Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Libel Watch: Day 11

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

No More Red Fires Will Be Lit

The anti-Corbyn media have been laughed out from Prague to Berlin, and disowned live on air even by Andrew Neil. Once this one has burned itself out, which will have happened by the end of the week, then they will never light that particular match again.

Not Their Finest Hour

Peter Hitchens writes: 

Why are we still obsessed with 1940? Anyone who experienced World War II as an adult is now nearly one hundred years old. Since then we have seen major wars in Korea and Vietnam, Iraq and Yugoslavia, and more Arab-Israeli wars than can easily be counted. We have experienced Suez, the end of Apartheid, the horrors of Pol Pot, Mao’s unhinged Cultural Revolution, the murderous attack on Manhattan in 2001, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the extraordinary drama of Communism’s fall. Each of these contains enough moral lessons to last us a lifetime. All were spectacular. And yet they cannot seem to eclipse, in the public mind, a morally ambivalent war that ended seventy-three years ago, which was fought with the utmost ruthlessness, and one of whose victors was an appalling despotism of lies and murder.

In the past few months two major Hollywood movies have returned, yet again, to the supposed finest hour of the English-speaking peoples. The first, a wearisome and noisy depiction of the evacuation of Dunkirk by a defeated British Army, bored me silly and left my ears ringing and my stomach faintly heaving. It had almost no story and reduced the complicated, upsetting event to spectacle. As I watched it, half-deafened by the racket and sunk in gloom by the ceaseless scenes of drowning, I began to long for the Germans to arrive, in the hope that they might bring a plot with them. Yet Dunkirk has been met with what seems to be genuine enthusiasm among moviegoers who are far too young to have any personal interest in the subject.

But this was only a foretaste of the still more incomprehensible enthusiasm for Darkest Hour—yet another film about Winston Churchill defying Hitler and fighting on. It is reported (though I’ve seen no exact locations named) that people in British movie theaters have been rising to applaud the closing scene, a rather damp and slow rendition of Churchill’s famous pledge to fight the Germans on the beaches, which did nothing for me. But, alas, most of this stuff does nothing for me—because I know what actually happened.

May I explain something important here, to forestall some of the responses I know I will receive? I think Winston Churchill was right to refuse to make terms with Hitler in 1940. 

Everything else about the film is, more or less, rubbish. We are supposed to admire the fashionable actor Gary Oldman for impersonating Churchill, but I am really not convinced that this is such a great feat. Growl a bit, and smoke a huge cigar, and you’re halfway there. Someone will come along and plaster you with makeup and latex to make you look like a big baby. The good lines are all written for you.

Mr. Oldman himself seems an odd choice for the part. Albert Finney did a far better job a few years ago. Robert Hardy, who played the Last Lion so many times he almost became him, was alas taken from us last year and so not available.

Anyway, the choice fell upon Mr. Oldman. What manner of person is he? I do not know, but he recently told a London newspaper that Churchill was in some ways comparable to two other famous Britons he has portrayed on film. These are “Sid Vicious,” a punk rocker in a group called the Sex Pistols, in the noted film Sid and Nancy, and the, er, unconventional and original 1960s playwright Joe Orton in Prick Up Your Ears

“They were all anti-establishment and in their own peculiar way they were all eccentric,” Oldman said. “Churchill ate breakfast in bed along with a glass of champagne. He dictated memos from the bath. And, along with Vicious and Orton, Churchill shared that wonderful, dark British humour.” 

Here is part of the difficulty. I am afraid I have not seen the films about Sid Vicious or Joe Orton. I hope I never have to, as I am unenthusiastic about either subject. But, though Mr. Oldman, who is for some reason extremely fashionable, may actually think that Churchill is in the tradition of Messrs. Vicious and Orton, I am not so sure. 

Despite Winston Churchill’s bathtub dictation and his breakfast champagne habit, I do not think that the man himself, a lover, above all things, of grandeur, chivalry, and poetry, would much have liked the Britain of Joe Orton or “Sid Vicious” (a heroin abuser whose real name was John Ritchie, and who died aged twenty-two while on bail on a charge of assault). I do not think the British wartime prime minister would have seen the connection. Nor do I think he would have been pleased to think that he had helped to bring about a Britain in which such men’s lives were significant and even admired. 

