Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Never Mind The Pidcocks

I promised Blessed Ronan Dodds that I would light a candle at his altar by using that headline. I have now done so.

I have never said that Laura Pidcock ought never to become the Member of Parliament for anywhere, ever, by any means.

But she ought not to become the Member of Parliament for North West Durham, in 2017, by decree of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party and by use of an all-women shortlist.

There is no serious doubt that, even were she to be elected, then the Constituency Labour Party, left-wing though it now is, would deselect her for the Marxist, radical feminist, and zealously anti-Catholic views that would have been moderated and modified by 10 years in one or more middle-ranking positions.

Furthermore, she walked out of the Teaching Assistants' Solidarity Rally when a speaker from this constituency rightly called for a vote against all Labour candidates at what were then the forthcoming elections to Durham County Council.

Had that strategy been properly adopted and applied, then Labour would have lost control of that council, and the need to punish that party would therefore no longer obtain.

As it is, however, it remains absolutely imperative, both to re-elect Grahame Morris at Easington, and to defeat all other Labour parliamentary candidates in County Durham.

Here in North West Durham, we have the privilege of being able to vote for Owen Temple, who is, with Alex Watson, one of the two members of Durham County Council to have done the most for the Teaching Assistants, and the only parliamentary candidate to have had an address in this constituency on the day that this General Election was called.

I write this as one who longs for Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister, who agrees with almost everything in the Labour manifesto, and who agrees with almost nothing in that of Owen's party, the Liberal Democrats.

But here we are.

And people quite close to Corbyn, people who stopped the TAs from fully pursuing the correct approach to the local elections, people who are also very close to Pidcock, are very largely to blame for the fact that here we are.

Rational Insights And Values


Tragic terror attacks like that in Manchester, inspiring fear and anger, often drive voters to back the incumbent. 

It is ironic then that one of the essential long-term solutions to the terror threat lies within the foreign policy agenda articulated by leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn

In articulating his international vision at Chatham House, Corbyn went on the front foot, laying out a comprehensive vision for Britain’s place in an insecure world. 

Seeking to throw off the caricature-like branding of him as an ageing hippy, Corbyn’s approach evinced the rational thinking of a seasoned observer of global politics. 

Corbyn has been on the right side of history since he began his long political career, and his response to terrorism inspired by events in the Middle East is no different. 

Corbyn has been astute enough to realise the link between Western interventions in the Middle East and the terror threat emanating from the region. 

This is a link which is rarely discussed except in dismissive terms due to a form of right-wing political correctness. 

As such, his approach targets some of the root factors driving terror ideology and facilitating the conditions under which terror spreads.

It is also the most cost-effective method, important given the apparent lack of funds available for other policy areas like the NHS and the elderly. Corbyn opposed the ill-fated regime changes in Iraq and Libya. 

He questioned the justifications when it was unpopular to do so. He was right.

He warned of the repercussions. He was right. 

There is no longer any debate that both of these helped provide the space, motivation and chaos for extremist groups to thrive. 

Isis of course would not even exist if not for the Iraq War, and Al Qaeda would have fewer recruits. 

With regard to Libya, a 2016 report by the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee stated that the intervention was based on “erroneous assumptions”, not on accurate intelligence.

In holding these views, Corbyn is in tune with the ‘intervention fatigue’ and anti-regime change sentiment that has grown alongside the anti-establishment wave sweeping the West.

This has been harnessed by those from the far right like Le Pen and the alt right, libertarians like Rand Paul, and other maverick left-leaners like Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. 

Donald Trump himself used it as a club to beat opponents like Jeb Bush and Clinton.

Corbyn even went close to joining the dots between the refugee crisis and interventions in the Middle East, something successfully exploited by Nigel Farage. 

Even some of the staunchest supporters of expansive anti-terror laws domestically oppose continued interventionism overseas.

When addressing Chatham House, Corbyn clarified that questioning interventionism does not make him a “pacifist”, the vague but guffaw-triggering label studiously pinned on him by the mainstream media. 

Challenging the amnesia that pervades public debates over war, Corbyn provided a historical perspective including WWII, the Cold War, Vietnam, and the post-Cold War promise. 

Stating that military action, as a last resort and under international law, is sometimes necessary, he aligned with what most members of the public would consider reasonable, and what most countries officially support. 

The Labour Leader seems to understand that a multipronged approach is necessary to combat extremism, from military actions, to policing, to mental health services. 

Corbyn has also drawn attention to the double standards which undermine the West’s image around the world. 

His speech noted the inconsistency of Tory intervention enthusiasts given the party’s unwillingness to impose sanctions on apartheid South Africa, a cause which Corbyn himself was arrested while fighting for. 

He has also identified situations of mass carnage, such as Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, where intervention could have been justified but which were ignored due to vested interests. 

Throughout his speech, Corbyn included anecdotes of his travel to some of the world’s worst conflict zones, a subtle message that he’s not a social justice warrior snowflake but a man whose view is informed by seeing the real effects of war. 

The Labour leader has promised an ethical foreign policy committing not only to consistently applying human rights (which already receive much attention), but also to addressing massive levels of inequality which should garner more focus. 

Targeted and working alongside other measures, this would enhance the West’s image and further weaken the drivers that enable terror groups to garner new recruits. 

Corbyn has offered a sober, carefully considered approach to international security, free of the jingoism and political correctness that dominates this important policy area. 

Attacks at home show clearly that the status quo, spending millions on increasing security at home while spending billions on wars that spread insecurity overseas, is not working.

Just like in economic policy, Corbyn’s non-interventionist approach may be lampooned by the mainstream media but is based on rational insights and values, and increasingly reflects the views of the population.

Dr Kadira Pethiyagoda is a visiting fellow with the Brookings Institution researching Asia-Middle East relations. He writes in a personal capacity.

Out In The Open

The redoubtable Bridget Yuill writes:

I am proud to say I am a Durham Teaching Assistant. I am writing about our continuing campaign and how we organised it. It is now 20 months on since it began. 

My theme, Behind Closed Doors or Out in The Open?, indicates the difference in approach between Durham Teaching Assistants and the local council that threatens our pay. 

We have made a point of fighting our dispute before the public gaze. 

This is about why we have been so successful and how we forced Durham County Council back around the table for further discussion.

It takes a lot of guts to speak out against injustice, and we did, when we were threatened with being disciplined.

Behind Closed doors takes you to the other end of the spectrum. Durham County Council makes decisions behind closed doors, in boardrooms. 

They spoke about their attack on the TAs publicly only when pressurised and even then they were evasive. In the end, however, the truth will out. 

Behind closed doors… Briefly, the story so far: 

Since November 2015, in response to ‘legal advice’, Durham County Council (which I will refer to as DCC) voted to cut the TAs’ pay by 23%, taking our salaries to well below the Labour Party’s pledge of a decent living wage of £10 per hour.

The council claimed to be responding to “legal advice” to the threat of an equalities pay claim. 

They claimed we were being paid for more hours than we worked and were paid for 52 weeks when we do not work during school holidays (we dispute this claim).

They said it was not a budget cutting exercise. But of course, as we know, school budgets are being cut in other areas. 

Moreover, DCC attacked a workforce that is 96% female, of 2700 TAs. Some of us stand to lose £4000 per year.

