Really interesting and well researched article. Poses several important questions; not least among them being “How the f**k did we end up in this bad place?!”
Remember when 4 million new voters registered? When 2 in 3 of those registrations were under the age of 35? Remember when the polls predicted a hung parliament (or maybe only a very small Tory majority)? Even the private Tory poll had the gap at just 4pts. And the queues of young people at polling stations on election day?
So why then, when every single poll in the last 2 years suggested that if there was another referendum ‘REMAIN’ would win, did we vote for a bunch of hard-right rabid Brexiteers?
Also, how did just 300,000 more votes than in 2017 deliver such a massive victory for the Tories (they went from 13.6m to 13.9m)? And how did Labour win a majority in 2005 with 9.5m votes but got virtually wiped out in 2019 with 10.3m votes?
So what happened? Why did we lose? Where did all the voters go?…
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Part two of our contemporary fairy tale – The Fall and Rise of the Evil Trolls.
How did Albion arrive at this? Find out in the next installment, “The Beguiling of the Leftist Tribe”
The rise, fall and resurrection of the Great Trolls of Want, Need and Ill Health.
(And the Scourge of the Neo-liberal Creed )
Once upon a time,
A small boy learnt at his Mothers’ knee that it was right to stand with those whom others might reject, persecute or threaten with hate. He listened to tales of the darker times within the enchanted land of Albion, where the Ogres of ignorance egged on by the Trolls of want and need, marched through the streets of the greatest city of Albion. His loving family explained how this Ogre and his entourage had hurled threats and abuse outside the communities of descendants of the children of Jerusalem, with self righteous anger burning within their breasts; having been told very clearly by the Oracles and their kind through their trumpets of popular mass communication that those Trolls haunting their lives had been created by them. So the Oracles continued to grow fat and wealthy, shielded by the fires of anger their avarice had unleashed. The flames would eventually be doused, but yet still not entirely extinguished in the battle of Cable Street, the tales of which began that little boys’ learning.
Across the sea
Upon the continent of Europe and beyond, a similar tide was rising, fulminated by a group of very dysfunctional bad Oracles; with a fetish for uniforms and (if it where not so serious) a rather silly way of marching, which their followers seemed obliged to copy. These dark waters of what became told as Fascism; would engulf many nations leaving much devastation, featuring every manifestation of inhumanity, intolerance and pain, before overwhelming force, the sacrifice of many gallant souls (and a bigger wedge of cash than the Fascists could muster) made them recede. But they never really went away, for those evil Trolls summoned by the bad Oracles would continue to dwell within the deepest recesses of every kingdom thus and once infested.
Back in the land of Albion, the warriors had returned from their heroic struggles defeating the Fascists across the ocean. Many were determined not to go easily back to the doffing of the cap and tugged forelocks of yesteryear. So it would be that The Oracles of old, expecting to return to their gilded temples; would soon be aghast to find a new wave was rising upon the voices of those they thought forever vanquished with great and victorious effect by the Zinoviev letter of 1924.
The hitherto discredited leftist tribe produced Oracles by the names of Atlee, Bevin, Dalton and Cripps who were elevated to power upon this wave of popular dissent and became the new high priests. Their reign over Government was to bring great and enduring change to the war battered land of Albion. They looked to the plans crafted by the great and Liberal master of monies Beveridge, to ensure the evil trolls of want, hunger, ignorance and ill health should never again be allowed to stalk the land as they once had. It came to pass that soon, having offered due diligence at the alter of Keynes, they built a mighty Edifice called the mixed economy, the walls of which bore the legends; NHS, National education system, Public utilities, Welfare and public housing. Although these priests were destined to fall far sooner then their great and enduring influence might merit, the Edifice they had built would stand and remain sturdy for many years to come.
Whilst all of this went on, our little boy grew into a young man. Determined to do right, he followed the path set before him by those stories told to him as a small child. Through gatherings of members of the young socialist guild he joined the tribe from which the great change had risen. He took his place on the barricade for the trade union cause and plunged into the often turbulent waters of the political sea.
