Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Irish General Election 2011

Presently, 154 out of the 165 seats in the Dáil have been filled. The seat tally, thus far, is as follows,

Fine Gael: 70

Labour: 36

Fianna Fail : 18

Sinn Fein: 13

Independents (no party affiliation): 13

Socialist: 2

People Before Profit: 2

South Kerry Independent Alliance: 0

Workers Party: 0

Green Party: 0

Christian Solidarity Party: 0

This was crushing defeat for the outgoing Fianna Fail party, while their allies the Greens were completely wiped out.  Although RTE lists 13 Independents, some of that number are part of the United Left Alliance. This is because the Alliance was hastily put together at the end of last year and didn’t have time to register many of its candidates as ULA candidates. This map shows just how much damage has been done to FF, who now have only one seat in Dublin.

One interesting result was that of ULA candidate Richard Boyd-Barrett in Dun Laoghaire, who is not only the son of actress, Sinead Cusack but a member of the Socialist Workers Party, who are a constituent member of the PBP. Boyd-Barrett won a seat at the expense of Fianna Fail’s deputy leader Mary Hanafin, but not before Labour’s Ivana Bacik demanded a recount.

It was a very good result for Sinn Fein, whose leader, Gerry Adams, left Westminster to contest the election. He won in Louth on the first count. Elsewhere, Joe Higgins of the Socialists won in Dublin West and his colleague, Clare Daly won Dublin North. Higgins is also an MEP who had previously sat in the Dail prior to the 2007 election. Joan Collins, another PBP candidate won a seat in Dublin South Central. Collins can be seen in this clip giving Bertie Ahern a hard time outside Leinster House.

Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, now has the task of trying to form a coalition with either some Independents or with Labour. There is a history of FG/Labour coalitions in Ireland, so this seems to be the most likely outcome. But these two parties make strange bedfellows: FG was formed in 1933 from a merger of Cumann na nGaedheal, The National Centre Party and Eoin O’Duffy’s  fascist Blueshirts. Labour, on the other hand, are supposed to be a social democratic party, so how the two can co-exist in government is indeed baffling. However a quick glance at Labour’s manifesto reveals that some of the party’s policies are, at least, intended to reassure FG should the two parties form a coalition. The phoney war of words between the two leaders during the election is now a distant memory.

So why do Labour go into coalition with a party that has a fascist past? It all begins in the 1950’s when Labour was accused of being in league with Moscow by Fianna Fáil during the Irish Red Scare. The party purged its membership of those members it saw as ‘communists’. This behaviour would be repeated in the 1980’s when Labour moved to purge the Militant Tendency from its ranks. Militant are now the Socialist Party and now have 2 seats in the Dáil. Labour’s only chance of power, therefore, was to go into a coalition with the Blueshirts. In spite of FF’s best efforts, there is still a taste for left-wing politics in Ireland.

So what now for Fianna Fáil, the self-described Republican Party? With its paltry 18 seats, it can do nothing but try and rebuild, but it does so from such a low base that the only left for it, is a complete realignment.  But this is unlikely to happen. Old habits die hard and FF are still living in the long shadow cast by the party’s founder, Eamon de Valera. While the party may not necessarily be the same genuflecting, rigidly Catholic party it once was, its political culture, that is to say the way in which it does politics, remains forever entrenched in the past. The party is mired in allegations of cronyism and corruption and dirty dealings that go right back to Dev himself. He founded and controlled the Irish Press, which acted as an unofficial-but-not-quite ministry of information.

Here’s a clip from the BBC documentary Ireland’s Hated Hero – Eamon De Valera

Naturally, Dev’s grandson, Eamon Ó Cuív won a seat on the first count.  There is no way that FF would allow a member of the illustrious De Valera family to lose a seat. It simply doesn’t happen. His uncle Vivion De Valera was the managing director of Irish Press Ltd from 1959 to 1981 and was also a TD. His first cousin, Sile De Valera was also a TD.

Yesterday,  Micheál Martin, FF leader appeared on RTE 1 to explain why his party had suffered so badly. Instead, he took a few swipes at Sinn Fein, whom he accused of being a “paramilitary party”. He’s a very bitter man.

