Given the current situation, this seemed appropriate. Just change the pronoun’s gender.
Given the current situation, this seemed appropriate. Just change the pronoun’s gender.
No sooner than the new Tory government came to power with 24% of the electorate voting for them, they almost immediately signalled their intention to curtail civil liberties and construct new enemies to convince people of the need to sign away their hard fought freedoms. Within hours of the election results, the Tories and their allies in the right-wing press began recycling more language from the 1980s. Dark mutterings of ‘extreme left-wingers’ emanated from the lips of government ministers, and papers like the Daily Mail have warned of “left-wing thuggery” this summer. The government is trying to rush through new anti-terrorism laws (as if there aren’t enough of these already), new anti-union legislation, the abolition of the Human Rights Act and the failed ‘snooper’s charter’ in its first 100 days.
Extremism: a label devised to silence opposition and curb dissent
Today, Cameron announced his “anti-extremism bill“, which seems to me to be indiscriminate and designed to curtail civil liberties under the rubric of national security. But what is an “extremist”? The bill ostensibly targets what are broadly described as “Islamists” but could also cover anyone or any group that, in the government’s eyes, is an ‘extremist’. This could include the Scottish National Party, protesters and even civil liberties advocacy groups like Liberty.
A revitalized police state
The so-called ‘Snooper’s Charter’ or the Communications Data Bill, to give it its full name, has been revived after it was blocked by the Lib Dems. For a party that claims to “love” freedom and liberty, the Tories always reveal their true colours by proposing authoritarian measures that limit the freedoms of ordinary citizens. Carly Nyst, legal director for Privacy International told The Guardian,
“Theresa May’s comments confirm that widespread public concern about the threats posed to online privacy and expression by internet monitoring powers has been completely ignored by the new government.
“Communications data legislation has been repeatedly criticised by experts and politicians from all reaches of the political spectrum, and has been beaten back by the public and civil society time and time again.
“Reviving it as a policy priority is a clear sign both of an insatiable appetite for spying powers, and intentions to continue to sacrifice the civil liberties of Britons everywhere on the altar of national security.
In coalition, the Tories wanted to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with an ersatz version of their own. Now free of the beastly Lib Dems, they have resurrected the policy. However, the government could run into trouble if it attempts to scrap the HRA because it violates the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The SNP is also planning to challenge any attempt to abolish the HRA in the Scottish Parliament.
The task of repealing the HRA was given to the new Justice Minister, Michael Gove, a man with a limited intellectual capacity, but whose appetite for destruction knows no bounds. No one, not even Tory ministers, know what this British Bill of Rights will look like, but if Gove is steering it through then it’s bound to look like a dog’s breakfast.
Removing the right to strike
The Tories have always been implacably opposed to worker’s rights since the days of the Combination Acts. In the last Parliament they even tried to claim they were the ‘worker’s party’. Very funny. Sajid Javid appeared on Channel 4 News last night to promote the new anti-union bill. He claimed that other countries have similar laws, but he wouldn’t say which countries. The Cat suspects he’s talking about places like Equatorial Guinea (and possibly Pinochet’s Chile), where strikes are illegal and workers are beaten up and imprisoned. The government wants to impose a 50% turnout on strike ballots of those eligible to vote for a strike to be ‘legal’. Yet the Tories only won 24% of the vote themselves and that’s hardly a mandate in anyone’s vocabulary. Furthermore, Police and Crime Commissioners won elections on turnouts of around 16% and the new leader of Oxford City Council is in office on the back of an 8% turnout.
The rationale for this new legislation is to outlaw strikes or create conditions that make it difficult for trade unions to take industrial action. The Tories are especially keen to ban strikes on the London Underground, which it claims, somewhat melodramatically, is an ‘essential service’. I have never seen a tube train ferry injured and ill people to hospital, nor have I witnessed tube trains rushing to put out a house fire. The Tube is not an essential service, no matter how many times the Tories or their friends in the press repeat that ridiculous claim. The Tube is a form of public transport. Nothing more, nothing less.
Constructing ‘enemies within’
The Tories cannot exist without enemies and if they don’t exist, then they will construct them from opposition groups and oppressed minorities. Those of you who remember the Thatcher years will know that trade unionists, the especially the miners, the Labour Party (under Michael Foot) and CND were seen as the ‘enemy within’. This label was extended to cover LGBT people, ethnic minorities and left-wing local authorities. During the coalition years, the enemies were, in no particular order, public sector workers, the disabled and benefits claimants. It seems to me that anyone who opposes the Tory government’s anti-human and anti-democratic legislation will be regarded as a “left-wing extremist” even though the group or persons in question may not necessarily be left-wing at all.
