Posts Tagged ‘tony blair’

Bhaskar Sunkara on Blair’s Devastation of the Labour Party

January 25, 2020

The papers and the media have been doing everything they can to attack the left-wing candidates in Labour’s leadership contest and puff the ‘moderates’. That has meant trying to discredit Rebecca Long-Bailey, the ‘continuity Corbyn’ candidate. She was the subject of a series of smears and untruths last weekend by the Tory press, in which it was claimed that she and her husband were millionaires and so on. At the same time, the remaining liberal papers, like the I, have been promoting candidates like Lisa Nandy. I’ve just heard someone from the Labour party, speaking on a Radio 4 news programme just now, make a few scornful comments about Long-Bailey. He remarked that it was surprising that Keir Starmer and Nandy were so far ahead, considering that the Corbynites had their hands on the centres of power in the party for three years. He was particularly sneering at Long-Bailey for saying that she gave Corbyn ’10 out of 10′. Corbyn, he stated, had lost three elections. And that was the point where I decided to put fingers to keyboard to make a few comments myself, and correct this fellow’s biased and misleading remarks.

For a start, I think Corbyn did exceedingly well, at least initially. The party had lost much of its membership under Blair and Brown. Corbyn managed to turn this around, so that it became the largest socialist party in Europe. Yes, he did lose three elections. But during one of those elections, even though he lost, he won an enormous number of seats from a  low starting point, so that it marked the most gains by the party in several years. And he did this despite massive opposition. This came from the Parliamentary Labour Party, a sizable number of whom were constantly intriguing against him, threatening coups and mass departures. These were aided by the media, including the increasingly far right and wretched Beeb, which did everything it could to smear and vilify Corbyn and his supporters. And then there was the unrepresentative organisations that pass themselves off as the Jewish establishment. These, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Chief Rabbinate, Jewish Leadership Council and the Jewish press, did everything they could to smear Corbyn and his supporters as anti-Semites simply for making perfectly valid criticisms of Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

And from what I understand, Corbyn did not have his hands on the mechanisms of power. Or not completely. When he was first elected I was told by a friend that Corbyn had left himself in a very weak position by not purging the party bureaucracy. This was based on a piece he’d read in an online magazine. The bureaucracy were all Blairites, and had been expecting to be sacked. But Corbyn retained them, preferring instead to run his campaign from his own constituency office. If this is true, then he made a rod for his own back. It is certainly true that he had to struggle for control of the NEC and the Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, also did his best to undermine and discredit Corbyn at every opportunity. I don’t think any Labour leader could have won elections under these circumstances.

The press and the Labour centre – for whom, read ‘Thatcherite entryists’, are nostalgic for Blair, his neoliberal economic policies of privatisation, including NHS privatisation, and restructuring of the welfare state. New Labour under Blair and Brown was in power for 13 years, from 1997 to 2010. This was because they had the support of the mass media and big business, whom they rewarded with government posts. But their leadership decimated the party itself, and ultimately helped to discredit them.

Bhaskar Sunkara describes how Blair and Brown managed to reduce the party to half its former size in his book The Socialist Manifesto. He writes

The Japanese have a word for looking worse after a haircut: age-otori. Its synonym in English should be Blairism. Despite initial electoral success and some attempts on the margins to solve social issues such as child poverty, Blair and Brown pursued policies that undermined their own social base. When Blair became prime minister in 1997, Labour had four hundred thousand party members. By 2004, it had half that. That year Labour lost 464 seats in local elections. With anger over the party’s privatisation agenda and oversight of the financial crisis, as well as its support for the disastrous Iraq War, Labour was out of power and completely discredited by 2010. (p.209).

Part of the reason Labour lost the north was because, under Blair and Brown, the party ignored its working class base in order to concentrate on winning swing voters and appealing to the middle class. The working class were expected to carry on supporting the party because there was nowhere else for them to go. But that base showed its dissatisfaction by voting for Brexit, and then backing Johnson because he boasted that he was going to ‘get Brexit done’. But Corbyn’s left-wing followers and successors realise this, and are determined to start representing and campaigning for the working class again.

The Blairites, the media and the industry want the Labour party back to where it was – numerically small, and supporting big business and the rich against the working class, the NHS and the welfare state. This is the reason they’re attacking Long-Bailey and the other left-wing candidates, and praising and promoting moderates like Starmer and Nandy. But Blair’s success was only possible because the Tories were even more discredited than he was. And there was no need for his Thatcherite policies. They weren’t particular popular with the electorate at large, and with the massive majority that he won in the year, he could have started putting back real socialism instead. But that would have alienated the Tory voters he was determined to win over, Murdoch and the Tory press, and his backers in business.

