Tag Archives: Diane Abbott

Racism And The Bullying Of Diane Abbott

We’ve been here before.

I woke up this morning to discover that Diane Abbott had been taken ill and has withdrawn from the campaign. Her place has been taken by Lyn Brown. Furthermore, the recent attacks on Abbott, so close to polling day, can only have originated from the foetid mind of Lynton Crosby, whose reputation for dog-whistle racist campaigns is well known.

Few people, except those who have a blind spot for such things, can deny that the recent bullying of Diane Abbott has been not only disgraceful, but smacks of racism and sexism. The Cat has seen numerous people, many of them claiming to be Labour supporters, complaining about Abbott’s ‘competence’. When pressed to provide salient examples of her ‘incompetence’ the best answer these people can provide is “well, she had a car crash interview” and that is the sum total of their argument.

In all of her shadow roles from Public Health to the Home Office, Abbott has performed well. Yet few people when asked if she’s made mistakes in those roles, can’t answer the question, so they start flailing and splutter “I don’t like her”. Well, okay, that’s fair enough but once they’ve spluttered those words, they usually return to their original non-point of Abbott’s presumed incompetency.  Mention the word “racism” and they’ll get agitated. Why? Is it because they refuse to see it?  Of course, it is.

In the last week or so, we’ve heard May and her Tories say “Would you want Diane Abbott as Home Secretary”? Such a question is predicated on the knowledge of the Other. The idea that the Home Office will be run not only by a woman, but a black woman is too much to bear for our crypto-racists. Better to have a white woman or a white man in charge, eh? Where are the black faces in May’s cabinet?  There are none. There are a couple of Asian millionaires but no black people.

Diane Abbott has been attacked precisely because she is black and because she’s a woman. Boris Johnson is allowed to make as many gaffes as he likes and get away with it. He’s given plenty of latitude when he indulges in racism and his thuggish behaviour is regularly overlooked, even laughed off.  He’s a clown, so we’re told.

When you base your competency argument on a handful of gaffes rather than a person’s record, then you play the bully’s game. If you can’t see the obvious racism that underpins the bullying of Abbott and prefer to focus on her presumed incompetency, then you need to have a word with yourself.

 

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How Much Will It Cost?

“How much will it cost?” is the question many broadcast hacks journalists ask of Labour politicians whenever the subject of spending is raised, yet the same question is rarely, if ever, put to Conservative politicians and there’s a reason for that.  It’s because the mainstream or corporate media has accepted Thatcherite economic orthodoxy and refuses to question it.  Moreover, the question itself is not only loaded, but predicated almost entirely on the Thatcherite logic that national finances are exactly the same as household finances. They are not. And anyone who thinks they are needs to listen to Yanis Varoufakis take down that myth when a member of the BBC Question Time audience repeated it without a moment’s thought.

Thomas G Clark of Another Angry Voice also debunks the myth here.

Television and radio hacks, and their commentator allies have accepted the Thatcherite logic of the market and the domestic finance analogy as fait accompli. For supposedly well-educated people, broadcast journalists have shown that they are neither capable nor willing to ask fundamentally straightforward questions about the Tories’ economic claims, and instead have focussed their attention on Labour’s mythologized economic incompetence.  But the questions they ask are not intelligent questions and behind them is a discourse of mocking and sneering of anything that diverges even slightly from the orthodoxy.

We see this whenever a Tory politician talks about tax cuts, they are never asked “how much will these tax cuts cost”? Instead, their proposals are taken at face value and their tenuous claims to economic competence are accepted as axiomatic. Yet, tax cuts do cost money and the burden will always fall on the shoulders of those who are least equipped to deal with it.  Tories will always claim that they have taken those who earn the least out of taxation altogether.   No questions are asked if the richest will pay more or how libraries, schools and the National Health Service are to be funded when ever-decreasing amounts of tax are being collected by the state.  Of course, Tory politicians know they will never be subjected to the kind of scrutiny reserved for Labour or even Green politicians (Andrew Neil is a possible exception). The deference with which most media journalists treat these puffed up charlatans is more sickening than eating ten Cadbury’s Cream Eggs in a single sitting and it’s getting worse.

This morning, Diane Abbott appeared on Nick Ferrari’s programme on LBC. When Ferrari questioned her about how much will more police officers cost, Abbott got into a muddle. Yet, when Theresa May was asked why nurses were forced to go to foodbanks on The Andrew Marr Show last Sunday, and could only summon up “there are complex reasons” by way of reply, few media commentators batted an eyelid.  Instead, all the outrage was focussed on Abbott’s apparent gaffe. Pathetic.

