55 minus 05: Politics ponderings

Posted: 12 August 2019 in 55 minus, antisemitism, politics
Tags: , , , , , ,
Smear – unhelpful fact

‪    — ‬How to speak like a Corbynite: a helpful guide, Michael Deacon

When Theresa May announced in April 2017 that she planned to seek the House of Commons’ agreement to call a general election – hours after the message coming from ‘Number Ten’ had been no general election – I was far from the only person who viewed both the forthcoming campaign and election with dislike and distaste.

And, of course, viewed the eventual result drenched in the same sentiments.

Of course, May had on many previous occasions insisted that there’d not be an early general…

On the same day that the Commons voted to indeed hold an early general election, a lady who became known as ‘Brenda from Bristol’ famously summed it up for many: “You’re joking. NOT ANOTHER ONE?! Oh for God’s sake, I can’t, honestly – I can’t stand this.”

Indeed, her exasperation and frustration were shared by most of the people I knew; no one thought an election would solve anything. The government was trying to do the impossible and few thought that an election would make the impossible thing any less, y’know… impossible.

Well, no one other than Theresa May and her staff at Number Ten Downing Street, of course. And what do you know? It turned out that ‘everyone else’ was right and she, and they, were wrong.

So, yeah, I disliked the 2017 election. And I knew I would the moment it was called.

But I wasn’t dreading the election in the same way as I’m dreading the one we’re likely to have in the next year.

Whether it’ll be the first autumn/winter election we’ve had in almost fifty years, or whether it’ll take place in Spring 2020, an election is likely on the way. With an official working majority of one in the House of Commons, and an unofficial majority of who-the-fuck-knows-what-the-fuck-it-fucking-is – a technical parliamentary term, you understand – parliament is effectively paralysed.

Strictly speaking, of course, under the terms of the Fixed-terms Parliaments Act – a piece of legislation I naïvely supported when it was created – we already know the date of the next election.

It’ll be on 5th May 2022, five years after the previous election in 2017.

I don’t know anyone, however, who thinks that this pisspoor shitshow of a government and this toothless, impotent and incompetent parliament, will last until then. The FTPA does of course foresee situations, and permits a couple of circumstances, in which an election can take place earlier.

May used one of these in 2017 (the House of Commons votes by a two-thirds majority of all MPs) to get her early election. I find it fascinating, by the way, that it’s ⅔ of all MPs, as in you need 433 MPs – ⅔ of the 650 elected – to vote in favour, rather than merely ‘⅔ of MPs voting’. The authors of the Act really really wanted to ensure that both the government and the main opposition wanted an early election before getting one.

The other way an early election can, no must, be called is if a ‘vote of no confidence’ in the government is carried, and in the ensuing two weeks, no one – neither the current government nor the Opposition, nor anyone else – can command the ongoing confidence of the House.

So, yeah, under either one of those two circumstances – both of which I suspect we’re going to face in the next year – we have an early election.

Last week, I wrote about how anger often brings certainty. A certainty that’s unwarranted, to be sure, but certainty nonetheless.

I ended the piece with the following:

I’m dreading a general election. Honestly. One’s likely to occur this year, and if not this year, then next.

And I’m dreading it, and the campaign that leads up to it.

It doesn’t anger me. It doesn’t infuriate me. It scares me.

And I suspect, before this run of blog posts is done, I’ll write about why.

Ok, time to write about why.

Long time readers of this blog may remember the following three blog entries.

From May 2015… it’s my party and i’ll cry if I want to…

From July 2015… ABC: Anyone but Corbyn

From September 2015… congratulations, mr corbyn… and goodbye

In the first, I related how, after 30-odd years of adulthood with an intense interest in politics but somehow without joining a political party, I’d finally done so. I laid out why, where I stood politically, and why Labour was the party I’d joined.

Towards the end of that piece more than four years ago, I wrote the following:

I’m not suggesting that people who voted Tory are evil, nor that they have no compassion; merely that they were wilfully or otherwise ignorant of the policies the government now seeks to introduce. Because if they voted knowing full well the policies that will now be put before Parliament, then I honestly don’t know what to say.

It’s an old, and usually false, saw to say that “I haven’t left the party, the party left me”, but for me, this government has done that for me.

I can’t see how the Tories will move back to the centre-right ground, its natural home I’d venture to suggest, within the next fifteen to twenty years. Which means that it’s Labour for me unless or until they have a policy or party leadership that renders a potential Labour government as toxic to me as the Conservative Party now is.

