Friends Like These…

Jacob Rees Mogg flanked by Jack Buckby (L) and Gregory Lauder-Frost (R).

It’s a sure sign of the Conservative Party’s dearth of talent that Jacob Rees Mogg should be talked up as a possible successor to the hapless and utterly useless Theresa May.  Many people find Moggy endearing. They love his plummy RP accent. They love his double-breasted suit jackets. They love his fustiness. They love his toffee-nosed demeanour and they love his apparently Waugh-esque wit. At Nowhere Towers we take a different view:  we find him tiresome and representative of an ages old problem with Britain. Namely, he reeks of privilege and his accent and ‘eccentric’ charm masks a ruthlessness and cruelty that is common to many members of his class.

When it comes to loving one’s oppressor, the Brits have both rationalized and elevated their oppression a fine art. We love our posh bastards. Don’t we?  Remember how people fawned over Bozza? I haven’t forgotten. Both of them went to Eton and Oxford. Both of them are seen as rather buffoonish, though for very different reasons. And both are seen as thoroughly British eccentrics. But that’s the problem: many people refuse to see through their media-constructed façades and choose to see oh-so-disarming posh twits instead. Please, wake up!

That Moggy should be touted by some Tories as a counterweight to Jeremy Corbyn’s soaring popularity speaks volumes about the parlous condition of his party and the dire health of our media. Take this gushing article from self-styled libertarian Mark Wallace, late of the Crash Bang Wallace blog and now executive editor of Conservative Home:

Moggmentum has gathered online – a fondly satirical Twitter account purporting to be him has 18,000 followers (and is often mistaken for the man himself), supercuts of his best moments attract hundreds of thousands of views on Youtube, and his outings on Question Time attract an enthusiastic following. His Instagram account, accompanying photos of him out and about with his children with dry wit, has a sizeable cult following, and there’s now even an unofficial campaign to elect him Prime Minister.

“Moggmentum”. Geddit?  I’ve seen the Twitter account and it’s genuine. Moggy’s tweeted twice and currently has 25,000 followers. Why?

I’ve read three articles recently that have warned against being taken in by Mogg’s posh charm.  These were, in no particular order, in The Canary  The New Statesman and  The New European. The last one was written by Victor Lewis Smith and was published in February.

Lewis-Smith writes:

Eccentricity is like catnip to television, and all it takes is a bowtie, a twirly moustache, a bouffant hairstyle, a monocle, or merely an upper-class accent to enable shameless privilege to pass itself off as harmless and even amusing oddity.

Lewis -Smith reminds us that Moggy is partly a media construction.  For his part, Moggy plays to television’s and the public’s expectations of a posh oddball, and he’s more than happy to do so. It provides the perfect cover for his reactionary views, which are anything but harmless and amusing.

Posh people have always provided comedy writers with a rich source of amusement. George Leybourne’s Champagne Charlie character is but one example of how the posh were routinely sent up in the music halls. But that’s part of a problem that won’t go away. We can send up the posh,  who are also authority figures, as much as we like but when it comes down to it, they’re still kicking us in the face and laughing while they’re doing it. The Tory cliché of “We’re the natural party of government” is, in reality, an unwitting admission of their arrogance, their conceit and their overweening sense of entitlement.

At the end of his article, Lewis -Smith puts the boot in:

Rees-Mogg is an Edwardian man who still seems to believe Harold Macmillan’s dictum about the US (first uttered in 1943), that “we are Greeks to their Romans”. But Britain couldn’t control America in Macmillan’s day (as we found out to our cost a few years later, over Suez), and we cannot control it now, because the relationship is not between two equals, but between a small country that continually boasts of a “special relationship,” and a large country that barely needs or notices that relationship at all.

Rees-Mogg’s patrician tones and classical references won’t work in Trump’s harsh business world, and we’ll soon find ourselves in the position of a small child in the back seat of the parental car, operating a toy steering wheel and always steering in the same direction as the real driver, just so we can pathetically pretend to ourselves that we still have some control over our own destiny.

Though all three articles mention Moggy’s  filibustering and his less-than-contemporary social attitudes – namely, his opposition to equal marriage and a woman’s right to choose, none of them mentions Moggy’s 2013 appearance at a black tie dinner organized by The Traditional Britain Group (TBG), a hard right pressure group that’s well to the right of the Tory Party. “Traditional”? “Britain”? Those two words are enough to get him tumescent with anticipation.

Rees Mogg was warned of the TBG’s ideological leanings by Searchlight’s Gerry Gable a day before he was due to take part. For reasons best known to himself, Moggy didn’t heed his warnings.  When Liberal Conspiracy revealed his speaking engagement the following day, Moggy claimed he was shocked by the group’s views and distanced himself from them. He dutifully donned sackcloth and ashes and toured the studios to offer his sincerest apologies.

Moggy told The Telegraph’s Matthew Holehouse.

“It’s undoubtedly embarrassing. I feel very silly. This was clearly a mistake,” he said. “I try to accept invitations from most people who ask me to speak. I could limit myself to just speaking to Conservative Associations, which would be safe but politics, is about speaking to a variety of views. But I wouldn’t want to be caught out in this way again.”

Let’s put it this way, if I’m invited to a black tie dinner (no chance) by a group that I know little or nothing about, I’m going to do a little research into them. Could it be… is it possible that the posh accent conceals a fundamental stupidity on Moggy’s part, or is it the case he knew exactly who these people were and merely feigned surprise when he was caught out? We may never know. In any case, it’s highly likely that some of his views and those of his hosts intersected. Why else would he have been accepted the invitation?

TBG has a very interesting backstory that’s firmly rooted in Britain’s far-right landscape and while it may deny that it’s fascist or far-right, the TBG’s position is barely discernible from that of other hard right groups, most notably The Monday Club or even The British National Party (BNP). It came to public attention for its views on Doreen Lawrence’s peerage and although it may claim that it isn’t racist, these are weasel words. As recently as March, the Bow Group, a Tory think-tank that’s on the hard right, invited the TBG to attend a three course dinner. According to the IB Times.

IBTimes UK has obtained an email circulated to members of the far-right Traditional Britain Group, informing them that they have been granted a special concession.

“They [the Bow Group] have kindly extended to Traditional Britain Group members a discount to join either the reception or the reception plus the 3 course dinner,” says the email, signed by Traditional Britain Group vice-president Gregory Lauder-Frost.

And there’s more:

Lauder-Frost was previously chairman of the foreign affairs policy committee of the Monday Club, a pressure group within the Tory party that was later banned by Iain Duncan Smith because of its views on race. He is UK CEO for Arktos Media, which has been described as the publishing wing of the alt-right white nationalist movement.

In 2013 the group’s annual conference was addressed by white nationalist ideologue Richard Spencer, before he was barred from 26 European countries including the UK after being deported from Hungary for holding a far-right conference. The 2013 gathering also hosted Austrian anti-Islam activist Markus Willinger.

Lauder-Frost et al may deny they’re fascists or Nazis but they clearly provide publishing support, if not, succour, for the alt-right, which encompasses all manner of extreme right positions.

Labour’s Louise Haigh, who was successful in getting Britain First proscribed, said:

“Assisted repatriation of anyone in the UK not ‘of European stock’; calling on brilliant, courageous women like Doreen Lawrence to ‘go back to their natural homeland’; these are the views of white nationalists and should never be normalised. Rather than inviting them to their anniversary bash, the Bow Group should treat the people who hold these views with the contempt they deserve.”

How could Moggy not have known what the TBG was about? It’s time to have a closer look at some of the people who are involved with the TBG.

In the image at the top of this article, Rees Mogg is flanked by Jack Buckby on the left and Gregory Lauder-Frost on the right. Buckby is a former member of the BNP and the founder of the “National Culturalists“. He’s also press officer for Liberty GB, a far-right party that opposes, among other things, immigration. He stood as his party’s candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election that was held after the murder of Labour MP, Jo Cox. Nice guy, huh?

Here’s the odious Buckby in action on Channel 4 News.

This is Lauder-Frost being interviewed by Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London. You will notice how he gets agitated by the idea of a prominent black woman like Doreen Lawrence being elevated to a peerage. Remember that all of Britain’s hereditary peers are white.

To say that Lauder-Frost is a Nazi admirer is something of an understatement. A former member of the Monday Club (he chaired their foreign affairs committee), Lauder-Frost is the vice president and treasurer of the TBG.  Prior to this, he was on the steering committee of the Conservative Democratic Alliance (CDA), a forerunner of the TBG. The CDA, for what it’s worth, was formed by disaffected members of the Monday Club.  TBG’s other vice president is Professor John Kersey, who describes himself as an “educationalist, musician and clergyman” (sic).  The site, ‘The Imaginative Conservative’ describes him as:

…an interdisciplinary historian whose scholarly work spans the three principal areas of music, education and traditionalist Catholicism. He currently serves as President, Director of Academic Affairs and David Hume Interdisciplinary Professor at European-American University.

The “European American University” currently appears to operate under the name ‘The Western Orthodox Academy’ and has branches in the Caribbean and West Africa.  Kersey is also rather nostalgic for feudalism.  As Tony the Tiger says: ” the aristocracy is just gggrrreeeeaaattt”!

What’s rather interesting about these TBG types is their connection to self-styled libertarian groups . Indeed, according to their website, Kersey also occupies the role of ‘Director of Cultural Affairs’ for the Libertarian Alliance but don’t be fooled by words like ‘libertarian’ or ‘freedom’. Their idea of freedom is yours and my slavery. When Moggy apologized for attending the TBG’s dinner, the site Libertarian News swung into action and complained that free thought and free speech were being denied. Oh, the drama!

