Farage is the true and only face of anti-EU’ism

April 2, 2014 at 10:07 pm (Europe, Jim D, populism, Racism, reaction, stalinism)

Opinion poll result

Once again, the opinion polls suggest that Farage won the debate with Clegg by a considerable margin. Anyone who watched tonight will have been struck by Farage’s saloon-bar demagogic skill, in contrast to Clegg’s stilted and humourless performance.

But most obvious was that the ultra-reactionary populist used arguments that in almost every case, the Morning Star and No2EU use as a matter of course. As The Guardian comments, “Ukip’s blend of “Stop the War” insurgent anti-Europeanism looks more powerful than ever. Farage won, not just because of his skill (although he’s a good debater), but because his arguments genuinely resonated. And siding with Russia did not really damage him at all.”

The anti-EU “left” like to claim that, somehow Farage is not really a true representative of their cause: yet what did he say tonight (with the single exception of opposition to wind-power) that they would not agree with, and have not said themselves? That even applies to his opposition to so-called “open door” immigration from the EU, which is a theme that has been used by No2EU’s Alex Gordon – who, as it happens has an article in today’s Morning Star that despite claiming that “neither of these characters offer the slightest hope to workers”, in fact goes on to make a series of assertions on jobs, Ukraine, “democratic legitimacy” and wages, all of which Farage made tonight.

One has to ask why the anti-EU idiot-left as epitomised by Gordon and No2EU cannot see themselves for what they are – a tiny and irrelevant “left” UKIP – and recoil in horror. All they have that UKIP hasn’t is the ability to use the word “socialist” when talking about Britian’s exit from the EU, and to invoke the memory of Bob Crow. But it’s probably only a matter of time before Putin-admirer Farage does that as well.

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A flood of xenophobia

February 12, 2014 at 10:02 pm (Daily Mail, Europe, fantasy, internationalism, Jim D, populism, Racism, reaction, Socialist Party, stalinism, TUSC)

Nigel Farage, in full wader mode, has proposed spending foreign aid money on flood damage.

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Working on the assumption (which I hope is true) that most readers of this blog are not regular readers of the Daily Mail, I thought it might be a good idea to let you know that the  Mail’s petition calling for foreign aid money to be diverted to the UK flood crisis has achieved over 100,000 names in support, and a Comres poll for ITV showed that 73 per cent of Britons agree. The above information comes from today’s Daily Mail, so of course should be taken with a healthy pinch of salt. But the rising tide of anti-foreigner, anti-EU and anti-foreign aid xenophobia at the moment cannot be denied. The words of sanity that have been expressed on the subject of migration, by EU commissioner Laszlo Andor and his splendidly combative colleague Viviane Reding, have been of little avail: the UK public seems to be in the grip of isolationism, whether that be anti-EU sentiment, anti-immigration hysteria, or even the slightly more rational reluctance to endorse foreign wars. The current floods have given the fanatically anti-EU Daily Mail the opportunity to bring all these currents together into a vicious, nationalistic and semi-racist campaign against foreign aid: the anti-EU idiot- “left” should take notice … but, sadly, they seem too stupid to do so:
The Guardian‘s development network (which is linked to ‘EurActiv‘) reports:

A campaign by the UK Independence party (Ukip) and the Daily Mail newspaper to divert Britain’s overseas aid budget into domestic flood relief has been condemned as “disgraceful” by Lord Deben, the former Conservative environment minister.

Aid agencies, MEPs and officials from the EU and UN also told EurActiv that such a move would breach Britain’s international obligations.

The Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, riding high in polls for European elections in May, first raised the issue on a visit to flood-hit parts of Somerset last weekend, saying it would take “a tiddly per cent of the overseas aid budget” to help flood victims.

The Daily Mail picked up the issue, running a front-page editorial on Tuesday calling on its readers to “put UK flood victims first” and “tell the PM where our foreign aid is needed” in a petition it initiated.

The tabloid, which has often championed climate-sceptic views, railed against “waste” in the UK’s €13bn (£10.6bn) aid budget and called for the money to be spent at home.

