station. The scheme was trialled in Bromley, Woking, Gosport and Swindon. As a result, a total 3,981 people were prevented from voting in these constituencies. People were turned away from about one in five polling stations.

Mike reported this on his blog, making the point that their were only 28 cases of voter fraud amongst 45 million people in 2917. He commented that as a scheme to allow everyone to vote, who had a right to vote, it was a complete disaster. But he went to suggest that this wasn’t the real reason for the scheme. This was to cut down on the number of people able to vote for the competing parties.

He then quoted Labour’s Cat Smith, the Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, who stated that there was no point in introducing the scheme in the first place, and that the government had ignored the warning signs to set up a discriminatory scheme which denied people their right to vote.

She demanded that the government abandon the scheme, saying “We cannot allow the Conservative Party to undermine our democracy, which is why Labour is calling on the Government to scrap their voter ID plans as a matter of urgency.”

And Mike concluded his article with the comment

If the Conservatives go ahead with this, based on the evidence we’ve seen, we’ll know they are trying to nobble democracy.

Over to you, Tories.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/05/voter-id-pilot-turned-away-too-many-people-tories-are-bound-to-roll-it-out-across-the-uk/

Actually, there shouldn’t be any doubt about this. The Tories are trying to nobble democracy. A year or so ago I put up piece about a similar scheme introduced by the Republicans in America. This altered the rules for registering to vote, ostensibly with the same intention of preventing voter fraud. In fact, it was intended to deprive the Democrats of votes by making more difficult for students, the poor and Blacks, who form a large part of the Democrats’ electoral support, to vote. One Republican in one of the southern states actually admitted this. The issue was reported and heavily commented on by some of the American left-wing alternative news sites, like The Young Turks. I’d guess that there’s a similar situation in Britain, where support for the Labour party is strongest amongst the young, the poor and ethnic minorities. All of whom might find it more difficult to produce proof of their identities than older, richer Whites.

Not that the Democrats themselves haven’t been averse to using similar methods. Counterpunch in their book, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate reported a similar scheme introduced by them in Florida, which resulted in thousands of Blacks and Latinos being turned away.

The Tories have taken very many of their ideas from the Republicans over the pond. These include the introduction of private police forces, which was dreamed up in the 1980s by Libertarians like Rothbard, E. Nozick and Gauthier in Canada, as part of their ideal ‘minarchist’ state. Rothbard wanted to privatise the courts, which is probably too loony even for the Tories and Republicans. But you never know. Fiddling the voting requirements to stop people voting for the opposing party, all under the pretense of fighting electoral fraud, seems to be another idea they’ve adopted from the Republicans.

Cat Smith and Mike are right. This is all about nobbling democracy and denying people their right to vote. And if the Tories think it has given them a better chance at the polls, they will introduce it nationally. It has to be stopped. Now.

Five Thousand People Sign Petition Calling for Deregistration of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism

May 7, 2018

That redoubtable campaigner against all forms of Fascism and racism, including Zionism, Tony Greenstein, put up a post on Saturday reporting that 5,680 people have signed the petition calling for the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism to be deregistered as a charity. Under the rules of the Charity Commission, charities have to be apolitical. The CAA clearly isn’t, as despite its monicker, as it pays precious little attention to real anti-Semitism. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is the malign, and highly political organisation, that libeled Mike and so many others in the Labour party as anti-Semites simply because they have criticised Israel, defended those who did, and worse, actually have historical fact on their side. It’s real purpose is to defend Israel by smearing its critics, as the Israel lobby has been doing pretty much since the 1970s.

Greenstein begins the article with the words

Some 5,680 people have signed a petition calling on the Charity Commission to deregister the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. It brings the whole charity sector into disrepute. There is no discernible public benefit arising from its operation. It is widely suspected to be funded by the Israeli state as part of its anti-BDS dirty tricks operations.

