Tuesday, May 31, 2016 

The absurdity of it all.

I take it all back. The EU referendum is brilliant.  How could it not be when it results in such delicious absurdities as have taken place over the past couple of days?  First, mere weeks after accusing him of palling around with extremists, David Cameron appears on the same platform as to Sadiq Khan to big him up as though he was the winning Tory candidate.  A proud Muslim!  A smasher of glass ceilings!  A thoroughly delightful chap!  Oh, and he thinks it'd be swell if you would now vote to stay in the EU.

Khan can of course do as he likes.  He now has a mandate of his own, to the extent where he can pretty much shut Labour out if he so wishes.  If he wants to share a platform so soon after the election with one of those chiefly responsible for a campaign he said was putting off other Muslims from going into politics, that's up to him.  Clearly he thinks the ends justify the means.  Which again, is fine.

Some of us though are far more petty.  Far as I'm concerned, all things considered, Cameron got himself into this mess, and Cameron can get himself out of it.  Sure, this means if he manages to pull it off he gets the glory, but equally if he fails then he gets the Gene Wilder/Willy Wonka treatment.  Add in how Cameron implied Khan was an extremist not to be trusted as far as he can be thrown, and my response were I in his position would be to tell Dave to GTFO.

This is also the view of John McDonnell, who equally rightly thinks sharing a platform with the Tories full stop is a bad idea.  Which it is.  If Labour must campaign to stay in the EU, leaving it to Alan Johnson in the main while McDonnell and others pootle around not getting much in the way of attention is definitely the way to go.  Anyone saying Labour has to do this or that first has to explain whether their proposed plan of action will bring any benefit to the party whatsoever, because as we saw with Scotland, the public seem more than prepared to decide for themselves as to whether or not a particular party acted in their best interests.

The horror with which the results of focus groups saying they didn't know whether Labour was in favour of leave or remain, backed up with a further poll, just demonstrates that politicians don't always think the worst of the public; often the public amply do that themselves.  What it does show is that first, the vast majority aren't the slightest bit interested in the internal machinations of political parties.  Duh.  Second, not knowing whether Labour is for leave or remain is a good thing, as at the moment the party should be graceful for small mercies.  Third, that again, the vast majority also aren't the least bit interested in the referendum, otherwise they would know that Labour is overwhelmingly in favour of remain.  Fourth, they also don't know what the Tory position is.  Because, just to rub this in, they don't freaking care.

Labour politicians attacking each other for sharing platforms with the Tories isn't the most absurd thing of the last couple of days though, oh no.  Two examples merely from today beat it.  Chris Grayling, the berk's berk, the journeyman's journeyman, the bone in the spicy wing, the tits on the bull, said this morning that voters shouldn't be making their minds up based on the EU of today, but on the EU of the future.  Again, either this is a politician having a surprisingly high opinion of the average voter, most of whom haven't the slightest clue about practically anything the EU does beyond exist and that it's bad, or it's a politician with not even the beginnings of knowing how to make a case.  Can you imagine if parties tried applying this to any other election?  Voter!  Don't make up your mind up on how the government is performing today!  Just think how it will be in 10 years' time, even though we're not providing you with even the most basic facts of how it is currently!  Manifesto?  You want a manifesto?  You're joking!

And then there was Boris, Gove and err, Gisela Stuart, making clear we have entered the handjob, or moon on a stick phase of the campaign.  Despite telling us for eons that the £350m going to the EU each week could instead be sent straight to the NHS, now here come the most unlikely threesome since REMOVED ON LEGAL ADVICE to claim that if we left the EU we could dispense with VAT on fuel as it disproportionately hits the poorest households.  Put another way, Boris, Gove and Stuart are offering happy endings if you vote leave, as it's about as likely they would put any savings genuinely left at the end of the process on lifting the burden on the poors as they would on a state body of sex workers.  It's completely transparent, and yet what else is Leave to do?  Admit that once we've left any money coming back will instead be spent on reintroducing the subsidies and funds the EU currently distributes in the UK?  Absurd doesn't really begin to cover it.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Thursday, May 26, 2016 

The immigration monster bites back.

If there is one thing worse in the eyes significant number of the public than uncontrolled immigration, it's claiming to be controlling it while doing nothing of the sort.  Net migration running at 330,000 a year cannot possibly be presented as controlling it, and yet to an extent that is what governments have always done.  Contrary to the repeated calls from various halfwits for the introduction of a points system, there already is oneNumerous barriers have been placed in the way of immigrants from Commonwealth countries bringing over relatives or partners.  Proof that a wife or husband from outside of the EU will be earning more than £35,000 a year is needed before they will be given so much as leave to remain.  Child asylum seekers from countries like Afghanistan can be sent back once they reach 18, while interpreters who served with British forces in the country are denied asylum.

And still the numbers threaten to reach the previous net peak.  The number one reason for this is the relative strength of the UK economy compared to the rest of Europe.  The latest GDP figures out today in fact show we're once again relying on the service sector to prop the rest of the economy up, with both manufacturing and construction falling back.  Whether this will have an impact on numbers down the line, with the rest of the Eurozone finally threatening to outgrow the UK remains to be seen, but it will come far too late for the EU referendum, with the Leave campaign bound to spend the next month plastering the 330,000 figure everywhere, as they have the false claim about £350m going to the EU every week.

Yet again it will be the steadfast, cowardly refusal of our frontline politicians to confront the electorate with unpalatable truths that will be to blame should the 23rd of June result in an exit vote.  The Tories' unexpected majority gave them a once in a parliament opportunity to row back on their beyond idiotic "tens of thousands" pledge, one they knew they could never meet, and to make a positive case for immigration, meeting voters halfway by setting out how the areas with the biggest churn of arrivals and departures would receive extra resources to help them cope.  Instead, the tens of thousands pledge, which no one believes in and no one expects to be met was reaffirmed.  Knowing that it's not possible to control immigration from within the EU once the initial controls on newly joined nations' access to free movement are lifted, every other way of keeping the numbers down has been attempted.  A "hostile environment" for illegal immigrants is duly being created, regardless of the potential consequences of making it impossible for those without the right to be here to work, live anywhere other than the street, or no doubt coming shortly, take a dump.

How either side is realistically doing at this point is all but impossible to tell.  One poll suggests Remain pulling away; others have it either neck and neck or within the margin of error.  If it's the latter, then today's figures will surely give Leave a boost after a rough couple of weeks.  In truth, it's their one remaining trump, as Remain's Project Fear campaign on the economy has left Leave only able to squawk that each and every expert is either biased, has got things wrong before, or is funded by the EU itself.  Monday's Treasury report might have been either specious bollocks or specious severe bollocks in the words of one MP, but it tends to be the stand out figures or warnings of a recession that stay in the memory regardless.

Hence why Leave has every right to crow about the 330,000 figure for the next month.  For quite possibly the first time ever, Boris Johnson is bang on to say the tens of thousands target is variously, scandalous, cynical and a mistake.  David Cameron might not have expected Boris to end up profiting from the mistake, but he knew full well that whoever the Leave side ended up consisting of they would play the immigration card for all it was worth.  Nor does it matter that Leave doesn't have any real answers on how leaving the EU would help to control immigration, just as it doesn't on practically on all the other issues; unless the likes of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings got their way and took us out of the single market entirely, any subsequent deal would almost certainly continue to involve free movement, just as it does with Norway and Switzerland.  Jacqui Smith poses 8 very good questions, including asking how Leave would bring immigration down at the same time as promising to ease restrictions on immigration from Commonwealth countries, yet the practicalities don't really matter.  As long as the impression is that leaving would bring immigration down, support will go to Leave.

