Yearly Archives: 2017


Tories Support Pre-Emptive Nuclear War 321

On Radio 4 this morning Defence Secretary Michael Fallon argued not just for Trident missiles, but for first use of nuclear weapons and “pre-emptive nuclear war”. There was no misunderstanding or circumstance – he was queried very specifically on the exact point. Not only do the Tories support having weapons of mass destruction, they support using them when none have been used against us.

The whole discussion is of course a fantasy as there is no danger whatsoever of a major attack on the UK by any foreign power. Russia has no plans to attack the UK, has never had any plans to attack the UK, and anyway has an economy the size of the Spanish economy. Mind you, the Tories have also been fantasising about war with Spain recently…

There is no sensible justification for Trident. What North Korea shows is that nuclear weapons are no deterrent against other countries developing them. Only a lunatic would actually use them – Kim Jong Un, Michael Fallon, Theresa May – and you can’t deter a lunatic. And Michael Fallon’s suggestion this morning that nuclear weapons in some way deter terrorists is risible.

But just as the media are very wrong to spend the last 24 hours telling us that Jeremy Corbyn is mad because he won’t commit to destroying mankind, it would be equally wrong of me to argue that every single person who supports Trident is a blazing fascist. There are decent people who support Trident. But they would not support the Fallon/May doctrine of “pre-emptive nuclear war” and first use of nuclear weapons.

I would like to believe that the Fallon/May enthusiasm for first use and pushing that red button, along with hard Brexit and anti-immigration rhetoric, would convince some moderate Tories and ex-Labour voters that they are being hustled very quickly down a path it is wrong to go down. But I fear the media water chute has caught them up and realisation may not set in on time.

During the referendum campaign there was a suggestion from the SNP that after Independence we might give WENI (Wales England Northern Ireland) seven years grace to prepare before removing its missiles from the Clyde. I am totally opposed to this. I rather support the Ukrainian solution, whereby an international team is brought in immediately to verify the decommissioning of any nuclear weapons on Scottish territory or in Scottish waters.

If you cut the missiles in two along the middle, they might make good children’s slides.

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The Corbyn Conundrum 232

Having shared a platform with Jeremy Corbyn several times, I have to admit I had doubts about his leadership capacity. I had none about his heart, his motives, or his intellectual capacity. My doubts were about his interpersonal skills and charisma. I had him marked down as not very sociable and even shy.

I have just watched his interview on Marr where Corbyn performed much better than I would have imagined possible. He was calm, reasonable and even wise. He came over as an attractive personality. He was, in short, excellent.

Marr did the job his masters paid him to. He started, instantly, going for the jugular on the tabloids’ favourite attack line on Jeremy Corbyn. Having stated he was going to kick off with foreign policy, did Marr then ask whether Corbyn would continue to support the Tory policy of selling weapons to the Saudis to kill children in Yemen? Would continue uncritical support of Israel and diplomatic protection of its illegal occupation?

No he went for the tabloid favourite. Would Corbyn push the button and fire nuclear missiles? It says a very great deal about our politics that it is taken by the media establishment as axiomatic that anybody who will not participate in the probable destruction of the entire human race, is the crazy person in the room. It says still more about our media, and who controls it, that this is the very first thing Marr wanted to discuss with Corbyn. Corbyn picked his way through the minefield with a tact and patience which I suspect came over well.

I look forward to Marr seeking to move his interview with Theresa May away from her preferred areas and ask her repeated questions about child poverty, social care, arms sales to terrible regimes, benefit cuts for the disabled and Tory electoral fraud. I much fear extreme disappointment awaits me.

It is extraordinary that this is the first time in nearly 40 years that the UK electorate has been offered the chance to vote for a leader not prepared to sound enthusiastic about global destruction.

It is also the first time in 40 years that a real choice in other areas has been offered the electorate in England. In just this interview things Corbyn outlined – a renationalisation of privatised areas of NHS provision, an end to selective education – are the polar opposite of the Tory Lite offer of Blairite Labour.

That is of course why Marr was so keen to skate over, interrupt and divert those areas and spend far more time and detail on highlighting Corbyn’s lack of support for aggressive militarism, with repeated questions such as “would you kill the leader of ISIS”.

I have been reading “The Candidate“, a fascinating book by Alex Nunn, detailing Corbyn’s rise to the leadership of the Labour Party and the extraordinary (if inept) efforts of the Blairite establishment to stop him. As I do not come from a Labour Party background, the Byzantine structures of the party and its relationship with organised labour are peculiar to me. But one thing comes over very clearly. The Blairites had firm control of the major areas of party machinery and in truth they still do.

The large majority of Corbyn’s MPs would love to drone kill people and have lots of nuclear buttons to push, and would happily privatise anything to any company which sponsors them. The Party also dictates Labour’s aggressive Unionist stance which is why everybody in Scotland should oppose it.

It is not just the MPs. The Boilermakers’ union are not only extreme enthusiasts for nuclear missiles, they would support mass sarin production if it employed their members. I wish Jeremy every success, but I find it impossible to say that I therefore recommend anybody to vote for John Mann or Simon Danczuk. I am not sure that success for Jeremy would be to find himself in No.10 as the hostage of Mann, Danczuk, Watson, Cooper et al.

That is the Corbyn Conundrum.

UPDATE

A number of puzzled Corbyn supporters have asked me who I am advocating they should vote for. A number of people who generally agree with me are upset I am not urging everyone to vote Labour. Well, it is your vote and you should vote for the candidate you like best. But this is my advice.

IN SCOTLAND everybody of progressive mind should vote SNP. It is the most successful anti-neoliberal option. Scotland has a very different political culture to the UK. The break-up of the UK is essential to our well-being and to shaking England out of the peculiar continuing imperialist delusions which grip it.

