Sunday, 14 December 2014

Scottish labour listening-nae chance!

So the surprise election in Scotland has produced the surprise result!Jim Murphy has won the leadership of the Scottish labour Party
They have succeeded all expecations and elected a mutton pie with no mutton in it!
They had a chance,albeit a small one of electing a leader in Neil Findlay who had a connection with the traditional working class base in Scotland-9 of the affiliated trade unions wanted Findlay-but naw, the parliamentarians and the diminishing band of party members voted for the Trident loving,trade union hating,austerity embracing,vegetable(sorry vegetarian!)

The seventh leader in 14 years, it seems they change leader almost as frequently as Northampton Labour group on the Borough Council-and pribably with the same effect!

It seems to me that they learned nothing from the referendum.They relied on an unholy alliance of Tories,Lib-Dems and bankers to ensurev a No vote.It seems that they never noticed that their traditional bases of support, Glasgow, the west coast, and Dundee rejected the No campaign, and even worse from Labour's point of view-the young people of Scotland.
What sort of message does the Murphy acendancy send out to the people of Scotland so recently energised by the political debate of the referendum campaign?
Back to politics as usual!
And the new leader-why he isn't even a MSP- he sits in Westminster and will graciously let the people know next year his future plans.
Presumably he hoping that some old doddery Labour MSP will fall off his perch or another will generously give up his seat in Holyrood in exchange for....?
A nice wee peerage!
Murphy is the worst sort of Labour politician,self serving arrogant and about forty years too late.
I joined the Labour Party forty odd years ago, when there was still hope for a change and fight left in the party.There was a hunger for change that grew, not from the comfy benches of Westminster but in the workplaces-where the party still had factory branches and close links with the Trade Unions, and in the local councils where the fight against Tory policies was strongest.
Clay Cross,Liverpool,Lambeth,Glasgow,Sheffield,Greater London
Labour councillors lived and worked in their communities and were elected by their neighbours.the party didn't 'parachute' favoured sons and daughters into 'safe' seats-neither municipal or Westminster (well that's not strictly true, the Regional Organisation often manoeuvred favoured sons and daughters into winnable seats)
But it was still a different party,and there was always hope that something good might emerge.
To think that all that energy and hope would end up in the shape of Murphy and his clones throughout the collapsing structure of the party.
I(ndeed last week Northampton Party lost one of the finest community politicians I have known in my lifetime.Geoff Howes joined Duston labour Party at the age of 16.He was a Castle Ward Councillor for 25 years and never once swerved away from his commitment to the people he represented or the cause he believed in.
He stood up for his party when the going was tough and to admit to being a Labour Party activist was often difficult if not downright impossible.
Geoff led the labour group, was mayor and in 2001 was made an Honorary Freeman of the town.As chair of the finance commirree he scrutined spending with a forensic skill ,he held officers to account, but he also ensured that important voluntary groups like Women's Aid were supported.He instituted three year financial settlements that in many cases ensured survival.
He was expelled in 2009 for a minor infringement, and until his death was kept out of the party he gave his life to.
In the event their tribute was mean spirited and grudging,and that just about sums up the modern Labour Party.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Goodbye Hampstead man-hello anywhere else man!

So the knives are out for Ed Miliband.On Sunday the whole press pack wwere in full the rebellion has grown from a couple of MP's on Wednesday to 20 Front benchers on Sunday!
Everyone has an opinion, dead or alive, as long as they are members of Parliament or members of the House of Lords-exhumed to cast their opinions,hurl the goat entrails and pronounce the labour Party has no future!

The entertaining scenario,cast by so many commentators is that the party will prosper if as one called him Alan Johnston-'the postman over the water' takes control.
It would appear that the nation has fallen asleep in the tower,awaiting a peck on the cheek from the fragrant ex-postie and all round cheekie chappie and then the project will spring into life and the evil empire will be banished!
Hurrah !
Miliband is being traduced from all sides, from the right as the failed spawn of Satan, from the centre as the ineffectual 'Hampstead' intellectual and from the left of the Parliamentary Labour Party who are in mortal fear of losing their seats.

There is no doubt that Miliband has surrounded himself with a praetorian guard of time serving mediocrities , but truth to tell it would be hard to find anyone in the PLP who was not a time serving mediocrity, hand picked by the party machine to be as far from a socialist party as its possible to be without falling off the edge of  even the social democratic spectrum.

The so called 'left leaning' press have been just as hostile.Leaving aside the traditional voices of modernity and moderation-The Guardian, The Observer and The Independent all of whom have been cheer leading for the postie with no ambition(gentle cough of derision) although fair play to The Observer they did at the end of their gloom lader leader call for Ed to be more radical (fat chance that!)
leading the charge however,in quite a disgraceful way what The New Statesman' and its editor Jason Cowley.
I've beena subscriber to the Ns for more years than I care to think about and there was a time about 15 years ago when it had a cutting edge  and trenchant views.
However it has moved, once a Blair house journal(bad times) to critical of the Blair project(good times) to a wobbly Brownite phase  to where it now sits.
Frankly its the official voice of the fucking Church of England.It appears to be more interested in saving souls for God than discussing anything that smacks of socialist debate.
And that suits the New Labour Party( mark 2) after all when you have no real alternative to austerity and the coalition brand of dumpling politics-better a leap of faith in unseen and unknown forces than an ideology that works in the interests of the peoople.

We are told that its all about image, that Miliband is a bit geeky, that Johnson is a reformed horny handed son of toil and the rest are ,well just the rest!

If you want to see how far the Labour Party has degenerated just look who the machine is touting to lead the Labour Party in Scotland-Jim Murphy, whose intellectual claim to fame and evidence that he can get down with the masses has written a book-on football!

150 years of socialist endevour in Scotland and the best they can come up with  is a tosser who can write a book on football!.A tosser by the way who supports Trident,the Iraq war,further austerity,university tuition fees,even more austerity.He makes Blair look radical!
And if that list of disqualifications isn't enough he's not even a member of the Scottish Parliament-he sits in Westminster!
The mantra is that Ed lacks charisma, he has policies coming out of his ears but he lacks style on the doorstep.
That is utter tosh.
A bunch of sort of promises that appear to unravel hours after he makes them is not a coherent series of policies that will take this country forward.If you want to do a compare and contrast exercise look at the leadership the Nicola Sturgeon is giving to the SNP in SWcotland.In a few weeks that party has grown from about 25,000 to over 90,000.
Thats inspirational, thats energising people, that is creating a framework of social democratic policies that are transformational.
Whilst my homes for Miliband were never high (his late Father would have beebn a better leader) it does seem that he is being traduced not only by the traditional right wing forces, but by those in New Labour who want a scapegoat when it all falls apart next May.
In my view he has nothin to lose by re reading his Dad's writings and going for bust with a radical social democratic programme.
Anything is better than the current shambles.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Some idle thoughts on the Freedom of Northampton

Out of the blue, quite literally,came the offer from the Leader of the Council of the Freedom of Northampton.
What was more surprising was that I'm part of a triumvirate along with Keith barwell and Brian Bnley.What an opportunity to observe that staid old Northampton is honouring a onetime teenage Trotskyite,a onetime teenage Maoist and a onetime Co-op Bank clerk!
Such curious juxtapositions  come along very rarely and it's time to savour the incongruity of the event.

