Tag Archives: Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg’s Red Lines

Nick Clegg, as many of us already know, is a bullshitter. His election promises are lies and the party he leads is slippery, two-faced and not beneath playing the race card when it suits. Clegg pretends to be the people’s champion; the brake on the out-of-control Tory juggernaut. It was all a pose: all he ever wanted for himself and his party was power. Letting go of the ministerial limousines and briefcases will be difficult for them. But change is a good thing. Right? Then, it’s time for a change.

When Clegg appeared in the media to announce his ‘red lines’, I knew immediately that he was getting ahead of himself. What makes him think his party will win enough seats to hold the balance of power? What makes him think anyone really wants to vote for a party that propped up the cruellest government since Thatcher? Clegg’s announcement was hubris wrapped in arrogance.

One of his ‘red lines’ was education. This is little different to his 2010 pledge and if he snuggles up  to the Tories in Coalition: The Sequel (directed by CCHQ), this will go out of the window with the rest of his pledges. so what are those other pledges? Well, he tells us that he will oppose Tory cuts. Just like he did when he was in power. Next, he claims that he will reduce Labour’s deficit. Really? Remember how Clegg and his gang complained that Labour had “bankrupted the country”? This never happened but the Lib Dems thought it best to repeat the Tory lie, just in case. The Labour Party would be foolish to enter a coalition with the backstabbing Lib Dems.

The best thing that could happen for Nick Clegg and his sad little party is for him to lose his seat and his party to get a kicking at the ballot box. Make it so.


Filed under General Election 2015, Liberal Democrats, Political parties

The Words Of The ‘Better Together’ Campaign

unionist alliance better together

Unionists: what great bedfellows they make

The Unionists have called their campaign “Better Together”, but it’s a dismal campaign based on fear, negativity and old fashioned bullying. Better Together’s message is little better than someone telling their friend, who is being abused by their partner, to stay together “for the sake of the children”. Alternatively we can compare their words to those of an abusive partner standing over their spouse shouting the words, “You’re nothing without me and you’ll never amount to much” before hitting them. These are the words of the ‘No’ Camp.

For the last couple of weeks, Unionists have sought to personalize the independence campaign by insisting that a vote for independence is a vote for Alex Salmond. Two days ago, we had the Bank of England governor, Mark Carnage Carney claiming that currency union is “incompatible” with independence. Carney’s words are those of a Mafia soldato who’s running a local protection racket.

The three stooges leaders of the main political parties at Westminster flew up to Scotland to conduct some ‘love bombing’ sorties. Cameron’s words were, to be honest, pathetic and patronizing. He claimed that the independence vote was being seen in the same way as a general election and urged the Scots to turn their backs on the idea. He pleaded “I care far more about my country than I do about my party. I care hugely about this extraordinary country, this United Kingdom that we have built together. I would be heartbroken if this family of nations we have put together – and we have done such amazing things – was torn apart”. Shame, then, that successive Tory governments have worked so hard to tear the country limb from limb. In The Guardian Cameron is reported to have said:

The rest of the world “looks on with awe and envy” at the modern British achievements such as the National Health Service and state pension system, Cameron said.

This is the same National Health Service that he and his ministers are working hard to abolish through privatization. Such words fall on deaf ears.

St. John Major was also in Scotland telling voters that the country would be “diminished” on the world stage. Such empty macho words fail to impress.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister spent his time in a Liberal Democrat friendly area in the Scottish Borders where he invoked the name of Gladstone.

“People say this is all last minute, [William] Gladstone was campaigning for home rule in the 1880s. This is something my party has been campaigning on for generations.”

Such insincere words make him look like yesterday’s man.

Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader performed his schtick for a Labour crowd where he told his activists:

Let me say: this thirst for change is shared across the United Kingdom.

We cannot carry on with an economy that only works for a few people at the top and doesn’t work for most people.

A Labour government will act.

Changing the way our country works and tackling the injustice we see is at the core of the Labour Party’s programme, and the contract we have set out with the people of Scotland.

The last Labour government aggrandized itself and continued the work of Thatcher. Given that his party will continue with the present government’s cuts, there is no reason to suggest that Labour will rediscover its socialist backbone any time soon. We want change but do the Westminster parties want the same thing? I doubt it. Such words make him look shallow.

