Saturday, 22 October 2016

Civil Right

Good luck to Martin Loat and Claire Beale of Ealing, who are having their civil partnership registered in the Isle of Man even though it would still not be recognised on the Mainland.

There is a perfectly reasonable case for civil partnerships to be available to opposite-sex couples. It is not as if those couples would otherwise be getting married.

Never having needed to be consummated, civil partnerships ought not to be confined to unrelated same-sex couples, or even to unrelated couples generally.

That would be a start, anyway.

Any marrying couple should be entitled to register their marriage as bound by the law prior to 1969 with regard to grounds and procedures for divorce, and any religious organisation should be enabled to specify that any marriage that it conducted should be so bound, requiring it to counsel couples accordingly.

Statute should specify that the Church of England and the Church in Wales each be such a body unless, respectively, the General Synod and the Governing Body specifically resolved the contrary by a two-thirds majority in all three Houses.

There should be similar provision relating to the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, which also exist pursuant to Acts of Parliament, as well as by amendment to the legislation relating to the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy.

Entitlement upon divorce should be fixed by Statute at one per cent of the other party’s estate for each year of marriage, up to 50 per cent, with no entitlement for the petitioning party unless the other party’s fault were proved.

Am I trying to go back to the 1950s? To which features of the 1950s, exactly? Full employment? Public ownership? The Welfare State? Council housing? Municipal services? Apprenticeships? Free undergraduate tuition?

All of those things were bound up with things like this. That they have all been eroded or destroyed together has not been a coincidence.

It is not called neoliberalism for nothing.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Blithely, Profoundly

Lord Hill blithely told the Today programme what everyone who was anyone already knew, and what the rest of us could have worked out.

Namely that no one who matters in the institutions of the EU expects Britain ever to go through with withdrawal.

But that programme was very hostile to Tom Watson when he came on to discuss Labour's deprivation of all Far Right challengers of their deposits in the industrial North on the same night as it held its share of the vote deep in the leafy South.

Instead, he was harangued about the child abuse inquiry, as if its failures were somehow his fault.

But he had been a hero to the newspapers and websites that now castigate him, right up until attention turned to the Thatcher Government.

Suddenly, then, it all became "McCarthyite" and "a witch hunt".

Watson, though, need not take it too much to heart, and he is most unlikely to do so.

Just as Theresa May cared profoundly about Hillsborough, so she also cares profoundly about child abuse. 

And her Party Conference speech made it perfectly clear that she was no friend whatever of the legacy of Margaret Thatcher.

By The By

The Labour vote held up at Witney, while the Conservative vote haemorrhaged to the Lib Dems.

Although it is notable that the Lib Dems still did not win the seat. Time was when, at a by-election, they very well might have done.

Still, so much for the collapse of Labour in Middle England.

This week's council by-election results also bear no resemblance to the opinion polls.

But the real story of Witney was that, right there is rural Oxfordshire, UKIP came fifth behind the Greens.

UKIP's last Leader was elected with all of 8,451 votes. After this, that tiny party really does now need to call it a day.

Yet its ludicrous overexposure continues, with spots both on Question Time and on This Week last night.

Shown, in one case live, after more people in Vicar of Dibley country had voted for the brother of Bernie Sanders than had voted for UKIP.

Ken Loach will be on Question Time next week. Will that mean someone from the Left on Andrew Neil's sofa? What do you think?

Meanwhile, bearing in mind that turnout is bound to drop significantly if one or other of Labour and the Conservatives does not contest a mainland seat, the thumping Labour win over all comers at Batley and Spen ought finally to put to bed the myth of the Far Right's appeal in "the Northern Labour heartlands".

In a straight fight with Labour in West Yorkshire, in a constituency that voted Leave, the Far Right could not even manage 15 per cent of the vote.

All in all, they do not like it anywhere.

The broadly pro-Trump and staunchly pro-Brexit Question Time audience in Hartlepool was extremely hostile to the idea of dental checks for purported child refugees.

Of course, those boys do not look too old to be teenagers to an audience not drawn from the world of the unlined faces of the latter-day Mosleys and Astors.

This week's headlines, in newspapers that are probably not read by the Prime Minister and which are certainly not read by the Leader of the Opposition, would have had "Hillsborough" written all over them.

If anyone who mattered still cared in the slightest what those newspapers said about anything. But no such person does.

It Is Our Side That Worries Me

Rod Liddle writes:

I have been wondering these last few weeks whether it would be cheaper to excavate a basement and buy a Geiger counter and iodine tablets, or emigrate to New Zealand.

Call me frit, but I don’t like the way things are heading. Probably the second option is easier: Armageddon outta here, etc.

I can re-enact Nevil Shute’s On the Beach from some rocky cove near Dunedin, waiting for the fallout to arrive. 

I was sentient only during the latter stages of the Cold War but from what I can remember, the two sides, them and us, behaved for the most part with a degree of rationality and common sense. 

(I like my politicians to be pragmatic rather than charismatic, which is why, if you were to ask who my favourite Soviet despot was, Brezhnev would always be the answer. Rather his grey, oppressive stolidity and détente than Khrushchev’s flaky, table-thumping, peasant-in-a-strop hyperbole.)

Back then, when Reagan announced on microphone ‘we begin bombing in five minutes’ it was evident to everyone that he was joking.

Today, when some deranged Tory MP clambers to his feet and demands we start shooting down Russian jets, it is evident to everyone that he is not joking, merely idiotic and dangerous.

But it is a gung-ho idiocy which is catching.

Every day sees a ratcheting up of the rhetoric against Russia.

Some of it comes from our military, which is perhaps more comfortable dealing with a foe it understands, rather than with disparate gangs of nihilistic jihadi lunatics.

We are warned, then, that Iskander missiles are being sited near the Baltic coast, the better to menace Latvia, with its large Russian population, and Poland.

And then every day the tabloids tell us that Russian jets are flying up and down our coastline.

As if they haven’t been flying up and down our coast for 70 years. And as if we have not reciprocated.

We should expect this sort of stuff from the armed forces, I suppose.

It is when the politicians clamber aboard that I get really worried — for it is our side that worries me, not theirs.

Andrew Mitchell was not alone in rattling the rusty sabre by suggesting we shoot down Russian jets over Syria.

We also had Boris Johnson, our Foreign Secretary, demanding — in the manner of a clownish ayatollah — that people should protest outside the Russian embassy.

Boris said this in response to the Russian and Syrian government air attacks upon Aleppo, which were certainly brutal.

Then, about a week later, the West began, with clinical precision, to identify people in the last Iraqi Isis stronghold of Mosul with really radical beards and bomb them to smithereens, mercifully and humanitarianly sparing the local, decent, democratically minded citizens, who of course escaped the bombardment without so much as a graze.

Do people seriously swallow this rubbish? Do Boris and Mitchell?

Both the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross have warned that more than one million people will become refugees as a consequence of the glorious liberation of Mosul — and probably hundreds killed.

But when that happens, it will not be the fault of the coalition, it will be the fault of Isis, or vengeful Shia Iraqi soldiers, or the bloodthirsty Peshmerga.

Nothing to do with us, guv.

The coalition action in Syria and Iraq is as incoherent and misguided as everything else we have done in the Middle East of late — from the invasion of Iraq, via the support for those somewhat chimeric ‘Arab Spring’ rebellions to the catastrophic and stupid intervention in Libya.

What we have done in the name of dippy, well-meaning, liberal evangelism has cost far more lives than can be laid at the door of the Russkies and Vladimir Putin.

