What would Clement do?

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

Archive for the tag “Fighting Cuts”

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…

 

 

OLYMPICS MAKE A MOCKERY OF TORY ECONOMICS

Just a quick one for my 160th post. We are all familiar with Gideon Osborne telling us that you can’t “throw money” at a problem, yet certain current events seem to prove this to be a fallacy.

Lets just take a look at the money spent on elite sport over, say the last four Olympiads by Great Britain, and the corresponding results:

  • Sydney 2000     £58.9 million – 28 medals
  • Athens 2004     £70.0 million – 30 medals
  • Bejing  2008     £235 million  – 47 medals

AND THE CLINCHER:

  • London 2012   £313.4 million – 40 medals so far…

So, maybe investing money does gain results after all…

A BUDGET FOR WHO???

This weeks’ Budget, courtesy of the 14th Earl of Whyborne, has been lauded to the skies by the hard of understanding…

…Or as I like to think of them, Monetarists. The lack of imagination, and of any long-term goals other than dismantling the NHS, do not give me any confidence in Gideons’ old Maths Tutor. Then again, what should we expect from a man who dodges £1.6 million in tax whilst telling the rest of us to “pull together”?

Lets just examine a few measures here, for the sake of general interest…

  1. “The Sun Says Yippee! – 1p off fuel duty!” Yes, and there will be a rise of 5p in 2012.
  2. Tobacco duty up by 2% above inflation. Giving a welcome shot in the arm to the smuggling industry.
  3. An increase in Premiums Tax means that the cost of insurance rises – just as the Government wants us to take out private health insurance.
  4. A three year freeze in Child Benefit – so thats a decrease in light of inflation.
  5. The tax on Beer now exceeds £1.00 per pint. Britain’s vibrant Pub and Brewing industries salute you – not.
  6. National Insurance up 1% for us, but not for Employers.
  7. Personal Tax allowance up by £50 per month in April 2012. With the rises in the cost of living over the last twelve months, let alone the next year, this will at best give you £5 extra a month in your pocket.
  8. Council Tax frozen or reduced in EVERY English Council – regardless of the real needs of those communities.
  9. A return of the Enterprise Zone. Thatchers great sticking-plaster of the 1980s, that made little long-term difference to the areas blighted by her recession of the early 1980s. Anyone off to see Liverpool Garden Festival?

For this budget to work, the UK economy has to grow by around three percent each year until at least 2015. This is quite a lot, if we look at our history over he last forty years. It could happen, as the worldwide economy is tenuously starting to revive. Yet massive public spending cuts and redundancies will cost the exchequer dear, and reduce income from taxation – it could lead us into another recession, rather than digging us out of one.

And there is another point. Gideon and his gofer Danny Alexander have done precious little to curb the outrageous levels of  speculation in The City, nor have they come up with the kind of regulation needed to prevent, or at least limit the kind of crash we saw in 2008.

Long term, our economy is seriously unbalanced – with finance far too prevalent, and industry seen as a poor relation. Yet if we look at Germany, a country that actually still makes things and sells them, their recession is ending rather quicker than ours. This Budget does nothing to address this imbalance, nor do the Coalition partners seek to do so. Unsurprising really, when you think of all the ex-City men in the Cabinet…

 

So thats why I urge you all to march on Saturday for an alternative to this ill-considered schoolboy essay masquerading as a Budget.

An Open Letter To Honest Opponents.

In the past few months I have met many Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters in the blogosphere, and in the main, I have found them to be courteous and respectful of other opinons. Obviously I avoid blowhards like the plague, and with Lady P at my side I know better than to simply be rude for the hell of it (however much fun it would be).

I have also noticed that supporters and members of both parties are disgruntled to say the least with certain aspects of the Coalitions policies. In politics, it never does to attribute uniform beliefs to your enemies. In this spirit I ask my Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Yes To Fairer Votes Campaign, and Conservatives of a truly One Nation frame of mind to read on and ponder…

Is it honestly true to your principles to restrict the British people’s access to their land? To sell off ancient forests held in common, for the benefit of all?

Is it wise to fillet our Defences, as this administration is doing?

Is it just to erode the living standards of agricultural workers by abolishing their independent wages council?

Is it wise to allow one multinational company unheard of control over the media?