The Orange Lodge will be marching through Edinburgh to rake over old coals and summon up the dead from their graves. Their words come from the dead language of a long-deceased Empires and its silly rituals.

UKIP’s Nigel Farage, who was last run out of Edinburgh with his tail between his legs claimed that Scottish independence is driven by “anti-Englishness”. His party wanted to abolish the Scottish Parliament, so anything he says can’t be taken seriously because his words are those of a Little Englander.

The banks have threatened to quit Scotland but then they are based in London, so their words have a hollow ring to them.

The supermarkets chains like Asda and retailers like John Lewis have threatened to increase prices if the Scots vote for independence. Their words are those of blackmailers looking to extract the last ounce of flesh from their victim.

North Korean dictator and Scotch whisky drinker, Kim Jong-un, apparently feels “positive” about Scottish independence, but his words were seized on by the corrupt Tory press (and no doubt MI5 and MI6 too) as evidence that Alex Salmond is a commie spy.

These are words and words have power. Politicians choose words for specific reasons. Sometimes they are deployed to shape people’s thoughts. Sometimes they are used to express violent intent. For the last 4 years we have heard the same kinds of words ‘cuts’, ‘slashing’, ‘hardworking’ and we’ve grown weary of them.

Whatever the outcome of the Scottish referendum, there will be demands for greater autonomy in the English regions and there will be demands for a new political settlement. It is inevitable and there is nothing Westminster can do to stop the juggernaut. We will have new words to replace the old words.

The genie has been released from his bottle and he doesn’t want to go back in. He wants to make some mischief. These are my words.


Filed under Government & politics, Scottish Independence Referendum

In the national interest

When the Tories and Lib Dems came together to form the coalition, they told us that they did it in “the national interest”. In 1931, the National Government was formed between Baldwin’s Tories, the Simonite faction of the Liberal Party and the scumbag faction of the Labour Party led by Ramsay MacDonald. They told the people that they formed this coalition in “the national interest”.

Then, as now, the National Government’s solution to the ever-deepening economic depression was to have no solution. The “Invisible Hand of the Market”, they believed, would magically come to their aid. It never did. Today’s Tories think the “Invisible Hand” will rescue them and the crocked economy. It won’t. Instead, the lessons of history are arrogantly ignored to promote such fallacies as The Laffer Curve.

Politicians in the 1930s were treated as demi-gods: they were practically untouchable. The press fawned over them and it was more or less forbidden to mock them in print or on stage.

These days, we know our politicians are human. The trouble is that some politicians – especially the Tories – believe themselves to be superior to the rest of us. This is demonstrated to us on a near-daily basis by the numbers of Tory MPs who accuse the unemployed of choosing to live on benefits as a lifestyle choice. These people have never had to claim dole or work in a low-paid job. None of them have had to make the choice between paying their heating bill and eating.

Nick Clegg (see this excellent blog by The Mambo) is fond of saying how he formed the coalition with the Tories in “the national interest”. He repeats this mantra as often as anyone will listen. The trouble for him is that none of us are listening because we’ve heard enough. Clegg hates dissent… that’s because he’s never dissented in his life. Without dissent, we’d still have slavery and women would not have the vote. Clegg thinks that we should all shut up and let the coalition carry on destroying lives. The Cat has news for him: we dissenters won’t go away.

The national interest is just another way of saying “self-interest”. If these people were really working in “the national interest”, then they would be working hard to improve the economy. They would be working overtime to create jobs. They wouldn’t be punishing the unemployed and disabled for the crimes of the feral rich. Handing out tax cuts to millionaires is not working in “the national interest”, it’s working to shore up and extend the interests of your class.

1 Comment

Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics, Liberal Democrats

Lib Dems: delusional, dumb and still in power

Nick Clegg: he isn’t sorry at all

The Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton had an air of denial about it. On the platform, there was speech after speech from government ministers praising their supposed achievements in government and telling their members  how well they were doing and how they were “holding the Tories to account”. But this is a party in decline. This is a party that cannot see the writing on the wall because its leadership is so totally blinded by the sudden rush of power that it can’t see the skerries and reefs ahead of it.  What’s worse for the Lib Dems is that Captain Clegg, drunk on power and at the helm, is steering his ship of fools into the rocks and there’s no sign of a mutiny. Indeed, no one in the party wants to take on the role of Fletcher Christian to Clegg’s William Bligh. Even though Twinkletoes Cable is seen as a potential successor, he toes the line, popping up every now and again with a soundbite to rile his Tory partners. Then, as soon as he’s out of his box, he’s back in it again.

