Friday, 29 January 2010

Behold the head of a traitor!

A cold January day. The deposed King Blair, stripped of his royal robes, wearing only simple breeches and a white shirt with the collar open, is marched by a squad of soldiers bearing pikes and muskets, to the scaffold on Tower Hill. The executioner, dressed all in black, his face masked except for the eye slits, waits motionless, the enormous axe at his side. Blair kneels at the block. The traditional drum roll. The axe descends.
“Behold the head of a traitor.”

The camera’s time code flickers between January 1642 and January 2010.

Let it flicker a bit more. A more appropriate execution scene. It is 1789. Le Roi Tony, condemned by the people of Paris, is being driven by tumbril to execution, while Queen Cheri Antoinette nibbles at cake sandwiches helplessly. The tumbril approaches. Suddenly, the crowd is pushed aside; an unutterably hideous washerwoman, using her stinking laundry baskets like clubs, shoves her way to the guillotine. As Le Roi mounts the platform, the washerwoman draws a rapier, and disposes of the entire guard with a few fancy thrusts and ripostes. For, of course, once we see a hideous washerwoman anywhere near Madame Guillotine, we know it is that master of disguise and accent, Sir Percy Blakeney Bush, turning his aristocratic drawl into perfect Parisian gutter argot. Robespierre raises his impotent hands in horror, as Sir Percy Bush whips up the horses, and the tumbrel, with the King on board, gallops unscathed through the entire French Republican army, and another Carry On film shoot hears the call “Wrap.”

Today will be a farce. We all know Blair knew the invasion of Iraq was illegal. But Blair has escaped the scaffold, and will live out his life of shame, struggling in penury, forced to depend on pathetic hand-outs of $20,000 dollars a minute on the American lecture circuit.

Blair acted like an absolute monarch. Cromwell and co attempted to abolish absolute monarchy for ever. Absolutism popped up again, once the British Prime Minister established his right to act like a monarch and declare war.

In 2003 Parliament was incapable of checking Blair. Parliament is no longer a suitable defence of our rights as citizens to say whether our fellow citizens should die in foreign field.
Let the lesson of Britain’s illegal invasion of, and ultimate disgraced retreat from, the ravaged country of Iraq be written into our non-existent constitution. The right to declare war must be exercised by referendum of the entire citizen body. No other person or organisation should be allowed to usurp that right of ours.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Democracy and Derek Simpson

I confess to special interest. I was booked on a British Airways flight during the week after Christmas, was, naturally, furious when the BA cabin crews were poised to strike, and, personally, was very relieved when the judge declared the strike illegal.

We recall Unite’s leader Derek Simpson, when he was a Liverpool Councillor, and attempting, in Thatcher-dominated Britain, to turn Liverpool into a Marxist mini-state with himself as Commissar. His was a dictatorial, not a democratic, approach to politics. He would have – quite rightly – said he was struggling against the equally dictatorial politics of Mrs Thatcher. I dislike any dictatorial approach, whether of the so-called ‘Right’ or the so-called ‘Left’, and tend to support compromisers, muddlers in the middle ground. But however dictatorially the Marxist Left behaved then, I passionately defended their right to represent their supporters. Throughout Mrs Thatcher’s virtual dictatorship, it was obvious we lacked a Socialist party (led by Tony Benn?) as an extra regular opposition party to represent the many people who felt the limping Labour party inadequate.

But democracy? Hmph? And, above all, democracy in the proposed BA strike? Double hmph. Derek Simpson defended the planned strike of BA cabin crew with reference to ‘democracy.’ But democracy means power to the people; it does not mean power to members of a particular union. Who were ‘the people’ affected by the planned strike. Surely ‘the people’ includes everyone involved – not only cabin crew members of Unite, but pilots, engineers, ground crew .. and passengers. Apparently a million passengers had booked flights which would have been cancelled. Surely if ‘democracy’ is invoked, then they too should have been entitled to vote.

Once Derek Simpson used the word ‘democracy’ to justify depriving a million people of planned holidays, visits to possibly sick relatives, adventures of one sort or another possibly connected to their own jobs and careers, then he exposed his members to scrutiny. First, it was noted that BA cabin crew expect to have an average annual income of £34,000, while Virgin cabin crew expect an average annual income of £24,000. (As I heard these figures, they were not precise, and I do not guarantee they are exact. But most accounts offered a difference of about £10,000.)
Furthermore, once it became clear that the BA cabin crew members were striking to increase an annual income of about £34,000, we could argue that many of the passengers whose flights were to be prevented were teachers, taking advantage of the Christmas holiday to get away from a stressful job. And the average income for a teacher without extra responsibilities is roughly £30,000, considerably less than the income of cabin crew. Cabin crew members may say they have responsibility if an accident occurs. But given modern technology such an accident is very rare. Teachers are responsible for the care of young people every day of their working life. Teachers may face a strong sixteen-year old pulling a knife, a child having an epileptic fit, an accident on a climbing or boating trip, etc. Teachers, social workers, nurses – suppose them passengers on a flight banned by Mr Simpson.

Of course Mr Simpson is entitled to wage his power struggles like anyone else. But let him be careful of seducing our support by the use of a term which means something different to us and to him.

Democracy is a beautiful word. Do not let us tolerate its misuse.