Thursday, 10 April 2014

Police fail again at latest Broadwater Farm fit-up.

It speaks volumes that many of us are no longer surprised at police racism and corruption - but we can still be surprised at their crass stupidity in so readily exposing themselves.

The harassment of the Steven Lawrence campaign, the knee-jerk lying after the shooting Jean Charles DeMenzes, the insensitivity to the family after the shooting of Mark Duggan, even the farcical cover-up following 'pleb-gate' - the Metropolitan Police time and time again demonstrate a staggering inability to learn from their mistakes.

So why following a prolonged and highly publicized miscarriage of justice that wrongly imprisoned three young men  almost thirty years ago over the killing of PC Blakelock in Tottenham - did  they think they would have another go?

From the start the trial of Nicky Jacobs was a farce. Three witness who the police freely admitted had been offered immunity, paid and 'looked after'. A witness apparently borrowed from the cast of a bad 70's sitcom  who actually said under oath that he thought 'all Black men looked the same'. And another witness who confidently gave an account of the murder in completely the wrong part of the Broadwater Farm estate. And all of this after god-knows-how-much preparation and grooming on the part of the police, at god-knows-how-much cost to the public. 

And by the way, the people of Tottenham who have now been given another legitimate reason to distrust the police are also a part of this 'public'.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Pickles lectures on tolerance

That unlikely self-appointed champion of tolerance and  ironically titled 'Communities Secretary' Tory Eric Pickles has said that militant atheists need to be more tolerant.  

'This is a Christian country with an established church and atheists just need to get over it' - he says in a characteristically conciliatory response to people who have quite reasonably tried to prevent local councils having prayers at their meetings.

Now I am a pretty tolerant for a militant atheist - I mean some of my best friends are believers. And I acknowledge that of all the challenges to peace justice and the pursuit of happiness that mankind faces in the early 21st Century religion is but one of many. In fact with the collapse of anything like social democracy these days, it seems to be left only too often to church leaders to mildly question the worst excesses of unfettered market forces.

But after a weekend spent in which I self-indulgently watched the wonderful 1970 'Cromwell' movie (a chap who was hardly a stranger to strong religious belief himself) championing the essentially individual and private nature of conscience and belief, it is simply unbelievable that we are still arguing about the separation of church and state.

Especially when we are arguing with a man like Pickles who looks like he would have been so at home as a bloated bigoted and corrupt Tory squire.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Tony Benn

When I was a teenager I read two books that inspired me to be a socialist - Arguments For Socialism and Arguments For Democracy - both by Tony Benn. 

It is not too melodramatic to say that what they inspired has stayed with me ever since. And in every milestone event of my political life (and thousands of other activists) Tony Benn has been there: At  the CND marches in the 1980s, at the miner's strike, at Wapping, at the Poll Tax protests, at the anti-war demos, and countless disputes, rallies and public meetings.

He was at his best when I saw him on his speaking tour. Armed with a thermos of tea and a pipe, he sat alone on a stage and simply answered questions from an audience for two hours. As always he had the genius knack of making radical -  if not revolutionary - socialism sound like nothing more than genial common sense.

Tony Benn  wasn't a Marxist. With a profound sense of history, he saw himself as part of a lineage of English radicalism that took in John Ball, the Levellers, the Chartists and William Morris. But it's a lineage that personally I find far more inspiring,  and far more  real, than that of many so-called Marxist group-lets and their sterile obsessions.

But most of all I feel a personal connection with Tony Benn because he was of the same generation as my parents. And like them, despite everything he has experienced, he maintained  an un-eroded  belief in the fundamental possibility of ordinary people making a fairer world that had been born out of the experience of the second world war and the vision of 1945. His life - and theirs - spans the subsequent betrayal of this vision.

One of his catch phrases was always that it was about politics not personalities. He would be the first to say, in the spirit of Joe Hill, that we shouldn't mourn but organise. 

Looking at the comments on social media, and talking to colleagues in school today, it is just possible that the coverage of his death may actually itself be inspiring a new generation in the way those books inspired me thirty years ago.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

A working class hero is something to be.

Disgustingly but inevitably we see those who most loathed him,  now fawning over the memory of Bob Crow.  

Toff class warriors from the other side of the conflict like Boris.  Lounge bar bigots like Farage who are opportunistically trying to identify them. And of course the class war quislings like Miliband.

In truth they despised him. Intellectually they despised his politics because he was an apologetic and unreconstructed  Marxist. And emotionally they despised his equally unapologetic working class identity. Because he personified both things.

When they mocked the idea that a working man could earn a decent wage, albeit a fraction of a banker -  and live in a council house; or occasionally enjoy a decent meal at a fancy restaurant; or an exotic foreign holiday - they mocked all of us who refuse to know our place and doff our caps to our betters. 

He wasn't perfect. No leaders ever are. But Bob Crow stood like a giant amongst  the other minnows at the head of the labour movement.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Lord Owen vindicated

I see that following New Labour's special conference yesterday to ceremonially cut the rotten umbilical cord that tenuously connected the party to the unions, Lord Owen has said that he will make a hefty donation. For the former SDP gang of four pioneer I suppose he feels that history has finally come full circle and his vision has been vindicated. And I guess he's right.

I am not even sure why I bother writing anything about Labour these days. To anyone who has been around the Left in the past thirty years this is all too painfully predictable. I suppose it is like having a flash back and being reminded that your childhood best friend has grown up to be a complete arsehole.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

They're all socilaists now

Ray is spot on in saying that it is not just  Middle England that is sinking  below flood waters of biblical proportions. Having grown up in Staines (before it was upon Thames) we lived in a house that was pretty close to the river and I remember nearby  flooding even back in the 70s. The truth is that ordinary working families are usually in the majority in every part of the country - and they are they ones who inevitably suffer most from any sort of setback - let alone the devastating floods we are seeing.

So I don't take any relish in seeing the suffering of people in areas that are undeniably considerably better off than us in  the inner cities. 

But I am enjoying the irony  of the Mail-reading classes rallying to the cause of 'something must be done'. They are coming out with some prettysocialist stuff; -rally around communities, organise for need not profit - and even send in the army as a civil defence force.

They say there are no atheists in foxholes - but maybe we can say there are no Tories in natural disasters.