Monthly Archives: June 2010

Douglas Murray…comedy genius?

You have to admit, Douglas Murray is an odd one. With a voice like that of an arrested adolescent, Dougie goes puce with rage whenever anyone offends his sense of right-wing righteousness…and, boy does the spittle fly!  He quite often reserves much of his bile for Islam which he tends to paint as a religion of ‘evil’; warning us of the ‘creeping Islamization of Europe’. Hmmm, Cassandra doesn’t suit you, you’re more of a General Jack D. Ripper from Dr Strangelove.  Personally, I think the Catholic church is pretty ‘evil’ – maybe you haven’t heard about the child abuse scandals?

A couple of days ago I spotted this blog. Here, Murray asks if Diane Abbott has ‘unseated’ Yasmin Alibhai-Brown as the “stupidest woman in Britain”. He is referring here to Abbott’s appearance on last Thursday’s This Week (BBC1). By the way, that’s Dougie’s caption on the clip, not mine.

I saw it too Doug, but it looks like we were watching different programmes…or you were watching it through your fairground lenses?  In the programme, Brillo (aka Andrew Neil) asks Abbott about her comment that “West Indian mums would go to the wall for her children” after she had responded to a question about why she had sent her son to a public school instead of a comprehensive.

But it’s been done to death and Brillo knew that by pressing the point he was making her feel uncomfortable. But he was also making a prat of himself. In fact, he comes a across as the Poundstretcher version of Paxman. Very tabloid. What Murray didn’t notice were the ‘daggers’ she shot at Brillo at the end of the ‘interview’.

What tickles me about this blog is the way Murray appears to suggest that no one should ever mention race; it’s the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’. You see, any mention of race or racism is ‘politically correct’ and we can’t have that. In response to Abbott’s remark, Murray had this to say,

A statement that strongly implies that white mothers, for instance, would not.

Really? I think you’re reading too much into this, Doug. However it is often implied by right-wing opinion-formers that the children of single black mothers are less likely to succeed than their white or Asian counterparts. Maybe she has a point – no? Admittedly Abbott hasn’t covered herself in glory by making that statement because it plays right into yours and many other righties’ hands. It gives you something to get into a lather about; a sort of 2 second foaming-at-the-mouth. It keeps you regular.

But what is genuinely funny about all of this is the way his fellow Torygraph blogger, Richard Spencer, accuses him of subtly playing the race card.

The tenor of the piece is that it is their ethnic status, and their attitude towards it, that elevates them above all the gormless celebrities, expenses-fiddling politicians, and rent-a-view drone hacks who are as ubiquitous in female as in male public life, and almost all of whom are white.

I agree, away with these vapid ‘celebrities’! But I do I love it when a fight breaks out between two Telegraph bloggers !

Spencer continues,

Nevertheless, to argue that the phrase “West Indian mums love their kids” is equivalent to saying “White ones don’t” is surely the worst sort of paranoid defensive victim-speak. You might as well say that it can’t be hot in Dubai and in Abu Dhabi, Greece and Ethiopia at the same time.

Absolutely but Dougie won’t be beaten. He opens his riposte waspishly,

Well, I guess Richard Spencer and I had very different friends – and heard very different jokes – at school.

That’s bitchy. Oh yeah and didn’t you claim that “Paddy jokes” were okay? Ah, the freedom to be cruel towards others through the medium of  ‘joke-telling’. I mean, what is so wrong about calling a spade a nigger? “What’s the matter? Can’t you take a joke”?

I always thought Murray was just a paranoid conspiracist who gets paid for running a think-tank called The Centre for Social Division…er, Social Cohesion. He also gets a lot of air-time and column inches…too many in my opinion. But, as his blogs show us,  he’s quite the comedian too. If you like that sort of thing, that is.

1 Comment

Filed under Media

Adventures in urban cycling: Part 1

The summer always brings them out. What am I talking about? Idiot road-users. I am an experienced urban cyclist who obeys the rules of the road. I cover my brakes and I wear my helmet correctly; I look behind and I signal. I also take the correct position on the road to avoid potential hazards. I want to be safe, who doesn’t? When I was 12 my family stayed in a guest house in Bedford while we waited for our accommodation on RAF Chicksands to be prepared. In one of the rooms that were staying in, someone had left a copy of the Highway Code. Being a bit of a bookworm, I read it from cover to cover, paying particular attention to road signs and markings, because I knew one day that I would have to use the road. So I do get a little cross when people clearly ignore the rules, bend the rules or behave as though they don’t apply to them.

