Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Moment of Crisis mentioned in The Guardian

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The nice people at The Guardian have run a very similar piece to my Thatcher's Funeral in Numbers piece which puts forward different ideas about how we could spend the £10million ear-marked for Thatcher's funeral.

Picking up on my original post they gave me a name-check - not a bad start for my new blog which has only been active for three days.

Earlier on today Left Foot Forward also name-checked me whilst both Louder Than War and Labour List have both already cross-posted my work.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Big Ben Won't Go Ding Dong - so let's ring a bell for Thatcher

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So now comes the announcement that Big Ben will be silenced during Thatcher's funeral.

Given that Thatcher herself was supposedly involved in the planning details of her own funeral we can only assume that she put forward this bonkers idea. Such was her grandiosity and such is the political establishment's hubris someone actually thought "great idea" and for the first time in almost 100years there will be no Big Ben chimes

However, it does give everyone a simple way to protest.

Get to a shop and buy a bell. It could be any kind of bell and during the funeral, wherever you are in the country, ring that bell whilst the funeral is happening.

The Zombification of Thatcherism

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Thatcherism is dead. It might not have yet realised it and it might still have some lingering potency but as an argument and grand narrative its time is done.

Of course, the effects of Thatcherism still infect the body politic of the UK. Like any bad sickness it will take time for the virus to fully leave the system and for immune systems to kick in. As we all know Thatcher herself is now a corpse but Thatcherism stumbles forward, the zombified undead of British politics, too many members of the ruling and political class still caught in its thrall.

Thatcherites searching for immigrants, the unemployed and those who don't "aspire"

Thatcherism’s neo-liberal, “free market”, monetarist policies have also created a zombie economy. It struggles on, lurching around like some gormless monster, seeking out the weakest and poorest to suck their blood, smashing through public services and bludgeoning the NHS into a million pieces. It doesn’t care what it mows down in its path as it serves only itself and other zombies.

The zombies of Thatcherism puke out words like “aspiration”, “welfare scroungers”, “immigrants” and “privatisation” in a giant, unthinking chorus of belligerent drool. These barely sentient weaponised phrases are repeated ad infinitum, destroying the minds of anyone who gets too close for too long.

Yet if anything ever signified the head of the Thatcherism zombie it was Thatcher herself. Now, we all know from the movies that to kill the zombie you have to take off the head. But sometimes even if you take off the head the zombie keeps running – its end, however, even if it doesn’t yet realise it in its mad, flailing, final charge, is inevitable.

Jimmy Hill Played a Blinder

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Jimmy Hill has been a widely lampooned and ridiculed figure over the years. But on the day of the Hillsborough disaster April 15th 1989 Jimmy played a blinder.

In the following clip Jimmy is being interviewed by Des Lynam where he talks of the disaster "not being hooligan-related" and "the gates being opened.".

The truth was established live on the BBC in the immediate aftermath of 96 innocent people dying. So why did the right wing press, the Tories and the police defame and smear dead innocents for so long?

And why did Margaret Thatcher's government cover up these lies?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b_meAvT6Aw (YouTube clip won't embed for some reason so click this link).

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Thatcher’s Funeral in Numbers

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Thatcher’s funeral is supposedly going to cost £10million to stage. Given the swingeing and terrible cuts being enacted in a time of austerity some would argue that this money could be best spent on other things.

Here’s what we could get from £10,000,000 if we did choose to spend it on other things.

12.5million free Durex Performax Intense condoms in a sexual health clinic at 80p each.

Almost 3years of the entire library budget for the London Borough of Lambeth.

149 launches to fire George Osborne into outer space at £67,000 a time.

100,000 years of minimum wage increase for the under-21s at 5p per hour, based on 40hour week and 50 working weeks a year.

14,285 Funeral Payments, for people on any kind of benefits,  at the maximum rate of £700 a time. 

27years in the Shelter from the Storm Homeless shelter for 100people at £10 per bed per night.

Two brand new primary schools at the cost of £5million each.

792 years working at the new hourly minimum wage rate of £6.31 an hour, for 40hours a week, for 50weeks a year, before tax.


3218 years of basic Carers' Allowance at £59.75 per week.


The cost of 333 average cancer patients' care at £30k per patient (2011) http://www.nhs.uk/news/2011/12December/Pages/cancer-treatment-cost-may-increase.aspx

32,608,695 1/3 pint free milk servings for school infants.

(Suggested by @CarolineHolding)

5,050,505 school meals at an average price of £1.98 per head.

(suggested on twitter by @dnsnow).

A police officer at entry level of £26k for 384years http://www.policeoracle.com/pay_and_conditions/police_pay_scales.html

A private in British Army at entry level of £18k for 556years http://www.armedforces.co.uk/armypayscales.htm

 A teacher at entry level at £21k per year for 465years. http://www.teachers.org.uk/node/14433

Job Seekers Allowance at £71.70 per week for 2682years

The top rate of Disability Living Allowance at £134.40 per week for 1435 years.

Average Bedroom Tax at £14 per week for 13,736 years.

The annual benefit cap rate at £25,000 a year for 400 years.

Zero criticism from the Tax Payers Alliance.

20,000 one-way tickets to other side of the world for Toby Young at £500 each.

Mother of 904 dead? (And a nice big bounce in the polls).

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I was 16 when the Falklands conflict started. A disaffected youth who’d been in and out of childrens’ homes, complete with Crass t-shirt and Clash record collection. Only a year earlier, in 1981, the UK had almost been set alight in riots that made the 2011 disturbances look like pale comparison. Mass unemployment was taking hold in a way that had never been experienced before – this time as a direct result of government policy. The Sex Pistols cry of “No Future” was not only a reality but our collective faces were being rammed repeatedly into a huge brick-walled dead-end.

Yet there is little doubt that before the Falklands War there was huge disquiet about Thatcher’s brand of government – she was in BIG trouble.

This link here gives an overview of the polling numbers from 1979 to 1983 revealing that in Feb 1982, only weeks before the war, the Tories were in third place and down to 27.5%. As the graph below shows Thatcher’s 1983 electoral victory was built almost entirely on her Falklands bounce.

 We shouldn’t forget the desperate coercion used to keep this Falklands bounce on track. At the time any dissent against the war was highly problematic for those engaging in it. I had friends beaten badly for daring to make anti-war comments whilst I was personally threatened on numerous occasions just for appearing to be part of a group that expressed dissent. The press, media – the good old BBC – all joined in the festival of jingoism and blood lust. Unlike today there was no space to coalesce dissent in the written word in social media and the alternative music scene provided one of the only outlets where resistance could be expressed.

Quite possibly the most provocative anti-Thatcher songs of the period were by underground punk act, Crass. They released in 1982 "SheepFarming in the Falklands", "Gotcha" and the acerbic Thatcher-takedown “HowDoes it Feel to be the Mother of 1000 Dead?” (Crass got their numbers wrong by the way). These songs didn’t get any airplay at all and, at the time, Crass appeared to be subjected to some form of harassment by the British establishment with Tory MP Tim Eggar attempting to have the band prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act.

Yet, Crass singles sold in their 100s of 1000s with them repeatedly reaching the top of the “Indie Charts”. Dissent was out there. And Crass lyrics were far more explicit and direct than any Wizard of Oz song. Here’s a sample from “How Does it Feel?”

Your arrogance has gutted these bodies of life, Your deceit fooled them that it was worth the sacrifice. Your lies persuaded people to accept the wasted blood, Your filthy pride cleansed you of the doubt you should have had. You smile in the face of the death cause you are so proud and vain, Your inhumanity stops you from realising the pain That you inflicted, you determines, you created, you ordered It was your decision to have those young boys slaughtered.

As most commentators will tell you the Falklands War defined Thatcher. And with any war comes casualties and deaths. In the South Atlantic 904 men lost their lives and almost 2500 suffered injuries. Yes, we can argue that it was for the liberty of the Falkland islanders and that one great side effect was the end of the Argentinian military dictatorship – this is all well and good.

But was this Thatcher’s intention? Yes, I’m certain Thatcherite notions of “liberty” played some part in her rationalisation for war. However, I’m also certain that Thatcher realised that if she folded in the face of the Argentinians she was finished as a political force. Therefore, for Thatcher, any compromise that avoided conflict was just not possible. The unavoidable truth is that Thatcher’s 1983 election victory was built on the deaths of 904 young men. The next argument is, of course, was such slaughter worth it? 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

What could possibly go wrong?

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Moments of crisis are defining. They help reveal, even momentarily, the make-up of the real conditions we live under. Within these moments changes can be made and narratives re-shaped. Ideas that were once assumed to be radical or impossible can become neutral or natural. These moments or crisis are, in effect, the battlegrounds for the ideas that will shape the future.

Since 2008 I’ve been blogging and writing about the Thai Crisis. Born out of the 2006 military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra the Thai Crisis has seen so-called “liberals” align themselves with vicious fascist groups, the politicisation of the judiciary, the failure of the international human rights organisations, the US-trained and equipped Thai Army blowing the brains out of unarmed Thai civilians and the charging of the former Thai PM, and Old Etonian, Abhisit Vejjajiva, with murder. In addition to all this the use of Thailand’s lese majeste law – a law designed purely to criminalise dissent - has reached staggering levels with 100s incarcerated, some for decades.

My writing on all of this has been deemed controversial, irreverent, extremist and the work of an activist. I am hated by most of the foreign media in Bangkok – largely because I have constantly embarrassed them due to their failure to take anything more than a Thai-elite line on recent events – and have been a hate figure for the notoriously drunk and dysfunctional expat community.  My family and I received 100s of death threats and abusive comments, leading to at least one person being charged for and admitting criminal harassment. The international and respected Human Rights Watch – an organisation whose Thai work I’ve been critical of – have admitted passing my name to the US Embassy after I went to them as a source and former cabinet members of the Democrat Party’s “coup government” have attempted to get me banned from UK university property. Several of my exclusives became lead story items in the Thai media and I have humiliated former Thai PM Abhisit and his criminal political party on numerous occasions. Finally members of staff at the US Embassy also launched a smear campaign against me, material that was distributed by a notorious Bangkok Post journalist (co-incidentally this newspaper was started by the CIA forerunners, the OSS).

As I said moments of crisis can be very revealing and I am very proud of my work on Thailand – it has been far from perfect but I believe I have caused great discomfort for some very unpleasant people who I hope were shaken by my interventions.

Now, I want to try to turn some of my attention to the UK and the moment of crisis that is enveloping my home country. Admittedly I have none of the political contacts I had in Thailand and none of the inside line. I am not part of the British political establishment nor have any access to it.

I do know a couple of Labour MPs and am a Labour Party member but have only ever been active at the most local of levels.

I do have an eye for trouble and believe I do have the ability to see through certain amounts of unholy bullshit.

So, if you’re interested, come along for the ride. Given my previous work on Thai politics what could possibly go wrong?