Archive for July, 2009

Council Housing = communism (apparently)

July 10, 2009
Hammersmiths Queen Caroline Estate, where - if Blaney is to be believed - tractor production is up 800%

Hammersmith's Queen Caroline Estate, where - if Blaney is to be believed - tractor production is up 800%

There’s been coverage this week of a row in Hammersmith and Fulham, where the Tory council is tying itself in knots trying to deny its very clear plans for 21st Century Porterism.

As Tory Councillors in London’s wild west try to think up more wheezes and dodges to keep valiant seekers after truth off the scent, it’s refreshing to see that some in the Conservative Party are more refreshingly direct about their views on the complex issue of local authority housing.

Donal Blaney – who is to the Tories what football hooligans are to their chosen teams, and is himself a former Hammersmith and Fulham Councillor and no stranger to social engineering experiments with council housing – reckons that providing affordable and decent rented housing is, you know, evil.

[Local Labour MP Andy] Slaughter, and his ilk, wish to subjugate what they no doubt dismissively call “the working classes” to the might of the state, making them dependent on the state’s largesse so that they lose any last vestige of independence of thought, operation or dignity and so that they can be controlled and bullied by the levers of the left. It is, in essence, an evil creed that even the Cubans are moving away from.

Hmmm. Interesting. Because living in slum landlords’ private rented accomodation – which would be the only other option for most social tenants, with higher rent and far fewer routes to pursue for service improvement – would be such an improving, enlightened move.

Incidentally, if you were in any doubt as to what Cameron’s Militant Tendency are trying to do in Hammersmith and Fulham, you should see the shocking footage taken by local Labour leader Cllr Steve Cowan, who has been doggedly pursuing them to come clean for months.

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Libertarian paradise

July 8, 2009

It’s not a complete joke – some libertarians seem to be genuinely enthusiastic about the Somalian system of (non) governance.

For example, read this apparently serious article by a London-based libertarian.

‘LOLbertarianism’ might be a better description of this ideological creed.

Another Labourite that must be prevented from ever reaching any position of power or influence

July 8, 2009

My efforts at cataloguing the mentalists from within my own party’s ranks continue. Here’s a post at Labour List I only noticed recently: ‘Decommissioning cluster bombs is barking mad’.

It is a bit cheeky of the author, Dan McCurry, to suggest that it is those wishing to ban these weapons who are the loopy ones. He only puts minimal effort into familiarising himself with the arguments put forward by campaigns such as the Cluster Munition Coalition (and indeed our own Labour government) before coming to some very odd conclusions.

Previous posts from Mr. McC contain lines such as “a billion dollars has been spent by the west on overseas development aid; mostly it has been squandered”. His advice for confronting racism? “My way of handling them is to simply nod acknowledgment of what they’re saying, but not to respond other than that.”

I have heard that this gentleman has attempted to be selected as a parliamentary candidate in the past. I hope that his current level of success in this endeavor continues unabated.

Evidence of the bar’s new diversity policy

July 7, 2009

Interesting news today as everybody’s favourite unassuming heir to the throne became a barrister. Before we congratulate him on managing to fit in the law conversion and BVC in amongst his RAF training (or whatever it is he does which keeps him from getting hopelessly bored), I should stress he is merely an ‘honorary’ barrister. This is the use of the term ‘honorary’ which is synonymous with the term ‘non’ or ‘not really a…’ _46020199_007608883-1

It is fairly similar to the ‘Honorary’ QC post bestowed upon the Paintbrush collective’s favourite Cabinet Minister, Harriet Harperson. It has made me think that these ‘honorary’ titles can be quite misleading. For instance, when Ms Harperson talks nonsense about ‘the court of public opinion’, I’m concerned people may think she expresses these views as a very senior member of the legal profession.

Fortunately we are told that the young Prince does not intend to appear in court, ‘except for the odd speeding ticket’. How many speeding tickets does he get and shouldn’t he just obey the speed limit for a change?

