An Unpopular Article 904


This article is probably unpopular. The point of this blog is not to make you agree, but to make you think; if I did not express views which are not the view of the majority, there would be no point in writing at all. This is not an applause seeking echo chamber of popular sentiment.

Boris Johnson has no more ardent political opponent than I. But some of the hysteria about him is overblown.

As a teenage delegate to a Liberal Party conference in 1976 (I think in Llandudno), I had to fend off the amorous advances of a politician who persisted even after I plainly told him I was not gay, and I ended up stabbing his wandering hand with the pin of my delegate’s badge, after which he went away. I regarded his behaviour as over drunken and over randy, but took the attitude then and now that humans are not perfect and inclined occasionally to fall prey to their basic instincts, especially when drinking. If we expected everyone to be perfect, we would live our entire lives in a state of disappointment. I expect a majority of sexually active adults have similar experiences at some time. I do not believe it healthy or sensible to elevate them to serious crimes.

(For the sake of clarity, I should add that I have never personally been accused of an unwanted physical advance).

I really do not care whether Boris Johnson squeezed Charlotte Edwards’ leg 20 years ago. I firmly believe women are every bit the equal of men, and I do not understand why it is somehow reckoned that Ms Edwards, and others in the same position, were unable to stab his hand with a fork, throw a drink in his face, or embarrass him by telling him clearly to stop. I do not accept the notion that difference of age and status between full adults makes firm rejection impossible – that thought did not cross my mind with the politician in Llandudno, who was a good deal older, more famous and wealthy than I, and in a position to further my political ambitions. Ms Edwards saying nothing at the time, saving it up for twenty years and then attempting to use the claim to cause major damage, appears to me behaviour as bad as the original.

I do realise that in this I have outlived the mores of the times. But no matter how fiercely I oppose a no deal Brexit – and I think it would be disastrous for every one but a few nasty financial speculators – I do not think the approach of throwing the kitchen sink of accusations against Boris Johnson is good for the long term health of politics. It also obscures with chaff the allegations of real wrongdoing, like directing public funds and assistance to the company of a woman with whom he was in a sexual relationship. That should be investigated. That is real wrongdoing.

Johnson’s arrogance before the Commons in refusing to apologise for the prorogation of parliament was deeply unpleasant, but I do not approve of the effort to delegitimise his use of language. Words like “surrender”, “betrayal” and “traitor” have centuries of political use behind them. Boris Johnson is as entitled to free speech as anyone else. It is perfectly legitimate for opponents to argue that his language is deliberately divisive and thus people ought to vote against him in the interests of harmony. The electorate can pay heed or not to such argument, as they see fit. But it is quite another thing to argue that such language should be excised from public life. Robust debate is an important aspect of free speech. Controlling the language of your opponents is the antithesis of democracy. I am firmly with John Stuart Mill on this one.

People were offended by Galileo and Darwin, by Gandhi, by Jesus and Mohammed. Causing offence is important to human development. Everyone is entitled to do it, even Boris Johnson.

Finally I had the misfortune to see Jess Phillips on BBC Breakfast TV yesterday morning and she gave, as an example of abuse of MPs the fact that every time she speaks about anti-semitism in the Labour Party she receives emails stating that she is exaggerating, or is a puppet of Israel. A great deal of what MPs plainly see as abusive online activity looks to me simply like people expressing their disagreement. People can be entirely right or entirely wrong in their views, but they still have a right to express them to Members of Parliament. I found Ms Phillips objection to people expressing disagreement deeply worrying.

I have no doubt MPs do receive death threats – I do myself sometimes, generally originating in Florida for some strange reason. But I do wonder how much exaggeration there is of this.

The Laura Kuenssberg case is seminal here. You may recall that 35,000 people signed a 38 Degrees petition calling for her removal for pro-Tory bias and after a major headline news campaign headed by the Guardian and BBC, claiming that the petition was full of abusive and misogynistic comments, 38 Degrees deleted the petition. However I went through all the comments personally and could only find one comment and a single related tweet which was in any way abusive or misogynistic. When I challenge 38 Degrees to produce the evidence of abuse, there was none. That was a very worrying example of the limiting of perfectly legitimate protest against Kuenssberg, on an excuse of “abusive social media” which was a lie.