In Syria and Iraq we are fighting in support of people who do not really exist: the nice moderates, not the jihadis, but also not Assad.

You can count them on the fingers of one hand, the Syrian Lib Dems: Mohammed Clegg and his friends.

A month or so back I spoke to a chap who worked on behalf of the refugees in those two benighted countries and was certainly no friend of the Assad regime.

What would be the best scenario now, I asked him?

‘That Russia and Assad win as quickly as possible. That would minimise the number of civilians killed.’

But we are doing what we can to prevent that outcome, thus prolonging the war.

When the battle for the liberation of Mosul was announced to an utterly credulous western media, Vladimir Putin said he hoped that the coalition would do its best to limit the number of civilians killed as a consequence of the military action, but that he understood, too, that winning a war sometimes resulted in the loss of innocent lives and would not start stamping his feet and insisting we all go and protest outside the nearest US or UK embassy.

Shortly after he made this statement, the Russians and the Syrian government announced a ceasefire in and around Aleppo, so that civilians might take advantage of six well-patrolled corridors to find their way to safety — for humanitarian reasons.

So, as the coalition aircraft and artillery bombarded Mosul, Putin announced his ceasefire.

And perhaps this is another reason for the anti-Russian apoplectic fury of both our government and the feeble and weary US administration — Putin is a canny operator.

He is winning the propaganda war with some ease.

It has been open season on all things Russian for a while now. Their athletes cheat and get banned from sporting events.

Whereas ours take performance-enhancing drugs solely to combat their crippling asthma attacks which might otherwise prevent them from winning the Tour de France.

The US accuses Putin of conducting cyberwarfare to influence the presidential election.

Well sure, although they’re not doing quite enough right now, by my reckoning — step it up a bit, Dmitri.

But are we to believe that the US has no covert cyberwarfare going on?

And then there’s Russia Today, now thrust into the frontline.

NatWest, largely state-owned, announced in gravely pious terms that it intended to close the bank accounts of the British-based, Russian-financed broadcaster.

Hell, we never did that to Pravda.

NatWest has subsequently backed down, as soon as Russia Today — with some justification — complained about restrictions upon freedom of speech and threatened to freeze the financial accounts of the BBC operation in Russia.

While our government, keeping a straight face, denied having influenced the original NatWest decision — yeah, right — a spokesman for Theresa May added, ill-advisedly:

‘More broadly, do we want to make sure that misinformation is not being spread? Of course we do.’

So I think that’s pretty clear, is it not? There is indeed direct government involvement.

We try to harass and hopefully close down a broadcaster because it is putting out stuff with which our government disagrees.

I thought that was what the Russians were supposed to do; stifle dissent?

And yet while Russia Today is indeed reliably compliant on Putin’s excesses, its news reports — often mirroring good old UK tabloid newspaper hackery — sometimes reveal a truth which would have been otherwise hidden.

The problem, then, is not that they are spreading misinformation, but that Russia Today is spreading truthful information which the UK government finds extremely unhelpful.

Is it non-biased and non-partisan, does it always give balance and right of reply? No, no and thrice no.

Does the BBC?

There is a certain predilection among some British people, especially men of around about my age, to admire Vladimir Putin — largely for his decisiveness and social conservatism.

While the West flounders, Putin acts — and so we might forgive him the occasional homophobic spasm (or even commend him for it).

I am not a member of his burgeoning British fan club, though.

It is easy to be decisive when you face no democratic challenge — which Putin assuredly does not.

He strikes me as amoral and ruthless and belligerent.

And I do not know how deeply ingrained is that weird, stripped-naked-wrestling-a-bear machismo, or how much it is for show.

This is my worry: we provoke and provoke, we distort the facts in order to suit our agenda, we vilify Putin and his country in a wholly belligerent, one-eyed, manner, ignoring our own misdeeds — in Ukraine, in Syria and Iraq, and with regard to human rights and freedom of speech.

I fervently hope that, as Paul Wood suggests on p. 12, Putin’s belligerence is just an act for international consumption, and that he is nowhere near as stupid as Andrew Mitchell or Boris Johnson.

That’s what I cling to, before I book those flights to Wellington.

Because it may very well be a misplaced hope. And he may be pushed further than he can be seen to endure.

Putin is at least partly our creation, too, of course.

You cannot divest a country of its empire, its political system and raison d’être, its industry, its jobs, its money, its prestige and world stature in five or six short years and not expect some sort of rebound, some sort of hankering after the old way of life, the craving for a Stalin-lite.

A hankering after Putin.

It was a missed opportunity, back in the mid-1990s, not to have love-bombed Russia, and invited it to join Nato.

Now we must deal with Putin, as a consequence. And we are failing to do so.

We are losing all ends up.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Snooping On The Snoopers

It is undeniably disappointing that Labour seems to have acquiesced to the Investigatory Powers Bill when Jeremy Corbyn is Leader, Tom Watson is Deputy Leader, Diane Abbott is Shadow Home Secretary, and Shami Chakrabarti is Shadow Attorney General.

The election of Yvette Cooper to chair the Home Affairs Select Committee is also most disappointing, although at least that can be blamed on the hangers and floggers on the benches opposite.

And at least she beat Chuka Umunna.

What remaining potential use is there for Chuka Umunna? A BBC Four documentary on Sir Helenus Milmo, welcome enough in itself.

But then, well, what, exactly?

Still, the next Parliamentary Labour Party will contain only the tiniest number of Coopers and Umunnas.

Its will be as good as totally committed to the repeal of what will by then be 30 years of assaults on civil liberties.

There should, however, be the odd figure to the side, keeping Corbyn's Labour Party true to itself on this as on its roots in the anti-war and anti-austerity movements.

Please note the PayPal button on this site.

A Sense of Proportion

The preposterously enormous constituency boundaries proposed for Scotland illustrate why I have never quite come round to Proportional Representation for the House of Commons.

It could only be made to work in very urban areas.

But Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn ought to take this opportunity to give the SNP what it claimed to want.

By declaring that, since Scotland was so different and special, then it could indeed have its very own different and special way of electing its MPs.

Each of the eight regions that were used for top-up purposes at Holyrood could elect seven MPs, with each elector voting for one candidate, and with the seven highest scorers being elected.

Giving 56 MPs in total.

Of whom, barring the odd by-election gain, no more than eight could ever be members of any one party. Including the SNP.

This piece of legislation would be passed gleefully by the whole of the rest of the House.


How fitting it is to be watching a discussion of the absurd Prevent "strategy" on RT's News UK.

I positively demand to be classified as an extremist within the understanding, if such it can be called, of those who determine these things.

Others would, and probably already do, include the makers of the two most important films of the decade, both of them out this year.

After its victory this week, RT ought to show both George Galloway's The Killing$ of Tony Blair and Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake.

As should every Sixth Form in the country, and let the heavens fall.

Alas, only private ones would ever dare to do so. But good luck to them.

In The Rigging

It is oddly respectable in the United States to claim that elections are rigged.

The allegation is made all the time, and heavyweight figures are not above saying something that would almost always be the mark a fringe crank anywhere else.

Can anyone account for this?

How often are these claims ever substantiated?

Amazing Angela

Watch Question Time tonight. Angela Rayner is on it. She is amazing.

For one thing, she is a great friend of the Durham Teaching Assistants in their struggle against a disgraceful excuse for a Labour council. I happen to know that the TAs are in the audience in Hartlepool tonight.

