england

New Video Channel

I have moved the little videos I made over to Vimeo because youtube were being very annoying. The Channel is here. Some of the political things that were on the other channel are already there but there will be more going on it including stupid things that aren’t political.I have put a modest example below called Across the Rio Tweed which is a deep analysis of what happens when you cross over from England to Scotland on the train on the East Coast Line…

Shock of the Century

I recently had this article published over at Bella Caledonia

Shock of the Century

By Michael Greenwell

Brian Taylor of BBC politics fame had a seemingly off-record quote about the startlingly obvious yesterday...

Firstly, a UK minister told me, with considerable emphasis, that the government at Westminster was “not neutral” with regard to Scottish independence.

A few years ago Jack Straw was more forthcoming with the real reasons. There has been a change of management in Westminster since then but no change in policy.

“historically England called the shots to achieve a union because the union was seen as a way, among other things, of amplifying England’s power worldwide.

A broken-up United Kingdom would not be in the interest of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but especially not England.

Our [England’s] voting power in the European Union would diminish. We’d slip down the world’s GDP tables.

Our case for staying in the G8 would diminish and there could easily be an assault on our permanent seat in the UN.”

Forget all the nonsense you hear about preserving the Union for emotional or patriotic reasons. The quote from Straw shows the real nuts and bolts of why there is opposition in Westminster to Independence.

However Straw misses the economic element in this too. A clear example of the economic strategy of a government that is firmly “not neutral” can be seen in the changes that were made (somewhat sneakily) by the Blair government (and this was not the first time it had been done) to the sea border between Scotland and England details of which can be found in the report “The National Borders of Scotland“…

Imposition of the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999:

On 13 April 1999 the UK government promulgated Statutory Instrument 1999 No. 1126, purported to be Constitutional Law and entitled “The Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999″

Hidden under some chat about fishing waters was the real purpose of the exercise

Very conveniently, nothing in that document limits its applicability to fisheries. That lack of limitation was not accidental. On 24 February 2009 The Times published „Secret plan to deprive independent Scotland of North Sea oil fields‟.12 It stated, in part:
Documents detailing secret government plans in the 1970s to prevent Scotland laying claim to North Sea oil have been seen by The Times. They show the extraordinary lengths to which civil servants were prepared to go to head off devolution, which was seen then as inevitably leading to independence.

Treasury officials also advised that the boundaries of Scotland’s coastal waters should be redrawn and a new sector created to “neutralise” Scotland’s claim to North Sea oil – a step that was taken.

The “step that was taken” was the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999, which illegally moved Scotland’s North Sea border to the north, thereby transferring some 6,255 statute square miles (5,540 nautical square miles) of Scottish waters to English jurisdiction (see Figure 5). Besides being a clear violation of the Treaty and Acts of Union, this transfer has a direct deleterious effect on the finances of the Government of Scotland in that no taxes or licence fees derived from activities in the illegally transferred area are credited to Scotland in the periodic Government Expenditures and Revenues Scotland (GERS) reports.

None of this is particularly surprising to many supporters of Scottish Independence. It may however come as a surprise to those in England who wonder what this Independence thing is all about. I tend to meet people with 2 different attitudes in England. There is the friendly “if that is what you want to do then it is your choice” group or the slightly less conciliatory “f*** off you ungrateful…”.

Although one of those sentiments is clearly more friendly (and sane) than the other, both of those are in marked contrast to the UK government line which was and remains “oh no you f***king don’t”.

Oh You Like Snooping & You Know You Do

So, because of a temporary job I just arrived in what is a half posh English town: I mean half in the sense that half of it is very well-to-do and the other isn’t at all.

After a new job meet-and-greet affair I was walking home about 25 minutes ago in a hurry to get back. As I sped by people I caught a couple of interesting snippets of conversation.

At the beginning of the walk  there were two short rotund men of about 50 years old and I heard this …

“So, what I am trying to create is a fully-integrated white elephant”.

Part of me was tempted to linger and get more of it but the better part of me was sure that this was wanked-up marketing speech at full maximum. He wasn’t even trying to hide that what he was doing was bullshit and therefore why should I try to listen to even more of it. The unfortunate likelihood is that I will hear it in 3 months time when the project comes to fruition. So I marched on.

Just before reaching my accomodation I overheard another snippet of a conversation from a few 18-to21-somethings (female) going along the road in short skirts and high heels.

It went thusly…

“It was like, a placebo”.

“What’s a placebo?”

“It’s like sumfink you take over and over again to forget what happened”.

Now, these conversations could have been overheard in any other city I am sure. Some days you can find these things funny and other days you can’t.

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epilogue…

I met  few nice lads just outside the house. One of them may be reading this now—if you must comment, stay in the tone of the thing, ok?

SAME ££££, DIFFERENT PR*CK

There is a lot of talk today about the report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that suggests that the budget of George “the progressively” Osbourne is much more on the regressive side than we might have been led to believe.

From Channel 4 news

The poor are not only paying more than the rich in proportion to their income – the standard statistical definition of being “regressive”. But the poorest groups are paying more from their vastly smaller incomes than almost all the richest groups in cash terms.

Furthermore…

The IFS says its study found that the poorest six tenths of households lost more in cash terms as a result of the Budget measures than wealthier households in all but the richest 10 per cent.

All I am asking here is the same question that I asked here, and that is simply this – why are people so shocked and/or surprised?

You shouldn’t be suprised because this is what the tories ARE. This is what they do and what they have almost always done.

Don’t get me wrong, Labour, particularly New Labour have very often behaved the same way.

The point is that there has been no significant change in the direction of UK economic policy since Thatcher. The devastating reforms she introduced have only been deepened by successive governments and only the presentation and the faces have changed.

THE MAN WHO HELD THE QUEEN TO RANSOM AND SENT PARLIAMENT PACKING

In the summer a fellow blogger gave me a book called The Man Who  Held the Queen to Ransom and Sent Parliament Packing [1968] by Peter Van Greenaway [not to be confused with Peter Greenaway the film director].

It is a fantastic read.

An army captain called Wyatt organises and pulls off a more or less bloodless [one person is injured] coup in the United Kingdom. He achieves this by kidnapping the royal family and imprisoning them in the tower of London with the threat that if anyone attempts to reverse the coup then they will begin executing them.

By this method the organisers of the coup manage to hold power for a short time.

The book uses a style that we are quite familiar with now – using pieces of conversations, excerpts from newspapers and trial transcripts and so on from before and after the fact and bringing it all together at the end. At the time this book was written I imagine that this style was something of a novelty.

One of the things I liked about the book is that although big alarm bells are rightly ringing about the idea of a military coup, we are constantly kept uncomfortable by the fact that Wyatt talks a lot of sense and begins to put in place policies that a lot of people would support.

For example, he asks the US army to leave the UK, withdraws UK troops from Germany and places them under the control of the UN to act as a peacekeeping force [this move also forces the UN to recognise his new government]. He starts reforms of the criminal justice system some of which people might find a little strange but he is not the stereotypical military dictator and allows the press to say whatever they wish and there are no curfews and such like. His stated intention is to prepare the country for real democracy instead of the puppet show that we have at the moment.

The best passages in the book however are not when Wyatt and the other coup leaders are putting policies in place but rather when Wyatt is speaking to those who were [nominally at least] in control before him and explaining the problems with the previous regime. Take this example from when he dismisses the parliament…

“There’s no doubt that the system has benefited property speculators, building tycoons, bookmakers and organised crime; there’s no doubt that under the system both parties have succeeded in running the country into the ground with the gay abandon of two frustrated spinsters daring their all in a cosy game of Monopoly.

“That you act with a cynical disregard for those you represent is the measure of your dishonesty. That you assume public apathy to your actions is total shows a blindness to reality suggesting outright stupidity.

“I am here to tell you that the country refuses to be led by the nose from the Right, by the hand from the Left. It is prepared to march forward in step with the times with whoever is prepared to give effective leadership. The House is no longer an effective instrument of government. Consequently it is my pleasurable duty to inform you that from this moment you no longer exist. You are free to leave.”

He also takes a great shot at some trade union leaders who are more interested in their upcoming peerages than helping their members and the leaders of both parties are made to seem like absurd cowards and puppets.

In some ways it is similar to the drama A Very British Coup that I wrote about before but in others no. In both cases there is a group of people in the shadows… the people that really pull the strings…waiting for the chance and scheming to ensure the downfall of the new regime. In this book however, unlike the drama,  we know from the first few pages that the coup is doomed to fail but that doesn’t detract from the story as it unfolds.

PODCAST TWO

In this one I speak with Professor David Miller of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

David Miller is the author/co-author/editor of several books including “A Century of Spin: How Public Relations Became the cutting Edge of Corporate Power” and “TELL ME LIES. Propaganda and Media Distortion in the Attack on Iraq.” He is also the co-founder of http://www.spinwatch.org and http://www.spinprofiles.org. He occasionally appears on the BBC too,  including this rather amusing one from Newsnight.

In fact, in this podcast we discuss the BBC, it’s history and origins, how it has been controlled and manipulated by governments and how all this fits into the wider media context.

I hope the production is a little better on this one than the last.

If you go to THIS LINK HERE then you can listen to it online or download it as an mp3. You want the VBR MP3 link where it says ‘Audio Files’.

You can also LISTEN ONLINE HERE

Hope you like it and thank to ourmedia.org for making a great little service.