Friday, 18 August 2017

New Statesman letter on foreign policy

Stephen Bush makes the debatable points that the Tories "might be able to win an argument about Venezuela", and that most of the British voters don`t have "a flicker, let alone a quantum, of interest in foreign affairs", with the implication that the latter is good news for Labour, as the Tories are hopelessly divided on domestic issues (Politics, 11th August, 2017). The patronising idea that the people don`t mind their leader sucking up embarrassingly to Trump, Erdogan and dictatorial leaders in the Middle East is, quite frankly, insulting; Bush will be writing next that the public think it perfectly acceptable for the UK to sell weapons to the Saudis to be used in Yemen, adding to the misery of millions already suffering horrendously from the effects of famine and disease.
   If Britain`s right-wing-dominated media concentrated their efforts more on showing the crisis in Yemen rather than trying to embarrass Corbyn over Venezuela, more on May`s failure to urge a more conciliatory and diplomatic approach from America over North Korea than comparing Labour`s nationalisation policies on railways and energy to Maduro`s economic troubles, political commentators like Bush would soon realise their mistake. 
 In this age of sabre-rattling politicians and dictatorial autocrats, leaders who stand by their principles and urge caution, and an end to belligerent rhetoric, stand out a mile. Thank goodness the British public has begun to realise Labour has one.

Rees-Mogg for Tory leader (i letter)

According to Katy Balls, Jacob Rees-Mogg has "shown that traditional conservative values - yes to fox-hunting, no to gay marriage - can have a place in modern times" (Where Moggmentum goes next, 17/08/17). There must have been a "typo", with the capital letters and speech marks omitted! The Chaplin movie, made in 1936, certainly appeared at a time when such "values" might have had "a place", but there certainly would not be one on an election-winning Tory manifesto in the 21st century.
Mind you, if Tories want to choose Rees-Mogg as their leader, that`s fine with me. The sooner we have a Labour government, the better!


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Full Guardian letter on schools

I was pleased to see a contemporary of Bowie, Howard Scholey, defending their old school, in the wake of Hanif Kureishi`s attack (Letters, 15/08/17). I taught for over thirty years in a comprehensive school in a deprived area, and whilst some pupils probably thought of it as such, it never deserved to be classed as a "shithole"; to be fair, some pupils would never have had the chance to witness what went on in the examination classes, or see the delight and relief on results` day. There were certainly numerous unruly pupils and many lessons disrupted, even a small number of "hopeless" teachers, but, like in Bromley I suspect, most were hardworking, not just "okay", and many colleagues were "inspirational".
 Hundreds of pupils did "progress to a university education", about a dozen to Oxbridge, so whilst many will doubtless still have unhappy memories of their school years, hopefully many more will not.
   Schools tend to get labelled, with local press and gossip not helping, resulting in the "label" being difficult to change. Had the school I taught in, for instance, not had such a reputation, many hundreds more parents would have enrolled their children there, and more students would have stayed on for A levels, improving the results and educational experience even further. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Independent letter on May`s holiday

A prime minister who goes back to work “almost four weeks after she began her summer break” does not deserve to be in office, taking the people she is meant to govern for what clearly is a ride.
Even worse, with so many crises developing both in this country and in the world in general, it becomes almost criminal for a democratically-elected leader to absent herself at such a time, and it now behoves parliament to pass legislation prohibiting such glaring unprofessionalism ever happening again.
Work is urgently needed to clarify the Brexit situation, caution is needed from the UK`s apparent “closest ally”, words of leadership are essential to deal with prison and midwifery problems, and policies need to be formulated on caring and health, education funding and so many other issues.
It matters not a jot that she is “a dead man walking”, or whether she has been told to stay away by party bigwigs. May is the Prime Minister and needs to do her job, or be replaced immediately.  

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Observer letter on Compassionate Conservatism

What Will Tanner doesn`t appear to realise is that, with the prospect of another election hanging "Damoclean-like over the Conservative party", it`s not only the "message which needs to change" (To win again, the Tories must become radical champions of fairness, 06.08.17). It cannot be only pro-Remain Tory voters who view the present group of leaders with distrust, especially as they display behaviour which not only has clearly far more to do with personal ambition than the electoral prospects of the party, but which contrasts sharply with the principled stance adopted by their Labour rival. 
     As for the Tories becoming "radical champions of fairness", there is more chance of Shergar being found alive and well! History shows that the Conservative party is based on preserving the wealth, property and benefits enjoyed by the wealthy, who in return become party donors. Businesses have their regulations reduced by Conservative governments so that they can make more profits, and in return, help to fund the party. "Fairness" per se has never been a Tory objective. Leaders like Cameron and May might well espouse ideas like the need to act on "relative poverty" and help the "just about managing", but the rhetoric found reality with austerity measures aimed at the least fortunate, and "burning injustices" being ignored.

   Does Tanner really expect the Tories to tackle "corporate excess", regulate greedy landlords, and increase tax "on unproductive parts of the economy, such as property", when so many Tory MPs, supporters and donors would be targeted? If there is such a thing as the ultimate oxymoron, it has to be "compassionate Conservatism"!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

2 Independent letters: Venezuela and Cable

How refreshing to read something sensible at last about Corbyn's reaction to the recent crisis in Venezuela, by Mary Dejevsky. Of course he was being set up by the right to "divert attention from the two main parties divisions over Brexit", and no matter what his response was, the Labour leader would be criticised.
What makes this so typical of the right's behaviour in politics currently is that little or no demands are made of Theresa May to denounce the atrocities committed every day by her allies in the Middle East or for her to pressurise the Saudis into stopping the bombing of Yemen.
Venezuela has, as Dejevsky says, provided the UK media "with a stick to beat Corbyn with", but the many opportunities offered by May's flirting with the likes of Trump and Erdogan are ignored.Sasha Simic's letter rightly stated that the media should be working to insist May tone down Trump's bellicose outbursts, but as she doesn't even keep her own Foreign Secretary sufficiently under control, there is no chance of her being a force for peace anywhere.