He then notes that Gideon Falter, the head of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, is also the director of the JNF UK. This the Jewish National Fund, the organisation that owns 93 per cent of all land in Israel, and which recently fought a decision by the Israeli courts to make it rent its property to non-Jews, like Arabs.

Greenstein then goes on to discuss two instances out of the very many cases where the CAA has libelled people as anti-Semites. One was a young Palestinian woman, Malaka Mohammed Shwaikh, a Ph.D. student as Exeter University. Shwaikh comes from Gaza, and was understandably furious and distress at the Israeli bombardment of her home. She used very strong words to describe her attitude to Israel, which the CAA twisted to make it appear she was anti-Semites. This was repeated in the press, including Mail and the Express. The university’s student guild investigated the claim, found it was false. Shwaikh was exonerated, and the press, including the Heil and Depress, had to issue corrections.

The other example is Jackie Walker. The CAA claimed that she had asked if Hitler could be blamed for the Holocaust. In fact, she said no such thing, but was just repeating a quote from Nahum Goldman, the President of the World Jewish Congress and the Zionist Organisation. And Goldman himself had been quoting the former Israeli president, David Ben Gurion.

Greenstein then goes on to show the immense hypocrisy of the CAA and the press repeating its lies in its treatment of headlines about the Jewish American banker, George Soros. The newspapers ran stories about Soros claiming that he was manipulating British politics. This is close to the anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish bankers controlling world politics. It’s the myth that the CAA and its fellows claimed Mike was repeating when he described the attempts by the former Israeli embassy official, Shai Masot, to interfere in British politics as a conspiracy. But it’s one rule for the CAA and quite another for everybody else.

Greenstein also discusses how the CAA has written 200 odd articles attacking Jeremy Corbyn for supposedly backing anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers. Which is another gross libel. And it is also massively Islamophobic. It has smeared Britain’s Muslims by claiming that they are more likely than anyone else to be anti-Semitic. Among its patrons is the notorious Tory islamophobe Bob Blackman, who caused a storm by posting some highly offensive posts expressing his hatred of Islam and Muslims.

He also has this to say about the extreme right-wing views of the former head of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross.

The Charity Commission has, until recently, been Chaired by the Islamaphobe and right-wing bigot William Shawcross. Shawcross was an ex-Director of the cold war Henry Jackson Society and he was reported in the Guardian as having said in 2012 that ‘Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future”. The CAA, in response to a petition calling on the Charity Commission to deregister them tried to intimidate Change.org into taking the petition down (they failed!).

He continues

This has however got to be the beginning of the campaign to remove this political cancer. The CAA needs to be treated as any other racist and fascist organisation. It’s actions against genuinely anti-Semitic individuals are a mask for its real purpose. It pursues individuals like Alison Chabloz, a complete nonentity with severe personality and mental health problems, whilst refraining from criticising any anti-Semitic organisation that is pro-Israel. When the Tory newspapers launched a campaign against George Soros, using the traditional anti-Semitic meme that he was an international Jewish financier who was trying to ensure that Britain remained subject to the control of ‘global interests’, the CAA exonerated them. It’s headline was: ‘Today’s article in the Daily Telegraph about George Soros’ intervention in British politics is not antisemitic, but editors chose their headline poorly. Yes quite. And its reaction to the Sun’s ‘Puppet Masters’ headline? There wasn’t one!

And concludes his article by urging his readers to reblog his article, and urges people to email the current of the Charity Commission, Ms Grenfell, to make their views known regarding the Commission’s inactivity to date to act against the CAA.

http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2018/05/over-5000-people-sign-petition-saying.html

Greenstein is himself Jewish, like so many of the other people the CAA and their fellows have smeared as an anti-Semite. The number, who’ve signed the petition is low. It’s about the same number of people, who signed a petition calling on Tony Blair to stand on his head and spin in the early part of this century. But it also shows that a growing number of people are becoming aware of how fraudulent and politically motivated the CAA’s claims of anti-Semitism are. And the more people they smear, the more this number are going to grow, despite the efforts of the right-wing press to try and back them up.

