by Martin Odoni

Okay, I’ve realised just as I’m gathering my thoughts to write this that I am about to give air to a lot of eye-roll-inducing behaviours. I’m going to be guilty of name-dropping, of talking about experiences on social media as though they’re as big a deal as what happens in the real world, and congratulating myself on my own jokes – jokes that are painfully old at that. So in advance I ask you please to forgive me, and to trust me when I say that I do have a legitimate point to make.

So let me begin with the name-dropping bit. Bonnie Greer, that most American of British authors, yesterday started, perhaps inadvertently, a bit of a Twitter-storm with a mildly vexed Tweet aimed at right-wingers who insist on following her on the Internet. I doubt I need to give too much explanation of the recent and still thriving trend on Twitter, going by the hashtag #CameronMustGo, but it appears that Ms Greer has taken some grief from hyper-sensitive right-wingers for taking part in the trend; –

Now to the self-congratulation-for-old-jokes part. This Tweet led to a large number of lefties – myself probably the main cheerleader, I must confess – immediately responding by Tweeting endless mock-requests not to use the hashtag in future, and discussing very precisely why. It’s the ancient, “Don’t-mention-an-elephant?-All-right-I-won’t-mention-an-elephant-I’ll-never-say-elephant-I’ll-never-use-the-word-elephant-again-and-I’ll-just-go-and-tell-everyone-else-not-to-say-elephant-either” ad infinitum joke i.e. using the ‘offending’ word over-and-over to put on a mock-display of co-operating with not using it.

Loads of other Tweeters joined in, and it made for a mildly diverting half-an-hour, during which the #CameronMustGo hashtag seemed to turn into the Twitter equivalent of saying “MacBeth!” in Blackadder The Third. (How I hope right-wingers genuinely do have to pinch each other’s noses every time they read #CameronMustGo.)

But what struck me while all this was going on was that we were only bothering to make fun like this because right-wingers were getting offended by the hashtag and wanted it stopped. It’s a silly thing to be offended by; you might disagree with it, you might not, but taking actual offence is just silly, as it is to assume a personal insult instead of a democratic judgement of a Government’s apparent inability to govern.

This leads on to identifying yet another example of right-wing hypocrisy. It’s not just that Tory voters, and even more so UKIPpers and BNP supporters, are generally far more consistent in using personal abuse as a standard debating tactic. It’s also that when they say something genuinely offensive, prejudiced and counter-productive, if others voice objections, the reflexive response of the right-winger will be to sneer at ‘political correctness’.

Now as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am certainly no fan of political correctness, at least by its most accurate definition. Real ‘PC’ is an exercise in abolishing words that are not offensive or derogatory in any real way, but have a connotation that is e.g. words such as ‘Black’, ‘Jew’ or ‘Indian’ often cause people to wince, even though they are just straightforward descriptive noun-adjectives. The derogatory terms ‘N*gger’, ‘K*ke’ or ‘R*dskin’, by very ugly contrast, most definitely are offensive and really should never be used. But because the non-offensive terms are seen as almost synonymous, there is a creeping tendency to want to avoid using them as well. The difficulty this leads to is that we then have to use other words in their place, and the same tendency will gradually push us into abolishing them too. (Anyone who goes along with that impulse to avoid saying ‘Black’, ‘Jew’ or ‘Indian’, I should just add, are arguably as prejudiced as explicit racists, as the slur-alternatives are not really synonyms particularly, and it is only an unspoken prejudice that would drive people to think otherwise.)

The problem is that the racist fringes of the right tend to extend the label of ‘political correctness’ to any objections to any terminology they use at all, genuinely offensive or otherwise, and because political correctness is often held to be a symptom of being uptight and anti-freedom-of-expression, that allows the right-wingers to sneer at the person they’re arguing with. So, as a Jew by birth, I would find it very objectionable, and not just untrue, to hear someone arguing that “K*kes are all money-grabbing scum.” But if I were to object, the right-winger would almost certainly sneer that I was being ‘PC’ – especially if he didn’t realise in advance that I am a Jew myself.

It would be just about possible to put up with this, were it not for the fact that, as the example of the #CameronMustGo hashtag demonstrates, the right wing desire for freedom-of-speech only works in one direction. The desire to allow people to spread hateful, dishonest slurs, based on wildly-generalised and often utterly mythological stereotypes is the far-right idea of freedom-of-speech, and they will defend that right to their last drop of the lager they drink while throwing insults from their armchairs. There is even a rather perplexing notion among them that being so offensive is somehow ‘courageous’.

But this does not apparently extend to the right to argue that the Prime Minister is doing a bad job, both morally and practically. Even if we can then back the accusation up with supporting evidence and reasoned arguments. Apparently that is offensive and unfair, and as we have seen, many on the right object bitterly to people saying it.

