What would Clement do?

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

“COME IN G-GEORGE, YOU HAVE A BILL TO PAY…”

 Utterly disgusting. The best two words I can think of to greet the news that the few surviving Bomber Command veterans may well have to stump up from their pensions to pay for a memorial that was only completed and opened this year. Imagine the outcry if The Commonwealth War Graves Commission sent The Royal British Legion a bill  for the Menin Gate? 

Surely if the Tories had not botched the Rail Franchise to keep Virgin out, there would be a little money to spare here? Why do we have a department for “Heritage” – one that along with the tourist industry, is never backwards in promoting a rosy view of the Second World War, and Churchill nostalgia. And let us not forget that our politicians are never shy of invoking that “wartime spirit”, or wrapping themselves in the Union Flag for cheap gain. Quite frankly, this stinks.

Bomber Command was, certainly for those who flew, perhaps the deadliest posting in the British forces between 1939 and 1945. Over fifty-five thousand young men died in the bomber offensive against Germany, out of a total of around 120,000. With their comrades in the U.S. Eighth Air Force, they made a huge effort towards the defeat of Nazi Germany. Along with the Bevin Boys in the mines, and the Fourteenth Army in Burma, they were largely forgotten when peace came.

Bomber Command waged a war that most of us would prefer to forget – Area Bombing, which meant the indiscriminate bombing of industrial centres through Germany, causing truly horrific civilian deaths. At the time, questions were asked in Parliament, and public protests were issued against the policy – which contrasts with the enthusiastic public reception given to film showing the bombing of Poland in Germany, where terror was promoted as a wonderful weapon. Let us be clear, the bombing of Dresden was no less an atrocity of war than Coventry, or Rotterdam, or Guernica come to that.

The bombing offensive did probably shorten the length of the war, and it did disrupt German war production. The figures will be argued over till the cows come home, but it is significant that Germany moved a large part of its fighter force home to protect the Reich, and built many more fighters than bombers from 1942. This increasingly meant that Allied forces, East and West, could gain the vital air superiority needed to win on the ground.

This was a battle of attrition, with airmen from Australia, Canada, India, the West Indies, and of course from the occupied countries as well as Great Britain. Arthur “Butch” Harris frequently overstated the results of the campaign, and time and again, young men were ordered into the face of a well organised flak and night fighter defence. Yet these airmen did not falter, orders were orders, and they did their duty, incurring heavy losses in the air, and untold anguish once the war was over.

Because of the controversy and revulsion over Area Bombing, once the war was over, no campaign medal was struck – uniquely for both world wars. Arthur Harris resigned in disgust, and the only memorial to those 55,000-odd men was in Ely Cathedral – out of sight, out of mind.

 Until this year, the fallen of Bomber Command had no memorial in London, and it had to be paid for by public subscription. And of course, when the funding fell through, the bill still had to be paid. So who should pay? Well, by the inaction of the British Establishment, it looks like the pensioners who are fast dying out. Only the most cynical of Tories should fail to feel burning shame…

Did Ed need Dinosaurs????

On balance, I think yes, Daniel was right. Pretty much ANYTHING can be improved with Dinosaurs.

Mcluskey Balls…

Well, day two of  Labour Conference ( after Labour Womens Conference yesterday), and we have our first official spat, between UNITE union leader Len Mcluskey, and Ed “not THAT Ed” Balls…

To be fair, Mr Mcluskey was supporting a compromise motion, merely “noting” disagreement with Ed Balls’ policy of pay restraint in the public sector, in defence of public sector jobs. In a sense, this is what union leaders are for – defending conditions, pay AND jobs, so it is hardly surprising that “Red Len” made this speech, and in the interests of debate, it was right for him, on behalf of his members, to do so. 

I suspect that Rob Marchant over at The Centre Left blog will disagree, in reasonable language, and then once again propose a divorce between Labour and the unions, in the interest of progress (or is that Progress?). Coupled with his interview in the Sunday Times, Mr Mcluskey has declared war on the right wing of Labour, and in particular the blairite organisation Progress and its supporters. Are they “cuckoos in the nest” of the Labour Party, as he asserts, or are they a legit part of our movement?  My feeling is that Mcluskey has some valid points, but that declaring war will do much more harm than good.