Democrat Lawmakers Wish to Strip Trump of His Power to Launch Nuclear Missiles

August 13, 2017

At last, after the mindless, terrifying posturing of Trump and Kim Jong In, there’s a bit of common sense in this latest nuclear crisis. A group of Democrat politicos, including Mark Lew, are demanding a change in legislation that would strip the American president of his current power to launch a nuclear attack without Congress’ authorization. This piece of legislation is currently backed by 50,000 signatures from the American public. A previous version of the law was signed by 500,000 people.

In this clip from The Ring of the Fire, the front man not only welcomes this piece of legislation, which would restrain Trump as someone too dangerously unstable to have this power, but asks why it was never passed before. All the past presidents, including Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan and George Dubya, had the power to launch a nuclear missile somewhere without having to seek Congress’ approval. This means that they could destroy a region anywhere, and leave it uninhabitable for 30 years. The presenter makes the point that no-one should power.

He’s absolutely right. The British comics writer and creator, Pat Mills, made a similar point back in an edition of Diceman, a comic whose strips were all Role-Playing Games. In one of these, the reader played Ronald Reagan, who had to go back in time to undo the series of events which were about to start a nuclear war with the former Soviet Union. Mills wrote in the notes to the game a piece detailing how little operational machinery there was in place to check a president’s decision to launch a nuclear attack, or halt hostilities once they had began. These procedures were so few that, if America had been on the brink of a nuclear to the point where the president had gone aboard Airforce 1 to escape an attack on the White House, his chance of contacting the Russian premier to negotiate a peace and pull back from Armageddon would depend literally on a three mile length of wire dangling from the aircraft as an emergency aerial.

And this was under Reagan, whose rhetoric and conduct towards the USSR and Communism was especially belligerent. He nearly started a nuclear holocaust himself with that stupid joke he made at a Republican rally. He stood in front of the cheering crowd, and declared that ‘Congressed has passed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union. Bombing begins in five minutes’. A little while later, the Observer reported under the headline, ‘Nearly the Last Laugh of All’, that after Reagan made that stupid joke, one of the Soviet nuclear bases in Siberia went on red alert for half an hour before standing down.

We can’t have the power to start a nuclear war, and turn this planet into a lifeless cinder, unilaterally held by the President, without a comprehensive system of check. It shouldn’t be held by Reagan, Barack Obama or Clinton, let alone a pratt like Trump.

I have a feeling that the system may have been set up the way it has been for swiftness of response. If Russia had fired nuclear missiles at America, the president could have launched a rapid counterattack in the precious last few minutes the country still existed, instead of seeking Congressional approval.
But the Americans discussing abandoning their ‘no strike first’ policy, removing this power from the presidency is a small price to pay for increased global security.

It’s also similar to a proposal in Britain to strip the Prime Minister of the right to start a war without the consent of parliament. This is precisely what Blair and his cronies did when they joined Bush in the invasion of Iraq. Looking through Waterstone’s shelves the other month, I saw a book by a British general arguing against the proposal, on the grounds that it would hinder Britain’s ability to wage war.

A fair reply to this argument would be ‘Good.’

The Iraq invasion was an illegal act of aggression, launched on a tissue of lies that Saddam Hussein was planning another attack, and had weapons of mass destruction. He wasn’t and didn’t. The result has been the destruction of one of the richest, most secular nations in the Middle East, the devastation of its priceless antiquities, and millions dead, wounded and displaced not only in Iraq itself but across the Middle East.

It plunged the country into a vicious, sectarian civil war, in which the American occupying forces gave material aid and sanction to Shia death squads, while the mercenaries employed by the West ran completely out of control. These private military contractors were responsible for prostitution to murder, sometimes just killing ordinary Iraqis and Arabs just for kicks.

There is a very strong case for hauling Blair, Bush and the other warmongers up before the Hague as war criminals. This has been tried by British, Canadian and Greek lawyers, but American pressure on the Hague War Crimes Tribunal put a stop to it. And a few weeks ago a British court also ruled that Blair could not be indicted as the war criminal he is.

