Further breaches in human rights planned by UK Government.

surveillance

Raibeart MacPhàrlain

Following on from current UN investigations into the UK Governments welfare reforms and austerity programme; and their impact on the poor, disabled and most marginalised in our society; libertarians and human rights campaigners now have a new draconian, or should I say Orwellian, legislation staring them in the face – the ‘Surveillance Bill’.

A recent article ‘Snoopers’ charter: Storm of protest over May’s surveillance Bill’, published in ‘The National’ (04.11.15), highlighted very well the protests and implications of the proposed Bill. Alas the outrage shown towards these proposed infringements by the UK Government are being sold to the people of the UK as a noble cause to protect us from paedophiles and terrorism. A rather curious sales pitch from a Government that has done everything it could to subvert, divert, stall, and diminish the investigation into the sexual abuse of children by Westminster parliamentarians.  In February this year, with the help of the Liberal Democrats, it blocked an amendment to the Official Secrets Act presented by Labour MP John Mann, which would have allowed whistleblowers to come forward without fear of prosecution. An issue Simon Danchuk MP (Labour) referred to in one article as so serious that, “parliamentary democracy … (would) … suffer an enormous, near fatal blow” if the truth came out.

It’s also worthy of note that just as the United States is recognising that it has sacrificed too much of its people’s civil liberties to the NSA and are now looking to scale some of this back; on this side of the Atlantic, the UK are pushing forward with this Bill. The very proposals that Edward Snowden referred to via Twitter as “… the most intrusive and least accountable surveillance regime in the west.” But to add irony to injury, he also tweeted “… the UK has secretly engaged in domestic mass surveillance since 1984.” Since 1984? Someone in our security services clearly has a sense of humour.

Also gone seem to be the days where protests by humanitarian and civil liberty groups were restricted to civil wars in parts of Africa or right wing dictatorships in Asia or South America. They have become part and parcel of Westminster Governments in recent years and are particular synonymous with the current UK Government.

The pressure group Liberty described this latest proposal as “a breath-taking attack on (the) internet security” of everyone in Britain, whilst Amnesty International described how it won’t help catch terrorists; it will be used to control what we do; we are being sold “a false choice of safety or freedom”; and the Bill “fundamentally threatens free speech online”.

Even David Davies MP (Conservative) is vehemently against the Bill’s impact on civil liberties when he said that it was “undemocratic, unnecessary and in the long run – intolerable”. However, I would suggest the most appropriate way of summarising the motives behind recent events would be to refer to the prominent Englishman, Thomas Paine, who supported America in the American wars of independence. He suggested that “the greatest tyrannies are always perpetuated in the name of the noblest cause.”

 

I fear the worst.

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Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn Compared.

The Oligarch Kings

static2.politico.com

Bernie looking Presidential

Much has been made since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party in Great Britain, of the similarities between him and Bernie Sanders the Presidential hopeful. In that both are left of centre, and are older men with white hair, both with a tendency to be a bit scruffy this is certainly true – beyond that, less so.

Regarding dress sense, Jeremy trumps Bernie here, as “Jezza” (as we affinados are encouraged to call him) has all the sartorial appeal of a geography teacher who does Morris dancing in his spare time.

Basically, Bernie is the fully realised progressive democrat, the real deal, and Corbyn presents more as a washed up old lefty from the old school still banging on about all the old issues we left behind years ago.

Bernie Sanders is a true son of the working class born in 1941, and at 73…

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Can RISE push progressive politics forward without becoming sectarian?

The Scots Perspective interviews Democratic Left Scotland Convener and Dundee Trades Council Chair, Stuart Fairweather about the role of RISE in progressive politics and the push for independence.

Stuart Yes campaign

As the RISE party launch occurs at the weekend, we speak to Stuart Fairweather, a veteran political activist, convener of the Democratic Left Scotland, chair of the Dundee Trades Council and member of the Dundee Radical Independence campaign. He was active in the Trade Unions for YES organisation and has been a politically active for over three decades.

Stuart spoke at the launch of RISE and was invited, as an observer, onto the steering committee integral in developing the RISE party. Classing himself as ‘not quite a convert’ we ask Stuart about how he views the role of RISE within Scottish politics and the nature of progressive politics generally in Scotland.
RISE is a relatively new phenomenon for Scottish Politics, explains Stuart, and it is not a political party in the traditional sense. There has been an ambivelançe to elections by the far-left in the past, he points out, but RISE comes from a different perspective. The YES campaign initiated an enthusiasm and engagement in canvassing and campaigning and RISE develops that enthusiasm and position it with a wider more pluralist anti-austerity alliance.