“Britain has given hundreds of millions towards flood relief overseas,” the editorial said. “Today, it is our own people who are enduring the misery, and the Mail believes there could no better use for the aid budget than alleviating Third World conditions at home.”

But the hint of a gathering bandwagon around an issue that had previously been the domain of the far right sparked condemnation across the political board.

“It is a disgraceful proposal to take from the poorest people on earth in order to avoid paying the cost of flooding from Britain’s own resources, resources which the prime minister has already promised,” Lord Deben told EurActiv.  

Since 2000, overseas aid spending has notched up some significant successes. It has funded the vaccination of 440 million children against preventable diseases and the immunisation of 2.5 billion children against polio.

Aid spending has also provided antiretroviral drugs for 6.1 million people and helped detect and treat 11.2m cases of TB worldwide. Much of this work has taken place under the aegis of the UN’s eight millennium development goals for 2015.

European aid, in particular, has helped almost 14 million new pupils enrol in primary education and connected more than 70 million people to improved drinking water, since 2004, according to the European commission.

“You simply cannot compare the resources of the UK with those of the poorest countries in the world, where they go to bed hungry, lack any access to water, sanitation, electricity,” Alexandre Polack, an EU development policy spokesperson told EurActiv. Claims of waste were simply not true, he added.

One UN official said that channelling overseas aid into domestic flood relief would risk isolating the UK in talks about a post-2015 successor to the millennium development goals, which David Cameron previously chaired.

“Overseas aid is part of the UK’s foreign policy and how they position themselves in the world and contribute to development discussions on the post-2015 dialogue,” the source said. “How can they contribute to that if they have no money to offer the causes that may arise out of that by 2015?”

“Overseas aid is meant for overseas,” the official continued. “If we spent it on national issues, it would be a perversion of its original intent and a breach of regulations governing that part of the budget.”

Headlines in the UK have been captured by the floods, which have submerged large parts of the country’s south-west, and thousands of homes have been evacuated from towns around the river Thames.

But Cameron clarified on Tuesday that the question facing his government was “not either protecting our overseas aid budget or spending the money here at home. What we need at home will be spent here at home,” he said.

Graham Watson, the Liberal Democrat MEP for the UK’s storm-battered south-west, said that there was little support in his constituency for the Daily Mail’s campaign. “Most people recognise that it is an attempt to mix chalk and cheese,” he told EurActiv. “We have a duty to help people in difficulty everywhere, and our aid budget is being extremely well spent.” Watson queried why Farage’s “blind opposition to everything European” prevented Ukip from supporting a relief application to the EU’s solidarity fund. “I have been pressing the government to make an application, and they have three weeks left to do so,” he said. “I have had talks with the commissioner and with government ministers and I am [still] hoping they will. At present, the Treasury is resisting as we will lose some money from our rebate, but there would still be a net gain for the UK, and as taxpayers have paid into the fund I think we should be taking advantage of it.”

Oxfam said that money should be redistributed from the UK’s wealthiest population sectors to help alleviate suffering in the sodden flood plains.

British bankers had received more than €70bn in bonuses since the onset of the financial crisis – far more than the UK’s aid budget, according to a statement by the aid agency. “At the same time, billions of pounds of tax are dodged by companies and individuals who are not paying their fair share,” Max Lawson, Oxfam’s head of policy and advocacy said. “The choice should never be between helping those overseas or people in the UK when there’s enough money to do both.”

A comrade of mine once described the anti-EU “left” as like a little boy who sees a march passing by, led by a big brass band, and - keen to join in – he rushes out with his tin whistle, putting himself at the head of the march: he’s playing The Red Flag on his little tin whistle, but the band is playing Rule Britannia. When will these  idiots ever learn?

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The ‘New Statesman’ addresses anti-Semitism

January 26, 2014 at 7:22 pm (Anti-Racism, anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, Guardian, Jim D, Middle East, New Statesman, palestine, Pilger, populism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", zionism)

Here’s something you won’t often read at Shiraz or hear from me: I recommend you to buy this week’s New Statesman.

New Statesman
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Perhaps intended to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day, the current issue carries two articles on anti-Semitism: Anthony Clavane on anti-Semitism and the left, and Andrew Hussey on Dieudonné and the re-emergence of the “negationist” tradition in French politics. Both are very informative and well-argued pieces, but their real significance is that they appear in the New Statesman at all. In recent years the magazine’s anti-Zionism has often taken on a strident tone and in the case of regular contributor John Pilger, veered dangerously close to outright anti-Semitism. And, of course, back in 2002, under then-editor Peter Wilby, the magazine brought out its infamous “A kosher conspiracy” edition. An apology was eventually extracted from an initially defiant Wilby, but the wretched man continues to contribute a regular column.

The present issue is not yet available online, so I’m reproducing an excerpt from Clavane’s piece, including a reference to the “A kosher conspiracy” row:

Criticising Israel, as many Jews do, and Zionism as an ideology, which a much smaller number but still a significant minority of the community does, are perfectly valid positions. Publishing an anti-Zionist cover story featuring a golden Star of David stabbing a pliant Union flag with the headline “A kosher conspiracy?”, as the New Statesman (then under different ownership and editorship) did in 2002, is not. It should not have to be spelled out, though this magazine’s then editor did so in a subsequent apology, that all principled critics of Israeli policies should avoid using anti-Semitic images and narratives. They should not, as the BBC’s Tim Llewellyn once did, accuse American politicians such as Dennis Ross of hiding behind “a lovely Anglo-Saxon name”. (Llewellyn went on to say that Ross is “not just a Jew, he is a Zionist … a Zionist propagandist”.) They should have no truck with vile anti-Jewish calumnies, including the blood-libel slur, routinely rehearsed in anti-Zionist Arab textbooks.

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File:NewStatesmancover.jpg
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“The Zionist lobby,” Dieudonné told the Iranian-funded Press TV, “have taken France as hostage and we are in the hands of ignorant people, who know how to structure themselves into a Mafia-like organisation and…have now taken over the country.”

As Dave Rich at the Community Security Trust, a charity that monitors anti-Jewish attacks in Britain, explains: “this is not the anti-Zionism of people who think that the Palestinians get a raw deal from Israel: it is the anti-Zionism of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a conspiracy theory that believes Jews pull all the strings.”

“We need to keep things in perspective,” warns David Feldman, of the Pears institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism. “we have experienced the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, with Jews prominent in many places [in finance]. Yet in contrast to the situation 80 years ago, few radicals have proposed anti-Semitic explanations.”

As Jonathan Freedland, who writes a weekly column in the Guardian and a monthly column in the Jewish Chronicle, points out, so far only “a few marginal political voices” on the British left have flirted with anti-Semitic tropes. However, after a property website owned by a Jewish businessman withdrew its sponsorship of West Brom on 20 January, and then the FA announced it was charging Anelka, the liberal-left commentariat was presented with a perfect opportunity to take a stand against such tropes. Yet more silence. In fact, it was left to the right-wing controversialist Rod Liddle to condemn the striker’s “repulsive” support for his Jew-baiting friend.

“On this issue,” Freedland told me, “all anti-racists of good conscience should have leapt in. Dieudonné is aligned with the far right. He’s had criminal convictions for anti-Semitism. My worry is that, as time passed before the FA’s announcement and the lack of outrage continued, it didn’t send out a strong message about anti-Semitism

“The quenelle was a previously obscure gesture in this country and now it’s known. So this is the moment to make the point that no self-respecting person on the left should accept a supposedly ‘anti-establishment’ position which in fact says it’s the Jews who are ‘the establishment’.”

