Notes On The News
by Gwydion M Williams
- The Unexplained Election
- What Can Britain Choose?
- Labour and ‘Fear of Corbyn’
- Terrorism – Not an Accidental Evil.
- Airline ‘Free Competition’ Fails.
The Unexplained Election
Theresa May easily won the key Brexit votes in the House of Commons. She needed to get on with negotiations. Instead she has called a snap election, saying she needed more power. And risking losing it.
Several of us immediately remembered the under-reported story of some 30 Tory MPs under suspicion of having been invalidly elected in 2015. Britain has strict limits on election spending, and they seemed to have broken them. She faced major embarrassment and loss of her majority.[A] But a new election will largely wipe that out. I assume that an MP convicted of having spent more than the legal limits campaigning 2015, but validly elected in 2017, would keep their seat. Especially if the election agents said that they alone had strayed into ‘grey areas
Another possibility is that she hopes to sabotage Brexit, which she had opposed. If Labour holds most of their seats and if the Liberal-Democrats recover, she would lose her majority. Politics would then become very tricky.
I couldn’t see her getting away with forming a new coalition with the Liberal-Democrats and dropping Brexit: Tory MPs would instantly rebel. But nor could she expect the Liberal-Democrats to join her to carry through Brexit. A coalition with minor parties would be tricky, if it were even possible.
But what about a mass defection of the anti-Corbyn Labour MPs? Labour’s ‘Timid Tendency’ have largely kept their grip on the party machine, but could have expected to lose it by 2020. Will definitely lose it by 2022, the next expected election, since even those members who were there before Corbyn’s unexpected elevation are solidly against them.
It has long been established that British MPs can switch parties or go Independent and still keep their seats. Some of them could call themselves New Labour and go into coalition with the Tories Others could be Independents, but abstain on the vital Votes of No Confidence. It would be a repeat of Ramsey Macdonald’s ‘National Labour’, which vanished without trace into the Tory Party but did keep Tory power solid for a few vital years.
Such defectors would probably be wiped out in 2022, but perhaps are too vain to realise it. Unaware that their era is over and had ended in failure. Or alternatively, after being part of a basically Tory government for five years, they could expect to go on to some very nice jobs.
Tory election agents who confessed to wrong-doing but protected their MP could also be expect to be looked after.
What Can Britain Choose?
The type of globalisation we’ve had since the 1980s had meant a lot of losers. Now they are revolting, but mostly revolting in a revolting manner. Only a minority look to left alternatives.
We need to convince everyone that the 1980s were a wrong turn economically. From a left-wing viewpoint it was rather better socially, though many on the left and not modest enough or realistic enough to see that the gains made were not inevitable. Most of them think that the West’s social values are ‘normal’ and the rest of the world mysteriously out of tune.
The decades since the rise of the New Right have seen the complete demolition of traditional family values in the West, under the supposed care of Center-Right parties. A majority of voters and above all the very rich would not pay the taxes needed for maintaining the family values they officially believed in. Myself, I see the change as an improvement. The old system depended on most women being kept down and confined to family matters: but it was capitalists who chose to take them out of the home as cheap labour
The New Right / New Labour / Clinton Democrat bungling has also destroyed the cause of Westernisation in the Arab World. They failed to understand that the Western systems had been created by Enlightened Autocrats. That the secular dictators they targeted were playing the same role. So we get the rise of hard-line Islam, and in parallel Hindu Extremism in India. Violent Buddhism against a Muslim minority in Myanmar (Burma) and a whole lot else that had seemed moribund in the 1960s.
The New Right are now reverting to being more like the Old Right. No longer pretending to be Cosmopolitan. Meantime the New Labour / Clinton Democrat option is collapsing, but remains powerful and disruptive.
I trust that Corbyn will carry on even if Labour do as badly as the worst of the polls now forecast. The ‘Timid Tendency’ within Labour can no longer win elections. The humiliating fading of similar people in France shows that: first the Socialist Party ruled out seeking election for their President, and then their candidate was overtaken by a former Trotskyist who was at least saying that Austerity was wrong. The winner of the second round is now certain to be Macron, a pro-business pro-European-Union candidate who makes no pretence of still being a socialist.
A new world is dawning, but it could be a worse world. The New Right want to globalise but neglected social care. Believed that economics would do it all. Having sewn the wind, they now reap the whirlwind.
Sadly, ordinary people mostly ‘revolt in a revolting manner’. The working mainstream are far too ready to blame the unemployed and immigrants. Reluctant to reject a super-rich more-than-millionaire class that now likes to pretend it isn’t so different from normal people:
“At the beginning of the 20th century, our political lords and masters dressed like they’d just come off a grouse moor. By the end of the century, they looked like they worked in an international hedge fund.
