Tag Archives: Priti Patel

Telling Stories

We all tell stories and the stories we tell each other often go unnoticed. When you pay a visit to your doctor, you may tell her or him a story about how long you’ve had symptoms. Stories are everywhere and they’re told for a variety of reasons, some of which are good and laudable and others not so.

Last year, when Boris Johnson announced the creation of a commission to investigate racial disparities, the words he used were “to change the narrative” with regards to institutional and structural racism. To do this, he insisted that stories of success be created to cancel out demands from Black Lives Matters protesters than structural inequalities be addressed and historic injustices be recognised. Johnson and his government then appointed Munira Mirza, a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, who doesn’t accept the existence of institutional racism, to set up the commission. In turn, she appointed Tony Sewell, who shared her views. Sewell has been known to many of us for decades and not for the right reasons. I have personally seen him as a collaborator, who, like Trevor Phillips, provides racists with ammunition to attack minorities. Racists will say “Look, Tony Sewell says x, y, and z, so it must be true”.

This Tory government isn’t interested in addressing serious structural and institutional injustices. To its defenders who point to several people of colour on the government benches, like Priti Patel or James Cleverly, I say this: these people are actively involved in the maintenance of a system to keep minorities in their place. Thus, they themselves can be considered a enablers of racism, because they use their class privilege to deny the lived experience of those of us who encounter racism on a daily basis.

Stories have their place in our world, but they are often told to avoid facing up to uncomfortable truths and Britain has been telling itself stories for decades. Having lost their empire, the British ruling class were lost and frightened. So, rather that face up to their past, including the multiple atrocities committed in the colonies (and to its own people), they told themselves stories about how “great” they were. Indeed, many of the stories they told themselves were created from fragments of memories, myths and outright lies. Thus, when the report was released yesterday, it came bundled with stories about how Britain was a “beacon for white-majority countries”. But, by whose metric is this country a “beacon”? Why the story-tellers themselves.

Last January, Laurence Fox, scion of the Fox theatrical dynasty, appeared on the BBC’s Question Time and, in response to a point made by an audience member about racism in Britain, replied “Britain is a most lovely country and not at all racist”. That’s a story that he told himself because he cannot accept that racism continues to thrive in Britain. It’s a story that’s rooted in fear: fear of much needed change and fear of people of colour who are smart and who are able to articulate their concerns about racism. This makes bourgeois reactionaries like Fox feel uncomfortable.

The media, too, has played its part in normalising nativist discourses on nationality, citizenship and identity, through the use of storytelling. We saw this during the European Union referendum in 2016 with the constant production of stories around the themes of “independence” and “freedom” and being able to “make our own laws” rather than have “Brussels” impose rules on us. These stories fed into the national mythology of imperial greatness, along with tales about how “we stood alone” and “If it hadn’t been for Churchill, we’d all be speaking German”. Churchill himself actually advocated a United States of Europe, but it was the wrong kind of story because of its inconvenient truth. Instead, Churchill was painted as a staunch Eurosceptic, while his racism and bloodlust were elided.

If we go back further to 2005, the Blair government’s response to Michael Howard’s dog-whistling campaign (Are You Thinking What We’re Thinking) was feeble. In fact, in the remaining years of the last Labour government, we saw an acceleration of nativism under Gordon Brown, who said that he wanted to see Britain emulate the United States and become more “patriotic”. To achieve this, he told several stories about Britain’s “greatness” and even used the far-right’s phrase “British jobs for British workers”. This effectively widened the space opened up by Blair for the circulation of far-right discourses. If you want to know how we ended up with Union flags everywhere and statues of slavers and colonial thugs being given more rights than women who have been raped, then look no further than Brown. The Tories have simply carried on his work.

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Collaborationists: An Age Old Problem

In the wake of the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the right has become increasingly desperate in its search to find ways to resist calls for equality and social justice and, moreover, deny the existence of structural and institutional forms of oppression. These vary from smear tactics, like claiming BLM is dominated variously by “Marxists”, “communists” or “well-meaning white liberals” to deploying Black or Brown Tories to deny that they’ve faced racism. Alternatively, they will use their social class to diminish the lived experiences of those of us who have had to endure racism in our lives. Sometimes, this involves the claim that “there has always been slavery throughout history” and although this is true, the very nature of chattel slavery was distinct from other forms of slavery, which occurred for financial gain, rather than as part of the spoils of war. Western capitalist economies, like the United States, Britain and France, were founded on chattel slavery. This is the reality.

Black and brown collaboration with racists and colonisers

Slavers and colonisers have always made use of collaborators. For example, in British-ruled India, the colonisers could not have dominated the subcontinent without the help of willing collaborators. Many Indian princelings willingly offered their services to the colonisers. In colonial Algeria, Frantz Fanon, identified the Arab collaborators with the colonial rulers as the bourgeoisie, but also observed the psychological effect on the colonized people. In the United States, the right kind of black person, was used to keep black people in their lowly place in the social hierarchy. Racist US President, Woodrow Wilson, used Booker T Washington explicitly for this purpose. For his collaboration with Wilson, the nascent NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) called him “The Great Accommodator”. More recently, a Black man called H K Edgerton, collaborated with the neoconfederate movement in the United States. The neoconfederate movement is an irredentist movement that seeks to re-establish the Confederacy, while eliding the cruelty of chattel slavery and the Jim Crow laws, which emerged from the Black Codes following Reconstruction. Indeed, Jim Crow laws even existed in many Northern states that are usually seen as “liberal” by Southern conservatives.

The Civil Rights movement

In the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement was seen as a threat to white hegemony in the United States. Informed by Galton’s pseudo-science and buoyed by the recent Red Scare, white supremacists sought to discredit the movement by claiming that “Communists” or “Jews” were directing Black people to rise up and resist Jim Crow. This notion is predicated on the belief that people of African origin lacked the intellectual abilities for self-organization and needed the guiding hand of paternalistic Others. Indeed, this discourse often strayed into outright antisemitism.

Currently, we are witnessing something similar with BLM: that they’re “Marxists” or led by them or, alternatively, they’re being guided by “white liberals who hate their own race (sic)”. Some of the words may have changed but the sentiment behind them hasn’t. BLM is also seen by white supremacists as a threat to “Western civilization”, whatever that means.

Contemporary collaboration

In response to the demands from BLM and others, the Tory government and its outriders have deployed a number of collaborators, all of them Black or Brown, to try to deny the existence of institutional and structural racism. First, the government announced the creation of a racial equality commission, to which they appointed Munira Mirza as chair. Mirza, a member of the LM Network, has gone on record to deny the existence of systemic racism.

