Archive for the ‘55 minus’ Category

55 plus 16: Aren’t maps [still] fun?

Posted: 2 September 2019 in 55 minus
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It’s been a weird week, and it’s going to be an even weirder one this week, so before the shit hits the fan, some lighter stuff today.

(Hoping for the usual Tuesday post tomorrow, before – if things go as everyone expects tomorrow in Parliament – something much more serious on Wednesday. And, hopefully, I’ll be able to complete a long-delayed post on Thursday.)


 
A while back, I asked ‘Aren’t Maps fun? And showed some maps from worldmapper.org

Time to show some more.

If you’ve not come across the place before, well, 

Worldmapper is a collection of world maps called cartograms, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest.

Here are ten more of the, to me, odder or ‘huh’-provoking ones…

Let’s start with one in which I’m very much included…

UK Population – Gridded (an equal-population projection where each area is proportional to the number of people living there.

 
And now some where I’m probably not…
 
 
Olympic Gold Medals 2018

 
 
BSE cases 1987-2016

 
 
Death Penalty Executions 2016

 
 
Illiterate Young Women

 
 
McDonald’s Restaurants

 
 
Nobel Prize Literature 1901-2018

 
 
Volcanic Eruptions 2000-2017

 
 
Alcohol Consumption

 
 
International Tourist Arrivals 2015

 
 
worldmapper.org – Aren’t maps [still] fun?

See you tomorrow, with something else.

It’s my fifty-fifth birthday today. Which should, and will, I suspect, come as no surprise to anyone reading this.

I’ve absolutely no intention of blogging about anything serious, nor on subjects profound.

I’ll merely a relate a tale I’ve previously told on Twitter… but since it is my birthday and I’m now well into my mid-fifties, I get to retell favourite anedotes occasionally. Or more than occasionally. Look, those are the rules; I didn’t make them up.

So this occurred the back end of 2018, after November’s Distraction Club. On the way back to Richmond, where I was crashing overnight, Mitch Benn and I stop off at an all night shop to pick up some shopping.

I pick up a few items and go outside to vape for a bit while I wait for Mitch to complete his shopping.

A car draws up, playing very loud music; a couple, both 20-somethings in the car. The woman jumps out, and as she exits the car, I catch the very end of the young fella saying “…well, I don’t know! Ask the old man…”

Whereupon she approaches me and is about to speak when the man shouts “NO! IN THE SHOP! ASK THE OLD MAN IN THE SHOP… not that, erm, er, er, young man.

The woman immediately stops short, mouth opening and shutting like a goldfish, struggles a moment on whether or not to apologise, then sort of mumbles a very quiet ‘sorry’ and scoots past me.

I look at the fella in the car.

He looks at me.

I… I… I… Sorry, mate…

“No problem,” says I, hugely and genuinely amused at his embarrassment.

He puts his head in his hands. “Young man. YOUNG man…”

“It’s fine, I say.

We chat for a moment, then Mitch comes out and we leave, while I’m struggling not to double up with laughter.

I just about make it to the car before doing so.

So, from one old ‘young man’ to the rest of you youngsters, here are some quotes about birthdays and aging.

“I remember when the candle shop burned down. Everyone stood around singing ‘Happy Birthday.’ ”
‪—‬ Steven Wright

“If you live to the age of a hundred, you have it made because very few people die past the age of a hundred.”
‪—‬ George Burns

“Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself.”
‪—‬ Tom Wilson

“You’ve heard of the three ages of man – youth, age, and “you are looking wonderful.”
‪—‬ Francis Cardinal Spellman

“You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely.”
‪—‬ Ogden Nash

“What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.”
Harley exec, quoted in Results-Based Leadership

“Never too late to learn some embarrassingly basic, stupidly obvious things about oneself.”
Alain de Botton

“The years between 50 and 70 are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down.”
T.S. Eliot

And, finally, from John Glenn:

“For all the advances in medicine, there is still no cure for the common birthday.” ‪

Have a good Saturday, all… and thanks for reading. You’ve made an old a young man very happy.
 
 


 
Not really part of the series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday today, but if you want to read the series, you can see the posts in the run by clicking here.

David Allen Green, who tweets as @davidallengreen, will occasionally quote-tweet some bit of news and merely append the single word: “Well.”

It can mean anything from a gentle “I told you so” to “I wrote about this, you know” to a “yer never gonna believe this, folks, but…”

But often, it’s just a “hey folks, this is interesting.”

And that’s how I intended the title of this post until I started writing it and realised it additionally meant a few other things.

For a start, I’m ‘well’. Which I wasn’t completely sure I would be on this day when I re-started the blog eight weeks ago.

