Friday, December 24, 2010

A very Merry (White) Christmas

A very happy Christmas to everyone.

Well, it's finally happened. For the first time in exactly forty years, most of the UK has a proper white Christmas. I know for many readers in the USA, Canada and in northern and eastern Europe, a white Christmas is no big deal, but in Britain, (particularly in England), it really is something. We no longer have to dream of a white Christmas, like Bing Crosby, we've actually got one. Great stuff!

Coincidentally, back in 1970, the last time we had a proper white Christmas, we also had a new Conservative government in power, though one which was very different to today’s Con-Dem coalition. In fact you could say that its highly appropriate that given that we’ve got a government which wants to take us back to the darkest days of the 19th century, we’ve got a cold and snowy Dickensian Christmas to go with it. Ebenezer Scrooge lives on.... and he’s to be found at Number 11, Downing Street, living under the name of 'George Osborne'.

Meanwhile, the coalition’s latest extreme neoliberal measure- to sell off ALL of England’s publicly owned forests.

As usual, our Christmas sermon comes from the great Christian Socialist George Lansbury. I‘m sure that if George were alive today, he‘d be playing a prominent role in the protests against this truly appalling government.

Keep in mind the fact that the Son of Man, the Christ who lived and was executed by the government of His day, was a great leader, and leader of the common people. It was his great message of Love and Brotherhood which brought him to his death. He knew the poor of the earth were oppressed by the rich and wealthy, and in scathing terms denounced the money changers and all those who defiled the Temple and brought suffering to starving humanity.

George Lansbury, 1926.

UPDATE: You can hear me discussing the 'Winners and Losers' of 2010 on BBC Radio Five Live , here. (the discussion starts at 1hr 24 and a half minutes into the programme.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's time to scrap the January transfer window

This piece of mine appears in The First Post

Neil Clark: That’s just the first measure needed to make the Premier League permanently exciting.

Most pundits, as well as English football's longest-serving senior manager, are in agreement: this is the most exciting football season since the Premier League started. Instead of the usual dominance of the same two or three clubs, top-flight football has at times been gloriously unpredictable and fiercely competitive this year.

Reigning champions Chelsea have recorded only one win in their last seven matches. Arsenal have already lost at home three times. Manchester United have drawn almost half their games. "The general public like what they're seeing now, ourselves dropping points, Chelsea dropping points, Arsenal dropping points," says Sir Alex Ferguson. And he's right.

You can read the whole of the piece here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why we should nationalise our airports

This piece of mine appears on the Guardian's Comment is Free website.

Neil Clark: The failure of BAA to deal with recent snowfalls has exposed the price we pay for having our infrastructure in private ownership.

"The government's objective with this bill is to liberate airport management from political interference … to enable airport operators to respond to the needs of their customers, rather than to the shifting priorities of politicians and officials," declared the Earl of Caithness as he moved the Thatcher government's 1986 airports bill in the House of Lords, which was soon to become the 1986 Airports Act. The privatisation of the state-owned British Airports Authority (BAA), we were told, would ensure that "better services are provided for all airline passengers".

I wonder if the Earl of Caithness (or even Margaret Thatcher herself), would have the courage to pop down to Hounslow and tell that to the tens of thousands of holidaymakers stranded at the BAA-owned Heathrow airport for the past three days.

You can read the whole of the piece here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

David Cameron's Winter of Discontent

This piece of mine appears in today’s First Post.

Neil Clark: A prolonged Arctic winter could topple the Coalition

Britain crawls towards 2011 with petrol prices at a record high, unemployment rising and inflation catching hold. The trade unions, inspired by “the magnificent student movement”, are threatening nationwide strikes in response to the coalition’s "unprecedented assault" on the welfare state, according to the recently elected Unite leader, Len McCluskey, writing in today’s Guardian. While the Daily Mail counters that the Prime Minister is planning a showdown at Downing Street today with McCluskey and other union leaders .

2011 was always going to be a tough year for David Cameron and his coalition government. But Cameron’s biggest problem - and the one which could make or break his administration - is something no political commentator could possibly have predicted: the weather.

You can read the whole of the article here.
UPDATE: On the same theme, there's an excellent piece in today's First Post by Max Eilenberg.
Prime Minister David Cameron, normally to be found some distance behind the shit deflector that is Nick Clegg, is nowhere to be seen. London's Mayor Boris Johnson, never at a loss for a pointless phrase in Latin, has nothing to say.
Is this what the Tories meant by the Big Society? Did they intend the state to have no responsibility in crises like this? That people - families, the elderly, businessmen and women, tourists - should be stranded in Arctic conditions and left to fend for themselves?
You can read the whole of the article here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kosovo and the myth of liberal intervention

This article of mine appears in today's Guardian.

Neil Clark: Far from being Tony Blair's 'good' war, the assault on Yugoslavia was as wrong as the invasion of Iraq.

'The United States of America and the Kosovo Liberation Army stand for the same human values and principles ... Fighting for the KLA is fighting for human rights and American values." So declared the neocon US senator (and current foe of Wikileaks) Joseph Lieberman back in 1999 at the height of the US-led military intervention against Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslavia.

