Monthly Archives: March 2013

Right-wing clichés (Part 4): There is no poverty in Britain

This is a new cliché.  The Right cannot understand how anyone in Britain can be impoverished – they are in denial.  Whenever I hear some chinless wonder tell us that the real poor reside on the other side of the globe on less than $2 a day, the words that spring to mind are “dishonest”, “blind” and “ignorant”.

Here are some facts from the Child Poverty Action Group  that the Right wishes would go away. We’ll take the top four points.

  • There are 3.6 million children living in poverty in the UK today. That’s 27 per cent of children, or more than one in four.1
  • There are even more serious concentrations of child poverty at a local level: in 100 local wards, for example, between 50 and 70 per cent of children are growing up in poverty.2
  • Work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of children growing up in poverty live in a household where at least one member works.3
  • People are poor for many reasons. But explanations which put poverty down to drug and alcohol dependency, family breakdown, poor parenting, or a culture of worklessness are not supported by the facts.4

I would like to draw the Right’s attention to the last bullet point. I know they don’t want to see this and would like to dismiss these figures as “Leftist claptrap”, but that would show them up for what they are: liars.  It’s all too easy for the Right to make baseless allegations that the poor of this country fritters their money away on Sky TV and cheap booze and fags, but these people simply cannot afford these luxuries. But if people on low incomes own even the most basic television set, the Right will demand “How dare the poor desire luxuries”? We live in a consumer society where those things that were once considered luxuries are now sold as necessities (Bourdieu, 1986). Whose fault is that? It isn’t the fault of the poor. Besides, everyone – regardless of income and social class – needs some kind of diversion or amusement to make the hell of living under this Tory regime more bearable. Though in the case of the rich, life is always bearable because they have a financial cushion to protect them.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the UK has “proportionally more children living in poverty than most rich countries”.

Rising fuel costs have forced many people to make the difficult choice between food and heating.

Next month, the government’s welfare reforms will begin to kick in. Council Tax Benefit will go and the Bedroom Tax will be implemented, which both have the potential of forcing many more people into homelessness and/or destitution.  Again, the Right deny that anyone will be worse off by the changes. This is a kick in the face with a hob-nailed boot  for Britain’s poor as well as barefaced political mendacity.

Daniel Hannan, the Conservative Eurosceptic MEP, has never experienced poverty and uses an image of Wayne and Waynetta Slob from The Harry Enfield Show to make his point (I have a screengrab of the article in case he takes it down).

Hannan thinks this is a true representation of Britain’s poor.

Last year in a blog titled “Rising welfare budgets have failed to cure poverty; it’s time to try something different”, Hannan wrote:

Iain Duncan Smith is the first occupant of his office to recognise that increasing the budget has failed. Since the Second World War, benefits and welfare bills have ballooned, yet there has been no commensurate impact on either poverty or inequality. This is because of something which, when stated, is obvious, but which contradicts the old orthodoxy:poverty is not simply an absence of money. Rather, it is bound up with other factors, including low educational attainments, unemployment, substance abuse, family breakdown and paucity of ambition. It follows that you don’t reduce poverty by giving money to the poor. To take an extreme case, giving £1000 to a heroin addict will not improve his prospects. IDS grasps that, to tackle indigence, you need to address its root causes; and that part of the answer lies in so structuring the incentives that people are determined to find work. As JFK observed more than 50 years ago, the surest way out of poverty is a secure job.

Did you notice how Hannan brought heroin addiction into his ‘argument’? He then closes this paragraph by offering us a quote from John F Kennedy that suggests that the disease of poverty is magically cured by work. But he does not bother to ask two important questions: 1) What if there are no jobs and 2) Shouldn’t people be paid a living wage that allows them to live with dignity? Low paid work actually keeps people in poverty.

For Hannan and his Tory chums, poverty in Britain is created by addicts who have a lack of an education and no ambition. Those who are poor, in the eyes of the Right, do not deserve help of any kind and you will notice the way he says “…you don’t reduce poverty by giving money to the poor”. Translated, this means “If you’re poor, tough shit. Become our slaves or die”.

Dismal Janet Daley claims there is a “poverty lobby”. She tells us, “The poverty lobby – as opposed to those who actually want to put an end to poverty – uses the “poor” as a political weapon in its ideological war against the market economy”.  What this amounts to is a smear on those institutions that work towards alleviating poverty. But what Daley also does is to invite us to avert our gaze from the real causes of poverty: low or no wages (of which poor diet is a symptom), poor housing and a lack of opportunities. Indeed, one’s relationship to capital is what defines poverty.

