British Conservatives, elections and racism


This video from England says about itself:

Smethwick council buying vacant homes to prevent more coloured people moving in on Marshall Street

Video 1 of 3

In 1964 Peter Griffiths, Conservative candidate in Smethwick constituency won his seat using the slogan “If you want a nigger for a neighbour VOTE LABOUR”.

The general election was won by Labour, overturning 13 years of Conservative government. In contrast, largely because of the race issue, a Labour majority of 3,544 was turned into a Tory majority of 1,774, defeating the senior Labour MP Patrick Gordon in Smethwick.

The “nigger for a neighbour” slogan was attributed to the Griffiths campaign in a BBC interview by Labour leader Harold Wilson. Griffiths denied using those words, but said that they accurately reflected the frustrations of locals.

Immediately after the election Wilson (as prime minister) attacked Griffiths in the House of Commons, calling him the “parliamentary leper”.

Additionally the Tories had also taken control of the local council, instituting a policy on Marshall Street of buying houses which came up for sale and putting them back on the market for sale to whites only. …

Soon after, America’s Malcolm X visited Marshall Street and was interviewed, saying:

“I have come here because I am disturbed by reports that coloured people in Smethwick are being badly treated. I have heard they are being treated as the Jews under Hitler. I would not wait for the fascist element in Smethwick to erect gas ovens.”

Malcolm X was shot dead in Harlem days after his return from this trip.

These two videos are the sequels.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Every election the Tories play the race card

Wednesday 29th October 2014

PETER FROST discovers when it comes to Tory election tactics things haven’t changed much in 50 years

“IF you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour.”

That was the horrific obscene message pasted up all over the streets of Smethwick in October 1964.

It won Tory Peter Griffiths the seat, defeating a huge Labour majority.

Griffiths stood behind the racist message. “I would not condemn any man who said that,” he told the media during his campaign. “I regard it as a manifestation of popular feeling.”

Nationally in the election, Labour took power in Westminster for the first time in 13 years with a swing from the Tories of 3.5 per cent. But in Smethwick, shadow home secretary Patrick Gordon Walker lost on a 7.2 per cent swing to the Tories.

As the defeated Walker left Smethwick town hall after the count gloating Tories catcalled after him: “Where are your niggers now, Walker?” and “Take your niggers away!”

This racist campaign shocked right-thinking Britons. New Labour prime minister Harold Wilson called on then Tory leader Sir Alec Douglas-Home to disown Griffiths. He called the racist Smethwick MP his “parliamentary leper.”

Twenty-five Tories walked out of the chamber in protest and proposed a motion deploring Wilson’s insulting language. Labour members proposed a motion criticising the prime minister for insulting lepers.

Griffiths didn’t last long. He lost his seat in 1966 and wrote a book called A Question of Colour? In it he argued that “apartheid, if it could be separated from racialism, could well be an alternative to integration.”

Black Country-born comedian Lenny Henry chose to make fun of the deeply ingrained racism of some Midlands people. When the National Front wanted to give black people £1,000 to go home, Henry said: “Fine, that would more than cover my bus fare back to Dudley.”

Smethwick was originally a Staffordshire country town but with the coming of the industrial revolution it grew and grew, eventually meeting the borders of Birmingham. Today it is part of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough.

In the 18th century the Birmingham Canal Navigations were built through Smethwick, carrying coal and goods between the nearby Black Country and Birmingham. The canals brought industry, wealth and work to the town.

Matthew Boulton and James Watt opened their Soho Foundry in the north of Smethwick.

Soon Smethwick was alive with dirty but profitable manufacturing industries.

The town built railway carriages and wagons; made screws and other fastenings at Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN); built giant mill steam engines at Tangye’s works.

They made everything from steel pen nibs and bicycle saddles to London’s famous Crystal Palace.

With industry came the arts. The Ruskin Pottery Studio, named in honour of the artist and socialist John Ruskin, was in the town, and many English churches have fine stained-glass windows made in Smethwick.

After the second world war, Smethwick attracted a large number of immigrants from Commonwealth countries, the largest group being Sikhs from the Punjab in India.

Race riots hit the town in 1962 and, like many other British cities, the problems actually caused by factory closures and a growing waiting list for council housing were often blamed on immigrants.