Sadly, overwhelmingly sadly, history has shown me that’s possible. I just hope it doesn’t happen for a long, long time.

I’ll just repeat that last bit:

Which means that it’s Labour for me unless or until they have a policy or party leadership that renders a potential Labour government as toxic to me as the Conservative Party now is. Sadly, overwhelmingly sadly, history has shown me that’s possible. I just hope it doesn’t happen for a long, long time.

So, yes, I joined the Labour Party mere hours after it became obvious that David Cameron’s Conservative Party had won the 2015 election with a working majority; barely, but yeah, he had a working majority. And scarcely had the election results sunk in when the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, resigned.

How quickly did he resign? Well, my ‘welcome to the Labour Party’ email still had his photo attached, even though, by the time it arrived, he’d already resigned.

So, an hour or so after I joined, the Labour Party was already planning their next leadership election.

Nominations ran from [effectively] that moment until 15th June. And by then, I’d attended several constituency Labour Party (CLP) meetings, and quite enjoyed them.

The constituency in which I lived – Richmond Park – had never had a Labour MP; at the recent general election, the Labour vote had been at 12.3%. So it wasn’t exactly as if Richmond Park Constituency Labour Party ‘made a difference’ as to Labour’s position in the country. In truth, the seat had jumped back and forth between the Liberals/Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives for decades.

The CLP contained people from ‘the left’ of the Labour Party as well as people from the ‘right’ of the party, and all points in between, and had fairly vocal advocates of each position; in some ways, the make up of the local party was exactly as it should be; there were debates and some heated ones, but no more nor less than I’d expected, or wanted.

And then the leadership contest occurred. And everything changed.

I appreciate that as a new member, only a month or so into it, it’s kind of weird to say ‘everything changed’ when I only had two or three meetings under my belt.

But it’s true.

Everything changed. Where previously there had been heated debates, now there came nastiness, and allegations of cowardice, of callousness, or not being ‘true’ to Labour. Where there had been discussion and mild distaste for others’ positions, now there was utter contempt for the other position. And most of the nastiness and the contempt came from one faction within the CLP.

Because Jeremy Corbyn had entered the contest to be leader.

And while at that time, I had no doubt that he wouldn’t have approved of the nastiness, would in fact have decried the venom, which accompanied the positions taken by his advocates, I quickly realised that wasn’t the case. I came to the conclusion that while he might not have approved, he certainly had no issue with it.

Which brings me to the second of the posts above.

Now, I’d been aware of Jeremy Corbyn since the mid-1990s, I guess. At least I don’t remember paying much notice before that. I knew that an MP, a Labour MP, had invited convicted IRA members to the House of Commons after the IRA bombed a Brighton hotel and tried to assassinate the Prime Minister and a chunk of her cabinet, but I doubt I recalled that it was Corbyn who’d done so.

And I knew that a Labour MP had chaired a conference calling for the Labour Party to kick out (‘disaffiliate from’) Poale Zion (Great Britain) – the previous name of the Jewish Labour Movement – in the 1980s, but again, I didn’t recall it being Corbyn who was the Chair.

But when I ran CompuServe’s Jewish Forum, and helped run the UK Politics Forum, in the mid- to late-1990s, his name cropped up every so often, alongside that of Ken Livingstone, Paul Flynn, and a few others of similar political views. He was one of the ‘I see no reason to support the party leader just because he’s leader’ lot, the blatant hypocrisy of which is mildly amusing now, in retrospect.

And by 2015, I was well aware of his policy positions and his – at that stage, I still thought – complete and supreme indifference to others’, including his supporters’, overt and snide antisemitism.

I didn’t at that stage think that he was personally antisemitic, merely that he regarded antisemitism in others as… I dunno, as having a pimple on their nose, or crooked teeth, or having bad breath. Not ideal, perhaps, but certainly not a genuine problem, certainly not a deal-breaker. Their antisemitism, their blatant and clear antisemitism, was entirely irrelevant as to whether he supported that person, liked that person, campaigned for that person, called them ‘brother’ and ‘comrade’.

But I found myself more and more questioning my position, struggling to maintain it.

As more came out, as more evidence was revealed, of his wilfully ignoring the antisemitism of those who he supported, defended, campaigned for… I found it harder and harder to maintain my ‘he’s not antisemitic; he just doesn’t care if someone else is’ position.

But anyway, even if that position was accurate, as someone else asked me: would he ignore another form of racism? Would he accept it in his supporters, and in people he supported, if they didn’t like people of colour, say? Would he regard it as a deal breaker?

