Thursday, July 29, 2010

Top Ten UK Political Blogs poll

You can vote for your top ten (or top five) UK political blogs here.
Or email your list to:

Any votes for this blog, and for the Campaign 4 Public Ownership blog gratefully received- and also consider supporting some of the excellent anti-war blogs on the blogroll on the right.

Total Politics is published by the neoliberal, pro-Iraq war blogger Iain Dale, so to make him happy, let’s try and get some anti-neoliberal, anti-war blogs to the top of the poll.

Voting closes at midnight on Saturday 31st July.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Clegg and Cameron are pissing off Middle England

This article of mine appears in the First Post.

Neil Clark: You know the Tories are in trouble when the Telegraph and the Morning Star agree.

Here’s an extract:

The most interesting thing about British politics at present is the way that the ruling coalition's extreme neo-liberalism has put it on a collision course not just with the 'old' left, but with conservative Middle England. Aside from the Morning Star, there has been no daily newspaper more unrelentingly critical of the new government than the Daily Mail - the authentic voice of the country's small 'c' conservatives.

You can read the whole of the article here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The (very welcome) death of 'liberal interventionism'

Olching writes:

Liberal interventionism must be viewed in the same light as any other aggressive, traumatic foreign policy of, say, the last 200 years. This must include rejecting the story of 'good' interventions in Yugoslavia and/or Afghanistan - it has always been part of the same brutal agenda.

Anyone doubt that now?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Destruction of the NHS

continues apace....

From today’s Sunday Telegraph:

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has uncovered widespread cuts planned across the NHS, many of which have already been agreed by senior health service officials. They include:
* Plans to cut hundreds of thousands of pounds from budgets for the terminally ill, with dying cancer patients to be told to manage their own symptoms if their condition worsens at evenings or weekends.
* The closure of nursing homes for the elderly.
* A reduction in acute hospital beds, including those for the mentally ill, with targets to discourage GPs from sending patients to hospitals and reduce the number of people using accident and emergency departments.

Dr Peter Carter, the head of the Royal College of Nursing, said he was “incredibly worried” about the disclosures.

Dr Carter said: “Andrew Lansley keeps saying that the Government will protect the front line from cuts – but the reality appears to be quite the opposite. We are seeing trusts making job cuts even when they have already admitted to being short staffed.

How disgusting. We have a government that is prepared to spend £4bn a year on an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, but not prepared to properly support the NHS.
On the contrary, they are actually planning for its destruction.

But while the vast majority of Britons will be adversely affected by the destruction of the NHS, we can be sure of one thing. That this government of multi-millionaires will never have to worry about their own health care needs.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Austerity Cameron-style: Hungary shows there is an alternative

This piece of mine appears in the First Post.

Amid warnings of a new UK recession, Hungary reminds us there is another way – growth

At first sight, Hungary and Britain have much in common. Both started the year being led by men called Gordon B. Both have seen unpopular nominally left-of-centre governments replaced, after spring general elections, by the conservative opposition. Both have relatively large government deficits.

But when it comes to dealing with the deficit, the approach of the British Conservative-led government and their Hungarian counterparts could not be more different.

You can read the whole of the piece here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Former MI5 chief exposes the neo-cons’ Iraq War pretence

There was no evidence whatsoever that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, the Iraq war was unjustified and it ‘significantly increased' the risk of Britain being subjected to a terrorist attack.

Wow, who’d ever have thought it! Well actually, quite a few of us who opposed the war did say so at the time.

You can read Robert Fox’s piece on Lady Manningham-Buller’s testimony at the Chilcot Inquiry, here.

Read it and you’ll understand why the neo-cons want ‘closure’ on Iraq and for everyone to ‘move on’. But remember, the same lies which were told about the ‘threat’ Saddam Hussein’s Iraq posed in 2003, are now being told about Iran (and the neocons are telling lies about Belarus too-another independent country they hate-as our friend and regular commenter Karl Naylor reports on his excellent Eastern Europe Watch website.)

Overdose -The Pride of Hungary returns!

Good news from central and eastern Europe. The Hungarian government has stood its ground against the IMF and EU and has refused to ditch its tax on the financial sector and impose further austerity on the long-suffering Hungarian people.

And the incredible Hungarian wonder horse Overdose is back, winning a Listed race in Bratislava on Sunday (see above) after a 15 months absence from the racetrack due to a serious foot injury.

