Category Archives: UK Politics

Syrian Air Strikes: Theresa May Has Overstepped Her Authority and Must Resign

DSC_0550.JPGTrying to have some reasoned debate on the subject of the alleged Syrian chemical attacks seems to me akin to trying to quietly asking for calm in a room full of people shouting ‘fire’ at the top of their voices. In the rush for the door, no one is asking for detail, and those that do are being shouted down anyway.

I am a former instructor in Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) defence, trained only a few miles from Porton Down. Every serviceman and woman is trained in NBC defence as part of their basic training. As such they are taught to recognise the symptoms of nerve agent poisoning, which include difficulty in breathing, pinpointing of the pupil and muscle spasms. Footage shown of an alleged Sarin attack on Douma does not show these symptoms, and instead appears to show the victims of the attack choking, coughing, with redness around the eyes; this is more in common with the use of a riot control agent such as tear gas, or with a choking agent such as chlorine. It should be pretty apparent to any sevice person engaged in Britains latest military misadventure that if they are being told they are being sent in response to Sarin attacks, it is highly likely they are being led up the garden path.

It is however highly likely that Chlorine may have been the cause of any such symptoms, and this creates a dilemma in that there are many reasons why chlorine may be present. Chlorine has a number of legitimite uses, water purification being the main one. Stockpiles of chlorine which are stored in an environment where they can be damaged by shell or missile fire can be accidentally released, and its presence is not in itself proof of one side or the others use of it as a chemical agent.

Since Tony Blair took us into the highly controversial Iraq War it has been an accepted convention that Prime Ministers make their case to engage in military action to parliament before taking any action. Theresa May has now blown that convention out of the water. This was mainly due to the Tony Blairs case for war being made on the back of flimsy or indeed utterly wrong “intelligence”. In this case there was no immediate threat to the UK. Had there been, Theresa May could have been said to have acted correctly when using the “royal perogative” to order an attack. But that was not the case, and this attack, coordinated with the French and the Americans could and should have waited until the case for air strikes had been made and won in parliament. Instead, clearly fearing she might not win, Theresa May has clearly overstepped her authority and launched an attack on the timings laid down by the United States, doing so specifically to bypass parliament.

It may well be that these were genuine chemical attacks and it may well be that the Assad government is responsible, but the British response has been premature. On occasions when the United Nations has deemed that Syria has been responsible for chemical attacks, Britain has done nothing. Now, with no such investigations Theresa May has acted, and cut the UK parliament out of the loop in the process. I feel that in part her actions are to send a message to the Russians, who she also holds responsible for the Salisbury incident. Indeed Ruth Davidson, no doubt dressed up in her Honorary Colonels uniform while excitedly watching news reports of British military action tweeted that “chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity”. So why no action against Russia? Why instead are we bombing a country who does not have the ability to strike back directly? It seems to me that what the Theresa May has demonstrated is that some countries can act with impunity. By cutting out the UK parliament, being going beyond her authority, our weak and wobbly Prime Minister has demonstrated, if it wasn’t apparent already, that she is not fit to hold the office, and must now resign.

Advertisements

Radical Independence Campaign, 20/06/17: Less Is More

I attended the Radical Independence Campaign meeting in Edinburgh’s Augustine Reformed Church last night. It was my first time at one of their meetings and with eight speakers given 10 minutes each over a two hour time slot, it was more akin to political speed dating than an in depth exploration of ideas. The discussion was supposed to be on Independence, Corbyn and the Future, and on two of those it hit the mark. Former SNP MP George Kerevan appeared to be on fast forward for his 10 minutes trying to pack so much in to so little time; so much so that it became difficult to follow. In broad brush strokes he felt that the SNP had retracted from the Yes movement and had focussed too much on its parliamentary profile, to the detriment of both Yes and the SNP. He said that he accepted that the SNP had suffered a setback in the election with the loss of so many seats, with the loss of votes being attributed to people moving to Corbyn Labour. He finished off by stating we needed to mobilise and radicalise, but unfortunately this wasn’t explored, which is a great pity, because this was an area where I know the SNP was (at least in Airdrie and Coatbridge) light on bodies.

