Don’t vote to maim and kill Syrian children in my name


Bombing Syria will uselessly waste lives. I have written to my MP asking him not vote to maim and kill defenceless children in my name.

“Dear Mr Bebb

I am writing to tell you that, as a constituent, I do not want you to vote on my behalf to bomb Syria.

Air strikes alone will not beat Da’esh Ned there are no ground forces to finish the job. Those forces on the ground are fighting Assad and will not shift to fight Da’esh because we send a handful of aeroplanes. Most regional powers are now bombing Yemen, not Syria, and will not be redirect because we start bombing.

Sending the few ‘planes we can spare (your Government has reduced our forces drastically) will not impress anyone. Our allies will be disappointed and our enemies will be amused.

This is not a re-rub of the Iraq vote. This time everyone knows there is no hidden threat that needs urgent action. Everyone knows there is no coherent plan to defeat Da’esh. Everyone knows bombing will not make Britain safer. So to vote for British air strikes on Syria is to vote to knowingly kill civilians, for no rational purpose.

So please do not vote to maim and kill defenceless children in my name.”


holiday snaps

Your holiday snaps may not breach copyright after all – update

Update on my post about your holiday snaps possibly soon infringing EU copyright laws.

Labour MEP, Derek Vaughan has told me the EU committee vote that wanted to take away some of your rights to photograph buildings and monuments has no legal effect.

But the European Commission will propose a wide-ranging copyright reform by the end of this year, but the Labour Party will vote against any amendment which negatively affects the current UK provisions on Freedom of Panorama.

Derek says, “Labour MEPs are committed to ensuring that the Commission, when proposing its copyright reform, takes on board the views of creators, industry and consumers so that we can take forward a copyright system which works fairly for all.”


Your holiday snaps could soon breach copyright!

Copyright law changes could mean tens of thousands of images of public places in Europe could have to be deleted from sites like Wikipedia, and your holiday snaps could land you in bother!

Oh, dear, the EU doing itself no favours, again.

In the UK, and most of the EU, you can take photos of public or private buildings and public monuments. I bet it never occurred to you that you couldn’t. It even has a name, “Freedom of Panorama”.

A new EU law would have made this a right across the whole EU, as it is in the UK and most of Europe. But a committee voted to restrict this to “non-commercial” only.

Sounds OK, but the difference between “commercial” and “non-commercial” is really hard to legally define and the distinction on the internet can be impossible to make. For instance, commercial and state schools making uses of the same pictures, your holiday snaps being shared on websites that make money, like Facebook .

If you think this is stupid, contact your MEP and tell them:

For the record, it was  on 16 June 2015 that the Legal Affairs Committee voted for amendment 421, which would restrict Freedom of Panorama to non-commercial use only.

More background here:


Any talk of Greece leaving the EU is vindictive and short sighted idiocy

The European Union started in 1951 to prevent more wars.

The European Coal and Steel Community tied industries together and made a common market amongst members, “to make another war was not only unthinkable but materially impossible.” [Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister, 1950]

Britain has maintained its own odd isolation, but most EU countries have continued this goal by forming an Economic Union, in the context of right wing political dominance.
And they decree Greece’s resistance to allowing the plundering of their nation by the profiteers – demanding “austerity” and “re-structuring” – has to be punished, probably by throwing them out of the Eurozone. OK, whatever.

But to even suggest Greece could be forced out of the EU entirely really is the path to disaster, even for the capitalists who run The West.

Look just a little further east and what do we see? An extremist Islamic organisation has already formed its own state in parts of Syria and Iraq, which neighbouring states cannot defeat nor even contain. All that stands between that and Greece is Turkey, an Islamic state that could one day fall to IS. And the EU’s dominant capitalist cadre will have delivered up to IS the eastern flank of Europe.

The EU’s right wing governments need to really think this through. They and the profiteers they represent care nothing for the people of the EU, they are just a source of profit.
But eventually retreat and safety could be impossible even for the very rich.

Labour’s Policy Process needs to be subject to binding votes

Labour’s National Policy Forum elections are due soon. That’s good, we need to be getting on with policy reformulation, so we can offer a real alternative to government by and for the rich.

But if all we do is start the same process again, we will lose again and let down the British people again. As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Only one change is needed: to make the policy process subject to binding votes amongst members. We cannot again obediently receive meandering documents on subjects chosen for us behind closed doors, then submit comments that we all know are largely ignored, resulting in a programme bearing little resemblance to the wishes of Labour Party members.

Wanting to subject the Party’s policy process to binding votes will be condemned by the Right as risking showing damaging discord and disunity in public. That is a lie that the Right has successfully employed for decades to allow them to run the Party as a personal fiefdom. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being seen to work out policies by frank and open debate. Making policies in secret and acting as if we need the media’s permission to be elected clearly and emphatically failed.