“The left has sometimes been confused by this change. When the grouse moor lot were in power, the battle lines were clear. The class war had its recognisable uniforms, from tweeds to cloth caps. But this old war was made irrelevant by the forward march of modern capitalism, with power leaking to those who were able to manipulate the workings of the market, leaving a few harmless toffs deadheading their roses. Financial deregulation – the liberalisation of the rules governing the City – was a coup against the traditional vested interests of the pinstriped suits brigade. As the Essex boys took over, the public school traders were left chuntering into their golf club gins.
“The liberal right of Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher was able to represent this change as one of democratisation. Money didn’t have any sort of accent. Even the working class could own their own shares and thus stick their fingers in the cherry pie of economic growth – and they could buy their own council house. As some on the left remained obsessed with fighting old battles against beaten enemies, power was being reconcentrated in the hands of the few. As Jeremy Corbyn has rightly put it, the system was being rigged. But tragically, under New Labour the progressive left decided that the best thing it could do was cheer along. Tony Blair differed from Thatcher only by a slightly more redistributive nudge of the tiller. The left had effectively surrendered.”[B]
Anyone can join the more-than-millionaire class from any background, and need not pretend to be something else. Even a few Australian Aboriginals have ‘made it’, while ordinary Aboriginals remain badly treated. It is not what the left got used to opposing. A shift in our thinking is needed.
We still live with the remains of 1960s radicalism. The New Right tapped into the Hippy attitude of ‘we can all do what we like and nothing very bad will happen’. This was not realistic, though it was liberating. People got ‘free love’, and marihuana seems on the road to being legalised. Sex and sexual equality were needed and might not have happened – societies in crisis can jump almost any way. The West and China have got more tolerant, but the Islamic world has got less so. China is now tightening up politically, while remaining highly tolerant of purely personal behaviour. China could end up being the last best hope of Enlightenment values.
The aim should have been to make the state follow what you see as the best rules, not to be against state power in general. Only state power can stop the rich taking an obscenely high chunk of the wealth.
One thing I’ve suggested is that we contrast the super-rich 1% with the Next Nine – those in the top 10% of incomes but not the top 1%. All of the qualities claimed to justify the super-rich – intelligence, qualifications, hard work and dedication – are showed at least as well by the average member of the Next Nine, as well as by many in the remaining 90%. But the Next Nine do their jobs without obscene incomes and privileges.
Labour and ‘Fear of Corbyn’
The British media keep reporting the wrong messages. A modest attempt to return to methods that worked well is presented as dangerous left extremism.
Journalists speak glibly of Press Freedom, and perhaps even believe in it. But someone has bought their souls, and got their money’s worth.
Labour needs to take on these cash-controlled mass media. Maybe something like:
- Tories Feed the Rich.
- The Rich Own the News Services.
- The News Services feed you lies about Labour, knowing that a majority like Labour policies.
- Are you dumb enough to give them another five years of ‘Feed the Rich’?
- Not bothering to register or not voting ‘because they are all the same’ would do fine, in their eyes.
- They despise you, but don’t make it obvious to you.
- Will you stay fooled?
This could be done with a cartoon of Theresa May as mother-bird feeding fat cats, with the needy lying neglected around. And, importantly, make BOTH groups multi-racial. Some voters are racist: remind them that the Tories are mostly about class hatred by the rich against the rest of us for not letting them be as privileged as they’d like.
They hope that enough of the electorate will be moved by prejudice rather than facts.
Emphasise that both racists and genuine conservatives have been fooled by the New Right, since Cameron if not before.
Terrorism – Not an Accidental Evil.
Acts like recent Paris terrorist killings are evil, certainly. But not disconnected from the lesser misdeeds of ordinary citizens.
Evil flourishes where there is neglect, greed and dishonesty from people who cannot be classed as evil, but are definitely in the wrong.
Each bad act contributes a little. Each good act makes evil slightly less likely.
Since 1980, the rich have been bolder and more greedy. And were given false reassurance about the likely consequences.
Are some people evil? Maybe. Born so, possibly. But social neglect counts. Some children of the rich, indulged but not loved, get very bad indeed.
Past a certain point, there is unlikely to be any return. Unlike the liberal-left, I have no problems being harsh with such people. On a pragmatic basis, I dislike torture as something that degrades the society and yields little useful information. Bribery is much better. I also note that historically, when two global alliances clashed, the victor was the one least willing to use torture. No one has a clean record, but the Counter-Reformation, the Nazis and the post-1945 Soviet Union ended up losing their global struggles.
The Soviet decline began when they stopped having a decent cause to fight for, with the issues of colonialism and racial and sexual equality largely conceded by the West.[C]
The rich and the louts share responsibility for widespread criminality. Each prefers to look to a single cause, the one that shifts blame.
Some people are prone to evil: they have below-average honesty, below-average sympathy, or an above-average tendency to violence. A descent society can still contain most of them: hence the very variable levels of crime across the globe.
