Wednesday, 31 August 2011


I started this blog rather casually about 2 years ago as any quick glance at my first few posts will show. I began to write more regularly almost twelve months back, when the controversy about the Islamic cultural centre in New York was raging. Since then, I've posted most weeks and I hope anyone who has been kind enough to follow the blog has enjoyed reading it.

I had for some time wanted to develop my own thinking about green politics and values and hopefully some of my postings reflect that, if at times a bit self-indulgently (although I guess that's what blogs are partly for!). A few of my friends who follow this blog know that in the past I was active (along with some of them) in the Liberal Democrats, including as a parliamentary and European candidate many moons ago. Although I've always been left of centre, my philosophy and politics have only shifted to full socialism (of the ecological variety) over the last 10 to 15 years, travelling in the opposite direction to the rightwards journey taken so eagerly by the Labour Party in its quest for power, followed quickly in train by the Lib Dems.

Before the 1992 General Election, in my capacity as Chair of One World Democrats, I was part of a working group that produced  the Lib Dems' aid and international development policy. It sought a radical remission of debt in line with the Jubilee 2000 programme initiated by a friend, Dr Martin Dent of Keele University, and looked to committing the UK to a range of environmental and social justice measures.

By contrast, the equivalent body in the run up to the 1997 election was a very different beast. It started its work with an injunction that we must not say anything that could be portrayed as to the left of (New) Labour. Given that Tony Blair was by then on a full march to the right, it was quite a gallop to ensure our policy was sufficiently anodyne and meaningless to avoid any trouble. When One World Democrats proposed a pretty modest amendment in support of small scale co-operatives, it was hysterically shouted down from the platform at the party conference. In a tour de force that could only be described as a rant, Alan Beith MP, then Deputy Leader, denounced it as "communistic" because we had committed the cardinal sin of referring to "workers and peasants" in the text. Taking the issue to ludicrous levels, a week later in the Guardian, then-leader Paddy Ashdown  described how the "green fascist" element in the party had been seen off.

As with that, so with so very many other policies. The two supposedly progressive parties in mainstream UK politics laid themselves down on the altar of power and slaughtered their beliefs, gutting themselves of any challenge to the corrupt consensus on free market politics that dominates Britain to this day. The main parties are now pretty interchangeable and the Con Dem Coalition is the final, dreadful destination of this long, sad and damaging process. It is the apotheosis of neoliberal democracy as described by Robert McChesney in his foreword to Noam Chomsky's "Profit Over People" - "...neoliberal democracy in a nutshell: trivial debate over minor issues by parties that basically pursue the same pro-business policies regardless of formal differences and campaign debate." And the consequence? "A depoliticized citizenry marked by apathy and cynicism."

My personal disillusion crystallised while doing a Masters degree on employment relations and law at Keele University. Taught from a Marxist perspective, its analysis of workplace and societal relations helped me towards an understanding of the inherent conflict between the interests of the majority of people (employees) and the few (owners/shareholders), and how these are reinforced again and again by the impersonal mechanics of capitalism. With the corporate personality so devastatingly critiqued in Joel Bakan's "The Corporation" as deeply psychopathic, global capitalism stood evident to me as the fundamental cause of our growing worldwide problems. A system that functions by producing goods at the lowest possible cost (including the lowest possible pay for workers' labour) and then selling at the highest conceivable price will by its nature never provide the fair distribution and careful use of resources we so urgently need to avoid worldwide catastrophe. Practically as well as ethically, capitalism has failed.

So in this blog, I have written more recently about ecosocialism, which puts social justice at the heart of the environmental sustainability agenda. It is a still forming philosophy, though with long antecedents. But in particular, I am grateful to people like Martin O'Beirne and Derek Wall for their own blog posts, links and longer articles on ecosocialism and how we can challenge the major problems facing us. Ecosocialism, would mean radical changes, but ones that would unleash once more our true, human nature. Contrary to the myths we are taught, history shows the human story at its core to be one of co-operation and mutual aid for the many aeons before the first market was open or the first coin minted. It can be that way again, and without any need to revert to cave dwelling!

My thanks for your time and attention and comments, here and on Facebook and Twitter over the last year. I am taking a short break for the next few weeks - although I will hopefully take in some of the Green Party conference in Sheffield (link here for any who would like to know more).

Though I am certainly not disappearing, thanks and, for September, so long - the posts will all still be here, but Viridis Lumen will be dimming the candle and shielding the lantern, until we meet again on the climate change frontline...

Butterfly's Tongue

One film to see...

This 1999 film, set in 1930's Spain just in the run up to the Civil War, centres around the touching story of a young boy's friendship with his elderly schoolteacher. At first afraid of school, because it was standard for teacher's to beat their pupils, young Moncho delights in discovering that Don Gregorio is a teacher with a difference - and both in and outside of the classroom, their friendship blossoms as the teacher introduces the boy to the wonders of learning, especially around botany and butterflies in particular.

The film plays out against the backdrop of the rise of Franco's fascism - the title refers to the syrup that a butterfly sucks from flowers with its proboscis, which it then has to keep furled if it's to fly: a metaphor for Republican Spain's fragile democracy in the face of Franco. Both Don Gregorio and Moncho's father are socialist Republicans - and the story culminates in exploring the dreadful choices people are sometimes forced to make, from fear and from love.

Slated by the Daily Mail - so, a must see movie!

Butterfly/ Butterfly's Tongue(s) - 1999 - more here

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Riots Revelation - Nick "Nicked" Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, is an Arsonist (Genuine)

As post-riot punitive sentencing carries on apace, with people jailed for stealing ice cream and bottled water, a radio interview with Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister (who wants rioters to do community work in Lib Dem dayglo orange vests), went badly wrong for the would be crime fighter. After condemning youths who rioted, he stumbled with his words when reminded of his own arsonist past - at the age of 16, while in Germany, he set two greenhouses on fire, brutally slaughtering a number of innocent cacti. He received a sentence of community service, though it is not known what colour of vest he had to wear.

The revelation about Clegg comes hot (literally) on the heels of the vast number of reminders of how Conservative leader David Cameron was a member of Oxford University's Bullingdon Club in his younger days, along with the current London Mayor, Boris Johnson. The Bullingdon was a sort of Hells-Angels-for-Bankers, except that the Angels would probably object to being compared to such badly behaved people. As Cameron himself gleefully recounted in 1986, as well as their regular routine of smashing up restaurants and pulling the trousers off of people they took a dislike to, on one infamous occasion with these oiks "Things got out of hand and we'd been drinking a bit much. We smashed the place up and Boris set fire to the toilets."

