Archive for November, 2010

28
Nov
10

Our first GUEST POST, “Iran – the new black” By Mr Alex Brooks

All roads lead to Iran. Even ‘Dubya’ said so in his memoirs. That is intelligence for you, right there, folks. The media outlets of the world are slowly-but-surely starting to place unwarranted and unhealthy attention upon Iran’s supposed ‘nuclear weapons programme’. Never mind the fact that Iran has repeatedly stated they possess no WMDs , or that they have had several  quite thorough visits from UN Weapons Inspectors (yes, it all floods back now, doesn’t it?), or even that they are just peacefully developing nuclear power, or even that most of the ‘intelligence’ regarding their WMDs seems to be coming from Israel, our Man in the Middle-East. Iran is the new Devil, and Ahmedinejad is coming to get you.

This sequence of events is already scarily familiar to all us heavily-anaesthetised Westerners. Thanks to the myriad privately-controlled news agencies of the world, we now have yet another Third-World, Middle-Eastern demon to hate, torture, and brutalise. Due to a relentless stream of misinformation and fabricated intelligence, the people of the Western World are going to discover yet another common enemy abroad, to divert their attention from problems closer to home. History repeats.

{Roll tape} Forget your money troubles, and your massive debt; just ignore the wanton destruction of civil liberties and your basic freedoms; put the riots, protests, unrest and hatred out of mind. Here is someone else for you to hate, without moving from your armchair. A temporary distraction, but only because we really, really care for your safety. We care so much we have to rely on shaky intelligence from our friends at Mossad, and on our contacts at News Corp International. Keep watching SKY/FOX for a detailed, impartial discussion on the declaration of the star-spangled nuclear holocaust. {Stop tape. Cut to black. Ad break}

{Fade in} I often lament to others that, in an age as advanced as ours, we need standing armies to defend ourselves from foreign aggressors. After millennia of conflict and violence, men killing men, brother killing brother, for one lofty ideal or goal after another, one would believe that we should have seen the insolence and madness of our opportunistic and savage ways. Sadly, not so. British troops are currently engaged in two senseless overseas wars, which no sensible person can honestly defend or justify. War in itself is unjustifiable. Blood spilt over ‘fighting terrorism’ or ‘defending freedom’ is only ever violence for its own sake – ‘fighting terrorism’ is one of the most circular phrases I have ever heard.

Iran is being groomed as the new Goldstein. The hate will not last two minutes. Our telescreens will make sure of it. The Western military establishment wants war, and soon the people will want it too. The full weight of the military-industrial complex is here, its fist closed around the neck of the world, and it isn’t going to budge. Unless we do something about it. {Fade out. But not quietly}

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?” – Mahatma Ghandi

AB

27
Nov
10

whether new-labour purple or left and red, we should all support the improving Ed

Ed Miliband has been rushing around in the last few days giving interviews and swinging his leadership of the labour party into action. After waiting what seemed like years for a single bit of news about Miliband’s leadership goals, we have been inundated with, well very little hard fact but a lot of ideals about the future of the labour party and what our glorious leader wishes to do with us.
In an interview with the Guardian on Monday (in which I’ve already found a spelling mistake!*) Ed set out a policy review for labour, Including the useful step of having each shadow cabinet member look at issues in their field (it does help to have them know the battlegrounds for different attacks on the CONDEMS) along with a raft of reforming measures looking at the Labour organisation as well as changing the course of the labour party and getting on course to win the next election, whenever it may be.
Whilst some politico-nerds like myself will have noticed that a broad and extreme policy review of this kind was one of the two options Andrew Rawnsley put forward in his piece on Sunday, calling for  Ed to embark a Blair-like changing of labour’s core values. This is probably another Rawnsley’s usual trick of finding out what someone is going to do before anyone else and then calling angrily for them to do things.
There are already reports of rifts within Labour about the direction and aims of these reforms as well as the AV referendum. Whilst I am acutely aware that there is always talk of rumbles within the party, it is clearly getting to the stage in the polls where Labour need to get behind Ed and push forward the Labour party in order that people upset at the coalition don’t just turn off from politics all together, but instead see that Labour is standing with them, representing their interests.
This goes for all of us of course, even Telegraph readers are being reached out to in this effort to side with all those who may like to think they are in the Squeezed middle, Ed clearly realising that he needs to swing left as well as right to show Labour is the best and only ‘optimistic’ alternative.
The main reason we should really shut up and follow Ed is not because it will help Labour get elected, it is because he has some amazing ideas. Personally I’m all for a the 50p tax rate on the rich, as I for one am sick of the New Labour stance of not minding the rich getting massively richer so long as the poor get a tiny bit less poor (I’m also bloody sure that Alan Johnson will get on with his job and support Ed with this, seasoned professional that he is). Ed’s Stance on anti-social behaviour and the justice system in general are also to be commended.
So if you’re already a member please get involved in the policy review as well as start the hard campaigning and graft, and if you aren’t a member yet, JOIN LABOUR and get on with supporting Ed in his Mission of reform and later our mission to get elected.
HB
*The Guardian website (at least) referred to Ed getting back into “wonk” mode, surely “work”?….
And yes I will call him Ed…I’ve met him haven’t I?
24
Nov
10

