Guest post Pink Prosecco.
On Socialist Unity I have just read what struck me as a sensible and sympathetic review by Phil B C of Laurie Penny’s new book Cybersexism.
Before long John Wight (above – note left hand), scourge of moralisers, is muscling in below the line:
“There is nothing wrong with a good filthy fuck. Men and women are primal animals and lust is both healthy and entirely natural.
What is unnatural is the demonisation of sex.
I think this latest moral panic over porn is exactly that: an artificially whipped up moral panic with a political objective at its heart.”
Actually, Wight has said many stupider things, and this made me laugh:
“I don’t [know] about you, but the last thing I think about while approaching orgasm are “workers’ rights”.”
Then I noticed that there were no (identifiable) women commenting on this lively thread. I had a look at all the other posts currently in play, ten in total, attracting (so far) 182 comments and there were no identifiable women commenting there either. Funny that.
Regulars will know that us Shirazers are not big fans of Noam Chomsky. But back in December 2012 he gave an interview that warmed the cockles of our collective heart, slamming, amongst others, those two verbose charlatans Žižek and Lacan:
Mike Springer (at Open Culture) writes:
Noam Chomsky’s well-known political views have tended to overshadow his groundbreaking work as a linguist and analytic philosopher. As a result, people sometimes assume that because Chomsky is a leftist, he would find common intellectual ground with the postmodernist philosophers of the European Left.
In this brief excerpt from a December, 2012 interview with Veterans Unplugged, Chomsky is asked about the ideas of Slavoj Žižek, Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida. The M.I.T. scholar, who elsewhere has described some of those figures and their followers as “cults,” doesn’t mince words:
What you’re referring to is what’s called “theory.” And when I said I’m not interested in theory, what I meant is, I’m not interested in posturing–using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretending you have a theory when you have no theory whatsoever. So there’s no theory in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find in all of the work you mentioned some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a twelve-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying. Jacques Lacan I actually knew. I kind of liked him. We had meetings every once in awhile. But quite frankly I thought he was a total charlatan. He was just posturing for the television cameras in the way many Paris intellectuals do. Why this is influential, I haven’t the slightest idea. I don’t see anything there that should be influential.
via Leiter Reports
Oh, goody goody! Žižek has replied…(and makes some fair points about Chomsky’s record), here
Further comment on the spat, at Open Culture
“It is very tempting to vote for a collection of clowns or indignant, angry people who promise that somehow they will allow us to take your revenge…
“[UKIP is] against the political class, it is against foreigners, it is against immigrants. But it does not have any very positive policies. They do not know what they are for”
Kenneth Clarke nailed UKIP good and proper when he said that a few days ago. It was refreshing, as well, to hear him endorse Cameron’s 2006 description (now quietly buried by Tory HQ) of them “fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists.”
Farage and his shower, unused to scrutiny and criticism, have been complaining about “a morally reprehensible” “smear campaign” against its candidates in the run-up to this week’s council elections. It’s unfair, and unsporting, they bleat, to pick up on comments their candidates have made on Twitter and Facebook. Well, welcome to the rough-and-tumble world of serious bourgeois politics, Mr Farage: after all you’ve always wanted to be a part of it, haven’t you?
Today’s Daily Mirror carries an excellent exposé of UKIP candidate Alex Wood giving a Nazi salute and with a knife between his teeth (above). His Facebook page contains these comments about Africans:
“If I’m completely honest mate, they disgust me. I mean just look at the mud huts they live in and how they kill each other. It’s quite barbaric.
” This is what UKIP wants to prevent – our country ending up like Africa or some other third world country.”
The Shiraz legal team tell me that I have to point out that Mr Wood denies making those comments: ha ha ha.
Wood has now been suspended from the party and removed as a candidate: but how the hell did he get accepted as a member and selected as a candidate in the first place?
Even before the Wood exposé, UKIP had been forced to suspend another candidate, Anna-Marie Crampton, following these comments on the site Secrets of the Fed in which she claimed that the second world war was “engineered by the Zionists” in order to bring about the creation of the state of Israel. She also claimed that Zionists caused the Holocaust:
“Only the Zionists could sacrifice their own in the gas chambers…It was thanks to them that six million Jews were murdered in the war.”
Again, our legal eagles insist that I inform you that Ms Crampton denies that she made the comments, claiming the site was…ha ha ha…hacked…
What else have we got? Oh yes, there’s retired sheep farmer Susan Bowen, selected to stand in Tintagel, but now removed following the discovery that she used to be in the BNP.
Then there’s Chris Scotton, suspended from membership and as candidate in Leicester, following exposure of his Facebook “liking” for the English Defence League.
Well, at least Farage and his cronies did something about a few of the Nazis in their ranks: but what about Caven Vines, UKIP candidate in Rotherham, with close links to the BNP, who thinks there are too many Muslims in Britain? UKIP have refused to condemn him or, indeed, do anything at all about him.
Nor has they acted against the vice-chairman of Yeovil UKIP, Godfrey Davey, another candidate on Thurday, who tweeted:
“At the rate this government is going we will end up with civil war it will be us or the imegrants [sic]“.
Mr Davey also has views on other issues:
“Every time you give sodomites an inch they want a mile, no pun, pedeophilia here we come [sic].”
I suppose that in comparison with that sort of fascistic filth, UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom’s comments on Radio Five (John Piennar, Monday April 29) that women of child-bearing age shouldn’t be employed because maternity laws are “too draconian” were relatively inoffensive – even if they did amount to encouraging employers to break the law.
This shower of racists and ultra-reactionaries has been given an easy ride until now, mainly because a large section of the print media (the Mail, Express, Sun and Telegraph in particular) sympathise with them.
But why hasn’t most of the left been more outspokenly hostile to this bunch of racists, homophobes and all-purpose reactionaries? Today’s Morning Star, for instance, carries an extraordinary editorial headed “Ukip’s just a distraction“, some of which could have come straight from a UKIP press release:
“Farage denies that his party is xenophobic or racist, insisting that opposition to immigration is based on sound economic fears that huge numbers of Bulgarians and Romanians are poised to enter Britain, putting pressure on welfare benefits, state education, the NHS, housing and other social provisions.
“In truth there is no major political party in Britain that hasn’t spouted something similar in recent times to justify tough rhetoric about clamping down on immigration.
“So the jibe of racism could equally be pointed at the Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.”
Surely it couldn’t be that the Morning Star, like the Daily Mail and the Tory ultra-right, rather agrees with UKIP on at least one or two matters?
I keep promising myself (and readers) that I’ll never write another word about that posturing charlatan Galloway. But for a blogger, he’s the gift that just keeps on giving:
George Galloway: “But there have been achievements in North Korea. They do have a satellite circling the earth. They have built a nuclear power industry even though they suspended it on false promises from President Clinton and other U.S. statesmen. They do have a cohesive, pristine actually, innocent culture. A culture that has not been penetrated by globalization and by Western mores and is very interesting to see. But I wouldn’t like to live there. And I’m not advocating their system. Not least because they certainly don’t believe in God in North Korea…”
H/t: Pete Cookson
They’ve been out of action for three (or is it four?) days, now…
sabotage, or what?
(Video from the late Will Rubbish)
On the eve of the election this appeared on the Respect Site.
We are on the edge of a political earthquake in British politics. In polling conducted at the weekend, the Respect candidate in the Rotherham by-election, Yvonne Ridley, has the lead over Labour. Labour has panicked and launched a vicious and negative campaign of dirty tricks against Respect but this has been sidelined by our magnificent positive campaign with the Respect battle bus, advertizing truck and campaign groups in every ward.
Polling conducted in the Croydon North by-election suggests that Lee Jasper, the Respect candidate, is now neck and neck with the Labour Party to win the constituency.
This is what happened (including the Middlesbrough by-election),
“Labour has won three by-elections, holding Croydon North, Middlesbrough and Rotherham parliamentary seats.
It increased its share of the vote in all three seats, but its majority was down in Rotherham, where the previous MP had quit over expenses claims.
The UK Independence Party came second in Middlesbrough and Rotherham, and finished third in Croydon North.”
How did Respect fare?
|Rotherham by-election, 29 November 2012|
|English Democrats||David Wildgoose||703||3.30|
|Liberal Democrat||Michael Beckett||451||2.11||-13.87|
|Trade Unionist & Socialist||Ralph Dyson||261||1.22|
|no description||Clint Bristow||29||0.14|
|Croydon North by-election, 2012|
|Liberal Democrat||Marisha Ray||860||3.5||-10.5|
|Christian Peoples||Stephen Hammond||192||0.8||N/A|
|National Front||Richard Edmonds||161||0.7||N/A|
|Monster Raving Loony||John Cartwright||110||0.4||N/A|
|Nine Eleven Was An Inside Job||Simon Lane||66||0.3||N/A|
|Young People’s Party||Robin Smith||63||0.3||N/A|
This is a good thing.
That is despite (as Toby says) the fact that the Labour winners in Rotherham and Croydon are part of the hidebound right-wing of the party.
It is still an anti-Coalition result.
The sensation of these elections is of course the UKIP vote.
These ‘fascists in blazers’ are the weevils of the British politics.
What for the left?
TUSC (261, 1,22 % in Rotherham and 277, 1,6% in Middlesbrough) and the Communist Party (119 votes) did not do well at all.
Ridley’s votes (1,778, 8, 3,4%) are far too many for any socialist to rejoice about.
Somebody who says this, ““[Respect] is a Zionist-free party… if there was any Zionism in the Respect Party they would be hunted down and kicked out. We have no time for Zionists.” She explained that government support “goes towards that disgusting little watchdog of America that is festering in the Middle East”. She went on to attack the Tories and Lib Dems, saying that all the mainstream parties are “riddled with Zionists”” represents forces that have no part in the labour movement.
Still one cannot but smile as ‘Rapper Jasper’s’ result: a lost deposit.
And at the pitiful attempts to draw comfort from their result by Respect supporters (wonder how long this link will last before these ‘democrats’ take it down).
The obvious fact is that Respect have drawn from the old (and now unused) Liberal Democrats’ by-election strategy: publish boosting made-up door-step reports and ‘polls’ just before an election.
And the truly magnificent score of the Rotherham Liberal Democrats (2,11% below an Independent, 2,73%) brings a spring to the step.
Tomorrow’s Observer carries an “exclusive” interview with Jon Cruddas, Ed Miliband’s new policy guru. Cruddas is, according to the Observer “the maverick MP trying to lead Labour out of the wilderness“: well, if this is the best that Cruddas can come up with…Labour’s well and truly stuffed:
“In his first interview since becoming head of Labour’s policy review, MP Jon Cruddas tells Toby Helm and Julian Coman about the need to rebuild Britain in every sense, why it’s important to reclaim the notion of public service – and why he won’t be defending the last few years”:
Above: Cruddas taking up valuable space. Photograph: Karen Robinson, Observer
“Is here OK?” asks Jon Cruddas as he sits down in an armchair next to a bag of golf clubs. Just above his head is a noticeboard on which is pinned a photograph of him with a big grin holding a giant fish in his hands.
Before we start, he draws our attention to pictures of the house he is building on the wild west coast of County Mayo in Ireland. “Look at this,” he says. “Just the mountains, and the Atlantic. Next stop New York. Fantastic!”
His office is a good guide to the man. It is piled high with letters, papers from thinktanks, invitations to speak at universities and learned books about political philosophy. One is a work called Reclaiming Patriotism – Nation-building for Australian Progressives by Tim Soutphommasane, who Cruddas wants to invite to this country “as soon as we can” for Labour brainstorming sessions.
A few weeks ago this delicate balance that Cruddas has struck between real life, politics and academia was rudely interrupted by a phone call from Ed Miliband. “He invited me in and asked me to join his shadow cabinet,” Cruddas recalls. The thought alarmed him. “I said to him, ‘woah … look, let’s stop there. I am not really into the day-to-day stuff. So I am not interested.”
The 50-year-old MP for Dagenham and Rainham, who worked for Tony Blair in Downing Street before becoming an MP in 2001, became disillusioned with New Labour in its later years. He thought it lost touch with its ethical roots and the party’s founding purpose. He turned down offers to join Gordon Brown’s government more than once. When Miliband made his initial offer, his reaction was the same.
