Monday, May 30, 2016

How David Mitchell and Richard Dawkins are wrong about the EU referendum





On Sunday 29th of March 2016 the Guardian published an article by the actor/commedian David Mitchell entitled "The EU referendum should be a matter for parliament" in which he argued that it was wrong for David Cameron to offer a referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union as a Tory manifesto pledge. In the article Mitchell quoted the evolutionary biologist/relentless self-publicist Richard Dawkins view that it is an "outrage" that the public have been given a vote on whether we remain in the EU or not, and that the whole decision should be "a matter for parliament".

In this article I'm going to explain why I think Mitchell and Dawkins are dangerously wrong to claim that such important decisions should be left to our superior lords and masters in parliament to decide on because the general public are too ignorant to decide for themselves.

Cameron's gamble


Before I get to explaining how utterly wrong-headed the Mitchell/Dawkins "leave it to our lords and masters" view is, first I'm going to point out where David Mitchell was right. Mitchell described Cameron's offer of a referendum on the EU as a "hugely selfish and irresponsible act" driven mainly by the decades old Tory rift between the pro- and anti-EU factions and Cameron's terror of losing Tory votes to UKIP.

It's absolutely clear that Cameron's offer of an EU referendum was firstly a sop to the large number of mainly extreme-right Tory MPs who detest the EU and secondly as a ploy to derail the UKIP surge in Tory constituencies.

The decision to offer a referendum on the EU was based entirely on Cameron's own self-interest. In the year before the 2015 General Election UKIP trounced the Tories (and everyone else) in the low-turnout EU elections and two Tory MPs conducted high profile defections to UKIP. Cameron knew that if he didn't do something to draw the UKIP thorn then the Tory prospects of winning the 2015 General Election were very grim indeed.

In the short-term Cameron's EU gamble was a success. The Tories gained a majority at the 2015 General Election, in which the extreme-right Thatcher-worshipping Ukippers ended up taking more votes off Labour than they did from their Tory ideological blood brothers.

In fact it was such a successful gamble that we ended up with the remarkable, if not completely unprecedented situation where the UKIP leader Nigel Farage ended up publicly appealing for UKIP supporters to vote for the Tory party instead of his own party's candidates!

The problem of course is that in the longer-term the dice has to be rolled, and it's on a knife edge whether the UK will end up remaining in the EU or engaging in a chaotic Brexit led by a bunch of right-wing fanatics who haven't offered anything even remotely resembling a coherent plan for what a post-Brexit UK would look like.

If the public vote to remain in the UK then Cameron's selfish gamble will have been a success, however if they vote for Brexit then the short-term gains will be massively outweighed by the cost. Cameron's position as Prime Minister would be completely untenable and anyone who imagines that there wouldn't be severe chaos as a result of the utter lack of a coherent economic plan from the Brexiters must be utterly delusional.

Where Mitchell and Dawkins are wrong

Both Mitchell and Dawkins argue that referenda on lesser issues (such as fox hunting) would be fine, but that membership of the EU is far too important to be left to ordinary plebs to decide.

There is no arguing that huge numbers of people are woefully under-informed about the arguments for and against membership of the EU (due in a large part to the spectacular levels of bias in the UK mainstream media), however what makes the Mitchell/Dawkins stance so desperately patronising is the idea that our lords and masters in the Westminster political establishment know any better.

Parliament isn't full of experts


The idea that parliament is full of experts who are better qualified to make important decisions than the plebs is completely wrong-headed.

First of all it doesn't take any kind of special economic expertise to get elected to Westminster. Everyone knows that if you stick a red rosette on a pig it would get elected in some areas, and that a dog turd with a blue rosette would win an equally impressive landslide in certain Tory heartlands. You only have to listen to intellectually stunted individuals like Nick Gibb (Tory) or Naz Shah (Labour) to realise that under our deeply unrepresentative electoral system it's entirely possible for people who can barely string a sentence together to get into parliament.


Further proof that MPs are hardly an economically enlightened elite can be seen in the results of a Positive Money survey of MPs that found that only one in ten MP understood that the vast majority of the money supply is created out of nothing by private banks when they make loans, while more than seven out of ten of them actually believed in the ridiculously naive economic fairy story that all new money is created by the Bank of England on behalf of the government.