Anti-fascists will be familiar with the name of Stuart Millson, who is also a TBG member and ex-member of the CDA, who, along with Jonathan Bowden (also a TBG member), formed the Revolutionary Conservative Caucus, a small but short-lived far right pressure group.  Millson was also a former member of the BNP and an officer with the semi-fascist outfit Western Goals Institute.  While he was in the RCS, Millson rubbed shoulders with the likes of Mark Cotterill, a former member of the National Front (NF) and a well-known figure on Britain’s far-right. This is not surprising given Millson’s former membership of the BNP, which itself was formed by a split in the NF. Millson was also once a member of the Conservative Party. Well, sort of…

From The Guardian, 27 August, 2001

Stephen Parker, a Tory member in Hertfordshire, wrote to Mr Ancram in 1999 with evidence that a self-declared rightwing extremist had forged a Tory party membership card. But in a letter to Peter Lilley, Mr Parker’s MP, the former chairman said in October 1999: “There is no further need to correspond with Mr Parker on this matter.” Mr Ancram argued that Stuart Millson, a BNP member in his youth, had merely made a copy of a membership card.

Mr Ancram’s refusal to take any action blew up in his face earlier this year when Mr Millson, who once dined in London with the French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, joined the Tonbridge and Malling Conservative association in Kent. He resigned in May this year after he was exposed by the Mirror.

The disclosure that Mr Ancram failed to take action to root out a known racist will confirm the fears of moderate Tories that the party hierarchy has been complacent about the far right’s attempts to infiltrate the party. It will also embarrass Mr Duncan Smith who has won the support of Mr Ancram and whose leadership campaign was rocked last week when a prominent backer in Wales was unmasked as a BNP sympathiser.

The Tories may deny it, but many of their members are sympathetic to groups like the TBG. Indeed, in the 1970s NF members joined local Conservative Clubs and were members of the Monday Club. Others are members of The Freedom Association, the faux libertarian pressure group that talks warmly about their idea of ‘freedom’, while working hard to deny it to others. Tories may complain about ‘entryism’ in the Labour Party, but for decades extreme-right entryists joined the party and they’re still joining.

Moggy’s antiquated views are only matched by his sartorial style. If you find him amusing or endearing, you might want to ask yourself this: what kind of friends are the TBG? Rees Mogg only apologised when he got caught by Liberal Conspiracy. If that had never happened, Moggy would have got away with it. Makes you wonder…

You can read the original Liberal Conspiracy article here.

 

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They’re Behaving/Pretending Like They’ve Won The Election!

As the dust settles  on the General Election result, one thing is obvious: no one won an outright majority. The Tories lost their majority after their leader’s high stakes gamble in calling a snap general election, and Labour came second. Those facts are inescapable.  But why call the election in the first place? The reason given by many political hacks was that, apparently, May took one look across the dispatch box and perceived a weak Jeremy Corbyn, and thought she could walk it by uttering a few idiotic soundbites. How wrong she was. She and her party thought the landslide was in the bag. How wrong they were. Remember, this was a landslide widely predicted by the great and the good of Britain’s media. Their oft-repeated prediction was intended to achieve one aim: to intimidate Labour supporters, and convince them to stay at home rather than vote for the unelectable Labour Party led by the unelectable Jeremy Corbyn (who’s actually won every election since 1983).

Since the election the complaint from the Tories and mainstream media has been “They’re behaving/pretending like they’ve won the election”! This complaint reveals an ignorance of how parliamentary politics and the constitution works. It also demonstrates a weak grasp of history, particularly of hung parliaments and minority governments, and the role of the opposition in a hung parliament. More importantly, the complaint itself is puerile and serves to further undermine our limited and deeply corrupted democracy.  But it also underscores the Tory Party’s authoritarian tendencies: in other words, you can have an official opposition as long as it’s supine and scared of its own shadow. Thankfully, we don’t live in a Tory one-party state – yet.

I have already talked about two hung parliaments in December 1923 and February 1974, which resulted in hung parliaments and minority governments. It is clear that this latest hysterical outburst from the Tories and their media allies is designed to convince gullible members of the public that Labour is out to destroy the country by not playing ball with May’s apparently serious and adult government (sic), which is supposedly acting in “the national interest“.

Labour has the right to say that it is waiting and ready to form a government. Why? Because:

  1. The role of the opposition in a hung parliament is to use every opportunity to defeat the government. You can guarantee that if the situation were reversed, no one in the media would say “They’re (the Tories) pretending they’ve won the election”. Instead, the media would actively encourage the Tories to find ways to defeat a Labour minority government as The Daily Mail  – with the connivance of the secret state – did in 1924.
  2. Labour is the second party and could form a minority government if the Queen’s Speech is defeated. That’s how the constitution works. This is what happened in January 1924 and February 1974.

It’s annoying to see even seasoned political commentators like Andrew Neil resorting to this kind of bullshit. He’s supposed to know how the constitution works. It’s his job. Mind you, he is a Tory after all.

This is the latest manifestation of an ongoing campaign to smear the Labour Party and, by extension, Jeremy Corbyn, because the previous smears failed. Indeed, the party did better than expected in spite of the tow year long smear campaign in much of the media.  Unable to comprehend the election result, Tories and their media allies have misrepresented Labour’s rediscovered sense of confidence for arrogance, but it’s a projection.  I mean, how dare they feel confident? They lost, didn’t they? Well, yes, but the Tories didn’t win either despite being the largest party and besides, it looks as though they’ve been caught cheating again.

