Friday, 16 October 2009

Back to the Labour Future

Under the guise of “Labour Future” New Labour’s right wing have issued a series of policy pamphlets to, in their words, “counter the impression that Labour is intellectually exhausted”. 

To be fair the initiative at least frames itself in the context of the challenge of Climate Change. Nevertheless if you were to draw up a radical agenda for saving Labour from years in the wilderness, would you really start here? 

Some thoughts on the key points drawn from the published documents (yes god help me I did read them)… 

Sensible and responsible banking structures and a strong role for mutuals. 
(Ok, not sure what this means, attack tax havens? Regulate exec pay, intervene to support mutuals in the market place? Give the FSA some balls? Stop ex bankers running the FSA like a club? Ban MP’s from bank exec boards? Put union reps on bank exec boards- where is the meat?) 

All- ethnic minority short lists for MP selection 
(Ok, but as the women only short list proves, unless you allow more party democracy and grassroots input into selection procedures you will get more loyalist robots) 

Constitutional definition of the basic social rights to which the citizen is entitled, and a means of enforcing them. 
(So no new rights then?) 

The NHS has to be empowered with data and willingness to penalise poor performance in hospitals and primary care 
(So more market discipline then?) 

Scrap Trident and some investment in the London airports 
(Ok, now were cooking!) 

Far less rigid approach to public spending is required, including fixing public sector pay and pensions 
(Daw…By fixing you presumably mean cutting?) 

State organisations should be given more independence. Each one should have a tight rolling three-year budget without constant changes of funding formulae
(More privatization by stealth) 

Performance incentives of public sector employees 
(Screw over the public sector ethos and introduce performance related pay, because we are all selfish individuals after all- favour bullying managers and the young, screw the tired mothers, older workers, bereaved or sick) 

Creating a fair system of prisons and probation 
(What does that mean?) 

Fixed-term parliaments 
(Ok , not that exciting tho) 

Finishing reform of the Lords 
(So more unelected union busters running the government then?) 

Restoring the balance between national and local government. 
(Unclear on how?) 

Offer a zero VAT rate on all domestic insulation and energy-efficient products. 
(About time!) 

Provide some financial support for schemes to make homes more energy-efficient. 
(Already happening, or was then wasn’t, are you paying attention? This is not new thinking ) 

Cut VAT to 5 per cent for all repair and maintenance work on homes. 

Rechannelling funds from the child tax credits and childcare tax credits system would take us away from complex state bureaucracies toward easily understood universal entitlements. 
(Not sure I understand, universal benefits or targeted benefits, which and how?) 

Long-term shift of spending to the Army (and ground support) from strategic nuclear defence and the Navy and Air Force
(More economic conscription for unwinnable wars) 

Europe as a positive, win-win situation for both British and progressive politics
(So in fact less democracy, support Euro trade block presided over by President Blair) 

Marks?... 3/10

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Butt out Stelzer!

Does Tony Blair have any friends left beyond his immediate 1997 dinner party circle? Surely the recent press forays of Napoleonic heart throb Silvio Berlusconi and free market grandee Irwin Stelzer , both seeking to make the case for Blair’s appointment as EU president, shows how toxic Blair has become. He can only be praying the old friend Simian Bush Jnr stays the hell out of the media.

Stelzer sets out his case for Blair in today’s Guardian . He thinks Blair is great because 1) He got elected 2) He got rid of Saddam 3) He doesn’t like Trade unions 4) He is not embarrassed to use his public office to make lots of money. Well gee, Irwin, who is you audience here?

Stelzer is widely thought of as Ruper Murdock’s representative on earth. As for muscular and tanned Silvio, well he told the Italian press that "My government and I will work to ensure we do not lose a great political legacy, made with courage, equilibrium and prudence without uncertainty."

The Iraq War? Equilibrium and Prudence? The man is a shitwicket!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Meanwhile in Africa...

Campaign groups are trying to raise the profile of recent events in the Democratic Republic of Congo where a United Nation’s backed offensive in the eastern part of the county is having disasterous consequences. A report by the Congo Advocacy Commission suggests that one civilian has been killed, seven women raped and nine hundred people displaced for every rebel FDLR (Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) soldier disarmed by current UN offensive.

