Monday, 2 December 2013

Hurrah for Left Unity at last!

It was in a smart central London hotel.Hundreds of guests milling about, having a crafty fag outside before going inside.It could have been a significant wedding or an impressive bar mitzvah- easy mistakes to make.
But what gave thev event away was the traditional sight of newspaper sellers, no not the usual London newspaper vendors but the rash of Leftist  newspapers with the traditional range of titles always involving 'Workers'or 'Socialist' with the usual call for a General Strike tomorrow, the defenestration of Trade Union leaders the day after and a bit of capitalist state smashing thrown in.
Oddly enough the Morning Star and Socialist Worker appeared missing, maybe they hadn't been invited!
It was quite exciting, there was a buzz around and there were a lot of people,that's for sure!
It was of course the Founding meeting of Left Unity and like all Founding conferences it was a bit chaotic and a lot of time spent in procedural motions, counter motions anti motions and frequent circular motions.

Apart from the plethora of newspaper sellers the other feature was the mass of paper that surrounded every delegate and at the end every chair in the hall.
I wonder if as much paper surrounded the Founding conference of the Labour Representatiobn Committee or even the first meeting of thye Bolsheviks?.
Who can tell?
Yet between 5 and 6 hundred people were there, the initial founding membership stads at over 1200 and during the day over 1,000 people were following on Twitter.
No mean achievement in the current political climate of indifference and dispair.

The really positive side was the remarkable number of young people there,but on the otherhand(this blog is starting to sound balanced!) there were still too many old grey haired  and even hairless dinosaurs to make me entirely comfortable.

Much of the constitutional stuff could have and should have been done on line, a new party for a new century should have been more willing to embrace new technology.That would have achieved several things, speeded the process and allowed strategic political debate to have taken place,shown a willingness to embrace modern methods of work and most importantly of all frightened off most of us dinosaurs.
A new party also needs a more technically advanced way of counting votes other than bits of cardboard and sore arms (especially those of the dinosaur tendency)

The debate on the name also seemed a tad redundant-why advertise as a Left Unity Founding Conference and then leave the door open to change the bloody name?
Would we have needed a recall conference to use different voting cards?

Much of the day centred around the various platforms, many of which seemed suspiciously similar ,and some of the amendments were more about grammar and syntax than a bold new political dawn.

But it seems to me the show is on the road and we are all members of a new political party that maybe,just maybe can make a difference on the left.What appears to be most disappointing is that old sectarian habits are not dead, indeed they are not even dying.
There was evidence aplenty that many of the old baldy and grey haired cohorts were still insisting on fighting the old battlesc all over again.My colleague Ron from the Northampton branch described much of what was going on as 'infantile leftism'.
I guess most of them had at some time read Lenin's essay 'Left Wing Communism-an Infantile disorder'- it isobvious they didn't get what V I L was getting at!!
there is a case for comrades to meet and discuss the platform and direction of the party on an almost daily basis, I get that, situations change,events can determine direction quite rapidly.But then that should mean in a well ordered and forward looking organisation coalitions around ideas and actions shoule emerge as and when.For the first time we can have a political organisation that reflects the ebb and flow of the dynamic of the times-in real time.
Left Unity must not become a part chained to the dogma of the script handed down from the centre.We must try and be a disciplined group of folk who want to get things done locally and nationally, but we are not a democratic centralist party with a fixed unyielding hierarchy.

It seems to me that the platforms now need to be left at the door,that discussions can be fluid and responsive to change and we can build our bases within communities that need such political organisation without the heavy hand of the centre or 'the line'.

Most of the young people joining willm have no need of the historial baggage, and maybe a few of us on the Dinosaur Platform should learn that lesson too.

Perhaps the best point of reference today is a careful analysis of the current series of Borgen,where a new party is being created week by week.Maybe soon we will have our own Birgette too- and then-who know?
We might even resurrect the 93/4 platform.      

Thursday, 24 October 2013

All coppers are.....!

The Police Federation has over the years not exactly covered themselves with glory.They have indeed frequently been the most reactionary of organisations imbued with a culture of bullying and servility!
A few years ago, when they had a woman officer,Jan Berry as their leader they became a far more tolerant and intelligent organisation.
Indeed a very model of a modern trade union.

They may have regressed a little but what is astonishing is to see the Tories and their willing accomplices (aka Keith Vaz) line up to damage the Fed in the traditional way Tories used to do to the Miners,Firefighters,teachers.Much in the same way the Labour Party has recently been doing to Unite.
However the last few weeks have seen a whole new ugly face of union-bashing.A systematic blend of character assassination and political thuggery that has been as bad as the bad old days of Thatcher-and the target has been the once loyalist Police service.

The affair started with what is commonly known as 'Plebgate'.
A vulgar and arrogant Tory Minister Andrew Mitchell tried to wheel his bike through the gates at Downing Street, an odd little event in itself as he had a perfectly good alternative route out of the back of Downing Street that would have avoided the traffic.
But no matter, the Police of duty asked him not to use the gate and Mitchell responded using the time honoured language of those who belive they have a divine right to rule:
"Fucking pleb!"
Herein lies the strange part of the story.Mitchell has never denied he used the'f' word, he claims he used it sotte-voce but he has never denied swearing.
He has denied however that he used the word 'pleb' yet has refused to say what he did say,it seems odd that he should simply say 
"fucking,,," and leave it at that.
He could have said pleb, or prole or pineapple or maybe most likely plod!
No matter, the real offensive word was 'fucking' and for such a lack of control he should have been dealt with.
Cabinet ministers are supposed to set an example and abusing a public employee in a public place needed to be treated seriously.
Yet for the last week we have had every Tory nodding dog bleating on about how unfair the twat has been treated.
I think the culmination was on radio yesterday when the Tory high prince of third rate loucheness Jacob Rees-Mogg opined that what would happen the the Police treated some poor kid from a deprived neighbourhood in such a shocking way.

Remember when Rees-Mogg last spoke up on behalf of a black kid from Brixton when he was picked up for being black?

If that kid had used the 'f' word would Moggy have given him support and understanding?

I hope that Mitchell has now set a new bench mark and a defence that every youngster can use if arrested on a Saturday night for unruly behaviour.

I hope when he appears before the magistrate on Saturday morning he simply says;
" Sir I plead the Andrew Mitchell defence"

And I have never understood whats wrong with being called a pleb?
Happy in my plebian innocence!       

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Time to move on.

In 1975 the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson called for a referendum to determine Britain's membership of the EEC.
The country voted by a two to one majority to remain in the European Economic Community, with only the Western Isles voting against(by an astonishing 70% as it happens)
The left were generally against membership and we dubbed it the European Employers Confederation,we won the right to a referendum and lost the result.

The reality is now that the European Union is simply a part of the Transnational Employers Confederation, that as marx correctly predicted capital would become more and more international, and less and less competitive.
There is a silly notion that the 'free market' so beloved by conservatives the world over would introduce more competition and thus stimulate growth.
Of course that world view was not merely that of American Neo-cons, and Thatcherite Tories and Blairite New Labour.For decades it has been the driving ideology of our times.
Socialism we are being continually told has failed, and free market economics will create a utopian world where 'hard working families' will thrive and prosper.
In fact what has happened is that economic power has concentrated in fewer and fewer hands and capitalist dog has eaten capitalist dog and the gap between the tiny group of extremely wealthy oligarchs and the rest of us has widened dramatically.
And don't take just my word for that,maurice Saatchi, former Chair of the Conservative Party and mastermind of Thatcher's election campaign said it in today's 'Mail on Sunday'.
You couldn't find a more impeccable source of free market orthodoxy.
While it is true also that conventional socialist has also failed,Saatchi points to China as a state capitalist system(come back Tony Cliff-you were right!) and the other control economies were just as hopeless too we need to think outside the box a little.