Finally, the Tories are weak and they know it, so they lash out like wounded animals. In 1974, Ted Heath attempted to form a coalition with Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberal Party. The talks broke down over the weekend. May’s Tories are trying to form a confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party and, by all accounts, it isn’t going very well.  The DUP have accused the Tories of being poor negotiators. We’re also told that this deal has to happen because, according the the Tories and the media, the DUP “doesn’t want to see Corbyn as PM”. So what? We don’t want to see the Tories continue to drag Britain into the abyss, nor do we want to see the DUP pull May’s strings – she’s weak enough as it is.

The sooner this useless and cruel government is dispatched, the better.

 

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The Undignifed Response To The Grenfell Tower Fire From Britain’s Right

The terrible fire at Grenfell Tower in Notting Dale last week in which scores, possibly hundreds, of people died, has prompted rather peculiar knee jerk reactions from Britain’s right-wing commentators and their followers. The most popular complaint among them is “the left has politicized this tragedy”. This is an interesting accusation, given the fact housing is a political issue, and for the fact the claim reveals a general ignorance of the word ‘politic(s)’. But the accusation is also indicative of a state of mind that blinds a person to empathy, compassion, sympathy and all the things that make us human; the very things that separate us from the machines. We do not ‘process’ feelings; we reflect, we meditate and we think about them; perhaps we act on them individually and collectively. That’s politics. Individual organs within our bodies (it’s not a ‘wonderful’ machine) may process nutrients but as organisms, we are more than the sum total of our physical processes. A point missed by those, like the Ayn Rand cultists, who would convince us that we are nothing more than robots made of flesh.

Catherine Itzin (1980), in her excellent book about British political theatre, Stages In The Revolution, argued “Everything is political; all life is political”. Second wave feminists always said “The personal is political”. We should also remind ourselves that word ‘politics’ is derived from ‘polis’ the Ancient Greek word for city; a place with a high concentration of citizens . In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle used the word politikos to describe the ‘affairs of the citizens’. In this form it can mean anything from an individual’s preferences and judgements, or the discourses that groups of people create or circulate among themselves.  Politics is not limited to the practices of professional politicians and their associates in the press.

Merriam Webster offers these definitions of the word ‘politics’.

  1. 1a :  the art or science of government b :  the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy c :  the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government

  2. 2:  political actions, practices, or policies

  3. 3a :  political affairs or business; especially :  competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government)b :  political life especially as a principal activity or profession c :  political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices

  4. 4:  the political opinions or sympathies of a person

  5. 5a :  the total complex of relations between people living in society b :  relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view office politics ethnic politics

Like it or not, housing is a political issue and to accuse a group or a person of “politicizing the tragedy” misses this point – especially when the local authority’s response to the Grenfell blaze was so woeful. This was a preventable tragedy and to voice that fact is political and rightly so.

When Jeremy Corbyn told the media that empty homes in the borough should be requisitioned to temporarily house Glenfell survivors, the howls of outrage were as predictable as they were hysterical.  These self-appointed moral guardians would tell us they are educated, but their comprehension of written and spoken English was noticeably lacking in their discourses.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a requisition is a:

NOUN

  • An official order laying claim to the use of property or materials.

    ‘I had to make various requisitions for staff and accommodation’
    1. 1.1 A formal written demand that something should be performed or put into operation.
      ‘requisitions for an Extraordinary General Meeting must state the business to be transacted’
    2. 1.2 Law A demand to the vendor of a property for the official search relating to the title.
    3. 1.3 mass noun The appropriation of goods for military or public use.
      ‘requisition of grain at the point of a gun proved a novel experience for the peasantr

The word that many right-wingers reached for instead of requisition was confiscation: a completely different word, which is defined as:

NOUN

mass noun

  • The action of taking or seizing someone’s property with authority; seizure.

    ‘a court ordered the confiscation of her property’

There it is. It isn’t that they misheard the word. Oh no. They heard what they wanted to hear: “millionaires’ properties should be confiscated to house displaced [but filthy] working class people from our neighbourhood[that we’d rather not see]”.

According to Helmet Head, the oligarchs who have bought properties in Kensington and Chelsea and left them empty, are entitled to special privileges by dint of their bloated bank accounts and their greed (here, the billionaire is revered as a living god). Property ownership is apparently an inalienable ‘human right’ that trumps the right to life, freedom of expression and so on.

Hysteria and hyperbole. First, legislation would have to be introduced for this to occur and second, homes were requisitioned by the government order during the First and Second World Wars. Requisitioning properties in times of emergency is nothing new and the properties are always returned to their owners. This is an emergency.

The Lyin’ King, in his column for CapX, effectively dodges the question of possible corporate manslaughter or managerial incompetence by adopting a morally high, but ultimately questionable, position of disinterest. He opens in his typically dishonest fashion by linking Grenfell Tower to a hoax call. It’s pretty despicable.

Do you remember the tragic story of Jacintha Saldanha? You don’t? It was huge at the time. Jacintha was a nurse at the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her first child. She got a hoax call from two Australian radio presenters pretending to be the Queen and the Prince of Wales, and put it through to the relevant ward nurse. When the news broke, Jacintha, who had had a history of depression, committed suicide by hanging, leaving two teenage children.