The government then deployed Kemi Badenoch, who admitted to hacking into Harriet Harman’s website, to deny the existence of structural racism, but particularly to attack Critical Race Theory, which, like Women’s Studies, seeks to critique the structures of power that oppress minorities and women. Badenoch’s unspoken discourse and that of her colleagues is “Question nothing. Know your place”. Fraser Nelson of The Spectator interviewed Badenoch, who claimed:

A Tory equalities agenda, she says, should be based on Martin Luther King’s ‘dream’ — that people should be judged ‘on the content of their character’ and not the colour of their skin. ‘Now, it’s all about the colour of your skin. That cannot be,’ she says emphatically. ‘You can’t pick and choose the rules depending on the colour of someone’s skin. That is what the racists do.’

White supremacists and their helpers, like Badenoch, will often try to hide behind the words of Dr Martin Luther King and repurpose them to suit their objectives. Yet, when King was alive, he was labelled as a “communist” and much else besides by angry whites and Black collaborators. Do these people know that? I don’t think they do. The use of Dr King’s words to justify a deeply flawed “equalities” agenda is nothing short of intellectual dishonesty and doesn’t bear scrutiny.

Today, I found this tweet from Katharine Burbalsingh, who has been collaborating with the Tories for more than a decade.

Burbalsingh, who writes for the Daily Telegraph and Spiked Online, has offered her services to white supremacists in government and the media. Here, she not only claims that anti-racists are “the real racists”, she also quote tweets the far-right Turning Point UK site. Now, Turning Point can claim that they aren’t racist, because they count a few Black faces among their number, but such claims are empty when the group is viewed against the backdrop of its links to far-right groups in the United States. The group is also supported by hardline far-right Tories like Jacob Rees Mogg and Priti Patel, who have both used the phrase “Cultural Marxism”, which is both an antisemitic trope and a conspiracy theory. I reported on this in 2012.

Burbalsingh wilfully ignores collaborationists because it doesn’t suit her or her masters’ version of history, which posits that the British Empire was a “civilizing” institution, when in fact, it was barbaric and committed numerous atrocities across the globe, all of which were intellectually supported by a racial hierarchical framework that was justified by the social Darwinism of Francis Galton.

Government ruses

In response to the demands for equality, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson demanded that there should be a “narrative of success” to nullify concerns about structural racism. Hence, the reason why figures like Badenoch, Burbalsingh and Calvin Robinson have been deployed to make, what is in effect, a weak counter-argument. In the case of Robinson, who writes for Spiked Online and who has stood as a Conservative local council candidate, he’s teamed up with self-styled “fierce liberal” Laurence Fox, in fairly pathetic attempt to elide and diminish the lived experience of Black and Brown people by denying the continued existence of racism and calls for Britain to come to terms with its imperial past, which it continues to mythologize.

There is no evidence to support Robinson’s claim that “Britain is the most tolerant, least racist nation on earth. Anyone can live a fruitful life here and achieve success”. If we look at his first sentence, the paper for which he’s writing has a long history of attacks on people of colour and immigrants. The second sentence is an unsupported claim and a handful of “success stories” won’t change that (qv. The American Dream). There are newly-arrived immigrants and refugees who have been forced into squalid conditions in former army barracks and so-called “hotels”, and if any of them are lucky enough to gain permanent residence or even citizenship, they will find it difficult. Moreover, the conditions for people of colour and newly-arrived immigrants have become increasingly difficult since Brexit, which has further widened the space for the expression of far-right discourses on identity, nationality and immigration that were opened up by Tony Blair during the 2005 general election. Robinson, who supported Brexit, ignores this.

Robinson also accuses Black and Brown people (and the vaguely-defined “Left”), who don’t support his contentions of “division and hatred”, while ignoring the divisiveness and hatred of the likes of Nigel Farage, Katie Hopkins, Tommy Robinson and a host of media commentators who are stuck in some colonial-nostalgic time loop. Robinson is clearly colour-blind when it comes to racism, which apparently, he’s never experienced, but then contradicted himself, but only to get in an attack on Prof. Kehinde Andrews on BBC1’s The Big Questions (14/02/2021). Thus, his words are at best, intellectually dishonest and smack of denial. At worst, they’re the words of the master expressed through the mouth of the slave.

Since the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol last year, there have been numerous outpourings of anger from white supremacists, who have claimed that their history is being “erased” or “cancelled”. Ironically, these are the very same people who have edited their own history, by removing the uncomfortable truths in order to present a flattering picture of a civilizing nation that spread goodness throughout the world. Nothing could be further from the truth.

References

Fanon, F. (2008). Black Skin, White Masks. London: Grove Press.

Fanon, F. (2007). The Wretched Of The Earth. Grove/Atlantic, Inc..

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Brace Yourselves, Here Come The Tory Lies About Immigration

I’ve just been listening to the very unpleasant, Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary talk about what he called Labour’s ‘open door immigration’ policy. This is not just a signal that the Tories intend to revert to their comfortable default position, it’s also a glaring example of racist dog-whistling. We know that over the decades, the British press has sold its readers stories of how immigration is bad, how it drives wages down, how immigrants are coming here and ‘taking our jobs’ and so on. Petty nativism and small-minded xenophobia sell papers, but don’t provide the public with the details they need to make informed choices. Instead, many members of the public internalize these lies and accept them as truths.

The Tories, Brexit Party and UKIP all talk about how they want to see an ‘Australian points-based system’. When I hear politicians use that phrase, I think of Australia’s whites only immigration policy, which I suspect they really want to implement here. Raab also repeated the line, also uttered by his fellow Randroid, Priti Patel, that they wanted the ‘best and the brightest’ to come to this country. Somehow, I can’t see ‘the best and the brightest’ wanting to come here. Why would they? Why would they want to come to a small backwater off the north-west coast of Europe, especially if they’re well qualified? They’ll go to Canada or the United States. I’ve read stories of how doctors and dentists from African countries and the Indian subcontinent come here, only to be told that their qualifications aren’t recognized. They end up working as cleaners, cab drivers and security guards.

Kenan Malik, writing in The Guardian in this April, wrote about the flaws in the Australian points-based system and its baked-in racism.

Australia introduced its points-based immigration system in the 1970s. The idea was to create a kind of non-racist version of the “white Australia” policy that had held sway for almost a century. Middle-class professionalism now came to replace “whiteness” as the measure of a good migrant. The trouble is, being middle class and skilled guarantees neither a job nor social acceptance.

