Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Not again

Whoever is running the show over at Harry's Place really does need to get their act together. There's been a lot of this recently:

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No. I don't have a clue what it all means. Bring back Harry!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cripes! London is buggered!

The left of centre think tank Compass once described Boris Johnson as being something akin to Norman Tebbit in a clown suit. After reading the floppy haired one's interview with Johann Hari regarding gay issues in relation to next month's London Mayoral election I am becoming much more convinced of that assertion. On the most basic of questions the Tory candidate for the city's top job appeared to either not give a direct answer to the question being asked or else did not seem to have a policy at all on the issue at stake.

Ever since I heard that Johnson was to be the Conservative Party candidate in the London Mayoral contest I have considered it a cynical attempt by desperate Tories to oust an unpopular Mayor from an unpopular party out of his job by using their secret weapon - a man who has made a few amusing appearances on Have I Got News For You. The current MP for Henley may not be a shrewd political operator but he is popular with public and is recognisable to most people, which is probably more than can be said for Steven Norris.

The one thing that struck me about Hari's interview was the sense you can pick up from Johnson that he doesn't really believe in 'gay issues'. When asked why gay people should vote for him, Boris replied blandly "for the same reason that I hope that, all members of all communities should vote for me." He was then asked if there was anything under his remit that specifically concerned gays. Once again Boris explained that he simply wanted a London where "everybody feels happy and at home." After a bumbling and utterly pointless anecdote about bumping into a couple who had just come from a civil partnership ceremony, Boris then commented on the position he took in relation to that hot potato of yesteryear, Section 28:

JH: Many gay people would feel anxious that you supported Section 28, and just a few years ago accused the government of having "an appalling agenda of encouraging the teaching of homosexuality in schools." Did you really think it was possible to teach children to be gay?

BJ: No, no, no, no, no - what's that? The only point I was making there was that I thought that this was being introduced in a sort of… my point was about political Balkanising. It was being done to provoke people, rather than any real desire to. As I recall the issue was to do with compulsion. Wasn't the question (about) whether or not schools should be compelled to have (these lessons)? I thought the issue was 'are you compelling teachers in schools to take a particular line', and I'm not in favour of that.

JH: No, that's not what Section 28 was. It wasn't about compelling people to teach about anything – it was the opposite. Section 28 in practice was a ban on ever teaching about homosexuality.

BJ: I don't think that's true. I'm not against… Well, let me tell you my version. If schools want to teach homosexuality, I think they should, I think that's fine. What I'm against is any kind of compulsions on teachers to do this that or the other, and that is what, from memory, I didn't like about the repeal. There's far too much proscription already of what teachers have to say and do.

You would think after all these years someone would have sat the poor old chap down and explained what Section 28 was actually about. Then again, when a man has what Boris called "my version" of the legislation I suppose there isn't really any point. Some more embarrassingly clumsy ranting came afterwards with an awkward apology for an earlier reference to religious gay people as "pulpit poofs" followed by an attempt to clear up his position on whether or not he supported gay marriage. He failed. In the end one was left with the impression that even he doesn't know what to think of gay marriage. And Johnson's response to the fact that gay teenagers are six times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual teenagers? "I'm very worried about the incidence of suicide among young men anyway. Among the Turkish community there are depressingly high suicide rates at the moment."

I am not a fan of Ken Livingstone and I find it extremely sad that the residents of such a great city have such a pathetic choice in this forthcoming election. However, while Ken may have made some mistakes over the past eight years it would be nothing in comparison to the sheer bloody shambolic incompetence that awaits Londoners should they make this man Mayor.

Quality of the candidates aside, this remains an absolutely crucial poll that will have a national impact. If the Tories win in London their tails will be up and the party grassroots will be overflowing with confidence in the run up to the next General Election. However, if they lose it will not bode well at all. After three years in charge of the party what will David Cameron have delivered? A win for Livingstone would mean that not even with the Labour Party in their most vulnerable and unpopular state for two decades could Cameron's new look Conservatives land a knock out blow. Unfortunately, while the contest remains tight it seems that if opinion polls are anything to go by then people in the city may just be on the verge of opting for the greater of two evils. Here's hoping that on this occasion the pollsters have done a New Hampshire.

JH: In the eighties, Ken said he thinks we’re all bisexual. Do you agree?

BJ: I'm a polymorphous pervert. That's what Freud would say, I don't know about Mayor Livingstone.

JH: A lot of people have an image of Eton as a hotbed of sodomy. Is that what it’s like?

BJ: To a degree I find personally insulting, it really wasn't like that for me. It didn't really work out that way.

JH: That's a good New Tory way to end - with a regret that you weren’t sodomised at school.

(Boris laughs)

Boris may be laughing a whole lot more in a couple of weeks. If I were a Londoner laughing would be the last thing on my mind at the minute.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Let’s talk about sects

According to the Communist Party of Ireland’s website “messages of support for the democratic struggle in Ireland are coming in from progressive organisations throughout Europe.” Good for them. In case you don’t know this “democratic struggle” refers to the No campaign for the forthcoming referendum in the south on the Lisbon Treaty. Anyhow, I thought I would take a look to see whereabouts these messages of support where coming from and I must admit to not exactly being overwhelmed by them. You see, there is but one message of support. Yes, one. A lone declaration of solidarity from the all-powerful Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain. Who? If you considered yourself something of an expert in the field of Spanish politics but hadn’t heard of the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain don’t worry. Most Spanish people probably haven’t heard of them either.

