Archive for November, 2009

Chavez, somewhat hypocritically, clamps down on counter revolutionary fat.

November 16, 2009

President Hugo Chavez is urging the people of Venezuela to stop being so fat.

Chavez recommended a diet similar to his own and insists that his fitness regime leaves him “ready to continue commanding the Bolivarian revolution”.

However, Chavez himself has some weight issues. This is a picture of the Big Man when he wasn’t so, well, big back in 1992:

But the President these days is a bit larger:

It’s something we all need to keep check on if we want to keep up the momentum of the Bolivarian revolution! Fatties slow down socialism!

Bonkers BNP bloke in Brussels speaks utter bull.

November 14, 2009

Andrew Brons, the BNP member for Yorkshire and the Humber, recently said in a European Parliament debate on EU-Russian relations:

“Madam President, before we criticise Russia for human rights abuses, we should look at similar abuses even within the European Union: countries in which opposition parties are physically attacked, such as Hungary, or attacked by the militia of the ruling party, such as even the United Kingdom, or countries that lock people up for non-violent dissent or ban political parties, like Belgium.”

Yeah wot?! Never mind Brons’ comments about Hungary and Belgium – is he trying to say that in Britain there is a Labour Party militia that goes around beating up political opponents?

Is he quite, quite mad?

BNP so-called ‘patriots’ have a thing for telling fibs about how awful their country is. This isn’t surprising – their whole ideology is based around hatred of modern Britain. They want to spread their miserablism in the hope that it will win them votes and power amongst similarly negative people.

As a former member of a neo-Nazi group that launched an arson campaign against synagogues, it takes some cheek for Brons to start accusing his opponents of orchestrating political violence.

But such is the messed up worldview of the BNP. What a freak.

Why ‘Against the Odds’ should not be in the running.

November 14, 2009

 Last week LabourList published an article  calling for the short film ‘Against the Odds’, which was shown at Conference, to be Labour’s next party political broadcast. Several hundred Labourites have joined a Facebook group in support of this proposal. 

‘Against the Odds’ can be viewed below:

Whilst I am someone who gets very excited about Labour history and who also likes the idea of a positive, upbeat video that reminds people of the party’s achievements over the years, I think there are some obvious reasons why ‘Against the Odds’ would not make a suitable PPB.

It concentrates on the past and does not mention any current or future policies. Surely one of the principal points of a PPB is to reinforce voters’ awareness of what the party is doing and what it plans to do. Considering the state of the economy and other pressing issues that Labour urgently needs to win voters’ trust on (public services, crime, immigration, the war in Afghanistan), it would be ridiculously self-indulgent to use a whole PPB to bang on about good ol’Labour opposing Mosley in the 1930s and Apartheid in South Africa. Even if voters – like Labour Party loyalists – do get a warm fuzzy feeling out of seeing images of Bevin, Bevan, Wilson, Kinnock et al (please note how unlikely this is) they may still think at the end of the broadcast: “Well, that was nice but I’ve got no idea what Labour is going to do to help me find a job today”.

We are now living in the longest period of continuous Labour government ever. It may therefore seem a tad desperate for a Labour PPB to contain so many references to the achievements of the past. After 12 years of Labour in office, shouldn’t this government have secured enough popular reforms that it can stand on its own record rather than having to hold up the establishment of the NHS in 1948 as a reason why today’s voters should stick with the Labour Party? I know this is related to the first point but it’s so important that it needs reinforcing! Talking almost entirely about the party’s past in a PPB reeks of lacking confidence in the party’s present and of lacking ideas for the party’s future!

The corniness factor of the film is pretty high. Maybe that isn’t in itself a massive problem (plenty of reasonable successful PPBs have been a bit cringeworthy) but some of the schmaltz of ‘Against the Odds’ would be vulnerable not only to mocking but also to serious criticism – I’m thinking especially of the reference to the “true Brits” at 2:08. The press would inevitably compare this to that dimwit Sarah Palin’s moronic claim that Republican voters represented the “real America”. I can see the Tory press and blogs easily establishing a meme along the lines of: ‘Controversial ZaNuLabour broadcast says that only Labour supporters can be considered “true Brits”‘.

To be pedantic: some of the history isn’t on very firm ground. Although Labour members did join in the ‘Battle of Cable Street’, the official party line was that people should stay away from the anti-fascist demonstration. To be ultra-pedantic: for some reason the third image in the film is a photograph of the moment when it was declared that Labour-turned-National Government Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald had lost his parliamentary seat to Labour candidate Emanuel Shinwell in the 1935 general election. Yes, MacDonald turned traitor, but spitting on his memory is unnecessarily vindictive. He did much to help build up the early Labour Party and was Labour’s first Prime Minister, after all.

