Friday 30 September 2016

Under Attack From Both Extremes

Gosh, how some people spend their Friday afternoons. Oh, well, there's only one thing worse than being talked about. I have been forwarded the following charming missive, which was sent today to all Conservative and Independent members of Durham County Council, and which was copied to various local and national media:

Jeremy Corbyn and his allies are moving to install their friend and ally David Lindsay of Lanchester as the MP for the new seat of Durham West and Teesdale, with or without the official endorsement of the Labour Party that Lindsay was expelled from by Tony Blair and Hilary Armstrong for opposing the war in Iraq. Lindsay is a crippled, mixed race, foreign born Leftist and Romanist while that constituency is largely represented by Conservative and Independent councillors. Yet there are dark mutterings that Independent councillors might sign his nomination papers and campaign for him. All Conservatives and Independents must state immediately that they will campaign for a white, English, Protestant candidate whose body declared the truth of white excellence. Those who do not, be in no doubt: true Nationalists will be put up against you and will defeat you at next year’s county council elections.

I have no intention of engaging with the sender. But I have told the Councillors that the obvious way to indicate that, as of course we all knew, these were not in any way their views, was to undertake to sign my nomination papers and to campaign for my election.

But today has been a busy day in another corner of the Internet, too. The letters pages of the national and local papers have been graced with the following, copied to all Labour Councillors for wards that will fall within the new constituency, and duly passed on to me:

We are extremely concerned that the MP for the new seat of West Durham and Teesdale may well be the allegedly left-wing David Lindsay of Lanchester. He is a member of no political party, but he is a well-known and highly active ally of Jeremy Corbyn’s, and he is a close friend of several of Corbyn’s own closest friends in Durham and Newcastle.

David Lindsay advocates “balanced migration”, on the grounds that immigration controls are necessary in order to deliver public services. He opposes all of the usual measures against climate change, and it is not clear that he even believes in global warming caused by human activity. He supports nuclear power alongside coal. He has links to Fathers 4 Justice. He is a firm believer in “the national and parliamentary sovereignty of the United Kingdom”. He is a vicar’s son who became a Catholic during his Theology degree. He works closely with local Lib Dems, Tories and Tory “Independents”. His candidacy is supported by all “Independent” Durham County Councillors.

That David Lindsay seriously might be elected to Parliament raises grave questions about the toleration of him and of similar figures, such as Ronnie Campbell and George Galloway, by Jeremy Corbyn, Momentum, Red Labour, Unite Community, the Durham Miners’ Association, the County Durham Teaching Assistants Activists Committee, the Labour Representation Committee, the Socialist Campaign Group, the National Health Action Party, the Pirate Party, the Communist Party of Britain, the Morning Star, the Socialist Labour Party, Left Unity, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, Counterfire, Spiked, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Socialist Appeal, Socialist Action, FBU, ASLEF, RMT and TSSA. We serve notice that a truly left-wing, Socialist candidate will be fielded against David Lindsay. Not least, we serve that notice to all Labour Councillors in West Durham and Teesdale.

Alliance for Green Socialism, Anarchist Federation, Class War, Communist League, Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee), Communist Workers Organisation, Independent Working Class Association, International Socialist League, Labour Party Marxists, New Communist Party of Britain, Revolutionary Communist Group, Socialist Equality Party, Socialist Party of Great Britain, Socialist Resistance, Solidarity Federation, Spartacist League of Britain, Workers’ Fight, Workers Revolutionary Party, World Revolution.

Are all of those even real? Anyway, as I have explained to all of the recipients, as well to to all the organisations and publications named in the letter itself, my views are as set out here and here.

I positively look forward to beating an ultra-Left candidate in 2020. Come one, come all, to campaign for me and against that candidate, on the basis set out in those links.

As the sender, of whom I had never heard, put it, if you can cope with Ronnie Campbell or George Galloway, then you can cope with me.

Please note the PayPal button on this site.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Give No Quarter

Congratulations to the BBC (yes, really) on having pointed out that Durham County Council already paid its Teaching Assistants a quarter less than neighbouring authorities.

Yet the Council proposes to cut that by a further 23 per cent.

Monday 26 September 2016

A Rocket Up The Racket

Even if the shale gas is really there, then the places that may or may not have it do not want to be fracked. It is not as if they need the money. Meanwhile, no one disputes that the coal is there. And the places that have it certainly do want it to be mined again, since we certainly do need the money, which we used to have.

John McDonnell announced policies that would already be taken as read in any Western country apart from this one and the only other one of which the media megaphones have ever heard. The principle of the Living Wage has already been conceded by the Government. The only question is as to the rate.

An industrial strategy is so controversial that there is already a Department of State with "Industrial Strategy" in its name. Expect Theresa May to pick up that idea of giving workers first refusal when a company is to be sold or wound up. It is very her. How can anyone not believe that tax-dodging companies ought to be ineligible for taxpayer-funded contracts?

And McDonnell brought out his inner Brexiteer when he promised "a renaissance of British manufacturing" after Brexit, while pledging to guarantee the funding currently provided by the EU, out of our own net contributions, to areas that largely voted Leave, anyway. He also called for access to the Single Market, but not for membership of it. "Brexit means Brexit," repeats May. "Brexit means this," replies McDonnell, challenging her to match it.

