Sunday, 27 December 2015

The world turned upside down-reprise!

Another year approaching and another feeding frenzy.Without doubt the next few months will be concerned about only two things,the bloody EU Referendum and the feverish plotting in the Parliamentary Labour Party to get rid of the leader elected with the biggest popular mandate in British political history.
What does that tell us about the state of the political realm at the moment.
First the EU referendum, I'm totally bored by it already,it would appear to be already decided anyway and even if it isn't it doesn't much matter anyway.
In or out,the multi-nationals will win, Cameron will come back waving a bit of paper and proclaiming 'peace in our time'-sorry, 'Victory is ours' and that bloke who looks like a frog and didn't win Thanet last may will jump up and down a bit,then go on drawing his fat cat salary in the European parliament.
I actually hope we all forget about the whole thing,and the turnout is lower than the one that got Police and Crime Commissioners elected (Remember them ? about 60k a year for doing bugger all squared!
Now the other issue is the continued harrying of Jeremy Corbyn by the assorted disloyal deadbeats that make up about one third of the Parliamentary Labour Party or to put it simpler about 00000.1% of the Party membership.
Mind you there is a vigorous rear guard action going on to resuscitate the memory of T.Blair. 
In last Sunday's Observer there was a two page spread rehabilitating the man who almost destroyed the Labour Party,who lost thousands of members,who saw local parties contract,ward organisation disappear and affiliated membership collapse.
The piece was written by one Peter Hyman who strangely enough was TB's chief speech-writer (did he I wonder write that immortal almost line 'I'm just a straight sort of guy' or some such tosh) 
Hyman's big argument was that:
"This is an existential moment in Labour's history.It may not survive.And it may never win again."
In order to demonstrate the dreadfulness of Labour's future he outlined the success of new Labour's past.He gave three examples.
1.The National Minimum Wage 
2.The Good Friday Peace settlement
3.Civil Partnerships.  
Now I'm willing to give a cheer for the national minimum wage (shows how fair minded I am) but of course a national living wage might have been more sensible.
And of course the Northern Ireland peace accord was a good bit of work, but I seem to remember it was the bravery and stubbornness of the late Mo Mowlam who had more to do with facing out paisley than ever Blair did.
Civil Partnerships were also a good thing-but changing the course of history ? naw I don't think so.
Hyman also went on to extol the great achievements in Education, health and local government. Well if saddling schools with more ways to weight a pig was an achievement, if dumping on the NHS dozens of costly PFI schemes and introducing cabinet government to creaking local authorities can all be measured as achievements-I suppose Hyman has a point-of sorts.
But on the biggest landmark and abiding feature of the Blair presidency we had this;

"The Iraq war,and the knock-on effect on the region,has for many tarnished the entire record ofv the Labour government."
Tarnished the fucking record-no it trashed the record for all time and virtually destroyed the party as a left of centre force.Even the bloody Lib-Dems had more sense and voted against the invasion of Iraq.
If those clones of Blairism think that there is an appetite for more wars,more weaponry,more aggression then they are as dim as Donald Trump on a clear day.Has no-one on the Blairite wing noticed what happened in Scotland ? One Labour MP left in Scotland.
And they expect Jeremy Corbyn to work a miracle there this year!If you want to know what went wrong in Scotland how about two wee names-Dougie Alexander and Jim Murphy is all that you need to know.
So far this has been a pessimistic piece and I don't mean it to be.At last I believe there is hope emerging within the Labour Party, as there is all over Europe.The old machine politics will take a long time dying, just look at the PLP if you want to see its death throes, but there is something quite exciting happening and contrary to the commentators it is not going back in time.There is an optimism ,but it needs nurturing and building.
What the labour Party needs to go back to is what it was once good at,building support in communities,street by street and in workplaces (where they exist) and it needs to do it not with the dinosaurs of New Labour but rather with the young,inside and outside the party.What we need is not a party but a movement that embraces those in existing parties like the Greens,SNP,Plaid and SF, but also in the broader groups fighting austerity and inequality, fighting for tolerance and for a socialist island.
I believe Momentum needs momentum to move forward,with activists from all over the left,because we have one hell of a war to fight,not simply with the numpties of Blairism but with the awful spectre of the far right, that is rising in many guises,from the crackpot little Englanders of UKIP to dar more sinisterforces of the far right.
It's time for a Very New Labour Party. 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Sometimes things get nasty.

It goes with the territory, politics can sometimes be nasty,brutish and short!It is always possible that someone will not agree with you (heavens forbear!) and they will disagree with you, they might even shout at you, and if you were Spencer Percival they might even shoot you dead!
Fortunately the killing of politicians is a relatively rare  occurance. In.In some parts of the world it is an operational hazard and assassins do operate,but even so it's still rare.
however what is far less rare is innocent civilians being killed by fanatics,the criminally insane,or high level bombardment from the air.
We are likely to see in the next few weeks and months many examples in Syria of what the American's euphemistically call 'collateral damage', it is likely that the odd school,hospital,old peoples home will be hit by a stray bomb that was aimed at a terrorist.
I'm afraid I take with a huge pinch of salt the notion that there exist such precision weapons that they can pinpoint with devastating accuracy the individual target.
"Wfo are we looking for Buddy ?"
"A guy with a beard and a dark skin"
"Hey, there's one know, he's going into that door!"
"That's the guy-go go go!"
"Gotcha- oh shit, there's another guy with a beard and dark skin..."
This whole bombing campaign is not going to work, and when we understand that each missile costs £30,000 a pop and they have already spent a seven figure sum in the last 48 hours,the cost the exercise is not worth the candle.
Indeed it would appear that most of the military expers and indeed military intelligence (surely a contradiction in terms!) agree that without the 70,000 fantasy army on the ground to in fact fight on a street by street basis the whole exercise is doomed to failure.Even Fallon the indefensible minister admits that the campaign will take years.
How many times does it have to be said, that this is not war as we knew it-it is not fucking Agincourt, with neat lines of men that stopped when it got dark, nor is it WW1 with neat lines of trenches where each inch cost hundreds of lives, nor is it WW2 where set battles were fought.
And it is certainly not a guerilla war like Vietnam ,where although the tactcs were different the NLF were a recognisable army with brilliant military tactics.
This time, despite what they say about Syria and Iraq it is a messy jigsaw of hundreds of competing armies,bands,a few mates, whatever, some on one side,some on the other,some on both.
And above all it is a 'war' against individuals.Even the worst examples of terror involve a tiny handful of crazies-some may have an ideology of some vague religious affinity (dreaming of thousands of celestial virgins ) some may be impressed by a 'religious cult' leader,some may be doped up to the yeballs and of course some may be keen to get their hands on a wad of Saudi Arabian dosh.

You fight these sort of people in two ways, firstly in Syria and Iraq by supporting the workers organisations that have patiently and systematically being fighting both the autocracies and theocracies for decades.When the kurdish people were crying out for support,what was the west doing ? Oh, I remember, helping their mates in Turkey suppress the legitimate aspirations of the Kurdish people for self determination.
At the same time, an economic embargo on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States and an international embargo on arms sales to the despotic regimes would swiftly screw the power oof Isis, as indeed would an embargo on the oil companies who trade with them.
As to the 'terrorists' in Europe, effective policing coupled with a crack down on Islamaphobia might just work in our favour.It wasn't so long ago in this country that Irish people were victimised and discriminated against.
Finally the position of Her Majesties opposition.
I object in the strongest possible terms to Hilary Benn's assertion that bombing Syria is just like fighting fascism in the 1930's and especially his historically illiterate comparison between the bombing campaign and the men and women of the International Brigades who went to Spain.
The volunteers who went to Spain had a clear political understanding of the nature of fascism and what was needed to stop it, and they gave their lives in many cases for that cause. and of course,even though the Red airforce assisted the Republic with a small number of fighter planes, the only air war fought over Spain was that initiated by Germany and Italy which bombed cities towns and villages and killed thousands of civilians.
Or has been never seen the painting of Guernica!  
Of course people are going to be bloody angry with Labour MP's who in a cavalier fashion belittle and riducule the growing number of citizens who say 'this war is not in my name',of course they will get angry responses, and some might even be construed as threats, but calling Danzuk a tosser or even suggesting that he would better serve humanity if he was missing the odd bit of his anatomy in no way compares to what he and his Tory and Lib-Dem mates have unleashed on innocent civilians.If there is a huge flood of desperate refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean  in flimsy boats-who will take the responsibility.
Over the years I have taken a lot of political flack, a lot of personal criticism and quite a bit of threats from far right groups and others,why we've even had burning paper stuffed through our letterbox.
It is unpleasant and even a bit scary,but every action creates a reaction.
I'm sure many left MP's and Trade Union leaders have put up with offensive and vile behaviour ,even death treats.
If the threats to these MP's are credible,they have a remedy-they can call for Police protection.
The people of Raqqa have no such remedy.  

