Authoritarianism – Why we should all be worried & better informed sceptics

Authoritarianism, in any form, is probably what us liberals try to fight against most of all. Indeed, it is one of the biggest fault lines in our left of centre politics as it splits liberals from socialists because socialists tend to lean towards it whilst Liberals abhor it.

And here we are, because of our present health crisis, in a government sponsored authoritarian state with our freedoms significantly curtailed for our own good. Yet despite us being in a form of lock-down the government which imposed this on us is said, in polls, to be reasonably popular. Do we like being told what to do and when we can do it or are the present restrictions on our lives an almost welcome comfort blanket to wrap ourselves in? And how do we know government is doing its best for us? Yes I know they keep telling us they’re doing all they can but is that really true? We, Jane and Joe Public, don’t have the facts so is it right we that we take the view that government is doing its best in difficult circumstances just because they tell us they are?

My view, as a Liberal, remains as it always has, don’t trust anyone with power – remember the adage ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. We have no sitting Parliament, the official opposition is all but missing in action, there’s no leader of the opposition, why even my own party has no elected leader in place! If ever there was a recipe for state sponsored authoritarianism this heady brew must be it!

And on another level I saw a social media posting the other day which made my blood run cold. It was asking folk whether they were flouting or complying with government instructions via you replying to with 1 of 4 answers. Firstly, who on earth would reply that they weren’t following advice? That would be a big invitation to be trolled would it not? But why do folks want such information? Just think about that for a moment…… Before answering any question ask yourself why you are being asked it.

My other worry is that the very journalists whom we are effectively relying on to hold government to account simply aren’t doing so, with a few notable exceptions of course. I’ve been impressed with Nick Cohen but there’s been too many easy ride media interviews for ministers. Surely ministers should be getting turned inside out via probing investigative journalism aimed at exposing any lies and misrepresentations. Now more than at any time we need tough impartial, well informed interviewers and journalists to make those taking the life and death decisions on our behalf feel the heat.

Don’t cheer a government, no matter what its colour, because it is governing in tough times, keep your foot on the back of its neck or it will do what is best for it rather than what’s best for you.

And to close, this from the BBC website about how we are being policed:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52101040

Quote from BBC article – ‘On Monday, Lord Sumption, a former Justice of the Supreme Court, told Radio 4’s World At One the actions of Derbyshire Police – which also included uploading drone footage of walkers to social media – had “shamed our policing traditions”.

“The tradition of policing in this country is that policemen are citizens in uniform, they are not members of a disciplined hierarchy operating just at the government’s command,” he said.’

My thanks to Chris Reilly for provoking my liberal instincts into action……

Regionalism – Brown is right, shame he did not take it on board when in power though

The BBC has the article on it website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-51178628

I often think of Gordon Brown in a similar way to ex-US President Jimmy Carter, far more impressive out of power than when he was in it. But seriously this is a big issue and Brown, if belatedly, is hitting the right nail on the head. Regionalism has been at the heart of Liberal thinking for generations so of course he is right to start to champion it in England.

This, a direct quote from the BBC article, is pure Liberalism – “We have to give more power to people in the communities and in the localities and the regions. We have a far too over-centralised state based in one part of the country – an administrative, political and financial centre that excludes power from people out in the regions.”

And yes I accept that Labour did bring in regional government for Scotland and Wales as a positive step forward but to have stopped there was a mistake, a big mistake. If more powers had been devolved to the regions of England we may not now be in the sorry sate that we are. And no I’m not talking up City Region Mayors, they are just sticking plasters over the wounds of our great cities. Their powers are both concentrated in the hands of one person (wrong in my book) and too few to make much difference anyway.

I hope Labour takes up Gordon’s liberalising agenda.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

The politics of hate and division – It’s peddled by many mainstream politicians and is almost everyday language in our tribal society

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/17/language-public-social-media-politics-repercussions

The Guardian has this opinion piece on its web site – see link above

That we live in rather desperate and potentially dangerous political times is a given sadly, so this piece by James Graham is an interesting wake up call.

I have commented before about how Liberals were always looked upon with a fondness by the electorate generally but ever since Charles Kennedy stood out against the Iraq War, whilst Labour and Tories alike were on a war footing, attitudes have changed and some now have very negative attitudes to Liberals. At first I found this rather odd but I have come to rather enjoy being hated as a Liberal as to me it means that Liberal ideas are seen as a threat by the rich, by the powerful to the right and the left – we must be doing something right!

But ‘hate’ is an every day word these days and some point back to what the EU Referendum unleashed in terms of racism, intolerance and yes ‘hate’. There’s no doubt that Remainers and Brexiters have been pitched against each other and that there is little if any common ground between them. Do I act with intolerance towards Brexiters? Well yes, quite obviously I do if you care to read the many postings from me about Brexit. But is it right that a Liberal should be intolerant?

My brand of social Liberalism is all about radicalism, its about taking power from the rich and powerful so that the ordinary woman and man in the street has real control over their community and their futures. So hey a radical social Liberal is a threat and I expect to be disliked and indeed to be attacked (verbally of course) for my beliefs.

