Tag Archives: PROTEST

SPAIN PROTESTS IN AN UNREPORTED WORLD

Very, very slowly this story is creeping up the news agenda, but it may be violence that will be the only way it hits the headlines.

Tomorrow there will be local and regional elections in Spain, but while the rest of Europe worry about figures on a page and the fate of the Euro, the people of Spain, and those protesting in Madrid, have far more pressing concerns to complain about.

Lets for one moment imagine a time in Britain where we had:

Youth Unemployment – 45%
Unemployment rate at – 21.3% (the highest in the EU)
4.9 million jobless
Austerity measures increasing the retirement age
Reduction in civil servant pay
Austerity measures to reduce access to Health care and education

There are a myriad of reasons for discontent in Spain.  There is a feeling of discontent with the two party system that has a stranglehold over their politics.  That politicians are only in it for themselves.  That the public are paying the price for other peoples incompetence and the irresponsible actions of the banking sector.

An overwhelming feeling that Spain is one country that did not benefit in the boom years in the way others did.

These demonstrations are about much more than austerity.  They are about politics and the direction the country is going.  Can a country really survive 45% youth unemployment?

But perhaps we are missing the bigger picture even than the 10 day demonstrations in Madrid.

Demonstrations are now ongoing in Italy, yet up to now they have not been subjected to the severe austerity cuts of other EU countries.  There are fears of more  unrest in Greece and Portugal as fears of an “adjustment” in the debt arrangements moves ever closer.

The snowball effect that is the EU crises is still rolling.  Greece is getting further into trouble; fears that Italy will be next and just the prospect that Spain could need anything like a bail out is on the horizon could send the EU into a spin that will leave the Euro reeling.

This summer is a crucial time, and with people obtaining inspiration from the “Arab Spring”, ordinary people in the EU austerity countries are asking, “why should they suffer”.

Could this be the EU summer of discontent?

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MARCH FOR THE CUTS: Is this the “Silent Majority”?

Over the last few days there has been a media offensive by the right wing of British Politics, namely the Tax Payers Alliance, UKIP and Rally Against Debt.  UKIP have apparently obtained the right use the term “Tea Party”, if or when it decides to create an American style Tea Party movement against government spending.

The Tax Payers Alliance explained on various media outlets how they represented the “Silent Majority” in the UK and need to show their voice is heard in the debate.

So the question surely is – Are they the SILENT MAJORITY. It is a phrase easily used quite often when people are losing either the argument or the possibility of political power.

Recently we have heard the likes of Polly Toynbee talking up the existence of a progressive alliance, the idea that actually most people in the UK are progressives in their political thinking and that they represent the majority.  Yet the facts do not back this up.  Over the past 30 years we have had right wing governments, pretty much exclusively, with a quasi Tory party existing within the Labour Party power structure.  This does not show a “silent majority”.

In March this year we had a “March For An Alternative” – that attracted over Half a million men, women and children who marched through the capital against the cuts.

Yesterday we had 350 people with banners stating they quite like them.  Does this show a “silent majority”?  I think not.

The tax payers Alliance has been arguing that we should be performing MORE CUTS and not less, and not ring fencing vital services.

There is also a European dimension to this with both UKIP and the Tax Payers Alliance largely anti Europe.

What this shows is not that there is a silent majority for the cuts, but that the fringe right wing pressure groups have something in common with those in power.  They are influencing policy at the heart of government and stand along side mainstream politicians on a platform to reduce public spending on an ideological basis.

I neither think this is a “majority”, or that there is an appetite for a “Tea party” movement in the UK.  The fringes of the right claim they are note being heard, when in reality they have a few of their fingers on the levers of power.

bbb

IAN TOMLINSON REQUIRES JUSTICE: Ian Tomlinson unlawfully killed – inquest ruling

Finally, after 2 years of some of the most disgraceful behaviour by any Police Force, Ian Tomlinson’s family have a verdict in the inquest into his death that gives hope to the idea that justice can prevail.

