Friday, 2 January 2015

The Another Angry Voice Review of the Year 2014

It's obviously impossible to write a comprehensive review of absolutely everything that happened in 2014, so if you feel that I've missed any important issues, feel free to add your views in the comments section.

Review of the year

The (thankfully now departed) Tory education secretary Michael Gove got 2014 off to a hilarious start when he revealed his peculiar delusion that the BBC comedy series Blackadder was part of some kind of leftist plot to undermine Britain. The absurdity of Gove's delusion gave me the inspiration to create one of my most popular Facebook memes ever, the Michael Gove vs Baldrick comparison. It also provoked me into writing a comprehensive critique of the ideological destruction Gove and the Tories have wreaked upon the English education system.

Later in January 2014 the draconian Tory "Gagging Law" was passed. Even though almost an entire year has passed, it's still absolutely incredible that the Tories got away with presenting this law as if it was an effort to control political lobbying, when over 90% of lobbying operations are exempt from the lobbying register, and those lobbying firms that do go on the register are under absolutely no obligation to actually reveal which political figures they've been lobbying! There are no such loopholes in the second, more extensive, part of the bill, which imposes draconian new rules on protest groups, charities, trade unions, religious organisations, community projects and anyone else who might dare to criticise the actions of the government.

In early 2014 several areas of the UK were badly hit by flooding. The reaction of the political leaders was to don wellies and utter platitudes to make it look as if they actually cared. After having announced "austerity to infinity" whilst surrounded by gold encrusted things at the back end of 2013, David Cameron changed his tune dramatically to say that "money is no object" when it comes to helping/bribing the Tory heartlands that suffered the worst of the flooding. What makes his idiotic self-contradictory rhetoric all the worse is that it was adherence to ideological austerity that caused the Tories to tear up the strategic flood defence plans and impose their heaviest cuts of all on the department responsible for maintaining and improving the UK flood defence network (DEFRA).The floods would still have happened, but without Tory ideological austerity the socio-economic damage would surely have been a whole lot less catastrophic.

In February 2014 it was revealed that the Tories were planning to sell access to our private medical records to a number of private health and insurance companies. After a large public uprising caused the government to put these outrageous plans on hold, it was revealed that access to all of our private medical records had already been sold to insurance companies without anyone being informed. So much for the right to privacy and the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship eh?

In March 2014 Jeremy Hunt's legislation to make it much easier for the government to close A&E departments and maternity wards without public consultation was passed. A look at page 47 of the Tory Party manifesto of 2010 reveals that they came to power promising to "stop the forced closure of A&E and maternity wards", but their track record in government shows that they did precisely the opposite, buy making it much easier for them to do exactly what they promised not to.

On the 14th of March 2014 Tony Benn died at the age of 88. Hearing Tony Benn on my mum's kitchen radio as a child had a profound effect on me, because it was clear, even to a child, that he was one of the only politicians who was honest enough to be able to actually speak his mind rather than obscuring his utterances in a cloud of obfuscation, rhetoric and politicisms. I wrote a couple of articles about his passing: This one details some of the reasons he stood head and shoulders above his political peers, and this one details his fight against the neoliberal orthodoxy.

2014 saw the launch of yet another Tory forced labour scheme with an extraordinarily Orwellian name. The evidence shows that "Help to Work" does virtually nothing to help participants into paid work, but it does help the Tories to manipulate the headline unemployment figures downwards by reclassifying the unemployed benefits recipients on these Stalinist work camp schemes as "not-unemployed". Here is an article detailing 12 things you should know about "Help to Work".

In April and May I allowed my attention to be drawn towards the 2014 European and Local elections. I wrote a number of articles including this one explaining why 73% of Ukippers should actually vote for the Green party, and this Euro Election Scorecard. As the European elections grew closer, the number of vitriol spewing Ukippers appearing on my page grew exponentially, which inspired me to write this article detailing some of the weird and wonderful pseudo-arguments commonly posited by angry Ukippers.

These  are my reaction articles to the results of the 2014 local elections and the 2014 European election.

In June 2014 I wrote what was to become by far my most popular article ever. 12 things you should know about Britain First has now been clicked on over one million times, and it even elicited my first ever mention in the mainstream press (which was rather surprisingly a non-critical mention in The Daily Telegraph of all places!).

In June 2014 the Tories (and their very illiberal yellow sidekicks) decided to continue their insane ideologically driven "War on Drugs" by banning Khat, which is a mild stimulant used mainly by African immigrants. The decision to criminalise the use of Khat went against the advice of the governments own drugs advisers, which stated unequivocally that "the evidence of harms 
associated with the use of khat is insufficient to justify control and it would be inappropriate and disproportionate to classify khat under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971" [source].

It is becoming ever more obvious that the majority of the harms resulting from drug use come about as a consequence of prohibition, not as a consequence of the drugs themselves. It's sickening that the Tories and the Labour Party are both ideologically wedded to the socially and economically destructive concept of allowing the drugs trade to be run by criminals in some kind of warped, totally regulation free anarcho-capitalist experiment. There is some hope though: The Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has been pushing for rational drugs policy, and the Lib-Dem MP Norman Baker resigned on principle when Theresa May completely ignored expert advice detailing the case against the ideological "war on drugs", then insisted that it be censored out of the report.

In July 2014 the coalition government rushed through a truly horrendous piece of legislation called the 
Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) bill, which was designed to allow the security services to continue mass trawling the private communications data of millions of innocent people with complete impunity. Of the 650 MPs in parliament only 51 bothered to vote against it, illustrating the fact that the true opposition to this alarmingly illiberal coalition government is made up of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and a couple of dozen rebellious Labour Party backbenchers.

In early September 2014 I received some threats from an extreme right Facebook page calling themselves National British Resistance (which turned out to be a front for the race hate propagandist, slanderer and liar Joshua Bonehill). Within days he started ripping off my images and posting them on his own page. After I published my article detailing Bonehill's threats to have my Facebook page deleted and his theft of my images to promote his race hate agenda, a number of people reported his page for spreading racist propaganda and outright lies, resulting in his page being removed by Facebook!

The race hate propagandist, slanderer and liar Joshoa Bonehill wasn't the only person to go about nicking my pictures to drum up publicity for right-wing agendas that I strongly oppose. Several members of UKIP ripped off my images to use them as propaganda for their Thatcherite Trojan Horse party. The thing that makes this so ironic is that UKIP are the only political party ever to threaten me with legal action over supposed copyright infringement of their logo (a case that would be laughed out of court) but they're perfectly happy to continually rip off my creative content (including my logo) to promote their own agenda.

In September 2014 the EU demonstrated their abject fear of democracy by blocking a Citizens' Initiative against the TTIP corporate power grab. The organisers of the petition went ahead and launched it anyway, and it's already achieved the million signatures it needed, plus fulfilled the quotas from seven of the EU states. The EU will obviously ignore it though, because why would they let democracy get in the way of their plan to completely overwrite the democratic and legal structures of member states with pro-corporate legislation?

On September 18th 2014 an incredible 85% of Scottish residents voted in the Scottish Independence Referendum. Regular readers will know that I was a strong supporter of the Scottish independence campaign because I believe in the localisation of political power. Unfortunately the will of the Scottish under-65s (who voted in favour of independence) was defeated by the mass no vote of the over-65s (73% of Scottish pensioners voted against independence).

Project Fear worked a treat. By scaring Scottish pensioners into thinking that they would lose their pensions in an independent Scotland, the Westminster establishment persuaded them to crap all over the dreams of a better Scotland that the younger generations believed in. Blair McDougal (the guy who ran "Better Together") admitted after the vote that they probably wouldn't have won without their fearmongering tactics.

Even though the result was a disappointment, the independence campaign was not a waste of time. The demographics show that the appetite for independence will only grow stronger as the older, more fearful generations die off. The pro-independence movement has resulted in the reinvigoration of Scottish politics with the pro-independence SNP and Scottish Green Party attracting unprecidented surges in new membership. Perhaps the most interesting consequence of all is the continuation of the slow suicide of the Scottish Labour Party, who have now appointed the horrible Westminster Blairite Jim Murphy to lead the party (into an electoral bloodbath in 2015). It's not like Labour weren't warned that sharing a platform with the politically toxic Tory Party would completely trash their reputation in Scotland.

When it came to party conference season the right-wing press absolutely savaged the Labour leader Ed Miliband for forgetting to mention the deficit during conference speech, which he delivered without notes. A few days later David Cameron received widespread praise for his scripted conference speech, despite the fact that it included an outright lie about the national debt, one for which he has already been rebuked for by the UK Statistics Authority. It's bad enough that Cameron lied to the public that the Tories have been "paying down" the national debt, when they'd actually increased it by well over half a trillion pounds already, but to repeat the "paying down Britain's debts" lie again after having already been rebuked for it just goes to show the utter contempt David Cameron has for the public, and for anyone who might try to hold him to account for his lies. That Miliband was savaged for forgetting to mention the national debt, yet Cameron was lauded despite telling outright undeniable lies about it, just goes to show how ludicrously biased the mainstream press have become.

In October 2014 the Home Secretary Theresa May announced further draconian powers designed to revoke freedom of speech from people who have have been found guilty of absolutely no crime whatever. She used the same old tactic of invoking scary Islamist bogeymen to distract attention away from her extremist agenda of abolishing freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the presumption of innocence in order to further empower the surveillance state to interfere in the lives of people who have committed no crimes whatever.

Within days of UKIP winning their first seat in Westminster the mainstream press rushed to announce their decision to invite Nigel Farage to the pre-election leaders' debates. This prompted a lot of complaints from supporters of the Green Party, the SNP and Plaid Cymru, all of which had MPs in parliament long before UKIP won a couple of by-elections with their Tory Party defectors. The justification for this mad rush to invite UKIP from Sky, the BBC Channel 4 and ITV looked an awful lot like some kind of warped post hoc justification story rather than anything resembling the result of a coherently conducted and impartial analysis.

On the 20th of November 2014 a tiny minority of MPs turned up for a debate on monetary policy. In my view this was one of the most important debates in decades, and it's astonishing that so few MPs bothered to take an interest. Credit has to be given to the four MPs who brought the debate before parliament (Steve Baker, Micheal Meacher, Caroline Lucas and Doughlas Carswell) and to Positive Money, who have campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of the hopelessly flawed monetary system, which allows private banks to create money out of nothing in order to inflate huge speculative bubbles in the housing market and the shadow banking sector. Here is a link to a video of the debate, and here is a link to the Hansard transcript.

Back in December 2013 Iain Duncan Smith and the Tories laughed and smirked their way through a parliamentary debate on food poverty. In 2014 Iain Duncan Smith gave us another display of his utter contempt for the victims of his welfare "reforms" as he belly laughed and chortled his way through a debate on the hated "Bedroom Tax". Let's hope that the Tories are voted out of power in May 2015, meaning that we don't have to suffer yet another repeat performance of Iain Duncan Smith callously laughing at the plight of his victims come December 2015.

The AAV awards

Hero of the year - Steven Sutton

Steven Sutton died as a result of bowel cancer at the age of 19. Before he died he established a Just Giving fundraising campaign which raised over £4.5 million for the Teenage Cancer Trust. The young lad was a real hero and his story should be an inspiration to anyone who really wants to make the world a better place. Shortly before he died Steven said "I don't see the point in measuring life in terms of time any more. I'd rather measure life in terms of making a difference". In his 19 years he made more of a positive difference than a great many of us will ever make in our whole lifetimes.

Villain of the year (readers' selection) - Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith was by far the most common nomination as villain of the year when I asked on the Another Angry Voice Facebook page. Quite a lot of people nominated the likes of Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, George Osborne, Sajid Javid and Theresa May, however the only other compelling nomination to provide IDS with competition for villain of the year is David Cameron, who several people pointed out is the man who leads the Tory party and has seen fit to let Iain Duncan Smith continue his sociopathic abuse of those he considers to be below him.

Villain of the year - Iain Duncan Smith

Of all of the vile members of the most vindictive right-wing government in living memory, one man stands beneath them all as an alarmingly deranged sociopath. Iain Duncan Smith is an appalling specimen of all that is wrong about humanity. He is a delusional, dishonest, self-aggrandising, narcissistic, callous and contemptuous individual who repeatedly laughs in the face of those who suffer under his draconian regime.

It is a sad fact that hateful misanthropes like Iain Duncan Smith will always exist in society, but the truly damning thing is that the Tory Party consider this delusional and incompetent sociopath an appropriate person to rule with an iron fist over the lives many of the most vulnerable people in society. Let's not forget that back in 2003 the Tory Party saw sense enough to remove him as their leader, so they clearly had the self-preservation instinct to know that Iain Duncan Smith is too dangerous and incompetent to run their own political party, but their contempt for the "lower orders" is such that they'd let this incompetent misanthrope abuse the most vulnerable people in society for over four years.

Politician of the year (reader's selection) - Caroline Lucas

By far the most common response for hero of the year when I asked on the Another Angry Voice Facebook page was the Green MP Caroline Lucas. Other politicians who received a lot of positive mentions included Michael Meacher, John McDonnell & Dennis Skinner (Labour), Patrick Harvie (Scottish Green), Alex Salmond & Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) and Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru)

Politician of the year - Pablo Iglesias

If I had limited myself to UK politics I would have had to have picked Caroline Lucas again, but since I decided to include international politicians too, I've gone for Pablo Iglesias, who is the leader of the Spanish left-wing anti-corruption party Podemos. 

The rise of Podemos has been absolutely phenomenal. The party was founded in March 2014, in May 2014 they took 8% of the vote and won 5 MEPs in the European elections and by November 2014 they had become the most popular political party in Spain. If there was an election in early 2015, Podemos would almost certainly form the new government, barring a coalition between the two main establishment parties (PP and PSOE) designed to protect the establishment class by keeping Podemos out of power (think of Labour and the Tories having to form a coalition to keep a newly formed left-wing political party out of power!).

The phenomenal rise of Podemos, under the leadership of Pablo Iglesias, should be an inspiration to progressive people all over the world.

Best media of the year - Private Eye

Last year I gave a joint award in this category to Private Eye and the Guardian. This year I'm giving it to Private Eye in their own right. If you don't know why I value Private Eye's contribution to journalism so highly, just buy a copy of the magazine. 

If the rest of the press tried to hold our politicians to account as well as Private Eye do, the UK surely wouldn't be such a corruption riddled and grotesquely unequal society led by self-serving sociopaths.

Worst media of the year - The BBC

I know this selection will raise more than a few eyebrows considering some of the absolutely appalling drivel that has been written in the pages of the Daily Mail, Express and S*n this year, but nobody expects anything more from the right-wing hacks who write for those disgusting tabloid rags.

The BBC has long since tarnished it's reputation for impartiality, the death blow being the castration of the BBC by New Labour for (accurately) reporting the "sexed up" Iraq dossier in 2003. In recent years the pro-government bias at the BBC has become ever more apparent, with many BBC News reports these days being little more than barely recycled Tory party press releases. The scaremongering and ludicrously biased BBC coverage of the Scottish independence debate was awful, and the Daily Politics  5 vs 0 "debate" on social media was just laughable. As much as I appreciate the TV shows with no adverts, the long history of producing high quality comedy and drama and the pioneering work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the BBC has now become an abomination which tries to hide it's establishment bias behind a fake veneer of impartiality. The problem with the BBC is not that it is as bad as the Daily Mail and the Murdoch empire, it's that we should expect so much more from it.

Resignation of the year - Alex Salmond

The most high profile resignation of the year in UK politics was that of the SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond after Scotland narrowly rejected independence. After all, he was the only political leader in UK politics with a majority government.

Even though he's resigned, he's clearly not planning on fading away into obscurity, and we'll certainly be hearing a lot more from him if he wins a seat in Westminster in 2015.

U-turn of the year - Liberal Democrats ("Bedroom Tax")

Since sneaking into power in 2010 the Lib-Dems have U-turned so much that you could coat them in copper, surround them with magnets and generate enough electricity to power a small town. The most bizarre of their double U-turns was their decision in July 2014 to begin arguing against the "Bedroom Tax" (legislation that only exists because they voted it into existence), before siding with the Tories in December to defeat a Labour Party motion to repeal the "Bedroom Tax"!

This kind of jaw-dropping hypocrisy from the Liberal Democrats is a toxic legacy from which the party will probably/hopefully never recover.

Best campaign of the year - Save the New Era Estate

There have been countless really good campaigns this year. Some of the highlights include the 38 Degrees campaign against TTIP, the Common Weal project in Scotland, the Positive Money campaign for monetary reform, the Green Party surge, and the Darlo Mums' recreation of the Jarrow March in defence of the NHS. Outside of the UK the Hong Kong street protesters deserve a lot of credit for their bravery in standing up against a very powerful totalitarian government.

I've chosen the fight to save the New Era Estate in east London as my campaign of the year because they were successful in driving out the US multinational Westbrook which had planned to socially cleanse the area by driving out all the poor and ordinary residents with huge rent hikes. This successful campaign was a magnificent demonstration that ordinary people really can make a difference if they stand together in solidarity.

Worst campaign of the year - Greenpeace vandalism of the Nazca lines

There have been lots of campaigns for bad things that I strongly disagree with, but Greenpeace really shot themselves in the foot by pissing off almost everybody with their desecration of the Nazca Lines in Peru. It's not because I dislike them that Greenpeace get my worst campaign award, it's because it takes a ridiculously stupid move to severely piss off people who actually agree with what you're campaigning in favour of.

How on earth anyone in Greenpeace thought it would be a good idea to vandalise one of the World's most fragile and amazing pieces of cultural heritage is completely beyond me. Who signed off on the plan? And why didn't any of the activists who were involved think that archaeological vandalism might not be the best way to raise awareness of renewable energy?

Excuse of the year - the causes of racism according to UKIP

The LBC presenter James O'Brien managed to pull off two incredible UKIP interviews of 2014. In one he repeatedly harangued a UKIP supporter for apparently not knowing a single UKIP policy and in another (commonly described as Farage's "car crash" interview) he discombobulated Nigel Farage so badly that he ended up making racist comments about Romanians. Farage's excuse was that "I was, sort of, completely tired out". This strikes me as an odd excuse, because I've suffered insomnia for much of my life, and the resultant tiredness has never made me say racist things about Romanians, or any other races, nationalities, colours or creeds for that matter.

The "tiredness causes bigotry" excuse was bizarre enough, but in December 2014 the UKIP candidate Kerry Smith tried to defend describing a Chinese woman as a "chinky bird" and homosexuals as "disgusting old poofters" as being a result of his medication for back pain. I'm pretty sure that most of us have used some powerful painkillers at some point in our lives without turning into hateful bigots as a side effect.

Perhaps the most offensive thing Kerry Smith said was his "joke" about going on a "peasant hunt" to shoot people from Chigwell. It just goes to show how flexible the UKIP principles are that they would seek to make political capital out of a Labour MP tweeting a picture of a house, yet when one of their own is infinitely more insulting about "the lower orders" they can't wait to roll out the excuses for his blatant bigotry.

Best Blog - Scriptonite Daily
Last year I gave this award to Johnny Void (who continues to do great work). This year I've selected Scriptonite Daily. Kerry Ann Mendoza has had an inspirational year, appearing regularly on the television and demonstrating how independent journalists can use non-traditional financing methods to fund their work. A great example of this was her crowdfunded trip to Gaza to report on the Israeli bombardment in July 2014. One of the things I really like about her work is the way that she meticulously backs up so many of her assertions with sources, which is something that I try to do in my own work too.

Book of the year - Harry's Last Stand
Of course this award is limited to the small set of new books I found the time to read in 2014. I've chosen "Harry's Last Stand" by Harry Leslie Smith because it's a masterful piece of writing and an impassioned plea from someone who experienced terrible conditions in the 1930s for the people of Britain to stand up and defend the progress of the post-war years, and to prevent the Tories from dragging us back to the 1930s with their ideological austerity agenda.

Seven of the best

Here are seven selected articles from 2014:

 Another Angry Voice  generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from big business or political parties. It is entirely funded on the "pay as you feel" principle. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is yours.

Flattr this