Friday 30 September 2016

There's Only One Thing Worse Than Being Talked About

Gosh, how some people spend their Friday afternoons. Oh, well, there's only one thing worse than being talked about. I have been forwarded the following charming missive, which was sent today to all Conservative and Independent members of Durham County Council, and which was copied to various local and national media:

Jeremy Corbyn and his allies are moving to install their friend and ally David Lindsay of Lanchester as the MP for the new seat of Durham West and Teesdale, with or without the official endorsement of the Labour Party that Lindsay was expelled from by Tony Blair and Hilary Armstrong for opposing the war in Iraq. Lindsay is a crippled, mixed race, foreign born Leftist and Romanist while that constituency is largely represented by Conservative and Independent councillors. Yet there are dark mutterings that Independent councillors might sign his nomination papers and campaign for him. All Conservatives and Independents must state immediately that they will campaign for a white, English, Protestant candidate whose body declared the truth of white excellence. Those who do not, be in no doubt: true Nationalists will be put up against you and will defeat you at next year’s county council elections.

I have no intention of engaging with the sender. But I have told the Councillors that the obvious way to indicate that, as of course we all knew, these were not in any way their views, was to undertake to sign my nomination papers and to campaign for my election.

But today has been a busy day in another corner of the Internet, too. The letters pages of the national and local papers have been graced with the following, copied to all Labour Councillors for wards that will fall within the new constituency, and duly passed on to me:

We are extremely concerned that the MP for the new seat of West Durham and Teesdale may well be the allegedly left-wing David Lindsay of Lanchester. He is a member of no political party, but he is a well-known and highly active ally of Jeremy Corbyn’s, and he is a close friend of several of Corbyn’s own closest friends in Durham and Newcastle.

David Lindsay advocates “balanced migration”, on the grounds that immigration controls are necessary in order to deliver public services. He opposes all of the usual measures against climate change, and it is not clear that he even believes in global warming caused by human activity. He supports nuclear power alongside coal. He has links to Fathers 4 Justice. He is a firm believer in “the national and parliamentary sovereignty of the United Kingdom”. He is a vicar’s son who became a Catholic during his Theology degree. He works closely with local Lib Dems, Tories and Tory “Independents”. His candidacy is supported by all “Independent” Durham County Councillors.

That David Lindsay seriously might be elected to Parliament raises grave questions about the toleration of him and of similar figures, such as Ronnie Campbell and George Galloway, by Jeremy Corbyn, Momentum, Red Labour, Unite Community, the Durham Miners’ Association, the County Durham Teaching Assistants Activists Committee, the Labour Representation Committee, the Socialist Campaign Group, the National Health Action Party, the Pirate Party, the Communist Party of Britain, the Morning Star, the Socialist Labour Party, Left Unity, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, Counterfire, Spiked, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Socialist Appeal, Socialist Action, FBU, ASLEF, RMT and TSSA. We serve notice that a truly left-wing, Socialist candidate will be fielded against David Lindsay. Not least, we serve that notice to all Labour Councillors in West Durham and Teesdale.

Alliance for Green Socialism, Anarchist Federation, Class War, Communist League, Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee), Communist Workers Organisation, Independent Working Class Association, International Socialist League, Labour Party Marxists, New Communist Party of Britain, Revolutionary Communist Group, Socialist Equality Party, Socialist Party of Great Britain, Socialist Resistance, Solidarity Federation, Spartacist League of Britain, Workers’ Fight, Workers Revolutionary Party, World Revolution.

Are all of those even real? Anyway, as I have explained to all of the recipients, as well to to all the organisations and publications named in the letter itself, my views are as set out here and here.

I positively look forward to beating an ultra-Left candidate in 2020. Come one, come all, to campaign for me and against that candidate, on the basis set out in those links.

As the sender, of whom I had never heard, put it, if you can cope with Ronnie Campbell or George Galloway, then you can cope with me.

Please note the PayPal button on this site.

Cute In A Stupid Ass Way?

If it is indeed through her father that Jackie Walker is of Jewish descent, then I stand corrected.

Although that would have been enough to have had her killed in the Holocaust.

But she has been most impolitic. And this is politics.

The Maturing of Momentum

Jackie Walker is toast. A pity. I met her once. She was nice. But politics is a rough old trade.

Say what you like about Momentum's teenagers, but Jon Lansman is 59 and he has been politically active since the Dawn of Time. He knows what he's doing.

Then there is the obsession of Jeremy Corbyn's enemies with the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, which could fit comfortably onto a double decker bus.

The AWL is quite pro-Israeli; it pays a certain price for that within the Far Left. That may have had an influence here.

Something else, perhaps a bit delicate, may also be in play. Lansman grew up Orthodox. He is a Jew of the Jews.

Whereas Walker, although born of a Jewish mother and all that, quite clearly has other dimensions to her heritage.

Anyway, she's toast. And that will be a rite of passage for Momentum. A maturing of it.

Like the fact that Labour Party Marxists, which makes the AWL look like a Taylor Swift concert, is already critical of it.

Thursday 29 September 2016

The Ins and Outs of It All

I am not convinced that Labour has ever lost any votes at all because of immigration.

The UKIP voters in Labour seats used to vote Tory. UKIP has never taken a seat from Labour. And now, it never will.

The very heavily public school tabloid press has projected all sorts of prejudices onto "the white working class", while in turn defining it as "traditional Labour voters".

But, at least by that definition, that projection is not borne out by the slightest electoral evidence.

Information Exchange

I am still banned from several prominent websites because I have been pointing out the ties between Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt on the one hand, and the Paedophile Information Exchange on the other, for something like 15 years.

The media always knew about them. But they chose to ignore them until they needed to distract attention from Patrick Rock.

For several months, Tom Watson's campaign against child abuse in high places made him a hero to the papers and websites that now howl him down.

But then it came close to the Thatcher Government and to the Leaderene's own court, which was an astonishing nest of pederasty, as was widely understood at the time, to the point of making it into Our Friends in the North and the original House of Cards trilogy.

Suddenly, it was all "a witch hunt", and every sinew had to be strained in order to shut it down. That process is very much ongoing.