A study last year showed that of skilled migrants from non-English speaking countries who came to Australia between 2011 and 2016, fewer than a third had found a professional or managerial job. Another study revealed that such migrants were 25% more likely to be in the bottom income quintile than either migrants from English-speaking countries (primarily white migrants) or those born in Australia. The unemployment rate for recent migrants on a permanent visa is more than 50% higher than it is for Australians in general.

He adds:

There is also the question of racism. A study by the economist Andrew Leigh showed that an individual with an Anglo-Saxon name is far more likely to get a job interview than someone with the same qualifications and experience, but with a Chinese, Middle Eastern or Indigenous Australian name.

We haven’t left the European Union, but already we have people being told to ‘go home’ because they look different and speak with an accent. The Australian points-based system that right-wing politicians long for are just words that are used to placate xenophobes and racists. In reality, such a system would still discriminate against people of colour.

Whether politicians like Raab, Patel, Farage et all want to admit or not, Britain relies heavily on immigrant labour to plug the gaps in the workforce. Our NHS especially relies on immigrant labour and so does agriculture. Last month when I tweeted about fruit being left to rot in the field because there was no one to pick it, I was rounded on by angry Brexiteers and self-styled Lexiters, who first claimed that ‘farmers hadn’t prepared’ for this, while someone else said ‘I hope they go out of business’. Others told me that the unemployed should be forced to pick fruit for their benefits. The fact of the matter is that fruit pickers from EU countries don’t want to come here anymore, because they’ve heard how foreign workers aren’t welcome. None of the people who attacked me, especially the Lexiters, would admit that this was a factor. Worse, they seemed to have no problem with food waste. Ironically, the papers which usually publish lies on their front pages about immigration, also complained about millions of apples being left to rot.

These people really don’t know what they want.

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Michael Gove, Historical Revisionism And Wilful Ignorance

This morning, I’d noticed that Michael Gove had tweeted an article – presumably while intoxicated – from The S*n which reheats an old anti-Corbyn accusation. The article, which I won’t link to here, claims that Corbyn “aided campaign to free IRA assassin who served 20 years for trying to kill a cop”. There is no depth to which Gove will not plunge.

Let’s go back nearly 20 years when Gove wasn’t an MP (happy days), but was writing for the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times. The right-wing press in this country have continued with the notion that the war in Northern Ireland is ongoing and have used the conflict as a means to smear Corbyn for his efforts in finding a peaceful solution. I found this article written by Roy Greenslade in The Guardian in 2000, in which he says:

The rightwing papers’ coverage of the bloody loyalist feud in Northern Ireland has been slanted to fit the old myth that republicans are the root of all evil

Greenslade is referring here to the Loyalist feud that followed the Good Friday Agreement in 1999. Remember that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has close links to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), which is an alternative name for the UVF, and the Red Hand Commando (RHC). The last two Tory governments, were supported by the DUP in a confidence and supply arrangement, which seemingly elided the party’s connections to Loyalist paramilitaries for the sake of expedience. In any case, it was a relationship doomed to failure from the outset, because the DUP does what the DUP wants when it wants.

Greenslade observes that British newspapers don’t give readers the full story, and Tories like Gove rely on voters’ ignorance of past events, which then begs the question: if people have no knowledge of British post-war history and the low intensity conflict in Northern Ireland, known euphemistically as ‘The Troubles’, then why take time and trouble to smear a man like Corbyn as an ‘IRA sympathiser’, especially when Thatcher government’s support for Loyalist death squads is well-documented? The only answer that I can come up with is hubris.

Giving readers a historical perspective takes up space and draws heavily on the time – and, of course, the expertise – of the journalist. It is therefore costly and, given the cult of youth that pervades so many papers nowadays, there are often too few people around editorial floors with a working knowledge of post-war modern history.

Greenslade continues:

Perhaps the most pernicious reason for our ahistorical press is its political agenda. When events call into question a policy line avidly pursued by a paper, throwing into doubt the trenchant “advice” offered to readers down the years, then it proves convenient to ignore history altogether.

Since coming to power in 2010, the Tories and their allies in the media and elsewhere have been trying to rewrite history to suit their false narratives.

A combination of these factors, with the last undoubtedly the most prevalent, occurred in the coverage of loyalist gang warfare in Northern Ireland last week. Right-wing papers suddenly found themselves in a tricky situation because the story did not fit neatly into the previous 30-year pattern of events.

In that paradigm, all the troubles in the “province” stemmed from malevolent republicans. In recent years, with the IRA ceasefire and Sinn Fein’s incorporation into elected office, these papers have opened a second front by pouring scorn on the concept and the practice of the peace process.

Yet the vast majority of republicans have remained stubbornly faithful to the ballot box, making it difficult for the hostile Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Times and Sun to continue with their anti-peace process propaganda war.

Unlike those Loyalists, eh? Remember, the DUP didn’t accept the Good Friday Agreement and have pretended ever since that the low intensity war is still happening. Greenslade again:

Then along comes Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair and an opportunity of sorts is gratefully accepted. The usual suspects – Ruth Dudley-Edwards, Michael Gove, Bruce Anderson – were wheeled out along with their unnamed leader-writing sympathisers to hammer the government.

The outbreak of internecine strife on the Shankill was, according to Anderson in the Mail, due to politicians having created “a moral vacuum in which such madness can fester”.

And there, of course, is the return to the central agenda: it’s all the uppity republicans’ fault after all. The Daily Mail nodded in agreement, referring to “the government’s endless concessions to republicans”.

Not willing to accept that the fault for Loyalist internecine violence rested with the paramilitaries themselves, leader writers like Gove et al instead blamed Republicans. Greenslade again (my italics):

Gove in the Times blamed John Major and Tony Blair for appeasement. The Telegraph referred to the Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Mandelson, as living in an “Alice in Wonderland world” and claimed that Adair “ruled the roost because of the Belfast agreement”. So far, so bad. Even on this single point, no historical context was allowed to peep through. No mention, for instance, of the people of Ireland having voted overwhelmingly for the agreement, which stated categorically that prisoners would be released.

The Times, unlike the Telegraph, did at least praise Mandelson for Adair’s arrest. But its columnist Gove led the way in offering a scandalous justification for the Protestant paramilitaries’ gangsterism. Their hostility towards the peace process, he dared to claim, is fuelled by the fact that Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness is in government.

