On the 27th of October, a helicopter crashed outside the stadium of Leicester City football club, in England. The five people inside the aircraft were all killed instantly. They included the Thai owner of the football club, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the British pilot, Eric Swaffer, his partner Izabela, and two other Thai nationals. Sad indeed, and undoubtedly tragic.
Since the incident, the outpouring of grief has been unimaginable. It is as if a national figure, perhaps a member of the Royal Family, had been killed. Tributes to the Thai Billionaire have poured in, people have stood in tears outside the football stadium in Leicester, grown men inconsolable with grief. The crash made the national news immediately, bumping anything else into second place. Fair enough, football is popular here, and by all accounts the club owner was a nice man, caring and considerate. I feel sorry for his family, and for those of everyone who was killed in the crash.
But it went on, and on. Daily updates, headline reports, background features from Thailand, and constant interviews with supporters, pundits, sports personalities, and anyone who would stand in front of a camera. Yesterday, the BBC dedicated a large portion of its coverage to reporting on the funeral of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, live from Thailand. We were told every detail, most of the guest list, and even how expensive it was to mount such a lavish ceremony.
I was confused as to why we needed to know all this, and why the national news channel had devoted so much time and expense to reporting the aftermath of this crash. I am not remotely callous, but this is complete overkill of news about a tragic event that affected five people, and one football club. To listen to the reporters, it would be easy to imagine that there is a whole nation in mourning, and we are unlikely to ever recover from the shock of this man’s death.
Two days later, there was another tragic aircraft crash. An Indonesian passenger jet on an internal flight crashed into the sea, off the coast of Java. There were 189 people on board, including children.
And there were no survivors. That was reported on the BBC for a few minutes, just on that day.
But nobody on board owned a Premier League football club.
Nobody on board was a British citizen.
The aircraft didn’t crash in a British city.
And nobody on board was a billionaire.
189 people. All their relatives affected, loved ones left behind. Whole families destroyed.
Hardly worth reporting, was it?
Over the past weeks, anyone watching the TV news, or reading a newspaper, will have noticed two main stories. First and foremost, the fiasco in America concerning the appointment of a Supreme Court Judge, and the allegations of historical sexual assault that followed his nomination. This may well be very significant to people in America, and the story naturally picked up on the #metoo movement that began with the Harvey Weinstein case. I can see that it has a broader appeal, given that it allows abused women to finally speak up, and hopefully stop such things happening in the future.
But it was also the main feature on the BBC News here, every day for weeks. Not only that, but they relayed the entire hearings live, for hours on end during the afternoon. It got so that a newshound like me was wondering if anything else was happening, anywhere on Earth.
The second story that was pumped out by the media in the UK was the constant division in our political parties, caused by the Brexit arguments, alleged anti-semitism, and the circus that is the politics of Northern Ireland. Of course, we are interested in what happens with Brexit. We might also be interested in whether or not we can expect the awful Boris Johnson to become our next Prime Minister. But in the middle of Brexit squabbles, and the unforgivable actions of an unrepentant Judge in America, it seemed that little else was happening.
But it was.
The war continued in Syria. Soldiers and civilians were still dying there, and in Afghanistan. American interventions in Niger, Chad, Mali, and Somalia were all going unreported, and the Saudi/US war against rebels and civilians in Yemen continued to supply potentially horrific headlines. Things were getting no better for the Muslim minorities in Myanmar, and the flood of economic migrants to southern Europe continued unabated.
Supreme Court appointments and Brexit arguments may be worthy of the news, I don’t doubt that. But they should follow more serious world events, not lead them. If this doesn’t change, we will not only be in danger of being misinformed, as is often claimed, but uninformed, which I think is even worse.
After this morning’s post on this blog about the Labour leadership, I have just watched the results of the election live on the BBC News.
Jeremy Corbyn not only won by a huge margin, he increased his majority since the previous election in 2015. It could not have been more decisive. He then made a very good speech about unification in the party, and all the members working together in the future.
A soon as the applause died down, the BBC political reporters were circling like vultures on a carcass. They sought opinion from disgruntled Corbyn opponents, and then tried to get his supporters to agree that this would cause further division in the Labour Party. What should have pertinent and possibly interesting questions degenerated into a veiled attack on Corbyn once again, attempting to put words into the mouths of those being interviewed.