It is difficult to see which is worst - that people with such attitudes should now be running our country; or that, having done the things they did when they were youths, they are so utterly condemnatory of young people, mostly from rather less privileged backgrounds than their own, for acts which in many cases are not as serious as their own past crimes and misdemeanors. It's almost like one law for them and another for...

But of course, perhaps that is the entire point.

Go to 4 mins 44 seconds to hear Nicked Nick challenged about his fiery youth.

Dead Fish Don't Swim Home

Bluefin tuna stocks are nearing exhaustion - the species is now on the verge of extinction - it is expected to become so during 2012 - but is still being fished by greedy conglomerates. It has even been alleged that one, Mitsubishi, is deep freezing bluefin tuna to sell once it is extinct, because by then the price will have gone through the roof - and so will their profits. More here   and here as well
Atlantic bluefin tuna can live for 30 years, but due to heavy fishing mortality, few known specimens grow to a mature age. The European Union has refrained from declaring it a protected species. More on this endangered creature here.

Does anyone really still think capitalism can save the planet?

Monday, 29 August 2011

FILM: A Shared Earth?

The Earth is our home, the only place we have. But, as the film "Home", which is presented in full below (93 minutes approx - please click through to Youtube), powerfully demonstrates, it is in deep peril because of our activities. As a result of our desperately wasteful use and destruction of our resources, our unfair distribution of the planet's wealth, and the global warming that is driven by our ludicrous release of massive quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, our only living environment is at serious risk of becoming uninhabitable.

"Home", directed by French photographer and environmentalist, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, is beautifully filmed. It is as fine an exposition as could be made of how our planet works, how life evolved and how human activities have severely damaged the delicate balance between air, water and life, to the point that our ability to survive socially and even biologically is now in imminent jeopardy.

Arthus-Bertrand's profession as an aerial photographer is evident throughout and the rich colours and sweeping visual panoramas give "Home" a stunning impact, reinforcing both the beauty of our Earth and the dangers it faces. Yet it merely hints at some of the real issues driving the problems - it notes that 20% of the population of the world use 80% of its resources; 2% of the population own over 50% of the wealth; and half of the world's poorest people live in resource rich countries - but it avoids any consideration of how or why these iniquities have come about. There is some sacrifice of accuracy for image too - for example, one scene on over-fishing shows African fishermen standing round a pile of fish, almost implying it is their fault - there is no mention of huge factory ships from industrialised nations that can take more fish in a single catch than some Pacific nations manage in an entire year (for more click here). "Home" touches on the need for greater sharing of resources, but it fails to explain how, nor does it examine or expose the system - capitalist free markets - that has driven us to where we are, the edge of our own extinction.

This is perhaps not entirely unsurprising - because in the very first frame, a range of corporate logos drift into view - Gucci, YSL, Puma and others - the subsidiaries of the conglomerate PPR, which financed the film. The logos twist and turn to form the film's title, a highly counter-productive intro which belies the powerful content of the production. Yet whatever their motive, it is to PPR's credit that they funded this movie, which goes far beyond the flaccid muddle that was Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth". But by ducking the key issue of how to transition to a sustainable society, it represents only the first steps on a much longer journey.

There is not the space to continue that journey in full here, but within the Green movement, more and more are arguing that environmental sustainability and social justice are inextricably linked - if the planet's limited resources are to be stewarded sustainably, they need to be shared fairly, and capitalism simply cannot deliver this. Please see the review of Derek Wall's "Rise of the Green Left" (here) for one treatise on potential ways forward. Both he and others increasingly coalesce around the ideals of ecosocialism.

This term remains very broadly defined, but essentially values the sharing of resources, emphasises greater economic equality, and shifts resource ownership towards co-operatives and mutuals. It prizes long-term planning so we think about the next several generations of people as opposed to the next few years of shares dividends. By advocating legislative and social action to change our economics, ecosocialism begins to move towards a situation where, rather than being forever pushed to strive for, buy and consume "more", people can be genuinely and happily content with "enough".

Here are some links to ecosocialist blogs, websites and videos.

And here is "Home", our planet Earth.


Book Review: "The Rise of the Green Left" by Derek Wall

Derek Wall is a former Speaker of the Green Party of England & Wales and a key proponent of the growing ecosocialist movement which is the subject of his book, "The Rise of the Green Left". He teaches political economy, but this is no dry academic text riddled with political theory. Rather, it is a cri de coeur, with a vital analysis of the problems confronting the planet as untrammelled capitalism hungrily gobbles up our biosphere, spreading the poisonous profits it generates so unequally that billions either go hungry or compliantly join in the rape and destruction of our living space, buying into the lie that their hard work will eventually be rewarded.

Derek Wall contrasts the long term sustainability of the shared Commons, written about extensively by Elinor Ostrom, with the inherent need for capitalism to create goods which become obsolete sooner and sooner, either via technical breakdown or aspirational shifts in fashion. The corollary is the burgeoning waste of resources even at a time of rapidly increasing resource scarcity - something which does not alarm capitalism given that it thrives on scarcity.  Capitalism is driven by a mechanism that ignores morality - even superficially "green" initiatives such as growing biofuels for American and European cars in Colombia are shown to have involved armed gangs torturing and murdering local farmers into selling their lands so that traditional, sustainable pastures could be destroyed and replaced with alien, but profitable, biofuel crops. There are echoes here of Joel Bakan's psychological diagnosis of corporate capitalism as essentially psychopathic.

The Commons approach of sharing, in sharp comparison, reduces waste massively and conserves resources, encouraging a socio-economic system based on co-operation and sufficiency as opposed to competition and endless growth. Viewing people as part of Nature rather than either somehow apart from or in dominion over it, ecosocialism seeks to synthesise the most vital aspects of both ecology and socialism, with the inextricable symbiosis between social justice and environmental sustainability emphasised and illustrated again and again.

This is an important document for anyone interested in how green politics can deliver a truly different society and provide an answer to the claim that there is no alternative to capitalism. It challenges socialists to consider the need for sustainability in their thinking about social change. And it challenges the green movement, positing the need for a more coherent ideological narrative to underpin the authentic concerns of many of those involved. Greens who argue for individual or local action alone miss the point that, for example, even if every American citizen took every step argued for by Al Gore in his Inconvenient Truth film, this would achieve barely a third of the required reduction in US carbon emissions. "Lifestyle change is not enough; deeper structural change is needed."

