Monday 31 July 2017

Preach It

Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon and George Galloway will be columnists on The Weekly Standard, as will paleoconservatives from both sides of the Atlantic, and as will the only guaranteed Lib Dem columnist in the national press

To them, we may now add a monthly reflection (as part of an old-fashioned God slot, with three per week covering one page between them) by Fr Raniero Cantalamessa OFMCap, who is the Apostolic Preacher, the Preacher to the Papal Household, the only man allowed to preach to the Pope.

More to follow, across popular television, pop music, football, politics, and God. But we need the readies.

Come on, the Apostolic Preacher, the Preacher to the Papal Household, the only man allowed to preach to the Pope. Every month. For ever.

And the Leader of the Labour Party. Every week For ever.

This project is the real deal.

Most Excellent

The leaders of the Durham Teaching Assistants deserve the CBE, anyway.

But how much sweeter it would be if they were to be awarded it at the moment that Simon Henig was stripped of it.

Stripped of it, officially, for having tried to send an innocent man to prison.

But also stripped of it, even if unofficially, for his treatment of the Teaching Assistants.

Written Off

Has anyone managed to find any of those students or graduates who think that the have been betrayed by Jeremy Corbyn over the writing off of their student debt?

Like the "boasting on social media about having voted twice", boasting of which no screenshot exists, there is absolutely nobody who believes that he ever made that commitment in the first place.

For the very good reason that he never did.

The Falling Scales of Justice

Of course there is a case against Tony Blair.

That is precisely why he is not going to stand trial.

They cannot risk a conviction, although of course there are ways of ensuring that that did not occur.

But nor can they risk an acquittal, since of course that would destroy all public confidence in the judicial system forever.

So, of course, there is not going to be a trial at all.

Meanwhile, of course there is no case against me.

That is precisely why, at the time of writing, I am going to stand trial, to prove that I can still be convicted even if no case whatever is even attempted to be made against me.

While the action against me continues, that is a matter of public record.

Transition To What, Exactly?

To full membership of the EU again, that's what.

Over 10 years, or thereabouts, and having barely left in the first place.

The only difference between the United Kingdom that had pretended to leave and the United Kingdom that came back definitively forever will be the absence of Northern Ireland.

Behind the sea border between Great Britain and the whole island of Ireland, Northern Ireland may or may not have been incorporated into the Republic, but Britain will certainly have withdrawn.

The partition of Ireland was never intended to last this long, anyway.

For be in no doubt, if the Republic wants a sea border, then the Americans will always have wanted it to have a sea border, and the EU now also wants it to have a sea border, so there is going to be a sea border.

In dealing with Britain, what the Republic wants, then America has always wanted, and the EU now also always wants.

But who in Britain ever notices what happens in Northern Ireland?

And within about a decade, a United Kingdom in which the whole of EU law had never ceased to apply will have formally re-joined the EU, probably without even so much as a referendum.

That is what is meant by a transitional period.

If you really want to get out of the EU, then you need a Prime Minister who probably voted Leave (Theresa May certainly didn't, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove probably didn't, even the hopelessly out-of-his-depth David Davis is highly questionable), who is surrounded by people who undoubtedly voted Leave, who himself voted Labour in 1983, and who voted No in 1975.

Thankfully, such a Prime Minister is available.

Passchendaele Passion

The British appetite for the First World War in general, and for the Western Front in particular, is insatiable.

This is the great national event, right up there with other people's revolutions, and wars of independence.

They have those, and we have this callous betrayal of the general population by its unthinking and uncaring overlords.

It set in train everything that followed, and it created the country that now exists.

This was our revolution, and it was our war of independence.

We, that general population, will never tire of it.

National Health

Pro-lifers supported Charlie Gard's parents because they wanted to do what pro-lifers wanted them to do.

They, we, would not have supported them otherwise, and we ought not to pretend that we would have done.

Nor would the legal situation have been different in the United States.

No more than here, parents there do not have the absolute right to give their children any medical treatment that they choose.

Nor should they have.

And people who don't like the NHS just don't like Britain.

Their leading voice grew up between Malborough and Peru, and he believes in a Britain of his own invention, in which he is constantly annoyed that the uppity natives do not have the slightest desire to live.

How is he different from some Wahhabi or Deobandi imam who has been flown in from Saudi Arabia or Pakistan?

In The Myers

Those of us who have long taken a certain interest in Irish affairs are enjoying this year's introduction of them to the general reader.

First,  the DUP, Irishmen who pretend to be a ridiculous caricature of the English.

Yes, the English. The Orange Order was founded by Anglicans, not by Presbyterians, and its ritual is based very closely on the Book of Common Prayer.

And now, Kevin Myers, and Englishman who pretends to be a ridiculous caricature of the Irish.

Why was this particular English-born and English-accented person who happens to be entitled to an Irish passport given an Irish Times column entitled "An Irishman's Diary"?

After all, there are any number of English-born and English-accented persons who happen to be entitled to Irish passports.

Just how Irish can you get away with not being? But then, look at de Valera.

Speaking of whom, Myers has done some work on puncturing the sillier and more pernicious myths of Irish Republicanism.

But other people had done that before, and better.

He'll be back, though. Indeed, he has not gone away. Nor will he.

Ho, hum. Despite being the subject of a Mossad campaign through the law courts to prevent its ever seeing the light of day (a campaign that is being waged from 22 Rickleton Avenue, Chester-le-Street, County Durham, DH3 4AE, for readers with strong views on Mossad), The Weekly Standard will never publish the claim that the BBC paid Jews more because they were Jews.

For that, you will always need the Sunday Times.

Rather than spend £2.50 per week on that, feel free to follow the above link and give £130, a year's worth of the Sunday Times, to launching The Weekly Standard instead.

Saturday 29 July 2017

Made Good?

The thing about the likes of Charlie Mullins is that they are despised by both sides.

The reverse applies to the posh Left. When Michael Foot died, then even his opponents were generous about him.

But when Margaret Thatcher died, then even her nominal supporters were not. They had knifed her, after all.

Tony Benn was universally regarded as a National Treasure. No one is ever going to say that about Norman Tebbit.

Those who think that the answer to Jeremy Corbyn is David Davis are completely deluded.

But then, those who think that the answer to Jeremy Corbyn is Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg are completely deluded, too.

Raising The Standard

One year today since Davey Hopper's funeral, which is enough to cause reflection on a good many subjects.

And therefore, one year today since Jeremy Corbyn promised me that he would contribute a column to The Weekly Standard.

Everything gets done at funerals, doesn't it?