Some of us do not think that nuclear weapons and NATO membership were the only good things that the Attlee Government ever did. Indeed, some of us wonder why anyone, anywhere on the political spectrum, would wish to vote for a weapons system that by 2020 will be subject to either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Or to vote for a military alliance that committed us to the defence of Erdogan's Turkey while presuming to demand two per cent of our GDP.

In this constituency, no one will have to vote for either of those things. From anywhere on the political spectrum, everyone here constituency will be able to vote for me instead.

Thursday 22 September 2016

The Mike Ashley of the Public Sector

Thus was the thoroughly obnoxious Simon Henig, the Leader of Durham County Council, described at last night's packed and uproarious rally by the Teaching Assistants.

Henig would dash across the street in front of an oncoming juggernaut for the chance to lick a penny piece off the opposite pavement and howl at the Moon in celebration. But he will happily reduce people to what amount to zero hours contracts. Well, of course.

He was one of very few Labour councillors with the gall to attend last week's Special Council on this subject. That meeting was effectively chaired by some law clerk, elected by absolutely nobody. Lie, after lie, after lie was poured out by the portfolio holder, Councillor Jane Brown.

She and Henig will doubtless continue to enjoy their private box at the Riverside. But Durham County Cricket Club is insolvent, and it is kept going by a loan from Durham County Council. In that box, they will doubtless be joined by the Deputy Leader, Alan Napier, who is an old NUM hand, and who is now a signatory to pro-Corbyn letters with which the other signatories would refuse to allow him to be associated if they knew what he was doing to the latter-day Grunwick women.

Yet Napier was one of two left-wing old miners, of whom the other was the late Albert Nugent, whom Henig arranged to have suspended unjustly from the Labour Party in order to overstep their superior claims to the Leadership of the new unitary county council. Just before the death of Davey Hopper, he and Napier almost came to blows when the latter called the TAs "parasites".

But those "parasites" are oddly unwilling to be "compensated" with their own money. A message of support was read out from Angela Rayner. In a sign of quite how different the world will be after Saturday, even the BBC turned up last night.

Saturday 10 September 2016

Footprints March for the NHS


Please join us on our march to save NHS services in County Durham and Teesside in October half-term (22nd-30th).

Under the new Sustainability and Transformation plan, NHS England and Wales has been divided into 44 ‘footprints’ which must make efficiency measures in order to access transformation funds.

Essentially, this is a bribe to implement cuts to our already struggling health service.

County Durham and Darlington trust has a £14.7m deficit which would have to be eliminated in order to access funds.

The effect on your public services could be so severe that only James Cook would retain an A&E department.

We vehemently oppose this dogmatic policy which will put lives at risk and therefore we are marching between hospitals in Northallerton, Darlington, Bishop Auckland, Shotley Bridge, Durham, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and North Tees, in order to show just how large our footprint is and how dangerously isolated we will become as a result of these savage cuts.

Our intended itinerary for Footprints March for the NHS:

Saturday 22nd October, Friarage Hospital (Northallerton) - Darlington Memorial
Sunday 23rd October, Darlington Memorial - Bishop Auckland
Monday 24th October, Bishop Auckland - Shotley Bridge
Tuesday 25th October, Shotley Bridge - University Hospital of North Durham,
Wednesday 26th October, University Hospital of North Durham - Hartlepool
Thursday 27th October, Hartlepool - James Cook (Middlesbrough)
Friday 28th October, James Cook (Middlesbrough) - North Tees (Stockton)
Saturday 29th October, North Tees (Stockton) - Darlington Memorial

We will also be holding public meetings in each town or city.

Please join us on the march and attend our meetings.

Anti-PFI, pro-Reinstatement Bill, supported by 999 Call for the NHS and Momentum County Durham.

Inside Menwith Hill

Read this.

Have you read it?

Read it. All right, then. Read it again.

Tuesday 6 September 2016

The Teaching Assistants: The Lions of Durham

It is a pity that Aditya Chakrabortty detracts from this otherwise excellent article by the bizarre claim that Durham County Council's Teaching Assistants are paid £20,000. But still, at least he has written about this scandal at all. Many of the TAs will soon be paid less than the £12,000 that is the Council Chairman's clothing allowance.

Jeremy Corbyn openly supports this campaign (I organised the meeting between him and the TAs), but this very right-wing council is having none of that. The Labour Group is objectively worse than the tiny number of Conservatives, all four of whom abstained on this, and far worse than the Lib Dems and the Independents, who voted against it. When the TAs marched at the Miners' Gala, then the Council Leader literally ran inside and hid. Well, he will not be able to hide on polling day next year.

The 57 councillors who voted for this (a huge number did not turn up, just enough for it to pass by one vote) have brought the Labour Party into disrepute. It ought to expel them. Certainly, they ought all to lose their seats in May. With proper organisation, taking down 30 of them ought to be a doddle. Let's make sure that we take down the right 30, with any more as a bonus.

