The Cry of “Islamophobia” & the right to blaspheme.

April 23, 2013

This loathsome term [Islamophobia] is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliche conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics.
-Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, Muslim, Ex-Cleric.

As someone who considers himself to be on the centre-left of the political spectrum, I am increasingly unnerved by creeping rhetoric on the left that seems to shut down debate, by silencing discussion with fallacy and insult. This isn’t the secular, liberal, discussion based democratic left that I believe in. Challenging authoritarian ideas and concepts – be them political or religious, with critique and satire, with criticism and poking fun – should be considered uncompromisable and absolutely necessary.

To highlight this, I got thinking about a recent online “debate” between Owen Jones and Richard Dawkins. Jones made quite clear in a recently reposted article in the Independent from 2012, that he stands firm on the side of Mehdi Hasan when it comes to what they term “Islamophobia“. This was reposted after Hasan’s spat with Richard Dawkins on Twitter yesterday. Dawkins wrote:

dawkins

– An ill-judged, and inflammatory choice of words, no doubt. Interestingly, Dawkins has since made an apology and clarification. But I think Owen Jones is being curiously hypocritical, and himself guilty of fanning the flames of an undefined “Islamophobia” that he seems so keen to call out at every possible opportunity.

Jones’s hypocrisy takes on two forms; firstly Jones does not react with equal anger at any negative mention of other religions or religious figures. And secondly, he jumps to the unquestioning defence of Mehdi Hasan, despite Hasan’s equally disparaging remarks in the past, aimed at all non-believers. There is a distinct air of hypocrisy about Jones on this, but even more so with Hasan.

Dawkins went on a similar attack against Mitt Romney in the run up to the 2012 US Election, and his Mormonism. Stating:

mars

– And yet, there remained an eery silence from Owen Jones and Mehdi Hasan on this. No cries of “Mormonophobia“. Similarly, as Trey Parker and Matt Stone released “The Book of Mormon“; a mockery of Mormonism, in musical form, Owen Jones registered no disgust. Apparently Mormonism is fair game. Islam though, we must never mention Islam negatively.

Owen writes:

owen jones

– And yet, for all his apparent hatred of bigotry, another eery silence from Jones is brought to us, when we consider statements made (and very weakly defended) by Mehdi Hasan, in the past. For example, in 2009, Hasan gave a speech at the Al Khoei Islamic Centre, in which he quite openly states:

“The kaffar, the disbelievers, the atheists who remain deaf and stubborn to the teachings of Islam, the rational message of the Quran; they are described in the Quran as, quote, “a people of no intelligence”, Allah describes them as; not of no morality, not as people of no belief – people of “no intelligence” – because they’re incapable of the intellectual effort it requires to shake off those blind prejudices, to shake off those easy assumptions about this world, about the existence of God.”

In a separate speech, Hasan also said:

“We know that keeping the moral high-ground is key. Once we lose the moral high-ground we are no different from the rest of the non-Muslims; from the rest of those human beings who live their lives as animals, bending any rule to fulfil any desire.”

– Is this not something along the lines of ‘Kuffarophobic‘? Mehdi Hasan dislikes me as a non-believer, without knowing me, insisting that I must live like an animal, simply for not believing the same myths that he chooses to believe. He is insulting me as a person, not my ideas or my beliefs, just as a person. This is bigotry. As is practically every opening verse to almost every chapter of the Qur’an, that seeks to dehumanise non-believers, and notes we’re only good for eternal punishment in the flames of hell. How is this not bigotry also?

Are we genuinely claiming that Richard Dawkins suggestion of the irrationality of Mehdi Hasan, is at all different to Hasan referring to anyone who doesn’t fit his narrow view of what is correct, as “incapable of the intellectual effort it takes to shake off blind prejudices“? Hasan often argues that tarring all Muslims with the same terrorist brush, is wrong. And in this, he is quite right. And yet, he seems more than happy to suggest that all non-Muslims are a people of no intelligence. We live like animals. Hasan has concluded (and shrouded his conclusion in ‘faith’, as if that makes it acceptable), that I must live like an animal (though it should be noted, that he has since backtracked, and tried – very weakly – to explain his comments. I deal with that in another article). Is this not the exact same form of bigotry that both Jones, and hypocritically, Hasan claim to disapprove so vehemently of? Can you imagine their feigned outrage, if Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins were to say that Muslims were to all be considered animals, unintelligent, and immoral, as a whole? The Guardian would have a heart attack. Owen Jones would spend his day on Twitter telling us how he’s an Atheist but disapproves of such vile bigotry.

There is no referring to Stone and Parker as bigots, for mocking Mormonism. No Presidential address in which we’re told the musical is “in bad taste” as we were told the cheaply made anti-Islamic film was in bad taste. No referring to Monty Python as bigots for mocking the story of Jesus in ‘The Life of Brian’. Only the Christian Right jumped in to attack “Jerry Springer the Opera” for its display of a grown Jesus in a nappy. The musical won Laurence Olivier Awards. Owen Jones, again, eerily silent.

Would the same respect for free expression be accepted, for the portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad in a nappy? Given that Danish cartoons result in condemnation not only from Muslims demanding the execution of anyone associated with the publication, but also from liberals in Western countries, along with judicial inquiries, sackings of Ministers who supported the cartoons, and deaths… I’d suggest that a similar musical mocking Islam would not be met with the same respect. It is not just those of us who dislike Islam as a doctrine, who treat the faith differently from other faiths. So to, do those insisting on shouting “Islamophobia!” at every possible opportunity, shielding it from the treatment afforded to other ideas.

When States ban or openly discourage the challenging of one concept – such as the denying of the Holocaust – they are denying the Right of others to listen to dissenting opinions that might challenge us to inquire, and solidify, or modify our own perception of reality. It is almost criminalising the necessity to question. Why do I believe the holocaust happened the way it is consistently documented? I wasn’t there. I’ve heard about it from several sources. Shouldn’t I be given a plethora of ideas since I have no way of fully accepting just one, given that I wasn’t there to experience it first hand. By accepting the banning of unpopular, and offensive views, I am also harming the Right of others to hear a plethora of views and to educate themselves further. I am institutionalising a way of thinking that exists on the left of centre, whilst criminalising those on the fringes for saying words I do not like. This way, I become a slave to convention. I have learnt that this is unacceptable.

The word ‘Islamophobia’ is seeped in hypocrisy and inconsistency. It is a way to discourage free inquiry of ideas. To accept, without question, that this particular idea is off limits with regard criticism of any form. To suggest otherwise, gets us to the rather peculiar point in which even a cartoon of the Prophet, is “Islamophobic“, with people tending to focus more on how ‘offensive’ the cartoon is, than on the vicious and violent threats that it provoked. It is a victim mentality of the most irritating kind.

And yet, there is no balance by which those like Owen Jones pour scorn when certain undesirable features of Islam rear their ugly heads; Hasan’s speech for example. Or the fact that the Qur’an begins most chapters with a vivid description of how we non-believers deserve eternal torture. How is this not considered “Kuffarophobic”?
We can almost be certain of the scorn that would flow forth upon the writers, if a “Book of Islam” musical, were to be made in the mould of “The Book of Mormon”. There is no balance, no logic, just appeasement and a very twisted cultural relativist set of scales leaning dangerously to one side.

The vagueness of the term allows for it to be – oddly – linked to racism. This happened recently when Maajid Nawaz posted a cartoon of the Prophet, and was told he was playing into the hands of the EDL. I’d argue that it is those who demand special treatment for their faith, shielding it from criticism and satire, that not only play into the hands of reactive groups, but actually created the hand of the EDL in the first place. Grouping hostility and blatant racism and hate toward people (like non-believers who live like animals), in the same category as criticism, satirism toward ideas is dangerous for discussion and for the health of that idea where it exists in a secular framework upon which all ideas are up for the same treatment. It is also quite absurd.

It is not just a right, but an absolute necessity to criticise and satirise all ideas and concepts – religious or political – that seek control over the lives of others.

Racism, like sexism, is the institutional perpetuation of social privilege based on biological differences. There is no doctrine involved. To claim racism, alongside Islam, is like claiming a deep hatred for all people with brown hair, if we learn that most Muslims have brown hair. It is absurd. My contention is simple; to push discussion, criticism, satire, ridicule of an authoritarian idea – be it religious or political – out of the public sphere of acceptability, has the opposite effect. It creates a taboo, and it is latched onto by dangerous fanatics like those of the EDL, who undoubtedly do mix their dislike for a faith, with racism and Nationalism.

I doubt we would be degraded as bigots, if we were to mock or criticise the doctrines of conservatism. I see no difference. If you find criticism of Islam to be offensive, yet similar criticism of Christianity, or liberalism, or conservatism to be perfectly acceptable… it is you with the problem, not us.

I am quite unaware of what doesn’t constitute “Islamophobia“. Is it okay for example, to suggest that Islam, like Catholicism, is inherently homophobic? In fact, Hasan himself in an article on gay marriage, writes:

“As a Muslim, I struggle with the idea of homosexuality – but I oppose homophobia.”

– Irony at its finest. Homosexuality isn’t an ‘idea’. Islam is an idea. Sexuality is a natural spectrum much like eye colour, or hair colour, or skin colour. Consider a white supremacist saying: “As a white supremacist, I struggle with the idea of being black, but I oppose racism“. Irony.

Is it okay to simply argue that Islam is misogynistic (as I believe it is… as I believe Christianity is)? Is it okay to suggest that a secular UK is no place for horrendously patriarchal Shariah courts? Is it racist to say that punishment for apostasy or blasphemy, is unfathomably wrong? What qualifies as “Islamophobic“? Is it hate, or violence aimed at Muslims individuals? Is this not better defined as anti-Muslim hate (which I don’t deny exists)? Or is it distaste for the idea of Islam itself? If we are to alienate criticism of Islam as a concept or as doctrines, is this not a form of positive discrimination that has the opposite effect of what it sets out to do?

If we are to use the suffix “Phobia” to refer to criticism or mockery also, then we can also call out many religious doctrines and their adherents for being Feminismophobic Democracyophobic, Americanophobic, Westophobic? Most chapters of the Qur’an begin with a vivid description of how we as non-believers deserve nothing but torture. Is this not Kuffarophobic? It’s certainly horrifically bigoted.

It is my belief, that the freedom to satirise, mock, criticise, as well as question all authoritarian ideas, including all religions that themselves are openly critical of how those outside the faith live their lives, is the cornerstone of a progressive, and reasonable society. Indeed, the freedom to criticise authoritarian ideas is essential. These ideas include the freedom to satirise and criticise and question deeply held political ideals, including my own. We must not allow religions to be free from satire, nor criticism, simply because it is cloaked in ‘faith’. To close them to criticism/satirism by using State controls and violence, means that the idea becomes taboo, humanity cannot progress the idea, and it gives the idea an authoritarian above what it is reasonably justified in having, over the lives of not just its followers, but those who don’t wish to adhere to its principles. This is dangerous.

The openness by which ideas are debated, satirised, and critiqued, is the most important way in which their adherents are taken seriously, become integrated, and viewed equally to all others. This is different entirely to discrimination (demanding deportation of Muslims, or removal of rights that we all enjoy is quite obviously anti-Muslim hate, as is any suggestion that a Muslim shouldn’t be President of the US or Prime Minister of the UK, this is different from satire/criticism of the concept of Islam) If however, their adherents demand a special dispensation and protection from the treatment that all other ideas are open to, or seek to silence through dismissive and damaging rhetoric, then inevitably, they are treated suspiciously.

It is absolutely right for all to be free to question and to criticise and ridicule the idea of Islam; as it is right for all to be free to criticise and ridicule every faith and every idea, especially if that idea is authoritarian outside of the private life of the individual believer. This includes criticism and ridicule of Atheism, includes evolution, includes Conservative, includes Liberalism, includes Christianity, includes Mormonism, includes Communism, includes Capitalism. Islam is not, and should not be shut off from that, nor should it in any way, be linked to race from either the far right, or the far left. It is an idea. It deserves to be treated like every other idea. Those who shout “Islamophobia” at any hint of a dislike for Islam, lose all credibility the moment they do not apply the same criteria to the satire and mockery of other ideas, or when they seemingly refuse, or make excuses for people like Mehdi Hasan and his repugnant comments on non-believers.


The State of the Republicans: 2013

April 20, 2013

The end of the Romney campaign ushered in a new era for the Republicans…. apparently. They insisted they must change. Their appeal must broaden. Their hate-filled, politics of over-the-top Glenn Beck style fear had to go. They had to be presentable. Change or die! The old days of a Party of old, white, male, Christian, heterosexual, angry-at-everyone-who-isn’t-EXACTLY-like-them, funded by big corporations had to go. And so we were informed that a new breed of Republicans would appear. Ready to present a reformed GOP to the electorate. They were radically different from their predecessors.

So how’s that going?

Well, in November 2012, the residents of Texas’ first district re-elected Louie Gohmert for a fifth term in the House of Reps. If the Republicans are intending to break from the past, surely we’d expect Gohmert to perhaps be a little more moderate than his more radical Tea-Party-esque contemporaries. That’s what we’d expect. However, when asked about his opposition to any gun control legislation, Gohmert gave this rather odd answer:

“In fact, I had this discussion with some wonderful, caring Democrats earlier this week on the issue of, well, they said “surely you could agree to limit the number of rounds in a magazine, couldn’t you? How would that be problematic?”

And I pointed out, well, once you make it ten, then why would you draw the line at ten? What’s wrong with nine? Or eleven? And the problem is once you draw that limit ; it’s kind of like marriage when you say it’s not a man and a woman any more, then why not have three men and one woman, or four women and one man, or why not somebody has a love for an animal?

There is no clear place to draw the line once you eliminate the traditional marriage and it’s the same once you start putting limits on what guns can be used, then it’s just really easy to have laws that make them all illegal.

– You read right. In a discussion about gun control, Gohmert managed to take a shot at same-sex marriage, by employing the insufferably weak slippery slope fallacy. I cannot work out which is more impressive; his ability to link gun control and same-sex marriage… two completely separate issues that in no way overlap, or his intense lack of sensibility in recognising that there is no reason to believe a slippery slope with either of the issues he’s commenting on. I could equally say “If we let women vote, what next, letting camels vote?” or “If we ban cocaine, why not ban cough medicine? Where does it end!!” It’s absurd and it is baseless. He isn’t the only Republican to use this fallacy recently. John Cornyn, the new Senate Minority Whip said:

“It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right…. Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife.”

– Yes. the Republican Senate Minority Whip has just compared a loving couple wishing to express that love via marriage, and wishing only to be considered equal under law….. to a man marrying a turtle. That’s the standard of top Republicans in 2013.

Back to Gohmert. The man who tried to link gay marriage to gun control, also claimed that the liberals are going to make Churches:

….hire whatever Satan-worshiper, whatever cross-dresser you think might be immoral, that’s against your religious belief. You are going to be forced to abandon your religious beliefs, and we’ve been seeing that with some of the requirements under Obamacare.

– Yes! Someone had to say it! Obamacare is simply a mask to make Churches hire cross-dressing Satan-Worshippers! It’s SO obvious. Wake up America!
The fact that this man gets the privilege to vote on gun legislation; a vote on the safety of your children in school, would be laughable if it weren’t so utterly terrifying.

Bobby Jindal won a 2nd term as Louisiana Governor in 2011. Since then, he’s been rather excitable at promoting misleading figures to promote an agenda of fear. Whilst one fifth of all residents of Louisiana lack health insurance, Jindal refuses to expand Medicaid expansion, claiming it would cost Louisiana $1bn over the next ten years. Quite where he gets this figure from, I’m not sure. Especially given that a Department of Health Report noted that Louisiana would actually save around $400mn over the next ten years, by expanding Medicaid. He appears to have invented his own figure, to scare people. Despite this, and despite a petition signed by…

  • Advocates for Louisiana Public Healthcare.
  • Advocacy Center.
  • Capitol City Family Health Center.
  • Capital City Alliance.
  • Citizens United for In-Home Support.
  • Coalition of HIV/AIDS Nonprofits and Governmental Entities.
  • Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, Harvard Law School.
  • Children’s Defense Fund-Louisiana.
  • Children’s Bureau of New Orleans.
  • DEAF Louisiana.
  • Doctors for America.
  • Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance, Northeast Louisiana.
  • Health Law Advocates of Louisiana.
  • HOPE For Homeless.
    Along with 30 other groups, and countless more individual signatures….. Jindal refuses to expand Medicaid.

    And then there is the apparent darling of the Republicans new bid for power in 2016; Marco Rubio.

    “We’re bound together by common values. That family is the most important institution in society. That almighty God is the source of all we have.”

    – Here, Rubio is subtly promoting the myth that America was founded a Christian nation, and that religion must be considered part of the fabric. A subtle hint that non-belief, cannot be considered an American value. Thus, in a single, tiny quote, we see the saviour of the Republicans alienate anyone who isn’t slightly obsessed with ‘God’ being a key component to Patriotism. So that’s 15% of Americans who claim no religion. That’s a lot of people to alienate, for a man promoted as the key to solving the Republican Party’s problem of appealing to minorities. Rubio is following the conservative trend of telling people who should and shouldn’t qualify as ‘American’. This in itself, is divisive.

    Rubio also still appeals to tradition when dealing with same-sex marriage, insisting that marriage cannot be redefined. Seemingly ignoring all evidence that the current definition of marriage, is just one that has evolved over time, based on modern Christian understanding of the term, and differs from other cultures entirely. So, that’s gay people alienated, as well as non-believers.

    Brand new Senator for Senator for Arizona, assuming office in 2013, Jeff Flake also doesn’t like the idea of two people in love getting married. Whilst despising ‘big government’ and the intrusion of the State into people’s lives, Flake voted in favour of a Federal Marriage Amendment, Constitutionally banning same-sex marriage. For someone so obsessed for getting government out of people’s private lives, Flake seems more than happy to use government power to ban love.

    Back to Rubio. As well as not particularly liking gay people, Rubio voted against the Violence Against Women Act, stating:

    “I have concerns regarding the conferring of criminal jurisdiction to some Indian tribal governments over all persons in Indian country, including non-Indians.”

    – Essentially, a non-Native American male being tried under the law for sexually assaulting a Native American woman, concerns Rubio, because he doesn’t trust Indian Tribal Governments. And yet, he puts his full faith in the States to fund programs properly:

    “These funding decisions should be left up to the state-based coalitions that understand local needs best.”

    – So trustworthy are local areas in dealing with domestic abuse cases, that due to budget cuts, the Topeka, Kansas City Council and Mayor actually repealed the Domestic Abuse law, in a bid to start a bit of a war with the County Prosecutor. This came about after Shawnee County D.A Chad Taylor, moved to stop investigating domestic violence entirely due to budget cuts. This meant that the City of Topeka would have to take up the cases, which they couldn’t afford to do either. So their Council voted to repeal the domestic abuse act. Which, forced it back into the hands of Shawnee County. Taylor said:

    “My office now retains sole authority to prosecute domestic battery misdemeanors and will take on this responsibility so as to better protect and serve our community. We will do so with less staff, less resources, and severe constraints on our ability to effectively seek justice.”

    Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence said:

    “I really do not understand this. It’s really outrageous that they’re playing with family safety to see who blinks first. People could die while they’re waiting to straighten this out.”

    – All of this comes down to budget cuts. Shawnee County DA Chad Taylor refused to prosecute domestic violence cases, after facing a 10% budget cut, despite half of all cases being domestic abuse cases, which increased substantially in the past three years, without any extra funding from the County. How very trustworthy! Interestingly, Rubio voted against the Budget Control Act in 2011, and the Fiscal Cliff 2012. Rubio evidently trusts the localities to make funding decisions, which is much easier, if those localities don’t have any funds in the first place.

