Thursday, March 25, 2010

From Belgrade to Baghdad and beyond

It’s exactly eleven years ago this week since NATO launched its illegal attack on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and seven years since the equally unlawful aggression against Iraq.

To mark the anniversaries, here’s my 2006 Morning Star article on how the road to Baghdad began in Belgrade - and why it won't end there until liberal left supporters of US sponsored ‘humanitarian’ interventions start to see the bigger picture.


Divide and conquer has been the classic Imperial strategy since Roman times.

Today’s Empire builders are no different. The particular genius of the modern neo-conservative project has been the use of the theory of ‘humanitarian intervention’, to co-opt liberal-left support for a centuries old project of conquest.

In 1990s it was the Serbs- and their “extreme nationalist” leader Slobodan Milosevic who posed the threat to peace and civilised values. In 2001 it was Mullah Omar and the Islamic hardliners of the Taliban. In 2003 it was the turn of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, with its deadly arsenal of WMD. Now its Iran’s President Ahmadenijad’s alleged attempts to develop nuclear weapons which need to be countered.

Each time a sizeable section of the liberal-left has supported, not those attacked or threatened, but the aggressors. You might have thought that by now, the pattern would be clear to all. But the enduring success of the New World Order’s propaganda machine can be seen by the reaction of many on the left to Milosevic’s death.

Milosevic, a life-long socialist, was a man all true progressives should have mourned. A man steeped in partisan culture, (both his parents fought the Nazis in World War Two), he never once made a racist speech: the famous Kosovo Polje address of 1989 which his critics claimed whipped up ancient ethnic hatreds, was in fact a statement of support for multi-ethnic, socialist Yugoslavia. Far from being a rabid warmonger, the late Yugoslav leader was, in the words of Lord Owen ‘the only leader who consistently supported peace’ and ‘a man to whom any form of racism is anathema’.

The dismemberment of Yugoslavia was initiated not by Milosevic, but by the German decision to prematurely recognise the breakaway republics of Slovenia and Croatia, against all the norms of international law. And war in Bosnia would have been avoided too had US Ambassador Warren Zimmerman not personally intervened at the eleventh hour to sabotage the 1992 Lisbon Agreement which provided for the peaceful division of the republic. ‘If you don’t like it, why sign it’ Zimmerman told the hard-line Bosnian separatist leader Alija Izetbegovic, thereby lighting the touch paper to a conflict which would claim over 90,000 lives. Even after the 1995 Dayton agreement which ended the war in Bosnia, the Imperial appetite was not satiated.

Milosevic’s rump Yugoslavia had to be destroyed too, by providing weapons and training for a separatist terror group, the Kosovan Liberation Army. When the inevitable security clampdown from Belgrade came, the West was at hand to issue the ultimatum, producing a document at the Rambouillet Peace Conference, which as Defence Minister Lord Gilbert has conceded, was deliberately designed to be rejected by the Yugoslav delegation.

Why was it all done? Milosevic’s Yugoslavia was targeted not for ‘humanitarian’ reasons as many still believe, but simply because it got in the way. ‘In post Cold War Europe, no place remained for a large, independent minded socialist state that resisted globalisation', the words not of a left-wing conspiracy theorist, but George Kenney, an official at the Yugoslav office of the US State Department.

There's no doubting who has benefited from the wars which the West is happy to pin on Milosevic. One militarily and economically strong independent nation, has been replaced by a series of weak and divided World Bank/IMF/NATO protectorates. Western capital has unhindered access to raw materials and markets throughout the region, while in Kosovo, Camp Bondsteel, the U.S.'s biggest from scratch military base since the Vietnam war, jealously guards the route of the $1.3bn Trans Balkan AMBO pipeline, guaranteeing Western control of Caspian oil supplies.

It’s worth remembering that the very same people who clamoured most loudly for action against Milosevic in the 1990s, were those who were at the forefront of the propaganda war against Iraq a few years later. And today, the very same hawks are trying to convince us of the necessity of ‘strong action’ against Iran.

Among the members of the executive of the Balkan Action Committee, who lobbied for US involvement on the side of Izetbegovic in Bosnia, and then for full scale war against Milosevic’s Yugoslavia in 1999, are three names that will need no introduction: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. ‘It‘s either take action now, or lose the option of taking action’ was Perle’s recent comment on Iran: in addition to signing (along with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz) a notorious letter to President Clinton in 1998 calling for a ‘comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime’, he also acted as adviser to the Izetbegovic’s delegation at Dayton.

