Friday, 23 June 2017

Teaching Assistance, Indeed

I do not mean this question rhetorically.
 
What says my Member of Parliament, and apparently now my near neighbour, Laura Pidcock, on the latest development in the saga of Durham County Council and the Teaching Assistants?
 
On her answer depends whether or not she will be worth a vote at the next General Election, no matter how desperately one might yearn for a Corbyn Government, a yearning that is not shared by the Leadership of Durham County Council.
 
The same is true of every other Labour MP is this county, which is of course every other MP at all in this county.
 
Laura walked out of the Teaching Assistants' Solidarity Rally when their principal spokeswoman on last night's Look North, a Lanchester resident who is therefore also now a constituent of Laura's, called for a vote against every Labour candidate at what were then the forthcoming local elections.
 
Under the influence of people very close to Laura, and of one in particular, the TAs seemed to back away from that simple and brilliant strategy.
 
As a result, Labour kept control of Durham County Council and the injustice continues unrectified.
 
If Labour had lost that control, then it would have been possible to call for a Labour vote at the recent General Election, and it would be possible to call for a Labour vote at the forthcoming one.
 
But as things stood, that was possible only at Easington last time. Will it be possible anywhere else next time?
 
The Teaching Assistants will march again at the Durham Miners' Gala this year. One speaker, Steve Gillan of the Prison Officers' Association, has already assured me that he will march with them.
 
Will Jeremy Corbyn, Angela Rayner, Ken Loach and Len McCluskey, all of whom have offered strong support in the past, do likewise?
 
For that matter, will Laura Pidcock, who already seems to be getting a lot of coverage as a poster girl for the Left?

A Gulf In Thinking

It is easy to have no dog in this fight.
 
My favourite quotation of all time is the one attributed to Henry Kissenger about the Iran-Iraq War: "It's a pity that only one of them can lose." I find that line endlessly useful.
 
But as Saudi Arabia demands that Qatar close Al Jazeera, and stop funding media critical of the Saudi regime such as Middle East Eye, where are the free speech warriors of the West?

Question Time, Indeed

If Theresa May did eventually manage her deal with the DUP, then would that party be on Question Time every week, no matter where it came from? That would be very great fun to watch.
 
What is commonly called fiscal conservatism simply does not exist in Northern Ireland, where there is hardly any private sector, and where all parties exist to ensure enormous levels of public spending.
 
The dispute is over who and where gets the money, not over whether anyone or anywhere should do so in the first place.
 
The same is true of Scotland.
 
And based on John Redwood's Commons call this week for an end to austerity, with a return to investment instead, it may very well now be true everywhere.
 
It certainly will be if Northern Ireland gets an extra two billion pounds, meaning an extra three billion for Wales and an extra eight or nine billion for Scotland.
 
I very much hope that both the DUP and, as is already the case, the SNP are indeed on every Question Time panel in that event.
 
All of this will be to buy 10 votes at least one of which, and possibly three, were obtained by the efforts of the Loyalist Communities Council, which is the common voice of the Ulster Defence Association, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando.
 
The one MP who certainly owes her position to that support was also endorsed by the Ulster Political Research Group, which is "close" to the UDA.
 
A Loyalist dynast, she even departs from the usual practice in such circles and hyphenates her maiden and married surnames, so that her election literature continues to feature the highly redolent name of her gun-running father.

She has just won her seat from the SDLP by a mere 1,996 votes.

By the end of next week, she could be in the Government of the United Kingdom in all but name.

Truest and Purest?

Some of us have been trying for many years to tell you about George Carey.
 
Far from being a bastion of orthodoxy, he has spent at least the last three decades assuming his own experience to be theologically normative, and then simply working from there.
 
Thus, for example, those of us who have noticed these things have been wholly unsurprised at his support for assisted suicide, backed up in the House of Lords by a piece of pure anecdotage that he described as "theology in its truest and purest form".
 
He has always been like that. Or, at the very least, he has been like that for a very long time.
 
The wonder is that it has taken so long for his faulty approach to catch up with him.
 
In the broadest terms, there are two strands to English Christianity.
 
One, which has been predominant ever since the creation of the Church of England (to which, however, it is far from confined), is doctrinally minimalist, or at any rate capable of astonishing doctrinal compromise, in the service of social conformity and political quietism.
 
But the other, to which even the Church of England is far from immune, is politically radical as the outworking of doctrinal orthodoxy.
 
A small but important part of one of my two little projects at the moment will be the restoration of a public profile to the various expressions of that latter tradition.
 
That would at least do something to balance the rise of an American-style Religious Right among British Evangelicals.
 
That would at least do something to balance the twin influences of the Tina Beattie Tendency and the poisonous little clique around Damian Thompson, half of whom are not even as posh as they are pretending to be, and a good half of whom are nowhere near as gay, although this is the cesspit that first gave the world Milo Yiannopoulos.

And that would at least do something to balance George Carey.

Due To Prevent

In The American Conservative, the magazine founded by Pat Buchanan and Taki and to which I and several other Britons on the Corbynite Left are practically family, my friend Philip Giraldi, late of the CIA, writes:

The recent series of terrorist incidents in Europe has produced the inevitable finger pointing regarding the ability of the security services to respond and has also reopened the debate over what might be done to prevent the attacks in the first place. 

Similar discussions have been going on in the United States for some time, to include consideration of the Violent Radicalism and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 by the House of Representatives.

The bill, sponsored by then congresswoman Jane Harman, was fairly toothless, seeking to establish a national commission and study center, but it was strongly criticized for many of its assumptions and definitions, with some critics noting how it might be exploited to enable the prosecution of “thought crimes.”

It was passed in the House by a 404 to 6 vote but, fortunately, later died in the Senate.
 
More recently, congressman Peter King has held hearings on radicalization of Muslim Americans that ran intermittently for nearly two years between 2010 and 2012.

As terrorist incidents actually declined in number during that period, there was little desire on the part of Congress to initiate any draconian new legislation in response to the often conflicting “evidence” compiled by King’s House Homeland Security Committee.
 
It should surprise no one that the Europeans are much more advanced in their creation of anti-terror legislation than is the United States, if only because they have been more often on the receiving end of ideologically motivated violence.

Assuming that America might well be arriving tomorrow where Europe is today in counter-terror, it is instructive to look at one of the proactive frameworks currently in place to analyze both its effectiveness and legality.

Britain has experienced three terrorist attacks in three months. The government response has been defined by the British Counter-Terrorism and Security Act of 2015, popularly referred to by the acronym “Contest.”

Contest consists of four so-called “workstreams”:

“Pursue” to physically interdict terrorist attacks;
“Protect” to establish physical barriers against terrorist tactics and weapons;
“Prepare” to minimize the after-the-fact impact of a terror attack; and
“Prevent,” which is a highly aggressive and controversial program to prevent radicalization.
 
Prevent is the program that has received the most attention.

It relies on the so-called conveyor belt theory which postulates that someone who is either alienated or critical of the status quo will inevitably graduate to even more extreme views and eventually cross the line from nonviolence to violence.

Those who are identified as vulnerable by Prevent are sometimes entered into a government funded but privately managed counseling program referred to as “Channel,” which has worked with 8,000 mostly young Muslim men in an effort to avoid radicalization.