Most laughable of all the film’s many fictional scenes dressed up as fact is a visit by Mr. Churchill to the London Subway. There he boards a train and recites Macaulay to the common folk, who are overcome with patriotism and urge him to fight on. Churchill, an aristocrat and not embarrassed about it, was as likely to drink brown ale, smoke cheap cigarettes, and eat fish and chips in the street as he was to travel on the London Underground. And the British people in May 1940, as more accurately shown in a 1958 film about Dunkirk, were filled with doubts about the war. Its alleged purpose—the salvation of Poland—had disappeared months before when that country vanished from the map.

What Churchill knew, and they didn’t, was that Hitler’s peace terms would be initially attractive, insidious, and, in the long run, disastrous. Hitler would have made sure we were permanently stripped of the power and the wealth to fight him again. If Germany had then gone on to destroy the Soviet Union, we would have been powerless to resist being absorbed into Hitler’s new order, if only as a dingy, remote, and declining satellite. If the USSR had survived, it would not lightly have forgiven us, let alone helped to rescue us. 

Actually, this danger lay in the near future, whatever Britain did. We had no army to speak of. We had no hope of returning to the European Continent by our own efforts. All our best weapons were defensive. France was supine. On the other side of the world our hopelessly vulnerable and complacent eastern empire was at the mercy of Japan. None of Churchill’s defiant speeches would have done much good against a triumphant Stalin or Hitler, in control of the whole European continent, the oil of Baku, the wheatfields of Ukraine, and the coal and iron of Germany, France, and Scandinavia. They would have been little use against the large and modern French Navy tied up in Toulon, and the sleek Italian Fleet. But if anyone became final master of all Europe, he would have had these resources. 

So Churchill, thinking with great speed and acuteness, calculated that the only future for Britain was as an American client. He was one of the few Englishmen who knew much about America. Unlike most British people of that age, he had travelled to the U.S. often, had many American friends, and understood the country’s culture and politics. That is why he had few illusions about throwing himself on Washington’s mercy, though even he would be surprised by the coldness of the charity he eventually got.

By the spring of 1940, Britain had almost no money left, and it would soon be completely stripped of its life savings, as the American sheriffs came in to check that there was no gold hidden under the national mattress. Congress insisted on this before agreeing to the supposedly selfless and generous Lend Lease Act, whose official title (HR 1776) was a mocking thumb in the old colonial master’s eye. At one stage Churchill had to be persuaded by diplomats not to send a furious letter complaining about this humiliating means test.

But there was a reason for this. Britain’s World War I debt to America was still unpaid (shockingly, it is still unpaid to this day), and there were plenty in the House and the Senate who remembered this all too well. They also remembered the skilled but misleading British propaganda of 1914 and afterwards, which had persuaded many Americans that the war against the Kaiser was a crusade against unspeakable barbarism. Never in human history has the parable of the boy who cried wolf been more accurately borne out.

This time, there would be a reckoning. If we in Britain wanted American help, we must accept American desires. To stay in the war, Britain must cease forever to be an empire and independent world power. Of course this prospect was far better than the alternative. Churchill had the global and historical understanding to grasp this fact, and enough American in him to reckon that America’s chilly mercy would be better than Germany’s smiling triumph.

This story is largely unknown to this day in Britain, where a childish fable of brotherhood and love is widely believed. I would welcome a motion picture that finally dispelled this twaddle and introduced British public opinion to the grown-up world. In this world, the Finest and Darkest Hours were in fact reluctant but necessary steps down the crumbling staircase of national decline. They would end with our far-called navies melting away, our power and wealth gone, our government in the hands of the European Union, and the force and mind of our culture all too accurately represented by Sid Vicious and Joe Orton.

I would go farther, and point out that the 1939 conflict was a war of choice, on poor ground and at a bad time, which we then lost in all but name, handing it over to others—the USA and the USSR—to finish in ways that did not much suit us. Oddly enough it was Lord Halifax, portrayed in Darkest Hour as a feeble peacemonger, who had actively maneuvered us into a war with Germany ten days after Hitler had signed a pact with Stalin which completely undermined our whole strategy.

All this matters, above all, because the mistaken belief that the war was fought to save the Jews of Europe (which we failed to do) or “stand up to tyranny” (which cannot accurately describe handing half of Europe to Stalin) still haunts the national and international mind. And by doing so it feeds new and dangerous adventures, such as the catastrophic invasion of Iraq. Yet a film that told the truth about it, even now, would not just fail to win applause. It would probably provoke angry walk-outs.

