Saturday, 31 December 2016


Two sixteen, probably not the best, 
Too many iconic figures laid to rest.
Too many worst nightmares realised;
Voters, like rabbits in car lights, Brexitised,
Thinking a lurch to the right is wise,
"Britain for the British, not for Poles and Eyeties".
52% vote Brexit, all ties are torn;
 it`s goodbye Cameron, and George Osborne.
Mayhem in Downing Street, Boris Foreign Sec.,
 Across the water, it`s neck and neck.
What`s that? Oh no! That can`t be true.
Trump has won - misogynists rule!
The message from the year is clear - 
FDR was wrong - we have everything to fear.
Chicanery and duplicity have won the day; 
no-one believes a word politicians say.
May with her "Jams", and "co-determination". 
Who will believe Trump`s "state of the nation"?
Two seventeen? It`s anyone`s guess.
Le Pen matching Donald Trump`s success?
Anything worse we cannot see, 
unless it`s Blair in charge of a political party!

We need to face up to our past!

 Instead of making excuses for Britain not having "an exhibition in London about British colonialism" similar to the one in Berlin, would it not have been more appropriate for your editorial to demand Britain faces up to its past (Britain can learn from Germany about not denying the past,27/12/16)? Arguing that "an act of collective national reflection" seems to be "beyond us" is both dubious and patronising, whilst the fact that the "Daily Mail and Michael Gove would dismiss it as political correctness gone mad" actually adds weight to the argument, rather than undermines it.
     In this country, we have have had a string of governments lacking the courage to reveal the truth about Britain`s shameful imperial past. Why else would historians be denied access to 1.2 million files of historical evidence, going as far back as the Crimean War? 

     Controlling the story of past events for political purposes like this goes a long way to explaining the present day`s  xenophobia. Believing that Britain`s past was glorious, and that it was always the enemy who revealed their barbarism through atrocities, was bound eventually to lead to racism and nationalism. The re-writing of our history textbooks cannot come soon enough! If Germany can face up to its history, there is no excuse for Britain not doing the same, and the Guardian should be at the forefront of the argument!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Tory "oath of allegiance"

Labour is right to criticise Tory proposals to make public sector workers and all new migrants swear an "oath of allegiance" as "gimmicky and cack-handed, which, of course, they are, but it makes you think what sort of "oath" Tory MPs are surely compelled to take.
  Their oath has to include pledging outright support for all claims made by Theresa May, regardless of how ridiculous they are, like being the "party of the workers", and helping the "just about managing". Ignoring all evidence would have to be in there somewhere, as the recent Autumn Statement and the Trade Union Act make lies of many government statements. There would have to be something, too, about promising to ignore all expert advice, to use filibustering techniques to prevent fair and just legislation being passed, and to claim the government is doing all it can to prevent tax avoidance, and make the rich pay their fair share. The facts that next to nothing has been done about off-shore accounts and the continued existence of British-controlled tax havens have to  
     Tory MPs educated in comprehensives would also be expected to support wholeheartedly the extension of grammar schools, even though they know they could not have had more committed and industrious teachers themselves when they were at school, and that they owe their present positions to them.  The small matter that selection denies the majority of children an equal opportunity, and sends them to the 21st century version of 1950s`secondary moderns has to be ignored.                    Swearing to denounce trade unions would be compulsory, despite many knowing that the more workers who join unions, the greater the chance not only of the pay gap being reduced, but also of them keeping their seats at the next election.
       Unlimited support for austerity, lower taxation and the shrinking of the state is a no-brainer; after all, does anyone really care about the government spending less of the striving taxpayers` money on the unemployed and disabled? Insisting Corbyn`s policies, regardless that they include fairer taxation, proper funding for the NHS, an end to zero-hours contracts, more social housing, private rent freezes and an increased minimum wage, make him unelectable, has to be as important to Tory MPs as repeating as often as possible the words "government`s industrial strategy". This will have to be learned off by heart in case they confuse it with that other famous example of non-existent Tory policy, "long-term economic plan"!  Even though the policy to create a "northern powerhouse" doesn`t exist either, it`s okay to mention it, just in case Osborne is the next leader. Neglecting to criticise the foreign secretary is essential, too, for similar reasons!
    Pledging to repeat the mantra that "spending billions on Trident, HS2, and Hinkley is absolutely vital, but a proper care system is too expensive" has to be compulsory,too.!

Of course. mere words of an oath, as we know, do not guarantee conformity, but they help, especially when allied to the ever-present possibility of a cabinet reshuffle; being "economical with the truth" does wonders for promotion prospects!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Of course international aid is affordable

Sadly, as Andrew Webster says, people are increasingly asking why Britain should contribute so much in international aid when "so many services at home desperately need money" (No turning back for international aid,26/12/16). The point is that £12bn can easily be afforded, plus billions more for our public services. What is needed is a government with the courage to tax fairly and efficiently, ignoring the Laffer curve as right-wing propaganda, raising income tax so that people earning three times the national average pay much more, and treating tax evasion and avoidance as punishable crimes.
   Priti Patel`s insistence that tackling hunger and drought is "in Britain`s interest" is correct, not least because it offers some sort of morality into government policy which is far too dominated by arms sales, and deals with ruthless dictators.

Monday, 26 December 2016

An enlightening Scottish budget

Having scoured your paper for details of Scotland`s budget this week, I resorted to the "search" button on your website, which only directed me to articles on BBC News! I would have thought that this budget, especially after the non-event which was the Tories` Autumn Statement, and the tax changes introduced by the Finance Secretary for Scotland, Derek Mackay, would have been of interest to many readers. Nicola Sturgeon, apparently, is contemplating "fielding candidates south of the border", but the budget`s failure to tax Scotland`s rich simply supports David Torrance`s argument (English voters, don`t be fooled by the SNP - its rhetoric hides its nationalism,14/12/16). If moderate Labourites are won over by a party supporting Tory-lite economic policies, with "George Osborne-like arguments against restoring the 50p rate of income tax", and no hint of wealth redistribution, they are probably in the wrong party anyway.
      Even so, I would have thought the Guardian would have been keen to illustrate how the SNP is driven, not "by ideology, but the pursuit of independence", and how the more power it has, the "more conservative the Scottish government seems to become".

Friday, 23 December 2016

Guardian letter on Wilshaw

There might be some doubt, as Laura McInerney says, about the "extent to which Wilshaw was responsible" for the alleged "improvement" in Ofsted, but there is none when it comes to his role in the demoralisation of the teaching profession (And so farewell, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Dirty Harry of Ofsted,20/12/16). Arrogantly attributing the improved rating of primary schools to "Ofsted`s hard work" is simply insulting to teachers, whilst his penchant for "forthright language" is sadly matched by his overuse of simplified and damning generalisations. For every school underachieving in the north of England there are others doing brilliantly; even in schools with below average performance, there are teachers achieving outstanding results.
        Wilshaw would have done education in these areas a much better service by highlighting these facts, and also stressing the difference in grant per pupil between areas, rather than constantly criticising. What would an Ofsted inspector make of a school assembly, which concentrated on some pupils` poor behaviour, and a minority`s poor work ethic, without mentioning the positive approach of the majority?