Considering the horror Blair unleashed through his decision to go to war, against the wishes of over a million ordinary Brits, who marched against it – Christian, Muslim, atheist, whatever, then it’s only too right that the Prime Minister should have to call parliament before they declare war.

Boris Johnson’s Car Crash Radio Interview. But Will He Be Ridiculed like Diane Abbott?

June 22, 2017

My drawing of Boris Johnson, who seems to have been in some pain. Make up your own jokes.

Earlier today, Mike put up an audio clip of Boris Johnson, Tory MP for Henley on Thames, former editor of the Spectator, mayor of London, and frequent guest on Have I Got News For You being interviewed on the Queen’s Speech by Eddie Mair on Radio 4. Boris has got a reputation as an incompetent buffoon, based on the fact that things have gone spectacularly wrong with him in charge in public for years. Like, for example, when he tried coming down a zipline for some event, and got stuck halfway along and had to be rescued. Or when he shut himself out of his own house in front of reporters. Or when he held a press meeting for some campaign he was involved in, only to have the video go wrong, as reported in Private Eye.

This interview will most certainly not have dispelled that reputation.

Mair begins by asking Johnson about Theresa May’s comments last year about tackling various injustices. What was there in the Queen’s Speech today, about correcting the harsher treatment Blacks receive in court?

Johnson’s reply was a series a mumbled ‘ers’, followed by ‘I’ve got it here somewhere’ and rustling sounds.

So Mair moved on to his next question, which was about what plans the government may have to tackle mental health issues.

More mumbling and sounds of ignorance from Johnson, who then tried to change the subject and go back to the previous question.

At which point Mair brought him up sharp with the words, ‘No, Boris, this isn’t the Two Ronnies, where you can answer the question before last’, referring to that sketch which gently sent up Mastermind.

He then asked Boris about the contents of the Queen’s Speech in general. BoJo didn’t know, and so Mair told him. Or rather, he listed all the subjects and policies May had said she would tackle in her manifesto, which she has now discarded. 13.7 million people voted for that manifesto, said Mair. Was it right that this should now be thrown away?

More mumbling and muttering from Boris, who blustered something about ‘changed circumstances’.

Along with the clip, Mike has also put up some of the responses to it on social media, including those of the Labour politicos John Prescott and Chuka Umunna, and the left-wing writer and journo, Owen Jones. All of them make the point that this was a dreadful interview, comparable to that of Diane Abbott a few weeks ago. This resulted in Abbott being ridiculed across the media. Now Boris has given a similarly bad one, so will he get the same treatment?

They all make the point that he won’t.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/22/boris-johnson-makes-an-ass-of-himself-on-radio-interview-but-will-he-receive-diane-abbott-style-ridicule/

No surprise there. The French Philosophical Feline, Guy Debord’s Cat, made this point over a fortnight ago when Abbott was forced to pull out of the campaign due to ill health. People started muttering about how this showed she was incompetent, while May asked the rhetorical question if people wanted this woman as Home Secretary? La Chat Philosophique Francaise compared this to the 1970s racist campaign against the Labour party, in which voters were explicitly told that if you wanted a ‘coloured’ living next to you, you should vote for the Labour party. Or to put it crudely, ‘If you want a n***er for a neighbour, vote Labour’. He writes

In the last week or so, we’ve heard May and her Tories say “Would you want Diane Abbott as Home Secretary”? Such a question is predicated on the knowledge of the Other. The idea that the Home Office will be run not only by a woman, but a black woman is too much to bear for our crypto-racists. Better to have a white woman or a white man in charge, eh? Where are the black faces in May’s cabinet? There are none. There are a couple of Asian millionaires but no black people.

Diane Abbott has been attacked precisely because she is black and because she’s a woman. Boris Johnson is allowed to make as many gaffes as he likes and get away with it. He’s given plenty of latitude when he indulges in racism and his thuggish behaviour is regularly overlooked, even laughed off. He’s a clown, so we’re told.

