Why Labour won’t fight David Davis – their MPs support his stand

Not Andy Burnham, obviously. I’m talking about your average real Labour MP, not one of the New Labour Borg. Backbenchers Bob Marshall-Andrews and Ian Gibson have come out in favour of David Davis.

Labour won’t stand against him, Kelvin Mackenzie’s not been on the box spouting his mouth off for a few days, not since footage of him slagging off Hull surfaced (and someone might have told him his old pal Rupert Murdoch, Australia’s answer to Mr Burns, can’t fund his campaign because he’s an American citizen!).

The Liberals aren’t opposing Davis, as promised. Violinist Nigel Kennedy is backing Davis, and folk singer Billy Bragg is being sounded out (pardon the pun). Former British Army Colonel Tim Collins, who was one of those rumoured ‘independents’, has said he backs Davis. Even the fascist BNP aren’t standing against his Freedom campaign, which smacks of opportunism – they would probably introduce indefinite internment…

Can we conclude that the argument in favour of 42 day pre-charge dentention has been lost?

Who will come forward to defend the nascent police state before the voters? Not even the fascists will!

Brown’s defence of his police state measures was overshadowed by Hazel Blears losing her laptop and the sensitive data on it, but we can be certain he won’t be taking fight against David Davis.

Now, I recall watching David Davis being interviewed by Andrew Marr on the Sunday before the vote which led to his Howard Beale moment. My thoughts were: here’s a sincere guy, talking about an important policy – it’s just a shame he’s a Tory.

I don’t know where Davis is going with this – if it’s part of a scheme to win Tory leadership, to form a new party, or to actually reverse the many draconian laws passed in recent years. But I do know that, on the issues he’s dealing with at the moment – I’m on his side.

These are turbulent times, for sure. Seemingly strange things will happen – and Davis going out on a limb to fight terrorism by defending democratic rights, well, that’s just one of those things…

As The Socialist observes:

This incident shows the volatility of British politics at present; many people feel there is no alternative to the sleaze-ridden incompetence of the main political parties. But it also shows the possibility of a new right-wing populist party forming in future. The Tory Party’s fault lines run deep – patrician one-nation Tories rub shoulders with Thatcherites, right-wing libertarians, right-wing authoritarians, anti-EU nationalists etc – and the consensus behind Cameron is a fragile one.

But we can put no faith in capitalist politicians leading the fight against the dangerous 42-day law. It should be opposed by the workers’ movement as a danger to innocent Muslims and to all opposing unjust wars and other government policies, as the legislation can be potentially used against any worker.

Davis cannot speak for workers, he is a right-wing Tory. He supports the anti-gay section 28, the return of the death penalty, and has called for the Human Rights Act to be scrapped; yet his attacks on Britain’s ‘surveillance society’ struck a chord. It shows how far the Labour Party has moved to the right that such a politician may be seen as the only sane man in the asylum.

Church of England calls on govt to drop 42 day pre-charge detention plans

Yes, really.

I expect The Sun and the rest will be claiming this as proof that the Church is soft on “Islamo-fascist” terrorism…

It’s actually proof that few people outside of Number 10 think the government’s plans will be of any benefit.

The Church of England has called on the government to drop proposals to extend the period for which terrorism suspects can be held without charge.

Ministers have published plans to increase the maximum detention period from the current 28 days to 42.

The Church’s ruling body, the General Synod, said the move would disturb the “careful balance” between individual liberty and national security.

A motion was supported by 235 out of 244 synod members meeting in London.

‘Oppressive’ move

Dr Philip Giddings, of Oxford, who presented the motion, said he was aware the government was in a difficult situation but that there was no compelling evidence in favour of change.

“So far the 28-day limit has proved sufficient. The government suggests that soon it might not be,” he said.

“Clearly it is difficult to draw a hard and fast line. Hard cases make bad law.

“Four weeks is already a considerable disruption of the life of an innocent person, and his family. Six weeks would be even more oppressive.”

Dr Giddings said terror suspects could be subject to continued surveillance or control orders as an alternative to custody.

Miliblair’s defence of Empire and its alien laws

David Milibland… What would your father think if he could see you now?

