That joke isn’t funny anymore: from Tories4Corbyn to a Very British Coup

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One day, someone like the Glasgow Media Group, will do an analysis of this leadership election and how the attitude of the right-wing press has changed towards Jeremy Corbyn. It will be fascinating. 

Stage 1: Laughter

It seems like an age ago when it was all jolly larks and #Tories4Corbyn. Smugly and patronisingly, they laughed into their sleeves, safe in the knowledge that Corbyn even being on the ballot would show that the loony left (guffaw) was very much alive and kicking and the Labour Party at large hadn’t changed. By not having changed, of course, they mean not accepting all the tenets of the disgustingly unequal and brutal society that their chums in the city had created. That self-satisfied superiority complex, which seemingly couldn’t be shifted, had been aided and abetted by the Labour Party in Parliament, filled with New Labourites who did just that – who had “changed” and had accepted the rules of the club.

Stage 2: Confusion

Then came the period of incredulity, as the madness of “Corbynmania” seemed to be sweeping the country. What on earth was going on, they wondered? Hadn’t this stuff – like collective values, solidarity, compassion – been left behind in the 80s where it belonged? Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall they understood: they too played by the rules. The deal was, they would let us keep the fundamentals of the Thatcherite settlement in place as long as they could play with the ball occasionally. The “fun” being had at the Labour Party’s expense became a little less sure footed. #Tories4Corbyn faded and turned into “Shock! Horror! Look what the oiks are up to!” They actually believe this crap? Rent controls? Public ownership? Democracy in our education system? Whatever next? Fake indignation and incredulity ruled, but now with a frown.

Stage 3: Anger

Latterly, the terms of reference have turned around completely. As arrogant bullies do, no public acknowledgement of this volte face was to be allowed. But to anyone who has been paying attention, it’s obvious that things have shifted dramatically as the election campaign has gone on and Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign has gathered real momentum, not just in the Labour heartlands, but in the Tories’ own backyards. The chuckles have been swallowed back and been replaced with anger. What the hell? As the movement around Jeremy Corbyn has become a “thing”, evidenced by the enormous crowds turning up all over the country and the rapturous welcome that Corbynite policies were receiving, things have taken a nasty turn. Quietly at first, but then gathering momentum, the word was put out that “this has to be stopped”. As that lad from Manchester once said:

“That joke isn’t funny anymore. It’s too close to home and it’s too near the bone.”

At the time of writing, this latest phenomenon has morphed into an almost a pathological obsession for many in the right wing press. Whereas previously, the writings on Corbyn positively oozed condescension, now you can smell the fear and a strange lack of confidence. It’s starting to resemble something out of a Very British Coup, but every smear story, every outright lie and every petty, personalised attack on Corbyn, his family, or his army of supporters betrays how petrified they are at the thought that, for the first time in three decades, they might actually face a real opposition to their project – not just to this detail, or that policy, but to their whole individualist, consumer-orientated, callous ideology.

Thanks to Ben Sellers

Former Tory Donor Gave Yvette Cooper £75,000 Donation

The largest single donation to Yvette Cooper’s Labour leadership campaign comes from a former donor to the Conservative party.

Businessman Peter Hearn gave Cooper £75,000 to support her campaign for the Labour leadership. According to the latest listing Cooper made in the register of MPs’ interests, Hearn’s donation makes up over a quarter of the £260,000 she has raised to fund the “Yvette for Labour Leader” campaign.

However, figures given to the Electoral Commission show that Hearn also gave £10,000 to the Conservative party in the run-up to the 2010 election.

Hearn is a multi-millionaire accountant behind PSD Group, an executive recruitment firm specialising in high-level jobs in banking, finance, and other sectors. His donation was registered this month, although the actual donation was made in July.

Since donating to the Conservatives in 2009-10, Hearn has become a major Labour donor: He gave the Labour head office donations worth £279,000 over 2014-15.