A lot of my friends voted for Watson and now wish that they hadn't. But I still think that he and Jeremy Corbyn balance each other well. I cannot see the criticism of Corbyn in Watson's speech this week.

And I am damned if I am going to sit by and let his head be handed on a plate to the protectors of Sir Leon Brittan, Sir Jimmy Savile, Sir Peter Morrison, Sir Cyril Smith, Sir Laurens van der Post, and the woman who knighted the lot of them.

Limited Thinking

If Jeremy Corbyn had mentioned unlimited immigration, then there would have been no other news yesterday or today.

As it is, only people commenting on the unintentionally funnier websites seem determined to pretend that he did.

But so what? Who listens to them? Ask them about UKIP.

Out of interest, has any country ever had unlimited immigration?

But every country would have it, if the people who funded the Conservative Party had their way.

Those people also fund Corbyn's internal Labour enemies. In fact, several of them are those enemies.

The Gates of Zion

For obvious historical reasons, there are a lot of Jews in the Labour Party.

But how many of them have ever even heard of this thing, "the Jewish Labour Movement"?

It seems to be almost synonymous with the almost defunct Israeli Labor Party. As much as anything else, how's that for ties to people with anti-British terrorist pasts?

And then there is "the Campaign Against Antisemitism UK". That is plain and simple right-wing astroturfing, and it is duly treated with complete seriousness by the anti-Corbyn media, which is all of them.

Since when did the Tories like Jews, anyway? In office, they have never even been particularly fond of Israel.

Unlike Tony Blair, who wanted to conscript British teenagers directly into the IDF if they left school with few or no qualifications.

Theresa May seems to have sidelined the fanatics who wanted to force feed West Bank settlements' produce via British local authorities. If that one came back, then it would be only in order make some anti-Corbyn point.

Moreover, what would be the reaction of the right-wing websites if it were suggested that the self-appointed spokesmen of any other tiny ethnic minority should have a veto over the parameters of political debate, and that in the interests of a foreign state?

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Give No Quarter

Congratulations to the BBC (yes, really) on having pointed out that Durham County Council already paid its Teaching Assistants a quarter less than neighbouring authorities.

Yet the Council proposes to cut that by a further 23 per cent.

All That Is Certain Is That Nothing Is Certain

All of the best people have been sacked from Telegraph Blogs, back in the days before the Telegraph itself simply killed the thing off. But we are all still around. Including Gerald Warner:

You would have to go back to Mafeking Night to cite an outburst of hysterical joy equivalent to the current celebrations of the Labour Party’s obsequies.

Labour is dead. One of the two great parties of state – Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition – is deceased. 

The entire thesaurus of mortality is being employed in this Dead Parrot Sketch as the forces of free-market liberalism hail their accession to monopoly power for a seemingly endless futurity. 

Does no small voice whisper its disquiet in the ears of the revellers?

Is there no stirring of doubt, no unease, no pause to question whether political life is ever so simple, so consistent or so irreversible? 

Is there no remote possibility that the so-called “centre-right” is dancing around an empty coffin?

Could those who have declared The Party We Love to be defunct have rushed prematurely to judgement? 

It would not be the first time.

The Tory Party was officially pronounced dead as long ago as 1714 and 1832. Labour was interred, alive as it turned out, in 1955 and 1983. 

The Conservatives were pronounced in a persistent vegetative state from 1997 to 2010.

All of these situations were eventually reversed. 

Of course, many of those dancing in the streets are familiar with these precedents. 

Most of them allow the likelihood of an eventual recovery, but so far ahead as to be a disallowable contingency within their own political lifetimes. 

By conventional reckoning that is a reasonable assumption. The problem is we no longer live in times when any of the recent conventions are any longer applicable. 

The changes overtaking public life not only in Britain but across the developed world are so seismic that nobody – absolutely nobody – possesses a reliable map of the political landscape. 

Contemporary politics is in a state of permanent seismic upheaval; every movement of the tectonic plates provokes further shock waves and all the well-known landmarks are being eradicated. 

Terrain that was as familiar to politicians as the faces of family members is now Terra Incognita. 

It is in that context the supposed death of Labour smacks of hubris. 

Labour is dead as surely as was any remote prospect of Brexit five years ago. 

In a polity where Brexit has happened anything is possible and the last people to detect the next upheaval will be the politicians and commentators. 

Yes, Labour could die off, like the Rockingham Whigs. Or it might take 15 to 20 years to recover. 

Or, equally – and this is not a prospect one could have entertained under the pre-Brexit dispensation – Labour could form a majority government in 2020.

Ridiculous? Yes, probably [Why?]. But not certainly, not any more. 

Remember the Oldham by-election at the end of last year, which was expected to proclaim the unelectability of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn? 

In the event Labour increased its share of the vote to 62 per cent. 

That, of course, is no longer a reliable reference since Corbyn and Labour have gone through many credibility-destroying, voter-alienating contortions since then which must have eroded potential support [like what, exactly?]. 

That offers no comfort to the Conservatives since, even though the old tribal lock on voters’ sympathies has been loosed, crossing from Labour to Tory is an unlikely move when UKIP, strengthened by the referendum victory, is available and newly credible. 

The Conservatives, too, have a concealed vulnerability: their core vote, alienated by David Cameron (initially by Theresa May) has long departed to UKIP. 

The Tories are a party like a mint with a hole in the centre. 

Labour’s best hope would be to toughen its anti-immigration stance while persisting in proclaiming socialism. 

That is not the suicidal course free marketers presume. Conviction politics are increasingly replacing discredited consensus politics.

The next recession, triggered by a banking collapse – whether Deutsche Bank or another – and magnified by the euro crisis, could find the British electorate terminally disenchanted with market forces.

All that has happened institutionally to Labour is that, as with its experience of Militant Tendency, it has again fallen victim to a coup by Trotskyite entryists [it didn't then, and it hasn't now]. 

What is far more significant and large-scale and unpredictable is the continuing alienation of Western electorates from establishment politics. 

The terms “left” and “right” no longer apply. The political class has cried wolf about “extremism” too often: nobody is listening any more. 

In France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands “right-wing” forces are the beneficiaries; in Greece, Spain, Portugal the left is in the ascendant; in eastern Europe, notably the Visegrad Group states, traditionalist forces are the new establishment. 