Ordinary people can only take power and use it if they are in full possession of facts. In the EU Referendum they were not, indeed they were lied to on an industrial scale. The referendum wasn’t an exercise in democracy it was an exercise in the abdication of responsibility by our leaders and of manipulating the electorate to do what the rich and powerful wanted them to do. It did not empower the people, as Brexit leaders claim, it cyclically used them in a way that shames our democratic credentials as a civilised country.

Am I angry with Brexiters? Hell yes. Do I feel my country has been had? Of course. Am I proud of my intolerance? No not really as I should not have had to find myself doing battle over such terrible lies and the consequences of them.

This radical Liberal and trade unionist is indeed angry and in no mood to compromise with people who are deliberately destroying my country and its way of life.

And on a different tack, since I have been using social media (Facebook in particular) I have noticed far too often the reach of huge levels of intolerance often about reasonably trivial matters. Swearing is now common and is almost expected as a social norm rather than the odd expression of shock and disbelief as it was once reserved for. I often ponder on whether folks use bad language on social media as they feel it is expected on them or that they will not be seen as fitting in if they decline to use it?

Yes our society has taken a turn towards anti-social behaviour being an every day thing, but how far will it go before the pendulum swings back towards a less racist, more intolerant and more inclusive society again? Or will we march ever further towards a hate filled fascist-type society?

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.

Farron, religion and Liberalism

That a thoroughly decent man has been forced from public office is a given and I say that as an atheist.

Yes I was very uncomfortable watching Tim contort himself into knots when asked about his religious views and yes the media were out to do him harm over his religion. Just think about it, how many other leading politicians have strong religious views and how many of them have been hounded out of office for holding them? Blair got some stick because he was Roman Catholic but I struggle to think of many others in recent times.

Did Tim bring trouble upon himself? Well yes to some extent because of this contorted answers that had us all scratching our heads. And you know despite his odd answers he actually did a lot to back minority rights and the LGBT community have acknowledged that apart from what I will call their more militant fringe.

Can you be a Liberal hold religious views? Well you must be able to as there seem to be many people out there who do. Anyway one of the significant strands of liberalism comes from ‘Chapel Liberals’ and Methodism. I am sure my dear old Mum was a Chapel Liberal and I personally know many Lib Dem’s who hold strong religious views and I count them as my friends.

The crunch issue as I see it is this. As a Liberal your guiding light is the rights of others and your being willing to stand up for those rights even when you personally do not subscribe to them. That’s what Tim Farron tried to do, that’s why he stood up for LGBT rights even though his religion was seemingly telling him otherwise. His problem was being unable to publicly reconcile his liberalism and religion when the contradictions were put to him by the media. And once he had shown weakness the first time he was asked about the matter it was always going to be where the media homed in.

Were the media involved in bullying and intimidation? Yes of course they were, indeed they were acting as though they were from the 1950’s and steeped in intolerance with more than a hint of the Spanish Inquisition thrown in for good (or is that bad) measure. It’s as though Farron were being treated as a criminal for holding religious and political views, it’s a sad reflection on our reactionary media and the intolerant times we live in.

Yes of course opposition politicians also exploited Tim’s inability to answer straight forward questions on the potential conflict between his religion and his liberalism. I picked up what I viewed to be political trolling comments on this very matter.

Brexit has split us very deeply because it has brought back into focus views that people used to be ashamed of talking about – racism, intolerance, homophobia, etc. Farron in my view became a victim of that new intolerant culture and it shames our society greatly.

One last thing, the schism on the left of British politics is not actually so much about policy but about libertarian versus authoritarian approaches. In general terms socialism is more authoritarian and liberalism is obviously libertarian. Tell you what is good for you as opposed to giving you the facts to make your own mind up you could say. Quite obviously our society is by its nature these days far more authoritarian and less libertarian. I hope it goes without saying that Conservatism is also authoritarian.

Authoritarian societies don’t tolerate differences from the norm and the norm is usually set by the ruling classes. Farron is, like many Liberals before him and those who will follow him, too libertarian to be tolerated by a media and a political establishment that see most things very black and white, right and wrong.

Don’t look upon Farron as someone you liked or disliked in party political terms, look upon him as someone our society showed the door to because he was not conforming to the norms as interpreted by the media and the establishmnet. Then look at other minorities and think about them too, who will be next?

Oh yes and Farron stood in 2017 General Election on a policy of tolerance!

It’s about time that the Liberal Democrats really did propose radical solutions to poverty

‘We are remarkable but so helplessly stupid’ was a remark made to me by Jen Robertson the other day. The context of the remark was in relation to the UK being able and willing to design and build the magnificent new Widnes – Runcorn bridge whilst we are at the same time incapable, or is that unwilling, to tackle poverty effectively.

And it got me thinking because you know that whilst many of us are reasonably well provided for many others, in our supposedly civilised but less so every day country, are not. At the same time our government is turning its back on refugee children, along with anyone from the EU, and they are in effect all but cheerleaders for that nasty brand of racism which tells people who have come to live here and work for our vital public services to go home.

I don’t know about you but I am rather ashamed of where our country is going as its steps towards some kind of fascist state where alternative opinion is shouted down and the rich and powerful increase their grip on our economy.

It’s time we fought back because Labour will not as they have inexplicably backed Teresa May’s hard Brexit government and all the right wing dogma that goes with it. Labour is an embarrassment as our official opposition.

So what do radicals, Liberals and progressives do to turn the tide, because if we don’t turn it no one else will. I start with the preamble to the Lib Dem Party Constitution where it says ‘no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.’ Well hey many of our fellow citizens are enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity and every step of this wretched government and their Labour lackeys takes us further down that rather sickening road.

No one benefits from the 3 things above apart from the rich and the powerful yet our society seems to be moving ever nearer to belittling the poor, valuing ignorance and demanding conformity. If we are to ever again consider ourselves civilised in any meaningful way this has to be reversed.

Firstly, we need to seriously consider promoting a citizens income/universal basic income policy as opposed to the pitiful minimum wage that underpins an underclass of the poor and keeps them from rioting in the streets.

Secondly, we need a first class education system that teaches our young people real skills for work and life, not a box ticking bureaucratic, form filling system that brings academic successes for the middle classes and failure for that troublesome under class whilst driving teachers around the bend.

Thirdly, we need a fully functioning health and care system that values those who work for it as much as those who depend on it. Instead, we have a barely functioning health and care system that the well provided for can skip via their ability to buy the kind of care we all deserve but only they can afford.

And whilst doing this we need to be putting the environment we live in at the heart of all we do because it will create meaningful jobs, clean up the places where we live and work and mean that we are passing progress onto future generations, not pollution and illness and death.

And for those who say ‘this is too radical an agenda, no one will support it or vote for it’ I say well go out and fight for it and against the vested interests who promote poverty, fight for our struggling NHS, our crisis ridden elderly care services, fight the poisonous air we breath, the inadequate education that poor children get. Things will never change unless progressives, Liberals and radicals grab the agenda and promote it.

We have been through social revolutions before but we probably need one now otherwise the poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer. And don’t kid yourself that this is a socialist agenda that can easily be dismissed; it’s not, because our so called socialist party of opposition will never take it on as they are part of the problem not the solution. They need enslaved people to support them, their Councils have presided over too many poverty ridden communities without making much if any headway. They are the politics of the past where poverty ignorance and conformity was how things were and like the Tories they have all but accepted that such will be the case forever.

It’s time for radical thinking, not moderation and muddling on. We can address poverty, ignorance and conformity if we really want to. So do we want to?

Tribalism – I’m in the tribe so everything the tribal leaders do is OK by me

Politics is full of tribalism and the Labour Party wears its tribal loyalty like a badge of pride as an obvious example. I don’t think I will ever forget MP Andy Burnham making it clear that his party came first in a Labour Leadership hustings interview, only to be shouted down by one of his own (MP Liz Kendal) saying ‘Country first’.

But here in the UK we have always had a sneaking admiration for those who at face value are a part of tribe but who are actually mavericks with a mind of their own. MP Ken Clarke is an obvious non-tribal Tory who will kick out when he thinks his party is in the wrong. Of course Jeremy Corbyn MP made a name for himself by not supporting the Labour Leader of the day when he was a back bencher. It’s ironic that he’s now whipped Labour Remain MP’s to vote for Brexit and that the vast majority of them actually followed him down a Brexit road they do not believe in! That’s taking tribal loyalty far to far in my book.

As a Liberal I take the view that if my Lib Dem party tries to push me a certain way then by instinct my reaction can easily be to refuse. Liberals are by their very nature very hard to whip as they are free thinking individuals who coalesce around a common broad agenda.

But with the advent of Trump and his supporters we start to see a whole new and hugely troubling tribalistic agenda that his supports are fully signed up to. They don’t check whether what he says is right or wrong, they simply back it. They don’t actually care if it is right or wrong/truth or lie, if he says something/anything they want to hear. They will seemingly follow him anywhere he goes like the unthinking have followed despots across the world before. This is of course the road to fascism!

We all like to belong to groups that think like us but we do ourselves a great disservice by blindly following the crowd or the tribe and we believe/support everything our chosen or given leaders tell us.

You can’t be a a Liberal without questioning most things you come across, its a burden at times when siting back and repeating the propaganda of a leader is a lot easier.

Just look at this way who does trump rant against? The media, immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans etc. Who does he put in power? The powerful, the wealthy. people who disrespect our world environment, people who think like him.

Any leader who surrounds themselves with too many like thinking people is facing trouble as leaders need to be challenged by advisors not told they are wonderful.

As for Trump’s attacks on the media, yes of course some media outlets are utterly irresponsible. We saw it in the UK over Brexit – There was nothing some media outlets would not stop at to fuel prejudices that they had implanted in the minds of their readers over generations even though their ‘truth’ was obviously lies to anyone who looked behind the ranting headlines. BUT we are supposed to live in a free society with a free press. That means that the press can say things that are not true but they can be challenged by those who know the truth is being distorted. Trump only wants his ‘truth’ to be heard/printed not the ‘truth’ and that’s another step towards fascism.

Give tribalism the boot, it leads to despotism and fascism.