Archive for July, 2010

Tolpuddle 2010

July 28, 2010

This story reminded me that I had not yet written anything about Tolpuddle 2010.

Well, the weather was surprisingly great, the showers remained (mostly) hot and the mood was remarkably upbeat despite the onset of a right-wing Government. My summary of the weekend is Two Jako Thumbs Up.

There was, of course, plenty of political lunacy on display. If I had my way, the festival organisers would put more effort into promoting the event to ordinary trade union members, which would hopefully ‘moderate’ the political mood somewhat.

It’s important that this event is accessible to trade unionists who aren’t necessarily the hardcore activists. Instead of holding a political festival which essentially preaches to the converted it would be great if Tolpuddle could instil a sense of political awareness and commitment to TIGMOO in trade unionists who were not previously politicised.

One amusing speech was given by some gimp from the NUS who complained that the term NEET (describing 16-21 year olds not in employment, education or training) was somehow discriminatory and oppressive. It was ridiculous.

The NASUWT was inspired to hand out free kites at its stall. Nice idea, but it got a bit dangerous when they started flying into the electricity pylons.

Billy Bragg – musically solid, as usual. It was amusing to see Comrade Bragg (who made the mistake of backing the Lib Dems at the recent general election!) argue from the stage with people in the crowd who disagreed with his support for the alternative vote.

Are there any festivals other than Tolpuddle where the performers get heckled by people shouting out their views on proportional representation?


The case against David Miliband

July 27, 2010

Hopi Sen is running a series of critical profiles of all the leadership candidates. He lists many concerns that I also have with Miliband Major.

However, I would add:

  • His record as Foreign Secretary was not especially impressive. I had a colleague who worked on the UK Chagos Support Association‘s campaign and was disgusted with David Miliband’s failure to acknowledge the plight of the islanders. Was Mr Miliband’s most memorable moment as Foreign Sec the night he spent in an Indian hovel?
  • His inability to get any of the big three trade unions to nominate him does not bode well. Admittedly he enjoys the support of the (traditionally right-wing) USDAW, but if he’s going to lead a Labour movement David Miliband will need the largest trade unions on side.
  • Although it was nice of Miliband (D) to come to my part of Islington for some canvassing during the election I was disappointed by the post-canvassing speech. It felt suspiciously like the standard spiel he gives to Labour members. He failed to acknowledge that we were engaged in a fight against the Lib Dems, not the Tories. All in all it was a bit of a lame performance.

Know your enemy

July 27, 2010

Some vomit-inducing profiles of Tory advisers provided by Josh Neicho (formerly of The Hall School Hampstead, Eton, and Oxford).

WARNING! There is serious danger of choking on your own puke as you read the sentence: “affable, charming, always very clever and often extremely well-connected, they are proof that the Conservative Party under Cameron is fashionable again“.

And he came up with this nonsense on the day some polls put Labour only a few points behind the Tories.

Some other highlights:

“Rupert Harrison
Chief of staff to George Osborne

Circle: Moves with a glamorous- sounding set — actors Simon Woods and Rosamund Pike, poet and Krupp armaments heir Claus von Bohlen und Halbach — but characterised by his kindness and strong values.”

I’m glad to know the Chancellor has a Chief of Staff characterised by kindness and strong values as he plans to decimate the UK economy and shaft the poor like its 1931.

“Known for: Huge policy brains and fine judgment, a man who can pour oil on troubled waters.”

Oil on waters? I think we have in Mr Harrison a candidate for CEO of BP!

“Henry de Zoete
Adviser to Michael Gove

Age: 29
Earns: c. £55,000
Family and education: A scion of the de Zoete banking family. At Ludgrove and Eton in the year above Prince William, then Bristol university.
Social circle: A social chap who goes drinking with the other media advisers; keeps separate friends outside politics including football buddies and Lefty Eton pals whom he house-shared with in Hackney. Currently single.”

Hurrumph. I know a thing or two about Lefty Etonians. Any Lefty Etonian worth their salt would not share a house with a Tory overseer of capitalist oppression.

I would go on but it’s too depressing.

I don’t know what hits me more – the fact that these sorts of people are getting parachuted into positions of power and influence or that this Facebook-journalism got printed in a real newspaper.

What did Jarvis Cocker sing about a certain type of person still ruling the world…?