But the Labour leader saw the refusal coming. “I thought you would say that,” he said to Cruddas. “What about heading the policy review which we need to take to the next stage?”
Cruddas recalls his mind racing. “I was surprised. Blind-sided would be the best description. I thought, ‘Why?’ Then I thought, ‘Why not?’ This was the one that interested me.”
The country is at a crossroads, Cruddas believes, economically and socially. On issues such as housing, social care and the wider role that the state should play in promoting secure and flourishing lives for all, he fears it is on the edge of a crisis. Given all that, it dawned on him that, if Miliband really would give him freedom in the job to be radical, he had to do it.
In his first interview since accepting the post as head of Labour’s policy review, Cruddas is extraordinarily candid. He is clear that the appointment is “a gamble” and suggests that he will quit unless Miliband is “bold”. If the party reverts to anything like late New Labour, he will be off. “I refused to join the Labour government because I was unhappy with the shape of it, and the trajectory of it,” he says. “It was becoming mechanistic and bureaucratic. It lacked an identity.
“In fact, I stood for the deputy leadership in 2007 to try to change the direction of it. I am the worst person to be a defender of what the Labour government became. That is why it is a bold invitation by Ed, because I am not here just to dust down the record. If it is on those terms, I am not interested.”
It was also bold because Cruddas did not vote for Ed Miliband in the 2010 leadership contest but chose his brother David. “I think I made a mistake,” he says. “I just thought they were all about the same – but that David Miliband would play better at the box office.”
Ed quickly impressed him. “I didn’t go to the Labour party conference last year. I heard Ed Miliband’s speech on reforming capitalism when I was driving. I stopped my car and started listening. I thought it was the most interesting speech I had heard for some time. He has caught my attention. Some of the stuff he has staked out does touch on the idea of the world changing and politicians being prepared to break out from old orthodoxies and challenge some of their own assumptions. It seems to me that this guy has got a game.”
After just a month in his new post Cruddas has already “changed gear”. He has torn up Labour’s previous policy-making machinery of the past two years, replacing 29 separate policy groups with just three – on the economy, society and politics. He says what the Labour party has lacked since the last election is an “over-arching story”.
That story should now, he says, be about “rebuilding Britain” both in terms of bricks and mortar (more housing and infrastructure to create jobs) and creating a sense among its citizens of joint involvement in “national renewal”. This, he argues, will involve the unashamed championing of the role of collective action in people’s lives – as distinct from the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, which he says wants to “hack back” the public sector and the state.
At the same time it will mean talking up the contribution of those who work in Britain’s hospitals, schools and other public institutions. Cruddas wants to claim David Cameron’s “big society” idea as the natural project of “true Labour” and make it work by inspiring a sense of national duty which includes and celebrates public service.
“Three of my brothers and sisters are public servants,” he says. “The way that the notion of public service is being debased by the coalition in terms of the role of the state is a contest we have got to have. My family joined to make a contribution and I think we have to reclaim that notion of service. All of these ideas have to be framed about a contest on what we want this country to be.”
He compares Labour’s challenge now – as recession and austerity bite at home and the eurozone crisis deepens across the Channel – with the one it faced in 1945. “The way I look at it would be that in 1945 Labour locked in the organised working classes into an overarching story of national renewal, and that is the equivalent task at hand today.”
He cannot give away details of policy, but his broad thinking is radical. He wants to look at the idea of appointing union officials to company boards. He wants to plug the public into the debate on Europe by offering an “in/out” referendum once the shape of the new European Union is known. He wants to reform public services where necessary, but only where that will enhance their role, not as a means of shrinking them and hiving them off in parts to the private sector.
Labour, he argues, cannot afford the luxury of time, because so much damage is being done. “When we lost in 1931 and 1979, it took us 14 and 18 years respectively to get back in the game. Now we are going to try to do that after an even bigger defeat – arguably our greatest defeat ever, in one term. We are obliged to do it because of the scale of the rupture that is occurring in real time around us in every element of the economic and social sphere.”