Collective, worldwide action is vital - this timely, highly readable and usefully engaging tome sets out some of the paths we can take towards a far happier world. Tracing the thinking behind a sustainable and just human society back as far as Marx and Engels, the book charts the progress of ecosocialism to date. Latin America is a particular example to the world; but the book also looks at developments elsewhere, including the rise of ecosocialism within green and left political parties like Die Linke in Germany, and the establishment of the global Ecosocialist International Network. It highlights practical soldairty between movements in different parts of the world, such as combined action between Peruvian trade unions and British climate change activists following the Bagua massacre in 2009.

Derek Wall argues for an inclusive approach, embracing a diverse range of strategies and tactics and a wide range of thinking. The leap from where we are now to where we need to be is substantial, and so a welcome segment of the book covers possible transitional steps, such as progressive mutualisation of the economy, land reform and conversion of military production to peaceful and renewable purposes. He explicitly rejects the narrow dogmatic purity that so often stymies the Left, though equally cautions that political parties and individuals within them risk being seduced by power and so absorbed into the mainstream, neutralising their capacity to effect real change. Constant self-challenge and renewal within radical movements are important in order to effectively tackle wider societal issues.

With a global reach, it is an urgent but optimistic manifesto for positive ecosocialist change. The final chapter sets out a range of resources and channels, worldwide, providing a practical basis for ecosocialist action that can really work for planet and people. Essential reading for anyone who wants to work for a new world.

The Rise of the Green Left - Inside the Worldwide Ecosocialist Movement

Derek Wall ISBN: 9780745330365    Published by Pluto Press (link)

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Old Friends

Earlier this year, along with someone I "virtually met", I set up a Facebook page, Save Anne the Elephant from Circus Cruelty, when, like many, many others, I was appalled by the secret video taken of keepers abusing the last circus elephant in Britain. Many people joined up in just a few days, and it was just one of several such groups as well as rather more major campaigns run by animal rights and welfare groups like Animal Defenders International (who took the secret video). For once genuinely catching the public mood, the media also called for the elephant to be released to a safari park and in due course Anne was moved successfully to Longleat.

Within months, legislation had been passed to ban all wild animals from circuses - bizarrely, the Government opposed this Bill, which was brought in by a Conservative MP and passed nearly unanimously in a debate where just one MP spoke against.

Covert filming of Anne's abuse by her keepers
So, while circuses are still not entirely free of animals, at least chained elephants and de-clawed lions will be things of the past. But across the planet, animal cruelty continues as we selfishly destroy habitat and use our fellow creatures either for food or free labour. Conveniently, we play down the possibility that they may experience emotions or even pain the way that we do, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

In the video below, we see the moving end of the story of two elephants, raised in a circus before being separated for nearly 25 years. Animal welfare specialists rescued them and in the film reintroduce them - one of them has not seen any others of her kind for over two decades as she has been kept alone and chained for the entertainment of humans.

Please watch this short film and ask yourself if these abused and exploited creatures, who in the wild bury their dead and shed salt tears to weep in bereavement, are really that different from us, or we from them; and then ask yourself what are we doing?  

And what will you do?

ADI led the campaign for Anne; and have saved many animals from cruelty. 

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Capitalism - Making A Killing

Years ago, American President Dwight Eisenhower made a speech that would simply be unheard of from any US President's lips in recent years - he warned of the growth of a dominant military-industrial complex that would view war as big business and forever drive forward opportunities for conflict in order to maximise their profits. War would be their gain. His words were prescient and remarkable as both a former army general and as a Republican.

There are examples aplenty of how his fears came true in subsequent decades, though given the essential amorality of the economics system of the free market which Eisenhower himself espoused, it really is the logical outcome of the processes inherent in its workings. And yet, the hypocrisy and brazen arrogance of many of those involved remain capable of taking any sane person's breath away.

Former US Republican Presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, has in recent weeks been highly critical of President Obama's apparent reluctance to get involved in the NATO attacks on Libya. Yet a leading regional newspaper in the USA, the Tucson Sentinel, has just carried this story from Wikileaks, showing how just two years ago Senator McCain and the rightwing ex-Democrat, Joe Lieberman, visited Gadaffi in Tripoli and promised to hurry up an arms deal that the Libyan Leader was keen to get approved by the US Congress.

Indeed, the Senator even tweeted about his "interesting meeting with an interesting man". 

And so, as has happened before with both the USA and other western powers, we sell weapons to people we subsequently declare to be pariahs and we then have a war pitching our weapons against the (usually slightly inferior) ones we have sold them. Back in the first Gulf War in 1991, British subsidies to the arms industry had helped flog weapons to Saddam's Iraq, with British arms companies and Government officials rushing out to Bagdhad to represent the UK at its first legitimate arms fare for a decade. Then, as we went to war with him, he obviously stopped paying the installments agreed for his purchases and so the British taxpayer met the bill for nearly one thousand million pounds worth of Iraqi military effort in the fighting against British and other troops.

But arms merchants, as ever, went laughing all the way to the bank. In the arms trade, it seems you really can make a killing.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Lessons from Libya - and Caroline Lucas on ethical foreign policy

As the battle for Tripoli continues, the Gadaffi regime appears to be tottering towards collapse, but huge question marks remain over the future of Libya. The western backed rebels are a loose and contradictory confederation of tribal, political and religious interests; and the intervention of Britain and France in particular in the bombing of the country, which has been largely ascribed as the crucial factor in the rebels' success, is likely to be one requiring payback from any new government. Britain alone has fired over £250,000,000 worth of missles and bombs into a country that last year the Con Dem Government was happy to sell almost as much "crowd control" equipment to, while the British SAS trained the Leader's elite guards (though maybe not so well as it has turned out).

Like Iraq, Libya is one of the few Arab states with a large public sector, boasting clean water, free education (for males and females) and health services unrivalled in the rest of the region. Along with state controlled industries, these are now ripe for the capitalist "liberation" of the economy which has so often gone hand in hand with supposed political liberation in the history of US and UK military intervention. With the rebels already hundreds of millions of euros in debt to the EU for loans to cover their war effort, the level of western influence and pressure on any new administration to comply with European demands for access to the Libyan economy is already massive. Oil is perhaps less of an issue, as it was already substantially in western hands. But public sector privatisation and the sanctioning of the Desertec solar array plan, which Gadaffi's regime opposed, are clearly tempting prospects for western business interests.

