28 November 2010

Eugenics returns to the Tory Party: Shades of Keith Joseph, 1974 edition

The Tories are getting really bold now. Earlier in the year we had Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt (probably the fourth least pleasant Tory member of the cabinet behind Gove, Pickles and Osborne) saying that the cap on benefit payments to family was a good idea because it would encourage the poor to be more "responsible" about having children.

I'm sure anyone born into a large family on benefits will feel suitably chastised to have been so irresponsible as to have been born into that position(!?) but we'll come back to that.

Then, this week, we had Howard (now Lord) Flight giving us his €0.02 on the same issue. Those of you with memories longer than the lifespan of the Coalition may remember that Flight was barred by Michael Howard from standing for re-election as Conservative MP for Arundel in 2005 when he gave the game away by suggesting that the Tories were planning much larger public expenditure cuts than the meagre £8 billion or so in the 2005 Tory manifesto. (How times change!) Anywhere, here's Flight with worries about changes to the benefit system:

We’re going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it’s jolly expensive, but for those on benefit there is every incentive. Well, that’s not very sensible.

(I don't normally link to the Daily Mail, but in this case it seems strangely appropriate.)

This is the old eugenics strain coming back into Tory thinking - the idea that we need incentives to encourage the rich (who are, according to the theory, more intelligent, hardworking, or more worthwhile in some other way) to have more kids while putting the reverse incentives in place to stop the poor overrunning us with feckless offspring.

It's not a new argument at all - and it was heavily associated with certain parts of the British Left in the pre-World War 2 era (e.g. H.G. Wells, the Webbs etc.) But since 1945 the Right has made all the running on this issue. The most memorable intervention came from Keith Joseph, briefly in the running for the leadership of the Conservative party in 1974 after Ted Heath had been removed from office after failing to heed the advice of the then 5 year old Dave Cameron to form a coalition with the Liberals under Jeremy Thorpe.

I'll quote from Tony Benn's account of the Joseph speech in his diary for 19 October 1974, as it's really quite excellent (I have been recently rediscovering the Benn diaries from this period and will be referring to them more often in posts over the next few months as the parallels between now and the seventies are really quite striking in so many ways):

Joseph's speech on 'The remoralisation of Britain' was an attack on permissiveness on the Mary Whitehouse model, but had advocated birth control for poor families so as to reduce the number of children they would produce, since the mothers were unfit to look after them. It was a complete master-race philosophy; the theory that the problem is the immorality of the poor rather than poverty is a most reactionary idea bordering on fascism.

Quite so, and this really all comes back to the basic tenet that if you scratch a 'libertarian' Conservative like Joseph, Hunt or Flight, you'll basically find a reactionary authoritarian right winger.

It was disgusting in 1974 and it's disgusting now. This is the kind of crap that's masquerading as mainstream 'cuddly' politics under the guise of the most reactionary British govt since the 1930s. Aided and abetted by those spineless Lib Dem collaborators. At least Colchester MP Bob Russell had the decency to condemn flight for his remarks. (Sure, Dave also slapped flight down but given that Hunt said pretty much the same thing with nary a whimper from No 10, did he really mean it? Or is it just only OK to say this kind of thing if you're one of Dave's mates?)

Next stop - "Coalition announces sterlisation for welfare claimants". I kid you not.

24 November 2010

Message to Rowan: you're all clear kid, now let's blow this thing and go home

Apparently the Anglican church faces "piecemeal dissolution".

As an interested bystander my response is: Bring it on.

Who cares if the Anglican communion splits? Basically it'd be a great day for democracy and localisation. Better to have honesty than unity IMHO. Let the reactionaries, misogynists and homophobes walk out. (or alternatively, let the woolly liberals walk out - who cares who's left holding the baby that is the established church?)

Otherwise you end up with the monstrosity that is the Roman Catholic church, unified only in the sense that Stalin's USSR was unified. About 95% of Catholics I talk to don't agree with anything the Pope says. That's no basis for a unified church. You can't have a unified religious movement where people don't agree on the major issues - unless you start to conduct a whole load of lobotomies. So why live a lie?

Rather like Robert Fripp's reaction to the music industry dinosaurs of the mid-1970s, I see the Christian Church's future in terms of "small, mobile, intelligent units".

I'm looking forward to the days when the local village priest can say not, "I am a mannered automaton controlled by the General Synod/Vatican", but instead, "I am a unit."

Meanwhile, I'm considering joining the Quakers. Who look like a much more mellow outfit.

16 November 2010

Repost from FitWatch: Beating police repression after the student occupation

Following the closure of the FitWatch site for posting the article below, I am pleased to repost it with a hat-tip to The Void, who were one of the many outlets who have kept it alive - and thriving - on the web in the face of repression from London's Metropolitan Police.

This is the piece which led to the Fitwatch website being suspended – please circulate spartacus style

The remarkable and brilliant student action at Millbank has produced some predictable frothing at the mouth from the establishment and right wing press. Cameron has called for the ‘full weight of the law’ to fall on those who had caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage to the expensive decor at Tory party HQ. Responsibility is being placed on ‘a violent faction’, after the march was ‘infiltrated’ by anarchists.

