Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Monday, 31 May 2010

To the BBC regarding the Freedom Flotilla

I sent this to the BBC today:

I would like to complain about the BBC coverage of the aid flotilla to Gaza.

On the day preceding the murder of aid workers, the BBC had little coverage of this flotilla, while most other news agencies in Europe covered it.

On the morning of the murders, even though twitter was full of messages from flotilla workers that they were being boarded, and the live streaming video that clearly showed Israeli soldiers boarding and firing weapons in one of the ships (I watched coverage until the cameras went off after 4am), the BBC did not react. People I was in contact with sent tweets to the BBC and sent emails etc, to no avail.

Following what seemed a really strange almost silence on the part of the BBC in the following hours (compared with Aljazeera and other networks), the BBC began to report the "incident" - but with Israeli spokespeople as the only official accounts being aired. In fact, Israeli Govt spokespeople were repeated and repeated. And switching back and forward across networks, the BBC coverage - studio based, showing shaky camera shots of the boarding interspersed with Israeli spokes people -and little from the aid organisations, was seen to be left lacking. Aljazeera had people commenting across the world - from Canada through to Jordan, Germany, Gaza, Israel, Turkey - and UK.

BBC coverage actually looked biased when it was parroting the Israeli line that aid workers were alQuaeda and had attacked soldiers with clubs etc - as if the obvious defence of the ship justified 19 deaths in some way.

What has been left out of coverage, repeatedly, that this was an act of piracy in international waters. The BBC seem to see this as some kind of "mistake" on the part of the Israeli army... not the blatant murder of aid workers and abduction of over 700 others on the high seas.

I have been disappointed in the BBC news coverage for some time - from before the UK election to be exact, when the political correspondents seemed to take the line that the Tories were sailing, unquestionably, to victory. The coverage of this as an Israeli mistake - or that the Israeli line on Gaza and the flotilla is somehow justified, seems to be more of the same lazy reportage.

As I type, I am watching an interview with yet another Israeli spokesperson (8.14pm). The journalist is allowing this man free range to peddle his side of the story without challenge – there was no questioning the boarding in international waters and kidnap of aid workers. There was no reference to the blockade and the reason that the aid was being given because of the fact that the Israeli control of the Gaza crossing points means that less than a quarter of the supplies needed actually get to Gaza. This sums up the coverage throughout the day. In contrast, the following interview of a Jewish man who is going to sail a boat to Gaza later in the year, was challenging and again put the accusations of the Israeli govt to him.

If this had have been Iran boarding a ship, the BBC would most certainly have been covering it in a completely different way.

Unless I see a more balanced and enquiring news coverage, I will be shifting to Aljazeera. The BBC seems to think it must act slightly more sensibly than the despicable Sky or Fox networks in order to seem balanced. This is not good enough and certainly does not justify my hard earned TV licence fee (a system, I may add, I defend to the hilt).

Neil Scott


Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Can the Far Left Recover from these election results? A reply...

SSP Campsie, my branch, react to the General Election result - HERE

I replied to an article by Tony Greenstein on the Socialist Unity website

My Reply
Good article. The makeup of the last two cobbled together alliances has shown the inherent sectarianism of the participants holding on to their "wee bit hill and glen". I can only speak about the Scottish situation in this as that is what I witnessed. And lets allow honesty here.

Sheridan, who is desperately holding on to some sort of need to be adored and his past glories, seemed rather than wanting to glorify the "unitary" nature of TUSC (or STUSC- I’ll come back to this), at every opportunity he had on television referred to the "coalition" as "Solidarity STUSC." A minor point? Maybe, but it shows up a few things- that one, the Scottish Left is more pro-independence than a cross border “unionist” alliance can allow; two, that Sheridan is using his past glories to woo the English left and the SWP (and the Scottish SWP are desperately clinging to them. And of course, personal relationships with Crow et al have been given more relevance than political nous) and three, after whatever happens in September, the left in Scotland should look towards the consistently politically unitary SSP which has the mechanisms for a left unitary group and is no longer reliant on “personalities” and heroes.

Let me cover each of those points.