I watched this with growing discomfort. Supposedly impartial BBC journalists kept asking people’s opinions, until they got the responses they were looking for, rather than reporting what those interviewed were actually saying. One brief report from a Corbyn supporters rally was soon curtailed, as they did not receive the negative answers that they were looking for.
I do not necessarily support Corbyn, and I am not a member of his party (or any other). But I am just tired of the media, and in this instance the BBC, attempting to create division and to invent news, instead of reporting the facts.
The man has won. And he has won convincingly, despite your failed campaigns to derail him.
Now let him get on with his job, and leave him alone.
I have spent a long time over the last few days, watching the rolling news coverage of the tragic events in Paris. As more details emerge about the victims, and those responsible, the news media here has latched on to one thing in particular.
One of the attackers had only recently arrived in France. He travelled through Greece and Serbia during October as part of the large number of people fleeing from the war in Syria, seeking refuge in Europe. News reporters and respected political commentators are now seizing on this, and asking the obvious question. How many others are claiming to be refugees, when their intentions are to carry out attacks in Europe?
The British Home Secretary was asked this very question on the BBC this morning. She was quick to calm any fears about those arriving in the UK, as she was sure that they had been vetted sufficiently by the UNHCR. That is hardly the point though. It was always a possibility that some militants would arrive under the cover of being refugees, and this is virtually impossible to stop. Once in Europe, they could team up with those born here, or already living here, and carry out their plans. For that matter, they could arrive posing as affluent tourists or businessmen, on scheduled airlines, or by train. Anyone determined and fanatical enough to want to do these things is always going to find a way to get into Europe.
The damage they have done to their victims is now a matter of record, and will forever be reviled. But what of the damage done to the innocent refugees, people mostly of the same religion, seeking shelter in a far-off European capital? They will now have to live under suspicion, suffering the backlash from nationals of those countries who will no longer trust them, and may even attack them in some idea of revenge. Right-wing parties and political extremists will enjoy renewed support; and the closing of borders, as well as the removal of previous travel agreements and concessions does not bode well for those refugees still hoping to find peace, and a new life.
On an average day in the UK, approximately 2000 babies are born. I had to look that up, and it’s a lot more than I would have guessed. So yesterday, those 2000 babies entered this world unnoticed, except by their immediate family, and attendant medical staff. This is how it is every day, and how it should be. There was an exception though. A member of the Royal Family gave birth to her second child. A one-day old baby who is now currently fifth in line to the throne of Great Britain. If you watched any news at all, or read a newspaper, or perhaps an Internet news feed, you couldn’t have missed this event. The BBC, funded by the public with licence fee payment, sent a team of reporters and camera crews to report on the event, live from the pavement outside the hospital. They stood for hours, speculating on the child’s gender, what name it might be given, and how well the mother would recover. Then they repeated the coverage once again, as soon as the baby emerged with its parents.
They also interviewed the crowds outside, some of whom had been waiting there for fourteen days, camped on the pavement, using the toilet facilities and snack bars in the main hospital building. FOURTEEN DAYS! Their loyalty and devotion was suitably rewarded, when they were presented with cakes and pastries, courtesy of the proud parents. They gushed in interviews with reporters, gasped in wonder at the new arrival, and swooned with delight when the family group emerged. I don’t recognise these people as being from the same country as me. Living in the place where I live, and having experienced life in modern Britain, as I have. When the sole purpose of their lives is to wait outside a building for the birth of a member of the Royal Family, I start to think that there is a lot more wrong with this country than I ever believed possible.
Specialist Royal commentators were wheeled in by the media, to give their privileged insights into everything, from how much rest the mother will need, to how soon the grandparents will leave it before visiting. They made a great deal of how ‘ordinary’ this couple is. ‘Just like any other young couple, proud parents’, said one. Except that hardly any other couples have the protection of personal armed bodyguards around the clock. They don’t get to collect their baby in a car that costs £75,000 – and not get a parking ticket – before deciding whether to return to their luxury home on a private estate in Central London, or instead choose their other luxury home, on a private estate in Norfolk. The proud father will soon be flying a helicopter for the East of England Air Ambulance, so it made sense to go to Norfolk. Of course it did.
Just the kind of decision made by every ordinary Dad whose baby was born yesterday.
When I was younger, this appalling sycophancy and downright lying made me angry, and I was full of hate for these parasitic royals. People said it was not ‘their fault’, and that they ‘didn’t ask for the job’. So what stops them walking away, having some self-respect, and living that ‘normal life’ that all their supporters claim that they live? Let them sort out childcare when they are both at work, struggle to save the deposit on a two-bedroom house in the suburbs, and worry about job cuts, redundancies, and no-hours contracts, like so many of the parents of the other 1999 children born on Saturday. Now I am old, I don’t have the energy to hate anymore. I just feel drained by it all.
Perhaps adoration of the royals is an escape. A fantasy of belonging that allows you to forget the humdrum, and makes you feel a part of something that is a centuries-old sham. I don’t know, because I have never felt it. All I see is another snout in the trough, someone else for the public to finance; one more cuckoo in an ever-growing nest.
It seems to be the general view that the Tories (read Coalition) will lose the next election. The people of the UK are tired of recession, belt-tightening measures, and cuts in social security payments. Apparently. The Liberals are discredited, and consigned to some electoral wasteland, never to reappear as a force in British politics. The job market has been handed over to the employers, and no-hours contracts, no union agreements, and poor hourly rates are driving the popularity of the Tories into the ground. The leaders of that party are Public School has-beens with no integrity, and are simply lining their own pockets, and those of their friends. They are espousing the policies of the far Right, for fear of UKIP, and because of the general popularity of restrictions on immigration.
All of this may be true. Much of it is often quoted by Leftist thinkers and commentators, although the news media seems to have given up attacking the government, and even the BBC are now accused of a distinct, and uncomfortable to watch, Right-Wing bias. UKIP are shooting themselves in the foot, with their members exposed as former National Front and BNP supporters, and their elected officials are being revealed, in some cases, as little more than sexist or homophobic buffoons. The Greens have little significance, outside of some local protests about nuclear power, and as the Scots are unlikely to vote for independence, the SNP may make some noise, but will ultimately lose face.
So, where is the opposition? There is the actual Opposition, in the form of the Labour Party. It may just as well not be there. It has no forward-thinking policies, has completely abandoned Socialism, and even unashamedly admits that it will continue some present Tory policies, if it is lucky enough to be elected. There are no strong people in its shadow cabinet, and the real Left-Wing thinkers left in that party have no influence, and even less power. It is slowly dismantling its lifelong affiliation with the Trade Unions, and distancing itself from the old guard Labour politicians, and the few outspoken characters in its ranks.
Worst of all, it has a completely ineffectual leader. A man who has the presence of an awkward schoolboy, no talent at public speaking, and the charisma of a traffic warden. Miliband is the most ineffectual leader that Labour has ever had, and considering Kinnock, that takes some doing. He never comes across as genuine, whether he feels he is, or not. He has no qualities of a statesman, and even manages to make Cameron look like a man with gravitas and sincerity. His public appearances at photo opportunities look awkward and contrived, and anything he utters on camera sounds insincere, and lacks substance. In the Commons, he comes over like a sixth former in a debating society, smug at what he considers to be his triumphs, embarrassed and awkward when he loses the point of the argument. His ‘team’ sit around behind him and alongside him, looking as if they wished they weren’t there, and as if they must be ruing the day that they elected him as their leader.
If Labour do not shake themselves up before the next election, get back to communicating with the people, and choose a leader capable and worthy of leading the party to victory, then we will all lose. We won’t have a coalition as we do now, but instead we will have a re-energised, far-Right Tory government, elected on a platform of being anti-Europe, anti-immigration, and anti-people on benefits, and the unemployed. They will be pro-business, pro-financiers, and pro-the rich. Working peoples’ rights will be further reduced, and the country will descend into a new Victorian Age, of us and them, rich and poor. Labour owe it to their voters to be a real opposition, and not just one in name only. And they must get rid of Miliband, or face disaster in the polls.
It has been worrying me for some time now, and I feel that it is appropriate to ask the question. Is there any Left-Wing remaining in British politics? We used to have the ‘Loony Left’, the Labour Left, The Workers’ Revolutionary Party, Militant Tendency, The Socialist Workers’ Party, and The Communist Party, with all its various factions. There was the Young Communist League, The Morning Star Group, the Trotsky supporters, and the old-style Marxist-Leninist diehards. Some of these still exist. You can find websites on the Internet, see members selling newspapers and pamphlets, and notice their banners on TV news, waved by marchers, demonstrating against something or another. The Morning Star newspaper is still for sale, and has a modern website. There is even a Stalin Society. I was keen to join, but they didn’t reply to my e mailed request. It seems that it is too much trouble to be a revolutionary these days. Round up all the members and supporters of these various parties, and you would be pushed to fill the terraces of a second division football club with them. They have no impact, no influence, few policies, and no apparent agenda. Their leaders are anonymous, and constantly changing, and most of them have been eaten up by internal arguments, that have diluted them into oblivion. The days when the Establishment feared the wrath of the organised Proletariat, and their strong Trades Unions, are long gone.
There was a time, not so long ago, and certainly within my recent memory, when the Left had a fierce commitment, and a hunger for real change. They had radical ideas and beliefs, and swore to change the status quo, if and when in power. The rhetoric is now about wind farms, nuclear power stations, global warming, third world sweat shops, and the rights of farmers in countries most Britons couldn’t find on a map. What about the re-nationalisation of railways, utilities, banks, and industry? Never mentioned. Getting out of Europe, and abandoning NATO, has become a policy of the extreme Right, after it was discarded by the Left, and found lying around, waiting to be picked up, and re-packaged for general consumption. Wealth taxes on the rich and powerful, the abolition of the House of Lords and the Royal Family, getting American bases off our soil. Where are those policies? Gone; though sometimes partially embraced by powerless splinter groups, and more worryingly, the burgeoning Right.
In Britain, we are seeing a return of Right-Wing politics at a rate unseen since in Italy and Germany in the 1930’s, and driven by much the same fears and reasoning too. Fear of job losses, fear of foreign investment and ownership, and fear of things non-British. Add to this fear of different religions, against a background of ‘Crusader’ involvement in Muslim countries, and the firework has been well and truly lit. An economic slump has opened the back gate to the worst kind of sneaky rightists. UKIP, Old-School Toff Tories, Right-leaning Liberal Democrats, and even most of the (new) Labour Party, are all embracing the politics of the Right. Some are more outgoing and extreme, such as the League of St George, Column 88, and The English Defence League. Others, formerly considered extreme beyond the pale, like National Front supporters, are now merging into parties like UKIP, and The Conservative Party, and melting happily into the background.
The media has all but abandoned any support for the Left, in any form. Despite laughable accusations of Left-wing bias, the BBC continues to tread carefully, fearful of its licence money, and dreading being handed over to commercialisation. All other television provided for mainstream viewing is either cosily neutral, or blatantly conservative, albeit with a small C. The newspapers are virtually all speaking for the Right, and the worst ones are fuelling the fires of xenophobia, as well as religious hatred, and spewing out propaganda against the disadvantaged and poorly educated in our society. The possible exception, The Guardian, speaks for the well-heeled middle-class intelligentsia, salving their consciences during their morning commute. The Morning Star has such a small circulation, it would be pushed to compete with a regional newspaper in a small town. Even that supposed voice of the Left, seems more concerned with the internal struggles of Communist factions, and is preaching to the more-or-less converted anyway.
The Trades Unions are still here, but they are no longer a force to be reckoned with. Years of amalgamation have turned them into unrepresentative monoliths, that have lost sight of their members as individuals, and seem to have forgotten the essence of the trades and skills that they are supposed to defend and protect. Hamstrung by changes in the law, they have played along, having their industrial teeth pulled one by one. Their political affiliations have diminished, and the Labour Party, that they were most associated with, is trying to sever ties with them, fearful of continued association with an organised workforce; embarrassed to stand alongside them and fight for the rights of ordinary people. Their leaders have become powerful and wealthy in their roles, detached and distant from a membership they treat like sheep. The only real alternative to another Conservative government, which would surely move even further to the Right in politics, is, whether I like it or not, the Labour Party. Now far removed from its roots, and unrecognisable to the activists who moulded it during the 1970’s, it is no longer a party of the Left. Its leader is an ineffectual bureaucrat, and its cabinet have no real policies. They have even revealed that many of the policies of the present coalition would be unchanged under a Labour administration, and that some of the cruellest changes, in health provision, and welfare reform, would also be upheld. In that case, the Labour Party is no longer a worthwhile, or even desirable alternative.
It seems likely that the very definition Left, relating to political affiliations, will soon cease to be used, and not long after, cease to exist. Left-Wing, Leftist, and any similar descriptions, will be consigned to the history books, to be viewed with mild interest as a thing of the past, sometimes with a wry grin of amusement. I like to think of my own politics as those of the extreme Left. Old-school, hard-line Communism, like something that once existed, but no longer does, or ever will again. The only place for this now, is inside my head, as I conclude that there is no Left left.