Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Labour Party entryism: A case in point

Back in the 1970s and 80s there was a big fuss stirred up in the anti-socialist media about the 'entryism' of 'far left' groups into the Labour Party. But the media is less keen to focus on entryism into the party by people who hold decidely un-socialist views. Gisela Stuart, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, is a case in point.
Stuart is a signatory to principles of The Henry Jackson Society, the notorious neo-conservative pressure group. She is also a great fan of the monetarist economic policies of Margaret Thatcher - believing that in 1979 there 'had to be a change'. In other words, she thinks it was a good thing that a Labour government lost in 1979 and was replaced by a neo-liberal Conservative one. In addition, she was the only Labour MP to openly voice support for George Bush in the 2004 Presidential elections.
Members of Edgbaston Labour Party can perhaps explain to the rest of us why they have they chosen a pro-war, capitalism-loving Conservative to represent them.

Here's are Stuart's thoughts on Britain's Thatcherite 'recovery' of the 1980s from today's Daily Telegraph.
ps it's interesting that in Stuart's tirade against the European 'social model' she makes no mention of the
biggest reason for Western Europe's current economic malaise- the deflationary policies which have accompanied the introduction of the Euro.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

'Operation Iraqi Freedom' comes to Haditha

I wonder if any of the signatories of the Euston Manifesto would like to explain to Iman Hassan the 'humanitarian' case for the war against Iraq?,,3-2199287,00.html

Clutching at Reeds

Like all nature lovers, I'm delighted that the process of recovering of Iraq's marshes has begun. But isn't it saying something about the increasing desperation of the pro-war left that they are now focusing attention on such issues? On the day Norman Geras posted this on his blog, news came through that at least thirty-eight people, including four Britons, were killed in Iraq. Little wonder that the joint author of The Euston Manifesto prefers to write about fish and birds.
Marsh of progress
Here's a piece on the process of recovering Iraq's marshes:
Reflooding of Iraq's destroyed Mesopotamian marshes since 2003 has resulted in a "remarkable rate of reestablishment" of native invertebrates, plants, fish, and birds, according to an article in the June issue of BioScience. Read
the rest. (Thanks: GJ.)"

Health Care For All

The American writer and journalist Ron Ridenour has a superb, well-documented piece in today's Morning Star on the very contrasting health care systems of Cuba and the U.S.
Cuba outscores its richer neighbour in both the quality and accessibililty of its health care, as it does in the field of public education.
As Ron writes in his conclusion: 'comparisons between socialist Cuba and the capitalist US and Britain show the remarkable human rights advantages that socialism provides its people, in contrast to private profiteering economies'.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Corporate Takeover of Iraq

Here's a superb review of Antonia Juhasz's excellent new book 'The Bush Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time', from today's Morning Star.
Essential reading for any poor deluded souls (yes Eustonistas, I'm referring to you) who still think that Bush and Blair invaded Iraq to ' spread democracy'.

Selling off Iraq
(Monday 29 May 2006)
The Bush Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time by Antonia Juhasz
(Duckworth, £10.99)

JOHN MOORE learns more of Washington's wholesale sell-off of Iraq in a new study of the events that took place post-invasion.

WHAT was the motivation behind the Bush administration's unprovoked invasion of Iraq?
Its central purpose was to gain control of the oil, but there was even more on the agenda than that.
Antonia Juhasz describes in convincing detail the economic invasion of Iraq - a case study in corporate-driven globalisation strategy.
A series of orders issued by Paul Bremer, the president's envoy in Iraq and administrator of the coalition provisional authority, had full legal force over all Iraqis.
Designed to "liberalise" the economy, the orders included privatisation of all Iraq's 192 government-owned industries, including water, electricity, schools and hospitals.
They allowed complete foreign ownership of all Iraqi businesses, including the banking sector, with unrestricted repatriation of profits.
Foreign investors have been given 40-year leases on Iraqi real estate, with unlimited renewal options and with any dispute to be taken to international courts.
All tariffs and other charges on imports are ended, as are farming subsidies, leaving the market open to a flood of cheap foreign goods, such as US wheat imports.
The vice-chairman of the US rice council told a house committee that the liberation of Iraq freed the Iraqi people and "also provided hope for the US rice industry." The WTO, the World Bank and the IMF could not have been better pleased.
As they are regarded as valid Iraqi legislation, Bremer's orders are unaffected by the new constitution, which, in fact, endorses their principles.
Anyone who seeks to quarrel with those will get no access to the billions of dollars administered by the US ambassador, who will continue to reward Shi'ite leaders who are prepared to smooth the way to the big prize of permanent US contracts for access to the oil.
Whatever the final terms of the agreements between the Iraqi government and the international oil companies, the contracts will have terms of 25 to 40 years and the thinking is that they will not be affected by changes to the country's laws made by a future Iraqi government.
Moreover, US representatives have been put in key places in all government ministries for five years, even though a permanent Iraqi government is supposedly in place.
This travesty of democracy is the start of US-style market capitalism for the Middle East - what Bush has called a "US Middle East free trade area."
US corporations would continue to earn the lavish rewards received in Iraq - where unemployment is 50 per cent and the water, electricity and sewage projects are an acknowledged failure - with the potential for far greater earnings.
In contrast, a 2004 US government study reported that, for Muslims, the US occupation has led to "only more chaos and suffering."
Another US poll concluded that 80 per cent of Iraqis believe that the coalition forces are attacked because they are trying to steal Iraq's wealth.
The US military hopes to stay there as long as necessary to keep the oil secure, but the resistance movements put this plan at risk.
It is a commonplace observation that the Bush administration is "radicalising" Iraq and the Middle East and stimulating insurgency against military personnel, as well as international terrorism against civilians.
Juhasz lays out the imperialist agenda and shows the increasing challenge to it worldwide, especially in the Middle East.
Her greatest merit is to bring together the peace and the anti-globalisation movements in a common cause.

Their names won't be C.Hitchens or W.Shawcross

Two more British soldiers have been killed today in Iraq. As yet the men are unnamed, but I wager their names will not be C. Hitchens or W. Shawcross. Or, for that matter A. Roberts, N. Ferguson or M.Gove.,,1785339,00.html
UPDATE: The dead soldiers have been named. I was right: their names weren't C.Hitchens or W.Shawcross or indeed the names of any of the other laptop bombadiers who couldn't wait for 'Shock and Awe' to start. They were called Farrelly and Mildinhall. Perhaps one of the writers named above, or any others who propagandised for war, would be decent enough to write to the poor men's parents to explain why they died.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

How to replace the deserters

The BBC announced today that over 1,000 soldiers have deserted from the British Army since the start of the Iraq war.
It's clear the Army needs to rethink its recruitment policy and focus on those potential soldiers who are clearly in favour of the British Army's new role of illegally invading and occupying any country the US President decides is in need of invasion and occupation. I'm sure that among the names to be found on the links below, there will be plenty of willing recruits.

If Only We'd Listened to Wedgie

Britain could have been as rich as Norway, ( now officially the richest country in the world), had we listened to the politician pro-war neo-liberals love to hate.
Here's my piece from today's First Post.

The National Burger Service

What sort of country allows multinational burger chains to set up 'restaurants' in its hospitals?,,1784668,00.html

A Violent Government- A Violent Country

When do you know that Britain's violent crime problems are getting really serious? When even the Observer concedes that things are getting out of control. 'The chances of getting away with rape, robbery, sexual assault and/or seriously wounding another person have never been higher' . Ditto for getting away with the crime of waging an illegal war of aggression too.,,1784623,00.html

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Some Light Relief.........

A man dies and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him.
He asked, ''What are all those clocks?'' St. Peter answered, ''Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on Earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie the hands on your clock will move''
''Oh,'' said the man, ''whose clock is that?''
''That's Mother Teresa's. The hands have never moved, indicating that she had never told a lie.''
''Incredible,'' said the man. ''And whose clock is that one?''
St. Peter responded, ''That's Abraham Lincoln's clock. The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abe only told two lies in his entire life.''
''Where's Tony Blair's clock?'' asked the man.
''Tony Blair's clock is in Jesus' office. He's using it as a ceiling fan''

Friday, May 26, 2006

Chutzpah doesn't come anywhere near it

Chutzpah doesn’t come anywhere near it. Having done more than any other British Prime Minister in the last fifty years to undermine the authority of the U.N., Tony Blair now has the audacity to lecture the organisation on its need to ‘adapt to meet the challenges of today’s world’.,,1783490,00.html

Let no one be fooled what the consequences of Blair’s proposed reforms would be. An enlarged security council of 25 countries, in which majority voting would take place, sounds fine in principle, but by removing the Russian and Chinese veto- it would increase US and British’s chances of getting future military aggression sanctioned by the UN. Blair also believes that the position of Secretary-General of the UN should be enhanced, with the position awarded to ‘a high powered international figure chosen from a global pool’.

Here’s a bet: the ‘global pool’ Blair has in mind won’t include the likes of Hugo Chavez or any other opponents of Western global hegemony. Blair also talks of a UN in which ‘we should not be afraid to stand up for democratisation’. But his refusal to describe Venezuela, a country where the leftist rule of President Chavez has eight times been endorsed by the people of the country as a democracy- tells us all we need to know about Tony Blair’s definition of the ‘d’ word. The Prime Minister believes in ‘Henry Ford’ democracy- that people can vote in any colour government they like so long as it opens its economy to Western multinationals and follows a pro-American foreign policy.

