Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The week ahead

Reading: Some pages of Finnegans Wake, some pages of Robert Goddard's "Past Caring", Morning Star, Daily Mail, Marxism 2006 programme, some of Tim Barton's websites, E-mails.
Listening: Fat Boy Slim.
Viewing: BBC News. Sky News. England V. Hungary. Lost.
Well, a few days off work and spending some time with family. A well earned rest and some time at the gym today, shopping at the local Co-op (you really have to be sharp to let the checkout know you have re-usable bags, or they stuff everything in new ones before you can protest! Perhaps some staff training required on the conserving resources front!)
Have added another set of links to my blog - discovered Tim Barton's new blog and have linked this and several social ecology/Murrary Bookchin related sites. Bookchin, alongside Noam Chomsky and Joel Kovel is one of the most important late 20th/early 21st Century writers from a green/libertarian socialist perspective.
Planning to go and see the Da Vinci Code film tomorrow.
A busy weekend beckons, I can't be attending everything, but will keep an eye on events- for those in the London area there are events arranged by Republic to celebrate the first British Republic Day on June 2nd, and then the important Climate conference at the London School of Economics from 9.45am-6.00pm on Saturday 3rd, addressed by the Green MEP Caroline Lucas, Mark Lynas, Jeremy Leggett and a host of others. Then on Sunday 4th there is the first London organising meeting of the new Green left grouping provisionally titled "Green Revolution".

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Anti Incinerator Network Meeting

Reading: Some pages of Finnegans Wake, some pages of Robert Goddard's "Past Caring", Morning Star.
Listening: Moby.
Viewing: None!

The first national meeting of anti-incinerator groups held at Birkbeck College in London was a great success, with many groups from around the country represented or sending apologies. The conference heard reports from areas where incinerators are projected, where they are being built and where they are operating. Dr Thompson from the British Society for Ecological Medicine gave an interesting talk on the health effects of incinerators. We also had some input on media work and "new waste technologies" developments. There was discussion on the DEFRA review, the government's latest pro-incineration pronouncements and what needs to be done to organise on a national scale. Positive things to come out of the meeting are a website that is being set up, and plans for co-ordinated propaganda, campaigns, meetings and actions. The new grouping was keen to work with and alongside existing groups like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Zero Waste Alliance. The Climate Change conference to be held next week at the LSE (To be addressed by Caroline Lucas, Mark Lynas and Jeremy Leggett amongst others) was advertised and it was suggested that a national anti-incinerators contingent on the November 4th Climate Demonstration could be organised.
All in all a good start with links made and built.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

John Frost 1784-1877

Reading: BBC News website, Guardian website, Urban 75 politics boards, various websites on Chartism, some pages of Robert Goddard's "Past Caring", E-mails.
Listening: Moby, BBC Radio Five.
Viewing: England B team versus Belarus (nice flag, shame about the fouls!)
Today is the anniversary of the birth of John Frost in 1784, one of the leaders of the 1839 Newport rising, which historians like to term the "last armed uprising on mainland Britain". Frost deserves to be remembered as one who used the opportunities that were open to him, which he could have used for personal gain, to serve the people. He turned his bitterness over a personal defeat at the hands of an aristocratically backed rival into positive energy to fight for the cause of working people. The history of the Chartist movement has much to teach us about the politics of popular movements, the tactics that are used to disarm them, the ebb and flow of struggle and the lasting effect of radical activism, even in the face of seeming failure. The Chartist experience fed into the development of the labour movement, into republicanism later in the nineteenth century, and into various political currents in Britain. A Marxist account of the movement is found here, and a comprehensive and very interesting site covering many aspects of the Chartists and their legacy is here.

Looking ahead, preparations continue for the green left organising meeting in London - Green Party members interested in finding out more can find details on the "Another Green World" blog of Derek Wall.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"Anti-capitalist" perspective

Reading: Local paper, Morning Star, some pages of Finnegans Wake, some pages of Robert Goddard's "Past Caring", The Democrat, Trade Unions Against The EU Constitution leaflet on Pensions, BBC News, Urban 75 and Guardian websites. Matt S and Derek W's blogs.
Listening: Radio Five, Moby.
Viewing: BBC News, Lost.
Someone on Urban 75 bulletin boards posed the question of "What would the anti-capitalist movement put in place of capitalism?" To which we might answer ecosocialism, but the way in which the question was posed raised other questions, and an amended version of part of an answer is posted below.