It is strange to be honoured by a Tory led Council, withy support from the labour party that quite rightly expelled me almost a decade ago.
I was nominated once before by the Labour party,when we were all lovey-dovey kissing comrades.That proposal was scuttled by the high minded Liberal Democrats who had no time for such expensive fripperies-although strangely they were no averse to the far more expensive frippery of the Mayoralty-especially when one of their own was getting the old fox fur round the shoulders.
I've been asked what you get with the 'Freedom' and why.Well simply I guess you get a scroll,maybe a wee box to put it in and a slug of NBC hand trodden red wine from the vineyards of sultry Duston.
I have told Marie that the box may come in handy to store my ashes-when of course I've finally fallen off my perch.
Our friend Bianca suggested that the box would not be big enough for my ashes-the lack of gravitas and respect the young now display.
Otherwise it is purely ceremonial, but for me its not about the ceremony and the stuff that surrounds that,any more than for years Councillors wear robes for the annual council meeting and other civic events.
As a young Councillor I railed at the archaic nature of robes and all that appeared to go with it,until it was gently pointed out to me that it was Labour Councillors almost 100 years ago who argued for robes because they created at least for a short time,the impression of equality in the Council chamber.
In the same way I used to chafe at school uniforms until it was pointed out to me that it was an egalitarian measure designed to ensure that wealthy children couldn't flaunt their wealth in front of poorer kids.
A good principle although in practice the absurd nature of school uniforms back in my day meant expensive and impractical outfits.But that's another story.

What in the end I think is that events like the 'freedom' are harmless sideshows,but serve to remind people that we still have local government.
Every national party goes on about localism as if it is the holy grail of political well-being, yet for decades we have seen the relentless strengthening of power at the centre at the expense of the locality.
I was first elected in 1973,and then we were seeing the start of the rapid decline of locally elected councils.1974 saw the restructuring of local government when places like Northampton lost County Borough status and were subsumed upwards into the County Council.
Now there are clearly siome services that benefit from a larger organisation,like policing,fire,and even education.But other serices sit better together-housing and social services,highway building and maintainance,refuse collection, parks and the like.
The princple should always be the closer the service is to the users who pay for it,the more likely it is to be successful.
But as powers disappeared,so did responsibility.When I first joined NBC we used to decide our rent levels,bus fares,how much we needed to raise for capital projects,and we had to justify what we were doing-not to faceless government apparatchiks in Whitehall,but to our own local electorate.
What I'm arguing for is strangely not far away from my last few posts abour independence in Scotland.
Local government badly needs independence from central government.
It is likely that over the coming weeks I will be questioned about my achievements whistle on council-I'm not sure I can answer that because it was always a team effort and that is really for others to judge.
However I do know my biggest failure, and that was the failure to win the battle of unitary Northampton.Elsewhere I have explained how that failure happened,but just as Scottish Independent will return like the swallows,so the case for a unitary Northampton will soon be back on the agenda.,        

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Sic transit gloria Scotia

I make no apologies for returning to the issue of Scotland,nor quoting from the greatest Scots poet of the last century.Hugh McDiarmid (Dr. Christopher Murray Grieve) came from the borders and was passionate about both communism and Scottish nationalism.In one of his greatest poems he said of himself:
"A'm aye whaur extremes meet."
The events of the last few days might be the start of somewhere where indeed extremes meet!
There is no doubt why the main parties want the status quo to continue, for the Tories it is the old comfort blanket of the union as they know it, and it also allows them to park their noxious nuclear subs far awy from the quiet suburban streets of the deep south.
For the Lib-dems it means they can hang on to a few parliamentary seats, and come next May Lib-dem seats will be as rare as hen's teeth'
The depressing truth of this process is the cowardly nature of the Labour Party.They have had a power base in Scotland for decades and have squandered  their advantage.They are desperate to make the No vote happen because in simple terms its 41 Westminster seats that makes the difference between PM Miliband and,well.....!
most Scottish Labour Mp's, well all of them really,are sad disappointments- it must have been really hard to scour all of Scotland and end up with such a band of pathetic mediocrities.
If Douglas Alexander is the answer then it must have been a tragic question!
Of course it could have been so much different.
When the issue of the referendum was first raised then the Labour Party should have put forward different proposals.Instead of 'devo=max' that they are now all pinning their hopes on, the Labour Party should have seen that the old system was broken, that there was no such thing as British politics, but rather London politics and a rather large dispirited hinterland called 'everywhere else'.
The offer should have been made of a Federation of Independent countries, with their own tax system,welfare system, defence structure and domestic policies.
The Federal government would have been the Upper chamber,what we now know as the House of the Undeas(Lords), that would be elected from the constituent countries.
Its function would be to ensure continuity and forward planning for the four countries of the islands.
It would of course mean that each country could if it so wished become a republic, thus allowing the Republic of All of Ireland to be part of the Federation,At the same time if England, or anywhere else wanted to continue with the anacronism that is the House of Saxe-Coberg-Gotha,then they could-although the costs of that 'institution' would be borne by those who want her.
It would seem that there is an objection that the British Isles would lose tgheir place at the 'top' table,but in real terms that place ended when the Empire went -indeed some might argue that went when those pesky colonials won the American War of Independence.
In todays Observer I see that their political editor is arguing for a Federal solution,and it now  seems clear that had Labour proposed such a solution it might have found favour amongst many Scots.

Instead of which there is a dogs breakfast called 'Better together' of which the Tories have more or less washed their hands of "nothing to do with us guv",and Labour is left holding the tine, along with the Lib-Dems,Ukip, and the Orange Order-not forgetting of course two of the British Communist Parties!
In the Sunday Times today the figures are startling, the majority of young people,working class votes and a growing number of women and most significantly Labour voters are moving to the Yes column.

It is still too evenly balanced,but the raising of political consciousness and the sense of empowerment will not vanish,even if the No lobby win.That must be a source of real panic for Miliband.
For if those 35% of Labour voters supporting Indepence have made that awesome leap, as sure as hell they will not return to austerity-lite  next May.
It seems unlikely that Labour will be able to count on 41 seats north of the border ever again!
McDiarmid was an avowed atheist,but if by some chance he miscalculated on that one-I bet he's having a good laugh tonight!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

What can you say about Clacton?

The old joke used to run ' Harwich for the continent,Eastbourne for the incontinent ' but what can we now say about Clacton?
Perhaps the new intolerant capital of Britain? or maybe the final resting place of white flight ?Or perhaps the final resting place of British, or more precisely English,political thought.

Douglas Carswell is just one more mediocre Tory backbencher, it is perhaps an ironic joke that so many of his former colleagues have described his an an 'intellectual'.
Well if he's a Tory intellectual this this country surely has need of a zeitgeist.But then the same Tory idolaters  raise Boris Johnston too and claim he is some sort of advanced thinker!
On that scale then I suppose Nigel Farage must be counted as the Einstein of the right.

