The Nether-World

May 26, 2007

Under The Weather

Filed under: Civil Liberties, Fruitbats, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Nu Labour, UK Politics — netherworld @ 4:33 am

Sorry about the lack of posts. I seem to have come down with some nasty lurgy which is making staring at a computer screen for any great length of time give me a headache (not to mention the blocked sinuses, fever, aching muscles and hacking cough), and stringing a coherent sentence together is difficult. So as a total cop-out, here are ten other stories collected over the week (in no rational order) that are worth reading:

  • Ministry of Truth on John Reid’s latest attack on our freedoms.

  • Mask of Anarchy on McDonald’s efforts to to have the word “McJob” removed from the dictionary.

  • Rachel has returned from her honeymoon only to face yet more abuse from a batshit cyber-stalker and is asking for help.

  • Grimmerupnorth on why Jon Cruddas is a dishonourable hypocrite who should not be elected to the Deputy Leadership.

  • Not Saussure on yet another attack on our civil liberties by our wonderful government.

  • Blood & Treasure on the latest ratcheting up of the hate campaign against Iran.

  • Ten Percent on America’s renewed sabre rattling against Iran and on just who is really supporting Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon.

  • Lenin’s Tomb on the secret air war in Iraq.

  • Tears for Lebanon on the misery that the Lebanese people are facing.

  • Obsolete on Margaret Hodge’s latest outburst in favour of the BNP (supported by Hazel Blears no less).

Hopefully I’ll be back to ‘normal’ blogging as soon as I feel a bit better.

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May 10, 2007

A Date For Your Diary: June 27

Filed under: Bliar, Nu Labour, UK Politics — netherworld @ 5:56 pm

So we now know that Tony Blair will quit as Prime Minister on June 27. There are now just seven more weeks of him to put up with before we can celebrate his leaving with a party. The avalanche of political obituaries has already started with the BBC coverage being embarrassingly gushing. As promised, I have written one too. It can be found on Blairwatch. It’s rather long but I wanted to cover as much as possible of the last ten years of disappointment, scandal and mayhem. Chicken Yogurt has a fitting tribute to Blair as does Paul Linford. Anyway, now that the serious stuff is out of the way. A rather shorter and more humorous tribute to the Blair years can be found here.

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May 5, 2007

Blair Deluded As Ever

Filed under: Bliar, Nu Labour, UK Politics — netherworld @ 1:57 am

blair-sahaf.jpg

Okay, so I’m nowhere near as proficient with Photoshop as geniuses like Beau Bo D’Or, but after listening to Blair try to dress up Labour’s disastrous results in the latest elections as some kind of victory, I couldn’t resist this rather obvious gag. The spin coming from New Labour is hilarious. Of course, this sketch also comes to mind.

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May 2, 2007

Blair: The Final Days

Filed under: Bliar, Nu Labour — netherworld @ 4:02 pm

520weeks.jpg

courtesy of Beau Bo D’Or

You can really feel the end of the Blair era approaching now. The newspapers are full of stories about Blair’s legacy and his likely successor, Gordon Brown, is getting plenty of media attention. Not so for those who dare to think that there should be a proper contest and who actually offer an alternative to the policy of the last ten years (or is it 28 years?). Previously loyal politicians are distancing themselves from Blair with some truly hilarious hypocrisy like this:

Blair was too focused on spin, says Mandelson

Buff Hoon also came out with a classic in reference to Iraq:

we didn’t plan for the right sort of aftermath

Sounds a bit like “the wrong kind of snow” doesn’t it? No doubt there will be plenty of political obituaries for Blair in the coming weeks and I may well write one myself. For the moment though, a little light relief seems in order as we get demob happy. From Eclectech (via Bloggerheads) comes this rather good animated piece with a soundtrack by Phil Alexander.

myway.jpg

Click on graphic to enter the site and play the video

Of course when the happy day of Blair’s departure actually arrives, a small celebration is called for at this location.

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April 28, 2007

Blair’s Delayed Departure Explained

Filed under: Bliar, Nu Labour, UK Politics — netherworld @ 2:41 pm

It all makes sense now

blair_brown_leadership.jpg

With thanks to Beau Bo D’Or

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Blair’s Legacy

Filed under: Bliar, Nu Labour, UK Politics — netherworld @ 1:57 pm

The closer we get to the moment when Blair finally throws in the towel, the more we hear about his legacy. Many people will obviously think his legacy will be Iraq, the cash for peerages scandal, the loss of so many civil liberties, the out-of-control surveillance society, the pensions scandal, his subservience to George Bush, the widening gap between rich and poor, the freezing of social mobility and the creeping privatisation of our public services.

