What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the category “International News”

Defending Offence: A reply to a writers’ question (1)

The reason I have not gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel the real that someone will slit my throat…

(Grayson Perry, quoted by Nick Cohen, pp 50 “You Can’t Read This Book” 2012)

…I worked on this opera about Jerry Springer. And, um, we got accused of being blasphemous, which was, came as a genuine surprise, ’cause it honestly had had really good reviews in the Church Times and Catholic Herald when it first went out in the theatre. So it was kind of weird, it all came a bit out of nowhere. We got 65,000 complaints when it went out on television. The BBC executives that commissioned it had to go into hiding, with police protection. And me and the composer were going to be taken to court and charged with blasphemy. But at the end of June, the High Court threw the case out on the grounds that it isn’t 1508.

(Stewart Lee,transcript from his show “90’s Comedian”, published in 2010, “How I escaped my certain fate…”)

Since its publication, “You Can’t Read This Book” by Nick Cohen has become one of the most important publications of the of the decade for anyone who sees free speech and free thinking as vital to the progress of humanity. After publication, there have been many reviews, mostly positive, of a book that takes an overview of the state of play for anyone who wants to tell truth to power, or simply be well informed. Having divided his arguments into three sections – “God”, “Money” and “The State”, Mr Cohen then rounds on the forces that he sees as being the enemies of truth.

With the lamented early death of Christopher Hitchens, Cohen is perhaps the best contemporary western journalist and essayist we have nominally on the left. I consciously say “nominally’, as he has been alternately the darling and the whipping boy for certain parts of the left liberal commentariat for much of his career. Oh how they loved his well researched attack on Blairism in “Pretty Strait Guys’, and how they pilloried him for his support for the destruction of the Ba’ath regime of Saddam Hussein, even if it meant supporting an unpopular war. Yet the fair weather friends of the far left, and their careless parrots within the wider currents of mainstream left/liberal thought would do well to cast aside prejudice and read a passionate, well researched and and literate defence of basic freedoms that without which, no truly liberating progress can come about.

I had no real intention to add to the pean of praise heaped upon his latest work, yet in a reply to a post I made on the 18th, I found myself reaching for my copy once again. Jaime Lynch Staunton, a writer and blogger asked the question:

Who is being cowardly and subservient to religion? How?

To do Jaime justice, I will divide my answer into two sections, and two posts

WHO…

In 1989, one of the great English Language novelists of modern times published his latest work. As in previous works, it was an exploration of themes close to his own experience as an immigrant from the Indian subcontinent to Britain. Salman Rushdies’ “The Satanic Verses” was attacked by fundamentalist clerics in Iran (a dictatorship had previously praised his earlier work), and the Ayatollah Khomeni pronounced a fatwa upon him, his publishers, and booksellers worldwide. Numerous attacks on bookstores and translators ensued or we threatened, most notably in Japan in 1991, the murder of an academic translator, and in Italy the stabbing of another. To their great credit, both the British Government and the publishing industry stood firm, and Rushdie has so far eluded his assassins.

There was a backlash, aided and abetted by those who should, and did, know better. Keith Vaz, MP for Leicester South, came to the fore in this country calling for the book to be banned, in effect asking that Britain follow the lead of Apartheid South Africa. Predictably enough, Norman Tebbit weighed in, to kick an opponent when he was down. More disturbing was the response of some other western authors…

Most bizarre of all though, was the noise by a number of eminent writers and authors. John le Carre’, John Berger, Roald Dahl, Hugh Trevor-Roper, and others began a sort of auction of defamation in which they accused Rushdie variously of insulting Islam, practising Western-style cultural colonialism & condescension, and damaging race relations.

(Christopher Hitchens, in “Unacknowledged Legislation, Writers In The Public Sphere”, Verso, 2000. pp.127)

Rushdie even managed perhaps the greatest feat of ecumenicalism, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Vatican, and the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel all issuing statements to the effect that the main problem with the fatwa was not the actual death threat, but the blasphemy committed by the writer.  George Bush the first refused to follow in the footsteps of Vaclav Havel and Irelands’ Mary Robinson in upholding the international promise of the US constitutions’ First Amendment. Germaine Greer defended the rights of book burners everywhere, to her shame.

