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Signs of Hope – A continuing series June 27, 2019

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

Class structure June 27, 2019

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Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett takes a looks in the Guardian at the preponderance of Oxbridge graduates in British public, media, judicial and business life:

Why the continued respect where there should be scorn and suspicion for those who buy themselves advantages in life and then coast through, seemingly answerable to no one?
Well, I don’t respect it. I’m polite about it, as you can’t blame an individual child for the circumstances of his or her birth whether rich or poor, but I won’t pretend I think any of those privately educated people who dominate Britain are better than you or me (because the chances are you went to state school, too. Most of us did, after all). I’m always going to be more impressed by a kid from a council estate and a struggling comprehensive who gets four As at A-level than I am by someone with the same grades who has been spoon-fed Latin their whole education before being shepherded to repeated Oxbridge interview roleplay sessions.
The question is: why aren’t Oxbridge interviewers impressed by this? Oxford and Cambridge are improving their intake, but progress is slow, and despite the laughable fears of some independent schools that their pupils are being discriminated against, not enough is being done. In 2018 the Sutton Trust accused Oxford and Cambridge of being so socially exclusive that they recruited more students from eight top schools than almost 3,000 other UK state schools put together. That’s simply unjustifiable. Furthermore, it’s a plucky state school child that would stride willingly and confidently into such an environment.

That question she asks, ‘why aren’t Oxbridge interviewers impressed by this’ has so obvious an answer that I’m presuming it is entirely rhetorical… This is how a class system which reifies those from the supposed upper classes functions. It offers a slightly opaque, often seemingly intangible, but very real social safety net and network for and from within those class(es) throughout their lives. The contacts established, the understanding of their privilege, the unwillingness to share or extend that privilege is the very definition of upper class.

Of course, as she notes, those from those classes aren’t ‘bad people’ as individuals but they carry with them assumptions, and privilege, which as it were displaces those who do not have access to the same resources. And there are other aspects to this – a deference to those who have that privilege, and as evidenced by the comments, a remarkable wish to explain away these phenomena as somehow ‘natural’ and ‘inevitable’.

One key way to engage with this is to recognise the reality of this and to seek to dilute that privilege.

Some interesting statistics.. June 27, 2019

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Reading Danny McCoy of IBEC about the Summer Economic Statement in the IT this last day or so there was little of great interest. McCoy wants more public investment in capital projects – not the worst idea. But he also wants higher taxes on the lower paid (natch). As noted in the comments BTL on the article the following is carefully worded:

Household disposable income in Ireland has risen by more than 25 per cent in the last five years. The median Irish household has an income level of €45,000 already, among the highest globally. The level of tax paid falls heavily on a small proportion of households: the top 10 per cent pay more than 60 per cent of income taxation, but the average household pays only 17 per cent of gross income on taxes and social security.

That’s some mangling going on there in the last sentence, though the point about disposable income is interesting.

For a further analysis Michael Taft has this as well as some useful suggestions.

‘“Something deep was stirring”? The impact of August 1969 on the Republic’ – Brian Hanley June 27, 2019

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June 1989 revisited: Hungary removes the border fence with Austria June 27, 2019

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RTÉ has this fascinating photograph on its site today.

This iconic photograph from 27 June 1989 was carried around the world – depicting the former Hungarian leader Gyula Horn and the Austrian foreign minister Alois Mock, tearing through barbed wire with bolt cutters – severing the once electrified barbed wire that had separated their two countries.

The station slightly overstates the situation in its headline ’30 years since the first chink appears through Hungary’s Iron Curtain’ – matters in Hungary had already moved apace… but it almost immediately corrects it in the text.

But the weakening of the Iron Curtain that separated Eastern Europe from the West had already begun weeks beforehand.

The reception from the Soviets was crucial.

When word got through to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, official records show his response as being: “To be honest, I don’t see a problem with it.”

For followers of Left nostalgia… June 26, 2019

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…or so this tweet says. Thanks to the person who noticed this…

Christy Moore unveiled a plaque to Frank Conroy June 26, 2019

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Christy Moore unveiled a plaque to Frank Conroy.

On Saturday 22nd June, Christy Moore unveiled a plaque to Frank Conroy, a Kildare man killed in 1936 while fighting with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. The plaque, presented to the Kilcullen Heritage Centre by the Friends International Brigades Ireland, is a twin of a plaque presented to the town council of Lopera in Spain in April 2016.

Over a hundred people packed into the Kilcullen Centre to hear historian James Durney speak on the life of Conroy who was born on 25 February 1914, in Kilcullen. Christy sang his song “Viva La Quinte Brigada” and was joined on stage by the local Kilcullen Choir to give a most incredible performance of “Ride On” and “Nancy Spain”.

On 16 December 2012, the Frank Conroy Committee held their first commemoration to this young Irish revolutionary who had conveniently been airbrushed from history by the establishment. Nevertheless, Frank is now as well known in the county as Kildare-born Fenian John Devoy.

Near infinite self-regard and self-importance June 26, 2019

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One of the more telling aspects of some with alt-right views is the sheer bombast and self-regard and self-importance of those who hold them. For example A consider this character who is in court due to alleged harassment of Anna Soubry (I’m no fan of hers but the alleged behaviours were pathetic).