Meantime, the Edifice thus built was still preserved by the Priests and Oracles of both left and right; for all still paid lip service, at least, to the idea that without the shelter of its mighty walls, the roof of the economic world might cave in.
Came the Lady of Grantham to the high table and the Oracles who had plotted and schemed for this day rejoiced that their champion had arrived. For now, these Oracles of the old guard could emerge from the shadows cast by the hitherto sacred Edifice, dragging with them scriptures enunciated by Friedman and Hayek. These texts that so inspired them, foretold that great freedoms would be visited upon the land of Albion and beyond, if only the shackles were removed and those markets set free.
Low, even as the Lady drove out of her palaces those who did not believe with the zeal required in the teachings within the sacred scriptures, deep beneath the land, those ancient Trolls stirred back into vengeful life. They tore at the walls of the caves that had imprisoned them with sharp and avaricious claws, striking out for the world above, making slow relentless progress. As the light of day fell upon them, the names they bore could be clearly seen and amongst their numbers were Want and Need.
The returning trolls of Want and Need brought back to life the great Ogres of ignorance, bigotry, inequality and ill health and unleashed them upon the lands of Albion. Centres of industriousness fell, their assets stripped, their workers beaten down by the yeomanry whose loyalty had been bought by the lady for a few extra pieces of silver in their purse. The Oracles who had returned and grown brave and strong; proclaimed each victory through their golden media trumpets whilst acolytes and priests of the Lady’s order praised the unfettered market and made proclamations that there would come a great tide of trinkets and monies that would cascade throughout the lands and this cascade would be called “trickle down” economics.
Eventually fell and it is said by some that she was quite, quite mad by then, her mind poisoned by the beguiling potions made by the trolls that she had unleashed. Unfortunately, by this time too, the infectious malaise of Neo-liberalism had bored deep into the very heart of Albion and spread far beyond its shores. The Oracles and high priests of the land, far from being weakened by the disease that infested their fiefdom had grown rich and strong for all who came to take office at their feet must first swear their fealty to this poisoned creed.
Here endeth the first bit …..
Why Britain’s Coronavirus Strategy is Literally One of the Most Insane Things in Modern History
March 12th 2020
I know: it’s a big claim. “One of the most insane ideas in modern history?” He can’t be serious! You, my friend, can be the judge.
You’ve heard, by now, of America’s bizarre, dismal lack of a response to Coronavirus. But Britain’s lack of a response is even crazier. Yes, really. America’s not responding because it’s a broken society with no public goods: it can’t. But Britain’s not responding because it doesn’t think it should — a conclusion reached by one of the most surreal cocktails of arrogance, pseudoscience, and crackpot punditry the modern world has ever seen.
Imagine that the anti-vaxxers took over a whole society. Britain’s currently in the midst of something exactly, precisely like that, except for a global pandemic — Coronavirus.
Let me give you the facts. According to Robert Peston, one of the UK’s top journalists, Britain’s leaders’ brilliant idea is…”to allow the virus to pass through the entire population so that we acquire herd immunity.” Other journalists have noted the same thing.
Wait, what? “Herd immunity”? What’s that, you ask? Here’s your answer, dear reader.
“Herd immunity describes how a population is protected from a disease after vaccination by stopping the germ responsible for the infection being transmitted between people.” In other words, we vaccinate about half the population or more, and then everyone else is protected, too (especially like immunocompromised people, for whom vaccines can be genuinely dangerous.)
Did you see a small problem between the British government’s definition of herd immunity…and what it actually is? Herd immunity is — the real thing — what happens after enough members of a population have been vaccinated. It’s not…just letting an entire nation be rampaged by a lethal virus for which there’s no vaccine. How much death and mayhem would that cause, by the way? “57 million people infected and 1.1 million people dying.”