The erstwhile Harry Potter lookalike has been inviting journalists for a chat about his big speech, a defence of the use of pre-emptive armed force, which he delivered last night.

Now I found particularly interesting his comments in The Guardian:

“After the end of the cold war it was tempting to believe in the ‘end of history’ – the inevitable process of liberal democracy and capitalist economics. Now with the economic success of China, we can no longer take the forward march of democracy for granted.”

In the second sentence he doesn’t include the forward march of capitalist economics. Now, China is now a capitalist power – but the fear for British and American elites is that China’s position as an alternative trader (for African nations, etc) will mean that not only will profits be denied, but alternative models of development may become easier for poor countries to pursue.

As the Stop The War Coalition have said, it’s a shame that the forward march of hundreds of thousands of people five years ago were not heeded by Miliband and company…

The purpose of Milibliar’s speech was to rebrand the invasion and occupation of countries by the US – with Britain tagging along – as being morally justified because it’s about “spreading democracy”.

The US oil companies getting access to Iraqi oil-fields was just a coincidence, then? And anyway, wasn’t the argument for invading Iraq based on the threat of WMDs?

Hmm. If he’s for democracy, perhaps Miliblair would like to spread a little here at home, and persuade Brown to let us have a vote on the EU consti-treaty? Or hold the promised general election?

On a similar theme (you’ll understand if you read it), Chris Bambery comments in this week’s Socialist Worker on the racist backlash that accompanied the Archbishop’s speech:

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, gave a lecture last week on the Islamic tradition of sharia law and its relationship to the law in Britain.

His comments were unremarkable as these things go – but they triggered a week long racist backlash in the press.

The Sun’s readers are now being asked to “Bash the Bishop” – though the paper’s current campaign would perhaps be better titled “Bash the Muslims”.

For what began as an attack on the archbishop of Canterbury has shifted rapidly – and with grim inevitability – into a yet another assault on Britain’s two million Muslims.

Former home secretary David Blunkett joined the fray on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He laid into “well-meaning liberals” who “believe that we have to accommodate something which is external to our country”.

The logic of Blunkett’s position is chilling. If Islam is an “external” religion then Britain’s Muslims – who are overwhelmingly from ethnic minority backgrounds – do not properly belong in Britain.

This is only a breath away from the old racist slogan of the 1970s, “There ain’t no black in the Union Jack”.

Kelvin McKenzie, the Sun’s former editor, appeared on a Sunday morning BBC show denouncing Islam as a “medieval” religion and slating its mistreatment of women – this from a man who introduced topless darts to our television screens.

The subtext to much of this argument is that Christianity is more “enlightened” than Islam.

Except that while the Catholic church was burning people at the stake for the outrageous suggestion that the earth might rotate round the sun, Islamic Europe in Spain and Sicily helped establish science and medicine.

Another common argument from the bigots was the fate that would allegedly befall the archbishop if he were to preach in Saudi Arabia. This ignores the fact that Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the US and Britain.

Our leaders defend its royal rulers to the hilt, lavishing arms on them and greasing their palms with dollars and sterling to secure contracts.

Tony Blair went so far as to describe Saudi Arabia as “a friend of the civilised world” and justified its ban on trade unions and use of judicial torture as “their culture, their way of life”.

The media hysteria was quick to branch out from sharia into a wider attack on anything deemed “Islamic”.

Last weekend the Independent on Sunday ran a front page headline claiming there were 17,000 “honour” crimes against women in Britain each year. The picture was of a Muslim woman in a veil, just in case anybody missed the point.

The sources for this tale were some highly dubious extrapolated statistics provided by the Association of Chief Police Officers – an institution hardly famed for its unflinching support for women’s rights.

The Independent’s story focused solely on Muslim cases of domestic violence. Nowhere did it mention that two women are killed each week in Britain by a current or former partner – and the vast majority of these are non-Muslims.


Then came the Sunday Times headline, “Minister warns of ‘inbred’ Muslims”. This followed Phil Woolas, the environment minister, claiming that arranged marriages between first cousins in the Pakistani population were responsible for creating “genetic problems”.