Labour Lovely #3

It’s back again after a few weeks out – This weeks Labour Lovely is Andy Burnham for his energetic and inspiring performance in the Commons today in response to Michael Gove’s Schools White Paper Statement. Andy, quite rightly, tore apart the proposed changes to our education system with a brilliantly passionate speech today. It should be very welcoming and warming to all the students in Britain today to see Andy fight so passionately and fluently in our defence.

Andy Burnham hit home the hidden agenda in the upcoming changes to our education system by stating that these changes were only ‘good for some children and good for some schools’. With this he argued very well that Michael Gove is creating a two-tier system of education in that the poorest children from the poorest areas will feel no benefit from these changes. Andy also slashed apart the decision made by Gove on cutting all funding in the sports budget for schools highlighting how irrational and irresponsible decisions are being made in this department. To support this he made reference to the shambles that occurred when Gove announced the schools that would lose their re-building projects.

With the hypocrisy around the ‘Pupil Premium’ and the fact that schools from the poorest areas will receive significant lower funding it seems appropriate to quote Rage Against The Machine in their song Bulls on Parade: “What we don’t know keeps the contracts alive and movin. They don’t gotta burn the books, they just remove em”.

Students all across Britain should take great pride and joy in seeing Andy Burnham put up such a great fight in resistance to the regressive changes being made to our education system. His approach since becoming Shadow Education Minister has been well principled and great to watch. Andy’s passionate and greatly spoken speeches should inspire us all to get involved in this resistance in defending our schools and universities. I reccomend to anyone who reads this to watch Andy’s performance again on the BBC iplayer.

JW

22
Nov
10

International Super-Supplement: Good ol’ Irish Optimism (that’s not necessarily fuelled by Guinness)

It’s a simultaneously intriguing, yet horrific situation in the Irish Republic at present.

(Centre: Irish Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Brian Cowen)

Intriguing as the UK has been in this situation before- evidently not precisely the same due to the intimate involvement of the Eurozone in this scenario. The core premise was the same though; Britain was the sick man of Europe throughout the 60s and 70s, the government was deeply unpopular, and international assistance was inevitably required (solely from the IMF in this case). While the circumstances are very similar in Ireland currently however, events and reactions are playing out very differently.

Horrific not just because Ireland stands on the brink of complete economic collapse, but rather because the whole of Europe does- a breakdown of the Euro and its economic zone, as a result of a predicted ‘domino effect’, would spell disaster for the livelihoods of all in the constituent nations (primarily the working classes), and possibly bring the EU itself under pressure- putting at risk a union that has done so much for our country and indeed all of its members in terms of liberty and human rights. What happens in Ireland now will undoubtedly have overarching consequences for Europe (particularly for the UK as a main exporter to the country) and ultimately the world at large should the forecasted knock-on effect occur.

The government, and essentially the people of the Emerald Isle (if the increasingly likely a vote of no confidence is passed) are under a lot of pressure to do ‘what’s right’- a vague phrase used by the Tories of this nation and free market advocates worldwide as a subtle admission that they have no idea what a solution would involve. So, as the luck of the Irish has seemingly run out, as the breweries have run dry, as the leprechaun’s gold stash has become depleted, regardless of how many lame clichés you can come up with to relate to the state of affairs, wouldn’t you have thought the mood would have become desperate and hopeless, the people morose and despondent about their country’s future? Oddly enough, the opposite is true. The attitude in Dublin is reported as being overwhelmingly positive, and this is what’s so intriguing. This is why I think our government, media, and we as the people of the UK have a little something to learn from both the experience and contemporary outlook of the other state that inhabits these islands.

