I have always loathed Winston Churchill, who was a violent warlord of an almost medieval standard. His catalogue of obscene war-crimes, often against civilians, were they committed by the Nazis, would be regularly listed on TV documentaries today as evidence of the undiluted evil of the Third Reich.

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

BBC 2 at 9.00 O’clock tonight is showing a documentary on how Britain rejected Churchill for the Labour party in the 1945 general election.

The blurbs for it in the Radio Times state

Surprise election results are nothing new. As this documentary explores, a few weeks after celebrating VE Day in 1945, Britons went to the polls for the first general election in a decade. The Conservatives were widely expected to win, a grateful nation rewarding Winston Churchill’s wartime leadership. Instead, Labour won by a landslide and set about creating the Socialist welfare system Churchill had warned against.

As historians relate, there were good reasons the electorate delivered a humiliating snub to their wartime hero. And we’ve forgotten how unpopular he was with sections of the public: striking footage shows crowds jeering a perplexed Churchill at Walthamstow stadium. “Most people saw him as a Boris Johnson-type figure,” claims one contributor…

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“I stand with Bahar Mustafa – Reverse racism isn’t real”
c/o Sam Ambreen.

Couple of points I would offer as a counter; –

While recognising it was a joke, I do think Bahar Mustafa did perhaps go just a little bit far with the #KillAllWhiteMen tweet; all talk of white male privilege accepted, it was still bound to make a lot of people think, “I’ve never even heard of this woman, and now she’s calling out for me to die? What did I ever do to her?” It was just a joke, and everyone really should have got over it before five minutes had elapsed, but at the same time it was a bit crass. And it was probably designed to get much the reaction it did. Why people who dig for a reaction complain when they get it has always been beyond me, although it says little for the intelligence of the people who reacted.

I also question the idea that reverse racism ‘isn’t real’. Just because it is not in a position to have any real effect in this country does not mean it is not there. However, societal-reverse-racism, which appears to be what the author is actually describing, certainly isn’t real and has never been anywhere near coming true, despite what right-wing mouth-foamers would have us believe. The very notion that the rights of white males are ‘sacrificed’ to put women and non-whites in a dominant position is privilege-protective whining, and if that is what the author meant, then I do agree wholeheartedly. But the implication here that racism in any form is inseparable from being in a position of power or privilege over the racial victim is highly questionable. (Racism is inseparable from a *desire* for power, but a contempt for people on the basis of their ethnicity is racism, no matter how powerless the person with the attitude is.)

What I notice from studying the hashtag on Twitter is that many of the people responding angrily to the joke are exactly the same sorts of people who make casual racist remarks and sneer about ‘political correctness’ whenever they receive an objection to doing it. This little chapter though underlines that the right wing has a very strict ‘political correctness’ catalogue of its own of what may be spoken and what may not be. Their own outrage when the bounds are overstepped is louder and more self-righteous.

Left at the Lights

I was considering jumping straight into this post but when I did so on Twitter white people got unnecessarily agitated so I shall explain first. Goldsmiths University bme students have been hounded by the white left and right of the mainstream media and beyond, for demanding safe spaces for ethnic minorities. Bahar Mustafa, a student officer has been accused of racism, with white people everywhere chucking their newly acquired race cards in for their two pennies. This post will attempt to demonstrate how ludicrous these accusations of reverse racism are. Racism isn’t about fighting back at people who have structural power and control over you or initiating spaces within which it is safe to speak about the systematic targeting of people of colour by the state or indeed institutions like universities, it’s those people in power using their wealth and position to deny non-white people freedom in all things.

If…

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by Martin Odoni

Following on from a couple of articles I’ve posted since the Election, I thought I should add that I am getting royally urinated-away (all right, ‘p*ssed off’) with the BBC’s general conduct since that time. Most particularly, with Ed Miliband’s resignation as leader of the Labour Party, there has been an unrelenting tide of questions about who is to succeed him, which is fair enough in itself, but in seeking the answers to it, the BBC only appears to be searching in one very narrow corner.

The Labour members who have had big exposure over the last few days have been the likes of Dan Jarvis, Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall, Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair, Tristram Hunt, Alan Milburn, and so on. All of them have had high-profile interviews with the BBC, all of them have put forward (suspiciously similar-sounding) arguments for Labour to move to the right of the ground Ed Miliband had campaigned on, and all of them are in the Red Tory/Blue Labour category of the party.

