Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Cameron defends Kelly in school rowLabour has won Mayor of London… and of Bristol. The UKIP surge and Lib Dem resurgence, combined with the 2012 performance being a high water mark for Labour, meant that nobody other than the Lib Dems and UKIP was going to gain seats, in raw numbers, from these elections.

Indeed, if this was a bad night for Corbyn due to the loss of a few seats, it was a monumental catastrophe for the Tories who lost so many more… -46 for the Tories, to Labour’s -23… set against gains of +44 for the Lib Dems and +26 for UKIP.

Labour held it’s own, even while under fire from a concerted smear campaign from the right. Labour held it’s own in spite of a certain small chorus within it’s ranks trying to sabotage its efforts in the attempt to bring down Corbyn. It increased its majority in a number of bellwether constituencies. Labour has 1291 councillors to the Tories 828 …

… Labour has won 47.8% of council seats (prior to the declaration of one council), beating the “fantastic success” of Cameron’s failure to break through into the 40% mark in his first comparable contest in 2006, and even a percentage point more than Blair’s first locals as leader back in 1995 where just 46% of seats were won.

As for Scotland… well, Labour broke The Oath before Corbyn was even a possible leader of the party… and while that breach of trust could be expected from the Tories, from Labour it was unforgivable… as such, the SNP is now seen as the party of the left, and given their stance on the desirability of Scottish Independence, the Conservatives, being seen as a party in support of Union, are the ones with the claim to SNP opposition… no surprises there then. It’ll take a hell of a long time and a number of serious missteps from the SNP before Labour is trusted in Scotland again. It can’t just force itself on the people of Scotland, and grovelling certainly isn’t going to work either.

However, the flipside of this, is that in spite of being unable to win a massive number of seats in Scotland that Blair’s party had available, Labour has still managed to win 47% of seats, meaning that it’s made massive inroads in England.

So… a disaster for Corbyn? No… far from it. Contrary to the spinning of the right-wing media, this was quite clearly an unmitigated disaster for the Tories.
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The Iron Lady, Baroness Thatcher.

The Iron Lady, Baroness Thatcher.

A frail old woman has died. I just want, for a moment to put that very human face on the situation. It just so happens that this particular woman was Margaret Thatcher, ‘Scourge of Socialists’, ‘The Iron Lady’, ‘Envy of the Left’, and ‘Righteous of the Right’.

Yes, it’s true that an old lady has died, but let us not forget the power that this old lady (or rather, Baroness) held in life. She wasn’t just the Prime Minister… she was the Prime Minister that initiated the Neo-Liberal paradigm in the UK, and had one hell of hand in getting it going in the US too, via President Reagan. She presided over the destruction of Industry, as well as the destruction of Unions. She was a creator of poverty, as well as a creator of wealth.

To hear the pundits and political chattering classes crow, you’d swear that she was white than white – that she single handedly put the ‘Great’ back into ‘Great Britain’, and set us on the economic road to… erm, success!? Yes, success. Quite!

Even to accept these dubious ‘facts’, she was also a close friend of dictators, campaigned to see that General Pinochet never saw the face of justice, tore up the British concept of community (Broken Britain, anybody?), created one of the biggest and most memorable riots in modern UK history through the Poll Tax, sunk a battleship sailing away and out of the engagement zone, called Nelson Mandela a terrorist, created moral panic (and Section 28) over LGB relationships, left millions in destitution, along with vast swathes of anything that wasn’t the South East, and undemocratically attempted to operate a serving Prime Minister as some kind of puppet after she was deposed – by her own Conservative Party, no less!

This was a woman, with a family. She was also one of the most important public figures in modern (and indeed, living) history – and even her most robust supporters would have to clearly admit that she was one of the most divisive. Why then, is she being hailed as the whiter than white saint that her supporters claim her to be in her death? Why do they cry “You shouldn’t speak ill of the dead!” as the public make their feelings known? Why, in concern for her family at this difficult time, do they not moderate their lauding of her greatness in the knowledge of the reaction it would inevitably provoke?

Quite besides the praise and platitudes, there is another side to her death… it is the side that belongs to those that suffered under Thatcher, and for that matter, under the continuing legacy of Thatcher too. It is not a normal consequence of the death of a public figure to see celebration in the streets, but this was no ordinary public figure. The existence of this occurrence is in itself a proof positive of the fact that she was not a truly ‘great’ leader in quite the way that her supporters would wish to see her painted. It is a clear and obvious fact.