Westminster elections are the only First Past the Post elections in Scotland. In these elections alone, I do not think it is tactically wise of other pro-Independence parties to stand candidates against the SNP. Let’s first achieve independence, then myriad flowers will bloom.

IN WALES Plaid Cymru because it is high time you found your courage, and they have a decent radical platform. Labour or Lib Dem when its needed to stop a Tory.

IN ENGLAND Whoever has the best chance of beating the Tory. So generally Labour, very often Lib Dem, occasionally Green. With the caveat that you should not vote for Labour (or Lib Dem) candidates who are very obviously just another brand of Tory. If you are Simon Danczuk’s constituent, for example, I would vote Lib Dem there. But if people find they have to vote for a New Labour candidate as the only conceivable way of keeping out a Tory, I could understand that too. You are better placed than me to weigh individual judgements.

I hope that helps.

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The Cottonwool Election – Now in Soft Focus 200

I am still waiting to hear May asked a question on the severely disabled or terminally ill having their benefits cut or on the increase in child poverty. I foretold accurately over a month ago that the Tories would run an election in which May does not debate and is sheltered from questioning. What I did not predict was the extent to which the media would be complicit in producing unquestioning soft sell puff pieces.

We have had Newsnight’s misty-eyed biopic. Today we have a frankly astonishing effort in the Guardian, plainly based on a Number 10 briefing, telling the entirely untrue story of how the decision to call an election came to May during an idyllic walk in Wales.

What is truly astonishing is that the Guardian feels no need to query the narrative they have been fed, or to so much as consider that other narratives may be true. Had it no effect on May’s thinking that a large number of her MPs – more than her majority – were about to be implicated in criminal prosecution over electoral fraud? Was the fact that the economy is just starting substantial deterioration a factor? Was she tempted by her huge lead in the opinion polls? No, of course not. The Guardian does not have to perish the thought as it never had such disloyal thoughts in the first place. This perfect wife and perfect Christian on the perfect walk with her perfect husband had a revelation from motives of perfect patriotism.

The truly scary thing is that the Guardian is what passes for a left wing newspaper in England. You expect such nonsense from the Mail or Telegraph. But that the BBC and Guardian are both kicking off the election with soft focus May puff pieces tells us a great deal.

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Theresa May’s Brittle Shield Wall 166

Pollster YouGove is into full on propaganda mode. They present results dished up with explanatory press releases for right wing journalists to push. This one was commissioned by Murdoch.

But if you burrow down into the actual data, which no journalist ever does, sometimes there are results which are quite interesting. It is important of course to note that the sample is a self-selecting one of the kind of people who volunteer for online polls, and is then adjusted to account for a number of things including a historic tendency to underrate the Tory vote, so the Tory numbers are consciously increased.

The first warning light flashes at me in the subsamples. The headline 48-24% Tory lead over Labour includes an extraordinary 29% Tory vote in Scotland. That is quite simply impossible. If it proves to be true, I will walk the length of Holyrood Road on my knees. It is bollocks.

That aside, the brittleness of the support the media have whipped up for hard Brexit is shown in a series of questions about the EU. Now it is true – and this was headlined by YouGove and the media – that by a narrow 46-43% the poll states that people believe Britain is right to leave the European Union. (32-60% in Scotland).

But dig into that and you find that support for May’s Brexit is quite extraordinarily brittle. This is the truly striking lesson from this poll, and nobody has picked up on it.

Look at the answers to these questions. In each case I have excluded the don’t knows and recalculated from the table:

Do you think Britain will be better off or worse off after we leave the EU?
Better off: 33%
Worse off: 44%
No Diff 23%

Do you think Britain will have more or less influence in the world after we leave the EU?
More influence: 23%
Less influence: 43%
No Diff: 34%

Do you think leaving the EU will have a good or bad effect on British jobs?

Good for jobs: 29%
Bad for jobs: 41%
No Difference: 30%

Do you think leaving the EU will have a good or bad effect on British pensions?

Good for pensions: 10%
Bad for pensions: 32%
No Difference: 58%

Do you think that leaving the EU will have a good or bad effect on the NHS?

Good for the NHS: 30%
Bad for the NHS: 34%
No Difference: 36%

Do you think there will be more or less immigration into the UK after we leave the EU?

More immigration: 3%
Less immigration: 56%
No Difference: 41%

So Theresa May wishes to hustle to a quick election victory on what she views as a national consensus building around hard Brexit. But that consensus is extremely brittle.

A majority of the population believe that Brexit is bad for the economy, bad for jobs, bad for the NHS, bad for pensions and bad for British influence in the world. The population are being stampeded into a direction that they plainly believe to be against their own self-interest. This makes May extraordinarily vulnerable to pushback on the EU. That should benefit the LibDems. It also shows that the SNP is wrong to backpedal on the EU to placate the Sillars vote. The pro-EU answers to each of those questions in Scotland alone are simply overwhelming.

Brexit’s only salience is on one single issue: immigration. But this poll does something still more interesting. It provides absolute proof of what I have been observing and commenting on for the past ten years, that the anti-immigration movement is founded on pure and simple racism.

Cutting immigration is the only alleged positive a majority see from Brexit. But they do not believe that this cutting of immigration will improve jobs, the economy, pensions, or the NHS. All the canting justifications for cutting immigration are cut through, because this poll reveals that people do not expect to see any of those effects. No, Brexiteers want to cut immigration simply because they are racists and do not like foreigners.

But given that May wants to fight this election solely on Brexit, and given that the only area of traction Brexit has is immigration, we can expect to see the nastiest anti-immigration campaign ever waged by a mainstream party. We can also expect to see repeatedly what Adam Boulton did to the Lib Dems Sarah Ludford on Sky News and hour ago. As soon as the EU was mentioned, Boulton aggressively intervened by invoking dog-whistle anti-immigration racism.