Unemployment Has Gone Up

But never mind. Let's all bang on about Jeremy Corbyn and things that never happened.

Whatever Happened To Kelvin Hopkins?

He denies everything, and he has certainly never been accused of assaulting anyone, so why is no one rallying round the first Labour MP to have signed Jeremy Corbyn's nomination papers for Leader? What differentiates this man who campaigned for Leave from Brendan Cox or Justin Forsyth?

Bumps On The Head

Is the NRA really going to oppose a ban on bump stocks, and do so even in opposition to President Trump? Really? I mean, really?

From Current Occasion

Period Pains

Of course the "transition period" will last more than two years. It will last however long the transition takes. The transition in question being transition back into the EU. With no referendum.

On immigration, all that is going to happen is a registration scheme of the kind that already exists in several EU member-states. If you move to, for example, Belgium, and thus to Brussels, from another EU country, then you already have to go through the kind of registration that is proposed for anyone who moved to Britain from an EU country after Britain had supposedly left the EU. That's it.

The members of the European Research Group need to face the fact that, when even David Davis and Michael Gove do not care what they think, then nobody does. There are those who support Brexit for the Morning Star's reasons, and there are those who do not really support Brexit at all. But there is no Third Way. If you are a Third Way person, then you are an unperson. You do not exist. If you do not believe me, then ask David Davis or Michael Gove. They would tell you. They have already told you.

By the way, today's list of unpersons is replete, as is the Government, with people who were fanatically devoted to Pinochet's Chile and to apartheid South Africa at the time when Jeremy Corbyn may or may not have been in the same room as a man who now claims to have organised Live Aid on behalf of the intelligence agency of Czechoslovakia. At that time, this country had a Prime Minister who was campaigning for an all-white state in South Africa, a far more extreme position than was ever taken by the apartheid regime itself.

One of the most fanatical of all asked a Question to the Prime Minister this afternoon. Bob Blackman blocked the Freedom of the London Borough of Brent for Nelson Mandela, he fought through the courts to stop an acknowledgement that that proposal had received a simple majority even if not the necessary two thirds, and he now battles for the legal right to engage in caste-based discrimination, which the last Labour Government outlawed, but which this lot has relegalised. In such good causes, he serves on the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, as well as on the Procedure Committee and on the Backbench Business Committee.

Even Andrew Neil has baldly announced on air that Corbyn's fabled Stasi file does not exist, so that is clearly the view of all three of the Government, the spooks and the Conservative Party. The only story here is "dying newspapers smear the man who wants to make their billionaire proprietors pay some tax". And even that is not much of a story. It is not really a story at all.

What is very much a story, however, is that the "transition period" will last more than two years. It will last however long the transition takes. The transition in question being transition back into the EU. With no referendum. Let's talk about that.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Libel Watch: Day 10

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Burnt Afrin

Turkey on one side, the United States on the other. We need to get the hell out of NATO, before it gets us into hell.

Finger Lickin' Good?

I had chicken last night. Colonel Sanders could have had some of mine, if he had asked. But as it is, the food shortages in Britain are being reported in Venezuela. It is rarely reported here, but this country has been internationally known for food poverty for quite some years now.

Non Vos Sed Nos

And still they bang on about Agent COB and all that. The audience at the EFF Manufacturing Conference, hotbed of Stalinism that it is known to be, has just booed the Daily Mail for asking about this "story".

There were loud cheers and applause from that most Conservative-supporting of audiences, or so one would have assumed until today, when Jeremy Corbyn said that he was sorry that the Daily Mail was reduced to following up nonsense from The Sun.

None of this should come as any surprise. Favourable cultural depictions of Margaret Thatcher, or indeed of Tony Blair, simply do not exist. The Miners' Strike has always been ubiquitous, only ever from the NUM's point of view; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are now in much the same position, only ever written by the Stop the War Coalition, or as good as.

The IRA has become the stuff of sitcom. Yes, sitcom. And everyone, of every generation, now assumes that the Cold War was an imaginative backdrop invented by Ian Fleming. Any exceptions are treated as if they thought that Game of Thrones were real. That's the way it is. Get used to it.

