Saturday, 6 February 2021

Can Starmer's Flag Shagging Really Win Over the Red Wall?

I'm from the so-called "red wall" - a northeast working class town where almost everyone is poor, having been shat on by consecutive neoliberal governments of both the red and blue variety. 

I'm as working class as it gets. In fact, a better term would be underclass. I was raised in a council house on a rough estate by a single mother on benefits. We saw all kinds of crazy crap. Drug dealers kicked our door in once, even though we were never involved in any of that stuff. My next-door neighbour drove a car through someone's house, demolishing the living room wall. A little old lady was robbed in front of my eyes when I was playing in the street. 

Fights were an almost daily occurrence and the kids had nothing to do but get in trouble. Our playgrounds were building sites and derelict buildings until we reached the wise old age of 11. From then on, childhood was subways and cider bottles in a haze of cigarette smoke.

So please, if you're from a middle class background, don't lecture me on what is or is not working class. You're not from my world and you have no clue.

The man who was my step-father for a while was your stereotypical working class voter, the kind who Starmer seems to be targeting, but is actually nowhere near as representative as Labour's focus groups suggest. He would take us to football games at the old St James Park, back when a ticket was three or four quid, and my brother and I would be almost crushed to death in the stands at 5 and 7 years old. I honestly don't know how we survived! He would then drag us into jampacked pubs in Newcastle where we'd hear all kinds of racist crap. Ironically, two of this guy's best mates were Black and Asian, but they were okay, apparently, they were "the good kind".

"I love them to death," he'd say, "But all the others, they're <insert racist stereotype here>" He'd then say something like, "I agree with Labour on this or that economic idea, but I also agree with the BNP on this racist idea."

On a positive note, there was always consensus among working men that our country needs socialism. That's why it's so laughable when privileged people tell us working class voters in the red wall don't want left-wing ideas, when even far-right voters up here do!

I know all too well the type of voter Sir Keir Starmer is trying to attract, but Keir clearly doesn't, because he demonstrates such a huge misunderstanding of them and us. I promise you, not one of these people is getting excited by the sight of Keir standing before a Union Jack. Not one of them is nodding along as he praises the Queen and calls her a "beacon of hope". 

Know your fucking audience, Keir!

And another thing, the far-right are not representative of the "red wall". Not remotely. They're the gobshites in the local pub that everyone is scared to challenge. The big tough guys who will take a swing at anyone who disagrees with them. Okay, not all are like that, in fairness. Some do have a decent human side, but a good deal of them are just psychopaths. And I have the scars to prove it. 

Growing up in a town like mine, getting into fights comes with the territory, and that's just one of the reasons I don't bother setting foot in pubs anymore.

Even as a child, I wasn't afraid to challenge these people. When I heard racist crap coming from their mouths, I would call them out (and my mother would quietly agree, but bafflingly still chose to be with her fascist alcoholic boyfriend). 

Sometimes, rather tellingly, I'd get concessions, something like "I know, you're right." Because even these people knew their racist bollocks was wrong. And certainly all of the nicer, politer people within earshot did.

That's a more accurate picture of what life is like around here. A minority of far-right idiots and a quieter majority who reject their world view. But an even more accurate picture would be to say times are changing, that even some of the people who were so entrenched in their racism and homophobia and Islamophobia and all their other bigotries are starting to waiver.

It really isn't uncommon, for example, to hear people who used to express outright disgust at homosexuality, suddenly expressing more inclusive attitudes. I've encountered that quite a lot actually, and as the brother of a gay man, it's been nice to see attitudes change.

The lie we're told is the red wall hates the left-wing. The reality is the red wall has always been left-wing economically, and is socially more left-wing than it used to be. That picture is obviously a simplification, but in my experience, it's fairly accurate.

I've seen, for example, friends I grew up with, people who used to sway me with dumb anti-immigrant arguments, suddenly shifting towards inclusivity. I've seen people who were once vocal homophobes, drinking in gay bars, not because they're gay themselves, but just because they're hanging out with their gay friends. I've seen people who were once open racists, chatting up pretty Black or Asian girls. The last man to give me a taxi ride was rather camp and spent the journey telling me how beautiful he thought Cristiano Ronaldo was!

The point I'm making is that we don't need to make concessions on bigotry because it really isn't that hard to pull a good number of people away from it. Social conservatism is not the norm for the under-50s and only the extremists will cling onto their outdated views.

This is why Starmer's comments on issues like the Black Lives Matter protests and his lack of condemnation on racism and transphobia from his own MPs has been so frustrating to me. I see no tangible benefit to him acting this way, and to the contrary, he is sacrificing votes from minority groups while weakening the fight against bigotry. Labour should be focusing on winning people back to the left, not inching towards far-right territory while taking its voter base for granted.

One line you will always hear around here is "We never vote Tory," or more often some sweary equivalent. Once upon a time, everyone was employed in the mining and ship-building industries, crime was low and communities were strong, and then Thatcherism happened. 

From that point, we knew beyond doubt, the Tories weren't on our side, but then to our exasperation, Labour moved in that same direction. They told us they were just like them.

I find it rather hilarious when middle-class Starmerists tell me who or what the red wall is, when I'm literally part of it. I was raised here, I live here, and in all likelihood, I will die here. So listening to that lot describe northerners or the working class, honestly, they might as well be aliens talking from a different planet. They have no idea, they really don't.

Sir Keir Starmer has gone from draping himself in the EU flag to wanking over the Union Jack, and he honestly doesn't think we can see how superficial this all is. He really thinks we're all knuckle-dragging simpletons desperate to burst into a rendition of God Save the Queen. 

My God, he is so fucking clueless.

Now that's not to say we aren't patriotic around here. Many, if not most, are. It's just we're patriotic in a very different way to what Starmer thinks we are. If you walk through my neighbourhood, you might on rare occasion, see a Union Jack hanging from a window, but these displays are not filling most of us with patriotic pride. They're likely to be met with shrugs of bemusement or mutterings of "What a fucking mess!" It's not that we have anything against the flag. Most of us don't have strong feelings one way or the other, and actually think it looks cringeworthy when we see these very false, OTT displays.

