Category Archives: politics

Not leaving

So, it’s no secret to my friends (or those that used to count me as a friend) that I’m a Corbyn sceptic. I’m very disappointed that he has been re-elected as the leader of the labour party.

I am disappointed because I think he has no chance of winning the next election, as well as some real policy problems. I do think that a third way is a good way to deliver many positive changes in public service, and I don’t want to see re-nationalisation of public services, or the banning of the private sector from public service provision. I also want to remain a member of the European Union, and I support the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state.

I see online that many people with whom I normally agree have decided that they cannot remain in the party – many of them citing the aggression and antisemitism that they have perceived in some of Corbyn’s supporters.

I’m not leaving – and I want to explore why in this post. I’m indulging in some self-analysis here, feel free to agree, disagree, ignore as you see fit.

The main reason I’m not leaving is that I left before – and spent seven years as a member of and doing some campaigning for the Liberal democrats. I joined the LDs because we moved to Newbury, and they were the second party. I left the Labour party because of the war in Iraq. I never really felt at home in the LD’s – especially given the rise of the Orange Bookers. I left just after the Rose Garden press conference, when it became clear that the LD leadership was naive in allowing the tories to spin the line that Labour had ‘failed to fix the roof’, and that the economic problems after 2010 were a result of Labour’s fiscal policy. It became clear to me that policy wise Labour was the place where I fitted best.

The second reason I’m not leaving is that I agree with Corbyn’s analysis of the way that Labour needs to change at a local level. It does need to be a local campaigning party. We need to be doing things to improve life at a local level, and to campaign for better and fairer public services – especially where we control councils. A good example of this is the closure of the Arthur Hill swimming pool in East Reading, which a Labour council is closing on the promise of building another pool nearby – at some point in the future. Labour members should be free to organise against closures like these (and many others) that have happened around the country.

Finally I’m not leaving because things will change – and this bubble will burst, eventually. Longer serving members of the party will need to be around to help the party recover when the hangover kicks in. This may be in 2019, or it may be following a series of defeats in 2020 or 2022. However, by then we will have either come to a working compromise with each other, or the arrivists will have drifted away, or who knows – we might be proved wrong and there will be a Labour government.

I’ll continue to deliver leaflets and go to meetings, and I’ll wait. If I’m wrong and momentum’s death grip on the party cannot be dislodged even until death itself, that will be the point to think about leaving.

The transcendental material requirements for the existence of the Collegè de France

“[post modernism] a state of mind deemed possible in the west, is a luxury dependent on the state of the rest.  The post-modern experience is not on globally for those seeking bread not circuses and seeking freedom of expression and not expressive freedom.  There are transcendental material requirements for the existence of the Collegè de France and for the privileged practice of ‘playing with the pieces’.

From Archer (2013) Critical Realism in the Social Sciences in Archer et al (2013) Critical Realism, Essential Readings.

Wish I’d read this years ago when struggling with AA820 on the OU.

Hobhouse on Militarism

(1) It is of the essence of Liberalism to oppose the use of force, the basis of all tyranny.

(2) It is one of its practical necessities to withstand the tyranny of armaments. Not only may the military force be directly turned against liberty, as in Russia, but there are more subtle ways, as in Western Europe, in which the military spirit eats into free institutions and absorbs the public resources which might go to the advancement of civilisation.

(3) In proportion as the world becomes free, the use of force becomes meaningless. There is no purpose in aggression if it is not to issue in one form or another of national subjection.

Writing for the Self.

Every now and then I read something which helps me to understand, or to question, the world in which I find myself living.  Often it’s great to have a prejudice re-enforced, and though having the stuffing knocked out of those same prejudices is not fun, sometimes it can also be really persuasive and interesting.  One of the things that I am really enjoying about my course is the chance to experience and understand some new ideas – many of which are having this dizzying effect. Over the last few days I have been reading ‘Social Theory and Education Research’ edited by Mark Murphy (I bought it from the excellent Mr B’s Emporium) in an attempt to understand the way that other people have understood the social, and in particular the power relationships of education and educational research.  It’s not an easy read, but it is strangely gripping.  Chapter 2, a description of the development of the ideas of Michael Foucault by Julie Allan has grabbed me and will not let me go.

Firstly there are ideas about surveillance, observation and judgement in education which, had I known about them over the last couple of years, would have made me question the practice of ‘mock ofsteds’ and making judgements on learning walk visits that I have been part of in school, and the student-teacher observations I did as a PGCE mentor and tutor.   Foucault sees a system of surveillance designed to mark people as ‘types’, to carry those marks and to be normalised to homogeneity over time through the judgements that are made on them.  (Interestingly the very thoughtful and extremely practical David Didau has also been writing about the issue of observation today).

In his earlier writing (I’m told – I have to admit here I did once, as a much younger person, try to read ‘Archaeology’ but had to give up as I found it completely incomprehensible) Foucault did not offer any answers to this predicament, and indeed commented upon the impossibility of resistance to this system of surveillance.  However, later in his work he wrote about a framework of ethics which sees deliberate and disciplined ‘self care’ (though not in a hedonistic and self-centred) as a way of resisting, and which was to be achieved and maintained through activity; ‘if everything is dangerous then we always have something to do.  So my position leads not to apathy, but to a hyper- and pessimistic activism” (Quoted on page 27 of Allan).  Part of this activism is achieved through ‘transgression’, which I would really like to know more about and plan to cover in a later post.

A very important part of this self-care and the exercises that enable it is in writing.  Writing is something that I enjoy having done.  I can’t pretend that I find it easy whilst I do it, and I’m not one for making time for writing everyday.   I know lots of bloggers who do, and I admire their discipline.  Foucault would say, if I read Allan right, that such discipline is part of self-care and a way of resisting the power relations that we find ourselves living in. Foucault has it that writing is a form of meditation, in that it helps one bring to mind knowledge, and to work at understanding and creating knowledge.  This writing is not just a lonely task, but one which should be outward facing, so that one is helped by reading others’ work, but also so that we ‘summon the gaze of the other’ and, I am guessing, get that other’s help in own reflection and meditation.

Don’t worry – this isn’t the start of a ‘365’ blogging experiment.  However, I am going to make an effort to write more, because  it seems to me that Foucault is right about writing, as another post is exploring it on Crooked Timber – it makes you think.


Schedule 7 and the Security State

Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (brought in by Tony Blair’s Labour government BEFORE the 9/11 attacks on which the loss of much of our liberties is explained) makes very interesting reading.

Paragraph 2 of schedule 7 says that you can be questioned “for the purpose of determining whether [you] appear[s] to be a person falling within section 40(1)(b)”

40(1)(b) defines a terrorist as someone who ‘is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.’

It is difficult to see how David Miranda fits in to that definition.  However, that’s not the point… because the police are entitled to question you, me anyone, for the purpose of ascertaining whether we appear to be terrorists, even if they don’t really think or believe that we are, and even if they know that we are not.  They have absolute discretion to stop anyone they like for the purpose of determining whether you ‘appear’ to be a terrorist.  In fact according to paragraph 2 sub paragraph 4 says that ‘An examining officer may exercise his powers under this paragraph whether or not he has grounds for suspecting that a person falls within section 40(1)(b).’

It gets worse.   We might think, well that’s OK – it’s only when we’re in airports because this legislation is only designed for borders and port areas, and we’re hardly ever in such places.  It is true that the police can only exercise these powers in a ‘port’ or ‘border area’.  The border area is defined as a place within 1 mile of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, or at the first stop of a train which comes over the border from the Republic of Ireland.

A port is defined as any place “if an examining officer believes that the person—(a)has gone there for the purpose of embarking on a ship or aircraft, or (b)has arrived there on disembarking from a ship or aircraft” Under a 2001 amendment this refers to any air travel _within_ the UK.  Ship is not defined.  We are only told that it includes a hovercraft.  Perhaps the we should be extra careful when embarking on the Browsea Island Ferry?

So, the next time you travel on a flight from Manchester to Southampton or from Luton to Edinburgh, or get on a ‘ship’ you can, lawfully (on the restricted definition of lawful as ‘something on the statute-book’),  be questioned, without reasonable cause, suspicion or evidence.   During that questioning you must:

(a) give the examining officer any information in [your] possession which the officer requests;

(b) give the examining officer on request either a valid passport which includes a photograph or another document which establishes [your] identity;

(c) declare whether [you have with you] documents of a kind specified by the examining officer;

(d) give the examining officer on request any document which [you have with you] and which is of a kind specified by the officer.

Other ‘goods’ and ‘things’ can be seized under paragraphs 9 to 11.  The examining officer may retain such ‘goods’ or ‘things’ while he ‘believes that [they] may be needed for use as evidence in criminal proceedings.’

So, what procedural protections are in place to protect the rights of those questioned under Schedule 7?  Well – I can’t find much.  The questioning can only(!) last up to 9 hours.  You have no right to a phone call.  You have no right to legal advice.  You have no protection under PACE (the code specifically carves out Schedule 7).  Schedule 14 of the Terrorism Act 2000 gives the officer the power to ‘use reasonable force’ in exercising Schedule 7 powers.  Schedule 14 also requires that ‘The Secretary of State shall issue codes of practice about the exercise by officers of functions conferred on them by virtue of this Act’, which can be brought into force by order – i.e. with the minimum of fuss and parliamentary oversight.

The only codes that I can find that relate to Schedule 7 are here:

The code requires refreshment and an explanation of the circumstances in which the person is being questioned.   The officer has only to summon up a reasonable belief that the detainee has concealed some information before he can peform a strip search (but not body cavity search).  There are draft codes for videoing such questioning, but these are not in force.  None of the other PACE protections are present.

You might think that you would resist – and you might be tough enough to do that. David Miranda must have known that he was at risk of this sort of intervention, and perhaps he prepared for it.  He was forced to give up his passwords.  The officers can ask you about anything.  State sponsored fishing expeditions into your private life can be undertaken if you step onto an air-plane or ship.  If you do continue to refuse to co-operate over the 9 hours that you’re questioned without recourse to legal advice, perhaps after being strip searched, with no idea whether your friends know where you are, then you face up to three months in jail.

And it is all, totally, lawful.    This sort of legislation is so dangerous because it is so widely defined and can be so readily and quickly abused.  This is another case which shows that we need to retain membership of the ECHR.

BBC News – A-level plans challenged by school and university heads

BBC News – A-level plans challenged by school and university heads.

Not Gove’s finest hour – I would love to know where he gets these ideas from.  They can’t just be from the back of an envelope, or emerging from his dim memories of the plush private sixth-form he attended, can they?

BBC News – GCSE grade changes ‘affected 10,000 students’

BBC News - GCSE grade changes 'affected 10,000 students'

BBC News – GCSE grade changes ‘affected 10,000 students’.

My dad always says you should go for the ‘cock-up’ explanation, rather than the conspiracy.  However, to me this looks increasingly like a plan to de-value the state – school brand, finish off the process of making all schools into ‘academies’, and thereby move along the process of introducing privatisation and competition into education – these are our birth pangs into Gove’s Brave New World.