Friday 27 November 2015

Labour is almost certain to win Oldham West & Royton

Next Thursday the people of Oldham West & Royton will go to the polls to elect a new MP, to replace Michael Meacher who sadly died recently. Hopefully, Jim McMahon will be chosen to take Michael's seat, but given that this is a by-election in December when  anything is theoretically possible, we cannot blame the Tories, Lib-Dems and UKIP for trying to talk down McMahon's chances.

I used to live in the Oldham West constituency, and in the 1983 general election I was the party member who drove Michael Meacher around what would become his new seat. It was new in the sense that Openshaw had been abolished and some of its wards, including mine, had ended up in Oldham West. Charles Morris had been the Openshaw MP and there was quite a bit of ill feeling in his part of the constituency that he had not been selected to fight the new Oldham West.

In that general election Labour was engaged in another one of its internal feuds between right and left, but the party had an army of new activists who had joined to fight Thatcher and we slogged our guts out to get Michael elected.

He was returned with 44% of the vote, which the old guard told us was a disaster, that was all due to our failure to select Charlie Morris!

Over a generation later later, in Jim McMahon Labour has a candidate who is not only local to the area, but is well respected in it. People know that he is the local lad who left school at 16, was a father in his early twenties and worked two jobs to put the corn on the table for his family. The fact that Labour is once again engaged in a bout of internal blood-letting is neither here nor there.

Labour's new army of activists will be talking about tax credits, benefit sanctions and the cost of any war in Syria. That the war will be paid for out of cuts to benefits strikes me as a logical line to take on the doorsteps. 

The Tories and Kippers who are fantasising about Labour losing this seat really need to remember that the white population of this constituency is by and large made up of unskilled and semi-skilled people, many of whom spend a lifetime going from one minimum wage job to another with long periods on the social in-between. The Pakistanis will vote solidly against the war, but they also have solid economic reasons to oppose Toryism, since they are even more likely to be low paid than the native British.

So what's the best bet on an outcome? Well, turnout will be low as this is a by-election, and Oldham is cold, wet and miserable at the best of times, but especially in December so that will encourage people to stay at home where it's all nice and warm. We should also be honest and admit that Labour people have a habit of being disengaged from politics, anyway, especially at by-elections. It takes a general election to get them out to vote in large numbers, since it needs a lot of  background noise to remind them of what's at stake. UKIP's voters will turn out since minor party people tend to be more engaged than others. So the Labour majority will be cut on the back of a very low turnout of under fifty percent, just as it was in 1983.

I will be travelling down to Manchester tomorrow, and have a hotel in the middle of the constituency. I will try to blog about the campaign, assuming that I am sober enough to do so, but as things stand, and based upon what I know about the division, Labour is odds-on to win.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Sympathy for victims of Pais attacks is "Eurocentric," says middle class guilt tripper

I wondered how long it would take before the precious souls of Liberalmiddleclassland would start whining about the response to the obscenity that was delivered to Paris on Friday night. It took until Monday before the Independent decided that grieving over almost 150 dead was too much and decided to put it all into context, courtesy of one Lulu Nunn, pictured left

Lulu's line is that people who place the French tricolour over their Facebook profile photos are guilty of all sorts of waycist things:

It’s a dismaying and damaging truth that Westerners care about and empathise with images of white-skinned women grieving in Topshop bobble hats far more than brown-skinned women grieving in niqabs and, when you lend your voice to Euro-centric campaigns such as Facebook’s flag filter, you exacerbate this. When we buy into such easy corporate public mourning, we uphold white supremacy. We’re essentially saying that white, Western lives matter more than others.
I know, stunningly inane, isn't it? To think that Europeans should have a Eurocentric view, and feel kinship with those of their own civilisation who suffered from the Paris atrocity.

If you are a Westerner then it really does not matter if you are an admirer of Fred Engels or Fred Hayek, because at root you are a product of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the Age of Reason, the French Revolution and then the Russian Revolution.

Those epochs were all steps on the road to societies that are based on rationality and reason, not inbred superstition. It is therefore quite logical for us to feel more for those who share our civilisation than for those who do not. I might add that we almost expect the more primitive parts of the world to behave savagely as they have not yet gone through the historical processes necessary to reach our level of civilisation.

I do not want to be too cruel to Lulu Nunn, as I prefer to leave that to the political right. She is a part of British society that George Orwell speared very nicely in many of his works: the self-loathing, white, middle class who enjoy all the benefits that a modern, developed economy offers to people of that ilk, and feels guilty about it all.  I accept that she is also a product of the London Metropolitan "University," formerly known as North London Poly, so is hardly likely to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Lulu will not like this, but what her background means is that she is no closer culturally or ideologically to a third world goat herder or water carrier than anyone else who is a product of the civilised, advanced world. In fact, she has more in common with elderly, semi-crippled, benefit claiming me than she does with anyone from the primitive parts of the world.

As a good Westerner I will defend to the death the right of Lulu Nunn to write whatever she wishes, as well as flash her admittedly rather nice tits around to all and sundry without fear or favour.

We Westerners are like that.

Monday 16 November 2015

Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity may be no more

Friday the 13th was unlucky this month for Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity - Hope Over Fear party when the Herald newspaper rang up party secretary Gordon Morgan, and told him that his party no longer existed. Morgan had until the 31 October to confirm with the Electoral Commission that the party was still active. Since he couldn't be bothered doing, Solidarity was de-registered on the 4 November.

At first Morgan tried to bluster by saying that he would correct "the mistake," but when told that the only way to do that was to start the process of registration all over again and pay £150 for the pleasure of doing it, he just said: “Oh for fuck’s sake. Oh shit.” 

He then went on to admit that the Hope Over Fear slogan had only been registered to stop other people using it, before the penny dropped as he uttered the immortal line: “If we’ve lapsed anyone could fucking use it.” 

Much as I like Tommy Sheridan, the man who did more than almost any other to rally opposition in Scotland to the Poll Tax during the Thatcher years, if you mix with Trots then things like this will happen, given that Trotskyism is less an ideology and more a mental deficiency.

It might be an idea for Sheridan to run as an independent in next year's Scottish General Election. He can't do any worse than he has surrounded by Trotscum can he?

Thursday 12 November 2015

Abortion law in Scotland must be a matter for Holyrood, not Westminster

The Labour Party shrugged its shoulders at the defeat of their amendment to devolve tax credits to Holyrood, but have now decided to use the House Of Lords to try and stop the devolution of abortion law. Please don't ask me what is going through their little minds - the party seems to be having another one of those head up arsehole moments.

As things stand the whole of Great Britain is covered by the 1967 Abortion Act, which in theory allows abortions up to 24 weeks. I say in theory because in Scotland the de facto limit has always been 18 weeks.

The reason for this is that Ground C of the 1967 act which states that a woman's mental health will suffer if she continues with the pregnancy is not accepted as providing sufficient grounds for a late abortion in Scotland. Thus a pregnant woman who has reached 18 weeks gestation either has to have the child or go to England to abort it.

Looking at the line put out by the Labour figures who want to keep abortion law firmly under Westminster's control it seems to me as if they do not actually know that the two countries already differ when it comes to abortion provision. Their argument is thus confused and confusing, and seems to boil down to the fact that they that they genuinely believe that democracy just means people voting for a set of policies that have been created at elite level in Westminster.

Politics is about having the power to allocate resources. That means that in every political debate there are going to be winners and losers. In an ideal world, such  compromises  as are necessary will be made to ensure that the losers walk away with something, and leave them hoping for better luck next time.

The whole of the public health political arena has already been handed over to Holyrood, save that of abortion law. It is an intellectually incoherent anomaly that Labour, for perverse reasons of its own, wants to keep this one issue under Westminster's wing.

All of this leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, suggesting as it does that Labour really does not trust the northern provincials to run things properly.

Labour needs to be aware of that if it wants to save itself in Holyrood from the near extinction that befell it in Westminster, then those arrogant, elitist attitudes need to be dropped.

Hopefully, the Scotland Bill will pass the House Of Lords unchanged, but if it doesn't then the fact that Labour has amended the bill will help ensure that the party is wiped out at next year's Scottish General Election.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Welcoming the new Scotland Bill

By and large I am satisfied with the Scotland Bill that should be enacted into law early next year. We need to see how the negotiations over the new fiscal framework pan out, but the Westminster bill is certainly in tune with what was agreed at the Smith Commission talks last year.

Scotland has come a very long way since 1998, and is a far more civilised country to live in than the England that I left just over two years ago. I would hope that this process continues and that under the new powers, Scotland will continue to improve as a country where ordinary people can feel at home. As that happens, the differences between it and the Tory land to the south will become more and more apparent.

Scotland does not need to push for another referendum, as all it needs to do is continue along its current path and the Union will either disappear with a whimper or it will cease to have any relevance to most people and their lives even if legally it continues.

Consider the enormous differences that already exist. Council houses are no longer sold, and the bedroom tax is not applied. Claimants do not have to pay any council tax at all, and 16-18 years old students still get Education Maintenance Allowance. If they go to university then they get a grant, and the fees of all students are paid by the state. Finally, Stamp Duty on house sales has been abolished and replaced by a kind of transaction tax that does over the upper middle class far more than Stamp Duty ever did.

All that and more is under the current dispensation. Now just imagine how things could become when the new powers come into force as we head into 2017 or 2018.

Control of income tax rates and bands will pass to Holyrood, which means that the middle class can be taxed at much higher levels. If Scotland is serious about repairing the economic and social damage that has been done to the country since 1979, then taxing the middle class to start the process of repairing the damage that their votes caused in the first place strikes me as being what the Americans call a no-brainer.

Scotland has come a long way in less than twenty years, which shows that the country does not need to be fully independent to be free of that shower of two-legged cockroaches who run the show in Westminster. It just needs to use the powers that it has, and negotiate new ones. Then set it own course towards making this part of Britain a better place for the majority rather than the few.

What's not to like?
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