    Rubio isn’t the only Republican with odd reasons for voting against the Violence Against Women Act. Steve Stockman, Representative of Texas’ 36th District announced his shameful reasons for voting against:

    “This is a truly bad bill. This is helping the liberals, this is horrible. Unbelievable. What really bothers—it’s called a women’s act, but then they have men dressed up as women, they count that. Change-gender, or whatever. How is that—how is that a woman?”

    Stockman also voted to repeal Federal laws that ban guns in schools. Why so? Well, given that among his campaign contributors are the ‘National Association for Gun Rights’ and ‘Gun Owners of America’, it perhaps isn’t that surprising that Stockman feels the need to put their interests above the safety of children. Just to make sure we all understand where his allegiances lie, here is incredibly ridiculous, almost comical campaign bumper sticker, tweeted for the World to see, by the man himself.
    babies-guns
    – I’m not sure if Stockman is calling for semi-automatic rifles to be inserted into the vaginas of every pregnant woman. I wouldn’t be surprised.

    The scientifically illiterate are still abundant in the Republican Party. Marco Rubio once announced that he didn’t know if the Earth was made in 6 days or not, and that we’re never likely to know. But Georgia’s 10th District Rep. Paul Broun (planning to run for Senate in 2014) and, quite horrifyingly, serving on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology once took Rubio’s toying with Creationism one step further:

    Earth is about 9,000 years old, it was created in six days as we know them”

    – Broun also said of embryology, genetics, evolution, and the Big Bang theory:

    “they’re lies straight from the Pit of Hell … lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

    – Broun also said of climate change:

    “Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax. There is no scientific consensus.”[

    – Echoing his scientific illiteracy, Broun gives us enlightening views on politics, when brief mention of a National Security Force by President Obama, before the 2008 election:

    “It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he’s the one who proposed this national security force, I’m just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may _ may not, I hope not _ but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism. That’s exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it’s exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he’s proposing to have a national security force that’s answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he’s showing me signs of being Marxist.”

    – Yes. A US Representative, thinks the Earth was made in 6 days, evolution is a lie from the pit of hell, climate change isn’t man made, and convinced President Obama was going to create his own Hitler Youth, to take over America and create a Marxist haven.

    Now to move on from bat-shit crazy, to slightly less crazy, Paul Ryan. The spritely Paul Ryan. You may think he’s irrelevant as a symbol of this great new era for Republicans, given that his ticket lost the Presidential election. But let’s not forget that Ryan is the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, in 2013. A pretty important position. He’s also Wisconsin’s 1st District House Representative. He looks young, he seemed fresh, he wasn’t the grey haired typical old Republican. Nor was he the gun tottin’ Sarah Palin slightly vacant Republican. He was paraded on the networks as a hero of fiscal conservativism, brave to speak out against Obama overspending! His brand new House Republican Budget released in March this year, which the brave, fiscally conservative hero claims will:

    “end cronyism, eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse and returns the federal government to its proper sphere of activity”

    – So it is worthwhile to note that the anti-big government, pro-deficit reduction Paul Ryan voted for the two Bush tax cuts (both considered a great failure, and added significantly to the deficit), the $700 bailout of the banks, and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, whilst voting against Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Most of Paul Ryan’s economic voting record, has added significantly to the National deficit.
    His House Republicans Budget, unveiled by Republicans on March 12, noted that $931 billion of the creatively accounted $4.6tn apparently savable over the next ten years, will come from counting the savings from ending the Iraq and Afghanistan wars…. wars that Paul Ryan voted for in the first place. Economically, Paul Ryan doesn’t know where he stands.
    Socially, despite absolutely no evidence to back up its claims, in 2009 Paul Ryan cosponsored the ‘Sanctity of Life Act’. A very odd little Act that sought to protect fertilised eggs, stating that the eggs:

    “shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood”

    Ryan also believes that abortion, in all cases, including rape and incest, should be made illegal, and States given the right to criminally prosecute women who have abortions, including for rape and incest.

    Before being elected as Senator for South Carolina in 2013, Tim Scott was House Representative for South Carolina’s first district. During his time in the House, Scott cosponsored a truly horrifying Bill that would deny food stamps to poorest families, if a family member was taking part in strike action. The right to strike – a key component of a democratic society – used by the weak against the powerful, used to secure freedoms and security for generations, Tim Scott voted to essentially end. Threatening the poorest people in society; you either strike, or you eat. Scott is also convinced that the private health care system in the US is the greatest in the World, and that the Health Reforms of 2010 should be repealed. This is no surprise given that one of his main campaign contributors, has been Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the health insurance company. Among other campaign contributions, he has received donations from Goldman Sachs. Tim Scott is a politician, for the wealthy, by the wealthy. The Insurance Industry Candidate.
    Speaking of complete contempt for the less wealthy, Mark Meadows, a member of the January 2013 intake for The House, and Tea Party favourite, representing North Carolina’s 11th District voted against the Sandy Relief Fund.

    Dean Heller, the Senator for Nevada, who will hold that position until 2019, voted against the Health Care Reform, and against Fair Minimum Wage Act. Heller has also voted against subsidising renewable energy, whilst voting to support development of oil, gas and coal…. two of his top campaign contributors, are Alliance Resource, and Murray Energy…. two coal companies.

    So, gay marriage leading to marrying an animal, Church’s having to hire crossdressing Satan-worshippers, manipulating figures to suit an agenda, a refusal to expand Medicaid to help the most vulnerable, evolution a myth from the pits of hell, refusal to protect victims of domestic abuse, including transgendered people, a desire to see women who have been raped imprisoned for having an abortion, guns in schools funded by the gun lobby, Obama trying to raise an army to enforce a Marxist Utopia, anti-renewable energy, candidates wishing to disenfranchise poor people and their right to strike, and wishing to repeal health reform whilst taking campaign contributions from the wealthiest insurance companies in the country.

    This new Republican breed sound, and act, and speak, eerily familiar to the old breed.


  • The Deafening Silence of The Taxpayers’ Alliance.

    April 17, 2013

    800px-Margaret_Thatcher_funeral_X8A2556

    The Tax Payers’ Alliance are an interesting group of right wingers. Any sort of social program is deemed a waste of tax payers’ money, by those moral guardians over at the Alliance. Any increase in public spending, is criticised instantly as a waste of money, ineffective, and courtesy of the big bad government. They only want what’s best, apparently, for the mysterious “tax payer” God of which they pray at the alter. (Except, obviously, for Alexander Heath, the non-executive Director of the group; a man who hasn’t paid taxes in the UK for years).

    I mean, they really hate anything funded by the tax payer. One of the members of the West Midlands brance of the TPA, Peter Roberts, wrote on his blog:

    “And finally I hate buses because they are the symbol of a socialist society where people rely on the state to provide transport.”

    – Yes. They even take their time to rant about how buses are a “symbol” of socialism, silently replacing the Hammer & Sickle and the face of Che Guevara. Remember that, every time you get on a bus. You’re basically announcing your support for Stalin.

    So, given their vocal interest in any slight government funding for any project, ever…. we would expect them to remain consistent, and at least have a say over the £10m tax payer funded funeral for Margaret Thatcher. A funeral, which, according to a ComRes Poll 60% of the public do not believe the tax payer should have paid for. Great time to show that the Tax Payer’s Alliance isn’t just a Tory Party mouthpiece masked as a ‘grass roots, non-partisan’ Alliance of those concerned about misspent public funds.

    Here then, is a comprehensive guide to the work of the Tax Payers’ Alliance over the course of the past month.

    This a list of the items that the TPA has had an opinion on, over that month:

    Business rates on empty buildings
    Prison gymnasiums
    Prison therapy programmes
    Prisoner rehabilitation programmes
    Prisoners’ access to legal aid
    Prisoners’ access to air freshener
    The Bedroom Tax
    Rise in the tax threshold
    The Health and Social Care Act
    The Welfare Reform Bill
    GLA staff internet browsing history
    MPs expenses tribunals
    Cosmetic surgery on the NHS
    Working trips by the Science and Technology Facilities Council
    International Development spending
    Housing benefit for prisoners on remand
    Sentences for benefit fraud
    Compensation payments for injured children
    Scrapping the development of a police computer
    A grant to KPMG to set up a Glasgow office
    The Cyprus bailout
    Welsh councils’ spending on gifts for guests
    Refreshments at meetings with Mayor Rahman
    Demolition of derelict homes in Stoke
    University Vice Chancellors’ pay
    Medical negligence law suits
    Accident at work compensation
    Fitting council vehicles with GPS
    The appropriate number of children for people on benefits
    Gagging clauses for BBC executives
    A subsidised bar in Whitehall
    Charges for green waste collection
    Windfarms in the South Pacific
    Decisions of the Financial Services Authority
    Councillors’ pensions
    Advice offered by NHS Online
    Headteachers attending conferences
    Trainee doctors’ wages
    Health support for obese children
    The BBC iPlayer
    The BBC’s disciplinary procedures
    The Youth Police and Crime Commissioner Paris Brown
    Gender realignment surgery
    and…
    The stuffing of William Hague’s snake

    Here is a list of items the TPA has not had an opinion on, and has in fact, remained completely silent on, over the past month:

    Margaret Thatcher’s £10m tax payer funded funeral.

    – There must be some sort of mistake. Perhaps they’re just taking their time to write a well reasoned and eloquently presented response to the entire debacle. That must be it. Or perhaps every member of the TPA is currently on holiday without access to news. Or maybe too busy collectively weeping and mourning, their thoughts too occupied with grief to comment on the expense itself. That has to be it. I’m sure when the grief subsides, they will be vocal in their opposition to such an elaborate and overly extravagant day-long tax payer/socialist funded Tory Party Political Broadcast, of which 60% of the public they claim to represent, didn’t want to fund.

    That being said, if they were in fact, too grief stricken to comment at all, we would expect their website to be bereft of any update since April 8th. And yet, oddly, we see five stories on their site since that day. A story about how shit and wasteful Owen Jones is. A story about how shit and wasteful Cardiff Council are. A story about how shit and wasteful Police and Crime Commissioners are. A story about how shit and wasteful Wales is. No story whatsoever, about the funeral expense.