To predict the outcome of the next decade you would do as well to start investigating pigeon entrails as to study polls and electoral punditry. 

All that is certain is that nothing is certain. 

We are experiencing a revolution, so far without pitchforks and other totemic accessories but every bit as world-changing. 

The tyranny called Political Correctness, above all, is on the critical list. It has exhausted, as the Chinese used to say, the mandate of heaven. 

The political class long ago contemptuously abandoned any attempt to understand those it ruled.  Now, in increasing terror, it is flying blindfolded into the future. 

Amid this mounting chaos the future of Labour is of small moment. 

But for those with the compass to eschew hubris it is an icon of unpredictability, in a time of unparalleled uncertainty.

Even As A Tory

Peter Oborne writes:

According to the British media class, the last week has been an unmitigated disaster for Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Don’t believe a word of it.

According to the received version of events, Jeremy Corbyn leads a split party, has zero chance of winning the next election, and is driven by a demented political ideology which will take Britain back to the worst days of the 1970s.

As a Tory, I don't share many of Corbyn's political beliefs, but I am certain that most of what is written about the Labour leader is false. 

The truth is that Corbyn has had an outstanding week which has vindicated everything he has ever done and said as a man and a politician – a point that the Labour leader drove home in his superb leader’s speech from Liverpool this afternoon. 

The achievement is colossal, and Corbyn is still growing into his job.

This week has won a massive endorsement from Labour Party members – and on a scale which would leave most politicians open mouthed with envy.

More significant still, it is the second endorsement he has secured from Labour Party members in just 12 months.

This means that Corbyn is now unchallengeable as Labour leader. He has not simply defeated his opponents. He has routed them.

He therefore has the strongest mandate of any opposition leader since Tony Blair in 1994.

The hard way 

Unlike Tony Blair, Corbyn has to do it the hard way. 

He has achieved his triumph in the face of hostility from a deeply unfair and partisan British media, much of which is openly determined to destroy him and distort his actions.

He has been forced to pay a very high price for challenging conventional opinion. 

But in the space of barely a year, he has reinvented Labour as a political party, taking Labour Party membership from 200,000 in the wake of the 2015 election, to more than 500,000 today. 

He has done this by reinventing public discourse itself. 

He has abandoned the discredited politics of spin and manipulation associated both with Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair’s New Labour and David Cameron’s Tories. 

Corbyn is not by any means a great orator, but he speaks in the simple, intelligible language of ordinary people. 

I've been a political journalist for nearly 25 years and there is no question that Jeremy Corbyn should be celebrated for ushering in this new kind of politics. 

Breaking the old model 

As he explicitly set out in his hugely important speech this afternoon, Corbyn has broken from the consensus politics of the last quarter of a century. 

From the rise of Tony Blair in 1994 until the general election of 2015, there was – to use Corbyn’s potent phrase from Liverpool today – a "political stitch up" between the main political parties. 

There was an unspoken agreement between Tories and Labour that they would only work within very constrained parameters. 

The Cameron Conservative Party and the Blairite Labour Party both advocated near identical spending and taxation targets. 

They both supported the marketisation of the public sector. They both agreed the same neoliberal economic model. 

In foreign policy terms, both main parties accepted British subordination to the United States of America, and therefore a neoconservative doctrine of armed intervention in order to advance the interests of the West in the Middle East and elsewhere. 

Nobody can claim that these twin doctrines – neoliberalism at home and neoconservatism abroad – were successful. 

They led to debacles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, as well as the banking crash of 2008. 

But anyone who challenged these two orthodoxies was politically marginalised.

This afternoon, Corbyn became the first leader of a mainstream political party to directly challenge this paradigm, with his assertion that "the old model is broken and we’re in a new era".

Corbyn deserves almost unlimited credit for offering an alternative.

Support, leave - or conspire? 

Corbyn's triumph does, however, create a real difficulty for his many opponents inside the Labour parliamentary party.

They have been overwhelmingly defeated not just once, but twice. It is time that they acknowledged that they have been beaten.

There are two honourable ways that they can do this.

They must either come out and support Jeremy Corbyn as he tries to implement the settled, democratic will of the Labour Party.

That means taking front bench jobs and supporting the leadership as it sets out its distinctive vision for the future of Britain or - at the very least - supporting Corbyn loyally from the back-benches.

Alternatively, they should leave the party altogether. This would be a painful course of action – but entirely honourable.

The Blairites are completely at liberty to set up their own political organisation, just as Shirley Williams and David Owen set up the Social Democratic Party in despair of what they saw as the far-left wing taking over the Labour Party in the 1980s.

They can then test their popularity with the electorate.

The third course of action is to continue to behave as they have over the last 12 months, and to carry on conspiring against and undermining Corbyn.

That would be deeply dishonourable and wrong, but on past performance entirely in character.

There are some intriguing parallels between the disloyalty of Blairite Labour MPs towards Corbyn and the attitude of the Egyptian deep state towards President Mohamed Morsi after he was elected president in free democratic elections in 2012.

The Egyptian Army and intelligence services, the business elite and the Nasserite left simply refused to recognise the legitimacy of multiple elections and would not enable Morsi to govern.

They had their way, but the democratic transition was set back years in the process.

So far, that has been the approach of Hilary Benn, Tom Watson, Ben Bradshaw and the other Labour wreckers and saboteurs.

They are refusing to accept that Corbyn has a democratic mandate and, as a result, are determined to destroy him from within.

Corbyn has earned his chance. He proved with his fine speech this afternoon that he has a vision.

Labour MPs should now give him his chance to prove that he can reshape a new kind of British politics.

God knows that it is badly needed.

Even as a Tory, for the health of the British political system, I wish him all the luck in the world.


Sheila Coleman, the Hillsborough campaigner who introduced Jeremy Corbyn this afternoon, signed the nomination papers of a non-Labour council candidate earlier this year.

Well, what if she did?

There are former Conservative MPs in receipt of the Labour Whip in the House of Lords, as there have been in the House of Commons.

Coleman is clearly being lined up for a parliamentary seat.

