Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Craig Murray : Not To Be Missed

Craig Murray former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan and author of the outstanding Murder In Samarkand gave crucial evidence earlier today to Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights about the UK Government's complicity in torture. The interview appears here on the parliamentary video. If it has disappeared from the parliamentary slot go instead to You Tube here, where it appears in seven parts. It is not to be missed. His question and answer session lasts for almost an hour. Then click into Craig Murray's website here and then into my link below.

UPDATE 29 APRIL - See here also.

Shame On Byers

A Good Day To Bury Byers - He Resigns As Minister Of Transport May 2002.

In his budget speech in 1988, Nigel Lawson announced that he was cutting the top rate of income tax from 60% to 40%. This meant that in one fell swoop those on top earnings found themselves almost 50% better off - coining it under Thatcherism. The bulk of the Labour MPs in the Commons were incensed at the announcement. Alan Meale immediately shouted out "shame" from the back benches and I was one of a host of Labour MPs who joined in the call. The Speaker was obliged to suspend the Commons, to give us a cooling off period.

The gut reaction of many Labour MPs had changed by 1997, when we were elected on a manifesto which said that there would be no increase in income tax rates. I have always believed that we should have a progressive taxation system. One which provides for reductions in those tax rates which effect the poorer, with increases in the rates that effect the rich.

When I finally made it into a meeting in 10 Downing Street, I raised with Blair the possibility of removing our commitment to there being no income tax increases for the rich, at least at the subsequent general election. To which he replied "Harry, we can't go into a General Election promising to raise income tax." That seemed to me to be a permanent stance, for in a democracy there is always a coming election.

When I later raised the matter at a back-bench meeting in the Commons with the Chancellor, Gordon Brown replied that "nothing is set in concrete". With Alistair Darling's introduction of a 50% tax rate, it has taken some 10 years and a world economic slump to break through the concrete.

Leading the attack from within Labour ranks to the 50% rate is Stephen Byers. From December 1998 to June 2001 he was a disaster as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. In pursuing his private enterprise ideology, he undermined both of the areas he had responsibility for - trade and our industry. The manufacturing industry which disappeared on his watch would have had the competitive edge today, given the collapse in the value of sterling which makes exports cheaper and imports dearer.

Within the North East Derbyshire Constituency which I represented at the time,he facilitated the dramatic foreign take-over and closure of Biwater at Clay Cross. This was done despite Biwater being economically viable and having booming overseas order books for its ductile pipe production, with an annual turnover of £60 million (at 2000 prices) and a local work force of 700. Nor was he ignorant as to what he was doing; for the details of the workers case was put fully to the Commons, to his Department, to the media, to the Office of Fair Trading, to Tony Blair and repeatedly to himself.

I have no respect whatsoever for Stephen Byer's political views, including his recent attack in the Commons on the belated and modest move to a 50% tax rate.

This is the last time I had a go at Byers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Join The NHS Debate

Aneurin Bevan, Labour's Minister of Health whose NHS Act of 1946 came into operation on 5 July, 1948. Who should run the NHS now and how? Join the debate here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Alice Where Art Thou ?

Four Year Past This Even,
And Thou Wert By My Side

-Rebelling Against New Labour.

Alice Mahon and I were both Labour MPs from 1987 to 2005. We were both members of the Socialist Campaign Group. We are both over three score years and ten. We have both held Labour Party Membership Cards for 50 years or more. She has just resigned from the Labour Party. I disagree with what she has done. Here is why -

1. Socialists Politicos need to be in a political party.

2. In current British circumstances there is no feasible alternative party for them apart from Labour.

3. The argument that the Labour leadership is wrong is no reason for resigning. It was wrong when I joined it in 1957 and has tended to be so ever since.

4. Labour still has the bulk of the Trade Unions affiliated to it. An avenue to developing a consciousness of socialism is via trade union consciousness.

5. Why desert your comrades, most of whom are still pursuing the type of tasks they plugged away at in the past?

6. Rebels should rebel and not give up.

7. You might start a trend and leave those who remain even more isolated.

8. Those of us who took the King's shilling under Kinnock and Blair have already sold out. We can't put the clock back.

9. It is much more fun to be expelled from an organisation on an issue of principle, than just to pack it in.

10. It is difficult for those over three-score-years-and-ten to learn new tricks.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Comrades Come Rally

The Photo is from the Mass Rally in Baghdad celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP). For more photos see here. For a report and more photos from the same source see here.

Here is my own four part history of the ICP -

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Part 4.

Hat Tips - Labour Friends Of Iraq and Iraqi Letter.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wanted - A Full Franchise

The vote should go to any adult resident within a nation who can (with help for some) exercise that right. This is because any person who is subject to the law should be able to have a say in its formulation. This would mean -


This is currently a live issue, see contrasting takes here and here. I go beyond either approach in arguing for the full enfranchisement of all prisoners.

Prisoners are subject to one of the most powerful aspects of law, imprisonment. They thus all have a powerful case for enfranchisement. "No imprisonment without representation".

If instead we insist on taking the vote away from people because they are nasty and anti-social, where will that end?

Sometimes prisoners are discovered to have been subject to a miscarriage of justice. Under the current arrangements they have also been subject to the further miscarriage of justice of being denied their voting rights whilst in prison. Full enfranchisement would overcome that aspect also.

There are many people who have never been captured nor convicted for the crimes they committed. They are able to keep their right to vote, whilst those imprisoned are not. The present position makes no sense at all.


Nor is it right that we have residents in this country who come from nations outside of the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland and who are not entitled to vote. They are also subject to our laws.


Then electoral registers are in a mess, with up to 2 million people missing even though they do qualify to vote under the current arrangements. They are also subject to the laws of the land. We need an electoral registration system which is proactive and recognises that all adults have the same rights as they are subject to the same laws.


The most serious problem in terms of numbers disenfranchised probably means that (3) above is the priority, then (2) and finally (1). Yet they are all democratic requirements which arise due to the same principle. Ideally, therefore, all these shortcomings could be overcome at the same time. If a person can’t see this, then I doubt whether they understand what democracy is about.


The answer to the question "Why should people have the vote?" provides the answer to the question "Who should have the vote?". People should have the vote because they are subject to the laws, regulations and policies of those they elect. So everyone so effected (but not outsiders such as UK citizen's resident overseas who need to be granted franchise rights in their country of residence) should have equal rights to the UK franchise. The only people who should be excluded are the young and those who have a serious lack of the relevant mental capacity. In deciding who these excluded groups are, we should err on the side of caution so that we don't exclude groups of people unreasonably. The dividing line is a matter for judgement and can not be derived from the democratic principle itself. In connection with the young, I would take 16 as the starting age. We could also then use registration through the school system to ensure that all receive their initial franchise rights.

Here is a brief history of the franchise, but we still have some way to go before we reach a full franchise.