Recent Articles

Thatcher’s homophobia: why have we glossed over this legacy?

by Claude Carpentieri     April 14, 2013 at 2:27 pm

In the flurry of hagiographies and tributes to Margaret Thatcher, her long list of heinous political acts seems to have been ENTIRELY forgotten. In particular, the way her rampant homophobia became integral to British law.

Which, you will understand, hardly sits at ease with the relentless campaign to portray her as Holy. They may tell you that she was stubborn and, if they really fancy rocking the boat, that “some people saw her as fairly divisive”, but that Thatcher was behind Britain’s first new anti-gay law since 1885 is so utterly embarrassing that chances are you won’t hear about it.

Like human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell writes, “At the Conservative party conference in 1987 Mrs Thatcher mocked people who defended the right to be gay, insinuating that there was no such right.

During her rule, arrests and convictions for consenting same-sex behaviour rocketed, as did queer bashing violence and murders. This backlash coincided with her successive “family values” and “Victorian values” campaigns, which urged a return to traditional morality and family life. In fact this is what she publicly said:

Too often, our children don’t get the education they need—the education they deserve…

Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life—yes, cheated.

Which is how, aided by a hysterical tabloid campaign about “the loonie left” and “gay lobbies” along with talks of AIDS as “the gay plague” and the barefaced lie that “GAY PORN BOOKS [were being] READ IN SCHOOLS“, the Thatcher government steamrollered in the homophobic Section 28.

The Act, which remained part of the statute book until Labour scrapped it in 2003, was as controversial and ambiguous as it was soaked in hate and deep prejudice.

In one fell swoop, Section 28 crucially advocated censorship – preventing local authorities and schools from discussing (“promoting”, the hideous wording was) homosexuality or engaging in anti-bullying activities, sneered at “pretended family relationships”, and added insult to injury by linking homosexuality to “the spread of disease”.

It is almost impossible to believe that such an ignorant piece of legislation was part of the British legislative framework and that half the Tory party was still defending it tooth and nail as recently as 2003.

Nevertheless, caught between rising homophobic violence and intolerance, and the calls in favour of tackling discrimination and promoting acceptance, Thatcher made it very clear where she stood.

No coincidence that, shortly after Section 28 became law, the offices of a gay newspaper, Capital Gay, were burnt down and lesbian and gay helplines reported a threefold increase in “queer bashing”.

Which is why, when the current hysteria over Maggie’s beatification subsides a little, hopefully the world will manage to remember how such a detestably homophobic piece of legislation was entirely in line with Thatcher and her character. Now hopefully buried forever.

Why work “reforms” in Spain are a warning for workers across Europe

by Claude Carpentieri     February 20, 2012 at 11:02 am

The Spanish trade unions have labelled it “the harshest and most aggressive employment legislation [of the post-Franco era]”.

Opposition parties are already planning to appeal to the country’s highest judicial body.

Depressing salaries, free dismissals and other gems – these are Spain’s right-wing solution to the economic crisis.
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The Middle East protests expose Blair’s hollow doctrine

by Claude Carpentieri     February 21, 2011 at 11:09 am

Imagine if you had a quid each time you hear the dwindling band of blind supporters of the Iraq war reciting that sorry little line as the best justification for Britain’s biggest foreign policy atrocity of the last forty years.

“At least we removed a sanguinary dictator” is a sentence that oozes hypocrisy from each and every pore, a phrase rendered even more vomitous and hollow when you look at the hateful game of “this dictator good, that dictator bad” that Tony Blair played so well during his reign.
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Berlusconi opens his government to fascists

by Claude Carpentieri     February 7, 2011 at 9:02 am

His conduct in government and a series of unfortunate remarks may have suggested otherwise but, until yesterday, Italian PM Berlusconi was at least able to reject accusations of flirting with fascism on the grounds that his allies were either former or reformed fascists who more or less turned their back on Mussolini

Well, not anymore.

With his never ending scandals denting his popular support and the Italian right looking increasingly divided, Berlusconi is desperate for any vote he can grab.

This is why he announced on Saturday that the unashamedly far-right party La Destra (The Right) have now joined his coalition and that one of their top dogs will soon be offered a ministerial post.