He concludes

When you base your competency argument on a handful of gaffes rather than a person’s record, then you play the bully’s game. If you can’t see the obvious racism that underpins the bullying of Abbott and prefer to focus on her presumed incompetency, then you need to have a word with yourself.

https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/racism-and-the-bullying-of-diane-abbott/

Part of the issue in Abbott’s case, I suspect, is the fact that challenging racism has been a very important part of Abbott’s political career. Her parents were both working class. The Daily Mail a little while ago in an article on her claimed that she was personally embittered because she believed that her mother had been passed over for promotion because of her colour. Which is very possible, given the racism of the times.

As a result, Abbott got a reputation as someone, who was prejudiced against Whites. In the 1987 one of the Tory papers – I think it was the Scum – ran a double spread of photographs of various Labour politicians, underneath which was a quote designed to frighten all right-thinking British Thatcherites. Underneath Red Ken’s fizzog was the quotation ‘I am not in favour of the army. I am in favour of arming the working classes to guard the factories.’

And below Abbot’s was the statement ‘All White people are racist’.

This was designed to show how far left and unfit for government the Labour party was. As it stands, Ken Livingstone was in favour of workers’ control, though this was only one aspect of his views on industry and government. And as some of his Tory opponents and colleagues in London admitted, Livingstone was far from a lunatic.

I’m sure the same can be said for Abbott. The quotations from the Scum sound plausible, but that’s what effective propaganda has to be. If it sounds like lies, then people won’t believe it. And it isn’t as though the Scum doesn’t have a reputation for lying. As one of the premier organs of Thatcherite propaganda, it shares all the mendacity of the party is loudly supports.

And this is quite apart from its blatant racism. Way back at the end of the 1990s or the first years of this century, Private Eye ran an article on yet another case in which the Scum had been hauled up before the Press Complaints Commission, as was, for racism. The Eye pointed out that the wretched paper had had 19 decisions against it by the Commission for racism over the years. And that was then. Who knows what the count is now!

As for Abbott, she seems perfectly at home with Michael Portillo and Andrew Neil on The Daily Politics. I did hear a little while ago that Portillo was her baby’s godfather, though I’m not sure if this is right. If it is, it confirms that she’s fitted right in as a politician of long and distinguished standing.

Will Boris get pilloried for his dreadful performance? Of course he won’t! He’s White, pukka old Etonian establishment – the type of people, who believe that they have an unquestionable right to govern the rest of us, and who the right-wing media, including the Beeb, will support against challengers like Abbott. Or Jeremy Corbyn, for that matter, who was also ridiculed after failing to know the answer to a question posed by Woman’s Hour.

Which will just show just how biased in terms of class and race the Beeb and media are.

And for fans of classic comedy, here’s the Two Ronnies Sketch in question.

End Workfare Now: Part 3

June 20, 2017

Workfare Is Unjust

Workfare unfairly penalises the unemployed. For example, in 2011 the ConDem government made the conditions imposed on benefit claimants and the penalties for avoidance under the Labour government’s New Deal even more stringent. Those performing workfare were required to work for up to thirty hours a week for 28 days. The work performed was to be that which benefited the community. Taken as wages, this meant that claimants were working at a rate of £2.50 an hour, well below the minimum wage. If they turned the job down, or didn’t complete the course of mandatory labour, they had their benefits sanctioned for three months. This was increased to six if they repeated the ‘transgression’. This is unjust, because no-one else in society is expected to work for the minimum wage except convicts in prison.

It’s also unjust in that it makes the economically insecure even more so, and takes away the way long-accepted social right to refuse to work. At the same time, it gives power over the unemployed to the state’s bureaucrats and the private outsourcing companies. Also, forced labour is offensive against human dignity and does not lead to increased personal development.