The problem with evaluating Prevent’s effectiveness is that it is the government doing the assessing.

It equates success with the numbers going through the program and it ignores the many critics who note that it has so alienated the Muslim community that it actually creates more new potential militants than it succeeds in deradicalizing.

The fundamental issue is that there is no actual model or profile of a terrorist that one can focus on in an effort to prevent radicalization, so the definition of who might be a threat has been continuously broadened lest anyone escape the net.

Nearly all of the recent terrorist attacks in Britain were carried out by young men born in Britain who were at least nominally Muslim, but beyond that they had very little in common in terms of education, family and social background or even religiosity.

Their belief in a violent solution to what troubled them certainly sets them apart but it is unlikely that the security services would be able to discern that in any event, so their names frequently join the 23,000 others on the British “subjects of interest” potential terrorism database.

From a policing point of view, those 23,000 are joined by thousands more names submitted by ordinary Britons as part of the Prevent program, each one of which has to be investigated and either cleared or added to the database.
 
The British security agencies have inevitably been overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of terror suspects. Surveillance of a suspect is extremely labor intensive, even when assisted by Britain’s extensive CCTV system, which covers large parts of the country’s cities and towns as well as the roads connecting them, so it is safe to assume that very few dangerous individuals are actually being watched at any given time.

This asymmetry makes the odds very much in the terrorist’s favor as he can strike anywhere with any kind of weapon while the police must try to protect everywhere.
 
Due to the public outcry over the recent attacks, the British government is currently undertaking a sweeping security review on terrorism.

It will likely expand the Prevent program in spite of uncertainty at all levels over whether it is actually working or not.

In addition to encouraging citizens to support suspicious behavior, the legislation actually compels institutions that are in any was connected to the government to actively seek out and identify those exhibiting potential terrorist sympathies.

That includes, schools, universities, libraries and any government office that deals with the public. The establishing legislation for Prevent defines early warning signs of terrorist sympathies as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”
 
A recent article in the London Review of Books entitled “Don’t go to the doctor,” explores how Prevent sometimes works in practice in an educational environment. Universities and other schools are required to aggressively seek out radicalized students.

They have to submit regular reports demonstrating that they are complying with the law to include specific information regarding individual cases and follow-up action to make sure that they are diligently seeking out radicals.

In one case cited, an instructor at Oxford, in dealing with a Muslim university student who was struggling with her course work, learned that the woman had gone to see her doctor regarding depression.

Due to Prevent, she felt obligated to ask the student whether she was being radicalized.
 
Similarly, a librarian at a major university was asked by another college to provide a professional reference for a colleague.

 One of the questions was “Are you completely satisfied that the applicant is not involved in extremism?”

Other universities in Britain have stopped allowing Muslim students to use college rooms for gatherings out of fear that the meetings will be used for radicalization.

Guest lists for many university sponsored meetings that are open to students must now be provided 48 hours prior to the event for security screening.

College authorities are allowed to search the rooms of Muslim students “on suspicion.”
 
Some might regard Prevent as a relatively innocuous but necessary measure to combat radicalization.

I do not agree as any program that focuses on a particular minority while compelling ordinary citizens to report on other ordinary citizens opens the door to many types of abuse.

In any event, the U.S. Constitution would seem to make the type of legislation that established Prevent in Britain unimaginable on this side of the Atlantic, but one should not relax too soon as this is the home of the Patriot and the Military Commissions Acts.
 
Prevent operates on the principle that individuals who are maladjusted will eventually become pathologically so if they are not counseled and convinced to abandon their wicked ways.

It neither addresses nor in any way concedes that many of the disaffected that it targets are actually angry for reasons that are at least comprehensible, including what the British government continues to do to fellow Muslims overseas, which is sometimes referred to as “blowback.”

End the bombing of Syrians and Iraqis and much of the motivation to bomb in Birmingham just might disappear.

Oddly enough, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn raised that very issue in the recent British electoral campaign, saying that terrorism was often a response to the policies that the government was carrying out in the Middle East.

His comment was largely ignored by the British media, but the Labour Party went on to win many more votes than anticipated and Corbyn nearly became Prime Minister.

Perhaps the real message on what actually causes terrorism is beginning to get through to the public.

Let us hope so.

It Is Paramount That This Is Opposed

Tom Barker writes:
 
Less than two weeks since the Blairites’ damascene conversion to Corbynism, and the knives are out again.
 
This time they are attacking Corbyn indirectly, by renewing their commitment to an institution which would act as an obstacle to the implementation of his socialist manifesto. 
 
That institution is the single market.
 
Those who claim that the majority of Labour’s new membership backed remaining in the EU so Corbyn had to follow suit fail to grasp the complex dynamics of the situation.
 
If Corbyn had put forward a socialist leave position, it would have reconstituted the party membership on different lines, possibly winning back much of UKIP’s voter base to a progressive position.
 
Many of the progressive remain voters as well, who see the EU in terms of their own feelings of internationalism, of solidarity with workers and young people in other countries, could also have been won to a socialist leave position.
 
The truth is that Corbyn was bullied and blackmailed by the Blairites into campaigning for remain.
 
He did not need to compromise on this, but he did. It was a mistake that would always come back to haunt him.
 
Nationalisation and the EU
 
The prospect of a Corbyn-led government coming to power over the course of the next year is now a distinct possibility. Socialist ideas are being popularised in a way unseen in decades.
 
But any government committed to nationalising major industries would do well to consider what membership of the single market would mean for such plans.
 
If Corbyn is elected on his manifesto, then he will quickly find that his plans to nationalise energy, rail, post, and water must be carried out in defiance of the single market, which has cuts and privatisation in every one of their directives.
 
This is why the Blairites are moving to block any kind of exit from the single market.
 
First Rail Directive
 
One particularly salient example of this is the First Rail Directive which was introduced by the EU in 1991 with the aim of creating a more efficient rail network by breaking up “national monopolies.”
 
Its effect has been to undermine the economic basis for a nationalised railway system, run for human need rather than profit, by selling off contracts to the lowest bidder.
 
This has led to spiralling customer costs, deteriorating services, and an environment hostile to workers’ rights.
 
More recently, what remained of the national rail network was been carved up for private interests through the Fourth Rail Package which, as the document details, plans “to remove the remaining barriers to the creation of a single European rail area. The proposed legislation would reform the EU’s rail sector by encouraging competition and innovation in domestic passenger markets”… whatever this means.
 
In 2013, the Rail, Maritime, and Transport (RMT) Union described the Fourth Rail Package in plain English as a “set of regulations… that aims to impose privatisation on domestic rail passenger services in every EU member state.”
They continue:
 
“Currently, on the whole, every EU state has the freedom to choose which way it wants to run its passenger rail services. These measures will remove that freedom, imposing a model of fragmentation and privatisation that has been an abject failure in the UK.”
 
Because of this package, we have already seen East Coast Rail, one of the most profitable nationalised rail lines in the country, being sold off to Virgin Trains.
 
Not to worry though, because within the EU there are supposed to be safeguards (Public Procurement regulations) that stop publicly owned industry being sold off to the lowest bidder.
 
The most recent (2014) form of these regulations state that “to prevent a ‘race to the bottom’ in outsourcing public services” contracts are awarded on the basis of social criteria such as commitments to living wages and energy efficiency.
 