Sunday, 22 November 2015

With so many critics-You must be doing something right!

Hysteria takes many forms.The events in Paris last week revealed the extent of hysteria and has in fact played directly into the hands of a tiny bunch of criminally insane people.

In my Chronicle & Echo column out this Thursday I have enlarged on my theme that we are not at war.The 'war against terror' was a construct created by George W Bush,aided and abetted by Blair to justify the invasion of Iraq, the collapse of civil government in that country, the growth of sectarian strife in that country and the protecting of Western oil interests.
If you really want a worldwide criminal conspiracy-look no further!
What the Iraq war unleashed was a culture of gangsterism and criminality, with a rich strain of religious sectarianism and bigotry,fuelled by the breakdown of civil society and funded by the Saudi Royal family,their religious zealots and other assorted Arab states and the right wing Pakistani politicians.

There are hundreds of criminal gangs from Somalian pirates to human smugglers,arms dealers and drug cartels flourishing throughout the region.Some are of course better armed and have more influence and control more territory.They may call themselves a Caliphate and indeed have large stockpiles of arms and money,estimated at about two trillion dollars,but they are bandits preying on the people of that region.
And of course it will be the people of that region,properly supported and helped who will defeat the evil will be the people that the West resolutely refused to support for decades, the Kurdish people, the trade unions in Iraq and Syria and the left leaning nationalists who wanted nothing more than control of their national oil reserves.

What we have seen happening in Western and African cities is in many ways unrelated criminal activity that is nothing more than copycat behaviours.
The fact that a number of them claim allegiance to Islam and think that martyrdom will earn them a load of virgins in eternal bliss is really a measure of how pathetic they are,evidence shows,particularly of the Parisian gang,is of an incompetent but dangerous bunch of petty criminals and drug users,some of whom wouldn't know a Koran if it fell on their heads.
You don't declare war on a handful of criminal misfits, if you did then half of British cabinet ministers since the Iraq war would be war criminals! (maybe I need to think that again!)
So because of a handful of crazed misfits the world is in turmoil,cities are closed down,intelligence agencies have billions thrown at them and we are rushing headlong into bombing towns and cities in Syria and iraq to 'punish' all those men women and children who live there+.

To describe what is happening as an over reaction is something of an understatement.Perhaps the idea is to create millions more refugees and thus completely depopulated most of thosr two countries-what a brilliant strategy.
Then of course as they hang out in squalid refugee camps or perish at sea, the young amongst them will bear no resentment to the bombers !
Of course there is no simple solution,but throwing bombs around sure as hell isn't even close to a solution.
Supporting the progressive forces within the Kurdish,Syrian and Iraqi populations would be a good start.Imposing sanctions on the paymasters in Saudi,Pakistan and the Gulf States might be another sensible step in trhe right direction.
In Europe, well instead of cutting police funding,employing more community officers  to work on a day to day basis might be better than slinging pots of money at MI5 and MI6-whose track record we only have their word for.
Of course spending billions on Trident makes sense, always handy to be able to nuke the terror gangs in Paris or Brussels, that would kill more than thousands of people,it would also get us out of the EU!
There again it might dawn on some that there is a connection between structural poverty and disaffection amongst young people.Perhaps it is mere coincidence that in the Paris suburbs where some of the gang came from youth unemployment is running at 40%
What is the bold Labour Party doing ? Well it would appear from this Sunday's papers the PLP and a range of commentators are getting their rocks off by slagging off Jeremy Corbyn.(Nothing new there,but the viciousness is several notches higher)
What dangerous ideas has he got them all so riled ? Well he said for instance that 'shoot to kill' is not the first point of departure, and that the rule of law is what this nation is based on.
Well Jeremy, that's certainly a revolutionary concept,after all we have no examples recently of men in uniform shooting to kill then discovering their 'terrorist' was an innocent electrician or carrying a chairleg!
He has also had the audacity to suggest that maybe bombing civilians is not always the best way to win hearts and minds, well strangely his view has been echoed by peace loving military chiefs, who have noticed that more bombings don't always achieve the desired effect-unless they discovered a hidden hoarde of WMD's.
What else has he suggested,well the idea that involving the UN -that seems to be OK, but Cameron and many of the gung-ho Blairites seem determined to move with or without UN agreement,but thenn I forgot,they know all about real-politic!

What is truly depressing the the uniformity of the criticism, Barbara Ellen in the 'Observer' announces that she is a 'moderate' and has resigned from the Labour Party in protest, well pardon me,I've been reading the paper for years and was unaware that she had a Labour bone in her body-I obviously missed her secret socialist message.
In the same paper, Liz Kendall,onetime contender for the Labour leadership proclaims that it is 'unpatriotic'not to support Trident.
Everywhere else there are plots and whispers and pronouncements about the need to get rid of Jeremy, and they mostly come from within the Labour Party.
Mwemo to those disloyal trolls -who won the largestr ever vote in the Party's history and increased the membership fastest- clue- it wasn't Danzuk,Mann,Kendall or even Blunkett.
Just a thought.



Saturday, 24 October 2015

Why Hollywood does not understand 'the Suffragette

The film 'Suffragette' opened in this country to widespread acclaim. Despite however having Meryl Streep in it all for 90 seconds American audiences were to say the least sniffy.
Time magazine damned it with faint praise, drawing attention to the objections from Black activists that there were no black actors in the story and that the film relied on too many cliose-ups because it was a 'low budget' production.
If only Walt Disney studios had made the film,Victorian London would have been awash with singing cockney chimney sweeps,titled ladies in pearls with swishy satin dresses and probably dancing penguins too!
It is a remarkable film and should be shown in every school as a shot of reality.Indeed if I was programming British education I would team it as part of a double bill with Ken Loach's 'Spirit of 45'
In two films all you need to know about the last 100 odd years of British history- sorted!
I would have liked to have included 'Braveheart' too,but the presence of that Neanderthal Australian knobhead Mel Gibson sadly rules out William the Wallace s' story for the time being.
Some British critics have not been to kind either,although given one eminent 'critic' was Danny Finkelstein  his opinion is barely worth the paper it was printed on.
His thesis was that votes for women was not won by the suffragettes but rather by the patient work over half a century by respectable campaign groups like those led by Millicent Fawcett, and anyway it was World War 1 'wot won it'.
Of course there is some truth in both those claims, the patient tireless work of those predominantly middle class ladies was an important part of the battle for the vote and it is true to say that the war was a catalyst for change.
It's also true to say that the WPSU that Mrs Pankhurst and her family led had a large element of middle class ladies involved-the Pankhursts themselves,Richard her husband was a doctor in Manchester-and a socialist freethinker to boot,but what the WPSU did was to kick the issue of 'Votes for Women' right onto the front pages and into the faces of the Ministers in Westminster.
The film however highlighted the role of working class women in the struggle.
It has long been known that many working class women were involved,Mary Kenny and the Northern mill girls are frequently cited, but the film focussed on London's east End, and the main character Maud Watts, was a browbeaten laundress in a sweatshop laundry in Bethnal Green where she had laboured for a pittance since childhood.

The notion that there were no black actors involved and the description in the publicity that the women were 'slaves' seems to have upset black activists.I think that reaction is a pity for two reasons, firstly of course there were few black workers in the East End in 1912,there were of course some,mostly men who had arrived as merchant seamen, and more significantly it was perfectly correct to describe the women as slaves, they were in every sense 'wage slaves'and were every bit victims of the system as black men and women.
Solidarity in struggle must always be a two way street.
The other American criticism was that the film didn't have the sweep and grandeur of the blockbuster epic.
Thank Christ for that.Edwardian London was dark,claustrophobic,insanitary and raw.It wasn't the technicolour world of Downton Abbey.Watching it you could smell the streets,the washing hanging out to dry and the decay all around.
Atmospheric it certainly was.
The other feature of the film was the understanding that most men were not villains, apart from some of the MP's and the lecherous laundry owner.Maud's husband simply did not understand what was going on, he was hard-working,poor and somewhat dim.Today we call men like that 'Sun' readers.
The Scotland yard detective, an Irishman was a subtle creation, an early intelligence/surveillance officer it was a recognition that they often get things wrong (even today) and the fact that he was Irish was a nod to conspiracy theorists and of course their concerns then about the dangers of Fenianism.

I wonder what nationality they would make such a character today?