He then links the genuine concerns of the residents and neighbours and the glacially sluggish response from RB Kensington and Chelsea’s leadership to scapegoating  innocent parties. I draw your attention to the final sentence, because it is most revealing.

We are still at that stage in the aftermath of the Grenfell horror. Obviously, we need to find out what went wrong, and assess whether other places are at risk. If there is evidence of criminal negligence, of course that negligence should be punished. But the discussion over the past two days has gone well beyond these things. The country is bellowing for a scapegoat big enough and monstrous enough to bear responsibility for such an outrage. The idea of a tragic accident simply won’t do.

Yes, this is tragic. That’s stating the bleedin’ obvious but an accident? How does Dan, for all his moralizing and expensive education, know this was an “accident”? Moreover, by referring to Grenfell as a “tragic accident”, he is making his own political judgement of the disaster.

But what about the contributing factors?  Has Dan not read the Grenfell Action Group blog?  Does he think that residents shouldn’t have voiced their concerns at the  substandard quality of the £10 million refurbishment, or the mysterious power surges? Does he think that, given their circumstances as renters, they have no right to complain? Those who rent their homes as opposed to those who buy their, are often seen by the property-owning classes, as second class citizens. 

Like our pre-modern ancestors, we have an innate sense that, for such a horrifying event to have happened, there must have been great wickedness at work. Like them, we disagree as to who was responsible for the wickedness. Usually, though, just as they did, we blame whomever we already happened not to like. Glancing at this morning’s newspapers, I see that the Guardian blames inequality, the Mail blames eco-regulations, the Express blames EU rules and the Mirror blames the Tories. Simon Jenkins, that champion of harmonious and well-proportioned architecture, blames tower-blocks. Owen Jones, my favourite radical, blames racketeering landlords. For all I know, one or more of these villains may indeed be at fault; but, for now, it is mainly guesswork.

 A massive point has been missed.

Here, Hannan tells his readers to give money and to sympathize with the victims, while at the same he presumes to speak for the residents and their suffering. Just wow.

The media always follow the same course on these occasions. Having initially blamed their favourite bêtes noires, they will move on to the victims and survivors, asking them what should be done. Which brings me to a very hard thing that needs saying. The victims deserve our utmost sympathy as well as our practical help. Please do give, if you haven’t already, to one of the appeals. But bereaved relatives have no particular authority when it comes to finding the correct prescriptions. We should not expect policy ideas from people in shock, and demanding them is not just a form of journalistic grandstanding; it is also deeply unfair to the victims it purports to elevate.

Emotions are human, and grief and suffering are expressed in individual ways. Money is not the only answer; it is only a sticking plaster. Long term needs must be considered, namely the residents’ right to live in their neighbourhood in safety.

Hannan et al will always deny the central issue of housing provision and potential avoidability of this disaster is political issue, but this view is as absurd as it is dangerous. It smacks of  a wilful disinterest that is wholly based upon class privilege. Their underlying disgust for, not only council tenants, but the working class as a social formation, bobs up from behind the cover of their tiresome and empty platitudes, and is thus visible for all to see. Charity, for them is the answer, not a proposal to deal with the structural inequalities that have blighted this country for generations, but philanthropy and the guiding hand of paternalism is offered to head off any real demands for meaningful social, political, cultural and economic settlement. This is disgust in action.

Disgust figures prominently in the tweets of CapX’s  Iain Martin, who subjects last week’s protests outside Kensington Town Hall, to a volley of sneers, paranoia and misinterpretations. In this tweet, he slyly insinuates the residents – who should be meek; content in their social condition – are being led astray by members of the much depleted Socialist Workers’ Party.

But even if left-wing parties are marching in solidarity with the residents and a few SWP placards (which are on every fucking march and demo, by the way.  It doesn’t mean that everyone is a fucking member) are seen, does this necessarily prove anything? Is this necessarily the SWP in another bandwagon-jumping exercise? Not really.  Any human would have been appalled at what happened to those poor unfortunate people. Would this country’s right-wing have taken up the cause of those who lost their homes at Grenfell Tower by marching in solidarity with them? It’s highly unlikely.  Well, no, actually.  They only protest when their idea of freedom is challenged or when it’s otherwise not being met on their terms. Even then, such events are poorly-attended.

In this tweet to Owen Jones, Martin insists that the residents, whom he describes as a “mob”, aren’t capable of spontaneous collective agency but are being led astray by the darkest of forces. Yes, it’s the SWP again, cast here as “tin pot revolutionaries”.

Beneath Martin’s sneers burns a fierce class hatred that is bolstered by his sense of class entitlement, which is common to all free market cultists.  Indeed, it speaks volumes when I say that I have yet to meet a working class right-wing libertarian. I don’t think they exist. Anarchists, yes. Libertarians, no.

