Articles

The importance of pressure from without in the age of Starmer

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2021 by kmflett

The importance of Pressure From Without in the age of Starmer

Up to and on May 6th people are out campaigning in the elections that take place across the UK’s four nations on that day. Many will be working for Labour victories and in places like Manchester, London and Cardiff Bay will hope to keep administrations in office that certainly do more for working people than any likely alternative would.

Others will be out supporting Communists, socialists, Greens and a range of independents. Victories will be won here and there but the main point will be to raise political ideas and strategies aimed at wider changes.

While a focus on electoral politics has been central to much of the left for over a century it has never been the only road taken

In his utopian novel News From Nowhere, William Morris wrote that the Westminster Parliament had been replaced by a more useful dung heap while democracy was in the hands of citizens assemblies across the country.

More recently Ralph Miliband in his 1961 history of the first half century of the Labour Party, Parliamentary Socialism, argued that Labour had always been the most dogmatic of parties, not about socialist ideas but about adherence to Parliamentary politics.

This is the context for what was known in the nineteenth century as ‘pressure from without’. Labour didn’t form a Government until 1924 and until then the hope of achieving change simply by argument and winning a vote in Parliament was limited at best.

Rather the idea was to exert various forms of organised mass pressure, petitions, demonstrations, strikes to fix in the minds of MPs that if some changes and concessions were not made from time to time the alternative could end up being much more radical.

With the Tories 80 seat majority in Parliament and Keir Starmer’s penchant for abstention or backing the Tories, pressure from without has reasserted itself over the last year with some success.

Arguably it started with Black Lives Matter. The Sewell report shows the disdain the Government has for this and Starmer is hardly an enthusiast either.

Yet and despite regular edicts from Culture Minister Oliver Dowden, the pressure from campaigners continues to see a succession of large companies, academic institutions and sporting bodies take action on statues, historic racist associations and policies.

Arising in part from this the Tories new Police and Crime Bill has seen protests around the UK. On this occasion Labour did oppose it, but it seems to have been the impact of demonstrations that has seen the Bill disappear off the immediate political agenda. When and if it returns may well be depend on pressure from without.

The other motor for the Bill was and is the climate change protests of Extinction Rebellion activists. Even during the pandemic these have continued, within the confines of safety restrictions. Changes in Government policy are the aim, but the pressure for change comes not from Parliament but from the streets.

This idea of not waiting for someone above to address matters has spread further still.

When the BBC decided to scrap every programme on every channel in favour of coverage of the death of Prince Philip on April 9th it received over 100,000 complaints. It still managed extensive coverage of the funeral but only on one channel. The protests worked, although politicians were mostly silent on the matter.

When a group of very rich football clubs announced a break away European Super League to make themselves even richer recently, Government action was promised. However fan protests got there first and the ESL was scrapped before any Minister actually did a thing.

A reminder that the power of collective action can change things now just as it did in the nineteenth century.

Articles

Boris Johnson, Jersey & Churchill’s ‘utmost fish’ policy

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2021 by kmflett

Boris Johnson, Jersey & Churchill’s ‘utmost fish’ policy

Boris Johnson has despatched two Royal Navy boats to Jersey in a fishing dispute with France:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-57003069

For those who make their living from fishing Boris Johnson’s Brexit ‘negotiations’ on fishing rights with the EU and how they ended are a very serious matter indeed.

Johnson though is not someone noted for taking things seriously

He has previously waved a kipper in the air as part of a stunt in a political speech

When he had dinner with EU President Ursula von der Leyen during the final Brexit negotiations before Christmas 2020 he reportedly dined on scallops followed by turbot. Both are fished in UK waters with scallops being a previous source of dispute.

In October 1939 Winston Churchill’s Parliamentary Private Secretary Sir Geoffrey Shakespeare received the following memo from Churchill.

One morning I found on my desk a pink tab with a memo to this effect: “I am concerned about the shortage of fish. Parliamentary Secretary will immediately take up the matter with the Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff and the head of the Mine Sweeping Division to see if any trawlers can be released for fishing. We must have a policy of “utmost fish.” Parliamentary Secretary will report to me by midnight with his proposals. WSC.

Knowing Johnson this explains a lot…

Articles

The Guardian is 200 years old. Wishing the paper a happy birthday, without illusions

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2021 by kmflett

200 years of The Guardian

The Guardian was first published on 5th May 1821 and is marking the 200th anniversary with a facsimile of the first edition.

I’ve been reading the paper since the late 1960s and writing letters to it since the mid-1980s and as long as it continues (at least in print, although I mostly read e-editions) I plan to continue.

