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Archive for the tag “Gordon Brown”

Politics: style and substance

I spent much of yesterday watching the TV, Sky News, most of it on attempts to form a government in Britain. Hung parliament. David Cameron speaks of the need for a “strong and stable” government, while Nick Clegg speaks of a “stable and good” government.

It’s a pity there Lib Dems didn’t win more seats, so they could negotiate from a position of strength. As it is, whichever way they go will actually be to their long-term detriment. Endless talking heads outside doors, speculating, speculating, speculating. I think of how different the atmosphere is from South Africa, or at least South Africa as it was in the glory days of the 1990s, where there was the African desire for inclusion, not just the Government of National Unity, which was a kind of constitutional mandate, but a real attempt to bring everyone on board, like getting Gatsha Buthelezi as Minister of Home Affairs, even though he made a total cock up of it.

There was a desire for consensus, rather than the British winner-takes-all system, which makes so many Brits uncomfortable with a hung parliament. Here only the Democratic Party refused to come to the party, and insisted on being a British-style opposition, opposing everything the government did, good or bad, as a matter of principle.

It’s all different now, of course — the ANC can’t even extend the politics of inclusion to their own party, and there are no longer any issues of principle, it’s all personalities and jockeying for position, and the media are only ever full of stories about who’s in and who’s out with not a hint of what policies they stand for. It’s all personality clashes.

In the evening it seemed that a deal between the Tories and the Lib-Dems was in sight, and Gordon Brown knew the game was up, and resigned. He made a rather touching speech outside 10 Downing Street before going to hand his resignation to the Queen. He walked off down the street with his wife and children to the car. I don’t recall any other British prime ministers leaving like that. I think most of them left almost surreptitiously, from the back door. But there is another contrast. Five years ago I thought that we in South Africa were fortunate to have Thabo Mbeki as head of government. For all his faults, he seemed preferable to Tony Blair, George Bush, or Robert Mugabe, or most of the other prime ministers or presidents in the world.

But now I think that Gordon Brown was better than Jacob Zuma, and seeing him walk down the road with his family, after saying that he was giving up his second most important job, as prime minister, but would continue the first, as husband and father, seemed to emphasise the contrast. It’s PR, of course, staged for the media, but there is some substance to it as well, and a huge contrast to Jacob Zuma’s family life.

But I only follow British politics sporadically, and from a distance. British bloggers are closer, and perhaps see more clearly. One British blogger, Tony Grist, remarked Eroticdreambattle: A good man?:

If a good man does bad things is he still a good man?

Or- to narrow things down more specifically to the career of Gordon Brown- can a person claim to be in possession of ‘a moral compass’ if he never seems to use it.

The defining characteristics of Brown’s career have been cowardice, lack of principle, corrosive ambition, sulkiness, disloyalty and double-dealing. He tacitly supported the Iraq war, encouraged the banking free for all, created a culture of paranoia around himself, persistently undermined his colleagues- including Tony Blair- and (behind closed doors) sulked and fumed and bullied. In what way are these the actions of a ‘good’ man?

I’m asking because I’ve just been reading this. Gordon Brown has failed in most things, but he’s somehow managed to sell us all on the notion that he’s a moral person- that whole son of the manse thing. Well, I beg to differ.

and a little later he elaborated

Brown comes from a very moral place- from Scottish Presbyterianism and Christian Socialism- and has betrayed almost everything he was taught and once stood for.

The young Brown would, I think, have been disgusted by the things his older self wound up doing in the pursuit and exercise of power.

But another British blogger takes a different view. Neil Clark: Farewell, Gordon Brown. You weren’t that bad:

Neil Clark: Brown should have strung the bankers up from the lamp-posts – it’s what the public wanted

He’s been called the worst Prime Minister ever – and that was by a politician from his own party. But was Gordon Brown, who announced that he was stepping down as Labour leader yesterday, really that bad?

And goes on to say Gordon Brown was not the worst prime minister ever | The First Post:

None of the candidates mooted as replacements for Brown have distinct ideological positions. You certainly couldn’t say the same about Jim Callaghan, Roy Jenkins, Tony Benn, Michael Foot, Tony Crosland and Denis Healey – the six Labour candidates who set out to replace Harold Wilson when he stepped down in 1976. Back then, the policies the politicians espoused – and not their personalities, or their media image – were decisive.

