After The Big Vote Intellectual Begins To Decompose – a poem by Kevin Higgins

After The Big Vote
Intellectual Begins To Decompose

You sit minding that cup
as if it contained, post-Brexit,
the last frothy coffee in all of Brighton.
You’ve the look of
a pretend Elvis Costello,
or the rejected fourth member
of Bananarama.

Your claim to notoriety
that one of the Sex Pistols
once failed to cross the road
to avoid you. Your opinions
what it said in all
yesterday’s editorials.

Your new secret hate
the ghastly Adidas tracksuits of Gateshead,
the sweatpants of Merthyr Tydfil,
for daring to go against your wishes.

Your sneer is a threatened Doberman
with the charming personality removed.
Scientists are currently trying
to bottle your lime-green bile
and make it available on the NHS
as a homeopathic remedy for psychotic
former Guardian columnists.

Your words are the gusts that come out
immediately before
a terrible bowel movement.

Even in the face of bitten
finger nails, the broken hinge
on the upstairs window, and my own
sack load of mistakes,

to be you would be
a fate worse than life.


Unite to fight the Tories

Statement from Jon Trickett, Shadow Business Secretary and Labour Election Co-ordinator:

“It now looks likely that we are about to have the coronation of a new Conservative Prime Minister.
“It is crucial, given the instability caused by the Brexit vote, that the country has a democratically elected Prime Minister. I am now putting the whole of the party on a General Election footing. It is time for the Labour Party to unite and ensure the millions of people in the country left behind by the Tories’ failed economic policies, have the opportunity to elect a Labour government”.

This is an attempted political lynching – by Len McCluskey

by Len McCluskey, General Secretary of UNITE.

This is an excerpt of his speech today to Unite Policy conference, read the full speech at Huffington Post

Let me now turn to the issue which I am sure is in many of your minds – the political crisis, particularly the extraordinary events in the Labour Party.

After the EU referendum, the Tory government was plunged into a deep crisis. Cameron going. Osborne eclipsed. Johnson knifed. Gove derailed. Just a year after being elected, a government rudderless and to blame for dispatching the country, via an unprepared referendum, into a pit of uncertainty. How ironic that a manoeuvre designed to overcome Tory divisions has ended up creating the mother of all splits.

What a chance for Labour to step forward and speak for the country. To offer itself as the strong opposition and government-in-waiting that millions are looking for in this situation. It was time for unity and a calm voice. Instead we have seen a cowardly attack launched against the Party’s elected leader which has deprived the country of ALL parliamentary opposition and let the Conservatives off scot-free in their moment of turmoil.

This is the responsibility of people who had never accepted Jeremy Corbyn’s victory last year – they never accepted his overwhelming democratic mandate.

I know that not all Unite members are of one mind about Jeremy Corbyn or about the political situation. It would be extraordinary if we were. Some may want us to stay out of the political arena altogether.

Some will have doubts about Labour, or about its leadership. But our union is guided by its rules and values, by this conference and by our Executive Council in how we intervene in politics. Not by Len McCluskey.

And the clear message – shared by tens of thousands in that extraordinary summer of 2015 – was to seize the chance of a new kind of politics, radical, engaging, and pro-trade unions that Jeremy offers.

Of course it has been a bumpy ride since. Mistakes have been made. But most of the attacks on Jeremy are deeply unfair, such as over the EU referendum where his position of remain-and-reform was very close to the centre of gravity of Labour voters, two-thirds of whom backed him.

But whatever doubts there may have been, surely the whole movement could agree that here was an opportunity after the referendum. To speak for Britain. To provide real opposition to a broken government. Instead, powerful interests saw it as a different opportunity – overturning a vote of just ten months ago by launching a squalid Westminster bubble coup.

Sisters and brothers, this was an attempted political lynching, designed to bully and bludgeon Jeremy Corbyn, this deeply decent and kind man, out of the job he was elected to do.

This is not just about Jeremy and his position. The coup has snowballed into a wrecking operation against the Labour Party itself, destroying it at least temporarily as a parliamentary force.

I know some of those who quit did so with a heavy heart, and some with a measure of dignity. But the instigators of this – we know who they are – will be branded forever with the mark of infamy for betraying their party and their country, for putting their selfish personal interests first when the times called for solidarity and statesmanship.