The Independence referendum has changed everything in Scotland. The parameters of political action and ideas has been increasingly articulated through the struggle for self-determination. The collapse of the Labour Party, the surge of the SNP, the coalition gathering around RISE, as well as the Scottish Greens’ commitment to independence means that any progressive politics is coalescing around independence. One of the four tenets of RISE’s policy is independence, showing its central position in left-wing politics.

Stuart agrees to a certain extent. What ‘independence actually means in the context of globalisation is debatable’, he suggests. But the ‘relationship between the momentum for a further referendum and anti-austerity politics provides a potential for challenging neo liberalism.’ For those reasons ‘instrumental independence is central to a progressive political struggle in Scotland.’

There is movement within England that shows a developing struggle of anti-austerity politics that is taking hold. Corbyn’s surprise popularity and his potential to transform the Labour Party into an oppositional force creates a new politics for England. Does this change the political situation in Scotland?

Stuart thinks this is unlikely. Regardless of the leadership election he is suspicious of the Labour Party’s ability to become progressive. ‘For too long Labour has been very comfortable with being her Majesty’s loyal opposition rather than being the spearhead for an alternative in parliament as well as wider society,’ he suggests.

Will a Corbyn victory revive the Labour Party in Scotland?
“Whilst there may be some positive association with any Corbyn victory, it is unlikely to be enough to seriously challenge the SNP. The Labour Party’s failure to back a Yes vote will long damage its position in Scotland. Any attempt to establish a credible argument for greater powers should be welcomed but in itself will not address the issue of trust. Labour put the British establishment before the people.”

Along with that sense of Labour party betrayal, Scotland is also now coming to terms with the decision it made. In opting to remain part of the UK, we are now subject to a government that is unprecedentedly right wing. The destruction of the welfare state, the persecution of the poor and vulnerable and the erosion of our civil liberties create a Union that is somewhat disconnected to Scottish politics. “The prospect of an independent Scotland is something entirely different from Britain’s apparent enthusiasm for austerity” and “creates an ongoing contradiction,” explains Stuart.

With these issues in mind then, what next for Scotland? Stuart explains that in the short term, the May 2016 elections are pivotal in that they will “act as a proxy for the next referendum.” There is a lot of certainty that there will be another referendum but when that will be is subject to much speculation. Stuart considers that conditions are more important than time frames. Ensuring the next referendum ‘can be convincingly won’ is key, but creating ‘conditions for that is the hard bit’.

Stuart notes that the central point is whether SNP will include a clear timetable for a second referendum in their Hollywood manifesto. Naming any date is dangerous but ‘finding a form of words that keeps the prospect alive and connected to anti-austerity politics is what is important’.

And RISE’s role in all this? RISE can play a role in developing the anti-austerity / independence agenda set out on Scotland. But only if they can ‘develop this space without being sectarian’. In Stuart’s opinion, RISE should push the SNP on austerity but not on the referendum. And Stuart will be urging them to support the Green’s Maggie Chapman in the North East as part of a broader progressive alliance.

Stuart understands the difficulties involved in RISE’s new position. It needs to be critical of the SNP and Greens without being sectarian, he says, and this might be difficult for some. Last September was fundamentally ‘a democratic uprising’ he explains, and that’s what people need to be reconnected with. Organisations need to reflect the democratic tendencies in their organisational structure as well as policies, he continues. If sectarianism increases, then it will repel people and damage the anti-austerity movement. After the conference, however, Stuart is hopeful that RISE can avoid the pitfalls and play a positive role in Scotland’s new progressive politics.

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Labour has lost so much blood, it has turned blue.

labour-leadership-candidates

Liam Muir

Picture the scene. Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham drop out of the Labour leadership race ‘for the good of the party’ and Yvette Cooper pips Jeremy Corbyn to the post and becomes Leader. Labour spend the next five years trying to win over Conservative voters again and lose, again. It is certainly a possibility.
Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru Murthy put the question to Corbyn.

‘Why do you think the people who voted Conservative in 2015, will suddenly vote for a socialist in 2020?

Keep this question in mind and let’s consider another possibility. Let’s contemplate the state press being correct. Yvette Cooper becomes Prime Minister in 2020 because she manages to win enough support from Tory voters. This is apparently Labour’s quickest and most effective route to victory. But gaining power in this capacity would not help those in need. The power for power’s sake ideology plaguing the party is a symptom of the deep routed functionality problem within.

Traditionally, support of the state media has benefited politicians. Afterall, ‘It’s The Sun what won it’. These days however, it seems that increasingly, people have begun to tire of the evident bias dominating televised news and the printed press. It helped the SNP to be the underdogs and it appears to be helping Jeremy Corbyn.