There is insufficient plain speaking already in politics and the attempt to further contain and constrain, and limit political thought to acceptable channels and vocabulary, is worrying. Let Johnson say what he wills, and let the electorate judge that.

As for behaviour, I do not wish to see any further correspondence of the Overton window with sex negative feminism. I can personally think of one mutually fulfilling physical relationship in my own history, where the crossing of that difficult line from friendship to physical intimacy did indeed start with the squeeze of a leg under the table. The initiation of more intimate physical contact is the most critical point in the complex courtship rituals of developed human societies. To insist that verbal agreement must always be sought before a move to kiss or an exploratory caress of a leg or a shoulder, is a fundamental change in culture which I am not at all sure is desirable. The essential qualifier is of course that, if the other person either verbally or by action does not welcome the tentative first move, then the initiator must desist immediately. It is my own belief that sex-negative feminism seeks quite deliberately to invalidate perfectly normal heterosexual courtship and that the chattering classes have far too readily adopted this, in the interests of identity politics.

I am perfectly aware that what I have written will offend some pleasant people and is against current fashionable thinking. I am also well aware that less pleasant people will utterly misrepresent what I have written as a justification of sexual assault. I deplore entirely any non-consensual sexual activity forced on anyone, and I believe that the slightest indication of disapproval should lead to an instant stop. But to deny the existence of non-verbal communication, and make an issue of non-violent initiation of contact outside an erogenous zone, is to me not legitimate. I would also refer you to my last post, and the extraordinary difference in the treatment in these matters by the media and political classes purveying identity politics of those within the neo-liberal “centrist” consensus, like Bill Clinton and Brendan Cox, and those outside it, like Boris Johnson, Alex Salmond or Julian Assange. This is a misguided and an extraordinarily selective outrage.

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904 thoughts on “An Unpopular Article

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  • nevermind

    A Suffolk Tory toad of toadhall today described XR peaceful activists as ‘ violent and disruptive’;in a poor attempt to disrupt free speech and a right to protest with violent vitriole.
    What are these eyewashing crooks come up next with? Stopping all rights to protest? Concentration camps a la Uighurs? Ruining young peoples futures by arresting and charging them, thereby ruining their future opportunities? Should they have a future that is..

    Torys need whipping out of town and put to hard manual labour.

    • nevermind

      They want the woman in charge of China’s affairs in HongKong to resign and they want Hong Kong justice for those arrested in Hong Kong, not having them extradited to the other China/ system to face justice.
      ‘One country two systems’ was agreed when the last english man in charge, Mr. Patten left them to it.
      In a nutshell. Most of the protesters are young and there are significant sections of older people supporting them.

      • Iain Stewart

        Nevermind, it’s cruel to tease Tatyana with your naughty tongue in cheek reply to her honest request for a simple comparison between recent events in Hong Kong and in Crimea.

        • Tatyana

          I didn’t ask to compare HongKong and Crimea, Iain.
          The reason why I’m asking is – I really do not follow the news on Hong Kong. I know there are protest, but no one tells what do the protesters want.
          Another reason is – I met a video and saved it, the video of a killed protester, and the text explaining what is going on.
          https://pikabu.ru/story/polnoe_video_vyistrela_politseyskogo_v_protestuyushchego_t_v_gonkonge_6968021#comments
          It reminded me of Moscow protests this August and the video that I shared then with Kempe and Pretzelattack. Obvously, If someone takes explanatory videos, so something is cooking there.

          p.s. I can ask myself. When I’m joking or being sarcastic, I type a smile symbol. In other comments I’m honest and dead serious. Thank you.

          • Goose

            Difficult to know precisely what’s going on in Hong Kong. Sure, there is a people-led protest movement, the extradition law being the final straw; it was a huge breach of the ‘no interference’ promised in the handover agreements that stated governing and economic systems would be separate from those of mainland China.