It would be interesting to hear what Senator Lieberman makes of the report of the Council of Europe– Europe's premier human rights watchdog – on his favourite band of freedom fighters. The report, which cites FBI and other intelligence sources, details horrific rights abuses it claims have been carried out by the KLA, the west's allies in the war against Yugoslavia 11 years ago.

The council claims that civilians – Serbian and non-KLA-supporting Kosovan Albanians detained by the KLA in the 1999 hostilities – were shot in northern Albania and their kidneys extracted and sold on the black market. It names Hashim Thaçi, the former leader of the KLA and Kosovo's prime minister, as the boss of a "mafia-like" group engaged in criminal activity – including heroin trading – since before the 1999 war.

The report is a damning indictment not only of the KLA but also of western policy.
And it also gives lie to the fiction that Nato's war with Yugoslavia was, in Tony Blair's words, "a battle between good and evil; between civilisation and barbarity; between democracy and dictatorship".

It was a fiction many on the liberal left bought into.

You can read the whole of the article here.
UPDATE: The piece also appears over at the Stop the War website, where they've got a great picture of those two wonderful 'humanitarians': Hashim Thaçi and his mate Tony Blair.
More on the Kosovo organs scandal in the Guardian here and here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tony Blair's latest business venture: advising Kuwait for £27m

The Mail reports:

Tony Blair’s company stands to earn £27million for advising the oil-rich Kuwaiti government, it was claimed last night.

The former prime minister’s consultancy firm has been ­advising the Gulf monarchy how to govern itself.

Such a payout would indicate that estimates of Mr Blair’s earnings since he left Downing Street – ­usually put in the £20million to £40million range – could be well below the mark.

Kuwait was the first client of Tony Blair Associates, the London-based firm set up by Mr Blair in 2009 to recommend ‘political and economic trends and governmental reform’.

The firm was contracted to produce ‘Kuwait Vision 2035’, a report into the kingdom’s political and economic future which was delivered earlier this year.

But since then Mr Blair and his consultants have been helping to implement the report’s findings, while training a team of ‘super mandarin, British-style’ civil servants to run the country.

A government source in Kuwait said ‘at the moment they have gone over the 12million dinar mark’ for ‘on-going consultancy work related to the report’.

‘Mr Blair got the work because of his high international profile and vast experience of government,’ the source said. ‘The fact that he helped defeat Saddam Hussein’s Iraq didn’t harm his bid either.’

I bet it didn’t.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

John Pilger on The War You Don't See- tonight on ITV

The Mirror reports:

John Pilger’s quietly sensational and savage documentary exposes how governments routinely manipulate the media to promote their wars….

At the very heart of Pilger’s film though is the fact that a massive number of civilian deaths go almost entirely unreported.

At least a million people have died as a result of the invasion of Iraq.

But you won’t find their names on any war memorials because. As Pilger puts it: “They are not part of our remembrance.”

John's brand new film ‘The War You Don’t See' is on ITV tonight (Tuesday 14th December) at 10.35pm. If you’re in the UK, with access to a tv, do try and tune in. And if you're going out, don't forget to set the video.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How English cricket came back

This piece of mine, on the remarkable comeback of English cricket, appears in the Spectator (Australia).
I'd like to dedicate it to a dear, much-loved, cricket-loving friend of mine who died last week.

Neil Clark
Eight years ago, in an article for the Australian, I attempted to account for what I and many others saw as the irreversible decline of English cricket. It was certainly a deeply depressing time to be an England cricket fan. At the time of the Fourth Test in Melbourne, England were 3-0 down in the Ashes series, and looked on course to become the first England team to lose a series 5-0 in Australia for 80 years (we ended up losing 4-1).

Since 2003, however something quite remarkable has happened. England have regained the Ashes twice (in 2005 and 2009), thrashed the Windies 3-0 in the Caribbean and beaten the same opponents twice in a home series without losing a test. Then, this year, there was England’s first-ever victory in an ICC limited overs competition, as they crushed Australia by seven wickets in the World Twenty20 final in Barbados.

Of course, there have been setbacks over the past decade — the 2007 World Cup and the 2006/7 5-0 Ashes whitewash — but the fact remains that English cricket, as we saw from the stunning comeback at the Gabba, is in the rudest health it’s been in for years.

So what on earth’s gone right?

Friday, December 10, 2010

How Nick Clegg betrayed England's students

Not only did Clegg and co sign written pledges that the party would "vote against any increase in fees in the next Parliament", they were also considerate enough to warn students that tuition fees could rise to as much as £7,000 under Labour or the Conservatives.
"Labour and the Conservatives have been trying to keep tuition fees out of this election campaign. It's because they don't want to come clean with you about what they're planning," Clegg claimed in late April.

On 9th December 2010, that very same Nick Clegg voted for a near-trebling of tuition fees.

Nick Clegg is not only the Ramsay McDonald of modern British politics- he’s taken over from Tony Blair as the Pinocchio of British politics too.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Empire Strikes Back: Julian Assange arrested and refused bail

Read all about it here.

And how bail has been refused here.

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates has hailed the arrest as 'good news'.

Well, he would, wouldn't he?

PS Bravo for Ken Loach, John Pilger and Jemima Khan for offering to put up the bail money.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Vichy Britain: The truth exposed by Wikileaks

This piece of mine appears in today's First Post.

