Saturday, 25 June 2016

Article 50 may be legal, but was Gordon Brown's premiership valid?

Tony Blair may not be telling the whole truth about the reasons for his unhappiness with the British EU referendum result.

When he says Brexiteers "dismissed" the Remain campaign as scaremongering, he seems - seems to be buying into the absolutely toxic stream of thinking that questions the intelligence of people who voted for Brexit. For more of this see today's Times, which beside the usual graphs of what the regional votes were, gives the average percentage of people in that area with 5 or more GCSEs at A-c. One woman interviewed this morning complained that she was "highly educated" and didn't understand the case for Leaving. Are the metropolitan intelligentsia preparing to take us down a slippery slope, similar to one that caused a lot of trouble in the 20th century?

I believe Blair is nervous because of a little-mentioned change to electoral law during his first term. The Representation of the People Act 2000 effectively legalised postal voting on demand by abolishing safeguards built into the Representation of the People Act 1985 (and earlier versions) which stipulated that anybody who wished to vote by post had to give a reason for doing so to the Registration Officer. A House of Commons Library investigation into electoral fraud dates the rise of such fraud to industrial levels to that change.

Jump to the 2005 General Election, and as you can see in the tables below, the number of postal votes cast were a massive 514% of Labour's majority over the Conservative Party, who were the runner up, ie they formed the main Opposition Party. This is in terms of raw numbers and does not take into account our first-past-the-post system, of course, but look at what the raw numbers are: there were 5,500,000 postal votes, and Labour's majority over the Tories was a mere 770,000. (click to enlarge)

Here's what Judge Richard Mawrey QC had to say about electoral fraud in his famous "banana republic" judgement, delivered two months before the 2005 General Election:

Anybody who has just sat through the case I have just tried and listened to the evidence of electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic would find this statement surprising. To assert that ‘the systems already in place to deal with the allegations of electoral fraud are clearly working’ indicates a state not simply of complacency but of denial.

The systems to deal with fraud are not working well. They are not working badly. The fact is that there are no systems to deal realistically with fraud and there never have been. Until there are, fraud will continue unabated.

This matters because, after Tony Blair retired, Gordon Brown signed us up to the Lisbon Treaty.

Article 50 of this treaty specifies the procedure to be followed if a country is to secede from the EU. There has been some debate over whether Article 50 is the sole legal way of achieving Brexit. But there may well be another factor to consider here: was Tony Blair's 2005 election win democratically valid? In other words when Gordon Brown signed us up to the Lisbon TReaty, including its Article 50, did he have a legal mandate to represent the people of Great Britain?

Mr Blair - and Mr Brown - have some very interesting times ahead.

Gerry Dorrian


Representation of the People Act 2000

House of Commons Library: Postal Voting and Electoral Fraud 2001-2009 (Isobel White, 2012)

House of Commons Library: Election Statistics 1918-2007

House of commons Library Election Statistics 1918-2012

Postal voting an invitation to fraud, says judge Nick Brittien, The Telegraph, April 2005)

Judge Mawrey's "banana republic" remarks on postal voting fraud in full

Monday, 25 January 2016

are the SNP "managing" news of 10,000 job losses?

I’d hoped to have something a bit cheerier to write about on Burns’ Day, but was alerted to a haemorrhage of jobs by a Scottish friend: 5,500 late last year, forecast to rise to 10,000 soon, mostly in Aberdeen. I replied I was surprised that I hadn’t read about losses on such a scale in the national press, to be told "the SNP is managing the news".

The Scottish National Party (SNP), I should say, is the party that won 56 out of 59 Scottish seats in Westminster (with 50% of the national vote), making them Britain’s third largest party in the process.

Much of their astonishing performance was based on their own predictions of a new oil field discovered off the East Coast of Scotland which, they said, would add a minimum of £15.8 billion to the nation’s coffers, and a maximum of £38.7 billion.

After they had won 94% of the nation’s seats in the Westminster election, they were forced to admit that the true range was £2.4-£10.8 billion, but it turns out this estimated sum had already been factored into figures available before the election and therefore adds nothing new to anybody’s coffers.

