David Silvester, elected as a Conservative councillor for Henley-on-Thames (pop. 10,000) resigned from the Tories and joined UKIP in 2013 to protest David Cameron’s support of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act. A local paper published his letter about same-sex marriage causing the floods on Saturday 17th January 2014.
This week, for the very first time in its 34-year history, BBC Question Time is going to be televised outside the UK, in Johannesburg. [Correction: not only not the first time it's been televised outside the UK - it's been to Moscow, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, and others - BBCQT has been to Johannesburg before, in 2005. My bad.]
David Dimbleby is chairing as usual, though next year will be his 20th anniversary and it’s long past time he retired from the post. (I’ve said this before. I’ll say it again. Dimbleby is a very, very poor presenter.)
It’s special on two counts, one overshadowed by the other. Firstly, because the audience will all be 16 and 17 years old – the age range who will be able to vote for the first time on 18th September 2014. (Properly speaking it should have been an audience of kids with birthdays between September 1998 and September 1996, since anyone 17 today would have been able to vote in September 2014 anyway.) But, this means an audience of interested politically aware youngsters will be able to put questions to politicians directly concerned with the independence debate.
Tough one. The history of witch persecution is fraught with the very foundations of modern capitalist and patriarchal oppression, as anybody who’s read Silvia Federici knows. But there are so few songs you can sing joyfully about the death of somebody thoroughly deserving.
You want a proper argument in defence? Give me a minute. Continue reading →
Like, say, maybe some sort of choice between a big “tweak” and a very slightly smaller “tweak” that only kills 9/10 as many people as the larger “tweak” will. Or maybe creating a fight over raising the age of retirement even further, so that you’re fighting over 69 or 70. Are any of those proposals acceptable? No, of course not. But if they are suddenly on the table, we will see people allowing such a fight to become the fight, as if lowering the retirement age back down to where it used to be (or even lower) wasn’t even conceivable. It is conceivable, dammit, and for every nasty proposal, there should be a counter-proposal that goes farther in the other direction than politicians have been willing to talk about. They want to raise the retirement age? We want it lowered to 55. They want to change the calculation for the costs of living? We want to change it so that the amount is higher rather than lower. They want cuts? We want the cap eliminated. Don’t even argue about this crap – just go in the other direction. Continue reading →
Today, David Cameron and Alex Salmond meet to decide the terms of the independence referendum. Naturally, they wouldn’t be meeting to “decide” if all the actual decisions hadn’t been worked out already by Michael Moore and Nicola Sturgeon and others, with their civil servants.
The BBC’s “news” report on the meeting that will take place is a fair sample of the “it is expected” style of thing:
It is expected to allow for a vote in autumn 2014 with a single Yes/No question on Scotland leaving the UK.
The deal will also see 16- and 17-year-olds included in the ballot.
The UK government is expected to grant limited powers for the Scottish Parliament to hold a legal referendum, under a mechanism called Section 30.
The Electoral Commission will play a key role advising on the wording of the question and other issues such as campaign finance.
A possible second question on greater powers has been dropped, while the Scottish government looks to have secured its preferred date.
Four men, two women. All white. All wealthy. All but two went to private schools: all but two got a degree at Oxford.
On the left, more or less:
The Labour: Harriet Harman. Privately educated at St Paul’s Girls’ School and at the University of York back when tuition fees weren’t a consideration and maintenance grants were even enough to live on. Became a lawyer and then a Labour MP in 1982, and has been a Minister either in the Shadow Cabinet or in government since 1992. (And tried to exempt MP expenses from the Freedom of Information Act.)
The Comedian Steven Coogan. Born and brought up in Rochdale. The only person on the panel who neither went to a private school nor to Oxford University. Now reputed to have earned personal wealth of £5 million.
