Who is Charlie?  Not #Tories!  Scrapping our Human Rights? No Way!

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Who is Charlie?

Less than a year ago there was a global outcry, about awful scenes in Paris leading to murders. The victims were expressing their right to free speech through the tool of cartoons. All through history  music, poetry, and satire have been arts through which thoughts can be expressed and shared. It is all part of being human. Can you remember when people carried placards saying, “Je Suis Charlie”, and “I am Charlie?”

Demonstrators in Paris unity march

People took to the streets, and were united in horror and determination. As Suzanne Moore commented at the time in the Guardian. She observed that:

Uncertainty is indeed gut-churning, but more and more it is intrinsic to our freedom. Rigidity, finite values, texts that can never be questioned? This is what we must fear. Those drawn to terror cling to an ideology that allows not a glimmer of uncertainty. To doubt is to be weak. Ambiguity is a threat.

At that time, Mr Cameron, defended the rights to free speech, at least is recorded to have supported the cartoon. As such a defender of free speech, I imagine therefore that he will also defend the right to free speech of resident in Bristol, who has used the medium of Art to depict Mr Cameron as a danger to the future of the NHS.

PAY-Tony-DavisThe Daily Mirror reports that Tony Davis, faces prosecution if he refuses to remove it, he could eventually be fined up to £20,000 under the Town and Country Planning Act.

Tony said: “I’ve had a notice of prosecution. If you are a commercial premises you can advertise anything but if you are a private premises you are restricted to a size of 2ft by 3ft.

“But this applies to hoardings – not something that is painted on the wall like mine is.

“Also my question is, what exactly am I meant to be advertising?”

Which brings us to the question of why, when there was such an outrage about the events in Paris last summer, are we facing an onslaught of rights, removal of freedoms of which must be defended. Much of the media, newspapers, the News in BBC is controlled by those who seek to control a population which outnumbers them, and in the UK, a government which does not have the majority support of a population, has power to change laws in a parliament which is supposed to serve the people.

Very adept at distraction policies, or scare-tactics, the BBC is neither, neutral politically, or independent, even though it still is respected by the belief in neutrality by many.  We have asked the question before, Who pulls the strings at the BBC? Now the Guardian reports how Tory officals threatened the BBC during the recent election.

Baldwin writes: “BBC executives and journalists have told me that there were regular, repeated threats from senior Tories during this election campaign about ‘what would happen afterwards’ if they did not fall into line.

He says: “It is a disturbing suggestion that a democratically elected government would seek to stamp on and silence dissent from an independent broadcaster.”

But he claims there “has been a long-standing campaign by the Conservative party, fueled by the commercial interests of sections of the press, to attack the world’s most successful state-funded public service broadcaster as a giant leftwing conspiracy”.

And so they hold power, while the scales of justice are so unbalanced they appear to have have a pivotal screw loose. Power could be easily toppled by exposure of truths and myths which has led to the imbalance of truth. The Tories are terrified at the idea of a collective knowledge of truth. Divide and rule, as always, is their aim. They overcomplicate issues leading to doubt and confusion.

This is why we must defend everyone’s  rights of expression through the Arts, the Internet, Blogs. Even if sometimes we don’t agree with them.

If we have a right of freedom of expression, then we also have a right to access information which our representatives are seeking to cover-up because of their own self interest. We are not talking about securing our safety, and protecting the vulnerable. Throughout history many have founght for our rights, from the Tolpuddle martyrs, to the suffragettes, to those who fought against Nazis in the 20th century.  This is not something to be cast away because Mr Gove has the power.

We must oppose the Conservative Government in their attempt to remove human rights.  Gove plans to scrap the policy of the Human Rights Act (HRA) 

The Human Rights Act is a piece of law, introduced in 1998, that guarantees human rights in Britain. It was introduced as one of the first major reforms of the last Labour government.

In practice, the Act has two main effects. Firstly, it incorporates the rights of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic British law.

What this means is that if someone has a complaint under human rights law they do not have to go to European courts but can get justice from British courts.

Secondly, it requires all public bodies – not just the central government, but institutions like the police, NHS, and local councils – to abide by these human rights.

Which rights does the Act cover?

The Act covers all the rights included in the European Convention.

These rights are: Right to life, right not to be tortured or subjected to inhumane treatment, right not to be held as a slave, right to liberty and security of the person, right to a fair trial, right not be retrospectively convicted for a crime, right to a private and family life, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, right to freedom of expression, right to freedom of assembly and association, right to marriage, right to an effective remedy, right not to be discriminated against, the right to the peaceful enjoyment of one’s property, and the right to an education.

The Act also imposes a duty upon governments to provide free and fair elections. 

38 Degrees Campaign to Save Human Rights Act:

If you haven’t already, please sign now. Link.

