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.
There has, by now, been more written about Margaret Thatcher than anyone can possibly read. Some of it is fantastic. Some of it is wicked. Much of it is more about the myths, good and bad, than it is about the actual political leader.
I don’t intend to add at great length to the reams of discussion already produced, but it seems to me that perhaps her longest-lasting impact has been neglected. Indeed, it is so long-lasting that it is yet to fully play out, even now.
Margaret Thatcher changed the Right from a reactionary movement into a revolutionary one. She embraced the crucial realisation that institutions and traditions are not inherently right, and embedded elites are almost always inherently wrong.
She was not afraid to tear up conventions and topple mouldering monoliths to pass opportunities and rights to the masses.
The traditional and aristocratic elites in her party hated her for it. So did the bosses who had grown fat on inefficient state industries, where failure was something to be managed, not eradicated. The millions who had suffered the result of symbiotic, comfortable relationships between the trade unions and the conservatives who contented themselves with a top deck cabin on Britain’s sinking ship, cheered her on.
It is easy now to imagine she was one of the establishment, by simple virtue of having been in Government for 11 years. But she wasn’t – she entered Parliament against bigotry over her class and gender, and she faced exactly the same bigotry (from all sides) once she got there. Small wonder that she liked plain-speaking grammar school boys more than aristocrats with land and estates.
A marvellous note survives from ICI’s personnel department, on the rejection of her application to be a research chemist in 1948. It reads: “This woman is headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated.” In the view of ICI, she didn’t know her place, she dared to speak her mind and she was therefore a threat to their established order.
They were right – if wrong to reject rather than recruit her as a result. She came to bury the elite, not to praise or preserve it.
In her time, she had successes and failures, as all politicians do. It was certainly not the case that everything she did fitted the revolutionary ideal that I’ve just laid out – and nor did all of the revolutionary steps that she wished for come to pass.
But in having the realisation that conserving what came before is not enough, she changed the direction of centre right thinking. She was no libertarian, but she set the tone for the British Right to wake up to libertarianism.
The practical results of her time in power were positive overall. There were many ways they could have been improved, but it is undeniable that she revolutionised Britain. The way she changed the course of our thinking in the coming decades, though, will eventually come to outweigh even the way she changed our lives, our rights and our economy in the decade she made her own.
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:
If things turn nasty at Sussex Uni on Monday it definitely won’t be because of posters like this, oh no. twitter.com/cjsnowdon/stat…
— Christopher Snowdon (@cjsnowdon) March 22, 2013
And, lo, it came to pass. What started with the usual pompous slogans…
— occupy_sussex (@occupy_sussex) March 25, 2013
…moved on to smashing up University buildings…
— The Badger (@TheBadgerNews) March 25, 2013
…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:
— Ellie Mae O’Hagan (@MissEllieMae) March 25, 2013
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.
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”.
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.
It can’t be easy trying to make the BNP look youthful and relevant. After all, Gangnam Style isn’t rapped in English, the Harlem Shake comes from a nation almost entirely made up of immigrants and even though One Direction’s name implies they might advocate a totalitarian focus on national unity, in reality they are so anti-Aryan they’re currently engaged in publicly murdering Blondie.
This is presumably the reason Griffin’s barmy outfit always come full-circle to the same idea: organise a media interview with whichever fresh-faced youth leader is the most latest to do the solo in “Tomorrow Belongs To Me”.
And so it has come to pass. The latest, err, Great White Hope is Jack Buckby – who, judging from his photo, has finally brought hipsters and political loons together in their shared love of lapel pin-badges. The chosen publication is Vice magazine, who have picked up several fascinating features in the last few weeks.
As usual, the interview starts off with hair-splitting. He’s not a fascist, or a racist, he’s a “culturist”:
In essence, culturism is the opposite of multi-culturalism. So it believes that diversity can only exist with culturism, because multi-culturalism doesn’t promote diversity, it brings too many cultures together and creates a world where every country is the same.
Ok. So “culturism” believes in diversity but opposes diversity when it means, you know, a diverse range of people being in the same place?
Diversity is ensuring that all national identities are preserved so that there’s a diverse range of cultures across the world, rather than them being pushed into borders.
Ah, right. So “culturism” is in fact true diversity because they’re talking about cultures being extremely diverse – in a geographical way. A wide range of people in the literal sense of their being wide, open ranges between them.
And what are the indicators of which culture someone is from? The food, music or God they prefer? The clothes they wear? The passport they hold, or the cricket team they support?
I grew up in an area that I think is about 97.8 percent white; it’s quite a British area.
Currently there’s this idea that the BNP is racist, as I’m sure you know. I don’t believe that.
Where have people got such a silly idea from?
I just believe that every country should be populated predominantly by its own people. I do believe in the racial aspect of that.
Aaaaand the wheels have fallen off the clown car, just as the audience knew they would.
Indeed, as Tim Stanley points out poor Jack has even posted a video of himself online about “culturism” being a “spin” rebranding of the same, old ideology. Outing yourself as a fascist who is pretending otherwise is quite impressively stupid.
There’s a cringe-comedy element every time the BNP puts a youth leader in front of a journalist. I doubt they’d appreciate the comparison, but it’s like Meet The Fokkers (with fewer jews in the cast, for obvious reasons). It doesn’t matter how long they walk the tightrope of distinguish racism from disliking people of other races, it doesn’t matter how many times they manage to recite whatever new name they’ve come up with for their position, eventually the inevitable prat-fall occurs.
It’s as though the urge to tell everyone just how dapper armbands look and espouse the economic benefits of remilitarising the Rhineland is just too great to resist.
In fact, that’s almost exactly what one of Jack Buckby’s ill-fated predecessors did in a memorable interview a few years back. In 2002, Mark Collett was Nick Griffin’s chosen mini-me, and explained at length to Channel 4 why the BNP aren’t racist, before helpfully explaining that:
National Socialism was the best solution for the German people in the 1930s. I honestly can’t understand how a man who’s seen the inner city hell of Britain today can’t look back on that era [Hitler's Germany] with a certain nostalgia and think yeah, those people marching through the streets and all those happy people out in the streets, you know, saluting and everything, was a bad thing. Honestly now, would you prefer your kid growing up in Oldham and Burnley or 1930s Germany? It would be better for your child to grow up there.
Ooh and the boots were so shiny, weren’t they?
This video of George Galloway’s outright refusal to talk to an Israeli student purely on the grounds of his nationality has been doing the rounds today:
As a follow-up, I have a proposal: George Galloway Buckaroo.
The game is simple. It has three steps:
1) When you see George Galloway, adopt a big smile, let out a welcoming cry of “George! How are you?”, and offer a handshake.
2) Once you’re shaking his hand, announce “This must be weird for you, shaking the hand of an Israeli like this.”
3) Hang on for dear life. The longer the shake, the more points you get – and the greater the satisfaction of putting a bigot on the spot.
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…
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.
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:
Coalition prepares to mark mid-term review twitter.com/johnprescott/s…
— John Prescott (@johnprescott) January 7, 2013
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.