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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

273. ‘Windrush’ - just dirty nasty state racism.


When I was at school the taunt ‘go home’ or ‘go back to where you came from’ was usually accompanied by the abuse of the day – in 1970s midlands it was Wog or coon – or just blackie for the less imaginative. It was upsetting but also confusing for someone born in Warwickshire. Now we have the Windrush debacle where folk who have been here as long as or longer than my mother are suffering the kind of treatment we would condemn immediately if it happened in Russia or an African dictatorship.

The Windrush debacle is blowing headlong onto the rocks of racism and into the cliff that Brexit is just about to tumble over.
(I know – by the time you’ve untangled that analogy Kaftans will be back in fashion…)

Politicians have known for years that the decision taken in 2009 (by a then Labour government) - to dispose of landing cards - was a disaster. Added to this was the declared policy of creating a ‘hostile environment’ to illegal migrants championed by then Home Secretary Theresa May in line with the creeping xenophobia that was to break out in Brexit.  This led to thousands who had settled here and worked legally – suddenly finding that citizenship rights had evaporated. The initial decision was crazy and inexplicable, the landing cards were important historical documents tied to the rights of many who have contributed to British society for decades.

The problematic, mismanaged and often racist UK Border Agency has been criticised almost since its inception in 2008. It attracted condemnation for inadequacy, failure to process visas effectively or efficiently – for the way it has treated potential victims of trafficking and yet is it only now that those - many of whom have lived here since the 1940s and 50s – have had their nightmare acknowledged and backed up by a promise of speedy resolution.

In March 2013 PM Theresa May, then Home Secretary, brought the Border Agency back under the auspices of the Home Office but she did nothing about the plight of those whose lives were in limbo. Causing more misery, not to mention international embarrassment, the Prime Minister refused to bow to pressure until the headlines got too much and the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting in London this year amplified the bad press. THEN she was forced to apologise and claim she felt it was an urgent issue. IT is a humanitarian disgrace on our own doorstep.

It is hard to imagine the pain caused to those caught in this dirty, tangled net of state racism. From a man who missed his daughter’s wedding to people denied healthcare or even incarcerated. Theresa  May certainly succeeded in creating the  hostile environment but not just for ‘illegal’ immigrants but for many Caribbean people who contributed to British society for decades (after their slave ancestors contributed to the wealth of the British empire with literal blood sweat and tears for centuries.)

Meanwhile, Brexit negotiations get more scrambled and contradictory. Worryingly, the Windrush calamity is all too much of a taste of things to come. I have written many times on this blog, not just about Brexit but specifically how EU citizens are being left in limbo (e.g. 229. Article 50 is funny – isn’t it?)

As it gets ever more difficult to keep up with all the negotiation ‘redlines’ that keep getting crossed – even the abysmal  Boris Johnson (in The Telegraph 18th April) is now insinuating his double speak into the immigration issue. A small wedge is being inserted into the difference between taking back control of our borders – the UKIP cry - and actual immigration. What this does is leave those with power money and influence in a situation that suits them well  – a supply of cheap potential labour but unregulated by well-established EU labour laws – the exact opposite of what those who voted Brexit THINK they voted for but equally not what any Remain campaigners wanted either. In short – the worst of all possible worlds.

If this is how legal Commonwealth migrants of decades standing are treated – what hope for EU migrants after Brexit?

One thing is clear – Windrush may come to have a new meaning in the era of Brexit i.e. the wind of racism is blowing stronger than ever in the UK as Britain rushes over the Brexit cliff…
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My good friend Bob – who was a Newcastle city councillor with me in the 1980s/90s, sent me this link. This well-known speech was made a couple of weeks before my 4th birthday. It reminds me that there have been truly great people in the world but also leaves me wondering how come the mediocre and the craven have taken over…

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

272. Syria – a devils playground


A hypocrites paradise.

After the pre-tweeted air strikes ordered by a morally bankrupt US president, a Brexit-weakened Britain and its own ex-colonists France, Assad celebrates Syrian Independence today and appears stronger than ever and those suffering under his rule are more at his mercy.

Obama called for consensus on Syrian intervention in 2013 when it might have made a difference – but, still in the horrible thrall of Blair’s illegal invasion of Iraq, the main US ally, Britain, shrivelled.

Now the UK has Boris Johnson as foreign secretary - a liar, racist and buffoon. We have, in Gavin Williamson, a whiny, squeaky, pathetic, creepy, inexperienced, “go away and shut up [Russia]” Defense Secretary. Our Prime Minister Theresa May is quickly outflanking the previous Tory leader, David Cameron, for disastrous personal and political judgement. Last year she called a snap General election she did not need to call and decimated the small Tory majority. Last week she failed to recall Parliament for a vote on Syria she almost certainly would have won. And while I think the air strike on Syria was pointless and did nothing to alleviate the ongoing horrors for the Syrian people – the UK Parliament is one dose of ineptitude closer to terminal lack of credibility.

As the Mueller imperative grows for he-who-pays-to-silence-porn-stars – Syria is becoming the latest Middle East distraction from what’s wrong with the addled democracies. Syrian civilians continue to soak up more misery, more death, more indecision, more moral vacuity, more blood lust until it is so saturated with abomination that – as is reported of places such as Auschwitz – even the birds won’t sing there...

As the UK steadfastly ignore atrocities in Yemen where Saudi Arabia – big military customers of the UK - are dishing out horrors to the civilian population, Syria is fast becoming an international synonym for hypocrisy but rather than repeat myself - here is a link to the latest of my letters – this one published by The Independent.

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and here is a doodle from last year - 



Tuesday, 10 April 2018

271. Where it goes wrong in the UK…


If your child is intelligent thoughtful and self-possessed with true leadership qualities,

if they are honest, faithful, hard-working, fair with others,

if they respect women, reject racism, wish to do their duty to family and country and inspire others to do the same,

if they think carefully before they speak,

if they are just decent human beings in fact..

…they are currently not eligible to be US president or represent the UK around the world as foreign secretary…

While only a crazy person would begin to try and explain Trump – where it goes wrong in the UK can be summarised with this doodle…



Tuesday, 3 April 2018

270. Brexit - a summary of the dreary characters in this very bad, expensive, pointless, poorly-scripted, unbelievably tedious yet addictive soap opera.


British Prime Minister Theresa May – who argued firmly and logically to remain in the EU during the referendum is forcing through the hardest of hard Brexits whipped by the lunatic ex-Etonians like Rees Mogg. She purchased the support of 10 Irish DUP MPs to remain in power after a disastrous snap General election. The DUP happily sold their support for £1bn despite their constituents voting strongly to remain in the EU.

Boris Johnson is ex lord mayor of London where he corruptly spent tax payer money on the Garden Bridge fiasco and is a Brexit flag-waver even though he also supported Remain at one point. He is a liar, racist (see blog 184) and buffoon but represents the UK on the world stage as our Foreign Secretary.

Michael Gove is Environment Secretary, arguably now one of the most important posts in any government. He is the prominent Brexiter who derided experts during the EU referendum and recently scolded privatised water companies for the state of the UK’s waterways forgetting it was his party that sold off not just water but all British utilities to the private sector (see blog 268).

Tony Blair is back being interviewed by the mainstream media – mainly for his views on Brexit. This flies in the face of what many argue which is that the xenophobia that buoyed up the Leave campaign came partly from an intense and renewed fear of foreigners as the world tipped into chaos following the destabilisation of the Middle East after the illegal invasion of Iraq by Mr Messiah complex and his buddy G.W.Bush. (ref blog 265).

Privileged racist Nigel Farage was regarded as just another rabid right-wing nutter prior to 2014 when UKIP got their first MP - Tory defector Douglas Carswell who subsequently ditched the party in 2017. While deriding the EU and EU immigrants, Farage had a German wife – later apparently had an affair with a French MEP, joined forces with fascists on the European parliament was docked pay for misuse of EU funds (along with liar and fantasists and also one-time UKIP leader Paul Nuttal) and will benefit from an EU pension. (ref blogs 111 & 191).

There is no longer an honourable third party to mix things up. The Liberals – party of Lloyd George who as Chancellor of the Exchequer early in 20th century laid the foundations for modern Welfare – sank to new lows 8 years ago. Nick (cojones) Clegg sold out the youth of Britain (see blog 130) to briefly enjoy power as a side-kick to David Cameron (pig head lover) after the Brown disaster led us into the 2010 elections and a new era where you were no longer allowed to call bigots bigots...  In my view (based on no inside knowledge but only how I would have felt) Nick Clegg broke the heart of former leader and real Liberal, Charles Kennedy who died suddenly, shortly after the following election where the Liberals were shown the political door by disgusted voters. Tim Farron took the helm for a couple of years but bowed out when he – like others before him – tried to use Christianity as an excuse for his homophobia (which as a non-homophobic non-bigoted Christian always seriously pisses me off). They went back to Vince Cable who was prominent and unpopular in the 2010 – 2015 coalition so although they are the only party with any Remain credibility – they have no other sort of credibility so it makes absolutely no difference.

I could say that Labour, the UK’s opposition party is being led by intellectual lightweight and catastrophic Brexit ditherer Jeremy Corbyn but that would imply that I believe the UK has a functioning opposition in any real sense or that Corbyn is doing anything approximating leadership…

America may be in the hands of a misogynist, corrupt, infantile, semi-literate – quote-Rex-Tillerson – who is working his way through the deranged and rabid TV personalities of Fox News to staff his Whitehouse but the UK is in a catastrophic downward spiral of flaccid mediocrity (why do I feel I should mention David Davis here...). It is mediocrity with powerful impetus if that’s not a paradox. And in another extraordinary and surreal balancing act, the Working Class have managed to be both aspirational and self-destructive in a contradiction of kamikaze confusion. 

It is the young who will suffer. They have been crapped on and they will carry the can for this into the future and it’s not fair…

This can be summarised by a recent doodle and a slightly older one…



Tuesday, 27 March 2018

269. Westminster 2018 – land of obfuscation, hypocrisy & selective amnesia.




For years now, the British government has cared little about the suffering of Syrian civillians and it has turned a blind eye to the suffering of Yemen where British manufactured weapons are used with impunity by Saudi Arabia. One Russian is targeted with a nerve agent – yes a horrifying weapon as many in the Middle East can attest to – and next minute we are suffocating in indignation and national outrage and demanding support from ‘EU allies’. Those would be the same EU allies the British press has denigrated for decades and who – with the help of nasty, xenophobic privately educated white bloke Farage, the gross misjudgement of incompetent elite-educated white bloke Cameron and lack of gumption of ineffectual posh prep school white bloke Corbyn – we just ditched. (check out blog 171. Privileged white blokes keep getting it wrong - why do we keep listening to them?)

Inch by inch news drips out about the painful progress of Brexit talks that often end with a limited agreement and a caveat that Britain submits to EU rules in that particular area (see the City of London compromise last week).

IT’s as if Britain cut its right leg off without an anaesthetic and now – bit by bit – we are building a lumpen, wonky prosthetic that looks something like what we had before but – not as good and likely to send us sprawling. However, each desperate tortuous inch of partial agreement is hailed as a success while in reality nothing is truly agreed until everything is agreed and David Davis is still talking about a backup ‘plan’ for no agreement.

There is mounting and compelling evidence that the result in June 2016 was worse than a farce – a result of admitted lies, xenophobia, general fear and now it seems – dirty dealings by Cambridge Analytica headed by grubby privileged white bloke Alexander Nix. And that is before you consider the growing row over the Leave campaign’s dodgy expenses – enter disastrous racist privileged white bloke Boris Johnson stage left to deny it all. And yet – even those MPs who were, supposedly, against ditching our EU allies and main trading partners at this crucial time in the planet’s history, sing out the mantra loud and strong ‘we are respecting the will of the people’ until you think you are going to go mad with the discordant, jarring, tuneless dirge.

2-steps-behind-everyone- else Corbyn then sacked Owen Smith, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary. Smith, who had a front row view of just how damaging Brexit will be for Ireland (N Ireland voted clearly to stay in the EU) and especially for enduring peace, broke ranks and demanded a referendum on the Brexit deal. Breaking ranks was something Corbyn did repeatedly before he became Labour leader. Dithering Diane Abbot – possibly the only person on the Labour front bench who could make Corbyn look competent – previously also called for a challenge to Brexit but she keeps her position. But then this is the woman who failed to resign while serving under Blair even though she claimed to be vehemently anti the Iraq invasion and said she would resign and who chose to send her kid to a fee paying school.

Add to this the fact that after her disastrous snap election, Theresa May spent £1bn – buying support from 10 DUP MPs in order to remain in power and you have hubris and hypocrisy and fudge of monumental proportions. The colossal contempt for candour is spectacular even by the standards of modern politics.

