Posts Tagged ‘York’

Dictator Johnson Unites Country Against Him

September 2, 2019

On Wednesday there were demonstrations against BoJob’s proroguing of parliament the same day as he, or rather, the West Country’s answer to the Slender Man, Jacob Rees-Mogg, persuaded the Queen to sign his wretched order. Even more followed on Saturday, with people marching up and down the country holding banners and placards, making it very clear what Johnson is: a dictator.

Jeremy Corbyn spoke to protesters in Glasgow denouncing BoJob’s decision. The Labour leader also issued a tweet thanking everyone who had taken to the streets both their and across the country, and pledging the Labour party to oppose BoJob’s attack on British democracy and stop a no-deal Brexit.

In London, demonstrators marched on Buckingham palace to make their feelings very known about the Queen’s decision to give in to his demand to assume authoritarian rule. The were also demonstrations in Hereford, Staffordshire, Nottingham, Oxford, King’s Lynn, where the local radio station for West Norfolk, KLFM 967 came down to cover the demo; and in Trafalgar Square in London.

Please see Mike’s blog for the images peeps posted on Twitter of these demonstrations: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/08/31/britons-take-to-the-streets-across-the-country-to-stopthecoup/

One of the most sharply observed was the banner at the beginning of Mike’s article, showing BoJob wearing a swastika armband and Nazi officer’s cap, flanked either side by the evil clown from Stephen King’s It, with balloons above them showing his and Rees-Mogg’s heads. This bore the slogan ‘Before 1933 People Thought Hitler Was A Clown Too…’. Yes, they did. One of the characters in Bernardo Bertolucci’s cinematic classic, The Conformist, makes that exact same point. The film’s about a man, who becomes a Fascist assassin after believing he has shot and killed the paedophile, who had attempted to assault him. In one scene, one of the characters reminisces how, when he was in Germany in the 1920s, there was a man, who used to go round the beer halls making speeches and ranting. ‘We all used to laugh at him’, the character recalls, and adds that they used to throw beer glasses at him. He then sombrely concludes ‘That man was Adolf Hitler’. And before he came to power, some Germans used to go to his rallies just for the fun of seeing who he would abuse next. Presumably this was in the same manner that people used to tune in to the genuine comedy character, Alf Garnett, although Garnett was very definitely a satirical attack on racism and the bigotry of working class Conservatism. Another banner made the same comparison with the Nazi machtergreifung: ‘Wake Up, UK! Or Welcome to Germany 1933′. Again, this is another, acute pertinent comparison. Everything Hitler did was constitutional, as was Mussolini’s earlier coup in Italy. Democracy collapsed in those countries because of its weakness, not because of the Fascists’ strength. And they were helped into power by right-wing elites in the political establishment, who believed that including them in a coalition would help them break a parliamentary deadlock and smash the left.

Zelo Street also covered the demonstrations against Johnson’s attempt to become generalissimo. The Sage of Crewe noted that not only were people marching in London, and large provincial cities like Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Brighton, but they were also occurring in middle ranking towns like Shrewsbury, Bournemouth, Cirencester, Lichfield, Stroud, Colwyn Bay, Clitheroe, Oxford, Swindon, Middlesborough, Exeter, Southampton, Derby, Weston-super-Mare, Falmouth, Bangor, York, Poole, Leamington Spa. Cheltenham Spa, Chester and others. ‘Places that do not usually do protests’. And the protesters are not, whatever BoJob’s focus groups say, going to vote for him.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/08/stop-coup-people-speak.html

I doubt that the demonstrations will personally have much effect on Johnson himself. He’s a typical Tory, and so has absolutely nothing but contempt for popular protest. However, the march on Buckingham Palace may have made an impression on the genuine guardians of the British constitution. The monarchy is supposed to be one of Britain’s central institutions, like parliament. Prime ministers come and go, but the monarchy is a central pillar of the British constitution. And its guardians in the British establishment may not take kindly to Johnson dragging the Queen down with him. There may also be some hope in that it was popular demonstrations and dissatisfaction with an unjust policy – the poll tax – that culminated in the removal of Thatcher. I hope it isn’t long before BoJob goes the same way.

 

 

 

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Museum Exhibition on Anti-Semitism Pushes Anti-Labour, Pro-Israel Smears

March 14, 2019

Tuesday’s I, for 12th March 2019, featured a review by Etan Smallman of a new exhibition on anti-Semitism at the Jewish Museum in London. This included comments from the Museum’s director, Abigail Morris, and Deborah Lipstadt, the professor of Jewish history at Emory University in America and the author of Anti-Semitism: Here and Now. Lipstadt is best known as the American academic, who exposed David Irving as a holocaust denier and falsifier of history in court in the 1990s. This was portrayed in the 2016 film, Denial, in which she was played by Rachel Weisz.