        Wilshaw might indeed say that he "didn`t mean any offence", but few will be convinced. After all, it was he who said that when staff morale in a school "is at an all-time low", the head knows he/she is "doing something  right"!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Tory industrial strategy?

With manufacturing and industrial output much lower than predicted, Frances O`Grady has every right to insist that the Tory government should prioritise in "improving their industrial strategy". When the TUC general secretary added that the Autumn Statement`s investment package "was far too small", she was not exaggerating.
  Hammond`s spending of £23billion on a "national productivity investment fund" didn`t even lead the Office for Budget Responsibilty to alter its forecasts for the coming months, with the gradually phased increase having such little effect on emeployment and productivity.
   As with Brexit, it appears there is no plan for industrial growth, just as Cameron and Osborne conned the voters with their "long-term economic plan". No doubt we will hear in the coming months, the term "industrial strategy" repeated by Tories over and over, but constant repetition doesn`t prove existence, as has already been shown with Tory alleged concern for the "just about managing".
      If the Tories were really serious about increasing productivity, their rhetoric about top executives` pay would be converted into action. Business leaders` greed for obscene levels of renumeration has led to short-termism, with more thought on meeting this year`s targets than budgeting for the future with investment in technology and training. Capping bosses` pay, or setting a maximum pay ratio, are not even on the Tories` agenda!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Tories wrong on education again!

As usual, May`s government has got its priorities wrong again. It should not be focussing on "a national funding formula for schools", as no Tory government is going to reduce funding for wealthy areas, especially, it seems, this one, which is prepared to spend billions on unnecessary selective and free schools.
     Far better to spend taxpayers` money where it is needed, on classroom teachers` salaries. Whilst there is a recruitment crisis, results are not going to improve more than they have, and until the teaching profession is valued as an important section of society, and paid accordingly, catching up with Nordic and Asian schools` results is a pipe-dream!

 How very generous of the Independent Schools Council to offer 10,000 "free" places, provided the taxpayer comes up with £5,500 for each one (Private schools propose plan for 10,000 "free" places, 10/12/16). This almost certainly has more to do with the private sector feeling threatened by their future clients` confidence in getting their children into grammar schools, than fear of losing their charitable status. Most offer their swimming pools to local primaries, or use a similar ruse to keep their huge "tax privileges", because they "assist state schools", but this plan shows how anxious all of them are about falling rolls.
     How typical of the private schools to become worried that grammars could threaten their existence, and to show little concern when the results of thousands of excellent non-selective comprehensives have shown where the best teaching takes place. What a shame snobbery plays such a significant role in our society, especially, it seems, when choosing schools!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Criticism of New Statesman

I have little doubt that this will share the same fate as my recent letters, but I will persevere nevertheless. Helen Lewis recently opined that the American media should do some serious "soul searching" over its role in Trump`s election, but shouldn`t the editors of the New Statesman be doing the same thing over the move to the right in this country (The politics of whitelash, 11th November,2016)?Whether Trump was treated as a joke-candidate for too long, and whether his political beliefs were investigated in sufficient depth, are certainly questions many Americans should be asking themselves, but the same can be said of the British media in relation to this country`s dire political situation.
 In recent weeks there have been letters and a Diary written by Norman Tebbitt, Thatcher`s right hand man, and a huge section devoted to Blair and his "comeback", whilst last week`s orgy of pessimism about the UK`s future included the Diary written by the political editor of the Sunday Times, and an article on the Labour party of all things, by a writer for the Times (Things can only get worse for Labour,9th December). Yes, there was the token gesture of the Guest Column written by John McDonnell, but what`s the point when the rest of the issue attacks anything left of centre?
       Instead of moaning about the demise of liberalism, wouldn`t it be far more productive to have interviews with representatives of the left, perhaps some of Labour`s current front-benchers, and articles analysing the policies of the right? Theresa May`s Downing Street speech has to be exposed for the fake promises it contained, the Autumn Statement for the complete waste of effort which it was; at least,Tories` anticipation of "another decade in government" would look presumptuous!  Nuttall`s policies need to be examined for the neo-fascism they contain, and the danger to which they would expose the country should Ukip, heaven forbid, form part of a right wing government.
According to its website, the New Statesman is "celebrated for its progressive politics", but I can`t help wondering what the Webbs would be making of its content recently! 

Friday, 16 December 2016

Out-Ukipping Ukip

Of course, Labour cannot hope to win elections by trying to out-Ukip Ukip, and "such thinking" is, as Dianne Abbott says, "completely misconceived" (Morning Star,03/12/16). Stressing the benefits immigration has always brought to this country has to be Labour`s priority, but exposing Ukip`s policies for what they really are is also essential. History has shown that making minorities scapegoats for a country`s ills is extremely dangerous, but that is exactly what Farage and Nuttall   have been doing for years, with far too much success, and with far too much sympathy and support from the right-wing media. 
     Paul Nuttall clearly regards white, working class voters in the north of England as easy electoral pickings, but Ukip will not win many of their votes provided Labour and the media publicise their policies accurately. How many of Ukip`s target group, for example, will support the idea of a flat rate income tax of 31%? Not only are they extremely unlikely to support their own tax level going up 11%, the fact that the same level would be paid by the rich, the very rich, and the obscenely rich is hardly an electoral selling-point!  

 What has happened with Farage, and indeed to a similar extent with Trump in America, is that the media generally gave them an easy ride. Too often the publicity they received was on chat and panel shows, when they were given free rein to spout forth right-wing views without interrogation, which would have delved deeper, and revealed the more extreme elements.
    It is up to the Labour MPs to show a united front, and attack right-wing views, whether they belong to the Tory government, or to Ukip.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Hey Mr Nobel Prizeman (to the tune of Mr Tambourine Man)

Hey Mr Nobel Prizeman, you`ve read all that I`ve wrote,
I ain`t worthy and you must have read my words wrong.
Hey Mr Nobel Prizeman, you`ve given me your vote,
But the narrow minded cynics see no value in my songs.

Given me an award, which really struck a chord
With college students, but not the ones most prudent,
Caused a fuss with all the press, writing from their desks,
I`m "just a singer"!
I`m ready to back down, I`m ready to refuse,
Really make some news, but if your vote means anything,
I promise I`ll come and get it.

You clearly liked my rhymes, like when all freedom chimes,
 "Aimed at anyone" paired with "escapin` on the run",
It`s not Shakespeare, but made my reputation,
As spokesman for a generation.

It ain`t Steinbeck but it rhymes and resonates
It`s me you want to venerate, but you alienate
All the professors and literature heavyweights,
That`s what the prize for me necessitates.

Hey Mr Nobel Prizeman, thank you for your vote.
I ain`t worthy but what the hell, I`ve wrote my share.
Hey Mr Nobel Prizeman, I`m not the one to gloat,
You can quote me and compare me anywhere.

Hey Mr Nobel Prizeman, as your name implies,
I am honoured and am humbled by your judgement.
Hey Mr Nobel Prizeman, it`s really a surprise
That you`ve honoured me, a writer so self indulgent!

 I ain`t Hemingway or Faulkner or even Twain,
If I confuse I explain. Don`t cast aspersion;
Never asked for adulation or citation
 For my songwriting.
I`m ready to accede, I`m ready to receive,
If you really believe that I am worthy
Of your literature award.

Hey Mr Nobel Peaceman, it`s really a surprise.
"Masters of War" didn`t stop the killing, god wasn`t willing,
Hey Mr Nobel Peaceman, open up your eyes,

I`m no champion, no conquering hero, just Bob Dylan!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

BBC - too pro-Tories and too much UKIP

Admittedly, I haven`t seen or heard all of the recent BBC broadcasts, but it seems to me that the Beeb is contributing hugely to May`s apparent popularity in the polls, and the alleged increasing support for Ukip.
      Why is the BBC giving so much coverage, especially in its news and current affairs programmes, to the proposals made by Theresa May to reform corporate governance? The ideas that the pay ratio of CEOs and the average earner be published, and that shareholders vote on executive pay be binding, are hardly new, revolutionary, and perhaps most importantly, likely to make any significant change. Already the tried and tested pledge to force businesses to have at least one workers` representative on their boards has been dropped, not because of pressure from the bosses` organisation, the CBI, of course, and not a U-turn either!
      Co-determination of this nature has been seen to work in other countries, especially in West Germany in the 1950s and 1960s, but May appears to prefer solutions which might look as though they make a difference, but in reality do nothing of the sort; in other words, "window dressing " reforms, common with all Tory PMs since Disraeli in the late 19th century.
    All the Beeb`s attention on the pay ratio is unwarranted, to say the least. If it is so important why hasn`t the corporation focused in the past on the fact that the pay of the average FTSE100 chief executives has risen from 47 times that of the average worker in 1998 to 128 times last year? And, of course, it`s still rising.
Now that May and her ministers want the pay ratios to be made public, it`s suddenly big news, apparently. It shouldn`t be; it`s just another method of naming and shaming, and we all know how successful that`s been. Greedy fat cats don`t care if people know how much they are paid, they just want more.
    The BBC hasn`t exactly gone overboard on top executive pay before, otherwise it would be common knowledge how obscene pay levels for bosses lead to low investment in technology and training , and, therefore, contribute to low productivity. But now that the Tory government wants to adopt an obviously useless method of reducing executives` pay, the BBC gives it the full works!
      If May promised to legislate to bring the ratios down to socially acceptable levels, 20:1 for instance, now that would be something to headline with!
      It`s the same with Ukip and its new leader. We have become accustomed to the Beeb giving maximum opportunity to Farage to spout forth his right-wing nonsense, but the fuss the Corporation made over Nuttall`s election was simply OTT. Did the same happen when the Plaid Cymru and Green leaders were elected? Of course not. The BBC could not even bring themselves to denounce Nuttall for his right-wing policies, or mention his desire both to privatise the NHS, and to introduce a flat tax rate of 31%.
 They did, however, announce his intention to challenge Labour for working class voters, the very people who would be most interested to learn that Ukip thinks they should pay 11% more in income tax, whilst higher earners should have theirs reduced dramatically!

   If the very existence of the BBC is under so much threat from the government it should say so, as it would explain its current bias. Regardless, viewers and radio listeners deserve better, and Labour should be shouting about this from the rooftops!

Monday, 5 December 2016

2 letters on executive pay

Not only has Will Hutton argued in the past that a pay ratio of 20:1 was needed to curb high rates of pay for CEOs in the public sector, he has also written that excessive financial rewards "have nothing to do with performance and everything to do with executives keeping up with each other in a status race (Extravagant executive pay doesn`t reflect performance - it`s all about status,19/04/14). Yet he is now in a taskforce which fails to "back the two remaining flagship ideas" of May`s "corporate governance agenda" (OK, no workers in the boardroom - but May must not be lily-livered about executive pay, 27/11/16).
     Your Business Leader called on May to "stiffen her sinews" and insist that publication of pay ratios, and binding shareholders` votes on pay, become law, but it reveals as much "timidity" as the government. Everyone knows pay at the top is obscenely high, and should take much of the blame for the private sector`s lack of investment in technology and training, and, therefore, for low productivity, but naming and shaming, which is essentially what the ratio publication entails, doesn`t work. Far better for the Leader to have suggested a maximum pay ratio of 20:1.
 Having workers on boards was not "a fight May was never going to win", because at best, it only would have been "window dressing"; the TUC reckons it would take boards to be made up of 33% workers` representatives before their presence could make a real difference. If May wasn`t prepared to fight for workers` representation, there is little chance of her legislating on ratios, especially if respected left-leaning publications are as "lily-livered" on the subject, as she clearly is! Just because Hutton has appeared to have U-turned doesn`t mean your newspaper should follow suit!

The fact that, as Nils Pratley says, "nothing would have to happen as a consequence", shows how May`s proposals for the publication of pay ratios, and indeed for corporate governance reform as a whole, are nothing more than "window dressing" (PM needs to stand firm on pay ratios,29/11/16). Like all Tory prime ministers since Disraeli, May wants to give the impression she is on the side of the workers, whilst doing nothing to upset employers. She backed down in the face of pressure from the CBI, from insisting on worker representation on company boards, despite co-determination having been proved a success in other countries, notably West Germany after the war. 
    Forced publication is just another method to name and shame, a policy which has failed to reduce tax avoidance or paying below the minimum wage, whilst obscene levels of pay for bosses is known to be responsible for the lack of investment in technology and training which leads to low productivity. 
      If she really wanted to help workers,and simultaneously boost the economy as well, May would be planning legislation to restrict the pay ratio to 20:1, prosecuting all CEOs and employers who failed to pay a living wage, and raising the national living wage to £10.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Too much Blair

Seven pages and the cover devoted to Blair (Unfinished business, 25th November,2106)!! No, he isn`t "quite the fugitive in his own land" because of the Iraq war , and his "extensive business operations", but why he receives such a vast amount of attention from a leading left-leaning magazine beggars belief. Blair is the most important single reason for the dire state of British politics today, yet he arrogantly thinks he can become "an agent of influence"; what a shame he didn`t think that earlier, rather than making billions out of "advising" dictators. Are we suddenly meant to forget, for example, how he appeared in a propaganda video praising the "progress" being made in Kazakhstan, under the dictatorship of President Nazarbayev? Did the 13 million dollars he was paid, according to the Financial Times, blind Blair to the shooting of striking workers there, and the killing of the leaders of opposition parties? Almost definitely, but sadly, Jason Cowley didn`t ask him!
  People`s faith in politicians in general was shattered when a prime minister was prepared to lie blatantly to the nation to rustle up support for an unnecessary and illegal war, and in Labour politicians specifically, when he brown-nosed the City, and failed to regulate the financial institutions. The Middle East is still suffering the consequences of Blair`s war , the UK has been forced to endure six years of austerity under Tory-dominated governments, because of Blair`s failure to think beyond Westminster, and the New Statesman still gives him all that space? I am astounded and disappointed; you`ll be giving him the Diary slot next!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Tories` joined-up thinking and "born again teachers"

If the Teaching Excellence Framework is any sort of guide to the way this country is going to be ruled under May`s administration, the country is in for a hard time (Vice-chancellors and students plan boycott of flagship teaching rankings,22/11/16). Expecting students to report accurately on the quality of teaching, when good scores will enable universities to raise tuition fees even higher, does not suggest there is much joined-up thinking occurring at the government department responsible. Jo Johnson might well think that the information will give future students "clear, understandable information about where the best teaching is on offer", but many will disagree. How can the quality of teaching be determined in part by the number of graduates getting appropriate jobs, or the number of students dropping out before completing thrir course? Indeed, the number who leave early because of poor teaching must be miniscule.
    Universities having the nerve to complain about the Framework, and their insistence. like that of Oxford, that it places "the quality of teaching at the heart of what it does", when the Guardian recently reported that "more than half of academics in Britain`s universites" are employed on insecure contracts, and are members of the "just about managing" class, beggar belief  (Work has been transformed. The law needs to keep up,17/11/16)!

 Gaby Hinsliff is undoubtedly correct: the "born again teachers" may find "being useful harder than it looks" (The golden generation should enjoy the luxury of being useful while it can, 25/11/16). Lucy Kellaway will almost certainly find that, after a day teaching maths "in an inner-city comp", she will have neither the time nor energy to "focus" on her organisation to encourage bankers and accountants "to round off their careers in the classroom". 
     A far better idea would be for the "jaded 50- somethings" to become teaching assistants; still very demanding and socially-useful, but without the extra burden of lesson preparation, marking and report writing. At least, the drop-out rate would be significantly lower!
       The shame of this is that the "socially-useful" aspect of the career should come so late. How different our society would be if the politicians, financial wizz-kids and such like, had been forced to spend a year working in schools, hospitals or care-homes as part of their degree courses.

M. Star letter on May`s duplicity

Your editorial rightly criticised  the autumn statement and its failure to help the "just about managing", despite May`s "extravagant claims" (Morning Star,24/11/16). Disappointment also came with the prime minister`s earlier U-turn on co-determination, but May was never going to force businesses to adopt co-determination against their wishes, and certainly never going to enforce a version of the system which would actually make a difference.
      A quick look at some of her other "promises" reveals that May is no less duplicitous than any of her predecessors. She, apparently, was going to be busy "fighting against burning injustice", but tell that to the members of the Orgreave and Justice Campaign!
 Then there`s  May`s ideas on improving education, especially for working class  boys. Well she`s really going to improve their chances by sending most of them to secondary modern schools, whilst the majority of middle class pupils attend grammars!
The autumn statement banned letting fees, but what Hammond didn`t say was that just two months ago the housing minister, Gavin Barwell, claimed such a move was a bad idea, as landlords would pass the extra cost on to their tenants! What was needed was the ban on letting fees to be accompanied by a nationwide rent freeze.
 "The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few", May said, but when it was discovered hundreds of firms were not paying their workers the minimum wage,  she adopted that well known policy of failure, naming and shaming.
May also said, "When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy", but the rise in the personal allowance has most effect in increasing the net income of those on the upper end of the income scale - not the low earners! So much for her helping the "just about managing"!
      Labour MPs need to rally around Corbyn , and expose this duplicitous government for what it really is -  a government for big business and the rich. Helping the poorest and the "just about managing" is a long way down its list of priorities, despite the rhetoric!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

UK shouldn`t throw too many stones

Of course, Paddy McGuffin has every right to ridicule the "certifiable psychopath, racist, liar and fraud" that is Donald Trump (Morning Star,26/11/16).  The world needs to know the truth about the next president, who will undoubtedly disregard human rights at home and abroad. The trouble is that his glaringly obvious failings obscure less obvious ones at home; for example, how many are aware that Britain, as the United Nations Disability Committee`s report showed, is guilty of violations of disabled people`s human rights here, including an adequate standard of living and social protection?      
    Furthermore, as a result of Britain licensing £3.3 billion worth of arms to the fundamentalist dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, 83% of the Yemeni population are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to Amnesty International, and two and a half million people have been internally displaced as a result of the bombing. The government`s defence of its policy, that if we didn`t sell the Saudis weapons, someone else will, simply will not wash. Since 2010 Britain has sold arms to 22 of the 30 countries on the UK`s own human rights watch list!
   The fact that there are members of May`s cabinet urging the prime minister to embrace Nigel Farage as a de facto ambassador to the US displays a level of ignorance that is particularly worrying. 

  Then there is the appalling history of the British empire, so embarrassing 2.1million files are kept hidden from historians, and the existence both of tax havens galore on British territory, and politicians, who lie to the people, getting promotion rather than the sack. Add all these together and we have a Britain that may not exactly be a glasshouse, but it certainly has too many windows to justify too many stones being thrown!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Guardian magazine unpublished letter

In a year when the number of food banks has risen exponentially, and homelessness and inequality have continued to grow, would it not have been preferable for last week`s Weekend to have suggested £5 for a pair of knickers, instead of the "£95 for a set of two", and the remaining £90 go to Oxfam Unwrapped, or Crisis at Christmas, or other equally deserving causes (Bumper gift guide,19/11/16)?

Friday, 25 November 2016

Autumn statement proves the duplicity

Yesterday`s autumn statement by the chancellor will have disappointed even some of the Tory MPs, whose constituencies include thousands of the so-called "Jams" - the "just about managing". Similarly, more disappointment came with the prime minister May`s earlier so-called U-turn on co-determination, which suddenly became voluntary, rather than the promised "compulsory". Workers` representation on the boards of companies was one of the many promises she made, both in her Tory leadership campaign, and on the steps of Downing Street.
   What she promised at the Tory conference was "to publish plans to have not just consumers represented on company boards, but workers as well". 
And unbelievably, she added "Because we are the party of workers"!
 The point is, however, that May was never going to force businesses to adopt co-determination against their wishes, and certainly never going to enforce a version of the system which would actually make a difference. Presumably many Tory MPs object to co-determination on principle; workers should have no say in how their employers run their companies. If  workers on boards were to have any effect, for example, on the pay gap between average worker and CEO, the TUC reckons a third of companies` boards should be made up of workers` representatives. And that was never on the cards! Instead, businesses can choose to have workers` representatives on their boards if they so wish, as they have been able to for decades. But they don`t!
 A quick look at some of her other "promises" reveals that May is no less duplicitous than any of her predecessors. She, apparently, was going to be busy "fighting against burning injustice", but tell that to the members of the Orgreave and Justice Campaign! Sadly, this pledge was never going to include an inquiry into one of the most glaring examples of "burning injustice" in modern history, the treatment of the miners during the strike, and the politicisation of the police by Thatcher`s vile government.
 Then there was  May`s ideas on helping to improve education, because "If you’re a white, working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university". Well she`s really going to improve their chances by sending most of them to secondary modern schools, whilst the majority of middle class pupils attend grammar schools! Social mobility, instead of being improved, will get worse.
The autumn statement banned letting fees, with Hammond claiming that this would help ease the housing problem, and thereby, make life easier for those "just managing". What he didn`t say was that just two months ago the housing minister, Gavin Barwell, claimed such a move was a bad idea, as landlords would pass the extra cost on to their tenants - in other words, it would cause rents to rise! Remember how May also said that "if you’re young, you’ll find it harder than ever before to own your own home"? Until the greed of these modern-day Rachmans is curbed, rents will always remain too high to allow young people to save for a deposit on their own homes. What was needed was the ban on letting fees to be accompanied by a nationwide rent freeze.
 As for increasing social housing.......? Don`t even go there.
"The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few", she said, but when it was discovered hundreds of firms were not paying their workers the minimum wage, what did she do? Press charges against their CEOs for breaking the law? No chance. She adopted that well known policy of failure, naming and shaming. That works well, Theresa. Notice how Google and Amazon are paying billions in taxes these days!
Talking about taxes, what did May say about them? "When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy". Oh really? Well why didn`t the autumn statement increase income tax for the rich, or increase inheritance tax? The rise in the personal allowance has most effect in increasing the net income of those on the upper end of the income scale - not the low earners! So much for her helping the "just about managing"!
       The trouble is, this is just the start! May will continue to please the Mail and Telegraph readers with her "window dressing" reforms which, in reality, change nothing fundamentally. Labour MPs need to rally around Corbyn , and expose this duplicitous government for what it really is -  a government for big business and the rich, like all previous Tory administrations before it! Helping the poorest and the "just about managing" is a long way down its list of priorities, despite the rhetoric!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Tax increases in the autumn statement

The Department of Health statement might well say that the "public can be assured that under this government the NHS will remain free at the point of contact", but as the duplicitous Tories clearly have no intention of adequately funding the health service, more privatisation, and the inevitable charging will follow (Morning Star,17/11/16).
     There could well be some notional increases in funding in the forthcoming autumn statement, but whether it will be additional money, or, indeed, arrive where it is needed, are moot points, and the call by the Tory MP for an "honest debate" on fees for treatment is both enlightening and worrying.

      Of course, the Tories will say there is insufficient money for the NHS, but the chancellor will undoubtedly announce some tax reductions, when the opposite is needed. Many in the media suggest tax increases for us all, but the lower paid provide too much in taxes already.The rich, on the other hand, have benefited hugely from the Tories` tax cuts since 2010, and increases in income tax to 45% for all those earning over £65000, 50% over £100000, and 55% over £140000 do not appear unreasonable, especially when remembering the average eanings are around £26000. Most modern economists are agreed that the Laffer Curve was simply a political method to enable lower taxes for the rich.
       These new tax bands need not be permanent, but until the country`s economy improves sufficiently so that welfare services are no longer at risk, such increases should be underpinning the strategy of a government supposedly eager to maintain the high standards of the NHS.

Monday, 21 November 2016

May`s all talk and no action

Your editorial suggested that "more than half of academics in Britain`s universities", employed on insecure contracts, have joined the class of workers who are "just about managing" (Work has been transformed. The law needs to keep up,17/11/16).
      How can someone who is forced to supplement his meagre lecturer`s pay with work as a refuse collector, or an academic having to work at three different institutions, be considered to be "managing"? "To do what?" is the obvious next question. As with the "agency workers in warehouses and care assistants" whom you mentioned, they are clearly not managing to live lives of any quality, with no spare cash or time, and yet they are working in the 5th or 6th richest economy in the world.
    We all have heard the rhetoric from May, without any action or firm proposals, and none likely, at least to be effective, in this week`s autumn statement. With so much inequality and simple unfairness, a Tory government is never going to limit top pay, increase minimum wages to decent levels, regulate landlords to force rent reductions, and close all tax loopholes and havens.

    Whether the Guardian likes him or not, Corbyn is our only hope, and must be given support and encouragement by the left-leaning press and the parliamentary Labour party, to enable him to change this most unjust of societies!

2 letters on Tories` idea of co-determination

An "industrial policy", with an accompanying "reform of corporate governance and business behaviour", could well be on the cards from this Tory government, but its effectiveness has to be open to serious doubt (Enough snappy titles.Let`s have a consistent strategy,10/10/16). Can anyone imagine May`s party supporting the introduction of co-determination which would actually make a difference. The requirement of a workers` representative on company boards might be the sort of token gesture, or "window-dressing", that Tory backbenchers might promote, but would they approve a measure insisting on a third of board members being made up of elected employees` represenatives, a sufficiently high number to have actual influence on pay policy? May`s naming and shaming companies failing to pay the minimum wage was easy, but doing something to remedy the outrageous statistic that only three employers have been prosecuted in the last two and a half years, for breaking this law, clearly goes against the Tory grain (Only three out of 700 firms prosecuted for paying below minimum wage,28/09/16).
   The idea of "rewarding companies", along the lines of FDR`s "Blue Eagles" in 1930s America, is not without merit, especially if they pay their proper share of taxes, and pay the actual rather than the "national" living wage, but is insufficient. The question of zero-hours contracts needs dealing with, as does the exploitation of tenants by private landlords, both topics which received inadequate attention last week in Birmingham., but both, in their way, connected to an industrial strategy.

  Policies are all very well, but until they are backed by action, they remain very firmly in the folder marked "Tory rhetoric"!

If, as Philip Inman tells us, the cabinet "is split on Theresa May`s plan to put workers on boards", imagine the divisions in Tory ranks if the idea wasn`t mere "window-dressing" (Governance test,12/10/16). Presumably many Tory MPs object to co-determination on principle; workers should have no say in how their employers run their companies. If  workers on boards were to have any effect, for example, on the pay gap between average worker and CEO, the TUC reckons a third of companies` boards should be made up of workers` representatives.
   Inman says May has "to go all-in or fold"; sensible money has to be on the Disraelian pragmatic approach. The reform would insist on one workers` representative on the board of every large company, whilst being "permissive", in that companies could allow more if they so desired

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Labour needs a rethink on Brexit

Whilst it was good to see John McDonnell calling on the duplicitous May and her government to "borrow for investment, end cruel spending cuts", and "reform the tax system", it was a little mystifying to read also that Labour will not "block or delay" article 50 (Morning Star,16/11/16). The argument that this would be to "side with corporate elites" is flawed, because that is exactly what this Tory government will be planning for Britain`s leaving of the EU.
Furthermore, unless parliament, and that includes all of the opposition parties, threatens to discuss, and if necessary amend article 50, the Tories will have a blank cheque to arrange for Brexit on their own terms. Those will include as many benefits for big business as possible, and "ordinary people`s rights" will be way down in the list of Tory priorities, as will the free movement of labour, something which Corbyn supports.