Between 1998 and 2003 as many as 5.2 million civilians have died in the Congo, making this conflict the bloodiest since the second world war.

The US is heavily involved in funding and training the Congolese army.

British companies previously implicated in exploiting the conflict include Afrimex.

Woking Labour MP Gillian Merron stated on behalf of Her Majesties Government in January 2009 that:

“We fully support the mandate of the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), which was renewed by UN Security Council resolution 1856 (2008) on 22 December 2008”.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

“Getting to know Gove, Getting to know all about Gove”

Michael Gove on Muslim countries and democracy:

But why is it that so many countries with a majority Muslim population are not fully functioning democracies? Or, if they do have elections, as do Iran or Egypt, they have poor human rights records.”

Maybe, Michael, it has something to do with two thirds of the world’s oil being located in the Middle East and us having some historical input on this matter? As for Indonesia, pick up a bloody history book why don’t you.

Wonderful review of Goves re-heated Neo-Con rant Celcius 7/7 here:

Gove’s book is a confused epic of simplistic incomprehension, riddled with more factual errors and misconceptions than any other text I have come across in two decades of reviewing books on this subject.” William Dalrymple

Remember this man is our future Education minister!

Monday, 12 October 2009

What is fascism?

What is fascism? Well you could reduce it to something like “an attempt to build a mass movement in order to smash all forms of collective democratic organisation and establish a strong centralized capitalist nation state under a strong leader”. The word fascism comes from the name for a bunch of rods, ribbon and axe that symbolized the collective strength of Etruscan kings. I think the aspect of this that turned on the first self declared Fascists, like Mussolini, was the symbol of the axe which was supposed to represent the right of kings to exercise the death penalty in judicial matters. Strong competent leadership will sort us out, say the fascists, and mix in some opportunist racism to mobilise people onto the streets.

Clearly British attempts to identify a strong competent leader have so far evaded the UK Neo-fascist movement. Tyndall and Griffin of the BNP have not commanded high levels of respect amongst people with any smarts. That said the British far right have managed to fan the flames of hatred against vulnerable minorities and have to be taken seriously at this level. What the far right does matters because real people are and will continue to suffer if the fascists are allowed to grow. The question you should ask yourself is “exactly how big do I want the fascist movement to get before I do something about it?”.

UK fascists have recently attempted to go down the Le Pen route to respectability with limited electoral success (2 MEPS, some councilors). The tactic - wear suits, make occasional veiled references to holocaust and violence etc. There is however a limit to the utility of town hall ‘hang em and flog em’ politics when attempting to construct a fascist movement (as opposed to say achieving a lumpen rightwing vote against perceived problems with immigration). To build a movement you need foot soldiers, and to motivate them you need to find a way of binding them together.

Hitler said that whilst the ordinary fascist sympathizer was ‘only a little worm’ he could be made to feel part of a ‘great dragon’ if the party supplied a chance to march up and down with bright banners and give supporters a feeling that they control the streets. The Hitlerites in the BNP leadership are still conflicted over how to implement this part of “the leaders” blueprint.

Apparently some members have decided to go down the traditional route and attempt street marches against Islam, organized by front organisations like the English Defence League. The left needs to be clear what is at stake with these marches. If they are left unopposed then we face a return to the mid-late seventies when racist culture was part of the mainstream. Allowing the fascists to march unopposed, to poster and sticker unopposed, to sell their racist newspapers unopposed, will allow then to seep into the mainstream and give confidence to every closet racist to be more open about his or her prejudices. It will make taking on the institutionalized racism in society much harder. The mobalisations of Unite Against Fascism, trade union and community bodies against the EDF are to be welcomed and supported. It may get slightly worse before it gets better, but best that we all bury our differences and unite now against the fascists whilst they are small and internally divided.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

All aboard the death spiral

David Blanchflower, “respected economist” and former member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee, has laid into Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne’s financial plans. Apparently the Tory plans will push the UK economy into a "death spiral".

"We are in the midst of the worst recession most people alive have ever experienced, or will probably ever experience, Lesson one in a deep recession is you don't cut public spending until you are into the boom phase. The consequence of cutting too soon is to drive the economy into a depression. The Tory economic proposals have the potential to push the British economy into a death spiral of decline."

