Thursday, 18 January 2018

Applauding Churchill?

Applauding  a film about Churchill has something to do with, as Simon Kelner says, "a nostalgic feeling", but much more to do with the result of years of manipulating history by modern governments (All cheer the flawed hero in our time of need, 17.01.18). The people have been drip-fed a distorted version of a mythical "glorious past", and that includes of the heroic wartime leader, whose lack of principle and humanity led to a "crossing of the floor" twice, and the death of millions of Bengals, and whose words, "Very well, alone" have led to a nationwide amnesia about the country`s indebtness to the colonies for their contribution in the war.
  Churchill would be as unelectable now as he was in 1945; not only was there his own history of being anti-union and worker, but his opposition to the welfare state, which, according to the Tories typically, could not be afforded, and would, in Churchill`s words, lead to Attlee needing to set up "some form of Gestapo". Thank goodness for the wisdom of the 1945 electorate! The shame is that the triumphalism of our history has, in part, led to the ridiculous and arrogant idea that we do not need Europe!    

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Running down NHS

Theresa May`s pathetic attempt to display strong leadership, along with an equally feeble effort to convince voters that she is listening, explain her recent endeavours to replace the "lightweight and serial blame-passer" who is Jeremy Hunt (Pity the NHS, but it`s not time to get rid of Jeremy Hunt, 15/01/18). Toynbee is right to offer "two cheers for Hunt remaining", simply because his replacement would not only try to put his or her stamp on yet another "re-disorganisation" of the health service, but would be a Tory, and in this government that means someone who agrees with the policy of running down the NHS until privatisation is the only option remaining.
   The GP, Dave Triff, suggests that it would never cross people`s minds that "the government would have deliberately underfunded" the health service for the past seven years, but why not ("My heart surgery was cancelled on the day", 15/01/18)? Tory policy since 2010 has been to shrink the state, taking spending levels down to levels last seen in the 1930s. Running out of doctors, nurses, beds and care homes neither happens overnight nor by accident.
   A government which is prepared to use unqualified students in short-staffed hospitals, to cancel operations for thousands of sick patients at the last minute, and then attempt to mislead parliament and the public with "disingenuous" figures is only worthy of our contempt. A general election has never been more urgently required!

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Hero-worshipping Churchill has to stop

How someone with a first-class honours degree in history from Cambridge can "misremember" so much in one article on Churchill beggars belief, especially in a newspaper, which constantly argues against the manipulation of our history, and in favour of releasing hidden history files from Hanslope Park (Wanted: A leader like Churchill, 07.01.18)!
     Of course, the country is currently in need of "leadership that combines principle, vision and humanity with the capacity to mobilise and unify", but Churchill`s "principles" allowed him to "cross the floor" twice! Similarly, his "humanity" led to his attempts to control the BBC during the General Strike, his sending of troops to end the strike at Tonypandy, his infamous racist comments, including the ones ensuring the death of three million during the Bengal famine of 1943, and even his encouragement of the use of chemical weapons in the Middle East. At a time when foreign policy needs to be based on compromise and caution, when the threat of terrorist attack has to be met with conciliation rather than armed conflict, the last thing Britain needs now is Churchillian aggression. How much damage did his "Iron Curtain" speech do to east-west relations?
   Fighting on in 1940 was a no-brainer, as the alternative was to lose the empire and face revolution at home; "very well, alone" stands out as one of the worst examples, both of our "colonial amnesia", and of the mythologisation of our so-called "glorious past". Rawnsley seems to have forgotten that Churchill was "unelectable" in 1945, as he would be now, and the millions, who have benefited from the NHS and the welfare state since then, have reason to be grateful for the wisdom of the postwar voters. In 1945, the Tories thought putting the Beveridge plan into action could not be afforded. Where have we heard that one before? In the election campaign, Churchill, in his first radio election broadcast, accused Attlee of wanting to behave like a dictator, despite his loyal service in the war cabinet. In order to put its plans into operation, Labour would, according to the Tory leader, "have to fall back on some form of a Gestapo"!
           It will be difficult to take Rawnsley`s columns seriously in the future, knowing that his biased view of the past ignores so much relevant evidence.