Whether it will turn out to be enough is another matter.  David Davis today made a rather good speech responding to the various economic claims from Remain, in a far more temperate fashion than Leave has managed thus far.  Davis's vision of a Britain renewed by leaving is a lot more realistic than the fantasy one conjured up by the likes of John Redwood, the Vulcan insisting that unless we leave we will no longer be an "independent democratic country", just as he previously repeated the idea that leaving the EU would mean we could become a veritable land of milk and honey.  If there had though been any chance of having a good natured, knowledgeable debate, where those able to keep a lid on hyperbole had made the running, it went out the window with Boris.  Much as Cameron and friends deserve to pay for their constant feeding of the immigration monster, the alternative hardly bears thinking about.

Moreover, should Remain win handily, no longer will UKIPers or those on the Tory right be able to claim that the public haven't been consulted on the scale of immigration.  Many of them always wanted a referendum on the EU to be about immigration and little else; they've got their wish, now they'll have to accept the result.  Or not, as the case will almost certainly be.

Labels: , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 

Killin.


In the end, everything comes back to the Simpsons.  In Rosebud, after being wished a Happy Birthday by the Ramones, Mr Burns orders Smithers to have the Rolling Stones killed.  "But sir, that wasn-" "Do as I say!"

In the same way, it would be far too easy to have those personally responsible for da yoot #Votin campaign for the Remainers slaughtered unceremoniously in their beds.  Equally, those at the Stronger In headquarters who commissioned it, then gave the OK after seeing what venturethree came up with should also not be shot down on their way to work as recompense.  No, to really make clear just how traumatised everyone who has watched just the 25-second clip urging the youn t ge ou an vot will be, as you can't just drop the g from words ending in ing and claim that is how the childrens speak, innocent people have to die.

Hang on a minute you're probably saying, that seems a bit much.  Except it's not.  Is it really that hard to put together a campaign that might just have an impact with younger voters while not both being as dumb as a bag of rocks and therefore also treating them as having the IQ and attention span of an exceptionally dim goldfish?

Here's one idea I just pulled out of my ass, and I've been awake already today for 17 hours.  Black background.  White text.  If you're watching this, you're probably already aware of the issues around the EU referendum.  We just want to remind you of who's in favour of leaving, and who's in favour of remaining.  Black and white shots of Farage, Gove, IDS, Chris Grayling, Dr Death, Katie Hopkins, etc etc.  Colour shots of Nicola Sturgeon, Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas, Alan Johnson, Eddie Izzard, JK Rowling, any number of the other various celebs/artists who signed the luvvie letter.  That's what we think too.  Vote Remain.  End.

Now, which of you Remain dipshits pays me, and which one of you is going to cut down the requisite amount of first born?

Labels: , , ,

Share |

Thursday, May 19, 2016 

The artist subsequently known as PJS.

It would take a heart of stone not to laugh at the continued failure of the tabloids, News UK in particular, to get the injunction preventing them from making public the identity of the person known only as PJS lifted.  They must have thought it was a sure thing; how could the supreme court possibly disagree that the identity of PJS had become so well known, thanks to the name being all across social media, published in the National Enquirer, the Sunday Mail, numerous blogs etc, that it would be an absurdity not to let the Sun on Sunday print all the juicy details on the threesome?

Never underestimate the potential for judges to go against accepted wisdom (judgement PDF), especially when they notice something that's passed everyone else by.  IPSO's code of practice, Lord Mance notes, states that an "exceptional public interest would need to be demonstrated to over-ride the normally paramount interests of children under 16".  You could of course argue that consenting adults should consider the potential consequences for their children of extra-marital activities, regardless of the agreement of both partners, not least because of the obvious potential for it to cause difficulties down the line.  This is not by any means though a justification for a story that all the justices agree has no public interest defence whatsoever to be published.

Indeed, I would argue that it's possible in this case to respect the arguments of both Lord Mance for the majority in over-turning the Court of Appeal ruling that the injunction should be set aside, and Lord Toulson in his lone dissension.  It's hard not to respect a judge who risks incurring the wrath of Paul Dacre by directly referencing the paper claiming the law to be an ass due to the publication of PJS's identity elsewhere; if that is the price of applying the law, Mance writes, it is one which must be paid.  The court is well aware of the lesson which King Canute gave his courtiers, Mance goes on, in answer to the claims that injunctions in the age of the internet are defunct, with the Lord later quoting a previous ruling by Justice Eady "that wall-to-wall excoriation in national newspapers, whether tabloid or ‘broadsheet’, is likely to be significantly more intrusive and distressing for those concerned than the availability of information on the Internet or in foreign journals to those, however many, who take the trouble to look it up".  I would argue that distinction still holds up today, if barely: there is a huge difference between a story appearing on multiple newspaper front pages, available for anyone to see at petrol stations, supermarkets, newsagents etc, whereas online it is still possible to avoid such stories altogether if you so wish.

Lord Toulson disagrees, writing that the "court must live in the world as it is and not as it would like it to be", and also that "in this case I have reached a clear view that the story’s confidentiality has become so porous that the idea of it still remaining secret in a meaningful sense is illusory".  Toulson does not "underestimate the acute unpleasantness for PJS of the story being splashed, but I doubt very much in the long run whether it will be more enduring than the unpleasantness of what has been happening and will inevitably continue to
happen.  The story is not going away".

It most certainly isn't.  The only reason that the papers have been full of stories for the last couple of weeks about a certain Downton Abbey actor are due to a certain injunction still being in place from years ago.  One way or the other, the British media will get a story they want to be out in the open out in the open.  They might not make any money out of it, quite the contrary in the case of the Sun, with its legal fees likely to be astronomical, but for those who want to know they'll probably be able to find out.  If the case going to trial, with PJS and YMA likely to win, gives them satisfaction and protects their children, then great.  More likely however is that Carter-Fuck will go on getting richer while the kiddiwinks will find out one of their parents is partial to threesomes regardless.

All the same, coming in the same week as the IPSO decision that the Sun blatantly breached the editors' code of practice over the QUEEN BACK BREXIT bullshit, with the paper throwing its toys out of the pram in response, saying yes, the headline was a complete lie, but the one underneath "qualified" it, and the Queen isn't above politics anyway because she called the Chinese rude, for those of us whom enjoy schadenfreude, it's been a fine time.  Long may it continue.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 

The cupboard is bare on purpose.

We are but a year into a whole 5 of Tory majority rule, and yet to judge by the thinness of the Queen's speech, it would seem the government is already running out of things to do.  This is admittedly somewhat down to how the Tories have succeeding in piloting some of the worst of their policies through the Commons already, with the Psychoactive Substances Act shortly to come into effect for just one.  Conversely, the list of bills is also slighter as a result of opposition from the backbenches: suitably watered down is the schools bill, from forcing all schools to become academies to merely pushing them in the general direction.

The real reasons for why the cupboard is bare are obvious.  First though, this wouldn't be a Queen's speech post on this blog if I didn't have a moan about the increasingly deranged nature of the spectacle itself.  The Queen is now 90 years old, and regardless of your views on the monarchy, the requirement that she carry on getting dolled up to read out the inane bumpf of her latest government surely can't be allowed to go on much longer.  Should the Tories ever get round to sorting out their bill of rights, making the head of state read out nonsense about improving the life chances of all will have to be designated cruel and unusual punishment.  Dennis Skinner's yearly jokes have already regressed to the point where they are statements rather than attempts at humour; why not square the circle and get the Beast of Bolsover to read the damn thing out?

No, the real reason the speech has so relatively little to raise ire is that parliamentary politics is effectively suspended until June the 24th, by which point it'll almost be time for the summer recess in any case.  Anything that might further incense either the Tory backbenchers or for that matter the opposition, never mind the public, has been postponed until after the referendum.  Sure, a few on the right will hardly be pleased by the proposed prison reforms, especially the idea of some only being locked up at weekends, but they're overwhelmingly likely to be for Leave anyway.