Clacton looks like a dreary place, it can be no coincidence that within the constituency boundaries there is the poorest ward in Britain.Other towns have welcome to our town signs at the entrance, I guess Clacton has 'Abandon hope all you who enter here'.
It must be hard to get enthusiastic for a town that offers an unyielding diet of mediocrity, a place with no vision,no hope,a Dickensian throwback with no Dickens to speak up for the place.
Sad misbegotten places throw up sad misbegotten politicians and in the current climate of despair they gravitate to the party that speaks volumes not on behalf of the sad and desperate but rather howls at them.
And the cry is not one of hope but rather a message that says 'blame the other bloke', give the europeans a good kicking, or better still give 'Johnnie Foreigner' a good seeing off!
The irony of course that whilst immigration is top of the average Clactonians' hate list, there are hardly any migrants in the place.
Hardly surprising really, why would anyone seeking to make a better life for themselves and their family gravitate to a place where even Terry and June left several decades ago.
Ukip's pitch is that it is the anti-politics political party, that it is somehow different from all the rest.It makes a virtue out of the fact that it somehow says things that nobody else dare utter.
That of course is pure horse shit.What Ukip says is what many, if not most  hopeless back bench Tories really think and discuss behind cupped hands in the Commons bars.
Sadly we all know in our heart of hearts that there are several Labour MP's who think the same.Whilst they might not have the overt racist overtones of the far right, they share a belief that if only things went back to the time when MP's were allowed to lead unhindered and everyone knew their place...
We live in a country where elitism of the mediocre is the dominant ideology.It is a pattern of thought that wants to retain the status quo as long as possible.Thats why the campaign in Scotland for a No vote should not be called 'Better Together' but rather'Better as it was-for some of us'

There is however one small shining light in the horror that i9s Clacton, a Tory party dominated by the 'Lets get out of the EU' might just alert many more Scots that further Tory domination might mean an exit from Europe regardless of what the people of Scotland might want.
Schisms and tensions are starting to pull the fabric of the free market apart, if you can't have a free market in the movement of labour,how can you have a continuing free market in the movement of capital ?    

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Soon every Scot must do their duty

In about 45 days Scotland will be able to make the most important decision since they hammered the English aristocracy at Bannockburn.The vote for an independent Scotland is almost too important to leave to political parties that are more interested in partisan positioning than in the future,not just of Scotland but of the whole of the British Isles.
A free and independent Scotland,based on the principles of equality,justice and internationalism could be the blue touchpaper that will light the way to a fully functional federation of free and independent peoples who have no need of a patronising ruling class and an overbearing establishment.

I had better make it clear from the outset that I believe in an Independent Scotland, that can build a successful social democratic country with no need for nuclear weapons,sabre rattling military alliances, indeed no need for a military anyhow.Whilst the country could have a civil emergency force it has no need for a standing army-the days of 'gallant heilan' chiels saili' aff tae fight in  some foreign field' is frankly historic mythology.
Andy Stewart may sing wistfully of dead Scottish Soldiers but I for one want to see no more young men leaving to protect BP oilfields anywhere.

However I do have one or two reservations about the SNP's campaign and some of the positions they have taken during the referendum campaign.
largely I think they have been far too timid.When the anglo-Scots aristocracy decided that they wanted sheep occupying their hillsides rather than people they set in motion the tragedy of the clearances.Thousands were dispossed and sent off to populate miserable parts of the empire.
Well Alex I think its time to repay the compliment and if they prefer sheep to people then Scotland should determine that it might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.
Why have you agreed to keep as a titular head of state that miserable wee German offspring of the Saxe-Coberg-Gotha dynasty?
I have never thought much of the louche Stuart bunch, but then they are all much of a muchness.Let us be bold and follow the example of one ofv the greatest Scots of the last century.The great John McLean of Glasgow argued for a Scottish Socialist Republic and he argued that Scotland should play no part in the Imperialist WW1.
For that the establishment slung hin in Peterhead prison and the experience killed him
An independent Scottish Republic might encourage the others in these islands to see it possible to get rid of a whole layer of parasites.
Now what is interesting is the panic that the establishment and its media is demonstrating about the possibility of a Yes vote in Scotland.Now its no surprise that the Tories are leading the No charge, for most of my life they were known as the Unionist party=and of course they had and still have huge vested interests up there,after all they own most of the country!
Many of them view Scotland much in the way that TV ad used to run-'Daddy-chops', except in the aristos.view the equation as 'grouse-poor people'
The Lib-Dems of course will do anything that their masters tell them, and they have a few seats on the fringes to try and hold on to.
What depresses me most is the attitude of the Labour Party,once the repository of socialist idealism and vision North of the border is now no more than the parliamentary suppository of the London elite.
There are 41 Labour seats held in Scotland by 42 useless articles.
Even if you are outside the debate, just stop and think, what kind of campaign can it be that is by Alastair Darling, unique in being the least clever Edinburgh  lawyer to ever leave the country and
2.Supported by Danny Alexander,George Galloway,david Bowie and Trinny and Susannah!
Enough said.
The only other mistake that Alex has made is not making provision for exiles to vote, it would have been quite easy, after all those of us born in Scotland have birth certificates issued in Edinburgh!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

What on earth was Miliband thinking?

It really does not matter if Ed Miliband has no idea how to eat a bacon sandwich.Nor does it matter if he forgets the nbame of the Labour leader of Swindon.Nor in fact does it matter if he gets someone to tie is laces for him and wipe his little hands.
It does however matter if he is seen in 22 million copies of the Sun holding it up with an inane grin on his face trying to impress English football fans that he knows or cares about the progress of their team.

Had he wanted to show support then an England scarf would have been enough.
But the bloody Sun!
Especially as he knew just what a dreadful scurrilous rag that paper is, and indeed a few months ago he had courageously attacked the power of the gutter tabloids.
He must have known too that the Hillsborough Inquiry was nearing completion and that for many people on Merseyside nerves were raw.
And surely he must have known that The Sun is barely sold on Merseyside and surely someone tokld him that none of the 22 million copies would not be delivered in that area!
So why did he allow himself to be used in such a squalid way/
Because Cameron and Clegg also posed with the dreadful thing?
More reason for a sensible Labour politician to have refused point blank.
Of course Blair would happily have done the stunt, indeed he would willingly have worn a Sun paper hat on his head and pranced with another copy stuck up his arse.

As my Dad used to say:"What do you expect from a pig but a grunt!"

Miliband was sold as something different, as the antidote to all things Blair, we were told that he had a radical left leaning agenda that still had something to do with the party of Labour  and the aspirations of working people.
Of course in our heart of hearts we all knew that was pure bollocks, it was simply more spin that was Alastair Campbell lite,that Miliband  had been at the core of tghe Blair-Brown 'project' and nothing would change.
But socialists are optimistic souls, and knowing his father and mother and their serious commitment to socialism there was always a slight hope that like Clark Kent he would  step into a phonebox and come out as Supersocialist!
We all should have known better, all we have had is a pale imitation, a raft of minimalist policies on obesity and probably traffic cones underpinned with a promise to continue the austerity programmes of the coalition.
Balls and Miliband are still wittering on about reducing the deficit and paying off the national debt!

It's a good thing that the Attlee government didn't want to pay off lend lease in the first three years and off to pay the debts of the east India Company too, otherwise the health service would have resembled Tannochbrae with only the corpse of Dr Cameron to treat the folk who called Janet.
Dr Findlay would have long since decamped to New Zealand!

Now we learn, right after his triumphant appearance as the paper boy for Murdoch, Milibands latest big idea is to cut support to the young unemployed unless they agree to (or more precisely coerced into) taking on training of some sort.
Training to do what?
learn how to work on minimum wages,on zero hour contracts,with no trade union rights and pay greedy landlords extortionate rents to live in grubby HIMO's?

Good and sensible comrades some how think that the Labour party might be better if Alan Johnston was leading it.Somehow I doubt it, he may have been a trade union general secretary and he may have an estuary accent but the sad truth is he too was part of the Blair-Brown 'project' and as Home Secretary he was almost as bad as Blunkett.

Theree still many good people working hard in the Labour Party to win the next election, but as far as I can see its a bit like that TV advert of the little girl pondering her choice between Daddy and chips   

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Any lessons from the Newark By election?

Over the next few days the pundits and soothsayers,and many of the naysayers will be casting the chicken bones and interpreting what happened last Thursday.
I'll save you the trouble of masticating the press and give it to you straight.
The Tories held a safe seat, UKIP came a mediocre second, labour came a tragic third in the seat they won in 1997- and the Lib-Dems- well they came a magnificent sixth! A record failure in a long line of magnificent failures since they joined the Tory coalition as bag carriers.