There have been isolated successes, despite the ferocious embargo that the US has imposed on Cuba for half a century that little island has still managed to produce a first class health and education system as well as imbuing its people with a sense of socialist identity (Think of the Olympic boxer Teofilo Stevenson who refused the outrageous bribery of American promoters to turn professional!) Yet sadly Cuba is a very small example and it too has blemishes.

It would appear that we need a new model,a new strategy that can challenge the international power of the elite and represent the interests of the working people worldwide.
It seems to me that the one feature of the international workers movement that is lacking is-well internationalism!
Capitalism has long understood that it needs to operate globally, if workers get a bit uppity i9n say Northampton, then close down the factory and move elsewhere,indeed anywhere where wages are lower,conditions are worse and nobody ever talks about health and safety

Surely we learnt our lesson during the tremendous struggle of the ship builders on the Upper Clyde.In a principled and disciplined way the workers continued a work in (remember Jimmy Reid's admonishion "nae bevvying" ) and we all heralded it as a great victory for working people.
But UCS closed quite soon afterwards and the shipowners had their new ships built in places like Gdansk in Poland.
Quite ironic that really, because the shipyards of Gdansk should remind is that workers power is possible to change the world.
It was at Gdansk that the union Solidarity was born, and that was the organisation that toppled the 'communist' government of general Jaruzelski-a basket case government long past its sell by date.

Now I was and am not a fan of that miserable little creep Lech Walesa, but the organisation he fronted was a lesson in organisation.One big union that challenged a state machine.

it's a great pity that at the time there wasn't real international solidarity that allowed shipyard workers the world over that their interests were the same, that it wasn't about nationality or nation state was about working peoples solidarity-one with another.

Over the years we have seen attempts at international solidarity action, notably amongst dock workers, but always too little too late.
There were also brave efforts by TGWU members at Fords to work together with workers in other Ford plants throughout the world.But the old adage of 'divide and rule' has always served the ruling class well when confronted with workers combining together.

However if we are ever to move forward we have to start thinking globally too, and that requires two things, first the recognition amongst working people that we, and only we,are 'in this together' and secondly we need to build once again organisations that recognise that a hurt to one is a hurt to all.
I've lost faith in conventional bourgeois political parties and more than ever believe we need to create a sense that as capitalism has the power to destroy not just individual lives ata whim but entire industries,towns,communities.Every time the board of Tesco decides to buy supplies from a cheaper source then a community is destroyed, but not just the growers and producers.The transport workers, the warehouse workers,the shop workers,it's the old butterfly in the Amazon scenario.

But not only do we need strong unions that involve everyone, that's why the idea of the Unite Community branches is such a good idea,to involve people not simply as workers,but as tenants,dependants, patients,students,pensioners-everybody! 
It also requires unions to change too, to break away from the culture of patriarchy and hierarchical methods of working.Trade unions need to embrace as many as possible and stop behaving as if they are the exclusive brethren,the guardians of the sacred flame of exclusiveness.

I began this piece about reminding myself that I voted No in 1975.I belive that was the right vote then but it is no longer important.If we are really to challenge the powerful transnational employers cartel then we need to build a new movement from the bottom up.
Instead of bleating about 'foreigners taking our jobs' perhaps we should be meeting the migrants as they arrive with membership forms for the one big union.
I've got a great name too-I've always liked the notion of the International Workers of the World- the IWW -hasn't that got a nice ring to it!          


Monday, 7 October 2013

Northampton North-a nation holds its breath!

Speaking on Today on Friday James Naughtie interviewed a panel of Northampton North voters about their voting intentions.Amongst the panel was our own dear Bianca Todd who somewhat dangerously introduced the idea of politics to the discussion with the assertion that she would support a candidate from Left Unity-if one was standing.

Northampton North,since the old single Northampton seat was split into two has always been an important bell weather seat.Since 1974 it has been held by Maureen Colqhoun (labour) Tony Marlow(Tory) Sally Keeble(Labour) and Michael Ellis (Tory).

Significantly back in 1974 the sitting Labour member of 25 years,Reg Paget had intended to fight the Northampton South seat,but he pulled out late in the day and the seat went Tory. It remained Tory till Tony Clarke snatched it against the odds for Labour in 1997,but in 2005 it reverted to the Tories when Brian Binley recaptured it.
Northampton North will be one of those seats that will determine the government in 2015 Naughtie described it as a three way marginal, and five years ago that might have been true-indeed the Lib-Dem candidate then,Andrew Simpson described it as a 'two horse race' and then memorably came third in that two horse race.
I think its safe to say that in 2015 his party's candidate will be pushed even to come third.Simpson has decided bravely not to stand again leaving the field open for a new Lib-Dem lamb to the slaughter.

Two things can be certain about the election, it will certainly be a dirty campaign,but that is taken these days as a given,just pick up any copy of the 'Daily Mail' to get a flavour of the sort of campaign it will be,but more significantly it will be the most expensive election ever fought in Northampton.
The Tories need to win the seat and so we can be sure that they will spend lavishly, and indeed its almost certain that the spending has been going on for months.
Michael Ellis is a colourless party hack, a loyal Cameroon who will never step out of line,his brown tonguing of the royals is evidence of his beige politics.
At least in Northampton South the retiring Tory Brian Binley has some colour about him, one more parliamentarian in the line of great Northampton eccentrics, from Bradlaugh through L'Estrance Malone ,Margaret Bonfield,Reggie Paget,Tony 'Von' Marlow, Maureen Colqhoun to our own Tony Clarke-a ferocious Northampton termagant!

They brought life to an otherwise dull political scene,for good or ill,Ellis is simply dull, a living example of Northamptonshire author 'BB's  'Little Grey Men'.

The Labour candidate,Sally Keeble was famed as a 'Blair Babe' and little else She is the mirror image of Ellis,a personality lite cypher,and given her rather dubious history during the expenses debacle it seems odd that the Labour Party should pick a re-tread when before selection they were boasting that they had a host of fine new young talent.

Perhaps the young talent were all off at kindergarten  on the day of selection.

Labour like the Tories will be spending hard,whilst the Tories will be using wealthy backers will deep pockets,Labour will be relying on the Unions, or more specifically the CWU.

It is delightful to see my young former friend Lee Barron has been reinstated into the party as Chairman, despite his suspension some months ago for 'bringing the party into disrepute' over the rather casual affair of the PCC candidature.But then the Party always was forgiving of errant members,especially when they were regional union secretaries and brought a dowry with them.
Note for Lee-if you read this lad, its not your body or your brain the Party are after-it's your Union chequebook!
So what's likely to happen?
Almost certainly the machines are cranked up and working hard,both parties have few bodies on the street,just look at Labour's Facebook page and you'll see canvassing photos months old, so old in fact that prominent in the pack are such stalwarts as Ify Choudary(Conservative) and 'Red' Bev Mennell(UKIP)
Labour will be busy hitting the phone banks, or at least will Union money the party machine in the North East will be hitting the phones!
Voters in Northampton North can expect endless calls from smooth voiced sirens with Newcastle accents trying to seduce and retain them in the Sally camp.

There is only one surprise factor in this fandango, and that is UKIP. They have said that they will fight the seat.Now all the received wisdom is that it will damage the Tories but I think it depends on who is their candidate and which wards they focus on.
During the PCC election(well hardly!) I talked the the UKIP candidate, the late Jim MacArthur, a thoroughly decent man despite his fruitcake politics(had he stood as an independent instead of UKIP he might have won-his experience was extensive) and he took the view that there was considerable support for UKIP in the Eastern District,Kings Heath and Spencer.