But in today’s neo-liberal, globalist era, where policy parameters are set by international capital and sovereignty-impinging institutions such as the EU and the IMF, politicians have largely been reduced to mere managers. And because the difference between their policies is so small, so the emphasis has shifted on to personality.

That many regard Brown’s premiership so negatively has little to do with the man’s actual record in office, but owes a lot to the fact that ‘Gloomy Gordon’, the man famous for having the ‘worst smile in the world’, was ill-suited to the personality-based politics of today.

True, there were many things he did do wrong: signing the undemocratic Lisbon Treaty, which surrendered even more sovereignty to the EU without a referendum; his failure to renationalise the railways; and his continuation of Britain’s military involvement in Afghanistan.

As Clark points out, politics today is certainly becoming a matter of style rather than substance. But on the positive side

He was certainly a better PM than his warmongering predecessor, who took us into military conflicts which will make us a target for Islamic militants for many years to come, and John Major, who destroyed Britain’s railways. And he also comes out favourably compared to Sir Anthony Eden, who led us into the Suez fiasco and Neville Chamberlain, whose appeasement of Adolf Hitler led to World War 2.

But there is one real issue, which is at the centre of the wheeling and dealing to form a government in Britain, and that is that the Lib-Dems are wedded to the idea of electoral reform, and this determines the extent to which they will support any of the other parties that wish to form a government.

The Liberal-Democrats want a system of proportional representation, which will more fairly represent the wishes of the voters. When South Africa had a constituency system only a minority of the population were allowed to vote, and even some of those who did have the vote were effectively disenfranchised because many constituencies returned unopposed candidates. Now we have proportional representation, and every vote counts.

The disadvantage, however, is that proportional representation with a list system makes members of parliament accountable to their parties rather than to the electorate. If media image counts for a great deal in British politics, it counts for very litte in South African politics. Julius Malema has had a poor media image for some time, but that counts for little. What counts is the party cabal.

As a non-Brit, my main interest in British politics is their foreign policies. The warmongering propensity of the Labour government of the past 13 years has helped to make the world a more dangerous place for all of us. Leftist socialist Brits say that the most important thing was to vote Labour for sake of the British working class, and they care a lot less about the fact that the Labour government has enthusiastically participated in the bombing of the working class in other countries. Working class solidarity and socialism that is no longer internationalist becomes National Socialism. Add to that the denial of civil liberties at home by enthusiasm for such things as 90-day detention manifested by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, with the bulk of the British media calling that “the moral high ground”, and Labour’s record is not a good one. I’m not sure that the Tories would have been any better on those issues. The Liberal Democrats at least made some effort to oppose those things, and my thought was that a hung parliament would be a good thing if it enabled the Lib-Dems to restrain the worst excesses of Tories and Labour.

But in Britain, as in South Africa, I think it is well to heed G.K. Chesterton’s wise words

Much vague and sentimental journalism has been poured out to the effect that Christianity is akin to democracy, and most of it is scarcely strong or clear enough to refute the fact that the two things have often quarrelled. The real ground upon which Christianity and democracy are one is very much deeper. The one specially and peculiarly un-Christian idea is the idea of Carlyle–the idea that the man should rule who feels that he can rule. Whatever else is Christian, this is heathen. If our faith comments on government at all, its comment must be this — that the man should rule who does NOT think that he can rule. Carlyle’s hero may say, “I will be king”; but the Christian saint must say “Nolo episcopari.” If the great paradox of Christianity means anything, it means this–that we must take the crown in our hands, and go hunting in dry places and dark corners of the earth until we find the one man who feels himself unfit to wear it. Carlyle was quite wrong; we have not got to crown the exceptional man who knows he can rule. Rather we must crown the much more exceptional man who knows he can’t.

Brit elections: the elephant in the room

I watched a couple of the televised debates between the three front-runners in the UK election, and I’ve read several British blog posts about the hustings in various constituencies, and one thing that has struck me is that they all seem to be silent about the elephant in the room — that the Labour Party, since it came to power in 1997, has led Britain into not one, but three imperialist wars.

Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats did, to his credit, make a passing reference to the fact that the war in Iraq was illegal, but he did not follow it up, and Gordon Brown and David Cameron did not respond to it.