It’s time those who supported the military actions against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and the current 'strong' line on Iran, realised that the biggest danger to peace did not come from Slobodan Milosevic, Mullah Omar, Saddam Hussein, or, now, from President Ahmadinejad, but from the serial warmongers who threatened them.

The road to Baghdad began in the Balkans. But it won’t end there, unless the liberal-left supporters of U.S. sponsored “humanitarian” interventions start to see the bigger picture.

Thought for the Day: George Galloway

“Just imagine the response if Iranian intelligence agents had forged British passports and used them to travel to Dubai and assassinate an Israeli official".

More over at Socialist Unity.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Foreign Office warns British passports not safe in Israel

The DT reports:

The Government said Britons travelling in Israel should “only hand their passports over to third parties including Israeli officials when absolutely necessary”.

And let’s remind ourselves: Israel is supposed to be a British ally.

Can you imagine the furore, if say, Iran had been illegally cloning British passports?
They'd be calling for war, not just expelling a single diplomat.

Meanwhile, the DT reports: ‘members of the Israeli parliament likened the British government to “anti-Semitic dogs”

“The British are being hypocritical, and I do not wish to insult dogs here, since some dogs show true loyalty, [but] who gave the British the right to judge us on the war on terror?” said Arieh Eldad, a Right-wing member of the Knesset.

Another member, Michael Ben-Ari, said: “Dogs are usually loyal, the British may be dogs, but they are not loyal to us. They seem to be loyal to the anti-Semitic establishment.”

Again, can you imagine the outcry if members of the Iranian Parliament labelled the British 'Islamophobic dogs'?

UPDATE: George Galloway has called for the closure of the Israeli embassy in London.

“Just imagine the response if Iranian intelligence agents had forged British passports and used them to travel to Dubai and assassinate an Israeli official.
“There would be much more dramatic retaliation and at the very least the threat of military reprisal, and probably action itself.
“No one is suggesting that. But the Israeli embassy in London should be closed at least until we get to the bottom of this affair. Every British citizen travelling in the Middle East has been endangered by the actions of Mossad operating from the Israeli embassy in London. Protecting British citizens abroad demands nothing less than closing that centre of espionage at home.”

More over at Socialist Unity.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Britain expels Israeli diplomat

The BBC reports:

The UK is to expel an Israeli diplomat over 12 forged British passports used in the murder of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the Commons there were "compelling reasons" to believe Israel was responsible for the passport "misuse".
He said: "The government takes this matter extremely seriously. Such misuse of British passports is intolerable."
Mr Milband said it was "highly likely" the Israeli secret service Mossad was involved and the fact that Israel was a close ally added "insult to injury".

He said he had evidence that genuine passports belonging to UK citizens had been copied after being handed over for inspection to "individuals linked to Israel".
"Given that this was a very sophisticated operation, in which high-quality forgeries were made, the government judges it is highly likely that the forgeries were made by a state intelligence service," he said.

"We have concluded that there are compelling reasons to believe Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports."

Former Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell told the BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "It is very serious indeed... there can't be a greater violation of trust for one ally to abuse the passports of another ally."

Quite. When the news of this scandal first emerged, there were some, like Melanie Phillips, who tried to convince us that Israel may not have been responsible. But the efforts were feeble, and now surely no one has any doubts as to who was behind the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

You can read Jeremy Bowen's take on the significance of today's action, here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Rotten Heart of New Labour

Today's Mail on Sunday reports:

Labour has been plunged into a cash-for-access row after three former Cabinet Ministers were secretly filmed discussing how they could help a fake lobbying company – with one boasting that he was a ‘cab for hire’ for £5,000 a day.

In the most damaging revelations, ex-Transport Minister Stephen Byers (above) claimed that he managed to save ‘hundreds of millions of pounds’ for one company by using his influence with his successor Lord Adonis over a rail franchise.

Mr Byers also claimed that he had boosted the business interests of Tesco by phoning Peter Mandelson, and said that he could bring Tony Blair to meet clients of the lobbying company which was, in fact, a front for an undercover operation.

Mr Byers is seen boasting on camera that he persuaded Lord Adonis to alter the terms of a rail franchise on behalf of National Express, a move worth hundreds of millions of pounds to the company.

Read more about this story, which tells you everything you need to know about how British ‘democracy’ works in 2010, here.

