Articles

Referendums in British politics: a Pandora’s Box

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2019 by kmflett

Referendums in British politics

With the narrow failure of a vote of no confidence in Theresa May’s Government on 16th January the issue has again, for some, become focused on the need for a second referendum on the EU. Leaving aside the People’s Vote campaign, another referendum if its not possible to get a General Election is Labour policy. Of course it may be argued that in reality May’s Government is tottering and an Election remains likely.

In the meantime though its worth reflecting on what the precise status of Referendums is in a democratic process.

Switzerland has been keen on them and while the June 2015 one was called by a Tory Government, Tories have generally not been enthusiasts. However in the constitutional crisis of 1910/11, over the role of the House of Lords and its ability to block measures agreed in the House of Commons, they did suggest one.

On the left historically speaking the referendum was much more popular.

The view of Britain’s first Marxist organisation the Social Democratic Federation in the 1890s and beyond was that ‘issues of principle would be put to a direct vote…legislation could be drafted in line with referendum results’. That suggests something quite like the High Court decision on Brexit.

The SDF also supported the ‘right of initiative’ which meant that a ‘certain proportion should be able to refer a legislative proposal to the general vote’.

The SDF General Election Manifesto in 1895 attacked what it called ‘Fabian Caesarism’ where experts (think Sidney Webb who co-wrote the 1918 Labour Party Constitution) decided on laws rather than the people voting in referendums.

The SDF was critical of what it called the ‘impudence of the official’ or what Michael Gove might call an ‘expert’ perhaps.

The matter was hotly debated on a spectrum between absolute support for decisions being made in Parliament to important matters being decided by a Referendum. Politically this ranged from support for a politics of Parliamentary democracy, with the left standing in Elections to an anti-Parliamentary position, where elections were shunned.

The latter was espoused by William Morris’s Socialist League which had split from the SDF and contained a current of anarchists.

These different positions on the importance of Referendums or Parliament represented a deep rooted strategic political debate about what mechanism would be the most effective in achieving change for working people.

But there was much broader terrain to the debate than just the British left. While George Bernard Shaw memorably argued that referendums led to disaster they remained the policy of the (Second) Socialist International.

In 1900 it declared that socialists should ‘acquire and maintain everywhere the referendum and initiative as the prerogative of popular sovereignty’.

This is an important point because it underlines that support for the idea of popular democracy or sovereignty was something shared across at least the European left in the period before World War One.

Until the 1970s the idea of Referendums seems to have disappeared on the left. Why is not completely clear but there are some material factors.

Firstly until 1924 it was not thought possible that there could be a Labour Government that might be able to legislate directly in the interests of working people. Secondly organised labour- trade unions- grew in strength and effectiveness meaning there was another strategy of pursuing change as well.

The 1970s saw an upsurge in class struggle and with it the idea that other forms of democracy than Parliament had validity, whether workers direct action or Referendum. Tony Benn successfully lobbied for the first Referendum on EU membership starting in 1970. It was eventually held in 1975

Pandora’s Box had been re-opened and remains open still.

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Articles

Beard campaigners back Gillette ‘toxic masculinity’ advert but continue boycott of its products

In Uncategorized on January 16, 2019 by kmflett


Beard Liberation Front

PRESS RELEASE 16th January

contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

BEARD CAMPAIGNERS BACK GILLETTE ‘TOXIC MASCULINITY’ ADVERT BUT CONTINUE BOYCOTT OF ITS PRODUCTS

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, which campaigns against irrational prejudice against the hirsute, has said that fully supports the message of the new Gillette advert which calls out toxic masculinity around bullying and harassment.

The campaigners say it would be very short sighted to pretend that such behaviours are not present amongst some in the beard wearing fraternity and the advert does an excellent job in exposing the damage such behaviours can do.

However the BLF has no plans to lift its long running boycott of Gillette products on the basis that they themselves promote an idealised picture of men as clean shaven models of masculinity

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, full marks to Gillette for the advert but that doesn’t make their promotion of shaving anymore acceptable I’m afraid

Blog by Beard of the Year 2018 winner Peter Coles

https://telescoper.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/the-best-men-can-be-unshaven/

Guardian story

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/15/gillette-metoo-ad-on-toxic-masculinity-cuts-deep-with-mens-rights-activists

Articles

Who is the worst British Prime Minister ever?