The level of political debate in the public sphere is shockingly juvenile and is driven by the discourses produced in the mainstream media. It’s no wonder many voters are left ill-informed about their political choices when journalists are only capable of asking stupid questions with the intention of getting a sensational headline.

If our media had any guts, it would have reported on the real story of the day.  Namely, Theresa May going full Erdoğan on pesky local reporters in Cornwall. But they didn’t.

 

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Yvette Cooper Is Shadow Home Secretary? That’s News To Me!

Have a look at this Guardian headline.  Can you see anything wrong with it?

The subtitle says: “Colleagues show support after shadow home secretary criticises Theresa May for breaking snap election promise”. The thing is, Jeremy Corbyn attacked May for the same thing twenty minutes before Cooper rose to her feet. Here, Jessica Elgot,  by not mentioning Corbyn, is claiming that only Cooper “criticised” May (Dennis Skinner also put the boot in). That’s how bias works, folks, and Elgot is nothing if not transparent.

Elgot gushes:

Labour MPs heaped praise on Yvette Cooper’s performance at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, during which the former shadow home secretary attacked Theresa May for breaking her promise not to hold a snap general election.

The whirlwind of supportive comments from Labour colleagues will fuel speculation the MP is already laying the ground for a second leadership bid, given the prevailing feeling in the parliamentary party that Labour should choose a woman as its next leader if Jeremy Corbyn loses on 8 June.

But when was Yvette Cooper appointed Shadow Home Secretary and does Diane Abbott know she’s taken her job?

Given The Guardian’s loathing of Jeremy Corbyn is this a subtle way of telling people who they’d prefer to lead the Labour Party in the event of a defeat?

Remember, in Britain it’s not the voters who decide who leads the Labour Party (or the country). That’s the self-appointed job of the corporate media.

You can read Elgot’s syrupy drivel in full here.

UPDATE 19/4/17 @ 1623

The Guardian have corrected their, erm, error. I have the screengrab and will be keeping an eye on the paper.

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Filed under allegations of bias, Free Press Myth, General Election 2017, Journalism, Media

The Great British Institution of bullying

Rugby School, where tyrants are trained to rule

It’s as British (for that read English) as drinking warm flat beer on a summer afternoon, while watching cricket on the village green. Bullying is deeply-ingrained in the cultural psyche of this nation. It’s institutionalized in the nation’s public schools where it was once called “fagging” and because of the seamless transition from the public school to Oxbridge to the Palace of Westminster, the baggage of bullying is carried from one place to another. It becomes the norm.  Nicholas Ridley, the architect of the Poll Tax and the closure of the nation’s coal mines, went to Eton. His fag was the future Labour MP, Tam Dalyell of whom he is reputed to have said “I wish I’d have beaten him more”.

From the Telegraph,

As late as the 1950s, senior boys in public schools were entrusted with beating their fags. John Betjeman, at Marlborough in the early 1920s, described the horror of Big Fire – where 16 senior boys sat in huge armchairs beside a roaring fire or played indoor hockey, while the fags, Betjeman included, sat on benches around a smaller fire.

Once they’d finished their game, the fags picked up the senior boys’ scrap paper, apple cores and darts, and put it in the bin. Whenever a senior boy shouted “Fag”, a fag ran to their study to make them toast, and woe betide you if you messed up. Then you were “basketed” – stripped to your shirt and pants, stuck in a huge wastepaper basket, had ink and treacle poured on you, and strung up by a pulley system to the ceiling. Even in his mid-50s, Betjeman remembered the pathetic sight of the basketed fag staring down through the slats of the basket at his tormentors below.

At Westminster, it was the particular duty of the most junior fag, nicknamed “Light-the-Fire”, to get up at 3.30am, to light a fire, boil a kettle and wake the senior boy every half an hour until he chose to get up; like a mini-alarm clock. What a blessed relief for Louis Theroux, me and a thousand other modern fags that these rituals gradually faded away, at Westminster and other public schools, through the 20th century. What’s left – the fag-end of fagging – is fairly harmless stuff, a watered-down version of Light-the-Fire; or Wake-the-Clegg, as it is now known.

The system of fagging encouraged boys to see the world in terms of slaves and tyrants (Nash, 1961). We should also remember that bullying is an accepted part of prison life and is tolerated by staff as an unofficial means of discipline.

But there are other criticisms of the prefect-fagging system
whose implications are more serious. For example, although it
admittedly produces competent leaders, they are leaders of an
autocratic type.