This fact is seen even more clearly in the UK charts, where ‘Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead’ from the ‘Wizard of Oz’ (1939), according to the UK charts company, has sold 20,000 copies as of 10th April 2013, placing it 4th in the charts … with other versions of the song charting separately too.

Some are not happy about this protest, however. A variety of public figures have referred to this fact as disdainful and distasteful. The BBC is no exception, having made the moral judgement that this 51 second jingle should not be played on Radio 1 as a part of the chart program, with a shortened clip of the track played in it’s place, as part of an unprecedented explanatory news item – it would seem that Aunty Beeb, under pressure from those in power, has decided for the nation, once again, what’s morally sound, and what’s not.

So what exactly is disdainful about this whole situation? … I find it disdainful that it’s apparently OK to tell millions of people that, while the media and the Thatcherite zombie hordes attempt to whitewash her legacy and canonise her as a saint, that they, her victims, are not allowed to register how they feel about it all, and to make a public mark of their experiences.

I suspect that the ‘outrage’ and public comments of ‘distastefulness’ as reported in the UK media are less to to with the event itself, and a hell of a lot more to do with the fact that any significant display of dissent and dissatisfaction threatens the whitewashed narrative they want to build… a narrative that, as it just so happens, would add legitimacy to the thatcherism-on-steroids policies of the current administration.

No mistake – this whole affair, including the planned tax-payer funded public spectacle of a not-quite-a-State funeral is a cynical political attempt at manipulation to shore up the Government and score political points. Meanwhile, real world victims are basically being told to shut up, with an attempt to close down every avenue for possible dissent. That, in my mind, is more disgusting than any possible song for #1 in the charts, which sadly, seems to be the only valid way to register a protest these days without threat of violence and arrest.

British Legion Poppy AppealRemembrance day… that day after World War 1 when everybody collectively thought “Fuck! So many lost! … lest we forget; never again.”

OK… maybe they didn’t use the expletive. My point is… these days, increasingly, the “never again” bit doesn’t really seem to factor. Politicians over the years have twisted it to support their own ends. It’s true that you blame the politician, not the soldier, but what’s happened to remembrance day over the years has made it hard to make the distinction, and, at times, just as hard to make the distinction between this anti-war commemoration and national day of remembrance and mourning, and a statement of “Fuck yeah! Ain’t the army cool, and unquestionably right in everything they do, because our troops are heros so we shouldn’t criticise what they’re asked to do… war is fought by heros. HERO’s dammit! It’s heroic, is these ‘dem wars, not sad like the two big ones all that time ago”

I’ll stick some change in the poppy appeal box because I support the legion… and hell, the legion have supported me before now… but I’ll be damned if I’m wearing a poppy. I refuse to be associated with the bastardisation of remembrance day, and I’ll mark it personally and privately in my own way, at the appropriate time.

… and that’s the thing with remembrance – it CAN be done privately, even through a national day. And as the politicians stand there with their poppies, I’ll be remembering their sometimes face saving, sometimes politically self serving, and sometimes ego-satisfying decisions in their wartime political adventures far from the front line killing our troops.

Does anybody remember the last time we had a PM who DIDN’T hold office while we were sending our troops into some war in some far off land?

Don’t forget remembrance day… Observe it. Really remember. Feel. Look at the bigger picture. Most of all, this time around, remember, or at least, try to remember the sentiment, devastation, and utter horror of your nation in 1918, when there was almost nobody that didn’t have to live in the knowledge that someone close to them was gone forever, having died in horrific ways, and in horrific conditions, and when their government simply wouldn’t get off their damn laurels to help build memorials to the fallen…. when every town and village saw individuals chip in what they could to a fund to provide a focal point to remember those they’d lost. This time around, remember that.

Every 30 to 40 years, the prevailing political ideology, and it’s accompanying economic ideology, reaches the end of it’s useful life.

The introduction of neo-liberalism was 40 years ago now. It’s reached the end of it’s useful life, stagnated, and caused massive amounts of damage – just like Social Democracy did, back in 1975. We are now in a transitional period… still reliant on the old ways, but with an effective growing consensus that we need a new way forward.

The purpose of this neo-liberal Tory-led Government, however, is to use what time it has left to implement neo-liberal policies as deeply and strongly as possible, while it’s still in fact possible to do so.