Blairites, Progress will argue we need to move to the right to capture more Tory voters. That is clearly nonsense, acting like neo-Tories was a big part of our failure in the General Election. We should not again allow our leaders to treat the electorate as if they are fools.

I believe socialists in the Labour Party need to voice a collective demand that the policy process be democratised, so we can get on with the business of forming policies and a programme relevant to the people of Britain.

Don’t blame Scotland for the General Election, blame Labour’s arrogant leadership

There will be a lot of people in other parts of the UK who are very cross with Scotland this morning, and confused that in the independence referendum just months ago they decided to stay in the UK, then they send almost exclusively SNP MPs to Westminster.

It is wrong to be cross with Scotland and there is no need for confusion. Coming from a Welsh constituency probably helps me understand.

So let’s deal with those two points in reverse.

First, the referendum decision was decisive and I am sure the Scottish people did view that as the end of the matter for a generation. That is not the reason for the SNP’s success yesterday, it is not a “surge of nationalism”.

In Wales, we also have a nationalist party, Plaid Cymru (PC). For UK issues, the electorate trusts Labour to represent them. But for Welsh issues, I have repeatedly seen Labour voters voting for the determinedly “Welsh party”, as they see it – albeit mistakenly – which is why PC is so disproportionately strong in the Welsh Assembly.

Rather than trust loyal supporters to understand the socialist arguments for the UK, Labour aligned itself too closely with the Tories over the independence referendum, “talking down” to voters. Then, after the referendum, Labour in London foisted upon Scottish Labour an openly Blairite leader, the clear message being that he would simply march the electors on Westminster to win the General Election.

First a betrayal, then to be taken for granted and just used as pawns in the bigger fight, the Scottish people saw their decision to stay within the UK rewarded by no-one actually listening to their wants and needs.

So the Scottish people have done what I have seen people do in Wales many times, turn to the nationalists as a party which is at least determined to stand up for Scotland. The SNP’s prime objective is as irrelevant to the immediate question as it has been for many decades: they want someone to speak for the Scottish people NOW.

The blame should be placed squarely where it belongs: with a Labour leadership that ignores its members in all parts of the UK when they tell the Party it needs to offer the British people an alternative to – not a watered down version of – the Tories, to stand up for people in the way they expect of Labour.

Blame the Labour leadership who think they have to have the media’s permission to govern, instead of trusting the electorate to embrace policies befitting the Labour Party.

When the people obviously are unhappy with energy, communications and transport companies ripping them off, almost completely unregulated, the answer is not a 15 month electricity prices freeze. When pay is driven down and people forced to accept whatever insecure employment they are offered, the answer is not to raise the minimum wage by 30p a year to 2020. When the NHS is being carved up for privateers, the answer is not to trim back some of the more obvious profiteering.

It is difficult to see how Labour can rebuild in Scotland, but a good start would be to begin to shape policies that offer a real alternative to government for the rich.

Secure web browsing using Hola VPN

There are a number of ways to access sites blocked by your ISP for whatever reason, but a “tunnel” connecting you directly to the site that your ISP cannot observe, by a Virtual Private Network (VPN) looks a more secure option than using a proxy.

Hola is the most straightforward Virtual Private Network (VPN) solution I have found. And Hola VPN also appears trustworthy – or I cannot find anyone who doesn’t trust their assertion that they do not keep logs – and the How-To-Geeks seem have accepted they do not bundle adware (https://discuss.howtogeek.com/t/warning-your-browser-extensions-are-spying-on-you/12394/40).

First, download Hola at http://hola.org/

To use once installed is easier on mobile devices like ‘phones or tablets than desktops, but none are difficult. These are the various steps:

iOS (e.g. your iPad):
Go to Settings/VPN and choose a national server to connect Hola

Android (e.g. ‘phones, tablets):
Use the Hola browser

PC/Laptop (Windows, I have not yet tried Linux):

  1. Click tiny icon (top right of FF screen)
  2. If turned off, click the blazing Smiley image in the small window to start
  3. Select a country
  4. When connected it will say, “Browsing From” and show the national flag
  5. Hover mouse above flag and a text entry box will appear between “Browsing” and “From”
  6. Type the blocked site’s URL in the box and click on the grey hatched globe icon to its right
  7. The site will be unblocked in the main browser window

One other issue:

“System Administrator has blocked this program”, just close the message, then a bit of arm wrestling is needed:

  • In Firefox, click Tools/Add-ons
  • Hola Better Internet will be in the ln the list of Add-ons, Disable and Enable the Add-on (possibly a few times)
  • Hola may spot you Disabling their Add-on and open a window offering to re-download, don’t worry, they don’t know you are about to Enable again!
  • Keep at it and your System Administrator should eventually be side-stepped.

You can test that it works by going to http://www.whatismyip.com/ whilst connected (it will show your location as that of the national server chosen), or just by unblocking sites blocked by your ISP.