That is why Conservative policy today is near identical to the BNP manifesto of 2005, which promised:

– Severe cuts in immigration
– Leaving the EU
– Bringing back grammar schools
– Increased military spending
– More “security” and “strong leadership”
– Foreign policy driven by “British national interest” not human rights
– Reduce development aid

A Tory vote is a racist vote. Full stop.

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Can Anybody Find Any Significant Difference Between May’s Policies and the British National Party Manifesto of 2005? 88

I was struck by how entirely similar Theresa May’s discourse is to that of the British National Party candidate I fought in Blackburn in 2005. That led me to turn to the BNP 2005 Manifesto, and I can see little significant difference between it and current Tory policy.

The British National Party in 2005 advocated:

– Severe cuts in immigration
– Leaving the EU
– Bringing back grammar schools
– Increased military spending
– More “security” and “strong leadership”
– Foreign policy driven by “British national interest” not human rights
– Reduce development aid

Indeed, the few differences I can find between the BNP 2005 manifesto and the current Tory platform are in areas like the NHS, where the Tories are more right wing than the BNP were.

Thankfully it was still considered by most people socially beyond the pale to support the BNP in 2005. Today the media portray anyone perceptibly to the left of those positions as mad. Society has changed markedly – and not for the better.

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BBC Bias is Clear and Indisputable 246

Unless the BBC takes firm disciplinary action against Nick Robinson for this, they cannot keep pretending that the UK any longer holds free and fair elections. For a state broadcaster to show this level of venom and bias against the opposition leader is utterly unacceptable.

It is indisputable that Robinson’s history is as a high ranking Conservative Party activist. They dominate BBC News, as a plain matter of fact. They have changed the culture of the BBC so they no longer feel any need to disguise their Tory cheerleading.

This is an Uzbek style election.

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Crushing Dissent: What Theresa Erdogan May’s “Election” Really Looks Like 101

This taxi driver was the only member of the public who managed to get anywhere near Theresa May on her much publicised “meet the people” election visit to Bolton yesterday. As not one local person was allowed to speak to her, he is expressing his views in the only way available. He is also exercising his essential democratic right to make his views plain during an election.

This is a policeman from May’s escort immediately moving in to crush any sign of dissent.
The still below does not capture how aggressive the policeman on the motorcycle is. He repeatedly thrusts his pointing finger towards the drivers’ face in an aggressive gesture I have seen used by “law enforcement” in dictatorships all around the world. You get the full idea only by watching the video.

That May’s police escort see it as their job to prevent any expression of dissent says everything about the kind of Britain she is creating. It goes along with her failure, twice, to accept Angus Robertson’s invitation to distance herself from the Daily Mail’s “Crush the Saboteurs” headline.

Disciplinary action should be taken against the policeman for the harassment of that driver – who it should be noted had already been forced to halt and pull aside for a period of time to let May’s convoy pass, and had complied. That we have a police force who think you are not allowed to show dissent to the Prime Minister is deeply troubling.

Visiting Bolton yesterday, May arrived by helicopter, was whisked through town in an armoured convoy, spoke to a tiny audience of vetted conservatives, refused to answer any questions, and was whisked out again. In a precise example of what we have to expect in the next six weeks the BBC reported she had been to “meet the people”, and then gave us a series of vox pops from Labour voters in Bolton who were switching to Conservative.

The media picture with which we are presented is not just a distortion, it is the polar opposite of the reality. It was not a “meet the people” visit, it was an “avoid the people” visit. With not even other members of the political establishment being allowed to question her in debate, this is an Uzbek style election in the UK.

Hat tip – and link above – to Tom Pride.

UPDATE: For those having video troubles – here it is below

Direct Link

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The Cottonwool Election 139

On 13 March I blogged “I can assure you the Tories are already considering how to avoid having Leaders’ Debates on television for the next general election. For Corbyn to be able to put a radical message directly to the public, and May’s deficiencies in debate to be so directly exposed, is something they will not want at all. May should be seen and not heard, is their motto.”

When I assure you of things, you should believe me. I do not use such language unless based on direct knowledge. Please revisit that entire article: I promise you it is worth reading.

In the quite extraordinary public politics of the terminal phase of the existence of the United Kingdom, the system of controlled democracy has reached its apotheosis. The media message has achieved a startling degree of unanimity. The Overton Window has become the Overton Slit.

This will be the most controlled general election ever. Never will the message have been so focussed, debate and alternatives have been so excluded. Attempts to query or challenge the Tory narrative will be ridiculed and marginalised.

Theresa May is simply not very bright, is hopeless in debate and has all the charisma of a rabid ferret. She will appear only when speaking from on high to an utterly deferential setting, as in yesterday’s general election announcement. The media’s election will consist of an unremitting barrage of propaganda continuing its xenophobic theme, based upon a few May set pieces. Expect softball interviews by Tory Kuenssberg and Nick Robinson, to give the impression of democratic challenge.

Nicola Sturgeon and yes, Jeremy Corbyn, would demolish May in debate. If any party other than the Tories was declining to take part in debate, the media would quite rightly attack them for it. Do not however expect any more than token remonstration from the broadcasters; they are far too complicit in the cottonwool packaging of May, and have too deep an investment in the Unionist project, to rock the boat. Indeed, the media will now seek to frame any debate between opposition leaders which does go ahead as a gathering of losers, a carnival of grotesques.

Any resemblance between this British general election and democracy is purely coincidental.

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This Westminster Election IS Indyref2 352

An SNP Scottish majority at Westminster must result in a Declaration of Independence and that must be made clear to voters. Having tried to refuse Indyref2, Theresa May has arrogantly and opportunistically called a Westminster election. It is time to take advantage of her extreme hubris and use her own momentum to make her fall flat on her face.