In one aspect though Blair is right. The UN must adapt to ‘meet the challenges of today’s world’. The biggest of these challenges is how to deal with two powerful states who think the rules of international law no longer apply to them. To deal with the US and Britain, the UN needs to adopt a new get tough policy- and make it clear that future illegal invasions of sovereign states will not be tolerated. Over to you, Kofi.

Belarus shows the way- in football too!

It's not just in its foreign and economic policies that Belarus comes out top over England..........

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Quite a Turnaround in the Baltic!

Here's the Texarkan Gazette's view of the Montengero referendum. Read it and then have a good laugh when you get to the last paragraph. It's almost as hilarious as a Professor of European Studies at Oxford University writing that Slobodan Milosevic was leader of Yugoslavia in 1991!,,1766910,00.html

In Our View: Lessons Learned
Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Democracy survives, thrives in wake of bloody Balkan war
The lessons of democracy and respect for our fellow humans and their right to choose their destinies sometimes come from the most surprising places.
Tuesday morning such a welcome lesson wafted our way from a place most of us would be hard pressed to locate on a globe or world map.
Serbia’s President Boris Tadic announced his country’s recognition of a vote for independence by tiny Montenegro.
“I supported the preservation of a joint state, but as a democratic president of a democratic republic, I recognize the expression of the free will of the Montenegrin citizens,” Tadic said.
Montenegro, a tiny Baltic nation of just over 600,000 souls, most of whom share a common language and Christian Orthodox religion with their Serbian neighbors, voted narrowly Sunday to separate from the larger Serbian republic.
The vote is a setback for Serbia, which has long aimed to be the major force in the Balkans. Those dreams, called “Greater Serbia,” began after the fall and breaking apart of the former Yugoslavia and led to a bloody and brutal war in the 1990s that claimed more than 200,000 lives.
Some principals in that war, including some current elected officials, are still awaiting trial, charged with war crimes.
Voter turnout in Montenegro was about 83 percent and congratulations poured in from around the world after the vote.
The European Union and NATO both have recognized the independence referendum and congratulated Montenegro for conducting free and fair elections, though it will be some time before Europe’s newest independent country can be considered for membership in either organization.
Tadic also said he wished for close cooperation between Serbia and Montenegro.
Showing such respect for the rights and wishes of the Montenegrin people is certainly the right step to ensure such cooperation.
It’s quite a turnaround in the Baltic.
Democracy, peace and respect have bloomed where there was bitter war just a few years ago.
Maybe there is hope for the rest of the world, after all.

Why is Tariq Aziz still being held captive?

Question to any 'humanitarian' interventionists who might be reading this.
Why, if Tariq Aziz, former Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq is not on trial and not being charged with anything- is he still being held in captivity by US forces? Is there a new offence of 'being a member of a government which doesn't do what the NWO tells it to do?',,1782079,00.html

UPDATE: Judging by Aziz's appearance in court today and the concerns about his deteriorating health from his family - it seems they're opting for the 'Slobo' option -i.e. we've got no evidence, so let's provoke a premature death. Here's The Jurist.
Friday, January 13, 2006
Lawyer says former Iraq deputy PM Aziz seriously ill Krystal MacIntyre at 11:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz [BBC profile] is ailing and may have only weeks to live, lawyer Badia Aref said Thursday, claiming his client is suffering from high blood pressure, cannot walk properly, and is being given 13 pills a day for heart problems, diabetes and other illnesses. Aziz was once the spokesman for the Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] government abroad in the 1980s and early 1990s and was jailed after the 2003 invasion of Iraq; HE IS STILL HELD IN SECLUSION EVEN THOUGH NO FORMAL CHARGES HAVE BEEN BROUGHT AGAINST HIM. A spokesman for the US military, which has physical custody over detained former senior members of Saddam's regime, said there had been no significant deterioration in Aziz's health, and that he was suffering from "existing ailments" at the time he was taken into custody.

Long Live Yugoslavia!

No matter what The Empire and its emissaries do, Yugoslavia will never die so long as it lives on in people's hearts.
Here are the statements of the League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia and the New Communist Party of Yugoslavia on recent events in Montenegro.
As the latter says 'the idea of unity will live for ever and will outlive the secessionists and traitors of every colour'.

League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia SKOJ statement:

“We do not accept the imperialist break-up of Serbia and Montenegro. Western imperialism, led by the USA, in the referendum of 21 May 2006 in Montenegro unfortunately realized its destructive goal of creating the project begun in 1990 of totally smashing the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which was the equal-rights union of Yugoslav nations and ethnic minorities and the first socialist state in the history of Yugoslavia.

The first phase of the final blow of western imperialism on the remnants of Yugoslavia was carried out on 4 February 2003, when the bourgeois pro-imperialist counter-revolutionary regimes in Belgrade and Podgorica resolved to terminate the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and the second and final phase was executed this past Saturday in the “referendum” in Podgorica. Although the League of communist youth of Yugoslavia (SKOJ), as the youth movement of the new Communist Party ofYugoslavia (NKPJ), categorically stood against the dissolution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and against the creation of the union of con-federal creatures of Serbia and Montenegro under the control of the pro-imperialist regime in Belgrade and Podgorica. SKOJ supported the call of the Party to working people, anti-imperialists, patriotsand progressive citizens in Montenegro to make clear their opposition to the secession of Montenegro, primarily because something so retrograde was the primary goal of western imperialism under the leadership of the USA.

The goal of western imperialism is to realize political, economic, and militaryexpansion to the east, toward Russia, among other things, and to destroy the unity of Serbia and Montenegro was also demolish the mutual tolerance between the working class of Montenegro and the working class of Serbia. SKOJ unshakably stands on the positions of the International Communist Youth against change of borders in the Balkans that were established after the Second World War. The policy “the worse, the better” is the basic idea of western imperialism on the territory of former Yugoslavia. SKOJ expresses deep regret and bitterness at the destruction of the state of Serbia and Montenegro by the fraudulent “referendum” perpetrated under the umbrella of the European Union. Many unassailable facts show that the secession of Montenegro had been planned jointly by Djukanovic’s pro-imperialist bourgeois regime with the leadership of the EU and the USA. Numerous moves and measures of the pro-imperialist government in Podgorica on the eve and in the courseof the referendum were undertaken by arrangement with the western masters. The referendum question in large measure suggests an answer in favor oftermination of the common state. Besides that, the organizers of the “referendum” had to resort to gross fabrications together with the active participation of EU representatives Lajcik and Lipka. Also, on the eve of the “referendum” Djukanovic’s pro-imperialist separatistregime used the controlled pupprt-state media to intensify the separatist atmosphere and anti-Serb mood. Many examples were recorded of arrests of anti-secession activists and ofattempts to falsify lists of voters, as well as other irregularities. Montenegro’s citizens resident in Serbia were denied their right to vote on 21 May. Milo Djukanovic’s and Montenegro’s pro-imperialist campaign was also supported by some pro-imperialist bourgeois parties in Serbia, the most influential being the part of the regime in power in Belgrade.

SKOJ, with disgust, rejects the recognition by the Belgrade regime of the“referendum” results. This clearly shows, despite their pro-forma support of a unified state their pro-imperialist orientation. The people of Serbia and Montenegro are fore-ordained by destiny to live in aunified state and to share the good and the bad.The idea of living together in one state is eternal and will outlive thesecessionists and traitors of all stripes. The day will come when the working class of Montenegro and the working class of Serbia will unite andsay NO to their pro-imperialist rulers and extend the hand to their proletarian brothers and sisters from the territory of our socialistfatherland, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in the struggle for true freedom, equality and independence. This will come about only by driving out imperialism from our territory.

Long live the brotherhood and unity of Serbia and Montenegro!
Long live the brotherhood and unity of the peoples of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia!
The Balkans belong to the Balkan peoples!
23 May 2006
.Central Committee of the League of the Communist Youth of Yugoslavia
CK SKOJBelgrade

The New Communist Party of Yugoslavia Statement

The Montenegro's Independence "Vote" is a Foul Play. The New Communist Party of Yugoslavia was greatly saddened and terribly upset to learn of the strangulation of the Serbia and Montenegro state. In actual fact the Montenegro's independence "vote" doctored by theEuropean Union is a foul play. We will therefore readily fall in with the Common State Bloc and rejectthe "vote" straightaway.Numerous irrefutable facts prove that the secession of Montenegro hadbeen brokered by the Djukanovic's separatists, the leaders of theEuropean Union and the United States.Evidence of this is manifest first of all in the efforts and measurestaken by the government in Podgorica on the eve of and in the course ofthe "vote" with its western mentors helpfully standing by.Even the wording of the independence "vote" was leading in favor of dissolution of the Union.Whats more, to accomplish their aim, the organizers of the "vote" had to take resort to gross fabrications, with the active assistance of the EU representatives Lajcik and Lipka.For the people of Serbia and Montenegro the community of state is the destiny as is sharing good times and bad. The idea of unity will live forever and will outlive the secessionists and traitors of every color.