The timing of the release of this film is a brilliant piece of serendipity.In the week it came out the Labour party launched a campaign to ensure as many people as possible are registered to vote.The Tories have changed the rules and it seems likely that maybe a million people will lose their right to vote.
They want to speed up the process and get it dusted off as quickly as possible.
In any other place and time it would be called gerrymandering!

If you see no other film this year,go see Suffragette- there are horrors in in,like the force feeding regime in Holloway, but the most moving is the way the Metropolitan Police  break up the demonstration outside Parliament.
Direct action has always been the last resort of desperate people, the women in 1912 understood that,just as we a beginning to understand it again.
Everything changes-nothing changes!


Sunday, 4 October 2015

To understand oppression is to be a Jew.

It would appear today that the actress Maureen Lipman has left the Labour Party once again, she left it a few months ago but it seems,well according to the Mail on Sunday that she has decided to leave again.
Fine, there are a lot of people I think the Labour Party could lose, not least Blair,Mandelson,Danzuck and loads of others that should never really have been in the Labour Party,but I'm strangely sorry to see Lipman leave again.

I'm sorry not because I think she is a great loss but the reason she has given for her departure. It is an accusation of anti-Semitism that I find disturbing,and it's one that appears to be gaining currency on the more irrational fringes of pernicious anti- socialism.
It is interesting that whilst they link it to Jeremy Corbyn all the critics are at pain to explain that they do not believe that Jeremy himself is anti-Semitic but it is the trope of guilt by association, you're not an anti-Semite but you know someone who is.
I've written about this topic before and I'm sure I will again, but I think it is an argument worth repeating as often as necessary and as in the past I prefix it with a quote from a wonderful song by Ruthie Gorton:
"TO understand oppression is to be a Jew,
so Free Palestine now."

At a time in the world's history when millions are travelling the world dispossed of their homes,dying in dreadful conditions,suffering unimaginable hardship and being victims every which way they turn it's worth casting our minds back to the last great exodus of people all over Europe.
When World war Two ended millions wee fleeing persecution and cruelty from countries they no longer felt safe in. Most ofvthe refugees then were displaced Jewish families,victims of the holocaust without a state and without any prospect of finding one.
many went to America but a large number wanted their own homeland and the prospect of the State of Israel offered a sanctuary.

The Jewish homeland had beeen a dream of Zionists since the 19th century and of course that homeland was located in Palestine.
That was of course the big problem, because Palestine was already occupied by Palestinian Arabs who had settled for centuries.A difficult problem but frankly not an intractable one, after all the people were all Semitic and had a great deal in common, Arab tribes and Jewish tribes had lived peaceably foe centuries and indeed many of the early Zionist pioneers saw no great difficulties.
But of course what people saw and what great power politics wanted were two very different things.They was a world view,not a full blown conspiracy theory but one that recognised that the Middle East was the most important region in the world because it was the most important source of oil and anything that could keep the region volatile could allow for 'intervention' at any time.

Afterv all the theatre of war in WW2 was not about a few million miles of sand, it was about controlling the oil fieldsfor the future.Britain,France and the United States had powerful oil companies and they wanted a degree of instability in the region that would ensure their presence.
Since the end of WW2 thee has been turmoil and chaos in the region, the West has pursued an aggressive policy of supporting Israel financially and militarily, and at the same time picking and choosing various client states like Saudi Arabia,Quatar, and so on and encouraging division amongst Moslem people.
The Middle East has never had a days peace since the end of the last war, and the people throughout the region have paid a very heavy price .
What has been done cannot simply be 'undone', we see on a daily basis what is the human price of intervention-remember the WMD that Saddam was supposed to have and the consequences.
And our flexible approach to human rights violations, Assad is a cruel tyrant yet the Saudi Royal family are pussy cats who deserve all the high quality armaments we can flog to them!
But we are where we are, and as far as I can see the only long lasting solution lies in the two state option,guaranteed by effective United Nations action.
And any two nation solution must look beyond the current boundaries.It is intolerable that the palestinian people are confined to two overcrowded and insufficient ghettoes.Any permanent settlement must spread beyond current borders and must involve land annexed from other parts of the region.Saudi Arabia is a vast empty land that could easily accommodate large Palestinian communities-mind you that might mean them having to give up some oil reserves and embrace human rights,but I think they owe it to the Palestinian people.
I believe that the only solution is one of co-operation and the building of secular states throughout the region.Of course I'm aware of the reluctance of the great powers to give up their power bases, and the religious maniacs on all sides to abandon their primitive beliefs and a kinder vision of politics that places human worth and solidarity above all else.
And to do that most effectively we need to defeat the worst and greatest scourge of the human species-racism in all its forms!          

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Suddenly Northampton's not such a nice place

A decent young Labour Councillor Gareth Eales published a straightforward appeal for compassion for the refugees .
Nothing unusual you might think with such a crisis facing so many millions of innocent people,fleeing not as a section of the press might imply as 'economic migrants' but simply folk terrified of the violence in their country.
Of course the world has seen it before,perhaps not on the scale its happening but then several countries from Syria through Iraq to Afghanistan are in perpetual turmoil.For a variety of reasons millions of people are in dreadful camps ior are risking everything to flee in unsafe boats ,victims of poverty,malnutrition,torture,imprisonment,unemployment,disease and even people smugglers.
hard to imagine such horrors in the 21st century.
Gareth publishes a thoughtful plea and what happens?
It would appear Northampton,a town I love and a community whose quiet Midland pragmatism I have enjoyed has become a snakepit of Katy Hopkins clones.
Hundreds of vile comments have appeared on Facebook and the Chronicle & Echo website threatening gareth and his family.Filthy depraved racists and their ilk have embarked on a crusade of vilification and hatred that has gone beyond anything I have seen or experienced in over 40 years of local politics.
I am sure that much of this is orchestrated by far right groups like 'Britain First', and appropriate name,one that they share with Father Coughlin's  notorious fascist outfit 'America First' in the 1930's.

The great Woody Guthrie in a song said of them:
"They say America First but they mean America Last!"

What this bunch do is to denigrate this town's once proud record of being a haven for people fleeing persecution from all over the world.In my time on the Borough Council we were always able,in our small provincial way to offer support to people in distress.I can immediately call to mind the Chilean refugees after Pinochet's coup in 1973, the Vietnamese Boat People and the Bosnian people fleeing that horrible civil war.there were of course in that period others too.
The common factor that united them all was that they lost everything, that they were desperate and that they all contributed massively to the host community.
Some of the older people were able to return to their home when the crisis was over, I vividly recall a wonderful elderly Chilean couple,Don Cisternas and his wife Mina.Don Cisternas 'crime' had been to be a member of the Communist Party and his 'activity' was to be chairman of his village tractor fund!
For that they were forced to flee in old age half way across the world to a land where they didn't speak a word of English,with no family,no possessions,nothing.
We made them welcome as best we could but the other Chilean families were so kind and generous to the elderly couple and treated them with great respect and allowed them to function as creative senior citizens whilst they were here.
All the other families re-built their lives as best they could, worked in a variety of jobs, paid their taxes and played a part in the wider community.Their children went to school here,and many went on to university and now have key roles in a variety of professions.
What was true of the Chilean community was true of all the other refugee groups.They were not and are not 'scroungers' or 'benefit cheats' or whatever other epithets the mindless Sun readers think appropriate!

I think what shocked me most was not the crass ignorance of Gareth's critics, or the massive hypocrisy they displayed-imagine this, they are all so compassionate about homeless people and overcrowded families and low paid workers-all the groups that they have been vilifying as -oh let me guess 'scroungers' and ' benefit cheats' for so long.
Suddenly compassion is for 'British people' only but do I detect in that only a certain sort of  'British person'= you know -white!

These people remind me of the description the late great Phil Ochs offered in his song about the disgraceful racist government,judiciary and white supremacists of Mississippi in the 1960's

"Mississippi find some other country to be part of."
That's how I feel about some Northamptonians!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

I bet the Labour party never knew it had so many friends !

