Saturday, 21 October 2017

The reinvention of Rupert Myers as a far-left Corbynist

It's obvious that whether a man is a a self-entitled sex pest or not has pretty much nothing to do with his professed political orientation, but the way the political left and the political right deal with accusations of sexual misconduct differ wildly.

The most obvious high profile examples to chose from are the different fates of the liberal film producer Harvey Weinstein who is being shunned and ostracised by the liberal-left after the torrent of allegations about his appalling behaviour towards women, and Donald Trump who was actually elected President with the support of right-wingers and even evangelical Christians, despite numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against him and an actual recording of him bragging about how he feels entitled to grope and molest women.

The contrast between the American liberal-left's rejection of Weinstein and the conservative right's continued embrace of Trump, even after his taped confession became public, couldn't be starker.

In Britain a very similar scenario has played out with two journalists who have been outed as creepy sex pests, one from the left and one from the right.

Admittedly Sam Kriss and Rupert Myers are hardly household names, but the very different reactions to their behaviour are very telling indeed.

Both men have been accused of sexual misconduct, both issued cringeworthy apologies for their completely inappropriate behaviour, and both have been dropped by at least one of their employers (Kriss was dropped by Vice and Myers by GQ magazine).

There is very little sympathy for Sam Kriss from the left, with several high profile members of the trendy lefty set condemning his behaviour and expressing solidarity with the victim of his inappropriate sexual conduct, but the reaction on the right towards Rupert Myers has been an absolutely bizarre propaganda effort to reinvent Myers as a lefty!

Make no mistake about it, Rupert Myers is a right-winger. Not only has he written for numerous intensely right-wing publications (Daily Mail, Telegraph, Spectator), he's also served as the Deputy Chairman of the Bermondsey & Old Southwark Conservative Association and written numerous blog posts for the Tory party website Conservative Home.

Yet now that he's been outed as a creepy sex pest the Internet is suddenly crawling with right-wingers attempting to pretend that Myers is some kind of extreme-left Corbynist social justice warrior!

Instead of accepting that the problem of sexual harassment isn't actually a left/right issue at all, many on the political right are determined to weaponise the issue as an attack on the political left, even if that means redefining an actual Tory party activist as some kind of hard-left militant in order to spew their partisan venom.

I'm not aware of anyone at all on the left who has tried to suddenly disown Sam Kriss and pretend that he was always some kind of raving hard-right Ukipper because his creepy behaviour has been made public, but a lot of people on the right have no such willingness to accept the fact that one of theirs is a sex pest too.

Just look at these ridiculous examples of right-wing revisionists (James Delingpole and Breitbart) suddenly trying to pretend that the active Tory party member Rupert Myers was on the far-left of the political spectrum just because he's been publicly accused of being a sex pest.

But to get an idea of how many right-wingers are actively spreading the ludicrous lie that Rupert Myers is some kind of spokesperson for the far-left, take a look at the comments beneath the execrable Spiked article about the pair entitled "The Twittermob just went from irritating to dangerous" by the victim-blaming Spiked editor Brendan O'Neill. Here's a selection:

So according to the kind of furious right-wing blowhard male who hangs about in Spiked comments threads, we're all supposed to believe that an active member of the Tory party and former Daily Mail columnist is actually a "puritainical left-wing", "social justice warrior", "middle-class lefty", "Corbynist blowhard" just because he got caught out being a sex pest!

I would never use the sexual misconduct of a creep like Myers to attack the political right because they give us plenty of real ammunition with stuff like their obsession with socially and economically ruinous austerity dogma, their systematic abuse of disabled people, and their zeal for flogging off public assets to their mega-rich mates

However the reality-reversing propaganda that right-wingers are spewing all over the Internet about how Tory-boy Myers is some kind of extreme-left Corbynist just because he got outed as a creepy sex pest illustrates the frankly delusional lengths these right-wing revisionists will go to in order to maintain their childishly absolutist fantasy that absolutely everything nasty is by definition left-wing, even if the nasty thing is clearly, obviously and demonstrably one of their own.