This whole furore is not about theology or the judicial system. First and foremost, it’s about racism. The powers that be have proclaimed Islam to be an “inferior” religion and civilisation. And the constant tirade of Islamophobia they unleash translates into everyday bigotry and daily attacks on Muslims.

Behind this outpouring of hate is the “war on terror” led by the US and Britain. And some of the Muslim-bashing commentators are at least explicit about this link.

Matthew d’Ancona in the Sunday Telegraph writes, “We are at war with fundamentalist Islam… British troops are risking their lives against Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq and Afghanistan… Could [Williams] have chosen a worse geopolitical context in which to call for the official incorporation of sharia rules into the law of the land?”

Ever since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were first posed as a “clash of civilisation”, as a decades long crusade of Western “democracy” against Muslim “totalitarianism”, Islamophobia has slowly dripped into the body politic of the US, Britain and other countries.

Here in Britain this means longer detention without charge or access to a lawyer, the bugging of defendants, increased stop and search under terror laws and constant demands on the Muslim population to prove their loyalty to a state that treats them like dirt.

We see constant US and British wars and occupations, unflinching support for oppressive regimes such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, the demonisation of Islam paraded endlessly through our media. All this is guaranteed to breed simmering anger across the globe.

The alternative is to demonstrate that Muslims and non-Muslims stand together in rejecting this “war on terror”, the assault on our civil liberties and the Islamphobic slanders.

The anti-war demonstrations on 15 March should be a showcase for our response to George Bush, Gordon Brown and their ideological crusaders.

Also in the SWP’s paper this week, here’s Richard Seymour (of Lenin’s Tomb) on the alien laws of our ruling class:

The newspapers are terrified. Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, has raised the suggestion that some forms of sharia law be introduced as a means of “constructive accommodation” with British Muslims.

The Sun raised the prospect of “medieval punishments” being inflicted on Britons, and complained that Williams was “giving heart to Muslim terrorists plotting our destruction”.

The Telegraph explained to its readers that sharia is associated with “amputation of limbs, death by stoning or lashes” for such crimes as theft. Perhaps the Telegraph is concerned about its former proprietor, the convicted fraudster Lord Conrad Black. On their account, if he had been tried under sharia law he wouldn’t have a limb left on his body.

However, even liberal opinion is expressing concern, arguing that Muslim women will experience reduced freedom if religious courts are allowed to adjudicate in matters of family life.

There is a further implication that what is proposed is somehow “alien”. This is “a Christian country with Christian laws”, according to the national director of the right wing pressure group Christian Voice. And Gordon Brown has conceded to this nationalist sentiment, arguing that “British law should be based on British values”.

The scare stories have little to do with what is actually proposed. The archbishop called for allowances to be made for the practice of sharia law within the confines of English law, on a limited basis and with the mutual consent of everyone affected.

He argued, quite correctly, that there is a diversity of interpretation among Muslim jurists about what sharia entails, and endorsed the liberal variants. He pointed out that Britain already has separate arrangements for other religious communities. Orthodox Jews are entitled to work out some of their arrangements in a rabbinical court. Muslims can already choose to have disputes settled privately under sharia law. And there are already sharia-compliant products and services operating in Britain, for instance in banking.

So the hysteria is not really about anything Rowan Williams actually said. It is an expression of the Islamophobia that has been cultivated in the West as an obnoxious cultural counterpart to the “war on terror”.

Meanwhile, the tabloids are several centuries behind on this scoop – Britain already has a system of alien laws. It is maintained in large part by right wing bigots in outlandish medieval costumes, such as the “law lords” or the “privy council”.

Drawn from a ruling class with an alien culture – and values that most of us don’t share – our overseers in wigs and cloaks have always been rather fond of telling us how to live.

They tell us who we can have sex with, and have even been given to legislating on what kind of sex we can have; under what conditions we may be married and to whom, and when we may divorce; what we can protest about, when and for how long; when we can strike, and for what we may strike; what we can consume, and where we can consume it.

Whether outlawing homosexuality, restricting abortion, or regulating the ingestion of recreational substances, these laws have never had anything to do with the values of ordinary people.