Of course the expectation all round was that UKIP would do well, that they may even have snatched the seat,but of course it would appear that it was all down to superior organisation.Farage claimed that therec were a thousand Tories on the streets on election day, but of course there might have been ten thousand or a million or a zillion!
Poor old Farage could only turn out a few dozen blimps and even he couldn't be arsed to knock a few doors-despite having, according to his candidate 'the wow factor'
The real issue however is the dismal performance of Her majesty's loyal Opposition and the inescapable reality that Her majesty's Loyal Junior Coalition Partner is now an ex-party.

It is no more, it is defunct,it matters not who leads the miserable corpse,Nick Clegg, Vince 
Cable or M.Mouse
The Green party put up a creditable performance, and once more humiliated the party of Government, even if only by a few votes.

There is a fairly universal view that the problem is 'connecting with the voters', which is just another way of saying that they are all saying the same thing with different nuanced phrases.
In saying that I include the obnoxious UKIP, because apart from their blood lust to leave Europe, thety carry the exact same baggage as the Tories, and increasingly hard to differentiate from the Lib-Dems and Labour.

In fact the only party competing on the national stage is the Green Party,they have a set of policies that do in fact present a radical alternative,but sadly they carry the baggage of their history and for most of their existance had a rather hazy left perspective and attracted some rather 'eccentric' followers.
That appears to be changing, but progress is slow and there is a rapid drift to right wing authoritarianism that will be difficult to stop, especially when you have a politically illiterate electorate who have lost the power to think creatively.

I watched a video interview of the late Ewan McColl who talked about his father,a foundry worker and his friends meeting in the Salford WM Club on a Friday evening for a pint and a discussuion.A group of working men, with little formal education, sitting in a smoky bar discussing the views of Hegel, the meaning of Darwinism, the nature of Capitalism and even the poetry of Shelley!

Of couse autoi didacts were not uncommon  amongst wo9rkers in the early 20c.In mining villages the Miners Welfare always had a library as well as a bar, and Mechanics Institutes were alive to arguement and debate.
It was always said that the most literate of workers were the shoemakers, who whiled away the days of monotonous labour by reading or being read to.No coincidence that the great revolutions in Europe, from Wat Tyler to the French Revolution had large contingents of showemakers!
Henry Ford knew what he was doing when he introduced the production line.

So what do we go now?
Our first task must to be to constantly expose the shallow thinking of the far right populists.UKIP may indeed want out of the EU, but what useful purpose does a UKIP  councillor serve on a local authority?
When you set up a rag bag bunch of misfits with a limited grasp of what needs to be done and how to do things, you tend to get the barmpots whose quotes have festooned the national press over the past few weeks.Remember how easy it was to dislodge the BNP councillors by posing them difficult questions-like how did they spell their names-or who wrote Charles Dickens 'Bleak House'?

But more than discrediting the mediocrities the left must be building bases in the communities where they live.They must be identified on a daily basis with the real problems that face people and break away from the arrogance of the elites.The left needs to use clear and unambiguous language.
UKIP and the other parties talk in sugary generalities,the left must avoid being too theoretical, too rhetorical and too censorious.
All my life left parties have behaved like religious sects, close shops that only the select could be part of, as long as they understood 'democratic centralism' and the vision that the General Strike would happen in three days time!

I'm still optimistic that the people can understand the need for dramatic change and will go along with it, in Scotland the Independence movement is wedded to an understanding that freedom comes with an increase in social justice and an ending of the grotesque inequalities that burden society.
And all over Europe left movements are getting organised.I have hopes that here in Britain Left Unity will become the catalyst for change.
I expect Barak Obama will rubbish us too! 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Is the drift tothe right inevitable?

For those of us on the left times are looking bleak at the moment.The election in India of the avowedly right wing BJP seems one more desperate victory for the forces of reaction.It is a party that grew out of a far right militant bunch that admired Hitler and has a history of violent racist attacks on minority communities.
They are simply not nice people.
Yet part of the problem is that the Congress Party played into their hands, the once leftist party of the struggle for Indian independence has become mired in nepotism and corruption.
And you don't have to look fae elsewhere to see the same traits emerging in political parties of the centre/centre left all over the world.

France, Germany,Italy,Spain,Ireland,Greece most of former Eastern Europe and you see the dame pattern emerging.
Left Parties often with proud radical traditions and history have become corrupt empty vessels that bear little resemblance to the movement that they grew from.
Even the once might ANC in South Africa is now led by people most socialists would cross the street to avoid.
How has it come to this?
Well I suppose the template in many ways is the Labour Party here.A party founded with the name 'labour' in its title.That should be the clue-a party for the people who labour by hand and by brain, a party created by working people's organisations to give them a voice in the democratic process.
A party that was different from all else that went before.
On the spectrum of socialist/social democratic parties in Europe the Labour party was always on the social democratic,gradualist wing,and liked the notion that it represented the respectable working class.From its foundations it preferred the section of the class that wore suits on a Sunday and were ideally Methodists with a trade.
However those pesky unskilled noisy workers kept joining  and brought with them uncouth agitational habits like striking and demonstrating and causing class based mayhem.
As well as the rowdy street agitators the Labour Party also attracted a section of the intelligentsia who brought ideas,frequently more in keeping with the traditions of Marx than those of John Wesley.
However from whatever tradition they came they brought an idealism and a vision of the radical possibility of change.Not simply a little bit of liberal tinkering here and there but wholesale social engineering that changed the whole alance of the relationship between capital and labour.

Not for our forefathers the crumbs from the bosses table-they wanted the whole bloody bakery!
What was true in this country was true everywhere, the ideology of socialism was one that required the necessity of change with as little compromise as possible.

Gradually those principles were eroded away,but even as late at the mid 90's there seemed some possibility that change on a massive scale was just possible.Then came Thatcherism,the Chicago School.Monetarism and the collapse of the deformed workers. states throughout Europe.
None of this was really a surprise, as they were all pursuing the goal of the free market.
And to put it simply,once to accept the economics of the free market, then the ideas and the ideology follow s swiftly.
That means the values that sustained the socialist vision fly out of the winbdow, ideology is simply another commodity that you buy and sell, that you pick and choose according to taste.
Perhaps the defining moment in this country was when the cynical popinjay Peter Mandelson declared that he was 'relaxed about the filthy rich' 
And so the habit of cutting corners,buying power and influence,and endemic corruption became the leitmotif of much that passes for social democracy today.
And that then lets the far right in, it allows them to posture about 'the political class' and how different they are to 'the mainstream'.Make no mistake the appeal of the sanctimonious pigs bladders like Farage and his ilk are difficult to fight because so many passes have been sold by the 'modernisers'.

Of course all the evidence show that they are just as corrupt and venal, just think of Berlusconi and he stands for all that is evil and unwholesome in the body politic.But then remember that he got his first start in Milan by cosying up to Craxi,the leader of the Socialist Party of Italy.

"You don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows"  
Well right now the left internatonally needs to see which way the wind is blowing and start thinking about how we reform, and no, we won't take advice from the SWP and neither will we borrow Gordon Brown's fucking moral compass!      

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Desperate men do desperate things

It will be interesting to see who blames who if the whole referendum story in Scotland doesn't turn out quite how the masters of the universe predicted it would go.
Already they are blaming dreary Darling for making a complete arse of the 'No' campaign, and the Tories are getting ready to blame Labour for their failure to keep the Union intact and labour are blaming the Tories for only being half hearted in support of the status quo.
It could have all have been so different, and why didn't they see the possibilities coming down the road?

