Archive for January, 2011

31
Jan
11

The Middle-Eastern Movements

In recent months it can be seen that a movement is spreading throughout the Middle East in which people in collective uprisings are demanding fundamental and proper political change. From Tunisia to Egypt these movements have been serious and thorough in that the people have sought through justified demonstrations the rightful political change in their countries. We should show our support to these people in their struggle for change and democracy.

One thing in common is that these current movements can be seen as a rejection of their US backed authoritarian governments. The ‘special relationships’ some Middle-Eastern countries have with the US involve limiting the democratic rights of their people, mainly as these leaders do not wish to end their special relationship and so keep their grasp onto power for as long as they can. Clearly, from the US point of view, the main intention of these relationships involve the trading of oil which of course is no surprise. These movements are a clear sign that the people, in Tunisia and Egypt, are rejecting this relationship with the US in demand of having their country and their resources back for themselves.

Another common theme is that in these countries the people do not have the democratic right to chose who governs them. Both in Tunisia and Egypt the people do not have the right to vote. This clearly should not be accepted by the people as no country can be a democracy without a voting system in which the people elect and chose who they wish to be governed by. In Egypt they have had the same leader for many years, at least 20 or more, and this clearly cannot be in any democracy. Also, by having elections and the vote, politicians are directly accountable and responsible to the people were as in these countries those who hold the power have no accountability to their people and as such feel free to lead however the please. A democracy can only be so if the people who govern are elected and not appointed.

Here in the UK there have been many great struggles for democratic change. The biggest most recent movement in our history was the Suffragette movement at the beginning of the 20th Century. Women bravely campaigned for their democratic right to vote. Their cause was one won on the use of militancy and is therefore an example of how militancy is a justified means of bringing about change, as similar to demonstrations which have taken place in Egypt and Tunisia. In the 1980’s the miners used striking to resist Thatchers attempt to destroy working class communities through the closure of mining pits. Arthur Scargill and the striking miners is another great example of the people taking part in proper and principled struggles to resistance to governments in a common cause. Another famous movement in the UK was that of the Peasant’s Revolt. This was a heroic struggle for much needed reform for the poverty struck peasants in opposition to their enforced slavery, thankfully this revolt marked the beginning of the end for Serfdom in England. .

One other common aspect in these movements has been the use of the internet. Clearly this very blog is an example of how the internet is used by different people to promote principles and causes, whether it’s from single issue matters like climate change and voting reform to organising demonstrations and mass meetings. In Tunisia and Egypt the use of sites like Twitter and Facebook have helped the people organise and co-ordinate their struggle, similarly the use of video phones to record the battles between them and the army have been used to show the world their fight for democracy. In relation to blogging Tony Benn, in his book ‘Letters to my Grandchildren’, said the following:

“Blogging is growing at a fantastic rate and is virtually costless. It means that anyone can express their opinions on the internet and influence others; each blogger becomes a proprietor of his own newspaper without the influence of advertising (or the revenue it brings)”.

Clearly the internet is becoming a very useful tool for the people in all countries to bring about political campaign and movements.

We in this country need to show our support to the people in the Middle East, and all people in the word, in any struggle they undertake to bring about proper political change. The people in this country have used collective movements and demonstrations to bring about change, most recently the student demonstrations in opposition to the rising tuition fees and the G20 protests before then. From the movements in our history we have a duty to support these people in their quest for justice and democracy. Collective revolts are great in showing the power of the people in bringing about the end of immoral and corrupt governments. It may be that the people of this country need to take inspiration from these movements in maintaining our democratic rights and to resist all regressive policies this Coalition Government tries to implement.

JW

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30
Jan
11

Merv the uncaring Swerve

Mervyn King has always been something of an unsavoury figure- he gained his nickname of ‘swerve’ after constantly avoiding instances of accountability or responsibility, changing in a snap fashion his approach to situations and even ideology as soon as either became unpopular or seemingly ineffective. For an example of such inconsistency one need look no further than King’s decision to not fund Northern Rock Bank in 2007, utilising the argument that the Bank of England was the ‘lender of last resort’- upon the revelation that this was precipitating a run on multiple other banks, therefore the subsequent nationalisation of them, Mervyn in a complete U-Turn spurned his previous stance and began to support all newly nationalised banks- the damage to the taxpayer had already been done however. Taking into account his past criticising of EU and US policies of intervention in relation to this new strategy, Mr King appears quite the hypocrite.

When you combine this with the relatively recent disclosure via Wikileaks that the governor is overly politicised in a position that demands complete neutrality, King’s credibility seems even more diminished. Sure, he may have said some things to the US-UK ambassador about Cameron and Osborne that writers on this blog (including myself) may agree with, but that’s immaterial here. Ultimately, when it’s considered that under him, the value of sterling at one point declined against the US dollar and Euro by up to 30%, it can be concluded that the man simply hasn’t been great at his job.

Which is why it is doubly offensive to hear King tell a nation already feeling the slowly closing jaws of the coalition government’s cuts agenda, that a decrease in the general UK standard of living is an ‘inevitable’, ‘necessary’ price to pay to combat the ‘aftermath’ of the economic downturn. The notion, of course, that we have entered the ‘aftermath’ of the crisis or indeed have even exited recession at all has been rendered nonsense thanks to new knowledge on 2010’s last quarter. But that’s really just where the appalling nature of Mervyn’s recent Newcastle upon Tyne speech begins.

Telling workers that their income will be no greater at the end of the year than it was in 2005 is depressing news to deliver indeed, so King gave the announcement that coalition air of ‘it’s a sacrifice that we all must make’. The fact of the matter is that this fall in living standards- the most protracted for more than eighty years- will not cause any noticeable difference to the lives of the wealthy- to the life of Mervyn King- earning as much as in 2005 is no hardship to these people at all, so for the governor to dictate to the masses that having to accept these circumstances in terms of wage rise is ‘necessary’ can not in any way be construed as fair. The ‘we’re all in this together’ message is always unsurprisingly utilised by the powerful and wealthy in our society, and as a result always falls flat- the almost nonchalant manner in which King made the statement displays how out of touch an individual he is- the devastating effect of government cuts and inflation, combined with such small increases in real wages will hit the poorest in our society, and even the middle earners extremely hard. The apparent willingness of Mervyn to submit to this eventuality even makes him appear callous in relation to his connection to ordinary people, to an extent. As the man who controls the country’s interest rates and has so much influence, this is unacceptable.

Furthermore, to talk of the general public paying any kind of further ‘price’ for the greed of bankers is disgraceful- after the tax payer has already spent so much bailing out the banks, even if there is to be some detrimental effect to real wages, is it really feasible to be wording it in such a way that implies ordinary people still owe something? Especially when it is considered that in addition to what I’ve already discussed about King being an instigator for the banks initially collapsing, that his lack of advice to the Brown administration regarding bank regulation also contributed to the crash- does he really have the authority to lecture on what ‘price’ the people need to pay?

The unions have been in uproar ever since King made his speech, they will be for some time to come, and they have every right to be. The coalition claims its policies to be progressive- I fail to see how policies that help lower standard of living at rates like it’s the 1920s again can be defined as such in any way.

MH

29
Jan
11

Labour Lovely of the Week #4

Last week’s LL was Alan Johnson who we were all sad to see leave front-row politics for family reasons. Ed Miliband swiftly decided on this week’s labour lovely to step into his position of Shadow Chancellor. Since then, he has not paused in attacking the ridiculous and clearly ideological tory cuts to everything in site. This man has both lectured on economics at Harvard as well as writing for the Financial Times, so he is clearly very qualified to speak on Economic issues, unlike a certain Mr Osborne

So for this week our Labour Lovely is:

Ed Balls MP

28
Jan
11

Tory Tit of the Week #3

Anyone who saw Prime Minister’s questions this week will remember the re-birth of Thatcher’s TINA/”there is no alternative”  phrase. The man who decided to inform us of this and re-awaken another relic of the last conservative government earns the prize of Tory tit of the week this week, is

Jacob Rees-Mogg


“Is not the lesson from the noble Baroness Thatcher that, when you have set an economic course, you should stick to it-“there is no alternative”?”

He may be a bit of an in-depth and unknown tory to choose this week but he was also on a programme by Andrew Neal looking at how the posh run the country he quote was:

“I am a man of the people, vox populi, vox dei”.

There is a word I’d like to use to respond to this quote…I wont though…all I will add is this nugget from twitter from (I assume) the writers of the thick of it “If there were such a thing as a triple-breasted suit Jacob Rees Mogg would wear one. #twitstick #PMQ #PMQs”

HB

27
Jan
11

If only Andy Gray were a Bullingdon Boy

Much beloved football commentator Andy Grey was fired last Monday over sexist remarks directed at lineswomen Sian Massey during Liverpool’s game against Wolves. Sky Sports presenters Richard Keys and Gray were recorded saying that “someone needs to go down thereand explain the offside rule to her.” Needless to say, such a flippant remark was greeted by a storm of media criticism. Frankly, their credulousness undermines the substantive work of all those involved in promoting women’s football, and generally reaffirms the misogynistic view of male exclusivity in the sport; a detrimental message, especially in light of Britain’s approaching Olympic Games.

As the ever wise Rio Ferdinand tweeted, there’s no room for these “Prehistoric” comments in the modern game. But he’s right of course, sexism is no laughing matter. But in all truth the majority of us knew this was pretty much the case. To Mr. Gray’s credit, it was assumed that the studio microphones were turned off, so however inexcusable harboring such beliefs may be, it was never his intention to course widespread offence. Everyone is entitled to his or her beliefs, however incredibly incorrect they may be … Actually, I should add that if you are a government official, where some degree of impartiality is required to administrate fairly, it would probably be best if you were not manifestly prejudiced in some form. Given the tentative political affiliation of this blog, readers may wonder why a post mooting the ethicality of Andy Gray has been published. Well it’s really about double standards.

Just three days before Gray made his comments, the Telegraph reported the case of Kate Lewis, who alleged that former Tory financial director and current government advisor Ian McIsaac “poisoned” her reputation, to the point of forcing her out of her job. He openly referred to her as “my other woman”, and told her that working mothers had no place in the City. Mrs. Lewis also claims that Lord Marland, the former Tory treasurer who was ennobled by David Cameron and appointed as an energy minister, made an inappropriate joke about maternity pay when she became pregnant.

Where was the public outrage here? I’m sure many people didn’t even know of the story. If Andy Gray and his stupidity merit page.1 of the Mirror, then it’s just ludicrous that an emanation of the government is not held to ransom in much the same way. The Equality Act (one of the last contributions of the Brown government) only took force in October 2010, yet it appears the next lot in office has already violated its authority. But this is not new ground for the Conservative party; I’m sure many will remember the words of party member Phillip Lardner who argued that homosexuality is “not normal”. Sadly, it appears to be crystal clear that people care more about the politics of sport than the politics of White Hall.

In some respects justice was done this week; thanks Gray’s prompt dismissal, no more will I be forced to hear the gargling undulations of a Scottish person feigning enthusiasm (I do genuinely believe I’ve listened to more of his annoying pre-recorded FIFA commentary than I have the wise words of my university lecturers). But if such a benign figure can cause what has proved to be a lot of hurt, I do worry for a government who perpetually let slip sound bites of antipathy like the bloated repugnant windbags they are. My fear is one day, these ruling elite, with all the power afforded to them by Parliamentary Sovereignty, will authoritatively act upon their prejudice.

JRO

25
Jan
11

The Media Monopoly

By studying the US it is easy to see how the massive right wing media has played significant influence on the opinions of people in relation to perceptions of politics and social issues. Usually the influence of the media in the UK has been downplayed but now it maybe time to realise that over recent years it has become ever more influential in determining public opinion. With the current controversy over the Murdoch bid to takeover BskyB it is now people need to realise the bias the media can have towards our governments.

It was recently published that David Cameron has had a secret meeting with James Murdoch just days after taking away Vince Cable’s duties over the BskyB bid. This clearly has a serious implication in that our government and the Murdoch empire are in fact towing the same line, and lets be honest it isn’t a major shock. The Conservative Party in toe with a media empire that has significant bias to right wing politics. Who’d have thunk it? And unfortunately this is a partnership that has occurred before.

During the 1980’s in Thatchers reign the right wing media playing a huge role in dismaying public opinion against the Labour Party and Left-wing politics as a whole. As a result the tabloid media, under the ownership of Murdoch, constantly attacked the likes of Michael Foot in an attempt to sway the public against these figures. Why? To protect their grasp on power. If we think to more recent times it is fair to state this has happened again.

Throughout Gordon Browns leadership he too was laid waste to a barrage of media spin and bias criticism, all of which helped put in place a constant stream of attack at his expense. How many jokes were made at his expense? How many times did you see TV presenters to tabloid articles criticising and demeaning Brown? And the general election came and we know the result of that. Indecision and now coalition.

With our Prime Minister meeting Murdoch in secret it is easy to see how there is a clear amount of bias and favour-ability between these two parties. It is up to us to stand up and protest against media domination at the hands of one person. Good and proper media should not be held by one person, variety is the key to a healthy system. We have to ensure that Murdoch does not complete his BskyB takeover. We have to hope that the BBC will keep to its original principle of neutrality as our leading media provider, however even this organisation finds it hard to keep itself free from political bias. It wasn’t so long ago when Mark Thompson was having meetings with David Cameron on how to cover the news over the spending review…

JW

25
Jan
11

T’is the season for resigning.

The recent resignation of Alan Johnson from the post of Shadow Chancellor is something we should lament for several reasons- but one in particular strikes me as poignant. The absence of Johnson from frontline politics serves to highlight the complete and total lack of variation in social background amongst the current higher echelons of our political class. This painfully obvious domination of both government and opposition positions by the born-into power ‘career politicians’ is made all the more apparent by another recent resignation- that of Andy Coulson. The man was rightfully featured in a less than favourable light latterly on the blog you’re now reading, but the fact of the matter is, despite of conduct while in his position, he was still an individual from a working class council house background who’d ‘made good’. As political commentator Andrew Neil is due to point out in a feature analysing the ‘decline of social mobility’ in Britain tomorrow night, the seemingly increasing homogeneity of the group that runs our country is concerning, and these resignations exacerbate the issue. In short, it’s bad for everyone.

In lieu, then, of Johnson’s resignation, we are left with Ed Balls as our Shadow Chancellor, who is now trusted to take the fight to Osborne. A different man entirely to Johnson, Balls’ background unfortunately does not give him the same appeal- another Oxbridge grad without much experience of life outside of politics and the media, he certainly lacks the intriguing novelty of a postman-turned union boss-turned political heavyweight. Balls however does possess characteristics that may make him more suited to the role with context of the current set of circumstances- cometh the hour, cometh the man, as they say.

On a personal level, I’ve never been a fan of Ed Balls- between his bullish style (or as the BBC likes to refer to it as, ‘combative’) that I think UK politics could use less of, his harassing of the Blair administration with reform hindering as part of his apparent role as Brownite henchman, to current opposition and refusal to conform with Ed Miliband’s attempts at united policy, Balls has always seemed to me as a thorn in the side of our party, as opposed to an asset. Even I though can see the many positives that arise from this newest appointment. Balls, more devoid of the likability element than his predecessor, is however a master of his brief- he lives and breathes economics- once an writer of the Financial Times for four years, he knows what he’s talking about. This is of course in contrast to Johnson, who’s joke about needing a book on economics for beginners may have been more accurate and reflective than he intended. Perhaps this is what Labour needs- a man immune from mocking in relation to knowledge, able to pick apart coalition policy piece by deplorable piece-more so maybe than someone less adept in this regard, but with a more amiable air about him. Ultimately, isn’t the post of leader in existence to give the party a charismatic and likable face? Perhaps the Chancellor can afford to be less personable and more focused on the figures.

One thing is certain however- numbers related gaffs that occurred under Johnson will not happen under Balls. Ed has already demonstrated his ability to apply his superior knowledge under pressure during the labour party leadership contest- his skills at doing so would have also been honed there. Conversely though, there may be friction between him and Miliband considering they ran against each other- while conceivable, it probably won’t be a problem- with Alan Johnson however, someone who abstained from the contest, it wasn’t an issue.

Numerous negativities can be found with Balls inhabiting the position, nevertheless. Osborne’s preparation and training for his role as Chancellor would have been tailored in relation to the Tory prediction of an immediate appointment of Balls to the shadow- the wildcard aspect of Johnson’s appointment is no longer present; Balls’ is far less of an enigma to them. The obvious consequence is of course that that Balls may be found more predictable, as Osborne will know his approach inside out. Aside from this, typical Tory gibes will include labelling him as ‘second choice’- and let’s be honest- they wouldn’t be far wrong, would they?

Balls’ specialisation my make him effective in the position, but also incredible susceptible to that coalition justification for everything we’re all so tired of hearing: the ‘it’s the fault of the last government’ and ‘it’s what we inherited’ argument. Balls was at the heart of the Brown administration, and as an advisor to Gordon was responsible in no small capacity for light bank regulation that led to economic disaster- Johnson was immune from these connotations- which is probably the main reason Miliband appointed him initially.

Well, what happens from here is too hard to foresee- Osborne has had an easy ride up to now, that can’t be denied, and we’ll see how Gideon handles increased pressure placed upon him by an individual who, fundamentally, is more capable at the job. The public won’t remember Osborne’s current phase that somewhat resembles Gordon Brown’s era of savaging Nigel Lawson in terms of success in a Chancellor/ Shadow Chancellor capacity- the people remember John Major’s disaster defeat on Black Wednesday from that period, not Brown. Osborne’s record so far will count for naught if Balls helps labour get its act together- and with the revelation today that the economy shrunk by 0.5% in the last three months of 2010, his new role is more important than ever.

And no Gideon, it wasn’t the sole fault of the snow.

MH