Jan Sarkocy is not a fantasist. He is simply a liar. But Anthony Glees, although an old friend of Neil Clark's, and that is always a point in anyone's favour, is truly deluded. Sarkocy does not believe that he organised Live Aid on behalf of the StB. He merely says that he did. Glees, on the other hand, sincerely believes every word that he says, just as he sincerely believes that he can set up something called "the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies" and people will think that he is James Bond.

Yet a university hosts that Centre. And there is no point mocking Buckingham as a curious 1980s throwback, a commercial entity conferring bought-and-paid-for certificates on anyone with the readies (which university is not like that these days?), and Professorial rank for media purposes on ageing New Right cranks. After all, the Ulster Centre for Social Research and its Mankind Quarterly are based at the perfectly respectable University of Ulster, while the London Conference on Intelligence is held at the world class University College London.

We can all, however, play that game. The title of this post will be understood by certain regular readers. It is the motto of UCL, University College Lanchester, of which I am Master. In that capacity, I confer at my pleasure the doctoral degree of DLindsay, of which the first holders are Dr Oliver Kamm, Dr Alison Saunders, Dr Dr Damian Thompson, and Councillor Dr Dr Simon Henig. Citations are to follow.

In all seriousness, it is very high time for something, perhaps electing to Associateship everyone who submitted an essay to the satisfaction of each member of a Fellowship that had been drawn from a range of the fields and disciplines that were capable of furnishing the alternative to failed neoliberal economic policy and to failed neoconservative foreign policy. The successful essays would be published. Watch this space.

For What They Are

Tom Watson writes:

Over the past week some Tory-supporting publications have published a string of completely false and ridiculous smears, calling Labour politicians traitors and linking them with Soviet bloc spies. Let’s call these stories out for what they are – propaganda, not journalism. They are not worth the paper they are written on.

The source for these stories is a man who claims Czechoslovakian security services set up Live Aid. Documents do not substantiate his wild claims. In fact, the director of the Czech security forces archive says that historic records show the opposite to what he claims; that Jeremy Corbyn was not a “collaborator” and that the Czech official he met deliberately concealed his true identity. 

Unfortunately, printing stories based on discredited sources, without any evidence, that are completely denied by the subjects of the articles, is not even a new development. We’ve seen it all before over the many years in which the right-wing press has done everything it can to discredit the Labour Party 

Neil Kinnock was vilified by the Tory press when he was Labour leader, but even he conceded the treatment of Ed Miliband by some papers represented a new low. It wasn’t enough for the Daily Mail to attack him or his policies, it decided to run a double-page spread labelling Miliband’s late father, who served in the Royal Navy, “the man who hated Britain”. 

The screeching vitriol from the majority of the press that greeted Corbyn’s election as leader was unsurprising – but even those of us most acclimatised to their baseless, biased and politicised attacks were shocked to read the 13 pages of furious and demented anti-Labour coverage the day before last year’s general election, which labelled Labour “apologists for terror”.

Unfortunately for these newspapers, the years of slurs, of stretching the truth to breaking point, of completely one-sided reporting, may be creeping up on them. They do not wield the power they once did, their circulations are falling and people simply don’t trust them anymore. The Sun, which was one of the main proponents of this week’s ridiculous story, was rated least trustworthy of all major news sources in a survey carried out by Ipsos Mori at the end of last year.

There is no doubt that social media platforms such as Facebook are disrupting the news industry. But they are not the only reason so many papers are struggling. Too many proprietors point the finger at Facebook and Google and blame the tech giants for their own commercial problems. But the handful of proprietors who control 71 per cent of the national newspaper market need to face up to the fact that they have spent years undermining decent journalism in the UK by pursuing a partisan approach to news.

Some have accused Labour of mounting an “attack on the press” for describing these baseless smears as what they are. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are right to criticise poor journalism because it undermines good reporting – and we make no apologies for doing so. Newspaper proprietors in this country abuse their power. It’s a unique kind of self-harm for a newspaper to print a story they know is poorly sourced, decide to run it regardless because it suits their political agenda, and pass it off as news. 

There are many reasons for declining newspaper circulation but there can be no doubt the public is beginning to tire of the fact that too many papers routinely present smears, lies and innuendo as facts.

Blundering Into A Hot War

Tim Black writes: 

ISIS may have retreated to the insurgent fringes of Syrian life, but the chaos and the conflict in Syria show no sign of approaching a resolution. If anything, it looks more chaotic now than before, when ISIS, as the enemy of both Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government and the US-led coalition, provided a common enemy. 