Now if UKIP pick a local candidate with a common touch, say 'Red' Bev for example,she might take enough Labour votes who would prefer a rough hewed a-political candidate than the smooth re-tread!

It would be good to see smaller parties like the Greens take on the behemoths ,even Left Unity, but I fear that this is going to be an election not about ideology,values or even local identity, it's going to be one about money.
It will be the election decided by the bank accounts of thetwo parties that need to win,and the interests of the people will come a poor third, or fourth or fifth in this two horse race to the bottom.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

A Small Hurrah!

Yesterday I went into collect my newspaper from Harry and he cheered me up no end.
He told me that the sales of 'The Daily Mail' have slumped quite dramatically over the past few days.
He did say that all the papers appear to be declining in sales,but 'The Mail;' appears to have been hit the hardest.
Just as an aside he did say that the sales of the 'Chronicle & Echo' were not very good either, and for a local paper that is sad news,but the decline in 'Daily Mail' sales is really excellent news.

'The Mail' has a long history of being the mouthpiece of reactionary ideas,its frantic anti-socialism regardless of facts is a shameful commentary on a newspaper in modern Britain.It does not give news,merely opinion.
It was a fierce critic of the General Strike back in 1926, and has a 100% record in hating Trade Unions.
But then it is also notorious in its support for fascism-'Hurrah for the Blackshirts' was Rothermere's enthusiastic support for Sir Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists

The Mail was even giving away free tickets to Mosley's rally in Olympia, when his black-shirted thugs ran riot and beat up people who heckled the supreme leader.Just read Clin Cross's book on the Fascists in Britain  to understand the vile behaviour of 'The Mails' favourite political movement.
Stopping his speech, turning the spotlight on anyone interrupting and sending his bully boys into the audience to grab the offending member of the audience and sling him(or her) down the concrete steps.
Very British, very patriotic,just the sort of values that made the empire great!
But then Rotheremere was a great British patriot in the fine tradition of his paper, it was a consistent admirer of one small German called A.Hitler-whom it regarded as a patriotic German.
But then 'The Mail' has always had a flexible view of patriotism.

On Facebook this week there has been a flurry of tests asking how 'The Mail' would categorise people on a scale of like to hate. I'm delighted that like millions of other citizens it would hate me as much as it hates Ralph Miliband.
However one thing does depress me, and its a dreadful reality, 'The Mail' and perhaps more specifically 'The Mail on Sunday' does employ some first rate journalists.I suppose that for jobbing writers the lure of big bucks and steady employment,even for an unprincipled vicious bully is reason enough.

My experience of the few 'Mail' journalists I have known they do seem to hold quite right wing,unreconstructed views,but I'm not sure what came first.Were they attracted to work for such a rag because they shared the same political outlook or was it 'just a job'?

I like to think that lurking in the newsroom there might be some closet lefties,but sadly I doubt it.

However if what harry tells me is right, then perhaps, and its a very big perhaps, that if even in such lower middle class areas as Northampton people are turning away from Dacre's paper,then there is indeed hope.
A falling circulation might in turn lead to a falling advertising revenue and who knows?

But if big advertisers like Sainsburys (prop.Lord Sainsbury Labour Peer) and Gordon Brown, who we understand is a chum of Dacre,if they remain schtuum  then the poison will continue unabated.
Rotheremere's old hero Hitler was fond of burning books he didn't approve of-perhaps we need to erect a few funeral pyres of Paul Dacre's squalid organ.  

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Nobody talks about Falkirk any more...

It would appear that the Labour Party has fallen out of love with the crime of the century that was the Unite ballot rigging in Falkirk.
remember only a few short weeks ago at the nadir of Ed Mililband's fortunes when they discovered the magic ingredient to improve his poll ratings.
A scandal involving a big bullying trade union and what appeared to be the 'old' machine politics of a bygone age.
Brave Ed took on the union bullies, the constituency was suspended,two members were suspended,the polis were called in and Ed announced with much trumpeting and chest beating that the old relationship was finished and that from now on the Labour Party would have a different relationship with the Trade Unions, and no longer could the unions affiliate and give the party huge wedges of dosh .
Every trade union member had to be a paid up union member.
Hurrah for Ed, the Kinnock of our age!No more nasty union barons,no more nasty lefties,a wholly clean and transparent party funded by loyal rank and file and the odd Lord Sainsbury.

But then falkirk has gone quiet.The Police quite wisely slung out any idea of a prosecution,indeed under different circumstances the complainants might have been done for wasting police time.
Worse than that, the secret report that has remained secret and largely unreported did reveal that the only offence committed by members being signed up without their knowledge was done in a pub by a member totally unconnected to Unite.
A slightly less fulsome hurrah!
So whilst I expect the suspended members are still suspended,unlike our own dear Lee Barron who has quietly been unsuspended in Northampton after the bollocks over the PCC election, and it would appear Falkirk is yet another word never used in polite labour circles.

But the fall out is just starting.Yesterday it was reported that the once traditionally loyal GMB Union (for whom the fragrant Sally Keeble once worked with she was a journeyman arriveiste ) has announced that from January it will reduce its membership affiliation by over a million pounds.
And remember the GMB, the third largest union has always been the most loyal of loyal unions !
Of course the usual apologists were all over the airwaves:
"Not a problem,most of our Party's income is from individual members..." and "it's all that Paul Kenny's fault,how dare he hold the party to ransom..."

Well if the party is relying on the members widow's mites it may have a bit of a problem,especially as membership is in decline-wonder how many members are left in Northampton?Where once there was two CLP's there now appears to be only one.How many active wards are there?How many TU affiliates?
And secondly Paul Kenny was only reporting the decision of his national Executive.He,unlike Ed Miliband cannot simply make a decision on the hoof and have it rubber stamped afterwards!

If the GMB have decided to make a bolt for the exit,largely one suspects to protect their political fund when the registration of political levy fund contributors is balloted next year.They would rather pay for broad campaigns to support their members than pay for a bunch of MP's.
What other unions will decide that the Labour party is no longer fit for purpose?
Will the void be filled by a hefty donation from that great advocate of transparency-Bro. Blair?

I thought not.
I wonder if the Labour party,regionally or nationally will examine the frantic recruiting going on by a local parliamentary wannabe in Northampton South?
It's likely that there will be a low poll for the candidate and there will be a high postal vote, and the candidate most of the local activists left really don't want under any circumstances will win the nomination.

Her adoption will bring a big smile to David Macintosh's face.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

They cannot be serious!

I've stopped despising Tony Blair, now I simply loathe him.
Not content to destroy all that the Labour Party once stood for,not content to become the arch-druid of the market economy, and not content to take this country into a needless and cruel war at the behest of his Washington master-the fuckwit's at it again!
History Marx said repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce.
Yesterday Blair wrote an opinion piece in 'The Times' (and probably got well paid for it) in order to bolster Murdoch's line and do a little bit of self justification for his criminal foreign policy.
The gist of Blair's argument as to why military force should be used in Syria boils down to one thing, Assad is a nasty tyrant and we need to punish him!
Curiously Blair is very selective in which nasty tyrant he puts on the naughty step.In the same piece he rationalises why the military junta in Egypt is not a nasty tyrannical force by pointing out that Egypt is an ancient civilisation and is well used to military dictatorships-and anyway the Muslim Brotherhood are also very naughty boys,even naughtier than the Egyptian Generals!