Good, sweet Lord. Let me summarize. Britain’s leaders appear to want the whole nation to get Coronavirus because they don’t understand basic science, logic, or history — they think that everyone getting sick magically confers resistance on a nation. That is not how disease works. Herd immunity is what happens after large-scale vaccination, as a viral infection subsides. It’s not…just letting a virus run rampant, with the bizarre, vague hope that naturally acquired immunity will somehow emerge and spread amongst the population. That is just a recipe for absolute catastrophe.
Centre or bust ?!
A growing and increasingly commonly shared opinion amongst members of both the Labour Party and across the pond, the Democrat party, is that “the electorate are largely centrist” (politically) and that “a radicle left of centre leadership can not win electorally”. This opinion is shared, often with some regret; and is given as a reason why supporting a more centrist candidate for leadership might be the only possible path to power. After all, the argument might go, “isn’t it always going to be better for everyone if the result is a Labour (or Democrat led) Government?“
I intend to argue that such a view is entirely misguided, will result in no significant changes in the balance of economic power; and will almost certainly result in an increase of political alienation and disengagement, most especially within our most economically disadvantaged communities.
Back in 1997, I still just about held-on to my Labour Party membership; not because I had any enthusiasm for the new direction promised by our party under Tony Blair; but because of loyalty to my colleagues and friends within the local party, combined with my overwhelming desire to see an end to Conservative hegemony. It is also probable that some version of the above “centrist” argument had managed to burrow into my psyche. I, like tens of thousands of other Labour Party members, sat through election night and saw the morning arrive with a rising sense of euphoria. Surely, I reasoned, things can indeed “only get better”?!
I was to quickly come to understand that such a view was entirely wrong. “New Labour” was a very different beast to the Labour Party that I had come to regard as my family.
A massive increase in the use of the Private Finance Initiative for public works such as building new schools, hospitals, Police and Fire stations saw millions of pounds of public assets effectively transferred into private hands. Reforms to the Welfare system saw the introduction of “Conditionality” to benefit claims, An innocent enough sounding term, but the reality of its implementation was to lead to a system of sanctions for claimants considered to have “breached their contracts”. The reality, in the real world, was that thousands of people found that their payments got reduced or stopped altogether with all of the hardships, desperation and misery that has been such a feature of the lives of our most vulnerable people ever since.
The “revolving door” between Government departments and the private sector, if anything, began to spin even more swiftly during the Blair and later Brown years; with senior civil servants, Ministers and supportive members of the PLP picking up non-executive directorships and seats on the board of companies involved in Government contracts as common place; if not more so, than under any previous Conservative administration. The UK arms industry thrived, with active assistance from Government and the embracing and active promotion of interventionist policies by Prime Minister Tony Blair. It is a fact that Blair’s Government engaged in more international conflict than ANY other administration in British history.
My clinging on phase within the party that I loved (and continued to love throughout my wilderness years) did not last long. With great sadness, I came to see New Labour to be an enemy of just about everything I had ever believed. What I now understand to be “centrism” was and remains to be a form of political discourse that promises to remain within the confines of the dominant Neo-liberal political consensus. Nothing, whether that be economic policy or social policy, must actively challenge the hegemony of the social and economic elites. Such was the price paid by Tony Blair before his electoral victory in 1997, sealed with his visits to Rupert Murdoch to garner support and his “we won as New Labour and we will Govern as New Labour” post election speech.
I really hate to be the bearer of bad new, but, trust me when I say, Tory Lite; which is what centrism is, in truth is no different than actual Conservative. In fact, as the New Labour years demonstrated, it can be worse; simply because when a Labour Government follows the rules of the consensus, there is no opposition within Parliament. There is effectively no alternative narrative given. This translates into no hope for those oppressed and suffering under the real world consequences of neo-liberalism; which in turn leads to disengagement and alienation from the political process. Many will simply drop out, refuse to participate in elections. People thus affected are more easily enchanted by the simplistic messages of the far right. With a focus offered for their daily sense of disenfranchisement and misery; and scapegoats such as East European migrants readily to hand, it is easy to see why BREXIT has become the nadir of the political left.
It seems to me that we, as in the Labour Party; are at a crossroads. We can either choose to follow the path of least resistance; which may or may not lead to Government under a centrist leader, or, we can choose a more difficult path; this being one that continues to offer a genuine alternative and challenge to the neo-liberal consensus. This is not, by any measure, an easy path to follow; for the full weight of the established interest will be deployed against the leadership of such a venture. The fight will be one that is won and lost within the community. We can and will inspire hope where hope has been lost; but this can not be done unless we as a movement have the courage and conviction to believe that there is a better way.
“Be kind to each other, help each other and be thoughtful of others. Everyone’s path in life might be different but that doesn’t make them a lesser person than you or I.” Charlotte’s words lifted from her latest bog post; an account of a few of the the people and their stories she and her team have encountered whilst trying to offer a little light in the darkness of their lives.
The UK in 2020 is a place of sharp contrast. At the top of the economic pile, wealth continues to grow with rising numbers of millionaires together with a swelling wealth management industry. As you allow your gaze to fall, economic and social insecurity mounts, the closer to the bottom end you reach. It really does never cease to amaze me to see just how inhumane our welfare system has become over the last ten years. It seems that however many suicides occur, children arrive hungry at school or families lose their homes, the system supposedly designed to help them, in reality, pushes them deeper into the mire with its complexity, sanctions and unjustifiable delays between initial claim and first payment. We all owe Charlotte and people who like her strive to shine a light in the darkness. Her record will stand and one day, I hope, might be used to call those responsible to account.
Please follow and share her blog and lend your support in every way you can.
Dear readers, it’s freezing cold out there and the wind chill certainly isn’t helping. Today I woke up to snow but it quickly melted and at the moment the sun is shining. We’ve had endless rain so it’s so good to see it.
As usual we handed out all the food parcels and we gave everyone help and advice to everyone that required it. We gave everyone a copy of our survival guide as well.
It was a strange morning, quiet at first, most likely because of the snow. Needless to say we still spoke to lots of people. Some needed help, others needed someone to talk to. You wouldn’t believe how many people don’t see anyone to speak to from week to week.
The first conversation that I had was with a woman struggling with her housing benefit and the council. She was patiently waiting for her son to…
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The following article was written by a friend of mine and published on the website “Resisting Hate” several years ago. It relates to his and his family’s experience with the Home Office during and after the deportation of his wife Sarah and her children back to Uganda. It is important to note that all of this happened during the later years of the last Labour Government; which at that time wore the “New” Labour badge with pride. The Home Office was then headed by Minister of State Liam Byrne, the author of “Information age Government: delivering the Blair revolution” which was published in 1997 and was and remains to be seen; by many within the PLP of a more “Social Democratic” (Tory Lite) persuasion as an important how to political handbook.
Guest article written by David Sheekey
In 2005 I was asked by a social worker friend if I could help out at Wigan Welcome, a drop in service offering support, help and a place to meet others facing the same adversity. Wigan was not a particularly welcoming place for many of whom the National Asylum Support Service (Nass) had relocated to the predominantly white working class town. The far right organisation Combat 18 were active and one area – Platt Bridge – was actually deemed too dangerous to rehouse people due to fascist harassment.
It was though Wigan Welcome that I met Sarah Hata (later to become Sarah Sheekey).
Sarah became accustomed to racist abuse as she went about her business in Wigan, encountering abuse on the bus, on the street, in the supermarket and, on one occasion, even in an office of Wigan Metro Council. Sarah had come to the UK from Uganda where she had been detained in a so-called safe house (in this case a military barracks) and tortured. She showed me scars on her body which she said were the results of abuse. Sarah and her then husband, a Congolese national and professional soldier, had both been picked up and detained by thugs with links to the Ugandan Government. Eventually managing to flee her captors and, with the assistance of a go between, she managed to fly to Heathrow via Nairobi where she claimed asylum.
The Catholic Church in Uganda worked hard to ensure Sarah s five children were to follow her to the UK.
Tony Blair was in residence at number 10 at the time and was getting it in the neck from the Red Tops over asylum seekers. My experience with interacting with those who came to Wigan Welcome soon illustrated to me how difficult it was for people fleeing repression, torture and subjugation in far off countries to then have to deal with the UK Home Office – the most reactionary and curmudgeonly arm of the UK Government.
Asylum Seekers in Wigan and Greater Manchester feared the monthly trip to Dallas Court In Salford for registration. Here they could be summarily detained and sent to a detention center. The immigration legal service seemed full of briefcase lawyers and shysters. Sarah herself had the misfortune to fall into the hands of one such dubious chancer. A lot of money raised by her good friends and the good folk at Formby And Southport Amnesty International was handed over only for him to disappear into the ether with all the promises he had made forgotten.
Sarah was not to be detained at Dallas Court but, instead, the family woke up early one Sunday morning to find their house surrounded by police and immigration officers. The whole family was placed in a van and whisked away to the infamous Yarlswood Detention center in Bedfordshire. here Sarah, in particular, was subjected to verbal abuse both of a racist and sexist nature by the bullying staff.
Yarlswood has been the subject of an undercover TV investigation which revealed how rotten the culture was but allegedly nothing has changed and this vile institution and other such places remain a stain on British public life. An attempt was made by the authorities to fly Sarah and the family out of the country but supporters bombarded the chosen airline with phone calls and faxes saying Sarah was a victim of torture and to their credit, the immigration officers refused to take the mother and children.
The very next day another attempt was made to deport the family. This new attempt ended with the youngest child, aged eight, suffering an epileptic fit while inappropriate and dangerous attempts were made to revive him.
Activists back in the North West of England had made contact with an NGO Medical Justice and from its ranks stepped Dr Frank Arnold, a specialist in wound trauma. Dr. Arnold examined Sarah and her children within Yarlswood and his report was coruscating. In his opinion, Sarah clearly bore the scars of someone who had been tortured. Furthermore, Sarah and the whole family were showing signs of suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I got word that Sarah and the children were likely to be released and returning to Wigan the next day. Alas the UK Home Office had other plans. In a truly wicked move, the family was literally dragged from their beds in the early hours of the morning, once more bundled into a van and driven to Bristol Airport where they were put on a plane firstly bound for Brussels then on to Entebbe, Uganda.
The Home Office knowing the game was up simply whisked the family out of the country. Sarah was later to tell me that no fewer than eight security guards accompanied them on the entire journey back to Africa. On arrival at Entebbe these goons disappeared and, fortunately, the Catholic Church (alerted by concerned activists in the UK) met the returning family and took them to a place of safety.
People often speak of a hostile environment in our country toward black people but what my future wife and stepchildren endured at the hands of Blair government Immigration Minister Tony Mcnulty was truly sickening. McNulty was later to be caught up in the Parliamentary expenses scandal and forced to stand up and apologize for his behaviour to the whole of the House Of Commons.
Sarah Hata and her family were scandalously and cowardly deported from the UK in October 2005 . The following year in June myself along with longtime friend and vigorous anti-fascist activist Marv Scott traveled to Uganda to meet up with Sarah and the children. We stayed with them for two weeks. On my return, I went to see my MP Rosie Cooper (Labour West Lancashire) and asked about Sarah coming back to the UK. Ms. Cooper wrote to a new Immigration Minister Liam Byrne MP. His reply seemed encouraging and suggested that if myself and Sarah were to be legally married she could apply to come back to the UK as my spouse. Her previous asylum history I was told would not be an impediment to her return. Naively I took the UK Home Office and its ministers and civil servants at their word.
In November that same year, I returned to East Africa where myself and Sarah were indeed legally married at Kampala Registry Office. I flew back to the UK and set in motion the process of Sarah coming back later as my wife. At her end Sarah had to endure a testy interview in Kampala with a British FCO employee. Her application was to be refused. The letter of rejection from a pompous Entry Clearance Office was couched in unpleasant, sneering language. I decided, after consulting with friends, that an appeal was justified. I went to a recommended specialist Immigration Lawyer in Birkenhead on the Wirral. The process was costly but the lawyer seemed to be doing his job. It took forever for an appeal hearing to be arranged at Hanley, Stoke On Trent.
Dr. Frank Arnold who had examined Sarah and her children whilst they were detained in Yarlswood Detention Center, and subsequently written a detailed report on her case, offered to travel up to the hearing from his home in Oxford and give evidence Pro Bono. Crucially my lawyer failed to take Dr Arnold up on his generous offer believing the asylum issue was now unimportant. Imagine my dismay when on the morning of the appeal, the Home Office Barrister confirmed that he was going to raise the asylum case.
My lawyer had built a solid file in favour of Sarah being allowed back in the UK as my wife, we had suitable accommodation, I was working, Sarah had employable skills it should have been a shoo-in! I thought I fielded the questions from the Home Office brief and the Judge pretty well and my barrister made several very well-argued points. After the hearing, he seemed pleased and confident of a positive outcome. I travelled back to Lancashire with my friend Paul in good spirits, Sarah was coming back.
I once more set out for Uganda and from there we all waited for that all-important determination letter from the UK Home Office. When a copy arrived jointly at my barrister’s office and Sarah’s PO Box In Kampala, it was a bombshell. Sarah was refused permission to come back once again and, perversely, the determination was based on her asylum history which I had been assured would not be an issue,
Sarah was obviously not present at the hearing and Dr. Arnold from Medical Justice whose testimony could have been crucial had been rebuffed by my barrister who had either been too confident or like myself was not wise to the sheer mendacity of the Home Office.
I was shell shocked, I had invested massive emotional input into our relationship and the sparring with the Home Office had played havoc with my personal finances. For the next few years, I travelled back and forth between Lancashire and East Africa, each trip ending with me feeling like I had been knifed in the guts as I sat alone at Entebbe Airport waiting for that long flight home.
In 2012 I decided there was no alternative. I would attempt to live full time in Uganda.
I knew it was going to be hard and indeed it was. Finding employment was problematic. As a qualified social worker I eventually became affiliated with a Kampala based NGO which involved itself with supporting economically marginalized women, a number of whom suffered from HIV/AIDS or were victims of domestic violence. The project set up income-generating schemes and also supported Aids orphans.
It was worthy work but didn’t give me a proper wage as I was effectively doing it pro bono. The small business ventures which I and Sarah established did not afford me a liveable income. To make things worse I suffer from an enduring health problem having had bipolar disorder since my mid-teens. Obtaining medication and other treatment options was very difficult in Uganda and I was forced to make numerous trips back home to the UK.
I was in Uganda on our seventh wedding anniversary when a less than welcome communication arrived via Facebook Messenger. The sender was my nephew one Paul Robinson, a businessman based in Winsford Cheshire. In his charming missive, Mr. Robinson who had not communicated with for over two years and who had aligned himself with far-right UK politics, sent me a message calling Uganda a ‘tinpot country’ and suggesting that I hang myself. His ugliest jibes concerned me having bipolar disorder. A so-called mental health problem was the diagnosis of the fascist plant seller (bereft of any medical training). I was told Broadmoor awaited me and called a cu*t, among other pleasantries.
Having got over the initial shock of receiving such a message from someone I did not even talk to, I resolved to take action. I considered Mr Robinson to have committed a hate crime. However when I forwarded the Facebook message to the Hate Crime Coordinator of Cheshire Constabulary her two line reply was dismissive and did not even afford me the courtesy of addressing me by name. I then contacted the Complaints Department of the Cheshire cops. Here I had to disabuse an inspector within that department that the primacy did not lie with the Ugandan Police Service when the offender lived four thousand miles away in rural Cheshire!
Eventually, Cheshire police took action and Mr Robinson was visited at his home by a police constable where he was served with a Police Information Notice (PIN) otherwise known as a Harassment Notice. A Hate Incident was logged on the Police National Computer. A result of sorts but it did feel a bit like Scottish Mist…
To bring you up to date, the last three years have seen me living and teaching in North East Thailand. Uganda was proving too hard an environment. I do harbour hopes of an eventual return.