Wednesday, July 30, 2008

And the plotting goes on...

Politaholic has just read Miliband's article in the Guardian and has immediately forgotton what it said. Which says something about me, or it. I can remember that there is not a word about Brown: no ritualistic declaration of fealty. Perhaps that is significant (given that the papers are full of signatures being gathered). He says Cameron is a conservative (not a radical, like Thatcher), and more radicalism is what is needed. I'm not sure what being radical means, but for the past ten years terms like radical and modernisation have, in New Labour's lexicon, been synonyms for privatisation. (Maybe it is significant that Purnell seems to be behind Miliband). I suspect voters are tiring of the idea that involving the private sector is the solution to everything (Interestingly, this week the re-marking of SATS tests has been taken out of the hands of the American ETS company, after they made such a complete pigs ear of it). After ten years of "privatise everything" and "involve the private sector everywhere" isn't this doctrine conservative? Wouldn't the radical thing be to question this dogma? Anyway, I suppose Miliband's article means he is advertising his availability, but it doesn't read like a direct challenge. And as for policy, it sounds pretty much like more of the same.
And as I speak Mandelson is on Today talking of Labour being in "flux", of "turbulence" and "uncertainty", and its need to "rediscover its equilibrium". He says "the debate about what the party needs to do" has to take place, etc, etc. He is only trying to help. Of course.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Men in Suits?

Gaby Hinsliffe in the Observer yesterday questioned the "men in suits" scenario vis-a-vis removing Gordon. She suggests their power is "largely mythical": "The Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith was visited by such a delegation at least twice, according to one shadow cabinet minister - 'He just told them to fuck off"..." IDS was of course later removed by a vote of no confidence by Tory MP's. Labour has always been more sentimental about its leaders. If this were the Tories Brown's carcass would be floating face down in the nearest canal.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Brown's Duty: Lead Labour to Defeat

Just listening to the Saturday edition of Any Questions. Anthony Howard argues that, even after the Glasgow east catastrophe, Brown will stay on as Leader and take Labour into the next election. More, he thinks he has a duty to do so. Labour is heading towards General Election defeat (most probably) and there is no point in tainting a new Leader with electoral defeat (who on earth would want to take over now?). So Brown's duty to the party is to lead it to defeat, then exit, leaving the new chap to take over. This looks like a shrewd analysis to me, the only problem being whether Brown or someone else is best placed to minimise Labour's losses next time.


This morning's Observer takes the opposite view: "Labour's choice may be between ordinary defeat under a new leader and extraordinary devastation under the current one".

Dave Loses His Bicycle

Dave doesn't know how to look after his bicycle. He "chained it" to a two-foot high bollard allowing the thief to simply lift it over and walk off with it. Apparently he stood around for five minutes muttering "But I chained it". Not the brightest tool in the box. On the other hand, a determined thief with the proper equipment can steal any bicycle, no matter how well locked. What one should do is chain both wheels and the frame to a sufficiently sturdy immovable object, using proper locks: a combination of a D-lock and a proper chain is probably best. With this you are at least protected from opportunist thieves without the proper equipment (which is probably what happened in Dave's case); and you can at least slow down a determined thief (Perhaps he will decide to steal another bicycle instead. It doesn't sound very comradely, but...). Don't assume because the bicycle is chained up in a public place that makes it any more safe. People will just walk-by oblivious to theft occurring under their nose; you will be very lucky if someone raises the alarm. Some people have two bicycles: an old one not worth stealing for everyday commuting, and a good one for touring or racing or whatever. I hardly ever chain-up my good bike anywhere in Manchester unless I can see it - e.g. pop into the cafe for a coffee, chain the bicycle up outside, but keep it under view through the window so that if anyone goes near it you can rush out and rip out their throat. I am currently considering what locks to take on holiday: a D-Lock, yes, but I don't want to have to carry a heavy chain around for hundreds of kilometres. So I have decided on the small Kryptonite D-Lock and a Kryptoflex cable. This means I will have to be very careful where I leave the bike, because frankly, with the proper equipment, the cable can be easily cut through. Another thing is that, if you have a good bike, thieves will take what they can: one of the wheels, or the saddle bag, or for that matter the handlebars! Finally, what about bicycle thieves? Politaholic thinks capital punishment is the answer. Nothing so quick as hanging. They should have their entrails drawn out and burnt before their eyes, their bollocks cut-off and...well, that's just for starters.
Dave has got his bike back - minus the front wheel (suggesting that he chained only the front wheel to the bollard, again not a very good idea). The bike itself doesn't exactly look top of the range. Odd, given he has zillions. PR conscious?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Shock Horror: there are drunk people in pubs

