Posts Tagged ‘Yorkshire’

Folkie Mike Harding Reads His Angry Letter to May on LBC

December 2, 2018

This is a short video from Garbage Collector’s channel over on YouTube. Those of us of our certain vintage will know Mike Harding has a folk musician and comedian. He used to have his own folk music show on Radio 2. Harding was on holiday in France when May made her speech calling for the whole country to unite behind her on Brexit. Harding was so outraged by her, her party and Brexit that he wrote this letter, which went viral. May herself even shared it, and James O’Brien then asked Harding to record himself reading it, so he could play it on his show on LBC.

It’s a powerful, angry attack on the Tories. Harding states that his family includes Irish people and Poles, who came to Britain and fought for it. His father is buried in Holland, having been shot down with his bomber during World War II. Yet these brave people have been shamefully discarded by May. He attacks the way she treated the Windrush people and her vans going round calling for immigrants to hand themselves in. He states that she has no answer to the question of the hard border in Ireland, nor over Gibraltar. Her party has privatized everything bar the NHS, and is lining that up to sell it to the Americans. And the Tories refusal to invest in industry has resulted in the north – Yorkshire, Sunderland and elsewhere – being decimated. She has grievously divided this nation. Those who voted remain will never forgive her for Brexit, and those who voted Leave will never forgive the Tories for not fulfilling the glowing promises they made about it. There are no magic unicorns being produced by the government, and no 350 million pounds people were told would go to the NHS if we left Europe.

Here it is. There’s a complete transcript of it over at Garbage Collector’s post for it on YouTube.

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No, Hodge, It Is Violence Against the Left that Is Increasing!

November 3, 2018

Yesterday, the Beeb covered the story that the Met police are now investigating accusations of anti-Semitism against members of the Labour party. The investigation is based on a dossier of such incidents, which was leaked to LBC Radio, who have now passed it on to police commissioner Cressida Dick. Mike wrote a piece about it yesterday welcoming the move, as it means that these accusations will have to be investigated according to proper police procedure and law. This means that while such incidents will be registered as a hate crime, they will still have to be investigated and held to the same standard of proof as any other criminal investigation. An action cannot be considered anti-Semitic solely because a Jewish person says it is.

And Mike also draws attention to the way he was smeared by someone leaking information to the press from within the Labour party. And that he has spent the last nine months trying to defend his good name. He is now due to appear before a hearing, and is also appealing to people to contribute to his crowdfunding campaign, so that he can afford to sue those responsible for libel.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/11/02/met-police-investigation-into-alleged-anti-semitic-hate-crimes-in-the-labour-party-is-a-welcome-move/

The Beeb, which has shown itself to be committed to repeating the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour party sent in walrus-moustached John Pienaar to report on the story. Pienaar’s also shown himself all-too willing to repeat the smears uncritically. This time he interviewed Margaret Hodge, who had slithered out from whatever hole she’d been hiding in after she got a drubbing the last time she smeared Corbyn.

Hodge told Pienaar that there was a problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour party, and Jews like her now lived in fear of their lives. This was the woman, who managed to outrage Jews, people of Jewish descent, and gentiles, who had experienced persecution by the Nazis, or had relatives who had. Hodge, remember, had called Corbyn a ‘F***ing anti-Semite’ in parliament, a disciplinary offence. When she was threatened with it, which was later dropped, Hodge showed herself to be a massive self-pitying narcissist by declaring that she felt like the Jews in Nazi Germany did waiting for a knock on the door from the Gestapo.

Utter, utter, offensive, mendacious rubbish.

As the people on Twitter reminded everyone, including Tom London and the blogger Tom Pride, her experience was NOTHING like the terror the Jewish and other victims of Nazi persecution felt and experienced.

Way back in September, Martin Odoni wrote in his blog, the Critique Archives, a piece about how in fact violence against the Left was growing. Martin’s a friend of Mike’s blog, and a critic of Israel’s vile maltreatment of the Palestinians. He, like very many other critics of Israel, is Jewish. Which makes him a special target of the Israel lobby, who have an especial hatred of anti-Zionist or Israel-critical Jews.

Martin reported how a screening of the film about Jackie Walker’s suspension from the Labour party for anti-Semitism, and her attempts to clear her name at a fringe event at the Labour conference in Liverpool had to be called off due to a bomb scare. Later that week, he was in The Caledonian pub in the same city, discussing Israel and Palestine with other Labour party members and supporters, when this meeting too was subjected to another bomb scare. They reasoned that it was another false one, however, and carried on with their evening.

He then moves on to a far more serious case in which a young woman, Jade Unal, and her mother were abused and attacked in a pub in Wakefield, west Yorkshire. Unal is an activist and local campaign manager for Young Labour. She and her mother were drinking quietly when a group of people came up and assaulted them. Jade was called “a posh c*nt in politics, that’s stuck up your own a*se” and a paedophile. Her head was then smashed against the bar, raising a lump and leaving a gash that required hospital treatment. The gang also followed her and her mother home, and threatened to torch their house. Martin shows the photographs of the wounds, with a warning about how grim they are.

Martin goes on to make the point that she was attacked because she was a Labour Leftist, but has received precious little help from the authorities. The police took her complaint, but have done anything further to help her or find her assailants. Jade also tried to get the help of social services, as her attackers had children with them. But she didn’t get any help there, either. And the Labour party itself has done nothing to help her, beyond the support she is receiving from her circle of friends.

