29 August 2009

Christian fundamentalist heads Northern Ireland's police

All religion is a dangerous thing.

First, the believer asserts things to be true on the basis of faith, not evidence and makes a virtue of doing so. Hence they can produce utterances, like: “the bible is without error.” Second, religious people have moral norms which they invariably attempt to impose on other people through social pressure and legislation.

Now as a liberal, I believe the citizen has a right to believe things which are false or for which there is no evidence. Citizens may also impose any moral system on his or own private behaviour providing their conduct remains within the law. In other words, I uphold the fundamental rule: Christian, Jew, Muslim or whatever within the private space, but a rigorous secularism in the state.

So that leaves the question: can a religious fundamentalist be head of a province’s police?

28 August 2009

Regulating Finance Capital in Britain

The financier Adair Turner has raised himself above his particular interests to make some radical proposals (e.g. the Tobin tax) to curtail the destructive economic and political power of finance capital in Britain.

The essential reason why New Labour can’t defend working people against finance capital is that the propaganda of the government since 1997 has been the notion that there is no conflict of interest between the needs of finance and those of working people.

In the upswing of the mid 2000s that lie could be concealed behind the credit boom; now Brown is left naked, and working people see that New Labour has nothing to offer them.

The leopard doesn’t change its spots at the eleventh hour. Today, New Labour waits only for defeat; the electorate has raised the cane high and Brown has only a few months to choose when to move into position and lower his trousers. That reality makes a weak government even more cowardly. It’s no time for bold measures.

26 August 2009

Climate Camps do play a positive role

What the climate camp movement is essentially about is holding festivals of opposition. Two things make the movement particularly important.

The first is the failure of New Labour’s market fundamentalism. In addition to supporting the commercial destruction of the environment, Blair and Brown have created the most unequal society in Britain since 1945; a society characterised by mass unemployment, poverty and hopelessness.

Second, there has been a collapse of political activity across the country. The Labour Party itself has been de-democratised and has emptied of activists. No mass movements for progress exist, and we have today a police force that regards any political activity against the status quo as a criminal activity.

If the climate clamp plays any role in drawing attention to these deficiencies, it is well worth it.

Child Poverty in Britain

It has now been revealed that one in five households with children In Britain are surviving only on New Labour’s meagre state benefits, and with a no-hope future.

Both the Thatcherite and New Labour versions of market fundamentalism told us that growth was taking place and that any pain that we suffered in the new market-led society would lead to material rewards tomorrow. The truth is the exact opposite: businesses and those professions that serve them grew richer, while working people ended up only with mortgage and other debts, unemployment, poverty and the threat of destitution.


25 August 2009

The Synthesis of political liberty & social equality

I firmly believe that the struggle for political and civil liberties should be welded into the struggle for social equality and vice versa. However it is entirely possible to disjoin these building block-elements of the left.

One supposes that much of the middle class everywhere will tend to want civil and political liberty, and that workers will eye positively the prospect of greater social equality. The only tool that can synthesise these urges is a progressive political party and that, sadly, is utterly lacking in today’s Britain.

The article which inspired the comment:


August 2009 Opinion Poll

For me as a socialist this polling evidence is utterly disastrous. (the Guardian 25 August 2009)

New Labour has rightly been consigned to the dustbin. Its middle England support has vanished; and on account of its accommodation to market fundamentalism, for working people the Labour Party is a meaningless instrument in the worst economic crisis in living memory.

Such is the tweedle-dum tweedle-dee politics of Britain today that many working class voters can actually believe that a Tory government can better protect the remains of the welfare state and advance their interests.

So next year Cameron will win an overall majority in Britain’s unreformed electoral system and will continue the process of further strengthening capitalist power and social inequality in Britain.