Airline ‘Free Competition’ Fails.
The shocking case of a man brutally dragged off of a flight on which he had a valid seat has correctly caused outrage. Misbehaving passengers must be dealt with, but this man had done nothing wrong. He just objected to being thrown out because the airline wanted to send some of its own people on the flight, but was too stingy to offer a large enough prize to get enough volunteers.
This particular offence has now been stopped. But it is part of a bigger failing:
“Anyone who flies regularly [in the USA] has experienced the endless indignities of modern air travel — the security theater, the cramped seats, the delays, the missed flights, and all the rest. Making it particularly egregious is the reality that the crucial ingredient of consumer choice seems to be missing. Most of us have at one time or another sworn to ourselves that we will ‘never’ again fly on one airline or another, only to discover that there are very few airlines one can switch to and that they all seem dismal in their own way.
“The airline industry, unfortunately, suffers from some serious business model flaws — most notably very high fixed costs in the form of buying and maintaining aircraft, and the problem that a half-empty flight is almost as expensive to operate as a full one.”[D]
Airlines in the USA routinely sell more tickets than they have seats, assuming not everyone will turn up.[E] Occasionally they do. They can offer a bribe for some passengers to leave. But weirdly, the small print of the ticket sales contract gives them the right to just throw people off, no matter how much this harms them.
There is also the decay of business ethics since the 1980. They were nothing wonderful even then, but they have definitely got worse. Mature managers would have been young radicals once. Their understanding of what capitalism should be is based on hippy caricatures.
North Korea – Shadow Boxing
During the last big round of posturing, I was confident that Trump knew the risks and would not do anything too bad.
I hadn’t known that the supposedly threatening US fleet was thousands of miles from Korea. But not vastly surprised when this came out.[F]
I was also suspicious of the unexpected failure of North Korea’s latest test. Is a deal being negotiated behind the scenes?
The Russians insist that North Korea only wants a guarantee that it will not be invaded. The 1950s war was frozen, not ended. “No peace treaty has been signed, and the two Koreas are technically still at war.”[G] This leaves South Korea and the USA free to resume it, if they thought it could be done at acceptable cost.
Iraq gave up its weak collection of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and was invaded anyway. Gaddafi thought he had made peace with the West, and found he had not. Iran is fairly safe, because the elected government of Iraq is pro-Iranian, and only lets the USA posture as if victorious for as long as Iran is left alone.
North Korea is the third member of the ‘Axis of Evil’. It has atomic weapons, and missiles that could hit Japan. No US president would risk being held responsible, so no war is likely.
It would also not be World War Three. Neither China nor Russia would take military action, if the USA did launch some pre-emptive strike. Nations act on their own best interests, whatever they claim. They would expect to reap political benefits, especially if Japan got mauled.
Gas and Gas
Gassing defenceless prisoners is not the same as using chemical weapons. Morally worse, clearly, but not the same. The White House spokesman was wrong only because he claimed that Assad was worse than Hitler because of a gas attack that was not independently witnessed. That was probably staged by Islamists, or might have been conventional bombs hitting a gas stockpile.
The man could have defended himself by saying that he was talking about war, not genocide. That it would be like saying that the Boston Strangler was not an axe murderer: factually true, though questionable if said without good reason. Yet he might have said that he was only talking about war. But it seems Mr Trump has chosen a bunch of incompetents to serve him.
What’s been missed is that the statement was a pack of lies. It should have been unacceptable even if the normal ritual obeisance to Jewish victims of Hitler had been made. (Millions of non-Jewish victims can be safely ignored, and usually are ignored.) Hitler did not use chemical weapons, but he feared retaliation. The Allies always had stocks of poison gas near the front line ready to be used. And it was only after the war that the Allies learned that the Germans had possessed some much deadlier nerve gases. The Germans had not known that the Allies lacked such gases.
Saddam Hussein used gas for years against Kurdish rebels, and in his war against Iraq. Everyone knew this: it did not stop the West selling him arms. During the Cold War, they wanted him on their side. George Galloway, later denounced for opposing the invasion of Iraq, spent years trying to get British MPs interested. Very few of them were.
Feed the Rich, Let the Poor Die
“Researchers exploring why there has been a substantial increase in mortality in England and Wales in 2015 conclude that failures in the health and social care system linked to disinvestment are likely to be the main cause.
“There were 30,000 excess deaths in 2015, representing the largest increase in deaths in the post-war period. The excess deaths, which included a large spike in January that year, were largely in the older population who are most dependent on health and social care.”
This is supposed to cure of us of our affection for the National Health Service. The USA pays twice as big a slice of its national income on health care, and 90% of the population worry about being able to afford necessary treatment, or else know they won’t get it. But the Tories are determined to impose something similar on us.
Previous Newsnotes can be found at https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/past-issues/ and https://longrevolution.wordpress.com/newsnotes-historic/.