The Scottish Left, as recognised by those in Solidarity and some of the other small groups and individuals who were brought together by the TUSC project, is mainly pro-independence. TUSC was not a good project for the left in Scotland- it did little to emphasise the left’s pro-independence stance beyond adding “Scottish” to the beginning of its name. STUSC, and those who proposed it, relied on three things in Scotland – one, the fame of Sheridan; two, the materials produced by unions and the remnants of the Solidarity project (some of which were appropriated SSP materials – the Southside of Glasgow was covered with SSP signs that had STUSC posters stapled to them!) and three, the SWP. The left in Scotland are aware of the SWP and their STUSC candidate’s real feelings on independence, so at the kick off, there were problems. The London based SWP and CWI are an anomaly in an organisation that Sheridan and his non-sectarian foot-soldiers were trying to stress was a “Scottish” one. Those who follow the machinations of the Scottish and British left would have been in no doubt that this organisation, regardless of the Sheridan stress on “Scottish”, was mainly a unionist one.

Another problem with STUSC in this regard was the fact that it was a hitherto unknown entity for the electorate (and one that most on the left will have know would disappear after the General Election) – and even with larger funds available to it, and the addition of Sheridan as a “personality” it fared no better than the strapped for cash SSP. The percentages between them are so small, they are not really worth comparing as the few votes between them cannot be seen as a real vote of confidence for one or the other.

Regarding Sheridan’s TV appearances in which he called the project “Solidarity/STUSC,” this showed his real feeling – ie. that this was a “convenient” coalition – one that would bankroll another TV/fame adventure – and had limited mileage. He wanted to keep Solidarity in people’s minds – though in the Scottish elections next year, the reality of the “strength” of Solidarity will become apparent. Solidarity have little branch strength beyond a core, and its base – hero worship for “Scotland’s greatest socialist,” have slowly woken up to the fact that he isn’t. Solidarity’s support relies entirely on the Sheridan personality – one that the Scottish Public no longer see as “Scotland’s most trusted politician” – to say the least - as they did back in the early part of the decade.

Taking the Scottish Socialist Party, there are a number of relevant factors to mention about it. It has remained consistent in its political stance and alliances. It has not jumped (or at times it has been overlooked by the mainly unionist organisations) into the cobbled together and undemocratic alliances in the past couple of years. Since the split, it has an almost entirely new EC – with many new and young faces. It has a consistent street presence and branch structure. It has a huge web presence. It has an iron clad international support. It has no or little stresses within its structure regarding independence – or the support of personalities (those well known candidates polled more or less the same as those who were not so well known in the General election).

Now – I am not saying that the future of the left in Scotland is the SSP – though it is the only real, credible, consistent vehicle/core for the Scottish left at the moment (if Sheridan disappears, Solidarity will shatter into its sectarian pieces).

The Left in the UK must rethink – and think beyond the personalities of Crow and in Scotland, Sheridan. It must also take into consideration the differences in the Scottish situation from the rest of the union. Scotland completely rejected the Tories. Scotland, when asked to vote in Scottish elections, votes for pro-independence and Scottish themes. Scotland WILL look for an alternative outside the Liberal Democrats after the current Westminster machinations are over.

And it must think beyond the past glories of discredited alliances and personalities.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Post Election

The Tories will wreck this country.

A view HERE

Sunday, 2 May 2010

My Marginal Vote

I live in the marginal constituency of East Dunbartonshire. At present it has a Liberal Democrat MP, Jo Swinson, who took the seat at the last General Election from Labour’s John Lyons by 4000 votes. She has been a very visible MP – she has a fantastic sense in how to use local media and local gripes to her political benefit. The other parties in this constituency election are the SNP, who support an independent Scotland – as I do but whom have no chance of taking this constituency; the Tories and UKIP – neither would be a preferred party to me – in fact I would love to see both placed firmly into the annals of history...

My preferred party, the Scottish Socialist Party are not standing here. This throws open the use of my ballot – though I will end up voting “tactically” – something I have never done before. I have always voted for what I thought was the best party or candidate.

I have decided to vote Labour. This is not without reticence. New Labour has been the target of my political ire for most of their 13 year history in power.

New Labour have let down working class people, who were its core, since it’s re-invention beginning with Kinnock back in the 1980’s. They sold their principles in order to play to the neo-liberal agenda. They curried favour with the extreme right wing government of GW Bush and backed him in his revenge and oil driven adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the Labour Government has brought in things like minimum wage and Tax Credits – things that do help the poorest of society, they have failed to close the gap between rich and poor and we have and increasing inequality gap. They have failed to eradicate child poverty. And to compound this inequality, the blind faith the New Labour establishment put in the neo-liberalism of the markets, the poor through to the middle classes are going to have to pay for the economic mess.
These are just some of my concerns! So why have I decided to vote for them? Well, for one, the other alternative in this marginal is Lib Dem. I have nothing much against the local candidate, but I feel the Lib Dems are a party who can be all things to all people – until they get into power.

Ask the people of East Dunbartonshire, who at the last council elections ousted the Lib Dem majority council (which was then replaced by a terrible coalition of Labour and Tories). The perception of the Lib Dems in power here is one of corruption, lies and doing the opposite of what they said they would. The local candidate, Jo Swinson, is good at the party line but does not escape the party perception – when I emailed her to congratulate her on the Hull City Council policy of free school meals for all primary children - a policy that was shown to raise health indicators within the city – a policy that was inherited from an ousted Labour majority – she emailed me back to say she too thought this policy was a great one and she would pass on my congratulations (at that time one the Scottish Socialist Party were being blocked from implementing in Scotland thought the Scottish Parliament by some of the main parties – including the Lib Dems). A few weeks later, the Lib Dems stopped free school meals in Hull – and this was BEFORE the economic crisis – when things were “good” but Lib Dems wanted to be shown to be as “economically efficient” as the Tories. It is good to see some Labour Councils, notably in Durham and Newham have taken up this policy.

Though this example does not fully illustrate my distrust for the Lib Dems, I feel they are not to be trusted in a hung Parliament. They would, regardless of their hmming and haaing when they asked, support a minority Tory government… and it is not to be forgotten through the hype that they are “left of Labour” that Liberalism contains quite a few right wing people and policies. A small example came to the surface when their much hero worshipped shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable, said he would like to make striking in the public services illegal. These are the jobs that ARE going to have to be defended and fought for in the coming years – and he would prefer if people in these jobs had no power to save their income. It is the same public services that Cable says he will cut quite viciously.

The Lib Dems didn’t take us to war – but they have been faltering in their support/ not support of the wars. They want to scrap Trident – but they are vague about what they would do after it was scrapped – their internal debate is not one of getting rid of a useless and dangerous nuclear arsenal, but with what to replace it with. They are no Left alternative!

So, why am I voting for the Labour Party in this election? For all the above – and I add, that there are still socialists in the party. Socialists that a minority Labour Government will have to appease. To quote “Socialist Appeal” a Marxist organisation in the Labour Party, “Either the Labour leaders attempt to “manage” this crisis, which means attacks on the working class, or they decide to make the bosses pay and that means taking their accumulated wealth and putting it at the disposal of working people, who would then proceed to plan the economy according to the interests of the many and not the few.” – this is something I WANT to believe in.

Will this happen under a wounded Gordon Brown? Maybe. I am a sucker in that I try to see the good in people – and like Darth Vader, I am hoping Gordon Brown returns from his ‘going over to the dark side.’ This is a person who wrote books such as, “Where there is Greed: Margaret Thatcher and the Betrayal of Britain’s Future,” “Values, Visions and Voices: An Anthology of Socialism” and in his fantastic book on James Maxton, he is positively enthusiastic about Maxton and his socialist principles. He says of these, “The social equality he supported was not for the sake of equality but for the sake of liberty. A truly socialist society would free men and women from the fear of poverty, the uncertainties of unemployment and the miseries of deprivation.”

If the Blairite/Mandelson New Labour project was one he was kind of forced to go along with (I CAN suspend disbelief at times), perhaps a vote for Brown will have him return to those values. Am I too idealistic? Maybe. Put it this way, I would not be searching for such excuses if the Scottish Socialist Party were standing in our constituency.