Martin compares this with the massive attention given to the Blairites, who have claimed that they have suffered threats of attack. He writes

In short, while I do not wish to sound over-dramatic, the British Left is currently facing growing aggression and threatening behaviour from other parts of the political spectrum. That aggression is largely being overlooked or misrepresented. When Labour centrists complain about ‘bullying’ and ‘victimisation’, as I have pointed out before, they seem highly selective over which victims they care about. Hence, an almighty ker-fuffle is made over the very obviously faked and theatrical ‘bodyguard’ requirements of Luciana Berger this week. But there is a muted reaction, or no reaction at all, when a young woman in the party is actually beaten up for her political persuasion, and when party meetings are threatened with bomb attacks.

I am not in any doubt that there are some violent, over-aggressive leftists out there. But the Left is not the aggressor here. It is the target. And it is time that it was made clear to the public at large just how dangerous the aggression is getting.

And in addendum to his piece, Martin also talks about the criticism he has received for using an image of far-right violence in Germany as a link to the article on Twitter and Facebook. His detractors believe it is inappropriate. Martin explains it is all too appropriate, because far right violence is growing. He himself was threatened with murder on social media by one of Tommy Robinson’s supporters. Tommy Robinson is the monicker of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the infamous Islamophobe and founder of the EDL, who was banged up for contempt of court.

Martin concludes

Okay, maybe I should have been more explicit, but my point was, if people are bothered about political violence, why are so many of them looking for it on the left, when all of this is happening on the right?

Sounds perfectly consistent with what is in this article? I would say so.

Absolutely. But the lamestream media does not want to talk at all about the real and rising violence against the left, preferring to indulge the fantasies and posturing of people like Hodge. It’s just another example of the completely corrupt nature of the Beeb and the rest of the media, who are determined to slander Corbyn supporters as anti-Semites. And in their way, they are responsible for promoting and inciting this violence against the left.

The Sky At Night Looks at Britain in Space

October 19, 2018

I just managed to catch the weekday repeat a day or so ago of this month’s Sky at Night, in which presenters Maggie Aderin-Pocock and British astronaut Tim Peake looked at the history of Britain in space, and forward to the country’s future in the deep black. The programme’s changed a bit over the past few years in the case of its presenters. It was famously presented by Sir Patrick Moore from its beginning in the 1950s until he passed away a few years ago. This made the programme the longest-running show presented by the same person. Aderin-Pocock joined it before Moore’s departure. She’s a black woman scientist, with a background in programming missile trajectories. She’s obviously very intelligent, enthusiastic and very definitely deserves her place on the show. But I wish she’d done a job that didn’t involve the military use of rocket technology, however much this is needed as part of national defence.

Aderin-Pocock was speaking to one of the management officials from Orbex, a new, British company, which has developed a rocket launcher and intends to open a spaceport in one of the more deserted areas of Scotland. The rocket will stand about 17 meters tall, using propane and High Test Peroxide as fuel. High Test Peroxide is a highly concentrated version of the hydrogen peroxide used by hairdressers to bleach peoples’ hair. The use of propane is particularly important, as it’s lighter than conventional rocket fuels, meaning that the rocket doesn’t have to carry as much fuel to lift off into space. Advances in satellite design have also allowed the rocket to be smaller than other spacecraft used elsewhere. British universities have succeeded in developing microsatellites – satellites that are much, much smaller than some of the satellites put into orbit, but which can perform the same functions. As these satellites are smaller and lighter, they only need a relatively smaller, lighter rocket to launch them.

The Scottish launch complex also wasn’t going to be as big as other, larger, major launch complexes, such as those of NASA, for example. I think it would still contain a launch tower and control buildings. As well as the official from Orbex, the show also talked to a woman representing the rural community in the part of Scotland, where they were planning to build it. She admitted that there would be problems with building it in this part of the Scots countryside. However, the community was only going to lease the land, not sell it to Orbex, and care would be taken to protect the farms of the local crofters and the environment and wildlife. Like much of rural Britain, this was an area of few jobs, and the population was aging as the young people moved away in search of work. She looked forward to Orbex and its spaceport bringing work to the area, and creating apprenticeships for the local young people.

The programme went on to explain that this would be the first time for decades that a British company was going to build a British rocket to launch a British satellite. From what looked the British space museum in Manchester, Time Peake stood under the display of Britain’s Black Knight rocket and the Prospero satellite. He explained how the rocket launched the satellite into space from Australia in 1975. However, the project was then cancelled, which meant that Britain is the only country so far which has developed, and then discarded rocket technology.

But Black Knight wasn’t the only space rocket Britain developed. Peake then moved on to talk about Skylark, a massively successful sounding rocket. Developed for high altitude research, the rocket reached a maximum of altitude of 400 km in the few minutes it was in flight. At its apogee – its maximum distance from Earth – the vehicle briefly experienced a few minutes of zero gravity, during which experiments could be performed exploring this environment. The Skylark rocket was used for decades before it was finally cancelled.

Aderin-Pocock asked the official from Orbex how long it would be before the spaceport would be up and running. The manager replied that this was always an awkward question to answer, as there was always something that meant operations and flights would start later than expected. He said, however, that they were aiming at around the end of 2020 and perhaps the beginning of 2021.

