Reading a piece in the Guardian by Alan Sked, a founder of UKIP who left them in 1997when ‘it became a magnet for bigots’ I was entertained to read the following. Sked is of the opinion that ‘We need a Eurosceptic party of the centre left’ in Britain. And he argues that the current crisis of the European Union and the broader ‘grand projet’ as he sees it has demonstrated it as unfit for purpose due to its reliance on ‘progressivism’ which, in his view, sees it as of a kind with Marxism.
He sums up its woes in a single paragraph:
Built on progressive myths (“It has brought peace to Europe”; “it extends democracy”; “it creates prosperity”), it is now in relative economic, demographic and technological decline, lacks accountable or transparent structures of government, and is damning future generations to unemployment and despair. It is run by a self-serving, bureaucratic and political elite, is notoriously corrupt, and is admired only by politicians from the Middle East or Africa who bewail their own lack of unity, or by Americans who see its member nations as the colonies of 1776. Its policies are undemocratic – it has forced unelected, technocratic governments on both Italy and Greece – and do not work. Its single currency has brought penury to half a continent. Its present existential crisis has brought political chaos to Italy, Greece and Spain and threatens the same in France.
And I suspect that after the last five or so years there will be many who will find that critique more than half-correct – even if some will demur at the conclusion that the only way is out (for the UK at least, though such voices are more in evidence here than they once were, albeit mostly it is an issue of leaving the eurozone rather than the EU).
Actually his criticisms of UKIP aren’t all that wrong either. He characterises it as a party…
whose vision of the future is the 1950s – a supposed golden age before the EEC, black people, Muslims and other immigrants, gays, lesbians and other products of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, desecrated this island Eden.
Sounds about right. For some reason Fargage always reminds me of Alan Partridge, but that is in a way to underestimate certain strands of reaction that are extant in the British polity.
Anyhow, for Sked the question is why there is no ‘centre left’ Eurosceptic response akin to UKIP. I think this is a misunderstanding of how Europe played out as an issue in the British Labour Party since the 1960s. In a way the antipathy towards it seems to have dissolved in part precisely due to the way it became more and more of a token of Thatcherism, and beyond Thatcher even further to to the right. Which is not to say that eurosceptic tendencies aren’t extant in the BLP – but those were often submerged by a broader caution – as evidenced in the way in which Gordon Brown effectively ruled out joining the euro in the lifetime of the Blair-led governments. There was also an element of substitutionism, particularly over, but not restricted to, the social chapter, where it was felt that in some ways the EU was expressing a part of the social democratic project.
In fairness Sked references this obliquely and in a chronologically confused fashion:
There was a time when Labour was adamantly anti-EU. Gaitskell, Foot, Kinnock and even Blair opposed it. But then Jacques Delors told the TUC that whereas they were impotent to defeat Thatcherism, he could and would overthrow it from Brussels. Almost overnight, Labour’s patriotism disappeared and the party stood on its head. Brussels had managed to divide and rule Britain.
It’s odd though, because Sked’s passion for the topic is perhaps not served well by the altogether lack of dispassion displayed in his analysis. It’s not so much that his criticisms are without any foundation at all, but perhaps a cooler assessment might strengthen them.
The Welsh windbag, Kinnock, even became an EU commissioner and made a tax-free fortune doing nothing for the public interest but sacking whistleblowers in the corrupt EU bureaucracy. His must be the most pathetic career in postwar British politics. Blair and Mandelson, of course followed suit (although Blair failed to get an EU presidency) and – amazingly – this whole discredited clique still advocates that Britain join the euro.
But anyhow, what he wants is ‘an alternative moderate party of the centre left’ that would ‘avoid the trap of deluded, world-historical progressivism’ for which read ‘withdrawal from the EU’. Good luck with that some would say, the balance of forces in the UK suggests very little space for such an approach – indeed currently I’m reading the book of Hugo Young’s interview notes (the Guardian’s late political columnist), and what’s most striking is the clear sense across the parties and politicians in the 1990s when Europe was arguably at its most potent an issue that in truth there’s actually quite a small percentage absolutely opposed to UK membership with a much larger group that grumbles but essentially agrees with the proposition that it is positive and in any likely referendum will tend to vote that way. Granted the last five years has made that tighter, but…
Anyhow, Sked argues that any new party would seek the following:
1. Direct, transparent, accountable democracy
2. Liberal values that protect the individual from discrimination on grounds of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or political belief and uphold freedom of speech, freedom of the press and media, freedom of assembly, the right to a fair trial, and freedom from arbitrary arrest
3. A social policy which seeks to provide decent pensions, care, social housing, welfare benefits and full employment to all in need after a sound education that caters to everyone’s talents (including those with disabilities).
All very… erm… progressive. And along with EU withdrawal and ‘free trade with European friends and neighbours’ there’s this most curious final point:
5. Domestically, the most radical changes, apart from ending an austerity aimed mainly at the poor, might be constitutional. It might be wise to federalise the UK and make the House of Lords an elected federal chamber.
Perhaps an independent Britain could negotiate a confederation of the British Isles with the Irish Republic to help solve Ireland’s problems.
Still COBI is an idea which has floated around in various forms and in the context of various organisations for a long time, arguably since the outbreak of the conflict in the late 1960s. Some will think of the Socialist Party’s approach, but I think, in fairness to them, they come from a somewhat different starting point. Funnily enough the idea is raised – and subsequently dismissed – in this document here in the Left Archive, from the British Labour Party in the 1980s.
And in a slightly different context it was floated in the early 1980s by some in an attenuated form as the Islands of the North Atlantic.., allowing for the cute acronym IONA.
The closest we’ve seen is probably the British-Irish Council which I had forgotten has its own ‘standing secretariat’ in Edinburgh which was established last year, and is probably close enough to the IONA concept. On a slightly different tangent some interpret Alex Salmond’s push to devolution max for Scotland as tipping towards a de facto Confederation of the British Isle’s albeit – obviously – without the Republic.
As to the likelihood of any such Confederation? Hard to believe that it would ever manifest itself in those terms, vastly more likely that links will accrue piecemeal between the various sovereign states and devolved entities on these islands as time progresses.
Anonymous again… May 29, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Internet.
Individuals claiming to be part of international hacktivist group Anonymous have published phone numbers and addresses for supporters of the English Defence League (EDL) as part of what they said was the first phase of a campaign to destroy the far-right street protest movement.
There’s no question but they’re an intriguing entity. Politically one could perhaps argue that they’re along the lines of ‘good intentions’. Read the statement allegedly from them on the EDL.
“We have been patiently observing your organisation as you have [indoctrinated] our young with your criminal mindset.
“Your constant belligerence, like a pack of raving ignoramuses, furthers only bigotry and segregation. You have angered us considerably and summoned our wrath irrevocably.”
There’s an hint of a (undeniably well intentioned) mwahahaha ringing in the background. It continues, noting in the wake of the murder of Lee Rigby, that:
This villainous public display has thrown the United Kingdom into mourning; every community and every congregation extending their deepest condolences.
And yet, and yet, there’s an hard edge to them in terms of those who come into their focus that somehow undercuts that – as well as the fact that numerous ‘members’ have been imprisoned for their participation.
You, however, have used this as another excuse to further spread your campaign of hate, bigotry, and misinformation. Under the guise of national pride you have instigated crimes against the innocent and incited the subjugation of Muslims.
It’s fair to ask as to how much real influence all this has – different accounts offer different conclusions. And there are serious issues of representation, such groups by their nature obviously are not subject to clear democratic legitimisation – how can they?
And yet, and yet… (again) have to admit, that their targets in the main seem well chosen. Their development (evolution?) across the last decade from lulz to an approach much closer to an activist social commentary on contemporary society is remarkable, and there’s something about them, something about the often inchoate but occasionally focused actions they take that reminds of the situationists, something of that spirit.
Contradiction piled on contradiction… May 23, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
…or so one would think to read about the so-called ‘reprisals’ by EDL members in Woolwich last night – after the grim events of the day – which involved running street-battles with police and a suspected attack on a mosque. As someone noted on twitter what can it be like to be an actual person living in Woolwich effectively held hostage for the second time in 24 hours? Who’s going to defend people from the EDL?
From the man who didn’t understand the use of Mr. Men as a means of getting secondary school history students to understand communicating…er…history… May 14, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
The education secretary, Michael Gove, has come under fire for citing PR-commissioned opinion polls as evidence of teenagers’ ignorance of important historical events.
In a Mail on Sunday article published in March, Gove said: “Survey after survey has revealed disturbing historical ignorance, with one teenager in five believing Winston Churchill was a fictional character while 58% think Sherlock Holmes was real.”
Thankfully someone bothered to examine whether this held up:
This prompted Janet Downs, who describes herself as a grandparent and retired teacher, to send a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Department for Education asking for the evidence to support Gove’s claim.
And the answer?
Three weeks later, the department wrote back to say “unfortunately, I am not able to provide you with the details of the survey as it was commissioned and conducted by UKTV Gold”.
What a great education secretary he must be.
