What a disgrace the Tories are. Even on the election trail two years ago, it was clear that they were sucking up to Rupert Murdoch in an even more ingratiating manner than previous parties on the verge of unseating the existing government. Moreover, it was, I contend, only public outrage — over the revelation that the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler had been hacked by News of the World reporters — which, last July, definitively prevented the government from allowing the Murdochs and News International from upping their stake in BSkyB from 39 percent to 100 percent, and becoming an unrivalled titan on the British broadcasting scene with a dangerous and undemocratic monopoly.
Last July, when the police arrested Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who, conveniently, had subsequently become Cameron’s Chief of Communications, the scandal threatened to engulf David Cameron, and I wrote two articles, Why Would Anyone Trust David Cameron, As Police Arrest Andy Coulson? and Waiting for the Fall of David Cameron, which, I hoped, would reflect a major change in the public’s perception of the Prime Minister, and a widespread awareness of the extent of the Tories’ corruption.
That huge backlash did not emerge, however, as the public soon moved on, and Cameron survived. However, although It’s impossible to know whether political incompetence or sleaze plays the biggest role in discrediting corrupt and useless governments, it’s clear that the tide is turning against David Cameron, George Osborne, and the rest of the tired neo-liberal idiots — and Lib Dem stooges — who make up the Cabinet. Read the rest of this entry »
No one should be surprised that, as was revealed in secret footage shot by the Sunday Times in an investigation into government sleaze, the Tories’ co-treasurer Peter Cruddas offered access to the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, in exchange for donations of up to £250,000, with the thinly-veiled promise that it would be helpful to donors’ interests.
Cruddas, who has made an estimated £750 million fortune in financial speculation, and is the founder of the online trading company Currency Management Consultants, met with, and was filmed by Sunday Times reporters posing as potential donors, who, as the BBC described it, “said they were British expats working for a company called Zenith incorporated in Liechtenstein with wealthy Middle Eastern funders.”
Telling the reporters that £250,000 gave them “premier league” access, and that “things will open up for you” if they donated that amount of money, Cruddas also explained, as the Guardian put it, “Two hundred grand to 250 is premier league … what you would get is, when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners. You do really pick up a lot of information and when you see the prime minister, you’re seeing David Cameron, not the prime minister. But within that room everything is confidential — you can ask him practically any question you want. If you’re unhappy about something, we will listen to you and put it into the policy committee at No 10 — we feed all feedback to the policy committee.” Read the rest of this entry »
Despite high hopes that members of the House of Lords would recognise their place in the history books on the side of the people, rather than on the side of David Cameron, Andrew Lansley, their Lib Dem stooges and the corporations who plan to make a killing out of the privatisation of the NHS, the Lords have voted by 328 votes to 213 to dismiss Lord Owen’s amendment, which, in a very reasonable manner, called for passage of the bill to be withheld pending the publication of the transition risk register, which a Freedom of Information tribunal ordered the government to release — for a second time — ten days ago. Not a single Lib Dem peer voted with Lord Owen, and just 27 out of 90 other crossbench peers supported him (see here for the analysis of votes).
The only good news is that, as the Guardian explained, the shadow health secretary Andy Burnham “has secured an additional Commons debate on the Health Bill for tomorrow afternoon on the issue of the NHS transition risk register.”
Announcing the approval of the emergency debate by the Speaker, John Bercow, Andy Burnham said:
Tomorrow’s debate will show the weight of feeling in the country. People care passionately about the NHS and they have a right to know the full implications of the Government’s proposed reorganisation. This Government is insulting Parliament by expecting it to support these plans whilst withholding information that could change the way MPs vote. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, I was pleased to be invited to discuss the “special relationship” between the US and the UK on Russia Today, which was timely, of course, as David Cameron was visiting Barack Obama, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss how the “special relationship,” which transcends party politics, seems, on recent evidence, to be based on warmongering, complicity in torture, and a shared belief in the shredding of long-established laws.