You see, many of those “cuckoos” are exactly the people who stayed with the party through thick and thin. Like Mcluskey, they didn’t leave over Iraq, the elder statesmen of the right fought elections and the SDP splits of the 1980s, they have shown the sort of loyalty to the party that should be commended. Politically, I have huge problems with many of their ideas, certainly with the way that Progress is funded, and its influence at the higher level of internal politics. But critics of Progress need to understand that these people have put in the hours, and taken the knocks that working for a political party year in year out brings.

Mcluskey’s true beefs with the Progress crowd, that they are ultimately against the union link, that they want to carry-on with the failed New Labour policies that ignored the needs of working people, and failed to combat increasing inequality, have a certain ring of truth about them. The tactics that Mcluskey is using however, only play into the hands of our Tory supporting press. And as for saying that your criticism is only of ed Balls, and not Miliband, well, that is not going to hold, is it? To my mind, Balls is probably right on pay restraint in general, although there are strong arguments for protecting and increasing the pay of the low paid…

And what of Ed B’s big speech today, straight after Mcluskey’s criticism? Would he fall into the trap of responding directly? Would we see a return to some level of infighting? Well, Ed is too long in the tooth to fall into that trap at least…

Ed gave us a comprehensive and engaging demolition of Coalition economic policy, and lack thereof. Coupled with the now usual stress on our unity, and, unlike the Liberal Democrats, it seems that Labour politicians actually can make funny one-liners… 

” If David Cameron’s butch, where does that leave George Osborne?”

I’m Proud of The BBC – Are Labour???

Back in 2010, Mitch Benn – a comedian and songwriter of nearly godlike genius if you ask me, had his biggest hit so far with “I’m Proud of the BBC”, extolling the very real benefits that we all gain from auntie.  Newsround, Newsnight, iPlayer website – the list went on and on. And it hit a chord with listeners and viewers across the nation.

Well, we’ll know what we had if we lose it. The recent reshuffle was nothing more than another stacking of the deck against public service broadcasting as we know it. True, Mr C has moved on, but the tune remains the same – beggar the Beeb, and give a helping hand to Fox – sorry, Sky News.

Does it matter? Well yes it does. Every Government since Harold Wilson has accused the BBC of bias against them, and many have threatened to emasculate the corporation. As part of the fall out of the Hutton Inquiry, the last Labour government may just have started the process. However it was not irreversible, and we are now in a much more dangerous situation.

After all of ten minutes thought, The Coalition decided to cut funding via a freezing of the Licence Fee, then to stop funding The World Service via the Foreign Office. Yes, our Government took one ;look at our greatest soft power asset and said ” fuck it”. And fuck it they have.

As jobs are lost across the corporation, Unions are leading a campaign to stop the cuts – UNITE, BECTU, EQUITY and others, posing an alternative to the cuts – savings on top salaries, and a proper, forward looking policy.

 So where are the Labour MPs? Who is standing up for one of our great national institutions? One that unites us all much more than lousy weather, class snobbery and football? They, shamefully, seem as quiet as the grave, and I call that an outrage of the first order.

 Maybe it is simply an unwillingness to talk about shared culture, or to sound anti- big business. Maybe this is some kind of twisted revenge for Paxman, The Today Programme and trying to be unbiased in its foreign coverage. I don’ honestly know, and if these are the reasons, it must stop now.

Just look at the people throwing mud at the BBC – The Daily Mail, Express, Murdoch, the Tory right and any weirdo who read Ayn Rand and never grew up…

Carlton TV gave us David Cameron, whereas the BBC has given us:

Round The Horne, Miranda, Who Do You Think You Are? The day To Day, Nigella, Panorama and Bagpuss, I Claudius, Absolutely Fabulous!

Sherlock, Fireman Sam, Bruce Forsyth and The League of Gentlemen, The Thick of It, Jeremy Hardy Final Score, everything on BBC Four…

And something that can never be replaced – Sarah Jane Smith – did I mention Doctor Who? 

 

 

apologies to Mitch Benn, hope he doesn’t mind…

 

 

Lib Dem Conference Latest…

… just in…

In Brighton this week, Danny Alexander was publicly thanked by failed minister Sarah Teather for making her look good…

… Breaking News…

…The Lib Dem Glee Club has replaced “F*** off Tony Blair and die” with a more appropriate song that fits their standing in the polls – Tom Lehrers’ “We Will All Go Together When We Go”…

(For the original offensive Lib Dem song, see this – http:www.labourlist.org/2012/09/lib-dem-conference-goers-sing-tony-blair-can-fk-off-and-die/  )

…And in what may yet be seen as his best speech ever, Little Nicky shows his grasp of History, the laws of Physics, and primary colours:

“The past is the past…”  “…we can’t return to the past…”  ” Blue + Yellow = Green…”

So, altogether now – “Red and yellow and pink and blue…”

The word that strikes fear into the Tories

Over at Notes from a Broken Society, one blogger manages to involve the great PG Wodehouse in the “Plebs” scandal – kudos!!!