Reliving the Thatcher Years
This government, rather than living in the present, only seems capable of living in the past. The Cat has a theory: the majority of these Tories weren’t old enough when Thatcher destroyed communities, smashed the unions and sold off our housing stock. They now want to relive the years they missed out on. We can see this in the Free Enterprise Group (FEG), whose members include 100% Evil, Dominic Raabid, Chris Skidmark, Liz (You Can’t) Truss (It) and Kwasi Kwarteng. Their book Britannia Unchained, claimed that British workers were inherently lazy. Nothing was said about the incompetence of British management.
Most of the Tories are incapable of living or dealing with the present. They have no new ideas and continually have to recycle old ones. Hence the rush to smash the unions, which are already being subjected to the most draconian anti-union legislation in Europe that was enacted during the Thatcher years. Alexei Sayle once described the current Tories as “a really bad Thatcherite tribute band”. He’s not wrong.
The Cat wonders how long it will be till we hear the same lines uttered by Thatcher 30 years ago about “permissiveness” and “lifestyle choices”?
Left-baiting/red-baiting and other bullshit
The Tory-dominated media outlets have, without exception, begun to produce a new series of left-baiting articles. This happened after the 2010 election too. This article by Bryony Gordon in the Daily Telegraph has the title “Stop your whingeing: why the left are such sore losers” and comes with the subtitle:
Labour voters should be ashamed of all the boohooing – and I speak as one
However, if you have a look at her Wikipedia entry, Gordon’s spent most of her working life writing for right-wing newspapers. Furthermore, the words “Labour” and “left-wing” are not contiguous. Gordon may have voted for Labour once in her life but that doesn’t make her “left-wing”, it makes her a hack.
The not-so-subtle discourse being conveyed by Gordon is “The Tories won. You should just let them fuck you over. It’s for your own good “. But this kind of discourse is what one would expect from an authoritarian regime, not defenders of ‘freedom’, surely?
Of course, proportional representation would still have given us a Tory government – just one in coalition with Ukip. Is that what the people marching on Westminster want?
And do they not remember the referendum for an alternative vote system four years ago, the one that the British public rejected out of hand? Have they forgotten the Labour victory of 2005, when the party only got 36 per cent of the vote? Where were the angry placards then? Where were the marches and protests and furious online campaigns for electoral reform? I’m guessing they were all buried under a massive pile of self-righteousness.
The alternative vote (AV) system was not proportional and many people could see that. Thus it was rejected. But Gordon doesn’t bother to mention this. AV was nothing but a sop; it was not a step on the road to PR, it was a cynical effort to kick the matter into touch. I have had arguments over this issue with people, who delude themselves with the notion that AV would have meant real PR somewhere down the line. How long down the line is anyone’s guess. I would say that if AV had prevailed, real PR would have been off the table forever. It is therefore right and proper that people should protest for a fair electoral system.
Over at the Daily Mail, self-styled historian Dominic Sandbrook repeats the old Thatcherite line about “hectoring left-wing politicians are telling people how to run their lives”. Yet, today, Cameron claimed that “Britain is too tolerant and should interfere in people’s lives more” (my bold). This actually contradicts the Tories’ and Sandbrook’s claims that it is only the Left that tells people “how to run their lives”. Hypocrisy much, Dominic? Cameron was speaking in defence of his ‘anti-extremism’ measures, which means the very right-wing government would stick its nose into everything.
There is a real democratic deficit in this country and it’s being made worse by a brutal Tory regime. They now want to redraw the electoral boundaries without proportional representation. This amounts to little more than blatant gerrymandering, since the boundaries would be drawn to suit the Tories, meaning that they would remain in power forever.
The next five years are going to be turbulent. We must be prepared to use what means we can to fight back. If that means civil disobedience, then so be it.
See you at the barricades!
Think we live in a democracy? Think we live in a ‘free country’? Think again. Protest is increasingly being criminalized by our imperial masters. For the last few days Occupy Democracy has been occupying Parliament Square. This excellent blog by indyrikki explains what happened last night when the Territorial Support Group moved in and tried to force the protesters to give up.
If a progressive movement can gauge the effect it’s having from the response of the State, then the Unions should be ashamed of themselves, and the Occupy movement should be cheering loudly.
Depending on whom you believe, the Unions roused between 50,000 and 100,000 people to march a tiring long course to Hyde Park to listen to the same old speeches from the same list of actors, demanding change but seldom challenging the system.
Policing was hands-off, relatively low key, and generally good-natured.
Meanwhile, globally there is a movement growing that recognises the present system of central banking and corporate power is so out of all public and democratic control, so corrupt, and so destructive that it can’t be ‘changed’ but must be replaced.
