Prez and Billie express their love one last time

December 9, 2017 at 9:59 am (humanism, jazz, Jim D, love, music, The blues)

60 years ago (December 8 1957), a tired, demoralised Prez played the blues one last time for the great platonic love of his life, Billie. Prez is second up, following Ben Webster:

“It was time for Prez…If he got up, he might collapse on prime time. But when the moment came, Prez stood and, Looking at Lady, played in one chorus- its colors those of twilight in October- the sparest, most penetrating blues I have ever heard. Billie, a slight smile on her face, kept nodding to the beat, her eyes meeting Prez’s, her nod invoking memories only she and Prez shared. As he ended his solo, Lady’s face was full of light and love, and Prez, briefly, was back in the world” – Nat Hentoff, Boston Boy (2001)

Lester Young died in New York, March 15 1959
Billie Holiday died in New York, July 17 1959

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Brexit and Ireland: DUP sabotages May’s deal

December 5, 2017 at 6:32 pm (Brexit, Europe, Ireland, Jim D, nationalism, sectarianism, Tory scum)

 
“I have in my hand a piece of paper”; cartoon: Martin Rowson (the Guardian)

Until the DUP vetoed it all, May appeared to be on the verge of putting the interests of the British people and the majority of Irish people, North and South, ahead of placating a minority of bigots in Northern Ireland and in the Commons (on both the DUP and the Tory benches).

In her response to the briefings coming from Brussels yesterday afternoon, DUP leader Arlene Foster restated that Northern Ireland “must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom.”

The problem, as the DUP well knows, is that Northern Ireland is already an anomaly in all sorts of regards. (The DUP has, for example, been at the forefront of pushing to lower Northern Ireland’s corporation tax rate from the UK’s 18 per cent rate to match the 12.5 per cent found in the Irish Republic).

But the Brexiteers weren’t having it: if Northern Ireland is heading for a soft Brexit, they reasoned, what’s to stop the rest of the UK?  Paradoxically, but entirely logically, on this point, anti-Brexit people immediately agreed.

So May, in thrall to the DUP and her own hard-Brexit fanatics, has chosen ignominious capitulation to the DUP and the likes of Rees Mogg, risking the disaster that would be a hard border in Ireland. So much for taking back control.

All of which makes this article, first published back in in January by Workers Liberty, all the more prescient:

Brexit and Irish borders

By Micheál MacEoin

As the House of Lords EU Committee put it, with considerable understatement recently: UK-Irish relations “are often overlooked on the British side of the Irish sea”. Both before and after the EU referendum, the consequences of Brexit on Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic have been an afterthought in the public debate. Often there has been no thought at all.

After the referendum result, Theresa May was quick to reassure Stormont that “nobody wants to return to the borders of the past”. Yet, under the pressure from the Tory right, and despite quietly believing in a Remain position during the campaign, the drift of May’s policy, however muddled, seems to be heading towards a so-called “hard Brexit”. Britain could, at the very least, leave the single market. From the Tory right in the cabinet, there have even been suggestions about leaving the customs union — a call which, when it came from Liam Fox in July, caused tension with Dublin government, which proclaimed itself “very surprised”.

The effect of leaving the single market and the customs union would be to entrench the border between the Republic of Ireland and the North. As a recent House of Lords EU committee report stated, “the only way to maintain an open border would be either for the UK to remain in the customs union or for EU partners to agree to a bilateral UK-Irish agreement on trade and customs.” The latter will not be forthcoming without some special dispensation for the Republic of Ireland during the negotiations between Britain and the 27 EU countries and, without it, some system of customs checks would seem inevitable at the border. Moreover, the Common Travel Area (CTA) between the UK and the Republic of Ireland would be cast into doubt. One legal expert has suggested that: “In the event of a UK withdrawal, much would depend on the terms of its subsequent relationship to the EU. To the extent that customs checks applied to goods moving across the border on the island of Ireland, or to traffic between the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain, there would be pressure for controls on the movement of persons as well.”