He will not even contemplate “gang wars” between Blairites and other factions getting in the way because, he says, the task is too urgent. “We are beyond that. We have to be,” he says. Neither is he bothered about the flak that papers such as the Daily Mail may well throw at him. “I couldn’t give a toss,” he says.
Some will see Cruddas’s agenda as too abstract, too romantic. Others will say that the party’s real task – before such grand theorising – is to rebuild economic credibility. This, he says, is already being done by Ed Balls. “If you look at the three crunch calls that Balls has made, he has got them all right,” he says. “First, keeping Britain out of the euro; second, recapitalising the banks in 2008; and third, criticising the implications of fiscal constraint. Bang on, on every one. And brave, too.”
Cruddas says he will be knocking on the doors of David Miliband and James Purnell in coming weeks to ask them to play their part. He talks confidently of “reforming the band”, by which he means enrolling the biggest New Labour beasts, including Tony Blair, behind project Ed.
There may be a little less time for fishing and golf, but he promises an exciting ride. “Things could move quite dramatically if we get it right. But it is incumbent on all of us to step up, roll up our sleeves and get stuck in.”
‘Don’t buy a pig in a poke’ might seem odd and archaic language. It’s true that the phrase is very old, but actually it can be taken quite literally and remains good advice.
The advice being given is ‘don’t buy a pig until you have seen it’. This is enshrined in British commercial law as ‘caveat emptor’ – Latin for ‘let the buyer beware’. This remains the guiding principle of commerce in many countries and, in essence, supports the view that if you buy something you take responsibility to make sure it is what you intended to buy.
On May 3rd, as well as the local elections, there will be refereda in 10 English cities on whether they want elected mayor instead of a leader and cabinet.
The idea of elected mayors seems to have the support of most national political leaders from the main parties. We’re told that it will revitalise local governmet, put the cities on the map, bring in investment, enthuse the electorate, etc, etc. Strange then, that the campaigns for elected mayors seem to have attracted so little interest or enthusiam from the electorate. Perhaps the unedifying Livingstone v Johnson farce in London has put people off.
The whole idea has its roots in the kind of 1980′s managerialism so favoured by the Blairites, with its emphasis on “charismatic” leaders unencumbered by the petty bureacracy of committees and cabinets…and (one suspects) democracy itself. It has never been explained how an elected mayor is going to revive local democracy or boost investment, or do any of the other wonderful things that enthusiasts for the system claim for it.
Interstingly, in Birmingham the keenest campaigners for an elected mayor (and the presently declared contenders) are all Labour politicians of the Blair/Brown era: Siôn Simon, Liam Byrne and Gisela Stuart – three of the most shameless careerists and wretched hacks to have graced the Paliamentary Labour Party in recent years (which is surely saying something). The Tories and Lib Dems in Brum are publicly opposed to an elected mayor and Tory Councillor James Hutchings is running the “Vote No to a Power Freak” campaign (that compares a future mayor with Hitler), but it is the worst kept secret in Brum that if the referedum goes in favour then Tory council leader Mike Whitby will immediately throw his hat in the ring.
The strangest thing about the entire elected mayor “debate” is that no-one knows what powers they will possess or exactly how the system will work. A recent letter to the Birmingham Mail put all the right questions:
THOSE in favour of a directly elected mayor for Birmingham have yet to address the following questions:
* How can Birmingham’s electorate vote on the creation of an office whose powers central government have yet to determine?
* How can potential mayoral candidates make credible promises over the next few months when central government will not announce the mayor’s full powers until after the election in November?
* An elected mayor will require only 40 of Birmingham’s 120 councillors to vote for their budget and strategic policies to be approved, whereas under the current system a majority of the council is required. How would this change enhance democratic accountability?
* In future it will require an Act of Parliament at Westminster rather than a referendum for Birmingham to change the mayoral system should it prove unsatisfactory. How is it more democratic for central government to remove forever the right of Birmingham’s people to trigger a referendum on how they are governed?
* Will elected mayors be able to decide for themselves to reduce the number of local councillors and the frequency of local elections?
* An elected mayor will be able to appoint an unlimited number of deputies, advisers and commissioners. What democratic scrutiny will there be of such appointments, how are their salaries decided, and can they be removed from office by anyone other than the mayor?
*Under what circumstances can a mayor be ‘recalled’ or otherwise dismissed during their term of office?
Rather than vague arguments about personalities offering ‘strong leadership’, the debate on elected mayors should address these serious questions about the future of local democracy in Birmingham
-David Parker, Hodge Hill
As far as I’m aware no-one has yet provided Mr Parker with the answers he seeks. But it’s not quite true that we have simply no idea how the system would work. Apart from the London experience, there’s also:
* Stoke, where Labour Party member Mark Meredith was elected Mayor in 2005, only to decide that the mayoral system was unsuitable for dealing with the City’s long-term financial deficits and re-forming a de-facto Cabinet model for the council (the ‘Elected Mayor and Manager’ arrangement). When the government withdrew this option and ordered a second referedum in October 2008 the position of Elected Mayor was abolished and replaced by the old council leader and cabinet set-up (albeit on a turnout of just 19%). Mr Meredith continued in his £69,000 role until being arrested in March 2009 on suspicion of misconduct in public office and complicity in corruption in public office. In the end no charges were brought due to “insufficient evidence.”
* Doncaster, where Peter Davies of the English Democrats was elected in 2009 with 22% of first preferences on a 36% turnout (ie 8% of the electorate) on a platform of “English freedom and values not multiculturalism,” withdrawal from the EU, an end to political correctness and mass immigration and “the right to enjoy and celebrate Englishness.” He has stated that Britain could learn about family values from the Taliban; perhaps unsurprisingly, his first act on election was to cut the funding to the town’s Gay Pride event. He is also on record as stating that “there is no such thing as child poverty.” In 2010 the audit commission declared that Davis “lacked the political skills to build and maintain consensus” and acknowledged that his public statements had served to “worry sections of the community who are already vulnerable.” Since then the running of Doncaster has been overseen by a team of commissioners sent in by the government.
With these inspiring precedents, it’s pretty obvious how Brummies and the others should vote in their referenda… isn’t it?
And remember: it’s elected Police Commissioners next!
*Acknowledgements to John Harris in the Guardian
* Useful factsheet here
OK, I couldn’t resist: another Galloway moment. I think it’s been over a week since the last one. Regrettably, I did not see Question Time on Thursday night, but the Raincoat Optimist over at Though Cowards Flinch reports:
Question Time was a real treat last night. Yvette Cooper kicking Theresa May when she was down, as Baroness (portfolio of nothing) Warsi tried and failed to defend her honour, while Tim Farron was a hoot, trying to hold the inharmonious position as comic and reluctant defender of the coalition government.
Of course the main event was George Galloway and David Aaronovitch, head to head.
Scarcely a few moments had passed until the pair were at each others neck, and the attempts to de-legitimise Aaronovitch’s arguments were quite familiar.
Instead of answering questions Galloway instead made reference to Aaronovitch’s previously held Communist convictions.
He did this, too, to Christopher Hitchens in that famous debate back in 2005, in New York. Unprepared to tackle the issues, he appealed to the lowest form of argument: the ad hominem.
You will remember the lines:
“What Mr Hitchens has done is unique in natural history; the first-ever metamorphosis from a butterfly back into a slug. I mention ‘slug’ purposefully, because the one thing a slug does leave behind it is a trial of slime”.
On Question Time, Galloway made mention of the fact that in the way he believes in God, Aaronovitch believes in Stalin.
These “blows” were used instead of engaging with the point raised that Galloway has done nothing by way of condemning the behaviour of Assad – in fact, going so far as to “flatter” him
Read the rest here; the comments are good as well.
NB: Galloway’s attempt to smear Aaronovitch as an ex-Stalinist is truly breathtaking when you bear in mind that Galloway actually is a variety of Stalinist (and was throughout his membership of the Labour Party), who regularly writes for the ‘tankie’ Morning Star, whereas Aaronovitch was on the social democratic (in the modern sense) Euro-Communist wing of the old CP. But then, Galloway’s known for his “honesty” and “straight talking” isn’t he?
H-t: Faster Pussycat Miaow! Miaow! Miaow!