Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Grand Old Duke

He’s Britain’s third richest man. He owns much of Liverpool city centre. He cares about the countryside. Still, some people don’t like the grand old Duke of Westminster! But Adam Ford comes to praise Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, not to bury him…

Hey, listen up! Gerry is a really top bloke, and I won’t hear a word against him. No really! He may have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but I can’t think of anyone who deserves the title ‘His Grace’ more than him.

After all, he really cares about poor people. That’s why he does so much stuff for the armed forces, which are mostly made up of kids from deprived backgrounds. Naturally, you’re not going to see him at the front in Iraq or Afghanistan any time soon, but that really isn’t the place for leaders. Instead, he likes to provide moral support. He is patron of 'UK4U', who send boxes of 'novelty items' and 'toiletries' to soldiers in war zones at Christmas. In 2005, the fortunate fighters also got 'the chance to enter a free prize draw'! He graciously lends his name to an annual award for 'the most outstanding Cadet', as well as the 'Medal for Military Literature', which goes to the writer whose book 'makes a notable and original contribution to the study of international and national security and defence'. Sometimes His Dukeyness even visits RAF reservists who have served in Iraq, and has a chat and a bit of a joke with them. There are seemingly no limits to his powers of endurance. For example, his 2004 visit to RAF Marham in Norfolk lasted two gruelling hours!

How could someone put up with those kind of conditions without being graceful?

Ok, so the chap owns a lot of property through his Grosvenor Group, but what do you expect him to do – give it up? Is that what you’d do in his position? Of course not. And his 156,000 acres are put to excellent use, providing residential and office space for some of the country’s most important people. For instance, Gerry plays landlord to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Russian oil baron Roman Abramovic, and posh spoon-licker Nigella Lawson amongst other visionaries. Where would we be without people like that? He’s even willing to give the US embassy some of his land, if they exchange it for some land confiscated from his ancestors in the American War of Independence.

He's so gracious.

The Duke is really into the countryside too. Yeah, cynics might say that’s because he owns a lot of it, but they really just need to get a life. In fact, he generously loaned a seven figure sum to a group of people who bravely stand-up to know-nothing townies and defend the rural way of life. A group called the Countryside Alliance. These heroic types have been called every name under the sun, but at the end of the day why shouldn’t they be allowed to hunt foxes and shoot birds. They don’t try to tell you how to run your life, do they? Well yes, maybe they do sometimes. But then ruling over the lesser members of society is what they’ve done for generations, so we should probably just sit back and trust the experts, gracious as they are.

Amazing grace.

Now, some losers – like Oxfam – have the cheek to complain that taxpayers give Gerry £37.33 an hour, day and night, as a subsidy on his vast swathes of farmland. He may possibly have been the 55th richest person in the world last year, and the government might well be attacking the benefits of the most vulnerable in our society at the moment. But what would you prefer? Foreign farmers getting the better of us Brits and the land going to waste? I didn’t think so. If you’ve got a better idea of how to run the world economy I’d like to see the plan!

And then there were those allegations a few months back there that he’s a serial user of prostitutes. A Lithuanian girl called Zana Brazdek claimed that he went on about knowing where Osama Bin Laden is, and demanded unprotected sex. How ridiculous! The Duke gracefully refused to stoop to this woman’s level by denying her story. Why should he? Who are you going to believe: someone who openly admits to selling themselves for money or someone who’s never had to?

Finally (because I’ve only got a page to wax lyrical about this guy’s achievements, I’d fill the whole mag if I could), let’s look at the fella’s doing for the people of Merseyside. The Liverpool One development (or 'the Paradise Project' if you insist on calling it that), which the Grosvenor Group are currently working on in the city centre, will bring £920 million worth of shops to the area. Maybe a lot of Merseysiders won’t be able to afford the prices, but think of all the rich people who are going to come and spend money! Much of that cash will ultimately end up back in Gerry’s pockets, but at least you will have the opportunity to see and (if you’re lucky) smell wealth at close quarters.

Which reminds me, Grosvenor also own half of a business called Sonae Sierra, who are the sister company of chipboard manufacturers Sonae. Their Kirkby plant brought employment to an impoverished area of the city, and local residents should be grateful. There is a slight whiff of formaldehyde in the area, and there have been some cases of the factory breaking the government’s environmental regulations. But Sonae did try to close down the Nerve website, so they can’t be all bad. After all, Nerve only gave me a page to honour such a great man as Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor!

Not impressed by the man’s grace yet? Still not enamoured of his generous spirit and passionate commitment to justice? Pathetic! So what are you going to do, organise as part of your social class and force people like him off their land, before using it for the benefit of all?

Yeah right. You’re a disgrace.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Army Recruitment Picketed in Liverpool

Fifteen activists picketed Liverpool army recruitment on James Street yesterday, in an event organised by Liverpool Social Forum and the Merseyside Anarchist Group. We were marking four years since the invasion of Iraq began, but we were also starting a round of campaigning which we hope will break the Stop The War Coalition's stranglehold on the anti-war movement in the area.

Our action began at 1pm, and lasted two hours. In that time we got loads of leaflets handed out to the young unfortunates who had appointments with army 'career officers'. On their way out, two lads told us they had decided not to join (including one who was being 'escorted' by his dad). Loads of noise was made on a loud hailer, which really seemed to annoy both the army recruiters and the professional bullies at the ever-unpopular Reed employment agency, which as fate would have it is next door to the army place. A woman from Reed came out and asked if we had "to make all that noise", because she was "trying to run a business and people were putting the phone down" on her. I told her that - regretfully - we really did have to make all that noise. "There's a war on", I explained.

Not surprisingly, the army folks weren't too happy about our demo, and were quite aggressive towards us. Could have been worse though, we could all have been in Iraq. Or Iran.

The police were called after about half an hour, and had clearly decided to try the 'good cop' approach, so they made no attempt to seize our material or stop the protest. After consulting with people from the recruitment centre, they asked why I was taking photos. I replied that I was taking photos because I wanted to, and that it wasn't against the law. The female cop then asked nicely (really!) if I would mind not taking photos of the recruitment staff, before going on her merry way.

It wasn't a perfect action, and there were many lessons learned for next time. But it was clear at our 'debrief' we all thought it had been worth it, and that it might just have been the start of something big.

Wars won't be stopped by petitions, marches or 'left' politicians. We need to organise in our streets and our workplaces. We also need to make the link between capitalism's demand for oil profits abroad and attacks on living standards at home.

So what are YOU going to do in the fight against war?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Merseyside Anarchists: How Can We REALLY Stop The War?

At the first meeting of the new Merseyside Anarchist group we discussed a lot of things and decided that it was worthwhile continuing with the group. We also decided that the next meeting on Thursday March 15th should look at the war in Iraq from an anarchist perspective and discuss actions for the 18th March - an international day of action against the war.

We talked about possible anti-recruitment actions and about ways that it's possible for small groups of people to affect the smooth running of the war machine. All of which could feed into the 15th.

Anarchism - or libertarian socialism - is an increasingly strong political current within society and has for a long time been championing the case for a fair, ecological and sustainable global community that may be our last best hope for humanity.

The meeting will begin at 7.30pm next Thursday, at the Liverpool social centre, in the basement next to News From Nowhere, on 96a Bold Street. All anarchists and people interested in anarchism are welcome.

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