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Friday, 12 April 2013

North East to Join the Faslane Blockade

This weekend sees a massive gathering in Scotland to oppose the proposed renewal of the Trident Nuclear Weapons Programme. On Sunday there will be workshops and lectures about how to resist Trident and on Monday morning their will be a symbolic blockade of the nuclear submarine site itself.

I will be at the blockade for two very simple reasons. firstly, Nuclear Weapons are clearly an affront to the God of life. No threat, could ever justify the deployment of a weapon that would indiscriminately destroy millions of innocent lives. It is our country's continued escalation of its own nuclear ability which makes it impossible for us to curtail the crazy ambitions of countries such as North Korea. 

Secondly - it is madness in a time of cut backs and forced austerity, to allow our government to spend up to £100 billion on a weapons system it will never use. Alongside the rest of the nation, here in the North East we have seen an endless torrent of public sector cuts, almost always hitting the most vulnerable hardest. We have seen the loss of libraries, sports facilities, community projects and huge financial restrictions on our local housing, health and education services.

We simply cannot sit back and allow our government to waste billions on the most immoral weapons project in British history. Join us at the Blockade if you can, or write to your local MP and have your voice heard!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Sunderland's biggest ever own goal....

The appointment of Paolo Di Canio as head coach of Sunderland is a massive own goal by the owners of SAFC and shows a blatant disregard for the interests of our city and of the fans of this great team.

A week has gone, and a lot has happened since the news broke. This was from the official club statement, sent out as if by a cruel joke on April 1st:

“I don’t want to talk about politics because it’s not my area. We are not in the Houses of Parliament, we are in a football club. I want to talk about sport. I want to talk about football, my players, the Board and the fans. My first priority is my family and my daughters, that’s obvious, and secondly to have the responsibility for thousands of people. This is my priority and I want to be focused on this aspect. I don’t want to talk any more about politics – I am not a politics person.”

I'm glad he is a family man, but he cannot say he is not a political person with any credibility. Di Canio brought politics into football when he twice decided to give a fascist salute in front of millions of people. It was no accident. In his official biography he describes himself as a fascist (not a racist, he has black friends) and someone who admires Mussolini. It takes a lot belief to have 'Duce' (or 'Fuhrer') tattooed on your body.

It took the open letter by the son of a victim of fascism, the Dean of Durham Michael Sadgrove, to force a further statement saying that Di Canio does not now support any fascist ideology.

If this is true, then that is wonderful, as repentance and forgiveness are part of the human journey. But repentance cannot mean pretending it is not an issue, and that politics and sport are somehow separate. It is a similar mistake made by those who say that politics and religion are separate. Try telling that to the Roman soldiers who nailed Jesus to the cross.

But Di Canio is now here, and I blame the club owners for such a mess, an own goal more horrific than the one against Chelsea yesterday. I desperately want Sunderland to stay up, but not at the cost of seeing thousands of young people in this city begin to idolise a fascist. Di Canio must make amends for his wayward past by actively joining in the struggles against fascism and racism in our own city.

He cannot separate his past from his present, he must own up to his mistakes and demonstrate his repentance on and off the pitch. It is not just by his football results that the character of a person can be judged.

Thatcher may be dead, but 'Thatcherism' is sadly alive and well

I feel very little at the news of Margaret Thatcher's death. I feel for her family, and all close to her, death is a painful truth that none of us are spared from. But Thatcher herself passed away along time go in my own life, she became but a distant memory of a turbulent youth. One of the most powerful people of the 20th Century, her life proves that all personal influence eventually fades, even before one leaves this mortal coil.

Her policies however, live on. 'Thatcherism', the blatant capitalism of the 1980's, the 'Greed is Good' as self parody, this ideology still remains embedded in our culture. The ideology of 'Individualism' over 'co-operativism' is frighteningly prevalent. This will remain a stain on society for much, much longer, and will not die off as quickly as a mere figurehead.

Thatcher helped to make me the person I've become. My first political act was being forced to make union jacks for the school windows as the ships sailed South towards a once forgotten set of islands. It was over the following decade that her policies shaped me even more profoundly. First as a kid growing up on the council estates of the rich South, where 'the poor' were increasingly demonised, and the promises of a trickle down economy never materialised. Second, as a student, where I watched hard fought for rights being dismantled. Unions were battled and wrecked, benefits were slashed and a so-called 'underclass' was created by the long term unemployment that accompanied her rule.

Her friendship with murderers such as Pinochet, are an indication of the narrowness of her vision. She was prepared to support fascists along as they supported the policies of Freidman and Hayek. In this country, she championed the mantra of 'Private sector good, public sector bad' and paved the way for not just privatisations of public resources, but the wholesale dismantling of parts of the welfare state.

Thatcher has gone to meet her judge, that is enough for me. I believe in forgiveness of all, and believe that God is merciful. What concerns me more is not the fate of dead, but the fate of the living. Thatcherism lives on in the policies of most political parties in the UK and in most of the world's political systems.

The living legacy of Thatcherism must not be idolised, for it continues to cause the perpetual misery of billions of lives.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Milliband's new 'Toilet Tax' a step in the right direction

Well done to the Labour Party for finally regaining some decent economic policies! The announcement by Ed Balls of the new Household Sanitary Levy (or 'Toilet Tax as it has been dubbed in the popular press) is a brilliant counter to the Tories despicable 'Bedroom Tax'

Effectively, it will mean that households with more than one toilet will pay a higher band of council tax, than those of us with just one toilet. This addresses the age old inequality that homes with one toilet were effectively paying the same tax as houses with up to 15 toilets

Tony Benn, veteran of a more Socialist Labour tradition, said yesterday that the proposed Toilet Tax was quite a relief, and demonstrated that Milliband is prepared to be bold on social taxation.

Obviously, the Tories will try and portray the Labour Party as the party of 'envy' - but why should those with fewer toilets pat the same as millionaires with more toilets than sense?

Alongside with Tony Benn, I'm relieved by the new policy, and quite grateful that Balls has finally taken the plunge!

Carey's UKIP announcement no surprise!

The announcement this morning that Lord Carey has resigned as former Archbishop of Canterbury and intends to stand for election as a UKIP candidate should come as no surprise. He trailed the news with an article in Saturdays Daily Mail, pretty much outlining his manifesto.

UKIP has sadly grown in popular support over the last few months, attracting many disaffected Tory voters. It seems that the same sex marriage act has enabled them to garner support from right wing elements within the Anglican Church.

It is no doubt that Carey's announcement will boost UKIP's appeal in certain quarters, but I believe that it shows how isolated Lord Carey's position really is. Carey is a born loser, failing to win enough votes 11 years ago when Rowan Williams stood against him for the post of Archbishop of Canterbury. Now he is heading for even deeper depths of political failure.