Britain

A group of unemployed people slept on the streets last weekend before being coerced into working for free — at the queen’s jubilee. It is the latest shocking story of life under the Tories’ Work Programme. Up to 30 jobless people were bussed into London from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth to work as stewards. Workers from Bristol say they were dumped in London at 3am on Sunday. Some said they had originally been told they would be paid for the work. But when they got onto coaches they were told they’d be doing the work for free—or lose out on a chance of paid work at the Olympics.
Who's the vindictive bastard who made Tony Blair give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry? This was heartlessly cruel, to all decent people who have tried to put Blair behind us and get on with our lives. But there he was again, tormenting us, making us feel like someone just coming to terms with their years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp and then the bloke who used to electrocute us every morning comes on daytime television, justifying himself and leaving us screaming and dribbling and eating an eight-pack box of Toffee Crisps as all the memories come washing back.
Rupert Murdoch is a bad man. His son James is also bad. Rebekah Brooks is allegedly bad. The News of the World was very bad; it hacked phones and pilloried people. British prime ministers grovelled before this iniquity. David Cameron even sent text messages to Brooks signed "LoL", and they all had parties in the Cotswolds with Jeremy Clarkson. Nods and winks were duly exchanged on the BSkyB deal. Shock, horror. Offering glimpses of the power and petty gangsterism of the British tabloid press, the inquiry conducted by Lord Leveson has, I suspect, shocked few people.
Now that parties supporting cuts are losing elections across Europe, I wonder if the British Labour Party will consider a policy of opposing cuts. At the moment, they sort of oppose them, so if the government announces 200 libraries are closing next Wednesday morning, Labour says: "This is typical of this callous administration. They ought to wait until the afternoon."
The 30th Olympic games will begin in July in London as Britain's Conservative-Liberal Democratic government imposes savage austerity measures on the public. The excitement of watching the world's sporting best compete is mixed with fears of social and economic upheaval. The British government is projected to spend US$14.5 billion on the games, $9.6 billion over budget. Prime Minister David Cameron announced last November that the budget for the opening and closing ceremonies would be doubled to $125 million.
“Two years of brutal Con-Dem cuts and failings have left the nation seeing red as Labour gained hundreds of seats across local councils today,” Britain's Morning Star reported on May 4. The article said the council elections took place against a “backdrop of a double-dip recession, despite massive cuts to jobs and services”. The Conservative Party lost 11 councils to Labour and the Conservatives' coalition partner in government, the Liberal Democrats, lost one.
However the dispute in Britain about tax and charity donations ends up, the one thing we must all agree on is how inspiringly generous these philanthropists are, selflessly donating chunks of money that, by coincidence, are the amount they would have had to pay in tax anyway. Even the Good Samaritan would have said: "That's TOO philanthropic, you're being a fool to yourself."
George Galloway, running for the anti-war and anti-austerity Respect party, won a sensational victory in the Bradford West by-election on March 29. The scale of Galloway's win, turning a safe Labour seat into a 10,000 vote majority, is without precedent in modern British politics. All those who oppose austerity and war should be walking a little taller. Galloway and Respect fought a campaign on two simple premises: opposition to wars abroad and opposition to austerity at home.
We mustn't panic, but according to a front page headline in the Daily Mail we're being "HELD TO RANSOM BY 1,000 TANKER DRIVERS". What bad luck, that 1000 tanker drivers have become Somali pirates. I suppose they had to re-train because of redundancies in the piracy trade due to new technology, such as email ransom notes and digital planks. But they've perfected a new method of ransom, which is holding a strike ballot and counting the votes.
At last, the bill has been passed to enable Britain's health service, the envy of the world, to become more like the United States system, universally derided as a chaotic disaster. Now they can introduce bills to make our ferry service more like the one in Italy, and our record on child abuse more like that of the Vatican. It takes inventive thinking to hear that in the US, drug companies spend twice as much on advertising as they do on research, and say, "That's MARVELLOUS, why can't WE do that"?
At last, the police have become efficient. They may have stumbled slightly with their investigation of News International, but they haven't made the same mistake with the people sitting around by St Paul's. Last year, presumably, if they'd been asked to evict Occupy London protests who camped at St Paul's Cathedral, they'd have written a report saying: "We have left no stone unturned in pursuing the occupiers, but after driving round the cathedral hundreds of times we have no evidence of any tents anywhere, or, indeed, of any cathedral."
Police and bailiffs removed peaceful Occupy London protesters from their camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral on February 28. The Coalition of Resistance, which unites a range of groups and individuals to campaign against the British government's savage austerity measures, released the statement below in response. Read more of Green Left's coverage of the Occupy movement. * * *