Behind closed doors… Rather than confront the issue, the Labour Council seemed determined to keep their decision from any kind of democratic scrutiny. 

At a DCC meeting on 9th December 2015, Owen Temple (Lib Dem Councillor) tabled a motion to withdraw the proposals to slash the pay of TAs. 

But Labour Councillors lined up speaker after speaker to run the clock down and prevent any further discussion. 

Behind closed doors… On 16 May 2016, 57 Labour Councillors voted, after very little discussion, to dismiss TAs on New Year’s Eve 2016 and rehire them New Years Day 2017 with the 23% pay cut. 

Behind closed doors… When we tried to make such savage cuts public, DCC threatened us. 

By email and by pulling individual TA’s into a room with their Headteachers, DCC tried to gag the TAs. 

They told us we could not speak to parents, that we couldn’t ask them to sign our petitions or ask them to write to their Councillors. 

We could not wear our Durham t-shirts on Council property as they were deemed inappropriate.

They warned us not to say anything on social media. They warned us not to bring the Council into disrepute. 

Early on in the dispute, even our union, Unison, agreed, issuing a bulletin telling members not to make comments on social media or the press. 

We ignored them! 

Behind closed doors… Both the council and Unison seem to prefer backroom deals to actual participation by the workers they employ or represent. 

Talks have been happening since December 2016 between the Unions and DCC, with one TA in attendance. 

But guess what? The council insisted that talks took place behind closed doors, under a signed confidentiality agreement, no less. 

Meanwhile, the majority of Durham Teaching Assistants, whilst being told progress is being made, hope to receive an offer sometime in June (but who knows?) and will then be balloted. 

Now in contrast: Out in the open… 

At a mass meeting, we elected a Committee, the County Durham Teaching Assistant Activist Committee. We immediately went about telling people of the shocking attack on our salaries. 

Out in the open… We have campaigned publicly, depending upon the activism of our workers and the fact that DCC’s position is morally indefensible. 

We have constantly organised ourselves – often against the advice of our union – and have made many allies throughout our struggle. 

The Durham TAs proudly marched at the Miners’ Gala July 2016. We were the largest group there. We followed our Durham TA flag and wore our Durham t-shirts. 

Out in the open… The Durham TAs travelled to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. We met John McDonnell, Angela Rayner and other MPs and union activists. 

Due to our Twitter pressure, we also met Dave Prentis there, which led to Unison fully backing our campaign, a crucial development. 

Out in the open… The Durham TAs spread the word by speaking at various events across the country. 

Most recently, at both the ATL National conference and the NUT National conference, we received standing ovations. 

Out in the open… A big focus has been social media – Facebook and Twitter. 

We have made contacts with various media figures, such as Ken Loach, Kevin Maguire from the Daily Mirror, and Aditya Chakrabortty from The Guardian

Chakrabortty’s article resulted in our JustGiving page raising £36,268. That article was spread across the country via Twitter and Facebook. 

We’ve had Twitterstorms and a Thunderclap which reached over 500,000 followers. I’m proud to say I am a member of the Durham TAs Twitterati – a small, select group who tweet every day.

Largely through our social media campaign, we became a national rather than simply a regional campaign. 

Out in the open… We held two lots of two-day strikes in November 2016 and noisy demos outside County Hall, where there were over 1000 people present. 

We picketed our schools, which gave us our first chance to speak to parents, who showed their full support and were shocked at the treatment meted out by DCC. 

Out in the open… The most recent march and rally was on 25th March 2017. 

This brought supporters and campaigners from across the country: from Camden, Barnet, Bolton and more. An estimated 1000 plus people attended this march. 

I was honoured to be given an opportunity to speak at this gathering. The greetings from the public as we marched was amazing and positive. 

Out in the open… We made an impact in the local elections in May. We named and shamed the 57 Cllrs who voted for our cuts.

Possibly because of this, 20 lost their seats. Councillors and MPs are now listening.

Out in the open… Durham TAs have changed forever. The actions of DCC have empowered us. Yes we are exhausted, but we will continue to fight. 

We are different people, more open, more active, less timid. We are known countrywide. We have built a solidarity that is going down in history.

Sadly, over the past year or more, the choice, even for a lifelong Labour voter like me, has been to either support the Durham Teaching Assistants or to support the Durham Labour Party. 

Do we want rule by secretive, bureaucratic and anti-democratic Councillors, or by real public democratic decision-making? 

Which is the better way?: Behind closed doors, or out in the open. 

The point is, we organised ourselves instead of waiting for the trade unions. 

We have solidarity; this was ensured by our ever increasing numbers of TAs on a closed Facebook wall. 

This is where we shared some of the conflicting information from Unison and the council, where we complained about lack of action. 

Here, we were made aware of the differing approaches to the dispute of Headteachers. 

Here, we organised our public events. No one else. 

However, I must admit that the assurance of full strike pay by Unison and ATL ensured the majority of Unison and ATL TAs came out on strike, which had a major impact. 

The strike action resulted in the suspension of our dismissal letters and DCC coming back around the table for discussions. 

How has this campaign changed me? At the age of 56, my interest in politics has been awakened. 

Prior to this campaign, I had always voted, but my energies had always been focused on my family and work. 

Boy, how that has changed. 

We are now travelling countrywide to speak out in support of other campaigns such as that against NHS cuts. 

We will not stop once our campaign is successful – and it will be. 

Having been awakened, we will not stop. 

My faith in Labour and the unions has been shaken, but my faith in humankind has increased. 

I must add my gratitude to the support of Durham Labour Left, the Durham Miners, and Durham TUC. 

Ben Sellers trained us up in social media, especially in Twitter. John Burgess of Barnet Unison has guided and supported us selflessly. Kathryn Wray and Dave Ayre have shown their support and been in attendance at every public demonstration. 

Yes, I have waited my entire adult life for this Labour manifesto. Yes, I do want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister instead of Theresa May, and I question the credibility of anyone who will not say that while professing to oppose British intervention on the Islamist side in Syria. And no, I am not at all impressed at, by or with the manifesto that has been published by the Liberal Democrats. But we elect individual Members of Parliament in this country.

What I am about to say would never have been necessary if anyone had listened to me, instead of to people who had spent their political lives on the fringes, or in other parts of the country, or both, rather than as the Secretary of Derwentside District Labour Party, as a long-serving Lanchester Parish Councillor, as a governor for a cumulative 16 years of two schools in Lanchester (one of them serving almost the entire Derwentside area), as a subagent who had secured Labour an overall majority of the total vote on a four-way split in what was then still a traditionally Conservative ward, and now as a governor of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust.

I told them that it was not only reasonable, but morally and politically obligatory, to call for the election of no Labour candidate whatever to Durham County Council on 4th May.

And then, what? A Cabinet position for every non-Labour Group and for those of no Group, with the numbers made up based on their relative size. The same for Scrutiny Chairs, obviously never mirroring the portfolios of their respective partisans. And representation on each committee and subcommittee in proportion to their numbers on the authority as a whole.

If they had paid any attention and run with "Anyone But Labour", then Labour would have lost control of Durham County Council, as very nearly happened, and we would now be dealing with whatever had come after that, made up as it would have been of our stalwart friends and allies.