Brendan O’Neill claims to be a man of the left, a Marxist even, but this claim has always been empty. He’s a right-wing libertarian-contrarian, who spends his days shouting about the ‘middle class left’ and views the working class as a homogeneous mass that is ignorant, easily led and certainly not left-wing. In his article for Spiked Online, he demands that Labour, the left or whoever, stop “exploiting the dead of Grenfell Tower”. His article ploughs roughly the same furrow as the Lyin’ King’s effort but is no less wilfully ignorant in its tone and manner. We get to his ideological spin at the bottom of the piece:

‘But the Grenfell disaster is political’, the people exploiting it cry, somewhat defensively. And they’re right. It is. Social housing and gentrification and the eco-approved application of cladding to tower blocks are political issues, or at least public issues, and we should talk about them. But these people aren’t treating Grenfell as political; they’re treating it as party political. They’re using it to demean Toryism as evil, and big up Corbyn as the leader Britain needs right now. He cares, you see, unlike them. He is Good, they are Bad. This isn’t politics – this is a culture war, where the horrors experienced by the working classes of North Kensington are used to underpin the binary moralism of a Corbynista worldview of the right as wicked and the left as decent. They are building their political movement on the corpses of the poor, and no amount of radical-sounding lingo can cover up just how cynical, opportunistic and depraved that is.

O’Neill uses the Grenfell Disaster to attack Corbyn. It’s intellectually dishonest and it’s shabby. His screed reveals his rather slippery view of his politics: the right is “wicked” and the left is “decent” he moans. But this is no more than a warped perception of Corbyn’s very human response to the disaster. I don’t recall Bruvver Bren making any demands on behalf of the residents or, indeed, meeting them face-to-face. Can you? O’Neill takes Murdoch’s shilling, so his job is to produce unimaginative crap like this.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Brendan O’Neill.

For the likes of Toby Young, Dan Hannan, and Iain Martin, the working class should simply put up with their condition because, so the neoliberal argument goes, they made ‘poor life choices’. If they burn to death in a ‘tragic accident’ then one must remain calm and accept the fact that politics is something that is practised by, and reserved for, professionals like Hannan, a man who takes a salary from the European Union, but who has worked to destroy the very institution from which he has benefited enormously.

Since the days of Thatcher, right-leaning middle class types have always believed in the notion that the working class can simply ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’ and be like them. The trouble is, the working class cannot be like them because, unlike them, they weren’t born into privilege. They literally cannot afford to be right-wing libertarians or Tories.

Reference/further reading

Bourdieu, P. (2003). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London: Routledge.

De Certeau, M (1988). The Practice of Everyday Life. London: University of California Press.

Fanon, F. (1986). Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press.

Harvey, D. (2007). “Neoliberalism as creative destruction”. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 610(1), pp 21-44.

Itzin, C. (1980). Stages in the revolution: political theatre in Britain since 1968. London: Eyre Metheun.

Rowe, C. J., & Broadie, S. (2002). Nicomachean ethics. Oxford University Press.

 

 

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Grenfell Tower: A Question Of Management

The tragic, but avoidable fire at Grenfell Tower in Notting Dale, West London has raised a number of questions about the management of council properties, the quality of building materials and governmental oversight. We don’t know the actual cause of the fire as investigations have yet to be conducted. One thing is for certain, council tenants deserve a better deal and they’re not getting it.

Ask most council tenants who they want to manage their housing and they’ll almost always tell you “the council”. I used to work in housing and I spoke to many tenants, some of them were faced with having a Tenant (or Resident) Management Organisation (TMO/RMO) or ALMO (Arm’s Length Management Organisation) forced upon them. When I used to work for Lambeth, one estate, the Blenheim Gardens Estate was on the brink of being transferred. The tenants were being promised all sorts by the council and many of these promises came to nothing.  There are plans to transfer the estate to an Housing Association.

TMOs, RMOs and ALMOs tend to be a stepping stone to an eventual stock transfer to a housing association like Peabody, or a private property management company like Pinnacle. In either case, tenants get a raw deal. They may discover that the terms of their tenancies have changed or the quality of estate management declines.

Grenfell Tower is managed by Kensington and Chelsea TMO. Like the rest of Kensington and Chelsea’s housing stock it was transferred to the TMO in 1996.  The Grenfell Action Group have made numerous complaints to KCTMO about fire safety, which have all been ignored. The block itself has recently been refurbished at a cost of £8.7 million, but many believe that the quality of materials used for the building’s cladding are responsible for the blaze.

The Tory government  also failed to carry out a fire safety review of tower blocks. The minister responsible, Gavin Barwell, apparently “sat on the report”. The Independent reports:

Gavin Barwell failed to give the review the green light during his tenure as housing minister, despite it already having waited for years.

The fire expert behind a report calling for the desperately needed safety appraisal, said he had spoken to Mr Barwell earlier this year and the then-minister told him no decision on the review had been taken.

The bottom line is that councils will usually ignore the concerns of tenants in order to save money. Kensington & Chelsea Council is Tory-controlled, so it comes as no surprise that they transferred the management of their entire housing stock to KCTMO, who have been described as a ‘mini mafia’. Scum sucking parasites is what they are.

The Tories are no friends of council housing and Hammersmith and Fulham councillor, Harry Phibbs, sees tower blocks like Grenfell Tower as “vertical slums”.