I caught something on the news yesterday about the evils of booze. Landlords it seems are serving under-age drinkers. I dare say some do but the pubs I frequent seem very strict on this and I have frequently seen people refused service for not having appropriate ID, although sadly I've never been asked for ID myself. Even worse however it seems pubs are serving people who are "clearly intoxicated" and they shouldn't be doing this. Eh! Drunk people in pubs? Never! All I can say is that if "clearly intoxicated" individuals are refused service it would cut my drinking in half (might not be a bad thing). The criticism is directed at clubs as well as pubs. Now, its a fair while since I've been in a club, but I think I'm right in saying that most go to a club after the pub, so if clubs refused service to drunk people they wouldn't do any business at all. Politaholic is not a fan of yobbish culture but all this smacks of tarring all drunks with the same brush. Some of us drink far too much but cause no trouble to anyone (apart from becoming a little too loquacious at times). That, as JS Mill might say, is our right, so long as we cause no harm to others. Beer drinkers of the world unite! Cheers.

Zelig Purnell takes on the scroungers

The 1834 Poor Law Amendment act, which introduced workhouses across the country, was based on the principle of “less eligibility”. The idea was simple: if conditions inside the workhouse were superior to those outside, then hordes of scroungers and benefit cheats (as we might say today) would flood to the workhouse. The solution was equally simple: to make conditions inside the workhouse so brutish than only those in absolute desperation would turn there for help. This is not a million miles from the animating principles behind James Purnell’s proposed welfare reforms which are designed to make life so bloody miserable for the unemployed (by cutting benefits, by sentencing them to a penal spell of community service, and so on) that they will agree to take any McJob however awful. As the economy dips into recession - and presumably unemployment will rise as a consequence – Purnell has decided that this is the time to “bash the unemployed”. Of course, he oozes talk of “helping” the unemployed, of “encouraging” them back to work. As so often, the Financial Times tells it like it is. No nonsense about “helping” or “encouraging”. Instead, it reports: “Benefits plan to force jobless to work”. And that’s it. If you don’t take this job shovelling poo for a farthing a month then your benefits will be cut. Some of this is to be contracted out to the private sector – ah, the solution to all problems under the sun - and they are to be allowed to keep as profits part of the benefits savings. The Financial Times reports concerns that this will lead to “cherry picking” and one can only imagine the bullying to which it will also lead. By coincidence, yesterdays Guardian carried a report from Glasgow’s Easterhouse estate. Life expectancy is 5 years below the Scottish average, the rate of low-birth-weight babies is 62% above the Scottish average, and there is 25% unemployment. Here’s a solution: put the 25% unemployed in orange jump suits (with a suitable insignia on them, a giant “U” for “unemployed” perhaps), make them wander around the estate picking up litter, under the watchful gaze of some creepy guy with dark sun-glasses and a shotgun, and pay a private company zillions to organise the scheme. I must be honest. It’s Purnell that gets me. Nye and Ernie knew something about “their people”, even if one was on the Labour left (sort of) and one was (by the standards of that time) on the Labour right. But looking at Purnell, shiny suit and shiny shoes, public school written all over him, smug smirk, all café litte and sun-dried tomatoes – it is just so puke-making. I hope in Glasgow East they vote for the party with some social-democratic principles, i.e. the Scottish National Party. The fact is that there already is a large disincentive to voluntary unemployment and that is the very low level of benefits. No one in their right mind who is able to get a reasonably paid job would choose to be unemployed. That is why all these schemes – it isn’t as if we haven’t been here before – produce such paltry results, at such high cost. But, hey, they produce some good headlines in The Sun and Mail.