The Lib Dems front bench reads like a list of crooks and nobodies. Next to the liar and embezzler, David Laws, Danny Alexander is probably one of the worst. Looking like a rabbit caught in a headlight’s beam, the timorous Alexander can’t make a speech for toffee and resembles a boy whose mother has just told him off for playing with himself in public. Then there’s Home Office Minister, Jeremy Browne with his über-posh accent. Like the rest of them, whenever he is asked a specific question relating to his brief, he falls back on “the last Labour government” as his get-out clause. But it’s much worse than that: he never has any answers, is desperately lacking a clue and comes across as unspeakably dim.

The recently-promoted Jo Swinson is another one of those Lib Dems who’s full of clichés,  soundbites and platitudes. This is from the BBC News website,

Drawing on her own experience of work in a fast-food restaurant and with an “enforced perma-smile” at the Disney Store, Ms Swinson said she knew she was at her “most productive, creative and effective when I have relished going to work”.

Please, show me someone who “relishes” going to a job that they hate; a job that offers no prospects and doesn’t pay enough to cover one’s outgoings and I’ll show you a caring Conservative.

So what about Nick Clegg, the captain of this rotting hulk of a vessel? Well, last week he  claimed to have apologised for his party’s position on tuition fees (among other things) but no one believed him and if his conference speech was anything to go by, we can safely say that anything that comes out of his mouth is going to be insincere. The fact that his ‘apology’ was given the autotune remix treatment and entered  the charts says more about the Lib Dems public relations department than it does the public’s judgement of taste.

Finally, this video with Steve Bell at the Lib Dem conference sums it up beautifully. Bell notes that Clegg’s hair is in “bad condition”. So is his party.


1 Comment

Filed under Government & politics, Liberal Democrats

Sir John Simon lays his ghostly hand on Clegg’s shoulder


Sir John Simon

I wonder if Nick Clegg would recognize the photo of the man above? If he doesn’t, then he should familiarize himself with it. Sir John Simon took his faction of the Liberal Party into the National Government in 1931. Simon’s reasoning was similar to Clegg’s: he was acting in the national interest. In order to understand how things got this way for the party we need to go back a little further to the end of the First World War.

The  so-called “Coupon” election saw Andrew Bonar law’s Coalition Conservatives come in first place with Lloyd George’s Coalition Liberals in second place.  The National Coalition, which had governed during the war, was thus returned in a landslide.  But there was simmering discontent among the Tories who formed the largest group within the coalition.  The Conservatives managed to prove that Lloyd George’s had been selling knighthoods and peerages (quite possibly one of the biggest open secrets of its time).  There was also anger among many Tories and Unionists over the creation of the Irish Free State. Other events added to the mess, the coalition collapsed and an election was called.

There had been a division among the Liberals that stemmed from 1918 when many of their MPs rejected the coalition coupon (we could, of course, go back to the split over Home Rule but let’s leave that for another time). This group was led by Herbert Asquith, whom Lloyd George had replaced as party leader in 1916. Deep cracks had developed within the Liberal Party during the years of the coalition and matters came to a head when coalition ministers were shouted down and heckled during the 1920 Liberal conference.  Lloyd George formed his own party, the National Liberals, to contest the election. The 1922 election saw the Lloyd George’s party split the vote while Asquith was pushed into third place by the ascendant Labour Party. The Conservatives under  Andrew Bonar Law were returned with an overall majority. But this was not to last. In 1923 another election was called when Law resigned due to ill-health. Stanley Baldwin replaced him and although he held a decent majority, he called an election. The result was a hung parliament and the Liberals, newly reunited under Asquith, won 158 seats and were in third place.