In 1961 the Sikh community converted the Congregational Church on the High Street in Smethwick to what is now the largest Gurdwara in Europe.

In 1968 Enoch Powell, the Tory MP for Wolverhampton South West, made his famous “Rivers of Blood” speech to the general meeting of the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre in Birmingham, just down the road from Smethwick.

The speech violently attacked Commonwealth immigration and anti-discrimination legislation.

“As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”

Powell’s racist rant caused a political storm, making him one of the most talked-about politicians in the country. It lost Powell his place in the shadow cabinet but undoubtedly contributed to the Conservatives’ surprise victory in the 1970 general election.

Fifty years on, what are the lessons we can learn from what happened in Smethwick in 1964?

Nigel Farage, for all his denials, is putting forward exactly the same political message that immigrants are taking jobs and housing from native-born Britons.

Sadly David Cameron and his backwoodsmen — and women too — are riffling through the political playing cards looking for the race card that has served them so well in the past.

Nick Clegg and his shrinking band and even Ed Miliband, whose dad certainly taught him better, are making suspicious noises too.

Make no mistake about it. Farage and his right-wing obsessives will make sure racism plays a major part in next year’s general election.

It up to those of us who despise these evil ideas to make sure it doesn’t play the decisive role it did in Smethwick half a century ago.

Peter Frost blogs at www.frostysramblings.wordpress.com.

MICHAEL Fallon, Tory defence secretary, did an Enoch Powell (he made his anti-immigrant ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968) when he claimed on Sunday that British towns are being ‘swamped’ by immigrants and their residents are ‘under siege’. After the ensuing outcry he was urged to admit that his language should be slightly moderated by PM Cameron, and responded that he had been ‘careless’ in his use of words: here.

British government spied on historians Hobsbawm and Hill


This video from Britain says about itself:

2 October 2012

Historian Prof Eric Hobsbawm is interviewed by Simon Schama about his work and his extraordinary life. With archive clips from Eric’s previous TV and radio appearances.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

MI5 spied on Hobsbawm

Saturday 25th October 2014

MI5 spent years keeping Marxist historians Eric Hobsbawm and Christopher Hill under surveillance, according to newly released government documents.

Files released by the National Archives at Kew in west London yesterday reveal that MI5 closely monitored both academics for years, opening their mail, tapping their phones and scrutinising their contacts.

The files on Hobsbawm show how he fell foul of the authorities during his time as a sergeant in the Army Education Corps during the second world war, when his tendency to leave left-wing literature lying around saw him marked out as a “bad influence.

“We know that Hobsbawm has been continually in touch with prominent communists and with party headquarters and there is no doubt that he is a keen and very active party member,” one report from 1942 noted.

Old books about birds


Pheasants, wood pigeons, wrynecks, 19 October 2014

On 19 October 2014, in Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands, there were not only the recent natural history books of the Jan Wolkers Prize nominees, and the old natural history books discussed by nominee Alexander Reeuwijk. There was also this 1904 book about birds. Again, all photos in this blog post are cellphone made.

This bird book, Het Vogeljaar (The Bird Year), is by famous Dutch naturalist Jac. P. Thijsse. In later editions, pictures like this one would be replaced by photos. This picture shows pheasants, wood pigeons and wrynecks.

Wryneck, 19 October 2014

This detail of the picture shows a wryneck.

Colourful birds, 19 October 2014

Second hand bookshop Moby Dick (called after the famous Herman Melville novel) from Noordwijk had brought late nineteenth-early twentieth century books to the museum. Like this one from 1886 by Dutch author A. Nuyens. The picture shows colourful birds: starling, red-backed shrike, golden oriole, Bohemian waxwing, jay, hoopoe and kingfisher.

Snowy owls, 19 October 2014

Next to it, this book, by Irishman Francis Orpen Morris: A History of British Birds. The photo shows a male and a female snowy owl.

Flycatchers and waxwing, 19 October 2014

A book from Germany was present as well. It was Deutsches Vogelbuch für Forst- und Landwirte, Jäger, Naturfreunde und Vogelliebhaber (1907). Kurt Floericke was the author. Albert Kull made the pictures. This page shows various Old World flycatcher species, and a Bohemian waxwing.