And yet, as a 2016 UNISON union report explains, “the UK government… decided not to take the EU opportunity to mandate the use of social (employment) criteria and ‘price only’ still remains in the UK public procurement regime despite its detrimental effects to quality service provision and workers.”
 
The government is free to do this because of “opt-out” clauses.
 
In addition to this, the depth of the EU’s commitment to environmental issues was demonstrated last year when it was revealed that Volkswagen had fraudulently fitted eleven million diesel engines with “defeat devices” to rig pollution tests… with the full knowledge of the EU regulators!
 
This has caused nearly one million tonnes of lethal air pollution a year – equal to the UK’s combined emissions for all power stations, vehicles, agriculture and industry.
 
So much for safeguarding!
 
There are many other examples of the EU’s commitment to market liberalization, i.e. privatisation. Most recently, the privatisation of Royal Mail was carried through with the backing of EU Directive 2008/6/EC, which called for the postal sector to be fully open to competition by 31 December 2012.
 
This has already led to the, now private, 400-year-old company cutting staff and service in efforts to boost profits.
 
Socialists against the EU
 
Much of this explains why, historically, Corbyn has always maintained a principled opposition to the EU.
 
In the 1975 referendum, for instance, on Britain’s membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) – forerunner of the EU – Corbyn voted for Leave.
 
Corbyn has also taken a principled opposition to the many anti-worker amendments that have been forced through since then.
 
Corbyn voted against the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, stating that:
 
“It takes us in the opposite direction of an unelected legislative body—the Commission—and, in the case of foreign policy, a policy Commission that will be, in effect, imposing foreign policy on nation states that have fought for their own democratic accountability.”
 
More recently in 2008, Corbyn voted against the Treaty of Lisbon – an international agreement which was widely understood as providing an EU-wide legislative basis for the privatisation of public services, and facilitating attacks on the wages, conditions, and rights of workers.
 
Article 188c, for instance, helps to remove the ability of states to veto trade deals involving health and education, opening up the prospect that financial speculators could, as a right, intervene and cherry pick the most profitable aspects of health and education.
 
The Lisbon Treaty was opposed overwhelmingly by delegates at the Trade Union Congress (TUC) – the main organising body of the British trade union movement. Irish workers rejected the Treaty outright in a referendum.
 
Prior to his election as Labour Party leader, Corbyn was unequivocal in what the EU was about. In 2009, he wrote:
 
“The project has always been to create a huge free-market Europe, with ever-limiting powers for national parliaments and an increasingly powerful common foreign and security policy.”
 
Even during the 2015 Labour leadership campaign, Corbyn said he was ready to join an “out” campaign if David Cameron trades away workers’ rights, environmental protection and fails to crack down on Brussels-backed tax havens.
 
Why did Corbyn change?
 
Once he was elected leader of the Labour Party, Corbyn came under immense pressure from the right wing of the Labour Party – and from the capitalist class – to support a vote for Remain.
 
Shadow Foreign Minister Hilary Benn, before he tried to blackmail Corbyn over Syria, threatened to resign unless Corbyn buckled on the issue of the EU.
 
Those who claim that Corbyn “changed his mind” demonstrate an ostrich-like unwillingness to face up to facts. Corbyn spent his entire career opposing the EU.
 
He did not change his mind overnight. The EU did not change overnight either. If anything, it is becoming more repressive as the crisis in the Eurozone develops.
 
The slightly more reasoned argument, at least on the surface, is that Corbyn found himself leading a party machine which was overwhelmingly pro-EU.
 
According to this logic, Corbyn’s compromise on the issue of the EU was done in respect of party democracy.
 
But what this misses is that Corbyn’s election as Labour Party leader was premised precisely on a break with the politics of New Labour.
 
And, indeed, such a break has been a persistent feature of the past two years, over a wide variety of issues – from the bombing of Syria, tuition fees, to Trident.
 
Why, then, did Corbyn maintain a principled position on war – in defiance of the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party – and not on the EU?
 
In any case, what allegiance does Corbyn really owe to the Blairites, who would later stab him in the back – and the front – repeatedly?
 
Those who claim that the majority of Labour’s new membership backed remaining in the EU so Corbyn had to follow suit fail to grasp the complex dynamics of the situation.
 
If Corbyn had put forward a socialist leave position, it would have reconstituted the party membership on different lines, possibly winning back much of UKIP’s voter base to a progressive position.
 
Many of the progressive remain voters as well, who see the EU in terms of their own feelings of internationalism, of solidarity with workers and young people in other countries, could also have been won to a socialist leave position.
 
What does the public want out of Brexit?
 
For a start, it is worth pointing out that there is no appetite amongst the working class for a second referendum.
 
This is evidenced by the complete wipe-out of the Liberal Democrats, who staked everything on a hard remain position, in the General Election.
 
More than this, according to polls only a quarter of voters want a second referendum on the final deal with the EU.
 
The number who want another in-out referendum ahead of that would undoubtedly be lower!
The issue, then, is to define what sort of Brexit we want.
 
A recent opinion poll by Opinium, published in the right-wing Daily Express, asked people to rate out of ten the most important issues for them in the Brexit negotiations.
 
The highest at 8.31 was “ensuring the UK’s public services are well-funded”, followed by “ensuring jobs are available in the UK” at 8.28.
 
“Reducing the number of people immigrating to the UK scored 6.88 – so it was an issue. Nonetheless, it was 13th out of the 22 issues listed, and only one place ahead of “ensuring that EU citizens already in the UK are able to stay” on 6.78.
Clearly, the majority of the British public are not interested in punishing EU migrants. And on this issue, Labour’s manifesto was spot-on:
“A Labour government will immediately guarantee existing rights for all EU nationals living in Britain and secure reciprocal rights for UK citizens who have chosen to make their lives in EU countries. EU nationals do not just contribute to our society: they are part of our society. And they should not be used as bargaining chips.”
But the manifesto also talks of “retaining the benefits of the single market and the customs union”. If it means accepting its neoliberal rules, then this is a serious mistake.
 
Many working class communities know that – to the cost of industries such as car, steel making and shipbuilding – the capitalist single market doesn’t act in the interests of workers but the multinationals, who want to protect their profits by manufacturing in the lowest-cost economies.
 
This approach on the EU is hardly surprising given the person Corbyn appointed to negotiate Brexit, the Blairite QC Keir Starmer.
 
In fact, Starmer has written what he calls the “six tests for the Brexit deal”, one of which is that Brexit must deliver the “exact same benefits” as the single market.
 
Corbyn’s manifesto
 
Corbyn’s programme made significant gains at the General Election, leaving the Tories without an overall majority.
 
This means that, for now, the Blairites’ have resorted to more creative methods to depose their leader. (To do otherwise at present would be to risk being removed from the Labour Party altogether.)
 
But although their strategy may be different, their objective remains the same: remove Corbyn, make Labour safe for big business again.
 
They will use the single market as a tool to sabotage Corbyn’s programme.
 
It is paramount that this is opposed.
 
This means campaigning for mandatory reselection of the Blairite MPs and a Brexit in the interest of the working class.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

After The Speech, The Action

So, no ending of the Triple Lock, no means-testing of the Winter Fuel Allowance, no taking away of free school meals, no bringing back of Secondary Moderns for most people, and no repeal of the ban on foxhunting (a ban that I have never liked, but there have come to be certain principles at stake).

We did this. Never forget, fellow-voters, that we did this.

But no energy cap in the Queen's Speech, either, despite that policy's popularity.

In the coming Leadership contest, will there be a candidate committed to Theresa May's programme of workers' and consumers' representation in corporate governance, of shareholders' control over executive pay, of restrictions on pay differentials within companies, of an investment-based Industrial Strategy and infrastructure programme, of greatly increased housebuilding, of action against tax avoidance, of a ban on public contracts for tax-avoiding companies, of a cap on energy prices, of banning or greatly restricting foreign takeovers, and of a ban on unpaid internships?

Indeed, there will be. That candidate will be the man whose very presence first put those issues on the agenda at all.

That man is Jeremy Corbyn. And that contest will be the next General Election, sooner rather than later.

Lost In Space

The Queen's Speech addressed the important matter of space flights.

To give some context, I suggest that you look up the bus times to and from Lanchester in the evenings, on Sundays, and on Bank Holidays.

Or even the train times between Durham and Newcastle in the evenings.

This Government, if it can be so described, is living on another planet.

As, for that matter, is the nominally Labour majority on Durham County Council.

To Fill The Space

If the Daily Mail really wanted to annoy The Guardian, then it would give a weekly column to Jeremy Corbyn.

And why stop there? Seumas Milne and Andrew Murray are journalists.

Only this weekend, John Pilger told Neil Clark that the "liberal Right" Guardian was full of "precocious windbags". 

He did so on a programme that is ordinarily presented by George Galloway, a sometime Mail on Sunday columnist who remains an occasional contributor.

So that's six: Corbyn, Milne, Murray, Pilger, Clark and Galloway. One for every day.

Meanwhile, The Guardian will just have to make do with Owen Cohen, the little boy who wants to be Nick Cohen when he grows up, as if it were possible to do both.

In any given year of Tony Blair's Premiership, he was the most prolific freelance on Fleet Street, writing "exclusively" for every national newspaper.

There is another General Election coming up, so Corbyn and Milne need to be offering the former's byline on a weekly basis to each of The Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Daily Star, the main national stables of local and regional newspapers, The Sun and the Daily Mail again ("and twice on Saturdays," as it were), and the Mail on Sunday.

That would cover all seven days of weeks in which there is no time to be precious.

Why should those papers carry such columns? Pay them.

Get the unions, or whoever, to pay them what they would have been paying someone else to fill the space. At least.

Shy bairns get no chocolates.

Re-Housing All Round

Jeremy Corbyn says it, and it happens. Anyone would think that he were Prime Minister.

Indeed, Conservative MPs now question him in Parliament as if he were. They are facing up to the inevitable.

He, too, will have a much swankier residence in the West End before very long at all.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

To Cap It All

Those whom the fire at Grenfell Tower has rendered homeless now face being moved out of their city of London, and in some cases moved hundreds of miles away.

MPs who are rightly bemoaning this, Jeremy Corbyn voted against the benefit cap.

Did you?

Accepting The Timetable

And so it begins.

"Europe" as the excuse to remove a Prime Minister under whom civil order might break down, if it has not already done so.

How the years roll back.

Civil Contingency, Indeed

It turns out that requisitioning is perfectly legal under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004.

I'd have to check, but the Conservative Party probably voted in favour of that Act. If anyone will have voted against it, then it will have been Jeremy Corbyn.

The Conservatives have certainly had long enough to repeal it. They have never done so.

Of course, that applies to the property of people who live here full-time and pay the tax. Never mind to the property of people who don't.

DUPed No More

The day before the Queen's Speech. The day before. I ask you!

Is no deal still better than a bad deal, Prime Minister?

And you'll be shaking the Magic Money Tree all over Northern Ireland, on which its fruits will rain down as if this were September.

Monday, 19 June 2017

"A Revenge Attack"?

That's what they all say.

And does anyone seriously suggest that there is no connection, none whatever, between the perpetrator in this case, and either the 1980s Far Right that produced both Thomas Mair and several current or recent Cabinet Ministers, or the Ulster Resistance, symbiotically related to the DUP?

If I were a betting man, then I would bet on very, very, very close ties to both of them.

Meanwhile, it may be impossible to secure every mosque all the time, but how hard can it be, or how unimportant can it be considered, to secure one of Europe's largest mosques during Ramadan?

All in all, bring on the General Election.

A Purchase On Things

Compulsory purchase orders seem to be perfectly fine when the full-time homes of middle and working-class people are standing in the way of a runway, or a motorway, or HS2.

Why, then, are they not perfectly fine when properties occupied barely, if at all, by enormously wealthy people who do not ordinarily live in this country are needed to order to accommodate people whose homes have burnt down?

One Last Golden Summer

The sun is beating down, and two hundred thousand people are expected to hear Jeremy Corbyn at next month's Durham Miners' Gala, in preparation for this year's second, rather more decisive General Election.

As I approach my fortieth birthday in September, it seems that my youth has one last Golden Summer left in it after all.

It's My Baby Too


The BBC can still have its moments.

That Which Divides Us

All right, it has been over a year now, so here goes.

Jo Cox's cliché-ridden maiden speech attracted no attention at the time, and her Memorial Fund is channelling money to the White Helmets.

As Vanessa Beeley set out to the great Neil Clark on this week's Sputnik, the White Helmets are really just a trading name of the al-Nusra Front.

Is funding such an operation even legal? It certainly ought not to be.

This week's Sputnik was also notable for the greater-than-great John Pilger's brilliant description of the "liberal Right" Guardian as "precocious windbags".

Resist This

Sammy Wilson, who was then the DUP's Press Officer and who is now a DUP MP, chaired the founding rally of the Ulster Resistance.

Ian Paisley (the Elder, so to speak), Peter Robinson and Ivan Foster all spoke at that rally.

Emma Little-Pengelly, who is now the DUP MP for Belfast South, is the daughter of Noel Little of the Paris Three.

One could go on.

All in all, the two organisations are more than casually acquainted.

Would you want Sinn Féin in the Government of the United Kingdom, although it is telling that the DUP long ago stopped being bothered about having it in the Government of Northern Ireland?

If not, then you cannot stand for this, either.

Speech and Drama

Supporters of Boris Johnson ought to absent themselves from the Division on the Queen's Speech, although of course turn up for the Motion of No Confidence that would follow the Government's defeat.

Does Johnson want to be Prime Minister, or not? We never did quite find out last year. This is his second chance. And in life, there are no third chances.

Ernest In Town and Jack In The Country

LADY BRACKNELL : [Sternly]... What are your politics?
JACK: Well, I am afraid I really have none. I am a Liberal Unionist.
LADY BRACKNELL: Oh, they count as Tories. They dine with us. Or come in the evening, at any rate.

There are 13 of them in the House of Commons now, I suppose.

After the defeat of the '45, Toryism, as such, barely featured in Scotland until the split in the Liberal Party over Irish Home Rule.

At least arguably, it still doesn't, or it doesn't anymore.

The above exchange is sometimes omitted from modern productions of The Importance of Being Earnest.

It probably never ought to have been, and it certainly ought not to be so today.

The Germany Test

The death of Helmut Kohl has crystallised in my mind the concept of the Germany Test.

