Friday, 23 October 2009

Bring it on

In the end, it became an embarrassment.
After having the nation(s) worked up in a frenzy about the presence of Nick Griffin MEP, leader of the British National Party, in Question Time, it turns out that he is a political lightweight, a lame-duck panellist unwilling or unable to convey his views with any sincerity or even conviction. It was revealing in more than one way.

First, the decision to invite him to the program by the BBC.

It is understandable that many people were oppose to his appearance. It gives the BNP a platform to peddle their message of hatred and ignorant racism. However, whether we like it or not, the BNP has a number of councillors in England, and achieved 6% of the UK vote at the last European elections, resulting in two BNP MEPs being elected.
On that basis, the BBC did the right thing.

The lesson perhaps for militant anti-fascist campaigners is that we should not be afraid of giving people like the BNP a platform. Mr Griffin got challenged last night in a way he has not been challenged so far in his other BBC appearances on his own. By trying to prevent the BNP being invited to the BBC, the Left (whatever this means nowadays) gives ammunition to the sense of grievance and persecution that feeds the BNP at local, grassroots level.

Last night’s performance by Griffin was an embarrassment to his party and to himself.
There is nothing to be afraid of. Cambridge degrees are over-rated. Now, when are the Greens getting invited to Question Time?

What the anti-fascist movement and in general the Left, far-left or whatever we want to call it has to do is to challenge the BNP in local communities –and get elected representatives. It speaks volumes of the inability of the socialist/communists parties that the BNP can achieve 20% of the vote in some local communities, and even 6% at UK level, but the Left parties have no representation whatsoever, not even after a banking-induced crisis. And in Scotland, where the SSP managed to get 6 MSPs out of 135, they immolated themselves in typical Left fashion and now they have 1.

The performance
Nick Griffin lost his composure very quickly. He was unable to answer any question with any conviction or sincerity. When he was offered total judicial immunity by Jack Straw, Home Secretary, to explain his views on the Holocaust, he bottled it.

When it came to forced repatriation, something that is a key message of the BNP, he bottled it again.

Even when asked about what does he mean by “indigenous peoples”, he also crumbled, unable to muster any kind of coherent response. Well, I have no such qualms and I dare say that the “indigenous” peoples he means are white folk of British or Irish stock. Well, at least some progress is being made: now the Irish are in.

Throughout the programme, it appeared to me that he was just trying to explain what his party really stands for, and thus he failed to answer most questions. If I was a BNP supporter, I would be furious that such a precious opportunity has been wasted.

The others
Particularly, when the panel was nothing to write home about.
Bonnie Greer, admittedly someone I find slightly annoying, could not be bothered. She was like a car in second gear. I understand that for someone of mixed race sitting next to Mr Griffin must be quite repulsive but this should not be an excuse for ambivalence. That she managed to unnerve Mr Griffin saying so little and in such an half-arsed manner reveals how weak and feeble the BNP really is.

Jack Straw was in professional politico mode -a total turn-off. Failed to answer the question on immigration he was asked and failed to recognise that immigration is a problem for some communities, and that the Labour government has let these communities down by first failing to control immigration, failing to invest in these deprived areas, and failing to put a stop to the myths progagated by the BNP about immigrants’ benefits, rights and so on.

Baroness Varsi (I never thought I would see an Asian Tory peer, the world is changing really fast...) was also in professional politician mode. Her quote of “rights and responsibilities” made me cringe. Typical “compassionate Conservative” tone and discourse. How she can live amongst the Tories is beyond me.

Chris Humne for the Lib Dems was perhaps the most convincing (or least unconvincing) of the other panellist. He would have made a fine LibDem leader and I am not sure why he was not elected to the post.

The aftermath
In the aftermath of the debate, BNP supporters have come out in force and denounced the “lynching” or “witch hunt” to which Mr Griffin was a victim of.

And for what? For being given a rough time. For being challenged. Well, Blair was given a rough time too when he was called a war criminal and he put up with it and did not cry like a big blouse.
It just shows how feeble is the BNP threat that the scrutiny of a mediocre panel and amateurish audience is enough to send them home crying “foul”. It is a bit rich coming from the BNP to use words like mob or lynching –they irony seems to have been lost on them however.

Now he is demanding a repeat of the programme, and also a one-on-one debates with Jack Straw and also with Cameron. No less.

The problem is that Mr Griffin has already had a chance at the big time –and blew it. It did not make good television, and it did not show him up in a good light. Why asking for more punishment?

Because this is how the BNP thrives. By playing victim to a "far-left BBC conspiracy" (has he not read Mrs Flanders?) it is easier to go door-to-door in the deprived, working class neighbourhoods in England and point out how the establishment are protecting immigrants against the white English. The BNP will keep getting councillors elected, and probably will get another MEP next time. But that should not worry us too much. Are we naïve enough to think only 10% of the electorate in this country are racist?

BBC Links:

BBC News – Key extracts

BBC News – Mr Griffin complaints about a “lynch mob”

BBC News – voters’ reaction in Dagenham, London

BBC News – media reaction summary

BBC News - The BNP and the white working class

Best of the rest:

The Herald – 8m tune in,

The Times – writers’ review summary

The Independent – Outrage and not debate confronted Griffin, choked on publicity

The Daily Telegraph – his wife is right, the Italian models in the BNP’s leaflet

The Guardian – sympathy for the underdog, frontpage slideshow, facts,

Wikileaks closed down?

I am trying to access WikiLeaks but it is not working.

Anyone out there is able to connect to or

Yesterday, The Guardian had an editorial in praise of it…. could this be the death-knell for Wikileaks?

If I do a PING, it comes up with this result:

Update: 1900h: well, I don't know what happen but was down for about 2-4 hours between 2-5pm at least. It is now up and running. I am going to check up if I have any neighbours, currently or in the immediate future, in the BNP.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The uselessness of foreign correspondents

Apart from Robert Fisk, that is.

Today it was the final straw: foreign journalists covering Spain are quite a useless lot. Do they spend their time teaching Spanish part-time to make ends meet?

I understand that news are provided for a British readership but to accept that argument after the news coverage today is to accept that readers of British broadsheets are as braindead as tabloid readers.

Of all the things that have happened in Spain in recent weeks, the only one that got significant coverage in the UK press was the decision by the Catalan parliament to abolish “happy hour” and “irresponsible” drink promotions.

The Independent

The Guardian

The Telegraph

BBC News

Note: I will await until The Times’ journo catches up.

What about?

+ The corruption cases involving the PP in Mallorca and Valencia.

+ The independence referendums in Catalonia

+ The arrests of Basque politicians whose only crime was to meet up.

+ The banking crisis

But no, our collection of rent-a-word ex-pats decide to write back to their editors about some minor legislation about drinking. Dumbing down indeed.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Fascist inmpunity

One again, another Fascist aggression in Valencia by Spanish nationalists.

As ever, the Spanish Fascist gangs operate with total impunity in Valencia.

The Spanish authorities look the other way -as do many bloggers and Spain-based foreign journos.

I guess it is ok for some to beat the shit out of a Catalan activist in the name of Spain.

Racó Català [cat]

Friday, 9 October 2009

The lost decade

Sometimes I wonder why I blog when I enjoy more reading other people's bright and illuminating writing. Perhaps I should just post links to articles and blogs, like a policeman managing traffic at a busy intersection.

Over the last few months, Iain Macwhirter has written brilliant stuff for the Sunday Herald, particularly about the underlying causes of the financial crisis and the inability of the political class to confront the powerful financial services lobby, in particular the banks. He even seems to have stopped his partisan attacks against the SNP. Who knows, maybe one day Iain and other Herald journalists will see sense in Scotland becoming a normal state within the EU as opposed to remaining as an appendix of England…

This article about the imminent demise of the Labour party in the UK is poignant, coming from someone that used to be a party member while at University.

Sunday Herald

A few days ago, my father-in-law made the mistake of mentioning politics during our weekend visit for tea and biscuits. I went onto a rant about the lost decade and why Labour only has itself to blame for their forthcoming electoral disaster. I don’t think he will make such a blunder again and will stick to football and the weather from now on.

For the vast majority of working class Scots like my in-laws, a Tory government is synonymous with public service cuts, mass unemployment and the hated Poll Tax (in Scotland first). The Conservatives is “their” party. The party of the rich and wealthy. The party that will screw the working class living in (former) council houses. Labour is still, believe or not, the people’s party for the vast majority of working class Scots.