Anthony Clavane’s latest book is “Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here?” (Quercus £6.99)

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Peter Griffiths: racist Tory scum

December 11, 2013 at 9:08 pm (Asshole, Conseravative Party, elections, history, immigration, labour party, MPs, populism, posted by JD, Racism, Tory scum)

Today’s Times carries an obituary of Peter Griffiths, who died on November 20th, aged 85. I was astonished to learn that this vile creature lived until so recently, and though he lost his Smethwick seat in 1966, returned as an MP (for Portsmouth North) from 1979 until 1997. Presumably, he remained a Tory to the end. I reproduce the obituary for the benefit,  in particular, of readers unfamiliar with the 1964 Smethwick election and the events that followed:

Above: Peter Griffiths at the time of the Smethwick election

In a parliamentary row that galvanised Westminster in in the opening days of the return of Labour to office in 1964 after 13 years in opposition, the newly elected Conservative MP for Smethwick, Peter Griffiths was branded a “parliamentary leper” by the incoming Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. It happened in an astonishing series of exchanges that prefigured the violent language of the race debate conducted by Enoch Powell later in the decade.

Wilson was furious that his intended Foreign Secretary, the scholarly and liberal-minded Patrick Gordon Walker, had been defeated in his Smethwick constituency after a campaign in which Griffiths had shrewdly exploited local tensions over immigration and the housing shortage in the West Midlands.

Griffiths always denied ever using the electioneering slogan “If you want a n***** for a neighbour, Vote Labour”. It was pointed out that he had done nothing to repudiate, much less ban, placards carried by his supporters bearing the offensive electioneering slogan.

In Parliament, in some of the most extraordinary scenes ever witnessed during a Queen’s Speech debate, the Prime Minister upbraided the leader of the Opposition, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, for refusing to disown Griffiths. Castigating the new MP for having run an “utterly squalid” campaign, Wilson told the House: “If Sir Alec does not take what I am sure is the right course, Smethwick Conservatives will have the satisfaction of having sent a member who, until another election returns him to oblivion, will serve his time as a parliamentary leper.”

There was uproar. The Speaker, Sir Harry Hylton-Foster, was urged by the opposition benches to make the Prime Minister retract his remarks. Hylton-Foster declined to do so, although admitting that he deplored Wilson’s comments. Uproar continued for ten minutes and a score of Tory MPs had walked out of the chamber before order was restored.

In the event, Wilson was prescient. At the general election in 1966 Griffiths lost his Smethwick seat to the actor and Labour candidate Andrew Faulds. He did not return to Parliament until 1979, at Portsmouth North. He was never to be such a conspicuous figure in Parliament again.

[...]

Griffiths did not count himself among far Right Tories. Yet he supported Smethwick council, of which he had been a member since 1955, when it tried to buy up a row of houses to let exclusively to white families. The purchase was blocked by the Labour Housing Minister Richard Crossman.

After his defeat at Smethwick in 1966, Griffiths returned to teaching. He had been head-master of a primary school, Hall Green Road, West Bromwich, at the time of the election. In 1967 he became a lecturer in economics at Portsmouth College of Technology where he spent the next dozen years. In the meantime he had published A Question of Colour? (1966) in which he claimed “no colour prejudice”. The book blamed the spread of disease on immigrants and praised South Africa as a “model of democracy”.

Griffiths unsuccessfully contested Portsmouth North in the February 1974 election which returned a minority Labour administration to office.

In the general election of 1979 which propelled the Tories back to power under Margaret Thatcher, Griffiths captured the seat with a large majority. For the next 18 years he was an assiduous backbencher, making his opposition clear to his constituents and the government on such issues as defence cuts as they might affect Portsmouth Dockyard. In the general election of 1997 which brought Labour to power under Tony Blair he lost his seat.

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Housemartin shits on Cameron

November 21, 2013 at 7:11 pm (Champagne Charlie, comedy, culture, David Cameron, populism, song, Tory scum, trivia)

Politicians trying to sound like hep cats are always amusing. And as Anthony Blair Esq eventually found out, they usually end up looking like pillocks.

This is from today’s Times report on Hull winning City of Culture status for 2017:

“Yesterday’s announcement drew attention to the city’s long list of high achievers, although one of them reacted badly when named by David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions. Mr Cameron cited Hull’s ‘fantastic record’ in popular music. ‘I remember some years ago that great Hull Housemartins album London 0, Hull 4,’ he said.