The following year, another election was called, ostensibly on the issue of tariffs. Baldwin fared better. Nonetheless Labour increased its share of the vote, which led to a realignment of the political poles. The tension was now between the Conservatives and Labour with the Liberals officially becoming the third party. 1924 was a disaster for Asquith, as well as losing his seat, the party’s 158 seats were reduced to 40. Baldwin didn’t have enough seats to command an overall majority and declined to form a government and a confidence and supply arrangement was negotiated between Asquith’s Liberals and Ramsay MacDonald, while Lloyd George was left to smoulder on the backbenches.This put the Labour Party into power for the first time as a minority government. But this didn’t last, thanks in part to the Campbell Case, the infamous Zinoviev Letter and some latent anti-socialist feeling that had been whipped up by the Tory press (plus ça change).

The 1929 election was fought against the backdrop of the 1926 General Strike and resulted in a hung parliament, with Labour forming a minority government.  In 1926,  Lloyd George replaced Asquith for the second time and the party took 13 more seats but it was all over for the Liberals as a major force in British politics. Decades of divisions, splits and tensions had finally reduced them to a parliamentary rump.

Labour were split over their response to the Depression with prominent members of the cabinet, such as Arthur Henderson, threatening to resign. MacDonald was urged to form a National Government and when the general election was called in 1931, Baldwin’s Tories formed the largest party in the Commons. Lloyd George fell ill and de facto leadership of the party fell to Herbert Samuel, whose report in 1926 had partly led to the General Strike and was tasked with leading the party in the election. Ironically, Samuel had been a  supporter of Asquith. Liberals were divided over support for the National Government and Samuel’s party split into three factions: the Liberal Nationals who supported the National Government, Lloyd George’s Independent Liberals and the mainstream liberals led by Samuel. They never really recovered.

Sir John Simon – a cold fish of a man by all accounts – took the bulk of the party (the Simonites) and joined the government, while Samuel took the rest (the Samuelites) and,  in 1935, crossed the floor to oppose the government. But it was hopeless, in the General Election that year, Samuel lost his seat and the number of Liberal MPs was cut by a third when they lost 12 seats. Simon’s Liberal National party was virtually indistinguishable from the Conservative Party and in those constituencies where the party stood candidates with a healthy majority, they were unopposed by the Tories. In 1935 they held onto most of their seats and lost only 2.

After the war, the mainstream Liberal Party under Archibald Sinclair won 12 seats. The Liberal Nationals won 11 seats. But the writing was on the wall for both liberal parties. The Woolton-Teviot Agreement between the Liberal Nationals and the Conservatives merged the two parties at the constituency level in 1947. They even changed their name to the National Liberals but they were nothing more than a Tory-owned brand name. In 1950 they won 16 seats, while the mainstream Liberals’ number of seats dropped from 12 to 9. By the time of the 1951 general election, this number had fallen to a mere 6. The Liberal Party’s number of seats never broke through into double figures until the elections of 1974 and, even then, the party could only win 14 seats under ill-fated Jeremy Thorpe.

Nick Clegg was elected as an MP in 2005 after serving as an MEP,from 1999 to 2004 but he had plotted to take control of the party a year earlier. Lib Dem leader, Charles Kennedy, had done much to improve the Lib Dems fortunes and the party held 62 seats. Clegg was given the job of the party’s spokesman on European affairs and was being tipped as a future party leader. This seems to have gone to his head because later in the same year, he was one of the signatories to a letter demanding Kennedy’s resignation. Kennedy was forced to resign and Sir Menzies Campbell became caretaker leader. Campbell was then rudely pushed aside by Clegg and Huhne, whose supporters declared him to be “too old”. Clegg and Huhne distanced themselves from the ageist comments but there’s little doubt that they played a part in Campbell’s departure from the leadership contest. Et tu Nick? Et tu Chris?

Nick Clegg has never faced a split in his party but like Simon, he believed that he was acting in the national interest.  He inherited a party that was in much better shape than when Paddy Ashdown had been leader. Clegg effectively squandered the good work that was done by Kennedy by dragging his party, first to the right and then into the arms of the coalition. If he’d have done the sensible thing, he’d have taken the option of a confidence and supply arrangement with a Tory minority government. Instead his miscalculations and lust for power are likely to cost the Lib Dems badly in the next general election. The public will not forget the Lib Dems behaviour over tuition fees, the NHS, benefit caps and the EMA.