If the overwhelming majority of these people don't even understand the absolute economic basics like where money comes from, how on earth are they any more qualified than the man on the street to make decisions with important economic ramifications?

Electoral fraud

There has been a mainstream media blackout on the story that over two dozen Tory MPs stand accused of conning their way into parliament at the 2015 General Election by misdeclaring their electoral expenses. The allegations are extremely serious and multiple local police forces are investigating individual cases while there have been numerous calls for a Metropolitan Police investigation into whether Tory party HQ were guilty of orchestrating the fraud on a party-wide basis.

If more than two dozen Members of Parliament are indeed guilty of cheating their way into Westminster, what on earth would give them the right to decide whether the UK remains in the EU or not on our behalf?

Say what you like about the ordinary British citizen, much of it is likely to be unflattering, but nobody can accuse them of cheating their way into position to make such an important decision about the future of the UK.


Bowing and scraping

A notoriously liberal TV celebrity and a "ivory towers" professor lecturing the public that they are too stupid and ill-informed to make important decisions for themselves really does not reflect well on the Bremain camp at all. In fact it's a dangerous stance because, like it or not, the decision to have a referendum has already been made. This means that any effort by Bremainers like Mitchell to tell the public that they're too stupid to decide things for themselves, and that it's best left to the Wesminster establish to decide our fate, is likely just to just drive more people into the Brexit camp.

The funny thing about a lot of British people is that they absolutely love to bow and scrape before their lords and masters. Just look at the pathetic fawning over the royal family, listen to the absolute drivelling dirge that passes for the national anthem, or consider the fact somehow we ended up re-electing the most dangerously fanatical, out-of-touch and incompetent bunch of over-promoted elitists in living memory as our government. However the British really don't like to be told that they must bow and scrape before their betters, especially by a liberal TV celebrity and an "ivory tower" dwelling academic. There's a prevailing attitude that "we'll bow and scrape to our lords and masters because we want to, not because we're told to".

Conclusion

David Mitchell was absolutely right to point out that Cameron's offer of an EU referendum was an incredibly reckless gamble based purely on Tory self-interest, however he's wrong to claim that such important decisions should be left to the Westminster establishment.

He's wrong because the Westminster establishment are just as deeply misinformed about fundamentally important economic issues as the man on the street (if not more so because they live in an insulated bubble of wealth, power, privilege and influence).

He's wrong because a significant number of MPs stand accused of defrauding their way into parliament, meaning that if the decision was left to them, some of them could end up casting deciding votes on such an important decision despite having unlawfully cheated their way into that position in the first place.

He's wrong to complain about it now because the decision to have a referendum has already been made, meaning that liberal Bremainers lecturing ordinary people that they're too stupid to be allowed to vote is more than likely to drive an awful lot of them towards the Brexit camp, because at least the Brexit camp only assume that the general public are an ignorant bunch of halfwits, rather than stating it at them explicitly.

The Mitchell/Dawkins stance is wrong not because the public aren't under-informed, they generally are are because of the bias of the mainstream media, the fundamental lack of political and economic education in the comprehensive school system and the ridiculously short notice at which the EU referendum campaign was announced. It is still wrong though because it assumes that the people in parliament are any better at making such important decisions that the ordinary person on the street, abd because whining about it after the decision has already been made is a waste of time. Instead of spending hours writing that article, perhaps Mitchell could have invested the time in researching the facts of the EU debate for himself?


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Why do pro-Brexit Tories suddenly care about David Cameron's lies?


David Cameron has never been particularly popular with the hard-right fringe of the Tory party, but despite giving them the EU referendum they demanded the pro-Brexit Tories seem keen to knife him in the back before the votes are even counted.

It's no surprise to see the anti-gay rights pro-banker Tory MP Andrew Bridgen rushing to attack David Cameron and calling for a vote of confidence. Slightly more surprising was the contribution of Nadine Dorries who put on an incredible display of synthetic outrage with claims that Cameron had "lied profoundly" over his claims that Turkey would not be joining the EU in the next three decades.