25 May 2006
On behalf of the NKPJ [signed] Branko Kitanovic

An event well worth supporting

If the British and American military refuse to fight in the NWO's illegal wars, the game will be up for the militaristic junta who have gained control of both major parties on either side of the Atlantic. That's why it's important to give all the support we can to brave people like Malcolm Kendall-Smith who have refused to take part in an illegal conflict. When you sign up to serve in HM Armed Forces you do not sign an oath pledging to take part in illegal invasions of sovereign states for the purpose of private corporations plundering the country's assets- you pledge to 'Defend the Realm'. It's time we remembered that.


Malcolm Kendall-Smith is the RAF officer now serving an eight month prison sentence for refusing to return to duty in Iraq because he believes the war is illegal. His case has clearly struck a deep chord with many people. Within days of the announcement of a Stop the War benefit to help Malcolm pay his £20,000 legal costs, we have beenflooded with requests for information on ticket availability. On Wednesday 28 June at 7.30pm, at St James Church in London'sPiccadilly, Tony Benn will be joined in A NIGHT OF CONSCIENCE by comedians Mark Thomas and Mark Steel, composer Michael Nyman, actress Janet Suzman, playwright Caryl Churchill, film director Ken Loach,singer Ed Harcourt and many others from film, stage, television and politics.Tickets are now on sale at £15 and can be bought in one of three ways:
ONLINE: TELEPHONE: 020 7278 6694
BY CHEQUE made payable to "Stop the War Coalition" and sent to 27, Britannia Street, London WC1X 9JPA NIGHT OF CONSCIENCE A benefit for Malcolm Kendall-Smith

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Rewriting of History

The current trend for rehabilitating Nazis and criminalising those who resisted them shows no sign of abating. Here's news of some shocking developments in Hungary.,,1736418,00.html

Importing Mogadishu to England

Here's my piece from today's First Post on the horrific murder of 15 year old Kiyan Prince.
It's all very well saying 'all asylum seekers welcome', but do we really need to be importing criminal gangs from countries where the carrying of knives and other weapons are commonplace?

Time to Renationalise the Railways

Here's an excellent piece from today's Guardian by Jenni Russell on Britain's chaotic, unreliable and over-priced privatised railway system and what the government needs to do. Worth sending a copy to Mr Gabor Kuncze, leader of the Hungarian SZDSZ party, who are calling for the sell-off of the excellent Hungarian State Railways (MAV)- and all other 'unnecessary' state owned assets.,,1780324,00.html

The BBC's Time Machine

Here's my piece from today's Guardian on the pleasures of trawling the BBC's online archive, which shows transmission dates for nearly 1m television and radio programmes. The website is still experiencing teething troubles and if you can't get on through the link below or then the best thing to do is to
type '' followed by the name of a BBC programme in your search engine and you can gain access that way. Then to find out what was shown on the BBC network on a particular day, just click on any of the transmission dates shown. Have fun!

The Guardian

Travel back through time with the Beeb

A time machine still awaits invention. But until that moment arrives, here is the next best thing. The BBC has recently made available online, at an "experimental programme catalogue database", showing transmission dates for more than 300,000 hours of radio programmes and 600,000 hours of television material dating back 75 years.
So if you have ever wanted to see a full list of the guests who appeared on The Russell Harty Show between 1980 and 1984, or find out what items appeared on BBC1's main evening news on April 13 1972, the BBC's new initiative is the answer to your prayers.
With so much material to choose from, it is easy to get overwhelmed. The mid-1970s are commonly considered a golden age for the Beeb. Do the listings back it up? I head back to 1976 to find out. There are some revealing differences in programming schedules between then and now. For instance, in 1976, Doctor Who was shown at 5.45pm on a Saturday, and not promoted as primetime, adult drama and winning Baftas. Panorama, the BBC's current affairs flagship, went out at 8.10pm on a Monday, and not at 10.15pm on a Sunday.
On January 6 1976, murder mystery series Ellery Queen was followed on BBC1 by the naval drama Warship at 8.10pm, the Nine O' Clock News and Play for Today; while on BBC2, Robert Robinson chatted to Maurice Sendak on The Book Programme, fake aristocrat Lord Melbury checked in at Fawlty Towers and the Eagles played on The Old Grey Whistle Test. Not bad at all for a Tuesday night.
The BBC's catalogue provides compelling evidence of the channel's dumbing down. On February 9 1976, Panorama broadcast an interview with German chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Can anyone imagine a head-to-head with Angela Merkel being screened at 8.10pm on a Monday today?
The other striking thing about the 1976 schedules is how, in the pre-globalisation age, British television was less parochial and more internationally focused. Children's programmes are a good example. Youngsters in 70s Britain could relive the drama of the 17th century Franco-Spanish war in The Flashing Blade, experience life on a Yugoslavian stud farm in White Horses, and enjoy award-winning animations from eastern Europe. Today, the BBC buys very little of its output from other countries - other than America and Australia. Trawling the BBC's catalogue, one is faced with an unpalatable truth: the age of globalisation, with its round-the-clock television and increased "choice", has not increased diversity of programming but instead led to a far more homogenised output.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Yugoslavia is still the solution

As the people of Montenegro vote on whether to sever their links with Serbia, here's my review of the book 'Yugoslavism: histories of a failed idea (1918-1992)', which appeared in the New Statesman in 2003.
Back in the 1830s, the notion of a single, unified South Slav state, as propounded by the Illyrianists, was a good idea. Nearly two hundred years later, it is still is. As Slobodan Jovanovic pointed out on the eve of the attack by the Axis powers in 1940, a Federal Yugoslavia is the best way the people of the Balkans can guarantee their independence and protect themselves from domination by foreign powers.

Review of 'Yugoslavism: histories of a failed idea' (1918-1992) edited by Dejan Djokic

On 4 February 2003, quietly and almost unnoticed, while the rest of the world's attention was focused on the charade of weapons inspections in Iraq, a country disappeared from the map of the world. The final dissolution of Yugoslavia and its metamorphosis into the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro passed virtually without comment in the British media, with almost no one picking up on its deep significance. Yet it was an event that ought to have been mourned by democrats, socialists and progressives the world over.

Yugoslavism: histories of a failed idea is a timely collection of 21 essays edited by Dejan Djokic that seeks to explore the history of the "Yugoslav" idea - or "Yugoslavism" - between the creation of the first state in 1918 and the demise of the second Yugoslav Federation in 1992. While the book contains a variety of viewpoints and perspectives, some consistent and recurring themes can be discerned. First and most important, there is the challenge to the idea - which persisted throughout the history of the country and became so fashionable in certain western circles in the 1990s - that Yugoslavia was, in some way, an "artificial" state. As Dennison Rusinow points out in the book's opening essay, the core of the Yugoslav idea, first formulated by the mainly Croat "Illyrianist" awakeners in the 1830s, was that the South Slavs, having the same ethnic origin and speaking variants of the same language, were actually or potentially a single nation and consequently endowed with a "natural right" to independence and unity in a state of their own. In short, the land of the South Slavs was a lot less artificial than the states that succeeded it in the 1990s, championed so enthusiastically by anti-Yugoslavs such as Margaret Thatcher.

By the time of Yugoslavia's creation, as the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918, two approaches to nation-building had emerged. "Integral Yugoslavism" favoured by King Alexander, and put into practice after he assumed dictatorial powers in 1929, sought to build "a single nation and a single sense of national belonging - a country where there would be no longer Serbs, Croats or Slovenes, but only Yugoslavs". A bullet from a Macedonian assassin hired by Croatian fascists ended both "integrationalism" and the life of King Alexan der in 1934. The second approach was "Yugoslavism", which, in Rusinow's words, "acknowledged and approved enduring separate nationhoods and sought federal and other devices for a multinational state of related peoples with shared interests and aspirations". It was this anti-centralist definition of Yugoslavism that was, by and large, to prevail over the next half-century of Yugoslavia's history. At the same time, attempts to build a common national consciousness continued. In his chapter on interwar Yugoslav culture, Andrew Wachtel describes how the writer Ivo Andric and the sculptor Ivan Mestrovic eschewed both supranational Yugoslavism and separatist nationalism in order to create a "synthetic" Yugoslav culture that could "join the existing tribal cultures into a new and dynamic culture suitable for the new state". By the 1960s, these and other attempts to build a common Yugoslav identity could be said to have succeeded. Intermarriages meant that more and more citizens were describing themselves on government census forms as "Yugoslavs". The leadership of Josip Broz Tito had given the country a high international profile. Yugoslav football and basketball teams achieved international success and were cheered on from Split to Sarajevo. Yet as Dejan Jovic points out in his excellent chapter on Yugoslav communism, at the very moment when the national question seemed to have been finally put to sleep by the public at large, the communist elite chose to reopen the issue. Jovic correctly regards the ideological victory of the anti-statist Edvard Kardelj and the abandonment of Tito's "brotherhood and unity" concept in the late 1960s as the start of the process of Yugoslavia's disintegration. Many still believe that Tito's death in 1980 marked the beginning of the end but, in reality, "deTitoisation" had already begun in 1974 when the Kardeljist constitution removed all but foreign affairs, security and defence from the domain of the federal government, and stipulated that the power of the federation derived from the republics (now described as "states") and not the other way round. From then on, any public expressions of Yugoslavism became tantamount to statism and as such almost an anti-socialist activity. By the time the staunchly pro-Yugoslav Slobodan Milosevic emerged on the scene in the late 1980s to demand the reversal of the Kardelj reforms, the damage had been done. The 1974 constitution ensured that Kucan, Tudjman and Izetbegovic were able, when the west whistled, to declare independence from the federation and plunge the whole region into a bloody civil war.

