Sunday, 26 February 2017

Corbyn, Copeland and the Toxic Legacy of 'Nuclear Jack' Cunningham

As the chattering classes spewed out their predictably characteristic response to the Copeland byelection result, little attention was paid to the real political and environmental issues that should have been under discussion. Indeed, as 'The Usual Suspects' launched yet another attack on the Labour leader in what looks like a clear and unrepentant attempt to oust him once and for all, the same stale stories appeared to be being rewritten again and again, as if none of us can remember ever having read them at all in the first place. Whilst Toby Helm and Ewen MacAskill gave Tom Watson an open platform for his attempt to make Jeremy Corbyn shoulder full responsibility for a result that had far more to do with future energy and environment policy in Post Brexit Britain than simple Party Politics, Andrew Rawnsley and Jonathan Freedland, two veteran BBC broadcast journalists, launched vitriolic attacks on the Labour leader void of a single word about the real issue that should have been under discussion in the wake of this landmark byelection result: that of Nuclear Power.

As I pointed out towards the end of last year, when the Guardian covered Jamie Reed's high profile resignation from his former seat, thus triggering the byelection that we have just had, what most of these so called 'experts' appear to have conveniently forgotten, if they ever knew it in the first place, is that we are dealing with the toxic legacy of 'Nuclear Jack' Cunningham: whose Father was jailed along with T. Dan Smith for his part in the Poulson Affair. As I also pointed out at the time in my comments in the Guardian discussion threads, there was, at the precise moment of writing, an interesting picture of Reed with Cunningham, whose Father Andrew was a senior union official before his subsequent fall and incarceration, on the website. Interesting because, prior to his high profile resignation as Shadow Health Minister, on 12 September 2015, 'one minute into Jeremy Corbyn's acceptance speech as leader of the Labour Party' according to his own Wikipedia entry, Reed had previously held the position of Shadow Environment Minister in what had up until then been the old 'Tory Lite' Miliband Shadow Cabinet that had lost his Party the 2015 General Election.

The fact that in the aftermath of the Fukushima Disaster on 11 March 2011 Miliband saw fit to continue to allow a vociferous proponent of nuclear power to sit on his front bench as a Shadow Spokesman on the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, a position Reed held between October 2010 and October 2011 whilst the international outcry over the disaster reached a crescendo, says something indeed about how the Tory Lite version of New Labour has made the Party so infinitely unelectable; whilst simultaneously offering up Jeremy Corbyn as a scapegoat for their own abysmal failings. Of further interest perhaps is the fact that Reed was not the first Pro-Nuclear Front Bench Environment Spokesman to have been appointed to the post at a time when the Party's leadership was busy making itself completely unelectable. In view of this then, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the person who held that very position at a very similar point in time, politically speaking at least, was none other than Jamie Reed's predecessor in his former constituency, Jack Cunningham; who held the equivalent post during Neil Kinnock's disastrous stint as Party Leader back in the nineteen eighties; as Thatcher was still riding high on her post Falkland's War crest of a wave.    

In yesterday's diatribe against Corbyn, the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland claimed that since the second Labour leadership election the mainstream media has 'barely bothered' with him, before adding that blaming the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Mainstream Media 'doesn’t quite bite the way it used to.' Interesting then that directly after Theresa May's 'Brexit Bill' passed through Parliament, and on to the Upper House, the publication that he writes for had launched another of its scathing attacks on Corbyn under the heading 'Real fight starts now': Jeremy Corbyn's Brexit tweet prompts bruising response'. More interesting still perhaps is the fact that one of the principal human agencies responsible for the attacks on Corbyn is Peter Mandelson, who makes no secret of the fact that he spends every single day trying to cause problems for Jeremy Corbyn. A statement that has received its fair share of coverage in the Guardian. Meanwhile, attempts by anyone, myself included, to challenge the Guardian's constant sniping at Corbyn are met with the usual barrage of right wing trolling that readers of the on-line version of the publication have become accustomed to seeing on a regular basis for quite some time now.

Interestingly enough, Mandelson's former involvement with the very EU institutions that stand most to lose if, in the wake of Brexit, other countries such as Holland choose to follow suit, was the ultimate cause of his second political demise. As I myself was swift to point out, in an earlier posting on this blog, during his time as a European Commissioner Lord Mandelson became involved in a scandal over his links to the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, whose United Company RusAl had benefited considerably from the former Minister Without Portfolio's two decisions to cut aluminium tariffs.

So, in view of the fact that the Guardian chose to use the Copeland by election result to give Tom Watson a soap box from which to launch yet more attacks on the Labour leadership, it is perhaps of relevance that Mr. Watson has himself been linked in the press to a series of financial transactions which many Labour members see as totally inappropriate. The payments in question, which have amounted to some £500,000 in total if the Telegraph website is in any way to be believed, came from Max Mosley, son of the Wartime British Union of Facists leader Sir Oswald Mosley, who was himself implicated in the first major New Labour Sleaze Scandal generally referred to as the Bernie Eccleston Affair.  

Another equally interesting anecdote is that Jamie Reed, who is the person who should be being blamed for the situation at Copeland instead of Jeremy Corbyn, is the grandson of the late well known union boss, Thompson Reed, who, having moved from the Communist Party to Labour, then gravitated to the SNP in 2005; just a short while before the picture of Reed in the company of 'Nuclear Jack Cunningham' referred to in paragraph two was taken. Given his family's longstanding tendency towards political shape shifting then, I can envisage a time when Mr. Reed rejoins the political fray once again. This time as a Pro Nuclear Conservative.

For those who think that this is a far fetched statement to make, it should be pointed out that Reed is now Head of Development and Community Relations for Sellafield Ltd. The company that acts as the principal hub of nuclear industrial employment within Jack Cunningham's old constituency. For those who are still sceptical with regard to what I have just said, it is perhaps of further relevance that the Poulson Affair that saw Jack Cunningham's Father jailed brought together a wide range of vested and political interests that ranged right the way across the political spectrum. Just like the Eccleston Affair, which involved high profile former Tory donors ingratiating themselves with 'New Labour', by means of similar financial donations to those that they had previously been giving to the Tories. Indeed, Max Mosley is cited as having worked for the UK Conservative Party with a possible view to becoming a parliamentary candidate back in the nineteen eighties. Previous to this he had served as an election agent for his father's post-war fringe political party the 'UM', or Union Movement, which advocated a Far Right United Europe along similar lines to that espoused by Hitler and the Nazis.

But to return to the toxic legacy of Nuclear Jack, in 1972 the then Tory Home Secretary Reginald Maudling was forced from office as a direct result of the John Poulson Corruption Scandal. Maudling’s involvement with Poulson’s Leeds based firm of architects, at that time the largest international practice in Western Europe, was to lead to the jailing of former Chair of Durham County Council Andrew Cunningham: Jack Cunningham's Father. Others jailed as a result of the Police investigation that was to follow the winding up of Poulson’s company after the latter was declared bankrupt, and the firm’s books fell into the hands of the receivers, was Cunningham’s Newcastle City Council counterpart T. Dan Smith. In spite of the fact that Poulson’s company had clearly been involved in widespread corruption, throughout local government and a number of inter-connected departments, comparatively few people were actually jailed. Those who were imprisoned on the other hand appear, for the most part, to have had involvements with the Labour Party. Whilst those who were allowed to slip silently away into the shadows seem to have been affiliated to the Tories. The faction who had most to gain from this symbiotic relationship from the outset.

In view of the weekend's developments then it is perhaps of further relevance that Jamie Reeds's original reason for his resignation from the Shadow Cabinet, following Jeremy Corbyn's elevation to the Party Leadership, was wholly on the grounds of the latter's stance on Nuclear Energy, and in particular his stance on the country's Nuclear Deterrant. Indeed, in relation to this specific issue he has been quoted as describing Mr. Corbyn as 'reckless, juvenile and narcissistic'. Taking into consideration the recent high profile political scandal over a number of key issues linked to the cover up over a failed Trident missile test, coupled with the emergence of a controversial dossier detailing the consistent under reporting of dozens of nuclear alerts by the British MoD, it is by no means impossible that Mr. Reed's words may well end up turning into radioactive ashes in his own mouth at some point in the near future.  

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Towards a New Enlightenment?

As one would expect, the bitter recriminations that have followed the 'Brexit' vote have brought the issue of Scottish Independence back into the political limelight. And, due to the fact that both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union, in spite of the very narrow UK wide majority for the 'Leave' campaign, many 'Remainers' north of the Border see the possibility of a second Referendum on Independence as a very viable way of successfully overturning what was in many ways a largely English decision. A state of affairs that was to lead to Tuesday's rejection of Westminster's overwhelming vote in favour of the new government bill to trigger Article 50 by the Edinburgh Parliament.

This considered, it is perhaps of interest, and indeed relevance, that one of the real reasons why the Leave Campaign was so successful in the end was on account of the fact that large numbers of people outside of London and the Home Counties feel increasingly disenfranchised by a Westminster Parliament that caters almost exclusively for the whims of the Metropolitan Elite. In view of this then, the Scottish Nationalists would do well to remember that the principal reason for the overwhelming rejection of the Remain Campaign's manifesto by so many English voters was on account of the  particular brand of corrupt paternalism that so many of its Parliamentary adherents appear to manifest.

Perhaps the finest example of the particular class of politician to whom I here refer is the one time Minister Without Portfolio in the Blair Administration, Peter Mandelson. Like his one time Parliamentary colleague, Keith Vaz, whose involvement in a series of high profile personal and political scandals that have made him the talk of the tabloids, Lord Mandelson was one of the principal casualties of the Hinduja Passport Affair: having previously been forced to resign due to certain 'irregularities' in his dealings with fellow Labour politician Geoffrey Robinson; whose own business affairs were at that time the subject of an investigation by Mandelson's own department. During his time as a European Commissioner Lord Mandelson became involved in another scandal over his links to the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, whose United Company RusAl had benefited considerably from the former Minister Without Portfolio's two decisions to cut aluminium tariffs.    

In view of all this, and in view of the fact that if the UK Economy collapses as a result of the Brexit decision, it is perhaps appropriate that I should offer any members of the Scottish Parliament intent on getting behind the largely SNP driven campaign, to try and remain in the EU, the same advice that I offered members of the SNP when I was approached by the former SNP Convener Anne Dana to write an article for the Party's in house magazine 'Snapshot' back in late 2001. Although the essay was never published, the advice could still be said to ring true, in that the article's original header warned of the dangers of compromising one's own political integrity by engaging in corrupt practice or pandering to the trappings of the kind of populist support presently enjoyed by Donald Trump.

Under the sub-heading, 'The Future Architects of a New and Independent Scotland should draw their inspiration from the great intellectual geniuses of the Scottish Enlightenment, and not from across the Atlantic argues Rupert Ferguson', the article, which is transcribed in full below, dealt with some of the political and moral issues examined in my previous blog post. Referring as it does to the Moral Philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment, my decision to use Adam Smith's little known 'Theory of Moral Sentiments' now seems particularly relevant in view of Alex Salmond's background in economics.

'More than two centuries before Margaret Thatcher's election as Prime Minister of the "United" Kingdom, the historian, moral philosopher and political scientist, Adam Ferguson, son of a Perthshire cleric who sheltered survivors of the Massacre of  Glencoe from marauding Campbells, described in perfect prose the immorality of the "Thatcher Ideal":  

"In the lowest state of commercial arts", he wrote, "the passions for wealth and for dominion, have exhibited scenes of oppression, or servility, which the most finished corruption of the arrogant, the cowardly, and the mercenary, founded on the desire of procuring, or the fear of  losing, a fortune, could not exceed. In such cases the vices of men, unrestrained by forms, and unawed by police, are suffered to riot at large and produce their entire effects. Parties accordingly unite, or separate, on the maxims of a gang of robbers; they sacrifice to interest the tenderest affections of human nature. The parent supplies the market for slaves, even by the sale of his own children; the cottage ceases to be a sanctuary for the weak and the defenceless stranger; and rites of hospitality, often so sacred among nations in their primitive state, come to be violated, like every other tie of humanity, without fear or remorse."

This quotation, taken from Ferguson's 1767 "Essay on the History of  Civil Society", a work read by such great European luminaries as Voltaire and Baron d'Holbach, with whom the author is known to have corresponded, could be said to be equally descriptive of the flagship of New Labour's present economic policy, Gordon Brown's "New Deal". With homelessness on the increase, lack of affordable housing a national scandal, and Labour "sleaze" an ever present phenomenon, both at Local Council and National Government levels, a party obsessed with "spin" and propping up useless and unwanted throw away "Millennium" architecture, whilst the homeless freeze to death in shop doorways, has no moral basis upon which to govern.      

In view of this, it is perhaps ironic, that the American economists from whom Brown, John Major and Thatcher are all supposed to have drawn their inspiration, claim to espouse the writings of Ferguson's friend, and Scottish Enlightenment contemporary, Adam Smith. What all three of these individuals appear to have forgotten, if they ever knew it to begin with, however, is that Smith's first major work was not his "Wealth of Nations", but was his now almost entirely unknown "Theory of Moral Sentiments"; first published in 1759; some seven or so years after he had succeeded the incomparable Frances Hutcheson in the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University.

As a work of philosophy, and indeed as a blueprint for general morality and codes of economic or political practice of any kind, the ideas set out in the "T.M.S.", as the work is generally referred to by students and scholars of  Enlightenment studies, could not be more at variance with those espoused by a whole array of Labour and Conservative politicians; who claim to derive their ideological framework from Smith's political and economic conceptualizations. Dealing with such human traits as the Voice of Conscience and the Sympathy Principal, it is not difficult to see how it was that Smith's best known work contains subtle attacks on the contemporary slave trade, written at a time when the entire Atlantic and Imperial economies of Britain were almost entirely dependent upon slavery and indentured labour.

Gordon Brown's "New Deal" could be described by many of those who have experienced abuse at the hands of their New Deal "Advisers" as being the Twenty First Century equivalent of Eighteenth Century practices of Indentured Servitude in the tobacco colonies of Virginia and Newport Rhode Island. Perhaps it is of little surprise then that Tessa Jowell, one of the Government Ministers responsible for implementing such policies, was implicated in the Bernie Ecclestone Affair.

The moral bankruptcy of Old Tory and New Labour economics could be compared to the degenerate decadence of the French "Ancien Regime", which perished in the flames of the Revolution. The Pre-Revolutionary aristocrats who devoured the works of both Voltaire and Rousseau, whilst simultaneously doing nothing to redress the balance of social inequality that they and their contemporaries, and Rousseau in particular denounced, were to bare their necks in the decades that followed astride Madame la Guillotine;  a social development which had been inspired to a large degree by the celebrated Baron Montesquieu; himself a noted acquaintance of  Ferguson's wife's family. Montesquieu's influence upon Smith, and upon the Scottish Enlightenment in general is outlined in Ian Simpson Ross's masterly 1995 biography of Smith; published at Oxford by the Clarendon Press.

Another great moralist of the Scottish Enlightenment, himself considerably more vociferous than Smith with respect to the Atlantic Slave Trade, a fact which was to earn him the respect of Wilberforce in the decades that followed, was William Robertson the historian; Principal of Edinburgh University. Robertson's tirades from the pulpit against such inhumanity to one's fellow beings would not have been out of place at Twentieth Century political rallies of opponents to the South African Apartheid Regime. This considered, it again comes as no surprise that like Smith and Ferguson too, Principal Robertson's own personal morality was firmly rooted in Christian Humanism.
For those students of political science, whether they be Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, or Scottish Nationalist, who are desirous to model their political thinking upon Smith's Enlightenment Principles, the following quotation from the "T.M.S." is well worth consideration:

"The man who acts according to the rules of perfect prudence, of strict justice, and of proper benevolence, may be said to be perfectly virtuous. But the most perfect knowledge of those rules will not enable him to act in this manner: his own passions are very apt to mislead him; sometimes to drive him and sometimes to seduce him to violate all the rules which he himself, in all his sober and cool hours, approves of. The most perfect knowledge, if it is not supported by the most perfect self-command, will not always enable him to do his duty......"

                                                                            "T.M.S." pt.2, sect. iii. "Of Self-Command".