Eventually, the fatwa was lifted, as part of the ongoing diplomatic efforts of Iran to gain better relations and recognition in the west. Then in 2007, the now Labour Government gave Rushdie a Knighthood for services to literature. Again various radical Islamist organisations claimed offence. Predictably, many on the right criticised the award being given to a writer so firmly opposed to “Mrs Torture”, yet even some of them defended his right to write what he thought, notably Boris Johnson and Peter Hitchens, whilst claiming his work to be “unreadable”. In the same edition of the BBC programme “Question Time”  the daughter of Vera Brittan and Liberal Grande Dame Shirley Williams could not bring herself to support the appointment, saying that it was ill-timed, begging the old partisan question “if not now, when?”.

Now, with the murder of an American Diplomat and staff in Libya, apparently over manufactured offence caused by a grubby little film, and the French call to leave muslim countries over some cartoons, Mr Rushdie has become the subject of another well-funded fatwa bounty.

But of course, this is only one man, and one book. Hilary Clintons response to the supposed “offence” caused by the film “The Innocence of Islam” speaks volumes:

…our country does have a long tradition of free expression, which is enshrined in our Constitution and in our law. We do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be.”

No British Foreign Secretary could say the same without contradiction on each point – historical, legal, and practical.

In December 2004, a crowd of up to 1,000 Sikhs protested outside Birmingham Repertory Theatre, some stormed the building, stopping the first performance of the play “Behzti (Disgrace), by the female British Sikh writer Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti. The play explores themes of abuse and hypocrisy within the Sikh community, and is set in a Sikh temple. It is, very obviously, a work of fiction. The play was cancelled after two days of negotiation involving the police and local dignitaries.

The leader of this self-appointed group, Mr Sewa Singh Mandla justified his actions thus:

In a Sikh temple, sexual abuse does not take place, kissing & dancing do not take place, rape doesn’t take place, homosexual activity doesn’t take place, murders do not take place

As reported in The Sikh Times, Steven Glover, writing in The Daily Mail expressed “a degree of sympathy” and found it “hard not to admire” the protesters. It was perhaps no surprise that the Roman Catholic Church in Birmingham, in the person of Archbishop Vincent Nichol would make common cause against free thought in these words:

Such a deliberate, even if fictional, violation of the sacred place of the Sikh Religion demeans the sacred places of every religion. 

Of course, I should not have to remind any reader of the actions of Christian Voice over “Jerry Springer – The Opera”, the protests and threatened protests that forced 9 theatres to pull out of the nationwide tour, the level of threat which sent BBC staff into hiding…

The cumulative effect of these and others religious protests and threats has been, in one writers’ words to “internalise the fatwa”, so that many artists and writers self-censor, much as most did under the great dictatorships of the twentieth century. In the end, all authority, secular and religious, relies more on “the policeman in your head” rather than the policeman on the street. Although there are policeman out there, ready to pounce whenever one transgresses the shifting boundary of “offence”.

In the light of past scandals, the Arts Council is, as in the case of “Jerry springer” much less likely to grant money to any production that could cause offence to be manufactured. It is not hard to find a local politician, of any party, who will readily give voice to any loud “community” based campaign against whatever is seen as against any particular religion. The over used word “respect” is now the mantra when it comes to deeply held beliefs – as if simply believing something deeply enough makes it impossible to challenge. The Commission for Racial Equality conflates religion with race regularly, as do many others, which is insulting on both levels, if you think about it.

So, Commissioning Editors, Publishers, Producers as well as writers all tend to shy away from the new religious taboos – finding much more comforting and safe ways to shock us – a “Booky-Wook” here, a “Little Britain” there, but please, don’t offend the clerics too much eh?

 

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

The freedom to think what you like, and to express those thoughts, whether in print, on film, in speech or art without fear of censorship, imprisonment, torture or death. That to me is what free speech means.

Why is this so hard for some religious people to understand? My advocacy of evolution, or of Atheism come to that, should hardly cause a believing Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Sikh or anyone else much heartache, other than perhaps regret that I may be punished at some future date by their respective deities.

In the space of barely seven days we have seen blood shed against a pretty bad film  (by all accounts) that has offended some clerics in the middle east who have not seen this film. We have seen some christians in The Hebrides protesting that an award-winning evolutionary scientist and author is coming to their book festival in Lewis. And once again, a wealthy muslim fundamentalist organisation has put a bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie.

