Monthly Archives: December 2011

Beyond fetishes? Union-bashing, Tories, Nazis and Aidan Burley

When it comes to truly barking right wing politicians, Hammersmith & Fulham knows how to produce them. In recent years it has churned out quite a crop of nutty right wingers, whose ‘philosophies’  intersect rather neatly with those of the far right.  While making a casual online search for updates on Aidan Burley… you know, he of the embarrassing Nazi incident, I came across this website.

After last month’s massive strike, Burley got the notion into his wee noodle to set up his own think-tank dedicated to smearing the trade unions.  He’s done this with the apparent blessing of Lord Snooty. The site’s “About Us” page says,

We campaign for reform of the laws and funding arrangements relating to trade unions. We do not oppose trade unions right to exist and to campaign on issues which are important to them. However, we do not believe that the hard pressed tax payer should be forced to pay for their campaigns either directly or indirectly. Furthermore, we believe that when trade unions take action which affects the wider public it should have a greater element of democratic legitimacy.

Burley has deliberately failed to spot the glaringly obvious: his party is funded by unaccountable millionaires and billionaires, none of whom are elected or accountable to anyone but themselves. 22 millionaires currently sit at the cabinet table. On the other hand, union leaders are elected by their members  and are accountable to their electors. Naturally we cannot expect someone of Burley’s character to understand something so simple. Let’s read on,

We provide quality research into trade union related affairs which highlight these issues. We welcome engagement from trade unionists, taxpayers, users of public services and the media who wish to engage with us. We are happy to provide media spokesmen or speakers for debates and public fora on these issues.

So, this this is a think-tank that’s also a union-busting service? It sounds like it. I’m not taken in by this promise of “quality research” either but then, dear readers, you wouldn’t expect me to be.

This organisation is run on a voluntary basis by people who work in both the public and private sectors, outside of their normal work hours. Just as trade unions should be.

I wonder who these volunteers are? More importantly, his view of unions appears to be a little, er, lopsided. How many of his fellow MPs are engaged on private business when they should be working on Commons business? Hmmmm? What about those expenses? The moats, the duck houses?

Helping Burley in his quest to further smash what’s left of Britain’s trade union movement is Harry Cole, Guido’s ‘news editor’.

The Tories are often quick enough to tell us how they loathe Nazis and, more recently, have been equally as quick to claim that Nazis were “socialists” because the word “Socialist” forms part of their name. In their haste to rush to such an untidy conclusion, they have ignored one rather important fact: Germany’s conservative Centre Party handed Hitler power of their own volition. Indeed, the German conservatives had many things in common with the Nazis: nationalism, law and order, crushing workers movements. Far from being supportive of trade unions, the Nazis saw them as enemies and banned them. I would wager that if Burley and other Tories had their way, they would doubtlessly follow the same path. Of course I am not saying that the Conservative Party is a Nazi party or a Nazi sympathizing party. That would be puerile.  Eh, Dan? But clearly there are individual members of the party who venerate Hitler and his vile party and we shouldn’t ignore this. After all, how many Labourites fetishize Stalin or Ceaucescu?

So it comes as no surprise to me that a young Tory, who was once a H&F councillor, should be seen associating with Nazi fetishists. His predecessor at H&F Council, Donal Blaney, made clear his thoughts about access to social housing that could have, quite easily, been spoken by a Nazi.

The Guardian said,

Conservative Central Office confirmed yesterday that it has opened an inquiry following a complaint from the Commission for Racial Equality about the Fulham Homes for Fulham People campaign led by Tory councillors Donal Blaney and Greg Hands.

One leaflet accused the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham of denying a council house to a “local mum” whose place had been taken by “asylum seekers”.

The name Greg Hands should be familiar to most readers, he is now the MP for the newly created constituency of Fulham and Chelsea. Hands is an arch-Thatcherite, who was once the leader of the opposition Tory group before he was selected to stand for the old Hammersmith & Fulham constituency. He has also recently addressed the Young Britons Foundation.

In the week before Christmas, Burley apologised and was then promptly sacked from his position as Justine Greening’s PPS. According to the Daily Mail, Burley had even hired an SS uniform,

This veneration of the Nazis and their iconography is nothing new. Other Tories have been there before. The most notable example was the racist boor and self-styled rake, Alan Clark who, according to Socialist Unity, took the BNP’s John Tyndall out to lunch. That’s the same BNP that Hannan claims is “left-wing”.