Most of the exhibition seems uncontroversial, as it looks at the anti-Semitic depictions of Jews as money-grubbing, and the history of medieval anti-Semitism. The exhibition shows board games depicting Jews as grasping, including one which the song-writer Steven Sondheim said taught people to be anti-Semitic. It covers notorious events in English history, such as the York pogrom of 1190, stating that England was the first country to expel Jews. It also covers how the Roman Catholic church only renounced the idea that the Jews killed Christ in 1965, and notes how, in depictions of Judas Iscariot, he is given stereotypically Jewish features while Christ and the other disciples, who were also Jews, were not. It also discusses Fagin in Dickens’ Oliver Twist, and shows Yugoslav Nazi poster depicting Jews as the forces behind both capitalism and communism.

However, the Museum also seems to be promoting the lie that the Labour party under Corbyn is acutely anti-Semitic. It also tries to rule out inquiring about Israeli funding for particular political groups by claiming that this is also anti-Semitic. And it hails liar and internet bully Rachel Riley as some kind of heroine in the fight against anti-Semitism.

The article states

More recently, Labour has been mired in cases of anti-Semitism, culminating in Luciana Berger resigning from the party last month. Six people, including two from the left, have been convicted of race hate against the Jewish MP for Liverpool Wavertree.

Lipstadt describes the situation as “unprecedented”. “We’ve never seen anything as institutionalised in a Western democracy as we’re now seeing in the Labour party.”

A party spokesman said it “takes all complaints of anti-Semitism extremely seriously and we are committed to challenging and campaigning against it in all its forms”.

Before we go any further, let’s critique this little piece. First of all, of those convicted of race hate against Berger, only two were from the left. And what does ‘from the Left’ actually mean? Were they members of the Labour party? The article doesn’t say, so I would think they actually weren’t. And the incidence of anti-Semitism in the Labour party is belied by the stats. Looking at the statistics, only 0.O8 per cent of Labour party members have been suspended or expelled for anti-Semitism. And even there, the stats are unreliable because many of those charges, such as against Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Tony Greenstein and Mike Sivier, were utterly false. In fact anti-Semitism has actually gone down under Corbyn, and is less than in the rest of British society.

But the article continues

In the vanguard of the online battle against the anti-Semites is the unlikely figure of Countdown’s numbers expert Rachel Riley, who has responded to a wave of abuse by coining the hashtag #BeLouder. 

Yes, this is the same Rachel Riley, who accused a sixteen year old school girl with anxiety problems and her father of being anti-Semites, got her followers to dogpile on to them, and threatens anyone who points out how false and libelous her accusations are with litigation.

The article then continues to quote a spox for the pro-Israel paramilitary vigilante group, the Community Security Trust.

The “dilemma”, however, according to Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust, a charity that monitors anti-Semitism, is that increased media coverage of anti-Semitism results in a spike in reports of hate crimes against Jews.

Except that the stats collected by the CST and its companion race hate organisation, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, can’t be trusted. They exist to spread fear that anti-Semitism is spreading, and so inflate the statistics. To the extent that one of the two organisations declared that anti-Semitism had risen by 1,697 per cent in Wiltshire! Tony Greenstein has published many pieces destroying these organisations’ highly manipulated statistics. As for the CST itself, it’s a vigilante force supposedly formed to protect Jews from assault. It’s trained by former members of Mossad, and is not averse to thuggery itself. Greenstein in one piece described some of the assaults its members had carried out stewarding Zionist rallies. And it’s a long, ugly list, which includes women, the elderly and even non-Zionist rabbis. And, of course, at one such rally they separated Muslims from Jews by force. All this was done while the police stood and watched, but did not intervene. See Greenstein’s article at

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/03/manipulating-antisemitism-statistics.html

The article goes on

Lipstadt is resolute that it needs to be condemned wherever it is found, “not just because of Jews”, but because “anti-Semitism is a classic conspiracy theory. If you have increasing numbers who believe, ‘Aha! The Jews are being paid to do this’, ‘The Jews are doing this all because of Israel’, they’re going to believe conspiracies about everything else.”

This isn’t entirely wrong, as along with the classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the Jews there is a tendency to try to fit other daft conspiracies into the pattern, like reptoid aliens. But it is absolutely not anti-Semitic to point out that Israel is the force behind some actions. Shai Masot, an official at the Israeli embassy, was filmed conspiring to have Alan Duncan removed from the Tory cabinet. And the Israeli government does have a special department, the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, headed by Gilad Elon, to spread smears that Israel’s critics and opponents are anti-Semitic.

The article then goes to say that there is a problem tackling anti-Semitism because Jews are perceived as rich, and because they’re White. It then quotes Gardner as saying that being careful to use the word “Zionist” rather than “Jew” is no defence if you are still indulging in age-old anti-Jewish imagery, nor does being Jewish yourself inoculate you from perpetuating anti-Semitism.

But as we’ve seen, the concept of what counts as an anti-Semitic trope is so wide, that it’s used to silence people, who aren’t actually talking about the Jews as a whole, and who are factually correct. As Mike was when he talked about Masot’s conspiracy at the Israeli embassy. As for Jews also being guilty of anti-Semitism, we’ve seen how that accusation has been used against decent, self-respecting secular and Torah observant Jews like Walker, Greenstein, Martin Odoni and countless others.

And while some genuine anti-Semites hide their Jew-hatred behind rhetoric about Zionism, those criticising Zionism mean exactly that when they talk about it. They aren’t talking about the Jews.