Gove, like many in his party, see nothing wrong with reviving the cycle of violence that so marred civil and political life in the Six Counties for nearly 40 years. For them, it’s a price worth paying, just so long as they get the Brexit they crave.

Gove’s efforts and those of his colleagues rely on the average Brit’s total ignorance, not just of their own history, but that of Ireland. This was brought into sharp relief a year ago when Priti Patel said that the government should use the threat of food shortages to force the Irish government to drop its demand for the so-called ‘backstop’ in the Brexit negotiations. Aside from the residual imperialism expressed in this statement, Patel and Gove’s cavalier approach to history and memory is dangerous.

But the Tories don’t care. For them, history only matters inasmuch as it’s just another narrative than can be endlessly rewritten to suit their political objectives. This 2016 article from the Belfast Telegraph revealed that the government provided UDA-linked groups with funds from what it calls ‘ the controversial Social Investment Fund’.

Among those with huge influence over how the £80 million SIF budget is allocated is notorious Bangor UDA criminal Dee Stitt, who last week posed for photos with DUP First Minister Arlene Foster.

Other key players include the UDA’s former leader in the Maze Prison and Lisburn commander Adrian Bird, and convicted UDA gunman turned failed DUP council candidate Sam ‘Chalky’ White. All three paramilitaries were appointed to SIF steering panels, which recommend how cash is handed out, with DUP and Sinn Fein approval.

During the past two years Stitt, Bird and White have successfully lobbied for more than £5 million of taxpayers’ cash being spent on UDA-linked projects that pay their wages in Belfast, Lisburn and Bangor.

The Tories, Michael Gove in particular, have some explaining to do.

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Let’s Talk About: The Free Enterprise Group

When Priti Patel was forced to resign last Thursday for meeting Israeli government officials without prior authorization, you may have noticed the two faces that kept appearing on television to defend her. One was Nadhim Zahawi and the other was Jacob Rees Mogg. What you may not realize is that both belong to the Free Enterprise Group, to which Patel also belongs. Prominent members of this group published a book in 2010 called Britannia Unchained, which claimed that “Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world”, and add “We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.” There is a wealth of evidence to debunk these beliefs, for beliefs are what they are. These views are not supported by evidence or anything like it.

Patel, along with Elizabeth Truss, Chris Skidmore, Kwasi Kwarteng and Dominic Raab were the book’s co-authors, and for them, poor productivity is laid at the door of the workers, not the bosses, directors and shareholders, but the workers. For these hardened free market cultists, British workers are simply too lazy and are rewarded far too readily for their indolence. This is all myth. British workers’ wages have traditionally been lower than those of their continental counterparts. Britons also work longer hours than workers in other European countries.

First, lets’ take a look at their website. You may recognize a few familiar faces.

On their ‘About’ page, we’re told that the FEG was founded in 2010 by Liz Truss, a name more associated with ‘pork markets’ than critical thinking. She’s also one of the least competent ministers in the current cabinet. That’s quite an achievement.

The Free Enterprise Group is a leading association of free-market orientated Conservative Members of Parliament. Convened by James Cleverly MP, FEG seeks to restate the importance of liberal and practical free enterprise values against the backdrop of a significant loss of confidence in free market economics following the banking failures of the late 2000s. Founded by the Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, now Secretary of State for Justice, FEG is supported by over 40 MPs who want to put free enterprise at the heart of the Conservative Party.

We can therefore assume that the FEG wants a return to what they see as the ‘golden age’ of capitalism: the 19th century. Nostalgia is clearly in the driving seat.

According to capitalist rag, City AM, The FEG is “highly influential” and was “relaunched” in 2015. It is led by James Cleverly, the MP for Braintree, and has a membership of 40 MPs. Some of these MPs would claim to be successful in business, but these are rentiers, who make nothing and grow wealthy from shares and dividends. Some of them, like Chris Philp, who likes to lecture people on economic matters, is a failed businessman and a tax dodger.

While many people have tipped Rees Mogg to replace Theresa May as party leader, one must not rule out Raab,  a self-confessed Thatcherite, who has positioned himself as a dark horse candidate. I have already written about Raab on this blog. In this Guardian article from 2012, he says “The talented and hard-working have nothing to fear”. These words remind The Cat of the claims made in support of greater surveillance: if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear. Raab assumes that those he represents, the rentier capitalists of the Surrey stockbroker belt, have worked hard for their wealth. No capitalist ever worked hard: they acquired their wealth on the back of workers who worked hard for them, or it was handed to them by their rich parents via a trust fund. The same article tips Priti Patel as a future PM. The horror.

Here’s Raab being caught out in a lie about foodbanks on BBC2’s Victoria Live show. Apparently, foodbank users have a “cashflow problem”.

Raab is the MP for Esher and Walton, one of the richest constituencies in the country. He is unlikely to have met any poor people or benefits claimants. Lying is second nature to Raab and if he isn’t lying, then he’s engaging in baseless smears. Politicore spotted a typical Tory smear about Jeremy Corbyn “supporting terrorists” on the same show.

Here’s Raab advocating the privatization of the National Health Service on The Daily Politics. He’s also lying.

Raab was recently included on a list of 40 Tory MPs, who have been involved in the sexual abuse scandal. The Guardian reports:

Raab, a junior justice minister tipped by some as a future Tory leader, revealed he was named on the widely-circulated list as having been subject to an injunction over “inappropriate behaviour with a woman”.

In a statement on his website Raab warned that while it was vital to investigate cases of abuse and harassment, he feared a “media feeding frenzy” from the widely shared list, which names 40 MPs and ministers.

Any claims he had harassed anyone or engaged in sexually abusive or lewd behaviour “is false and malicious”, Raab said, adding that he had taken legal advice.

Readers may have noticed how quiet this scandal has gone since the list was published two weeks ago.

The unstated aim of the FEG is to create a sweatshop economy in which regulations are torn up because they, apparently, impact adversely on profits. One can easily see where this is going: if the FEG ever takes control of the Tory Party and finds itself in government, workers will have no rights or protections guaranteed by statute. Freedom, as articulated by the FEG is freedom for bosses to exploit workers and make themselves ever-richer on the back of labour.

Members of the FEG voted unanimously for Brexit.  According to a report called ‘Reconnecting with the Commonwealth’, co-authored by Cleverly, they want to “reconnect with the Commonwealth”. In other words, they want to relaunch the Empire as a trading bloc. The Financial Times points out this is a flawed idea and I would add that it is steeped in nostalgia. James Blitz writes:

Conservative rightwingers may feel nostalgic about a return to “imperial preference”. But until the UK signs new FTAs with the nations of the Commonwealth, Britain will be in the odd position of having worse trading terms with these countries than Brussels does. And, as Sir Simon Fraser, the former head of the UK foreign office noted recently, the damage goes beyond that. “Those EU trade agreements are vital for [Commonwealth states’] development goals,” he said. “The UK will no longer be able to champion their access to the EU market as we have in the past.

The first two paragraphs of the report’s foreword, written by disgraced former Australian PM, Tony Abbott, is also soaked in nostalgia:

Brexit means that Britain is back. The country that gave the world the
English language, common law and the Mother of Parliaments is once more
to seize its destiny as a global leader. This is an exciting time for Britain
and an exhilarating one for the countless millions elsewhere who appreciate
Britain’s unique contribution to western civilisation.

It’s good that Britain will no longer be constrained by the statism and
bureaucracy of Brussels. It’s also good that the remaining members of the
European Union will now have to rethink how much of their sovereignty they
wish to surrender.

All that’s missing from this romantic paean to free market capitalism is the call to bomb the enemy to dust.

The FEG gets its administrative support from the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA),  a notorious free market think-tank, whose director is Mark Littlewood, a hardline laissez-faire economist who used to work for the Lib Dems. In this Guardian article, he hints at abolishing the minimum wage:

Anything that looks like a return to the Dickensian workhouse raises hackles. But I don’t want people working in sweatshops at 5p an hour. You should sell abolishing the minimum wage in positive terms, as providing young people with a first step on the jobs ladder, as a ‘jobs for all’ scheme.

Littlewood may not want people to work for 5p an hour, but like his friends in the FEG, he’d happily see them working for £2.50 an hour. For free marketeers, cutting wages, while forcing people to work longer hours, is the key to greater productivity. Nowhere in the FEG’s or IEA’s literature is there any mention of bosses and shareholders who pay themselves bigger dividends, while at the same time, refusing to reinvest profits in their businesses. The blame for poor productivity is always laid at the doors of the workers.

The FEG is also closely connected to the tobacco industry and Patel, who once worked for public relations outfit, Weber-Shandwick, lobbied on behalf of British American Tobacco (BAT) before entering the Commons.

BAT, a multi-million dollar business, paid its workers in Myanmar as little as £15 a month.

BAT’s position in Burma at the turn of the millennium was hugely controversial. “BAT’s factory in Burma was jointly owned with the military dictatorship and so helped fund one of the most brutal military dictatorships in the world,” said Anna Roberts, executive director at Burma Campaign UK. “BAT refused to admit how much money it gave to the dictatorship, but Burma Campaign UK estimated that BAT paid the generals $16m (£10m) in taxes alone between 1999 and 2002. In contrast, BAT paid its factory workers in Burma just £15 a month. The dictatorship spent 40% of its budget on the military.”

Patel has a history of working closely with dictatorships and other unsavoury regimes. This is part of a familiar pattern with the Tories: while they are happy to denounce Jeremy Corbyn’s apparent admiration for Hugo Chavez, they are themselves rather comfortable with right-wing and military dictatorships, which are given plenty of latitude, if not outright support. Pinochet’s Chile is but one example of the Tories fraternal ties to unspeakably brutal regimes around the world. Indeed, recently, some Tories, like the disgraced former Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, expressed his admiration for President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, whose involvement in the Davao death squads to kill those he sees as ‘drug dealers’ as well as political opponents, has been widely reported.

After this year’s general election saw the government lose its Commons majority, the Tories entered into a confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party, which has ties to Loyalist paramilitary death squads. It would appear that, for all their talk of Corbyn’s ‘support for terrorists’, the Tories are monumental hypocrites and appear to have a sneaking admiration for extra-judicial murder. I put this to Cleverly, after he’d launched another smear attack on Corbyn. I have yet to receive a reply.

The Cat suspects the FEG is manoeuvring itself to put forward one of their own as a candidate for the party’s leadership, and to ultimately take control of the Tory Party. Given the weakness of the current government and of Theresa May herself, there is every chance that they may succeed. Their romantic vision of a free market future is linked to imperial ambition and a hatred of ordinary workers, whom they blame for low productivity. We cannot let these people drag us back a century and a half on the basis of an idealized notion of a brighter past.

 

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Polling Companies and the Conservative Party

Political parties, especially the Tories,  have a morbid fascination with polls. They see the polls and the companies that produce them as some sort of Delphic Oracle. What interests me isn’t the Tory fascination with polling companies but their involvement in them, since polling companies are always at pains to tell the general public that they are politically neutral. Yet, as any qualitative researcher will tell you, it is not possible to be 100% objective and put one’s ideology or cultural baggage to one side. The researcher must act self-reflexively. Bourdieu and Wacquant discussed this at some length in An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. The researcher must consider their own position. Yet this idea of self-reflexivity appears to have escaped the pollsters. I have discovered that a number of Tory MPs are being paid by polling companies and there is no indication why they are being paid. Polling companies don’t deal in human vagaries: they and those who pay for the polls (usually the press and politicians) are interested in abstract numbers from which they hope to divine the future. That is the nature of quantitative research methodologies. They’re not particularly interested in why a certain number of people feel a certain way, because that’s the business of the qualitative researcher. The questions of what, how and why are of little interest to them. On Sunday I posted the following Tweet.

Andrew Hawkins of ComRes fired back.

My reply was blunt.

I was using my phone, so I didn’t have access to the necessary information to properly rebut his aggressive response. A couple of years ago, I was investigating Priti Patel’s business interests after I’d discovered she had close ties to the United Arab Emirates and to Bahrain, in particular. My research began after Patel had claimed she was a champion of Human Rights. I also knew Patel was involved in the right-wing Free Enterprise Group, which advocates among other things, abolition of the minimum wage to “grow the economy”. So I knew she wasn’t being entirely straight with her interviewer. I started my investigation by looking at the Searchthemoney website, and was astonished to discover that Patel had received £75 on 11 occasions between 2011 and 2013. It wasn’t clear why she was given this money nor was it clear what she’d done to deserve it.

I’d then noticed that many other Conservative MPs had also been paid money by ComRes. You can see the list here. Philip Davies, for example, was paid the same amount of money on more than 18 separate occasions between 2011 and 2014. YouGov is another polling company that’s cited for its supposedly rigorous methods. Yet this company was founded by Tories Stephan Shakespeare and Nadhim Zahawi. The company’s public face is Peter Kellner, who often appears on television to explain how the polls work. However Kellner isn’t as non-partisan as he seems to be. According to Lenin’s Tomb, Kellner intervened in the 2010 Labour leadership contest.