Angela is an astonishing figure.

The daughter of an illiterate single mother, she left school 20 years ago with nothing but the pregnancy that she was showing when she collected such GCSE results as she had.

But she has come up through the trade union movement, and look at her now.

Yet she still seeks to restore the Educational Maintenance Allowance, and maintenance grants for undergraduates from poorer and middle-income backgrounds.

A lot of University of Life people cannot see the point of advanced academic education; some of us who had it have been known to have our doubts from time to time, especially as middle age has crept up on us.

But Angela is entirely on side.

Now she needs to concentrate on establishing the principle that whatever privileges were enjoyed by students in Further and Higher Education ought also to be enjoyed by their peers who were apprentices or trainees, and vice versa.

With publicly owned enterprises, national and municipal, setting the vocational training standards for the private sector to match.

Proud and Clear

The cross-party parliamentary report on antisemitism should have put an end to any idea that there is a particular problem with antisemitism in Labour.

It found that there is: ‘no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour party than any other political party’. 

It also found that some 75% of antisemitic incidents in Britain are the responsibility of the far right. 

This from a committee that has demonstrated consistent bias by spotlighting the Labour party in particular, and one that is stacked with MPs from all parties who bitterly oppose Corbyn. 

Despite the findings of the report, the headlines told a completely different story: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has helped create “safe space” for antisemites in Britain, damning MPs’ report finds’ declared the Telegraph

This kind of reporting prevailed across both the right-wing and liberal press, and the line has also been coming from prominent left-wing voices within the movement, declaring themselves ‘critical friends’. 

It’s perfectly reasonable to be critical of Corbyn when necessary, but on this issue, he must be defended against false accusations.


It is a topsy-turvy world.

The left around Corbyn probably has the best record of any political group in countering all forms of racism – including antisemitism. 

Which is not to say that there is no antisemitism in the Labour Party or the movement, or that we don’t need to continue to be vigilant on the question. 

But we must take on the accusation that there is a special problem, or we risk confirming it by our silence.

If we don’t defend the left's record, we dig ourselves into a hole.

Jeremy Corbyn’s team’s response has been good – calling out the bias of the report, and its disproportionate focus on Labour.

They also rightly complained about the way in which the whole debate has politicised antisemitism, which of course the allegations originally set out to do.

This is part of the war of attrition.

The point is not just to knock out Corbyn, but to weary his supporters and turn them against each other.

The issue also has implications beyond Corbyn’s leadership; it is an attack on the left, the history of our movement, and on its future.

Corbyn’s ascent vindicates many of the arguments we have been making over many years, from solidarity with Palestine, to anti-war positions, and anti-Trident, to the anti-austerity ideas that are now commonplace across much of society.


The fact that the story of Labour’s antisemitism is still running, despite the report’s findings, as well as the lack of focus on right-wing groups or parties, confirms this politicisation and show that the whole controversy is at least partly about something other than a genuine concern about antisemitic or racist attitudes.

Step back and the double standards in contemporary politics makes this more obvious.

The Tory leadership seems to have no great issue with Boris Johnson’s series of racial slurs, nor was Zac Goldsmith investigated over his widely condemned conduct during this year’s London mayoral campaign. 

Why the focus on Labour when the Tory party has a proven history of antisemitism?

One of the aims here is to convince people that the positions taken by the left and the movement over the years on Palestine, against foreign wars and Islamophobia contain within them the seeds of antisemitism.

As we continue to lead the fight against all forms of racism, we as a movement must be proud and clear about our history and record.

The Popular Fight To Unshackle Ourselves

The corporations and political elites that have been steering free-trade deals for many years are finding they are losing control.

Strong public resistance and opposition from national and regional governments in Europe are throwing the controversial TTIP and CETA trade deals off track.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU has proved deeply unpopular.

Across Europe, campaigns to stop it have had a huge impact.

Almost three and a half million Europeans have signed the “Stop TTIP”’ European Citizens’ Initiative petition against the deal.

But it’s not just citizens, unions and NGOs who are concerned about the way trade deals seize control from democratic governments and put it into the hands of private corporations.

The member states themselves are getting cold feet.

A few weeks ago, only 12 of the 28 EU countries were prepared to sign a letter in support of the deal.

In the summer, France cast serious doubt on TTIP when its trade minister called for a suspension of talks and the German economy minister declared TTIP “de facto failed”.

All this led the EU director-general for trade, Jean-Luc Demarty, to warn that the EU’s trade policy was “close to death”.

Meanwhile, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a similar free-trade deal between Canada and the EU, is also in deep trouble.

On Tuesday, EU trade ministers decided to postpone the decision to approve CETA, leaving the deal in limbo.

You can tell the designers of this project are worried.

Last week French Green MEP and renowned anti-globalisation activist José Bové was detained by Canadian border officials when he arrived in Montreal to speak against CETA.

He was eventually allowed into the country, but his detention prevented him speaking at the event.

It seems that for the architects of trade deals freedom of movement for goods and services comes ahead of freedom of expression.

The politicians and corporations might feel they can silence voices but it is harder to ignore votes.

And on this, a regional Belgian parliament has delivered a potentially fatal blow.

The federation of Wallonia-Brussels parliament, which focuses on the cultural and educational concerns of 4.5 million French-speakers in Belgium, recently voted to reject CETA because of worries about public services and agriculture.

Under Belgium’s constitution, all five regional governments must approve the trade deal before the federal government can give consent.

And for CETA to be agreed, unanimous support is needed from all 28 EU countries.

The centrist, grey politicians who have mindlessly repeated the mantra of growth-and-trade for decades have become aware that those whose votes they periodically require no longer see these deals as working for them.

With tens of thousands of European citizens once again taking to the streets in protest against these trade deals, European negotiators are fighting a losing battle.

All those who have campaigned against TTIP and CETA should take great credit.

Despite the power of the corporations that were set to gain massively from the deals, the grassroots movement of people from across the EU, US and Canada have used their democratic rights to protest and to lobby to challenge their might.

While we should celebrate a victory for people power, we must also recognise that this is just the start of the fight.

For the UK, either inside or outside the EU, the potential for these damaging trade deals to proliferate remains.

Some argued, particularly those “leavers” on the left, that exiting the EU would free us from having to sign up to damaging trade agreements.

But actually, it looks as though it is Europe that could save us from these dodgy deals, while the Conservative government, fearing the risk of isolation and desperate for trade deals at any price, will lead us in a race to the bottom.

The risk of isolation following the Brexit vote may encourage them to sign us up to even more damaging bilateral agreements than those on offer to the EU.

Globalisation has brought us marvels including the internet and ease of international travel, but the power in this new paradigm has so far been held by corporations that exploit their ability to transcend national boundaries.

Perhaps the rejection of the global trade treaties that we Greens have always dismissed as corporate power grabs might mark the beginning of the popular fight to unshackle ourselves from the chains of corporate power.

With so much of the energy of the anti-TTIP fight coming from the UK, what a tragic irony it would be if we found ourselves leaping out of the TTIP and CETA frying-pan and into the fire of whatever pro-corporate trade deals Liam Fox has in mind for us.

An Elite Project Falls Apart

How they frown. How they fulminate. How they threaten.

For decades, presidents and prime ministers, policymakers and pundits have told voters there is only one direction of travel: free trade.

Now comes Brexit and Donald Trump – and the horrible suspicion that the public won’t buy it any more. 

This is how an elite project falls apart. And the elites don’t know what to do, apart from keep insisting the public listen.

