What might people think if I wrote this:
‘We owe it to our ancestors and to ourselves to see the inescapable importance of the mission to build, secure, and cherish an Anglo-Saxon State in the Land of England.’
In all likelihood I would be called a racist and justifiably tarred with the same brush as the BNP types. Now, if I wrote this:
‘We owe it to our ancestors and to ourselves to see the inescapable importance of the mission to build, secure, and cherish a Jewish State in the Land of Israel.’ (Douglas Altabef, Jerusalem Post, 28/8/2023)
It would simply be a statement without any racist overtones at all—or so we’re led to believe. It’s time somebody provided a definitive explanation, although if they came up with words like apartheid to describe the current situation their heads would be heaped with opprobrium and so far as the Labour Party is concerned they would be kicked out.
+Writing in Counterpunch, Kirkpatrick Sale takes a gloomy view of the human response to climate change—a view which I share:
‘the problem of global overheating is so acute and pervasive that no amount of meliorative efforts that may be made now has any chance of halting it or reining it in. For all the talk of limiting carbon dioxide emissions, these have increased steadily for the last two decades and show no signs of slowing, and world temperatures have increased steadily as well, with the hottest years since 1850 coming in the last five years. There are no actions by humans underway now or even contemplated in the next decades that, even if efficiently undertaken and carried out—which is problematic—have any chance of changing that in any serious way. The Paris limit of 1.5 Celsius overheating will be passed within a year.’
(The Dangerous Contrivance of “Climate Change” - CounterPunch.org)
Very often we hear that we must not extinguish hope, just as we made this mess we have the capability to clean it up. This argument then segues into how technological fixes are just round the corner, and actually ‘we’re already doing a lot’ so there’s no need to push harder lest the economy suffers. And we can’t do anything if we haven’t got a vibrant economy, right? It’s my view that humans will act when their backs are against the wall, and we haven’t quite reached that point yet. In this case, like the proverbial frog in a pan of boiling water, we will delay until it’s too late.
So in this context, whilst in a secondhand bookshop I thought it worthwhile investing £1 in a copy of Bertrand Russell’s New Hopes for a Changing World. Philosophers have been accused of merely analysing the world rather than trying to change it, so perhaps old Bertie was bucking the trend. Published in 1951 the book of course had nothing to say about climate change –then the existential threat was nuclear war. Despite his analysis of the human condition, Russell nevertheless comes up with a solution which is as likely succeeding as a snowball in a globally overheated world: a World Government. Such a government would be the sole possessor of armaments, and according to Russell it could come about through consent as well as coercion. Nation states would still exist. It’s not clear to me whether Russell really believed a full-blown world government would ever come about—perhaps he was being a tad utopian in his thinking, but after the relatively recent formation of the UN he maybe nursed hopes. Which is not to say that some form of world governance has not appeared—whether we like it or not the World Trade Organisation exists, and the ever cognitive dissonant UNFCCC sets climate change targets. World governance is not the same as world government, but for fanatics on the right anything that seemingly contests national sovereignty is an abomination.
+Russell had some words to say about fanaticism, which is where I learnt that the Amish refuse to wear buttons.
+Tom Tugendhat MP, UK security minister and Iraq war veteran, interviewed on the radio the other day told listeners that things had dramatically improved in Iraq. As evidence of this he cited the fact that corruption in Iraq is now worth £2.5 billion. By that measure the UK’s economy is in rude health. According to Transparency International, £100 billion of dirty money passes through the UK’s financial systems every year, and even the NHS loses £1.27 billion to corruption each year. Perhaps corruption could become a Key Performance Indicator for this government—an indicator which it itself would outperform all others.
+To paraphrase Christopher Marlowe,
Is this the face that launched a thousand shits
And toppled the topless towers of Washington?
This image should (and no doubt will) be shared widely.
It’s often the necessary but sometimes ugly duty of opposition frontbenchers to call for the resignation of government ministers when they are seen to be sitting on top of a systemic failure in their department. Ministers are not allowed to be ignorant of anything on their watch. It’s all part and parcel of the cut and thrust (to mix a couple of clichéd old metaphors) of politics. So where are the calls for Keir Starmer to resign? He was the Director of Public Prosecutions when DNA evidence was revealed which showed that Andrew Malkinson, wrongly imprisoned for 17 years for a rape he didn’t commit was found. It seems the Crown Prosecution Service chose to do nothing with this info. This was a classic systemic failure. How else to describe it? So do a Google search ‘Starmer Malkinson’ and what do you get? Nothing from Starmer. This is curious because (Lord) Ken MacDonald, Starmer’s predecessor as DPP, on the BBC’s PM programme this evening clearly stated that the DNA evidence was revealed in 2009 under Starmer’s watch. But the first hit of my Google search, a Sky News story, ( Andrew Malkinson: Police and CPS 'knew another man's DNA was on the clothes of the woman he was convicted of raping 13 years before he was released' | UK News | Sky News ) suggests the evidence was available in 2007, whilst MacDonald was still in charge. Yet MacDonald was keen to suggest none of this happened under his watch and he insisted it wouldn’t have reached his desk anyway. He said it was under Starmer’s watch.