Blair, of course, has other ideas, and in an effort to divert attention from his numerous failures which will be highlighted during next week’s elections, he has compiled his own 22 page dossier (yup, another dodgy dossier) of what he wants his legacy to be and distributed it among all Labour MPs. Needless to say it’s mostly garbage. It still links Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

“9/11 fundamentally changed the world,” he said. “We are still dealing with its impact, most obviously, in both Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Well, we can’t argue that 9/11 didn’t change the world but when it was used as a shoddy pretext for the illegal invasion of Iraq coupled with a load of nonsense about WMD pushed by Bush and Blair, his statement is as ridiculous as those still made by Dick Cheney. It gets worse:

“Our influence and access across the globe has increased with Britain helping to set the agenda rather than follow it,”

Yeah, right! Another depressing part for me was a bit about what his successors will inherit.

 

In an early contribution to the political obituaries that will mark his resignation, the prime minister said New Labour had created “the governing idea of British politics“, which all opposition parties had had to adopt in its wake.

Oh please God, no… How arrogant! Blair’s legacy will be what people remember, not what he tells them it is. Blair isn’t the first to do this obviously. Kings, emperors, and dictators have been doing this since the beginning of civilisation. Usually in these cases, however, the legacy is presented after the real, not the political death of the ruler in the form of an obituary or a commemorative monument. I wonder if Blair will be merely content to hand out a list for his loyal acolytes to recite on cue and, of course, the medal he hasn’t been able to collect from Bush, or whether he’s wishing for something more substantial like, say, the Res Gestae Divi Augusti that the emperor Augustus had emblazoned on various monuments around the Roman empire. At least Augustus achieved the things he boasted about.

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April 1, 2007

April Foolery

Filed under: humour, Nu Labour — netherworld @ 6:08 am

Last year a story that I suspected was an April Fools joke turned out to be real which is a reversal from the norm where a convincing story turns out to be a prank. So this year I’ve been a bit more careful in reading the news. I’m sure there are lots of April Fools jokes going around, but my favourite so far is this one from the Telegraph which almost had me for a minute:

Revealed: cash-strapped London ready to share Olympics with France

The Government is drawing up plans to “farm out” several events at the 2012 London Olympics – including the showpiece opening ceremony – to Paris.

Steeply rising costs and unexpected delays in developing the London site have forced the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to draw up the radical contingency proposals.

Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, is understood to have set up a top level, inter-departmental working party to consider the options.

One idea is to stage some of the events in Paris, which was narrowly beaten by London to host the Games when the International Olympic Committee made its choice in 2005.

Miss Jowell is adamant that London will not lose any of the major athletics events, but some of the track and field heats could take place in Paris.

The opening ceremony, which is costly and not truly sports-related, could even be transferred to the Stade de France. A memorandum from the Foreign Office to the working party, seen by this newspaper, notes: “The French are very good at fireworks.”

Read on

Of course considering the pig’s ear that Tessa Jowell has made of the financing of the Olympics so far, and Britain’s performance in completing Wembley Stadium, it was only remembering what day this is that stopped me believing this story. Once you get further down the article there are some other clues such as Ken Livingstone denying that he was:

in favour of allowing some of the “softer” Olympic events, such as beach volleyball and synchronised swimming, to be transferred to Caracas, as a mark of his admiration for Venezuela’s Left-wing president Hugo Chavez.

Ho Ho, very droll… And then there is the name of Avril Bouffonnerie as being the spokesman for the original French bid. So I’m fairly confident this time that this is an April Fools joke (even though it’s a damn good idea – in fact I’d go further and give the whole thing to Paris; Britain under New Labour proves every day that it couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery). It’s nice to see that Iain Dale has also gotten into the spirit of the occasion, and, I have to say, did it very well too – it had me going for about as long as the Telegraph article did.

What I’m wondering now is whether or not this is an April Fool’s joke:

Clarke ready to run for leader

CHARLES CLARKE is ready to challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership if David Miliband fails to mount a bid.

Confidants of the former home secretary say he will consider a leadership challenge to deprive the chancellor of a “coronation” for the top job if the environment secretary refuses to do so.

I suspect that ludicrous as it sounds, it isn’t, but then I’ve already commented on on his plotting and his prospects as well as the song that came to mind when I first heard of the possibility.

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March 6, 2007

Sleaze In America – Sleaze In Britain

Filed under: Cash for Honours, Lord Levy, Nu Labour, Sleaze, US Politics — netherworld @ 7:22 pm

Two sleaze stories today, one from each side of the Atlantic. First, in the USA Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, has been found guilty of obstruction of justice and perjury. When he is sentenced in June, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

He was accused of lying to the FBI and a grand jury over revelations about CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity.

Libby’s lawyer said they were “very disappointed” at the verdict, and would ask for a new trial, or would appeal.

Libby was found guilty on four out of five counts. He was acquitted on one count of lying to the FBI.

I haven’t blogged much about this case but the BBC has an at-a-glance article about the trial and also other links to the background of this story for those who are unfamiliar with it. In short, it concerns the leaking of the identity of a CIA agent, Valerie Plame whose husband, Joseph Wilson displeased the Bush administration by disputing Bush’s claim that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear material from Niger. The trial itself, however, is about the cover-up (isn’t it always?). More updates on this can be found at Firedoglake and Iain Dale has a report. too.

Over in Britain, the sleaze story is the on-going saga of the cash for peerages scandal. The story all week has concerned a document (not an e-mail apparently) and an injunction placed on the BBC to prevent them revealing who sent it, who it was for and what it was about. This was a request by the police. The injunction was partially lifted yesterday so it could be revealed who sent it to who but not much else. Today the whole injunction was lifted revealing what most observers suspected anyway, namely that this document was written by Ruth Turner to her boss Jonathan Powell and it concerned Lord Levy whose position is now looking more precarious than ever.

There has been much speculation as to whether it was Downing Street that leaked the details in order to prejudice any trial. This is, of course, vigorously denied. After calling his arrests and the police behaviour “theatrical”, Lord Levy is now demonstrating his own skills in theatrics as he denounced the “prejudiced and distorted view” of the cash-for-honours affair presented by leaks to the media and played to the gallery by appalling for public sympathy. It is possible that Ruth Turner was concerned that Lord Levy was asking her to alter her evidence, something Levy denies. If true this opens the way for charges of perverting the cause of justice (again, it’s the cover-up rather than the original crime). The Guardian defied the injunction and broke the story which has caused the row as to who is doing the leaking in this case. Lord Levy blames the police, and everyone else seem to be blaming Lord Levy or Downing Street.

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February 21, 2007

Parliament Under New Labour

Filed under: Bliar, Democracy, Gordon Brown, Nu Labour, UK Politics — netherworld @ 4:46 am

The recent resignation of Labour MP Alan Simpson from Parliament, is a loss to British politics. The Labour party now has even fewer politicians with the conviction to stand up for its principles. When I read the reasons Alan Simpson gave for his resignation, I was reminded of some of the things Tony Benn said when he retired from Parliament in 2001. There is a similarity in their statements and the reasons given are a damning indictment of what Parliamentary politics has become under Nu Labour.

Tony Benn on his retirement from Parliament:

It is difficult to get this [the issues Benn had pledged to fight for that brought him into conflict with his party] across inside parliament at the moment because politics is reported in such a shallow way… The issues that face us are difficult, challenging and interesting—and the level of political discourse is shallow, abusive and personal…

I am not retiring from politics, but I believe the work that needs to be done now to rebuild the Labour Party is best done from outside. If you are in parliament at the moment you are asked to do a lot of things that run absolutely contrary to the pledges I gave my constituents and to my own convictions. All progress has always come from outside parliament.
Source

Alan Simpson MP on the announcement of his resignation from Parliament:

“I never went into Parliament to have a career. I went in to change the world. I’m leaving because I still want to change the world, and I don’t think you can do that in this Parliament,” he said. In a letter to his Nottingham South party, he said: “My worry is that it has become a comfort zone in which MPs are paid more and more to stand for less and less…

“There are good people in the Parliamentary Labour Party; just not enough of them. Many MPs complain of a government that no longer listens to the party, but they dutifully walk through the division lobbies to vote for whatever regressive measures Downing Street asks for. At times I feel that colleagues would vote for the slaughter of the first-born if asked to.”

Mr Simpson is giving up a relatively safe Labour seat with a majority of more than 7,000 at the last election. Asked why he does not stay and fight, he said: “Because I don’t think the changes are going to be driven inside Parliament. There is a desperate short-termism that consumes you. Parliament is dominated by playground games: who’s gang are you in?