In Washington last month, you could barely move for wagging fingers as the heads of the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation warned that free trade was in mortal danger

In Ottawa last week, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau surveyed the hundreds of thousands of Europeans demonstrating against the continent’s treaty with his country and said:

“If… Europe is unable to sign a progressive trade agreement with a country like Canada, well, then with whom will Europe think that it can do business in the years to come?” 

Their outriders in the press have dropped the pretence of liberal politesse for red-cheeked self-righteousness. 

The hairy-palmed hordes are coming for our internationalism! As if internationalism were little more than business-class flights and the freedom to structure derivatives across several time zones. 

The Economist slaps an image of anti-globalisation demonstrators on its cover with the headline: “ Why they’re wrong”. 

Note that use of “they”, with its shadow of the drawbridge being hastily pulled up. 

Coming soon, perhaps: “Why can’t we get the 99% we deserve?” 

I heartily agree that Nigel Farage and Trump are grotesques. 

But the free-traders peddle their own untruths.  They have insisted that black is white, even as the voters beg to differ.

In their seminar rooms, their TV studios and their Geneva offices, they have perpetrated the ideological sleight of hand that equates internationalism with free trade, and globalisation with untrammelled corporate power.

The result has been misery for workers from Bolton to Baltimore to Bangladesh.

But it has also left the six-figure technocrats who supervise our economic system pushing a zombie idea. 

Because that is what free trade has become: an idea leached of life and meaning but stumbling on for want of any replacement.

We have a globalisation for bankers, but not for children fleeing the bombs of Syria. Security for investors but not for workers. 

To see how debased the notion of free trade has become, look at the deal between Canada and the EU that is currently being voted through Europe’s parliaments.

It’s called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta), and the fact that you can see it at all is largely down to leaks of the documents, which forced the European commission to publish.

That is after the negotiations were conducted for five years in secret, with even the directives kept hidden from the hundreds of millions of citizens affected.

This is no minor technical work.

Provided it is passed in time, Ceta will apply to Britain too – and parts of it will affect Britons’ lives even after we’ve “taken back control”.

It has been billed as “a backdoor for TTIP”, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which collapsed this summer amid public opposition both in Europe and the US. 

Like TTIP, Ceta includes the investor-state dispute settlement system – which hands big business the power to sue governments, including for profits they haven’t made yet. 

A US multinational with an office in Canada (nearly all of them) will be able to sue Britons for bringing in laws that lose them money. 

This was the mechanism tobacco giant Philip Morris used to sue Australia’s government for bringing in plain packaging. 

On that occasion, Big Tobacco was unsuccessful – but it took four years of expensive legal battle.

Free trade used to be about tackling protectionism; now it’s about protecting big business – against the public.

If populists take a complex situation, offer a simple answer and warn any dissenters of gruesome consequences, then the free-traders are guilty of populism too.

With Ceta or TTIP, it goes like this: if this deal goes through, then economies will grow, jobs will appear, and a rising tide will lift all boats, from super-yacht to rubber dinghy.

That is pretty much what mainstream politicians of Europe – both left and right – and their officials are saying about the deal with Canada.

In economic history, never mind that the biggest winners – whether the US in the early 1900s or China now – are those who break the free trade rules.

Never mind that the actual forecasts for Ceta show the gains will be relatively meagre.

Never mind that the studies cited don’t bother to look at who wins and loses, and by how much.

Most of all, ignore their shared assumption that after any deal the affected economies undergo a short, sharp shock before bouncing back.

Anyone’s who has lived through the past eight years has heard that one before.

After the financial crisis, the Bank of England and Treasury both kept forecasting a return to normal – and they kept getting it wrong.

Eight years on, that bounce back hasn’t materialised. British workers are still not paid as much after inflation as they were when Lehman Brothers collapsed.

That assumption’s lack of substance is called a “dirty little secret” by two independent economists, Pierre Kohler and Servaas Storm, in a recent paper scrutinising the likely effects of Ceta.

As they say, it presumes that laid-off workers “will rapidly find new jobs” – whatever the industry, however far away the employer.

A car engineer can up sticks and turn into a software engineer. And if there aren’t any actual jobs, they can deliver takeaways for Deliveroo.

The assumptions are both laughably far-fetched and, in the cost citizens are expected to bear, disgusting.

No wonder the EU would rather there was as little public discussion as possible.

Using a model employed by the UN, Kohler and Storm found that the benefits of Ceta become microscopic next to the costs.

For at least the first seven years after the agreement is brought in, unemployment will rise, wages will fall and economies will see their growth rates decline.

Governments will lose revenue, and so increase austerity.

The burden will fall hardest on the poorest, the lowest-skilled, older people and those with disabilities.

A senior lecturer at Delft University of Technology, Storm summed up for me the consequences:

“The weaker your position in an economy, the more strongly you’ll feel the fall-out.” 

These aren’t people and regions who are left behind: they’ve been chucked off the train by their own governments.

This is the settlement free-traders, left and right, are fighting to impose on voters.

Is it any wonder the voters keep plumping for alternatives – no matter how reprehensible, how ruinous?

God and Saint Andrew's Flag Are With Us, Indeed

From all enemies of the Islamic State, including everyone who noisily insists that the United Kingdom is in the midst of an invasion by it, there ought to be the very warmest of welcomes to the Russian Navy in the English Channel.

The dividing line between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn is turning out to be the dividing between Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn: which of Russia and the Islamic State do you want to win, or at least which of them do you want to lose?

Mother Theresa, Missionary of Charity

Under its current tenant, does 10 Downing Street even take The Sun and the Daily Mail? Would she have such publications in the house?

As far as Theresa May is concerned, refugee issues are among the many matters that are for the charities that collect at her church, and which used to have one or both of her parents on their local committees.

What those charities say, goes.

What The Sun or the Daily Mail says, she probably wouldn't know, and she certainly wouldn't care.

Indeed, she was so close to the Hillsborough families that I heard Margaret Aspinall extol her virtues even from the platform of the 2013 Durham Miners' Gala.

Think on.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

For Decency's Sake

Convictions under laws predating these changes ought to be annulled by Act of Parliament along with those of men whose homosexual acts would not be criminal offences today, as the Government looks likely to grant this week.

Labour should vote against that unless it also annulled, not only all convictions in the categories set out in the above link, but also all convictions and other adverse court decisions arising out of Clay Cross, Shrewsbury, Wapping, and the three Miners' Strikes since 1970.

This would set the pattern for all future feminist and LGBT legislation. Without a working-class quid pro quo, then Labour would vote against any such legislation.

Alongside the DUP, the Conservative Right, or whoever. It is not Blair's Labour Party now.

Swinging The Lead

An 18-point Conservative poll lead.

For abandonment of the Budget surplus target, for abandonment of the Work Capability Assessment, for workers' reps on boards, for restrictions on pay differences within companies, for a crackdown on tax avoidance, for a ban on tax-avoiding companies from public contracts, for a Department for Industrial Strategy, for a huge programme of infrastructure spending in general and of housebuilding in particular, for a cap on energy prices, for a ban on foreign takeovers, and for an inquiry into Orgreave.

Oh, and as of today, for no dental tests to ascertain the ages of child refugees, which was Labour policy nine years ago, although certainly not the view of the man who is now the Leader of the Labour Party.

The Left cares profoundly about having a left-wing Prime Minister. But the Right just wants a Tory. It will then convince itself that any Tory is right-wing, while any Tory who is a late-middle-aged woman is Margaret Thatcher.