This very day, The Sun and the Daily Mail are falsely accusing Diane Abbott of defending the hurling of petrol bombs at the Police by protesters against the death of Rashan Charles.

As a journalist, I take no pleasure in urging a politician to invoke the English law of libel. But this time, I very much hope that Abbott sues.

In the meantime, all that we need for the Standard are the readies.

Follow the link, although of course that is not intended to be the main or only source of income, important though it is for getting us started.

Or email

Come on, people. We are talking about the real, live, actual Jeremy Corbyn here. In the words of Sir Paul McCartney, "How VIP do we gotta get?"

The fans of popular television, pop music and football are largely the working class, who, as the main victims of politically chosen austerity, are the natural leaders of the opposition to neoliberal economic policy.

And the fans of popular television, pop music and football are largely the working class and the youth, who, as the main victims of wars of political choice, are the natural leaders of the opposition to neoconservative foreign policy.

They deserve better than The Sun and the Daily Mail.

We all do.

Zero Hour, Indeed

Who, exactly, are the Venezuelan opposition? What, exactly, do they want instead of Maduro?

We never asked about the Kosovo "Liberation" "Army". We never asked about the Northern Alliance. Remember them?

We never asked about Ahmed Chalabi, never mind about the people who really did take over Iraq. 

We never asked about the people who are now fighting it out, apparently without end, for control of Libya.

We never asked about the rebels in Syria, right up to the point when they declared themselves to be the Islamic State.

Well, some of us did ask, of course. Most notably, Jeremy Corbyn.

We are due an intervention, so to speak, from Tony Blair on Venezuela. Listen to him. Listen to Corbyn.

And then ask yourself whose record you trust.

My Card Is Marked

Very many thanks to Durham County Council for having cancelled my library card at some point in the last two hours.

With my computer and my phone still impounded in relation to an offence that absolutely nobody believes that I committed, it will now be almost impossible for me to work at least until after my trial in December.

That's right. December.

As I have been told times without number, everyone knows about the Labour Party on Durham County Council.

Not that everyone in it is that bad, though.

None of my 32 character witnesses is to be called, but at least 15 of them are members of the Labour Party, including past and present members of both Houses of Parliament.

As well as five serving members of Durham County Council, three of whom are among the famous 57.

I have of course had no contact with any of them. I simply know that they would testify in my defence, having known them for many years.

By contrast, I have never had a conversation with Simon Henig. So far as I could tell, at the Durham Miners' Gala, nor did anyone else. He appeared to be a pariah.

Others who would have been called included distinguished members of the Catholic and Anglican clergy, and Justices of the Peace, including a Presiding Justice.

Those, and others besides, were to have been called to testify to the absolute moral impossibility of my having committed the offence alleged.

That is, in the extremely unlikely event that anyone had managed to produce any evidence against me in the eight months between my having been charged and the date on which my trial was due to start.

No one has done so thus far. In which case, why wait for that? Let's call it a week.

If, at 2pm on Saturday 5th August, I remained charged, then, at whatever computer that I could find for the purpose, the names would appear here of the five serving Labour members of Durham County Council, including three of the famous 57, who would be called upon to testify that it was morally impossible for me to have committed the offence alleged against me.

It would then be up to them to state that that would not have been their testimony. Until such time as they had done so, then it would remain a matter of public record that it would have been.

If anyone else felt like volunteering, then do please email, although please be aware that the terms of my bail preclude my replying to Labour members of Durham County Council. Very many thanks.

The Health of The Nation

The National Health Service has saved my life at least twice, and that is a common experience in the United Kingdom.

Americans seeking to use the Charlie Gard case to attack the NHS need to ask where in the world would emulate their own system, and why anyone would vote to be billed for healthcare for the first time since 1948.

Paying for the doctor, or for hospital treatment, is almost out of living memory in Britain, and more or less everyone here regards that at this country's greatest ever achievement.

The NHS is more popular than the BBC, more popular than the monarchy, more popular than anything else.

Anyone who does not understand that just does not understand what it is to be British, and almost certainly never will.

Friday 28 July 2017

Eclipsing The Sun

Much derision today at the attempt by The Sun, which is a public school joke on its readers, to accuse Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party of having been taken over by "toffs".

No one in it is remotely posh enough to be employed by The Sun.

But all backgrounds are welcome, and class diversity is actively encouraged, here.

Where the readers about popular television, pop music and football are treated as adults and citizens who need and deserve serious political comment.

Obviously, that page is not going to be the main or only source of income. But it is a clear statement of intent.

Please give generously.

Towering Injustice

The case for the appointment of commissioners in place of Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council, followed by fresh elections, is unanswerable.

As is the case for the appointment of commissioners in place of Durham County Council, followed by fresh elections.

At which I hope that the two County Councillors for Lanchester will have the decency to stand aside in my favour.

Not they, but their party, knew that it could not beat me in a fair fight.

So it cheated in manner that, very tellingly, no one at all finds it remotely surprising should have been adopted by the Labour Party on Durham County Council.

No one can be imprisoned, or even arrested, for corporate manslaughter.

But they sure as hell can be for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Head On A Spike?

Has Charlie Mullins been arrested yet? If not, why not?

There is at least any evidence whatever against him. Whereas there is absolutely none against me.

As even the prosecution barrister at my Plea Hearing did not attempt to dispute.

Indeed, she seem rather embarrassed to be there. But one does have to make a living, I suppose.

Where are the fingerprints of mass destruction? How did even Special Branch fail to find them?

And has Charlie Mullins been arrested yet? If not, why not?

There is at least any evidence whatever against him. Whereas there is absolutely none against me.

Prime Suspect

No one pulled up David Cameron when, as Prime Minister during the Panama Papers furore, he claimed to be far poorer than he obviously was.

To this day, no one has pulled him up over that.

Perhaps we need to bring in some experts from Pakistan?

Just The Ticket

Two Senators voted against increased American sanctions on Russia.

They were Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders.

With or without the endorsement of either party, both of those should be on the Presidential ballot in 2020.

Out Of The Frying Pan?

Not only should Liam Fox be challenged to eat Chlorination Chicken on television, but he should be challenged to say that, as a physician, he would be happy for his patients to eat it.

We voted ourselves out of TTIP (and CETA). We refuse to get the same thing, anyway.

In order to prevent that, we need a change of government, installing people who opposed TTIP and CETA from day one.

By some miracle, that electoral option is now available, and the Conservatives are visibly preparing for a second General Election within months of the last one.

Bring it on.

Don't Go Caracas

Look at who is saying these things about Venezuela, of all the places that could be picked.

Look at the fact that American personnel are already being withdrawn.