Corbyn was defeated, but I don’t believe for a single minute that his policies have been discredited. Rather I think it’s the opposite: Blairism has. And while the Tories now have a massive majority, their policies are destroying the country and its people.

Only a return to traditional, old Labour values and policies will restore it.

Lisa Nandy Praised by the ‘I’ – and the Reasons Are Obvious

January 20, 2020

One of the candidates in the Labour leadership elections is Lisa Nandy. I got the distinct impression that she’s from the Blairite right of the party, and is probably the most right-wing candidate there. She made a speech that was very well received by the I. Next to their report was a piece by one of their hacks, declaring that she was original and tough, but that wasn’t what the Labour party wanted. I’ve forgotten quite what the headline was, but it gave the impression that she was what the Party needed, but not what they’d accept.

And the reason for the hack’s praise was obvious. The article it accompanied, about Nandy and her candidacy, had the title ‘Tax Polluters, Not High-Earners’. I didn’t read on. I didn’t feel I needed to. That made it obvious what Nandy’s position was, and why the I was favouring her. She was a Blairite liberal. She was worried about the environment – an entirely good thing – but was definitely not going to do anything to upset corporate interests and the rich, like actually taxing them. Which means she isn’t going to to do anything to tackle the deep and appalling inequalities of wealth in Britain. She isn’t going to redistribute any of the massive wealth that the rich 1 per cent have accrued in the years of Thatcherism to where it’s need at the bottom of the social pile. Or that’s how it seems. She’ll just make token efforts to tackle poverty, without halting the privatisations, including that of the NHS or the promotion of the heads of corporations and senior executives to positions of government. At least, that was my impression. I may well have misjudged her.

Blair’s Third Way failed, just as neoliberalism and Thatcherism have failed. They’re only kept going because of the lies and spin by the media, including newspapers like the I that are supposedly left-wing. But these papers, and the Tories, Lib Dems and Blairites in Labour are just offering the same stale, failed policies.

Thatcherism needs to be junked totally and completely, and the voices clamoring for it in the media should be ignored. We need a return to socialism, and the leadership of someone who will continue the Corbyn project, but will be firmer about defending it and rebutting malicious slurs than he was.

And that person is definitely not Lisa Nandy.

If the Press Can Publish Harry and Megan’s Correspondence, then We Should See Murdoch and Co’s

January 15, 2020

Harry and Meghan and suing the Mail on Sunday for publishing a letter from Megan to her father. And today, that bastion on the British press – and as the late Terry Wogan used to say of the Beeb, ‘there are many basty ‘uns in there’  – the MoS set out its defence. It’s the old ‘public interest’ argument. They’re going to argue that Meghan and Harry don’t have the same right to privacy as the rest of us, because they’re private correspondence and activities are of interest to the public. Zelo Street has put up a piece demolishing it by showing how circular the argument is. The letter, and anything else the royal couple writes or does, is of interest to the public because the press tells them it is. Zelo Street states

What the MoS is setting out in its defence is that what it did is OK, because that is what the paper expects to be able to get away with. Hal and Meg should not expect to have any privacy because that would impact on the MoS’ business. Hence that paper and all the others kicking off like so many spoilt children at the prospect of the couple being out of reach very soon. How dare they stop the press scoring copy off of them?

In mounting this defence, then, the MoS has proved the Duchess’ point for her. But she and her family are not there merely to provide cheap copy. The press just doesn’t get it.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/01/mail-on-sunday-proves-meghans-point.htm

The public interest argument does, however, also justify the publication of the private correspondent of the newspaper magnates, who make their bloated fortunes exploiting the private correspondence not just of Harry and Meghan, but of anyone else in the public eye. Murdoch, Geordie Grieg, the weirdo Barclay twins and the rest of the whole unsavoury crew play a powerful role in modern politics. They have intimate connections to the Tory government, and not only shape public opinion in its favour, they also arrogantly assume that they have a right to dictate the political direction not just of the government but also of the opposition. Former cabinet members have reported that Rupert Murdoch was always an invisible presence at the meetings of Blair’s government, and the former Labour Prime Minister worried how his policies would go down with the owner of the Scum and the Times. That’s why the Mail, the Times and the Scum have been running pieces telling the Labour party what it should do to become electable – unsurprisingly this the expulsion of the Corbynites and the return to Blairism – and viciously attacking left-wing candidates for the Labour leadership, like Rebecca Long-Bailey.