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Friday, 20 October 2017

How mainstream media churnalism works

One of the most common complaints about the mainstream media is the way that instead of holding the powerful to account, a significant proportion of these so-called journalists are more than happy to act as mouthpieces for governments, corporations, bankers, arms dealers, and billionaires.

Here's a fantastic example of a mainstream media hack lazily regurgitating a press release from a press agency representing the interests of the multinational biotechnology corporation Monsanto, and presenting it to readers as if it's news.

Here's a screen shot of the press release (link here)

And here's a screen shot of the article published in The S*n (no way am I posting a link to that vile right-wing propaganda rag, Google it yourself if you really want to look at the whole thing)

Notice how the S*n article copies the rhetoric of the press release word for word. If you take the time to look at the whole article, the entire thing is cut n' pasted from the press release, without the slightest effort to introduce any balance or critical analysis whatever.

Aside from the fact that the S*n writer Carl Stroud is absolutely taking the piss claiming a salary for apparently doing nothing more than cut n' pasting press releases instead of actually writing articles himself, this is about as clear a demonstration of what is wrong with modern mainstream media journalism as it's possible to see.

If mainstream media journalists are prepared to simply cut n' paste press releases from major corporations, then it's beyond obvious that they do it with press releases from the government too.

Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell were masters at manipulating the press, because they realised that if they fed journalists press releases in the form of pre-written articles, they'd just lazily rehash the government message instead of doing any real investigative work.

The Tories continued this tactic when they came to power, and that's why it was so uncommon to see anything resembling sustained criticism of the Tories' economically ruinous obsession with hard-right austerity dogma, because loads of so-called journalists were just lazily rehashing government press releases instead of actually doing the hard work of trying to hold the ruling class to account.

There's a growing level of groupthink amongst mainstream media pundits to furiously attack independent media or anyone who dares criticise the woeful standard of so much mainstream media journalism, but rather than bitterly attack their critics and self-righteously pose as the poor innocent victims, maybe mainstream media hacks should take a good long look at examples like this to get an idea of why more and more people are getting completely hacked off with mainstream media outlets, and are turning to independent media sources for their political analysis instead?

Credit to George Monbiot for originally spotting that the press release and the article in The S*n were identical.
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The Spanish political establishment are plotting to attack Catalan political and social autonomy

The right-wing Spanish governing party (PP) and the pseudo-socialist opposition party (PSOE) have announced that they've concocted a plan to seize control of the autonomous region of Catalonia.

Just days after the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont decided to disappoint the secessionist movement by appealing for talks with the Spanish government instead of unilaterally declaring independence (like he said he would before the referendum), the response of the Spanish political class has been to completely ignore the calls for dialogue, and to further escalate the situation by threatening to launch a Spanish nationalist power grab in the region.

The Article 155 plan that the two main Spanish political parties have concocted isn't just to scrap the Catalan parliament and impose Madrid rule until new elections are held, they've also decided to take over local Catalan language TV and radio stations (TV3 and Catalunya Ràdio), and take over running of the Catalan police force (los Mossos) [source - in Catalan].

The reason the Spanish political establishment in Madrid want to exert control over the Catalan police is obvious. They're furious that the Mossos didn't join in with the Guardia Civil and Federal Police to violently repress the October 1st independence vote. In fact the Mossos were actually seen protecting non-violent civilians from the brutality of the Spanish police, and the head of the Mossos was hauled to Madrid to be questioned on trumped up "sedition" charges. 

The reason the Spanish nationalists in Madrid want control of Catalan media is even more obvious. They want to exert as much influence as possible over the Catalan public in order to influence the outcome of the election they're forcing.

They're obviously trying to claim that they're only planning to take over these broadcast organisations to "enforce neutrality", but the extreme lack of neutrality of those plotting this move was betrayed by the PSOE polotician Carmen Calvo who accused the Catalan President of "mounting a revolution against democracy"

It takes a massive amount of chutzpah to make an accusation like that when you're the one who is plotting to force the closure of a democratically elected parliament and to seize control of broadcast organisations, and just weeks after your allies in the plot sent police in to brutally attack non-violent citizens and actually steal ballot boxes!