While an overwhelming number of British parliamentarians have meekly gone along with Britain's military role, which far exceeded any "mission to protect civilians", Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas, was one of just 15 MPs who voted against the intervention (compared to 557 in favour). Today, she has issued a statement which, while welcoming the fall of Gadaffi, warns the West not to intervene, but rather that the Libyans be allowed to run their country free from external interference.

But the lessons from Libya Caroline Lucas calls for include acting on the need for a greater ethical dimension in British Foreign and trade policies - both the last and current British governments happily engaged with Gadaffi in return for cash. And while Deputy PM Nick Clegg talked about Britain aiding freedom in Arab states earlier this week, the same Government he leads with David Cameron just weeks ago happily hosted the Crown Prince of Bahrain, whose regime brutally crushed protests and calls for democracy earlier this year. And who can forget Cameron's opportunistic appearance in Egypt's Tahrir Square at the head of a delegation of arms merchants?

British Governments have to practice what they preach; for now, their policy reeks of the rank stench of rotten hypocrisy and self-serving sanctimony.

Caroline Lucas' full statement can be read here.

Kill all you like - Cameron & the Crown Prince, batting for British business in Bahrain

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Lib Dem Activist's Resignation - The Destruction of the Progressive Soul

Lib Dems - The Walking Dead of British Politics? (Article here)
The former Liberal Democrat councillor and Camden Eco Champion, Alexis Rowell, will be the Green Party candidate for the Highgate by-election on Thursday 15th September. He was a councillor until 2010 and left the Lib Dems following the recent volte face by their Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, in support of nuclear power. 

Lib Dem policy, and Huhne himself, had previously been in favour of closing down the UK's nuclear power stations and not replacing them - highlighting both the dangers from accidents and waste and the ludicrous cost of the sector, which draws billions of pounds in subsidies from the taxpayer to keep afloat. Huhne now disingenuously claims that a new generation of nuclear power stations should be counted into the lists in the struggle against global warming, ignoring the evidence that, aside from all the other drawbacks, their manufacture requires massive carbon emissions.

Alexis Rowell also attacked the Lib Dems' record in the Coalition, warning of the dangers to the social fabric of the country and the damage to public services. His defection to the Greens comes only days after the London riots, seen by many as at least in part fuelled by the social exclusion of large swathes of the populace. It also comes during a reactionary backlash led by the Tories and Lib Dem leader Clegg, with barely whispered reservations and perfunctory handwringing from a handful of Lib Dem MPs.

The evidence, last Thursday, in an Edinburgh by-election though is that, while Tory voters are relatively content with the easy-ride being given to their policies by their Coalition partners, the Lib Dems are being deserted in droves - in what had been a rather incredulous five-way marginal, their vote share collapsed from just under 20% and third place to 7% and sixth (and bottom) place (they had come first in the ward in 2007). There may have been a few votes affected (both ways) by some local factors, but this is pretty much in line with the decline in their national poll ratings since the General Election. By contrast, it was the Greens' best ever local by-election performance in Scotland.

So eyes turn now to see how well Alexis Rowell can do in Camden for the Greens, increasingly seen as the genuine progressive alternative voice to the three managerialist mainstream parties, not just on the environment but on social and economic values too. As he left, he delivered a parting broadside to Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrat leadership warning they are destroying the progressive soul of his (and my own) former party - you can read his letter on the "Another Green World" site by clicking HERE.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Tory Taliban Are Coming...

As the rioters pass from the streets to the courts and jails (and the Premier Inn in one bizarre case), the Government's crackdown continues apace with the absence of a written Constitution and the elasticity of British "justice" increasingly apparent. Excessively heavy sentences have been passed out, not only to those involved in violence, but two men have been jailed for 4 years for posting supposed encouragement to riot on a joke Facebook page, while a young mother who slept through the riots was sent away for 5 months. Her crime? Receipt of stolen goods, when a friend gave her a pair of knickers stolen from a shop.
But it is not just in the courts we see the authoritarian kickback - egged on by Housing Minister Grant Shapps, one council has begun proceedings to evict a woman her jailed son was involved: she and her daughter, who had nothing to do with the trouble, now face homelessness. Quite aside from the rank injustice of it, how on earth can anyone think for a moment that anything will be achieved by putting people convicted of rioting in the streets out on the streets?

But of course it is vengeance rather than justice that the Coalition appear hellbent on - including Nick Clegg's wheeze to have work gangs of convicts in orange jackets visibly undertaking community service. Creating a a magnet for the same crowds of thugs who used to go on News of the World "nonce-hunts", what impact will it have on those dressed like that, paraded and humiliated in public? Will it make them suddenly want to embrace society? Or will it simply alienate them further? What happens when the first Orange Riot occurs between one of these chain-less groups and the local vigilantes?

As with 9/11, the State is using this opportunity to bring forward ever new powers of control over all of us. Social network bans are to be introduced for those deemed to be a threat to public order (a heading the police increasingly place the most innocuously peaceful environmental protests under) - watch out for surprise "Friend" invites from people with the names Nick, George or Dave: they might be going to report you for more than spam. But at least the Con Dems have been praised by the Chinese Government.

Swept up in part of this, slightly un-noticed last weekend, two young men who were organising a summer "water fight" were arrested and their gathering banned under the Serious Crimes Act. Although these have happened before without being licensed, they have never led to any significant trouble or damage and have provided an ideal way for young people to have some fun and maybe even let off some steam on hot days. They are very popular in Iran - the authorities there have tended to tolerate them; not so here.

Mr Cameron is starting to show his true colours. He spent years trying to claim that the Tory Party was no longer the nasty party of the 1980s, that it wanted to embrace a new social agreement, to seek to mend what he and Mr Duncan-Smith patronisingly refer to as "Broken Britain". They have estimated that about 5% of the population - part of the underclass so skillfully created by Thatcher and Major in return for people buying into the prosperity myth of the last 20 years - are completely detached from society. Marginalised, poor, with no prospects and no stake in society. So what is to be done for this dangerous untermensch? Well, Cameron is going to appoint some sort of Moral Mentor, to come round and tell off the worst families in the country. These people will supposedly give assistance while goading them into turning off all that loud music, cutting the grass and getting one of the thousands of vacant jobs going for the asking in Tory Britain.