In which case, it would have been possible to advocate a Labour vote without complication at the forthcoming General Election. Instead, though, with the Labour Party in County Durham still unpunished, Grahame Morris is the only Labour parliamentary candidate who deserves a vote. Indeed, he more than richly deserves it.

There is no reason to begrudge the Conservatives their victories at Bishop Auckland and at Sedgefield. What would they make any worse? They are as welcome to those seats as they are to the ones that they are also going to take from the SNP, which deserves to lose to "the TOR-ies!" as surely as does the Labour Party in County Durham.

In City of Durham, and in North Durham, make a judgement based on your local knowledge. Here in North West Durham, consider that only Owen Temple had an address in this constituency three weeks ago, and that he is tied with Alex Watson as the County Councillor who has done the most for the Teaching Assistants.

The imposed Labour candidate, Laura Pidcock, walked out of the Teaching Assistants' Solidarity Rally because a speaker, from this constituency, had dared to propose exactly the right electoral approach.

Am I a Lib Dem? Not remotely. But Owen is head and shoulders above the other candidates here. Demographically, this should never have been a safe Labour seat. The shock of losing it would be good for the local Labour Party, and making this a seat that had to be fought, as it always should have been, would be good for the constituency.

Tripoli Truths

Libya, you say?

That he turned Libya into a cesspit of al-Qaeda and IS is what makes David Cameron, in a crowded field, the worst Prime Minister of my lifetime.

Salman Abedi's parents were precisely the Islamist dissidents for whom we waged that unmitigated disaster of a war. Indeed, they have moved back to Libya as a result of it.

Although Abedi, like Khalid Masood, was born in Britain, so closed borders would have done nothing to protect us from either of them.

Hardly any MPs voted against the war in Libya. But those who did so included Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Barry Gardiner.

Theresa May, by very stark contrast, has supported every war since she became an MP in 1997. Corbyn has opposed them all, and he has been correct on every count.

First as Home Secretary and now as Prime Minister, May has also cut the Police to the bone. Not for the first time, we see the result.

The presence of the Army on our streets after all these years of "The War On Terror" is an admission of the failure of that war.

In any case, how is that presence supposed to protect anyone from a bomb attack? It is not. It is naked electioneering by a Prime Minister who, like all of her recent predecessors, has been as bad to the Armed Forces as she has been to the Police.

The ostentatious deployment of the Army is the standing contradiction of the claim that the General Election campaign has been suspended.

The saying goes that the class war never ended, it was just that one side stopped fighting back. The General Election campaign is heading the same way. Do not allow that to happen.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Claiming Responsibility

"The so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility." 

There is no meaningful distinction between that and the people to whom Donald Trump paid court on Sunday. 

Theresa May and Boris Johnson refuse to rule out intervening on its behalf in Syria, even while purporting to fight it in Iraq, a border that it has rendered meaningless.

But Jeremy Corbyn does rule that out, and he is a longstanding enemy of its Saudi mothership.

"The General Election campaign has been suspended," indeed.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Special Delivery

That of President Trump to the objects of his country's real Special Relationships.

Saudi Arabia and Israel. In that order.

How can he object to the regime in Syria, or even in Iran, while paying court to the House of Saud?

But he is not the first. Nor will he be the last.

Life Goes On

I stunned a few of the handful of counterdemonstrators against the March for Life in Birmingham on Saturday, when I told them that I had first met Jeremy Corbyn before they had been conceived.

I never did tell them that our views were exactly those of John Smith. But they would probably never have heard of him, anyway.

Nor did I mention that it had been Margaret Thatcher who had given this country abortion up to birth.

One of the several Lindsay Amendments that the next Parliament will not see (although feel free to take them up) is the following:

Nothing shall permit an abortion on the grounds that the child, if born, would:

a) be, or not be, of a particular sex;
b) be, or not be, of a particular race or ethnicity;
c) be, or not be, of a particular social class;
d) be, or not be, of a particular caste or subcaste;
e) have, or not have, a particular sexual orientation; or
f) have, or not have, a particular gender identity.

The first four certainly go on.

Caste is an important test of Theresa May's sincerity.

To court certain ethnic votes and foreign interests, David Cameron re-legalised caste-based discrimination after the previous Labour Government had outlawed it.

Yes, you did read that correctly.

An attempt to restore that ban needs to be brought to the floor of the House of Commons as soon as there is any such House.

Weak and Wobbly

Ignore the whole of the Conservative manifesto, then.

That is a pity, because there are some good things in it, as well as some very, very bad ones.

"We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We believe not just in society but in the good that government can do. Paying your fair share of tax is the price of living in a civilised society."

Jeremy Corbyn, who really does believe that, needs to recite it word for word, and then reiterate commitments such as the post-Brexit fund to reduce regional inequalities, a commitment that Theresa May cannot now be trusted to honour.

As for Corbyn and the IRA, everyone has always known about that. It has already been rehearsed many times. Except in the part of the country where you cannot vote Labour anyway (and you are most unlikely to vote Conservative, either), you now have to be pretty old to care about it awfully much, if at all.

Bringing all of this back out of the woodwork again is a sign of desperation on the part of the Conservative Party, that even the most viscerally anti-Labour voters might have stayed at home after Mrs May had threatened to take their houses away from them or their children.

She is no longer threatening that, though. So don't expect to hear much more about the IRA. Ignore the whole of the Conservative manifesto. And ignore the ridiculous commentators who were still applauding the Dementia Tax only a few hours ago.

Friday, 19 May 2017

If I'm Back At All

I am fed up of physical pain, causing and caused by financial poverty and political persecution.

I am fed up of financial poverty, causing and caused by physical pain and political persecution.

I am fed up of political persecution, causing and caused by physical pain and financial poverty.

I'll be back on Monday.

If I'm back at all.

A Sense of Proportion

The Conservatives may wish to have First Past the Post elections for Mayors, for Police and Crime Commissioners, and for the London Assembly. But that would only help Labour, in all three cases.

First Past the Post is now something of a curiosity even in the United Kingdom, lingering on only for the House of Commons, and for English and Welsh local elections other than the foregoing.

Of course, being the system used for the Commons means that it still dictates the shape of the parties, although that is so established and entrenched that it would be unlikely to vary much, anyway.

If there really is to be a reduction in the number of constituency MPs from 650 to 600 (and if the Conservatives won again, then they would have done so twice in a row on boundaries that were supposedly unfair to them), then an opportunity presents itself. 

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and each of the nine English regions, would elect five additional MPs, with each elector voting for one candidate, and with the top five elected at the end. 

The main parties would be required, and the other parties would be permitted, to submit their shortlists of two for those nominations to an independent, binding, publicly funded ballot of all registered electors in the relevant area. 

This would be extended to local government, with the additional Councillors elected by this means from each of the parts of a given municipal area falling within a particular parliamentary constituency.

All of this could still be put in place in time for the General Election of 2022.

These primary and proportional aspects are essential to the restoration of the powers of Parliament and of local government, and to the extension of those powers beyond their historical limits. 

Although the most essential thing of all to that restoration and extension, and then to their entrenchment and protection, is far greater economic equality, so that no one's vote effectively counted far more than anyone else's.

Trammelled

"Conservatives do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism."

So says yesterday's manifesto, which therefore takes it as a given that there is a cult of selfish individualism, and that it is incumbent upon the Conservative Party to reject it.