In the last fortnight I’ve nearly been hit by stupid cyclists ignoring the rules and putting themselves and others in danger. Twice I have had  near-misses while positioning myself to take a right turn into a side road. The first near miss occured while I was waiting for an approaching motorist to pass when some lunatic flew off the pavement, approached me from behind, cutting me off as I was about to turn. This forced the motorist to brake suddenly. I made eye contact with the driver and waved him on. The second near miss came when I was again about to take a right turn when some fool came off the pavement to my left and cycled across my path and that of an approaching road user. We both looked at each other with a look of confusion on our faces. The motorist wanted to let me go first but just to prove I wasn’t like the moron who crossed our paths, I let him go first because he had right of way. As I passed the pavement cyclist I said “Do you have a death wish”? I didn’t wait for a reply but he didn’t shout abuse at me, so maybe he didn’t hear me…or he was just plain dozy.

Some motorists clearly have a problem with cyclists and while I appreciate there are some pretty abysmal cyclists on the road, the numbers of bad motorists is just as scary, if not scarier. But there is a staggering ignorance among many motorists about where cyclists should be on the road. As I said earlier, I take a position on the road that will keep me safe.  There are many motorists who believe that cyclists should only use the cycle lane. In the Highway Code it says

Cycle Lanes. These are marked by a white line (which may be broken) along the carriageway (see Rule 140). Keep within the lane when practicable. When leaving a cycle lane check before pulling out that it is safe to do so and signal your intention clearly to other road users. Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer. (63)

Take note, cycle lanes are not compulsory and besides, not only do many motorists encroach into them, they are often full of debris, potholes, sunken or wet drain covers and so on. I don’t want a puncture and I want my back to last me into old age, so  I am not cycling in the gutter or close to the Give Way lines where I could get hit. Again, this particular passage in the HC is for cyclists.

take extra care near road humps, narrowings and other traffic calming features  (67)

It’s narrowings that seem to be a problem with some motorists. I was taking extra care. Some motorists seem to feel that they can barge past me, squeezing me into the kerb and possibly injuring me…or they will insist on overtaking me and racing to the narrowing. Either way, it’s dangerous and guess who’s going to come off worst? Not the driver, that’s for sure. I always look behind and take the lane and go through the middle of the narrowing and some drivers really hate this.

Today as I’m cycling along the Chiswick end of King Street, I am aware that there is road user behind me driving an electric blue Mini Cooper – that’s how aware I am. As I get to a set of narrowings that are spaced approximately 20m apart, the driver sounds her horn. I turn around and shout and gesture “One only”! As she catches up with me at the junction near the cinema, she leaned out of her window and I ask her “how many vehicles can fit through the narrowing”? Unaware of the traffic that’s suddenly starting to buildup behind her, she  tells me that I was “sitting in the middle of the road”. To which I reply very quietly and calmly “I wasn’t sitting in the middle of the road, I was cycling”. This completely stumped her and off she drove. Logic always trumps idiocy.  Besides, I wasn’t cycling in the middle of the road…on the dashed lines…which would have been silly, not to mention dangerous. Would she dared try to squeeze past a motorcyclist? Probably. It’s all too easy to think of someone on two wheels as being slower but I was doing between 23 and 25mph – a pretty good speed for that stretch of road. I believe the limit on that part of King Street is 30mph.

Here’s a sign that some motorists refuse to obey when I’ve had priority.

The sign is there for a reason, only one road user can get through and priority is indicated by the the black arrow, not the red one and take a good look at those Give way lines too…or didn’t you notice them? It’s a traffic calming measure and besides, why are you using this road as a rat run?

So there it is, there are good and bad road users and they are not restricted to one mode of vehicle or the other.  But the attitude exhibited by some motorists towards cyclists in Britain is pretty medieval.  Some cyclists clearly need to be taken off the road and educated and some motorists need to understand that I cycle where I do to avoid going to hospital. There is no pecking order on the road,  sometimes you just have to take your turn.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cycling

Keeping it in the family: fascist style

Leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, is grooming his daughter to take over the BNP, according to this story in today’s Daily Mirror. The move can been seen in a similar light to the possible leadership succession in France’s neo-fascist Front National (FN). Jean Marie Le Pen, the leader of FN has made his daughter, Marine, the secretary of the party in order to not only give the party a softer image but to keep the entire rotten business in the family.

Jennifer Matthys, 24, stood as a BNP candidate for the party in Delyn and attracted a paltry 844 votes. Matthys was a former youth leader for the party and has been given more responsibilities by her incredibly sweaty father. After failing to win a single seat in Westminster, Griffin has been under pressure to resign. Fat chance of that happening. There’s probably more chance that the party will begin to fragment as the National Front did in the early 80’s. The party currently has 28 local council seats and 2 MEPs.

Meanwhile The Grauniad reports that financial turmoil is looming for the BNP as Griffin and two others face charges of contempt of court. It seems that the BNP constitution wasn’t changed but worded slightly differently to give the effect that change had taken place.

Finally, did you know that Griffin and Le Pen share something else in common besides fascist politics? They are both blind in their left eye… I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.

Leave a comment

Filed under Government & politics

No one likes a bully.

Before the General Election the Tories were upset. They were upset because of suggestions made about them by the Labour Party that they were a party of the privileged; all toffs to a man. Labour and others pointed to their front bench and saw a team led by old Etonians and other überprivileged types. Such a scene had not been witnessed since the last MacMillan government of the early 60’s.  The Cons claimed that the spectre of class war had been raised by Labour  and moaned about how ‘unfair’ it was. Bless. Life’s tough when you’re a Tory.

Since the Tories have been in power, they have embarked on a series of measures which reflect the relationship of their class to the working class and those who are unemployed. The claims that Labour was embarking on a class war now ring hollow given the Tories’ fondness for targeting those who do not share the same level of social, economic and political capital as them. Make no mistake, this is a class war and it is being waged on the working class by the upper middle classes. This is Thatcherism without Thatcher – a sort of Thatcherism: The Empire Strike Back, produced by Policy Exchange and the Adam Smith Institute; directed by David Cameron and edited by the Lib Dems, it has been shot entirely in black and white.

This Spectator blog sums up the Tory zeal in pursuing the weak while handing out favours to the rich. The article typically ignores how unemployment comes about and how certain regions of Britain had their industries systematically destroyed by the party’s ideologues in the 1980’s. For them, it is the fault of the poor and, more importantly, the housing that they live in. We can’t all be derivatives traders living in £1,000,000 homes in Surrey,  you know. The blog title is also instructive, “Smashing the welfare ghettoes”. The words ‘smashing’ and ‘ghetto’ suggests two things: the word “smashing” suggests a symbolic will to violence with which the anti-working class policies will be pursued. While the word “ghetto” is conjured to suggest a kind of social housing hell which is allegedly at the ‘root’ of the ‘problem’. Just ask Hammersmith & Fulham’s Stephen Greenhalgh what he thinks of council housing.  He has gone on record as saying that he wants more rich people to move into the borough and he wants those in social housing to move out.

The real answer to the housing problem, and the one that has been misidentified by the Conservatives, is the way social housing has been built: much of it is high density and designed to maximise income without considering the aesthetic needs of the residents. Let’s face it, no one likes ugliness so why subject the working classes to the cruel architecture of blind urban planners? The new brutalism of post-war urban architecture has been replaced by a class-based ideological brutalism to deny and de-skill the working classes. Attack the people and attack the homes that they live in. This is the Big Society.

IDS talks of jobs but what sort of jobs does he have in mind for this reserve army of labour that he plans to attract to the southern shires? For Tories like IDS most people who are unemployed choose it as a way of life. This is a slur: many people have no choice but to be jobless because the opportunities; those jobs for life that their grandparents enjoyed, aren’t there anymore – the Milk Snatcher turned Job Snatcher and stole them all away. For me, it’s a clear indication that the Tories have found an easy scapegoat and are working tirelessly to project at least part of the blame for the country’s economic problems onto them. This is a sign of philosophical bankruptcy. No wonder Ayn Rand has become popular with Tories. It’s all black and white.

