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.
Yesterday, the civil service PCS union went on strike – in a predictable, if unsuccessful, attempt to hijack Budget day for their own publicity.
The slogans were hackneyed, the reasons were predictable. “Get the Tories out”, “General Strike Now” declared the placards while PCS leader Mark Serwotka proclaimed that they were starting a fightback to get more pay and preserve gold-plated pensions, regardless of the fiscal mess the country is in.
Strangely, Serwotka didn’t seem keen to discuss his own pay (£88,675) or pension (£26,159 in annual contributions, the same as the average British worker’s annual wage).
Hypocrisy at the top wasn’t the only travesty, though. Despite all the rhetoric about striking against Government policies, or to “get the Tories out”, the PCS’ own website revealed who the union was really hitting: the public.
Their live blog of the strike openly crows about their success in letting down the 99% whom they claim to have solidarity with. Here are just a few extracts:
09.13 Business in the [Welsh] National Assembly has been severely curtailed today because of the effects of the strike.
09.45…we’ve had some superb strike news from DWP Jobcentre members across the country.
- 75% out at Horsham JCP
- 85% out at Haywards Heath JCP
- 90% members out at Watercourt site in Nottingham
- 100 Members on strike at Airdrie JCP, Lanarkshire. Signs up to say the office is closed.
- 97% members of Brighton out on strike. 20 on picket and more joining all the time. Supported by Caroline Lucas MP, various councillors, Socialist Party Brighton Benefits Campaign and unemployed centres.
- 95% are on strike and ten pickets in place at Folkestone Jobcentre.
10:15 Some news from HMRC offices around the country:
- 90% support for strike at Dorchester House, Belfast. Support from NIPSA staff and Socialist Party.
- 85% out at Dorset Harbourside Branch
- 80% on strike in Greater Manchester
- 70% on strike at Ralli Quays
- Over 80% out at Merry Hill contact centre
11.13 Strikers celebrating a very succesful morning at the National Gallery which has resulted in a number of galleries and rooms having to close.
Rep Candy Udwin said: “Large school parties have been turned away because they don’t have enough staff to keep them open.”
11.43 Three out of 14 court rooms open at Preston Crown Court.
12.30 The Tate in Livepool has been closed by the strike
12.48 HMRC – 92% out at Portmadog so the office is closed and there is no Welsh language service today.
15.13 ARMs member David W took part in a ‘Guinness Book of Records’ challenge to see how many HMRC Offices he could phone in two, one-hour sessions (AM and PM) following a suggestion made by one of the group members.
“I reckon it could be fun and of course when I am asked what my enquiry is I shall say something like: “Why are you working while your colleagues are out on strike fighting your battle for you?”
Given that only three days ago MPs criticised HMRC for letting down the public by failing to answer 80% of calls promptly, it’s surely wrong that the PCS – who claim to be on the side of ordinary people – are urging anti-cuts activists to clog the lines with prank calls attacking the workers who actually turned up to serve the public.
By my count, the above list shows the people actually affected by this strike were: unemployed jobseekers, victims of crime, schoolkids hoping to learn about art and taxpayers phoning HMRC to resolve their problems.
It might be great fun for Serwotka and his mates to have a day off and do some shouting, but I doubt the ordinary people let down by them agree the strike action is “superb”.
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…
It is easy, as they say, to start believing your own spin. Perhaps in time such a disease creeps over everyone in the public eye, as they increasingly come to live up (or down) to the shorthand summary of themselves which they once invented for marketing purposes.
Whether it comes for us all or not, it has certainly come for the Guardian’s George Monbiot. Two weeks ago, George tweeted this:
The head of a bank famously kept a pike in a tank in his office and would feed it live goldfish. Can anyone remember who it was? Thanks.
— GeorgeMonbiot (@GeorgeMonbiot) September 28, 2012
The immediate reaction was to point out that if you can’t remember who did it, it obviously wasn’t that “famous”.
However, weeks have now passed, and the name of this wicked “head of a bank” still hasn’t emerged. Not one of Monbiot’s 52,281 twitter followers could name him, and the article which he presumably intended to use the anecdote has yet to appear.
For that matter, fish-keeping friends tell me that the size of a tank you’d need in order to keep a pike would be umanageably huge.
Could it be that this “famous”, Bond-villain, “head of a bank” didn’t in fact exist? Could it be – whisper it – that George Monbiot’s memory has started matching up to his view of the world, even when it didn’t actually happen?
Perhaps I’m wrong – and if anyone can find me proof of the “head of a bank [who] famously kept a pike in a tank in his office and would feed it live goldfish” then I will donate £50 to Greenpeace. I get a feeling my £50 is quite safe.
The Today Programme is no stranger to unfortunate mis-pronunciations – as Jeremy Hunt found out to his cost.
Yesterday, they ran an interesting piece by Evan Davis exploring the unity or otherwise of the Labour Party, and asking what has happened to the hardline Labour Left. As part of the package, Evan interviewed the posterboy of the Angry Young Left, Owen Jones.
I’m sure Evan meant to introduce Owen as a “columnist”, but listening to the recording here, it does sound as though it came out slightly redder than that…
There was understandable anger at the news this week that t-shirts urging people to dance on Margaret Thatcher’s grave were on sale at the TUC Congress. While disgusting, sadly it’s nothing new that the hard left have some pretty unpleasant opinions – as I’ve reported on this blog in the past.
What is more worrying is that the organisation selling the t-shirts, the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centre, is apparently taxpayer-funded and closely tied to parts of the political establishment – far from being the independent loons the media reports have so far portrayed them as.
Take the following items as evidence:
- According to the DUWC 2011 Annual Report, their Chairman is Cllr Graham Baxter MBE, the Leader of North East Derbyshire Council, who uses his introduction to the report to rail in a partisan way against the “Tory County Council”
- On page 8 of the same report, the “Fundraising” section lists money received from Bolsover District Council, North East Derbyshire District Council and Chesterfield Borough Council, as well as grants from no less than 11 County Councillors
- The Summer 2012 edition of their “Solidarity” newsletter headlines on a new campaign launch attended by Dennis Skinner MP and Natascha Engel MP, and thanks 5 County Councillors for the allocation of their 2012 taxpayer-funded grants
The DUWC may well do a lot of valuable work – certainly you can see the potential for an organisation offering impartial advice to jobseekers. However, it seems they’ve crossed a line a long time ago from helping unemployed workers to campaigning on a party political basis in a rather unpleasant way.
Until they go back to focusing their efforts on their proper, worthwhile mission, it is surely inappropriate for them to be using taxpayers’ money for partisan campaigns.
Well, it’s back to school week, and it appears the lefty Maggie-bashers among our teaching community are hard at work already. Tom Chapman, the Deputy Chairman of Leicestershire South CF, spotted this poster go up at his school in Leicestershire:
It’s an exam guide, themed around a pretty vicious attack on Margaret Thatcher – nice to see our schools aren’t pumping kids full of political propaganda.
The photo quality isn’t great, so if you can’t read it here is a handy summary of what it says around the Margaret Thatcher cartoon:
Meet Maggie the Evil Examiner
Don’t forget to PEE her off
To really get under her skin use the PEE chain. Make a POINT, give your EVIDENCE, and then EXPLAIN yourself!
Maggie is obsessed with key words so make sure every answer has them!
The Milk Snatcher
Maggie actually hates children so ruin her day by writing an excellent set of exams!
Do you measure up?
Maggie actually uses a ruler to measure your answers so make sure you write enough for each question.
Maggie the cynic!
Maggie trusts nobody. This means that you must use examples in your answer to prove you are right.
Maggie cheated on her exams and is really quite thick. This means that you have to explain everything to her. Write idiot proof sentences.
Aside from the poor writing, and the questionable approach of teaching kids contempt for their examiners rather than simply how to do well, this is an outrageous piece of nakedly political propaganda. By what right do lefty teachers tell children that one of our greatest Prime Ministers is “evil” and “thick”, “hates children” and “cheated on her exams”?
Is it too much to ask that children are taught facts rather than hatred?
The politics of the Far Left is like a lava lamp – pointless, out of date, but still fascinating to watch. The arrival of a Government which is starting to do something (though only starting) about the huge deficit problem has flicked the switch, and the Left is bubbling away again in the most interesting way.
At the minute, pressure seems to be building for a leftist coup within the NUS – to throw out current President Aaron Porter and replace him with someone even worse. For those of us in the real world, who have long despaired at the absurdity and insanity of NUS politics, it is easy to forget that in the eyes of the loony Left, Porter and other recent so-called student leaders are “right wing”. (Check out this interesting piece at Left Futures for a bit of an insight.)
The SWP and the usual nutjobs have played quite a clever game – by accident or design. By turning the student protests from mass lobbies of Parliament into violent riots, they first brought Porter under pressure from the mainstream media and wider, law-abiding society.
Now, they are demanding that he back their extremism by supporting further protests, or be sacked. For reasons that are obvious to any sane and civilised person, Porter is loathe to lend his or the NUS’s institutional backing to protests that – on previous form – are likely to descend into riots.
That’s the right – indeed, the only – decision. However, it may well cost him his job.
The intriguing question will be who will take over, and who they will be representing. This wouldn’t be a move from a representative, mainstream NUS to a loony lefty one. It is already an unrepresentative, loony, lefty body – the question is whether it is about to become a lot more loony – and a lot more violent.
You could call this the fire extinguisher test: for all his other, manifold sins, Porter thinks that it was wrong and criminal for Edward Woollard to throw that fire extinguisher off the top of Millbank. If the hard Left take over, Porter’s successor could well be someone who thinks Woollard was a hero and that more people should behave in the same way. If that happens, it won’t be pretty.