Our sense of patriotism is more like this: We hate imperial wars but love our soldiers. We feel sad to see anyone sleeping rough, and when we see a homeless veteran, we feel a particular sense of betrayal. This is because we want a country where we look out for one another. We want solidarity, and we're not getting it from the Tories or from Labour.

We want more council houses so everyone can get a roof over their heads. We want better pay so we stand a chance of getting on the housing ladder. We want more jobs so no-one is left unemployed. We want affordable utilities and proper investment in our schools and hospitals. 

This is the kind of patriotism we believe in, and if Sir Keir Starmer said those exact words, I promise you, he'd win a lot of people over. Maybe he should hire me to be his speech writer, instead of parroting whatever lines are fed to him by Rupert Murdoch.

Here's the problem: When politicians like Starmer fail to address the above concerns, that's when far-right arguments start reaching people. That's when the disenfranchised start being swayed. It's when Tories start putting the blame onto refugees or other poor people or whatever marginalised group the far-right have targeted. It's not the job of the opposition to join in this game. It's their job to address people's material needs so they're not duped into turning against one another.

It's very easy for the far-right to sway people with emotive arguments. They just have to say the name Lee Rigby, for example. But it's important to remember Lee himself utterly rejected these politics, according to his family.

Around here, almost everyone is anti-establishment because the establishment offers nothing for us. Wages are crap and everyone is on Universal Credit, even when we're working. The kids are on free school meals, our streets are falling apart, our public services are shite, and we desperately want change. This is why so many northerners voted for Brexit. They wanted to shake up the establishment, and I may disagree with Brexit, but I very much understand the sentiment.

And now we have Mr Remain thinking the way to win back voters he lost with his People's Vote is to double-down on his pro-establishment credentials and say how much he agrees with the Tories. This is not what we want. It really isn't.

How about telling us what you stand for, Keir? How about telling us your plan to make tangible improvements to our lives? Because empty gestures and hatred of Corbyn will only get you so far.

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Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Did Boris Johnson Really Do His Best? Or Am I Living Among the Walking Braindead?

 

"I truly did my best!" Boris Johnson says with very sorry eyes.

 "Never mind, you tried your hardest and that's what matters," they reply.

Yeah, one hundred thousand innocent people are dead due to Tory greed and incompetence. Poor Boris.

My God, I don't know what to say here. I really don't. One hundred thousand innocent people are dead (more than a packed Wembley Stadium) and this is the crap my fellow countrymen and women are coming out with. I'm at a loss.

Remember when Donald Trump said he could shoot a person on Fifth Avenue and not lose any supporters? Well, that's you people, you're the British, sorry English equivalent. Boris Johnson just shot one hundred thousand people on Oxford Street and you're mad at how Jeremy Corbyn wore his poppy that one time.

Well, hopefully not all of you.

I need you to tell me you're not one of them. That you're not one of the walking braindead. That you can see reason. Because right now, I'm wondering what I ever did to deserve to be born into a country of dangerous idiots. Of lemmings jumping off a cliff at the behest of the funny buffoon man with the silly haircut. Because that's who we should be taking leadership from in a crisis. A cartoon character.

Dear God, help me escape idiot island. Is New Zealand accepting refugees?

"At least Corbyn's not in charge!" they bellow, almost gleefully, like the man who demanded we lock down on 15th March 2019 and pursue a "zero-Covid strategy" that's worked so well in other countries would have done worse. 

Worse than the worst death rate in the world? Worse than the worst economic recession? Worse than £22 billion to Serco and God knows how much to other dodgy contractors? There are times you need to stop and ask yourself, have I been brainwashed? Now is one of those times.

HINT: If you read the newspapers, you're probably not getting your information from credible sources here. You're more likely getting it from people willing to kill your grandma so they can go for a family day out. From people who think your niece with asthma doesn't matter because she has an "underlying health condition". 

Of course, you may actually be thinking along those lines too, in which case you've not been brainwashed, you're just a psychopath. Worse, you're a traitor.

Ironic, isn't it? The people who love to talk about patriotism are always the first to sacrifice our own people so they can live in a little extra comfort. The real patriots, of course, are the ones who love the people in this country, who are prepared to take the pain to protect even those they've never met. Even the dumb ones who voted Tory!

That's why I'm quite prepared to endure another lockdown, even though I'm surrounded by three kids 24/7 and honestly at the brink of losing my damn mind while suffering from long Covid and crippling back pain and finding myself in a purgatory where even my one outlet - writing - is mostly denied to me. The only reason I'm writing this now is because I somehow got the kids to sleep without too much fuss and I'm furiously typing in an adrenaline-fuelled rage before I collapse and pass out some time in the next 15 minutes and then return to the tedium of being teacher/child juggler all day again tomorrow with absolutely no let up. 

Hell, I'm desperate for the kids to return to school. So fucking desperate. There are so many things I could be doing, if only I was child-free, even with my shitty health issues and constant brain fog. I would love for lockdown to be lifted, but I'm not asking for that. Why?

Because I care about my fellow human beings. I care that the new Covid strain - the Johnson strain - is infecting more people. I care that it's more contagious. I care that it's taking more lives. I care that children might suffer the worst from long Covid. I care that even young, healthy people are now filling intensive care units. I care that old, frail people are dying at such a rate, the pensions bill has been reduced by £600 million. And I'm fucking terrified that I live in a country where some people are seeing that as a win. £600 million you say? Marvellous!

"We will have the kids back at school by March!" Johnson says while thinking up a get-out clause for private schools.

"Yeah, you better bloody had!" Starmer replies, under the misunderstanding his role as LOTO is to out-Tory the Tories.

"March isn't soon enough!" the sociopaths cry, suspending their heckling of NHS staff to turn their attention back to "lazy activist teachers" who are dying at twice the rate of other people in their respective age groups. But who gives a crap about them? I want to eat some shite food at Wetherspoons.

We're up to 1,700 deaths a day. "But Corbyn's a terrorist supporter!" they insist as we have a 9/11 every 36 hours. They love talking about national security, but they hate keeping our nation secure.