We know how these "regime changes" end.

Don't fall for it.

Forty Years On

And on, and on, and on, and on, and on.

"It was only supposed to be a free trade area."

Thus do they justify their having ignored the clear, precise, and entirely accurate advice of Michael Foot, Peter Shore, Tony Benn and Barbara Castle, first in 1975, and then again in 1983.

But that lot is starting to die out.

For the rest of my life, I expect the pub bore standby to be that "The students voted twice" at the 2017 General Election.

Or at the 2017 General Elections, as the case may be.

The total absence of evidence will be bellowed as the proof.

Indeed, that has already started.

Hopping Madness

There is criticism of the MP for Canterbury, Rosie Duffield, for sending her children to grammar schools.

Well, what is she supposed to do? She lives in Kent.

The remaining grammar school areas pretend that their secondary moderns are "comprehensives".

But in reality, they are where children are sent to die academically, intellectually and culturally, in the absence of peers who are high achievers.

Or who simply come from the well-off backgrounds that make it possible to pay for private tuition in preparation for the 11-plus.

So, the way everywhere was when everywhere was a grammar school area, then.

Even with their majority provided by the DUP, of all people, the Conservatives have entirely dropped any proposal to return to all of that.

But in the meantime, Rosie Duffield, and many thousands of others like her, must make the best of things as they are, before everything is well and truly sorted out by Angela Rayner.

Save It For The Morning After?

Why shouldn't the morning after pill be expensive?

Regardless of the specific model of healthcare provision (which is hardly the whole story, anyway), the costs of sexual promiscuity are borne by society at large.

Such behaviour ought therefore to be discouraged in every way.

Chastity is a civic virtue.

Blue Skies Thinking

I am pleased for IAG, with its soaring profits.

Now it can settle with the BA cabin crew.

The Conservative Case For Universal Healthcare

Chase Madar writes:

Don’t tell anyone, but American conservatives will soon be embracing single-payer healthcare, or some other form of socialized healthcare.

Yes, that’s a bold claim given that a GOP-controlled Congress and President are poised to un-socialize a great deal of healthcare, and may even pull it off.

But within five years, plenty of Republicans will be loudly supporting or quietly assenting to universal Medicare.

And that’s a good thing, because socializing healthcare is the only demonstrably effective way to control costs and cover everyone.

It results in a healthier country and it saves a ton of money.

That may seem offensively counterintuitive. It’s generally assumed that universal healthcare will by definition cost more. 

In fact, in every first-world nation that has socialized medicine–whether it be  a heavily regulated multi-insurer system like Germany, single-payer like Canada, or a purely socialized system like the United Kingdom–-it costs less. 

A lot, lot less, in fact: While healthcare eats up nearly 18 percent of U.S. GDP, for other nations, from Australia and Canada to Germany and Japan, the figure hovers around 11 percent.

It’s no wonder that smarter capitalists like Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway are bemoaning the drag on U.S. firm competitiveness from high healthcare costs.

Nor are healthcare results in America anything to brag about: lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and poor scores on a wide range of important public health indicators.

Why does socialized healthcare cost less?

Getting rid of private insurers, which suck up a lot money without adding any value, would result in a huge savings, as much as 15 percent by one academic estimate published in the American Journal of Public Health

When the government flexing its monopsony muscle as the overwhelmingly largest buyer of medical services, drugs and technology, it would also lower prices-–that’s what happens in nearly every other country. 

So while it’s a commonly progressive meme to contrast the national expenditure of one F-35 with our inability to “afford” single-payer healthcare–and I hesitate to say this lest word get out to our neocon friends–there is no need for a tradeoff.  

If we switched to single payer or another form of socialized medicine, we would actually have more money to spend on even more useless military hardware. 

The barrier to universal healthcare is not economic but political.

Is profligate spending on health care really a conservative value? And what kind of market incentives are working anyway?

It’s an odd kind of market transaction in which the buyer is stopped from negotiating the price, but that is exactly what Medicare Part D statutorily requires: The government is not allowed to haggle the prices of prescription drugs with major pharmaceutical companies, unlike in nearly every other rich country. 

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump pledged to end this masochism, but the 45th president has so far done nothing, and U.S. prescription drug prices remain the highest in the world.

Does anyone seriously think “medical savings accounts” with their obnoxious complexity and added paperwork are the right answer, and not some neoliberal joke? 

The objections to socialized healthcare crumble upon impact with the reality.

One beloved piece of folklore is that once people are given free healthcare they’ll abuse it by going on weird medical joyrides, just because they can, or simply let themselves go because they’ll have free doctor visits.

I hate to ruin this gloating fantasy of lumpenproletariat irresponsibility, but people need take an honest look at the various health crises in the United States compared to other OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries

If readily available healthcare turns people into hedonistic yahoos, why does Germany have fewer lethal drug overdoses than the U.S. 

Why does Canada have less obesity and type II diabetes? Why does the Netherlands have less teen pregnancy and less HIV? 

The evidence is appallingly clear: Among first-world countries, the U.S. is a public health disaster zone. 

We have reached the point where the rationalist santería of economistic incentives in our healthcare policies have nothing to do with people as they actually are. 

If socialized medicine could be in conformity with conservative principles, what about Republican principles? 

This may seem a nonstarter given the pious market Calvinism of Paul Ryan and Congressmen like Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who seem opposed to the very idea of health insurance of any kind at all. 

But their fanaticism is surprisingly unpopular in the U.S. 

According to recent polling, less than 25 percent of Americans approve of the recent GOP healthcare bills. 

Other polls show even lower numbers

These Republicans are also profoundly out of step with conservative parties in the rest of the world. 

Strange as it may seem to American Right, $600 EpiPens are not the sought-after goal of conservatives in other countries. 

In Canada, the single-payer healthcare system is such a part of national identity that even hard-right insurgents like Stockwell Day have enthusiastically pledged to maintain it

None of these systems are perfect, and all are subject to constant adjustment, but they do offer a better set of problems–the most any mature nation can ask for–than what we have in the U.S. 

And virtually no one looks at our expensive American mess as a model. 

I recently spoke with one German policy intellectual, Nico Lange, who runs the New York outpost of the German Christian Democrats’ main think tank, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, to get his thoughts on both American and German healthcare. 

Is socialized medicine the entering wedge of fascism and/or Stalinism?

Are Germans less free than Americans because they all have healthcare (through a heavily regulated multi-payer system), and pay a hell of a lot less (11.3 percent of GDP) for it? 

Mr. Lange paused, and took an audible breath; I felt like I had put him in the awkward spot of inviting him over and asking for his honest opinion of the drapes and upholstery. 

