Chomsky:1215 and all that…

Copyright Synne Tonidas

John Curran 

Professor Noam Chomsky the world`s leading public intellectual viewed by some as a wild-eyed radical is actually an old fashioned conservative. He is committed to the traditional values of Magna Carta, a document that shaped the Anglo-American legal system, ultimately establishing a presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. With this thought in mind, it is worth considering how traditional conservative ideas are today viewed as radical in both the USA and UK. As we know the Conservative Party in opposition went through a re-branding process as Cameron appeared to move his party leftward and in doing so rediscovered the Conservatives civil liberties antecedents. When the coalition government was formed, one significant judicial appointment was that of Dominic Grieve MP who, as Shadow Justice Spokesperson, was viewed as a politician with strong civil libertarian credentials he became Attorney General and the Coalition`s chief legal adviser. In a lecture given in 2008 Mr Grieve outlined what he saw as the essence of what it means to be British, extolling the virtues of freedom waxing lyrically about Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution of 1688. But he was concerned that New Labour was dismissive of this heritage, as evidenced by restrictions of jury trail and permitting unacceptable periods of detention without trial. Grieve felt that the pendulum had swung too far and that the climate created by New Labour was one of tyranny. Labour he argued breached the ideals of the Bill of Rights and undermined the notion of Habeas Corpus. Grieve together with the Shadow Justice Minister, produced a policy document called `Reversing the rise of the surveillance state 2009`. Outlining concerns about a perceived reduction in citizen`s civil liberties in an eleven-point programme. Grieve now resides in a government that has generated concerns about civil liberties and Cameron has recently demonstrated the Tories have forgotten what Magna Carta means.     Read more of this post

You Can`t Say That (Memoirs) by Ken Livingstone

Book review 

Livingstone Ken

copyright Amplified2010

This is a highly readable account of Livingstone`s life beginning with his early years in post-war Britain, a world resembling Mike Leigh`s depiction in `Vera Drake’. London is an incredibly boring place lacking cultural diversity home life dominated by the Daily Express. His Conservative voting parents were socially enlightened although Victorian values permeated Livingstone`s upbringing, to escape he read Orwell, political awakening coming from Horowitz in 1967 `From Yalta to Vietnam`. Harold Wilson`s position on Rhodesia transformed Livingstone`s initially high opinion of the Labour leader and Livingstone delayed joining the party repelled by Callaghan`s treatment of Kenyan Asians.

Racism was a strong generational factor his uncle a member of Mosley`s Black-shirts who refused to watch television featuring black or Irish personalities. Livingstone outlines the racist Conservative campaign during the Smethwick election in 1964 setting the tone for UK politics. The Labour Party mimicked this agenda illustrated by comments made by Mellish and Richard Crossman, notable non-racist exceptions such as  John Fraser MP encouraged black political participation which attracted Livingstone to the Labour Party. Livingstone also worked at Chester Beatty with brilliant “research doctor” Tom Connors and drew closer to Ghanaian colleagues because of Ian Smith`s “racist government in Rhodesia”. Read more of this post

London Calling: From Peoples March 1981 to Workfare labour 2012

John Curran

Image © John Keogh

In the spring of 1981 the UK was in the early stages of a monetarist revolution linked to the economic philosophy of Milton Friedman. Keith Joseph the principal advocate of the `Chicago School’ was forced to abandon his ambition of leading the British Conservative Party after delivering a speech about cycles of depravation where the perceived feckless behaviour of the poor was held to be the key to understanding poverty. The leadership baton was handed to his feisty acolyte and former Conservative Education Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who gained fame in the 1970s, “as Maggie Thatcher Milk Snatcher”.

Mrs Thatcher became Prime Minister in May 1979. Her first words those of Saint Francis of Assisi, uttered as she entered Downing Street, sounded increasingly hollow as the inner cities went up in flames and a war ensued over the Falkland Islands invasion.  Her doctrine at home was the `Resolute Approach` and abroad she earned the new nickname of `Iron Lady.’

Mrs Thatcher faced early opposition from many quarters. She confronted her first enemy within, not the political left but elements of her own cabinet a faction of `One Nation Tories’ contemptuously described as `wets.’ These liberal Tories viewed her agenda as anathema, adhering as they did to an economic orthodoxy forged in the post war consensus. However, the Conservative victory in 1979 was viewed as a mandate to overturn the Keynesian settlement to restructure the UK economy and in doing so laying waste the industrial heartlands of Britain.

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