The infuriating thing is how this is all so self-defeating. This arrogance, this hostility to science, this complete and utter indifference to the plight of our most vulnerable citizens.

If we had listened to Corbyn, if we had locked down earlier and harder, not only could we have stamped this out quicker, saving countless lives, but we could now be seeing a stronger performance for their precious economy and we wouldn't be facing such draconian lockdown rules. They chose to sacrifice lives rather than their own freedom and bank balance, instead they've sacrificed all three.

But we're the loony lefties.

Starmer fans are nodding in agreement as they wear t-shirts saying, "Grown up in the room" because they're so grown up, they only want to half-ignore the science. Or at least their cult leader does.

But at least it's not Jeremy Corbyn! I mean that free broadband idea was so stupid when one in three kids can't access home schooling because they have no internet. So glad that lot helped put Johnson in charge. Honestly, it was Corbyn who cost us the red wall, not the PV brigade. And now all us northerners are being rewarded for switching allegiance with things like 60% furlough (remember that?) and 50% reduced vaccine stock because All Lives Matter, but southern lives matter more. 

Also, I'm pretty sure Johnson is still planning to starve the kids at half-term (or has he changed his mind yet?) and every kid where I live is on free school meals so that means every kid will be starving. All in the name of sovereignty.

At least we saved our fishing industry though... Hang on, no we didn't.

Thankfully, working class children can't actually feel hunger. Or human emotion. Us plebs just like to whine about these things because it's a hobby to us. Plus, it's all our fault Britain is doing so badly because we are simultaneously demanding lockdown be extended while flocking around to massive house parties, apparently. Where are these parties exactly? Because I haven't bloody been invited.

Anyways, I'm not letting you all off the hook here. I need to say that if you still support Johnson after all that's happened, you're dangerous. Really fucking dangerous. And your idiot vote comes with consequences. As in a lot of very full morgues. 

Please pull your head out your arse, take a look at reality and try to give a crap about your fellow human beings because honestly, you're exhausting, and if you're mad at me for being mad at you, just remember Johnson is mad at you too. In fact, he's blaming everything on you. Whatever you do, don't forget that according to him, it's all your fault!

Lack of PPE? Your fault.

Delayed first lockdown? Your fault.

Premature end to lockdown? Your fault.

Refusal to have circuit breaker? Your fault.

Eat out to help out? Your fault.

Repeatedly starving kids? Your fault.

No test and trace? Your fault.

Overcrowded non-essential workplaces? Your fault.

Constantly changing and woefully inconsistent rules? Your fault.

Lack of ventilators in ICU? Your fault.

Johnson hiding in fridges? Your fault.

Everything's your fault, according to Johnson. And if you voted for him, I kind of agree.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Biden Inauguration: Will He Prove Better than "America's Worst Ever President"?

As America prepares for Joe Biden's inauguration, the crowds are thinner than usual, due to Covid-19 - and probably due to security concerns. 25,000 national guards have been deployed to the US Capitol to ensure a peaceful transition of power. The atmosphere is subdued, but the world is breathing a collective sigh of relief that Trump is departing, while praying his extremist supporters do not cause trouble. The last thing today needs is more violence.

America is ridding itself of a fascist, a would-be dictator, of that there is no doubt. And people are saying he was America's worst ever president. But now his presidency is over, we can only assess what Trump did in office, rather than what he might have done. And to find worse in that regard, you don't have to go back very far at all.

First of all, let's not diminish Trump's many crimes - his Muslim ban was outrageous, his locking up of children monstrous (but let's not forget Biden built those cages), his Covid mishandling a shocking betrayal, and his attempt at insurrection was frankly pathetic. Trump did many terrible things in office and his conduct was an embarrassment, but the hard truth is other presidents have done even more damage. They've just done most of their damage elsewhere.

Let's take Trump's predecessor, for example, liberal hero Barack Obama. 

Initially I was a huge Obama fan. I'm embarrassed to say I was caught up in the hype like so many others. When Obama was sworn into office in 2008, the world breathed a collective sigh of relief as they are doing today. Obama was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize without doing anything, on the basis he was not George Bush jr.

It all started so well. Obama began bringing troops home. He was saying all the right things. And then he dropped more bombs than George Bush jr, including 26,171 bombs on Syria in 2016 alone (72 a day), creating a vacuum which was filled by ISIS.

You can credit Obama all you want for undoing some of Bush's economic damage, for bringing healthcare to millions, for looking statesman-like on the world stage. He was certainly good at PR, but under the pretence of countering terrorism, Obama went on a drone-bombing rampage, obliterating mountain villages in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other parts of the middle-east.

Children in the mountain villages lived in constant terror. Every time they heard the hum of a drone, they did not know if their village would be vaporised next. I remember reading a serialisation in The Guardian where they published updates from a teenage boy living in one such village. Within a matter of weeks, the boy and his village were gone. Vaporised. Just like that.

His life mattered. All their lives mattered.

In his attempts to eradicate terrorism, Obama became a terrorist himself, regardless of what you may think of his intentions. His crimes exceed those of Donald Trump and you can only disagree with that statement if you see lives in the middle-east as being less valuable than those elsewhere. Obama committed countless acts of terrorism, aided and abetted by his vice president, Joe Biden.

If you want to find another president who did more damage than Trump, look no further than Obama's predecessor, George Bush jr - a man who has since had his reputation rehabilitated by... the Obamas! In truth, there was never a huge moral or ideological chasm between Obama and the Republicans who started two illegal wars, killing one million people and maiming countless others. Indeed, Obama said himself he would've been considered a Republican in the 1980s.

Obama and Bush were part of the same imperial war machine, and if you go back to Bush's predecessor Bill Clinton, you will find another cut from the same cloth - a man who among other crimes, vaporised Africa's largest medicine factory and nearby school on a whim. 

Indeed, if you go back through 100 years of American presidents, you will find mass-murdering psychopath after mass-murdering psychopath. Men who decimated the middle-east, who committed genocide in Vietnam and other places, who were responsible for coup after coup in Latin America, who helped themselves to the world's resources. 