Trade treaties like TTIP are arranged in secret because those who will benefit from them are a very small minority, and exposure in the public domain would ensure they would be quashed. There is no wisdom in complacency of belief that in the UK because we are some distance from the incident in Bangladesh where a life was lost just because a man had an opinion, we are therefore safe.

The struggle for free speech, for free inquiry and for the liberty of atheism need not be a fight against religion, unless religion is opposed to human dignity. It is a struggle against cowardice and conformism, and against everyone who would crush both truth and imagination into a cramped coffin of orthodoxy.

Protection of rights, freedoms, and those whistleblowers who dare to speak out is tantamount in preserving the last chance for the voices of the people to be heard and shared – if indeed it is not too late for democracy to have a voice at all.

REFERENCES anad FURTHER READING

Michael Parenti – Lies, War, and Empire (2007)

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Michael Parenti – Lies, War, and Empire (2007)

The superb Michael Parenti at Antioch University in Seattle – as relevant in 2014 as in 2007.

Lecture 1 hour then Q&A.

Policy Making through a Public Prism

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Policy Making through a Public Prism 

By Tony Stoller

In this lecture, Tony Stoller, Chair of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, considers the relationship between popular discourse and policy-making. Drawing upon recent examples from a wide range of sectors, including adult social care, welfare reform, housing and broadcasting, he assesses the impact of giving undue priority to managing public debate over the task of designing and delivering effective policies.

Extracts

We no longer inhabit the age of mere ‘Government by spin’. What we have now is a completely new paradigm for public policy-making, dominated and managed by what we can call the ‘new elite’. It is a coalition of politicians, policy wonks, commentators, journalists and media owners, who both shape and comment upon policy. They are the masters now, and they jointly take part in a symbiotic dance, which the public is encouraged to believe they are part of, but from which they are in reality consciously excluded. 

For the moment, let us just say that we can now identify the closest of inter-relationships between many media owners and commentators on the one hand, and elected politicians, policymakers and some senior officials on the other, going beyond anything which had been normal practice in the past. Within this ‘new elite’, think tanks have taken over much of the policy-proposing role of the professional civil service, as the latter’s numbers are reduced. That potentially widens the circle of policy-making, and is proving valuable in the devolved administrations in that way, but it also means that a century and a half of civil service expertise is being sidelined. Add to that the extraordinary revolving doors between posts in Government, think-tanks, special advisers, media and regulation, and you have a new paradigm run by a ‘new elite’.

The changed relationship between those whose job it is to make policy, and those whose nominal role is to report on and criticise it, is undermining our ability as a nation to formulate, properly debate, and then implement public policy. 

The language of ‘benefits’ and the ‘welfare state’ have become ‘dog-whistle’ words of implicit abuse. Politicians assert that housing benefit is designed for “those who lie in bed with the curtains drawn”. Those on benefits are ‘scroungers’, ‘benefits cheats’, and the like. The picture we have of those who are poor is that provided by television programmes like Shameless, reinforced by the patronising toleration of stereotypes by members of audiences in television programmes from Question Time to The Jeremy Kyle show.

The media presentation of ‘facts’ which are nothing of the sort exacerbates the problem. For instance, we all read about, and eventually subliminally come to believe in, the supposed massive problem of teenage girls who get pregnant in order to get themselves local authority housing.

The concern is also over the partial use of statistics, promoted as part of this managed discourse rather than as grist for genuine debate.

What actions can we undertake to manage the new policy-making paradigm for the common good?

First, we must return to policy-making properly based upon valid data; insist that that data is effectively open source, available un-packaged by opinion to those who wish to participate in the debate; and ensure that we are informed by those voices that are usually unheard. 

The second task for all of us is to prevent the Leveson report, and the action which should follow from it, being undermined by the very processes which it has exposed.  

Third, we need to be alert to the growing trend to let go the impartiality requirements on broadcasters. 

And last, we need to help the public as a whole to understand social media, to appreciate its strengths and weaknesses; to know what represents a genuine view ‘trending’, and what has been artificially set up to appear as such; to realise that there are those around who regularly offer to sell us another hundred or thousand followers. The social media could be about a genuine upwelling of public opinion, but they are open to manipulation as never before. 

Gresham College Lectures 

The transcript and downloadable versions of all of the lectures are available from the Gresham College website:
http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and…

Straight-Talking Labour

STRAIGHT-TALKING LABOUR

That’s what we need, Ed

“Labour should say what they mean, and mean what they say. ” These are words of Tony Benn. A return to honesty in politics was something promised at the last election, that among pledges lacking in substance. The politician and party which can inspire a nation, engender trust and respect and make a difference to the lives of millions is what Britain is crying out for. Aneurin Bevan had those qualities, and did so.