So far, Clegg has kept an iron grip on the parliamentary party but the constituency parties are more restive with numerous defections from the Liberal Democrats to Labour in local councils across the country. Even so, Clegg seems to have  marginalized any opposition. Even Charles Kennedy sounds as though he’s on-side these days!

The Lib Dems have two choices: they can split or they can stay together and be slaughtered at the ballot box. There is another way: they can dump Clegg but how easy is that? If that happens, the Lib Dems are likely to see a repeat of 1935 and we know how that movie ends.

So what happened to Simon? He was Home Secretary under Baldwin and Churchill kicked him upstairs in 1940, but he did not sit in the War Cabinet.  He was a Tory in all but name. And Clegg? What will become of him? Well, a similar fate awaits him: he will lose his seat and will be elevated to the Lords. That’s what happens to toerags: they’re rewarded with ermine robes and a seat on the red benches.

1 Comment

Filed under 20th century, Government & politics, History, Liberal Democrats

The referendum on the voting system – why I’ll be voting “No”.

It’s a funny old business, this referendum on the voting system. It’s become a bitter battle between those who don’t want a change in the system and those who don’t want the Alternative Vote ( AV) but see it as a sort of halfway house between First Past The Post (FPTP) and the real deal. That’s how simple it is. No one really wants AV but those who are running the Yes campaign aren’t honest enough to tell you that. They’re too wrapped up in their imaginations.

But those who support the No vote aren’t exactly covering themselves in glory either.  Their campaign has relied on emotional blackmail and cheap tricks. The campaign has adopted an ad hominem tone to it. Nick Clegg has become the object of ridicule for a campaign that has been orchestrated from the Tory side of the argument. Clegg apparently thinks that AV is a”miserable little compromise”. But he accepted AV as part of the coalition deal; he wasn’t politically savvy enough to spot a lemon when it was presented to him as a roadworthy vehicle. Clegg loves the high of being in government. It’s intoxicating.

What has really developed is  a phony war between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – both of them in power but engaging in a little mudslinging for the benefit of the cameras. “Look” say the Lib Dems, “We’re a separate party, with our own identity”. But no one wants to hear it. No one is interested hearing how the Lib Dems are playing nice cop to the Tories’ nasty cop. We’ve read the script, seen the film. One cop is kneeing you in the goolies, while the other is offering to get you a cup of tea. They’re the perfect pair.

I’m voting “No”. Not because I want to screw the Lib Dems (they’ve done that to themselves) but because I don’t believe that AV is any better than FPTP. Proportional Representation in the form of real PR, as exists in Ireland with Single Transferable Vote system  (STV) or the Mixed Member Proportional voting system (MMP) as exists in Scotland, are the real ways forward. Even AV+ is a little better than this AV bollocks.

But do we really need a referendum on this issue NOW? My answer to that question is “no”.


Filed under Alternative Vote system, Government & politics

Clegg, “Protests may scare off students”

The ghost of Sir John Simon haunts Clegg

What is it with Nick Clegg? Last week before the student Carnival of Resistance, Clegg advised students not to participate, inviting us all to “look at the proposals”. This article from the Press Association says,

Protests against proposed increases in tuition fees risk scaring young people from poor backgrounds off going to university, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has warned.

Really? How did he work that out?

He appealed to the NUS to ensure that its campaign against fee rises does not have negative consequences on efforts to widen access to higher education.

So now Clegg has resorted to more lies and more threats. Is there no depth to which this man will not sink? The Guardian tells us that Labour will “trigger ” a vote in the Commons today that could “”bring about the first rebellion of the coalition”.

The paper also says,

Yesterday a petition signed by 104 former parliamentary candidates for the Lib Dems, essentially representing the party’s grassroots, called on Clegg to abide by the pre-election pledge to vote against higher fees. Research published today suggests that the higher fees will profoundly damage social mobility.

Of course Clegg is pig-headed and is unlikely to listen to good advice. He is more interested in what it means to be in government – even if that means he risks losing his seat at the next General Election.  There is the smell of desperation about Clegg that is only masked by the odour of his bravado.