Let’s hope ‘The Budapest Bullet’ can get to Paris in October, safe and sound for the Prix de L’Abbaye and right one of the great sporting wrongs.

And let's hope too that Hungarian government can continue to stand up to the pressure from the 'markets' and put the welfare of its own people before the interests of the international money men.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Fall of Barack Obama- and why there can be no ‘good’ US President.

Highly trained tool and die workers, the aristocrats of the manufacturing sector, are flipping hamburgers – at best – for $7.50 an hour because US corporations sent their jobs to Guangzhou, with the approval of politicians flush with the money of the "free trade" lobby.

It is not Obama's fault that across 30 years more and more money has floated up to the apex of the social pyramid till America is heading back to where it was in the 1880s, a nation of tramps and millionaires. It's not his fault that every tax break, every regulation, every judicial decision tilts towards business and the rich. That was the neo-liberal America conjured into malign vitality back in the mid 1970s.

You can read the rest of Alexander Cockburn’s excellent piece on how it all went wrong for Obama- and why there can be no ‘good’ US President, here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why Labour never really needed Peter Mandelson

You can read my article on the truths you won’t find in Peter Mandelson’s memoirs, here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Save the NHS!

Let’s be quite clear. If the radical new government plans announced by Health Minister Andrew Lansley (above) today (details here and here) are carried out, it's goodbye to the NHS.

Do you want to see the privatisation of health care in Britain? No, me neither. But it's going to happen if we allow the neoliberals, who have always hated the very idea of socialised health care, get their way.

UPDATE: There's a great comment on the Mail website by 'ellie', which I think says it all:

If we can afford to bail out the sleazebag bankers with billions, we can afford to fund the NHS. The Tories are choosing their rich friends and private companies ahead of the welfare of the rest of us, just as they always have. This is what you get when you vote in a cabinet full of millionaires backed up by their lapdog LibDem colleagues. I bet even more people are rueing the day they voted Lib Dem.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The 2010 World Cup: The Best and the Worst

Let’s face it, the 2010 World Cup has not been one of the greatest. The first round of group games were hugely disappointing. There have been too many low-scoring matches.

But nevertheless the tournament has still had its moments.

Here’s my Best and Worst. How about yours?

Best game: The last twenty minutes of Slovakia v Italy was amazing.

Best single team performance: Germany’s 4-0 demolition of Argentina.

Best Player: Thomas Muller of Germany.

Worst Player: Wayne Rooney.

Biggest flops: England and France.

Most Boring team: Portugal- ok, they got seven against North Korea, but failed to score in any of their other matches.

Worst match: Paraguay v Japan was dreadful, but considering the talent that was on the pitch Brazil v Portugal gets the vote.

Worst pundit: The BBC’s Danny Baker, who assured us after the France v Mexico game that France would beat South Africa and make it to the quarter-finals and also that England would go a long way too.

Saddest moment: Asamoah Gyan’s last second penalty miss for Ghana against Uruguay.

Best losers: The USA took their extra-time defeat against Ghana really well, with manager Bob Bradley warmly embracing his counterpart at the final whistle - and credit too to the Germans for the sporting way they took their semi-final defeat against Spain.

Worst losers: Raymond Domenech of France, who refused to shake hands with the South Africa coach, and Italy’s Marcello Lippi, who stormed off without shaking the hand of Vladimir Weiss after his side’s defeat against Slovakia.

Team of the tournament: Despite not making it to the final, the vote goes to Germany. Three great performances against Australia, England and Argentina. And it looks like they’ll be the tournament’s top scorers.

As to who’ll win on Sunday- well, Paul the Octopus says Spain. I’m not going to argue with him.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The New McCarthyites and the sacking of Octavia Nasr

Last year, in the First Post, I discussed the ‘New McCarthyism’- the worrying trend for people to be hounded out of their jobs by certain lobby groups for expressing the ‘wrong‘ opinions.

Here‘s another example, from America. Octavia Nasr apologised for her ‘tweet‘ in which she talked of her ‘respect’ for the Lebanese theologian Ayatollah Fadlallah. But as David Cairns points out in the First Post, her "reasoned and reasonable clarification" was not enough- and Ms Nasr’s twenty-year career with CNN is now at an end.

Another victory for the New McCarthyites.

UPDATE: It seems that the British Ambassador to Lebanon is the latest target of the New McCarthyites.

