Thursday, 23 February 2017

One Year On

Thomas Mair described himself to the Police as “a political activist”, and so he was. 

No Irish Republican organisation has murdered a Member of Parliament in the present century or in the preceding decade, and the people responsible are now such pillars of the British Establishment that they stay overnight at Windsor Castle and so forth. 

No Islamist or Leftist organisation has ever murdered a Member of Parliament. But the Far Right has done so, only last year. 

National Fronts come and BNPs go, EDLs come and Britain Firsts go, but certain institutional and organisational manifestations of the Far Right are perennial, hitherto even permanent. 

Mair’s is the Springbok Club, which is run by the people who also run the London Swinton Circle. And that, in turn, was addressed by Liam Fox (born 1961) and by Owen Paterson (born 1956) as recently as 2014. 

Ah, those old 1980s Tory Boys, in their Hang Mandela T-shirts and all the rest of it. Wherever did they all end up? 

In the Thatcher and, to a lesser extent, Major years, there were Ministers who were members of the Western Goals Institute or the Monday Club. 

Those crossed over, via such things as the League of Saint George, to overt neo-Nazism on the Continent, to the Ku Klux Klan, to apartheid South Africa, to Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, to the juntas of Latin America, to Marcos and Suharto, to the Duvaliers, and so on. 

Nick Griffin’s father, Edgar, was a Vice-President of Iain Duncan Smith’s Leadership Campaign. He answered what was listed as one of its official telephone numbers (in his house) with the words “British National Party”. 

The days of treating even support for the NHS as Loony Leftism, while maintaining no right flank whatever on the officially designated political mainstream, are well and truly over. 

The dominoes have already started to fall.

Some highly prominent people in what thinks that it is now this country’s perpetual party of government need to be very, very, very afraid.

The Big Day

"It is good that Corbyn keeps winning elections, because he can't win elections" is a line with a fairly obvious flaw in it. 

The only places that he ever loses are places that have never voted Labour, anyway. 

If UKIP cannot win Stoke Central, then it just cannot win.

Likewise, if the Conservatives cannot win Copeland, then they cannot win any seat that they do not currently hold.

In the Remain heartlands of the South, they are already on course to lose dozens of those seats to the Lib Dems, who need only to be the First Past the Post in them.

Meanwhile, if Labour does not lose either Stoke Central or Copeland, marginals that are used to right-wing MPs, then it is not going to lose anywhere in 2020.

That hung Parliament is going to be far more interesting that the last one.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Language of Priorities

As a wise man put it to me today, "Which is more important, opposing Donald Trump, or saving the NHS?"

Of course, he intended that as a rhetorical question.

And of course, he was right to do so.

Crumbling Into Despair


Quite.

A talentless but titled hack from the right family, Toby Young has wrought havoc as a self-appointed expert on education, taken entirely at face value by the stalwarts of the same dinner party circuit.

And he has not finished yet.

Having announced that I, Daniel Blake did not "ring true" to his own experience of, unlike the eponymous character, never having done a day's work in his life, he is clearly positioning himself as the man to make the benefits system even worse that it already is.

The Wolf At The Door

Perhaps Labour has cried wolf a bit about the NHS over the last 70 years.

But hospital services in nearly two thirds of England are now to be cut or scaled back.

Did you vote for that?

Nor will you.

Plainly Political Reasons

It turns out that the 39-year-old French Presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron, comes from Amiens, and is married to his former teacher, although of course nothing became official until he had gone off to university. 

Well, some of us know that generation of Picards of old, don't we?

Whoever goes up against Marine Le Pen in the second round will win, so that needs to be the right person, which Macron simply isn't, for plainly political reasons.

There is talk that juicy this and juicy are going to be leaked in order to damage him. But it would be better to beat him on policy.

Similarly, there is talk that MI5 or whoever intends to leak something or other about Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell in the run-up to the next General Election.

As if anyone would care.

The spooks and their newspapers of choice might think that everyone in Britain was a hardcore Zionist (which the spooks themselves certainly never used to be) and a hardcore Ulster Unionist (which the Deep State never was historically, either).

But they would be in for quite a shock.