“Yes,” he said, “we are less free but security versus freedom is a classic balance! National healthcare makes for a more stable society, it’s a basic service that needs to be provided to secure an equal chance for living standards all over the country.” 

Even as Mr. Lange delineated the conservative pedigree of socialized medicine in Germany–“You can certainly argue that Bismarck was a conservative in founding this system”–I had a hard time imagining many Democrats, let alone any Republican, making such arguments.

Indeed, the official GOP stance is perhaps best described as Shkrelism than conservatism, after the weasel-faced pharma entrepreneur Martin Shkreli, who infamously jacked up the price of one lifesaving drug and is now being prosecuted for fraud. 

Though in fairness, this type of bloodsucking awfulness is quite bipartisan: Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan corporation, which jacked up the price of EpiPens from $100 to $600, is the daughter of Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who defended his daughter’s choice.

But GOP healthcare politics are at the moment spectacularly incoherent.

Many GOP voters have told opinion polls that they hate Obamacare, but like the Affordable Care Act.

And as the GOP healthcare bill continues to be massively unpopular, Donald Trump has lavished praise on Australia’s healthcare system (socialized, and eating up only 9.4 percent of the GDP there). 

Even in the GOP, this is where the votes are: Trump’s move to the center on questions of social insurance–Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security–was a big part of his appeal in the primaries. 

The rising alt-Right, not to hold them up as any moral authority, don’t seem to have any problem with universal Medicare either.

It will fall on “reform conservatives” to convince themselves and others that single-payer or some kind of universal care is perfectly keeping with conservative principles, and, for the reasons outlined above, it’s really not much of a stretch.

Lest this sound outlandish, consider how fully liberals have convinced themselves that the Affordable Care Act–a plan hatched at the Heritage Foundation for heaven’s sake, and first implemented by a Republican governor–is the every essence of liberal progressivism.

Trump’s candidly favorable view of Australian-style socialized healthcare is less likely a blip than the future of the GOP. 

Republican governors who actually have to govern, like Brian Sandoval and John Kasich, and media personalities like Joe Scarborough, and the Rock, will be soon talking up single-payer out of both fiscal probity, communitarian decency, and the in-your-face evidence that, ideology aside, this is what works.

Even the Harvard Business Review is now giving single-payer favorable coverage. Sean Hannity and his angry brigade may be foaming at the mouth this week about the GOP failure to disembowel Obamacare, but Sean’s a sufficiently prehensile fellow to grasp at single-payer if it seems opportune–just look at his about-face on WikiLeaks.

And though that opportunity has not arisen yet, check again in two years. The real obstacle may be the Democrats.

As Max Fine, last surviving member of John F. Kennedy’s Medicare task force, recently told the Intercept:

“Single payer is the only real answer and some day I believe the Republicans will leap ahead of the Democrats and lead in its enactment,” he speculated, “just as did Bismarck in Germany and David Lloyd George and Churchill in the UK.” 

For now, an invigorating civil war is raging within the Democrats with the National Nurses Union, the savvy practitioner-wonks of the Physicians for a National Health Program, and thousands of everyday Americans shouting at their congressional reps at town hall meetings are clamoring for single-payer against the party’s donor base of horrified Big Pharma executives and affluent doctors. 

In a few years there might even be a left-right pincers movement against the neolib/neocon middle, whose unlovable professional-class technocrats are the main source of resistance to single payer.

I don’t want to oversell the friction-free smoothness of the GOP’s conversion to socialized healthcare. 

Our funny country will always have a cohort of InfoWars ooga-boogas, embittered anesthesiologists and Hayekian fundies for whom universal healthcare is a totalitarian jackboot.

But, and not to be a jerk, it’s worth remembering that Hayek himself supported the socialized healthcare of Western Europe in one of his most reasonable passages from The Road to Serfdom.

So even if there is some banshee GOP resistance at first, universal Medicare will swiftly become about as controversial as our government-run fire departments.

Such, after all, was the trajectory of Medicare half a century ago.

You read it here first, people: Within five years, the American Right will happily embrace socialized medicine.

Thursday 27 July 2017

But Trump Must Complete His Term

Who voted who would not otherwise have done so, because of Russia? Who did not vote who would otherwise have done so, because of Russia?

Who voted other than they would have done, because of Russia? What did Russia do that affected anything at all?

Whether or not the Democrats will deserve to win the 2020 Presidential Election will depend on who their candidate is, and on who else is a candidate.

But on both sides of the aisle, the flagrant shills of Saudi Arabia and of Israel are attempting to remove Donald Trump because of some nonsense or other about Russia.

Nonsense that, even if it were true, could not have affected the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election.

They are the traitors and the foreign agents. Just as their friends in London are.

The ones in London had to be stopped from taking down Jeremy Corbyn. And they were.

Now, the ones in Washington and New York have to be stopped from taking down Donald Trump.

If they are not, then, at least in a country where there was no Corbyn, no alternative to neoliberal economic policy and to neoconservative foreign policy would ever again be permitted a hearing.

Trump himself has been disappointing on those issues. He needs to be saved, so that he can be made to know who had saved him.

Their Masada Moment

No one did a damn thing for the Palestinians in Jerusalem.

But they have still won.

This day will be remembered until the End of Days.

Mashed, Indeed

I had been pondering that, at 10pm tonight, you could watch either The Mash Report or Naked Attraction

"How blessed we are," I thought, "to live in these times." 

But it turns out they have moved Naked Attraction to Fridays. Presumably so as not to clash with The Mash Report.

I think that that says a very great deal about each and both of those televisual masterpieces.

Trans Trumping

The made-up billion dollar figure for treating transgender members of the United States Armed Services suggests that there are already that many transgender members of the United States Armed Services.

Do President Trump and his supporters wish to give that impression?

The fact of the matter is that there are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender personnel among an active-duty force of 1.3 million.

Somewhere between 30 and 140 of those might want hormone treatment, and perhaps 25 to 130 might seek gender reassignment surgery.

Giving a cost of somewhere between $2.4 million and $8 million per annum.

The argument from operational effectiveness, I honestly do not know about, although again there is the question of just how few people are involved.

But as to cost, the US military spends $42 million per year on Viagra.

Oh, and $1.4 trillion on the useless F-35 jet that costs more than Australia's entire defence budget while being decades out of date from day one.

Trump still cannot tell you which of his feet had the problem that prevented him from going to Vietnam.

No one who served there has ever been President, although three of the last four Presidents have been the right age.

The President of the United States might one day be transgender, but he or she will never have served in Vietnam. Nor in any of the wars of Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump.

Likewise, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom might one day be transgender, but he or she will never have served in any of the wars of Blair, Brown, Cameron and May.

From Tom Tugendhat to Dan Jarvis, those who did so can forget it.

Although no such disqualification afflicts either of Tony Blair's elder sons, both of whom were the right age, and neither of whom has ever appeared to have any health problem.

Neither of them, however, put on the uniform. Therefore, they could still, in principle, become Prime Minster.

Which is nice.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Unity Is Strength

A magnificent victory today over employment tribunal fees.

Richard Burgon was right all along.

This is why trade unions still matter, and this is why trade unions are always going to matter.

Do Not Beatify John McCain

He is an insatiable old warmonger whose own medical treatment is being paid for by the taxpayers from whom he has just voted to withdraw health insurance.

They also paid him to attend that vote, and they paid the cost of his travel to it.

It is very sad that he is so ill. But he is no hero.

Wipe Your Eyes

Wiping out student debt is not a bad idea, since no one has the slightest intention of ever trying to collect £100 billion of debt. In practice, wiping it out would not cost a penny.

But the sore nearly-winner claim that Labour pledged to do so has crashed and burned with the public. Even majorities of Conservative supporters do not believe it.

In any case, are we expected to believe that those particular voters who were "deceived" might otherwise have voted Conservative, or indeed any other way apart from Labour? Pull the other one.

No Platform, Indeed

Richard Dawkins must be the bane of the existence of atheist philosophers.

Every autumn, another batch of freshers arrives, having all read The God Delusion.

Three years cannot be anywhere near long enough to train them out of that.

In which case, will there even be any atheist philosophers, as such, in two generations' time?

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Whose Cross To Bear?

The Conservatives have cut money from transport in Wales and the North, which tend not to vote Conservative.
I get that. I do not necessarily agree with it, on several grounds. But I do understand it.
However, they have diverted that money to London, where there are also not very many Conservative voters these days.
Indeed, the Conservatives picked up a few seats in the North this year. A very few, but they did.
In London, meanwhile, they managed to lose even Kensington, as small Labour majorities turned by the dozen into thumping great ones.
Yet this is how they react.
What is going on here?

If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem

"I shall do for the Welsh Jacobites what they did for me; I shall drink their health." So said the aged Young Pretender.
The Palestinians have always had cause to say much the same about the rulers of the Arab world, and they have never been shy of saying it. But they have never had more such cause than today.
In this last stand for Islamic Jerusalem, where are the ostentatious hajjis among the dictators? Where are the Sheiks of this, and the Emirs of that? Where is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques?
But then, in this last stand for Christian Jerusalem (and be in no doubt that that is what this is), where are we?

Chlorination Chicken

The EU wanted, and it still does want, to flood this country with American meat full of chlorine and dodgy hormones.
That was a very good reason to vote Leave, and one of the many very good reasons why some of us did vote Leave.
The last thing that we need is for Brexit and its aftermath to be in the hands of people who are as bad as the ones from whom we are supposed to be escaping, and who probably did not vote Leave at all.
For example, Liam Fox, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and quite possibly the Maastricht whip turned Foreign Office Minister, David Davis.

Lease of Life

The abolition of leasehold was the kind of thing that the nominally Labour Government that was in office for 13 years ought to have done.
But it now falls to the Conservatives to deal with it, and to do so only because they have come well within a million votes of being defeated by Jeremy Corbyn.

The Likes of Us

One of several excellent comments posted here anonymously today is this:
The Tory Government that has brought state funded abortion to Northern Ireland by agreeing to fund it in England for women from there, is now bringing assisted suicide as well.
Notice that while Jeremy Corbyn sided with Charlie Gard's parents, Theresa May sided with the hospital.
She is truly the heiress of Margaret Thatcher who legalised abortion up to birth and Ronald Reagan who legalised abortion in California before appointing three abortionists to the Supreme Court.
Likewise Donald Trump, generous benefactor of Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign.
There is a reason why The Sun supports assisted suicide but the Morning Star opposes it: The Sun wants rid of the likes of us.

Monday 24 July 2017

Setting The Standard

This is to make possible the launch, in October 2017 or as soon as possible thereafter, of a new print magazine, The Weekly Standard. There will be 25 pages of popular television, pop music, and football.

And there will be 25 pages of alternatives to neoliberal economic policy and to neoconservative foreign policy, including weekly columns by Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon, George Galloway, various supporters of one or more of those, paleoconservatives from both sides of the Atlantic, and the only guaranteed Liberal Democrat columnist in the national media, as well as a page of reflections from the traditions of Christianity in Britain and in the Middle East that are politically radical precisely because they are doctrinally orthodox.

In addition to the regular columns, each edition will feature five guest articles. The subjects of those are already intended to include Modern Monetary Theory, the valiant struggle of the Durham and Derby Teaching Assistants, the scandal of blacklisting in the construction industry, the fraud against the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme, the right-wing case against Trident, the case against NATO by a former Special Assistant to President Reagan, the crisis on St Helena, the Chagossians, the Dalits, the Rohingya, fathers' rights, the persecution of Dorje Shugden practitioners, the secular humanist case against assisted suicide, and the Britons fighting against the so-called Islamic State in Syria. All this, and a great deal more besides.

Alongside popular television, pop music, and football. With a serious commitment to all of them, and to the right of their fans to read intelligent comment that treats them as adults and as the citizens who most need to be equipped for the struggle against neoliberal economic policy and against neoconservative foreign policy.

A Warning About The Dangers

Kevin Yuill writes:

This week, the High Court heard a legal challenge from a terminally ill British man who wants the right to die. 

Noel Conway, who is 67-years-old and has motor neurone disease, wants an assisted death when his health deteriorates further. 

Lawyers are asking the courts to declare that the blanket ban on ‘assisted dying’ under the Suicide Act is contrary to the Human Rights Act. 

The current law on assisted dying was overwhelmingly upheld by parliament in 2015. 

The fact that the courts are hearing a challenge to this is deeply worrying. 

The courts, which recently defended parliamentary sovereignty in the Article 50 legal challenge, should not be used to circumvent ‘inconvenient’ legislation. 

Doing so shows contempt for democracy. 

Moreover, the 1961 Suicide Act is a remarkably good piece of legislation. 

The potential sentence of 14 years in prison for assisting a suicide reflects society’s condemnation of killing, while simultaneously removing punishment of the victims of suicide. 

It has been used only a handful of times, but stands as a symbol of our commitment to the preservation of human life. 

When dealing with such sensitive cases here in the UK, we should consider what is happening in Canada. 