With the exception of the annual A Life In Pictures post, and one about my late brother on the anniversary of his death, I’d last blogged in January 2017… two and a half years ago, and a fair bit has changed since then; for me, for politics, for everyone and everything.

And here I was, not planning on a gentle re-introduction to blogging; no, I chose to commit to a daily blog for fifty-five days.

Which doesn’t sound an awful lot… until you have to do it. I fully expected that I’d get about ⅔ of the way through, and chuck it in¹, decide it’s not worth it², decide the readership wasn’t responding in any way at all³, decide that hardly anyone was reading it⁴…

To which I can now respond, at the end of the run:

¹ I didn’t

² It really was worth it. Not for all of the posts, I’ll admit, but for many, for most, of them, yeah. I enjoyed writing them and I believe some people enjoyed reading them.

³ If I hadn’t known in advance that the ‘responding to blogs’ thing had for many gone out of fashion – comments often come in reply to the promo tweet, not the blog itself – I’d have been worried. But with the exception of very popular bloggers, the days of getting a couple of dozen replies on the blog to an interesting entry are long gone. At least for anyone not on Medium. (I only realised, well over half way through, that I should have grabbed a Medium account and cross-posted to that… I might do something with that idea at some point; get a Medium account, and cross post the ‘important’ posts.)

⁴ Other than when I knew a post was getting some traction on Twitter, I didn’t even check the blog stats. And I didn’t promote the blog on Facebook, for the simple reason that I’m not on Facebook. Amusingly, I got almost no click throughs from Tumblr. Posting the links to that was, probably, a waste of time.

So, how did it go?

For me? Great. I got to stick – near or less – to the plan I’d had when I started: some old fiction, some Saturday Smiles, some commentary on London, some on British politics, some on American politics, some on antisemitism.

Some stuff didn’t work out, of course. I intended to put up more brand new fiction. That only happened the one time, though I maintain that most of the stories I put up, readers would probably not have seen before, or at least not remembered seeing.

It does bug me a little that I never got around to publishing Part The Fourth in the series within the run dealing with antisemitic imagery. It’ll come at some point, but I don’t know when right now.

Which leads me to another thing and…
 


 

Actually, before I write that bit, I should have said this upfront. Apologies if this entry is a little more disjointed than usual, if it flows from one paragraph to the next a bit less than is my habit.

It’s just after 8am as I’m writing this, and I’m currently sitting outside a coffee shop in Edinburgh, on Princes Street.

I didn’t sleep as much as I’d hoped to on the overnight journey, so I’m a little bit fried. And I’ve a full day planned in Edinburgh: seeing a couple of shows and then having a wander, feeling the city again, remembering how I get from A to B.

So, again, sorry if this rambles a bit. I’ll edit it a bit for clarity and typos, etc., before I hit post.
 


 

Anyway, back to what I was saying. Yeah, this is the final post in the run of blog entries leading up to my fifty-fifth birthday, which if you’ve been paying attention and have even the slightest understanding of, y’know, numbers… is tomorrow: Saturday 17th August.

I’ve genuinely no idea right now whether I’ll post anything tomorrow. There’s a part of me that says ‘sod it; give yourself a day off’ and another part that says ‘Oh, come on, even if it’s just some quotes you like about birthdays, post something‘.

And then…?

I would take a few days off after that; I’m in Edinburgh for the fringe, after all, and I want to enjoy myself without having to post something every day.

The problem with that is… that’s that’s exactly what I said after the 75 day countdown I did at the end of 2016, leading up to New Year’s 2017: ‘take a few days off, budgie enjoy the break, then come back refreshed’.

And I did take a break. Which lasted two and a half years.

Again, I haven’t decided what I’ll do yet. My gut says I’ll continue to post, but less dense posts than in this fifty-five day run of entries. The occasional deep dive into something, sure; the irregular observations on the shitshow known as ‘British politics’ or “American politics’.

(I remain convinced, by the way, that UK politics and US politics got drunk on 31st December 2015, and they bet which of them could fuck up more over the next five years. Every few months, one of them gets an opportunity to up the stakes. And takes it.)

But I doubt I’ll blog every day. We’ll see. (Might do the first ten days as ’55 plus’. Again, we’ll see.)

But I’ve enjoyed writing again, I’ve enjoyed making the words do what I want, and saying what I wanted to say.

There were some surprises during the run, I’ll admit. I’ve never been one for recommending things to other people, or at least not a set of things. Recommending a book or a tv show, yes. But “ten podcasts I like” or “ten old movies I can happily rewatch”? No. However, I really enjoyed doing the half a dozen entries in which I did precisely that. And from messages I received, the pocket recommendations for each movie, podcast, individual tv episodes, some people enjoyed them as well.