During his time as mayor, Boris Johnson, closed fire stations. He was warned of the potential consequences.

The Tories must also take a large measure of the blame for failing to act when they had a chance, and for the cuts they’ve imposed on local authorities in the name of deficit reduction.

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Don’t Get Too Excited. Sinn Féin Are Not Taking Their Seats At Westminster

Some of you may have seen reports in The S*n, The Daily Abscess and The Scotsman that Sinn Féin will be taking their seats in the Westminster parliament. It isn’t going to happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next year. Forget it. The party has a longstanding policy of abstention in the British parliament and that isn’t going to change.

In the 1918 General Election, sometimes called the ‘Coupon election’, Sinn Féin led by Eamonn De Valera, were the third party with 73 seats. They refused to take their seats and so, by default, Labour became the third largest party.  This would be the last time that Sinn Féin would contest a general election until 1983 when Gerry Adams was elected as MP.  Instead, Sinn Féin took its seats in the first Dáil (Irish parliament).  As for De Valera, he left Sinn Féin and formed Fianna Fáil in 1926 after the Civil War, and focussed his efforts on the nascent Irish Free State.

Sinn Féin’s reason for abstaining has something to do with the oath that all new MPs have to swear before taking their seats but that’s only part of the reason.

Sinn Féin sees itself as an Irish republican party that represents the Irish people. It is opposed to the British occupation of the Six Counties and as long as that continues, it will refuse to take its seats. Moreover, it has no interest in British affairs unless they impact on the island of Ireland.

Sinn Féin’s Danny Morrison writing on Eamonn Mallie’s blog, says:

Many arguments have been advanced in defence of abstentionism including that the oath or affirmation of allegiance to a foreign monarch and her heirs presents a difficulty and is inimical to one’s republicanism; or that one’s influence is miniscule and dwarfed by the major parties with few from the North able to demonstrate worthwhile achievements commensurate with their attendance.

These arguments, whilst valid, are not at the core of abstentionism. For example, the oath could be completely removed. Or, imagine Britain a republic. It might well be possible for some of the parties which take their seats to point to pieces of legislation that they have influenced or initiated. In the circumstances of a hung parliament it is undeniable that a tail might be able to wag the much bigger dog for a time.

Even if the oath was removed and I was an MP I would still not take my seat.

Even if Britain was a republic I would still not take my seat.

Even if I held the balance of power and could get through bits and pieces of legislation (while flattering myself as to the magnitude of my importance) I would still not take my seat.

For me, it is quite simple.

How can I object to Britain interfering in Irish affairs if I go over and interfere in theirs?

Once I took my seat, with or without an oath, I have lost the moral high ground on that question of Irish sovereignty. I have already conceded Britain’s right to govern on this shore – a claim that was demonstrably rejected in December 1918 by the majority of people in Ireland in a democratic election.

Even though for reasons of pragmatism I support Agreements which were passed into law in the House of Commons, this does not mean that I recognise Britain’s claim to rule over me as being legitimate.

You can read the rest of Morrison’s article here.

The British press has a terrible reputation for propagandizing  and stirring up trouble, and anything it says with regards to Ireland and Irish sovereignty should be taken with a ton of salt – especially if its in The S*n, a paper that lied about Hillsborough and hacked people’s phones.

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Filed under General Election 2017, Ireland, Northern Ireland

Echoes From The Past: Stanley Baldwin, Minority Governments And ‘The National Interest’

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Stanley Baldwin: he lost, he won and he lost again. Then he won in 1935.

Many voters and politicians aren’t students of history and it shows. Postmodern politicians, especially, see history like ideologies as meta-narratives that can be ignored or cherry-picked to suit weak arguments. We’ve had two hung parliaments in the space of seven years, yet to hear the media and some politicians talk, you’d think the hung parliament was a recent phenomenon. It is not. On the other hand, we have Tory politicians like Crispin Blunt complaining that it’s the electorate’s fault that we have a hung parliament. Blunt needs to look at our deeply-flawed electoral system and his own party’s dismal election campaign before spouting such nonsense.

I have already commented on Heath’s disastrous 1974 snap election, which resulted in a hung parliament and a Labour minority government. Like Heath, May’s own snap election was born partly from arrogance and partly out of stupidity. Both Prime Ministers wanted to cling onto power at any cost, and neither wanted to admit defeat.

One previous Conservative Prime Minister that hasn’t been mentioned in the history of hung parliaments, and who gambled away a decent-sized majority was Stanley Baldwin, who later became the First Earl of Bewdley and who supported Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy towards Nazi Germany in 1939. Baldwin is also remembered for failing to rearm Britain during the 1930s, while he was PM. He was also known for the ‘Iron Gates Crisis‘.

In 1923, Bonar Law, the shortest-lived PM of the 20th century, resigned because of terminal throat cancer. His chancellor, Stanley Baldwin, was chosen by the ‘men in grey suits’ to succeed him. Law had fought the previous year’s general election on free trade and tariff reform and Baldwin felt committed to his pledge during the 1922 election, namely that there would be no introduction of tariffs without an election. But external pressures were exerting themselves upon the Tories’ trade policy and Baldwin felt compelled to introduce a degree of protectionism. This violated Law’s pledge and Baldwin called a snap general election for 6 December, 1923 to strengthen his grip on his restive party. It was a gamble, for the election resulted in a hung parliament. The Tories lost their 70 seat majority and although they were the largest party, they could not command the confidence of the House. Baldwin remained as PM until the new parliament in January 1924.