Bowl Them Out

Durham County Council's Cabinet has unanimously agreed the ECB's bailout for Durham County Cricket Club, where the senior Councillors and Officers have a private box.

But they are still sacking the Teaching Assistants, in order to reappoint them on a 23 per cent pay cut.

Bring on May's elections.

Mass Distraction No More

Anyone still banging on about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party now needs to be treated as if they had said that Afghanistan was involved in the events of 11th September 2001, or that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or that a genocide had impended in Benghazi, or that Iran had a nuclear weapons programme, or that the Queen controlled the global trade in illegal drugs, or that the world was run by giant lizards.

Each of those propositions is exactly as sane as any of the others, and the "Labour anti-Semitism" theory is exactly as sane as each of them.

The people peddling it, like the people who peddled at least the first four of them, are rich enough or posh enough to be as barking mad as they like, no matter what the adverse consequences to poorer or more common people who, if they were to come out with the same kind of thing, would rightly be committed.

Ravaging Aden From Maidenhead

Theresa May has just refused to assure the House of Commons that the Saudi war in Yemen was not being waged with British planes, with British weapons, or by British-trained pilots.

But she has also refused to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

"He Must Have Had A Very Tough Paper Round"

We'd all look older if that had been our childhood.

And non-white boys always do look older to a certain sort of white person.

The picture that everyone is bandying about is of a translator.

Many of the rest look like many of the teenage boys, who are almost all white, in this old mining and steelworking area.

That's the School of Hard Knocks for you.

The Lanchester Review: Amazing, Inspiring and Dedicated Workers

Archie MacKay on the Teaching Assistants, who have got me back into politics.

Salvation History

Yesterday was Saint Luke's Day, which set me thinking about the theological significance of "the long middle", between, in credal terms, the Incarnation and the Passion.

The usual view, I suppose, is that it is read in the light of the great events of salvific significance. But that has never struck me as sufficient.

It is also necessary to view it as included in the clause, "and was made man."

The things that Jesus said and did are fundamental and integral to the Incarnation itself. Human beings say, and human beings do.

Moreover, by eliciting the Passion in reaction to them, those sayings and doings are, again, fundamental and integral to the Passion itself.

And the decision to write them down in and as the Gospels was the response integral to the Resurrection and the Ascension, making that decision fundamental to ecclesiology and to eschatological hope.

That is why we teach these stories to children, in order to make them culturally definitive. That is why we work our way through it liturgically day by day, week by week, year by year.

Pension Potless

I am glad that the Government has abandoned plans to let pensioners sell their annuities to insurance firms.

It now needs the reverse the permission of people to take out entire pension pots as lump sums.

No, it is not simply "their money to spend". They were given tax relief on their pension contributions.

In return for not, therefore, becoming dependent on state benefits in old age.

Taking it all out and spending it is breaking the deal, and ought never to have been allowed.

Darkest Africa

Kigeli V Ndahindurwa, the last King of Rwanda, is dead.

Paul Kagame, to whom Tony Blair was an adviser at least until his own recent retirement of sorts, is moving towards his obvious intention of making himself President for Life.

Therefore, it is well worth watching this again. I love the BBC, really. Enough to want to change it, as Chesterton would have said.

Longstanding readers of this site will know that, if anything, there were really two genocides in Rwanda. But “genocide” is a slipperier concept than you may think.

In 1993, the former Bolivian President, García Meza Tejada, was convicted of “genocide” for the deaths of fully eight people. Those may or may not have been the only people whom he killed. But they were the only victims of his “genocide”.

And so to Rwanda.

Or, rather, to a kangaroo court in Tanzania, set up by a UN Security Council resolution with no authority to do so, and specifically empowered – again, on no proper authority whatever – to try only members of the former, devoutly Catholic regime, and not of that which overthrew it, namely a direct extension, by means of a Ugandan invasion of Rwanda in 1990, of the only-too-successful Maoist insurrection in Uganda.

Thank God that no one is any longer permitted to be sent from this country, the historic refuge of the oppressed, to appear before that kangaroo court.

Théoneste Bagosora was finally convicted (well, of course he was – this sort of thing never, ever acquits anyone) 18 months after the prosecution’s final submission, and fully 12 years after his arrest, even though his trial had started almost immediately.

That was entirely typical, as is the use of European and American activists as “expert witnesses” even though they witnessed absolutely nothing and were in fact thousands of miles away at the time alleged.

As is the heavy reliance on anonymous prosecution witnesses (even though it is in fact six defence witnesses before this “Tribunal” who have been murdered soon after giving evidence), universally known to be paid liars.

As is the routine holding of session in camera. As is the admission of hearsay evidence.

As are the rulings that no corroboration is necessary to convict a man of rape even he has pleaded not guilty, and that it matters not one jot if a prosecution witness’s written statement differs markedly from his testimony in court.

As is the astonishing principle that a prosecution witness’s inconsistencies are proof of trauma, and therefore of the guilt of the accused. And as are the farcical translation problems.

The remit of this “Tribunal” is frankly racist, providing only for the trial of Hutus, the overwhelmingly predominant ethnic group, for crimes against Tutsis, the historically royal and aristocratic minority.

Crimes by Hutus against Tutsis undoubtedly happened. But so did crimes by Tutsis against Hutus. Neither Maoist guerrillas nor embittered, dispossessed aristocrats are characteristically restrained in these matters.

No one knows how many people were killed, often with machetes. The usual figure cited is eight hundred thousand. Perhaps that is correct. Perhaps it is not.

But what is undoubtedly the case is that not all the perpetrators were Hutus, although many were. What is undoubtedly the case is that not all the victims were Tutsis, although many were.

What is undoubtedly the case is that no Tutsi has ever been tried, because none can be: that whole people has been declared innocent in advance, and another whole people declared guilty in advance.

What is undoubtedly the case is that an invasion of a sovereign state by a larger neighbour, at exactly the same time as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, has been backed up to the hilt by the West in general and by the United States in particular, so that the Americans are now where first the Germans and then the Belgians once were: running Rwanda through a tiny clique drawn exclusively from the Tutsi minority.

A clique, moreover, with a penchant for invading the Democratic Republic of the Congo and for sponsoring guerilla insurrections there, even if those insurrections do have some basis in the undeniable mistreatment of the Congolese Tutsi minority. 

And what is undoubtedly the case is that that clique is Maoist, whereas the majority-derived government that it overthrew was headed by a daily communicant, Jean Kambanda, whom it subsequently tortured into confession while illegally detaining him, and whom it denied the lawyer of his choice.

Tony Blair does keep the most charming company.

Scrutinised and Challenged

As the news broke that NatWest had frozen the British bank accounts of the Russian state broadcaster RT, previously known (and often still referred to) as Russia Today, I was expecting to see a backlash against what is essentially an affront to the press freedoms that Britain and the rest of the West claim they are renowned for. 

Although many did indeed appear outraged, our beloved liberal commentariat were cheering it on in an enthusiastic, albeit unsurprising fashion. 

Twitter was full of self-identifying lefties celebrating the damage done to RT. 

But what is perplexing is that financially cutting off one of the largest news networks in the world without any explanation is an inherently authoritarian, illiberal act. 

In the interests of full disclosure, I have appeared on Russia Today (unpaid) as a political commentator discussing issues surrounding Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party in the past. 

My opinions were scrutinised and challenged in the way that I would expect from any other broadcaster. 

The main complaint against Russia Today is that it is a Kremlin-funded propaganda station. 