Monday, July 21, 2008

More on Genoa

Apropos my earlier post on Genoa, this letter in the Guardian on, I think, saturday, asks some pertinent questions:

"Regarding Nick Davies's horrifying report of the Italian police riot in Genoa in 2001, at the G8 conference, I wonder has Tony Blair ever been called upon to apologise for his defence of the Italian police behaviour?
And did I perhaps miss the small print, but which European Union leader has ever condemned or even criticised the Berlusconi government for its silence and complicity concerning the brutality of its police towards legal and peaceful protesters?
Furthermore, has any EU leader ever spoken out about the vicious treatment of its own nationals by the Italian police? If they have, I haven't seen it.
So, are we to conclude that in other far-off lands, police and the state are to be condemned if they beat up and torture peaceful protesters, but in "civilised" Italy, an EU member, it is just business as usual?"

Ernest Rodker


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Trade Unions Threaten Chaos

A bunch of crazed Leninists are trying to drag the Labour Party back to the bad old days of the 1970's - before Thatcher saved the nation for hedge fund managers - when we all lived on potato peelings and trade union barons exercised droit de seigneur with our daughters. These beasts plan to ambush the Labour Party National Policy Forum, and present a series of "demands". What do they want? Well, according to yesterdays Guardian some of the things they want are:
  • scrapping NHS prescription charges
  • bringing hospital cleaning back in-house
  • a new council house building programme
  • extending the minimum wage to 18-21 year olds.
  • free school meals for all children in primary schools
  • a 50p income tax rate on those earning more than £100,000
  • the extension of the "not-for-profit" model to passenger train operators
  • a legal duty on individual company directors to "take all reasonable steps to ensure health and safety"

The bastards! They won't get away with this neanderthal nonsense. Gordon is having none of it. Earlier this week Mr Brown said: 'There will retreat from continued modernisation...". Ah, modernisation - hospital cleaning auctioned to fly-by night spivs whose cleaners are employed on part-time, temporary contracts, paid shit wages, and have no security of employment. No, these trade union bastards are not going to impede modernisation. The Daily Mail and Gordon won't let them.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Genoa...and now

Yesterday's Guardian had a pretty grim article by Nick Davies about the attack on anti-globalisation protestors in the Diaz Pertini school building in Genoa 2001. Here are a few extracts:

  • She still cannot remember what happened. But numerous other witnesses have described how officers set upon her, beating her head so hard with their sticks that she rapidly lost consciousness. When she fell to the ground, officers circled her, beating and kicking her limp body, banging her head against a near-by cupboard, leaving her finally in a pool of blood. Katherina Ottoway, who saw this happen, recalled: "She was trembling all over. Her eyes were open but upturned. I thought she was dying, that she could not survive this.

  • It was at that moment that a police officer sauntered over to him and kicked him in the chest with such force that the entire lefthand side of his rib cage caved in, breaking half-a-dozen ribs whose splintered ends then shredded the membrane of his left lung. Covell, who is 5ft 8in and weighs less than eight stone, was lifted off the pavement and sent flying into the street. He heard the policeman laugh. The thought formed in Covell's mind: "I'm not going to make it."
    The riot squad were still struggling with the gate, so a group of officers occupied the time by strolling over to use Covell as a football. This bout of kicking broke his left hand and damaged his spine. From somewhere behind him, Covell heard an officer shout that this was enough - "Basta! Basta!" - and he felt his body being dragged back on to the pavement.

