Plus ça change

Rummaging through the online version of Hansard looking at the questions asked by George Lansbury, like one does and I came across this little gem:

ROYAL AIR FORCE (BOMBING ATTACKS).
HC Deb 12 April 1923 vol 162 cc1300-1 1300

§ 60. Mr. LANSBURY

asked the Secretary of State for Air how many punitive expeditions have been undertaken by the Air Force during the year ending 28th March against tribesmen in India and Arabs and other nationals in Iraq and countries adjacent: how many casualties have been suffered by our airmen; how many persons of other nationalities have been killed or wounded; what damage has been inflicted on villages or towns; and will he state what bombs were used?

§ The SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Lieut.-Colonel Sir Samuel Hoare)

During the year ending 28th March last, bombing attacks were carried out in connection with the various military operations in Waziristan, but there were no independent punitive expeditions carried out by the Royal Air Force against tribes on the Indian frontier. In Iraq and Southern Kurdistan, where no military operations comparable with those, undertaken in Waziristan have been carried out, there have been nine punitive air expeditions. The casualties to personnel of the Royal Air Force in these operations were in India, 3 officers and 1 airman killed, 2 officers and 1 airman injured; in Iraq, 3 officers killed and 1 injured. It is not possible to give particulars of the casualties sustained by the tribes against whom the operations were directed or of the extent of the material damage inflicted; it seems certain, however, that the use of air action in place of ground operations has resulted in a 1301 decrease in the loss of life incurred. The bombs used have been 230 lbs., 112 lbs., 20 lbs. and incendiary bombs.

I would remind the hon. Member that upon the North-West frontier air operations form part of the general military operations against tribes with which the Government of India have been in a state of war, whereas in the case of Iraq punitive air expeditions are only undertaken at the request of the civil authorities in cases where ground expeditions would otherwise have been necessary.

§ Mr. LANSBURY

May I ask whether the people who are bombed are able to retaliate? [HON. MEMBERS “Oh!”] I will put the question in another way— whether the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues do not think that the time has arrived to stop this Hunnish and barbarous method of warfare against unarmed people?

© Parliamentary copyright

Least we’ve stopped bombing India. Progress of sorts.

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Mummy there’s blood on my present!

I know Christmas is a while away yet but if my local supermarkets can have their Christmas goodies on sale in October then I can damn well post about Christmas. Actually the post isn’t about Christmas, I’m just using it to emotionally blackmail you!


A recent edition of the Morning Star had a report on the deaths of some civilians in Guinea. Not an issue worthy of a report or mention in the more high faluting dailies unless I missed it?

Anyways, the government of Guinea, installed via a coup has been accused of killing civilians using equipment purchased under the pretext of it being used solely for ‘border control’. They purchased the Armoured Personnel Carriers called Mambas from a company called Alvis OMC, owned by the world’s favourite arms manufacturer BAE Systems

It’s one of the odd things about capitalism – the separation of profit from conscience and morality. How we can make money from things we would recoil in horror from were we to witness them themselves.

I don’t know why but the image when I read the Morning Star piece was of an angelic little cherub opening her presents on Christmas Morning, presents paid for by the blood of the innocents, fodder to increase shareholders’ dividends.

The BBC, The BNP and No Platform

Yes I know I’m a bit late to the party on this but what the hell!

The appearance of Nick Griffin of the BNP on a recent edition of Question Time on the BBC has ruffled a few feathers in the political and activist landscape, particularly among those who subscribe to a concept known as ‘No Platform’.

No Platform is a political position that actively opposes allowing alleged fascists to express their views in public. It basically means that the propogation of fascist ideas and concepts shouldn’t be allowed to be vocalised using publicly funded platforms or in areas where the left controls the platform, such as student unions, trade unions and also the media organisations such as the BBC. Leastways that’s what I can pin this concept down to.

So the BBC offering a platform to people like Nick Griffin goes against the principle of No Platform and will generate protests and action. Which is what happened at the BBC studios.

The supporters of No Platform include some surprising personalities such as George Carey, ex-Archbishop of Canterbury as well as a huge swathe of the left.

As for me I’m finding it very difficult to support the principle of No Platform. There are a number of reasons why.