Thoughts for Pride II – the struggle elsewhere

July 6, 2009
This is where we were

This is where we were

This time last year most of the Paintbrush Collective and various associates were visiting Budapest and enjoying a few days of baths, bikes, and Communist statues.

Everything was going well. The sun was shining; the beer was cheap; the Unicum was disgusting; and the comradeship was of the greatest quality.

I remember we were sitting in a cafe close to Heroes’ Square in central Budapest having a well-deserved rest after an arduous morning doing something or another when we noticed that the police were erecting metal fences in the street around us. In-fact access to the main thoroughfare of Andrassy Avenue was blocked off by multiple rows of these barriers.

Taking the hint that something might be going on, one of the more enterprising members of our group asked a nearby police officer what was happening. She was told that Budapest’s gay pride march was taking place and it was supposed to be ending at Heroes’ Square shortly.

My own experience of gay pride activities had been minimal but I associated them with carnival-like atmospheres, people wearing outlandish costumes and generally having fun. Sticking around to watch the parade therefore seemed like a good idea.

(more…)

Our housing policy must be coherent and fair – this is neither

July 5, 2009
Are you Local?

"Are you Local?"

Oh dear. According to The Guardian, the Government’s new “local homes for local people” could leave local authorities open to legal challenges for discrimination.

It appears that IPPR, in an unpublished report commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, have conducted some research, and their findings are interesting – and should be heeded by the government.

First, the policy will unwittingly favour white residents over ethnic minorites if the criteria include such things as local family links, as ethnic minorities – no matter how settled and integrated they may be into their area – are less likely to have relatives living locally.

Secondly, consider this conclusion of the report in its estimation of the way that current housing allocations work in practice:

There was no evidence that allocation policies discriminated against white groups. There was a small amount of evidence that some [current] social housing policies unintentionally discriminated against minority ethnic communities.

This is the money shot, because the whole focus of the government’s change of tack on housing is to try to head off white working class anger about the way in which the housing system “favours” ethnic minorities.

There are lots of myths about housing: the BNP feed them, and then feed off them for their electoral advantage. I know anecdotally from campaigning in areas of BNP strength that certain things are held to be self-evident truths:

  • Ethnic minorities can jump the queue.
  • Asylum seekers get preference in housing allocations.
  • Immigrants come to Britain specifically so that they can play the system.
  • There is a conspiracy of do-gooder leftie types to encourage all of this, because they hate the white working class.

None of this is true. To show that it isn’t true, we need to expose the facts about housing, not adapt our policy so that it solves problems that only exist in far-right fantasyland. The facts are:

  • Social housing is allocated on the basis of need, and need alone.
  • This is assessed according to a number of criteria, including household income, number of dependents, and whether any family members require care and support services.
  • If this is fair – and I think it is – the only reason why people will go without adequate housing is because of a lack of housing stock in which to house them.
  • New social housing building has effectively stalled in the last decade.
  • In many areas, “immigrants” (many of whom are actually ethnic minority Britons mistaken for immigrants) who are newcomers into social housing areas are acutually occupying former council houses that have been purchased, and then let privately.

The last point is, I think, the one which is the least-well understood, but which is the most important for understanding why so many white working class people feel like they do. But this being the case, the new government policy will be even more placebo-like in its effect in the toxic politics of race and housing.

Ultimately, the things that make people vote BNP aren’t based in nuts-and-bolts policy: they’re based (as are so many issues that arouse political passions) in the (mis)conceptions and (often irrational) feelings that surround policy areas. See these interviews with BNP voters for proof, if any were needed.

This being the case – and I’ve said it before – the best way to combat the BNP is not to try to legislate them or their issues away. In most cases this is simply foolish; in the case of housing, it’s actively harmful, and inimical to Labour values.

The sooner we realize that we have to defeat the BNP politically, the better – and that means taking the facts and the arguments to the streets. Pandering to lies just won’t do.

What we could – and should – be doing is uniting all people who are underhoused and in need of better social housing provision in a campaign to get local and central government to cough up the readies and build some, whether this means middle class people have to pay an extra £50 Council Tax each year or not.