All my experience in the Labour Party led me to one conclusion-what we needed most was a mass party,ideally of young idealistic people who wanted to change the world.You know like the young peop0le who came back after WW2 and wanted to end the squalor and ugliness of the preceding Tory decades-a world to win!
Over the last few weeks the Labour Party has tripled in size and can be almost called a mass party once again.
However it would appear that its the wrong mass!
A bit like the wrong leaves on the eail or the wrong weapons of mass destruction !
Not long ago we were told that Labour needed to attract people who had voted for other parties, Lib-Dems,Scot-nats,Green party, even Tories and UKIP supporters.We needed to build another big tent.
But now it seems what the Labour Party hierarchy meant was a not really so big a tent and one that could be trusted to vote like docile sheep for the next available mediocrity that sounded like the last available mediocrity and going back through a long line of mediocrities
Why does the Kinnock conference speech about generations of pig ignorant Kinnock's spring to mind?
now it is true that some mischievous Tories with a few bob to spare may have invested three quid (I bet they weren't members of Unite!) and its possible that the 'hard left' have infiltrated the party ranks.
But lets get this in some sort of perspective.
it is possible that a bunch of Tories have signed up-maybe the same Tory donors who have bunged Yvette Coopers' campaign £75K( or don't we talk about that!)
And maybe the 'far left' have mobilised all their supporters to join- well that's probably a few hundred at bes.Anyone who knows the nature of the left groups in this country knows two things, that there are not too many of them and the possibility of getting them to agree to any coherent joint strategy makes herding cats simle!
So what we really have is a large number of people who really desire change,who have seen mass movements emerge in Greece,Spain and Italy and especially Scotland and want to be part of that movement.

Can anyone in the Labour Party seriously suggest that the SNP knocked out 40 Labour MP's on a right wing programme?
What happened in Scotland was not about the charisma of Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond ,  it was a recognition that austerity was destroying the fabric of their country and the Labour Party stood for absolutely nothing.
Who on earth would vote for Murphy and Alexander and the other numpties who were offering merely a shade less austerity than Cameron and Osborne.

Now of course all we have his the hysteria of the British press and the wheeling out of what are euphemistically called 'Labour grandees' on a daily basis to rubbish Jeremy Corbyn and his thousands of new young supporters.
I thought it was scraping the barrel with Blair,Mandelson,Danzuck, Blunkett and the rest, but the ramblings of Baroness Boothroyd probably reached a new low.Who can they pull out next ?
Expect to hear any day from Herbert Morrison or Ernie Bevin-or possibly the wise words of J Ramsay McDonald-that doyen of all things traditional Labour Party.
The machinations and gerrymandering of party officials will get worse and more sinister in the next three weeks,expect more people to be barred after they have cast their vote-and how does that work in a secret ballot?
We are told that they will comb the canvass returns to see how people voted.Having canvassed for almost 40 years I can assure anyone that canvass returns are as close to fiction as any novel by jeffery Archer (actually they're better than any fiction by Jeffery Archer) and anyway-I thought the whole point of the electorally concerned Labour Party was to win people back to the party, especially if in the past they voted elsewhere.
Seems an odd way to encourage them to support the Labour Party:
"Oh you voted Green in nineteen oatcake-your barred!"
I hope that Jeremy Corbyn wins and the Labour Party moves into a new trajectory, my great fear is that the forces of reaction, those fat cats who want to be in a meaningless shadow cabinet (you know the ones that Tim Farron is encouraging to join him and his 7 dwarves to become the 'real' opposition)
I(f they win then all the enthusiasm of the past few weeks will be lost, those new members will vanish like the summer snow,who wants a four year war of attrition in constituency after constituency.
I've been there and it is soul destroying.
In my lifetime the best thing that ever happened in the Labour Party when the SDP decamped .It is possible that the left will be in a much stronger position than it was in 1981,but Corbyn will have two major handicaps-the PLP and the Party organisatio0n.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Now is thev time for all good men to come to the aid of the party.....maybe!

I'm in danger of becoming optimistic again about the future of the Labour Party.It is still a fairly difficult thing to come to terms with, but after the excitement and style that has engulfed young people in Scotland, Greece and Spain,couple the real enthusiasm for radical change actually happen here?
Even tiny stirrings in Vermont, where  Bernie Saunders the self professed socialist State Senator has entered the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination-and hold your breath-may be in the lead on Iowa and maybe even in New Hampshire!

I know its unlikely but there is a small still voice that says after so many false dawns.
When Jeremy entered the race to lead the Labour Party I was pleased by somewhat apprehensive.I remembered the euphoria when Tony Benn stood for the Deputy leadership and the campaign that convulsed the Party then, and the narrowness of Healey's victory.But that was then and this is now.Since that time the Party has changed.Three terms of Blair has ensured that the Party is not even a cocial democratic shadow any more.To put in bluntly it is at best a party of technocrats who believe they can manage capitalism betterv that the Tories and the Lib-Dems. They have swallowed undigested the whole free market ideology and have managed to create a party that doesn't sound like a socialist party,walk like a socialist party, talk like a socialist party and worst of all think like socialist party.
Even the events in Scotland during the GE failed to make an impact=I listened to the candidates for leadership there and they sounded as shallow and bone headed as Jim Murphy did before he was swept away.I still find it hard to believe that Dugdale, the likely winner tweeted on Hiroshima  Day that she was grateful that we had Trident!
And yet JC,despite all the hysteria about him appears to be pulling further ahead!The right are so desperate that they've pulled out Alastair Campbell to rubbish Jeremy. I.I thought bring Blair out of his estate was a desperate shot, and Johnston and Miliband D and Kinnock- but Campbell!
When in doubt they resort to the oldest fear tactic'entryism'.
It seems they never learn, why they even bring out the old warhorses of a different time,Derek Hatton, George Galloway,Dave Nellist and if they could get away with it the corpse of old Leon himself.
Their clai is that  maybe most of the 100,000 + new members are closet trots of one sort or another.Well sweeties can I tell you this, if the 'far left' in this country had over 100,000 clandestine members, the last thing they would do is to join the Labour Party!
Of course it is not a takeover by other parties or even party.There is a genuine desire for radical change, for an anti-austerity programme that means something,for poitical solutions that mean something different, not more of the same but in a different bottle.
So in the absence of actual conspiracies they follow the next route, it's not what you belong to,or where your 'allegiance' lies, it's what you think and say.Mark Serwotka, the outstanding leader of the Civil Servants Union has been denied membership ' because of what he has said or written;.It seems that in the new Model Labour Party even thoughts have to be policed.
" Whilst i have never personally metTony Clarke and John Dickie I know through the local media they are long standing critics of the local Labour Party.Through colleagues in the Labour Party I also know both individuals have a track record of using unfounded rumours to undermine Labour councillors who happen to have a different view or agenda from them."
That is an extract of a letter from Councillor Nazim Choudary to the Regional LP officer George Carr-Williamson in January 2012.
It was part of his response to a complaint against him for assault brought by a young woman.
Strange as it may seem I was in the LP before Choudary was even born and astonishingly I have been a long standing critic of Labour policy and many of those who damaged the party by pushing wrong headed and anti socialist policies for all those decades.But throughout that period of membership I like many others believed that my interests and values were those of the Party I joined.I had no difficulty in agreeing with the statement my union asked me to sign.
I was expelled in 2007 for breaking the rules,although I was supporting the wishes of my ward, but that is of no matters.Like so many others both those who are joining today for the first time or re-joining after a period of disillusionment I hope the Party will go back to the values and principles it once stood for.
And if Jeremy does win there is one thing he must do right away-get rid of the full time apparatchiks who so disfiguew the Labour Party today.And maybe some of tghe careerists too!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

You know things are getting bad when they call in Blair!

It seems to me that the leadership of the Abstentionist labour party must be  getting into a blue funk over the leadership election when they drag out the living dead to rubbish Jeremy Corbyn.
Its come to a pretty pass when Blair,Mandelson. Hutton. Milburn, the four arseholes of the apocalypse are wheeled out to save the party they ravished for all those years.
I think perhaps the most crass and sickening manifestation of this dreadful panic was the intervention by the dreadful John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw.
What is it about the Labour Party in that part of Nottinghamshire.For years they had Joe Ashton, the beloved Sun columnist and frequenter of Northampton massage parlours as their member,only to replace him with Mann.
He managed to issue an open letter to Jeremy accusing him of doing nothing when Council run children's homes were covering up child abuse.As it happens Jeremy did raise the issue with several organisations involved, not least Islington Council, led at the time by one Margaret Hodge,Labour Mp for barking, and also on the Council was another Blairite MP, Stephen Twigg.
Nice one Johnny boy!
But then smear and innuendo is the stock in trade of these so called MP's,none of whom have any idea of what politics, and specifically socialist politics is really about.
The surge of support for JC is paralleled by events in Scotland, and it was an absolute delight to see the SNP take over the Labour front bench last Wednesday when Parliament was discussing of all things giving greater powers to Manchester.
But then what can we expect from a party that abstains on the Welfare Bill debate because they didn't want to appear as,well an opposition!
If they had turned up and behaved like a grown up political opposition they would have defeated the government.After all they had the boc of SNP members. the Lib-Dems ,Plaid,the Green Party MP and even the Democratic Unionists.
For fuck sake! What sort of Labour party is it that can be outflanked on the left by the DUP !
The attacks on JC are as vicious and unprincipled as they were on Tony Benn back in the 1980's.
And its the same old same old warhorses having a go, the Murdoch Press, well indeed every section of the British Press,as well as denizens of the House of Lords, and the now familiar voices of 'respectable' newspaper columnists.
To think that David Aaronovitch ,now favoured son of the Times has joined in-did the great lump learn nothing from his late father and fine Marxist economist Sam ?
Obviously not.
I fear that with the chorus line of Labour 'supporting' millionaires living up to say that they will give the Party no more of their booty, many of the weak willed and weak-minded will panic and vote for Burnham or Cooper.
Dear God they are even pulling out the spectre of Militant to frighten the horses!
It is possible that jeremy will not win, however a bit like the SNP in Scotland this battle may have unleashed forces that the whey faced 'statesmen and women' cannot control.
It may be that the young who are drawn to radical solutions will not get back in their boxes, and rather like events in Scotland,Jeremy's campaign will bring forth many Mhari Black's to challenge the hegemony of the spineless and cowardly!

Friday, 17 July 2015

A terrible beauty is born?

A few weeks ago I wrote Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership election off as a bad job.I was perhaps too hasty and worse still I may have been wrong.
It would appear that JC (interesting initials when you come to think of them) may have a lot more going for him.There appears to be mounting fury amongst the Blairistas and dire warnings in the Murdoch Press.
Of course it could all be flannel and old tosh to scare the Mondeo men and Worcester women to death and to strengthen the paws of the three other dwarves!
I'm not surprised the Tories are gloating and indeed I have suggested elsewhere that Lord Ashcroft, if he really wanted to cause havoc and unleash the weasels of war the best thing he could do with his millions is buy a few thousand Tory supporters a three quid membership package of the Labour Party.
Whichever numbskull in the LP hierarchy suggested that wheeze should be included in Cameron's list  of new peers immediately.
But it might,it just might,suggest that lurking in the much diminished ranks of ordinary party members there is still a serious and heartfelt desire for real change and real fight.
maybe the collective woms of compromise have looked at Scotland and seen the shallow nature of the Labour party up there and have decided that to continue to support this bunch of careerist mediocrities is no longer worth a candle.
Who knows?
Without a paper of its own, they even snuffed out Labour Weekly decades ago, then they snuffed out conference and then they have been systematically snuffing out wards and constituencies all over the place.
It would seem that the only purpose members who aren't millionaires can offer is being leaflet distributors at election time or 'listening posts' for any passing celebrity careerist.
Perhaps members are at last getting it-without a vision and a purpose what's the point of the Labour Party?
When the acting leader thinks its a good idea to abstain on the Tories proposed welfare cuts, and Chuka Thingy thinks the only point of the party is to get people like him elected!
They remind me of Groucho's remark:
"If you don't like my principles,here's some others!"
Suppose JC wins what will happen/Well fairly obviously the PLP will be in uproar and many will leave immediately in a huff to form the SDP Mark 2.They could even complete the real Blair project and merge with the Liberals, and perhaps become the Liberal-democratic-social -mountebank party!They would of course take with them their rich backers,a handful of the living dead in the Lords(I expect Lord Sugar of Rubbish would rejoin) and some trade unions whose leaders  want a retirement berth on the red leather benches.
But we perhaps can suppose that some MP's would listen to party members and realise that the purposeof an opposition in Westminster is to,well,oppose.
A group of left Labour MP's aligned with the SNP as an anti-austerity bloc could really bollox up the Tories and the 'moderates' for the next four years.
And who knows, the people of this country might realise it's better to fight on their feet than capitulate on their knees.
And who knows, a 'terrible beauty ' might be born.
just imagine how redoubtable a large parliamentary grouping might be with Mhari Black leading it alongside JC himself.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Who writes the hostory?

Today the people of Greece will vote in a referendum  that in the words of an Athenian will determine whether the country starves quickly or a bit slower.Either way the Government and people of Greece are being used as an example to the other peoples of Europe:
"Do not defy the power of the market,do not think that you can defy austerity-we will crush you like a butterfly on a wheel"
And who will do the crushing? Why the international financiers,the bankers,the IMF and the governments of the powerful European states, you know the ones-those that had their debts written off after WW2, because their governments were compliant 'democracies'.

Of course these governments of financial rectitude and their pure driven snow bankers never did anything underhand or corrupt did they?
Consider therefore the case of a guy Akis Tsochatopulos,.a former Greek defence minister who is currently serving a 20 year stretch in chokey for bribery and corruption, and who was bribing and corrupting this mainstream Greek politician,why a German arms dealer called Ferrostaal,who flogged the Greek government a bunch of submarines and Akis creamed off quite a bit for himself.

Of course borrowing money and allowing corrupt arms dealers to get their paws on public money is not new.The national debt started in England with Henry V111 when he wanted to buy a few boats to fight the French.
So here's the deal, corrupt Greek governments, of Centre Right or Centre left buy tons of military hardware from Germany and other European 'allies',and of course the dear old USofA,they discover the cost of all those subs,fighter planes,tanks and what have you, plus the middlemen's cuts get obscenely high and then the debtors come knocking on the Greek peoples door asking for repayment.
Merkel wants her money that was used to pay her dodgy arms dealers!-and who pays?
Not the corrupt politicians of Greece but the pensioners and the young and the unemployed and the sick!
Whilst billionaire's yachts drift at anchor off the Greek islands-the people need to be austere.

It is interesting that many of the people who now suffer are the sons,daughters and grandchildren of the men and women of Greece who fought the Nazis to a standstill in the resistance,whilst the Greek elite were cosying up to the fascists.
And the colonels who led a military coup to destroy Greek democracy 
I am reminded of a song from Ewan McColl's Festival of Fools, a warning to the leaders of the junta from the young of Greece:
"We are the young ones,
The readers the writers,the copiers,
We are the young and small,
And we are the writing on your wall!"
If ever a song was prophetic, it was written when the Greek Queen Fredrika ,a fascist sympathiser was visiting London and Greek students were arrested for protesting about her visit.
They were the mothers and fathers of the young in the streets of Athens today, and indeed they are the writing on the wall.


Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Labour party leadership=I have a solution!

Both my regular readers will know I have been agonisng over the Labour party leadership.Should I try to make a one vote difference?It's a conundrum a bit like the great 'Daddy or chips' debate of yesteryear.
Things have changed a little since my earlier blog.The arrival of Jeremy Corbyn, an MP I have always respected has somewhat changed things,but really only somewhat.
My heart says ,like so many other good socialists currently outside the party that at last there is a candidate who speaks the language of socialism not of bloody aspiration.
I am sorely tempted!
But I fear that it is my heart that is speaking to me in beguiling terms and not my jead.
I know all the arguments-thye stronger the vote for Jeremy the more likely the party will listen and change its ways.
It is an opportunity for the case to be put to thousands if not millions,the anti austerity,the anti Trident,the pro- welfare,the pro -union....all the causes that we believe are central to a socialist transformation of society.
I can hear my old comrades,the Lore lei voices of temptation to swallow hard and join the great cause and get back within the people's party!
But as I'm on a roll with my cliches I cannot forget that the leopard really doesn't change its spots  and if I stop and think for just a few moments then the head rules again.
I have quite recently seen how shallow the Labour party has become.Northampton Labour party is a shining example of how shallow the whole enterprise has become.The recent de selection of Winston Strachan, a good and decent Borough Councillor in Castle ward was once again an example of the hollowing out of the party.
Career moves are the only aspirations left in the Labour party-bugger any ideology or indeed anything that reflects principles!
Now I'm not saying Corbyn lacks principles,far from it, but I fear he,like the few genuine socialists  left are being used as a fig leaf to cover the monstrous vacuum at the heart of the Labour party.
His candidature is being used in a cynical way to demonstrate how 'broad; and tolereant the party is.But as his nomination went in some of those who signed it were busily yelling that they had no intention of voting for him.
Some like the London 'running dogs' did it to pretend to the left leaning London membership that they were really really leftish-strange that they all appear to be seeking the Mayoral nominatuion!
And then there is the scrawled signature of Frank Field.Given that he is the nearest thing in the Labour party to a Tory,apart from Kate Hoey,his endorsement should never have been contemplated.
Added to the shoddy practice of a bunch of opportunists there is the other ploy by a bunch of Blairites who are pushing that if a candidate wins that they don't much like, then within a few montghs a secret vote o0f the PLP can ditch the leader, and the PLP alone will select the new leader-probably one Miliband D.The leader over the water!