The article concludes with Morris saying that she hopes the exhibition will get non-Jews to understand why Jews are so worried, and will contradict the perception that they’re overreacting. She says

I hope we can explain why it’s so serious – because we know where this kind of thing can lead.

So what is Morris claiming? That Corbyn and his supporters are going to hold torch-light processions and start pogroms, ending in the establishment of new concentration and death camps? They aren’t. Corbyn and his supporters are actually the least racist, and are determined opponents of anti-Semitism. But the Israel lobby fears and despises him and them because he also stands up for the Palestinians. Hence the panic. And as Norman Finkelstein, another Jewish American professor has observed, Israel and its lobby have always responded to their critics by smearing them as anti-Semites.

And this seems to be the real purpose of the exhibition, and to make the smear seem all the more compelling by putting it in the context of genuine anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred. I am very disappointed that the Jewish Museum has done this, and that Professor Lipstadt has been involved in it. I’ve never been in the Museum, but I can remember watching with great interest one of the antiques programmes on TV, which had a brief piece about it. They showed some of the priceless artifacts of Jewish history, including a Bible published in 17th century Italy, and the tokens Orthodox Jews used to pay their donations to the synagogue, as their religion forbids them from handling money on the Sabbath. This exhibition and the involvement of a respected academic like Lipstadt will reinforce the lie that criticism of Israel, and questioning Israel’s involvement in British politics, is anti-Semitic. A large section of the Jewish community strongly disagrees.

But the Museum and Lipstadt clearly represent the Zionist establishment, who are doing everything they can to stoke fear amongst the Jewish community by smearing any and all criticism of Israel, however, reasonable, as anti-Semitism, and then associating those smeared with real Nazis. Morris and Lipstadt should be ashamed they are complicit in this.

Kevin Logan on Tommy Robinson’s Arrest

May 27, 2018

Mike put up this morning a piece about Tommy Robinson’s arrest and sentencing for contempt of court. Robinson is the former leader of the EDL, and was arrested last week for filming outside a courtroom, where a group of Muslims were being tried on charges of paedophilia. This is illegal, and Robinson has just been given a 13 month sentence for contempt.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/26/far-right-politician-is-jailed-with-hilarious-consequences/

In this video, male feminist and scourge of Fascists and manospherian misogynists Kevin Logan, explains the circumstances behind Robinson’s arrest, and why it’s important that he is jailed. Robinson was videoing and commenting on a trial in a court in York, where a group of Muslims were being tried for paedophilia. Logan states that it’s quite likely that the accused men are actually guilty, and he certainly isn’t defending them. But they have a right to a fair trial. However, there are cases where, because of the biased reporting or comments about a trial, the accused have been released despite their probably guilt, because they were unable to get a fair trial. Logan states that something similar happened to Jayda Fransen and one of the other far right storm troopers, who were jailed on charges of racially aggravated harassment, although he then admits that this was a slightly different issue.

Robinson’s supporters claim that this is a free speech issue, and that he’s a journalist. But Robinson isn’t a journalist. He wasn’t reporting any of the facts of the case, and is actually so incompetent that even the far right Canadian outfit, Rebel Media, won’t have him. Logan points out that he used to be the head of the English Defence League, and before then was a member of the BNP, so he’s simply a Fascist. And he just wants to spread Islamophobia and fear of Brown people. He also states that Robinson has already got a suspended sentence for doing the same thing outside a court in Canterbury last year, down the other end of the country. He describes him as an ambulance-chaser, running around behind court cases of Muslims. So when Robinson got himself arrested for breach of the peace, it was his own fault.

Demonstrations Across the UK Today Against Trump’s Muslim Ban

January 30, 2017

Mike has put up news that there are going to be mass demonstrations across the UK today against Trump’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim majority countries. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has demanded that Trump’s state visit to Britain should be cancelled. And, almost predictably, Theresa May has failed to say very much about it. She has asked Boris Johnson and the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to raise the issue of the travel ban with their opposite numbers in the US administration. But this seems to be less than altruistic. She’s not worried about the ban on Muslims going to the US so much as how it would affect the Tory MP, Nadhim Zahawi.

The demonstration in London is due to be held this evening at 6.00 pm outside Downing Street. There are also demos in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Falmouth, Glasgow, Hastings, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Preston in Lancashire, Sheffield and York. The demos are organised by Momentum, but people of other views are welcome to join them.

There is also a petition currently being compiled against a state visit by Trump to the UK, which people may also wish to sign. And Mike has also suggested that those with a Tory MP may also like to write to them in protest about it, using the tools provided by Write To Them for creating such messages.

For further information, please go to Mike’s website, where there are appropriate links to the internet pages of the organisations mentioned.

