Monthly Archives: December 2010

Life on Hannan World (Part 1)

Hannan: he's being oppressed by the poor

If you didn’t laugh at the antics of the uberprivileged, you’d cry. The cuts in public spending will not affect the rich or those who earn 6 figure salaries but to hear them talk, one would think that the poor and the low-waged were about to burn down their homes.

Today, Desperate Dan Hannan launches a snide attack on Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS union. He describes Serotwa’s article as a “harangue”…and he has the brass neck to say that I don’t understand how to use the word “fulsome”?  Unintentionally funny or what?

It’s reasonable enough, I suppose, for trade unions to campaign against specific cuts that affect their members. But surely they can see the need for some reductions. The government borrowed 30 per cent more last month than the wastrel Gordon Brown did the previous November; more, indeed, than in any month since the National Debt was instituted in 1694 under William III.

A couple of things. First, a coherent argument for cuts hasn’t been made. Instead, we have been treated to the hoary old cliché that “We’re all in this together” when clearly that is a lie.  Second, Hannan talks about the national debt as though it was the fault of all those awful poor, low-waged and unemployed people. Hannan, like so many of his ilk, won’t do the decent thing and tell you where the current national debt comes from and how old it is. Instead, he and his fellow travellers want us to believe that the budget (structural) deficit and the national debt are one and the same thing. They are not.

Anyway, here’s what Serwotka said.

The cuts won’t affect Desperate Dan or the 22 millionaires in the Tory-led government. Well, they may have to forego foie gras once a week but, hey, it’s no big deal. We’re all in this together. Right?

Hannan finishes with this

So far, private sector employees have seen a greater drop in their incomes than government workers. Yet it’s private sector workers who generate the revenue with which the state employs Mr Serwotka’s members. Such lopsidedness, I’m afraid, is not sustainable.

What Hannan forgets is that private sector workers aren’t as unionized as those in the public sector. The reason for that is fairly obvious. In Hannan World, trade unions are a monstrous evil that must be excised from the body-politic like a tumour.

Here’s a the Taxpayer Alliance (already exposed as a Tory front group) that Desperate Dan posted on his blog.

Taxpayers Alliance? More like Taxdodgers Alliance.

Here’s a comment from someone calling themselves technotrader

Striking should be outlawed in the public sector and in any private enterprise that constitutes part of the key infrastructure – such as power stations, airports, airlines. 

There should be no such thing as a “right to strike” which materially impacts my right to go about my daily business. Nor should there be a right to withdraw a public service that I am required by law to pay for.

But I am happy to allow striking in the rest of the private sector because the free market will regulate it: if I cannot buy your widgets because your workers are on strike then I will buy them from your competitor.

Unfortunately we cannot eliminate all monopolies – there can only be one London Underground – so the “right to strike” rather than being an absolutist principle as the Left believe should take into account the type of enterprise concerned.

Yeah, we know, you don’t ‘do’ human rights.

Leave a comment

Filed under Journalism, Media, Tory press

Adam Curtis’s The Mayfair Set (Part 2)

Here’s Part 2 of Adam Curtis’s brilliant documentary The Mayfair Set. This episode looks at the origins of spiv capitalism







Leave a comment

Filed under Economics, Extreme right, Spiv capitalism

Council gardener threatened with eviction from his home

I’ve just been looking at the boards on Urban75 when I stumbled across this story from 20 December.

GMB member Jackie Whitcomb, his wife Catherine and their student son Terry have been issued with a ‘Notice to Quit’ by Hammersmith & Fulham Council and told to get out of their home on Paddenswick Road by the 3rd January 2011. Mr Whitcomb began employment with the council in 1972 when he was 15 and today (Monday 20th December) is his birthday.

It appears Hammersmith and Fulham council who once employed Mr Whitcomb directly, is demanding that he and his family vacate their home over the Christmas-New Year period. The Notice to Quit (NTQ) is the second stage in the eviction process.

Mr Whitcomb’s family home has been a part of his earnings package under a Service Tenancy Agreement’ since 1978. The council outsourced the grounds maintenance contract in 2009 after the Tories took over the Council. Mr Whitcomb was transferred to private contractor Quadrant Services and as with the terms of the TUPE legislation his home remained part of his employment contract.

The GMB union are to challenge the council’s decision.

I will post more on this story once I have more details.

1 Comment

Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham, London

Adam Curtis’s The Mayfair Set

Here is the first part of The Mayfair Set which was  shown on BBC2 in the summer of 1999.







1 Comment

Filed under Extreme right, Saudi Arabia, Yemen


I won’t be blogging for the next few days because I’ll be stuffing my face and drinking too much booze to get it together.

Have a groovy Crimbo, everyone!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Life On Gilligan’s Island (Part 24)

Like his stablemate, Dan Hannan, Gilligoon likes to take a shot at the BBC every now and again. In today’s blog he claims that the BBC has a “PR offensive on behalf of the ‘hardline’ East London Mosque”. Regular readers will know that when Gilly talks about “hardline Muslims” or the BBC “defending Islamic extremists”, he’s talking out of his arse. Here he quotes Steven Sackur’s interview with Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, who is the chairman of the mosque. Sackur, as media watchers will know, is not a very good interviewer. He has an agenda…just like Gilligoon. Sackur’s recent ideologically-skewed interview with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is particularly apposite. It is worth mentioning that Sackur was once the BBC’s bureau chief in Jerusalem.

Gilly gives us a taster of his Xmas special

Tomorrow, in my last post before Christmas, just how much the East London Mosque has “streamlined” its vetting processes.

I look forward to it.

Last week, Gilly claimed that the charity Muslim Aid is “linked to fundamentalist Islam”. He offers nothing save for conjecture infused with his own bigotry. He claims that a Charity Commission report “whitewashed” Muslim Aid whom Gilly no doubt wanted to see implicated in some sort of terrorism campaign. He says,

In March this newspaper reported on allegations that the charity Muslim Aid, a close associate of the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe, had channelled funds to eight organisations linked to the terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Yet, there is no evidence. Though to hear Gilly talk, you’d think that there is a warehouse full of transcripts, recordings and other files that support his contention that Muslim Aid is a conduit that channels money to organizations with names that are objectionable to his eye.

But this is a funny piece. He produces an enormous amount of data which he dumps on to the blog in the hope that this will convince his readers (and his critics) that he has done his homework. But it isn’t good enough. Looking down the list of data, one name stands out. That of Daniel Pipes. Pipes is described by Sourcewatch as the

director of the Middle East Forum, and a columnist for right-wing newspapers. His father is Richard Pipes.

In 2004 Pipes was temporarily appointed by George W. Bush to the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace, but as of January 17, 2005, Bush had “failed to take any action to renominate…”. The “nomination of Pipes, who has made a career out of identifying and denouncing what he sees as radical Muslim penetration of American institutions, was opposed by senators Edward KennedyTom Harkin and Christopher Dodd, all Democrats; Arab and Muslim groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; and Middle East analysts Judith Kipper of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and William Quandt of the University of Virginia.” [1]

Pipes advocates the profiling and internment of American Muslims,

For years, it has been my position that the threat of radical Islam implies an imperative to focus security measures on Muslims. If searching for rapists, one looks only at the male population. Similarly, if searching for Islamists (adherents of radical Islam), one looks at the Muslim population. And so, I was encouraged by a just-released Cornell University opinion survey that finds nearly half the U.S. population agreeing with this proposition. Specifically, 44 percent of Americans believe that government authorities should direct special attention toward Muslims living in the United States, either by registering their whereabouts, profiling them, monitoring their mosques or infiltrating their organizations. That’s the good news; the bad news is the near-universal disapproval of this realism. Leftist and Islamist organizations have so successfully influenced public opinion that polite society shies away from endorsing a focus on Muslims. In the United States, this intimidation results in large part from a revisionist interpretation of the evacuation, relocation and internment of ethnic Japanese during World War II.

He says on the War on Terror (sic),

Pipes has called for a war on Islamic extremism, declaring in one post-September 11, 2001 interview, “What we need to do is inspire fear, not affection.” Pipes also promotes the support of moderate Muslims against militant islamists. He criticizes organizations such as Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for failing to distinguish between moderate Muslims and islamists when labelling him as ‘islamophobic’.

Away from his pet hate, Gilly turns to his other hate-figure, Ken Livingstone. This blog is a particularly snide piece in which he says, “Ken Livingstone funders deliver their Christmas present”. Gilly is talking about the Boxing Day tube strike by members of ASLEF.  He moans that ASLEF want their members to be paid triple time for working on a public holiday. Most workers expect to be paid extra for working over the holidays but Gilly doesn’t like it. Maybe he wants them to work for the normal hourly rate? He doesn’t say, but that doesn’t stop him from putting the boot in,

Indeed, in all the months of Tube strikes, Ken Livingstone has never once condemned any of the unions. Can this be in any way connected to the fact that Ken’s campaign for mayor is run out of an office in the Euston headquarters of one of the other striking unions, the TSSA?

That’s funny, I’ve never once heard you condemn greed bankers, Gilly. Does that mean you’re on their side? Just to remind us of where Gilly stands on the issue of workers’ rights,

Boris Johnson, business leaders and virtually everyone you can think of have condemned the strike, and all the other – equally ridiculous – disputes mounted by the RMT and TSSA over various non-issues in the last three months.

