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Broken Britain 21: our divided society

Aditya Chakrabortty focusses on the ‘vast disconnect between elite authority and lived experience, central to what’s broken in Britain today’ – the ‘gap’ which widened as independent working class self-help initiatives were replaced by the ‘hand of the state’ (Mount) creating ’a new feudalism’ and from two searing analyses of our divided society (Jones).

He asks:

  • “Why is a stalemate among 650 MPs a matter for such concern, yet the slow, grinding extinction of mining communities and light-industrial suburbsis passed over in silence?
  • “Why does May’s wretched career cover the first 16 pages of a Sunday paper while a Torbay woman told by her council that she can “manage being homeless”, and even sleeping rough, is granted a few inches downpage in a few of the worthies?”
  • Is “the death sentence handed to stretches of the country and the vindictive spending cuts imposed by the former chancellor George Osborne, a large part of why Britain voted for Brexit in the first place?”

He continues:

“We have economic policymakers who can’t grasp how the economy has changed, elected politicians who share hardly anything in common with their own voters . . . Over a decade from the banking crash, the failings of our economic policymaking need little elaboration. the basic language of economic policy makes less and less sense.

“Growth no longer brings prosperity; you can work your socks off and still not earn a living. Yet still councils and governments across the UK will spend billions on rail lines, and use taxpayers’ money to bribe passing billionaire investors, all in the name of growth and jobs.”

A University College London study published last year shows that  the parliamentary Labour party became more “careerist” under Tony Blair – and also grew increasingly fond of slashing welfare. Social security was not something that ‘professionalised MPs’ or their circle had ever had to rely on, so ‘why not attack scroungers and win a few swing voters?’

The trend continues: Channel 4 News found that over half of the MPs elected in 2017 had come from backgrounds in politics, law, or business and finance and more came from finance alone than from social work, the military, engineering and farming put together.

This narrowing has a direct influence on our law-making and political class and Chakrabortty comments: “We now have economic policymakers who can’t grasp how the economy has changed, elected politicians who share hardly anything in common with their own voters”.

He concludes that this is what a real democratic crisis looks like: failed policies forced down the throats of a public. Institution after institution failing to legislate, reflect or report on the very people who pay for them to exist. And until it is acknowledged, Britain will be stuck, seething with resentment, in a political quagmire.

 

 

 

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Lord Steyn: a legal luminary who upheld the rights of the powerless

 

Lord Steyn in 2005: a man of forthright opinion apparently untroubled by self doubt

The following 2004 broadside was fired by Lord Steyn, described in his Times obituary as an “Outspoken law lord whose liberal views became a thorn in the side of the Blair government, especially over Iraq and Guantanamo Bay”, following Lord Hoffmann’s suggestion that the courts should not interfere with certain Government decisions.

“Courts must never abdicate their duty to protect citizens from the abuse of power by governments . . .The United States government has already created a hellhole of utter lawlessness at Guantanamo Bay by committing such abuse.”

Lord Steyn was born and bred in Cape Town and was one of the few native Afrikaaners who fiercely opposed apartheid. He won a Rhodes scholarship to read English at University College, Oxford and after being called to the bar and sitting as senior counsel in South Africa’s supreme court emigrated to Britain in 1973 to start on the bottom rung of the legal ladder.

Though English was not his native language, his Afrikaans accent remained thick and his ‘delivery’ in court was hesitant, he was admired for his clear arguments and his skill in cross-examination. Having served as the presiding judge on the Northern Circuit, Steyn moved to the Court of Appeal in 1992. He was made a life peer in 1995.

A detainee from Afghanistan is carried on a stretcher before being interrogated by military officials at Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Telegraph 2016)

In 2003 he accused the home secretary, David Blunkett, of using “weasel words” to justify his policy on asylum seekers. Five months later, Steyn branded the US regime at Guantanamo Bay “a monstrous failure of justice” and declared that the system of trial by military tribunal was no more than a “kangaroo court” that “makes a mockery of justice”.

The unkett then blocked his appointment to a House of Lords judicial committee

The senior law lord, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, was asked not to include Steyn on the nine-judge panel to decide on the legality of detaining foreign terror suspects without trial – the first time a government had ever sought and obtained an alteration in the composition of the House of Lords’ judicial committee.

His other achievements include:

  • being one of the judges who ruled by a 3-2 majority that the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was not entitled to claim sovereign immunity from prosecution;
  • reproving Lord Irvine of Lairg, the lord chancellor who sought ‘an unfettered right to impose rule changes on the legal profession; “He is a member of the executive carrying out the party political agenda of the Labour administration. He is a politician. To entrust to a cabinet minister the power to control the legal profession would be an exorbitant inroad on the constitutional principle of the separation of powers”;
  • claiming, when Britain introduced executive detention without trial in 2001, that the UK opt-out from the European Convention on Human Rights was not justified “in the present circumstances”.
  • arguing, as chairman of Justice, the human rights group, that the Iraq War was unlawful and said that, “in its search for a justification in law for war, the government was driven to scrape the bottom of the legal barrel”;
  • dismissing Tony Blair’s suggestion, just months after the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, that the war had not made London a more dangerous place as a “fairytale”.

A champion of the Human Rights Act 1998, he retired satisfied that it had already “transformed our country into a rights-based democracy”. Hmm . . .

Anthony Lester, QC, wrote: “He has woven the Human Rights Act into the fabric of our legal system. He has a terrier-like tenacity and the courage of a lion. He’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to replace.” Agreed.

 

 

 

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FT: a strange blend of truth and spleen unwittingly affirms Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘superannuated socialist’ stance

The FT’s Philip Stephens, Tony Blair’s biographer, pertinently remarks:Today’s elites should ask themselves just when it became acceptable for politicians to walk straight from public office into the boardroom; for central bank chiefs to sell themselves to US investment banks; and for business leaders to pay themselves whatever they pleased”. He continues:

“Now as after 1945, the boundaries between public and private have to change. At its simplest, establishing trust is about behaviour. . . The lesson Europe’s postwar political leaders drew from the societal collapses of the 1930s was that a sustainable equilibrium between democracy and capitalism had been shattered by market excesses.

“Citizens were unwilling to accept a model for the market that handed all the benefits to elites and imposed the costs on the poor. In the US, then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt responded with the New Deal. Europe waited until the continent had been reduced to rubble in 1945 before building what the British called the welfare state and continental governments called the European social model. Economic prosperity and political stability were the rewards.

“The present generation of politicians should learn from the experience. Defending a status quo that is manifestly unfair in its distribution of wealth and opportunity serves only to put weapons in the hands of populists . . .

“One way to start redrawing the boundaries would be to take on the big corporate monopolies that have eschewed wealth creation for rent-seeking; to oblige digital behemoths such as Google and Apple to pay more than token amounts of tax; to ensure immigration does not drive down wages; and to put in place worthwhile training alongside flexible markets”.

The difference: Corbyn would act for altruistic reasons, but thepresent generation of politicians’ concede only to retain privilege

Stephens (right) ends by saying that what we need is a social market economy – combining the central elements of a free market (private property, free foreign trade, exchange of goods and free formation of prices) and universal health care, old-age pension and unemployment insurance as part of an extensive social security system

And most of this is precisely what Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s Labour party leader, wholeheartedly supports. Though dismissed by Stephens as a ‘superannuated socialist’, he would uphold and enhance the system presently faced with public disgust at the ‘fat-cat’ political-corporate revolving door with its rewards for failure. This disgust is combined with anger at the austerity regime imposed by those currently in power, which prevents local authorities from continuing basic public services and deprives some of the least fortunate of food and decent housing.

 

 

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“Jeremy Corbyn is perfectly right to relate this week’s Manchester terrorist atrocity to British foreign policy in the Middle East.”

A Moseley reader draws attention to the thoughts of Simon Jenkins in the Guardian today. A summary:

Jenkins asserted that Jeremy Corbyn is perfectly right to relate this week’s Manchester terrorist atrocity to British foreign policy in the Middle East.

He reminded all that Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron clearly stated that they were spending soldiers’ lives toppling regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya at enormous expense in order to “to prevent terrorism in the streets of Britain”.