Thoughts for Pride Day

July 4, 2009

Needless to say, all at Paintbrush Towers are very supportive of Pride, which is going on today.

I was looking through the political intertubes, and found some evidence that not everyone might share our view.

I wish gay people would leave it to the privacy of their own homes, trouble is they don’t, thus Gay pride marches and all that rubbish.

Would you like to try to explain the weird goings in a Gay pride march to a child?

I have nothing against homosexuals if that is the life they want. I do, however, object to homosexuality being pushed so vigorously, especially at young children… As for heterosexual families, you only have to look at history and modern day research to find that heterosexual families provide the greatest stability for children and nations.

Section 28 was a quintessentially liberal measure.

This clause was not designed to prevent equality, but to prevent inequality. The key word is ‘promote’. The threat perceived at the time (right or wrong) was from militant homosexuals who were not content with equality but trying to promote and therefore elevate the status of homosexuality. Please look at the wording of the legislation.

So where were these shocking comments found? Why, on ConservativeHome – the Tory Party’s mainstream internet hub.
Incidentally, I did take up the invitation of the last quoted commenter and looked at the precise wording of the legislation:
Prohibition on promoting homosexuality by teaching or by publishing material

(1) A local authority shall not—

(a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality;

(b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.

This is the problem that a lot on the right don’t get. You can’t “promote” homosexuality; what was being promoted – opposed by the Thatcher Government – was tolerance, and teaching children that gay relationships should be regarded as equal with heterosexual relationships.
This is betrayed by the second clause in the section, banning the teaching of homosexuality “as a pretended family relationship”.
To claim – as the original poster and some of the commenters do – that Section 28 was a “liberal” measure, intended to keep the state essentially neutral on the issue of relationship education, is simply laughable and ignorant of the politics of the time.
Credit where it’s due. I’m glad that Cameron and Johnson have said publicly that they think Section 28 was a mistake, and I’m glad that they are now embracing things like Pride.
But we should be under no illusions: at best, Tories don’t quite get the imperative for government (at all levels) to actively promote tolerance. At worst, they are – as many of the commenters above show themselve to be – grossly intolerant.

A good book would sort him out

July 3, 2009
Dont like books!

"Don't like books!"

So Andy Murray is emulating the former great tennis-whites hope Tim Henman in that he has played well but just can’t make it to the Wimbledon final (let alone win it).

Something else Murray and Henman have in common is their distaste for the ancient art of reading.

Tim Henman once said in an interview that he didn’t like reading books as he thought they were “boring”.

Andy Murray also seems to be the antithesis of a book worm. He claims he’s only read “a bit of The Rock’s autobiography and a couple of Harry Potter books”.

Maybe the British No 1 should concentrate not only on physical prowess but also a bit of brain exercise.

Yes, I know I would say this, being a nerd and all. But what books would we recommed to Murray to get him in the right frame of mind to win Wimbledon 2010?

Reading up on the interesting life of working-class tennis champ Fred Perry, whose clothing brand now kindly provide Murray with loadsa dosh, might be a good start.

Why wealth matters

July 3, 2009

Over the past 12 years Labour has generally shied away from expounding on the subject of wealth, preferring instead to be seen to wish to “reward success” and focus efforts on giving aid to the worst off, rather than taking pops at the rich.

This wasn’t such a bad political strategy – especially in the 1990s, when, for good or for ill, we needed to do everything we could to convince the British public that we were able to accept the status quo in a society which fetishized great wealth.

But the way things are now, we need to focus on the issues that wealth and its present distribution present; both in terms of the way our political discouse takes place, and in the nuts and bolts of policy.

The first point is on the very different ways in which moral judgements are made about the rich and the poor. Consider the 50% tax rate. This comes via a particularly daft unreconstructed Thatcherite:

Economic think-tanks have already readily condemned the tax rise as pointless with the Institute of Fiscal Studies warning that the treasury’s predictions regarding the tax have a “very high degree of uncertainty” and many predicting that this could lead to an overall loss in government revenue rather than a gain with businesses simply moving abroad and many using loopholes to declare their income as Capital Gains.

