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Showing posts from 2018

Dogma on Monday, history on Tuesday.

I thought Guardian columnist Marina Hyde was brave to bring up the siege of Waco.

Her recent piece on the similarities in mawkish sentiment between supporters of far-right activist Tommy Robinson and the followers of Jeremy Corbyn was provocative enough. But to allude to the Branch Davidians and David Koresh was, I felt, probably asking for a little trouble online.

When federal agents surrounded Mount Carmel back in 1993, it led to a bloodbath in which dozens of people died. The crackpot sect had amassed a frightening arsenal of automatic and semi-automatic weapons and fought with fanaticism.

Even if we see the Corbyn movement as being cultlike in its behaviour and worship of its leader, I think we can rule out a Texan-style denouement. Jez, after all, is a man of peace, as we are repeatedly reminded by his supporters.

But there is a serious question about how all this craziness will end.

The Twitterstorm this week - running with the hashtag #WeAreCorbyn - provoked a frenzy of sycopha…

Why the left can't resolve its anti-semitism crisis

The hard left is on the back foot over the anti-semitism row gripping the Labour Party.
The Pete Willsman tape was too much even for some of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters – particularly the younger inner circle that act as his minders and semi-official cheerleaders on social media.
These high-profile vloggers, bloggers and blaggers, who’ve bizarrely chosen to hitch a ride to the festival in Jez’s clapped-out Trabant, understand how poisonous the anti-semitism issue is for their movement and want some sort of closure. They also don’t share the weird obsession of the traditional British left with Israel and are almost certainly frustrated by old-timers who seemingly can’t leave it alone.
They face two problems though.
The first is that Corbyn’s most vociferous supporters in the wider online world – the trolls, misfits and cranks who populate Facebook forums and Twitter – are virulently anti-Israeli and, in a frightening number of cases, anti-semitic too. While it’s perfectly possible under th…

Why Moscow is the destination of choice for both left and right

One of the most remarkable things about global politics in 2018 is the huge importance of Russia. Its influence goes way beyond its obvious reach.
Beijing is much more powerful than Moscow economically. Washington is still much more powerful than Moscow militarily. But Russia under Putin is a fulcrum on which the politics of North America, Western Europe and the Middle East seems to turn.
We are grappling with the idea of Russian interference in elections and referendums. Still reeling from its enormous implications.
Press conferences are held in which Putin is questioned on whether he has kompromat on the US President. While the US President is standing right beside him.
The US President reminds us that Germany is heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies.
UK security services investigate a murder on British soil linked to a Russian nerve agent.

We have reconciled ourselves to the fact that the butcher Assad will survive in Syria, because of his powerful backers in the Kremlin.
It’s Rus…

Take Jez to Durham and he's right back to East Germany

On my bookshelf, I have a copy of an East German publication from 1984, entitled Young People in the GDR Today. Flicking through its pages, I am reassured that that there was no drug addiction or ‘drug scene’ in the former Soviet satellite state and that Nazism was ‘wiped out’ as a philosophy at the end of the Second World War.
All good to know.
I was reminded of the book when Jeremy Corbyn spoke at the Durham Miners’ Gala this weekend. The Labour Leader, who notoriously toured East Germany on a motorbike in the 1970s withDiane Abbott, announced that under his premiership children in English schools would be taught ‘about the trade union principles of solidarity and collective action, so they are equipped to uphold their rights as workers’.
Now, I’m all in favour of people knowing their rights. But the language here suggests a much weirder and more sinister agenda, which speaks volumes about Corbyn’s outmoded politics. He believes that teachers should be involved in imbuing a socialist p…

Don't get too excited. Brexit can never end well.

Following the latest dramatic twists in the Brexit saga and the news that David Davis and Boris Johnson had resigned, two groups of people seem particularly jubilant.
The first is that insufferable bunch of Remain supporters which believes that the referendum result in 2016 was simply ‘advisory’ and can be ignored or overturned.
While the folk in this camp are absolutely right in their assessment of the damage that Brexit will do to the UK economically, they completely misread the political mood beyond their own Twitter-fuelled bubble. A constant refrain is that Parliament stop Brexit or that we have a so-called #peoplesvote on the final deal. Now, they feel their moment has come.
The second group consists of paid-up members of the Corbyn fan club (and perhaps some of the Labour Leader’s fellow travellers on the Opposition front bench), who think a general election is now on the cards and that the Brexit debacle can be used as a lever to usher in a socialist government.
Of course, the po…

A tale of five referendums

We all know that the first rule of the modern world is to expect the unexpected.
Corbyn, Brexit and Donald J Trump.
Ex-Russian spies poisoned with nerve agent in Salisbury and ex-Russian journalists emerging alive in Kiev, having been assassinated less than 24 hours earlier. There’s really nothing that should surprise us.
That Irish referendum last weekend though. A huge victory for women and a turn of events that would not have been predicted a year ago.
Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar took a big risk when he pushed ahead with the poll on a pretty tight timescale. He was vindicated by a spectacular 2:1 victory for liberalisation that would simply not have been possible in 20th Century Éire. This was, after all, a country in which the conservative Catholic Church was completely entangled with the state and the expectation was that people would always defer to the religious order. No more.
But the surprise referendum produced another twist. Suddenly attention was focused on Northern Ire…

The fuse has been lit for two years. But when's the detonation?

The best way of thinking about Brexit is to picture a minefield or maybe a darkened labyrinth with a number of carefully-laid tripwires. Any false move along the way and there’s a danger of a detonation. So Theresa May can’t run freely, as she once did through the wheat fields of her youth. She tiptoes cautiously and brings along her bomb disposal experts.
So far, no explosion. But the mines and tripwires stretch off into the distance. And there’s a deadly surprise lying in store.
Even if you manage to make it to the end of the maze, a blast is set to go off on a timer anyway.
The more I look at the politics of Brexit, the more I see circles that just cannot be squared. Just decisions and crunch points that get endlessly deferred. Until eventually there’s no more road left.
If you’re the DUP, you believe in Brexit, but you don’t want a hard border. At the same time, you don’t want regulatory alignment with the EU and a border in the middle of the Irish Sea.
Tripwire.
If you’re The…

Tough truths revealed by the Windrush scandal

Until recently, Windrush was probably a name that resonated mainly among the Afro-Caribbean community, political activists and students of British social history. In 2018, it has become a household discussion point, synonymous with scandal and the appalling mistreatment of a community that deserved respect and admiration.
There is no need to rehearse the detail here, as it has been covered extensively across the media in recent weeks. We have listened to stories of personal tragedy, bureaucratic intransigence and the creation of an environment so ‘hostile’ that it led to people being harassed and even deported with no just cause.
The furore has engulfed Theresa May’s government and rightly so. It’s led to the resignation of one of her most senior ministers and trusted allies.
But there is one shocking revelation that has attracted relatively little attention.
Recent opinion polls show that Windrush has seemingly had no impact on levels of Conservative Party support.
ICM, YouGov and…

What if the whole Corbyn project is based on a lie?

If there’s one thing that scares the Corbyn movement more than anything else, it’s the emergence of a new centre-ground party.
Supporters know very well that once it arrives, the alleged ‘popularity’ of Labour’s far-left leadership would be badly exposed – in just the same way that Michael Foot’s good poll ratings disintegrated with the emergence of the SDP in the early 1980s.
When people are given a choice, many will opt for moderation.
When they lack choice – a particularly stark problem in the UK’s indefensible first-past-the-post electoral system – they tend to polarise to left and right.
For supporters of today’s Labour leadership, it’s therefore critically important to dismiss the centre ground as something which no one wants any more. As a failed ‘neo-liberal’ project, which has no relevance to 2018.
But consider the facts.
A recent BMG Research poll for The Independent found that millions of voters currently find themselves without a political home.
Many feel that the main parties …

Anti-semitism and the crisis in the Corbynite left

It must be a very confusing time to be a follower of the bizarre Corbyn cult.
Dissonance is rife and the reasons are pretty obvious.
Momentum was built out of the leadership campaign for Jez and, for the first couple of years, things were very simple.
The only thing Momentum members and fellow travellers had to do was to believe whatever Corbyn believed.
If Jez claimed that Blair was a ‘neo-liberal’, so did they. When the veteran leftist argued that you can borrow and spend your way to economic prosperity, all you had to do was nod in agreement.
Marrows are easier to grow on an allotment than turnips? If the Gardener of the People says so, it must be true.
But what happens when the pronouncements of the guru start conflict with common sense or deep-seated belief systems?
The Russians should decide on whether the nerve agent used in Salisbury was theirs.
Err… yes, Jez. Of course.
Membership of the single market? Completely impossible outside the EU.
Hmm… you absolutely sure about that, oh …

It's crunch time once again for the PLP. What do they have to lose?

The last few years in the British Labour Party have been full of terrible misjudgements and mistimings.
Those last-minute charity nominations for Corbyn in the summer of 2015.
The sullen acquiescence of the PLP after Jez was first elected leader, providing him with breathing space to consolidate his position.
The coup that kept on being deferred in 2016. It would be in the new year. It would be after the council elections. It would have to wait until after the EU referendum.
The eventual launch of Angela Eagle’s bid to replace Corbyn. The sidelining of Eagle in favour of Owen Smith, who then ran a campaign in which he claimed to share the left-wing politics of the man he aimed to replace. The offer to Jez of a position as spiritual leader.
The sullen acquiescence of the PLP after Jez’s second win in September 2016.
The cloak of respectability given to Corbyn by people who should know far better. Tom Watson. Emily Thornberry. Keir Starmer.
The complete collapse of resistance after Corbyn ac…