End "special relationship" nonsense

Khan and Corbyn, contrary to what Boris Johnson thinks, must do everything in their power to put the so-called "special relationship" with America, "at risk" (Johnson rages at Corbyn and Khan for "endangering US investment in Britain", 12/01/18). In fact, every leader in the world should be putting whatever relationship their countries have with Trump`s government "at risk".
    It is obscene for our government to be so much in thrall to the American dollar that it insists the "strong and deep relationship will endure". Things have changed; the president is a racist, and no country which claims to have democracy, freedom and equality as core principles, should be doing business with him. Cut off relations, cancel state visits, and insist things will only get better when the president improves his manners, or when there is a new one.
  There are Americans working to oust him, through impeachment, treason or whatever, and our government should be helping them rather than hindering, which is clearly what Johnson and May do, every time they defend him. We should not have to listen to Farage`s opinions ever, but the fact that they are close to those held by the government is alarming.
    Doesn`t anyone in government have any sympathy with the people of the insulted nations? The answer is obvious, and it`s the same as the answer to this question: is there no-one in this Tory government with the courage to criticise Trump? 

  A general election cannot come soon enough.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Time for Barber to face the music

Toby Young may have gone, but why should the OfS chair, Sir Michael Barber, get off so lightly (Cut adrift by other regulators, it was not worth fighting on,10/01/18)? After all, the OfS  "candidates had been vetted by a panel" led by him, and Young`s application approved despite his controversial, and often obnoxious, comments and articles, and his lack of academic experience, as required in the job specification. "Having to face MPs on camera" might well be a "nightmare" for Barber, but the chair of the select committee on education, Robert Halfon, has a public duty now to summon him to answer questions, and attempt a justification for his 
    Things did, indeed, "go badly wrong", and Young`s withdrawal will do little to restore faith in this university regulator, which increasingly looks like yet another Tory talking-shop!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

BBC pay solution

Carrie Gracie is to be commended for her courageous decision to resign from her BBC post because of the corporation`s "secretive and illegal pay structure" (Top BBC journalist quits ,08/01/18). There can be little room for optimism, however, that such action will prompt the development of "a fair and transparent pay culture" when the BBC`s response is to claim that its "gender pay figures" show it is performing "considerably better" than a "significant number of organisations". Such a childish reaction reveals that the corporation has learned nothing from last summer`s "furore" over pay.
           Gracie makes the important point that the BBC belongs to people, the "licence fee payer", and we neither expect presenters, whatever their so-called "star status", to be paid obscene amounts, nor for any disparity over gender pay to exist. A start to solving the problem can be made by drawing up new contracts for all BBC employees and managers, with a maximum set at £200,000. All those who refuse to sign should be required to justify their decision, live on air, with Ms Gracie conducting the interviews!

Saturday, 6 January 2018

As if Tories care


Justine Greening was probably right to say that the experience and skill of the board members of the new Office for Students will be key in ensuring the OfS achieves its ambitions” (Morning Star, 02/01/18). The trouble is that those “ambitions” are clearly not protecting the rights of the students and making sure they get a good deal for the huge fees they pay, and not even generally holding universities to account.

The make up of the board., with not only free-school and “Tory cheerleader” Toby Young, but representatives from big business and the banking industry, guarantees next to nothing will be done to prevent vice-chancellors` pay reaching obscene levels, or market forces determining the policies adopted by universities to attract students.

It is impossible to believe that this board will:

stop the 40% increase in universities making unconditional offers to sixth formers to guarantee their undergraduate numbers meet targets

stop universities accepting Pre-U examination results as viable entrance qualifications, despite the very dubious nature of such exams, and the more undue advantage they give the already privileged

ensure the pay of all university staff is at least at living wage level, and increased for young lecturers just beginning their careers

reduce the number of university entrants from public schools to the national level of 7%

make all colleges and universities include details of student welfare and pay policy details in their prospectuses.

With such a board in charge, it is clear that having the OfS is yet another propaganda policy to get voters to believe that Tories care. As if!