Then of course there is the well thought out plan that with two tier membership,full paid up members and 'supporters' it will be easy to throw the whole process into chaps.If I was a millionaire Tory backer the best thing to do would be to distrute £3 's to Tory supporters and flood the Labour party with Tory supporters who would be instructed to vote for.....?
I( have a simple solution, my first choice woukld be Nicola Sturgeon to lead the Labour party, but as she already has a growing wello disciplined and principled party anyway she is out of contention.
So there is only one obvious candidatem, who speaks with directrness and clarity, who can address the really big issue in the counrty the way it is being tavckled in Greece and Spain.A candidate not tainted with either decades of failure on the front or back bench, a candiadate who is young and charismatic.
It's obvious really, forget the dreary hustings, I watched some of the first one and felt sorry for the people of Nuneaton.
There is really only one candidate who can ignite the people of this country-Charlotte Church to be the next Labour Leader.

Friday, 12 June 2015

I'm still a Marxist (tendency Groucho)

There is an unsubstantiated rumour swirling around the political salons of Old Northampton that I have somehow transmogrified into some sort of right wing old municipal grandee.
That I stand for the status quo, that I'm keen to aquire status as an elder statesman of municipal politics, perhaps sympathetic to the Liberal-Democrats,or worse....

Well time to make it clear, over the decades i have had dalliances with other ideologies.I was born as many know into what Americans call 'a red diaper baby'. I joined the Young Communist league at the age of 14 signed up in a Lyons Corner House by no less a Communist superstar that the late great Jimmy Reid!
Jimmy who later led the Upper Clyde Shipyard workers (remember the 'nae bevvying' speech)was at the time the National Secretary of the YCL.
My future was set to wonder under the red star of the east!
Four or five years later the young comrades expelled my under the rule 'actions harmful to the league'.I was expelled by the London District of the league,with only two defending me,and one of them was a Cypriot comrade with the magnificent name of 'Stalin'.
his parents were very loyal supporters of Uncle Joe.
I then began my political meanderings, a little time with the Revolutionary Socialist Students Association, a spell as the rank and file of the SCC(M-L)-in case you've forgotten us we were the Sussex Communist Caucus (Marxist-leninist)
There were only five or six of us, one has since become a senior lecturer in politics at a Midland university,another has become a prolific writer on South African affairs,one has gone back to highly lucrative journalism in the States,another may have gone back to his day job in the CIA.
I moved to Northampton.
Where we spent almost 40 years in a brief flirtation with the Labour Party.When we joined we only intended to give it a couple of years,but like an old cardigan,the Labour Party was comfortable and secure and sometimes even seemed on the cusp of doing something quite significant.
For much of my extended honeymoon with the Labour Party its great strength was at local level, and in the early years there seemed real possibilities that local government could provide the party with a platform to effect change.
Remember the conference where Kinnock called local government 'labour's batttered shield against injustice'.
I think that was before he vilified and excoriated the comrades in Liverpool for providing just such a shield.But then it was a Militant shield not a god fearing profoundly middle of the road social democratic shieldette!

I've ranted on far too regularly about the hollowing out of the party,although interestingly enough in a disgusting blairite love fest in the Times this week his Chief of Staff wryly observed that the Labour Party in Scotland has been 'hollowed out'
But amongst the great balls-ups of the Blairite ascendancy was the cackhanded reorganisation of local government.The vision was the American model with elected Mayors and grafted on the Westminster model of a powerful executive (cabinet) and select committees (scrutiny) to hold the executive and the Mayor to account.
It was a system of checks and balances that could have worked.
But it didn't, elected Mayors have proved a complete waste of energy and resouces, indeed if Boris Johnston is the answer then indeed it was a fucking stupid question.
Cabinets gave too much power to a small tightly knit group of politically motivated men and some women.Scrutiny from day one had no power,everything it did was after the event, and at best call in could only delay the inevitable.
The Lib-Dems in Northampton tried to put a motion calling for the return of the committee system, but as there are only two of them their efforts were doomed.
The tories like the Cabinet system, because it gives power to a small number of their group and the rest merely collect their dosh and sit quiet-not a lot to do!
The Labour Party on the otherhand sided with the tories-they argue that the old committee system was slow and 'Victorian', did not reflect the dynamic and thrusting politics of going out and 'listening to people' and allowed a small group of Labour members to call themselves 'shadow portfolio holders', although I think they meant 'shallow portfolio holders'
Whilst the committee system was slow and cumbersome it allowed many more elected members to participate in decision making and for instance a decision like the new bus station would pass through a number of committees, like Traffic,Finance,Planning and ending up with Policy-ample opportunity for many members,and members of the public,to examine plans.
Slow yes,but maybe more effective.Right now Northampton Borough Council has half a dozen Councillors who take decisions and almost 40 others who are mere bystanders.
Of course I keep making the mistake of suggesting that councillors have power-silly me, with the Cabinet system the real power resides where it always should-with the senior management team!

maybe all my years have made me too cynical,perhaps I'm a Marxist (tendency grouchy) !

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Maybe what we need is a movement not a party

It seems to me that all the values that the Labour party once had are long gone.It comes to something when an old left wing warhorse like Dennis Skinner is more concerned about where he sits in the House of Commons than who he aligns his politics with.
Of course the SNP are not a socialist party,but its about five decades at least when the Labour party could claim to be a socialist party.The last leader I heard describe the party as such was Attlee after his election victory in 1945.
The SNP are however a party of a different type.They are predominantly young, they mostly don't come from the 'political class' of special advisers, political groupies,party hacks or London based mediocrities who once,decades ago,worked on a trade union journal for a few months!
The SNP are also a mixture of folk like those who elected them, and they are exuberant and irreverent and do things normal people do.
When someone says something they agree with-they clap-they don't say 'hear hear'.They are disciplined and they are prepared to argue for what they believe in with a passion.
last week there was a debate ob zero hour contracts,albeit it was about such contracts in Scotland,but it was about an issue that during the election we were told the Labour Party cared about.I don't remember them putting geographical limits on zero hours,we only care about them in England!
So in the debate, 56 SNP MP's were there, 8 tories and believe it or not the people's party managed to turn out a whole half dozen!  
now I invite my few remaining friends in the Labour Party to explain this curious situation.Perhaps they were all spending more time with their families,maybe they had an important PLP dinner to attend,but one thing is for sure, they didn't give a flying fuck for their constituents on zero hour contracts!
Interestingly the SNP left a space for Dennis Skinners arse, and it is possible that he did later occupy it.But where were the rest?
I was thinking of trying to rejoin the Labour party as a £3 member,if only to write 'none of the above' on the ballot paper.
The candidates on offer are a sorry apology for the leadership of any party that claims to be left of centre.Right from the start they have conceded the ground to the tories, they all prate on about reducing the deficit,about making welfare cuts,about limiting migration and about continuing the privatisation of the health service.
Yet we have a possible parliamentary and extra-parliamentary movement emerging that is at the very least social democratic in outlook and potentially an even larger activist base that will move people in emulate what has happened in Scotland.
But its not just Scotland where there is movement, In Madrid and Barcelona it would appear that they are electing mayors not of a traditional party but from a broad anti-austerity movement.

I read a piece by John McDonnell, the left Labour MP arguing that there needs to be a mobilisation of all the left forces in this country if we are to take on this government.
I think he sees clearly that the Labour Party is unable and unwilling to make a fight that could involve thousands if not millions, that could re energise the trade union movement, bring young people into the battle and assist the dispossed to fight for their rights.
Strangely in his piece he made no mention of the SNP, perhaps he'd seen the letter from Labour's head office expelling a member in Scotland for urging support for the SNP.
It seems to me the traditional party model is as dead as King Henry, and we on the left need to understand clearly that the issue is no longer about selecting photogenic stooges to mutter platitudinous rubbish about aspiration and empowerment and hard working middle classes.
The Labour Party must change-or simply die.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

What's left for the Labour Party?

We went  to the civic reception on Thursday to celebrate the election of the new Mayor.I(t was a decorous affair with the Tory Councillors quietly on their best behaviour and the Labour Councillor,well quiet.
In the press they are boasting that they will hold the Tories to account, and they have announced a shadow cabinet that will 'hold the Tories to account'
Given the fact that decisions taken at cabinet are not open for discussion with the opposition and are presented to full council as decisions already taken, the best the opposition-shadow cabinet member or humble backbencher can do is to question the report.
To appoint a 'shadow cabinet' largely of first time councillors is as futile a gesture as you can make, they've had there five minutes of fame by making thr announcement.The future is quiet obscurity for five years.
But then the Labour party locally and nationally are all about playing the games by the rules that exist-for Christ's sake there was more conflict in Cromwell's parliament than ever there is now.
it's easy to see how the Parliamentary Labour Party can fall into the torpor of being part of the establishment.
The bunch of young SNP members have clearly annoyed the Labour Party,that pompous arse Gerald kaufman called them 'goons' because they did such naughty things as took photographs in the chamber,clapped and made mockery of the 'oath of allegiance
For fuck's sake!
Simon Burns, another pompous arse lectured the SNP members on how to behave in the chamber, and told them not to clap but to say 'hear,hear' or 'rubbish'.
He was horrified when they clapped him
i suppose the most disappointing aspect of that whole charade was the behaviour of Dennis Skinner.Once a powerful voice on the left now reduced to a 'national treasure' a tame parliamentarian prouder of the traditions of the House than his radical past.
There was a time when Skinner would have welcomed the young anti-austerity Scots to join him on the front bench and strengthen the voices against the establishment,against the policies of austerity,against the growing inequalities and against the slimy racialism that is seeming to pervade the political discourse.
But the old 'Beast of Bolsover' is more concerned about where he plants his arse than his principles!
And that sort of sums up the Labour Party May 2015.
The choice for leader seems to be between Andy Burnham,a former minister,Yvette Cooper another former minister and Liz Kendall,another former minister and a reincarnation of all that was wrong with the Labour Party.She is a supporter of Free Schools, defence spending,helping big business and kicking the unions.Peter Mandelson in high heels!
Of the whole sorry parade of potential leaders the only one I have any time for is Tom Watson who is running for the Deputy leadership.
But we all know what is going to happen, Burnham will win and in an effort to 'balance the ticket' some snivelling Blairite will emerge as the deputy.
Business as usual in the people's party.
Yet there is an opportunity for the first time in my lifetime for a real progressive alliance to be built inside and outside parliament to mobilise in the way that the SNP did in Scotland,to create a progressive agenda that could bring about real change.
Just think of a bloc in Westminster the SNP,Plaid,the Green party,and whar socialists are left in the Labour Party.Why it might even attract some real left leaning Liberals( I know that is unlikely given they are utterly useless,clones of Lord Adonis0 and outside parliament the trade union movement that is getting more than a little fed up,the extra parliamentary groups,Left Unity (that hopeful grouping inspired by Ken Loach's film 'Spirit of 45') and others willing to bury sectarian differences.
Remember Shelley's line:
"Rise like lions,fresh from slumber
in unvanquishable number,
We are many, they are few"
The world does not belong to the aspirational middle class-it's still ours!   

Sunday, 17 May 2015

A lot has happened since my last post

A lot has gone on since I last bothered to write my blog.It has largely been to do with the fact that I spent ten days in Northampton General hospital, my colon has become a semi-colon and I've been 'recuperating', or rather doing as little as possible and playing the wounded faun for as long as possible.
Why I've even had a chairlist installed to save me walking up and down the stairs.Sadly I've been sussed out and it goes in the next few days!
however my enforced idleness gave me a chance to think what is really important in this country of ours, and if I hear another bloody Labour politician bleat once more about the 'aspirational middle class' I will do serious damage to any aspirant labour politician that comes within my grasp,aas well as serious damage to the nearest bottle of single malt I can reach.
It seems to me that the most important example of aspirational politics was that achieved by my parents generation.
They had lived through the depression of the 1930's and all the horrors of unemployment,means tests,deprivation,poor health care and poor diet,lousy housing and premature death.They had seen poverty at first hand.
That generation also saw the rise of fascism in Europe and watched the ruling class cosy up to thefascists,why even the King who abdicated 'for the woman he loved' liked visiting Herr Hitler to be beguiled by the rhetoric of the master race.
Our parents generation more than any other had aspirations-not for big houses or fast cars or consumer goods coming out of every orifice.
They wanted jobs with security,decent housing,a pension, an education for their kids and a health service thatr worked for everyone.
They wanted a civilised for everyone, an altruistic society that had no losers.
Interestingly quite by accident the war radicalised many millions of men and women.
The ruling class had learnt one thing from WW1-that a bored and frustrated conscript army could create mischief bigtime.They were aware that armed soldiers could seriously fuck up a corrupt society.They had the lesson of Russia in 1917 and the Workers and Soldiers Soviets to remind them.
So in order to prevent boredom and disaffection setting in the barracks and the army camps they encouraged the creation of the Army Education Corps to engage the troops in 'purposeful activity.
I have no idea what they thought they were supposed to do-a bit of basket weaving,English folk dancing,pressing wild flowers?
My old man told me what went on.The tutors were frequently left wing teachers and lecturers and they initiated discussion groups with the men and women in the NAAFI, and they discussed the issues of the day.
They talked about the sort of world that they wanted after the war, they speculated on how things would be different, they examined the Beveridge Report that talked about a world without unemployment,povery,fear of want-they talked the language of aspiration and it was the language of socialism.
The L:abour party really couldn't lose in 1945.It's hard to beliecve now that there were even those in the leadership of the Labour party then who wanted to continue with the coalition with Churchill.
And there were those in the press who found it impossible to understand why soldiers threw out Churchill so decisively.
But then Churchill was part of the 'ancient regime' and the people of this country wanted hope not more of the same, they aspired  for something better,not more austerity and more poverty.
In 1945 the aspirational working class, and indeed much of the middle class wanted a comprehensive health service 'from cradle to grave' a housing programme that built decent homes for people,a public transport system and  those parts of the economy that were wealth creating in public ownership.
Whenever I think of that shopping list of aspirations I think of Brecht's poem:
"We don't want the patch,we want the whole overcoat"  
The SNP won convincingly in Scotland because they offered hope for a better future,not tinkering around the edges and a set of aspirational values for all the people-not simply the 'squeezed middle'.
I hope the next few months will see the coming together of a Progressive Alliance in these islands, the SNP,Plaid,The Greens, Left Unity and all the other progressive forces we can muster.I hope that the Trade Union movement can see where the future lies and I hope above hope that those sections of the Labour Party,who have been betrayed time without end will see for themselves what a hollowed out vessel their party has become.
For almost 40 years it was my party too,but frankly it is not fit for purpose, and any party that still contains Jim Murphy'even as tea boy,has no future.   

Sunday, 22 March 2015

What's worth defending?

As we move quite quickly into the election period it is quite depressing to see that all that seems to be on offer to the people of this country is austerity of one sort or another.
Heading the list is of course the austerity package on offer from the coalition partners.More and then even more of the same.The budget that we've just had was a dreary bit of repackaging of tired old threats with a penny or two off beer prices and a promise of one hundred quid or so in tax cuts in a year or so.
If the Tory budget was uninspiring then the alternative budget presented by the Lib-Dems to a virtual empty chamber just about summed everything up.A Mickey Mouse empty yellow box which when opened was really fully of emptiness-a fitting finale to the fall and fall of the Lib-Dems as a political force in the land.
Thwe best thing that can happen to them is decent oblivion,I hope the SNP make the dreadful Danny Alexander history!
And then came the Labour Party budget.It was once again austerity at a slower rate.The opportunity to offer a vision of a different Britain,one that has no nuclear pretensions,one that doesn't worry about cutting the paper defecit,one that isn't going to continue the reactionary education policies.
And above all a budget that promises to really help rebuild the NHS, not prattle on about economy savings and 'priorities' in health care which really means another bouts of Titanic deckchair shifting.

Our friend in the Us is facing a heart operation, he needs one,but because of the absurd private medical system it will cost him over $100,000 to have the operation he needs now.
If he waits till he's 65 Obama care will kick in and the operation will be a mere$6,000!
This is a guy who has worked hard all his life paid his taxes and been a good responsible citizen.
Not surprisingly Farage,the back of an envelope populist wants some sort of health care system like America,based on private insurance.
I'd better declare an interest at this point.I'm going into hospital in a few days for a serious operatiion.The diagnosis is a bit grim but the prognosis is good.I have a thoughtful local GP who knows what to look for and a brilliant team of nurses and spercialist consultants who have the whole adventure planned to the smallest detail.
I am confident of the quality of our NHS.
I don;t want my country to sit at the top nuclear table,swapping yarns and threatening countries with 'shock and awe'.I don't want my country to be known as the 'deputy dawgs' of world policing.
I want my country to be like wee Cuba.Not an especially well off nation (Thanks to the US boycott) but a nation that pro-rata sent more doctors and nurses to combat Ebola in West Africa.

I want to be a citizen of a country that has the highest levels of international humanitarian aid possible.
I want to be proud ,not of the number of sabres we can rattle,but the number we can turn into ploughshares.
I want to vote for a party that can offer hope,not just to the people of this country,but to the people of the world.

