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Miliband: the re-invention

15 Jan

You have to give some credit to David Miliband for his sheer bloody cheek. He’s spent the last 5+ years toeing the party line over Iraq and the wider war on terror, only to abandon the policy the moment a more sane administration begins measuring the drapes in the Oval Office.

It’s a shame that Labour had to shed so many supporters, commentators and activists in the process.

I mean, was it all really worth it?

Was watching Mr. Blair accept his medal from W really worth all the blood and the tears? I think probably not.

Indeed this paragraph really got my goat ::

The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists, or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common. Terrorist groups need to be tackled at root, interdicting flows of weapons and finance, exposing the shallowness of their claims, channelling their followers into democratic politics.

I’m sorry, but isn’t this just what the intelligent people have been saying ever since 9/11? Isn’t this the same line the New Labour cabinet has been rejecting week-in week-out on Question Time?

Does this mean that they’re going to stop grandstanding on terrorism to push through illiberal policies and that they’re about to abort ridiculous projects such as ID cards? Or is Miliband just, as Alisdair Cameron has suggested, merely positioning himself cleverly with a leadership bid in mind?

Or maybe Brown is behind this: is the PM, ever the pathetic weakling, adjusting British foreign policy to continue its conjoined (yet always subservient) relationship with Washington? Something Tim Almond has wisely referred to as “a shocking bit of 51st statism”. No change there then.

Maybe, just maybe, New Labour could have shown a bit of courage and stood up to Bush back when Tony left the stage. As Iain Martin points out in the Telegraph, Miliband’s timing is evidence of colossal cowardliness.

I’ll leave you with Miliband’s most hypocritical paragraph, just to see if you manage to finish it without grinding your teeth into powdery white enamel dust ::

We must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, for it is the cornerstone of the democratic society. We must uphold our commitments to human rights and civil liberties at home and abroad. That is surely the lesson of Guantánamo and it is why we welcome President-elect Obama’s commitment to close it.

Amen (at last).

This Gaza mess

6 Jan

I wasn’t going to comment on this, but at the same time it’s foolish to just pretend it’s not happening.

Both sides, as ever, are in the wrong.

Hamas was moronic to continue to fire rockets at Israel. You don’t poke a government in the ribs prior to an election – especially when it’s vulnerable to its right flank.

The ambitious Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, failed to put together a coalition that would have made her the Prime Minister of the Jewish State. As de facto head of the majority party, she called for elections to legitimise her position.

That Livni and Kadima have responded to Hamas rocket attacks with overwhelming force is unsurprising. They have effectively created a tempest that many among the electorate will see, not only as justice, but as an unresolved situation that needs to be sorted.

Wars are often the last refuge of a spent administration.*

Israel is torn between its hard-right Zionist founders (and its indoctrinated progeny) and a more moderate and modern urban population – who know that only engaging and compromising with its neighbours will seed peace.

The far-right of Israel’s political spectrum represents a fanatical band of racist imperialists, who no-more respect the territorial integrity of their neighbours than they do the international organisation that censure them.

For decades Tel Aviv refused to co-operate with Fatah (a political, largely secular organisation), only to be rewarded with increasing violence and the eventual electoral success of Hamas.

American coalescence to the status-quo in the region (meaning the continued apartheid and imperial suppression of the Palestinians) has helped ferment this situation. Only America, with its tentacles reaching throughout the region – and its unwavering financial and political support for Israel, could possibly hope to broker a new solution.

President Bush’s approach to Israel – which amounted to little more than playing its slavish apologist, has emboldened Israel and led to even greater international outrage over the Israeli response.

The predictable rightwing response has been to excuse civilian bloodshed by lumping all responsibility on Hamas’ shoulders. Yet when you read about a family of seven killed (inc. at least 4 children) by an Israeli bomb, you can safely assume that Israel’s retaliation is hardly that of a responsible and compassionate government.

The whole region is a complete clusterfuck.

Hamas offers the Palestinian people no real future if it’s going to continue to act with religiously-spiked aggression towards Israel. And unless the Israeli people can elect a genuinely progressive government, committed to compromise and peace with its neighbours and a workable and self- determining Palestinian state, then they too have no future beyond hostility and mutual bloodshed.

It’s a fitting conclusion to the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, that Palestine should implode as he boxes up his belongings and prepares to leave Pennsylvania Avenue.

That the greatest and most powerful nation on the planet could twice elect a lifelong loser and known fuckwit, proves two things: the first is that the wisdom of crowds is loony pseudo-intellectual claptrap, and the second is that dynastical monarchy is alive and well in the American Republic.

Early signs suggest that Barack Obama will not be vastly different from previous American presidents, but at least he’s not a complete incompetent.

*Apologies to Samuel Johnson

Those wonderful Saudis

23 Dec

Those Saudis are a lovely friendly bunch, aren’t they?

They’re the ones with all that oil and money who are so lovely that they’re apparently above the law. And so friendly that we often have them around for tea and nibbles, just so we can tell them how great they are. Yeah, we know that they finance those Wahabbist madrassahs that indoctrinate so many angry little jihads, but what’s a few civilian casualties between friends?

The Saudis are so great. I love the Saudis.

From The Guardian ::

An eight-year old Saudi Arabian girl who was married off by her father to a 58-year-old man has been told she cannot divorce her husband until she reaches puberty.

Lawyer Abdu Jtili said the divorce petition was filed by the unnamed girl’s divorced mother in August after the marriage contract was signed by her father and the groom. “The judge has dismissed the plea because she [the mother] does not have the right to file, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty,” lawyer Abdullah Jtili told the AFP news agency.

You gotta love’em too, huh?

Jacqui Smith to prevent councils abusing surveillance powers

16 Dec

It’s not often that one gets chance to praise the government on matters pertaining to civil liberties, so I won’t pass up this chance.

According to a PR Release report in the Indi, Jacqui Smith is to crackdown on councils who are using surveillance powers to catch people leaving their bins out or allowing their dogs to cack on the pavement.

It would have been nice if Whitehall had nipped this sort of practice in the bud, rather than allowing council numpties to stick cameras in our wheelie bins, sift through our telephone records, and order covert agents to follow us around while we walk our pooch, but I suppose it’s better late than never.

This is what makes me so sceptical of giving authorities greater powers. Rather like turfing out awkward hecklers using anti-terrorism powers, people tend to abuse power when they’re given it.

All that said, [holds nose] well-done Jacqui.

Dangerous populism

14 Nov
The inconsistency of Mr. Gaunt

On the 3rd of this month I wrote about how “Jon Gaunt is the most appalling hypocrite”. I pointed out that even though Gaunty had spent years railing against New Labour’s “nanny state”, his own moral politics demand even greater state control over our lives.

In this week’s column, Gaunt’s confused and duplicitous idea of state intervention was evident, as he tackles the tricky subject of Baby P – a story that has dominated the news cycle ::

A child needs a mum and a dad if possible.


The doctrine of always trying to keep the “family” together is garbage.

Jon walks his carefully constructed nuance with the words “if possible” and “always”. He carefully checks the box marked “golden rule of rightwing social populism: the traditional family unit is best”, and qualifies it by claiming that in fact this premise is “garbage”. So which is it, Jon?

Also, this “doctrine” you speak of?

Social services remove children from their unfit parents all the time, usually to the righteous indignation of rightwing populists like as Gaunt. That the nuclear family is best, and that social services merely meddle in people’s lives, has always been The Sun’s default position.

Never has there been a doctrine of keeping kids with abusive parents. As one of our writers wrote this week, working in the Social Services is a thankless career. You’re criticised for interfering in family life, yet you’re crucified in the national press if you’re too cautious in breaking up a family and a case turns into a criminal one.

Indeed, without even the slightest awareness of his own inconsistency, Gaunt for the second time in as many columns, refers to the Social Services (who he’s arguing weren’t strict or interventionist enough) as the “SS” – unsubtly comparing the department to Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (this was also, no doubt, a little dig at his current personal woes).

You can’t, in all seriousness, allude to the SS and then accuse the Social Service system of being wishy washy.

Now Jon Gaunt grew up in the care system. So he should be forgiven for having a complex view of the role of social services in our lives – but let’s be frank, a careful and informed opinion hardly fits Gaunt’s bombastic populism, does it?

This is the problem with this brand of lazy commentary: Gaunt and others are allowed to flit between attacking the nanny state for its social excess and demanding that heads roll when they’re accused of not interfering enough.

Commentators never adhere to the same consistency they demand from politicians: a blatant disregard for the privileged position they hold in our society.

Bringing politics into the debate

Also in the same column; Jon Gaunt condemns Gordon Brown for accusing David Cameron of trying to score political points, during a PMQ session that featured a heated exchange over failures in the case of Baby P.

There was no party politics. But Labour have been playing at social engineering for the past 11 years. I believe the ultimate responsibility lies with them and the Guardianistas that they have created in every section of public life.

