Friday, September 29, 2006

R.I.P. Sally Gray

Sad to read in today's Daily Telegraph obituaries of the death of the actress Sally Gray, aged 89.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/news/2006/09/29
Gray's best role, without doubt, was in Launder and Gilliat's marvellously atmospheric wartime murder mystery 'Green for Danger', in which she co-starred with the incomparable Alistair Sim, Trevor Howard, Leo Genn, Megs Jenkins and Rosamond John. If you've never seen this one, you're in for a real treat next time it's shown on Channel 4.
For you film buffs/politicos out there, here's a quick question. Rosamand John, who co-starred with Gray in Green for Danger, was married to which prominent Labour Party politician of the 1970s and 80s?

The Most Patronising Westerner of the Day Award

As condescension towards Eastern Europeans rises to record levels, this blog has decided to award a daily booby prize for the Most Patronising Comment of the Day Towards Eastern Europeans.
Yesterday's winner was Roger Boyes for his outrageously silly "they're all barking mad" offering from the New Statesman. Today's award goes to Daily Telegraph reader J.F. Basford.

Sir – Bulgaria and Romania are to join the European Union. All the chattering classes say their inhabitants will not flock to this country. This is, once again, absolute rubbish.I spent some time in Romania during the war, and had contact with the gipsies, and I can state quite positively that a chance to get into this country will be their first priority.
J. F. Basford, Lowestoft, Suffolk

Nothing like good, up-date-knowledge of a country and its people eh J.F.?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Rich are getting richer

There's a very thought provoking piece by James Kurth on the consequences of widening income equality, in the current issue of The American Conservative.

This widening gap can, be seen virtually everywhere we look—in America; within other countries, even those hitherto distinguished by a high degree of equality (in particular, Japan, South Korea, and China); and between rich and poor countries in the world at large.

http://www.amconmag.com/2006/2006_09_25/cover.html

Reducing this inequality, is I believe one of the biggest political challenges of the age. But don't rely on parties- or politicians wedded to global capitalism and neo-liberal dogma to provide the solutions.

Anti-semitism in Hungary

Roger Boyes has a piece in the New Stateman in which he labels the opposition to Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany as 'nationalist and anti-semitic'.
http://www.newstatesman.com/200610020029
He does not mention the left-wing opposition to Gyurcsany's neo-liberal reforms, presumably because it doesn't fit in with his thesis.
That said, there is no doubt that anti-semitism (or Judeophobia, to be more accurate) is a factor in Hungarian politics, as it is in other European countries. I write from personal experience.
I was once attacked in a Budapest bar by a Hungarian fascist, for the crime of being from a country which fought with 'the Jews and the Russians' in World War Two.
For most of five and a half years in Hungary I worked in the Jewish community, teaching at a Jewish Higher Education Institute in Budapest and also at the Anna Frank Grammar School. As a non-Jew, it gave me a fascinating insight into Jewish culture and I made some deep and lasting friendships. But the very fact that I worked in the Jewish community, caused some non-Jewish Hungarians to treat me with suspicion and even hostility.
To bring this round to the current disturbances in Budapest, I have no doubt that some of those marching against Gyurcsany ARE motivated by Judeophobia. For the members of parties like MIEP, Jews are to blame not only for the ills of neo-liberalism- but for communism too. But the fact that some protestors might have ignoble motives, shouldn't blind us to the fact that the present Hungarian Prime Minister is a foul mouthed, deceitful chancer who is not fit to hold public office. Only by ditching Gyurcsany and his disastrous neo-liberal policies and returning to the progressive 'goulash' socialist policies of the 1970s and 80s, (without the restrictions on foreign travel and other unnecessary curbs) can this increasingly divided society be healed.

How Dave is upsetting Britain's fifth column

Last October, I wrote a comment piece for The Guardian alerting readers to the neo-conservatives behind David Cameron's leadership bid. Realising that the dull-as- dishwater David Davis, or the far-right loon Dr Liam Fox was never going to defeat Ken Clarke, the clear choice of Tory members, the neo-cons threw their weight behind Cameron's bid and must have been feeling fairly pleased with themselves when their man was crowned new Tory leader. The trouble the neo-cons have now though is that Cameron, surprise, surprise, is rather keen to become Prime Minister. And in order to do that he realises that he has to ditch wildly unpopular policies. One of which was the Tory's slavishly pro-American, neo-conservative foreign policy. Here's Geoffrey Wheatcroft's brilliant piece from today's Guardian on how Cameron's ambitions to win office are causing such consternation among Britain's fifth column.


