Author Archives: Bridgend's Green Leftie

The problems with Christian charity

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Nothing is more likely to press my buttons and get me responding than misguided praise of churches, and the Catholic Church in particular. It is something that I think is particularly appropriate for any green leftie to address as it is central to how religious belief has become a key tool of right-wing regimes around the world, but especially noticeably in the USA and UK currently. Religion is fundamentally right wing in nature because it is based on oppression, control and superiority complexes. The fact that the Jesus dude would appear to have made a good socialist, if you actually listen to what he was purported to say, is an irony that escapes most because it is irrelevant.

I have recently had conversations with a couple of people that I greatly respect, who are not particularly religious (I can respect religious people btw – just not religious beliefs or institutions) but who were being apologists for the Christian churches on the basis that they do exceptional charity work, especially in places like Africa, or in giving shelter to the local homeless (for one particularly cold night only). My robust challenging of this perspective on social media didn’t go down particularly well, leading to one of the threads being withdrawn, I suspect because the owner of that thread was wary of who else may see it given that she feels she has no choice but to send her children to a Catholic school. I guess we all have our crosses to bear!

But what of the assertions themselves?

Firstly, let’s address the meaning of charity.

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When you break these definitions down you begin to realise that charity is not the unqualified good that many seem to believe it to be. Indeed, many ethicists have major issues with the whole concept on, among others, these grounds:

  • Charities tend to target symptoms, not causes.
  • Charity often becomes a substitute for real justice, being used to patch up the effects of fundamental injustices in societies. In mitigating these injustices on a small scale, they help perpetuate them on a wider scale. (American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr is worth reading on this topic)
  • Charity supports the establishment rather than challenges it to change. The effort and expense put into charity would be better spent pressurising governments to bring about the necessary change. Governments (like ours) would be forced to address the worst effects of of poverty if charities stopped bailing them out.
  • The state is the main beneficiary of charity. Dr Neil Levy, among others, has argued that charity is often self-defeating as it allows the state to escape its responsibilities. Charity to support essential services is bad because it switches provision from government to charity rather than actually increasing the benefits to the needy.
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  • Charity leads to favouritism, not fairness. Donors, not unreasonably, choose to give to causes that appeal to them, rather than the causes in greatest need. Should there be donkey sanctuaries while we still have hungry children? And what is so different about a hungry child than hungry adult in a world where there is more than enough food for everyone?
  • The preferential tax status of charities is harmful, in that it reduces the revenue the state has for social projects. Allowing tax exemptions for private schools, invariably having charitable status, can be seen to be an indirect reduction of revenues to state schools and thereby a cause of greater inequality. It is transferring money from areas that are politically accountable to organisations of, at best, highly variable accountability.
  • Charity is essentially a selfish act designed primarily to make us feel good about ourselves than to actually achieve any lasting good. (See this)
  • Charities are very inefficient, with often excessive proportions of funds raised spent on administration, advertising and fund-raising.
  • Charities are generally more accountable to the givers than the receivers.
  • Is it ethical to give charity with strings attached? Richard Nixon was occasionally honest to a fault, such as when he said, in 1968, “Let us remember that the main purpose of American aid is not to help other nations but to help ourselves”

This last point brings me back nicely to my issues with Christian charity. It always come with strings attached, usually for both the distributors of that charity and the recipients.

Why do Christian do charitable work? Because they are told to. They do it primarily through their own charities rather than join in the work of secular charities with different agenda. They do it because it is part of the reward and punishment regime imposed on them by their church, as set out in many biblical quotes:

  • In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35
  • Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16
  • Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. Proverbs 19:17
  • Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27
  • Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

I swear I remember this last one so well because I heard it so often (just before the collection plate was passed around) in my days as a church goer. If all this cheerful giving was so beneficial, its hard to see why there is so much poverty and strife in the world. But then again, the Catholic Church is that bit more hypocritical than most. You don’t become, arguably, the wealthiest institution on the planet by giving all this money away frivolously!  It has a long and well-established history of shameless wealth accumulation. Churches have historically sought tithes of around 10% of its parishioners earnings, and I’d be surprised if they spend more than this % of their vast incomes year on charitable works. Getting figures for any of this is nigh on impossible of course.Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 14.05.51
The quote from James 1:27 is particularly poignant. The Catholic Churches ‘work’ with orphans has, of course, been particularly pernicious. The endemic pedophilia amongst the clergy has highlighted the wisdom of hanging on to substantial reserves. Compensation claims run to many billions of pounds for claims that are just the tip of an iceberg. And of course, that most celebrated of orphan preyers, Mother Teresa, has long since been exposed (but such sound minds as Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ali, among others).

As for Africa in particular, a paper entitled “The impact of Christianity on Sub-Saharan Africa” by Matsobane Manala of the University of South Africa came to the following conclusions:

  • It has done serious harm to the African way of life leading to a serious identity crisis for many, resulting in self-hatred and self-denigration.
  • It has seriously undermined women’s roles in all levels of society, with the imposition of the Christian family model of the “male breadwinner, dependent housekeeping wife and mother, dependent school-going children”.
  • It was the starting point for racial discrimination, that lead to things like church-supported apartheid in South Africa, for example. Indeed, apartheid can be traced back to a decision by the Dutch Reformed Church in 1857 to instigate separate eucharist services for white and black parishioners.
  • Christian churches and charities have played a key role in improving literacy standards and has been at the forefront of education services. But this has been at a price. The driving forces of change were the churches and the colonial industrialists and the education provided reflected their agenda accordingly.
  • Similarly, involvement in health care programmes has been substantial, but with inevitable strings attached (especially regarding abortion, family planning and sexual health) that may have exacerbated rather than helped major issues such as the HIV epeidemic.

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 14.10.08This last point has been thrown into greater focus with the recent ‘epidemic’ of violently oppressive homophobia in Africa, in no small way fanned by the ‘charitable’ works of US evangelical Christians. But this is not a new phenomenon. Anti-gay laws were introduced to Africa from the earliest days of Western colonialism.


In conclusion, charity of any sort is a dubious and ill-conceived enterprise more often than not. It diverts attention and resources away from achieving lasting solutions to humanitarian issues. But when it is driven by religion, it is particularly pernicious. It trades a vaccination or meal for the imposition or entrenchment of misogyny, inequality, bigotry and abuse. And all for self-indulgent motives rather than a genuine desire to change the world for the better.