These despicable acts of repression have been met with hand wringing by those on the liberal left who still have the decency to object to the curtailment of our freedom of conscience, which is after all enshrined in the U.N. Human Rights Charter. Yet outside of novelists and media types, where are the big battalions of politicians willing to defend our right to be offended? Who will stand up for the individual who dares to say what they believe to be true, even if they are mistaken?

Politicians of left and right keep as quiet as the grave, not daring to say a word to power.

Defence of each of the three subjects does not mean that you agree with any of their arguments, or like their work, or want to invite them to tea. What it does mean is that you are willing to defend their and your right to liberty of thought. There is no argument that can be made for the fanatics and fundamentalists who, like wealthy libel lawyers, infest the earth with one purpose – to shut you up and keep you ignorant. No argument citing “cultural sensitivities’, “provocation”, “islamophobia” or “atheist fundamentalism” can hold any sway when the shedding of blood of people with absolutely NOTHING to do with film production takes place.

There is no justification valid under the Sun for any of the actions that have taken place – it is not “western imperialism”, “cultural imperialism” or any other such nonsense that idiots of the western far left and despotic clerics of the middle east parrot to stock outrage.

This is a sad state of affairs for anyone to observe. We need to be stressing that religious tolerance, a keystone of our society, in no way means a cowardly subservience to religion.

DEATH & TAXES PART TWO – ITS THIS STUPID ECONOMY, STUPID!!!!

Last Sunday, The Observer newspaper did a service to the people of the world, although in a week when pointless metal-encased flames and uniformly branded sportswear are the biggest news in town, you would look hard in the rest of the British media to find out.

In a series of articles, and in conjunction with the campaign group Tax Justice Network, London’s most venerable liberal(ish) weekly exposed the true state of the world economy. It is not a pretty sight, but at last, we critics of trickle-down free market horseshit have some reasonably accurate figures to throw back at Adam Smith/Cato Institute blowhards. Not to mention third wayers like Progress…

The former Chief Economist at McKinsey, Mr James Henry has just produced the most detailed estimates of the offshore economy – you know, all that moolah stashed away in tax havens from the Caribbean to the Channel Islands, by way of Switzerland and Lichtenstein. This is forensic accounting at its best, echoing the work over the years of Mr “follow the money”, Greg Palast. 

To quote from the front page:

Their wealth’s, as Henry puts it, “protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy.”

Helpfully, the report can quantify in numbers both the approximate number of individuals and what the probably keep hidden, although the report is careful not to attempt to put a price on the number of apartments in Chelsea, Canalettos on the wall, or Van Gogh sketches owned by this global elite. The figures are pretty instructive:

  1. The Approximate amount of wealth held “offshore” in tax havens – £13 TRILLION to £20 TRILLION. Thats between $21 and $32 TRILLION.
  2. The approximation number of people hiding money offshore around the globe – ten million. 
  3. Estimated amount owned by just 92,000 of the above ten million – $9.8 TRILLION.

I suppose that we can now put a number on the size of our true global Ruling Class, and, as a result, we know have to radically rethink our idea of the gap between the rich and poor, as both the poor and the very rich are now palpably underrepresented. It also puts the supposed “death of class politics” (TM Mssrs P. Mandelson, W. Clinton, A.L.Blair) into its proper perspective.

Typically, the biggest losers in the period measured, from the 1970’s to 2010, have been Oil and Mineral rich developing nations and the former Soviet bloc. Russia lost $798 Billion since 1990, the Ukraine $167 Billion,  & the Kazakhs $138 Billion. Predictably, Africa has suffered badly, Nigeria bleeding $306 Billion and Ivory Coast $141 Billion respectively. 

But these are notorious Kleptocracies surely? This doesn’t happen in Democracies does it? Err, yup ‘fraud so – Mexico lost $417 Billion, Venezuela $406 Billion, Brazil a whopping $520 Billion. to name but three…

Fans of the Chinese model of free market dictatorship will be ashamed to learn that since the 1980’s, her economy has lost a staggering $1,189 Billion to offshore tax havens. The rest of us are not all that surprised…

To put this in perspective, if the Super Rich paid only 30% tax on their interest, it would amount to more than the rich economies spend in a year on aid – some $189 Billion. (That’s if they only “earned” 3% interest)

The figure of £13 Trillion is a sum that dwarfs the combined economies of the USA and Japan.