Failure to confront brutality in the UK

July 26, 2010

My day of being disgusted began when I read the Observer’s story on British girls undergoing genital mutilation yet there have been no prosecutions against this horrific practice.

It ended with the Dispatches documentary on religious fraudsters encouraging child abuse in their dimwitted but financially lucrative efforts to combat ‘witchcraft’. Again, this medievalism is happening in the UK and the authorities are apparently ineffectual at stamping it out. It is not illegal to accuse a child of being a witch and none of the ‘pastors’ filmed in the documentary have been prosecuted.

Let’s cut to the chase, whilst this abuse may only affect a small (though perhaps growing) number of children in recent immigrant communities, it cannot be tolerated.

The police have specialist units working on both problems. I can only hope their funding survives the Con-Dem cuts. But even with these units in place more must be done to prevent crimes being committed in the first place. I would hazard a guess that the police do not have many staff members who can easily blend in with the communities where this abuse occurs.

Instead of a laissez faire approach to immigration and multiculturalism the state should be far more interventionist. Recent immigrants need to be provided with access to social networks which will encourage integration with mainstream culture and will not leave them vulnerable to the influence of people like these religious charlatans. Cultural space must not be ceded to those who deviate so horrifically from norms of basic decency.

It fills me with sickening, absolute fury that this sort of bollocks is happening in 21st century Britain.

The country is being run by Laurel and Hardy!

July 22, 2010

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg declares whilst standing in for his buddy Cameron in PMQs that the War in Iraq was illegal. This pre-empts the Chilcot Inquiry and also embarrasses all his Conservative colleagues who voted for the conflict. No 10 suggests the Deputy PM was speaking in a “personal capacity”. Pathetic!

Then Big Dave himself does a boo boo. Whilst trying to stress the pretty obvious fact that the UK≠US, he declares that Britain was the junior partner to the US when fighting the Nazis in 1940. Yes, 1940! When plucky ol’Blighty resisted the blitzkrieg as many other nations fell. And the Yanks didn’t turn up for another year!

Oxford Tutor Vernon Bogdanor has described his former student David Cameron as one of his “ablest”. Pah!

As Paul Waugh points out, if the Labour Government had made gaffes like these the press would have been absolutely merciless.

Islington South & Finsbury’s leadership nomination and the self-flagellation tendency

July 20, 2010

At last night’s nomination meeting of my local CLP a healthy majority of us voted in support of Ed Miliband for Labour Leader. I was pleased with this.

Coming second was Diane Abbott. I found it hard to take seriously the suggestions that she was a principled leftist. I don’t think anyone seriously thought she would make the best leader – perhaps a matter of hearts overruling heads.

Many think this contest is going come down to Labour going for a Miliband, and there’s certainly much going for that view.

Supporters of David Miliband were few in number but fairly vocal and articulate. They propagated the argument that, whilst their man may not have appealed much to most of the assembled members, it was actually important to select a candidate who talked of things that didn’t necessarily please party members.

The logic was that pleasing party members too much = self-indulgent leftism which would not win over the electoral centre ground.

On the flip side, displeasing party members = a sign of responsibility and potential Prime Minister material.

Truly, advocates of such an argument are Labour’s self-flagellation tendency.

This way of thinking is tired and should be abandoned. There is no inevitable contradiction between being able to enthuse party members during a selection campaign and then going on to win a parliamentary majority after a general election.

We should be looking for a leader with widespread appeal who is able to build alliances with others. Political positioning disliked by lots of party members is not the strategy of a ‘broad church’ candidate. It should not be spun as some sort of brave demonstration of leadership quality.

I want someone to lead us who puts a bit more effort into unifying the party and is less tarred by the divisions of the past few years.

Also: Chris Bryant MP randomly turned up to speak in favour of David Miliband but was turned away as he was not a CLP member and none of the other candidates had guest speakers putting the case for them. A bizarre and amusing occurence, though I’m not sure he appreciated his wasted journey to the Holloway Road when there was so much Gove-baiting to be done in the Commons!

Tory burka barminess

July 20, 2010

Philip Hollobone, the Tory MP for Kettering who clearly wants to be the Daily Express’ favourite parliamentarian, wants to ban the burka (or, to be more accurate but less linguistically pleasing, niqabs).

This seems an odd response given his Government’s apparent concern for maintaining civil liberties and reducing state interference.

By contrast Caroline Spelman, the Tory Environment Secretary, posits that this sort of ultra-conservative Islamic dress can be “empowering”. She spoke of how burkas conferred dignity to women in Afghanistan and expressed respect for that culture of women covering up.

Both attitudes are wrong.

Hollobone justifies his proposed ban by claiming it would promote integration. How? Instead it would strengthen the Islamist narrative of Western society being ‘Islamophobic’. I’d like to see his evidence that curtailing the clothes choice of a minority of British Muslims would be more successful at promoting integration and cohesion than, for example, ending faith schools.

He also argues that these face veils are “un-British”. Well, yes, I agree that they do not conform to mainstream cultural norms in the UK but so do lots of things that Hollobone is surely not going to ban.

Looking at Hollobone, I would guess his list of suitably British activities includes dressing up as a station guard and playing with a model train set. But having an interest in daisy age hip hop may constitute an un-British activity that needs to be outlawed.

The bloke simply wants to demonise Muslims and it stinks.

Spelman’s position is another category of stoopid – a wholly different kettle of crazy fish. She seems to be advocating the worst form of multiculturalism; the lazy assumption that all cultures are equally valid and worthy of respect.

Rather than use her position as one of the few women in Government to point out how disgracefully repressive conservative Islamic cultures are in terms of women’s rights, she is excusing the proliferation of the most horrific anti-women attitudes.

We should not beat about the bush. Burkas, niqabs, and suchlike symbolise the belief that women needed to be hidden from men, that women are the property of men, that women’s sexuality needs to be controlled by men.

This is abhorrent and it is regrettable that any woman in the 21st century, anywhere in the world, chooses to wear one. Niqab-clad British Muslims effectively giving the sartorial equivalent of a two finger salute to the progress our society has made in the struggle against patriarchy.

I await a more sensible Tory to articulate a balanced approach which neither advocates crude bans or foolishly endorses the most reactionary Islamic cultures.

To Tolpuddle!

July 16, 2010

…back next week.

The marching season, riots and portaloos

July 14, 2010

Efforts to bring Northern Ireland into the “mainstream of politics”, as David Cameron envisaged, clearly have a long way to go.

But we should all be grateful for blogs. Blogs allow us greater access to insight like this, SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt’s very reasonable complaint at how the Orange Orders mismanage their proud celebrations of tradition/blatant sectarian provocations.

A lack of portaloo provision is part of the problem. This is the sort of thing that could surely get sorted out in a reasonable way without raising tired old arguments about the Battle of the Boyne etc.

Coalition dreams of freedom: the good, the bad, the mad.

July 12, 2010

The Government’s ‘Your Freedom’ website is an easy target for sneering taxin’, appropriatin’, regulatin’, nanny statin’ socialists like myself. The YouTube videos of Nick Clegg getting all excited about his liberation struggle are eminently mockable. But some of the ideas aren’t too bad, so here is a fair-minded selection of three suggestions:

Capital gains tax on wine investment

I propose  that wine investments become subject to the same capital gains and inheritance tax as other investments such as stock portfolios and property. HMRC has apparently dismissed this in the past as wine is considered a wasting asset. With dire stock and property market performances over recent years my investments in those have definitely become wasting assets!

The papers this week are full of news of the remarkable 2009 Bordeaux with cases selling upwards of £13,000 and many prices having doubled in the last few weeks.

Surely there should be a tax on any profitable sale of these investments? it would be easy to administer; if someone sells their investment before drinking and reaps capital gains then tax should be applicable. If they merely buy the wine to drink then they pay nothing.

My children’s school is one of those that has suffered at the hands of the abolition of BSF. I  resent the fact that their education will suffer when there is a huge, additional and fair revenue source just waiting to be tapped.

Heareth endeth my rant!

Allow cycling on pavements

a) We spend money marking and signing cycle lanes on pavements. It would be better to allow cycling on all pavements except in areas where expressly prohibited (e.g. busy city centres, pedestrian areas).

b) Better for the enviroment, more people will cycle when they feel safer and don’t have to be on the road.

c) safer for cyclist (less risk of being hit by car), safer for motorist (reduced need for overtaking)

Allow to carry self protection pepper spray!

Seriously,  I am afraid to walk around, especially at evenings. I scared for my life, my body and simply my Dior handbag which attracts a lot of attention of pick pockets.