Workfare Stops People Looking for Jobs

Spending thirty hours a week on workfare actually cuts down on the available time the unemployed are able to spend looking for work. P.A. Gregg, in their book Job Guarantee: Evidence and Design (Bristol: Bristol University Centre for Market and Public Organisation 2009) actually found that because of this, workfare actually stopped people from getting jobs.

Lowering Incomes over Life

Workfare is also unjust, as instead of giving people the ability to acquire a career, or jobs leading to one, it may instead lower their long-term income by keeping them in a series of low-paid, temporary work. People should have the right to decide for themselves which jobs to take and what they should do when it affects their long term prospects. If the state instead forces them to take a certain course, then it should also be required to compensate them if the course demanded is the wrong one.

Workfare Keeps Wages Low

By forcing people to take low-paid jobs, and making this a threat to force other workers also to take jobs that pay less than they would otherwise take, workfare leads to lower wages. The Labour Party in the UK declared that it was in favour of a ‘national living wage’ above the minimum. However, it then contradicted this intention by stating that those performing workfare would do so at the minimum wage. The Labour party may have meant this to stop those on workfare competing with those in paid employment, though MPs like Liam Byrne have shown themselves to be every bit as spiteful and punitive in their treatment of the unemployed as the Tories. In any case, this policy still puts on pressure to force wages downwards.

For there to be a genuine living wage, politicians should increase and strengthen the ability of the unemployed to bargain for higher wages. It is only when workers really have an effective ability to bargain that employers are either forced to pay a living wage, or decide that the job is unnecessary and the potential productivity too low. Standing concludes from this that ‘The reality is that the utilitarian mindset does not care about the precariat’.

Workfare Labour Replaces Genuine Workers

If the jobs performed under workfare were genuine and productive, it would be unfair to workers in those jobs, and to the short-term unemployed, as the government-subsidized labourers supplied under workfare would replace existing workers, or stop them hiring other unemployed people. In 2011 Tesco collaborated with the Jobcentres to create 3,000 unpaid placements for those on workfare, who would work for the company for four weeks. Homebase and Asda were
also keen to use such unpaid labour. As was Poundland, which also announced that it was taking on benefit claimants, though it denied that this would affect their existing recruiting activity. Whatever those companies said, clearly their use of cheap workfare labour was replacing paid workers and stopping the unemployed from getting permanent jobs with those companies.

Workfare Extends State Power

When the High and Appeal Courts upheld the challenge to performing mandatory workfare by the geology graduate, who objected to having to work in Poundland, and a young chap, who had been sanctioned for refusing it, the Condem government responded by rushing through emergency legislation making the refusal to perform workfare punishable by sanctions. The procedure in which the legislation was rushed through parliament was supposed to be use only in national emergencies. The legislation further contravened accepted notions of justice, in that it acted retrospectively. That is, it punished actions committed before the laws against them had been passed, an idea that strikes at the very notion of justice enshrined across the world in human rights laws. The Labour party, which should have opposed this motion, didn’t. They abstained, and members of the Shadow Cabinet were told that if they voted against the motion, they would have to resign. This demonstrates just how deeply workfare had become embedded as the official ideology of the state and the main parties.

Welfare-to-Work as Corporate Scam

The private companies administering workfare, such as A4E and Ingeus, have profited immensely from this new, growth industry in unfree labour. They are paid £13,500 for every person they manage to put in a long term job. If the job is only short-term, then they receive only half that amount. There is thus considerable pressure for them to choose only those most likely to obtain long term employment, and thus discriminate against vulnerable minorities, including the disabled. The Employment Related Services Association, the trade body for the welfare-to-work industry, complained that more of the people being referred to these companies were those with disabilities, who had been judged ‘fit for work’ according to the tests imposed for the Employment and Support Allowance awarded to the disabled to help them maintain their independence.