Far more instructive than the contents of the speech itself is the way its been spun.  The BBC News at 10 has led each night this week on prisons, part of an obvious softening up process for what was coming today.  Peter Clarke, former head of anti-terrorism at the Met, author of the main report into the hoax Trojan Horse takeover of schools in Birmingham, apparent friend of the Tories and new independent inspector of prisons was given the kind of platform never previously afforded to Nick Hardwick, in the main to comment on "legal highs" finding their way inside.  High profile reporting into the chaos prisons have been descending into is of course welcome, but is hardly telling the full story unless it makes clear the problems have been exacerbated massively by overcrowding and cuts in funding.  The bill outlined today, aimed at putting into law the proposals previously announced by Michael Gove and David Cameron won't make things worse, but nor will they begin to solve them when Cameron continues to argue against the "idea that reform always needs extra spending".

Whereas just plain laughable is the idea today's attempts at improving "life chances" could ever add up to a legacy for David Cameron.  Quite simply, there's nothing there: no one could disagree with the changes to adoption or the "help to save" plans, they're just overwhelmed by the Tories' on-going contradictions.  The party can hardly be the great friend of diversity David Cameron claims he wants it to be, forcing universities to be open about their admissions while at the same time encouraging landlords and hospitals to be suspicious of anyone with the wrong skin colour or a foreign sounding name.  The party that depicts Sadiq Khan as an extremist, refusing to say London can be safe in his hands cannot be taken seriously on either discrimination or "life chances".

But then Cameron has no intention of his legacy being such things.  The other reason why the Queen's speech has so little for the Tories to shout about is he still doesn't know if he's going to be around beyond June 24th.  If he isn't, he will go down in history for austerity and being the prime minister who through the most abject weakness took Britain out of Europe.  If he is, then he most probably has another year in which to further shape how he will be remembered.  Chancing leaving Osborne, or worse yet, Boris with his legacy legislation was never an option.  Still, should the Leave campaign manage to turn around a seemingly unassailable lead for Remain, then Boris will forever be known as the man who made all porn sites verify their users are 18.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 

That Lady Royall report into allegations of antisemitism at the Oxford University Labour Club in full.

  • I do not believe that there is institutional antisemitism within Oxford University Labour Club
  • However, in order to remove the possibility of any such claims being made in the future, OULC should take action to ensure there is a safe space, i.e. by disbanding immediately in case anyone's feelings get hurt again
  • All further allegations of micro-aggressions should be reported immediately to The Telegraph, The Times, or John Mann MP in order to be used against Jeremy Corbyn
  • Err...
  • That's it

Labels: , , , ,

Share |

Monday, May 16, 2016 

June 24th: never the end.

By Christ, politics is dispiriting at the moment.

Not that it isn't normally.  It's just the absolute quality of the nonsense of late.  The entirely confected Labour antisemitism row, that just so happened to coincide with the local elections and has since vanished without trace, just for one.  You obviously can't legislate for the newt fancier to suddenly decide to tour TV studios talking about Hitler, but it does show the depths to which a party establishment still unable to face up to how it got itself into this mess will sink.  Just look at the anonymous quotes given to Sam Knight for his New Yorker profile of Corbyn.  "He is an allotment digger," said one ex-cabinet minister.  "Plodding".  What does that say about you then, mate?

It's also that no one it seems can learn the very simplest of lessons.  I hate to keep coming back to this, it's that it's so fucking obvious.  If the Scottish referendum campaign taught us anything, it's that it's suicide to share platforms, even if it's for the greater good.  To see Osborne, Balls and Cable all on a stage together, joined by another of those unacceptable faces of capitalism, Michael O'Leary, it's as though the whole Yes/No neverendum didn't happen.  No, Balls and Cable might not be MPs now, having both lost their seats to the Tories, making it all the stranger why they would decide it was in anyone's best interests to play the part of the shit to Osborne's latest round of bull, but that doesn't make a scrap of difference.  It still looks like the establishment ganging up together, even if the Leave campaign is just as much the establishment as Remain.  There isn't any need for conspiracy theories, as Osborne said, because something that looks very much like a conspiracy to your average passer-by is only made all the more apparent by figures that used to be at each others' throats suddenly making eyes at each other.  Talk about a trifecta of dunces, only one joined by someone who would sell you his grandmother and then charge you extra for her handbag.

Then we have the Leavers, with Boris himself deciding to dust down old Adolf and bring him into the debate.  Now, it might sound beyond stupid to everyone else, comparing the EU to a dictator who used his military in the attempt to create a united Europe, and that's because it is.  It doesn't though to some in the Leave campaign, as Matthew d'Anconservative in one of his lucid moments sets out how comparing the EU to the Nazis has long been a thing.  Those on the far-right usually prefer to describe it as the EUSSR, as clearly all EU member states are just vassals to Brussels, with Jean-Claude Juncker as Brezhnev.  Either way, it's the same thing: the EU has no democratic accountability or credibility.  You only need look at how the EU doesn't take for an answer on previous referendums to see that, obviously.

Which is precisely why as d'Ancona relates, should Leave lose this time, those who want out will just agitate at every turn for a referendum under the 2011 European Union Act, the first attempt at placate Tory backbenchers by Cameron.  The merest transfer of power to the EU will then trigger another referendum, another fight, another round of each side calling white black, while everyone else either tunes out or becomes so desperate for the end they consider opening their wrists a viable alternative.  June the 24th will never be the end.  Leave learned from the SNP.  Remain hasn't from the mistakes of the No campaign.

Labels: , , , ,

Share |

Thursday, May 12, 2016 

The prime of Master Dominic Cummings.

In the pantheon of spin doctors completely losing the plot, Dominic Cummings' (for it was surely he) freak out out late last night is rather special.  It's not quite on the level of Alastair Campbell storming into the Channel 4 News studios demanding to be put on the air (but then what is), nor is it Comical Ali denying the Americans had reached Baghdad as a tank was seen rolling past in the distance, and yet it still feels not that far behind.

It really does have it all.  Allusion to Goldman Sachs funding Remain, that if made by someone on the left in the current climate would probably prompt accusations of antisemitism and conspiracy theorising?  Check.  Implication that absolutely everyone and everything is against Leave, and yet still the polls remain at 50-50?  Check.  Naming of specific journalist with claim they are biased against Leave, with spurious allegation that Robert Peston campaigned to join the Euro, the same straw man Cummings and Leave throw at everyone?  Check.  Attempt at intimidation, with threat that ITV will face the consequences once Leave wins? Check.

Quite why the initial decisions about the debates caused Cummings to lose his shit quite so fantastically is a mystery.  What on earth made Leave think that Downing Street would suddenly decide to play hardball any less than they did last year, when they successfully bullied the broadcasters into acceding to their demands on the basis there wouldn't be any debates if they didn't?  Did they really believe that cowardly custard Dave would be willing to take on Boris or Gove when both intend for this to be their springboard to the Tory party leadership?  Far better to go up against Nigel Farage, with his record of being easily riled if the audience dares not to applaud his nonsense, than a fellow Conservative with slightly more self-control.

Not that Boris does have more self-control; he'd likely descend into muttering within 10 minutes.  You can though see Vote Leave's point: Farage is part of the Grassroots Out group, rather than Vote Leave, and Vote Leave is the official out campaign as designated by the Electoral Commission.  If there's going to be anyone sort of facing Dave, as the ITV "debate" would take the same format as Channel 4's non-debate between Cameron and Miliband did last year, then it ought to be someone from Vote Leave.  It shouldn't be up to the government to dictate whom it will or won't face, especially when part of the reasoning is that the Tories don't to further their impression they're at war with each other.  Sorry Dave, ought to have come the reply, it's a little late for that now.