Ignore anyone who claims that there never used to be Teaching Assistants. Durham County Council's decision to pay the term-time wage over 12 months, in order to stop the TAs from signing on in the holidays, dates from the 1970s. So it was employing TAs at least 40 years ago.

They are not, and have never been, paid for the holidays. Their term-time wage is paid over 12 months purely for ease of administration, and because, say it again, they used to have to sign on in the holidays. But it is a term-time wage, and it always has been. Once again, though, they are going to have to sign on in the holidays. If, these days, they can. Can you get JSA for this? It is not the old dole.

Monday 5 September 2016

After Keith Vaz

George Osborne’s universally known penchants for cocaine and prostitutes were never deemed to disqualify him from political office. Indeed, he was for many years discussed as a potential Prime Minister.

There cannot be a “free” market in general, but not in drugs, or prostitution, or pornography, or unrestricted alcohol, or unrestricted gambling. That is an important part of why there must not be a “free” market in general, which is a political choice, not a mere law of nature. Enacting and enforcing laws against drugs, prostitution and pornography, and regulating alcohol, tobacco and gambling, are clear examples of State intervention in, and regulation of, the economy.

We need a single class of illegal drug, with a crackdown on the possession of drugs, including a mandatory sentence of three months for a second offence, six months for a third offence, one year for a fourth offence, and so on. It is also very high time for Parliament to tidy up the shambolic laws on sexual offences.

First, it ought to be made a criminal offence for anyone aged 21 or over to buy or sell sex, with equal sentencing on both sides. No persecution of girls and very young women whose lives had already been so bad that they had become prostitutes. No witch-hunting of boys and very young men who were desperate to lose their virginities. But the treatment of women and men as moral, intellectual and legal equals.

Secondly, the age of consent should effectively be raised to 18, by making it a criminal offence for anyone to commit any sexual act with or upon any person under that age who was more than two years younger than herself, or to incite any such person to commit any such act with or upon her or any third party anywhere in the world.

The maximum sentence would be twice the difference in age, to the month where that was less than three years, or a life sentence where that difference was at least five years. No different rules for “positions of trust”, which are being used against male, but not female, 18-year-olds looking after female, but not male, Sixth Formers visiting universities. And no provision, as at present, for boys to be prosecuted at any age, even if they are younger than the girls involved, whereas girls have to be 16.

The law on indecent images is also enforced in totally different ways in relation to boys and girls of the same age, and even to boys who are younger than the girls. That must end. Children under the age of consent can have abortion or contraception without parental permission. That is an argument for banning children under the age of consent from having abortion or contraception without parental permission. Unless they decided as adults to seek to make contact with their children, then the financial liability of male victims for pregnancies resulting from their sexual abuse ought also to be ruled out. Talk about victim-blaming.

Thirdly, the offences of rape, serious sexual assault, and sexual assault, ought to be replaced with aggravating circumstances to the general categories of offences against the person, enabling the sentences to be doubled. The sex of either party would be immaterial. There must be no anonymity either for adult defendants or for adult complainants. Either we have an open system of justice, or we do not.

In this or any other area, there must be no suggestion of any reversal of the burden of proof. That reversal has largely been brought to you already, by the people who in the same year brought you the Iraq War. The Parliament that was supine before Tony Blair was also supine before Harriet Harman. Adults who made false allegations ought to be prosecuted automatically.

Moreover, how can anyone be convicted of non-consensual sex, who could not lawfully have engaged in consensual sex? If there is an age of consent, then anyone below it can be an assailant. But a sexual assailant? How? Similarly, if driving while intoxicated is a criminal offence, then how can intoxication, in itself, be a bar to sexual consent? The law needs to specify that it was, only to such an extent as would constitute a bar to driving.

And fourthly, obscenity ought to be defined as material depicting acts that were themselves illegal, or which was reasonably likely to incite or encourage such acts. Sentencing would be the same as for the illegal act in question in each case.

American-style legislation for internally administered “balance of probabilities” or “preponderance of evidence” tests to sexual assault allegations at universities or elsewhere must be banned by Statute. It is incompatible with the Rule of Law to punish someone for a criminal offence of which she has not been convicted. It must be made impossible for anyone to be extradited to face charges that fell short of these standards, or for such convictions to have any legal standing in this country.

As for teaching things in schools, how is that curriculum time currently being filled? Apply the Eton Test. Would this be taught in a school that assumed its pupils to be future Prime Ministers or Nobel Laureates? If not, then instead fill the hours with something that was. Teach Latin. Someone will.

Convictions under laws predating these changes ought to be annulled along with those of men whose homosexual acts would not be criminal offences today. Labour should vote against that unless it also annulled, not only all convictions in the above categories, but also all convictions and other adverse court decisions arising out of Clay Cross, Shrewsbury, Wapping, and the three Miners’ Strikes since 1970.

This would set the pattern for all future feminist and LGBT legislation. Without a working-class quid pro quo, then Labour would vote against any such legislation. Alongside the DUP, the Conservative Right, or whoever. It is not Blair’s Labour Party now. Even if an MP or two from outside the party may be necessary in order to remind it of that fact.