It’s for that reason that we’re seeing the ultimate neo-liberal tool, as espoused by Milton Friedman…. the tool that ruined Chile and ultimately created Pinochet… Disaster Capitalism. It is their hope that by using this tool, neo-liberal ideology will become too far engrained to remove from society, and that they can continue to win elections. The fact that Labour are 8 points ahead in the polls in spite of this effort only goes to show that there is indeed a growing consensus against this ideology.

This is a zombie Government that doesn’t even know it’s dead yet, walking on the rotting legs of a zombie ideology that won’t have the muscles to move much longer, unless it infects everything it can touch as quickly as possible.

A recent article on the Huffington Post, by a Tory, dispelling the myths, and more accurately, lies, told by the current Tory-led Coalition Government on the subject of the economy, makes this point very clear.

This, folks, is ‘Disaster Capitalism’ at it’s finest.

If you’re over 25, JSA is £71 a week. Under 25 and it’s just shy of £54 pw…

10 stamps for job applications = £6 pw
Electricity and gas (average dual fuel bill of £1,300 pa) = £25 pw
TV License = £2.80 pw
Landline (bare minimum – not calls or calling plan) = £3.50 pw
Travel to 1 interview per week in nearby town = £5 pw
Broadband (Benefits – it’s all going online now!… plus jobsearch stuff!) = £2.50 pw
Clothing costs, setting aside a little for general clothes and job search stuff = £2 pw
Personal hygiene products (shampoo, conditioner, soap, loo roll, etc) = £2

NB: realise that at this point it totals £46.30 pw, and your average under 25 has just £1.10 a day for food (£3.52 for over 25), while already living life with precious little social time or opportunities, the absolute bare minimum required to do a decent jobsearch while maintaining an existence in the land of the living, and only TV and internet contact with much of the outside world.

Now add in the cost of household appliances – purchase, and repair.
Additional travel… nobody can really get by properly making only one trip a week for an interview somewhere.
Increasingly, councils are requiring benefit claimants to contribute 10-20% of their council tax.
Add in the fact that many people – especially with housing benefit cuts, have to make up a shortfall on their rent too.

Seriously… this is only a cursory glance at costs, ignoring the fact that poorer people tend to be far more likely to have debts to repay on top of all this. This is without the ability to buy presents and cards for family members at birthdays and Christmas… and this is without the cost premium of poverty itself. This is without other costs I’ve not considered in this cursory glance.

Now, people… tell me again that people on benefits “have it easy”…

… and then add in the fact that many claimants are required to work for nothing more than their benefits in jobs that are often not local, doing work that would ordinarily be paid at a minimum of £6 an hour, and probably would be if it wasn’t for the fact that the unemployed are forced to generate profit for these companies.

… and even then, add in those who have to travel to special jobsearch and personal skills courses each week, where they’re forced to sit in with a bunch of people so run down and dejected by the whole experience that life just seems like one long slog to the point of futility… people who have been quite literally conditioned not to expect much out of life… people who actually don’t know how to read, or how to write a CV, or simply don’t care.

… and now imagine how quickly you could become one of them when starving, depressed from the struggle of it all and the lack of meaningful social contact, as well as the lack of any joy in your life, and any real chance of the value added extras that make a mundane life bearable… especially when sent on this ‘supported jobsearch course’, only to find that they can’t actually be bothered to give you any meaningful support, but are really just forcing you to waste your time inefficiently doing what you could be doing far more efficiently at home, and for less cost.

Now, people… tell me again that people on benefits “have it easy”…

… and then consider that when you attempt to “use the jobs market” to identify a skills shortage – maybe plumbing or electricians – and go to train as quickly as possible to get back into work, you can’t do a full time course else your benefits are stopped, and even if you do a part time course, you may well be forced to take up a minimum wage insecure temporary contract to stack shelves for three months, else lose your benefits for refusing a job.

… and then consider that even if you aren’t forced to take a job that will pull the rug out from under you anyway while you could be training for something better, You’re just as likely to be pushed into workfare on the idea that you need to have a work ethic instilled and need to gain (unpaid) experience doing the job of paid employees in an overcrowded minimum wage retail sector, forcing you off of that course anyway.

Now, people… tell me again that people on benefits “have it easy”…

Now consider that living one’s life under these pressures and conditions, being treated like scum by the system, by the staff at the jobcenter, by the bloke down the road because of demonising Government spin and propaganda  by the Government itself, and feeling like crap because you’ve begun to internalise all this.