Let me ask Angela Eagle, who I regard as an old friend, but who resigned as shadow business secretary a question – did you give thirty seconds thought as to how this would help the workers at Tata, fighting for a future made still more uncertain by Brexit? And the oil and gas industry facing obliteration? Or have they been abandoned in their moment of need?

On the other hand, I have nothing but praise for those people who stayed in the Shadow Cabinet and those comrades who stepped forward, often unprepared, to fill the gaps in order to make sure that there was something like a functioning Labour frontbench able to hold the Tories to account. They are heroes of the movement and they too will not be forgotten.

Unite made its views clear from the start. We stood by Jeremy Corbyn and his anti-austerity message which is in line with our own union’s position. How could we not? Not only was he the democratically-elected leader of the party with an unprecedented mandate, here was a man who had always – ALWAYS – stood by us, stood on the picket lines, joined our campaigns, argued our case in parliament, advocated for workers’ rights.

He stood by us. What sort of people would we be, had we joined in the witch-hunt. Never mind that I could not have come to this conference, I could not have looked myself in the mirror, had this union done anything other than stand by Jeremy.

But I also recognise the traditional role of trade unions in the Labour Party to stabilise and find a way forward in a crisis. We have been here before more than once.

There also needs to be a reconciliation with the PLP. We must re-establish mutual respect and unity and address real concerns over campaigning, policy, image and the rest. That is what I was working for over the last week – to try and hold our Party together, as the trade unions have done so many times in the past when politicians have let us down.

It is regrettable that these efforts have been sabotaged. I will however continue to work with trade union colleagues and others to chart a way forward, including meeting the legitimate concerns of Labour MPs. Since there is now to be a leadership election, I must warn that any attempts to keep Jeremy Corbyn off the ballot paper risks a lasting division in the Party.

It is time for everyone to commit to a democratic and dignified procedure as the only way to avert such a disaster for working people.

There could yet be an early election. Whenever it comes it is an opportunity, not a threat as some see it – an opportunity to get rid of a hopeless, hapless, divided Tory Party which has led the country to disaster and then walked away, turned inwards on its own leadership row.

And for that Labour must unite, and speak both for those in its heartlands who, in despair, voted for Brexit as well as those millions deeply angry and fearful at the way the Tories have taken us out of the EU.

This union is up for the struggle, both to reunite Labour and take the fight to the Tories. In doing so we will be expressing the profoundest interests of all working people in our country.

Sisters and brothers, more than ever, we need our unity.

Len McCluskey is the general secretary of Unite the Union

Follow Len McCluskey on Twitter:

Regressive Centrist Speaks Electability, a poem by Kevin Higgins

A Regressive Centrist Speaks Electability
“Imagine if a huge new influx of Labour members gave a mandate
to a progressive, centrist leader who could win an election.” Caitlin Moran

Our plans for you
will be enthusiastically endorsed
by the popular musical group
Coldplay, and some comedian once considered
edgy. To make you like us even more

every August thirty first, we’ll re-enact
the crash that killed Diana, Princess of Wales.
Our leader’s reaction to camera
will be so perfect
it’ll bring a tear to your jerk.

We’ll employ a team of pale thin advisors
to ascertain what our opponents hate –
beggars, Latvians, adolescents… –
be against such things too
before the enemy get around to issuing
their bastard press release.

We will make sure
Police Special Branch shoot
no more Pakistanis
than absolutely necessary
in the circumstances
we hope, with your support,
to create.


Robin Cook’s 2003 resignation speech to parliament over Iraq

In the lead up to the war in Iraq in 2003 few MPs emerged with clean hands, much less credit. Robin Cook stands out as one who did.

Another MP who emerged with credit from the disaster of Iraq is George Galloway. The differences I have with George over Brexit do not prevent me from joining the call for his expulsion from the Labour Party over his principled and unfailing opposition to this cataclysmic war to be revoked and revoked immediately.

Justice demands nothing less.

Tony Blair’s guilt was established long before Chilcot

pic.phpNo matter the contents of the long awaited Chilcot report, the destruction of Iraq and suffering of its people will follow Tony Blair and the others responsible for this crime to the grave.

Never has a war illustrated the moral turpitude of a ruling class more than the war unleashed by the US and Britain on Iraq in 2003. Such a transparent and egregious example of the projection of imperial power calls to mind Caesar’s campaign to pacify Gaul between 58-51BC. As with the Gallic Wars, waged by the most famous of all Roman emperors and his legions against the tribes of ancient Gaul, Bush and Blair’s war was waged against a country rich in natural resources located in a region of the world strategically vital for an imperialist power intent on hegemony.

Yes, undoubtedly, Saddam Hussein was a dictator whose brutality was well known, including the use of chemical weapons against his own people – specifically against the Kurds of Halabja in 1988 during the closing days of the Iran-Iraq War. But does anyone seriously believe that Saddam’s record of brutality against Iraq’s Kurds, Shiites, or anyone else who dared defy his writ was the motive behind the most devastating war ever waged by a rich first world country against a poor country since Vietnam?

The immorality of the war on Iraq is only compounded by the fact it came after thirteen years of the most devastatingly punitive economic sanctions ever applied to a nation, responsible for the premature death of two million Iraqis, roughly half a million of them children under the age of five. Former US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, when asked during an interview if the death of so many Iraqi children was a price worth paying for containing Saddam, replied that “we think the price is worth it.” A more apt description was provided by US congressman David Bonior, when he described the sanctions responsible for the death of so many children as ‘infanticide masquerading as politics.”

In the words of Joy Gordon, the sanctions destroyed “nearly all of Iraq’s infrastructure, industrial capacity, agriculture, telecommunications, and critical public services.”

By the time Bush decided to “finish the job” that was left unfinished by his father, who had allowed Saddam to remain in power after the First Gulf War of 1991 succeeded in forcing Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, Iraq was a country whose military had been so degraded and denuded it could offer only the pale imitation of resistance to the onslaught of the largest, most powerful and technologically advanced military the world had ever known.

Using the terrorist attack committed by al-Qaeda against the United States on September 11, 2001 as pretext, George W Bush and the coterie of neoconservative hawks that filled key positions within his administration, set about a strategy of projecting US military might in order to assert and solidify US economic, military, and geopolitical hegemony of the Middle East. Underpinning the strategy was the neocon response to the previously mentioned demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. Known as the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), it brought together a group of likeminded neoconservative ideologues, who, imbued with a sense of triumphalism over the West’s historic victory over its Cold War enemy, were determined to take advantage by ensuring that US economic, political, and cultural values – embodied in free markets, deregulation, and the primacy of the dollar – would go on to become universal values. Indeed, for them the US was the world and the world was the US, synonymous with progress, civilization, and stability. In other words, 9/11 came as the golden opportunity to spread 21st century Western Enlightenment values to ‘the other’ courtesy of cruise missiles, F-16 fighter-bombers, Apache helicopter gunships, and tens of thousands of Kevlar-helmeted US soldiers.

As Michael MacDonald writes, “The geopolitical motive for the war was to entrench American power, and the neoliberal motive was to implant global capitalism in Iraq and its neighbors.” However, the neoconservative mindset was such that those objectives were embarked upon not as the forced imposition of foreign ideals onto a hostile population, but instead as ideals that were and are a “godsend to the world.”

Put another way, we are talking about a messianic, god given mission to reshape the world in America’s image under the rubric of American exceptionalism.

Blair’s role in this was as willing lieutenant, determined to do his superior’s bidding and thereby win his approval and, with it, esteem. In him Britain had a prime minister with a Manichean worldview in which the Christian and democratic West had an obligation to confront and defeat evil and tyranny in service to humanitarianism; what Kipling famously described as “white man’s burden.”

The war in Iraq proved a seminal moment in history, the ramifications of which the Iraqi people, people across the region, and also throughout the West continue to suffer to this day. Rather than liberate Iraq, the war and ensuing occupation destabilised the country, producing not peace and democracy but a brutal and ongoing sectarian conflict, societal collapse, and the death or displacement of millions of people. Meanwhile, rather than face the consequences or be held to account for his role in the war and the disaster it has wrought, Tony Blair has gone on to amass the kind of fortune associated with Crassus, selling his services to all manner of unsavoury regimes, corporations, and causes.

“A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world,” Albert Camus warns us. In 2003 Tony Blair was loosed upon the people of Iraq. His guilt – along with the guilt of a British Establishment that willingly followed his lead in attaching itself to Washington’s coattails – is written in their suffering and the suffering of generations as yet unborn.