“I think the danger is that Parliament becomes a politics-free zone, where people are more interested in their careers than the issues that really matter to people outside. People position themselves around loyalty and career opportunities and the debate is arranged around short-term options – should we lock up more prisoners, not should we be looking at alternatives to prison?”
Source

If politicians of conviction feel that they can no longer fight for the issues they believe in inside Parliament and think they have a better chance of affecting change from outside, what does this tell us about Nu Labour and our Parliamentary system at the moment? And what danger does this pose for the future? For me this highlights an urgent need for change in our political system. Perhaps things might improve once Tony Blair has left office but I doubt Gordon Brown will be much different. As Alan Simpson says:

Choosing between Blair and Brown is like choosing between Saddam and Uday … They’re as bad as each other.

Another interesting quote from Tony Benn illustrates part of the problem with Nu Labour:

It’s very interesting to me that some ex-communists in the Labour party have been able to shift from Stalin to Blair and it hasn’t been much of a shift… the shift from Stalin to Blair is a minor adjustment.

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February 5, 2007

Cash For Honours – The End Draws Near

Filed under: Bliar, Cash for Honours, Nu Labour, Sleaze — netherworld @ 7:14 am

sleazy-levy-sml.jpg

Greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his friends for his life – Jeremy Thorpe speaking of Harold Macmillan’s 1962 Night of the Long Knives when he sacked most of the senior members of his cabinet to save his political career.

The Times is reporting that three of the people questioned by the police in the cash for honours scandal are likely to face charges. This must mean that the police investigation is drawing to a close and we’ll soon be waiting to hear what the Crown Prosecution Service has to say. It appears that someone questioned by the police has been singing like a canary.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyers have received files from the police indicating that charges should be brought against three people, although the inquiry is continuing.

“I would be very surprised if they are not charged,” a prosecution source told The Times. The same source said that Tony Blair was likely to be interviewed by the police for a third time because he had yet to answer certain questions.

So who are the people who are likely to be charged? It would seem on the face of it that Tony Blair might escape prosecution and it will be his minions that will carry the can for the Right Honourable Gentleman. Obviously Lord Levy is top of the list as he’s been arrested twice so far. Naturally he’s still protesting his innocence and has once again said that he will not swing for Tony Blair.

Tony Blair’s chief fund-raiser Lord Levy is ready to tell the police that the Prime Minister is to blame for the cash-for-peerages scandal.

The Labour peer is furious that he has become the prime suspect.

And he is ready to defend himself by arguing that Mr Blair, not him, should be made to take full responsibility for the affair.

This is at least the second time Lord Levy has stated that he won’t be the fall guy for Tony. To be fair to him he does have a point. Only the Prime Minister can bestow honours on people. But it does seem that the noble lord is in it up to his neck, and let’s not forget that the second time he was arrested it was in connection to a potential cover-up. Perverting the cause of justice is a far more serious crime.

Ruth Turner, Downing Street’s director of government relations is also in the frame following her recent arrest (again on suspicion of perverting the cause of justice). This means that her boss, Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s chief of staff might also face further questioning and possible arrest. So who has been spilling the beans? Well it seems possible that it might be Tony Blair’s director of political operations John McTernan. Back to the Times article:

A CPS source said that the case had been strengthened by the testimony of John McTernan, the Prime Minister’s director of political operations, who gave a different account of discussions about honours from that given by other Downing Street figures questioned.

Oh dear, perhaps it was this that has re ignited what was beginning to look like a moribund inquiry. The Government has in recent days pulled out all the stops in trying to deflect attention from this investigation and create the impression that it was going nowhere after 11 months. We’ve had MPs and Cabinet Ministers as well as peers either coming out against the investigation or insisting that Blair should stay on as Prime Minister and friendly ‘journalists’ also saying to the police in effect “shit or get off the pot“. We’ve had anonymous leaks in the case of the alleged plot in Birmingham which some police suspect may be politically motivated. If all this sounds like desperation, it probably is. Tony Blair is not out of the woods yet. There is already speculation that he might be questioned for a third time by police, perhaps under caution. Even if he himself is not charged, he will be very badly damaged if his closest members of staff are charged. This might mean that he will be visited by the dreaded men in grey suits.

It is starting to look like Blair won’t be able to hang on until the summer as he intends to. The irony is that it will be a scandal which is relatively trivial in comparison with the far more serious crimes committed in Iraq which forces him out. But then Al Capone was caught out on tax evasion rather than his violence and racketeering.

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