However, after 12 years of Labour rule –or was it New Labour- we can now assess what has been achieved. And, sadly for traditional Labour supporters, we know that things have not got much better.

If anything, things have got worse, and the current crisis will only exacerbate it.

Income inequality is now wider than 1997. People in higher incomes have done very well of Labour’s spell in power.

ONS [pdf, 800Kb]

IFS [ppt]

The working class have remained working for stagnant wages that prevented them from buying assets. These assets became more expensive as middle and higher earners accumulated financial assets and property, keeping them out of reach of lower income households.

Wealth distribution is now more unequal than it was in 1997.

Higher earners have accumulated a higher ownership of assets than ever before, namely property and financial assets thanks to the very generous tax breaks offered to them. Lower and lower-middle earners have not been able to buy assets, as prices keep escalating out of their reach. Thus the poor have stayed poor whilst the rich have become even more richer. The gap is now wider than it was in 1997. (Gini coefficient, ONS, wiki)



Social mobility is now more restricted than it was in 1997.

Access to tertiary education is now more expensive and difficult for families in lower incomes after the increase in tuition fees and the abolition of grants. Oxbridge and first tier Universities remain the preserve of privately educated, middle-class or wealthy families and any changes in access remain statistically non-significant.

Access to good state schools is now dependant on ability to buy property within schools catchment’s area, which is out of reach to any families in average incomes.

So Labour, the party that looks after everybody, the party that is on the side of the have-nots, and in favour of wealth redistribution has been a catastrophe for the very people it ought to have looked after.

It has been very good however to those in higher incomes who have been able to accumulate property (tax relief of interest), financial assets (tax gross up and relief on pension contributions at marginal rate, etc.)

And this is without mentioning the lies over the Iraq war, semi-privatisation of NHS, Post Office closures, etc, etc.

I am not advocating a vote for the Conservatives but anyone on average incomes who believes that Labour is going to be good for them needs to have a reality check. Sorry.

That's alright then...

Wow, big news today.

The director general of the Guardia Civil and Policia Nacional (the head of the Spanish police service) has agreed today that he will ensure that the linguistic rights of Catalan-speakers are respected by his subordinates so that Catalan people are not threatened and beaten up by Spanish police for speaking in Catalan.

Avui [cat]

This is happening in 2009 in Spain.

Something for Amnesty International to investigate?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Catalanophobia by the Partido Popular

I have written before about how the PP is a legacy party of yesteryear: founded by a Franco minister, and carrying on the banner of Spanish nationalism -unashamed.

What happenedthis week however, takes the biscuit for stupidity and bigoted prejudice.

October 9th is the day where Valencians celebrate the entrance of Jaume I [wiki] in the city of Valencia to expel the Moors. Jaume I repopulated Valencia with settlers from the counties from Lleida and the rest is history as they say, and that’s why Catalan is spoken in Valencia (or it used to be), where it is known as Valencian.

However, the political party currently in power in the Generalitat Valenciana is the Partido Popular. This, as I have written before, is a party with the ideological legacy of Franco’s Movimiento. Their ideology can be summarised by the dogmatic approach to Spanish unity and territorial integrity. So much so that calls to the Spanish Army to intervene to prevent a secession (by democratic means) of the Basque Country or Catalonia are heard with alarming regularity.

There has been so many demographic and political changes in Valencia that it has become a PP stronghold, with dire consequences for the future of Valencian language and culture.

On 9th October, the choir of the Generalitat Valenciana was scheduled to play the opera Roger de Flor [wiki] from Rupert Chapí, [wiki] a Valencian composer.

Except that the powers that be had decided to change the lyrics to take the word Catalan out and replace it with Valencian or Aragonese. Stanilist censhorship by the Spanish nationalist right. If this had happened elsewhere in Europe against any other cultural group, it would be front page news.

The play has now been suspended to avoid further embarrassment.

This is the nature of the main opposition party in Spain.

Once, again the legacy of fascism alive and well in the hands of the Partido Popular.

Links: Avui [cat], Vilaweb [cat], Racó Catala [cat], Público [cas]