There are an encouraging number of intiatives to show solidarity with the arrested students – something that is vital if they are to avoid the sort of punitive ‘deterrent’ sentences handed out to the Gaza demonstrators. A legal support group has been established and the National Campaign against Cuts and Fees has started a support campaign. Goldsmiths lecturers union has publicly commended the students for a ‘magnificent demonstration’ .

This is all much needed, as the establishment is clearly on the march with this one. The Torygraph has published an irresponsible and frenzied ‘shop-a-student’ piece and the Met are clearly under pressure to produce ‘results’ after what they have admitted was a policing ‘embarrassment’.

51 people have been arrested so far, and the police have claimed they took the details of a further 250 people in the kettle using powers under the Police Reform Act. There may be more arrests to come.

Students who are worried should consider taking the following actions:

If you have been arrested, or had your details taken – contact the legal support campaign. As a group you can support each other, and mount a coherent campaign.

If you fear you may be arrested as a result of identification by CCTV, FIT or press photography;

DONT panic. Press photos are not necessarily conclusive evidence, and just because the police have a photo of you doesn’t mean they know who you are.

DONT hand yourself in. The police often use the psychological pressure of knowing they have your picture to persuade you to ‘come forward’. Unless you have a very pressing reason to do otherwise, let them come and find you, if they know who you are.

DO get rid of your clothes. There is no chance of suggesting the bloke in the video is not you if the clothes he is wearing have been found in your wardrobe. Get rid of ALL clothes you were wearing at the demo, including YOUR SHOES, your bag, and any distinctive jewellery you were wearing at the time. Yes, this is difficult, especially if it is your only warm coat or decent pair of boots. But it will be harder still if finding these clothes in your flat gets you convicted of violent disorder.

DONT assume that because you can identify yourself in a video, a judge will be able to as well. ‘That isn’t me’ has got many a person off before now.

DO keep away from other demos for a while. The police will be on the look-out at other demos, especially student ones, for people they have put on their ‘wanted’ list. Keep a low profile.

DO think about changing your appearance. Perhaps now is a good time for a make-over. Get a haircut and colour, grow a beard, wear glasses. It isn’t a guarantee, but may help throw them off the scent.

DO keep your house clean. Get rid of spray cans, demo related stuff, and dodgy texts / photos on your phone. Don’t make life easy for them by having drugs, weapons or anything illegal in the house.

DO get the name and number of a good lawyer you can call if things go badly. The support group has the names of recommended lawyers on their site. Take a bit of time to read up on your rights in custody, especially the benefits of not commenting in interview.

DO be careful who you speak about this to. Admit your involvement in criminal damage / disorder ONLY to people you really trust.

DO try and control the nerves and panic. Waiting for a knock on the door is stressful in the extreme, but you need to find a way to get on with business as normal. Otherwise you’ll be serving the sentence before you are even arrested.

This post is also available on google at: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:qv4goBQOpDYJ:www.fitwatch.org.uk/+fitwatch&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk&client=firefox-a

14 November 2010

Getting increasingly worried about Alan Johnson

One of my hopes when Ed Miliband won the Labour leadership contest was that we'd have less of the Blairite policy stance which had helped drop Labour from 40% of the vote in the 2001 election to 29% in 2010.

But instead, we get Alan Johnson on the BBC Politics show saying he doesn't think the 50p tax rate should be permanent.

Well excuse me, but isn't this a direct contradiction of the policy Ed won the Labour leadership campaign on? What is this, the Liberal Democrats?

Alan seems to have got on top of the brief reasonably quickly but Ed needs to bring him into line pretty quickly - or replace him with someone else who's more comfortable with Ed's policy.

Otherwise, what on earth was the point of getting Ed elected leader in the first place?

Given that polling consistently shows that the 50p income tax rate is very popular, it seems crazy that Johnson - or anyone else in the party - wants to drop it.

But that's the way the Blairite faction in the Labour party works. No-one's happy unless they're pushing a policy which is an exact approximation of the Tories. (or nowadays, the ConDems).

This is the kind of crap that resulted in me joining the Green Party. And I'll be extremely vocal in calling it out whenever I see it.

Because Labour can easily win the next election IMHO, but only if it starts offering a genuine alternative. And I'm pretty sure Ed knows that. So why the hell isn't he putting his foot down on this?

09 November 2010

A couple of words about the Samsung Galaxy S

It's excellent.

OK then, a few more words. Losing my Google G1 phone (subsequently recovered... long story) was one of the best things that's happened to me recently. The Googlephone had the luxury of a slide-out keyboard but was bulky by modern standards and felt rather underpowered - email, in particular, was damn slow.

The Galaxy S? A whole different ball game. Very thin for a smartphone, superb screen, and a slick, rounded user experience. And it's still Android, kids... f*** Apple!

I'll say it again. F*** APPLE!!!

And f*** Microsoft Windoze shitemobile as well.

Now, the Galaxy Tab? Good if you like an oversized phone. But Trigger Happy TV was years ago, kids. Get over it.

It's still better than a f***ing iPad though.