Tag Archives: Tony Blair

Egyptians are in the street looking for a brighter day

No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges

Buenaventura Durruti

With these words ringing in our ears, it is hardly surprising that a number of governments, ours included, usually so gung-ho about exporting democracy to other parts of the world – particularly the Middle Eastern bits – seem to be remaining tight-lipped about the uprisings in Egypt.

Of course, as Justin McKeating notes, America and Britain have a many different reasons not to be pushing Egyptian President Mubarak out of the door too swiftly, at least not until they have safely recovered the keys to the filing cupboards (you just know there are paper records somewhere…) containing details of all the War on Terror detainees renditioned to the country to be tortured on our behalf.

And via Truth, Reason & Liberty we learn that even if the Western leaders wanted to share in the glow of their very own Berlin Wall moment, they have the restlessness of the international markets to consider first:

A one-dollar, one-day increase in a barrel of oil takes $12 million out of the U.S. economy.  If tensions in the Mideast cause oil prices to rise by $5 for even just three months, over $5 billion dollars will leave the U.S. economy. Obviously, this is not a strategy for creating new jobs

– Jason S. Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington research group, quoted in the New York Times

Difficult to ignore the not-so-veiled threat to workers in America contained in the last line.

So, while it is tempting to get carried away by the romance of soldiers and protesters embracing, hard-headed realism is required.  As the regime rounds up journalists and seeks to prevent pictures being taken of Tahrir Square, as more protesters are shot, it is essential that we stand in solidarity with the people of Egypt as they struggle to make their society more as they wish it to be.  Even if they get their wish and see Mubarak removed, what follows may be far from the envisaged democracy, as vested interests seek to protect their privileges.

Then, maybe it is also time for us to stop the bar-room and blog grandstanding and learn from Egypt’s example, where people are out on the streets, trying to change their realities in any way they can.  As I sit typing in Japan’s safe commercial paradise, a country that one of my students describes as ‘slowly sinking’, unwilling to wake up to the problems it faces, I can only wish for some of what is in the water in Cairo to be transported to Tokyo and London, to help us avoid complacency, however unlikely that appears.

Egyptians are in the street looking for a brighter day.  Are we content to sit and watch it on TV, or can we be persuaded to join them?

Photograph from 3 quarks daily, via the mortal bathMore photographs of the demonstration at the Boston Globe

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Miliblogging*

If it is true, as H. L. Mencken suggests, that ‘no-one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public’, perhaps it is equally true that no-one ever lost power in the UK by underestimating the stupidity of our electoral system.

The Tories attempt to win an election with a leader who is their own version of Blair-lite, then the leadership election looks likely to throw up the possibility of Labour fighting the next one with a version of Cam-light: David Miliband.

Still, at least there is going to be a contest this time, the powers behind the various Labour thrones having realised there is no sense in allowing another leader to be anointed, after how well that worked out for Gordon Brown.  Yet it is undeniable that Miliband the Elder is the front-runner.  Can I be the only one to find this strange?

David Miliband voted very strongly for the last parliament’s anti-terrorism laws, a stricter asylum system and for replacing Trident.  He was very strongly for ministers being allowed to intervene in inquests, brought in after the Kelly and Menezes inquests caused a few blushes on the government benches.  He was both strongly for the Iraq war and strongly against any kind of inquiry into the Iraq war, an exact reversal of the feelings of many Labour Party members on the subject.  He has some very interesting views on the torture of terrorism suspects and the public’s right to know what its government is up to.

In short, there is a real possibility that, once again, the party established to act for the interests of working people via left-wing principles and ideals may end up with a fairly right-wing leader.  How, one wonders, can Labour have the brass balls to call itself a left-wing party any more?

(For comparison: Nick Clegg was anti the terrorism laws, replacing Trident, ministers intervening in inquests and a stricter asylum system.  David Cameron was against the anti-terrorism measures and ID cards, for the war but also for the investigation and flip-flopped a bit on asylum, as you would expect with the right-wing press breathing down his neck.)

The party of the workers has always been slightly ashamed of its lowly routes, the first Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald was also arguably the first ‘champagne socialist’, much preferring hanging out with Duchesses at their country seats to sitting in pubs singing the Red Flag.  But at least the ‘s’ word did appear then!  Now Dave Semple wonders if Labour and socialism can have anything left to do with each other, while Obsolete sees this attempt at debate as a postponing of the inevitable.