In response to questions from the host, Alla Key, I was also given the opportunity to wonder whether the two leaders would be managing to find time to discuss people whose lives are being ruined by the dreadful US-UK extradition agreement, whereby British citizens are being imprisoned for years and/or facing draconian prison sentences and savage conditions of confinement without the need for evidence to be presented, and with no regard for whether they would be better off tried in the UK instead, or whether extradition is correct in cases that do not even involve crimes in the UK.
Alla mentioned the most recent case — Richard O’Dwyer, a young man facing extradition regarding TVShack, a website he owned that, according to US prosecutors, hosted links to pirated films and television programmes. — but I also found the opportunity to mention Babar Ahmad, who has been imprisoned for eight years fighting his extradition, and, on a separate topic, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, cleared since 2007, whose continued detention is unjustifiable, but who is unlikely to have been a topic of discussion between the two leaders. Read the rest of this entry »
With just a week to go until the NHS as we know it may be consigned to history, the time for concerted action is more important than ever. Last week, as I noted here in a round-up of recent events, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham secured a debate on the Health and Social Care Bill today, after forcing the government to honour Dr. Kailash Chand’s successful e-petition, which has secured over 170,000 signatures. 100,000 signatures are needed to secure a Parliamentary debate, but David Cameron has clearly begun to tire of his democratic experiment, and was trying to ignore the petition until he was shamed into responding.
However, despite possible fireworks in the House of Commons, the date for the bill to become law creeps ever closer, with March 20 as the intended date for it to make it onto the statute book, and the last obstacles continue to fall away, especially as senior Lib Dems failed to kill the bill at their spring conference at the weekend. — which must surely count as another capitulation for which they will be punished at the polls.
The “Block the Bill” website indicates that there will be a a day of action on March 14, but I’m not sure that there is time for a specific action to be established, and it might make more sense for campaigners to join with students, who already have a national day of action planned for Wednesday, which is supported by the NUS — see the NUS pages here and here — and also see the Facebook pages here and here. In London, campaigners are meeting at ULU, on Malet Street, at 1.30 pm for a march starting at 2 pm. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week appeared to be another good week for those opposing the Tory-led coalition government’s disastrous and entirely unwanted NHS reform bill, although no one should be fooled, as the government is still determined to press ahead with its terrible plans, even though wrecking the NHS will almost certainly cost them the next election.
First up was the matter of the e-petition launched by Dr. Kailash Chand OBE, a GP and chair of Tameside and Glossop Primary Care Trust. Simply entitled, “Drop the Health Bill,” the e-petition “[c]alls on the Government to drop its Health and Social Care Bill,” and, at the time of writing, it has been signed by 172,483 people, and is open for signatures until May 16.
This is good news, of course, although in order for it to count for anything, the Labour leader Ed Miliband — and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham — had to force David Cameron to honour a promise he made to the British people, and to Parliament. As Jonathan Reynolds, the Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, and parliamentary private secretary to Ed Miliband, explained in an article four days ago: Read the rest of this entry »
So much for promises. David Cameron and his government are notorious, to those who are awake and paying attention, for implementing policies that they never mentioned on the election trail two years ago, and for not having a mandate for their swingeing cuts to the British state that are disproportionately affecting students, the working poor, the unemployed and the disabled.
David Cameron has also been developing a reputation for broken promises. The most prominent, of course, was his promise that there would be “no more top-down reorganisation of the NHS,” followed by a complete volte-face, as he allowed Andrew Lansley to propose the most sweeping top-down reorganisation of the NHS in its entire 64-year history.