As if the misery caused by unemployment on this (or any) scale were not enough, a brain-drain of highly skilled workers formerly employed in Scottish oil is taking place, taking not just income but know-how out of the country. If they’ve settled down by the time (please God) the industry recovers from what looks like turning into a global financial meltdown, how will they be replaced?

The Scottish National Party is a socialist party. Socialism and nationalism have been mixed before and it didn’t work. Personally, although I’m Scottish I live in England and, much as I value my Scottish heritage, in neither country have I ever voted for a party whose name ends in –NP.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Oil explorers predict 10,000 more job losses in North Sea sector Kiran Stacey, Financial Times, October 18 2015

Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce survey highlights challenges facing North Sea Mark Williamson, The Herald, 26 November 2015

SNP dramatically cuts pre-referendum oil predictions Simon Johnson, Daily Telegraph 25 June 2015

SNP MSP apologises after causing outrage with comments over North Sea oil crisis Catriona Webster, Daily Record, 6 January 2016

Nicola Sturgeon told to quit blame games and deal with oil crisis as union chief demands summit Andy Philip, Daily Record, 25 January 2016

Click here for the Daily Record's rolling news page on North Sea Oil and the unfolding crisis

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Indoctrination? All About History publishes guide to striking

indoctrination? you decide!

A word can give away so much, and this time the word was “abhorrent”. The word was used by the magazine All about History, saying in a spread entitled Protest across history that the "Red Wedge" of socialist musicians toured the UK in 1987 because of "the abhorrent possibility of a third consecutive Conservative government", in an issue of the magazine timed to come out when many doctors are striking and hard-left unions are pledging to come out in support.

It’s the only point in the feature where an emotive adjective is used to describe the object of protests. Here’s a quick summary of just some of the movements or incidents from the feature that appear not to warrant being described as abhorrent or indeed anything else judgemental:

  • The Imperialist government of India which brought Mahatma Gandhi into conflict with it ( resulting in the Salt March, 12 March 1930)
  • Rosa Parkes being ordered to vacate her seat for a white person in Montgomery, Alabama (Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1 December 1955-20 December 1956)
  • Racists from the US who spawned the Black Power movement (Black Power salute, 1968 Olympics)
  • Homophobes from New York City Council who closed the Stonewall Inn (Stonewall Inn riots, 28 June 1969)
  • Apartheid in South Africa (Soweto School Uprising, 16 June 1976)
  • The Philippines’ murderous Marcos regime (People Power Revolution, 1983-86)
  • Suppression of democracy and democrats in China (Tiananmen Square Protests (15 April-4 June 1989)
  • Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq in the face of a million-strong protest (Iraq War potests, 15 February 2003)
  • The police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri (Ferguson Riots, 9 August 2014)

The next spread deals with How to go on strike and gives a pictorial guide to the Miners’ Strike, although there are several facts missing. The very first window is entitled Hold a Ballot, but although we learn the legalities strikers must observe before going out, there’s no mention that the National Union of Mineworkers(NUM) held two national strike ballots in 1982 and one in 1983 it lost all three, and had to resort to holding ballots on a region-by-region basis and concluding that the activist-enforced victories added up to a mandate for a national strike, which was illegal both under UK laws and the NUM’s own constitution, leading people both within and outwith the NUM to conclude that the strike was more about trying to spark a regime-changing revolution than fighting for admittedly bad pay and conditions. Neither do we get the chance to read that there were 989 coalmines employing 502,000 people in 1964, the year Labour’s Harold Wilson started his first stretch as Prime Minister (with the Tories’ Edward Heath holding the post 1970-74) and 219 mines employing 242,000 people in 1979, when James Callaghan, having taken over following Wilson’s resignation in 1976, lost the election to Margaret Thatcher. Nor, unforgiveably, is there any mention of David Wilkie, the taxi driver murdered by two strikers, Reginald Hancock and Russell Shankland, because he was taking a non-striking miner to work. The only mention of violence is:

Acts of violence could alienate some of your supporters. Getting thrown in jail can help gain sympathy to your cause, but you can’t stand on the picket line when under lock and key.

And on the strike’s end, the magazine counsels:

it is important to know when a battle is lost. Cut your losses and you may return another day to win the war.