The press barons are unelected, massively powerful, and have what amounts to a monopoly on news in this country. Murdoch’s empire should have been broken up under the Monopolies and Mergers’ Commission years ago, but it wasn’t because he was a supporter of the Tories. They also have huge business interests, that also dictate the views their papers take on various stories. Way back in the 1980s, for example, Tiny Rowlands, the owner the Absurder, wouldn’t publish pieces critical of Zimbabwe because he had interests in a mining corporation working there. But these same press magnates are absolutely unaccountable. Yet they arrogantly assume they have the right to dictate governmental policy, while zealously keeping their own affairs private. 

But if the Royals have no reasonable right to privacy, neither do Grieg, Murdoch et al. If they are shaping policy and public opinion, we should know their private business to judge for ourselves whether they are correct and acting in our interest. It’s only fair. And as they acted as the unofficial Tory propaganda office at the last election, it should all be accessible under the Freedom of Information Act.

How’s that for governmental transparency, Rupert?

Sargon of Gasbag on How the Norf Went Tory

January 11, 2020

A few days ago Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin put up a video, in which he presented his idea of why the north of England and the midlands went Tory. It was based on a cartoon from 4chan’s Pol Board, and so presented a very caricatured view of the north. Sargon is the extreme right-winger, who personally did much to destroy UKIP simply by joining it. This ‘classical liberal’ – meaning libertarian – with his highly reactionary views on feminism and racism was too much even for the Kippers. His home branch of Swindon wanted him deselected when the party chose him as the second of their two MEP candidates for south-west England, and the Gloucestershire branch closed down completely. And according to Sargon, the ‘Norf’ went Tory because Blair turned the Labour party from the party of the working class throughout Britain into the party of the liberal metropolitan elite, and turned its attention away from class issues to supporting Islam, refugees, radical feminism and gay rights. This conflict with the social conservative values of working people, and particularly northern working people. As a result, they voted for Johnson, who had the same values they had.

The strip depicts the northern working class as Norf F.C., a local football team. They have their counterparts and rivals in Sowf F.C., a southern football team, and in the Welsh and Scots. The north is presented as a region of fat skinhead football hooligans, poorly educated, and suffering from scurvy and malnutrition, but who love their families, their communities and their country. In the strip’s view, these communities were traditionally Labour. But this changed with the election of Tony Blair, an Oxford educated lawyer, who took over the party. Under his aegis, it no longer was the party of the working class, but instead had a lower middle class membership. These were over-educated officer workers, who turned it towards Communism with the election of Jeremy Corbyn. They supported racism witchhunts, gay rights and flooding White communities with coloured immigrants, and were pro-EU. They despised natural, healthy patriotism. The result was that when Boris appeared, despite being an Etonian toff they recognised themselves in him. He would do something about Brexit and immigration, and would attack the radical left who support Muslim rape gangs and wanted to chop off their sons’ genitals. And who would also put the ‘bum boys’ in their place. It led to the massive defeat of the Labour party, and in particular ‘Communists’ like owen Jones and Ash Sarkar of Novara media.

I’m not going to show the video here, but if you want to see it for yourself, go to YouTube and search for ‘How the Norf Went Tory’, which is his wretched video’s title.

To Sargon, Corbyn is a friend of Hezbollah and Hamas, and to show how threatening the feminists and LGBTQ section of the Labour party he shows various radical feminists with T-shirts saying ‘White People Are Terrorists’ and a trans-activist with a baseball bat and the tattoo ‘Die Cis Scum’, referring to cis-gendered people – those who identify with their biological gender. The over-educated lower middle class people he sneers at are graduates of gender studies, who work in McDonalds, or have submitted to what he describes as ‘office serfdom’.

It’s very much a simplistic view, but there’s much truth in it as well as great deal of distortion. Let’s go through it.

The UKIP View of the North

Firstly, it represents very much the UKIP view of events. The academic study of UKIP, Revolt on the Right,  found that its members were poorly educated, working class people in the north. They had socially Conservative views, hated the European Union, resented immigration, particularly Black and Asian, and felt abandoned by the traditional parties. He is also right in identifying the change from working class representation to middle class representation with Blair’s leadership. Blair didn’t like the working class. He wanted to get the votes of the swing voters in marginal constituencies. As Sargon’s video acknowledges, he supported the neoliberalism that had devastated the northern economy and which made so many northerners hate the policy’s architect, Maggie Thatcher. Within the party, Blair sidelined working class organisations like the trade unions in favour of courting and recruiting business managers.