Firstly, Kellner uses figures relating the division of ABC1 and C2DE voters among the electorate to support his point that the number of ‘working class’ voters is declining precipitously. If he is right, then the proportion of ‘working class’ voters dropped from 51% to 43% between 1997 and 2010. That’s a rapid rate of employment change, though – given the way New Labour allowed manufacturing industries to collapse and shed employment – not all that incredible. However, the conception of ‘class’ deployed by Kellner is the old, misleading ‘social class’ model preferred by market researchers. His ‘classes’ (ABC1 = middle class vs C2DE = working class) are based on the National Readership Survey classifications derived from official statistics. As he revealingly puts it, according to his conception the middle class are those who work primarily with their brains, the workers primarily with their hands.

Kellner, according to Richard Seymour,  was a member of the Labour Party in the 1970s but soon swung behind Tony Blair in 1997. It’s a position that he’s maintained ever since. He’s also married to Baroness Ashton, a dyed-in-the-wool Blairite. YouGov also bungs money to Tory politicians. Caroline Dineage, for example, has accepted £280.00 from the company, while Philip Davies collected the cool sum of £1,030.00. Ipsos Mori has also slipped Tory MPs money and it seems as though there isn’t a single polling company that doesn’t do this. If there are any Labour MPs being paid by these companies, I haven’t managed to track them down yet.

Many political opinion polls are conducted as part of what is known to market researchers as an ‘omnibus survey’. The polls are often tacked onto the end of some survey about chocolate or soft drinks, or dropped into the middle of the survey on home insulation.

If polling companies want us to take their polls seriously, then perhaps they should tell us why they donate money to Tory MPs. They should also try and behave more self-reflexively. Say what you like, but I know what I’m getting from an Ashcroft poll; he’s a Tory donor and everyone knows it.

The main polling companies are members of the British Polling Council, which oversees standards in the industry. The founding members of this council are YouGov, Mori, NOP and ICM.  The BPC was founded to establish best practice in the industry to ensure validity and reliability. Prior to the formation of the BPC, polling companies did as they pleased and there was little, if any, accountability. Even so, there are questions that need to be answered but will the BPC or the polling companies answer them or will they obfuscate?

When it comes to objectivity I’m with Hunter S Thompson, who wrote the following about ‘objective’ journalism.

“So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here–not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”

To adapt the Merovingian in The Matrix, objectivity is an illusion created between those with power and those without.

Reference

Bourdieu, P. and Wacquant, L.J.D. (1992). An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

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Priti Patel: Human Rights and Hard Cash

Priti Patel, the MP for Witham in Essex, was part of the 2010 intake of Tory MPs. She’s also a supporter of Aidan ‘Nazi Boy’ Burley’s Trade Union Reform Campaign (TURC) and a member of the Free Enterprise Group (FEG), which was responsible for Britannia Unchained, a sort of manifesto for a sweatshop economy.

Following from Labour’s embarrassing Falkirk episode and Mr Ed’s knee-jerk response to sever his party’s links to the trade unions, it was only inevitable that the spotlight would be turned on the Tories and rightly so. As much as they wriggle and squirm and point the finger at Labour and whine about union funding, the Conservative party cannot hide the fact that it is supported by faceless millionaires, billionaires, bankers, hedge funds and other corporate interests, many of whom have been invited to 10 Downing Street for a bite to eat and a chance to chat with dippiest Prime Minister in this country’s history.

With this in mind, I always keep an eye on the more rabid extremes of the Tory party, because those who shout the loudest about benefit ‘scroungers’ and workshy Britons are usually the ones who are taking a lot of money from big business. Thus I take a special interest in Patel, Raab, Shelbrooke, Truss, Skidmore and all the others who regularly lambast British workers and propose further attacks on the working class.

So when I went to her entry on searchthemoney.com  to do some digging I was not astonished to discover that Patel had been given donations ‘in kind’ by the Government of the United Arab Emirates and the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the latter was widely reported, the former was not). She was also provided with travel by these two governments. She’s also received donations from property developer, Knight Developments Ltd and Croudace Homes and other companies like Sun Mark Ltd, owned by Dr. Rami Ranger. More on them later.

As most of us already know, Bahrain has been brutalizing its people for the past 3 years in what Orientalists and brand executives alike have referred to as the ‘Arab Spring’. While all eyes were on Egypt, Syria, Libya and Tunisia, the only mention of Bahrain came via the BBC’s Formula 1 coverage last year. Apart from that, there’s no mention of it in the mainstream media.  It’s as if someone somewhere in this country doesn’t want us to know what’s happening. And say, didn’t the disgraced former Murdoch employee Met Assistant Commissioner, John Yates take up a job as an adviser to the Bahraini Police? Oh yes, he did. There have been well over 155 deaths, some of those were caused by torture. No wonder the Tories are working to extricate Britain from the European Convention of Human Rights and replace it with a cheapo ‘British Bill of Rights’ (it fell off the back of a lorry. Honest, guv).

Gulf News tells us that Patel was part of the All Party Parliamentary Group to the UAE.

Lord (Michael) Howard of Lympne, a former leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, who was a government minister for over 10 years until 1997, was elected as Chairman, with Kevan Jones MP, a former Minister of Defence under the last Labour Government, and Lord (Tim) Clement-Jones, a Liberal Democrat, being elected as Vice-Chairmen. Mark Tami MP, Labour, was elected as Secretary and Priti Patel MP, Conservative, as Treasurer.

I guess that’s okay then. Or is it? As you can see this visit to the UAE included members of the three main parties. Nice work, if you can get it.

The House of Commons Register of All-Party Groups informs us that it was just a visit:

To promote good relations between the United Kingdom and The United Arab Emirates

Well, if the House of Commons Register of All-Party Groups tells us that this trip was all about promoting “good relations”, then that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Well, not really.

Dubai, which is a part of the UAE, is often hailed in right-libertarian/classical liberal/neoliberal circles as a kind of free market paradise. But if you’re a migrant worker it can be hell on earth. Migrant workers who go on strike face deportation.   Some are driven to suicide.  What the free marketeers neglect to tell us is how this country supports repression in the UAE through its sale of arms and other items to that country. Perhaps this is the model that the members of the FEG have in store for us in the UK? How about those Labour members of this group? Kevan Jones, for instance, is a former Defence Minister. Kerching! Need I say more?