Daley denies that the market or neoliberal economy does nothing to alleviate poverty. Instead she relies on the notion that the “Invisible Hand of the Market” and “trickle down” will provide. She supports this notion by citing an article written by Philip Booth of the very right-wing Institute of Economic Affairs.

This paragraph is the centrepiece of her article:

In spite of the fact that being in work has been shown repeatedly to be the best (and most permanent) antidote to poverty, the public relations arms of the Child Poverty Action Group and the Rowntree Trust (among many others) have been notably disinclined to support the government’s welfare reform programme even though it is designed precisely to free the poor from the benefits trap. Nor can I recall them campaigning for tax cuts on the low paid: instead of allowing people to keep more of their earnings which would relieve their hardship and give them more independence, they clamour for the continuation of tax credits which subsidise (and perpetuate) low wages, and foster dependence on the state.

But Janet, if people have no work, they cannot benefit from tax cuts. Where is your logic? Furthermore, tax cuts will not make up for the pathetic wages being paid to people.  The fact remains that if people were paid proper living wages instead of peanuts, there would be no need for in-work benefits. Moreover, the structural deficit – that is often conflated by the Right with the national debt – will never go away if the Treasury isn’t making money through taxation. The Right’s calls for welfare cuts is predicated, not only on their ignorance of the lives of the poor, but also on their inbuilt social Darwinian prejudices and their deep-rooted class disgust.

Rather than see things as they really are, the Right would rather view the lives of the poor through the distorted lens of the fictional characters of Wayne and Waynetta Slob.  For them, the poor and the low-waged are pizza-eating, beer-swilling schlubs with no ambitions other than to own loads of bling and watch aspirational crap on their flat-screen tellies, and who also neglect their children as a lifestyle choice. For me, their use of televisually-mediated images and apocrypha to support their morally indefensible arguments perfectly illustrates the Right’s inability to comprehend the causes and definitions of poverty and the solutions to it.  Evidently, they would much rather deal with fantasy than the reality of everyday life. No wonder they’re so fond of nostalgia!

Obsessed with a nostalgic image (I could suggest spectacular image) of the Victorian age, the Tories are currently resurrecting the old Poor Laws. It’s only a matter of time before someone like Hannan demands the reintroduction of the workhouses.

Reference

Bourdieu, P. (1986) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London: Routledge.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Cuts, Government & politics, Ideologies, Journalism, Media, propaganda, Public spending, Tory press, Yellow journalism

David Miliband exits stage right

David Miliband is packing his bags and slinking off across the pond to take up a new job with International Rescue. So who’s he going to be? Virgil? Gordon? Or that other fella… wotshisname? Oh yeah, Brains. Oddly enough, this was supposedly his nickname when Blair plucked him off the backbenches and took him under his wing. Blair… there’s another one.  He’s doing all right for himself and I expect Miliband will also make a decent wedge for himself in the States.

The Labour party may have lost one of its arch-Blairites but that doesn’t mean the parliamentary party is shifting to the Left any time soon. Baby brother, Ed, has the unemployed in his sights and seems happy with the government’s attacks on the working poor of this country. His frontbench team is composed largely of disciplinarian headbangers like Liam Byrne and lily-livered cowards like Stephen Timid Timms.  They are out of touch with the lives of ordinary people whom they spit on from the lofty height of their ivory tower. Don’t be fooled by the brand spanking new One Nation Labour brand either: it is really little more than New Labour Mark 2. Mr Ed despises so-called Old Labour and he told us so in his speech back in January.

David Miliband’s South Shields seat is now vacant and a by-election has yet to be called. It’s a safe Labour seat, so there’s little danger of the party losing it… unless, the real Left can get its act together and snatch it from them. As for the Tories, they have about as much chance of taking the seat as I have of becoming Pope. Capiche?

I read a terribly naive tweet a few hours ago that went something like “ordinary need to join Labour and take it back from the Right”. Good luck with that, I thought. Loads of people have tried and failed. The parliamentary Labour party needs more than a few dedicated Left-wingers joining it in the vain hope that they can seize the party from the grip of the Blairites. It needs a complete overhaul from root to branch. It needs to welcome back the socialists it expelled in the 1980s and 1990s. But I don’t see that happening. Do you?