On the right, besides David Dimbleby:
The Conservative: Jacob Rees-Mogg. His wife Helena de Chair is the only living grandchild of Peter Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, Viscount Milton (1910 – 1948), only son of the 7th Earl Fitzwilliam: Helena’s mother inherited approximately £45m from her father on his death. Besides his wife’s wealth (they were married in 2007) Jacob Rees-Mogg is a hedge-fund manager and the son of Baron Rees-Mogg, former editor of The Times and life peer: the Baron Rees-Mogg was educated at Godalming and Balliol College, Oxford, the Hon. Jacob was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford. Were either of them members of the Bullingdon Club? They’re not listed as such anywhere. His sons of course could be: the de Chair money would put them into the qualifying category if they weren’t already there.
to reduce the environmental impacts of livestock production in the UK. It would also amend the way agricultural subsidies are used to make them more environmentally friendly. It includes a duty to give consideration to supporting sustainable practices and consumption through public procurement of livestock produce.
The Bill also aims to reduce rainforest deforestation by reducing the use of soya meal in animal feed in the UK. It would do this by placing a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure the sustainability of livestock, and to give consideration to issues such as public procurement and agricultural subsidy reform.
The LibDem: Danny Alexander. Educated at Scottish state schools in the Highlands, and at St Anne’s College, Oxford – back in the days before tuition fees: he may even remember when students still got grants. (I wonder if he’d honestly admit that £27,000 would have been an intimidating debt for him in 1990?) Talked a good deal on Question Time about how they were making rich people pay more taxes. Slightly forgot to mention that by telling the House of Commons his London flat was his second home, he got to claim the mortgage interest and furnishings and repairs on MP expenses: then when he sold the flat in June 2007 for £300,000, he didn’t pay capital gains tax because he told the Inland Revenue that flat was his main home. Enthusiastic about cutting more and more away from supporting the poorest and most vulnerable.
[Danny Alexander] bought a flat in London in 1999. After being elected an MP in 2005, he declared the property as his second home to the parliamentary authorities and claimed expenses. He claimed more than £37,000 in expenses for the flat – and carried out some work to the property at taxpayers’ expense shortly before selling it in June 2007 for £300,000.
He did not break any rules, but used a tax loophole that allows the continued designation of a property as the main home for three years even after the purchase of another house – in Alexander’s case in Scotland – which has become the principal residence. It did not stop him from telling Commons authorities that the London property was his second home, for which he claimed not only for the mortgage but also for minor capital improvements, the Telegraph reported.
Her parents lent her £30,000 to buy her first property in Battersea, but she lays claim to an upbringing devoid of too many frills. Both sets of grandparents managed to spend “quite considerable fortunes” before they died, so Allsopp’s parents “didn’t inherit anything and had to earn their living. They certainly didn’t have enough money to give any to us; although they helped all four of us buy flats. You put a roof over your child’s head if you can possibly afford to do so, but that is where it all stops.”
The first Baron Hindlip was a 1886 creation for Sir Henry Allsopp, head of the brewing firm of Samuel Allsopp & Sons in Staffordshire, and Tory MP. Sir Henry’s son (portrait of his wife) also became a Tory MP: his grandson was a Unionist Whip in the House of Lords: and his great-grandson, Kirstie Allsopp’s grandfather, the fifth Baron, was a Deputy Lieutenant of Wiltshire. Kirstie Allsopp is very much part of the web of privilege.
[Update: Commenter Stubben says "@Gareth Snell, that is a picture of Hindlip Hall which has been West Mercia Police HQ since 1967, 4 years before Kirstie Allsopp was born." Swift check through Google Images says Stubben is right about this at least.]
So that’s the BBC’s idea of “balance”. Two more or less on the left – one wealthy man, one powerful woman. Three on the right: two inheritors of privilege, one grabber of privilege.
No trade union representatives: no one with even close to an average income: the only person with a working-class background was Steve Coogan, who hasn’t had to worry about the price of a pint of milk in years.
When are we going to see Mark Serwotka back on Question Time? Why not have a trade union representative every time? What do you reckon the chances are of Kelvin MacKenzie being invited back before any trade union leader?
The lineup on BBC Question Time tonight was Digby Jones, Alan Duncan, Emma Boon, Phil Redmond, Sadiq Khan.
Digby Jones was revealed in 2010 as “the most expensive member of the House of Lords in the West Midlands”
An analysis of his expenses claims shows that Lord Jones of Birmingham charged taxpayers £574.12 in allowances – for every day he attended Parliament. … The latest expenses figures show that Lord Jones claimed £24,687 for the period between April 2008 and March 2009, and attended the House of Lords 43 times, costing taxpayers £574.12 per appearance. (Birmingham Post, 18th February 2010)
“Digby, Lord Jones of Birmingham” was being paid a Ministerial salary of £108,253 per year between June 2007 and October 2008.
Jones read Law at University College London in the 1970s, paid for by the British taxpayer, and worked for twenty years at Edge Ellison, according to the biography on his website more in a business capacity than as a lawyer. For six years he was Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) between 1st January 2000 and 30th June 2006 and was knighted in 2005. His knighthood has not yet been withdrawn. CBI describes itself as the UK’s “premier business lobbying organisation” – fixing politicians for industry from its offices in Beijing, Brussels, New Delhi and Washington DC.
There’s also iSoft….
For six years Jones was a non-executive director and then advisor for the NHS IT contractor iSoft (between 2000 and 2006). A memorandum (by Ian Griffiths and Simon Bowers, The Guardian) submitted to the Commons Select Committee on Public Accounts in April 2007 with regard to some major irregularities in iSoft’s annual audit, notes that although Digby Jones, when a non-executive director at iSoft, had attended the audit committee and had instructed iSoft’s lawyers to inform the Guardian in the course of their investigation that
“He [Sir Digby Jones] is satisfied that there was no confusion over the matter internally, but there was an error in preparation of the draft minutes”
In May 2011, the SNP won a majority in the Scottish Parliament – a victory that was unprecedented for both party and Parliament.
Douglas Alexander, Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, believes (Independent, 22nd January) this victory came about partly because of a renewed Scottish nationalism but primarily because:
In contrast, Scottish Labour failed to recognise the changed environment that, ironically, it had help to create. [Pretty sure Doug means "had helped" not "had help", though it certainly did have help from SNP, Scottish LibDem, Scottish Greens, and the Scottish Socialist Party] The party was left singing the old hymns and warning of the risks of Thatcherism at a time when these songs were increasingly unfamiliar to a new audience with no personal knowledge of the tunes. In truth, Scottish Labour never felt it needed to be New Labour because arguably that process of modernisation was not needed to defeat the Tories in Scotland, but this complacency, in time, left us vulnerable to attack from a different direction from more nimble opponents.
There are much simpler answers why the Scots tended to vote SNP this time. Part of it may have been due to fed-upness with Labour (which I’ll deal with later), partly it may have been the Westminster brigade arriving in Scotland in April 2011 on a rescue mission, but mostly, I think, it was just that the Liberal Democrats had put a Tory UK government in. Voting for the LibDems was seen as voting Tory, and Scots don’t vote Tory. (Well, not many, and those that do, vote for the real Tory party.) Continue reading →
David Dimbleby has chaired Question Time since 1994. From the age of 7 until he graduated from Oxford in the early 1960s, he spent his young life in an all-male world of privilege: he went to the Glengorse School in Sussex and to Charterhouse School in Surrey: he went to Christ Church, Oxford, where he was President of the Christ Church JCR, editor of the student magazine, Isis – and a member of the Bullingdon Club, the exclusive society for getting very drunk and riotous for the very wealthy or very aristocratic. From Dimbleby’s background – his great-grandfather Frederick William Dimbleby was one of the Late Victorian press barons – he seems to have got in by the “very wealthy” clause. Whatever he smashed in his student rampages, one may suppose his family paid for it. He acts like a member of the Bullingdon Club. It’s a good thing he’s sober.
On Thursday 12th January 2012, the first Question Time of the year was in London, and kicked off with a question about high-speed rail and then moved into Scottish independence – as with Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister, on the panel, the BBC had evidently guessed it would.
In response to a question from a woman in the audience: “Who would be worse off if the marriage breaks up, England or Scotland?” David Dimbleby gave Kelvin MacKenzie the first response – and let him run except when MacKenzie claimed something so wrong (he said Scottish Labour MPs gave Labour UK governments their majority: Dimbleby politely corrected him). Dimbleby let Kelvin MacKenzie run til he was done: including two brief conversations between Dimbleby and Mackenzie, he allowed the former editor of the The Sun two minutes and 49 seconds to speak and to finish what he was saying.