Red Len and the Morning Mouthpiece

Posted on April 22, 2013

Guido reports that Len McCluskey, the newly re-elected general secretary of Unite, has issued an edict demanding that the union’s branches subsidise the struggling Morning Star. The Star has the dubious distinction of being the only paper I can think of to run a “Fighting Fund” just in order to stay afloat. It’s almost like extreme left ideas are unpopular, and those who propose them are incompetent, but I’m sure there’s another explanation for their permanent state of near bankruptcy.

So what did Red Len get in return for the bail-out? Well, let’s have a look at the Morning Star’s recent coverage during the Unite leadership election.

There are the fawning letters headlined: “Plenty of reasons to back McCluskey“, “McCluskey brings fight to Tories and employers“, and “McCluskey shows he can deal with our enemies’ hard talk“.

Plus the 1,300 word report of Len McCluskey explaining err why Len McCluskey is the right candidate. Then there’s the coverage of the branch element of the election process itself, most notably “Branches give massive support to McCluskey” – published before the ballot papers went out to individual members.

They may not believe in greed or the profit motive – but some would suggest principles are a commodity the hard left are still more than happy to sell.

Student riots are back – and they’re infecting the Left

Posted on March 25, 2013

The anti-everything student movement has plenty of practice at shooting itself in the foot. Attacking war memorials, smashing up taxpayers’ property, even burning down Christmas trees – you name it, they can turn it into an incident which discredits their already confused message.

It might have seemed reasonable to hope that after it turned out rioting wasn’t a good way to get Middle England on their side, they might have changed tactics.

Not a bit of it.

Occupy Sussex, the Sussex University branch of the Occupy Movement, are up in arms about plans to outsource 10% of the University’s admin. While their issue of choice isn’t exactly the moral equivalent of Tsarist serfdom in Russia, it doesn’t seem to have stopped the usual suspects rushing to rally against outsourcing and for “communism” instead. Eevidently the fresh air of Sussex is a febrile, revolutionary atmosphere.

For some reason, this has turned into a national student demonstration, held today. The ever-sharp Chris Snowdon raised the first concerns over the weekend that perhaps it wasn’t set to be the most productive event humanity has yet seen:

And, lo, it came to pass. What started with the usual pompous slogans…

…moved on to smashing up University buildings…

…burning files from Barclays…

  ….and, inevitably, trite comparisons between themselves and Martin Luther King. All in all, an impressive way to discredit their own argument, waste taxpayers’ money and divert the police and fire brigade from what they are meant to be doing. This trend of legitimate (if wrong-headed) lefty protests turning violent is a serious problem for so-called “progressive” campaigners. Owen Jones wrote this morning  that the Left needs a group as effective as the TaxPayers’ Alliance – which is why he is launching the People’s Assembly this week. Owen may be wrong about almost everything (apart from the TPA’s effectiveness), but he’s not stupid – he’s already declared his new movement will be mainstream, and reject the malign influence of the cult which is the Socialist Workers Party. He wants to build a hard-hitting but respectable movement. His problem is that almost the whole of the Left has now been to some extent infected by the unattractive attitudes and behaviour on display at Sussex University today. For example, here is a paid campaigner from Unite – one of the main backers of Owen’s new gang – inviting the Occupy Sussex rioters to speak from the People’s Assembly platform:


This just isn’t going to go away. Unless he and other prominent left-wingers denounce the violence and the burning that a growing number of lefties seem to fetishise, I suspect Owen’s bid to make socialism mainstream and acceptable will never leave the runway.

EU Budget: How did British MEPs vote?

Posted on March 15, 2013

The EU Budget negotiations have not run as smoothly as in previous years. In the past, the process was simple: everyone sits down, agrees to pay more cash to Brussels then off for champagne and canapes.

Then David Cameron shook things up a bit, pressing for an EU budget cut given the austerity member states are implementing. He secured an agreement with the other national leaders – which should have gone further, but was still an improvement on what went before.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament voted against the proposal. It wasn’t the final vote, but it was intended as a blocking measure to force the collected national governments to rethink their decision. The fact that various federalists in the Parliament tried to make the ballot secret – a scandalous attempt to avoid public scrutiny – shows that they know how unpopular that step is.

You would be hard-pressed in Britain to find anyone who thinks that while we are trying to save money at home, we should be paying even more to wasteful, undemocratic EU institutions. So how did British MEPs vote in our name?

Voted for the budget cut

Conservatives: Marta Andreasen, Richard Ashworth, Robert Atkins, Philip Bradbourn, Martin Callanan, Giles Chichester, Nirj Deva, Vicky Ford, Jacqueline Foster, Ashley Fox, Julie Girling, Daniel Hannan, Malcolm Harbour, Syed Kamall, Sajjad Karim, Timothy Kirkhope, Emma McClarkin, Anthea McIntyre, Jim Nicholson, Struan Stevenson, Robert Sturdy, Kay Swinburne, Charles Tannock, Geoffrey van Orden and Marina Yannakoudakis.

Labour: Michael Cashman, Mary Honeyball, David Martin, Linda McAvan, Arlene McCarthy, Brian Simpson, Catherine Stihler, and Glenis Wilmott

DUP: Diane Dodds

Ex-BNP: Andrew Brons

Voted against the budget cut

Liberal Democrats: Catherine Bearder, Philip Bennion, Chris Davies, Andrew Duff, Fiona Hall, Sarah Ludford, Edward McMillan-Scott, Rebecca Taylor and Graham Watson

UKIP: Stuart Agnew, Gerard Batten, Godfrey Bloom, Derek Clark, Nigel Farage, Roger Helmer and Mike Nattrass

Labour: Claude Moraes, Peter Skinner

Greens: Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor

Plaid Cymru: Jill Evans

BNP: Nick Griffin

So there we have it. I imagine that the Lib Dems are going to have some explaining to do, voting against the deal that their own party supported in Westminster.

As for UKIP, they are trying to rationalise away voting against a measure to save British taxpayers’ money by explaining that they want there to be no EU budget at all. That’s fine, but it isn’t a justification for voting for a bigger, more expensive Brussels right now.

As a Tory source points out, if UKIP vote this way in the final budget ballot then they may well be lining up with federalists to deliver an EU budget that grows every year…probably not the story they want to tell back home.

Is Berlusconi set to confound the pollsters?

Posted on February 25, 2013

The polls for today’s Italian General Election have been clear for quite some time. Mario Monti, the EU’s pet technocrat, was going to get a welcome kicking in a popular rejection of unaccountable, top-down government from Brussels. Silvio Berlusconi, clambering from the grave like a permatanned Dracula, was going to be roundly beaten in both Houses of Parliament by the Leftist “Common Good” coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani.

Well, it seems the pollsters shouldn’t have been so certain. Early voter samples by TV station RAI in the key battleground of Lombardy suggest that while Bersani is leading in the Lower House, Berlusconi may be on track to be the biggest political player in the Senate – meaning he will have the power to gridlock the Left’s plans. Cue all sorts of impacts on the stability of the Euro and its so-called recovery…

If RAI’s numbers are correct, and Berlusconi really is going to hold the Left to an effective draw of one house each, what has happened to make the polls so far off?

The UK General Election in 1992 holds some of the answers. The polls predicted a big win for Kinnock and the Labour Party, but on the day the Tories won out (not, arguably, to the long-term benefit of the centre right in Britain, but that’s for another day).

The explanation was simple: people lied to the pollsters.

It turned out that the human element still persists in polling – plenty of voters either wanted the Tories to win or feared the consequences of a Labour victory (or both), but were too embarrassed to tell a stranger from a polling company “I’m voting Conservative.”

The same may have happened in Italy – quite plausibly, given the very public pillorying Berlusconi came in for after his disastrous handling of Italy’s sovereign debt. Bizarrely, that would mean that the Italian equivalent of John Major in 1992 might be Silvio Berlusconi today – not a comparison anyone ever expected to be drawn.

It seems that supporting Silvio, perhaps the world’s most consistently brash political extrovert, has become a very private matter. If his supporters have gone to the ballot box to put him back in the limelight, I doubt he’ll care about how proud or public they might be.

Bunga Bunga…

The Sun’s rebuke for Prezza

Posted on February 18, 2013

Lord Prescott loves to play the political grandee – using Twitter to imply he is setting the running for his colleagues in the Commons. Unfortunately, just like the meat in a cut-price cottage pie, the reality doesn’t necessarily match the hype.

On Saturday night, the Sun’s Dave Wooding retweeted Prezza’s message urging “every member of the Shadow Cabinet” to “think twice before writing for the Sun”, followed by two telling updates on the contents of the latest Sun on Sunday:

PrezzaWooding

Ouch…

Owen Jones is right – Britain doesn’t have enough lefty campaign groups

Posted on January 22, 2013

Owen Jones, that youthful paladin of the Left, has come up with an innovative idea: a new, left wing campaigning organisation. Why didn’t anyone think of that before?

Maybe he’s got a point – there is a total vacuum of socialist organisations in Britain. I mean, I’ve racked my brains and the only ones I can think of are:

the Socialist Workers Party, UK Uncut, Occupy, RESPECT, the TUC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, the Communist Party of Britain, the Fabian Society, Compass, the Socialist Unity Network, Socialist Resistance, Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts, Youth Fight for Jobs, the Scottish Socialist Party, Solidarity, the Socialist Party, the Stop the War Coalition, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, Coalition Against Cuts, False Economy, the Anti Academies Alliance, the Anti-Atos Alliance, Boycott Workfare, 38 Degrees, Campaign For A Fair Society, the Coalition of Resistance, the Other TaxPayers’ Alliance, the Public Services Alliance, Cuts Disgust, Defend Our NHS, the High Pay Centre, IPPR, Unite the Resistance, Right To Work, Lost Arts, the Labour Representation Committee, Queer Resistance, Tax Justice Network, the Fawcett Society, Left Unity, Women Against the Cuts and of course Owen’s own think tank “CLASS”.

With such a shortage of organisations, it’s clear that what Britain really needs is a new left wing outfit.

As Owen says, “it is a mystery that such a network does not already exist”. I guess it would do, if it wasn’t for all the splitters

UKIP’s Ollyshambles has serious consequences

Posted on January 09, 2013

UKIP’s internal tensions have been obvious for some time. As the main party has gathered points in the opinion polls by picking up kneejerk reactionary positions on gay marriage and the burkha, the youth wing – Young Independence (YI) – has seen its own surge on the back of libertarian activism.

As I tweeted a month ago, after witnessing a debate on gay marriage between an old guard member and Olly Neville (a leading member of YI):

All parties – and the country at large – have that growing generational difference, particularly when it comes to the understanding of individual liberty. The test of their character is how they deal with them. And that’s where UKIP are now in big trouble.

In what some have inevitably dubbed the #Ollyshambles, Neville – who recently became the popular Chairman of Young Independence – was last night sacked from his post by the party’s leadership. His crime? He dared to disagree with them over gay marriage and on the idea that European Elections were more important than Westminster – both perfectly sensible positions for a libertarian eurosceptic to take.

So why should anyone care? After all, I hear you say, he was just the youth leader of a political party which has no Parliamentary representation. That’s true, of course, but the Neville affair does have some important ramifications for UKIP and for our wider politics.

Consider the context: UKIP are at 16% in the polls, widely touted as headed for first place in the 2014 European Elections and according to the Mail on Sunday set to deny David Cameron any chance of a General Election victory, all at a time when the EU is an increasingly important issue. Whether they convert their current polling into votes, and how they campaign matters a great deal.

The implications are numerous.

First, there’s the impact on UKIP’s effectiveness. The party’s youth wing had been signing up activist after activist from Conservative Future, based on its message of good humour and libertarian politics. That is now shattered, as the leading proponent of both is roundly duffed up. UKIP have already had resignations over the scandal, meaning they are losing energetic young activists as well as the gloss which an active youth organisation gives to a brand.

Then there’s the damage this does to UKIP’s message that it is a different kind of party, one that rejects top-down control and the enforcement of toeing the line. They have made great hay with this – look, for example, at the comments given by former CF Deputy Chair Alexandra Swann on her much-publicised defection to UKIP:

“As a member of Conservative Future, with no real power, I was monitored and forced to stick rigidly to the party line. The Tories stifle debate, and no one gets along, whereas UKIP encourage debate and they all get along fine.”

That sounded great for them at the time, but now rings extremely hollow. Small wonder Alexandra was looking rather uncomfortable on Twitter last night in the face of the news.

Given that the Conservatives allow MPs to break ranks on leaving the EU or opposing green taxes, while Labour keep Frank Field, Lord Adonis and plenty other outspoken rebels in their ranks, UKIP risk their anti-politics reputation by sacking people for simple disagreement.

Perhaps most serious for Nigel Farage is the impact this has on his own core messages about what UKIP believes. Time and again we’re told it is a libertarian party, and yet it seems that speaking your mind in favour of libertarian positions is a sackable offence.

The same goes for the question of who their leader backs or sacks. When Winston Mackenzie, the UKIP candidate in the Croydon North by-election, became the latest official representative of the party to say something horrendously bonkers by announcing that gay adoption was a form of “child abuse”, we were told that UKIP is a party that lets its people hold their own opinions.

As recently as Monday, Farage was on the Today Programme defending his troops from the Prime Minister’s allegations of oddness on the grounds that:

“…we’re eccentrics, and we tolerate eccentricity.”

So either it’s acceptable “eccentricity” to insult gay people, but unacceptable to suggest they should be allowed to marry, or this is an overnight change of position. If it’s the former, then that’s pretty horrendous. If it’s a change of position,  presumably UKIP will now sack anyone who breaks from any policy at all. That would be awkward for them, given a) the tendency of their candidates and MEPs to do so and b) the fact that Nigel Farage himself has publicly gone on record as opposing their policy on drugs.

Next time (and there will be a next time) a UKIPper says something genuinely awful, how will Farage fight off the demands to sack him or her?

All in all, this is a pretty mess: young activists alienated, a libertarian and anti-politics reputation fundamentally undermined, and a total inconsistence with their own leader’s attitude to sacking and policy cohesion. Anyone acquainted with the history of UKIP will know that they are no strangers to arbitrary purges – indeed, they are probably the only political party with far more ex-members than members. It’s fair to say a return to that bloody heritage is not the road to political success.

2012 may have been UKIP’s year to party, but the Ollyshambles suggests 2013 may be the year of the hangover.

How high taxes killed our belief in helping others

Posted on January 08, 2013

When all factual and economic arguments have failed, Britain’s proponents of high taxes fall back upon philosophical justifications for their position. “Tax is the thing that makes us civilised”, they declare, “It brings us together as a society”.

Such arguments are dragged out to perform again and again, like those 1960s pop acts who were fleeced of their retirement pots by unscrupulous managers. Of course, there’s no actual evidence for them – that’s the point, they are declarations of conveniently unmeasurable truths.

But even such intangible claims are starting to look shaky. As the debate about cutting benefits for the better off intensifies, it is increasingly clear that high taxation has killed our national sense of helping others, of the well to do making sacrifices to help those less fortunate than themselves.

Just look at the row over Child Benefit. There was a time when people recognised that if they earned a good salary, they didn’t really need welfare to top up their income – whereas others who were barely getting by did.

Now, the letters pages and radio phone ins communicate a very different world view. Those who have been squeezed over and over again by successive Chancellors grabbing at their earnings, their savings, their pensions, their petrol bills and their pasties want something back in return. The idea that just because they might be earning £50,000 a year then they shouldn’t get Child Benefit enrages large numbers of people – the payment is one of the few things they get back from the large amounts they have to pay to the Exchequer.

That is a remarkable shift from the widespread sense of “middle class oblige” that once existed to the far less attractive sight of well-heeled parents defending their right to be welfare recipients.

But people who want to hang onto their payments cannot be blamed for feeling that way. It’s a natural reaction to want to get at least a bit back when you are shelling out a small fortune every year through constant, multiple taxation. It is our politicians, and particularly the high tax lobby, who are responsible for the near-total erosion of that sense of sacrifice for the greater good.

Of course it is an absurdity to pay welfare benefits to the well-off. It is a perverse interpretation of a welfare state that was intended as a safety net – particularly at a time when there are plenty of families who can only dream of earning £50,000 a year. Worse, it means cycling cash through a wasteful tax collection and benefits payment system, only to return some of it to the pocket where it originated.

The welfare bill must be brought down, and the just way to do that is to withdraw benefits from those who need them least. High taxation has driven out the sense of responsibility which would once have made that the obvious and natural thing to do for most Britons. Far from making us “civilised” or “bringing us together”, overfeeding the tax man has made us selfish. Taking more and more money from workers has made them grip what they have left all the tighter.

The moral case against high taxes must be made or – counter-intuitive as it may seem – the moral case for helping others will continue to fall on deaf ears.

Some things change – but Prezza stays the same

Posted on January 07, 2013

A new year heralds change – 2013 will see new heights of human achievement, new lows of tragedy, new inventions and discoveries, new works of art and new ways to move the spirit.

What it will not see, it seems, is a new commitment to accuracy from John Prescott. In the history of scientific endeavour, few leopards have been discovered with less changeable spots.

This morning the good Lord – turned Sunday Mirror columnist – tweeted:

Unfortunately for Prezza, that photo – much used by the lefty twitterati in recent months – is from September 2004, as reported here.

That means the bubbly was being delivered not to George Osborne or his Coalition colleagues but to Gordon Brown, at a time when John Prescott was Deputy Prime Minister. Either Prezza knows the photo is from the wrong administration and is deliberately misleading his 167,000 Twitter followers, or he has mistakenly picked it up from somewhere else.

Let’s be charitable and assume it’s the latter. The only recent, mainstream use of the picture was in the Daily Mail last year, accompanying a story that the Chancellor intends to introduce a green tax on chilled champagne. The tax will supposedly be called the “Thermal Reduction Initiative (Champagne)”, or “TRIC”. Published under the byline “Pru Cremier”, the story was published on…April the 1st.

Oh dear, John.

Lord Snape: Murdoch worse than Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot…

Posted on December 07, 2012

The hyperbole of anti-Murdoch campaigners has reached truly titanic proportions in the last couple of years. Every time you think they’ve outdone themselves there’s always someone willing to go that bit further over the top.

Today’s frothingly bonkers accusation comes from the Hogwarts-sounding Lord Snape, formerly Peter Snape MP, in an interview with Total Politics. Taking a four mile run-up before vaulting the dizzyingly high absurdity bar, he declares:

“…Rupert Murdoch: he’s done more damage to democracy around the world than any dictator or general in my lifetime.”

That’s a rather bold declaration, particularly considering Snape was born in, er, 1942.

Just in case he’s forgotten which dictators have been around since he was born, here’s a handy checklist of some of the most notable for the good Lord to assess the accuracy of his claim.

Tick as appropriate. Has Rupert Murdoch done more damage to democracy than….?

☐ Stalin

☐ Pol Pot

☐ Chairman Mao

☐ Gaddafi

☐ Mussolini

☐ Kim Jong Il

☐ Ceausescu

☐ Mugabe

Or, finally, the arguing-on-the-internet classic:

☐ Hitler

The irony, of course, is that it is Rupert Murdoch’s detractors that accuse him of scare-mongering and over-the-top rhetoric. Perhaps Lord Snape could let us know when Murdoch initiates the Blitz, establishes Gulags, reopens the Killing Fields and/or invades Poland.