And now the US has a president who has always been supportive of these types of "interventions," the kind of guy who is understood to be eyeing up the world's largest oil reserves in Venezuela. I detect another coup incoming...

Are Americans really okay with coups as long as they are happening abroad?

America loves to hail itself the greatest nation on Earth, the greatest democracy in the history of humankind. So how about some more wars - the kind of wars Joe Biden seems reluctant to fight?

How about leaving Venezuela alone and instead declaring war on the greatest enemy humankind has ever faced - the climate crisis? Joe Biden actually went to great pains to distance himself from the Green New Deal during his presidential campaign. 

So is the climate crisis too great a foe for the "world's greatest nation" to take on? Are we really going to pretend half-measures will be sufficient to save the planet? Would we have fought the Nazis with half-measures and self-delusion? Of course not! It's time for America to show its greatness...

And while it's at it, how about the "beacon of democracy" declares war on corporate donors, big pharma, big oil, and the corruption which has engulfed the US political system? How about saying fuck you to insurance companies and providing all American people with healthcare? How about ending poverty and homelessness? Abolishing student debt and making education a right, not a privilege? 

America has been boasting for 52 years about putting a man on the moon, about achieving the impossible. It likes to be perceived as the world's police force. It loves to talk about liberating people abroad. How about Joe Biden liberates his own people? Maybe then he will become the progressive hero brainwashed Democrats are already claiming him to be, rather than a corrupt liberal paving the way for another Trump.

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Monday, 18 January 2021

Peace and Justice Project Launch: Corbyn is Fighting for the People Centrists Won't

Yesterday saw the launch of Jeremy Corbyn's Peace and Justice Project. And for a working class leftist like me, it was an immediate source of renewed hope.

I've been homeless. I've been long-term unemployed. I've been, for a while, financially comfortable and, for much longer, I've been working poor. 

I've known what it's like to go days without food, to not be able to switch the heating on, to not know if I'll have a roof over my head next month. I've seen first-hand the cruelty of our immigration system and the systemic racism that exists in this country because I committed the crime of marrying an immigrant and having mixed-race children. I'm one of the many who've been very deliberately marginalised by establishment politicians and I'm not prepared to stand for it any longer. That's why I'm now an activist.

People like me have no representation from the major political parties. And this is why a Peace and Justice Party is needed.

In the past 12 months, Starmer's Labour have fallen over themselves to move away from the working class struggle, from the fight against systemic racism, from even tackling the biggest problem we are currently facing as a species - the climate crisis.

I don't consider myself hugely uncompromising in my politics, but I certainly do have red lines. If a politician wants my vote, here's what commitments they must make - these things are non-negotiable:

  • A plan for ending homelessness
  • A guaranteed living wage
  • A guaranteed access to food for all citizens (and non-citizens)
  • A determination to eradicate all forms of racism always, not just when politically convenient
  • A green industrial revolution

There are many other things I'd really like to see, but they are things I would be prepared to compromise on. However, the things I've listed above are, like I said, non-negotiable, and I don't think that's even close to being unreasonable. 

Unfortunately, we now have a Labour leader who would vilify someone like me, rather than address these vital concerns. A Labour leader who will let corporations dictate policy and treat the working class his party was founded to represent as an afterthought.

Starmer's idea of representing the working class is meaningless soundbites like "patriotic foreign policy" and concerning dog whistles like "no truck whatsoever with the Black Lives Matter organisation." Let me tell you, when you have a Black family, the language Starmer is using does not fill you with any confidence that he is committed to racial (or social) justice. He comes across as a politician who is taking our vote for granted while trying to win over the UKIP mob.

Does he not realise there is a huge, disregarded chunk of the population whose votes he could target? A gaping hole in the political spectrum where no party is placing their focus? Did it not occur that might be a more viable and credible strategy, given these would be the people his party was founded to represent? Or does he just not care? I know what I think...

Starmer's reluctant to tell the public what he actually believes on anything. Principles? What are those? 

And on those rare occasions Starmer does talk policy, it's to water down Labour's amazing 2019 manifesto. Indeed, his shadow chancellor has indicated we are now back to the pre-2015 austerity-lite Labour Party - from the period when Rachel Reeves boasted about being "tougher on benefits claimants than the Tories." Shudder.

Labour is once again the party of anti-immigration mugs, and as the husband of an immigrant, I find this truly alarming.

I've been made politically homeless. Not in a whiny centrist from the Corbyn-era way. I'm politically homeless from the perspective of once being actually homeless and now having no-one willing to solve the problems I've experienced first-hand.

All I want is a cause to get behind. Something to fight for. 

The irony is I would've gladly accepted compromise with Starmer's centrists in order to achieve badly-needed change in this country, as long as they were willing to address our key concerns — concerns which should be the priority for any Labour leader.

Sadly, Starmer would rather vilify people like me. The Parliamentary Labour Party treat committed activists, lifelong trade unionists, and our most passionate socialist MPs like the enemy, like non-persons. Starmer is perfectly happy to write for racist right-wing newspapers and cosy up to fascists, but if you show solidarity with someone he's declared a non-person, you get booted out the Labour Party. He's an astounding hypocrite and he's made it clear compromise isn't happening.

Starmer's showing himself to be a technocrat who is every bit as out of touch with ordinary people as Boris Johnson. His entire game plan is to count on Johnson being so horrendously awful, he wins a general election by default. But a supportive mainstream media can only get him so far. The more the public see of Starmer, the less they like him. And he's somehow polling behind the worst prime minister in memory. 

The reasons are simple: He won't stand for anything, he won't offer hope, and he won't provide solutions.

Starmer's telling people like me things will not change, the structural problems will remain, the issues I care about largely ignored, but I'd better vote for him because the other guy's even worse.

I could not think of a less appealing message from a Labour leader (at least Blair tried to inspire), and my concern is that a vote for Starmer may ultimately do more long-term damage to the future of this country than a vote for Johnson. This is because he would snuff out the hope of a transformative Labour government for yet another generation. Horrifying.