What patriotic Government allows such levels of tax evasion by the wealthy and large British corporations?

Is it good Conservatism, or Liberalism to erode our access to, and connection with Parliament, by destroying long cherished geographical boundaries and regional loyalties?

Is it fair play to instigate campaigning by smear and inference, as in the London Mayoral campaign?

Do you really believe that the upheaval this Government is instigating is in the true benefit of the NHS?

Does it really make sense to further atomise our national Education system, potentially excluding the talented poor for a generation?

Is it not simply politically motivated spite to add further needless anti-Trades Union legislation to the toughest Trades Union laws in Europe? Is this not something Disraeli would have baulked at?

How wise and patriotic can it be to seriously harm Britain’s universally respected voice to the World – The BBC World Service? Is it responsible? Is it truly what you want?

Are you entirely comfortable with a Government that is enacting legislation that was in neither of your parties’ manifestos, nor written into The Coalition Agreement?

I realise that we will not agree on everything, that is the nature of politics. But I also see that many of you oppose some, if not all of the measures listed above. I hope that we can all work together to help ameliorate the flood of ill-written, ill thought out legislation we see coming out of westminster and Whitehall.

For our nations’ sake I know that we will be able to work together at times…

Coalition Seeks To Sell-Off Our Forests

In a move that Lib Dem Danny Alexander opposed in Scotland, he and his new best mates are seeking to sell-off our English Forests.

That is 50% of all the publicly accessible forests in England. They favour wholesale privatisation.

This would be the largest theft of public land since Enclosure. The Woodland Trust, National Trust, The Ramblers Association and a host of other public bodies oppose this transfer of land kept in trust for future generations into the hands of, in general, multi national logging companies.

Land that is legally accessible would quite probably be obstructed at best. At worst, we would be blocked from exercising our long fought for rights.

This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is our Land. It Is Not Caroline Spelmans Land.

Lobby your MP, Lobby the Environment Agency, this Law of Theft must be stopped.

It used to be that old fashioned Conservatives believed in the common heritage of all, especially in rural areas.

In case some of you out there have not twigged yet, Cameron and his gang hold Country dwellers, and those who enjoy our natural heritage in utter contempt. Having sold the family silver in the 1980s, they are selling the furniture now – at fire-sale prices, to big business.

Not an Acre! Not a tree!

Take up the spirit of Gerrard Winstanley – “No man hath any right to sell the earth for private gain.”

“Duchess of Cornwall poked with a stick”

Surely the most bizarre story that I have ever seen…

And whilst not in any way condoning a physical attack on the Royals, I just couldn’t suppress a giggle – thought every paper had become Private Eye for a moment. Or edited by Chris Morris.

Behind the headlines, the aftermath of last weeks’ disorder raised much more interesting long-term issues however:

The NUS leadership has been all but sidelined by the London Assembly of Students. For decades now, NUS politics has been dominated by young ambitious hacks carving out a career for themselves – in some ways it is the Oxford Union for the less posh. Students however have changed – with a massive increase in their numbers, traditional political methods seem remote .

Those protesting are from an age group least likely to vote. and since 2009, a group outnumbered by those reaching pensionable age by 2 to 1.

In the first six months of this administration, this group have seen their pensionable age  rise, unemployment increase and fees to Education treble.

The protests were organised in a very loose way, using new social media – interesting to note that our press support this in Iran, but over here are starting to call for online censorship to rival China. Aaron Porter needs to get with the programme.

The Police are using tactics honed over the last 15 years on Anti Globalisation/Climate Change protesters. Reminds me of how they Policed the Miners Strike, using methods copied from Northern Ireland.

Compare these to the methods used against, say, The Countryside Alliance, or the big Anti War Demos, where huge numbers and people from all ages/classes came out to play.

The only effective leadership on the ground was leading The Met. NUS stewards had no authority to stop large groups of protesters doing what they liked.

The unofficial Student Leaders, unlike previous Student Protests, posed no alternative to the Fees rise and cuts, simply a big “NO!”.

This is a heady mix, and no doubt the Trots and Anarchists (a very loose term) will be competing to provide leadership as I write, but much more importantly, the NUS and Labour need to pose a viable, reasonable alternative. Fair enough, Ed is wary of being caught with a policy he cannot deliver come 2015, but Labour Students at least need to have a plan and a policy that can attract all those so pissed off that duking it out with the coppers seems a good idea.