The Tories’ King’s Speech was defeated in the Commons on 24 January, 1924 and Baldwin resigned immediately. This led to the first Labour government, which lasted until October 1924 when it was brought down by a combination of intrigue and a smear and fear campaign, remembered mostly for the notorious Zinoviev Letter.  The Tories won a landslide and had a 220 seat majority. Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour Party was reduced to 151 seats, while Herbert Asquith’s unpopular Liberals lost 118 seats and were reduced to 40 seats.

Baldwin’s Tory government of 1924 – 1929 contained former political allies of Lloyd George, and former Coalition Conservatives like Austen Chamberlain, the half-brother of Neville.  It lasted for around five years and is remembered mainly for the General Strike of 1926. Baldwin went to the country in 1929 and expected to win a similar majority to the one he had. He lost again. Memories of the General Strike were still fresh in the memories of many voters and, consequently, MacDonald’s Labour Party won the largest number of seats and formed a minority government but this wouldn’t last. The Great Depression, which began in the same year, created fresh problems for MacDonald and George V urged him to form a National Government. This was the beginning of the end for MacDonald but signalled a new beginning for Baldwin, who would lead the National Government to victory in 1935.  It was this government, which comprised mostly of Conservatives, that fought the 1931 general election.

Let’s come back to the present. Over the weekend there were some murmurings from some commentators that the only way to solve the Brexit Crisis is to form a National Government. This would be an unwise move for any self-styled ‘moderate’ Labour members tempted into such an arrangement.  However, I am aware that many of these ‘moderates’ are completely ignorant of their own party’s history.  In 1931, Labour suffered heavy losses that were mainly caused by MacDonald’s formation of a National Government and the creation of the National Labour Organisation to support it. The Liberals split into three parties, while the Tories remained a single bloc. When Tories talk of wanting to govern in “the national interest” what they really mean is that they will govern in the interests of themselves and their class.

Have a look at this British Pathé film clip of the National Government.

If Labour and the rest of the opposition parties work together and peel off some socially liberal Tories, May’s government can be defeated. They should not pass on that opportunity.

 

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Filed under General Election 2017, History & Memory

The Tory-DUP Pact

DUP billboard

Oops! That’s another promise broken!

After last night’s election losses that saw Theresa May’s Tory Party denied an overall majority in the Commons, it was perhaps inevitable that they would turn to the Democratic Unionist Party to prop them up. A reminder: this is not a coalition; it is an arrangement between the party of government and another party.  There is no joint programme as there would be between two parties entering a coalition. It is a formal agreement between a smaller party and the larger party to support government policies on an issue by issue basis. The Lib Dems could have chosen this option but decided to opt for government instead. Perhaps fearing a future wipeout by the Ulster Unionist Party, who are the natural allies of the Tories, the DUP picked the least worse option.  By the way, there are no UUP MPs in the Commons, so the only Unionist Party that May could turn to was the DUP, who, along with Independent Unionist, Sylvia Hermon, have supported the Tories in the Commons since 2015.

So what do we know about the DUP?  

The DUP is a socially conservative political party in Northern Ireland. It was founded by Dr Ian Paisley and Desmond Boal in 1971 from the remains of the Protestant Unionist Party. It was, until recently, in a power-sharing government with their mortal enemies, Sinn Féin. During its time in government, the DUP has opposed equal marriage and abortion, and are climate change deniers. This will make a few socially liberal Tories feel rather uncomfortable. If you think the Tories are stuck in the 19th century, the DUP lives in the 17th century.

What else?

As I wrote in this article from 2015, the party has links to Loyalist paramilitaries like the Ulster Defence Association, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando. At times, the DUP has been referred to as “political wing of the UDA”.

Why does any of this matter?

Throughout the General Election campaign, the Tories and their allies in the media accused Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and, to a lesser extent, Diane Abbott of being “IRA/terrorist sympathizers”. Their reasons for doing this were tenuous: Corbyn spoke to representatives of Sinn Féin, and not the IRA, in order to facilitate a peaceful end to the so-called ‘Troubles’. The Tories thought that by linking Corbyn et al to the IRA, they could claim he was “soft on terrorism” and put an end to his momentum. Now the Tories are in a working relationship with the DUP, whose links to Loyalist paramilitaries – terrorists, if you will – are well known. The Tories find themselves in a deliciously hypocritical position after spending much of the campaign smearing Corbyn for his “appeasement of Britain’s enemies”. The Tories can now be cast as ‘terrorist sympathizers’.

So what happens now?

We wait and see. Nowhere Towers doesn’t think the government will last 12 months. As for May herself, The Cat has heard there are moves afoot to remove her. Tory think-tank, the Bow Group, has called for leadership elections.  Watch this space.

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Filed under General Election 2017