|James, As you may know, I have apologised to Mrs Duffy for remarks I made in the back of the car after meeting her on the campaign trail in Rochdale today. I would also like to apologise to you.
Many of you know me personally. You know I have strengths as well as weaknesses. We all do. You also know that sometimes we say and do things we regret. I profoundly regret what I said this morning.
I am under no illusions as to how much scorn some in the media will want to heap upon me in the days ahead.
But you, like I, know what is at stake in the days ahead and so we must redouble our campaigning efforts to stop Britain returning to a Tory Party that would do so much damage to our economy, our society and our schools and NHS, not least in places like Rochdale.
The worst thing about today is the hurt I caused to Mrs Duffy, the kind of person I came into politics to serve. It is those people I will have in my mind as I look ahead to the rest of the campaign.
You will have seen me in one context on the TV today. I hope tomorrow you see once more someone not just proud to be your leader, but also someone who understands the economic challenges we face, how to meet them, and how that improves the lives of ordinary families all around Britain.
I know how hard you all work to fight for me and the Labour Party, and to ensure we get our case over to the public. So when the mistake I made today has so dominated the news, doubtless with some impact on your own campaigning activities, I want you to know I doubly appreciate the efforts you make. Regards, Gordon
|To unsubscribe, please click here. Privacy: we won’t pass on your email address to anyone else. See http://www.labour.org.uk/privacy Reproduced from an email sent by the Labour Party, promoted by Ray Collins, General Secretary, the Labour Party, on behalf of the Labour Party, all at 39 Victoria Street, London,|
Jonathan Rabin, writing in the London Review of Books (republished in last Sunday’s Observer) exposes the unsavoury roots of Cameron’s “big society, small government” slogan. Phillip “Red Tory” Blond nicked it from two English Catholic admirers of Mussolini’s Italy, Hilaire Belloc and GK Chesterton (whose “Distributionist League” is, amazingly, still around on the net). This sort of reactionary-utopian “Merrie England” fantasy also meets with the approval of the Greens and some Lib Dems.
Chesterton and Belloc: Mussolini fans
“Blond, hailing Cameron’s ‘vision’, admiringly quotes him giving voice to thoughts he’s borrowed from Blond, which, in turn, Blond has borrowed from Chesterton and Belloc. ‘As Cameron pointed out, “The paradox at the heart of big government is that by taking power and responsibility away from the individual, it has only served to individuate them”’: this is pure Blond, especially in its but what does it mean? quotient. Does ‘them’ mean the singular ‘individual’? Does ‘individuate’ mean something like ‘make more “individualist”, and therefore selfish’? Who can tell. Cameron, who is usually plausibly articulate, abuses and misuses the language in a very Blondlike way when trying to channel his house philosopher. Blond tells us that Cameron offers ‘an associative society that is based on human relationships’, and pays this tribute to his pupil: ‘Cameron is crafting a politics of meaning that speaks to something more wanted and more needed than welfarism or speculative enrichment: it is the common project that the state has destroyed – nothing less than the recovery of the society we have lost and creation of the society we want.’ It doesn’t say much for Cameron’s vaunted intellect or his judgment that he is the willing mouthpiece for Blond’s secondhand ideas. The ‘moderniser’ of the Conservative Party has now found what he calls his ‘guiding philosophy’ in what began as Chesterton’s and Belloc’s homesickness for a rural and small-town life that never existed outside their Arcadian dream of Merrie England.
In a speech on 31 March, Cameron said:
Some people say that there are no big ideas left in politics. But I don’t agree. I think this is about as big as it gets. It’s not the big state that is going to tackle our social problems and increase our wellbeing. It’s the Big Society. And we know we have to use the state to help remake our society.
If Cameron were to look into the unsavoury ancestry of his big idea, he might be surprised to find out that it was originally hatched by two admirers of Mussolini’s Italy. As Belloc, who despised all forms of elective parliamentary government ‘save in aristocracies’, wrote in The Cruise of the Nona: ‘What a strong critical sense Italy has shown! What intelligence in rejection of sophistry, and what virility in execution! May it last!’ Fascism is not what Cameron has in mind, but his embrace of Blond’s crankish political philosophy makes one wonder what on earth he does have in mind.