Despite clear bias being present throughout media organisations in the western world, RT bears the brunt of almost all of our criticism in this regard. 

But a state broadcaster supporting their country’s geo-strategic interests is not exactly the huge scandal that many imply. 

Take the example of the latest war in Iraq. 

A widely reported study by academics at Cardiff University in 2003 found that the BBC provided the most “pro-war” coverage ahead of the UK’s disastrous intervention, while they placed the least emphasis on Iraqi casualties out of any of the major British broadcasters. 

There were even complaints regarding the broadcaster’s conduct from their own correspondents, notably including their defence correspondent Paul Adams who wrote “a furious memo” claiming that the BBC was “misleading viewers about the conflict in Iraq.”

These concerns echoed by hip-hop artist and activist Lowkey, who boycotted DJ Tim Westwood after he broadcast his BBC 1Xtra show from Camp Bastion in Afghanistan in what Lowkey described as “a concerted effort to increase support for the British occupation among a specific UK demographic” in order “to sell an increasingly unpopular military adventure to the youth of this nation.” 

Whether or not Lowkey is correct about the aims of BBC 1Xtra, one can hardly say there was nothing political about broadcasting your radio show from an active military base engaged in a controversial conflict. 

Although I’m perfectly happy admitting I’m no fan of segments of RT’s coverage, those who criticise the network but stay eerily quiet about the fact that both the British and American mainstream media have supported almost every one of their respective military escapades over the last few decades are clearly more interested in playing Cold War mind games than tackling systemic media bias.

Moreover, RT lends a tremendous amount of coverage to marginalised issues and people in the West.

In the United States, for example, RT were reporting on the country’s largest prison strike in history amid little more than a tumbleweed response in the mainstream American media.

They even received an Emmy nomination as one of the first networks to cover Occupy Wall Street.

In Britain, they led the charge in reporting that Conservative cuts to welfare could be violating disabled people’s human rights, our government’s complicity in enabling the Saudi-led bombings in Yemen, and the fact that the Pentagon paid a British PR firm millions of dollars in order to create fake terrorist videos as part of a propaganda campaign

There is a distinct focus on the domestic injustices and corporate greed that many other media outlets conveniently ignore.

Our own media biases have handed RT a large and disillusioned western audience to entice.

In a balanced media landscape, they wouldn’t have had this advantage to begin with.

Outraged liberals and British outlets can grandstand all they please, but if they want to find the root cause of why people actively choose to watch so-called “Kremlin propaganda”, then they ought to look in the mirror.

The Reality of The Situation

Calls for intervention in the Syrian conflict are growing louder in Britain, with more and more MPs demanding ‘something must be done’.

Last week, the London Evening Standard quoted a cabinet minister (who did not wish to be named) who was coming round to the idea of a no-fly zone or a ‘no-bombing zone’. 

Shortly after, it became clear that the unnamed minister was the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson.

But what does that mean, to enforce a ‘no-bombing zone’ or a ‘no-fly zone’? It means shooting down Russian and Syrian warplanes.

Of course, this is fraught with risks, Johnson says. 

Fraught with risks?

The Russian Ministry of Defence has said that any attack on the Syrian military will be treated as an attack on Russian military personnel.

Russia has moved anti-missile systems into Syria, as well as on ships in the Mediterranean, following the breakdown of the latest Russian-US ceasefire.

Is the prospect of war with nuclear-armed Russia what Johnson means by ‘fraught with risks’?

Last Tuesday, Andrew ‘Plebgate’ Mitchell called an emergency debate in parliament on the situation in Aleppo.

Of course, no one wants to get into a shootout with Russia, he said, but if it happens, so be it.

The parliamentary debate was full of talk of appeasement and similar nonsense – just a little intervention should do it, and all will be well.

Johnson, who has stressed to the House of Commons that Saudi Arabia will not do anything nasty with the British warplanes it has bought, said that Russia risked becoming a pariah state, and has urged people to protest outside the Russian embassy in London.

For the past 25 years, war has been used to weaken nations, a game played by Western political elites for their own sense of moral superiority.

It started in Yugoslavia over Bosnia, and then with high-altitude bombing in Kosovo.

Western elites chose time and again to intervene for the sake of human rights.

Okay, so several states have been utterly destroyed in the process, with hundreds of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands more displaced, but, drunk on a sense of moral righteousness, we did it again, and again. British politicians, and we the public, have become too hardened to bombing faraway places that we know little about.

At no point do politicians grasp the fact that killing more people for the sake of protecting human rights is an act of barbarity.

Firstly, intervention does not work. Just look at the destruction of Iraq.

Iraq is an example of possibly the most disastrous foreign-policy act post-1945 – from there, all chaos has flowed, including the current crisis in Syria.

The British political establishment has spent years embroiled in inquiries about this unmitigated disaster in Iraq.

Nonetheless, we went back and did the same thing in Libya.

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) has just released a very good, and very damning, report of the Libyan intervention, which argues that the UK has done the same thing in Libya that it did in Iraq: intervened without any knowledge of the reality of the situation, or any idea of where to go.

Libya has since been thrown into chaos, and has become home to a thriving ISIS offshoot.

‘We came, we saw, he died’, as Hillary Clinton laughed about Gadaffi’s torture and murder at the hands of so-called rebels.

The ink is hardly dry on the FAC report and yet some MPs are debating another catastrophic intervention. 

It’s as if Libya or Iraq didn’t happen. It’s as if our own parliamentary committees haven’t pointed out what disasters these interventions have been.

How many more must there be?

Entertaining the idea of further intervention is fundamentally wicked, on a scale much larger than the acts of authoritarians such as Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad.

However, Syria is not Yugoslavia, or Iraq, or Libya.

The difference is that, in this situation, Russia has returned to world politics and is protecting Assad.

Russia began using military force to protect Assad last year, at a stage in the Syrian conflict in which it was clear that Assad was about to collapse.

There is no mystery about why Russia is involved, whatever the Western media say, and it’s got nothing to do with a great love for Assad.

When it began its intervention, Russia explicitly said it would not allow another situation like Iraq to happen, and that it was prepared to act ruthlessly and viciously to make sure it prevented such a thing.

So, let’s get this straight.

There are some British politicians advocating a policy of shooting down Russian planes in Syria.

That they are claiming this can be done without consequences reveals how totally detached from reality they have become.

A decade and a half of high-altitude so-called humanitarian bombing, which doesn’t affect us at home in the West at all, and these politicians think that’s all there is to war?

Politicians like Mitchell and Johnson seem to think that a bit of a shootout is all that’s needed to show the Russians who’s boss.

What, in the end, would we be fighting for?

Terrible as the situation is in East Aleppo, it’s only a part of the city. 

Life carries on much as normal in the rest of government-controlled Aleppo, apart from the bombing carried out by rebels, which is hardly mentioned in the press. 

The choice is not Assad or democracy, but Assad or ISIS. 

Given that there is no public appetite for the UK to intervene in Syria, I wonder what the British public would say if the reality of the situation were put to them.

Shall we go to war in Syria to topple Assad and let the jihadis rule?

Do we want a World War Three that might end up protecting ISIS? 

Thankfully, there were some sensible arguments at last week’s parliamentary debate. 

Emily Thornberry, the Labour shadow foreign secretary, argued that the last thing Syria needs is more belligerents in a hideously multilevel war.

She also made the point that Britain itself was supporting a deadly war in Yemen.