The fact is the debates have become a prestige event for the different networks, caring far more about holding them come what may rather than whether or not they're in the slightest bit illuminating.  Last year's non-debates were absurdities that should never be repeated, and yet it would seem as though much the same is going to happen only a year later.  The referendum has already been one of the most over-covered and somehow still least informative media debacles in recent memory, principally for the reason that the two campaigns agree on almost nothing.  Each side accuses the other of scaremongering, and we have nothing remotely approaching an independent adjudicator to separate the complete bullshit from claims slightly more grounded in reality.  The debates as proposed would do absolutely nothing to change that.  Which, once again, would seem to be the point.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 

A microcosm of wider stupidity.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Monday, May 09, 2016 

The banter years.

Those with long memories might recall that back in the 90s, in one those ill advised attempts the guilty occasionally make to prove their innocence, the gang suspected of the murder of Stephen Lawrence gave interviews to Martin Bashir.  Asked to explain their use of racist language and play acting with knives, as secretly recorded by the police, they said it was banter.  They didn't mean anything by it.

I am not of course suggesting that the likes of Michael Fallon and George Osborne describing Zac Goldsmith's London mayoral campaign as being all part of the "rough and tumble" of politics makes them akin to racist murderers.  It does though make you wonder exactly how far the rough and tumble of politics extends.  Implying that Sadiq Khan is an extremist and refusing to say London will be safe in his hands is clearly perfectly permissible.  Certainly not permissible, as we've learned, is the use of language Hadley Freeman considers to be antisemitic.

Where then exactly to draw the line?  If you're Atul Hatwal, then the only problem with the Tories' campaign was that it was incompetent due to how Suliman Gani was more allied with the Tories than he was with Khan and Labour.  On this basis, Labour could have spent the local election campaign proclaiming on how Cameron was a pig rapist.  Sure, there's no evidence Cameron has raped a pig or any other barnyard animal, but the Ashcroft/Oakeshott book claims he did pork a severed hog's gob.  Mostly everyone thinks it's a load of old toilet, but it's on about the same level of truthfulness as the various claims made about Khan.

Why then not go the whole way?  After all, we've just gone through a period where it seemed perfectly acceptable to speculate on whether or not mostly deceased former politicians could have been not just paedophiles, but child murderers also.  Most of these claims were made against former Tory MPs.  Would it be just the rough and tumble of politics to describe the Conservatives as the party of choice for child abusers?  Sure, the Met might have discontinued Operation Midland, yet why let a detail like that get in the way of the contact sport that is politics?  It would just be natural rough and tumble, all a part of the game.  If you whine about it not being fair, you're simply not cut out for being a true leader of men.

Atul Hatwal does admittedly have a point.  Extremism should be called out.  Generally though there needs to be actual evidence, and we all have different definitions of what extremism is.   To some, Jeremy Corbyn's brand of old school socialism is extremist; to others, the Tories' naked contempt for welfare claimants and the state in general is beyond the pale.  That much of politics and the whole of social media "politics" has descended into one great big condemnathon, where the sound and fury both signifies nothing and is also absolutely everything might well have made politics even more incomprehensible and alien to outsiders.  It's just far too much trouble to try and turn back now.

Not that the Tories were ever going to admit that Goldsmith's campaign had backfired, not least as portraying Ed Miliband as so unprincipled he'd stab his country in the back for power worked last year.  It's also how they intend to go on depicting Labour in general: as a threat to national and economic security.  Bearing in mind a decent section of the parliamentary Labour party regard their own leader as an extremist, how could they not?

When it comes to today's EU clashes between Dave and Boris you see an almost mirror image of the extremist battle, only it's about power within a party, with the country coming a distant second in their concerns.  If Cameron really feared Britain leaving the EU could destabilise the continent to the point of a return to war, he would have been irresponsible in the extreme to have set in a motion a process that was fundamentally about buying off his restive backbenchers.  Likewise, if Boris Johnson truly believed that leaving the EU is the liberal cause of the day, it wouldn't matter as much that he's also using the referendum campaign as a springboard to his inevitable Tory leadership bid.   That only two years ago he wrote in direct contradiction of what he said today about the EU and peace, and has no compunction about making a "liberal, cosmopolitan" case for leaving that at its heart involves further doom-mongering about immigration just sums up how infuriating our politics has become.  We are it would seem firmly trapped in the banter years.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Friday, May 06, 2016 

Stalemate.

Last night's results are pretty much the worst of all worlds for Labour.  When I went to bed it looked as though the fears the party could lose the 150+ seats predicted in England might come to pass; a few hours later and the losses at the moment amount to a not quite as catastrophic 26.  Going by that yardstick you have to expect Sadiq Khan will win comfortably in London, and coupled with Labour losing only one seat total on the Welsh assembly, despite having been in power since its establishment, the results excepting Scotland don't look too bad on the surface.

Which is the problem.  Labour was never going to win the 400 seats the party's slightly more subtle anti-Corbyn MPs were bringing up, not least as the 2012 results were the party's best of the Ed Miliband years.  At the same time, as the psephologists haven't been shutting up about, it's 30 years since an opposition lost seats at a local election.  To put a temporary stop to the muttering and plotting Corbyn needed to win in the region of 100+.  While the party has lost just the one council, Dudley, and to no overall control rather than an opponent, the only real crowing that can be done about these results is they aren't as bad as the doomers and same people who predicted a UKIP victory in the Oldham West by-election said they would be.  It's not much of a boast, all told.

But nor does it come close to proving that Corbyn is a big of a liability as his enemies in the party and other detractors have claimed.  Local elections are only ever an indication as to what's happening at national level: it's why for instance Labour has managed to hold on to councils like Nuneaton when the same voters send Tories to Westminster.  This said, when you consider that ever since Corbyn became leader the party has done nothing other than fight, with the press and political figures spending the last week denouncing Labour as disgustingly racist, that the party has managed to hold on this well still strikes as success.  As Tom Clark notes, this has also happened in the main because the party either consolidated or advanced in the south of England, where Corbyn's further to the left approach was meant to turn voters off, while in the north, where it was meant to appeal more, UKIP fought Labour all the way.

Much like the results overall then, what we have is a continuing stalemate.  A truly disastrous night would have almost certainly encouraged the plotters to either launch their coup now or after the EU referendum vote, regardless of whether it has a chance of succeeding; likewise, Labour defying all the predictions and winning seats would have made such a move impossible.  Instead, MPs on both sides are continuing to circle each other, not being prepared to go for the jugular, with the likes of Jo Cox and even professional idiot John Mann not being prepared to wield the knife in at this point.  For those of us who would like it to be settled one way or the other, it could hardly be more dispiriting.

Looking beyond Labour, the Tories excepting Wales have had a great night for a governing party.  You could say we're only a year in, and that a Tory majority is a still a novelty, but you still don't expect them to be gaining councillors at this stage, not least when the party has been tearing itself apart over Europe.  The result in Scotland is extraordinary: everyone thought it was possible they could come second ahead of Labour, but not by the margin they've managed to.  Credit has to go to Ruth Davidson, whom has clearly succeeded where past Scottish Conservative leaders failed in overcoming the hostility to the party.  She's obviously been helped hugely by how said hostility has transferred to Labour following the referendum, once again proving that it's the hangers-on rather than the main contingent that get punished by voters when it comes to unlikely coalitions, and yet clearly it's something more than just that behind it.  Whether it translates to Westminster at some point remains to be seen.