Some pages on – and significant given Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s chucking Mao’s Little Red Book at Chancellor George Osbourne – is a Lonely Planet-style guide to Maoist China which, while not quite a celebration, mentions that Chinese people "die in their millions" under Mao’s leadership, but leaves out the scale: at least 50 million people, many more than Hitler and Stalin combined. A little later comes an article entitled What if Trotsky had come to power?, which again is not a hagiography, but is remarkable given the Trotskyist tendencies of Labour’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and his followers.

Magazines are often compiled over the course of weeks if not months, but the BMA strike was decided on in mid-November, which would have given politically-skewed personnel ample time to partially clear the decks and produce an overtly political "bookazine", printed on glossy paper and with lots of illustrations, that would be especially attractive to young people (David Butt, Group Managing Director of Imagine Publishing, All About History’s parent group, states the company took on many former Ladybird illustrators").

For this reason, I advise you to buy All About History issue 034 for a rare insight an how the wider educational establishment is presenting a skewed narrative to younger people in order to co-opt them as footsoldiers in the war to right what they perceive as being history’s wrongs.

Gerry Dorrian


Historical coal data: coal production, availability and consumption 1853 to 2014, - click link to open spreadsheet

McDonnell's great leap forward puts Osborne one step ahead John Grace, The Guardian, 25 November 2015

From the archive, 1 December 1984: Taxi driver killed by striking miners Sarah Boseley, The Guardian, December 2014

Ian Burrell: The publisher of 'bookazines' hopes his reliable, unstuffy medium will appeal to parents everywhere Ian Burrell, The Independent, December 2014

Imagine Publishing homepage

All about History Issue 34

Monday, 11 January 2016

some estates need bulldozed, but they sink because of people

David Cameron’s vow to take the bulldozer to sink estates applies to England, but I thought some lessons from my homeland might prove a cautionary tale for him.

In Glasgow, there was a much-trumpeted slum clearance project in the 1950s. I’m sure it was proposed for the best of reasons, but what it turned into was an exercise in social cleansing, in that when the slums were knocked down – and they did need knocking down – working-class people were moved out of the city centre and relocated at its periphery. Talk about deconstruction at work! Unfortunately, not all went well in the new estates, and for a simple reason: the same people who made the slums worse than they needed to be turned the new estates into sink estates.

The borderline and more-than-borderline psychopaths who keep people divided and tied up in crises are fireproof: at best landlords are scared of confronting them, and at worst they are invaluable to landlords because they prevent effective tenants’ committees to form and stay stable long enough to hold said landlords’ feet to the fire.

This is, as I say, a Glasgow story, but I would be very surprised if it were just a Glasgow story.

The millionaire songwriters of Squeeze, who changed the lyrics of Cradle to the Grave to send a message to the Prime Minister on the welfare State, might have been lucky enough to get out of council housing before drugs took hold, more in some areas than in others. But I lived through it, so please forgive me for my lack of misty-eyed nostalgia. To make things worse, Glasgow Housing Authority (later Glasgow Housing Association) was so fiscally incontinent as to run up almost a billion pounds in debt, meaning it could do nothing to upgrade its stock, and GHA’s leader was forced to admit that nobody who could afford to live elsewhere was living in its stock. Again I’d be surprised if this were purely a Glasgow story, even if the scale of folly is unique.

Many housing estates do need bulldozing, because they were built not out of respect for human families but along the lines of battery farms, confining the maximum number of voters in the minimum space. But beware agenda contamination: will the new houses be smaller so there’s more of them, to disguise the overpopulation crisis arising from open-door immigration? Will the input of EU money be trumpeted in order to influence the result of the referendum and settlements thereafter?

The ball’s in your court, Prime Minister.

Gerry Dorrian

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Sherlock and the BBC's war on plot

Since I refuse to fund the media wing of a paedophile ring – ie I don’t pay the BBC Licence fee – I had to wait until today to watch the Sherlock New Year Special. It was good. Better than that, it was great, done in the definitive style of Granada’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett, the definitive Holmes, with a gothic mystery it seemed only Holmes could solve, with witty references to Watson’s publication of Holmes’ adventures in The Strand.

Then suddenly and inexplicably we are in the present day on board a private jet and Holmes is delivering an impassioned defence of recreational use of illegal drugs. How depressingly BBC. The theme of the episode was women’s rights, particularly in the context of the invisibility of women in the late 19th century.

Really? Wasn’t this show broadcast by the same BBC that dropped former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’ Reilly like a hot potato when she started making noises about misogyny and ageism in the Corporation? That has form in hiring pretty young female current affairs presenters and weather-girls then throwing them on the trash heap when they no longer look like Barbie? That forced Martine McCutcheon, while in Eastenders, to do a lingerie photoshoot for lads’ mag FHM without a female chaperone?

Although the programme aired at 9pm on New Years’ Day, right on the watershed, there were several explicit scenes of suicide, which will be watched by teenage fans throughout the iplayer availability slot. Is this really appropriate?

The theme of suicide was part of a postmodern thread going through the program drawing attention to the fiction-within-a-fiction gothic tale within the “real-life” tale. As soon as I worked this out I saw the connection with the theme of Santa Claus recurring throughout the dreams-within-dreams thread of the inspirational Dr Who 2014 Christmas Special Last Christmas – and it turns out both episodes were produced by the same man, Stephen Moffatt. Is there such poverty of talent within the BBC that they have to recycle old plotlines?

Postmodernism, the view that there are no facts except those things we decide (ie the Establishment decides for us) are facts, and there is no right and wrong except those things we decide (is the Establishment decides for us) are right and wrong, but when used to underpin plot so heavily it allows a war against plot that amounts to an excuse for lazy writing and producing.

And in the last analysis, given the problems the world faces at the moment, it’s salutary to remind ourselves that people who believe in facts and that they are on the side of right will always win against people who have surrendered their powers of discernment to hypocritical Establishmentarian bureaucracies like the BBC.

Gerry Dorrian


Women in News and Public Affairs Broadcasting House of Lords Select Committee, Miriam O' Reilly's evidence begins from p171

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Call the Midwife and the bleak road to Bethlehem

In Christmas Eve’s Daily Mail, Libby Purves writes a heartwarming piece about the Call the Midwife Christmas Special and how the series as a whole provides an island of emotional comfort in the cynical ocean that modern life has become.

It would be cynical of me, therefore, to point out that Purves, who predicts that BBC’s Call the Midwife’s Christmas Special will outperform ITV’s rival Downton Abbey offering, has been a BBC radio presenter since the 1970s and is using the article to curry favour with her managers.

But there’s a whole further level of cynicism to go to. Call the Midwife seems not just to be an evocation of a fondly-remembered past but also a reflection of how the Establishment works, in that it depicts middle-class professionals doling out largesse to a poverty-stricken and prejudice-ridden populace.

In fairness to the programme makers, that's not a million miles away from how the healthcare Establishment sees itself. A friend’s mother, as a staff-nurse in the 1960s, was reprimanded for “socialising with care assistants”, the latter being traditionally drawn from more working-class backgrounds as the professionals. In the 1980s as a student nurse myself, I had to endure a lecture from a ward-sister on how people from my part of Glasgow’s East End were uneducated, feckless and had too many children. Nowadays it becomes harder and harder for people of working-class backgrounds to become nurses as the entry level qualification is a degree – heaven knows why – and when was the last time you were treated by a senior doctor with an inner-city accent?

And sometimes the programme-makers’ own prejudices show through the slick production, now that the storyline has moved beyond Jennifer Worths original memoirs. For example, in the 2014 Christmas Special, we see a mother-and-baby home for unmarried mothers where the care standards are appalling. The doctor comments, “these places used to be run by charities, then they were taken over by the council”. In fact, the original National Health Service White Paper of 1944 envisaged control of services on the ground by local and borough councils, but with the 1946 National Health Service Act Aneurin Bevan expropriated the councils – and therefore the councillors and the electorates who voted for them – in order to nationalise the whole thing and place it under the control of predominantly unelected officials, ground-level services being entrusted to local health authorities, now trusts and clinical commissioning groups, which were and are almost completely outside of democratic control and oversight. The subtext of the doctor’s comment was, I think, that democracy was not the proper system from which to run services that reach out to “ordinary people”, as I believe we of the non-elite are now called.

I suppose this year’s Call the Midwife Christmas Special will provide an island of warm fuzziness in the bleak ocean of exclusion we all now founder in, and sometimes that’s what the doctor ordered. Programmes like Call the Midwife manipulate our brain chemistry to produce a sense of supported catharsis – a good cry, in other words. But sometimes it’s time to put down the tissues and see the world as it really is. As Mary and Joseph discovered on the bleak road to Bethlehem, the world is cold and unforgiving, and nobody comes to mitigate this. Sometimes the solution can only be that we have to create warmth and forgiveness by ourselves, because when nobody comes then each individual has to ponder whether it is he or she that has to act.

I hope you manage to draw what warmth and forgiveness you can from whatever source you can find this season. As the sun sets on freedom and democracy the road ahead is bleak, and I hope we find each other in the coming year. Resources A magical reminder of a time when those in need really felt cared for: As Call The Midwife is set to top Christmas Day ratings, we can learn something from a bygone era by Libby Purves, Daily Mail 24 December 2015 Call the Midwife Christmas Special 2015 BBC webpage A National Health Service White Paper of 1944 National Health Service Act, 1946

Thursday, 3 December 2015

was Hilary Benn also referring to fascism at the British Establishment's heart?

There’s no denying the power with which Hilary Benn wrapped up his Syrian war speech, summarising why Britain should go to war and at the same time reminding his Labour colleagues that they are the inheritors of a proud tradition of facing down fascists.

But was the Shadow Foreign Secretary also referring to fascism elsewhere apart from Syria? I ask because the man whom the coda seemed to be directed against most, Jeremy Corbyn, took the position of Labour leader after an election in which there was no defined electorate, which would seem to be the sine qua non of any democratic process. Instead, you paid your three quid and you got your vote, leading to a satire-transcending farce in which even a journalist’s pet cat was sent a voting paper.

Significantly, a large number of Conservative party members voted for Corbyn, with the Daily Telegraph leading the charge in a strategy they claimed would "destroy the Labour Party", in a move that many Telegraph readers found a step too far, one writing:

Isn’t anyone feeling just a little queasy at a mainstream newspaper calling for a democratic election to be undermined and compromised?

I believe that the Telegraph, the Tories’ in-house paper, was lying about its motives. One key characteristic of the 2015 General Election was how similar the three main party leaders sounded (before the Lib Dems’ parliamentary collapse): in particular, on the subjects of open-door immigration and integration, David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg each became a Nigel Farage mini-me.

Suddenly, Miliband having fallen on his sword, Jeremy Corbyn comes out of the political outback to win the Labour Party leadership, his job to show the faithful that there really is a difference between the Labour Party and the Tories, in an “election” that both of these parties, Parliament’s biggest, participated. In order to keep the Labour party faithful on-board, it was imperative for them to believe that Corbyn represented a different sort of politics, and it was imperative to get the Conservative party faithful behind him to mitigate the effect of labour democrats upon the election. This, I believe, was the Telegraph’s true intention.

The Labour Party leadership election was an example, I believe, of the political cartel in action. This is a system whereby which party is in power takes second place to the “right people” the chosen few from the three main parties, being re-elected. Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s adviser during the PM's first term, took this even further in the Sunday Times and referred to our system as “a democracy in name only, operating on behalf of a tiny elite who are in power no matter the electoral outcome”.

So when Hilary Benn referred to the Labour Party’s tradition of facing down fascists, I have to wonder whether he is referring to the expropriation of the democratic process by figures on both his benches and those opposite. If he is, I hope he’s prepared to seek out friends among democrats of all political shades, as he’ll need them.

Gerry Dorrian

Resources Read Hilary Benn's closing remarks at Hansard (begins on column 486)

Ned the cat votes Corbyn for Labour leader – but llama family misses out - Aisha Gani, The Guardian, 21 August 2015

Why the Telegraph's call for Tory votes for Jeremy Corbyn will backfire - Roy Greenslade, The Guardian, 16 July 2015 (original Telegraph article: How you can helo Jeremy Corbyn win - and destroy the Labour Party, 15 July 2015, article attributed to "Telegraph Comment Desk")