From Sunday trading to nuclear weapons, if Germany does perfectly well without something, then so could we.

If it is mass incineration that you want, then we have just seen it.

Had it happened a week earlier, then the Prime Minister would now be a man who makes no bones about the fact that he would never press a nuclear button (a science-fictional question that he is never asked in any grown-up country), while the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be a man who would simply refuse to pay for nuclear weapons.

As Peter Hitchens writes:

It continues to amaze me that we spent a large chunk of the Election campaign discussing the renewal of our grandiose and unusable Trident missile system, which allegedly protects us from enemies we don’t have in a war which ended 26 years ago.

And that we think we are so great and wonderful and important that we can launch wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

But we could not even protect the victims of Grenfell Tower from horrible, needless deaths that a child could have foreseen.

The Long and Winding Road

Ah, the spirit of the Swinging Sixties.

Congratulations to Her Majesty’s new Companions of Honour, Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Terence Conran, on having so successfully brought down the British Establishment.

For all its alleged left-wingery, and its ability to annoy the forces of conservatism no end, rock’n’roll was made up of common or garden proto-Thatcherites, often tax exiles.

The only exceptions were David Bowie and Eric Clapton, way out on the Far Right.

The Sixties Swingers hated with a burning passion the Labour Government of 1964 to 1970.

The pirate radio stations were their revolt against its and the BBC’s deal with the Musicians’ Union to protect the livelihoods of that union’s members.

Behind this union-busting criminality was Oliver Smedley, who was later to be a key figure behind the proto-Thatcherite Institute of Economic Affairs.

Viewers of The Boat That Rocked, now a mainstay of late night television, should consider that the Postmaster General so mercilessly ridiculed in it was in fact Tony Benn, and that the Prime Minister who legislated against pirate radio was Harold Wilson.

Those Swingers used the lowering of the voting age to put what they thought were the Selsdon Tories into office in 1970.

They then went on to entrench their own moral, social and cultural decadence and libertinism, first in the economic sphere during the 1980s, and then also in the constitutional sphere under Tony Blair. 

David Cameron accepted uncritically the whole package: moral, social, cultural, economic, and constitutional. Indeed, he embodied it.

The coming Boris Johnson accepts uncritically the whole package: moral, social, cultural, economic, and constitutional. Indeed, he embodies it.

When is this country going to wake up to what has really been happening over the last 50 years?

Of the original 17 Companions of Honour, however, five were trade union leaders, Labour politicians, or both.

A sixth was a leader of the women's suffrage movement which had not at that time attained its objective.

A seventh was soon afterwards to expand her social reforming work into Independent Liberal political activity.

Two more were Liberal Unionists, of whom, by the way, there are arguably now 13 in the House of Commons.

If the industrialist Viscount Chetwynd took the Conservative Whip, then he was the only person on the list who was in any sense politically involved with that party, and even then barely so.

The pattern was set for many decades thereafter: relatively right-wing Labour politicians by pre-Blair standards, a few downright left-wing figures, trade union leaders, upper and upper-middle-class Boadiceas of social reform, luminaries of the Australian Labor and New Zealand Labour Parties, an extremely long-serving editor of the Manchester Guardian, a prominent campaigner on behalf of the rural working class.

Peace activists were notably numerous.

The first Prime Minister of independent Papua New Guinea remains, while the first Prime Minister of independent Trinidad and Tobago was also a member.

There was even an Indian nationalist politician.

The one who had been Prime Minister of Northern Ireland had been a founder-member of the Ulster Unionist Labour Association, and had gone on to chair it.

There was a distinct preponderance of Nonconformist ministers, as well as towards Scotland and, strikingly in view of its relative smallness within the population, towards Wales.

There were brilliantly maverick clergymen, generally influenced by Tractarianism, such as the Church of England used to produce: Wilson Carlile, Dick Shepherd, Tubby Clayton, Chad Varah. 

Varah did not die until 2007, yet he is already an unimaginable figure.

There were plenty of other people, too, including lots of Tories. But the old Radical tradition was very much in evidence.

Alas, no more.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

While Ensuring That The Views

Whenever there is a social movement in this country, then it is accused of being a bunch of professional agitators and middle-class hypocrites.

That is now happening even when people complain that their homes burnt down because they had been kept unsafe in order to save tiny sums of money while ensuring that the views from the nearby luxury flats were not unduly affected.

Take Back Control

There are shades of Brexit about Theresa May's attempt to do a deal with the DUP, and about the sight of Sinn Féin in Downing Street, throwing its weight around.

The time has come to refuse to allow the composition or the programme of our Government to be determined, either by 10 members and fellow-travellers of the Ulster Resistance, or by seven members and fellow-travellers of the IRA.

The time has come to ask ourselves whether or not we still wanted to keep Northern Ireland and its utterly bizarre little polity, entirely regardless of whether or not the Republic wanted to take it.

The time has come to Take Back Control.

Prime Mover

I do not believe that Theresa May is heartless or what have you. But she is no good at being Prime Minister.

As the extremely bitter chapter on the Poll Tax in Margaret Thatcher's autobiography makes clear, she herself never believed for one second that she had been brought down by or over "Europe", as if that had been what had placed her anything up to 20 points behind Neil Kinnock in the polls.

She regarded her own removal from office as Britain's greatest ever concession to "the Far Left", and she was right.

The All-Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation made no bones about being the Militant Tendency (no friend of either Kinnock or European federalism, of course), which has justly crowed ever since that it brought her down.

Not only was and is that the view of, for example, Dave Nellist. But it was also the view of Thatcher herself, in a print bestseller, in the associated television series, and to her dying day.

"Europe", however, was the convenient excuse. As it will be again when May is removed. "She was got rid of to stop Hard Brexit," we shall all be told, and not at all because, however unwittingly, she had been on the brink of plunging urban England into riots, if they had not already happened by then, and Ireland into a many-sided civil war.

May herself will never have any of this, complaining to the end that she had been forced out to placate the Momentum shirt-wearers and the SWP placard-bearers who had organised the storming of Kensington Town Hall, and to prevent distress to the Sacred and Royal Person of Gerry Adams, who was Europe's nearest approximation to an Asian god-king, including the Pope.

All of that will be true. But the millions who have bought Thatcher's memoirs over the decades have almost always remained unaffected by the mere facts of her defenestration. How many people are even going to buy May's memoirs, still less read them, still less have their minds changed by them?

As for the prevention of Hard Brexit, for which there was never a parliamentary majority in the first place, consider that the Prime Minister who is going to be installed in order to deliver that prevention will almost certainly be Boris Johnson.

He, of course, wrote two Telegraph columns on the referendum, one for Leave and one for Remain, before making a calculation in terms of his own advancement as to which he was going to file. His beautiful assistant, and clearly intended successor, is to be Michael Gove, whose decision to back Leave has left everyone else entirely bewildered from the moment that he made it.

Still, they will deliver a few of the essentially Corbynite goods on Grenfell Tower and on the wider issues of housing and the fire service, despite Johnson's very weak record when he was Mayor of London, and they will not go into any kind of coalition with the DUP.

Just as the Major Government got rid of the Poll Tax, implementing a watered down version of the Labour policy instead (it remains in place to this day), while changing nothing of the substance, rather than the rhetoric, of Thatcher's European policy, completing her Single European Act by signing what everything in her record made obvious would have been her Maastricht Treaty.