In the book's concluding chapter, a personal "Funeral Oration" for Yugoslavia, Aleksa Djilas contends that if the west could "fly back in time" to the early 1990s, they would have acted differently. I am not so sure. The destruction of a militarily strong, non-aligned nation and its replacement by a succession of weakened Nato and IMF protectorates suits the new rulers of the world perfectly. The truth, as Djilas himself acknowledges, was that so long as the Soviet Union existed, Yugoslavia had its uses as far as the west was concerned, but once the Berlin Wall came down, it was in the way. What is clear is that it is the people of ex-Yugoslavia, many of whom never wished for the break-up of their country, who have been the big losers. As economic problems mount up, the novelty of statehood seems less appealing in Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro are under a state of emergency. Kosovo is Europe's first mafia-run state, while the poor Bosnians have the ultimate humiliation of being governed by Lord (Paddy) Ashdown.

Back in the 1830s, the notion of a single, unified South Slav state, as propounded by the Illyrianists, was a good idea. Nearly 200 years later, it still is. Yugoslavia, in the words of Djilas, "remains the most sensible and practical, the most anti-destructive answer to the South Slav national question". It is, as Slobodan Jovanovic pointed out on the eve of the attack by the axis powers in 1940, the best way the people of the Balkans can guarantee their independence and protect themselves from domination by foreign powers.

N.Clark/New Statesman 2003

A Class Apart

While Gordon Brown tells the rest of us that the nation cannot afford increases in the state pension, it's good to see that our wonderful legislators have plenty to look forward to in their retirement........

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Dave and the 'Neo'-Conservative Party

Last October in The Guardian I warned readers not to be fooled by the spin that David Cameron represented a new, 'moderate' face of conservatism.,,1598988,00.html
Behind Cameron's candidature were some of the Party's most hard-line neo-cons, such as George Osborne, Michael Gove and Ez Vaizey. All three are signatories to the principles of the Henry Jackson Society; all three were strong supporters of the illegal invasion of Iraq. Since becoming leader, Cameron has increased the neo-conservative influence within the party by appointing the arch-hawks William Hague and Liam Fox to head the Conservatives foreign policy team. The party's policy on Iran, Belarus and Venezuela is now even more hardline than Labour's and should serve as a warning to anyone who believes that a Conservative victory will end Britain's present catastrophic foreign policy orientation.
Here's Matthew Parris' excellent piece from today's Times on why there is nothing 'moderate' whatsoever about Dave.,,6-2188732,00.html
ps: The prospect of a future Conservative government with an even more hawkish foreign policy stance than New Labour, does make some people happy........

Friday, May 19, 2006

Eurovision: A Five Point Plan

Forget reform of the C.A.P. and whether or not the European Parliament should move from Strasbourg- there are more important things in Europe to worry about. Here's my five point plan in today's Guardian on how to save the Eurovision Song contest and restore it to its former glory.,,1778513,00.html

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A True Modern Hero

The New Statesman today unveiled its list of 50 Modern Heroes. I have only met one person on their list, the inventor Tim Berners-Lee. Here is a nomination for Professor Berners-Lee from New Statesman reader M. Jablowska, followed by my interview with the man who invented the World Wide Web from the Fleet Street Letter. Berners-Lee showed up at Number 28 on the NS list. He should have come a whole lot higher.

"The inventor of the worldwide web has opened up the paths to information throughout the world while eschewing personal gain, as no patent was created and no royalties were asked for. The influence of the web is truly international and can only help create a more equitable world through the dissemination of information. I applaud Berners-Lee's selfless magnanimity and modesty as much as his life-changing invention". M Jablkowska, London W9


It’s not everyday that one gets the opportunity to meet one of ‘The 100 Most Influential Minds of the Twentieth Century’, particularly when the vast majority are already long dead. Alongside names such as Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud in Time Magazine’s famous list is Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British inventor of the World Wide Web, arguably the most important technological development of the late 20th Century. It is impossible to underestimate the way in which Berners-Lee’s invention has- in only a decade- transformed the way we live and do business. A estimated $100bn of global business is now done on line- a figure that’s rising every day. Cyber-space companies like ‘Amazon’, ‘Google’ ‘Yahoo’ and ‘ebay’ have become household names. The web has revolutionised the way we book our holidays, buy consumer durables, read newspapers and keep in touch with our friends.

And all these changes down to a self-effacing professor from south London who drives a battered old Volkswagen. The phrase ‘modest inventor’ figures prominently in everything hitherto written about Berners-Lee. But on meeting the Director of the WWW Consortium one is soon convinced that this is not merely lazy journalistic stereotyping. For my first question to Professor Berners Lee, I decided to play devil’s advocate. The idea that the web is a tool for bringing people closer together- whether as buyers, sellers, friends or chat-room partners- is accepted orthodoxy. I ask Berners-Lee if the opposite may be the case and that by encouraging us to spend more time in front of our pcs instead of interacting with our fellow humans in the flesh, his invention might actually have accelerated the fragmentation of our society. ‘I agree with that criticism to a point. The Web is to help you with real things and should be smoothly integrated into your life. I do not like the idea of people going down into the cellar to surf- that’s why I want every home to be connected permanently, with the pc in an open place, like the kitchen. Internet cafes have the same problem with isolation as the cellar’.

Regarding the role of the Web in enhancing democracy, Berners-Lee’s position is described, in his own words, as ‘optimistic with caveats’. Many have argued that the advent of electronic voting means that we should swiftly move to a more direct form of democracy, but not Berners-Lee. He quotes the hypothetical example of how an email by a key environmentalist group calling for the boycotting of a certain nation’s products, could, within a short time bring that economy to its knees. ‘Within twenty minutes the entire crazed population of the U.K. could impose devastating sanctions on a South American country. Suppose they were wrong’.

Improving the accountability of our elected representatives and raising the quality of debate are more important priorities. ‘I think there is a danger that in democracies we presume all participation is good participation. That we neglect the quality of the argument. I would love to see well-reasoned, accountable arguments on line. In the academic process, if you publish a paper, you are held accountable for it and you suffer if you say things that aren’t true. Why can‘t this happen in regard to political argument?’
There will be politicians all over the world trembling at this prospect, not least a certain inhabitant of 10 Downing Street.

The only time Berners-Lee becomes remotely prickly is when he is quizzed over the role his invention may have played in the planning and organisation of terrorist attacks such as 9/11. He challenges the assertion that the FBI believe the bombings to have been planned on the Web and points to the ‘low-tech’ nature of the operation: ‘smuggling swords on aeroplanes, hijacking them and flying them into buildings could have been done any time in the last 100 years’ he says. Berners-Lee opposes any attempts by governments to use the issue of ‘national security‘ to restrict internet use. ‘The most important thing about the Web is its universality. It should be like paper. A form of paper which doesn’t allow you to write sentences which are malformed, or not in English, or of right-wing or left-wing bias, would be a very poor form of paper on which to base civilisation. My primary goal is to keep the Web universal’.

In the longer-term Berners-Lee profoundly hopes the World Wide Web will promote ‘enough harmony to prevent war’. But he adds ‘whether there will always be people who, whatever the information they have will always rebel and want to do damage, I don’t know. That’s something for the psychologists’ But as exciting as recent developments have been, Berners-Lee believes the golden age of the Web is yet to come. His next ‘big idea’ is the semantic web-which among other applications, will enable consumers to compare prices automatically. If we think the web has had a massive impact on business up to now, it’s nothing to what lies ahead. ‘Web shopping as it is is only the tip of a huge larger change which will come when I can find things and compare prices automatically and when electronic financial instruments are commonplace’ predicts Berners-Lee. ‘The Web will achieve its true potential when it becomes an environment when data can be shared and processed by automated tools as well as by people. The most exciting thing about the semantic web is not what we can imagine doing with it, but what we can’t yet imagine it will do’.
N. Clark/Fleet Street Publications 2005

The Art of Losing Gracefully

One of the most refreshing things about last Saturday's F.A. Cup Final was the spirit in which the game was played. West Ham took their undeserved defeat on the chin and refused to blame referees, or anyone else for their fate, even though the free kick from which Liverpool scored their second goal was a dubious decision to say the least. Contrast The Hammer's admirable attitude with the snarling, bad sports of Arsenal. Thierry Henry was a total disgrace, blaming everyone but himself for Arsenal's defeat. His manager, Arsene Wenger wasn't much better. Nowhere in Henry's tirade against the match officials (which should have got him a fine from FIFA) was there any mention of the highly debatable decision to award Arsenal the free kick from which they scored their goal. Henry was also incensed that the referee gave him a yellow card- does he feel he has the right to commit fouls without punishment? He also questioned the referee's decision to send off his team's goalkeeper. In fact Arsenal were lucky that the referee did not award a goal to Barcelona AND send Lehmann off, which he would have been quite entitled to do. In all my years of following football I can't remember a team who have reacted to a defeat in such a disgraceful and unsporting way as Arsenal did last night.
If Thierry Henry really does decide to leave the Premier League, I for one will not be sad to see this petulant, ill-mannered, individual go.
And if there is any justice in this world, it will be a long time before Arsenal get anywhere near a Champions League final again.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hari Kari

Back in March, I emailed the youthful Independent columnist Johann Hari to ask him if he had any proof for unsubstantiated allegations he had made about the late Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic. Here's his reply:

"Yuck. I really have no interest in engaging with you on any level. You believe the state should kill its own citizens in peacetime using the death penalty, so please don't offer me any lectures on anything, ever. "

In other words Hari believes that anyone who supports the capital punishment of murderers, as I do, is completely beyond the pale. I was amused therefore to read Hari's eulogy to the philosopher John Stuart Mill, in The Independent a couple of weeks later. In a piece entitled ‘We need John Stuart Mill today more than ever', Hari made an impassioned plea for the ideas of the Victorian sage to be put into practice once more.