The problem is that this plot to seize control of TV stations and radio waves is a very 20th Century approach to mass indoctrination.

There's absolutely no way Catalans are going to take this attack on their autonomy lying down, and if their local TV and radio stations suddenly begin spewing endless pro-Madrid propaganda, they're hardly likely to remain silent about it on social media, or in the streets, cafes, and bars of Catalonia.

Sure, seizing control of broadcasters worked a treat back in the 1970s for the likes of the brutal Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, but in order for the indoctrination efforts to work these days the Spanish political establishment are clearly going to have to significantly increase the cyber-warfare tactics that they deployed against the referendum organisers in September 2017, including the kinds of social media clampdowns witnessed in dictatorships like Turkey and Egypt.

In any other country this kind of anti-democratic scheming would be seen as a political coup d'etat, but somehow there is very little outrage over this outright attack on Catalan political and social autonomy that the Spanish nationalist parties are plotting.

The EU have continued to do nothing to intervene, even after the grotesque displays of state violent state repression of EU citizens during the October 1st independence referendum, and neither have the governments of other supposedly liberal democratic European states like Germany, France, the United Kingdom or Italy.

The craziest thing of all is that this continuous escalation from the Spanish nationalist establishment (cyber-warfare, violent police repression, the taking of political prisoners, veiled death threats from Spanish government ministers, the abolition of democratic Catalan autonomy, seizure of Catalan broadcast organisations ...) is exactly the kind of behaviour that is likely to drive more and more non-partisan Catalan civilians into the welcoming arms of Catalan secessionist parties, who can easily position themselves as the moderate non-violent democrats in this kind of situation.

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A simple question for pro-Brexit Tories

Here's a simple question for pro-Brexit Tories.

Let's assume for a moment that the Tory strategy of continually talking up how great a "no deal" Brexit would be is a simple ploy to frighten the EU27 into giving the UK a good Brexit deal.

Of course many would argue that a ruinous "no deal" cliff edge Brexit is actually the desired Tory endgame, because it would cause a de facto coup (the Tory government would have total free rein to scrap citizens' rights and liberties, and to rewrite thousands of laws to their own benefit) and it would trigger an unprecedented frenzy of disaster capitalism (mega-rich speculators picking up distressed British assets on the cheap like vultures stripping a carcass). But let's leave this suspicion to one side, and pretend that the only possible reason for Tory ministers to continually talk up how fantastic a "no deal"  Brexit would be is to goad the EU into giving the UK a great Brexit deal.

If this is true, and there are no ulterior motives (rights-scrapping, asset-stripping ...), perhaps some Tory Brexit supporters could explain why the Tory government is steadfastly refusing to release any of the economic impact assessments they've done on the economic consequences of a "no deal" Brexit?

If the "no deal" Brexit scenario is as fantastic as Tory ministers keep claiming, then why won't they back up their assertions by showing us some supporting evidence?

Oh - and don't use that pathetic excuse the right-wing propaganda rags have been peddling about "not revealing our hand" in order to avoid weakening the UK negotiating position.

If "no deal" would be as fantastic as Tory ministers keep claiming, some actual evidence to that effect obviously wouldn't weaken the UK negotiating position at all.

Providing some evidence to back their stance would actually significantly strengthen the UK negotiating position by showing that the alternative to the EU providing a favourable deal to the UK would be perfectly fine for the UK economy, meaning there would be no point at all in the EU offering a bad deal.

I'm not asking this question to be some kind of smart arse. I'm genuinely baffled by the Tory negotiating stance. If they have actual evidence to back up their assertions that "no deal" would be fine, then it would make absolute sense to publish it. However if they don't have any actual evidence that "no deal" would be as great as they keep claiming, then they're lying to the EU27 (a completely empty bluff is a shockingly poor negotiation strategy) and they're also lying to the British public (which is likely to cost them dear if they back themselves into triggering a "no deal" Brexit and it turns out to be an economic disaster).

So, being careful to avoid glib and fundamentally nonsensical excuses about "not revealing our hand", could you explain why the Tories are refusing to release the impact assessments they have (or haven't) done on the economic consequences of triggering a "no deal" Brexit?