And don’t forget to watch the New Labour money-grabbers being caught in the act on Dispatches on Monday night on C4.

UPDATE: Peter McKay writes:
All three are former Labour Cabinet ministers. All three are disciples of Tony Blair. They are the true Heirs to Blair.
Messrs Byers and Hoon, along with Ms Hewitt, are small fry in the murky waters of public/private commerce. Blair is the Great White Shark.

And in case you missed it, here's the latest news on the Great White Shark.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Anna Chen on Radio 4

Our good friend Anna Chen aka Madam Miaow, writes in to inform that her latest radio programme, China, Britain and the Nunzilla Conundrum, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 tomorrow morning (Friday, 19th March), at 11 am.

Anna writes:
A quick reminder to all. My Radio 4 programme about quirky novelty items designed here in the UK, made in China, and sold back in the West, goes out tomorrow morning and appears to have garnered some positive attention in the press.

More details over at Anna’s excellent blog.

I’ll certainly be listening in and I hope you’re able to as well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cheltenham Day 1: Binocular wins the Champion Hurdle

Well, he was out to 999-1 on Betfair after trainer Nicky Henderson ruled him out of the race last month and today the one-time 'non-runner' landed the spoils. I hope you had a few winning bets and enjoyed the great action.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Get Set for the Cheltenham Festival

Less than 24 hours to go before the Olympics of National Hunt racing begins.

Here’s my piece from the Daily Express, on the wonderfully retro world of horse-racing and a hare-brained scheme to change, modernise and spoil this fantastic sport.

AND they’re off! The roar from the crowd will be ­deafening as the annual Cheltenham National Hunt Festival gets under way at 1.30pm tomorrow afternoon. Thousands of racing fans – myself included – will be converging on the Cotswolds for four days of thrilling action, featuring the finest horses and jockeys in the world.

No one knows for sure who will win the big prizes but one thing is for certain: an unforgettable week of sporting drama lies ahead.

Horse racing appeals not just because of its excitement but because it is wonderfully, splendidly and ­defiantly old-fashioned. It is the one sport in Britain that hasn’t changed significantly in the past 30 years.

During that time football has gone from being the “People’s Game”, where ordinary spectators could stand and watch a match for a few pounds, to an expensive plaything of mega-rich foreign owners. Cricket has been transformed from a gentle, un-commercialised sport into one where players wear brightly coloured pyjamas and the names of corporate sponsors appear on the pitch. ­Rugby league, once the mainstay of cold, winter afternoons, is now, due to the dictates of television, played in summer. Only racing has stayed true to its roots.

Step on to any racecourse in Britain and you feel as if you have gone back several decades in time.

The first things you will notice are the clothes that people are wearing. The racetrack is just about the only place in modern Britain where you still see people wearing matching tweed jackets and trousers and, on their heads, trilbies or big Twenties-style newsboy flat caps.

They are also about the only place where, in this ferociously anti-­smoking and politically correct age, you will still see people puffing happily away on big cigars.

Then there’s the sport’s gloriously rich terminology, which hasn’t changed since the days of Queen Victoria. A horse who is described as a “bit of a monkey” doesn’t have an chimpanzee for a father but lacks resolution in a finish. And the “jolly” isn’t a visiting clown but the horse that starts as favourite.

Racing’s fractional odds, unchanged by decimalisation, have a charm all of their own. Put a pound on a horse that wins at odds of 100-30 (or Burlington Bertie in betting slang) and you’ll receive £3.30 profit. Or perhaps you fancy a flutter on an outsider, say at 33-1 (Double Carpet), giving you, if successful, £33 profit for every pound staked.

The unusual odds add to the mystique of the sport, as do the great array of colourful characters that racing has always attracted. In his book Racing’s Greatest Characters, Graham Sharpe tells of such fabulous figures as the tipster Prince Monolulu, who, “dressed in baggy trousers, a flamboyant waistcoat and with spectacular plumage round his head”, became a national icon in the ­Twenties.
Famous for his cry “I gotta horse!”, Monolulu told some racegoers he was a Prince from the Falasha Tribe of Abyssinia and others that he was a Zulu chieftain. In fact he was a former circus fire-eater of Scottish descent called Peter Carl McKay.

Today, while such larger-than-life characters as Prince Monolulu have disappeared from society at large, they can still be seen at the racetrack. What other sport can boast someone like Sir Mark Prescott, the splendidly Victorian, cigar-chewing, hare-coursing baronet, who has­ ­reserved three burial plots at his ­local cemetery to ensure that when he dies he is not buried next to someone who disapproves of blood sports?