A good starting point, for that better world, will be ousting Christian Conservatives like Teresa May and Donald Trump and replacing them with atheistic (understandably reluctant to label themselves outright atheists) socialists like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. These elections are where we need to focus our charitable instincts and cash!

P.S. I do support a few carefully chosen charities that focus on lobbying Governments directly, and/or direct action, for the kinds of change humanity as a whole needs to see. These include Amnesty International and Greenpeace, for example.

AFC Fylde working in partnership with Cuadrilla, Centrica and BAE Systems

Sent to the club, the supporters club and a range of local newspapers s around the club.

Dear Sir/Madam,

On visiting members of my family that live around the Fylde coast area, and being a keen lower league football fan (an Ebbsfleet Utd fan exiled in South Wales), I decided it was time I took in a game at AFC Fylde. IMG_2318With a nephew being a Barrow fan, the televised Bank Holiday fixture was perfect.

We enjoyed the game (me more so than my nephew, of course), and were hugely impressed with the Mill Farm stadium and the quality of the pitch. However, the evening was sullied after reading the programme in more detail after the game. The problem was found at the foot of the wholly inappropriately named COMMUNITY COUNTS page.

Why inappropriate? Well, it transpires that David Haythornthwaite, AFC Fylde chairman and owner, has no idea what COMMUNITY COUNTS means. The five sponsoring ‘partners’ of the AFC Fylde Community Foundation include the Fylde communities biggest threat, the disgracefully incompetent frackers, Cuadrilla; fellow frackers Centrica; and just for good measure, unscrupulous arms manufacturer and peddlers in violent death, BAE Systems. (See links at end of post)

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This would all be shockingly inappropriate in itself, but children are the focus of the foundations work, with its website proclaiming this lofty goal: “to educate, motivate and inspire future generations to build better communities for all”. It would be hard to imagination less appropriate ‘partners’ in pursuing this goal that Cuadrilla, Centrica and BAE!

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For all the impressive work that Haythornthwaite has done in building up the football club, I cannot help but question this man’s moral compass and what his long term vision actually is. I recently visited Forest Green Rovers FC. The parallels in terms of the progression of the respective football clubs are obvious enough, but the contrasts in the values and integrity of the respective owners could not be starker.

Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 22.45.48FGR are owned by Ecotricity boss, Dale Vince, and it is heralded as one of the ‘greenest’ and most progressive clubs in the world. It is the world’s first totally vegan club, for example. This is the sort of club that can draw families from a huge catchment area. I would urge families in the Fylde area to think long and hard about getting involved with a club that is happy to take your kids and ‘work in partnership’ with such a truly appallingly bunch of of filthy frackers and death merchants.

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The Fylde area is blessed with plenty of good football clubs to choose from. Community does indeed count, so pick wisely. Boycott AFC Fylde until Haythornthwaite gets the message that your support is not at any cost to your community and your kid’s futures.

Andy Chyba

PS – I’ll post any responses as comments on this post.

Supporting links:
Cuadrilla incompetence:
Centrica fracking:
Centrica and Cuadrilla:
BAE arms traders:
AFC Fylde Community Foundation:

GCSE Religious Studies – I couldn’t resist.

I invigilated a GCSE Religious Studies exam today. I had to have a go, didn’t I?





Time: 1 hour


1. Beliefs and Teachings

a) State two beliefs about Jesus (2 marks)


1.   He was alleged to have been born to a virgin woman; a story spun to hide his mum getting pregnant out of wedlock.

2.   In similar vein, his dad was purported to be a non-human deity who impregnated his mum via the ‘holy spirit’.


b) Describe Christian beliefs about the Trinity (5 marks)


This is the somewhat ridiculous concept that despite their belief that there is only ONE god (the several thousand other claimed gods being dismissed as nonsense), this one ‘true’ god somehow manages to divide itself into THREE distinct manifestations.

These manifestations are held to be two male figures – the ‘Father’ and the ‘Son’ – and an asexual/non-sexual entity variously known as the ‘Holy Spirit’ or the ‘Holy Ghost’. Although thinking about it, this must also presumably be male if it did get Mary pregnant (with her consent?). This probably explains why Christian Churches have a long history of sexism and misogyny.

The only one that is claimed to have ever taken any physical and/or visible form is the ‘Son’ a.k.a Jesus Christ. Having supposedly been born to a virgin, the story goes that he grew up to become an itinerant Jew preaching largely socialist principles of social justice and equality. Not surprisingly, the Roman authorities had him down as a trouble maker and eventually lost patience with his impudent claims and had him executed. But all good stories need a happy ending, so he allegedly rose from the dead, only to disappear off the face of the Earth a few days later to join and ‘be one’ with Father and Spirit i.e. never to be seen again.

Many believe that he will come again, presumably by similar methods. So if your daughters ever get pregnant and claim to still be virgins, perhaps you shouldn’t be too hasty in jumping to the obvious conclusions.


c) Explain why Christians believe in life after death (8 marks)


The obvious reason is that it is because they have been indoctrinated to believe this from a very early age. Only by perpetuating this myth can people be persuaded that they will face some sort of post-death judgement of their lives; a judgement with eternal consequences no less!

This has been a classic tool of control by many, if not most, religions throughout history. We have yet to devise a better myth to subjugate people and keep them subservient. This deceit persuades people to put up with all manner of injustice and pain on the basis that, so long as they keep the faith, do as they are told and repent for their ill-deeds (and ill-thoughts even), then they can expect eternal joy/happiness/paradise/orgies etc in the ‘next life’.

The beauty of this con is that it can never be categorically disproved. As with Russell Bertrand’s ‘Cosmic Teapot’ analogy, it is a logical impossibility to prove that something that does not exist actually does not exist. This is the only plausible reason why this nonsense still persists.



d) ‘The Resurrection is the most important belief about Jesus’

Discuss this statement showing that you have considered more than one point of view. (15 marks)


To the believer, or perhaps more accurately, to the churches, this is probably the most important tenet as it reinforces all the ‘life after death’ nonsense just discussed. It also engenders the myth that this character was more than a mere mortal man, but was actually some form of superhero.

It is certainly one of the less trivial and trite ‘miracles’ credited to him; after all David Blaine and Dynamo (and the like) regularly trump tricks like walking on water and turning water into wine. Dynamo’s trick with the bucket pouring out ‘impossible’ quantities of fish would probably have had him deified back then too.

