This was published back on the nineteenth of October, and written after a long, hard shift at work. Please follow the link below:
This was published back on the nineteenth of October, and written after a long, hard shift at work. Please follow the link below:
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…
On the 11th September, following the furore caused by George Galloway’s bizarre defence of Julian Assange and his definition of rape, Salma Yaqoob honourably resigned as leader of the Respect Party.
Approximately thirty seconds later, online speculation began as to whether Ms. Yaqoob would be joining Labour, The Greens or pretty much any other left of centre party.
Although within Labour the debate has divided into two predictable camps, with Rob Marchant at Centre Left giving a detailed “No” and Andy Newman over at Socialist Unity being pretty positive to the idea, it was, inevitably that arch-opportunist Caroline Lucas of The Green Party who was first out of the traps in the race for the Order of the Brown Nose:
I really hope that Salma Yaqoob’s resignation from Respect doesn’t mean she’s leaving politics – we need her vision and clarity
Now this roughly translates from Politician to Human as “Ooh! Join my lot please! Then we can stick it to Labour and no mistake!” Which, considering the former Green Leaders’ endorsement of Salma at the 2010 election comes as no surprise, and it could very well be that Salma Yaqoob joins Lucas, if only for want of another political home. It also ties into the Greens’ courting of Muslim Association of Britain, which in 2010 led to MAB urging its supporters in southeast England to vote Green…
Lets be clear, Salma Yaqoob has campaigned consistently against not just the Iraq war, like many Labour members have, but also against the Labour Party. Now this is not a new phenomenon, as a look at our past reveals. Dr John Reid, Peter Mandleson,Denis Healy, Denis Howell, Bessie Braddock and Ellen Wilkinson were all at one time members of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and as such campaigned against Labour before joining. Salma Yaqoob has had a pretty good record as politician in saying that she is standing up for those ignored by New Labour, and talking about this in terms relating to class. So far so good, especially when you take into account the threats and harassment meted out to her by the banned extremist al Gurabaa organisation in 2005 – for having the audacity to be a muslim woman involved in politics. (Despite having MAB support)
Yet I fear any move to incorporate a politician who can prove to be so divisive, just for the sake of a few votes, possibly on the basis of perceived “muslim” support. It smacks of the Blairite realpolitik that led to Labour re-admitting Ken Livingstone after 2000, and we know here that led now, don’t we?
The wider issue for Labour is not simply whether or not a formidable local and national campaigner now wants to join Labour, or even if she is allowed to join our party, but what our attitude should be towards the thousands of people who have at some time or another since 2003 joined and campaigned for parties such as Respect. People like Andy Newman, who I pretty much disagree with on most things, has decades of campaigning under his belt for example. Not just in the SWP,ANL, Stop The War and Respect, but also as a trades union activist and Labour Party member in the early 1980s. After his pretty open split with the SWP a few years ago, he has run a non-sectarian blog at Socialist Unity (often full of Stalinists and Trots, but nobody’s perfect…). The nature of his split from his former comrades means that he is certainly not an entryist vanguard, and the nature of his sterling work with the GMB for its members at Carillion in Swindon means that he is the kind of activist we need with the party.
Particularly since the election of Ed Miliband, people have been coming back to Labour, not just as voters, but as members – and in general, this is a good thing. But as Rob points out in his blog, we must be careful who exactly is joining. We certainly have to avoid the 1980s experience of Militant and others using the party for their own ends, to our detriment. Leaving aside personalities, I think that so far the balance has been well kept. It would be pretty difficult for anyone within the party to make a convincing case for the return of George Galloway, and, to a much lesser extent, perhaps Salma Yaqoob should be treated as a former opponent who might, just might be suitable for membership at a future date.
Tonight in the Commons, Labour MPs have an opportunity to show disaffected Lib Dems that there is an alternative to Clegg.
Well, that’s the short tactical argument for voting for Lords Reform, of course there is a longer, much more principled set of reasons, to whit:
Ever since its foundation, the Labour Movement, of which The Labour Party is an intrinsic part (whatever Progress or Bob Crow say), has fought against entrenched power and privilege. Go back as far as the Putney Debates of the seventeenth century if you like, you will always find slim red thread through radical, socialist and trades union positions on the issue of state-controlled preferment.
True enough, New Labour at best fudged this, and with its leading protagonists and cheerleaders spending so much effort cosying up to Oligarchs and shysters, we nearly lost any opportunity to win democratic change.
Once before in this Parliament, over voting reform, we have seen the very worst example of parliamentary conservatism and narrow partisanship triumph over common sense and a move towards justice. We must not let it happen again.
By supporting the call for reform, Ed Miliband is staying true to the words and spirit of his first speech as Leader, and being true to the spirit of the pioneers who founded the Labour Representation Committee over a century ago.
Re-read your Thomas Paine, I promise you you will find no argument justifying a second chamber composed of placemen, high-born, or failed politicians (and of course Baroness Warsi).
Lord Puttnam and Bragg are no doubt wonderful, intelligent men, yet I hardly think that this trumps popular sovereignty. And they can always lunch at The Garrick and Groucho clubs instead. To paraphrase Bagehot, intellectual support for The House of Lords rarely survives first contact with the actual institution.
To side with the right of the Tory Party for the sake of causing the coalition one more embarrassment is both short sighted and petty. After all, we have yet to exhaust Osbornes’ Budget.
As a Party, we must be positioning ourselves as the reasonable alternative to the Coalition, which means finding common ground with Lib Dems, and Greens on issues such as democratic reform where we can. By doing this, we make Nick Cleggs job much harder at the next election.
On News International, & on Banking, the Labour Front Bench have scored two goals against Cameron and Clegg. Now lets make it a hat trick.
Let the Tories play games against each other on this one.
“Digging all day, digging all night,
To keep my foxhole out of site…”
In a month that I suppose we shall be naming “Maggie Memorial January”, it is perhaps sadly fitting that Argentinas claim to The Falklands is back in the news. Unfortunately, almost thirty years to the day since the invasion a Mr Cameron, who does Prime Minister impressions, has decided to rattle his trusty, rusty sabre at Mrs Kirchner, his counterpart in Buenos Aires. (Rumours that Madonna is already angling for the Film rights would be anyones guess…)
Well, we can only hope that cool heads will prevail, and while all this may blow over, it will probably not disappear for ever. It may be all good nostalgic fun for some, but history reminds us just how deadly these games can be.
“Pick up your feet, fall in, move out,
We’re going to a party way down South…”
The Falklands War is a huge part of the Thatcher Myth – itself the cornerstone of modern Conservative identity & thought. Just for the hell of it, lets take a look at some of the myths that The Immaculate Mis-Conception was built upon…
Myth One : Only Mrs Thatcher and her Tories were patriotic and brave enough to take on Galtieri and take back the Islands.
A downright lie. During the emergency debate in the Commons on 2nd April 1982, Michael Foot said:
“The people of the Falklands have an absolute right to look at us at this moment of their desperate plight… They are faced with an act of naked,unqualified aggression, carried out in the most shameful & disreputable circumstances. Any guarantee from this invading force is utterly worthless.”
He was praised by Tories for having “spoken for the nation” (Hansard).
It was an alliance of Labour, Liberal and backbench Tory MPs that had prevented a 1981 Govt. measure to “lease back” The Falklands to Argentina, against the wishes of the Islanders themselves.
It was in effect two Tory measures that encouraged the Fascist junta in its belief that Britain would not fight. The 1981 Immigration Act took away full British Citizenship from all inhabitants of all UK Dependencies ( this measure was aimed at preventing mass immigration from Hong Kong before the Chinese takeover), and then there was what the ever amusing Alan Clarke described as “that fucking idiot John Nott and his spastic “Command Paper” which is effectively running down the entire Royal Navy to keep the soldiers in Rhine Army happy.”
“…I never thought that I would be
Fighting Fascists in the Southern Sea…”
Myth Two: The Argentine invasion was a completely unexpected bolt from the blue.
Bilge. In 1977, Labour PM James Callaghan sent two Frigates and a Nuclear Sub to the South Atlantic with the minimum of fuss, to deter Argentina from invading. No war in 1977, but when intelligence sources repeated similar warnings in early 1982, they were ignored . this came out in the post War inquiry.
Far more worrying were the attempts by the Tory Govt and some of its MPs to sell arms and Naval ships to a military dictatorship which whom we had a long-standing territorial dispute. Around a year before the invasion, one junior Minister described the Argentina of torture, rape and “disappearances”, of baby snatching and electrodes, as ” allies in our common struggle against Communism” (by the by, Niall Ferguson stated on channel 4’s “Ascent of money” that these deaths were “worth it”)
“…Saw one today, and in his hands
Was a weapon that was made in Birmingham…”
Myth Three: Maggie (& Britain) stood alone, although Reagan supported us from a distance.
In fact, the first nation to wholeheartedly give their support was France, then run by Socialist President Mitterand. French help was vital – they supplied us with technical data and purchased numbers of both Super Etendard fighters and Exocet Missiles sold to Argentina, and, with co-operation between MI6 and their French opposites, they managed to prevent any spares for these reaching Argentina until well into 1983.
Despite the Maggie/Ronnie romance, the USA vacillated – after all, they did not want war between two of their favourite allies. Eventually, they came down on our side, but it was a close run thing.
Within the Cabinet, there were initially deep divisions as to whether we should go to war at all. It took The First Sea Lord barging in uninvited (in Full dress Uniform, no less) to finally swing the decision to liberate the Falklands. Up to this point, all that had been decided was to telephone the Americans.
“I wish Kipling & The Captain were here,
To record our pursuits for posterity…”
Myth Four: Margaret Thatcher won The Falklands War.
No, it was won by the Servicemen and Merchant Seamen who fought, bled burned and died down in The South Atlantic.
This maybe just history, but with the next round of Defence cuts touted as reducing the Army by anything up to 8 Battalions, to no fixed-wing Aircraft Carrier until at least 2015, & further cuts to come, no wonder that the C-in-C of the 1982 Task Force, Admiral Woodward has said that “practically nothing” could be done to retake the Falklands today.
Argentina is designing and building new Amphibious ships, and upgrading its war fighting capability, given the parlous state of our defences, and the prospect of oil, Gas and Mineral deposits, maybe Cameron should be doing everything in his power to avoid his own “Falklands moment”.
After all, it would be tragic indeed if the Tories managed to lose the Falklands twice…
(Song lyrics by former Private Billy Bragg)
A cunning email has reached Clem from Hackney and Shoreditch Labour Party, inviting me to the annual dinner – guest speaker a certain David Miliband.
I’m all a fluster at this tempting offer, but who should I take? Lady P says no, and her redoubdtable mother will be too busy (I would have loved to witness the heckles), so that only leaves Hillary Clinton. Who gets embarrassingly “Mrs Robinson” when David hoves into view ( “Oh David, show me your Whitewater…”)
And there is one other problem – what do I call him? I have settled on Bananaman, after that photo – as “Monkeyboy” is too close to “Monkey”, and I liked the TV series as a kid – chop-sockey heaven at teatime.
The menu includes Banana Fritters, there would be the chance of making another weak joke, or even telling him I voted for Ed, it could make decent copy…
Oh, what to do? Any ideas comrades? Should I stay in, or should I go?