Orbex are not, however, the only space company planning to open a spaceport in Britain. Virgin Galactic have their own plans to launch rockets in to space from Cornwall. Their vehicle will not, however, be launched from the ground like a conventional rocket, but will first be carried to a sufficiently high altitude by an airplane, which would then launch it. I’m not a betting man, but my guess is that of the two, Orbex is the far more likely to get off the ground, as it were, and begin launching its rocket on schedule. As I’ve blogged about previously, Branson has been telling everyone since the late 1990s at least, that Virgin Galactic are going to be flying tourists into space in just a few months from now. This fortnight’s Private Eye published a brief list of the number of times Branson had said that, with dates. It might be that Branson will at last send the first of his aspiring astronauts up in the next few months, as he claimed last week. But from his previous form, it seems far more likely that Orbex will start launches before him, as will Branson’s competitors over the pond, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

When asked about the company’s capability of perfecting their technology, Orbex’s manager not stressed the skill and competence of the scientists, technicians and engineers working on the project. This included not just conventional space scientists, but also people, who had personally tried and failed to build their own spacecraft. He said that it was extremely important to fail to build rockets. He’s obviously referring to the many non-professional, hobby rocketeers out there trying to build their own spacecraft. He didn’t mention them, but one example would be the people at Starchaser, who started out as a small group of enthusiasts in Yorkshire but have gone on to create their own space company, now based across the pond in America. I think it’s brilliant that amateurs and semi-professionals have developed skills that the professionals in the industry find valuable. And the failures are important, as they show what can go wrong, and give the experience and necessary information on how to avoid it. I don’t think the rocket will be wholly built in this country. The manager said that some of it was being constructed in Copenhagen. This sounds like Copenhagen Suborbitals, a Danish team of rocket scientists, who are trying to put a person into space. They’re ex-NASA, I believe, but it’s a small, private venture. They have a webpage and have posted videos on YouTube, some of which I’ve reblogged. They’ve also said they’re keen for people to join them, or start their own rocket projects.

I’d been looking forward to that edition of the Sky at Night for the past week, but when the time came, it slipped my mind that it was on. I’m very glad I was able to catch it. If Orbex are successful, it will be the first time that a British satellite will launch a British satellite from here in Britain. And it sounds really optimistic. Not only will Britain be returning to space rocket development, but the Scots spaceport sounds like it will, hopefully, bring work to a depressed area. I’m also confident that the local environment there will also be preserved. The launch complex around NASA is necessarily so remote from other buildings, that it’s actually become a wildlife haven. So much so that it’s now a location for birdwatching.

When it was announced that they were planning to build a new spaceport in Scotland, I assumed it would be for Skylon, the British spaceplane. There had been articles in the paper about the spacecraft, which stated that it would be launched either from Scotland or Cornwall. It seems I was wrong, and that it’s Orbex’s rocket which will be launched there instead. But nevertheless, I wish Orbex every success in their venture, and hope that sometime soon Skylon will also join them in flight out on the High Frontier.

May’s Speech to Rich Tory Donors: This Is What the Lollards Warned You About

February 11, 2018

Sunday is the Christian holy day, so I thought I’d include here a particularly relevant piece of radical Christian polemic against the rich and powerful and their neglect and oppression of the poor from the 15th century.

A few days ago Mike put up a piece reporting Theresa May’s speech at a fundraising banquet for rich Tory donors. To get in, you had to pay £15,000 for a ticket. The long reign of Thatcherite neoliberalism in this country has led to a massive transfer of wealth from the poorer sections of society – the working and lower middle classes – upwards to the extremely rich. Thatcher, and her fanboys and -girls – have cut and privatised benefits and services to the poor, with the specific intention of making the bloated rich even richer, though tax cuts, massive subsidies, and exploiting the very state industries, that they have privatised and sold to them.

The Lollards were a proto-Protestant sect of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century, who followed the teachings of the Yorkshire priest and reformer, John Wycliffe. Wycliffe was disgusted by the corruption of the church and society in his day. He advocated the Bible in English, holy scripture as the only source for religious authority, clerical marriage and proper concern for the poor. And he and his followers were bitterly critical of the friars, as they were generally perceived to have neglected their vocation of teaching and preaching Christianity to focus on serving the rich for their own material gain.

The text here is ‘The Perversion of the Works of Mercy’, which inveighs against the way Christ’s commandment to feed, give drink, and clothe poor people, and visit those in prison, as well as other holy works, have been so corrupted so that those, who feign moral rectitude and Christian charity now spend their time doing this for the rich and powerful instead. Here’s an extract. You should be able to understand the late medieval spelling and vocabulary.

Hou Sathanas [Satan] and his children turnen werkis of mercy upsodoun and discyven men therinne and in here five wyttis.

First Crist comaundith men of power to fede hungry pore men. The fiend and his techen to make costy festis and waste many goodis on lordis and riche men and so suffer pore men sterve and perishe for hunger and other myschevys. Ye, men that feynen hem [them] ful of charite and religion gadren proper goodis to hemselven and festen dlicatly lordis and laides and riche men and suffer here pore brethren begge for meschef and fare ful harde.

Crist comaundith to yeve drynk to thrusty [thirsty] [men] and wymmen. The fiend and his techen to puveye high wyn and spised ale and strong for riche men and lordis to make hem drunken and chide and fighte and foryete God and his lawe, and to suffer pore, that han nought of hore owene and may not labore for febilnesse or sikenesse and blyndenesse drynke water and falle in feveris or ellis perische.

Crist comaundith to clothe nakyd men and wymmen whanne thei han noght of here owene. Thereto the fend and his techen to yeve costly clothis and manye to riche men and mynstralis and shavaldours {Northern slang for robbers] for worldly name and suffer pore men have nakid sidis and schakynge lippis and hondis for cold that woo is hemwith the lif. Ye, prelatis and men singular religion, that taken the charge to ben procuratouris and dispenderis of pore mennus liflode, clothen fatte horsis with gaie sadlies and bridles and mytris and croceris with gold and silver and precious stonys, and suffren pore men and children perische for cold. And yit these prelatis and newe religious comen in staat of Cristis povert and his apostlis, and techen and crien that whatever thei han is pore mennus goode. Yit riche men closen dede stockis and stonys with precious clothis, with gold and silver and perlis and gaynesse to the world, and suffren pore men goo sore acold and at moche meschefe.

Crist trechith to herberwe [harbour, accommodate] pore men that han non houses ne penby to peye for here innys [inns, lodging]. The fend and his techen to herberwe riche men and lordis with grete cost and deyitte for worldly worschipe and suffer pore men wander in stormys and slepe with the swyn and many tymes suffer not hem come withinne here yatis, and so to fynde many excusacions and coloure this doynge, Ye, ypocritis of privat religion maken grete houses and costy and gaily peyntid more than kyngis and lordis bi sotil beggynge and confessions and trentalise and mayntenynge of synne, and herberwe lordis and riche men, and namely ladies, and suffer more men lie withouten or geten houslewth at pore men or ellis perische for wedris and cold.

Crist techeth to visite sike men and counforte hem and helpe hem of sustenaunce. The fend and his techen to visiten riche me, lordis and ladies in here prosperite and lykynge to be holden kynde [high born] and curteis, and to comforte eche other in synne and to have lustis of glottonye, lecherie and other schrewidnessis; but of pore men that ben beddrede and couchen in muk or dust is litel thought on or noght. Yit ypocritis of feyned religion vistien not fadirles children and modirles [motherless] and widewise in here tribulacion, and kepe not hemself unbleckid fro this world as Seynt James techith; but visite off riche men and wymmen and namely riche widewis [widows] for to gete world muk by false deceitis and carien it home to Caymes’ {Cain’s] castelis and Anticristis covent [convents] and Sathanas children and marteris [martyrs] of glotonye.

Crist techith to visit men in prison and helpe to delyvere hem in good manere and counforte hem bi almes-yevinge. The fend and his prresonen pore men for dette whanne thi ben not at power to paie and traveil night and day and liven ful harde and toylen with trewthe and susteynen wif and children…

From Middle English Religious Prose, edited by N.F. Blake (London: Edward Arnold 1972) pp. 239-41.

Clearly, this is a piece of sectarian polemic, and isn’t entirely fair. Historians have pointed out that the church was suffering serious poverty and neglect the time, which affected many of the lower clergy and monastic institutions, so that they simply weren’t in any position to perform their Christian duties of aiding the poor themselves.

And my point here is not to attack the Roman Catholic church, as I know many ordinary Catholics and Roman Catholic clergy are deeply involved in caring for the poor. But simply to make the point that the issues the Lollards inveighed against are still present and embodied in the Tory party and people like Tweezer. In the Middle Ages, it was the church that had the function of providing whatever welfare services there were to the poor, as well as the personal charity of great lords. But since Thatcher, public institutions and the welfare state – the modern, secular equivalents of these religious institutions, have been run down for the profit of the rich.

And there’s also a distinct religious parallel here too, though it’s with the evangelical Christian Right and their prosperity gospel. Tweezer is a vicar’s daughter, who claims that when she was a child she was a ‘goody two-shoes’. Lobster has pointed out just how many right-wing Christians gathered around IDS and now Damian Greene in the DWP. The evangelical Right in America believe that God doesn’t want you to be poor, for whom they have nothing but contempt. One particularly self-righteous Republican politico – it might have been Ted Cruz – even declared that the poor should be taxed more. ‘Because it’s what Christ would have wanted’. No, and this moron should read the Gospels before opening his mouth.

And I’m still furious at the way a large number of right-wing pastors made it clear that they didn’t care if one Republican candidate was guilty of molesting underage girls. He stood for their values, which were for the rich, and against the poor. And, of course, gays. Which shows how selective their concern over changes and violation of traditional sexual morality is.

These hypocrites have done as much harm to Christianity as Dawkins and the militant atheists. Many of the atheist polemicists are socially conscious people, whose rejection of religion is partly based on the way the religious don’t live up to their ideals. And as history has shown, and these pratts continue to show, all too often the atheists have been right in this criticism.

And in there moral condemnation of the fawning over the rich at the expense of the poor, the Lollards were right. And this text from six hundred years ago shows up the Tory party and its hypocritical supporters in the Christian religious right as it is today.

Coughlan Tears into the Embittered Snowflakes of the Daily Heil’s ‘Comments’

December 20, 2017

Perhaps this is another way of dealing with the Daily Mail and its pernicious influence on our politics and culture. As well as refuting its lies and scare stories, perhaps we should also mock its readership when they write in to express resentful, envious and sneering views about those they deem not to be as deserving as themselves. As in the comments Coughlan reads out here, which seem to be all by members of the older generation attacking the younger for not grinning and putting up with snow and cold weather like they had to in their youth.

Coughlan’s a stand-up comedian, who has put up a lot of really great stuff on his YouTube channel tearing the Far Right into gory chunks, and defending anti-racism and anti-sexism from the manosphere and, well, people pretty much like these. He starts out by noting how the various figures on the extreme right have been moaning about how hard done by they are. Like Milo Yiannopolis losing his job, Nigel Farage complaining that he’s ‘dirt poor’ despite earning £90,000 a year, and Anne Coulter that she’s single. As Coulter is viciously critical of anyone even slightly to her left, and so right-wing that she thinks that women shouldn’t have the vote, it’s probably no surprise that eligible men aren’t queuing up at her door. Be warned – Coughlan’s language is colourful – he’s an edgy, modern comedian – and he makes some coarse jokes at Coulter’s and Farage’s expense.