The Labour party was keen to represent Blacks and other ethnic minorities, women and gays due to its ideological commitment to equality. This policy became particularly important after Thatcher’s victory in 1979, when it appeared to some that the White working class had abandoned the party. I’ve also seen books published in the ’70s lamenting the right-ward movement within the Labour party due to its membership becoming increasingly middle class, so this trend actually predates Blair somewhat. However, it acquired a new importance under Blair because of the emphasis his administration place on BAME rights, feminism and gay rights. In my view, this was partly as an attempt to preserve some claim to radicalism and progressive values while abandoning socialism and the working class.

Sargon Doesn’t Understand Class and Communism

Sargon also doesn’t understand either what Communism is. He seems to believe in the rantings of the contemporary right that it’s all about identity politics and changing the traditional culture from above. That’s one form of Marxist politics coming from the ideas of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. But traditional, orthodox Marxism emphasised the importance of the working class and the class structure of society. Marx’s theory of Dialectical Materialism held that it was the economic base of society that defined ideology, not the other way around. Once the working class came into power and socialised the economy, the ideologies supported and created by capitalism would disappear. Gramsci’s ideas about changing ideology and culture became fashionable in left-wing circles because it was believed that the working class was actually in decline as society changed. Demographers noted that increasing numbers of people were becoming lower middle class. Hence the movement on the left towards that sector of society, rather than the traditional working class.

Corbyn More Politically Committed to Working Class

Yes, Corbyn also supported anti-racism, feminism and gay rights, but these had been key values of the left since the 1980s. I remember then how the Labour party and leading figures like Michael Foot and Ken Livingstone were vilified as Communists and Trotskyites, and how the party was caricatured as standing for Black lesbians. There were all those stories circulating in the Scum, for example, about how radical teachers in London schools had decided that ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ was racist, and insisted children sing ‘Baa Baa Green Sheep’ instead. Corbyn does come from a privileged background, but his views and the Labour manifesto are far more working class in the sense that they represent a return to traditional socialist economic policies than Blair’s. And certainly far more than Johnson’s and the Tories.

I have to admit that I’m one of the over-educated officer worker types Sargon sneers at. But I never did gender studies, not that I’m sneering at it or those who studied it. My first degree is in history. And I am very sure that most of the legions of graduates now trying to get any kind of paid work have a very wide variety degrees. I also think that many of them also come from the aspirant working class, who went into higher education in order to get on. Also, if you were interested or active in working class politics in the 1980s, you were exposed and took over the anti-racism and anti-sexism campaigns. Ben Elton was notorious as a left-wing comedian in the 1980s, but he defended the working class and ethnic minorities against the Tories.  It was not the case that the White working class was viewed with suspicion as a hotbed of racism, although sections of it, represented by such grotesques as Alf Garnet, certainly were. But it was that section of the working class that the Scum and the Tory party addressed, and so it’s now surprise that they see themselves represented by Boris.

Their belief in Boris is ultimately misplaced, however. Boris will betray them, just like he has betrayed everyone else.

He isn’t going to get Brexit done. He is going to continue with his privatisations, including that of the NHS, and dismantlement of the welfare state. The people in the northern and midlands communities that voted for him are going to find themselves still poor, and probably much poorer, under him.

But the lessons for Labour should be that there should be no return to Blairism. 

David Rosenberg and many other left-wing bloggers have argued from their own personal experience that the way of winning working class voters back to Labour and away from the far-right is through the hard work of knocking on doors and neighbourhood campaigning. This is what Blairism didn’t do. Jones showed in his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class that it was Blair that turned away and demonised them, and simply expected them to continue voting Labour as they didn’t have anywhere else to go. And it was the Blairites and Tories, who viewed the White working class as racist and vilified them as such. Although it also has to be said that they also courted them by appealing to their patriotism and their feeling of marginalisation in an increasingly multicultural society. And the fact that Jones took the trouble to attack this refutes Sargon’s attempt to present Jones as a ‘Communist’, who was against their interests.

Yes, you can find the misandrists, and the anti-White racists and extreme gay and trans rights activists in the Labour party. But they’re an unrepresentative minority, who are going to be controversial even in their own small circles. Attempts by the Tories to magnify their influence are deliberately deceptive in order to stop people from believing that the Labour party means to do anything for ordinary working people. Just as Sargon has tried to do in his video.

Winning back the working class from Boris does not mean a return to Blair and attempting to turn the party into the Conservatives 2.0. But it does mean returning to working class activism, representation and continuing to support real policies to benefit the working class, whether Black, White or Brown, Christian, atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or whatever.

