Daily archives: September 26, 2018

We Need to Talk about Indyref2

A senior SNP elected representative told me a couple of weeks ago that the party hierarchy were intent on making sure there would be strict control over debate at the upcoming conference. The leadership fear pressure from the membership on holding another Independence referendum, using the mandate won at the last Holyrood elections. You will recall that the SNP was elected on a promise of a new referendum in the event of a significant change in the status quo, specifically including Brexit.

Being well aware from the AUOB marches and other events that the grassroots are ready for another campaign, and with the opinion polls very encouraging, it seemed to me that the foot soldiers deserved at least to be able to voice an opinion on when and how they went into battle. So I suggested back to my friend that, as I am attending as a delegate, I would hold a fringe meeting within the Conference venue on the routes to Independence. This might include how we get a new Indyref in the face of Westminster opposition, its timing, and lessons learned for the Yes movement from 2014 on how to win it. The idea was also to explore other potential routes to Independence including a National Assembly.

They replied that I would not be allowed to hold a fringe meeting on Indyref2. I thought they were being over-dramatic. So I asked my friend the doughty Peter A Bell to join me as a speaker (he agreed in principle), and I was planning to ask James Kelly and Stuart Campbell as well, but first applied for a room in the Conference Centre so I could give them a date.

It didn’t go well.

So I can hire a room on the SNP fringe for the purposes of commercial promotion, but not to promote Scottish Independence.

The Scotsman or the rest of the Unionist media can hire a room for a meeting, but the pro-Independence new media is not allowed to hire a room – even though its readership is bigger than the Scotsman’s.

I am not asking to speak in the Conference, but just to hold a Fringe meeting. The Conference Fringe is where members can discuss things that are of political interest without claiming to be dictating, or in line with, party policy. I am a delegate offering to pay the going rate for the room, and rooms are available. As it happens, the policy we wish to discuss, Independence and how to use the mandate from the last Holyrood election, is bang in line with official party policy anyway.

I went into this with genuine innocence, not believing my friends’ prediction that a fringe event on Indyref2 would not be allowed. I do not imagine for a moment Ms Slider was giving her answers without consultation with Chief Executive Peter Murrell, who is also Nicola Sturgeon’s partner. When a party becomes so Stalinist in its organisation it will not even permit mildly dissenting voices – or just not totally subservient voices – even to express themselves on its fringe, it is not really democratic.

If anybody has managed to book a fringe meeting, and is looking for a speaker?

View with comments

Theresa May’s Bad Faith

The Salzburg debacle was a low point of British diplomacy, because neither Number 10 nor the Brexit ministers paid any attention to the information being provided by Britain’s Embassies, which was that there is fizzing resentment in major capitals at what is viewed as Theresa May’s rank bad faith.

Good faith is an intangible, but it is the most important asset you can have in diplomatic negotiations, and building up trust is the most important skill in international relations. The EU remains genuinely concerned for the future of Ireland, which unlike the UK is a continuing member.

In December, after hard talks, the UK signed up to the Joint Report as the basis for negotiation. This contained the famous “backstop” on North/South Ireland relations. It is worth looking on what the text of the “backstop” actually says.

49. The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to
its guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Any future arrangements must be compatible
with these overarching requirements. The United Kingdom’s intention is to achieve
these objectives through the overall EU-UK relationship. Should this not be possible,
the United Kingdom will propose specific solutions to address the unique
circumstances of the island of Ireland. In the absence of agreed solutions, the United
Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the
Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all island
economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.

What May is now saying is that it is impossible for Northern Ireland to maintain alignment with the rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union, when as per her Chequers plan the rest of the UK will not maintain that alignment. This would involve a border in the Irish Sea which, she repeatedly declaims, “no British government could accept”.

The problem is, she has already accepted it. There is no possible meaning of last December’s backstop agreement which does not involve profoundly different customs and regulatory rules for Northern Ireland, unless the UK remains part of the single market, which May has rejected. To state now that such difference for Northern Ireland is unacceptable for reasons of unionist fundamentalism, is too late. You signed up to it last December.

The humiliation of Salzburg occurred because there was never chance of any sympathy from EU member states for an attempt to dishonour the agreement of nine months ago. There is no way out of that conundrum. The government has belatedly remembered the existence of the FCO as a potential tool in international relations, and ambassadors in our Embassies in EU countries are currently staring in bafflement at dense and complex instructions urging them to convince their hosts that black is white.

I have refrained from comment on the Brexit negotiations, but among the rafts of mainstream media coverage, I have not seen this issue of May’s bad faith given the prominence it deserves. Whatever your stance on Brexit, conducting negotiations in this manner – the cliche of perfidious is in fact the best description – is a ludicrously ineffective way to behave. On the most profound political, economic and social transformation the UK has embarked on in decades, the Tory government is an utter shambles.

I personally changed my rose-tinted view of the EU after seeing its leaders line-up to applaud the Francoist paramilitary forces for clubbing grandmothers over the head for having the temerity to try to vote in Catalonia. My interest in Third Pillar cooperation ended there. But leaving the customs union appears to me a ridiculous act of self harm.

View with comments

Pro-Israeli Terror Threat at Labour Conference Covered Up By MSM

A fringe venue at the Labour conference was evacuated last night after the screening of a film about my friend Jackie Walker was cancelled by a terrorist bomb threat. Jackie, a black Jewish prominent critic of Israel, is currently among those suspended from the Labour Party over accusations of anti-semitism which are, in her case, nonsense.

What is astonishing is that the state and corporate media, which has made huge play around the entirely fake news of threats to pro-Israel MP Luciana Berger leading to her being given a police escort to protect her from ordinary delegates, has completely ignored this actual and disruptive pro-Israeli threat – except where they have reported the bomb threat, using the big lie technique, as a further example of anti-semitism in the Labour Party!

The Guardian’s report in this respect is simply unbelievable. Headed “Jewish event at Labour conference abandoned after bomb scare” it fails to note that Jewish Voice for Labour is a pro-Corbyn organisation and the film, “The Political Lynching of Jackie Walker”, exposes the evil machinations of the organised witch-hunt against Palestinian activists orchestrated by Labour Friends of Israel and the Israeli Embassy. It is not that the Guardian does not know this – it has carried several articles calling for Jackie Walker’s expulsion.

The attempt to spin this as the precise opposite of what it was continues on social media. This chap is followed on Twitter by the Foreign Office.

I want you to undertake a little mental exercise for me, and try it seriously. Just imagine the coverage on Newsnight, the Today Programme and Channel 4 News if a Labour Friends of Israel meeting had been cancelled by a bomb scare. Imagine through the experience of seeing or listening to the coverage, on each of those in turn, of a bomb threat to Labour Friends of Israel.

Done that?

Well the bomb threat to the pro-Palestinian rights Jewish Voice for Labour has so far received zero coverage on those programmes.

View with comments