The workfare companies also have wide powers in deciding which ‘work placements’ to put people on, and what counts as ‘community benefit’. The DWP permits them to place workers in private companies if this is considered to benefit those firms’ local communities. For a long time the DWP has refused to publish the information on the allocation of workfare labourers to private firms. The government flatly refused to reveal the identities of the participating firms on the grounds that if they did so, the scheme would fail due to public pressure forcing them to drop out. A list of the firms involved has recently been released after a series of Freedom Of Information Act requests. The two largest workfare contractors also refused to comment, when they were asked if they were forcing the workers contracted to them to work for private companies.

Additionally, many of the private companies administering the scheme are run by, or have links to, politicians, which is symptomatic of the general corporate corruption of parliament and the revolving door between corporations, MPs and senior civil servants. Tomorrow’s People, the charity that became notorious for stranding the workfare labourers it had employed for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee under London Bridge, where they were forced to sleep, was run by a Conservative peer.

Conclusion: End Workfare Forced Labour

Workfare is thus highly exploitative, and should be banned. It is the thin edge of a wedge leading to the increasing use of force against the poor and unemployed. One staff member from the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux described the situation to Standing thus

The boundaries of the acceptable are being pushed further in the direction of unfree labour. We’ve been here before – breaking stones in return for food during the Irish famine, and similar schemes in 16th & 17th century England, the difference being that technology means peoples’ activity can be monitored more and informal economy lifelines are being pushed further underground. I was talking with a colleague who has picked up growth of prostitution as one means of survival. I don’t know what it would take to break us (society, whatever that means) out of apathy to make protests against what we’re doing to ourselves.

Standing also makes a very apt point, directed at those members of the Left, who refuse to take a stand on it, fearing that it would damage their parties’ chances of winning elections. He states

It is a moralistic policy that should be passionately opposed by every liberal and progressive. If doing so puts political success at risk, so be it. Values matter.

This looks like a dig at Blairite New Labour, which has consistently abstained on the workfare issue instead of firmly opposing it. The Blairites based New Labour’s electoral success on appealing to swing voters, and not challenging Tory policy, except on the grounds that they could administer it more efficiently and were more concerned with social justice. The latter view is particularly specious, as in many cases New Labour went much further in its austerity and privatisation programmes than the Tories. It’s a concern that still motivates the Blairites in their repeated campaigns against the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. And it’s not an excuse for failing to tackle this new form of forced labour, a system that is slowly edging towards real slavery.

Bibliography

Alexander Berkman, ‘Lazy Men and Dirty Work’, in George Woodcock, ed., The Anarchist Reader (Fontana Press: 1986) 334-338.

Alex DeJonge, Stalin and the Shaping of the Soviet Union (Fontana/Collins 1986) 270-2.

‘Miss World and Mrs Mao’ in Clive James, The Crystal Bucket (Picador: 1982) 232-4.

Guy Standing, A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens (London: Bloomsbury 2014) 262-79.

‘Labour Service (Reicharbeitsdienst – RAD)’ in James Taylor and Warren Shaw, A Dictionary of the Third Reich (London: Grafton Books 1988) 213.

‘Unemployment’ in James Taylor and Warren Shaw, A Dictionary of the Third Reich (London

Vox Political: Amazon Boss to Get DWP Directorship

February 4, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political today posted this piece from the Guardian, commenting on Margaret Hodge’s disgust at Amazon’s boss of Chinese operations getting a directorship at the DWP: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/04/amazon-bosss-dwp-appointment-is-disgusting-but-when-did-government-departments-start-having-directors/ In his comment, he asks a very pertinent question: since when did the DWP, or the Civil Service as a whole, start having directorships? Traditionally, the heads of the civil service were secretaries over various descriptions, undersecretaries, private secretaries, personal private secretaries, etc. Secretaries by the bushel, secretaries by the bucketful. But no directors. So, he asks, is this indication that the Gentleman Ranker, Ian ‘Snollygaster’ Duncan Smith, wants to privatise another section of the DWP, or indeed the whole government department?