From “In Place of Fear” , Ch.2, Aneurin Bevan (1)

“As we fumble with outworn categories our political vitality is sucked away and we stumble from one situation to another, without chart, without compass, and with the steering wheel lashed to a course we are no longer following. This is the real point of danger for a political party and for the leaders and thinkers who inspire it. For if they are out of touch with reality, the masses are not. Indeed, they are reality. For them their daily work is an escapable imperative. While those who are supposed to be doing the theorising for them are adrift like passengers in an escaped balloon, the workers are tied to reality by the nature of their work. In the absence of clear theoretical guidance, they make empirical adaptions and formulate practical categories. So far as these are incomplete, and therefore unsatisfactory, the first result is a distrust for those who have demonstrably failed them.”

Michael Foot was a man of integrity honesty and direction, a true advocate for socialism, and said in 1956, “Socialism without public ownership is nothing but a fantastic apology”.

To watch Tony Benn speaking on “The issue is Thatcher “in the eighties, leaves a hunger for more of the same.

LABOUR’S LOST VOTES

Since 1997, Labour have lost 5 million voters. One reason that the Labour Party was so frightened by Thatcherism, it bought into the media’s idea that the party needed to change its socialist principles.

Eventually it changed so much it had metamorphosed into something Thatcher herself would have welcomed, so it was no longer the party for the working class, and so many walked away, disillusioned.

LABOUR VOTERS TURNED TORY

Working class voters were lured by Thatcher’s lies and did not recognise the damaging intent of monetarism and neoliberalism. Council home sales, and shares in British Telecom were presented as wealth redistribution, veiling the reality as the bankers and corporations rubbed their hands together in self satisfaction . Now the Coalition wants to put people in hock for their education, by tripling Tuition Fees, and even are suggesting selling off workers’ rights for shares. (9)

It is a myth that the escalating capitalist bubble can serve everyone.

These are policies intended to anaesthetize, the new religion – people controllers. The voters do not need any more pills to pop to change their lives; they need policies and representatives brave enough to put their heads above the parapet and tell the truth, to expose the myths and scaremongering.

Privatization of utilities and transport is now being extended to our NHS and education system by the most right wing government in living memory. Tory pre-election promises that the NHS was safe in their hands were bare faced lies, with plans for privatisation already in place. (21) Myths of more parental choice in schools, exploiting the desire of every parent to want the best for their child were a cover for the demolition of our education system. (23) Yet, the continued privilege of class and the arrogance of politicians who are employed to serve the people, is painfully clear, as Osborne’s train-trip, and Mitchell’s Pleb-gate demonstrated. Mitchell’s replacement, the chief whip, Sir George Young once infamously said, ” “the homeless are what you step over when you come out of the opera.”

STAY AT HOME VOTERS

Others, disenfranchised and lacking trust in politicians of any colour stay at home, many of the apathetic generation having never voted at all.

Cynicism and apathy is unsurprising against a backdrop of media corruption and lies. The Hillsborough disaster, (10) the scandal of child abuse surrounded Jimmy Savile (11) at the BBC, in Broadmoor and hospitals, phone hacking at the News of the World, and police malpractice during the Miners Strike (12) have all been topics of media cover-ups.

Equally there is now abundant evidence of MOD and MI5/6 involvement in UK acts of torture and rendition which the UK authorities have gone to enormous lengths to deny and conceal, and which the so-called Justice and Security Bill now before Parliament is designed to prevent in future ever being revealed. Michael Meacher (8)

This is the same media that slated Michael Foot and demonized Tony Benn, attacked the unions and the Labour Party at every opportunity, effectively making an impotent opposition to neoliberalism, a chameleon Labour Party too frightened to speak out.

Of all the lies, none is bigger than the suggestion that the national debt is the highest ever.

Deliberate confusion is created regarding the difference between national debt and deficit. Lies about privatization of the services such as NHS, education and even the police. Lies that cuts are necessary, that we are all in it together, while the rich accrue obscene wealth while trampling on the death and decay they have created. Democracy around the world is held in hostage. US lobbyists are even infiltrating the elections of police commissioners (Telegraph report) (7) , and many MPs hold contacts with financiers (Britain Under Siege, Think Left) (16) . Power snatched from the people, held by the very rich echoes the Middle Ages, a neofeudalism (18) . The corporations control think-tanks (26) which decide policy, and hide their identities. Was this the intention of those who fought for the vote, for workers’ rights, and for equality?

Hidden behind the headlines, the Coalition government rules by stealth, themselves subservient (6) to a Plutonomy (18) which is both unsustainable, and unnecessary.

Yet, the opposition still quakes in fear of speaking the truths, fear of past memories. This is the opportunity for the Labour movement to rise again. A strong, straight-talking Labour Party will be welcomed back with a land-slide, and in power must redress the balance-of power.