For example, at the moment, the state is considering restrictions on a woman’s right to abortion. This campaign is being driven by right wing anti-abortionists such as Ann Widdecombe MP.

The fact that state control of the female body has resulted in the deaths of women in backstreet abortions doesn’t stop these people calling themselves “pro-life” – but they represent a minority of the British people, and certainly a minority of women.

As usual, the trouble with the archbishop of Canterbury is not that he “went too far”, but that he didn’t go far enough. He rightly challenges the state’s monopoly on public identity, but does so primarily in order to carve out a larger space for religious power.

One of Rowan Williams’s political interventions in 2007 was to co-author a letter to the prime minister asking that Catholic adoption agencies be exempted from regulation that would compel them to consider gay people as adoptees. To put it another way – he asked the state to guarantee the Catholic church’s right to operate homophobic policies.

In the case of sharia law, on one level Williams isn’t asking the state to withdraw, but to get more involved in the regulation of religious and personal life. He suggests that certain forms of Islam are more acceptable than others – and that those variants ought to be encouraged and recognised by the state.

It is quite right that Muslims should have the same rights that any other religious group has – but the best way to ensure that is for the state to keep out of our moral lives. And a good first move in that direction would be to divest the Church of England of its peculiar privileges and authority.

Rising prices and falling profits mean a sharp rise in planned redundancies

The Islamic panic, the McCartney-Mills divorce, and the BAFTAs, have crowded out a lot of bad economic news.

Here’s just one day of stories:

The big business lobby group, the CBI, reports that small and medium enterprises are expecting domestic orders to fall. They predicts that

firms expect rising costs to eat into their profits.

A growing number of companies said they would have to increase prices, to counter the effect of falling sales.

The report follows others, which say UK business confidence is at a low, and that more firms plan redundancies.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) says that business confidence has plummeted but that the economy will decelerate in an “orderly manner”.

Meanwhile, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) says the number of firms expecting to make redundancies among their staff in the next few months has risen “sharply”.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show the UK’s trade deficit with the rest of the world was worse than expected in December:

The shortfall on trade in goods was £7.574bn in December, down from £7.910bn in November but more than analysts’ expected figure of £7.35bn.

The total deficit on trade in goods and services narrowed from £4.801bn in November to £4.723bn in December.

For 2007, the UK’s deficit on goods and services rose to £51bn from £46.4bn.

And about those inflationary pressures, which the government claims are mainly the wage demands of public sector workers…

Price inflation of goods leaving UK factories has reached its highest rate in 16 years, driven higher by petrol and food costs, official figures show.

Annual output price inflation reached 5.7% in January, up from 5% the previous month, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Prices paid by factories for their raw materials surged by 18.7% in the 12 months to the end of January.

Core output price inflation, which strips out the effects of food and petrol, also rose much faster than expected, up 0.8% on the month, the fastest since records began in 1986, and was up 3.2% year-on-year. […]

As well as higher oil and wheat prices, the fall in the value of the pound in recent months pushed up the cost of other raw materials.

The Bank of England had been hoping that the rise in oil prices would be a one-off shock whose effects would gradually wear off during 2008.

So this was bad news? But no that bad?

“Terrible”, “horrific” and “shocking” were among analysts’ immediate reactions to the figures, which Paul Dales at Capital Economics said would “deepen the inflation worries that are preventing the MPC from cutting interest rates sharply.”

Fuck. That means all those people coming off fixed-rate mortgage deals will won’t be helped by swingeing interest rate cuts – and will have to give up their homes?

Hey but don’t worry! To take your mind off it all there’s lots of news stories about the Jews – sorry, wrong scapegoat! That’s so last century* – I mean the Muslims. And if you’re tired of hearing about their legal or marital arrangements, don’t worry, there’s plenty of lies about Gypsies to get you going…

* The Daily Express’ front page today was about migrants committing crime. Inside it listed the nationalities, and I was interested to see that the second highest number of offenders supposedly came from Ireland. What chance of Irish-bashing? Again – so last century…

Forget wars & economic crisis – have an Islamic panic instead!

Don’t think about the crisis in Nato’s Afghan occupation, its “two-tier alliance“, or about the lack of an independent inquiry into the war in Iraq.

Don’t think about the wage restraint, growing inflation, and increasing repossessions – not to mention the possibility of the credit crunch spreading into other sectors of the economy.

No, what you should worry about is what Gandalf’s been saying.

You know – the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, Rowan Williams. 

White beard, lispy voice – that’s the one.

Don’t bother with his actual speech (boring!) just let the tabloids tell you what he said:

“In an explosive outburst Dr Rowan Williams, the country’s top Anglican, said there should be one set of rules for Muslims — and another for everyone else.” Something which ” is a huge propaganda coup for extremists plotting to end centuries of the British way of life.” (The Sun)

Is it not obvious what is going on here?

Yes, it’s another Islamic panic – a silly season for the Fourth Estate in which both state and corporate media, print and broadcast, get ants in their pants about Muslims.

Consequently, facts can go fuck themselves as far as the journalists and editors are concerned.

Well, first of all, their ain’t no such thing as “British” law – one single legal system for the whole of the UK. Take note Gordon Brown and minions of the Murdoch empire, I will say this only once: there’s Scots law – applicable in Scotland, natch; there’s English law – which goes in both England and Wales (though there is Welsh law, in both ancient and modern senses); and finally there’s Northern Ireland law, which is relevant to that part of Ireland still occupied by the British state.

But no “British” law. No matter, it is the least of the factual fuck-ups.

Now, onto what Gandalf actually said – as opposed to what everyone says he said…

D.B., leader of The People’s Republic of Teesside, explains:

It is far more likely that what Williams had in mind was something more along the lines of the Beth Din Jewish court, which adjudicates on civil matters only when subjects agree to participate voluntarily, but whom (having done so) are bound in English law to abide by the court’s decision. Hence the court’s decisions carry formal recognition in English law, something the archbishop evidently feels should be extended to certain decisions of other religious courts too. […]

I think it’s fair to say that the proliferation of ethnic and religious courts might allow greater scope for serious matters to simply slip off the radar before they were adequately dealth with, which is why they would ultimately hinder and not help the struggle for civil rights which should be the main project of an anti-racist multiculturalism. However, that’s not the same as the “legal pluralism” which some accuse the archbishop of favouring, whereby there is ‘one rule for some and another for others’. More a case of ‘equal rights for all, but don’t bother asking the state to enforce them because we can settle this privately’ which is not an approach to equality that should be fostered.

Richard of Lenin’s Tomb gives his typically brilliant analysis, thusly:

The reaction to Williams’ statement adequately expresses the three basic coordinates of contemporary Islamophobia, veering between burning resentment about Them getting ’special treatment’, fear and loathing of the ‘Muslim threat’, and finally a vague ‘humanitarianism’ in which whitey rescues Asian Babes from their non-white male captors. The first two being the usual racist discourse, and the latter being a staple of colonial ideology. Incidentally, these reactions are being blended in roughly the same measure in both the crude right-wing tabloids and in the broadsheets. […]

Every time the media goes on another Muslim-hunt, it is almost inevitable that the politicians will find something to say about it that makes it worse. Gordon Brown has attempted to distinguish his government by attenuating the naked provocations of the Blair era. He will not risk another humiliation in a Labour heartland, if he can avoid it. But he is also an opportunist and it would not be at all out of character for Mr “British Jobs For British Workers” to join the offensive. And if he doesn’t, his silence will surely be remarked upon by David Cameron, who is almost as repellent a charlatan as Blair was. The logic of parliamentary politics almost dictates that the two main party leaders have to compete for the lowest common denominator on this question. In Autumn 2006, the Blair government was sputtering to its dismal end, and in its decrepitude launched one attack after another on Muslims. Cameron joined in, and the newspaper editors collectively creamed their pants. Jonathan Freedland wrote: “If this onslaught was about Jews, I would be looking for my passport”. A pre-pogrom atmosphere about Muslims is being cultivated in this country. The liberal press bears a great deal of responsibility for that.

As part of this atmosphere, government minister Phil Woolas has been warning of “inbred” Muslims.