That is, of course, as long as the Moral Mentor can reach the door having queued behind the officials that Ian Duncan-Smith plans send round to knock on the doors of convicted people each day, in order, it would seem, pretty much just to annoy them. I do hope this most odiously sanctimonious of Ministers includes himself in the line of people harassing these people - the "Quiet man" clearly hasn't ever had to work in such an environment and his ideas betray the total, crass ignorance of this self-appointed social guru.

However, some of the most worrying moments for the longer term have not been heard from Government members lips - but in the media. One BBC News journalist took the cameras round Tottenham as people were clearing up. He talked about how greed among bankers and politicians had infused society, and then bracketed the rioters with them - so far, so good, until he declared that this showed the appalling levels of greed among the richest and poorest in society ("middle Britain" was conveniently exempted). People, he declared, wanted this immoral lack of respect sorted out.

As well as clearly confusing reportage with editorial, this presented a rather chilling piece of disinformation.. As has been pointed out, the cost of the riots, unjustifiable and awful as they undoubtedly were for the innocent victims of the trouble, is tiny by comparison to the tens of billions effectively stolen by the richest in society. With the wealth of the richest 1% continuing to grow very substantially throughout the recession, who is committing the real violence?

What a bunch of bankers...
By virtue of their favoured position, our elite don't need to break shop windows to get anything; but by their thieving our common wealth in the shape of our planet and the labour of our people, it is quite frankly staggering to draw any comparison between the rich and the poor. There is a huge difference between the chronic grasping of the rich and the desperate attempts of some among the poorest in society to steal things which either provide them with the very basics of life or, on another level, allow them to momentarily possess some item which our consumer society says represents success and makes them someone worthwhile.

But of course, the BBC will never provide such a challenging analysis as suggesting the new morality needs to be one that changes the value base of our economic and social systems. Rather, the morality that is being harped on about here is of the "doff-your-cap-and-know-your-place" variety. Duncan Smith has threateningly promised that the response to the riots will be "the making" of David Cameron and already the objective is clearly to contain the disaffected rather to tackle the root causes of disaffection. Repression will be the true watchword - as was plainly evidenced one morning on Radio 4 as a vicar intoned his horror about the riots before saying mournfully that punishment was important, and for now all he could think about was the phrase "I am my brother's keeper..." 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Planet of the Apes (The Hairless Capitalist Cut)

"Planet of the Apes" (1968) was a deeply satirical film about the decidedly non-Simian society that was the 1960s USA and, by extension, the western world at that time. While its liberalism was smuggled in under gorilla and chimpanzee masks to the ignorance (in more ways than one) of its lead actor, right-wing Republican Charlton Heston, its theatrical release brought a paean of praise for more than its groundbreaking special effects. Released at the height of the Vietnam war, both the original film and its first sequels ranged over a range of subjects including civil rights, nuclear war and religion. 

Planet of the Conservatives
At the core of the Apes mythology is as fine a demonstration as any celluloid production could capture of a deeply conservative society (the Apes) confronted by, but desperate to avoid, the truth of their origins. The leader of their Police State is the autocratic Dr Zaius, ironically titled Minister of Science & Religion, or, as Heston's character Taylor derides him, Guardian of the Terrible Secret. Taylor does not initially know what the Secret is, but it is clear throughout that the apes, however superior they are to the humans, fear homo sapiens as inherently destructive and threatening to their kind. An area of the planet known as the Forbidden Zone is a wasteland, but according to Zaius was once a paradise, ruined by humanity.

Now, a mere 43 years later, comes the prequel, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", currently doing the rounds in cinemas. Again using state-of-the-art special effects - the Ape actors no longer wear masks but have their Simian appearances grafted on by virtue of CGI - there is more emphasis on adventure than the original, but the film does retain a significant chunk of the earlier films' commentary on human society, albeit less satirically. Set in a near-future San Francisco, the lead character is a genetic scientist seeking a cure for brain diseases like Alzheimer's by experimenting on apes. He is funded by a multinational corporation which repeatedly puts profits first and last, regardless of the consequences.

As with the original movie, the subservient place of animals in our thinking and actions is highlighted by the disposable approach taken to their welfare and lives in our human-centric world. This was evidenced strikingly enough in the original film by the topsy-turvy planet where the human astronauts found the tables turned on them - in the prequel, it is by necessity more blatantly exposed through the animal experiments in the genetics lab and then by the caged zoo apes that are liberated when the newly-empowered primates make a break for the woods.

Like much science fiction, the Apes series is at its best in its fictional observation of the real society and world we occupy. As highlighted elsewhere in this blog, we are harvesting our global resources to extinction - capitalist consumer society is putting immediate, short-term profit for the rich ahead of any need to conserve our biosphere; the manufactured needs of humanity - created and marketed by faceless corporations that function as if on an amoral, profiteering autopilot - drive all other considerations aside; and cash-driven science justifies all manner of cruel experiments on animals, including apes, in the name of human progress

In the midst of this hubristic attempt by humans to ape the gods, our environment is poisoned as carbon emissions continue to rise unabated; most humans live in dire poverty and, often silently, thousands upon thousands of species are driven to human-induced extinction at a rate unprecedented in history. Included in this destruction are the Great Apes themselves - the Mountain Gorillas in the Congo, caught in the midst of a human war zone are reduced to barely 700 in number; the orangutans in Indonesia are seeing their forest habitat destroyed for logging and to farm palm oil plantations for western cooking, energy and cosmetic products (Dove Products being among the worst offenders). With chimpanzees and bonobos hunted for bush meat, if any real Planet of the Apes were actually possible, it would be effectively knocked on the head by the likely extinction of apes, at least in their natural habitat, by their human relatives in the coming decades.

Perhaps the most galling thing though is that it does not need to be like this. Even with our growing population, humanity has the ability to live at peace with ourselves and our planet. There is enough to go round without destroying our own habitat (and ultimately ourselves) and those of other species. Our problem is not fundamentally with scarce resources, but rather how we use and distribute them, the gross inequality and the short-termism that infuse our socio-economic systems. If we challenge these and work for more co-operative, socially just societies, it will mean a radical change to how we live, but the world that emerged would be far happier for all the Earth's inhabitants - perhaps most especially for us. But until then, with our current rapacious ways, humanity faces little but a very bad press should any other intelligent species stoop to consider our legacy in the future.

The closing scene of the original Planet of the Apes is one of the iconic moments in cinema history; but in case you haven't seen it, there are no spoilers here other than that it neatly summarises all the moments of comment on the human condition that have gone before. Equally powerful though is the penultimate scene, where a captured Dr Zaius asks Chimpanzee scientist Cornelius (played by the late Roddy McDowell) to read a passage from the Apes' Sacred Scrolls to explain to the stranded astronaut Taylor why he has so long feared his coming. The passage begins, as this blog ends, "Beware the beast Man..."

Sunday, 14 August 2011

ATOS Employee on Disabled People: "Parasitic Wankers"

ATOS Origin is the French-based company whose UK arm, ATOS Healthcare is employed by the Coalition Government at a cost of hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money to supposedly carry out a fair and balanced review of people who are on disability benefits. As previously blogged here and a thousand other places, there have been many, many dreadful examples of vulnerable people being mistreated during cursory assessments that have effected more miracles than Lourdes, so much so that a recent report by MPs criticised ATOS's claims to be treating people properly.

This weekend has come news that a dozen ATOS doctors are facing possible disciplinary action from the General Medical Council for their off-hand dealings with disabled and sick people undergoing assessment. And one medical professional has raised concerns that, by working for a process that deliberately aims to achieve a 20% reduction in costs, Government-driven, non-medical concerns are taking precedence over the welfare of the patient, a breach of medical ethics.

Many disability campaigners have argued strenuously that a system that sets a deliberate financial target and then masquerades as a reassessment of individual conditions can never be fair or truthful. Much evidence bears this out - including terminally-ill people being told to get back to work and blind people being assessed as seeing because they have a guide dog. With ATOS seeking to achieve Government targets rather than doing right by disabled people, it has declared the overwhelming majority of those who have been assessed as fit for work, only to see around 70% reclassified as unfit when they have appealed to panels of genuinely independent medical practitioners. In spite of this massive failure rate, the Con Dems have continued to shell out hundreds of millions of pounds to the profit-seeking ATOS Origin (to be fair, Labour originally engaged ATOS and developed a very unfair test of disability, but this was aimed solely at new claimants - bad enough - while the Con Dems have massively increased both the cost and scope of the contract with ATOS to review several million current claimants as well).

There is some hope that parts of this sorry process may be revised or dropped in the coming months. While their Commons colleagues cravenly go along with their Tory Masters, Lib Dem Peers in the House of Lords have signalled they may vote with Labour to change the process if a motion on Employment Support Allowance is passed by ordinary party members at the Lib Dem Conference in a few weeks time.

In the meantime, disabled people will continue to be served by the likes of the ironically named Anthony Treasure, an ATOS worker who decided to use his Facebook page to make clear his view of the vulnerable people he is meant to be fairly and impartially processing in his job as an ATOS Centre Administrator: "Parasitic Wankers" he declares.

Given his employers' pisspoor record attacking the vulnerable and ripping off the taxpayer, we may be entitled to ask if he means his clients or his bosses; but we think Anthony has already made his feelings quite clear.

To complain to ATOS, please contact them by:
Update - see ATOS response to my complaint - Comment 3 below; please write to your MP!

    Saturday, 13 August 2011

    Police & Riots: Cameron Turns to American for Help; Insists is Not Desperate

    British Prime Minister David Cameron has turned to American police for advice on how to handle riots - certainly, they've plenty of experience of that, although notably the man he has hired has already said policing on its own cannot solve what are essentially wider social problems.

    The British police, meanwhile, are more than a little cross with the assertions by Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May that it was their dictation of police tactics that caused the riots to come to an end. Police chief Hugh Orde denounced this as a fabrication - and after all, while his officers endured hours and even days of assaults and threats by mobs, Mrs May, visiting a former riot scene to view the damage, fled after just 90 seconds when some entirely peaceful people booed at her.

    Cameron of course has previous form on telling other people how to risk their lives on his behalf. It was only a few weeks ago that, faced with complaints from Army generals about lack of a proper strategy and decent equipment in Afghanistan, he told them at a press conference, "You do the fighting, I'll do the talking!"

    Isn't it good to be ruled by such brave people?

    Thursday, 11 August 2011

    Our Oceans - Out of Time

    Our economic system never plans or stores for more than a handful of years ahead at most. Capitalism is based on the principle that demand is inexhaustable and so is supply - it is just a question of getting your hands on the necessary resources. Few companies have any plans stretching more than 5 to at most 10 years ahead. As our world becomes increasinly aspirational but also unequal, the result is more and more pressure to use up out resources faster and faster. To be sustainable, we would already need another three planet Earths. As this video points out, we don't have them - and so our resources now at a critical stage. That is why food prices are rising, along with the ever upwards spike in fuel costs.

    The Oceans of the wrold have been hit massively - pollution and factory size ships that trawl several miles of sea at the same time time have emptied them of 90% of their large fish and where once people took frugally from a bountiful harvest, now we hoover up the sea-bed. Our oceans are out of time.

    There are alternatives, but it will demand  changes by everyone on the planet, including a big change to our economics. It is radical and it is an urgent step, but the society that would come out of such a change would be fairer, more at peace with itself, and sustainable.

    But only if we all act. What will you do?

    Fuel to the Fire

    Listening to David Cameron answer questions for over two hours in the Commons this afternoon was a sadly repetitive, turgid and wholly predictable affair. "Criminals", "No excuses", "Water cannon", "full force of the law", "baton rounds" (notably not called by their more common name of plastic bullets), all the cliches were there. He huffed and puffed his way through the usual rightwing knee-jerk stuff about discipline, bad parents and lack of respect - an entirely partial agenda. He paused only momentarily to reject the more outlandish suggestions, such as the one that Wembley stadium should be used as an internment camp for tens of thousands of suspected rioters who should be "rounded up" by the military - though who knows how tempted he was by the prospect?

    Lib Dems, Tories and Labour were frequently indistinguishable in seeking solely an authoritarian response, ignoring the fact that if anything has proven this does not work, the riots and looting of the last week show it: where there are too many rioters in too many places at the same time, the police cannot cope. Sure, you can deploy or employ more and maybe you could bring in soldiers - a tactic pioneered in mainland Britain by Winston Churchill in Llanelli in Wales when troops machine-gunned strikers - but such a step would not be a sign of strength , but rather the last refuge of the truly desperate. All it would do would delay the start of the next round of riots, and crank up the level of dissonance and violence when they finally erupt.