I wonder how much of John Stuart Mill Hari had actually read before penning his article. Here's the great man speaking in the House of Commons on the death penalty:

"When there has been brought home to any one, by conclusive evidence, the greatest crime known to the law; and when the attendant circumstances suggest no palliation of the guilt, no hope that the culprit may even yet not be unworthy to live among mankind, nothing to make it probable that the crime was an exception to his general character rather than a consequence of it, then I confess it appears to me that to deprive the criminal of the life of which he has proved himself to be unworthy--solemnly to blot him out from the fellowship of mankind and from the catalogue of the living--is the most appropriate as it is certainly the most impressive, mode in which society can attach to so great a crime the penal consequences which for the security of life it is indispensable to annex to it. I defend this penalty, when confined to atrocious cases, on the very ground on which it is commonly attacked--on that of humanity to the criminal; as beyond comparison the least cruel mode in which it is possible adequately to deter from the crime. "
From J.S.Mill’s speech to Parliament, 21st April 1868.

So come on Johann, do you still maintain that 'we need John Stuart Mill today more than ever'- or do you hold to your original position that those who do believe in capital punishment should not offer 'any lectures on anything, ever?' Which is it, old bean?

On the subject of Johann Hari's muddled-thought processes, here's a great piece from the World Socialist Website.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Press Awards get it right for once......

Sometimes, just sometimes, awards go to those who deserve them.,,1776153,00.html

Chavez has The Empire worried.

The most revealing thing about Hugo Chavez's visit to Britain has been the way The Empire has tried to discredit the popular Venezuelan leader through the placing of articles in the British media. I had a friendly wager with my wife that The Times would run at least two anti-Chavez diatribes- and lo and behold they did.
(If all racehorses were as easy to predict as Times comment editor Daniel Finkelstein- bookmakers would go out of business).
But the story which really took my interest was a full page article in the Daily Mail by a certain 'Jonathan Foreman'. Foreman is not a regular Daily Mail comment writer and there was nothing about his credentials for writing about Venezvuela at the foot of the piece. Intrigued, I set out to find out more about the man who assured readers that President Chavez 'helps drug barons', 'backs the Taliban' and 'jails his enemies'. Here are Foreman's website details- I'll leave it to you to make your own minds up on just how impartial a commentator he is.
The superb website medialens has more on the barrage of anti-Chavez propaganda we have been subject to over the last few days.
UPDATE: The pro-war writer Stephen Pollard has pointed out, in his usual jocular and good-humoured way, that Jonathan Foreman is a regular Daily Mail features writer. As Stephen writes regularly for the Mail himself, I will take his word for it. Even so, the question of Foreman's credentials to write authoritatively- and impartially- about Hugo Chavez remain.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Chavez deserves a warm welcome

Here's a superb piece from today's First Post by Simon Hooper on Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader currently visiting Britain. Chavez has been the victim of several nasty attacks by pro-Empire propaganda outlets (one allegedly 'progressive' blog springs particularly to mind) which say far more about the attackers than they do about Chavez.
And here's a brilliant piece by John Pilger, from Saturday's Guardian on why Chavez is such a threat to the most powerful people on this planet.,,1773908,00.html
ps there's a truly appalling comment piece on Chavez in today's Daily Mail by a writer called Jonathan Norman. The only thing he doesn't accuse Chavez of is global warming. Give it time.......

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Best Team Lost on Saturday

"The best team always wins, the rest is only gossip" said the great Jimmy Sirrell, but that wasn't the case in yesterday's FA Cup Final. Aganst all the odds, West Ham came within a whisker of pulling off one of the most stirring FA Cup victories of the modern era. But sadly, it was not to be. Once again, the FA Cup has gone to a member of 'the Big Four'- the super-rich clubs who have dominated English football in the age of turbo-capitalism. Those of us who yearn for their stranglehold to be broken will have to wait at least another year. Why couldn't Steve Gerrard have saved that shot until the World Cup!

Friday, May 12, 2006

James Connolly R.I.P.

Today, 12th May, is the 90th anniversary of the execution of James Connolly, the great Irish socialist. For those who are unaware of the part Connolly played in the fight for Irish independence and for a better, more humane world--here's some biographical detail.
“If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle., unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain. England will still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs”. -
James Connolly, from Socialism and Nationalism in Shan Van Vocht, January 1897

How sad Connolly would be to see the Ireland of today- a country which has sold its soul to modern, cut-throat capitalism and where both British and Irish capitalists exploit the people.

The Winners took it all

Here's my piece on European football's ever widening financial divide, from today's Guardian.,,1773301,00.html
The winners took it all
European football's TV money has caused a huge divide between wealthy nations and the rest
Neil Clark
Friday May 12, 2006
The Guardian
One of the hallmarks of the turbo-capitalist age is how the super-rich ruthlessly conspire to ensure their continued pre-eminence and to exclude others from enjoying their privileges. There is no finer example than football's Uefa Champions League, which holds its final in Paris next week.
A two-tier system operates in European football, and a massive division has opened up between the wealthy footballing nations and the rest.
The process started in 1992 with the formation of the Champions League. Prior to that, the old European Cup operated on a knockout system, giving teams from Europe's smaller leagues a fair chance of defeating their wealthier counterparts. But the introduction of the group-stage format, in which the "big" clubs were seeded to avoid each other, greatly favoured the elite.
In 1997 Uefa changed the rules again to allow more than one entrant from the biggest four leagues. The move was justified on the grounds that the leagues of England, Italy, Germany and Spain deserved extra representation by virtue of their clubs' superior record in European competitions. But the changes - and the 1995 Bosman ruling giving EU players the right to a free transfer - only widened the division between the haves and have-nots.
Prior to 1992 clubs from eastern Europe regularly competed in the latter stages of European competitions. Since the Champions League was formed, however, only one team from the east, Dynamo Kiev, has reached even the semi-finals, and none has made the final.
Western clubs from outside the four richest leagues have also slipped off the radar. Teams from Sweden contested European finals in 1979, 1982 and 1987, but none has had a sniff of glory since, while no Belgian side has appeared in a final since 1988. As within England's Premier League, TV money has played a big part in this divide. When the Portuguese champions Porto won the Champions League in 2004, they earned £13.6m, almost £6m less than Manchester United - who didn't make it beyond the last 16 - and more than £25m less than Liverpool did when they won the trophy 12 months later.
Yet the association of Europe's richest 18 clubs, known as the G14, is still not happy. In 2005 AC Milan and Manchester United complained when they were drawn to play each other in the last 16, and urged Uefa to continue the seeding system in the latter stages of the competition so that big clubs were kept apart.
Arsenal, who also exited early last year, called for changes too. "You can't afford to have big clubs who invest so much money going out in the last 16," said manager Arsène Wenger. "You will have a revolt if it continues like that." That revolt is taking shape. Earlier this year the G14 agreed a policy document outlining its intention to guarantee the dominance of its clubs. A permanent league, in which its members would be guaranteed entry regardless of domestic standings, is clearly its aim.
But instead of pandering to the G14's demands, Uefa needs to restore the competition to its earlier format. It would be wrong, on grounds of merit, for the most successful countries to have the same representation as, say, Latvia and Macedonia; but a maximum of two entrants each, together with a more equitable distribution of television revenue, would strike a fair balance.
A reformed Champions League would mean teams from outside the richest leagues would have more chance to make progress and find it easier to hold on to their best players. The widening financial gap between the top clubs and the rest would be reduced, and smaller clubs would once again have a sporting chance of challenging for honours.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Profits Come First

Here's my piece, from yesterday's Morning Star, on the sad impact the introduction of cut-throat capitalism has had on Hungarian society.