It doesn’t stop there either. The right get outraged when you suggest all sorts of ideas to them. Suggest to them that wages should go up for the majority, most of these people will immediately cry, “Communist!!!!” at you, as though a mere label – which isn’t even accurately-applied in this case – will automatically invalidate the suggestion. Suggest to them that the British Police should be held accountable for shooting Mark Duggan, or for the cover-up after the Hillsborough Disaster, these people will scold you for being a ‘wishy-washy liberal’ (just labels again), and then may even insist that the victims ‘brought it on themselves’. Their responses will be similar should you suggest to them that women should receive equal pay for equal work. Actually go to the extent of suggesting that you favour socialism over capitalism, and they’ll start raging about Josef Stalin and Chairman Mao at you. And that’s just the psychotics running the Daily Mail. They expect the label to invalidate you, to defeat you, and to silence you – to make you realise that you have no right even to say what you said.

You see, the right wing is in fact far more in favour of everyone being ‘politically correct’ than the left is. The only differences are that the parameters of right wing ‘PC’ are more doctrinally-titular, while the impulse behind it isn’t to protect the vulnerable from unfair criticism, but to nip discussions in the bud i.e. to protect the powerful and advantaged from having to enter into moral debates that they have no hope of winning.

So next time a thuggish, semi-literate keyboard-basher from UKIP or the English Defence League – or indeed a Tory in many cases – snarls at you for being ‘PC’, just tell him that you’re a socialist. Seriously, tell him that, even if you’re not. Then when he squeals at you for being an evil world-power-seeking Marxist, just tell him to stop being so ‘PC’. He probably won’t see what you’re getting at, as right-wingers seldom have any sense of irony. But at least you’ll be able to enjoy the joke, even if it makes him more confused. Indeed, perhaps even because of it.

Independent/Private Schools in the UK are trying to have it both ways again, and when anyone tries to stop them, it’s presented as destruction of ‘British character’.

The ramblings of a former DWP Civil Servant ...

I raise this subject because of Sean Coughlan’s post on the BBC website about Tristram Hunt’s private school business rate relief warning from Labour.

The BBC says that Sean has added the analysis below to the story written by Hannah Richardson:

“This demand for the private school sector to work more closely with their state school neighbours will probably be seen as a symbolic gesture.

It allows the tone of Labour’s education policy to sound different from the government’s, when otherwise they have much in common.

The amount of money under threat, £147m per year across more than 1,250 schools, might hurt the smaller struggling private schools. Average fees are about £12,000 per year, but it is not going to trouble upmarket schools charging more than £20,000 per year.

A bigger challenge would be the loss of charitable status and the accompanying tax benefits. But a long-running attempt by…

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“We seem to have moved from property-owning democracy to a property-owning plutocracy. ONS statistics last week revealed that the total value of UK residential property rose from £1.4 trillion in 1997 to £4.7 trillion in 2013.”
And this is why politics is largely a preserve of the rich, landed classes. No one else has the wealth or the grounding to do such a job.

Jules Birch

It’s now received wisdom, and a key part of UKIP’s appeal, that we are ruled by politicians who are out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people. How much of this is down to house prices?

Perceived divisions between politicians and voters are nothing new of course. Nor are accusations of champagne (or Islington/Hampstead) socialism and a huge gap between Labour leaders and their core vote. However, if these are US-style ‘culture wars’ over the politics of identity and national flags, they are being fought in the language of house prices, as shown only too clearly in this week’s Mail on Sunday story about the ‘Thornberry set’ and the North London ‘liberal elite’.

The issue was highlighted by last week’s tweet by Labour MP Emily Thornberry about a flag-festooned house in Rochester & Strood and then brought home by media coverage of its Sun-sponsored owner knocking on the…

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Excellent demonstration of how much easier it is to invest sensibly in the bottom ‘rung’ of society, without making any serious losses, than the neoliberal ‘theorists’ want us to imagine.
Another good move would be for Governments to stop throwing tax-cuts at businesses and the rich in the speculative hope of ‘cajoling’ them into hiring more staff, and instead introduce tax-cuts that are *conditional* on them hiring more staff.

David Hencke

Muhammad_Yunus_-_World_Economic_Forum_Annual_Meeting_2012 (1)This month a radical thinker passed through Westminster and presented an idea that politicians tackling Britain’s economic crisis should sit up and take notice.

Nobel Peace prizewinner Muhammad Yunus was addressing a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference on growth and development en route from Bangla Desh to Mexico City. The conference attracted people from as far apart as Somalia and Paraguay and Haiti and Timor-Leste.

Yunus is the man who created an anti-bank bank called the Grameen Bank in Bangla Desh which broke every rule of traditional banking. As he put it : ” I went and talked to the banks and did precisely the opposite of everything they told me.”