  • Officers broke down doors to the rooms leading off the corridors. In one, they found Dan McQuillan and Norman Blair, who had flown in from Stansted to show their support for, as McQuillan put it, "a free and equal society with people living in harmony with each other". The two Englishmen and their friend from New Zealand, Sam Buchanan, had heard the police attack on the ground floor and had tried to hide their bags and themselves under some tables in the corner of the dark room. A dozen officers broke in, caught them in a spotlight and, even as McQuillan stood up with his hands raised saying, "Take it easy, take it easy," they battered them into submission, inflicting numerous cuts and bruises and breaking McQuillan's wrist. Norman Blair recalled: "I could feel the venom and hatred from them."

  • In the corridor, they set about her like dogs on a rabbit. She was beaten around the head then kicked from all sides on the floor, where she felt her rib cage collapsing. She was hauled up against the wall where one officer kneed her in the groin while others carried on lashing her with their batons. She slid down the wall and they hit her more on the ground: "They seemed to be enjoying themselves and, when I cried out in pain, it seemed to give them even more pleasure."

There's plenty more in the same vein. The cops gave fascist salutes, forced their victims to sing pro-Mussolini songs and to shout "Viva il Duce" and "Un, due te, Viva Pinochet", and threatened to rape and murder.

It also seems that Gianofranco Fini (the "post"-fascist Deputy Prime Minister) was in police HQ while this was going on.

Thanks to the efforts of some of the victims and one of those extraordinary Italian prosecutors we often read about (usually in the context of an anti-Mafia investigation) 15 police officers (a fraction of those involved) have been convicted; but none will go to jail (the caee is tied up in the appeals procedure and Berlusconin is currently pushing though legislation which will essentially indemnify the police - and himself - because the events occured before June 2002). Many others police who were involved have escaped altogether and some have been prmoted.

Meanwhile, earlier this year the newly elected "post"-fascist Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, declared: "We are the new Falange" and was greeted with fascist saultes and cries of "Duce, Duce" by his supporters at Rome's city hall.

Meanwhile the Romani camps in Naples have been attacked and set on fire by mobs, and this has been followed by smilar attacks elsewhere, including Sicily, where it seems the local mafia encouraged the attacks. The Italian government is currently pressing ahead with plans to fingerprint all Romani people, including children.

And what did Tony Blair say about what happened in Genoa? He protested vigorously to the Italian government....Nah! Only kidding. His spokesman said: "The italian police have a difficult job to do. The Prime Minister belives that they did that job".

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Revisiting the 90 days

Politaholic is currently reading the paperback edition of Anthony Seldon's Blair Unbound. It is hugely impressive, and massively researched. In some ways that's the problem - it has a feel of "woods and trees" about it, a blow-by-blow account, in exhastive detail. The first volume, I think, was superior, better (and more interestingly) structured.

Anyway, this on the 90 days vote in November 2005 caught my attention. The vote was lost by 332 to 291 votes, but "...Blair was surprisingly philosophical...The Brown camp was not alone in believing that he had stuck so stubbornly to 90 days for party political reasons. Nick Brown points to Milburn saying: "Wouldn't it be good for us to say we're harder on law and order than the other parties?". Some high up in the civil service thought similarly: "If they'd picked thirty days, sixty days, they'd probably have got it through the House of Commons. But it was tied up with politics and outflanking the opposition was too good an opportunity to miss...Even some Number 10 aides concur: "Wrong-footing the Tories was what it was mostly about. It was one of those classic campaigns where the issues in the debate were less important than getting one over on the Tories..." (p.400-401).

Well, of course, we know this already, but it is nice to have it confirmed from such impeccable sources. Interesting also that the Brown camp were sceptical of this transparent ruse over 90 days, but are basically playing the same game of trying to wrong-foot the Tories with 42 days...

