Nov 162011

When I first heard that Margaret Thatcher was to receive the Hollywood treatment, my stomach filled with feelings of despair and helplessness about what was surely to come.

Would the film, starring Meryl Streep, look at the huge and costly effects of her premiership on the quality of life of people in Britain? Would it examine the morality of her extreme right-wing, anti-working class agenda? Or on the other hand would it just show her and the battles she had with other politicians to become Prime Minister. Would it show her as a brave, courageous woman fighting discrimination and the male elite or would it show her as someone who was firmly part of the ruling-class elite, perhaps indeed that ruling class elite’s greatest ever champion and someone who cared little for millions upon millions of working class women?

If the reviews are correct (such as this one) then it seems my fears have been realised. Perhaps the title, “The Iron Lady” made it inevitable that it was going to portray Thatcher in such an admiring way. I would have gone for the title of “Thatcher: Milk Snatcher”.

Thatcher it seems is still in popular in parts of British society. But she’s far more popular in America. The devastating effects of her programme on the British people aren’t of as much interest overseas as they are in Britain. In America and elsewhere, she was seen chiefly as a female leader, an ally of Reagan and a fearsome and courageous leader.

She was the first woman to become Prime Minister and as Prime Minister she did nothing for women. She was a green grocer’s daughter who rose to the top of society, and she did her best to ensure that the people who came after couldn’t do the same.

She made Britain a worse place and the lives of millions of people harder. It is a pity that the film doesn’t think that this is worth addressing. But why would it?

Most political coverage is a bit like sports coverage. Sports coverage looks primarily at the players and the tactics of the teams rather than how the game is affecting the crowd. But when political coverage treats politicians like players it does us all a great disservice.

The effects of the political ‘game’ on the ‘crowd’ matters a heck of a lot more than the effect of a football game on the crowd watching. Different sports teams don’t (with some exceptions!) have differing levels of morality. And usually the results of a sports match aren’t a matter of life and death for people.

The peaceful protest of the Occupy Wall Street Movement at Zuccotti Park was violently terminated just a few days ago. Yet how much political coverage doesn’t feature this story and the all connected issues involved? Far too much. Instead they have superficial coverage of candidates for the Republican nomination. Such coverage can be about candidates performances in the polls for example, but what all these stories have in common is this; they do not look at the issues. They treat politics as a clash of personalities and as a game when they should be looking at how people will be richer or poorer or better or worse off as a result of the agendas of the politicians and how those agendas often differ from what the majority of society believes.

So you can look see the story of Margaret Thatcher as how a woman rose to the top. You can look at her battles with Heseltine and Howe. Or can see her rise as an internal battle in the establishment and instead look at how she made millions of people’s lives harder, at how she stood up for the interests of the rich and how she battered the poor. You could even look at how many of our current economic problems started with Reagan and Thatcher and the rise of the hard-right/free-market fundamentalists as the dominant political ideology of the western world.

Aug 182011

I’ve got it folks. Ever since the Tories and the Lib Dems joined together to form the coalition government following the general election in 2010, people have been wondering what issue, what event could drive the two parties apart? Everyone with an interest in politics has devoted some amount of time to thinking about this because of the potential consequences; a general election. An early general election would not only be important, it would be great to watch on News 24 as the events unfolded.

But until now nothing had quite fitted the bill. Both parties were quite willing to comprise on their supposed deeply-held beliefs and polices to get what all politicians crave above all else; power and the opportunity to make poor peoples live even worse than they already are.

The Tory leadership were quite willing to disappoint their backbenchers and be less overtly sexist and homophobic. It was a win-win for them really, they got to appear modern and tolerant and yet they can say to their backbenchers, “Sorry, we would love to be more bigoted but there is nothing we can do. Those bloody Lib Dems! Oh well…” The Tories were also quite willing to give the Lib Dems a referendum on a change to the voting system that no-one wanted, including the Lib Dems! How they must have laughed about that.

The Lib Dems were of course willing to make comprises to get their grubby little hands on power. They had not been in Government for around 90 years and were like some perpetually horny teenager who was finally getting the chance to ‘do it’. Although the whole experience may be so traumatising that this particular Lib Dem horny teenager will find it’s a long, long time before they ever get the chance to ‘do it’ again.

There had always been a divide in the Lib Dems on economic issues; the ‘orange-bookers’ on the right-wing and the ‘social democrats’ on the left-wing. But the right-wing had always been bigger and dominated the leadership and the left-wing had never been that left-wing, more of a centre-wing really.

It also helped that they were quite willing to abandon any policy whatsoever like their commitment to not raise (and in fact to get rid of) tuition fees, not seeming to understand why it was that people got annoyed when they said “Sorry… for making that promise in the first place.”

Maybe civil liberties would turn out to be the Achilles heel of the government? The Lib Dems have been to the left of the Tories and Labour on civil liberties, ie they believe that people should have some civil liberties. The Tories traditionally have been authoritarian and believed in a government just small enough to berate people on their sexual morals (while never living up to their professed standards), listening to their phone-calls and locking people-up with no evidence for their guilt.

It has to be said that the Labour government went so far to the extreme on believing that having rights a government could not disregard any time it chose was a quaint concept, that they made the Tories seem reasonable in comparison, but there was still quite a gulf between the two coalition partners to be.

It turns out that the Lib Dems and Tories came up with quite a clever solution. Essentially nothing would change. The Tories would not take up Labour’s example and further curtail civil liberties until Britons had so few liberties it was like we were all at a new years eve party waiting in 1983 and the Lib Dems would do what they do best; very little. There would be no roll-back of the restrictions but things wouldn’t get any worse. Genius really although not an Einstein kind of genius, more the genius of a really evil shit.

So what could it be? What could bring down the coalition? Well the riots and their aftermath have given us the answer. That while all the Tories are always completely batshit crazy, the Lib Dems aren’t.

Now I don’t mean the Tories are mentally ill. They are fully aware of what they are doing and should be held accountable. They do not have any kind of political equivalent of being ‘innocent by reason of insanity’. Being crazy is not the only reason the Tories have the policies they do, it’s also because of the deeply flawed, both logically and morally, way in which they see the world. But in a political sense they are crazy. They’re nuts. The hold their political position in a perfect storm of evilness, stupidity and craziness.

We saw it all quite clearly during the riots. Government ministers would appear on TV and say things like “I don’t want to listen to reasons for why things happened.” On Newsnight, Tories would just shout at people who tried to explain that maybe their were reasons for the largest riots in living memory taking place. They refused to believe that was any difference between the words ‘reason’ and ‘excuse’. They seem to be on the verge of coming up with a new word like ‘reacuse’ or ‘exeason’.

Essentially anyone thinking that the recession, 30 years of a neo-liberal agenda that has vastly diminished most peoples standards of living, the criminal corruption of bankers and politicians and the rise of vapid consumerism as an all-powerful force might have something to do with the fact that society had just imploded might as well having been running around London in their looted trainers and committing arson.

Now the Lib Dems are self-serving, opportunistic and completely lacking in any sense of decency but they are not always completely batshit crazy. Some people involved with the riots should go to prison but not EVERYONE involved in the riots – that is clearly completely MENTAL!

Evicting an entire family from their home because one of their members was involved with the riots is many, many things (none of them good) but it also doesn’t make any sense. Where will they all go? Locking people up for 4 years because of a facebook message is as stupendously stupid as putting a message on facebook that could get you locked up for 4 years – it’s facebook for crying out loud not the inside of your mind – other people can see it! Six months in prison for stealing £3.50 worth of bottled water is as crazy as deciding when you’re looting from a shop to take £3.50 worth of bottled water! Wait a minute there’s a theme emerging here.

The Tories and the rioters are like the two flipsides of a particularly sorrow-inducing coin. Their actions are unthinking, short-sighted and wrong but one of the sides has poverty, ignorance and an obsession with trainers and mobile phones to explain (not justify!) their actions.

Locking people up for crimes that clearly don’t merit it and putting them on the path to becoming career-criminals won’t help anyone. America has gone down this route and now has 3 million people in prison – more than any other country in history – though to be far some countries have in fact been little more than giant prisons.

Of course the Lib Dems won’t actually do anything about any of this because apart from their slender grip on reality (this doesn’t extend to their performances in future elections) they have no other qualities apart such as backbone or principals – the kind you do something about.

But as for the guy who took the great riots of 2011 as an opportunity to steal Tesco value Basmati rice. Lock him up and throw away the key.

Aug 042011

After the recent deal to increase America’s debt limit, a lot of Democrats in Congress and some political pundits complained about the Republicans. They complained about how unreasonable Republicans were, how irresponsible they were, how unwilling to compromise and how they were will to take the nation to the brink of catastrophe to get their way.

Everything the Democrats have said about the congressional Republicans is true.

Now if only there was someone out there who could stand up to these Republicans and their dastardly plans? If only there were people in Congress who could vote against the Republicans’ plans. If only there were people in Congress who fought just as hard as the Republicans and refused to roll over every time it got tough. If only there were people who said they would be willing to compromise, in the end, but not on any terms and if that meant catastrophe, it would not be their fault. If only these people knew that if you aren’t prepared to walk away from a negotiation, that you will get absolutely nothing.

If only the Democrats weren’t so completely and utterly useless.

Democrats make themselves sound like they are the victims of a mugging! No! The vast majority of America are the victims and the Democrats are the standers-by who did nothing to stop the mugging taking place. You could even say that as they control the Whitehouse and the Senate, they aren’t even standers-by, they are armed cops who decide for the sake of everyone involved not to interfere with the mugging in case someone gets hurt. Then they tell the people who got mugged to make sure they still vote for them to stay being the police or things might get really bad.

The Democrats complaining about how mean and nasty the Republicans are, is one of the most vomit-inducing aspects of this debt crisis and of politics recently.

Republicans fight for the interest of the small section of society they concerned about; a small, rich and powerful elite. Democrats don’t seem themselves as representing the workers that make up the vast majority of society and that’s why they won’t fight for them. Democrats want a deal with the American ruling class and that’s why they won’t fight. They would rather lose, every time, than fight.

Jun 222011

Next Thursday will see teachers across the country go on strike in an effort to stop the government’s proposed changes to their pensions. Under the government’s plans, teachers will pay 50% more into their pension each month, that’s an extra £80 to £130 each month. In return teachers will get a smaller pension, potentially a much smaller pension – they could lose 5% for every year before 68 that they retire, so a 60-year-old teacher that can’t look after a class full of 6 year olds anymore would lose 40% of their pension. The government have said that the current pension system is unaffordable. No figures have been produced by the government to support this claim – none.

At a meeting in Cambridge the other day someone referred to David Cameron’s use of the expression ‘apartheid pensions’. It was originally used back in 2008 but I missed it at the time.

Not only is it a despicable choice of language but it also doesn’t make any sense. To end ‘apartheid pensions’ should mean raising private sector pensions not lowering public sector pensions. I’m pretty sure the anti-apartheid movement was about everyone having rights not everyone losing them. Or maybe not, maybe David Cameron’s thinks poor pensions and poverty in old age is as desirable an aim having non-racist system of government.

But it isn’t supposed to make sense; it’s all about creating an impression through the use of certain terms. It’s about equating teachers and other public sector workers having a decent pension with a disgusting regime that decided that what rights people have would based on the colour of the skin. It’s about making the destruction of a decent pension system for hard working people a morally desirable cause rather than an attack on working people by a government that governs in the interests of the richest in society.

When people talk about fairness between private and public sector pensions, they mean that it is unfair for teachers, nurses and firemen to have better pensions than people who work in the private sector but shouldn’t fairness means everyone has access to a decent pension? What we really need is for private sector workers to have access to a government run pension scheme that they can pay in to.

Publically owned banks that had to be bailed out are paying exorbitant bonuses and wages to bankers. Apparently there’s nothing that can be done about that, no matter how unfair it is.

The Tories and other right wing parties across the world are turning us into fools by making us think that we should pay for the economic crisis and persuading us that other ordinary workers are responsible for any economic woes we might have.

Shouldn’t fairness mean that when the richest people in Britain have never been so rich, that they should be the ones paying for the economic hard times, especially when those hard times are as a result of economic policies that directly benefited the richest people in Britain? The richest 1000 people made another £78 billion in the last year. It’s time they started to pay.