There are some nasty things in this manifesto.

But once and for all, Thatcherism is over.

In which case, so is Blairism.

Even Theresa May now says that Jeremy Corbyn was right all along.

An Open Letter To Labour-Voting Catholics

My friend Ronan Dodds, a man whose political views are pretty much exactly the same as mine, makes some important points here, although he does not say who would be any better, or how.

In this constituency, we also have the matter of a Labour candidate who is opposed to the existence of Catholic schools.

And to Church of England ones, meaning that, although I should have to check the precise figures, somewhere between one third and half of our primary schools must be on her hit list.

Oh, how I had longed to vote Labour this time, to vote for almost all of this manifesto, to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

How I still do long to vote Labour this time, to vote for almost all of this manifesto, to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

But there is no way that I can do it.

There is all of the above.

There is the manner of the Labour candidate's selection; even if she won, then she would almost certainly be deselected during the next Parliament, due to the unrepresentative nature of what are not yet her fully formed opinions.

There is the fact that she walked out of the Teaching Assistants' Solidarity Rally when it called for a vote against all Labour candidates at what were then the forthcoming local elections.

And there is the fact that, due to the failure to take that excellent strategy and run with it, Labour did not, after all, lose overall control of Durham County Council this month.

Thus, it remains unpunished, both for the abuse of the Teaching Assistants as such, and for the long list of offences of which that abuse stands as a symbol, a list that now includes my own impending show trial, which is a "racist, sectarian and partisan hit job" that "recalls the darkest days of Northern Ireland or the American Deep South, with no dividing line between the Police, a massively dominant local political party, and a secret society bound by oaths", and which calls seriously into question any pretence of the Crown Prosecution Service to political independence or impartiality.

Therefore, in order to administer the punishment that ought to have been administered on 4th May, it will be necessary on 8th June to defeat all of Labour's parliamentary candidates in County Durham apart from Grahame Morris.

Here in North West Durham, we have the benefit of being able to vote for Owen Temple, who with Alex Watson is one of the two County Councillors to have done the most in support of the Teaching Assistants, and who is the only candidate to have been living in this constituency on the day that the General Election was called.

Am I a Lib Dem? Not remotely. But Owen is head and shoulders above the other candidates here. Demographically, this should never have been a safe Labour seat. The shock of losing it would be good for the local Labour Party, and making this a seat that had to be fought, as it always should have been, would be good for the constituency.

Counting The Cost

There are at least 50 uncosted policies in the Conservative manifesto.

What is the BBC for?

Thursday, 18 May 2017

I Shall Be Voting For Owen Temple

The Labour manifesto is almost entirely the one for which I have been waiting since I was a teenager.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto would serve as a pretty good compendium of everything that I was against politically.

Everything from re-running the referendum (although I think that that might happen whoever won) to legalising cannabis (against which I have been arguing for 20 years, against the people who have controlled the Conservative Party for most of that period).

Here in North West Durham, however, the Conservative candidate, Sally-Ann Hart, resides in Sussex, while the Labour candidate, Laura Pidcock, somehow acquired an address in Lanchester during the week between her loss of her seat on Northumberland County Council and the close of nominations for this election.

Ms Pidcock was imposed, using an all-women shortlist, by the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, with no local involvement whatever.

On the same day as she was losing her seat in Northumberland, the Liberal Democrat, Councillor Owen Temple, was once again topping the poll at Consett North.

The Green candidate lives in Durham City, while the UKIP candidate lives in Bishop Auckland.

One may or may not agree with the Liberal Democrats about Brexit or any other issue. But voting is for individual candidates.

Councillor Temple is a champion of the Teaching Assistants, of whom Ms Pidcock is at best a lukewarm supporter or a fair-weather friend, and of a wide range of other local community concerns, most of which would be unknown to the other candidates.

He offers Labour voters a chance to return the contempt that the Labour Party has shown them by treating this seat as a consolation prize for Laura Pidcock, whose own MP has not retired as expected.

He offers everyone else the chance to take this seat out of the hands of the Labour Party, including the chance for Conservative voters to return the contempt that their party has shown them by yet again failing to field a local candidate.

And the failure to remove Labour from overall control of Durham County Council means that it still needs to be punished for its mismanagement of that authority, which means that all of its parliamentary candidates here apart from Grahame Morris need to be defeated this time.

Therefore, I shall be voting for Owen Temple.

Manifest Destiny?

Is there anything about grammar schools in the Conservative manifesto?

If there is, then no one has bothered to report it. And they really would have done. Had it been there.

Anyway, the Triple Lock on pensions would go, as would most older people's Winter Fuel Allowance, and the cost of their social care would be charged to their estates once they had died.

At the other end of life, free school meals for infants would be scrapped.

As for the rest, there is not even a pledge not to increase income tax and National Insurance; long gone are the days when Conservative manifestos promised to cut them.

Indeed, this document explicitly holds up both taxation, and the government regulation of the private sector, as positive goods in themselves.

The deficit would remain for so long that it might as well just say "forever" and be done with it. The same old immigration target is repeated, presumably as a joke.

Almost everything else is pure Jeremy Corbyn. At least the real Corbyn, not the caricature.

You can imagine him saying it. If you have to, because he has already been saying a lot of it for many years.

And you can imagine the totally different media reaction if he did.

But he has changed the weather of British politics. He has redefined the entire terms of the debate.

Labour could not have issued this manifesto before him (nor, where the attacks on pensioners and on hungry children were concerned, would it want to do so now).

Yet today, this manifesto has been issued by the Conservatives.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Fight Hard To Win

Yes, I have waited my entire adult life for this Labour manifesto.

Yes, I do want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister instead of Theresa May, and I question the credibility of anyone who will not say that while professing to oppose British intervention on the Islamist side in Syria.

And no, I am not at all impressed at, by or with the manifesto that has today been published by the Liberal Democrats.

But we elect individual Members of Parliament in this country.

What I am about to say would never have been necessary if anyone had listened to me, instead of to people who had spent their political lives on the fringes, or in other parts of the country, or both, rather than as the Secretary of Derwentside District Labour Party, as a long-serving Lanchester Parish Councillor, as a governor for a cumulative 16 years of two schools in Lanchester (one of them serving almost the entire Derwentside area), as a subagent who had secured Labour an overall majority of the total vote on a four-way split in what was then still a traditionally Conservative ward, and now as a governor of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust.

I told them that it was not only reasonable, but morally and politically obligatory, to call for the election of no Labour candidate whatever to Durham County Council on 4th May.

And then, what? A Cabinet position for every non-Labour Group and for those of no Group, with the numbers made up based on their relative size. The same for Scrutiny Chairs, obviously never mirroring the portfolios of their respective partisans. And representation on each committee and subcommittee in proportion to their numbers on the authority as a whole.

If they had paid any attention and run with "Anyone But Labour", then Labour would have lost control of Durham County Council, as very nearly happened, and we would now be dealing with whatever had come after that, made up as it would have been of our stalwart friends and allies.

In which case, it would have been possible to advocate a Labour vote without complication at the forthcoming General Election.

Instead, though, with the Labour Party in County Durham still unpunished, and with my impending show trial (a "racist, sectarian and partisan hit job" that "recalls the darkest days of Northern Ireland or the American Deep South, with no dividing line between the Police, a massively dominant local political party, and a secret society bound by oaths") to add to its long list of offences, Grahame Morris is the only Labour parliamentary candidate who deserves a vote. Indeed, he more than richly deserves it.

There is no reason to begrudge the Conservatives their victories at Bishop Auckland and at Sedgefield. What would they make any worse? They are as welcome to those seats as they are to the ones that they are also going to take from the SNP, which deserves to lose to "the TOR-ies!" as surely as does the Labour Party in County Durham.

In City of Durham, and in North Durham, make a judgement based on your local knowledge.

Here in North West Durham, consider that only Owen Temple had an address in this constituency two weeks ago, and that he is tied with Alex Watson as the County Councillor who has done the most for the Teaching Assistants.

Is there still a Constituency Labour Party here in North West Durham? If so, then what is it for? What is the point of a CLP that had no say whatever on the selection of the parliamentary candidate?

The one whom the Labour Party has imposed here clearly intends to stay for 35 years. The CLP nominated Ed Miliband in 2010, Andy Burnham is 2015, and Jeremy Corbyn in 2016.

But there is Left and there is Left. Even were she to be elected, then Laura Pidcock's Marxism, her radical feminism, and her anti-Catholic zealotry would be the road to deselection before 2022. After all, the CLP was never asked whether it wanted her in the first place.

As for people who say that I do not know what I am talking about when I say that North West Durham is a well-known psephological anomaly that has baffled the boffins for most of its history, then take it up with them.

Nothing about it suggests a safe Labour seat apart from the fact that it is one, or that it has been one, more or less, up to know. It really ought not to be one, and it is regularly pointed out as an oddity. People who grew up Amish mostly think that the Amish are normal. But they are not.

This ought to be a seat that all three parties felt the need to fight hard to win, not one that a single party could give as a coming out present to a debutante.

A debutante, moreover, who walked out of the Teaching Assistants' Solidarity Rally because a speaker, from this constituency, had dared to propose exactly the right electoral approach.

Library Cards Marked

Why is Lanchester library open only half the time? It has been like that for years. Yet nowhere else has to put up with anything like this.

Monday afternoon, Tuesday afternoon (for not as long as it used to be), Thursday all day, Saturday morning (for not quite as long as it used to be), and that's it.

Why?

Not only that, but the room that was always used for book groups, and what have you, has recently been designated "Staff Only", meaning that those things now have to be held in the main room, and cutting off access to the convenience despite the largely retired customer base.

To take such an opportunity, it has been declared necessary to cross the road to the community centre, which is not, however, considered the most suitable venue for children's singalongs.

Those are held in the library, complete with the sounding of duck calls when, "On his farm, he had some ducks, e-i-e-i-o."

What is going on in the community centre, in that case?

Any why, uniquely, is Lanchester library open only half the time, anyway?

To Protect The Integrity

My occasional outlet, The American Conservative, leads the pack in publishing a call for impeachment, as my friend Rod Dreher, the father of the Crunchy Con movement, writes:

Think about it: the President of the United States is threatening to blackmail the former chief of the nation’s top domestic law enforcement agency in an attempt to shut him up.

Maybe Trump is bluffing, which would be outrageous enough. But what if he’s telling the truth? We have no way of knowing.

Now, every single man or woman who goes into the White House to converse with him now has to worry that the president is secretly recording their conversation, and has no scruples against using what is said to blackmail them.

What say you, Sen. Mitch McConnell? What say you, CIA director Mike Pompeo?

This is banana republic stuff. This man is out of control. 

How can we have a functioning government if the President feels entitled to threaten blackmail, and every single official who meets with him in the White House has to worry that they’re being bugged, and that words they say in confidence could be used against them? 

Note well that Trump manufactured this crisis out of his own ineptitude and corruption.

Congress is going to have to impeach him to protect the integrity of our Constitutional order.

The House impeached Clinton for lying under oath (though the Senate did not convict).

Now we have a sitting president threatening blackmail against the FBI director he fired.

This, only four months into the president’s administration. Mind-boggling.

But here we are.

If this is not a bright red line, what is?

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Becoming Marginal To Stop Being Marginal

What with the statistical tie between Labour and the Conservatives in the North East, and what with the admirable Owen Temple as the Lib Dem candidate here at North West Durham, this seat is effectively a three-way marginal.

As it always should have been.

For at least 20 years, North West Durham has been held up as anomalous to the point of incomprehensibility, inexplicable in psephological terms, with a voting pattern that bore no resemblance to its demographic profile.

And now, we find ourselves used as a consolation prize for someone who has lost her seat on a different County Council to a Conservative, and whose own Labour MP has not retired after all.

Many Durham County Councillors have done a lot for the Teaching Assistants. But two have done the most. One is Alex Watson, who would have won here if he had stood in 2010. The other is Owen Temple.

My Day In Court

Fans of the circus, get yourselves along to Durham Crown Court on Tuesday 13th June.

The like cannot be seen outside North Korea, and the café at Durham Crown Court does not serve dog meat.

For today's hearing at Peterlee Magistrates' Court, the Crown Prosecution Service had provided my solicitor with, well, more or less nothing.

No copy of "The Letter". Nothing on its alleged similarities to my published work, a suggestion that has already been comprehensively refuted.

Nothing on the fingerprints that supposedly turned up a month after my arrest and fingerprinting, but in time for the local elections.

Nothing.

Just as they had obviously expected me not to make it to Peterlee, but I did, so they had obviously expected me to plead guilty in the event of my showing my face, but I did not.

Despite the asserted existence of those fingerprints, it took the CPS six hours to charge me on Maundy Thursday evening, 13th April. Not such a strong case after all, one wonders?

It then took until Monday 1st May, three days before the local elections, for The Chronicle to report that I had been charged.

Following my defeat in those elections, the persistence with this matter is nothing short of malicious. They have made their point.

But, just as I have no conceivable reason to keep it going except that I am innocent, so they have no conceivable reason to keep it going except to punish me for the fact that I ever dared to suggest that Labour ought to lose control of Durham County Council.

That would have happened, if certain people had not listened to the Labour careerist saboteurs in their midst. But it did not happen, simply as a matter of fact.

Carrying on with this reflects very, very, very badly on them as spiteful, vindictive bullies. Showboating about terror threats and Jo Cox is just bad taste.

Ranked behind them, however, are people who have not deleted me on Facebook (and nor, in at least one case, have several other members of their families), and one of whom, prominent and highly ambitious, also continues to follow me on Twitter.

So much for the slightest belief in my guilt on the part of those of the supposed victims who have known me for 15, 20, 25, 30, and in one case 35 years.

The purpose of this vendetta was to frighten me out of contesting the local elections (it didn't), then to stop me from being elected at them (job done), and then to stop me from contesting the General Election, a job that has been done by Theresa May, since I could never have raised the £10,000 necessary for a proper campaign in less than a month and with no notice.

Now, however, I am a declared, organising, campaigning and fundraising candidate, probably the first in the country, both for the local elections in 2021, and for the General Election in 2022.

Therefore, the purpose of this vendetta has become to prevent me from contesting and winning those elections.

It is an undisguised attempt to use the Criminal Law in order to obstruct the democratic political process.

A democratic political process that, since my 2021 and 2022 candidacies are declared, is already underway.

Meanwhile consider that, as a matter of policy, no one in this county would ever be arrested, still less charged, with anything relating to the law against cannabis.

Consider that no one in this country would run much risk of arrest, never mind charge, never mind conviction, never mind anything more than the most derisory sentence, for what has long been the illegal activity of foxhunting, to which the Police act as escorts, arresting only anyone who might seek to obstruct this criminality or to object to it.

Consider that no one other than a Premier League footballer, and even then probably only one from the "wrong" club, would run any risk of arrest or prosecution for "digital penetration" of a 15-year-old girl who had, furthermore, been out drinking with the complete impunity of everyone from her parents to the relevant licensees.

Consider that no one other than a minister of religion, or possibly a teacher, would run any risk of arrest or prosecution for any kind of sexual activity with a 15-year-old boy.

Consider that the CPS has claimed to have insufficient evidence to prosecute people who openly admit to having filled in their 2015 General Election forms incorrectly in such numbers as to have affected the overall result.

Consider that, 10 years ago, the CPS claimed to have insufficient evidence to charge Tony Blair with selling peerages, even though he had done everything short of advertise them in Exchange and Mart.

Consider an awful lot of things about Tony Blair.

And think on.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Wash Out The Paintpots

The Labour lead is down to two points in the North East. Yes, you did read that correctly.

So there is all to play for in the cause of the Teaching Assistants, both in itself and as a focus for everything that is wrong with the Labour Party in County Durham.

An opportunity was missed when siren voices were able to lure the TAs away from the clear strategy of removing all Labour Councillors, which would have ended Labour's century-long control of Durham County Council.

But another opportunity has now presented itself, in the form of the General Election.

Grahame Morris must be re-elected.

The Conservatives, who did not vote against the Teaching Assistants, could take Bishop Auckland and Sedgefield, anyway.

In City of Durham, in North Durham, and here in North West Durham, ask yourself which of the candidates has done the most for the TAs.

Meanwhile, I am the country's only declared, organising, campaigning and fundraising candidate for the local elections in 2021 and for the General Election of 2022. 

There Is No Alternative, Indeed

"A year off without pay" is not much of an offer.

But put together Theresa May's proposals on workers rights and her proposals on housing, and then try and imagine the reaction if Jeremy Corbyn were saying exactly the same thing.

As, of course, he has been for years.

Similarly, if May had proposed substantially the leaked Labour manifesto, much of which could indeed have featured in one of her set piece speeches, then the media outlets that scream hysterically at Corbyn about Venezuela and what have you, would have reacted in an entirely different manner.

It is possible that May is onto something. Being the other side while screeching abuse at it worked for long enough for Tony Blair.

While the most prominent party that does not accept the two per cent military spending target as the price of the 0.7 per cent Overseas Aid target goes into this Election with one seat, and is going to come out of it with at least that one, the party that does not accept the 0.7 per cent Overseas Aid target as the price of the two per cent military spending target goes into this Election with no seats, and is going to come out of it with no seats.

It is not only because of the different electoral system that the party that wants to go back to Erich Honecker does better in the old East Germany than the party that wants to go back to Margaret Thatcher does in Britain.

Indeed, look at how all policies, even those of UKIP, are now judged by how well they play to "traditional Labour voters in the North of England", who are unquestioningly deemed to be the pure soul and radiant conscience of British politics.

Leaving aside the existence of other traditional Labour supporters, and of other people in the North of England, that exaltation of the moral authority of the people who voted Labour throughout the Thatcher and Major years amounts to defining the debate in terms of the wrongness of the results in 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1992.

As much as anything else, that entirely cuts the ground from under the foundations of New Labour. Among very much else besides.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

All At Sea

Trident runs on Windows XP.

Just give that a moment to sink in.

Security Check

Britain is not a world leader in cybersecurity.

Britain is a world leader in cybersurveillance.

That is not the same thing.

Someone needs to be sacked for the fact that the NHS was still using Windows XP.

On 8th June, the opportunity presents itself to sack the entire Government.

Meanwhile, what with this cyberattack, aren't you glad that we have Trident?

And will Theresa May be asked whether she would launch a nuclear attack during the next Parliament, or she is a lily-livered peacenik, since apparently those are the only options?

Friday, 12 May 2017

Tactical Voting, Indeed

Tactical voting is a matter for voters, not for parties. 

UKIP ought to bear that it mind as it gallantly stands aside for a party that is arranging safe seats in the Commons for its pro-Remain MEPs, but which is refusing to shortlist their pro-Leave colleagues. 

In fact, rather a lot of people need to ponder that one, along with David Cameron's fairly breezy assertion yesterday that Theresa May needed a large majority in order to avoid Hard Brexit. She has not corrected him.

Meanwhile, here in North West Durham, the Conservative candidate, Sally-Ann Hart, resides in Sussex, while the Labour candidate, Laura Pidcock, has somehow acquired an address in Lanchester during the week between her loss of her seat on Northumberland County Council and the close of nominations for this election. 

Ms Pidcock was imposed, using an all-women shortlist, by the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, with no local involvement whatever.

The Green candidate lives in Durham City, while the UKIP candidate lives in Bishop Auckland. I am not aware that either of them has played any role in the Teaching Assistants' campaign.

But Labour voters deserve a chance to return the contempt that the Labour Party has shown them by treating this seat as a consolation prize for Laura Pidcock, whose own MP has not retired as expected. 

And everyone else deserves the chance to take this seat out of the hands of the Labour Party, including the chance for Conservative voters to return the contempt that their party has shown them by yet again failing to field a local candidate.

Don't Be Doped

At least the debate on drugs, and specifically on cannabis, is open at last.

The key text is The War We Never Fought, by Peter Hitchens.

Hitchens could also have written much of Labour's manifesto, and most or all of today's speech by Jeremy Corbyn to Chatham House.

More fundamentally, there cannot be a "free" market in general, but not in drugs, or prostitution, or pornography, or unrestricted alcohol, or unrestricted gambling.

That is an important part of why there must not be a "free" market in general, which is a political choice, and not a mere law of nature.

By Your Leave

More time off for fathers, say the Lib Dems. But they hardly take their existing entitlement. Fathers, that is. Not Lib Dems.

Crusty old bachelor that I am, I am treated as a fount of sartorial wisdom by rising youths in the Movement.

It is amazing how well you can dress, eat, drink, and so on, if you are 39 and have never had children.

So I venture reluctantly into the area of their upbringing.

But why do so very few men take the shared parental leave to which they are legally entitled? Well, what would a new father be doing, especially while his child was still being breastfed? 

He will come into his own at a later stage in his child's life.

Or, at any rate, he should, and he requires and deserves every support and encouragement to do so.

Of course a new baby needs her mother. But a 15-year-old might very well need her father, and that bit of paternity leave that he had been owed for the preceding 15 years.

Barely a generation ago, a single manual wage provided the wage-earner, his wife and their several children with a quality of life unimaginable even on two professional salaries today.

This impoverishment has been so rapid and so extreme that most people, including almost all politicians and commentators, simply refuse to acknowledge that it has happened.

But it has happened. And it is still going on.

If fathers matter, then they must face up to their responsibilities. With every assistance, including censure where necessary, from the wider society, including when society acts politically as the State. 

A legal presumption of equal parenting. Restoration of the tax allowance for fathers for so long as Child Benefit was being paid to mothers. 

Restoration of the requirement that providers of fertility treatment take account of the child's need for a father.

Repeal of the ludicrous provision for two women to be listed as a child's parents on a birth certificate, although even that is excelled by the provision for two men to be so listed.

And paternity leave to be made available at any time until the child was 18 or left school, thereby reasserting paternal authority, and thus requiring paternal responsibility, at key points in childhood and adolescence.

That authority and responsibility require an economic basis such as only the State can ever guarantee, and such as only the State can very often deliver. 

And that basis is high-wage, high-skilled, high-status employment.

All aspects of public policy must take account of this urgent social and cultural need.

Not least, that includes energy policy: the energy sources to be preferred by the State are those providing the high-wage, high-skilled, high-status jobs that secure the economic basis of paternal authority in the family and in the wider community.

So, nuclear power. And coal, not dole.

Moreover, paternal authority cannot be affirmed while fathers are torn away from their children and harvested in wars.

Especially, though not exclusively, since those sent to war tend to come from working-class backgrounds, where starting to have children often still happens earlier than has lately become the norm.

Think of those very young men whom we see going off or coming home, hugging and kissing their tiny children.

You can believe in fatherhood, or you can support wars under certainly most and possibly all circumstances, the latter especially in practice today even if not necessarily in the past or in principle.

You cannot do both.

What say the Lib Dems to all of this?

Exposing The Weakness

Labour is polling much as it did in 2015. Even if the Conservatives win, then it will be by only 50 seats.

That will hardly have been worth holding a General Election only two years after the previous one.

The number of electors whose votes will have switched is going to be negligible.

The return of UKIP's Tories-in-Labour-areas to their historic and natural home will swing a certain number of seats. But not enough to justify this palaver.

Theresa May's openly expressed hope for no Opposition is not going to be delivered by this or any other Election.

She can dream on about the "united" Parliament that she terrifyingly imagines would be a good thing.

The main arguments being used against Jeremy Corbyn are signs of people who are hopelessly out of their depth, and significantly less informed than the public at large.

Corbyn's point is unanswerable as to the failure of "The War Against Terror" when we are holding the fourth General Election during the course of it.

As my old housemate Dr Tom Hamilton, who is now Tom Watson's Head of Policy and Research, used to say, "The War Against Terror ought to be known by its acronym."

The obscure Conservative Minister on last night's Question Time was nothing but a shill for Saudi Arabia, and he clearly assumed that that position was common sense.

Again I say that the future credibility of the couple of anti-war commentators who linger on while defining themselves as part of the Right now depends wholly on their endorsement of Corbyn against the lunacy of Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Michael Fallon.

Even accepting, for the sake of argument, the theory of nuclear deterrence, then does China or India have no nuclear deterrent, since each has a stated policy of no first use?

We are told that free school meals for all primary pupils, or the abolition of hospital car parking charges, would be an irresponsible and illiterate attempt to shake the Magic Money Tree.

In that case, what about war in Syria, or guaranteed above inflation increases in military spending? Where is that money supposed to come from?

The Conservatives have borrowed more than all previous Governments put together, and everybody knows it.

But then, doubling the National Debt has been very much their thing for decades.

The Royal Mail was not privatised until 2013, even the railways were not privatised by Thatcher, and she did not privatise electricity until the very end of her time in office.

So renationalisation would not be "Back to the Seventies".

Nor would it be "Forward to Venezuela", a country that hardly anyone in Britain could find on a map.

Consider that whatever problems Venezuela may have, the relentless emphasis on the place comes from the same people who banged on about Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Those also had problems. But how much better are they now?

As, pretty much, Jeremy Corbyn asked Chatham House today. It is a question that answers itself.

All in all, there does turn out to be a justification for this General Election.

It is exposing the hitherto unchallenged weakness of the opponents of Corbyn's economic and foreign policies.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Rye, Indeed

In a reversion to the historical norm, the Conservatives came second here in North West Durham in 2015.

But their candidate this time, one Sally-Ann Hart, is listed as having her "address in the Hastings and Rye constituency".

They are always from the South. None of them has even pretended to live here since Theresa May in 1992, and she did in fact spend a lot of time here. She is well-remembered.

Meanwhile, Princess Pidcock has apparently managed to acquire a residence in Lanchester at less than a month's notice. Not bad for a 29-year-old charity worker.

I want the railways and the Royal Mail back in public ownership. I want an extra six billion pounds per year for the NHS, and an extra £1.6 billion for social care.

I want 100,000 new council houses each year, with the offer of homes to thousands of rough sleepers, and with a cap on private rents.

I want an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia. And I want to be sure that Britain will not intervene on the Islamist side in the Syrian Civil War.

In this country, however, we vote for individual candidates.

For whom am I going to vote?

If my Campaign Patron, Councillor Alex Watson OBE, endorses anyone, and if I do not say otherwise, then I agree with him.

Beyond that, know only that I will vote.

To the best of my knowledge, I am the first declared candidate in the country for the 2022 General Election.

Already organising, already campaigning, and already fundraising.

Speak As You Find

Watch out for Theresa May's adoption of the many hugely popular parts of the Labour manifesto. 

Whether or not she will follow through remains to be seen, but she'll repeat the policies even while drenching Jeremy Corbyn in the abuse that will be magnified by her highly supportive media.

That's just what she does.

Two Per Cent of What?

Who benefits from guaranteed above inflation increases in military spending? It is certainly not the barely paid, appalling treated personnel, such as there still are.

How much of this money for the toy manufacturers ends up in the coffers of the Conservative Party? How many of the Ministers responsible, and the top brass, go on to be employed by those companies?

And how much of the headline figure is just Trident, anyway? That question also presents itself in relation to the totemic two per cent of GDP.

The chest-beating NATO cultists need to be asked what their view would be of any other supranational body that presumed to demand such a tribute, and which tied us to the military interests and even structures of an emerging Islamist dictatorship in the Middle East.

"Extremely Dangerous," Indeed

Thus does Sir Michael Fallon describe the idea that the Armed Forces ought to be deployed only after all other options had been exhausted.

He is also on record as supporting a British nuclear first strike, and he lied through his teeth to the House of Commons when Trident was recently misfired at the United States.

Boris Johnson, meanwhile, contends that this country would be obliged to participate in an American-led intervention in the Syrian Civil War.

Theresa May has done nothing to moderate or contradict any of this.

All concerned are therefore unfit for office.

Not only that, but the credibility of anti-war voices such as Peter Oborne and Peter Hitchens now depends on their endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn against this madness.

Doubly so in the case of Hitchens, now that Labour is also committed to the renationalisation of the railways, and to the restoration of publicly owned regional energy companies.

His credibility on those issues now depends on that endorsement, too.

Fallon was also banging on today about the wonders of arming Saudi Arabia (in other words, IS and al-Qaeda), no doubt with a view to his own next career move.

Corbyn has promised to halt those sales immediately.

As advocated by Oborne and Hitchens.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

And If They Stay, It Will Be Double?

Of the four people whom Jeremy Corbyn has at various times beaten for Leader of the Labour Party, which would now be sweeping the country, and why?

Believe in it when you see it, but if the bulk of Labour MPs really were to break away to the right, then that would cause mayhem in County Durham.

If anyone joined such a new formation, then Kevan Jones would be among them.

As would Phil Wilson, if he had kept his seat.

The unlikelihood of their doing so is the unlikelihood of the project itself.

Once, the outrider for such a venture was Dick Taverne. But now, its proponents must make do with Simon Danczuk.

Just suppose, though, that that did in fact come to pass.

Labour has barely kept control of Durham County Council, where its Leadership could politely be described as very right-wing indeed.

The present Leader, in fact, would go whichever way Kevan did.

As would several other highly prominent figures, one of whom shares a ward with a very strong Corbyn supporter.

Others elsewhere would simply follow that Leader, or they would simply follow Phil Wilson and the rest of that quintet at Sedgefield.

Would they go, taking with them Labour's majority on its longest-held local authority?

Or would they stay, thereby retaining many things, but not their credibility, and possibly not even their self-respect?

The Setting Sun?

Perhaps not, but it is an institution in marked and rapid transition.

No one embodied the old Sun more completely than Kelvin MacKenzie.

But now, he will "never work for it again".

He probably doesn't need the money, and he is 70, but it is difficult to see who else is ever going to employ him.

So this is the end of him.

Page 3 will be next, and for good this time. The Murdochs want Sky very, very, very badly.

And why not? They would make it worse than what, exactly?

A Coup Against The Meaning of Words


Everything about France’s newly elected president Emmanuel Macron suggests a theatrical production of hype and illusion. 

He is being “sold” to the masses as an “outsider” and “centrist”, a benign liberal.

In reality, enter the economic hitman who will blow French society apart in the service of the oligarchy. 

At age 39, Macron has been described as a “political wonderboy” and France’s “youngest leader since Napoleon Bonaparte.” 

The former Rothschild banker who reportedly once had the nickname “the Mozart of Finance” is now promising to renew France and bring the nation together, where people will no longer “vote for extremes.” 

Fittingly for the Mozart of Finance, the new president used the “grandest of backdrops for entrance on the world stage,” when he made his victory speech on Sunday night in the courtyard of the Louvre, noted the Financial Times

His dramatic walk to the stage through the world-famous museum courtyard took a full four minutes. 

The night lights and shadows played with Macron’s unsmiling, stoney face as he strode purposely forward amid the strains of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy

The choice of the European Union’s national anthem, rather than France’s, is a harbinger of Macron’s political project and the globalist interests he serves. 

Geographically, the Louvre is situated midway between the traditional political venues of the Place de la Concorde for the right, and La Bastille for the left. 

Here was Macron intimating once again, as he did during his campaign, that he represents neither right or left. 

He has vowed to overturn the bipartisan structure of French politics, creating a new “centrist” movement.

Just like his other moniker of being an "outsider,” however, this image of Macron is a deftly manicured illusion.

Superficially, there is a semblance of variance from the political establishment.

Macron formed his En Marche (Forward) movement only a year ago.

He has never held elected political office. And until three years ago hardly anyone had ever heard of him.

Now he is to become the eighth president of the French Fifth Republic.

Paradoxically, Donald Tusk, the head of the European Council, congratulated the French people for “choosing liberty, equality and fraternity, and saying no to fake news.” 

Paradoxical because everything about Emmanuel Macron’s “meteoric rise” through elite banking and his equally stellar crossover to politics smacks of fabrication and fakery. 

With his elite education at the Ecole National d'Administration (ENA) where future French political leaders are groomed, to his precocious elevation in investment banking, followed by his seamless entrance into top-flight government politics, Macron is evidently a person with powerful guiding forces behind him. 

Former banking colleagues recall that he wasn’t particularly capable in his four years at Rothschild’s while on a multi-million-euro income.

But he “mastered the art of networking.” 

In a Financial Times profile published before the election, a senior banker is quoted as saying: “What Mr Macron lacked in technical knowledge and jargon at first, he made up for with contacts in government.”

Other sources recall that “it was never quite clear who Macron worked for.” 

As the Financial Times noted: 

“At the bank, Mr Macron… navigated around the numerous conflicts of interest that arise in close-knit Parisian business circles, making good use of his connections as an Inspecteur des Finances — an elite corps of the very highest-ranking graduates from ENA.” 

After quitting private finance, Macron joined the government of Socialist President Francois Hollande, where he at first served as a “special advisor.” 

In 2014, Hollande appointed him as economy minister where he drew up a draconian program to undermine French employment rights in favor of corporate profits. 

Macron resigned from his ministerial post only last year when he set up his own political party in anticipation of contesting the presidential election. 

Macron’s En Marche does not have any members in parliament. 

His government will thus likely be comprised of patronage and technocrats selected from years of networking in the financial and Élysée Palace establishment. 

What little is known about Macron’s policies is his stated commitment to more stringent economic austerity, promises to slash €60 billion in public spending over the next five years and axe up to 120,000 state sector jobs.

He is also setting to drive through more “business friendly” changes in labor laws that will allow bosses to more easily hire and fire employees.

He is giving companies license to negotiate increased working hours and lower salaries outside of statutory law.

So, the notion that Macron is some kind of benign “centrist” is an insult to common intelligence.

He is a “centrist” only in the sense of illusory corporate media branding; in objective terms, Macron is a dedicated economic hitman for global capitalism.

Whatever one might think of his defeated rival Marine Le Pen of the Front National, she certainly had Macron accurately summed up when she referred to him as the “candidate of finance.” 

Independent Socialist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was narrowly knocked out in the first round of the election on April 23, predicts that Macron will be a “disaster” for French society, blowing apart economic inequality and social contracts to turn the country into the kind of poverty-wage slavery seen in the US and Britain. 

There is sound reason why the French and European political establishment exulted in Macron’s victory.

He is no outsider, overturning the status quo for a more democratic outcome.

He is in fact a consummate insider who will pursue policies pandering to elite interests, at the expense of the great majority. 

Macron’s “centrist [sic] victory brought joy to Europe’s political establishment,” reported the New York Times, while the BBC informed of “palpable relief among European leaders.” 

Outgoing President Francois Hollande – the most unpopular French leader ever – warmly congratulated Macron, as did incumbent prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve and other senior government figures. 

Macron had been endorsed by Hollande’s so-called Socialist Party and the center-right Republicans. So much for his vaunted “outsider” image.

Macron was also endorsed prior to the weekend vote by former US President Barack Obama and European leaders, including Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. 

The irony of such brazen “electoral interference” is of course that this was what such Western leaders have accused Russia of. 

Again, it also shows that Macron will be a “centrist” in more ways than is meant.

He will serve as a “dead-center” advocate of the transatlantic politics of Washington-led neoliberal capitalism and NATO militarism. 

The French President-elect published a political autobiography earlier this year entitled ‘Revolution’. 

The only thing “revolutionary” about Macron’s victory is that the political establishment has invented an image for itself that upturns reality. 

The intense media marketing of Macron as a “centrist outsider” is a coup against the meaning of words and plain language. 

It is also worth noting that over 16 million French voters abstained or spoiled their votes against the 20 million who opted for Macron. 

French society, as for other Western nations, is riven by the ravages of global capitalism. 

And now here comes the “Mozart of Finance” to allegedly bring harmony from the appalling discord he and others like him have sown.