Mike’s article also has a few Tweets from those disapproving May’s silence on this critical issue. One of them is Gary Lineker, wondering when May’s going to speak out. The other is Hugh Terry, who aptly describes May as not a prime minister, but a ‘fascist apologist arms dealer disguised as a rancid old school-marm!’ Which is an accurate description of May, and indeed, of that great, golden Tory icon, Maggie Thatcher.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/29/join-demonstrations-across-the-nation-january-30-2017-against-trumps-muslimban/

The Nazi Murder of Jo Cox MP

June 18, 2016

It’s been a week for murder by extreme right-wing nutters. On Monday the world was shocked by the news that a gunman, Omar Mateen, had opened fire in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Before he was killed in turn by armed police, he had killed 49 people and wounded another 50.

Then on Thursday another maniac, Thomas Mair, shot to death Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen. Cox had just been holding a surgery, meeting her constituents in a library in Birstall, a village in Yorkshire. She was outside the library when Thomas Mair shot her twice, first in the face, and then on the ground, before stabbing her. Mair was tackled by a very brave local man. A witness, Hitham ben Abdullah, said the gun looked homemade. Before Mair attacked her, he was heard shouting ‘Britain First’, or ‘You don’t put Britain first’, either in reference to the Referendum – Cox was a supporter of the Remain team – or the British Nazi group of the same name.

Britain First’s initial reaction was to deny they had any connection to Mair and the murder. Others on the extreme right were all too eager to express their sympathies for the murderer’s actions. Daniel Hall, a member of the Notts Casuals Infidels, from Sutton in Ashfield, posted on their Facebook page that ‘We knew it was only a matter of time before we took it to the next level. We have been mugged off of for far too long.’ Hall is the brother of Jordan, a Kipper and an activist for Pegida. The Notts Casuals Infidels are a mixture of the EDL and the North West Infidels, another anti-Islam group. He also said that another politician, Rachel Maskell, the MP for York Central, needed to ‘disappear’. And the South East Infidels greeted the shocking news of Cox’s murder with a post on Facebook hoping that the murderer was a Muslim.

See the article in Hope Not Hate http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/in-an-hour-of-darkness-fascists-live-out-sick-their-fantasies-4918.

Nick Griffin, now sponging off eastern European Nazis after he was ousted from the BNP, attacked Cox as a warmonger for supporting the bombing of Syria. And the north east branch of the Nazi group, National Action put up a post urging its readers ‘Don’t let this man’s [Mair’s] sacrifice be in vain. Jo Cox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans!’

Mair himself had a long history of mental illness. However, it seems he was also a very committed member of the Nazi right. From the late 1990s to the early years of this century he purchased $600 worth of books from National Vanguard Books, the publishing arm of the National Alliance, America’s and the world’s biggest neo-Nazi organisation. The books he bought were manuals showing how guns and ammunition could be made from ordinary ingredients and parts bought in hardware stores. Mair appears to have been very much a peripheral figure in the extreme Far-Right. At one time he attended the meetings of the Springbok Club, a society for pro-Apartheid expatriate White South Africans, and may have gone to the meetings of the ultra-Conservative Swinton Circle/ London Swinton Circle.

As for Britain First, while they’ve disowned him, they did run camps instructing their members how to defend themselves in knife fights, and promised ‘militant action’ and ‘direct action’, against elected Muslim politicians, whom they regard as ‘occupiers’, leading the Islamification of Britain. One of these ‘occupiers’ is the new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. On the night of her election, Cox was shown with a shawl round her head in the company of some of her Muslim constituents. This would have sent Britain First and similar Nazis into apoplexy, as they would have seen her as a collaborator and ‘race traitor’.
See the Hope Not Hate article: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/a-hater-at-heart-4919
This also makes sense of an comment a ‘John Gaines’ posted over on Mike’s blog at Vox Political, which ran ‘Here we go, what have you Political imbeciles done to our Country? you scum will not stop until we are completely another damn Middle East mess. Never mind ‘Remain’ run for your lives from all political idiots.’ Which shows what a political idiot Mr Gaines is.
See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/16/mp-critically-injured-after-shooting-and-stabbing-attack/#comments.

Despite the cruddy attitude from the Far Right, which you’d expect, MPs and the leaders of all the mainstream parties expressed their shock and sadness at Cox’s death. Referendum campaigning has been suspended, and the other parties will not contest Jo Cox’s seat.

Cox was a woman of deep integrity and compassion, by all accounts. She was dedicated not just to her constituents, but had also been an active member of Oxfam. She should have had a brilliant political career ahead of her. Instead she was murdered in cold blood in the street by a maniac. She leaves a husband and two children.

Homelessness In Bristol

January 19, 2014

I put up a piece earlier this week on Rachael Kiddey’s presentation on the archaeology of homelessness in Bristol, along with links and videos on the archaeology of homelessness in Indianapolis, under Dr Larry Zimmerman and Dr Welch, and York back here in the UK, also led by Kiddey. Since I put it up, there was a report on the local BBC news evening news programme, Points West about homelessness in the city. It’s doubled over the last year.

Well, as the American comedian Bill Hicks used to say, ‘Well, pull me up a chair!’