IDS proposes that the government would provide incentives for people to move from areas where there is no work to areas where there are ‘jobs’. This all sounds remarkably like the ‘research’ done by Cameron’s favourite think-tank, Policy Exchange, which claimed that people in the North should simply abandon their homes and move to places like Oxford to take up phantom jobs. The thinking here may be described by many Conservatives as ‘blue sky thinking’ or ‘independent’ but from where I stand, it looks nonsensical and plumbs the very depths of the worst of bad thinking. I laughed when Policy Exchange came out with this,  little did I know that it would find its way into government discourse. What other wacky ideas have these guys got?

So, if we were to take Policy Exchange’s proposals to their logical conclusion, there are questions that need to be answered: what will happen to those parts of the country that have been abandoned? Will they be placed under martial law or razed to the ground? Or will they be converted into massive theme parks that remind people of  ‘the way we used to live’, complete with cap-tipping, clog-wearing, pigeon-fancying Northern types who keep whippets and bash people over the head with black puddings? Who says there isn’t a north/south divide?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – no one likes a bully.

Leave a comment

Filed under Government & politics

The 2 faces of Lib Demmery

You can’t trust the Lib Dems and you could never trust them.  They want to be all things to all men and their by-election campaigns around the country in the past have reflected this. Now that they’re in power with the Tories, they have shown what a thoroughly slippery bunch they are. Vince Cable claimed that the cuts proposed by the Tories would hurt the country and harm the economy. Now in that he is in power, he has changed his tune.

But the Lib Dems have always shown 2 faces to the public: there’s the touchy-feely, sandal wearing face and the hard-nosed neo-liberal face. The neo-liberal face was represented by the Orange Book tendency and it is the Orange book mob that are sitting on the government front bench. Before the coalition government was announced, Cable was tipped for a job in the Treasury but that didn’t happen. He’s now the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. One can only surmise as to why that has happened. They say it’s because he has been charged with looking at how to reform the banking system. Personally, I think the job of Chancellor was always going to go to Gideon; the Tories didn’t want a former economics lecturer heading the department. Better  to give it to someone who has a hereditary baronetcy and no professional experience of economics than someone who has a track record in economics.  Gravitas? What’s that? Even the loathsome David Laws was better qualified than the current occupant of the post.

The one thing that really stands out about the Lib Dems is the lack of black or Asian candidates among their number. In past by-elections, most notably the 1991 Langbaurgh by-election, the Lib Dems ran a very nasty campaign that played on the ethnicity of the Labour candidate, Ashok Kumar. They referred to their candidate as ‘local’, a form of shorthand for ‘white’. Labour won the election and the Lib Dems slinked away but charges of dirty tricks continue to dog them(remember the 1983 Bermondsey by-election?). In the last General Election, Gerald Kaufman accused the Lib Dems of Gorton of using “racist tactics“. One Lib Dem candidate claims to have been forced out of her party. This is sort of thing isn’t new either. The Lib Dems have been here before. In 1993, the expelled 3 local councillors from the party for allegedly “pandering to racism“. Before the General Election, a Lib Dem candidate was accused of sending a “racist email“. He was not allowed to stand. In all cases, someone had to blow the whistle on the Lib Dems, they were forced to root out the racists and would not have done this of their own accord.

The crazy thing is that the Lib Dems do have black and Asian members; I’ve seen them at conference. So why aren’t any minorities selected to stand in safe seats rather than in marginal ones where they stand no chance of winning? Why does the party continue to allow racists to dictate terms locally?  Only the leadership of the party can answer these questions but has, thus far, shown no willingness to deal with the issue head on.

The Lib Dems may be enjoying their moment in power but it is likely to go very pear-shaped for them as this article hints. There were a number of unhappy Lib Dem faces on the government backbenches when the Budget was announced and those unhappy faces will eventually turn into defections. The sandal-wearing faction will either defect to Labour or the Greens. After the next General Election, the Lib Dems could find themselves in the same position they were in throughout the 1970’s when they had so few MPs that they could all fit into a taxi.

But if the Lib Dems don’t shoot themselves in the foot, then the right wing press is gunning for them. The coalition has already lost Laws and Chris Huhne was exposed in last Sunday’s papers for having a long-running extra-marital relationship. I wonder who is next?

Leave a comment

Filed under Government & politics

The World Cup and those national anthems

National anthems are supposed to be stirring, triumphal pieces of music; the spirit of a nation set to music and song. This World Cup I have been paying a little more attention than usual to them and there are some truly odd ones. The one that really fascinates me is Uruguay’s national anthem…it’s not a national anthem, it’s an opera!

Leave a comment

Filed under Football, World Cup 2010

The Conservative Party Manifesto and the Ayn Rand connection

According to my dear friend, Dan, he and his buddy, Doug, have had an influence on the last Conservative Party Manifesto. The manifesto, published in hardback, was a break with the more traditional way of publishing manifestos which often appear in paperback or pamphlet form. Hardback books cost considerably more than paperbacks and thus remain outside the reach of  readers with shallow pockets.  But a hardback manifesto? That was some kind of statement, it said “We can afford it. We have the money. So f*ck you!”. Yeah, you had Ashcroft’s money and some from that Goldsmith fella…which reminds me, he’s a bit quiet these days…

Hannan and Douglas Carswell, the MP for Clacton, co-authored a book titled The Plan: Twelve Months To Renew Britain. The book, according to the pair, is influenced by the work of Ayn Rand, the Russian-American emigré, free-market radical and libertarian ‘philosopher’. Rand called her ‘philosophy’, “Objectivism”, which is a peculiarly right-wing strain of libertarianism.  Adherents to the Objectivist creed proclaim her idea of ‘rational self interest’ the natural state for humankind. Rational self interest = me first. No prizes for guessing why Dan the Man is a fan.

As an Ayn Rand fan, I was touched to see this tasteful piece of merchandise, brought to you by that master blogger Tory Bear.

He’s referring here to a tee-shirt printed with the question “Who is Dan Han?” Subtle, clever and witty as I’m sure you will all agree.  But for those of you who aren’t familiar with the question’s source, it is a reference to the oft-repeated line, “Who is John Galt”? in Rand’s turgid tome, Atlas Shrugged. Who is John Galt indeed. But this is a question that means something only to those who have been touched by the spectral hand of Rand, to the rest of us – including those of us who were forced to read the dire Atlas Shrugged at school – it either means absolutely nothing or it is something to mercilessly ridicule.

In short, John Galt is a sort of cipher; a metaphor for unbridled individualism,  it is the sort of individualism that rightwing libertarians like Hannan and Carswell have wet dreams about. Galt is the symbolic embodiment of what Rand referred to as “the Noble Soul”;  a purely selfish being, free from any ‘taint’ of altruism and a servant to no one (not everyone has this luxury, by the way). There it is in a nutshell, now you don’t have to read the book; I’ve saved you from a fate worse than boredom. However Rand is no Camus, her characters are wooden and her attitude to women is often strangely misogynistic. The dullness of her prose style is surpassed only by the genius of utility that is the telephone book. I prefer the telephone book – any telephone book!

Ayn Rand was a cult-leader who was  pathologically self-obsessed; she was also a heavy smoker and had a fondness for dextroamphetamine (which probably goes some way to explaining the rationale behind her ‘philosophy’). Rand insisted that, in order to understand her philosophy, you had to read her fiction. This is the typical behaviour of a cult leader on a par with, say, L. Ron Hubbard. I often get the impression that all she was doing was hawking dodgy stories disguised as serious ‘philosophy’.  She claims philosophical descent from Aristotle and was possibly influenced by the young Nietzsche. Indeed some of her thought on the individual appear to be derived from Nietzsche’s  ‘free spirit’. But Rand is no Nietzsche either: there is no irony, no sarcasm, no spirituality; the human being is reduced to a rational calculating machine that is incapable of warmth, empathy or, indeed, humanity. Altruism is evil. Selfishness is good. A is A. If you like your binaries half-cooked, you’ll love Rand. If you want philosophy, look elsewhere.

Back to the manifesto.  It seems that the Tories were desperate to find some meaningful philosophical anchorage to their policy-making – something that didn’t sound too much like Thatcherism…  Remember, they don’t have Marx to fall back on and they’ve previously filleted some of Adam Smith’s economic ideas to suit their agenda, so they can hardly be considered deep-thinkers – though David Willetts enjoys giving the impression of being a serious philosophical character – so they plumbed for Ayn Rand. And who better to inject a Randian discourse into the Tories’ political bloodstream than those bad boys on the right of the party, The Free-marketeers, MC Mad Dan and DJ Dizzy Doug? You give those lefties hell!

Remember when Cameron told us how he wanted to “hand power back to the individual”? You’ve guessed it, straight out of Rand. You see the way The Quiet Man is attacking those on benefits? Uh huh, Rand again…though Rand wouldn’t have approved of IDS’s Catholicism – she was an atheist and she would have hated his advisor, Philippa Stroud, whose ‘church’ claims to ‘cure’ gays and lesbians. How about when IDS said, “work will set you free”? Er…let’s not go there…

It must be a frustrating time for some Tories; sitting on the government benches with the Lib Dems; the Christians having to keep schtum about the atheism of Rand and the libertarians claiming that the measures ‘don’t go far enough’.

On a lighter note, one of the characters in Atlas Shrugged says that “A lit cigarette symbolises a fire in the mind”.

No, I beg to differ, a lit cigarette symbolises ashtray breath, lung cancer and heart disease!


Desperate Dan claims another “page from The Plan” has become policy.


Filed under Government & politics

Let them eat ketchup.

On an earlier blog, one poster laughingly claimed that the class war was “over” and how the working class had become “derivatives traders”.  Such wit. This is the small state mentality of our ‘libertarian’ friends: they promote the lie that unrestrained capitalism will create greater equality.  For them it’s all about the ‘evils’ of regulation, because regulation means that someone somewhere is being protected from harm at the expense of someone’s profit margin. What a bummer! In his blog today, Hannan says that governments “always find tax rises easier than spending cuts” and claims to have noticed a ‘concession’ to the poor contained in the budget. But he still isn’t happy. He wants those poor people to pay,

Not that this concession has appeased Left-wing pundits, who are insisting that the budget is unfair to the poor. It is true, of course, that any spending cuts will necessarily affect net beneficiaries of state expenditure more than net contributors.

Ah, nothing like a simple binarist rationalization: it’s all about the economy’s contributors and beneficiaries.  The poor really do get it in the neck from you, don’t they? I get the feeling you’re one of those Randists…something to do with rational selfishness…no?  But hang on, what about the Train Operating Companies? They receive massive state handouts yet none of you want to mention them or any of the other private interests who receive state funding. Are they all worth the money? It’s highly debatable, particularly in the case of the TOC”s who raise fares for the benefit of shareholders while providing a shoddy service for their passengers. But this is risible,

As Art Laffer says, if you pay people to be poor, you’ll never run out of poor people.

And Art Laffer is a numbskull…we know all about about his infamous curve and how that curve became popular with St. Ronnie and co. We remember ‘voodoo economics’ too and how ‘trickle down’ was meant to raise up the poor. The poor? To hell with them, let them eat ketchup. Next you’ll be telling us how flat taxes are ‘fairer’.

Leave a comment

Filed under ConDem Budget 2010, Government & politics

Labour: a socialist party?

Not in my mind! It makes me laugh every time I hear some right-winger describe the Labour Party as ‘socialist’ when they are quite clearly a capitalist party.  The Labour Party lost any pretence of being a socialist party in 1987 when Kinnock embarked on his witch hunt at the behest of the Tory press. The migration to the right was completed under the leadership of Tony Blair – who cut the heart out of the party, held it high over his head and drop-kicked it into the bin. Hey presto! No more Clause 4. It was good for the new voter-friendly brand image of the party, thus it became a newer version of the Tory Party – this is/was New Labour; a sort of Tory-lite. The age of postmodern politics had arrived: ostensibly free from any ideological discolouration; new, shiny and clean, Labour under Blair embarked on two disastrous wars – one of which was based on a lie; refused to build new council homes and placed The City at the heart of their economic thinking. So instead of creating more manufacturing jobs (in other words having the capacity and infrastructure to create tangible products to sell on the international market place), more jobs in the City were produced and the financial sector expanded as a consequence. Almost everyone, it seemed, was more interested in taking money for producing nothing. Telly programmes like Homes Under the Hammer encouraged people to buy properties at knock-down prices at auction, fix them up and sell them on to make a profit. Apparently anyone could be a property developer or a speculator; an entrepreneur, though the reality was less romantic than the image portrayed. These are the people whom Marx described as the rentier class: stockbrokers, mortgage brokers, buy-to-let property owners and so on who take their money from rents, shares and dividends.  This is the effect of financial deregulation that was initiated under Thatcher but continued under the last Labour government.  The spivs and the casino capitalists were even more free to do as they wished and dream up any ‘product’ they liked – this is creativity. Remember how Brown spent a lot of time schmoozing the wizards of Ye Olde Cittie of London before the 1997 General Election? Yeah, he was convincing them of the merits of socialism. That’s why they were genuinely pleased with New Labour throughout the 13 years they were in power.

Having lost the election, the Labour Party now has to choose a new leader but the field of candidates as I mentioned in an earlier blog is dominated by Blairites and sub-Blairites. Only the late inclusion of Diane Abbott as a candidate makes the field appear interesting.  Let’s have a look at the leadership candidates:

David Miliband, studied PPE at Oxford. He sounds like Blair and has even adopted some of his mannerisms but, so far, he has resisted the temptation to use Blair’s famous phrase, “Listen to the argument”. He is political careerism personified.

Ed Milband, like his brother, he studied PPE at Oxford. He made a very moving speech about how Labour needed to get back to its core values and derided Blair’s decision to make war in Iraq. He talks a good talk but does he have the will?

Ed Balls, another Oxford PPE graduate, is a slippery character. A friend of Gordon Brown, he sounds like a continuation of the Calvinist One.

Andy Burnham is portrayed as a ‘Merseysider’ (Scouse by implication) and working class but I fail to see his appeal. Another careerist, he is sub-Blairite and offers nothing different – save for the fact that he went to Cambridge and didn’t read PPE.

Finally there’s the late arrival,  Diane Abbott, the first Black woman MP to be elected to the House of Commons and a Cambridge graduate. Her decision to send her son to a private school has attracted a good deal of criticism from the left and has been mocked by the right. Abbott seems to be the Tories preferred leadership candidate which tells us something about the Tories: they see her as a soft target – maybe it’s her relationship with on-screen hubby Michael Portillo on This Week? Remember “Chat Show Charlie”? But chat shows weren’t Charlie’s undoing; it was his fondness for uisge beatha that finished him off…well, that and his back-stabbing chums led by Brutus Clegg. It’s hard to see how Abbott can win, given the numbers of New Labour types in the party and the sheer adoration some members have for Miliband 1.

I can’t see Labour discovering socialism soon, let alone social democracy. But with PR who knows what could happen? We could witness the rise of a party that is more in tune with left-thinking voters. It can only be a good thing for the left as well as democracy: the compulsion to hold one’s nose and vote Labour when they’re working against you would disappear forever. No more contradictory consciousness…yeah, well, we’ll see – eh?

Leave a comment

Filed under Government & politics

Squeeze Gideon, squeeze till the pips squeak!

So the main rate of  VAT is set to rise from 17.5% to 20% in January next year. But we are told that the price of alcohol and cigarettes will apparently not rise. Will someone please tell the Honourable Gideon that booze and fags are going to go up in price anyway because of the rise in VAT? Nice bit of trickery there. If you wanted to obliterate the agony of of the cuts from your mind by drinking more than your body weight in booze –  forget it. From now on, only the rich will be able to afford cans of Tennants Super.

Meanwhile for those of you unfortunate enough to have lost your job or to be long term sick or disabled, you’re going to have your benefits cut. Those of you unfortunate enough to rent accommodation in the private sector will have your housing benefit capped. You see that piece of polythene sheeting blowing around in that abandoned car park? That’s your new home. When Labour was in power they did nothing to stimulate the construction of new homes for rent; the emphasis was on property-ownership – whether mortgaged or part-mortgaged. The capital receipts that local authorities acquired from the sale of council houses still cannot be spent on the building of new homes and the Tories will not change this because they continue to labour under the misguided belief that social housing creates social problems.  Rents in the private sector have increased exponentially in the last 20 years and why is this? Because of the over-inflated prices in the property market. The rush for buy-to-let homes under Labour didn’t help matters much either.  Hosuing benefit had to increase in order to keep pace with rising private sector rents. Telling people to “shop around”, as the Tories did under Major, will not help those looking for a place to rent either. You have a choice of a draughty hovel or a damp hovel. Which do you prefer? Remember Rachman? Well, he’s back in business and rubbing his hands with glee. In fact, there will be more Rachmans and van Hoogstratens too. The Tories love entrepreneurship.

This budget will widen the gap between rich and poor. Even those with fairly decent incomes will find it tough.  But picking on those who are either on benefits or low incomes while The City still rakes in huge sums of money is pretty low. Is this what the Big Society is all about?

Leave a comment

Filed under Government & politics