At the Further and Higher Levels, our Education system is a mess – reforms during John Majors government have left us with no real Polytechnical ( or indeed vocational) system for the over 18s.  The youngest Universities are often no more than self-serving factories, churning out meaningless qualifications of doubtful value, and serve the students very ill indeed.

The fees rise was an arbitrary measure, and need not have happened. Alternative methods of funding, such as more targeted higher tax bands (up to, say 50% for the very highest earners) would be more equitable, as would closing the loopholes that allow Sir Philip Green and his ilk to trouser huge amounts of cash for no tax.

University and College accounts should be publicly published and open to all – the pay that some Chancellors and Chief Execs receive would shame  Croesus. the Russell Group is in this respect an adjunct to the IOD.

Altogether, there is much more to these protests than meets the eye…

Panic on the streets of London…

Dundee, Dublin, Humberside to follow?

Not since The Poll Tax riots has central London seen such violent disorder – so the media tell us…

But what really happened yesterday? Were those scuffles, baton and horse charges, smashed windows etc all caused by the lunatic fringe of the British left? Were the Police entirely proportionate in their use of force and the charming tactic of kettling? Why were people so angry?

Other questions are being raised, notably about David Camerons’ performance at PMQs, and on the splits in Little Nicks’  little party between the Social Democrats and the Orange(book)men.

The Daily Mail is predictably in full flight, Sky News and the rest of the Murdoch empire following suit. the Cenotaph defaced by urine, a statue of Winston Churchill (not his grave) “desecrated” says BBC London – all in all, not a good day to defend our democratic right to protest, but  I think we need to look at the reasons behind both the clashes in particular and the protests in general.

URINE AND DESECRATION:

Firstly, let me just say that as someone who has worked in the West End for a decade, and getting the night bus from Trafalgar Square, on almost any given night Whitehall is covered in streams of urine, more so in December, as the party season takes hold.

The Police tactic of holding fairly large groups in one place for a long period & only letting a few out does mean that on a practical level, protesters have nowhere to go to pee. It will also lead to greater frustration within a group of protesters – fuelled with the righteousness of their cause, and faced with a hostile Police force, tensions will inevitably boil over. People were surrounded in one area with no chance to leave for many hours. From what I can gather from the media, protesters were refused medical aid, and repeatedly baton and horse charged throughout the afternoon.

Faced with nowhere to go, with tension and anger still at a high point, chaos reigned in small groups, with a few people attempting to rip up the flags on the Cenotaph. Note that I find this indefensible, and had nothing to do with the issue at hand. I think that a few extremists were able to egg on a larger (though still small) number of protesters. Faced with an impenetrable barrier of riot Police, those few took out their anger on buildings – The Treasury being a close at hand target, and one that may have caused a few smiles amongst some current and ex-ministers.

As to dear old Winnie, well it looks like no damage done, and I wonder why there has been no outrage at the vandalism in Stepney that has led to Clement Attlees statue being moved – a double standard????

AGITATORS – INSIDE AND OUTSIDE:

Of course the usual suspects were there in abundance; Socialist Worker, the myriad of grouplets that survive in London, Anarchists, and perhaps a few less politically motivated. of course these groups were set on confrontation with the Police, who they see as the enemy in all situations. however, these protests have been notable for the level of organisation that has come through non-traditional methods – social media playing a large part, and many of the organisers have had little or no experience of protest before. Over the course of the past four weeks, a new generation of students have been introduced not only to protests, but to Policing methods that have been used against anti Globalisation activists, Trades unionists, and many others. It changed attitudes on both sides radically.The Leadership of the NUS has been bypassed by many on each march, and sadly, The Labour Party has been absent at a National level, yes we voted against the Bill, but Ed refused to be drawn on reversing it.

Also bear in mind the argument that over 1 million peacefully marched against the Iraq war, and were ignored. (I was on that one, although I changed my mind.) This doesn’t make rioting right, but for some it would be a justification. Our politics is still broken and seen as disconnected from the majority of our people.

