October 14, 2011
The NHS

Oliver Letwin once said that 'the NHS will not exist under the Tories', at the time it was construed by the Tories as a gaffe by a man known for being a complete idiot. Letwin also once proposed to effectively cut education and healthcare funding from government spending (and threw secret government documents in a park bin). But of course, it wasn’t really gaffe. Here we are.

In one very small way, I’m glad the Lords didn’t go nuclear on the Health and Social Care bill. There are two forces that I hate in British parliamentary politics, the first is the collection of self serving, reactionary, bigoted zombies in the Conservative Party, and the second is the House of Lords, which is pretty much the same, but with some bishops thrown in for good measure. I’d hate to have been forced to choose between the legitimacy of the House of Lords and the fact that they struck down such a nasty piece of legislation. In the most short term, self-serving way possible, I can now have it both ways, I can blast the Lords for being toothless, and blast the Tories for destroying the NHS.

The NHS is effectively going to be sold off to ‘any willing provider’, and if anyone thinks that’ll make the NHS better, think again. The privatisation of the NHS amounts to the redistribution of wealth from the poorest in society to the richest. We all pay our taxes, and now, when the tax revenue that previously went to the NHS goes to private companies who will doubtless be handed massive contracts to provide services, some of our taxpayers money will go to paying the multi-million salaries of the CEOs of these companies.

Look at Serco, a company that does almost nothing other than fulfill contracts given to them by the last Labour government. Our tax money goes to pay the salary of Serco’s CEO, who last year took home £4,000,000. We hear about these so called ‘council fatcats’ who take home more than the Prime Minister (which is such an utterly meaningless statistic, but that’s a post unto itself), but nothing of how, under this new system, the tax payer will be lining the pockets of the super rich. (Not that they don’t anyway, with those marvelous bail-out packages).

This is the wholesale privatisation of anything and everything. And somewhere in all this is a Liberal Party complicit in the destruction of William Beveridge’s dream. 

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Filed under: The NHS Politics NHS Tories Scum 
October 7, 2011
The Tory Conference

I think the Tory conference was possibly more entertaining this year than usual. Obviously, there was Theresa May claiming that a cat had prevented the deportation of a man, somehow under the Human Rights Act. Of course none of this could possibly be true - apart from anything else, May began her sentence ‘And I’m not making this up’. In fact, in the ruling about this case, the judge ruled that the cat could and would be deported to Bolivia too! 

But of course, this is conference season, and there’s no sense in letting a few inconvenient facts get in the way of May’s obsession with scrapping the Human Rights Act. Kenneth Clarke, everyone’s favourite sexist Tory Justice Secretary, ripped into May, calling her childish, and saying he’d have to wear a stab vest when he next saw her. I suspect somehow that Clarke will be sent to the backbenches, and May will survive.

I will never understand what the Tory obsession with shredding the Human Rights Act is. Well I have my cynical suspicions, but I wonder why people buy into it? How can any of us be alright with a government that is saying nothing short of ‘we will abolish the legislation that defends your rights’? WHY? WHY WOULD WE BEG A GOVERNMENT TO ABOLISH OUR RIGHTS? YOU FUCKING DAILY MAIL READING IMBECILES? (Especially when we go abroad to preach the value of human rights.)

Other than that, an Etonian who will inherit millions told us all to pay down our credit card debts. Sorry, David, but have you ever been in debt? What I really want to know is what kind of economic sense that makes, as Keynes knew, though it may be smart on an individual level, the paradox of thrift means that we would be collectively stupid, and would make the economy even worse. I just think that apart from anything else, speeches like this, in which Cameron told people to pay off their debts, and to cheer up and stop complaining about the cuts, just underline how fucking out of touch the government is. He may as well have said ‘Stop complaining you common scum’. 

In conclusion, lying Tories are liars, creepy Tories still want rid of our human rights, and rich Etonian pricks still know nothing about the lives of the scum they rule.

August 17, 2011
Michael Gove’s History Curriculum

So it looks like Michael Gove’s attempt to reform the history curriculum is going to turn it from “Odds and Sods” [Niall Ferguson], to full blown Whiggish, self-congratulatory, bullshit propaganda.