Mostly, if the nation noticed at all, then it would yawn.

By 2020, a Sinn Féiner, too young to have participated in the Troubles, might have been the First Minister of Northern Ireland for three years without the sky's having fallen in.

Not that anyone in Great Britain ever really notices Northern Ireland, anyway. Well, apart from the diehard Irish Republicans, of course.

Nor do they take sides in the Middle East. Well, apart from the Muslims, of course. Plus a section of the Jews, but it is not clear how large a section, and in any case there are vastly fewer of those.

This, though, is all that Corbyn's enemies have.

By common consent, people agree with his policies.

We are expected to believe merely that they would prefer them to be delivered by someone younger and better-dressed.

But Theresa May is already 60, and she is prone to serious wardrobe malfunctions several times per week.

The 2020 Election is going to be about policy. And she doesn't really have any. But he has lots.

Bear Facts


Do the Russians really fund European politicians who criticise neoliberal economic policy and neoconservative foreign policy?

If so, then I can only assume that my cheque has got lost in the post. All I wanted was enough to stand for Durham County Council and Lanchester Parish Council this year.

Seriously, we all know that these hysterical lists of Kremlin-backed, Putin-indebted people and parties are exactly that: hysterical, in both senses of the word.

But it is a different question how far Dr McMaster, for all his devastating thesis on the Vietnam War, appreciates this reality.

Bernie Sanders would have won.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Of Homes and Houses

Upon his return to Britain, where could Milo "Sex With 13-Year-Olds" Yiannopoulos possibly live?

Upon his return to Merseyside, where could Paul "Hillsborough Liar" Nuttall possibly live?

Oh, well, remember when the great bogeyman was the BNP? That was the real thing.

It once got Andrew Brons elected to the European Parliament. If you need to, then look up Andrew Brons.

It says a great deal about today's sinistrisme in British politics that its place has been taken by nothing more than UKIP as the ostensible reason why we must retain the First Past the Post electoral system.

But three days from now, even that reason will no longer exist.

Reviving the opportunity that ought to have been taken at the recent reduction in the number of constituency MPs from 650 to 600.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and each of the nine English regions, would elect five additional MPs, with each elector voting for one candidate, and with the top five elected at the end.

The main parties would be required, and the other parties would be permitted, to submit their shortlists of two for those nominations to an independent, binding, publicly funded ballot of all registered electors in the relevant area.

This would be extended to local government, with the additional Councillors elected by this means from each of the parts of a given municipal area falling within a particular parliamentary constituency.

All of this could still be put in place in time for the General Election of 2020.

These primary and proportional aspects are essential to the restoration of the powers of Parliament and of local government, and to the extension of those powers beyond their historical limits.

Although the most essential thing of all to that restoration and extension, and then to their entrenchment and protection, is far greater economic equality, so that no one's vote effectively counted far more than anyone else's.

Not Living Up To Its Promise

The great Professor Prem Sikka writes:

Whatever route the government chooses for Brexit it will need to cooperate with other countries, especially our EU neighbours, to combat tax avoidance, tax evasion and money laundering. 

Yet the signs are not very good as the government seems to have chosen non-cooperation. It has snubbed the EU inquiry into the Panama Papers.

Last year, a leak of 11.5m documents and 2.6 terabytes of information from the office of Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm, drew attention to the possible involvement of UK-based companies, accountants, lawyers, bankers and others in alleged organised tax avoidance and money laundering. 

The leaked documents, known as the Panama Papers, showed that some 1,924 UK-based banks, accountants, lawyers and other intermediaries helped to set up opaque corporate structures that processed illicit financial flows. 

Secretive British crown dependencies and overseas territories act as an outpost of the City of London and facilitate the flow of money.

More than 113,000 of the suspect companies were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, 15,000 in the Bahamas and a number were also registered in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. 


In April 2016, the UK government claimed that a special task force was investigating the leak. 

Following the leak, the EU parliament formed a committee of inquiry into money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion, known as the PANA committee, to investigate the issues and develop reforms. 

After months of discussions, it visited London on 9-10 February to take evidence from academics, researchers, accountants, lawyers, banks, HSBC, parliamentary committees, regulators and ministers. 

I was one of the individuals who gave evidence on 9 February. 

On 10 February, the committee was due to meet officials from HM Treasury and Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to learn about the state of its investigations. 

At the last minute, HM Treasury sent a short email and pulled out of the meeting. 

Despite prior discussions, it failed to send any minister or senior civil servant to discuss anything with the PANA committee. 

The HMRC representative was unable to engage fully with the committee. 

Perhaps the Treasury’s snub sends a signal about how the UK will cooperate, or otherwise, with the EU after Brexit. 

It is quite likely that treasury ministers Jane Ellison and/or David Gauke did not show up because they would have been unable to defend the UK’s ineffective regulatory response. 

The UK has a poor record. Previously, inside information provided by HSBC whistleblower Hervé Daniel Marcel Falciani to HMRC showed that the bank’s Swiss branch may have helped wealthy people to evade taxes. 

Only one individual from the Falciani list of some 3,600 potential UK tax evaders has been prosecuted. 

In January 2016, HMRC told the Public Accounts Committee that it had abandoned its criminal investigation

By HMRC’s own admission, there have been only 13 offshore-specific prosecutions since 2009 as it puts more emphasis on making secretive deals than sending a message of zero tolerance. 

Matters are not helped by the fact that the government has systematically hollowed out HMRC. 

Deal making and private manipulations are deeply ingrained in the British system. 

In the US, HSBC was fined $1.9bn

The charge sheet issued by the US Department of Justice said that the bank’s failures permitted “narcotics traffickers and others to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through HSBC subsidiaries, and to facilitate hundreds of millions more in transactions with sanctioned countries”. 

Later on, it emerged that then UK chancellor George Osborne and banking regulators were urging the US regulators to go easy and not to prosecute HSBC. 

The UK cannot succeed in combating illicit financial flows because it has poor regulatory structures. 

There are more than 20 regulators dealing with tax avoidance and money laundering and no one adequately coordinates them, scrutinises them or calls them to account for their silence. 

The regulatory patchwork includes HM Treasury, HMRC, the Financial Conduct Authority, National Crime Agency, Serious Fraud Office, Ministry of Justice, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the Insolvency Service, various professional bodies representing accountants, lawyers, insolvency practitioners and estate agents, to mention just a few. 

The Panama Papers, HSBC and other episodes draw attention to the role of accountants, lawyers and other enablers in facilitating tax evasion and money laundering, but the professional bodies representing them routinely lobby to water down laws and enforcement. 

The same bodies are then expected to investigate and prosecute their own members. 

None owes a duty of care to the public, nor is obliged to reveal the evidence examined by them. 

The result is all too predictable.

On many occasions, judges have declared avoidance schemes developed by accountants to be unlawful but, to this day, not even one accountancy firm has been investigated, prosecuted or fined. 

The UK government’s snub of the EU parliamentary committee is foolish and short-sighted. 

It is hardly a way of making friends for the tough post-Brexit journey ahead. 

In a globalised economy, no country on its own can combat illicit financial flows, and the UK stands to lose more than most because London’s reputation for dirty business will deter honest businesses. 

It will erode the country’s tax base and anger people who pay their taxes only to discover that the government is not living up to its promise of tackling organised tax avoidance/evasion and money laundering.

In All The Places That Were Chic?

I find Owen Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos difficult to tell apart.

But I shan't tell them to get a room. Think of the people in the next room.

"Milo Yiannopoulos's enablers deserve contempt – and must be confronted," announces Jones.

Indeed so.

My ban from the Telegraph's website dates from January 2013, when Damian Thompson dispensed lashings and lashings of Sour Old Fruit (or was it Bitter Lemon?) about Jones.

I posted in reply:

"One from your own era:

Along the boulevards he'd cruise, 
And all the old queens blew a fuse. 

If Owen Jones ends up like Rod Stewart's Georgie, then we shall all know whom to blame."

But Jones would today seem to be in the least physical danger of what has become the trio.

Scab though Owen Jones now is, he nevertheless deserves to be in less physical danger than either Milo "Is That 12-Year-Old Single?" Yiannopoulos or that monster's original Daddy, Damian Thompson.

A Parallel Universe, Indeed


And people wonder why I don't want to be in it.

The Real Problem With Sweden

Civil Right

There is a perfectly reasonable case for civil partnerships to be available to opposite-sex couples. It is not as if those couples would otherwise be getting married. 

Never having needed to be consummated, civil partnerships ought not to be confined to unrelated same-sex couples, or even to unrelated couples generally. 

 That would be a start, anyway. 

Any marrying couple should be entitled to register their marriage as bound by the law prior to 1969 with regard to grounds and procedures for divorce, and any religious organisation should be enabled to specify that any marriage that it conducted should be so bound, requiring it to counsel couples accordingly.

Statute should specify that the Church of England and the Church in Wales each be such a body unless, respectively, the General Synod and the Governing Body specifically resolved the contrary by a two-thirds majority in all three Houses.

There should be similar provision relating to the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, which also exist pursuant to Acts of Parliament, as well as by amendment to the legislation relating to the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy.

Entitlement upon divorce should be fixed by Statute at one per cent of the other party’s estate for each year of marriage, up to 50 per cent, with no entitlement for the petitioning party unless the other party’s fault were proved.

Am I trying to go back to the 1950s? To which features of the 1950s, exactly?

Full employment? Public ownership? The Welfare State? Council housing? Municipal services? Apprenticeships? Free undergraduate tuition?

All of those things were bound up with things like this.

That they have all been eroded or destroyed together has not been a coincidence.

It is not called neoliberalism for nothing.

So Hard To Beat?

Do you have a teenage son, or another teenage boy in your charge?

Is he in the United States, or might you be minded to let him go there?

If so, then you must demand that that country deport Milo Yiannopoulos.

Deport him, alas, to this country. But we can deal with him once he gets here. He is our problem, not the Americans'.

As his world collapses around him, let us move on to others who have expressed similar views, and who have in some cases given them practical political effect.

As that link sets out, Margaret Thatcher fought Victoria Gillick through the courts, thereby establishing a de facto age of consent of 13 or younger without ever bothering to trouble Parliament to approve it.

But Thatcher is dead. The rest of those listed are still alive.

As is Damian Thompson, who is more to blame than anyone else for the emergence of Milo Yiannopoulos. Frankly, we can all work out what was going on there.

This is the golden opportunity to destroy Damian Thompson. It would be rude not to take it.

Our First Step Is To Reclaim Our Humanity


The events that led to Donald Trump’s election started in England in 1975. 

At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, or so the story goes, was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. 

She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table. “This is what we believe,” she said. 

A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun. 

The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek. Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. 

The philosophy was called neoliberalism. It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. 

The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. 

Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. 

Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone. 

This, at any rate, is how it was originally conceived. 

But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy. 

Not every aspect of the neoliberal programme advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap. 

He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. 

He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands. 

Democracy, by contrast, “is not an ultimate or absolute value”. 

In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take. 

He justifies this position by creating a heroic narrative of extreme wealth. 

He conflates the economic elite, spending their money in new ways, with philosophical and scientific pioneers. 

Just as the political philosopher should be free to think the unthinkable, so the very rich should be free to do the undoable, without constraint by public interest or public opinion. 

The ultra rich are “scouts”, “experimenting with new styles of living”, who blaze the trails that the rest of society will follow. 

The progress of society depends on the liberty of these “independents” to gain as much money as they want and spend it how they wish. 

All that is good and useful, therefore, arises from inequality. 

There should be no connection between merit and reward, no distinction made between earned and unearned income, and no limit to the rents they can charge. 

Inherited wealth is more socially useful than earned wealth: “the idle rich”, who don’t have to work for their money, can devote themselves to influencing “fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and beliefs”. 

Even when they seem to be spending money on nothing but “aimless display”, they are in fact acting as society’s vanguard. 

Hayek softened his opposition to monopolies and hardened his opposition to trade unions. 

He lambasted progressive taxation and attempts by the state to raise the general welfare of citizens. 

He insisted that there is “an overwhelming case against a free health service for all” and dismissed the conservation of natural resources. 

It should come as no surprise to those who follow such matters that he was awarded the Nobel prize for economics. 

By the time Thatcher slammed his book on the table, a lively network of thinktanks, lobbyists and academics promoting Hayek’s doctrines had been established on both sides of the Atlantic, abundantly financed by some of the world’s richest people and businesses, including DuPont, General Electric, the Coors brewing company, Charles Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife, Lawrence Fertig, the William Volker Fund and the Earhart Foundation.

Using psychology and linguistics to brilliant effect, the thinkers these people sponsored found the words and arguments required to turn Hayek’s anthem to the elite into a plausible political programme.

Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own right: they were just two faces of neoliberalism.

Their massive tax cuts for the rich, crushing of trade unions, reduction in public housing, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services were all proposed by Hayek and his disciples.

But the real triumph of this network was not its capture of the right, but its colonisation of parties that once stood for everything Hayek detested.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political story, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate.

In other words, they extracted a few elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their opponents believed, and developed from this unlikely combination a “third way”.

It was inevitable that the blazing, insurrectionary confidence of neoliberalism would exert a stronger gravitational pull than the dying star of social democracy.

Hayek’s triumph could be witnessed everywhere from Blair’s expansion of the private finance initiative to Clinton’s repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act, which had regulated the financial sector.

For all his grace and touch, Barack Obama, who didn’t possess a narrative either (except “hope”), was slowly reeled in by those who owned the means of persuasion.

As I warned in April, the result is first disempowerment then disenfranchisement.

If the dominant ideology stops governments from changing social outcomes, they can no longer respond to the needs of the electorate.

Politics becomes irrelevant to people’s lives; debate is reduced to the jabber of a remote elite.

The disenfranchised turn instead to a virulent anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols and sensation.

The man who sank Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency was not Donald Trump. It was her husband.

The paradoxical result is that the backlash against neoliberalism’s crushing of political choice has elevated just the kind of man that Hayek worshipped.

Trump, who has no coherent politics, is not a classic neoliberal.

But he is the perfect representation of Hayek’s “independent”; the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow.

The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want.

The likely result is the demolition of our remaining decencies, beginning with the agreement to limit global warming.

Those who tell the stories run the world. Politics has failed through a lack of competing narratives.

The key task now is to tell a new story of what it is to be a human in the 21st century.

It must be as appealing to some who have voted for Trump and Ukip as it is to the supporters of Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn.

A few of us have been working on this, and can discern what may be the beginning of a story.

It’s too early to say much yet, but at its core is the recognition that – as modern psychology and neuroscience make abundantly clear – human beings, by comparison with any other animals, are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish.

The atomisation and self-interested behaviour neoliberalism promotes run counter to much of what comprises human nature.

Hayek told us who we are, and he was wrong.

Our first step is to reclaim our humanity.

Monday, 20 February 2017

The Far From Famous Five


They are Duddridge, Daniel Kawczynski, Alec Shelbrooke, Karl McCartney and Andrew Bridgen. 

Quite.

But The Dud is holding out for "as many as 23". 

There are 650 members of the House of Commons.

Dangerous, Indeed

In my experience, Milo Yiannopoulos is a particularly vigorous defender of his career-making old patron, Damian Thompson. 

It turns out that Yiannopoulos is also an advocate of sex between older men and "sexually mature" 13-year-old boys.

The United States ought to deport him.

That does mean that we would have to take him back.

But we could, should and would be waiting for him at the airport.

A posse of the mothers of the victims of child sexual abuse might usefully be a component of his welcoming party.

That might also rally against him outside Thompson's home address, which he gives in Who's Who.

Crushing

As UKIP on Merseyside falls apart over Paul Nuttall's lies, Hillsborough continues to haunt British politics and even the wider culture, as the perfect encapsulation of the Britain of the 1980s.

Scousers, Northerners in general, working-class people (perhaps especially men), football supporters in the days before the poshest Prime Minister since 1964 was pretending to support some made-up team: no one cared even if 96 such people were unlawfully killed in a single afternoon.

Indeed, everyone who mattered thought that that killing was a social service, and the whole thing was treated as an object of ridicule for decades.

Again, the perfect encapsulation of Britain in, and since, the 1980s.

But, as the saying goes, "The North Remembers". For ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Bring Your Banners, Bring Your Voices


Kraft Work

I am glad that Kraft has dropped its bid for Unilever.

Recovering the ability to ban this kind of thing will be a very good reason for leaving the EU.

Of course, while it might be one of Theresa May's reasons, it will never be one of, for example, Liam Fox's or Boris Johnson's.

So, for this, we need someone like, oh, Jeremy Corbyn.

Neither Washington Nor Brussels

It May Harm Your Defence

The Police are investigating Paul Nuttall, for his false statement about his address.

The Police are also investigating Theresa May, for her lying leaflet about Stoke's Labour MPs and Article 50.

They are both bang to rights.

But the Police do not hate Paul Nuttal.

They do, however, hate Theresa May.

She'll be nicked first, and with no shortage of tipped off television cameras.

Almost Casually

It hardly seems believable that 10 years have passed since the publication of Simon Jenkins's landmark Thatcher and Sons: A Revolution in Three Acts. Therein, he wrote:

When introducing the Poll Tax, Thatcher had decided almost casually to end local taxes on business property, or rather decided to fix and gather them centrally. These constituted more than half of all local revenue.

She argued that since businesses did not vote (or pay Poll Tax), they should not be vulnerable to continued local taxation, which was often discriminatory against them.

It was not an argument that worried central government in levying corporation tax. The bartering of business taxes was an accepted part of dynamic urban renewal worldwide.

Yet, without any leave or consultation, Thatcher in effect added the local business rates to corporation tax, collected them centrally and redistributed them to their relevant councils by a complex historical formula.

The introduction of Council Tax offered an opportunity to restore business rates to local councils. Major declined to do so.

Labour in Opposition pledged itself to reverse this decision, and then broke its pledge. The Treasury always ruled.

In 1994, the so-called uniform business rate yielded £12.3 billion, against £8.8 billion from the suppressed Council Tax, representing a huge transfer of fiscal control from local government to the centre.

The centralising of the business rate in 1990 was the single biggest act of true nationalisation ever undertaken by a British government, yet it passed virtually unnoticed.

By the end of the Major period, local treasurers reckoned that their discretion to vary their budgets in response to the local franchise had shrunk to near insignificance.

Alert?


I'll say this for the North Koreans, at least their missiles go in the intended direction.

"And Do The Exposing Yourself"

An attack on Jeremy Corbyn worked into an article about autism? 

Nick Cohen is not a well man. 

Really, he isn't.

Alma Mater Needs You

My mate Harry Cross is standing for President of DSU in order to save the real University of Durham. 

That is not an exaggeration. 

The powers that be want to get rid of free Wednesday afternoons. 

They want to get rid of the three weeks of fun and games after the exams. 

And they want a huge increase in student numbers, changing the whole character of the University and the City alike, not least by pushing rents, which are already outrageous, even further through the roof. 

This is a cause worthy of every support. 

Including financial support. If that is allowed. It probably isn't, but check with Harry.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Domestic Service

Taking personal charge of the issue of domestic violence, Prime Minister?

Well, then, you had better do something about all those closed and closing women's refuges.

Sweet Charity


Not only is Labour going to hold Stoke Central, but I would no longer bet against an increased majority.

Nor even against a UKIP third place.

If that latter were indeed to occur, then does anyone seriously imagine that Theresa May would invoke Article 50 by the end of next month?

And if she had not invoked Article 50 by the end of next month, then would anyone expect her to do so at any subsequent time?

Remember that she got the Leadership, and thus the Premiership, precisely because she was a Remainer.

It was not even deemed to be worth having an election over that.

The Labour candidate at Stoke Central is bloody awful.

But the UKIP candidate is even worse. And he is the Leader of UKIP. 

Very probably, he is the last ever Leader of UKIP.

Minding Our Own Business

If I were the European Commission or the European Central Bank, then I would make it my business, so to speak, to buy up the likes of Vauxhall, and Williams & Glyn, and possibly even Unilever.

"Britain can leave the EU if it likes," that would say, "but the EU will not be leaving Britain."

There is nothing to stop that from happening.

Just as there is nothing to stop those bodies from following the lead of numerous foreign states, within the EU and without it, in buying up the key British services and infrastructure that the British State used to own.

The likes of Liam Fox wish to ensure that after Brexit, such acquisitions will not only be just as easy as they are today, but if anything they will be even easier, and even more actively encouraged.

In the meantime, let there be a rescue bid for Vauxhall, and for Williams & Glyn, and possibly even for Unilever, by Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

The Pits

If there is one thing about which the Blairite Right is completely hysterical, then it is anything to do with the miners. 

That hatred is like nothing else in British politics.

Partly, it is because of the Eurocommunist roots of New Labour, as against the world of Mick McGahey and the Morning Star.

And partly, it is an uncomprehending fury, a furious incomprehension, that some people and some places not only voted Labour before the emergence of Tony Blair, but have continued to do so even after what, until yesterday, we had happily assumed to have been his departure from the scene.


A trade union is perfectly free to do whatever it likes with its money, unless it breaks the law.

A trade union with only 10 members, all of them living in the old mining corner of Northumberland, must be nothing if not accountable internally.

But quite apart from either of those points, why are the Murdoch media going after Ian Lavery, anyway?

Murdoch cannot possibly expect any other party to win the Wansbeck seat in the event of a by-election. Rather, he wants a very right-wing Labour MP there.

What are always his achingly posh London hacks additionally want an MP who is less frightfully working-class, who does not have an Irish surname, and who has not lived his entire life in the North East, which they have never visited, and which they imagine to be near Manchester.

¡No pasarán!

The Brexit Collection

My five star review of Ken Bell: 

Bell makes a powerful case for Brexit as the revenge of a working class that has been marginalised and dispossessed since, not only the Thatcher years, but the turn to monetarism under Callaghan.

He argues for strong immigration controls while the present economic system remains in place, in order to prevent the undercutting of wages and the undermining of workers' hard-won rights.

Now resident in Scotland, he calls for Scottish independence outside the EU, pointing out the absurdity of the SNP's opposition to rule from London but support for rule from Brussels. I do not agree with Scottish independence, but Bell's is the logical articulation of that position.

 "The Durham Miners would never wear it," were the words that the British Government of the late 1940s wrote across the plans for the EU's first precursor, before duly sending them back.

That was that. "The Durham Miners would never wear it." So the United Kingdom's answer was no.

That meant the Durham Miners' Association, with its vast network of national and international contacts. But it also meant the miners themselves, who were the basis of that Association's wealth and power.

Yet on the day of the EU referendum, Thursday 23rd June 2016, we learned that in 2015, for the first time on record, more people had died in the North East of England, from which I write, than had been born here.

County Durham voted Leave, and Sunderland, which had been part of the Durham coalfield in the 1940s, shook the international money markets by doing so.

Albeit from a perspective partly in the North West and partly in Scotland, Bell explains why.

Faux Manchu

They said that Obama, too, was a Manchurian Candidate.

And I do mean "they".

Like the birtherism to which it was closely connected, the theory, although enthusiastically taken up by Republicans, originated with the Clintons and their ghastly mob.

They, meanwhile, remained and remain a wholly owned subsidiary of Saudi Arabia.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Four Into Two

Watch out for all four living former Prime Ministers, two of each party, to call for a second referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union.

But they will not be able to include the three living former Deputy Prime Ministers, who are from three different parties, because one of those accepts the result of the referendum that we have already had.

Which one? The Labour one. Of course.

Things Fall Apart?

Not least because there has never been a critical biography of him, there are all sorts of unappreciated things about Tony Blair. 

One is that he is a dedicated Francophile. 

Today, he probably sees himself as de Gaulle. But he far more closely resembles Giscard d'Estaing at Verdun-sur-le-Doubs in 1978.

Giscard identified four elements to the French political opinion of the day: Gaullists, Communists, supporters of Mitterrand's Socialist Party, and those whom he himself had decided to organise into the UDF, which was modestly to be named after his own most recent book.

Blair's vision is not dissimilar.

And Giscard's pro-European and pro-American Presidency of economic and social liberalisation may be seen as the original definition of "the centre" in those arbitrary terms.

Blair's latest initiative may well be those terms' last stand.

And his. Although we have thought that before.

National Health

Paul Nuttall did used to want to privatise the NHS. In his heart of hearts, he probably still does.

Yet today, he called for massively increased spending on it and on the intimately connected social care system.

In Britain, you can lead a major political party and want to abolish the monarchy.

That is probably or certainly the position of the Leaders of two of the three largest parties in the House of Commons.

But you cannot lead even a minor political party and question the State's direct ownership of hospitals staffed by its direct employees.

Those employees provide their services free of charge at the point of need, and they have been trained entirely by the State.

This entire arrangement is altogether beyond question.

Most people would tell you that that simply was Britain; that it was not very far from being the whole point of this country.

If you doubt that, then consider that the Leader of the most right-wing party in Great Britain has had to pay extravagant homage to it today in order to salvage so much as a respectable second place at a forthcoming by-election.

And consider that no party in Northern Ireland would ever dream of questioning it in the slightest.

The DUP might like to pretend that fundamentalist Protestantism was the glue of the Union, and the United Kingdom's defining difference from the Irish Republic.

But it knows perfectly well what really is. And so does everyone else.

Blexit

Labour cannot even be bothered to issue a statement in response to Tony Blair, which is quite extraordinary, when you think about it. 

As is the castigation of him for the Iraq War by Boris Johnson, who voted in favour of it. 

And the Lib Dems say that people who agree with Blair should join them. 

Yet they were no friends of his when he was Prime Minister, and their current Leader's views on everything else do not chime with his in the least.

"People Are Entitled To Change Their Minds"

You'd know, Tony Blair.

You'd know.

These days, even the Leader of UKIP, who was a Conservative activist when you were Prime Minister, wants to be taken for Old Labour.

The policy proposals of the Conservative and the Liberal Democrat Leaders would have precluded their service in your Government.

The policy proposals of the Leader of the Labour Party did preclude service in your Government, and caused him to vote against it 500 times.

With no party description, I shall be contesting the new seat of Durham West and Teesdale in 2020. The Labour MP for most of it will be retiring.

So, an open seat, right here in your old County Durham stomping ground. 

Tony Blair, you can either put up, or shut up.

The New Normal

"Working-class communities"? "Heating or eating"? A war on VAT?

In the voice of Len McCluskey, Paul Nuttall impersonates the rhetoric, and even the specific policy agenda, of Dennis Skinner and Ronnie Campbell, of Angela Rayner and Richard Burgon.

Unlike Theresa May, Nuttall did not join the Conservative Party of Ted Heath. Like me, he was not born until after Heath had ceased to be Leader.

It never ceases to amaze me that Nuttall is only 10 months older than I am, which makes him younger than the Beckhams, younger than Ant and Dec.

Such, though, is in fact the case.

He joined the Conservative Party that imposed VAT on domestic fuel and power, after it had done all manner of other things to working-class communities.

Yet listen to him today.

The progress of Britain towards sinistrisme is almost complete.

Leave won the EU referendum in, from its own point of view, all the wrong places.

The places that voted Leave essentially demanded their mines, steelworks and factories back, complete with the unions and everything.

The places that benefited from Thatcherism voted Remain so heavily that the Lib Dems are on course to take dozens of seats from the Conservatives in 2020, leading to a hung Parliament.

The explicit policy commitment that swung the referendum was the promise of an extra £350 million per week for the National Health Service.

The Conservatives did not even have an election in order to install a Leader who wanted workers' representatives on boards, control of pay disparities within companies, and much else besides.

Labour has massively re-elected the massively elected Jeremy Corbyn, whose very presence shifts the debate in directions that had previously been unimaginable.

The Lib Dems have their most left-wing Leader ever, who is especially far to the left of the last one.

And now this, from the Leader of UKIP. Yes, UKIP.

Led by Corbyn, however, Labour is still going to beat even him at Stoke Central.

Think on.

Rise Up With Blair?

The poor, deluded old soul is just a tragic figure now.

His occasional Norman Desmond interventions, such as this one, have nothing of the emotional power of the original. 

No, dear, you are not still big.