And that has to be a return to genuine socialism.

Letter in Private Eye Defending Labour and Corbyn Against Racism Accusations

January 9, 2020

This fortnight’s Private Eye also published the letter below from Peter Collins, refuting the accusations made by another reader in last fortnight’s edition that Labour lost partly because it was full of racists and anti-Semites. He also pointed out that while Labour isn’t, Boris Johnson and the Tories certainly are. Here’s the letter

Sir,

Re “Sneer and Loathing” (Letters, Eye 1512). Peter Kimpton and I certainly have different opinions on the EU, and he’s entitled to his of course. But his assertion that “rampant racism” has “taken hold of Labour” cannot go unchallenged. It will certainly come as news to the many black, brown, and, yes, Jewish members with whom I canvassed for several weeks before polling day, for I’m sure they would not have put their hearts and souls into trying to get such a party elected. I’m a white, middle-class, middle-aged man, but I would have nothing to do with a party that was rampantly racist and/or anti-Semitic. It’s not.

However, a great many people seem to ahve been happy to vote for someone who considers black people to be “picaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, Muslim women to look like letterboxes, children of single mothers to be “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”, and gay men to be “bumboys”. That, of course, is simply Boris Johnson being Boris Johnson, and nothing to do with racism, Islamophobia, sexism and homophobia. And of course it is all to be forgotten in the glorious paradise that will be post-Brexit Britain. Keep up with what looks to me like your very even-handed work.

I’ve no doubt that the letters defending Corbyn will be followed by more from the Blairites, Tories and Israel lobby claiming that Labour is awash with anti-Semites. And it hasn’t stopped the Eye publishing in this edition a piece by the odious Ratbiter reporting that various Blairites and Zionists are suing Corbyn and his supporters for libel for stating that they were inventing incidents of anti-Semitism. One of those suing is our old friend, Rachel Riley.

But at least the Eye published some material defending Corbyn.

Letter Defending Corbyn in Private Eye

January 8, 2020

This fortnight’s Private Eye for 10th – 23rd January 2020 has a number of letters from annoyed readers defending the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn after slights from the Eye itself and letters from Tories in last fortnight’s issue gloating at Labour’s defeat. One of the letters is from Tim Mickleburgh of Grimsby, who writes

Sir,

Comments in your “Election Special” need to (Eye 1512) need to be challenged. First, 68 percent of the electorate didn’t reject Labour’s policies, rather they wanted to “get Brexit done”, being unhappy that Labour had reneged on their 2017 promise to accept the 2016 referendum. And Corbyn was right to claim Labour “won the argument” if not the election, for the Tories had moved away from the austerity policies of Cameron/Osborne, promising more for the NHS, 20,000 new policemen and to consider re-opening closed railway lines.

Just the opposite from 1997, when Tony Blair’s New Labour won a landslide majority but promised to continue with Tory spending plans and generally accept the Thatcherite agenda.

This is correct. The areas of the north and midlands that turned Tory were those that voted for Brexit, and Labour’s manifesto policies were actually supported, according to polls, by 69 per cent of the public. The Tories also had to compete with Labour in promising more for the NHS and other parts of the economy. That hasn’t and won’t stop them breaking those promises, but it does show that these are issues that will help Labour to win if the party tackles them properly.

It’s important to stress this now that Corbyn is resigning and the Blairites are struggling to come back, repeating the old lies that only by accepting Thatcherism and becoming the Conservative Party version 2.0 will Labour become electable.

Private Schools Turn Down Bursaries for White Working Class Boys

January 7, 2020

This is a very interesting story from last weekend’s I. A retired Maths professor, Sir Bryan Thwaites, offered two private schools bursaries for White working class boys. They both turned it down. Their refusal, and the fact that these bursaries are needed, says much about class and race in the early 21st century. The report contained the observation that ‘inverted snobbery and liberal guilt neglect the white poor’. Which is true, but it’s also true that such bursaries wouldn’t quite be so necessary if it weren’t for Thatcherism. Thatcher promised that her reforms would turn Britain into a meritocracy, where everyone could succeed, regardless of class background, provided they had the talent. This has spectacularly not happened. Class mobility was at a standstill during Blair’s administration. Now it seems to have gone into reverse. And at the bottom are the working class that Thatcher and the Tories despise, and Blair neglected.