The UK in this position during the 60s and 70s couldn’t have been more different than Ireland now- constant protests and rioting, and rebellions against everything that represented any form of establishment were rife- this culminated in the Winter of Discontent. Despite the prospect of easily being able to see off the Callaghan administration that was blamed for the crisis, the population became so dispirited they literally refused to work. However, despite a few protests in Dublin (which are in no way comparable to the level of unrest potential bankruptcy provoked in this country) the Irish still have faith in a governing body. Not in their government itself, in fact passive discontent is looking to remove the current authority. No, a faith in the EU endures.

Despite everything, as a poll on the Irish Times website (now removed) proved, the majority of Irish citizens still believe the Eurozone is ‘the way forward’ for their country, and, astoundingly, that the common currency is not in ‘danger of disappearing’. It appears that in times of economic peril, the Irish are becoming more globalist, the general population looking to the EU not reluctantly like their government, but readily with a sense of European unity for a bailout, which has quickly been provided. It’s at times like this when you have to wonder, self interests aside, that perhaps the EU is worthy of the mantra of the three musketeers- ‘all for one and one for all’.

In the UK however, this feeling of European or even international unity in grim times is never present- throughout this crisis, the media has constantly blamed other nations for the downturn, and, almost as always, there is a permeating sense of economic isolation amongst the people- especially in regards to the EU, an area where our press is dominated by Eurosceptic pessimists. All of this adds to feelings of resentment and dejection that can often lead to unconstructive unrest. We know what the Winter of Discontent brought on us, after all. This media-assisted national feeling is also reflected in our current government- the belief that rapid and deep cuts to lessen dependence on exterior bodies like the EU are necessary to maintain sovereignty, and retain a meaningless sense of fiscal dignity that conservatives seem to cherish. The Irish government went down that route on the outset of the crisis- and such stringent cuts have put supposed ‘economic sovereignty’ at a bigger risk of being lost than ever.

While the UK is not a part of the Eurozone, we can take a lesson from the Republic of Ireland- not just that extreme cuts accomplish the opposite of their intended effect, but also that it is possible to remain happy in the face of adversity- that merely being malcontent with our government and situation, and feeling hopeless isn’t the only way, but that faith in the exterior body- the EU, and an awareness of socialism on a global or at least pan-European scale can be a light in the dark, that no Mr Cameron, it is not just our island but the whole of our multinational union at large, that is in this together.

MH

21
Nov
10

‘Strictly Come Cutting’

Perhaps it is time for the ‘Ministerial Code’ to be updated with new rules for Government Ministers to follow, one of which could be: To give your Government proper credibility, do not take part in reality TV shows. In this new austerity age were we are constantly told that everything is being done to fix our economy then the least we would expect is for them to give this job their full attention. However, we have now learnt that our Business Secretary will be taking part in the Christmas edition of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. Yes, that’s right. Vince Cable. The once supposed ‘man of the people’.

There are many possible reasons why Vince may have took this decision. Maybe he likes to dance. Perhaps he likes the show. Or is he trying to cling on to his once proposed ‘national treasure’ status? Whatever the reasoning behind this decision it is clear that it will do nothing to calm the anger felt by many people in the country today. The Lib Dem betrayal is of such an extent that nothing can be done to make it forgotten.

Vince’s choice to take part on this reality TV show seems to indicate how out of touch some senior Lib Dems appear to be with the disgust felt by many people. This sort of stunt will do nothing to distract the students who were lied to about tuition fees, the thousands of people who will have to move home with changes to housing benefit, the millions of OAP’s who will see their pension’s cut and the half a million public sector workers who will become unemployed. No. This dancing stunt will do nothing to make the people forget how it once appeared that the Lib Dems were the party for them. A party for change we once believed. Not any more.

Although some people may find it entertaining to see a Government Minister taking part on this sort of show, most will feel their anger boil even more as watching this man dance around with ‘has-been’ celebrities will just reinforce the belief that politician’s seem to live in a world of their own. A world were the judgement of the people is not considered and taken thought of. Along with Vince Cable’s recent comments about ‘not being bound’ by their manifesto promise on tuition fees this decision to appear on Strictly will simply antagonise and further anger the many people who were betrayed and misled by the Liberal Democrats.