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Jonathan Freedland's latest Guardian opinion piece is a trashfire of awful journalism

Jonathan Freedland's opinion piece about the assassination of the Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is a smug, astonishingly self-defeating, and downright offensive effort to piggyback a pro-mainstream media narrative onto a tragedy.

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a brave and principled journalist who never shied away from criticising poweful elites like the Maltese mafia, the political establishment, and the billionaires stashing their ill-gotten gains in tax havens like Panama.

In his article Freedland crudely attempts to equate the assassination of an anti-establishment investigation journalist with general criticism of the mainstream media, as if criticising the inherent biases of pro-establishment mainstream hacks like Laura Kuenssberg (who was allowed to keep her job at the "impartial" BBC despite being caught red-handed faking an anti-Corbyn story) is akin to blowing someone up in a car bomb.

One of the most irritating things about Freedland's opportunistic capitalisation on a tragedy is that his diatribe includes a classic example of lazy and biased churnalism that gives the mainstream press such a bad name.

Here's Freedland using the fact that Laura Kuenssberg took a bodyguard to the Labour conference to attack the Labour left.

And here's his fellow Guardian columnist John Harris using the exact same trope in his  excruciatingly poor attempt to throw distrust on independent media a few weeks previously, the Labour left, and ... well ... anyone who doesn't rote learn their political opinions from mainstream media churnalists like him and his Guardian stablemates.

If Harris is to be believed that this trope barely needed restating two weeks ago, why on earth is his Guardian stablemate Jonathan Freeland still lazily regurgitating it now?

We've all seen the endless reliance on lazily churnalised tropes like the Kuenssberg bodyguard (did you know she also took a bodyguard to the Tory conference too?) and the Angela Eagle brick from last year (no evidence was ever provided that the brick was lobbed by a Corbynite, but that didn't stop the endless mainstream fearmongering about the terrifying spectre of "the brick-lobbing Corbynites").

It's this kind of lazy seeding of ludicrously biased political tropes into articles that are ostensibly about the important subject of press freedom that differentiates the likes of Jonathan Freedland from real journalists like Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Caruana Galizia was an independent-thinking investigative journalist who was never afraid to speak her own mind, even under a barrage of death threats.

Freedland is a lazy, smug and self-righteous churnalist who blares the same groupthink drivel as his well-to-do and largely privately educated mainstream media peers, one who even gratuitously piggybacks this kind of worthless tripe onto the death of a legitimate journalist.

Freedland's article is as offensive as it is lazy.

It's downright offensive to capitalise on the assassination of a real journalist who tirelessly worked to hold powerful establishment elitists to account in order to piously condemn ordinary people who are sick to the back teeth of the kind of lazy pro-establishment churnalism peddled by Freedland, Kuenssberg and their ilk.

Unfortunately a lot of mindless media grazers will actually overlook the opportunism and disgusting sanctimony of Freedland's opinion piece, and conclude that yes, ordinary people criticising the pro-establishment bias and complicity of swathes of the UK mainstream media are pretty much the same as those who actually killed an anti-establishment investigative journalist with a car bomb.

Opinion peddlers like Freedland honestly seem to believe that they're the righteous gatekeepers of public discourse; They're furious at the rise of independent media; They're furious that the Labour left has saved the Labour Party rather that leading it to the doom and destruction they prophesied; And now Freedland has proven that his ilk are even willing to use the worst kind of contrived emotionally manipulative shtick to criticise independent media and the Labour left. Even if it means opportunistically smearing themselves with the recently spilled blood of a proper journalist, one that lazy opinion-peddling hacks like him were never even fit to lick the boots of.

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Labour have a 6 point poll lead according to the most competent polling company

Survation were one of the only polling companies to predict the 2017 General Election result with any degree of accuracy, and they've just released a poll giving Labour a 6 point lead over the Tories (44% - 38%).

Of course all poll results should be taken with a bucket of salt, but since Survation did such a good job of calling the 2017 election, this one is at least worth a bit of consideration.