Step forward Jeremy Corbyn and his new Peace and Justice Party, I mean Project

God, I do hope it becomes a party!

The launch was brilliant, inspiring. There were outstanding speakers like world-renowned academic Noam Chomsky who is still fighting for us at 92 years old. There was an incredibly impressive climate activist called Scarlet who is only 16 years old. Other speakers included Unite leader Len McCluskey, economist Yanis Varoufakis, future prime minister Zarah Sultana, and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell (whose message was pre-recorded).

Corbyn said: "The pandemic is intensifying three deep, connected and global crises: the climate emergency, an economy that generates inequality and insecurity faster than prosperity and freedom — and a global order that holds back the vast majority of our planet’s people.

"But we have both the ideas, and the power when we come together, to overcome these crises. What our movement does today will be felt for generations to come.

"Our movement can turn the dial towards peace and justice."

During the show, we heard how the PJP will actively campaign against the Murdoch empire and the concerning plans to create a British equivalent of Fox News. This was music to my ears. We've desperately needed something to counter the pernicious influence of Murdoch for 40 years. Jeremy Corbyn now plans to do this while Sir Keir Starmer plans his latest column for the S*n newspaper. 

See the difference here? Starmer wants to work with and represent sinister billionaires who are holding back our country. Corbyn wants to defeat them. Who do you think is on your side?

There was also the predictable, but much-needed talk of countering imperialism, campaigning against the war machine and promoting peace around the world. And you know that, unlike other politicians like former "Middle-east Envoy" and corrupt warmonger Tony Blair, Jeremy Corbyn will approach this with absolute sincerity. Plus, he has a movement of people behind him, only too willing to amplify his voice.

Corbyn spoke of an "economic security project" to support families impacted by austerity and Covid-19 by working with unions and foodbanks. He spoke of an "international justice project" focusing on ensuring Covid-19 vaccines reach as many people as possible. (At present some countries are buying three times more stock than they physically need, leaving other countries with little or nothing, and this is clearly unacceptable.) He also spoke of a "climate justice project" to fight for the implementation of the Green New Deal Starmer wants to water down. (Seriously, who is this man fighting for? Fossil fuel companies?)

The fact is Jeremy Corbyn spoke like the Prime Minister we should have, the leader we deserve, the person who actually cares about the things all politicians are supposed to care about. It's unbelievable to me that 90% of our political representatives couldn't give a damn about any of this. Even more unbelievable is that Labour centrists helped install someone as dangerous as Boris Johnson. As far as I'm concerned, they own every Tory failure and every excess death as a result of this corrupt government. They can shove their fake calls for unity up their arse.

The show was closed with Emeli Sande's "You are Not Alone"  a song that both gives me chills and triggers PTSD! Every time I hear it, I'm taken back to December 13th 2019 and that devastating electoral defeat that crushed our dreams. But now those dreams have been reignited. 

Finally we have something to cling to, something to campaign for, and although my hope is for the PJP to become a new political party, even if it remains just a "project", we at least have have a way of coming together and making our voice heard. We've had 40 years just hearing the voice of the billionaire class. It's time to fight back.

As Yanis Varoufakis said: "Democracy has never failed because it's never been tried."

If you ask Corbyn, he will of course tell you the PJP is not, and will not become, a political party — he will tell you to stay and fight, but if his current court action against the Labour Party is unsuccessful and he fails to get the Labour whip restored, we could see him take a very different position. It all hinges on whether Corbyn is up for that challenge because his supporters certainly are.

Say what you want about "splitting the left vote," Starmer is not even pursuing the left vote and he is probably going to lose in 2024 regardless. But the chance of the left finding any way back in the Labour Party is slim to none. 

In my humble opinion, now is the time to find the spirit of Keir Hardie and trade unionists in 1900 when they got together to take on the establishment, to replace liberalism as the political alternative to conservativism. That alternative was stolen from us by infiltrators, by a neoliberal fifth column, but we can start again. Socialism can become a renewed force in British politics but I can only see that happening outside the Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn, over to you...

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Saturday, 16 January 2021

Don’t sit around waiting for the politicians. Our history shows us that we can be the agents of change.

Guest piece by Andy Searson 

The neoliberal element of the Labour Party have declared war on their own membership and those who identify as socialists within parliament - an unnecessary monumental act of self-harm. Hundreds of thousands of activists drawn to the party by the authenticity and hopefulness surrounding the Corbyn leadership have been given a two-fingered salute.

They’re turning Labour into a set of poor middle-managers who seem hell bent on being mere proxies for Tory vandalism of our local services and communities. They see their role as managing decline, rather than opposing and fighting it on our behalf.

The feeling among dedicated, grassroots activists is that Starmer’s party is walking away from them, particularly the hundreds of thousands who flocked to the party under Corbyn. They feel that they are not wanted. They’re to be replaced with millionaire donors. Sadly, the interests of millionaire donors reflect the interests of the millionaire class. The interests of everyday members reflect the interests of the millions of everyday citizens.

It’s clear which direction Starmer’s Labour is heading in. It’s business as usual, yes to austerity, anti-trade unions, backing the status quo, and to hell with the millions who've had to carry the burden of ten years of Tory mismanagement.

This is a struggle for an economy that works for the tens of millions of citizens and not just the millionaires! It’s a struggle for social justice, morally right choices and fairness. It’s a struggle for humane values of decency, equality and egalitarianism. It’s socialism or barbarism.

It’s a moment of crisis and I feel a moment of existentialism for the Labour Party. Are Starmer’s Labour the representatives of the many or the few?

I’ll admit, I didn’t vote for Starmer as I looked closely at his recent history and actions as Director of Public Prosecutions. I also looked at those who are close to him. As my mother would say, judge a man by the company he keeps. You only have to look at his campaign team, financial backers and his shadow cabinet to see what he’s about.

Although I view the recent Starmer-made crisis as the possible end for Labour, I don’t share the pessimism of many Labour activists. I see this not as the end of the Corbyn project, but the next step in reinvigorating the movement that gave birth to the Labour Party in the first place. Reigniting the beliefs, values and moral crusade for social justice and egalitarianism.