(Small mea culpa; didn’t occur to me that if I was doing 10 recommendations, then with adding in the intro, you’re talking 2,500 to 3,000 words per post. Silly me.)

I didn’t exactly enjoy doing the ‘antisemitic imagery’ posts, but I thought them necessary; I’d been planning on doing something along those lines for a couple of years. And I’m pleased they’re done, easy to read I’m told, and achieved their aims.

One of the aims, of course, was to provide a reference source, for me, and for others, in the same way a post I wrote in 2014 – 50 minus 3: Israel, Gaza and anti-Semitism in the UK – has done for many.

I did enjoy digging out and showing the musical comedians in the Saturday Smiles, introducing them to people who didn’t previously know their work.

And I thoroughly enjoyed resurrecting some fiction from the vaults… and presenting you all with a brand new story. I’ve three other brand new stories that I didn’t post during the run… maybe they’ll appear here in the future.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed reading the run.
 


 
As I mentioned earlier, I’m now in Edinburgh, for the Edinburgh Fringe. Until 2011, I’d never been to the Fringe, I’d never been to Scotland, in fact. But I’d had a rough year, a very rough one, and close friends arranged for me to spend three days up in Edinburgh in August. Both to catch up with an old friend who’d rented a house up here for the month and invited me to stay, and to introduce me to The Fringe.

Despite the fantastic comedy and entertainment, going by the usual ‘me being me’, I shouldn’t enjoy Fringe. Genuinely. It’s made up of lots of things I don’t like: huge crowds everywhere, enforced jollity, and everywhere’s uphill. No, seriously, everywhere. You walk uphill to a gig, come out and think ‘well, at lest it’s downhill back, yet somehow this Escher lithograph of a city makes you walk uphill again.

(The Escher line is Mitch Benn’s; it’s wholly accurate.)

But everywhere being uphill causes me an issue with my fucked up foot.

So I shouldn’t have enjoyed it.

But I did.

I loved it. And I returned to Edinburgh to celebrate my 50th birthday in 2014. And made it back in 2015, not for my birthday though. And in 2016. And… and… and you get the picture.

This is my seventh visit in nine years, and my sixth consecutive visit. I love the Fringe and I love coming to Edinburgh. I see friends I haven’t seen in a year, I see great comedy, and I spend an awful lot of it laughing. Fringe is very, very good for me.

And this year, for the first time since 2014, I’m here for my birthday. No idea what I’m going to do for my birthday; I’m not doing the drinkup I did for my 50th, but I’ll see what occurs.

I have three Edinburgh Fringe traditions – hey, it’s my seventh visit; I get to have traditions:

First tradition: The first show I see is Mitch Benn’s. And the last show I see is Mitch’s show, again. Not only because he’s one of my closest friends, and I love his work, but it’s they’re perfect bookends to my visit to this fair city. I could make a list of what I owe to this man, how much I respect and like him, and how grateful I am that he’s my friend and occasional collaborator.… and it’d take until Sunday to finish.

Second tradition: There’s a coffee shop I discovered on my first visit in 2011. Couldn’t find it in 2014, but rediscovered it in 2015. And I’ll visit them while I’m up. They’re very nice people in there, they make great coffee and it’s just… nice, you know? Nice is an underrated attribute and quality. We should prize it when we find it.

Third tradition: Twice during my stay, I see comedians I’ve never seen before. I’ll find myself with a few hours to spare, I’ll check on the app what’s on… and I’ll pick one almost at random. So far, I’d say I’ve been lucky enough on average to have a two-in- three hit rate, two of the three are good, one of the three… really isn’t.

Actually, there’s a fourth tradition I’ve just realised. At some point, I’ll find myself in Bristo Square just after midnight, really, really, really wanting some chips.

OK, I think that’s about it.

Thanks for reading. Not only today’s but any of the posts you’ve read.

Fifty-five days. Fifty-five posts.

Well.
 
 
This post is the final post 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.

Housekeeping note: I was planning on completing Part the Fourth today – after parts the first, second and third – of the series on antisemitic imagery but a confluence of events got in the way.

So, yes, it’s coming, but I don’t know when. Can only offer my apologies, once again. It’s proved tougher to complete this one than I anticipated. Partly because the imagery is so upsetting, partly because its too easy – I’ll acknowledge – to see image after image and then mistakenly include one that’s not antisemitic, assuming that it draws on the same imagery. I want to be accurate, and if that means taking a bit longer, then so be it.
 


 
Besides, something occured in British politics today which genuinely interested me, and I’ve been reading up on it a bit. So I figured I’d write something on it today, and save Part The Fourth for sometime later.

I doubt I have to explain to anyone reading this either what Brexit is or why it’s been a complete clusterfuck from start to finish. As mentioned previously, to deliver what was promised by the Leave campaign, and by those who pledged to deliver the result of the 2016 referendum would be impossible.

Not a rhetorical conceit, a flat statement of fact: it’s impossible to do so.

In part because to deliver what was promised, all that was promised… what was pledged, all that was pledged… would be self-contradictory. And everyone, well, pretty much everyone, acknowledges that.

The British public was promised a golden age, with dozens of trade deals signed, with no deleterious consequences, [nearly] all the benefits of membership, an extra £350m a week for the NHS, tariff free access to the Single European market, no huge job losses, massive investment into the UK… the list goes on and on. Basically only Good Things, and No Bad Things.

Take tariff free access to the single market. We were promised that tariff free access, while reducing immigration from the EU, even though the EU maintained that ‘the four freedoms’ – including free movement of labour – were inseparable; you want one, you get the other three as well.

There are umpteen videos of leading Brexiteers assuring that no one wants to leave The Single Market.

Here’s just one.

But what do we have? A statement from the Brexit Secretary that “There should be adequate food“. And assurances, based on nothing but a hope and a prayer – oh, and £25m – that medications will continue to be available in the event that the UK leave the EU without ‘a deal’.

Of course, what “a deal” means has changed somewhat since 2016 and 2017, when the Article 50 notification – the official start of ‘we’re leaving’ – was delivered to the EU. Back then, it meant that by the time the negotiation period ended in March 2019, both the UK and the EU would know under what terms we were leaving the EU, and under what terms our relationship with the EU would continue.

Now? Over two years later? It means the former, with a possible transition period during which the EU and UK would continue to negotiate the future relationship.

So even had the Withdrawal Agreement (and associated Political Declaration) passed in parliament, the UK – and the public – would still not know what the future relationship would be. I mean, we’d know what both sides wanted it to be… but we absolutely would not know, nor would anyone, what any final relationship would be.

And that’s not the only phrase that has changed meaning since 2016/2017.

At the time, no one talked about “No Deal”. It was… well, not inconceivable, but unthinkable to many. Even those who kind of advocated it didn’t call it that. They called it a “Hard Brexit”.

Now you can argue back and forth whether they meant a No Deal, or merely a more favourable-to-UK deal than was ever truly possible, but either way, no one was pushing a complete cessation of every clause in every relationship we have had thus far.

Without going through how we ended up here, where are we?

We’re just eleven weeks, seventy-seven days, from leaving with No Deal. It continues to amaze me just how many people continue to believe that it’ll never happen “because there’s no majority in parliament for the UK leaving with No Deal.”

Whoever’s in government – and I’ll come on to that in a moment – they don’t need a majority favouring a No Deal Brexit for a No Deal Brexit to occur.

The current law mandates – subject to something else happening – that the UK leaves the EU on 31st October 2019 without a deal. The phrase you need to remember is “by automatic operation of law”.

It’s kind of like me jumping out of an aeroplane without a parachute. Now, there are plenty of things that could prevent me, after a short period of time, going splat. Someone could jump after me and hand me a parachute which I successfully use. Someone could jump after me and grab hold of me, and we both use the same parachute. Spock and McCoy could pilot their ship and save me just in time from being sucked out into space. No, wait, different situation.

Anyway, you get the point. Unless something occurs to save me… I go splat.

And unless something occurs to stop No Deal Brexit… No Deal Brexit is what happens. By that automatic operation of law I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago.

Doesn’t matter how often people protest, doesn’t matter how many symbolic votes take place in Parliament, doesn’t even matter if everyone knows there is a majority for something else, unless a binding vote takes place in parliament, mandating the government to do something else, which will involve legislation passing through both Houses of Parliament…

Now that something else could be A Withdrawal Agreement, though it’s not looking likely, with the current government shitting on the current agreement from a huge height, and the oposition parties not liking it either, for their own party or policy specific reasons.

That something else could be a general election; the EU has indicated that they’d be ok with another delay to the process, another postponement of the leaving date, if a general election was called.

That something else could be the government revoking Article 50 and abandoning Brexit in its entirety, though that’s about as likely as Jeremy Corbyn campaigning for Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson campaigning for George Galloway.

(My personal preferences – though they’ll never happen – would be for either Article 50 to be revoked and that’s an end of it, or at the least, revocation followed by a public inquiry and another referendum in, say, three years… using that three years to agree a future relationship and if no agreement, no official agreed position, then put it to bed. But if wishes were horses, eh?)

Or the ‘something else’ that could change matters could be the government changing and doing… something else that gets the majority of the House of Commons going along with them.

And that’s what people are talking about this morning.

Because Jeremy Corbyn has sent a letter to other opposition party leaders and it’s got people talking about a GNU, a Government of National Unity.

Not the first time the idea’s come up, and not the first time enthusiasm for it has overwhelmed people’s natural scepticism at politicians professing insistently that they’re ‘doing the right thing for the country’ when it personally benefits them.

Even ignoring, temporarily, my own views on Jeremy Corbyn’s personal complicity over antisemitism inside Labour, basically, what the letter asks, what his supporters demand, is that we trust Jeremy Corbyn.

And there’s a problem with that.

Not merely over antisemitism, not merely over his numerous other faults as a politician, as a party leader, as a person, but over his position on Brexit.

Corbyn has spent much, maybe all, of his political life as what was – for a couple of decades – usually described in the Tory Party as a “Eurosceptic”. He’s never liked the European Economic Community, which became the European Community, which became the European Union. He’s wanted the UK to leave for decades, and said so, repeatedly. Pretty much every step he’s taken, with the occasional blip, as party leader has been to reinforce that position and that impression.

He’s promised one thing, then not delivered. He’s promised that the party membership is supreme, then ignored their wishes. He’s tried every trick in the books, and created a few, to avoid his party membership cottoning on to the simple truth that:

Jeremy Corbyn wants, has always wanted, the UK to leave the European Union… and if that’s without a deal, then ok, that’s just fine and dandy by him.

Now some have argued, with some justification, that there’s another reason for his wanting to leave, beyond pure ideology; it’s the ‘let the Tories fuck everything up and then people will flood to the Labour Party begging ‘please save us’ and we will save them.’ I say ‘justifiably’ because that’s been a Labour position over many elections. Not every election; occasionally there’s a campaign that says ‘come to Labour because we can make life better for you’, but the ‘The Tories made things worse, fucked everything up… but we will fix it’ has been the usual message.

And of course, that plays well with a chunk of the membership and country unaware of Corbyn’s actual views and policies.

So, whatever your views on the concept of a government of national unity, yes, it’s a minor point, but what struck me forcefully was the implicit (and sometimes explicit) suggestion that those of us who loathe & detest Corbyn, and regard him as fundamentally untrustworthy should, on this occasion, on something he’s been previously proven to be untrustworthy… trust him.

And I don’t. At all.

I don’t believe he voted Remain in the EU Referendum. I don’t believe his claims that he worked hard for Remain. I don’t believe him, nor trust him. At all. About anything.

And it’s not – as others have suggested – because of the suggestion that he wouldn’t leave as Prime Minister once in. There’ll be a majority of the House of Commons that would undoubtedly bring his caretaker tenure to an end at some point, leading to a general election.

My lack of trust has to do with what he’d do while Prime Minister. For he doesn’t have ‘to do anything’ to get the brexit he’s wanted for decades. In fact, he has to do precisely… nothing. If he got the job in late September, say, it wouldn’t be difficult to stall for a few weeks… claiming he’s negotiating in good faith and then not doing so.

And then, come October ‘gosh wasn’t it a pity?’ the Corbyn acolytes will cry, as the UK leaves without a deal by the aforementioned ‘automatic operation of law’.

But does a lack of Corbyn in Number Ten prevent the idea of a Government of National Unity, stop it in its tracks?

Well, I have to say, sadly, yes, I think it does. As others have observed, he is – like it or not – leader of the opposition. You’re not going to get Labour MPs openly suggesting, publicly stating, that they don’t trust their leader to be PM. It’ll kill them before and during any general election campaign. The Tories would replay videos of Labour MPs saying ‘don’t make Jeremy PM’ for weeks. And it’d certainly trigger deselection campaigns for any Labour MP. The only way out would be for them to follow Berger and Leslie, etc., and leave the party.

And to be blunt, if they’ve not left the Labour Party yet, they’re unlikely to now, over this.

But could Kenneth Clarke or Harriet Harman do the job? Sure, but they’re not going to get the job, for the reasons immediately above.

What about Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson’s call for a GNU?

Well, it’s great, but it’s what third parties do, and though I’ve been very impressed by her leadership of the party thus far, the call was far more for the impression it gives than in the hope that it’d achieve anything.

So we’re in a situation where the people who first called for a GNU can’t form one. The person who now wants a GNU can’t even unify his own party, and the people who don’t want a GNU have no other solutions.

Oh. Joy.

Oh, and the calls for and against have more to do attacking the people who disagree than the idea itself.

Which brings me to the final part of this post.

Some have been a bit upset at the Lib Dems calling for a government of national unity, but not one headed by Corbyn, the official leader of the opposition, and indeed her previous statements that she’d never go into coalition to form a Corbyn-led labour government. And others have been upset at the Labour response of reminding voters that the Lib Dems – and Swinson herself – were in government with the hated Tories from 2010 to 2015.