Neil Clark

What would you call a political party who, in office had sold off more than 160 publicly owned enterprises, imposed VAT on medical prescriptions, abolished a tax on stock market profits and had sent troops to Iraq in support of the illegal US/UK invasion? A party whose leader was one of the richest men in the country and who had made his fortune from buying privatised state assets on the cheap in the early 1990s.
Whichever word you use, it is unlikely that the word ‘socialist’ would be among them.
Yet the official name of the party which carried out such policies is the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), which together with its ‘Free Democrat’ (SZDSZ) party allies has just been returned to power.
The Hungarian Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, whose personal fortune currently stands at $17m has been labelled ‘the Hungarian Tony Blair’. There are certainly many similarities between the two. Both have shifted their respective parties sharply to the neo-liberal right, and for doing so have earned the plaudits of ‘business leaders’, western financial institutions and US government officials. ‘He’s my kind of socialist’ was the verdict of one Bank of America debt trader on Gyurcsany; ‘the immediate future seems to be in safe hands’ was the view of the US Ambassador to Hungary, George Herbert Walker III- who also happens to be George W Bush’s cousin.
Less important to the emissaries of global capital is the effect neo-liberal solutions are having on the lives of the Hungarian people. Twenty years ago, Hungary enjoyed not only one of the highest standards of living in the socialist bloc, but also benefited from the priority given by the government to education, the social services, the arts and transport. Heating, electricity and essential foodstuffs were all subsidised, while the Hungarian government operated the most comprehensive- and generous- maternity and paternity leave programmes in the world.
‘Under the strong Communist Party leader Janos Kadar, Hungary has developed a uniquely progressive brand of socialism, whose vitality is immediately apparent to the visitor’ - the words not of an official Communist Party publication, but the 1987 edition of the American travel guide ‘Let‘s Go Europe’. Seventeen years on from the ‘regime change’ of 1989, most of the achievements of the socialist era have been dismantled.
Hungarian society, previously so cohesive, is fragmenting under the effects of the harsh monetarist policies adopted at the behest of global capital. Crime and anti-social behaviour is on the rise, while inequalities in wealth have dramatically increased. The public health service is being run down prior to privatisation, while the state-run sanatoriums, whose services were available free of charge to all citizens before, have been turned into rest rooms for the wealthy.
Living in Hungary from 1994-99, I saw at first hand the impact the economic ‘reform’ process, so beloved by the EU, the IMF and Western financial ‘experts’, has on a country and its people. Antoine De Saint Exupery, author of The Little Prince, wrote that it is only with the heart that one can see clearly- ‘what is essential is invisible to the eye’. And so it is when a society changes from a collective, socialist ethos- in which solidarity and co-operation are encouraged to a competitive, capitalistic one. Let me give you a personal illustration. In 1995, I was in a bank in Budapest waiting to withdraw money to buy a flight ticket back to England for Easter. Unfortunately I was unable to withdraw any money as I had bought the wrong card- and as my flight needed to be paid for that afternoon, I was at my wit’s end. Behind me in the queue was a middle-aged lady. On hearing of my predicament she offered to lend me the amount (over £130). She wrote down her address and said I could pay the money back when I returned to Hungary after the holiday. I was taken aback by the trust the lady had placed in a total stranger.
We can measure the impact of the changes from socialism to capitalism in many ways. But the kindness of the lady, brought up in a society where solidarity and helping others mattered more than personal gain, brought the difference home to me more than any GDP statistics or real income figures.
Would such an incident occur in Hungary today? Sadly, I very much doubt it.
Modern global capitalism does not encourage kindness, co-operation and trust- but selfishness, competition and deceit. Where altruism does exist today, it is not because of the economic system, but in spite of it. Powerful corporate interests- concerned only with profit maximisation encourage us to put number one first, and to hell with the other man/woman. And having constructed such a cut-throat and inhuman economic order, we then pay ‘experts’ to advise us on why we are so unhappy!
It is sad that instead of progressive, solidarity-building socialism, the Hungarian Socialist Party and their coalition partners will only be imposing on the Hungarian people more of the same failed neo-liberal policies. That they were re-elected says more about capitalistic control of the media and the divided opposition- than it does about any real public enthusiasm for the MSZP’s programme.
Over twenty years ago Mrs Thatcher came to Budapest to lecture the crowds about the benefits of a ‘market economy’. Back then, there was such a thing as a society in Hungary. Very soon, thanks to so-called ‘Socialists’ following the Iron Lady’s prescription, there won’t be.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tony Blair's Poll Tax

Here's my piece on the demise of Tony Blair from today's Australian.,20867,19080295-7583,00.html

Iraq has proved to be Labour PM's poll tax, explains Neil Clark
May 10, 2006

HE'S won three election victories in a row and is the longest-serving Labour prime minister in history. He has presided over the longest period of sustained economic growth in Britain since records began and is widely admired in the US and Australia. Why then is Tony Blair fighting for his political life?
Most commentators agree that Blair's resignation is now months rather than years away. It may even come sooner than that. The political situation in Britain today reminds one of the autumn of 1990, the dying days of the Thatcher era.
Blair's fall from grace certainly has uncanny similarities with the Iron Lady's demise. Margaret Thatcher, like Blair, was a leader who thought she was infallible. Comfortable election victories in 1979, 1983 and 1987 led her to believe that she could simply go "on and on and on" and would continue to be re-elected regardless of the unpopularity of her policies.
By the late 1980s Thatcher was politically living in a world of her own. Ignoring the advice of many of her senior advisers and ministers, she pressed ahead with the plan to introduce the poll tax, a hugely contentious measure that led to a year of violent anti-government protests.
Blair's poll tax has been Iraq. Believing the war would cause no more political damage to him than the earlier conflict with Yugoslavia, he enthusiastically supported the US plans for invasion, even though members of his cabinet and the parliamentary Labour Party - to say nothing of the majority of the British public - had grave misgivings.
The Prime Minister was convinced deposing Saddam Hussein would be relatively easy and that when a pro-Western government was installed in Baghdad, his approval ratings would rise to even higher levels. Blair was indeed praised to the rafters when the statue of the Iraqi dictator was toppled in Baghdad's Fardus Square in April 2003. But it's been downhill all the way for him since.
As all but the most hardline neo-conservatives will now concede, the Iraq intervention has been an unmitigated disaster. A secular dictator who posed no threat to the West has been deposed at enormous human and financial cost and his country transformed into a breeding ground for Islamic jihadists. For leading Britain into such a quagmire, it is only right that Blair be held fully accountable.
The Labour MPs who gave their leader the benefit of the doubt over Iraq in 2003 now feel less need to stand obediently in line. There was never much love lost between most of the party and its private-school, anti-socialist leader. But for as long as Blair was riding high in the polls and winning elections, most Labour MPs were happy to forget their principles and put up with a leader who counted Silvio Berlusconi, George W. Bush and John Howard as friends and who bragged to an audience of millionaire bankers at Goldman Sachs that they were paying less income tax than under Thatcher.
However, last week's local election results, in which Labour lost more than 350 council seats, showed that if the status quo is maintained Labour's parliamentary majority could be wiped out. The party is registering its lowest level of public support since the dark days of the early '80s and Labour backbenchers are becoming anxious.
The immediate response to the electoral setback has been a letter circulating among Labour MPs urging that Blair should declare, before the summer recess, a date for his departure. The new Home Secretary and staunch Blairite John Reid claims the signatories are members of the old Left who want to turn the clock back and stop the reform program. But among those willing to sign the letter are three former New Labour ministers, none of whom could be described as a committed leftist.
Blair's admirers in the right-wing press are also withdrawing their support. The Daily Telegraph, a staunch supporter of Blair's foreign policy, The Times, one of Blair's most consistent allies, and The Economist argue the game is up for Blair.
A Conservative Party mini-revival under the new, youthful leadership of David Cameron has undoubtedly added to the pressure on Blair. So, too, has a series of scandals that have badly tarnished his Government. But it is Blair's loss of credibility over Iraq that, above all else, will hasten his departure from Downing Street.
The fresh-faced politician for the new millennium now has a tired and haunted look. For nine years the leader of Britain's main left-of-centre grouping kept his party on board despite following a pro-big business, pro-war agenda that most Labour MPs would have attacked with vehemence had it been carried out by the Conservatives.
Now it seems one of the smoothest political magicians Britain has seen has run out of rabbits to pull out of the hat.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Classic victory for the underdog

Here's my piece from today's First Post on Sunday's remarkably uplifting 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

No Laughing Matter

Anyone who believes that the EU countries provide a model of free speech, democracy and artistic freedom that all the world should be aiming to copy- should read this.,,1770543,00.html

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Revolution at Newmarket

In all the years I've been following horse- racing, I don't think I've ever been so pleased as by the result of this year's 1000 Guineas. It's not just that Speciosa was my nap of the week and I advised readers of the RFO Flat Annual to back her ante-post at 50-1 - but what the result means for racing. Pam Sly, a farmer from the Fens, known mainly for her jumpers, has won an English Classic with a horse which cost just 30,000 guineas- a paltry sum for a top Flat performer. She and her co-owners turned down an offer of $1.1 m for Speciosa last winter, deciding instead to 'live the dream'. It was, as Sly said after the race, a victory for 'the little people' against the big multi-millionaire batallions of Godolphin and Ballydoyle. Sly has shown that smaller owners can not only compete with- but defeat the super-rich. It's a tremendously inspiring tale for an age in which money power far too often gets its way.
p.s. And what a typically sporting reaction from the trainer of the runner-up Sir Mark Prescott, one of my all time sporting heroes and a man who would make a far better Deputy Prime Minister than his political namesake! Here's my Observer article on the great man. (By the way, he's not 'a Tory landowner'- that was a caption put in by the paper!)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Glaring Omission

Stephen Pollard has a 2,000 word article on Tony Blair in the Daily Mail today entitled 'Morally bankrupt, impotent, he is now doomed'.
Yet not once in his piece does Pollard mention the word 'Iraq'- and the lies the Prime Minister told to gain public- and parliamentary support for the illegal invasion.
How is it possible for anyone penning a piece on the Prime Minister's failings to forget to mention this obvious example of his moral bankruptcy? Could it have something to do with the fact that the author of the piece shared the Prime Minister's enthusiasm for a military intervention?