Some of this will be due to the Coalition’s cuts and destruction of the welfare state. Some of it is also no doubt due to budget cuts by Bristol council itself. The city is now governed by George Ferguson, its elected mayor. Nominally independent, he was previously a Lib Dem and seems to have ditched his formal party membership in order to get elected. As part of his image, he strides across Bristol and the world clad in red trousers, though for funerals these are claret, rather than the shade he usually adopts. Under him, this situation will get worse. Just before Christmas he announced his plans for another £90 million worth of cuts, though told the press that ‘people shouldn’t be afraid of it’. As more services are cut, so more people will find it difficult to cope, with some eventually ending up on the streets.

I’ve found a couple of videos on Youtube on homelessness in Bristol.

In this video below by Jake Dix, the producer and director talks to the manager of one of the homeless shelters, a spokesman for the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, and a group of squatters. The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft is a co-operative, that has a number of subsidiary firms. One of these produces pottery from the fragments of old crockery. It has a policy of employing recovering drug addicts. As for the squatters, these have been occupying a building that was derelict for forty years.

This video on Bristol City Homelessness Advice Centre in Phoenix Court by ‘PublicEnquiry’ in itself isn’t really very interesting. It’s just footage of people coming and going in the office, set to a modern jazz soundtrack. I am, however, reblogging it on here because of its producer’s comments about the very commercial attitude of the Council and their attempts to remove it.

Here’s the video:

‘Despite their statutory duty to house the homeless Bristol’s local authority do virtually nothing nowadays to house the majority of homeless people. The council is being run as if it was a business and they can’t make any money out of the poor and mentally ill. They have even tried to get this video removed despite the fact that it is a public place and does not infringe anyone’s privacy.’

Rachael Kiddey at Bristol University and the Archaeology of Homelessness

January 17, 2014

A few years ago I went to a talk at Bristol University on the archaeology of homelessness in the city, presented by Rachael Kiddey, John Schofield and some of the homeless people, who had helped them and whose lives they had investigated. Kiddey was a former archaeology student at Bristol University, who was now living in Stokes Croft, the part of Bristol which was at the centre of the project. John Schofield is a very senior archaeologist and a member of the Council for British Archaeology. Among his other works is the book with John Vince, The Archaeology of British Towns in their European Settings, published by Equinox.

The project was Kiddey’s idea. She had been angered by plans to demolish the grain store in Stokes Croft. This was a listed building, and one of the few remaining warehouses from the 19th century left in Bristol. Stokes Croft is one of Bristol’s inner city suburbs. It’s been described as ‘bohemian’. It has an ethnically mixed population, including many students and artists. Although it dates from the 19th century, it has suffered considerable economic decline. It was one of the areas in Bristol hit by the anti-Thatcher riots in 1981. As she has pointed out in other presentations on the project, as a historic part of Bristol Stokes Croft enjoys the same level of official protection as the far wealthier and more respectable Clifton. In practice, however, the situation is very different, and despite their legal status Stokes Croft and its buildings were given very little protection from neglect, decay and demolition by the city’s authorities. From what I can remember, the Grain Store was destroyed as part of a project to build luxury flats on the site. Kiddey was angered by this attack on the city’s working class heritage, and the destruction of this building had been so important to the city’s working people, in order to benefit the wealthy middle class. Her study of the city’s homeless grew out of her campaign against the destruction of this old, industrial building.

The project was deliberately set up to be socially inclusive. She quoted EU legislation, which states that every section of society should have the right to participate in the production of culture. This, she made very clear, also included the homeless, a marginal and excluded group. As she started to develop her ideas, she befriended a number of homeless people. They were initially suspicious, but after she had managed to assure them she was genuine, and not a police spy, they gave her considerable support. They took her with them on their journeys across the city, showing her where they lived, visited, and some of the places where they could get a meal, a bed for the night or simply a sympathetic ear.

One of the first things, she found out being taken around the city by them was that they were certainly not lazy. In their journeys about Bristol they walked about six miles a day. When one her homeless friends showed her the makeshift camp he had made underneath a wall or fence, she remarked on the strong similarity between it, and the remains left by ancient hunter-gatherer peoples around their rock shelters. These were camps set up underneath a rock overhang, which gave them some protection from the elements. The homeless people she spoke ate a particular Caribbean café in Stokes Croft. This was one of the few places that would serve them. They also respected it as the owners would not tolerate any trouble from their customers. If someone ‘kicked off’ in there, the staff would throw everyone out, leaving the troublemaker to face the ire of the other diners. They also had a lot of respect for a community of nuns in the area. Although the Sisters would not give them money, they would listen to them, something which the city’s destitute appreciated. They also gave her information about the area’s homeless shelters and their experiences with them. Conditions in one of them were actually so bad that one homeless man went back on the streets as this was a better alternative to the squalor he found in the shelter.

Kiddey managed to get support for the project from Schofield, who was very pleased to give it. He appreciated its novelty and the way it expanded and challenged ideas about archaeology and what it can do. Archaeology is not just about the distant past. It can also cover the very recent and contemporary. One of the other female students at Bristol University, for example, was researching a Ph.D. on mobile phone masts.

Kiddey’s study of homelessness in Bristol is part of a wider study of homelessness by archaeologists around the world. In America this is led by Dr Larry Zimmerman, an archaeologist and professor of Museum Studies at Indiana University – Perdue University Indiana. In an interview with one of the staff at Indianapolis public library, Zimmerman states that archaeology is not just about what happened a century ago, but also what occurred only ten minutes previously. He has stated that the study of homelessness benefits archaeology, as it prevents it from becoming socially irrelevant. Few people are directly touched or affected by academic’s study of the people’s of the distant past. Zimmerman developed his interest in the archaeology of the homeless when excavating the mansion of one of Indianapolis’ wealthiest citizens. He found evidence of homeless people squatting and occupying the site going back over a century to the 1840s. Since then, other archaeologists around the world have followed Zimmerman in studying homelessness, both in the present and in the ancient past. Zimmerman’s fellow researcher, Jessica Welch has personally experienced the problem. She was homeless drug addict for many years, until she managed to turn her life around, get of the street and into university.

The archaeologists studying the homeless used a number of professional techniques to record their lives. This included mapping their movements around the city, recording their rubbish and other material culture left at the places they visited and occupied. In the winter of 2009-10 the university excavated ‘Turbo Island’, a traffic island in Stokes Croft used by the homeless. This got its nickname from a brand of strong lager they drank there. Other sites visited and recorded included phone boxes and the ‘Bear Pit’. This is a circular public ‘square’, sunk below the level of the main roads surrounding it and reached by underpass in Bristol’s Horsefair. It lies at the entrance to Stoke’s Croft in Broadmead.

What came out most strongly from the talk is how immensely hard these people’s lives are. Many of the individuals studied and who spoke at the talk had severe mental health problems, or problems with alcohol and/or drugs. Much of the material remains recovered from the sites were drug equipment, including ‘pins’ – hypodermic syringes – and ‘spoons’. These were the bottoms of drink cans, which had been cut off and shaped so that they could be used for cooking heroin. At least one of them had fled onto the streets to escape a brutally abusive home. From what I can remember, their lives could be extremely short. Homeless people are often the victims of unprovoked attacks and violence. There’s a report on Youtube from America about ‘Bum-bashing’. This does not, unfortunately, refer to some kind of harmless horseplay involving striking the buttocks, but attacks on the homeless by young men, simply for some kind of sick fun. Kiddey also spoke about one of the other derelict buildings in Stokes Croft occupied by the homeless. She stated that its former lift shaft was full of discarded mattresses. Furthermore, if someone died there, then their body would also be thrown down it. Their death would not be reported to the police, as the cops response would be to come and clear the building. One of the homeless speakers described how she had managed to turn her life around and get into social housing. She described how she had lived in this building with her other homeless friends. She described with a kind of amazed horror one evening she had shared with another three, when they were nearly all out of their minds on drugs and alcohol. One of them had became paranoid and was suffering a panic attack, as he had heard a police siren and now thought they were coming for him. What this girl found particularly amazing now is that at the time she thought it was normal.

It was a truly excellent presentation that really did challenge my own perceptions of the city’s homeless, and opened my eyes to their problems. I have to say I went to the talk with some scepticism about such deliberately socially inclusive projects. It’s all too easy to take up the views of some of the more Conservative journalists and pundits that projects like this were a superficial product of the Blair administration’s insistence on ‘inclusivity’. It can be all too easy to accept the attitude of the Daily Fail and other Right-wing rags that the homeless are just feckless scroungers, a social nuisance, who should be moved on and who deserve little pity or sympathy. This project showed the complete opposite. Their lives are bitterly hard. They are not on the street through idleness, but often through simple misfortune, or from mental health problems that have left them unable to hold down a normal life. As I mentioned earlier, at least one of them was on the streets because of horrific abuse in the parental home. These people do not the deserve the scorn and hatred as some kind of the threat to decent society. Rather, they should be given sympathy as people, who are more often than not severely unfortunate. Rather than tabloid attacks, they should be given proper help from the governments and charities so they can pick themselves up and live some kind of safe, normal, reasonable life. Unfortunately, thanks to the Coalition’s austerity policies and their attitude that if you’re unemployed or poor, it’s your fault, the chances of this are becoming increasingly small.

In this clip from Youtube below, Rachael Kiddey talks about her project with the homeless in Bristol. Warning to Bristol Evening Post readers: she makes no secret of her contempt for the newspaper, describing it as the Evening Fascist. As it is partly owned by the Daily Mail, some people would argue that’s the correct description.

Since then, Rachael Kiddey has moved on to do a Ph.D. in the archaeology of homelessness at York University. Here are another few videos from Youtube about the archaeology of homelessness in that ancient city.

This is part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

This is a video, also from Youtube, of Jon Barnes’ interview with Larry Zimmerman at Indianapolis Public Library.

This an ABC news report on ‘Bum Bashing’ assaults on the homeless.

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This is the address for a webpage on the Archaeology of Homelessness

http://archaeologyofhomelessness.wordpress.com/

This site gives further information on Larry Zimmerman’s and Jessica Welch’s work researching the archaeology of homelessness in America.

http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1602577/archeology_of_homelessness/

Thinking the Unthinkable: Move Parliament out of London

October 19, 2013

From Hell, Hull and Halifax, good Lord deliver us

-16th Century beggars’ prayer.