Although in the UK the movement appears to be small in numbers, it’s clear it has a growing resonance, and that more and more people are…
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The occasion of Milton Friedman’s 101st birthday…no, he’s still dead, I just checked… has moved the Lyin’ King to pen this gushing tribute to the man whose economic theories have quite literally turned the world into a toilet. Dan opines:
Today would have been Milton Friedman’s hundred-and-first birthday. The Chicago economist, who died in 2006, is already acquiring that almost Homeric status that normally comes only decades after a man’s life. Perhaps social media have speeded up the process, or perhaps it’s the fact that Friedman’s strongest enthusiasts are often students with no direct memory of their hero.
Friedman, darling of neoliberals everywhere and supporter of Pinochet’s Chile, where his theories were rammed down people’s throats, is given the airbrush treatment… well, that’s not quite true. Friedman’s supporters refuse to see any flaws in the man. In their eyes, he was the very model of economic perfection. So no need for the airbrush.
Yet for someone who talked so movingly about ‘freedom’, Friedman was capable of turning a blind eye to political repression. For him, all that mattered was the functioning of the free market with its insistence that social relations be reduced to financial transactions between actors. Friedman was also fervently against any form of regulation, so in a pure Friedmanite dystopia, surgeons can practice without proper qualifications and driving licenses would be banned. Can you see the dangers? Yes? Well, Dan can’t.
Here, Hannan tells us:
Friedman did not limit himself to academic theories; he had a keen sense of how to translate ideas into action. He understood politics very well, and used to say that his aim was not to get the right people elected, but to create a climate where even the wrong people would do the right thing. Every year I spend in politics I find that insight more brilliant.
Yes, Friedman understood politics so well that in his perfect world, certain kinds of political activity would have been outlawed because they didn’t fit into his perfect model of a rampant capitalist society.
Here we get to the core of the blog:
What mattered to him most of all? Oddly enough, it was nothing to do with monetary policy, or indeed with economics at all. He believed that the single measure that would do most to ameliorate society was school vouchers.
School vouchers, loved by Pinochet’s Chicago Boys and loathed by those who have had to put up with a substandard education, have become a sort of gold standard in the eyes of the Right. Higher education, too, has moved backwards. For the last few years, students have been protesting over the inequalities of the education system. Dan simply ignores this.
He had first suggested the idea as early as 1955 – in an intellectual climate so unfriendly that he might as well have been proposing that children be cooked and eaten.
You can see where this is heading and predictably enough, Dan tells us:
But the climate shifted, not least through Friedman’s own interventions and, by the end of his life, a few places were prepared to give his idea a go. Chile had led the way in the 1980s, followed by Sweden in the early 1990s. Milwaukee became the first city in the US to adopt vouchers 23 years ago, and around a quarter of a million American pupils are now benefiting.
“Chile had led the way in the 1980s” he says. No mention of the oppressive weight of the Chilean ‘small state’ crushing those below. No mention of the thousands rounded up, tortured and executed. No mention of the oligarchical free-for-all ushered in by Pinochet’s ‘hands off’ approach to the economy and its disastrous consequences for ordinary Chileans. He continues:
Though Britain has stopped short of full-blown vouchers, Michael Gove has plainly embraced the idea that governments can fund schools without running them, and the free schools programme is one of the greatest of the Coalition’s achievements.
The truth of the matter is that the Tories have been historically opposed to the state school system and have spent the better part of 60 years talking it down when they’re out of power and running it into the ground when they’re in government. The unspoken dictum here is “some state schools are bad, therefore the state education system is bad”.
The Cat believes that the Tories would prefer it if everyone paid for their schooling and if you can’t find the money, that’s tough. You will die illiterate and ignorant. Why? Because it’s God’s will. That’s why.
Finally Dan tells us:
With his wife, he established the Milton Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which has helped thousands of students, especially poor students, to get a decent education.
“Choice” has been used as a battering ram since the 1980s. But choice is neither here nor there. You can only have what is available. The Tories believe that if you don’t live in the catchment area of a school that you’ve fetishised, then you should be able to bypass the rules and send your kid there anyway. Better still, set up your own free school where you can be free to inculcate children in any superstitious tosh that occupies your thoughts.
While 75% of free schools were found to be “good” or “outstanding” by OFSTED inspectors, 25% were not. This article from The Guardian says:
Inspectors were severe on the primary school’s leadership, saying its governors failed to grasp the school’s “serious shortcomings”, while school leaders “believe the school is far better than it is”.
The inspection team gave the school the lowest grade, of “inadequate”, in three of four categories, for pupil achievement, quality of teaching, leadership and management. “Too many pupils are in danger of leaving the school without being able to read and write properly,” inspectors concluded. “Unless this is put right quickly, pupils are unlikely to flourish in their secondary schools and future lives.”
To borrow from the Tories’ lexicon of smears, I could say that “some free schools are poor, therefore all free schools are poor”. But unlike Dan, I’m not that petty.
When you look at any group of people of similar mind, you will find that they take on a common or group characteristics, and traits. Dare I say a group personality?