The breaking of this particular promise may come back to haunt Cameron, as the NHS is considerably more popular with the British public than any government, and the party that tries to destroy it, having promised not to do so, may well have signed its own death warrant by persisting with its privatisation plans in the face of widespread dissent. As the Guardian noted on February 20, in an analysis of the latest Guardian/ICM poll: Read the rest of this entry »
Ever since the Tories sneaked into power nearly two years ago, having failed to convince a majority of voters to trust them, and having had to construct an unlikely coalition with the Liberal Democrats, my country has become an unrecognisable place: mean-spirited above all, as the tiresome David Cameron — an unqualified, whey-faced buffoon, but one with an opinion about everything, who is barely ever off our TV screens — has presided over a wholesale attempt to raze the British state to the ground, conceived by an array of unpalatable and arrogant ministers with no clue as to the true costs and ramifications of their tired ideology.
This has involved encouraging British citizens to turn on one another, and, when not blaming the Labour government for the crash of the casino economy that the Tories had also encouraged, and that almost everyone bought into for over a decade, David Cameron has taken cynicism to new depths, blaming the poor, the unemployed and the disabled for the debts racked up primarily after the economic collapse for which Wall Street and the City of London were largely responsible. In response, I’m sickened to note, the British people have obligingly bought into this disgusting charade.
After early success in axing university funding, the coalition government has struggled with its attempted hatchet job on the NHS, but appears to be largely getting away with its welfare reforms, under the guiding hand of Iain Duncan Smith, an allegedly kindly man who, in fact, blames the poor for their poverty, and is, therefore, the most dangerous kind of reformer — the kind of Social Darwinist familiar from the Victorian era, who, in the early 20th century, often began to embrace the deadly pseudo-science of eugenics. Read the rest of this entry »
Originally posted on the “Close Guantánamo” website, and written by Andy Worthington.
Ten years ago, on February 14, 2002, Shaker Aamer, a British resident, and originally one of 16 British prisoners in Guantánamo, arrived in Camp X-Ray, the rudimentary prison in the grounds of the US naval base in Cuba’s easternmost bay, which was used to hold prisoners until the first blocks of a more permanent facility, Camp Delta, opened for business in May 2002. On the same day, his fourth child, a son, was born.
A hugely charismatic figure, Aamer, born in Saudi Arabia in 1968, had moved to London in 1996, and had worked as an Arabic translator for a firm of solicitors working on immigration cases. He met and married a British woman and was granted residency. In June 2001, he took his family to Kabul — as did his friend Moazzam Begg — to volunteer for an Islamic charity. As his British solicitor Gareth Peirce noted in the Guardian on Tuesday, “Their work was teaching the sons and daughters of Arabic-speaking expatriates in the capital,” but after 9/11 and the US-led invasion, “the school was flattened in the first days of the bombing.”
Shaker made sure his pregnant wife and their three young children were safe, but was seized by Afghan bounty hunters, at a time when bounty payments of $5,000 a head were widespread. He was then sold on to other bounty hunters on two occasions, and on the third occasion was bought by Northern Alliance soldiers, who eventually handed him over — or sold him — to US forces. Read the rest of this entry »
Last month, while I was in the US for 12 days to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening, I was actually pleased to be away from the UK, not because I wanted to be away from my family, or my friends, but because I needed a break from the relentless anger that anyone with a heart must feel when confronted by the Tory-led coalition government’s cuts programme, and the British public’s widespread acceptance of it.
I have written about various aspects of the austerity programme over the last 16 months, including the assault on university education, the plans to savage the NHS, and the unprecedented cuts to the welfare state, but it was my anger about these latter two topics — focused on the Health and Social Care Bill (for the stealth privatisation of the NHS) and the Welfare Reform Bill (comprehensively attacking the poor, the unemployed and the disabled) — that I was glad to escape temporarily.
Of course, for those most fundamentally affected — disabled people terrorised by their own government, the tens of thousands of poor families wondering if they will be made homeless by a welfare cap — there is no respite, and I cannot even begin to feel what they must be feeling, but I identify strongly with their plight, as I believe it is fundamentally unforgivable for the government of one of the wealthiest nations on earth — and one whose leaders espouse Christian values — to be targeting the most vulnerable people in society. Read the rest of this entry »
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