Remember, this whole sorry mess of congealed Brexit spaghetti is being served up by a Prime Minister who did not support Leave, who argued calmly and strategically that the UK was better off inside the EU and who is currently kept in power by a party whose constituents voted to Remain.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

268. Russia banana-skins into Brexit as Brexit rear-ends carpetbag Britain and it’s not pretty…


Secretary of State for Defense, the inexperienced and squeaky back room boy Gavin Williamson, competed effectively with racist Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for title of biggest UK embarrassment on the world stage last week. Yes, some-mothers-do-have-‘em Gav was the guy who, in response to Putin’s denial of attempted murder of an ex-Russian agent on UK soil told Russia to ‘go away and shut up’.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond, in his spring budget statement, jauntily referred to himself as children’s story book character ‘Tigger’ and announced that the UK economy isn’t as bad as he thought (see blog 261 Beware the Disconnect). Yay.

And as the Brexit Committee was forced to put out conflicting sets of recommendations two days ago because of more bickering and sniping in a corner of the 6th form common room and the pound rose slightly because a transition period providing a modicum of certainty post-March 2019 was agreed, Brexit has never looked more ridiculous.

All of this in the face of the dawning reality that the UK is falling apart at the seams.

The most recent rat to leave the sinking SS UK - Unilever - has been based in the UK since 1890. It is not, we are told, leaving because of Brexit. Apparently, UK business legislation prioritises shareholders over the interests of business and even over things like the environment. In other words, the asset stripping we’ve seen over the last four decades and ratcheted up in the last 5 years is legally built in to UK company structure.

Then there is the fantasy about the UK becoming a banking hub after Brexit as the la la land Leavers claimed. Icy water was poured on that nonsense in January when Brussels flatly rejected a City free-trade deal for when the UK leaves the EU.

But, a significant vehicle in the car crash pile up of disasters with Brexit and the international mess, is the desperately degraded state of Britain’s infrastructure. It is a result of decades of merciless, relentless carpet-bagging. Margaret Thatcher spawned privatisation with a capital P and it has spread like a cancer, unchecked by subsequent administrations. One thing has been thrown into sharp focus by the magnifying glass of Brexit and that is how little has been invested in infrastructure. Just today it is reported that 1 in 5 UK roads are not properly maintained. Belatedly we can see how sticky-taped and patched together everything is.

Independent reports show UK rivers in the NW are some of the most polluted in the world. Michael Gove, our doesn’t-believe-in-experts Environment Secretary, criticised the water companies for lack of investment. Astoundingly, he seems to have forgotten that his party, under Thatcher, began the wholesale selling off of utilities to the profit mongers. Gas and Electric companies are a mess of over-priced nonsense repeatedly told to do better by government whether for over-charging or terrible service. But during our few days of cold weather we discovered that gas storage facilities have been shut down – putting us more at the mercy of foreign gas suppliers – including Russia. Don’t even start me on BT – slavishly given multiple government contracts to deliver modern broadband and failing failing failing to do so for years.

Our prisons – according to recent widely publicised reports – would make a third world dictator blush.

Obesity is epidemic – despite the ridiculous bribes to get a weary public to accept the eye-watering cost of the 2012 Olympics. Babble about legacies for health and involvement in school sports has been shown for a farce. Many schools cannot even use their own premises outside school ours because they were built under private contract. The schools that have not been upgraded are falling apart, many have no decent outdoor facilities and huge numbers have budget deficits.

As wages remain depressed, train fairs continue to rise at a time when - for reasons of environmental protection and the economy – trains should be affordable and efficient. They are neither. Much of the rail network ground to a halt in the recent 6 days of winter and it's not great when the sun is shining.

 Our hospitals are using failing equipment and cannot get enough qualified staff. This is only going to get worse as EU worker numbers slump and migrant labour from other parts of the world switches to EU Europe where workers rights are protected.

And now – just as the UK is completing the task of making itself an economic basket case – we enter a new chill with Russia. Cynic that I am it even crossed my mind that gobshite Boris Johnson prematurely called out Russia – (rather than follow the existing protocol which would have meant Russia could be condemned formally from a position of 100% strength) because it’s such a marvellous distraction from the Brexit bungle he helped orchestrate.

It is a perfect shit storm. 
It is the confluence of decades of UK carpet-bagging with Brexit putting us on the worst possible footing with a host of economic, social and military allies plus the international monster mess caused by going into bad situations when we should not have done (Iraq) and not going into others when, even someone as anti-war minded as me, cuold see we should have done more – (Syria).

Greed and gormlessness and gung-ho. Game playing at the top tables with the price being paid, always, by those at the bottom.
 
It’s not clever and it’s not pretty.

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and buy this book... 

...you know you want to see where all this is going...

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

267. You have the power but it’s not where you think it is…


People power no longer lies in the ballot box but in the bank. Thanks to mad credit – you don’t even need actual money to have pocket power these days…

Real representational democracy depends on what choices are being offered and who is offering them. In the UK, our current choice is between a PM with an insane, contradictory position on Brexit and an opposition ‘leader’ with an incoherent position on Brexit and no coherent position on anything else.

Democracy is also about democratic expression and respect for democratic institutions. So, for example, the clear democratic will of the people was ignored wholesale and democratic institutions were side-lined when Blair took the UK into Iraq with Bush. (see two posts ago)

But – horrific as it was – the latest headline school slaughter in Parkland US by yet another right-white with high powered weaponry, shows us something amazing. And I’m not even talking about the incredible, mature response of the young people. It’s the power of the purse. The weight of the wallet. The pressure of the pound or the dynamite of the dollar to really shift things.

In the US, the NRA has held numerous governments to ransom at the cost of countless wasted lives. And it’s not just guns. Big money is one reason our kids are eating shit like never before. The commercial food industry has a spend power that outweighs any health campaign by $billions. For decades the tobacco industry was the same, though here in the UK – finally - a calculation was done which proved that the cost the public purse via the NHS was just too great and we got some sensible legislation on smoking at least in public places. However, even within the short life of this blog I’ve written about the way David Cameron’s previous administration, yes – the ‘leader’ who gave us Brexit, barred and blocked and prevaricated on tackling tobacco advertising. (See blog 47 Smoking causes Government Insanity).

The UK has been a grab-what-you-can fest for the elite since 1979. Thatcher sold off Britain’s family silver (and we’re all paying). Blair sold out democracy and world peace (and the world is still paying in the hardest currency). Clegg sold out the young who put their trust in him (they will always be paying). Cameron squandered Britain’s future for a Tory 6th form game of dare (and they’re still playing). May and her flaccid grey dull cabinet of clowns are simply allowing the tattered remnants of Britain’s reputation to run, ever more quickly, through their fingers. For your elucidation I have tried to illustrate this in new cartoon see ‘something’s gotta give’ @ https://plus.google.com/collection/E8toME

But in the US, big companies have taken minor action – finally realising that the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t want their kids gunned down in school. Airlines and car rental companies started by pulling NRA perks. Hunting shops and even Walmart have unilaterally introduced the kinds of minimal safeguards that government would not.

It’s not altruism. Companies with profit margins see better than those who should be paying attention that the tide has turned. Parents will no longer put up with school carnage or those who allow it. Corporations sensed the mood change and do not want to be on the wrong side. Commerce seems therefore, far more attuned to their consumers than politicians have been. Rest assured politicians will follow.

I’ve written many times about this kind of power. In the face of – for example – the BBC’s blatant disregard for the fact that it is no longer 1950 – I suggested that anyone who is not a privileged white male and/or living in London is mad to still pay their licence fee.

I’ve written about the dehumanising money-grabbing practices of many high street outlets from supermarkets to banks (e.g. blog 218 Lidl – 0 Barrack Obama - 1). Before its too late and ALL of them have banished human employees – is it too difficult to find your way to patronise the ones that still treat us like humans i.e. those that have staff?

Ditto services. If you are unlucky enough to have to use a law firm or other money orientated institution look for one that employs people who were state educated, working class – black - female. WHY? Because fairly quickly you’ll see more and more of those firms suddenly opting to give ordinary kids a chance. Some shops may decide to keep actual human employees like people you know. Elitist organisations may suddenly find a sense of fairness. If it affects their profit margins, do not underestimate how ready they would be to throw their own under that bus and give those who’ve never had a chance – a chance.

The UK chancellor is again claiming that the UK economy isn’t doing too badly – (ref; blog 261 - Beware the Disconnect – where I examine how this could be technically true but also a very big lie). But if ever there was evidence that those in power simply care about money (and power)  it’s all around us. Even their measures of success have little to do with real human lives.

We have the Power but it’s not in the ballot box - it’s in the bank.

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and check out some of my novels, children's books, future dsytpian sci fi for Easter.