Thwaites was a working class lad, who had gone to Dulwich and Winchester Colleges on scholarships. He therefore wanted to award them bursaries amounting to £1.2m to set up scholarships for lads from his background. He said he wanted to address the ‘severe national problem of the underperforming white cohort in schools’. The donations amounted to £400,000 for Dulwich and £800,000 for Winchester. They turned them down because they were afraid that the donations broke equality rules. Winchester said that they ‘did not see how discrimination on the grounds of a boy’s colour could ever be compatible with its values’. Dulwich simply said bursaries were available to everyone who passed their entrance exam, ‘regardless of their background.’

Thwaites, who is himself a former college head, told the Times, ‘If [the colleges] were to say ‘We are helping these deprived cohorts of children,’ that would do a hell of a lot for their reputation and show that the independent sector is taking some notice of what’s going on in the world at large. The implication of their refusal… is that they couldn’t give a damn.’

Poor White Educational Underperformance

The newspaper then printed some stats to show why Thwaites believed such bursaries were necessary. Only 15 per cent of White boys receiving free school meals achieve a grade 5 or higher in English and Maths at GCSE in 2018 compared with 33.6 per cent of Asian boys and 23.4 per cent of Black boys.

It also noted that four years ago universities were told to recruit more working class students – particularly boys – after statistics showed that just 10 per cent of young men from the poorest areas went into higher education.

Thwaites therefore said he was turning his attention to state schools and academies would be only too glad to accept his money. Referring to Stormzy’s decision to set up two scholarships for Black undergrads at Cambridge, he asked ‘If Cambridge University can accept a much larger donation in support of Black students, why cannot I do the same for under-privileged White British?’

Trevor Phillips Attacks ‘Inverted Snobbery’ over White Children

The I commented that ‘it is these barriers – of structural inequality and the intersection of race and class – that society tends to tiptoe around in order to avoid honey-yet-difficult conversations.

However, in last month’s Standpoint, Trevor Phillips, the broadcaster and former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, attacked the ‘inverted snobbery’ which held by poor White boys. He claimed that modern society had made institutions ridiculously squeamish about accepting that their treatment of Whites as a ‘non-race’ was itself racist, and added ‘They have become so confused in these ‘woke’ times that a lethal cocktail of inverted snobbery, racial victimhood, and liberal guilt ends up rewarding schools for favouring the Black and Brown rich while neglecting the White poor.”

Comments from Other Academics

The report then said that campaigners have long tried to level the playing field so that every child, regardless of its race, gender or background, was given the best possible start in life. They then quoted Dr Lee Elliot Major, the professor of social mobility at Exeter Uni. He said

Philanthropists want to help people similar to them and, of course, that is their prerogative,. But often the bigger issue is help people who are not like them.

Success comes in many forms. Social mobility is not just about getting those magical tickets to the top schools, because that’s not for everyone. State schools cater to all sorts of potential – some students will be high-flyers, so will need support in applying for prestigious universities. Others will seek out an apprenticeship or attend a local college.

I think it’s great that [Sir Bryan’s donations} could be used to support many pupils going through different routes – not just academic study.

However, Major also pointed out the differences between Stormzy’s and Thwaites’ donations. Major said that he had many conversations with Black undergraduates at Cambridge, who were the first in their families to go to university, and who felt isolated there. He remarked

There are very specific issues around highly selective, very academic universities, because they are quintessentially middle-class and very White and I think [Stormzy’s scholarship] was a legitimate move to address this.

He said that there were discussions leading universities could have to make their campuses more inclusive, continuing

If you’re looking at achievement in schools, I would argue taht this comes down to culture in the home, to class and [household] income.

It’s often the case that White working-class boys are [products of] those backgrounds-but equally there are children from all sorts of backgrounds who live in poverty and aren’t getting as much support as they deserve. And the reason I’m anxious about it is that social mobility is an issue that should bring us together.

Of course there are lots of white working-class boys living in areas of deprivation – but the very fact they’re deprived is glossed over. We’re wasting talent in this country – talent from all backgrounds. (pp. 33-4).

Finally, there was a report in one of the papers that the donation had been accepted by a charity run by a Black man, which had been successful in combating low educational achievement amongst Black lads. He was looking forward to turning around the lives of White boys as he had done with Black.

Looking through the newspaper reports, it’s clear that some people are very uncomfortable with a grant being set up for poor White boys. It’s understandable. British politics and society is dominated by White men, and so a bursary aimed at raising the achievements of White boys seems reactionary, an attack on the feminist and anti-racism campaigns.

Which is why it needed the support of Trevor Phillips and a Black educationalist. 

