The situation in Gaza: Gaza still lies in ruins from the bombardment of civilian targets by the IDF in the last war. No reconstruction materials have been permitted into Gaza by either Israeli or Egyptian participants in the siege. The siege is part of an attempt by the Israeli government to force regime change in Gaza.

The official channels: The reason the aid could not be sent through (Israeli) ‘official channels’ is because vital reconstruction materials have been banned from crossing the Gaza border by the Israeli and Egyptian governments. Without these materials the Gazans have been unable to rebuild the 20% of civilian buildings destroyed in the last war.

The supplies: The flotilla was carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid supplies, mostly those supplies which Israel has prevented from entering the Gaza strip in previous aid efforts: primarily reconstruction materials such as cement, electrical equipment and some luxury goods.

The offer: The offer made by the Israeli regime that the ships may dock at Ashdod and that the supplies would be transported into the Gaza strip by road after ‘inspection’ was meaningless; only those supplies not banned by Israel would have been transported into the Gaza strip by road (if any). The purpose of this flotilla was to provide those necessities which they are deprived of by the Israeli siege.

The blockade: Under international law naval blockades are required to be proportional to the threat posed. This blockade has been declared illegal by the UN several times. The attack: The ships were in international waters at the time. Seizing ships in international waters is an act of piracy under international law.

The deaths: The responsibility for the deaths lies firmly with the aggressor. The IDF commandos initiated violence by storming the ship illegally. The exact number of deaths and the identities of those killed has not been confirmed but estimates currently suggest that nineteen of those who were shot by the IDF have died.

The crew: The crew are being detained in Ashdod, nobody from the outside has been allowed to communicate with them. They are expected to be deported from Israel, with the exception of…

The hostages: Sixteen of the abducted crew of the largest ship have been illegally detained in military prisons for unspecified crimes. They are likely mostly Turkish nationals.

China has historically been a place of great scientific advancement and is well known for having beaten Europe to a great many innovations and discoveries. From antiquity through to the early second millennium China was noticeably ahead of Europe in almost all scientific fields. However, by at least the sixteenth century China’s scientific and technological advancement had entered a period of prolonged stagnation, one which allowed Europe to overtake China in the sciences.

The Needham question asks why China suddenly fell behind Europe in the sciences. Joseph Needham himself argued that it was the rising negative political and cultural impact of Confucianism and Taoism which stifled advancement, perhaps similar to the European Dark Ages. While perhaps partially accurate, this argument seems insufficient on its own to fully explain the phenomenon.

One interesting theory that’s been put forward is that the Chinese language itself played a prohibitive role in terms of scientific advancement beyond a certain point. While the Chinese were advanced enough to invent the printing press many years ahead of the Europeans, the Chinese language lacked an alphabet or system of writing which could be easily codified into a mass-producible typeset. As a result, printing remained an exclusive and expensive practice in China.

This contrasts dramatically with the European case, where the easy availability of printing for the emerging educated middle classes after the renaissance period allowed for the rapid spread of ideas and knowledge, and was essential for the move towards a modern scientific community and the widening of education programmes.

This idea reminded me of a similar but seemingly unrelated problem encountered by the Chinese relating to their written language: the difficulty of learning to read and write it with any fluency. The problem was seen as so severe that in efforts to boost literacy the young People’s Republic took the drastic step of changing their written character system to the Simplified Chinese we students of the language are thankful for today.

So I’m going to ask you, do you think that the added difficulties in learning to read and write (which probably restricted literacy on class lines more dramatically than in Europe post-Reformation) is a potential significant contributing factor to the Chinese scientific and technological stagnation of the last few centuries?

Which explanations of the Needham paradox do posters favour? Do you feel there are other significant contributing factors which are routinely ignored?

With a leadership election looming the question all Labour Party members and members of affiliated trade unions are asking is: who am I going to vote for? I suggested in a recent blog post, without feeling the need to develop the argument, that the only suitable candidate for the hard left to endorse is John McDonnell (unless Michael Meacher or another suitable MP should announce an interest in doing so).

Such a position seems to have attracted opposition from some other hard left bloggers (link, link). Andy Newman claims in a particularly pessimistic blog post that support for John “is a potentially dangerous distraction” and that such a contest will damage the standing of the left.

The distraction argument, implying a “vote John, get Dave” scenario, seems rather disingenuous. The leadership election takes place on an Alternative Vote basis, and it’s fairly safe to assume no McDonnell supporters will be putting David Miliband down as second preference. Neither is there any good reason to assume that a leadership campaign from John will in any ways compromise the anti-Blairite mainstream candidates – if done well it could even serve to amplify the distrust of Dave by the voters.

Of course John McDonnell will not be the next Leader of the Opposition, neither, given his political track record, is he ever likely to become Leader. Andy Newman is right about one thing and that is that McDonnell has failed to build up a serious mass movement around the left of the Labour party and remains fairly isolated on the backbenches. (Although given the eagerness with which the Compassites seem prepared to sell out to Blairites and Whigs it’s perfectly understandable that he wouldn’t be prepared to put tactical necessity ahead of principles).

But the past is the past and there is still much to be gained from a leadership campaign – a platform to put across the socialist alternative. Such campaigns afford us the opportunity to test the mood within the Party and to build up the activist networks necessary for future organisation.

David Harvey speaks on HARDtalk about the capitalist crisis and the transition to communism.

I’m not sure that Sarah Montague is convinced. He doesn’t explain the nature of what growth actually is or what a growthless society does and does not mean well at all.

The day I join the Labour Party a leadership contest is announced but I won’t be able to vote in it due to the six month rule. There are any number of likely candidates this time around: both David and Ed Miliband, Alan Johnson, Ed Balls and Jon Cruddas are all likely candidates, more wildcard candidates include Harriet Harman and even the Dark Lord himself.

For the Left, however, John McDonnell is our man. Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group and the Labour Representation Committee, he’s the unofficial leader of Bennite and Marxist-leaning tendencies of the Labour Party. In 2007 he failed to get enough dominations from MPs to trigger a Leadership Contest against Gordon Brown, so what are his prospects this time?

The number of Labour MPs in the House has been greatly reduced, bringing the number of nominations needed down from 45 to only 33. It has been suggested that the socialist MPs did seem to fair somewhat better than the Labour average, so this should be promising. Of the 29 MPs who nominated McDonnell for the Leadership in 2007, all but 16 have resigned or lost their seats. Three new MPs endorsed by the LRC were successfully elected, giving him a likely total of 19. This still leaves him 14 short, and in a contest which is likely to see candidacies from left-leaning mainstream candidates (Cruddas, Balls) his potential pool of nominees is likely to be squeezed.

Last time around John managed to win significant support within the TUC, a major asset considering the electoral college set up gives one third of the vote to affiliated trade unions. Will he be able to do the same with so many other candidates?

With any luck those new MPs from Unite will turn out to be as left-wing as the Daily Mail wanted people to believe. I guess we’re about to find out just what kind of stuff our new Labour MPs are made of.

After a truly alien peak in pubic sympathy following from Clegg’s performance in the X-factor presidentialism that were the ‘debates’, the Lib Dems came crashing back down to reality on Thursday night when they realised this would count for nought in terms of electoral success and it must have been truly painful for them to discover that they had actually managed to pull off a net loss of seats. They their woes have only just begun.

I have always touted my personal hypothesis that the Lib Dems achieving their wish of a hung Parliament putting them in a kingmaker position would be the death of the party. The party would be faced with the need to actually make a choice, and whichever choice they made would alienate one section of the party or another. It seems that the Lib Dem leadership has made its choice, they will prop up a Tory government. Even worse, it seems they will do so without electoral reform even being a condition.

I’m sure that over the coming weeks many commentators will suggests that this comprises a stab in the back forthe grassroots by the party leadership, this is nonsense – they were stabbed in the front. If there was one thing the Clegg made clear before the election it was that he would favour the Tories as coalition parters (with the justification, disingenuous or not, that they have the most seats) and that he would place the ‘national interest’ of ‘stable government’ first and not hold the country to ransom over proportional representation. Perhaps the only thing mildly surprising about this event is that a politician has actually stuck to his promises.

Even so, both party activists and most certainly their general support base isn’t going to take the news universally well. How will Scotland react to the Liberals imposing a Tory Government on them? It’s probably safe to conclude that it won’t be particularly positive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few Scottish Liberals cross the house (either to Labour or even the SNP) before a Lib Dem wipeout sweeps the highlands.

Okay, maybe not, but with any luck we can take back some deposits.

Live updates of the results in constituencies which are being contested by candidates of the Communist Party, the Labour Representation Committee and others of interest. Results throughout the night.

Communist Party

Cardiff South and Penarth – Robert Griffiths 0.4%
Croydon North – Ben Stevenson 03%
Glasgow North West – Marc Livingstone 0.5%
Newcastle East – Martine Levy 0.5% (-0.1)
North Devon – Gerry Sables 0.2%
Sheffield South East – Steve Andrew 0.3%

Labour Representation Committee

Ashton-under-Lyne – David Heyes WIN 48.4 (-10.1)
Batley and Spen – Mike Wood WIN 41.5% (-3.7)
Blyth Valley – Ronnie Campbell WIN 44.5% (-10.5)
Bolsover – Dennis Skinner WIN 50% (-15.2)
Bury St Edmunds – Kevin Hind LOSE 16.6% (-10.7) [Conservative HOLD]
Clwyd West – Donna Hutton LOSE 24.7% (-11.3) [Conservative HOLD]
Dundee East – Katrina Murray LOSE 33.9% (2.9%) [SNP HOLD]
Gower – Martin Caton WIN 38.4% (-4.0)
Great Grimsby – Austin Mitchell WIN 32.7% (-14.4)
Hackney North and Stoke Newington – Diane Abbott WIN 54.9% (+6.0)
Halifax – Linda Riordan WIN 37.4% (-4.5)
Hayes and Harlington – John McDonnell WIN 54.6% (-1.6)
Isle of Wight – Mark Chiverton LOSE 11.6% (-5.6%)
Islington North – Jeremy Corbyn WIN 54.5% (+3.3)
Kettering – Phil Sawford LOSE 29.9% (-12.7%) [Conservative HOLD]
Leyton and Wanstead – John Cryer 43.6% (-2.2)
Llanelli – Nia Griffith WIN 42.5% (-4.5)
Luton North – Kelvin Hopkins WIN 49.3% (+0.7)
Midlothian – David Hamilton WIN 47% (+1.5)
Newport West – Paul Flynn WIN 41.3% (-3.6)
Oldham West and Royton – Michael Meacher Win 45.5% (-2.9)
North Ayrshire and Arran – Katy Clark WIN 47.4% (+3.5)
North West Hampshire – Sarah Evans LOSE 13.7 (-7.7)
Pendle – Gordon Prentice LOSE 30.9% (-6.2)
Rutland and Melton – John Morgan LOSE 14.3 (-10.6)
Stroud – David Drew Lose 38.6 (-1.9) [Conservative GAIN]
Tunbridge Wells – Gary Heather LOSE 10.8% (-9.6) [Conservative HOLD]
Wansbeck – Ian Lavery WIN 45.% (-9.3)
Yeovil – Lee Skevington LOSE 5.2% (-5.3)

Other Seats of Interest

Brighton Pavilion – Caroline Lucas is in with a chance of becoming the Green Party’s first MP, despite going up against Labour left-winger and trade union activist Nancy Platts.

Result: Caroline Lucas wins narrowly for the Green Party.

Coventry North East – Former Militant MP Dave Nellist takes on Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth in the TUSC’s best chance.

Result: Nelist won 3.6% (-1.2). Labour kept the seat.

Carlisle – John Metcalfe, Communist Party member is endorsed by TUSC in a traditional Labour seat which has increasingly been giving the Party electoral trouble.

Result: 0.9% for Metcalfe. Conservative GAIN.

Birmingham Hall Green – Respect Leader Salma Yaqoob is trying to take this seat from Labour in what is her party’s best chance of avoiding fading into obscurity.

Result: Salma lost by nearly 4000 votes to Labour.

Poplar and Limehouse – George Galloway takes on Jim Fitzpatrick in what has developed into a dirty campaign. Honestly, Galloway has plunged off the edge of respectable politics as far as I’m concerned.

Result: Labour HOLD, with George Galloway decreasing Respect’s percentage share in third place.

Bethnal Green and Bow – Abjol Miah is trying to win a Respect hold in George Galloway’s old constituency. This constituency was recently the scene of a confrontation when the (Muslim) Labour Candidate spoke in a mosque (in what allegedly may have been an act of foul play by Respect activists.

Result: Respect beaten down into third place in a Labour GAIN.


Barking – BNP Fuhrer Nick Griffin

Result: Nick Griffin lost with 14.6%. Down 1.7 for the BNP. Labour increased its majority.

Stoke Central – The BNP’s second highest priority seat

Result: Darby gets humiliated with only 7.7%

Buckingham – Nigel Farage (UKIP) is under the mistaken impression his success in the Euros will carry over the the General Election, he’s up against the Speaker.

Result: The Speaker HOLDS and UKIP settles for third as second is taken by a former Tory independent candidate campaigning on local issues (i.e. not Brussels).

Bosworth – Incumbent Tory David Tredinnick is at risk of holding this seat in what would be a true blow for the enlightenment and age of reason.

Result: Tredinnick HOLDs seat with a 0% shift in majority.