Last week The Economist recommended that the government cease trying to revive declining northern towns and leave them to die. The main example of such a town, where further intervention was deemed to be useless, was Hull, but the magazine also mentioned a number of others, including Burnley. The Economist is the magazine of capitalist economic orthodoxy in this country. Its stance is consistently Neo-Liberal, and the policies it has always demanded are those of welfare cuts and the privatisation of everything that isn’t nailed down. It has loudly supported the IMF’s recommendations of these policies to the developing world. Some left-wing magazines and organisation like Lobster have pointed out that the IMF’s policies effectively constitute American economic imperialism, citing the IMF’s proposals to several South and Meso-American nations. These were not only told to privatise their countries’ state assets, but to sell them to American multinationals so that they could be more efficiently managed.

The Economist’s advice that economically hit northern towns should be ‘closed down’ also reflects the almost exclusive concentration of the metropolitan establishment class on London and south-east, and their complete disinterest and indeed active hostility to everything beyond Birmingham. This possibly excludes the Scots Highlands, where they can go grouse shooting. It was revealed a little while ago that back in the 1980s one of Thatcher’s cabinet – I forgotten which one – recommended a similar policy towards Liverpool. Recent economic analyses have shown that London and the south-east have become increasingly prosperous, and have a higher quality of life, while that of the North has significantly declined. The London Olympics saw several extensive and prestigious construction projects set up in the Docklands area of London, intended both to build the infrastructure needed for the Olympics and promote the capital to the rest of the world. It’s also been predicted that the high-speed rail link proposed by the Coalition would not benefit Britain’s other cities, but would lead to their further decline as jobs and capital went to London. A report today estimated that 50 cities and regions, including Bristol, Cardiff, Aberdeen and Cambridge would £200 million + through the rail link. The Economist’s article also demonstrates the political class’ comprehensive lack of interest in manufacturing. From Mrs Thatcher onwards, successive administrations have favoured the financial sector, centred on the City of London. Lobster has run several articles over the years showing how the financial sector’s prosperity was bought at the expense of manufacturing industry. Despite claims that banking and financial industry would take over from manufacturing as the largest employer, and boost the British economy, this has not occurred. The manufacturing has indeed contracted, but still employs far more than banking, insurance and the rest of the financial sector. The financial sector, however, as we’ve seen, has enjoyed massively exorbitant profits. The Economist claims to represent the interests and attitudes of the financial class, and so its attitude tellingly reveals the neglectful and contemptuous attitude of the metropolitan financial elite towards the troubled economic conditions of industrial towns outside the capital.

Coupled with this is a condescending attitude that sees London exclusively as the centre of English arts and culture, while the provinces, particularly the North, represent its complete lack. They’re either full of clod-hopping yokels, or unwashed plebs from the factories. Several prominent Right-wingers have also made sneering or dismissive comments about the North and its fate. The art critic and contrarian, Brian Sewell, commented a few years ago that ‘all those dreadful Northern mill towns ought to be demolished’. Transatlantic Conservatism has also felt the need to adopt a defensive attitude towards such comments. The American Conservative, Mark Steyn, on his website declared that criticism of London was simply anti-London bias, but didn’t tell you why people were so critical of the metropolis or its fortunes. This situation isn’t new. At several times British history, London’s rising prosperity was marked by decline and poverty in the rest of the country. In the 17th century there was a recession, with many English ports suffering a sharp economic decline as London expanded to take 75 per cent of the country’s trade. The regional ports managed to survive by concentrating on local, coastal trade rather than international commerce, until trade revived later in the century.

It’s also unfair on the North and its cultural achievements. The North rightfully has a reputation for the excellence of its museum collections. The region’s museums tended to be founded by philanthropic and civic-minded industrialists, keen to show their public spirit and their interest in promoting culture. I can remember hearing from the director of one of the museum’s here in Bristol two decades ago in the 1990s how he was shocked by the state of the City’s museum when he came down here from one of the northern towns. It wasn’t of the same standard he was used to back home. What made this all the more surprising was that Bristol had a reputation for having a very good museum. Now I like Bristol Museum, and have always been fascinated by its collections and displays, including, naturally, those on archaeology. My point here isn’t to denigrate Bristol, but simply show just how high a standard there was in those of the industrial north. Liverpool City Museum and art gallery in particular has a very high reputation. In fact, Liverpool is a case in point in showing the very high standard of provincial culture in the 19th century, and its importance to Britain’s economic, technological and imperial dominance. Liverpool was a major centre in scientific advance and experiment through its philosophical and literary society, and its magazine. This tends to be forgotten, overshadowed as it has been by the city’s terrible decline in the 20th century and its setting for shows dealing with working-class hardship like Boys from the Black Stuff and the comedy, Bread. Nevertheless, its cultural achievements are real, quite apart from modern pop sensations like the Beatles, Cilla Black, Macca and comedians like Jimmy Tarbuck. The town also launched thousands of young engineers and inventors with the Meccano construction sets, while Hornby railways delighted model railway enthusiasts up and down the length of Britain. These two toys have been celebrated in a series of programmes exploring local history, like Coast. Hornby, the inventor of both Meccano and the model railway that bore his name, was duly celebrated by the science broadcaster, Adam Hart-Davis, as one of his Local Heroes.

And Liverpool is certainly not the only city north of London with a proud history. Think of Manchester. This was one of Britain’s major industrial centres, and the original hometown of the Guardian, before it moved to London. It was a major centre of the political debates and controversies that raged during the 19th century, with the Guardian under Feargus O’Connor the major voice of working class radicalism. It was in industrial towns like Manchester that working class culture emerged. Books like The Civilisation of the Crowd show how mass popular culture arose and developed in the 19th century, as people from working-class communities attempted to educate themselves and enjoy music. They formed choirs and brass bands. Working men, who worked long hours used their few spare hours to copy sheet music to sing or play with their fellows. The various mechanics institutes up and down the country were institutions, in which the working class attempted to educate itself and where contemporary issues were discussed. It’s an aspect of industrial, working class culture that needs to be remembered and celebrated, and which does show how strong and vibrant local culture could be in industrial towns outside London.

Back in the 1990s the magazine, Anxiety Culture, suggested a way of breaking this exclusive concentration on London and the interests of the metropolitan elite to the neglect of those in the provinces. This magazine was a small press publication, with a minuscule circulation, which mixed social and political criticism with Forteana and the esoteric, by which I mean alternative spirituality, like Gnosticism, rather than anything Tory prudes think should be banned from the internet, but don’t know quite what. In one of their articles they noted that when a politician said that ‘we should think the unthinkable’, they meant doing more of what they were already doing: cutting down on welfare benefits and hitting the poor. They recommended instead the adoption of a truly radical policy:

Move parliament out of London.

They listed a number of reasons for such a genuinely radical move. Firstly, it’s only been since the 18th century that parliament has been permanently fixed in London. Before then it often sat where the king was at the time. At various points in history it was at Winchester near the Anglo-Saxon and Norman kings’ treasury. It was in York during Edward I’s campaign against the Scots. In short, while parliament has mostly been resident in London, it hasn’t always been there, and so there is no absolutely compelling reason why it should remain so.

Secondly, London’s expensive. The sheer expensive of living in the capital was always so great that civil servants’ pay including ‘London weighting’ to bring it up to the amount they’d really need to live on in the capital, which was always higher than in the rest of the country. The same was true for other workers and employees. As we’ve seen, these inequalities are growing even more massive under the Tories, and there is talk of a demographic cleansing as poorer families are forced to move out of some of the most expensive boroughs in the capital. MPs and the very rich may now afford to live in luxury accommodation in the metropolis, but I wonder how long it will be before the capital’s infrastructure breaks down because so many of its workers simply cannot afford to live there. The government has declared that it is keen on cutting expenses, and public sector employees’ salaries have been particularly hard hit. The government could therefore solve a lot of its problems – such as those of expense, and the cost in time and money of negotiating the heavy London traffic – by relocating elsewhere.

Birmingham would be an excellent place to start. This has most of what London has to offer, including excellent universities and entertainment centres, such as the NEC, but would be much cheaper. Or York. During the Middle Ages, this was England’s Second City. It’s an historic town, with a history going back to the Romans. The excavations at Coppergate made York one of the major British sites for the archaeology of the Vikings. It also has an excellent university. One could also recommend Durham. When I was growing up in the 1980s, Durham University was considered the third best in the country, following Oxbridge. Manchester too would be an outstanding site for parliament. Apart from its historic associations with working class politics, it has also been a major centre of British scientific research and innovation. Fred Hoyle, the astronomer and maverick cosmologist, came from that fair city. While he was persistently wrong in supporting the steady-state theory against the Big Bang, he was one of Britain’s major astronomers and physicists, and Manchester University does have a very strong tradition of scientific research and innovation. British politicians are also keen to show that they are now tolerant with an inclusive attitude towards gays. Manchester’s Canal Street is one of the main centres of gay nightlife. If parliament really wanted to show how tolerant it was of those in same-sex relationship, it would make sense for it to move to Manchester.

Furthermore, relocating parliament to the north should have the effect of reinvigorating some of these cities and the north generally. The influx of civil servants and highly paid officials and ministers would stimulate the local economy. It would also break the myopic assumption that there is nothing of any value outside London. If the government and its servants continued to feel the same way, then they would have the option of actually passing reforms to improve their new homes by providing better road and rail links, improving local education, building or better funding theatres, orchestras and opera companies, investing in local businesses to support both the governmental infrastructure, but also to provide suitable work for themselves and their children, when they retire from the Civil Service. In short, moving parliament out of London to the midlands or the North would massively regenerate those part of England.

It won’t happen, because the current financial, political and business elite are very much tied to the metropolis as the absolute centre of English life and culture. They won’t want to leave its theatres, art galleries and museums, or move away from nearby sporting venues, like Ascot. They would find the idea of moving out of London absolutely unthinkable. But perhaps, as Anxiety Culture suggested twenty years ago, it is time that these ideas were thought, rather than the banal and all-too often ruminated policies of cutting benefits and penalising the poor.