1961:18

Those running the country went to such public schools, they emerged from them safe in the knowledge that they were destined to rule (this is where colonial administrators went to school). For them, bullying is both a means of getting things done and keeping people in line. Manifestations of this Tory-led government’s bullying includes but are not limited to, getting the those in work to attack those on benefits (which also include those in work). Telling those who own their own homes that those who rent are less deserving. Announcing that council housing will no longer be for life, removing security of tenure. The use of phrases like “hardworking families” is designed to create an artificial distinction between those people who earn decent salaries and those that rely on benefits to supplement their meagre incomes. When the coalition took power in 2010, they immediately set about pitting private sector workers against public sector workers.

When Diane Abbott told the world that “divide and conquer” was the common tactic of white people, she expressed this point inelegantly. Divide and conquer is a tactic that is taught at public schools; it is the way the British ran their empire and we still suffer from its consequences. The Middle East is the best possible example of how the British, along with their junior partners, the French, carved up vast swathes of land along ethno-religious lines. We continue to live with the prospect of the Middle East going up in flames because of Britain’s penchant for divide and conquer.

Flogging was once a common punishment in public schools and was replaced with other forms of punishment in the 20th century.  The fagging system remained more or less until the 1980s. The punishment regime has been transformed into other forms of punishment: the removal of benefits, forcing the disabled and long-term sick into work (some of whom have died as a consequence) and taking away workplace rights.

But bullying isn’t confined to those who went to public school, it has percolated through the layers of British society where it finds expression in the shouting of abuse at red-haired people or the mocking of the disabled on street. You can see it in the so-called comedy of Ricky Gervais and his “Derek” character, whose feeble defence was “it’s just comedy”. Channel 4 liked it so much, that it commissioned a series but then C4 knows all about bad television.

Tanya Gold writing in The Guardian said,

These are woeful times for the disabled in Britain – 20% mandatory cuts in disability living allowance, government plans to coerce disabled people to do unpaid work, a 75% rise in disability hate crime between 2008 and 2009 (the last year we have data for) – and the satire of Ricky Gervais.

Satire, my arse. It’s a form of abuse. She continues,

But the real evidence against Gervais’s satire is what he says when he is not being satirical, or speaking to journalists. Consider his infamous stand-up routine in 2010, where he talked about Susan Boyle. “Look at Susan Boyle,” he says, “if you can. I don’t think she’d be where she is today if she didn’t look like such a mong.” He then inserts a fictional critic: “He said mong! You can’t say mong.” “You can,” Gervais comes back. “It’s easy. It’s one of the easiest words to say. You just needs lips. Even mongs can say it.” Back comes the critic: “Why does he get away with it and no one else can? Ban him from the telly!” Gervais smirks, “good luck”, and that bellicose child is, I think, his dominant self. He apologised later; of course he did.

You see, Gervais believes it is perfectly acceptable to refer to someone as a “mong”. In September, Gervais was accused of Internet bullying when he asked his followers to troll his critics. New Left Project has other examples of cruelty as comedy here.

Thanks to Britain’s culture of bullying, cruelty has become the new comedy. No more do comedians attack the powerful, it is much easier for them to attack those who are under increasing attack from this government’s cuts. Gervais and those like him, work as proxies for the bullying politicians at Westminster. They help to circulate notions of Otherness and perpetuate the cruelty that has become such an integral part of British culture. By using the disabled, for example, as butts, Gervais helps to legitimate and rationalize the cruelty as ‘humour’.  “What’s the matter? Ain’t you got a sense of humour or something”?

Comedians like Gervais can dismiss criticism of their bullying with a simple “It’s a joke”. The Tory politicians who inflict misery upon the poor and the disadvantaged have no such line of defence.

Workplace bullying has also become, sadly, all too common.  With the government removing the right of workers to take their employers to court for unfair dismissal, it is unlikely that bullying will be  fully eradicated from the workplace. Indeed, it will become more entrenched.

Essentially, we have a situation where the government see themselves as prefects and the rest of us as fags. The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them, for underneath all that bravado, they are nothing but cowards.

Reference

Nash, P (1961), “Training an Elite” in History of Education Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Mar., 1961), pp. 14-21 Available via JSTOR.

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Ed Miliband becomes Labour leader. So what?

So Ed Miliband has won the Labour Leadership election. Please forgive me if I don’t get excited but this is all something of an anti-climax. Given the number of Blairites in the party, I do not expect Labour to suddenly lurch to the left. It will not happen.  In fact, I don’t expect Labour to come up with any truly socialist policies. Ed and David Miliband’s father may have been a Marxist theorist but that doesn’t mean that the brothers  share Ralph’s politics…even if Ed was pictured during the campaign wearing a pair of work boots.

The question on my mind is whether or not, older brother David, will work with kid brother, Ed in a shadow cabinet or will he fume on the backbenches? What about the other failed leadership candidates? Will Diane Abbott finally get her hands on a portfolio? Unlikely.  She’s got her media career to think about. How about Ed Balls? What’s in store for him? Shadow Chancellor? As for Andy ‘Aspirational Socialism’ Burnham maybe he’ll just become a shadow. Serves him right for being such a tosser.