Sir Vince Cable’s desperation to win back lost Lib Dem voters has hit a new low. Claiming that the older Brexit voters with “views coloured by a nostalgia for an imperial past” have “shafted” the young really does take the biscuit, seeing as it was he and his Lib Dem associates who agreed to support the Tories’ austerity policies, which ruined the future for so many young people. 
Not only did their complicity bring about all the cuts and real wage decreases, it harmed the education of so many by slashing state school funding and ending the important Education Maintenance Grant, and, of course, is the reason for graduates leaving university with £50,000 debt.
The good news is that young people, as revealed by the last election, are more interested in politics than they have been for forty years or so, and most certainly will have “sussed” out Cable, his motives and his hypocrisy.

Morning Star article on Manipulation of History

The day after possibly the worst day in British military history, July 1st, 1916, the News of the World reported that the "day went well". 20,000 British soldiers had been mown down in the first hour of the Battle of the Somme. As Tuesday`s editorial mentioned, it was the wartime Prime minister, Lloyd George, who insisted the people at home "can`t know" the awful truth (Morning Star, 01/08/17). The trouble is the British people have not only been fed lies about events during wars, they have not even been told the whole truth about the country being at war in the first place. A list of British military engagements in the same editorial lacked completeness, with Vietnam and Oman notable absentees!
     An argument can be made for remembering the courage and bravery of soldiers, as happened recently with the men from both sides who fought at Passchendaele 100 years ago, but there is a danger that, if wars are only remembered for bravery, little will be learned. People need to be reminded of the politicians` mistakes which caused the wars, the nationalism which was glorified  through education, and which was embraced by the politicians, the atrocities which all sides committed, the appalling weapons and tactics of mass destruction which were used, and the misinformation which is always fed to the public to justify all wars. How many British people have ever been told, or have even heard of, the fact that poisonous gas, or to use its modern description, chemical weapons, were used against the Germans in the First World War? Indeed, wasn`t it a certain Winston Churchill who insisted on keeping these weapons for further use in the Middle East? Commemorations, like films, often perpetuate myths, rather than destroy them!
    The film to see this summer, apparently, is "Dunkirk", but even this focuses on bravery, fellowship and courage rather than historical accuracy. Nigel Farage has endorsed it, for goodness sake, for all "youngsters" to watch! The film ignores, for example, the fact that Britain had the backing of a global empire, and was never standing "alone", and omits any acknowledgement of the roles both of the Royal Indian Army Services Corps, who were on the beach and moving supplies, and the sailors from SE Asia and India who were on the British merchant vessels. French colonial troops at Dunkirk were conspicuous only by their absence, and apart from one crowd scene, white faces predominate. How is this country ever going to come to terms with the truth of its past if its major blockbusting films insist on historical inaccuracy?
     Books which do trim away some of the layers of mythology which permeate our history are available, however, for summer reading, and  people who read them cannot fail but realise how the distorted and manipulated version of our past plays far too an important role in today`s society. Britain`s "burning the historical evidence", recounted in Ian Cobain`s book, "The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation", was done for the same reason Special Operations Executive records on its "incompetence" over failing to protect its agents in France during WWII, "disappeared in a fire", as told in "Last Hope Island: Britain, Occcupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War", by Lynne Olson.      

      The conspiracy to indoctrinate British people that this country has a glorious past, to be remembered with "fondness and respect", and superior to all others, is shameful, and still continues, but another book, "The Fear and the Freedom: How the Second World War Changed Us", by Keith Lowe, sets out to dispel a number of enduring myths. Using the experiences of those who lived through the conflict, Lowe refutes the idea that, whilst all Nazis were evil, the allies` moral purity won the day. Similarly, the belief, as most propaganda tells us, that it was essentially a European war is dispelled, with very effective evidence from, in particular, Sam King, a Jamaica-born RAF veteran.
     Let`s hope not only that the books become best-sellers, but that they start a trend for accurate history-telling.
      The UK`s so-called  "glorious past" actually refers to a time when the country`s wealth was created by the slave trade, piracy and looting, whilst native populations existed in a state of servitude, with atrocities and extreme acts of barbarity committed by British troops ensuring little or no resistance. Isolation was never a reality nor "splendid"! If ever we are to accept the veracity of our past, and if Germany can, it should be possible here, three changes have to be made:
 journalists and writers generally, must stop referring to the past in such terms as "Britain`s imperial glories", and her "buccaneering spirit", as they engender unhelpful images, and can contribute to ridiculous ideas about racial superiority;
 the vast archive of over 1.2 million files, which governments keep hidden from the prying eyes of historians at Hanslope Park must be handed over to the National Archives at Kew;
 the department of education has to insist on the teaching of accuracy whenever British history is delivered, with less reliance on so-called "facts", and more on analysis and evaluation of evidence, so that the students` use of "lacking completeness" can be highly rewarded. 
   Until all established beliefs about Britain`s past are thrown into question and the truth revealed and accepted, there is little chance of reducing the bigotry which permeates our society.