Neil Clark: Even the Americans are turned off by our blind obedience to the ‘special relationship’.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen! A hundred years ago, Britain was the centre of a vast global empire, which controlled about a quarter of the world. Today, as the WikiLeaks disclosures reveal, the one-time rulers of the world have been reduced to the status of arch-crawlers to American imperial power.

Saturday's batch of leaked cables - published by the Guardian - reveal how leading Conservatives, when in opposition, promised to US diplomats that they would run a 'pro-American regime' and buy more US arms once they got into power.

The level of obsequiousness shown by the self-confessed 'children of Thatcher' to their imperial masters in Washington is quite extraordinary.

You can read the whole of the article here.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

John Pilger's Message to Britain's students

From the New Statesman:

Your action, and the action of your fellow students all over Britain, in standing up to a mendacious, undemocratic government is one of the most important and exciting developments in my recent lifetime. People often look back to the 1960s with nostalgia – but the point about the Sixties is that it took the establishment by surprise. And that's what you have done. Your admirable, clever, courageous actions have shocked and frightened a corrupt political class – coalition and Labour – because they know you have the support of the majority of the British people. It is you, the students on the streets – not the Camerons, Cleggs and Milibands – who are the authentic representatives of the people. Keep going. We need you. All power to you.

Here, you can hear an ABC Radio interview with John, asking fellow Australians to rally round compatriot Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks.
(hat-tip Media Lens).

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Vichy Britain: Conservative politicians pledge their allegiance to The Empire (and to buy US arms)

Today's Guardian reports:

Conservative party politicians lined up before the general election to promise that they would run a "pro-American regime" and buy more arms from the US if they came to power this year, the leaked American embassy cables show.

Liam Fox, now the defence secretary, promised to buy American military equipment, while the current foreign secretary, William Hague, offered the ambassador a "pro-American" government. Hague also said the entire Conservative leadership were, like him, "staunchly Atlanticist" and "children of Thatcher".

The frontbencher admitted that there was an opposed faction within Tory ranks. "Fox asserted that some within the Conservative party are less enthusiastic, asserting that 'we're supposed to be partners with, not supplicants to, the United States".

Despite British leaders' supportive stance, the dispatches also reveal – in what some will see as humiliating detail – how US diplomats in London are amused by what they call Britain's "paranoid" fears about the so-called special relationship.

No one should really be surprised at Hague and Fox’s positions or that Cameron’s Conservatives are the 'children of Thatcher’ (as I warned here, shortly after he’d been elected as party leader with neocon support, Dave’s no moderate).

But even so, the level of obsequiousness towards a foreign power is still truly amazing, don’t you think? No wonder the Americans are 'amused'.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Letter of the Week: Suzanne Stanley on Tobermory

A real gem in the DT letters page from Suzanne Stanley- a fellow Saki fan.

SIR – The personal insults revealed in the latest round of WikiLeaks remind me of Saki’s short story “Tobermory”, in which an observant cat of that name has been trained to talk.

Brought into a polite house party to demonstrate his talents, he reveals the rude remarks guests have made about one another. The ensuing panic leads to the hostess’s decision to have him destroyed. The following day, Tobermory’s corpse is brought in from the shrubbery, apparently the victim of “the big Tom from the Rectory”.

I imagine lots of people would love to call on the services of a big Tom now.

Suzanne Stanley, Swarland, Northumberland

If you’ve never read ‘Tobermory’ by Saki, then I highly recommend it. You’re in for a real treat.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

How the neocons are spinning Wikileaks

Two great pieces, one from Seumas Milne in today’s Guardian, and the other by Sasha Cockburn in today’s First Post ,on how the neocons are spinning the Wikileaks disclosures to further their own hawkish anti-Iranian agenda.

The serial warmongers are trying to persuade us that because the King of Saudi Arabia (above) and a few other Middle East despots don’t like Iran, then that somehow that proves that the Islamic Republic is a ‘threat’.

These are the very same people, let's not forget, who told us that the governments in eastern Europe under communism had no legitimacy - and their leader’s views were of no account- because they were ‘dictators’.

But it seems the views of the unelected leaders of Middle East countries which don’t like Iran are of account. And in fact, are incredibly important. Strange that.

And while neocons have been falling over themselves to publicise the disclosure that the King of Saudi Arabia has urged the US to attack Iran, they’ve been much less keen to draw attention to another wikileak disclosure on Iran, discussed by Gareth Porter here.

I wonder why that is?

UPDATE: Mehdi Hasan has more on the neocon spinning of wikileaks over at the NS.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Great news: Wikileaks is set to target the banks

This piece of mine appears in today's First Post.

Neil Clark: Capital runs the world, not politicians, so the next ‘megaleak’ could be a real eye-opener

So Prince Andrew is "cocky" and Silvio Berlusconi has "a penchant for partying hard". If you're disappointed by the less than earth-shattering content of WikiLeaks' diplomatic cables, don't worry. Something far more interesting is coming next.

In an interview with Forbes magazine earlier this month, WikiLeaks' editor-in-chief Julian Assange announced that his site was planning another "megaleak" for early 2011, which would be from the private sector and involve "a big US bank"……

A WikiLeaks' shift from focusing on government to the world of big business would be hugely welcome. For the trouble with this week's release of US diplomatic cables is that it reinforces the belief that governments are the most important actors in world affairs. They're not. Capital runs the world, not politicians.