NUS President, Aaron Porter told Sky News,

“Given his plan to triple the tuition fees he said he would abolish, it would be astonishing for Nick Clegg to blame anyone but himself for putting people off university”

Porter recently had his spine returned to him by Labour. You can read the full text of Clegg’s letter to Porter here on Liberal Democrat Voice.  This part of the letter stands out.

There is one thing in this debate that I believe unites all of us – both parties in the coalition; your fellow members in the Labour Party; the NUS and people throughout the country who care about higher education – and that is that the opportunity to go to university is one that everyone should feel they have. It would be a tragedy if we inadvertently allowed our debate about the methods to damage our shared goal.

Debate? Given Clegg’s bullishness, the ‘debate’ is likely to be one-sided. The letter to Porter is, in the words of The Spectator, “condescending”.  Clegg has no interest in what the opposition says. He is right and that’s all there is to it.

A third day of action has been called for today and thousands of students around the country will be participating in strikes, demos and occupations.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Government & politics, Liberal Democrats, Student protests

Postcards From The Barricades (Part 5): Before and after in the Tory press


Before yesterday’s national day of occupations and walkouts, London’s students were told by Nick Clegg to “look and make up your minds” about the coalition’s proposals. I’m sure I heard someone on BBC London News tell us that Clegg advised protesters not to go on the demonstration. I remember thinking “Who the hell does he think he’s talking to”?

Then the Telegraph published this story,

Mr Clegg’s security personnel are understood to have told him that it was no longer safe for him to bicycle from his home in Putney, south west London, to his office in the Cabinet Office, beside 10 Downing Street.

There were fears that the Deputy Prime Minister could be knocked from his bicycle or pelted with objects.

If I were Clegg I’d be more worried about holding onto my Commons seat than being knocked off my bike. It’s the least of his worries.

During the protests, Clegg appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show. He said that he “massively regretted finding himself in this situation”.  He can’t complain. He brought all of this upon himself.

The Tory press has been full of the usual stories of “violence” and so on. The Daily Mail goes for a more misogynistic/patriarchal approach and says,

Rioting girls became the disturbing new face of violent protest yesterday.

They threatened to overturn a police riot squad van as they smashed windows, looted riot shields, uniforms and helmets and daubed the sides with graffiti.

That’s strange. I was about 20 metres from the van in question and there was a mix of male and female students rocking the van. Painting this as some sort of riot that was led by a bunch of Riot Girls is a bit, well, stupid and typical of the Mail’s reportage.

The Telegraph has a habit of employing recent Oxbridge graduates and the occasional Tory student who is still studying at university. The Torygraph tells us that,

India Lenon is at Oxford University, combining her studies of Classics with all the other joys of student life

Lenon is their eyes and ears within the dreaming spires. She asks “can the rage-filled girl rioters get out of my library now”? She starts by saying,

So we’re told that after yesterday’s student protests the “Girls are leading the charge”. This may be true, but it may also have something to do with the fact that pictures of attractive schoolgirls smashing up police vans are, well, a bit more eye-catching than ones of balaclava-wearing men.

And adds,

And here in Oxford, that’s exactly what’s happened – even among the student body, a lot of people are now thoroughly sick of the way the protests have been handled. First, the march on London on November 10 was advertised as some sort of free day out, then yesterday a group of students “occupied” the Radcliffe Camera, one of Oxford’s oldest and most beautiful libraries. They’re still in there, demanding things and (apparently) dancing, and they even have a website. The only problem is that the Rad Cam is where the history and English books are housed, and there are several hundred students who have history and English Finals coursework due in next week.

Aw, what a pity and they’re dancing. Surely that isn’t allowed at a protest? Lenon is quite possibly one of those students who gets an allowance from mater and pater, drives a Porsche and drinks Pimms. She doesn’t need to protest. She’s all right, thank you very much. She makes what is possibly the worst analogy ever,

“Occupying” our own library to protest about government cuts and the rise in tuition fees is a bit like occupying your own house to protest about council tax and stopping the rest of your family getting in.

Er, no it isn’t. This is quite different. Besides, she has no sense of history. Would it be pointless to say to her, “1968”?

The Sun produced a pretty typical headline “Student mob in cop van rampage”. Oh, the drama!

One student was even seen urinating against the van as crowds swelled during the angry protest against rising university tuition costs.

There are no public toilets on Whitehall save for Portcullis House. I guess that escaped the staff reporter’s attention. Oddly enough, The Sun repeats the story it ran the previous day with a few alterations. What a load of cheapskates.

Terrified schoolchildren who had come along for a peaceful protest – some as young as 13 and wearing their school uniforms – became hysterical as balaclava-clad demonstrators threw flaming aerosol missiles and shouted: “F*** the cops.”

It must have been the two journos who were behind me who wrote this tripe.

Students last night claimed an anarchist group called Black Book were responsible for smashing up the police van.

What? No names?  I’ve just done a search for this “anarchist” group and guess what? Nothing has come up. I found this. It’s for a photography company. Not the same thing.

The Daily Express attempts to spin the Whitehall protest as a case of the poor plucky police  (who are also facing cuts) versus the ugly, angry mob. Its article starts with,

POLICE were injured as thousands of students took to the streets yesterday to vent their fury over tuition fee rises.

London again bore the brunt of the protests, with two police officers badly hurt in the clashes that went on into the night.

One had his arm broken and another was knocked unconscious as violence erupted in Whitehall.

Forget the reason why the protests happened and concentrate on what happened to a few cops. Well done. The Express repeats the same line about the police van,

As a police van parked in the middle of Whitehall was abandoned to the crowd, youths leapt on the roof, smashed the windscreen, and sprayed the vehicle with graffiti.

And like all the other papers, it refuses to ask the question of why the van was there in the first place when the police knew they were going to be blocking access to Parliament Square. This is either a case of police stupidity or deliberate provocation.

Last night I heard that there had been a horse charge in Manchester and London.  The Met denies that it horse-charged protesters. The site Demotix has images. Indymedia has photos from Manchester here.

There was no mention of the horse charges in any of the papers.

Leave a comment

Filed under London, Student protests

Postcards from the Barricades (Part 4)

Road sweepers being used as auxiliary policemen

I decided to cycle to the demo today. I’m on the mountain bike because it’s smaller and slightly lighter than my new touring bike. It also has SPD pedals which allow me to ride faster and more efficiently. I arrive at Trafalgar Square after battling my way through inexplicably heavy traffic on Kensington High Street. The scene is noisy. I can see Paraic O’ Brien from BBC London News talking on his phone and greeting fellow journalists like old chums. Maybe they are old chums. Who knows?  Someone hands me a leaflet. I take one look at it. It has David Icke’s name on it. I crumple it up and snap “anti-Semitic filth” to the man who gave it to me.  He looks bemused.  There’s a sudden surge of noise coming from Nelson’s Column which prompts the cops into action. But there’s nothing for them to get worked up about. The crowd is just being noisy.

We  move towards Whitehall and the police follow us. There’s easily a couple of thousand students here and more are arriving. There are quite a few Sixth Form students here too.  I can even see a few school uniforms. Nick Clegg must be the most unpopular politician in Britain today. Politicians aren’t well liked at the best of times but Clegg is singled out for a lot of abuse on today’s demonstration.  He deserves it. I cycle in low gear down Whitehall. I can see a police van parked in the middle of the road, just past the Cenotaph. “That’s a bit stupid of them” I think to myself.  It’s almost as if the Met wants that van to get smashed up.

I am outside the Treasury. There’s a cordon of police blocking our way to Parliament Square. I’m now beginning to see my bike as a liability. It’s starting to get in the way. There’s a sudden surge of people moving away from the police. For a moment it looks like some of us will get trampled. I make myself look big and stand my ground. Others do the same. Things calm down. It’s clear the police aren’t going to let us through. A fire is started. Why didn’t anyone think to bring any bangers or marshmallows? There are a couple of journalists behind me. They look like tabloid types. I avoid them. They probably think I’m just some bloke with a bike who’s been caught up in the demo.  Little do they know.

The crowd is starting to thin at this end of Whitehall. I suspect that some of the protesters are going to try and get out of Whitehall. I also suspect that the police have cordoned off all exits. I suddenly think of The Charge of the Light Brigade. This is a time when people really need to understand their terrain. The police clearly have the upper hand in this situation. Then some noise. The police van is finally attacked from all sides. That’s a cue. The police remove their casual-looking baseball caps and swap them for helmets and shields. Suddenly I get the feeling that we’re all about to be kettled. I think of Boris Johnson’s recent outspoken advocacy of that tactic.

I finally manage to squeeze my way to the other side of Whitehall. I negotiate my way across a hole that’s been left by the roadworkers.  I make my way up to the northern end of Whitehall. A woman is being carried by the police towards Parliament Square. I am not sure if she is a protester or some Tory MP. I can see another cordon. Towards King Charles Street, I can see another cordon. They aren’t going to let anyone out.  A number of protesters try and force their way through the cordon. It fails to break the column.

I stand around for a bit, trying to figure a way out. Then I move towards the cordon. The cop says “This is an absolute cordon”. To which I reply, “Is that different to a normal cordon”? He doesn’t reply but lets me out. Maybe it’s because I don’t look like student. Being a bit older does have its advantages after all! I cycle up Whitehall at top speed. I need the loo but they’ve closed all the public toilets. I walk my bike along the Strand and go down that road to the side of the station (I can never remember the name of it), lock the bike up at Embankment Station and go into a pub. There’s a group of blokes sitting around, drinking and gawping at the feed from Sky News. I use the loo and leave.

Cycling home, I accidentally take a wrong turn and end up cycling through Imperial College. It used to be federated with the University of London. I can see lots of students through the windows. Do they know about the protests or are they bothered? Maybe they’re having a sit-in. But somehow I don’t think so. This is Imperial College.

Once home, I turn on the telly. Emily Maitlis is interviewing Michael Gove or “Pob” as we call him at Nowhere Towers. He repeats the, by now, standard lie that the protest was “hijacked”. He knows nothing and yet he is the Secretary of State for Education. You know, I don’t think Gove has ever protested in his life. He probably never had the need. Apparently Gove is in favour of “reasoned debate”. He also talked of “logic”. He’s not au fait with either concept.

There have been other protests around the country. I hear that there was a horse charge in Manchester.  You can read the Twitter feed here.

I’ll post up some photos when I get time.

Leave a comment

Filed under London, Student protests

Housing crisis? What housing crisis?

To hear Nick Clegg talk on The Andrew Marr Show this morning, you’d think there was no housing crisis. There he was telling us how Housing Benefit needed to be capped and how the money saved from this would go towards the building of new ‘affordable homes’. He also said that social landlords (reported in this blog a few days ago) would be able to increase their rents to 80% of the so-called market rent. He denied that this would cause homelessness and force those on low wages to move out of places like London.

I find it breathtaking that Clegg would make the claim that his government’s economic policies would not lead to less homelessness when logic dictates that if the poor and the vulnerable have their benefits capped, they will be forced to live either in unsuitable accommodation or forced onto the streets. And this is a ‘price worth paying’ for economic growth? People clearly do not enter into the thinking of this government or the opposition who are still wedded to neoliberal economic policies. The cap on housing benefit will force people out of cities where they have established roots. It may also signal a return to Rachmanism in the private rented sector, where many landlords aren’t interested in the condition of their properties as long as they get the rent. What hasn’t been mentioned is the amount of housing benefit fraud that is committed by private landlords. The government’s logic here is simple: private landlords are entrepreneurs and benefit claimants are leeches.

On the other hand, many landlords refuse to offer accommodation to benefit claimants. What will happen to these people?

The government are fond of invoking the 19th century in their rhetoric. Now they seem determined to drag us back to the age of Dickens. Children will be forced up chimneys and into mines and the workhouse will make an unwelcome return. I can see the Hon Gid and IDS dusting off the Poor Law of 1834 as I write this.

However the question that remains is this: if the low waged and the unemployed are forced out of cities like London, who is going to clean up after the rich? They aren’t going to to it. Rich women don’t even give birth because they’re ‘too posh to push’. If we were to apply social Darwinism in reverse, the rich wouldn’t survive a day without the poor to do their dirty work for them.

1 Comment

Filed under Big Society, Comprehensive Spending Review, Government & politics, Liberal Democrats, Public spending