    So the one lesson we can all take from the TPA, and their ongoing campaign, is quite simple. Tax payers’ funding this…

    Untitled-5

    …. is acceptable, and represents good value for money. Not Socialism. But tax payers’ funding this….

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    ….. clearly a symbol of the Soviet Union of Great Britain, taking away your freedoms. It even has the nerve to be red.

    The TPA are that excitable about every form of tax and spending in the UK (except extravagant socialist funerals for leading proponents of right winged, small-government dogma), that a spoof generator exists in which you too can come up with a generic ‘outraged’ TPA quote!
    I typed in “England” and got this rather apt response.

    Untitled-3

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    The Jesus Myth: Tacitus

    April 14, 2013

    Following on from my two previous entries exploring the myth of Jesus (The Jesus Myth and The Myth of Jesus: Antiquities of Josephus), I thought I would continue the series with another historical figure often cited as providing evidence for the existence of Jesus, through his writings; The great Roman Senator and Historian, Tacitus.

    Contemporary Biblical scholars (who some seem oddly convinced, are excellent sources on the subject of history) who use Tacitus as evidence, cannot be considered neutral in the search for the ‘real Jesus‘. The Biblical Scholar, and often cited, Craig Evans uses Tacitus as evidence for Christ. The same Craig Evans once wrote

    “The archaeological evidence shows that Jesus grew up in a small village, Nazareth, about four miles from Sepphoris, a prominent city in the early first century C.E.

    His body was placed in a tomb, with the expectation that his bones later would be gathered and placed in his family’s tomb. The Easter discovery dramatically altered this expectation.”

    – There is of course, no archaeological evidence that Jesus grew up anywhere. It is quite clear that any historical analysis into the existence of Jesus, from Evans and other Biblical scholars, starts from the premise that Jesus existed. The ‘evidence’ is then framed around that premise. It is made to fit the dogma. They manipulate history, to fill in gaps. Scholars of the Qur’an will have a vastly different interpretation of “history” when it comes to Jesus, than a Biblical scholar trying to pass his work off as genuine history. Evans misleads on several occasions, in order to provide tenuous links to Jesus. He ends his piece with:

    Just last week, a court in Israel concluded that there is no convincing evidence of fraud in the case of the ossuary bearing the inscription, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”

    – Misleading, because the court actually said:

    “We can expect this matter to continue to be researched in the archaeological and scientific worlds and only the future will tell. Moreover, it has not been proved in any way that the words ‘brother of Jesus’ refer to the Jesus who appears in Christian writings.”

    – I would strongly advise mistrusting any ‘scholar‘ who continuously feels the need to say “historians in my field all agree“…. Perhaps point out that Biblical historians tended to agree that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, at one point too, despite all evidence to the contrary. Alfred Loisy, the Catholic Priest was demonised by Catholics at the time, for suggesting that the first five books, were not the work of Moses. Loisy’s work was widely rejected by “Biblical Scholars” keen to hold onto to their myth. This is because most of the ‘scholars‘ are Theologians, they have not trained as historians, and they amplify any piece of data they can use as evidence, regardless of its validity or importance. Why would we give them credit, beyond, say, that of the wonderful J. M. Robertson, who writes a great, eloquent and well reasoned account for his belief that Jesus is a myth, and the art of religious myth making (which can all be read here). The ‘history‘ presented by Theologians, is manipulative, and a conclusion reached before evidence is even begun to be collected and interpreted. Most cite Josephus, despite that source being a quite obvious later Christian addition, as well as most citing Tacitus at least once.

    Tacitus, undoubtedly, was a great historian and his Annals are a wonderful commentary on the state of Rome during the first century of the Empire.

    The particular passage we are focusing on, is Book 15, Chapter 44, of The Annals. In it, Tacitus states:

    “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind”.

    – This is the passage used by Christians as a non-Biblical, early reference to Jesus. In that sense, they’re right. It is a non-Biblical, early reference to Jesus. And that, is all it is. Nothing more. It simply isn’t credible evidence for the existence of Jesus and to suggest it is, is so horrifically devoid of a sense of an ability to be critical, it pains me. Let’s also note that Tacitus claims that they weren’t arrested for the fire, they were arrested for “hatred against mankind“. Not only are they an “immense multitude” (Which we know there weren’t), that the entire City has named “Christians” (suggesting their faith and creeds are well known throughout the city), Rome, and indeed, the Emperor himself convicts them for hatred of mankind.

    Polydor Hochart tells us:

    “It is inconceivable that the followers of Jesus formed a community in the city at that time of sufficient importance
    to attract public attention and the ill-feeling of the people. It is more probable that the Christians were extremely discreet in their behaviour, as the circumstances, especially of early propaganda, required. Clearly we have here a state of things that belongs to a later date than that of Tacitus, when the increase and propagandist zeal of the Christians irritated the other religions against them, and their resistance to the laws of the State caused the
    authorities to proceed against them.”

    Arthur Drews, drawing on Hochart, says:

    The interpolator, Hochart thinks, transferred to the days of Nero that general hatred of the Christians of which Tertullian speaks. Indeed, the French scholar thinks it not impossible that the phrase ” odium humani generis ” was simply taken from Tertullian and put in the mouth of Tacitus. Tertullian tells us that in his time the Christians were accused of being “enemies of the human race”.

    It’s also important to note that the original Tacitus Annals Books 11 – 16 are lost. We only have copies, written centuries later. To suggest they are the exact word for word copies of the original, cannot be even close to confirmed. Especially given that those centuries, were Christian centuries, and involved a lot of other Christian forgeries.

    There is however, certainly a more credible argument for it being that of Tacitus than the passage by Josephus. But it still isn’t definite. There are some tricky elements not quite reconciled, as Hochart and Drews point out. We must however note that the passage is most certainly written in Tacitus’s style, and it mentions Christians in such a harsh manner, it is unlikely to have been inserted by Christians at a later date. Whereas Josephus, inexplicably lavishes praise on the Christians, and insists Jesus is divine whilst he himself is a devout Jew. Which suggests, among other reasons, that he didn’t write it. Tacitus doesn’t. He is far more damning of the Christians. They were “hated for their abominations“, “a most mischievous superstition“, “hatred against mankind“. These are pretty vicious claims about the Christians. It’s doubtful that a Christian would have inserted this passage later. Though, not impossible. And closer examination seems to suggest the vicious language, is well masked. You will note that Tacitus exonerates the Christians from starting the fire. They are innocent according to Tacitus, and it is Nero who frames them. Suddenly, we have innocent Christian martyrs, persecuted by a crazed and immoral Pagan sect. And that’s exactly as history has perceived them. This may seem like an anti-Christian passage, but it has had the opposite effect entirely.

    Forgery in the early Church was rampant. It was especially used to glorify early Christians. The German Theologian David Strauss wrote that the earliest Christian communities reworded the Gospels to suit certain local prejudices. Hegel noted that Christian doctrine continuously changed over the years to suit certain power structures. There is also, of course, debate over whether even Peter managed to reach Rome at all, let alone authored the First and Second Epistles of Peter (which, it is almost certain, he didn’t). There is also a lot of controversy over what St Paul actually said, what he wrote, what was forged under his name, where he preached, and how he died. Rewriting Christian history to suit a narrative is not new. Forgery is certainly not new in Christian history. Eusebius appears to have been a master at this.

    There are some issues with the plausibility of the Tacitus reference, as being genuine. Like with the passage from Josephus, no early Christian writer, even those well versed in Tacitus, mention this passage at all. Eusebius, putting together all early sources on the life of Jesus, searching Pagan documents including Tacitus, (and my chief suspect in forging the Josephus passages, and suspiciously, the first to mention that Paul was killed in the persecution under Nero) did not mention Tacitus. Neither does Tertullian, a student of Tacitean works. Drews noted:

    “none of the works of Tacitus have come down to us without interpolations”.

    Secondly, the word “Christians” was not used in Rome, at that point in their history. They were often referred to as “the way“, but most popularly as “Saints” and “Disciples“. Acts 1:15 is testament to that:

    “And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples.”

    Others (including Eusebius) note that early Christians were known as Nazerenes. If we discount Josephus’s passages as inserted later by Christians, the first mention of the term “Christians” outside of the Bible, is Tacitus. At a time when it is unlikely they would be known by the name “Christians“. Christianity and Judaism did not have a relevant and noticeable split until the 2nd Century. It is also not true that “an immense multitude” of Christians existed in Rome at the time of the burning. There was barely a Christian multitude at all in Judea, let alone Rome. Given how widespread and dangerous the Christians apparently were, Nero’s Minister, Seneca, doesn’t mention them at all. In fact, for such a widespread movement apparently operating in Rome, that the city had already named ‘Christians‘, and openly hated, Tacitus doesn’t mention them anywhere else, at all, only briefly in the passage above. And no other early historian links the Christians to the burning of Rome.

    So, whilst the text itself is a little stronger than Josephus, it isn’t set in stone as genuine. But even if it were, that is completely irrelevant.

    The main problem with Tacitus used as evidence for the existence of Jesus begin prior to this passage and prior to the writing of the Annals.
    It starts with Tacitus’s birth.

    Tacitus was born 56ad. Probably in Southern France, known then as Gallia Narbonensis. So, in looking for contemporary sources for the existence of Jesus; anything written by Jesus, anything written from the time by people who supposedly flocked to see Jesus, anything written by social commentators at the time, and place in which Jesus was performing amazing, reality altering miracles, anything from contemporary Romans about this World changing preacher….. Tacitus was not. He was in fact born 20 years after Jesus supposedly died, 2000 miles away. So, another non-contemporary “source” working on hearsay.
    Johannes Weiss, the German Theologian, once stated:

    “Assuredly there were the general lines of even a purely fictitious Christian tradition already laid down about the year 100; Tacitus may therefore draw upon this tradition”

    – There is no reason to believe Tacitus was doing anything but drawing upon an established tradition. Three of the four Gospels were quite possibly already written at that time. That Christianity existed, is not in question. Tacitus seems only to be reaffirming that Christianity existed.