Because if the answers to those question are No, No, and Yes… well, then he’s treating Jews differently, discriminating against Jews… and there’s a word for that.

The hypocrisy became more obvious, and clearer, with every example. Here’s one: he utterly and unreservedly condemned anyone appearing on a platform with Nick Griffin, one time leader of the racist British National Party. There was no excuse, he maintained, for sharing a platform with him. “No one,” he said, “should be sharing a platform with an avowed racist and an avowed fascist.” Oddly, though, as Corbyn’s history showed time and time again, he had no problem at all sharing platforms with overt antisemites.

“Ah,” his supporters say, “he does that solely to challenge them.” Equally and appropriately oddly, there’s no record of his challenges. Funny that.

So I wrote that second post, laid out some issues I had with Corbyn, and said that I wouldn’t, couldn’t, vote for him, and that if anyone did, they were siding with his views on antisemitism. Or – at the very least – they were saying ‘I don’t care’ about his views on antisemitism and on Jews.

One thing that started to piss me off, and my upset only grew, was that he never criticised his own supporters for antisemitism; he never told them not to, or at least not in any way that supporters or critics took seriously, or were meant to. He spoke about antisemitism – once he had to – only ever in the abstract, criticising antisemitism and antisemitic acts without condemning those who carried them out, without calling those who committed those acts, said those things, posted those images, antisemitic.

And then I started noticing that he never condemned anyone as antisemitic. He’d say they were wrong, that he disagreed with them, but not that they were antisemitic, not that they were antisemites. It was kind of like watching someone condemn a lynching without criticising the KKK as racists. (NB the ex-Grand Wizard of the KKK openly praised and praises Corbyn re claiming his election as leader was a sign that people were recognising “Zionist power” and “Jewish establishment power”.)

A month later, I got the opportunity to speak to Corbyn, on a Radio 4 phone in they held with all the Labour Party leadership candidates.

I came away from the phone call even more convinced that at best – at best! – he didn’t give a shit about others’ antisemitism. He cared that no one identified him as an antisemite, but his supporters?

He claimed, repeatedly, that any antisemites didn’t speak for him, but as others have observed equally repeatedly, but with far more justification, the antisemites are convinced that he speaks for them.

And as to whether he personally was antisemitic?

Well, I wrote the following hypothetical offer to those who claim he’s not.

A right-wing MP, proud to be on the hard right of the tory party never makes an overly racist statement himself… but platform shares with known racists, hosts them in parliament, says it’s his pleasure & honour to host his friends & it’s a pity the govt banned other white pride racists (he thinks that a big mistake). He gives tv interviews to affiliates of white power organisations, and defends white pride people as “honoured citizens” “dedicated to peace and justice”.

This man on the hard right of the Tory party makes statements against racism, but only in the abstract, condemning lynchings but never criticising those who carry them out. The closest he comes is saying in interviews that he doesn’t always agree with them.

This right wing Tory MP says a man who wrote that “blacks are racially inferior & want to take over the white race” is an honourable man and he looks forward to having him for tea at the Commons.

What would you say of this right wing Tory? Racist or no?

(And if you’re British, and the name John Carlisle springs to mind reading that, well, you’re not alone…)

But here’s the thing: all of the stuff in that hypothetical above? There are direct parallels to stuff Corbyn’s done, said and advocated.

And that was before blatant, clear, evidence started coming later out of his personal use of antisemitic tropes.

(And as previous posts in this run have shown, use of an age old antisemitic trope, a classic sterotype, used to demonise Jews for centuries doesn’t cease to be antisemitic merely because someone says ‘zionist’ or ‘israel’ instead of ‘Jew‘.)

But anyway, Corbyn won the leadership, convincingly. Wasn’t even close.

And, as I’d discussed with the chair and secretary of the CLP, I resigned from the party, four months after I’d joined it. I quit a few hours after having been in the hall watching him win the leadership. And I wrote about why here, in the third post above; in sadness, slightly scared, but mainly upset.

I resigned because I could see what was about to happen, what was going to happen.

I resigned because I knew from that moment that antisemitism would no longer be an automatic deal-breaker for membership in Labour, nor even to hold appointed or elected position within the Labour Party.

I resigned because I couldn’t stomach the idea of belonging to a party led by a man who welcomed antisemites, who campaigned for them, defended them, supported them.

And, since 2015, he’s continued to do so. He’s continued to defend antisemites, continued to campaign with antisemites, continued to defend antisemites, to call them comrade and brother, and to let his advocates, his surrogates, promote antisemitic conspiracy theories, to trivialise antisemitism, to allege conspiracism… and not done a single, meaningful thing to stop them.

Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected Leader in 2016.

And despite losing that general election he won in 2017, he’s still there.

And he’s likely – despite the huge number of times over the past two years that I’ve been assured otherwise – to be there, leading Labour, at the next election.

Because every time more evidence comes out of his personal actions, his own defences of antisemites, there’s always an excuse.

  • “No, no, he didn’t mean that,” his defenders will say, after previously maintaining that he’s a decent honest man who always says what he means, and means what he says.
  • “No, no, he didn’t lie; you misunderstood his statement.”
  • “No, no, the moment he found out that Paul Eisen was a holocaust denier, he stopped attending his [non-holocaust related] events. The photos of him attending afterwards? Smears!”
  • “No, no, he doesn’t agree with the person who promoted the Blood Libel; he just defended and campaigned for him”
  • “No, no, he didn’t say ‘Jews’ don’t understand irony despite living all their lives in Britain, he said ‘zionists’ don’t even though that made no sense whatsoever…”
  • “No, No, he doesn’t agree with the antisemitic statements made… and he said so at the time; It’s just an unfortunate coincidence that no records exist of that…”

And “how dare you attack an anti-racist?”

Yeah. Right. An anti-racist (except when it comes to antisemitism) who’s spent his life speaking out against racism (except when it comes to antisemitism) and who condemns racists (except when it comes to antisemites) and who called racists… racist! (except when it comes to antisemites)

And Labour continues to re-admit antisemitic member, after antisemitic member, continues to lift the suspensions of antisemitic councillors and activists, and those who do get expelled? Labour never says they’re ejected because they’re antisemitic.

And activists, Corbyn fans, continue to blame Jews for the antisemitism and claim it’s mostly malicious claims.

And that’s mostly why I’m dreading the election. (See, you didn’t think I’d get back to that, did you? Ah, ye of little faith.)

Because after four years of Corbyn-led Labour, I just don’t believe that anyone with the slightest interest, or who’s paid the slightest bit of attention, is unaware of Corbyn’s at best apathy towards, and supreme indifference to, other’s antisemitism, and his personal complicity and use of antisemitism. I just don’t believe it.

Which means that if people are voting Labour they either a) don’t care about all of that, b) they actively agree with it, or c) they think it’s a price worth paying to get Corbyn into Downing Street. None of those fills me with anything other that unfettered dread and unmitigated fear.

Corbyn supporters aren’t short of fucking good reasons to not vote for the Tories. Hell, I agree with most, the overwhelming majority, of those reasons. They’re very good reasons to not vote Conservative.

But I’ve got a pretty fucking good reason to not vote Labour while Corbyn et al run the shop.

And that’s mostly why I’m dreading the election.

Before any election campaign has even started, I’ve already been accused that by not voting Labour, by not trying to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister, I’m choosing ‘the jews’ over the poor, the disabled, the ill… which of course ignores that there are poor Jews, ill Jews, disabled Jews.

Before any election campaign has even started, I’ve already been accused of being a paid Israeli agent, of knowing that Corbyn’s a decent, honest man, and of maliciously making up claims of antisemitism inside Labour.

During Corbyn’s tenure as party leader, I’ve been told that even if I believed Labour was antisemitic ‘head to toe’ (not a claim I’ve made) that as a Jew I should still vote Labour “because the Tories are worse”. Think about that for a moment: I was told that, as a Jew, I should vote for an antisemitic party.

Through the looking glass? We’re through a whole fucking factory of mirrors.

And that’s mostly why I’m dreading the election.

Because while, right now, I might – just about – be able to handle the idea of someone I know and like voting Labour, I genuinely don’t know if I can handle, if I could handle, people I know and like advocating others to vote Labour, working for Labour MPs, campaigning for Labour, campaigning to put Jeremy Corbyn in Number Ten Downing Street.

It’ll end friendships. It will damage, fracture, and end some of my friendships, people I’ve been friends with for years… in some cases, decades.

Because at best, they’ll effectively be saying “I don’t care about antisemitism against you and yours, budgie” “or well, yes, it’s not nice but it’s a price worth paying to get Corbyn and Labour into Number Ten”.

And at worst they’ll be saying “I agree with him when he uses antisemitic tropes about ‘hidden hands’ of influence and when he supports antisemites.”

But yeah, that’s why I’m dreading the next election.

 

It’s Tuesday tomorrow. If you’ve been following the blog through the run, you know what’s occuring tomorrow. if not, then all I’ll say is the usual… which is, of course, “something else tomorrow.”

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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