Of course David Cameron has no magic crystal ball to make such long-ranging future predictions, but in consideration of the fact that Turkey has been seeking EU membership for 29 years (since 1987) and has only successfully negotiated one out of the necessary 15 chapters needed to secure EU membership so far, Cameron's claim hardly seems like the most egregious of all of the lies he's ever told.

Nadine Dorries' synthetic outrage over David Cameron's over-egged claims about Turkish accession to the EU taking at least another three decades if it ever happens at all is remarkably hypocritical to behold given the way that she has held her tongue and refused to criticise David Cameron over numerous much more blatant and significant lies over the last six years.

VAT

Just before the 2010 General Election David Cameron repeatedly stated that the Tories had no plans to put up VAT to 20%. In June 2010, just two months after the General Election, David Cameron's pre-election lies were exposed when the Tories raised VAT to 20%.
Nadine Dorries (and the rest of the right-wing fringe of the Tory party) didn't bother complaining about this blatant lie, in fact she even voted in favour of David Cameron's dishonest VAT hike!
A massive pack of lies

In 2010 David Cameron made a massive fanfare of signing a pre-election Contract with the Electorate which contained 16 promises. He said at the time that "if we don't deliver our side of the bargain, kick us out in five years".

After a few years it became absolutely clear to the Tories that they were going to break pretty much every single promise that the "contract" contained, so instead of admitting it and asking to be kicked out of power the Tories simply deleted every single trace of the contract off their website and hoped that the public would simply forget about it before the 2015 General Election.

Nadine Dorries never spoke out about the Tory failure to live up to David Cameron's "Contract with the Electorate", nor their decision to sneakily delete every trace of it off their website.
The NHS

Before the 2010 General Election David Cameron famously promised "no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS". After the 2010 General Election David Cameron's government launched the biggest to-down reorganisation in the entire history of the NHS.
Nadine Dorries didn't speak out about the fact that David Cameron had lied about his intentions towards the NHS, in fact, she even voted in favour of Cameron's top-down reorganisation of the NHS!
Bankruptcy

One of David Cameron's favourite dishonest claims is that the UK was supposedly "bankrupted" during the New Labour administration, a lie he has told in parliament. Anyone who knows anything about economics knows that the claim that the UK economy has been declared bankrupt in the recent past is complete hogwash. Either the person claiming it is a complete economic illiterate who rote learns their facile political opinions from the pages of the right-wing press, or as in David Cameron's case, they're a despicable chancer who feels entitled to tell lies about the UK economy because he has such contempt for his audience that he thinks they're credulous enough to believe such absolute gubbins.
Nadine Dorries has never spoken out about David Cameron's habit of lying that the UK has been declared bankrupt.
Reducing the national debt

Another of David Cameron's favoured political lies is to claim that the Tories have been reducing the national debt, when they've actually failed to even halve the rate at which it is growing despite promising in 2010 that they would have eliminated the deficit completely by 2015 (the deficit was £76 billion in 2015-16).

David Cameron was rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority for telling this lie in a 2013 party political broadcast, but since the worst punishment they can give him for telling outright lies is the sending of a stern letter, Cameron decided to demonstrate his utter contempt for the UK Statistics Authority (and anyone who gives a damn about the truth) by repeating the exact same lie at the 2014 Tory part conference.
Nadine Dorries never once spoke out against David Cameron's habit of lying to the electorate about reducing the national debt when his government has actually created more new public debt than every Labour government in history combined.
Lying to evade questions
 
When Jeremy Corbyn asked David Cameron a question about the sweetheart 3% tax deal that had been cooked up with Google Cameron evaded the question completely by spouting an extraordinary stream of lies about the leader of the opposition as a desperate attempt to deflect attention away from the extremely lax treatment of multinational corporations that refuse to pay their fair share of tax.
Nadine Dorries never objected to the fact that David Cameron chose to evade the question about the sweetheart Google tax deal by spouting a load of lies about the leader of the opposition and she never raised the question of why Cameron was never held to account for telling such a stream of lies in the House of Commons by the Parliamentary Standards Committee.
Tax Credits

Before the 2015 General Election David Cameron and other leading Tories gave their word that the Tories wouldn't set about impoverishing the working poor by slashing Tax Credits. Just a few months after the 2015 General Election the Tories set about trying to slash Tax Credits for the working poor. They were only prevented from doing so after a major House of Lords rebellion.