    A few saner voices urged some calm reflection rather than diving into the raft of new laws and harsh actions welcomed by Cameron today. Caroline Lucas called for an examination of the impact of inequality and a tempering of Government policy in the light of all the evidence that this significantly contributes to crime and violence; Labour's John McDonnell had earlier argued similarly in the Guardian; and a number of other Labour MPs called for a wide ranging public enquiry.

    But Cameron has already decided on the authoritarian option, and new laws are to be rushed in, notably somewhat after the event. It is to be strongly suspected that they will be both a huge over-reaction to the events of this week and that before long they will be being used to stifle dissent rather than riots. Once the police can demand that people remove face masks, how long will it be before costumed protester posing in Cameron or Clegg masks are being arrested for intent to riot? If Twitter can lead to people being arrested for false rumours of riots, how long before the interpretation of messages leads to legitimate demonstrators being seized ahead of perfectly lawful protest?

    And how long before the police - or army - are indeed deployed to shoot at British citizens rather than anyone in authority taking a serious look at why so many people so willingly engaged in criminal activity this week? It is not a question of excusing people - it is a matter of understanding why something so awful has happened in order to reduce the chances of it happening again.

    Criminologists, people who have spent years investigating the motives and behaviour of people who take part in criminal activity and so somewhat more acquainted with these matters than your average Shire Squire Tory MP, have repeatedly explained that most of those looting this week are people who feel they have nothing to lose, that, for whatever reason, they feel they have no stake in society and consequently feel utter contempt for society. The comfort of gangs can be a cold substitute, but many do not even enjoy such camaraderie.

    In such a context, the common sense response would be certainly to contain the current round of trouble - although a good dose of British Summer rain appears to have done so for free tonight - but to then work hard to understand and remove the causes of such behaviour. Yet what is the Government's plan? Grant Shapps, Housing Minister, declared today that it would be to empower councils and housing associations to evict tenants found to be involved in the riots. The definition of anti-social behaviour is to be extended from the immediate vicinity of their houses to almost anywhere.

    What vituperative petty, small-minded, short-sighted brain, for want of a better word, comes up with such a solution?

    You have nothing and feel no connection with society and have been rioting on the streets. What are we going to do? Well, we are going to take away your home and put you out...on the streets! Nursing an even greater set of grievances...

    Such are the men who run our country in the Cabinet of Millionaires, 
    including the one who claimed £7,000 of our money for soft furnishings. Who is looting who?

    Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. (Matthew 13:12)

    Faces Off!: How soon before genuine protest like this is banned for potentially fomenting potential riot?

    Tuesday, 9 August 2011

    From Bullingdon to Brixton: Rulers & Rioters, and Broken Glass

    The feral elite and London rioters - how our rich have built a society defined by greed and loot.
    There have been many unsurprising commentaries written about the riots engulfing English cities since the weekend - the rightwing press and politicians have predictably trotted out their condemnation of "scum", "riff raff", "feckless" rioters. There have been calls for water cannon to be deployed and the police have menacingly "refused to rule out" the use of baton rounds.

    There is no doubt that social tensions sparked the round of violence: the police, having shot a Tottenham man dead in unclear circumstances , refused to talk with his family or a crowd who went to a police station to stage a silent protest on Saturday evening. As tempers flared, a young girl was allegedly attacked by six policemen and from there the rest, as they say, is history. Tottenham town centre was in flames by the early hours of Sunday and from there disturbances have spread around the country, reaching Salford in Greater Manchester this evening and Leeds last night.

    And yet, this is no Tahrir Square, nor is it an echo or amplification of the student demonstrations in London last autumn. Whilst undoubtedly many who have taken part in the riots and looting are socially excluded, others are clearly not - and obtaining goods such as X-Boxes, perfume, rucksacks and designer clothing appears much higher up the agenda than protesting about cuts in social care and eduction services. Likewise, some incidents, including forcing passers-by to strip naked, go far beyond any political protest. Small, local shops have been destroyed alongside the chain stores in clearly indiscriminate attacks. So is there anything more than criminal greed?

    The BBC interviewed two girls this morning, drinking stolen wine at 9.30 am, laughing about the fun they had had and eagerly anticipating another night "showing the rich" they could do what they wanted. As one commentator noted, "Where we used to be defined by what we did, now we are defined by what we buy. These big stores are in the business of tempting [the consumer] and then suddenly these people find they can just walk into the shop and have it all."

    Our society has shaped the pent up desires for the luxury goods being targeted - jewellery shops and electrical stores are prime targets. With the recession making many of these out of bounds for so many, the denial being expected of generations raised on aspirational acquisition is simply too great to be sustainable, especially in a society as characterised by extremes of wealth as ours. As "The Spirit Level" by Wilkinson and Pickett so powerfully explained last year, unequal societies are not only less happy ones, they are also more troubled, crime-ridden and violent. The actors do not personally need social or political objectives for such a drama to unfold.

    But more than just stoking the demand for these possessions, our society has now also created the permission required to take what you can. We live in a country with a ruling elite now exposed as being utterly mired in greed and corruption - and rewarded for being so. It is a genie that once out the bottle is returned with great difficulty.

    Our Members of Parliament have been exposed for their greed and gluttony over the expenses scandal. With Government leaders claiming for cleaning septic tanks, the Deputy Prime Minister getting his lawn cut at taxpayers expense and MPs "forgetting" to stop claiming for redeemed mortgages, our representatives punished barely a handful of scapegoats and are now back to claiming more than they were before the scandal erupted in 2008.

    Our bankers, exposed for their ineptitude and greedy speculation, have been bailed out to the tune of nearly £40,000,000,000 of taxpayers' money - over £1,000 per British adult - yet continue to receive tens of billions in bonuses. The richest dodge their taxes, with the authorities writing off billions, like Vodaphone (£6 billions excused). Public services are being closed to keep our rich elite in champers.

    Some of our police, the London Met most of all, have been shown to be riddled with corrupt practices - with cops receiving payments from newspapers for confidential information; investigations tainted by officers receiving gifts, lunches and even jobs from the people under suspicion; and just last week a Chief Constable and his deputy suspended for alleged fraud.