In this video he tackles the comments posted on the Daily Mail’s site on the subject of schools having to close because of the snow. The Mail stated hysterically that ‘hundreds’ of schools had been forced to close. He rightly points out that this is nothing. There are thousand upon thousands of schools in the UK, so it’s hardly the mass chaos the Heil is trying to paint it. And then come the comments. They all seem to come from older readers, disgusted at the wimpishness of today’s generation, and harking back to their youth when they still had to go to school in the snow, to endure unheated, literally freezing classrooms and outdoor urinals(!). Oh yes, and one of them complains that the reason the schools are close is because otherwise the children will be able to sue them for accidents. So we’re back to the old, right-wing canard about health and safety legislation.

Coughlan observes that these embittered curmudgeons sound very much like the ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch from Monty Python. You remember the one: four Yorkshiremen in very elegant dinner suits, smoking cigars and drinking brandy, compete with each other to make the most extreme claims of the poverty they suffered when they were children. So he goes on to read out the comments in a spoof ‘northern’/’Yorkshire’ accent.

He also points out occasionally where these poor, resentful souls are wrong and haven’t remembered things properly. For example, one of them claims that schools never closed for snow when he was young. Wrong. Coughlan remembers when they did. I went to school in the ’70s and ’80s, and they certainly closed when we had very severe weather round about 81, 82-ish. And like Coughlan, I remember listening to the radio to see if our school would be one of those, which would not be opening that day. In this particular instance, school was open and we had to go in as normal. But not for long. After waiting in our coats in class while the staff debated what to do, we were all finally sent home. Trudging through town to the bus stop, I can remember one of the workers from one of the firms we passed asking us we weren’t in school, clearly thinking we were bunking off. So we told him the truth – that school had been cancelled. He simply replied with ‘Oh, all right,’ and got back to work.

Back to the Daily Mail, the comments here show something of the ugly attitude of the Mail’s readers. They clearly see themselves as unfairly treated by history or circumstances, and resent young people for apparently enjoying better treatment or conditions than themselves. And they very definitely see themselves as more deserving. They come across very much like the sneering elderly Harry Enfield used to lampoon on his show. ‘These young people, they don’t know they’re born’. ‘No’. ‘I say to them, ‘Do you know you’re born”. That was one of Enfield’s comments about this type of sad old soul.

Most of the older people I’ve met have expressed the exact opposite views to these people. I’ve been told by retired people, that they wouldn’t like to be young today for various reasons. A few years ago this was because of the threat of drugs. Or the dangers of the Net, and paedophiles and bullying on social media. I’d also include the terrible unemployment rate, the mass poverty created by the wage freeze and exploitative working conditions, like zero hours contracts. As well as the crushing weight of student debt and the housing crisis, which means that many will never get to own their own home. At very many levels, young people today are worse off, sometimes very much worse off, than their predecessors.

And most of the older generation know this, and are sympathetic. Most people, I think, actually want their children and grandchildren to enjoy a higher standard of living than them, and not to have to suffer the same awful conditions they had. Like grotty, freezing toilets.

Except the Daily Mail. They seem to see themselves as being so much more worthy than everyone else, and bitterly jealous of any indulgent or simply better treatment of the younger generation. Hence the sneering at them as ‘snowflakes’. Not that this attitude is confined merely to this subject. It runs through the Mail’s readership as a whole, and the people they attack and sneer at for being supposedly more privileged than they are include public sector workers, trade unionists, teachers, single parents, those on benefits, and Blacks and Asians. Because ‘political correctness’. It’s a seething mass of right-wing resentment, stirred up against anyone the Tories and the Mail decide should be the next target to keep ordinary people divided and fighting against each other, rather than wake up and realise that the people, who are really keeping them poor, are the Tories. The Tories stir up and use this jealousy and resentment in order to garner support for destroying more of the welfare state, and passing more legislation making jobs even more precarious.

The Mail’s a disgrace. It promotes nothing but hatred, ignorance and bigotry, for a corrupt, exploitative party. A party that should have been voted out of power long ago, and whose lies and threadbare excuses are becoming even more evident by the day.

John Wycliffe’s Pacifist Theology

December 17, 2017

I’m sick of writing about the Christian right in this country and America – their hatred of the poor, their Zionism and their insanely dangerous millennialism, in which they look forward to the last, apocalyptic war between good and evil, personified as a conflict between the Christian West and Israel on the side of good, and Communism and Islam as the armies of Satan. Here’s a bit of more inspiring theology, at least for those on the Left, from one of the seminal influences on the Reformation.

John Wycliffe has been described as ‘the Morning Star of the Reformation’. He was a late 14th-century English vicar from Yorkshire, who proposed radical reforms to combat what he saw as the corruption of the Church in his day. He was against pluralities, in which clergy held many benefices, often in widely separated parts of the country, noting that this did nothing for the Christian cure of souls. It was set up, however, partly as a way of giving the lower clergy a reasonable income because of the poverty of parts of the church at that time. He argued that the Bible should be the only source of Christian truth, and that salvation was by faith alone, not works. He demanded an end to clerical celibacy, which he said acted ‘to the great prejudice of women’ and promoted homosexuality amongst the clergy. So, not a fan of gay priests then. He also went further in his criticism of the moral right of rulers to govern us when they themselves were guilty of sin. No-one had this right, and those rulers sinning had to step down or be removed. This has been widely criticised since, as it would have made government just about impossible. But it is a severe corrective to the moral double standards of the upper classes, who saw themselves as having an absolute right to rule, often committing heinous sins and crimes themselves, while claiming their right as Christian rulers to punish and uphold moral standards to those lower down the social ladder. This attitude continued into the 17th century, when the monarchists of the British Civil War defended the monarchy on the grounds that the king, as God’s representative on Earth, was above the law, but had the duty to expound it, and so could not be tried for its breach.

