- From the section Election 2015 Scotland
The Communist Party of Britain and its mouthpiece the Morning Star, are all over the place on the forthcoming EU referendum. Never mind their contortions over Tory plans to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (and – yes – I am aware that the ECHR is separate from the EU, but the Stalinists’ arguments about ‘unaccountable transnational bodies’ and the need for ‘national sovereignty’ logically should apply as much to the ECHR as to the EU).
As recently as its May 9-10 edition, the Morning Star carried this wretched piece of ‘analysis’ of the general election result, including the following criticism of Labour:
“Support for an EU referendum and a more critical attitude towards EU anti-democratic institutions and neo-liberal policies might have stopped at least some working-class voters defecting to Ukip.”
Now, have a read of this, from today’s (May 25) Morning Star:
No vote for membership for EU citizens
Labour drops opposition to in/out vote
by Our News Desk
MOST EU citizens living in Britain will be barred from voting in the referendum on whether to sever ties with Brussels, Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday.
The franchise for the referendum, promised by the end of 2017, will be based on that for a general election — meaning Irish, Maltese and Cypriots resident in Britain will get a vote, but other EU citizens will not.
Details about the planned public vote were revealed as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was due to hold talks with Mr Cameron at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence.
Legislation for the referendum will be introduced to Parliament on Thursday — the day after the Queen’s speech.
A Number 10 source said: “This is a big decision for our country, one that is about the future of the United Kingdom. That’s why we think it’s important that it is British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens that are the ones who get to decide.”
It comes after Labour’s acting leader Harriet Harman announced a U-turn on the issue, saying her party would now support Mr Cameron’s planned in/out referendum on EU membership.
She said: “We have now had a general election and reflected on the conversations we had on doorsteps throughout the country.
“The British people want to have a say on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Labour will therefore now support the EU referendum Bill when it comes before the House of Commons.”
Ms Harman added that the party will “make the case for our continued membership” and does not want to see Britain “stumble inadvertently towards EU exit.”
But unions have warned against Labour kowtowing to Tory wishes on the issue after Ms Harman accepted she shared some of the PM’s concerns about the need for reform, including freedom of movement.
GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said Labour “must not give Cameron a blank cheque and should beware of the CBI agenda to turn the clock back on employment rights.”
He added: “Labour is sleepwalking into a two-step Europe, with UK workers having the worst rights in the EU for which a big price will later be paid by the party at elections.”
It’s difficult to know were to start in commenting upon this level of political incoherence: having urged Labour to drop its opposition to the Tories’ referendum, the Star now (fairly obviously approvingly) quotes unions warning against Labour “kowtowing to Tory wishes on the issue” and the danger of “turn(ing) the clock back on employment rights.”
Didn’t you realise that attacking employment rights (along with attacking immigrants) is what the campaign for a referendum has always been all about, you Stalinist muppets?
The pitiful incoherence of the little-England Stalinists would be almost laughable, if it wasn’t so dangerous to working class interests.
We need a socialist campaign to critically defend the limited working class gains that have come from EU membership, and to oppose the little-England, racist and anti-working class anti-EU campaign of both right and “left”.
NB: See also Comrade Coatesy
A likelier explanation is that the SNP was able to project itself as both a bit left-wing, and safe, whereas Labour’s combination of general talk against “predators” with extravagantly cautious and tiny policies left it looking neither really left-wing nor really safe.
The SNP was able to scoop up a swathe of middle-of-the-road, disaffected-leftish, or left-on-some-things-right-on-others voters who in England voted Green, Ukip, or even Tory, or didn’t vote. Turnout in Scotland, 71%, was significantly higher than overall, 66%.
The basis for this SNP success is the surge of nationalism in Scotland, which allows those who see an independent Scotland as a welfare oasis and those who see it as a low-corporate-tax destination for global capital to imagine a common cause.
The British and Scottish Social Attitudes surveys are the nearest we have to statistics. They show Scottish people to be a shade more leftish than England, but no more than we would expect from the fact that Scotland’s population is more concentrated in big cities than England’s.
Trade union density is a bit higher in Scotland than in England. Like Wales, whose union density is a shade higher again, it has a higher percentage of public-sector employment. Two-thirds of Scotland’s population is in its five biggest city areas, and only 33% of England’s. 35% of Wales’s population is in three city areas.
36% of voters in England and Wales wanted more tax and more social spending; 52% of voters wanted to stay the same; 7% wanted tax cuts and spending cuts. In Scotland it was 44%, 48%, 5%.