Winchester College’s excuse for turning down the bursary because it was ‘incompatible with their values’ seems very fake to me, however. A friend of mine was privately educated. He once told me that these schools don’t exist to teach children so much as to give them the network of personal contacts to open careers and other opportunities. They exist to preserve middle and upper class privilege. Rich Blacks and Asians are welcome, but not the poor generally, although they may well accept working class BAME pupils as a gesture towards meritocracy.

Lee Elliot Major’s comment about Black students finding themselves very isolated at Cambridge university is true, but I also know White academics from a working/ lower-middle class background, who intensely resented what they felt was the entitled, patronising attitude of wealthier students from the Oxbridge set. He is right about funding being made available for academic and training paths that are more suitable to students’ aptitudes. There was also a recent report in the I about the massive drop out rate at university. Some of this is no doubt due to the real financial struggles some students face now that tuition fees have been introduced and raised, and they are expected to become massively indebted to fund their education. But some of it is also due to university education now being promoted as the only academic route. A friend of mine, who worked in university administration told me that this wasn’t working and was leading to people dropping out over ten years or more ago.

And I completely accept his observation about the role class, income and background play in academic aspiration. In my experience, this also naturally includes those from Black and Asian backgrounds.

But Blacks, Asians and girls have had much attention focused on improving their academic performance and improving their opportunities, that have not been directed towards White boys from poor backgrounds. And this needs to be addressed.

Doing so does not undermine, or shouldn’t, the efforts to improve performance and opportunities for women and minorities, however.

But if we are serious about improving poor and working class academic performance, whether White, Black or Asian, it will mean rejecting Blairism and its rejection of the working class in order to concentrate on copying the Tories.

Civil Servants Were Afraid Impressionist Bremner Would Bring Down John Major

January 7, 2020

Before the serious stuff, here’s a bit of fun news. Last Thursday’s I for 2nd January 2020 reported that Rory Bremner’s impressions of former prime minister John Major were so good, he would bring down the government. Bremner had been phoning up various rebellious backbench MPs as Major, and the head of the civil service at the time, Sir Robin Butler, was afraid he’d get hold of the budget. In the article ‘Bremner almost brought down John Major’, Adam Sherwin wrote

Whitehall’s top civil servant feared that Rory Bremner could brind down John Major’s government because the comic’s impersonation of the Prime Minister was so convincing.

Sir Robin Butler, then cabinet secretary, called Michael Grade, the chief executive at Channel 4, to express his concerns after the impressionist made a prank call to a rebellious backbench Tory MP.

Sir Robin feared that Bremner’s impression of Mr Major was so accurate that he would be able to trick then-chancellor Kenneth Clarke into leaking advance details of the Budget.

The could have been devastating to Mr Major, who was steering an administration with a fragile majority.

The prank calls, made in 1993, were intended for use in the comedian’s series, Rory Bremner, Who Else? But Sir Robin stepped in after Bremner fooled Sir Richard Body, one of the Eurosceptic Maastricht rebels who were known as “the bastards”.

Speaking to the Media Matters podcast, Lord Grade of Yarmouth revealed that Sir Robin told him: “We have a bit of a problem. Your Mr Rory Bremner. He’s very good at impersonating the Prime Minister. He’s been ringing MPs.

“We don’t have a problem with that. But the issue we have is that, he’s so good, he could ring the chancellor and get the Budget.”

Lord Grade said he told Sir Robin: “Oh, I get the point. Leave it with me.” Bremner’s team agreed not to air the call, which Sir Robin said was a “great relief”. Lord Grade, who faced controversy over prank calls made by Chris Morris for Brass Eye, later sent Sir Robin a tape of the call.

Bremner has confirmed ringing the MP. “We hadn’t got a script, we were just making it up. It went very well,” he said. “John Major said ‘well this is very funny but it could get quite serious’. So there was this hunt going on.”

Bremner also called Margaret Beckett pretending to be Gordon Brown in 2005, and discussed Cabinet appointments. Lawyers vetoed its broadcast.

Bremner’s series on Channel 4, Rory Bremner: Who Else? and later Bremner, Bird and Fortune with John Bird and John Fortune, who later had their own series, The Long Johns, were hilarious, but they were also very sharp, very serious satire. Amongst the impressions they made serious, factual points about the issues of the day, quoting real statistics. I can remember they were particularly sharp on attacking the government’s and papers’ vicious and misleading policies and statements over immigration. And they also tried to stop the Iraq invasion by sending that up and arguing against it.

The three also published a book during Tony Blair’s tenure of 10 Downing Street, You Are Here, attacking his policies of privatisation and the Public-Private Finance Initiative deals, which were grossly inefficient and which took power away from people and put it squarely in the hands of the corporate bosses, who donated so handsomely to Blair.