We have thousands upon thousands of dedicated, trained activists, millions of trade union members and people who are yearning for change. We have witnessed a huge surge in people willing to help their neighbours, within communities and beyond. 

Throughout this pandemic, ordinary people have done extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances. People who are concerned with the common good and willing to be active in pursuit of it.

Let me be clear here, I am not endorsing shifting government responsibility for our citizens' welfare or replacing the welfare system, as the coalition and subsequent Tory governments have. I am firmly of the belief that foodbanks are a sign of the failures of government. 

As Mhairi Black put it so eloquently: ‘Foodbanks are not part of the welfare state, they are a symbol that the welfare state is failing.’

So, what is to be done?

Those trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party should redirect funds from Starmer’s Labour and invest in community organising. Why fund a leadership and political machine that is willing to work against the interests of millions of workers and everyday folk? (If you doubt this is the case, just check out the voting record of those who make up Starmer’s shadow cabinet and close team.)

We need the focus of the trade unions to be on representing workers, our class, our communities and our people.

In Spain, you find centres in every village and town called La Casa Del Pueblo - The People’s or Village House. In Spain, my village equates to my people. They are centres of culture, heritage, political education and support for local people, e.g. citizens advice - advocacy and legal help.

They can be found at the heart of a community - a central point of focus to gather and formulate actions of mutual support. If we developed this idea in Britain, we could forge a new relationship with the people within our communities, use this to grow cooperatives and mutual societies to serve our own community needs.

In the UK, the trade union movement started to develop similar hubs via the Unemployed Workers’ Centres. The TUC Unemployed Workers' Centres have been in existence for 30 years. They were a response by the trade union movement to the growing level of unemployment in the late 1970s. There are many still surviving in major cities such as Sheffield, Birmingham and Manchester to name a few. There are also centres offering worker’s education via the WEA (Workers Education Association). 

These ‘People’s Houses’ or workers centres could become the social hubs that replace the diminishing welfare clubs, institutions and associations that grew from organised labour in the communal workplaces. We could grow micro co-operative shops and cafes to reenergise high streets in villages and outlying towns.

We could use embedded union organisers and trade union legal expertise to help create local building societies and credit unions. The trade unions could become a platform for regeneration and engagement at local grassroots level. True parliamentary representation for the working class will never happen via this party leadership and the shadow cabinet.

The history of working class organising in our communities all over Britain can be reinvented for a modern age. A coalition of the willing, acting collectively in their community on mutual local interests. A type of municipal socialism working towards the common good. It would mirror the emancipatory ideals of those pioneering early trade unionists and develop a ‘can do it for ourselves’ mindset.

That’s how our great grandparents built our towns and villages from mere shanty towns built around mines, steelworks and factories to what we see today. They created communities wherein people felt they were active stakeholders. This brought empowerment and promoted self-agency which was built via the ideals of self-help and collective endeavour of the trade union movement. This was prior to our class having real parliamentary representation. Our people had to think creatively and realised collectivisation was the key. They became the change they needed to improve the lives of their class. Not small ‘c conservatism’ but everyday socialism rooted in finding solutions to people’s everyday challenges. 

For those doubters who think these ideals are mere pie in the sky, look no further than Spain’s Mondragon Corporation. It is a prime example of self-help. Its aims were, and still are, about workers and community. Their aims are stated clearly.

‘We are a dedicated group of people with a cooperative identity forming a business group that is profitable, competitive and enterprising, capable of successfully operating in global markets. Our organisation uses democratic methods in its corporate organisation, and its aims are employment, the personal and professional advancement of its workers, and the development of its community.’

It goes on:

‘Furthermore, based on the Cooperative Principles and its own experience, MONDRAGON nurtures the values of self-motivation and shared responsibility, inter-cooperation, social transformation.’

You can read more about Mondragon here.

History has proven the power of building societies and the strength and diversity that a healthy mutual sector and cooperatives bring to local communities. Building societies and co-operatives also give people a proper stake in the places they work, spread wealth through society, and bring innovative and imaginative business ideas to bear on meeting local needs.

Imagine the transformative impact of trade union-funded ‘People’s Houses’ or ‘Workers Centres’ in each town or large village all over Britain, organising local people for the common good. Helping establish self-help co-operatives run by local workers with profits serving the community, rather than distant corporations.

Imagine our high streets reinvigorated with local mutual building societies and credit unions filling the spaces where large banks have closed, leaving nothing but a few cashpoints and ATMs; cooperative shops, cafes and small niche supermarkets revitalising and reinventing the empty premises; credit unions which are member-owned financial cooperatives operated for the purpose of providing credit and other financial services to their members. 

They are a way to empower people and collectivise local finances and were first established in the UK in the sixties.

Significantly, the first recorded British credit union was the Hornsey Co-operative Credit Union, established 1964 in North London by Caribbean families. It is the foundation of what is now London Capital Credit Union. Formed and set up by members of Ferme Park Baptist Church unable to get credit from banks, it was an organised, collective response to racism towards Caribbean workers and their families who were denied mortgages and loans. 

(Credit unions, known as pardner or susu, were widespread in the Caribbean and members paid weekly contributions.) 

Similar discriminatory prejudice and the needs of local people gave rise to the Derry Credit Union and the Ballymurphy People’s Cooperatives - the legacy of which is the belief that people can effect change themselves, that they are the agents of change, that we just don’t sit wondering what the elected representatives are going to decide or do on our behalf. 

The idea of mutual self-help has meant that since October 1960, the members of Derry Credit Union have contributed more than £550m to the local economy simply by saving and borrowing with the union. Much of this money has been spent locally, supporting local businesses and jobs. The members help themselves, and one another, to improve the quality of their lives.

This is how our movement grew via self-empowerment and collectivism. We can rebuild again from community grassroots up and outside parliament if necessary.

Our aims should be unlimited access to all forms of well-being for the whole population of our communities. There are no freedoms without equality. Also, there is no real democracy without tangible, everyday benefits for our people. Otherwise democracy is an empty word. It is a distraction or a way to deceive people into believing they are part of a project, when in fact they are only pawns, not benefactors, if real change does not flow through every household from parliament.