Two years ago at the G20 demonstrations, a series of events were triggered which led to a cover up, the closing of ranks, call it what you will of the Police Force that was simply disgusting to see.  Time after time the public have been lied to and misinformation liberally spread by the authorities, but now it is official, Ian Tomlinson was UNLAWFULLY KILLED by the Police officer PC Simon Harwood.

What we saw that day, back in 2009,  was the other side of the Police force that many see from time to time but that we are told is a thing of the past.  The two faces of the Police, that split personality, has been seen more and more as the stresses in our society gather pace.  Those who demonstrate take extreme risks with the tactics of the Police from time to time, and in the case of the G20 protests, literally took their lives in their hands.

Ian Tomlinson was a completely innocent by stander just trying to get home to his family.  Turned away on various occasions from routes home, he finally met his fate at the hands of a Police Officer who used excessive and unnecessary force against the unarmed, bystander, whilst walking away from the officer.

If we did not live in the social media age, no doubt this crime would have gone unpunished and unnoticed.

Within days of the death, it was clear as video images began to emerge on the internet, of the incident and of members of the public giving their accounts.  The Guardian began to run these videos and asking questions.

From then on we had a closing of ranks.  First denials; then a post mortem stated that he died from a heart attack; it was denied that the Police had any contact with Mr Tomlinson prior to the video footage of him being struck by Police; No Police man owned up to the incident.

Then as time went on more video tape, the discovery of ctv images, and the admission that Mr Tomlinson was a completely innocent by stander trying to get home from work and who had been turned away several times by the Police and the truth began to emerge.  Two more post mortems revealed internal bleeding and trauma.

Still the white wash continued as the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), began a criminal enquiry that eventually decided in July 2010 that no charges would be brought against the officer, PC Simon Harwood, because the disagreement between the pathologists meant prosecutors could not demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt a causal link between the death and the alleged assault. A disgraceful decision that has now been brought into question by the inquest verdict.

PC Simon Harwood will become the first Police officer to be subject to a public Metropolitan Police disciplinary inquiry.  The family of Ian Tomlinson have for the first time in two years seen the prospect of Justice for their loss.

I wish them well.  What this sad and disgraceful episode shows is that any powerful state institution can become the barrier to justice, and use it’s power against the people rather than for it.  The Police are no exception, indeed are even more prone to it.

The videos of Simon Harwood’s behaviour throughout that sorry day in April 2009, showed how out of control he was.  A rogue thug, under the cover of a Police Uniform, and protected by the closing of ranks after the event.

R.I.P.

Ian Tomlinson    7 February 1962 – 1 April 2009

MP Bids to Curb Union Power: Another attack on British Democracy

Over the past few months there have been many attacks on democracy in Britain by the coalition government.  Today Tory MP Dominic Raab is introducing a private members bill in order to prevent Unions of essential services and transport illegal unless the vote for yes represented over 50% of the electorate able to vote.

This has been talked about for some time by Conservative MP’s and the CBI as a way of taking pressure off employers to keep wages low.  David Cameron mentioned this in Parliament as an issue he would look closely at if strikes became widespread. A clear threat to unions to stay in check or face more anti-union laws.

It is unlikely anythink will come of this bill, however, the seeds have been sown as a threat, throwing down the gauntlet to the Unions, showing that those on the right could bring such a bill forward in government’s Parliamentary time.

This is simply an act of vandalism on the rights of people in this country to take industrial action in a democratic organisation.  It is fundamentally un-democratic and abhorrent to the liberal nature of our society.

Lets be clear, I do not belong to a union, although I have been in the past, and there are many times people have gone on strike and I have disagreed with either their issue or their tactics.  However, that is not the point.  Whether I like it or not, I accept the right to ballot members to take industrial action if they so wish.

Quite often, those that take action, at least in the short term lose a lot more than they gain as they have to go several days without pay.  No one takes these decisions lightly.  People have families to feed and mortgages/rent to pay and the decision to take industrial action is thought about seriously by whoever takes it.

Unions are democratic organisations, they are not monolithic institutions run by Trotskyites who arm wrestle people into striking on a whim.  There is too much to lose.