In the Andrew Neil programme this evening Corbyn added that Boris Johnson, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee – and MI5 had also expressed these views ‘on record’!

Their aim was to suppress militant Islam but Jenkins points out that when their intervention clearly led to an increase in Islamist terrorism, we are entitled to agree with Corbyn that it has “simply failed”.

We committed armed aggression against sovereign peoples who had not attacked us

Regimes were indeed toppled. Tens of thousands died, many of them civilians every bit as innocent as Manchester’s victims. Terrorism has not stopped.

Militant Islamists are indeed seeking to subvert the west’s sense of security and its liberal values. But the west used the language of “shock and awe” in bombing Baghdad in 2003, giving the current era of Islamist terrorism a cause, a reason, an excuse, however perverted.

Jenkins ends: “Islamist terrorism is related to foreign policy. However hateful it may seem to us, it is a means to a political end. Sometimes it is as well to call a spade a spade”.

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Read his article here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/26/jeremy-corbyn-manchester-british-foreign-policy

 

 

 

“And the children of Iraq, in their graves, disabled, cancer ridden from DU weapons, disabled, deformed, homeless, displaced, Mr Blair?”  

Blair’s Grand Delusion: “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad”

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Tony Blair has announced plans to set up a new centre-ground institute to combat the “new populism of left and right”.

This new body would provide answers to anti-business and anti-immigrant views which share a “closed-minded approach to globalisation”.

In a characteristically self-congratulatory statement published on his website, he said his new not-for-profit organisation would deliver policies based on evidence rather than the “plague” of social media abuse.

It would be a response to the political shocks of the last year, such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency.

It aims to support practising politicians –  such worthies as John Mann, Jess Philips, Simon Danczuk and those former colleagues still waving the New Labour flag?

He ends: “I care about my country and the world my children and grandchildren will grow up in; and want to play at least a small part in contributing to the debate about the future of both.”

Felicity Arbuthnot asks, on behalf of millions: “And the children of Iraq, in their graves, disabled, cancer ridden from DU weapons, disabled, deformed, homeless, displaced, Mr Blair?”

What could be more extremist than Blair’s deadly collusion in that country’s destruction?

 

 

 

Keep the engines of capitalism working? Or find a beneficial alternative?

 huffington-post2

Following the summary of yesterday’s article by the Times’ Jenni Russell, a second analysis is made by John Wight in the Huffington Post article. He writes:

“The liberal order has collapsed and no one should mourn its demise, for on its tombstone is engraved the disaster of Afghanistan, the murder of Iraq and Libya, and the unleashing of an upsurge in global terrorism and religious fanaticism on the back of the destabilisation wrought across the Middle East in the wake of 9/11. Married to a refugee crisis of biblical dimension and the closest we have ever been to direct military confrontation with Russia since the Cold War, these are the fruits of this liberal order abroad.

“Meanwhile at home its moral and intellectual conceit has produced obscene levels of inequality, alienation, and poverty, exacerbated by the worst economic recession since the 1930s and the implementation of that mass experiment in human despair, otherwise known as austerity, in response.

adams-common-good“Tony Blair, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton epitomise this failed liberal order – leaders who perfected the art of speaking left while acting right, presenting themselves as champions of the masses, of ordinary working people, while worshipping at the altar of the free market, cosying up to the banks, corporations, and vested interests”.

  • Are Brexit and Donald Trump ‘unleashing the dogs of racism and bigotry’ as John Wight fears?
  • Is hope in Jeremy Corbyn lost? Wight thinks he failed to understand the danger posed by Brexit and mounted a dispassionate and lacklustre nature of the campaign.
  • Was the manner in which Bernie Sanders folded his tent after Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Party nomination in decidedly dubious circumstances was tantamount to a betrayal of the passion, commitment and hope that millions across America had placed in him?

He emphasises that politics is not a mere parlour game and says that both Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders are fully deserving of criticism for taking positions and an approach which has suggested that for them it is, continuing:

mlk-live-together-smaller“Demoralisation and defeatism is never an option”.

Agreed, but there are better prescriptions than those he outlines in his final paragraphs.

Jenni Russell sees ‘the anguished question’ as being how to remedy the acute problems of inequality, while keeping the engines of capitalism working.

Should we instead try the engines of co-operation, peacebuilding, mutuality and increasing self-provision?

 

 

 

 

Report: Dubai lawyer to sue Blair over war crimes in Iraq – and why not Bush, the leading partner?

Investigative journalist Felicity Arbuthnot today sent a link to an article in the Gulf News, reporting that a Dubai-Cairo-London based law firm, headed by advocate Nasser Hashem, intends to take legal action against former British prime minister Tony Blair, seeking his prosecution for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Read an earlier statement of intention on their website.

blair-iraqThis decision was made following the publication of Chilcot’s report on the Iraq war in July in which it was found that Saddam Hussain did not pose an urgent threat to British interests and that the intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction was presented with unwarranted certainty.

Also, the report said UK and the US had undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council. Hashem explained:

“We are taking this legal procedure against Blair since he took the decision [in his capacity as the British prime minister then] to participate with the United States in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 without the permission of the UK’s House of Commons.

statue-liberty-covers-eyes“He produced unreasonable, bogus and wrong information to the House of Commons, according to the Chilcot report, and based on that information, the UK participated in that war.”

Hashem said Blair also falsely told the House of Commons that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and biological weapons before the war was launched against Iraq. 

He added: “Thousands of Iraqis were killed, injured, displaced and/or shattered. Blair committed war crimes against the people of Iraq and violated human rights. He should be taken to court for the crimes he committed”.

This is a dreadful ordeal for the former British Prime Minister to face, but it pales into insignificance when compared with the sufferings of thousands of Iraqi people. And if it can make political leaders realise that military interventions are always both barbaric and futile Blair’s suffering will have served the world well.

 

 

 

 

Have serving MPs from the Cabinet of 2003 the moral right to represent their constituents following such poor judgement and its consequences?

An article on a Jamaican blog ends: “As we digest the contents and impact of Chilcot’s report, I am reminded of the late Brian Haw (1949-2011) who lived in front of the Houses of Parliament for almost 10 years protesting against the Iraq War”.

 

brian haw

The late Brian Haw

African Herbsman writes: “One of the sad aspects of the Chilcot report is that most of its contents was known at the time leading up to the Iraq War in 2003, through Whitehall & various media sources – e.g. Govt leaks, Private Eye magazine and documentaries made by Panorama and Dispatches”. He continues:

“That is why –  with the exception of the late Robin Cook – Tony Blair’s cabinet of 2002-3 must also shoulder blame for their support for the war. Former cabinet ministers such as Jack Straw, Jack Cunningham, David Blunkett, Margaret Beckett, Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon and Deputy PM John Prescott are as culpable as Tony Blair”.

Now some of those ex-ministers are expressing various forms of denial, but the author is unrelenting: “Today, say they didn’t have all the facts or felt shut out by Tony Blair at the time. Yet these ministers voted to commit young men and women to an illegal war. Unforgivable”.

African Herbsman, who formerly worked in Whitehall continues:

“These cabinet and backbench Labour MPs voted for war only to boost their career prospects within the government. Gordon Brown was told bluntly that if he did not publicly support the war he would not succeed Tony Blair as PM.

“Today, almost 70 of those Labour MPs who voted in 2003 are still in the House of Commons.  Yet most of them have said little about Chilcot’s report or even apologised for their selfish act. The majority of whom are plotting the bring the current leader Jeremy Corbyn down via Angela Eagle – who voted for the war.

“Some Labour MPs did their devious best to block the setting up of the Chilcot Inquiry. Some tried restricting the Inquiry’s terms of reference and even delay the report’s release.

“Do any of those MPs have the moral right to represent their constituents following such poor judgement and its consequences?

“Friday morning 2 May 1997, was one of the happiest days to be in London. The sun was out and Labour had defeated John Major’s Tory government the night before. We couldn’t believe that for some of us we were witnessing a Labour government in our adult lives. But Tony Blair, his cabinet colleagues, his inner circle and pro-war backbench MPs just blew the goodwill they were given to make the UK a proud, honest and prosperous society”.