I believe passionately that an independent Scotland is the best solution, both in terms of the people of Scotland but also in the best interests of the working people of England too.
An independent Scotland might give the ;lacklustre labour movement in England some cojones.It might convince them that the only way is not Essex and that a progressive settlement is possible.

If Scotland can do without the obscenity that is Trident, why England could do without it too, and the £25 billion a throw on a useless submarine,commanded by the USA anyway,might be shown up as the waste it is so obviously.
One consequence of Scotland getting shot (sorry for the phrase) of Trident would be the thorny issue of where to relocate the bloody thing.
Fine when its in a berth up near Glasgow, a little more uncomfortable however if it had to be parked somewhere near the home counties-in Hampshire for instance!
If the nimbys don't like a few council houses or a downmarket supermarket on their doorstep-imagine their reaction to a fully armed nuclear sub skulking at the end of their waterfront?
That would certainly bugger up the property prices!

The Unionist parties have thrown everything at Scotland, including the cabinet,the shadow cabinet, the Bank of England,a herd of Generals,Admirals and Air Marshals, as well as bankers,oil companies and even Favid Bowie.
But those stubborn Celts appear to be ignoring the plaintive howls from the South and even being love bombed by Cameron and Miliband.  You'll know when things are getting desperate when they send Clegg up on a sleeper to Aberdeen.
What I find strange is why the Tories are bothering.They instinctively hate Scotland and Scots, and of course the feeling in mutual.With only one MP in Scotland, as the joke goes, there are more pandas in Scotland than Tory MP's.
It is easy to see why Miliband needs the Scottish seats, the 41 Labour MP's are his only hope in 2015.That's why that old hasbeen Gordon Brown was sent on the stump last week.His presence no doubt added many thousands of 'Yes' votes.
I bet Alex Salmond is praying that they enlist Tony Blair's silver tongue in the 'No' cause!

Yet it could have been different.If from the outset Scotland had beeen offered a Federal option, with the right to control more of the economy, foreign and defence policy as they affect Scotland and a greater degree of fiscal control, I suspect that would have met with approval all over Scotland, and in many parts of England not in thrall to the London hegemony.
It would have given Scotland an alternative to demonstrate that a social democrat, if not a socialist state could prosper away from the bleak negativity of austerity Faragism.

I am impressed however by the astute leadership of Alex Salmond and especially Nicola Sturgeon.They have both played a blinder and have gaugedthe mood of the coutry.
It is of course possible that the 'No' vote will prevail, the combination of all the big guns focussed on Scotland plus the scare tactics that are the stock in trade of the Unionists might still win.But the anger will still be there, and it will only be a matter of time....

Mind you id the SNP had promised to create a Scottish Republic,left Nato and nationalised the oil industry,rhen I think there would have been no contst!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

And you thought only the Stuarts had a divine right to rule!

Three hundred odd years ago the people of this country fought a civil war to end the divine right of Kings.
They almost got there,but sadly when the crunch came old Noll was disinterred and his head stuck on a pike.
The old order reverted, and whilst they lost the 'divine right' they retained the right of succession through a bunch of useless German princelings and princesses right up to the present day.
From the preposterous Hanoverians to the mediocre Saxe-Coberg-Gothas.

But at least we had an elected parliament that allowed some degree of democracy,albeit it took most of that 300 odd years to get anywhere near a free equal and working democracy.
For much of the time parliament was ruled by rich boys from top public schools,often from the landed gentry.many came from the military,the higher reaches of the legal profession and were frequently large landowners or obscenely rich factory owners.
Thinking about it not really much has changed!
But of course many of them, when the couldn't buy the odd totten pocket borough or the land where the borough itself stood  made sure that the parliamentary power kept strictly in the family.

Most of the great landowners made sure that political power was dynastic-that seats passed from father to son in the usual ordered way.

Then about 100 years ago a great change appeared to happen, a small number of working stiffs got themselves elected,many started out as Liberals, but in 1900 the emergent trade unions decided that Liberal toffs with a scattering of working class Liberals did not really represent their interests.
The labour party was born.
A party that represented working people, their needs and their aspirations.
It was never a revolutionary party in the sense that the Levellers and even the Diggers were in Cromwell's' time.Indeed it was nothing like the great revolutionary parties and movements that were churning up Europe and had been since 1848.

What was important was that the Labour Party was not a party of privilege and was not one with a hereditary principle at its core.
But asa social democratic party it found itself a house divided.For decades it was never quite sure if it was a social democratic centralist party with a tinge of socialism or a socialist party with a tinge of social democracy.
Generations of good men and women gave their life to the party because they believed that whatever the foibles of the 'leadership' at any given time its collective heart was in the right place.

This has of course allowed it to degenerate , as the Thatcher era destroyed much of the strength and solidarity of the trade union movement the Labour Party, with no strong ideological core simply drifted into becoming another 'political' party.
So it attracted in growing numbers men and women who if push came to shove would join whatever party deemed to give them the best chance of a political career.It didn't really matter what the party stood for, as ling as they could chat up a selection meeting ot buy off a few local party officials or trade union hacks.

I well remember years back when an aspiring parliamentary candidate came to solicit support for the Northampton South constituency.
What a speaker the guy was and how he paraded his working class credentials before us.His father had been a miner, his granddad had been a miner, even as far as I can remember his fucking dog had been a miner.
He of course was a barrister! Now by the way in the House of Lords!

And where have we come to now?
Why the dynastic Labour Party.Neil Kinnock's son,married to the Prime Minister od Denmark no less has been selected for the safe labour seat of Aberavon (be interesting to see where his second home will be located-or maybe his third one)
Then we hear that Jack Straw's boy is going for a safe Labour seat(wasn't he once done for possession of drugs?)  and it would appear that the offspring of the noble Lord Prescott is on the hunt for a safe Labour berth.

But if that all stinks of nepotism then the worst of all is that Euan Blair,son of you know who is hoping to be parachuted into the safe Labour seat of Bootle on Merseyside(majority 21,000) His claim is that as his mum came from Liverpool then thats alright!

Is it possible that in the whole of Merseyside the Labour Party there could not find a working class candidate?
Are they so bereft of talent that they need a London lad educated at Brompton Oratory to speak for those inarticulate scousers?
Is this what the workers party is now reduced to/
I know people can point to the Benn dynasty and say that it has happened on the left, but I suspect Hilary Benn was carefully vetted to make sure that his was not infected by the old mans radical politics and I suspect there were many in the party hierarchy who were nervous of another Benn.
Luckily they got one of their own.

The sad truth is that the party is now picking candidates few of whom have any trade union experience or local government experience either.
Clones by any other name,
A party whose idea of inspiration and values has nothing to do with Keir Hardie or Nye Bevan but rather Dolly the Sheep! 

According to the local press in Liverpool Blair will only get a chance at the shortlist if the 81 year old sitting Mp decides to stand down voluntarily,then the party nationally can designate the seat a 'women only' shortlist.If however he decides to stand again-they can't.
The irony here is that it would appear that he too believes in a sort of hereditary principle(he wants his agent and the current leader of Sefton to replace him!) 
So the outcome might be that young Blair,who part owns a £3 million property in London with his mother might end up representing one of the most impoverished constituencies in Britain!     

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Exquisitely Dumb-and she's the Culture Secretary!

Maria Miller is seriously dumb.The events over the past few days have revealed once again that national politicians think and behave like Plantaganet Monarchs.or worse Stuarts! They really seem to believe that they have some sort of divine right to rule,that are somehow part of a 'political class'.