Although Scotland has no university tuition fees, 73% in Scotland said it should have; 78% in England and Wales supported fees.
40% in Scotland want the EU to have looser powers, but to stay in; 17% want out. In England and Wales it was 39% and 25%.
Such opinion surveys are always unreliable, because dependent on exactly how questions are phrased and in what context. But they fit with other evidence: Scotland does not necessarily have (proportionately) bigger demonstrations or anti-cuts campaigns or strikes than England.
The best guess from the evidence is that opinion in Scotland, as in England and Wales, edged to the right during the Blair years and has continued that way, but it is fluid and by no means hardened.
Two conclusions follow for the labour movement. A shift back to full-on Blairite politics by Labour in England would have damaging results as in Scotland, even if the impact is less immediately spectacular because no party in England has the SNP’s ability to scoop up a range of the disaffected.
Secondly, the idea that unions disaffiliating from Labour in Scotland (as some suggest) will allow a new left surge there is fantasy.
The Labour Party was formed in Britain thanks to long efforts by growing socialist organisations who pulled unions, at first a minority of unions, with them. In Scotland, the last decade has seen a spectacular decline of the socialist left, much greater than any damage we have suffered in England.
In the 2001 general election the Scottish Socialist Party – the activist core of which came from the former Scottish organisation of Militant, forerunner of the Socialist Party and Socialist Appeal — got between 6% and 10% of the vote in every constituency in Glasgow, bar one where it got 4.5%.
This time the SSP, much weaker in activists than it was in 2001, ran in only four constituencies in Scotland, two in Glasgow, averaging 0.5%. Elsewhere it advised voters to back the bourgeois SNP. TUSC, the other attempt to run left-of-Labour candidates in Scotland, did worse in Glasgow (average 0.5%) than its poor average across Britain (0.6%).
If unions were about to disaffiliate because they had waged a real left-wing battle against Labour’s leaders had reached breaking point, things would be different.
In fact it’s more a matter of union leaders being bothered by their members swinging to the SNP, and disaffiliation would almost surely lead to unions’ politics in Scotland being reduced to client-relationship-type haggling for deals with SNP and the Labour rump.
Analysis soon. For now, Steve Bell got it right some days ago:
Steve Bell 30.04.15 Illustration: © Steve Bell 2015
…one small but gratifying consolation:
SNP-backers who claim to be on the “left”: does this not wake your ideas up?
(Adapted from the BBC website):
General election: Scottish Sun backs the SNP
The Scottish Sun newspaper has backed the SNP in the general election campaign.
The newspaper, which is Scotland’s best-selling title, also supported the party at the Scottish parliament elections in 2011.
The UK Sun, meanwhile, has backed the Conservatives.
In one of the reasons for supporting David Cameron’s party, it urges voters to “stop SNP running the country”.
In a front page inspired by Star Wars, The Scottish Sun pictures Nicola Sturgeon as Princess Leia and encourages voters to back Ms Sturgeon’s party.
The Scottish Sun has changed its allegiance to political parties over the years.
In the late 1980s, it followed the UK Sun’s support of the Conservatives and Margaret Thatcher.
By 1992, the Scottish paper proclaimed its support for independence with the memorable headline: “Rise Now And Be A Nation Again.”
However, while it backed independence, it did not formally endorse the SNP.
In 1997, it joined the UK paper in backing Labour and Tony Blair.
Then, in 2007, The Scottish Sun’s front page on the Scottish parliament elections proved controversial.
It featured a hangman’s noose in the shape of an SNP logo with the message “Vote SNP today and you put Scotland’s head in the noose”.
Later, the UK Sun returned to the Conservatives, and by the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections the Scottish tabloid was backing the SNP.
During the Scottish independence referendum, the newspaper did not state its position.
Steve Bell 30.04.15 Illustration: © Steve Bell 2015
From today’s Daily Telegraph … Sturgeon denies this, but she would, wouldn’t she? Who can seriously doubt that this is almost certainly true, if only on the principle of cui bono?
Nicola Sturgeon secretly backs David Cameron
The SNP leader told the French Ambassador in February that she would prefer that “David Cameron remain” in Downing Street, according to an official account of their conversation seen by The Daily Telegraph.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, has privately said that she would “rather see” David Cameron win the general election because Ed Miliband is not “prime minister material”, a leaked memorandum seen by The Telegraph has revealed.
The SNP leader told the French Ambassador in February that she would prefer that “David Cameron remain” in Downing Street, according to an official account of their conversation seen by this newspaper.
The disclosure undermines public claims made by Miss Sturgeon this week that she wants to build a “progressive” alliance with Ed Miliband and other left-wing parties to keep the Conservatives out of office.
It appears to confirm growing speculation in Scotland that the SNP would privately favour another Conservative-led Westminster government – which it could campaign against in a bid to stoke up anti-English sentiment and make an “out” vote more likely in another referendum.
The Telegraph has seen the official British Government memorandum which includes details of a private meeting between Miss Sturgeon and Sylvie Bermann, the French Ambassador to the UK.
The memorandum which was written by a senior British civil servant, dated March 6th, states: “Just had a telephone conversation with Pierre-Alain Coffinier (PAC), the French CG [consul-general]. He was keen to fill me in on some of the conversations his Ambassador had during her visit to Scotland last week. All of this was given on a confidential basis.”
It continues: “The Ambassador….had a truncated meeting with the FM [Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister] (FM running late after a busy Thursday…). Discussion appears to have focused mainly on the political situation, with the FM stating that she wouldn’t want a formal coalition with Labour; that the SNP would almost certainly have a large number of seats… that she’d rather see David Cameron remain as PM (and didn’t see Ed Miliband as PM material).”
The civil servant appeared so surprised by the private admission made by Miss Sturgeon that he questioned whether there might have been an issue with the “translation” during the conversation.
However, it was later established that the conversation took place in English as all the French officials are fluent.
It is a common diplomatic courtesy if an ambassador to the UK visits one of the three devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland for the British Government to be given an official readout of the conversation although the SNP leader, who has only been in position since the autumn, may have been unaware of this formality.
The disclosure of her private comments may undermine Miss Sturgeon’s new-found popularity, after she was judged by snap opinion polls to have “won” Thursday night’s general election debate with six other party leaders.
She is increasingly seen as a potential “kingmaker” in any Coalition talks as Labour support in Scotland has slumped with the SNP expected to gain dozens of seats in next month’s general election.
Yesterday, Miss Sturgeon was mobbed after she returned to Scotland in scenes reminiscent of the “Cleggmania” recorded after the Liberal Democrat leader’s success in the 2010 general election debates.
Miss Sturgeon’s comments may threaten the SNP’s huge opinion poll lead in Scotland, which is built on the support of traditional Labour voters who have grown disillusioned with the party but remain hostile to the Tories.
Yesterday, unaware that the memo had been leaked to the Telegraph, she continued to openly back Mr Miliband.
“If the SNP and Labour combined have more MPs than the Tories do – if there is an anti-Tory majority – we can lock David Cameron out of Downing Street,” she said.
“I’ve challenged Ed Miliband, and I do so again: if we have that anti-Tory majority, the SNP has said we will vote to stop a Tory government even getting off the ground.”
Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, and Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said the “astonishing” account of her comments proves that the SNP really wants a Tory Government with few or no MPs in Scotland, allowing the party to push the case for a second independence referendum.
Mr Murphy said: “This is a devastating revelation that exposes the uncomfortable truth behind the SNP’s General Election campaign. For months Nicola Sturgeon has been telling Scots she wants rid of David Cameron yet behind closed doors with foreign governments she admits she wants a Tory Government. It’s déjà vu all over again – the SNP say one thing in public but another private.”
Mr Rennie said: “It is astonishing that Nicola Sturgeon can look people in the eye and declare the SNP would never support the Conservatives in government when in private she secretly wants them to win.
“Despite her fluffy, positive words about working with the rest of the UK this reveals her sole ambition is to break up the UK. I’ve no doubt that the Tories in government alone would fuel the Nationalist fires. She is open with foreign diplomats about her wishes now she needs to end the chicanery and be open with the voters.”
Ms Sturgeon’s stated views in the document come after a number of opinion polls showed that Mr Cameron has significantly higher approval ratings in Scotland than Mr Miliband.
Above: the Tories wasted no time in rushing out this bizarre video
One thing emerged very clearly from Alex Salmond’s appearance on the Andrew Marr Show: the Scottish Nationalists are bare-faced opportunists and liars. Nicola Sturgeon has already back-tracked on the SNP promise not to vote on issues that effect only England; on Sunday Salmond made it clear that his earlier promise that the referendum would settle the question of Scottish separation “for a generation” has also gone by the board. He hinted in unmistakable terms that a pledge to hold a new referendum is likely to be included in the SNP’s 2016 Holyrood manifesto.
But it was his arrogant boast that the SNP would, in effect, control the policies of a future Labour government that was most memorable: “If you hold the balance, you hold the power” he gloated. Socialists should not be taken in by Salmond’s claim that the SNP would use its power to insist on some policies of which we might approve (dumping Trident and moving away from austerity): Salmond’s vision of the SNP as the force that will make or break a Labour government is both profoundly anti-democratic and a calculated gift to the Tories. Say what you will about Salmond, he’s not an idiot, and knows full well that his arrogant boasts about holding Labour to ransom (the accurate description used by the Tory press) make it more likely that the Tories will win in May – something that it’s pretty obvious that the SNP leadership relishes.
And, of course, the SNP has form when it comes to de facto support for the Conservatives.
Despite the Scottish Labour Party’s disastrous choice of the wretched Blairite Murphy as its leader, serious people who want a Labour government know that a Labour vote is essential everywhere – including Scotland.
Miliband should make it clear that no deal of any kind (including so-called “confidence and supply”) is on offer to Salmond, Sturgeon and the Tartan Tories.
And a final point: Alex Salmond is not the leader of the SNP and even if he is elected to Westminster in May, he won’t lead the party there (that role will remain with Angus Robertson). So who the f**k does this potential back-bencher think he is, to be dictating terms to anyone?
The suspension of Cameron’s friend Jeremy Clarkson and the subsequent question-mark over the future of Top Gear (but, I fear money talks, and Clarkson and his show will return), at least gives me an excuse to show you this clip of Stewart Lee (in 2010 I’d guess) on the subject of Top Gear and its presenters. I think Lee’s very, very, funny, but not everyone agrees.
It lasts 14 minutes, and all I’d advise is if you decide to watch it, please watch all the way to the end:
Labour is lucky this global story blew up in a week already dominated by a tax avoidance row: it was a Tory blunder to put up the Monaco-dwelling head of Boots to call Labour a “catastrophe”, when his company pays a fraction of the UK tax it did before switching its base to Switzerland. Timing is important here: the HSBC revelations haven’t emerged on Labour’s watch. Both Eds have frequently – and rightly – apologised for Labour’s feeble regulation of banks pre-crash, while always reminding Cameron and Osborne that they called loudly for less banking “red tape” in those days.
Ms Toynbee isn’t always a favourite with us here at Shiraz, but the piece quoted from above is a hum-dinger, and well worth reading in full.
Left Foot Forward‘s Ruby Stockham, meanwhile, has put 4 questions to David Cameron that should be repeated ad nauseam between now and the election.
But it’s worth remembering that the crimes of HSBC under Stephen Green (aka Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint and minister for trade and investment between 2010 and 2013) were not restricted to colluding in tax fraud: they also extended to money-laundering.
In 2012, HSBC agreed to pay a $1.9 billion fine for money laundering for clients that the US authorities said included Mexican drug cartels (as well as providing services to lenders in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh though to include supporters of al Qaeda).
The Daily Telegraph‘s David Hughes reported on July 17 2012:
While the Treasury select committee is giving the third degree to Mervyn King and his chums over the Libor debacle, a potentially much bigger banking scandal is breaking in the United States. The US Senate has launched a coruscating attack on HSBC for its slapdash approach to money-laundering regulations. The bank could face a $1 billion fine.
According to Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, “the culture at HSBC was pervasively polluted for a long time.” Just how polluted was revealed in the Senate report into the scandal. For example, between 2007 and 2008, HSBC’s Mexican operations moved $7bn into the bank’s US operations. According to the report, both Mexican and US authorities warned HSBC that the amount of money could only have reached such a level if it was tied to illegal narcotics proceeds. This is explosive stuff for the “world’s local bank”, as HSBC calls itself.
As these other, perhaps even more serious, scandals from the noughties have not been widely reported in the last few days (except by the FT‘s excellent Jonathan Guthrie), here are a couple of links to articles from July 2012:
David Hughes’s Telegraph piece (quoted from above), here
The Telegraph‘s report on the US Senate’s findings, here
Ned Simons at the Huffington Post (which mentions the alleged al Qaeda funding) here.