Phillip Davies MP [Con]: I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to the teaching of British history, and I hope it will be done in a way that allows us to be proud of our country, rather than always apologising for our history

Michael Gove MP [Con]: […] Will ensure that history is taught as a proper subject, so that we can celebrate the distinguished role of these islands in the history of the world […][and] the way in which, since 1688, this nation has been a beacon for liberty that others have sought to emulate. We will also ensure that it is taught in a way in which we can all take pride.

So I’ll tell you what this sounds like to me. This sounds like the kind of overconfidence and pride that used to characterise British historiography - think Lord Macaulay and more recently people like Niall Ferguson. It sounds like the old line that “the British Empire wasn’t that bad, that the damage was far outweighed by the benefits brought by British rule”. And I suspect that’s what we’ll see wheeled out, especially if Niall Ferguson will be advising on the government. History will become propaganda. Read Empire, it often misrepresents and glosses over the history of the British Empire, showing us the good bits, sometimes misrepresenting the bad as good, and sometimes ignoring the bad all together. That’s what our entire History curriculum will look like.

I’d love to have a country where I didn’t have to feel embarrassed for it’s history. But we certainly don’t live in one. History should not be prescribed by the Government with the aim of inspiring patriotism or nationalism or pride in our history. History should be taught to inform us of our past, to provide us with an awareness of what we, all humans, are capable of - from the courage to the cowardice, from the incredible foresight to the blind prejudice.  And suffice to say there’s plenty of both in British history; from A.S. Rowntree, who campaigned on behalf of contentious objectors, abused by the British government during World War One, to the Imperialist policies pursued by Lord Curzon and others throughout the world. From Emily Davidson who cared so much for the right to vote that she threw herself under the King’s Horse to those who believed women to be unequal, and unworthy of the vote.

So here it is. Take British history as it is, by all means provide a more consistent narrative arc to our History. But there can be no greater disgrace to our history than to abuse it for partisan ends, and to indoctrinate our future with a one sided view of our past.

August 8, 2011
David Cameron Returns to the UK

I can’t imagine what has possessed David Cameron to return to the country in order to deal with the riots that have now spread from Tottenham to the rest of London and even to Birmingham and Leeds. (For anyone keeping score, that’s 3 of the places affected by rioting in 1981, how long before Liverpool erupts in flames?) Anyhow, Cameron was on holiday in a very expensive Italian villa, and is now returning to the UK. 

I presume what Cameron’s return to the UK will involve will be two main things. Firstly he will doubtless cave in to the pressure from the Tory press to sanction much tougher measures against the rioters. I presume we might see a return of CS gas, curiously not used since the Brixton riots. But ultimately we’ll come to regret any short sighted legal measure to break the riots up - especially when those measures are deployed against legitimate protesters. (History tells us that all such legislation is ultimately turned on dissenters: Look at the Blair government’s anti-terror legislation or Thatcher’s Public Order Act.) And more than that, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that tougher police powers will lead to the riots breaking up - firstly just look around the world and see the repressive regimes where disorder still occurs. Secondly, surely harsher police tactics will lead to more deaths, more protests and more riots?

In the long run, calling in the military, or using tougher police tactics will achieve nothing if the underlying causes of the riots, the socio-economic factors that alienate some people from society as a whole aren’t addressed. The same situation will simply flair up again and again. This is true wherever you see disenfranchised communities - such as the race riots in late ‘60’s American cities. Look at countries where there is a degree of social equality, such as Sweden, and you’ll see far less crime, and certainly there isn’t a history of large scale rioting.

Therefore, I’d argue that Cameron’s return will do nothing to bring the rioting under control as he inevitably caves into the populist crap bandied about by the Mail and other papers that obviously couldn’t give a fuck about civil liberties.

(Apologies, I got rather sidetracked there, but overall: Cameron sanctioning harsher measures won’t help.)

And secondly, I presume I can’t be the only person seeing the outright hypocrisy of Cameron or Osborne or Boris Johnson condemning mindless acts of destruction? All three of them were members of the infamous Bullingdon Club, which is still notorious in Oxfordshire for booking restaurants, dining at them and then vandalising them before throwing large amounts of cash in the owners faces.

If we’re going to see Cameron making a photo opportunity out of walking around vandalised restaurants, them I’m sure I can’t be the only one thinking that he should visit the places that he and his disgustingly arrogant friends trashed in the mid 1980s. And apologise for his own “mindless acts of vandalism and thuggery.” Ha. Ha.