There, the prohibition against assisted suicide was struck down by a single judge, in a single court case, involving a terminally ill individual. 

In 2012, lawyers representing Gloria Taylor, who, like Conway, was suffering from motor neurone disease, successfully argued that prohibiting assisted suicide breached her rights. 

The Supreme Court upheld the decision and ordered the federal government to pass legislation permitting assisted suicide. 

Bill C-14 became law on 17 June 2016, allowing both assisted suicide and euthanasia (where the doctor kills the patient). 

The CBC reported recently that, by the end of 2016, there had been 1,324 cases of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in Canada – that is, assisted suicide and euthanasia. 

This number is likely to increase. 

Before the ink was dry on C-14, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association launched a court case to ‘strike down’ as unconstitutional the somewhat slippery provision that a person’s ‘natural death must be reasonably foreseeable’ to qualify for death by lethal injection. 

In the weeks that followed C-14’s passage into law, the Canadian federal government announced that it would conduct research into the possibility of extending the benefits of euthanasia to people with dementia, ‘mature children’, and those with solely psychological suffering. 

In the case of a 77-year-old woman suffering from non-terminal osteoarthritis, the judge chided doctors who had refused euthanasia on the grounds that her disease was not terminal. 

He granted the woman the right to die as she was ‘almost 80’ with ‘no quality of life’. 

And, of course, her death was judged to be ‘reasonably foreseeable’. 

In the province of Ontario, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care announced that it would force doctors to either euthanise patients who wanted to die, or refer them to someone who would.

Three years ago, it was a crime for doctors to kill their patients in Canada. 

Now, doctors could lose their licence for refusing to participate in killing their patients. 

Judges and juries are generally sympathetic in tragic cases like Conway’s. 

But there is no need to change the law. 

We should take the court case in Canada, which opened a Pandora’s box, as a warning about the dangers of legalising assisted suicide.

Where Are The Wreaths For The Known?

Phil Restino and Ernie Gallo went to great lengths to get this into the Daytona Beach News-Journal. It deserves a wide circulation: 

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis recently told constituents of how he participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

He told us to remember and give thanks to those who gave their lives in the service of our nation, as they are the “indispensable Americans without whom we would not be free.”

Ernie Gallo of Palm Coast is the USS Liberty Veterans Association’s president.

On June 8, 1967, the USS Liberty, stationed in international waters, was attacked for two hours by the Israeli military.

That left 34 U.S. sailors and Marines dead, 174 wounded and the Liberty the most decorated ship for a single engagement in U.S. Navy history.

The Navy Board of Inquiry following the attack was a farce and cover-up that included admirals threatening the survivors with court-martial, life imprisonment or “worse” if they ever spoke of the attack, as detailed in testimony to the commission convened by Adm. Tom Moorer, retired chief of naval operations and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Justice has been denied the men of the Liberty for 50 years.

If moved to by his constituents, Rep. DeSantis could initiate a proper congressional investigation into the attack on the Liberty.

Like the men on the Liberty, DeSantis is a Navy man proud of his service as a JAG officer. He knows how a Navy Board of Inquiry is supposed to work.

At noon on June 8, Gallo and his shipmates gathered at the tomb for their fallen crew members at Arlington National Cemetery. Although invited, Congressman DeSantis did not attend.

DeSantis claims to know nothing about the attack on the Liberty.

We owe the 34 “indispensable Americans” who gave their lives on the USS Liberty. It’s time “we Americans” let Congressman DeSantis know about it.

Restino, of Port Orange, is spokesperson for We Are Change - Central Florida. For 10 years he’s organized USS Liberty Remembrance Day events in Volusia County.

Gallo, of Palm Coast, is the Liberty Veteran Association’s president.

For more info, see here and here.

Explanatory note:

On June 8, 1967, while patrolling in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was savagely attacked without warning or justification by air and naval forces of the state of Israel.

Of a crew of 294 officers and men (including three civilians), the ship suffered thirty four (34) killed in action and one hundred seventy three (173) wounded in action.

The ship itself, a Forty Million ($40,000,000) Dollar state of the art signals intelligence (SIGINT) platform, was so badly damaged that it never sailed on an operational mission again and was sold in 1970 for $101,666.66 as scrap.

At 1400 hours, while approximately about 17 nautical miles off the northern Sinai coast and about 25 nautical miles northwest of El Arish, USS Liberty’s crew observed three surface radar contacts closing with their position at high speed.

A few moments later, the bridge radar crew observed high speed aircraft passing over the surface returns on the same heading.

Within a few short moments, and without any warning, Israeli fighter aircraft launched a rocket attack on USS Liberty.

The aircraft made repeated firing passes, attacking USS Liberty with rockets and their internal cannons.

After the first flight of fighter aircraft had exhausted their ordnance, subsequent flights of Israeli fighter aircraft continued to prosecute the attack with rockets, cannon fire, and napalm. 

During the air attack, USS Liberty’s crew had difficulty contacting Sixth Fleet to request assistance due to intense communications jamming.

The initial targets on the ship were the command bridge, communications antennas, and the four .50 caliber machine guns, placed on the ship to repel boarders.

After the Israeli fighter aircraft completed their attacks, three Israeli torpedo boats arrived and began a surface attack about 35 minutes after the start of the air attack.

The torpedo boats launched a total of five torpedoes, one of which struck the side of USS Liberty, opposite the ship’s research spaces.

Twenty-five Americans, in addition to the nine who had been killed in the earlier air attacks, were killed as a result of this explosion.

Take Back Control

Matt Turner writes:

‘Take Back Control’. A simple, yet incredibly effective message.

The mantra emphasising the necessity of reasserting British democracy and sovereignty was one of the main factors in convincing 52% of the public to vote for Brexit in the EU referendum last year. 

It’s common sense, and a proposal that resonated with the majority of the population. 

Why shouldn’t we take back control from those who make policy decisions that impact us, yet are wholly unaccountable to our electorate? 

While (often deeply flawed) arguments about immigration and the NHS were put forward by Leavers, in true Bennite fashion, I always found the democratic argument for leaving the EU to be the most poignant. 

The beauty of the democratic argument is that is can be applied to other policy areas — including foreign policy. 

Since the rise of the New Right, cross-Atlantic love-fest between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, we have not had a truly independent foreign policy. 

The ‘Special Relationship’ that is lauded by both the centre-left and centre-right (who interestingly, are often the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for the European Union) has an anti-democratic sentiment to it. 

Britain’s foreign policy agenda over the last few decades, which has been largely dictated to it by the United States, has made both Britain and the world a more dangerous place to live in.

It is often claimed that the UK and US have shared interests, but the reality is that what is best for Britain rarely comes into the equation. 

Instead, we are subservient to the foreign policy interests of the United States. 

One has to ask: why did Britain happily follow America into propagating and financing the barbarism which has since decided to bite the hands that fed it, namely, the Afghan Mujahedeen in the 1980s? 

During the rigid, ideological warfare of the Cold War, any British reservations of the backlash were cast aside in favour of American geo-strategic hegemony in the Middle East.

It was the then Labour MP George Galloway who during this time, told Margaret Thatcher that she, as lapdog in chief for the United States, had “opened the gates to the barbarians”. 

How right he was. Our acquiescence to American interests has been clear to see over the last few decades.

Just look at Tony Blair’s “I’m with you whatever” commitment on intervention in Iraq to fellow war criminal George W. Bush. 

Those four words encapsulate British foreign policy better than any soundbite, policy proposal or academic paper. We are with America “whatever”.

Fear not that American presidents and military generals were not and never will be elected by the people of Britain, we must toe the line! 

It clearly wouldn’t matter whether the British people were against a certain military action or not — we would go cap in hand to the United States regardless. 

It is evident that our assorted conquests with the United States in the Middle East have had a negative impact on our country — and many of the decisions that have led to the increase in barbarous terrorism over the last decade in Britain can be traced back to the American war rooms — where there isn’t a shred of democratic legitimacy to be seen. 

While we do not have an independent foreign policy, we are nothing but a lapdog, and an obedient one at that. In the current circumstances — this issue is more important than ever before. 

As Theresa May continues to hold hands with one of the most dangerous Presidents we have witnessed in our lifetime, it is more imperative than ever that we consider a more independent approach to our foreign policy. 

We must be able to stand up to the self-serving demagogue Donald Trump, and have the British gumption to say “no” instead of following him at a whim like successive Prime Ministers have to successive Presidents in the past.

Not only this, but the public mood really is beginning to change. Jeremy Corbyn’s foreign policy stance was proven to be highly popular during the general election.

This was arguably the first time a real scepticism of American intervention and British involvement has been pushed by one of the mainstream political parties, and YouGov polling found that around 60% believe that our involvement in the Middle East bears at least some responsibility for the sorry state we find ourselves in, both domestically and internationally.

Why should we continue to assist America’s goal of geo-strategic hegemony in the Middle East when it has destabilised our country, the main actors are not accountable and the majority of the British public are now sceptical? 

Surely, if we are to really ‘Take Back Control’, we must do so from all corners, and our one-sided ‘Special Relationship’ with the United States is nothing but an affront to democracy.

And Here's The Kicker

Phil Hall writes:

Continued membership of the EU is now a serious obstacle to the success of a future Labour government and for this reason we should get out of the EU as soon as we can and leave the single market. 

After the debacle in Greece, whereby the once radical Syriza government was made to introduce an extreme austerity programme and privatise large parts of the public sector, it became difficult to see the EU as benign. 

The EU in collaboration with the IMF forced Portugal, Italy and Spain to introduce cuts which hurt their citizens and depressed their economies.

Within the European Union, the plans of any future Labour government to renationalise the railways and energy industries, increase public spending, provide a reflationary stimulus, subsidise British industry, or prevent labour flows from undercutting the wages and conditions of British workers would be blocked and opposed.

Within the European Union it is clear that a Keynesian-socialist approach is not permitted. Voting for Jeremy Corbyn with Britain still in the EU would have been as disillusioning as voting for Syriza. 

However progressive Syriza’s policies seemed, the EU forced it to implement privatisation and cuts. 

The European Union has generated a tangled ball of legislation which, on the whole, reflects a post-Thatcherite monetarist consensus on what constitutes “good” economic policy. 

Full employment, a Keynesian goal — and also a socialist one — is not seen as a worthwhile objective. Instead, governments are obliged to operate “efficiently,” with low levels of inflation — euphemisms for austerity. 

Reflationary measures, government investment and activation of the economy, are banned by the Stability and Growth Pact and the European Court of Justice has ruled against trade union action aimed at stopping workers’ wages being undercut by bosses importing foreign workers and paying them less. EU competition rules prohibit countries from supporting local industries. 

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union blocks state aid to industry or nationalisation because: “A company which receives government support gains an advantage over its competitors.” 

And here’s the kicker: legislation promoted by the EU business lobby and adopted by the European Commission is ratified much more easily than if it were to go through a national parliament. 

The EU is a back door for “business-friendly” legislation that might otherwise be opposed and stopped in a national parliament. 

The infamous Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a case in point.

The main, and unconvincing, argument of the soft left for remaining within the EU is still that the EU acts as a break on the more extreme neoliberalism of the Conservative government in power. 

According to the defenders of the EU, being a member of the organisation helps guarantee the protection of the environment, human rights, labour rights and privacy. 

But after the last British election, we see that this argument for remaining in the EU was really always only a counsel of despair. 

Clearly none of the “leftists” who voted for remain, who fully understood the reactionary nature of the European Union, imagined that Corbyn would get so much popular support or that Labour would currently be so far ahead in the latest opinion polls. 

A Labour government in Britain, the fifth-largest economy in the world, would represent a threat to the neoliberal EU. 

Labour Britain outside the EU represents the possibility for the establishment of a strong European-wide alliance of socialist parties and a brake on neoliberal policy making within Europe.

What could never be reformed from within may very well be reformed by the constructive example of a successful socialist country outside the EU and outside its single market.

And the Morning Star editorialises: 

Twelve top big business leaders marched into 10 Downing Street last Thursday afternoon to give Theresa May and her Brexit ministers their orders. 

Representatives from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Institute of Directors, City gamblers Risk Capital, weapons manufacturers BAE Systems, corporation tax dodgers Tesco, the privatised multinational National Grid company and other firms told the Prime Minister and her Cabinet members that they must make the necessary concessions in order to reach a deal with the EU. 

As the Finanical Times reported matters, May “was bluntly invited to back away from the cliff edge.” 

CBI director general Carolyn Fairburn, formerly of Lloyds Bank, demanded a lengthy transition deal and continuing close involvement in the EU customs union and single market “feeling that the political tide was moving in her favour.” 

These and other business leaders have made little secret of their hope that spinning out Britain’s exit process from the EU will create the conditions in which last year’s referendum result can be frustrated and reversed. 

New Lib Dem leader Vince Cable — formerly of the Shell oil corporation and the privatiser of Royal Mail — has volunteered to lead the struggle politically, although the most he can hope for is a return to the post of Business Secretary in another coalition government. 

Last Thursday’s corporate missive was received, understood and acted upon immediately. 

The following day, Environment Secretary and leading Brexiteer Michael Gove began sounding the retreat by revealing that free movement of people between the EU and Britain could continue for at least two years after March 2019, the deadline for reaching a deal. 

Other concessions on this sticky point and others in the exit negotations will follow. 

The Morning Star welcomes continuing rights to travel, study and settle across Europe where these can be negotiated on a fair, humane and equitable basis. 

Indeed, free from “Fortress Europe” restrictions, British governments should extend those rights to non-European partners and families of British citizens already living here — although it remains to be seen how the EU would respond to such an extension of free movement as part of any future arrangements with Britain. 

A shared and major concern of May’s new EU business advisory group and Michel Barnier’s fellow unelected negotiating team is that big business should remain free to move (or “post”) workers around Europe where they can be super-exploited regardless of national or regional legislation and negotiated trade union agreements. 

During last week’s negotiations, Barnier made it clear that “posted” workers must be classified as “service providers” and therefore covered by “free trade in services” or “right of establishment” rather than the potentially more restricted “free movement of people” principles. 

This is the basis on which legislative and trade union action to enforce equal treatment for them has been outlawed by a stream of EU Court of Justice rulings. 

The recent GMB conference was right to sound the alarm about any deal with the EU which allows such super-exploitation to continue. 

As Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reminded television interviewer Andrew Marr yesterday, free market fundamentalism is no friend of the workers. 

The labour movement should oppose any “single market” or “customs union” deal with the EU and leave a future Labour government free to outlaw super-exploitation of labour, regulate trade and the movement of capital, invest in strategic industries and insist on progressive procurement contracts between the public and private sectors.

"Which Union?"

That question needs to be put to a referendum in Scotland, to a referendum in Northern Ireland, and to a referendum in Gibraltar.

In Scotland, the options would be the United Kingdom outside (or, at any rate, nominally planning to leave) the European Union, and independence with a view to seeking EU membership.

In Northern Ireland, the options would be the United Kingdom outside (or, at any rate, nominally planning to leave) the European Union, and incorporation into the EU member state of the Irish Republic, assuming that it would be willing to take Northern Ireland, which is very far from clearly the case.

And in Gibraltar, the options would incorporation into the United Kingdom outside (or, at any rate, nominally planning to leave) the European Union, and becoming an autonomous community of the EU member state of Spain.

In no case would there be any third option, and in all three cases the result would be final.

All of this needs to happen this year.

Although of course it does assume that the United Kingdom has the slightest intention of ever leaving the European Union.

We all know about "transitional periods".

The Hill Top of Crook, Indeed

"Utterly ruthless, but never exactly in the intellectual vanguard." That was how an erstwhile Special Adviser to a Labour Cabinet Minister described her to me.

Having known Hilary Armstrong for 30 years, and having had the singular pleasure of serving on her Constituency Executive during and around the Iraq War, I treat her latest intervention exactly as it deserves to be treated.

Back in the day, when she was Tony Blair's Chief Whip, she banned me from being a council candidate in her constituency because I was mixed-race, and instead imposed her pure white office boy, who went on to lose the election itself so spectacularly that he took a distinguished councillor down with him.

It is worth noting that a clearly ill-advised Laura Pidcock put this person's image and endorsement on her election literature. Not much in the way of showing racism the red card there.

Armstrong used the hunting ban, of which more anon, to cajole disgraceful Labour MPs into supporting the Iraq War. But she herself did not vote for that ban, nor did Blair, and nor did their close ally, the Stop Gordon Brown candidate of that moment, John Reid.

Around that time, her sometime National Executive Committee "colleague", Mark Seddon, told that, while of course I ought to be the next MP for North West Durham, there was bound to be an all-women shortlist. No one ever bothered to impart such information to the aforementioned office boy, with hilarious consequences.

Speaking of the NEC, Armstrong and her little chai wallah once blocked the Constituency Labour Party here from nominating me to it, thereby preventing anyone else from doing so, since one of my nominations had to come from my home CLP.

In the intervening years, the Conservative Party, while retaining and even consolidating its electoral base, has shrivelled in its membership to a tiny subculture so detached from the mainstream that it regards the repeal of the never-enforced hunting ban as a national priority, while seriously imagining that Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg ought to be Prime Minister.

There are, however, still a few people in that party who realise that such ridiculous figures, both of whom are complete confections and not remotely "authentic", could never win a General Election, either against Jeremy Corbyn, or against any of the stars of the 2015 intake in his Shadow Cabinet, which is where the stars of the 2015 intake are.

In particular, they are justly terrified of Angela Rayner. Hence the barefaced lie that Labour promised to write off existing student debt. Now, there would be no cost involved in writing off absurdly high debts that no one has the slightest intention of ever trying to collect. But Labour never promised to do so.

The General Election has taught the Conservatives nothing. They still believe that they can use their courtier media to spread any old drivel and no one will call them out on it. Hence the student debt story.

And hence the deselection story, which is equally baseless.

Saturday 22 July 2017

Crowing Under The Crown

As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the media have reverted (in fact, they did so some years ago) to the situation that obtained before she ever came along.

In those days, books about the Royal Family were written, bought and read only by people who liked the Royal Family, in the way that books about trains are written, bought and read only by people who like trains, while books about stamps are written, bought and read only by people who like stamps.

And now, television programmes about the Royal Family, even ones about Diana of all people, are made and watched only by people who like the Royal Family.

In the course of the present reign, and especially of the last 30 years, Britain is best understood as one of those countries which abolished their monarchies and then brought them back again.

The British monarchy is back forever now.

And Relative Dimension

There are some pretty far-fetched events in Macbeth, but no one suggests changing the sex of the eponymous character.

The proof of the wisdom of a female Doctor in Doctor Who will be whether anyone watches.

Or at least whether anything like as many people, in this country and throughout the world, do so.

But first on The Mash Report (execrable, but then I accept that I am twice the age of the target audience), and then on Dead Ringers, the BBC has gone out of its way to insult even the existing audience.

Doctor Who fans, perhaps because there are just so many of them, crystallise in the BBC's mind its own adolescent sense, not of having too few friends, but of having the wrong ones.

That never bothered me. The cool kids and I ignored each other so happily that, when I did have cause to interact with them, then we got along fine. I am still in touch with a lot of them on Facebook and what have you.

But the BBC is the boy who hates his mates, because they are not the mates that he wants, but they are the only ones that he is ever going to have.

Very occasionally, he lashes out. For example, over Doctor Who. Or in the form of The Mash Report.