It’s a good question. IDS – just one vowel away from ‘AIDS’, and nearly as poisonous – and the rest of the Tories really do seem to think that privatising everything is the solution. They took this idea over from the Libertarians in America, who want just about everything privatised, even the courts. All in the name of small government. I don’t think even IDS is so stupid that he wants to go as far as completely privatising the justice system, but he and they do seem to follow the libertarian line about privatising the police force. This policy is based on the idea that private corporations are automatically more efficient and more effective than state operated enterprises or organisations. Even when it’s been proved again and yet again that they aren’t. The Civil Service was originally considered unsuitable for privatisation, so they did the next best thing. They quasi-privatised part of it, but separating the Department of Health from the Department of Social Security, and turned the latter into the Benefits Agency. Now it seems that they want to privatise it completely, at least piecemeal.

As for the title of ‘director’, there’s an element of vanity in there. IDS, Cameron and the others have all entered public service from business, and therefore don’t seem to be satisfied with simply having the title and job description as ‘public servants’. No, they want to be seen as hot-shot directors, not secretaries. So directors they must be, even if it’s completely inappropriate. Way back in the 1990s, a similar rebranding occurred in the Department of Trade and Industry. This wasn’t good enough for the responsible minister at the time, who insisted on calling it, ‘The Department of Enterprise’, in line with Thatcherite Yuppie ideology. Well, yuppies have come and gone. A lot of them finally gave up the game when the steam ran out of the part of the Thatcher Revolution, and New Labour came to power, only to carry on her legacy in a slightly less noxious form. But as the idea of directorships in the DWP shows, it’s still there. And it’s entirely inappropriate.

Directors are the heads of private companies, which are driven by the profit motive. The aim of private enterprise is primarily to make money, not to provide a service. The role of the civil service, on the contrary, is to provide a service in spheres which are outside the applicability of the profit motive. It’s why there are just so many regulations prescribing the correct conduct of civil servants and what constitutes corruption. They aren’t there to enrich themselves at the expense of the state or its citizens. They are there to serve the public. This latter point is important. It was imported into the Civil Service ethos by the Trevelyan in the 19th century. His idea of moral, responsible service by state officials was largely based on the old Stoic ideal of service to the state. Trevelyan himself was an utter b*stard in some respects. He had absolutely zero sympathy for the victims of the Irish Potato Famine, and did not want them to be given any relief in their most dire need. It’s an episode which has cast a terrible shadow over subsequent relations between Britain and Ireland ever since. But Trevelyan’s reform of the Civil Service did create an ethos of efficient, responsible public service. IDS’ creation of directorships threatens to undermine this, and throw the whole institution back to the corruption of the 18th century and previously, when officeholders believed that they had an absolute right to exploit their position to the full to enrich themselves.

And in that case, ideology will have come full circle, and the Tories will have gone back to their roots. Modern Neoliberalism has much of its ideological roots in 19th century radicalism. 19th century radicals generally wanted small, cheap, efficient government, free of the webs of patronage and corruption that stifled the economy and prevented individuals from developing their own talents and being rewarded by the fruits of their energy and enterprise. Thatcher and her Yuppy crew largely took power by muttering a lot of nonsense about ‘meritocracy’. It informs the very title of Norman Tebbit’s autobiography, ‘Upwardly Mobile’.

But for all that they mouth Neoliberal clichés about enterprise, efficiency, meritocracy and self-reliance, the Tories aren’t motivated by a desire to increase social mobility, or limit the stifling power of an hereditary ruling class, like the 19th century Liberals. Cameron, Osbo, IDS and their cabinet are toffs. They are the stifling hereditary ruling class. Social mobility under New Labour had all but ceased. Under Cameron it’s stopped completely. And they’re determined to hold on to power, and oppress everyone else. Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd gave the game away in the Times in the 1980s when he loudly hailed Maggie Thatcher as bringing about a ‘social restoration’ of the old country house elite. The only difference now is that the ruling elite are corporations and their managers, rather than an agricultural aristocracy. But the ethos remains of a ruling class, which regards the state and its institutions as their instruments with which to govern and plunder, rather than to serve the greater national good.