   Caroline Lucas is right in saying Labour should rethink this "premature move"; it makes no sense, economically or politically. The thought of May and her cronies arranging the terms of our exit from the EU, without opposition amendments, is too frightening for words! 

Friday, 18 November 2016

Media must share blame

As Helen Lewis says, there are "dark days ahead" with the election of Trump, and there will be "much soul-searching by the media" in America in the next few weeks (The politics of whitelash, 11th November,2016). Whether Trump was treated as a joke-candidate for too long, and whether his political beliefs were investigated in sufficient depth, are certainly questions many should be asking themselves, but the same can be said of the British media in relation to this country`s political dire situation.
   Farage, our own Trump-like "spectacle", certainly, has not only been given far too much airtime, especially by the BBC, but also far too easy a ride, being allowed to express views in general, but never interrogated on the details. As a result, we know more about his far-right, fascist views from speeches made in support of Trump, than from media interviews and appearances here. Like his fellow Brexiteers, and the president-elect, Farage`s view of the past is a mistaken one, based on a manipulated and mythological history, but he is never asked to substantiate it.

     As in America, the media here must take much of the blame for the left`s decline, and the apparent "unelectability" of the Labour leader. Corbyn`s speeches and policies are rarely given adequate coverage in the press or television, and, should an early election be called, as George Eaton intimates it will (Politics,11th November), the victory of a Tory party moving increasingly to the right should cause some soul-searching by many journalists writing in the few left-leaning publications remaining in this country!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Teachers` workload

The fact that "only teachers in Japan and the Canadian province of Alberta work longer hours" than those in England is absolutely disgraceful (Morning Star,11/10/16). Whilst it shows the commitment and professionalism of the profession, it also demonstrates the urgent need for change. Two problems are obvious: working up to sixty hours a week in such a stressful occupation is bound to be having serious repercussions on health, whilst the damage it is doing to hopes of ending the teacher recruitment crisis is colossal.
    That the extra hours are found to "consist mostly of marking and lesson planning" reveals that the ambition and  overzealousness of many headteachers are to blame. It is nonsense, whatever Ofsted and other so-called experts might say, that all lessons require detailed, written plans; samples are quite sufficient, especially as there are so many lesson observations taking place.
   Marking requirements are clearly excessive, at both primary and secondary level. There`s a job, here, for the Education Secretary; parents, especially those of children in primary schools, need to be told not to expect every piece of work to be marked and commented upon. Far better to concentrate on the detailed marking of one piece of work every week, or even fortnight.
   At secondary level, some heads seem to think that constant testing and reporting should replace teaching as the main method of improving results, whilst the underfunding of state schools is adding to teacher pressure. Add all this to the decreasing pay, you do, indeed, get, in Chris Keates`s words, a "toxic combination". Sadly it is one which this Tory government is content to ignore.


Monday, 14 November 2016

2 letters on history,Cold war, and Germany

Of course, "co-existence (with Russia) is the only option" (Cold war 2.0: different times, different dangers as Russia and the west collide, 25/10/16). At least there are some in Britain, like the ex-Moscow ambassador, Tony Brenton, and unlike the foreign secretary, calling for calm, and when Brenton says that "telling other bad countries how they should behave is less and less possible", he is absolutely correct.
     The west is in no position to criticise Putin for his aggression, when it not only supports a regime like that of the Saudis, but sells it billions of pounds` worth of weapons to use against civilians in Yemen. Until the UK and US stop their arms-dealing to warmongering states, surreptitiously offering military help through advisers, and carrying out their own air offensives, they cannot object to other countries like Russia behaving in a similar belligerent fashion. 
    In the short term, how about inviting Putin here for talks, and playing to his vanity by throwing in a dinner with the queen? Without some diplomatic efforts starting soon, there is a danger of the hawkish element in the US Senate dictating policy, and that can only lead to the problem worsening!

The fact that Germany with, as Omar Khan says, its "onerous baggage from its past", now appears "more confident in terms of its identity and values", is not really as "strange" as he makes out (We damage our country by denying its migrant past,27/10/16). Germans were forced after the Second World War to face up to the truth about its recent history, something that the British have never been expected to do. Whereas the Nazi atrocities and mass-murders became known throughout the world, preventing the return, generally, of any thoughts of racial superiority in Germany, British history has continued to be manipulated by politicians, keen to hide the evidence from the historians, and the school text books. 
     The concealment of 1.2 million files relating to our involvement in events going back as far as the Crimean War, supports Khan`s opinion that Britain`s history is, indeed, an "imaginary" one. Only when the truth is revealed about the methods used to acquire and keep the empire, for instance, can any "informed discussion" about British identity, and the need to accept fully "people of migrant background" as "truly British", take place. 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Letter on anti-Corbyn article

Writing as someone coming from "an alienated fringe of the middle class", finding comfort in "belonging in an anti-capitalist protest movement", I found John Gray`s attack on Corbyn particularly malicious (Closing of the liberal mind, 4th November 2016). To suggest that his policies have been "plucked from a blue sky, without any attempt to connect them with earthbound facts" is simply anti-Corbyn propaganda, better suited to the Tory tabloids. Is it not a fact that privately-owned railway companies have been ripping off British taxpayers for too long, not to mention their customers? Nationalisation of the railways is long overdue. Am I wrong in thinking anti-austerity policies are needed because the Tory-initiated austerity programme was simply an excuse to shrink the state back to pre-war levels? Has inequality not increased  partly because of the rich being undertaxed, and the fictional Laffer curve guiding Tory fiscal policy?
     Gray was right to say that Labour`s moderates were "so devoid of new thinking" they only offered "empty slogans that reeked of the past". It makes little sense, therefore, to  attack so spitefully a Labour leader offering policies different from those of both the Tories and his predecessors, based as they are on  fairness and equality of opportunity.


Friday, 4 November 2016

Labour election victory is possible!

I notice, not only that George Eaton thinks that Labour will "survive the next general election as a united force", because of the "new consensus being forged in the PLP", but also, that he declines to suggest they can win it (Politics, 28th October, 2016). A wise decision, with this unity only based on Trident, Nato, constitutional reform such as PR, and an anti-austerity programme; there have to be more policies which resonate with the young, and with voters flirting with Ukip or the Greens. A detailed proposal to regulate private landlordism, and to ensure fair rents, and decent housing for all, is a must, whilst polls have revealed already the popularity of railway nationalisation. Miliband made horrendous errors, but he was right to focus on energy costs, and if all Labour MPs cannot find common ground in higher taxes for the rich, and tougher legislation on tax avoidance and evasion, one must question their reasons for being in the party in the first place.
     May`s government will inevitably continue to support divisive policies, like the return of grammar schools, whilst there will also be Tory divisions over Brexit, and problems putting the prime minister`s warm words into practice, so plenty for an opposition to unite against. The Labour party`s survival should not be the focus of the PLP, but victory in the next election!


