Friday, 24 June 2016

The chickens of Thatcherism are coming home to roost... via UKIP

I started writing this post on the day Jo Cox was killed but I struggled to finish it because I was feeling too down at the time. Well now, after the Brexit debacle has run its course I'm posting it because nothing has changed and it's still as relevant now as it was then. It's incomplete but ......

"What a depressing day. I followed the news on Twitter. First I see Nigel Farage unveil a UKIP poster which echoes Nazi propaganda and fills me with disgust, then I see early reports of the Labour MP Jo Cox being shot, and later still I hear of her death. My heart goes out to her family and friends. Although I did not know much about Jo it's clear that she was a fearless and redoubtable fighter for social justice and the world is a poorer place without her. In a moving statement her husband Brendan said:

"She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn't have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous."
We do not yet know for sure the motives of Jo Cox's killer. It is claimed that he shouted "Britain First" as he attacked her. Britain First is a far right anti-immigrant hate group. 

So how did we get to this? How did we get to this referendum which has stirred up so much anger and divisiveness. Why is 'concern' about immigration at the heart of British political debate at the moment? Why is there so much fear and hatred in our country? The answer lies, or at least starts in the 1980s with Thatcherism which promised to make Britain and its people much more prosperous if only we would put our economy into the hands of the 'free' market, and began the process of dismantling the post-war settlement of the NHS, public services and the welfare state.

Thatcherism didn't stop with Thatcher. Through the 1990s John Major and Tony Blair continued what Margaret Thatcher had started putting the country into the hands of the corporations and bankers to be run for private profit. In the process trade unions were beaten down, workers pay and conditions were slashed and public services asset stripped. The bonfire of regulations demanded by the market led to a global crash in 2008 which wiped out millions of jobs and businesses and caused many to lose their homes. But who paid for this crisis? Certainly not the bankers that caused it. It was the 99% that were made to pay and this is what has ignited the anger of so many people, people in the North and Midlands who see immigrants as a threat to their economic wellbeing but their anger is being aimed at the wrong target because they are being exploited by the demagogues of UKIP and the Tory Party - Farage and Johnson."

Friday, 10 June 2016

Why I'll be holding my nose and and voting for Remain

I really don't like the EU. In simple terms the EU is a neoliberal stitch-up, a club for the corporations. The fiscal waterboarding handed out to Greece, following on from the imposition of a 'technocratic' premier in Italy was just about the last straw for me. The punishment of Greece was essential pour encourager les autres, to prevent Portugal and Spain and any other Eurozone countries trying to break free from the iron grip of neoliberal austerity. These events made it clear to me that the EU as it stands has no respect for democracy - period. 

Whatever the Remain campaign say about the environment and workers' rights I have no doubt that there will be more pressure to water down the relevant European directives in the future. That is inevitable unless the whole direction of travel of the EU can be changed. Neither am I confident that protests in the EU will be able to stop TTIP. I'm also very pissed off with the pitiful campaigning of the Remain groups, including those of my own party the Greens, because it's relentlessly negative. Has-been politicians like Tony Blair and John Major and 'experts' are constantly wheeled out of their cupboards to warn us of the impending armageddon if we leave. Where are the positive reasons for remaining? Can't they think of any?
Clive Lewis, Labour MP at Another Europe is Possible on 4 June Manchester
I'm also with Suzanne Moore in that I think that the almost unanimous support for remain from the establishment is proving a huge turn off for many. I her excellent article today in the Guardian she says:
"But I sense that, for many, a strange game is being played out whereby voting leave is not seen as such an enormous gamble. Much of England is ready to roll that dice; this part of England, so often despised, demonised and disrespected by those who claim to represent it, does need to be spoken for. This England will not do as it is told."
I agree with her, I too suspect that many people will simply stick up two fingers to the establishment and the EU and take that leap in the dark. 

So why am I voting for Remain on June 23rd? Its because I'm a socialist and socialists are internationalists, because I want to build solidarity with the left and oppressed groups across Europe, because it's the best way to deal with climate change and the refugee crisis and because I'm willing to join Diem25 and have one last shot at making the EU democratically accountable to the people.

If we do come out of the EU there will undoubtedly be a crisis but crises are the stock-in-trade of neoliberal capitalism, we lurch from crisis to crisis anyway. Will I lose much sleep over it? - no I won't because the fight for social, economic and environmental justice will go on just as it always has done.

Monday, 6 June 2016

So journalists should be protected from legitimate concerns about impartiality?

Jeremy Corbyn gives a pro-EU speech on worker's rights which was generally well received and what were the headlines? - "Corbyn supporters boo BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg'' - this was the Guardian, but it was given prominence in just about all the mainstream media (MSM). The reaction of the media to the incident was wholly predictable - FT journalist Fred Pickard described the booing as "pathetic" and Gaby Hinsliff in the Guardian referred to the 'booing' as"ugly". Some journos wasted no time in describing the booers as being "misogynist' - yet another smear against Momentum. Of course, if you were an MSM Corbyn basher you could also have argued it was an own goal because the headlines detracted from Corbyn's message - but then its the MSM which determine what the headlines are anyway.

So what is happening here? Well many Labour supporters and others, including me, think that there is a strong media bias against Corbyn and that it's particularly serious when it comes from the BBC in the form of Laura Kuenssberg. I haven't been keeping a log but I still listen to Today and PM regularly on the BBC and I've never known her to miss an opportunity to put the boot into Corbyn. Do I think her reporting is biased - you bet I do! And as a licence fee payer I strongly object to it. I am supported in this view by none other than a former chair of the BBC Trust Sir Michael Lyons who was quoted in the Guardian. Referring to Corbyn:

He told the BBC’s The World at One: “I can understand why people are worried about whether some of the most senior editorial voices in the BBC have lost their impartiality on this. [my italics]

Furthermore it seems that this view is backed up by research. So great has the concern been that 38 Degrees launched a petition calling for her to be sacked but the petition was shot down over allegations of 'sexism' thus sparing Kuenssberg, the BBC and the government considerable embarrassment. I saw an analysis of the comments on Twitter but I can't find the link, however it's clear that any sexist comments were in the minority and the vast majority who signed it expressed legitimate concerns.

So was the 'booing' justified? I think it probably was. I've watched the video and it's pretty restrained and comical if anything. It appears to be spontaneous rather than planned. Maybe those journalists who were in the room found it threatening? But then wouldn't they find any challenge to their integrity threatening? Reading the comments of Gaby Hinsliff it strikes me that journalists who have the luxury of inhabiting the cosy Westminster-MSM bubble have a sense of privilege and entitlement. They're the ones who know it all not the unwashed masses on Twitter - how dare anyone challenge them? Maybe they ought to get out more and mix with some people in the real world, people who are being screwed by austerity and to whom Corbyn offers some hope. And maybe they ought to think about reporting events with some degree of objectivity? Somehow I very much doubt they will.