I am willing to change my mind about ‘Against the Odds’. If focus group research, for example, suggests that voters respond positively to the film then obviously everything I’ve written here is wrong. Also: if the party does not have enough money to make a better PPB then ‘Against the Odds’ would be better than nothing.

However, I think Labour has to do better than this. In the LabourList article it’s suggested that “perhaps we need a little less ‘head-ruled’ campaigning and we should let the heart take over for a while”. That’s not going to work. If we take politics seriously and genuinely want to try to win the election rather than just feel good about ourselves then we need to put voters’ concerns at the heart of our campaigning strategy. I don’t see how ‘Against the Odds’ does that.

At best ‘Against the Odds’ being broadcast would probably be a non-event that wins precisely zero votes for Labour but maybe reinforces the enthusiasm of some party activists. At worst the broadcast could actually turn more people against us as we offer them an idealised version of the party’s history rather than a popular policy programme designed to address the issues of today. 

Quilliam foundation to sue Craig Murray.

November 12, 2009

Having just finished reading Ed Husain’s ‘The Islamist’, I hear that Husain’s counterextremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation is taking libel action against blogger and anti-war activist Craig Murray.

Craig Murray was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan until a big hooha about torture allegations a few years ago. Murray seemed to be a whistleblower standing up for human rights.

His behaviour since then has been fairly odd. He comes across as a conspiraloon who sees the dark forces of the neo-con agenda everywhere. He has stood as a “pretty rubbish” (his own words) independent candidate in a parliamentary by-election. Oh, and he’s “hypersexual” (again, his own words).

Murray bangs on about the Quilliam Foundation being a tool of New Labour and has described redeemed Islamist Ed Husain as someone who decided he could “make more money and career progress by turning traitor” on his former mad beliefs and mad Islamist colleagues. Some of us call it ‘seeing the light'; Murray considers it ‘treachery’.

Murray has also suggested public money handed over to the Quilliam Foundation has gone AWOL (in a blog post that has landed him in trouble with the Quilliam lawyers). 

Understandably Ed Husain and the Quilliam Foundation are pretty peeved at these allegations. Murray will now have to produce from underneath his tin foil hat lots of evidence to support his claims.

My instinct is to oppose well-funded organisations using libel law to shut up their badly funded opponents. However, considering the sensitive job they’re trying to do in winning the support of British Muslims and undermining the influence of Islamists, it’s clearly very important for Quilliam to safeguard its reputation. Therefore, I’m not sure what I feel about this case, but I will follow it with interest…

Tory concern for Attlee’s memory.

November 12, 2009

Tory blogmeister Iain Dale has a post about the Clement Attlee statue outside Limehouse Library. He is complaining that Labour have failed to treat Attlee’s statue with the respect it deserves.

There have been problems with hoodlums vandalising the statue and so it has spent many years boarded up for its own protection.

Despite the local authority – Tower Hamlets – being a Labour-controlled borough and despite Clement Attlee frequently winning the accolade of ‘top Labour leader of all time’, it has seemingly fallen to a Tower Hamlets Tory councillor to lead a campaign for the statue’s repair.

I’d be interested in hearing the local comrades’ point-of-view before joining in the Conservative condemnation of the Labour Party for neglecting to properly honour the memory of this socialist politician.

It has to be said: good on Dale and the Tory councillor for drawing attention to the statue.

However, reading some of the comments left on Dale’s post it is clear that not all Tories agree with the idea of respecting Attlee:

Rush-is-Right said…

Iain, are you really saying that Atlee was a great man who should be honoured?

The man who oversaw the pissing away of the Marshall Plan aid money, the creation of the monstrosity that is the NHS, and nationalised the railways, the mines and goodness knows whatever else?

Are you mad?

Pete Moore said…

Crush the statue, melt it down, do anything but unveil again an image of the disastrous Attlee, leader of (still) the greatest bunch of collectivist thieves in our history.

For thirty five years our people suffered under his socialist legacy. May God damn him.

Whilst some Tories do the decent thing and recognise Attlee’s positive contribution to Britain, other Nasty Party elements should perhaps be considered the prime suspects for the acts of vandalism on the statue?

Scum Sun.