Where, in all this, are the BBC’s interviews with the likes of, say, Michael Meacher or Dennis Skinner, both of whom have argued against a shift further right? You would never know it, judging by the airtime the ‘real’ left of the Labour Party is getting. Given its formal duty to be impartial on political and ethical matters, why is the BBC not allowing any real air-time for the other side of this argument?

Anybody who tells you the BBC has an innate left-wing bias, a claim that has not been true since at least the late-1980’s when Margaret Thatcher started carving the corporation up – if it were ever true at all – is living in whatever place exists in the even-more-surreal world beyond cloud-cuckoo land. The corporation is almost entirely run by Conservatives past and present, its senior political staff are card-carrying Tories – particularly Nick Robinson – and its news coverage is almost always presented to the nation through a distorting blue lens. Naturally therefore, it is happy to give the ‘Blue Labour’ viewpoint a big, ongoing platform from which to frame the leadership debate, driving the discussion to the point where only advocates for a free market Labour Party can be seriously considered; should the Tories, with their tiny majority, fall from power once more in the near future, the possibility of a Tory-lite Labour Party taking their place is far easier for corporate interests to stomach than the prospect of, say, a Bennite one.

BBC bias towards the right is almost shameless these days, and even when its people refuse to admit to it, they never seem to offer substantial reasons why the accusation is wrong. They just do not want the matter to be discussed, and that is usually a sign of feeling the guilt-of-falsity.

I suggest we keep hounding them with the charge, as it is bound to get to them sooner or later.

by Martin Odoni

‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks.’

The lady in this case is the entirety of what is sloganistically referred to as ‘New Labour’. Every Blairite (adherent to the neoliberal-neoconservative philosophy of former Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair) in or connected to the current Labour Party has been getting his or her protests in first. The purpose appears to be that, before anyone can suggest that the party’s disastrous showing in last week’s General Election has anything to do with deposed leader Ed Miliband choosing too half-hearted a manifesto platform, the Blairites will argue the complete opposite, and insist that he chose too radical an approach. If enough of them say it, maybe those who do not agree will be embarrassed into keeping their mouths shut?

We have already had to listen to Blair himself voicing almost identical sentiments, but also Chuka Umunna, Dan Jarvis, Tristram Hunt, Liz Kendall, and even Miliband’s own brother, David, (among others) have all waded in with declarations of needing a shift in a pro-business direction. One irritating term they all seem determined to hit us over the eardrums with over-and-over is the single word, Aspiration. Apparently, the campaign run by Ed Miliband came across as ‘against it’, whatever ‘it’ is, and of being ‘hostile’ to the nation’s ‘wealth-creators’.

Everyone who is on the right wing of the Labour Party – which these days means being on the right wing of the political spectrum – seems to be using the word with depressing regularity. It is the all-too-familiar pattern of the fashionable ‘buzzword’. Every season in politics has at least one, and it is a sign of a politician, or more often a group of politicians, stubbornly refusing to think very much or to question their own thoughts that deeply. It is also a tell-tale sign that a party’s rhetoric is being closely orchestrated, which is the last thing any prospective leaders need, when the requirements are surely to stand out as individuals.

I despise this stubborn regimentation in itself, but I also despise the word ‘aspiration’ when used in politics, because it is of course a euphemism. When politicians say they are ‘in favour of aspiration’, what they really mean is that they are in favour of people who like to accumulate more money than they will ever need. And when they say that they support ‘wealth-creators’, they mean they are also in favour of people who have already accumulated more money than they will ever need too.

Do these Blairite fools really think that such an outlook will appeal to the former core-support that quite evidently switched to the UK Independence Party? Do they really not imagine that it is that core-support they need to win back? So many working class people, wrongly imagining that the causes of their problems are immigration and the European Union, have felt increasingly deserted and abandoned by the party that had been founded to represent them in the first place, and so they have looked to another that claims will address the supposed ‘cause’.