It might be argued that most of what is labelled as an "anti-capitalist movement", sometimes self labelled as such, is not in the short term, (nor even in the long term in many cases) aiming for the complete abandonment or supersession of the key features of the capitalist system. To do this you would have to achieve the abolition of the wages system, supersession of the private ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange and probably supersession of the modern nation state in its recognisable form. Most of the "anti-capitalist movement" is not aiming at any of that anytime soon.

If "Another World Is Possible" there are a vast range of views on how and when! Many are justified in feeling that the most important things to consider in the short term are how to resist attacks or defend ourselves from further encroachments of amoral corporations now.

The interesting question is of course the historical perspective. Looking at the current trajectory of capitalism in its most advanced sectors, then barring ecological/natural or financial disaster (which certainly cannot be ruled out - and unfortunately look increasingly likely), the evolution of capital appears to be towards ever larger and more powerful corporations and consolidation of economic blocs on a global scale - i.e. the progressive destruction of economic activity outside the corporate framework (except in a residual or parasitic form) - think supermarkets, catering chains, offshored manufacturing, transnational domination of all sectors of the advanced economy - and corresponding disappearance of small shops, small farms, small manufacturers, "independent" nations or politicians, a vista of endless corporate shopping malls, industrial estates, leisure venues and ring roads. Of course independent small producers and retailers may survive in pockets, but as "niche" marketing, often for the better off or self-consciously "alternative", not as a significant sector in advanced economies. As well as being strangely evocative of old marxist ideas about the evolution of capitalism towards forms that are virtually indistinguishable from state monopolies, the prospect is also of the shoehorning of all instincts - towards independence, creativity, altruism and solidarity - into the corporate monopoly. This equates to the "proletarianisation" of the bulk of the population in terms of their relationship to work, if not necessarily in their living standards - that "proletarian" working condition is ironically reflected in many a self-professed “middle class” urbanite's confession that he/she only works for the dosh!

We are reaching the point where the choice is stark - it now being technically possible for the domination of corporate capital to become complete (virtually all media, legislative processes, community and nation state activities controlled at first or second hand by representatives of corporate capital) or the population decides a different route, a different route that will of necessity be based on different criteria of success and fulfilment to those of corporate capitalism.

For the real horror of the prospective future for most of us - if the trajectory is not checked - read the fatalist brutalism of someone like Ian Angell of the LSE. He argues persuasively that in the final version of the global e-economy the trajectory will be simply "uncheckable" by any of the traditional political methods, even were these not already under corporate domination. The global economy will simply crush any opposition or alternatives, no matter how mild or unthreatening. Angell masochistically celebrates this, assuring himself that he will be on the right side of the fence when the techno-elite separate from the rest of us to become virtually another (presumably genetically engineered) species.

In terms of the original question, the most relevant question for now is perhaps not "what would you replace capitalism with?" but where the technological and social evolution of late capitalism will take us, and at what tipping points, crises or upheavals will alternative routes be possible? The historical location of these forks in the road will of course have a very great effect on what alternative systems are viable. The work of the radical science fiction writer Ken MacLeod is interesting in this respect.
This is all of course (perhaps optimistically) assuming that the current evolution of the system, (even with whatever challenges or changes that can be effected) leaves us with a habitable environment by the time a turning point arrives.
For those with higher aspirations than wage slavery on the promise of hedonist oblivion in a doomed Disneyland the question of “Socialism or Barbarism?” becomes ever more pressing ………..


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Thoughts of Chairman Greenman

Reading: Pages of "Finnegans Wake", pages of Robert Goddard's "Past Caring", Guardian website, various Sunday Papers.
Listening: BBC Radio 5
Some comment from English Green MEP Caroline Lucas on the nuclear issue here.
Yesterday was the annual Levellers Day commemoration in Oxfordshire - some blogging comment here.
I have updated my links - with new links to some interesting sites, favourite authors etc.
Here are some thoughts I previously posted on Urban 75, on what it means to be a British (green/libertarian) socialist in 2006.