Pro-Brexit activist James Goddard, 29, interrupted proceedings when Brian Phillips, 55, of Dale View, Erith, south-east London, entered his plea at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

And:

During his own case management hearing, Mr Goddard, who was representing himself, argued about his “draconian” bail conditions and was told by District Judge Vanessa Baraitser: “Thank you. You can go now.”
Mr Goddard branded the move a “joke” and told police officers and security guards: “Don’t touch me.”
As he left the courtroom, he warned: “One day you’ll all be held to account, every one of you. Complete and utter disgrace.”

That seems…unlikely.

I guess Ireland is just collateral damage… June 26, 2019

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…in the imagination of some who want a Lexit. As exemplified by this contribution from former Syriza MP Costas Lapavitsas. As with Larry Elliott and others on the Lexit side in the UK it is telling, and in a way remarkable, how the issue of Ireland is simply not addressed by them. It’s not even at the races. Indeed one could suggest that vile as the Tories are at least there’s a sort of rudimentary acknowledgement, albeit evasion and deflection, that this island has some sort of part to play.

Thing thing with Lapavitsas is that he should know better – he has been a long-standing and useful commentator on financialisation amongst other matters. But he too deflects, as when he writes;

The radical change promised by Corbyn is impossible to achieve within the regulatory structures of the EU. These structures are designed to serve the interests of big banks and large corporations. Brussels would not tolerate socialist policies in the UK (or anywhere else). It would use its extensive powers to undermine them, in cahoots with domestic British interests, thus also impeding the democratic renewal of Britain.

This is quite simply incorrect. Either he is unaware of the stated programme of the BLP or he is being disingenuous. The programme that the BLP stood on at the most recent election was indeed radical, timely and entirely possible within current EU rules. And while radical that programme is a fair bit more centrist oriented than Syriza’s original one.

And then there’s this which on the face of it seems credible…

As for “remaining and reforming” the EU, this is a wild goose chase. EU institutions are designed to be impervious to expressions of popular democratic will. Any treaty reform would require unanimity among member states, while any reform via secondary legislation would need the consent of the commission, the majority of governments and the majority of MEPs, before jumping the hurdle of the European court of justice. There is just no chance.

But that’s to suggest that those who seek remain and reform (and actually I don’t want the UK to remain within the EU, but rather I want a mitigation of the worst impacts of Brexit by a soft Brexit), see that as the only arms of their approach. A tranche of us want the space, the common space, opened up by lack of internal borders etc within the EU to be used by the left and progressives by constructing parallel approaches and campaigns which will in part bypass or in the longer term supersede certain aspects of the EU. That is impossible in an atomised Europe where national borders are reimposed – but more to the point it doesn’t fall in to the trap of believing in ‘reform’ as either an end or possibility in and of itself. Some reform is possible, but genuine reform will need a longer deeper struggle.

Finally he appears utterly unaware of the realities of the demographic and other support for the BLP.

Britain certainly needs a fresh start, and its people demand it. The radical transformation promised by Corbyn – especially to the young – is possible only if Labour does not become attached to remain.

He really should look at the membership of the BLP, look at the sentiment within it, and so forth. Subtract that out, as his argument seems to suggest and then there’s a much reduced BLP and that has obvious implications for the feasibility of the BLP taking power.

But again, all those are in a sense tediously familiar Lexit tropes whose reiteration has not given them any power. It is the lack of engagement with the proximate issue of Brexit and Ireland that demonstrates just how adrift of the actual realities and power dynamics in play that his analysis is.

Even Johnson has to accept: no transition period without the EU’s agreement… June 26, 2019

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Wonder if this will knock yet more of the shine off Johnson’s candidacy, his admission in interview that:

Johnson then admitted the UK would not be entitled to an implementation period without signing up to the current withdrawal agreement. “That’s certainly what I’m aiming for … to get an implementation period,” he said.

But then, there’s this:

He said he believed there were “abundant, abundant technical fixes that can be introduced to make sure that you don’t have to have checks at the border” but conceded there was “no single magic bullet” to solve the issue of the Irish border.

And as with the hapless Gove we are then treated to more touchy feely stuff.

However, he said there was now “a real positive energy about getting it done … I think on both sides of the channel there’s an understanding that we have to come out, but clearly parliament has voted three times against the backstop arrangements.”

Then he speaks nonsense about how nobody wants a hard border in Ireland and everyone agrees it is not necessary. Really?

Speaking of which, what an interesting admission from him here:

Johnson said he believed there would be a “very different outcome” with UK negotiators determined to find an alternative to the backstop. “We were committed to it. We actually helped to invent it. We were the authors of our own incarceration. Take that away. Change the approach of the UK negotiators and you have a very different outcome,” he said.

Right. Okay.

Here’s the video.

Is it me or did he seem remarkably vague and almost hesitant? He’s fluent on the generalised stuff about the politics (though not persuasive) but he’s tellingly hesitant about the details. And the stuff about the €39bn – does he really think that’s a deal breaker for the EU?

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