And now? The conflict still rages, but more chaotically, more confusingly. Yet it’s a chaos with definite shapes emerging, a chaos out of which is emerging ever clearer and often overlapping lines of conflict, between proxy forces, and between their international backers, sometimes alongside each other, sometimes against each other. 

The fatally internationalised nature of the Syrian conflict, dragging myriad external actors into play, is no longer latent; it is manifest, and it is dangerous, lacking geopolitical coherence (what is the US doing there?), making it even more unpredictable. Syria is no longer simply deluged by proxy militias pursuing obscure objectives; it has itself become a proxy site for international tensions to play themselves out. 

So over the past week, two regional powers showed their hands (and anxiety) when the Israeli and Iranian states openly confronted each other over their objectives within Syria. Israel sent fighter planes into Syria to target what it says are Iranian assets, which will be used to aid the Iran-backed anti-Israel Shia militia, Hezbollah.

Iran then responded by shooting down an Israeli fighter plane over Syria, and sending a drone into Israeli territory, a move that prompted Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accuse Iran of ‘putting a noose of terror around our neck’, before threatening what sounded like war with Iran.

But as destabilising as the Iran-v-Israel antagonism now being pursued through Syria undoubtedly is, it is nothing compared to the warming cold war now being fought in Syria between Russia and the US, who are, lest it be forgotten, still the world’s two leading military superpowers. 

Two weeks ago, an unofficial Russian military force, said to be mercenaries working for Russian military contractors Wagner, made a bid for control of a set of oil facilities near Deir Ezzor in north-eastern Syria. The US-backed Syrian Defence Forces, consisting in the main of Kurdish military units, responded with missile strikes and an airborne assault, as the Russian forces tried to cross the Euphrates to the towns of Khusham and Salihiya. 

Details are sketchy, with both US defense secretary Jim Mattis and Russian officials opting for vague talk of rogue mercenary forces, although both admitted that these ‘rogue’ forces were Russian. Officially, Russia has downplayed the incident, claiming only a handful of Russians died. But unofficial reports suggest that as many as 200 Russian soldiers (mercenary or not) were killed, which, if true, makes this the most lethal face-off between Russian and US forces since the end of the Cold War.

Indeed, whichever way it is spun, it shows that the US and Russia are not simply trading PR blows on social media, but real blows on Syrian territory. Despite the attempt to paint it as a near accidental conflict between an independent military contractor and US-backed forces, it seems likely that the Russian state was fully cognisant of what the Wagner troops were doing.

As Bloomberg reports: ‘One of [Wagner’s] leaders, Dmitry Utkin, is a former lieutenant colonel in Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU. He and the firm have been closely tied to the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s chef” because he owns the Kremlin’s food-service providers.’ 

At one level, it shows how the collapse of the Syrian state, initially in the midst of a popular revolt in 2011, and then in the face of a US-led international assault on Assad, dragged in international actors to pursue their own conflicting and, in the case of the US and the UK, uncertain objectives. 

So we now have a situation where Russia is seemingly deploying non-state Russian forces to realise material and political objectives (the seizure of oil facilities, and the stabilisation of the Assad regime); while US-backed forces are pursuing their own ambitions – in this case, the consolidation of SDF and, therefore Kurdish, gains, at the same time as preventing Assad’s government forces from reasserting territorial control. 

But, at another level, we have something much more worrying going on: a blundering, rather than a race, into a hot war between the US and Russia.

And it’s blundering because, on the part of both the Trump and Putin administrations, there seems little conscious appetite for a conflict. Hence Russia is fighting in Syria using mercenaries – which allows for a degree of plausible deniability when things go wrong – and Mattis is happy to back up the Russian state’s version of events. 

Moreover, Russia has not made a big deal of the loss of Russian citizens. If it really wanted consciously to enter into open conflict with the US, this incident would have been a good opportunity to do so. But the blundering has a twofold dimension. 

First, America’s own use of non-US-army, proxy forces in Syria makes their actions less planned, less predictable. They can frequently, as many have done, pursue their own objectives, even if that brings the US into conflict with, in this case, Russia.

And, second, there is the broader anti-Russian mood among Western policymakers and pundits, which frames events like this battle between Russian mercenaries and US-backed forces in terms of Russian aggression and imperial ambition. So the fact that the Russians killed were working for a military contractor is painted as something deeply, deeply suspicious, complete with said contractor’s connections to Russia’s supposedly gangster-like oligarchy. 

Moreover, it is proof once again, so the narrative runs, of just how deeply involved in Syria Russia really is, of how it is Russia fuelling the conflict, of how it is Russia fighting proxy battles on behalf of the supposedly chemical-weapons-using Assad. 

That this is a misleading, one-sided narrative hardly needs to be said. But just recall for one moment that not only has the US had a history of outsourcing military responsibility to contractors, most infamously Blackwater; it has also been outsourcing military responsibility in Syria to an array of dubious, often Islamist militias. 

The covert CIA-run programme, known as ‘Timber Sycamore’, which then president Barack Obama approved in 2013, trained, armed and paid thousands of insurgents who, more often than not, returned to Syria from America’s Jordanian training bases to fight their own conflicts, sometimes arm in arm with al-Qaeda affiliates. 

Trump may have closed the programme in 2017 on the grounds of its ineffectiveness – with an estimated $1billion spent – but its impact continues to shape Syria in unpredictable ways. Russia may be using a mercenary army to carry out certain strategic objectives, but the US has used many mutually opposed mini-armies to carry out contradictory and unclear objectives. 

So, the US, which entered the Syrian conflict long before Russia did, is still just as deeply involved in Syria as Russia. But whereas Russia is at least pursuing its own narrow, geopolitical interests, the US approach has lacked coherence and purpose. And that makes it all the more dangerous.

Not just because the groups that the US has backed are so numerous and divergent that they end up fighting at cross purposes, prolonging and exacerbating the Syrian conflict. But also because, in the absence of a clear strategic objective – and the defeat of Assad is neither realistic nor rational – there is nothing to stop US forces blundering into a hot war with Russia. 

And this is something that becomes ever more likely for as long as Russia is painted as the sinister, driving force of the Syrian conflict, rather than one of those international players sucked in by America’s initial intervention back in the summer of 2011. Russia wants the stability of an Assad-ruled Syria. What exactly does the US want?

Brexit To The Max

There are those who want Brexit for the reasons that I do. Several of those reasons appeared as policy commitments in last year's Labour manifesto, because Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell had been campaigning for them since the Year Dot.

And then there are those who want Brexit for the sake of what, astonishingly, David Davis himself now calls, "a Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction." Those are his words for everything that the anti-EU New Right has advocated ever since there first came to be an anti-EU New Right in the twilight of the Premiership that had given us the Single European Act in the face of unanimous Labour Opposition.

Having ruled out his own supporters' reasons for Brexit, and having done so quite abusively, Davis is left only with Corbyn's and McDonnell's reasons. In which case, he should make way for Corbyn and McDonnell.

The New Law?

I fully agree with the desire to eradicate the genital mutilation of male infants.

The Protestant and Catholic leaders who are decrying this "attack on religious freedom" in Iceland need to explain exactly which aspect, either of historically Lutheran Liberal Protestantism, or of the Catholic Faith, is remotely comparable to it.

But whether the criminal law is the right means of ending it, is altogether a different question. Of that, I am very, very far from convinced.

Filing, Failing

If Jeremy Corbyn has this mysterious "Stasi file", then why was he put on the Privy Council while Theresa May was Home Secretary?

Monday, 19 February 2018

Libel Watch: Day Nine

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Only Too Open And Transparent

This is just embarrassing.

We have a Prime Minister who, even while effectively conceding that Jeremy Corbyn has been right all along about tuition fees, seeks to deflect from that staggering admission by lining up with complete fantasists such as Jan Sarkocy, who claims that Czechoslovak intelligence organised Live Aid, and Anthony Glees, whose barking mad book on the Stasi even the CIA dismissed as "unintelligible".

Give it up, Theresa May. Give it up.

In From The Cold

I had never quite thought of this, but it is obvious now that I have. Regardless of age, next to no one in Britain quite believes that there ever was a Cold War. It is seen as the background to James Bond films, and that is it.

To be an exception to this, to be altogether convinced that the Soviet Union was real at all, is to be marked out as the kind of person whom Geoffrey Palmer portrayed in Fairly Secret Army and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. A joke then, and a joke now. Rightly or wrongly, that is the case.