    Hearsay; because being non-contemporary, means he could only know about Jesus, second hand, at best. And it is at best, because the Annals was Tacitus’ final work before he died in 117ad. Which means, over a century after Jesus was supposedly born. It is unlikely at that time, that Tacitus would have spoken to disciples of Jesus, or any contemporary source that knew Jesus, being over 70 years later. If he did speak to disciples, we have no evidence for it. It is more likely that he knew the Christian story, from the Christian sects that were in Rome at that time. His statements are quite clearly statements of what the Christians believe, not a statement of fact.
    Consider the following. Tacitus writes:

    “Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.”

    – How is this any different, and any more credible a source for the existence of Jesus, than me, sitting in front of my laptop in 2013, commenting on the early days of Mormonism:

    “Mormoni, from whom the Mormons derive their origin and name, visited Joseph Smith during the Presidency of John Quincy Adams.”

    – I have never even visited Palmyra in New York, I was born about 3000 miles away, I wasn’t born at the time it happened, I have never spoken to those who knew Joseph Smith. I am simply writing a narrative that I’ve heard from others. As long as it is clear that Tacitus was not a contemporary of Jesus, nor spoke to or knew any of his disciples, nor, crucially, does he mention the crucifixion of St Peter, it is quite obvious that Tacitus can only base his passage referring to Jesus, on hearsay, from people who themselves, heard it from others.
    This is more evident, given that the Romans didn’t keep crucifixion records, and so Tacitus’ mention of Jesus crucifiction, came from hearsay also. He was not working from an original source. It is all story and no fact.

    Tacitus, writing ‘Histories’ Book 5, and specifically Chapters 8 – 10 describe Judea at the supposed time of Jesus. They make no mention of the crucifixion of Jesus as mentioned in Annals. They make no mention of Christians at all. They make no mention of miracles, or the dead rising from the ground, or Jerusalem in uproar at the arrival of Jesus.
    Absolutely no mention of Christians, Christianity, or Jesus at all. What was happening in Judea according to ‘Histories’?

    “Antony gave the throne to Herod, and Augustus, after his victory, increased his power. After Herod’s death, a certain Simon assumed the name of king without waiting for Caesar’s decision. He, however, was put to death by Quintilius Varus, governor of Syria; the Jews were repressed; and the kingdom was divided into three parts and given to Herod’s sons. Under Tiberius all was quiet.”

    – Nothing. Turns out it was pretty quiet.

    One writer attempting to refute the myth idea, says this:

    No one is suggesting that a reference in Tacitus written at the end of 116 CE about events of 64 CE can be considered a clincher for the historical Jesus. However neither Tacitus nor Suetonius later, nor Celsus, nor Josephus if he mentions Jesus at all, raise the slightest doubt that Jesus was a flesh and blood character from their recent past.

    – This is a complete straw man. (Though, Josephus doesn’t actually mention Jesus, so throwing that name into the bag is irrelevant, and Suetonius is even more dubious than Josephus) No one is suggesting Tacitus knew Jesus was not a real person. That is neither my argument, nor is it the intention of Tacitus’ writings. If it were, we may look into his other works for similar patterns and come to similar conclusions. For example, along with also suggesting that the mythical Romulus actually really did rule Rome, Tacitus tells us:

    “Mankind in the earliest age lived for a time without a single vicious impulse, without shame or guilt, and, consequently, without punishment and restraints. Rewards were not needed when everything right was pursued on its own merits; and as men desired nothing against morality, they were debarred from nothing by fear. When however they began to throw off equality, and ambition and violence usurped the place of self-control and modesty, despotisms grew up and became perpetual among many nations. Some from the beginning, or when tired of kings, preferred codes of laws. These were at first simple, while men’s minds were unsophisticated. The most famous of them were those of the Cretans, framed by Minos; those of the Spartans, by Lycurgus, and, subsequently, those which Solan drew up for the Athenians on a more elaborate and extensive scale. ”

    – Here, it seems pretty convincing for anyone, using “Tacitus is sure Jesus is a real, living human being” logic, that Tacitus also didn’t question the reality of Minos, the son of Zeus and Europa. He also doesn’t question the reality of Lycurgus, whom plenty of ancient historians doubt existed historically. He believes those two to be great law givers. He presents them, like he present Jesus, as actual historical figures. The question of whether the figure is real or not, is unimportant to Tacitus. That isn’t what he’s trying to prove.

    The important aspect to apply to the Annals of Tacitus, with regard the mention of the Christians, is that it is hearsay. It is something Tacitus does throughout his work. Tacitus draws and myth, and presents them simply as stories – neither fact nor fiction – in a lot of his writings, not least in his apparent (and dubious) reference to Christians.

    The fact remains; None of the historians and cultural writers living at the same time as Jesus, ever wrote about Jesus. I will again point to Philo as being the most damning source for Christians, in my view. Writing at the exact time Jesus apparently existed, writing about the exact places Jesus apparently performed all sorts of wondrous miracles; and does not mention him once, yet mentions plenty of other less impressive, and far more mundane anecdotes. It is clear that Josephus, also, does not mention Jesus once, despite his beloved father living in and around the area Jesus was supposedly causing shock waves.

    Whether the Tacitus reference is genuine or not, is irrelevant. And that is because it is written too late to be considered contemporary evidence for the existence of Jesus. If, whether a source is genuine or not is irrelevant, then there really is no reason to consider it at all. It cannot reasonably be considered evidence for the existence of Jesus.

    Tacitus, born two decades later, writing five decades after that, relying on second (at best) hand information, and even then the passage is suspicious, is evidence for nothing except that Christians may have existed in Rome at the time of the Great Fire.

    If you are reduced to looking for even the briefest of mentions, by a man who wasn’t there, or in fact, alive at the time, writing 100 years after the birth of the figure you’re trying to prove, in which he simply references a group of people in Rome at the time through rumours and hearsay; i’m afraid your search for the historical figure you’re arguing for, is baseless.

    I want evidence. Show me distinct, obvious, uncompromised evidence. Evidence that is not based on hearsay accounts or ambiguous and slightly dubious sources. Evidence that is not just being moulded to fit a narrative that is devoid of any contemporary evidence. Then I will change my opinion. Until then, I remain firm in my belief that Jesus Christ never existed.


    The Greatest Prime Minister of the 20th Century

    April 13, 2013

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    “Style, is normally seen in terms of sweeping gestures, the dramatic entrance, the flair for histrionic glamour in the spotlight. But style can be equally powerful when it exploits non-style”
    – Political Journalist James Margach.

    The year was 1967. England was triumphant in its securing the first and only World Cup win in the summer previous. The Beatles were at the height of their studio success with the release of Sgt Pepper. London was swinging. And Temple Church near Westminster was preparing to say a final goodbye to the arguably the greatest Prime Minister the United Kingdom ever had: Clement Attlee.

    The funeral was a small gathering of family and friends. No press, no Royal acknowledgement, no grand seven hour Parliamentary tribute special, and no outward display of intense hatred from half the country, for the man who shaped the country and the World following the end of World War II. A simple goodbye, for an outstanding Prime Minister, key reformer, and Statesman.

    Clement Attlee was never seen as a figure that would amount to much in the political arena. He was fond of established institutions, from an upper middle class family, studied at Oxford, and was never ashamed that he came from an affluent background. He was a conservative, in all but economic principles. He was also not considered Prime Minister material.
    Future Chancellor under Attlee, Hugh Dalton, on hearing that Attlee had won the Labour leadership in the ’30s remarked:

    “It is a wretched, disheartening result, and a little mouse shall lead them”.

    – Attlee was unimposing, quiet, shy, and considered very unimpressive. And yet this ‘little mouse’ was a man who would change the face of Britain, and shape public discourse and the role of the State and the Individual, to this day. Winning an unexpected landslide victory in 1945, and reshaping Britain for the next seven years.

    It is said that after the quiet, and modest Attlee’s surprising win at the ’45 general election over a Conservative Party led by Winston Churchill, he stood in silence with the equally as shy and quiet King George VI for six whole minutes at Buckingham Palace, before Attlee finally said “I’ve won the election“, to which the King replied “I know“.

    His economic assistant at Number 10, Douglas Jay famously noted that:

    “He would never use one syllable when none would do.”

    Attlee’s social democratic leanings shaped his view of what was needed for the country following the terrible economic woes of the 1930s and the heavy loss of the war. Those social democratic leanings took shape following his years working in London’s East End and experiencing the horrors of extreme poverty. In 1950 Attlee remarked:

    “I get rather tired when I hear that you must only appeal to the incentives of profit. What got us through the war was unselfishness and an appeal to the higher instincts of mankind.”

    – This belief, that the amplification of the appeal to profit is not necessarily the fundamental trait that incentivises mankind, was the basis for his entire Prime Ministerial legacy.

    On coming to power, the unimposing Attlee set about radically restructuring the entire country following the war years. His was to be a socialist government, for the people, and for the sake of equality. He was to pursue this radical aim with vigour, a clear juxtaposition to his personality, which paradoxically complemented it also. He came around at a time when the people demanded an end to austerity, and absolutely no return to the economic misery of the 1930s. Labour offered something new. Security.

    To achieve his goals, Attlee appointed a pretty strong Cabinet. Towering figures like the radical Aneurin Bevan to head up Health, Herbert Morrison – grandfather of future Labour grandee Peter Mandelson, headed up the Foreign Office. Atlee Appointed Ministers louder than he, more abrupt than he, more imposing than he. And yet, he kept them in check. Attlee was a philosophical man, a man of debate. He said very little. His Cabinet were the people to turn his plans into a reality. The Labour Government set about putting the wonderful 1942 Beveridge Report, which recommended a socially secure country, as a way to break the horrors of poverty and lack of necessity, into place.
    This was the birth of the modern Welfare State.

    Social Security, the report said, must be achieved as a contract between the State and the Individual. The individual worked, and the State provided back up for when times got tough. No one would be left to fend for themselves. We truly were, all in it together. It was a ground breaking idea. The Attlee government used the report as the basis for one of the most comprehensive shake ups and social experiments in the history of the UK.

