Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, interviewed on the Today programme this morning sounded a bit rattled by the repeated question ’Will Corbyn use the bomb?’ Her attempts at evasion gave the game away. Jeremy is, at heart a bit of a pacifist and no doubt the BBC research was correct in finding that he hadn’t supported a single British military intervention since being elected to parliament. Of course, it will only be a matter of time before it is pointed out that he ‘supported the IRA,’ which whether true or not kicks the ‘Jeremy is a pacifist’ argument into touch.
But on the bomb issue, if I had been in Thornberry’s shoes I would have thrown the question back—because the question is in what circumstances would you expect our PM to press the self-destruct button? For example, could it be done without US permission—Trident is their missile system after all? Is it at all conceivable that Britain would launch its nuclear warheads without the US already doing so? And would this be a pre-emptive or responsive attack? I know the theory of mutually assured destruction is meant to rely on the perception of our willingness to use nuclear weapons, and we’re still trapped for the time being in the shadow of that. But recent developments suggest the bar for nuclear war could be lowered, not least with Trump reneging on practically any deal that contains the word ‘nuclear.’
In this game, our ‘deterrence’ is irrelevant, and I regret and always have regretted that the Labour Party has stuck with it. Much of this I suspect is the fear of what right-wing tabloids have to say about unilateral disarmament, memories of 1987 general election Tory posters depicting Labour as unpatriotic, the dent to national pride if we rid ourselves of the bomb whilst France retains hers and of course the threat to our all-important permanent seat on the UN Security Council (which we’ll likely lose anyway post-Brexit).
We might ask why if there are so many good reasons for having the bomb Germany shouldn’t also possess this wonder tool? Why aren’t Germans demanding it as their human right, notwithstanding the Non-Proliferation Treaty? A savvy German Chancellor after Merkel could sidle up to Trump and tell him the NPT needs to go as well. We’re paying through the nose for this technology, so surely there’s an argument for a global trade in it, a fresh market for neo-liberalism perhaps? It’s not as if the NPT has stopped proliferation. It was the Americans who got the Israeli nuclear capacity on the go after all, albeit served under the counter. And a nuclear winter might put a stop to global warming, isn’t that so Dr Strangelove?
‘Mainstream. The Campaign Against Extremism.’ That sounds like a worthy cause. Hands up who’s in favour of extremism? I was prompted to look at the website of this new crusade (wrong word: crusades were terribly extreme) after its chair, the ex-Labour MP Ian Austin called for a vote for Boris Johnson. Who else is backing Mainstream? As comic actor Terry Thomas might have said, ‘an utter shaaarr.’ (Younger readers: he meant an utter shower.) This group of self-appointed defenders of decency in politics includes Tory Eric Pickles, one of the key architects of austerity. Looking at the various shameful stories that one finds on the web relating to this odious man, one is spoilt for choice, so I’m stumped. I’ll just have to leave that one there. Another supporter is Rachel Riley, of whom I knew nothing until now. She is a B-list TV celebrity. She holds some profound views on decency in society—dealt with in a lengthy, forensic article ‘Enough is Enough: Rachel Riley, GnasherJew, and the Political Weaponisation of Antisemitism.’ Not a pretty picture, it has to be said. It is worth looking at not least since it has a video clip of a former Israeli government minister admitting that it was their policy to weaponise anti-Semitism against any who dared criticise their policies.