You can read the whole article here.
UPDATE: Here's more evidence of the power of bankers.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Britain's privatised railways: They're not getting there

The Daily Mail reports:

Commuters faced a nightmare journey home tonight as London's transport network ground to a halt in the face of snow and freezing conditions.
Passengers at Victoria Station were told all trains into and out of the terminal were cancelled while other services around the capital were severely reduced.
In angry scenes, passengers at Victoria remonstrated with station staff demanding more information.
One passenger, who asked not to be named, said: 'It was hellish. Every platform had a train on but they were going nowhere.
'When we were finally allowed on one it was completely filled and arguments were breaking out everywhere. I cannot believe this is happening again.'

I don’t know about you, but I can believe anything as far as Britain’s privatised railways are concerned.

It’s interesting to compare the way that Britain’s privatised railways grind to a halt as soon as there’s some snow, with how the state-run European railways, like Austria’s , cope with wintry conditions. But of course, as the ever so-clever and ever so well-educated British neoliberals keep telling us, private ownership is far more efficient than state ownership, isn’t it?

Terrorism in Iran

I’d call blowing up scientists on motor bikes terrorism wouldn’t you?

And it’s not the first time this has happened.

The attacks were similar to the assassination in January of Masoud Ali Mohammadi, an expert on particle physics, killed by a remote-control bomb strapped to a motorcycle as he was leaving his Tehran home on his way to work.

Who is killing Iran's nuclear scientists and carrying out other acts of sabotage against the country’s nuclear facilities and infrastructure? Some of the likeliest suspects are discussed here.
UPDATE: On the subject of Iran, David Lindsay has a very good blog post up on the hawks circling the country. And what strange bed-fellows they make.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Irish people v The Bankocracy

John Millington reports in the Morning Star:

Over 100,000 Irish working people turned out in freezing conditions in Dublin on Saturday to show their total opposition to the EU/IMF-led austerity measures.

No2EU - Yes to Democracy spokesman Brian Denny welcomed the demonstration, pointing out that the Irish government was hell-bent on "bailing out the finances and the banks at the expense of public services and their own economy.

"The whole point of the bailout is to institute massive structural adjustment. It's an example of monopoly finance capital effectively running the country," he said.

Labelling the EU a "bankocracy," he added: "The banks are ruling the state - all in line with EU rules and policies.

"Ireland is being sacrificed on the alter of the eurozone - it will not end with Ireland. The overarching objective of the EU is to hand over power from people to the finance capital."

How Tom Clarke, Arthur Griffith, James Connolly and Eamon De Valera must be turning in their graves.

Independent Ireland is no more- the country which fought so hard and so long for its freedom from Britain is now an EU/IMF colony. And what a great irony it is that it’s Fianna Fáil -the party of Eamon De Valera- formed from the anti-treaty faction, that has ended Ireland's independence.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Denman shines in heroic defeat

Well, he didn’t win the Hennessy for the third time. But didn’t he put in a great effort in his attempt to concede so much weight to his younger rivals?

As to pointers towards next year’s Gold Cup, the one to take out of the race could be second-placed Burton Port, who has some good Festival form to his name having finished second in last year’s RSA Chase. Denman will be 11 next March and it's hard to see him winning the Gold Cup at that age, (though it would bring the house down if he did), and while Diamond Harry was excellent yesterday, he did flop in the RSA at the Cheltenham Festival last year.
Anyway, what a great race we saw yesterday. If the Gold Cup is half as exciting as the Hennessy was, we're in for a real treat.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The corporate takeover of the NHS

Today was a very historic- and very sad day- for Britain's state health service: the first corporate takeover of a district general hospital in the history of the NHS.

Louise Nousratpour reports:

A private company headed by a former banker was chosen to run an entire NHS district general hospital today in an unprecedented step towards a fully privatised US-style health system.

Circle - headed by former Goldman Sachs banker Ali Parsa - was named as the recommended bidder to run services at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, by the NHS East of England.

It is believed that the operating franchise is the first of its kind for an NHS acute hospital in England.

Former Goldman Sachs bankers taking over the running of state hospitals?

Anyone who died in the 1970s and came back to life in Britain today would not believe just how much we've sold out to capital. And of course, as I've argued many times before, capital won't be satisfied until every single publicly-owned asset is in their hands.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mrs Thatcher and her Blue Children

This column of mine appears in the Morning Star.
(And, on the subject of privatisation, have you read the latest news about Britain’s wonderful privatised railways- already by far and away the most expensive in Europe?)

Neil Clark

It's exactly 20 years ago this month that Margaret Thatcher, the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century, left Downing Street.

Thatcher's negative impact can be seen in many areas. But arguably the most toxic legacy was her privatisation programme.

Thatcher broke with the policy of previous post-war Conservative governments which had accepted the mixed economy post-war consensus, instead embarking on a major series of sell-offs when she first came to power in 1979.

British Telecom, British Gas and British Airways were three of the biggest state-owned companies that Thatcher flogged off.

She also broke up the National Bus Company and Sealink - the highly-profitable publicly owned ferry company.

But the great tragedy was that privatisation did not end with Thatcher's eviction from Number 10 in November 1990.

John Major's government took privatisation even further than the Iron Lady dared to go - embarking on the disastrous sell-off of Britain's railways.