The defeat last week is thus merely a continuation of a slide in Labour’s support that certainly did not begin with the Credit Crunch in 2008. On the contrary, between Blair’s first majority in 1997, and his final one in 2005, the Labour Party lost some four million voters. So 2010 was not the start of the decline either, it was merely the point when the party’s support had descended so far that even the widely-hated Conservative Party had finally eclipsed them, more by default than by endorsement. Disadvantaged Britons had had hope when Tony Blair first arrived in office that life in general would become easier for them and that they would get a fairer share of the national ‘cake’, but Blair did not really believe that he could do that or that he should try, and so he made no attempt. Instead, he continued the Margaret Thatcher/John Major program of ‘Choice Economics’ and the dismantling of the Welfare State. (This played an indirect role in the Credit Crunch, as many of the poorer people in Britain who had inadequate incomes had to supplement them with inappropriate loans, which they could not repay when they fell due.) Disillusionment led first to many Labour supporters giving up voting, and eventually to many more transferring their vote to an extremist party that, falsely but plausibly, offered a way of increasing the resources for the native population. Meanwhile Ed Miliband’s very hesitant, quarter-developed efforts to sidle the party a little back to the left, while better than nothing, never had the conviction to draw anywhere near enough of them back.

And Umunna et al want to end this downward spiral by sucking up to the merchant class even more? If they are going to interpret being in favour of a fair deal for the workers as being ‘hostile to business’ or ‘opposed to aspiration’, then they can probably forget ever getting back into Government, because they will never have much appeal to the old demographic the party has relied on for so much of its history.

Never mind the aspiration to be wealthy and successful, Labour. In Britain, probably more than any other European country, too many people by far are not in a position to have aspirations in the correct sense of the word, because they are struggling just to make ends meet, struggling just to get through each month. Aspirations can only be explored when survival pressures are low. The only people therefore who are likely to be able to pursue aspirations are the ones who are already well enough off that they will need very little help from Government in the first place.

Blinkered by the desire to be elected entirely for its own sake, Labour has forgotten over the last twenty years what it is there for. The paradox is that it has so alienated its most critical support-base that it has made the party as unelectable as it has ever been.

by Martin Odoni

As I type, it is the evening of the 11th of March 2015, although it will be a long while yet before anyone gets to read this. The revived Inquests into the causes of the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989 have been in progress for a little under eleven months – nearly twelve if you count the opening day of 31st March 2014, although that day was only used for the appointment of the jury. The last two days have been amongst the most nervously anticipated of the entire proceedings, for the Match Commander at the Hillsborough Stadium on the day of the Disaster, then-Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield of the South Yorkshire Police, has taken to the stand to answer questions about his handling of the police operation that fateful day.

There was a considerable hullabaloo on social media in the later afternoon today, especially on the Twittersphere, after Duckenfield expressed his apologies to the survivors of the Disaster, and the families of its victims, and for his various failures on the day. Most particularly, he apologised for the notorious lie he told to Graham Kelly and Glen Kirton, then of the Football Association, that “Liverpool fans without tickets had forced open an exit gate” in order to get into the stadium without paying. There was some excitement among many Hillsborough campaign-supporters about this apology, as though it were a resounding new development.

Well, I hardly imagine that I can ‘rain on the parade’, given that the current blackout on social media discussion of the Disaster for the duration of the Inquests means I will probably not be able to publish this until long after next Christmas, but I feel there is a record that must be put straight here sooner or later. While I certainly do not feel any impulse actually to defend the man, for the sake of historical accuracy, I do feel compelled to point out that there is nothing new whatever in Duckenfield apologising for his shambolic role at Hillsborough. It is therefore not really fair that his words today are being spoken of in some quarters as the first time he has swallowed his pride. He has unquestionably been evading attempts to hold him fully to account down the years, but he has used the simple words “I’m sorry” before now. In fact, his first apology, even though it was not really directed to the victims or the bereaved families, was made not long after the Disaster itself; the Interim Report into Hillsborough, published by Lord Justice Peter Taylor in August 1989, makes quite explicit on page 50 that Duckenfield had apologised for the lie during cross-examination at the first Inquiry; –

apology

Taylor’s description make it sound like the apology had to be rather pulled out of Duckenfield like teeth from healthy gums, but fair is fair; Duckenfield did apologise, and long ago.

Indeed, today was not even the first time Duckenfield had apologised during the rebooted Inquest. He apologised, somewhat half-heartedly again it must be said, just yesterday, when acknowledging in rather fudged, rambling terms the failings in the way he led the police operation at Hillsborough. His use of the conditional words ‘If there was a failing’ beforehand perhaps gives the apology a grudging, not-very-magnanimous quality – as though hoping to play on any lingering doubts there might still be that he had failed – but even so, he quite definitely used the words ‘I apologise’.