Rory Scothorne of Roch Winds was of the opinion that that Kezia Dugdale’s main aim in the election was to return Ian Murray as an MP and anything else was a bonus, and that the additional seats gained by Labour were gained by Corbyn’s policies. That’s an over simplification; to use the Coatbridge seat for example, Hugh Gaffney increased Labours vote by 2000 votes, while Phil Boswell, representing a split SNP who have been suspended by the party dropped 11,000 votes. Had there been no such split, with an effective campaign the SNP could have retained that, and Labours vaunted magnificent seven would have been a less impressive six. Rory seemed to be of the opinion that the radical left should shift to backing Corbyn, to put the short term aim of getting the Tories out over independence. I did make a contribution which related to this in the discussion; that grabbing the short term achievable aim of putting Corbyn in power only gave us a potential stay of five years on being gifted another Tory government.

Pete Connell of RISE observed that the debates which took place in England around housing, immigration and austerity didn’t take place to the same extent in Scotland, overshadowed by the unionist parties combined focus on constitutional matters. He also said that without extra parliamentary groups keeping the pressure on parliament there would be no progress in many areas and where aims coincided, RISE would work with Momentum (which we really should acknowledge as a Labour party internal pressure group), and that’s laudable, so long as we bear in mind that what Momentum is doing is to advance the Labour Party and by extension, British Nationalism. Pete in fact mentioned that he was surprised to see that there was little acknowledgment of the concept of British Nationalism in UK discussion, nationalism of course being a quirky Scottish thing. He should know by now that Britons are of course patriots, not nationalists…
Hilary Horrocks of the Edinburgh TUC spoke for time about the Grenfell Tower fire and how the TUC was putting members of the community in touch with help from the Trade Unions to help with a number of housing and community issues: she pointed out that in Edinburgh alone there are 4000 high rise homes with no sprinklers fitted. Lynn McCabe, a local anti-evictions activist also spoke of housing problems, in Edinburgh social housing accounts for only 13% of the total stock, well below the 24% national average. She made the point that Tory ideology is that social housing is a short term solution, not a long term one, demonstrated by the selling off of council housing stock and not replacing it with similar levels of new housing.
Peter McCall of the Greens spoke about how across many parties there was an acceptance of capitalism but also a broad agreement that certain areas should be excluded from free market exploitation and influence: social housing and health being notable examples.
I found Jonathon Shafi to be one of the most relevant speakers as regards the debate title, pointing out the similarities between the Yes campaign in 2014 and Corbyn’s campaign in 2017, the role played by the media in both cases against Independence and Corbyn and how both appeared to grow organically from the ground up. His observation that Jeremy Corbyn and Angus Robertson were better at understanding such movements than Nicola Sturgeon rang true, and his view that Sturgeon’s response to such a movement was to ask how she could control it was spot on. Had there been time I would have added a further point, that there was an element who neither understood it or wanted to control it but actively deterred it. I also agreed with him that both Yes (as it loosely exists) and the SNP are not radical enough.

The resulting Q&A session was as scattergun as the debate itself, and a combination of a shortage of time and a few blawhards who clearly weren’t allowed to talk at home meant no exploration of anything in detail. One questioner asked how we could have a more democratic system of government, Peter McCall of the Greens summed it up perfectly: democratise the political parties, with the over centralised SNP a prime example. The evening concluded with Holly Rigby of London Momentum speaking about how her inspiration for campaigning came from the RIC during the 2014 independence campaign, and that with the media against them they relied on the enthusiasm and effort of activists to beat the media and the opposition, a lesson sadly lost on the SNP at present.

The British Nationalist Delusion

It really was ironic that Ruth Davidson used her invitation to the Orwell Society to display Doublethink in action. According to Davidson, nationalism is divisive, while patriotism is uniting. Yet by stating that “if it came to a choice between the country or the party, for me, it’s the country every day of the week and twice on a Sunday.” she demonstrates beyond all doubt that she is a nationalist, albeit a British one. For someone who apparently isn’t a nationalist she does a very good impression of one.