Hearn has switched his donations between parties more than once. Before his Conservative donations, back in 2007 he gave Labour £5,000.

Labour headquarters is currently working to make sure the leadership election “is not for those who support other parties and is only for those who support the Labour party”, with many would-be voters complaining they have been wrongly excluded from taking part in the vote.

BuzzFeed News asked the Cooper campaign if they had any concerns about taking money from a man who has switched support between different parties.

A spokesperson for the campaign said that Hearn was a longstanding Labour supporter:

We are very grateful to Peter Hearn and all those who have donated to the Yvette For Labour campaign. To characterise Peter as a Tory switcher is plain wrong. He has been a major donor to the Labour party for several years and a Labour voter all his life.

In 2010 he was so keen to stop the divisive and unpleasant politics of George Galloway that he supported both the local Labour and Conservative candidates fighting to prevent George Galloway’s Respect party gaining his local seat. He is unequivocally a Labour supporter.

Electoral Commission records do show Hearn giving £5,000 to the Tower Hamlets Labour party in 2007. However, they also show that he gave more money, and more often, to the Conservative party in 2009-10.

He helped fund the Conservative election campaign in Poplar, where George Galloway was standing against Labour’s Jim Fitzpatrick and Tim Archer for the Conservatives. Fitzpatrick won the seat, with Archer coming second and Galloway third.

Solomon Hughes / Electoral Commission

Hearn’s political donations are registered at the Electoral Commission under a variety of spellings – Peter Hearn, Peter J Hearn, and even a misspelled Peter Hearne. The Electoral Commission confirmed to BuzzFeed News that all these donations are registered to the same address and that they are all from the same man.

Thanks to Solomon Hughes who wrote the above article originally published on the Buzz Feed News blog on August 21.

We Don’t Need Chilcot To Tell Us Blair Lied

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In his book The New Rulers Of The World, the renowned investigative journalist John Pilger (p.65-67) describes his stay at Baghdad’s Al-Rasheed Hotel shortly before the allied invasion of Iraq in March 2003:

“I met an assistant manager who had been at the hotel since the 1980s, and whose sardonic sense of western double standards was a treat. “Ah!, a journalist from Britain”, he said. “Would you like to see where Mr Douglas Hurd stayed, and Mr David Melon [sic] and Mr Tony Newton, and all the other members of Mrs Thatcher’s Government…These gentlemen were our friends, our benefactors.”

He has a collection of the Baghdad Observer from ‘the good old days’. Saddam Hussein is on the front page, where he always is. The only change in each photograph is that he is sitting on his white presidential couch with a different British government minister, who is smiling or wincing.

There is Douglas Hurd, in 1981, then a Foreign Office minister who came to sell Saddam Hussein a British Aerospace missile system and to ‘celebrate’ the anniversary of the coming to power of the Ba’ath (Redemption) Party, a largely CIA triumph in 1968 that extinguished all hope of a pluralistic Iraq and produced Saddam Hussein.

There is Hurd twice: on the couch and on page two, bowing before the tyrant, the renowned interrogator and torturer of Qasr-al-Nihayyah, the ‘palace of the end’. And there is the corpulent David Mellor, also a Foreign Office man, on the same white couch in 1988.

While Mellor, or ‘Mr Melon’ as the assistant manager preferred, was being entertained, his host ordered the gassing of 5,000 Kurds in the town of Halabja, news of which the foreign office tried to suppress…..As the subsequent inquiry by Sir Richard Scott revealed, these celebrities of the Baghdad Observer knew they were dealing illegally with the tyrant. “Please give Mr Melon my greetings”, said the assistant manager.

Twenty seven years later, ‘Mr Melon’ can be heard presenting a phone in show alongside Ken Livingstone every Saturday morning on LBC Radio. I phoned the programme a few weeks ago to remind Mellor of this unfortunate episode in his career. Needless to say, I was cut off immediately.

In Chapter 13 of his book, Web Of DeceitBritish historian, Mark Curtis highlights – with reference to the views expressed in the Scott inquiry mentioned above – that elites do not think the public are entitled to know what the decision-making processes are that give rise to their decisions.

They are especially keen to deflect criticism away from the ruthless and violent nature of the British state towards the perpetuation of the myth that British foreign policy is historically predicated on the idea of benevolence. This involves the promotion of high and noble principles – democracy, peace, human rights and development – in its foreign policy.

Any critiques of Britain’s role in wars within the mainstream media are normally marginalized or presented within narrow limits which show “exceptions” to, or “mistakes” in, promoting the rule of basic benevolence. Curtis believes that overall:

“People are being indoctrinated into a picture of Britain’s role in the world that supports elite priorities. This is the mass production of ignorance. It actively works against our interests, which is precisely why the ideological system is critical to the elite, who essentially see the public as a threat…. As the chapters on Kenya, Malaya, British Guiana, Iran and others have shown, the reality of British policy is systematically suppressed” [1].

Has anything fundamentally changed since BBC founder Lord Reith wrote of the establishment: “They know they can trust us not to be really impartial”? [2] Why did the British and American mass media fail to challenge even the most obvious government lies on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the invasion in March 2003? Why did the media ignore the claims of UN weapons inspectors that Iraq had been 90-95 per cent “fundamentally disarmed” as early as 1998? [3].

What Curtis convincingly shows is that Blair’s contempt for international law in relation to Iraq is part of an historical continuum. As Caroline Lucas put it: “By imposing regime change in Iraq… Tony Blair is not so much following the US as continuing a national tradition.”[4].

After studying declassified British government files, Curtis concluded that:

“British ministers’ lying to the public is systematic and normal…In every case I have ever researched on past British foreign policy, the files show that ministers and officials have systematically misled the public. The culture of lying to and misleading the electorate is deeply embedded in British policy-making” [5].

Just as the public didn’t need the Scott Inquiry to tell them that the Thatcher government illegally sold weapons of mass destruction to Saddam that were used to deadly effect against the Kurds, so we don’t need £10 million (and counting) of our money wasted in a whitewash of an inquiry into Blair’s deceptions in relation to Iraq.

All that is required is a cursory glance at the contents of the Downing Street memo which provides the public with an invaluable record of a meeting in July 2002, between Blair and Sir Richard Dearlove. The memo reveals that Dearlove, director of the UK’s foreign intelligence service MI6, told Blair that in Washington military action was now seen as inevitable

Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy [6]. In other words, what this memo shows is Blair knew that the decision to attack Iraq had already been made; that it preceded the justification.

What’s So Great About ‘Roxy Music’?

The first of Roxy Music’s opening trilogy of masterpieces sounds as original and fresh today as it did on its release back in 1972. Comprising Bryan Ferry on vocals and piano, Graham Simpson on bass, Andrew Mackay on oboe and sax, Paul Thompson on drums, Phil Manzanera on guitar and Brian Eno on tapes and synths, the sound on the album is simultaneously futuristic, conceptual and mannered.

The album opens with Re-make/Re-model which is probably their archetype sound comprising hypnotic sax riffs, frantic, cacophonous dissonance and  abstract effects. Ladytron is an electronic psychedelic overture sang by a baritone Ferry complete with sax riffs, distorted guitars and rhythmic synths. 2 H.B is a kind of decadent serenade and one of the trademarks of Ferry’s vocal deliveries.

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If There Is Something  is a combination of a jazz-rock jam and chamber music, whilst the catchy hit single Virginia Plain (not originally included in the album) is one of the greatest masterpieces of all rock. Here, Eno’s pulsating but methodical synths that embellish the fractured sound of clarinet, guitars and honky tonk piano, steal the show.

The Bob (Medley) is more avante-garde and abstract, whilst Chance Meeting is basically a free-jazz psychodrama-based chamber music. No less chameleon, is the rock and roll of Would You Believe that encompasses pounding piano boogie, wild sax and guitar solos.

Sea Breezes is a bleak and melancholic merging of neoclassical elements and distorted keyboards, sax and guitar. In the finale, Bitters End, Ferry sings in the languid crooning style that was later to become his trademark against a backdrop of flamenco rhythms and doo-wop.

Merging King Crimson-style pathos, jazz-rock and electronic elements, Roxy Music revolutionized prog rock by linking it to both the punk rock and new wave movements of the late 1970s and the post-punk and synthpop of the 1980s. Roxy Music are one of Britain’s greatest and most influential bands, and their self-titled debut is, in my view, their best album.

Dismaland

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Dismaland Bemusement Park is a theme park with a difference – a dystopian playground created by the anonymous artist, Banksy in the derelict Lido in Weston-Super-Mare. The artist has assembled the work of fifty other artists from around the world as far apart as Palestinian painters to the British writer Julie Burchill. The latter was commissioned to write a modern Punch and Judy whose theme is domestic violence which Burchill was a victim of:

“Good day to you my audience, you seem a smashing bunch, let me introduce myself, my name is Mr Punch. I’m part of your folk history like saucy Jack the Ripper. We both like a bit of fun like beating up a stripper” says Burchill in her opening poetic refrain.

Other installations that represent just a few of the park’s attractions include a fairy tale castle with a grizzly grotto, a boating lake full of refugees and a model village running riot.

As you enter the theme park, you are confronted by a security screening room manned by officious looking security guards, as fabricated as the threats its protecting us from, In reality, this happens to be an installation by American artist Bill Barminsky. “Any guns grenades or unicorns on you today”?, inquires one of the guards, all of whom look like they have just stepped out of the set of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

Dismaland is a very different kind of family day out, one which presents a more appropriate message to the next generation faced with the lack of meaningful work and global injustice. A step away from street art, this show is Banksy’s graffiti rendered into three dimensions. In addition to the representation of some of his traditional themes, he also presents some other new and shocking ones.

The refugee crisis off the shores of Europe, for example, becomes the subject of remote controlled motor boats. Miniature model boats crammed full with desperate looking replica humans drift on the water while some other less fortunate figures lie face down arms stretched and bloated floating on its surface.

Dismaland was perhaps part inspired by the pessimistic themes of the artist Jeff Gillette who, from his home in California, has been subverting Disney for many years. Jimmy Cauti, formerly of the pioneering UK acid House band, KLF. has presented a very different kind of street art at the show – a model of a town after a riot in which the only people remaining on the streets are 3,000 police and media standing around doing nothing looking at each other after the riot has happened.

Other pieces include Crazy Gulf -,A War About Oil – where you can hit a golf ball through a pipeline. You can also play Hook A Duck out of thick black water resulting from the aftermath of an oil slick. Children in need of more cash can borrow against their pocket money at just 5,000% APR from a nearby stall.

The climax of the exhibition is Banksy’s Castle. What he has done with an upturned carriage and a fairy princess is an extraordinary and evocative experience that’s funny, poignant and ultimately controversial which is precisely its point. You leave the exhibition, predictably, via the gift shop.

Banksy told Channel 4 News:

“For this show I didn’t deliberately set out to snub street art, I just found other stuff a lot more interesting. I seem to have reached the point where an art show is more interesting the less I’m in it.”

Dismaland Bemusement Park is open for six weeks.

The Rich Get The Carrot And The Poor Get The Stick

The juxtaposition and double standards in our society between those at the top and those at the bottom is stark. The gap between the rich and poor continues to increase to the extent that the top earners in the footsie 100 companies’ earn a massive 183 times more than the average earner [1].

The argument of some of those who attempt to justify this massive discrepancy is that the top of society have to be incentivized in order to increase their performance. That’ll be news to the bosses of the publicly subsidized privatized railways and loss making banks whose performances in many instances are found wanting.