Forget for a second that he’s simply wrong. Forget that there is no evidence to suggest that the 50% rate will have a negative tax yield (no matter what the Laffer-curve believing monetarist flat earthers think), and that very few of the extremely rich will actually leave the UK (most of them seem to like London, for some reason).

What’s significant here is a complete moral absolution of people who choose to arrange their affairs such that they avoid paying UK tax, and so drive up the tax that must be found from you and me. The wealthy are never – never, ever, ever – condemned for this sort of behaviour.

But the wealthy are not the only group in society against whom it is levelled that they arrange their work affairs so that they can maximize their own income – the unemployed are, if you believe the tabloids, very assidious about avoiding work and maximizing the benefits that they receive as a result.

The outcome here? Widespread and loud moral condemnation, of a sort that drowns out the calmer voices in debates about economc inactivity and work.

It’s clear to me, then, that – despite the fact that “economic rationality” is acting in the same way in each instance – the “public debate” holds that the poor have very strong moral duties to the rest of us which trump their economic self interest. The wealthy, on the other hand, have no moral obligations of any kind: they must simply carry on being splendid.

That this is the case has led to a deterioration in the way we think about wealth, poverty, inequality and social cohesion.

The second point about wealth is that growth benefits the general public in different ways, depending on where it is generated. I’ll take just one small example of what I mean.

An important, and oft-overlooked, component of the benefits of economic growth is the externalities that arise from increasing demand for certain goods and services – usually, in the form of product improvements and market enhancement.

What this means is that broad based growth, which raises the disposable income of a relatively large number of people, has the potential to be extremely beneficial to future consumers.

The economic good years of the 1950s, for example, were broad based, and resulted, famously, in a huge expansion in the ownership of consumer durables – fridges, TVs, washing machines and vacuum cleaners.

But the best bit is that this becomes a virtuous circle, because the demand in these sector drives innovation and competition. So, a family which bought a fridge for £75 in 1952 were benefiting families who bought a better fridge for £40 in 1957.

Growth in the last 25 or so years, though, has been based on a very small number of very wealthy people – and this is where the mass benefit breaks down.

The improvements to the quality of yachts, or the redesign of the Bentley Continental, have far less application to our own lives than would improvements to products that we actually buy – and in a world where the wealthy are increasingly cut-off from the rest of us in lifestyle, this is increasingly the case. The growth and its benefits we have seen in positive GDP growth figures up to before the recession has, in actuality, been concentrated in a very few hands.

Before we can be honest with ourselves about the limitations of Britain’s wealth fetish, we will have a blinkered view of what can be done to make our economy one that is broad based, and so able to benefit more people more of the time.

7/7 conspiracy madness – Meacher mentalism

July 1, 2009

Further to my last post on this subject, which was inspired by the brilliant BBC2 documentary ‘The Conspiracy Files’,  I remembered that Michael Meacher MP has also had some odd things to say about 7/7.

Meacher wrote a post on his blog a few months ago entitled ‘MI5 and the cover-up over 7/7’. No beating about the bush there then.

He goes on to regurgitate the same lines of enquiry as the other 7/7 conspiracy nuts, asking the ‘unanswered questions’ which were pretty comprehensively answered by last night’s documentary. It would not surprise me if Meacher has watched ‘7/7 Ripple Effect’ whilst humming to himself in agreement.

Meacher has a bit of reputation in this area. He once wrote an article in the Guardian suggesting that the US government allowed 9/11 to take place so that it could have an excuse to launch attacks on other countries to get their oil. He’s also a fan of the theory that Roosevelt knew the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour was about to take place but deliberately stopped the US fleet from finding out about it. He additionally thinks the war in Kosovo was “actually aimed at the dismemberment of the last centralised state-run economy in Europe”.

I too am finding it hard to believe the official line on things.

I am finding it hard to believe that he was allowed to serve as a minister in our Labour government for so many years.