Considering some thought it was possible Labour and the Lib Dems could be wiped out at the constituency level entirely, it must be a relief that both did manage to retain such a presence.  Worth noting especially is how the Lib Dems increased their majority in Orkney, in spite of the SNP campaign against Alistair Carmichael.  Indeed, it's amusing in itself to see the SNP failing to win an overall majority this time round, hinting as it does that despite the attempt to create a personality cult around Nicola cracks are beginning to appear.  With the loss of the majority making it all the more difficult to call a second referendum, even if the SNP wanted to, those pushing for independence will almost certainly start looking elsewhere.

As for the Lib Dems, there's very little comfort for them to take from the results.  Sure, they've gained a few seats, but the days when they were the obvious option for a protest vote look to disappeared for good.  UKIP are now on the whole that option, and at the moment have gained the most local council seats overall.  Again though, they did pretty much nothing back in 2012, so for them to not advance on the level they must have hoped hardly suggests an undetected groundswell for the leave side.  Far more interesting will be to see what happens when the seats fought in 2013 and 2014 are up for grabs again, and whether UKIP can hold on or increase their tally then.  As for their grabbing of seven seats in the Welsh assembly thanks wholly to the regional top-up, it merely reflects what we already know: that UKIP have reached the point where their support ought to result in substantial representation at Westminster.  It helps no one that both they and the Greens have only one MP thanks to the iniquities of first past the post.


Update:
Sadiq Khan has duly strolled to victory in London.  It's worth restating here that Zac Goldsmith's campaign was not about winning; the Tories realised pretty early on their task was fairly hopeless, as evidenced by the result in 2012, where almost anyone other than Ken in a red rosette would have beaten Boris.  The dog-whistle campaign, which as two separate Tories have commented was neither dog-whistle as it was plain to everyone what Goldsmith was doing, nor were there any dogs to be whistled at, was about poisoning the well, to mix metaphors right up.  Whether it's so much as succeeded in doing that is extremely dubious.  If anything, it might have turned voters against the Tories across London as a whole.  Overall it only reinforces what we already knew: that Britain has fractured irrevocably, with the capital, England, Wales and Scotland all going their separate ways politically.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Thursday, May 05, 2016 

The state of journalism in 2016.

This is the front page of a non-state owned newspaper, urging a vote for a party that has been in power for 9 years. 

And we make fun of the Americans, and tut and say "it could never happen here" about the likes of Turkey.  Politics only gets stranger.

Labels: , , , ,

Share |

Wednesday, May 04, 2016 

A politics we don't deserve.

We, and by that I mean all of us who contribute to the tenor of politics in this country, have a tendency to exaggerate.  Exploiting the differences between parties in favour of policies that are broadly similar requires focusing on the negatives.  Ferocious debate about issues that subsequently turn out to not amount to a hill of beans are often the order of the day; just look at our contribution to the military action against Islamic State in Syria, for instance.  What was the point of the weeks of arguments last December when the end result has been so negligible?

Bearing this in mind, I honestly cannot recall a week of politics that has been so unrelentingly stupid, self-defeating, obtuse and at the same time as instructive as the past 7 days.  Absolutely nothing of any real note has happened, and yet what has been established is we've finally, truly, entered the period where controlling the terms and structure of political discussion has become the be all and end all.  That this has been established not by the politically correct left, students or any other of the usual bogeymen of controlled thought and speech ought to be surprising, and yet it isn't, because this is the way it's been going for quite some time.

Labour as a party is antisemitic, it has been decided.  The newspapers of record in this country have decreed it to be so.  Labour, the party that only a year ago had a Jew as its leader, and who was pretty popular at grassroots level.  Said press you might recall had great fun in repeatedly printing those photos of dear old Ed failing to eat a bacon sandwich correctly.  Now, while a few people at the time muttered to themselves that this was whiffy and smelled vaguely of antisemitism, I didn't think it was and thought they were being overly sensitive.  Fast forward a year, and the same newspapers that on one page carry columns declaring that the Leave campaign should shack up with Marine Le Pen and the far-right in Europe, declare on the other in no uncertain times that Labour from top to bottom is riddled with racistsIt's a cancer.  Something has to be done.  Not an investigation by Shami Chakrabati though, that's not good enough.  Jeremy Corbyn should have announced all this yesterday, anyway.

Let's though just for a second digress from the quite believable chutzpah of the never knowingly under hypocritical British media.  Instead, let's consider the general level of prejudice in the country in 2016.  The picture, as always, could be better.  Prejudice still exists.  Racists might have to be more coded in the way they go about trying to incite hatred, but they still attempt to spread poison and take any opportunity that comes their way to do so.  For the most part though, I'd say taken as a whole the British people have probably never been as tolerant as they are now.  I don't mean that in the passive aggressive sense of tolerance, but in the general living alongside each other with a minimum of tension sense.  There are hotspots of disquiet and plenty of anxiety, sure, yet no indication that anything is about to go beyond that.

We then have a political party that in the main takes its membership from among the most liberal and open-minded sections of an already broadly tolerant society.  You would not expect that most such people would be hostile to one sub-section of that society on racial grounds, especially one that historically has been among the most mistreated and abused.  And indeed, all the evidence suggests that is the case.  The members and councillors identified so far have almost all been suspended on the basis of questionable tweets or social media posts, some of which have quickly been identified as taken out of all context jokes.  Others do seem to be more serious examples of potential prejudice, and need to be properly investigated, but most tread a fine line between being antisemitic and being critical of Israeli government policy.  Naz Shah and Livingstone we've hopefully already dealt with.

None of this is to downplay the disquiet a number of Jews have voiced as feeling.  Phoebe Ray makes an eloquent case on how Britain as a whole, not split down the middle between left and right, does antisemitism.  Both she and Jonathan Freedland voice the opinion that Jews are the only ethnic minority not allowed to define what they feel to be racist attitudes against them are.  The obvious problem here, one that requires great amounts of nuance, is that claims of antisemitism have long been used against critics of Israeli governments, a country that polls show a majority of Jews feel a connection to.  Not all Jews are Zionists, and not all anti-Zionists are antisemites, you could say.  Adding to the problem is that as Ray and others identify, there are a whole series of tropes and "modes of thinking" that creep into debate on Israel, both consciously and unconsciously.  We have for instance seen Israeli government figures criticising British cartoonists for using such tropes, whether they truly have or not.  When newspapers that are otherwise vehemently pro-Israeli are alleged to be carrying such imagery, it's hardly surprising that your amateur political tweeter, or even student leader, might slip into using the verbal equivalent.

As Ray also says though, "right wing politicians are only interested in addressing anti-Semitism when they see it as a weak point in an opponent’s armour".  You can add to that newspapers, and assorted others within Labour who are so determined to bring down the party's leadership they will sink to seemingly any depths, regardless of the wider damage it causes.  The last week has not really been about racism; it has been about power.  The power within Labour, power within the country, and the power to limit what is politically acceptable as a whole.  Jeremy Corbyn has a weak spot on antisemitism, not because he is antisemitic, but because he has made questionable if not condemnable alliances in the past.  He has had a long time political friendship with Ken Livingstone.  Ken has long been more harm than help, but he was one of the few well-known political figures who would defend Corbyn to the media.  He's also still on Labour's national executive committee, and has a role in the party's defence review.  Getting rid of him will help the party's moderates in the long term.

Then we have the power in the country.  Labour most likely wasn't going to do well in tomorrow's elections anyway: Sadiq Khan will triumph in London regardless, it's a toss-up whether or not Labour will come second or third in the elections to Holyrood, and the seats being fought locally were last up for election in 2012, when Labour did well at the expense of both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.  Things look different four years on.  Add in a whole week's worth of claims of Labour being racist, of a crisis, of Ken Livingstone making an arse of himself, and there is bound to an impact.  The Tories' main approach as made clear by PMQs today is to portray a classically left-wing as opposed to left of centre party as extremist.  This has involved focusing on Khan being an extremist purely on the grounds that he is a Muslim, to the outrage of much of the left but to very little from the right-wingers coruscating Labour for its supposed anti-semitism.  The newspapers have helped by getting comment from the likes of the Chief Rabbi, who says Zionism is inseparable from Judaism.