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Grilled Bozza served on a bed of chutzpah

In case anyone missed Bozza getting a grilling from the deadly Eddie Mair on yesterday’s Andrew Marr Show, here it is:

Here’s the full interview.

Even at the beginning of this interview, Bozza has a tough time as Mair asks him awkward questions.

During the course of the interview, Mair brought up the infamous telephone conversation between Johnson and his schoolfriend and fellow Bully Boy, Darius Guppy, in which the latter asks the former for a phone number of a News of the World journalist who crossed him. At last, here is a recording of that conversation:

A Classics graduate, Johnson seems to fancy himself as a latter day Roman emperor. Think of his vanity projects like the stupidly expensive Boris Bus and the cable car and you’ll see that Bozza has delusions of grandeur that are comparable to that of a vainglorious emperor of the Late Roman period.

I have read comments from people who seem to think that Bozza gave a good account of himself and castigated Mair for a “tabloid” interview. Mair had seen Michael Cockerell’s documentary on Johnson, which will be aired on BBC2 this evening, and it is this interview that Mair is focussing on. Anyone who thinks Bozza did a good job needs to learn how to read body language and think about how discourse is being used by him.

As London Mayor, Bozza has done nothing for the city. He’s taken Ken Livingstone’s ideas and claimed the credit for them. He has no ideas of his own and has been led around by his corporate chums. Bozza is nothing but a bullshitter.

London deserves better.

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Tony Blair, Paul Kagame and Iraq: arrest this man

Tony Blair. What can you say about a man who led the Labour party to a landslide victory in 1997 and who presided over the longest period of economic growth for decades? Well, it was a great victory for sure and as for economic growth… what’s there to say? GDP is no great indicator of a nation’s wealth. And economic growth, like any kind of growth, cannot be sustained forever. Blair and his government continued the neoliberal consensus: the free market is great, the free market is good. All hail the free market.

The other day someone on Twitter, calling themselves “@blairsupporter”,  placed me on a list of “Blair haters”. Charming, I thought. And the reason for this? It’s because I referred to Blair as a “warmonger”, which indeed he is… unless the word itself has been redefined overnight, Blair still qualifies – in my mind, at least – as a war criminal.  He’s most certainly unrepentant. Take his appearance on Newsnight a couple of weeks ago, in which he said that Iraq had not turned out “as he hoped”. Instead of admitting his actions were wrong, he blames the continuing violence on insurgents and external forces.  Yet without his and Bush’s intervention, there would be no sectarian violence.

It’s easy to claim that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant who “killed his own people” when you know nothing of the history of Iraq or Britain’s 40 year on-off occupation of the country.  It’s a handy default position: after all, Saddam Hussein had a big moustache. Surely that’s good enough to have considered him as another Stalin or a Hitler? Remember Gamal Abdul Nasser?

Most people knew nothing about Iraq before 1991 and took their information from the usual news sources. That’s always a big mistake. Britain was in, what was once called Mesopotamia from 1917 till 1958, with a wee break before WWII when it marched back in and kicked out the Nazi-sympathizing Prime Minister Rashid Ali al-Gaylani (who had seized power in a coup in 1941) and connived to reinstall their man Nuri es Said, who dominated Iraqi politics with much repression and violence for the next 17 years.

Britain’s time in what became Iraq is hardly mentioned and is often skipped over to promote the narrative of a uniquely blood-thirsty Saddam Hussein. Nuri was really bad but then so was General Bakr Sidqi (a Kurd), who was largely responsible for the Simele Massacre in 1933, which matches Halabja for the sheer scale of its brutality.

During the pre-independence period… and when I say “independence” I use this word in its loosest possible sense… Britain used Iraqi Arabs and Kurds as target practice. The great racist, Winston Churchill once opined that the use of poison gas against “recalcitrant Arabs” would “spread a lively terror”, which would thus force them to submit to British imperial rule. The military commander in Iraq, General Aylmer Haldane was enthusiastic about the use of gas and other armaments when dealing with Arabs and Kurds. His passion for wanton death and destruction was shared by others.