Sunday, 30 October 2016

Observer letter on reasons for UK changing

Your editorial asked "what has happened to us", and why Britain had changed so much since 2012 (Britain is becoming mean and narrow-minded,23/10/16).There are many reasons, of course, but politicians and the media must bear most responsibility.
     The coalition`s austerity measures, which were aimed mostly at the least fortunate, had the backing of a right-wing media, which convinced millions that those in need of help were, in actual fact, "scroungers". Television programmes which focused on the subject received extra publicity in the tabloids, whilst the callousness of government policies, and the valuable work done by "immigrants" in the economy were ignored.
    Rather than focus on true-to-life drama which might have enlightened viewers, the BBC, frightened by Tory politicians` threats to its very existence, concentrated its dramatic output on inaccurate historical soap operas, which falsified the view of our past. Similarly, politicians refused to make a fuss about the continued manipulation of our history by the 1.2 million files kept secret, and away from the prying eyes of historians, with the inevitable results that people have a rose-tinted perception of the past, and nationalism and racism have grown. Add to this the governments` appalling view of those escaping from wars, torture and extreme poverty, their concentration of investment in the south, the obvious electoral wheeze of Osborne that was the "northern powerhouse", and the policy of selling weapons to dictatorships regardless of  their intended use, and you get a society, where fairness is non-existent, and which looks backwards to a fictitious glorious past. 
    When a politician emerges who promises change based on ethical policies, and who doesn`t treat the voters like mugs, he is not only attacked by the right-wing media, but by the newspapers leaning to the left, which for some reason see him as too different from the Tories to win an election. Is it any wonder not only that the lies of politicians led to Brexit, but that Britain is in danger of being"swept along by a dangerous politics of hate"? 

Saturday, 29 October 2016

May and the "just managing"

Has the abuse of British democracy ever been so obvious, or so significant? We have, currently, a situation where 17m people, most of them duped by eminent politicians into believing Brexit would provide "an extra £350m a week for the NHS and an end to VAT on fuel bills", decided we should leave the European Union (Politics, 21st October,2016). The total number entitled to vote was 46.5million.
 Perhaps worse is the fact that, as George Eaton tells us, the new prime minister is cynically targetting the "just managing", not because they are in need of government assistance, but because they account for "more than half the electorate in marginal seats". The definition of such a group, earning £19-21,000 a year, house owning but "afflicted by job insecurity", is so narrow anyway, it omits millions of people struggling to get by. What about the millions who are being exploited by greedy landlords, and the all too obvious need for strict rent regulation, something that this Tory government, like its predecessor, deems too politically dangerous to be contemplated? Unbelievably, Eaton attempts to prove his point that May is being advised by "aides who grew up in "just managing" families", with just two examples, one of whom "attended a comprehensive school in Huddersfield"! He can`t mean that all who cannot afford private education are "just managing", or, indeed, that private schools are the preferred choice of all parents, can he?

  The additional point that 4million voted for Ukip in the last election, but have no representation in parliament, also illustrates how the British version of democracy serves the people badly. One of our "core-values", according to Cameron, and worth fighting for in other countries, but here it`s simply a device for giving politicians an excuse to treat us like mugs - again!

Thursday, 27 October 2016

HMRC off the hook again

A year ago, the public accounts committee criticised HMRC for its "woefully inadequate number of prosecutions for offshore tax evasion", and the subsequent excuse, that exorbitant court costs prohibited more cases (HMRC`s unanswered helplines impede tax collection, say MPs,04/11/15). The committee, however, allowed itself to be fobbed off with dubious and unfounded claims that the amount of uncollected tax in Britain was "no worse than in many other countries", stating the tax gap to be £34bn., a figure which contradicts this week`s statement by Treasury minister, Jane Ellison, that the tax gap is "down to its lowest ever level" (HMRC "underplaying corporate avoidance",21/10/16).
       Hopefully, the committee, at next Wednesday`s meeting, will give the "top HMRC officials" the grilling they deserve, for misleading the public for so many years; it`s bad enough when the government treats us as mugs! Clearly, HMRC`s underestimation of the tax gap has to be challenged, as the true figure has to be more than double the £36bn claimed. If HMRC`s failure to reduce the tax gap is due to staff shortages, after the "efficiency cuts" under Cameron, why isn`t May`s government recruiting? Won`t the new HMRC "specialist unit", tackling "misuse by companies of agency workers to avoid tax", simply entail transferring staff from one HMRC department to another (HMRC targets exploitation of self-employed,21/10/16)?
        Ending tax avoidance and evasion will require not only legislation with less loopholes, but a change of culture, so that people are disgraced, knighthoods and honours returned, and prison sentences imposed when individuals and companies fail to pay the correct amount of tax. Somehow, I don`t think that is what May has in mind!

PS 65% yesterday`s meeting taken up with telephone delays. Tax gap not likely to be reduced at this rate!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

2012 letter on Heathrow

I am almost too ashamed to admit it, but I have to agree with Zac Goldsmith on something; a third runway at Heathrow would be a very expensive mistake. (Cameron would pay a high price for a Heathrow U-turn, 08/09/12) More sensible routing of planes and more use of other airports would free up money for more essential infrastructure expenditure. If more money must be spent, yet again, on London,why not improve the public transport access for the disabled,as the brilliant Sophie Christiansen suggests? (London is horrendous, says triple gold medallist, 08/09/12) Why is it necessary, all of a sudden, for extra planes to be required for businessmen to go about their work? Video conferencing and emails have surely diminished the need for business travel, and further technological developments will undoubtedly reduce it further.Fancy a Tory MP suggesting the government has "been seduced by vested interests". Whatever next?

Dylan, or is it Corbyn?

After years of protesting against inequality and the callousness of the "masters of war", always refusing the attempts of critics to "corral him into being something he does not want to be", how apt that he is finally being recognised as the "spokesman for a generation" (Dylan thinks twice about Nobel acknowledgement,22/10/16). Don`t think twice, Jeremy Corbyn, go for it!

Friday, 21 October 2016

Oxbridge interview in need of review

Louise Richardson, Oxford`s vice-chancellor, is right on two counts: her university does need to do more to attract the best, and "the best may not be those who look and sound like" her and her ilk (State school teachers still not pushing best pupils to Oxbridge,13/10/16). All the more reason, then, to scrap, or at least modify, "the notorious Oxford University interview", something which, by the institution`s own admission, is in need of demystification (The lightbulb moment:Oxford University issues questions to demystify interviews,12/10/16).
     How possibly can a mysterious interview do anything to widen Oxford`s attraction or access, or justify state school teachers having to give up yet more of their valuable time to drill their pupils "in Oxbridge interview techniques"?  It contains such "ambiguous", and "fun" questions where the answer is "typically the opposite" of what the interviewee expects, "real examples" are having to be released. The reason for this is clear: they hope it will reduce the candidates` fear of humiliation in the interview.
    Is it any wonder some teachers do not advise their brightest students to apply to Oxbridge? Being made to look and sound foolish in an interview is unlikely to build up either self-confidence prior to taking A-levels, or strengthen the essential faith and trust pupils need to have in their teachers. 