Nevertheless, those at the top are invariably given inducements to work better. But that rule of thumb never seems to apply to those at the bottom. Why don’t we try, as Jeremy Corbyn has proposed, “a bit of quantitative easing” for the poorest instead of the richest [2] so that the former will be incentivized to kick start the economy?

But to do so would be an admission of defeat and would therefore undermine the ideological consensus that exists between the New Labour hierarchy and the Tory establishment. If there are good and well paid jobs for people to go into, it would mean that the Tories proposed introduction of their inappropriately named “boot camps”, would not be necessary.

Chris Grayling, the Tory welfare spokesman, has stated that these “boot camps” are in reality compulsory community service programmes for young welfare claimants aged between 18 and 21 aimed at improving work discipline and giving them basic skills to get a job [3].

The term “boot camp” is intended as a soundbite whose aim is to give reassurance to the Tories’ natural constituency of middle England Daily Mail reading voters that they intend to come down hard on “benefit scroungers”.

Why does the establishment always appear to give the impression of using the “stick” approach when it comes to inducing a prescribed behaviour among the poorest in society, whilst the rich are incentivized with the carrot?

If you were to look beyond the headline, the boot camp proposals are, to a limited extent, likely to be beneficial to young people who have difficulty with numeracy, literacy and basic communication skills. But that’s as far it goes. The boot camp idea, in other words, is necessary but not sufficient.

What the concept does not address is the fundamental issue relating to the lack of government investment in proper training and apprenticeship programmes that lead to the opportunity for stable, skilled and well paid jobs, thus giving hope to our young people instead of alienating them.

The Tory language is invariably about “toughness” and “coming down hard” on young people as opposed to the language and policies of hope. Not so for the richest in society who are always offered the “carrot”..

Cathy Newman’s Hatchet Job

An indication of how desperate the mainstream media have become over Jeremy Corbyn’s runaway lead in the opinion polls was no better illustrated by Cathy Newman, the Channel 4 journalist who went into a panic on social media for implying in February that the mosque she visited displayed (falsely) a culture of intolerance and sexism [1]. Newman has been criticised on Twitter by attempted to dig up dirt in her smearing of Corbyn in relation to reports he had links with Holocaust deniers and people with anti-Semitic views.  The Independent reported that:

“The Channel 4 journalist interviewed the Labour leadership hopeful in an alleyway about his connections with Deir Yassin Remembered, a group founded by self-declared Holocaust denier Paul Eisen, and the cleric Raed Salah, who was convicted for inciting violence and racism after accusing Jews of using children’s blood to bake bread.

Corbyn denied her repeated suggestion that he had made “misjudgements” by attending events by Deir Yassin Remembered and describing Salah as an “honoured citizen” some years ago, accusing Newman of putting words in his mouth.

He insisted that Eisen was not a Holocaust denier when he met him 15 years ago, telling Newman: “Had he been a Holocaust denier, I would have had absolutely nothing to do with him. I was moved by the plight of people who had lost their village in Deir Yassin.

Corbyn said he was unaware Salah had been convicted of racial incitement when he met him. The interview, which was broadcast on Monday evening, quickly sparked a backlash against Newman, with many accusing her of trying to smear him.” [2].

TrutherTom in the Independent comments section commented:

“Now Jeremy Corbyn has dozens of Jewish academics writing a open letter to the Jerusalem Chronicle stating that he is not anti-semitic and so another expose backfires against anti Corbyn media. I did not see him getting angry but I was certainly feeling it myself as she kept repeating “Was it a misjudgement Mr Corbyn” ad nauseum.

Totally pathetic attempt to try and stitch him up while hoping to make a name for herself but all she has done is make herself look foolish and unprincipled and extremely arrogant. Full marks to Jeremy Corbyn for keeping his cool when others may have reacted hastily but his constant denial and refusal to be baited, made her look very superficial and rather stupid.”