The PCPE was formed in the early years of the post-Franco era by the coming together of a number of tiny Marxist-Leninist sects opposed to Santiago Carillo’s Eurocommunist line. In their solidarity message (which is in all likelihood an email drummed up by a PCPE member before he went to bed a few nights ago) the Spanish tankies say that the Reform Treaty represents the “Europe of capital and war” and that only a “popular front” of progressive forces can halt this neoliberal project blah, blah, blah, blah. You get the jist.

I’m personally bamboozled as to why the CP would open up a section of their homepage to show off all their fancy friendship messages despite having only one to show (and that was one from a meaningless far left splinter group in Spain). I’m also bamboozled by how anyone in the Irish CP even knows how to use the internet given that all none of them seem to be under the age of 60. My advice next time would be wait until you have a few more solidarity greetings built up before you decide to make claims of support coming in from “throughout Europe.” Maybe you should also make sure that the support comes from someone relevant. Like, for instance, the Albanian Communist Workers Party of the Proletariat (Marxist-Leninist). Or even that group that split from them last week.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

But why, Sean?

I cannot for the life of me work out what the Alliance for Workers Liberty have been smoking. The AWL, possibly Britain’s best Marxist organisation, has called for a vote for the Left List (an SWP front) in this May’s London elections. According to the most recent issue of Solidarity:
Also in the spirit of pressing for maximum left unity, collaboration, and dialogue, AWL is backing the SWP/Respect “Left List” in the London mayor and Greater London Assembly elections, despite the fact that the Left List’s platform is not really socialist.”
If it is not really socialist then why back it? Surely, for all its fault, the Labour Party remains the party of the working class? Maybe someone needs to have a word with Comrade Matgamna. I have no doubt that the Left List will go the same way as its predecessors in the London Socialist Alliance, the Socialist Alliance and RESPECT. The AWL have for many years now kept alive the secular democratic current in the revolutionary socialist movement. By giving their vocal support to what is largely an apolitical community group they are taking a massive step backwards.

Vote Labour.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Holocaust denial from the shelves of War on Want

Here's something you don't see every day: a David Irving book on sale. I can quite honestly say that prior to 3.03pm today (yes, I checked my watch) I had never set eyes on a copy of a David Irving book in any public shop or bookstore. That, however, is no longer the case. This afternoon, as I walked down Botanic Avenue on my way into Belfast city centre, I took a glance through the window of the War on Want bookshop and there in front of me was a pristine edition of The Trail of the Fox: Life of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Had this taken place 24 hours earlier I would have thought it an April Fool joke, but it was very much April 2nd.

While you read this it is important that you bear in mind that this book was not gathering dust while tucked away in a corner of the shop where nobody could see it. Not at all. The shop workers had actually made a conscious decision to take Mr Irving's book and place it slap bang in the window with half a dozen other books. War on Want it seems consider The Trail of the Fox to be one of their standout tomes.

Those of you that know War on Want will know that the organisation is not exactly the type you would expect to be peddling the works of a man nostalgic for the Third Reich. The charity was founded in the fifties by the Jewish leftist Victor Gollancz. Among his many accomplishments, Gollancz set up the Left Book Club and helped get George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier put into print. Today, the organisation that he formed campaigns on everything from fair trade tea to the rights of Palestinians. So, all in all an organisation with some decent left of centre credentials (for now we'll gloss over the fact that a certain George Galloway was general secretary of WoW in the 1980s, a period when the Charity Commission discovered some mysterious goings on in the organisation's accounts). Basically, War on Want is the sort of group you would expect to have members shouting slogans outside a meeting featuring David Irving, not doing their best to push copies of his texts on the high street. Or perhaps someone down at my local WoW has been reading yourfriendinthenorth.

A few weeks back I had a protracted moan here about how the Irish left went to the bother of mobilising overnight when it heard that an insignificant crackpot that has spent his entire life attempting to pass himself off as a serious historian was going to make an appearance at a debate organised by University College Cork's equally insignificant Philosophical Society. I said then that David Irving should be given his time on the platform. I am also of the opinion that Irving should not have his books excluded or removed from bookstores simply on the basis that what he says may conflict with the views of the 'established wisdom' or the school history curriculum (though I accept that they may be excluded if they happen to be shit).

It'll be interesting to see if it's still there when I'm walking to work tomorrow. Has it been snapped up by an enthusiastic Belfast historian starved of Irving after all these years? Will War on Want be stocking Apocalypse 1945: The Destruction of Dresden anytime soon? Could the SWP be organising a picket of the shop tomorrow?

Anyhow, there you go. David Irving: barred from bookshops everywhere...except Belfast. Aren't we just a wonderful little bastion of free speech!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The fools, the fools, the fools.

Every year various TV stations and newspapers attempt to con us with an April Fools Day prank. Every year the public see through it. Today someone asked me if I had seen a piece on the BBC's morning news programme about flying penguins. Oh dear: