Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Why Is Theresa May Running Scared of TV Debates'

Theresa May is not only a liar, but a coward. Let’s remind ourselves of some of the ‘achievements’ of her government recently. Firstly, after six long months of patriotic flag waving she finally cobbled together a Brexit plan, showing that the three tory Brexiters, two of whom are part of Mays cabinet, utterly failed to come up with a post Brexit plan before the UK decided to vote Leave. Secondly, it emerges that the ‘plan’ is not so much of a plan at all, but rather a series of empty demands that basically constitute threat to the EU of ‘cave in to our ridiculous demands, or we will self-detruct our own economy’. Thirdly, days after setting the ball rolling on Brexit Theresa May calls a general election, presumably so people will judge her on her empty sloganeering in 2017 rather than her handling of the Brexit process in 2020. 

Presumably then, you would think that Theresa May would have quite a lot to say for herself when it comes to talking to Jeremy Corbyn and the other candidates. We will never  actually know if this is the case however, because even in spite of Jeremy Corbyn rightfully going back on his commitment to not taking part in any debates without May also being there, Theresa May has repeatedly refused to stand up and talk to her rivals in a debate setting. Instead, in the BBC General Election Debate she has chosen home secretary. Amber Rudd, to get up and do her arguing for her.   When Confronted by Journalists today about why she was refusing to appear May did a force crackpot laugh before going on to explain that it is somehow Jeremy Corbyn who is at fault for wanting to appear on the telly quite often: as if putting themselves and their views out there for the public to analyse is some deeply dishonest thing for political leaders to do. May then finished by saying that Corbyn should be paying more attention to the Brexit negotiations. There are so many things wrong with this response though that it’s frankly laughable.
Brexit Negotiations
Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, If Theresa May was so concerned about the importance of Brexit negotiations, why on earth did she call this self-serving snap election in the first place? How is it even possible for her to think that the public are thick enough to buy her excuse that the Brexit negotiations are so suddenly incredibly important to her, when she was the one who decided to put the Brexit negotiations on hold for two months to do this election while she thought she had an unassailable lead in the polls?
 In what way does setting the clock ticking on the most complex and risky set of negotiations in a long time, and then calling a two month holiday in order to conduct a completely opportunistic snap election, demonstrate anything other than the contempt for a serious situation that she is accusing Jeremy Corbyn of? Besides this is an extremely odd statement for Theresa May to make as leader of the Tory’s. The only way to Interpret Mays response in a way that doesn’t make her look like a massive hypocrite is that she actually thinks Jeremy Corbyn is going to become PM, otherwise why would he need to concentrate on refining his negotiating stance, instead of reaching out to members of the public?
TV Debates
Second, if the idea of appearing before and presenting your ideas to the public in the form of a debate is such a laughable concept, why has Theresa May decided to send Amber Rudd to present the Tory’s ideas for her? If the whole concept of appearing on TV is so contemptible, then why doesn’t she just empty chair the Conservatives, considering it is clearly such a waste of time to participate in televised debates? This may seem petty, but this halfway solution is yet another example of directionless leadership. She decided not to go, then instead of admit she was wrong and actually turn up, she is sending one of her underlings to act as her human bullet shield. She is to cowardly to appear herself because she knows she would get eviscerated, but she’s too directionless to stick by her decision so she is sending out Amber Rudd to take all the criticism on her behalf.
The Forced Laugh
There is a lot you can tell from a forced laugh. Perhaps Theresa May’s image consultants have told her to try and lighten up a bit because her tendency to glare menacingly at political opponents and make disgusted faces is putting people off? We all remember that bonkers head back, open mouth fake laugh that she did at PMQ’s. When she attempts to laugh her persona goes from snarky to absolutely deranged, so lightening up hardly seems to be the best approach.
Yet both this forced laugh approach and her passive aggressive nature of speaking whenever she says anything serious, is perhaps the best indication of why she won’t do the TV debates. Anyone who has seen any of Mays performances at PMQs will know that she is an incredibly weak public speaker who relies almost entirely on the tactic of regurgitating pre written answers and snide personal attacks. As todays encounter with the journalist demonstrated, she is clearly absolutely hopeless when she has to think on her feet and has been outwitted by Jeremy Corbyn countless times. ­­­In 2015, David Cameron famously wimped out of having a Scottish Independence Debate with Alex Salmond, but he wasn’t cowardly enough to evade the 2015 election debates completely. Theresa May knows that she is even more pitifully inept in an unscripted environment than Cameron was, so the only way she can avoid getting pummelled in the television debates is by refusing to take part.
Conclusion
Something I applaud the broadcasters for in this situation is allowing the debates to go ahead regardless of Mays refusal to participate. Any attempt to allow her to simply boycott the debates entirely would clearly be heavily biased in favour of the Tory’s, as it would be preventing the other parties from criticising her government’s policy in a debate setting. Thus the only unbiased option is to carry on with the debates regardless.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

How not To Talk about Terrorism

I have thought for a long time about what to write about the appalling attack that occurred at the Manchester Arena, during an Ariana Grande concert. The most important thing about this, is to make sure we pay our respects to the bereaved and victims of this barbarity. Many of those effected are young children, who were simply trying to enjoy music. Even against a backdrop of the violence going on every day in the Middle East, the idea that anyone would dare to commit such a disgusting atrocity on these people, is a tragedy in and of itself.

It is also extremely important to praise all those that helped: The ambulance workers, the hospitals, the venue staff, the local hotel workers, the taxi drivers, the blood donors and the people of Manchester deserve to be recognised as people who prove what is great about Britain. They prove beyond doubt, that whatever terrorists do in order to divide us and make us fear each other, they will lose, because good people will always show bravery and solidarity when required. This is of course the right way to react to acts of Terrorism. However, there can also unfortunately be misguided or wrong reactions to it, this is what I will address in this blog post.

Silence on Politics

Of course, to a certain extent it is important to put aside any political differences that we might have in order to mourn the victims of this attack. Labour voters are of course in no more of a better or worse position to help then conservative voters. Although the forthcoming general election, may have led to bitter differences in opinion, we are all human beings and are all deserving of the same rights as each other.
In spite of this I think a moratorium on all political discourse is the wrong approach, which is why it saddens me to see some people trying to use this attack to silence political debate. They have tried to claim that talking about any other political issue at the moment is somehow disrespectful to the victims. I profoundly disagree: The people who commit barbarous acts of terrorism, don’t do it for no reason. They do it for impact. They want to fundamentally change the places they attack, and the people who live there. If we stop what we are doing or refuse to engage on a political level, they have succeeded in changing our daily lives and undermining our democracy by stifling the democratic engagement that would have otherwise gone ahead. The UK political parties are making a very dangerous decision indeed by suspending all their political campaigns out of misguided respect, in that they are sending terrorists of all types a message that they can disrupt democracy by carrying out their violent attacks during elections.
In addition to helping the terrorists achieve their aims silencing political discourse leaves the floor open for depraved opportunists, to shout their nonsense. Take the concern trolls who in the past days have accused Jeremy Corbyn of making ‘Political Capital out of people’s deaths under the guise of praising the emergency services’ (22, May 2017)  and even ‘endorsing’ (23rd, May 2017) the attack. Problem being, Corbyn didn’t try and politicise the attack. He simply used the platform of Twitter to express his condolences, as by the way did Theresa May and Tim Farron. Should we just automatically treat it as political opportunism when Corbyn does it, but treat it as generous and tame when May does it? Of course not, that is an utterly hypocritical response to the situation. This is clearly an example of right wing concern trolls using the attack to do exactly what they are accusing Jeremy Corbyn of doing.
Twitter was also rife with people taking an old Sadiq Khan quote out of context, in order to accuse the mayor of London of saying that terrorist attacks are ‘part and parcel of living in a big city’ (22 May, 2017) clearly in an attempt to smear all Muslims as filth. If any of these cowardly racists had bothered to do their research before posting such blatant lies on the internet they would have found that the full quote from Sadiq Khan was in fact ‘Part and parcel of living in a great global city is you have to be prepared for these sorts of things, you have to be vigilant, you have to support the police doing an incredibly hard job, you have to support the security services’. A statement that is very clearly true and sensible to make.
I’m going to continue to write about politics for the next few days. Not because I don’t care about the victims but because I don’t want to let the terrorist who did this win by stopping me from living my life as I would have done if this attack had never happened, which would have been writing about politics and engaging with democracy.

Hatred and Bigotry

The extreme right always delight in terrorism. Whenever an attack happens they gleefully flock to social media to spread their hatful ideologies, and bask in the attention they get by doing so. While some of these people are thick, many of them are intelligent enough to know exactly what they are doing. Hard right commentators like Nigel Farage always spring into action the moment an attack happens.
One culprit I had the displeasure of stumbling across was Telegraph Journalist Allison Pearson. Not only did she call for a state of emergency like France has, but she also called for the introduction of internment camps on British soil. So according to Pearson’s logic, we should abolish the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ principle, so that potential ‘suspects’ can be rounded up and locked in camps. Of Course, Pearson doesn’t give a damn that the introduction of internment camps in Northern Ireland was extremely counterproductive, with the injustice of imprisonment without trial causing a massive rise in violence. Neither does Pearson care that we should be using an effective response to terrorism, she just simply doesn’t like the fact that we live in a country with liberal values such as the presumption of innocence. She clearly would like nothing better to live in a police state where the government can drag people out of their houses and lock them in camps without any actual evidence that they have done anything wrong. The atrocity in Manchester is nothing more to her than a glorious opportunity to use other peoples suffering to promote her beloved far right fantasy.
 Katie Hopkins is, as we all know, a relentless self-publicist who spews extreme eight views because they garner her more and more attention. Whenever an atrocity happens this despicable woman pops up to spew some ridiculous comment, and then revel in the tide of hate she has triggered, pointing and sneering at leftists who call attention to her comments. This time she had the nerve to take to social media to declare that ‘We need a final solution’. Make no mistake, use of the term ‘final solution’ was no accident, the phrase obviously has horrifying Nazi and holocaust connotations. Hopkins just decided that the wave of publicity she is going to get for using such an awful reference was worth possibly jeopardizing her job at LBC, or facing criminal charges for hate speech. If either of those things happen she can easily just play the victim card. Whether Hopkins actually wants to see a holocaust of Muslims is beside the point, she might actually believe it or she might have just expressed the opinion for the cash, without believing it at all.   
A Journalist from the Daily Telegraph called for the abolition of British values. A Journalist from the Daily Mail went a step further and called for a Holocaust against Muslims. These are views that would have found their only home on the BNP fringe in the 1970s, but the right wing press has clearly degenerated to such an extent these days that these views find their way into the mainstream.

‘False Flag’ Accusations

I have seen a few people spreading the idea that the Manchester was a false flag attack orchestrated by the Tory government in order to improve their chances in the general election. I think that conspiracy theories about ‘false flags are deeply unhelpful for a number of reasons.
Its undeniable that the Tory government have spent the last seven years putting their ridiculous ‘let’s cut our way to growth’ ideological austerity agenda above the interests of the nation as a whole. They imposed extreme cuts on the armed forces, the police, the emergency services and hospitals. This of course would leave any nation vulnerable in the face of any terrorist attack, as the Tory’s put their economically illiterate cost cutting drive way above the safety of the British public.
However, there is a huge difference between noting that the Tory’s spent seven years endangering the British public, and saying that they plotted this attack on purpose. Just imagine the ramifications if they had been caught out orchestrating such a plot. All it would take is one whistle-blower, and they would never be elected again.  Yes their poll lead had more than halved since the beginning of the election campaign, but would they really risk deliberately planning a terrorist attack in order to cling on to power? In my view anyone making evidence-lacking like this is guilty of contaminating the political debate with extreme accusations. By doing this they don’t just discredit themselves, they discredit by false association all the reasonable people who oppose this horrifically malicious and incompetent government.

Conclusion

Here I have outlined the wrong way to respond to the Manchester terror attack. How you choose to respond is very much up to you, whether it is showing solidarity with the victims via social media or directly helping those effected. I would urge everyone reading this not to stay silent, and not to tolerate those using this attack to spread lies and hatred.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Awful Arguments #8 - The Fantasy of Right Wing Patriotism


One of the arguments used by people on the right of the political spectrum in order to defend their position is that they are ‘patriotic’ and that in contrast the left are ‘unpatriotic’. We will be seeing a lot of this over the next few weeks as Theresa May, in her refusal to debate her political opponents, furiously spews lies about how Jeremy Corbyn wants to subvert the will of the British people on Brexit, while defending her record with meaningless clich├ęs. While not all right wing people use this absolute dreg of an argument, it is undeniably a prevalent one. It is also worth noting here that I don’t consider myself particularly patriotic, as I see no reason not to respect and support a variety of different cultures. As I result, I will not be painting an image of the left as the true defenders of patriotism. If you are left wing, consider yourself patriotic or don’t, as long as it doesn’t devolve into blind violence or aggression, It really doesn’t bother me.
What I will be arguing against in this blog post are the ideas that the right are the defenders of patriotism, that they have respect for ‘British values’. and that it is somehow unpatriotic to take action that improves your lives or conditions. A recent example of this would be Theresa Mays reaction to the anti-trump protests. After she was in America pandering to a vicious right wing demagogue, Theresa May had the gall to accuse her protests of not supporting our ‘special relationship’. Another example is when Theresa May stood on the steps of Downing Street and announced she was calling a general election not so we will judge her on her flag waving and not her actual handling of Brexit, but in the ‘national interest’. Meanwhile, the right wing press issue copious amounts of bullshit about how the left are dangerous for this country.
In terms of British values it is true that a large proportion of right wing people would like to see the monarchy and the House of Lords remain powerful institutions in our society. However this can hardly be seen as patriotism. There is nothing patriotic in actively disliking the idea of Britain becoming a properly democratic republic. In fact, supporting then upholding of anti-democratic powers and privileges held by a family of German and Greek origin can actually be seen as less patriotic than wanting the monarchy abolished! Being opposed to the ideas of pro-democracy activists who want to abolish the monarchy, saving the country millions in tax dollars (god knows right wing people are always banging on about lower taxes!) is an extremely reactionary and contradictory position to take, which relies on an extremely vague definition of ‘British values’.
Another classic point that the right like to raise when defending their patriotism is the right are far more supportive of British wars. Accusations of unpatriotic have been made against objectors throughout history.  Quakers and Peace activists have been vilified. Throughout World War One and World War Two, people that objected to the bloodshed were at best imprisoned. Response to war always plays an important part in our elections: Most recently one of the arguments made against Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister is that he used to be chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, and if elected would risk our security by refusing to launch a nuclear bomb. Indeed, anti-war protests at the biggest demonstration in British history, those protesting the 2003 Iraq, were maligned and even dismissed as pro – Saddam Hussein by Tony Blair.
On wages and working conditions, right wing politicians will tell you that they are standing up for British workers, while actively making life worse for them. It is difficult to see how maintaining stagnant wages, burdening students entering the job market and clamping down on workers’ rights to strike can even be seen a remotely patriotic. The right wing critic of trade unionism will defend their malice towards workers by claiming that strikers are ‘holding the country to ransom’ however if we pick this apart, this is an extremely one sided view to take. Isn’t it even fairer to say that bosses are holding the country to ransom when they undermine wages and working conditions to such an extent that people refuse to work? Even if you don’t accept that strikes are an effective tactic in improving wages and working conditions, you at least have to accept that mistreatment towards workers is about the farthest away it is possible to get from loving your people.
Right wing elements in British society have a long history of being anti-patriotic. Inspired by the rise of fascism in the 1930s, dozens of Tory politicians and other establishment figures became involved in unpatriotic and anti-Semitic activities. Whilst the Tory Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin was busy appeasing Nazi Germany, scores of Tory’s joined secretive far right organisations such as the pro-Nazi Anglo-German Link and the disgustingly anti-Semitic (and largely forgotten) Right Club, which had stated the purpose of ridding the Tory Party of Jewish Influence. One extremely notable member of the Right Club was Tory turncoat Lord Sempill who spent the 1920s and 1930s as a paid spy for Japan and continued to aid the Japanese even after Britain and Japan were at war. Although Winston Churchill was obviously one of the exceptions to this rise in Nazi sympathising in the Tory Party, he undeniably used his influence to protect Semphill from being exposed as the traitor he certainly was. The Tory’s were not alone in embracing fascism in the 1930s, many Labour MPs defected to join Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists, but the Labour Party themselves never openly embraced fascism to the same extent as the Tory’s.    
One of the core tactics of the Thatcher regime was the divide and rule strategy, whereby sections of society were set against each other in order that they didn’t stand together against the common enemy: the profoundly unpatriotic Tory Party. The treatment of Industrial workers during this time period was indicative of this divide and rule strategy. To use terms such as ‘the enemy within’ to describe the hard working industrial workers who had provided the backbone of Britain’s prosperity from the industrial revolution onwards, was an absolutely clear demonstration that Tory interests were at odds with the interests of vast swathes of the British population. Countless core services that were built up and the expense of the British taxpayer were sold off for a pittance, often to foreign buyers. Look for example at the eight nuclear facilities that were privatised for the pitifully small fee of £2.1 billion in 1995. These taxpayer funded facilities eventually fell into the hands of French company EDF. The same can be said for German ownership on the railway companies, France’s ownership of the main water suppliers, India’s ownership of steel companies, Spans ownership of Britain’s biggest airports, to Bermuda’s ownership of HMRC Tax offices. This entire ideology is extremely unpatriotic. Small state Conservativism is in affect a policy of destroying the British state from within, in order to distribute power and wealth to the few, whether they are British or not.
Another area in which the right are extremely unpatriotic is tax dodging. A great number of extremely wealthy right wing people do everything they can to minimise the social contribution they should make through taxation. There are so called left wing people who dodge tax as well like Ken Livingstone, but the right win g can count many more serial tax dodgers among their numbers. The Tory Party played an instrumental role in creating this tax dodging bonanza by abolishing capital controls in the 1980s. This is no surprise either. The Tory’s have gathered millions of pounds in donations from serial tax dodgers such a Michael Ashcroft, Phillip Green and George Robinson. Former PM David Cameron inherited a fortune from his father’s leeching tax dodging empire. Even celebrity Tory supporter Gary Barlow is a blatant Tax dodger. If there is any talk of introducing regulation to stop the super-rich, they immediately threaten to leave the country! Recall the Tory accusation that striking workers are ‘holding the country to ransom’, how exactly is threatening to up sticks and leave when you are asked to pay your fair share not a much more extreme example of holding people to ransom? Tax dodging is nothing but the complete refusal to contribute to your country and its people, motivated by nothing but pure self-interest.
When the London Olympics happened in 2012 the entire country was wrapped up in a hysterical fit on nationalistic flag waving. For a few weeks we could forget about the austerity and surveillance state measures being implemented by the Tory/ Lib Dem coalition. That said, some people were engaging in nationalism of a very different sort. Take former Tory MP’s Aidan Burleys comments about the Olympic opening ceremony. He hated it because it celebrated the NHS and Multiculturalism, which like it or not are now fundamental parts of British life. Take the Daily Mails racist rant about mixed race families and their accusations that several of Britain’s most successful Olympic athletes (Bradley Wiggins, Mo Farah etc.) shouldn’t be considered British at all because they happened to be born abroad. Whilst the majority of people celebrated the achievements of our athletes, the right wing continued to churn out their unpatriotic nonsense.
Since the 2008 recession happened, the right wing press have been scrambling around desperately in order to find a way to blame ordinary working people. The Daily Telegraph wrote a pitifully economically inept article in which it tried to argue that it was ordinary people not the neoliberal deregulation of the banks that caused the recession, arguing that British workers lack rigor and seriousness. According to Telegraph the reason that Britain is going through a prolonged recession has nothing to do with the type of wealthy capitalist billionaire who holds the country to ransom if they don’t get everything their way, it is due to British people being somehow less likely to do their jobs properly than someone in another country!
A similar point was made in the book Britannia unchained by Tory MPs Pritti Pattel, Kwasi Kwarteng, Chris Skidmore, Elizabeth Truss and Dominic Raab. Here they make the point that because British people are so lazy, this means that wages must be slashed, workers’ rights must be done away with and unions destroyed in order to increase productivity. The problem is that the whole argument is based upon lies, the average full time worker in the UK works longer hours than the average worker anywhere else in the EU except Austria and Greece, and the average age of retirement in the UK is one of the highest in the OECD. To make up lies and disparage workers as inherently lazy just so you can bombard them with yet more cuts to their social security, is a stunningly clear case of yet more unpatriotic behaviour from the right.
It is difficult to see how these people manage to hate so much about Britain and engage in such unpatriotic behaviour, yet continue to claim to be patriots. I believe the answer lies in the fact that they insulate themselves in a world of wealth and privilege. A world where the barmy neoliberal ideology of ‘greed is a virtue’ is gospel. A world where the so called free market is unquestionable and where anyone who opposes it is the ‘enemy’. A world where greed worshiping has supremacy over all other ideals, even patriotism.