What Price Justice – The demise of Probation?

Mike Guilfoyle 

Image©Mummelgrummel

It was a piquant moment for me, reading that the prominent Human Rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC had been broached to consider instigating legal action.  This in response to the ill-considered and mean spirited move by the ‘ Hard line’ Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP, prohibiting the sending into prisons of books by families and friends under recently imposed restrictions introduced last November via a Ministry of Justice edict, with the Orwellian prefix PSI 30/2013 (Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme). This policy recalled for me, the redoubtable prison reformer Sir Alexander Paterson, who coined the famous adage `that men (sic) come to prison as a punishment, not for punishment’.  Read more of this post

LeftCentral interview with Professor Jonathan Rose

LeftCentral 

“I do not want to impair the vigour of competition, but we can do much to mitigate the causes of failure.  We want to draw a line below which we will not allow persons to live and labour, yet above which they may compete with all their strength of their manhood.  We do not want to pull down the structure of science and civilisation – but to spread a net above the abyss.”  Winston Churchill, January 1906

Jonathan Rose is William R. Kenan Jr Professor of History at Drew University. His 2001 book for Yale, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, was winner of many prizes including the Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History and was named a Book of the Year by The Economist magazine. Professor Jonathan Rose has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his forthcoming publication, The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, ActorRead more of this post

You can`t be neutral on a moving train…

Nora Connolly 

Image © Jim from Steven Point WI, USA

…In graduate school you get basically the same point of view you get in elementary school, only with footnotes…Howard Zinn

Ed Miliband`s recent endorsement of Professor Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on Theodore Roosevelt, signals that his policy focus is regulation, regulation, regulation.  The Labour leader’s interest in Teddy Roosevelt appears a continuation of the `One Nation` theme, dressed in the star spangled banner of the Republican Party, albeit with a progressive tint. Read more of this post

Radio 4 Review: Acts of Union and Disunion by Professor Linda Colley: Episode 14: Constitutions

LeftCentral Review 

Bickerstaff`s Boston Almanack 1789

We have the machinery of democracy, the structure and we have representative government but it was never a democracy and it never intended to be a democracy, it was founded by a small group of people who wanted independence from Englandthe motive was not democracy Howard Zinn  

Professor Linda Colley`s short talk on the British Constitution, allowed her to contrast constitutional developments in Britain; with that of the fledgling American Republic, then in the process of moving from Articles of Confederation towards a Federal government.  The `Constitution of the United States` is described by Colley as something; “widely viewed as sacred”, the sacrosanct words are then uttered by the anointed President Elect Obama.  Professor Colley then explains that the founding fathers were influenced by the British notion of a separation of powers; she doesn’t point out that the American version has teeth and while the founding fathers wanted a more democratic system than monarchical Britain, they didn’t aim for a genuinely democratic structure.  But rather designed a system of government that would allow power to rest in the hands of an elite group of rich men.  Her talk missed an opportunity to outline the real significance of Britain’s unwritten Constitution on the framers of the American Constitution.   Read more of this post

‘Truth’, immigration and the BBC

Image © Felix-felix

Robin Richardson

The Truth about Immigration was broadcast by the BBC on Tuesday 7 January, having been trailed in advance both widely and deeply. Viewers were promised it would be full of new clarity and insight, based on new and powerful facts and figures. Further, it would be imbued with unusual honesty from politicians and senior civil servants, and – even – from the BBC itself. In the event the programme was a shoddy and shameful shambles. Visually, technically, conceptually, ethically, politically and emotionally, it was the very worst kind of tabloid TV, an hour of bias against understanding, totally unworthy to be described as public service broadcasting. Read more of this post

In Defence of the War Poets

Katherine Edwards

Should the First World War be seen principally as a European and world catastrophe or as a British triumph? As we mark the centenary of the Great War, the debate on its commemoration has intensified, with the Education Secretary recently lambasting senior academics for their lack of patriotism.  Attacks on the influence of Blackadder are fast becoming just as much a cliché of the ‘revisionist’ school as the clichés the revisionists claim to be dispelling.  And where Blackadder is mentioned we can be sure the war poets – and Wilfred Owen in particular – will be the target of the next sneer. Hew Strachan is intent on demonstrating that ‘there was something more between 1914 and 1918 than futility and poems’.   Michael Morpurgo came under fire in the Moral Maze for citing Wilfred Owen.  More recently John Blake painted a scornful picture of teachers ‘sonorously intoning’ Owen’s poetry, placing much of the blame for what he considers to be the ‘myths’ taught about World War One on the excessive influence of Owen and Sassoon, who he claims, are misleadingly ‘sold as the authentic voice of the front-line soldier’. Read more of this post

Good Old George, The Life of George Lansbury by Bob Holman book review

LeftCentral Book Review

In 1933 George Lansbury was hospitalised, his injuries sustained whilst campaigning to keep the British Labour Party afloat.  No easy task, the party a rump after the 1931 election – Labour reduced to 52 seats, compared to the 287 won in 1929.  As Labour Leader he played a vital constitutional role during a precarious time for democracy. According to Stanley Baldwin, Lansbury`s leadership of the opposition, “helped to keep the flag of Parliamentary government flying in the world”.  A remarkable tribute, after all he had previously gone to prison in pursuit of his political beliefs, even participating in a hunger strike.  And his commitment to constitutionalism dimmed briefly in 1912 when he flirted with syndicalism. Read more of this post

The Politics of Pressure in a global context

Image © Adam Weiz for SumOfUs.org

Legal Eagle

`We have to pick campaigns that are not too big and not too small. And the target of eight is large enough that as long as we vary our tactics from campaign to campaign we should be able to begin to see patterns about what`s working and what`s not. That’s the science strategy and as we learn more about how to change corporate behaviour we will be able to ratchet up the difficulty of our campaigns`. Taren Stinebricker-Kauffman  Read more of this post

Miliband, the Mail and antisemitism, some points arising

Robin Richardson

Image © CC-BY

Antisemitism, it has often been said, is a light sleeper. Sometimes, though, and in certain places and circumstances, it slumbers for quite a long time, and is not immediately or widely recognisable when it wakes up. For whilst dormant it was taking on new tones and colourings, was acquiring a new repertoire of signals and cues, new nods and winks, it was fashioning new dog whistles. Those who give voice to it when it wakes after a longish sleep may not be consciously aware of what they are doing, or of the effect their words, references and imagery have on others. Read more of this post

What`s the word?

Nora Connolly

Image © Chatham House

What language was he speaking? [Answer] All languages. And none…Umberto Eco – The Name of the Rose

It seems to me, that politicians would get more respect, if their oratory was a little more sincere, especially when spouting egregious policy at conference. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, this week made a crass speech in Manchester. Words used devoid of genuine meaning; `Help`, `Abandon`, `Work`, `Benefits`, `Job`, `Hired`, `Great`, `Future`, `Faith`, `Optimism`, `Nerve`, `Cuts`, `Sacrifice`, `Yes`, `Decline’, ‘Business`, `Country`, `Sound`, `Economic`, `Fair` `Prosperous`, and `Standards`. One could cite the entire speech but these words stand out, the meaning lost in a sea of thinly disguised spite. The audience listening including several Ministers, who like the Chancellor, require no mandate even though this government is implementing profound change and massively altering the social fabric of this country. At least in the 1980s when the Conservatives hammered the poor, they had the good grace to administer it with a Parliamentary majority. And believe it or not, there were elements in the Conservative Party in the 1980s that had some hold on reality; although they spawned this mob and mob is the correct word to use in this context. Read more of this post

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