Sunday, 16 October 2016

Good old days of Grammar schools

Interesting to read that in Russia, where "10,000 men and women a year were exiled to Siberia", and undoubtedly forced to endure some absolutely appalling conditions, the flogging of children was forbidden from 1864 onwards(Review,The House of the Dead:Siberian Exile under the Tsars,01/10/16).         Approximately one hundred years later, I and many of my fellow pupils were being flogged in our prestigious grammar school, so much so that the bruises and ridges in our bottoms would still be evident days later. Unlike the "banter between governor and the convicts" at Irkutsk prison, terms like "idiotic imbecile", and "half-witted nincompoop" were screamed in our faces, before being instructed to bend over.
Ah, the good old days of grammar schools!

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Manipulation of history continues

It`s not "one particular lesson that has never been intended", as Ian Jack says in his review of Ian Cobain`s book about government secrets, more a history examination syllabus (Review, Book of the week,08/10/16)! With 1.2 million files secreted away from the prying eyes of historians at Hanslope Park, the FO official`s comment that "we are willing to learn from our history" becomes nothing less than a joke; in fact,  as unfunny as the quote by William Hague not mentioned by Jack, that it was his intention "to release every part of every paper of interest, subject to legal exemptions"!
          Such blatant manipulation of history should not be tolerated in a modern democracy. Well done, Ian Cobain, for exposing such hypocrisy, but where is the politician with sufficient bottle to make a fuss about it in parliament?

Chipping Norton`s other secret

Chipping Norton might well be a dump, as Peter Wilby says, but it`s hardly its "best-kept secret" (First Thoughts, 7th 0ctober, 2016). Following the passing of Gladstone`s Criminal Law Amendment Act, which forbade peaceful picketing, 16 Chipping Norton women were sentenced to imprisonment, with hard labour, in May 1873. They had, apparently, prevented two farm labourers getting to work by threatening them with sticks, and according to Hansard, by pushing them into a hedge, and declaring "they would duck them in a pond if they attempted to return to work".
 The severity of the sentence by the magistrates was much discussed, and after winning the 1874 election, with his eye on wooing working class voters, Disraeli was soon to legalise peaceful picketing. Theresa May might have similar ideas about gaining new support, but Disraeli`s "window-dressing" reforms fooled no-one, and in the 1880 election, Tory seats fell from 350 to 214. Treating the electorate like mugs is never a wise policy, whatever the century!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Cameron got off too lightly!

Whilst your editorial was right to say that it wasn`t just Cameron to blame for the 2011 "bombing of Libya into chronic chaos", and that the Commons are "guilty of washing their hands", we must not forget where the blame lies for the current abysmal state of our society (Morning Star,15/09/16).
     Tory historians will want to concentrate on his decision to hold a referendum on the EU, but a less biased verdict will not ignore his overriding aim to shrink the state, at a time when laissez faire policies were the exact opposite of what the country required. Despite his ridiculous claims of us all "being in it together", Cameron`s callous austerity measures fooled no-one, aimed as they were on the poorest and most vulnerable. Lower taxes for the rich, and fancy rhetoric on making the tax avoiders "smell the coffee", accompanied by little action, meant inequality soared, leading to the shocking figures issued by Oxfam this week, that the richest 1% own "more than 20 times the wealth of the poorest fifth".
      It can be argued that Osborne was equally to blame, but Cameron was his boss, and not only could have, but should have, sacked him after calamitous, embarrassing budgets, and after the endless stream of missed economic targets. Selling off state-owned companies, including bank shares and the Royal Mail, at stupidly low prices to benefit friends in the City, could not have happened without the PM`s approval. He did sack Gove, but not until the appalling Secretary of State for Education had done his darndest to destroy the fantastic work done by teachers and educationalists in the previous twenty years. When it comes down to it, who is responsible for the current teacher recruitment crisis? Or the deep discontent felt in very staffroom throughout England?
 The list cannot stop there; privatising and underfunding of the NHS leading to the present predicament, the decision to go for a seven day service when the funding foir a five day one is hugely insufficient, and the failure to remove possibly the most unpopular health secretary ever, all are Cameron`s fault.
         The blame for the continued exploitation of workers, obscene pay for the "socially useless", a vindictive legislative attack on the rights of trade unions, and a lethargic approach to the refugee crisis which embarrasses us all, has to be directed at the same person. Six years of governments led by such an arrogant old-Etonian, who thought he could treat the electorate like mugs one more time and they would still follow his guidance on Europe, have dragged the country backwards.
    This is, of course, before we mention housing shortages, Rachman-like private landlords charging exorbitant rents, huge "corporate grants" to private companies, students leaving universities with £50,000 worth of debt, thousands employed on zero-hours contracts, and a million people relying on food banks to survive.

 I blame Cameron for all of this; he had six years to improve thingsand all he did was to allow equal marriage. It`s no wonder he`s leaving the Commons, ostensibly to write his memoirs, but no doubt, soon to be raking in the cash in the City. He`ll be safe from criticism there, that`s for sure.

Let`s stop the Churchill worshipping

Barely does a month go by without yet another book about Churchill, each one very particular about which evidence to be included, and each one perpetuating the myths leading to his heroic status (Review, Hero of the Empire: The Making of Winston Churchill,24/09/16). He believed in "Britain`s destiny to lead the world" in "moral improvement", but, sadly, this incorporated the use of wars and "brutal colonial conflicts"; these may well have included "fascinating thrills" for Churchill, but the victims of British concentration camps and military massacres probably held a different view.
       Even the reviewer, Kwasi Kwarteng, sees Churchill`s description of the Liberal party, "composed of prigs, prudes and faddists", as an example of his "quick wit", and fails to add that this view did not prevent Churchill soon crossing the floor to join them, albeit on a temporary basis.
       Isn`t it time for this hero-worshipping nonsense to stop, and for Churchill to get the same treatment, from historians prepared to utilise all available evidence, as other politicians?  


Monday, 10 October 2016

Guardian not helping Corbyn`s cause

It is all very well for Rafael Behr to go on about, yet again, Corbyn`s "personal ratings being amongst the worst ever recorded", but is it any wonder (The schism at the heart of Corbynism is now clearly visible,28/09/16)? Even in a left-leaning paper like the Guardian, how rarely does a front page concentrate on the failings of the Tories, rather than Corbyn`s apparent mismanagement, unelectability, poor leadership qualities, or whatever?
      At the bottom of page four, we can read of the absolutely disgraceful statistic that a mere three employers have been prosecuted out of the seven hundred who have broken the law by paying workers below the minimum wage (Under-paying bosses escape prosecution,28/09/16). Not worthy of front-page coverage? Not more important than the greed of a football manager? Then there`s the matter of May`s appalling attitude to the refugee crisis, to the gender pay gap, and to the use of arms sold to the Saudis, all the while claiming to be fighting "burning injustice", and all the while, hidden in the inner recesses of the paper.
     If the Guardian is so focused on its anti-Corbyn campaign as to let this already-appallingly duplicitous government off the hook, imagine what the Tory press are doing!