Such a significant poll lead for Labour is obviously good news for anyone who opposes the Tory government, their economically ruinous obsession with hard-right austerity dogma, their callous contempt for people they consider to be below them in the social pecking order (especially disabled people, students from non-privileged backgrounds, trainee nurses, and the working poor), and their ideological obsession with flogging off, or simply giving away public infrastructure to corporate interests, dodgy unaccountable pseudo-charities, and foreign governments.

The electoral calculus website suggests that a 44% - 38% general election result would mean Labour end up as the biggest party, just a few seats short of an overall majority (321), with the Tories losing somewhere in the region of 54 seats in the process. The Tory losses would include big hitters like the Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the former Tory leadership candidate Stephen Crabb, the former education secretary (who wanted to force privatise every state school in England) Nicky Morgan, and David Cameron's barbaric former DWP henchman Iain Duncan Smith.

Nobody with a shred of basic human empathy for disabled people, or those who have fallen on hard times, could possibly shed a tear over Iain Duncan Smith's ejection from parliament, but the problem is that the Tories have clearly demonstrated their intent to put their own party political interest above the national interest, so an election is highly unlikely to happen any time soon.

One Tory minister, speaking to the Times on condition of anonymity, demonstrated the sickening scale of Tory self interest when they admitted that if they tried to reverse Theresa May's shambolic handling of the Brexit negotiations they would "destroy the party", but if they allow her to continue marching us towards the Brexit cliff edge they would "destroy the country" .

Given the willingness of Tory politicians to sacrifice the nation in order to serve the interests of their own political party, the prospects of another General Election any time soon seem remarkably slim because they'll just cling grimly to power, no matter what the cost to the rest of us.

On the plus side, this 6 point Labour lead suggests that although the Labour surge has slowed since the election furore has died down, there's no sign whatever of any kind of public opinion swing back towards the hapless Tories.

Another positive to consider is that Labour went into the 2017 General Election trailing the Tories by double digits (some polling companies put them as far as 24/25 points behind!) but they ended up just two points behind (42% - 40%), which was the biggest and fastest UK election turnaround since opinion polling became a thing.

If the next election (whenever it comes) plays out anything like the last one, Labour's momentum (fuelled by a huge membership of 600,000 odd people, and a seasoned social media campaign team) could conceivably turn a six point lead into a double digit one, which would win a clear Labour majority for Jeremy Corbyn to work with.

Another factor is the influence that such brazenly self-serving display of Tory power-clinging will have on the public mood. The longer the Tories insist on maintaining  Theresa May as their hapless and incompetent political bullet shield of a leader in order to cling onto power at the national expense, the more pissed off people are going to get with them.

Of course the right-wing press and the majority of the mainstream media won't frame the situation like this (as it is), so it's up to the rest of us to make it clear that the directionless and divided Tories are only clinging onto power because they care more about the fortunes of their own political party, than about the fortunes of the nation as a whole.

The Tories are hanging onto a rising political balloon. They know that if they let go any time soon, they're likely to break their political legs in the fall, but they also know that if they hang on much longer, their fall will become politically unsurvivable.

The bigger the Labour poll leads get, the more likely the Tories are to cling selfishly to the limited power they have, and the more voters are going to turn their backs on such brazen self-serving Tory opportunism, meaning a bigger defeat when they finally do let go. 

They're in a horrible political predicament, and after seven long years of watching them ideologically vandalise the economy, lie with impunity (thanks to the complicity and collusion of their chums in the mainstream media), brazenly gamble national stability for short-term party political advantage, flog off the national silver to their mates, and treat the lives of our most vulnerable citizens with callous contempt, this political trainwreck really couldn't be happening to a more deserving bunch.

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Don't imagine the Tories dropped their rip-off DWP charges out of the goodness of their hearts

The Tories have announced that they 're now planning to scrap their policy of charging 55p a minute for people to phone the Universal Credit hotline, and all of their other rip off DWP hotline charges.

Don't make any mistake. They're not scrapping their vindictive policy of wringing cash out of some of the poorest people in society out of the goodness of their hearts. They're doing it because they got caught, and in Jeremy Corbyn Labour have a leader who is prepared to ignore what the right-wing tabloids might say about him, and hold the Tories to account for their malice.

