Emily Thornberry is not the enemy of the working class, the Sun newspaper and everything it represents is

Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper is to working people what Dr Harold Shipman is to medicine. Yet from the transparent and naked opportunism of this downmarket, criminally compromised tabloid in seeking to exploit the furore over Labour’s Emily Thornberry, you would think it’s the in-house newspaper of the British trade union movement rather than a champion of Thatcherism and a committed enemy of anything resembling the interests of working people.

Emily Tornberry’s only crime is that she identified the collapse of working class identity and culture in Britain into a Thatcherite caricature – a process involving its confusion with jingoism and white van man individualism. And before being accused of snobbery or of being another out of touch liberal commentator, I grew up on a housing estate in Thatcher’s Britain and left school at 15 with zero qualifications. I then graduated from a dead end job in a factory to working as a bouncer in bars and clubs at the age of 17, and in my time have driven a white van too. In other words I’ve got the T-shirt when it comes to the archetypal uneducated white working class male projecting an over-masculine persona to compensate for the crisis of identity that has beset this particular demographic over the past three decades and more.

This is why I reject the notion that Dan Ware is representative of the working class. What he does represent is the Sun‘s idea of a typical working class bloke, but as we have identified this Murdoch-owned rag has played a key role in attacking working class consciousness in our society over the past three decades, in service to ensuring its atomisation and fragmentation.

I have nothing against Dan Ware. I don’t know the man. But I do know what he symbolises and recognise and feel angry at how he has been used by the Sun, no doubt in return for a fee, to further an agenda of right wing populism.

The problem with Labour is not that it is out of touch with working people. The problem with the Labour Party is the way it continually buckles in the face of this tawdry right wing narrative, scared to take on the Daily Mail, the Sun, and Ukip, as if by doing so they will forfeit political support. Well guess what? They haven’t been taking them on and are losing support.

Working people in Britain in 2014 are crying out for an ideological and political alternative to the status quo. At a time when immigrants are being scapegoated, when the rich are being cosseted while the poor are being demonised and punished for the ‘crime’ of poverty, people need a mainstream political party to fly the flag of social and economic justice, to stand up for multiculturalism, the redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, the NHS, welfare state, and public services. They need a party which rejects an austerity agenda that has sown nothing but despair and foodbanks throughout the land, while standing for an investment-led route out of the deficit and recession.

Ukip’s victory in the Rochester and Strood by-election was a victory for dog whistle politics, anti politics masquerading as a progressive alternative to the mainstream. And the reason why this wave of anti politics has grown – finding political expression via the SNP in Scotland and in England increasingly via Ukip – is because Labour isn’t Labour anymore and hasn’t been for many years.

One person forced to rely on a foodbank to feed themselves in a rich country is a scandal, 900,138 is a crime, yet where is the pledge from Labour to abolish the obscenity of foodbanks if elected in 2015? Where is the refusal to pander to the coded racism that informs the hysteria over immigration? People are exercised over immigration due to the success of the right in Britain, which includes the Sun, in creating a massive diversion when it comes to ascribing the reason for the sharp increase in poverty, poverty pay, and inequality. It is not due to immigrants ‘flooding’ the country, neither is it due to the moral failing of those stuck in poverty and on benefits. The real reason for it is a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich using the recession to justify the transference of wealth from the poor to the rich under the rubric of austerity since coming to power in 2010.

A report by economists at the London School of Economics and the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex finds that

  • Sweeping changes to benefits and income tax have had the effect of switching income from the poorer half of households to most of the richer half, with the poorest 5% in the country in terms of income losing nearly 3% of what they would have earned if Britain’s tax and welfare system of May 2010 had been retained.
  • With the exception of the top 5%, who lost 1% of their potential income, it is the better-off half of the country that has gained financially from the changes, with an increase of between 1.2% and 2% in their disposable income.
  • The top 1% in terms of income have also been small net gainers from the changes brought in by David Cameron’s government since May 2010, which include a cut in the top rate of income tax.
  • Two-earner households, and those with elderly family members, were the most favourably treated, as a result of direct tax changes and state pensions respectively.
  • Lone-parent families did worst, losing much more through cuts in benefits and tax credits and higher council tax than they gained through higher income tax allowances. Families with children in general, and large families in particular, also did much worse than the average.
  • A quarter of the lowest paid 10% have shouldered a particularly heavy burden, losing more than 5% of what would have been their income without the coalition’s reforms.

The enemy of Britain’s working class is not Emily Thornberry. Their enemy is the Sun newspaper, Ukip and the dog whistle, reactionary politics promoted by both. Only when the Labour Party, Dan Ware, and everyone else wakes up to this fact will we begin to move forward as a society.

Miliband pledges to close Swedish Derogation

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I was delighted to see the commitment from Ed Miliband that the next Labour government willtackle the unscrupulous activities of some recruitment agencies. There is a legitimate role for agencies providing temporary workers, to fill gaps where an employer genuinely has fluctuating work volumes, or where there are temporary tasks to be done.

But all too often employment agencies are used to seek to push down wages, and to use legal trickery to make it harder for workers to assert their workplace rights, whether it is the right to be treated with dignity by supervisors, or the right to a safe and healthy working environment.

I am old fashioned enough to value the relationship where most workers are employed by the company who name is over the door;and where employers feel a social responsibility to recruit from the area where that company is located. Click to continue reading

Viva la solidaridad! Venezuela & the new Latin America stand in solidarity with Gaza

By Matt Willgress and Paul Dobson

In contrast with western complicity with Israel’s attack on Gaza over the summer and ongoing attacks and land grabs since, Venezuela and its allies in Latin America are offering concrete help to Palestine, says Matthew Willgress of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, with additional reporting from Paul Dobson in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Government sent a third consignment of humanitarian aid to the embattled people of Palestine this month. In return, they greeted 119 young Palestinians who are going to be trained to be doctors at the Latin American Medical School in Caracas, demonstrating that genuine solidarity does not consist of excellent speeches, heartwarming discourses, nor best intentions, but rather has concrete actions and deeds at its centre.

“If the 21st Century saw a fighting and brave country, it is that which belongs to the people of Palestine” stated Minister for University Education, Science and Technology, Manuel Fernandez at the sendoff of the aid.

“[Hugo] Chavez brought the love of Palestine to Venezuela and left this legacy with .. Nicolas Maduro” commented the Palestinian Ambassador in Caracas, Linda Sobeh Ali.
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M&S, more Marley & Scrooge than #magicandsparkle

slough-demo-011416334343803424340The way M&S is acting the letters M&S could stands for Marley and Scrooge over the mean spirited way these workers are being treated over the Christmas period says GMB

GMB members, employed by Tempay Ltd at a Marks and Spencer distribution centre in Swindon, protested outside M&S’s store in High Street Slough on Tuesday 18th November over being required to work six days every week until January with only one day off in a 14 day period.

More than 150 formal grievances have been submitted to Tempay Ltd about the Christmas work rotas, from among their 500 staff on the site.

The Marks and Spencer distribution centre in Swindon is run by Wincanton. However most of the staff are employed by an employment agency, 24.7 Recruitment. They are then formally employed through a further company, called Tempay Ltd. Workers employed through Tempay earn the minimum wage of £6.50 per hour compared to the £8.50 per hour paid to workers doing exactly the same job but employed directly through Wincanton.
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Band Aid is offensive

Bob GeldofBack in 1984 a group of rich pop stars gathered together to ‘save Africa’ in response to famine in Ethiopia. The result was Band Aid. Thirty years on and another group of rich pop stars has come together to ‘save Africa’ in response to Ebola.

Tarzan of the Apes is a fictional character who first appeared in a 1912 book of the same name by Edgar Rice Burroughs. At the time the popular view of Africa and Africans in the West was of a primitive, backward, and retrograde culture and people who needed to be ‘saved’ by the white man and white civilization.

It was the very mindset responsible for the continent’s colonisation, which over a period of 400 years devastated its people and plundered its natural resources, leaving deep economic, social, and historical scars that have yet to heal. While Africa no longer suffers the colonisation that it did when Tarzan first appeared in popular culture, it continues to suffer from the colonial mindset and from a global economic system that has ensured its continued under development up to the present day.

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Beyond the froth

Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football picks out the best of the autumn sports books

I’m sorry but you won’t find here the just-in-time-for-Christmas sports autobiography blockbusters. With just enough manufactured controversy to ensure blanket coverage when they are launched. Even a skim read will reveal that, on the contrary, they tell the reader very little they didn’t either know or suspect already.

Instead I would recommend a weighty volume of this sort. A Companion to Sport edited by David Andrews and Ben Carrington. The range of coverage from Monty Panesar to football’s 2010 World Cup is matched by the variety of insights, sport as a contested space being the overarching theme. As an academic book scandalously expensive, but any well-stocked library should have a copy.

Played in London

As a writer Rob Steen straddles that frustrating divide between the academic and the journalistic. His new book Floodlights and Touchlines reveals the richness of writing this mix can sometimes produce. A living history of the relationship between the spectator and his, or increasingly as Rob chronicles, her sport. This is social history of the very highest standard. Simon Inglis is rightly renowned for his writing on the cultural significance of stadia and other sporting buildings. Simon’s Played in Britain project has helped transform our understanding of what these structures mean to their localities, and his latest account of this relationship, Played in London not only continues the richness of Simon’s explanation but is unarguably his finest book in this extraordinary Played in… series yet.

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A vote for Jim Murphy in the Scottish Labour leadership election is a vote for a Tory government in 2015

Jim MurphyWhen it comes to the three candidates fighting it out for the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party – Jim Murphy, Sarah Boyack, and Neil Findlay – if the Tories in Scotland and the SNP could cast a vote between November 17, when the ballot commences, and Dec 13, when the new leader is announced, you can be sure it would be for Jim Murphy. Why? Because with Murphy as leader the likelihood of a Tory government at Westminster in 2015 increases to the point of being almost guaranteed, and likewise the continued dominance of the SNP in Scotland, bringing with it renewed danger of the break-up of the United Kingdom.

This is the reason it is no exaggeration to state that the upcoming election of the next leader of Scottish Labour is the most important internal election in the party’s history, not only in Scotland but UK-wide. For on the result hinges not just the future of Scottish Labour but also the outcome of the 2015 general election and, even more importantly, the very future of the United Kingdom.
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Debunking the myth of the Special Relationship

By Numan Abd al-Wahid

Whether one is critical of the alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States or in favour of the so-called “Special Relationship” it is perceived to be an amicable, natural and trans-historical partnership between two nations who share the same language and whose global interests are more or less the same. Over the last fifteen years these two nations assumed the lead in their continuing support of the colonialist state of Israel and waging war on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and calling for more military intervention in Syria and Iran. So it is no surprise that many find it hard to accept that this alliance is a recent advent rooted in geo-political exigencies of the historical moment at hand. British imperialism was animus, if not outright antithetical, in the first 150 years of the Republic.

Writing, if not gloating, in the midst of the American civil war in the nineteenth century, the future British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury (a.k.a. Robert Cecil) heralded not only the end of the United States of America but democracy itself or as he referred to it the “evil of universal suffrage.”[i] American democracy and the vaunted republic he gleefully boasted were not only a failed experiment and a busted flush but the “most ignominious failure the world had ever seen.” It had become, in our esteemed Lord’s eyes, what today would be referred to derogatively and pejoratively, as a ‘failed state’.

The main reason for this inevitable failure according to Cecil was that the United States had rejected and overthrown its natural leaders, i.e. the British establishment. As such they are now richly “reaping a harvest that was sown as far back as the time of Jefferson.” The Americans had substituted genuine leadership for a dreamer’s theory (the works of Thomas Jefferson) and more so, in the present climate, Abraham Lincoln was an “ass”, an incompetent and “the most conspicuous cause of the present calamities.”[ii]

Another British Minister, William Gladstone too had little time for Lincoln and came out in support of the Southern Confederacy. The Gladstone family had become wealthy largely owing to the family’s slave camps in Jamaica and William’s maiden speech in parliament was a defence of the family business which arose from the slave trading port of Liverpool. Although William Gladstone represented constituents in the family’s native parliamentary seat of Midlothian, Scotland, his father had represented Liverpool in Parliament.[iii]

At the time of the civil war Liverpool’s economy as well as that of the wider North-west region of England was mostly reliant on cotton imported from the American south and then distributed to the cotton mills of Lancashire and Cheshire. Lincoln’s Union army’s blockade of Southern ports caused a massive disruption to this trade.

The blockade also affected the South’s ship manufacturing facilities. As such they turned to Great Britain for ship and gunboat manufacturing. Two ships stand out. The first was the ‘Alabama’ which once operational sunk 65 union ships. The other Confederate ship was a trade ship re-fitted as a gunboat, ‘Shenandoah’ which once sent out to battle “captured nearly 40 prizes” i.e. that is hijacked and looted 40 union and other ships. Needless to say the crew on both ships were mostly manned by British personnel.[iv]Claims were made that these ships were “decoying their victims with the British flag.”[v]

In parliament 74 members were in favour of the confederacy, while only 17 were pro North, pro Lincoln.[vi]The British political establishment were clearly waiting for the right time to intervene on behalf of the south yet at the same time they were loathe to spread the Empire’s resources “too thinly across the globe.” [vii] Click to continue reading

25 years on: East Germany in context

By Hans Modrow

Morning Star

Before I deal with the demise of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) it makes sense to remind ourselves of the circumstances of its birth.

The conclusion of the second world war was sealed at Potsdam between the Soviet Union, the US and Britain.

France was later included and from then on the future development of Germany was dependent on the four allied powers that had defeated fascism.

A new order was created in Europe which led first to the division of Germany and then, with the onset of the cold war in 1946, the division of Europe.
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