Jesus appears to have outdone Dynamo at levitation though. It was cute of Dynamo to levitate 40 odd meters above the ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue in Rio, but Christ apparently levitated up into the clouds and was never seen again.

There are, of course, many other important beliefs about Jesus that can be argued to be more important, depending on your perspective. Many, for example, believe that the Jesus character is purely a work of fiction.  They point to the lack of consistent, irrefutable evidence.

Others (of which I count myself) are prepared to believe that all the extraordinary legends and myths are loosely based on the life of a charismatic dude living in that era (a bit like Robin Hood).



2. Practices

a) State two roles of the Church in the local community (2 marks)


1.   Church buildings act as ‘beacons’ in the local community to signify that there is a group of that particular sect in that community.

2.   The church thereby creates divisions and degrees of segregation in those local communities by competing with all the other religious brands pitching up in that community for a congregation to fleece and manipulate.



b) Describe a Eucharist/Communion service (5 marks)


This is probably the most obscenely repulsive concept in the whole pantheon of repulsive concepts promoted by Christian churches, but especially the Roman Catholic church.

The service involves a priest uttering a few words (a magic spell) over a wafer and a goblet of wine. The RC church would have you believe that this spell, through the obsequiously grand sounding but impossible process they call ‘transubstantiation’, ACTUALLY turns the wafer into the ACTUAL flesh of the long dead Jesus, and the wine into ACTUAL blood (without actually looking, smelling and – thankfully – tasting like anything of the sort). Believers are then encouraged to cannibalistically consume this supposedly now raw meat and blood.

Slightly less deranged Christians hold that this service is, of course, merely symbolic rather than actual, as if that makes the whole concept significantly less hideous.



c) Explain why Easter is an important Christian festival (8 marks)


First and foremost it is a hugely important festival for the chocolate industry in many Christian countries. It produces a huge spike in their revenues and profits that can help sustain them through the rest of the year. It does of course focus on pagan symbols such as eggs and rabbits as nobody wants to munch on a chocolate crucifix with a dying man on it.

It can be argued that this emphasis on pagan symbols (seen in Xmas traditions too) shows a degree of admirable inclusivity and multiculturalism on the part of a Church that has a history of forcing itself upon folks in the aftermath of conquests.

Alternatively, it can be argued that this absurd mish-mash of symbols and ideas embodied in modern day Easter celebrations underlines the inherent nonsense we have been ‘sold’ throughout the Christian era.

To believers, it should be pointed out, Easter is supposed to be (from the Churches’ point of view at least) the most important festival in the calendar, as it acts as an annual reinforcement of the Holy Trinity and ‘life after death’ myths previously discussed.



d) ‘Christmas is a more important festival than Easter’

Discuss this statement showing that you have considered more than one point of view (15 marks)


To the vast majority, this is certainly true. The whole set of myths and traditions (again largely pagan) that have been built around Christmas make it a lot more fun than Easter overall.

In theory, Christians are supposed to rate Easter as more important (due to reasons just expounded by the controlling church hierarchies). However, despite the attraction of chocolate and hot cross buns, Christmas wins hands down in terms of joy and fun.

As is often key in the capitalist world we now live in, the marketing people have done a brilliant job of taking the naff story of three supposedly ‘Wise Men’ proffering useless luxury goods as gifts, and turning this in to the ultimate festival of excessive consumerism imaginable. On this basis, the economic importance of Christmas simply dwarfs that of Easter overall.

How can we understand homophobia and especially the persecution in Chechnya?

I’ve just re-read the chapter of my book, The Asylum of the Universe, on homosexuality and it still does its job of helping to understand homosexuality and railing against homophobia. Its closing paragraph is, however, more pertinent than ever. Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 11.47.42It was written in 2010, at the time of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill going through its parliament. (I’ll post the chapter at the end of this article).

That bill proposed the death penalty for “aggravated” and/or “serial” homosexuality. Aggravated homosexuality was defined as gay sex involving under 18s or disabled people, or by anyone with HIV, irrespective of condom use. Serial homosexuality was having same sex relations more than once. Life imprisonment used to be the more lenient punishment for same-sex intercourse, but that was to become the fate for anyone caught indulging in any form of homosexual behaviour, such as kissing or holding hands, or even living together in a same-sex (but possibly sexless) marriage. Condoning or promoting homosexuality will get you five to seven years.

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 11.53.57I ended by suggesting that this was all just a short step away from the sort of ‘final solution’ (genocide) policies we have seen elsewhere to eradicate perceived menaces. And now we see ‘concentration camps’ and the rounding up of people in Chechnya.

As with so many spheres of life, we are clearly making no progress and the waves of fascist intent sweeping around the globe are taking us backwards alarmingly fast. It is time, I would suggest, to try and change societies mindset on theses issues.

For too long homosexuality itself has been thought of as ‘the problem’. In fact, the real problem is not homosexuality, but homophobia. Any phobia is an extreme, unjustified and/or irrational fear; it is a psychological problem that needs to be overcome and in so doing enhances the lives of all concerned.

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An alternative view

Homophobia is a pervasive, irrational fear of homosexuality. Homophobia includes the fear heterosexuals have of any homosexual feelings within themselves, any overt mannerisms or actions that would suggest homosexuality, and the resulting desire to suppress or stamp out homosexuality. And it also includes the self-hatred and self-denial of homosexuals who know what they are but have been taught all their lives by a heterosexual society that people like themselves are sick, sinful and criminal.

As I describe in my book, homosexuality is as valid a lifestyle as any other and found throughout the animal kingdom. Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 11.57.21Homosexuality has been practiced in all societies throughout history and has been openly accepted in many cultures. The taboo on homosexuality in so many parts of the world has largely been the result of the widespread dominance of the Abrahamic religions, with their inbred repression of any form of sexuality unrelated to childbearing.

Thus, we need to alter the discourse and stop asking questions like:

  • What are the causes of homosexuality?
  • Can you tell if you are a homosexual?
  • Can homosexuality be cured?

The questions that really need to be asked are:

  • What are the causes of homophobia?
  • How can you tell if you are a homophobe?
  • Can homophobia be cured?

In tackling these questions, we really need to look at them in different contexts. At the scale of us as individuals, the answers can be fairly obvious. But at the scale of the nation state, where things get enshrined in law, a whole set of other issues has to be involved. But a common denominator is invariably religiosity, as this piece of research shows:

The 40 or so countries examined show a statistically significant correlation that has three main exceptions: Philippines (a lot more tolerant than may be expected in a strongly Catholic country) and China and Russia (both a lot less tolerant than may be expected in supposedly atheistic states). I want to focus on Russia as it is very much in the forefront current homophobic atrocities – especially in its federated republic of Chechnya.

Russia started following a similar path to Uganda in 2011. The Russian Duma unanimously approved a law that prohibited the distribution of homosexual “propaganda” to minors. Holding gay pride events, speaking in defense of gay rights, or equating gay and heterosexual relationships can now result in massive fines. Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 11.58.45Before the vote, gay rights activists who attempted to hold a “kiss-in” outside the Duma were pelted with eggs by Orthodox Christian and pro-Kremlin activists. Anti-gay protesters also gathered, with one holding a sign that read: “Lawmakers, protect the people from perverts!”

The argument that a young person can be “propagandised” into turning gay may seem outdated, but it’s actually not out of place in modern Russia. In the Soviet Union, homosexuality was a crime punishable by prison and hard labour, and Stalinist Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 11.59.35anti-gay policies persisted throughout the 60s and 70s. Gays were considered “outsiders” and homosexuality was thought to be the domain of pedophiles and fascists. Reports child sex scandals amongst the churches and right wing elites of the West in recent times can only have reinforced these prejudices. Measures like the propaganda ban show that many Russians still haven’t shed these views, even decades after the fall of the regime that kept homophobia in place.

Since the 90s, Russians have faced incredible economic turmoil, a loss of public services in many areas, and widespread corruption — all factors that combine to reinforce negative stereotypes. “To the degree that a given society that is insecure about its political, social, economic, and uniting cultural identity, it will mask that insecurity with a swaggering show of gendered strength,” said Yvonne Howell, a Russian professor at the University of Richmond. We can relate to the propensity for hard times (austerity) to lead to an increase in scapegoating (immigrants) in what we have seen in the UK in recent times. Homophobic hate crimes in the UK have dramatically increased simultaneously.

But let me return to the apparent fact that Russians buck another major trend in modern homophobia: more religious countries are far more likely to be less accepting of homosexuality. As pointed out, the data suggests that Russia and China seem to reject both God and gays. Russia ranks as one of the least devout countries on earth, with only 33 percent of Russians saying religion was very important in their daily life in 2009. But this hides the reality of the people’s religiosity. Even though Russians aren’t churchgoers in the traditional sense, most (80-90%) are still incredibly supportive of the Orthodox Church, which wields power both politically, as an ally of the Putin government, and as a symbol of national pride in much of the population. In satellite republics like Chechnya, the same role is played by Islam. In 2010, a poll revealed 95% of the population were muslim adherents, predominantly of the more the more homophobic Sunni Islam.

Indeed, many Russians/Chechens today view Church affiliation as a way to reaffirm their national identity. In a 2007 (Russian) poll on the subject, the majority of respondents said religion for them was a “national tradition” and “an adherence to moral and ethical standards,” while only 16 percent said it was about personal salvation. The two great ills of the world, religion and nationalism, reinforcing and supporting each other!

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 12.00.48It’s no coincidence that the punk band Pussy Riot was sent to jail for performing in an Orthodox church, specifically. Orthodox Church elders have also served as occasional Putin campaigners, issuing bizarre declarations that mash together Christianity and the longevity of United Russia. One said that “liberalism will lead to legal collapse and then the Apocalypse” and referred to Putin’s presidency as “a miracle.” Archpriest Dmitry Smirnov warned once that “one needs to remember that the first revolutionary was Satan.”

In some countries, homophobic laws might seem like a sign of religious influence run amok. But in Russia, it’s part of a broader anti-opposition push and a crackdown on a wide array of civil liberties. Homophobia, more often than not, derives not just from one’s faith, but from being anti-liberal. Russia is an illiberal country, and Putin’s government capitalises on the illiberal sentiments expressed by the church. Chechnya may be a different context, but the same forces are at work.

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 12.04.26We can all, fortunately, challenge individual homophobes we encounter and help them to enlightenment. But when it gets embedded in politics and law, reinforced by religion, it is hard to envision any painless solutions. The pain in Chechnya right now, is however, intolerable.

I am not a huge fan of petitions, but we are limited in what we can do to affect things in Chechnya. Voicing our disgust and abhorrence, through any and all of the many petitions that have emerged on this issue, is therefore important.  Amnesty International are consistently at the forefront of these campaigns, so I commend this one to you in particular (and please join them, if you haven’t already).


TRANSCRIPT OF ‘HOMOSEXUALITY’ CHAPTER FROM ‘THE ASYLUM OF THE UNIVERSE’ (apologies for issues with page formatting). Click the link:


Berlin – some lessons

I have recently returned from a 3 day visit to Berlin. It was in the company of three generations of the same family: grandfather, father and son/grandson. The grandfather was born in the late around the start of World War II. The father was born just after the Berlin Wall went up. The son was born in the last few days of the 20th Century. This is of little relevance to what I am about to write other than adding, perhaps, some additional poignancy to impressions the city gave me.

The first thing that struck me was just how exceptionally flat the whole city and surrounding area is. It makes Holland seem, well, bumpy at least. The next thing I noticed was the network of blue pipes going around the city centre at about 4 metres off the ground. It turns out that these two things are connected. The blue pipes are not, as urban myth would have it, carrying beer, but are temporary installations carrying vast quantities of melt water away from deep building sites. You see, Berlin is built in the middle of a vast glacial outwash plain and is fundamentally unstable to its very foundations. That is a  major analogy for the city’s history for you!

Historical instability is evidenced at every turn in the city centre, focussed around Potsdamer Platz, which was at one time the busiest road junction in Europe. Google its name and look at images over the course of the 20th Century. There are plenty of these historical images all over the place in central Berlin. One old building caught my eye in particular.

Where had I seen something very similar? Where else but Hiroshima.

The main difference between these is that in Hiroshima, the building has been preserved within the boundaries of the Peace Park, whereas in Berlin, it has beed razed to the ground and replaced with impressive modern high rise edifices. But these have been a very recent addition (since the wall came down). Prior to this the site was in (or adjacent to) the notorious Death Strip – the barren empty wasteland, c.150 metres wide behind the Berlin Wall. Peace Park v Death Strip; a very different post war experience.