Trouble is that the hysteria surrounding the narrative of 'Another fiddling MP' serves only the press and Nigel Farage.
I refuse to be stampeded into the lobby of the Daily Telegraph bleating about press freedom and the glories of a free press.
Lets get one thing straight from the outset this country does NOT have a free press.It has a bunch of censorious oligarchs as bad as any who hold sway in Russia.They own vast swathes of the media,they control much that passes for television,radio and the new technologies and all of the press.
The dailt Telegraph has for long been the authentic mouthpiece of the Tory Party, and will long remain so.What we are seeing is not an assertion of their freedom  merely a shot across the bows of the Tory Party to remind them who the real masters of the universe are.
Next week the barclay brothers will get back to the usual business of beating up on trade unions, working people and all the myriad of demons they like to conjure up to frighten the masses.
Frankly I think it was despicable of any so called 'journalist' to doorstep and elderly couple and badger them about their living arrangements.
It was mean and shabby and not even central to the story.
The story was that Miller over claimed on her mortgage and when found out tried to bluster her way out, and when all else failed got her parliamentary mates to reduce her repayment from over £40k to about£5k.

That is the real scandal and that is what she should be punished for,not her parents and not about being rude to the House of Commons.
I'm also getting a bit fed up with Labour members standing on the dignity of the parliamentary process and aall the old guff about the sovereignty of the 'Mother of Parliaments'

What we have is a huge majority of time serving  numpties.Without ideology and a reason for being in parliament its just another job and so many of them are interchangable.Remember only 13 Labour MP's had enough of the ideology of socialism to remember whose side they were on when it came to support people on benefits.
Apart from members of the SNP,PC and the Green Party the majority of 'honourable members' trooped into the coalition lobby to support further cuts.
And that's where Farage will win support.He is a sleazeball of monumental proportions.He is so like the poujadists of inter war France.But like his great mate Le Pen he is using populism to win popular support, and its interesting just to see how much exposure he and his sordid racists are getting in the popular press.

It is of course no coincidence.The one thing the political class, the media and the populist politicians most fear is a literate and organised working class.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the referendum in Scotland is that after many hundreds of years there is an awakening of political thought north of the border.
People are starting once again to think not just about what the press tells them to think but they are thinking and discussing ideas.
It's as if the Enlightenment  has caught the public imagination once again.      

Sunday, 30 March 2014

How careless to make the same mistake!

What is ir about the Labour Party?
It is widely  accepted that the first and fatal mistake that the Blair/Brown government made in 1997 was to continue to impose the spending constraints they inherited from the Tories.
Remember the slogan 'Things can only get better'?
Well they never could get better when you started your administration with both hands and both feet tied together.
It's true that they were able to make small reforms and some of them significant,but the minimum wage legislation was never likely to end poverty-one of Keynes five 'giants'- and reforming zeal perished on the rocks of banker happiness!

So now we have Miliband and his brave new world,and what does he promise?
Why to continue the attacks of folk on welfare and in order to buy the votes of the deserving rich pledges to continue austerity.He also drives his parliamentary party into the coalition lobby.

Lets make it clear, the poor are not,have not, and never will be responsible for the crisis of capitalism.
At the same time the object of government is not simply to pay off the National Debt,or indeed to drive down the deficit. 
The national Debt has been with us since Henry VIII wanted to build a navy to fight France, and over the centuries has fluctuated wildly.The Attlee Government in 1945 faced a much higher debt, a broken infrastructure and a war damaged country, and yet it managed to create a health service,a massive housing programme,a welfare state and nationalised the major industries that the private sector had ruined.

The lesson of that government,just as the lesson of Roosevelt's New Deal was simple, don't blame and punish the poor,but take bold decisions to rebuild the nations' infrastructure.
This dreadful coalition has built its entire strategy on blaming people for the crisis in capitalism,demanding that wages are restrained, that contracts are torn up, that public services are sold off at knock down prices and worst of all that the poorest are made to pay even more.
The demonisation of people on welfare benefits has been the leitmotif of everything this lot have done.
The potent mixture of scroungers,welfare cheats, greedy migrants and the undeserving poor have sent a frisson of terror through the respectable poor.
There is masses of evidence that the hardest hit section of welfare claimnts are the elderly,the disabled and those in work on rock bottom wages and zero hour contracts.

And if that is not enough every piece of legislation is designed to turn the screw a bit tighter,even their own flagship legislation,'the bedroom tax' is a failure and only adding to the distress of social housing tenants and increasing rent arrears.

So we should expect boldness fro the Labour Party, I well remember Neil Kinnock describing Labour local authorities as 'battered shields' against Thatcherism.

With the emasculation of local authorities (aided in part by New Labour!) the best we can expect is that the Parliamentary labour Party will stand up and vote against further attacks on working people.
OK its only a vote, but at least it would offer hope that something better might come along.

Yet only 13 Labour MP's voted against the Government, over 100 strolled into the coalition lobby.
In fact the voting record of the SNP,PC and the Green Party MP was far better that that of the people's party. 

Shame on you all.
So here is a simple question to the Labour Party hopefuls in Northamptonshire-if you were in Westminster-how would you have voted on the welfare cuts?
So far all we have seen from all of you has been nothing more than party platitudes, and even they have been few and far between.
Is the new Labour orthodoxy akin to being political trappists?

There is a dark shadow of fear passing over this country, a rising tide of reactionary thought and a Labour Party afraid of its own shadow,

Now is the time for boldness-is the Labour Party up to the challenge? 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

But when your dead.....

The last week has seen the loss of two outstanding and inspirational socialists from two generations.Both Bob Crow and Tony Benn will be mourned by most folk in the socialist movement for the contributions that they made in reminding people that the ideals of socialism are far from dead.
What is shocking is the number who are jumping on the sadness of their deaths to proclaim how inspirational they both were in their lifetimes,when for most of the time they were vilified and traduced.
There have of course been the usual caveats-"I didn't agree with much of what they said but they were blah blah blah..."
Bob not unnaturally came in for more weasel words, the sycophantic bleatings of Boris Johnston were at considerable odds to what he had been saying about Bob only a few days ago.The silence from the leadership of the Labour Party said it all

Truth to tell Bob Crow was the most effective trade union leader of his generation, and his capacity to lead from the front produced the best conditions for his members despite the austerity.
Bob believed that nothing was too good for the workers and his philosophy  echoed the words of Brecht in the 'song of the patch and the overcoat'- I don't want a new patch for my overcoat, I want the whole bloody overcoat!

Bob also led his union out of the unequal relationship with the Labour Party that unions have 'enjoyed' for decades.The railway workers have for generations been led by donkeys, from the corrupt anr treacherous JH Thomas in the 1920's to the slimy and pathetic Sid Weighell in the 70's.
Jimmy Knapp was a considerable improvement on all that had gone before but Bob was a real step change.
No surprise that in a period of rapid decline in trade union membership, only RMT put on over 20,000 new members.
The crocodile tears shed for Bob were perhaps best explained by the fact that there are some in the Labour party that hope by appearing 'sincere' and 'well disposed' to Bob and his union they can lure the union back into the straightjacket of Labour party affiliation.
I hope the members are as wise to the Labour Party's tricks as they are to the wiles of management.

The death of Tony Benn has also unleashed an outpouring of synthetic grief. The notion that he has somehow become an iconic figure for the Labour Party, and as Tam Dalyell  described him as a 'prophet not a king' is more in the spirit of 'thank christ he too has gone'.
Everyone and their hampster is now an expert on Tony Benn,and how he brought the Labour Party to the brink of disaster and drove those nice SDP types out of the party.

