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

‘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

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

It`s raining stones again…

Nora Connolly

Image © Tmaurizia

When will UK interest rates rise?  Pundits recently suggesting an increase likely prior to the next general election, a scenario which would allow the Coalition to spin the policy as a by-product of economic recovery. Given that any decision made in this regard by the Bank of England must be linked to an economic upturn. This introduces a potentially nasty paradox, as economic recovery, either real or illusory (the latter more likely) could have dire implications for many UK households currently struggling to make ends meet at this time. All things considered, it might be prudent to avoid household debt at the moment, a view which is shared by those now running the British economy, not the Treasury but the Bank of England, after yesterday’s very British coup.  The recent announcement by the Bank of England to withdraw the funding for lending scheme had an immediate impact as “shares in construction companies plunged”.  But more significantly the financial stability report leaves Treasury policy undermined, while at the same time cleverly placing future responsibility for any UK housing bubble at the door of number 11 Downing Street. Read more of this post

September 1913

Resolute Hero

Image © Manfred Wassman, alias BerlinSight

And what, God help us, could they save?

Romantic Ireland`s dead and gone.

It`s with O`Leary in the grave. W.B. Yeats September 1913

Ireland 100 years ago was deep in nationalist ferment drawing Britain towards civil war. The Liberals led by Asquith, reinforced by a substantial Irish Parliamentary Party in Westminster. Home Rule was the quid pro quo at the heart of this arrangement, its implementation achievable after the introduction of the Parliament Act 1911. The Loyalists in the North led by the formidable Dublin Barrister, Edward Carson, who on September 28, 1912 was the first to sign the Solemn League and Covenant. Carson was eventually followed by half a million others, many famously signing the petition in their own blood. This bizarre manifestation of loyalty to the Crown was sanctioned by the Conservative Party leader Andrew Bonar Law. The British establishment played the Orange card and the danger of granting unequivocal opposition to Home Rule evident when the UVF began gun running in April 1914. In the South the Volunteers (formed in November 1913) would begin (with less success) to get hold of arms, preparing to defend with physical force the execution of a British government mandate. Read more of this post

‘Let’s Cut Out Equality’ The independent steering group’s report of the public sector equality duty (PSED) review, September 2013

Robin Richardson 

Image © Evan-amos

On Friday 6 September a new report crept out from the government equalities office (GEO). It emerged without the company of an official press release and the only media coverage on that day was in the Telegraph and the Mail. Both these papers had apparently been influenced by a private, off-the-record briefing about how the authors of the report (or, anyway, some of them) wished equalities legislation to be trivialised, ridiculed and dismissed. ‘How many lesbians have you disciplined?’ asked the headline about the report in the Mail. The headline was followed by a summary of the report which it purported to be describing: ‘Pointless red tape condemned in new report into how public bodies have become obsessed by equality’.

The Telegraph headline was marginally less sensationalist: ’Red tape “overkill” leaves public bodies counting number of lesbians disciplined’. The heading continued: ‘Equalities rules have sent public bodies into a pointless “red-tape overkill”, a landmark report commissioned by David Cameron will warn today [6 September]’.  Incidentally, there is no reference in the report itself to lesbians, nor does the word overkill appear, nor is there any claim in the report that it was commissioned by the prime minister. It seems clear that the coverage in the Telegraph and Mail was based essentially on an unofficial briefing, not on a reading of the actual report. Read more of this post

Review of new pamphlet from the Socialist Education Association

Robin Richardson

Image© Keith Edkins

‘We hold,’ say the Tories and Lib Dems with their actions, though not with their exact words unless behind closed doors, ‘this truth to be self-evident, that human beings are born unequal.’  They continue – again with deeds rather than with explicit policy discourse – along lines such as the following: ‘It is urgent that we should return the education system to the essential role which it always played in the past, which is to prepare children and their parents for inequality, and to accept and appreciate inequality. Those who deserve to prosper will do so, for our desire is simply to set people  free from state intervention and control. Those who do not deserve to prosper, due to their lack of intelligence, energy or aspirations, will be treated with compassion, in so far as resources permit. But basically we say to them, tough, that’s life. In these various ways we are making the world safe for capitalism in its neoliberal variety. Everyone will benefit, of course, even if some do not yet realise this.’ Read more of this post

EQUALITIES AND ACCOUNTABILITY – THE PUPIL PREMIUM

Bill Bolloten, Sameena Choudry and Robin Richardson 

Image © Chris Ensell

The pupil premium grant (PPG) is a flagship government scheme for schools. Next week it will be praised and celebrated at the 2013 pupil premium awards ceremony organised in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE).

An independent panel of experts has judged which schools have best used the PPG to make a real difference to the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

However, almost two-thirds of the 48 schools that have been named as regional winners or commended for the awards ceremony have so far failed to comply fully with regulations relating to accountability. Also, about four-fifths of them appear to have ignored or misunderstood the regulations concerning accountability in the Equality Act 2010.

‘Take it and use it as you think fit. But …’ Read more of this post

British law in an era of retrenchment: Access denied…

Legal Eagle 

Image © Cawi2001-Carsten Wieman

Who would want to be a junior solicitor at the moment? It appears many would answer this question in the affirmative. This is odd given the incredibly difficult road they must follow in order to qualify, a situation made worse if you have no legal connections and come from a working class background. The vast majority of junior solicitors only succeed by amassing huge debts used to finance the myriad of academic and professional courses. To meet the criteria you must gain a training contract, these are usually applied for during the LPC, or at the academic stage whilst undergoing the LLB or GDL course. Gaining a training contract has always been highly competitive, though the current economic downturn means significantly fewer contracts are available. This makes qualifying, which has always been an arduous process almost impossible to achieve. In 2008 for example, many firms simply withdrew their training contracts, with dire professional consequences for those who had applied. More disturbing, is the prevalence of law firms currently offering candidates applying for training contracts, non-paid internships as an inducement, the first run on the ladder for consideration as a trainee. Read more of this post

The Left and Margaret Thatcher

Frederick Cowell

Image©Gingerblokey

Margaret Thatcher’s death has resulted in many a hagiography, some national reflection and an almighty attack of political amnesia. Her pursuit of an agenda of ideological radicalism which either, saved or savaged Britain (depending on your viewpoint) created an ‘ism’ but was not done in vacuum.

Margaret Thatcher had long nursed radical ideologies but contrary to the right wing narrative of ideological triumphalism in her ascendency to power, her first election victory in May 1979 was on a very pragmatic and cautious ideological platform. The Conservative manifesto was, as the historian Andy McSmith notes, only little more radical than their 1970 manifesto and Margaret Thatcher had agreed to follow the generous recommendations of the Clegg Commission on Public Sector pay which had been set up after the winter of discontent – hardly the stuff of union smashing Tory fantasies.  Ken Clarke reflected that the election focused on bread and butter issues such as prices, inflation and the state of the national finances – many of the same concerns had encouraged the electorate five years earlier to replace Edward Heath with Harold Wilson. Nigel Lawson remembered she was preoccupied with “not frightening the electorate” and in the late 1970s she went out of her way to distance herself in public from more radical policies on spending cuts and privatisation and in office was even prepared to give in to the miners, delaying pit closures. It was two years from her election until the first full monetarist budget in 1981 and many of the largest privatisations and assaults on the unions took place later. The ideological zealotary, which she had always had, emerged openly in 1981 as the infighting on the left meant that it was unlikely that there would be any meaningful opposition to the Thatcherite agenda.  Read more of this post

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,364 other followers