Incompetently dropped while Parliament was in recess, this "story" is really about Brexit. It is about replacing Jeremy Corbyn with a supporter of the Single Market and the Customs Union. That is also obvious, once you think of it. Thank goodness that the people behind it are so inept.

Save The Children

While the children of the working class are legally kidnapped on the tiniest, if any, pretext, the McCanns of the present age are Brendan Cox and Toby Young.

Both are self-confessed sexual assailants, and Young is also a self-confessed supplier of Class A drugs who consorts with at least one advocate of the rape of drugged children.

Yet each retains the care, and in Cox's case the sole care, of small children.

Not Fitting

No, you may not have cannabis oil on the NHS. If cannabis contains an active ingredient that is of benefit to Alfie Dingley, then that ingredient needs to be identified and prescribed. When you need aspirin, then you do not just go and ingest bark.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Farage's Farewell?

That forthcoming appearance on Question Time will either be valedictory for UKIP, or it will be valedictory for Nigel Farage himself. Then again, if it is the latter, then it will also be the former.

Telegraph From The Other Side

The Telegraph titles are now the most hilariously downmarket rags, picking up the Agent COB drivel and serving it to its only conceivable audience.

That is the institutionalised elderly who once strutted about in funny uniforms of their own devising as they noisily "plotted" to overthrow Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan.

Even all the other Telegraph readers, if there still are any, will laugh out loud at them now, just as they did then.

Found Wanting

If the cuddly faces of neoconservative foreign policy, such as Oxfam and possibly Save the Children, are no longer to receive public funding, then where is that money to go instead? I propose that it go to War on Want, instead of Wanting War.

Hurt and Offence

Specifically, the Jo Cox Foundation's funding of the White Helmets, which is hurtful and offensive to the point of mass murder.

The British Government's funding of the White Helmets, and of the "Free Syrian Police", ought to be diverted to our own emergency services.

You know what you have to do, brothers and sisters. You know what you have to do.

Fee Bargaining

We either fund the whole of higher education, all the way up to doctoral level. Or we charge fees at every stage of the process.

But in either event, apprentices and trainees must enjoy all the benefits afforded to their peers in further and higher education, and vice versa.

Notice that, even after the fall of Toby Young, this Government is still engaged in a most un-Tory attempt to dictate what universities should teach.

Turning The Tables

Of course all primary schools teach and test times tables, and always have done. How many more of these public school fantasies about state schools do we have to endure? As many as they can pack in before the next General Election, that's how many.

The Problem With Gavin Barwell

Grenfell Tower. Ignore anything else. His complicity in Grenfell Tower is what makes Gavin Barwell morally unfit for public life.

Trust and Responsibility

It's driving instructors now, is it? Much easier simply to raise the age of consent to 18.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Libel Watch: Day Eight

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

10 Years On

Kosovo is a complete nightmare. It is very high time to listen to the people who have been right all along about these things. One of whom stands a very high chance of becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

"A Broken Child"?

Nikolas Cruz is 19. Tamir Rice was 12. Make your minds up.

A New Campaign Patron

I am honoured and delighted, almost beyond words, to announce a new Patron of my Campaign. He is Davey Ayre of Stanley Crook, the Joint Secretary of Durham Trades Council (although he takes on this new role in a personal capacity) and a legend of the trade union movement, most recently in his stalwart and ongoing support for Durham County Council's Teaching Assistants.

Davey served for over 50 years as Secretary of the Crook Branch of UCATT, the construction workers' union, and he was blacklisted for life from the construction industry. He has attended my court hearings, and he has promised to do so again, if at all possible, on 11th April, should the forces of evil be so wicked and so stupid as to proceed with their action against me.

As a Campaign Patron, Davey joins Councillor Alex Watson OBE of Consett North, who served for many years as the Executive Leader of Derwentside District Council. Meanwhile, George Galloway has never formally resigned the position. He needs to come to terms with the fact that he is never going to be let back into the Labour Party. But let us not be distracted. Welcome, Davey Ayre. I am honoured and delighted, almost beyond words.

Aux Armes, Citoyens

Of course Emmanuel Macron is bringing back compulsory military service. In the mercifully unlikely event of a restored Thatcherite or Blairite Government in Britain, then that would happen here, too. A century after the First World War, there is no excuse for a continued failure to see that Liberalism is inherently militaristic.

