Pat Stack

Labour: Things didn't get better

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After 13 years in office New Labour has been beaten. Pat Stack surveys the wreckage of a party that attacked its own voters.

As the Tories and Lib Dems scrabbled together their unsightly coalition it seemed a lifetime ago that Tony Blair was being greeted with anthemic pop songs and cheering crowds bathing in the optimism and hope for a new dawn. This time the optimism was replaced by cynicism and bewilderment at the haggling that finally allowed David Cameron to sidle into 10 Downing Street, while Gordon Brown slouched out in just about as dignified a manner as was possible at the end of a wretched campaign.

Disaster capitalism

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Volcanic ash, eh? What is it about disasters and capitalism? It seems that any event outside the daily norm exposes all the system's horrors and weaknesses.

Throughout the general election campaign, the consensus of the major parties remained that private enterprise, the free market, low taxes and a move away from "welfarism" are all good things. You would hardly think that a system founded on these principles was going through the worst economic chaos experienced by anyone not old enough to have lived through the 1930s.

Nor would you think that this chaos was in no small part created by the unfettered and unregulated behaviour of ultra-greedy bankers and capitalists.

New Labour Sleaze: Any Byers?

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As we head to a general election no doubt concerns will once again be expressed about levels of turnout and "voter apathy".

Tedious comparisons with The X Factor will be made and all sorts of silly suggestions put forward to solve the problem. However, the reasons for disenchantment are surely staring us in the face.

The first must be the ever narrowing ideological divide between the two main parties. There seem to be no great principles separating them - indeed, Tory or Labour, they increasingly all look and sound exactly the same.

Capitalism: A Love Story

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Over 20 years ago a friend said to me, "You really ought to catch this film Roger & Me. It's by a guy called Michael Moore and it's a very funny documentary about the closing of the GM motor works in Flint, Michigan."

This sounded most unlikely to me. Documentaries were rarely funny at the time, and the subject matter didn't seem to lend itself to humour. I went expecting something worthy but probably dull.

How surprised I was. Moore's film was indeed funny, angry, unusual and utterly devastating all at one time.

Casting off stereotypes

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Channel 4's new series, Cast Offs, proved to be a breath of fresh air in the world of media and disability.

In the fake reality show mockumentary, six disabled characters (all played by disabled actors) are stranded on an island.

Its writers hope it will do for disability what Queer as Folk did for gays, and certainly you couldn't imagine it being made ten years ago, let alone when I was growing up.

Back in my early teens everyone thought that my hero must be Douglas Bader. Bader had lost both legs in the Second World War and yet continued to go on flying missions, got taken prisoner of war, escaped, was recaptured and emerged from it all as a national hero.

James Murdoch's Darwin

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Last month James Murdoch, son of Rupert and CEO of News Corporation, gave a keynote lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.

Say what you like about him, anyone who quotes George Orwell and Leo Tolstoy, and sources Charles Darwin, Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman, the genetic development of the modern banana, and the Levellers (the political movement, not the band) is clearly a man of much gravitas. Or so you'd think.

Thatcher's Britain

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Richard Vinen, Simon & Schuster; £20

This book attempts to do the almost impossible: to take a dispassionate look at Margaret Thatcher and Thatcherism. I say almost impossible because just reading the chapters on the Miners' Strike, the Falklands War and the Hunger Strike brought back much of the rage and hatred I felt at the time.

The author, however, has a rather different take on things: "I was very much opposed to the Thatcher government when it was in power...however, I have often felt exasperated by the sneering tone many authors adopt with regard to Margaret Thatcher herself."

Throw the costumes to the moths

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There was a time when the BBC produced some of the finest drama series. Not so now. US channels such as HBO have been leaving them standing.

From this I exclude costume drama, which people still say the BBC does better than anyone else, maybe, but frankly dear readers, who gives a damn?

While watching Mad Men recently it occurred to me just how superior the Americans are. Contrast it with, for instance, Life on Mars, one of the BBC's critically acclaimed and successful shows which is about to embark on a third series.

V is for Violence

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I would guess that most socialists are instinctively anti-violence. We hate almost all of its manifestations from war all the way through to bullying. Many of us came to socialist politics via anti-war movements or struggles against various forms of oppression.

Yet, as any readers of this magazine will know, its editorial line is one that supports the revolutionary transformation of society, which looks to events like the French and Russian Revolutions and inspirational movements in human history.

Furthermore, Socialist Review has supported many struggles for national liberation - struggles that usually involve armed resistance.

Is this not a contradiction?

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