It's absolutely no coincidence that DWP helplines are being made free just one week after Corbyn roasted Theresa May about the rip-off charges in parliament. This Tory U-turn has only happened because Britain has an effective opposition that is holding the government to account and forcing them into one U-turn after another.

Corbyn's predecessor Ed Miliband wasn't actually such a bad guy, but unlike Corbyn he didn't have the courage of his convictions, and surrounded himself with economic right-wingers like Ed Balls and Chris Leslie.

Not only did Miliband squander the 2015 General Election by adopting Ed Balls' ridiculously uninspiring "austerity-lite" narrative when outright opposition to ruinous and failing Tory austerity dogma was required, he also allowed other Labour right-wingers to mimic the Tories in order to pander to the right-wing press.

One of the most notorious examples came when Miliband's shadow DWP minister Rachael Reeves vowed that Labour would be tougher on benefits claimants than the Tories (as if systematically abusing disabled people, using unemployed workers as sources of free labour to distribute to their corporate mates, slashing in-work benefits for the working poor, and their draconian sanctions regime weren't harsh enough already)!

Just imagine if the right-wing of the Labour Party had succeeded in their numerous plots and schemes to oust Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour leadership. 

Their desperation to appeal to the editors of the right-wing propaganda rags would have prevented them from ever being seen to side with social security claimants, so the pressure over these ludicrously unfair DWP hotline charges would never have been applied, Theresa May wouldn't have been forced into performing another screeching U-turn, and the Tories would have continued wringing money out of poor people forced to righ the DWP over stuff like the unacceptable delays in their Universal Credit payments.

The difference with Corbyn is that he doesn't give a damn if mercenary hacks at right-wing propaganda rags like the S*n, Daily Mail, Express and Telegraph are going to attack him for standing up for the millions of working and non-working people on social security. Corbyn can see that charging people 55p a minute to deal with DWP errors in the Universal Credit system is just wrong, so he stood up and said it was wrong, and as a result forced the Tories into changing direction.

Of course the right-wing tabloid hacks are going to hate him for it. Of course people who have been conditioned to despise all social security claimants (whether they're working, not working, or physically unable to work) will hate him for it. But when Ed Miliband's pro-austerity anti-welfare incarnation of the Labour Party fumbled the golden opportunity that was the 2015 General Election, they proved that Labour simply can't win elections by crudely aping the Tory party in the hope of appealing to the kind of people who are never going to support Labour anyway.

You don't hold the powerful to account by meekly imitating their policies in the hope that you get a go at being in power next. You hold them to account by identifying their malice, incompetence and greed then haranguing them over it until they're forced to change direction, then eventually after the public have seen the powerful forced into either defending the indefensible, or U-turning for the umpteenth time, they get sick and tired of it and vote for a government with some actual principles.

This latest screeching U-turn from Theresa May is proof that Jeremy Corbyn is doing an increasingly effective job of holding the Tories to account, and what Labour (and the other opposition parties) need to do now is to continue to actively oppose this absolute shambles of a Tory government, especially when their policies are unfair, incompetent, or downright vindictive. 

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The 15 year peerage proposal is an absolute farce

Instead of putting forward proposals to democratise the bloated unelected House of Lords, a Westminster political committee is proposing a "fix" that would make the anti-democratic nature of the House of Lords even worse than it is already.

The way it works now is that (aside from 26 unelected bishops and 92 mainly Tory hereditary peers) all of the members of the House of Lords have been undemocratically appointed by the Prime Minister of the day.

What the House of Lords Committee is suggesting is that instead of the Prime Minister of the day having the power to appoint peers for life, they should appoint them to time-limited peerages of no longer than 15 years.

Several Prime Ministers over the years have abused their positions by stuffing the House of Lords with their own cronies and yes men. But between 2010 and 2016 David Cameron took Lords-stuffing to a new extreme, adding more new unelected peers per year than any other Prime Minister in history, including life-long peerages for over a dozen mega-rich Tory donors who had pumped £millions into Tory party coffers before their ennoblements.