No one could ever accuse Gilligan of bias. Could they?

1 Comment

Filed under Islamophobia, Media, Society & culture, Yellow journalism

Hannan: McWhirter was a decent man (because I say so)

He who has the biggest wallet can afford free speech. Conversely, he who has the biggest wallet can silence those whose speech appears to cause them offence. The slight may be imagined. Indeed the slight may be exaggerated in order to hijack or control discourse. I expect some of the offended parties to talk about filing a lawsuit in the coming weeks.

And so it is with those right-wingers who have recently been offended by David Baddiel’s remarks about Norris McWhirter. Desperate Dan whines and moans that the BBC didn’t sack Baddiel for daring to compare The Freedom Association to the BNP. He says,

Still, can you imagine BBC comedians making equivalent remarks about a Left-of-Centre campaigner: Helena Kennedy, say, or Shami Chakrabati? Silly question, really.

He doesn’t ask the important question: why? Instead he sounds like a 6 year old child who’s just been told that he can’t watch cartoons because he has to do his homework. Life’s so tough. The thing is, neither of the people he mentions are anywhere near as vile or racist as McWhirter whose TFA was more than happy to support apartheid-era South Africa as well as Rhodesia. In fact, Kennedy and Chakrabarti have done more for ordinary people in this country than the McWhirter brothers ever managed in a lifetime.

A fundamentally decent man, a man who had served his country in the war against Nazism and had been awarded the CBE, was traduced on air, linked to Mosley and compared to the BNP.

“Fundamentally decent”?  Why? Because you say so? Don’t make me laugh.

His comment to one of his fans is quite amusing too,

The whole premise of the film is facile. The young David Baddiel goes to a talk at his public school (usual Leftie angst about public school, I was on a special scheme for the poor etc) expecting Norris to talk about the Guinness Book of Records. Instead Norris talks about politics and – angels and ministers of grace defend us – the man is RIGHT-WING.

Here is a dilemma for the teenage David. Someone he had admired turns out to disagree with him. But rather than consider why this admirable person might think differently, rather than allow the possibility that there might be two sides to an argument, he recoils in horror. Instead of thinking “If an impressive man like Norris is conservative, maybe there are some good conservatives”, he says “If an impressive man like Norris is a conservative, he can’t be as impressive as I had thought”.

As I’ve blogged before, what is striking about this attitude, which has become the default assumption among many on the Left, is not its narrow-mindedness or its stupidity, but it’s sheer narcissism. It redefines evil as “someone who disagrees WITH ME!”

So where did Baddiel describe anyone as “evil”? This trope that Hannan regurgitates is worth looking at closer. Here Hannan assumes that “many of the Left”  think that anyone who has a different point of view is ‘evil’.  It is so simplistic and barely takes a nano-second of thought. He has so far failed to provide any salient examples for his bizarre contention. We could read this comment in the same way as those comments and articles that are produced by the American right on the ‘left’: they are entirely constructed from tropes and myths. The left is “dangerous” or the left is “narrow-minded” (Dan evidently overlooks the narrow mindedness among his fellow Tories). The most popular trope is “liberal elites”, which always seems to trip off the tongue of an elitist. What Danny Boy seems to be missing is the fact that McWhirter’s appearance at Baddiel’s school confused him. McWhirter on Record Breakers was clearly a different person (almost avuncular) to the one that ran TFA. Of course, I knew the first time that I saw the McWhirter brothers there was something deeply disturbing about them. Patrick Moore too.

I’m not a fan of Baddiel. He was a part of that BritCom, BritPop, BritArt crap that was the zeitgeist of the mid-1990s. Strictly speaking, his remarks should be viewed within the context of the programme on which he appeared. Besides, Jeremy Clarkson gets away with a hell of a lot more.

If McWhirter had visited my school, I would have doubtless reached the same conclusion as Baddiel.

UPDATE:  6/3/11 @ 2342

Added additional paragraph about Baddiel and BritCom etc.

1 Comment

Filed under Ideologies, Ideologies, Media, Society & culture

Adam Curtis’s The Trap (Part 3)

The final part of Adam Curtis’s The Trap – What happened to our dream of freedom?

Leave a comment

Filed under Ideologies, Society & culture

UK Uncut’s Facebook page deleted

UK Uncut’s Facebook page has mysteriously disappeared along with a friend’s page.  No reason seems to have been given and there is no news of this anywhere on the web. If you click on this link, you will be routed to the Facebook log-in page.

Meanwhile the EDL and the BNP still have their pages on Facebook. Presumably those who operate Facebook have some very strange ideas about what constitutes as decent page. I have also heard rumours that UK Uncut’s page had been hacked by elements of the extreme right – presumably the EDL.