So who do I vote for on May 7th?

Sunday, 1 February 2015

In Greece there is hope, in Britain-yaddah yaddah!

To every socialist the events in Greece over the last few days must offer us all hope, that somehow,somewhere.sometime things can break out with the tragedy of greater inequality,the horror that is the never ending racism and the abandonment of any hope for a civilised future for mankind.
In the year of Magna Carta's anniversary I am always reminded of Tony hancock's line:
"Magna Carta, did she die in vain?"
and as a product of the Enlightenment I look around in shock and awe as the values that drove men and women to ditch superstition and ignorance for progressive values and a hopeful future.
I was reminded quite starkly when thinking about the debate about the return of Grammar Schools.I wnt to one and I find it difficult to understand the desire for an egalitarian society with the curious habit of seperating young sheep from young goats at the magical age of 11.
Yet strangely enough my school was founded by a Lloyds underwriter(not the most obviously promising start you might think) but a man who was a friend of JS Mill and an man of the enlightenment.When William Ellis founded his first school for poor boys in North London his only stipulation was that economics and geography should be taught,and no religion!
The school turned out generations of thoughtful radical thinkers, as well as a few hooligans and even the odd world class cricketer.
Tragically the best efforts of a radical  and progressive education foundered on the 1944 Education Act.I have great respect for that important and fateful education that gave universal free education to all,except for one tragic inclusion.
The silly arses in government insisted in including a clause that required all schools to have a daily act of corporate worship.
Its true in my case I avoided much of that old tosh by pretending to be Jewish and thereby with a bunch of secular Jewish lads we have an extra 20 minutes of bridge practice every day.
Others were not so fortunate and the abomination that is religious indoctrination continues.I have no objection to teaching comparative religion as part of the process of history.
But as the revealing of sacred truths-nah!
So back to Greece, the first act of the new government was to dispense with the religious oath of office entoned by a clutch of beared Orthodox priests and have a secular oath of office.
An encouraging start.Then they went on within the first few hours of rstoring the minimum wage,re-employing the cleaners at the Ministry of Finance and starting to tackle the dreadful state of impvershment that the previous governments had left that country in. unemployment at 25%,,youth unemployment at 50% and living standards cut to 60% of what things were before the bankers blew it!
Commentators have observed that Greece is in danger of sliding into third world status.Well chums, with homelessness,a health care crisis,food shortages and collapsing infrastructure I'd say they were pretty well there!
Added to that the country that is so keen to say no and impose swinging debt repayment conditions of the people of Greece(not you note the bankers of Greece) is none other that the Federal Republic of Geermany.Lucky for them wasn't it that after WW2 the western powers agreed in London that repayments were not due from Germany, after all they remembered what happened after WW1 and they felt that a Germany free from excessive debt would be a good bulwark against communism!
Lucky old Germany.
Shame the Greeks, and indeed the Greek Communists who fought a brave and determined resistanmce to the Nazi occupation ended up on the winning side.
So Syriza offers hope to the world, welcomed by the people of Spain, the people of Italy and the people of France.
Solidarity will grow and while they might get some things wrong the main thrust of the movement is a progressive anti austerity battle.One that we should all be cheering on!
Oh but are we? Of course there are some naysayers on the far left who will never be satisfied until the corpse of dear old Leon is brought back from Mexico with a few new stone tablets of eternal truth.
But as President Hollande meets with the new leadership, and even some eurocrats are thinking maybe we need to accomodate the new Greek government, what is our heroic leadership of Britain's main social democratic political party doing and saying?
Well Mr Miliband(for it is he) has pledged to continue austerity in this country regardless of what the people of Britain want and need.
On the same day that he made his important pledge to do nothing sqaued it was reported that Lod Mandelson avoided tax on £400,000 by 'borrowing' from his company(sole prop. P.Mandelson) and that other pillar of New Labour,T.Blair has taken £500,000 of public money to support him in being an ex-prime minister!
Am I surprised/ Not really after all the labour Party is a fraternal party of the dire Pasok in Greece,who wew in and out of government in Greece for the last couple of decades and are riddled with corruption,incompetence, greed and treachery towards the people of Greece.
I am remined of the old Albanian saying:
"The dogs may bark but the  caravan still goes by."

Thursday, 1 January 2015

This May I will have to vote?

This May I will have to vote, and for the first time in almost fifty years I have a problem.
When I was a student it was relatively easy, I was registered to vote in three places, In Hackney,in Whithorn and in Brighton.I could vote for Monty Goldman, the Communist candidate in London, George Thompson the SNP candidate in Scotland, or Dennis Hobden, the Labour candidate in Brighton.
It was really a no-brainer, Hobden was a left wing postman with a chance of winning Brighton kemptown for the first time.So my minuscule wee vote helped secure a Labour MP for the first time in Brighton-I really felt I had made a difference.
Since that election I have always voted Labour,sometimes even for myself.The only time I have not voted Labour was last time when I voted for Tony Clarke,and in truth he was real Labour as opposed to the ersatz vervison the Regional Labour Party foisted on the Northampton South constituency.
Incidentally after that election Mr Loakes vowed to return and fight to win once again....Mr Who?
In truth I really haven't a problem.
And if I had any doubts then the comments of Bliar convinced me- his absurd assertion that Miliband is too left wing shows very clearly the way the wind is blowing.Added to that the inane comments of the Rochdale MP who believes that Labour is too left wing, dominated by the unions and njeeds to support business(interestingly his idea of supporting business is to run a company that collapsed owing over £200,000-a good role model there!) and finally the awful knob that is Jim Murphy,the leader of Labour in Scotland.
Well with a triumvirate like that busily putting the boot into 'Red Ed' can there be any doubt where my vote will go this May?

Well for starters I cannot vote for any party that thinks the awful mess that is Afghanistan is some sort of victory.
Will Hutton wrote a very perceptive piece in the Observer:
"Britain has just suffered a humiliating defeat,the worst in more than half a century and,arguably,ranking with the worst in modern times.The truth is inescapable,we are no longer a great economic,technological or military power."  
He points out that none of the objectives that three Prime Minister and six Defence Secretaries set out to achieve.The situation is as bad, in fact probably worse than when the action started,opium harvests are at record levels, the Taliban are back in control of vast areas,the sock puppet government is corrupt and venal, and millions of pounds worth of equipment have be left,either destroyed or as gifts to the insurgents.
And after spending upwards of £40 billion the real price is 453 young men and women dead!
Nobody doubts their bravery and courage, but that they should die because of the vanity project of   a labour Prime Minister is beyond belief.
And why did it all happen/
Because Blair and Brown and Cameron and Clegg and all the rest of the jackasses-and that includes the obnoxious Farage really believed that they were 'fighting a war against terror'.
But then that was the Bush response to 9/11- a war against terrror! Now you can fight armies in the field, you may even have a little success with combatting a guerilla army(mind you the Americans came to grief in Vietnam)-but a war against terror?
It's a bit like fighting a war -oh yes,their phrase- against 'lone wolves'
If you believe that fighting in a romote desert in Southern Afghanistan will make the streets safer inNorthampton,then you must also believe in the tooth fairy and Mickey Mouse.

Of course Blair believed that losing young British lives in some way strengthened the 'special relationship' with the yanks, that showed how we could stand 'shoulder to shoulder' as brave allies.

Not quite how our brave allies saw us.
General Jack Keane, Chief of the US General Staff, speaking in 2013 at Sandhurst after the failures in Basra and Helmand:
"Gentlemen,you let us down,you let us down badly."
Further the US commander in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeill said:
"The British made a mess of things in Helmand."
Truthis there is no special relationship, all we are for the neo-cons in Washingtonm, and all we ever have been, is a floating nuclear base where, if things get hot in Europe, the first missiles will knock out the Trident base in Scotland before they reach the US of A.
As long as we have Trident mooching around the British Isles, with the command in the hands of the pentagon-we have nothing, no special relationship, no heroic alliance,nothing but a juicy target- and that is unlikely to be a missile from Afghanistan or indeed any where else for that matter.
It is just the comfort blanket for the American strategists and some really expensive toys the the military bonehead in the MoD and their political clowns in Westminster.
To add insult to injury each Trident submarine comes in at £25 billion each, and the UK is committed to two of the fucking things, not to mention one and a half aircraft carriers with no aircraft, and aircraft that will be obsolete before they enter service.
So I know who I'm voting for-the party that promises to end the absurd pretention that this small island is an important military power.
In Scotland it would be easy-I'd note SNP, and  here its also very clear-I'll vote Green unless someone in the nacent Labour party can convince me that it's really a left wing party after all and Blair is right!