Now just for a moment consider the Blairite rationale;
Is it one that is based on numbers?The Syrian regime has so far probably killed more civilians than the Egyptian one.
Well give them time and I'm sure they can manage to match the Syrians-or not!
Maybe he  has secret intelligence reports that indicate that the Al Qaeda operatives in Egypt are more pussy-cat like than those in Syria- we all know who reliant Blair is on secret intelligence reports and how reliable his information proves to be!
Maybe he is getting his information from some of the dodgy little emirates that pay him squillions of pounds for.......
The events of the past few days all sound so painfully reminiscent of those frenzied times before the invasion of Iraq.
Then there was the duplicitous 'debate' about whether we should rely on the UN, remember the British Government moving resolutions at the General assembly, and then the Americans(and the British Government) completely ignored the UN and went in anyway.
Remember how they bleated on about constructing an international task force of concerned nations,and blah,blah, blah, and of course it ended up with the USA,the UK and a few client states.(I expect Turkey was one then too)
Do you remember the passion and rhetoric that filled the Commons, and despite over 120 Labour MP's voting against invasion, and the Lib-Dems and even a few Tories-the bastards went ahead.
Right now they are softening the ground as they sharpen their Tomahawks
We will await the resolution say the Labour leaders in that grave tone of voice that we last heard before the Iraq debacle.
We know perfectly well that whatever set of words Cameron and Clegg will come up with, the Labour front bench will nod sagely and offer some pieties and then go down the road with the Coalition.

What has happened to that brave dawn of independence that the Lib-Dems displayed last time round, they won many thousands of votes because they seemed principled back then.
The cowards will justify what they are about to do because they like the sniff of power that the coalition offeres them.
And Labour, the party of Lansbury and even dear brave Robin Cook.
The only party leader with integrity tomorrow will be Caroline Lucas of the Green Party.
Like the last time even the top brass of the military are dubious, they have remembered just what went wrong last time.It's fine and dandy to lob in a few missiles and recreate a blitzkrieg everywhere,but what happens after?
What happens when there is no Police, when civil order has broken down, and armed bands of bandit factions are running wild?
Any fucking idiot can start a war, the trick is who will stop it!

A few days ago a commentator likened events in the Middle East to August 1914 in Europe.I fear there are too many parallels for us to feel comfortable.
We need to ask the question-why the unseemly haste? Why is it likely that the conflict will start before even the UN weapons inspectors can complete their report.
According to unimpeachable intelligence reports Washington and London are totally convinced that Assad launched the poison gas,because someone tried to assassinate him a few days ago.
Yet we still do not know what poison gas was used?Was it a sophisticated sort that requires a complex delivery method, or any old common or garden ricin that any A-leel chemistry student can make in his kitchen?

Or indeed any dissident little bandit that can provoke a situation where the government collapses and they can take over.
Or maybe it was a government store of nasty poison that was accidentally blown up?
Who knows, and at the current rate of movement,who will ever know?
Sarajevo could be with us again!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Column in the Chronicle & Echo

Check out my monthly column in the Chronicle and Echo.You can find it on the C&E's website under the Opinion Heading.You can also find previous columns by searching my name.The only difference between them and this blog is that the language is cleaner!

Friday, 26 July 2013

After Falkirk?-No reckoning.

For several days the events in Falkirk were all over the media like a rash, well they were until a woman had a baby,then of course all eyes, and cameras  were focussed on a private hospital (£5,000 a night) where a young woman was allegedly with child.
I say allegedly because of course being superhuman beings living high above us on an ethereal plain its quite possible someone else had the child.
It was always rumoured that James 2nd was smuggled into the royal bed in a bedpan (given the lousy track record of the Stuarts perhaps they should have anointed  the bedpan as King!)

So events in Falkirk vanished, well not quite,the Labour Party in what appears to be a fit of hubris called in 'the polis' and were determined to uncover dirty deeds at the crossroads, humiliate Unite the Union and get everything back in Blairite order-and nodoubt appoint a Progress sponsored candidate to replace Joyce-the Blairite disgraced thug.

An ominous silence followed, then quietly like a fart under the duvet it was announced that the Police could find no case to answer-that there was no evidence that Unite had done anything untoward and the case was never even opened.

There was of course the important report,compiled by Party apparatchiks and shown only to the Leader,Mrs.Deputy leader and if we are to believe it,Seamus Milne of 'The Guardian'.

This key report on which the suspension of two party members and the putting of the CLP under 'special measures', not to mention breaking the links with the trade unions and effectively destroying the financial base of the party-what did this smoking gun of a report reveal?

Well according to a radio report on little listened to Radio 4 last night-absolutely nothing!
That's right,zilch.
The Union had behaved quite properly,within the rules,and had recruited over 100 new members, afeat anywhere else in the party bwould be greeted with rejoicing and dancing in any remaining Labour Club!

Whats more, the family 'recruited without knowing thety were recruited' were not amongst those recruited by Unite!
Think about that for one second-the people that Progress and its stooges  were building up such a head of steam about had nothing to do with Unite!
So what has Miliband achieved? A massive amount of distrust throught the unions and with many of the members that are left in the party.A distinct loss of funds and support from organised labour.

Evidence from people like Paul Kenny of GMB suggest that the new arrangement will produce only 10%of the political levy payers bothering to join the party, and above all else a weakening not simply of historic links but practical and organisational links with 6.5 million members of trade unions!

Nice one Ed.
And who will benefit? Well the Blairite outfit Progress,home of all those bright young things that want to be MP's and owned lock stock and stinking oligarch Lord Sainsbury.
Amazingly my spell check thought I meant Lord Salisbury-so not much change there.
it seems to me that Progress is as much a party within a party as dear old Militant used to be in the bad old days of a mass party.But at least with Militant you knew what you were getting, committed local activists and MP's like Tony Mulhern,Pat Wall and Dave Nellist-any one of whom I'd swap for 200 Mandleson's!

Maybe however it's not so much a conspiracy by the shallow opportunists but rather a complete fuck up by the paid officials of the party.We have long experience of their incompetence here in Northampton.How long has Northampton South been suspended?(no special measures here)
Well as long as the party apparatus has been run by wannabe Blair clones-remind me where Emillie went?

With the announcement that Binners is standing down in Northampton South the race will be on to select a Labour candidate.With the party still suspended the regional party will play a big part in selecting the candidate.I understand that already a rather dubious local councillor with more front than Blackpool is busy recruiting amongst communities where many folk barely speak English.
But they don't need to go to meetings-postal votes are just fine.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A Stooshie in Falkirk

remember Eric Joyce(not to be confused with James Joyce or Joyce Grenfell)? He is currently the one-time Labour MP for Falkirk,but soon will not be on account of beating up the odd Tory in the Strangers bar!
There was a time when the delightful Mr Joyce was the apple of the Blairites eye, not only was he a bright shiny Labour MP but he had been a bright shiny British Army officer and thus a welcome addition to the massed ranks of Blairite aficionados
He might almost have been parachuted into working class Falkirk, much in the way other favoured sons and daughters were all over the place.
A Mandelson up in Hartlepool,a Miliband up in South Shields,another Miliband up in Doncaster,even a Blair in solid old mining constituency of Sedgefield!
It wasquite marvellous how so many of the London elite managed to turn up in rock solid proletarian parliamentary seats, clutching their CV's from years in Whitehall working as special assistants to ministers,or leading London councils for ooh...microseconds, or even having worked on the pit face in a barrister's chambers.
Luckily all of these class warriors seemed to have pristine union cards issued by the TGWU or the GMBU,often in London offices by union officers doubling as party hacks.
But you see in those days when the Labour Party was keen to forget its labouring class roots,when in wanted shiny TV presenters or journalists or barristers or doctors of the spinning variety or even army officers  or businessmen,then all the talk of fixing short lists and favourite sons and daughters was something those sweaty old lefties did in smoke filled rooms!
New Labour was above all those machinations, it was as new as a new penny and wanted its people in parliament to represent Mondeo man and encouraged those in the class who wanted to get 'filthy rich'-that was what was new about new Labour!

they were happy to have a shrinking party, and they didn't mind a few mucky trade unionists hanging about as long as they passed over their dosh-why some like Alan Johnson might even cop a safe seat,but truth to tell they preferred big bundles of wonga from rich city types- after all they weren't too interested in policy-all they wanted was the odd peerage and a bit of a guzzle at Chequers now and then.

Over the last few weeks The Times(prop.R.Murdoch) has been running a vicious campaign against Unite the Union and Len McCluskey in particular over the Falkirk selection process.Unite have committed the unpardonable sin of wanting a union supporter to win the nomination in a working class constituency, and they have done the unforgivable thing of recruiting working class men and women in the union to Falkirk Labour Party(don't suppose many of them were Falkirk based barristers,spin-doctors,business tycoons or senior military personnel)
No they were probably unemployed,factory workers,shop workers,lorry drivers- all those men and women who were the creators of the trade union movement generations ago, who moved on to found a party for Labouring seems to me that at last the wheel is starting to turn full circle.

Imagine working people taking control of a working peoples political party! I bet none of them ever read 'Progress' or wonder why so many of the New Labour project managers  are working for the coalition or Murdoch's papers!
Eric Joyce was one of the New Labour breed,doesn't that say everything about why they need to go!(oh and by the way he was one of the biggest expense claimants in the PLP- but they never slung him out for that-he got slung out for smacking a Tory.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

In to the Valley of Death.....

Right now it seems the left in this country, and indeed across the world seems to be getting its act together.Although much of what is happening is inchoate confused and sometimes contradictory there does seem to be a pattern emerging.
Capitalism is not quite in retreat,and its not exactly down on both knees but it is stumbling,and it does seem to be even more confused than the forces of the left.
I mean the left in the broadest sense,not exactly the full blooded tightly knit parties of Bolshevik revolutionaries,but rather a wider movement that in the main has seen through the weakness of social democracy and is stumbling towards a new socialist identity.

To be sure the events in Turkey,Brazil,Greece,France Denmark(maybe I've confused the events in Denmark with Borgen!) are all pointing in the same general direction.
There are stiring too in the Middle  East,although they are generally confused with religious sectarianism and in some cases gangsterism, and saddest of all there is the need to rebuild a socialist alternative in South Africa, where the ANC under Zuma has become a corrupt and self serving elite.
But generally things are moving.Of course we have to acknowledge that there are forces moving in the other direction too.That when capitalism is in real crisis it frequently turns to fascist ideology to strengthen its sinews and provide boots on the ground.Throughout Europe and the United States the evil forces of the far right are growing.In Greece,France,Russia,Scandinavia and even Germany fascist parties and -paramilitaries are starting to reappear.
In Britain many on the left thought we had seen off the BNP only to see them reappear once again,disguised as the EDL or in suits and sheepskin jackets as UKIP.

The labour Party in time of capitalist crisis is behaving with predictable timidity, but then the social democratic race has run its course.The party that carried so many of our hopes has become a hollowed out shell for careerists and opportunists Whilst there are pockets of folk who still think that there is a socialist vision lurking in the party that ditched Clause4   and was happy to encourage "the filthy rich" most have deserted to either give up or seek comfort in single issue politics or the pub.

This weekend however revealed that there is something exciting going on.The Peoples Assembly in London attracted several thousand people and inspired a great many.It must have been successful given the virtual press blackout it engendered.
How significant too that this weekend Miliband chose to inspire those comrades left in the party with the
promise to continue the coalition's austerity policies after the next election.
Hurrah for that inspirational leadership!
At the same time the huge growth in the Left Unity movement, inspired by Ken Loach's moving film 'Spirit of 45' that may be the Autumn lead to the creation of a broad based left party that will bring together more people than anything before.

If you add on top of that the growing ferment and anger in the Trade Union movement, and the recognition that the struggle against the austerity and cruelty of this government and the set-up it validates-then the signs are good.The creation by Unite of Community Branches that stretch out from industrial working members to the widest community, to folk engaged in battles against the bedroom tax,youth unemployment,deprivation, racism,discriminating in all its forms-then you have potential for a new dynamic.

So why do I sometimes feel a bit like Captain Nolan in Tony Richardson's film 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'.You remember the scene,when Cardigan led the light brigade down the wrong valley, and Nolan,realising the mistake tried to ride in front of Cardigan to tell him where the enemy was.cardigan ordered him back and before Nolan could remonstrate he was killed!
Now I don't feel that I will be shot by big Russian guns,or fall from my horse,but I have a sense that there are dangers,and they're not coming from the bloody enemy.
There are all the old sectarian moans and objections.Look at any local Facebook,for instance the Northampton Peoples Assembly and you will see old battles being resurrected again.You know what's coming when the word 'traitor' is bandied about, and worse still 'commie', in a casual and illiterate way.

there will always be differences on the left, and sometimes they are irreconcilable ,as happened in Spain during the Spanish Civil war, and as in Chile in 1973 when the debate between advance to consolidate against consolidate to advance got in the way of a united struggle against the fascists.But surely we have learnt something after decades.

this state is the enemy,and if we want a fair just and equitable society then we need to ignore the siren voices and move together-forward!  

Thursday, 6 June 2013

To lose one Councillor may be careless...

It is often assumed by anonymous bloggers and the like that I am somehow anti-Labour.Having spent 40 odd years in the party,and thirty of them on the thankless task of being an unpaid municipal social worker,I think I've paid my dues to the social democratic shining vision on the hill!

I'm still very fond of many of the good folk I've known in Northampton Labour Party and remember withy pride and affection the battles we all fought together.
And there's the operative word, 'together'.
Whatever set back and misfortune we found ourselves in during the miserable eighties and nineties we were united in a spirit of comradeship.
There is a danger for us old fogies to wallow in a political nostalgia about our heroic struggles and  unreconstructed class warriorship which you 'youngsters' know nothing about.
Of course there were bitter internal conflicts, we took Northampton South CLP to the brink of extinction because we as a party refused to allow SDP types to operate within the party.We refused them the right to stand as candidates and it took the mighty Eric Heffer MP to come up and read the NEC's edict to us-with I might add no effect whatsoever.
It was only the intervention of a General Election and the defections of a bunch of numpties that saved the party.

Defection to the right has been a frequent feature of Northampton's socialist tradition, but that was usually because we were behaving as a naughty left wing party and being cruel to those who preferred being Tories with slightly pink rosettes.
For much of the last thirty odd years we were red in tooth and claw ,we often made Militant look decidedly effete. 

But times have changed and the party that I joined somewhat reluctantly in 1972 has become a hollowed out shell not really fit for purpose.

The party in Northampton was different, there were generations with different ideas and methodology.The Party we joined was still one of Reginald Paget, a right wing aristocrat with decidely odd views.He was sympathetic to some dubious right wing regimes and was a passionate fox hunter.
However Reggie had been a lawyer at the Nurenberg  Trials and was the MP who seconded Sidney Silverman's bill to end capital punishment.
Reggie was a paradox who was a reactionary in foreign policy and a radical in domestic affairs.Possibly a classic Midlander!

His party reflected that, a mixture of old fashioned shoe union members,some pre-war 'Labour League of Youth' radicals mellowing with girth and bank balances and some devoted working class pavement sloggers who desperately wanted change and were prepared to make any compromise to reach the New Jerusalem.

As a bright eyed bushy tailed urban revolutionary it seemed unlikely that Marie and I would fit into the provincial traditionalism of the Labour Party.
But we did because of the generosity of spirit and tolerance of our noise that we found.In Castle ward our neighbour was a remarkable lady,Doll Pickering, a stalwart of the United Reform Church and a widow of an earlier Castle Ward Councillor,John Pickering.There was a whole host of older members like Doll, Bet Roberts in Semilong, the legendary Frank Tero from Semilong too and into that heady mix a handful of young turks.Graham Mason, Geoff Howes,Marie and me.

The older members gacve the youngsters encouragement,a gentle guidance and supported us even when we must have sounded like outrageous Bolsheviks storming the Winter Palace.

I note with sadness the report from some young observers to the Labour group complaining about the lack of support, the sulphurous nature of relationships within the group and party and the breakdown in trust.
This is echoed in John Palethorpes blog,what a chance to work with young people and let them experiment with ideas .
Opposition is the best place to let the young eagles fly!
What's happening, factionalism not over politics but personalities,jockeying  for position and power and worst of all making a complete bollocks of opposing the Tories in any meaningful way.
When all you have is careerism and shallow opportunism with no ideological base other than 'campaigns' that revolve around knocking on doors and 'listening' then it's hardly surprising that you attract the feeble minded and politically shallow.
Can you be surprised that the battles are all personal and at the first sign of trouble the toys tumble out of the pram and they 'defect',to Tories or worse-UKIP!
Although in truth I see little difference between the Official wing of right wing politics and the Provisional wing.

I now doubt if the Northampton Labour Party can be saved for anything remotely like socialism so I say clearly to those who still believe a socialist alternative,even here in Northampton is possible, the the Left Unity project,initiated by Ken Loach and his moving film 'Spirit of 45' may be the solution.
'Those who don't learn by their mistakes are doomed to repeat them."    

Monday, 27 May 2013

A gentle polemic on the notion of national identity

On Facebook recently I have been having a 'debate' with Allan, a thoroughly decent man with one great weakness-he stood as a UKIP candidate on May 2nd.

He genuinely that there is space to debate our differences and perhaps even believes that they are in some way reconcilable,that they are only differences of stress and emphasis and really we are all operating in the same political arena.

Sorry Allan we are not.Our world view is as far apart as it possibly can be,our starting point is completely different and our end point will never coincide.
Let me explain why.

You think and write about a 'United Kingdom' as some sort of commonality between us, that we live in the same nation state and therefore we have common interests that promote a sense of nationhood and a sense of 'national identity'.
From the outset you know I'm a Scot, that is a culture and a language that I am familiar with.However that does not mean that I embrace all things Scottish, pipe bands and tartan and tins of shortbread and the martial story!
The great Scots poet Hugh MacDiarmid described all that tosh as the 'kailyard' and he always summed up that image of Scotland as one embodied in the dreadful 'Sunday Post' and its homely pithy third rate Presbyterian monoculture.
I am a Scot by accident of birth, that is all.
The Scotland of stirring highlanders killing folk in far off lands for 'King and Country' is not my Scotland, any more than the aristocratic parasites that own vast areas of that country,greedy landlords who cleared people off the land to allow their fucking sheep to wonder untrammelled.

The fact that the Windsor family claim to love Scotland because their granny preferred a big hairy highlander who looked suspiciously like Billy Connolly to an effete German princeling is of no iterest to me whatsoever.

My only commonality is based on class.
It is the relationship to people who earn their living and contribute to the common good that determines my world view.
And as it with Scotland so it is withy everyone else.I have far more in common with the teacher or the bricklayer or the lorry driver or the farmhand anywhere else in the world than I have to the Edinborough banker,the London stockbroker or the Russian oligarch!

My world view is an internationalist one not a nationalist one.that's  why I have more in common with the European worker or the Asian worker or the Latin American worker than I'll ever have with the Scottish, English or any other elite.

You will probably as would I fight for my country?
Well,I'm no pacifist,but I'm no bloody sheep either, and I would view any conflict,not in national terms but in class terms.
Would I have fought in World War One-no, it was an imperialist war that was only about the conquest of territory for the greater good of the competing capitalist classes,nothing more,nothing less.
World War Two was very different,it was a struggle between two ideologies,and fascism was determinedly anti people.It's worth remembering however that in the lead up to WW2 there were many in the British ruling class who wanted to do a deal with Hitler,many of the Tory cabinet were desperate to appease Hitler and who can forget the 'Hurrah for the Blackshirts' front page in Lord Rotheremere's 'Daily Mail'.

Every other conflict since then has been in the interests not of the British people but in the interests of the multi-nationals.
Allan you mentioned the Falklands,well that cost 300 young men from this country to do what?
Preserve the political reputation of a discredited Prime Minister and look after the interests of the oil companies in the South Atlantic! real patriots would have not sent those young men to dreadful deaths  for no purpose.It would have been cheaper to ghave given every resident of the Malvinas a million quid and all the sheep they could eat and allowed them to resettle elsewhere.

And whilst on that subject the billions being spent on a new nuclear deterrent that this government can only use with the permission of the USA could be far better used to rebuild our infrastructure and our public services.

I'm sorry Allan I don't buy into your patriotic schlock

Can I finish my rant with a quote from another great Scots poet of the last century,the incomparable Hamish Henderson, who in 1960 wrote 'Freedom come all Ye'

Nae mair will our bonnie callants
Mairch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw
Nor wee weans frae pit heid an clachan
Mourn the ships sailin doon the Broomielaw
Broken faimilies in lands we've herriet
Will curse 'Scotlan the Brave' nae mair,nae mair
Black an white ane til ither marriet
Mak the vile barracks o their maisters bare." 

You see Allan it is my view that your leader is just one more xenophobic braggart,and in the end I prefer internationalism and solidarity to what UKIP has on offer.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Now the carnival is over.....

The County Council elections were a tragedy for Northampton in every sense.The re-election of a Tory administration means more of the same.An economic strategy based on cutting services and boasting that what people want is even more cuts so that they can use the money they save in paying low rates to do what?
It is obvious that the rural areas like South Northants,with some of the most expensive properties in the country will be happy with their low rates and thatched cottages and a police officer guarding their garden gnomes 24/7.
But for the urban areas like here in Castle ward we can expect further reductions in services,less street lighting,no youth service,privatised schools,and the usual paraphernalia of the Thatcher legacy.
And what is worse still we have no voice to speak up on behalf of our communities.
Hee in Castle Ward we have lost an outstanding Independently minded Councillor in Tony Clarke.The former Labour MP for Northampton South and an excellent advocate who articulated the needs of this poorest of areas.
The Labour Party in Northampton have proved to be a startling failure of will,a bunch of New Labour clones and retreads who are unable to speak on behalf of their constituents.
In castle Ward(but really the bulk of St Crispins )  Winston Strachan was elected, a nice man whose heart in in the right place but has spent the last four years on the County Council  behaving as if he had taken a monastic vow of silence.
Apart from the group of Corby Councillors we have nothing,there was a time that Labour could win the County Council with the majority coming from Northampton.
With all that is happening nationally,with the coalition in tatters and the Tories savaged by UKIP what does the labour Party achieve in Northampton.
A whole gain of three seats!Even the bloody Lib-Dems have done better than the Labour Party.
We were promised a bunch of bright young things who were going to challenge the Tory hegemony.
Fat chance!
What we are seeing is the legacy of New Labour,or rather old Keeble and a party so enfeebled by in-fighting and bitter internal feuds that just when there is a need for a strong fighting force to rattle the windows and kick down the doors of County Hall we have.......a vacuum where a political party should be!

A few days ago I drew attention to the NBC's Labour Group's feeble effort in opposing the 'Bedroom Tax'- a trivial battle that they managed to loose.
I feel desperately sorry for the comrades in Corby who once again have to carry the weight of expectation because Northampton Labour Party are simply unable to deliver a coherent message.

If Winston's leaflets were typical of the stuff the party was putting out then frankly they deserved to fail.The desire to find the centre ground has robbed the Labour Party of any capacity to fight on behalf of the people.
Neil Kinnock once described Labour local government as the 'battered shield' to defend the people against the Tory attacks.Here in Northampton we don't even have a battered handkerchief !

Yet the opportunities to defeat the Tory coalition are legion, as they split between themselves in the coalition and the UKIP wing of the BNP in suits assaults the Tories from the far right,now is the time for the left to do what it is doing all over Europe .To present a genuine popular socialist alternative to the crisis of capitalism.
By that I do not mean a call for a one day general strike,or even an insurrection on College Green or even the elevation of St.Dennis Skinner to a secular papacy.
The opportunity at last is to bring together all the disparate forces of the left.Those brave but seriously weakened 'forlorn hope' comrades still in the Labour party, the left groups operating in ideological bubbles,the Greens,the single issue campaigns and all the other merry pranksters of radical intent.
There are new red shoots tarting tom emerge, the Ken Loach Left Unity initiative and the creation by Unite the Union of Community branches  represent the coming together not simply of an extra-parliamentary opposition but maybe even the creation of a new force of progress.
This may be the best chance the left has to re-group into a movement that can change the world,or at least our little corner of it!
It may also be our last bloody chance.
"Then  Comrades come rally....."  

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The job of an opposition is to oppose!

The twenty second of March 2013 was the day that the Labour Party in Northampton  finally gave up its claim to be a political party that represented anyone other than itself.
The evening in the Guildhall started off well enough, as a piece of gesture politics the walkout by Labour councillors before the Tory administration gave its eulogy to Thatcher was quite good theatre.Marred only be the fact that their colleagues in Corby had done it in a far more stylish way the week before,but at least it erred on the side of righteous indignation.
However it went downhill after that,in dramatic style.
A couple of weeks ago there was a demonstration on the Guildhall steps against the bedroom tax.A couple of Labour councillors, Stone and Mennell turned up and spoke passionately against the legislation.Sally Keble also appeared,at least for the press photo-call and then scurried off.
So far so good.
Then came the meeting.Labour had five motions to be debated and the last one was about the bedroom tax.
To call it a motion is in fact stretching was more a whimper,it was the mom and apple pie version of a motion.
First it called the bedroom tax 'so called', thus rather undermining the national party's decription of the tax.It then rambled on a bit about it being something the Labour group was against and would fight it 'through the usual channels' and it then came to a dramatic dénouement- the high point of the labour Party's stand against what many think is Cameron's poll tax moment.
NBC Labour group was urging the Tory administration to speed up the creation of an appeals panel!
Yes you've read it here first-the labour party has decided that barricades and defence of tenants is a bit passée, so instead of calling for no evictions as the Green led Council in Brighton has done,or redesignating rooms as many Labour council's have done-the passionate political giants on Northampton want an appeals panel to be set up quickly.
Of course the fact that the Tory administration would set up and dominate the panel and that it demonstrated quite clearly the defeatism of the Labour Party really diodn't bother the assembled comrades.
After all Lee Mason, former Labour leader and former Chair of housing cheerfully admitted that it was a non-political resolution!
A non- political resolution about the most politically contentious issue facingf local government today!
For good measure she also confessed that as an opposition party they did not have a majority and therefore could not win a vote.
The logic therefore is to present a defeatist motion, get it passed and proclaim in every Labour Rose a great victory!
Torry Wire the Leader rather lamely criticised those of us who urged that they withdraw the motion that we should have heard them last montgh,when no doubt in an opposition business statement they told the Tories that they were all very naughty boys and girls.

The tragedy of all this is that over the next few months things are going to get worse, and tenants might have hoped that the opposition would at least put up forceful arguments in the Council chamber to give them some hope and inspiration.
But the rules of debate in NBC mean that the topic cannot be revisited for several months(six months seems to be the period)
This was known to the Labour group and even discussed,but yet they allowed the  weakest and most pathetic resolution to stand.And they even managed to lose that fucker!
The Tories were playing with them, the anodyne resolution from Mason had its rug whipped away by a sanguine Tory leader who was enjoying himself hugely at the expense of the official opposition.

Even the Lib-Dems made a better fist and tried to warn the Labour party of where their Tory appeasing motion was headed.It was instructive to see the look of anguish on the faces of some of the Labour councillors,but sadly anguish was not enough.
Lee Mason and her non-political motion has failed the Labour party in Northampton, if they win more seats in the County Council elections it will only because the Tories and Lib-Dems are even more unpopular, but this sad display of ineptitude has revealed just how hollow and directonless the local Labour Party have become.
And that is not only bad news for those who seek socialist transformation but for the people of Northampton.

Labour councillors hang your heads in shame!      

Saturday, 13 April 2013

I've been trying to avoid mentioning her

Far too many trees have gone to the great forest in the sky on order to give the last rites to Margaret Thatcher. I'm completely bored with the idolatry that has surrounded her death and the endless vilification that has been heaped on anyone who has dared to criticise her.
One huge piece of of irrelevant fawning that has accompanied every apology about her from people who know how much damage she has done begins with the :
"She was an old lady and you have to think of her grieving family...."
Her grieving family who both lived thousands of miles away,allowed her to live alone in that private home for the rich and useless-The Ritz
Her doting family cared so much about her in her dotage that they stayed as far away as possible from leaving,leaving her care to paid minders and the odd sycophantic Tory MP.
The only unforgivable thing about her doting family is that the boy Thatcher wasn't arrested when he finally touched down for all his dodgy activities in Central Africa and elswewhere.
How did a knob like him amass a multi-million pound fortune?He even managed to fail his accountancy exams!

The fact that she was an old woman who died alone in her expensive suite,donated by the Barclay Brothers(offshore newspaper owners and arrogant gits) is quite sad.But before too many tears are shed think about the thousands of working peole who died prematurely because of her actions.
Suicide rates in mining communities have been high ever since she used the state to break the miners and their union.
Unemployed youngsters in the communities her policies ravaged are greater victims than any sad old millionaire popping her clogs on the Strand.

Those of us who oppose her are not bothered about her as a person,but rather the politics that her administration promulgated that gave power to the wealthy and greedy,as well as the corrupt and in some cases frankly evil.
Just look at the guest list to her funeral that we are so generously paying for, what a bunch of bloodsucking leeches, has-been politicians,underwhelming 'entertainers' and neo-cons and failed authoritarian leaders from the dark side.
If Jimmy Saville was alive he'd be in the front pew,along with Pinochet,PW Botha and that lunatic Reagan.
She chose her friends well,but then she served her class interests well.So it is a huge but not unexpected surprise to see the Blairite hegemony circling  her wagon protectively.No wonder Blair is keen to remind everyone that he won three elections too and when his time comes will expect a Queen or two following his coffin.
He was as most remind us the natural heir to her policies,he was happy to keep up the privatisation fandango,enrich the bankers,ignore and weaken the trade unions, and start fucking useless overseas wars when things got a bit tough at home.

The last few days and the next four or five have given the Tory party a lifeline, they have cowed the official opposition into being complicit with the longest and most sustained party political broadcast for this discredited coalition.

Here in Northampton the slightly foxed and largely discredited local Tories have launched a Thatcherfest with memorial resolutions at council and books of condolence and flags at half mast and all the other symbols of state power.
I expect they are only sorry that they can't deck all the lamposts with union jacks,portraits of the dear departed leader and solemn funereal music piping out of loudspeakers all over town.
I expect there are some who would like to hang a couple of retired miners or unemployed steelworkers just to give added authenticity to the ceremonial  mourning.

There is a chain we have to break, from Thatcherism through monetarism   via the free market to Blairism. 
Working people and their organisations didn't create the crisis of capitalism, capitalism created the crisis of capitalism and the local manifestation in this country was the political ideology that dominated the 1980's.
If the people are ever to get off their knees then two things need to happen, the independent organisations of people need to be rebuilt and we need to create a new party that will look towards a progressive future for the young people who are wondering why we old grey beards are humming a tune from the 1931 film 'The Wizard of Oz'
The forward march of the Munchkins resumes!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Time for the party to come to the aid of the people

FAO George Carr-Williamson -Regional Organiser East Midlands Labour Party

Dear George,
You told me that Cllr. Naz Choudary has been sending you my columns,presumably not because he is a fan but rather he is hunting out heretics and thought you should know.Well this time I'll save him the trouble,and you can judge directly if I should be burnt at the new labour stake!
On Saturday in common with many other places we had a demonstration here in Northampton against the iniquitous 'Bedroom tax'.
A respectable 60-70 people turned up from a variety of groups and individuals to demonstrate on the steps of the Guildhall.
It wasn't quite the magnificent effort that Corby put on, with between 200-300 people and Andy Sawford MP, John McGhee(Leader of NCC Labour group) and the Leader of Corby Council, as well as a number of local councillors.

In Northampton by contrast we had the PPC for Northampton North who posed for some photos then scurried off to do something more important.
We did however have two Labour Councillors,who both spoke and made a welcome contribution.
But on an issue that will affect so many people in this town it has to be asked,where were the other 14 Labour Councillors?

I ask because in the past Labour Councillors here have been in the forefront of such struggles.many years ago,when the late Roger Winter was Labour Leader we turned up with him at 6.30am to join a picket line of  UCATT workers on a council building site.It was a freezing day but we gamely stood there,a pity by the way that the Union convener,a SWP member failed to show!

Some years later another fine comrade,the late Ron Linsdell  during his mayoral year joined a print workers picket line outside the Chronicle & Echo offices.Ron was a print worker but put solidarity with his workmates against the glory of the office.The local Tories and the press excoriated Ron, but the group were proud of him and gave unconditional support.

In those seemingly far off days the Labour Party banner was frequently to the fore, on Saturday there was the Green Party banner,the Co-op Party banner and Defend Council Housing's banner, I wonder if the Labour Party still have a banner?

However there is something important that the 16 Labour Councillors still can do, they can offer leadership and resistance to this dreadful legislation.They have a wordy and pious resolution going forward to the next council meeting.That is frankly too little too late.
The resolution that needs to be put is a very short one:
"NBC will not evict and tenant affected by the 'Bedroom Tax'"
Of course they will not win it,but they might detatch one or two Lib-Dems and add to the coalition chaos.
The other thing of course they need to do is use their size to requisition a special Council meeting, and keep the Tories there all night!
that would not only show leadership but give hope to thousands that there isd a battle on and that it can be won.This tax is the Tories nmew Poll Tax moment and the battle lines are starting to grow.
The other obvious thing that has to be done is the passive defence of any tenant faced with eviction.A disabled speaker on Saturday said that he was facing imminent eviction.If that proves to be the case then apicket line outside her flat by as many Labour Councillors as can get there would be a positive signal that Northampton Labour is getting off its knees!

It was good to see a number of young Labour candidates in May turn up on Saturday,but now the Party must match its rhetoric with political action.

That sufficiently inflammatory Cllr.Choudary?Does it perhaps make you want to slam the phone down again? 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

There is no 'Free'Press

Over the past few days we have witnessed a torrent of comment from our beloved 'free' press attacking the somewhat piddling little reforms passed in the Commons.
Lets first of all get the reforms out of the way, they are insignificant in the scale of things, I doubt very much if Murdoch and any of his acolytes lost a millisecond of sleep over the percieved threat to the freedom of the press!

The Royal Charter was simply an excuse for a bunch of self indulgent parliamentarians to slap each other on the back in the chamber,before they sloped off to lick Rupert's arse in private.

'We have a Free Press'-I don't think so!
The last time anyone in this country seriously challenged the power of the rich by using a newspaper was John Wilkes when he published 'The North Briton' that upset Lord Bute and George the 3rd.
Wilkes was declared an outlaw and even imprisoned,but it was all a bit of a stooshie that really was a falling out amongst a bunch within the ruling elite.
Wilkes posed as a bit of a radical at the time,and the London mobs were fired by the slogan 'Wilkes and Liberty',but quite soon the MP for Middlesex became a magistrate in London, put down the Gordon Riots with considerable violence and strongly disapproved of the French Revolution.

The simple fact is that a free press would imply the it was pluralist and represented all strands of opinion,that as well as impartial reporting of events,the press would act in an investigative way and hold the executive to account!
Instead of which it has always been the property of the rich and powerful, and as Thompson once said"a licence to print money"(he was in fact talking about owning TV stations-same difference)

Newspapers represnt class interests as surely as aristocrats own thousands of acres of our land and oligarchs own everything else.
Consider for a moment who is making the most noise against the Royal Charter- The Sun and the Times owned by News International(prop.R Murdoch), The Mail- Associated Newspapers(Rotheremere) The Express Group,The Telegraph group(owned by the Barclay Brothers, and so it goes on!
We are of course reminded that the Mirror is on the side of working peop0le-oh sure,Trinity Mirror is a group owned by it's readers?
Then there is the Independent and the Guardian,alleged bastions of radical thought.
Well it's true they employ a few radical journalists,but essentially they are the human shields for newspapers that uphold the status quo.

There have in the past been newspapers that supported organised labour, the Daily Herald was once owned by the TUC, but it succumbed the a savage circulation war and was eventually turned into the bland Sun that itself became the vicious and ignorant Sun of Murdoch.
There was also Reynolds News, a Sunday owned by the Co-op movement, but it too was killed by being unable to attract advertising.

So our 'free press' is really a creature of powerful owners with a specific political agenda,in the 1930's Lord Rotheremere ran a campaign in his Daily Mail-'Hurrah for the Blackshirts'-supporting Sir Oswald Mosley's fascists.
Today how 'free' is the press that requires Blair to rush to Murdoch to get his endorsement,which of course he later changed to support Cameron, and now it would appear the old 'newspaperman' is frolicking with Nigel Farage.

As long as newspapers and other media outlets are owned by a handful of wealthy interests then there is no freedom.We like the illusion that our media is democratic,but of course that is an illusion.Opposition voices may get a hearing,but the dominant voice is always that of the establishment.

If you want to hear people like Len McCluskey or Bob Crow then the only place you'll find them is in the minuscule circulation papers like the Morning Star.
Of course the democrats will chant-we have a free press,look we let the Morning Star publish, and look too we let opposition voices put their case in occasional articles in 'mainstream' newspapers.
Why the Chronicle & Echo even allows that eccentric old radical Dickie.J. a monthly column to rant almost at will!

We will not have a free press until the ownership of the media is distributed fairly amongst all sections of the community, and its scope and influence is not dettermined by the whim of an individual owner of the powerful advertisers lobby.
It is perhaps a salutary fact that in the middle of the nineteenth century the New York Times published articles from Germany written by none other than Karl Marx.