Maureen Lipman is another Corbyn hater, but unlike some of her Mainstream colleagues she left the Labour Party in 2014 when its first Jewish leader Ed Miliband expressed support for Palestine. Apparently she doesn’t believe Palestine should achieve statehood. There are three other Labour MP defectors, and a former Labour MP, Michael McCann who is now director of the ‘Israel-Britain Alliance.’ Summing up his support for Mainstream, former MP Ivan Lewis said “When the history books are written about politics in 2019, there will be a shining light standing out amongst the darkness – Mainstream. I am proud to join a cause bringing civility and decency back into the political discourse.” What a laugh. Here’s a piece from the New Statesman about Mainstream’s chair, Ian Austin:
“Extraordinary scenes in the division lobby before the parliamentary recess when Labour’s combustible Ian Austin exploded in the summer heat. Witnesses allegedly heard and then saw the MP swearing loudly at party chair Ian Lavery, screaming that he was a “fucking bastard” and “wanker”. Onlookers report Austin didn’t make a political point as he went nose-to-nose to shout expletives at the granite-faced former miner but surmise it was another offensive in the anti-Semitism row. The outburst was observed by Labour chief whip Nick Brown, who moments earlier was told he should resign by the Dudley rampager.” (25th July 2018)
One wonders why if such language is ‘civil’ and ‘decent’ and is a hallmark of Mainstream, Margaret Hodge hasn’t yet joined.
As one might expect, there is no clue on Mainstream’s website as to how they are funded. It could be just another ‘astroturf’ style outfit designed to fool. I suspect it won’t last very long, since most of its key supporters will be quickly forgotten. And despite its mission statement declaring that they will call out extremism from wherever it comes, their only activity to date is to attack Labour’s leadership. I rather suspect ‘Lord’ Eric Pickles won’t be prodding Mainstream to investigate anti-Semitism or indeed Islamaphobia in Tory ranks.
The grand-sounding 'Israel-Britain Alliance' has cropped up in this blog. This is a professed lobbying organisation with a strong anti-Palestine bent (as you would expect). It appears to claim one or two successes on that front, e.g. by getting the UK government to cut overseas aid funding to the Palestinian Authority. But as with Mainstream, its funding is a mystery. It is a registered company, and its balance sheet as at the end of November last year showed creditors of £24,521 but no clue as to who they were. There is only one director, Mr McCann himself. Despite the declared lobbying purpose of this outfit, it is not registered with the UK Lobbying Register (UKLR) The UKLR ‘is open, universal and free. Increased scrutiny from parliament and the public mean the requirement for lobbyists to act transparently has never been greater. Signing up to the UKLR proves to your clients, colleagues and the public that you’re serious about transparency and meeting standards of ethical conduct.’ (UKLR website) The absence of the 'Israel-Britain Alliance' on the register kind of sums it all up really. Perhaps it’s time for Al Jazeera to do a follow-up report on their exposé of the Israeli government’s thought police.
Only four days in and the general election is already outstaying its welcome. We’ve had rants from two ex-Labour MPs, standing in front of an advert claiming to be ‘Mainstream’ that people should vote for Boris Johnson—perhaps like John Mann they’re hoping to be rewarded with Tory peerages; we’ve had Margaret Hodge doing her usual anti-Corbyn blather, and Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian today rehashing his usual handwringing commentary about Corbyn’s supposed anti-Semitism: he doesn’t seem able to grasp reality (and does he really get paid every time he writes the same stuff over and over again?). Then there was a story about a Labour MP singing the Beatles song Hey Jude—but supplanting Jews for Jude. Why on earth would he do that (he's vehemently denied the accusation)? And why would the Huffington Post reveal this story 20 months after it allegedly happened? (Clue: I looked at their website today and they’re running a poll on whether Labour can ever be a centrist party under Corbyn.) But I did get some amusement from the HuffPost from an ad (see below). A rather critical error for such a service, I thought.
At least there are more websites claiming to ‘fact check’ claims made by political parties (and others). Buzzfeed’s fact checking service seems to have a disproportionate number of falsehoods perpetrated by the LibDems, not least their leaflets which misrepresent with graphs how this or that seat is a ‘two-horse race.’ Defending this practice on Sky News Jo Swinson gave one of her smug, top class disingenuous performances—boiling down to ‘we can say what we like because we’re LibDems.’ She is going to be one of the more irritating features of the next five weeks.
Last night’s BBC4 programme A British Guide To The End Of The World revealed the intense stupidity and indeed callousness of the British government at the time in the Cold War that we were living in fear of a Russian invasion followed by a nuclear holocaust. Those of a certain age will remember the largely pointless, but possibly comforting advice given in the official booklet Protect and Survive—a false promise if ever there was one. But we also heard the testimony of survivors of the Christmas Island nuclear tests back in 1957/8. The important revelation here was that the enlisted men (some conscripted doing National Service no doubt) were deliberately exposed to the nuclear explosions in order to test their physical reactions. This much was confirmed in an accidentally released MoD document. The impacts on the men did not immediately appear, and so a long battle ensued to try to prove the connection between e.g. a later cancer and the tests. That’s the sort of battle where the government hopes by means of delay and obfuscation that the victims will simply die and their cases with them.
I think the callous attitude of the military establishment to its ‘other ranks’ continued for a long time. Perhaps it still does. There could be another forgotten group of service men and women who deserve attention, that is those who took part in chemical and biological war tests at Porton Down. Back in the seventies (I was serving in the RAF at the time) circulars would come round inviting volunteers to go to Porton Down for the innocent purpose of helping 'to find a cure for the common cold'—as if that was a prime mission of a top secret military establishment. The invitation came with the inducement of something like an extra £10 a week. Having seen photographs (during our basic training) of what CBW agents do to the body, and wondering whether these were pictures of imitation effects or the real thing, I think it is safe to say they were the real thing. Just as when we were ordered, wearing gas masks to enter a windowless concrete building in the middle of the airfield where there was then a CS gas canister released. Our test was to see how long we could stay in the room after being told to remove our masks. Not very long in my case. The effect on a bloke who had some sort of respiratory issue was worse—but nobody asked any questions about that sort of thing beforehand.
These tests and experiments on unknowing and innocent people are not at the same level of callous and inhumane behaviour as practiced on victims in the Nazi death camps, but I don’t think it’s stretching a point to say it is only a matter of degree. So when I read stories of various experiments carried out by e.g. the CIA, I am inclined to believe them. I have mentioned in a previous blog about how Lyme’s disease may have emerged out of CIA trials. But there is always the cover up. It was interesting to hear that the troops sent to Christmas Island were asked to sign the Official Secrets Act prior to the event. This strikes me as a bit unusual, since I assume they had already signed the Act when they signed up—and it’s meant to cover you for life. So the cover-up preparations began even before the event.
Another candidate for the prestigious* parliamentary constituency of Scarborough and Whitby has been announced, this one from the Yorkshire Party. His name is Lee Derrick, and he is a member of Whitby Town Council, so he is local. But he has a global ambition, as his company, Blue Spinach explains: ‘For ten years we have provided the global golfer with memorable travel experiences throughout England, Ireland, and Scotland. Over the last five years, we have also been working successfully in Mexico and South Africa which have grown in popularity for those seeking unique golfing experiences further afield. As a company we consider ourselves forward thinking and are always open to new opportunities, consequently, we will strive to deliver unique, innovative and inspirational destinations. Planned for the near future are exciting destinations such as the Dominican Republic, India, Thailand, and Vietnam.’
Now who could possibly raise concerns about the desire of the global golfer to seek out the 19th hole of some elite Vietnamese golf club? This surely is an activity that should be encouraged. But perhaps not. If you look at the Yorkshire Party’s website, you will see that they consider themselves very eco-friendly and support tough action on climate change. Boosting your air miles merely to play golf on the other side of the world seems hard to reconcile with that. But hey! It cannot be any worse than going on holiday for any other activity, can it? I am just being anti-golfist. And I have flown on holiday myself, so let’s not get all precious about it.
The Yorkshire Party has grand ambitions for God’s County. They want a devolved assembly with full-on subsidiarity. I wouldn’t object to that. But by definition, their plans could only succeed if the UK government was minded to approve them. The Yorkshire Party does not elucidate on how it could achieve that, nor which other party or parties they believe they could work with. Another lost deposit and perhaps a few balls in the rough for the Yorkshire Party on December 12th, I suspect.
*We are home after all to the Manor of Northstead, the Stewardship of which permits an MP to legally resign from the House of Commons. The current (very recent) Steward is John Bercow. Previous Stewards include David Cameron and Peter Mandelson. But they never seem to pay us a visit.
GretaThunberg has found herself stranded in the Americas now that the annual climate change jamboree (COP25) has been cancelled in Chile and is to be held in Madrid instead. Since she will not fly, there’s a little bit of a problem for her getting to the conference. She’s appealing for help to get back across the Atlantic. My suggestion would be to appeal directly to Vlad Putin for help to cross the Bering Strait by boat. It’s only 85km wide, although this is a bad time of the year to cross. The problem with this suggestion is that Vlad has already joined the chorus of elderly male politicians wondering aloud who the hell this schoolgirl thinks she is, telling them about their wayward fossil fuel ways. But if Vlad were to offer assistance, what a coup! Given his and Trump’s love-in, they could engineer a travel solution immediately. But both of them hate the idea that a schoolgirl can upstage them. I have to say if I were wearing their cynical shoes, I’d sort it immediately. It would cost them nothing and make them look partly human.
As we embark on the general election of a generation, I am hoping to keep up with the local opposition, I’m sure this will be a rewarding exercise. So much so that I will reveal the results on this blog. As regards the opposition, who do we know will be standing? Current MP Robert Goodwill I am sure will be the Tory candidate. The Green Party have decided not to field a candidate, citing a shortage of funds as being central to their decision but also indicating tacit support for Labour’s Hugo Fearnley. That’s a definite plus for Labour.
The Lib Dems have adopted somebody called Graham Lockwood as PPC for the Scarborough & Whitby constituency. According to a report on their Facebook page “It was a cold, wet afternoon but despite this; nineteen people attended. This was a very good turn-out and it was great to see so many of you.” Nineteen people? So many of them? For the newly energised LibDems under thrusting, dynamic leader Jo Swinson? Not such a good start. Mr Lockwood (a Google search reveals) has a background in the motor sports industry and the oil industry, which no doubt informs his environmental campaigning—he suggests he helped lead the local anti-fracking campaign. He stood in last May’s local elections, and came fourth, behind the Greens and well behind the Tories who took the rural ward without difficulty. On the LibDem website I wanted to find out if there were any events planned.
Here is a screenshot for this month. Perhaps Graham is still wondering why so few people turned up to his selection meeting. Is Graham the same person who stood for the LibDems last time as Robert Lockwood? Perhaps they’re related? With just 2.7% of the 2017 general election vote, the LibDems easily lost their deposit. I don’t think we’ll see Jo coming to town.
According to the Yorkshire Post somebody called Robert Andersen is standing for the Brexit Party. A search online has so far revealed nothing about this deluded chap. I thought I was getting close when the words ‘Andersen’ and ‘Brexit’ brought up this headline: ‘Meaningful goats: Brexit picture book hits the farm.’ Could this refer to Mr Andersen’s possible central role in developing a Brexit handbook for the party’s members? It turns out not, it is merely a picture book published by an outfit call Andersen Press which follows what happens to ducks and geese who formerly lived in harmony then decided they didn’t want other animals visiting their island, so decided on destroying the bridge and consequently fell out with each other. In other words, a children’s picture book designed to poison the minds of our little ones. Probably funded by the E.U. So far the local UKIP crowd (sic) have yet to make an announcement. Their latest info still relates to last May’s local elections, where their candidates were referred to as ‘Batten’s Brigade.’ As is the UKIP tradition, the ‘brigade’ is once again leaderless. Batten (their erstwhile leader) had less batten than berg. Sorry.
There may be other candidates. Last time there were eight. Apart from Labour and the Tories, they all lost their deposits. This is strictly a two-way marginal.
The Daily Mail online today runs a story about the Tories planning £20billion in tax cuts. This at the same time as increasing public spending by a similar amount—all based on a post-Brexit economy which most reputable forecasters predict will shrink. No wonder the government doesn’t see the need to produce its own economic forecast relating to Johnson’s Brexit deal. They really do believe the UK population is composed entirely of suckers. But they have form. I remember before the 1979 election them saying they wouldn’t put VAT up. It was one of the first things they did.
Elsewhere there was some good news. It seems that the very wealthiest spongers in our midst have already been preparing for a Corbyn victory by drawing up plans to leave the UK. I wonder which country they will choose to go to. Will there be enough space on Necker Island? How will they all get along with each other and their over-inflated egos? Bad luck to ‘em.
One of the rich bastards named by Jeremy Corbyn the other day was Jim Ratcliffe, owner of Ineos and a great believer in fracking. He can’t be too happy with the Tories newly, cynically coined fracking moratorium. Perhaps that’s one reason he’s already packed his bags to leave the UK. But the moratorium could have repercussions. Earlier last month a coalition of environmental groups called on the government to stop fracking, citing, perhaps in passing, that much of the activity would take place in Tory held seats, some of them marginal. So along comes a general election and all of a sudden we get a moratorium—but not a ban. If the Tories are re-elected, one could with certainty win a bet fracking will be back. And if this moratorium does aid Johnson in his re-election, we won’t get Labour’s new green deal (which means a permanent ban on fracking amongst many other things). Perhaps the environmental lobby will have shot itself in the foot.
I wrote a letter (yes, you’ve guessed it) to the Guardian the other day after it reported that Corbyn’s personal poll ratings as an opposition leader were the worst since 1977—as measured by Ipsos/ Mori. My letter asked how the opposition leader at the time got on. The letter wasn’t printed. But I seem to recall a certain M. Thatcher was elected with a working majority. So much for polls. But to cap it all, we’ve just had another poll which suggests the Tories are doing as well now as they did before the 2017 general election—like they’re on their way to a landslide. Well, we know what happened then. So why do the media carry on reporting polls as if they were the bees' knees, when they are so unreliable? I think it’s partly down to the need to create stories (their bread and butter) but also, for some reason to box Corbyn into a negative corner. Why of all people the BBC (which goes along with it) should wish to do this is beyond me—a Labour government is least likely to sell the BBC off into some commercial model (and I’m sure this is the Tories' long-term desire). What exactly is it about Corbyn that makes the BBC et al do what they do? Nowt to do with the so-called anti-Semitism agenda, I’m sure.
+Listening to the news tonight I learnt that Trump has said Corbyn would be ‘bad’ for the UK. I can’t believe that such an endorsement is anything but good news for Labour’s chances in the general election. We could do with a bit more of it. It would be helpful, for example, for Trump to repeat his denial that the NHS would be up for grabs in a post Brexit trade deal. The more he denies it, the more it will ring true that e.g. American pharmaceutical companies would love a slice of the NHS market for drugs. Trump probably has an idea on which side his bread is buttered, and I imagine he thinks he would be doing us a favour if we were edged towards a more American system of healthcare, given his opposition to that very pale thing known as ‘Obamacare.’ The corollary of this is that Johnson has to be kept on denying that the NHS is up for grabs. Perhaps he could be forced to say ‘There’ll be no NHS sell-off—I’d rather die in a ditch.’
+In my blog of the 26th October I commented on the predicament of U.S. citizens renouncing their citizenship in order to avoid U.S. taxes. Good to see that the BBC’s PM programme caught up with the story today. It makes me feel ever so topical.
+On the same programme I was a bit disappointed to hear Labour’s Transport spokesperson Andy MacDonald answering questions about what exactly we’re going to do about the likes of Murdoch and the other billionaires that milk this country for all we’re worth. I know it’s early days in the campaign, but when these rich bastards are called out we need to be able to say exactly what it is they can expect from a Labour government. Anything less than that just sounds like the same old same old, and some people may remember that Labour wasn’t exactly gung-ho tackling these parasites when last in power (I’m still struggling to figure out how the Barclay brothers were given knighthoods when Blair was in power . . Oh, hang on . . . ). MacDonald could, for example just have said ‘Levenson Two’ and the issue might have been dealt with.