Consider, for a moment, not only that, but the fact that living with none of life’s little pleasures, under the constant financial stress of watching every penny only to live a dull and dreary life of jobsearch under the threat of forced time-wasting, money (travel) spending, and labour and nothing else of consequence, being increasingly malnourished, wondering where to find your next stamp for a job application (let alone a meal), lest you be sanctioned by the jobcenter and have even less to live with…

Go on, people… tell me again that people on benefits “have it easy”. Tell me again that people on benefits make a lifestyle choice to live like this… to try to cope like this… to die like this… to suffer this indignity and make no effort whatsoever to get out of this nightmare of an existence just because they can’t be arsed and all they need to do is pull themselves up by the bootstraps.

Tell me again that we’re too generous to the unemployed, that we need to “make work pay” by cutting benefits, that we’ve left people to rot for too long and so need to deal with it by making life on benefits harder and pushing and forcing people into unpaid “work experience”, which conveniently means that they disappear from the official unemployment figures.

Go on… tell me again.

Every 40 or so years, the dominant ideology of society reaches the end of it’s useful life, right at a time when it has brought to bear a situation where direction is needed. It happened in the 1880’s, it was the case in the 1930’s, it was the case in the 1970’s and it is the case now.

We’re in a transitional period where the ‘old guard’ desperately clings to it’s interests, public anger and conflict rises, and nobody seems to have an answer. Uncertainty breeds instability, and the death knell sounds for the politics of what we know. The great challenge of these uncertain times is not party political clashes – the challenge is one of finding some manner of positive framework with which to change things.

The danger is that of something less than healthy taking hold as we grapple for any old answer that works. This is where autocrats and technocrats gain a foothold on their power. It’s also where revolutions are born, and where the seeds of a new and improved social contract can be sown.

We are living in a historic time of great change within our societies, both individually and collectively from the Arab Spring and Occupy movement to the machinations of the politics of our individual nations. Already, we even see two clear responses to the current climate – that of Iceland in the rejection of corporatism and the redrawing of its very constitution, and that of the austerity of a number of European nations. These two distinct approaches their selves are built upon different principles. In Iceland the people of the country have refused to bear the brunt of the financial crisis of 2008, whereas in a number of European nations austerity aims to place money back into the hands of banks. In those worst effected of such european countries technocrats have taken up powerful political positions in a trend that shows no signs of abating.

In these times of uncertainty there is only one thing that is certain: There must be, and will be change. The only question is over what form that change will take. We have taken a journey from the Laissez Faire economics of the turn of the 20th century, to the Keynesian social democracy of the middle of the 20th century which brought us fairer living standards and working conditions, but ultimately to neo-liberalism… and neo-liberalism has solved a number of the problems of social democracy only to bring us to runaway consumerism and ultimately, corporatism rather than the promise of the capitalist paradise it once offered.

Unfortunately, at this time of crisis as is the case at all such times, the ideologies of both left and right have been well trodden leaving the carpet utterly thread-bare. The search must now go on for a new way forward over a transition that could well take upwards of a decade. Historically, we’ve plumbed the depths of history books and the writings of philosophers and economists for this new way, often rehashing the same old social ideologies in new and interesting ways for different political ends. In the 1930’s it was Keynes with Social Democracy, and in the 80’s it was Hayek with Neo-Liberalism. What now?

In this day and age, we each have access to information that could not have been dreamt of in even the 1980’s. We no longer live under the shadow of the ‘experts’, nor in the trust in the benevolence and competence of our leaders. We live in an age where, if we so desire, we are able to think for ourselves and in many respects to chose for ourselves; and those individual ideas and decisions may now be uniquely well informed such that the whole of history has never quite seen before. This may be a watershed moment for individuals, nations and indeed the world, or it may go down in history at the time in which neo-liberal ideology came full circle and destroyed itself, making serfs and slaves of us all in the process. So potent are these times of uncertainty that we could even see the rise of some manner of neo-fascism.

The question is, given your access to knowledge and resources unique to any time in history, what kind of world would you like to see? If you could propose a new ideology for a new era, what would it be? It’s time to begin a public discourse on the ideas and aims of what we do from here. A discourse on what we believe in and what’s most important to us as human beings, both individually and collectively. The Occupy movement has been very clear in stating what it stands against – namely, Corporatism. We now need a discussion on what we’re all for, and most of us in developed nations now have access to all of the knowledge and information we could possibly need to have that discussion. Let’s have it!