 

 

Read the article here: https://wingswithme.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/chilcot-report-dont-just-blame-blair/

 

 

 

Great Britain: did our government agree to a “trade for terrorist plan”to secure a massive oil and gas deal for BP?

Readers send many links to news about the revolving door, rewards for failure and the political influence wielded by the corporate world – but all this has been repeatedly covered on this site and it is wearying to continue to print them – just more of the same.

But, today, has a new low been reached?

Even bearing in mind the biased source, this weariness is shattered by the claim of former justice minister Kenny MacAskill, that the UK government made Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi – sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 for blowing up a Pan-Am airliner over Lockerbie in 1988 – eligible for return to his Libyan home under a “trade for terrorist plan” to try to secure a massive oil and gas deal for BP which was in doubt.

In a new book, Kenny MacAskill says Jack Straw, then UK justice secretary, shared the details in a “highly confidential” telephone call which casts new light on a controversy that has dogged Tony Blair since his 2007 “deal in the desert” with the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddaffi.

blair gaddafi shake hands

That deal was to give British industry access to Libyan oil reserves worth up to £13bn and £350m of defence contracts and involved a prisoner transfer agreement. MacAskill claims Straw warned him that Gaddaffi was threatening to cancel the energy contact and award it to a US firm unless Megrahi was returned under the PTA, after learning the new SNP regime was trying to exempt him.

Within weeks of the UK government agreeing not to exempt Megrahi from the PTA, Gaddaffi ratified the BP deal with Libya’s national oil corporation.

A spokesman for BP said the company had no comment on the UK government’s actions or discussions.

MacAskill also admits his decision to free Megrahi was partly motivated by a fear of violent reprisals against Scots if the killer died in Scottish custody. Just a few weeks before the decision was made to free him, UK hostages taken prisoner in Iraq had been murdered and other Western nationals captured in the area were executed. The former Scottish minister writes: “There was hostility to the West and ordinary citizens were becoming targets. Most in North Africa or the wider Arab world neither knew of Scotland nor cared about it. The last thing I wanted was to have Scotland become a place that was demonised and its citizens targeted. I would not allow Scottish oil workers or others, wherever they might be, to face retribution as a consequence of my decision.”

Kenny MacAskill has also argued that a coalition involving Libyan, Syrian, Iranian and Palestinian terrorists were behind the Lockerbie bombing, in revenge for the downing of an Iran Air flight by a US naval ship in July 1988.

 

 

 

Michael Meacher: Tony Blair fails to understand the Corbyn earthquake

Michael Meacher was Minister of State for the Environment for six years, though for some reason Tony Blair did not appoint him to the Cabinet. Meacher gained a fine reputation, well-respected as a skilled negotiator and a minister with full command of his complex brief. He helped John Prescott to clinch the Kyoto agreement to limit carbon emissions in 1997 and was one of the first in Government to come to grips with the issue of global warming.

michael meacher

Meacher notes in his recent Global Research article , that after hi-jacking the party down a route utterly alien to its founders, in order to ingratiate himself with corporate and financial leaders on their terms . . . Tony Blair appears not to understand why the Corbyn earthquake is happening or  the passionate resentment which he and New Labour created:

  • by laying the foundations for the financial crash of 2008-9 and making the squeezed middle and brutally punished poor pay for it,
  • by aligning New Labour alongside the Tories in pursuit of austerity from 2010 onwards, though Osborne’s policy (to shrink the State) has been unsuccessful in reducing the deficit,
  • by taking Britain without any constitutional approval into an illegal was with Iraq,
  • by introducing into politics the hated regime of spin and manipulation,
  • by indulging now his squalid lust for money-making
  • and by clearly having no more overriding desire than to strut the world with Bush.

He then asked three searching questions about Blair’s conduct:

Why did he urge the Blairites to support the government’s welfare bill which opposed every tenet of the real Labour Party?

Why did he push for privatisation of the NHS and other public services?

Why did his ally Mandelson say “New Labour is “relaxed at people becoming filthy rich”, and proved it by letting inequality balloon to even higher heights than under Thatcher?

And concluded: “He has a lot to learn . . .”


Read the whole article here: http://www.globalresearch.ca/tony-blair-is-living-in-a-state-of-deluded-denial/5473462