Finally, we have the attempt to define just what is and isn't acceptable as a whole.  David Cameron wasn't asking Corbyn to denounce Hamas and Hezbollah today.  He was asking him to denounce the idea of so much as considering they have a role to play in any eventual peace settlement.  This approach is summed up by Danny Finkelstein's piece in the Times today:


What is happening in the Labour party is not (just) the crassness of a few councillors and the odd MP saying some embarrassing things about Jews.  It is the abandonment of its identity as an Atlanticist progressive party.  And it cannot be stopped until this identity is reasserted.

In other words, this won't stop until Labour snaps out of its malaise and adopts the correct foreign policy.  The correct foreign policy according to this confidant of both Cameron and Osborne is the backing to the hilt of the Saudis in Yemen, involving the defence secretary making the feeblest of excuses for our allies to a parliamentary committee.  It involves acting as the media wing of the "moderate" Syrian rebels, as the Guardian reveals today, with the government underwriting their propaganda.  One of the groups named in the documentation, although the government denies it ever considered it moderate, is Jaish al-Islam, the group the Alloush clan control.  Its former leader, Zahran Alloush, called repeatedly for Damascus to be "cleansed" of both Christians and Alawites.  It involves putting a stop to even the most limited reaching out to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, despite both being moderates compared to likes of the al-Nusra Front, which many of the "moderate" Syrian groups we're still encouraging to fight have no problem allying with.   It involves smearing a genuine moderate running for London mayor as an extremist while continuing to sell weapons to the biggest sponsors of Islamic extremism the world has ever known.

This was never truly about antisemitism.  Sure, it's been the excuse.  Instead it's been about reinforcing the boundaries.  You can want a foreign policy which is progressive, just not Atlanticist, but you'll pay for it.  You can want a party to be a genuine opposition to the status quo, but it'll be denounced as extremist.  You can want the MPs of a party to at least respect for a year the leader elected by the membership, but they'll do everything in their power to undermine him, regardless of the consequences in the long term.  Sure, it'll put politics itself in the gutter, alienate the public at large when the message they'll take is that the meres wrong word will result in opprobrium, discourage Muslims from entering politics if they have ever so much as sat next to someone with the vaguest of unsavoury views, and give the impressions to Jews they still aren't welcome anywhere, but it'll be worth it in the end.

I often used to agree when it was said we get the politics we deserve.  No one deserves this.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, May 03, 2016 

Milton Keynes doesn't just lack a soul. It also has no heart.

(This is a guest post by a life-long Milton Keynes resident who wants to remain anonymous.)

Something strange is going on.  The London media, as everyone knows, is obsessed with London.  To them, London is England, Britain; north of Watford may as well be marked on the map with "here be monsters".  The actual north is another country; Scotland is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.  And to be fair, you can understand their obsession: London is a whole series of cities contained within the M25 car park, a constantly undulating mass you can travel around quickly and easily on some of the best public transport in the world.  Almost everything you could possibly want is within reach and almost anything you could want to buy can be purchased swiftly.  Sure, you now practically have to be a millionaire to own your home, everyone must get tired at some point of living in a concrete jungle, and if you're down on your luck it must be one of the hardest places in the country to eke out an existence, but for the most part the positives outweigh the negatives.

Why then are journalists suddenly paying attention to Milton Keynes?  Recently there was a Newsnight segment dedicated to the "city" (MK is not technically designated a city, and doesn't deserve to be one) being a hidden gem, while in today's Guardian Patrick Barkham eulogises at length on the city's development, the supposed threats to this wonderland of grid roads, open spaces and apparent boundless potential.  Apart from house prices for the time at least remaining well below what they are in London, the answer is even more cynical than that.  For Milton Keynes is London, just with everything good about the capital and therefore viewed as a downside to your average London journo hacked away.

To start with, Patrick Barkham doesn't even tell the story of MK right.  Milton Keynes did not suddenly spring out of nowhere into existence via the development corporation; the "city" itself takes its name from a village that's still there, not that a hack would ever find it as it's a fair distance away from the gleaming centre.  Milton Keynes was in fact built around a number of villages and small towns that have a long history in their own right, the most notable being Wolverton, Stony Stratford, Bletchley and Newport Pagnell.  As Barkham writes, the development corporation did have some damn good ideas: the grid system does for the most part result in a town that rarely gets snarled up outside of rush hour, travel by car once you're used to the place is quick and simple, and it would be pointless to deny that the town, viewed from the car window, looks clean, pretty and welcoming, such is the way the various housing estates were all kept separate from each other.

Which is also the town's greatest downfall.  No, of course Milton Keynes doesn't have a soul, but a far better way to describe it is as atomised.  The separation of the various housing developments ensures that there is no wider sense of community in the town.  The fact that you don't need to travel through different estates to get to where you want unless you have to results in a city that is little more than a collection of villages.  People come in, they go to work, go to one of the larger supermarkets disconnected from the estates to shop, perhaps go up to what locals call the "city", meaning Central Milton Keynes on the weekend, and that's it.  Few of these estates have pubs, although some have restaurants and most takeaways; if you want a drink or to experience what little local colour is on offer, you'll have to go to one of the places mentioned above.

By the same token, these estates vary hugely in terms of socio-economic background.  Barkham mentions Shenley Church End, which is one of the better off areas of the town; Netherfield, also mentioned, is by contrast one of the most deprived.  By virtue of the planning of the town, these areas are effectively closed off to outside eyes, so you'll never see how rundown certain areas have become, nor will you see for instance the gated communities that have also sprung up, like the couple opposite the National Badminton Centre in Loughton.  This is perfect for those who have the attitude of out of sight, out of mind, which has long prevailed in MK.

If you're a walker or a cyclist, then yes, you will be exposed to these places, and as Barkham writes, the grid system was designed with pedestrians and bikes considered, with underpasses and the "redways" easily accessible.  Except hardly anyone uses them, for the reason that MK principally was made for the car.  Even on a beautiful spring Sunday afternoon you can walk along the redways for miles and rarely see another soul.  The lakes that are dotted around, like Willen and Caldecotte are much more popular, it's true, and yet still hardly ever full to bursting except in high summer.  Barkham at least admits that public transport isn't great, which is about right: it's not terrible, but is expensive and irregular away from the main routes served.

This might all be sounding great to your average Londoner so far, as long as they can drive.  Atomised, disparate, soulless, but affordable, right?  Up to a point, yes.  But what about culture?  Milton Keynes is the place culture forgot.  It wasn't until around the turn of the century that we got a theatre.  Fancy Shakespeare, a comedian, the odd serious minded play?  Well, we've got Shrek the Musical for you, or Hairspray.  Arthouse cinema?  Sorry, no.  We might have had the first ten screen multiplex in the country, with the site soon to be demolished, a brand new Odeon, and a World of Cine, but anything other than blockbuster fare?  No chance.  How about any sort of nightlife?  Sure, we're now in the era of Tinder and Netflix and chill, where gentrification is closing down more and more London clubs but at least there's still a few.  Here, in a "city" of over a quarter of a million people?  Again, you'll have to go to the one of the above mentioned towns.  Roughly two pubs in the entire town play host to bands of even the slightest note, but you like Yates's and Wetherspoons' right?  Loads of those up the city at least.  No clubs though, sorry.  We do have the Stables, Cleo Laine's place out at Wavendon, which is great if you like that sort of thing, but that's about all you're getting.  You'll need to go to Northampton to find any sort of bustle.

