Tag Archive | news

Labour values: ‘We can’t help everyone’

Emma Lewell-Buck just can’t help it. In today’s Shields Gazette she decried the emptiness of David Cameron’s tough words on the Calais migrants issue, without any suggestion of what she or Labour would do to resolve the problem.

Presumably no one has told her yet.

What irked me most was that the article showed a complete lack of empathy; not just in her own words, but in the visitor comments below the article.  The people in Calais are hoping for a better life; a job, opportunity, a chance for freedom, or a haven from persecution, violence or death.

So I commented:

It says everything about the pathetic state of Labour that the South Shields MP jumps on the anti immigrant bandwagon to keep the Labour leadership happy and at the same time attempt to appeal to BNP and UKIP voters. It is reassuring though that people like Emma Lewell-Buck and most of the commenters below are in the minority (particularly the charming den ‘final solution’ patton) and that most British people are actually decent, empathetic human beings.

To put it in perspective, we have a population of over 60 million, but there are around 3,000 migrants in Calais. We are also one of the wealthiest countries in the world so not only can we afford to support these people in difficulty, we should. Sadly Emma Lewell-Buck is part of a political-economic system which prefers to maintain the status quo which makes the poor poorer and the rich richer, and rather use these people in trouble as an opportunity for cheap political point scoring rather than actually improving lives.

Maybe we can’t help everyone. But we should try, and for an MP, it should embody the reason they went for the job in the first place: to help people. 

Anything else is a betrayal to Labour voters, and what were once Labour principles.

Our MP wants to save the NHS

Over at the Shields Gazette, South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck slaps herself on the back for courageously voting for whatever lobby fodder are told to vote for. And what could be more core Labour voter friendly than a soft soap early day motion that makes all the right NHS noises?

The Tories and Lib Dems may be holding the axe to the neck of the NHS, but Labour brought it to its knees. Before the Tory reorganisation, Labour saddled the NHS with its very own reorganisation, the Private Finance Initiative. PFI has landed NHS trusts with decades long debts worth billions. On top of that, Labour obligated trusts to offer services to private providers, even if the NHS services were better value for money. Even without the Con-Dem slashing, a Labour government would have meant cuts to NHS services.

Labour put profits before people.

If Labour is serious about saving the NHS, then cancellation of PFI debt must be at the top of the wish list. Next would be to put the NHS at the heart of a British constitution to stop future governments using the NHS as a political and profit football.

But it won’t happen. Labour is as wedded to dismantling public services and handing them to the circling privatisation vultures as the Tories, Lib Dems and Ukip.

Together

So the family of nations of the UK will remain together.  For now.  We have been handed an opportunity to build a new, better UK – for all of us.  Cameron’s offer of pseudo devo city regions should be ignored as a cynical attempt to silence calls for regional and national devolution under a federal government, with a model which will pit city against city, each competing for scraps from Westminster’s table.

Scotland has lead the way and the debate has shown there is a desire for a better, fairer and more representative democracy.  This isn’t the end of Scottish independence, it should be seen as an opportunity for all the parts of the UK to campaign together for more local democratic self determination.

Despite the inevitable posturing over the result, Westminster is running scared.  They know we have the power to make changes for the better.  After yesterday, we know it too.

And that’s why we need to keep them worried.

Where next?

I had prepared a blog post on what next after today’s Scottish Independence Referendum, whichever way the vote goes. But Caroline Lucas has pretty much hit the nailed it at Left Foot Forward with her open letter to the three party leaders – I recommend reading it.

Whoever wins (I hope by a significant majority) there is some optimism to take away from the campaigns in the run up to the referendum. Not from the party leaders or the celebrity political names like Sheridan and Galloway, but from people on the street engaged with their politics, other people, and their own future. If you’ve visited Scotland in the last few months you can’t have missed the Yes and No posters on walls, in house windows, on fences in fields and by the road. People have been talking to each other. True, there has been some negativity from both sides and I have witnessed naked nationalism and outright dishonesty, but in the main people have been good natured, and most importantly, positive and with a real optimism for the future.

For too long optimism has been missing from political discourse, hidden behind cynicism and the personal ambitions of lobby fodder polticians. In the referendum battle we’ve seen people take politics back into their own hands, and they’ve made their way to the polling booths in unprecedented numbers. And the politicians are scared.

I hope this optimism and drive for self determination catches on, and heads south of the border. In a country dominated by political parties that put people before profit, we’ll need it.

Good luck Scotland.

Shielded from truth

In the 1998 scifi action film Soldier, Kurt Russell plays Sgt Todd, a soldier who has been trained from birth to be a ruthless and efficient killing machine. To illustrate Todd’s complete absence of empathy, there’s a scene at the beginning of the film where he is in a battle in Moscow, walking through blasted ruins mowing down enemy Russian soldiers with his machine gun. A Russian soldier takes a civilian woman hostage, and holds her in front of him as a shield. The ruthless Sgt Todd shoots the civilian and the soldier without blinking. Todd’s complete dedication to the mission is chilling. We know that he is wrong; we know that he is not a moral person.

Watching Soldier on the television the other night it struck me that this is what a ‘human shield’ looks like. A non combatant intentionally placed in the line of fire to stop the opposing side firing on troops and military assets.  It’s a term we’ve been exposed to relentlessly in the past couple of weeks.

It’s been one of the criticisms levelled at Hamas – that they are using civilians as human shields. And this has been used extensively by apologists of the Israeli government to defend the killing of innocent civilians in Gaza.  Make a comment critical of Israel’s military actions and it won’t be long before a pro-Israel astro turfer rolls out the human shield defence.  The reasoning usually applied is one of the following:

– Hamas are using human shields, so Israel has no option but to kill those human shields in order to kill Hamas.

– Hamas are using human shields, so it’s inevitable that Israel will unintentionally kill those human shields whilst trying to kill Hamas.

Neither options can be considered moral. Both scenarios mean that civilians will die as a result of the Israeli government’s military actions, and that the Israeli government knows it.

There’s no doubt that Hamas is waging it’s war on Israel from the neighbourhoods of Gaza, and have been caught storing weaponry in empty schools.  But Gaza is a city of over two million, and it quickly becomes clear that Hamas’ war is being waged from inside a heavily populated area, not behind the people of Gaza.  To make it worse, the civilians of Gaza are pinned in place by Israel and Egypt with no place to run.  They are trapped.

And yet, Israel continues to launch high explosive ordinance at that small patch of land packed with humans.

This is no defence of Hamas or its allies.  I wouldn’t want anyone to live in a state run by religious extremists who ban freedom of speech, murder their political enemies and zealously execute sharia law with often deadly consequences.

The saying goes about the first victim of war being truth, and the Middle East is no different.  Using the human shield claim as absolution for killing the innocent is staggeringly dishonest and cowardly.

Christian kick ass cop capers

This has got to be made into a film.  Or a TV series.  You can imagine the trailer.  A deep voice-over.  Based on a true story, a sassy female cop on the edge, a maverick who takes no shit and will bend the rules to catch her prey (or pray even).  In one scene, she’s told by her tough police captain “You’ve got 24 hail Marys to solve this case!”  And while she’s bringing down the bad guys, she’s raising a gifted but difficult child with a deadbeat dad.  Cut to a another scene with a criminal in handcuffs, declaring “How did you know it was me?”  The feisty female cop coolly replies…

“That’s intercession, motherfucker.”

Well, probably not the motherfucker bit.  But it is based on a true story.  In Spain, an icon of the Virgin Mary in Málaga was awarded the police gold medal of merit for being pretty awesome at fighting crime.  Scooby Doo must be pissed off.

God’s own country

No loaves and fishes from Cameron

After alienating the fundamentalist Church of England wing of the Conservative Party with his support of equal marriage, David Cameron has decided to play to them and place down the Christian card in the run up to the annual celebration of the torture and execution of a literary character.  In a vile twisted perception of reality, Cameron pines in the pages of the Church Times for good old Christian values, but moans:

“I sometimes feel not enough is made of our efforts to tackle poverty.”

I don’t quite know what to make of this.  Tory ‘efforts to tackle poverty’ have been a naked war on the poor, making poverty worse.  The coalition government has been instrumental in making life worse for people on the poverty line, the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’, punitive welfare sanctions, the vicious cutting of welfare budgets.  This has led to a massive increase in food banks, and the emergence of people being admitted into hospital with malnutrition.

Malnutrition; in the 21st Century; in one of the wealthiest nations in the world; in what Cameron considers a ‘Christian country’.

Well, this is the guy who said that “Jesus invented the Big Society 2,000 years ago.”  If Jesus invented Cameron’s Big Society, then Dracula invented blood transfusions.

It is true that religious organisations are stepping in to help where they can.  The Trussell Trust has reported a massive growth in requests for emergency food:

Image

Cameron is grateful to Christian organisations though:

“I welcome the efforts of all those who help to feed, clothe, and house the poorest in our society. For generations, much of this work has been done by Christians…”

This is because he and his chums are dismantling the welfare state, the fair, secular solution.

 

Not a Christian country

Cameron said Britain should be “more confident about our status as a Christian country”.  This is a myth that is regularly resurrected, and it seems appropriate that Cameron’s done it in the run up to the celebration of the Christian resurrection myth.  True, our unelected head of state is also the head of the Church of England.  Unelected bishops sit in the House of Lords.  For over a thousand years Christianity of one flavour or another has been the dominant religion in Britain, owned massive swathes of land and property, and held power over the lives, deaths and afterlife of British people.

But that doesn’t mean that Britain is a Christian country.  Our laws are secular.  Our electoral system is secular.  Our state machinery is secular.  Despite having a state sanctioned church, it’s largely a ceremonial relationship and the UK is probably one of the most secular states in the world.

Religiously, the UK is diverse.  For the Prime Minister to suggest that Britain is a Christian country, it implies that any citizen of any religion that isn’t Christian (or of no religion) is somehow not properly British.  This attitude skirts the bigotry of the EDL and UKIP, with the sinister finger-pointing of the zealot, who lives in a paranoid world where the non-Christian is an outsider whose is ‘not one of us’.  We can see where that kind of thinking can lead today in the Central African Republic, where Muslims are being butchered by the thousands.  By Christians.  We can see it in Muslim countries where being un-Islamic can put an innocent person in prison or their head on the chopping block.  Closer to home, sectarianism in Northern Ireland has kept communities fractured for generations.  There are still many in North Ireland who believe that being Protestantism is a core component of Britishness.

Defining a country and it’s citizens by a religious belief is at best pernicious; at worst, murderous.

This is why Britain being a secular country is a good thing.  No matter what religious baggage our history brings, a country with secular values ignores arbitrary ‘morals’ born out of iron age superstition and medieval ignorance, and treats everyone equally, irrespective of their religious beliefs.