Independence is obtained by international recognition by other states and not by any specified internal process. As I have stated repeatedly, the large majority of states, including EU states Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia have achieved independence without a referendum as part of the process. Recognition by the UN General Assembly is what brings Independence. Nothing else.

Democratic legitimacy is important but a referendum is not the only way to gain it. Winning an election is a much more established way to gain democratic legitimacy. For Scotland’s MPs to declare Independence following a general election victory in Scotland would be to follow the path by which nations have normally gained Independence. I would prefer, after the June 8 election, a National Assembly to be called consisting of all Scotland’s national representatives – MPs, MSPs and MEPs to make the Declaration of Independence. But Scotland’s Westminster MPs could equally be convened in Edinburgh to do it.

This is a key moment for the SNP. There will never be a time of greater fluidity in the British state; now we must strike to break it up. The SNP can either play Theresa May’s game and fight a defensive election trying to save all those seats and accepting the parameters of the British state as defining the debate. Then if the SNP slips from 56 to 53 of Scotland’s 59 MPs the media will present it as a massive defeat.

Or we can seize this God-given moment and state boldly that a vote for the SNP is a vote for Independence, and campaign on that basis. A simple majority of Scottish MPs should be enough for a mandate – after all a simple majority of UK MPs is enough to give Theresa May vast powers to continue her arrogant style of rule.

We must stay ahead of the game. We must not fight on the enemy’s chosen ground. We can turn this election around and use it to gain our national freedom.

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Media Tory Lies Stripped Bare by Ashcroft Poll 797

You would never guess it from the media but Lord Ashcroft’s latest major polling effort strips bare the entire lie about a Tory and Unionist bandwagon rolling in Scotland.

You would never guess it from Lord Ashcroft’s Tory agenda-driven report of the findings either. This tendentious nonsense ignores Scotland completely – indeed I do not think he even mentions the nation’s existence. No paid media journalist would ever dream of reading more than the executive summary of the report, and certainly would never comb through the data tables, which contain the actual information on which the report is just a gloss.

But the data tables break down the sample by “region”, of which Scotland is one, and thus give us a very great deal of information. The Ashcroft polls have a 10,000 sample and the Scottish sub-samples of over 900 are more than used for many standard Scotland only polls.

So here are the highlights:

It is indeed true that Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is more popular than Nicola Sturgeon – but only in England.

Contrary to constant media propaganda, Nicola Sturgeon rates over 12% higher than Ruth Davidson. Invited to rate their performance from 0 to 100, Scottish voters gave Nicola Sturgeon a mean rating of 52.91% (Table 47) and Ruth Davidson 40.52% (Table 48). Despite Davidson being proclaimed by the media as the new Jim Murphy/Jesus Christ, including constant lying claims that she is the more popular.

But Ruth Davidson is very much more popular than Nicola Sturgeon – with the English. In every region of England, Davidson is widely preferred to Sturgeon.

There is no Tory Revival in Scotland.

Asked whether they would consider voting Conservative at the next Westminster election, on a scale of likelihood from 0 to 100, 65% of Scots voters answered 0-10 “there is no chance I would vote Conservative” compared to only 10% who answered 91 to 100 “I will definitely vote Conservative”. (Table 8)

The mean Tory score in Scotland on this scale was 23.84. This was narrowly behind Labour. (Table 9) Typically Ashcroft’s poll does not even ask about the SNP. But note this methodology gives a mean result that is higher than a party’s actual percentage vote: totaling the party mean scores for England gives you more than 100%. So Tory support in Scotland is running below 23.8% and below Labour.

Again this is completely contrary to the media propaganda that has been blasted constantly across Scotland.

Tory Britain is Totally Alien to Scots.

In answer to the question “Do you think Britain is on the right track, or heading in the wrong direction” Scots stated by a resounding 67% to 33% (excluding don’t knows) that Britain is heading in the wrong direction.

This compares to a clear majority in England that Britain is heading in the right direction. (Table 15).

Again contrary to constant media propaganda, Scots are much less obsessed than the English with controlling immigration. Only 28% of Scots named controlling immigration as one of the top three political issues, significantly lower than any region of England. (Table 19) A tiny 4% of Scots think immigration is the most important issue (Table 20).

But more revealing still is the ability to discern continued Scottish support for more left wing approaches to the economy. Here Ashcroft accidentally does us a favour by his exclusion of the SNP from the question.

Asked who would “have the best approach to growing the economy and creating jobs”, and not given a chance to answer SNP, Scots favour Labour over the Tories by a conclusive 46% to 36%. This compares to an equally strong preference for the Tories across England. (Table 25). Interestingly an extraordinary 15% of Scots plumped for the Lib Dems, presumably in reaction to no SNP choice being offered.

Again this is a devastating disproof of the media narrative that Scots have swallowed Torynomics. The Scottish preference for Labour over the Tories shows up in later tables on schools, the NHS, the environment etc.

Tory Scotland is a Myth the Media are Trying to Propagandise into Reality

As we gear up for the next referendum, I am cheered that the poll clears up the difference between empirical observation of the Scottish public and the picture portrayed by the media.

The media are lying.

The Blairite leadership of Scottish Labour betrayed their party by close collaboration with the Tories in Indyref1. As a result the party is in meltdown – but there is still a strong public sympathy for what might be described as real Labour values. This mantle has been taken up by the SNP.

But because the Scottish Labour Party as an organisation is a laughing stock, and because the Tories are highly hubristic and have convinced themselves of their own propaganda about their popularity, in Indyref2 we will face an open clash between Independence and Toryism. The Tories will no longer be lightly disguised behind Gordon Brown. Hard-faced anti-devolution unionism and City of London economics will be shoved down voters’ throats.

I have no doubt at all we will win this battle and finally achieve national independence again. If Ashcroft has the honesty to look at the message hidden in the unused data of his own poll results, the Tories realise it too. Which may explain their aversion to a referendum.