So in the very same paragraph where he argues that Cameron wasn’t attempting to bring party politics into the debate, Gaunt launches into a partisan tirade against who he blames for the baby’s death.

Hypocrisy? Gaunty? Never!

So it’s not with the abusive mother and boyfriend, where the “the ultimate responsibility lies”, or indeed the Haringey social services, but with the government and those loathsome Guardian readers [meme alert!].

Of course everyone directly involved in Baby P’s case must be sacked.

How very big of you Jon. Without knowing the outcome of either the police or government investigations, Lord Gaunty feels qualified to demand the immediate termination of everyone involved.

Is this not lynch mob journalism at its very worst?

Originally written for The Sun – Tabloid Lies.

Meltdown at PMQs

13 Nov

So yesterday there was a rather distasteful kafuffle at PMQ’s over the political fallout over the sad story of Baby P.

I just said over at Justin’s that this is a case of shame on both their houses. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder…

Cameron must be getting pissed off with Brown’s constant and blunt refusal to answer a straight question. And it is the duty of the LOHMLO to hold the government to account. I can understand if Cameron becomes annoyed if the PM continues to belittle his questioning by his avoidance techniques, but then Cameron should have risen above the fray once it was clear Brown wasn’t going to retract the accusation of playing party politics.

Had he made his feelings clear and moved on, he would have been the Statesman to Brown’s partisan beast.

In truth Cameron probably did see capital in this line of question. It’s in his nature. Anyone who watches Cameron closely could say he is anything more than a political animal. He’s never convinced me of any hidden intellectual or ideological vigour. He’s a careerist and a prominently placed spin-doctor.

That said, Brown was a fool to challenge Cameron – as the questioning itself didn’t provide clear political malice. It was a reasonable line of questioning (even if it was probably tinged with a deliberate intent to show Labour in a bad light – not that this is necessarily a bad thing, as Labour do have serious questions to answer).

Had he any real class though, Cameron would have called Brown on his slur, and moved on. We don’t pay Cameron to be overly sensitive.

For a brilliant analysis of a terrible day for Westminster, try Septicisle’s article at LC. (update) I did start reading the comments on Iain’s predictably hyperbolic outrage post, but really many of these people are so partisan and reactionary, it’s a waste of my time. I think Iain is a very talented writer and I can’t say I dislike the guy, but his penchant for exaggerated outrage is tiresome. I really wish he could return to his more independent musing.

Neither of two party leaders excelled yesterday.

On sleaze

25 Oct

The Guardian has a report on some sleazy, if technically lawful, donations to the Tory party from a Ukrainian Oligarch ::

A British businessman who represents a Ukrainian oligarch is paying tens of thousands of pounds in donations to the Tories, the Guardian can disclose. Payments made by the businessman’s company have caused concern to the Electoral Commission, which queried some of the donations earlier this year.

Pauline Neville-Jones, shadow security minister, former chair of the joint intelligence committee and a key Cameron foreign policy adviser, currently has her office sponsored by Robert Shetler-Jones, a close associate of the foreign billionaire Dmitry Firtash.

A company linked to Shetler-Jones is also making payments to Conservative central office. It is called Scythian Ltd. Shetler-Jones chairs and part owns it…

Just why would a foreign gas-baron, and an all-round scum-bag by all accounts, be funnelling money to the Tories?

What’s in it for him? (Have they no shame?)

Of course all parties are equally guilty. Labour have little reason to be proud. And the Lib Dems? Don’t get me started. They’re pretty much all as bad as each other. The entire system is fucked.

Of course those with a stake in the system will explain how this justifies public funding of political parties. I think this sleaze actually proves just how illegitimate the ‘big’ parties have become. If people are not interested in becoming members or donating to political parties, what’s the point of their very existence?

Do political parties merely exist to perpetuate the vapid and pointless status quo?

If there is any future in party politics it must be that it is nourished by the masses. If parties are forced to source their funds from shady foreign ‘businessmen’, then they’re just demonstrating their irrelevance and proving how pointless this archaic system has become.

If politics isn’t energising the people then it isn’t democracy.

The only sphere of politics that’s on the up is that of single-issue groups and small agenda-driven parties. As the internet continues to connect the dispersed, single-issue parties will continue to gain relevance and activists.

To stifle these movements by artificially financing the lumbering political system, would be to stick two fingers up to the people who are fed-up with Westminster self-interest, not to mention pissing all over what is left of our flagging democracy.

All three parties must clean up their act and re-engage with their base. If they fail to raise the necessary revenues from legitimate donations, then they should be allowed – nay forced – to die.