His bank was only interested in lending money to the poorest in Bangla Desh – those with nothing so they could start tiny micro businesses. His ideas have now been taken up in developed economies notable the United States in…

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She thinks she’s entitled to stay in retirement just because she’s only ten years away from getting the telegram? Such leftie impudence!

Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s social security today!)

If you want an illustration of the mess created by Iain Duncan Smith in our social security system and the incompetence of the present government, you only need to see this letter from the DWP to a 90-year-old woman ordering her to attend a job related interview which was posted online by her grandson:

dwp letter to gran

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Or maybe it’s not a mistake at all.

Work till we drop?

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Please feel free to comment. And share. Thanks:

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by Martin Odoni

It is a common claim among egomaniacs, at least when simplistically portrayed in TV and movie dramas about the Mafia, that for people to respect you, they have to fear you. As followers of my blog will be aware from previous posts, I have up until now felt no respect at all for the Work & Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan-Smith. But if, as the movies insist, fear is a fundamental part of respect, then that has now changed. This week, I started quite genuinely to fear Iain Duncan-Smith.

Of course, I have long felt terror and despair at the fact of a man of such breathtakingly obvious ineptitude holding a high office. I am confident that I am in a majority there. But the man himself has so far been an object of maddening ridicule, not terror. There are times when I hear him flapping about helplessly in public interviews and making silly remarks that diverge one hundred and eighty degrees from reality, sounding feeble, ineffectual, and easily-confused, and I think, “I bet he gets beaten up by the girls from S-Club-7. He can’t look Hannah Spearritt in the eye, because it reminds him of when she out-muscled him…”

But no longer. Now I am scared of him. Because this week, a fresh example of the travesties caused by his infernal ‘Bedroom Tax’ was presented to Parliament during Prime Minister’s Question Time, and his reaction was so abhorrent and so devoid of human understanding that it almost made him seem like he is an entity from beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.

To explain, the Government is being taken to court over its indiscriminate implementation of the ‘Bedroom Tax’. The plaintive in the case in question is a woman who is a victim of serious domestic violence, including rape, by her former partner. Her identity has been protected by the court, so we know her only as ‘A’, but she and her child have had a special room set up in their house called a ‘Panic Room’, where they can retreat to in the event her ex-partner tries to access the building again; the room has special extra security facilities to keep them safe in such an event.

It is shocking, but somehow unsurprising, to learn that the Government has decided to rule that this ‘Panic Room’ counts as an under-used spare room and is therefore subject to the ‘Under-Occupancy Penalty’. The ruling has been advocated and defended by the DWP, even though the very nature of what the room is there for means it cannot be used as a bedroom for another tenant.

Duncan-Smith defended the ruling at a hearing in the summer, arguing that the case should be dismissed and ‘A’ should just accept that she is no longer entitled to the same amount of benefit, which is quite nauseating enough. But when the leader of the Opposition, Ed Milliband, raised the matter at Prime Minister’s Questions this week, explaining details of the case, Duncan-Smith did something that really frightened me.

He laughed.

He mocked and wheezed at the plight of a traumatised, vulnerable woman whom he had already victimised by the ‘one-size-fits-all-poor-people’ outlook of his policies.

It is not the first time he has been guilty of seeing ‘comedy’ in the misery he has inflicted. Almost a year ago, he and his intellectually-bankrupt sidekick, Esther McVey, were in fits of mirth and merriment during a debate on the increased use of foodbanks around the UK. Oh, how they split their sides when they heard how people are going hungry in surging numbers! How they mocked and sniggered when they were informed, courtesy of figures from the Trussell Trust, that the overwhelming majority of foodbank-users report benefits-delays as their reason for looking for help. Oh yuk yuk, eh? Tee hee hee, right? Who needs The Thick Of It when we have topical political humour this cutting and tasteful, yeah?

Yet, for all that Duncan-Smith’s superciliousness that day angered and disgusted me, I still did not feel actual fear of him for it, nor even any great surprise. But this week, he was presented with his own bullying, with the way he shamelessly takes money even from a victim of domestic violence and sexual assault, and not only did he not apologise, not only did he stubbornly refuse to back down and make people in her situation an exception… he actually laughed again.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Iain Duncan-Smith finds the rape of the poor, even in the most literal sense, funny. He finds it entertaining. He finds it diverting, an amusement so in accord with his tastes that it could almost have been devised for his own personal pleasure.

I do not imagine for a moment that he would find the rape and violent assault of a rich, well-dressed woman amusing at all. If something like that happened to his beloved Esther McVey (and no, before anyone tries to suggest it, I am not calling for a violent assault on McVey), he would doubtless be appalled and cry out for the heaviest punishment against the perpetrator, while also going out of his way to make sure that every possible comfort and support is sent McVey’s way, paid for by the taxpayer.

To be fair, that is how it should be, no matter who the victim is.