Socialist Unity quoted this from one of Clark’s diaries,

‘Lunched with Frank Johnson [parliamentary sketch writer on The Times]. Frank pretended he wanted to talk about the Tory Party, but he really prefers to talk about the Nazis, concerning whom he is curious, but not, of course, sympathetic. Yes, I told him, I was a Nazi, I really believed it to be the ideal system, and that it was a disaster for the Anglo-Saxon races and for the world that it was extinguished. He both gulped and grinned, ‘But surely, er, you mean ideally in terms of administrative and economic policy you cannot really, er …’ Oh yes, I told him, I was completely committed to the whole philosophy. The blood and the violence was an essential ingredient of its strength, the heroic tradition of cruelty every bit as powerful and a thousand times more ancient than the Judaeo-Christian ethic.

The disgraced former MP, Neil Hamilton once made a Nazi salute while on a trip to Berlin in 1983.

The buffoonish image cultivated by Mr Hamilton in public has managed to gloss over his extreme views. Born in 1947 in a small Welsh mining town, he was a leading light in the Federation of Conservative Students and the ultra right at the university of Aberystwyth. A 1979 election flyer in Bradford, where Mr Hamilton was standing as Conservative candidate, espoused “coloured” repatriation, as did a speech to the Tory selection committee at the same time.

Oh yes, the FCS, I remember them and so does Craig Murray. The FCS is the predecessor of the YBF. Hamilton has recently joined UKIP.

I have previously quoted this blog from Dissembling Dan Hannan in which he claims that the BNP are a party of the “far left”.  His thesis looks even shakier now.

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Greenhalgh to quit?

The last few days have been pretty horrendous for Tory High Command. Hot on the heels of the Aidan Burley Nazi story comes the news from Political Scrapbook that Hammersmith & Fulham council leader, Stephen Greenhalgh is to resign.  Nowhere Towers is intrigued by this news. Is he really going to quit so that he can take a seat in the House of Lords or has the party found him a nice safe Commons  seat somewhere?

More news when we get it.

UPDATE: @1239

The Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle has the latest. Apparently, Greeno is stepping down in 6 months time. Nowhere Towers asks “Why wait? For the sake of the borough, go NOW”.

UPDATE @ 1301

The Evening Standard tells us that Greenhalgh is to become a “council estates champion”. Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up. This is the man whose co-authored a report that called for the bulldozing of council estates,

Mr Greenhalgh said he would work with neighbourhood forums, residents’ groups and businesses to decide how the money should be spent. Funding would be pooled and he also wants to appoint a “neighbourhood commissioner” to help tackle crime.

Crucially,

Mr Greenhalgh will step down from the council leadership in May but will carry on as a back-bench councillor.

Nowhere Towers suspects that this new role has been created for him by Eric Pickles, so that he may lean heavily on local authorities and use his experience to find ways to push through large-scale council estate bulldozing plans. Greenhalgh also has had considerable contact with construction firms that donate money to the Tory Party’s coffers.

UPDATE @ 2103

I saw a report on BBC London News earlier where Greeno said he was going to “concentrate on White City”.  I think we know what that means. White City is the developers’  jewel-in-the-crown. Here’s a text report from the BBC on the announcement that H&F council was cutting council tax by nearly 4%. We know what that means too: more savage cuts to public services and sneaky increases in parking charges.

In the Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle, Greeno was quoted as saying,

“I do not think the people of White City are getting value for money, nor do I think are wider taxpayers. I want to focus that money on getting much better outcomes for people living there and ensuring that the neighbourhood is fully involved in how that money is spent. I’ve given my heart and soul to this job, and next year I will have been leader for six years. It’s the right time for the next person.”

“The key words and phrases here are “value for money”, “outcomes”… “wider taxpayers”. How do those words relate to a geographical location? Especially the phrase “value for money”? Is someone going to make money from all of this? Why, of course.

 

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Save Our Skyline video

The council’s motto is “Putting Residents First”. Clearly that isn’t true. Some residents, like those who live in the mansion block adjacent to the Town Hall, aren’t having their voices heard.  Please watch this video

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Farewell, the bendy bus

Going nowhere

His nibs, the Emperor of London hated them.  “Bendy buses”, he thundered,  killed cyclists. But this was pure sophistry. Buses of all kinds kill and injure cyclists.  Skip and cement lorries kill more cyclists on London’s streets every year than do buses of any shape or size.  The other charge levelled at the bendy is that it’s the “fare-dodgers'” bus. Maybe if the fares in London were reasonable, then people wouldn’t feel the need to dodge them. No? Just a thought.