It appears that as we head into our ‘future filled with cuts‘ those alleged to be fighting on ‘our’ side will be arguing straight from a Daily Mail editorial for the shrinking of the welfare state, tougher immigration laws and freeing business from pesky regulation.  As Chicken Yoghurt notes, the dividing lines between our rulers will be shaved until wafer thin.

Still, at least it gives me an excuse to post this intriguing insight into the future of British politics:

Three parties, in different coloured rosettes, with a broadly similar aim of shafting the electorate helping hard-working families.  Four legs good, two legs better!

*Or if I didn’t write the post myself would it be Milivanilliblogging?

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Politics drops its drawers

The best party is but a kind of conspiracy against the rest of the nation

– Lord Halifax, 1750

It is difficult to judge how far the effect of this latest scandal extends outside Westminster.  I suspect that many people had their suspicions confirmed, before shrugging their shoulders and getting on with their days, while supporters of the parties allowed themselves to imagine that their point scoring and juvenile tricks were having near-seismic effects on the voters.

In truth, if this weekend marks anything, it must be the final victory of the legions of management consultants, PRs and other snake-oil salespersons over the weakened, bedraggled and under-supplied forces of democracy.  This is the true legacy of Blairism: a world based on nothing more substantial than scratch, kickbacks and the brutal hit of Dopamine felt when getting someone else to pick up the tab, be that shareholder, taxpayer or some other poor fool.

And I, who as a sweet, wide-eyed innocent in 1997 voted idealistically in my first General Election, cannot believe that this is all that remains of those golden May days when it truly seemed as if life would get better for all of us, instead of for a cabal of paunchy middle managers who must remain achingly aware in the darkest moments of their prostrate-troubled nights that they wouldn’t be getting laid any other way.

Which only leaves me wondering: if they’re the prostitutes, why are we getting screwed?

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Justice League

I wrote earlier that Amir Choudhary was ‘wrong, plain wrong’ and was rightly called up on it by this bloke over here in the comments. Rightly because, in one important aspect, Mr Choudhary is right, for reminding us of the non-British war dead, albeit for some very wrong reasons: getting his name in the papers. We lost count as the Afghani and Iraqi body counts increased far in advance of our own, widely mourned, totals. Except that is too kind an analysis, because we didn’t lose count, we decided not to count. Partly out of embarrassment and partly because we found it more convenient to turn the dead into terrorists:

The problem is: in Afghanistan the peasants do suspicious things, too. Some then die because they are indeed Taliban, while others become Taliban for being dead

There is a road safety ad on TV at the moment which shows a man haunted by the mangled body of the dead child he hit with his car. Everywhere he looks he sees the broken, twisted limbs. You have to wonder if that’s what Tony Blair’s dreams are like. Except there’s not just one child, there are hundreds, all eyeballing him through the dark nights, silently demanding to know why they couldn’t be allowed to live.

Over Christmas I watched the film Frost/Nixon, the showbiz and glitz world of the interviewer warily treading onto the unfamiliar territory of dead Vietnamese and Laotians. We all want a Frost/Nixon moment, where the wrongdoer looks at the camera and it hits him, that there is so much blood on his hands he is looking at about 200 billion years in Purgatory. That he caused all this pain because he couldn’t admit to being wrong. It is probably too much to hope for that we get such a moment on Friday afternoon. As Blair realises that he, like Nixon, is now tainted unto death and probably in his obituary too, as a man who waged an illegal, doomed war when all sensible advice counselled against it. Then he looks straight to camera as a single, unwiped tear drifts down his cheek and finally, we have our absolution.

I don’t expect it to end so neatly. Real life has a tendency to be, of course, less dramatic than dramatists would hope. However, the Iraq Inquiry has gone about its work with a calm dedication that, although I almost hate to admit it, has done more good than throwing Blair, Campbell and Straw into the Coliseum and releasing the lions.