Here’s a couple of the comments underneath the article:

Frances Guy should be sacked immediately

Melanie, please start a e-petition to get her sacked

Go for it, New McCarthyites! We can’t have people in positions of authority expressing opinions with which you disagree, can we?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

All Aboard the Gravy Train

This column of mine appears in the Morning Star. It's also cross-posted at the Campaign for Public Ownership.

Neil Clark assesses the bleak future of our public services under the Con-Dem regime.

What have Britain's privatised railways got in common with the England football team?

Every time you think they can't possibly get any worse, they prove you wrong.

The state of the railways during New Labour's period of office can be compared to England's performance against Algeria - desperately poor.

But just two months on from the election it's clear the railways during the era of the Con-Dem coalition are going to be more like England v Germany - a total catastrophe.

Labour, to their shame, accepted privatisation. Under their so-called rail price formula they allowed train companies to raise prices by 1 per cent above the level of the RPI measure of inflation.

But at least there was some form of restriction on raising ticket prices.

The policy of the "progressive" coalition, however, is simply to let the privateers do what they want.

Monday, July 05, 2010

How the Premiership got found out in South Africa

This article of mine appears in the First Post.

Neil Clark: The best league in the world? Forget it. World Cup performances have exposed the myth

The belief that England's footballers were among the most talented in the world has been rudely shattered by their abject performances at the World Cup.

But even after the shambolic 4-1 defeat by Germany, one myth about English football still persists: namely that the Premier League, where all of England's players ply their trade, is "the best in the world".

Look at the squads of the four semi-finalists of the World Cup and one thing strikes you: the small number of players from the so-called best league in the world, who are still involved in the competition.

You can read the whole of the article here.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

‘Very Average’ Germany 4 Argentina 0

Exactly a week ago, British football pundits, brimming with confidence ahead of the England v Germany clash, were asking us how many members of the ’very average’ German side would make it into England’s ‘talented’ team.

Well I think even the most blindly patriotic England fan knows the answer now: all of them.

Yesterday’s 4-0 demolition of Argentina was one of the most impressive team performances I have ever seen in a World Cup. And for those who maintain that the Premiership is ‘the greatest league in the world’, it's worth noting that not one member of the brilliant German team plays his club football in England.

Olching highlighted the talents of Thomas Muller in the comments section on a recent post- and once again the Bayern Munich man showed what a great footballer he was with another terrific display. And what can we say about the performances yesterday of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose and Phillip Lahm?

Germany, available at an incredibly generous 14-1 to win the World Cup before their match against England, now looked nailed on to win the tournament.

And their progress surely cushions the blow for Serbia fans, disappointed at their team‘s early exit. If Germany do win the World Cup, then at least Serbia have the satisfaction of knowing that they were the only team to beat them. And it’s now clear what a tough group the Serbs were in- not only did they have Ghana to contend with, but also a very lively Australia team.

On the subject of the German football team- and the contrast between Germany and England, here’s an excellent post by Peter Wilby in the NS, flagged up by Karl Naylor.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

World Cup heartbreak for Ghana and Africa

In this tournament's 80-year history, surely there has never been such agony for a country, and a continent.
says sporting after Ghana’s dramatic- and heartbreaking- exit from the World Cup last night.

We were just a penalty kick away from an African side making the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in history.

Technically, I thought Ghana in this tournament were miles ahead of England, and indeed much better than Uruguay. They were a joy to watch.

And I think if Gyan had converted his penalty, Ghana would have had a very good chance of beating Holland in the semi-final. But it was not to be- and the wait for an African side to win the World Cup goes on.

I don’t know about you, but I felt sadder after yesterday’s match than I did when England’s bunch of overrated millionaires lost to Germany.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Tory prison U-turn is an opportunity for Labour

This piece of mine appears in the First Post.

Kenneth Clarke’s ‘hand wringing’ prison policy isn't progressive - it's a classic Conservative attack on state provision

This has been a year of surprises. Leeds knocking Manchester United out of the FA Cup. Tomas Berdych beating Roger Federer at Wimbledon. But now perhaps we have the biggest turn-up of them all: Labour attacking a Conservative-led government for being soft on crime.

Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke's dramatic reversal of the Tories 17-year-old 'Prison Works' policy has not only left grassroot Tories
fuming: it's upset Labour too.

Writing in the Daily Mail, former Home Secretary Jack Straw accused Clarke of returning to the flawed liberal "hand-wringing approach to crime", which marked a succession of post-war Home Secretaries before Michael Howard.

You can read the whole of the article here.