November 11, 2009

The Sun have been displaying a disgusting lack of respect for dead servicemen by misspelling Jacqui Jane’s name. Harry’s Place has the evidence.

I hope the Sun’s web editor at least has the excuse of being blind in one eye. Perhaps the appropriate course of action now is to tap the grieving and clearly distressed Jacqui Jane’s phone as she calls the Sun to express her anger. That would be both sensible and sensitive.

Yes, someone should definitely have been checking the spelling in the PM’s letters to the bereaved and should have got Brown to write another one. This story is yet another example of a boob that could have been avoided through there being just a bit more competence at No 10.

But only a political ignoramus could fail to recognise that the Sun is shamelessly exploiting Mrs Janes’ grief as part of its ongoing efforts to destroy both Brown and the Labour government. They’re loving this.

Sun owner and creepy capitalist Rupert Murdoch recently supported infamous Fox News mentalist Glenn Beck in his assertion that President Obama is a racist who hates white people.

Remember that Fox is also part of Murdoch’s media empire. Can we expect similarly unhinged ‘journalism’ to become more mainstream in Britain? Is the Sun’s pushing of the Jacqui Janes story evidence of this happening? Who knows? The whole saga has, however, reminded me of Mike Royko‘s quote:

“No self-respecting fish would be wrapped in a Murdoch paper”

 

Leftie lyrics that leave me Hmm-ing.

November 10, 2009

I am a great fan of musicians with a political agenda similar to my own. There’s nowt better than a good leftie song. However, sometimes even my favourite socialist-inclined songsters let me down with ludicrous lyrics…  

Anti-Flag – ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’

You don’t have to be a racist
To be a Nazi fuck
Your mindless nationalism
Gives you credentials enough

Hmm. Methinks the political punks of Anti-Flag are getting carried away with labelling anyone they don’t like a ‘Nazi’. Racism was an integral part of the Nazi ideology. It is ridiculous to try suggesting that people who are right-wing and nationalistic but nevertheless not racist should be associated so crassly with Hitlerism. It diminishes the meaning of the term when it is applied so flippantly! Silly Anti-Flag.

  

Billy Bragg – ‘Never Cross A Picket Line’

Technically this is an illegal strike
Never cross a picket line
But technically workers have no rights
Never cross a picket line
You must never cross a picket line

Hmm. Billy usually does so well at being politically sensible, but I can’t help but feel that saying “technically workers have no rights” is inaccurate. Technically speaking, Billy’s argument is balderdash! Even bearing in mind the context in which this song was written – with the Thatcher government’s eagerness to destroy trade union power and undermine the organised working-class – it still smacks of hyperbole to claim that workers had absolutely zilch legal protection. I love Billy which means I hold him up to a high standard and when he disappoints it’s only right that he be called out on it.

The Levellers – ‘Another Man’s Cause’

Now she wonders at it all
Just in whose name do these brave young heroes fall
And how many more are going to answer that call
They’re going to fight and die in another country’s war
They’re going die for a religion they don’t believe in at all
They’re die in a place they should never’ve been at all

‘Cause, your daddy well he died in the Falklands
Fighting for another man’s cause
And your brother he was killed in the Last War
And your mother well she’s lying home alone

Hmm. Rather than simply being anti-war, the main message behind this song seems to be that daddy should not have been fighting for “another man’s cause”. Perhaps the Levellers are attacking the political elite for sending troops off to fight a war from which little will be gained. Yet the critical references to dying in “another country’s war”, dying for a religion they don’t believe in, etc, prompts speculation that the Levellers think only self-interested wars should be fought. This makes me uncomfortable – what about the spirit of internationalism? Would the Levs have been opposed to daddy participating in another man’s cause such as the Spanish Civil War? And would the Levellers have been completely happy to surrender the Falkland Islands to the aggressive military dictatorship that constituted the Argentine government? For shame!

More songs of this nature to be moaned about soon – watch this space. Don’t be shy about suggesting any other leftie lyrics that leave you Hmm-ing!

Certainties and uncertainties.

November 9, 2009

Tom Harris MP has written a post today about tax and inequality. Judging by all the question marks scattered throughout the piece, he seems to be uncertain about many things, especially the principal dilemma under consideration:

“How should a modern, left-of-centre political party which has been in power for more than 12 years respond to the growing gap between rich and poor?”

As well as this he asks questions such as:

“We know how to bring the richest down, but once we’ve done that, how do we use that money raised to benefit the poorest?”