Perhaps Liverpool Walton, once the Hillsborough survivor and Corbyn's erstwhile PPS, Steve Rotheram, has been elected as Merseyside's Metro Mayor?

Or perhaps Coleman's home area, which is currently part of Liverpool Riverside, but the boundary changes are coming?

No one in Liverpool is going to say no to the actual Sheila Coleman of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

And what of her past dalliances with TUSC? Well, what of them?

There are former Conservative MPs in receipt of the Labour Whip in the House of Lords, as there have been in the House of Commons.

Although there is no evidence that Coleman is of that persuasion, Britain is possibly the only country where a moderately well-informed member of the voting public would know the word "Trotskyist".

Three of them sat overtly as Members of Parliament in the 1980s and early 1990s, although there were more of them than that on the Green Benches at the time.

The All-Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation, which made no bones about being the Militant Tendency, brought down Margaret Thatcher.

Don't take either my word or Militant's for that. Read the extremely bitter account of it in her own autobiography.

Had the Poll Tax survived to the advent of Tony Blair, then "regretfully" keeping it in place would have been a shibboleth of New Labour, not least because the opposition to it came from Militant.

Likewise, had apartheid South Africa survived to that advent, and they missed each other by only a matter of months, then a "realistic engagement" with it would have matched the cover that previous Labour Governments had provided for it at the UN.

The opposition, which was always treated as part of the "Loony Left" when that term was current, would have been left to an alliance between the churches and the Communist Party. Just as it had been under those Governments.


The United States Senate has voted to override President Obama's veto of a Bill allowing the families of victims of the 11th September attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.

How hard can it be to beat the British party that funds itself by permitting the sale of arms to that regime?

That is also the party of fracking.

And it is the party of Secondary Moderns, which cannot not exist where there are grammar schools, and which must be attended by the great majority of pupils.

Or is it?

Expect the grammar schools announcement next week to be very weak indeed. Don't expect much, if anything, on fracking.

And don't bet against a suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

It is this week's Conference that has set the agenda.

Premium Rated

They'll mock the arts pupil premium.

Ask them whether they'd send their own children to any school that didn't do these things.


Two big things from Jeremy Corbyn's speech.

First, Brexit will set us free to pursue an interventionist economic policy, and to refuse to privatise public services; everyone has always known that those were his real views.

And secondly, he has thrown down quite a gauntlet to Theresa May next week, to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

That got a standing ovation in the middle of a speech, something that is normally quite rare. Although it was not rare on this occasion.

Grave Dugdale

Many years ago, in the days before Twitter, I was denied a nomination to stand for the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party.

That was due to the machinations of Hilary Armstrong, whom I vaguely assume must be dead by now, and of her besotted teaboy, whose name escapes me.

But oh, what a lucky escape.

I'd probably still be there. Struggling to be noticed in the dazzling light of Kezia Dugdale.

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Fee Fie

Undergraduate tuition fees are in the news again, I see.

Their introduction may or may not have been many things. But it was certainly not the worst thing that the Blair Government ever did.

Nor was increasing them the worst thing that the Lib Dems either facilitated, or did directly, during the Coalition.

You can tell a very great deal about people from how much fuss they make of this issue, in particular.

Not the Work Capability Assessment under New Labour and then the Coalition. Not the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

But deferred payment of a proportion of undergraduate tuition fees.

The S Word

"Tony Blair talked about "Education, Education, Education". But Theresa May wants "Segregation, Segregation, Segregation"."

Barnstorming stuff from Angela Rayner, who is on her way to the very top.

The use of the S word locates this struggle within that of the Civil Rights movement from Rosa Parks onwards.

It casts Theresa May as Bull Connor.

This is wholly fitting for Rayner, who is a stalwart supporter of the Durham Teaching Assistants.

We may only hope that Simon Henig will one day experience the contrition that did eventually come to George Wallace.

An Insult To The Lib Dems

Although they have been stalwart supporters of the Durham Teaching Assistants, I carry no candle for the Lib Dems.

But it is an insult to them to suggest that they might provide a political home for the people who waged the Iraq War, and who attempted to make it possible to lock people up for 90 days without charge.

Those being, of course, the people who are planning to sack the Durham Teaching Assistants and then to reappoint them on a 23 per cent pay cut.

On all three of these issues, the Lib Dems have been, and are, in agreement with Jeremy Corbyn.

Premier Problems

Other than the couple of dozen people whose numbers are in the BBC's phones, the Labour Party is clearly in very good heart this week.

By contrast, next week's Conservative Party Conference threatens to descend into mayhem over the total lack of Brexit on the part of a Leader who came to that office (not to the office of Prime Minister, which is a different matter) without any election whatever.

Those in the hall will cheer her non-committal commitment to grammar schools, as their Labour counterparts used to cheer Blair's to the abolition of hereditary peers and to a ban on foxhunting.

But neither of those things ever quite happened. Blair never even voted for the hunting ban.

And even the attempts at them certainly never caused anyone, except perhaps Labour MPs, to forget about PFIs or the Iraq War.

The present Conservative Prime Minister may well turn out to have been only the second of this Parliament's three.

As for people who say that Labour will never return to office, they said exactly the same thing about the Conservatives 15 years ago. The same individuals used the same words.

Peter Hitchens, in particular, has been giving the Conservative Party less than 10 years to live for about 20 years. Now that he is saying the same thing about Labour, keep that in mind.

The Pits

Today, 12 noon, Derby Square, Liverpool.

Rally on the almost unbelievable scandal of the miners' stolen pensions.

A Sect for London Students?

Not Blair's Good War

Craig Murray sets the record straight on Sierra Leone.

Both Local and National Importance

With my emphasis added, Katie Dickinson writes:

Durham County Council has joined calls for a public inquiry into the police operation at Orgreave during the miners’ strike.

Last week saw reports that home secretary Amber Rudd was set to approve an investigation into the violent clashes between thousands of officers and pickets at the South Yorkshire coking plant in June 1984.

Now the county council has unanimously passed a resolution, with support from members of all political parties, recognising the events of that day as “of both local and national importance”. 

Councillors have asked for a review of what happened, and requested that the government holds meaningful discussions with the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, the National Union of Mineworkers and concerned MPs. 

During the confrontation 95 miners including four from the Durham coalfield faced trumped up charges including riot which has a maximum life sentence. 

All the charges were later dropped after allegations of police fabricating evidence and 39 miners received compensation. 

Coun Joy Allen, the council’s cabinet member for safer communities, said: 

“In Durham, miners and their families were adversely affected by the events of 18 June 1984, in terms of wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, ill-health, family breakdown and lost jobs. 

“An investigation into the military style policing used on that day is long overdue and only a full public inquiry can investigate this.” 

Coun Rob Crute, who proposed the resolution, said:

“Perhaps the most disturbing outcome of that day’s events was the effect it had on the manner of policing at subsequent events.

“Without effective controls some police clearly came to believe that they could act with impunity.

“The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign was set up to lead calls for a public inquiry into the events that took place, including methods used by South Yorkshire police during and after the event which included wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and false prosecution.

“Surely the time is now right to show solidarity with the OTJC and join calls for a public inquiry into the policing tactics used at Orgreave.

“Perhaps this could be similar in structure to the independent panel established to investigate the tragic events at Hillsborough.” 

The operation during the year long miners’ strike was led by South Yorkshire police.

Five years later the same force was subsequently shown to have used similar tactics to blame Liverpool fans for the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 supporters died.

The Home Office has not confirmed that a decision has been made, and says there will be an announcement before the end of October.

Monday 26 September 2016

A Rocket Up The Racket

Some of us do not think that nuclear weapons and NATO membership were the only good things that the Attlee Government ever did.

Indeed, some of us wonder why anyone, anywhere on the political spectrum, would wish to vote for a weapons system that by 2020 will be subject to either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Or to vote for a military alliance that committed us to the defence of Erdogan's Turkey while presuming to demand two per cent of our GDP.

In the constituency containing Lanchester, and now expected to be called West Durham and Teesdale, no one will have to vote for either of those things.

From anywhere on the political spectrum, everyone in that constituency will be able to vote for me instead.

Oliver's Twist

My gender neutral pronoun, Oliver Kamm, always used to claim that he had not been a Labour Party member since some point in the Kinnock years.

Yet today, he has ostentatiously cut up a Labour Party membership card with his own name on it, and posted it on Twitter.

Has he been telling fibs? Surely not?

Strategy, Indeed

John McDonnell announced policies that would already be taken as read in any Western country apart from this one and the only other one of which the media megaphones have ever heard.

The principle of the Living Wage, which is a concept of Papal origin (as is the term "social justice"), has already been conceded by the Government. The only question is as to the rate.

An industrial strategy is so controversial that there is already a Department of State with "Industrial Strategy" in its name.

Expect Theresa May to pick up that idea of giving workers first refusal when a company is to be sold or wound up. It is very her.

How can anyone not believe that tax-dodging companies ought to be ineligible for taxpayer-funded contracts?

And McDonnell brought out his inner Brexiteer when he promised "a renaissance of British manufacturing" after Brexit, while pledging to guarantee the funding currently provided by the EU, out of our own net contributions, to areas that largely voted Leave, anyway.

"Brexit means Brexit," repeats May. "Brexit means this," replies McDonnell, challenging her to match it.

Of course, these things remain opposed by 172 Labour MPs. But who gives a stuff about them?

Fracking Genius

Even if the shale gas is really there, then the places that may or may not have it do not want to be fracked. It is not as if they need the money.

Meanwhile, no one disputes that the coal is there. And the places that have it certainly do want it to be mined again, since they certainly do need the money, which they used to have.

Sunday 25 September 2016

Caption Competition

Don’t Be Bamboozled Again

If you ever were. I never was. But then, nor was Jeremy Corbyn. Or, indeed, Peter Hitchens:

Almost everyone (barring a tiny knot of deluded losers) knows that Saddam Hussein had no WMD.

Most people now grasp that Colonel Gaddafi wasn’t planning a massacre in Benghazi or ordering his troops to engage in mass rapes. 

How long will it be before we also grasp that neither Russia nor Syria bombed a UN aid convoy in Aleppo? 

This incident, about which almost no independently testable, checkable facts have yet been produced, is the WMD of Syria.

If we all fall for it, then we shall very soon find ourselves embroiled in the most dangerous international confrontation since the Cuban missile crisis. 

Under immense pressure from the despots of Saudi Arabia, the USA will not give up its efforts to overthrow the Syrian government. It is clear that it is now prepared to risk an open confrontation with Moscow to achieve this.

Why? Who do they think they are, and how can their cause be so good that they take such risks?

The deliberate sabotage of a workable peace deal in Syria (opposed from the start by the Pentagon) is one of the scandals of our age.

There was a chance we might end the misery of millions, and it was thrown away.

We in Britain must resist being dragged into a Syrian war, not least because, if we are, it will not be long before any troops we send there are being hounded in their own country for alleged war crimes.

We’ve been fooled enough by this propaganda.

Don’t be bamboozled again.

Saturday 24 September 2016


The #LeavingLabour and #GoodbyeLabour lot are off to the Lib Dems, who were no friends of Blairism at the time.

Thus will they complete the set.

Having wreaked havoc on, in and through first Labour and then the Conservatives, they will now wreak havoc on, in and through the Lib Dems.

But who will be the Jeremy Corbyn or the Theresa May, to clean up after them this time?

As Unelectable Does

In the nine hours since Jeremy Corbyn's victory, fifteen thousand people have joined the Labour Party.

Let that sink in.

Education, Not Segregation

Patrick McLoughlin of the UDM reminds us that the Blair Government allowed the expansion of existing grammar schools.

In fact, I recently had to explain to a young comrade that Blair had not simply brought back grammar schools around the time of my interlocutor's birth.

To him, it just sounded like the kind of thing that Blair must have done.

As, come to that, it does.

Jez We Did Again

62,000 more votes for Jeremy than last year, and an increased percentage from 59.5 to 61.8.

Funny how the BBC can't find a single Corbyn supporter to interview, considering that there are 313,209 of them. But hey, ho.

Soap and Lather

Larry Sanders is not going to win Witney. But at least he is going to lose fair and square.

His brother was robbed by a Democratic National Committee that was as Jim Crow as ever, and which was therefore determined to nominate the woman who had originated the birtherism that even Donald Trump has now disavowed.

As to the other by-election, although very few people have appeared in all three of EastEnders, Emmerdale and Coronation Street, how is that, in itself, a qualification to be a Member of Parliament?

Do we know anything else about Tracy Brabin? Is there anything else to know about Tracy Brabin?

Is she moderate enough to have opposed from the start Tony Blair's extremist privatisation of England's public services in general and NHS in particular (the root cause of its current financial woes), as well as his continuation of the previous Conservative Government's extremist assaults on civil liberties, including the extremist evisceration both of the House of Commons and of local government continuously since 1979?

Is she moderate enough to have opposed the extremist and abandoned austerity programme of the sacked extremist, George Osborne, unlike the Liberal Democrats until May 2015, unlike the Labour front bench until September 2015, unlike the Conservative Party until July 2016, and unlike 172 Labour MPs to this day?

Is she moderate enough to have opposed every extremist military intervention of the last 20 years, unlike the Liberal Democrats on all but one occasion, unlike the Conservative front bench and almost all Conservative MPs on each and every occasion, unlike the Labour front bench on every occasion until Jeremy Corbyn became Leader, and unlike one third of Labour MPs even after that?

Is she moderate enough to accept the outcome of the EU referendum (whatever may or may not result from it in practice), like most Labour Party members, but unlike most Labour MPs, extremists that they are?

And is she moderate enough to support Theresa May on workers' representation, on the restriction of pay disparities, and on the Orgreave Inquiry that is inevitable now that the idea has been floated, all of which are opposed by the extremists who massively predominate in the Parliamentary Labour Party?

If not, then the squalid free pass that has been given to Labour at Batley and Spen by the Conservatives, by the Liberal Democrats, by the Greens and by UKIP ought to be turned to the advantage of such a moderate candidate from outside the Labour Party.

Friday 23 September 2016

Crisis, What Crisis?

From today, I have exactly one year in which to arrange a midlife crisis.

But a prominent Corbyn activist, who was previously a considerable political insider at federal level in Canada, wished me Happy Birthday on Facebook by describing me as "a sartorial icon".

While a very young activist, of whom we shall all be hearing a great deal in the coming decades, did so by calling me "a sartorial hero".

Therefore, I cannot go losing it when I turn 40 next year. I may not do so. I must not do so. I shall not be entitled to do so.

For there are people who look to me, who rely on me, who depend upon me, to set the very tone of the Movement.

Locally Sauced

Last night, Labour won four local council by-elections.

It took two seats from the Conservatives.

It took one from the SNP. Under STV in Scotland, remember.

And it held Chopwell and Rowlands Gill, which, though in Gateshead in name if not necessarily in spirit, will be part of the new parliamentary constituency of West Durham and Teesdale.

Chopwell is of course England's Little Moscow, with Scotland's at the Vale of Leven, and with Wales's at Maerdy.

But no one has ever called Rowlands Gill "Little Moscow", and it has twice the population of Chopwell.

Also last night, the Conservatives lost two local council by-elections to the Liberal Democrats.

These are the real votes that are being in cast in Britain at the moment.

British Journalism At Its Finest

Thursday 22 September 2016

Vexed, Indeed

I am not surprised that Colonel Tim Collins is.

There will be no class protection for him.

Would the success of these cases make it impossible for Britain to embark on these adventures again? Perhaps so.

But what ought to do that should be the election of politicians of that mind.

No Blond Bombshell

Of course Boris Johnson didn't really want a Leave vote.

Nor did Michael Gove, who also just wanted a cause on which to ride into Downing Street.

Nor, probably, did Liam Fox.

And nor, quite possibly, did David Davis, who will be the first of the three Chevening inmates to resign.

If not the last. One way or another, the other two will be sacked.

Challenger Rocket

Liz Kendall will be on Question Time tonight.

I have a great deal of respect for Liz Kendall.

Having had the balls to put up from the Hard Right last year, she ought to have refused to endorse any challenger this year other than herself.

Least of all some Shadow Secretary of State for Middle-Aged Men Who Pretend To Be The Worst Sort of Teenage Boys.

CETA, Twin of TTIP


A coalition of trade unions, civil society groups and consumer organisations have slammed a TTIP-style free trade deal between the EU and Canada ahead of trade ministers meeting today about sealing the deal.

In a joint letter, published today, the groups say the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), empowers corporations and investors over workers and public services.

They said CETA’s rules on resolving disputes could see foreign investors sue governments for compensation over consumer protection laws, threatening those governments’ rights to make public policy.

The letter comes as trade ministers are meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, today and tomorrow to discuss ratifying CETA. 

Opposition to the deal has been growing, with more than three million people across Europe signing a petition against CETA and its twin deal TTIP.

Last week Canadian trade unions called on their government not to sign the agreement. 

British unions are also against the deal.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) wrote to Trade Secretary Liam Fox in July over CETA’s ‘threat to sovereignty, public services and labour standards’, and called on him to oppose it. 

Today’s letter is signed by Friends of the Earth Europe, the European Consumers Organisation (BEUC), The European Trade Union Congress, the European Public Services Union, the European Anti-Poverty Network, the Health and Environment Alliance and the CEE Bankwatch Network.

Liina Carr, confederal secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, said:

‘Under CETA, workers are second class citizens compared to investors. Labour and environmental protection is not enforceable under CETA, whereas investors are given a special legal procedure to enforce their rights. CETA will do nothing to promote quality jobs and decent pay, while presenting a threat to the delivery of high-quality public services.’

Fabian Flues, trade campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: 

‘The investment provisions in CETA grant unjustified privileges to foreign investors, threatening policy-making in the public interest. Investment protections has been used in the past to undermine environmental regulations and biased, unaccountable tribunals have cost European tax payers billions already. The investment chapter in CETA would massively expand these investor privileges and is reason alone to reject the agreement.’

Monique Goyens, director of the European Consumer Organisation BEUC, said:

‘Disappointingly, CETA fails the consumer crash test. CETA does not provide tangible benefits to consumers and contains provisions that could undermine current and future levels of consumer protection. For instance, CETA will allow foreign investors to sue governments and get compensation when governments pass a law to protect consumers better.’