Let’s return to Bahrain, where the country’s news agency tells us:

London, March 21. (BNA) – UK MP Priti Patel has lauded the report delivered to His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa by the National Commission in Charge of Following up on the Implementation of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), asserting that such a milestone document highlighted the positive steps taken by the government to bring about many changes and landmark achievements that meet the citizens’ expectations.

“Lauded”, eh? Let’s read on…

“I believe that countries of the Arab Spring went through difficult situations last year, and the case in Bahrain was no better. However, the Government of Bahrain has reacted positively and taken bold steps by engaging all parties in a National Consensus Dialogue, the best means through which popular demands can be discussed,” she said.

That was last year and things aren’t getting any better. In fact, they’re getting worse.

Of Patel’s paid visit to Bahrain, The Guardian’s Hugh Muir noted,

Two months later, Patel tabled a parliamentary question aimed at strengthening our cultural links.

Here’s the question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has made a recent assessment of the (a) contribution of cultural links to UK relations with Bahrain and (b) merits of taking steps to strengthen such links with Bahrain.

“Cultural links”? Would these “cultural links” have anything to do with cracking skulls? Silly question…

Patel is all for human rights but not for everyone. Below is a question that she asked of David Cameron in Prime Minister’s Questions last year. Notice how it’s preceded by a disclaimer (in italics):

Priti Patel champions the human rights of the law-abiding majority.

Priti Patel (Witham) (Con): If the Human Rights Act is

“a glaring example of what is going wrong in our country”,

when will the Government put the human rights of the law-abiding majority above those of dangerous convicted criminals?

Anyone could be considered a ‘criminal’. Even those who protest could be seen as ‘criminals’ in the eyes of Patel and the rest of the FEG. But who is this “law-abiding majority”? Human rights in the mind of today’s Europhobic, headbanging Tory sounds suspiciously European. We can’t have that kind of effete nonsense getting in the way of making a profit!

Unsurprisingly, when it comes to the ECHR, Patel is as clueless as the rest of her party:

Those who support the current system or who want to see closer integration will often claim that it was British lawyers who drafted the Convention and Winston Churchill who pushed for its adoption, as Nick Clegg alluded to during his speech to the Lib Dem conference. But while Britain has a strong tradition of promoting human rights and after the Second World War and the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed it was right to look at ways to prevent future genocide and persecution in Europe, Churchill would never have allowed Europe to meddle in our laws the way it currently does. He would have stood up to put the British interest first and that is what Government ministers and Parliament must do now. Otherwise, a failure to curtail the Council of Europe and European Court of Human Rights will lead to Britain facing a further unstoppable flow of powers to Europe, which would severely undermine our democracy.

My bold. Notice how she summons up the ghost of Churchill. All a Tory needs to do is rub their Churchill talisman and the entire world will fall at their feet. What Patel and her chums deliberately forget is that the United Kingdom signed up to the ECHR in the aftermath of World War II. It was created in 1959 and is not part of the European Union – as Patel and the rest of her party would have you believe. Removing human rights legislation of any kind would be a massive step backwards and would lead to a relaxation/abolition of workplace health and safety regulations.  It would also lead to detention without trial and kangaroo courts. Patel only plays lip service to the idea of human rights. Are you surprised?

It isn’t just the Bahraini and UAE governments that bungs Patel a bit of wedge, she’s also received £2,5000 in donations from Knight Developments Ltd, a property developer in Essex, while Dr Rami Ranger has donated a total of  £17,000 to Patel as an individual and through his company, Sun Mark Ltd.  No doubt Dr Ranger, who is a big wheel in the British Asian Conservative Link,  claimed that his company was giving money to ‘charity’. The thing is, the Conservative Party is not a charity, it is a political party that works in the interests of the rich. Rich people like Dr Ranger. Then there’s Croudace Homes, another property developer (a pattern is beginning to emerge), who provided Patel with £5,000 in 2010.  When property developers donate to an MP or a candidate, it’s easy to be suspicious. Last year, Croudace purchased William Julien Courtauld Hospital in Braintree for development.  The NHS refused to disclose how much it was sold for.  Braintree is the adjoining constituency to Witham; its MP is Brooks Newmark, who is also a member of FEG. Meanwhile in Kent, Croudace are trying to cut down a much-loved ancient woodland to make way for a development against the wishes of local residents. This kind of thing is being repeated elsewhere.  Croudace must be pleased that they have someone in the Commons who can bat for them.

She’s also received payment in kind from the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society that comes to £2,500. In total, Patel has received £38,137.97 over the course of three years, which includes her work for ComRes, Ipsos Mori and others. Yes, she’s an MP but she has a second and a third job. Is this why we pay salaries to MPs, who are public sector employees, so that they can moonlight for private companies?

Who says money doesn’t buy influence in the Tory Party? David Cameron? And you believe him?

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Hard-working families…

If there is one phrase that sums up this government’s belief in the power of the sign over all else, it’s “Hard-working families”.  To this phrase are added the clauses “who want to get on in life…”, “who pay their taxes” and “who want to do the right thing”.  Sometimes they appear altogether, sometimes one or two of them are coupled to the phrase, often it’s just “hard-working families” on its own. Whatever the case, it’s quite possibly the dullest PR campaign on the planet.

This wasn’t the first government to employ the words “Hard-working families”. Oh no. That Marxist-Leninist (sarcasm), Gordon Brown, also used the same line in 2005.  It was dull then and it’s dull now.

A BBC article from 2005 says:

It is rapidly becoming the most over-used phrase of the 2005 election.

No policy announcement, whether on crime, immigration, the economy, health or education, is complete without it.

But who exactly are “Britain’s hard-working families”? And why are politicians so obsessed with them?

But tellingly,

“It has always been a Tory message,” says Times columnist and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris.

Ah, so it’s “always been a Tory message”? That says a lot about Nu Labour.

What exactly does this phrase “hard-working families” mean? Well, if one takes it literally, the connotations are rather disturbing. A family is a social unit that includes children and adults. Are you with me so far? Good.  That means that, presumably, a hard-working family will include working children too? There are laws on the statute book that limit the hours that children can work but is the current government seriously suggesting that all kids be made to work? Well, not quite but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like Philip Davies or Priti Patel made the crass suggestion that children under the age of 13 be employed to de-fluff the tunnels of the London Underground, for example. Such is the Tories’ fetish for all things 19th century that I sometimes think they’d gladly welcome the return of typhoid and cholera epidemics for a little icing on the cake.