June 29, 2011
June 30th Public Sector Strikes

Who remembers 2008?

Remember when public servants made irresponsible and unsustainable financial deals with a view to enriching themselves massively?

Remember when firefighters tipped Lehman Brothers over the edge?

Remember when nurses took the Royal Bank of Scotland to the edge?

Remember when it was the fault of teachers that there was no financial regulation?

No. Me neither.

So why should they pay for a crisis not of their making with the rest of their lives? The fact is that under the pension reforms, those who really have enriched our society in some way; who educated us, who treated us when we were sick, who rescued us when we were in danger, they are going to be forced to pay for the crisis made by the banks for the rest of their lives.

The Tory press has again constructed the narrative of public sector vs. private sector pensions, pay and conditions. There may be a difference, but that’s not to say that the way forwards is to drag everyone down to the lowest common denominator - this isn’t Greece, you can’t retire on 80% of your salary in the public sector either.

But you know something, this strike isn’t irresponsible, the unions could potentially win - the public support is with them. The latest polling suggests that whatever the Tory press says, around 50% of the population back the strike action on June 30th, with only 35% against. That’s a hell of a lot clearer mandate than Cameron got.

Which leads to the second reason they may win - Cameron isn’t out to take a tough line on the unions - he doesn’t have the legitimacy or the political capital to crush them. Thatcher may have beaten the Nation Union of Mine-workers, but she was at least reasonably popular - with majorities in parliament. Also, this isn’t 1984, not everyone alive today is embittered by the strikes of the 1970s that brought the country to its knees, public opinion isn’t as strong as it was against the unions.

But thirdly, and staying with Cameron, I don’t think he wants to be seen in the same light as Thatcher, indeed for him, Thatcherite though he may be deep down, he doesn’t want to be seen as the unflinching ideologue that Thatcher was. That would be toxic to him, as are all comparisons to Thatcher. Cameron worked hard to try and get rid of that uncaring, cut off image of the Tory Party, and so, unlike the Iron Lady, Cameron is most certainly for turning. And he may turn again in the face of these strikes.

Let us hope so, at least. And good luck to anyone reading this who will be on a picket line tomorrow!

June 10, 2011
The Conservatives are playing it both ways over the deficit…

On the one hand Cameron claims Labour has no plan for the deficit, characterising the Labour party plan as:

It’s called ‘let’s deny there was a problem with the deficit and let’s not do anything about it’. That’s an absolutely hopeless plan.

And on the other, Osborne says that Labour would have cut the same, or even more than the Conservatives are doing:

In his closing statement delivering the comprehensive spending review, Chancellor George Osborne said the 19 per cent cuts across Government departments was less than the 20 per cent suggested by the Labour government ahead of the election.

So which is it then? 

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Filed under: Labour Tories Deficit Politics 
June 7, 2011
"No amount of cajolery and no attempts at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep, burning hatred for the Tory party. So far as I am concerned, they are lower than vermin… What is Toryism, but organised spivery?"

— Nye Bevan, 1948

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Filed under: Labour Tories Politics 
May 18, 2011
Let’s put Kenneth Clarke’s hideous comments on rape sentencing in context…

It was absolutely repulsive to see his comments about ‘less serious rapes’. I mean please, surely rape of all crimes is one where we can see that there are not degrees. Rape is rape. Rape will always be rape. There can be no excuse for forcing someone to have sex. Ever.

We can never kid ourselves that there are nicer rapists and worse rapists (which is basically what Clarke seems to believe). And neither should someone who forces someone else to have sex with them serve just over a year of a sentence. That’s just insulting.

But let’s just say that his latest pronouncements should not be a surprise. This is a man who in June told the House of Commons that:

Kenneth Clarke: We shall also have to consider the arguments on the other side, where a woman can make an anonymous complaint, the man can eventually be convicted, after going through a long and probably rather destructive ordeal, and the woman retains her anonymity as she walks away, with her ex-boyfriend or ex-husband left to live with the consequences.

Oh no, I’m not making that up, but how I wish I was.

This man should be fired by the end of the day. The Tories are just touting the same old misogynist shit. Though I think we can rest easy that we won’t see this policy coming into action, it doesn’t suit the Tories - they’re already seen as too soft on crime by the Daily Mail and so on.