Me? I genuinely don’t have a problem with either party making those attacks on the other.

Any more than – apart from the hypocrisy – the Conservatives having a pop at Labour antisemitism, Labour over the past 40 years exploring Tory divisions over Europe, the Tories back in the 1970s and 1980s seeking to damage Labour over trade unions’ behaviour, or any party ‘weaponising’ – a horrible word – a weakness in the other party.

Well, a perceived weakness, at least, whether or not the weaknesses actually exist. (Always amuses me and irritates me, in equal measure, that political adverts in this country are specifically excluded from the truth and fairness rules in advertising.)

Exploiting perceived weaknesses in another party’s policies, positions, or people are what political parties do.

To complain that a party you don’t support is doing it to one that you do, while supporting your party doing it to them is hypocritical. But again that’s what party supporters do.

If your only objection to a Government of National Unity is that Corbyn would be PM, then you care far more about Corbyn not being Prime Minister than about any GNU to solve the Brexit clusterfuck. And if you’re only interested in a Government of National Unity if Corbyn’s in Number Ten, then you’re similarly more interested in Corbyn being PM than in anything a GNU could [try to] do to stop a No Deal Brexit.

Be honest about that, at least?

I have no issues with a GNU; I just don’t think one’s achievable without Corbyn. And I don’t trust that any GNU under Corbyn could – or would – do anything to stop Brexit, with or without a deal’.
 


 
As a coda: I was reminded when I saw the acronym GNU – Government of National Unity – appear today, that British politics does like its animal acronyms. After GOAT [Government of All the Talents] and the COBRA Committee [named after Cabinet Office Briefing Room A], we now have GNU. I wonder what else we’ll get in the weeks ahead.
 


 

Something else tomorrow, the final post in this run… some reflections on blogging, and possibly something on Edinburgh, which I’m travelling to, overnight.

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.

OK, on the past few weeks, I’ve written about stuff I like re-reading or rewatching, about individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, I’ll happily rewatch.

But given how much audio I listen to, it’s kind of surprising to me that I’d not mentioned that at any point… No, not albums; I rarely listen to a whole album. Very occasionally, but only very occasionally.

I mentioned last week the podcasts I’ll repeatedly listen to; in effect, I treat them like audiobooks.

But there are also podcasts that release new episodes on a regular basis, and I’ll listen to them when released. Not every episode, maybe, but most of them. Many of them are episodes of radio shows from the BBC, and many of them are from radio 4, my natural radio home for as long as I can recell.

As I said last week, the BBC for the longest time insisted on calling such releases ‘downloads’, which makes kind of makes sense since their podcasts are usually downloadable versions of radio shows that have been previously broadcast on the network.

So here are some podcasts that I listen to whenever they release a episode.

 

MSNBC evening podcasts.

A while back, MSNBC started releasing podcasts of their shows. I don’t listen to every episode of every show, but it’s rare that I don’t listen to a couple of them every day.

I regard the entire slate as excellent listening to get a feel for what’s going on in US politics. Chris Matthews is more aggresive as an interviewer and a presenter; Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow are both policy wonks and it shows; they’ll break down a policy step by step. And Lawrence O’Donnell is fantastic about analysis of what stuff means. But all are excellent at communicating the important issues, with humour and style and knowledge. I don’t always agree with their stances – only very rarely with Maddow, to be fair – but I’ll take knowledge and depth over always agreeing every bloody time.

They usually have guests for an interview or two, or a panel of guests. Again, almost always good… except when they have people on who’re running for office. (I’m not sure what happens to great presenters when they have people running for office on the show. They… lose something, and when it’s someone they obviously like, the interviews can be less than good.)

But all four shows are great.

 

 

 

  
The Westminster Hour


The one radio show, or podcast, that I regard as truly essential to understand, appreciate and ‘get’ British politics. Presented with superb skill and depth by Carolyn Quinn, it’s 45 minutes of news, updates forecasts and explanations of what the hell has been happening in the past week, and what’s likely to happen in the week to come. Rarely does the show have front bench spokespeople for the parties, but there’s always an MP from the main parties, and often MPs from other parties as well. You get a feel for what the parties think without having to swallow the usual pre-packaged bullshit the official representatives of the parties spout. And it may be merely my own view, but I think you get a bit more honesty as well. There’s never been an episode when it’s been a waste of time listening, and more often than not I come away with a deeper appreciation of this thing or that political topic. There’s also a magazine element, where they’ll look back at history of Parliament, or of British politics. Superb from start to finish.
 