Socialism means the extension of democracy from the purely political to social and economic realms. This can be achieved by various means, nationalisation being one of the bluntest tools, useful in some areas and not in others. It is still seen as being useful for national transport systems for example, as evidenced by many opinion polls in this country and actual economic practice in others. It has generally been a failure when applied to productive industry in a mixed capitalist and globalist economy where finance capital has the upper hand - the finance capitalists simply move mobile capital to areas they can profit from, leaving closed pits and empty factories. So common ownership and democratic control over the bulk of the economy is only likely if working people force through things like global controls on capital movements, abolition of tax havens etc as a start and then move on quickly to challenge the power of the transnationals and the bankers. Other democratic and socialist economic forms are co-operatives and mutuals - again, these can be successful at the moment, but are more likely to be bullied, crushed or taken over in the globalist free market situation we are currently heading for. Therefore the first tasks of socialists of any description today are the same as ever - education, agitation, organisation towards the expression and exercise of the power of the workers, peasants (in parts of the world where they exist) and public servants that create and maintain the financial and human capital that the elite exploit. (An interesting recent booklet on these topics was Ken Coates, "Workers' Control")
Furthermore, being a socialist today must surely entail the consciousness that the capitalist economy is causing possibly irreparable damage to the ecosystems that sustain life on earth - any new economic arrangements must be sustainable as well as socially just. So to be a socialist today , you must also be green.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Events in June

Reading: BBC News, Sky News and Guardian websites. Morning Star. Urban 75 Politics Boards.
Listening: Manic Street Preachers.
Viewing: BBC News.
Tonight I am tired and so will be brief. First of all here is an interesting comment from Tom Burke, Visiting Professor at Imperial College, on Blair's latest nuclear moves.
Secondly, the much hyped Da Vinci Code movie is upon us. This forum has the full range of contributors on the book, film and related topics - from the cynical or sceptical to the true believers and hoaxers. Look out the interesting older posts from posters like cyber-academic Steve Mizrach ("Seeker 1") and characters like "Rudiobus" and "Don Barone".
Next to flag up the first British "Republic Day" on 2nd June.
Finally a plug for the important demonstration against New Labour's latest neo-liberal attacks on the sick and disabled, scheduled for 17th June in Sheffield.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Did I just mention a nuclear stitch-up?

Reading: Local paper, BBC News Webpages, Shiona Baird MSP's webpages, UK political blogs site, Joe Otten's blog, Cllr Andy D'Agorne's blog, Derek Wall's blog.
Listening: Manic Street Preachers
Viewing: BBC News, Lost.

Now, what was I saying about a nuclear stitch-up and Blair already having made his mind up? Tony has been giving a talk to his best mates at the CBI, and announcing his heavily trailed line that the nuclear option is "back with a vengeance". Well, let battle commence. Coupled with his government's recently announced intention to massively increase the incineration element of waste management in the UK, and their intention to concrete the green belt, alter planning laws that get in their way (indeed it seems, any laws that get in their way) Blair can now justly be described as an environmental criminal as well as a war criminal.
Perhaps it is worthwhile to remember at this point the key elements of the Sustainable Development Commission's report on the future energy options -
Scottish Sustainable Development Commissioner Hugh Raven, said:
"Our report proves how right Scotland is to fight for its no nuclear policy. We've thoroughly investigated nuclear power over the last year, but have found that any potential benefits are outweighed by substantial disadvantages. With our amazing renewable resources combined with some serious political willpower Scotland could become a true world leader in clean, sustainable energy."
The report identifies five major disadvantages to nuclear power:
i. Long-term waste - no long term solutions are yet available, let alone acceptable to the general public; it is impossible to guarantee safety over the long-term disposal of waste.
ii. Cost - the economics of nuclear new-build are highly uncertain. There is little, if any, justification for public subsidy, but if estimated costs escalate, there's a clear risk that the taxpayer will be have to pick up the tab.
iii. Inflexibility - nuclear would lock the UK into a centralised distribution system for the next 50 years, at exactly the time when opportunities for micro-generation and local distribution network are stronger than ever.
iv. Undermining energy efficiency - a new nuclear programme would give out the wrong signal to consumers and businesses, implying that a major technological fix is all that's required, weakening the urgent action needed on energy efficiency.
v. International security - if the UK brings forward a new nuclear power programme, legally we cannot deny other countries the same technology (Under the terms of the Framework Convention on Climate Change). With lower safety standards, they run higher risks of accidents, radiation exposure, proliferation and terrorist attacks.
On balance, the SDC finds that these problems outweigh the advantages of nuclear.

There has been much talk about Blair wanting to "secure his legacy" before he leaves Number Ten. Perhaps Blair's idea is to have a legacy that will really last - thousands of years in the shape of piles of radioactive waste!

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Ministerial Blogger and nukes

Reading: Some pages of Robert Goddard's Past Caring, Sunday Times (aargh -I gave money to Murdoch!), Sunday Express (I didn't buy it!), Urban 75 boards, Radio Times, BBC News website.
Listening: Beautiful South, Radio Five.
Viewing: Coronation Street.

David Miliband, newly tasked by Blair to guide through the nuclear stitch-up, sorry, review - and sometimes pointed to as a possible "heir to Blair" is in the news for a number of reasons.
One of these is that he has become Britain's first "Ministerial Blogger", no doubt leading to panic amongst the control freaks and spin doctors of New Labour land, in case he leaked some important nugget like the brand of tea bags used in DEFRA canteen.
The more serious reason is the rather unbelievable claim that he is "open minded" on the future of nuclear energy in Britain, a claim somewhat undermined by the story in today's Sunday Times that his constituency association chair, Alan Donnelly, is executive chairman of a lobbying group called Sovereign Strategy - a lobbying group that acts for US nuclear industry multinational Fluor, and also shares offices and staff with nuclear lobbying group TANEF. TANEFs "legislative chair" is none other than our old "friend" Jack, now Lord, glow-in-the-dark Cunningham. Their "industry chair" is Fluor's group president.
So Blair's nuclear review is a foregone conclusion amidst links to lobby groups - groups that do not even sign up to the APCC code agreed by other lobbyists - and background manoeuvres by powerful business interests - suggests the Times? Well, you could knock me over with a feather, Rupert!

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Friday, May 12, 2006

James Connolly 1868-1916

Reading: Some pages of Robert Goddard's "Past Caring", Webpages from the Guardian, Independent, BBC News, IWW and Wikipedia websites, Morning Star, local paper.
Listening: The Beautiful South, local radio.
Viewing: BBC News Programmes, Coronation Street.

On the 12th May , 1916, 90 years ago today, James Connolly was taken from his sick bed to the yard of Kilmainham Jail in Dublin, where he was tied to a chair and executed by firing squad. Connolly had been one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. He was a socialist, industrial unionist and internationalist as well as a fighter for national liberation in Ireland. A libertarian socialist appraisal of Connolly, warts and all, can be found here. Connolly was a Scottish-Irish radical who spent time in the USA and was a leading figure in the early days of the Industrial Workers Of the World (IWW or Wobblies) that still exists today in both North America and other parts of the world, including the British Isles. The Connolly Association bears his name and is a useful source of information on Irish related topics. Connolly is one of a number of Wobbly leading lights who were killed by the state, vigilantes or reactionaries, including the legendary Joe Hill and lesser known activists like Frank Little.
To quote the title of one of Connolly's songs, taken from Songs of Freedom, (1907) WE ONLY WANT THE EARTH!
And the struggle continues.....

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Extradition Case

Reading : Local Paper, Another Green World Blog, Guardian, Independent and BBC news websites, Morning Star.
Listening: The Beautiful South.
Viewing: BBC News.

Today saw a court in London rule in the Gary McKinnon extradition case. McKinnon is a UK hacker who penetrated the lax security of US military computer systems in search of information on alternative energy systems, UFOs and other "leftfield" info. The US want to extradite him to stand trial in America with a possible sentence of up to 70 years in jail, saying he caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage, but without specifying clearly what this damage was. The BBC report it thus
Regardless of his defence and peoples views on hacking, McKinnon's case raises all sorts of issues about extradition and US double standards. It also raises questions about the security of the world's most powerful military machine, given that McKinnon self-describes himself as not an expert hacker. The media largely scoffs at McKinnon's stated reasons for his hacks, but why are the US authorities taking this issue so seriously and hyping it so much when they did not pursue similar cases in the past so vigorously? Could he have found some info about undisclosed new technologies, or as he suggests, undisclosed space programmes? These claims are a little spoilt by his failure to present any recovered evidence, and the association of such ideas with the New Age/Nexus/rightist conspiracy milieu, but that is not to say that there is nothing to his assertions. Whatever, in the age of "extraordinary renditions", Guantanamo Bay and the Patriot Act this case arouses concerned interest in the UK, and McKinnon's supporters aim to fight on
The website they have set up has lots of interesting stuff.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

A day of two anniversaries

Reading: The Times, local paper, Guardian and Independent websites, BBC News website, "Comment is Free" blogs of various bloggers, some pages of Finnegans Wake.
Listening: The Smiths, local radio.
Viewing: BBC News, Sky News, some of the Championship play off game before the lights went out!

Today is the anniversary of two important events in this part of the world, whose importance is still with us today. The first is the anniversary of the Restoration of The Monarchy with Charles II in 1660 about which I will say little more at this time than to publish this link -

The second anniversary is of VE Day, the military defeat of Nazi Germany and its' allies in Europe. Something that gives special pause for thought after descendents of the East London heroes of the blitz just voted the far right political descendents of the Nazis onto their local council in large enough numbers to make them the "official opposition". An interesting take on this can be found in the blog of Jeremy Seabrook, who contrasts the successes of the Greens with those of the far right in the recent English local elections and takes the view that they represent positive/progressive and negative/destructive responses to the real questions of globalisation and scarcity that the main parties continue to try and dodge.

"Comment is Free" is the Guardian's weblog sevice for the "Great and the Good", and has an interesting selection of the commentariat, left and right. Amongst them are fellow Greens, Caroline Lucas and Peter Tatchell -

The new Home Secretary's outburst about those he perceives as conspiring against his Great Leader (once a Stalinist..........) is very revealing, and gives food for thought. The Blairites now see ANY criticism or competition, even from only very slightly to the left of them, as tantamount to treachery and a political death wish. Reid's comments were directed not just at the "usual suspects" of the Socialist Campaign Group, but at the reforming social-democrats of the Compass group, and even the long term Blairite fellow travellers of the Brownite faction. However, anyone who actually looks at the detail of what Brown says, especially when he is addressing the "business community", can see that there is a political hairsbreadth between him and Blair. The main difference appears to be over presentation - Brown wants to talk the old language more and be seen to nod at union concerns internally in the party, whilst the more dogmatic Blairites simply want to marginalise those unions and other elements that do not capitulate completely to the neoliberal agenda. The Blairite position that "There Is No Alternative" (to bowing and scraping to every demand of finance capital and Washington) is of course the same as that of Thatcher. Current events are eerily familiar to those of us who were around to witness Thatcher's final weeks and months. Is there a "Dead Sheep", (as Howe was nicknamed) out there to challenge Blair?


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Election results

Reading: Local paper, some pages of Finnegans Wake, Morning Star, some pages of "Past Caring" by Robert Goddard, Urban 75 bulletin boards, Matt Sellwood and Derek Wall's blogs.
Listening: Simply Red (Don't ask!).
Viewing: League One football scores and reports.

Well, New Labour got the drubbing that was predicted in the local elections. Blair responded predictably by reshuffling his cabinet. How long will this man go on? A good election for the Green Party, with inroads into a whole raft of new Councils across England, especially in London, which apart from the handful of Assembly members, the MEP and one or two Councillors (most durably Darren Johnson) has been a bit of a desert for Green political success. Now we have six Councillors in Lewisham and more across Lambeth, Islington, etc etc. Derek Wall was actively involved in the London campaigns -

And speaking of Derek - here is something on his (reportedly very good) book which I must get around to reading!

More news on the election from Oxford, where the Green Party now has 8 councillors and the IWCA (Independent Working Class Association) also gained another seat, from my colleague, Matt Sellwood -

And here is Green Party News:

In Norwich the Green Party now has NINE councillors, and overall we are getting close to the 100 Principal Authority Councillors in England and Wales that has long been a target.

Hopefully the increasing spread of Green Councillors will bode well for both the areas where they can now have more influence and for the national campaigns against such things as the projected new wave of incinerators.

From an ecosocialist point of view I would argue that the new councillors should avoid formal coalition politics as they usually lead to the Greens being the whipping boys for failures without significant power to make changes. Many councillors have already achieved much both for their wards and at full Council level whilst maintaining a respectful distance from the backstabbing neo-liberal parties. Any alliances with parties of the centre or right, no mater how "pragmatic " or "useful" in the short term, make the longer term building of a progressive coalition for change at local and national level (involving union members, community organisations aand the broader left) much more difficult and unlikely. And in the longer term, the sort of political changes needed demand that sort of progressive/ left united front - fairweather allies from the (neo) Lib Dems and "green" Tories will jump ship long before we get to the stage of achieving the long term and sustainable changes that are needed. Those parties are about tinkering with or preserving the status quo, not a massive shift in wealth and power or real challenge to the neoliberal project. They are also hated by a good number of the people, political and anti-political that we need in our coalition. Greens have been praised for thinking long term - let us hope we see some of this from our new Councillors.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Local Elections

Reading: BBC news, Guardian, Independent, Socialist Unity Network, Urban 75, Wikipedia and Green Party of England and Wales websites; Morning Star; some pages of Finnegans Wake.
Listening: Editors, Joy Division, Radio Five.
Viewing: BBC Six O'Clock News and regional news bulletin, Sky Evening International News, snatches of MTV, the "Legends" football match and "10 Years Younger" programme at the gym.
Tomorrow is local elections day in many parts of England including London. The governing Labour Party is expected to do very badly in the light of the continuing unpopularity of shadowing US imperialism and selling off ever wider swathes of public services. If you have a vote - use it wisely!
The elections give people an opportunity to vote for positive changes at a local level and punish the sleazy neo-liberal Blair government at the same time -

The Greens are the party standing the fourth largest number of candidates and aim to increase their current total from in the 70s (with a couple of defections from Labour and the Lib Dems in the last week adding to this) to over a hundred. The signs, with environmental issues being a major part of the debate so far, and the ruling party in major difficulties, are good -

Another encouraging thing is the number of young candidates the Greens are standing -

If you haven't got a Green candidate standing, then your best bet to push things in the progressive direction is to vote for a left candidate if one is standing (e.g. Respect, Socialist Alternative, Alliance For Green Socialism).
Where there is a fascist candidate with a chance then a tactical vote against them may be necessary, but fortunately the BNP are not standing that many candidates, despite the media hype. The Socialist Unity Network have some interesting comment and news on the 2006 local elections on their website -

Heres hoping I have good news to report on Friday.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day Greetings

Reading: Some pages of Robert Goddard's "Past Caring", Morning Star, Chesterfield May Day Programme, Wikipedia Pages on May Day, various web pages on last month's 75th Anniversary of the Second Spanish Republic.
Listening: Local radio.
Viewing: ITV news, The Matrix.

Greetings on May Day!
I attended the Chesterfield May Day celebrations with my family. It was blustery and windy, but the sun broke through and the mood was cheerful, helped on by Rhythms of Resistance from Sheffield and the Dronfield Brass Band. Unlike in Nottingham there was good representation of a range of unions and campaigns. The Labour Party were much in evidence, with their platform speaker, the North East Derbyshire MP Natascha Engel listing Labour's achievements in the programme and saying how wonderful the Warwick agreement with the union bosses was! The leaflet they distributed likewise trumpeted their "achievements" but it was a case of "Don't mention the war!" and "Don't mention civil liberties". Constantly repeating the crumbs thrown in the first term and the amounts of public money that have gone into expensive PFIs, PPPs and the like since is wearing a bit thin. Still, some of their activists did have some amusing new jokes centred around the Deputy Prime Minister!

Perhaps it is time to remember the origins and real traditions of the workers' May Day........

Hope springs eternal, and as the song says "The dawn brings in a brighter day"