    And of course, we have our Prime Minister, David Cameron. In his own youth, Cameron was, along with London Mayor Boris Johnson, a member of the Bullingdon Club at Oxford University (see picture on left above; Cameron is second from left at back; Johnson is on the right, sitting). This society of toffs was known for its practices of pot-smoking, drinking and eating to excess before carrying out some "robust" redecoration of the restaurants they used for their revelry, the main difference with this week's rioters being that Mr Cameron's associates had their Daddies' money to pay for the damage they wrecked. Indeed, Boris Johnson's biographer notes:

    "I don't think an evening would have ended without a restaurant being trashed and being paid for in full, very often in cash. A night in the cells would be regarded as being par for a Buller man and so would debagging anyone who really attracted the irritation of the Buller men."  And Cameron himself has reminisced fondly that,Things got out of hand and we'd had a few drinks. We smashed the place up and Boris set fire to the toilets.”

    And so, as we fumble forward to find the motives for the riots - so presciently predicted last year and then helped along by the policies of Nick Clegg and his confederates - there is no doubt that we live in a country where any moral compass is gone. Our "feral elite", as Green Party leader Caroline Lucas has described them, are out of control.

    What is the real difference between our grasping rich, ripping off employees and consumers and dodging tens of billions in tax, and the kids nicking £300 sound systems from Currys? Perhaps not even a sheet of broken glass...

    Monday, 8 August 2011

    London riots: terrified woman jumps from burning building -

    London riots: terrified woman jumps from burning building -

    Tory Britain, 2011
    The carnage and mayhem of the last week has subsided, but as our Government begins a wide sweeping crackdown, including uniquely punishing the uninvolved relatives of rioters and threatening some sort of action against social networks, how credibly can the Conservatives condemn young people who damage property and threaten people?

    Read about the violent and disrepectful past of Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor Boris Johnson by clicking here.

    Nick Clegg - The Genius Seer Who Predicted The Riots

    It was just 18 months ago Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg warned about a Government pushing a public spending cuts agenda provoking riots and civil disorder.

    Be careful what you ask for Cleggie...

    With thanks to Neena.

    Haringey Green Party: The Tottenham Riots – Part 2

    Haringey Green Party: The Tottenham Riots – Part 2: "The plot thickens. According to Sky News (12:22pm UK, Monday August 08, 2011):-
    ‘Fresh questions have been raised over the shooting of Ma..."

    Sunday, 7 August 2011

    No Such Thing As The Big Society

    David Cameron's Big Idea is the so-called "Big Society". Originating in the Conservative manifesto, it is now central to the Coalition Government's Agreement and objectives, setting out
    "to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, building a big society that will 'take power away from politicians and give it to people."

    The Idea, which at one point Cameron attributed to none other than Jesus Christ, is underpinned by five pillars - more powers to local communities, more powers to local councils, encouraging volunteering (including suggestions that volunteers run post offices and pubs), supporting the development of mutuals and co-ops, and more openness in government's workings. And of course, it needs its own special, Tory-placeperson team to promote it - the Big Society Network.

    The stench of Tory ideology suffuses the B.S.
    All seemingly vaguely laudable, were it not for the background of massive cuts in public spending and the inevitable wiff, or more appropriately, stench of anti-state ideology in the Government's thinking and actions. It is also very cynically selective in terms of memory and facts, on several counts.

    Firstly, this week, the False Economy Project showed how the cuts in spending are impacting seriously on many of the very charities that are meant to deliver the Big Society . This year alone, £110 millions in public funding is being cut from their grants towards running a huge range of services, from social care to educational services to support for young offenders.

    Central Government in the Gauleiter-like form of Communities Secretary Pickles has attacked local councils for cutting grants to local charities. He callously ignores the fact that (a) the cuts are being imposed on local government by Central Government and (b) thanks to the ongoing Thatcherite agenda adopted by all Governments since the 1980s, the voluntary sector is no longer voluntary in any traditionally  recognisable sense. Rather, in many cases, charities have become the third arm of providing (at low cost and no-profit) a wide range of public services. Consequently, the Conservatives' cuts to local government will inevitably harm charities - most public funding to charities is channelled via local councils.

    It was with Care in the Community in the late 1980s, followed by the "voluntarisation" of social housing, that there began a substantial contracting out of public services to the voluntary/charity/third sector. And as that continued under major, Blair and Brown, the sector itself changed massively. For example, in social housing, from being a small, local or specialist movement in the early 1980s, it has been purposefully developed by Tory and Labour Governments into a number of increasingly large groups of national or at least regional businesses, far removed from its original purpose. But it is at least still not-for-profit and it is a key provider of services, so to suggest that somehow it would not be affected by cutbacks in public spending is ingenuous to say the least.

    But the other factor is the collective amnesia about how many of our public services were established in the first place - many of our hospitals and GP services long preceded the NHS; and not thanks to the random generosity of Victorian philanthropists as Received Wisdom might claim. Rather, these and other public services were established by the actions of millions of men and women, joining together through trade unions and mutual societies to establish voluntarily the services the community needed for its health and well-being. Alongside this, through political action and the Labour Movement, they agitated, ultimately successfully, to have these provided by the state rather than by voluntary action. Why? Because rightly, in a society with the means ours has, health, housing and other basic needs should be a right, not something obtainable dependent on the strength of local mutual aid societies.

    The Tories cite mutuals as a way forward for the Big Society. If these were replacing privately owned businesses, fine. But where they have had a great chance to rekindle the mutual spirit, by turning the nationalised banks into mutual building societies run for people rather than profit, what have they done? Along with their Lib Dem allies, the Tories have announced they will sell off the good bits back to the private finance sector to apparently rebuild confidence in Britain! It seems we are all happily confident in the efficacy of private bankers once more - it's the rest of us who are the problem now.

    The fact is that the charitable works that Cameron and Osborne laud from a century ago, probably in the mistaken belief it was all about nice industrialists rather than the mass of people, were done in the absence of public services. They were done from necessity and shared need to fill a huge gap in the well being of society. What they are doing now - closing services, shutting post offices, making people redundant - is the opposite. It is taking the ultimate objective of the charitable works of the past - the creation of a secure society - and dismantling it.

    The consequences of such barbarity, of returning the welfare of millions to the randomness of the Victorian Age, when life was short and brutal, a Pandora's Box is being opened up. With the Thatcherite nostrum of looking after the self first and foremost, the riots in Tottenham last night, and now this evening in Enfield, may be just a glimpse of a terrifying future for us all. With youth services and other public facilities in that area slashed and unemployment rising, whilst no excuse for the violence, it serves as a serious reminder of what can happen when the value of society is discounted and the social contract torn up, regardless of the deceitfully honeyed words so knowingly whispered by H.M.'s Executioners.