The situation in Hiroshima and Berlin in 1945 was, of course, very different. Hiroshima was pretty much abandoned initially and had to pick up the pieces with negligible foreign assistance. Berlin, on the other hand, was overrun by foreign forces from both East and West. As the capital of the Third Reich, it was a prized token of victory for all involved. It was to be carved up, in a faintly ridiculous compromise, as the tensions between the communist ‘Victors from the East’ and the neoliberal ‘Victors from the West’ manifested themselves.

As Europe found itself divided down the centre of Germany by the Iron Curtain, Berlin found itself 100 miles behind the curtain. The Western Allies were not having that! Berlin was too symbolic to be ceded entirely to the dastardly commies! Thus it was that a bunch of politicians sat around a table, a bit like they once did to crudely carve up Africa, to rip Berlin in two, half to the East and half to the West, with the Western Allies further carving their half up into three portions – British, French and American. Was this absurdity the work of the same fools that conjured up the State of Israel? Probably not, but it was symptomatic of the imperial arrogance of the victors that they felt empowered, by military success, to do pretty much as they liked with territory and people for whom that territory was home.

Not that I have a great deal of sympathy for Germans, and especially Berliners, of the time. In the final analysis, they facilitated the Nazi rise to power; they provided the massive labour to create a formidable war machine; they were complicit (by, at the very least, turning a blind eye) with all the atrocities of the regime. I have always struggled to get my head around how that could ever have happened. A visit to the Typography of Terror exhibition (on the site of the SS HQ) helps to shed some light on this. Here some extracts on display.screen shot 2017 02 19 at 11 45 48

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I have studied such material before and struggled to conceive how it actually happens like this. But the politics of the UK and USA over the last few years has seen this sort of history repeating itself via the Tories/UKIP in the UK and the Republicans in the USA. It confirms all my worst suspicions that we are on a very slippery slope indeed.

The stark clash of ideologies between the left and the right, and its ability to divide people, is graphically in your face the moment you walk out of the Typography of Terror exhibition. For there is one of the longest remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall, preserved for posterity.

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This is 200m of what was once 150km encircling the whole of West Berlin. It was put up in a matter of days in 1961 by the communist East German authorities, calling it the “Anti-fascist Protective Wall” (they saw the Western neoliberals as tantamount to fascists). They had grown impatient of way the existing borders were proving porous and allowing literally millions of East Germans to ‘escape’ to the West. The reality was that prior to the wall going up, Berliners were commuting backward and forward across sectors, for work or visiting relatives, largely unhindered. This came to an abrupt end as the Cold War’s icy grip took hold of the city.

The symbolism of this outpost of western liberal values in a sea of communist oppression made West Berlin an irresistible magnet for many, especially musicians and artists; the likes of David Bowie, the Beatles, Lou Reed, Brian Eno, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen and many more all took inspiration from time spent there.

A visit to the GDR Museum gives the lie to the propaganda that life was unremittingly grim in the East. Living standards for the poorer working classes were probably higher than the west with good quality, well equipped homes for most. But the inefficiencies of the Soviet economic model meant that access to a good range of what might be considered ‘luxury’ goods was pretty pathetic and bound to generate discontent when things were so patently different just across the wall. Nothing embodied this more than cars. While West Berliners had their Mercs, VWs and BMWs aplenty, East Berliners had 15 yr waiting lists to get their hands on a Trabant!! That today you find Trabi World just along the road from Checkpoint Charlie, paying tongue-in-cheek homage to this piece of shite simply underlines the farce of the situation.

Farce played its part in the moments that led to the wall finally coming down. Russian President Gorbachev was leading a peaceful revolution based on glasnost (creating openness) and perestroika (economic reconstruction) but the East German leader, Eric Honecker was a hardliner who was having none of it. It was a botched news conference that tipped the dominoes. Under growing pressure to make concessions similar to those in Russia, some minor changes to travel rules were to be announced. The bumbling Politburo member running the conference, Günter Schabowski, read the news release for the first time on air. Much of his reading was garbled, but a few phrases popped out: that trips abroad would be “possible for every citizen,” starting “right away, immediately.” Shorn of their context, these phrases mistakenly gave journalists and TV viewers the impression that the wall was open. With the public awaiting news eagerly and with confidence that the times were a-changing, huge numbers descended upon the wall in Central Berlin and the sheer weight of numbers forced the guards to stand aside, despite a lack of instruction to do so, and the Wall was joyously overwhelmed, and Honecker’s regime was swept away with it.

Today, fragments of Wall dominate the souvenir shops. ‘Wallpeckers’, as they came to be known, hacked away all around the wall, creating holes and breaches very quickly. It was a symbolic act and everyone would have wanted a piece of the action and a piece of the wall. Some stretches have been preserved, but even those bear the scars of the Wallpeckers.

This ‘pecked’ hole is in the preserved section that runs along where the SS HQ once was. Across the road that was once part of the death strip, is the former Nazi Air Ministry building, that survived pretty much unscathed. That authoritarianism has not been banished is symbolised by the modern CCTV on the wall. Layer upon layer of oppression in one image!

This is what I have found, looking back at my pictures from Berlin. Most of them tell multi-layered stories. These were taken from the top of one of the modern skyscrapers in Potsdamer Platz, built on the east side of the wall, in what would have been in Death Strip less than thirty years ago.

This is looking due north towards the Brandenburg Gate. Built in the 18th Century as a monumental gateway to the Prussian monarchs’ palace, it survived two world wars to then find itself just on the east side of the Wall that ran up the road from Potsdamer Platz, with Tiergarten Park on the west side of the wall. The wooded parkland extends for 210 hectares (520 acres). Originally part of royal hunting grounds, they were completely stripped of all trees towards the end and after WWII as the Berliners desperately needed firewood to survive the bitter winters. The cleared land ended up as vegetable allotments as they fended off starvation too. The trees are back today, largely replanted by Berlin residents apparently, but it still comes as a surprise to learn that none of the trees there are much more than 60 years old. The area to the east of the road/wall was once the fortified communist-imposed Death Strip. That it now has the Holocaust Memorial and huge US Embassy on it, side by side, seemed appropriate and disconcerting in equal measure. Just off picture in the Tiergarten (in the old West Berlin) are much smaller individual memorials to other groups targetted by the Nazis: homosexuals, Sinti & Roma, Russians.

To the SE of Potsdamer Platz is the what was the nerve-centre of the Third Reich. It used to be called Prince Albrecht Strasse, but was renamed by the East Germans after a prominent member of the communist resistance to the Nazis, so is now Niederkirchnerstrasse. It was a sector border street and had the Berlin Wall built along it in 1961, running up to Checkpoint Charlie.

The Government building dates back to the Prussian Landtag but was subsequently used for Berlin City government functions right up until very recently, including during the Nazi era. The Exhibition Hall, built in the late 19th century has been a cultural and art establishment throughout the turbulent times around it. It is severely pock marked by gunfire, but avoided major damage. During my visit, it was the central venue of the annual Berlin Film Festival, not that I had chance to partake. The one film that did catch my attention will not surprise regular readers – an Israeli comedy called “Holy Air”. It is set in the Arab Christian community of Nazareth, and tells the story of a man who, after his wife gets pregnant, decides it is time to make it big and provide for his family by selling bottled holy air to tourists. Sounds like the perfect scam – as bits of Berlin Wall will run out eventually. (Or will they?) The juxtaposition of this film being promoted literally next door to the exhibition describing the systematic programme to eliminate the Jews, which in turn leads to the formation of the Israeli state got my head in somewhat of a spin.

Walls, barriers, divisions. Separatism, fascism, communism, neoliberalism. All in evidence, often simultaneously, from many vantage points, but especially around Potsdamer Platz. The line of the wall is marked on the ground along its full length, except where it has been built over. This mostly takes the form of a double line of cobbles. Around Potsdamer Platz alone, this threw up some incongruous and/or poetic images.

Here we have the double line of cobbles crossing a footpath and road before disappearing for 30m or so under a new office block. Parked across it is, facing east, a woman’s bicycle; facing west, a brand new BMW i3 electric car on a free charging point. Two very different perspectives on sustainable transport staring at each other across an entrenched divide.

Here we have the line of the wall interrupted by the modern reincarnation of underground station. An historic site, it saw the city’s first rail terminus in the 1830s and the city’s first underground lines in the 1930s. The Nazi’s wanted to have it complete before the 1936 Olympics to demonstrate the magnificent state-of-the-art technology and efficiency of the Third Reich. Technical issues – largely related to the difficult geology eluded to at the beginning of this piece – meant it was not actually completed in time, much to Hitler’s intense annoyance, no doubt. In the Cold War era, it was seen as a possible weak link in the barrier that the wall represented and as such was heavily patrolled underground by GDR soldiers throughout the time of the Wall. Its ultra modern technology and efficiency today would have had Hitler purring.

There are just a few small fragments of the wall left in Potsdamer Platz today, with them utilised to give information about the sites history. Smack bang on the line of the wall in the foreground of my picture is another of those incongruities that mess with my mind. For lo and behold, it is the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It is really difficult to assimilate all the stories and messages to be gathered around this historic city. Very little of it is uplifting. Even the big shiny modern tower blocks remind me of instability as soon as I realise they belong to banks (e.g. Deutsche Bank)!

The two most uplifting things I saw may not inspire many. During my visit to the Espionage Museum, amongst all the 007 nonsense and displays of gadgets, was a story that ought to be more familiar to us all. At the height of the Cold War the Americans undertook some provocative military exercises that had Russian militarists convinced that the Americans were about to launch a nuclear first strike conquest. Pressure quickly mounted for a pre-emptive strike to be launched from Russia. It was only the intelligence received from spies within the American military that convinced Russia that the manoeuvres were indeed no more than exercises. In other words, the spies averted a nuclear apocalypse.

In what sense is this uplifting? It tells us that it is secrecy that is dangerous. It is the preserve of tyrants and crooks. All the time we know what is going on we can have rational responses. So hooray for all the spies, all the whistle blowers, for Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, Chelsea manning et al. There is no place for secrets of any sort in democratic government. National security can never be enhanced by allowing governments to keep secrets from the people. This much we have to learn from the Nazi era. In the digital era, relationships between people and the powers that be are evolving fast. This is why we should  all be broadly supportive of the Anonymous network of activist and hacktivist entities, and why I was pleased to see the Espionage Museum promoting this too. I convinced my 17 yr old Government and Politics student companion to this viewpoint I think – such that we bought some souvenirs that will hopefully see much future use.

The other uplifting sight was to see thousands of people taking to the streets and marching on the Brandenburg Gate – this time in protest at rising violence against women. (See below)screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-19-59-18

If Berlin has anything to teach us, it is that putting our faith in governments to act in our best interests is foolhardy at best. Glasnost/openness, transparency and accountability has to be the bedrock of any true democracy. Any thing less is a sham. We live in a sham. And shams can quickly become shameful. Freedom is only possible when the masses grasp it.

The Norman Foster designed dome (the top of a gherkin anybody?) on top of the Reichstag building was added in the 1990s to symbolise the reunification of Germany and a new era of open, transparent democracy. Well, that was the theory at least.

Shut Aberthaw Power Station; reflections on a day of protest

I have been very quiet recently and keeping a low profile. With the world slowly turning into a quagmire of shite at every turn, I have consciously decided to avoid adding my voice to the cacophony of doom mongers. I look back on everything I have written in such a vein over recent years and it is all panning out even worse than the most pessimistic of predictions. Talking about it without doing anything about just seems to perpetuate self-fulfilling prophecies.

With regards most issues, knowing what to do that might change things, or at least things that I am able and willing to do, is the big challenge. For some reason, assassinating Trump just crossed my mind as an example to illustrate this conundrum.

Of the issues and campaigns that I have been involved with, the one that I cannot seem to give up on is the anti-fracking/anti-fossil fuel/pro-renewables issue. For me, this still encapsulates the essence of everything that is wrong in the world today:

  • the capitalist mantra of profits before people
  • the rancid corruption of our governments
  • subversion of democracy
  • climate change denialism – denying both the science and the social impacts
  • the lack of respect for our life support system – planet Earth
  • reckless gambling with all our futures
  • the lack of any rationality in decision making (with the concurrent rise in religiosity being no coincidence)
  • the way all of the above leads to the refusal to grasp the solutions staring us in the face – in terms of renewable energy technologies
  • the continued prevalence of Thatcherite greed and selfishness

and so on and so on.

Perhaps more importantly, in terms of my continued participation in the campaigns, is that I know what we can do to affect change. I search through their blog for fracking and coal related stuff highlights the range of options that have had impacts:

  • we have won support from democratic institutions (local authorities; notably NOT national government)
  • we have won court cases
  • we have brought activity to a halt by occupying sites and blocking access routes
  • we have persuaded people to change their energy suppliers, especially to renewables suppliers
  • we have encouraged community energy schemes
  • we have raised awareness considerably, through various media and educational programmes
  • we have built a community of experts and activists that ensure the above will continue indefinitely, for as long as is needed.

Which brings me to today’s events at Aberthaw.

A number of groups co-ordinated today’s protest. Reclaim the Power, United Valleys Action Group, Bristol Rising Tide and the Coal Action Network held a public demonstration demanding the prompt closure of Aberthaw coal-fired power station and support for renewable energy in the UK.

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-22-53-36The forecast the day before was pretty abysmal and that, to my certain knowledge, put quite a few people off turning out (for justifiable health reasons in some cases), but as it turned out, the weather was actually about as good as it gets for hanging around Aberthaw beach in January. So a turn out of somewhere between 150 and 200 hardy souls was pretty good I would say. Considering that many had come from Aberystwyth, Bristol and Gloucestershire, with some from as far away as London and Lancashire, it is always possible to be disappointed in the numbers from more locally, but hey!

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-22-53-22I am never sure whether to be disappointed or pleased at relative lack of familiar faces at such events. There are always some familiar faces from among the organisers of the respective groups, but today there were a lot of new faces, who if they had anything in common at all, from what I learned from talking with them, was that they came from downwind of Aberthaw (Cardiff, Newport, Bristol), i.e. in the firing line for many of its worst impacts. This throws up the thought NIMBYism always plays a big role in such protests. The big problem for the climate change campaign has been in creating that NIMBY mindset for a global problem.


Pete the Temp

But wherever and for why people turned up today, on a bleak and remote beach in mid-winter, they were rewarded with a pretty good carnival atmosphere. For this, one man deserves enormous credit. Take a bow Peter Bearder aka Pete the Temp. Bristol-based Pete describes himself as a ‘poet, looper and educator’. I can’t believe I have not encountered him before. He was brilliant. Check out his Facebook page and blog. Chortle has this to say about him: ‘with fire in his belly, expert performance skills and a keen sense of mischief, he’s poetry’s answer to Mark Thomas, able to make the depressing enjoyable.’ (Here is a wee taster)

Spot on and just the tonic I needed, along with everyone else I suspect. Throw in some hot soup, homemade cakes and inspirational words from UVAC residents and the ever-reliable Marianne Owens from the PCS union and a good time was had by all in the wintery sunshine with rainbows as a backdrop. Ever an abrupt shower on the march from the beach to the gates of the power station could not dampen the spirits.

The one thing that did piss me off big time, however, and not for the first time at such screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-22-52-15events, was the ridiculously over-the-top policing. I anything give the lie to the Tory austerity agenda it is the criminal waste of public money that routinely seems to accompany these events. I counted in excess of 50 officers on the ground, 2 on horseback, and a relatively short-lived overhead helicopter presence (which costs around £2000 an hour in itself). When I quipped to one officer that it seemed like that there was almost as many coppers as protestors about, he laughingly agreed and said there were even more on standby ‘in case they were needed’! Welcome to Police State Britain.

By my reckoning, this must add up to a policing bill of somewhere between £10k and £15k, when half a dozen plods would have been ample to ensure the safety of the public and the protestors. What this actually represents is a paranoid security response to protect the assets of the capitalists who own and run the plant. As such, I hope (without any conviction that it will be so) that it is the company that picks up the bill rather than the taxpayer, who is told everyday how their more important services have to sacrificed on the altar of the Tory phoney austerity agenda. The police bill here would pay the annual wages of a nurse or a teaching assistant FFS.

Anyway, back to the substance of the protest.

It is my understanding that this protest was prompted, in no small measure, by the publication of a Friends of the Earth Cymru (FotEC)/Greenpeace report last September, entitled AIR QUALITY AND HEALTH IMPACTS OF ABERTHAW POWER STATION (available in pdf format here) This is yet another example of reality being even worse that I had realised. I used Aberthaw Power Station as a case study when I was a geography teacher in Barry (1995-2004). We knew then that it was a power station especially designed to burn the shitty quality coal that was left in South Wales. We knew that it faced technological challenges in burning this stuff while maintaining ‘acceptable’ pollution levels in its emissions. We were told that it was a ‘state-of-the-art’ and


The pollution from the stacks heading off towards Barry, Cardiff, Newport, Bristol ….

meeting those challenges with technological wizardry – that on closer examination seemed to amount to little more than some water sprays in the chimney stacks to ‘wash’ out the pollutants. We knew that they had been rapped my the environment agencies of the time, but were told that this simply proved how rigourous the whole regime was. I whiffed bullshit overtime I heard that on our annual school visits.

What the FotEC report, written by their then-Director Gareth Clubb and the Greenpeace coal and air pollution expert, Lauri Myllyvirta, uncovers is little short of a nightmare and national disgrace.

The full report is 25 pages long, but here is the Executive Summary:

Executive summary

The 1,500MW Aberthaw coal-fired power plant in southern Wales is among the largest
point sources of air pollution in the UK . In 2013 it had the 3rd highest emissions of nitrogen oxides of any industrial installation throughout the EU . Of the 12-highest nitrogen oxides polluters in the EU, Aberthaw is by some margin the greatest polluter relative to the electricity generated1 .

Hundreds of people’s lives are ended prematurely as a result of pollution from Aberthaw power station every year . This pollution also causes tens of thousands of days of lost productivity through sick leave, and hundreds of thousands of days of illness every year . The annual societal cost of the premature deaths resulting from Aberthaw’s NO2 pollution is £226 .4 million in total, and £37 .9 million in Wales alone .

The pollution is responsible for causing asthma symptoms in children, bronchitis in children, chronic bronchitis in adults, hundreds of hospital admissions every year, and low birth weight in babies .

Over the 45 years since it started operating, pollution from this one power station alone is likely to have caused the premature deaths of more than 3,000 people in Wales, and 18,000 across a wider area .

Governments and environmental regulators appear to be failing to comply with requirements of European legislation through failing to even monitor spikes in emissions from Aberthaw power station, let alone act on them .

The electricity produced by Aberthaw power station could be substituted by renewable sources, creating substantially more employment for Wales .

Given the particularly heavy pollutant load associated with this power station both in absolute terms and per unit of electricity generated, the serious health impact of this pollution and the massive quantities of greenhouse gases emitted, we call for the full and permanent closure of Aberthaw power station .

The data and methodology used are both rigorous and credible. The conclusions and recommendations it produces pull no punches. They underline pretty much all of my ranting points in the first bullet list above (indirectly at least). And this is why I hold little hope of any speedy resolution despite clear evidence that somebody dies and many fall ill every single day of the year directly because of this capitalist folly.
Here is the last page of the report:

Conclusions and recommendations

Extensive research into air pollution of the nature emitted by Aberthaw power station led the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants to conclude that a precautionary approach should be adopted in planning and policy development76 . It is this precautionary approach that should now be adopted by the Welsh Government, the UK Government and Natural Resources Wales . Every pressure should be applied to RWE to cease its operations at Aberthaw power station with immediate effect .

The Welsh Government does not appear to be responding to the very real harm being caused to the health of the people of Wales as a result of the pollution from Aberthaw power station . This is despite the Welsh Government’s statement:
“Controlling air pollution in Wales is a high priority for the Welsh Government. The driver is not only compliance with European legislation, but a commitment to protect human health and the environment”77 .

We can find no reference to Aberthaw power station in the Welsh Government’s three Air Quality (NO2) plans for southern Wales, nor in the Respiratory Annual Report .

On average, pollution from Aberthaw is responsible for curtailing the lives of 67 people in Wales every year . This is equivalent to 64% of the death toll on Welsh roads – yet there is no special strategy for securing the accelerated final closure of the plant.

At a wider scale, the estimated health impacts due to NO2 exposure are 400 premature deaths per year . The emissions from the power plant are estimated to be responsible for 195,000 days of illness per year, including 35,000 days of sick leave . In other words, on an average day, 530 people are ill due to the harmful health impacts of the pollution .

Aberthaw power station has been generating for 45 years . It is an old power station that belongs in a different era . The fact that its pollution has been causing respiratory sickness and prematurely ending the lives of thousands upon thousands of people in Wales and beyond for decades has eluded scrutiny .

The time for proper public scrutiny is now upon us . The Welsh and UK Governments must do everything in their power to ensure that Aberthaw power station ceases operating . For good .

So there you have it. In the quagmire of shit that the world is turning into, here is one particularly obnoxious and noxious turd right on my doorstep. But hey, what a lovely day we had highlighting this fact, here in the asylum of the universe!

A betrayal too far?

The schism in the Parliamentary Labour Party shows absolutely no sign of being healed. The will and beliefs of the majority of the Labour membership are clear. This translates itself into the will and belief of the vast majority of the Labour constituency parties. The will and beliefs of the Labour leadership, supported said membership and constituency parties, is also very clear.

That leadership put forward a truly important motion before the houses of parliament. It was a motion that, in the words of the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, “gave us the opportunity to send the opposite message to the world … that, while Saudi Arabia will remain a valued strategic, security and economic ally in the years to come, our support for their forces in Yemen must be suspended until the alleged violations of international humanitarian law in that conflict have been fully and independently investigated. And until the children of Yemen have received the humanitarian aid that they so desperately need,” she said.

Personally, I don’t believe we should value the Saudis as a strategic or economic ally. It is a barbaric, religiously fundamentalist (i.e. socially backward and primitive) country that should be ostracised rather than courted. Concern over its importance due to its oil wealth is also backward and primitive in a world that needs to be rapidly turning away from fossil fuels. It is only the warped logic of the neoliberal capitalists that seeks to preserve dependence on finite resources.

This reality underlines my utter contempt for the Labour MPs that abstained on this vote in defiance of a three-line whip from the Labour leadership. They not only stuck two fingers up to Party discipline; they not only chose to make a pathetic gesture at the cost of innocent children’s lives and well-being; they also underlined, in blood red, that they share the warped neoliberal, capitalist mindset of the Tories, to whom they handed victory in this vote.

It was the simplest and most straightforward of requests that was made of them. They were being asked to support the sending of message to the Saudi regime that humanitarian issues matter more (the Socialist worldview) , not less (as is the Tory worldview) than economic issues. Other Party’s MPs understood this and did the right thing:

Emily Thornberry said that she was disgusted that (all but one) Tory voted against the motion and disappointed that 102 Labour MPs abstained. That should be the other way round surely! We should never expect anything else from Tories. It is a constant disappointment that anybody thinks like a Tory. What is truly disgusting, to the point of making me want to vomit all over them, is that the proud socialist heritage of the Labour Partry, that has been trodden into the dirt consistently by the neoliberal Blairites, up to and including their humiliating defeat in the recent Leadership election, should continue to be dragged down by these contemptible, self-important bastards.

Well, now they well and truly have blood on their hands. And the rest of the world sees them for what they truly are.screen-shot-2016-10-29-at-21-53-19screen-shot-2016-10-29-at-21-53-32

To be fair, some of Corbyn’s PLP detractors refused to get involved in this most revolting of revolts. Newspapers reported one Labour MP, who is not supportive of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, but voted for the motion, said he was frustrated and upset that a number of his colleagues were “using the issue as a way of trying to beat Jeremy. It is such as serious issue and it’s obviously going on the Tory side as well, but there is a massive humanitarian disaster here. It should not be an opportunity to score political points,” he said.

But nine Welsh Labour MPs were amongst those that simply could not resist. Of course, I am especially disappointed that my own MP is heading this listscreen-shot-2016-10-29-at-21-30-44but just like with Tories, we really could not have expected anything else. Her track record of cosying up to arms manufacturers goes before her these days. She will probably be the guest of Lockheed Martin UK at the next big arms traders’ banquet. She would certainly welcome them bringing jobs to Bridgend were it ever an option. Imagine her pride at having Bridgend made cluster bombs slaughtering civilians in Yemen, like their British made BL-755 bombs that have been uncovered being used against Yemeni civilian targets by ITV. 

It is patently clear that Madeleine Moon and her likeminded colleagues can have no future in the Labour party that has been re-born, re-invigorated and returned to its members. They have become insufferable boils on the face of the party. They disfigure and repulse. The sooner these boils are lanced and proper healing of the sores achieved, the better for everyone involved in progressive politics in this country.

P.S It was a surprise to see Paul Flynn on this list. I am told he had a genuine reason for being absent from the vote. I am happy to believe and acknowledge this.