Thanks to David Cameron's stuffing of the Lords it's now swelled to over 800 members, making it the second largest legislative assembly in the world (behind the Chinese parliament).

Instead of putting forward proposals to reduce the size of the House of Lords, and democratise it in an innovative way that preserves the undoubted expertise of many of the members, the Westminster establishment club are pushing a "fix" that would make the anti-democratic nature of the House of Lords even worse.

Just imagine if peerages had been limited to 15 years for the last few decades. Imagine what the composition of the House of Lords would have ended up looking like after the 18 year Tory rule between 1979-1997. Every single sitting peer would have been hand-picked by either Margaret Thatcher or John Major! It would have ended up as nothing more than a glorified, and ridiculously over-paid rubber-stamping club.

Imagine the composition of the House of Lords after the 13 year New Labour rule from 1997-2010. After an initial period of the Tory dominated Lords cynically blocking absolutely everything the Labour government tried to achieve, after 10 years and beyond the majority of the Tory peerages from the previous regime would have expired, leaving a House of Lords almost exclusively handpicked by either Tony Blair or Gordon Brown. Another glorified rubber-stamping club.

Now consider the current political situation had the 15 year rule been in force. After seven and a half years of Tory rule the balance of the House of Lords would be rapidly swinging back to the Tories, just at a time when the country most needs the upper chamber to hold the shambolic, divided and increasingly authoritarian minority Tory government to account.

The introduction of a 15 year limitation on peerages that continue to be unelected is exactly the kind of ill-conceived and profoundly anti-democratic "fix" you'd expect from a Westminster establishment club who are absolutely desperate to avoid and kind of genuine democratisation or modernisation of the political system they've reaped the personal benefits of for decades.

The Westminster elitists still want the House of Lords to be stuffed full of hand-picked political yes men like themselves, but they now want them appointed with an automatic expiry date so that they can be weeded out before they get too old to soften their party political allegiances, to be replaced regularly with new crops of up-to-date yes men who are fully on message about the current government's agenda.

The new 15 year rule will obviously only be applied to newly appointed members of the House of Lords, because if it's applied retroactively, 10 of the 13 unelected peers to have cobbled together this proposal would have to resign immediately having already served way beyond 15 years, and two others who were appointed in 2004 would have to retire within two years, leaving just one of them in the job!

Yes, these establishment insiders, most of whom have sat in the unelected House of Lords for over two decades (Lord Strathclyde has been there since 1985!) are proposing a new set of rules to prevent younger generations from milking the system in the way they have themselves, but they have no intention of resigning their own positions to comply with the rules they're planning to force onto others.

The hypocrisy of these unelected establishment insiders is astounding, but unsurprising. They want to keep their own unelected privileges, but restrict the unelected privileges of future generations in order to keep them as subservient to the Westminster elitist club as possible, whilst vehemently opposing the concepts of democratisation and modernisation of the anti-democratic system that has rewarded them with decades of unelected power and influence.

The anti-democratic House of Lords is bad enough as it is, but the idea of automatically weeding future unelected peers out in order to turn the upper house into a glorified rubber-stamping club is somehow even worse than just leaving it in the mess it's in!

The bloated and anti-democratic state of the unelected House of Lords is actually an ideal opportunity to develop a completely new innovative kind of elected upper legislative chamber that is fit for the 21st Century. However, leaving the job of reform to the unelected Lords themselves is absolutely futile because, as is always the case, the Westminster establishment club would obviously prefer to just use the current mess to rig the system even more to their own advantage, rather than proposing any kind of genuinely progressive or democratic reform to their beloved system.

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Spain is taking political prisoners while allowing convicted fraudsters to walk free

A lot of people tend to get very angry when you point out that the Spanish political establishment is rapidly descending towards right-wing tyranny.

"But the vote was illegal" they say to excuse the shocking wave of brutal police repression against non-violent Catalan citizens that the whole world witnessed on October 1st. "But they don't represent all Spanish nationalists" they say about the Franco-worshipping fascist-saluting Falangists thugs who are gleefully celebrating the violent repression of Catalonia. "But everyone knows he's a nasty piece of work" they say about the Spanish government minister who wasn't even sacked for issuing a veiled death threat against the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont ...