“The miner’s family spend only ten pence a week on green vegetables and ten pence half-penny on milk (remember that one of them is a child less than three years old), and nothing on fruit; but they spend one and nine on sugar (about eight pounds of sugar, that is) and a shilling on tea. The half-crown spent on meat might represent a small joint and the materials for a stew; probably as often as not it would represent four or five tins of bully beef. The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea, and potatoes – an appalling diet. Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn’t. […] When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit ‘tasty’. There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let’s have three pennorth of chips! Run out and buy us a twopenny ice-cream! Put the kettle on and we’ll have a nice cup of tea. That is how your mind works when you are at the PAC level. White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don’t nourish you to any extent but they are nicer (at least most people think so) than brown bread-and-dripping and cold water. Unemployment is an endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the English-man’s opium. A cup of tea or even an aspirin is much better as a temporary stimulant than a crust of brown bread” – from The Road To Wigan Pier, 1937
Drown an immigrant to save an immigrant: why is the Government borrowing policy from the BNP? This is where the death spiral into a political bidding war on immigration leads us
Finally. After years of debate and vacillation and inaction, the nations of Europe have at last come up with a solution to the refugee crisis that is blighting our continent.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children seeking sanctuary from the chaos and carnage of places like Syria and Libya wash up in their ramshackle craft on the Mediterranean coastline. The countries that constitute their destination – Italy, Greece, Spain – have found themselves on the front line a mini-humanitarian crisis.
But our politicians have now found the answer. And it’s a bold one. We’re going to take those refugees, and we’re going to drown them.
Today the Guardian reports that Britain – along with its EU partners – is backing the withdrawal of search and rescue support from the Mediterranean. According to a statement from Foreign Office minister Lady Anelay: “We do not support planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean”. She added that the government believes there is “an unintended ‘pull factor’, encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths”.
The announcement was made as the Italian government confirmed that it would be ending operation “Mare Nostrum”, its own dedicated search and rescue effort, which it says has become unsustainable. Over the last 12 months Mare Nostrum is estimated to have assisted in the rescue of 150,000 refugees. Despite their efforts, thousands of other refugees have perished since the turn of the year.
Our Government’s argument is – and this is literally the logic of Lady Anelay’s statement – “We understand that by withdrawing this rescue cover we will be leaving innocent children, women and men to drown who we would otherwise have saved. But eventually word will get around the war-torn communities of Syria and Libya and the other unstable nations of the region that we are indeed leaving innocent children, women and men to drown. And when it does, they will think twice about making the journey. And so eventually, over time, more lives will be saved.”
As I say, there is some logic to that statement. In the same way that, I suppose, there would be some logic in claiming that if the Government announced that it was abolishing the fire service we may all become a bit more careful when we’re using our chip pans. Or that if manufacturers removed seat belts and airbags from our cars some of us may drive a bit more slowly.
But if you step back, you’ll soon see the flaws in the Government’s “let’s drown some refugees to save some refugees” policy. There may well be a “pull” factor motivating some of these refugees. But I would guess there is also possibly a “push factor” at play here as well.
I’m not sure about you, but if I were planning to load my children, my parents and my grandparents onto some rickety raft with a view to sailing it 1,500 miles across the shark-infested waters of the Mediterranean, I’d have to have a pretty good reason. And it would have to be better than a forlorn hope a random Italian coastguard cutter might spot me and haul me aboard.
Isil would be a good reason. Those murdering, raping, torturing, butchering, psychos who are currently running amok across the Middle East. I’d get on a boat to get away from them, regardless of who I thought might or might be waiting to pick me up. And over the coming months – as the bodies of the “Drown A Refugee To Save A Refugee” program continue to wash up on the coastal resorts of Europe – we’ll have ample evidence that plenty of other people will take any risk to escape them as well.
But let’s set aside this warped apology for logic. The sickening, disgusting, inhumane attempt of our government to insert some sort of moral hazard into the refugee train.
These people are seeking sanctuary. They are refugees. Genuine refugees. Yes, there will be some economic migrants among their number. But these people are running from places where you would need to have your head examined if you didn’t have a well-founded fear of persecution.
And we have a golden rule. It is inviolate. If you are a genuine refugee, and you come to us seeking sanctuary, you will be granted it. No ifs. No buts. In Britain. In Europe. Wherever you are in the world.
A couple of years ago the former BNP leader Nick Griffin infamously said he would solve the Mediterranean refugee problem by sinking their boats. The British government has now adopted the same policy. It’s simply decided to save on the ammunition.
This is what happens. This is where the death spiral into a political bidding war on immigration leads us. To a position where in 2014 the British Government – our Government – is saying that we should stand aside and watch asylum seekers drown.
Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. So we can sit back and watch as they vanish for a final time beneath the cold dark waters of the Mediterranean.
- UK will not support rescue of Mediterranean migrants
- 28 Oct 2014
- Search and rescue operations only encourage migrants, minister says28 Oct 2014
- Up to 700 migrants drown in Mediterranean as people smugglers accused of deliberately capsizing boat15 Sep 2014
- Calais’ thousands of migrants waiting, hoping to get to Britain
H/T Dave Stamp