Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Crushing Victory?

Spotted in what used to be the Anfield Kop two weeks' ago at the start of the Liverpool v. Maccabi Haifa Champions' League tie was the Lebanese flag. Until a couple of months' ago I wouldn't have immediately identified it. I've written before about the unease I always felt when comment turned to the Middle East (it's bad enough trying to form an articulate & consistent argument about Ireland, the Israel/Palestine saga makes the Irish troubles seem like a neighbourhood spat).
However, it did make me smile, given the arrogance & contempt most Israelis (& yes, I do say MOST Israelis) seem to have not just for the people of Lebanon, but for any outsiders who question the carnage visited upon millions of innocent civillians. Yes, I realise what Hizbollah is all about, & the idea of living under a global caliphate isn't my idea of a happy future, yet the response to the abduction of two Israeli soldiers (who have yet to be released) has been militarily counter productive & diplomatically disastrous.

It's been a strange week in which the voice of rational, practical reason over the immigration debate has come from, not the TUC, they're hiding in the forest of cowardice, but the CBI. Yes, the same CBI that cheered on Thatcher as she devastated whole communites in the 80s. Admittedly, Digby Jones has been viewing the issue through the prism of free market capitalism, but it has served as an effective rejoinder to the naked racism which has accompanied the latest immigration figures.
It is, however, nice to see that a local arm of what still calls itself the Labour movement has responded to the feral sniffings of the BNP. A leaflet popped through my letter box last weekend from Sefton TUC, making fairly basic, yet salient points about the fascists. It may seem simplistic for anyone reading this blog whose reading habits normally end with the Guardian, Independent, etc. but one extract from the leaflet merits reproduction here, & I make no apology for quoting it in its entireity:
"The claim that asylum seekers are living in luxury is a total myth. Asylum seekers cannot claim mainstream benefits. If destitute, they can only apply for basic food and shelter. A single adult is eligible for £38.96 a week, equivalent to 70% of basic income support. A Home Office report shows that people born outside the UK, including asylum seekers, contribute 10% more to the economy in taxes and national insurance than they consume in benefits and public services-equivalent to a boost to the economy of £2.6 billion in 1998/99. Britain, the world's fourth largest economy, is ranked 9th in Europe in 2003 in terms of asylum applications per capita. The world's poorest countries both produce and have responsibility for most refugees."

Liverpool is preparing for this weekend's Matthew Street Festival. There appear to be heartening signs this year that the organisers have been made aware of today's music scene in the city. We'll know for sure this weekend.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Time To Rage?

Well, Sheridan had his day, or rather month, in court & emerged victorious. Whatever the conflicting accounts of the case, it seems clear that the News Of The World's reputation was also up for judgement in the Edinburgh court. In siding with Sheridan, a majority of the jury indirectly gave their own verdict on what is probably Murdoch's most venal outlet of propaganda.
As Sheridan & his wife emerged triumphant from court on Friday (looking almost Clintonesque in their sartorial splendour) it would have been tempting to add the image to those of other instances of wronged individuals having turned the tables on their accusers. This time, however, it was different.
One of those who was called to give evidence in support of the allegations was the SSP's trade union convenor, Richard Venton. I knew Venton on Merseyside during the 80s when he was the leading full-timer for the Militant. Even though my own political views have changed since then, considerably, it must be said, I have always regarded Venton as being a man of his word. So when Venton gave his testimony, more in sorrow than anger, by all accounts, that he attended the SSP meeting at which Sheridan admitted to visiting swingers clubs, the whole affair began to crystallize in the eyes of many who had been torn up to that point.
[This is a point I've twice made on the Guardian's "Comment Is Free" weblogs, amid shrill, partisan & downright ignorant postings on the matter.]
What now for the comrades in Scotland? Part of me couldn't care less; the SSP still clings to the utopian nostrum that a Soviet-style planned economy is attainable. However, the fall-out from the Sheridan case promises to be ghoulishly fascinating. It appears that a split will emerge on the old Trotskyite sectarian lines. Sheridan's old comrades from the Militant were most vociferous in their criticism of him, while the SWP element in the SSP have wasted no time in welcoming the verdict as a vindication of the former leader.

Meanwhile, the so-called Holy Land continues to take an almost carnal pleasure in carnage. Margaret Beckett has clearly been rattled by the criticism of her performance & the observation that she has gone from 80s Bennite firebrand to Blair's supine supplicant. It's prompted her to make the risible claim that the criticism of her is rooted in sexism (,,1838342,00.html ).