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The Balance of Probabilities 1080

Unlike the famous chemical weapons “attack” portrayed by the BBC in Saving Syria’s Children, it does appear that in the latest incident at Idlib there was real horror inflicted by chemical attack of some kind. The question is who did it and why?

I am no fan of the Assad regime, and I have no problem using the word “regime” to describe it. Dictators do hold and win elections. I have lived in severe dictatorships and seen from the inside how they do it. The human rights abuses of the Assad regime have been well documented for decades.

But Bashar al Assad is neither stupid nor unsophisticated. Aided by Putin, he outwitted Obama by quickly giving up his chemical weapons to be destroyed and accepting transparency in verification. There is no justification for the destruction of Iraq, but if Saddam Hussein had been able to swallow pride as completely as Assad, he too could have had a very good chance of averting disaster.

Assad had seen his position go from strength to strength, thanks to Putin’s astute deployment of Russia’s limited military power. Militarily the balance had swung dramatically in Assad’s favour, while Trump had said the unsayable and acknowledged that putting Syria into the hands of Wahabbist crazies was not in the United States interest.

So I cannot conceive that Assad would risk throwing all of this away for the sake of a militarily insignificant small chemical weapons attack. It would be an act of the most extreme folly. It is not impossible – hubris is a great temptation to dictators – but given how Assad has played it so far, it seems out of character and extremely improbable. What is less improbable is a local battlefield decision by pro-Assad forces. In my close observation of dictatorial regimes, a fascinating feature is that they operate an image of the perfection of the state. They are highly adverse to admitting mistakes.

What did happen I do not profess to know. There are at least eleven major identifiable state and non-state forces involved in the fighting around Idlib. In going through them all and considering opportunity and motive for each, I continually find that those whose motive would be false flag stand to benefit a great deal more than those who might have been seeking military advantage.

I am therefore for now unconvinced that this was a deliberate use of chemical weapons by Assad forces. I do not rule it out, but it would take much more concrete evidence than currently offered to prove they did something so strongly and obviously against their own interest. But western governments and media have determined to make that the narrative, so the truth is, as so often in modern geo-politics, entirely incidental to the course of future events.

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Ken Livingstone: Stubborn and Wrong, But Not Anti-Semitic

After careful consideration I have decided to venture into the question of Ken Livingstone and his suspension from the Labour Party.

To my knowledge, nobody has intimated that Ken Livingstone is an anti-Semite in the sense that he is a racist who acts with prejudice towards Jewish people. I do not think it even vaguely probable that he is that. I know him only slightly, and have shared a platform with him on a couple of occasions. But from everything I can find in his history, I believe he has been a genuine campaigning anti-racist his whole life.

There is however a perfectly open movement to define anti-Semitism not as prejudice against Jewish people, but as deviation from accepted political views on the formation of the state of Israel and its current position and policies. I do not accept this attempt to argue that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. I believe that the attempt to conflate the two needs to be resisted for the sake of maintaining our own political freedom of expression.

But that does not mean Ken Livingstone acted wisely or even properly. The disaster that attended European Jews in the second world war was so huge, that it needs to be approached with great sensitivity. Livingstone claims that certain Jewish Zionists had a pre-Holocaust deal with the Nazis. To me, that is very analogous to alleging that an acknowledged rape victim had some previous relationship with her abusive rapist. It has no possible relevance other than to be some kind of “she asked for it” point.

Livingstone’s point may or may not be true but, even if it is, we do not go around throwing out random facts out of context. Just because something is true does not make it helpful to say it at any given moment.

I quite genuinely have no idea whether the point Livingstone makes is historically true, and if so how fringe or not were the elements involved in the relationship. But it is not relevant. It would be surprising if there did not, in the very early stages of Nazi power, appear to a few fringe elements to be some room to explore common interests between those who wanted Jews to leave Germany, and those who wanted to establish a Jewish homeland in the Middle East. Everyone was trying to accommodate to the difficult fact of Nazi power. The British royal family and aristocracy, the Pope, Northcliffe and his Daily Mail, David Lloyd George, pretty well all of corporate Germany and, I even admit, a very few isolated Scottish nationalists, failed at some stages to realise or to respond correctly to the evil of Nazism and sought various ways to use Nazi Germany to forward their own interests. Some of these were very culpable. You can find attempts on that difficult spectrum from accommodation to collaboration in various forms everywhere, in almost every community.

I do not want to see the apartheid state of Israel continue in its current form, though as with apartheid South Africa I wish to see a solution to unifying Palestine that does not involve further forced movement of any population. But I do not in any sense accept a historically important link between Israel and the Nazis, except in the obvious sense that revulsion at the Holocaust created the conditions for international acceptance of the violent establishment of Israel. Picking at the oddities of history on such a sensitive subject is mischievous.

Freedom of speech has limits. There is no doubt that Holocaust denial is very closely linked de facto to Nazi apologism and to anti-Semitism. I say that with a clear acceptance than there were many other victims of the death camps too – Poles, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Communists, Freemasons etc. etc. But the fact there are other victims does not reduce the Jewish disaster and attempts to deny or minimise what happened to the Jewish people under the Nazis are not acceptable.

I therefore think that Livingstone was wrong to blunder into discussing Hitler’s alleged early support for Zionism, and much more wrong not to then realise this was a mistake and to apologise. I do not however believe that in any sense his motivation was personal anti-Semitism, and I do not believe that anybody believes he is genuinely somebody who dislikes Jewish people.

I am not a member of the Labour Party and it is not my fight. But it seems to me in consequence the suspension of Ken Livingstone for a further year is about the correct punishment. He was wrong-headed and distasteful, but not a racist. Nobody truly thinks he is a racist, so the light suspension was Labour’s way of reflecting this while not meeting head-on the question of the ludicrous expansion of the meaning of anti-Semitism.