I haven’t yet seen but expect I will see pieces pointing out what a dreadful right-wing paper it is. Unhappy at best with Jeremy Corbyn, poor on South America, far too equivocal on trans rights. Definitely guilty on all counts I’d say but then the Guardian doesn’t pretend to be Socialist Worker or the Morning Star.

Historically it was a paper of the North (and in many ways I wish it still was) but for many years now its really been a paper of North London. I live there of course and I’m not complaining but I don’t really need a paper to tell me what people are thinking and doing there. Still..

Anyway if you are complaining that the Guardian is too right-wing or that its sold out you are missing the point both of its origins and what the paper was (and is) and also importantly of the strengths it has.

The paper came out of Peterloo but the legacy of that Manchester day was not straightforward. On the one side it led to Chartism and the early socialist movement. But on the other it was part of the precursor to what was (until the early 1980s) the modern Liberal Party (formed 1859). That tradition was that not of the 10 hour working day but of the Anti-Corn Law League. It was the tradition that saw the building of the Free Trade Hall (now a Radisson hotel) on the site of Peterloo.

As a tradition it had strengths. It was for peace and international conciliation, not war. It was against slavery (abroad, and the US Civil War was awkward). It was not for socialism.

As the twentieth century developed the two traditions existed side by side. The 100th anniversary of Peterloo in 1919 was celebrated in Manchester primarily by the Labour Party. J M Keynes was a Liberal whose economics did a good deal to inform Labour thinking.

When I first started reading it in the late 1960s the paper did support the Liberal Party. I don’t think one cared that much. The Liberals were electorally marginal and the paper employed some good to great journalists and columnists, none of whom from memory were Tories.(memory can be faulty though).

Matters became confused with the appearance of the SDP, which the paper also backed in the intertwining of Liberal and some Labour traditions.

It was never a paper of the left but in its pages one might find E P Thompson and Raymond Williams and others.

With the rise of the new Labour left in the 1980s (and given its strength in London- see above) the paper was perhaps associated to a degree with it. That didn’t I think influence editorial positions a great deal.

Once you can appreciate the origins and some of the traditions of the paper you can wish it happy birthday at 200 without complaining too much (but complaining is important too) about what it has never claimed to be.

Articles

Engels to Marx on his 50th birthday (5th May 1868)

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2021 by kmflett

Engels to Marx on his 50th Birthday (5th May 1868)

Engels to Marx 6th May 1868

I congratulate ANYHOW on the half saeculum, from which, incidentally, I am also only a short span away. Indeed, what juvenile enthusiasts we were 25 years ago when we boasted that by this time we would long have been beheaded.

Articles

5th May 1821, the first edition of The Guardian… & the first Fletter

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2021 by kmflett

5th May 1821, the first edition of The Guardian… & the first Fletter

The Guardian is 200 years old on 5th May. I am not quite old enough to have had a letter in the first edition but below is what one might have read like it:

Dear Editor,

It’s good to see that the Manchester Guardian supports an extension of the suffrage, the fundamental issue that saw so many cut down by Tory oppressors on horseback at Peterloo, the August before last.

It’s not just the vote. Working men see the vote as the way to get what we have long needed. I refer to the 10 hour working day and a daily wage sufficient to put food on the table.

I trust we will have your support.

Yours faithfully

Keith Flett

Articles

Campaigners say Keir Starmer needs a change of image to address poll woes

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2021 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

4th May

Campaigners say Keir Starmer needs a change of image to address poll woes

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that as a range of polls beckon on Thursday it has become clear that Labour leader Keir Starmer needs a change of image.

The campaigners say that while policies remain important in politics, the image of political leaders in an increasingly visual age has taken on greater significance too.

Boris Johnson who has few discernible policies beyond, arguably, handing Government contracts to his friends and allies, has developed a very distinctive image. His unkempt hair and dishevelled appearance is not popular with all but it is easily recognisable.

Keir Starmer by contrast comes across as just another clean shaven middle aged man in a suit, albeit usually with a sharp haircut.

The campaigners say that while it is too late for Thursday’s elections Starmer needs to look back to Labour’s first leader and the person he is named after, Keir Hardie, and grow a beard.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, a beard would give Keir Starmer additional gravitas and strengthen his visual presence. Style is a key issue in modern politics and Keir needs to be more authentic and organic. That must mean facial hair.

Articles

High Winds & Beards: the answer is not ‘blowin’ in the wind’. Guidelines for hirsute issued.

