“Fruit-cakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly.” I don’t often agree with David Cameron, but his 2006 description of Ukip pretty well hit the nail on the head. It’s a vile, reactionary outfit led by a posturing demagogue. Unfortunately, it’s presently on something of a roll, due to the unpopularity of the government, the continuing ineffectiveness of Labour and its crude appeal to the worst prejudices of its chosen constituency (the white lumpenproletariat and disaffected petty bourgeoise).
But if, as seems likely, Ukip does well in Rotherham today it will be for one reason above all others: the incredibly stupid, inept, arrogant and bureaucratic decision of Rotherham council’s Children’s Services to remove three children from their foster parents simply because of the couple’s membership of Ukip.
Ukip is a reactionary organisation, but it’s not the BNP or the EDL. It is possible to be a member of an organisation with racist policies without being personally racist. By all accounts the couple are decent, caring people and experienced foster parents. They have been approved as suitable people under the (rightly) rigorous tests imposed on everyone wishing to foster children. But Rotherham Children’s Services took the children away and more or less called the couple racists because of their membership of Ukip. What a coup for that loudmouthed opportunist Farage: it seemed to confirm everything he says about bureaucratic elites obsessed by ‘political correctness’ and petty regulations, and the fact that even he can’t blame Europe for this balls-up is neither here nor there as far as public perceptions go.
The dreadful, but all too predictable, combination of arrogance and incoherence demonstrated in radio interviews by Joyce Thacker, head of Rotherham’s Children and Young People’s Services, has only served to make matters worse.
There are three byelections taking place today (Croydon North and Middlesborough as well as Rotherham), and in all of them reactionary fringe parties led by demagogues seem poised to do well. Indeed, in Rotherham at least, Ukip and Galloway’s Respect have formed a de facto alliance against Labour.
Serious socialists in all three constituencies should vote Labour today (despite the presence of left wing candidates in Rotherham and Middlesborough) and by rights, Labour should romp home in all three. But there are worrying signs that the populist right in the form of Ukip – or even Respect - may spring some nasty surprises when the votes are counted.
I thought the Andrew Mitchell affair was a storm in a teacup, and was thoroughly irritated that it has been the lead item on the news for the last few weeks, displaced only by Jimmy Savile. Chris Mullin’s take on it is that the real story is of the Police Federation showing their muscle.
Accusing those stoking the row of making a “mountain out of a molehill,” Mr Mullin described the Police Federation, which has repeatedly called for Mr Mitchell to be sacked, as a “bunch of head-bangers”.
Describing his own run-in with the Federation, which, he said, had sought to have him removed as chairman of the Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee when he raised questions about the probity of the police disciplinary system, he said: “The Federation is a bully.
“It has a long track record of intimidating ministers, journalists and anyone else who gets in its way. It also has a track record of defending the indefensible.”
‘. . .
“The Police Federation is a mighty vested interest that has seen off just about all attempts to reform the least reformed part of the public service. They need to be taken on, not appeased.”
The former minister’s intervention follows claims from three Cabinet colleagues of Mr Mitchell that the Police Federation are seeking to exploit the row for political reasons, and in particular grievances about changes to officers’ pay and conditions.
Guest post by Pink Prosecco
The Police and Crime Commissioner elections: apathy aids extremism
Police and Crime Commissioner elections are due to be held on November. A very low turn out is expected: people don’t seem that interested or aware - unless, that is, you venture into the far right/nationalist corner of the blogosphere.
In several areas far right candidates are putting themselves forward for the post. In Bedfordshire, Kevin Carroll, co-founder of the EDL, is standing. English Democrat candidates are being put forward in Cambridgeshire, Essex and Kent. You can find more about the blandly named English Democrats here.
As the AV system is being used I will, for the first time in my life, be voting (somewhere down the list) for a Conservative candidate. Find out who is standing in your area here
- and use your vote!
Dear Mr Bagley,
You are editor of the Morning Star, a paper that claims to stand for “peace and socialism.” It is the successor to the old Daily Worker and has close links with the British Communist Party. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its eastern european satellites, the Star has been largely dependent upon the British trade union movement for its funding and survival.
On Saturday September 22 this year the Morning Star published an article attacking the Russian punk-anarchist band Pussy Riot, supporting their imprisonment at the hands of the Putin regime. The content of the article was pretty vile and, frankly, had no place in any self-respecting socialist (or even liberal) publication. Your initial explanation (posted to the blog Tendance Coatsey) was unconvincing:
” The article was presented by the arts team as an alternative viewpoint on the Pussy Riot furore and appeared on our culture pages. The article did not appear particularly controversial in its own right. Its main focus was Pussy Riot and purported US State Department backing.”
The article states, with obvious approval, that the jailing of Pussy Riot “proves [that Russia] … cares for Christ as much as the French care about Auschwitz and this shocked the Europeans who apparently thought ‘hate laws’ could only be applied to protect Jews and gays.” It repeatedly and gratuituosly brings Jews into the argument, defends Putin against media criticism, describes Pussy Riot as “viragos” and supports the Orthodox Church’s role in Russian society, even accusing Pussy Riot of “blasphemy.” Now, I’d hardly call that “not … particularly controversial,” Mr Bagley. But maybe your criteria for what is “controversial” in left wing circles are different to mine.
But if that was all there was to it, I’d be (just about) willing to let the matter go, putting it down to a serious error of judgement from a paper whose instincts are evidently less democratic and secular than those of the milieu I move in.
But the content of the article is, in many ways, the least important aspect of this whole business. Even more important is the matter of the author of the piece – one Israel Shamir, a notorious holocaust denier, anti-semite and associate of numerous European neo-Nazi organisations. Surely it should be a-b-c that even in the highly unlikely event that Mr Shamir were to write something entirely unobjectionable, no self-respecting socialist publication should touch it with a bargepole.
Now, a crucial question arises: did the Star know who Mr Shamir is before deciding to publish his piece? You have stated that you and your colleagues did not – which given Shamir’s notoriety (easily revealed by a two-minute Google search) is in itself a damning admission from a publication that claims to be “steadfastly committed to the values of anti-racism, anti-fascism, international solidarity and social justice.”
Surely the content of the article alone should have set alarm bells ringing?
But it gets worse. It turns out that the article had first appeared in the US magazine Counterpunch and, in that publication, had included a passage that does not appear in the version printed in the Star: “Western governments call for more freedom for the anti-Christian Russians, while denying it for holocaust revisionists in their midst.” The absence of that sentence in the version the Star printed, raises an obvious question:
EITHER that passage had already been deleted by the time the article reached the Star’s editorial team;
OR it was edited out by the Star itself.
If it was the former, then your explanation / excuse of being unaware of who Shamir is and the nature of his views, is just (but only just) believable. If it is the latter, then clearly you must have had a pretty good idea of just how dodgy Shamir’s views are, yet went ahead and published the piece (albeit in a very mildly expurgated form) anyway. To be frank, neither explanation does you or the Star any credit, but the second (much more likely, in my opinion) scenario is very nearly unforgivable.
I say “very nearly” unforgivable, because a proper, fulsome retraction, apology and explanation, printed prominently in the Star might just about have retrieved the situation. Well, an “apology” of sorts did appear, not particularly prominently, on page 4 of the September 24 edition. It is wholly inadequate :
Clarification over Shamir article in Saturday’s Star.
A NUMBER of you have raised concerns over the decision to reprint an article by Israel Shamir on the Russian band Pussy Riot that appeared in the weekend’s Morning Star.
The paper would like to reassure readers that the piece was syndicated from Counterpunch in good faith without knowledge of the author’s background.
We would like to reiterate the paper’s commitment to publishing writers who reflect and remain steadfastly committed to the values of anti-racism, anti-fascism, international solidarity and social justice that the paper has campaigned for ever since its establishment.
It remains guided by those goals and will seek in future, wherever possible, to establish the full biography of writers before publishing their work.
In the meantime the Morning Star would like to distance itself from the opinions of the author of the piece, which do not reflect our position or those of the wider movement.
We apologise wholeheartedly for any distress caused.
This so-called “clarification” is entirely unsatisfactory, fails to address any of the central issues, and actually manages to compound the offence:
- What exactly were the “concerns” and what was the “distress” about Shamir and his article? The Morning Star is silent. The very vivid anger that has been expressed on left-wing blogs and in (unpublished) letters to the Star at his anti-Semitism and far-right opinions is not even mentioned.
- In the same vein: how far does the Morning Star wish to “distance itself from the opinions” of Shamir and precisely what opinions are you referring to?
- If the Morning Star is committed to the “values of anti-racism” and “anti-fascism” why were they unaware of the fascist and racist views of one of the most notorious international propagandists for the far-right, Israel Shamir?
- As numerous people have pointed out, it is hardly necessary to establish “the full biography”of Shamir before realising this: a simple Google enquiry would have done - assuming the staff of the Morning Star have, unlike most well-informed people involved in anti-fascist activity, not heard of Shamir.
“We apologise wholeheartedly for any distress caused” is the sort of thing that the bourgeoise press prints when they’ve lost a libel case involving a politician’s personal life. It is a wholly inappropriate phrase to use in this context. What I and many others feel is not “distress” but anger.
The ‘clarification’ does not condemn Shamir.
It does not condemn his fascist views or even mention anti-semitism.
It fails to ‘clarify’ anything that has come out in this controversy, except that the “decision” to “reprint” ultimately comes from an arrangement to “syndicate” material from the (dodgy) US publication Counterpunch.
This ‘clarification’ is not just evasive, it is a disgrace – almost as much of a disgrace as the publication of Shamir’s article. Until proper, honest accounting for this shameful episode appears in the Star, I and many other activists will continue to raise the matter and denounce the Star as unfit to represent the British socialist and trade union movement.
Above: “Pluralism” in action?
Jon Cruddas, head of Miliband’s policy review and the embodiment of the phrase “fake left,” was busy sucking up to the Lib Dems as they gathered in Brighton yesterday. In a “debate” organised by the Fabian Society on the topic of “Is the future Plural?“, he and the uber-Blairite Lord Adonis set about being nice to the Lib Dem’s Jo Swinson and Ming Campbell. Now I am well aware that all factions within the present Labour leadership are (to use the old phrase) class collaborators, but what exactly was the purpose of telling the Lib Dems that they’ve been a “benign force…checking the worst excesses” of the government? I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard it on the Today programme this morning.
Winning over Lib Dem voters and members is one thing: telling members of the Tory-led government that they’re a “benign force” is quite another. And Cruddas’s immediate reaction to Jo Swinson’s statement that politics is aready “plural” was also telling – enthusiastic agreement. the word “plural” in this context, of course, means a permanent state of coalition in both central and local government - something that has be the de facto objective of the Lib Dems and their predecessors for many years.
Adonis’s proposal for the Lib Dems to trigger a general election* sounds more radical, but in reality is a proposal to lock Labour into a Lib-Lab coalition - and of course, it’s pie-in-the-sky anyway: why would any Lib Dem in their right mind want an election just at the moment?
Perhaps the most extraordinary moment in the entire “debate” was Swinson’s rsponse to all this grovelling from Cruddas and Adonis: Labour has “a lot of work to do” before the Lib Dems would deign to consider a deal, especially as a lot of Labour MP’s are really very nasty people who’d displayed “vitriol” against the Lib Dems in Parliament…
But what the hell did Cruddas, Adonis (and presumably their boss Miliband) think they were playing at?
It’s time to crush the Lib Dems, not offer them a life-raft. Remember Professor Pongoo!
* Unfortunately, even some people on the Labour left are also advocating this foolishness.
Carol Ann Duffy does rise to her job as Poet Laureate by turning out occasional poems, though she doesn’t always rise to the occasion. In her poem for the Olympics she sank like a Lib Dem poll; like Tony Blair’s credibility; like the brotherly love in the Coalition – insert your own political metaphor.
Enough of the soundbite abstract nouns,
austerity, policy, legacy, of tightening metaphorical belts;
we got on our real bikes,
for we are Bradley Wiggins,
side-burned, Mod, god;
we are Sir Chris Hoy,
Laura Trott, Victoria Pendleton, Kenny, Hindes,
Clancy, Burke, Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas,
We want more cycle lanes.
Or we saddled our steed,
or we paddled our own canoe,
or we rowed in an eight or a four or a two;
our names, Glover and Stanning; Baillie and Stott;
Adlington, Ainslie, Wilson, Murray,
Valegro (Dujardin’s horse).
(No we aren’t and we didn’t. Speak for yourself. “We” mostly sat on the sofa.)
“Lamia” produced this fine pastiche, which caught the Larkin mood (glass three quarters empty and a fly drowning in the remaining liquid).
by Philip Larkin
With a stern blazered smile the judge draws near,
Headmasterly, to where I loiter, bald
Bowing my head, and blinking behind my specs.
And then a velvet fumbling, a falling into place
As something heavy slithers round my neck
To hang in awkward gaudiness. A cheer,
And then the National Anthem strikes up gold.
Gold? Or something else? Stepping down slowly
From the podium to piss, I wonder
What it was all for. ‘Run for Team GB’
They said. But where does one run from here?
The crowds will quietly drift away,
The stadiums will crumble into pieces.
The asphalt lanes will gather weed and leaf.
This cycling Kraut, that weightlifting Bolivian,
That crew of sailing Japs, each year will sink
A little further into blank oblivion.
And poised between my thumb and finger
This cold token of autumnal grief.
In a bare wintry drawer it will linger,
for a while, gathering dust, unsold,
Among dead stamps and a leaflet about wine.
An old wives’ charm to ward away new failure.
Something to please the nephews and the nieces.
Something to taunt those pricks in Australia.
In the Olympic bar I stand a drink
For a Danish woman and some ass from Spain.
The hot triumphant evening turns to thunder,
And somewhere out beyond the finish line
The first small medals of rain. Strange to think
We will never be so happy again.
The theme “Lamia” has taken, that no happiness endures, is in the tradition of Pindar, the poet who wrote poems to celebrate the victories of the original Olympic athletes. Here are the last verses of his Ode to Aristomenes of Aegina, the winner of the boys’ wrestling contest:. He speaks of the humiliation of the losers as well as the joy of the winners:-
Now from on high on four young bodies
You hurled your strength with fierce intent. For them
No happy homecoming from Pytho was decreed,
As that of yours, nor at their mother’s side
Could pleasant laughter ring a joyful greeting
For their return. But shunning hostile eyes, they creep
By quiet paths, o’erwhelmed by their ill-fortune,
But he to whom is given new glory
In the rich sweetness of his youth, flies up,
Aloft, high hope fulfilled on wings of soaring valour,
In realms that brook no dullard cares of wealth,
But man’s delight flowers but for a brief moment,
And no less swiftly falls to the ground again, shattered,
By destined will that may not be gainsaid.
Creatures of a day! What is man?
What is he not? A dream of a shadow
Is our mortal being. But when there comes to men
A gleam of splendour given of Heaven,
Then rests on them a light of glory
And blessed are their days.
(Translated by Geoffrey S Conway)
Duffy of course is entitled to write about the Government’s economic policy with the fiercest anger – but a poem about the Olympics is not the best place to start, at least not in this tone – Yay Hoy! Boo Cameron! Inserting a local political message jars with the events and sounds ridiculous. “Lamia” as Larkin and Pindar describe an event which becomes haloed with a universal theme.
When Larkin did write an occasional poem it was for the opening of the Humber Bridge, which became part of a broader theme of isolation and joining. If he’d been in Duffy mode he would have added something about more money should be spent on cycle paths, and damned transport policy generally.
The winds play on it like a harp; the song,
Sharp from the east, sun-throated from the west,
Will never to one separate shire belong,
But north and south make union manifest.
Lost centuries of local lives that rose
And flowered to fall short where they began
Seem now to reassemble and unclose,
All resurrected in this single span,
Reaching for the world, as our lives do,
As all lives do, reaching that we may give
The best of what we are and hold as true:
Always it is by bridges that we live.
‘Shiraz’ Commenter Robin Carmody writes:
“The really scary thing (see Friday’s Guardian) is how hard those with vested interests are trying effectively to fix the election, or come as close to doing that as is constitutionally allowed, by making it as hard as possible for likely Obama supporters to vote. Worse still, this is strongest in Florida.”
Here’s the Doonesbury take:
Gordon Brown is a tragic figure in many ways. I always regarded him as a flawed character, but much more principled than Tony Blair. Unlike Blair, he was of the labour movement, and seemed to want an end to the Thatcherism that Blair perpetuated.
Today, at Leveson, Brown was asked straight, whether (as his erstwhile friend Rebekah Brooks, claimed) he gave permission to the Murdoch press to publish details of his young son’s illness. He denied that he had, effectively calling Brooks a liar. Similarly, he flatly denied Rupert Murdoch’s claim that, in the course of a phone call in late September or early October 2009, he’d (in Murdoch’s words) “declared war” on Murdoch’s business empire when the Sun changed sides and came out in support of Cameron before the last election.
I certainly believe Brown on the matter of his son. I’m not sure (who can be?) about the phone conversation with Murdoch. But even if he did say what Murdoch claims, who could reasonably blame him?
But, I’m afraid, Brown has proven himself to be a liar, plain and simple, on a further matter: in his evidence to the Inquiry, Brown denied asking his Treasury adviser Charlie Whelan to brief against Tony Blair while he (Brown) was Chancellor.
Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell had, previously, told the Inquiry that there was a “real problem” with Whelan.
Asked by Robert Jay, Leveson’s “forensic” inquirer, if Whelan or any other advisers briefed behind Blair’s back in order to force him from office, Brown replied: “I would hope not, I have no evidence for that.”
There was “tittle-tattle”, he said, but all special advisers’ media dealings went through civil servants under tough guidelines.
Now, we all know that’s a lie. Sadly, it taints everything else that this tragic figure had to say at Leveson today, including the stuff about his son that was almost certainly true.