From the article

Labour has lost the August battle on health, with more voters thinking the Conservatives would improve the NHS than think the party would make it worse. While 48% think healthcare would be better under a Tory government, only 41% agree with Labour warnings that it would be worse. Even 24% of current Labour voters think the Tories would improve the NHS. The Tory lead on other policies, including education, is bigger. In an immediate general election, 25% say they would vote Labour – the joint lowest score in Guardian/ICM polling history and the worst for Labour in the series since June last year. The figure has only been lower once, in an ICM poll carried out for another paper during Labour's spring leadership crisis. Labour support has dropped two points since the July Guardian poll and one point since a more recent ICM survey. The Conservatives are on 41%, unchanged since the July Guardian poll, although down two on the more recent survey. The party has scored 40% or more in 10 of the 12 ICM polls this year. This month's poll is also the 10th time in the ICM series that Labour has scored below 30% – nine of those have come since March 2008. The Liberal Democrats meanwhile are on 19%, down one since July and unchanged since the more recent ICM poll. Support for other parties, boosted by the European elections, has not fallen to previous levels. At 14%, up two (including the Greens, BNP and Ukip at 3% each, and nationalist parties on 5%), it has eaten into major party support.At a general election these figures could see Labour lose more than 150 seats, and give the Conservatives a landslide majority approaching 100. Asked, regardless of individual party preferences, whether a Tory government under David Cameron, or a Labour one under Gordon Brown, would be best for Britain, most people back the opposition. While 58% of all voters – including 37% of people who voted Labour in 2005 – now think Cameron would be best, only 31% back Brown. The Conservatives lead Labour among all social classes and in all regions, although they are strongest among richer voters and those in the south. Crucially, a Cameron government is the clear preference of most Liberal Democrats – 56% would rather see the Tories in power, against 36% who want Labour. In recent general elections, Lib Dem voters tended to gang up with Labour ones to stop the Conservatives winning marginal seats. At the next election, Labour could find itself the victim of Lib Dem tactical voting instead. Meanwhile the poll suggests Labour would find little relief by choosing a new leader. Among possible candidates, most make little difference. David Miliband is the only one who matches Brown head to head, while Harriet Harman is the alternative leader most likely to deter voters. Offered a straight choice between Brown and Harman, 20% pick Brown and only 8% Harman. She is also less popular among women – 21% to 5% – than among men – 20% to 10%.

19 August 2009

Marriage and Immigration

This kind of situation can only be sorted out if clear and bold rules are introduced.

If it is the case that people under 21 years of age who marry are likely to be participants in a ‘forced’ marriage or a marriage of convenience, then the age for recognised marriage in the UK could be increased to 21 for everybody, citizens and non-citizens. There is nothing to stop young people living together and only tying the legal knot at 21.

If a British citizen marries a non-citizen there is rightly an assumption that the couple can live in the UK. Of course this is something that can be abused and there is not much the state can do about it. Yet it is possible to stop the offending British citizen playing the same ruse twice.

18 August 2009

The Soviets and US in Afghanistan

The Soviets and the US (with Britain in tow) invaded Afghanistan for the same reason: to fight radical Islam. The key difference is that when the Soviets were doing it, the US armed the Afghani resistance.

How the Guardian CiF should be organised

I would like to see all the comments addressing the facts and arguments in the main article, not responding to what commentators have said. This simple rule would stop the thread going all over place.

If one has to respond to what a contributor says better than:


the commentator should use the form, “Some have argued (plus a summary of the point you want to rebut)

Popular posts should be elevated up the thread.

Commentators should have the right to re-edit what they have uploaded. Even though I tend to write my post first in a word document, I nonetheless often upload terrible English which I wish to correct.

Commentators should be able to make one substantial contribution per article. Minor contributions limited to say 70 words would be possible for humorous comment or to inject points of fact.

Posts which are badly written, irrelevant, misinformed and poorly argued should be moved to the bottom of the thread.

17 August 2009

Britain in Afghanistan for no good reason

Only saving US face keeps the British in Afghanistan

New Labour says that British troops are in Afghanistan to keep terrorism off the streets of Britain. This is untrue.

The US led war against Afghanistan began in 2001 soley on the basis that some non-Afghans sympathetic to the attack on the 9/11 enjoyed safe haven there. No serious attempt was made to resolve the issue: George Bush wanted war.

The US overthrow of the Afghan Taliban government with the assistance of local law lords was swift, but the military occupation of the south, principally by the US and Britain, has led to eight years of sustained resistance.

The resistance is based on Afghans wanting foreign armies out of their country, not because the Taliban want to attack Britain. The British are killing Afghan civilians not vice versa.

Those planning terrorist-style attacks do not need Afghanistan. The 9/11 attacks were planned in Saudi Arabia and Germany. The 7/7 attacks were planned in Britain. There are any number of disorderly havens around the world where fanatical Muslim can train.

Obama has said he wants to fight in Afghanistan; and his subordinates in London jump to his orders. Britain’s troops remain in Afghanistan for one reason only: to save the US from losing face. That reason is not worth one British life.