The electorate is crying out for a Labour Party to stop hiding in fear behind the establishment. Those voters have an intellect underestimated by politicians . they know the policies that we need. Unlike Cameron and Osborne, the people are living it.

People are looking for some straight-talking, honesty and integrity. Courageous politicians like Aneurin Bevan who presented policies to an eager electorate and changed the lives of millions.

In the words of Tony Benn,(28) Labour should say what they mean and mean what they say. This is the way we need Labour to speak – why don’t they?

STRAIGHT-TALKING LABOUR

OUR TOP TWENTY

Confident, courageous and compassionate, Labour must seek to pursue the policies which will change our world.

We call upon Labour to:

  1. BE TRUTHFUL ABOUT THE STRUCTURAL DEFICIT AND NATONAL DEBT. a) Structural deficit & Libor (15) . b) The Fundamental deceit of ‘”There’s no money left.” (27)
  2. CONFRONT THE PARASITIC BANKING COMMUNITY Monetise or rip up the £375bn debt they’ve bought back by QE and reduce the national debt of the UK with the stroke of a key. a) Simon says: QE is the biggest confidence trick of all time (14) , b) What is George Osborne playing at? (30) c) The IMF and Taking the Red Pill, Think Left (13)
  3. SPLIT RETAIL AND INVESTMENT BANKS PROPERLY
  4. REGAIN SOVEREIGN CONTROL OVER MONEY SUPPLY How debt leads to financial servitude (6)
  5. TACKLE TAX JUSTICE ONCE AND FOR ALL. (3,4)
  6. WORK FOR FULL EMPLOYMENT for those that can work, maintaining a safety net for those who cannot.
  7. ENSURE A LIVING WAGE FOR ALL WORKERS
  8. FORMULATE A NEW GREEN DEAL, and EXPANSION OF RENEWABLES
  9. STOP SUBSIDIES OF FOSSIL FUELS AND NUCLEAR POWER
  10. REVERSE PRIVATISATION OF THE NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE
  11. NATIONALISE UTILITIES, (including ENERGY (19) and WATER. (20) )
  12. NATIONALISE RAILWAYS (31) and REVOLUTIONISE PUBLIC TRANSPORT.
  13. BUILD HOMES FOR ALL
  14. PROVIDE AFFORDABLE CHILDCARE (24) – and reinstate SURESTART
  15. INTRODUCE A TRULY COMPREHENSIVE National Education Service (23) , and LIFELONG LEARNING
  16. PROTECT the WORK LIFE BALANCE, and ENSURE FLEXIBLE WORKING
  17. PROVIDE DIGNIFIED CARE FOR THE ELDERLY (25)
  18. REVERSE THE CUTS ON THE VULNERABLE, SICK AND DISABLED
  19. REBUILD OUR COMMUNITIES, libraries, youth services, sports facilities, high streets and local co-ops.
  20. MAKE THE COURAGEOUS STATE (5) A REALITY.

Reference and Further Reading:

1. Aneurin Bevan, In place of Fear

2. Aneurin Bevan: In Place of Fear: A Free Health Service 1952: (Socialist health Association)

3. Richard Murphy: Tax Research UK Has the public’s tipping point on tax arrived?

4. Richard Murphy: Building the Tax Justice Consensus

5. Richard Murphy, The Courageous State

6. Ian Fraser : On Michael Hudson: How finance leads to Debt Servitude

7. The Secret US Lobbyists behind Police and Crime Commisioner Election, Daily Telegraph

8. Police, MI5, and the growth of the coverup, Michael Meacher

9. Guardian: George Osborne , Workers can swap rights for Company Shares

10. Daily Mirror: Hillsborough cover-up too big for IPCC to handle on its own

11. Panorama airs programme on Newsnights’s Savile investigation

12. Guardian: Hillsborough Investigation should be extended to Orgreave says NUM leader,

From Think Left:

13. The IMF and Taking the Red Pill, Think Left

14. Simon says: QE is the biggest confidence trick of all time, Think Left

15. Structural Deficit and Libor, Think Left

16. Britain under Siege, Think Left

17. Lobbyists are destroying the democratic process, Think Left

18. Capitalism, NeoLiberalism, Plutonomy, and Neo -Feudalism Think Left

19. Nationalise Energy, Think Left

20, . Nationalise Utilities, Think Left

21. Who said, “the NHS will be shown no Mercy”, Think Left

22. For Richer, For Poorer, In Sickness and in Health, Think Left

23. Academisation and the Demolition of our Education System Think Left

24. A Bold Approach to Childcare, Think Left

25. A National Caring Service, Think Left

26. The Lost Democracy and the role of Think Tanks, Think Left

27 The fundamental deceit of There’s no money left, think Left

28. Thoughts inspired by Tony Ben, Think Left

29 Is Labour going to become Real Labour?, Think Left

30 What is George Osborne playing at?

31 Nationalise Railways, Think Left