But the problem is that Duncan-Smith is such a blinkered, class-feeling throwback that his powers of empathy simply stop descending once they reach the lowest rung of the social ladder’s middle tier. Once he surveys the working classes, his sympathies seem to dissolve into resentment and contempt, as though the people who are most vulnerable and least privileged in society must be in that condition because they ‘deserve’ it in some way. “They’re so unsightly, they’re so smelly, so obviously they deserve everything we do to hurt them!” He is quite ignoring the reality that possession of a reasonable share of the wealth is what would allow the poor to live as more ‘aesthetically-pleasing’ people, and that is what he is taking from them, but far worse is the utterly malicious cruelty it leads him to. He does not just overlook the misery he causes, which would be amoral. Nor does he merely pretend to himself it is not happening, which would be delusional. He has now shown that he takes a gruesome pleasure in it as well, which is sadism. A degree of sadism that I find frightening.

With the right wing’s strange notion that ruthlessness is the same thing as efficiency, it follows that those people who most enjoy being ruthless, and who take the most pleasure from seeing the effect they have on their victims, will be ipso facto the people most motivated to achieving ‘efficiency’ – and doubly so if it frightens others into line at the same time. Given what an expensive fiasco, say, Duncan-Smith’s attempt to start up the Universal Credit has been, we can treat such empty logic with the derision it deserves, but at the same time, it may be the only workable explanation for why the Prime Minister refuses to fire his blunder-prone DWP Secretary. If he wants an efficient Government, David Cameron looks out for people who will behave ruthlessly, no more, no less. Iain Duncan-Smith laughs at the misery of the ‘lower orders’, therefore he is ruthless, therefore he commands fear, therefore he commands Cameron’s respect.

So after a fashion, and in the lowest sense possible, I suppose that means he commands mine too. But only if we accept that to fear someone is to respect them. Do not mistake me – my regard for Iain Duncan-Smith’s abilities and intelligence is as low as ever it was. But I now fear how little of a restraining effect either ethics or good sense have on his behaviour or his outlook. His religious zeal has always allowed him to express the most flagrant reversals of the plainest facts. Now we can see that his innate hostility to people ‘below’ him in the social order even makes him enjoy it. That sort of zealous sociopath is frightening even when he does not have his hands on Government. Right now, Duncan-Smith has his hands on, not just Government, but also on the throats of millions. And let us be honest; in such a prone position, who would dare tell such a rabid man that they do not respect him?

Beastrabban neatly summing up the many reasons why the Lounge Lizard Of Westminster, Nigel Farage, was talking bombastic codswallop when he called the Armistice of 1918 the biggest mistake of the 20th Century.
Not only did Farage miss (perhaps deliberately, for reasons of not wanting to admit that Britain and her allies were driven by baser instincts for revenge and resources in the aftermath of The First World War) the *real* cause of the rise of Nazism in the Weimar Republic i.e. the crippling and unfair ‘Reparations’ imposed on Germany at Versailles. Farage further puts forward the Armistice itself as the reason for Nazism, and in so doing, creates a non-sequitur. By accepting an Armistice, the allies were implicitly accepting a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Had they stuck to that and negotiated fairly at Versailles, there would have been nothing for the Germans to seek revenge for. Instead, Farage, using that silly, pro-militant logic that the modern British Right seem so fixated on, insists that accepting the Armistice meant, as sure as night follows day, that the Germans would feel betrayed and come back thirsting for revenge. It was the excess punishment, the unfair insistence of the allies that Germany accept full responsibility for the war, and thus pay such enormous sums in compensation that the country was left impoverished for many years, that caused that desire for revenge. Signing the Armistice did not necessarily lead to such brutal sanctions against Germany, and so Farage’s logic does not make sense.
Indeed, Farage’s argument that agreeing a ceasefire was more likely to lead to bitterness than completing a full-scale invasion and conquest of Germany, likely devastating much of the country, is not only a non-sequitur, it is completely absurd.

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

While the rest of the UK on Tuesday was remembering the dead of the Great War, Nigel Farage was giving a speech stating his opinion that it should have gone on for longer. Even if this meant that a further 100,000 lives were lost. Farage made this bizarre and offensive claim speaking at the annual Tom Olsen lecture at St Bride’s Church.

His comments have been reported by a number of news agencies, including the MSN news. The anti-racist organisation, Hope Not Hate has an article on it, Armistice was the biggest mistake of the 20th century claims Nigel Farage, at http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/ukip/armistice-was-the-biggest-mistake-of-the-20th-century-claims-nigel-farage-4120.

Hope Not Hate quote Farage as saying, “I believe we should have continued with the advance We should have pursued the war for a further six weeks, and gone for an unconditional surrender. Yes the last six weeks of the war cost us 100,000 casualties, and I’m…

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