La Destra is Italy’s direct equivalent of the BNP, except even more fascist. Though no doubt a very small party, tallying just over 680,000 votes (2,2%) at the 2009 European Parliament election, the group are the country’s most outspoken apologists for the country’s fascist past.

And indeed theirs is vintage stuff: from their fascist-era typeface adorning their literature to their continuous references to christianity, “action” and “traditional values”, all the way to their ├╝berfascist official slogan of “Dio, Patria e Famiglia” (“God, Nation and Family“), one thing you can’t accuse La Destra of is lack of coherence.

However, how the “god” and “family” bits are going to sit next to a Prime Minister known for his penchant for orgies, libertine parties and underage prostitutes, no-one has yet managed to explain.

How Germany is reaping the rewards of bailing out its workers than banks

by Claude Carpentieri     December 23, 2010 at 9:30 am

When the biggest global recession in decades kicked in, Germany was able to weather the storm and recover much quicker and better than Britain, the US, or any other major Western economy.

Between 2000 and 2007, unemployment in Britain was never any higher than 5.5% (see this) while, in the same period, the German figures were regularly double that rate – between 8 and 10 per cent (see this).

But over the last two years UK unemployment has overtaken Germany’s at a hair-raising pace. While our jobless rate is now tickling 8%, in Germany it decreased to 7.3% at the start of 2010 and then further lowered to 6.7% in October – again, its best figures since reunification.
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Apparently, celebrities should ‘stay stupid’

by Claude Carpentieri     December 19, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Nothing seems to irk the country’s hacks more than a celebrity expressing a political opinion.

We binge on hundreds of celebrities, some more worthless than others, while we laugh at their imperfections, dimpled thighs and sweaty armpits as sported by Heat, the Sun or the Daily Mail.

We love to remark on how thick, shallow and uneducated they are. We sneered at Jade Goody’s “pig ignorance“, laughed at Paris Hilton’s dumb quotes and we frowned at how detached from the real world the superrich and the superfamous are.
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Is it the end for Silvio Berlusconi?

by Claude Carpentieri     November 26, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Despite a massive majority, the Italian Prime Minister is days away from bowing out. His third election victory in April 2008 was saluted as “historic“: nobody in Italy’s democratic history had ever won such a huge majority.

Yet in two and a half years, all the Italian government managed to knock out was a number of controversial immunity bills (which critics slammed as “tailor-made” to protect the scandal-ridden PM from prosecution) and a series of anti-immigration measures dictated by Berlusconi’s openly xenophobic coalition partners the Northern League.

Otherwise, the Berlusconi ship started treading water pretty much from the off.
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Does education need cost so much? A comparison with Western Europe

by Claude Carpentieri     November 14, 2010 at 10:00 am

Sending a kid to university abroad has never been cheaper.

With tuition fees in the UK set to reach £9000 a year, the cost of Higher Education (already high by EU standards) is going to be the most prohibitive in Western Europe.

Let’s take a look.
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Why shouldn’t we call out LibDems for their ‘betrayal’?

by Claude Carpentieri     June 25, 2010 at 11:00 am

Is the Left’s job that of opposing measures that we deem unfair, or do we simply find ways of not disagreeing too much with the Coalition lest “we push the LibDems further towards the Tories”?

Stuck between the obvious ideological clashes between those who think such “brave” and tough measures are the “inevitable” legacy of the Labour years, and those who instead call the Budget “reckless” and “dangerous for the recovery“, there appears to be a third category of people.

Yes, you guessed it: LibDem MPs. We don’t really know where the Lib Dems stand, do we?
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I didn’t vote Libdems for this

by Claude Carpentieri     June 18, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Axing hospitals, jobs, help for the unemployed, manufacturing projects and front line services: this cull is coming straight from the most ideological right-wing hymnsheet

Commenting on cuts and “difficult budget decisions”, Deputy PM Nick Clegg said recently that his government would “not” do it “the way we did it in the 80s”. “We’re going to do this differently.”

The acute observer, however, may have learnt the bitter way that, whatever the Lib Dem leader says, the exact opposite is true. In fact, his public declarations read in reverse should be coveted as the best way of predicting government policy.
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