Striking Similarities

Steve Topple writes:

Around 2,700 teaching assistants from Durham are facing the sack, in a move by the local authority to save money.

The plan, which will see the staff then re-employed on new contracts, means a 23% pay cut for them.

And it bears striking similarities to the story of Manchester’s firefighters, previously reported in The Canary. 

We value teaching assistants, but… 

In May, Durham County Council voted to change teaching assistants’ contracts, so they would only be paid for term-time work. 

Currently, the staff earn around £20,000. 

But the new contract would see many lose up to £5,000, with some having to actually work more hours. 

The council claims that it brings teaching assistants’ pay in line with other council workers, and estimates that it will save schools around £3m from their budgets. 

Defending the move, Councillor Jane Brown said

We greatly value the work undertaken by teaching assistants which is why we have tried incredibly hard to resolve this situation and reach an agreement with them.

We have carried out two consultations and revised and doubled our compensation offer regarding the move to term-time working and delayed the implementation of these changes to April 2017.

We have talked in detail with the conciliation service, ACAS, and removed the dismiss and re-engage clause if the teaching assistants will accept this last and final offer.

She added

We have a legal and moral responsibility to address this issue and will not benefit financially in any way – except to remove the risk of equal pay claims from other staff who are only paid for the hours they actually work. 

Ripping off council staff 

But the teaching assistants disagree. 

They say that their current salaries are for term-time work, but are merely paid over 12 months. 

They reject the idea of working more hours so they can earn more money, as many of them can’t commit to this. 

And they argue that this is a cost-saving exercise, but one that will hit already low-paid families the hardest.

A spokesperson for the Durham teaching assistants told The Canary:
Some dedicated, experienced teaching assistants have already left their jobs, unable to deal with the stress of this situation.

Many others will be forced to leave if these proposals go ahead. Some have already sold their homes, frightened that they will have to sell in a hurry if these proposals go ahead.

Others know they will have to do so when their pay is cut. We are fighting for our futures, the future of our profession and the future of our schools and the children in them. 

Labour: the party of workers?

The council made one final offer last week; to increase the period of compensation from one to two years. 

On 21 September, a meeting was held at Durham Miners’ Hall, where the offer was unofficially voted on, and rejected. 

Hundreds turned out, many in support of the teaching assistants, and speakers included members of newly-formed County Durham Teaching Assistants Activists Committee (CDTAA) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. 

CDTAA described the vote as a: resounding rejection of the so-called compromise proposal with no dissenters… The fight goes on. 

An official union ballot on the council’s offer will take place, with the result expected on 29 September. 

If this offer is formally rejected by union members, the council will sack the 2,700 teaching assistants on 3 October, re-employing them on new contracts in January. 

Industrial action may well then be on the cards. 

A spokesperson for Durham teaching assistants told The Canary: 

Teaching assistants are well aware that industrial action will have a huge impact on families, children and schools and it is not a decision they will take lightly.

But they feel they have no choice as the only negotiation by DCC has been to the timescale for implementing these life-changing pay cuts. 

While to the council the teaching assistants may just be numbers, there are real stories behind these cuts. As teaching assistant Lindsay Dawson explained in a letter The Guardian:

I am one of the 2,700 teaching assistants who will be dismissed and re-engaged if Durham county council goes ahead with this ridiculous proposal (Who will speak up for teaching assistants?, 10 September).

It saddens me to think that due to these decisions I could be forced out of a job that I absolutely adore and have done for the past 13 years in the same school – forced out due to the fact that the proposal would leave me desperately short on my monthly bills and I would have to seek alternative employment to survive.

No one, in my eyes, can live off a salary for 13 years and then take a 23% pay cut when they are already very poorly paid.

As a parent, I also worry that my own child may not receive the same excellent level of support in his own education if other teaching assistants choose to do the same.

I manage on my wage without living an extravagant lifestyle because I love the job I do and the children I work with.

From educator, to support, to cleaner, to cook, to confidante, social worker and many more, my job is more than just washing paint pots and sharpening pencils.

May I just ask under a Labour council should I be in a position now where I would be better off (financially) if I finished work and went on benefits? This is the truth of my situation.

Lindsay Dawson
West Rainton, County Durham

Essentially, as is the case with the firefighters, the hand of teaching assistants is being forced.

Either they accept the new terms and conditions of their employment, or they’re sacked.

Furthermore, another striking similarity is that both these attacks on workers are being carried out by Labour-controlled bodies. 

The Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, with the firefighters, and Durham County Council with the teaching assistants.

It would seem that local Labour representatives are at odds with Jeremy Corbyn’s stance, as both firefighters and teaching assistants have been shown solidarity by the Labour leader and his team.

But there’s another similarity between these groups of under-attack workers. They will not be backing down without a fight.

Get Involved!

Sign the petitions in support of the teaching assistants.
Donate to the CDTAA crowdfunding page, to support their action.

Revolutions Made

Robert Fisk writes:

The Saudis step deeper into trouble almost by the week. 

Swamped in their ridiculous war in Yemen, they are now reeling from an extraordinary statement issued by around two hundred Sunni Muslim clerics who effectively referred to the Wahhabi belief – practised in Saudi Arabia – as “a dangerous deformation” of Sunni Islam

The prelates included Egypt’s Grand Imam, Ahmed el-Tayeb of al-Azhar, the most important centre of theological study in the Islamic world, who only a year ago attacked “corrupt interpretations” of religious texts and who has now signed up to “a return to the schools of great knowledge” outside Saudi Arabia. 

This remarkable meeting took place in Grozny and was unaccountably ignored by almost every media in the world – except for the former senior associate at St Antony’s College, Sharmine Narwani, and Le Monde’s Benjamin Barthe – but it may prove to be even more dramatic than the terror of Syria’s civil war. 

For the statement, obviously approved by Vladimir Putin, is as close as Sunni clerics have got to excommunicating the Saudis.

Although they did not mention the Kingdom by name, the declaration was a stunning affront to a country which spends millions of dollars every year on thousands of Wahhabi mosques, schools and clerics around the world. 

Wahhabism’s most dangerous deviation, in the eyes of the Sunnis who met in Chechenya, is that it sanctions violence against non-believers, including Muslims who reject Wahhabi interpretation.

Isis, al-Qaeda and the Taliban are the principal foreign adherents to this creed outside Saudi Arabia and Qatar

The Saudis, needless to say, repeatedly insist that they are against all terrorism. Their reaction to the Grozny declaration has been astonishing. 

“The world is getting ready to burn us,” Adil Al-Kalbani announced. And as Imam of the King Khaled Bin Abdulaziz mosque in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, he should know. 

As Narwani points out, the bad news kept on coming. 

At the start of the five-day Hajj pilgrimage, the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar published online a database which it said came from the Saudi ministry of health, claiming that up 90,000 pilgrims from around the world have died visiting the Hajj capital of Mecca over a 14-year period. 

Although this figure is officially denied, it is believed in Shia Muslim Iran, which has lost hundreds of its citizens on the Hajj. 

Among them was Ghazanfar Roknabadi, a former ambassador and intelligence officer in Lebanon. 

Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has just launched an unprecedented attack on the Saudis, accusing them of murder. 

“The heartless and murderous Saudis locked up the injured with the dead in containers...” he said in his own Hajj message. 

A Saudi official said Khameni’s accusations reflected a “new low”. 

Abdulmohsen Alyas, the Saudi undersecretary for international communications, said they were “unfounded, but also timed to only serve their unethical failing propaganda”. 

Yet the Iranians have boycotted the Hajj this year (not surprisingly, one might add) after claiming that they have not received Saudi assurances of basic security for pilgrims. 

According to Khamenei, Saudi rulers “have plunged the world of Islam into civil wars”.

However exaggerated his words, one thing is clear: for the first time, ever, the Saudis have been assaulted by both Sunni and Shia leaders at almost the same time.

The presence in Grozny of Grand Imam al-Tayeb of Egypt was particularly infuriating for the Saudis who have poured millions of dollars into the Egyptian economy since Brigadier-General-President al-Sissi staged his doleful military coup more than three years ago. 

What, the Saudis must be asking themselves, has happened to the fawning leaders who would normally grovel to the Kingdom?

“In 2010, Saudi Arabia was crossing borders peacefully as a power-broker, working with Iran, Syria, Turkey, Qatar and others to troubleshoot in regional hotspots,” Narwani writes.

“By 2016, it had buried two kings, shrugged off a measured approach to foreign policy, embraced ‘takfiri’ madness and emptied its coffers.” 

A “takfiri” is a Sunni who accuses another Muslim (or Christian or Jew) of apostasy. 

Kuwait, Libya, Jordan and Sudan were present in Grozny, along with – you guessed it – Ahmed Hassoun, the grand mufti of Syria and a loyal Assad man. 

Intriguingly, Abu Dhabi played no official role, although its policy of “deradicalisation” is well known throughout the Arab world. 

But there are close links between President (and dictator) Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechenya, the official host of the recent conference, and Mohamed Ben Zayed al-Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince.

The conference itself was opened by Putin, which shows what he thinks of the Saudis – although, typically, none of the Sunni delegates asked him to stop bombing Syria. 

But since the very meeting occurred against the backcloth of Isis and its possible defeat, they wouldn’t, would they?

That Chechenya, a country of monstrous bloodletting by Russia and its own Wahhabi rebels, should have been chosen as a venue for such a remarkable conclave was an irony which could not have been lost on the delegates.

But the real questions they were discussing must have been equally apparent.

Who are the real representatives of Sunni Muslims if the Saudis are to be shoved aside? And what is the future of Saudi Arabia?

Of such questions are revolutions made.

Of A Sort, Perhaps

Progress gives its verdict on Owen Smith: "This was the Soft Left's caper, and it had nothing to do with us."

Tony Blair is still too vain to call his latest move "retirement".

But he and David Miliband articulate the bewildered hurt of those who find themselves living in, or in their case observing, what William Hague might have called "a foreign land".

They do not know, like or recognise the Britain of the General Election result, of the election of Jeremy Corbyn, of the Conservatives' second place in Scotland, of the EU referendum result, of the Chilcot Report, of the elevation of Theresa May, of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee's evisceration of the war in Libya, and of the impending re-election of Jeremy Corbyn.

But that is the Britain that there is. There is no other.

Blair did not found the Labour Hard Right, and it will not die when he does. One wonders whether some of the people now running Progress, or who will run whatever comes after it, have ever even met him.

This may not be his Britain. But it does seem to be theirs. At least in the sense that they accept that this what Britain now is.

Form and Substance

I have two young friends at Oxford. They are brothers, and their sister also went there.

From my old comp, right here in County Durham.

That is not untypical.

In fact, I believe that it is correct to say that my old comp has sent someone to Oxbridge every year since it was founded, which was in 1966.

Again, that seems to be quite normal.

I am going through the 11-18 comps in County Durham, and they all send people to Oxbridge routinely.

Sixth Form colleges, I honestly know less about. But I could find out.

You could admit the entire Upper Sixth of every grammar school in the country, but you would come nowhere close to the 50 per cent of Oxbridge's annual intake that came from state schools.

That that is where they mostly come from is what the uncouth youth might call a "meme".

The rest of us can think of other words for it.

Never Mind The Ballots

Ed Balls lost his seat.

Neil Kinnock lost two General Elections, one of them to John Major.

David Miliband lost to Ed Miliband. As, indeed, did Ed Balls, whose wife lost both to Jeremy Corbyn and, unlike her husband, to Andy Burnham.

The Electables, these are not.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair is still only 63. Like many well-heeled people in their early sixties, he has given up the day job.

Two by-elections beckon. It is time for him to put up, or shut up.

Solid Second

Like the Conservatives, Labour is always guaranteed to be at least the second largest party, even if that entailed having only 80 or 100 seats.

No one else is ever going to come close to that.

Numerous Conservative MPs over the last 35 years have held, and continue to hold, views that ought on paper to be utterly unelectable in any constituency, such as the privatisation of the NHS.

But it doesn't work like that.

Although a bit of analysis of the views that held sway in the governing party might not go amiss occasionally. 

There never, ever is any.