“Paul Heaton, lead singer of the band, responded on Twitter: ‘When I took over my pub in Salford, the first people I banned were Cameron and Osborne. That ban still stands.’ He said that the Prime Minister ‘ruined my day’ and rebutted criticism that he had passed judgement without meeting Mr Cameron or the Chancellor. ‘You don’t need to smell s*** to know it stinks,’ he wrote

“Lord Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister who served as MP for Hull East for 30 years, responded jubilantly by referring to one of Mr Heaton’s songs. ‘It’s happy hour again!’ he said.”

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David Frost’s finest hour

September 1, 2013 at 11:27 am (Anti-Racism, history, Jim D, media, populism, Racism, RIP, television)

Frost v Powell, 1969

Originally scheduled for 39 minutes, this 1969 interview with Enoch Powell was allowed to continue for a further 20 minutes during the live broadcast as the TV producers realised that something exceptional and absolutely gripping was taking place.

It starts politely – amiably even - but the tone soon changes as Frost attempts to pin down the old racist on matters of straightforward fact. Essential viewing, especially for those who’ve only seen Frost in his later, smug and pompous, incarnation. Put aside an hour for this extraordinary encounter:

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‘Bongo Bongo’ MEP: the true face of UKIP

August 7, 2013 at 6:56 am (Europe, Guardian, Jim D, populism, Racism, UKIP)

The Guardian has caught UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom on film, denouncing aid to ‘Bongo Bongo Land,’ complaining about the European Court of Human Rights, and calling for the return of the death penalty (he’d be willing to do the deed himself, of course).

Despite Farage’s protestations of non-racism (and, in fairness, UKIP are saying they’re “discussing” this matter “at the highest level”), this is the true face of UKIP. And, idiot-left please note: it’s the true, logical, face of the entire ‘No to the EU’ movement.

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Immigration (legal and illegal) and common decency

August 3, 2013 at 7:15 pm (AWL, civil rights, Human rights, immigration, Jim D, populism, Racism, thuggery)

Sometimes certain issues transcend formal poitics and become matters of simple, common decency.

For instance, who’d want to live in a society in which government-sponsored vans patrol the streets bearing a message like this:

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Or where people are detained at tube stations, simply because of their ethnicity?

Thank goodness for Southall Black Sisters, protesting at this creeping racist authoritarianism:

Workers Liberty and their rail workers’ bulletin ‘Off The Rails’ comment:

The right-wing media and politicians are whipping up a storm of fear over immigration. If we believe them, immigration is to blame for unemployment, housing shortages and low wages.

The Home Office even has a van driving round telling “illegal” immigrants to “go home or face arrest”.

Workers need to see through the lies peddled by the ruling class. Division based on nationality and immigration status only benefits our bosses.

“Within a year”, says a typical scaremongering Ukip leaflet, “29 million Romanians and Bulgarians will gain the right to live, work and draw benefits here”. Off the Rails rejects the language of fear and hatred targeted against foreigners and immigrants. If we look around our workplaces, many of us will see people from Romania, Bulgaria and many different backgrounds. Our problems at work cannot be pinned on the nationality of our colleagues. They can almost always be blamed on our bosses!

Bosses and politicians dress up immigration controls as protection for workers’ jobs, wages and housing. But immigration controls weaken the working class by dividing us against each other. Borders also create a section of the working class without legal rights, who are open to brutal exploitation, which worsens conditions for all workers.

In 2008, cleaners in RMT on London Underground struck for the London Living Wage. Cleaning contractors who had employed ‘illegal’ cleaners while they were silent suddenly contacted immigration services to arrest and intimidate those now standing up for themselves. Although the London Living Wage was won, union organisation suffered. No workers benefited from the crackdown; they had to put up with brutal treatment while the union rebuilt its strength. ISS cleaning contractor has recently employed similar tactics in response to an RMT strike ballot on London Underground.

Off The Rails believes that all immigration controls should be scrapped, and people should be able to live wherever they like. That seems radical, but countries in the EU have already abolished immigration controls for movement between each other and the sky hasn’t fallen down.

Immigration controls are a new phenomenon – the first immigration control was introduced in Britain in 1905. They haven’t been around forever.

The entire population of France, Germany, Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Italy already have the right to live, work and draw benefits here, as they have had for decades. Most choose not to.

The entire population of Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle have those rights in London. But those cities have not emptied out simply because there are no controls or restrictions preventing their populations from moving elsewhere. Would Britain be better if the government controlled where you could live and seek work?

There are 750,000 British people living in Spain who can get jobs or claim benefits there, and 200,000 in France. Should all the British people living abroad be “sent home”?

Freedom of movement is a basic Marxist principle. Our view is that, if wealth is free to travel across borders, then the workers who create the wealth should have the same freedom.

Unions need to defend the significant numbers of “migrant” worker members from anti-migrant racism in the workplace and in society. Unions need to send pro-immigration messages to counter the poison and division currently circulated by the ruling class, pinning the blame for unemployment, wage cuts and housing shortages on the bosses instead of migrants. Unions must fight for a levelling-up of conditions and for a working-class social programme that deals with the problems by expropriating and redistributing the wealth of the rich.

Unfortunately, some in the RMT want to revive the “No2EU” electoral coalition which stood in the 2009 European Parliament elections. No2EU’s platform criticised “the so-called free movement of labour” and opposed the “social dumping” of migrant workers. The last thing we need is for the unions’ political voice to echo the anti-migrant right! We have nothing in common with the Little Englanders, Ukipers, and Tories who want to take Britain out of the EU and restrict immigration.

We are stronger when we overcome division amongst ourselves to take on our bosses.


MYTH-BUSTING

Migrants contribute £2.5 billion more in tax than they claim in benefits.

In the year to April 2009 migrants from Eastern Europe were 59% less likely to receive welfare benefits than UK natives; or 49% if they had been here for more than two years. They were 57% less likely to live in social housing.

Steve Nickell, economics professor at Nuffield College, concluded that it was “very hard to find a significant impact of immigration on participation or unemployment by region, by skill or by age… there is very little evidence that they are taking jobs that would otherwise exist and be filled by natives”.

Between 1997 and 2005 middle earners gained 1.5p an hour and upper earners 2p from the effects of immigration.

Wages of the lowest-paid (the worst-paid 5%) have suffered in periods of high immigration — but only by 0.7p an hour.

The effect for some groups of particularly vulnerable low-paid workers (who often were the previous wave of immigrants…) may be greater.

Immigration expands the economy and increases the total number of jobs. The government’s cuts in public services, the depression imposed across industry by the fall-out from the bankers’ binge up to 2008, and employers’ insistence on making sure of high profits and squeezed, speeded-up workforces before they will expand and hire new workers — all of those cost jobs.

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Galloway may stand for London Mayor “versus a Transvestite”

June 11, 2013 at 2:58 pm (apologists and collaborators, Asshole, Beyond parody, celebrity, comedy, Galloway, jerk, populism, reblogged, Respect, strange situations)

Reblogged from Tendance Coatsey:

Galloway for London Mayor: “Real Labour versus a Transvestite.”

George Galloway has announced on Russia Today (where else?) that he intends to fight Boris Johnson for the job of Mayor of London, despite the present incumbent already insisting he will not stand for a third term.

The Respect MP for Bradford West  said he had a team of people looking into the idea.

More on the Huffington Post.

He has also  said,

“Labour, I understand, is contemplating selecting a transvestite comedian, Eddie Izzard, which would also be an interesting contest. Real Labour versus a transvestite.”

There is, as yet, no word on the Respect Party website on this important battle.

But the International Business Times cites Galloway’s first ideas,

Galloway said it was too early to discuss any specific policies but insisted that alongside his ‘real Labour’ stance: “I would also have an internationalist relationship – ensuring for example that London has a relationship with China, giving China a base in the West.

“China doesn’t have that because many countries fear them but London doesn’t fear them. I’d want Chinese investment as a basis [for my policies].”