“So why has incomes equality increased? And is it the inevitable consequence of a booming economy, as the UK’s was until the global recession started to bite?”

“More to the point, does anyone seriously believe that if the Tories instead of Labour had been in power since 1997, incomes equality would have been narrower than they are today?”

Some fellow Labourites may be concerned that a Labour MP and former government minister does not appear to have a very clear idea of why inequality in Britain has increased or of how it can be addressed. 

However, rest assured that Tom isn’t completely clueless! After all, he is very certain of some things:

“Tony Blair and – let’s not forget – Gordon Brown put a great deal of effort into reinventing Labour as a low tax party. As a result, we won three general elections in a row…”

There’s an element of truth here, of course, but if Tom’s above statement formed the basic argument of an A-Level politics essay on ‘Why Labour Won Three Elections In a Row’ I think it would be generous to give it higher than a B - grade.

One other very plausible explanation for New Labour’s electoral success during that period is that the opposition party were exhausted, divided, and correspondingly unpopular, making it relatively straightforward for Labour to retain power even as voters deserted it over the years. In a similar way, the polls today suggest a lack of widespread enthusiasm for the Conservatives but a collapse in Labour support makes a Tory victory seem sadly likely.

It could also be pointed out that Labour’s healthiest victories in 1997 and 2001 were won whilst promising some increased taxes – the Windfall Tax and the rise in National Insurance. At the heart of the party’s manifestos were commitments to increase spending on education and on the NHS.

So maybe Tom shouldn’t be so certain that ‘it woz low taxes wot won it’. Such a simple explanation, as convenient as it is for Tom’s view that taxing the rich is a bad idea, is not compelling.

I’m also far from convinced insisting that things would have been worse under the Tories or that growing inequality was probably an inevitable consequence of a booming economy is going to satisfy the concerns of those who care about economic inequality – many of whom are Labour activists and supporters and whose campaigning efforts will be needed to keep Labour MPs in office. 

Let’s give Tom credit. At least he is thinking about inequality and facing the difficult questions, even if it is depressing to see that he doesn’t have many answers about what to do and that there is apparently a lack of a ‘party line’ over inequality. 

Tom’s final demonstration of certainty is:

The Tories, of course, will be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of this debate within the party, and praying that we come down unequivocally on the “soak the rich” side of the argument. Personally, I’d rather we stay in government.”

But from the perspective of anyone who cares about inequality, what’s the point in keeping ‘us’ in government if ‘we’ have achieved such unsatisfactory results over 12 years, are not sure why this has happened, and have no idea how to rectify the situation in the future?

Personally, I’d rather Labour MPs like Tom started looking at how redistributing money from the rich to the poor can be done efficiently and effectively and then used all the influence they have to make sure the government is carrying out appropriate policies. He could look at providing free childcare, free school meals, raising tax credits and thresholds.

I’d rather they were doing this than demonstrating a total lack of direction over the issue of inequality (exasperating for Labour activists, I suspect), giving succour to right-wing arguments over taxing the rich (very pleasing for the Tories, I’d guess), and seeming to blindly prioritise re-election and the retention of power for its own sake (nauseating for voters in general).

Of that I’m certain.

“Let’s go back to church. Let’s go back to church. Been so damn long since we sung this song. Let’s go back to church”.

November 9, 2009

Yesterday this devout atheist attended church for the first time in many years. It was for a Remembrance Sunday service and my hosts were going.  It would have been churlish not to have joined in.

The war remembrance part of the service was done well with local representatives of the Royal British Legion carrying flags, a schoolgirl tooting out the ‘Last Post’, and the names of parishioners who died in the First and Second World Wars being read out. There were 40 killed in the First World War. It must have been devastating for that small village to have lost so many of its young men.

In addition to reflecting upon the casualties of war, the service also provided an opportunity to reflect upon the role of the church. I was reminded of how implicitly – and sometimes explicitly – these church gettogethers can be.

Despite falling attendance over the long-term, atheists still have to respect the fact that for a lot of people all over the country church services (or other religious events) represent a community coming together, an opportunity to meet neighbours and participate in civic activities. That is in itself a good thing and a secularising culture needs to somehow replace that function performed by religion. At the very least an atomized society where people feel little connection to the community around them should surely be opposed by those who support any sort of collectivist politics?  

In terms of the explicitly political aspects, there was a lay speaker who spoke of the terrorist threat being a greater danger to the world than the Cold War clash between capitalism and communism. He also made undoubtedly well-meaning but potentially dodgy comparisons between the Holocaust and human rights violations taking place today.

