Friday, 30 June 2017

A hard Brexit it is then

As news emerged last night that Jeremy Corbyn had sacked MPs from his Labour front bench who supported an amendment to the Queen's speech which would have kept the UK in the Single Market and the Customs Union it finally confirmed that there isnt a cigarette paper between the positions of the British PM Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn on brexit are both committed to ending 'free movement' and to leaving the single market and the customs union. Yes the likes of Keir Starmer and John McDonnell - and even Jezza himself - have spoken of 'access to the single market on the best possible terms' but that is exactly what Theresa May and the Tory Brexit Secretary David Davis have been saying for months.

The fact of the matter is if you want to have access to the single market on the 'best possible terms' and a trouble free customs arrangement with the EU you wont get any better terms than the terms which come with staying in the single market and the customs union. Yes people in the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU last year but you can stay in both the single market or the customs union and not be a member of the EU - Norway is a good example of this. But what's extraordinary and so very disappointing about the UK Labour leadership's support for a hard brexit is that it means both the main parties at Westminster now have a position on brexit which is harder even than the position of the official Leave campaign during the EU referendum last year and others who campaigned for brexit.

For parts of the UK like Wales the hard brexit which both the tories and labour are now officially supporting will be a disaster. Two thirds of welsh exports are with the single market area and tens of thousands of jobs in Wales are reliant on this trade. And for some industries in Wales - like agriculture - 90 percent of its exports are to the single market. Clearly you dont have to be a havard economist to work out the loss of this trade or the imposition of tariffs and customs charges will be catastrophic and hit an already fragile welsh economy very hard.

I applaud the 49 Labour MPS, the 12 Lib Dem MPs, the 4 Plaid Cymru MPs the 34 SNP MPs the one Independent MP and the one Green MP for supporting the amendment.

Oh and those xenophobes who for some unfathomable reason want to leave the European Convention on Human Rights as well ought to remember that the long running campaign for justice for the families of the Hillsborough disaster wouldn't have succeeded without the aid of article 2 of the ECHR

Thursday, 29 June 2017

They can't cover things up like they used to

Anyone who knows me would be aware of my misgivings about social media, in particular the way it has enabled far right and neo nazi groups groups to disseminate their hate and bigotry to a new and alas sometimes gullible audience. But i think it's fair to say if we'd had things like facebook and twitter when hillsborough occured then senior polcemen and the tory media would never have been able to get away with the disgusting lies they told about liverpool supporters in the days after the disaster. And it certainly wouldnt have taken almost 30 years for those at the center of the disaster to face justice in a court

The Grenfell Tower fire was horrific and i sincerely hope charges for corporate manslaughter will follow but thanks to social media it is now much harder for officialdom and politicians to cover things up than it used to be.So if kensington borough's tory council and Theresa May's Tory government thought they could micro manage the disaster and drip feed the public with information they have been thankfully proved wrong. It was said that the one positive thing that came about after hillsborough was that football supporters were no longer treated like scum - the one positive thing that will hopefully come about after grenfell tower is that social housing tenants will no longer be treated like scum.

Good Friday Agreement put at risk

Two months ago an episode of the bbc current affairs programme Panorama looked at a certain Frederick Scappaticci or ‘stakeknife’ as he was known to some. Scappaticci was a key figure in the IRA’s so called ‘nutting squad’ and responsible for its internal security. A large part of his role involved interrogating suspected informers and sometimes – on Scappatticci’s say so – these suspected informers would be executed and dumped on roadsides or buried in unmarked graves. Just over a decade ago it was revealed Scappaticci had been a british agent for decades and been allowed to carry on his his grim role within the IRA so long as he passed information on to his british handlers about IRA operations and personnel. Worse still it’s now believed Scappaticci used his role as interrogator in chief in the IRA to target committed republicans for execution at the behest of british army intelligence.

But Scappaticci was far from being the only operative acting on the instruction of british intelligence during ‘the troubles’. Brian nelson was a british agent in the loyalist UDA, more than that he helped supply loyalist death squads with weapons and was involved in numerous killings of republicans and nationalists – among them the murder of the republican solicitor and civil rights activist pat finucane

Only a madman or the most viscious sectarian would want to see a return to the days when reports of bullet ridden bodies found on roadsides was routine in the north and the british state was running deaths squads there. But in her desperation to keep her discredited and rejected government on life support Theresa May risks seriously undermining the good friday agreement as a result of the grubby deal she has struck with the deeply sectarian DUP (a DUP which did their best to block the implimentation of the good friday agreement we should remember).

For those who missed it the Panorama programme on Scappaticci can be seen here

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Grenfell Tower and the politics of Social Class

It's a fair bet that had Grenfell Tower been a luxury block of a flats - like one of those that are plentiful in the borough of Kensington - the catastrophic events of the last 36 hours wouldn't have happened. Fire and smoke alarms would have worked, sprinklers would have been installed, lifts would have been operational, there'd be more fire escapes and a type of plastic cladding known to be a fire risk wouldn't have been used on the building's exterior - a cladding scheme carried out incidentally because some of Kensington's more affluent residents had apparently been complaining the tower block was an 'eyesore'.

Certainly it's an indisputable fact that the politics of social class and social inequality runs through this entire horrific episode. Grenfell tower housed mainly poor people and people from ethnic minority backgrounds - people who are largely ignored and marginalised in contemporary British society - and you can't help but get the feeling the Tory local authority and the 'arms length' body the council had created to run the tower block just couldn't be bothered to listen to the concerns of all those poor people about the building's safety

Over the last few hours there has been speculation on social media that the fire may have been deliberately started, as part of a warped scheme to drive poor people out of one of the wealthiest boroughs in the british isles. And while such claims are probably the result of understandable anger and grief fueled by what local people feel has been years of neglect by local and national government it will nevertheless be interesting to see if Grenfell Tower's tenants are allowed to return to the block when it is refurbished - or will they be 'dispersed' to londons outer boroughs or even further afield like tens of other poor londoners have been in recent years? 

While the following links are a good illustration i think of the utter disregard many members of Theresa May's tory UK government takes to matters like ensuring properties are safe for the tenants who live in them.

And when considering what happened in Kensington it's also important to understand the overall context within which it has occurred ie successive British governments have been trashing and undermining council and social housing for decades. So when Thatcher initiated the so called 'right to buy' hundreds of thousands of council homes were bought at knock down prices but weren't replaced because local authorities were forbidden to spend the capital receipts generated to build new properties. And the Blair and Brown Labour governments continued this assault on public housing - bribing and bullying local authorities to hive off their housing stocks to so called 'arms length' companies.So with council housing and tenants viewed with such obvious disdain by successive British governments is it really any wonder the views and safety concerns of the tenants of Grenfell Tower were dismissed so readily by the block's management company and Kensington borough council?

Worth noting the devolved government's in Scotland and Wales have to their credit abolished 'right to buy' in their respective countries, and also very pleasing to note the Welsh Government has insisted that new properties built in Wales must have built in sprinkler systems

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The British state has worked with radical Islamists for decades

A couple of years ago a book came out which certain people in the upper echelons of the British establishment hoped would never see the light of day. It was called 'Secret Affairs: Britain's collusion with Radical Islam' and its author was the historian and journalist Mark Curtis.

In the book Mark Curtis reveals the covert history of British collusion with radical Islamic terrorist groups, and shows that this relationship goes back decades. He shows how UK governments connived with radical islamist groups to control oil resources and overthrow governments in the middle east. He shows that beginning even as far back as the 1920s British governments and the Civil Service exploited Islam and Islamic fundamentalism for its own political and strategic purposes - from the establishment of the Saudi kingdom; to the support of the hardline Muslim Brotherhood during Nasser's rule in Egypt; to the active support of terrorists in the Mujahedin (including Bin Laden) during the Afghan-Russian war; to the support of KLA and other terrorists during the Bosnian and Kosovan wars. Even after the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks, Britain continued to harbour known terrorists on its shores, giving them a safe-haven from international prosecutors.

And chillingly, in view of the terrible recent events in Manchester and London, Curtis writes in one chapter "For years, violent Islamist groups were allowed to settle in Britain, using the country as a base to carry out attacks abroad. This was tolerated in the belief that they would not bomb the country where they lived and that, as long as they are here, the security service would be able to infiltrate them. At the same time mosque after mosque was taken over through intimidation by the fundamentalists. Police and others in authority refused pleas from moderate Muslims with the excuse that they did not want to interfere". It's appalling that successive British governments and their ntelligence services should have entered into such an 'arrangement' with extreme islamists, and it's very hard not to see the awful consequences of this irresponsible and frankly criminal policy in the recent atrocities in Manchester and London.

And staying with the theme of links to radical Islam which elements of the British establishment would rather people didn't know about it was no surprise this week to see that Theresa May's government is refusing to publish a report - commissioned by her predecessor David Cameron - which is said to reveal clear evidence that extreme jihadists in the UK are being funded directly from Saudi Arabia

Of course that the British state should have been found to have collaborated with terrorist groups in order to serve its own twisted objectives would not come as a surprise to anyone who knows anything about the British state's murky history on the island of Ireland. As thanks to the likes of former British intelligence operatives like Colin Wallace and Fred Holroyd, and the excellent research of Anne Cadwallader of the Pat Finucane center, we know that loyalist terror groups in the north of Ireland were in large part armed and directed by British army intelligence and that infamous loyalist killers like the UDA's Brian Nelson was in fact a British agent

Saturday, 3 June 2017

"How i learned to stop worrying and love the Bomb"

Movie buffs might know the title for this post is taken from the famous 1964 Stanley Kubrick film - Dr Strangelove, a brilliant satire on the 'cold war' and its hideous nuclear arms race. I was reminded of this film while watching the Question Time debate last night with Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, as to judge from the way Corbyn was harangued over his understandable reluctance to ever launch a nuclear missile there seemed to be a few members of the audience who positively adored nuclear weaopns - and who clearly couldnt wait to use them!