Think on.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Known Unknowns

Yes, there needs to be a Coroner's Inquest, and not only a public inquiry, into Grenfell Tower.

There has never been an Inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly, either.

Let's have them both.

And remember, we need Trident to keep us safe. We don't need sprinklers. But we do need Trident. Remember that.

The Kohl Face No More

I know that it was wrong, but my first reaction was, "You mean that Helmut Kohl was still alive?"

Worse Than Weak, Worse Than Wobbly

The persistence in office of this Prime Minister is now practically guaranteed to bring riots to London, even to the very West End, and all out war to Northern Ireland.

Away with her.

This is nothing new or foreign. It last happened in Britain as recently as 1990.

Read the extremely bitter chapter on the Poll Tax in Margaret Thatcher's memoirs.

She knew who had really brought her down, and it was not Geoffrey Howe.

Theresa May: The Beginning of The End

In the morning, she was openly mocked by the Queen.

Yes, the Queen.

And in the afternoon, we have the storming, now followed by the siege, of Kensington Town Hall.

Yes, Kensington.

This is all very "Crown and People against the Whig oligarchs". Look it up.

More That Unites Us

Thomas Mair, the murderer of Jo Cox one year ago today, described himself to the Police as “a political activist”, and so he was.

No Irish Republican organisation has murdered a Member of Parliament in the present century or in the preceding decade, and the people responsible are now such pillars of the British Establishment that they are entertained at Windsor Castle. No Islamist or Leftist organisation has ever murdered a Member of Parliament. But the Far Right has done so, only last year.

Although a “strong supporter” of Israel did attempt to murder George Galloway while he was the MP for Bradford West. These days, though, that constitutes part of the Far Right. Give that a moment to sink in.

National Fronts come and BNPs go, EDLs come and Britain Firsts go, but certain institutional and organisational manifestations of the Far Right are perennial, hitherto even permanent. Mair’s is the Springbok Club, which is run by the people who also run the London Swinton Circle. And that, in turn, was addressed by Liam Fox (born 1961) and by Owen Paterson (born 1956) as recently as 2014.

Ah, those old 1980s Tory Boys, in their Hang Mandela T-shirts and all the rest of it. Wherever did they all end up?

In the Thatcher and, to a lesser extent, Major years, there were Ministers who were members of the Western Goals Institute or the Monday Club. Those crossed over, via such things as the League of Saint George, to overt neo-Nazism on the Continent, to the Ku Klux Klan, to apartheid South Africa, to Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, to the juntas of Latin America, to Marcos and Suharto, to the Duvaliers, and so on.

Nick Griffin’s father, Edgar, was a Vice-President of Iain Duncan Smith’s Leadership Campaign. He answered what was listed as one of its official telephone numbers (in his house) with the words “British National Party”.

The days of treating even support for the NHS as Loony Leftism, while maintaining no right flank whatever on the officially designated political mainstream, are well and truly over. The dominoes have already started to fall. Some highly prominent people in what incredibly still thinks that it is now this country’s perpetual party of government need to be very, very, very afraid.

Send Her To The Tower

The Queen has managed to visit the former residents of Grenfell Tower.

So her Prime Minister's claims about security were clearly baseless.

Theresa May has got to go. Taking Boris Johnson, Nick Hurd and Gavin Barwell with her.

Where is her party? Or has it lost its touch?

Caught Red Handed

Tim Farron gained seats, but he's still gone. Theresa May lost seats. She'll be gone, even from being gone. 

Farron is no martyr. He does himself no credit by pretending to be one. It is simply that, with people like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Jo Swinson back in Parliament, he was no longer needed.

For good or ill, those are all former Ministers, two of them at Cabinet level. They just needed Farron out of the way. And now, they have got him out of the way, even though he did quite well at the General Election. They have an efficiency of which the likes of Yvette Cooper cannot even dream.

But then, we already knew that. The Lib Dems knifed the far more impressive Charles Kennedy (a totally pro-life Catholic, by the way), and they would have had no difficulty knifing Farron. Indeed, they did have no difficulty knifing Farron.

Remember that his views would have disqualified him from even contesting the Leadership of the Conservative Party, still less winning it.

And so to the DUP.

The problem with the DUP is not that its MPs hold the same views on abortion and on same-sex marriage as at least one MP who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for Leader, as at least one Campaign Group MP who stood down in 2010 having been John McDonnell's campaign manager, and as at least one active Corbyn supporter who has recently returned to his previous role as a stalwart of the Labour Left in the House of Commons.

No, the problem is the Ulster Resistance, which has never disbanded, with at least seven brigades or divisions still active in Northern Ireland, with at least one support brigade still active in Britain, and with the daughter of one of the Paris Three now the MP for Belfast South.

The story of the Paris Three has it all where the Far Right of yesteryear is concerned. Some of the detritus of all of that is now in Cabinet, in one case ostentatiously reappointed to it. Some holds the balance of power. And some committed, one year ago today, the only murder of a sitting MP in the present century.

More profoundly, the problem is a part of the United Kingdom that can give 10 parliamentary seats to an outfit such as that, and seven of its remaining eight seats to Sinn Féin.

If they persisted in such voting habits in what is now the age of hung Parliaments as the norm, then the people of Northern Ireland would need to be confronted with the question, entirely regardless of whether or not the Republic would take them, of how much longer they expected the voters of Great Britain to keep them on.

Self-determination is a two-way street.

Under Scrutiny Again, Indeed

No, Tim Farron.
 
Arguably any religion, and certainly Christianity, is not, and can never be, "a private matter".
 
On that principle, there would never have been a Liberal Party.
 
Note that Theresa May simply answered "No" to the question on which Farron repeatedly um-ed and ah-ed.
 
The Conservatives now describe same-sex marriage as their own proudest achievement. What, ever? Quite possibly, yes.
 
The Lib Dems made Farron Leader despite knowing his views and his record. It was the media that made a fuss, until eventually his party also felt compelled to do so.
 
The Conservatives, by contrast, would never have permitted such a Leader in the first place.

It is in fact a perfectly accurate answer that we are called to concentrate on our own sins, not on other people's.

And have you ever heard a sermon on homosexuality? I mean, ever? I haven't. Yet you would think that it was all that we ever thought about.

Automatic For The People?

The cladding used on Grenfell Tower cannot legally be bought or sold in the United States.
 
Where you can buy an automatic machine gun in a supermarket.
 
Think on.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Speech Impaired

At the present rate, the Queen's Speech will have to be the King's Speech. And that King will be George VII.

Remember when they said that if Jeremy Corbyn became Prime Minister, then Gerry Adams would be in Downing Street, telling him what to do?

Well, Gerry Adams was in Downing Street this afternoon, telling the Prime Minister what to do.

Nice of him to slum it, I suppose. Sinn Féin royalty normally prefer British royalty to mere politicians, and British royalty cheerfully return the compliment.

At the same time, Corbyn was at Grenfell Tower, meeting the survivors whom Theresa May had refused to meet.

Oh, and Conservative Campaign Headquarters is letting it be known that it is preparing for a second General Election.

Corpus Christi

Do many Catholics still believe in transubstantiation? Well, if such things were ever taught in Catholic schools, then more of them might.

But anyway, so what? What matters is that the Church teaches it. Catholics who dissent from the Teaching of the Church are just wrong, objectively speaking. That is all that there is to it.

Only the Catholic Church provides such objectivity, which is perfectly encapsulated in transubstantiation.

It was only from Christianity in general, and from Catholicism in particular, that science acquired the idea that some propositions were just plain true, so that others were just plain false.

And it was only from Christianity in general, and from Catholicism in particular, that science acquired the idea that there was an investigable order in the universe; even if that order is a law of chaos, then the point still stands.

Faced with a changed intellectual environment which denies those foundations rather than simply presupposing them, science must return to the system that first asserted them in the midst of a former such environment.

That system is Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular.

Thus, for example, while and by affirming the objective existence of the substance distinct from the accidents, transubstantiation also affirms the objective existence of the accidents, which are the objects of scientific investigation.

Transubstantiation is the bulwark against the Postmodern assault on science. Nothing else is.

Therfore, come one, come all, to what promises to be an excellent Day of Recollection with Fr Tom McHale at St Joseph's, Gateshead on Saturday 1st July, organised by the wonderful Association of the Eucharist.

Beginning at 10 o'clock in the morning, there will be talks by the priest, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Confession, and Mass. No charge. No need to book, or anything like that. All welcome. Bring a packed lunch.

Changing The Systems

Selling anything to Saudi Arabia or Qatar is effectively giving it to al-Qaeda and IS.

BAE Systems should be renationalised, as the monopoly supplier to the British Armed Forces and to nobody else, with a total ban on the sale of arms abroad.

As with, say, Trident, skills are transferable, and ensuring that they are transferred is no small part of why we have a State.

Burning Issues

Ah, Nick Hurd.

Eton and the Bullingdon Club. Son of Douglas Hurd. Son-in-law of Michael Ancram. So, where did he get that accent?

Oh, and he was one of at least 71 landlord Conservative MPs who voted against an amendment to require that rental properties be "fit for human habitation".

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a landlord. But there sure as hell is with this.

The Left should have moved into housing years ago. As with education, why do we waste our energy on polishing the jewels in the crown of the municipal Labour Right?

Something very similar applies to broadcasting. We do we waste our energy on polishing the jewel in the crown of the metropolitan Liberal Establishment?

Not that we do, of course. As with the EU, we saw, and we vociferously articulated, the problem with the BBC long before anyone else did.

But no one listens until the Tories say something. That was why no one listened to Pilgrim Tucker and the Grenfell Action Group.

Well, they are going to have to listen now.

The Left should have moved into broadcasting years ago.

It needs to bypass the metropolitan Liberal Establishment in order to make the alliances necessary to ensure a voice in the new structures of Sky and of the Channel Four Television Corporation.

(Rupert Murdoch already owns talkRADIO, to which The Mother of All Talk Shows will return at seven o'clock tomorrow evening. I for one will see anything special about the BBC when it broadcasts anything like that, or like Sputnik, or like Going Underground.)

The Left should have moved into broadcasting years ago.

It needs to bypass the municipal Labour Right in order to make the alliances necessary to ensure a voice in the structures of the Academies programme.

It also needs to continue to cultivate ties to the public schools, which host its leading figures on a very regular basis, in the starkest possible contrast to the state sector.

And the Left should have moved into housing years ago.

Over, if I may, to Pilgrim Tucker and the Grenfell Action Group.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Bachelor Uncle's Day

When is it?

Be warned, we have rather more refined tastes.

The Teaching Assistants At The Durham Miners' Gala

Once again, meet in Durham Marketplace at eight o'clock that morning, Saturday 8th July.

At 5:30 the previous evening, at Redhills, Ken Loach will deliver the Inaugural Davey Hopper Memorial Lecture. Not to be missed.

Linen In Public

Alas, unlike this, the print edition of the Northern Echo does not give the world the opportunity to marvel at my beautiful linen suit.

That is a pity, not least because it had given the world the opportunity to marvel at my beautiful pinstriped suit.


The extreme weakness of the prosecution's case against me was evident yesterday, and its lack of preparation was disrespectful to all concerned, including one of the investigating Police Officers, who was present in the public gallery. 

Indeed, the judge was highly annoyed that the correct material had not been uploaded. "This is the Crown Court," he reprimanded counsel, one Louise Harrison.

The Crown Prosecution Service has no case against me unless and until it produces the alleged fingerprint evidence, but yesterday it failed to do so three months, to the day, after I had first been arrested and fingerprinted.

Among those who attended to support me was the Labour Movement legend, Davey Ayre.

No one in the wider Labour Movement regards the ruling Group on Durham County Council as anything other than the Coal Board and the pit owners of the present age.

The Councillors think that they are the miners. But the miners certainly don't, and nor does anyone else. Including Brother Ayre.

I am starting to think, not only that a Solidarity March and Rally really could be held on the first day of my trial, Wednesday 6th December (yes, December!), but that the Police might participate in it.

They certainly ought to do so. In its incompetence, the CPS has treated their work with contempt.

Towering Questions

About housing.

About the blocking of attempts to improve it.

About the warnings that the landlord had already had, but had got away with ignoring.

About his decision to spend £10 million on cladding the building in such a way as not to give offence to the residents of the nearby luxury flats, when that cladding was highly flammable, and when a mere £300,000 would have bought a sprinkler system instead.

About cuts to the emergency services, especially the fire service.

About the record of Boris Johnson on that issue when he was Mayor of London.

And about the very recent record of Gavin Barwell when he was Housing Minister.

Even More Messily Absurd

"Professional tweeter Donald Trump, with nudges from his retinue of advisers, is once again proving himself a crass amateur when it comes to international diplomacy.

"Two weeks ago he visited Saudi Arabia to do a sword dance with Saudi royalty, enjoy a confab with other Gulf monarchs, and, according to Trump himself, sort out Islamist terrorism.

"And, incredibly, thanks to Trump’s intervention, an already chaotic situation in the Middle East, in which local disputes are almost always simultaneously international conflicts by proxy, has become even more messily absurd, as two US allies, both of whom host the US airforce, are now being pitched into battle against each other."

Tim Black sets out how Trump is tearing apart the Middle East

Liars Lying About Nearly Everything

My friend Philip Giraldi is a very great man.

Goodbye, And Good Riddance, To Centrism

"If those of us in the media spent less time lecturing about the wisdom of the status quo, and more time treating disaffected voters like the overwhelming majority they are, we might at least stop face-planting on our election predictions. We're not the center anymore, and we have to stop acting like we ever were," explains Matt Taibbi.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Spot The Deliberate Mistake

An editorial on press freedom has been published jointly by The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph.

Running From The Right, Indeed

As far as the Conservatives are concerned, they have already run from the Right, as the Americans say, once  this year.

It cost them their overall majority.

Nothing like, for example, grammar schools, or means testing the Winter Fuel Allowance, is going to be in this Queen's Speech, even were such a thing ever to arrive.

Or indeed in any Queen's Speech, ever.

What matters now is keeping the DUP onside economically, keeping Ruth Davidson onside both economically and socially, and taking the Conservative Party out of the danger zone that is being a less than two and a half points behind Jeremy Corbyn's Labour.

