Wednesday, August 26, 2015 

Another post in the making myself even less popular series.

Earlier in the month you might just recall we had days of coverage on the varying allegations made against Ted Heath.  Every police force in the country seemed to be launching investigations into claims made against the deceased former prime minister, to the point where it was decided Wiltshire police, the force whose superintendent had decided to make an appeal to other potential victims to come forward from outside what was Heath's home, would supervise the other inquiries.

It does strike as just slightly odd then that mere weeks later a genuinely extraordinary press conference by Harvey Proctor, during which he outlined in full the allegations of both child sexual abuse and murder, made not just against him but other senior members of the establishment, has slipped down the news agenda quite so quickly.  Only the Mail and Independent lead with it on their front pages, and beyond the interviews Proctor gave, little in the way of further analysis of the claims being made about a Westminster/establishment paedophile ring has been forthcoming.  One has to wonder if whether this might either be as a result of a request from the Metropolitan police, who yesterday were declining to comment on Proctor's media blitz, or if others have taken the same tact as the Guardian, declining to name the other figures identified out of a misplaced sense of not further spreading unproven allegations.

Some of it can undoubtedly be put down to the extravagant, hyperbolic way in which Proctor put his message across.  Either he should be arrested, charged and prosecuted immediately, or his accuser, known only as "Nick", should be charged with wasting police time, while the officer in charge of Operation Midland, Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald, should either resign, be sacked or demoted to traffic duties.  Oh, and both should be medically examined to ensure they are of sound mind.

Proctor has done himself no favours with such personal attacks.  He does though have absolutely every right to be as angry and bewildered as he is.  When someone makes allegations as lurid and as serious as the ones that Nick has, not just against Harvey Proctor but, to reel off the list Proctor was provided with, Ted Heath, Leon Brittan, Lord Janner, Lord Bramall, the heads at the time of both MI5 and MI6, General Sir Hugh Beach, a man called Ray Beech, as well as to be asked as to whether he knew or had any association with Jimmy Savile, Leslie Goddard or Peter Hayman, the expectation has to be that they will be investigated thoroughly, properly, and without favour or prejudice.  Instead, one of McDonald's first actions following the interviews with Nick was to hold a press conference at which he said that he believed the allegations made to be not just credible, but "true".  Nick has since appeared on television a number of times to relate his story, albeit with any details beyond that he was abused by establishment figures and also witnessed the murder of three other boys almost entirely shorn from the interviews.

Now that we know precisely whom Nick is accusing, it does, as Proctor said, seem "so farfetched as to be unbelievable".  As Evan Davis nearly summarised on Newsnight last night, either the very worst fears of an establishment abuse ring and cover-up are true, or this is the biggest witch-hunt since the Satanic abuse panic of the late 80s/early 90s, with some of the same individuals involved.  The police strategy appears on the surface at least to have been to give publicity to Nick's allegations in the hope that other witnesses will come forward to corroborate them.  If anyone has, it would seem their accounts haven't matched, leaving the Met with little evidence other than Nick's statements.  This would explain why despite searching Proctor's home and twice interviewing him under caution, he has not been arrested.

Instead, the police have allowed the drip, drip of the claims against various figures, not just Proctor and Heath, to continue for the best part of the 9 months.  In the vanguard has been Exaro News, the online agency that has come to specialise in investigating cases of historic child abuse, with a journalist from Exaro apparently sitting in on the interviews between the police and Nick.  Exaro also had the scoop on just when Proctor was to be raided and interviewed, whether as a result of the police telling Nick and Nick informing Exaro, or being told directly.

Nick's testimony, regardless of the figures he says were involved in his abuse, is clearly compelling.  Without other witnesses however, or when most of those named are either dead or advanced in age, it's left the police with almost nowhere to go.  When you've already declared the account given by the witness to be true, a word that Exaro notably have been leaving out of their defences of Nick, saying only that he is regarded as credible, to then not act against Proctor other than to leave him to be judged in the court of public opinion is deeply troubling.  Proctor's claims of a homosexual witch-hunt may be over done, at least when it comes to the police, but that these allegations have been made repeatedly and principally against gay men does raise concern.

As does so much about the way these cases have been reported and consumed.  I don't know whether Nick's account is true, nor do I know if as Proctor protests, he is innocent.  You might well have thought that Proctor's downfall in 1987 over rent boys, albeit ones that would now be above the age of consent, would have led to these even more sensational claims coming to the fore sooner, for instance.  


Nonetheless, the more serious and the higher allegations of wrongdoing go, the rule normally is the more evidence is needed in order to convince.  Neither the police or media have come close to providing anything other than innuendo or a single, necessarily anonymous source to back up the claims being made.  The so close to almost be inseparable involvement of a media organisation with both the witness and the investigating state body also raises alarm bells.  For the same media organisations that have had no problem with repeatedly publicising allegations against senior figures without naming them or detailing exactly what they have been accused of to suddenly blanch when the principal accused sets out in unflinching detail the rapes, the stabbings, the running over of a 12-year-old, a list of exactly who is being accused, it smacks of them thinking that their readers will conclude they've been strung along for months once they're given the whole picture, rather than as Exaro laughably claims, about "avoiding contaminating the evidence pool".

This still doesn't explain why so many have been convinced from the moment Nick's allegations were first made public that they were true.  Exaro yesterday retweeted someone who asked them to send their regards as Nick was a source of "hope".  If that's out of the sense that survivors of abuse will be believed, fine.  If however it's because many want Nick's account to be true because it will prove accurate the worst fears or rather prejudices many have long had for politicians, especially Conservative ones, as it's difficult not to detect, that's something quite different.  Barth's Notes puts it down to a form of anti-establishment millennialism, but to me it reminds of Nick Davies' mea culpa over the murder of Hilda Murrell, an anti-nuclear campaigner whose death became a cause celebre in the 80s.  


Then it was the shadow of the secret state combined with the viciousness of the Thatcher era.  Now it's the spectre of the failure to expose Jimmy Savile while he was alive, combined with the general contempt for politicians and the belief that exposing the figures of the past will do for their successors today.  Others call for the abused to always be listened to regardless of how outlandish their claims may seem, ignoring how if it turns out that Nick's story is false or doesn't lead to prosecutions the damage likely to be done to public faith in similar exposes will be considerable.  Like what Proctor did or not, his actions are a more than understandable response to the mistakes and questionable decisions of both Exaro and the Metropolitan police. 

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015 

Being right about the Iraq war has made Sarah Ditum insufferable.

I, like Sarah Ditum, was against the Iraq war.  I, like Ditum, focused on the potential for war to the detriment of everything else, with the exception of one thing.  I was a few years younger than Ditum, but otherwise the picture she paints is highly recognisable.  Perhaps I wouldn't go as far to say that it gave me an overwhelming sense of moral superiority, as it didn't, mainly because I'm rarely 100% certain about anything.  I definitely hoped that other people I admired would be anti-war too though.

Which is where we must separate.  I long ago reached the point of being bored senseless by Iraq; there are only so many times the same arguments can be regurgitated, the same realities ignored, the same mistakes repeated before you lose the will to carry on.  I might not feel morally superior for it, but I'm more convinced than ever that Iraq will come to be seen as the defining disaster of early 21st century foreign policy.  It's just that there seems little to no point whatsoever in acting high and mighty about it, or reminding everyone just how right you were, precisely because most other people who were also energised and enraged by the build up to the war are now also in a similar position.  Shutting the fuck up about Iraq is something I would have advised everyone to do, or at least would have done prior to the rise of Islamic State.