The Metropolitan Police leadership have been quick to put their spin on events, but i think we can all remember the briefings that claimed Jean Charles de Menenzes was a terrorist, that the Policeman who killed Mr Tomlinson is still  suspended on full pay, and not facing jail time. We residents of London also see the Police day after day signally not getting involved in basic issues of public order – to many in the force it is not “real” Policing anymore. Now a large demo on the other and, well thats “action”.

After the past few weeks, where the Police have been caught off guard ( how would the Tory HQ in an iconic building NOT be a target???), it seems that a fair few officers may have been looking forward to a showdown, which is what they got.

HRH, A BIT OF ROYAL VARIETY:

As the demonstrators were let out in dribs and drabs, some made their way along Oxford Street, many dispersing to go home. Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall, riding in a stately Rolls Royce became a target for a tiny number of by now very angry young people. From film witnessed, one young man shouted “Off with their heads” – NOT the “baying crowd” depicted in The Daily Mail. The car was attacked by this small group, and once again the Metropolitan Police had to run to keep up with one of its basic functions – keeping The Queens Peace.

The couple were unharmed, and Camilla managed a light quip on the way home. They had become, for a small group, a symbol of this Governments policy of making the poor pay for the recession.

Nick Robinson seemed almost jubilant as his former Uni chums pulled off a slim majority for this Bill – could the BBC have a word about impartiality? Others seem to manage it, why not him?

No doubt Boris will say something hyperbolic in the hours to come, that rather seems to be his job – light relief and cuts.

Ham – Face Cameron will put on his “serious” face, and promise to root out the troublemakers – may I suggest he look no further than his Bullingdon Club chums, who like nothing better than breaking restaurant windows and harassing low-paid staff.

Poor Little Nicky will look anguished, pained even. He will use that quiet voice to once again state that his utter capitulation of the one principled policy that most people in Britain agreed with him on has really been the right choice. The “New politics” will use the unelected House of Lords to nod this shabby Bill through. Poor old Vince, his face looking even more sad…

Is it any wonder people got angry? Who is to blame? My money would not be those living in bedsits…

A proposal for imaginative protests – How to upset Nick and Dave…

The idea is simple. Every bit of junk mail you get, re-address to the Headquarters of the Liberal Democrats or The Conservative Party. Fill in every application form you receive in your papers and magazines with their address details…

Better still, pick your nearest Coalition MP and redirect your spam/junk mail to his/her constituency office.

Amongst the piles of guff will be the one letter they really need…

Lies, damned lies, and LBC. (What REALLY happened today in Parliament Square?)

A day off, and I go for a haircut – ho hum, another dull day. In the barbers the radio is tuned to that bastion of fair-minded journalism, LBC which is really a kind of Daily Mail on the radio…

As we all know, today is the day that the Coalition pushes tuition fees to intolerable levels, and that the National Union of Students has organised a mass rally and protest in the centre of London.

What I was hearing made me increasingly agitated – not good when someone has a razor to the back of your neck.

Now I really do not expect much from LBC and its various phone in shows, but what I heard made my blood boil – a highly organised group of men and women were occupying the centre of our Capital, well armed and protected. The Metropolitan Police Force (sorry, Service).

Caller after caller, jock after jock repeated more or less the same stuff – rabble, we need water cannons, education is a privilege, not a right, we can’t afford it etc.etc ad infinitum…

The only two voices of sanity were Will Straw from Left Foot Forward, and the Chief of Police – who had to explain why water cannon were not really a good idea (since The Met  can already kill newspaper sellers and Brazilians without them, and with relative impunity), and would lead to an arms race with protesters.

An LBC journalist at the scene reported from behind Police lines, describing one policeman injured, and claiming various missiles had been thrown; fireworks, stones, paper, snooker balls, all unsubstantiated by the radio listener ( I don’t deny their existence, I just want evidence).

Then an amazing thing, he told his audience that protesters had come armed, and mentioned a Meat Cleaver. Hurriedly we were then told that the reporter had not seen the cleaver, but had overheard a police officer, who also not witnessed the weapon warning his colleagues of this mythical weapon. This was simply repeating rumour, and any reporter worth their salt would have either wanted confirmation, or said nothing. Not good old LBC, say what you like, they know how to scare their listeners.

Now I think we can all agree that the vast majority of Students and others protesting were non-violent in expressing their anger, and have an important case to be angry about. The Lib Dems made such a fuss of their proposal to scrap fees during the election campaign that it was obvious  how much they wanted the Student vote. One could reasonably assume that whoever they went into Coalition with, this one policy would be the one thing they would not sell out. Not only did they sell out, but they have been loudly trumpeting the virtues of £9,000 per year tuition fees, as if this would never put anyone off entering Higher Education.

As Will Straw has said elsewhere, these particular cuts are avoidable and egregious. What is more, they do long term damage to our economy, as David Davis has stated (hardly a cabal of Trots and Anarchists there).

With a reasonable case, well argued and with support from not only Labour members, but also some of the more honourable Lib Dems, and even a few Tories, one would think that Nick and Daves “New Politics” would be flexible enough to look again. Not a bit of it, Govey and the Boys from the Bullingdon, in cahoots with Little Nicky, his pet Scot, and that bloke from the Werthers Origionals adds set their faces as hard as stone against compromise. Maybe they were all negotiated – out after those few days in May.

No wonder Students, Teachers, Parents and Grandparents are just a little miffed. Its a fair bet to say even a few of the boys and girls in blue were at least anxious as to how they would finance their kid through Uni.

So as the new stories unfold over the next few days, may I inject a little common sense?

1. Yes, the usual suspects will have been at the demo – The SWP, Anarchists, etc. Looking for a confrontation with the Police.

2.No, the majority were not led or members of the above.

3.The heaviest armed and disciplined and indeed protected group in London today have been wearing blue, and should have been displaying their numbers on their shoulders.

4.People on both sides will have been injured. Those injured by the Police have very little chance of redress.

5. Press and other media reports will very probably be one-sided and innaccurate, often scapegoating the wrong individuals.

I have just heard that the Tuition fees have been raised – they measure just scraped through. Shame on the Liberal Democrat Party. Shame on The Conservative and Unionist Party.

A Cabinet of the wealthy have just made the rest of us pay yet again for a crisis created by their City backers. They have put short term solutions before our nations’ long term interests. Let them never talk of patriotism without a resounding chorus of our laughter in the future.

Remember,Remember…

So, the press are full of stories of “selfish” Firefighters, and their wanton proposed action on November the fifth. A few points need to be raised against the unthinking right wingers howling and spouting cant…

The London Fire Brigade management arbitrarily set a date of 26th November for new working contracts to be signed by all Firefighters, initially with no room for further consultation. Under section 188 of the 1992 Employment Act, if they do not sign, they loose their jobs, not because we don’t need them, but because they oppose the contracts.

The main bone of contention is not money, but shift patterns. With around 50% of London Firefighters living outside of London, and the reality that you can be called out right up until the very last second of your shift, this is not a small point. Think about it, do you work in a job where you are on call for 13 hours, and at 12 hours 59 minutes suddenly find yourself doing another two hours (dangerous) work with no notice? the 48 hour maximum is often more of a minimum, so all talk of “long weekends” is in reality hot air.

The use of section 188 by management is seen by most Firefighters as an attempt by LFB to bully them, and their Union, and for many is the central point, rather than even the disputed shift patterns, that up until now have been under discussion for five years, so the Union have been negotiating with management up until the bosses decided (no doubt with Boris Johnson’s backing) to provoke a confrontation.

In areas such as South Yorkshire, where 12hr/12hr shift patterns are currently working, this has been achieved by negotiation with the FBU, rather than Reagan-style confrontation, as practiced by London Fire Brigade.

Finally, an emotional point – after November 5th comes Remembrance Sunday. at the Cenotaph, and around Britain, alongside service comrades past and present we will see Firefighters march past a pay tribute to the heroism shown during the Blitz, at Coventry, Silvertown Docks, Bristol etc. We will remember those who went to rescue those caught in the 7/7 attacks, Bradford stadium fire, even the Brighton Bombing. Emergency Service cover is not a “luxury”, nor are those we ask to put their own lives in danger for us especially privileged- they are men and women who potentially sacrifice everything for us, every working day.

Perhaps those that bray loudly at the FBU are still hankering for another Miners strike – perhaps their homes are fireproof. I wonder who they will call if this turns out not to be the case? Boris with a bucket???

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