What about those family members who are too old or infirm to carry on working? For this Tory-led government, being old is no excuse and as we already know, you can now work until your drop. Happy with that?

Even those people who are seriously, in some cases, terminally ill, have also been forced into work or onto workfare, only to die a short time later. For those who really cannot work, their benefits are stopped. Then they die. But then death is probably no excuse for not working either.

Linda Wooton was lying in a hospital bed when she was informed that her benefits had been stopped. She died 9 days later.

Let’s be clear, the Tories and Nu Labour aren’t that interested in families, if they were, then they wouldn’t be doing so much to destroy them.  On the one hand Westminster politicians complain about the break-up of the family and on the other, they conspire in its demise. Can’t these people make their minds up?

I was watching The Sunday Politics on BBC1 a few weeks ago when I cauth Andrew Neil  interviewing Michael Green Grant Shapps. During the course of this 5 minute interview, Shapps used the words “hard-working families” about 12 times.  How’s that for dull?  Repeating this sentence ad nauseum/ad tedium convinces no one but the politicians themselves. In short, their catchphrases are as clapped out as their ideas…er, what ideas?

The father of public relations, Edward Bernays, would have approved of the repetitive use of this tired old phrase. Goebbels would have too.  Sorry, did I just break Godwin’s Law there? I hope not.

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“We need more Thatcherism” (like we need holes in our heads)

In the wake of Thatcher’s death and funeral, some senior and some not-so-senior Conservatives have been demanding the party ‘rediscovers’ Thatcherism. I must admit, I’ve been mightily amused by the Tories’ clamour for more Thatcherism. It’s as predictable as it is absurd. It also smacks of terminal desperation. Make no mistake, this is a party in decline.

The first to stick his ugly, fat, unkempt head above the parapet was Bozza. The Guardian reports,

London mayor Boris Johnson called for a show of “Thatcherite zeal” as he joined backbench MPs in demanding an overhaul of the law to make it harder to call strikes.

Johnson said was “farcical” that a strike could be called with the backing of less than half of union members and has urged the government to rethink legislation on taking industrial action.

It comes as a report by the Conservative group on the London Assembly estimates that tube strikes in the capital cost the economy £48m a day, putting the cost of industrial action between 2005 and 2009 at £1bn.

Johnson told the Sun: “The idea that a strike can be called by a majority of those that vote, rather than a majority of all those balloted, is farcical. It often results in a strike backed by just one in 10 union members, antagonising millions of commuters in the process and costing London and the UK billions every year.

“I’d urge the government to act with some Thatcherite zeal and at the very least legislate against strikes supported by less than half of all union members.”

The call for new laws follows on from union groups raising the prospect of calling a general strike in protest at the government’s austerity measures.

So Bozza said this to The Sun? Well, there’s a surprise. He’s been having regular lunches and dinners with The Old Bastard (Rupert Murdoch to you), which he’s only just begun to declare in the register of members interests at City Hall. In the same article, Dominic Raabid, who was in short trousers when the Auld Witch was ensconced in Downing Street, tells us that:

“Margaret Thatcher injected a dose of democracy into the unions, to empower their members and protect Britain.

“We now face a hot summer of discontent, with reckless strikes from schools to airports that most union members refused to back.

“It’s high time we had extra safeguards to protect the hard-working majority from this abusive militant minority.”

“Margaret Thatcher injected a dose of democracy into the unions”, opines the humourless Raab. This nutjob is serious! Last year, Raabid called for Britain to adopt a sweatshop economy. He was supported in this endeavour by his fellow headbanger, Priti Patel, who says:

“Defending the rights of people to work without fear of intimidation, bullying or violence is exactly what Margaret Thatcher championed and this legislation could once again put the rights of workers above the vested interests of the left and their union barons.”

Come again? Thatcher was a bully and her cabinet was composed mainly of bullies. The current government have carried their public school bullying with them throughout their journey to Westminster. It is their desire to make the rest of us their fags.

The mere mention of a possible general strike is enough to get the likes of Raab, Johnson and his Nazi-fetishizing chum, Aidan Burley calling for even more draconian anti-union legislation. The next step for these bullies will be to call for an outright ban on unions. That’s how much they love ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, kids.

Yesterday, Bozza’s kid brother, Jo, was appointed to the Downing Street Policy Unit with, I am reliably informed, a remit to inject more Thatcherite poison into the Tories’ already polluted bloodstream. Nicholas Watt of The Guardian writes,

The appointment of the mayor of London’s brother, who formally becomes a Cabinet Office minister, is one of a series of moves designed to strengthen the political operation in Downing Street and to patch up the prime minister’s frayed links with the Conservative party. One senior figure described the moves as a deliberate attempt to create a more political – though not politicised – Downing Street in the mould of Margaret Thatcher’s No 10 operation.

The Tories are so deluded that they seriously believe their only salvation lies in serving us warmed-up Thatcherite leftovers from 30 years ago. It’s farcical.

The real tragedy is that the opposition Labour party can’t see how weak the Conservatives are and do nothing to help finish them off (it’s called a coup de grace, Mister Ed). There’s blood in the water and if you can’t move in for the kill, then you have no business being in politics.

Ed Miliband’s spine was last seen getting into a car on the northbound carriageway of the M6 near Congleton. If anyone knows its current whereabouts then kindly inform the owner.

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Tory ballot hypocrisy in action

I’ve talked on this blog about the Tories’ constant complaint about low turnouts for strike ballots and their hypocrisy when it comes to low turnouts for local elections. Many councils are elected on turnouts lower than 32% yet no Tory demands that the elections be declared null and void and held again. Here’s Dominic Raabid on last summer’s proposed strike by the PCS union,

 “These reckless and damaging strikes strengthen the case for a voting threshold, so the militant minority can’t hold the hard-working majority to ransom.

“It can’t be right that union bosses can paralyse vital infrastructure and humiliate the nation on a malicious whim, when just 11 per cent of their members support strike action.”

It can’t be right that local councillors (or governments) are elected to office without a mandate.  Priti Patel is another one with her head up her arse,

 “Any ballot in which fewer than half of those eligible to vote do so should be ruled invalid. This strike is yet another irresponsible protest by those who are once again putting their own interests before that of our county.”

Does that include Runnymede Council, Ms Patel? No? I didn’t think so.

Today we have the example of the Tory-controlled council of Runnymede, where yesterday’s local by-elections attracted a mere 23% in one ward and an embarrassing 14% in another.  Not a peep about this from Raab, Burley, Patel and other headbangers then? Quelle surprise.

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