Up until now it has all been fairly harmless, if you ignore the use of terms like “fratricidal conflict” and ignore her parties courting of sectarian groups and right wing extremists. Ruth has played the fool, posed with any number of animals and armoured vehicles, all with a patriotic union flag backdrop. But now the gloves are off and Davidson is becoming clumsy. Her attempts to link support for Jeremy Corbyn with the IRA are seen by many as trying to stir up sectarian support ahead of the general election and are a new low in Scottish politics from a woman who should be mindful of the pool she is dipping her toe in.

Her u-turn on Brexit was a perfect example of her arguing on a principle, then abandoning it because it threatened her British nationalist perspective. Her announcement this week of a Tory u-turn on free prescriptions was a particularly ham-fisted abandonment of principle, considering that it was made to woo voters in a Westminster election, yet health is devolved to Holyrood- the parliament she actually sits in!

In short, Davidson is a woman who has no principles, other than her nationalism, and the more scrutiny she receives, the more apparent that is. The question the Scottish electorate have to ask themselves is; can we trust this woman? The answer among those who aren’t hard line British nationalists is no, we can’t. This is why there may be some gains by the Tories in the June election, but not enough to unseat the SNP. That won’t stop poor, delusional Ruth though; she will claim the few SNP scalps as an outright victory, and will no doubt use what scraps she gets as proof that Scotland rejects a second referendum, when in actual fact the SNP gaining a majority of seats again will be an endorsement of the decision the Scottish parliament has already taken: to support a Scottish referendum and to take us back into Europe when the rest of the UK has left.

Yoon Outrage Tactic No 376: The Twitter Retiral

Former Better Together activist Claire Heuchan wrote one of the most inflammatory attacks against the Scottish independence movement in the wake of Sadiq Khan’s ill fated attempt to kick start Project Smear on behalf of Kezia Dugdale.

I her article in the Guardian she wrote “The relentlessness of nationalists’ need to distance Scotland from the rest of the UK on the grounds that we were not like them filled me with anything but hope. The message of difference, that it must lead to separation, forced me to question how people of colour and migrants fitted into their idea of Scottish society at a time when purism governed understanding of Scottish identity and belonging.”

Purism? That old “Blood and Soil” line pushed by Alistair Darling now being delivered again, though this time not by a white, middle aged suit. I’ll leave you to read the responses which eloquently and passionately dismantled her argument and showed it up for what it was, a bilious attempt to tar those who believe that Scotland should be like other normal countries and govern itself as racists.

Having suffered the mother of all big riddies, Claire has apparently had to retire from Twitter “for her own safety” according to ultra-unionist hack Guardian hack Severin Carrell. In reality she will be following in the footsteps of the likes of the Herald’s David Torrance, who pulled the same stunt a while back. It gives their media chums an easy headline attacking Vile Cybernats for little or no effort and can be relied upon to be referenced for years to come (if not at FMQ’s on Thursday).

In a week or so Ms Heuchan will be back on Twitter. By then the debate will have moved on and we’ll have forgotten that we never even knew who she was in the first place…

Letter To The National: The British Empire & Olympic Gold

wp-1472168161429.jpg

Letter to The National

Dear Sir,
Now that the Olympics are over and the medal totals have been calculated it has been estimated that on average the UK had spent £4.1 million for every medal it had won. It seems to me that a more accurate term than won would be bought, with money siphoned from the National Lottery, a clever move which robs charities and good causes, virtually creating a state funded sports programme while saving the UK government from having to put more of our own money in directly. I had viewed this as a horrific amount of money to spend to acquire gold, even more so when I discovered that gold medals haven’t been made of solid gold since 1912 and in actual fact only contain around 6 grams of the precious metal itself. But I’ve had a change of heart. Conservative MP Heather Wheeler took to Twitter to proclaim that the British Empire had outperformed the rest of the world with a grand total of 396 medals, and it shows the mentality of the British Nationalist in that they still believe they have an empire and that it’s a great reason to fly the flag. The fact is the empire is dead and reasons for mass displays of British nationalism are few and far between; these days being limited to either international sporting events or international conflict. So if throwing a few hundred million pounds at the Olympics every four years is enough to satisfy the British nationalists need to wave the Butcher’s Apron without having to resort to invading Iraq or bombing Syria then that’s probably a price worth paying. Alas, it probably isn’t that simple, and I guess that so long as we remain part of the UK we’ll continue to fund Britain’s need to strut on the big stage whether we like it or not.
Yours,
James Cassidy