Even if the CTA provisions, which have existed in some form or other since the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922, are preserved, there will at least be some change to the ability of EU and Swiss/EEA citizens to move between the Republic of Ireland and Britain. Ironically given that the largest Unionist party, the DUP, supported British withdrawal from the EU, one option could mean border checks to enter Great Britain — not at the Irish Border but at ports and airports both North and South. It is this sort of Brexit which Irish capitalism fears most, as the UK is Ireland’s second largest EU trading partner after Belgium, and its key market for exports in the crucial agri-food and drinks sector. This is not to mention the potential complications for the close family and cultural ties between millions of workers in Ireland and the UK, and the position of Irish workers and students living in Britain.

The position of Northern Ireland is, typically, a complicated one. Economically, in the agri-food sector, £700 million of its annual £1.15 billion exports go to the Republic, and customs duties would reverse the moves towards greater economic integration since 1998. Perhaps the only growth industry from a return of a customs border would be organised criminal diesel smuggling. In an atmosphere of fiscal retrenchment, with no appetite for further funding for Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, the effect would be to accelerate the Stormont Executive’s attacks on public sector workers, benefits and services, in a region that is already suffering from high levels of deprivation. Of importance, too, would be the effect a tangible border would have on politics in the North. In the short-term at least, it would puncture the optimistic nationalist assumption that economic growth plus demography would deliver a united Ireland. The almost invisible border, diminished in relative importance by its contextualisation within Britain and Ireland’s shared EU membership, would suddenly become a presence in everyday life once more.

This should worry Sinn Fein, which is already losing some working-class support in republican areas to People Before Profit on account of the Executive’s austerity measures. Part of the party’s appeal and prestige lies in its all-Ireland organisation, and the ostensible momentum towards Irish unity generated by its expanding vote share. Brexit could arrest this forward movement. At the same time, a majority of Northern Ireland voted to Remain, creating the potential for discontent with Brexit and with England as there has been in Scotland.

Those unionists who absurdly contend that Northern Ireland is straightforwardly a part of the UK will confront the fact that the six counties is near the bottom of the British government’s list of priorities. Many commentators have expressed alarm about the impact on the “peace process”.

Socialists should of course welcome the cessation of sectarian violence, and the opportunities it opens for the elaboration of working-class and socialist politics. The Good Friday Agreement itself, however, cannot be politically endorsed, as it fails to tackle the roots of the national question and has institutionalised sectarian politics at Stormont. Nevertheless, we should not be complacent about its incidental undoing in the maelstrom of a turbulent and unpredictable Brexit. Down that road lies potential sectarian polarisation and further attacks on workers, as the capitalist class off-loads of the cost of economic disruption. Rather, the overthrow of Stormont should be the positive work of conscious political forces: a working-class movement which, in advocating its replacement with a federal united Ireland with a measure of regional autonomy for Protestant-majority areas, would have the potential to unite workers across the sectarian divide.

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Why Damian Green should be sacked (but probably won’t be)

December 3, 2017 at 4:02 pm (Conseravative Party, cops, Jim D, law, misogyny, sexism, Tory scum, wankers)

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Brum bins dispute: on balance, a victory

December 2, 2017 at 9:44 am (Brum, Jim D, labour party, Unite the union, workers)

Strikers and supporters on the picket line
Strikers and supporters at the Lifford Lane picket line

After 12 weeks of action Unite members have agreed a deal to settle a long-running dispute over changes to waste management services in Birmingham.

On balance, this has to be considered a victory for the workers.

The Labour City Council have agreed to withdraw proposed redundancies in exchange for giving the affected workers new job titles and duties. Grade 3 workers will now be promoting recycling among residents but still be working on bin lorries and maintaining their current grade, pay and conditions.

In addition a victimised shop steward will be reinstated, unions will be included in a forum on future changes to the waste management service, and there will be no changes for at least 15 months. The concession the union has made is to agree to a five-day working week but there will be no increase in working hours.

The council has also agreed to pay Unite the Union’s legal costs. They have spent over £6 million of public money in an attempt to defeat the action and break the union.

The local authority’s leader, Cllr Ian Ward, said the deal had been struck after the council had reached “a legally-sound position, going through the governance processes which we must follow”.

Unite meanwhile described the agreement as “a victory for common sense”.

The dispute dated back to June this year, when the union warned that proposals for changes to the service could lead to the loss of more than 100 jobs and pay cuts of up to £5,000.

The tactics that Unite and the workers opted for – one-hour stoppages each day involving a return back to depots on each stoppage – proved to be effective in creating maximum disruption. This approach also minimised the loss in strikers’ pay and retained a limited service under the effective control of the workers.

On August 16th  it seemed that a settlement had been reached at ACAS and the action (then into its seventh week) was suspended: then the Council tore up the deal (incredibly, even claiming that there never had been any deal!) and Unite re-balloted and resumed the action.

The then-leader of the council, John Clancy, was forced to resign over this fiasco. The (unelected) council chief executive Stella Manzie (who earns £180,000 a year), a well-known ‘gun for hire’ who has worked for various local authorities, cutting jobs and services, joined forces with Tory and LibDem councillors to destroy the negotiated settlement. Labour councillors then demanded Clancy’s resignation.

South Birmingham Momentum gave active support to the workers on picket lines, and also organised a campaign of support within the Labour Party, demanding that the council honoured the ACAS deal and/or negotiated a similar settlement with Unite.

In September a High Court judge ordered Birmingham to withdraw redundancy notices it had served on 113 refuse workers ahead of a full hearing.

High Court Judge Mr Fraser, describing former council leader John Clancy’s management of the dispute and its ensuing chaos, said: “I could use the words remarkable, extraordinary and more.”

He said there had been an “astonishing” state of affairs at Birmingham City Council as rubbish accumulated in the city’s streets.

Mr Fraser also criticised a “schism” between councillors and council officers, saying there had been “chaos” between senior managers and that at times councillors and officers were “positively working against one another.”

A council statement earlier that month said it had issued redundancy notices to ‘grade 3 leading hands’ in the refuse service to protect its legal and financial position.

Under the new proposal, the grade three bin loader role, which was to be deleted, will now be retained. However, this will be with a change of job title and added responsibilities such as data collection for refuse compliance. Refuse workers will transition to the new roles in February 2018. They will also move from a 4-day week to a five-day week.

The deal meant that a High Court hearing scheduled for 27 November did not go ahead. The council has agreed to pay Unite’s legal costs and a court order is expected to cement the agreement.

More information on the agreed proposal can be found here.

Cllr Ward said: “I made it clear that my top priority on becoming leader was to resolve this dispute – the disruption caused for the citizens of Birmingham has been completely unacceptable, and everyone recognises that.

“This has always been about providing an efficient and effective refuse collection service for Birmingham, as that is what citizens rightly expect and deserve from us. Neither the council or Unite wanted things to escalate in the way they did, so I am pleased that through quiet, open and honest dialogue we have been able to reach a legally-sound position, going through the correct governance processes that we must always follow.”

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “This deal secures the grade three role and protects the pay of workers who faced losing thousands of pounds.

“It is a victory for common sense and a victory for the people of Birmingham who no longer need worry about the disruption of industrial action.”

Beckett added: “This deal, which protects the livelihoods of hard working refuse workers, would not have been possible without the determination and solidarity of Unite members.

“Rather than rolling over, they stood firm through thick and thin to defend their jobs and the service they provide to the city of Birmingham.

“The stand that Birmingham’s refuse workers took and the victory they have secured should be an inspiration to others right across the trade union movement.”

But serious socialists need to be clear: this deal will mean added responsibilities such as data collection for refuse compliance. Grade 3 refuse workers will transition to the new roles in February 2018. All refuse workers will also move from a 4-day week to a five-day week. In the present industrial climate, we can properly call this a victory – but we shouldn’t exaggerate the extent of the victory, as some are doing. Nor should we allow the ambitious Howard Beckett to use this as a springboard for his campaign to succeed Len McCluskey as general secretary of Unite.

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The Torygraph spells it out: Brexit means appeasing Trump

December 1, 2017 at 11:02 am (apologists and collaborators, Brexit, enemy intelligence, fascism, Jim D, nationalism, populism, Racism, Torygraph, Trump, United States)

We’ve spelled it out before, but recent events are making it ever more obvious: Brexit necessitates appeasing the likes of Trump, Xi Jinping and Erdogan .

If the UK leaves the EU on a ‘hard Brexit’ (which it will, if the Tories have their way) then grovelling for some crumbs at their tables is all Britain will be good for.

And that is the question Corbyn, Watson and McDonnell have to answer. If Brexit goes through, who should the UK deal with in trying to get good trade deals? How would a Labour government be able to do it whilst simultaneously making clear its distaste for Trump and other racist and authoritarian leaders and regimes ?

If you oppose Trump, you have to oppose Brexit.

Today’s editorial in the Brexit propaganda sheet known as the Daily Telegraph, spells out the inexorable logic from the perspective of the most reactionary (ie: pro-Brexit) section of the UK ruling class, who think May’s mild criticism of Trump has already gone too far:

Trump-bashing will get May nowhwere

It goes almost without saying that Donald Trump was wrong to share anti-Muslim tweets by an extremist British group. But what should the government have said and done about it? Theresa May was right to call Britain First a “hateful organisation” and to correct the false premises behind the tweets. But to personalise her response by adding that Mr Trump “was wrong” was a mistake. A good relationship with America is the very definition of the national interest. To reply to a president’s undiplomatic act with direct criticism may win easy political points. But such virtue signalling is itself hardly the act of a winning diplomatic strategy.

Worse, Mrs May yesterday seemed intent on deepening, not healing, the rift with our greatest ally. “The fact that we work together does not mean that we are afraid to say when we think the United States have got it wrong and be very clear with them,” she said, casually dismissing the special relationship.

There are numerous ways for Downing Street to signal displeasure to our friends in Washington. Almost any of them would be more effective than engaging in a public slanging match. What, really, is there to gain by meeting an emotional and ill-thought-through presidential outburst with its prime ministerial equivalent.

Nuance and subtlety in such matters are not beyond our international partners. French President Emmanuel Macron famously snubbed Mr Trump at an international summit by swerving out of his way, a video clip of which delighted anti-American voters back in France. But that did not stop the savvy Mr Macron from welcoming the American leader to Paris as soon as practically possible, and treating him to the greatest Gallic hospitality. This does not represent hypocrisy so much as political sophistication.

Such things matter. How is it possible that the American president has visited France and Japan, but has yet to make an official trip to Britain? Instead, we were treated yesterday to the spectacle of a House of Commons in which MP’s of all stripes queued to outdo each other in their condemnation of the leader of the free world. This passes dangerously close to the instinctive anti-Americanism that is such a dark element of the revolutionary left. That already has too firm a grip on one side of our politics. It must not infect Conservative benches too.

  • PS: never forget this, either.

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That UK-Irish border problem: the zeppelin solution

November 28, 2017 at 9:33 am (Beyond parody, Brexit, comedy, Europe, fantasy, Ireland, Jim D)

Above: one possible drawback

Zeppelins are part of a proposed solution to the UK-Ireland border problem after Brexit.

An influential British think tank has suggested that drones or airships could be used to monitor the Irish border after Brexit.

The Legatum Institute raised the possibility of patrolling the skies in a paper entitled Mutual Interest: How the UK and EU can resolve the Irish border issue after Brexit”. In the paper, they also suggest ground-based solutions, such as unattended ground sensors, cameras, and ground-wave radar. The think tank is considered influential with some government ministers, according to the BBC.

It states that “persistent surveillance of the border region” could be achieved through patrols by unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) or deployment of aerostats (airships or hot air balloons).

But it concedes “that these solutions are subject to a number of limitations, not least weather and cost”.

Still, it remains the most practical solution yet put forward by the British side, who after all, created the problem in the first place.

Other possible solutions include fairies.

H/t: Marina Hyde of the Graun (for the Zepplins) and Colin O’Driscoll (for the fairies)

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The Irish border problem: the dogs in the street know who’s to blame … but not Her Majesty’s Loyal Communist Party

November 20, 2017 at 9:10 pm (Brexit, CPB, Europe, Ireland, Jim D, nationalism, stalinism, statement of the bleedin' obvious, Tory scum)

 The highly fortified police station in the border village of Crossmaglen, Northern Ireland, in 2005. ‘Given that the border could not be secured with army watchtowers during the Troubles, it is not at all clear how a new policing operation will work.’ The highly fortified police station in the border village of Crossmaglen, Northern Ireland, in 2005. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Irish have an expression, “even the dogs in the street know…”, meaning a statement of the bleedin’ obvious.

Well, when it comes to the potential disaster that is the likely imposition of a hard border within the island of Ireland, the dogs in the streets of both parts of Ireland, know who to blame: the arrogant, careless Tory government and the lying Brexiteers who don’t give a toss about the Irish people, North or South.

If Theresa May had not given in to the Brexit-fanatics and, instead, made it clear that Britain would remain in the single market and/or customs union (a mix of the Norway and Turkish options), the Irish border problem and the threat to the peace process would not have arisen. But this has been ruled out by the UK government.

Which leaves just two further possible options for avoiding a hard border:

1/ A border down the Irish Sea, giving the North special status  with the single market and customs union. This is anathema to the DUP and unacceptable to the British government as it would be seen as dividing the UK .

2/ The Hammond plan for  the UK to remain within the single market and the customs union for a two year  (or longer) transitional period. But this is unacceptable to the Brexit-fanatics within the cabinet and the Tory party, although the Irish government strongly favours it.

These realities, and British (well, English) culpability for jeopardising the peace process, have been spelt out time and again, for instance by the respected Irish commentator Fintan O’Toole (here and here).

The people of Ireland, North and South, Protestant and Catholic, Loyalist and Republican, know this and overwhelmingly oppose Brexit. The dogs in the street know it. Only the Tories and their Brexit-fanatic press deny this reality (or simply choose to ignore it). Oh yes, and the Morning Star, mouthpiece of Her Majesty’s Loyal Communist Party, who dutifully toe the Tory /English nationalist line and manage to blame “Brussels”:

Border threats from Brussels


Nov
2017
Saturday 18th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

IRISH Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney insist they will obstruct the next phase of London-Brussels negotiations without a British government assurance.

Varadkar told Theresa May: “Before we move into phase two talks on trade, we want to take off the table any suggestion that there would be a physical border, a hard border, new barriers to trade on the island of Ireland.”

His stance is shared by Sinn Fein, whose leading MEP Martina Anderson held recent meetings with EU negotiator Michel Barnier and European Parliament co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt.

She told them that the Leave agenda pursued by the May government is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement, especially in view of the Tories’ dodgy deal with the DUP.

But where is the evidence that the British government or any significant player in either Britain or Ireland wants to change current Irish border arrangements?

What the Fine Gael-led Dublin government and Sinn Fein omit to mention is that the demand for a hard EU border comes from the EU Commission itself.

Brussels wants to site that border not on the already existing demarcation between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic but between Northern Ireland and Britain.

It insists on a special arrangement for the six counties to place it inside the EU single market and customs union, effectively extending the EU in defiance of the UK leave vote.

Britain’s refusal to accept this formula is portrayed as a dangerous provocation that could scupper the Good Friday Agreement and reignite sectarian hostilities.

It is understandable that Sinn Fein, a party with Irish reunification at its heart, should adopt an EU ploy to effectively detach the six counties from the UK, but Fine Gael has a diametrically opposed historical record.

This EU negotiating ploy gives added strength to the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) view that “Irish interests are being used as a pawn in the ‘talks, no talks’ saga.”

While equally committed to the goal of a united Ireland, as is the Morning Star, the CPI monthly journal Socialist Voice reminds readers that the core tenets of socialism and republicanism are independence, sovereignty and democracy.

It points out that Ireland “cannot be a sovereign country under any imperialist apparatus,” whether dominated by Britain, the EU or the US.

“In the context of Brexit, to campaign for a united Ireland under the pretext of the six counties rejoining the EU shows the lack of ideological opposition to imperialism.”

The clear thinking of Irish communists, shared by their comrades in Britain, is in stark contrast to that of others on the left in both countries who see in the EU, through rose-tinted spectacles, an international co-operative body based on solidarity and respect for workers’ rights rather than a bloc devoted to the interests of transnational capital.

There is no truth in the EU assertion that having different tax systems in the two parts of Ireland makes a hard border inevitable.

The republic and the six counties already have different levels of corporation tax and VAT, but this has not prevented smooth cross-border trade.

Those flagging up future difficulties, which, given goodwill, are quite easily surmountable, do so to bolster different political ambitions.