May work on the doorstep.

“Yes, I particularly liked you manifesto commitment to the death spiral”

On the other hand, could get the Goth vote.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Get to know Gove (and friends)

David Cameron at the Conservative Party Conference claimed that ‘we are all in this together’ talking about the need for swinging public service cuts. Well hats off to the shadow cabinet for not being caught out over MP’s expenses. They made their pile the old fashioned way….

Shadow cabinet's second jobs: Their hourly rate (The minimum wage is £5.73)

£1,153: Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove earned £5,000 a month – or £60,000 a year – for "one hour a week or so" of journalism for The Times.

£764: Francis Maude, shadow Cabinet Office minister, earned £36,700 a year from Barclays Bank for six days a year of work, including overseas meetings.

£187.50: David Willetts was paid £60,000 a year for 40 days' work as an adviser on pensions for Punter Southall in London's Jermyn Street.

£145: Oliver Letwin worked eight hours a week giving corporate finance advice to investment bank NM Rothschild, earning £145 an hour, or just over £60,000 per annum.

£395: Shadow Business Secretary Ken Clarke was paid £38,000 as a non-executive director of Independent News and Media, owner of The Independent. He worked about one day a month.

£346: Andrew Mitchell, shadow International Development Secretary, was paid £36,000 a year for one to two hours a week of consultancy work with Accenture.

£260: Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley was paid £25,000 a year as a non-executive director for Profero, working one day a month.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Why support the Post Workers?

It will never be profitable to deliver hospital results to elderly pensioners in tower blocks. It will never be profitable to deliver the holiday post card to your auntie from the Isle of Skye. The protection of such an important social and universal post service requires cross subsidizing from more profitable forms of mail between big urban centres.

The tragedy of the New Labour years has been the undermining of this previously loved and respected service by the half baked introduction of the market, the failure to invest in appropriate infrastructure and the ludicrous public subsidising of private delivery firms.

It is a bare arsed fact that the only institution standing between us and yet another full, disastrous and costly public service privatisation is the post workers union (The Communication Workers Union). New Labour have hoped that, by appointing multi millionaire super executives Alan Crozier and Adam Leighton, shear bloody minded intimidation, belligerence and the occasional bung might soften up the post office for privatisation. The result has been to develop one of worst cultures of management bullying in any industry in the UK. Little wonder that post workers have just voted for industrial action (76% yes vote on 67 percent turnout).

This strike is not about the impact of the internet, or Spanish practices, or modernisation. It is about the ability of collective action to defend a social good. It is about illusions of market choice obscuring the reality of reduced service and greater cost. It is about the role of unions in our society and whether the political agenda is to be shaped by working people like you and me or yacht hopping, multi millionaire smoozing free marketeers like Lord Peter (unelected) Mandleson and George (related to George III) Osbourne.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Calling progressive bloggers

In the spirit of co-operation called for by this post at Socialist Unity, I am more than happy to link to any progressive blogs that are prepared to display the People's Charter logo. Just put your link in the comments box.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

IDF general to boycott beauty products

The Israeli Army (Israeli Defence Force) is having a conscription crisis. Large numbers of young Israelis are finding ways to avoid compulsory armed service.  Usually by citing religious objections, however a recent high profile case involves a successful model Bar Rafaeli, who chose to arrange a marriage of convenience and take up an advertising contract rather than serve.

Bizarrely Bar Rafaeli originally agreed to compensate for this by promoting conscription and visiting injured soldiers. As the stupidity of such a compromise has sunk in her attitude has hardened and she has publicly condemned conscription as futile waste of her time,

 “Israel or Uganda, what difference does it make? It makes no difference to me. Why is it good to die for our country? What, isn’t it better to live in New York? Why should 18-year-old kids have to die? It’s dumb that people have to die so that I can live in Israel.” Bar Rafaeli

Even more bizarrely the retired general in charge of IDF HR has come out and said that in response he will boycott the beauty products she advertises. Major-General (Res.) Elazar Stern is quoted as saying, "What we have here is a moral problem as well as a democratic one – a society causing its own internal decay, and we won't be able to endure it eventually". The retired general said he has stopped buying products advertised by supermodel Bar Refaeli, "ever since they decided to put a draft dodger on their products – external beauty overpowering internal beauty”.