Nadine Dorries never complained that David Cameron had lied to the electorate about Tax Credits, in fact she even voted in favour of the plan to slash in-work benefits for the working poor!
Conclusion 

Nadine Dorries has never complained about the way that David Cameron has contributed to the lamentable decline in the standard of political debate by lying over and over and over again. She never got upset about the extraordinary litany of lies and deceptions David Cameron has spewed on all manner of subjects, but now she's suddenly bothered!

The reason she's suddenly bothered now is pretty obvious. She didn't give a damn about Cameron's lies before because it suited her own personal self-interest to keep her mouth shut. Now that she's eyeing a ministerial position in a new post-Brexit government led by the extreme-right fringe of the Tory party she's keen to stick the knife in.

Nadine Dorries doesn't give a damn about honesty in public debate, like all of the members of the Tory party who have turned blind eyes to David Cameron's lies over they years, she's only really interested in serving her own personal self-interest.


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Sunday, May 29, 2016

The difference between "left" and "right"


There are an awful lot of poorly considered political arguments out there, but one of the absolute worst is the claim that there is no difference between left-wing and right-wing.

In this article I'm going to explain the difference, take a look at how such confused claims that there is no difference come about, and then take a quick look at why the simplistic left vs right paradigm (although meaningful) is still far too simplistic.



The difference between left and right

The main difference between left-wing and right-wing politics is about economic organisation.

Economically left-wing

Left-wing politics focuses on the public ownership and operation of essential infrastructure and services such as the health service, public transport networks, schools, the police & army, the land registry, mail service, energy infrastructure, social housing. The further towards the far-left you go, the more things are classified as public property and the fewer things are allowed to remain under private ownership.


Economically right-wing

Right-wing politics focuses on the private (and often unaccountable) ownership and operation of essential infrastructure and services such as the health service, public transport networks, schools, the police & army, the roads, the land registry, the mail service, energy infrastructure, social housing (while the public still pays the cost of building/maintaining these things through their taxes). The further towards the far-right you go, the more things are classified as private property and the fewer things are allowed to remain under public ownership.

Other differences

Aside from the core economic difference between left and right there are some other differences too. One of the important common distinctions is that left-wing politics often has a focus on directly combating poverty and inequality, while right-wing politics tends to work on the (ridiculous) assumption that deregulated markets and increased private ownership will tend to reduce poverty and inequality.



Another difference is that left-wing politics has more often been associated with liberal social values than right-wing politics. This traditional association between left-wing political groups and liberal social values sprung up because of the obvious difficulty in reconciling the left-wing desire for greater equality with the practices of overt social discrimination (against women, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, disabled people ...) that existed in the past. 

It's important to remember that although the political left has been in retreat for the last four decades or so, liberal social values have been in the ascendancy. In modern Britain we have anti-discrimination laws and gay equality, yet only a few decades ago homosexuality was considered a "crime" worthy of punishment by chemical castration and racial discrimination was all too common (see the openly racist Tory election leaflet from Smethwick in 1964).


The left is more often associated with social liberalism and the right with social conservatism, however liberal social values are clearly not a necessary condition of left-wing politics, and social conservatism is not a necessary condition of right-wing politics. It's perfectly possible to be an economically left-wing bigot, just as it's possible to be economically right-wing and oppose social discrimination.

How the confusion arises

The increasingly common confusion between left-wing and right-wing politics has arisen as a result of a number of factors. In this section I'll detail a few of the important ones.

Political propaganda

One of the main reasons that people struggle to grasp the difference between left-wing and right-wing politics is the way that modern political discourse is framed by the mainstream media.

The UK has the most right-wing biased press in Europe. This means that political coverage is more often than not skewed with an extreme right-wing bias. It's almost impossible to find anything resembling accurate definitions of left-wing and right-wing politics in the mainstream media. The situation has got so bad that social democrats like Jeremy Corbyn (who believe in finding a balance between state socialism and regulated capitalism) are routinely derided as being "dangerous", "radical" "extremists" from the far-left, while the radically right-wing "privatise absolutely everything we can get away with" Conservatives are treated as if their hard-right policies are centre-ground, moderate, common sense and fundamentally beyond question (this refusal to question is particularly noticeable with the widespread acceptance of the macroeconomically illiterate policy of austerity in the mainstream media).

As result of the extreme bias of the right-wing press we've found ourselves in the extraordinary position where the traditional social democratic centre ground is routinely derided as the extreme-left, while the ideologically driven austerity and mass privatisation policies of the most fanatically right-wing UK government in living memory are treated as they are essentially beyond question by the vast majority of journalists.


"Third way" politics

One of the other main causes of confusion between left-wing and right-wing politics is the way that so many nominally left-wing political parties abandoned left-wing politics in order to embrace right-wing economic policies like privatisation, financial market deregulation, globalisation and free-trade. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were two of the first to convert traditional left-wing political parties to pushers of right-wing economics, but they were far from the only ones. PASOK in Greece and PSOE in Spain are two other high profile examples of supposedly socialist political parties that were guilty of embracing hard-right economic policies.

This rightward shift in mainstream politics contributed to the confusion between left and right because swathes of the mainstream media continued to refer to parties like New Labour as "the left" and "socialists" even though they were blatantly pushing right-wing economic policies like the privatisation of public property, PFI, financial deregulation and de-industrialisation. No wonder people began to get confused when the supposedly "left-wing" political party was busy pushing exactly the same kind of right-wing policies as their conservative predecessors.


The immigration debate


The tabloid framing of the immigration debate is another contributor to the confusion between left-wing and right-wing politics. The tabloid press in the UK love to blame "the left" for mass immigration even though the open borders policy in the EU is clearly a right-wing free market economic policy.

The tendency to blame "the left" for mass immigration is inaccurate for a number of reasons. It's a right-wing free market policy that favours employers over employees; the New Labour government that oversaw a big increase in net migration was an economically right-wing  one; the Tory government that followed them has overseen the biggest spikes in net migration in recorded history and it's the most right-wing government in living memory.

When the tabloid press are intent on blaming the consequences of right-wing economic policies imposed by right-wing governments on "the left" (which hasn't been in power since 1979), it's no wonder so many people get confused.


It's more complicated than "left vs right"

The difference between left-wing and right-wing politics is undeniable, but it's simply not sufficient to rely on this one-dimensional distinction alone. I've already addressed the fact that social liberalism and social conservatism are distinct from left and right wing economic policies, then there's the distinction between libertarian and authoritarian style governance to add into the mix too.

Instead of viewing the political spectrum as a simplistic one dimensional line between left-wing and right-wing, it's possible to add other parameters to create more detailed political spectra like the political compass.

The fact that the majority of modern mainstream political parties have occupied the upper right quadrant of the political compass makes it clear where a lot of the confusion is coming from. If the distinction between right and left in mainstream politics has been measured by the difference between a radically right-wing authoritarian party (the Tories) and a slightly less right-wing authoritarian political party (New Labour), then it's no wonder people begun to believe that left and right are essentially the same.

The problem isn't that there's no difference between left and right, it's that mainstream politics has become increasingly confined within the right-wing authoritarian quadrant of the political compass, while other areas of political discourse like left-libertarianism (my kind of politics) and right-libertarianism have been left almost completely unrepresented within the political establishment.


Conclusion 

If you believe that pretty much everything should be public property (either run directly by the state or through more anarchist methods like local syndicalism) then you're very left-wing.

If you believe that pretty much everything should be private property (including essential infrastructure and services like the health service, education system, road networks, the police, public transport ...) then (like the Tory government) you're on the extreme-right.

If you believe in some kind of compromise where some essential infrastructure and services (the police, the roads, the education system, the health service ...) are best off run as not-for-profit public services, while other things (non monopoly businesses, private dwellings, personal property) can be privately owned, then, like Jeremy Corbyn, you occupy the traditional centre-ground.


Just because, for whatever reason, people are incapable of recognising the distinction between left-wing and right-wing politics, doesn't mean that the distinction doesn't exist.


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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tony Blair's attacks on Jeremy Corbyn


Tony Blair's latest attack on Jeremy Corbyn once again proves the validity of the "red Tory" accusations that are leveled at Tony Blair and the right-wing fringe of the Labour Party.