Under increased pressure to do at least something, the British Government recently entered into the mother of all sweetheart deals with Switzerland and its Bankers – UK residents are going to be able to make a one-time payment of between 21% and 41% to clear the slate on undeclared assets. This allows tax dodgers to still avoid both the current 50% top tax rate, and the future 45% rate.

One of the most industrious founders of the UK-based tax haven industry was reportedly one Ian Cameron, father of the Right Honourable David Cameron, our Prime Minister.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has repeatedly made statements to the effect that, since 2008, it is time to stop “bashing bankers” and let them get on with it, and his hopes to make the City of London some sort of “haven” for international finance. He also trousers £250,000 per annum for writing a column for Telegraph Newspapers, owned by the Barclay brothers, who are all registered offshore for tax purposes. This amount is somewhat more than his substantial salary for running our Capital City. There is, of course, no suggestion of any linkage here.

Utoya nine months on…

Today, as the trial of Anders Breivik gets under way, I am thinking about solidarity, about the family and friends of those seventy seven mainly young people murdered in cold blood last July in Norway.

Nothing can ever replace a life cut short, nor could I ever dare to imagine what their relatives and mates have been going through for nine months. Norway is a small place, it is estimated that one in four of the population knew one of the butchered. They were killed as “legitimate targets” in Breiviks opinion because they were members of the Norwegian Labour Party, fellow democratic socialists to us here in Britain. They were, and remain, our brothers and sisters.

As a civilised nation, Norway has no death penalty, so the martyrdom that the assassin seeks will elude him. In place of that, we have seventy seven heroes between the ages of fourteen and fifty one, with an average age of just under twenty.

They died as true martyrs to the causes of tolerance, decency and democracy. Today I salute them, and all in our worldwide movement for justice and human rights. I salute the fundamental decency of the Norwegian people.

Our only lasting memorial can be the re-doubling of our efforts to combat the messages of hate spread by groups such as the BNP and EDL, and hate-filled clerics of every religion. We must concentrate on what unites the vast majority of humanity, regardless of race and creed, once more we must call for the workers of the world to unite, and make all men brothers.

If we could stand silent at this years May Day marches and rallies, it would be a fitting tribute.

Buenos Aires and Whitehall…

After Margaret Thatchers memorable turn as Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”, there was a predictable flurry of Falklands-related guff, from both Buenos Aires and Whitehall. Events today, with the riot outside the British Embassy show that the war fought thirty years ago is still alive for many, even those not born at the time.

  Now I believe that it is vital that those of us who consider ourselves to be part of the sane British Left to address this issue, and to reiterate the point made by the late Michael Foot in 1982, namely that the right of the Falkland Islanders to national  self-determination is paramount. They have an unquestionable right to be British, and to the protection of the British Crown. The Islanders have no wish to be part of mainland Argentina, which for all practical purposes is as distant as Southampton to them.

Lets look at the underlying forces at play here. A Peronist Government, forced by the economic crisis to make vastly unpopular cuts in Argentina has played the only card it has left – the Malvinas. In Whitehall, the ministers of an unpopular Coalition, also embarking on a harsh and unwarranted cutback/privatisation programme cannot be indifferent to the possible patriotic side effects of “standing firm on the Falklands”. After all, last week they tried petrol panic and pasty eating as diversions. In the real world, neither government has the forces to hand to either invade or re-take the islands.

However, once the diplomatic sphere is included, things look grimmer for Britain than in 1982. Virtually the whole of South America agrees with Argentina that these rocks, first settled centuries ago by the British, are really part of Tierra del Fuego. The U.S. State Department, true to form, has no fixed view, but would like to see negotiations, no doubt with a resolution that would favour her South American ally. US foreign policy has long regarded the break up of the UKs remaining dependencies as a good thing.

Spain will predictably side with its ex-colony. France? Well lets just hope that whoever wins the election there can be as steadfast as Mitterand was in 1982. China and Russia are always ready to humiliate Britain, and India could go either way. I should think that most Arab states would back Argentina post Iraq.

Altogether not a happy picture for the Islanders, and one that would take both careful Diplomacy and decent Defence spending to reverse. Unfortunately neither looks likely until we kick this Coalition out. Camerons Defence Review is sending William Hague naked into the conference chamber – never an appealing thought.

As we remember those who fought and  gave their lives fighting against a Fascist Junta thirty years ago, let us remember that their sons and daughters may well have to do the same.

FOR THOSE IN PERIL ON THE SEA…

After the news last week from the Italian coast, perhaps minds have been concentrated on maritime matters, at least a little.

 About 20 nautical miles off the Dutch coast, a Naval scandal has erupted, and surprise surprise, only Private Eye seems to care…

Under both National and International Law, both Merchant and Naval ships sunk during wartime are designated War Graves. HMS Hood, The General Belgrano, ships sunk at Jutland or Sole Bay, it is all the same to the Law…

On the 22nd of September 1914, three British Light Cruisers, HMS Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue were sunk in quick succession by the German Submarine U-9, shocking The First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill and ushering in a new age of Naval Warfare. The wrecks are the only marked grave for some 1459 RN Seamen and Marines.

Currently, a Dutch salvage firm is cutting up these graves for scrap – mostly for low background radiation Steel, Bronze and Copper. At the moment, neither the Dutch nor the British Governments are doing a thing about it. It appears that these wrecks were sold (yes, SOLD) to a German company back in 1954, within living memory of their sinking.

Given the allegedly parlous state of History teaching in our schools (prop. a Mr Gove), I suppose that I should remind you all that in 1954 the Government was Tory, and the Prime Minister was… Winston Churchill.

When challenged by the Royal Naval Association, Archaeologists and Diving Associations, the MoD did nothing, and said less.When faced with a Freedom of Information Request from Andy Brockman, of Archaeology campaign group “Mortimer”, which wanted to know how many Royal Naval warships that might be considered War Graves under International Law currently had salvage contracts granted or sold, those men from the MoD said it would cost more than the upper limit of £600 to research.

At this point, Clive Efford, Labour MP for Eltham, asked Gerald Howarth, the Junior Defence Minister for answers about the 1954 sale, this is part of Howarth’s reply:

” We can hardly object to salvage as such, as it appears we knowingly sold them for the purpose back in 1954: we must assume the decision to dispose of the wrecks was taken by our predecessors in full knowledge of the facts & they acted in the public interest as perceived at the time… Notwithstanding (such a Sir Humphrey turn of phrase Gerald…) the unfortunate acts… we will request the Dutch Authorities to do whatever they can to ensure the salvors  treat the wrecks with appropriate respect & responsibility.”

I do hope that some Ministry of Defence official can remind Mr Howarth of the Joint Compassionate Casualty Centre, which currently repatriates the fallen from Afghanistan. It is not only responsible for current casualties, but also historic ones, & has been on hand at various archaeological and salvage operations, to ensure that the remains of the dead are treated “with appropriate & responsibility” as he puts it. Alongside the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it would be in charge of the proper treatment & burial of the remains of any British Serviceman found abroad, whether found on commercial property or not.

Under the Geneva Convention 1949, it would also be the responsibility of the Dutch Government “to protect & maintain such grave sites permanently.”

In the past year we have seen the attempt to turn a War Memorial  in The City into a party venue narrowly averted. We now have the awful spectacle of a government and Civil Service that seems to have not a care for those who died protecting our liberties, as long as the bodies are out of site. How different from the annual orgy of false piety every November. How odd to see these who push and shove to get tickets to City Salute and the Army & Navy Game at Twickers.

How shaming to see BP buying their own Frigate to protect their fleet from pirates. And, more to the point, how on earth does this Coalition justify its 15,000 Service redundancies last year? They are not fit to look at the flag, they certainly are not fit to defend it. 

In Pearl Harbour, one could never imagine the above fate being endured by the USS Arizona, nor would the Menin Gate be plundered for stone…

 

I Told You This Would Not Go Away…

Its been quite some time since I last posted, and I was considering stopping altogether. Yet with the News International phone hacking scandal  involving such a variety of the, ahem, “Great and the Good”, i just thought I would leave one post more…

So, Rebekah Brooks, having been arrested, will probably be able to dodge any awkward questions in Parliament, presuming that she is at liberty to attend either the Culture or Home Office Select Committees.

The head of The Met has lost his job, though not his pension, nor his Knighthood. Boris, of course, is waffling as only a former grub street hack can. Lets not forget that during his tenure as editor of The Spectator, he honed his investigative talents by getting old buffers drunk at lunchtime and publishing the results.

His refusal to apologise for calling the allegations against The News of the world “politically motivated codswallop” speaks volumes. He has managed in a trice to rehabilitate the image of Ken Livingstone in the eyes of those concerned by just how close the media and politicians are. Even John Prescott has been vindicated across the land…

And Ed… so far, the boy has done very well indeed. We now need o broaden the attack to include all those grubby little “special interest” cliques that dominate our public life.

My own experience of the Murdoch Empire is very slight, firstly my Great uncle Rab was father of Chapel when the Digger first bought The Sun. An upright, staunchly anti-graft FoC (he started when The Sun had been owned by the TUC as The Daily Herald), he was a bit of a rarity on Fleet Street in those days – honest, soft spoken and non-swearing. the family tale is that after twenty minutes with Rupert, he threw an inkwell at the wall and pronounced “for all the good you’ll do you might as well f@** off back to Australia”. Today, in heaven, Rab is doing a merry jig.

Secondly, a few years ago I was working in a bar near to Westminster, when a tallish grey haired man walked in, requesting our back room for himself and his colleagues. It was a quiet day, so no problem, and around six or seven suited men and women duly filed in, ordering some sandwiches and coffees for what was evidently a working lunch. All was duly prepaered and served, to the satisfaction of the party, and as they made to leave, the bill was presented.

Grey-Hair came up to the bar, disdain dripping from his very visage. He demanded that the bill be halved. When it was politely pointed out that he had seen the menu and prices before he ordered, his air of peevishness intensified, and he produced his business card. Sadly, its not one I have kept, although I seem to remember it did say “News International” at the top, and seem to recall the words “Legal Department”, or something to that effect, on it. The upshot was that I, to my eternal shame, caved in and reduced the bill and this upright example of our fine legal tradition got what he wanted.

Sadly, no names, no pack drill, but I was reminded of this with the exit  of the two top legal officers in Wapping last week, with generous payouts, that some might speculate could be seen as hush money. It also reinforced to me the utter contempt that those who work in News International and NewsCorp have for those of us not lucky enough to do the same.

Instead of offering unwanted advice to Tom Watson et al, all I can do is congratulate them for what they are doing on behalf of us all.

There are just some of the questions that we need answers to, to whit:

  • Just when did News International start paying The Metropolitan Police for information?
  • Where was this money stated in the accounts?
  • How stupid would a Policeman have to be to believe that £1,000 was all he could get for information on confidential Royal phone numbers? ( I would have held out for at least £10,000)
  • Will any Police, either serving or retired, who are fingered in the ongoing investigation lose their pension?
  • Just how many times in the past two years has Mayor Boris Johnson met with  the Murdoch family, employees of News International, and in the case of Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charles ( an old Etonian who was at school with Boris and David Cameron)?
  • The same question for both David Cameron and George Osborne, who recruited Andy Coulson to the Conservatives in 2007.
  • How deep are the links between News international and Robert Peston, who seems to get a staggering number of inside “scoops” here? 
  • If you have to spend a Christmas dinner with Rebekah Brooks, what do you talk about?
  • What does Inspector Gadget think about all this? Worried that that elusive Sky serialisation will disappear?

Getting Rid of Gaddafi – How do We Help???

After the horrible scenes we see daily on the news, it is finally clear that the madman is not going without a fight. Unlike Mubarrak, who is under army guard in his villa, Gaddafi has nowhere to run, and is now proving in deeds what his son broadcast in those terrible words.  It looks as if he will do what Saddam said he would, and fight to the last. Unlike Saddam however, he has the means and the fanatical support of some to do this.Ninety British subjects in Libya are trapped with around three hundred other foreign nationals in a camp too far from Tripoli to get out, with no transport, and decreasing supplies. At the very least these people need a rescue mission as soon as possible. Even The Times is calling (rightly) for the freezing of the Gaddafi family assets here in London, although no one is talking about redistribution to rebuild a shattered nation.

Around the Western World, in Boardrooms and the corridors of power, there must be a whole bunch of nervous people, not least Silvio Berlusconi and the Italian elite – lets not forget Italian investment in Libya, nor Libyan investment in FIAT. Government ministers here in Britain, from every Government since 1992 are no-doubt worried as to what may come out as to dodgy deals over getting Shell and BP concessions, including the Al-Megrahni affair, and the cosying-up to Gadaffi since the end of the 1991 Iraq War.

Yet behind the headlines, what can, indeed what should we in the west be doing?

  1. Much as I hate to agree with David Owen, a no-fly zone can be established by NATO forces over Libya. This needs to be U.N. sanctioned, and my suspicion is that neither China nor Russia will agree. Nonetheless we must try. Once applied in Bosnia and Iraq, no-fly zones prevented, or at least lessened the slaughter.
  2. Hit tyrants where it really hurts – in the pocket. Freeze their assets right now.
  3. Mount a rescue operation for the trapped workers too far from Tripoli. This is not impossible, nor impractical, as the operation could be mounted from NATO bases in Southern Italy. If Israel could rescue hostages from Entebbe in Uganda, surely we could do the same now.
  4. Demonstrate outside the Libyan Embassy – as ordinary citizens, show our support for freedom.
  5. Stop emasculating The World Service. Increasingly, we see the shutting-down of the internet and international TV broadcasts as a tool of repression. This that the good old short-wave World Service can be the ONLY reliable and trusted source of news. The cuts being made now are simply madness.
  6. Support Refugee and Dissident groups. Instead of shutting down these centres, like Hammersmith and Fulham Council, now is the time to engage and nurture them.
  7. Support democratic organisations in the regions. Civil groups, Trades Unions, feminists, democratic political parties need money and support right now. Show solidarity wherever and whenever you can.

Murdoch is Bad News – Everywhere…

What with the dodgy dinners and phone-tapping, NewsCorp is not having a good time of it at the moment, but just in case you are one of those who feel “relaxed” about Murdoch wholly owning BSkyB, read this article in todays Observer – http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/30/frances-fox-piven-glenn-beck

 

Once again, Fox News personality Glenn beck has irresponsibly lead a witch hunt against a 78 year old academic – although he has not personally advocated violence against those he attacks in extreme language, his followers have no such qualms.

Do we really want this mans employer in sole charge of a large chunk of British Media?

Egypt – A Festival Of The Oppressed

The events unfolding across the whole of the Middle East should give heart to anyone who believes in Democracy and Liberty across the world.

In Cairo, in Lebanon, in in Tunisia,In Jordan, in Yemen, in Iran, the pressure has been building over the past few years, and has erupted into the streets, with demands from ordinary people for reforms and the downfall of the ruling cliques of kleptocrats and dictators.

Who on earth will shed a tear for Hosni Mubarrak? Other than the State Department, I cannot find anyone comes to mind…

Yet his party, the National Democratic Party, remains a member of The Socialist international – why??? In the name of all we hold dear, this bunch of crooks are in no way Democratic, neither are they Socialist. Expulsion is the only correct policy in this case.

They are however nominally secular, although the state they own still persecutes religious and atheist minorities with enthusiasm.

There are worries that their downfall will see the implementation of an Islamic State – one which would take a much harsher line on Israel, and lead to Islamic reaction gaining another base, along with Iran. This is a definite possibility, as the persecution of The Muslim Brotherhood and its ilk has given them much support amongst the poor. The Brotherhood have so far been pretty absent from the streets, as have the fractured opposition parties. This looks like a genuine people power movement.

However, given the fact that the people facing rubber bullets and tear gas in Cairo today want Mubbarak out, and price reform, along with freedom of expression and democratic reforms, I doubt that the radical Islamists can hold this movement in their hands.

This uprising is inspired by events in Tunisia, in Jordan, in Lebanon, and also by events a few years back in Iran. No leader in the Middle East is safe, the decades of tyranny that followed colonial rule may very well be coming to an end – if this is so, then it is our duty to support the people against the state, against dictators, against torture and oppression.

Once again, I state that this fight is our fight. We must stand on the side of the people facing corrupt police brutality.

Solidarity is a concept that is at the very heart of our movement, our history, our ideas. Now is the time to show it.

Contact The Foreign and Commonwealth Office at http://fco.gov.uk/      fill out the feedback form in the contact pages, showing your support for those fighting for their rights across the Arab World


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