There is no opportunity for questioning or alternative points of view to be put forward at services like yesterday’s. It is clear how vital the influence of established churches have been for governments trying to maintain the political status quo and discouraging independent-thinking amongst their people throughout history.

All in all, despite my aversion to the inevitable ‘God’ stuff and disagreement with many of the views expressed during the service, it was an interesting experience and I’m glad I went.

Mayor Trumps.

November 5, 2009

Earlier this week Boris Johnson came to the rescue of film director Franny Armstrong when a bunch of hoodlums set upon her. Although she’s not a Tory and actually voted for Ken Livingstone at the last mayoral election, Armstrong said: “If you find yourself down a dark alleyway and in trouble I think Boris would be more use than Ken”.

Is this true? Does Boris really trump Ken when it comes to fighting prowess? Here is a very serious assessment of their differing capabilities…

BORIS ‘BRUISER’ JOHNSON

HEIGHT: 5 feet 10 inches.

COMBAT EXPERIENCE: Trained in basic thuggery at the ‘Bullingdon Club’. Thought to be a specialist in smashing plates, throwing pot plants through windows, and then paying for the damage. 8/10

ALLIES ON THE BATTLEFIELD: His mate Darius Guppy knows some gentlemen who will break legs for cash. Boris is happy to go along with such schemes. 6/10

BRUTE STRENGTH: Look at him, he’s a sizeable fellow. Plus his constant cycling and history of rumbustious extramarital affairs suggest considerable energy. 8/10  

SECRET MANOEUVER: ‘The BoJo Piffle’. Boris starts waffling on about Ancient Rome and drops in a few witticisms whilst waving his arms around manically. Potentially amusing, but rarely deadly. 3/10

LOW CUNNING: Pretending to be a buffoon but actually getting himself elected as London Mayor and perhaps establishing himself as a rival to fellow Old Etonian David Cameron. 9/10

OFFENSIVENESS: Has managed to offend cities such as Liverpool and Portsmouth. Has said ridiculous things about gay marriage. During his editorship of The Spectator he was happy to allow pretty racist articles to be printed. His own ‘humourous’ description of African “watermelon smiles” and “piccaninnies” also got him in a spot of bother during the mayoral campaign. 9/10

OVERALL ‘KO’ ABILITY: 7/10-ish

 

KEN ‘LEFT HOOK’ LIVINGSTONE

HEIGHT: I can’t find a reference to Ken’s height on the intergoogles, but considering his love of giving planning permission to tall buildings let’s say somewhere around 1,020 feet.

COMBAT EXPERIENCE: As a prominent anti-war figure it would be against Ken’s principles to involve himself in violence, although he can get very cross indeed during heated arguments with Evening Standard hacks. 2/10

ALLIES ON THE BATTLEFIELD: Very chummy with former general Hugo Chavez. Ken’s hosting of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in the 1980s and suicide bombing justifier Yusuf al-Qaradawi in 2004 means he has good contacts with people not totally averse to physical force tactics. 9/10

BRUTE STRENGTH: Ken doesn’t do too well here, but his love of whisky drinking could well unleash some pent-up aggression at the required moment. 5/10

SECRET MANOEUVER: ‘The Screaming Newt of Doom’. Ken revs up his voice to produce an ear-splitting nasal whine so powerful that it can destroy Frank Dobson’s mayoral hopes and really irritate Prime Ministers. 10/10

LOW CUNNING: Getting cheap oil from Venezuela for London buses whilst they get, um, consultancy or something wishywashy like that in return. 7/10

OFFENSIVENESS: Telling a Jewish journalist that he was like a concentration camp guard and then refusing to apologise was fairly rude. His cosying up to Islamists and views on Israel have certainly not endeared him to the Jewish community. Saying things about the British treatment of the Irish being worse than Hitler’s treatement of the Jews made him seem like a twit in just about everybody’s eyes. 9/10

OVERALL  ‘KO’ ABILITY: 7/10-ish

Ergo, Ms Armstrong is wrong to so readily dismiss Ken’s fighting skills.

Although the former mayor may not look up to much, the people on Ken’s Christmas card list could prove very valuable as allies in a combat situation, and the secret manoeuver he keeps hidden up his sleeve can be devastating.

Admittedly Boris is better in a straightforward punch-up, but a holistic assessment suggests that the former and the present London mayors are pretty evenly matched.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.