We must begin a program of emancipatory activism and work alongside our people in working class communities. A revolution in collectivisation and community action. It would be the antidote to the extreme individualism and extreme laissez-faire policies of neoliberalism that neglect the stability and overall ideals of community.

Again, in Spain, there is a town that works for its people via communitarianism. Marinaleda is a town in Andalusia run by the people, on behalf of the people, which organised itself so it serves its citizens. Here there is no housing crisis, crime, mass unemployment or food poverty. What has been achieved via collectivism is a remarkable example of unity, mutual aid and collective human endeavour. Socialism in action. They have proven self-help, dynamic citizens and community can bring about great change to the lives of citizens.

The Cleveland Model in the USA also uses cooperatives to regenerate communities. They are built around servicing local anchor institutions or the economic powerhouses within the communities. They use the millions of pounds spent by these anchor institutions to regenerate the immediate community. This helps keep wealth local, rather than flowing out into huge corporations.

If we succeed in bringing change and regeneration outside parliament, then maybe, if we cannot reclaim our Labour Party, we need a new party of the people. A party representative of our communities, with representatives drawn from those communities. We can build a representative party as our ancestors built the Labour Party.

Utilise those extraordinary people, the real life super-heroes of community activism who are driven not by self-profiteering or careers but by authentic altruism. These are the people who would and will produce the real social and systemic change our people require and demand.

We can no longer put our faith in those who cosy up to the establishment few at the expense of the many. We need our own representatives chosen from our own people, who will act in the interests of our communities and people! A new political offer for the working class.

Former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein recently tweeted: “Politicians are the representatives of the people. It shows humility & respect for the people you serve, & who pay your salary, when you use their money to serve rather than to create a life of privilege & luxury for yourself. As Nelson Mandela told us, If you think you are more important than the people you serve, you are of no use to them or to the movement.”

The votes are there to be won as Corbyn demonstrated in 2017. The mobilisation of those who are disaffected non-voters. They’re waiting for a spark, a sign that someone who they can relate to is going to speak up and act in their interests.

We stand on the shoulders of giants who showed the way. The systemic change required to radically redress the years of decline in living standards of the working class will only come about by a democratic revolution built from within our communities and from the ground up - a return to our ancestral class consciousness. Politics is far more than the Houses of Parliament. Let us build a future based within the politics of everyday living and the lives of our communities. Let us be the change we all crave!

In the words of that great working class activist and leader, James Connolly: “A revolution will only be achieved when the ordinary people of the world, us the working class, get up off our knees and take back what is rightfully ours.”

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Food Packages Scandal: Nation Finally Seems to Realise Child Hunger is Bad

If you're wondering why I've been relatively quiet recently, imagine having a really bad month of long Covid while running around after three kids who are at home around the clock and reaching a point you're so exhausted, you slip a disc in your back by friggin' coughing, and then you can't sleep properly, or even scratch your own arse, with the pain. Yeah, that's me right now, and it's why I haven't been writing anywhere near as much as usual, so sorry about that. I'm bloody knackered!

But anyway, here I am at nearly 10.00pm with some actual spare time, and social media is going nuts. The reason? A Twitter user by the name of Roadside Mum has tweeted about her meagre food parcel which was supposed to be worth £30 and was in fact worth £5.22. This parcel was intended to replace free school meals during lockdown but is clearly nowhere near sufficient. 

It included a loaf of bread, two bananas, three apples, three Frubes, a tin of beans, a block of cheese, one tomato, two potatoes, a small packet of pasta, and two Soreen lunchbox loaves. Roadside Mum was expected to feed the kids for ten days with this apparently.

I was actually supposed to pick up our food parcel this week, but I could barely walk so I didn't, and therefore I have no idea if ours would have been any better. But I'll let you know on Friday when the next one is ready.

Anyways, last night, my friends and I kicked up a huge fuss when we stumbled across this tweet which has since gone super-viral. The mainstream media jumped on the story and the catering company involved - Chartwells - are insisting the image is not a typical representation of their food packages.

This prompted many other Twitter users to upload images of their own food packages, some of which were even worse (including one with half a tomato and half a pepper!) Now it's worth pointing out, not all the packages came from the same company, but if anything that makes matters worse, not better. It shows a complete failure of Tory ideology - the principle of injecting "the market" into essential services to make them more efficient. Clearly, that's total bollocks.

Not only are the Tories adding a needless middle man, but they're introducing the profit motive, and the outcome of that is always inevitable. Profit will always come before human well-being, even when children are involved because that's the very nature of markets.

Now I'm told these catering companies were contracted to provide food packages to the value of £30, and if that's true, it suggests they've pocketed the other £25. It very much looks like food has been stolen from the mouths of children. And that possibility is truly horrifying.

It has been reported that, rather predictably, the CEO of one of these companies is a Tory donor. They always seem to be Tory donors, don't they? It has also been reported his company is responsible for a string of food-related scandals around the world, but I'll not get into that because at present, I'm unable to verify. 

All I'm saying is it would not surprise me, given the way this government hands out ridiculous contracts to its donors, paying way over the odds for repeated failure. It's just this time, the victims are children and the consequences are so visible, it's hard for the privileged classes to hide away in their bubble of denial. This kind of thing, this corruption, is what you get with a Tory vote. It creates human suffering, the kind they love to pin on personal failure, rather than the abject moral failure of their government.

So Marcus Rashford got involved again. Who else? 

And he kicked up such a fuss that privileged people remembered they're supposed to care about hungry children, only a year after they vilified Jeremy Corbyn who would've made access to food a basic human right. The fucking monster. 

We sure dodged a bullet when we elected meal stealer Johnson, eh? I mean Corbyn used to wear the wrong kind of coat and didn't bow low enough. Plus, he would've left our food shelves empty like Venezuela with his crazy plans to spend our money on food. Much better to not spend money on food. That's a much better way of eliminating hunger. Just like not spending money on homelessness is the best way to eliminate homelessness. 