Bojo is a romantic: he wanted to bring back the Routemaster but not the original, much-loved Routemaster, you understand. He wanted a new Routemaster. He wanted this,

Whenever I see an image of the Boris ‘Routemaster’, I think of that episode of The Simpsons where Homer meets his half-brother, Herb who gives him the task of designing a car that all Americans will love. Homer designs a disaster and ruins Herb in the process. Could this bus be the ruin of Emperor Boris?

Just like a Roman emperor who was born too late, Johnson desperately wants to leave his mark on history (it’s more like a stain in all honesty). To do this, he has produced a series of ideas that have amounted to nothing more than vanity projects. First there was the Boris Bus, then the airport in the Thames Estuary and now the cable car. Where’s Bojo’s Column? How about a hippodrome? I really shouldn’t give him any ideas. He has a reputation for taking the credit for other people’s ideas, after all.

Ordinary double-deckers will ply the routes that the bendies once ran on until the ugly Boris Bus is introduced in…er, I don’t know.  Speaking of ordinary double-deckers, one of them went up in flames yesterday.

So farewell the bendy bus, scourge of blustering, floppy-haired, Classics-obsessed windbags and Telegraph bloggers alike. I’m going to miss you in a funny sort of way.

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Tory assembly members refuse to debate cyclist deaths

Yesterday saw some shameful and disgraceful behaviour from London’s Tories who put their own selfish interests before the lives of the capital’s cyclists.  The entire Tory group walked out of a meeting just before the Assembly was about to debate a recent spike in cycling deaths. Adam Bienkov has the story here.

Shepherds Bush blog adds,

An unholy alliance of Conservatives and Richard Barnbrook – the racist British National Party elected member of the Greater London Authority now serving as an “independent” – took place yesterday, preventing a debate on cyclist safety.

In spite of their protestations, some Tories have always been prepared to co-operate with the extreme right.  Indeed in the 1970’s it was an open secret that some Conservative Clubs had allowed in members of the National Front.

In an earlier blog, I joked,

There’s no profit in cycle safety and people should have the right to kill themselves on the road without the ‘nanny state’ poking its nose in

Sadly, it would seem that my quip isn’t that far removed from reality.

This isn’t the first time the Tories and a fascist have walked out of the chamber arm in arm. They also did it in June in protest over a motion to condemn plans to increase the speed limit on Black friars Bridge.

So what was the official Tory excuse for their behaviour? This is from the Evening Standard

Andrew Boff, the party’s cycling spokesman, said the walk-out was over a longstanding complaint that the Tories are being unfairly denied the chance to chair assembly committees. The matter flared up today over a row over who should chair a new police committee.

Boff says,

It was nothing to do with cycling. We would have liked to have debated this but we have been left with only one method of indicating to the other groups that what they’re doing is fundamentally unjust

Absolute poppycock. Tory group leader, James Cleverly added,

Once again other parties on the Assembly have chosen to put petty party politics before properly representing the democratic view of Londoners by denying us fair and equitable chairmanship and deputy chairmanship on Assembly committees

If you ask me, it’s the dissembling Tories who are being petty.  Of course, they offered no explanation for their link with Barnbrook either. Are you surprised? No, I’m not either.

Here’s a video of them walking out.

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Right-wing political correctness. Are Tories too sensitive?

Cllr. Peter Graham is deeply offended. Poor wee thing

The right loves to accuse the left of having no sense of humour and being “politically correct”. Yet, while they would deny it, political correctness exists on their side too.  Nationalism, ‘traditional’ family values, law and order, corporate greed, Winston Churchill’s appalling racism, William Hague’s head… make a joke about those things and the right will call for you to be hanged! Right-wing windbags routinely offend people at the drop of a hat but when the shoe is on the other foot, they squeal and squeal and squeal.

It’s pretty easy to offend right-wing sensibilities. I left the following comment  on the Shepherds Bush blog yesterday.

I couldn’t make it to the meeting but once again, I see that H&F Tories have ridden roughshod over the wishes of the residents. I wonder how much money in brown envelopes has changed hands in advance of this decision?

It’s a joke and I cite the Jeremy Clarkson ‘defence’.

A council planning committee meeting was held on Wednesday over the proposed disruption of  Hammersmith’s skyline.  The meeting was a lively one. One plan is to build a footbridge over the insanely busy A4. Fair enough, you may say. But the bridge that is being proposed will effectively wipe out a quarter of Furnival Gardens. Green spaces are in short supply in Hammersmith and the building of this bridge would be nothing short of environmental vandalism. On this particular issue, someone heckled the Tories with,

“You get an extra bung for that, do you?”

But politically correct Tory councillor and planning committee member, Peter Graham, took offence to the above heckle and my comment. Yesterday, upset and close to tears, he tweeted the following to Chris Underwood

peter_graham

@chris_underwood – of course people will disagree with vote, but blog comments about “bungs” and “brown envelopes” are absurd and offensive.

I find Harry Phibbs’ views on social housing offensive but I don’t think Cllr Graham would understand exactly how offensive his colleague really is.  I mean, after all, they sing from the same hymn sheet. BorisWatch raised exactly this point with him with this comment on Graham’s Twitter page,

BorisWatch Boris Watch

@
@peter_graham I find Harry Phibbs ‘absurd and offensive’, but that’s no reason to be all beastly, old chap @chris_underwood

Here’s what Underwood said in reply to Graham,

chris_underwood

@peter_graham yes, it is close to the line I will say something in the comments when I get in front of a computer.

Graham was still fuming,

peter_graham Peter Graham

@
@chris_underwood – the comments left go beyond suggesting a conflict of interest (legally, not the case). And we DON’T all live in Fulham!

Well where do you live Cllr. Graham? Chelsea? So this morning,

Chris Underwood said…

People – I share the view that the Council has ignored local people and should be criticised for that – but that does not excuse references to Hitler or allegations of brown envelopes – please refrain or I will need to moderate comments – and that just kills discussion.

Lets keep it above board.

The truth of the matter is that the Tories want to control discourse. If they make ‘jokes’ about minority groups as Emperor Boris has done with his “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles” comment a few years back, it’s called “having a sense of humour” and you should “lighten up” and “get a life” and stop being so “politically correct”.  I remember the 1970’s, when it was perfectly acceptable for many white people to use words like “coon”, “darkie”, “paki” and “wog” in polite discourse. I remember how women were objectified but not listened to… what am I saying? That still happens.  I thought we would have become more enlightened by now. It’s clear that we still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding the nature of power relations and how narratives are produced to keep certain groups of people in their place.  The Enlightenment was a bourgeois intellectual movement, whose ideals of liberty did not extend beyond the boundaries of their own social class.  It is these Enlightenment ideals of free speech that are always invoked in response to a complaint that is expressed by an injured minority.

Now Cllr Graham won’t admit to this, but Hammersmith & Fulham Tories look after their own narrow class interests. They do not work for all the residents of this borough and this was demonstrated by the Dear Leader’s thoughts on social housing.

King Street Developments, who are to be handed the contract to build these postmodern, anti-human monstrosities, is a partnership between Grainger and Helical Bar.  Both companies are members of the Conservative Property Forum.

By the way, Graham works for Greg Hands, the Thatcherite MP for Chelsea and Fulham.

Graham also grinned and cheered when the Irish Cultural Centre and other buildings were sold off in January.

Hands was the first Tory to defend the disgraced former Defence Secretary and fellow Thatcherite, Liam Fox.

Here’s Hands complaining about a T-shirt that he saw someone wearing at an event that Ed Miniband attended,

May we have a debate about the decorum of senior Members of the House participating in other elections? Did my right hon. Friend notice the extraordinary sight of the Leader of the Opposition appearing at a campaign rally with a Labour council candidate sporting a T-shirt in appallingly bad taste, which said:

“A generation of trade unionists will dance on Thatcher’s grave”?

I’ll be dancing on her grave too. In fact, I’m taking a week off to go on a bender when Thatcher dies. That isn’t a joke. That’s a plan.

If you’re reading this, Cllr Graham, you might consider changing your photo. It makes you look like a self-parody of a young Tory toff. That isn’t a joke. That’s an observation.

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Postcards From The Barricades (Part 9)

As usual, I’m listening to The Redskins on my mp3 player to get me in the mood for today’s march and rally in defence of public sector pensions. But the rally is about more than pensions: it’s about jobs and security. It’s also about the cuts that are being imposed upon the lowest paid workers. In most other circumstances, when a bigger person picks on a smaller or weaker person, the bigger person is called a “bully” and rightly so.  Bullies have become very much a feature of light entertainment schedules in recent years. I’ll talk about that a little later on. The coalition government and its chums in Fleet Street are the bullies. No mistake there. There are 23 millionaires in the cabinet, it’s not as if they’re going to have to make a choice between food and heating this Winter.

The BBC News Channel spent the entire morning, interviewing as many right-wing voices as they could muster in advance of the marches and rallies.  All of them repeating the same tiresome “This strike is wrong, blah, blah, blah…”. I don’t have time to listen to much of it as I’m too busy trying to get out of the door in good time for the march.

The man sitting next to me on the Tube is reading a copy of The Times, the headline reads “Osborne Strikes First”.  Ha ha, very funny. I alight at Holborn. I hate this station because the exit from the Piccadilly Line northbound platform is far too small. It’s like an inadequate storm gully that’s blocked with a few leaves and twigs, which overflows at the slightest hint of rainfall. As soon as I step out of the station, I’m swept along by a passing group of marchers down Kingsway. I arrive at Lincolns Inn Fields. It’s crowded and there are certainly more people here than the BBC’s Jon Sopel estimates. There are a few children about too. Here are a couple of kids getting into the spirit of things.

I walk along the southern side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, I can see some UCU balloons in the distance.  I spend a bit of time milling about, looking for people I know when I meet some familiar faces from UEL. One of them sees Dennis Skinner and shouts “Beast of Bolsover”! He smiles and nods.  Here’s The Beast scoffing a biscuit.

I can also see Peter Tatchell to my left but he has his back to me. We begin to make our way to Victoria Embankment,   I’m actually at the front of the march for a change. I took this picture of this rather funky looking float, I’d guess you’d call it.

The march proceeds slowly around Aldwych and onto The Strand. I find myself standing next to the BBC’s Mike Sergeant (yes, he is the son of John), who doesn’t seem to be doing much of anything. No sign yet of Paraig O’Brien. We’re finally allowed down The Strand. Lee Jasper cycles past me, he’s shouting through a loud hailer.

Either his bike is too small for him or the saddle is too low. At any rate, he shouldn’t be peddling with his arches. I walk past a load of scaffolding opposite Gilbraltar House, there are loads of photographers hanging from it. A security type says to them, “You realise it’s not fixed”. It looks fine to me; it would take more than twenty blokes to pull down this load of scaffolding. A few elephants, maybe… Security dude is being a spoilsport. Typical.

The French Confédération générale du travail, (CGT) have sent a delegation too.

It is one of five such confederations and is considered to be the most moderate. They’re not what you might call militant syndicalists either, the CGT… then again, nor is the TUC.

The pace of the march seems to be dictated by the authorities. Is there someone somewhere who is timing all of this? Working out the average speed over the distance travelled?  My phone goes off. I find somewhere to take the call. I’m not one of those people who walks and talks on the phone at the same time. As I finish the call, I can overhear some bloke next to me say, “They look like civil servants” adding “The problem with these marches is they attract activists”. Spoken like a true Sun reader. No irony. Full of sneering contempt for his fellow workers.

We arrive at Victoria Embankment. The speeches begin. The NASUWT’s John Rimmer’s speech gets cut short. I’m not sure why. Maybe he wrote too much and ran out of time. I don’t know. The UCU speaker who followed spoke without the aid of notes and was passionate but didn’t venture beyond slogans. I miss most of Christine Blower’s speech because I’m being distracted by the whispered news that some form of direct action is going to take place near Piccadilly Circus.

Unite’s Len McCluskey tells us that there are 50,000 on the march. Not bad for mid-week.  He’s followed by Ken Livingstone, who reminds us that MPs, who work in the public sector receive a pension of £40,000 per annum. He tells us that suicides on the tube network have doubled because of the redundancies and the debt people have been saddled with. Mark Serwotka of the PCS closes the platform speeches. “You are the people that make this country tick”.  For sure, because without public sector workers, the bins wouldn’t be emptied. I can’t think of anyone who would sign up to the idea of taking their refuse to the dump themselves. “It’s time that the Labour Party got off the fence and supported this  strike”, Serwotka says. I agree. The message coming from the Labour leadership is confused. There are Greens on this march and yet I didn’t see a single Labour Party banner.

I get home to hear the usual nonsense about the strike. Gove assumes the role of a graverobber and fashions a narrative from bones of long-dead trade union leaders. It’s unconvincing and undignified stuff. He cuts a desperate figure of a man. All guff and no substance.

Later on The One Show, Jeremy Clarkson is asked for his thoughts on today’s strike. Here’s what he says,

Franco would have loved him. Pinochet too. He’s a bully and bullying has become Britain’s national pastime. Top Gear is as much about bullying as it is cars. Some of the nation’s current crop stand-ups rely on getting laughs by picking on the little guy. H L Mencken once said “Comfort the afflicted and inflict the comfortable”.  There by the grace of God and all that stuff. Clarkson thrives on his role of professional gobshite and all-round boor. But this time, he’s overstepped the mark. A wise man once told me that, “There’s no such thing as a joke”. I truly believe that Clarkson meant what he said. By the way, Clarkson is a pal and neighbour of Lord Snooty and Rebekah Brooks.

I’ll leave you with this picture of a man with a well-pimped wheelchair.

The fight goes on!

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