No, this latest apology is not a big deal in itself. The only aspect that makes it significant is the fact that, for the first time, Duckenfield directed the words quite explicitly towards the families of the victims. That is long, long overdue, as is the fact that this time, unlike during the Taylor Inquiry and the original Coroner’s Inquests, where he was an evasive and unhelpful witness, he has made some kind of effort to offer account for what he did twenty-six years ago. Studying it, the account he gives is at times confused and contradictory, or stands in stark contradiction of what he has said previously. But even so, the account is of far more substance than his previous attempts, and he has at last shown a willingness to acknowledge mistakes and omissions in his conduct, and that he was not the right man to lead the police effort on the day. Whether that will ever be enough for his apologies to be accepted is not for me to decide, but it needs acknowledging that it is far more than he has ever conceded previously.

Oh, Shut Up, Blair.

May 10, 2015

by Martin Odoni

A former Labour leader, now widely recognised as one of the most dangerous sociopaths ever to occupy 10 Downing Street, has publically decided that his party’s defeat in Thursday’s General Election is because Ed Miliband dragged his policy platform too far to the left. “RECLAIM THE CENTRE GROUND!” cries Tony Blair, milking his ‘I-told-you-so!’ moment for all it is worth.

There is a gaping hole in Blair’s remarks. Ed Miliband was already in the centre ground with his manifesto. It was certainly to the left of the very neoliberal ground that Blair occupied while in office from 1997 to 2007, but to suggest Miliband was being too radically left-of-centre with his policies only highlights how worryingly narrow the range-of-thought in mainstream British political/economic public discourse has become.

Anything left of total free market economics is considered radical left these days.

A fine sum-up of the ridiculous narrowing of political discourse in modern Western society.

Miliband’s policies were the bare minimum of what was needed just to get the country away from the right wing, and any people who argue that he was being more daring than that need to answer the following questions; –

When did Miliband pledge to re-nationalise British core industries such as the Royal Mail, the railways, steel manufacturing, British Telecom, and energy-production?

When did Miliband pledge to take away independence from the Bank Of England?

When did Miliband pledge to expand the welfare state?

When did Miliband pledge to reverse the anti-Trade Union reforms the Margaret Thatcher Government introduced in the 1980’s?

When did Miliband pledge to raise the taxes for the highest earners to sixty per cent or more?

When did Miliband pledge to restore Clause IV, or submit his party’s manifesto for mandatory approval by Trade Union leaders?

(I am not necessarily saying I would agree with all of the above policies had Labour campaigned for them, by the way, I am merely pointing out that they are essential features of any genuinely leftist platform in the United Kingdom, and Miliband signed up to none of them.) The fact that Blair thinks that the ‘watered-down Austerity’ that Miliband campaigned for is left-of-centre tells us a lot about how the ideas of the real left have become virtually unthinkable in a world where the discourse is dominated by right-wing hysteria. To the extent, that is, that even a former leader of the UK Labour Party is unable to let them register with him. Merely ‘not-wanting-a-totally-deregulated-free-market’ is now enough for Tony Blair to wag a forefinger and say, “Careful, we’re being too left-wing!” With anything to the left of the real centre of the political spectrum being inadmissible in Blair’s thoughts at all, his very narrow spectrum therefore assumes that the ground of the 1960’s Tory Party is effectively socialism.

As for Blair’s insistence that taking a more ‘centrist’ platform (read: the centre-right ground of Ted Heath’s Conservative Party) is the way ahead for Labour, he does not appear to have let the finer details of the Election result register with him either. For not only were Miliband’s Labour already on that ground, but so, for the most part, were the Liberal Democrats, and look what happened to them. They went to the polls with over fifty seats, and came out the other end in single digits, losing such major party stalwarts as Simon Hughes, Danny Alexander and Vince Cable along the way.

It must be noted that there are specific, non-political-spectrum, reasons for that, not least that the LibDems betrayed their core voting-base while in the Coalition. But even so, the losses both Labour and the LibDems suffered still show that what Blair tenuously refers to as ‘the centre ground’ holds no appeal – certainly not enough appeal to redeem past indiscretions. Instead, Blair’s favourite turf has been completely carpet-bombed by an electorate that is clearly fed up of the sell-out by former centrist and leftist parties to neoliberal politics. And Blair’s solution is to demand that Labour sell out to neoliberal politics again?