Banning dissent, ignoring international law, disregarding Parliament. For a bunch of lawyers, New Labour has shown a strange disrespect for all things legal. Speaking truth to power is never a comfortable job, but good counsel has rarely been at such a low premium, at stages ignored, disregarded and, a final humiliation, ‘encouraged’ to provide more favourable advice. The Guardian’s legal affairs correspondence, Afua Hirsch:

What also came across with fresh clarity was the government’s dismissiveness of the legal expertise in its own departments… In his evidence, Wood said Straw’s dismissal of his advice was ‘probably the first and only occasion’ that a minister rejected his legal advice in this way

So it is all the more heartening to see the forces of justice fight back, not like the superheroes Blair and Bush imagine themselves to be, but via calm reasoning and careful sifting of the facts, the Supreme Court and the Iraq Inquiry have, this week, given a small glimmer of hope that the rule of law still prevails.

Picture from the Hollywood News, with thanks!
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No alternative

marie meets the guillotine

Quote from a ‘senior source’ talking about the latest expenses scandal:

We were led up the garden path by Gordon. I have never known a prime minister to be heckled at a meeting of the parliamentary party as he was on Monday. Not even Tony during the Iraq war got such a rough ride.

(my emphasis)

The most damning statement about politicians in the UK today and it comes from their own lips.  They care more about feathering their own nests, more about lining their pockets, more about stealing from us, than they do about the utter mess which was our involvement in Iraq.

Never mind the thousands of dead we leave behind in that country as we involve ourselves in another misadventure in Afghanistan; disregard the fact that public opinion was ignored and manipulated on the issues to an unprecedented degree in the build up to war.

Instead, keep your mind on the fact that what really incenses our elected representatives is their right to bill us for their trips to Waitrose, plasma TVs and duck houses.

And for that reason, ten minutes hate considers it time to stop negotiating with them on a rational basis and move directly to tumbrils and guillotines.  The fuckers leave us no alternative.

Picture borrowed from here

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Quote of the day, week, month, year

Well, I have a deep disdain for them [Tony and Cherie]. I couldn’t bear that grinning, money-hungry, beaming, Cliff Richard-loving, Berlusconi-adoring, guitar-playing twat.

There is plenty more where this gem came from over here.

Sometimes it’s easy to write reams and reams about a subject, to set out a case and argue it fully, leaving any readers (if there are any) in no doubt of the writer’s point of view.  And other times it’s more a case of grabbing people by the arm and saying “come here, look at this, it’s really good!”, which is what this one’s all about.

So click on this video, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

The reason why I love this clip so much is Dudley Moore’s obvious puzzlement when asked to describe something that he does so well and so innately.  He is initially completely perplexed at having to explain logically a skill which comes naturally to him.

I have been pondering this lately, as sometimes the writing goes easy and all is well, the sun shines, the birds fly down low to talk to me about my day and playful baby rabbits gambol around my feet.  Then, just as quickly, the sun goes behind a cloud, the rain tips down in sheets and the wildlife gets savagely ripped apart by weasels as the flow of words dries up.  When I sit down at my desk to work, I never know which it will be.  I am trying to figure out why the good days happen so I can con my brain into thinking a weasel day is a good one and maybe, I don’t know, get more prolific.

It appears that I’m not the only one struggling with this either.  Some of my favourite writers (such a kissass…) Chris Killen, Charlotte Stein, Neil Robertson, all have posted recently about not being able to write, losing the ability to string sentences together, lacking belief in their ability to write.  A couple of them are published writers too, which almost makes me want to give up and throw my half-written book into the sea.  If finishing a book doesn’t make it any easier, what hope is there for me?

So why does the writing flow, when it flows?  Is it muscle memory: I’m sitting at the keys typing, so not thinking about it too much?  Then I can freely pull words from my brain to describe scenes both from memory and imagination, attempting to make them as real as if I was standing in the middle of them, so that when you read them it’s as if you’re standing next to me.  Just as if I was pulling you by the arm, saying “over here, look at this!”

Except that you can’t be there, because however well I paint it, you will always see the scene with your own eyes, your own memory and your own imagination.  Stephen King in On Writing called it magic, the ability to transmit pictures from your head to the reader using words, but when it works it’s more like alchemy, turning what could be a tedious description on a fairly boring piece of paper into the kind of absorbing read that makes you ignore all household duties, neglect a holiday companion or keeps you reading through the night long past a sensible bed-time.

Like Dudley Moore in the clip, I still have no idea why it happens when it does and is so difficult at other times, however, the chance of one day stringing together something as perfectly beautiful as the poetry of that ‘Cliff Richard-loving, Berlusconi-adoring, guitar-playing twat’ is enough reason not to go chucking manuscripts or laptops seawards just yet…

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