JW

10
Nov
10

live blog from the cuts are nuts protest

12noon-the london traffic is heavy today, we are considering hopping on boris bikes! Nearly there!

10.46- nearly in london. Had a talk about what to do if we are arrested, and will soon be shouting at london in #demo2010

9.25- the guardian has a nice piece on their website, mentions especially sheffield, and also taking note that 24,000 people in all are being expected to march in what tweeters are dubbing #demo2010 (if you’re on twitter please tweet your support!)

9.12- still on coach towards london, wonderful community feeling. We are occasionally being passed by buses from other universities. Best placard so far reads “if I could afford tuition fees I’d have a better banner”

7.30- beautiful sunrise on the road to london

6.58- on a coach after an incredible organised feeding and meeting and coach allocation procedure in bar one of the sheffield uni students union. Friends from liverpool have also said they are one their way!!!

5.58- leaving my flat now and I am assured that people all over the country are on their way to london to protest!

Please refresh this page to make sure to get the most recent updates!

5.40- Morning everybody, an early start!

We will soon be meeting in the centre of sheffield and then winding our way to horseguards parade. We are the top story on radio 4, hurrah!!

We’ll be blogging all day!!

Hb

04
Nov
10

‘The Fall Guy’: fears mount over the Con’s Clegg-Screen

Last Thursday this blogger attended a lecture by Alistair Campbell at Sheffield University’s Octagon Centre. Amongst the many themes addressed, emphasis was placed on Campbell’s own fears for one Nick Clegg. The former pressman’s conjecture was that a ConDem marriage in White Hall was not as harmonious as that infamous press conference in the gardens of Downing Street made out. “We have a Conservative government doing what they always wanted to do, using Nick Clegg as a shield”. Let’s face it; why on earth would the Tories want to stay in bed with the Liberals? The key advantage of this union lies in public image. The longstanding belief of the Conservatives as ‘the nasty party’ (as Theresa May gratuitously dubbed them) can be somewhat mitigated by the presence of the Lib Dem leader. In these uncertain, unsettling times, with unpopular policies being implemented by a patchwork coalition,Nick Clegg  is proving to be perhaps the most useful tool in the government’s shed; not because he says or does anything particularly inspiring, but because he functions as a universal disappointment sponge for disenchanted voters. You stare at Nick Clegg and feel infinitely unhappy; in fact almost a little ashamed if  like me you actively supported the liberals in the general election. BUT simultaneously, you scarcely notice Cameron and co hiding behind him. No doubt about it Clegg is the human face of the coalition.

It will take time for people to absorb the full impact of Wednesday’s spending review, but one thing will be clearer today too many voters. Raucous Tory cheers for deep cuts will have helped cement an impression that had been forming in the public mind. This is no coalition government. This is a Tory government in which Liberal Democrats have accepted jobs. But in that sense, these are the same old Tories- the perceived hypocrisy of Clegg may not sit as easy with many of the electorate. It was with reference to this that Campbell said “Clegg has really got to watch out”.

But Clegg is not the only unfortunate being tied to the mast of the Conservative funeral flotilla. Vince Cable, the once White Knight of the economy, is also contradicting himself. When Cable stood in parliament and expressly said that the Browne’s report was a fair deal for students, he was totally in ignorance of the party’s previous stance of abolishing fees. Now he’s saying apposing them is “no longer feasible”? When this statement was delivered in parliament, the importance of Cable’s position, with Cameron and Osborne sat flanking either side on the bench should not be ignored. The Conservatives are mediating their policy to the public through what used to be an honest vessel. Perhaps it was for this reason that Mr. Cable’s glasses were so low, resting on the tip of his nose, to detract from this flagrant U-turn in policy.

So there it is. The green book confirms that the Lib Dems have failed to nail down promises made to them by the Tories in post-election talks – promises that have been Clegg’s fig leaf for staying in the coalition. Who will the public blame? That is to be decided. But as Campbell highlighted in his lecture the media has given the coalition a relatively easy ride allowing them to settle into governance. But when the gloves come off – who will they blame? Given the pollution and bias of the free press it is this bloggers bet that the liberals may not come out of any problems caused by these ‘rushed’ economic measures smelling of roses.

As Charlie Brooker put it ‘It’s only a matter of time before the word “Clegg” enters the dictionary as a noun meaning “agonized, doe-eyed apologist”. No wonder he’s been hitting the cigarettes so hard.

JRO