It’s of note that Britain is not just selling arms to Saudi Arabia - British military personnel are actually directing airstrikes, too.

We should protest outside our own Foreign Office, against Johnson, and force him to explain why British military personnel are directing Saudi airstrikes on hospitals, schools and funerals in Yemen. 

One positive sign was that the debating chamber was three-quarters empty, suggesting many MPs are not eager to threaten Russia with war. 

Nonetheless, the debate itself was a terrifying display of the fact that there seems to be little understanding of the reality and consequences of what is being suggested.

Shooting down Russian planes in Syria? It’s a terrible, dangerous idea.

The Middle-Class Mob

When snobs talk about mobs, they usually mean poor people who say things they disagree with. Brexit voters, or Trump’s angry white army.

To a certain kind of sniffy commentator, these people are basically a pitchfork-wielding crowd, clueless and toothless. 

But if you want to see a real mob – in the classic sense of a gang with nasty extrajudicial instincts – forget the poor and take a look at the middle-class media set.

Take a look at the very people who bandy about the word ‘mob’ to describe anyone they don’t like.

For it is they, ironically, who are most mob-like, and nothing demonstrates this better than their ugly commentary on the Ched Evans case.

Ever since Evans, a Welsh footballer, was arrested in 2011, following a threesome in a hotel room in Rhyl which he says was consensual but the woman involved says was non-consensual, the awful illiberal strain that lurks just under the surface of 21st-century Western society has been given full voice. 

It burst through the polite veneer of respect for the rule of law and belief in the human value of redemption, exposing how negotiable such values now are in the eyes of the opinion-forming set. 

The authoritarianism, anti-democracy and outright classism of the middle-class mob has been on full display. 

It started in earnest when Evans was still in jail, following his conviction for rape in 2012.

Petitions emerged demanding that he should not be allowed to return to football – his career – even after he’d served his time.

The main petition, which got more than 170,000 signatures, said Evans’ prison sentence was ‘only a small penance’. 

Men who ‘commit gross acts of violence against women’ should continue to ‘pay for what they have done’ even after they leave jail, it said, and in Evans’ case this means ‘relinquishing the celebrity [he has] attained’. 

It was an explicit call for extrajudicial punishment, for the extension of his ‘penance’ beyond that which had been sanctioned by law. 

Evans should be branded forever, they demanded, echoing the medieval view [whose?] that certain sinners, certain penitents, are so wicked they can never come back.

These shrill petitions explicitly called into question one of key beliefs of the modern idea of justice: that of redemption, or at least rehabilitation – the notion that punishing people forever is wrong because people can change.

The middle-class mob’s instigators in the press openly trampled on the notion of redemption.

In an ugly piece titled ‘The limits of redemption’, Caitlin Moran said perhaps ‘men who have raped… need to see their lives reduced to ash’ (burn them?). 

Even when they’re released their lives should be made ‘publicly, endlessly awful, unrelentingly humiliating, without prospect of absolution’, she said. 

‘No football club should touch Ched Evans’, said Suzanne Moore in the Guardian

The End Violence Against Women Coalition said allowing Evans back into his old line of work would ‘re-traumatise his own and many other victims’, overlooking the fact that the purpose of justice is that society, not your victim, punishes you, and once it has done so you should be allowed to show you are a changed citizen.

To understand the authoritarianism of these demands for extrajudicial punishment of Evans, just imagine if the same was said of other criminals.

Imagine if a Conservative politician argued that anyone convicted of selling heroin should have their lives ‘reduced to ash’ and made ‘publicly, endlessly awful’. 

Or if an angry Daily Mail columnist said robbers should not be ‘touched’ by serious employers lest their rehabilitation ‘re-traumatise’ all robbery victims. 

We would recognise the pre-modern vindictiveness of such cries for ceaseless humiliation of ex-cons. 

Yet the liberal set makes these demands in relation to Evans, in relation to rape, and considers it normal, even good. 

Rape is a serious crime of violence, of course, but surely the same civilised, redemptive attitude should apply to this crime as to others. 

The mob-like behaviour of the Evans obsessives erupted again last week when he was found not guilty of rape in his retrial. 

Feminists took to Twitter to say ‘I believe’ the complainant. 

This ‘Believe the Woman’ movement discards with the need for a justice system entirely, since every complaint of rape is automatically treated as true. 

It’s Salem-like. 

One observer says, ‘There are a few fundamental beliefs that I hold, and one of them is that I believe women [who make accusations of rape]’. 

There’s a Stalinist feel to this, where the pointed finger is enough to establish guilt.

Some feminists now argue for an end to trial by jury in rape cases because jurors lack ‘the training and awareness-raising’ necessary to understand rape. 

So let a single judge decide, or better still the mob: they believe rape happened, so it must have. 

Why has the middle-class mob focused its extrajudicial gaze on Evans in particular? Because of who he performs for: football fans, working-class men. 

Perhaps the ugliest element of the polite hysteria surrounding Evans is its naked contempt for the masses who follow football. 

Observers have extrapolated from Evans’ behaviour on 30 May 2011 to point to ‘how sick football culture is’.

A Guardian writer bizarrely used the Evans case to indict football for having become ‘awash with money’ and being consumed by ‘attitudes [that] seem rooted in the past’.

Shorter version: football followers are backward. 

‘[M]en, football men particularly, are not fully understanding the abhorrence and fear women have of sexual abuse’, said one observer. 

‘Football men’ – who are they? They know and you know: they’re blokes who read the Sun, who don’t have PhDs, who probably haven’t had their ‘awareness raised’. 

They’re Those People, who, as one columnist says, are obsessed with a sport that has ‘unpleasant, wilfully damaging and dangerous attitudes’. 

This is why petitioners and tweeters and columnists are so adamant that Evans not be allowed to play again: because they view his watchers, the teeming terraces, as savages, basically, with unreconstructed attitudes and a stunning disregard for the feelings of women.

It isn’t really Evans they fear; it’s the masses (though now they use the PC term ‘football people’). 

This extrapolation from the Evans case to brand a whole section of society as rapacious is indistinguishable from when racists argued in the 1970s that instances of black men raping white women showed no blacks could be trusted in society. 

There has been media fury over football fans who have cheered Evans’ not-guilty verdict and who are looking forward to his return to the game. 

But there is infinitely more humanism and more decency in these fans’ support of Evans than there is in the ugly petitioning and scaremongering of the middle-class mob that wants one man’s life made ‘endlessly awful’ as a means of re-educating pig-ignorant ‘football people’. 

Those fans understand redemption and the capacity of people to change; the middle-class mob understands little beyond its own fear of the blob and its talk of ‘ash’ and ‘humiliation’ and its corresponding desire to make educational, medieval public spectacles of men who commit certain crimes.

The Essence of SNP Politics

Dale Street writes:

“We are very close to independence and we must start campaigning right now,” said the SNP’s newly elected deputy leader Angus Robertson MP in his speech to last week’s SNP conference. 

Robertson, who is also the party’s leader in Westminster, was lying. 

The SNP’s campaign for a second referendum on Scottish independence began as soon as they lost the first one in September of 2014. 

The earliest mooted date for a second referendum is 2018.

That means at least another two years of the SNP’s unique brand of nationalist grievance-mongering, spurious claims to moral superiority, and politically poisonous populism.

All of these defining characteristics of the SNP were on display in the run-up to the SNP conference and at the conference itself. 

‘Our nationalism is better than yours’ has always been a subtext of the SNP’s politics.

But now, in contrast to the supposedly “civic and joyous nationalism” of the SNP, British nationalism is increasingly being lampooned as a form of incipient fascism.

According to Nicola Sturgeon, Theresa May’s speech to the Tory Party conference was endorsed by French National Front leader Marine Le Pen. 

In fact, the ‘endorsement’ was contained in a spoof Twitter account. 

According to SNP MP Mhairi Black, “I am not exaggerating when I say that the policies being brought forward (by the Tories) are reminiscent of early 1930s Nazi Germany.” 

The fact that the Nazis were not in power for most of the early 1930s is not the least of what’s wrong with that statement. 

Black was defended by fellow SNP MSP Humza Yousaf:

“To those criticising (Black), I have friends and family who have applied for dual nationality with Pakistan. Feel UK to be unbearable for Muslims in future.” 

Clearly there is prejudice and discrimination against Muslims in Britain.

But if things are really so bad, some of Humza’s critics asked, how come a Muslim had just been elected Mayor of London?

According to that undiluted expression of Scottish nationalism, “Wings Over Scotland”: “Statistically, measurably, unarguably, the Third Reich was less racist than our current government.” 

Comment on that political insight is superfluous. 

Echoing Martin Niemoller’s poem about persecution in Nazi Germany, SNP MP Peter Wishart tweeted: “First they came for berry farm-pickers. Then they came for the doctors. Next they came for the … #toryBrexit #yourUK.” 

While fellow SNP MP Peter Grant endorsed Wishart’s tweet (“For anyone who recognises where this quote comes from, it’s frighteningly accurate”) SNP MSP Christina McKelvie invoked the Nazi analogy in her speech to the SNP conference: 

“Now we have lists of foreign workers, reminiscent of the rise of Nazism in the 1930s.” 

SNP MP Chris Law did not explicitly refer to 1930s Nazism but got in on the act as well: 

“Given I’m adopted and look Scandinavian to many, am I Viking and not welcome in the UK? Scotland is my home.” 

(No, Chris, you do not “look Scandinavian to many.” You look to many like a man under police investigation because of allegations of embezzlement from your one-man “Spirit of Independence” campaign.) 

By far the most distasteful invocation of incipient Nazism was provided at the SNP conference when Gregg Brain took to the platform (to a standing ovation and prolonged applause) wearing a yellow badge with the letter “F” (for foreigner). 

The analogy with the yellow star which Jews had to wear in Nazi Germany was unmistakeable. 

The Brain family – white, middle-class, Australian, strongly Christian, pro-SNP, pro-independence, and (very important) with a child studying Gaelic at school – fell foul of a change in the Immigration Rules after their arrival in the UK. 

While Bangladeshis trafficked into virtual human slavery in the same constituency were ignored by the SNP – they ticked none of the above boxes – the Brain family was adopted by the SNP as a cause célèbre – and then paraded at SNP conference as the equivalent of Jews in Nazi Germany.

Of course, the Tories’ willingness to throw racist red meat to Brexiters and UKIP voters deserves unqualified condemnation.

But equating this with incipient Nazism is not only politically inaccurate. It also creates a false dichotomy between ‘bad Britishness’ and ‘good Scottishness’.

The proportion of immigrants in Scotland is half that of the UK overall. But 64% of people in Scotland want immigration reduced or stopped completely (UK figure: 70%).

50% of people in Scotland support the idea of firms compiling lists of foreign workers (UK figure: 59%).

30% of Scots think Eastern Europeans take jobs away from other workers, 26% say the same for members of other ethnic minorities, and 20% would be unhappy if a member of their family married a Muslim.

The proportion of SNP voters which voted Brexit was higher than the proportion of voters of any other party in Scotland apart from UKIP.

46% of SNP voters support companies compiling lists of foreign workers.

More SNP voters prioritise ‘controlling’ immigration in Brexit negotiations (41%) than access to the Single Market (37%).

And the ‘political discourse’ of many pro-independence supporters on Twitter is far removed from the avowed virtues and moral superiority of Scottish nationalism:

“Fuck off you (English) people. I hope it’s a cold harsh winter and the NHS you’ve screwed runs out of flu jab. #indyred2”

“Might be an idea for you to leave Scotland and go back to your wonderful Ulster please???”

“Fuck off all you English bastards.”

“Fuck the English. #albagubrath”

“You are either traitors or English living in Scotland. Either way, you are worthless oxygen thieves.”

The SNP is a straightforward nationalist party. It seeks to mobilise people on the basis of their national identity.

However ‘enlightened’ its official rhetoric, its core nationalist politics are inherently divisive.

One national identity necessarily defines itself against another national identity. All nationalist parties find some ‘other’ to blame for holding back the nation.

Who ‘us’ and ‘them’ are varies from one brand of nationalism to another – Mexicans, refugees, Muslims, EU migrant workers, ‘Westmonster’, the Labour Party, the English – but the core message is the same.

The ‘Tories and Brexit equal incipient Nazism’ trope may have only a short lifespan. Or maybe not.

But it sums up the essence of SNP politics: our nation and our nationalism are better than yours, and you are holding us back.

At the SNP conference Swinney boasted that the SNP would always put Scotland first:

“We are not a branch office of a UK party. … For us, country comes first. Always. … Make no mistake, we are the national party and we will always put the national interest first.”

(In the 2015 general election, when the SNP fantasised that a Labour minority government would be elected and the SNP would hold the balance of power, Sturgeon promised that the SNP would represent the interests of all of Britain. Swinney’s words prove otherwise.)

SNP journalist Lesley Riddoch spelt out the implications of Swinney’s words when she tweeted:

“John Swinney tells #SNP16 country comes first. Always country comes first. This will become SNP motif of next two #Brexit years.”

For two years before the 2014 referendum the SNP poisoned Scottish politics with its identity-politics nationalism.

In the two years that has passed since then, it has continued to do the same.

Now it promises the same again for the next two years.

The SNP will portray itself and the Scottish nation as the upholders of cosmopolitan political virtue, in contrast to inward-looking Tory Brexit Britain, blanking out of the picture the 13 million people in England who voted remain and the million people in Scotland who voted Leave.

For the SNP, voting patterns are not a reflection of material circumstances and political factors but national identity.

Scotland votes one way because Scots are like that. England votes differently because the English are like that.

Underlining its political opportunism, the SNP will also be highly selective in its denunciations of racism.

There will be no denunciations, for example, of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speech last weekend in which she called for “a national push” to deport foreigners with no legal right to remain in Germany.

To ‘sell’ independence to the Scottish electorate – the majority of whom remain opposed to independence, and an even bigger majority of whom oppose a second referendum – the SNP needs to portray EU governments as waiting to welcome Scotland with open arms.

So: no criticism of the ruling European parties and political leaders who share the Tories policies (other than membership of the EU).

In fact, the SNP is likely to adopt a largely criticism-free attitude towards the EU as a whole.

But the SNP will go full throttle on criticising Labour.

While protestors outside of the SNP conference paraded a banner demanding “Red Tories Out”, on the inside of the conference Swinney proclaimed:

“Shame. Shame. Shame on the pathetic Labour Party. … As long as Kezia Dugdale insists on powers over immigration, Europe and all the rest remaining in London, Kezia shares the blame.”

“And the people of Scotland will never forget that Labour were prepared to allow the Tories to rule Scotland to stop our country deciding her own future.”

In the SNP political universe Labour equals Tories equals Nazis.

That would suggest that the prospects for a ‘progressive alliance’ have just suffered another setback.