Or at least, we pretended all that was true, and then the pandemic came along and showed us the completely selfish ignorant bullshit our nation swallowed was in fact, completely selfish ignorant bullshit.

The Tories couldn't possibly eliminate homelessness until the first lockdown came along, and then they just magically got every rough sleeper off the streets before later choosing to dump them back onto the streets.

And the Tories couldn't possibly eliminate child hunger until a popular footballer kept embarrassing them on social media. Let's bear in mind this is a party that was willing to spend far more money sending middle-class people to restaurants with Eat Out to Help Out than it ever was feeding hungry kids. 

And even when the Tories did agree to feed the kids, they couldn't help themselves, could they? They  had to find a way to profiteer, to stuff money into the pockets of their rich mates. Honestly, how do these bastards sleep at night? Is there anything they won't profiteer from?

The most frustrating thing is the Tories have been starving people for over a decade now and we lefties have been decried as loonies every time we've pointed this out. But now finally, it's reaching the point where privileged people cannot deny the situation. 

Tragically, they will still find a way to blame us though, even when we've been proven right, even when we've tried to reason with them, to plead with them, to prick their conscience. They will still blame Jeremy Corbyn, even though they chose the guy who starves kids over the guy who wanted to feed them. They'll still pretend he supports terrorists or some other nonsense because vilifying a perfectly decent human being is the best way to deflect from their own moral failings. 

They voted to starve the kids so we must be the monsters. These people don't do humility, but at least they are finally coming around in their own grudging way. At least they are now demanding better for our kids. My only question is why is it always so hard to get these people to give a shit? For some of us giving a shit is the default.

Soon, the Tories plan to cut Universal Credit by £85 a month, like it's not already woefully insufficient. Will the outraged privileged classes stand with the working class then, or against us? Will they pretend we're all feckless layabouts, even when most UC claimants are working families like ours? Or will they remember the hungry kids and remember their own conscience? We shall see...

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Monday, 4 January 2021

Julian Assange Will Not Be extradited to the US to Face Trial

Today is a great day for press freedom.

A judge in a London court has ruled that Julian Assange's extradition to the US should not go ahead, due to concerns over the international award-winning journalist's mental health. She agreed the maximum security conditions in a US prison would be oppressive and leave him at severe risk of suicide. 

Assange was facing the grim prospect of a 175 year jail sentence- they basically wanted to toss him into solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and throw away the key. 

Assange has not yet been freed, but I know the US has 14 days to appeal.

Assange is wanted over the publication of classified documents to Wikileaks in 2010-2011. In other words, journalism. Yes, Assange's crime was journalism. He published documents which exposed human rights abuses and crimes against humanity committed by the US and other states. Also, he was careful to redact any details which could have put individuals at risk (which is one of the things he was accused of doing).

The judge was shown evidence from medical experts about Assange's self-harm and suicidal thoughts and said: "Faced with the conditions of near total isolation without the protective factors which limited his risk at HMP Belmarsh, I am satisfied the procedures described by the US will not prevent Mr Assange from finding a way to commit suicide and for this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge."

One of the most disturbing elements of the case is how those who've committed human rights abuses walk free while the journalist who exposed them has been tortured and humiliated. That's authoritarianism for you, and it's a direct admission the state does not give a fuck about your human rights. Any one of us could be collateral damage to preserve the imperial war machine.

My message to Assange, if he were to get freed, would be to leave the United Kingdom immediately. To take his wife and two small children and get as far away from this wretched, corrupt island as possible. Do not give these bastards the opportunity to change their minds. They have stitched Assange up throughout this process which, it's fair to say, has been one of the biggest shams in the history of the "British justice system".

It is to their shame that so many UK publications have turned against Assange, not least The Guardian which was at one point perfectly happy to work with him and Wikileaks, publishing the state's dirty secrets. The level of betrayal and moral cowardice from this vile, faux-left wing rag has been nothing short of breathtaking.

What the British media seemed to fail to understand was it could've been any one of them next. Or maybe they did understand, and throwing Assange under the bus was their way of telling the state they promise not to step out of line again.

In our pretend democracy, you're not allowed to embarrass the state. Not in any major way. If you do, perhaps you'll be suicided like Dr David Kelly. Or you'll have an unfortunate accident. Or, as in Assange's case, you'll have your reputation utterly shredded by false accusations, so as to ensure the public do not view you as a martyr.

Remember, this was never originally about espionage. Not officially. It was about the most ridiculous of rape charges which fell apart under the slightest bit of scrutiny - charges which were supposed to see Assange extradited to Sweden, but have since been dropped. 

Anyone paying attention knew it was never about rape, that Sweden were planning to extradite Assange to the US the moment his rape case collapsed. Let's not forget, at the time the US would not even publicly admit or deny requesting Assange's extradition, or confirm the existence of charges against him. The lack of transparency stank to the high heavens.

Let's not also forget that while Assange was cooped up in the Ecuadorian embassy, the UN ruled he was being detained arbitrarily and should be allowed to leave the UK. The government refused to drop an arrest warrant, even when the charges in Sweden were dropped and there were no official charges from the US. 

Instead, the UK decided to pursue Assange for skipping bail and then physically and mentally torture him for 20 months in what looked like and a slow and painful political assassination. Let's make no mistake, the state were making an example of him. And our cowardly mainstream media were falling over themselves to say they would be obedient going forwards. They threw their colleague to the wolves.

The MSM would not dare investigate crimes against humanity committed by western states again. Just think about that, the implications are chilling. And let's also consider how left-wing social media accounts have been dropping like flies recently. This is the kind of censorship we criticise China for.

The growth of the internet has proven a nightmare for the state because it's so much harder for them to contain their dirty secrets. And any one of us could be next in the firing line. You don't even have to be a journalist. You can be held legally accountable, even for a retweet in the UK. Yes, if you retweet someone else's words, you can be taken to court. I should know because it's happened to a friend of mine!

We have only the vague illusion of democracy in the UK right now but we are not powerless. If we raise our voices, powerful people can sometimes be swayed to do the right thing, as has happened in the Assange case.

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