Other officers seemed to enjoy the work. One who did was Arthur Harris, who would later achieve fame directing the bomber offensive against Germany in the second world war. Known to his friends as Bomber and to his enemies as Butcher, he first practised his trade against Kurdish villages in Iraq. “Where the Arab and Kurd had begun to realise that if they could stand a little noise, they could stand bombing, and still argue,” he reported after one raid in 1924, “they now know what real bombing means, in casualties and damage; they now know that within 45 minutes a full-sized village can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured by four or five machines which offer them no real target, no opportunity for glory as warriors, no effective means of escape.” The British employed “police bombing” elsewhere in the empire – in Transjordan; against the Pathan tribesmen on the north-west frontier of India; in the Aden Protectorate (now the southern part of Yemen); and against the Nuer people of the southern Sudan.

Wherever you find brown people, you’ll find Britain and the United States bombing the crap out of them.

But what about the company Blair keeps? Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, has been accused of human rights violations. Blair is his “special adviser”. One wonders what kind of advice you give to a man with no respect for the lives of others? “Carry on, Paul, my old son”!

In 2009, The Office of Tony Blair website (question: how many former Prime Ministers have created their own office? The answer is none. Not even Thatcher did it) said,

Tony Blair hailed President Kagame’s visionary leadership as he saw for himself the remarkable pace of Rwandan progress during a two-day visit to the East African country.

The founder of the Africa Governance Initiative met with the President and senior officials to discuss ways in which Mr Blair and his team could help Rwanda build the capacity to deliver on the priorities of the Rwandan people, before witnessing examples of Rwandan progress in education, clean energy and business.

More often than not, former PMs sit on the backbenches after they’ve lost a general election. Not Blair (Thatcher was packed off to the Lords within a couple of years). He was off gallivanting around the globe. He picked up a nice cushy number as an adviser with JP Morgan and was hand-picked by George W Bush to become the Middle East special envoy. Blair also has his eye on the job of European president. Except no one wants him. But then, no one – except Bush, his neo-con buddies and the swivel-eyed Rapturists wanted Blair to be Middle East’s special envoy either.

According to the Telegraph, Blair has set up an investment unit at his Mayfair  offices... this must be the location of The Office of Tony Blair. Let’s face it, he wasn’t going to base his operations in Greenford or New Cross.

His investment unit, headed by a former senior banker at Barclays, reflects the former prime minister’s growing business empire, worth tens of millions of pounds.

Five members of his staff are registered with the Financial Services Authority and trading screens have been installed at Mr Blair’s offices, in Grosvenor Square in central London.

Mr Blair has established a complex web of companies, designed, according to accountants, to hide just how much money he makes and from where his money comes.

He has denied being “super rich”, but having built up a property portfolio of several homes and two multimillion-pound businesses, it is expected that he will enter the rich-lists for the first time this year with a fortune of somewhere between £35 million and £60 million.

Details of his trading desk have been pieced together by The Sunday Telegraph, which has conducted a series of investigations into Mr Blair’s finances since he left office in 2007.

Greed, thy name is Tony Blair.

So what about Kagame? Well, here’s what Blair said to The Guardian’s Chris McGreal three years ago,

“I’m a believer in and a supporter of Paul Kagame. I don’t ignore all those criticisms, having said that. But I do think you’ve got to recognise that Rwanda is an immensely special case because of the genocide. Secondly, you can’t argue with the fact that Rwanda has gone on a remarkable path of development. Every time I visit Kigali and the surrounding areas you can just see the changes being made in the country.”

McGreal adds,

But a sound economic policy hardly justifies the years of abuses in Congo.

Quite right. Yet Blair is unable to see anything other than the colour of money and his place in history.

Death, thy name is Tony Blair.

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Filed under Africa, Iraq, Middle East, Rwanda, World

Alec Shelbrooke: hypocrisy, lies and smears

Shelbrooke: he gorges himself stupid at the taxpayer’s expense.

I completely missed the story of Alec Shelbrooke’s withdrawal of his hated benefits cash card bill last month. Shelbrooke, whose waistline grows bigger each day he sits in the Commons, is no friend of benefit claimants or trade unionists.

The idea behind the cash card was to limit the kind of items that benefit claimants could spend their welfare payments on. This is from the BBC website:

Mr Shelbrooke told me he has widespread support from ordinary people and has been unfairly portrayed as a right-wing Tory who believes idle scroungers should be stopped from living a life of unearned luxury.

His view is that benefit claimants will be far better off if they are unable to buy what he calls “NEDD items”- things that were, in his words, “non-essential, desirable but often damaging”.

Perhaps he should take his own advice and spend less time gorging himself with the subsidized food and drink that is paid for with our taxes? Just a thought.

He also feels that there has been a lot of deliberate misinterpretation of his proposals particularly by benefits campaign groups and Labour politicians.

“I made it clear this would apply to all claimants in work and out of work, and would cover all benefits other than disability payments and the basic state pension,” he told me.

“Yet time and again I have seen criticism based on how this will degrade the lifestyles of groups that I specifically exclude from my proposal.”

No, there has been no “deliberate misinterpretation” and it’s fanciful and delusional to think that opposition to the tax is based on wilful misinterpretation. This bill was predicated on Shelbrooke’s and his fellow Tories’ class disgust. He also claims that “most of the public” supports his idea.  Of course, he would deny that consent for cuts and the Bedroom Tax was manufactured by the Tory press, the BBC and ITV in the first place.

I took a look at his blog. Here he says:

Primarily there are two critical points to the bill.  The first is that all benefits paid by the government, whether people are working or not, should be on a debit card (that would also allow cheaper energy deals to be used) would remove any stigma.  The second is to stop people buying cigarettes, alcohol, gambling and satellite TV with the card.  Indeed, I describe the essentials it should be used on as food, energy, transport, clothing and housing. In all of the abuse I have received from people opposed to the idea I still haven’t had one person tell me how smoking, drinking and gambling help to raise someone out of poverty.

My bold. The trouble is, his government is not committed to raising anyone out of poverty. Their rationale is to force people into working for nothing and castigating the working poor for claiming benefits.

Further down his blog, I found this.

Raising the debate itself led to death threats to my office and a torrent of foul language and  statements being levelled at me from the Left.  How do I know they are from the Left?  Primarily because they did it on twitter and their profile name gave them away as to their political leanings.  But is it acceptable in our so called mature society to call me a fascist, a hater of the poor and most offensively of all eluding to Nazism though making the suggestion that I should get “all benefits claimants to wear yellow stars”?  I can take as many insults as you throw at me, but how dare people use the murder of six million people as their insult simply because they’re incapable of constructing a plausible argument, which can stand up to debate on their so-called ‘holy grail of the country’. Quite frankly, it’s base, contemptible and disgraceful.

There’s something inside me that says Shelbrooke is being over-dramatic. “Death threats”? Really? Funny how the press has never once mentioned it.  He also complains that he has been attacked on Twitter by “the Left” but why would anyone on the Left support his proposals? They wouldn’t. But suggesting that the Left should say nothing and support his crazy plan is nothing short of delusional.  Indeed, in making his dubious moral points, Shelbrooke displays the lack of critical thinking that is endemic in today’s Britain.

Here, he defends the wrongheaded and hated Bedroom Tax.

I cannot tell you how many private home owners have asked me why they should pay tax on their empty rooms.  Of course they will not.  The use of the word tax is misleading for a start, as tax is money taking by the government from what you earn, not reduce the amount of money they give you in the fist place.  I have heard countless examples in the House of Labour MPs describing parents of service personnel in social housing, keeping a room free for them when they are at home, and loosing £14 a week.  Our service men and women do a fantastic job and no one disputes that, but they do a job for which they are paid and I don’t consider it unreasonable to suggest they use £14 of their salary to pay for a room in the home of their parents, who are on State benefits. Remember these are benefits paid by the government because it is deemed people cannot afford the cost on their own.

He really isn’t as smart as he likes to think. This is a tax and no matter what Shelbrooke or his fellow Tories say to allay our fears, nothing will change that. The intention behind this tax has always been transparent: it’s an attack on those people who live in social housing and the class disgust that underpins the now dead bill is palpable.

This scaremongering, playing to the most vulnerable in society, lowers the level of debate so low that disgusting language and insults are now deemed to be acceptable by the Left.

Here, he pretty much hoists himself by his own petard. He inadvertently acknowledges that those who are a most likely to be affected by the Bedroom Tax are the vulnerable. It is right that those on the Left articulate the concerns of those who will be affected by the tax.  As for “scaremongering” that’s what his party does so well.

The last sentence of his blog is unintentionally hilarious.

The left should be ashamed of the way they have dragged down the democracy of our country, although that assumes they ever really valued it in the first place.

He loves assuming the moral high ground. I saw him do it in the Benefits Uprating Bill.  But this sentence also assumes that we live in a democracy. The Tories didn’t win the 2010 General Election and they have no real mandate. In other words, their welfare ‘reforms’ are undemocratic. Shelbrooke can’t see that because, like his fellow Conservatives, he lacks the capacity for self-reflexivity and believes he, like them, is born to rule.

Essentially the cash card scheme was another plan to carve up slices of public services and sell them off to the highest bidder. Mastercard and Allpay were lining up for a piece of the action in case Shelbrooke’s bill became law. Indeed, the report into these cards was financed by Mastercard. The Cat asks if the report was financed by Mastercard, then what else have they financed?

For all their whining about the “nanny state”, Tory MPs like Shelbrooke are more than happy to force the “nanny state”  on to the most vulnerable and those whom they hold in disgust.

The Cat thinks Shelbrooke needs to take a long hard look at himself in the mirror… if he can find one big enough, that is.

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Anyone for right-wing comedy? Not for me, thanks.

Jim Davidson: the archetypal right-wing comedian.

Anyone who was listening to Radio 4’s Feedback on Sunday will have heard some listeners complaining about Jeremy Hardy Speaks To The Nation. One listener complained that the show was a “party political broadcast for the Labour Party”. Another listener bemoaned the fact that there aren’t any right-wing comedians on Radio 4. Right wing comedians? Really? Do I really want to hear right-wing comedy on Radio 4 or anywhere else? Needless to say, the complaints weren’t so much about the show rather than an apparent left-wing bias in the station’s comedy content.

Readers, I have read complaints like these before on Telegraph blogs and on The Freedom Association’s (TFA) website. The issue isn’t so much comedy itself, but with what the Right perceives to be the BBC’s “cultural bias” and, in the absence of any salient examples,  they will often cite the employment of what it sees as “left-wing” comedians at the “licence payers expense”.

We have seen complaints such as these from the Right since the 1970s. The political fringe theatre companies that were funded by the Arts Council of Great Britain, for example, came under attack from Tories like Teddy Taylor, who singled out CAST for special treatment. CAST, it seems, upset him more than most. He said,

“It is an outrageous waste of money. I’d like all grants withdrawn from this theatre company and intend to make representations to the authorities”.

Taylor had an ally in fellow Tory, Norman Tebbit, who complained bitterly of left-wing radicals practising their subversive arts on the taxpayers’ farthing. Thanks to their efforts, the Thatcher government appointed William Rees-Mogg (father of Jacob) as Chairman of the Arts Council in 1983. Under his command, funding was withdrawn from CAST and many other left-wing theatre companies. Consequently, the majority of fringe theatre companies were forced to either fold or change. Ever resourceful, CAST revived the variety form first on their New Variety circuit and then a couple of years later at the Hackney Empire. But funding cuts to local government and the abolition of the Greater London Council would continue to threaten CAST’s and the Hackney Empire’s existence until the mid-1990s.

So what is right-wing comedy? If you have a knowledge of right-wing political ideologies, then you will more or less understand the themes and the butts of its humour. In the 1970s, we had  Granada Television’s The Comedians. Jim Davidson, unless I am very much mistaken, is a right-wing comedian and a supporter of the Conservative Party. Davidson used to work for the BBC fronting such programmes as Big Break and The Generation Game. To the best of my knowledge, he has never graced the Radio 4 studios. Just as well, really.

Commissioning editor, Caroline Raphael defended Jeremy Hardy and reminded the complainants that satire can only work if it attacks those in power. This is axiomatic of political satire, but in the mind of the Right such self-evidence is met with derision. Why would anyone want to challenge the powerful? Aren’t they superior because of their social position and circumstances of birth? Although, they may not speak these words aloud, the underlying social Darwinian sentiment is there.

If left-wing comedy (well, political satire) attacks those in power, then right-wing comedy attacks those without power. It regards ethnic minorities, women, gays, lesbians, trans people, the homeless, the working class, drug addicts and others as objects of ridicule. It does not speak to power because it is power. In the master-slave relationship, it is the master. It presents life as a series of banal and insulting representations. It denies history because it seeks to create mythologies in its place. It is a sad day, indeed, when comedians like Jimmy Carr are described as “left-wing” by right-wing commentators.

The truth of the matter is that there are right-wing comedians, but their politics may not be evident in their comedy. Those who sit on the political Right are more likely to come across as ‘apolitical’ and play for the troops in the Falklands or Afghanistan. Judge them not by their words, but by their actions.

One of the complainants opined that “the BBC is a non-political organisation and yet it is paying for broadcasting what appeared to be a party political broadcast for the Communist Party”.  First of all, the BBC is not a “non-political organisation” and this is evident in it news coverage, which displays a right-wing bias. Secondly, those who complain that Hardy’s show was a “political broadcast for the Communist Party” ignore two things: 1) the Communist Party does not and has never made political broadcasts for the BBC and 2) Hardy is not a member of the Communist Party. But then, this is how the Right regards anything that doesn’t conform to their views. Even the Labour Party is “Communist” in their eyes.

But if right-wing comedy is like anything else that they’ve produced (think of nationalist poetry), then it’s bound to be pretty poor. I think it was Hemingway, who when asked if he preferred right-wing poetry to left-wing poetry, replied by saying right-wing poetry was “boring”. Right-wing comedy is bound to be, not only boring, but abusive as well.

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Whatever happened to the Euston Manifesto?

The authors and signatories of the Euston Manifesto always reminded me of those self-described leftists of the Cold War era. You know the ones. They would describe themselves as “anti-Communist  or Democratic Labour” or some such thing. Their aim was to divert the suspicious gaze of the Right and to claim the moral high ground over the Left, many of whom continued to see the Soviet Union as a beacon of progress.

In many respects, the Eustonites were barely different from their more right-wing cousins in the Henry Jackson Society. In fact, some Eustonites straddle both camps. For example, the Labour MP, Gisela Stuart, is a member of both groups.  In 2006, The Telegraph reported that,

…Miss Stuart claimed that a Kerry victory over President George W. Bush would prompt “victory celebrations among those who want to destroy liberal democracies”.

Stuart herself added

“You know where you stand with George [W. Bush] and, in today’s world, that’s much better than rudderless leaders who drift with the prevailing wind.”

While Stuart is a member of both groups, the Labour MP, Chris Bryant is a signatory of the Henry Jackson Society’s statement of principles along with Tories Michael Gove, Greg Hands and Michael Ancram.

The Euston Manifesto was born in 2006, three years after the disastrous invasion of Iraq and a year after the Henry Jackson Society was formed. It was signed by a number of soi-disant left-wing academics, journalists and politicians. Those who authored the document include Marxist historian, Norman Geras, Observer hack, Nick Cohen and journalist and Marx expert, Francis Wheen. The disgraced Labour MP, Denis MacShane is also a signatory.

The preamble to the manifesto says,

We are democrats and progressives.
We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the Left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.

The present initiative has its roots in and has found a constituency through the Internet, especially the “blogosphere”. It is our perception, however, that this constituency is under-represented elsewhere — in much of the media and the other forums of contemporary political life.

The broad statement of principles that follows is a declaration of intent. It inaugurates a new Website, which will serve as a resource for the current of opinion it hopes to represent and the several foundation blogs and other sites that are behind this call for a progressive realignment.

From the beginning, the Eustonites attacked the anti-war movement and, in particular, George Galloway, whom they claimed was “anti-Semitic”. Indeed, the Eustonites referred to anyone who criticized Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories and Gaza as “anti-Semitic”. Similarly, any criticism of the United States’s foreign policy objectives was described as “anti-American”. They are indiscriminate.

The Eustonites also have a close link to the notorious Harry’s Place blog, which claims to be left-wing but is, for all intents and purposes,  a rather right-wing blog that attracts all kinds of swivel-eyed Islamophobes and closet Tories. It is often cited by right-leaning hacks like Gilligan.

Perhaps the strangest thing about the Eustonites is the way they tacked on open source software clause at the end of their manifesto. It doesn’t actually fit with the rest of the document. It’s almost an afterthought.  It’s a little like adding “free beer on Wednesdays” at the end of a constitution.

The Euston Manifesto website has been quiet since 2011. The last entry is about the death of Osama Bin Laden.

The purpose of the Euston Manifesto was to attack the Left and suck up to the Right, while claiming to be left-wing. Confused? So am I. Perhaps this is the reason why the Euston Manifesto has been such a failure: its authors and signatories are not in synch with one another and its mission is at odds with the traditional left-wing position of anti-imperialism. If anything the Eustonites are apologists for imperialism. The Euston Manifesto failed to ignite left-wing imaginations and remained in the cultural and ideological ghetto of the blogosphere. In short, its attempt to emulate the Right and the Third Camp of Schachtmanism has ended in failure. And hallelujah for that!

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