  • Whether we like it or not Griffin and Brons are democratically elected MEPs. Together with other BNP candidates in the Euro elections they garnered the support of just under a million voters in the UK.
  • Those who try and implement a No Platform stance are in a way guilty of censoring free speech and debate in the public arena. The disgruntled right would cry discrimination as well. The left can claim it’s not censorship but the general public are going to read it another way.
  • We set a precedent for denying a platform on political grounds when there may come a time when the boot is on the other foot. Then we’d have to struggle under the banner of hypocrisy.
  • We create right-wing martyrs. Martyrdom is very powerful.
  • We set ourselves up as arbiters of what the public should be hearing in terms of democracy and the democratic process. The public hate the attitude of ‘we know best’ politicians, guaranteed to lead to an unwelcome reaction come polling time.
  • To my mind it’s an extension of what I’ve seen the left do in other public situations, such as with Rocco Buttiglione – the disenfranchisement of people because their particular beliefs don’t fit in with what some see as acceptable.

So I do grudgingly support Griffin’s appearance on QT but I think the way they prepared the event was atrocious and carried out in the worst possible way. There are a number of things which went very badly which gave succour to the BNP and their supporters

First off, QT became the Nick Griffin Show. Worse than that it became the Let’s Beat Up on Nick Griffin Show. He was subjected to a lot of attack but it left him looking like the victim of bullying. At the start of the show it seemed they were all queuing up to smack him with a verbal brickbat whilst Dimbleby as head boy pinned him down. Chalk one up to the fascists there.

Secondly the choice of guests seemed designed to poke every facet of Griffin’s fascism: Jack “I’m Not Going To Catch Eye Contact With Griffin” Straw, with Jewish descendants, Baroness Warsi, a muslim, Bonnie Greer, an African-American and Chris Huhne, well Chris Huhne.

Thirdly the inability of Jack Straw to actually respond to any question without doing his “I hate Nick” speech. It left him looking like a twerp at one point, with Warsi actually following on and answering the question. One down for the establishment.

Fourthly the stupid, stupid decision to limit the debate to things revolving around BNP policies. Where were the questions on Europe and the damned Constitution, where were the questions on Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq?

Were there any good points to the programme? Yes, Bonnie Greer showed that it is possible to make fascists look stupid within a democratic framework.

So to sum it up I can’t support the No Platform principal but God help us if we can’t get together and show the policies of the BNP for what they are – fascist and racist.

Behind the scenes of the posties’ dispute

We see daily on the news and in the papers headlines such as “Industrial Suicide” and “Posties’ Anger Over Temps”. And I bet many, many people will be trotting out the usual recycled misinformation and blaming the posties. “Lucky to have a job”, “Bunch of troublemakers”, “Wreckers!”. In our media we rarely see behind the scenes of industrial disputes and never venture further than the politicised media headlines before constructing who’s to blame and how to put it right.

Here’s an excellent diary type item that goes behind the scenes of the dispute from the postie’s point of view.

Old people still write letters the old-fashioned way: by hand, with a biro, folding up the letter into an envelope, writing the address on the front before adding the stamp. Mostly they don’t have email, and while they often have a mobile phone – bought by the family ‘just in case’ – they usually have no idea how to send a text. So Peter Mandelson wasn’t referring to them when he went on TV in May to press for the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, saying that figures were down due to competition from emails and texts.

Read more at the London Book Review

The Fletcher Memorial Home

Listening to one of my favourite Pink Floyd albums the other day, The Final Cut. Perhaps for me the best track is The Fletcher Memorial Home. It got me thinking about how many of the glorious leaders across the world since the Falklands Conflict would now be eligible for residency………..

Anyways, enjoy the song.

What The Guardian’s Banned From Telling You: A Third Estate Exclusive

A complete repost of an article from The Third Estate.

Please repost the post from The Third Estate.

Written by: Owen

– October 12, 2009

Earlier this evening The Guardian was served with a gagging order forbidding it from reporting parliamentary business. To quote the article in the paper itself:

Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.

The right to report on what’s said and done in Parliament is traditionally seen as pretty fucking important in a democracy, so in an attempt to aid transparency, the Third Estate can exclusively report that the question is (probably) this one:

61 N: Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.

Trafigura, of course, is the company that was recently revealed to be dumping toxic waste into the sea near Ivory Coast. Why they and Carter Ruck would be so keen for this not to be revealed I’m not sure, (especially as it’s clearly publicly available), but they have a history of this kind of behaviour.

All the questions due to be asked in Parliament from tomorrow (Tuesday) onwards can be found here, so feel free to have a browse through the rest of them – it’s possible I guessed wrong, though I think it’s unlikely. And please, please re-post this – the more places publish it, the harder it is to justify a gagging order and the worse Carter Ruck and Trafigura will look.