So an innocent man who had already spent years in prison wasn’t worth the attention of the Director whoever it was. That was MacDonald’s defence of his successor. Perhaps Sir Keir should step up and tell us what he knows. So far he appears to be keeping schtum. Thus I, in the tradition of His Majesty’s Opposition say ‘Own up and resign!’ although it’s not clear to whom this demand needs to be addressed. That in itself tells us something about the unwritten code of conduct of our superiors. Yes, and neither MacDonald or Starmer are in a position to resign from the DPP job. That’s where the old political get out of jail free clause comes in handy: 'Move On.'
Re: my blog the other day about Tam Dalyell’s comments on the impossibility of awkward Labour parliamentary candidates being chosen. As if by magic, an article has appeared on Labour List today to illustrate the point. Here is what Labour’s ideal candidate under Starmer looks and sounds like today. Our hero is Mike Tapp, PPC for Dover. ‘He served in army intelligence where he deployed on 3 operational tours, and at the National Crime Agency and the Ministry of Defence working against serious and organised crime and in a counter terrorist role.’ Mike has this to say: As the Labour Party, we find ourselves at a crucial juncture in our nation’s history. It is not only an opportune moment to reaffirm our commitment to the values we hold dear, but also to reclaim the British flag and iconic symbols from the far-right fringes that have attempted to monopolise them. It’s clear that Keir Starmer has embraced this and we, as a party, must continue to move in the right direction with him.’ ( 'From the flag to the white cliffs, Labour must embrace the symbols of Britain' - LabourList | Latest UK Labour Party news, analysis and comment )
I think I know what the ‘right direction’ means here, no need to elaborate. It is a little disappointing though to hear an ex-serviceperson having to say we have to wrap ourselves in the flag to prove our patriotism. We would do better to improve the country. We would do better to demonstrate our love of our country by challenging those in our midst who would, for example, up sticks at the first hint that we might equalise the rates of capital gains tax with those of income tax (which of course we are not proposing). Or that we might give greater credit status to workers rather than any others when companies go bust. Or—well the list is endless, but the point is no-one seems to challenge the lack of patriotism amongst those with bank balances hidden behind the panoply of shell companies, offshore accounts and the like.
+I’m thinking I ought to start a new website, which would be called ‘Ask Me Anything.’ In case you haven’t guessed, this name is based on the invitation which emanates from Microsoft’s Bing AI chat application. I seriously wonder if Microsoft have copyrighted (or whatever) the phrase ‘Ask Me Anything.’ So if all the traffic for Ask Me Anything were redirected to me I could have a wild time, although I imagine it could be a bit overwhelming—but with ad revenues exploding I guess I could employ a bot factory in China or Russia to answer the millions of questions flowing in. Or perhaps I could create a backdoor of some sort to the real Bing AI chat outfit and simply pass off its answers as my own, whilst retaining the ad receipts. Is this possible? Yes, it is! As with cryptocurrency, these days on the internet you can create any scam you like and get away with it (on this theme somebody could call a website (or whatever) ‘Get Rich Quick’ and people would be queuing up to see how it’s done). Since the technology develops faster than the law that might control it, scamsters are onto a winner.
+The government’s current Online Safety Bill aims to drill down on the naughty side of the internet. But its approach seems doomed to fail, whilst opening up a whole new world of state surveillance. It’s been called a ‘policeman in your pocket’ by around 70 cyber security experts in a letter to the government. They say
“There is no technological solution to the contradiction inherent in both keeping information confidential from third parties and sharing that same information with third parties,” the experts warn, adding: “The history of ‘no one but us’ cryptographic backdoors is a history of failures, from the Clipper chip to DualEC. All technological solutions being put forward share that they give a third party access to private speech, messages and images under some criteria defined by that third party. On client side scanning, they point out that routinely applying such a tech to mobile users messages is disproportionate in a democratic society — amounting to surveillance by default — aka “placing a mandatory, always-on automatic wiretap in every device to scan for prohibited content”, as the letter puts it.” (https://techcrunch.com/2023/07/05/uk-online-safety-bill-risks-e2ee/)
Now who would be inclined to want to see the content of your emails? I can imagine one person, already fixated with trawling through social media postings to see if they contain thought offences being quite relaxed about the demise of end to end encryption. No guessing who.