In Uncategorized on January 16, 2019 by kmflett

London Socialist Historians Group

Media Release

16th January

Contact Dr Keith Flett 07803 167266

Who is the worst British Prime Minister ever?

The London Socialist Historians Group, which organises the socialist history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research in central London, has said that it is again running its poll for the worst ever British Prime Minister

On two previous occasions David Cameron comfortably won the vote

In November 2018 Mr Cameron got 50% of the poll with Margaret Thatcher 2nd on 29%, Theresa May 3rd on 7% and Lord Liverpool, PM at the time of Peterloo in 1819 4th with 5%

The poll has provoked discussion on social media, particularly in respect of why other PMs were not listed. Every PM since the late eighteenth century could certainly have been listed as by definition being in a position of political power will mean doing things some people don’t like, as well things some do.

Attlee for example would be applauded by most on the left, while some might recall him as the man who secretly gave the nod to UK nuclear weapons. The upsides and downsides of Churchill are too well known to rehearse.

The poll therefore aimed at a balance: the worst Prime Minister in this case would be the one where the negative impact significantly outweighed the positive impact of their tenure at No.10.

London Socialist Historians Convenor Dr Keith Flett said, obviously as historians we tend to prefer long departed Prime Ministers where it is easier to form a judgement on their worth or otherwise. However there may be a case for arguing that there is a longer term trend for the quality of British Prime Ministers to decline

The Worst PM?

Lord Liverpool, a Tory, (1812-27) who presided over the Peterloo Massacre in 1819,introduced the repressive Six Acts that cracked down on democratic political activity and introduced the 1825 anti-union Combination Acts is a serious contender for the title.

Earl Grey who was a Liberal (1830-34) is also up there. He was PM when the Tolpuddle Martyrs stood trial and he introduced the Poor Law and the Workhouse. On the plus side he abolished slavery (as it was then).

Ramsay MacDonald (1924;1929-1935). First Labour Prime Minister; Later First National Government Prime Minister…

Margaret Thatcher, Tory, (1979-1990) Falklands War, miner’s strike, poll tax. An impressive record

Tony Blair, Labour (1997-2007) not perhaps an obvious contender compared to others but features primarily because of the Iraq War.

David Cameron (2010-2016) Lost Referendum on Europe he was supposed to win. Then resigned.

Theresa May (2016-) Called an Election to increase her majority and ended up with a minority Government (at best). Then embarked on a Brexit omnishambles

Articles

Rosa Luxemburg 5.3.1871-15.1.1919: scourge of bureaucrats,cynics & empty rhetoricians*

In Uncategorized on January 15, 2019 by kmflett

Rosa Luxemburg who was murdered by German Freikorps on 15th January 1919 was a leading member of the socialist Second International but unusual in the grouping in opposing the First World War.

On the 50th anniversary of her death on 15th January 1969 The Guardian published an appreciation by its European Editor John Palmer* the first couple of paragraphs I repeat below:

Rosa Luxemburg is a strangely unsung martyr in the official Socialist pantheon. An outstanding leader of the Second International, she has been quietly forgotten by the official Social-Democratic Labour parties. A Marxist theorist and revolutionary on a par with Lenin, she has alternatively been regarded with suspicion and indifference by official Communist historians.

Yet her ideas, along with those of Trotsky, are having a renaissance among the young revolutionary New Left which is making itself felt both west and east of the Iron Curtain. This is no coincidence. In her lifetime Luxemburg was the scourge of bureaucrats, cynics and empty rhetoricians..

50 years on times change but Luxemburg and the circumstances of her murder is remembered still in the Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/15/germans-take-to-the-streets-to-celebrate-rosa-luxemburg-karl-liebknecht-berlin

Articles

Toby Young left out of Beard of Winter poll

In Uncategorized on January 14, 2019 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

PRESS RELEASE 14th January

Contact Keith Flett      07803 167266

Toby Young left out of Beard of Winter poll

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has announced the shortlist for the Beard of Winter 2019 poll.

The list contains a diverse list of contenders for the annual accolade.

The BLF has confirmed that controversialist Toby Young will not be on the list. In 2018 he was left out due to concerns he was bringing the hirsute into disrepute. However the campaigners decided to relent in 2019 only for Young to confirm to the BLF that he had shaved his beard

The Beard of Winter is the first of four seasonal awards that lead to the Beard of the Year Award in December 2019.

The Beard of Winter focuses both on fuller organic beards, suitable for winter weather but also on beards that have made an early New Year impact in the public eye. As with the other seasonal awards those on the list only need to have a beard at some point in the last quarter.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, we think Toby Young would have added even more interest to the poll, but he does need a beard to be on it. Whether we run a campaign to re-grow the beard is another matter.

The poll closes on Monday January 28th

Beard of Winter poll

Iain Dale, broadcaster

Stig Abell, Editor TLS

Jurgen Klopp, football manager

Idris Elba, actor

‘Nuno’, football manager

Magid Majid, Mayor of Sheffield

Billy Connolly, entertainer

Virat Kohli, cricketer

 

 

Articles

Idris Elba leads Beard of Winter shortlist

In Uncategorized on January 13, 2019 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

PRESS RELEASE 13th January

Contact Keith Flett      07803 167266

Idris Elba leads Beard of Winter shortlist

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has announced the shortlist for the Beard of Winter 2019 poll.

The list contains a diverse list of contenders for the annual accolade.

It is the first of four seasonal awards that lead to the Beard of the Year Award in December 2019.

The Beard of Winter focuses both on fuller organic beards, suitable for winter weather but also on beards that have made an early New Year impact in the public eye. As with the other seasonal awards those on the list only need to have a beard at some point in the last quarter.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, as ever it is a wide ranging, eclectic, list but one very much focused on the winter season.

The poll closes on Monday January 28th

Beard of Winter poll

Iain Dale, broadcaster

Stig Abell, Editor TLS

Jurgen Klopp, football manager

Idris Elba, actor

‘Nuno’, football manager

Magid Majid, Mayor of Sheffield

Billy Connolly, entertainer

Virat Kohli, cricketer

Michael Rosen, author & broadcaster

 

Articles

Hackney retains London Beard Friendly Pub of the Year title with new Tottenham bar runner-up

In Uncategorized on January 13, 2019 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

Media Release

13th January

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

Hackney Pub retains London Beard Friendly Pub of the Year title with new Tottenham bar runner-up

The Beard Liberation Front has said that the vote for the annual Beard Friendly Pub of the Year has concluded with the Cock Tavern in central Hackney retaining the title it won last year after an on-line poll. The runner up was a new bar in central Tottenham, the High Cross, which is a conversion from a former public convenience.

Beard Friendly Pub of the Year 2019. London winners

1 The Cock (Hackney_

2 High Cross (Tottenham)

BLF Inspectors carried out surveys of pubs for beard friendliness in the last few months of 2018 (criteria below) and finalised a list including several nominations from drinkers.

As usual the final list was then to put to an on-line poll which closed at midday on 13th January. Just over 5,000 votes were received in total.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, the numbers of establishments that meet the broad criteria for Beard Friendly Pub of the Year are increasing every year, and it is great to see a new entrant in the shape of the High Cross in Tottenham making it to runner-up in London in its first year.

The criteria for the Award include:

Beard Friendly Pub: a pub that welcomes the hirsute and often has a significant number of hirsute customers, including but certainly not confined to those with modern styles of beards.

Beard Friendly Ambience: a pub that may have fewer hirsute customers but is welcoming to the hirsute through some bearded bar staff and beard friendly beers, plus has a generally relaxed atmosphere for all.

The campaign group says it welcomes diversity in both appearance and drinking. The truly beard friendly pub will have a genuine mix of customers not just a load of old blokes grumbling about life.

The list includes a range of pubs, bars and tap rooms without attempting to classify into sections

The Beard Friendly Pub, Bar, Tap of the Year Short List 2019

The Axe, Hackney

Bundobust, Manchester/Leeds

Beelzebubs, Cardiff

The Chesham Arms, Hackney

Cock Tavern, Hackney

Hanging Bat, Edinburgh

Mother Kelly’s (Bethnal Green)

Small Bar, Bristol

Stoneworks, Peterborough

Whitelocks/Turks Head, Leeds

Beavertown/Pressure Drop Brewery Taps, Tottenham

Magic Rock Brewery Tap, Huddersfield

Wellington, Birmingham

Northern Monk Refectory, Manchester

Tom’s Tap & Brewhouse, Crewe

The Experiment, Hackney

Fell Brewery Taproom, Kendal

High Cross, Tottenham

Bumble Inn, Peterborough

The Beer Shop, Hitchin

The Stackhouse Bar, Hornsea

Beer Dock, Crewe