Ed Miliband – a tale of two pictures

This is what happened after the BBC TV “challengers” debate. Ed Miliband went over to talk to the three women leaders, and then respectfully waited while they hugged each other. Then Labour, SNP, Plaid and Green leaders shared a warm conversation, with Farage out in the cold.

 

Live-Election-Debate

So why are so many people (some even on the left) only sharing the picture on social media of Ed waiting, trying to make him look like an outsider?:

HUG

Austerity v humanity and the rise and rise of Nicola Sturgeon

HUGThe story of the lead-up to the 2015 general election is the story of Nicola Sturgeon’s emergence as the voice of progressive politics not only for people in Scotland but all over Britain, battered by five years of a Tory-led coalition government that has extended itself in using the 2008 global economic crisis as a pretext for waging an all-out assault against working people, the disabled, immigrants, benefit claimants, and every last manifestation of the common good in British society – i.e. public services and the NHS.

The latest leaders’ debate – at which Cameron’s non appearance backfired spectacularly, delivering a message of malign contempt for the British electorate – saw progressive politics at long last given a mainstream platform, and how refreshing it was. Austerity is the very antithesis of humanity and its champions have much to answer for when it comes to the roll call of human despair, destitution, and damage it has wrought.

Nicola Sturgeon, along with Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett, outlined a vision of hope as an alternative to the conservatism of the mainstream parties, Labour included, who remain prisoners of Thatcherite nostrums to greater or lesser extent.

Ed Miliband’s repeated rejection of Sturgeon’s offer of help in keeping the Tory’s out illustrate the bind he’s in. Of course, in the event of a hung parliament, the Labour leader will cooperate with the SNP and other progressive forces in order to govern. But as a prospective prime minister, and with a feral right wing press south of the border to contend with, he can’t admit to it with just a few weeks to go before the polls open on May 7.

It is key that Miliband becomes the next occupant of Downing Street, but that likely won’t be on the back of a Labour majority. When it comes to this the political genie is well and truly out of the bottle, with those who continue to hold to the mantra that the only way of getting rid of the Tories is by voting Labour increasingly tilting at windmills.

This election is not about independence. A vote for the SNP in Scotland in May is a vote against austerity and a progressive alternative to the status quo. That said, Nicola Sturgeon is clearly to the left of many within her own party, and her huge popularity, which now reaches beyond Scotland, brings with it the danger of being unable to deliver on the hope she has unleashed. But, no matter, for those whose lives have been blighted by one of the most vicious Tory governments in many years, hope is more than a word it is a lifeline.

Austerity is not only morally reprehensible it is economically illiterate, the economic equivalent of treating a cut finger by taking an axe and hacking the entire arm off. The country is crying out for an investment-led alternative in order to return sustainable growth to the economy. Such an alternative is founded on the understanding that self interest is indistinguishable from common interest and vice versa.

Yes, Nicola Sturgeon, in articulating the need for transformational change, has become the story of the 2015 general election – to such an extent that the old saw, ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’, needs to be amended to read ‘woman’.

Austerity v humanity. The choice and stakes in a general election have never been more stark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The past political defenders of Anne Marie Waters – UKIP’s racist candidate

Readers may recall the role I played in blowing the whistle when anti-Islam extremist, Anne Marie Waters, was shortlisted for the Labour target seat of Brighton Pavillion.

The result was a campaign against me, including a hatchet job by the obsessed wingnut Howard Fuller, (who on another occasion I had to issue a formal warning to, using the pre-action protocol for libel). This story was then picked up by Nick Cohen at the Spectator, also in defence of Anne Marie Waters. As it worked its way up the journalistic food chain, the half truths and distortions about me were expanded and someone, presumably Grant Shapps, saw the opportunity to plant hostile stories about me in the Mail and the Sun, to try to damage Labour. Fame indeed.

All of this blowback against me, was because I argued that Anne Marie Waters was an anti-Islamic extremist, and therefore unsuitable to be a Labour parliamentary candidate. So I was interested to see in today’s Daily Mirror: Watch Ukip candidates spouting vile anti-Islamic hate messages at a far-right rally

Magnus Nielsen and Anne Marie-Waters were guest speakers at a weekend event organised by Mothers Against Radical Islam And Sharia – MARIAS – which has close links to groups like the English Defence League.

The Mirror’s footage shows Mr Nielsen, who is standing in the marginal North London seat of Hampstead and Kilburn, openly telling the audience Britain is “at war with Islam”.

Ms Waters, who hopes to become MP for Lewisham East, South East London, was also filmed telling an undercover reporter “a lot of people need to be deported” and “many mosques need to be closed down”.

UKIP bans its members from being formally involved with far right wing organisations and has claimed it is not a party of racists. Yet activists from fascist groups were welcome to come and hear the UKIP speakers at the MARIAS gathering in Westminster on Saturday. MARIAS leader Toni Bugle recorded a video message to online followers days before, which said: “On April 11, between 12.30 and 1, Downing Street, MARIAS, be there. “I don’t care what you are, I don’t care if you’re Britain First, I don’t care if you’re English Defence League, I don’t even care if you’re National Front.” In another video she said “no matter who you are affiliated with, can stand together under one umbrella.”

But let us look what the so-called “decent” left said when I called out Anne Marie Waters for extremism and racism:

Jim Denham: Religious bigot Newman witch-hunts secular Labour woman

The liar Newman deliberately misrepresents Waters when he suggests she made an anti-immigration broadcast. Watch it for yourself, and you’ll see she makes it absolutely clear that she’s not arguing against immigration.

Howard Fuller: Anne Marie Waters resigns from the Labour Party

Ms Waters departure came as a bit of a surprise given her recent attempt to be selected as PPC for Brighton Labour Party. Her candidature attracted attention from those on the darker side of politics in the form of Andy Newman from the misnamed Socialist Unity website where he conducted a witch hunt which was opposed both here and over at Harry’s Place

Anne Marie Waters is one of the countries leading secularists and is a spokesperson for the National Secular Society and the One Law for All campaign and does some excellent work campaigning for free speech and women’s rights. Her decision to leave Labour is therefore a blow to fighting back against the parasitical pro-Islamist elements like Socialist Unity and Socialist Action.

Howard Fuller: Socialist Unity attacks secularist activist

Ms Waters is also active in the National Secular Society, hardly “extreme” in any shape or form.

Worth noting that Howard Fuller still proudly links to AMW’s own website on the sidebar of his blog, and has had no compunction in himself quoting from the far-right journal “International Dispatches”, a publication which is linked to Fjordmann – whose work was one of the inspirations for the Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik.

My goodness, how would liberal commentators describe a blog that linked to a racist extremist like Anne Marie Waters, and quotes from Dispatch International? It surprised me that Nick Cohen praised Howard Fuller, describing him as “anti-Totalitarian”

Nick Cohen: Extremists and the mainstream: the case of Comrade Newman

The Chippenham Labour Party has decided that its candidate to contest the 2015 general election will be one Andy Newman. As the anti-totalitarian blogs Howie’s Corner and Harry’s Place have already argued he is almost certain to be the worst politician to stand for a mainstream party.

… Newman manages the laughably named “Socialist Unity” website: laughable, not just because it engages in vicious factionalism, but because it indulges the religious strain of far-right thinking. He has campaigned against Anne Marie Waters of One Law for All , which opposes the imposition of Sharia law in the UK. In other words, he has put himself on the wrong side of the struggle between religion and women’s rights.

But how liberal is Nick Cohen really? In November 2013 he himself shared a platform with Anne Marie Waters, at an event where former EDL leader, Tommy Robinson, was guest of honour.

Over at Hary’s Place, Sarah AB: Secular mesalliances: Anne Marie Waters, Fjordman and Socialist Unity

Readers will probably already be aware of Andy Newman’s articles criticising Anne Marie Waters – and of ripostes from Howard Fuller, Nick Cohen and, just recently, Anne Marie Waters herself.   I fully sympathise with the disdain she expresses in her own post for the ‘totalitarian left’, as represented by Andy Newman.

Sarah AB: Socialist Unity attacks secularist activist

I agree with Howie that is absurd to describe Anne Marie Waters as an anti-Muslim extremist and, as Shiraz Socialist reports, Andy Newman misrepresents her views on immigration.

Perhaps there should be a little reflection from those who leapt to Ms Waters’s defence. I know that it can be difficult to distinguish between genuine concerns, and bigotry. But the warning signs were all there with Anne Marie Waters.

LEADING WOMEN FROM BRITAIN IN SOLIDARITY WITH VENEZUELA

Women campaigners from Britain have issued a statement in solidarity with Venezuela and against U.S President Obama’s executive order declaring “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela.”

The statement declares solidarity with the recent women’s march in Venezuela against right-wing destabilisation and US intervention (see here ) and the signatories pledge to support “the international ‘Obama – Repeal the Executive Order’ campaign” and “continue to support the advances in social progress and women’s rights that have taken place in Venezuela in recent years.

Sian Errington of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, who initiated the statement, said, “Around the world, millions of people are saying that Venezuela is not a threat and President Obama should repeal the Executive Order. Here in Britain, statements from political representatives, trade union leaders, students, peace campaigners, and now prominent women campaigners, have expressed our solidarity. We will continue to campaign for Venezuela’s right to self-determination and against U.S intervention.

The statement was co-ordinated by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk).

STATEMENT: LEADING WOMEN FROM BRITAIN IN SOLIDARITY WITH VENEZUELA –
#VENEZUELAISNOTATHREAT #OBAMAREPEALTHEEXECUTIVEORDER

On March 9 US President Obama signed an executive order declaring “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela” and imposed a further round of sanctions on the country. This has been condemned by major regional bodies in Latin America and the Caribbean, governments all over the world and much of global civil society.

Over the past 16 years Venezuelan women have been both the leaders of, and the main beneficiaries from, social progress and change. The huge expansion in free health care, education, childcare, social security, poverty eradication programmes, progressive labour laws and the creation of government bodies such as the Ministry for Women and Banmujer (Women’s Development Bank) have transformed the position of women.

This is why Venezuelan Women’s organisations have been at the forefront of organising over 6 million signatures to the campaign ‘Obama – Repeal the Executive Order’ and this week organised a mass women’s demonstration against US sanctions and destabilisation.

As British women campaigners, we stand with them in supporting the international ‘Obama – Repeal the Executive Order’ campaign and will continue to support the advances in social progress and women’s rights that have taken place in Venezuela in recent years.

Yours,
Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary, Unite the Union
Siobhan Endean, National Officer for Equality, Unite the Union
Heather Wakefield, Head of Local Government, Police and Justice, Unison
Linda Perks, Greater London Regional Secretary, Unison
Max Hyde, Ex-President, National Union of Teachers
Karen Mitchell, Legal Officer, Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers Union (RMT) & Venezuela Solidarity Campaign Vice-Chair
Jayne Fisher, SERTUC International Committee Vice-Chair & Venezuela Solidarity Campaign Executive Committee
Zita Holborne, National Executive Committee member, and Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC)
Lindsey German, Convenor, Stop the War Coalition, and author of ‘How a century of war changed the lives of women
Louise Richards, Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group
Natasha Hickman, Cuba Solidarity Campaign
Jude Woodward, Executive Committee member, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.
Sian Errington, Convenor of Women for Venezuela & Executive Committee member, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.

How Germany sees us

I was pleased that GMB Wiltshire and Swindon branch was able to assist German TV in making this documentary about zero hour contracts. Contracts that, as the programme explains, would be unlawful in the more successful German economy.

Watch it here: http://www.daserste.de/information/politik-weltgeschehen/europamagazin/sendung/swr/grossbritannien-ausgebeutete-arbeitnehmer-100.html

Der Wahlkampf in Großbritannien ist in vollem Gange, Anfang Mai wird ein neues Parlament gewählt. Die konservativen Tories verweisen auf das steigende Bruttoinlandsprodukt sowie sinkende Arbeitslosigkeit und versprechen weiteres Wachstum. Ein Grund für den Aufschwung ist die Flexibilität des Arbeitsmarktes.

Diese hat aber auch ihre Schattenseiten. Mit “Null-Stunden”-Verträgen kann eine Firma Personal einstellen, ohne feste Arbeitszeiten oder Lohn zu garantieren. Die Arbeitnehmer stehen auf Abruf bereit und sollen nur erscheinen, wenn sie gebraucht werden. Und nur dann gibt es auch Geld. Fast 700.000 solcher Vertrags-Arbeiter gibt es zurzeit, die meisten kaum in der Lage den Alltag zu bestreiten. Sozialverbände warnen vor einer wachsenden Kluft zwischen Arm und Reich und einer Zunahme prekärer Existenzen in den unteren Bevölkerungsschichten.

Autorin: Julie Kurz

Obama: ‘Cuba’s not a threat to the United States.’

Though there is much I have and do disagree with when it comes to the Obama administration – as per my recent RT articles on both Cuba and Iran – his recent framework agreement with Iran over its nuclear program and his meeting with Cuban leader, Raul Castro, at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, marks him out as a statesman. Given the racism he’s had to deal with while in office, and with a Republican opposition that is off the scale in how it has sought to undermine him at every turn, the way he has maintained his dignity and equanimity throughout has been extraordinary.

This press conference provides evidence of those qualities.

It is Sturgeon who wanted to take Scotland out of the EU, not Cameron

The Scottish TV leader debates have been revealing. Where the SNP have had to defend their actual government record, Nicola Sturgeon has come over as tetchy, and the audience skeptical.

However, the point that gripped me was that Scotland’s First Minister talked of a London Tory government taking Scotland out of the EU, against the will of the Scottish people. It is my belief that during last year’s referrendum, YES campaigners seemingly sought to hoodwink the electorate about the potential risks; and thus inhibit people from making an informed decision.

The half-truths about currency and expected North Sea Oil revenue revealed a tendency to adopt the most optimistic outcome as not only likely, but almost inevitable. The issue of EU membership is another area where the Scottish government, the SNP, and the official YES campaign sought to pour sand in the eyes of the electorate, and the SNP keep on doing so.

Scotland has been a member of the EU, and its predecessor organizations, for 40 years; but it has been so as a member of the United Kingdom, and should Scotland become independent, then it will be rUk that is the successor state that inherits the existing membership, and terms of membership, including the opt-outs negotiated by previous UK governments, over, for example, rebates, and Schengen.

If the UK seeks to leave the EU, then the whole of the UK would leave the EU, and any part of the UK subsequently seeking to re-enter the EU would need to apply anew.

There is no provision in the existing law and treaties for deciding whether Scotland would be permitted to continue with EU membership without interruption, and on the same terms as the UK, or to allow Scotland to stay in the EU if rUK leaves.

The YES campaign took a very bullish approach to this:

As explained in its “independence roadmap” and in its white paper “Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to an Independent Scotland”, the Scottish Government proposes to agree the terms of Scotland’s continued membership of the EU between the date of the referendum, and the proposed date of independence on 24th March 2016.

In that way questions relating to our ongoing EU membership can be settled before we become independent. Scotland already is part of the EU – so there is no doubt that we meet all the requirements for membership, and with our energy and fishing resources it is clearly common sense, and in the interests of the EU, that Scotland’s place in the EU continues seamlessly.

Even the UK government’s expert European legal adviser has accepted that this timetable is “realistic”. So Scotland’s EU membership will be secure by the time we are independent.

However, in a letter from Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission sent to Christina McKelvie, Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Relations Committee this March, her official view spelt out that:

The Treaties apply to the Member States. When part of the territory of a Member State ceases to be a part of that State, e.g. because that territory becomes an independent state, the treaties will no longer apply to that territory. In other words, a new independent region would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the Union and the Treaties would, from the day of its independence, not apply anymore on its territory.

Under Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union, any European state which respects the principles set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union may apply to become a member of the EU. If the application is accepted by the Council acting unanimously after consulting the Commission and after receiving the consent of the European Parliament, an agreement is then negotiated between the applicant state and the Member States on the conditions of admission and the adjustments to the Treaties which such admission entails.

This agreement is subject to ratification by all Member States and the applicant state.

In the event of independence the Scottish government would therefore need to negotiate, and seek agreement from all 28 existing members. Many of these member countries may favour the approach advocated by the Scottish Government, but it is reasonable to suppose, as Ruairi Quinn, former president of EU’s finance council has predicted, that, for example, Spain and Belgium might ‘veto an independent Scotland’s EU membership’

Certainly, the continuity of Scotland’s EU membership cannot be guaranteed, and the terms of its future accession would need to be negotiated. Any negotiations may well also reveal that Scotland, divorced from the UK, does not have a strong bargaining position; and some areas might be highly problematic, and – for example – commitments to keep an open border with England may conflict with requirements that other EU states might seek relating to Scotland joining the Schengen area.

Of course for those committed to independence, any risk, and almost any cost, will be justifiable. This is also true of the SNP’s claim that it would be possible for Labour to be routed in Scotland, and yet the SNP still be able to wave a magic wand to keep the Conservatives out of office. Despite some previous precedents, if the Conservatives are the largest party,the current constitutional convention would give them the momentum to form a minority government. The SNP seem to be weeping crocodile tears about how dreadful a future Conservative government in Westminster would be, while their supporters wage a shrill and aggressive campaign demonising Scottish Labour as “the Red Tories”, and promising to “drive them out”, creating the conditions for Conservative victory at the UK government level.

Without a number of victories for the Scottish Labour Party, then it is highly likely that it will be David Cameron and not Ed Miliband who forms the next government. If Scottish voters want a Labour government, they are going to have to vote for one.