Those of us who lived through the SDP episode know what was really happening.Those miserable opportunists and careerists were the ones who wrecked the party, they took delight in trampling on the socialist aspirations of many, and in fact the bastards won!
Blairism and Kinnockism  were the real heirs to Jenkins,Owen and that clique.Truth to tell the vicious attacks on Tony and others on the left was what fatally damaged the Labour Party.They never wanted the Labour Party to win on a socialist programme. 

Now is the time when that dreary Gerald Kaufman quote about the 1974 election manifesto being the 'longest suicide note in history'- no it was the last manifesto that put clause 4 of the Party at the centre of its political programme,and you all remember what happened to Clause 4 under New Labour.

many of us stayed in the Party because we hoped that things might get better and when people like Tony were still around it sometimes seemed that there was a small still radical heartbeat somewhere in the core of the party.

The price we paid was the total destruction of a party that had at its whole purpose the advancement of 'Labouring people'-after all that was why it was called the Labour Party in the first place.
It was created by the organisations of the labour movement to fight for and defend the interests of working people, and that was why it recieved the funds to do that from the trade unions.

But of course not any more, rather a handout from Lord Owen and Tony Blair instead of the pennies from the workers, and indeed as the Co-operative passes into the hands of the money men and the international speculators, where is the future?

If we are to undertand the legacy of both Bob Crow and Tony Benn  we need to start again,we need to build a new movement once again from the bottom up.Bob had it right,and in his heart of hearts I suspect the 'icon' knew that too.  

Monday, 10 March 2014

Everyone is an expert now!

Who would have believed it? A few short weeks ago most people thought ,if they thought about it at all,that Ukraine was part of Russia and Crimea certainly was,and indeed always had been.
I must admit I always thought that they were all one and the same and I grew up in a household that had Soviet Weekly delivered alongside Boxing News and the Daily Worker!
My Dad never really got the hang of the Morning Star, till his dying day he always called it 'the Worker' and as a matter of fact with regard to Soviet Weekly they sent that to him free because he had been a subscriber since the 1940's.
I probably knew more about the Donbass coal field than I knew about any mining areas in Britain, other than of course the heroic miners of Fife and the equally heroic ,or almost as equally heroic men of South Wales.In our house it was a stretch of great imagination to think that there were coal mines in England.
Mining was a celtic occupation,rather like deep sea fishing and goading the English.
Yet the news over the last few weeks has concentrated on events in Ukraine,which again as a child I knew as 'the' Ukraine in the way that I knew things happened behind 'the' urals and anyway it was all part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

I knew Uncle Joe was a Georgian,ut that was OK too because Georgia was part of the USSR- the 'unbreakable union of freeborn republics' as described i the Soviet national anthem.

Now I should be used by now to the breakup of the Soviet Union and all those pesky small and like Ukraine enormous separate republics but even now its fairly difficult to make the separations

And if its hard for us, think how difficult it must be for so many millions of citizens of the former USSR.
Especially the older folk, who lived through or were directly affected by what they still call the Great .Patriotic War.Twenty-maybe thirty million Russian people died in the fight against fascism.They didn't much care if they were Georgians or Ukrainians or Tartars or whatever, they were Russians fighting for their homeland.
Now the war did throw up contradictions, there were some within the minority peoples who  saw the war as a situation where they could escape th Russian hegemony,and of course there were still remnants of the White Russian forces who sided with the Germans in the hope of defeating the Communists.
So I', not surprised that there are lingering distrusts amongst sections of the community and that is easily fanned by both sides.
It is ironic perhaps that Leni believed in the rights of small nations to self determination and one of the best statements ever written about the rights of small nations was  by JV Stalin when he was Commissar for National Minorities .
But of course socialist history is littered with ironies and contradictions.

However it does seem that what is going on at the moment in Ukraine is a nasty powrplay etween competing oligarchs, their stooges and the jockeying for power bases.
I have no doubt that amongst the crowds in Kiev there are many genuine radical democrats who hated the corruption and exploitation of their country.A genuine yearning for self determination that today every Scot should be acutely aware of(other than that numpty Darling!) but within that movement there lurk some very unsavory elements- anti-semites,racists,the worst possible nationalists-and of course the ususal band of free marketeers,opportunists and criminals

Yet on the other side there is the mirror reflection of Putin and his oligarchs, gun thugs,motor bike gangs,and corrupt officials and politicians.

What we are seeing is the criminal bands fighting amongst themselves for the spoils whilst the people get trampled in the middle.
Its a battle we have seen repeatedly in the Middle East, in the Balkans and almost anywhere where gangsters fall out!

And people wonder still why China is resistant to any attempt to break up the Peoples Republic!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

And on the other hand....

Harriet Harman has never given any evidence of being a political thinker of any great depth or indeed of any great consequence.She always appeared to be in the right place at the right time and demonstrated the knack that so many in the Parliamentary Labour Party have of not upsetting too many people.

The closest I ever came to her was once in the Commons car park when Tony Clarke and I were waiting for a taxi when Phil Hope, the shining pale pink MP for Corby pushed past us to climb into a cab with the memorable excuse:
"I'm off to a party at Hattie's!"
Such comradeship at the heart of the Labour Party.

That encounter with the elite of the Party however does not detract from the witch hunt that is being carried on against Harman by the odious 'Daily Mail'.

The fact that she was the legal officer for the NCCL in the 1970's merely indicated the route to parliament that many aspiring politicians took in those days, and was in fact a far more honourable and useful route than the political assistant,intern and party hack route so favoured today.

NCCL was ,and indeed is still, the sort of organisation that civilised nations always need.It is true that in the 1970's there was a libertarian tinge to the organisation, and in many ways it was imitating the American trends for outrageous extremism,but that does not detract from the good work that it was undertaking in the fields of human rights,anti-racism,against homophobia and all the other causes that required a progressive stance.
Inevitably some oddball fringe elements  crawled in under the 'libertarian' banner, and its worth remembering that many of them were quite right wing and reactionary.
NCCL as a campaigning group for civil liberties had often to defend the rights of quite unsavory individuals and even groups.
I have no doubt that PIE(Paedophile Information Exchange) was no more than five men and a dog(and I bet the dog was not a willing member!) but as so often happens with self promotion,they bullied their way in.
Gay Liberation as a movement was just finding its feet in this country and was under constant virulent attack from many quarters-not least the 'Daily Mail', it has many other things on its collective mind to worry about -and the five men and a dog pie outfit was low on the priorities.
And if it was low on the GLF priorities, it was almost certainly far lower on the paid officers of NCCL's  agenda.
Harman has nothing to apologise for, and indeed even if she had,who would she apologise to,and for what exactly.On that basis should the family of Thatcher apologise to the victims of Jimmy Savile for hugging the old brute in public?

The most interesting aspect of the 'affair Harman' to my mind is the contrasting coverage given this week to her and Peter Bone, the right wing xenophobic Tory MP for Wellingborough.