Examining the ruling parties here in the UK, the ConDems, we find that they do conform to a common or group personality.
Further examination of this group personality leads us to ask, “Are the Tories sociopaths”? I think they are and if you look at this interesting page on the subject, you can see that most of this ConDem government conforms to type.
This definition of the malignant personality is particularly true,
(3) They scapegoat; they are incapable of either having the insight or willingness to accept responsibility for anything they do. Whatever the problem, it is always someone else’s fault.
This government has scapegoated public sector workers and, rather than look to themselves for answers to the riots, they decided that all rioters were “criminals” or were involved in gangs. They also sought to claim that all of the rioters were under the age of 25 and Black. It wasn’t true.
This also makes interesting reading,
Other Related Qualities:
- Contemptuous of those who seek to understand them
- Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them
- Only rarely in difficulty with the law, but seeks out situations where their tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired
- Conventional appearance
- Goal of enslavement of their victim(s)
- Exercises despotic control over every aspect of the victim’s life
- Has an emotional need to justify their crimes and therefore needs their victim’s affirmation (respect, gratitude and love)
- Ultimate goal is the creation of a willing victim
- Incapable of real human attachment to another
- Unable to feel remorse or guilt
- Extreme narcissism and grandiose
- May state readily that their goal is to rule the world
My eyes were drawn to point 3. Tories claim to be in favour of freedom but their actions say something different: they are authoritarian and tend to admire other authoritarians (Thatcher’s admiration for Pinochet, for example).
In opposition, the Tories positioned themselves as champions of civil liberties but once in power they quickly reverted to their default position. I, for one, was not taken in by their faux Damascene conversion to civil libertarianism.
Same old Tories. Same old sociopaths.
Yesterday, I heard a lot of people calling for the army to be deployed on the streets of London. Some have even demanded that looters (and others) be shot on sight. Such calls are made without a single thought for the consequences and the implications of troop deployment.
In essence, it is the duty of the army to protect citizens from an outside invader. It is not their job to act as police. In countries, like Syria or Bahrain, where the army is routinely used as a an ersatz arm of law enforcement, innocent bystanders are killed and the governments in those countries rule with an iron fist. Civil liberties are curbed or suspended altogether and curfews are imposed. Anyone who disobeys a curfew is shot on sight. Is this what we want? Not even the French government orders the army onto the streets. It has the Compagnies de Républicaines de Sécurité or CRS to deal with serious cases of civil unrest. Anyone who knows the CRS will tell you, they are not to be messed with. However the CRS has come in for a great deal of criticism for their indiscriminate use of force. They have also been accused of institutionalized racism. In addition to the CRS, the French state can call upon the services of the Gendermerie Mobile. Do we want this sort of thing on our streets?
The other issue is that those who have called for the army to be deployed on British streets ignore the fact that the army is currently engaged in Afghanistan, fighting a war with no end. But would troops fire on their own citizens? Those of us who lived through the years of the so-called ‘Troubles’ will know that the army, by and large, saw the Catholics of Northern Ireland, not as citizens, but as enemies. The deployment of troops was initially greeted with relief and even joy. Within a couple of years, that had changed and the army was seen for what it was: an repressive arm of the state. Bloody Sunday on 30 January 1972, saw 26 unarmed civilians and bystanders killed by the trigger-happy soldiers of 1 Para. Is this what those who call for the army to be deployed on our streets want?
There is another dimension to this, those who demand the army be sent on out on the streets are effectively demanding their own oppression. They may as well demand that their civil rights be suspended and internment without trial be introduced. How can soldiers tell who is a looter and who is not? Is there a code?
In 1911 Winston Churchill sent troops to Tonypandy. Striking miners were shot and killed. In the same year, troops appeared on the streets of Liverpool during the transport strike. Innocent bystanders were shot dead.
Those who demand that the army be called in are like turkeys voting for Christmas.
Hammersmith MP, Andy Slaughter’s regular column in the Fulham Chronicle has been censored by Hammersmith & Fulham Council. In an unprecedented move, the Chronicle was effectively bought (for £75,000) by the council so that it may continue to produce its propaganda after the government forced the abolition of so-called council pravdas earlier this year. The paper, a title in the Trinity Mirror Group of newspapers, has effectively lost its independence and is now dancing to the tune of Greenhalgh and his town hall chums.
This latest move to censor what it doesn’t like follows on from an advert placed in the paper by the Parents Alliance for Community Schools, whichwas also censored by the council, simply because the advert didn’t sit comfortably with its embrace of Toby Young’s free school – which has the full support and approval of the council.
The Shepherds Bush blog has the full story here.
The final part of Adam Curtis’s The Trap – What happened to our dream of freedom?
You can view Part 1 of Adam Curtis’s The Trap – What happened to our dream of freedom? below. Part 1 comes in six parts (confusingly enough).