 

Piennaar’s Politics


Also a great show on British politics, this 45 minute show is far more of the ‘official spokesman’ type where front bench politicians put, and defend, the party’s official position. But worth it nonetheless for John Pienaar’s skillful demolition of that position. Pienaar gets away, week after week, with inviting politicians on, convincing them that it’ll be a cosy chat, and it’s only afterwards they realise just how much he took them apart. But he’s reasonable – play fair with him, he’ll play fair with you. Sadly, as the show demonstrates on a weekly basis, too many appear thinking – due to his manner – that Pienaar is an easy touch and that they can bullshit. They cant, and he usually shows them why not. Super research on his part often shows where politicians have reversed positions (or their parties have). If there’s any cautionary caveat, it’s that Pienaar appears to value determination on sticking to a position, despite the obvious flaws in that position, as something worthy. But always worth listening to.
 
 

 

More Or Less – behind the Statistics


I like numbers. I’ve always felt comfortable with them. As a concept as for what you can use them for, and how you can use them. I detest their misuse. And if any or all of the forgoing applies to you, you’re going to love More Of Less. Two versions (one for Radio 4, 28 minutes; the world service version is only 9 minutes.) Both are excellent and are often of the “we saw this statistic reported in the news: ‘82% of people named John have poor eyesight; here’s why that’s nonsense'” type. OK, that’s a trivial thing but what about “82 families own as much as ½ the population of the planet” or “a million people visited food banks in the past quarter”… More or Less takes a look at the numbers that surround us, the numbers which are reported, and checks out whether they’re accurate, if they’ve been reported accurately, or – sometimes – whether they’re just utter bullshit, because they’ve been misinterpreted, or the methodology is bullshit, or whether they’re accurate, but meaningless. Tim Harford usually presents – the fella who does the 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy I mentioned last week. Always excellent, always engaging, never boring. Seriously, the show is fun, in a way most people don’t believe numbers can be. Let them prove those nay-sayers wrong. 92% of people agree with me. (They don’t.)
 
 

Citizens of Nowhere


There are plenty of podcasts out there where a couple of comedians just chat about… stuff. Important stuff, maybe, but stuff nonetheless. And usually it’s something to do with comedy. To my mind, none of them do it with the cleverness, experience, smarts and just sheer anecdotal ability of Nick Doody and Carey Marx. Whether it’s antisemitism, or the Edinburgh Fringe, or comedy tropes, or whether it’s ‘funny’ to throw stuff at people, whether it’s justified protest or violence… they always make you think, and that they’re funny as hell as well only helps.
 
 

Partly Political Podcast


In no way a direct contrast to Citizens of Nowhere, this hour long podcast from comedian Tiernan Douieb concentrates on the comedy. Not a line he’d use to describe the show, but I’m reminded of the line once said about Weekending… takes a long hard look at the weeks news.. and pisses on it from a huge height. Tiernan is very funny, writes scathingly funny material about current affairs, and usually interviews someone – with various audio qualities, it has to be admitted – who knows a lot about… something. Whether it’s the junior doctors’ dispute with the Health Department, or refugees or international trade, the Northern Ireland abortion debate or more esoteric subjects like attack journalism and the specifics of foreign aid. The interviews are always clever and fun, and the ‘what’s happened this week?’ introductions are clever, funny, silly and biting.
 
 

Political Thinking


I’d never really thought of Robinson as an interviewer. He’s a great politics explainer and was a good political editor for the BBC, but he’s really very good as an interviewer of politicians and political figures, getting them to reveal a lot about their backgrounds, politics, their history and their outlook. You may not like everyone he interviews, but you can”t help but be fascinated by them and especially when Robinson gets them to acknowledge that they were wrong about something in the past. Not perfect interviews by any means, but most of them are very, very good,
 
 

Now three short ones, all from Radio 4, all bite-size chungs, perfect for a ten or fifteen minute walk to or from the shops. or

 

Inheritance Tracks


Simple thing: pick a song you’ve inherited from your parents and one you’d choose to pass on to your kids, or the next generation, anyway. And talk a bit about both songs and about why you inherited this one and pass on that one. The editing is superb, as you never hear the questions, just the answers, and so it’s entirely personal, the person talking to a nebulous ‘audience’, but it never feels like a performance. It sounds more like you’re listening to the middle of a chat between friends who’ve known each other for decades. There are hundreds of personalities and celebes who’ve taken part… and it’s just lovely radio.
 
 

A Point Of View


This took over the Letter from America slot after Cooke died and it’s basically half a dozen ‘thinkers’ – journalists, writers, philosophers, academics – in turn, one per week, taking about 12 minutes to set out a case for something, and giving their thoughts on the matter. Some of them, I’ll admit, I see who’s doing it, and skip that week, but several people who do it are flat out excellent. Will Self is superb at the job, talking about everything from walking, to euthanasia, to addressing the lies told by politicians. The occasional piece from US academics take the show from very good, to excellent, especially when they comment on British politics.
 
 

Profile


Exactly what it says on the tin. This is a quick 15 minute profile of someone in the news. Usually, with the odd comment from someone, or several someones, who’ve known them for years, attempting to explain how the person in the news got to be the person they are. Whether it’s a leading politician, someone who heads up one of the world’s biggest companies, or just a celebrity in the news. Great fun, clever writing and you do learn stuff about people you didn’t know before.
 
 


 
The penultimate post tomorrow. And, unless plans change, a biggie.

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.

It’s Tuesday so you’re no doubt expecting a couple of tales from the vault, two more more fast fictions.

Well, dear reader, you’re getting some old fiction, two stories, but not fast fictions; since this is the final week of the run, something a bit different.

Two stories from 2011, both a tad longer than the fast fiction format, but neither of which are long reads.

The first was written because it was Tuesday. No other reason.

The second was written to be originally published at midnight. Again, no other reason.

It’s Tuesday. Enjoy…


 

Tuesday

I bloody hate working on Tuesdays.

Tuesday is my usual day off, you see; a day when I can enjoy the fruits of my labours. On Tuesdays, every Tuesday, I relax and surround myself in the results of my endeavours.

Monday is my busiest day, usually. But not this week. Oh, I know, were I to look in my diary for yesterday, I’d see the notation indicating a meeting.

10:45am Mrs Johnston. Outside 13 Albermarle Street.

It’s there, still, written in clear black ink upon Monday’s page. On Mondays’s page, you understand, despite it having to be postponed until today.

It annoys me when people don’t turn up for meetings. After the effort I undertake in order to ensure the meeting goes to plan, and the satisfaction I take in planning a presentation, it annoys me. I plan it for days in advance, trying this opening and that upon myself in the mirror at home seeking to answer one simple question: which approach will garner me most sympathy?

For if I have their sympathy and trigger that need so many have merely to make life easier for someone else, then I’ve got them. Then I’ve captured their interest.

And the rest is usually easy.

But such planning requires precision and consistency from, you’ll understand, both parties. I research those with whom I’m meeting with carefully. Any changes in behaviour or attitude will perforce require changes in my presentation style and content.

Take Mrs Johnston, as I’m about to. She drops her children at three different schools, meets friends for coffee every day for about an hour (never less than 50 minutes, never more than 67) and then returns home. She then leaves to do the rounds of school pickups at 3:00.

So, if I want to get her attention, the best time is after leaving her friends, on the way home.

But yesterday, she apparently had a minor traffic accident, so she drove a different way home.

Which meant that I was forced to abandon the meeting, waste the rest of the day when I would have been skinning her, and today, when I should have been wearing her, relaxing and surrounding myself in her, I’m waiting outside 13 Albermarle Street, the bonnet on my car raised, rehearsing my approach for when her car appears.

I’ve wasted a whole 24 hours when I could have been enjoying my work.

Ah, her car is rounding the corner. Excuse me. I have to go to work.

Even though it’s a Tuesday.

(c) Lee Barnett, 2011


Now take a breath. In. Out. Take another.

Good. For to go from one person’s world to another needs a breath or two.

It’s no longer Tuesday. It matters not what day it is. For it is midnight…


 

Midnight

I knew that it was midnight.

Though I carried no timepiece, I could tell that it was midnight, and I carried on walking.

Past what had once been busy shops, and what were now empty houses I continued my trek, walking.

Sometime before, I’d lost the need for sleep. Or had I? I no longer remembered sleeping, but sometimes, occasionally, I seemed to start suddenly as if waking from a light slumber. But the memory faded soon enough.

It was midnight.

I shifted the small backpack until it was more comfortable, and strode forward, kicking up dust with every step.

I slowed as I approached a large piece of rubble in my path, and then stepped around it. There was a brief moment of surprise at the lightening of the sky as the heavy clouds parted for just a moment and an unaccustomed feeling of warmth struck me before they closed again, and the world darkened once more.

A grunt of acknowledgement from my own mouth mildly surprised me as I rounded the edge of the building and saw the clock tower ahead, its hands permanently moulded to the clock-face.

The nuclear weapons had struck at precisely twelve o’clock, and every clock, watch, and electronic time-keeper had frozen at that moment.

I turned and looked behind me. Another town where no-one had survived.

What was that? A hundred and seven?

I paused at the town boundaries, muttered the usual regrets, and walked on. The next town was ahead, somewhere in the distance.

I knew I’d get there by midnight.

© Lee Barnett, 2011

We’re almost at the end now; three entries left in the run.

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.

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.