The Honours System: The Ideal Gift

Letter to The National, 28/12/15

Dear Sir,  

In response to Russ McLean, who calls for a suspension of the imperial honours system and the adoption of a Scottish one, it really doesn’t matter who is in charge of an honours system, or who dishes the honours out; these systems will always be a form of acknowledgement and reward for services rendered. The sprinkling of low level awards to lollipop ladies and the like are there to keep the masses happy, the pretence that these awards are in some way meaningful. Don’t get me wrong, for those people they are a token of respect from their communities, but the higher up the list you go, the less likely that is. I was surprised to find that there is even a company called Awards Intelligence who advise people on the best way to gain awards and will help you every step of the way. From reading the testimonials on their website it would appear that happy clients see an honour or official reward as a good way of growing their business and increasing their worth. One person, the daughter of an MBE recipient stated that it was the “best birthday present I could have arranged for my father”. Another satisfied customer, an OBE recipient was nominated by his wife! That sums it up for me: an elitist gift service where one selects the badge of honour they wish to buy and pays handsomely for it.

Even if Scotland should refrain from having an official honours system, there’s always the unofficial one. The naming of streets and public buildings is one way of honouring a local worthy. Here in Airdrie the Labour run local authority renamed the public swimming baths as “The John Smith Pool” to honour the former MP and Labour Party leader. Mr Smith was Labour leader during the notorious “Monklands Mafia” era, yet was strangely silent on the whole affair, no doubt for fear it would affect his chances of becoming prime minister. The renaming of the pool was not in response to a clamour from the local people, who for his actions in ignoring the local corruption would probably not have donated enough for John Smiths admission to the pool, never mind it’s renaming. This was the party honouring one of its own, nothing less.

I say scrap the honours system, and if a community wishes to honour someone in the good old fashioned way by erecting a statue then let it be done by voluntary public subscription, not by politicians raiding the public purse. Were that the case, the perches for pigeons would be few and far between. 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy

15/03/15 Racism and David Coburn

 The National.

Dear Sir, 

Another day, and another example of the language of the gutter being used against the Scottish nationalists. In this case it was UKIP’s David Coburn MEP, with his comments that he refers to SNP MSP Humza Yousaf as “Abu Hamza”. Abu Hamza is a convicted terrorist, and the link being inferred by Mr Coburn is a particularly nasty one. Over the course of the independence referendum there was some pretty strong language used, and I have no doubt many unionists took offence at being branded, among other things, traitors and Quislings, but when it came to the sheer volume of derogatory terminology and language those same unionists had the upper hand. Nazis references were (and still are) ten a penny with one the terminally declining Scotland on Sunday newspaper going as far as to change an iconic picture of the saltire being raised to show a blue and white swastika instead. One would have thought things would settle down after September 18th, instead the nastiness has went up a gear, with genuine hatred seething on a daily basis from some unionists who now realise that they appear to have won a battle and are now on course to lose the war. The language of the war on terror is now being applied at home, helped in great measure by the media wing of the Labour Party (Scottish Branch), otherwise known as BBC Scotland. I can watch the UK BBC news in the evening and see reports of insurgents in Iraq, extremists in Syria and separatists in Ukraine. Turn to Reporting Scotland and I can hear quotes from various politicians about the Scottish separatists here. A favourite phrase of Johann Lamont and Alistair Darling during the referendum, it is currently used by Jim Murphy and Margaret Curran, and I feel its use is a deliberate attempt to create a link in the mind of the viewer or reader between a peaceful, through the ballot box movement here in Scotland with the violent actions taking place in Ukraine and the Middle East. David Coburn is certainly not as skilled as the likes of Jim Murphy in the political art of saying one thing and meaning another and is just more ham fisted in his delivery, which makes his nasty, racist jibes all the more easy to spot. If UKIP is genuinely not a racist party I’m sure they will have no problem disciplining Mr Coburn. If the response of their Scottish Chairman Misty Thackeray is anything to go by, he won’t be disciplined at in any way, which says it all. 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy