Monday, July 11, 2016 

Eagle and May: the absurdity intensifies.

Poor Angela Eagle.  Jeremy Corbyn was the least likely leader of Labour, didn't for a moment expect he was going to win, but at least he's always believed in what he was doing.  Watching the tragic Eagle dumped in front of the media, trying desperately to persuade herself she agrees with what she's saying, let alone the few journos who hadn't decamped to see Andrea Leadsom flounce off is another of those "like watching a lion rape a sheep, but in a bad way" moments.  Eagle at the best of times looks as though she's on the verge of bursting into tears; so do I, come to think of it, but then I'm not challenging to become the leader of the opposition.

If it weren't for the unreality of the last 18 days, this would surely have been the most patently lysergic interlude of the year thus far.  Eagle looks for all the world as though she's about to launch into selling us a timeshare not in a holiday property, but in Avon products.  Buy shares in Real Leadership by Angela.  Except that doesn't say Angela, surely?  It looks more like Arscle.  Why does the capital A join with what is meant to be an n?  Why is it pink?  Why?  Just why?  They had two weeks to come up with something, and this is it?

We ought to give Eagle the benefit of the doubt.  She clearly doesn't believe for a moment in what she's doing, but she is doing it for what she thinks are the best of reasons.  The real opprobrium needs to be heaped on whoever it is pulling the strings and doing such a lousy job of it.  Are they really all such fucking cowards that none of them are prepared to stand up themselves?  The reasoning presumably is that Eagle is one of the few figures in the party vaguely on the left who might be able to bring some Corbyn-backers away, more so than say a Yvette Cooper, despite Cooper being a far more obvious leader than Eagle.  Or is the plan still to try and deny Corbyn from even being on the ballot, with Eagle the unlikely assassin who then gives way to the real candidates?

No one knows, not even it would seem the plotters.  You would assume they have applied the Kinnock test, not least as the parliamentary Labour party was apparently en masse moved to tears by the beauty of his peroration last week.  Ed Miliband (some might recall that Neil Kinnock's reaction on Miliband's election as leader was to declare "we've got our party back") failed to pass the supermarket test according to Neil, as voters told him they wanted to vote Labour, but couldn't for Ed personally.  Corbyn fares even more poorly, with a fitter on the docks in Cardiff calling him "weird".  How on earth do they imagine Eagle is going to fare?  She doesn't even look confident in herself for crying out loud.  What happens if Corbyn is still on the ballot?  Assume that Corbyn is still on it and against all the odds Eagle wins.  Unless Labour hasn't noticed, the near entirety of the right-wing press has very quickly declared Theresa May to be the reincarnation of Thatcher, Churchill and Boudica combined, the kind of warrior for truth, justice and the British way we've all been yearning for during these barren years of Cameronite hegemony.  Any affection they might have for Eagle dispensing with Jezza will disappear in an instant, and we'll be back to the headlines, only altered slightly, that every Labour leader gets (COMMUNIST EAGLE WANTS TO NATIONALISE PREMIER LEAGUE/NON-BALD EAGLE FAILS TO TAKE FLIGHT/EAGLE DEMANDS RIGHTS FOR VEGETABLES etc).

For May it is.  All memories of the last two instances when parties appointed leaders unopposed have it seems been banished, as in neither case were Michael Howard or Gordon Brown the greatest of successes.  Others might also recall the Tories demanded an election when Brown was in effect given a coronation, and then had much fun with their "Bottler Brown" jibe.  May we're told is not considering an election, despite how she has stated repeatedly that "Brexit is Brexit".  Hadn't it ought to be put to the voters if that is still their feeling considering the turmoil of the past 18 days, the changing of leaders, the resignations, the plotting, the everything?  Shouldn't voters be asked to give their approval to what the exit plan turns out to be at the very least, especially when May said today that bringing freedom of movement to an end was more important than staying in the single market?  While some might well have taken the question on the ballot to be "Do you think the UK should be economically crippled because you're a racist cunt? Yes/No", I'm fairly certain it wasn't.

Impossible as it is to feel even slightly for Leadsom, as she knew full what she was doing with the comments on Theresa May's lack of children, you can't also help but wonder how the May media consensus developed so quickly.  The Times described Leadsom as lacking "judgment, knowledge and decency".  Really?  Compared to whom, and what?  The Theresa May who informed the world a man escaped deportation because he had a cat?  The Theresa May who the Telegraph, yes, the Telegraph lambasted for her absurdly right-wing conference speech last year on immigration and asylum?  The Theresa May who had ultimate responsibility for the chronic problems at the Yarl's Wood detention centre?  If the media are having second thoughts about leaving the EU, then unless they know something we don't there doesn't seem to be any room for manoeuvre.  Can it really be be purely down to May being the best of a very bad lot when they've had no problem plumping for monomaniacs and fanatics in the past?

If she meant at least some of what she said in her speech this morning, a massive if considering it was as much as meant to be a pitch to Tory members as it was the country, you could conclude May might be something of an improvement on Cameron.  Only all those suggestions of reforms are undermined by her insistence on leaving the EU, and doing so potentially in the stupidest, most damaging way possible.  Again, this might have been a sop to those who voted Leave.  If not however, it only underlines how disenfranchised those of us who don't think a Leave vote based on a campaign of lies and xenophobia, lead by politicians who have since defenestrated themselves should be taken as final.  With Corbyn also making clear that Labour under him would campaign for leaving the EU, albeit with the best possible deal for the country, it leaves us where?  With the Lib Dems, who contributed heavily to us being in this mess?  Hoping some Labour figure emerges who isn't a stooge, that can unite the party and bring the country along with them?

On second thoughts, I think I'll just say fuck it and move to a country with sensible politics.  I hear Swaziland's nice this time of year.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016 

Day 94 of the Labour leadership coup...

We are into the fifth day of the Labour leadership coup.  Last night we were told it was absolutely certain that Angela Eagle would launch her challenge today.  We're still waiting.  In much the same style as on transfer deadline day, political journalists look to be reporting whatever rumour they hear as fact.  Jeremy Corbyn has been about to resign every hour on the hour for days.  Corbyn is meant both to have been talked into resigning by his advisers and persuaded not to by the same advisers.  I recall much mirth back in January over the "revenge reshuffle"' taking over 2 days, when the truth was no one had any clue what was going on primarily because they were reporting on what was happening on Twitter instead of actually talking to anyone.  Strangely, the same journalists so amused and critical back then have had little hostile comment to pass on their sources' lamentable failure to wield the knife a mere 6 months later.

While Labour is set on killing Corbyn via death by 1000 cuts using butter knives, the Tories by contrast know a thing or two about stabbing their leaders straight through the heart.  Not that arch assassin Michael Gove ought to have felled Boris Johnson by announcing his own rival bid, or at least it wouldn't have done had Johnson got any cojones.  Who knew that Boris would run for cover as soon as he was challenged?  Well, err, everyone should have: it's always been the Boris way.  Johnson's idiot act has worked so long as everyone has treated him as a figure of fun rather than an opponent to be dealt with the same as everyone else.  Confronted by a journalist or opponent who won't back down, his lack of spine quickly becomes evident and he runs for cover.

If you wanted to somehow put the best and at the same time the worst gloss on it, then Boris has been rather clever.  We already knew he had wanted to take over as leader in an orderly fashion, instead of picking up the pieces having forced Cameron's resignation by mistake.  Succeeded in breaking Britain, would it ever have been the Boris way to do the decent thing?  Of course not.  Boris has always been the egomaniac opportunist rather than the grand Machiavellian schemer. 

That at the same time this has rendered almost the entire Leave campaign utterly pointless, as the whole point of Johnson hedging his bets to the last minute was about what was most likely to deliver him the Tory party leadership is by the by.  Or at least it is to him.  To the rest of us, the sheer preening, incredible self-obsession and putting of self before country blows the mind.  It really has been all a game.  He opened what everyone expected to be his leadership declaration by once again claiming that everything was coming up roses, the collapse of the pound and the routs on the FTSE 250 and 350 clearly our imagination.  That a few hours later Mark Carney gave a rather more realistic economic outlook, making clear he feels the need for a stimulus to stop the economy sinking as a result of Leave, just sums up his unconscionable recklessness.

Then we have our non-fictional Macbeth, with wife following in his bloody wake.  Yesterday an email from Sarah Vine was "accidentally leaked" to a member of the public.  Said email just happened to set out exactly why Johnson was not to be trusted without the equivalent of a deal written in claret.  Lo and behold, the following morning Gove emails hacks setting out why Johnson is not to be trusted and can't possibly be a leader.  Attracted by his raw animal magnetism, intellectual heft and God only knows what other qualities they see in the speccy twit only liked by others with a similarly warped mindset and values, most of Johnson's supporters immediately changed sides.

If I were feeling charitable, which I'm not, I could say Gove does have an attractive line of thought on social liberalism, as he has put right many of the mistakes Chris Grayling made as justice minister.  Only he combines it with the absolute worst instincts of the "muscular liberals", a visceral loathing of what he and other Blairites, as that's essentially what Gove is, see as "vested interests", whether those interests be teachers, doctors etc, and again just like the Blairites, the complete certainty that he is always right, a certainty enforced by attack dogs like Dominic Cummings, the kind of man who makes Alastair Campbell look like a Andrex puppy.  Gove is held in high esteem only by the like minded, whether they be journalists, those with a lofty opinion of themselves, or newspaper proprietors.  Boris Johnson might be sexually incontinent, completely untrustworthy and regard integrity as for wimps, but he's not a shit.  Gove is a shit.

He's also a shit who had the most destructive of all the Leave plans during the campaign.  Gove's position was for the UK to leave the single market entirely, a policy that it seemed Vote Leave as a whole had adopted towards the end.  Boris's Telegraph article, which according to more than one source Gove is meant to have sub-edited (since confirmed by the email being leaked to Robert Peston) only to then decide its vagueness and unreality was one of the reasons why he couldn't go along with the deal, suggested the opposite.  Which is it going to be?  Only the most Panglossian of the Leave optimists really think regressing to WTO trade rules is a good idea.  Business, already smarting from the Leave vote, will surely regard such a position if he keeps to it with unabashed horror.

Not that they will have found much to cheer from Theresa May's leadership launch either.  She like Cameron kept open the prospect that European migrants could be asked to leave, no doubt as part of her proclaimed commitment to "serious social reform".

Today ought to have been a day to cheer Labour.  The man Dominic Raab described this morning in the Sun as having the "Heineken effect", only to decide hours later Gove was a better bet, is out of the race.  A Labour party not caught up in a clusterfuck only slightly less wasteful than the battle of the Somme ought to fancy its chances against a High Tory out of touch with life itself, let alone the public, or a colder than ice politician capable only of warming Conservative hearts.

And yet what was Labour spending the day doing?  Apart from still skulking about trying to find someone, anyone to stand against Corbyn, there was the publication of the report by Shami Chakrabati into whether the party is riddled with antisemites.  Chakrabati predictably and rightly decided it isn't, although it also shouldn't be in the slightest bit complacent.  What though was the media takeaway?  That Corbyn had "appeared" to compare Israel to Islamic State.  In fact, it turned out he had been misquoted, and said just as Jews should not be equated with Israel or the government of, so Muslims shouldn't be with Islamic States, plural, or groups.  A Labour MP at the event, Ruth Smeeth, also reacted badly to being snubbed by a Momentum campaigner, subsequently resigned, and demanded to know why Corbyn hadn't condemned him for suggesting the MP was in it together with a Telegraph reporter.

As a demonstration of how Corbyn can't possibly win when the media so wilfully misreports his words, with social media guaranteeing that the initial impression will be the one reacted to, there couldn't be a more instructive one.  When members of his own party are determined to take offence and make use of the slightest excuse given, it's hard to think it was ever going to end any other way.  Flying Rodent's comic take on the past nine months is all the more depressing for how close to reality it is.  The last week has been one long demonstration of what happens when personal ambition and the interests of the few are put above everything else: absolute fucking disaster.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016 

The state of this absolute fucking shower.

Piss ups and breweries.  Cow's arses and banjos.  The parliamentary Labour party has had 9 fucking months to organise this coup, to come up with a candidate who can bring together the soft left, the centrists and the right, to draw up some sort of plan as to how they would do things differently and make clear how they have learned the lessons that led to Jeremy Corbyn winning the leadership in the first place.  They have not achieved a single one of these aims.  Indeed, it's almost as if they haven't wanted to engage with why they lost the leadership election, as that was the reality rather than Corbyn winning it.  They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.  They're so fucking useless, so catastrophically inept that we need a new metaphor to properly describe how bereft of even the slightest wit and forethought they've been.  They couldn't overthrow the government of Thailand or Pakistan, that's how hopeless these non-revolutionary cretins are.

But before we really drill down into how Labour as a whole seems to have opted not so much for the Dignitas method of assisted dying but more the Wile E Coyote variation, we should confront another anomaly of the post-Friday spirit.  You might have thought the individual principally responsible for this disaster, i.e. the Right Honourable David Cameron Esq, might have been getting the bum's rush for plunging the country into various crises all thanks to his brazen irresponsibility.  Perhaps I've missed it being away, but the knives haven't exactly been out for him, have they?  Much anger has been directed at practically everyone else with some level of responsibility, whether it be Leave voters themselves, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage et al, and yet the man who had three aims in calling the referendum, all of which were short-term political goals meant to help him and his party rather than help the country, has barely been touched.

If anything, there's almost been a sense of aww, well at least he tried, and we're going to miss him once we're lumped with Boris, May or whichever other Tory shitpipe it is that manages to rise to the top of the greasy pole.  Admittedly, there was always going to be a certain amount of such sentiment: it's true that Cameron is preferable to almost all of the above, in the same sense that it's preferable to get your finger caught in a mousetrap than have your hand cut to ribbons by a threshing machine.  This said, when Cameron is given such soft soap treatment by journalists asking him if "he's wistful" while in Brussels meeting the rest of the EU leaders, or applauded for being such a class act that he can still misquote Smiths lyrics in the Commons despite having resigned, you wonder precisely what else he would have needed to do to make them change their tune.  Nuked Norway perhaps?  Banged an inflatable doll in Downing Street after giving his resignation statement?  Insulted Beyonce?

That Cameron did very far from all he could seems to have been forgotten very quickly.  Let's remember how he refused once again to go up against his opponents in straight debate, just as he did in the general election.  This time the excuse was he wanted to minimise blue-on-blue attacks, only by the end he was denouncing Michael Gove for being an ignorant moron regardless.  It might well have not changed anything, but if he had debated Johnson or Farage face to face, calling them on their nonsense and their claims that fell apart with minutes, it could just have persuaded a few more people to go Remain.  He had nothing to lose and everything to gain by the end, so why didn't he go all out?

The answer is fairly obvious: the Tories, like the boomers who won it for Leave, have very little to lose from exiting the EU.  We expected from the apparent mutual loathing on display and all the in-fighting that the Tories would find it difficult to put themselves back together, and yet it's almost as though nothing has happened.  The Tory Leave supporters are delighted, while the few Remainers angered at first seem to have piped down remarkably quickly.  Sure, there are those like George Osborne who have seen their own ambitions crumble into dust thanks to the vote, but no one seems much bothered or willing to engage in recriminations.  Amber Rudd, after saying during the campaign she wouldn't trust Johnson to drive her home is now apparently being lined up as one of his key supporters.  Rather than being asked if he regretted the Leave vote, this morning Stephen Crabb was instead questioned on if he regretted plumping for Remain.  They have nothing to fear in terms of Leavers turning on them, or so they figure, not least as the difference between UKIP and the right-wingers poised to seize control of the party is imperceptibly slight.  Where else are those Leave voters going to go?  Labour?

Nor is there much in the way of criticism for how Cameron, while supposedly taking responsibility has also abdicated it.  Asked at PMQs if he could assuage the fears of EU migrants that they are going to be asked to leave, as they are most assuredly not, he instead prevaricated and said this was yet another thing his successor will decide on.  A simple no would have made it clear that regardless of what passive aggressives and racists are throwing at anyone they don't like the look of, they aren't going anywhere.  Why migrants would want to stay when a majority have made it clear they are not welcome is anyone's guess, mind.

What we have found ourselves in is a total power vacuum.  Cameron has effectively gone into permanent chillax mode, as why should he do the "hard shit"?  Johnson or whoever it turns out to be can do it.  Just how hard it is going to be has been made clear by the 27 other countries: no negotiations until Article 50 is triggered, and even then any deal involving access to the single market will mean the UK needing to accept the "four freedoms", including movement.  Welcome to the worst of all worlds warned of: outside Europe with no influence and no control, those imagining the migrants would be sent back feeling betrayed and even angrier than before.  The alternative?  Certain economic decline, with financial services likely to leave.

And what predictably is about the only policy change being offered by Labour MPs in their otherwise completely lacking thinkpieces on where we go now?  Curbs on free movement, for the people have spoken.  Bit of a shame then that maybe, just maybe, a narrow remain vote might have prompted the EU into offering some sort of compromise.  That's now gone, just as Cameron's renegotiation is null and void.

Clowns.  Cowards.  Fuckwits.  About the only people who have come out of the last three days of no plan plotting well are Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown, with Brown also about the only person to have put any real thought into where the party goes from here.  What boils the piss most is those whom never gave Corbyn a chance, who kept up a constant line in hostility from the beginning, the Chris Leslies, the John Woodcocks, the John Manns etc, with not a single one having the guts to put themselves forward.  Absolutely nothing has been off limits in their attempts to get rid of Corbyn, whether it be accusations of racism, being a pal of terrorists, claiming he didn't even try winning a referendum on something he was always sceptical of in the first place, and all while claiming to be the real victims of this clusterfuck.

So they've finally succeeded in making his leadership untenable.  And yet what's the alternative?  Angela Eagle?  To give her credit, she was one of the very few who really did try to make it work.  She was my second choice for deputy leader, and I think she would be a far better one than Tom Watson.  But actual leader?  A fine performer in the Commons she may be, but can anyone seriously claim she's more likely to win a snap general election than Corbyn?  Are her politics more attractive to Labour voters who went Leave than Corbyn's?  Can she stick a party that has been torn asunder back together?  Can she really win against Corbyn when it's clear despite the claims of the plotters that the membership does still support Jeremy?

This is what the Labour party has been reduced to.  Not by Corbyn, but a bunch of selfish, beyond all reasoning with fuckwads without an ounce of sense between them and yet convinced they know best.  They have barely a single answer to questions they have had months to prepare for, and yet they are certain if only they get a "sensible" leader much will be right again with the world.  When you can't even plan a coup against the apparent worst Labour leader of all time, what on earth makes them think anyone will trust them with running a country?  For this to be a confederacy of dunces we'd need a genius.  We've got Hillary fucking Benn.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016 

Hard and fast.

The result of the 23rd of June 2016 referendum on whether to stay or leave the European Union came as a shock to those campaigning for Out.  Very few of them had genuinely believed they would win, let alone by a mirror image of the result in the Scottish independence referendum of two years previous.  The 55%-45 vote in favour of Leave stunned most of the political establishment, but not the leadership of the Conservative party.  Just as their private polling had suggested they were on their way to a majority in 2015, so too it had pointed towards a victory for Leave.  In the last couple of days of the campaign, David Cameron and George Osborne had become fatalistic in private, preparing for the inevitable.  Labour's canvass returns led them to reach a similar conclusion, but their reaction was the opposite, throwing everything they had into trying to get their supporters to realise what they were going to vote for.

It did no good.  Their minds had been already made up.  The Leave campaign's unending focus on immigration from the EU had overwhelmed all the opposing arguments from the Remain side.  More precisely, the unrelenting focus on immigration post the 2005 accession of the A8 countries is what did for Remain.  Most damaging by far was the Conservative promise to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands, an unachievable aim the leadership had never been serious about, and yet kept even after winning their majority in 2015.  David Cameron's claims that his renegotiation, extracting concessions on benefits, would somehow bring the numbers down was specious and he knew it.  Migrants from Europe came to work, not claim benefits.

Few politicians dared to make a positive case for the wave of migration from eastern Europe, instead either making false promises or pretending to listen to concerns while doing nothing.  The coalition government went so far as to abolish the fund that had directed increased spending to areas of the country where migration was highest.  That 5% of nurses and 10% of doctors working in the NHS were EU nationals made no difference; most chose to believe that immigration was in fact a drain on the health service, when the opposite was the case.  Labour voices that had previously spoken up for migrants were drowned out by other MPs panicked by what their constituents were telling them.  The last minute pledge to work to change the rules on freedom of movement came far too late to make any difference.

The Remain campaign had started out believing that a repeat of the "Project Fear" tactics seen in the independence referendum would work again two years later.  What Remain had not reckoned on was the remarkable dishonesty of the Leave campaign: almost every single claim made was a lie, and yet it did them no harm.  By far the most egregious was how many times over Leave spent the money they claimed would be saved by leaving the EU. It was variously promised to the NHS, to cut VAT, to keep up the payments the EU made to universities, farmers, the arts etc.  The internet was meant to have made fact checking the claims of politicians all the easier, and still it made no difference.  All politicians were liars, went the refrain, so why would anyone bother?  The required neutrality of the broadcasters meant they had to treat the figures produced by Leave with credulity, even when they were fantastical.  With the vast majority of the print media virulently anti-EU, producing front pages that day after day warned of a new migrant surge, any attempts to move the debate away from immigration on to the economy, how the UK wanted to be seen in the world and how it would affect the rest of Europe failed.

The morning of June the 24th was grey and wet, as much of the previous month had been.  The exception were the images beaming out from every TV screen: the grinning, jubilant faces of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage.  David Cameron, his face ashen, begrudgingly congratulated the Leave campaign at a dawn press conference in Downing Street, where he also announced his immediate resignation as both prime minister and leader of the Conservatives.  Cameron in the past few days had tried and failed to come to terms with the extent of his failure, what he now recognised as his act of the utmost irresponsibility in promising a referendum.  With the focus on winning the 2015 election, the Tory leadership had failed to recognise that its success would also be its downfall.  The coalition it had put together to win that election, overwhelmingly focused on voters over 40, was massively opposed to the EU and resistant to change.  The Tories had imagined that Labour voters would make up the difference.  Instead, faced with a Tory government, continuing austerity and without the prospect of any apparent improvement in their lot, many decided that leaving couldn't possibly make things any worse.

George Osborne took over as interim prime minister, launching his bid to become party leader a year earlier than he had imagined would be the case.  Osborne ended up finishing third, behind Michael Gove and the all conquering Boris Johnson.  Johnson within days of taking over conspired behind the scenes with the SNP for a vote of no confidence to be called.  While Labour opposed the vote, the other parties voted in favour, and a snap general election was called.  Jeremy Corbyn campaigned valiantly on a manifesto designed around leaving the EU on the best possible terms, remaining in the single market, but the party was as divided as ever.  The SNP swept the board in Scotland, Plaid Cymru and UKIP picked up seats in Wales while Labour fell back even further in England, the Tories under Johnson winning a landslide victory.

Writing from the vantage point of 2040, with Scotland long independent having rejoined the EU, Wales on the cusp of its own independence vote with the polls suggesting a clear majority in favour of seceding from England and Northern Ireland, and London an effective city state, with Neo Labour mayor Owen Jones entering his fourth term having negotiated a free trade agreement with the EU where the Tories had long refused to, it's easy to see how disastrous the Leave vote was.  Johnson lasted only 2 years as prime minister before a scandal involving his giving the home address of a BBC journalist to a underworld figure forced his resignation.  One of the first moves of his successor, Michael Gove, was to join in with President Trump's attack on Iran.  The last British troops leave Tehran in September, with the total number of dead numbering over 5,000.

The Leave campaign never had a plan for what to do in the event that it won.  While the worst predictions of Remain were not realised, at least not in the short term, the results over time have if anything been worse.  With the Tories failing to agree a trade deal with the EU, everything reverted to WTO standards.  With the advantages of being in a trade block gone, the global manufacturers who had based their operations in the UK one by one relocated to the continent.  Communities that had already been hit hard by the 2008 crash were hit again, this time never to recover.  The voters did however get their wish on immigration: with the UK no longer one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, net migration fell within 5 years to below the tens of thousands target.  After ten years the pendulum had swung completely: more were emigrating than were arriving.  Still however there is a comfortable majority for the Tories in England,  Labour having split, merged with the Greens and Liberal Democrats in an attempt to create a progressive bloc, and then re-emerged as Neo Labour under the leadership of Will Straw.

The UK post-2016 seems to this writer the embodiment of H.L. Mencken's statement that "democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard".  At least it would be if it didn't result in numerous Neo Labour MPs informing me of how these are very real concerns that we must listen to.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2016 

This is how you don't silence journalists in a democratic country.

There are many wonderful things about this Stephen Daisley piece that has been doing the rounds, but for reasons of time and brevity let's just zero in on his thundering conclusion:

But media hatred is not criticism. It is a rage against a world that refuses to work out the way it ought to and replicates a hostility to critical enquiry familiar from earlier forms of populism. The object is not "fairness" or "balance" but complicity by intimidation. The object is to single out journalists like Kuenssberg and, by making an example of them, produce a chilling effect.

Am I sure I want to write this story? Is publishing this sceptical analysis going to fill my timeline with abuse and invective? Look what happened to Laura Kuenssberg. Is it really worth it?