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2021 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

4th May

High Winds & Beards: the answer is not ‘blowin’ in the wind’. Guidelines for the hirsute issued

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that as high winds continue across much of the UK  beard wearers are strongly advised to take special care of their beards.

The campaigners say that while danger to life and limb is the central issue when extreme weather hits, a secondary concern for organic beard wearers is that exposing the beard to high and blustery winds may blow the beard out of shape and can cause permanent hair and follicle damage in some cases.

It is less likely that designer and some hipster beards will suffer significant wind damage

The BLF advises the following precautions:

Keep the beard slightly damp at all times by immersing it in a glass of hazy IPA or imperial stout. This will give solidity to the beard hairs and prevent them being blown around.

Use a scarf or snood to protect the beard at all times

Secure the beard with elastic bands, strapping the hairs to the chin

If the beard is blown out of shape use a hair dryer to re-form the hairs in the correct position and then stay indoors for a several hours to allow the hairs and follicles to recover

BLF organiser Keith Flett said, the answer is most definitely not blowin’ in the wind this week. We advise the hirsute to take care out there

Articles

Crucible 2021: Selby leads in final session as he heeds BLF guidance on Beard Power

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2021 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

3rd May

Crucible 2021: Selby leads in final session as he heeds BLF guidance on Beard Power

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that Mark Selby is in a strong position to win the 2021 World Snooker Championship after he heeded Beard Liberation Front guidance on the importance of beard power.

The BLF had warned that snooker risked  becoming one of the least diverse of sports as the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield saw two clean shaven contestants in Shaun Murphy and Mark Selby qualify for the final.

However Selby relented and started growing a beard. Murphy remains robustly clean shaven.

The last winner with a beard was Judd Trump in 2019 and his victory represented the first time a winner had worn a beard in the final.

The campaigners say that there remains a significant residual element of pogonophobia in top level snooker. Mark Williams was criticised for being ‘untidy’ before he unwisely shaved his trademark beard while beaten semi-finalist Stuart Bingham was referred to as ‘The Bald One’

The BLF says that a beard in top level snooker can be positioned to promote air currents that help players to pocket balls through aerodynamic influence.

BLF organiser Keith Flett said, Judd Trump’s victory was the peak of a long march of beard power through snooker. Those sports that were overwhelming clean shaven until quite recently such as golf have become hirsute, while its quite unusual to see a football player without a beard these days. Despite Selby’s late conversion to a beard power approach there is much work to be done in terms of diversity in snooker and outdated attitudes on appearance and style.

Articles

Line of Duty: the beard question

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2021 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

3rd May

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

Line of Duty: the beard question

With series 6 of Line of Duty concluding on Sunday one issue that has been raised is beards in the police force.

One of the central characters DI Steve Arnott (played by Martin Compston) has a beard, provoking general comment.

https://lineofduty.fandom.com/wiki/Steve_Arnott

The Big Issue, one of the very few publications that reports sensibly on beards, has surveyed the UK picture

As some at least might suspect the preference of the police in many cases is to make things up as they go along and beard policy is little different.

The Gloucester force attempted to ban beards but seem to have relented on a case by case basis.

Lincolnshire and possibly elsewhere tried to argue that beards would get in the way if police needed to wear medical, as opposed to general protection, masks. However medical masks are for medics not police officers

In Scotland where a more authoritarian approach is adopted, there seem to be guidelines on how exactly moustaches should be worn.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, in line with other public servants we’d expect police officers wearing beards to make sure that they are generally neat and tidy. That should be sufficient and it seemed to work ok in the case of DI Arnott.

Articles

What Margaret Thatcher did on May Day Bank Holidays

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2021 by kmflett

What Margaret Thatcher did on May Day Bank Holidays

The May Day Bank Holiday was introduced by a Labour Government in 1978 to fall on the first Monday after May 1st if it did not itself fall on a Monday.

On May 3rd 1979 the Thatcher Tory Government was elected.

In recent years there have been numerous calls from the right, one presumes mainly from Thatcherites, for the May Day Holiday to be scrapped and for it to be replaced with a Trafalgar Day or even a Thatcher Day in the Autumn.

Fortunately the Thatcher Foundation Archive provides details of what Mrs Thatcher herself did on May Day Bank Holidays:

Monday May 5th 1980 Chequers

1030   Hair

1515   Mr. and Mrs. Wolfson and children arrived for tea

1900   Left for London

Monday May 4th 1981

BANK HOLIDAY

[Chequers]

Lunch with Carol, Mark and DT

1630   Left for No. 10.

Monday May 2 1983

1500   Return to London

Supper in flat + three guests