Nick Robinson is on the telly now saying how the right will try to paint Ed Miliband as a left-winger because of the support he received from the unions. The Tories are supported by a variety of millionaires and private interests, yet this oft-repeated accusation of Labour ‘being in the pay of the trade unions’ does not strike them as hypocritical. Besides, which is the more democratic? Trade unions or unaccountable millionaires?

Kinnock is on BBC News talking about how he supported Ed Miliband. Is that the kiss of death or what?

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Labour: a socialist party?

Not in my mind! It makes me laugh every time I hear some right-winger describe the Labour Party as ‘socialist’ when they are quite clearly a capitalist party.  The Labour Party lost any pretence of being a socialist party in 1987 when Kinnock embarked on his witch hunt at the behest of the Tory press. The migration to the right was completed under the leadership of Tony Blair – who cut the heart out of the party, held it high over his head and drop-kicked it into the bin. Hey presto! No more Clause 4. It was good for the new voter-friendly brand image of the party, thus it became a newer version of the Tory Party – this is/was New Labour; a sort of Tory-lite. The age of postmodern politics had arrived: ostensibly free from any ideological discolouration; new, shiny and clean, Labour under Blair embarked on two disastrous wars – one of which was based on a lie; refused to build new council homes and placed The City at the heart of their economic thinking. So instead of creating more manufacturing jobs (in other words having the capacity and infrastructure to create tangible products to sell on the international market place), more jobs in the City were produced and the financial sector expanded as a consequence. Almost everyone, it seemed, was more interested in taking money for producing nothing. Telly programmes like Homes Under the Hammer encouraged people to buy properties at knock-down prices at auction, fix them up and sell them on to make a profit. Apparently anyone could be a property developer or a speculator; an entrepreneur, though the reality was less romantic than the image portrayed. These are the people whom Marx described as the rentier class: stockbrokers, mortgage brokers, buy-to-let property owners and so on who take their money from rents, shares and dividends.  This is the effect of financial deregulation that was initiated under Thatcher but continued under the last Labour government.  The spivs and the casino capitalists were even more free to do as they wished and dream up any ‘product’ they liked – this is creativity. Remember how Brown spent a lot of time schmoozing the wizards of Ye Olde Cittie of London before the 1997 General Election? Yeah, he was convincing them of the merits of socialism. That’s why they were genuinely pleased with New Labour throughout the 13 years they were in power.

Having lost the election, the Labour Party now has to choose a new leader but the field of candidates as I mentioned in an earlier blog is dominated by Blairites and sub-Blairites. Only the late inclusion of Diane Abbott as a candidate makes the field appear interesting.  Let’s have a look at the leadership candidates:

David Miliband, studied PPE at Oxford. He sounds like Blair and has even adopted some of his mannerisms but, so far, he has resisted the temptation to use Blair’s famous phrase, “Listen to the argument”. He is political careerism personified.

Ed Milband, like his brother, he studied PPE at Oxford. He made a very moving speech about how Labour needed to get back to its core values and derided Blair’s decision to make war in Iraq. He talks a good talk but does he have the will?

Ed Balls, another Oxford PPE graduate, is a slippery character. A friend of Gordon Brown, he sounds like a continuation of the Calvinist One.

Andy Burnham is portrayed as a ‘Merseysider’ (Scouse by implication) and working class but I fail to see his appeal. Another careerist, he is sub-Blairite and offers nothing different – save for the fact that he went to Cambridge and didn’t read PPE.

Finally there’s the late arrival,  Diane Abbott, the first Black woman MP to be elected to the House of Commons and a Cambridge graduate. Her decision to send her son to a private school has attracted a good deal of criticism from the left and has been mocked by the right. Abbott seems to be the Tories preferred leadership candidate which tells us something about the Tories: they see her as a soft target – maybe it’s her relationship with on-screen hubby Michael Portillo on This Week? Remember “Chat Show Charlie”? But chat shows weren’t Charlie’s undoing; it was his fondness for uisge beatha that finished him off…well, that and his back-stabbing chums led by Brutus Clegg. It’s hard to see how Abbott can win, given the numbers of New Labour types in the party and the sheer adoration some members have for Miliband 1.

I can’t see Labour discovering socialism soon, let alone social democracy. But with PR who knows what could happen? We could witness the rise of a party that is more in tune with left-thinking voters. It can only be a good thing for the left as well as democracy: the compulsion to hold one’s nose and vote Labour when they’re working against you would disappear forever. No more contradictory consciousness…yeah, well, we’ll see – eh?

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