Hmm. Should we give him the benefit of the doubt? As he says, sensitive issues regarding first-cousin marriage.

But why bring it up now, why at this time? Doesn’t it make his supposed concern for sensibilities appear pretended – since he’s brought up the issue in the middle of one of the now-regular Islamic panics?

MPACUK blows Woolas’ cover – he’s a bloody environment minister! And what’s more:

This isn’t the first time Woolas has flirted with Islamophobia; as Race Relations Minister he demonstrated a clear contradiction between his role and approach, blaming Muslim women who wear the Headscarf for provoking “fear and resentment” and disregarding Muslim concerns over foreign policy as “crap” at a public consultation.

Dave On Fire (of Complex System of Pipes andTAYTS) reminds us of another guilty party:

the world of academia, where Manchester University have hired Martin Amis, the thinking man’s vicious bigot, and let go Terry Eagleton, one of few public figures to challenge him, and where Oxford reinforced the BNP’s veneer of legitimacy by engaging them in a public debate. […]

We may also recall the other side of the coin; the burial, last year, of the story of the white fascist would-be terrorist with a stockpile of weapons to put most brown-skinned terrorisssuspects in the shade, and of the Europol report revealing that the former (invisible) kind of terrorist are vastly more prevalent across the continent than the latter.

Now, on the same fucking day, in that bastion of the “liberal” press, the Indie:

“Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) member Steve Allen added fuel to the fire when he told the Independent on Sunday – illustrated with a close-up photo of a veiled Muslim woman – that that there were 17,000 “honour” crimes committed in Britain every year […] But he admitted that this speculative figure was based on multiplying the 500 annual reported cases by 35 – an estimate of undocumented domestic violence incidents for every one reported to the police. ” (Morning Star)

Getting back to Williams, the Star editorial gets it right on the subject of law:

The unfortunate Archbishop has been assailed from all sides ever since and is clearly suffering from shock as a result.

Not only the more reactionary elements of the red-top press have leapt onto the bash-a-bishop bandwagon, but even the more staid broadsheets and his colleagues in the Angllcan and other churches have not been able to forbear from adding their two-pennorth.And all for what? For saying that there may be a place for the sharia code inside the British legal system.

Mind you, our unworldly cleric has only himself to blame. His supporters say that he is an academic rather than a worldly churchman and this is what lies at the heart of his statement.

Well, if that is the case, the academic should be ashamed of himself for making such a sloppy, poorly formulated statement that was so easy to misinterpret.

Laws, for the information of the reverend gentleman, are made and enforced by states.

Those states may well be influenced by established religions in various countries, to the extent that religious observances are conflated with civil laws and, as with Iran and Israel, a confusion arises as to just who is enforcing what upon whom.

Using Israel as an example, that country appears to consider itself a Jewish state.

What that means for its Arab inhabitants has been clear to see and has little to do with any concept of justice or democracy.

Saudi Arabia is another pertinent example, where civil law has been so unduly influenced by religious custom that a whole section of the country, its women, are ferociously oppressed.

But in the democracy that we live in, laws are made by Parliament and interpreted by the courts and therein lies the distinction between law and religious code.

The making of law in a democracy involves its citizens and its legislative body and its interpretation involves courts bound by that law.

For the Archbishop to tag the sharia codes as “laws” was to invite confusion.

This country has a multiplicity of religious communities which all attempt to live by their own codes – to a greater or lesser extent.

But all those codes exist within and under the constraints of British civil and criminal law and thus there is little open conflict between religious code and national law.

Mind you, it is not surprising that one of the princes of the church has made such a fundamental slip-up as to refer to a code of ethics as “law.”

The status of the Christian religion as demonstrated by the “establishment” of the Church of England has led to some very peculiar ideas as to its importance.

And those ideas deform and warp the understanding of the nature of the British state.

Ethical codes are important and they may at times conflict with other codes. But they exist under the law.

They may shape the values which guide the electoral choices of voters, but they are not, of themselves, law.

There is certainly a place within British culture for other codes. The many communities which make up Britain have demonstrated that time and time again, but the understanding of the dynamic which drives this society is not helped by well-meaning, woolly statements from clerics who should know better.