It does then amaze when people like Linda Inoki (I predictably had never heard of Inoki, Theo Chalmers or their campaign groups until I saw Barkham's piece.  Clearly doing good work) describe Milton Keynes as having "phenomenal character".  MK has no character.  Yes, there's something to be said for the way the city was planned out, for the shopping centre itself, if not for what is actually inside it, but to try and claim that MK has a distinctive character through having none whatsoever is pushing it.

Pete Winkleman, who everyone in MK has heard of and anyone with any sense detests, is the personification of everything wrong with the place.  Uprooting Wimbledon and implanting it in MK was simply the most crass and brazen of the attempts to give the town something to base itself around.  Never previously had there been a main MK football team for the reason, again, that everyone was far more attached to their local estate, town or village side.  They were never going to get anywhere but no one cared.  We were more than happy to support Northampton, or choose a club from elsewhere when it came to the leagues proper.  It would be churlish to deny MK Dons do have a following, as they do, but only from a minority. 

Just as the city itself has a few noisy supporters who are finally getting noticed by the London media.  Yes, Milton Keynes is great if you want a quiet family life.  If you're 18 to 40 though, like culture of even the most vaguely alternative variety, don't especially want to drive and aren't comfortably off, it's little short of hell.  Barkham and the other gawpers are more than welcome to swap places with me.  


Until then, it would be nice if hacks bothered to scratch even slightly at MK's glossy veneer.  Had Barkham so much as walked slightly further down "CMK’s broad boulevards", he would have discovered that in the underpasses now live a number of homeless men and women.  Not even during the peak of homelessness in the 90s was Milton Keynes unable to put a roof over everyone's head.  It has such a problem now.

Labels: , , , ,

Share |

Thursday, April 28, 2016 

Where would we be without Leninspart, eh?

It's not often these days anyone can say they agree with Nick Clegg, as was oh so achingly funny a few years ago, not least as he wisely keeps a low profile.  He couldn't however have been more right, finding himself stuck at the side of Ken Livingstone by grim chance this morning after what even by Ken's standards was a clusterfuck of remarkable proportions. "I never ever thought I would see the day that mainstream, well-known politicians like you would start raking over Hitler’s views in a way that people would simply not understand," Clegg said, in what also has to be one of the more understated reactions to a few hours of pandemonium via interview and Twitter.

I mean, it's not like this is difficult or complicated.  Here's a very simple rule all would do well to follow: unless a debate is about Hitler and the Nazis, don't bring Hitler and the Nazis into it.   It doesn't matter if someone else made reference to Hitler first, don't then follow their lead.  For instance, if someone ill-advisedly made reference to Hitler even if only through an image meme, don't then try and defend them by saying that well actually, Hitler supported this or that, even if your intention is not to make an allusion to the modern day.  Moreover, especially don't suggest that Hitler only "went mad" later.

In the grand scheme of things, Ken's remarks this morning to Vanessa Feltz, of all people, were less offensive than Naz Shah's.  He was completely and utterly wrong about Hitler supporting Zionism, obviously, which he didn't even in 1932, but he also didn't say Hitler was a Zionist, as some have wrongly claimed since.  There is a difference, however subtle.  It's true that Nazi policy until later in the 1930s was to in the main force Jews to leave Germany, to begin with encouraging them to do so, before then making it ever more difficult involving payments to the state and confiscation of assets, but there was not a concerted attempt to direct Jews towards what was then Palestine.  A German Foreign Ministry circular from January 1939 makes clear the opposite was the case.

Ken was not setting out to be antisemitic, and probably just about avoided being so.  He did however allow the impression to arise, as Rabbi Danny Rich has said, of equating Zionism and Nazism, as antisemites routinely do.  As Laura Janner-Klausner has also stated, Ken has form in this area, and while not a Nazi apologist, has in the past failed to apologise for being unpleasant rather than outright racist.

His suspension from the party, with the leadership moving slightly more quickly today than previously, is deserved.  Had though Ken not decided to make himself available today for interviews, defending Shah and the party when neither want or need Ken to speak up for them, it's likely the claims of antisemitism in Labour would have began to blow over.  If instead of following up his interview with Vanessa Feltz by appearing on every show going he had read the tweet from Sadiq Khan, the man battling to become the second Labour Mayor of London, calling for his suspension, realised the furore he had already caused and retracted what he said, he wouldn't then have got in a slanging match with fellow professional idiot John Mann.  But then, Ken doesn't apologise.  He doesn't think.  Exactly why it is the leadership has not made this clear to him before that his "help" is more hindrance than it is support I don't know, unless Ken has simply ignored their advice.

We're now in a situation where thanks to Livingstone's stupidity the race to discover more "evidence" of antisemitism is bound to continue.  Ken has without question helped Jeremy Corbyn's enemies in the party, all of whom were exceptionally quick to call for his dismissal, for which they can hardly be blamed, many of whom have no compunction about having their party portrayed as hostile to Jews if it hastens Corbyn's departure.  It makes those who have pointed out and argued that the claims of antisemitism against Labour members so far have been weak to non-existent look foolish, and encouraged groups that have long opposed the party's attempts to be even-handed between Israel and the Palestinians to declare this proves the "evidence is there for all to see".  Most damagingly of all, it will have an effect, no doubt small, but an effect nonetheless on the elections next Thursday.

A great day, all told.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

Wednesday, April 27, 2016 

The antisemitic muppetry of Naz Shah and connected silliness.

Naz Shah, it's fair to say, is a bit of a muppet.  After scrabbling around for months for evidence of antisemitism within Labour, turning up little more than allegations against students at Oxford and idiotic tweets by one or two activists on Twitter, some poor sap at Guido Fawkes was apparently tasked with going through years' worth of timeline updates by MPs on Facebook.

With Shah, they finally hit paydirt.  Back in 2014 she shared one of those wonderful image memes that tend to be prevalent there, suggesting a "solution" to the Israel-Palestine conflict was to relocate the country to America.  Transporting the population to the States would also only cost the equivalent of 3 years' worth of US aid to the country, so everyone would be a winner.  Shah was so taken with the idea she suggested she would send it on to both David Cameron and Barack Obama, not apparently in the least bit troubled by the history of the transporting of Jews, to focus on merely one of its objectionable aspects.

It would have been slightly less embarrassing, albeit only slightly, if Shah hadn't also recently denounced a local Tory councillor for his alleged racism, demanding that he be suspended from the party.  That it took Labour the best part of today to do the same with Shah despite knowing about the post yesterday, with Shah resigning as John McDonnell's PPS, also doesn't look great.  Shah has at least made an unequivocal apology, and did so in the House of Commons, saying that her views have changed greatly over the past 2 years.

Whether that turns out to be that, and the claims that Shah has associations with others with exceptionally dodgy views on Israel stay only that, with Shah regaining the whip at some point in the future remains to be seen.  So long as other unacceptable posts are not forthcoming, I'd like to see Shah given the benefit of the doubt and for her to be judged by her deeds rather than past words.

We have though been going through another of those periods where accusations of racism and extremism have been chucked around liberally by all sides, all in the belief that there is some political advantage to be gained.  If it seems a bit rum for a prime minister involved in the smearing of Sadiq Khan as being a pal of Islamists to then comment on Labour's alleged problems with antisemitism, that's because it is.  It also ignores how all of us will have at some point come out with some misjudged, overwrought or plain wrong commentary; social media has only made it easier to discover and make an issue of at a later date.  


Nor is this necessarily of much interest to the wider public, whom if anything would prefer politicians to sound more like they do.  When you have people texting into phone-ins declaring themselves relieved that unaccompanied refugee children in Europe won't be coming to this country, describing them as "vermin" and "leeches", as I heard on the local BBC station earlier in the week, it's worth reflecting for the most part our representatives resist the temptation to use inflammatory language.