But let’s consider the broader point. Time and again we find that simple fact-checking appears to be beyond (or above) government Ministers. There was the embarrassing Lenin in Ireland fiasco in Enda Kenny’s speech at Beal na Blath last year – one wonders what we can expect this year, there is the continual use of unsubstantiated assertion.
And yet we live in an age where it has never been easier to determine the basic truth of such matters. And truth is what is the difference between the supposed lack of knowledge of teens and the clear lack of effort on the part of Gove?
Good quote from Michael Rosen…
“When Gove said: ‘Survey after survey’ showed teenagers’ historical ignorance he meant to say: ‘I’m making this up.’”
Oh yeah, and the Mister Men debacle? Read on here. Gove apparently can’t tell the difference between learning history and then applying that knowledge in a simplified manner to teach others as an educative process.
Austerity: Unintended consequence… May 3, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
No time to address this in detail now, but looking at the increased numbers of UKIP local representatives in yesterday’s local elections difficult not to see this too as a response, albeit an inchoate and reactionary one, to austerity.
Hilary Benn, the shadow communities secretary, played down the Ukip threat. He told the BBC: “It is a protest party and not a party of government. Its economic policy does not add up.”
That last point is central.
Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University said Ukip had achieved a “remarkable performance”. In a briefing paper for the Political Studies Association on the local elections, he said Ukip presents the most serious threat by a fourth political force in England since the second world war.
Thatcher’s people… April 11, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Uncategorized.
Okay, this is the last Thatcher themed post for a while – promise.
There’s a fascinating book, entitled Thatcher’s People, very partisan but interesting nonetheless which was published in 1991 by John Ranelagh, who was once part of the Conservative (Tory) Research Department during the mid to late 1970s. The CDR was regarded with some suspicion by Thatcher et al as being irretrievably wet, though Ranelagh’s sympathies appear to tilt towards the softer fringes of her approach. As an overview of Thatcher and Thatcherism its pretty good, though now long out of print. But it ends with the following which has always stuck with me… though perhaps not for the reason the author intended.
One of her [Thatcher’s] people was at a dinner party in the spring of 1990. He was arguing the case for free market principles, and someone said, ‘Yes, the free market is all very well, but you don’t mean absolutely free?’
‘Yes, I do,’ said Thatcher’s person.
‘What? No regulation at all?’
‘What do you mean? We all could die?’
‘What? You must be mad!’
‘Everything should be freed, so that people can do exactly what they want to do.’
‘Good God, old boy, it would be chaos!’
‘The difference between you and me,’ said Thatcher’s person, providing a summary of the genuine idealism so mangy of her people passionately feel, ‘is that I think people are basically good, and that why will find the right way. Whereas you think people are basically evil.’
More on the AIA… April 10, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
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Given the discussion on the issue of the Anglo Irish Agreement, there’s a very interesting mistake in Stephen Collins overview of the Anglo Irish Agreement in the Irish Times today. He notes that:
Haughey returned to power in 1987 and immediately abandoned pledges to unpick the deal. Instead Brian Lenihan worked the institutions established by the agreement and meetings of the North-South Intergovernmental Conference became an important feature of Anglo-Irish relations.
There’s a problem. No such North-South Intergovernmental Conference was established under the AIA. There is, of course, the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference established under the BA/GFA and the North/South Ministerial Council. And there was the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference established under the AIA but, North-South Intergovernmental Conference? Nothing. I’m sure it’s the AIIC he’s referring to but it’s a telling error.
Though if that’s telling, it’s no more so than the remarkably partial reading of that period of Irish history which somehow manages to ignore a raft of British government and military actions (and I’m pointing to that in particular given that the focus of his piece is on Thatcher and her role in relation to Ireland).
Statements on the death of Thatcher by the Irish Left… April 10, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.
More than happy to add any others in, please note links in comments… WBS
“Thatcher was an unashamed opponent of the most fundamental principles of any decent human society” says Workers’ Party General Secretary John Lowry.
“The death of Margaret Thatcher is a reminder of her vicious campaign against the working class at home and abroad, and of the need to defeat the governments pursuing the policies she set in motion in London, Belfast and Dublin”, said Workers’ Party General Secretary, John Lowry.
“Maggie Thatcher was ruthless in pursuit of one goal throughout her time in power – to rob the working class of the gains it had made in employment, healthcare, education, social and trade union rights in the century before her election, and to hand over the most valuable assets of the people to profiteers at a knockdown price.”
“Right from her days as ‘Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher’, she waged a merciless struggle against ordinary working people and the most vulnerable in our society, depriving them of everything she could. She attacked the national health service, and abandoned the mentally ill; she deliberately destroyed manufacturing, throwing millions out of work and replacing high-wage, high-skill jobs with part-time and unskilled work; she sold off the assets of the state for a song so that her speculator friends in the banks and the City of London could make a killing; she squandered billions of pounds of North Sea oil to cut taxes for the rich.”
“She did everything she could to destroy the lifestyle and values of working class communities, attacked the rights of workers to organise through anti-trade union laws, promoting the insidious idea that there is no such thing as society, and spouting the nonsense that there is no alternative.”
“Thatcher was an unashamed opponent of the most fundamental principles of any decent human society – civil rights, equality, and justice. This explains her support for brutal dictators such as Pinochet and for reactionary religious tyrants in Afghanistan. It explains why she called Nelson Mandela a terrorist and opposed sanctions against the Apartheid regime.”
“She was a war-monger, who went to war and supported the equally vile Ronald Reagan in his support of right-wing dictatorships and his global war in support of the monopolies. The vicious campaign she waged against the miners demonstrated that she had no hesitation in using war and violence against her own citizens for her own electoral ends, from Belfast to Bolton.”
Mr Lowry concluded, “We do not mourn for Margaret Thatcher. She was truly an enemy of the working class. Her death will do nothing to defeat the austerity policies being implemented by her heirs. Thatcher is gone. The struggle against privatisation, cuts, and the erosion of solidarity that is her legacy continues. There is an alternative and that alternative is socialism.”
Issued 9th April 2013
COMMUNIST PARTY OF IRELAND
Margaret Thatcher’s death is no loss to the greater part of humanity
Margaret Thatcher has left a deep legacy not only for the people of the neighbouring island but also for the Irish people and for the oppressed and suffering peoples of the world.
Thatcher epitomised the arrogance of the long imperialist traditions of the British ruling class. Her policy in regard to the H-block hunger strikes exposed her deep contempt and hatred for those who opposed British imperialist interests. Under her rule the British army gained greater freedom to develop and perpetrate its dirty war in the North of Ireland, when selective assassinations and the management of loyalist paramilitaries became more central to the British war machine.
Thatcher was one in a long line of British rulers who had a deep hatred of working people, such as her great hero, Churchill, another person who carried as a badge of honour his hatred of Ireland and the Irish people’s struggle for independence as well as for the British working class. Thatcher saw workers as mere cannon-fodder in imperialist wars, whether in Ireland or the Malvinas, or simply strategic pawns in her anti-communist crusades, as with “Solidarity” in Poland.
Her name has become a byword for aggression, selfishness, and rampant individualism. She has left a legacy of destroyed lives, shattered communities, rampant militarism and chauvinism and the destruction of what was left of British manufacturing and raised the adoration of the “market” beyond all previous levels.
Her policies have been continued by all subsequent British Governments, whether Conservative or Labour, Tony Blair being her most enthusiatic and most effective disciple.
No tears will be shed for her among the families of the hunger-strikers or of those assassinated by the British army and loyalist paramilitaries, nor in the mining villages of Wales and many other mining communities in Britain. She had no ears for the cries of suffering from the families of dead coalminers as she shackled and trampled on workers’ rights.
Margaret Thatcher was a product of the material conditions in which that monopoly capitalism created. She represented the most aggressive interests of monopoly capitalism, the political forces that had defeated the exponents of the post-war economic and social compromise. In this she also exposed the shallow and duplicitous nature of British labourism.
Unfortunately, as history shows, the very nature of this economic system throws up and requires such arrogant and ruthless individuals.
Gerry Adams comments on the death of Margaret Thatcher
April 8, 2013
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams commenting on the death today of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said:
“Margaret Thatcher did great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British Prime Minister.
“Working class communities were devastated in Britain because of her policies.
“Her role in international affairs was equally belligerent whether in support of the Chilean dictator Pinochet, her opposition to sanctions against apartheid South Africa; and her support for the Khmer Rouge.
“Here in Ireland her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering. She embraced censorship, collusion and the killing of citizens by covert operations, including the targeting of solicitors like Pat Finucane, alongside more open military operations and refused to recognise the rights of citizens to vote for parties of their choice.
“Her failed efforts to criminalise the republican struggle and the political prisoners is part of her legacy.
“It should be noted that in complete contradiction of her public posturing, she authorised a back channel of communications with the Sinn Féin leadership but failed to act on the logic of this.
“Unfortunately she was faced with weak Irish governments who failed to oppose her securocrat agenda or to enlist international support in defence of citizens in the north.
“Margaret Thatcher will be especially remembered for her shameful role during the epic hunger strikes of 1980 and 81.
“Her Irish policy failed miserably.”