+I’ve enjoyed a quick gallop through Tam Dalyell’s autobiography, The Importance of Being Awkward, bought in a secondhand bookshop. I rather get the impression that given his world travels, Tam was a bit of a self-appointed foreign secretary. Local embassy officials may have been nervous of his visits, in case he upset some local diplomatic understanding. On his own account, ministers sometimes were. In his afterword, Dalyell says
‘One thing is for sure and that is, whereas it was possible in 1962 for a constituency Labour Party to adopt a Tam Dalyell, 50 years later in 2012 a Tam Dalyell-type would not stand a cat-in-hell’s chance of being selected.. The current rules and vetting would see to that. If there are awkward candidates, it is a great disservice to democracy if they should feel the need to dissemble their awkwardness throughout the selection process.’
These days I doubt that many candidates will have to dissemble their awkwardness. Such a tendency will have been drummed out very early on, if it even existed in the first place.
My old constituency of Morley and Rothwell was built on shifting electoral sands, which is to say the Boundary Commission was always changing it, more so than any other Leeds seat. Despite the heart of it—Morley—having been pretty solid Labour since the 1930s, significant bits were always being added on and taken off at each boundary review. My claim to have represented Hugh Gaitskell’s old seat rested on one ward, Middleton, which was removed in 2010. Still the loss of that one ward shouldn't have led to the wholescale collapse in the Labour vote in the new seat of Morley and Outwood in 2010, and then defeat in 2015. As they say, candidates lose elections (and agents supposedly win them). Anyway, the Boundary Commission has moved the boundaries yet again, and the seat is now called Leeds South West and Morley. It could just as easily be called the M62. Electoral Calculus suggests the new seat will be taken by Labour with just over 50% of the vote. Andrea Jenkyns, the Tory Boris-loving MP will be out on her ear. Her replacement will be Leeds councillor and maths teacher Mark Sewards, who was chosen from a shortlist of two. I wish him all the best, in the hopes that he is not a Starmeroid. Big fingers crossed on that one. After all, when searching for the current Morley Labour Party on Google, this search result came up. That’s encouraging.
Chris Bryant MP, chair of the House of Commons Standards Committee has written a book about how to improve the credibility of Parliament, which it seems currently stands at an all-time low (when was it not at an all-time low, I wonder?). One thing, according Politics Home, is
‘Examples of decentralising power he would like to see include allowing the House of Commons to set its own timetable for debates, rather than it being decided by Downing Street, arguing the UK would be better off if power was "spread around". "The fact that we've got such a concentration of power in Downing Street, I think is one of the things that has made our whole system discredited," he said.’
He thinks some of his proposed reforms should appear in Labour’s general election manifesto. I suppose it’s a good thing that bright eyed and bunny tailed Chris hopes that Keir Starmer would countenance such a step. But reducing the concentration of power in Downing Street? Some chance! Starmer has already demonstrated dictatorial characteristics well beyond any previous Labour leader. He thinks he owns the Labour Party. Anyway, keep up the good work Chris and best of luck with that.
+I am disappointed with the news that Wilko’s (short for Wilkinson’s), a discount chainstore, with 12,000 employees nationwide has announced it has filed for administration. It was one of the last remaining family owned businesses with a major presence on the high street. In a place like Scarborough, which despite having a Tory MP is a low wage, high deprivation (in parts) economy the need for such shops is evident. Is its potential closure all down to Covid (the Tories’ excuse for everything these days), online shopping (do people really buy shampoo and bird seed online?) or just the oft-predicted death of the high street? I suppose Wilko’s may have rented many of its premises, so unlike Morrisons (another family owned or at least run business with lots of capital and land assets) it won’t hold much attraction to asset stripping hedge funds. The death spiral of the high street continues. At least here in Scarborough we still have another family business, Boyes, which has a big presence and which resolutely sticks to its old fashioned back to basics presentation (why waste money on modernisation?). And God help us if Marks and Spencers go. I doubt that these jewels can all be replaced by 'genuine' German Donner Kebab and Thai Bubble Tea shops. Or am I missing something? Don’t people need places on the high street where they can sit down with a coffee and do their online shopping? At least here in Scarborough, thanks to the enterprising new artspace organisation, the Old Parcels Office, three vacant shops in town are being converted into artspaces.
+Perhaps Greenpeace felt they were being outdone by Just Stop Oil, so their stunt covering Rishi Sunak’s constituency residence with some kind of black cloth has retrieved the situation somewhat. Four or five activists have been arrested, although given that they no doubt took care not to cause any damage they won’t be charged with anything serious—causing a public nuisance or trespassing with intent may be the most they’ll get done for. I doubt Sunak’s constituency home sees much use anyway, what with No. 10, Chequers and California. Since I have argued that MPs—who wield the power—and not the public generally should be the subject of protests I can’t say I’m terribly horrified by this latest stunt. It’s not as if they’ve been shovelling excrement through your letterbox. There were times when I wondered when returning home from Westminster whether my house could have been the subject of attack. It’s not a nice feeling. But it does focus the mind. And no, my house was never targeted, although during the MPs’ expenses scandal one wondered what might happen. That of course was not on quite the same scale as conniving with the fossil fuel lobby in the destruction of civilisation as we know it.