As an Australian journalist notes, t r u t h o u t | Voting for War. Take Your Pick:

All three party leaders are warmongers. Nick Clegg the Liberal Democrats leader and darling of former Blair lovers says that as prime minister he will ‘participate’ in another invasion of a ‘failed state’ provided there is ‘the right equipment the right resources.’ His one condition is the standard genuflection toward a military now scandalized by a colonial cruelty of which the Baha Mousa case is but one of many.

For Clegg as for Gordon Brown and David Cameron the horrific weapons used by British forces such as clusters, depleted uranium and the Hellfire missile which sucks the air out of its victims lungs do not exist. The limbs of children in trees do not exist. This year alone Britain will spend £4 billion on the war in Afghanistan and that is what Brown and Cameron almost certainly intend to cut from the National Health Service.

One other thing that all three front-ronners studiously avoided mentioning, and none of the public questions mentioned either, was the Labour Party’s attempts to destroy civil liberties and turn Britain into a fascist police state. Both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown tried to introduce 90-day detention without trial.

In the 1960s, when South Africa introduced 90-day detention, Harold Wilson’s Labour Party imposed military sanctions, and cancelled an order for Buccaneer aircraft destined for the South African Air Force. Now the British media laud Blair’s and Brown’s attempts to turn Britain into a Vorsterstan as “taking the moral high ground”.

My, how the mighty have fallen!

British politics gets interesting too

The British political scene has suddenly become more interesting after a televised debate between the leaders of the three main parties last week led to a surge in popularity for the Liberal Democrats, who have been out of power since the First World War. It was apparently the first time such a debate had been held, which gave British voters a chance to hear more than the occasional soundbite from the Lib-Dem leader, and most seemed to think he was the clear winner of the first round.

We watched last night’s second round of the debate to see what all the fuss was about.

Cameron Failure to Top Clegg in Debate Signals Hung Parliament – BusinessWeek:

April 23 (Bloomberg) — Conservative David Cameron failed to derail Nick Clegg in the U.K. campaign’s second debate, four instant polls showed, pointing to a hung parliament with Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour Party as the largest bloc.

In a 90-minute televised debate, Brown, 59, compared his 43-year-old opponents to children “squabbling at bathtime.” Cameron, who led polls until Clegg’s surge after last week’s debate, said a government without a majority would prevent “decisive action” to narrow a record budget deficit. Clegg dismissed such warnings as “ludicrous scare stories.”

Of four surveys released immediately after the event, two showed Clegg won and a pair favored Cameron. That suggests the debate will produce little change in polls on the overall race in coming days. Most since last week show Labour winning a plurality of seats in the May 6 election.

From this distance the thing that was of most interest is foreign policy, and whether a new British government will continue or abandon the war-mongering of the belligerent Mr Blair, who has led Britain into three wars of aggression in the last 13 years.

Nick Clegg was the only one who mentioned the illegal Iraq War, while the other two steered clear of it. David Cameron’s contribution seemed to be mostly vague platitudes and aspirations without saying how these would be achieved. Gordon Brown got specific about things like jobs and recovering from the recession, but was also vague about protecting Britain from terrorism, which the others didn’t challenge him on, though it could be argued that Labour’s support for America’s wars of aggression in the Middle East actually made Britain more vulnerable to terrorism. Brown accused Clegg of being anti-American and Cameron of being anti-European, and implied that his “quiet diplomacy” would have more influence of American policy than Clegg’s promise of a more independent line — which is the kind of thing we used to hear from Thabo Mbeki about his approach to human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

It will be interesting to see how things develop.

UK: European Court Rebuke Over Indefinite Detention | Human Rights Watch

It’s worse than I thought. It took six years for South Africa to become a fully-fledged police state, from the appointment of B.J. Vorster as Minister of Justice in 1961 to the passing of the Terrorism Act of 1967 (since repealed) which provided for indefinite detention without trial.

Britain seems top have done it in four, since Tony Blair asked for 90-day detention.

In fact I thought that Britain had not even reached the 90-day mark yet, and that Gordon Brown had only managed to push it up to 48 days. Hat-tip to Big Blue Meanie for this news.

UK: European Court Rebuke Over Indefinite Detention | Human Rights Watch:

The ruling today by the European Court of Human Rights on the United Kingdom’s detention policy for foreign terrorism suspects confirms that indefinite detention violates basic rights, Human Rights Watch said.