For years, the Tory party and the Tory press have been infiltrated by our own neoconservatives, more determined even than Blair to serve the national interest of another country. Under William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard - egged on by Charles Moore, Matthew d'Ancona and Michael Gove - the Tories came close to being what the socialist leader Leon Blum called the French Communists, "a foreign nationalist party".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1882616,00.html

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Only Lunatics can defend this war

It has killed hundreds of thousands of people, destroyed the infrastructure of an entire country and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. And now, in the words of a US intelligence report which Bush wanted to bury:

"The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world. If this trend continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide."

Save from a few, deranged, inhabitants of Planet Neo-Con, is there anyone out there still willing to justify this wretched war?

UPDATE: I've scanned several pro-war blogs today and the US intelligence report doesn't get a mention. How interesting......

Quote of the Day

"Almost every word Blair spoke would have been perjury had he been on oath"

Max Hastings, Daily Mail

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A letter from Denmark

Carsten Knudsen from Denmark writes:

Dear Neil Clark
Thank you for your clear conclusion on Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbian people. I think they both are the true victims in Balkan history.
I am sending a newspaper file. You might find a Dane who can translate for you?
Jews are beginning to leave my country Denmark. Just as they were leaving Germany after 1933.
Neville Chamberlain: "Peace in our time"
Greetings from Carsten Knudsen in Denmark, Scandinavia.

If there are any Danish speakers out there who could translate the article which Carsten has kindly sent me on the rise in Judeophobia in Denmark, please get in touch. When I do have an English translation I will post it on the blog.












Inbox

Monday, September 25, 2006

'The era is giving birth to a heart'

In case you missed it, here is Hugo Chavez' superb speech to the United Nations.

English - TRANSLATION OF THE ORIGINAL SPANISH TRANSCRIPTION FROM THE HEADQUARTERS OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Speech by Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela, at the United Nations on September 20, 2006:
MESSAGE TO THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD

“LET'S STRENGHTEN OUR KNOWLEDGE AND OUR WILL
TO SAVE THE WORLD AND BUILD A NEW WORLD, A BETTER WORLD”
President Chávez: Madame President, Excellencies, Heads of State, Heads of Governments, and high ranking government representatives from around the world. A very good day to you all.
First of all, with much respect, I would like to invite all of those, who have not had a chance, to read this book that we have read: Noam Chomsky, one of the most prestigious intellectuals of America and the world. One of Chomsky's most recent works: Hegemony or Survival? America's Quest for Global Dominance. An excellent piece to help us understand what happened in the world during the 20th century, what is going on now and the greatest threat looming over our planet: the hegemonic pretension of US Imperialism that puts at risk the very survival of the human species. We continue to warn about this danger and call on the people of the US and the world to halt this threat that is like the sword of Damocles.
I intended to read a chapter, but for the sake of time, I will leave it as a recommendation. It's a fast read. It's really good Madame President, surely you are familiar with it. It is published in English, German, Russian, and Arabic (applause). Look, I think our brothers and sisters of the United States should be the first citizens to read this book because the threat is in their own house. The Devil is in their home. The Devil, the Devil himself is in their home.
The Devil came here yesterday (laughter and applause). Yesterday the Devil was here, in this very place. This table from where I speak still smells like sulfur. Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, in this same hall the President of the United States, who I call "The Devil," came here talking as if he owned the world. It would take a psychiatrist to analyze the US president's speech from yesterday.
As the spokesperson for Imperialism he came to give us his recipes for maintaining the current scheme of domination, exploitation and pillage of the world's people. It would make a good Alfred Hitchcock movie. I could even suggest a title: "The Devil's Recipe." That is to say, US Imperialism, and here Chomsky says it with profound and crystalline clarity, is making desperate efforts to consolidate its hegemonic system of domination. We cannot allow this to occur, we cannot permit them to install a world dictatorship, to consolidate a world dictatorship.
The speech of the tyrannical president of the world was full of cynicism, full of hypocrisy. It is this imperial hypocrisy with which he attempts to control everything. They want to impose upon us the democratic model they devised, the false democracy of elites. And moreover, a very original democratic model imposed with explosions, bombings, invasions, and cannon shot. That's some democracy! One would have to review the thesis of Aristotle and of the first Greeks who spoke of democracy to see what kind of model of democracy is imposed by marines, invasions, aggressions and bombs.
The US president said the following yesterday in this same hall, I quote: "everywhere you turn, you hear extremists who tell you that you can escape your misery and regain your dignity through violence and terror and martyrdom." Wherever he looks he sees extremists. I am sure he sees you, brother, with your skin color, and thinks you are an extremist. With his color, the dignified President of Bolivia Evo Morales, who was here yesterday, is an extremist. The imperialists see extremists all around. No, its not that we are extremists. What is happening is that the world is waking up and people everywhere are rising up. I have the impression Mr. Imperialist dictator that you will live the rest of your days as if in a nightmare, because no matter where you look we will be rising up against US imperialism. Yes, they call us extremists, we who demand complete freedom in the world, equality among peoples and respect for national sovereignty. We are rising up against the Empire, against the model of domination.
Later, the president said, "Today I'd like to speak directly to the people across the broader Middle East: My country desires peace." That is certain. If we walk the streets of the Bronx, if we walk through the streets of New York, Washington, San Diego, California, any city, San Antonio, San Francisco and we ask the people on the street: the people of the US want peace. The difference is that the government of this country, of the US, does not want peace; it wants to impose its model of exploitation and plundering and its hegemony upon us under threat of war. That is the little difference.
The people want peace and, what is happening in Iraq? And what happened in Lebanon and Palestine? And what has happened over the last 100 years in Latin America and the world and now the threats against Venezuela, new threats against Iran? He spoke to the people of Lebanon, "Many of you have seen your homes and communities caught in crossfire." What cynicism! What capacity to blatantly lie before the world! The bombs in Beirut launched with milimetric precision are "crossfire"? I think that the president is thinking of those western movies where they shoot from the hip and someone ends up caught in the middle.
Imperialist fire! Fascist fire! Murderous fire! Genocidal fire against the innocent people of Palestine and Lebanon by the Empire and Israel. That is the truth. Now they say that they are upset to see homes destroyed.
In the end, the US president came to speak to the people, and also to say, "I brought some documents Madame President." This morning I was watching some of the speeches while updating mine. He spoke to the people of Afghanistan, to the people of Lebanon, to the people of Iran. One has to wonder, when listening to the US president speak to those people: what would those people say to him? If those people could talk to him, what would they say? I think I have an idea because I know the souls of the majority of those people, the people of the South, the downtrodden peoples would say: Yankee imperialist go home! That would be the shout that would echo around the world, if these people of the world could speak with only one voice to the US Empire.
Therefore, Madame President, colleagues, and friends, last year we came to this same hall, as we have for the past eight years, and we said something that today is completely confirmed. I believe that almost no one in this room would stand up to defend the system of the United Nations. Lets admit with honesty, the UN system that emerged after WWII has collapsed, shattered, it doesn't work. Well, ok. To come here and give speeches,and visit with one another once a year, yes, it works for that. And to make long documents and reflect and listen to good speeches like Evo's yesterday, and Lula's, yes, for that it works. And many speeches, like the one we just heard by the president of Sri Lanka and of the president of Chile. But we have converted this Assembly into a mere deliberative organ with no kind of power to impact in the slightest way the terrible reality the world is experiencing. Therefore we again propose here today, September 20, [2006] to re-found the United Nations. Last year Madame President, we made four modest proposals that we feel are in urgent need of being adopted by the Heads of State, Heads of Government, ambassadors and representatives. And we discussed these proposals.
First: expansion. Yesterday Lula said the same, the Security Council, its permanent as well as its non- permanent seats, must open up to new members from developed, underdeveloped and Third World countries. That's the first priority.
Second: the application of effective methods of addressing and resolving world conflicts. Transparent methods of debate and of making decisions.
Third: the immediate suppression of the anti-democratic veto mechanism, the veto power over Security Council decisions, seems fundamental to us and is being called for by all. Here is a recent example, the immoral veto by the US government that freely allowed Israeli forces to destroy Lebanon, in front of us all, by blocking a resolution in the UN Security Council.
Fourthly: as we always say, it is necessary to strengthen the role, the powers of the general secretary of the United Nations. Yesterday we heard the speech of the general secretary, who is nearing the end of his term. He recalled that in these ten years the world has become more complicated and that the serious problems of the world, the hunger, poverty, violence, and violation of human rights have been aggravated, this is a terrible consequence of the collapse of the UN system and of US imperialist pretensions.
Madame President, recognizing our status as members, Venezuela decided several years ago to wage this battle within the UN with our voice, our modest reflections. We are an independent voice, representing dignity and the search for peace, the formulation of an international system to denounce persecution and hegemonic aggression against people worldwide. In this way Venezuela has presented its name. The homeland of Bolívar has presented its name as a candidate for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council. Of course you all know that the US government has begun an open attack, an immoral global attack in an attempt to block Venezuela from being freely elected to occupy the open seat on the Security Council. They are afraid of the truth. The empire is afraid of the truth and of independent voices. They accuse us of being extremists. They are the extremists.
I want to thank all countries that have announced your support for Venezuela, even when the vote is secret and it is not necessary for anyone to reveal their vote. But I think that the open aggression of the US Empire has reinforced the support of many countries, which in turn morally strengthened Venezuela, our people, our government.
Our brothers and sisters of MERCOSUR, for example, as a block, have announced their support for Venezuela. We are now a full member of MERCOSUR along with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay. Many other countries of Latin America, such as Bolivia and all the CARICOM nations have pledged their support to Venezuela. The entire Arab League has announced its support for Venezuela. I thank the Arab world, our brothers of the Arab world and of the Caribbean. The African Union, nearly all of the African Union countries have pledged their support for Venezuela and other countries like Russia, China and many others across the globe. I thank you all deeply in the name of Venezuela, in the name of our people and in the name of truth, because Venezuela, upon occupying a seat on the Security Council will not only bring to it the voice of Venezuela, but also the voice of the Third World, the voice of the peoples of the planet. There we will defend dignity and truth.
Despite all this Madame President, I think there are reasons to be optimistic.
Hopelessly optimistic, as a poet would say, because beyond the threats, bombs, wars, aggressions, preventative wars, and the destruction of entire peoples, one can see that a new era is dawning. Like Silvio Rodríguez sings, "the era is giving birth to a heart." Alternative tendencies, alternative thoughts, and youth with distinct ideas are emerging. In barely a decade it has been demonstrated that the End of History theory was totally false. The establishment of the American Empire, the American peace, the establishment of the capitalist, neoliberal model that generates misery and poverty— all totally false. The thesis is totally false and has been dumped. Now the future of the world must be defined. There is a new dawning on this planet that can be seen everywhere: in Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania. I want to highlight that vision of optimism to fortify our conscience and our will to fight to save the world and construct a new world, a better world.
Venezuela has joined this struggle and for this we are threatened. The US has already planned, financed and launched a coup in Venezuela. And the US continues to support coup plotters in Venezuela. And they continue supporting terrorism against Venezuela. President Michel Bachellet recalled a few days ago… pardon, I mean a few minutes ago… the terrible murder of the former Chilean Foreign Minster Orlando Letelier. I would only add the following: the guilty parties are free. Those responsible for that deed, in which a US citizen was also killed, are North Americans of the CIA. Terrorists of the CIA.
In addition, we here in this room must remember that in a few days it will be the 30th anniversary of that murder and of the horrible terrorist attack that blew up a Cubana de Aviación airplane in mid-flight killing 73 innocent people. And where is the worst terrorist of this continent, who admitted to being the intellectual author of the airplane sabotage? He was in prison in Venezuela for some years, but he escaped with the complicity of CIA officials and the Venezuelan government of that time. Now he is here living in the US, protected by the government even though he was convicted and he confessed. The US government has a double standard and protects terrorism.
These reflections are to demonstrate that Venezuela is committed to the fight against terrorism, against violence and works together with all people who struggle for peace and for a just world.
I spoke of the Cuban airplane. Luis Posada Carriles is the name of that terrorist. He is protected here just like the corrupt fugitives who escaped Venezuela. A group of terrorists who planted bombs in embassies of various countries, murdered innocent people during the coup and kidnapped this humble servant. They were going to execute me, but God reached out his hand, along with a group of good soldiers, and the who people took to the streets. It's a miracle that I'm here. The leaders of that coup and those terrorist acts are here, protected by the US government. I accuse the US government of protecting terrorism and of giving a completely cynical speech.
Speaking of Cuba, we went happily to Havana. We were there several days. During the G-15 Summit and the NAM Summit the dawning of a new era was evident with an historic resolution and final document. Don't worry. I am not going to read it all. But here is a collection of resolutions made in open discussion with transparency. With more than 50 Heads of State, Havana was the capital of the South for a week.
We have re-launched the Non-Aligned Movement. And if there is anything I could ask of you all, my brothers and sisters, it is to please lend your support to the strengthening of the NAM, which is so important to the emergence of a new era, to preventing hegemony and imperialism. Also, you all know that we have designated Fidel Castro as President of the NAM for the next three years and we are sure that compañero President FidelCastro will fulfill the post with much efficiency. Those who wanted Fidel to die, well, they remain frustrated because Fidel is already back in his olive green uniform and is now not only the President of Cuba but also the President of NAM.