What this bill shows is the gross disregard for democracy and fairness the Conservative Party and the CBI have.  It is exactly the same as the call by some for the referendum on AV to only count if it got more than a certain percentage of the vote.

The facts about democracy and especially our democracy in Britain, is that we do not force anyone to vote.  No one is penalised for not voting as in Australia or in other countries.  Many people think this should be so, but our democracy has a certain amount of consent built into it’s culture.  While people have the freedom to chose whether to vote, that is their right.

Very often in democracy in Britain, whether it is in General Elections, Council elections, or European Elections, many constituencies or even throughout the country as a whole, the majority do not vote for the winning candidate or party.  Indeed, in the case of council elections and European elections you do not even get a majority taking part at all.  By the logic of Dominic Raab MP all of these elections should be null and void.

It would make any government formed since the second World War wince, as no one has managed to get more than 50% of the votes cast let alone the majority of those eligible to vote!

It is a nonsense argument, made up by those with a vindictive nature, who wish to attack unions for the sake of it.

Many of the votes taken in recent times in union ballots for strikes have had an overwhelming majority voting for strike action.  If a large number did not vote who were eligible to, that is their choice.  I am sure if they felt strongly enough they most certainly would.

Unions are democratic institutions and should be respected in our society rather than simply used as a scapegoat, regardless of whether we agree with them or not.  Democracy needs to be upheld, it is more important than petty Tory MP’s trying to make a name for themselves.

BAIL OUT CARTOON

No words can explain . . . . . . . . . . . .the hang over

Maybe the Portuguese who have only had 1.1% annual growth over the past decade, wouldn’t be able to understand why they have the hangover, or indeed find this funny!

Fred Goodwin and other banker jokes

Bank of England keep rates unchanged at 0.5% and the Euro has more bad news

Jitters over the recovery have out shone the worries over inflation as the Bank of England kept base rates at 0.5% for the 25th month in a row.  We live in unprecedented times and if anyone doubted this then this months decision on interest rates and yet another domino falling in the Euro zone should confirm it.

There were those within 12 months of the credit crunch who were predicting that even then we were half way through the banking crises. Yet I believe that even now we are barely half way through, and unless the independent banking commission come up with significant banking reform then this crisis will continue to run.

The European Central Bank also decided to increase it’s base rate by a quarter to 1.25%.  The markets were expecting the UK decision, but the confidence is draining away from the Euro as it struggles against the pound and the Dollar.

The massive structural problems with the economies of Europe is causing enormous strains that ultimately may only be resolved with a major restructuring, and a lot of pain to boot.

Northern Europe’s economy is in a far better shape than southern Europe – a 2 tier Euro zone is an inevitability.  What is not an inevitability is whether the Euro will survive at all.

Meanwhile, the strengthening of rates in Europe could cause more inflationary pressure in the UK adding to the woes of the economy, growth and the pressure to increase base rates.

The markets are already factoring in the increase of 0.25% in May.  The Elephant in the room however, is the growth of the UK economy.  Analysts expected stronger growth in the first quarter of 2011, as it faltered with 0.7% growth, barely re-capturing the growth lost in the final quarter of 2010.  Output has dropped and retail figures show despair by many high street companies.

To say that 2011 will be a tough year economically is an understatement. The cuts have barely bitten and consumer confidence is through the floor, with standards of living on a continuous slide.

Chancellor George Osborne is facing the worse case scenario with stagnant growth and output and rising inflation.  Poor consumer confidence means people will not be spending in the months ahead and despite the rhetoric of having an investment and manufacturing led recovery, this takes years to achieve, hence why Germany is doing exactly what the UK government wishes the UK could do after years of preparation.

The structural problems in the UK economy will take at least a decade to overcome, but can the public stand that amount of austerity?

CARTOON THAT SAYS IT ALL – NHS REFORMS: The moment the penny dropped on Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms

David Cameron thought it was all in hand, and then a voice came into his head, the dawning that buggering up the NHS might not actually be in the Conservative Parties interests . . . . or er the countries.

I wish I’d have been there for that conversation!