Or Prescott’s fellow Old Harrovian Sir Rupert Mackeson, a former smuggler in central Africa who now sells racing prints at Britain’s racetracks. Then there’s Harry “The Dog” Findlay, the exuberant Cockney gambler and owner of the popular 2008 Gold Cup winner Denman. And, of course, John McCririck.

But sadly the wonderfully retro world of horse racing is under threat from the serial modernisers who have already destroyed so much of what was colourful about the ­Britain of yesteryear.

In 2008, the racing authorities, in a misguided attempt to increase the sport’s appeal, commissioned a ­report by the brand consultants Harrison Fraser. The report was a classic example of modern marketing waffle. The trouble with racing, a sport loved by millions, was that it is too much like “Brian” and not enough like “Ben”.
Consultant John Harrison explained: “If racing came to life as a person we think it would be a bit of a Brian. Brian is traditional and British and thinks in quite an old-minded way. Five years in the future, if you have created the ideal racing experience for everybody, the ­picture is of a Ben industry. Ben is younger-minded than Brian, more worldly, in touch with a new generation.”
Ben, the model new racegoer, is described as “cool and fresh”, “intelligent” and someone who is “athletic” and “speaks many languages”. To me, Ben sounds like the sort of smug, bumptious know-it-all any sane person would emigrate to avoid, let alone want to meet at the races. And that’s not even the worst of it. There’s worse in the pipleine.

Racing For Change, a body set up to make racing “relevant to the ­leisure consumer of today”, has ­announced 10 measures designed to bring “positive change for the sport and its customers”. Among the proposed changes are putting the first names of trainers and jockeys in race cards and replacing traditional odds, which date from the mid-1700s, with decimal odds. The group also calls for race names to be “simplified” and racecourse announcements “modernised”.

Unbelievably, Racing For Change feels that the fact that only trainers’ initials and surnames are in race cards and that odds are given in fractions alienates potential racegoers. What utter poppycock.

The whole “modernising” agenda is fundamentally flawed. A large part of the appeal of horse racing is ­precisely that it is out of step with the times. Going to the races – with its old-fashioned dress, its old-fashioned terminology and old-fashioned atmosphere, provides a perfect sanctuary from the boring blandness of modern, globalised, 21st ­century Britain.

Millions of us love horse racing ­exactly how it is. That’s why so many of us will be heading to Cheltenham this week. Only please, please don’t tell Ben.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Russophobes of the Week: 'pro-government' Imedi TV in Georgia

Well, we’ve started Iran Lie Watch- perhaps its also time to launch Russia Lie Watch.

Thanks to our regular commenter Jack for flagging up this truly shocking story.

Today's Mail on Sunday reports:

A fake news report claiming that Georgia had been invaded by Russian tanks and its president killed has caused widespread panic in the country.

The mock half-hour report on pro-government television station Imedi TV brought back memories of a 2008 invasion when Russian troops and tanks invaded the former Soviet Republic.

The station introduced the report as an 'imitation of possible events', but the warning was lost on many viewers as mobile phone networks crashed and residents the capital Tbilisi rushed into the streets.

'It was indeed a very unpleasant program, but the most unpleasant thing is that it is extremely close to what can happen and to what Georgia's enemy has conceived,' Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said.

No, Mr Saakaswally- 'the most unpleasant thing’ is you- a fanatical, warmongering, neo-con Russophobe.

Instead of pontificating on 'what can happen', let's focus instead of what did happen in the summer of 2008, when Saakaswally’s Georgian forces launched a brutal war of aggression against pro-Russian separatists in South Ossetia.  Now Saakaswally's supporters at Imedi TV are trying to scare the Georgian people into believing that the Russians might invade. But  the greatest enemy of the Georgian people are not the Russians, but their own President.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Introducing Iran Lie Watch

First they came for the Yugoslavs. Then the Afghans. Then the Iraqis-up to 1m killed since the illegal invasion of 2003. Now it’s the Islamic Republic of Iran that is menaced by the advocates of perpetual war.

But before the military attacks, come the lies.  Lots and lots of them.

As the neocon-inspired propaganda campaign against Iran goes into overdrive, I thought it was time we had a new regular feature: Iran Lie Watch.

For starters: compare and contrast.