In the last week a group calling itself  had a Facebook page that publicized a anti-cuts demo billed as “The March of Resistance” in London for 20 December.  The demo was a trick organized by the EDL to lure unsuspecting protesters into a trap. There is an interesting discussion of it on Urban75’s forum. You can read the comments here.

As for the “UK People’s Initiative”, you can read the confused blog (well, it’s actually a screed) from the ‘organizer’ here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Internet, Media

Len McCluskey’s article and the predictable Tory backlash

Well said, Len!

Well done, Len McCluskey, for his article in yesterday’s Guardian. MCluskey the recently elected general secretary of the union Unite penned this blog on the paper’s Comment is Free section.

The response of trade unions will now be critical. While it is easy to dismiss “general strike now” rhetoric from the usual quarters, we have to be preparing for battle. It is our responsibility not just to our members but to the wider society that we defend our welfare state and our industrial future against this unprecedented assault.

Early in the new year the TUC will be holding a special meeting to discuss co-ordinated industrial action and to analyse the possibilities and opportunities for a broad strike movement.

The paper produced an editorial which was quite possibly written by Matthew Parris’s partner Julian Glover (not the actor).  The piece, titled “Trade unions: leading nowhere” is nothing short of a vicious sub-Thatcherite attack.

It may not be a bad rule of thumb that anyone who thinks the term “Con-Dem” is a clever description of the coalition, who uses “Blairite” to dismiss all those on the left who think winning elections is important, and who describes strike ballots as “anti-union”, is someone with nothing interesting to say about any of them.

Groan. But it gets better

But the public does not want an unreformed welfare state, a lame duck industrial sector or trade unions that seem more concerned with overthrowing governments than representing workers’ interests democratically. It wants welfare, work and industrial democracy that are relevant to today’s world, not that of our grandparents.

So the author of this article thinks that the welfare state and everything that goes with it is what? Not modern? I find it irritating the way some writers will make great claims to modernity only to be revealed as dogmatic reactionaries who would like to see us return to the 19th century with its notions of deserving and undeserving poor.

It isn’t clear what Glover is saying here. He’s in some sort of funk

The labour movement is now in a minority. A large majority of the public are not in unions and do not vote Labour. There are millions in this majority who nevertheless feel threatened by cuts, who fear for the future of the economy and who think the government is too doctrinaire – but who do not approve of increasing deficits, who accept that sacrifices have to made (and shared fairly), who approve of the trade union laws of the 1980s (even if not of Mrs Thatcher), who think Labour can learn positive as well as negative lessons from Mr Blair, and who are not excited by battling the police or a new wave of strikes. Mr McCluskey’s priority ought to be to reach out to these people, showing he understands their lives and looking for innovative ways of addressing their anxieties. Instead, like a true Bourbon, he sadly sounds as if he stopped thinking in 1979. What a waste.

I think Glover has missed something here. In fact, he seems to have been living out in the Kuiper Belt for the last couple of months. The anti-cuts movement is united and is growing.

There is a letter of support for McCluskey here.

The Labour Party leadership also slapped McCluskey down. The Tory press, meanwhile, printed the usual mixture of bile and spittle,

The Daily Mail advised the unions that they faced a “threat of anti-strike laws”.

David Cameron is being urged to draw up plans for emergency anti-strike laws to prevent militant trade unions holding Britain to ransom.

It adds,

Senior members of the Government are now understood to be urging the Prime Minister to draw up contingency plans for a crackdown on reckless industrial action.

Mr Cameron held a historic face-to-face meeting with union bosses in Downing Street yesterday over mince pies and coffee, at which he told them he wanted a ‘constructive dialogue’.

Rest assured, this wasn’t beer and sandwiches. Accompanied by a photo of Charles and Camilla’s chance encounter with republicanism, James Kirkup’s article in the Torygraph says,

Mr McCluskey’s rhetoric may raise tensions between the Coalition and the unions, but there was little public response from ministers.

Privately, several Cabinet ministers are pressing for action to toughen trade union laws. But the Coalition is determined not to be seen as instigating conflict with unions.

Rather than making public statements, the government will simply leave any public brickbats to their lackeys in Fleet Street.

Meanwhile John McTernan’s says that “Christmas has come early for Ed Miliband”,

Miliband must be truly grateful for this opportunity to stand up to the unions just before the political season enters its holiday hiatus. It won’t be to McCluskey’s taste, but he’s done the Labour leader a real favour.

McTernan seems to have forgotten Miliband’s speech to conference. Labour’s leadership won’t be supporting the anti-cuts movement any time soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comprehensive Spending Review, Government & politics, Media, Neoliberalism, Public spending, Trade Unions