To its credit, the Labour Party opposed the Tory sell-offs of the 1980s and '90s. But, to its great shame, when finally returned to government in 1997, it not only did nothing to bring privatised industries back into public ownership, it actually extended the process still further.

Now, after this year's election and despite the fact that privatisation has never been so unpopular, we have the most pro-privatisation government in our history.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Margaret Rutherford: Dreadnought with good manners


Just a month off Christmas Day and it’s time to think about presents. I can heartily recommend Andy Merriman’s wonderful biography of one of the most memorable British actresses from the golden age of post-war British cinema- Margaret Rutherford (who also happened to be Tony Benn’s cousin). She was not only a great actress, but more importantly, a great person too.

Here’s my Spectator review of Dreadnought with good manners.

The face of a muffin
Neil Clark

Margaret Rutherford: Dreadnought with Good Manners
by Andy Merriman.

What was it about post-war British cinema? Our films were lit up by a collection of wonderfully idiosyncratic performers. Think Alistair Sim, Terry-Thomas and Robert Morley. Perhaps the most idiosyncratic of them all was Margaret Rutherford. The drama critic, J. C. Trewin once remarked, ‘When you have seen any performance by Margaret Rutherford you are certain to remember it.’ How right he was.
She stole Blithe Spirit with her portrayal of the exuberant bicycling medium, Madame Arcati. She was wonderful as Miss Whitchurch, the domineering headmistress of a girls’ school mistakenly billeted at a boys’ school in The Happiest Days of Your Life. And she was a far more colourful and entertaining Miss Marple than the rather grey character in Agatha Christie.

Rutherford, modest to a fault, said her ‘English muffin’ face, with its ‘five chins’ and many wrinkles may have had something to do with her success. But the truth was that she was a highly accomplished actress, who, although associated with comedy roles, showed that she could play it serious with the best of them when the opportunity arose, as she did when cast as Mistress Quickly in Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight.
In his splendid biography, Andy Merriman charts how Rutherford rose from being a struggling actress, who combined playing minor roles in occasional stage performances with music teaching, to achieve international stardom by the 1960s.

But for a person who generated so much laughter on stage and on film, Rutherford’s life had more than its fair share of tragedy and trauma. To her dying day, she kept a terrible secret: her father was a murderer, who had killed his own clergyman father by smashing his head with a chamber pot. William Benn escaped the gallows on grounds of insanity and was sent to Broadmoor.

Rutherford — a cousin of the politician Tony Benn — was born after her father had been released, and shortly after her birth her parents moved to India. There, tragedy struck again: her mother hanged herself from a tree in the garden.

Rutherford remained haunted throughout her life that she too would suffer from mental illness. She did have a series of breakdowns, and succumbed periodically to depression. Yet that is only half the story.

Despite her inner torment, what comes over most in Merriman’s book is Rutherford’s delightfully sweet character. Endearingly eccentric, extraordinarily generous and devoid of any airs and graces, she was loved by all who came into contact with her.

When the actress Judy Parfitt said that she admired Rutherford’s emerald paste earrings, the next day she found them left as a present in her dressing room. Benjamin Whitrow recalls an occasion when a party was given to celebrate Rutherford’s 70th birthday on stage after a show. Two trestle tables were set up — one down stage with champagne and three- cornered sandwiches for the cast, another way up stage with beer and four-cornered sandwiches for the crew. Rutherford was having none of it. ‘Margaret went straight up stage and grabbed the nearest stagehand, hauled him to the centre and started jiving with him. I have never forgotten this wonderful gesture.’

It was only one of many ‘wonderful gestures’ and acts of kindness by Rutherford which are documented by Merriman. When we add in the pleasure her performances have given to so many people, then Rutherford’s life was truly a life well lived.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A century later, was Dr Crippen innocent?

It's exactly 100 years today since the execution of Dr Crippen.

Here's my piece on the famous murder case, from the Daily Express.

A HUNDRED years ago this week Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen, one of the 20th century’s most notorious convicted murderers, was led to the gallows at Pentonville Prison in London. He smiled as a black hood was put over his head. And then he was hanged.

Crippen’s was the first murder case to get global attention. The case contained all the elements of a classic Agatha Christie novel: an overpowering, promiscuous wife who had bullied and nagged her mild, self-effacing husband, apparently disappearing into thin air; the badly mutilated remains of a body found in the cellar; the flight of the wife’s husband, with his mistress disguised as a boy, on a transatlantic liner; the fugitives’ dramatic arrest in Canada.

It took the jury just 27 minutes to find Dr Crippen guilty of murdering his wife Cora at their North London home. But 100 years on from Crippen’s execution, the controversy surrounding the case refuses to go away.

Crippen always protested his innocence, maintaining that his wife had deserted him after a fierce row. But while there was much sympathy for the doctor, for whom no one had a bad word, very few thought he was telling the truth.

However, new scientific evidence appears to indicate that the body in the cellar was not Cora Crippen after all. So could it be that Dr Crippen really was innocent?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why Lord Young had to go

This piece of mine appears in today's First Post.

Neil Clark: Cameron’s enterprise tsar exposed the inconvenient truth - that a huge divide has opened up in Britain

Lord Young of Graffham had no choice but to stand down as David Cameron's 'enterprise tsar' having seriously embarrassed the Tory party by claiming that most people in Britain had "never had it so good" since the "so-called recession" began.

But while I'm no great fan of Young's politics, I must admit to feeling a little sorry for the bow-tied, multi-millionaire Thatcherite politician. After all, from his perspective, he was telling the truth.

The reality is that there is a chunk of British society that has never had it so good.

You can read the whole of the article here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Britain: Paying the cost of greedy firms

This piece of mine appears in the Sunday Express.

DID you think Britain was an expensive enough country to live in?

If so, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you. Over the next few weeks things are going to get a whole lot worse… Take energy prices. On December 1, Scottish and Southern Energy, Britain’s second biggest supplier, is raising gas prices by 9.4 per cent. Ten days later British Gas is putting up its gas and electricity rates by seven per cent. Household bills will go even higher from January 1 as VAT rises to 20 per cent. Just what we need to get the New Year off to a good start.

Whenever they raise their prices, energy firms trot out the line that its very poorest customers will receive “extra help” but what about the millions of hard-working Britons who, while not actually living in poverty, can in no sense be regarded as being well-off and will be hit hard by the planned increases? Then there’s train fares. Britain’s railways are already the most expensive in Europe and fares will rise again by as much as 10.8 per cent on some commuter routes from January.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Stop the War in Afghanistan- and the next one against Iran

It’s the big Stop the War anti-war march in London today, starting at 12 noon at Speakers Corner. Speakers include Seumas Milne and Tony Benn. Full details here.

We don’t just need to stop the war in Afghanistan, but to stop any aggression against Iran too.

Therefore it was very pleasing to see Stop the War adopt the Campaign against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran’s resolution at their recent conference.

The Stop the War Coalition will demand from the Cameron and Clegg government:

(i) to publicly oppose any military intervention and any new sanctions against Iran.

(ii) to revoke the EU and UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, including those against Iran’s civilian aviation industry which have already resulted in dozens of domestic air plane crashes killing thousands of passengers.

(iii) to enter into unconditional negotiations with Iran to resolve the stand-off in a peaceful way by respecting the Islamic Republic of Iran’s sovereignty and its civilian nuclear programme.

If you want to lend your support to the CASMII, here’s a link to their website.
And if you're a fellow anti-war blogger, do consider putting up a link up to CASMII on your blog roll.

There’s some very evil people out there who would like to destroy Iran in the same way Iraq was destroyed.

We can’t just sit back and allow it to happen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Unelected House of Cronies

Pro-war, pro-privatisation New Labour groupie Oona King was kicked out by the electors of Bethnal Green in 2005 and failed in her attempt to become nominated as Labour candidate for the London Mayor election. Her reward: to be given a peerage and a place back in the legislature.

Susan Kramer was kicked out by the electors of Richmond Park in 2010 (she also failed to be elected Mayor of London in 2000). Her reward: to be given a peerage and a place back in the legislature.

The Guardian quotes Peter Facey, director of the pressure group Unlock Democracy, who says:

"If politicians and prime ministers want to reward their friends, instead of sending them to the House of Lords, what's wrong with a gold watch?
"People who make and amend our laws should be elected by the public, not selected for good deeds done in the past by grateful politicians.”

He’s absolutely right.

Harold Wilson was pilloried for his Resignation honours list. But this list of cronies, political donors and failed politicians is even worse.

It’s time to axe the honours system once and for all.

David Lindsay asks: And will the consolation prizes for Oona King never end? She was notable for nothing except having been beaten by George Galloway, until she also became notable for having been beaten by Ken Livingstone.

Yes, David but she supported the greatest war crime of the century, so she must be ‘rewarded’.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Major-General David Fraser: Witness for the Prosecution

A former United Nations officer made a significant disclosure during his recent testimony at the trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic at The Hague which, perhaps not surprisingly, did not receive much - in fact, any - coverage in Western media.

Newspapers, magazines, television and radio in most parts of north America and western Europe have been resolutely pro-Muslim and anti-Serb in their coverage of the trials and tribulations of the Balkans.

But the evidence offered by the UN general, who was called, ironically, as a prosecution witness, is really quite extraordinary.

He stated on oath that, during the civil war in Bosnia, Bosnian Muslim forces fired weapons at their own civilians in Sarajevo and then blamed these atrocities on the Serbs.

The revelation by Major-General David Fraser, who was military assistant to the UN protection force's (UNPROFOR) sector Sarajevo commander from April 1994 to May 1995, has of course the potential to become a Pandora's box for the West - if it was to be widely reported by the media.

The bitter fighting which engulfed Bosnia was a result of the United States encouraging the Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic to unilaterally declare independence, viewing the geostrategic benefits accrued for itself from this.

You can read the whole of Marcus Papadopoulos’ brilliant Morning Star piece here.And its not comfortable reading for the neo-con cheerleaders of Alija Izetbegovic.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Get Clegg! Jilted students target Lib Dem love rats

This piece of mine appears in the First Post.

Neil Clark: Students who once loved Nick Clegg are now threatening to rally outside his home.

Hell hath no fury like a student scorned. Seven months ago, in the build-up to the general election, the love affair between Britain's large student community and Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems was at the height of its passion. Today they’ve fallen out so badly that students in his Sheffield constituency are contemplating a protest outside his home.

How did it go wrong?

You can read the whole of the article here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why western war criminals go free

How can Bush and his disciple, Tony Blair, smugly conclude they were right, pushing out self-serving memoirs suggesting that history will be kind to them when they are responsible for so much death and destruction?

Because they are protected by their successor governments from the consequences of what they have done. Both the U.S. and Britain are keen on jailing or hanging foreigners for war crimes, yet we consider our own leaders immune from prosecution.

There’s another complication, too: the Tories were Blair’s allies over Iraq. Hence their disinclination to pursue Labour over its so-called dossier on Saddam’s non-existent WMDs....

You can read the whole of Peter McKay’s brilliant piece on the toadying to western war criminals- and why it is so important that Bush and Blair are held to account for their crimes, here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The joys of privatisation: British Gas hikes gas and electricity prices by 7%

From the Daily Mail:

Around eight million households face punishing utility bill hikes after Britain's biggest energy supplier raised tariffs just before winter.

British Gas will push up prices by 7 per cent from December 10, which will amount to an increase of £1.50 on the average weekly dual-fuel bill.

Half a million public sector job losses. VAT hiked to 20% from January. Privatised rail fares- already the most expensive in Europe- set to soar in the New Year.
Massive cuts in government spending. And now big rises in gas and electricity prices just before Christmas.

It’s going to be a long, tough, winter.

But not for everyone.

Isn't neoliberalism wonderful!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dave lectures the Chinese on 'democracy'

"The people of Britain are what is called a democracy," said Moung Ka.
"A democracy?" questioned Moung Thwa. "What is that?"
"A democracy," broke in Moung Shoogalay eagerly, "is a community that governs itself according to its own wishes and interests by electing accredited representatives who enact its laws and supervise and control their administration.
"Its aim and object is government of the community in the interests of the community."
"Then," said Moung Thwa, turning to his neighbour, "if the people of Britain are a democracy-"
"I never said they were a democracy," interrupted Moung Ka placidly.
"Surely we both heard you!" exclaimed Moung Thwa.
"Not correctly," said Moung Ka, "I said they are what is called a democracy."

From The Comments Of Moung Ka in The Square Egg by Saki.

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I thought of when I read this- was Saki's wonderful story.

Some good comment on Dave’s hypocrisy on lecturing China about ‘democracy’ and ’human rights’ from Andrew Alexander in the Daily Mail and in this Morning Star editorial.
Let's try and get a 'government of the community in the interests of the community', before we start lecturing others.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Left must deal with the new Chingford Polecat

This piece of mine appears in today's First Post.

Neil Clark: The Archbishop and Labour MPs may be angry, but IDS has White Van Man on his side.

In my copy of Birds and Wild Animals by H Trevor Jones, the polecat is described as "a furtive hunter, now rare, but still found in the Welsh mountains".

Since the book was published in 1952, it seems that mustela putorius putorius has moved eastwards - and seems particularly fond of a town on the Essex/London border called Chingford.

The original 'Chingford Polecat', first sighted in the 1970s, was, of course, Norman 'On yer bike' Tebbit, the abrasive working-class Tory cabinet minister who introduced legislation curbing the trade unions and who castigated the work-shy.

Today's Chingford Polecat is Iain-Duncan Smith, who took over Tebbit's seat at the April 1992 general election. The former 'quiet man' of British politics, IDS is now Work and Pensions Secretary and sinking his fangs into the long-term unemployed.

You can read the whole of the piece here.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Al Qaeda in Iraq

Well they weren't there when Saddam Hussein was in power. But they are now.

Well done the neocons and their 'liberal' interventionist allies.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

George W. Bush: Still telling WMD porkies

From the BBC News website:

Former US President George W Bush still has "a sickening feeling" about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, US media report.
Mr Bush admits that he was shocked when no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.
"No one was more shocked and angry than I was when we didn't find the weapons," he writes.
"I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do."
Sorry George, but I don’t believe you. Because if you had genuinely believed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction you would never have invaded.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Hyping up the 'terror threat'

Another day, another ‘war against terror’ scare. Did our wartime leadership go ­public on every single threat from our German and other enemies? Of course not. So why do they do it now? To ramp up our fear. Do they think this will make us support them and their ‘war on terror’ policies?.....

You can read the whole of Peter McKay’s brilliant Daily Mail piece here.

It’s also interesting to contrast the current ramping up of fear by Britain‘s political elite, with the way our leaders downplayed the threat from IRA bombs in the 1970s. Is it simply that we are living in a more hysterical era, where everything is overhyped- or is there a political agenda at work?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The death of the Exmoor Emperor

Britain’s largest wild animal- a truly magnificent beast- killed by a trophy hunter. Can you understand the mentality of the person who did this? No, me neither.

More on this appalling story here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Julia Gillard is a warmonger

This piece, which I co-wrote with Tom Switzer, appears in The Spectator Australia.

And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?

It’s 45 years since Country Joe McDonald penned his classic anti-Vietnam war protest song ‘I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die’. It’s high time the record was reissued and a copy got sent to Julia Gillard, who thinks Australia should spend another decade fighting a war that makes even less sense than the one which so enraged Country Joe and his fellow peaceniks back in the Sixties.

For while US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are looking for the quickest way out of the Afghan quagmire, Australia’s former secretary of the Socialist Forum can only promise us yet another decade of bloodshed. When you have an Australian Labor Prime Minister who’s more keen on a certain war than the leaders of Britain and the US, you know you’re living in very strange times.

You can read the whole article here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wayne Rooney's world: petulant, selfish and arrogant

Neil Clark: To pull this stunt in a week when half a million people face losing their jobs is obscene.

This piece of mine appears in the First Post.

The 1992 film Wayne's World featured a heavy metal enthusiast who broadcasts shows from the basement of his parent's house. The 2010 version is not so endearing. It features an arrogant, loutish and overpaid footballer who threatens to leave the club which has made him into a world star - until they agree to sign him up to a new, improved five-year contract.

You can read the whole of the piece here.
UPDATE: Last night I was on Stephen Nolan's BBC Radio 5 Live programme debating the subject of Wayne Rooney's greed and the obscene salaries paid to a tiny few under the 'free market' system, with David Myddelton of the uber-Thatcherite think-tank the IEA. You can listen to the debate here.
Just click on the link to the 23rd October programme- the discussion comes at 1hour, 21.30 minutes in.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Five Years on- and a victory to celebrate

Apologies for the lack of blog posts in last few weeks- normal autumn/winter service will be resumed very shortly.

This month sees this blog reach its fifth anniversary. Since October 2005 there have been 1,685 posts and I hope you’ve enjoyed at least a few of them. Thanks for reading this far- and I hope you’ll stay around for the next five years.

Since 2005, we’ve seen the Iraq war totally discredited and the neocon/liberal imperialist warmongering project derailed.

The President of the United States thinks the Iraq war was wrong. So too does the new leader of the British party which led the country into war. And Britain’s Deputy PM says it was illegal- which of course it was. Meanwhile it was David Miliband’s support for the Iraq war- and the fact that Blair and Mandelson were backing him- which destroyed his chances of becoming Labour leader.

There’s been a lot of bad news this week about government cuts (more on them later), but there’s one piece of news that should make all of us on the anti-war side happy: the cuts in UK military spending and what they mean in practice.

The government has decided that Britain will no longer be able to mount military operations on the scale of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the deployment in Afghanistan's Helmand province…

Cameron's announcement marks the end of Tony Blair's concept of "liberal interventionism", first set out in his 1999 Chicago speech during the Kosovo crisis.

Read those two paragraphs again and savour them.

There are still many important battles to be fought- over public ownership and defending the NHS and the welfare state-but one important battle has been won.

‘Liberal interventionism’ is dead.

As a certain character in a 1970s sitcom would have put it: Oh Dear. How Sad. Never Mind.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

An Open Letter to Ed Miliband

This column of mine appears in the Morning Star. 
It's also posted over at the CPO website.

Dear Ed - if I may -

Congratulations on winning the contest for Labour leadership.

In your leadership campaign you presented yourself as the candidate for change. You've said that new Labour is "dead" and that a new generation has now taken over.

But in order to convince those thousands of former Labour members and voters (myself included), that the party really has changed from the days of Blair and Brown and will once again put the interests of people before capital, mere words will not be enough.

Nothing could demonstrate better that a clean break has been made with the new Labour years, than for the Labour Party once again to embrace public ownership.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tony Curtis R.I.P.


How sad to hear today of the death of Tony Curtis.

Not the easiest man in the world to get along with by all accounts, but a great actor, with a real gift for comedy.

He was great in Some Like it Hot. He was great in The Sweet Smell of Success.

And as you can see above, he was brilliant as Chester Schofield in that wonderful Sixties comedy Monte Carlo or Bust- co-starring with the one and only Terry-Thomas. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why Ed Miliband must be like Harold Wilson

This piece of mine appears in today's First Post.

Neil Clark: If Ed Miliband can unite Labour as Wilson did, maybe he can also win four general elections.

Man of the moment Ed Miliband has had no shortage of advice since he won the Labour leadership contest on Saturday. But if he's really shrewd and wants to re-establish his party as the party of government, he would do well to follow the example of Labour's most successful leader. No, not Tony Blair, but Harold Wilson.
You can read the whole of the article here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

After Delhi, stand by for a Poland/Ukraine fiasco

The piece of mine appears in the First Post.

Neil Clark: Let’s make sport the focus of international tournaments - not the location

The host of a major international sports event is behind schedule with its preparations and doubts have been expressed as to whether the tournament will be able to go ahead as planned.

No, I'm not referring to Delhi, desperately trying to get things ready for next month's Commonwealth Games, but to Ukraine, co-host of the 2012 European football championships.

You can read the whole of the piece here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ed Miliband left-wing? They're having a laugh

This article of mine appears in today's First Post.

Neil Clark: The portrayal of Ed Miliband as a leftie shows how far to the right Britain has travelled.

According to his critics, he's a dangerous left-wing radical who, if he ever became prime minister, would take Britain back to the Socialist 1970s.

According to his supporters, he's the man who will lead Labour away from Blairism and reconnect the party with its core supporters and traditional values.

Both his detractors and supporters are in agreement that Ed Miliband - who could well be Labour leader when the results of the party ballot are revealed this weekend - is the candidate for 'change'. Miliband himself has as his campaign slogan: 'Call for Change'.

But if we look beyond the rhetoric and the sound-bites, a very different picture emerges.

You can read the whole of the article here.