Credit to 'The Times' for bringing out the story of the Police investigation into Bone's alleged criminal behaviour in defrauding the County Council of many thousands of pounds in benefits for his mother-in-law's care in a nursing home.
If the CPS decide to bring charges, then that is far more significant an event this week than Harriet harman's alleged pecadillos over 30 years ago.
Strange how silent the 'Daily Mail' appears to have been on that story!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Events that move so fast

I wonder how the Michael Gove analysis of World War 1 would have stood up if communications had been as fast then as now?
I wonder how many people would have shared the pompous arses' view that somehow it was a great war and a glorious moment i British history had our forebears had I-phones and facebook and the rest of modern communications?
The events over the last few hours in Kiev have demonstrated just how graphically and brutal war can be.
In 1914 cinematography was still in its infancy, and the press as well as being slow was also heavily censored by the military.
Reading a review by Rowan Williams of a new biography of Wilfred Owen in the New Statesman two things struck me.
Firstly how long it took for the full horrors to sink in, Owens poetry was published posthumously , and by the way its strange how the Gove talks glibly about 'Oh What a Lovely War' and 'Blackadder' and  manages to omit the work of eye witnesses to the slaughter like Owen and Sassoon and others.But then perhaps Gove only read Robert Graves and left it at that!
Secondly and even more moving in many ways was the illustration that accompanied Williams review.It was a stark black and white photograph of five young soldiers who had just finished basic training and were preparing to go to the front.The casual insouciance of the youngsters, a couple with fags in their mouths was tragic.The uniforms,already crumpled,seemed far too big for them, as if they were wearing someone elses' castoffs.
And in a sense they were, they were wearing the cast offs of a ruling class who thought that there was glory to be won somewhere along the Somme,an officer class who thought they were going to do daring=do's  in the way of their forebears.
They hadn't bothered to see that war had become slaughter on an industrial scale.
I doubt if any of those five children came back in one piece.
It's hard not to be angry when time and time again we see the same young men and women being sent into each new killing field, unprotected and innocent,hoping above hope that the war that they are engaged i will somehow be the 'war to end all wars' but sadly never seems to be.
Now I am no pacifist and I believe that sometimes we have to take up arms because what we are confronted with is simply too awful to contemplate.It was absolutely right for the people of Spain and the International Brigades to confront Franco, and because the rulers failed us over Spain it was right for us to confront and defeat Hitler,although the cost was far too high.
Similarly there have been 'just' wars since then too, the Vietnamese people,the Palestinians,the people of South Africa,but it is frustrating to know that throughout the last century if working people had stood together in their class interest then there would have been no wars.
If German workers had not been beguiled and lied to by their Keiser and the Russians by his cousin the Tsar and the British by their cousin George, then millions of lives would have been saved.
Ironic really that the European Royals were all sending armies to rip great lumps out of each other when it could all have been solved on somewhere like a playing field at Eton.
Jackets off boys and a bit of a punch up behind the bike shed-first one to draw blood gets to keep Africa!
But then of course those states were fighting for something tangible,control of the worlds natural resources,what I find impossible to comprehend is how anyone in their right mind can be persuaded to go and kill aother person,or wear an explosive vest or massacre innocent strangers simply ecause 'my God is better than your God!'
What on earth is all that about?
Did the enlightenment pass them all by?
And to go back to my original point, with the instant images of death and destruction on the worlds TV screens every night is the world still full of numpties who cannot see how pointless it all is?
The youngsters who went to the trenches in 1914 had no idea what was awaiting them, as soon as they knrw it was too late,but so many who fought echoed not simply Owen but Harry Patch, the last survivor of WW1- it just wasn't worth it.

But I guess there are still people like Michael Gove, who wonder around with beans in their ears.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Without ideology-politics becomes a dangerous diversion

The Withenshaw by election was bad news for all the political parties.Well at least for the three main parties.I find it impossible to think of UKIP as a political party, it is an ill assorted collection of prejudices wrapped up in the Union Jack and masquerading as a political force.
It is nothing more than every right wing bunch of trailer park trash fitting what they laughingly call a 'political vision ' round a set of xenophobic views.
It is however the popularism of the gutter that makes it so dangerous, its like every little beer garden outfit that likes to blame everything else on somebody rather than something.
It had its predecessors all over Europe and North America.The Poujadists in France, the America First lot,the Mosleyite Blackshirts, O'Duffy's Blueshirts.

Nasty little fascist groups that threw their weight around and roared out defiance to anyone who would listen.
Of course they were absurd and of course they mostly came to nothing, but one or two of these 'movements' did become something-in Spain,Italy and Germany their posturing  did win support.

In times of anomie it's often hard to forget that people grasp at straws,and sometimes a mass hysteria emerges and creates a maelstrom of fear and resentment.In those conditions all political bets are off,and even the most absurd and inchoate ideas catch a mood.

Let me put it clearly, the crisis we are living through, or rather crises,are the products of unrestrained capitalism.The free market is neither free or a market, it is a method of social control that allows international capitalism to plunder the world with no constraints.
It is little wonder that we are facing an ecological disaster-for plundering and ravaging scare resources are what the world's oligarchs are all about.

I'm no conspiracy theorist, I suspect the Bilderberg likes to think of itself as a conspiracy of sorts, the rich and powerful gathering together to plot world domination.But even with Lord Mandelson and the forty million pound former leader of the 'Peoples party' on hand, their gatherings are just window dressing.
Capitalism has entered the phase of dog devour dog, or maybe more precisely fat cat lap up other fat cat. 

In order to sustain itself for a few more squalid years our rulers need a few diversions to keep us plebs under the thumb and more importantly at each others throats.
A few diversions, so they throw in a bit of religious bigotry,nothing better to get the old juices of prejudice going that a bit of the 'my Gods better than your God' routine.If that fails there are lots of other useful scapegoats to fall back on.Gay people,black people,women people,foreign people,poor people,old people,young people....Name your own particular resentment and there you are!

Of course just as the prejudices are transnational, there was a time when we had a solution to their hated.There was a time when working people realised what these power structures were up to and we organised resistance.We realised that the only way ordinary folk to resist was by combing together.We realised quite early on that education was the most potent weapon we had.

I don't care how far you go back, take for instance the Founding fathers of America, those great leaders who understood the strength of the Enlightenment-what did John Adams write into the constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ?Why free and universal education for boys AND girls!  

Or forefathers also understood that working people need to make alliances, with each other and with others,workers by hand and by brain.

And they also realised quite early on that as capital was international,so labour needed to be international too.
We know to our cost that the capitalist class play off not simply one group against another,but one nation state against another too.Forget the rights of small nations to self determination,forget any cultural hegemony, just remember you can move your factories and plants anywhere on the globe, and the dispossed labour will follow.

There was a time when the Labour Party was proudly internationalist,OK its true that the best it could do was the miserable Second International and that folded because of the First World War.There were too many ill formed jingoists  in both the Labour party and the SDP in Germany to understand that they were being sold the most outrageous pup in history.
However there were brave men and women in both parties that refused to follow the lie that it was a war of national pride and honour.
And that strain of internationalism existed in the sadly deformed Labour Party right up until the creature Blair destroyed all that was good and decent about the Party.

So we have a Party that cannot see the writing on the wall and thinks nothing has changed.I really don't care what happens to the Tories and the Liberals, they in truth were history about the start of the 20thc.They have simply taken a long time to fall off the perch.However what I do care about is the future of the only movement that can resist the last redoubt of capitalism.The rise of UKIP is once more part of a pattern we saw several times in the last century,only this time there is no world Communist movement to resist the far right, there is not even a social democratic base from which to resist, and the Trade Union movement is fragmented and weakened worldwide by the insouciance of parties like the Labour Party who ant to break links with organised labour in order to be more like the 'democratic' parties of advanced capitalist states.
It's a sad illusion, and the resistible rise and rise of the far right needs to be understood and fought.Remember comrades,those of you who think that they are simply the right fighting amongst themselves and the social democratic force can slip through un noticed-look carefully are Wythenshawe, and while the vote was good this time, the poll was under 20% and the writing id clearly on the wall.