Now that the Blairites are trying to seize control of the Labour Party again, I’ll have to dig that book out to show how treacherous their claims and politics are. 

The Beeb’s Reward for the Election: Tory Poll Pushes Its Privatisation

January 5, 2020

Mike put this story up yesterday, and it shows how the Conservatives view their allies at the Beeb. The Corporation played a vital role in their re-election. It’s coverage of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour has, for the last four years or so, been unrelentingly hostile. The Beeb’s reporters did everything they could to promote the Blairite faction and their plots and rebellions, including the resignation of one of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet live on the Andrew Marr show. And they, like the rest of the media, denounced Corbyn and his supporters, who were the most anti-racist of politicians, as inveterate anti-Semites, who were a real threat to Jewish Brits. And no argument was allowed to the contrary. This hate campaign kicked into overdrive at the election, with outright lies – that Labour’s manifesto promises were as deceitful as the Tories, when all the lies noted came from the Conservatives – and with Kuenssberg’s flagrant breach of electoral law. This forbids anybody divulging the progress of the postal votes before the results as a whole are declared. Nevertheless, Kuenssberg blithely announced that she’d heard the results from the postal votes as they were coming in, and it didn’t look good for Labour. This should have got her sacked, but the Beeb has just waved it off as ‘a mistake’. The trouble, is there are far too many of such ‘mistakes’ for that to be anywhere near convincing.

Boris Johnson has declared that he wants non-payment of the BBC license fee to be decriminalised. And yesterday the Daily Mail Online reported that a YouGov poll found that 50 per cent of people would like the Beeb privatised.  YouGov was set up by Nadhim Zahawi and a fellow leading Tory, and as Mike says, its polling always seems to follow the results demanded by the its proprietors. Polls don’t report how people intend to vote, as how the polling organisations want them to vote. And the Tories are obviously softening the public up for its eventual privatisation.

Of course, the Tories have hated the BBC for years. Way back when I was at school forty years ago I can remember Thatcher’s government suggesting that the license fee should be scrapped and the Beeb funded through advertising. Or privatised altogether. Most people at that time were very firmly against it, so that disappeared. Only to reappear a few years later under John Major, when the Tories were accusing the Beeb once again of being biased against them (What?) Instead of outright privatisation, they simply passed legislation demanding that the corporation have a certain amount of its programmes produced by private production companies. Which is why, if you watch some of these programmes, you’ll find the logo of a private company like Mentorn at the end of their credits.

The Tories are the company of private industry, so they hate state industries as a matter of course. But there’s also the selfish interest of their corporate masters. The Murdoch papers – the Scum and the Times – have been attacking the Beeb for decades because Murdoch loathes it as a rival to his own Sky network. And the Americans have been buying up British broadcasters for several years now. The Tory ideal is to have it funded either through subscriptions or advertising. The result would be something like the American PBS, which shares the Corporation’s ethos of public service broadcasting, but is hardly a major broadcaster. The Beeb does make some excellent programmes, but it only does this because of the license fee. The commercial broadcasters have found it difficult to make quality, expensive programmes because there isn’t enough revenue from advertising.

And as loathsome as the Beeb’s newsroom is, privatisation would make the situation worse. Fox News has a right-wing bias so blatant and overt it can be seen from space. And it peddles so much fake news that one monitoring organisation found that you would be less informed after watching it than if you took no news at all. Which is an achievement, of sorts. It’s a network that’s exerting a positive drag effect on American collective intelligence. For some reason, my YouTube page came up with videos from Australian Sky TV. And that seemed to be as bad or worse.

I can’t say I’m totally happy with the Beeb. Looking through the Radio Times I get irritated, as I feel quite often that I’m being condescended to. But I think that comes from the British media class generally, and the way it sees itself as the gatekeepers and opinon makers of British culture. I don’t want the Beeb privatised. But I do want the newsroom reformed and purged of its bias.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen. Not when so many of the Beeb’s journos come from the Tory papers, like Andrew Neil, or from the Conservative party itself, like Nick Robinson, or show their real political allegiances by departing to join their propaganda unit.

I dare say that if the Beeb is privatised, the likes of Robinson, Kuenssberg, Pinaar and the rest will get a very cosy reward on one of the private broadcasters.

But we would lose out, as the Beeb’s public service mission to inform, educate and entertain would be scrapped in favour of highly commercialised, partisan rubbish.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/01/04/job-done-bbc-got-the-tories-re-elected-and-now-tory-pollster-is-softening-us-up-for-privatisation/