The court ruled that the previous detention policy violated the European Convention on Human Rights. A and Others v. the United Kingdom concerned 11 foreign citizens who were held in indefinite detention for varying periods of time between December 2001 and March 2005 under Part IV of the 2001 Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act.

‘The court has reaffirmed unequivocally the fundamental rights to protection from arbitrary detention and to a fair hearing,’ said Judith Sunderland, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. ‘The principles at stake can’t be sacrificed even in the name of counterterrorism.’

Congratulations, Gordon Brown, for turning Britain into a fascist state. That’s quite something to go down in history for, even though the British media choose to call fascism “the moral high ground”.

See also The last Straw man.

Terrorism Acts and police states

I understand that South Africa’s notorious Terrorism Act of 1967, which made South Africa a fully-fledged police state, has been repealed.

In Britain, a Terrorism Act has recently been introduced, and, has been having a similar effect to the South African one, of turning Britain into a police state. This incident, which took place a few years ago, is an example.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Labour issues apology to heckler:

The Labour Party has apologised after an 82-year-old member was thrown out of its annual conference for heckling.

Walter Wolfgang, from London, was ejected from the hall after shouting ‘nonsense’ as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw defended Iraq policy.

Police later used powers under the Terrorism Act to prevent Mr Wolfgang’s re-entry, but he was not arrested.

When such draconian legislation is introduced, government spokesmen give the usual reassurances that the innocent have nothing to fear, that the police can be trusted not to abuse their powers, and so on.

And almost inevitably, the powers are abused to suppress the civil rights of ordinary citizens, which seems to have happened in this case. In the light of this kind of thing, Gordon Brown’s Vorsterian urge to introduce 90-day detention to Britain is even more scary.

Terrorism Acts and police states

I understand that South Africa’s notorious Terrorism Act of 1967, which made South Africa a fully-fledged police state, has been repealed.

In Britain, a Terrorism Act has recently been introduced, and, has been having a similar effect to the South African one, of turning Britain into a police state. This incident, which took place a few years ago, is an example.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Labour issues apology to heckler:

The Labour Party has apologised after an 82-year-old member was thrown out of its annual conference for heckling.

Walter Wolfgang, from London, was ejected from the hall after shouting ‘nonsense’ as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw defended Iraq policy.

Police later used powers under the Terrorism Act to prevent Mr Wolfgang’s re-entry, but he was not arrested.

When such draconian legislation is introduced, government spokesmen give the usual reassurances that the innocent have nothing to fear, that the police can be trusted not to abuse their powers, and so on.

And almost inevitably, the powers are abused to suppress the civil rights of ordinary citizens, which seems to have happened in this case. In the light of this kind of thing, Gordon Brown’s Vorsterian urge to introduce 90-day detention to Britain is even more scary.

The swing to fascism in the USA and the UK

The swing to fascism in the USA and the UK seems to be becoming more pronounced. The rule of law is being undermined.

Justices Rule Terror Suspects Can Appeal in Civilian Courts – NYTimes.com:

The detainees at the center of the case decided on Thursday are not all typical of the people confined at Guant�namo. True, the majority were captured in Afghanistan or Pakistan. But the man who gave the case its title, Lakhdar Boumediene, is one of six Algerians who immigrated to Bosnia in the 1990’s and were legal residents there. They were arrested by Bosnian police within weeks of the Sept. 11 attacks on suspicion of plotting to attack the United States embassy in Sarajevo — “plucked from their homes, from their wives and children,” as their lawyer, Seth P. Waxman, a former solicitor general put it in the argument before the justices on Dec. 5.

The Supreme Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina ordered them released three months later for lack of evidence, whereupon the Bosnian police seized them and turned them over to the United States military, which sent them to Guant�namo.

Mr. Waxman argued before the United States Supreme Court that the six Algerians did not fit any authorized definition of enemy combatant, and therefore ought to be released.

Adventus comments on this:

One wonders how many ‘radical Islamists’ were individually identified as parties in this case, and why the evidentiary rulings of the Supreme Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina were dismissed so summarily.

I always thought Justice was blindfolded so it couldn’t see radical Islamists, but only facts and law, and rule accordingly. Well, at least 5 justices see things my way.