The same cannot be said for our allies.  When you consider how former Iranian president Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial and remarks on how Israel would "disappear from the page of history" were brought up every time he made the news, it's somewhat odd we don't hear much about the views of Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev.  This is even more surprising when you consider he makes them in English, on Twitter, and to over 200,000 followers.  His most objectionable by a considerable margin was a tweet from a couple of years back when he declared that his country and Turkey were working together to counter the "myth" of the Armenian genocide, but he regularly insults neighbour Armenia, whether or not the on-going Nagorno-Karabakh conflict over the disputed territory is blowing hot or cold.  Such remarks from the head of state didn't stop Tony Blair from "advising" on the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, despite Azerbaijan's turn-around on human rights in general being described as outpacing even Russia's, of which we've heard much more about.  


Far be it from me to suggest we should care far more about genocide denying leaders of men than Labour MPs sharing viral images on Facebook, completely unacceptable as it was, but well, you know.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 

The bitterest of ironies.

The findings at the Hillsborough inquest are a landmark in many respects.  The 9 members of the jury who attended the hearings for that period of time deserve some kind of special recognition for their service, not least when so many aspects of the events of the 15th of April 1989 in one corner of Sheffield were and remain so harrowing.  That the crush both outside the ground and then in the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough were captured by cameras that didn't stop rolling, providing a vital document of the events, helped to ensure that after 27 years, justice is at last in reach for the 96 who died that day.

It still isn't guaranteed, however.  Yes, today's verdict of unlawful killing for every single one of the 96, and the further finding that Liverpool fans' behaviour did not in any way contribute to the disaster is a further vindication of the at times lonely campaign fought by the Hillsborough Family Support Group and others.  It does not automatically follow though that charges will be brought against organisations, or especially individuals, despite the Crown Prosecution Service's statement that prosecutions will be considered once Operation Resolve and the Independent Police Complaints Commission's renewed inquiry are completed.  Even if prosecutions are given the go ahead, it's extraordinarily rare for juries to find against the police in criminal cases, where beyond reasonable doubt is the standard as opposed to on the balance of probabilities.  It's one thing for a jury to state someone was unlawful killed; to find an individual or group responsible for manslaughter is something else entirely.

That it has taken 27 years, multiple inquiries and a second two-year long inquest to reach the point where all blame has finally been lifted from the victims in itself needs to be quantified.  Some will say today should not be the day for recriminations, and instead be purely about justice finally being in sight, but that is to ignore why it has taken this long in the first place.  As stated above, this was a tragedy that was captured from multiple angles, that was broadcast live on TV and radio, that was reviewed that night in depth on Match of the Day.  Photographers expecting to record an FA Cup semi-final instead turned their cameras on the crowd, many of the shots of the death throes and agony of those caught in the crush far too distressing to ever be published.  If there had been behaviour like that subsequently claimed by South Yorkshire police, the local Tory MP and most notably, the Sun, then it would have been captured.  That it wasn't didn't stop the myth of "tanked up mobs" being responsible from becoming accepted.

For why you have to look at how football was regarded and fans treated in the late 80s.  Hooliganism might have already been in decline, but that didn't prevent the Thatcher government from wanting to introduce an ID card scheme for supporters, such was the contempt they were subject to.  It's not an exaggeration to say fans were seen as another part of the "enemy within", and SYP had shown how they were to be dealt with at Orgreave.  The ban from Europe that followed the Heysel disaster was a national embarrassment, the blame for which could only be laid on Liverpool.  That it was the same club involved again couldn't possibly be a coincidence.

When SYP then set out to lay the blame squarely on the fans and on Liverpool, a process that began within minutes of the unfolding disaster with chief superintendent David Duckenfield telling FA chief executive Graham Kelly that fans had forced the gate he had ordered be opened, they knew what they were doing.  The media (and the public, too) tend to believe the word of the police over other eyewitnesses at the best of times; combined with all these other factors, it was hardly surprising the tabloids reprinted the most reprehensible, despicable of lies as supplied to them by the Whites agency, sourced from Conservative MP Irvine Patnick, who was in the police Niagara club the night of the disaster, and heard "the truth" from senior officers including Inspector Gordon Sykes.

Not surprising, but still a fundamental betrayal of their duty as journalists.  The same editors who reprinted the claims of fans urinating on and beating police officers trying to save lives, as well as robbing the dead were the ones who reviewed the thousands of photographs sent in of the disaster.  They would have watched the reports of the disaster, perhaps seen that night's Match of the Day, which showed extended footage of events as they played out, where Des Lynam, who had at Hillsborough that afternoon repeatedly said there had been no violence involved, where Jimmy Hill said there was no hooliganism involved whatsoever.  They would have carried the reports of the fans on what happened, none of whom made such claims, who in the main were already blaming the gate being opened and everyone rushing in as a result, although at that point it was unclear if all who had done so had tickets.  The other papers that published the claims quickly retracted them, not least because of the anger and incomprehension in Liverpool at what was being said.

The Sun was the exception.  It doubled down.  Editor Kelvin MacKenzie never apologised unless forced to by the courts or Murdoch.  The day after it splashed with "THE TRUTH", it led with "THE TRUTH HURTS", a front page editorial defending its report, not backing down for a second.  For all these years later for not just MacKenzie, but Trevor Kavanagh to still not be taking any responsibility, putting all the blame on what they were told, rather than doing the absolute minimum expected of journalists which is to be sceptical, to check sources again and again, speaks of how they still don't accept they did anything wrong.  The media as a whole helped spread the lies, helped the SYP to carry on blaming the fans, laid the ground that allowed the first coroner Dr Stefan Popper to turn the first inquests into a charade where the SYP disputed the interim findings of Lord Justice Taylor's report, which had exonerated Liverpool.

It comes back fundamentally, as Flying Rodent writes, to where football and its supporters still were in 1989.  In the eyes of many, both inside and outside of the game, they were fit only to be caged.  Not only did the players have to be protected from them, but so did the general public also.  Not all big grounds had such fences penning in supporters preventing them from easily escaping if such a crush developed, but the one chosen for a showcase event, an FA Cup semi-final, did.  Had those fences not been there, had there been more gates which could have been opened, if the cages had been easier to break down, then fewer if any of the 96 would have died as a result of the other catastrophic mistakes made by the SYP.

It comes back to contempt.  Contempt from the government, contempt from the media, contempt from a public that puts its trust in authority when asked to chose between those depicted as among the lowest in society.  It was only coincidence that it was Liverpool, which made it even easier, when it could have been any club in that semi-final.  It could have been Nottingham Forest's fans in the Leppings Lane end had the decision over which side of the ground to allocate to whom gone differently.

There is of course a coda to all this, and not just that finally, a form justice looks like it will be done.  We all know what happened partially as a result of Hillsborough, partially as a result of England's performance the following summer in Italy, partially to where the game was already beginning to head.  The Premier League.  Sky.  Enormous amounts of money, massive amounts of hype, ambition never really properly fulfilled.  The obscene irony that it was football that saved Rupert Murdoch after he had pumped so much of his money into satellite, when it had been his flagship paper that had so cruelly and unforgivably slandered a club and its mourning, traumatised fans, by extension a whole city, by extension an entire game.  That it took that paper until 2004 to make a proper apology, that today it refuses to comment, that it has never and will never make amends for its reporting on a disaster and yet still prospers, as its owner prospers, is the bitterest of ironies.

A disaster on the scale of Hillsborough might never happen again, but is the contempt still there, is the potential for blaming the victims still there, is the ability of those in power to try their hardest to prevent justice being done still there?  It's never gone away.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Share |

About

  • This is septicisle
profile

Archives

Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates