Improvement at the Guardian

February 19, 2011 by

Since I spotted that the third most popular book at the Guardian Bookshop was Hitler’s Mein Kampf, things seem to have improved somewhat:

 

Guardian Bookshop

This week’s bestsellers

  1. WikiLeaksby David Leigh & Luke Harding £6.99
  2. Eyewitness Decadeby Roger Tooth £17.50
  3. Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell £7.99
  4. 33 Revolutions Per Minuteby Dorian Lynskey £13.59
  5. To a Mountain in Tibet

    by Colin Thubron £13.59

Annoying adverts

February 17, 2011 by

As a fellow resident of sarf east London, I greatly appreciated Darryl’s post on irritating advert men polluting our public space with their annoying faces. I used to detest horsey race man but I’ve gradually become accustomed to him. In fact I quite like how the photograph captures the moment he begins to actually turn into a horse.

‘Mein Kampf’ a favourite of Guardian readers?

February 17, 2011 by

I was browsing Guardian.co.uk, as one does. There was an interesting article on health inequalities which filled me with all sorts of leftie worries and concerns. But then I nearly choked on my fair trade muesli when I noticed the Guardian Bookshop advert on the side of the screen:

Guardian Bookshop

This week’s bestsellers

  1. Applying to Universityby Anne Coates £7.19
  2. Russian Court at Seaby Frances Welch £11.99
  3. Mein Kampfby Adolf Hitler £8.99
  4. Jolly Phonics Word Bookby Sue Lloyd £1.80
  5. Coaching Pocketbookby Ian Fleming £6.39

Search the Guardian bookshop

Yes, stuck there between Russian Court at Sea and the Jolly Phonics World Book is a book by a certain A. Hitler. How unexpected! Loonies in the comments of Harry’s Place will of course interpret this as proof that the Hamas-sympathising Guardian is written and read by Joo Haters. I’m sure there must be a more mundane explanation…

Rejecting Progressive Labour

February 6, 2011 by

There was a story this week by Kevin Maguire in the Mirror suggesting that Ed Miliband may try to give his party a new name, such as ‘Progressive Labour’.

It’s a silly story as such an attempt would not get anywhere. Political branding is, like it or not, an important consideration for any political leader nowadays. However, ‘Progressive Labour’, which was apparently suggested by some Labour bigwig, is an especially ridiculous name-change proposal.

Both Tories and Lib Dems love using the term ‘progressive’ to describe themselves as they decimate the public sector. I am happy to surrender ownership of ‘progressive’ to the Government – it’s always seemed a tad vacuous to me anyways.

Labour in opposition should surely be trying to present itself as a viable alternative. When people hear politicians from all three main parties describing themselves as ‘progressive’ they may think ‘Hmm, what is the etymology of progressive, which party can best lay claim to this term?’ or they may take this as confirmation that ‘they’re all the same, the bunch of *#~’!

Though perhaps Red Ed sees inspiration for this name from elsewhere? The Progressive Labor Party of the US believes in fighting directly for communism…

The left must lose its instinctive defence of multiculturalism

February 6, 2011 by

David Cameron made a perfectly sensible speech at a security conference in Germany and – predictably enough – many of my fellow travellers have got their knickers in a twist.

Billy Bragg complains about the timing of the speech on his Facebook page, coinciding as it did with the English Defence League’s march through Luton. Dozens of fans then write on the Braggmeister’s wall to suggest that David Cameron is working in cahoots with the EDL, that making the speech in Germany is akin to saying ‘Hitler wasn’t all bad’, and that Tory ideology is based on white supremacy.

As I understand it, the PM’s attendance at the security conference was a longstanding commitment. Fine, the timing was maybe a bit unfortunate considering the EDL march, but the scheduling of Government business shouldn’t be dictated by the events calender of a right-wing street movement.

Some Labour MPs agree with the claim that Cameron is encouraging the EDL and other Muslim-bashers with his speech. Labour MP John McDonnell has tweeted “In every recession politicians find a scapegoat so instead of sorting out the bankers and their bonuses Cameron attacks Muslims. Same old”. Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan made a similarly stupid comment about Cameron producing propaganda for the EDL.

This despite the fact that the PM said “We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing” and rejected “Islamophobia”. McDonnell and Khan therefore appear to be essentialising all Muslims as religious reactionaries who reject women’s rights, gay rights, secular democracy, etc. This is far more untrue and offensive than anything Cameron said in his speech.

Such lefties have an unsophisticated view of the world in which hatred and distrust of Tories outweigh their ability to perform objective analysis. I suspect that if David Cameron made a speech proclaiming that the Earth orbited the sun many of them would call for a general strike to demonstrate disagreement.

But it also comes from a the left’s attachment to the concept of multiculturalism. Opposition to multiculturalism, however defined, is equated to support for racism. However, the debate has moved on, with today’s far-right boot boys proclaiming themselves to be anti-racist and embracing the language of universal human rights. Suzanne Moore has a good article about this narrative shift here.

In contrast to the EDL, the left has failed to fully adapt its thinking and its discourse to deal with the rise of political Islam, the communitarian divisions which have been imported from the subcontinent, and the incidents of British Muslims becoming involved in terrorism.

The left needs an approach that will address people’s concerns and channel them into something other than the EDL’s ‘tide of patriotism’. And it could be to our electoral advantage if we do a better job of this than Cameron.

Considering the Conservatives’ sometimes uncomfortable relationship with issues around race and multiculturalism, I would say that Labour is better placed to produce a radical redefinition of multiculturalism. Or to just drop the word altogether.

Labour leader JR Clynes said that he came into politics not to practice the class war but to end it. That struggle continues, but it sits alongside cultural concerns and divisions that the left must also address.

Labour should uphold policies aimed at reducing cultural divisions rather than exacerbate them through crude state-sponsored multiculturalism – seen in policies such as propagating faith schools and trying to protect religious beliefs from criticism (yes, conveniently enough for this secularist my solution demands consistency through widespread secularisation!).

Demands for women’s rights, gay rights, secular laws, religious freedoms. These are all marks of human progress and all have originated from the left.

We must not surrender this language to the bigots of the EDL. We must not let our Conservative opponents pretend to do a better job of standing up for these demands. We must not compromise our values for fear of upsetting reactionary Muslim religionists.

The Coalition Government has killed Enterprise in the UK

January 31, 2011 by

Enterprise UK was the body set up to promote entrepreneurialism in the UK. It was started by people like the CBI and British Chamber of Commerce and had that Peter Jones from Dragon’s Den as the Chairman.

Precisely the sort of organisation that would be favoured by Tories (and their Lib Dem minions) who get all excited by enterprise and who have gambled all their money on a private sector-led recovery for the UK economy. Except not.

Enterprise UK got most of its money from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. This week, the Enterprise UK Chief Exec had to declare:

I’m writing to update you about the position of Enterprise UK, following the government’s decision to end our grant-in-aid funding from April 2011.

Since the announcement in December 2010, I have been working closely with staff, trustees and key stakeholders looking in detail at the implications of these cuts and the options for the charity to continue in some way post-April, albeit in a different guise. The proposals we considered included the establishment of a legacy organisation to take forward initiatives like Global Entrepreneurship Week and our various other enterprise education programmes.

Following a meeting of the Board of Trustees on 24th January where full consideration was given to all the options, we have decided to instigate an orderly wind down of the charity with immediate effect. We will still be delivering on some key operational activities like Tenner during March, but we also aim to have closed down our offices and activities by the end of April 2011.

A microcosm-like example of how private enterprise so often depends on a bit of public spending to keep it going? Instead of being mutually exclusive, private and public sectors can be mutually dependent.

This doesn’t bode well for any of us.

Waiting for the people of Egypt to set up a secular democracy before the celebrations can begin

January 31, 2011 by

Many leftie friends and acquaintances are understandably excited about the revolutionary situation in Egypt. ‘Solidarity with the people of Egypt‘ is the Facebook status update de jour.

Of course, it is pleasing to see a peaceful, popular uprising against a dictator. But this must have been exactly how idealistic outsiders viewed events in Iran in 1978 and 1979.

If the ousting of Mubarak leads to the establishment of a Muslim Brotherhood government then there will be little to celebrate.

I suppose the supposed moderation of the Muslim Brotherhood may be proven true and Egypt could turn into something more akin to Turkey – a reasonably democratic state with an elected moderate Islamist party in power abiding by the constitution whilst the army remains a major political player.

But even a moderately Islamist Egypt would be an unwelcome development, considering Egypt’s border with Israel and Gaza.

For many years Egypt has been bribed by the US into accepting Israel’s right to exist. If that key foreign policy assumption changes then things could get even messier in the Middle East, which won’t be good for anybody.

Revolutionary situations tend to favour a military strongman (England 1648, France 1790s, Spain 1936) or ideological fanatics (Russia 1917, Iran 1979). It will be fascinating to see what happens next in Egypt.

The new Shadow Cabinet is already going off-message

January 20, 2011 by

So it hasn’t worked out very well with Alan Johnson.

The argument that making him Shadow Chancellor would lock him into supporting Ed Miliband’s leadership was undermined when he made a habit of publicly disagreeing with Red Ed.

And his Dummy’s Guide to Economics wasn’t quite giving him sufficient economic know-how to be a convincing critic of Government policy.

But now he’s gone and Ed Balls has taken his place. The Shadow Chancellor is dead, God save the Shadow Chancellor!

However, it’s distressing to see that the Shadow Cabinet already seems to be displaying lax discipline in the aftermath of the reshuffle.

Watching Channel 4 News, I heard Ed Balls repeatedly mentioning the “Coalition Government”. Tessa Jowell, who was only doing a bit better, discussed the “Tory-led Coalition”.

Tom Baldwin will be disappointed!

 

Remembering the New Cross fire

January 18, 2011 by

Good post on a terrible event which happened in my local area 30 years ago.

Christian crossing the floor

January 17, 2011 by

Ex-Anglican bishops ordained as Catholics.

So can this be equated to politicians changing party? Would the Catholics, eager to get one up on the Protestants, have secretly courted the defectors?

The Anglican bishops would have made demands to ease the process of ratting on their own side. Presumably these were: “Can you please let me keep my wife and still get into heaven?”

And are there Catholics who get a bit miffed that the Protestants are welcomed with open arms when it seems ridiculous to suggest they are motivated by genuine conversion to ‘the one true faith’ rather than a simple desire to put two fingers up at Rowan Williams and Anglican liberals?


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