13 August 2009

Women have a right to sexual fantasy

Women (and men) should be free to purchase sexually explicit material which reflects their fantasies. That of course includes material depicting erect penises, ejaculations, men being sexually humiliated or whatever.

No human being can control what images excite them and every free human has the right to explore their own sexuality. If law or commercial forces cause one sex to suffer discrimination, it is the responsibility of law makers to correct that.

Working people left without hope

Mass indebtedness and sky-rocketing unemployment, show that capitalism, or at least the market fundamentalist variant of it peddled first by Thatcherism and then copied by New Labour, cannot serve the needs of ordinary working people.

The three decades of market fundamentalism (1979-2009) are ending as they began; i.e. with mass unemployment and human misery.

The Labour Party at one time sought reform: to bring about greater equality and security for ordinary working people. Tony Blair and New Labour betrayed that goal and turned the Labour Party into a vehicle for market fundamentalism – and a servant of business interests.

People today are left without hope.

11 August 2009

Primaries for British elections

Party primaries, such as the one held recently by the Tories in Totnes, are a sham.

The candidate is elected from a closed list drawn up by the party leadership either locally or increasing nationally; these sorts of closed-list elections resemble those formally held in Eastern European. Such primaries give the appearance of choice to local electors, but the actual amount of real choice, if any, in terms of candidates’ policies is determined by the party leadership which drew up the list.

Moreover once the candidate is elected he or she is then bound by a centrally determined manifesto, and, if elected, is subject to the party whip in parliament.

Primaries also finally render local party activists utterly powerless. Joining a party will give them no say in candidate selection at all, so there is little incentive to become active in local politics. The main beneficiaries of primaries are not the local electors, nor the rank and file party members, but top brass of the party itself.

It is precisely these anti-democratic features which make primaries attractive to New Labour politicians such as David Miliband. At a stroke they see how they can rid themselves of any residual trade union and local activist pressure.

Proportional representation (under any of the PR systems) plus the devolution of power to local councils would actually increase the amount of democracy. Yet both Cameron and Miliband run a mile from such proposals.

7 August 2009

Brothels & Casinos on the British High Street

Some say it is all wrong that the British High Street now filled with betting shops, casinos and lap dancing parlours. However two issues are confused.

One issue is: do people have the right to gamble and purchase sexual services. In a liberal society, the answer is ‘yes.’

The second issue is whether promoters of these activities have a basic right to display their wares in the public space: e.g. glaring shop fronts, advertisements on TV, etc. Although that is a matter for the democratic polity, my own view is that public space should be free of such things.

If punters wish to find addresses for sex and gambling, then a few clicks on-line should lead them to appropriate places. They don’t need a brothel and casino either side of the now shut-down Woolworths on the High Street.

5 August 2009

Harriet Harman: an apologist for New Labour

Harman is today nothing more than an apologist for the New Labour government.

When she steps forward to support the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the US, saying his possible sixty year sentence might be served in a British jail, I just think back to the days when this now utterly corrupted individual was once a civil liberties lawyer.

As far as I am concerned she can hang with rest of them.

Police women in Sheffield wear veils

Policewomen dressing up in veils as a publicity stunt to promote multicultural Britain is truly ridiculous.

The New Labour government fully endorses religion as a means of dividing and controlling the population, hence its promotion of religious schools. They would love to see the dominance of conservative religious leaders enforcing religious norms on their own people while dancing to the government’s authoritarian tune.

It is not the job of the police to promote veil wearing, but to start treating Muslims, whether they wear veils or not, with respect – and, for instance, not feeding questions to Pakistani police as they torture British Muslims.

4 August 2009

Giving points to citizenship applicants

The whole idea of a secret bureaucracy awarding and subtracting points from desperate people seeking British citizenship is truly awful. Such a system can only function on the back of Britain’s ever increasing surveillance society. FIT police officers photographing everybody who attends a demonstration, identifying people and informing home office bureaucrats. Informers in immigrant communities meeting with police to give character tittle-tattle about people.

This kind of intrusive surveillance will affect not just applicants for citizenship, but will intrude in the lives of everybody. Instead, we should demand clear and open rules for the acquisition of British citizenship.

3 August 2009

Extraditing Gary McKinnon to the US

McKinnon, a British citizen, committed an alleged crime in Britain. If extradited to the US under this humiliating extradition treaty, he faces a wholly disproportionate punishment. He can and should be tried in Britain.

The McKinnon case yet again shows the New Labour government’s fidelity to the US trumps justice and compassion for British citizens.