The Guardian, 1st January 2010.

David Petraeus says hostage Peter Moore was 'certainly' held in Iran

General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command, today confirmed a US intelligence assessment which said the freed British hostage Peter Moore was "certainly" held in Iran for at least some of his 31 months in captivity.

As Moore arrived back in Britain at RAF Brize Norton this evening, Petraeus told a press conference in Baghdad: "I am on the record as having said that our intelligence assessment is that he certainly spent part of the time, at the very least, in Iran."

The First Post, 12th March 2010.

Peter Moore: Iran did not kidnap me

Peter Moore, the British IT consultant kidnapped on May 29, 2007 in Iraq and held hostage for three years by Shia extremists, has spoken about his ordeal. In the first interview about his time in captivity, Moore says he was held in Basra - not in Iran, as many reports had claimed - and denies there was any significant Iranian link to the group beyond some covert funding. He also dismisses the suggestion the kidnap was orchestrated by Iran's Republican Guard, insisting the kidnappers – a group calling themselves the League of the Righteous - were "Iraqi resistance" with "representation" in Iraq's government.

Will General David Petraeus be making an apology to Iran over his false accusation?  And will we see this story covered on the numerous neocon blogs and websites?

Don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

It's time to be radical, Dave

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

Where has it all gone wrong for David Cameron?

Considering the desperate record of the present government, the outcome of this spring's general election should be a foregone conclusion. But instead, it's the Conservatives and not Labour who are in disarray as a series of polls show their lead continuing to shrink – culminating in today's Populus survey for the Times which suggests the two parties are neck and neck in 100 key marginals where Tory strategists expected to be well ahead.

What seemed unthinkable a few months back - the re-election of Gordon Brown and Labour - now seems distinctly possible.

The reason why Cameron has failed to capitalise on New Labour's unpopularity is simple. It's because on the issues which most concern the public, where anger with the government is at its greatest, the Conservative leader is singing from the same hymn sheet as Gordon Brown.

Cameron's Conservatives don't represent a break with the discredited policies adopted by all governments of the past 30 years, but a continuation of them. Fed up with privatisation? The Conservatives, in common with Labour, want even more of it. Under the Tories, the whole of the Royal Mail, not just part of it, will sold to the private sector. They've even mooted the possibility of selling the Met Office too. Privatised weathermen? What a vote winner that will be.

On foreign policy, an area where New Labour should be particularly vulnerable, the Conservatives once again simply offer more of the same.

While 64 per cent of Britons believe the war in Afghanistan to be unwinnable, and 63 per cent want troops home by Christmas, the Tories, like the Labour government, remain totally committed. Not only that but on the issue of Iran, they're even more bellicose than Labour, with the party's defence spokesman Liam Fox warning that "2010 is the year in which we will seriously have to confront Iran". Again, not a policy that's likely to have them rushing to vote Conservative in Croydon Central.

You can read the rest of the piece here.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Final Chapter for Libraries?

This column of mine appears in The Morning Star. It’s also cross-posted at the Campaign For Public Ownership website.

The NHS is a great example of socialism in action. Public libraries are another. The idea of a place where all members of the community can go to borrow books which are communally owned is a quite wonderful one and totally at odds with neoliberal ideology, which prefers private - and not public - provision.

This is probably why, in this age of neoliberalism, public libraries in Britain are under grave threat. 

A new report by the Valuation Office Agency showed that Britain has lost nearly 200 public libraries since 1997.

The number of books available to be borrowed has fallen dramatically - by 13 million in the period 2003-9. And worse could be to come, with swingeing cutbacks in local government spending likely to reduce the library service still further.

Part of the problem with the decline in libraries is that a new generation of people, brought up in an age obsessed with private ownership, prefer to buy books from bookshops rather than borrow them free of charge from their local library.

In 1979, by contrast, two-and-a-half times as many books were loaned by libraries than were bought at bookshops.

It's revealing that older people - brought up in a more collectivist era - use public libraries much more than younger Britons whose formative years were in an acquisitive society where private ownership became our country's new religion.