    Social Security was not universal, nor comprehensive, and what existed of it, was dying, prior to the Attlee government. Under funded charities trying to cope with the pressures of people coming home from war, a lack of jobs, homelessness, and health issues. Some were palmed off onto other Government Departments. It was in a broken state, and people were left to rot. And so, The National Insurance Act in 1946 established the bulk of the brand new Welfare State. It insured everyone in Country, from cradle to grave, establishing Widow’s Benefits, Unemployment Benefits, Sickness Benefits, and Retirement fund, all for a small National Insurance contribution from the Nation’s workers. All workers paid a contribution, and as a result, were protected during tough periods in their life. A modern National safety net had been created.

    Alongside the National Insurance Act came the Industrial Injuries Act, which provided assistance to anyone out of work due to injuries at work. The ‘Death Benefit’ gave help to widows in planning a funeral. The National Assistance Board was set up to assess those who hadn’t contributed through National Insurance, but still required help getting into work, to support them along the way. Unemployment between 1950, and 1969, averaged just 1.6% (social economics leads to idleness? Really?). Financial distress caused by long term unemployment, had been dealt with wonderfully. Secured jobs, people felt a breath of relaxation that if all failed, a safety net would protect them until they could get themselves back on their feet. Power over their own lives, was being handed back to the people who had it the least, and needed it the most. This is the legacy of Attlee.

    The National Assistance Act in 1948, replaced broken and completely irrelevant “Poor Laws”, establishing a National safety net for people who didn’t pay National Insurance; the homeless, single mothers, the elderly, and the disabled, obliging local authorities to grant accommodation to those in most dire need.

    After providing a Social Safety Net, the Attlee government got on with a massive house building project in order to rebuild Britain following the second World War. Between the end of the war and 1951, around 1,000,000 new homes had been built to deal with the shortage, as well as projects to rebuild those damaged during the war. 80% of the new homes, were council houses, to deal with housing the least wealthy and the most vulnerable.

    And then came perhaps the greatest legacy of the Attlee government. The NHS.

    Before the NHS, healthcare was largely paid for by the individual as if it were a luxury. Expensive treatments were solely the right of the wealthy. Some provisions were available, in parts of the Country, largely in London, for the poorest.
    The Health Minister, Aneurin Bevin, fought a raft of opposition against the National Health Service Act from its birth in 1946, to its passage through Parliament and implementation in 1948. The point of the NHS was as beautiful as it was simple:

    “free to all who want to use it.”

    It didn’t quite end up as fully planned, for the very basic notion of a universal healthcare system is something ingrained into the minds of all of us who consider healthcare a right and not a luxury. The NHS is still a national treasure. The Attlee government had to backtrack slightly on free prescriptions including glasses. This caused the Health Minister Aneurin Bevan, to storm out of government. Despite the back track the framework remained intact. A universal healthcare system, free at the point of use. The NHS would also cover mental health within that framework. A section largely ignored prior to the Act.

    The government nationalised 20% of the economy, as part of decisive social and economic reforms demanded by post-war voters. Whenever Conservatives insist that the Attlee regime created a Socialist economy, it is necessary to point out that 80% of the economy, was Capitalist. The very essentials that are based on need rather than consumer wants, were nationalised; coalmines, healthcare, gas and electricity. All of which had been rotting terribly, underperforming privately, and offering no safety, or decent pay for workers. Nationalisation worked to change that. This was a consensus followed for the next thirty years by both Labour and Conservative governments. Much of that consensus died in the 1970s. The strife of that decade was used as an excuse by the New Right to destroy Attlee created consensus. Other clear causes of the economic struggles, specifically, inflation, of the 1970s – the Oil crises following the OPEC trade embargo, the Iranian revolution, and the disastrous ‘Competition and Credit Control’ policy of the Tory Heath government – were ignored, and instead the system of Welfare, nationalisation and the very concept of compassion and community itself was blamed and ripped to shreds; the attempted destruction of the entire post-war consensus, was disastrous. It didn’t save Britain; it rightly identified a problem with certain aspects of the consensus, attached the blame to the wrong place, and presented a solution that has been even more disastrous than the original problem.

    It is perhaps the greatest respect to Attlee, that a modern day Conservative Party, feels that it had to use left leaning rhetoric to appeal to a vast sway of the public that would not elect it, had it revealed its own intentions to reignite the flame of a much despised Thatcherism three years ago. In 2010, the Tories presented themselves in a very Attlee-esque light: “Progressives“, “Compassionate“, “Helping the poor“, “The NHS is safe with us” was their battle cry; and what a far cry that is from the Thatcherite policies that the election winning rhetoric was used to mask.

    It is true that the economy struggled during the Attlee years, owing almost entirely to the pressures caused by mass unemployment and economic crises of the 1930s, the destruction of major towns and cities during the war. Though, industrial production alongside manufacturing output greatly increased under Attlee, so too did volume of exports which increased 73% between 1945 and 1951. By the time Labour’s seven years in power was up, the country was turning around. An economic boom in the 1950s and 1960s existed on a new settlement based on a Social Security system, better wages and conditions for workers, a vast improvement in quality of life, government investment, and a National Health System all carved out by the Attlee government.

    He of course, made mistakes. The de-colonisation of India, whilst a great venture that almost certainly wouldn’t have taken place had the deeply Imperial minded Churchill won in 1945, was not conducted fairly, nor sensitively enough. The hastily drawn up lines carving up Hindu India, and Muslim Pakistan, lead to thousands of deaths and conflicts lasting years. Attlee took the lead in Cabinet meetings surrounding Indian independence. He had supported India’s Independence for many years, and yet failed to provide for it adequately.
    It is also the case that Attlee was not too great at Cabinet meetings in general. Among other, the Minister for Fuel and Power, Hugh Gaitskell complained bitterly that:

    “Sometimes Cabinet meetings horrify me because of the amount of rubbish talked by some ministers who come there after reading briefs that they do not understand…. I believe the Cabinet is too large.”

    This concern plays out across government, when we note that during Chamberlain’s reign, there were just 13 committees, 8 of which were ad hoc. During the war years, a further 400 War Cabinet Committees were created. Attlee failed to get this government-by-committee under control. That being said, he was still able to hold control of Cabinet, and make swift decisions.
    Also, had Attlee not reversed on his NHS promise of free prescriptions, Bevan and others may not have resigned forcing him to go to the polls.

    Despite losing the election in ’51, which allowed Churchill’s Conservatives to swing back to power, it is untrue that Attlee’s government were unpopular by ’51. Their share of the vote was down just 2%, and yet the election results show that whilst the electoral system gave Churchill’s Tories a greater share of the seats in Parliament, Attlee’s Labour Party actually won more votes than the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party combined, polled 48.8% whilst the Conservatives polled 48%, and won more votes than Labour has ever won before or since. Labour won the 1951 election, the electoral system failed miserably. Gaining a majority of the popular vote is even more of an achievement, given that Attlee’s seven years were the longest uninterrupted years for a Prime Minister, since Asquith in 1908-1916. The Attlee government was not unpopular in 1951.

    Christopher Soames, son in law to Winston Churchill, and sacked from Thatcher’s cabinet, once remarked on Thatcher’s government:

    “Every time you have a Prime Minister who wants to take all the decisions, it mainly leads to bad results. Attlee didn’t. That’s why he was so damn good.”

    – A fitting eulogy.

    A million new homes, A National Insurance System that included; a National Health Service, Child Benefit, Help for the Homeless, Sick Benefits, Unemployment Benefits, Pensions, Widows Benefits, huge improvements to workers pay and conditions, the De-Colonisation of the British Empire. All of this was achieved at a time when the a third of the Nation’s wealth was lost to the war, and a practically empty treasury. The achievements of a government that lasted just seven years, and heralded in a ‘golden age’ of souring wages, minimum inflation, and low unemployment following a horrendous war and crippling austerity, are astonishing. His insistence that the State has a decisive role to play in the well being of the people, that compassion must not be drowned out by profit, and that we are not simply individuals at war with each other, is the legacy of the greatest Prime Minister the United Kingdom has ever known; Clement Attlee.


    Thatcherism: A price not worth paying.

    April 12, 2013

    600px-Anti-Margaret_Thatcher_badge,_1980s

    Famously, Norman Lamont, Tory Chancellor under John Major, epitomised the care-free Tory attitude to the misery inflicted by an economic shock therapy and recession drawn up in Downing Street:

    “Rising unemployment and the recession have been the price that we have had to pay to get inflation down. That price is well worth paying.”

    – In 1979, inflation was at 13.4%. When she left office in 1990, it was at 9.5%. For that 3.9% drop in inflation, the UK experienced a staggering 3,500,000 unemployed in 1982, from 1,400,000 only three years prior; destroyed ex-mining towns like Easington in County Durham which still hasn’t recovered and is known as the most deprived town in the North of England; the systematic destruction of communities in Britain like the ‘ghost town’ of Toxteth, and South London suburb of Brixton; suffering, according to the Scarman Report from lack of decent, affordable housing, no amenities, terrible levels of crime, no real educational opportunities, instead leaking roofed schools having to fund raise constantly for the very basics, huge unemployment rates, and the heavy handedness of the Metropolitan Police which the later MacPhearson report labelled as “institutionally racist“, along with a huge increase in poverty, child poverty, inequality, suicides, and homelessness, alongside the unleashing of dangerous financial speculators and easy credit. According to affluent Conservatives, that is all a “price worth paying” for a 3.9% drop in inflation. This tells you all you need to know about Thatcherism and its priorities.

    “I know these tax measures will not be welcomed by all; ways to reduce the deficit never are. But we must show we’re all in this together. Yes, the deficit is still far too high for comfort. We cannot relax our efforts to make our economy safe. But Britain is heading in the right direction. The road is hard but we’re making progress.”