It's no surprise that Blair can't stop himself from publicly attacking Corbyn, because Corbyn was one of the most troublesome Labour MPs during Blair's years as Prime Minister. Corbyn opposed all kinds of right-wing Blairite policies like the reliance on rip-off PFI deals to load the cost of public infrastructure projects onto future generations and various other privatisation scams, as well as opposing Blair's invasion and occupation of Iraq (which created an appalling power vacuum that gave rise to a devastating wave of sectarian violence culminating in the rise of ISIS). Nobody would expect Blair to be delighted that the Labour Party is being led by one of his most defiant MPs. However, if Blair had any affinity for the Labour Party whatever, it would be far from unreasonable to expect him to accept the will of the Labour Party membership and avoid helping the Tories by launching one public attack after another against the current leader of the Labour Party.

The problem of course is that this kind of expectation relies on the assumption that a former leader of the Labour Party would actually give a damn about the Labour Party. Blair clearly doesn't. If it wasn't already completely clear that Blair simply used the Labour Party as a vehicle to fulfill his own personal ambitions, the string of vitriolic attacks against Jeremy Corbyn (and the Labour Party members who voted for him) are clear demonstrations that Blair has no affinity for the labour movement whatever. Now that the Labour Party has served its purpose to him, he's perfectly happy to help the Tories by constantly attacking the Labour leader instead of focusing on what the Tory government are up to.

In consideration of some of the fanatical and corrupt stuff that the current Tory government have been doing, it's utterly extraordinary that Tony Blair has decided to claim that the election of a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour government would be "a very dangerous experiment".

Here are just a few of the appalling things the Tories have been doing that Blair has been too busy attacking Jeremy Corbyn to bother speaking out against.

The austeirty con: It's extraordinary that so many people are gullible enough to fall for the Tory austerity narrative. Austerity has absolutely nothing to do with "living within our means" or "paying down the debt" (the debt grew by £76 billion in 2015-16 despite Osborne promising in 2010 that we'd actually be paying it back by now!). Tory austerity and debt fearmongering is the smokescreen behind which they have been distributing public assets to their private mates at an unprecedented rate and deliberately transferring wealth from the majority to the super-rich minority.
Blair never speaks out against austerity because he agrees with the objectives of privatising the state and the transference of wealth from the ordinary public to the super-wealthy minority. Ed Miliband screwed up the 2015 election because he listened to Blairites like Ed Balls' who advised him to run an austerity-lite campaign instead of attacking the Tory austerity con head on. Jeremy Corbyn absolutely stormed the Labour Party leadership contest because he was the only one of the four candidates who dared to point out that austerity is a con that needs to be actually opposed by the main opposition party.
Mass privatisation: George Osborne is currently distributing public assets to the private sector (often at massive losses to the taxpayer or completely for free) at a faster rate than any other Chancellor in history.
Tony Blair never speaks out against the unprecedented scale of Tory privatisation because he doesn't actually see any problem with it. In fact Blair's ministers actually assisted the Tories in kicking down the barriers to mass privatisation of pretty much the entire UK state by passing legislation to allow privatisation in the NHS and introducing privately operated (but publicly funded) academy schools.
Tax Credit Cuts: Despite their pre-election promises that they wouldn't be slashing Tax Credits (social security that provides support for the working poor whose bosses don't pay them enough to even live on), the Tories pretty much immediately set about trying to slash them.
Tony Blair didn't take the opportunity to criticise the Tories for breaking their election promises, or for impoverishing the working poor. Jeremy Corbyn did, and after a stinging House of Lords rebellion the Tories were forced to think of a different way of impoverishing the working poor in order to fund tax cuts for the rich.
Misreatement of the disabled: After the Tories voted to force through a £1,500 per year cut in the incomes of people who are too sick/disabled to work, George Osborne's 2016 budget included measures to further impoverish disabled people by slashing £4.4billion in Personal Independence Payments, whilst simultaneously handing a string of tax cuts to corporations and the super-rich.
Tony Blair didn't complain about this Tory policy of funding tax cuts for corporations and the super-rich by impoverishing disabled people. Jeremy Corbyn opposed it strongly and George Osborne was soon forced to drop his latest economic assault on disabled people after a large public backlash.
Privatisation of the English education system: Another feature of George Osborne's 2016 budget was the announcement of a Tory plan to force privatise every single school in England by 2022.
Tony Blair didn't bother speaking out against the forced privatisation of every single school in England, but Jeremy Corbyn did. Since the announcement in March 2016 the Tories have backtracked a little bit, saying that the best performing Local Authority schools will be exempt from forced privatisation, but thousands of other schools remain at risk of being given, for free, to corrupt and unaccountable private sector pseudo-charities like Perry Beeches.
Human rights:  The utter Tory contempt for human rights is absolutely clear. They've already managed to abolish the concept of open justice with their 2013 "Secret Courts" act and hastily rushed through legislation to allow the secret services to carry on with the mass trawling of public data that the Snowden leaks revealed that they had been doing unlawfully. Now they're intent on tearing up the right to free speech and the presumption of innocence. In order to destroy these long-established British rights, they're intent on tearing up the Human Rights Act and withdrawing the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights.
Since it was Blair's first government that introduced the Human Rights Act, one might have thought that he'd be a little more vocal in defending it. However he's been far too busy slinging muck at Jeremy Corbyn to bother much about speaking up in defence of our human rights that are under such threat from the Tories.
Tory Election fraud: The majority of the mainstream media has been extremely reluctant to cover the story, but the fact remains that the Tories stand accused of cheating their way to a majority in the 2015 General Election by breaking election rules in order to financially dope a large number of marginal constituencies. There are numerous ongoing police investigations into the Tory policy of misdeclaring electoral expenses in order to give themselves an unfair advantage.
Instead of using his influence to draw attention to the fact that the current government are under investigation for electoral fraud, Tony Blair decided that his time would be better spent attacking the current leader of the Labour Party!
Conclusion


In this article I've limited myself to just six subjects where Tony Blair could have actually helped the Labour Party by criticising the Tory government, instead of launching yet another bitter attack on Jeremy Corbyn. There are plenty of other things that Blair could criticise the Tories for too (immigration, divisions over the EU, fracking, foreign policy, attacks on labour rights, the Land Registry sell-off, the ridiculous energy price-fixing deal with France ...) but he continues to repeatedly focus his criticism on Jeremy Corbyn.

Blairites tend to get extremely irate if you accuse them of being "red Tories". But when their ideologue keeps persistently assisting the Tories by attacking Jeremy Corbyn, and has even openly admitted that he'd rather see the Tories in power than a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn, their anger seems to totally unjustifiable. Those within the Labour Party who still worship at the altar of Blairism should admit to themselves that their leader is clearly much more closely aligned with the interests of a Tory Party that is being run by a fanatically right-wing bunch of zealots, than he is with the interests of the Labour Party.


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Thursday, May 26, 2016

How we talk about the problem of online abuse is important

 
Identity politics is a controversial subject. I've been shouted down and had an awful lot of criticism and insults hurled at me for expressing my opinions in the past, but I'm going to have another go at it regardless.

On May 26th The Guardian ran a piece entitled "Research reveals huge scale of online misogyny" illustrated with a crudely doctored picture of a group of shouting men saying "Look out!" and "A woman's about to have her say" captioned with details of a study showing that over 80,000 women on Twitter had been called "slut" or "whore" in a three week period.

The article went on to detail cross-party collaboration between the Blairite Labour MP Yvette Cooper, the disgraced expenses scamming former Tory minister Maria Miller, the new Labour MP Jess Phillips and the former Lib-Dem MP Jo Swinson (who lost her Dumbarton seat in the 2015 SNP landslide).

What the headline, subheading, image and image caption and introductory paragraphs completely left out was the fact (grudgingly admitted in the fifth paragraph) that the majority of people abusing women by hurling online insults like "slut" and "whore" at them were actually other women!
 
Repeated use of the word misogyny by Demos and the Guardian to describe an appalling tide of online abuse that is mainly perpetrated by women against other women is clearly misleading. It shows an unwillingness to break out of the identity politics driven narrative that online abuse is mainly nasty men hurling gender specific insults at women in order to shut them up. They clearly continued this charade even when their very own evidence showed that the majority of gender specific insults hurled at women are hurled at them by other women.
 
Instead of simply labelling all of these insults by women against other women as misogyny, surely it would be more useful to actually ask why so many tens of thousands of women across the world consider it acceptable to call other women "sluts" and "whores"?
 
To illustrate how ludicrous the Guardian/Demos stance is; if all gender specific insults hurled at women by other women are categorised as misogyny, then surely it stands to reason that all gender specific insults by men against other men ("dick head", "wanker" "creep" ...) should be categorised as misandry? Is a guy a misandrist man-hater if he calls me a "dick head" because he hates my political opinions? Of course he isn't. He's just too inarticulate to argue against what I say which makes him so angry and frustrated that he bashes some insulting words into his keyboard.

There is no excuse for online abuse. It doesn't matter if it's men abusing women, women abusing women, women abusing men, men abusing eachother, or abuse towards or by transgender folk, it's all unacceptable.

Efforts to compartmentalise all abusive comments against women as misogyny are not helpful at all, especially if the majority of cases actually appear to be perpetrated by women against other women.

Misogynistic abuse is a real and very serious problem and more needs to be done to combat it, but making the numbers look more damning by lumping in every instance of a teenage girl calling a female rap star a "slut" because the rapper had a big Twitter spat with some ex-boyband singer doesn't make the case against online misogyny more compelling, it makes it significantly weaker.

The teenage girl isn't tweeting abuse at the female rapstar because she hates women and wishes to see successful women like the rapstar intimidated and repressed, she's doing it because she's too inarticulate to express her anger coherently, and because she thinks she can get away with it.

The root of the problem isn't the fact that most of the people who receive the worst online abuse are generally women (the evidence indicates that this is definitely the case). The fact that high profile women tend to get the worst of the abuse is one of the symptoms of the problem, and it's a lot more complicated than the misleading Guardian/Demos "misogyny" narrative. The actual root of the problem is twofold.

The first problem is that there are an awful lot of people who are so bad at debating that they consider insults, abusive comments and threats to be legitimate tactics, rather than open displays of their weak debating skills and childlike propensity to snap into tantrum-like rages. This problem is exascerbated by celebrities who resort to insults, abuse and threats at the slightest provocation.
The LBC pundit Iain Dale calling Paul Mason a "twat" on Twitter (after Mason dared to question the neoliberal orthodoxy a bit on Question Time - which is normally a closed neoliberal talking shop) is a great example. Not only did Iain Dale resort to blatant abuse at hearing political opinions he didn't like, he then actually had the utter lack of self-awareness to start whinging about the "abuse" he was getting as a consequence of writing an abusive comment. When celebrities feel free to behave like this on social media, it's absolutely no wonder that ordinary social media users feel entitled to behave in similar ways.
 
The second problem is that people will continue slinging abuse as long as they feel that they can get away with it. It doesn't matter if it's horrible misogynistic blokes hurling abuse and threats at successful women, women slinging gender specific insults at other women, orchestrated online bullying campaigns by teenagers against their peers, people abusing the mentally ill and using mental health terminology as insults, homophobic or transphobic abuse, racism, or whatever. The perpetrators feel they can behave in these appalling ways because they don't suffer any negative consequences for it. In traditional community environments people who flip into slinging insults, appalling abuse, and threats of rape or other physical violence at the slightest provocation (or simply because they hate women, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, the neuro-atypical ...) would soon be ostracised by the community, but on the Internet they roam free, with only a tiny minority of the worst offenders ever being held to account for their disgusting behaviour.

There is no denying that online abuse is a big problem, however compartmentalising it into different strata of abuse so that gender specific insults against women are "misogyny" (even if most of this abuse is actually perpetrated by other women), and making it somehow a distinct and more concerning problem than other forms of online abuse is a really misleading and counter-productive approach.

Reducing the problem of online abuse to crude men vs women stereotyes in some appalling identity politics parade is a distraction that sidesteps the main problems, which are that a lot of people (both men and women) are so inarticulate and emotionally unstable that they flip straight into slinging insults, abuse and threats at the slightest provocation, and that these people feel empowered to continue behaving in this appalling manner because they suffer no negative consequences when they do it.

Until the root causes of the problem are addressed, it won't matter which way the abuse is compartmentalised (misleadingly or not), because the problem won't be going away.

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