Notes from a Broken Society

Fans of P G Wodehouse – of whom I am one – will recall that Bertie Wooster gained the upper hand over the thuggish Spode, leader of the Black Shorts, by uttering the word “Eulalie” – the name of the up-market lingerie shop that Spode secretly ran in London, terrified that if word got out he and his macho followers would be held up to ridicule and contempt by the masses he despised.

You do not need a detailed knowledge of Wodehouse to see how the Coalition can easily resemble the Drones Club on one of its escapades.  The Drones Club, of course, frequently found themselves coming into conflict with the long arm of the law, as exemplified by the red-faced bicycle-borne local constable, and that tradition has been continued by Andrew Mitchell, accused of swearing at a Downing Street police officer and calling him a “pleb”, because the officer…

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The fundamental deceit of ‘There’s No Money Left’

An interesting post from Think Left, see what you think…

Think Left

There’s No Money Left?  by alittleecon

http://alittleecon.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/the-british/ First posted 24.09.12

“The British Government has run out of money because all the money was spent in the good years,”

George Osborne, Feb 2012

“…in the years of plenty they put nothing aside. They didn’t fix the roof when the sun was shining”.

David Cameron, March 2008

“There’s no money left”

Letter left by Liam Byrne, May 2010

For the last 4 years you will have seen or heard quotes like this in the media. How we were on the brink of bankruptcy and how “there is no money left”.  Those advocating a “Keynesian” response to the current crisis are rebuffed with the argument that we cannot increase borrowing now because we didn’t run budget surpluses in the years before the crisis – “Gordon Brown spent all the money”. Keynesianism has now been reduced to “surpluses in the good times, deficits in…

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Two years in for Ed M

So, it is two years since Ed Miliband gained the leadership of the Labour party, and over at Labour List, plenty of people are taking stock. I think we can be allowed, as Labour supporters, to raise two cheers so far…

We are convincingly ahead in the polls, and this side of the Tory conference, the narrative for the Government is definitely in their hands. Nothing looks as bad as a Government seemingly not in control, one that has also managed to present itself as being sticking firmly to its plans whilst U-turning everywhere; on Forests, on Pasty Tax, on almost anything rather than its most unpopular policies.

Mr Miliband has done something that no Labour Leader has done in eighteen years or more – he has questioned the authority of free markets, and whether they are always the only option when it comes to the economy. This, after the crash, is a vital move, giving hope that we can move towards a modern Social Democratic government in 2015.

With his handling of the Leveson Inquiry and its fallout, Ed has been widely praised. Rightly so, he played a good game and has had the Government on the back foot ever since. He backed voting reform, without being associated with they dismal failure of the Yes campaign over AV.

As leader, he has grown in his role – for all the sniping of the right of the party (someone mention Progress?), he has managed to best an increasingly loud and puce David Cameron in The House of Commons, and has silenced (for now) the internal critics oh, and John “Rental” Rentoul.

Midway through this Parliament, the media, and the rest of us, can see Ed Miliband as PM, or at least a serious contender. The low personal rating as opposed to David Cameron as a minor worry to me, as it is normal for a sitting Prime Minister to look more, well, Prime Ministerial. These figures can change, and it would take little to change David Cameron from popular to unpopular. He is already out of favour in his own party, much earlier than Edward Heath was in the 1970s, and there are already stirrings on his back benches.

Milibands’ first speech toy Conference encapsulated al the reasons to support him – including drawing a line under the Blair/Brown years, notably on Iraq. His positioning himself (and us) as an inclusive opposition, trying to heal the rifts of the last eleven years was, and remains a masterstroke.

Yet I do worry. I worry that the polls are just a mid-term blip, that someone will start the back office sniping once again. That Ken Livingstone will try to stuff up Conference from his seat on the NEC.

I also worry that Eds’ management of the part factions in the Shadow Cabinet is storing up problems – Stephen Twigg at Education is a prime example , but others, such as Liam Byrne remain in place.

I worry that those years spent as a SpAd, all that triangulation, all that hanging out in Westminster, far away from the housing estates and run-down town centres where Labour needs to make a difference, will reassert itself.

So two cheers for Ed, so far so good, but we all have much more work to do to win…

“…No more apologies…”

“… I’m so tired,

I’m so sick and tired…”

Our apology for a Government seems to be spending much of its time saying “sorry” at the moment.  And, just like Morrissey, I experiencing a distinct increase in my level of fatigue with them.

Firstly, Little Nicky pops up to make us all feel his pain on youtube, saying sorry for promising something he could not deliver, and for in fact doing the opposite on tuition fees. The instant auto-tuned hit has been an enormous flop in terms of convincing non Lib Dems that they are anything other than a puddle of yellow water on the steps of number ten.

Clegg was using a mix of two political techniques, borrowed from two other progressive leaders:

 Firstly he used the “Blair Gambit” – “hey, I am a decent guy who had to make a tough choice in hard times, but I am a pretty straight guy…’ 

Secondly, he employed what has become known as “The Clinton defence” – “Y’all caught me out, aw shucks, I’ll never do it again, and I feel your pain – please, feel mine. Can I give you a hug? Can we forget about it?”

Most interestingly, his apology was less for introducing an increase of £9,000 in student fees, and more for promising to eventually abolish them. In essence, Clegg is saying that his mistake was to propose and campaign for a progressive measure. Breathtaking cynicism. Employing the techniques pilfered from “the fornicator in chief” and possibly the most mistrusted and reviled British politician of recent times – lets see how that works out for you Nicky…

 And then we have Andrew (Grant) Mitchell. Oh dear. Not good Mr Mitchell, not good at all. Up until last week, most of us believed that the Conservatives were in a committed relationship with Ms. Laura Norder, although they may have had the odd fling with that G4S hussy. Apparently no more, “the Bobby on the Beat” has become “the pleb at the gate”. Step forward Mitchell, and display the fruits of your expensive education…

 … Andrew Mitchell used that other weapon in modern political  warfare, the “Non Apology Apology”. Used often over the years by GW Bush, Hilary “misspeak” Clinton and over here by Peter Mandelson. Manfully, he stepped in front of the news cameras to say, in effect ” I never said that, but I am very sorry for the things I never said.” Of course you are Andrew, of course you are…

A word to the wise Andrew, try not to swear at Policemen, however hard your day has been. They tend to have notebooks in which to write stuff down, and as Leveson is proving, access to the media. As anyone who has been on a demonstration in the past thirty years knows, or as any Football fan could tell you, they tend to get a bit narky when insulted…

In general, politicians, like the rest of us, do make mistakes – most of them are human after all. Of course, sometimes an apology is welcome, and a useful part of the process, yet in these cases the words do not ring true.

Much of the left has spent years shouting loudly at Tony Blair, demanding that he apologise for Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he should then be put on trial. Blair refuses to apologise because he does not believe that he was wrong – to my mind he is right not to, as it would be a palpable lie in this case.

In any case, since the Clinton era of misdemeanour-lie-apology-next misdemeanour -apology ad infinitum, the tactic of simply using a form of words to cover your ass is devalued.

Part of Nick Clegg’s problem here is that his version of the Coalition narrative no longer rings true to many who voted or campaigned for him in 2010. Mathematically, the only stable coalition was between the two partners in Government now, but there were other alternatives. Firstly, a minority Tory Government, backed on a looser “confidence and supply” basis by the Lib Dems, secondly, and more interestingly, there was the never discussed option for another General Election.

It is fairly obvious as to why no party would want this – they had just spent all their cash on the original campaign. However what did the voters want? The hung parliament indicates that it did not want the Tories to run the country, and did not want Labour to continue in the old way. Nick Clegg and the Orange Bookers bottled their chance, scared, as was everybody else, by what could possibly happen in the global markets should another election (that is, actually asking us what we think again). 

 I doubt we will ever get an apology for this… 

 

 

DEAR ANDREW MITCHELL,

I understand that I, like most other people in “Team GB” am just a f****** pleb. That I no more have the right to question or obstruct your glowing, sleek, patrician self.

I further understand that you and your mates run the f****** country, and that our f****** pleb concerns matter not a jot to you. That I should get out of your f****** way, and shut the f*** up.

May I make just one suggestion? Would you please take your Rugby School educated a*** and f*** yourself,  preferably with something large and painful, you patrician t*****?

Yours,

Clem

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