You know, he is a sensitive guy.

Just to illustrate the moral problems incubating in the Zionist state this year the Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO) named an Eden Springs commercial Bar Refaeli, as the ‘most sexist add of the year”. Which would be fine if there wasn’t a strong wiff of the selective application of progressive values here in defense of something that is well, just not very progressive at all.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

NEW MORAL ARMY? The Tories are normalising Fascism

Eric Pickles, Tory Party Chairman and part time fat northern bloke in City trader braces, has got himself into a bit of a pickle over the Waffen SS. The Tories require the support of rather unpleasant East European nationalist in order to form a new anti-Federal right wing block in the European Parliament. Therefore Pickles has had to come out fighting with apologies for the Waffen SS Latvian volunteer legion which was apparently only “following orders” when rounding up Jews for mass extermination in 1942.

In Latvia the nationalists have attempted to portray the ‘volunteer’ Latvian SS as ‘nationalists’, ‘patriots’ and ‘anti-communists’ rather than the unwilling ‘conscripts’ that Pickles has described.
The Tories are unlikely to back down now they are in so deep. The net effect is that the NEW MORAL TORY PARTY © is helping to bring Fascism and it’s apologists back into the mainstream.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Supreme Court Judges “Self reproducing elite? Moi?”

Apparently of the eleven top judges just appointed to the new UK supreme court:

I have therefore scientifically calculated your statistical chances of getting preferential treatment if you speak proper:

Your welcome.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Malalai Joya- Raising My Voice book review and condensed read

Malalai Joya, 2009  Raising My Voice,  Rider Books, £11.99.

This book is a co-written auto-biography and political polemic written by the youngest and most famous female MP in Afghanistan Malalai Joya. The book is a testament to Joya’s bravery in standing up to not only the Taliban, but also the corrupt Afghan government and the US occupiers. It seems like a miracle that someone like Joya could exist in Afghanistan, she appears to have been shaped by a series of chance developments that have led her to a position of moral authority that she now feels compelled to exercise. A political father, ending up in a secular controlled refugee camp, coming from a part of Afghanistan free from direct Taliban or Northern Alliance control. These factors have allowed her to educate herself and have lead her to office in a seemingly otherwise utterly dismal political and social scene. The book is the story of how she has used this office to stand against the corrupt western backed government of warlords, drug runners and religious fundamentalists (Yes that’s the government not the Taliban). 

This book should be read by anybody who is unsure whether we should pull our troops out of Afghanistan. It may not be the world’s greatest autobiography, but it is a compelling and easy read. I read it cover to cover in a few hours, finding it impossible to put down.

Buy it. Read it. Put your name on the inside cover and pass it on. Everybody who gives a damn about whether British Soldiers should be in Afghanistan should read this book

 Condensed Read.

I wrote this book because there is a good chance I will be killed. Afghanistan has a sophisticated political history but has suffered from foreign interventions. The English, Russians, Iranians, Pakistanis etc have oppressed us and should leave us alone, we are smart enough to run our own country. A democratic secular Afghanistan is impossible as long as the US backs a government of corrupt murderers, warlords and rapists from the Northern Alliance.  The people do not support these people because they comitted crimes worse than the Taliban after the Russians were driven out. Why has the US put these people into power? I was elected to the post invasion Loya Jirga because of my work in the local community (for example educating girls in secret under Taliban rule). When I got to the Loya Jurga I persuaded them to let me speak and used my speech to denounce all the warlords and criminals in the room. They were furious but I became known all over Afghanistan. I was elected as an MP. I am now banned from parliament because I have used my position to point out the government and main opposition are all warlords, drug runners or Iranian backed thugs. The softer reformists are scared to speak out. The occupying forces don’t support me. The NGO’s don’t support me. The people support me. The Taliban are brutal thugs but the occupation is making them strong. US troops should get out now. The situation for women is worse. Most Women MP’s are often worse on women’s issues than the warlords because they are put there by the warlord’s parties. I will keep speaking out.