And now they have something else to make excuses for. The Spanish establishment has resorted to taking Catalan civic leaders as political prisoners.

Jordi Sanchez, the leader of the ANC movement, and Jordi Cuixart, who heads the Ómnium Cultural association have been arrested and are being held without bail on possible charges of sedition because of their involvement in a spontaneous political protest on September 20th.

Jailing non-violent citizens without trial is obviously bad enough in its own right, but then if you look at some of the criminals from the Spanish political establishment who have been let off for massive corruption and fraud scandals, the shocking bias of the Spanish legal establishment becomes absolutely clear.

Rodrigo Rato (a former finance minister for the ruling Partido Popular) was found guilty of embezzlement from the Spanish bank Bankia, but was released on a technicality instead of serving a single day of his four year jail sentence.

Iñaki Urdangarín (the Spanish king's brother-in-law) was found guilty of tax fraud and corruption in Mallorca, but was released on a technicality instead of serving any of his six year jail sentence.

The Spanish nationalist establishment have got a proven track record of refusing to jail their own, even when they've actually been found guilty of incredible levels of corruption, fraud, and embezzlement. But when it comes to Catalan secessionists, they lock them up and throw away the key before there's even been a proper investigation, let alone a trial!

The crazy thing is that supporters of Spanish nationalism will immediately begin making excuses for the taking of political prisoners. They'll claim "it's for the good of Spain", and spread Orwellian propaganda about what a wonderful liberal place Spain is (while they're simultaneously excusing imprisonment without trial!). They'll turn a blind eye to the double standard that allows the convicted fraudsters Rato and Urdangarín to walk free, while Catalan civic leaders who haven't been found guilty of anything are locked up.

The big problem with this Spanish nationalist attitude is that it's massively counter-productive.

Their refusal to condemn the images we all saw of Spanish police brutalising pensioners, stealing ballot boxes, wading into unarmed and non-violent crowds with batons, and dragging women around by their hair; their blind acceptance of the belligerent escalations by the Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the king of Spain; their excuse-making over the taking of political prisoners ...

These people don't even seem to realise that all of this violence,oppression and Spanish nationalist rhetoric has the appearance of a Francoist resurgence, and their blind support for it terrifies people who remember the same kind of blind support that millions of Spanish nationalists gave to the savage Franco dictatorship until his death in 1975.

If people are unwilling to condemn the wave of police brutality against non-violent citizens, Spanish government ministers making death threats (and not even getting sacked for it), and the taking of political prisoners, how far will they actually go in their appeasement? 

Would anything actually be too much for them? 

Would they still be making excuses and attempting to glorify Spain as a wonderful "liberal democracy" if the government in Madrid scrapped the democratically elected Catalan parliament? If the Spanish political establishment abolished free speech to make talking of Catalan independence a crime? If they sent the army in to occupy Barcelona? If they reintroduced Francoist concentration camps to punish political thought crime?

As far as I'm concerned, they've already gone way too far if they're making excuses for the state violence and political repression that's already happening.

If they can watch a video clip of a Spanish police officer violently dragging a woman around by her hair and believe that "she deserved it" because she was trying to vote in a referendum they didn't want to happen ... or if they're prepared to actively celebrate imprisonment without trial for Catalan civic leaders while establishment fraudsters like Rato and Urdangarín still walk free, then they'll likely find an excuse for pretty much anything the Spanish ruling elite do.

But what is worse, from a pragmatic perspective, is the sheer self-defeating idiocy of it. Every step the Spanish political establishment takes towards the resurrection of the Franco dictatorship is another step towards the eventual secession of Catalonia.

When the king of Spain refuses to condemn the violent oppression of his own people, when the Prime Minister of Spain refuses to discipline his own government minister for making death threats against the elected Catalan President, and when the corrupt Spanish establishment turn Catalan civic leaders into high-profile political prisoners while allowing convicted fraudsters from their own class to walk free, they're not dampening Catalan secessionism, they're wilfully pouring fuel on the fire.

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