As regular commenters know, holocaust denial is strictly banned on this blog and anti-Semitism has been by far the most common cause of comments being deleted. It is therefore very probable that your comments will get blocked for moderation by various keyword captures we have set up. Be patient.

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Gibraltar: A Tax Haven Not a Nation

There are 32,000 Gibraltarians organised into 11,400 households. Extraordinarily there are more registered companies than households, including 8,464 registered offshore companies.

The Government of Gibraltar’s own website is notably candid about its tax haven activities. It urges you to establish there so you can take advantage of:

Highly-developed business services infrastructure where it is possible to passport an EU licence in financial services such as insurance and re-insurance, EU-wide pensions, banking and funds administration, amongst others.
Distribute competitively priced VAT-free goods and services to the markets of the EU and Africa.
Conduct business in a quality low-tax jurisdiction with a profit oriented capital base at low levels of corporate tax, all in a stable currency with few restrictions in moving capital or repatriating dividends.

It is no wonder Gibraltar voted 96% pro-EU. Its entire economy rests upon the use of its anomalous status to undercut the tax regimes of genuine EU members. Remarkably for a population the size of Ramsgate, there are 17 registered banks in Gibraltar, including Credit Suisse, the money laundering giant raided by combined European police forces yet again yesterday, and RBS/Natwest’s tax avoidance entity.

Gibraltar was occupied by England (yes, England) in 1704 when it was sacked by the Hessian Prince George (wry smile Hessian – sacked) and 90% of the Spanish population fled after being subjected to mass rape.

Britnats have been all over twitter this last 24 hours shouting that Gibraltar was given to Britain “in perpetuity” by the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. Thankfully the world has changed since 1713. The Treaty of Utrecht also gave Brazil to Portugal, much of Italy to the Hapsburgs and gave Britain the monopoly on the shipping of African slaves to South America. Thankfully none of those turned out to be perpetual and the British occupation of Gibraltar is equally immoral and anachronistic. That the Foreign and Commonwealth still quotes the Treaty of Utrecht is evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the British government’s position.

There is a key point here. Empires cannot cloak their continued Imperial possessions under the “right of self-determination” of Imperial client populations. Still less is there a “right of self-determination” for an entire Imperial client population to leech off tax avoidance activities by virtue of their Imperial possession status. The right of self-determination does not apply to the colonists of Gibraltar, who like the Falklanders are an introduced Imperial population – contrary to myth the large majority of Gibraltarians are not descended from the original Spanish population. Gibraltar is plainly listed by the UN as a Non Self Governing Territory. Self-determination is not applicable in international law. UN General Assembly Resolution 2353 specifically asserted that Gibraltar is a colony which impinges on the territorial integrity of Spain and thus on Spanish right to self-determination, and that a referendum of the colonial population could not change that.

Britain’s fervidly jingoistic attempts to hold on to its remaining colonies are pathetic. I have a memory as a very small child of watching Rolf Harris on TV dressed in union jacks singing “Please Don’t Alter Gibraltar” to the tune of Land of Hope and Glory. Google has just reassured me this really happened and was not a nightmare. I now realise from the timing that was a riposte to the UN General Assembly discussions. That it was Rolf Harris gives the perfect pointer to the grossly immoral British position on Gibraltar.

Ironies abound.

Irony 1
It is the Little England Brexiteers who are frothing at the mouth over the EU saying it will take heed of Spain’s position on Gibraltar – despite the fact the Gibraltarians voted 96% in favour of the EU.
They cry, how dare the EU take into account the position of the United Nations and of its member state, Spain, against what will be a non-member state? Who could have seen that coming?

Irony 2

Gibraltarians of course voted in favour of the EU in order to benefit from the opportunity to continue undermining EU tax regimes.

Irony 3

The Daddy of them all. The Britnats who crowed repeatedly at Scots, extolling alleged (and improbable) Spanish desire to veto Scottish EU membership, are shocked, shocked that Spain may veto a Brexit settlement over Gibraltar.

Anyway, to cheer up you Britnats, here is a picture of the massive audience for Theresa May’s recent Glasgow speech. Dressed as Rolf Harris. Altogether now “Please Don’t Alter Gibraltar”.

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Pollution

I apologise for the suspension of blogging – I am still in Ghana. Despite work being a bit tough at the moment, it is as always a delightful place, though this last week it has been polluted by the presence of Tony Blair. Why he thinks that this vibrant democracy needs to be lectured on “leadership” by a war criminal, is beyond me. Blair should rather take a lesson from Ghana, which is celebrating its sixtieth year of existence and has never invaded another country. Doubtless, beneath his hypocritical witterings, he is as always sniffing around for money and trying to leverage himself into Ghana’s oil, gold or bauxite sectors. A revolting little man, who has to traipse the world looking for platforms where he will not be challenged for his crimes and the hundreds of thousands of children killed by his wars – and even in Ghana his appearances were strictly invitation only.

I cannot give any definite time when I will be back and the blog will resume. Probably about another fortnight.

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Thoughts from Ghana

I spent today at the University College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at Bunso and the nearby Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana. Those who have read my memoir The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and other Conflicts I Have Known will know that rural development in Africa has been the abiding passion of my working life. The good news is that for the first time a paperback edition of The Catholic Orangemen should be out in a week or so.

The abiding impression of today was the extent of local awareness of environmental issues and the need to maintain a fragile but wonderful ecology. This faces enormous challenges. I was intellectually aware of the extent of illegal gold mining in Ghana but unprepared for the evidence of its scale. Rivers that provide the drinking water for millions have been transformed into dead sewers of brown sludge. Having known them as live rivers, I was really shaken.

Ghana is looking to develop its bauxite industry and finally bring its aluminium smelters to life. This will impact the precise area I was visiting and I know from Jamaica that the environmental impact of bauxite mining is hideous. It is perhaps the most destructive of all extractive industries. It is a horrid irony that the bauxite scheme should impact the exact area where local traditional leadership (the Okyenhene) has pioneered environmentalism.

I feel conflicted. Our standard of living in the developed world has been based on the destruction of the forests which we conveniently forget once covered our lands. We wish to keep what remains of wild Africa as untouched as possible, because we know that otherwise it impacts us. But we are not prepared to expend serious resources into raising the standard of living of those who would be denied the immediate material benefits of industrial mining. My instincts are all to oppose the bauxite extraction on environmental grounds. But I am not so intellectually dishonest as to pretend that, with all the pollution and illnesses and destruction, the industry would not bring important wealth and employment. It would. I do not feel morally able to lecture poor communities on why they should remain undeveloped when they are excited by rare hope. I suspect many of you will think I am wrong.

On a more positive note, I was inspired by the commitment of the faculty of the University College, their research interests and their ability to deliver a first class curriculum to the students with minimal resources. It struck me how a major improvement could be made to their efforts by the injection of comparatively modest sums into laboratory equipment, for example. I shall be working on this and in the longer term on developing possible academic collaborations.

I loved the new canopy walk at Bunso built to promote eco-tourism.

It has five of these bridges, all of which are high, and one very high indeed as it crosses a valley. It is a great deal more adventurous than the one at Kakum. And yes, I did cross them all.

I am often very critical of the FCO, so it would be churlish of me not to note that Jon Benjamin leaves Accra this summer after an extremely effective and principled tenure as High Commissioner, including playing an effective and helpful role behind the scenes in the third peaceful transfer of power between political parties since Ghana became a real democracy in 2000. The more so since, most unusually, the UK was acting against the desires of the USA, and I suspect Jon was pivotal in that.

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Options for Independence

So what do we do now with Theresa May apparently obdurate on blocking the referendum?

It is important to realise politics are fluid. In a week’s time the situation will not be what it is today. The battle for public opinion is key. The unionist media (ie virtually all of it) are asserting continuously, as a uniform line, that opinion polls say the people of Scotland do not want a second Independence referendum in the timescale Nicola Sturgeon has set out – even though that is not true at all. The serial Tory crooks at You Gove came out with an opinion poll right on cue “showing” that support for Independence is hitting new lows. But I suspect it will not be long before evidence emerges that May’s unattractive diktat has profoundly assisted the Independence cause. That will change the game.

So with a wind of public opinion behind her, what does Sturgeon do if Westminster denies a Scottish Parliament request for a referendum? There are several options:

1) Hold an Advisory Referendum

It appears probable (though not undisputed) that the Scottish government can hold a referendum which is not binding, without Section 30 permission from Westminster. It is hard for Westminster to dismiss the result of an advisory referendum, given that Brexit was only an advisory referendum and May has taken as a matter of faith that it is binding.

But as we saw in Catalonia, a boycott by unionist forces can be quite effective in denying the credibility of a non-binding referendum result. I strongly suspect that would be their attitude to an advisory referendum, and I do not see it as a strong way forward.

2) Call a New Holyrood Election

This is an attractive option in many ways. It would be predicated on the plain statement that a new pro-Independence majority would declare Independence unilaterally. That would be the normal and internationally accepted way for a country to secede – a referendum is very much the exception.

But there are problems with this approach. The first is that it would require a two thirds majority of the Scottish parliament to dissolve it, and the Unionists would in all probability simply block it. Forcing them to do that may be a good move, but doesn’t take us far forward.

The second problem, should parliament dissolve, is the campaign itself. As it would not be a referendum campaign, media coverage would not be balanced on independence, but the unionist parties in effect given three times the coverage of the SNP, assuming the Greens continue to be very poorly treated. But as the “Balance” of the referendum coverage was risible anyway, I am not sure this is so much of a drawback.

More difficult is the uncertainty created by the appalling De Hondt system. There is no doubt that the optimum outcome for Independence would be for every Independence supporter to vote SNP 1 and Green 2. But in practice that will never happen on a significant scale, and what is the best way to utilise your vote to achieve independence is simply not predictable. Risking all on a system so prone to statistical fluke is a problem.

3) Call a National Assembly

In the event that Scotland is being blocked from holding either a referendum or an election, the Scottish Government could move to convene a National Assembly. This might consist of all MPs, MSPs and MEPs and that body could declare Independence. To be clear, that would be a revolutionary act in UK terms, but it is perfectly normal for such an act to be required at the birth of a new state and is no bar to it being accepted in international law as a state through recognition by the United Nations General Assembly.

The argument would run that, having been blocked at every turn from holding a democratic vote either by way of referendum or parliamentary election, the Scottish government had taken the option of convening all representatives democratically elected at the national level – MSPs, MPs and MEPs, and these elected representatives of the Scottish people had made the decision. That is perfectly respectable and entirely analogous to the way many EU members such as Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia became independent.

To return to my original argument, the possibilities depend very much on how public opinion is seen to be trending. May’s calculation appears to be driven firstly by a desire to play to her Brexiteer base in England – which judging by the rabid comments pages across the media is very successful – and secondly by a desire to further polarise Scottish politics to the benefit of the Scottish Tories. She is more than happy for Independence to be decided on a straight SNP vs Tory field. That May thinks she can win such a battle is an example of staggering hubris.

I have been saying in all of my speeches across Scotland in the last year that the game has changed and we have to be prepared for the idea we may have to achieve Independence without the consent or cooperation of the Westminster government. I am happily no longer a radical outlier in this belief.

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The Disappearing Prime Minister

UPDATE

I was delighted by Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement today, both the content and the manner of her making it.

I am unsure why she put the window for the referendum as far back as autumn 2018 to spring 2019. Autumn 2018 is fine but spring 2019 is late – Nicola Sturgeon spoke of Scotland needing to declare its choice for independence before the UK actually leaves the EU or very shortly thereafter. But very shortly thereafter is too late. In diplomatic terms, a miss is a good as a mile here and in diplomatic terms at the EU, negotiating to get back in will be much harder than negotiating to remain a part of the EU.

My suspicion is Sturgeon is giving May a ladder to climb down on agreeing the referendum by making it potentially post-Brexit. I see no need to have been so accommodating to May. I am frankly puzzled.

But my major observation is that Nicola’s performance was excellent, the decision sound. Yet what struck me most was the lengthy question and answer suggestion. The mainstream media lackeys laughingly called journalists were not really putting questions. They were emitting deep-seated cries of unionist belief, wild anti-Independence assertions, with the lightest disguise as questions. It is a fair warning of what we have coming.

Even Gordon Brown had a honeymoon period. The temporary popularity of a new Prime Minister evaporates as a morning mist searched out by strong sunlight. The budget tax increases, combined with fierce pre-planned benefit cuts, are evaporating May’s popularity before our eyes. The reality of Brexit debacle will shortly hit very hard, and people will start to notice she is not actually very good.

I have been listening out to determine the extent to which May’s Thatcher voice is a deliberate impersonation, and in consequence have been most forcefully struck by how little we hear her voice. Those packaging her, together with a compliant media, seek to present her as much as possible through silent images. She is repeatedly on television entering places and greeting people, but remarkably seldom is her voice heard. She does not give nearly as many media interviews as David Cameron, because she is not good at them.

Prime Minister’s Question Time has almost vanished from our screens. When David Cameron was causing animal guffaws of genuine delight from Tory MPs roused by his facile debating skills, no week went past in which the BBC News did not show a substantial clip of Prime Minister’s Questions, edited for maximum effect in making Cameron look dominant and Corbyn look out of his depth. I do not believe any reader in the UK can honestly say such an image is not seared on to their mind. But now Prime Minister’s Questions almost never make the news bulletins for more than a very few seconds, because May is hopeless at them and is arguably bested by Corbyn fairly regularly. She has no ability for repartee, no timing and wins mechanical guffaws purely by reading out pre-prepared attacks on Labour and SNP that do not pretend to relate to the questions asked.

How do the broadcast media respond? Prime Minister’s Questions are suddenly no longer newsworthy. Unless you happen to be free to watch live – which rules out almost the entire working population – you would very seldom see May flounder. Indeed, the entire plan for retaining her popularity appears to be based on the public hearing her as little as possible. Personally, I have no doubt her recent Glasgow speech attacking not just Scottish independence but the very notion of devolution, was extremely helpful to the Independence cause. I can understand why the establishment try to avoid us actually hearing her.

Jeremy Corbyn should not now be abandoned. I was saddened to see Owen Jones stab him in the back. Jones appears sadly set on the trajectory typically caused by the salary of a Guardian columnist. He will now increasingly retreat into identity politics rather than the cause of universal social justice. I give it eight years before he spends his entire time attacking the left as having “lost their way”.

I could not disagree more strongly with Jeremy on Scottish Independence or on his approach to Brexit. Nobody would claim quick repartee or even set piece oratory were his strongest suits. He interviews fairly well but is of course handicapped by the extraordinary stream of scepticism and deliberate misrepresentation with which journalists approach him. But the honesty and integrity of his beliefs are why he was elected, and those remain at the core of his leadership. For the English and Welsh voter to be given a real choice, rather than just Blue or Red Tories, has horrified the entire neo-con establishment.

It is most improbable that Corbyn will be able to deliver a Labour Westminster victory in 2020, but it is not impossible. The alt-right spasm gripping England and Wales will diminish by then and Brexit enthusiasm will meet the cold real world. I can assure you the Tories are already considering how to avoid having Leaders’ Debates on television for the next general election. For Corbyn to be able to put a radical message directly to the public, and May’s deficiencies in debate to be so directly exposed, is something they will not want at all. May should be seen and not heard, is their motto.

The European Union has put a fault line through the Tory and Labour parties. The chips have fallen in a way that leaves both parties with leaderships that were more sympathetic to Brexit than they revealed during the campaign, and certainly have no interest in trying to stop it. The 48% who voted Remain are therefore practically unrepresented in England and Wales. As I suspect that 48% will increase – and there is a curious lack of opinion polls – this will become an increasingly acute problem as the body politic recovers from shock.

The Lib Dems would be the obvious beneficiaries, but they will not so soon recover from popular revulsion at the alacrity with which they abandoned all pretence at restraining the Tories, in return for ministerial limousines. They also have the least able and least charismatic leader in that party’s long history. Indeed, possibly in any party’s history, anywhere. The never appealing Brezhnev was more charismatic than Tim Farron even when he was being wheeled out to parades propped up and effectively dead.

The Labour Party is in the abject position that its pro-Europeans are very largely the totally discredited Blairites. That the delusional Blair sees the EU issue as his chance of a political comeback, is only evidence of what a terrible state the pro-EU camp is in. There are plenty of pro-EU Tories but they too are more concerned with personal careers, except the Clarkes and Heseltines whose course is already run.

It is difficult to believe this situation is sustainable. On the biggest issue of the day, which will have a huge impact on future living standards, 48% of the population, the best educated and most politically active 48% of the population, have no effective representation. Only in Scotland have we a coherent pro-EU political force, but circumstances are such this cannot help England.

The democracy of the UK has become severely dysfunctional. I firmly believe that a crisis is coming, and that Scottish Independence will be a trigger for the resolution of that crisis. Not only will it remove Scotland from the subjugation that has sapped its energies for centuries, it will give a profound and much needed jolt to the political kaleidoscope in England and Wales and lead to new and more relevant political alignments. It may also finally break the obsession with being a world power that so damaged British people for so long.

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