Friday, May 05, 2006

One demo- two versions.......

Despite the emphatic election result in Belarus last month, the emissaries of the NWO still won't give up the propaganda campaign against the democratically re-elected President Lukashenko. But they really ought to co-ordinate their stories a bit better don't you think?

On 19 April 2006 Gary Streeter MP (Cons) speaking before the members of Parliament said:

"On 20 March, I took part in my first ever street demonstration, outside the embassy of Belarus in Kensington. Standing there with people from Belarus,singing "Zhive Belarus", which means "long live Belarus", and waving their former white and red national flag was a very moving moment". Later he mentioned that there were "30 people in suits" present.

On 25 April 2006, another MP, William Hague, speaking at Conservative Human Rights Commission said that "about 30 Conservatives took part in a demonstration outside the Belarusian embassy in protest against the highly flawed conduct of the recent elections there".

Interesting, that in the first case it was more suitable to speak about 'people from Belarus', in the second - to transform them into British Conservatives.

The Dream Team : The Cabinet we ought to have

Tony Blair is reshuffling his cabinet. Here are my suggestions for a dream team ' left-right' anti-war coalition.
Who'd be in your team?

Joint Prime Ministers: Tariq Ali and Sir Peregrine Worsthorne
Foreign Secretary: John Pilger
Minister of State, Foreign Office: Dr John Laughland
Defence: Kate Hudson
Armed Forces: Corelli Barnett
Trade and Industry: Ian Johnson
Chancellor of the Exchequer: Sir Peter Tapsell MP
Home Secretary: Peter Hitchens
Education: Mark Almond (the writer, not the pop singer, though both would I'm sure do a better job than whoever Blair appoints...)
Leader of the Commons: Felicity Arbuthnot
Leader of the Lords: Lord (Ian) Gilmour
Cabinet Office: Peter Wilby
Health: Ken Clarke MP
NHS: Alice Mahon
Minister for Europe: Alan Simpson MP
Transport: Andrew Murray
Lord Chancellor: Douglas Hogg MP
Energy: Arthur Scargill
Science and Technology: Tam Dalyell
Agriculture: Michael Meacher MP
Environment: Peter Bottomley MP
Arts: Harold Pinter
Culture & Media: Seumas Milne
International Development: Tony Benn
Ministers without Portfolio: Matthew Parris; Bruce Kent
Sport: Geoffrey Wheatcroft

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Garton-Ash Rewrite of History

Here's Timothy in his Guardian column today:

"One of the most supremely ludicrous moments in recent European history came in 1991, when Jacques Poos hurried to inform the Slovenes, then trying to break away from Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslavia, that small countries had no future in Europe".

And another 'supremely ludicrous' moment, is when a regular columnist in one of Britain's leading newspapers can't even get his facts right. Slobodan Milosevic was not the leader of Yugoslavia 1991- Ante Markovic was. But then again, when Slobo is concerned, why let little things like facts get in the way?

UPDATE: The Guardian today (6th May) published this correction:,,1768986,00.html

Happy Birthday Pete Seeger!

Today is the birthday of the authentic voice of the 'old' American left, the singer and songwriter Pete Seeger.
Seeger's socialism, like mine, is a socially conservative one, stressing the importance of family, community and solidarity- and not personal liberation or 'me-first' libertinism. Seeger once famously said that he was more conservative than the Republican politician Barry Goldwater. Goldwater just wanted to turn the clock back to when there was no income tax; Seeger meanwhile wanted to turn the clock back to "when people lived in villages and took care of another". It's high time the Left ended what the American writer Eugene Genovese has referred to as its 'irrational embrace' of a liberal programme of personal liberation and to stress, as Seeger has consistently done, its positive conservatism.

What They Teach You At HBS

Here's a rather chilling piece by Philip Delves Broughton on the dog-eat-dog world of Harvard Business School.
Education should not be like this. I was fortunate to spend a year in the 1990s teaching at Aiglon College, an international school in the Swiss Alps. Although the majority of children there were from very wealthy families, the school, a member of The Round Square Conference, espoused a collectivist, (some would say socialistic) ethos, encouraging co-operation and not competition between the students.
Most weekends, students had to go on expeditions in the mountains, where they learned how to co-operate and get on well with their fellow classmates. It was an education in the broadest sense of the word and although Aiglon may not have come at the top of exam results tables (that was never the school's aim) it certainly came out top at producing well-rounded, decent members of society.

Big Brother Britain

Here's an excellent piece from Peter Hitchens in the new edition of The American Conservative on the way New Labour is attacking centuries old civil liberties. When callers to a radio phone-in programme are visited by the police for expressing unfashionable views - you know that things are really deteriorating fast.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

John de Courcy Ireland: A Life Well-Lived

It is very sad to read of the death of John de Courcy Ireland, a tireless campaigner for peace, human rights and socialism.
He was a great friend of Yugoslavia and a strong opponent of the illegal aggression against both Yugoslavia and Iraq. Here is the Daily Telegraph obituary of a remarkable man and tributes from the Irish Socialist Workers Party and The Taoiseach.

Iraq and Afghanistan in the Top 10 (of Failed States)

Want your country to get into the Top Ten of Failed States? Just call for the neo-cons!

Why Galbraith was great

Here's a superb piece from Tom Stevenson of The Sunday Telegraph. It's the perfect riposte to the neo-liberal attacks on the great man we have witnessed in the media these last few days.

A Grand Coalition

The formation of a trans-atlantic left-right anti-war coalition is an urgent priority. Here's my piece from the new edition of The American Conservative

Grand Coalition
The Left and Right can- and should- join together against military adventurism
By Neil Clark

"What is lacking today is a permanent, populist, broad-based political force to challenge the worldview of the serial globalizers and the advocates of endless war. The Peace Party can be that force. The global crisis we face today makes the old Left-Right arguments over public ownership and tax rates irrelevant. Let's have those debates later, but first let's get rid of those who threaten us with Armageddon."

In March 2003, on the eve of the war against Iraq, I wrote in these pages of the urgent need for a permanent left/ right alliance to challenge the dominance of the warmongers who have seized control of the government and opposition parties on both sides of the Atlantic.

The response to my article, an Anglicised version of which later appeared in the British left-wing weekly The New Statesman, took me completely by surprise. I was inundated with emails and letters of support and questions as to how such an alliance could be bought about.

The idea for a new left-right ‘Peace Party’ first came to me after attending the big anti-war demonstration in London in September 2002- and then reading an article by Stuart Reid in the Guardian, six weeks later. Reid, deputy editor of the London Spectator, occasional contributor to Chronicles and The American Conservative and self-confessed hard-core paleo, wrote of ‘feeling a little unloved’ after attending the largest anti-war demonstration in Britain’s history. ‘The organisers boasted that the event had attracted men and women from all walks of life’ he wrote ‘teachers, social workers, trade unionists, students and members of the Muslim community. There was no suggestion that among the 400,000 or so who turned up there were also soldiers, lawyers, civil servants, gentlemen farmers, quantity surveyors, bookie's runners, sub postmistresses, self-employed plumbers, or - heaven forbid - Telegraph Group journalists. As far as the organisers were concerned, this was a respectable leftwing gig’. Having marched alongside Stuart Reid and other anti-war conservatives that day, I knew exactly what he meant. It really did seem as if the march’s left-wing organisers had been taken by surprise at just how widespread opposition to the war in Iraq was.

Attending the march- and the later one in February 2003, convinced me that we were witnessing the first, unofficial steps towards a new political realignment: the emergence of a cross-party, radical new peace movement- which consisted not just of the ‘usual suspects’- but of true-blue conservatives and establishment figures too. But how could we make the alliance a reality?

After hours of discussions with like-minded friends from across the political spectrum, a ‘Regime Change UK Conference’ was organised for May 2003. The Conference’s aim was ‘to unite all those who challenge the world view of the advocates of endless war’ and to ‘discuss ways of achieving democratic, meaningful regime change in the UK’ . Over two hundred invitations were sent out, but getting prominent anti-war figures from both left and right either to sign up to our draft declaration did not prove easy. The Times columnist and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris wrote to say that although he was interested in our plan, he ‘just didn’t sign joint declarations’; Tariq Ali and Harold Pinter both failed to respond. Campaigning journalist John Pilger sent us his best wishes, but unfortunately could not attend as he was out of the country filming, while military historian Correlli Barnett also sent us a generous message of support.

In the end, less than fifty people attended the London conference, but it still proved a stimulating event. Among the speakers, veteran peace campaigner Dr James Thring talked of the illegal nature of the war in Iraq; William Spring, of ‘Christians against NATO Aggression’ on the way both Blair and Bush had misappropriated the Christian message, Adolfo Olaechea, a London-based human rights campaigner on the need to attract the support of the Britain’s traditional conservative establishment, while I spoke of the challenge of countering the disproportionate influence of the war lobby in the British and American media.

We went away from the conference in high spirits: at least a start had been made. Our spirits rose even higher when we saw that the idea for a new realignment seemed to be gaining support on both sides of the Atlantic. ‘Those who want to save the country, whatever party they are now trapped in, should begin, now, to consider the formation of a new movement that will give voice to the millions who look from one corner of the House of Commons to another, but can see hardly anyone who understands their fears or knows their needs’ declared Peter Hitchens, the authentic voice of British conservatism, in the Mail on Sunday, one month later.

