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

The corporate campaign to produce a stupid nation

Nora Connolly

Image © Andrew Rusk

In 1925 the state of Tennessee passed an Act forbidding the teaching of evolutionary theory, the law was tested when John Scopes from Dayton was put on trial. Clarence Darrow defended Scopes against a prosecution team led by William Jennings Bryan. The trial put religion and first amendment rights under the legal microscope but there was also an economic subtext to this cause celebre, Bryan was after all, the man who made the remarkable Cross of Gold speech in 1896. Regarding the Scopes trial, Bryan got it wrong, though his position was not without merit. Darwinism had been misappropriated and incorrectly applied at the turn of the twentieth century and used to undermine the position of US workers. Social conservatives at the time justified economic inequality on the grounds that it was a natural consequence of the `survival of the fittest`. This clashed with Bryan`s democratic outlook, while wrong he challenged science for the noblest of humanitarian/economic reasons, he remembered the poor and the downtrodden whose grievances he powerfully articulated in 1896. Read more of this post

Confronting the Government on Inequalities –pre-conference memorandum to the opposition

Subject:      Labour Party Conference – put equalities back on the agenda

To:               Kate Green MP, shadow minister for women and equalities

Cc:              Stephen Twigg MP, shadow secretary of state for education

Date:          17 September 2013

From:          Thousands of concerned citizens

 

EXTREMELY URGENT

1)   Thank you, Kate, for your fiercely forthright response on 12 September to the government’s review of the public sector equality duty (PSED) ‘This,’ you said, ‘was an unnecessary and wasteful exercise in PR by a government which is turning the clock back on equalities.’

2)   Referring to the committee that produced the report on the PSED you noted it ‘seems to have endorsed a “do as little as possible” approach to promoting equality, at a time when disabled people, women, black and ethnic minority groups are being hit especially hard by this government. At a time when many people are worried about paying their next bill, the government should be concentrating on tackling the inequalities and discrimination that continue to hold people back rather than seeking to water down existing equalities laws.’ What, Kate, are you going to do to follow this up? Read more of this post

Dreams and Recurring Nightmares – 50 years after Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ Speech

Professor Gus John

 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

These famous words, the second sentence of the American Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776, were the cornerstone of Dr Martin Luther King’s speech on 28 August 1963. That speech is rarely remembered in its entirety and consequently over time the last part which is most frequently quoted has come to represent a rallying cry for black and white integration rather than a ‘call to arms’ in the struggle for equal rights and justice.

Why is that important and what is its relevance for Britain? 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

Scottish Independence plenty of questions but few answers…

Image © The Laird of Oldham

James Withnail-Woolf

The progressive case for and against Scottish Independence was made on May 13 by Gordon Brown and Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Both speeches encapsulate the divisions on the left over the future of the Union.

According to Gordon Brown the British Isles are stronger when resources are combined; economic strength allows equitable distribution and social justice for all. Brown has explored these issues recently which explains why his ad lib lines are well rehearsed. He paid deference to the Scottish Parliament, and then placed his case against independence firmly within Labours hinterland. Although, Tony Blair could not have made such a speech, one doubts if he is aware of John Wheatley or James Maxton. Brown has been acknowledging the heroes of the Scottish left since the 1970s when he edited the Red Paper on Scotland. Read more of this post

Land and Freedom (1995) Dir. Ken Loach

Image © NordNordWest

Red Lester

This film looks at the Spanish Civil War through the eyes of David Carr, an unemployed man from Liverpool. A member of the Communist Party, he is inspired to join the fight against Franco’s attempt to overthrow the elected government of Spain. The story follows his initial involvement with POUM, the Spanish Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification, his decision to join the Communist Party approved International Brigade, his political disillusionment with them and his return to his comrades in the POUM unit, only to witness their enforced disbandment.

We see the war through David’s eyes and Loach’s sympathies are clearly with POUM and the anarchists. Reviews have been written which disagree strongly with the images of POUM and the Communist Party portrayed; others agree and unsurprisingly these opinions divide politically between ex members of the International Brigade and ex members of POUM. Other reviews point out the film’s resemblance to George Orwell’s book ‘Homage to Catalonia’, although the main character, rather than an Old Etonian, is an unemployed docker.  Read more of this post

EQUALITY AND THE DRAFT HISTORY CURRICULUM

Katherine Edwards 

Image© John Addison, Print, Government Office, East India Co St Helena

At the recent memorial service to mark the twentieth anniversary of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Prime Minister spoke of Stephen’s death as having brought ‘monumental change’ to British society.  Those of us concerned about the implications for equality and multiculturalism in the proposed new history curriculum found the irony of this comment hard to take.

One of the recommendations of the 1999 Macpherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence case was a ‘National Curriculum aimed at valuing cultural diversity and preventing racism, in order better to reflect the needs of a diverse society’. Yet although there are good grounds for thinking that this aim has been taken seriously in the education system up to now, we need to be clear about what a stark reversal the new draft national curriculum for history represents.  If it comes into force, it is very likely to set the recommendations of the Macpherson Report back by at least a generation.  Read more of this post

Pointing The Finger – by Julian Petley and Robin Richardson

LeftCentral Book Review 

Image©Nevit Dilmen

 

…It takes the form of an attack on multiculturalism for which Muslims are held responsible and which is a coded word for them. It cuts across political and ideological divides, and is shared alike, albeit in different degrees by conservatives, fascists, liberals, socialists and communists` (Bhikhu Parekh quoted in Pointing The Finger…)

In April 1964 Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) left Detroit for Mecca, in the midst of an acrimonious split with the `Nation Of Islam`. Malcolm at this time was the USA`s foremost bogey-man, the unacceptable face of the civil rights movement. His position caricatured in the 1950s as `the hate that hate produced` – a view fitting the `orientalism` framework described by Edward Said. Whatever the merits of this documentary about the NOI, it does appear clear that Malcolm`s visit to Mecca changed him, his pilgrimage making him aware of the ethnic diversity of Islam. Recording in his diary, `it seems every nation and form of culture on earth is represented here…`. This revelation, as Manning Marble outlines encouraged Malcolm to alter his view on race. Malcolm reflecting at the time that, ‘I began to perceive that `white man`, as commonly used, means complexion only secondarily, primarily it describes attributes and actions`. Thus a metamorphosis resulted from advances in Malcolm`s `religious literacy` combined with his genius `critical literacy` (concepts outlined and explained in Pointing The Finger). Read more of this post

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