We learn that Galloway has just backtracked on this significant initiative – Here.

But a spokesman (that is, not the man himself) for Mr Galloway yesterday told the Telegraph & Argus it was a “not-too-serious response to a rather facetious question”.

“George is committed to Bradford, to fighting the seat in 2014, helping the Bradford East candidate (not yet selected) defeat David Ward, and in the meantime assisting in getting a serious number of councillors elected in 2014 to be the official opposition and holding the balance of power,” he added.

But,

Bradford West Labour councillor Shakeela Lal added: “He’s only been an MP here just over a year but already George Galloway’s bored of Bradford and looking for his next challenge. He’s more interested in running for Mayor of London than standing up for his constituents.”

“We hardly ever see Mr Galloway in Bradford anyway so this hardly comes as a surprise.”

Ilkley Conservative MP Kris Hopkins said: “To be fair to George, the London Mayoral election is not due to held until 2016, the year after the next General Election.

“A lot could happen between now and then and, knowing George, it probably will.”

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Enemy intelligence: ban the word “community”

May 27, 2013 at 8:51 am (Anti-Racism, communalism, London, media, multiculturalism, politics, populism, reblogged, secularism, terror)

Intelligent comment from behind enemy lines.

We occasionally publish worthwhile comment from unlikely sources. It should go without saying that this does not mean that we endorse the overall politics of the author, or indeed, everything in the article itself…

By Iain Martin (Daily Telegraph 24 May)

Above: can’t we go back to ‘Team GB’?

Tune into any BBC London programme at the moment and one word dominates. That word is community. Even on a normal day on the capital’s airwaves you will hear it a great deal, but in the aftermath of the Woolwich terror attack its use has gone into overdrive. On the BBC London news last night it – or the frequently used variant communities – was averaging 11 mentions per minute.

When did this word get such a grip that even passers-by vox-popped by a TV crew will deploy it a couple of times in a sentence when they are asked to asses the impact of a particular event? I wonder whether it really is widely used in everyday discourse or whether it is just what people feel they ought to say when tensions are high and a microphone is put under their nose. Having said that, yesterday I did overhear youngsters at a bus-stop discussing their horror at the Woolwich murder, and both used the word community, as in the perpetrators were a “disgrace to their community” (in the words of one). So perhaps it really has seeped into everyday speech through constant repetition in schools and on television.

The word took hold after the riots of the early 1980s, when there was a breakdown of trust, in certain inner cities, in the police and traditional institutions. After various inquiries, public policy was reconfigured to ensure that “communities” must be consulted on policing and much else besides. The traditional approach – in which people clustered together in a particular place voted for councillors and MPs who would then represent their interests – was out. With it went the widely held understanding that to live alongside each other none of us can get everything that we want.

From that point, other techniques were developed to make “excluded” people feel included. To facilitate this there suddenly emerged the “community leader”, someone unelected and usually possessing the gift of the gab. If they were smart they might get a well-paid gig with local government, or even national government, advising on “community relations”. Inevitably, under successive governments over three decades which all wanted to avoid tensions, this hardened into an orthodoxy, underwritten by third-rate academics in new disciplines. “Community” was the key word, used over and over again.

Of course, like many linguistic devices pushed by ultraliberals it actually has ended up with the opposite meaning from the one many people seem to intend when they use it. Rather than suggesting togetherness the term is actually highly divisive. Rather than emphasising common endeavour it sets one person’s alleged “community” against that of his neighbour.

I actively dislike the term and would refuse to be described as, say, a member of the claret-drinking community. Indeed, the traditional approach is still favoured by many, many millions of us in Britain of all creeds and colours. We think of life in terms of family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, perhaps religion, charity, hobbies such as sport or music and then the nation. Sometimes the various groups and circles involved are distinct and sometimes they overlap. We also accept common institutions as a bulwark of liberty, of course. And it is all wrapped up, ultimately, in that word that I used at the end of the list: the nation. How wonderful it was for a few weeks during the Olympics. The dreaded word “communities” disappeared. We heard instead of Team GB. Can’t we go back to that?

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