To reverse the decline in public libraries, therefore, we don't just have to increase spending on them. We need to change the whole ethos of our society to one where people once again relish sharing communally owned goods.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Michael Foot: Football Man

……Foot was not in any sense an elitist. A story is sometimes told of that austere socialist theoretician, GDH Cole. Informed in the 1930s by the future socialist chancellor Hugh Dalton that Labour could only hope to win power "with the support of the football crowds", Cole was reported simply to have "shuddered and turned away". Foot, a vocal supporter of Plymouth Argyle, with a corner of his heart reserved for Everton as well, was never near sharing Cole's fastidiousness. He passionately enjoyed going to football matches and, though he never aspired to rival Harold Wilson's facility for recalling match statistics, had a far greater knowledge of the game than the Prime Minister, whose invitations to join his government he held out against for nearly five years.

Here you can read the whole of Anthony Howard’s wonderful essay on the late Michael Foot- and why we won‘t see his likes in British politics again.

And you can read more about Foot's love of football, and how supporters of his beloved Plymouth Argyle paid tribute to him at yesterday's match with Preston, here and here.

What a pity Plymouth Argyle never made it to the top flight of English football or won the FA Cup during Foot's lifetime.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Costs of 'Humanitarian' Intervention in Iraq

Today's Daily Mail reports:

A high number of children are being born with birth defects in an Iraqi city where U.S. forces may have used chemical weapons during a fierce battle in 2004.
Children in Fallujah are being born with limb, head, heart and nervous system defects. There is even a claim that a baby was born with three heads.

The number of heart defects among newborn babies is said to be 13 times higher than the rate in Europe.

The BBC’s John Simpson reported on Thursday from Fallujah that, while there had been no authoritative medical investigation, there was growing evidence of an alarming incidence of birth defects.

A British-based Iraq researcher, Malik Hamdan, told the BBC that Fallujah doctors were swamped by a ‘massive, unprecedented’ number of heart defects and other problems.

Figures from a city doctor from 2003, before the war, showed she was dealing with one birth defect every two months at that time, but was now seeing at least one case a day.

Miss Hamdan said data from this January showed the rate of heart defects among newborns was 95 per 1,000 births – 13 times that of Europe.

Meanwhile, the British Prime Minister has told the Chilcot Inquiry that he thinks the invasion of Iraq was the 'right decision for the right reasons'.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Why Michael Foot would have made a good Prime Minister

This tribute piece of mine to the former Labour Party leader Michael Foot, appears in The First Post.

On Michael Foot's death, Neil Clark remembers not a woolly old dreamer but a shrewd political operator.

The popular image of Michael Foot, the former Labour party leader whose death at 96 was announced today, is of an intellectually brilliant but rather dreamy political incompetent: a sweet and immensely loveable eccentric, who despite his great gifts, was silly enough to wear a donkey jacket to the Cenotaph and whose romantic attachment to old-fashioned socialism caused his party to suffer - in 1983 - their heaviest electoral defeat for 50 years.

The reality is rather different. Far from being a hopeless dreamer, Foot was in fact a shrewd and pragmatic political operator whose career was far from unsuccessful. He was much more than a great orator; he was in fact much more special than people have given him credit for.

Michael Foot was a man of enormous talents. A superb polemical journalist, who made his name attacking the Tory appeasers of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, he became the editor of the Evening Standard before his 30th birthday. His biography of his socialist hero Nye Bevan remains one of the greatest political books of all time. He was also arguably the most inspirational public speaker of his generation.

Foot, who first became a Labour MP in 1945, did not serve in government until he was in his 60s. But his record in office was impressive. In the Labour government elected in February 1974, Foot, as Minister of Employment, acted as a conduit between the unions and the government at a time of great industrial unrest.

You can read the rest of the article here.

While here you can read my 2008 Guardian article on why the much maligned Labour election manifesto of 1983 could have saved us from decades of neo-liberal disaster.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Glass Ceiling of English Football

Here we go, here we go.. Again.

Underdog team takes early lead in Cup final. The favourites equalise before half-time. They then win the match with a moment of star quality, from a very expensively bought player with around 15/20mins remaining.

That’s what occurred in yesterday’s League Cup final, and its also what occurred in last year’s FA Cup final.

Despite the fact that both Aston Villa and Everton gave it everything they had, once again a team from the Big Four has won one of English football’s three main trophies. And once again the underdog has lost in a final. There used to be a time when any old Wimbledon, Coventry, Ipswich or QPR could win a Wembley Cup final. Not any more it seems.

The facts speak for themselves: in the last five years only two teams from outside the top four have won a major trophy (Spurs, 2008 League Cup and Portsmouth, 2008 FA Cup).

How long is this boring monopolisation of the domestic game by a tiny handful of clubs going to continue?