It would take well under a million switched votes to make Corbyn Prime Minister, and the Lib Dems alone took well over nine hundred thousand last week.

Forget about grammar schools. Forget about austerity, very much. The Conservatives are back to their default option as the means whereby ideologically uncommitted public schoolboys wield power by lavishing money on the elderly.

Except that now, Boris Johnson or whoever is also going to have to lavish money on the young, or at least on students, since they have taken to voting in enormous and decisive numbers.

Then there are farmers of Scotland, the middle classes of suburban and rural Scotland, the farmers of Northern Ireland, and the Protestant working class of Northern Ireland, all with their hands held out for sweeties that, since they are going to get them, lots of other people are also going to want.

The difference is that the Left actually understands, and indeed writes, this kind of economic policy. The Bullingdon Club does not.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Union City Blue?

We may be living in the last days of the United Kingdom.

No one has ever asked the huge, and still growing, population of England whether it wanted its only electoral options to be "such Tory Government as the DUP might let you have" and "such Labour Government as the SNP might let you have".

The only solution is the election of a majority Labour Government later this year or early next year. A Labour vote in every constituency. No exceptions. No excuses. There is a time and a place to be precious. This is neither.

In the meantime, a Leader from the Right is not the Conservative Party's answer to having been brought within two and a half points of defeat at the hands of Jeremy Corbyn. Economically, it is not the way to keep the DUP onside. In any area, it is not the way to keep Ruth Davidson onside.

Boris Johnson, meanwhile, is never the answer to anything.

Plea and Trial, Indeed

"The purpose of tomorrow’s hearing is a for a Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing, it is an opportunity for us as the Defence to enter a Not Guilty Plea and set a timetable for the upcoming trial, it is purely administrative."

And so it drags on, after the local elections and the General Election alike have been and gone. Does the phrase "You've made your point" mean nothing to anyone anymore?

Saturday, 10 June 2017

General Election Roundup

I told you that there would be a hung Parliament.

Nicola Sturgeon has some nerve, calling for Theresa May to resign because she had taken her party from a hung Parliament to a minority government. Sturgeon took her own party from a hung Parliament to a minority government. I said then that she ought to resign. And I say now that May ought to resign.

So much for "the ruthless Tories". If that were true, then May would have been removed yesterday morning. If they have any sense, then they will put in David Davis, who is mildly anti-war, and who is a good civil libertarian who fought and won a court case on those issues alongside Tom Watson. He is also a friend of George Galloway's.

If there is another General Election this year, then vote Labour in every constituency in Great Britain. No exceptions. None. We could sort out any difficulties once we had won.

Labour has just won Kensington, the wealthiest constituency in the country. Anything is now possible. Anything. Those who say that Labour's policies were more popular than Jeremy Corbyn was, they were Labour's policies only because Corbyn was Labour's Leader. Both the policies and the Leader have clearly gone down well in Kensington.

The attack line about murky connections to Northern Ireland 30 years ago has been blown out of the water by the fact that Theresa May now intends, not in the 1980s but today, to be sustained in office by a party from over there which has its own history of paramilitarism, and which has a large financial scandal still hanging over it.

Now, the DUP has its moments. Its votes helped to stop David Cameron from intervening in Syria. It is economically populist, favouring investment in infrastructure, as well as the retention of the Triple Lock on pensions. But even so. The facts are the facts.

Craig Mackinlay has been re-elected. Although I would not have voted for him, I am quite pleased about that. As for Nigel Farage, he can no longer use the line that he has changed politics forever. If the seven times failed parliamentary candidate came back, then it would have to be on the grounds that Brexit was in mortal danger. Well, which is it, then?

Every good wish to Laura Pidcock now that she is the Member of Parliament for North West Durham. At 29, she clearly intends to stay for 35 or 40 years, The never-consulted Constituency Labour Party is already on manoeuvres. How do I know that? How do you think?

She really does need to move here, having made such a fuss of the unnecessary claim that she already did. And she needs to become known at Westminster for the right reasons, not the wrong ones. No one wants a Geordie Jess Phillips. (Yes, of course I know that neither she nor her constituents are Geordies. But Private Eye or the Fleet Street sketch writers will not know that.)

With Laura installed, there is literally no remaining reason for the County Durham Labour machine's continuing persecution of me. It ought to withdraw its action forthwith. Indeed, it ought already to have done so by now. Its failure to do so has no motivation beyond malice and spite.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Fit To Print

Ladies, if I may be so bold, today is the 104th anniversary of the death of Emily Wilding Davison.

She had thrown herself in front of the King's horse at the Derby four days before, in a protest demanding that women be given the vote.

I doubt that I shall ever quite forgive the Labour Party for having made it impossible for me to vote for it today.

In most cases, everywhere outside County Durham (other than Easington) and outside Manchester Gorton, you should vote Labour. But I can't. And it hurts.

This time tomorrow, either Laura Pidcock will be the MP for North West Durham, or Laura Pidcock will not be the MP for North West Durham.

Either way, there will be no remaining reason to persecute me, and I trust that the astonishingly ongoing attempt to do so will finally be dropped.

Anything else would be too malicious and vindictive for words.

Two months ago, I had never voted for a Lib Dem candidate for anything. Lib Dems are surprisingly thin on the ground in Lanchester.

But I have now voted Lib Dem twice.

For Lanchester Parish Council, where no party ever runs a full slate and I trust that none ever will, I cast my 15 votes variously for Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Independent candidates, and for those of No Description.

12 of my 15 preferred candidates were elected, from the first four of those categories.

That was not a one off, although the Lib Dems had not put up here in the past. I have no need to be too tribal about politics, since my own position is so obvious.

My parliamentary staff in 2020 would have comprised, and my parliamentary staff in 2022 will comprise, a broadly ecumenical spread.

Of course, overarching and undergirding my many causes is that of bringing together the many critiques of neoliberal economic policy and of neoconservative foreign policy.

If anyone elected today fancied having me on the staff in order to pursue some or all of the many research options in that link, then do please get in touch.

Bottom of the pay scale, of course. That would do me so long as I could carry on living here.

Don't worry about anything that might still be hanging over me. Has a parliamentary pass ever been refused to anyone, anyone at all, who had ever been nominated for one by a Member of Parliament from Northern Ireland?

Those projects, and many others besides.

My work to secure the translation into English, and the publication in this country, of Operation Israel, which is my friend Hernán Dobry's definitive account of Israel's arming of Argentina during the Falklands War.

My work for the Dorje Shugden practitioners, who are persecuted by the Dalai Lama.

My work on Modern Monetary Theory, my discovery of which ranks in my life as a light bulb moment second, although strictly second, to my discovery of Thomism.

And so on.

In the meantime, if the print media are dead, then someone needs to tell George Osborne, and someone needs to tell the authors of this morning's front pages.

The Sun's was an important reminder that that newspaper's almost entirely public school staff are in fact engaged in a joke on their readers.

But the reason why alternatives have never come to anything has been because of a failure to appreciate that the sport and the showbiz are what hook those readers.

Having bought the paper for those stories, they then read the politics as well.

It's obvious, but this point is lost on an awful lot of people.

It is not, however, lost on me. Watch this space.

In fact, don't just watch this space. Especially if you are looking for an investment opportunity, then do please get in touch.