            China’s claims CIA/MI6 -backed instigators are active. It does seem as if the protests are becoming unusually extreme and highly coordinated for such a previously peaceful city where such behaviour isn’t the norm at all.

            Former CIA officer(agent) Edward Snowden upon fleeing to to Hong Kong before traveling to Russia, said in the Guardian interview there is a CIA base station nearby and the CIA could use it’s well established links with Triad crime gangs, to find him and take him out.

            The idea there isn’t any foreign interference going on is surely a nonsense

          • Iain Stewart

            “I didn’t ask to compare HongKong and Crimea, Iain.”

            And yet you brought Hong Kong up while discussing Crimea? I thought it interesting that one set of people is keen to avoid living in a police state. 🙂

          • Iain Stewart

            “Iain, you draw conclusions too far too fast because of a lack of attentiveness.”

            Eh?, sorry, I wasn’t listening 🙂
            While we’re being grateful, thanks for that probing analysis of my diminishing mental capacities. Which obviously raises the similar question of the comparison of Crimea with Sudetenland (unless that’s too far or too fast again).

      • Hatuey

        You have to wonder what the protests would be like in ‘the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China’ if the protesters actually had something substantial to protest about.

        It’s almost the opposite of Crimea. In Crimea most of the population was Russian and they desired to be part of Russia. In Hong Kong most of the people are Chinese and are demanding to be… well, nobody really knows what the hell they’re demanding.

        Maybe if they keep agitating and pissing the authorities off they will get a reaction that provides a basis for a meaningful protest.

        Good luck to the people of Hong Kong with that.

        • Tom74

          The BBC seem to be desperately trying to fan the flames of the Hong Kong protests so I think we can assume it’s another of their masters’ foreign policy projects, along with Syria and Brexit. They’ve been interviewing all kinds of suspect-sounding people today who allegedly fought ‘alongside’ the Kurds.

          • Hatuey

            That’s how I see it too. It’s like they have learned how to make whole populations sort of Manchurian candidates through social media lies and programming.

            Brexit, Trump, the Arab spring, Hong Kong….who is next?

          • Iain Stewart

            “The BBC seem to be desperately trying to fan the flames of the Hong Kong protests”

            It was surprising to see protesters waving Union Jacks and the old HK flag, calling for UK support. They must be amongst the few people left on the planet who think they were better off under British colonial rule.

        • Iain Stewart

          “In Hong Kong most of the people are Chinese and are demanding to be… well, nobody really knows what the hell they’re demanding”

          Rough translation: In Scotland most of the people are British and are demanding to be… well, nobody really knows what the hell they’re demanding.

    • Hatuey

      Cheers for that, Brian.

      An unusually impartial piece, wasn’t it… actually they don’t even usually mention the auob marches.

  • OnlyHalfALooney

    More proof we can’t trust the Guardian about any story.

    The Daily Beast:
    Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower: Google Boss’ Daughter Scrubbed From ‘Guardian’ Exposé

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/whos-a-whistleblower-gonna-trust-ask-christopher-wylie-about-the-guardian-and-cambridge-analytica?ref=scroll

    Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, claims that Sophie Schmidt, the daughter of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, successfully campaigned for The Guardian to scrub her name from one of their bombshell data-abuse stories.

    In a memoir that will be published Tuesday, he says that The Guardian’s willingness to back down in the face of Schmidt’s legal threats—and “water down” a story that had already been published—convinced him that he could no longer trust the British newspaper alone to publish his allegations about Cambridge Analytica.

    The narrative has been that Cambridge Analytica was some sort of rogue operation. Obviously it was not.

    • Dungroanin

      Well if he has turned on Carol ‘no Integrity, no Initiative’ Coldwarrior – then it will be a fine week!

  • N_

    For many years now, anyone who has held a demonstration in central London that the authorities don’t like has found themselves “kettled” by the police – surrounded for several hours in a tightly packed space until they’ve had enough and want to go home.

    So it’s remarkable that this isn’t happening with the “Extinction” cultists right now, don’t you think?

    “Fake” is a word that’s much used nowadays. Well this really is fake.

    They are camping in St James’s Park. Imagine if striking miners had tried to do that! Imagine if any working class movement tried to do that.

    One of the “protestors” smeared Marmite all over his upper body, with his trousers hanging halfway down his buttocks. What a total fruitcake farm! I wish people would stop calling the Extinction loons “leftwing”.

    They played cricket in Westminster too. Why not go the whole hog and play polo or croquet?

    Those behind the protest admitted their action could have an impact on St Thomas’s hospital, which sits on the opposite bank of the Thames from the Houses of Parliament. When asked whether they were worried about disruption at the hospital, activist Savannah Lovelock said that they were ‘really sorry…but we are running out of time’.

    What a bunch of utter scumbags.

    Mass arrests please!

    • N_

      When asked whether they were worried about disruption at the hospital, activist Savannah Lovelock said that they were ‘really sorry…but we are running out of time’.

      It is only a very short step from there to terrorism.

    • Dungroanin

      The funniest thing I heard is the way the rebellionistas were crowding McDonalds on their big day out.

      There are photos! Lol

    • George McI

      “For many years now, anyone who has held a demonstration in central London that the authorities don’t like has found themselves “kettled” by the police – surrounded for several hours in a tightly packed space until they’ve had enough and want to go home.”

      They also don’t tend to get much in the way of coverage on TV. Nor do they get awfully concerned celebs like Juliet Stevenson and Ruby Wax to stand in fo them – thus giving e.g. The Daily Mail a chance to fume about “eco-luvvies” and so to present it all as another showbiz battle – which is pretty much what it is.

  • N_

    Tim Dunn, the father of the victim of the Croughton crash that was reportedly caused by US spy official’s wife Anne Sacoolas, worked as a caretaker at the private school where she sends her children. One of her children was in the back of her car at the time of the crash. Why wasn’t the child in the front passenger seat? Was somebody else in that position? And are we still sure it was Anne Sacoolas who was driving?

    “Nobody is suggesting that Anne Sacoolas, 42, deliberately drove on the wrong side of the road, or intended to kill Harry Dunn,” writes Piers “Even His Friends Think He’s a C***” Morgan. Why did that disclaimer go in the article? That wouldn’t be causing death by dangerous driving. That would be murder. I find it hard to believe that that was inserted on a lawyer’s advice, to reduce the possibility of getting sued. There’s nothing else in the article that suggests anybody wanted to cause harm that day.

    • S

      I think “nobody is suggesting” is a modern literary device. I just did a google search for it and got a lot of hits with a similar usage, many from Mr Morgan but plenty from others. I guess it does several things: bit of clickbait, making the author sound reasonable, shifting the reader’s inclinations slightly. e.g. “Nobody is suggesting that Corbyn has a portrait of Hitler in his office”.

    • giyane

      N_

      In Kurdistan which has been a Muslim country since the time of Jonah pbuh, 2,500 years people understand about fate and Divine decree. The cuprit is always immediately arrested and taken to prison . Government officials in the same position will bribe or shoot their way out of police custody. Ordinary people, who have a right to ask for retributive punishment or financial compensation under the law will usually waive their right if the person was drunk or not paying attention, because accidents do happen. That person will have to live with the responsibility for killing someone for the rest of their live and beyond.
      Obviously murder with intent is treated much more harshly and will go to court and imprisonment..

      This story is just a distraction by the right wing MSM from the outrageous antics of the Oaf PM.
      His actions over brexit will kill many thousands more innocents through bankruptcy and stress.
      I lost my son as a cot death and I pray for him. He has faced a bridge we all have to face one day and as an infant is deemed completely sinless and to be safe in heaven.

  • Colin mccartney

    As always, a well written and thoughtfully prepared article. There is always a fine line that is sometimes just crossed and sometimes completely breached, and we all need to be able to know and understand the difference.

  • michael norton

    On Radio Four just now they had the ex-tory Amber Rudd, who seemed distressed, she refused to answer the question would she rather have a government of national unity or no deal.
    She was very clear, that she would not tollerate Jeremy Corbyn as Prime minister under any circumstances.
    She thinks yet another referendum could be arranged before Halloween.
    She exhibits delusion.

