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.
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:
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”.
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…
Steve Baker MP, one of the libertarians on the green benches, has an interesting report over at the Commentator about the BBC. He has complained to the Corporation that a recent BBC News piece about the ways in which China’s murderous totalitarianism is supposedly superior to democracy neglected to mention that the author, Martin Jacques, was formerly a senior figure in the Communist Party.
Needless to say, Auntie replied to say that she sees no reason why it might be misleading to portray Jacques simply as an “economist”, with no mention of his political affiliations.
Steve’s article is worth a read – and I suspect this won’t be the last we’ll hear of the case.
Furthermore, it seems Martin Jacques isn’t the only fan of communist revolutionaries who walks the BBC’s corridors.
Newsnight’s famously lefty Economics Editor, Paul Mason, was tweeting away earlier this week celebrating the fact that moving the Beeb’s HQ to the West End meant the arrival of “6000 unionised media workers…in Soho” would push the media world to the Left.
His comparison of choice was to call New Broadcasting House the “Putilov Factory of [the] media economy” – after the St Petersburg factory widely credited as the hub from which communist ideas spread in the run-up to the Russian Revolution.
It’s a slightly odd choice of heroes to worship – we’d best hope that the impact he hopes the NUJ will have on London’s media won’t be as negative as the impact the Putilovites had on long-suffering Russians.
For that matter, let’s hope the Beeboids don’t suffer the same fate as their Putilov predecessors. Having sparked the revolution, the factory’s workers soon became disillusioned and denounced the Soviet state as a “dictatorship”.
Their reward for criticising the masters they put into power was for 200 of them to be executed by Lenin’s secret police. Perhaps the BBC’s Bolsheviks should be careful what they wish for.
It can’t be easy being Laurie Penny.
For a start, being the self-appointed voice of the young must be a heavy responsibility – particularly when so many of the young keep thinking things you don’t agree with.
Then there’s the difficulty of carving out a media career in New York, a place somewhat less vulnerable to the British Left’s obsession with appointing new Messiahs of the Media every 6 months or so.
Even when you give in to the temptation to abandon your RiotGrrl anti-paternalism and write a traffic-hunting piece swooning over a Hollywood star who, you claim, saved you from death-by-traffic, irritating bloggers crop up pointing out that your story bears remarkable similarities to the plot of a Natalie Portman film.
Now, having inherited the seat left vacant by Johann Hari’s ignominious demise as the previous pen-wielding star of the young left, people start snooping around suggesting you have perhaps polished reality or even made things up to fit your articles. There’s even a hashtag, #pennygate, set up a couple of weeks ago by the guy who brought Hari down.
I must confess that as all of these things pile up, I can’t get too excited about whether Laurie is the new Johann or not. There is speculation, there are undoubtedly people hunting through her past works for fabrications or plagiarism, and who knows if they will find anything.
It’s true that Laurie is almost unique among journalists in always happening to overhear the quote that perfectly and precisely proves her point, regardless of whether she’s in the middle of a riot, trapped in an alley by the EDL or having her bum pinched on a sweaty dance floor. Indeed, I questioned a couple of years ago whether all of her quotes, which tend to read like a poor Grange Hill script, are genuine. Maybe she’s just immensely lucky, all the time; maybe she has remarkable hearing superior to that of ordinary humans; or maybe there’s something more scandalous to it.
It would be interesting to know, but even if the worst was proved it would not be the most fundamental problem with her journalism.
The problem with Laurie is far more important than that.
Laurie’s journalism is flawed because of her worldview.
There’s nothing wrong with biased journalism. Whether you read the original gonzo journalists or, you believe truly balanced journalism is an impossibility, bias has plenty going for it. It is human nature.
Laurie’s worldview suffers not because it is biased, but because it is so hypocritical and so inconsistent.
For an investigative commentator who paints a picture of herself as a kind of war correspondent on the streets of London and New York, she has a remarkable dedication to double think. On Planet Penny, everything is a bit topsy turvy.
Those who loot shops are excused, having been forced into their crime by a wicked society; those who go to work or stay at home watching TV are bad, and by daring to enjoy the fruits of their own labour are personally responsible for forcing those looters to nick flat screen TVs.
Those who use violence against the police are protecting themselves and epitomising the beautiful flame of youthful rebellion; those policemen who hit back are not protecting themselves or others, they are simply autobots carrying out the personal orders of David Cameron/Rupert Murdoch/Andy Coulson to smash what is beautiful.
Those who are on the Left are well informed, have made their own minds up and base everything on evidence; those on the Right just think what they are told by their parents and have obviously never read any history. At worst, the Left are just keen on serving good; at best, the Right are genetically incapable of disobeying the master class.
Those are just some of the peculiar distortions that she embeds in her work. We can also consider the factual distortions inherent in her argument.
Take, for example, the idea that the West is at war with itself. To read Laurie’s work, you’d think every family is riven by violent generational hatred, every student is planning the downfall of the state, every relationship is one of power struggles, and every Primark lies empty because its ethos is so corrosive to the human soul that anyone entering a shop immediately tears at the hair and vomits uncontrollably.
This is, put simply, balls.
But you knew that, because you only need to hold up Laurie’s picture of the world next to the reality that you see every day to realise there is a remarkable discrepancy between the two. As much as she may hate the idea, most families are pretty happy, most people would like a successful career, most consumers enjoy the ability to buy new ipods or to prettify their house. Whisper it, most people are even willing to believe that their partners really do love them, rather than viewing them as foreign ambassadors negotiating a temporary inter-gender armistice.
I suppose it must be deeply frustrating to have to struggle every day to uphold an ideology that, no matter how strongly you promote it, keeps running up against inconvenient fundamental human emotions like aspiration, pleasure, loving one’s family and that kind of thing. Laurie has let that frustration disconnect her writing from reality.
In short, the problem with Laurie isn’t that some of her reported quotes or experiences may (allegedly) be untrue. It’s that all the things she asserts so strongly about human nature are untrue – and no journalism course can set that right.
Unions are set to go on a mass walkout tomorrow in the name of protecting the status quo – a status quo in which public sector workers with better salaries and better pensions are subsidised by prviate sector workers who earn less and get poorer pensions. Tomorrow the nation’s lucky few will be striking and marching for the right to be permanently propped up by struggling masses worse off than them.
Conveniently the RMT, one of Britain’s most extreme defenders of systemic public sector privilege and the voice of well-paid tube drivers everywhere, have a poll on their website, asking:
Should public sector workers take strike action to protect their pension entitlements?
The results already stand at 53% No, 45% Yes, so it’s not looking good for Big Bad Bob Crow. Let’s give it a helping hand – cast your No vote here (it’s on the top right of the RMT site), and help drive the message home.
The Trade Unions are large-scale consumers of taxpayers’ money. They eat tens of millions of pounds on the supposed basis that they are strapped for cash and ordinary taxpayers somehow have a responsibility to pay for their political campaigning and fat cat bosses. In 2009/10 their subsidies totalled a remarkable £85.8 million of taxpayers’ money.
But are they really so hard-up that they need the public to be forced to bolster their funding?
The GMB, for one, apparently has plenty of cash going spare. It turns out that they sponsor their own, err, Ice Hockey team – the Nottingham Panthers. Or, to give them their full and official title the GMB Nottingham Panthers.
What public good does it serve for the GMB to splash cash in this way? For that matter, how does it serve their members to dish out sports sponsorhip?
If they can afford to become the name and shirt sponsor for a sports team, then they clearly don’t need so much support from the ordinary taxpayers of this country.
Of course, in return for their subsidy from hard-working taxpayers, the GMB is repaying us by going on strike on 30th November.
Any GMB members unsure to do with this extra day off need not worry, though – they can always go to see their pet team the GMB Nottingham Panthers play away against Cardiff Devils on the same day…
Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present the first video venture from CrashBangWallace.com. It explores all the things Ken Livingstone should be – but isn’t – sorry for from his terms as Mayor of London. Ken ne regrette rien…
Appropriately, Ken’s been shooting his mouth off again recently – this time telling LondonlovesBusiness.com that it’s ok that he’s matey with Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the extremist preacher who argues violence against Israel is justified. In fact, is there anything Ken has done that he’s ever said sorry for?
This is a man who drove Londoners’ council tax through the roof, ditched City Hall’s reputation into the gutter and “reached out” to Islamist extremists in an official capacity. Why should anyone give him another chance to do it all again?
I’m back from holiday, so it’s a return to service as usual.
The row over taxpayer-funded Trade Unions has grown steadily over the last few months, particularly as the unions have greedily clung onto their subsidies for non-front line activities that often stray into political activism while other areas face spending reductions.
A great example of taxpayers’ money being funnelled into unions only to be wasted has come to my attention in the form of the Creative Toolkit website launched by BECTU, the media and entertainment union. According to BECTU’s website the Creative Toolkit was funded by the Union Modernisation Fund, one of the two main routes by which millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is poured into the unions.
The site is intended to campaign against unpaid internships and volunteer posts – some would say that if you want to work for free to beef up your CV you should be allowed to, while BECTU argue that it is fundamentally wrong to let anyone give labour for free, ever. We can leave that debate aside, though, and look at whether the project has delivered value for money to the taxpayers that funded it.
I don’t know how much the project and the website cost, though it’s a fairly shiny site and appears to be run by at least one BECTU member of staff. Given the profligacy of publicly funded digital projects, it’s safe to say it didn’t come cheap.
In return for our money, what impact has it had? Well, the site launched on the 10th of August, and so far it has….drumroll…58 signed up users. Including me, as well as several BECTU staff and members of their NEC.
So far there have been a mighty 7 posts made on their Community forum – of which three are from Sharon Elliott, a BECTU staffer, one is from Benetta Adams, a BECTU NEC member, and only three are from other users.
If a company had funded this, they would be furious – undoubtedly thousands of pounds spent on a campaigning website that has engaged 50 people. When will BECTU be asked to justify this taxpayer-funded failure and to give the money back? For that matter, when will taxpayer funding of trade unions cease outright?