UK voters have made their choice and will not favour efforts to thwart it just as the people of Ireland on either side of the currently hassle-free dividing line will not welcome duplicitous attempts to reintroduce a hard border.

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Len McCluskey, Unite and Jewish Voice for Labour

November 19, 2017 at 5:41 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, Jim D, labour party, Unite the union, zionism)


Len has never witnessed anti-Semitism: 4.16

Len McCluskey (BBC Newsnight 26/10/2017): “I’ve never recognized [that Labour has a problem with anti-Semitism]. I believe it was mood music that was created by people trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. In 47 years of membership of the Labour Party, I’ve never been at a meeting where there was any anti-Semitic language or any attacks on the Jews. They would have had short shrift in any meeting I was at.”

“Unfortunately, at the time there were lots of people playing games. Everybody wanted to create this image that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour had become misogynistic and anti-Semitic because they wanted to bring Jeremy Corbyn down.”

Shami Chakrabarti (replied): “With the greatest of respect to Len, I was the person charged with investigating this. It wasn’t Len,” she said. “I have seen things which Len hasn’t seen. I would ask Len to read my report.

“There are real reasons why someone like Len may not have experienced racism and anti-Semitism. There is an obvious reason why he may not have experienced it. I was charged with investigating by Jeremy and the National Executive and I set out my findings, warts and all.”

In the same week as making those ill-advised comments on anti-Semitism, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey attended the launch meeting of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) at this year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton.

Describing itself as a “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party”, Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) already had the backing of such absolute anti-Zionist outfits as the ‘Free Speech on Israel’ campaign and the ‘Electronic Intifada’ website; at the meeting, McCluskey and Aslef’s  Tosh McDonald seemed to affiliate their unions to JVL.

JVL’s chair is Jenny Manson, described in a JVL press release as “a retired tax inspector”, the Garden Suburb branch chairperson in Finchley and Golders Green CLP, an active supporter of Jews for Palestine, and editor of two books (one of them on consciousness: What It Feels Like To Be Me).

Manson was one of the five Jewish Labour Party members who submitted statements in support of Ken Livingstone in March of this year. According to her statement:

“… These actions by Ken were not offensive, nor anti-Semitic in any way, in my view.

 … In my working life as a Tax Inspector I saw a (very) few instances of anti-Semitism, such as the characterisation of ‘Jewish Accountants’ as accountants who skated close to the edge. I have never witnessed any instances of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

 Anti-Semitism has to be treated as a serious issue, which is entirely separate from the different views people take on Israel and Zionism.”

 The JVL’s brief “Statement of Principles” includes the following:

“We uphold the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities, such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. We oppose attempts to widen the definition of antisemitism beyond its meaning of hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as Jews.”

A JVL press release likewise states that the new organisation:

“Rejects attempts to extend the scope of the term ‘antisemitism’ beyond its meaning of bigotry towards Jews, particularly when directed at activities in solidarity with Palestinians such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.”

In other words, this “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party” will be campaigning in support of the ‘right’ to boycott Jews, and in favour of restricting the definition of antisemitism so as to exclude the most common forms in which contemporary antisemitism manifests itself: Perhaps this is why McCluskey felt it appropriate to affiliate Unite without having consulted the Executive of the union – supposedly the highest decision-making body of Unite (which prides itself upon being a “lay member-led union”).

The JVL website (well worth visiting if you want an insight into the true politics of this organisation), hailed McCluskey’s support as a major breakthrough, but when I commented:

“Did Len consult anyone (even the Exec) before stating that Unite supported JVL? … Ironically, many of those associated with JVL are very keen on democracy elsewhere, and under other circumstances, within the labour movement”

… I was admonished by the “JVL’s webperson” thus:

“No need to be snide, Jim. Len knew that it would have to go to Unite approval [sic]. That process is in train” 

… which would seem to suggest that McCluskey and JVL had done a deal in advance, without consulting the Unite Exec, or any other Unite body.

McCluskey no doubt thought he was doing Jeremy Corbyn a favour by backing an organisation whose main objective seems to be to deny that Labour has any kind of problem with anti-Semitism, beyond that of false accusations cooked up by right wingers and agents of the Israeli embassy. Unfortunately, as Chakrabarti’s response to his foolish Newsnight comments, demonstrates, McCluskey’s hasty and undemocratic backing of JVL is likely to cause Corbyn a lot of embarrassment.

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The top quality of Mercer

November 18, 2017 at 12:51 pm (good people, jazz, Jim D, song)

Johnny Mercer was born in Savannah, Georgia on November 18 1909; he died in Los Angeles, 25 June 1976.

He was one of the Twentieth Century’s great song lyricists, and was also a fine singer himself. He recorded as a vocalist with Paul Whiteman, Wingy Manone, Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden.

He duetted with Teagarden on what is surely the best jazz Christmas record of all time (not that there’s a lot of competition, Christmas Night In Harlem. For a Southern white guy, he was also remarkably enlightened and free of prejudice: he just loved music and couldn’t give a damn about skin pigmentation. When Nat Cole was having a hard time from racists, Mercer offered him personal support and publicly denounced the racists (though, it must be said, Cole was signed at that time to Mercer’s Capitol label, but I like to think he’d have done it anyway).


Above: Mercer on the Nat ‘King’ Cole TV show

Mercer’s most famous song is Moon River , written (with Henry Mancini) for the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Personally, I have to say I don’t find it a very engaging tune or lyric. But I’m glad it brought Johnny some wealth and security towards the end of his life.

I much prefer Blues In The Night, his 1941 masterpiece, written with Harold Arlen. Here’s the Benny Goodman version, with Peggy Lee on vocals. The rather strange falsetto scatting following Peggy’s vocal is by trombonist Lou McGarity (how do I know that? Am I a bit sad or what?);  Benny himself, on clarinet, briefly returns to his wailing Chicagoan roots in the closing bars of the number:

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The death of Carl Sargeant and the backlash against women

November 14, 2017 at 4:18 pm (conspiracy theories, crime, Daily Mail, Human rights, Jim D, labour party, law, misogyny, tragedy, Wales, women)

Let’s be clear from the outset: the death of Carl Sargeant was a tragedy and no-one should be using it to score points or make political capital.

That’s why I’ve hesitated before writing anything on the subject, and I certainly have no intention of seeking to pre-empt the findings of either the coroner or the independent inquiry ordered by Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones.

The anguish of Carl Sargeant’s family and close personal friends is entirely understandable: but that doesn’t mean we have to simply go along with what they say.

Less still do we have to go along with those who are not family or friends of Carl Sargeant, but simply people who think the whole issue of sexual harassment in politics has ‘gone too far’, and have seized upon this tragedy as – supposedly – evidence that the whole sexual harassment business is now ‘out of hand’, etc, etc, with wrongly accused men as the main victims.

From the outset of the sexual harassment in politics scandal, we were assured by Charles Moore in the Telegraph, that women were now on top and the worry is whether they will share power with men or just “crush us”. Peter Hitchens, in the Mail On Sunday, warned that the “squawking women” would end up in niqabs if they carried on. Meanwhile, David ‘Mr Somewhere’ Goodhart tweeted that it was only the women of the metropolitan elite who were bothered about sexual harassment.

As news of the Carl Sargeant suicide broke, the Daily Mail’s front page claimed he’d been “THROWN TO THE WOLVES” and denied natural justice by Carwyn Jones and the Labour party.

But what, exactly, is Carwyn Jones supposed to have done wrong? As far as I can judge, he did indeed do things (as he has said), “by the book”. Carl Sargeant was, apparently, made aware of the general nature of the allegations, but not (at the early stage of the investigation) given precise details or the names of his accusers: he would, as I understand it, have received this information in due course and then been given every opportunity to defend himself. In the meanwhile, he was dismissed from his ministerial post and suspended from the Labour party. Carl Sargeant’s family were not satisfied, which is understandable; opportunistic calls for Jones’s resignation, eminating from the Tories, sections of the press, some in Plaid and even some Labour people, are not.

It may be that the coroner and/or the independent inquiry will point to shortcomings in the way the case against Carl Sargeant was handled, and it may be that more support should be offered to all those mixed up in allegations of this sort – especially when peoples’ mental health is at risk. But it would be outrageous for anyone to seek to use this tragedy to downplay the seriousness of sexual harassment, or to deny its prevalence in politics and public life.

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