According to RTE, FG leader, Kenny will begin exploratory talks with Labour on forming a coalition. If the Irish people were hoping for a change, then their hopes will be dashed. With an FG/Labour coalition, it will be business as usual. In fact,the Irish government will resemble the coalition government in this country: a centre-left party will act as a fig-leaf for a right-wing party.

UPDATE: @ 1744

Irish Examiner reports that the union UNITE has called on Labour to reject the Blueshirts overtures and form a left-leaning government. Given Labour’s history of running scared of FF and their allies in the media, this remains to be seen. Should FG form a government, it’s only a matter of time before it collapses and a new election is called. Nowhere Towers urges Labour to do the right thing for the sake of the people.

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Filed under General Election 2011, Ireland

Adam Curtis’s “The Century of the Self” (Part 3)

Here is Part 3 of Adam Curtis’s award-winning documentary The Century of the Self. This part is called “There’s a Policeman In My Head”.

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Filed under Modernity, social engineering, Society & culture

Mikhail Gorbachev…he did what?

Gorbachev changed the world?

I saw this poster at Green Park tube station. Above the name “Mikhail Gorbachev”, there’s a line that reads “The man who changed the world”. It’s a grandiose strap line for a man who ushered in robber capitalism in Russia. What do I mean? Well, Gorbachev’s  policy of perestroika restructured the Soviet economic system, this paved the way for the likes of Roman Abramovich and Oleg Deripaska to buy up large chunks of the Russian economy. When Boris Yeltsin took power, he opened the door of the Kremlin and welcomed in the oligarchs; all of this would not have been possible without perestroika. The Pandora’s Box had been opened.

Gorbachev claimed to have introduced democracy to the USSR through his policy of “demokratizatsiya” but this merely permitted the oligarchs to take charge and call the shots. Yeltsin was nothing more than a puppet for the money men.

But it wasn’t just the way that the economy was liberalized or the way in which oligarchs were permitted to exercise control over politics, Gorbachev’s reforms also paved the way for the rise of nationalist parties like Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party and many others.

So Gorbachev may have changed things, but not in the world and most certainly not for the better. Gorbachev unleashed forces within the former Soviet Union that he could not control. In the end, those forces got the better of him

Who’s going to Gorby’s 80th Birthday Gala? Any takers? I bet Thatcher’s going.

Here’s a list of some of those who will be performing

Bryan Ferry
Katherine Jenkins
Paul Anka

Lara Fabian

Melanie C
The London Symphony Orchestra
Maestro Valery Gergiev
Bolshoi and Mariinsky Soloists
Dmitry Hvorostovsky
Andrey Makarevich and Mashina Vremeni
Igor Krutoi
Turetsky Choir
Andrey Gavrilov

As one would expect Boris Johnson and John Major will be in attendance to wish “the saviour of the world” a Happy Birthday.

UPDATED: 30/3/11 @ 2004

I heard on BBC London news that the event is to raise money for “cancer charities” in “Russia and the UK”.  Kevin Spacey and Sharon Stone are hosting the event. Apparently Spacey really admires Gorby.


Filed under Economics, robber baron capitalism, Russia, World

Greenhalgh wields the axe and mistakes it for a scalpel

I couldn’t get to last night’s council meeting, so I can only report on what others have said. First, Hammersmith & Fulham Council was one of several councils voting to make massive cuts to their budgets. In Lambeth, the council chamber was occupied by protesters and the councillors had to decamp to a private room to do their dirty work. You can see a video of the protests here. Not so, in Hammersmith where, in spite of a what appears to have been a noisy meeting, the Tories voted for cuts – one even revelled in them. H&F Conwatch reports,

During the meeting, except for the occasional outburst – which included applauding themselves once they had voted the budget through – most of the Tories stayed nervously quiet. A notable exception was Councillor Peter Graham, parliamentary researcher to Fulham MP Greg Hands, who grinned and cheered as the cuts were announced, and jeered at the opposition, which included an angry group of local parents, children and disabled people in the chamber.

Nice bloke, that Peter Graham. Mature too.

Chris Underwood of the Shepherds Bush Blog was on hand to report events as they unfolded.

Here’s a snippet.

Councillor Greenhalgh claimed that they were not taking an “axe” to services, as I claimed here, but that it was a “scalpel instead”, which was a neat metaphor.

Hmmm, a violent metaphor substituted for a medical metaphor. I don’t think I’d want Dr Greenhalgh anywhere near me if I fell ill. His bedside manner is a little on the brutal side.

You can read the rest of his report here.

UPDATE: 1955

Altered title

UPDATE: 2002

According to Shepherds Bush Blog, Boris Johnson and David Cameron are visiting Hammersmith on Saturday.  I’d be there to heckle, but I have a symposium to go to. I hope they get a nice Hammersmith welcome.

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Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham, London

Who is Nile Gardiner?

I realize that many people reading this blog will have never heard of him, but the baby-faced Mr Gardiner likes to think that he’s one of the most important people on the planet. Gardiner, a former policy advisor to Thatcher, is the director of the (surprise, surprise) Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom (sic). By default he is also a member of The Heritage Foundation where he makes a point of telling us that he has a “PhD”. If his blogs in the Telegraph are anything to go by, it’s difficult to see exactly how this man was awarded a PhD in the first place…unless it was in Moonie Studies.

Here’s a snippet from his profile

His key areas of specialization include: the Anglo-American “special relationship,” the United Nations, post-war Iraq , and the role of Great Britain and Europe in the U.S.-led alliance against international terrorism and “rogue states,” including Iran . He was recently named one of the 50 most influential Britons in the United States by the London Daily Telegraph .

Ah, the “special relationship”. The “Transatlantic bruderschaft“.

Gardiner is stuck in the Obama-bashing groove, as most of his blogs tend to be about Obama and how this horrible “leftist” will drag the US down the path of ‘socialism’. I’m not a huge fan of Obama but I know bullshit when I see it and Obama is no socialist.  Here’s a snippet from Gardiner’s latest offering.

The president’s refusal to reverse the Big Government approach that has been the hallmark of the first two years of his administration might be playing well to a shrinking liberal audience but isn’t being well received in Middle America. There is no real sign that the president has a clear plan for creating jobs and revitalising the economy, other than the tired old formula of spending more taxpayers’ money, a failed strategy which clearly didn’t succeed in 2009 and 2010.

This is the sort of thing he produces for Fox News .

Here he is in the Telegraph defending Fox News while taking a swipe at Obama at the same time.

The White House’s extraordinary assault on the Fox News Channel will end in tears – and not for Rupert Murdoch, Fox’s owner. The Obama administration has embarked on a high-risk strategy of shooting the messenger, in effect blaming its plummeting poll ratings on alleged political bias at the number one 24-hour cable news network. As Anita Dunn, the Mao-quoting White House communications director put it in aninterview with The New York Times:

“Mao-quoting”? Hold on, there’s more!

Fox News has succeeded spectacularly in racing ahead of its rivals in the cable news market, notably CNN and MSNBC. Its evening shows – such as the O’Reilly Factor, Glenn Beck and Hannity – pull in several million viewers compared to just hundreds of thousands on Fox’s competitors. Fox offers a highly opinionated, fast-paced and entertaining brand of political debate that includes all sides of the political aisle. The top hosts may be largely conservative (though not necessarily Republican), but the guests frequently are not, creating an adversarial and combative arena that until recently was a rarity in American news coverage.

Fox “includes all sides of political aisle”? What dear Nile doesn’t mention is how the the ‘other side’ is routinely used for target practice by the likes of Hannity and O’Reilly. Fox News, as we all know, is neither fair nor balanced and should be sued on the grounds of false advertising.

Here’s Gardiner being interviewed by former blogger, Iain Dale

I noticed on his recent blog for the Telegraph that someone had made a comment about his association with Sun Myung Moon. The comment was removed. What is Mr Gardiner so afraid of? Is he ashamed of his association with the ‘Reverend’ Moon?

The Unification Church (Moonies) provided the funds to set up the Washington Times, which was St Ronnie’s favourite newspaper.  And yes, Gardiner has written for the Washington Times too.

Here is a list of Moonie front groups. It’s a pretty long list.


Filed under Ideologies, Journalism, Media, Tory press

50,000 NHS jobs at risk

False Economy reports that over 50,000 NHS jobs are at risk from government cuts, thereby undermining their argument that the Health Service is ‘safe’ in their hands. This is exactly the sort of thing Hannan and his chums have been looking forward to: the wholesale destruction of the NHS.

Original Conservative Party election poster

False Economy, which formally launches today, can reveal that more than 50,000 NHS staff posts are set for the axe, destroying government claims that the NHS is in safe hands.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said in April 2010 of possible NHS job cuts under Labour: “They will cut the number of nurses, the number of doctors and the number of hospital beds. It does not get more frontline than that.”

David Cameron then famously claimed before the election that he would “cut the deficit, not the NHS”.
You can read the rest here.


Filed under Big Society, Cuts, Government & politics, NHS, Public spending

That Cameron fella, he’s all heart

Yesterday, I was stunned by the sight of David Cameron walking around Tahrir Square in Cairo. He was also pictured meeting with the leader of the military command council, Mohammed Tantawi, who is charged with ruling Egypt until elections are held in September.

Today, he is in Kuwait. Let’s put it this way, he isn’t in the Middle East to glad-hand national leaders and congratulate them on their ‘democratic reforms’. I mean, Kuwait. Come on!   He’s there to sell them weapons.

All this guff that comes from Cameron’s  mouth about “democracy” is just a load of bunkum; a cover for his arms deals. Hague and Cameron talk about “the rule of law and freedom” but, in truth, they don’t really care who is running those countries  so long as they buy container-loads of weapons.

The Guardian reports,

David Cameron‘s efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East by becoming the first foreign leader to visit Cairo were overshadowed as it emerged that he will spend the next three days touring undemocratic Gulf states with eight of Britain’s leading defence manufacturers.

They add,

Meanwhile Gerald Howarth, a British defence minister, was also attending the region’s largest arms fair, in Abu Dhabi, where a further 93 British companies are promoting their wares. They included companies selling rubber bullets and CS gas for crowd control as well as heavily armoured riot vans.

The marketing drive aimed at military and police buyers was backed by a 15-strong delegation from UKTI, the trade promotion wing of the department for business which is co-hosting a British pavilion with ADS, the UK arms trade

A few days ago, it was revealed that Britain had revoked arms licences when it was discovered that the live ammunition that was fired at protesters by the country’s security services had come from the UK. In Libya, the picture is the same and the government had to rush to revoke licenses.

Britain is the fourth largest exporter of arms in the world and supplies some 7% of weapons sold to other countries. Only the US, Russia and France sell more arms than Britain.

Britain only revoked arms export licenses for Libya days after various news agencies reported that the weapons used to kill hundreds of Libyans had originated in the UK.

The Independent says,

Mr Cameron in Cairo condemned as “completely appalling” the suppression of protests in Libya. He said: “I call on them even at this late stage to stop. People’s aspirations for greater democracy, for greater freedom, for greater rights should be met with reform, not repression.”

David Cameron. Hypocrisy be thy name.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics

Getting Ireland working again?

This interesting article by donagh  from Dublin Opinion was posted on Irish Left Review. The Irish people vote on Friday to elect a new government but there are concerns that Fine Gael, who lead in the polls, will drag Ireland deeper into the mire. FG has been working closely with the Tories and this can be seen in their manifesto, which I commented on in this blog.

Don’t Believe the Jobs Hype: Fine Gael Will Increase Unemployment

One of the defining characteristics of the 2011 general election is the championing of “competence” over incompetence. Foolish decisions made by politicians, both during the our relatively short lived ‘boom’, and since the collapse in the economy, are condemned by those eager to stress that they are the kind of professional management team that this country needs to bring us back to prosperity. Team Fine Gael, with their five point plan, provides the perfect embodiment of this kind of managerialism, a platform of five good men and true capable of inspiring confidence. Last June, these hard-headed technocrats, bristling with professional qualifications and jaw-dropping being-on-top-of-their-brief-ness were involved in a management heave designed to replace their CEO, who was charged with not appearing to be on top of his brief. Now, in an election, there are no doubts, only strength, confidence, stability.