Huffington Post’s Owen Bennett urged people that Tony Blair’s opinion of Jeremy Corbyn is important because Blair knows how to win.

‘Does it help when a man who led the Labour Party to three general election victories for the first time in their history gets involved? Yes it does. I think they should listen to Tony Blair.’

Firstly, let’s look at the three things Blair did when he first came in to power. He detached the Bank of England from parliament and gave it full control over monetary policy. He cut eleven pounds a week from welfare to single mothers. He introduced tuition fees to all students. None of this was in his election strategy. So let’s dispel the idea that Tony Blair was elected on the back of a campaign promising to aid the US in their illegal occupation of Iraq and abolish the 10p tax rate.

In 1997, people voted Labour largely because they wanted to see Thatcherism undone and the damage it had caused to the working class, mended. If Blair had some magic formula, it would be reflected in his election results. From 1997 to his last victory in 2005, his percentage of the voting public went from 30.8% to 21.6%. A drop of almost four million people. In actual fact, John Major received more votes than Blair ever did in 1992. As more people began to realise they had been sold a lemon, Labour’s support diminished and in 2010, Gordon Brown lost by a sizeable margin.

Even if Labour do move more to the right and somehow manage to win, it would be meaningless. A left wing Labour Party, win, lose or draw would broaden the scope of UK politics. A Labour Party genuinely interested in improving social welfare instead of fixating on their perceived quickest route to power, is a Labour Party capable of gaining support.

As of now, Corbyn has a ’20 point lead’ in the polls according to The Telegraph and a ’22 point lead’ in the polls according to The Independent. Irrespective of your preferred reading material, he has the support of 42% of the Labour Party members. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Corbyn more recently topped the constituency group vote by 162 to Yvette cooper’s 121. In addition, he has the support of both of the UK’s largest trade unions, Unite and Unison as well as the Community Workers Union. Corbyn’s success leaves Scottish Labour scratching its head.

Kezia Dugdale said recently that were Corbyn to become leader, they’d be ‘Carping on the sidelines for years’. This comment was eerily similar to Tony Blair’s former director of political operations, John Mcternan’s view.

‘No one supporting him (Corbyn) thinks he is going to win. Politics is about winning power’.
This rather pitiful attitude displayed by both Dugdale and Mcternan is symbolic of Labour’s inability to contemplate how superficial and insincere they sound. ‘Carping on the sidelines’ would give them much more traction than abstaining on the sidelines will.

The SNP’s victory is evidence that a manifesto with policies to the left, can win support. Had the
SNP stood in England in May, they would have likely won a lot of support. This was evident in Nicola Sturgeon’s strong UK wide support during the televised debates, prompting many to Google the question ‘Can I vote for the SNP if I live in England?’ It is worth noting that May’s General Election saw a record low 13% Conservative vote In Scotland. As the Tories continue to fade, Labour seem to show no interest in entertaining social democratic politics. This is why they face near certain damnation at the ballot box next year.

Kezia Dugdale has been seen publicly drinking from Jim Murphy’s Poison Chalice. Ken Macintosh, to his credit, has supported Corbyn’s right to stand and has expressed his desire for a fully devolved Scottish Labour Party, but is unlikely to win. Even if he did, Scotland is so skeptical of Labour now. The recent bi-election wins for the SNP only provides further proof. Overcoming the SNP’s thriving support is too big an ask while Labour flounder down South.

This swell of grassroots Labour support, seeing a sharp rise in membership, is something I would never have expected 6 months ago. Whether Jeremy Corbyn has the look or the personality that many thought Ed Miliband didn’t have, is really irrelevant. He represents a broader European wide challenge to Neo Liberalism. People can see how genuine Corbyn is purely because he has the courage of his convictions. He has never sold out his ethics, where others in the party historically have.

From as far back as the Tony Blair era, they have been bleeding the essence of what defined them. Now, Labour has lost so much blood, it has turned blue. The abolishment of clause 4, the move away from trade union funding to business funding and the prevention of a Scottish devolved minimum wage to name but a few, has shaped what we see today.

One of the many problems Jeremy Corbyn faces if he does win is his politics being too progressive for his party to accommodate in its current form. Writer Will Self articulated the significant width and breadth of Labour when he called them ‘Too Broad a Church.

‘On the right you have people who are affectively Neo-Liberals…and on the left you have in some cases, entryist Marxists.’

A win for Corbyn would expose this. There is already a very significant split in opinions within the Party. At this point anyway, an official split seems more likely than a complete overhaul.