For the reason that you can't talk about Islamic State without recognising where the group came from.  Islamic State owes its existence to the Iraq war, even if its existence can hardly be wholly blamed on the West as some would like to.  Al-Qaida probably had at best a handful of members in Iraq prior to the invasion.  Afterwards, thanks to the Americans and our good selves deciding it would be a spiffing idea to carry on with an occupation that was doomed from the start, foreign Sunni extremists, domestic Islamists and nationalists/Ba'athists opposed to the foreign presence swiftly made common cause and so began the insurgency.  The forerunners to Islamic State changed name repeatedly, seemed on a couple of occasions on the brink of defeat, but thanks to mistakes by the Western-backed Iraqi government, were never degraded completely.  It's a very long way from the bombing of the UN building in August 2003 to the destruction of the Baal temple in Palmyra in Syria in August 2015, but the two outrages are connected.

No, what Ditum seems to be describing is, once again, and as Flying Rodent has also pointed out, her own private Idaho.  The left she's talking about and identifies is the same one trapped in the social media echo chamber, the one where as fellow New Statesman columnist Helen Lewis has recently identified, appearing right on is more important than actually being so when it matters.  I mean really, Media Lens?  I too quite liked them back between around 2003-2006, then lost interest once it became apparent they believed their real enemies to be the few mainstream outlets in this country that are even vaguely left-wing.  It's very easy to be snotty about Twitter, especially when you're someone who has always refused to have anything to do with it, but it undoubtedly can and has made some even more parochial in their interests and selective in precisely what information they rely on.

Ditum's real point, more really than Iraq, is about how this relatively small cross-section of people are among the most vocal in supporting Jeremy Corbyn.  They no doubt are, and considering that the SNP have long been some of the most noisy in making known their opposition to the war, despite having done very little at the time about it, it's not surprising that some of these same people were not like us marching around our miserable little town centres knowing full well it was pointless.  Mainly because plenty of them were, like Mhairi Black, not even into double figures age wise at the time.  That's how long ago it was, even if it doesn't feel like it.

Iraq does and at the same time doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter because the vast majority have long since grown bored of it, or if they aren't exasperated by its mere mention they don't base their decisions when it comes to voting on something that happened 13 years ago.  And yet, it does matter, not because there is this noisy minority that overwhelmingly supports Corbyn, some of whom regarded Iraq as the ultimate betrayal and have been holding out for a hero ever since, but because it's Corbyn's largely irrelevant attitudes towards foreign policy, at least from a Labour leadership standpoint, that have been where most of the mud thrown at him has been found.

The reason this especially seems to enrage his online opponents is that unlike them, he's been able to make common course with groups or individuals that are rightly controversial, in this instance ones that have either made anti-Semitic comments or are definitively anti-Semitic, and yet it hasn't damaged him.  It doesn't seem to occur this is because Corbyn himself is not racist in the slightest, and that the best explanation for his continuing to attend Deir Yassin Remembered meetings or speak at a conference organised by a front organisation for the LaRouche group is down to not checking out their credentials properly or naivety, alongside his general friendliness towards any organisation that seems on the surface at least to share his views.  Also, unlike them, his willingness to not instantly condemn any group in the search for peace, his experience with the IRA having informed this approach, rankles more than anything.  Ideological purity is always important regardless of whether it's the far left or the Labour right involved in the whatabouttery.

Except, of course, it's not Corbyn's anti-war position on Iraq that has led him to associate with most of these accused individuals and groups, but his stance on Palestine, as Ditum must know.  Iraq has very little to nothing to do with his rise in the contest; as Andy Burnham has recognised, the real reason for Corbyn's surge was the welfare vote.  As I related yesterday, only 2 people at the Burnham question and answer session mentioned Iraq, one of them a Tory, the other asking not about Iraq specifically but mentioning it in regard to conviction.  If anything, Corbyn telling the Graun he would issue a general apology for the Iraq war was a response to the Labour figures that have made so much of his views on foreign policy, pointing out the ridiculousness of such people lecturing others over what is and isn't acceptable.

Ditum is right that being right about Iraq is not a good enough foundation for political life, but Corbyn isn't relying on it as his foundation in any case.  The question ought to be what is preferable, knowing what we do now: is remaining an interventionist by instinct going to count in your favour when we have not just Iraq, but also Libya to judge by?  Is bombing in Syria as well as Iraq, as it is after all worth remembering that technically we are currently involved in the third Iraq war, really going to alter anything, especially when we seem to have just abandoned the Kurds in favour of the Turks?  Has in fact our belief that we have the "responsibility to protect" undermined both national and international security, making our protests against Russia's annexation of the Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine even easier for Putin and other imperialists to ignore?  And isn't much of the insufferable banging on about Iraq in any case not about what went wrong at all levels of government, what mistakes everyone involved made, but in fact about one man, who has become just as much the scapegoat for the failings of all concerned, driving force as he was?  Indeed, shouldn't we truly learn the lessons of Iraq, as we clearly still haven't, before condemning a small group of annoyingly self-righteous people whose politics have been defined by it?

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Monday, August 24, 2015 

The interminable adventures of a Labour supporter, pt. 1.

There are many ways to spend a weekend.  I doubt most people's idea of a good time would be going to see the former frontrunner in the Labour leadership election try his best to persuade other legendarily boring gits to vote for him, but this apparently is my life now as an official Labour supporter™.  Or at least it will be until some bright spark connects my real name to this blog, where I have previously said to vote for parties other than Labour, something considered enough to bar you from being a member or supporter, even if you campaigned for the party or said to vote for them this year.  With new friends, eh?

Anyway, just a few points:

1. I estimate between 150 to 200 turned up to see Andy Burnham speak and then take questions, certainly more than I expected.  Jeremy Corbyn has been filling far bigger places than where we were, getting numbers in the region of 800-1200, but Burnham himself seem pleased with the turnout.  Considering where I live is at the best of times devoid of anything approaching culture (the coming attraction at the local theatre is Shrek The Musical) and completely apolitical, I don't think it was bad going.  I've been to stand-up gigs where the numbers could be counted on a single pair of hands, if that's a comparable metric.  (Yes, yes it is).

2. The only person to mention Jeremy Corbyn was... Andy Burnham.  To the point where it almost seemed as though he was the man who couldn't be named.

3. The most intriguing thing Burnham said by far was that if he'd resigned from the shadow cabinet over the welfare bill, he expects he'd probably still be the frontrunner.  And indeed, he's almost certainly right to think so.  He didn't however because he's never broken the Labour whip, loyalty to the party being far more important than taking personal advantage.  Unity is strength, he repeated, a number of times.  Apart from being just a word away from one of the key slogans of Ingsoc from 1984, it seemed on a number of levels to be a truly odd line to take and regard as a plus point.  There's nothing wrong with resigning over a point of principle, especially when the politics behind the line being pushed are so utterly wrongheaded.  Moreover, if Burnham had resigned and gained accolades for doing so, much of the ridiculously damaging in-fighting that has since been conducted over the rise of Corbyn would have been avoided.  It seemed like a false line, precisely what the rival campaigns of Cooper and Kendall have accused him repeatedly of adopting.

4.  Regardless, Burnham was more impressive than I expected him to be.  Yes, he's obviously had a lot of practice in delivering his short speech and in answering questions put to him, but he did so with admirable fluency, taking three questions at a time and answering them in turn, without resorting to cliches, platitudes or padding out his responses.  His only real annoying tick was in referring to Cameron and pals more than once as "the Bullingdon boys", which apart from being increasingly old and a bit rich from a Cambridge graduate, hasn't really posed said "Bullingdon boys" much trouble with the voters, has it?  Should he come through on second preferences, I'm less concerned than before that he will just be Ed Miliband Mk2.

5.  I wasn't though in the slightest bit convinced.  On the surface, there's much to like about Burnham: his manifesto is the most detailed apart from Corbyn's, has a good line in creating a National Health and Care Service, funded through a care levy, and behind Kendall would be the candidate the Tories most fear.  He seems to be a Thoroughly Good Bloke, certainly less weird or geeky than that loser MIliband, something we're informed voters respect greatly, despite also much liking politicians who are complete dicks. 

What he lacks is that ruthlessness Ed did occasionally show; the point I felt like making, but didn't, both because it was more of a statement than a question and although this blog hides it, I'm far more shy and retiring than you might imagine, was that if he had resigned over the welfare vote and hadn't joined in with the others in the aftermath of the election in the accepting everything the Tories, Blairites and right-wing press said about why Labour lost, he might already have it in the bag.  He answered a question about conviction from someone who was clearly leaning towards Corbyn by saying that we should look at his role in the Hillsborough inquiry as to how he will challenge vested interests and the right people.  This would mean more if it hadn't taken the 20th anniversary memorial at Anfield to spark his determination; the passing of time meant there was little real opposition to taking another look, the Sun having repeatedly tried by that point to apologise, if the police and state were yet to.

Labour needs, deserves better than someone who only acts once the time is right, who only moves once others have done so.  Burnham seems the compromise, and despite the party needing to come to a compromise once the leader is elected, doing so over the leader isn't the answer.  That said, I would now like to see Liz Kendall speak and answer questions in person, although she seems to have abandoned the pretence of doing much other than TV and radio appearances and calling individual members, for obvious reasons.

6.  The only entryist in evidence was a Tory councillor who for reasons known only to himself decided to gatecrash the event and prove he had an even more pathetic existence than the rest of us.  His question, when he could have easily made everyone uncomfortable by asking about the deficit or Corbyn, was to ask Burnham why Tony Blair lied over Iraq.  Yes, really.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015 

New victim of Labour purge identified.

There was consternation today after it emerged Ed Miliband's incipient beard has been denied a vote in the Labour leadership election.  The new facial appendage was informed via email, in what has been dubbed the "great Labour purge", that it does not support the "aims and values" of the party.

"It's an outrageous decision," said Keith Flett, chief executive of the Beard Liberation Front.  "The idea that beards are anything but rooted in Labour values is absurd.  From Marx and Engels to Keir Hardie, from Ramsay MacDonald to that apology for a moustache that once took up space below Ken Livingstone's nose, from Peter Mandelson to Robin Cook, facial hair and the Labour party have always gone together.  To deny this is to deny history.  The Milibeard must have its vote restored forthwith."

A spokesman for the Labour party, who refused to comment on whether he too had decided to forgo using a razor for a couple of weeks, denied that the decision had been made in error.  "We have reason to believe that the Milibeard is an unconscious attempt on the part of Ed to indicate support for Jeremy Corbyn.  As all former leaders are required to either keep shtum or endorse Yvette Cooper, we had no option but to remove his vote."

It as yet unclear whether Ed plans to add to his new hipster image by getting a sleeve tattoo and opening a breakfast cereal pop-up eatery in Shoreditch.

In other news:

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015 

Trigger warnings and sexual fluidity? Yeah, this is going to go well.

Trigger warnings, doncha love 'em?  Well no, not really.  To Lindy West, they are merely the equivalent of a newsreader warning that the next item contains "scenes you might find upsetting or distressing".  It's basic human decency.  Not everyone wants to see images of starving, crying children, corpses washed up on the Libyan coast or blood-stained pavements where the injured after a bombing are screaming in agony, and I wouldn't for a second force anyone to see such things.  I would argue though that within reason we should look at such things, precisely because like it or not, such images depict life, not as we want it to be but as it is.

West objects strongly to the idea that asking for such warnings to be included on college syllabuses might be about censorship or not wanting to engage with ideas that students rather wouldn't.  On the whole she's likely to be right, and so long as professors themselves are making the choice to include the warnings, there's little to be concerned about.  The Oberlin case she swiftly brushes over though didn't involve the teaching staff, and more than gives the impression the aim of the students, consciously or not, was to avoid discussing subjects they disliked as a result of their political views.  Such a position is worrying regardless of the politics of those involved, as the Oberlin professors made clear in getting the proposals thrown out.  You don't need to be an opponent of "cultural Marxism" or "SJWs" as the new online right present themselves to worry for instance that the great giving and taking offence wars have gone too far, as the reaction to the attack on Charlie Hebdo surely demonstrated.  Political correctness, as far as such a thing actually exists, should be as West argues about common courtesy; it has the potential to stop being that however when the privileged affect to speak on behalf of minorities, something that both the right and left are equally capable of doing.

Concluding, West states that "People hate trigger warnings because they bring up something most don’t like to remember: that the world is not currently a safe or just place, and people you love are almost certainly harbouring secrets that would break your heart."  She's right, only she's got it completely back to front: people dislike the idea of trigger warnings because however much we want the world to change, we still have to deal with it as is.  Life does not come with a trigger warning, regardless of how corny that sounds, as abuse victims will know all too well.  Not confronting difficult subjects isn't a solution, rather the opposite.

Somewhat related are the reports on a YouGov poll from the weekend on how we're all sexually fluid now, or rather that 1 in 2 young people say they are not 100% heterosexual.  This is rather less surprising when you dig further down into the poll (PDF): 1 in 2 young people might not say they are definitively either straight or gay on the Kinsey scale, where you rate yourself between 0 and 6, but when specifically asked if they are heterosexual, gay, bisexual, other or prefer not to say, the results are almost boringly as you'd expect.  The original Kinsey surveys suggested 1 in 10 were gay (the ONS by contrast suggested that only 1.5% of the population was gay in 2013), and this poll pretty much backs that up: 81% and 83% of the young (18-24s and 25-39s) say they're heterosexual, while 10% and 11% say gay (2% and 4% say bi).  I know I wouldn't put myself as 0 on the Kinsey scale, despite sadly being as straight as they come, for instance.  The obvious explanation for the difference between the young and old when it comes to the Kinsey scale is again, rather dull: there's no reason whatsoever to believe that older generations are any different in terms of sexual preference, they're just not as comfortable in saying so.

More interesting is why some continue to believe that regardless of this evidence, their own sexual identity or rather lack of wouldn't be welcomed or understood back in their home town, despite everything suggesting that we've never been so tolerant.  Some of it might be down to just how silly the labels themselves are: Alice, 23, from Sussex is apparently a "bisexual homoromantic".  Or translated, "It means I like sex with men and women, but I only fall in love with women. I wouldn’t say something wishy-washy like, ‘It’s all about the person,’ because more often it’s just that I sometimes like a penis."  Some others might more succinctly call it having your cake and eating it, although that has often been the judgemental accusation thrown at bisexuals.  Alice's description of her sexuality does nonetheless seem a recipe for more than the usual amount of hurt feelings and misunderstandings, at least outside of a close social group, while also hinting towards narcissism.  Does the owner of the penis have a say, for instance?  When Alice then talks of feeling entitled to be who she is in London, but doesn't feel the same way in the small town in the home counties she hails from, where she never experienced discrimination but puts this down purely to "passing" as straight, you do have to wonder.

This isn't to pretend that there isn't still prejudice, or lack of understanding, it's more that it's likely to become more and more confined to specific sub-cultures and localised areas.  Keegan Hirst no doubt genuinely thought that he couldn't be from Batley, be a rugby player and be gay, and no doubt it's why despite having always been gay he went down the path he did, but it often takes just the one breach for the whole dam to burst.  The belief that you need to move away from "backwaters" in order to be yourself, that anywhere outside of the major cities is the equivalent of social death or likely to be homophobia central just doesn't ring true any more.  It is however an eerily familiar way of thinking: just like we tend on the whole to say crime is low and public services are decent in our local area, we imagine that everywhere else there be monsters.  It might well be the case there will be more snorts of derision should someone declare themselves to be a "bisexual homoromantic" outside of the M25, but err, is that necessarily a bad thing?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015 

"Self-improvement is masturbation. Now, self-destruction?"

(Yeah, I can quote Fight Club as well.  Oh, and incidentally Liz Kendall's campaign did get round to emailing me today.

Of all the ill-judged and misguided interventions in the Labour leadership contest, David Miliband's is without question the most tone deaf.  He name checks both Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt, two of the figures who have most helped push party members towards Corbyn with their intemperate outbursts, repeats the nonsense that Labour lost because his brother retreated from the true Blairite way,  and then advises that Britain could become an effective one party Conservative state.  Well yes, it certainly could if whoever becomes leader follows the D Miliband path of reform, reform, reform.  It's either reform or Conservatism, folks, it's simple as that.

Except of course it isn't.  To portray Jeremy Corbyn's platform as pure nostalgia, the failed policies of the past, a wholehearted return to the 80s is a caricature and no more comforting for it.  Whether you like the idea or not, the Corbyn proposal for people's quantitative easing offers an alternative to austerity that none of the other candidates have come close to matching.  Miliband responds to the retaliatory accusations that the other three merely want to reheat what worked in the 90s by claiming nothing could be further the truth, only to produce a list of policies, or rather "ideas" almost indistinguishable from the ones that became increasingly less popular in each successive election.  Only the references to secular stagnation and a low-carbon European energy future mask what is an incredibly familiar programme, complete with the same old euphemisms.  What else is the reference to "combat humanitarian catastrophe where it occurs" other than a call for more liberal interventionism?  Miliband is clearly referring to Syria, rather forgetting that it was our invoking of the responsibility to protect in Libya that has had just a big an impact on the numbers seeking asylum as anything else.

If there's one message that each of the successive figures from the past have wanted to drill into the newly signed up supporters, affiliates and members, it's that Labour has to be a party of government, not protest.  And yet the irony is that Jeremy Corbyn has been by the far the most leader-like of all the candidates.  He's declined to respond in kind to all the various insults both he and his supporters have received, has repeatedly set out in detail exactly what his policies would entail, in complete difference to the other three, and when confronted with the accusations of being acquainted with antisemites has given straight answers, if not at the first time of asking.

The contrast with Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper, who have spent the past day fighting like two tomcats in a sack could not be more stark.  Cooper, having seemingly let all the various transfers of allegiance from the those on the right of the party go to her head, demanded that Burnham withdraw both because he clearly can't be trusted to properly oppose Corbyn and only she can possibly win.  Considering Cooper's strategy from the outset was to say almost nothing in the slightest bit challenging and in the end triumph on the basis of second preference votes, her extremely late in the day conversion to attacking Corbyn head on is just a little rich.  Besides, regardless of Burnham's similar lack of anything remotely approaching conviction, the next leader will need to work not just with the various factions within the party but also with those who have been enthused by Corbyn.  To regard him and those who've supported him as beyond the pale completely, as Cooper and Liz Kendall apparently do just isn't going to work.  Corbyn probably won't want a shadow cabinet position, but there's no reason why he couldn't play a similar role to the one say Jon Cruddas does currently.  He certainly couldn't do any worse, as the latest batch of risible research commissioned by Cruddas shows.  Prospectors, pioneers and settlers, fuck me sideways.

As the man formerly known as Anton Vowl tweeted, if we didn't know it before, there are an awful lot of arseholes in the Labour party.  Arseholes with remarkably thin skins, it should be added.  Some of the same people who have gone around shouting about Marxists, Hezbollah and Hamas lovers, or simply called anyone thinking of voting for Corbyn idiots or in need of a heart transplant are it turns out really quite hurt when they're called Tories by anonymous people on the internet.  Liz Kendall took to moaning about this at the weekend, and repeated her message today.  To be fair, Kendall has not herself been one of those going around insulting people, even if those who are or at least were supporting her were in the vanguard of doing so.  Calling those on the right of the party Tories is not helpful, but nor is it as Kendall claims, an "enormous strategic mistake".  An enormous strategic mistake is to carry on acting like spoilt children, spitting out dummies when things don't go your way.  For Yvette Cooper's campaign to repeatedly play the sexist card when Burnham's has as far as we know simply been stating the facts as we know them, that she can't win, is exceptionally low politics.

It's also indicative of the hole the "mainstream" of the party has dug itself into.  Their hope was to have a simple, straightforward contest where all the candidates agreed with the Tory and right-wing media consensus on why Labour lost, elect whoever emerged on top and go from there.  This fell apart not with Corbyn's entry into the contest, but when Harriet Harman declared the party would not oppose the government's welfare bill.  Everything that has happened since has its root in that unbelievably damaging capitulation, an act of self-harm from a party leadership that claims it has to be in power in order to protect the vulnerable.

Any doubts about Corbyn, and they are many and myriad, have been overlooked both because of those making them, whether they be the Decents that ignore the realities of the Middle East and cheer lead for Israel regardless of how it acts and who have been making the same hysterical arguments for years,  the ex-party figures that have simply lost any influence they once had, or down to how the other three candidates are just so woefully lacking in every regard.  Rather than accept they might have made any mistakes, their reaction has been to turn on each other, to the point where it looks as though regardless of who wins, the first task will be to rebuild trust and relationships that should never have broken down in the first place.  Rather than welcome new members the major response has been to treat them with suspicion if not outright contempt.  Rather than work with whoever the new leader is, many have said they will refuse to serve under one person or another, while others are plotting practically in the open.

The reason the Conservatives as a party have barely bothered to comment on the woe of their rival is they don't need to.  Labour's self-destruction these past few weeks has been completely unnecessary and all the more damaging for it.  Nothing makes a party look less electable or serious than the recriminations that probably haven't as much as started yet.  Absolutely nothing I've seen or heard, regardless of all the entreaties and pleas has made me alter my view that the party needs either Jeremy Corbyn or Liz Kendall to win, if only so that all the bad blood can be purged in one go, however it is that turns out.  If it means a split in the party, frankly so be it.  The quicker the left gets itself organised the better.  This didn't have to happen, but now that it has it might as well come to a conclusive end.  Voting for either Cooper or Burnham is only going to prolong the agony.

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Monday, August 17, 2015 

Oh and dear.

Since paying my £3 last Monday and signing up as a Labour supporter, I've had emails from, in order, Jeremy Corbyn's campaign, Stella Creasy's campaign (with the topic "The first rule of Campaign Fight(Back) Club is..." and then the body doesn't enlighten me further.  Don't talk about Campaign Fight(Back) Club? Do talk about Campaign Fight(Back) Club?  Don't always try and be down with the kids by referencing 90s novels and films?), Andy Burnham's campaign, Tom Watson's campaign, Stella Creasy's campaign again, and finally, Yvette Cooper's campaign.  Spot the odd one out.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015 

The road to Jeremy.

"There is something fascinating about watching a party wrestle with its soul."  So goes Tony Blair's explanation as to why Jeremy Corbyn's campaign has "sparked interest".  What Blair really thinks is far clearer: this isn't just people rubbernecking, who don't want to look at an accident but can't find the willpower not to, but the actions of those whose first instinct is to reach for their smartphone and "join in".  To Blair and the still true believing Blairites, Corbyn doesn't so much as offer creative destruction, but just destruction: everything they achieved is under threat.  To them, the reason Labour lost the last two elections is because Gordon and Ed abandoned their "values", didn't remain that "radical centre".  Everything else that's happened since Blair stepped down is irrelevant.

As has already been pointed out approximately 392 million times, the lack of self-awareness is quite extraordinary.  It doesn't seem to occur to Blair that perhaps, just perhaps, the decisions he took while leader might have something to do with Labour's predicament now.  For argument's sake, let's dispense with the Iraq war, the way you can only push a party around for so long by arguing the only way to win is through triangulation, with the constant taking on of your own backbenchers, and accept the Blair argument that while not perfect, he left the party in a good shape.

The fact is he didn't.  The TB-GBs, the infighting, the broken promises, they left a party that while never united in its history, and has as the left is wont to do, often accused its leaders of selling out, substantially weakened.  Moreover, Blair and Brown had dominated the party for so long that once the pair themselves were out of the way, it left the crop of leadership candidates we saw in 2010 to pick up the pieces.  The Blairites had always thought themselves far more talented than they were in actuality, as could not be more evidenced by Hazel Blears and John Reid to name but the two most egregious examples.  Not that Brown's acolytes were much better on the whole, but give me Ed Balls over almost any of the now vastly diminished gang of Blair groupies any day.  Brown's election or rather ascension was swiftly followed by the spitting out of the dummy by such leading lights as James Purnell, now of course of the BBC.  Fact was that Labour was doomed by the crash, anyway; how different things might have been had Brown had the courage to call that early election, and ignore the polls suggesting he would only scrape back in.

This process was then repeated following Ed Miliband's election.  It was David's birthright!  Ed stabbed him in the back!  Ed's a hopeless loser!  And who knows, maybe, just maybe a David Miliband-led party would have performed slightly better.  Rather than wait for a second opportunity though, or hell, even stop sulking and do his darnedest to help his brother out, Dave fucked off to New York, and with him went the Blairites' last realistic hope.  Leaving who?  Chuka Umunna, who couldn't so much as handle the slightest amount of press intrusion that Ed dealt with and fought back against from the start?  Liz Kendall, who bless her is trying but hasn't worked out you can't just deliver insults and lectures and expect a depressed yet still hopeful party will snap back into line?  Rachel Reeves, who makes Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson look interesting, and in any case has now hitched her wagon to the Burnham train?  Speaking of whom, isn't it indicative that excluding Corbyn, the two other candidates either ran previously and came second from last, or are the partner of someone also rejected?  Isn't that perhaps an insight into just why someone as unelectable, as backwards, as old school as Corbyn has reached the parts they haven't?

No, it's not their fault.  At the very heart of the modern Labour party is a contradiction: it claims to be the people's party, to represent those from all walks of life, and yet when those very same people decide they would like to vote for the next leader, the reaction is one of horror and paranoia.  It surely ought to occur that only a tiny number of the 121,000 who have registered as supporters can be Trots or Tories, and that for a party that lost so badly to have signed up that number in such a short space of time, not to include those who've done so through their union, is something really quite special.  To end up with an electorate of over 600,000 gives the lie to the idea that mass party membership isn't possible in the 21st century.  It ought to be embraced, celebrated.  The number will without doubt fall back significantly, but it still means that a huge number of people in this country are looking to the Labour party, not to any other organisation, grouplet or flash in the pan activist group to lead the opposition to the Conservatives.

And yet to Blair and indeed the other three candidates this feat apparently equals annihilation.  It would of course be wrong to extrapolate from the mass sign up that the country at large is crying out for an alternative; if it were, more would have voted for Ed.  It hardly though suggests Labour is anywhere near finished, unless that is Labour itself it is out of pure spite.  The situation reminds of fans of a band that stop liking their previously favourite group once it hits the mainstream, regardless of whether or not they adapted themselves to do so.  When Labour had the 400,000 or so members it did at the height of Blairism, that was great, fantastic.  When they sign up to vote Corbyn, although that again is to surmise, the sky is about to fall.

As is no doubt clear by my fluttering of eyelashes in the direction of Kendall, I'm not Corbyn's biggest fan.  There's nothing spectacularly wrong with any of his policies, but then neither is there anything spectacularly right with them, or rather there's no reason why they should be priorities.  I quite like the idea of renationalising the railways by taking them back into state control as the current franchises expire, but when like it or not money is so tight should it be a leading pledge?  The same goes for abolishing tuition fees, which again is a wonderful, progressive policy, just one that perplexes me by how it continues to be proposed when we know just how screwed any party will be that fails to live up to the promise.  Compare them though with what's on offer from the other three, with only Kendall offering substantially anything different, and nearly always for the worse, and it's little wonder why a left-wing party has decided that if it's going to lose, it might as well lose by being genuinely left-wing.  Why carry on waltzing into George Osborne's bear traps if it won't alter the end result?

This is to fall into the belief that Corbyn is completely unelectable, admittedly.  A lot can happen in 5 years, and Blair's line in his article that the public would turn on the party for its self-indulgence is nonsense.  A Corbyn led Labour party would be many things, but not providing active opposition is hardly something it could be accused of.  The obsession with being a party of government at all times, when Labour cannot be a party of government unless the Tories lose their slight majority for 5 years is completely bizarre.  There is not the slightest recognition that Labour's victory in 2005 with 35% of the vote was no more sustainable than Tories' win with 36% this time will be.  Ed Miliband won more votes in England than Blair did in 2005, it should be pointed out.

The last roll of the dice it seems is to Yvette Cooper.  Liz Kendall is too far behind, Andy Burnham can't be trusted as far as he can be thrown, so it falls to the candidate that has said the least, has the least personality and hoped to swing it on the basis of 2nd choice votes from Corbyn supporters to carry the banner of the sensible.  Considering just how boring David Cameron is, in some ways Cooper would certainly be a worthy competitor: if that's what the British public likes most about their leaders at this point in history, then carry on.  According to the Graun though the next leader must take on "the desiccated condition of the Labour establishment", the same Labour establishment that Cooper has finally embraced with her attack on Corbyn.  I can't help but think that either Burnham or Kendall would be more capable of that task, of "harnessing young people's passion", and am frankly bemused by the sudden upswing in support for someone who has always seemed up to now an also-ran, achieving high office without ever having done anything to distinguish themselves.  Which might just have something to do with it.

In any case, you suspect it's all been left too late.  Rather than try and engage Corbyn supporters as soon as it became clear he was making headway, the approach has been to either insult him or them, or hope that by sort of agreeing with him while also sort of not that everyone would see how radical and sensible they were at the same time.  As ought to have been lesson from the Lib Dem collapse, from the nigh on 4 million votes for UKIP, it doesn't work like that anymore.  Nor are they going to take of notice of those who claim that political parochialism is a result of the crash, rather than the foreign policy disasters supported by the same people who keep on saying no you can't, and who then go on to quote the Hamas charter as to why Jeremy Corbyn while not personally an anti-semite, does stand in close proximity to them.  A Corbyn leadership might not last long, it probably won't trouble the Tories in the slightest, but Labour had better started getting used to the idea sharpish.  Hell, it could even look at precisely how it got here, take some responsibility, and make the best of it.

Yeah, right.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015 

"One girl was clearly upset by what was going on."

The singer Paloma Faith has been found guilty of a public order offence following an impromptu gig at a private function in Hyde Park.

"I was shocked," said Andrew Shandy, giving evidence for the prosecution.  "There I was, just about to shoot my bolt, and suddenly this excruciating noise started up.  It startled everyone.  At first I thought someone had got a little bit too enthusiastic with the noshing, but then I realised the screeching was vaguely in tune and made out the words truth and beautiful.  The last thing you want at an event like that is Paloma's brand of nasal bird scaring."

The court heard that the singer had mistakenly turned up at the Blowjobs in the Park (incorporating Cunnilingus in the City) cheese, wine and fellatio picnic bonanza believing it to be the adjacent Radio 2 Party in the Park concert.  Rather than make a swift exit, and despite the entreaties of the organisers, Faith saw fit to serenade the exhibitionists with songs such as Slightly Tipsy and Only Teeth Hurt Like This.

Passing judgement, Mr Justice Cocklecarrot commented: "This was particularly revolting behaviour.  Generally we turn a blind eye to such indiscretions so long as they take place in full view of CCTV or in dimly lit rural car parks.  The sheer number of people that filmed your performance when there was so much other action going on stands as testament to that."

Ms Faith, 48, of Shoreditch, was fined £10 and pleaded with to pack it in.

--


Labour MP for Rochdale Simon Danzcuk has called for an immediate halt to the party's leadership contest, saying that survivors of child abuse have no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn's ability to hold the establishment to account.

"Survivors tell me that they could never put their trust in a man with a beard, not least one who has represented Islington for over 30 years, the other dark heart of the country, apart from all the others.  Should Corbyn win the leadership nonetheless, I pledge to lead an immediate coup and install Our Liz, the sensible candidate for sensible times as leader for life, or at least until we inevitably lose again."

In other news:

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015 

Turkey PM: Syria no-Kurd zone needed.

The Turkish prime minister has told the BBC that Turkey will continue pushing for a no-Kurd zone in northern Syria, as the Turkish government is quite frankly that evil.

"It's fairly remarkable what you can get away with so long as you claim to be against Islamic State," Ahmet Davutoglu told yet another bloke called Jeremy.  "We've bombed almost precisely two supposed Islamic State targets since Islamic State killed a bunch of socialist teenagers that frankly we're better off without.  Once that was out of the way we've targeted the Kurds exclusively.  Yes, those are the same Kurds that have been the only truly effective ground force against Islamic State other than the Syrian army.  Confused?  You shouldn't be."

"You see, we're so utterly myopic that we fear the Kurds far more than we do Islamic State.  The Kurds are represented mainly by liberals, leftists, secularists, people that we in the AKP utterly loathe and detest.  Islamic State we can do business with, at least until they decide to extend their caliphate to Istanbul and Ankara, whereas the Kurds merely want their own state, not to go on expanding and subjugating everyone in their path.  You can see our way of thinking, right?"

"Not that it's surprising so many are still so utterly ignorant about all this.  Natalie Nougayrède (crazy name, crazy gal?!) in the Guardian is still pushing the line that if only Barack Obama had let Hillary Clinton arm the moderate Syrian rebels then Assad might just have been forced into peace negotiations.  This of course ignores the fact that Western governments from the outset said Assad had to go, that Saudis, Qataris and Kuwaitis were quickly funnelling money and weapons to jihadists and that still the thinking remains that a stalemate is preferable to either Assad or Islamic State winning outright, hence why nothing has changed on that score, but it's the kind of argument you've come to expect.  No wonder hardly anyone minds when we start killing the only people involved who aren't fanatical sectarians."

In other news:

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Monday, August 10, 2015 

Dear Liz Kendall...

You'll be pleased to know I've just signed up as a supporter of the Labour party, with the intention of voting for you as my first choice for leader.  Most likely however I will be putting Jeremy Corbyn as second choice.  Why would anyone do such a thing when the mutual antagonisms between your wing of the Labour party, dismissively and ever more irrelevantly labelled the Blairite faction, and that of Corbyn, equally derisively labelled the hard left, have broken out into the open as never before during the contest thus far?

First off, we both know that this has been an especially nasty and vituperative campaign.  It reminds more than anything of the Scottish independence debate, when both sides often appeared to be trying their best to scaremonger and appeal to the basest instincts of their supporters.  Some of it has been down to the collective trauma the party and its supporters went through on May the 7th, having been convinced that power of some sort, whether in a minority or a coalition, seemed likely.  The anger, finger pointing, sulking and exchanging of insults has been without doubt part of the process of getting over that crushing disappointment.  You can relate as you've said in a couple of interviews just how despondent you were after the 1992 defeat.

It's also partially though a result of just how lacking the candidates on offer are, and I'm afraid to say I'm including you when I say that.  The latest Private Eye features the spoof headline "WHY JEREMY CORBYN IS WINNING THE LABOUR LEADERSHIP -- IN FULL" with a photo of yourself, Andy and Yvette below, and that's about the most accurate and succinct summary of why we are where we are that you'll find.  No, it isn't fair, but then nor has much of the poison spread if not by your supporters then by those who are most favourable towards you as leader.  Labour party members are not idiots, morons or anything else for at this stage plumping for Jeremy to be the next leader, nor are threats from donors or party grandees to do the "right thing" or else in any way helpful.  The contest does not need to be stopped, nor is the surge for Corbyn down to supporters of other parties, either on the left or on the right signing up.  It's because a party that has just gone through the shock of losing a second election on the trot when it seemed on the verge of something needs to be comforted just as much as it does lectured.  You so far have delivered almost entirely lectures, and also don't seem to be listening to what party members are saying, including when you went along with Harriet Harman's absurd and damaging line on abstaining on the welfare bill vote, and at the various hustings.

This is not to say that some of the actions of Corbyn supporters haven't been self-defeating or stupid.  When someone like Alex Andreou comes up with the formulation that Labour only grew from 1983 and only declined from 1997, and apparently lacks the self-awareness to realise that's how politics worked until the last election, or when a union leader rants about the "Blairite virus", without acknowledging that virus, like it or not, won three elections, it's difficult not to respond in kind.  My point though is that your campaign equally seems to be saying it's all or nothing - that nothing can be done without that power, that protest of the kind Jeremy has engaged in throughout his time as an MP has little to no role in gaining power.  I agree with you that the longer Labour is out of power the greater the risk the Tories will dismantle the achievements that previous Labour governments have introduced.  At the same time however an opposition must oppose, it must campaign, it must protest - and, what's more, it must reach out to those of like minds who are outside the Labour party to help, even if that means reaching deals whereby Labour does not stand in seats like say, Brighton Pavilion.

You and I both know politics is currently in flux.  The Conservatives have just won an election and yet are so uncertain of their position they're using the language of the far-right against migrants.  The world is changing faster than anyone can properly keep up with or understand, and it leads otherwise sensible people to talk nonsense.  It's no wonder the certainties provided by Jeremy or the SNP seems so attractive.  It's why populism has made such a comeback, seems to offer answers when in fact it offers none, either for left or right.  When voters are wrong, they need to be told so.  When political parties are wrong, they need to understand why.

What ought to be fairly certain by now is why Labour lost.  Although he reaches entirely the wrong conclusions and is a busted flush in any case, Alastair Campbell's analysis is fairly sound.  It was not because of any great love for the Conservatives, and certainly not evidence of support for austerity, regardless of what polls with laughably leading questions suggest.  I suspect and hope you know this.  Labour lost because Ed Miliband failed to connect with enough voters; because the party failed to convince on the economy; and then and only then did other factors, including the scare tactics over the never going to happen Labour-SNP pact come into play.  Ed Miliband failed to become prime minister in the main not because he misread the mood of the nation -- Britain in my view has been and likely always will be a small c conservative country -- it was down to how his arguments either weren't listened to, weren't convincing, or not so much as articulated, especially in the face of a media that was unutterably biased against him from the very beginning.

One of the most attractive things, perhaps the most attractive about your campaign has been the fact the media clearly will listen to you.  They might say extremely unkind things about you, demonstrate just how sexist they remain, and your telling a Mail reporter to "fuck off" for asking personal questions deserves to have received more applause than it did, but they will listen.  To win, Labour has to be listened to without at the same time being dismissed or attacked.  Maybe if you become leader usual service will resume, or rather certainly will as 2020 approaches.  Nonetheless, this is an opportunity that shouldn't be wasted.  And yet, for supposedly being this heir to Blair, or at least to what he was prior to when power went to his head utterly, your campaign has been low key, technocratic and fiddling at the edges.  Your five causes, somewhat unfairly mocked on social media for their vagueness, are more fleshed out once you go behind the banner, but still don't satisfy.  Extending the remit of the low pay commission is not going to worry anyone, let alone set the hustings alight.  You want to end inequality from birth, and yet make no mention whatsoever of how the Tories are set to abolish Labour's child poverty targets.  Is this because you support the removal of child tax credits, which have done so much to help?  If so, what's your alternative?

If you're wondering at this point why then I'm supporting you, it's simple.  I believe you are the most electable candidate of the four on offer.  Like you, I want Labour to win in 2020.  I, like you were in 1992, was devastated by the loss in May.  For the first time I felt the Labour party was not just the least worst of all the options, but genuinely on my side.  Moreover, if there is someone needed to tell the Labour party hard truths, and once the campaign is over there will be, I think you're the best person to do so.  Labour cannot be all things to all people and win.  It cannot fall into the fallacy of believing that the reason all those people who were previously Lib Dem voters or toyed with voting UKIP went back to the Tories was because Labour failed to oppose austerity enough.  To have a chance of winning, the party has to get the 18-34 vote out, and again I think once Corbyn mania passes you'll have the best chance of doing so.  The fact you're not married and don't have children ought to be a plus, not a negative.  That you know how to have fun, admit you smoked cannabis when as you put it, were having fun at college, and have a life outside politics are all things that should count in your favour at a time when grey, career politicians are so disliked.

Liz, Labour is a coalition or it is nothing.  You've said you were Labour by choice, not born into it.  That isn't a bad thing, but some were born into it.  Antagonising them hasn't worked.  To win requires first of all damn hard work, but also the support of those who believe in protest.  Without protest Labour would not have come into existence; without protest it would not exist as it is now.  It's why Jeremy will be my second choice, even if I don't believe for a second he could win in 2020 or even last as leader till then.  It's also why I fear that you will come last.

Yours,
         septicisle.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2015 

A post bound to make me even more unpopular.

There are often times when someone beats you to the punch on a particular post.  Far rarer in my experience is when Dan Hodges, of all people, both beats you to it and even more amazingly, is right.

Let's be clear about this then.  If the same allegations that have been made against Edward Heath, given all the more publicity by the police, practically begging anyone to invent their own story of misery at the hands not just of the faceless establishment, but at a man that reached its very zenith, had been made against a living prime minister they would have been dismissed out of hand, and rightly so.  John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, raping a 12-year-old, getting a case against a brothel keeper dismissed by mere virtue of their name being mentioned in connection, being involved in a previous over-hyped abuse scandal on the island of Jersey?  Pull the other one, everyone would say.  The police also would have looked at the allegations, quickly realised they were nonsense, and not publicised them for that very reason.  Major might have sprayed salmonella all over Edwina Currie (or rather, did), Blair could possibly have banged Carole Caplin and Wendi Deng, and Brown might have, err, committed self-abuse somewhere he shouldn't have in Westminster, but anything more than that?  Cobblers.

Heath wasn't an ordinary, regular, normal prime minister though, oh no.  Sailor Heath.  Grocer Heath.  Unmarried Heath.  Weirdo Heath, basically.  At the time most assumed he was closeted, a possibly self-hating gay man at a time when to be openly gay and a politician, let alone prime minister, couldn't be countenanced.  Ironically, Westminster itself was far more liberal in such matters.  Good old Tom Driberg was tolerated after all, Churchill quipping that he gave sodomy a bad name.  Indeed, it's most odd that Driberg's name hasn't been so much as mentioned in all of the allegations about establishment paedophiles, especially considering his penchant for men on the very cusp of the age of consent, and I mean what the age of consent is now rather than the 21 it was when homosexuality was first legalised.

The general consensus now, or at least was, that Heath was asexual, which makes him even odder in our eyes.  Not interested in sex at all?  Who could possibly believe that in our age, when sex and gender we're told are not binary but multifaceted, when transitioning is celebrated, at least if you're famous already?  It just doesn't sound, or feel right.  Far easier to imagine Bachelor Heath as suppressing his real sexual desires, or rather not.

What surprises me, and surprised me from the outset of this panic, as that is certainly what it's become, is that otherwise sensible, cynical, inquiring minds appear to have been taken in by allegations that have come from highly suspect or confused, unreliable sources.  Oh, but the Heath story about the brothel, that's not from a survivor of abuse who is mistaken as a result of the damage and trauma they received and went through, or just a random loon, that's from a former inspector of Wiltshire police.  Only, as it's now turned out, the keeper of the brothel denies making any such claim in a bid to evade prosecution.  It raises the question of just what precisely Wiltshire police did investigate for those months before they passed it on to the IPCC.  Did they so much as approach Myra Forde, or was the account of someone convicted of perverting the course of justice, despite supposedly making the allegation, thought unnecessary?

History seems to be repeating, except this has gone well beyond farce.  Geoffrey Dickens at least had a legitimate target in the Paedophile Information Exchange, and his exposure of Peter Hayman was backed up by facts.  Our latter day Dickens', our Danczuks, our Watsons, our Manns, they don't even have that.  Simon Danczuk is repeatedly credited with exposing Cyril Smith, as though Private Eye and the Rochdale Alternative Paper didn't all those years ago, only they weren't listened to.  Tom Watson piggybacked off Nick Davies' work on phone hacking, and being right once does not make you right all the time.  John Mann meanwhile doesn't even have those feeble credentials; he's the archetypal loudmouth rent-a-gob MP, saying whatever he thinks will get him in the Daily Mail.

None of the three had any involvement with the Lord Janner case, beyond demanding that Alison Saunders resign for making the unpopular but reasonable decision that Janner's dementia meant it was not in the public interest to prosecute.  As it is, expect even the trial of the facts to not take place, as Saunders clearly thought it wouldn't, again due to perfectly reasonable legal challenges from Janner based on his condition.  All these investigations launched, all these operations, all these allegations, and what so far has been found in way of evidence other than against Janner, considering it was there about Smith if only anyone had bothered to look?  Very little, to precisely nothing.  The police believe the account of a man we know only as "Nick" about what went on at Dolphin Square, including murders, and yet they can't find any bodies, they don't have full names, they don't have exact locations, they have very little other than a couple of decades' worth of speculation, innuendo and rumour, since filtered through the internet conspiracy machine to the point where it's almost become accepted fact.

Ever since the Met and NSPCC mutually decided in the aftermath of the Savile revelations that accounts given to the police about historic child sexual abuse, so long as those accused are dead and so can't contest the claims, should be regarded as "not unproven allegations", or as you and I would call them, facts, the slow descent into the completely ludicrous has been all but inevitable.  Almost all the claims about Savile's wider access to NHS hospitals and state properties were unsubstantiated or couldn't be proved, not that you would have known that from the media coverage.  The reviews that have been conducted, like the Wanless and Whittam review, with the pair not altering their conclusions based on the new documents that were found afterwards, suggest there wasn't a cover-up.  Their comment on a newly found letter from 1986 between the head of MI5 and the Cabinet Secretary discussing a Conservative MP alleged to have "a penchant for small boys", something the MP denied, that it just reinforced their finding that crimes against children were given far less serious consideration than they would be now, doesn't go anywhere near far enough for those convinced there's no smoke without fire.

And to be fair to them, the MI5 archives remain relatively untapped.  If there's going to be evidence that child abusers within the establishment were known about and were tolerated, as to expose them would be more embarrassing to the government of the day than a genuine security concern, it's most likely in there.  Which was all the more reason why the overarching inquiry into child abuse should have been allowed to get under way as soon as possible, rather than twice delayed while Danczuk and others demanded that Theresa May find someone without any "establishment" links whatsoever.  Presuming the Goddard inquiry does get such access, it will still be years before any conclusions are reached.  Goddard herself said she expects the inquiry to take five years; if she goes down the same Maxwellisation route taken by the Chilcot inquiry, as was discussed at length in the Slicker column in the last Private Eye, you can probably double that time frame.

This isn't of course to argue that allegations of historic child abuse should not be investigated.  They should be.  What should not be happening however is that they are either treated as fact regardless of the level of implausibility involved, or that the reputations of the dead should be besmirched before anything approaching evidence has been turned up.  In the space of a few days Ted Heath has been slandered in a way that would be unconscionable and unthinkable were he still alive, only for the claims to almost immediately be called into question.  Any lessons that should have been learned from the cases of either Lord McAlpine or Chris Jefferies to name but two have been thrown out the window or ignored on the basis of Heath not being around to defend himself.  Moreover, just as with Jefferies and McAlpine, the reporting has been driven just as much by demand, by the echo chamber of social media, so many apparently wanting to believe the absolute worst about people who look weird, are weird, or were politicians and so deserve it.

Last night, meanwhile, the BBC ran a report on the head of Greater Manchester police saying tracing missing teenagers, many of whom abscond from care homes, was becoming "unsustainable".  Considering the potential for such missing youngsters to be drawn into child sexual exploitation, it seems perverse that more attention and money is lavished on chasing what might well turn out to be phantoms than protecting those who could become victims today.

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Monday, August 03, 2015 

Blaming the immigrants.

Those with long memories for arcane decisions by newspaper regulators might recall that the reason the PCC cleared Jan Moir's article on Stephen Gately of breaching the editor's code was because Moir had been careful not to be explicitly homophobic.  She managed not to use any of the more obvious anti-gay epithets while at the same time casting aspersions on how healthy, normal people do not suddenly just die, especially when they might have been doing something shortly before they stopped breathing that a Daily Mail columnist would naturally disapprove of, and so was not guilty, your honour.

Much the same rules are now in place when it comes to discussing immigration, or rather migrants and asylum seekers, as we have been.  So long as you don't use any language which is definitively racist, like the n-word, p-word, call those desperately trying to get to Britain from their makeshift camps in Calais the coloured masses, or anything similar, you can say absolutely anything you like.  Before the panic of the last week we'd seen human beings described as cockroaches, and most people didn't say anything because giving the person behind that diatribe attention is precisely what she wants.  When David Cameron refers to those fleeing war and oppression, some of whom are on the move from conflicts that have either been exacerbated or even in part set off by British participation as a "swarm", it's just a slip.

It isn't, of course.  Whereas in the past Thatcher and Blunkett were both heavily criticised for describing communities as being "swamped" by newcomers, this time there was just as much biteback at the relatively few who did describe Cameron's choice of words as unhelpful.  The fact is you can now say almost anything you like about immigrants or even foreners as a whole, so long as you don't specifically identify them by either their skin colour or race.  This is not because levels of racism and prejudice have increased, far from it; if anything, both continue to decrease.  Rather, it's because immigrants have been so successfully othered, in much the same way as benefits claimants have.  Once you've reached the point that the first thing those in desperate need declare is that they're not like all those others in desperate need who are scrounging bastards and deserve shooting, it's clear something fundamental has shifted.

Nigel Farage did have something of a point when he complained during one of the general election debates that the audience before him wasn't like the ones he usually encountered.  At the vast majority of events his line in blaming the delays in cancer treatment on foreners and immigrants taking up NHS resources with their bad AIDS doubtless went down a storm.  So long as you get the balance just right between being nasty but with reason, and don't go off into being nasty for the sake of it, you'll be fine.  Go home vans?  Not racist, said the majority.  And to be fair, they probably did just about land on the side of not racist.  Nasty but with reason certainly, but not racist.

Anyone tuning into radio or TV debates over the past week on the situation in Calais will have quickly realised the general consensus is the army should be out there fragging anyone who so much as approaches a truck with what could be interpreted as malign intent.  Some, but not all, will broaden their complaints to how immigrants and refugees are first come first served when it comes to housing and how the people featured on Crimewatch are all foreigners, as did one lady on a local BBC station I happened to catch, before the presenter hastily cut in that might be because such people are poor and desperate and it was time to move on.  The same presenter moments later was agreeing with another caller that clearly the army did need to be on manoeuvres and fences reaching up to space were one solution.

Voters no longer blame politicians when it comes to immigration.  If they did, they wouldn't have given Dave "tens of thousands" Cameron a majority, however small.  They've just stopped listening.  It didn't matter however many times Labour and Ed Miliband insisted it wasn't racist or prejudiced to be concerned about immigration, and how deeply sorry they were that they made a balls-up of not putting in place the temporary restrictions most of the rest of Europe did on eastern European migrants in 2005, voters kept on ignoring them.  When said lady above complained about how her son was having to live in two bedrooms in a Travelodge as his local council couldn't find him anywhere to live, and how this was clearly down to all the immigrants, she didn't think it could just as much be the result of a lack of investment in social housing, or the ultimate culmination of right to buy, she just blamed the immigrants.

When politicians then come up with idiot policies like forcing landlords to examine the passports and birth certificates of everyone they rent to on the pain of jail, they can do so safe in the knowledge that voters won't blame them for the inevitable delays and injustices that will result, they'll blame the illegal immigrants.  They know that when they come up with the idea of further impoverishing the families of failed asylum seekers, despite knowing full well that many of those failed asylum seekers cannot be deported because their countries of origin are paradoxically declared to not be safe, they won't blame politicians for their cruelty, they'll blame the immigrants.  They know that when Theresa May and the French interior minister have the audacity and cant to declare in a joint article that the streets of the UK and France are not paved with gold, they won't think this populism of the most self-defeating and stupid kind, they'll nod in agreement.  The contradictions of how the Conservatives present the UK to the world as booming, the place to be to trade, how great it is won't bother them, as the immigrants are not the target audience.  They'll take no notice of the Swedish justice and migration minister calling out the self-pitying bullshit of British and French politicians, as it doesn't matter how many different people try to explain that most don't want to come here, aren't coming here and that those who do overwhelming are seeking sanctuary, minds have long been made up.  Immigrants we know, good.  Immigration as a whole, bad.  Such is the new centre of British politics.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015 

Send in the clowns.

Amid the continuing delays at the Channel Tunnel, MPs and media alike today demanded that the military be deployed to help stem the crisis.

"The army must be sent to Dover," said MP Davide Davies.  "Every year this problem gets worse.  Swarms of disgusting British tourists force their way into France, disrespecting our culture, our women and our language.  They sing songs asking where were we during WW2, get drunk, urinate in the streets and dare each other to have sex with goats.  Any benefit from the money they spend is outweighed by the carnage that follows in their wake, which we then have to pay to put right.  It's a completely false economy."

The extreme right-wing newspaper Le Courrier meanwhile had its own take on the factors behind the tourist surge.  "It's the benefits, stupid.  The British government pays so much to feckless layabouts that they feel entitled to come over here with all their friends.  Not that it is just the evil poor.  The problem is exactly the same at the other end of the scale: villages in the south have been bought wholesale by the dreaded "champagne socialists", leaving nowhere for our children to live.  When exactly will we start looking after our own?"


More sanguine voices have been at pains to point out France in fact plays host to relatively few British tourists, and that they mainly head through the country to other destinations.  "Spain is by far the worst affected, with Marbella, Benidorm and Ibiza swamped by a mixture of social classes," commented TV host Antoine de Caunes.  "We get off lightly compared to places like San Antonio, where braying trustafarians party alongside your common garden permissives, who are more than willing to give dozens of blowjobs in exchange for a single shot of Sambuca.  Back in the old days we would have made a highly amusing little short film about that, complete with silly accents."

The reaction in Britain has so far been muted.  Premier David Cameron declined to comment, while the Sun refused to be drawn into a slanging match. "It's the silly season, so the French media is just indulging in its only sure sellers: bigotry, xenophobia and casual racism," commented a spokesman.  "We're above that sort of thing."

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