Across the pond, websites like and Counterpunch were also starting to sing from the same hymn sheet. ‘A few principled leftists realize that they need to broaden the appeal of the movement to oppose the war and that the only reliable allies they can hope for come from the anti-interventionist Right’, argued anti-war‘s Justin Raimondo; “If the left can ever reach out to this [populist, antiwar] right,… we’ll have something.” was the view of Counterpunch’s Alexander Cockburn.

The move towards a historic left-right realignment, though gathering momentum in cyberspace was still not reflected in the official anti-war movement. In Britain, Stop the War had done an excellent job in getting the people on the streets in the two big pre-war demonstrations, but under the influence of groups such as the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party seemed reluctant to take the next logical step. The Respect Party, founded by renegade left-wing politician George Galloway in 2004 after his expulsion from the Labour Party, also failed to achieve a breakthrough. Instead of pitching his appeal as widely as possible, to transcend class, race and political affiliation, Galloway instead went for the Muslim inner city: a strategy that provided him with a seat in Parliament at the last General Election and a launch-pad for a lucrative media career, but that failed to make Messrs Perle, Frum, and Feith lose too much sleep. Last year though, there were encouraging signs that Stop the War, were beginning to grasp the need for a radical new departure. The group’s Chairman, Andrew Murray wrote to me to ask if I would be able to help find two or three conservative anti-war speakers for the anti-war rally planned for that September.

Only bad luck prevented us from pulling it off. Former Minister of Defence Lord (Ian) Gilmour injured his back at home and was unable to take part, Dr John Laughland, Trustee of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group and a regular contributor to this magazine was away on his honeymoon, while Peter Hitchens, although in principle in favour of a new realignment, had reservations about the pro-multicultural nature the event- and its attempt to link the anti-war struggle with the issue of Palestine.

Also in 2005, there was an exciting new development in Boston: the formation of the Anti-War League, with its mission ‘to mobilise opponents from every corner of the political spectrum against the plans of our Republicrat rulers for perpetual war’. The League, under its energetic organiser Doug Fuda, has plans to set up chapters across America and campaigns not just for the return of U.S. troops from Iraq, but for the dismantling of what it calls the ‘highly centralised war-making power of the federal government’. Of similar mind, San Fransisco’s Stephen Pender, writing in, argued that the Anti-Imperialist League, formed in opposition to the US aggression against The Philippines in 1898, could be the blueprint for a new cross-party anti-war movement. ‘One can begin to see the outlines of a movement in which ordinary persons of conscience from left, center, and right can coalesce around specific issues against the neocons." he wrote.

As we pass the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, it is time to bring all these new, positive approaches and ideas, under the umbrella of one, trans-Atlantic organisation. In time, the group can extend to other countries and become a truly international anti-war movement, but first and foremost the most pressing task is to reclaim our own democracies- in Britain and the US- as it is our governments, not those of Belgium, Bolivia or Thailand which pose the greatest threats to peace today. The Peace Party would not be a party in the traditional sense of the term, (it would not put candidates forward for public office) but a high-profile pressure group where all opponents of war would feel at home- regardless of their views on abortion, public ownership, fox-hunting or capital punishment. Affiliated groups or organisations would be able to keep their own identity and individual programmes, but would agree to co-operate on a mutually agreed set of common principles.

The principles would I suggest, be the following: the rejection of all forms of imperialism, whether they fly under a military, financial or human rights banner; opposition to the international rule of money power and global corporate governance; support for the rule of international law, national sovereignty and the principles of the U.N. Charter; opposition to the War Party’s attempts to curtail our age-old civil liberties under the pretext of ‘The War on Terror ’and last, but certainly not least- our rejection of war as a method of solving international disputes.

For anyone agreed with most of these points -whether a disciple of Ayn Rand or Karl Marx, Russell Kirk or Tony Benn, Jesus Christ or Mahatma Gandhi, the Dali Lama or Lew Rockwell- the Peace Party would be a home.

‘A Left-Right alliance of viscerally antiwar liberals and nationalist “America First” conservatives will naturally evolve over time as the horrible consequences of this war come home to roost: they will find themselves moving ineluctably toward one another, in program if not in spirit. The only problem is that, by that time, it will be too late’ wrote Justin Raimondo in 2003. With those who planned the disastrous invasion of Iraq, now clamouring for what would be an even more calamitous military confrontation with its more powerful neighbour, it’s still not too late for us to make a difference. For the sake of the vast majority of decent, peace-loving citizens in the US and Britain-and the millions of people throughout the world threatened by the aggressive actions of our governments- let’s finally make it happen.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Another New Labour fiasco

Timmy Worstall spotted it first, but fellow blogger Martin Kelly has got quite a scoop on another New Labour fiasco.

The Great Asylum Scandal

New Labour's chaotic asylum policy means that unscrupulous landlords like the 'respected businessman' Mohammed Faruq are able to rake in millions from the ordinary, law-abiding income tax and council-tax payer. It's a scandal I don't think The Independent - with its very jaundiced view of all things concerning asylum- will be covering and don't hold your breath for a Johann Hari oped on this topic either.
It's time the liberal-left woke up to the abuse of the routine abuse of the system and stopped attacking those who call for tighter controls of those who can claim asylum in Britain. Britain should always provide a refuge for those genuinely in fear of their lives- like the Jews fleeing Nazi Germany- but the sad fact is that the system has been widely abused by criminal elements and those who are not fleeing persecution at all.

ww t/ p

A respected Oxford businessman ran an asylum benefits scam which netted him and his family more than £500,000, a court heard yesterday. Mohammed Faruq, 56, of Whitson Place, East Oxford, was at the centre of the conspiracy in which he and 15 of his relatives were convicted of fraud and immigration offences. The case, which began with police raids in July 2004, ended yesterday when the final five defendants pleaded guilty at Oxford Crown Court. Eleven of the defendants were sentenced following two trials held in Reading last year, but the Oxford Mail could not report the case until the final five offenders pleaded guilty yesterday and a court order was lifted. Faruq, who owns 60 houses in Oxford and property in Pakistan and is believed to have assets worth between £24m and £25m, will also face compensation proceedings. Jane Bewsey, prosecuting, said: "Mohammed Faruq, a long time resident of Oxford, together with his family, orchestrated a criminal conspiracy designed to bring into this country a number of close members of the family from Pakistan - 11 adults and a large number of children. As a result of bringing in the extended family, the conspiracy stood to gain £611,000." She said all 11 adults claimed to be from Kashmir, apart from Rashida Begum, who pretended to be from Afghanistan. Miss Bewsey said: "In her interview at the asylum office in Croydon, it was established that she couldn't understand an Afghan interpreter, and another one had to be found, who could speak Punjabi." She said Faruq, under the guise of Mair Property Services, was housing his relatives and charging Oxfordshire County Council £365 per night per room of "emergency asylum" accomm- odation. In an earlier trial, Miss Pewsey had outlined how the defendants in the case were all related to Faruq, who moved to Oxford in the 1960s, by blood, marriage or both. Judge Bruce McIntyre said yesterday he would not be recommending the defendants be deported. He told them: "Mr Faruq has offered to repay £611,000, which had been the benefits obtained dishonestly in total as a result of your dishonesty and the dishonesty of others, and he will pay that as a result of confiscation proceedings pending. "He also offered to pay the costs of the trial. "There is no doubt he is more than able to meet those costs. "Secondly, I find it difficult to understand why any of you are still here - given that one adult member of each of your families was refused permission to stay here as long ago as 2002." Confiscation proceedings against Faruq are set to start on June 30.
THE CHARGES Mohammed Faruq, 56 - admitted conspiracy to help relatives gain asylum in the UK by deception and conspiracy to defraud councils and agencies of benefits - jailed for three years and four years, to run concurrently. Haleema Kamal, 27, Khurshid Faruq, 48, both of Whitson Place, and Abdul Quayyum, 46, of Ridgefield Road, were all convicted of conspiracy to help people gain asylum - jailed for 10 months and 15 months, to run concurrently. Sheila Faruq, 54, of Whitson Place, convicted of the same offences and given 10 month and 15 month jail sentences, to run concurrently. Aurang Zeb, 50, and Zafar Iqbal, 43, both of Ridgefield Road, and Chaudry Hussain, 52, of Leys Place, were all sentenced to six months and nine months for the same charges. Shakila Begum, 39, of Ridgefield Road, Jamila Begum, 43 and Shazia Kauser, 31, both of Leys Place, convicted of conspiracy to help relatives gain asylum in the UK by deception and given three month suspended sentences. Abdul Qadeer, 46, and Mohammed Urssud, 36, both of Ridgefield Road, admitted conspiracy to help relatives gain asylum in the UK by deception and conspiracy to defraud councils and agencies of benefits - both were jailed for six months and nine months concurrently. Nasreem Begum, 39, and Fuzzul Begum, 36, both of Ridgefield Road, admitted obtaining leave to remain in the UK by deception - given three month jail sentences, suspended for two years. Rashida Begum, 36, admitted obtaining leave to remain in the UK by deception, and obtaining more than £19,000 in benefits deception - jailed for six months and nine months to run concurrently.