Cameron badly wants to win the election, and a big idea, however tainted its source, however underexamined and ill-thought-out, is a useful thing to brandish at the electorate, especially if it provides a cloak of nobility and ‘ethos’ for the old Conservative ambition to take a cleaver and sunder the connection between the words ‘welfare’ and ‘state’. “
I’ll close with the memorable and wise (if drunken) words and feelings of James Dixon, which pretty much mirror my own on this subject:
“‘What finally, is the practical application of all this?’ Dixon said in his normal voice. He felt he was in the grip of some vertigo, hearing himself talking without consciously willing any words. ‘Listen and I’ll tell you. The point about Merrie England is that it was just about the most un-Merrie period in our history. It’s only the home-made pottery crowd, the organic husbandry crowd, the recorder-playing crowd, the Esperanto…’ He paused and swayed; the heat, the drink, the nervousness, the guilt at last joined forces in him…”
Let’s be charitable and accept that not everyone who disrupted Gil Scott-Heron’s gig at the South Bank Centre was an anti-semite and that some of them may have been motivated by genuine concern for the plight of the Palestinian people and their just struggle for nationhood.
Even so, it’s clear that the pro-boycotters are fundamentally anti-Israeli rather than pro-Palestinian. Did the fact that a long-standing anti-racist and anti-apartheid campaigner like Scott-Heron doesn’t agree with the boycott not give these people at least pause for thought? Or the fact that if his planned concert in Tel Aviv goes ahead it will undoubtably be a boost to the Israel left and peace movement?
Gil Scott-Heron performing “We Almost Lost Detroit” & “Work For Peace” recently
No, none of that seems to matter to the anti-Israel fanatics. They just want to demonise and delegitimise Isreal and all its people, making a politically illiterate comparison with apartheid as a cover for their real programme of opposition to Israel’s very right to exist.
Even the Morning Star‘s reviewer at the gig seems to have noticed the double standards of the boycott campaign:
“Is it not hypocritical for us, as British citizens, to be calling for a boycott of Israel when our own government’s treatment of Afghans and Iraqis – and historically many, many others from Ireland to Kenya to India – is hardly better than Israel’s treatment of Palestinians?” Eh, quite so, comrade: try thinking that one through some time.
According to the Morning Star report, Scott-Heron eventually left the stage while his pianist took a solo, and returned to announce that he would cancel the Tel Aviv gig. Let’s hope this was a momentary lapse and that he doesn’t give in to anti-Israeli exceptionalism (the modern form of anti-semitism) and instead follows the courageous and principled lead of the writer Amitar Ghosh:
“I would like to state clearly that I do not believe in embargoes and boycotts where they concern matters of culture and learning. On the contrary I believe very strongly that it is important to defend the notion that institutions of culture and learning must, in principle, be regarded as autonomous of the state. Or else every writer in America and Britain, and everyone who teaches in a British or American university, would necessarily be implicated in the Iraq war… Similarly every Indian writer and academic would also be complicit in the actions of the Indian government in areas of conflict. And if we don’t defend this principle how will we defend the rights of dissent of those who are employed in universities – especially, for instance, in times of war, when reasons of state can be cited to create an explicit complicity?
“I do not see how it is possible to make the case that Israel is so different, so exceptional, that it requires the severing of connections with even the more liberal, more critically-minded members of that society.”
Today, 25th April is ANZAC day, which in Australia and New Zealand is the equivalent of Armistice Day in Britain. It commemorates the landing of the ANZAC forces in Gallipoli during the First World War, where they were ultimately defeated by the Turks. In Britain this is called the Dardanelles campaign, but in Australia and New Zealand it’s called “Gallipoli.“ This song by Eric Bogle tells the story of a crippled veteran:-
Eric Bogle emigrated to Australia from Peebles in Scotland . He does the odd tour in the UK and I have seen him received rapturously by a Scottish folkie audience. He’s short and a bit tubby, and a young bloke sitting next to me said, “He’s a god, isn’t he?” in a voice of pure worship. I’ve met him a few times and he’s a very nice, unassuming guy.
I find the song heart-breaking but the last verse is wrong:-
And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question.
The war, the Gallipoli part of it, isn’t forgotten by a long stretch. The young people know about it and on their almost compulsory overseas travels go there to be greatly moved and greatly accusing of the British, especially Winston Churchill (then First Lord of the Admiralty and chief instigator of the campaign) for leading their ancestors into such a mess. In my primary school I was taught it as one of the great cock-ups of history. The film Gallipoli presents the British as tea drinking incompetents and ignores the great numbers of British troops who were also killed in the campaign. Gallipoli, both in historical fact and legend, influences the movement for an Australian republic.
There is no ill feeling towards the Turks because they are seen as defending their own territory. Turks are also friendly and welcoming to travelling strangers, and are generally liked.
I have done the tour of Gallipoli myself, gazing at the beach landing where the invading troops had to scramble up a cliff, and the little hill tops they had captured briefly and then lost. The place smelt of pine, the grass was brown and brittle, the cicadas were chirping, the air was hot, the sea blue and the terrain steep and hilly. It reminded me of Auckland, where some of my family live. The tanned Australians and New Zealanders in shorts and t-shirts were very respectful around the graves and treated the English guide like Jeremy Paxman interviewing a politician. “So who was responsible then?” They told each other stories about dysentery and thirst that had been handed down by grandfathers and great great uncles. “They stood in shit (pronounced “sheet”) all the time and the smells were awful.”
They acknowledge the bravery and endurance of the soldiers, and become terribly emotional about their suffering, without feeling they need to defend the cause for which they fought, just blaming the old imperialist state. Colonial lions led by donkeys sitting around a table in London.
For the Turks their victory was an inspiration for Turkish nationalism. Mestafa Kemal was a divisional commander and his success at repelling the invaders gave him huge prestige, helping him in his later political career which finally culminated in his becoming Ataturk, the Father of Turkey, whose statues and portraits are found all over the country. The tourists look at the many British and Commonwealth graves and memorials to find their family names but they also stop at the slab on which are carved Ataturk’s words of reconciliation:-
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives. You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.. You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now living in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
Australians and New Zealand English wouldn’t produce such rhetoric but they are touched by it.
The Turks call the campaign after the port Çanakkale where the Turks repulsed the Royal Navy and they have their own beautiful song, Çanakkale içinde, which is very popular.
The war is declared.
It came down on us like fire.
The whole country shed tears.
The Anyali Carsi,
the market place, in Çanakkale
I’m leaving for the enemy Mother
And there goes my boyhood.
The cypress tree grows tall in Çanakkale
Some of us were engaged,
And there goes my boyhood.
They’ve shot me in Çanakkale
Put me in a grave, I wasn’t dead!
And there goes my boyhood.
It is not a victory song but like Bogle’s song a lament for lost youth.
While I was looking for a translation of the lyrics of that song, I found an Islamist take on Dardanelles/Gallipoli/Çanakkale.
We have celebrated the annual commemoration of the martyrs of Çanakkale (pronounced Chanakkalé) with a mawlid on Thursday night. The actual day was Wednesday, March 18th.
Sheykh Abdul Kerim Efendi reminded us of the significance of this battle as the last real jihad authorized by the Caliph, the Sultan in Istanbul. This 19th Crusade to destroy Islam failed as a consequence of about 250,000 martyrs, mostly young men aged 18-25. It marked the triumph of spiritual and religious power over state of the art materialistic power.
And on the back of that triumph the atheist Ataturk set up a secular state.
I’ve written before about the antiwar faction’s talismanic reverence for the concept of legality, and it’s this that trips up Liam MacUaid’s argument against arresting the Pope when he makes his publicly funded visit to the UK. (I found MacUaid’s piece via Andy Newman, who naturally and enthusiastically endorses it.) MacUaid asks:
And if we’re in the mood for dishing out arrest warrants would the pre-election period not be a good time to demand the arrest of all those present and former ministers with direct political responsibility for the ongoing wars and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan?
You could turn this question on its head: why do you want to arrest an elected leader for leading Britain into a war backed by parliament, but not arrest an unelected autocrat for covering up the torture and rape of children? You can mess around with the text of the 1985 letter as if it were a postmodern novel, you can go on about anti-papism and Orange Zionism until the stars burn out, but the Pope has a case to answer. Let him answer it, if he can.
Imagine if the Telegraph exposed a culture of systemic child rape in the Labour Party. It would make the expenses scandal look like a minor flap in media land. An investigation would already be well underway, the government would fall, people would be tearing up their party cards, those with evidence against them would be afraid to walk the streets – if they’d even been bailed. The same goes for any private business or public sector organisation. Because this involves a church, any talk of justice has to be a conspiracy against Catholics in general.
‘The left liberal intelligentsia is making a wrong call on this issue,’ says MacUaid. He talks about migrant Catholic workers at a parish in Bethnal Green:
Feel free to chastise them for their ideological backwardness but the hard fact is that they get more out of their membership of the Catholic Church than any other organisation they could choose to join. It would make for an interesting spectacle if a few of the liberal and left secularists demanding the arrest of Pope Benedict tried to rustle up support for their campaign among some of the most exploited workers in London.
The implication is clear: secularism is a bourgeois intellectual phenomenon that can only alienate the earthy and spiritual proletariat. I cannot match the far left’s communalist skills. They’ve bought into our culture’s condescending assumption that we shouldn’t challenge superstition because its illusions are all that the working classes have to live for. To quote former neocon Michael Lind: ‘Religion becomes what Plato called a noble lie. It is a myth which is told to the majority of the society by the philosophical elite in order to ensure social order’. And there was a time when far leftists would have tried to help exploited workers rather than just canvass them.
In any case, many Catholics are also incensed about the crimes. Read Andrew Sullivan on the Kiesle case. The scandal was broken by the Boston Globe, newspaper of the largest Catholic city in America, by an investigative team of mostly Catholic reporters. Journalist Michael Rezendes agrees that: ‘it was quite courageous of the editors – we could have alienated a lot of readers.’
Instead: ‘The Globe reporters were also quietly told of many dozens of cases over the previous decade or so, in which the church had settled claims against molesting priests privately, often including a clause that barred the victims or their families from ever talking about it.’ A typical case:
The Globe‘s first story also featured a heartbreaking interview with Maryetta Dussourd, whose three sons, and the four sons of her niece Diane, had been abused by Geoghan years earlier, in the 1970s, and with whom the church had settled privately. ‘She’d written this incredibly painful and poignant letter to the cardinal at the time,’ [religious affairs correspondent Michael] Paulson recalls. ‘You could feel all her passion for the church, her deep respect for the cardinal – and her shock and pain that despite her dozens of complaints, he was still continuing to work with children. That was what really got to people, I think.’
Paulson also identifies: ‘a kind of evolution of culture, a moment in history when people were willing to talk critically about religion. Often in the past that just hasn’t been possible.’
Despite Richard Dawkins’s best efforts I don’t sense the same evolution of culture in the UK. During this week’s Election 2010 debate, a questioner from the audience noted that: ‘The Pope has accepted an invitation to make an official state visit to Britain in September at a cost of millions of pounds to tax-payers’ and asked candidates if they would ‘disassociate your party from the Pope’s protection over many years of Catholic priests who were ultimately tried and convicted of child abuse’.
Instead of answering, all three candidates delivered identical pro-faith blather. ‘I think faith-based organisations, whether they are Christian or Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, do amazing things in our country,’ said David Cameron, ‘whether it is working in our prisons or providing good schools or actually helping some of the most vulnerable people in our country.’
The truth is that we have no reason to believe that vast numbers of people have to labour under worthless delusions and accept everything their leaders tell them. There’s every reason to believe that people are capable of looking at the facts and making brave decisions for themselves.
From the National Secular Society :
The sentencing of Harry Taylor to six months in prison (suspended for two years) for leaving anti-religious cartoons in an airport prayer room has been condemned by the National Secular Society as “creating a new blasphemy law that will open the way for every religious extremist to persecute and prosecute their critics.”
Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society said: “Regardless of the fact that this six month sentence has been suspended, it is still totally out of proportion for what Mr Taylor did. Nobody can deny that he was being deliberately provocative in leaving these rather mild cartoons, cut from Private Eye, in the prayer room, but in the end he didn’t harm anybody and was simply making a point about the existence of such a facility. The chaplain could quite easily have simply thrown the papers in the bin.
“Instead, she claims to have been hurt and offended by this material, which makes her ultra sensitivity a dangerous thing indeed. The professional ‘offence takers’ in religious communities will now feel that they have a strong new weapon to use against anyone who is critical or disapproving of them. It is, in effect, a blasphemy law that covers all religions and is much more powerful than the one that was abolished only two years ago.”
“Religiously aggravated offences represent a new kind of blasphemy law, and the professional offence takers in religious communities won’t be slow to exploit this new avenue of restricting criticism and comment about their beliefs. It is time for parliament to reconsider these provisions and remove them from the statute books.”
Mr Sanderson said that Mr Taylor describes himself as a “militant atheist” who wanted to challenge the existence of the “prayer room” particularly as it was situated on John Lennon Airport in Liverpool – he maintained that John Lennon was an atheist and would not have approved of the presence of the prayer room.
One of the images left by Harry Taylor
The Morning Star today carries an interesting and thought-provoking article. I’ve no doubt that many readers of “Britain’s only socialist daily paper” will also find it quite a shocking article, because at a certain level it appears to express some sympathy with “decent working class people” who support the BNP. The author, Mick Hall, writes about “my friend, the BNP candidate“, a bright working class lad who became a BNP member and stood for them in the local elections four years ago.
Hall attempts to explain why such a person (called “Marty” for the purposes of the article) would be attracted to the far right, mentioning both personal factors like the death of Marty’s wife, and economic factors like the factory closures, unemployment and poverty to be found in the sink estate where he lives. Hall also notes that the Labour Party and the “left” have failed to offer any real alternative.
The article is a serious attempt to address some of the economic and political roots of contemporary British fascism, and makes a refreshing change from the popular frontist moralistic posturing of much of the left’s anti-BNP campaigning. But Hall is evasive on a number of issues, noteably where exactly he stands on immigration. He writes:
“Yes, immigration is a topic of conversation, as it is amongst all social classes. There is nothing wrong with that, it is an issue that affects peoples lives in all sorts of ways, housing, schooling, work, health care, etc. To deny this fact is infantile, the left needs to take a position on this subject, not hope to push it under the carpet and blame the most economically disadvantaged section of the working class for its ‘ignorant racism’.”
Fair enough, as far as it goes: but what position on immigration does the author advocate?
And however sympathetic you might feel towards an individual working class BNP supporter from a deprived area, who was once a good friend, would you really want to shake his hand?
“After our conversation Marty and I shook hands and parted. As I watched him go I felt sad that such a bright shooting star had been reduced to being a carthorse for Nick Griffin and co. He was, and is, much better than that.”
I’ve just learned that I can get Sky News on my TV. Other than that, I didn’t learn anything much from watching tonight’s Round 2 of the Great Debate. The first one was of interest because it was – well – the first one. And it set in motion the strange and (to me, inexplicable) phenomenon of Cleggmania. The pundits and the opinion polls are saying that Cameron won this one on points and Brown did better than last week. Clegg, we’re told, held his own. Oh yes: Brown told an elderly woman that she was, indeed… a woman. Beyond that, I really cannot summon up the will or energy to make any further comment. So here’s tonight’s “winner”, courtesy some wag on Youtube, via the Stroppy One:
Derek doesn’t only support (entirely legal) British birds…he’s an internationalist!
Shiraz Socialist is considering starting a review section, evaluating bars all over the world. We would welcome guest reviewers.
We’re particularly interested in a Bangkok bar called “Playskool” and wonder if a prominent British trade union leader – say, I dunno, Derek Simpson – would like to write a review of that particular establishment for us?
A former Shell tanker driver and member of the Transport & General Workers’ Union, now part of Unite, said: ‘I could not believe my eyes. There, right in front of me, was Derek Simpson.
‘Unfortunately, I could not keep my mouth shut and shouted to my wife, “There’s Derek Simpson!” Simpson looked me straight in the eye and turned and went purposefully into a bar called Playskool.’
Mr Simons added: ‘I would never mistake Derek Simpson. My wife and I have only recently watched him being interviewed on BBC Question Time with David Dimbleby.’
Lee Simons, who followed Mr Simpson into the bar, said: ‘When I went in, Derek was sitting there. He stared at me straight away. I ordered a drink, looked up at the dancers in bikinis, and then looked around, and Derek was gone.’
(NB: The above is adapted from an article in the Tory Mail on Sunday on 28 March: Simpson has not sued or responded in any way).
A friend of mine who had severe sciatica would visit a chiropractor doubled up with pain and then emerge walking upright. That chiropractor had dingy rooms in a busy, dirty street then but nowadays has swish purpose built offices in a pleasant part of town, so evidently had a lot of satisfied patients. However, my friend never asked the chiropractor to fix his ulcer or stop his 60 cigarettes a day habit, so did not test the claims of chiropractors that manipulating the spine can cure all sorts of ailments.
Simon Singh had said these sorts of claims were “bogus” and was sued by the British Chiropractic Association. They have now dropped the case – here are two pieces which convey a fair amount of glee over this result.
The great anti-chiropractorist of his day was H L Mencken, who saw the emergence of this alternative medicine and denounced it with vituperation whenever he could – see this article he wrote in 1924 for the Baltimore Evening Sun pouring skiploads of scorn over it. If the British Chiropractic Association reads this, they should realise they got off very lightly with Singh’s milder comments. With Mencken you get the impression of a man writing who is not afraid of lawyers and libel actions. You also get his heartless social Darwinism:-
This preposterous quackery flourishes lushIy in the back reaches of the Republic, and begins to conquer the less civilized folk of the big cities. As the old-time family doctor dies out in the country towns, with no competent successor willing to take over his dismal business, he is followed by some hearty blacksmith or ice-wagon driver, turned into a chiropractor in six months, often by correspondence. In Los Angeles the Damned, there are probably more chiropractors than actual physicians, and they are far more generally esteemed. Proceeding from the Ambassador Hotel to the heart of the town, along Wilshire boulevard, one passes scores of their gaudy signs; there are even chiropractic “hospitals.” The Mormons who pour in from the prairies and deserts, most of them ailing, patronize these “hospitals” copiously, and give to the chiropractic pathology the same high respect that they accord to the theology of the town sorcerers. That pathology is grounded upon the doctrine that all human ills are caused by pressure of misplaced vertebrae upon the nerves which come out of the spinal cord — in other words, that every disease is the result of a pinch. This, plainly enough, is buncombe. The chiropractic therapeutics rest upon the doctrine that the way to get rid of such pinches is to climb upon a table and submit to a heroic pummeling by a retired piano-mover. This, obviously, is buncombe doubly damned.
Today the backwoods swarm with chiropractors, and in most States they have been able to exert enough pressure on the rural politicians to get themselves licensed. [It is not altogether a matter of pressure. Large numbers of rustic legislators are themselves believers in chiropractic. So are many members of Congress.] Any lout with strong hands and arms is perfectly equipped to become a chiropractor. No education beyond the elements is necessary. The takings are often high, and so the profession has attracted thousands of recruits — retired baseball players, work-weary plumbers, truck-drivers, longshoremen, bogus dentists, dubious preachers, cashiered school superintendents. Now and then a quack of some other school — say homeopathy — plunges into it. Hundreds of promising students come from the intellectual ranks of hospital orderlies.
For all I know (or any orthodox pathologist seems to know) it may be true that certain malaises are caused by the pressure of vagrant vertebra upon the spinal nerves. And it may be true that a hearty ex-boilermaker, by a vigorous yanking and kneading, may be able to relieve that pressure. What is needed is a scientific inquiry into the matter, under rigid test conditions, by a committee of men learned in the architecture and plumbing of the body, and of a high and incorruptible sagacity. Let a thousand patients be selected, let a gang of selected chiropractors examine their backbones and determine what is the matter with them, and then let these diagnoses be checked up by the exact methods of scientific medicine. Then let the same chiropractors essay to cure the patients whose maladies have been determined. My guess is that the chiropractors’ errors in diagnosis will run to at least 95% and that their failures in treatment will push 99%. But I am willing to be convinced. . .
[I see that Max has got in first re Singh and the BackQuacks.]