    – said the Tory Chancellor George Osborne as he announced that a new round of Thatcherism forced upon the British public by a government without a mandate in 2010, was failing miserably. Austerity in Britain, he announced, would now have to last until 2018, rather than the previously predicted 2015, when everything would be wonderful again. More public sector cuts, more people forced to work stacking shelves for multi-national companies who don’t have to pay them, more disabled people told they have too many ‘spare rooms’ and must pay more, more people struggling to live, all to fill the horrendous deficit leak created by the very people who support and fund the Tory Party. We have no money, was the cry of the Chancellor, and the insistence of the Tory Party for the past, well, since time began.

    So how strange it is that the Tories, insistent that there is no money to help the disabled, the most vulnerable, the unemployed that they so shamefully threw onto the scrap heap; can find enough money in the public purse to fund a £10,000,000 funeral for an ex-Prime Minister that half the country utterly despised. A woman who once said:

    “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

    …. is now, ironically being given a tremendously over indulgent Socialist funeral, including a mass of Heads of State (I’m not sure if any of Pinochet’s family are invited), the Royal Family, 2000 guests, with full military honours and 700 military personnel. It will be a private affair apparently, paid for by the taxpayer, and not by “The Honourable Sir Mark Thatcher” – himself worth over £40,000,000. A Free Market Party, and a very wealthy family, demanding a Socialist funeral. HURRAH for Thatcherism!

    Not only that, but instead of waiting until Monday, when MPs would be hanging around Parliament anyway after recess, the Prime Minister broke protocol, despite the Speaker of the House raising concerns that it was inappropriate to break that protocol for a huge 7 and a half hour love fest. When James Callaghan died during a Parliamentary recess, they waited until the next time Parliament met, for tributes. When Churchill died, 45 minutes was set aside for tributes in Parliament. Not only that, but staging the Tory Tribute day in Parliament cost the taxpayer – on top of the horrendously inflated funeral costs – expenses worth £3,750 per MP. For this one day, plus the funeral, how many people could have been kept in their jobs? How many of the 7000 nurses made redundant could have been retrained?
    It’s okay! Shout the Tories. Foreign Secretary William Hague insisted the funeral expense was acceptable because:

    “When it comes to money, the rebate she negotiated for this country from the EU has brought us so far £75 billion.”

    – Great! I’m sure those who ended up homeless after being kicked out of closed mental institutions, and left to deal with it themselves, will be delighted to hear that she saved us £75bn. Even more so given that a report by the Tax Justice Network into tax abuse, found that tax avoidance, when added together with tax evasion costs us £69bn. The very people she promoted as the great wealth creating saviours of Britain, evade and avoid taxes worth close to the amount she secured from the rebate.

    It is of course all part of an illusion the Right is trying, and failing, to create in which Margaret Thatcher saved the UK… and the World, from the evils of people being nice to each other.

    Compassion! Is the crying call of all Conservatives this week. What a strange week it must be for them. A Party that have attempted, for thirty years, to wipe ‘compassion‘ from the collective mind, and replace it with an ‘if you can’t help yourself, no one else should‘ attitude, now call for compassion from those who suffered the most under her disastrous reign of ‘me me me‘, demanding they help to collectively pay for the funeral. Irony at its finest right there. I stick by my original point on the day she died, that outward displays out celebration so soon after her death, can only work to upset her family. I don’t particularly care about ‘respect’ for Thatcher herself. But a part of me sees the outward displays of celebration, as an ironic product of a uncompassionate society she inspired in the first place. Another part of me however, cannot condemn the public displays of celebration.

    I have seen the quote: “Some policies hurt some, but also helped others, you can’t win over everyone“. How simplistic. How empty a statement. How ignorant. It ignores the extent to which those who fall into the “hurt” category, were actually “hurt“. The deliberate underfunding of mental health institutions in order to give a reason to close them down, replacing them with the cheap and nasty “care in the community” philosophy that saw ex-patients homeless and living in boxes, whilst others simply had medication thrown at them and told to fend for themselves. Many patients were neglected because the closures didn’t coincide with expansion of mental health services by GPs and psychiatrists. So, in reality, cuts to mental health and care. This does not get to be so flippantly written off as “some policies might hurt some“.

    But then, Conservatives not caring about those with mental health issues, is unsurprising, given that today we find out that those beacons of social responsibility and compassion, ATOS have declared Meena, a 30 year old with the mental age of a three year old, with celebral paulsy, who can’t walk or talk; fit for work. Atos basically believe she is scrounging disability welfare. Care in the Community Part II. Thatcherism+ . Is this the “compassion” Tories this week have been demanding? The callousness of Thatcherism, is absolutely alive today… and it is the Tory Party, and it is the Liberal Democrat Party.

    In another remarkably odd and short sighted statement filled to the brim with fallacies; we’re told from commentators on our TV that people in their mid-20s cannot possibly have anything negative to say about Baroness Thatcher, because we’re too young, or that we weren’t born yet. What an extremely simplistic argument. I hope someone is on the phone to Alison Weir, making sure she was alive in the 1500s, given that she the NERVE to write negative aspects of the policies of Henry VIII. The entire study of history – if it includes negative thoughts from the historian – is illegitimate, if we are to take the ‘you’re too young‘ attitude on board.
    The irony here becomes apparent when the same people, many young themselves, tell us we’re only in our mid-20s, then go on to tell us how “Britain was dying in the 1970s“. Or “She beat those pesky unions“. Turns out you are allowed to have a negative opinion about historical events and figures, as long as those negative opinions are Tory opinions.

    And how short sighted to tell 20-somethings that they couldn’t possibly be affected by the policies of Thatcherism. In 1986, the mass deregulation of the financial sector, known contemporarily as “the big bang”, an attempt to make London the financial capital of the World. Long term partnerships and personal banking, replaced instantly by a short term, high risk, big bonus carrot with no stick. Partner this with her home equity withdrawal policy, (representing 104% of GDP growth during her term) and suddenly we see a financial sector allowed to get away with all kinds of dodgy gambling, whilst the public were all handed one big credit card. Easy credit, North sea oil, broken communities still not repaired, huge poverty rates, and a dysfunctional financial sector was her legacy. The right to buy, whilst I find it hard to argue with as a policy, did not go hand in hand with new house building. As noted in the Independent:

    “More than 1.25 million tenants took advantage of the “Right to Buy” scheme, which raised £18bn and converted thousands of Labour voters into Conservatives – though as council-housing stock shrank, homeless beggars appeared on the streets for the first time in 30 years.”

    – in 1989, her ill-thought out housing policy, led to a huge housing crash. Interest rates crippled many. It continues to be a problem today. The housing market is a mess. A cult of home ownership, whilst local authorities had no ability to invest in new developments. Which in turn, led to the exceedingly wealthy buying up old council homes cheap from tenants who made a huge profit themselves, and offer them out at prices only other exceedingly wealthy can afford.

    Charles Gow, son of Ian Gow, the Housing Minister under Thatcher, brought up 40 of the 120 ex-council flats in one block in Roehampton. It was the very unsustainability of the Thatcherite revolution in housing, in finance, with regard industry, and it is the new era of ‘everyone for themselves, and fuck everyone else’ attitude amplified as ‘good’, that allows us in our 20s to be able to speak of the effect she had on us and why we do not like it. I wrote of the riots in London in 2010:

    An entire generation has been told that we must own stuff. That the purpose of life is to consume. We are given easy credit to fuel the debt needed to sustain an economy and a prevailing social wisdom built around consuming. People who have very little, who are told they will always have very little, living in areas where the opportunities are bleak at best and non-existent at worst, are still encouraged to consume. The materialist mindset that has dominated all other thought processes for far too long, must not be ignored as a contributing factor to the unrest; this can be seen quite evidently with the looting of non-essential, luxury goods. We are what we buy. And that is a problem. A generation of young people have had luxuries dangled in front of their faces by incessant advertising, only to be told they would never be able to afford them; well that temptation exploded and now they can get those desirable consumer items for free.

    – We have been made to think that everything policy must please the new invisible God that we call “the markets”. What are “the markets” thinking? How will “the markets” react? “The markets” are now everything and this requires uncompromising, unthinking, unquestioning consumerism fuelled entirely by debt. Those who promote this culture as good, as desirable, who tell us that the poor and the unemployed are ‘scrounging’ or ‘unwilling to help themselves’ or ‘a drain on the tax payer’ are the very same people, like Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke who think it acceptable to claim tax payer money, despite his £60,000+ a year salary, on expensive lunches, and his own personal TV licence. Or for cleaning a moat. Or for redesigning the kitchen in Downing Street. The Thatcherite revolution hailed the beginning of a something-for-nothing culture at the very top of society, that could see the trickling up of wealth come about via credit-on-tap for the rest of the Country. Concentrated wealth in the hands of very few people, is not a positive progression. It cannot be spun to be a positive progression. It is a disaster, and it is all Thatcher gave us. Those who climb the ladder on a well funded public framework, only to hoard their money away in an off-shore account, refusing to pay back into a system that afforded them the opportunity to rise in the first place. But keep consuming, to keep the tax avoiders wealthy. Here’s a Topman Store Card, courtesy of Sir Philip Green, whose company which owns Top Shop is registered to his wife’s name, in Monaco, for tax avoidance purposes.

    We, in our 20s can have a say on Thatcherism, because we live in a Country shaped by Thatcherism. It is where we grew up. Eighteen years of Conservative rampant-individualist rhetoric and policy shaped the Country, the schools, the opportunities, the way of thinking, that my generation grew up on. The recession caused by the housing boom, alongside huge interest rates, and poll tax caused my family to lose our business and our home. I am certain this qualifies me to have some sort of opinion on the Thatcher years.

    North Sea oil revenues, that account for over 15% of the increase in GDP from the Thatcher years was a stroke of luck, not policy. Market liberalisation policies have nothing to do with the oil revenues, but everything to do how they were used to fund tax cuts for the wealthiest.

    Breaking the horrendous abuses of power by self-indulgent trade union bosses is one thing; creating a job market in which job security is a thing of the past, wages stagnate for decades, and a future Tory government is freely able to push young people into unpaid work for any sort of Welfare, using to to show “improvements” in employment figures, suggests that Thatcherism didn’t just kill the unions… it killed the labour movement in general. It killed labour, whilst empowering finance capital, which is just as, if not far more destructive than the unions ever were.

    Away from the economy, we’re presented with social conservatism at its most heinous, with that nasty little ‘Section 28’ offering which stated:

    “A local authority shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”

    – Section 28, I’ve heard referred to as simply “a product of its time” by Thatcher apologists attempting to act as if they can’t be held responsible for the horrid homophobia this bill promoted. As if the context of its time is important. Well, no it isn’t.
    Section 28 was not a product of its time. What an oddly selective view of history. It was supported by the church, the Mail, and the Tories. What a vast selection of the population! And the exact same section of the population, who still have massive issues with homosexuality. It was a product of Conservative party homophobia. Practically every other notable political party campaigned heavily against it, it had many big named celebrities raising the profile of the issue, it had certain Tories even arguing against it, one of which resigned from the party and joined Labour, a vast proportion of the press at the time actively worked against it. It was contentious even at the time.

    A product of its time, also suggests that they’ve since progressed. Let’s not forget that Cameron finally abandoned his support for S28 after winning the leadership, eerily coinciding with his new PR “Progressive Conservative” narrative, that has sinced failed to materialise. Prior to that, in 2000 he’d called Labour “anti family” for wishing to repeal it, and as late as 2003, he openly support Section 28. The cynic inside me, conversing with the rampant anti-Tory inside me, may question Cameron’s sincerity in his apparent new found love of homosexuality. It seems oddly timed to appeal to a more progressive social public, a way to detoxify the Tory party if you like.
    Let’s not try to soften the inherent homophobia in the rank and file of the Tory party behind a creative rewriting of history. Product of its time? Yes, if that “time” has lasted about 60 years, still ongoing, and belonged exclusively to one particular homophobic section of society.

    Quick side note: Pinochet – wondrous. Mandela – terrorist.

    There is curious paradox to Tory rhetoric on the impact that Margaret Thatcher had on the country. In one breath they tell us she had a the greatest impact on the country of any Prime Minister in the 20th Century; which of course requires long term effects. But if you mention just one of the endless list of negative long term effects of her policies, we are told “oh you can’t blame her for that, afterall, she left power 23 years ago!” if you mention unemployment, homelessness and poverty, they say “oh you can’t blame her for that, that was from the 70s“…. which seems to suggest, she didn’t have such a big impact after all. They can’t have it both ways.
    I fully accept that she had a huge impact on this country. Far more so than perhaps any since Atlee. But unlike Atlee, I find the impact that she had to be poisonous.

    Perhaps one glaring example of the long term effects of Thatcherism, come from the lips of the Chancellor himself:

    “our generation’s inspiration”

    – That goes some way to explain what a complete failure he has been.

    Long term effects aside, we are now daily made to hear how incredibly popular and wondrous she was, from not only those much loved heroes of the Right Kelvin MacKenzie and Jeffrey Archer, but also the very people in her own Party who conspired to backstab and bring her down. The very people who had her standing on the steps of Downing Street in tears as she left for good. There is no compassion in the Tory Party. Let’s never forget that. Norman Tebbit slyly took a dig at the Tories who conspired behind her back to bring about her downfall, now turning out to praise her on every TV and radio show they can get to, when in the Lords, he said this:

    ‘My regrets? I think I do regret that because of the commitments I had made to my own wife that I did not feel able either to continue in Government after 1987 or to return to Government when she later asked me to do and I left her, I fear, at the mercy of her friends. That I do regret.’

    – Left to the mercy of her friends. What a sad indictment of the Tory Party.

    The major effect Thatcher has had on the country, it seems to me, is that a vast sway of the population are quite unnervingly willing to ignore the terrible suffering caused by her neo-liberal politics. Willing to ignore the fact that poverty rose from 13% in 1979, to 22% in 1990. They are willing to ignore that the suicide rate under Thatcher hit 121 per million, only once more, briefly had it reached a higher point… under MacMillan, another Tory. They are willing to ignore that just under 2 million children were in poverty in 1979, compared with just under 4 million by 1990; the ability to shrug off the fact that homelessness rose from 57,000 households in 1979, to 127,000 in 1990; all of that is completely ignored and replaced by a ‘Thatcher Saved Britain’ narrative in which she rode in on a horse, defeated the big bad unions, and made Britain great again! The amplification of the prevailing idea that we don’t need to take note of how a society treats and protects its most vulnerable, is a strictly Conservative amplification. That willingness to ignore such horrific suffering, is a legacy in itself. The 1970s were not working. But Thatcherism was not the answer. It never will be. None of it, was a price worth paying.


    Re-Righting History.

    April 10, 2013

    Roars of disapproval echoed through the Tory filled chambers of the House of Commons today, as Glenda Jackson spoke out in beautifully crafted language against the social evils of Thatcherism. The Tory benches were not happy. And yet, they are the ones who insisted on firing up the debate upon her legacy, by referring to her as the “Saviour of Britain”. If you are going to bring politics into a eulogy, and present it in such a positive, and clearly manipulated way, then you must accept that not everyone is going to be happy with your summation, and their right to provide a dissenting voice. Thatcherism is now the point of debate.

    This has already been covered by Liberal Conspiracy but it’s certainly worth pointing out in as many places as possible, because as predicted, any sort of mention of negativity toward Margaret Thatcher is being used to suggest some sort of vitriolic left wing hate campaign toward a recently deceased, frail woman. Her death is being intensely politicised by the right wing, who are insisting on using it to lecture us all on how she ‘saved‘ a broken country. One sided comments on how awful the unions were, how Thatcher rode to the rescue, how she was a hero of freedom, seem to be blocking out all negative opinions and the voices of the suffering Thatcherism caused, which are simply written off as lunatic left wing hate. The BBC is being painted as a Left Wing anti-Thatcher beacon of hate, simply for even suggesting she might have been a bit divisive, or, for simply not starting every broadcast with the phrase: “Our beloved Goddess, whom ascended to heaven on a carriage made out of the concept of the love of ALL the people….“. Any suggestion contradicting the policies and the outcome of the policies of the Thatcher era, is deemed ‘disrespectful’ to the woman, rather than the policies and her mindset, from the right. Maggie’s death is being used, quite transparently, by the Right to promote an agenda.

    And so naturally, they’re consistent with this demands of ‘respect’, right? Well no.

    The Guido Fawkes blog in 2010 announced the death of Michael Foot, with just a few words. The comments that followed, are telling:

    foot

    And of course, the guardians of all morality and respect over at the Mail wouldn’t dare be hypocrites, right? Today, commenting on the public celebrations in Brixton (is anyone surprised they celebrated in Brixton?) The Mail ran with this rather ironic sentiment, given the nature of their paper as a whole:

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    Funny then, that they lead with this when ex-Labour leader Michael Foot died, three years ago:

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    And Littlejohn continued with this:

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    Charles Moore over at the Telegraph is just as vitriolic on the death of Michael Foot as the Mail:

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    Moore starts his article with this:

    “We have a habit in this country of turning certain people into “national treasures”. If they go on long enough, and have enough charm, we tend to forget what we once disliked about them.”

    – Clearly he has a dislike of turning those who were once hated (even by their own party?) into some sort of ‘National Treasure’. Seems reasonable enough. Strange then, that yesterday’s article from Moore is this:

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    Spot the rhetorical false framework the Daily Mail is attempting to create. If you mention her politics in a positive light, you are “leading the tributes”:

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    – But if you note something negative about her politics, you are “crude”.

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    – They dislike crude! They don’t want you to speak ill of the right-winged dead. No one must mention Thatcher’s undying support for Pinochet, whilst insisting that Mandela was a terrorist. Crude!

    And yet, when the Marxist Historian Eric Hobsbawm died on October 1st at the age of 95, the Daily Mail, that beacon of respecting those recently deceased, ran with this on October 2nd:

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    Glenda Jackson, the Oscar winning actress, turned Labour MP today told the Commons:

    “But by far the most dramatic and heinous demonstration of Thatcherism was certainly not only in London, but across the whole country in metropolitan areas, where every single shop doorway, every single night, became the bedroom, the living room, the bathroom for the homeless.

    They grew in their thousands. And many of those homeless people had been thrown out onto the streets from the closure of the long-term mental hospitals.”

    – It is absolutely right to be pointing out the suffering that was caused by Thatcherism. This is not some sort of lunatic left wing vitriolic attack. This is pointing out the causes of the celebrations, the reasons she was despised across the Country. It is providing a balance, to the horrendously disrespectful right winged line, which ignores all of the social consequences of her ideology, and focuses on how rich a few of them became because of her. If we are going to be forced to hear the right winged “tributes” (which are nothing but tributes to Thatcherism, not Thatcher) we must hear the opposite side.

    Let’s not fall for the right winged game (and it is a game), that any criticism of Margaret Thatcher must be due to some crazed leftie hateful bitter pill still not swallowed since the 1980s. Her death is being used to promote her agenda. Her funeral will be another chance to promote an agenda.

    All sides of the political spectrum are guilty of projecting vitriol onto public figures and especially politicians. The right is no better. She quite obviously, judging by both the outpouring of love and the outpouring of hate, divided the country. In Brixton, she closed her eyes to the problems, and blamed the people in Brixton. Despite all reports to the contrary. She ignored it all, she ignored mass youth unemployment, institutional metropolitan police racism that still exists, refused to invest in poorer cities like Brixton, and she told them all it was their own fault. She let Liverpool slide into a “managed decline”. She destroyed lives in such a cruel way and promoting that cruelty as not only acceptable, but preferable.

    There is a narrative being woven by the Right that is empty of substance. We hear the words “Saved Britain”, “put the great back into Great Britain”, “made us all believe in Britain again!”; all a mask to hide the social consequences of her policies; policies that are failing again today, and if we mention them at all, there is a tendency to dismiss it as left wing lunacy. As if those who suffered, as if the thousands thrown onto the streets, just aren’t relevant. By dismissing the voices that suffered heavily, and pumping the media full of “she saved Britain” lines of sycophantic nonsense, we are allowing history to be completely rewritten by the winners, for the sake of promoting an agenda that is being repeated today. Except for her socialist funeral, obviously.