Blair should just be quiet. His inability to grasp reality was often disturbing when in power, especially his tendency, echoed today by Iain Duncan-Smith, of thinking that he could make any assumption into a fact by simply declaring that he firmly believed it. “Iraq will be a free, happy, democratic and peaceful country if we bomb the bollocks out of it! I may be wrong about that, but it’s what I believe!” His calculation now is just more of the same confirmation bias, another attempt to endorse his own decision to drag Labour to the right in the 1990’s. He still thinks that was what won him the Elections in 1997 and 2001, but in truth, both results were more the public voting against the Tories than for ‘New Labour’.

Similarly now, I do not believe that thirty-seven per cent of the voters actually like or want Tory Government, they are just terrified of a repeat of the Credit Crunch of 2008, still buy into the false narrative that the Government of Gordon Brown was to blame for it, and therefore are scared to put their trust in the Labour Party again.

The first and most important action the Labour Party must take to rebuild their chances of getting into Government again is therefore not so much a matter of placement on the political spectrum, but to combat and finally dispel once and for all the pervasive myths of the financial disaster of 2008. They made a dreadful running mistake throughout the Coalition Parliament of keeping quiet about what really happened, and of letting the Tories just proliferate cynical lies, to the point that most in the public have completely the wrong idea of what caused the Credit Crunch. In truth, the only role Labour played in creating the crisis was de-regulating the British banking industry too far. A mistake certainly, but not the decisive role.

Labour need finally to make clear that banks abused the excessive freedom they had been given and offered unsuitable loans to customers who never had a hope of paying it all back, and the principle blame for the 2008 financial crisis therefore lies with the banks, not with the then-Government. Labour also need to make clear that, had the Tories been in power through the 2000’s, they would have de-regulated the banking sector even more extremely. Labour need to make clear that even if the de-regulation in Britain had not occurred, there was still likely to be a serious recession of some kind around 2007-2009 due to the same financial disaster occurring around most of the rest of the world, especially in the Derivatives Market in the USA. Labour need to make clear that the surge in the Public Sector Debt (which is not nearly as big an issue as the British Right make it out to be anyway) was absolutely not a result of ‘excessive public spending on welfare’, but was a result of Gordon Brown’s decision to bail out the banking sector – a decision he really should not have made without fully nationalising any banks receiving bail-out money, but again, had the Tories been in power, they would have done it as well. Labour need to make clear that the country never went bankrupt, was never on the brink of going bankrupt, and never will go bankrupt, making Austerity not only brutally unpleasant, but actually counter-productive and pointless. Labour would also do themselves a bit of good by pointing out frequently and consistently that the package of fiscal stimulus measures by then-Chancellor Of The Exchequer Alistair Darling early in 2010 had ended the recession and got the economy growing again – a stimulus package the Tories actually opposed, and then cancelled as soon as they got into power, dooming the country to three needless years of ongoing recession.

In short, the Labour Party needs to make clear at last that the big crisis of Brown’s tenure at Number 10 would also have happened, and more severely, had the Tories been in power at the time instead. If enough of the public can be convinced of that, the main obstacle to the Labour Party making a serious bid for power can be hurdled. Furthermore, having achieved that, they would be mad to move towards the right once more, as at that point, they will have convinced everyone of Tory incompetence – therefore, the last thing they would want is to resemble the Tories, so why move in a Tory direction?

QED.

Another five years?

May 9, 2015

Hard not to despair… but we have to resist the temptation, as we now have to fight harder than ever before.

juxtaposed

These last twenty-four hours I’ve found my entire mundane self alternating between shutdown and panic. My personal circumstances and resources; my health and general well-being have been run ragged by the Coalition and dire lack of a decent Opposition and, such is my dependency, now, on reserves of adrenaline just to cope with a normal day that I don’t know if I can sustain myself and keep going like this for another five years. And worse: I’m still actually one of the lucky ones. My heart is breaking for those worse off than me.

It’s as though we were all just involved in a terrible accident for I can’t believe my country actually meant to vote for this outcome; actually wanted this. You see, I’ve heard about the negative perceptions of Ed, fear of the SNP’s gargantuan tail and a persistent, faulty belief in the Labour is the incompetent party…

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