Earlier in the week the British Parliament extended detention without trial, and I watched horrified as they came up with the same arguments repeated ad nauseam by B.J. Vorster and his henchmen when they introduced detention without trial in South Africa in 1963.

The only person who made a stand for the rule of law was the Tory shadow home secretary, David Davis, who subsequently resigned his seat in parliament. In answer to him the Labour spokesman on Sky TV said that people should “look into their hearts” — and what he was saying, in effect, was that all the evil in their hearts, they should call good. And the media and parliamentary colleagues rounded on Davis, condemning his resignation as an egocentric publicity stunt. But given their fascist bias, I suspect that he is the only one of integrity among the lot of them.

A year ago, when Tony Blair tried, but failed, to get 90-day detention, the British media were speaking of him taking “the moral high ground”, and that was the worst of all, because what they were calling “the moral high ground” comes from the very pit of hell itself.

In the USA the majority of the Supreme Court upheld the rule of law, but there were some judges who did not, as Adventus notes.

What neither Adventus nor the New York Times remarked on, however, was the behaviour of the Bosnian police, which was, if anything, the scariest of the lot. That is the kind of thing that happened here in South Africa before 1994. That is the kind of thing that happened in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. That is the kind of thing that is happening right now in “Mad Bob” Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, and that is the kind of thing the British media are calling “the moral high ground”. And it was to establish this kind of contempt of the rule of law that Nato rained bombs on Yugoslavia and established the Bosnian state.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20).

______________

Hat-tip to Tygerland for this list of links on the topic:

  • Liberty – Shami Chakrabarti’s statement and Liberty’s points of contention.
  • Amnesty – Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen’s statement.
  • OurKingdom – Anthony Barnett, OpenDemocracy’s founder and editor, ponders a new ally in David Davis.
  • Iain Weaver – takes a historical look at other MP’s who have put their career on the line for principle.
  • Chicken Yoghurt – Justin swings both ways as he weighs up Davis’ resignation.
  • Labour Outlook – has quotes and links-aplenty from around the media. Including news that Labour won’t stand against DD, with the view to making the Tories appear soft on terrorism. *sigh*

Conservatives are little pink liberalists

I just caught on Sky News the Conservative shadow Home Secretary in Britain, David Davis MP, denouncing the Labour government’s plans for detention without trial.

When B.J. Vorster, the South African Minister of Justice, introduced 90-day detention in 1963, he dismissed those who objected as “little pink liberalists”. Gordon Brown, like his predecessor Tony Blair, wanted 90-day detention, and they seem to be coming to resemble Vorster more and more.

So it seems that in Britain, if you want a liberal government, vote Tory.

Britain’s slide to a fascist police state continues

Any hopes that the replacement of Tony Blair by Gordon Brown might arrest Britain’s slide towards a fascist police state have been dashed. Brown’s recent defence of “Control Orders” sounded just like Vorster’s defence of banning orders against government opponents in apartheid South Africa. And the British Control Orders are virtually indistinguishable from South African banning orders, and in some ways even more restrictive.

clipped from news.bbc.co.uk

What are control orders?

The orders were introduced under 2005 anti-terrorism legislation to give ministers the power to put individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism under close supervision that some say amounts to a loose form of house arrest.

gives the home secretary the power to impose strict conditions on a subject’s activities.

This can include a ban on using the internet or mobile phones. The subject can be told to observe a curfew or other restrictions on their movements and travel.

blog it

Vorster rules – in Britain!

Banning, detention without trial and other features of Vorster’s South Africa are on their way to Britain, if Gordon Brown has his way, and 83% of Sky News viewers approve of 90-day detention, according to what I saw on the TV a few minutes ago.

Back in 1963, when Vorster introduced 90-day detention in South Africa, the British Labour Party was one of the outspoken opponents of such violations of human rights, and generally supported the anti-apartheid movement. Who would have thought, back then, that the day would come when South Africa would have a constitution that protected human rights, and the British Labour Party would be seeking to turn Britain into a fascist state?

Of course such measures are necessary to protect law-abiding members of the public against terrorism (that’s exactly what Vorster said). But perhaps that would not have been necessary of Tony Blair had not led Britain into so many wars, and terrorised civilian populations in Yugoslavia, Iraq and other places by bombing them. He should have heeded the warnings of Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid in Charles Kingsley’s The water babies.

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