That is how you silence journalists in a democratic country. Not a finger lifted, not a bone broken. Make their job more and more difficult. Make employing them more and more bothersome. Eventually, you'll shut them up or prompt their employer to rein them in. And you won't have to worry about hearing them in the mainstream media anymore.

Once upon a time, journalists used to expect green ink letters, dog shit in an envelope, or exceptionally rarely to never having actually happened, letter bombs.  Actually, that's not true.  Some journalists in democratic countries can potentially face far worse, as we sadly know.  But no, what they really have to fear is an unpleasant timeline.

Abusing journalists as opposed to criticising (some) commentators is rarely worth the effort, not to mention not condonable.  Your average punter might not like the media that much themselves, but if you so inspire your supporters to descend en masse outside a BBC building to protest about perceived biased coverage say, then you start looking ever so slightly unreasonable.

Still, the ironies here are nearly impossible to count.  In his scattergun spray against everything he disdains, Daisley mentions identity politics.  It doesn't seem to matter that Daisley zeroes in immediately on why Kuenssberg has faced abuse and complaints so quickly - it's because she's a woman, obvs.  Actual evidence for the dislike of Kuenssberg, which I am not defending in any way, being based on her gender is extremely thin on the ground, but no matter.  Just throw it in there.  That the media deciding Kuenssberg being hissed was more of a story than Jeremy Corbyn's actual speech doesn't really suggest there's much in the way of silencing going on either.

What's happening more widely is the mixing up of journalists and MPs as though they were one and the same, with strangely the same people, suddenly aware of what some normies and a lot of motivated, hateful shits think of them, wanting something to be done about it.  The Reclaim the Internet campaign, laudable as it is, would make more sense if the internet had ever been a place where wide open spaces invited debate rather than flame wars and abuse.  It hasn't, and probably never will.  Facebook and Twitter are too open and too big to moderate.  This is not a bug; it's a feature.  The internet has always been about subcultures, where groups of like-minded people congregate and either get on or fall out, but did so in a confined space.  Throw a whole load of people of different, competing world-views and backgrounds together on one huge place, remove the barriers to communication, and what do you expect is going to happen?

The fact that journalism is becoming one of the worst possible professions to work in, as hardly anyone wants to pay for the product, allied with how it's so easy for the cunts of this world to scream at you thanks to how the media embraced Twitter only for it to come back and bite them in the arse is merely coincidence.  Actual populism, the kind that sees hateful bastards warn that staying in the EU will raise the chance of women being raped because of all the people with different "attitudes" coming over here, is a threat.  

The "populism" Daisley and friends object to is people daring to speak up against the overly deferential treatment of not the mainstream, but the real, actual establishment, or rather establishments, as there's the political establishment and media establishments, as obviously the Graun/Indie/FT aren't the same as the Mail/Sun/Express/Times/Telegraph.  The coverage say that for so long treated Farage, a populist if he wasn't such a pompous prig, with kid gloves.  Farage has had a far better press than Corbyn, and I'll leave it up to you which one is the more radical.

Such though are the biases we've long got used to, for better, for worse.  What really grinds the gears is when the bosses of the Daisleys of this world piss on my head and then he and others like him insist I'm the one doing the pissing.

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Thursday, June 02, 2016 

Not everything is about you.

In the latest development in the everything is Labour's fault meme, the last couple of days has seen first the Times and then the Graun ascribe the apparent dip in the fortunes of Remain to the party "failing to pull its weight".  If only Corbyn and friends were out there campaigning night and day, putting their message across to all the Labour voters across the country rather than leaving it to Dave and his shitty mates, then clearly all would be well.

As with most of the criticisms of Corbyn's Labour, there is a smidgen of truth to this.  Yes, Labour could be doing a bit more.  Yes, it could be making its case more forcefully.  By doing so though, does it risk getting associated with a campaign that is essentially internecine warfare between the Cameron leaning Tories and the UKIP leaning Tories, and doing more harm to itself than good in the process? Also yes.

And then we have the media's own agenda when it comes to the EU vote.  No bones about it, the actual debate stripped of the histrionics and personalities is as dull as ditchwater.  While Alan Johnson's campaign is more in line with Remain in general, the one being ran by the leadership itself is attempting to play it reasonably straight.  Which is boring.

It didn't make much difference then that today's speech by Corbyn was easily his most significant intervention yet.  He made clear that while Labour is foursquare in favour of the EU, the party is only supporting Remain with the intention of reforming the organisation from within.  He will veto the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership if Labour is in power come 2020, and made clear that he fears if Leave wins, whichever Tory ends up leader will gut the workers' rights we owe to the EU.  He and the rest of the shadow cabinet won't share a platform with the Tories on the basis of the rest of their policies, and he criticised the idea that Leaving would result automatically in a recession.

In other words, he walked the same line he has throughout.  Everyone knows he isn't the biggest fan of the EU and he's not pretending to be.  His position is pragmatic: leaving is the wrong choice, but it wouldn't be the biggest disaster in the history of the world.  The Tories are a far greater problem, which they are.  He isn't going to make the same mistake Scottish Labour did and hitch his party to a campaign that will damage it far more than it will its main constituent.

What then has the media decided is the biggest story from the speech?  That "Corbyn supporters", not Labour supporters notice, hissed Laura Kuenssberg when she asked an question.  The BBC is about the only organisation giving the speech itself a higher billing.  The most ocular proof yet of Labour's misogyny, on top of its obvious antisemitism?  Err, not really, as ITV's Chris Ship was booed as well when he questioned whether Corbyn had been half-hearted in his support for Remain up to now.  As Corbyn responded, this also depends on the media's decision of what to cover.

And obviously, the reaction of those present to a journalist is far more newsworthy than the contents of yet another lecture from Uncle Tom Corbo.  Do I really have to say it's daft to boo or hiss a journalist, as it is, especially one from the BBC?  That it is doesn't make that the story, unless hacks have no intention whatsoever of playing by their own rules, which they don't.   You don't have to think there is some great get Corbyn campaign to realise portraying him and his supporters as not playing by the accepted rules is much to their advantage with their other anti-Corbyn sources.  That one "senior Labour figure" was briefing after the speech that Corbyn "had just sabotaged the Remain campaign", about the most obtuse possible reading you could make of it just sums up how spiteful such people are determined to be.

One of the reasons there has been a change of attitude towards journalists, deserved or not, is they so often seem determined to make everything about them.  Criticism of Labour from a media overwhelmingly biased against the party, let alone under the leadership of Corbyn is expected.  What's going beyond that is to criticise, and then try to shift the story when Corbyn does precisely what was asked of him.  Everything is not always about a self-obsessed media, just as it isn't always about a self-absorbed political class.  A few egos being punctured every now and again wouldn't hurt, only it's usually just the one side that gets it in the neck.

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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.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016 

Who would notice the difference?

The former CEO of McDonald's has caused outrage after suggesting replacing the company's beef patties with formed round cakes of human excrement.

"I was at the National Restaurant Show yesterday, and checked out an impressive start-up company that is making Scotch Eggs out of dog dirt, hipster beard shavings and cat eggs," said Ron McBurgler, "and it set me thinking. They're selling these foul creations for $10 a time.  Now just imagine if we could do away with the cow altogether, recycle our own waste products, and put the prices of our new burgers up at the same time.  We'd not only be saving billions, our profits would go through the roof."

While most commentators have responded with disgust to McBurgler's idea, one public figure willing to defend his blue skies thinking was Labour MP Wes Streeting.  "The vast majority of the reaction has been old-fashioned snobbery," the street fighting representative for Ilford North told Burger Off magazine.  "I for one can't wait to tuck in to the new style Big Mac, and McDonald's will still be very much welcome at this year's Labour conference.  I've also heard they've some ideas for new condiments, and as a big fan of mayonnaise, can't wait to see what they've come up with."

Ron McBurgler is also unrepentant, telling the Cannibal Times that if still in charge his plans wouldn't stop there.  "I've heard about this thing called Soylent Green.  Apparently it's people, but I don't see why that should stand in our way of properly marketing it.  Consumers are too damn fussy these days."

The Kool-Aid man declined to comment.

In other news:
Legal highs to be banned; formerly legal highs and already illegal highs to remain available from your friendly neighbourhood drug entrepreneur
Institute for Fiscal Studies warns whoever wins EU referendum, we lose
The men who live as goatses - "we're just as normal as all the other gaping assholes you see walking down the street'

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016 


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?

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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

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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.

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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.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016 

A microcosm of wider stupidity.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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