Monday, July 14, 2008

What a bunch of wallies

Politaholic is an atheist and regards religious organisations with bemusement. But the spectacle of Anglicans in a tizzy over what consenting adults do to each other with their genitalia, and what kind of genitalia you need to be a priest, is hugely amusing. Good to see these guys getting to grips with the real, urgent, serious problems of our age...

Will Politaholic Go to Jail?

Politaholic is a little worried about the furore around knife crime because - speak it softly - I carry a knife (not, I hasten to add, as a weapon). It is a "Victoria" version of the Swiss army knife, and is especially useful when I am cycle touring. But I carry it routinely; I use the blade to cut bread and cheese etc for lunch at work, it has inter alia a bottle opener, cork screw, tin opener, scissors, and a wonderful little thing for pulling tent pegs out of the ground. It could be used as a weapon, I suppose (not by me) but then so could many things - you could put someone's eye out with the pointy end of an umbrella. I carry it because it is a very pleasing object (yes, I know it's a bit nerdy), and one never knows when it will come in useful, as it often does. Am I in danger of going to jail if PC Plod stops and searches me?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Silly Season Dawns

The silly season has truly dawned when Harriet Harman is being touted as a replacement for Gordon Brown (the Daily Mail carried the story a few days ago, although no one actually put their name to it; and some Labour blogs appear to be taking it seriously). I suppose it could be worse: Hazel Blears, anyone? Or Ian McCartney? Ben Bradshaw? I know, step forward...Sir Vaz!

The thoughts of Eton Dave

This is from Eton Dave's peroration about the "broken society":

"Of course, circumstances - where you are born, your neighbourhood, your school, and the choices your parents make - have a huge impact. But social problems are often the consequence of the choices that people make".

Dave made good choices; he chose to be born the son of a wealthy stockbroker and the daughter of a baronet, chose to go to Eton, chose to join the Bullingdon, etc...

Why can't we all be as wise as Dave?

Monday, July 07, 2008

The good lord never rests

The obituary of ultra-right fruitcake Jesse Helms appears in todays Guardian. It says: "To echo this newspaper's memorable comment on the death of William Randolph Hearst, it is hard even now to think of him with charity". Helms, the paper reports "...became one of the most powerful and baleful influences on American foreign policy, repeatedly preventing his country paying its UN contributions, voting against virtually all arms control measures, opposing international aid programmes as "pouring money down foreign rat holes", and avidly supporting military juntas in Latin America and minority white regimes in Southern Africa. In domestic politics he denounced the 1964 Civil Rights Act as "the single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress", voted against a supreme court justice because she was "likely to uphold the homosexual agenda", acted for years as spokesman for the large tobacco companies, was reprimanded by the justice department and the federal election commission for electoral malpractice, and compiled a dismal personal record as a slum landlord".

A pretty nasty piece of work. But, for all that: "The irony was that he was often seen as a relative moderate in his home state of North Carolina...".

Friday, July 04, 2008

Arise Sir Vaz

Sky News have an interesting take on Buff (Hoon)'s letter to Vaz (assuring him that he will be "appropriately rewarded") - they think the letter was leaked by Hoon's people, and this because Hoon was angered by Vaz's insistence that the offer be put in writing. Which suggests that Vaz didn't trust Hoon to keep his word. And that he right to do so - since it is being argued that it will now be more difficult to give Vaz his knighthood (Buff's intention being to sabotage Vaz's knighthood). In the USA they have a saying: "An honest politician is one who, once bought, stays bought". Of course, Buff is doing the buying here, rather than being bought, but mutatis mutandis Buff fails this test. Apparently, in the Commons the other day, he looked outraged and hurt that anyone could think he would behave other than with the utmost propriety. He should be on the stage. Meanwhile at PMQ's Cameron was able to make Brown look devious and dishonest; essentially because the way in which Brown won the 42 days vote was devious and dishonest...