I think it is safe to suggest that anyone reading this site treats the Fine Gael election campaign with nothing but contempt. I do not need to stress, for example, that their plan to try and reduce the deficit to 3% by cutting a further 9bn out of the economy by 2014 while projecting a growth rate of 3% is a sham. It’s shoddiness was reinforced by Michael Noonan’s decision yesterday to cite Irish Times economics editor Dan O’Brien’s description of the claims as “bunkum” when responding to criticism. O’Brien’s debunking was superficial to say the least, claiming that the EU commission’s forecasts (3.1% for nominal GDP over 2011-2014, compared with FG’s 3.9%) were the most ‘pessimistic’ of the domestic institutions and the IMF.

You can read the rest of the article here.

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Filed under Fine Gael, Ireland

The Serco Group. Who they are and what they do

As I was walking down Fulham Palace Road in Hammersmith, I spotted a roadsweeper’s trolley with the name “Serco” on the side. Serco are the new waste management partners of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham having recently taken over the contract. It then occurred to me that Serco is involved in more than one business activity, some of which are not well-known to the general public.

I’d known for some time that Serco was the operator of the Docklands Light Railway but what I didn’t know was that they also operate the Woolwich Free Ferry.  Last year Serco was found guilty of failing to stop a train at All Saints station after a passenger fell onto the track and were fined £450,000. A drop in the ocean.  They were given the contract to run the London Cycle Hire Scheme and they also run Merseyrail and Northern Rail.  Neither operator, it seems, is much-loved.

Serco also runs prisons and prison transport, IT systems in further and higher education institutions and they have been given the contract to run the government’s Welfare to Work scheme.

Here’s a small list of Serco’s other activities

Nuclear – they manage the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston

NHS – they run a variety of activities from facilities management and pathology labs to occupational health and hospital cleaning

Defence – under this heading they manage the AWE as well as the Defence Science and Techonology Laboratory. They provide support for the Skynet 5 military satellite network and provide training at the Defence Academy

Leisure – this is an odd one: they run 65 leisure and fitness facilities on behalf of local authorities and universties

This article from Bloomberg says that they are involved in a bid to run India’s nuclear programme.

Serco Group describes itself as an “international services provider”.

Last week a guard at the Serco-run Yarl’s Wood detention centre was suspended after he was accused of having an affair with a detainee .

Serco took over the running of Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in April 2007.

The centre, opened in November 2001, had been hit by a series of incidents, including a major fire in February 2002 which destroyed half the building.

Staff at a Buckinghamshire hospital were paid so poorly that they had no choice but to work – even when sick. The Buckinghamshire Free Press says,

HOSPITAL staff have gone into work whilst ill because they do not receive ‘adequate’ sick pay, union leaders have said.

Some cleaning, portering and catering services at Wycombe and Amersham hospitals are contracted to private firm Medirest – but its staff only get statutory sick pay of £79.15 per week.

Some workers say they feel they have no choice but to go to work to earn their full wage – but warn this is putting vulnerable patients at risk.

Some companies will do anything for a profit, even if it means putting people’s lives at risk.

But how, exactly, does a private prison make a profit? That’s a question to which no one seems to know the answer. If anyone knows, please feel free to drop me a line.

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Filed under Human rights, Neoliberalism, Trade Unions

Wisconsin again

Good blog from Socialist Unity about the situation in Wisconsin, where the governor, Scott Walker (the namesake of my favourite male vocalist) is proposing to end collective bargaining. Wisconsin is the state that once had a socialist mayor in its capital, Madison.

In Wisconsin Monday, protesters are again expected to fill and surround the Capitol in Madison.

It’s the seventh consecutive day of demonstrations against a plan by Republican Gov. Scott Walker to increase healthcare and pension contributions by public employees, while eliminating most of their collective bargaining rights.

Senate Democrats remain out of state to try to thwart a vote on the bill.

Snow, slush, rain and sleet kept the size of Sunday’s crowd down and forced the protests indoors, but thousands still packed into the Capitol rotunda.

They crammed themselves up to 10 deep along the rails of the upper floors to voice their displeasure with Gov. Walker’s budget-repair bill.

Union leaders for the state’s teachers, healthcare workers and other public employees say they’ll give the governor the financial concessions he wants — amounting to a pay cut of eight percent or more — but they will stand firm on what they call union busting proposals.

You can read the rest here.

What time is it? It’s revolution time!

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Filed under United States, World