Madam President, dear colleagues, presidents, a very strong movement of the South emerged there in Havana. We are men and women of the South. We are bearers of these documents, these ideas, opinions, and reflections. I have already closed by folder and the book that I brought with me. Don't forget it. I really recommend it. With much humility we try to contribute ideas for the salvation of the planet, to save it from the threat of imperialism, and god willing soon. Early in this century, god willing, so that we ourselves can see and experience with our children and grandchildren a peaceful world, under the fundamental principles of the UN, renewed and relocated. I believe that the UN must be located in another country, in a city of the South. We have proposed this from Venezuela. You all know that my medical personnel had to stay locked up in the airplane. The Chief of my security is locked on the plane. They would not let them come to the UN. Another abuse and outrage, Madame President, that we request to be registered personally to the sulfurous Devil. But God is with us.

A warm embrace and may God bless us all.
Good day

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ted Turner for President?

Why is Ted Turner exhorting professional loser Al Gore to stand for President?
Anyone who can come out with such gems as these ought to have a go himself!

"Iraq was about the dumbest move ever made by anybody. "We've already got a catastrophe on our hands."

"It's a joke that the President of the US can go down to the UN and say Iran can't have nukes when we have thousands of 'em. Get rid of them all!"

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Miss Aggie's Farewell Performance

While we still await Tony Bliar's farewell performance, British viewers can at least enjoy at 10am on BBC2 this Sunday the classic episode of Ellery Queen in which radio star Miss Aggie makes her last ever broadcast. Don't miss this one, if like me, you're a fan of ingenious, well-acted, murder mysteries.
ps in answer to the question of a couple of weeks back, the connection between the Ellery Queen series and the film 'The Great Escape' is the composer Elmer Bernstein, who wrote the music for both productions.

The best possible tribute to Harold Wilson

Tony Blair today paid a warm tribute to the late Harold Wilson as he unveiled a new statue of the former Labour leader. But instead of mere words Tony, why don't you follow some of Wilson's policies? Such as the refusal to be Washington's poodle and commit British forces to disastrous military adventures. Or the extension of public ownership. Back in the 60s and 70s, Harold Wilson was criticised by many on the left for being too conservative. Compared to Tory Blair, he now looks positively revolutionary.
http://news.uk.msn.com/Article.aspx?cp-documentid=957430

Friday, September 22, 2006

Three Questions........

Could anyone let me know:
1. How threatening to bomb another country 'back to the Stone Age' can be justified on grounds of fighting terrorism?
2. Why demonstrators who destroyed property during anti-government protests in Hungary are a 'mob' and 'rioters' , while those who did likewise in Yugoslavia in 2000 were 'the people'
3. What is Peter Lorre doing as captain of the European Ryder Cup team?

Truth in the 'free market'

Apologies for the lack of posts in the last fortnight, but I have been away.
I will be posting on recent developments in Hungary shortly, but in the meantime I can only endorse the views expressed by Mark Almond, in his brilliant Guardian article on Wednesday.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1876313,00.html
As Mark points out, 'for all the rhetoric about democracy and free enterprise going hand in hand, in reality voters find all options closed'. That's true not just in Hungary, but closer to home too.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Another neo-con lie exposed

Its official. The 'link' between Saddam Hussein and al Qa'ida was non-existent. As non-existent in fact as Iraqi WMD. And as non-existent as the 'genocide' in Kosovo.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060908/ap_on_go_co/iraq_report_12

A real alternative to more Neo-Connery

I haven't written anything this week on the Blair/Brown spat merely because the issue of whether to replace one neo-liberal, pro-war leader with another doesn't really interest me. But for Labour supporters and members despairing of the prospect of a Brown premiership- or even worse- a John Reid one- there is an alternative. He's called John McDonnell. Last night in Manchester, John kicked off his leadership campaign. He was supported by Tony Benn and Alice Mahon, two former Labour MPs who opposed not only the aggression against Iraq, but also the previous illegal attack on Yugoslavia.
John promises to radically shift Britain's foreign policy orientation, if elected.
I wish him all the very best in his leadership bid.
http://www.john4leader.org.uk/

A very easy question

"What do Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair have in common? " asks Stephen Pollard in the first line of his Wall Street Journal piece yesterday. http://www.stephenpollard.net/002884.html
That's an easy one Stephen. They were all crap.

Watch out, there's a Woodward about

Are you excited about Sir Clive Woodward using his "experience in high-performance sport" to assist Britain's Olympics team? No, me neither. Here's my piece from today's First Post. http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/index.php?menuID=1&subID=728

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Elitist Conceit of Germaine Greer

Here's a terrific piece from novelist John Birmingham in today's The Australian. Birmingham puts into words exactly how I and I think many other people felt- on reading Germaine Greer's appalling attack on the late Steve Irwin on Tuesday.
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20365709-7583,00.html

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tony Bliar's Legacy Tour: Exclusive itinerary

Courtesy of The First Post, here's the exclusive itinerary of our illustrious Prime Minister's 2007 legacy tour.
http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/index.php?menuID=2&subID=888
UPDATE: Judging from today's developments, which have seen no fewer than seven ministerial resignations, it seems that Our Tone may need to bring forward the date of his Tour.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A True Aussie Hero (unlike Germaine Greer)

While it is true that few will mourn the passing of Sir Alfred Sherman (see below), the same cannot be said for Steve Irwin. The tragic death of the man dubbed 'The Crocodile Hunter' has saddened millions of people around the world- the author of this blog included. I, like many others loved Steve's programmes and the tremendous enthusiasm he had for the animal kingdom.
Predictably, however, there have been a few bitter souls who have spoken of Australia's 'Diana moment' and who have sought to denigrate Irwin's legacy. In The Guardian today there is a shocking article by Germaine Greer who, as part of her case against Irwin, drags up the fact that the late conservationist once said that John Howard was 'the greatest leader the world has ever seen'. What on earth has Irwin's views on John Howard got to do with it? The man was a star, regardless of whoever he voted for- as this piece from today's The Australian makes clear.

Wildlife warrior’s quiet generosity.
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20361934-601,00.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/australia/story/0,,1865124,00.html

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Hideous History of Sir Alfred Sherman

Here's my piece from today's Morning Star, http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index2.php/ex/examples/features on the late Sir Alfred Sherman.

De mortuis ni nisi bonus. But in the case of Sir Alfred Sherman, I think we can make an exception.
Out of all the nasty people who surrounded Margaret Thatcher in the 70s and 80s, Sir Alfred was without doubt the nastiest.

"He was an impossible man. Mean-spirited, spiteful, envious and resentful he never had a good word to say about anyone else’s intellect and overvalued his own. He thought a firing squad was too good for anyone who disagreed with him”- the verdict not of a political opponent, but of fellow- Thatcherite bruiser Bruce Anderson. Sherman didn’t do manners. Another former associate, who hadn’t seen Sherman for a while remembers Sherman greeting him with the words ‘You’re a fxxxing booby’ before he’d even asked how his friend was.

What Sherman did do was hate. He hated immigrants- even though he himself was the son of one. He hated the Irish, ‘coloured people’ and anyone he considered left-wing or ‘middle of the road’. And most of all, he hated the working-class. In his ‘appreciation’ of Sherman in The Times, Bruce Anderson, relates how at one Conservative Party conference, Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, a patrician Tory of the old school, offered Sherman a lift. As they walked to the car, Sherman was denouncing the working class: to a man they were idle, shiftless, useless and good for nothing. They arrived at the car which had a very flat tyre. Neither of them had a clue what to do, but fortunately a passing member of the working class observed their plight and changed the tyre. Worsthorne waited for a change in tone, but in vain. Sherman merely continued with his diatribe.

It is little surprise, given his views, Sherman found favour with that other far-right Tory figure of the period, Sir Keith Joseph. Sherman had come to Joseph’s attention when a reporter on the Daily Telegraph and he helped draft some of the Conservative politician’s most notorious species which berated the lower orders for having too many children and glorified the ’free market’. In the early 70s, these views were very much fringe ones, even within the Conservative Party. But after the two election defeats of 1974, the extremist philosophy of Keith Joseph and Alfred Sherman began to gain more and more followers. The new Conservative leader, Mrs Thatcher was a ‘believer’ and the Centre for Policy Studies’ founded jointly by Thatcher and Joseph in 1974, and with Sherman as its director, began to have an increasing influence on party policy. Sherman urged the CPS to ‘ think the unthinkable‘. Tragically, the unthinkable was not only thought- but became the policy of the newly elected Conservative government in 1979.

The British people were now the guinea pigs of the great Sherman/Joseph/Thatcher ‘free market’ experiment. The next decade saw massive tax cuts for the rich, the whole-scale privatisation of state assets, attacks on the trade unions and the effective destruction of manufacturing industry in Britain. Millions lost their jobs, crime rocketed and society disintegrated before our very eyes- but for Sherman and his fellow zealots, the exercise was a great success-the irresistible rise of the working class had been resisted. “We could never have defeated socialism if it hadn’t been for Sir Alfred” was the Iron Lady’s glowing tribute. Like all good Thatcherites, Sherman made sure he profited personally from the economic changes he had helped bring about. Having propagandised tirelessly for privatisation, he accepted a position as public affairs adviser for the newly-privatised National Bus Corporation- and duly issued a paper advocating the paving over of the nation’s railways.

In 1983, Sherman resigned from the CPS and threw himself into other extremist activities. He joined the notoriously hard-right, virulently anti-communist ‘Western Goals’ group, whose activities included campaigning against groups such as Oxfam, Christian Aid and War on Want on the grounds that they were too ’left-wing’. Western Goals supported the apartheid regime in South Africa, advising PW Botha against ‘going soft on communism’ and helped organise a visit of the leader of the Pretoria-backed Angola separatist UNITA group to Britain. Sherman was himself sent to Central America by Margaret Thatcher to ‘monitor’ Nicaragua’s democratically-elected Sandinista government and was received at the White House by Ronald Reagan. In the later stages of his life, Sherman became a professional lobbyist, with clients including Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb commander in charge at the time of the massacre at Srebrenica.

But although Sherman has now passed away, the misanthropic and hateful creed he espoused hasn’t. Thatcherism still dominates the political landscape- a full sixteen years after the Iron Lady’s exit from Downing Street. Who would have thought in the mid 1980s, that twenty years later, a Labour (ital) Prime Minister would be addressing a conference of partners of Goldman Sachs and boasting to them how they paying less taxes than under Thatcher? Who could have imagined that that a Labour (ital) Chancellor would be praising Thatcher’s ‘economic legacy’. PFI, the privatisation of air-traffic control, the forthcoming sell-off of The Tote and the failure to even countenance the reintroduction a new top rate of income tax are all things the late Sir Alfred Sherman would heartily approve of.

Last of the Entertainers

Sad news from Flushing Meadow. Andre Agassi has just played his last match.
Here's my tribute to this wonderful tennis player from today's First Post.
http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/index.php?menuID=2&subID=862

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Not So Good Good List

Yesterday, the Independent published its' Good List 2006'- a listing of 'fifty men and women who make our world a better place'.
There's a few names with whom it's hard to take issue with, such as Sir David Attenborough and the saintly Monsignor Bruce Kent. But some of the other choices leave a lot to be desired. "Few have done more to fight the death penalty in the US than the British lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith", the Independent announces- without asking what right does an British lawyer have to lecture Americans on how they deal with their murderers? Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries is lauded for condemning the Iraq war, but supporting 'the war in the Balkans'- presumably for the 'moralist' Bishop- and the Independent, the lives of innocent Serbs are of lesser account than innocent Iraqis.
Shirley Williams and Chris Patten, two of the most disastrous and accident-prone politicians of the post-war era are also included as is Bob Geldof, the clapped out, foul-mouthed pop star who became a multi-millionaire businessman by exhorting the poor in the rich countries to hand over their fxxxing money to the rich in poor countries.
Other ludicrous choices include Anne Owers ,the Inspector of Prisons who doesn't believe in prisons, and the tiresome self-publicist Peter Tatchell who believed the British government should have armed Shi-ite militia in an attempt to overthrow Saddam in 2003.
Instead of Stafford-Smith, Williams, Harries, Patten, Owers and Tatchell- what about Pilger, Benn (Tony, not Hilary), Hitchens (Peter, not Christopher), Berners-Lee (the modest and self-effacing inventor of the World Wide Web) and last, but not least the wholly admirable Jimmy Perry and David Croft -who with their classic comedies have done more to put a smile on people's faces than most of the Indie's 'good' men and women put together.
What do you think?

What Bulgarians think about Britain

From today's Guardian, here's an excellent piece of reportage from Luke Harding on what Bulgarians who have lived in Britian think of the place. Instead of indulging in condescension towards people from Eastern Europe, we really ought be getting our own house in order. We have the lowest general level of education of any country in Europe, the highest level of violent crime , the highest level of teenage pregnancies and the highest level of alcohol abuse. And we have the nerve to hold 'our way' up as the best! The very last thing any country in the world should be doing is copying the British social and economic model.


Standing outside the British embassy in Sofia yesterday, Rozalina Boeva admits she wants a better life. After three years she has had enough - of Britain. She is coming home to Bulgaria.
"I'm fed up. I don't like it in Britain much," Ms Boeva, a 37-year-old care assistant said.
Ms Boeva has spent the past three years living and working in Swansea. But she dislikes Britain's culture of binge drinking and the fact that her teenage daughter has been bullied at school. "Some British people are nice. But on Friday and Saturday night everybody gets drunk. Many girls get pregnant at 16 or 17. The general level of education is low. I'm going back for a couple of months to collect our things. Then we'll start a new life in Bulgaria."
Ms Boeva was one of around 50 Bulgarians trying to get or renew visas at the embassy yesterday. Earlier this week the Sun ran a front-page photograph showing what it said was a vast queue of Bulgarians who had "laid siege" to the building. The Bulgarians intended to work in the UK when Bulgaria - together with Romania - joined the EU on January 1, the paper suggested.
In fact, most of those queuing up yesterday were visiting Britain for a holiday. Others already lived in the UK and were renewing visas. But the vigorous tabloid campaign against Bulgarians and Romanians appears to have worked.
"I want to stay here. It's my country," says Rostislav Tsonev, a 20-year-old student at Sofia University. Another student, Irina Lichkova, 24, adds: "I spent five months working in Belfast last summer. To be honest most of the people I met there were psychos."

Friday, September 01, 2006

Make Israel Pay

Britain has pledged £21.5m, the USA £230m, and the EU £28m.
But what about Israel? They are the country who, in the words of the Lebanase Prime Minister Fouad Siniora wiped out '15 years of post-war development' in their criminal bombardment of their Middle Eastern neighbour.
Israel is a wealthy country and has some very wealthy supporters around the world. Let those who trashed the joint pay for it. If not, Lebanon should do the only thing left open to it: bring a claim for reparations at the International Criminal Court. If Bosnia can do it to Serbia, why can't Lebanon do it to Israel?