Cranes, 19 October 2014

Finally, a picture of cranes. Two demoiselle cranes, and a Siberian crane.

Old and new natural history books


Alexander Reeuwijk, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

This photo shows author Alexander Reeuwijk behind a table with old natural history books in Naturalis museum in Leiden, the Netherlands. Like the other photos of this blog post, this is a cellphone photograph, of 19 October 2014.

On that day, as this blog already noted, Remco Daalder, Amsterdam city ecologist, was awarded the Jan Wolkers Prize. This prize is named after famous Dutch artist and author Jan Wolkers. Natural history was one of his subjects. The Jan Wolkers Prize is for the best natural history book of the year in the Netherlands. Remco Daalder’s book is about swifts.

Remco Daalder’s book had been nominated for the prize shortlist along with four other books. One of them was Alexander Reeuwijk’s book about nineteenth century British naturalist and evolution theorist Alfred Russel Wallace and his travels in Indonesia.

The three other nominations were for Mathijs Deen, for a book on the Wadden Sea region; Bibi Dumon Tak for her children’s book on common animals; and various authors for a book on Planken Wambuis nature reserve.

Back to Alexander Reeuwijk. He presented his ten favourite natural history books from the Naturalis collections. These books were from the sixteenth till the twentieth centuries.

Pierre Belon's book, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The oldest of Alexander’s ten books was from 1553. It was by Pierre Belon from France, about fish. Belon is often seen as the first ichthyologist. In Belon‘s time, fishes were not differentiated from aquatic mammals, aquatic invertebrates, etc. The book discussed over a 100 species for the first time ever.

The copy in Leiden is of De aquatilibus; the Latin translation of the French original.

Pierre Belon's book on sharks, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The book contains many woodcut pictures, including of hammerheads and other sharks.

Alexander Reeuwijk’s next book was from five years later, from 1558. It was by Conrad Gessner from Switzerland.

Lobster, in Gessner's book, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

Gessner’s Historiae animalium was the first attempt to describe all the animals known. Including the lobster pictured here on a woodcut in the book.

Lobster, watercolour, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The original watercolour depiction of the lobster, used for the woodcut, is also present in Naturalis.

Mark Catesby, parrots, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

The next book was based on two books, originally in English. Mark Catesby died in 1749. He wrote Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, published 1729-1747. George Edwards wrote A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, published 1743-1764. Catesby’s and Edwards’ books contain many pictures of birds considered as ‘exotic’ by eighteenth century Europeans, like parrots in North America and the Caribbean.

Mark Catesby's and Edwards' Dutch translation, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

Catesby’s and Edwards’ books were translated into Dutch by M. Houttuyn, and published as Verzameling uitlandsche en zeldzaame vogelen in 1772-1781.

Spotted sandpiper, Naturalis, 19 October 2014

This picture in the Dutch translation depicts, below, a spotted sandpiper from the Americas.

Alexander’s fourth book was Nederlandsche Vogelen, about Dutch birds, by Nozeman and Sepp, published in various volumes 1770-1829.

Book number five was Histoire Naturelle des plus Rares Curiosoitez de la Mer des Indes. By Louis Renard, about marine life in Indonesia. The Leiden copy was published in 1782, after the author’s death.

Next, a book about plants in the Netherlands: the Flora Batava. Jan Kops wrote the first volume, published in 1800.

Then, Histoire naturelle générale des pigeons et des gallinacés (1808). Written by Coenraad Temminck; about pigeons. With pictures by Pauline de Courcelles Knip.

Mauritius blue pigeon

One of Ms de Courcelles Knip’s pictures for the book shows a Mauritius blue pigeon; now extinct.

The next book was about kingfishers. It was A monograph of the Alcedinidae: or, family of kingfishers, 1868-1871, by Richard Bowdler Sharpe. John Keulemans made the pictures.

Then, a book from the USA, by Sherman Foote Denton. It was As Nature Shows Them : Moths and Butterflies of the United States, East of the Rocky Mountains; from 1898.

Finally, another book on birds in the Netherlands: Ornithologia Neerlandica, de vogels van Nederland, 1922-1935. Eduard Daniel van Oort wrote it. Marinus Koekkoek painted the pictures.