He also translated the Bible into English, radical act forbidden by law in England, though perfectly acceptable elsewhere on the continent, such as France. He was not a member of the Lollards, the early radical Protestant movement that grew up around his doctrines, though he was a powerful influence on them. It was the Lollards who produced the song attacking contemporary serfdom, ‘When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?’ In the 16th century, this was taken up and inspired the German peasants in their revolt against feudal overlordship: ‘Als Adam grub und Evan spann, wer war dann der Edelmann?’ Which is an exact translation.

I got the latest Oxbow books Bargain Catalogue through the post a few weeks ago. Among the books on medieval history and culture were two of Wycliffe’s. One was on the inspiration of scripture, the other was on his pacifist theology.

The book is John Wycliffe on War and Peace by Rory Cox. The blurb for the book in the Bargain Catalogue runs:

From the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo to the fifth century, Christian justifications of war had revolved around three key criteria: just cause, proper authority and correct intention. Using Wyclif’s extensive Latin corpus, the author shows how he dismantled these three pillars of medieval “just war” doctrine, demonstrating that he created a coherent doctrine of pacifism and non-resistance which was at that time unparalleled.

200 pages, Boydell and Brewer Ltd, 2014, 97080861933259, Hardback, was £50, bargain price £12.95.

I’m not a pacifist myself, as I believe that sometimes true evil can only be combated through violence. But I’m sick of the co-option of morality to justify the terrible greed and inhuman violence of colonialism and imperialism, especially in the latest attacks on the Middle East.

I realise that many of the readers of this blog have very different attitudes to my own on religion. I’m not trying to insult anyone else’s religious views here, particularly not Roman Catholics or the atheists, who read this blog. I am simply mentioning it as many Christians of radically different denominations and confessions have over the centuries come to pacifism in disgust at the horrors of war as organised violence. I fully recognise and endorse the contemporary Roman Catholic peace movement, which I’ve blogged about before.

I’ve posted it up the news of this book, as I thought it would interest and inspire the Christian readers of this blog, who share my opinions on war. And would also act as corrective to the militant bilge coming out of the American and British religious right and their aggressive, omnicidal militarism.

Videos of People’s Assembly Demonstration against Budget

November 25, 2017

I found this on the channel of someone describing themselves as ‘Loveofpeace’. On Thursday, just before Philip Hammond released his vile, abysmal budget, the People’s Assembly organised a mass demonstration in front of 10 Downing Street, in which they piled up a small mountain of food, which they would later deliver to a real food bank. They did this to call attention to the mass starvation the Tories’ austerity policies are causing.

This is just a series of short snapshots of the demo, but it shows the workers piling on the food. There’s also a performance poet attacking the media for colluding with the government. It shows the signs up demanding an end to austerity, the sacking of the Tories, and defending the NHS. There’s also a banner from one of the Marxist parties or groups, and another sign saying ‘Migrants welcome here’.

There are now something like a quarter of a million people forced to use food banks. 7 million in ‘food insecure’ households, where they don’t know if this meal will be their last. And that liar Philip Hammond had the utter gall to appear on the Andrew Marr Show last Sunday and claim there were no jobless in Britain. He was wrong: Marr quoted the figure of 1.25 million. I don’t believe that, as the figures are fiddled so that they’re meaningless. I think the real figure is probably 4 million. Quite apart from the fact that most of the poor in Britain are actually in work. But they’re not making money because of low wages, zero hours contracts and all the other fiddles employers are using to not have to pay real wages. And Mike put up another piece about some female Tory from Yorkshire, somebody Pow, who claimed that people had thousands in the bank and the Tories had made them richer.

Well, they have made some people richer. Those, who were rich already. The top 25 per cent. Either this woman really doesn’t know any poor people – which is possible – or she’s suffering from serious cognitive dissonance, and actually believes what her party says – or she’s a liar. Either way, she’s telling porky pies, and is totally unsuited to government.

Get her, Hammond, May and the rest of the Tories out. Now. Before more people die from starvation.

The Privileged Class Background of BBC Staff, and the Problem of Oxbridge Public School Elitism

August 26, 2017

Earlier this week I put up a piece reviewing Tom Mills’ The BBC – Myth of a Public Service. This contributes immensely to the debate about the Corporation’s bias by showing how it consistently allies with the elite against the left and the working class.

And Mills makes a very strong case that, apart with the institutional methods of control the government exercises over the Beeb through the license fee and the appointment of its governors, the BBC also sides with the elite because of the elite, upper and very middle class origins of its managers and staff. Mills describes this background on pages 29 and 30. He writes

A 2014 report of the quasi-official Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission had no qualms about identifying these top BBC executives, and over a hundred other senior BBC managers, as members of ‘Britain’s elite’ – along with politicians, civil servants, the super-rich, FTSE 350 CEOs, newspaper columnists and other groups. The Commission’s survey of 125 BBC executives found that 26 per cent had attended private school (compared with 7 per cent of the population), 33 per cent had attended Oxbridge (compared with just 0.8 per cent of the population) and 62 per cent had attended one of the Russell Group of leading universities (compared with 11.4 per cent of the population) – figures which were comparable with those for other factions of Britain’s power elite, as the report shows. Senior BBC managers are also extremely well paid: in 2014/15, the seven executive members of the BBC’s Executive Board earned an average of over £424,000. Meanwhile, around eighty BBC executives are thought to earn over £150,000, even after policy measures were put in place to reduce executive pay following fierce criticism from the press. Among this executive cadre are around a hundred or so senior managers in editorial policy who on average earn just over £100,000, and the most senior of whom can earn two or three times that.

Below these senior editorial managers, we see similar patterns of privilege. In 2006, the Sutton Trust examined the educational backgrounds of 100 leading news journalists in the UK, of whom 31 worked at the BBC. It found that 54 per cent were privately educated and a remarkable 45 per cent had attended Oxbridge. Educational background is of course an indicator of shared class background. But it is also in itself a profoundly important basis for elite cohesion, forging along with other formative experiences, if not a shared set of ideas, then at least a shared demeanour and set of dispositions. Elitist recruiting practices – which are naturally justified in meritocratic terms, even if they are recognized to create serious problems in terms of legitimacy – thus create subtle forms of institutional and cross-institutional cohesion.

This bears out a comment made by one of the television directors Mike and I heard speak over two decades ago at a Doctor Who convention here in Bristol. He stated that it was very difficult to become a director at the Beeb unless you had been to Oxford or Cambridge. If you hadn’t, it was very difficult. If you had, on the other hand, it was very easy.

As for Oxbridge, I’m currently reading Gregory Benford’s SF novel Timescape (London: Gollancz 1980). The novel’s plot is split between the devastated Britain of 1998 and the optimistic California of 1963, as a group of scientists in Cambridge attempt to use tachyons to carry a message back to their counterparts in La Jolla to warn them of the coming ecological crisis which is gradually causing global civilization to collapse. Benford is an American, and one of the team of Cambridge scientists, Gregory Markham, also hails from across the Pond. The book therefore includes descriptions and meditations on Britain’s relationship to its past, compared with America, and the class structure of British society. On page 182, Benford comments on the educational segregation at Cambridge High Table.

He walked back towards the colleges, letting this feel of the press of time seep into him. He and Jan had been to High Table at several of the colleges, the ultimate Anglophile experience. Memorial plate that gleamed like quicksilver, and crested goblets. In the after-dinner room of polished wood, gilt frames held glowering portraits of the college founders. In the great dining hall Jan had been surprised to find de facto segregation: Etonians at one table, Harrovians at another, the lesser public schools’ alumni at a third, and, finally, state school graduates and everyone else at a motley last table. To an American in such a citadel of education, after the decades of ferocious equality-at-all-costs politics, it seemed strange. There persisted a reliance on inherited advantages, and even the idea that such a system was an inherited virtue as well.

This is not too far removed from the description of outright class snobbery Thackeray describes in his Book of Snobs. Casting his eye about England’s great, and at the time, only universities, he noted the way the class system affected even the type of gowns undergraduates wore:

If you consider, dear reader, what profound snobbishness the University system produced, you will allow that it is time to attack some of those feudal middle-age superstitions. If you go down for five shillings to look at the ‘College Youths’, you may see one sneaking down the court without a tassel to his cap; another with a gold or silver fringe to his velvet trencher; a third lad with a master’s gown and hat,, walking at ease over the sacred College grass-plats, which common men must not tread on.

Me may do it because he is a nobleman. Because a lad is a lord, the University grants him a degree at the end of two years which another is seven in acquiring. Because he is a lord, he has no call to go through an examination. Any man who has not been to College and back for five shillings [the price of the train fare to Oxford and Eton], would not believe in such distinctions in a place of education, so absurd and monstrous do they seem to be.

The lads with gold and silver lace are sons of rich gentlemen, and called Fellow Commoners; they are privileged to feed better than the pensioners, and to have wine with their victuals, which the latter can only get in their rooms.

The unlucky boys who have no tassels to their caps, are called sizars – servitors at Oxford – (a very pretty and gentlemanlike title). A distinction is made in their clothes because they are poor; for which reason they wear a badge of poverty, and are not allowed to take their meals with their fellow-students.(pp. 60-61).

One of the other, British characters in Benford’s novel, Renfrew, who has the idea of using tachyon radiation to transmit to the past, is also an outsider. He’s the son of a working class Yorkshireman, and because of this is also an outsider amongst the public schoolboys. At one point Renfrew remembers how, as an undergraduate walking down Oxford’s corridors, he passes another pair in gowns. One of these says very loudly in an Oxbridge drawl, ‘Oh God, not another oik come up on a scholarship!’

Oxford has been under considerable pressure to make its more democratic, and Robert Peston has said in his book, Who Runs Britain, that there’s an element of hypocrisy amongst some of the Scots universities, who tried to capitalize on the class scandals that have erupted over Oxbridge in recent years. Some of the Scots universities, particularly St. Andrews’, are even more elite and class-ridden.

It’s tempting to think of those days of class snobbishness as having vanished along with scholarships. However, as the Tories are intent are privatizing the British school system, and really, desperately, want to bring back grammar schools if they can get away with it, as well as cut away the last vestiges of the student grant to the poor, it’s likely that they’ll come back.

The ‘I’: People Want Increased Taxes, Trust Labour More than Tories on NHS

May 31, 2017

It’s no wonder that the biased BBC was crowing about its supposed victory on Woman’s Hour yesterday, when Jeremy Corbyn forgot the figures for Labour’s promise on free childcare. A YouGov poll for the Times concluded that the gap between Labour and the Tories in the polls was only 5 per cent, and that Labour were set to take eight Tory seats, with Tories unable to take any from Labour.

Hence John Pienaar’s excited yelling that Labour needed to convince more people in the marginals, and the Beeb’s footage of two Midlands ladies praising Theresa May to the rafters. They had to. May’s popularity is plummeting, and in some areas the Tories are actually way behind Labour.

Yesterday’s I carried a story by Dominic Kirby, ‘Voters Back Tax Rise to Fund Improved NHS’, which showed that not only were the people of this great nation prepared to put up with more taxes for the health service, but also that Labour were trusted more than the Tories with it. The article read:

More than half of people in every region of Britain say they believe NHS services have worsened over the past three years, according to a survey for I.

The figure rose to 67.2 per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber, and fell as low as 54 per cent in Scotland, according to a poll of more than 8,300 people in partnership with Google Surveys.

It also suggested most people in all regions felt the private sector should have no role in running the NHS, with the highest opposition in the North-east, at 74.3 per cent.

There was also widespread support for the Lib Dem policy of putting an extra penny in thre pound in income tax to raise an estimated £6bn a year for the NHS.

The strongest support was in the south-west of England, where 81.5 per cent of respondents said they would be prepared to pay the extra.

But even in the region with the lowest support – the south-east of England, 72.l per cent said they would pay.

Labour is the most trusted party when it comes to the NHS in every region apart from Scotland, the survey says. As many as 67.9 per cent gave the party their backing over health in some parts of the north.

Even in the English region where Labour did worst – the south-east – it was still the party most trusted on the NHS, ahead of the Conservatives.

English voters were offered a choice of four parties – the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party – and asked which one they trusted most with the future of the NHS.

In the north-west, some 67.9 per cent went with Labour, compared with 21 per cent for the Conservatives, 6 per cent for the Lib Dems and 5.1 per cent for the Greens.

In the north-east, Labour was the choice of 63.7 per cent and the Tories 25.5 per cent, while in Yorkshire and the Humber the split was 63.3 per cent Labour and 23.6 per cent Conservative.

The highest levels of support for the Tories were found in the south-east and east of England.

In the south-east, 33.3 per cent said they trusted the Tories most with the future of the NHS – but 48 per cent said they trust Labour most.

In the east, 35.1 per cent went for the Conservatives, while 48.2 per cent for Labour.

It was a different story in Scotland, where voters were asked to choose between the SNP, the Conservatives, labour and the Liberal Democrats. There, 42.9 per cent said they trusted the SNP most with the health service, while 32.4 per cent went for Labour, 19.;5 per cent the Conservatives, and 5.2 per cent the Lib Dems.

So, no wonder that the I paper is reporting that May is falling back on personal attacks on Corbyn as her lead in the polls collapses. It also explains perfectly why she’s now fallen back on plugging herself as the best person for Brexit, and why one of the Tory papers today is claiming on its front page that Labour has a secret plan to increase migration.

The fear amongst May and the Tories is so great, you can practically smell it.

Vox Political: Teen Bullied by DWP Commits Suicide; DWP Staff enjoy £140 million Bonuses

December 7, 2016

Mike today also posted a couple of stories today, which together show how disgraceful and corrupt the DWP is. Apparently, over the last three years the DWP has awarded £140 million in bonuses to its civil servants, of which £124.37 million went to the Department’s senior managers.

Mike is understandably outraged by this, and asks if this includes money awarded through schemes like the ‘Space Invaders Game’ set up in one office for getting people of benefits, or the Sheriff’s Stars, which Johnny Void stated were set up to reward clerks, who sanctioned people in others.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/06/almost-140-million-in-bonuses-for-dwp-staff-for-sanctioning-people-off-benefits/

These bonuses have been awarded for the bullying of claimants either to get a job, or stop claiming benefit. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people, have died of desperation, neglect and starvation after being sanctioned by the DWP. They have included a diabetic ex-serviceman, an elderly couple, and a young woman, who killed herself and her infant child. Stilloaks has compiled a list of the people, who’ve been killed. Johnny Void has also in his blog published an extensive list of the DWP’s victims. And now it seems the DWP has claimed another one.

Mike today also reported that an 18 year-old man, David Brown, from Eston in North Yorkshire, committed suicide after being belittled by Job Centre Staff. He was looking to get an apprenticeship in welding, but the Job Centre put him on pressure to find a job. An inquest was told that before he killed himself, he told his mother

“The way the Jobcentre treat people, it is no surprise people commit suicide.”

Mike comments that it seems harsh, but the question has to be asked: who received the bonus for getting him off the DWPs books.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/07/teen-committed-suicide-after-being-belittled-by-job-centre-staff/

These are more vile policies that can be traced back to Maggie Thatcher and John Major. It was Maggie and Major who, in my experience, introduced ‘performance related pay’ into the civil service. And I got the distinct impression it was done as part of a policy to keep the staff working as hard as possible for little pay. Instead of a proper pay rise, there was just the promise that if you worked hard, you might get a bonus. Might. In fact, the bonuses were always going to go to the bosses, just as the captains of industry constantly award themselves massive pay rises as ‘bonus-related pay’ for closing down factories and shops and laying people off. And it was the same with the DSS and Benefits Agency. That came in when Anderson Consulting decided that the Benefits Agency and Inland Revenue should be rationalised, so that local offices would be closed down, and all the decisions concentrated in regional centres instead. Which is a good reason why ordinary civil servants should hate and despise Anderson Consulting, or whatever it now describes itself.

As for the deaths of humiliated and sanctioned benefit claimants, this all comes from the principle of ‘less eligibility’. This is the ‘Victorian value’ of the workhouse, which was taken over by Maggie Thatcher, then by Blair, and his successors Cameron, Clegg and May. The idea is that you make welfare so humiliating, that it acts as a deterrent – people are supposed to want to do anything to find a job and avoid the hardship. And people are suffering from it. Apart from those, who’ve died, I know many people personally, who’ve been very reluctant to sign on because of the way they’ve been picked on and abused by DWP staff.

There has been talk about prosecuting the DWP for such cases. I don’t know if you can do it, but this seems to me to be a clear case where the Department was guilty of culpable negligence, possibly even breach of a duty of care towards a clearly vulnerable young man. But I don’t know for sure. Except that this vile system needs to ends now, and those responsible punished to the fullest extent of the law.