    • giyane

      michael norton

      No. As a Tory she was deluded. Now that she has staggered out into the light of reason you should give her a break.

    • Hatuey

      Interesting that Corbyn is so despised by people who claim to love the NHS and the British welfare state. Don’t they realise that those who built the NHS and welfare state were to the left of Corbyn and singing very much from the same socialist hymn sheet as him?

    • Laguerre

      Rudd sounded to me in favour of a government of national unity, but I don’t think any one of the Tory rebels, not only her, would vote for Corbyn as head. Such a GNU is a matter of negotiation. If Corbyn insists it can only be him, then he’s playing the Tory game of No-Deal Brexit. A figure neutral between the different factions is evidently what’s necessary.

      • SA

        I see Laguerre that you support the motley crew of Lib Dems, turncoat red tories and renegade Tories in blaming Corbyn for being the head of HM official opposition.

        • Rowan Berkeley

          Terminology: “turncoat red tories and renegade Tories” is just as uncalled for as “surrender act.”

  • Republicofscotland

    The Great Satan’s hypocrisy knowns no end, as the US blaclists 28 Chinese tech firms for China suppressing Muslims.

    Trump has attempted to keep Muslims out of America, he has also in the past put embargos on people entering the US from mainly Muslim countries.

    • michael norton

      The Americans have no bases on the shoreline of Syria.
      Perhaps the Americans will be withdrawing to one of their other bases, perhaps al-Tanf, which is in Syria but has the trick of being a three-way intro-exit base, Iraq/Jordan/Syria.
      Al-Tanf
      On 7 September 2018, United States Central Command announced an Operation Inherent Resolve live fire exercise around the al-Tanf garrison. The announcement described it as a “defeat-ISIS exercise”.
      The Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria commented that “during the existence of the base, we don’t know of a single US operation against IS in the area.”

      Some have suggested it is a haven for “Moderates”

      • michael norton

        It now transpires that as the E.U. have become uncomfortable about the Turkish Regime bombing North East Syria, Erdogan claims if they don’t accept it, he will unleash four and a half extra million Syrian people into Europe.
        He is a real nasty piece of work.

  • Sharp Ears

    With 23 days to go until we leave Europe and over three years after the Referendum, Poison Gove is on his feet defending his ridiculous statement on Brexit preparations. In spite of the fact that this is one of the most serious events for the country to be taking place, there are about three dozen troughers present in the HoC.

    In so doing he paid ‘enormous’ tribute to Failing Grayling for all the ‘tremendous’ work he had done in the past. LOL That would be the Seaborne Ferries/Ramsgate Harbour fiasco.

    • Sharp Ears

      Behind the Times paywall –

      Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson held talks at the Federal Chancellory in August -photo

      Boris Johnson is poised to abandon Brexit talks with the European Union after Downing Street claimed that Angela Merkel said that the chances of a deal were now “overwhelmingly unlikely”.
      A No 10 source claimed that during a call with Mr Johnson this morning the German chancellor said that Northern Ireland must stay in a customs union with the EU and “in full alignment for ever”.

      Policy editor Oliver Wright and politics reporter Henry Zeffman help you understand the effects of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union
      “Merkel said . . . the UK cannot leave without leaving Northern Ireland behind in a customs union and in full alignment for ever,” the source said.
      “She said Ireland is the government’s special problem and Ireland must at least have a veto on Northern Ireland leaving. Merkel said the prime minister should tell Northern Ireland it must stay in full alignment for ever but that even this would not eliminate customs issues.”
      The source added: “It was a very useful clarifying moment in all sorts of ways. If this represents a new established position then it means a deal is essentially impossible, not just now but ever. It also made clear that they are willing to torpedo the Good Friday agreement.”Merkel thinks deal is overwhelmingly unlikely, says No 10

      Tusk accuses PM of playing ‘stupid blame game’
      Boris Johnson is poised to abandon Brexit talks with the European Union after Downing Street claimed that Angela Merkel said that the chances of a deal were now “overwhelmingly unlikely”. A No 10 source claimed that during a call with Mr Johnson this morning the German chancellor said that…
      /..
      https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/brexit-deal-overwhelmingly-unlikely-says-angela-merkel-6m5btjwpr

      • Laguerre

        You shouldn’t believe the no 10 readout, it’s overblown with respect to what Merkel is likely to have said, and nearly all German sources say the same.

  • Roberto

    In my younger years I consistently found that the best approach to seduction was never to approach or suggest, but simply to wait, express no interest in a candidate, and let [her] do all the work. “They” seemed to be especially attracted to disinterest.
    Unfortunately that is not even a defense these days.

  • Dungroanin

    Loved it when Mutti slapped down the bad boys by PHONE. They may have been expecting it but oh what a beautiful slap down and sending off to bed early or as Steve Nbell toons it
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/picture/2019/oct/08/steve-bell-on-the-merkel-johnson-phone-call-over-brexit-talks-cartoon

    And btw I was researching a bit of Eric Blair and came across this lovely piece
    http://www.openculture.com/2014/11/george-orwells-final-warning.html

    Which quotes ‘publisher Fredric Warburg toward readers who “had misinterpreted [Orwell’s] aim, taking the novel [1984] as a criticism of the current British Labour Party, or of contemporary socialism in general.”

    It certainly predicted the other Blair and NuLabInc!

    Enjoy.

  • aspnaz

    Excellent. Courtship is a wonderful thing and is part of the journey of getting to know the other person one step at a time. It is one of the pleasures that nature gives us and never needs descend into discomfort: for example, a man placing his hand on the ladies back to guide her through a doorway. These tentative moments are a fantastic part of life and should not be discouraged. So much of courtship is gut feeling that turning it all into conscious decisions destroys the whole purpose and prevents the real you from having a say.

  • Kim Sanders-Fisher

    In my youth I worked on private yachts and rampant sexism was endemic. I was once offered a  job that included “servicing” the Captain once a week. What a pathetic wimp; after I told him to shove it, I rocked with laughter all the way down the gang plank.  I am certainly no fan of Hartley Brewer, but she spoke about a sexist mauling in her past which she shrugged off with casual disdain – vent outrage at the time and move on, men behaving badly, drunken amorous advances, what else is new? 

                 While I reluctantly must agree on the right to obsessive use of the word “surrender,” the opposition lost the battle as a far more effective retaliation would have been to taunt the Tories over their childish repetition that sounded desperate.  However, I was very seriously alarmed by the callous ridicule of female MPs concerned over death threats in the light of the fatal attack on Joe Cox.  This was beyond tasteless to the extreme of being deeply offensive and potentially inciting further violence.  This had every right to be called out by MPs on all sides of the house. 

                  I fail to understand how it is inappropriate to accuse a PM of lying when they habitually and continuously spew multiple lies in the House of Commons.  At the same time it is totally acceptable to call Jeremy Corbyn an Anti-Semite in the chamber without a single solitary shred of supporting evidence: this is never even called into question by the speaker.   I am not a Labour voter; I support the Green Party, but I detest lies and I find the current unsubstantiated vilification of Jeremy Corbyn dishonest, disgraceful. disgusting and totally abhorrent.  If accusing a serial liar of lying is prohibited, this hearsay defamation of an MP within the House of Commons should also not be allowed.   Time to clean the house!

                Brendan Cox would seem to be an absolute sleazy dog, but given the circumstances I would be prepared to let this sleeping dog lie.  He has two very vulnerable young children who experienced the traumatic death of their mother in a violent racist attack in which she lost her life.  At this time, the ongoing vilification of their only surviving parent, no mater how well justified, is bound to further traumatize the children of Jo Cox.  Out of respect for Jo Cox and prioritizing the protection of her children; for that reason, and that reason alone, I am prepared to give Brendan a temporary free pass.  Brendan should take this time to seriously clean up his act and focus on the needs of his children.  

  • Sharp Ears

    Jess Phillips is promoting herself as a possible leader for the Labour party. G.d help us all.

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