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

Posh loner who liked poetry but not sport “obviously did it”, say media

Posted on December 31, 2010

Chris Jefferies may have committed the murder of Joanna Yeates – but as one of the fundamental principles of our legal system reminds us, he is innocent until proven guilty. It’s become a tradition in these cases for the media to indulge in heavy handed, nudge-nudge wink-wink implication when reporting the arrest of someone even before any charges have been brought.

Recall the case of the Ipswich Ripper, who murdered five women in 2006. The case is still notorious, but most of us have forgotten about Tom Stephens, the innocent but extremely odd man arrested wrongly for the crime spree. As soon as his name was revealed, numerous outlets started heaping increasingly peculiar implications on him – normally using anonymous comments from neighbours an acquaintances.

The most bizarre of these, which I remember made me laugh out loud at the time, was that he had been “digging in his garden with a small trowel“.

The smear was that if he was digging, he must have been burying something (or someone). In reality, of course, if digging ones garden with a small trowel was a crime then millions would be detained every Sunday afternoon and the panellists of Gardeners’ Question Time are veritable Moriartys.

The same is happening to Chris Jefferies. I am not attempting to go on some crusade to clear his name – for all I know, he may well be guilty. The police may know more that persuades them of this. What is certain is that the media do not, but are engaging in trial-by-tittle-tattle all the same.

Here are a choice selection of some of the reports about Jefferies so far, including some recognisable classics of the genre and some really weird ones:

“Oddball” – Almost all newspapers

“He showed no interest in cars or sport” – The Mirror

“The way he pronounced words and said his sentences was also weird”…”The things he taught us were really odd, he loved old English poetry.” – Small World News Service [NB it’s not that odd to like old poetry…when you’re an English teacher]

“Campaigned for gun range and prayer books” – Daily Mail

A loner” – Almost all newspapers

very posh, a solitary figure and very cultured” – The Sun

“An only child who has never married” – Daily Mail

an active member of the local Liberal Democrats and knew the leader of Bristol city council, Barbara Janke” – The Guardian

his students remembered him for his love of the poetry of the Pre-Raphaelite poet Christina Rossetti and idiosyncratic pronunciation of place names” – The Independent

If you spot any other corkers, put them in the comments and we can build up a full innuendo collection.

Georgia to win the World Cup?

Posted on November 17, 2010

This piece in the Indie has only just come to my attention. It’s odd stuff, reporting that apparently Georgia is making a pitch to Boer farmers in South Africa to move to their country.

There are all sorts of intriguing political, demographic and cultural implications of this, but to explore those would be to miss the point. The most crucial impact would surely be on the world of rugby – if this goes ahead, would it mean that Georgia’s notoriously hulking forwards would be paired up with some of those lightning-fast Springbok backs?

If so, we might see a team sporting the St George’s Cross raising the Rugby World Cup – just not the one we might hope for…

How not to make the case for free speech

Posted on October 08, 2010

The Independent published a peculiar puff-piece from Prof Dennis Hayes of Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF) yesterday, purportedly on the topic of free speech. It’s part of a series to promote the Battle of Ideas being held by the Institute of Ideas, an entryist Marxist group which used to be known as the Revolutionary Communist Party.

In a messy, meandering article he rightly accused the Left of “suffering from intellectual amnesia about the attack on liberty that happened under New Labour.” However, having pointed out the Left’s failure, he goes on to launch a bizarre attack on the Right’s most successful promotion of free speech in recent years – the Freedom Zone.

“The best role the state can play in this is to keep out of the way entirely. It should not interfere by seeking to promote debate in ‘Freedom Zones’ that feature at the Tory Party conference as these, like Hyde Park Corner, run the danger of turning free speech into an irrelevant entertainment.”

This is weird for several reasons.

First, there has never been any question of “the state” promoting or indeed having anything to do with the Freedom Zone. It’s a merrily anti-establishment event from The Freedom Association which offers a popular alternative to the tightly controlled conference hall.

Second, in the same piece he lavishes praise on the largely leftist Convention of Modern Liberty. What, I wonder is the difference between the two that makes the CML “very successful” but the Freedom Zone “irrelevant entertainment”? If anything, the CML was a flash in the pan which its organisers sadly never bothered to repeat – whilst the Freedom Zone has been growing for three years and will next year branch out to the other conferences.

Most amusingly, if Hayes reckons the Freedom Zone is such a “danger” to free speech, he should probably tell his host and ally at the Battle of Ideas, Claire Fox, who…erm….spoke at the Zone on Monday.

I am delighted to support the free speech of Academics for Academic Freedom, the Institute of Ideas, Prof Dennis Hayes and indeed anyone else – and I’m sure the Freedom Association holds the same view. Prof Dennis Hayes, on the other hand, seems to think it’s consistent with free speech to attack the Freedom Zone as dangerous.

Which of those two views, do you reckon, is actually a “danger” to freedom?

Where are the anti-EU, pro-death penalty, Cannabis legalising MPs?

Posted on August 08, 2010

On the back of a piece in the Independent by Sean O’Grady, Conservative Home’s Jonathan Isaby asks “Should we care that the social background of the Government is unrepresentative of the country at large?”

My answer would, of course, be no – I don’t think you should be judged more or less suitable to govern the country due to your gender, skin colour or sexuality.

What I do think should worry us is the fact that Westminster is so devastatingly unrepresentative of the country at large politically.

We live in a nation that now has majority opposition to EU membership, oft-cited majority support for the death penalty for the most unpleasant offences, overwhelming enthusiasm for tougher sentencing, strong majority support for the legalisation of cannabis and extremely high levels of concern about the rate of immigration.

Where are those views represented in Westminster? Most of them are treated as fringe opinions that only a few MPs openly support.

It is irrelevant whether the political class have the right appearance, sexual interests or accents to represent the nation – but it is of the utmost importance that they represent the views of the people.

Amid all the hullabaloo about quotas and so-called “positive” discrimination being essential to produce a socially representative Parliament, one almost never hears those who make that case express any concern about the failure in political representation.

The fact is that those who argue most strongly for enforced social representativeness in Parliament are themselves almost totally unrepresentative of the nation politically. Would Sean O’Grady, I wonder, support quotas to ensure that the majority of MPs, like the majority of the public, were anti-EU or in favour of the execution of those who rape and kill children? I suspect not.