Throughout the First World War, Britain still had a Liberal Government. It stood alongside the French Radicals against the German National Liberals. British Liberalism, French Radicalism and German Liberalism were not, and are not, exactly the same thing. But there was, and there is, a pronounced family resemblance. And they all have the same enemies, just as they did a hundred years ago.

The principle of National Liberalism, of the singular mission of a particular Great Power to conform the world to the Liberal vision even by the force or arms, was not in dispute. The only dispute was as to which Great Power had been entrusted with that mission. But there was a Germany before Unification, and even as part of Unification Germany had to retain many decidedly pre-Enlightenment features. There was a France before the Revolution, and anyone may still see all manner of aspects of her. We all know about the United Kingdom and her predecessor-states.

In the end, of course, only one Great Power, and arguably only one political entity at all, has ever been founded specifically as the Liberal one, expansionist and interventionist accordingly. The expansionist and interventionist wars of recent decades have brought out strains of both conservative and left-wing opposition in that country, often alongside each other. But they need to acknowledge that they are fundamentally opposed to that country's founding ideology itself.

Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity?

The FBI was too busy pursuing this "Putin Dun It" drivel on behalf of Hillary Clinton to bother keeping tabs on an armed and dangerous neo-Nazi in Florida.

No More Kicks In The Teeth

The cost of NHS dentistry is obscene. If they do not have to put up with eye and dental charges, or prescription charges, or hospital car parking charges in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, then we do not have to put up with them here. You know what you have to do, brothers and sisters. You know what you have to do.

Allotted Places

On Jeremy Corbyn and Czechoslovakia, as well as the equally vanished East Germany and the Soviet Union, see here. In 1989, he was one of only five British MPs to support those countries' striking workers against their governments.

Of course Gavin Williamson knows that drivel about how Corbyn engaged in decades of Bond villainy from his allotment will not be taken seriously by any serious person. But not everyone is a serious person.

Tiny though the number of ageing Red Alert veterans and wannabes is, that is the body that would elect the next Leader of the Conservative Party, in the unlikely event that any such election were ever permitted to be held.

As a staunch Remainer, and as the man who knows all about everyone else's sex lives, Williamson expects to be the only duly nominated candidate. But he is hedging his bets, just in case.

That is all that this is. But this is what it is.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Libel Watch: Day Seven

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Hard-Headed Common Sense

On this day, 15 years ago, I joined about one million others in central London to march against the impending Iraq war. We were not just part of the biggest political demonstration in British history, but the largest simultaneous protest event in the world, with millions marching in every continent. We gathered in Hyde Park and heard many famous voices speaking out against the war, from Labour politician Tony Benn to playwright Harold Pinter.

When Jeremy Corbyn took the stage, he too was a familiar face to all peace march veterans and Islington residents like myself, but less so to other members of the crowd. But his words stirred the souls of everyone present. He asked why we could afford to spend billions on a war nobody wanted while children around the world were dying of poverty and starvation. And he warned of the risks in invading Iraq: “It will set off a spiral of conflict, of hate, of misery and of desperation that will fuel the wars, the conflict, the terrorism, the depression and misery of future generations.” 

How terrifyingly right he was. And again when he made the same arguments in respect of Libya and Syria. In the 2011 debate on Libya, as a backbencher under Ed Miliband, Corbyn warned: “We have not thought through the implications of what we are doing.” I for one should have listened, rather than obeying the Labour three-line whip. 

And as party leader, his speech in the 2015 Syria debate – pilloried by the Tory government and Labour critics at the time – now reads like the cries of Cassandra. Corbyn warned that with no credible Syrian opposition forces, no long-term strategy and no plan for a political settlement, the refugee crisis and civilian casualties would only grow, and mission creep was inevitable.

“Is it right,” he asked, “for us here in Westminster to see a problem, pass a motion and drop bombs, pretending we are doing something to solve it? That is what we did in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. To oppose another war and intervention is not pacifism; it is hard-headed common sense.” Instead, he said, all Britain’s efforts should be directed to producing a peaceful and just political settlement to the war. More than two years on, that goal is further away than ever, even though the justification for the US-led coalition’s intervention in Syria – denying Islamic State a haven – was achieved months ago. 

Just in the past four weeks, we have seen unprecedented levels of escalation, aggression and land-grabbing by the competing foreign powers enmeshed in this terrible war. he US announces plans for an “open-ended” occupation of northern Syria; Turkey launches a brutal assault on Kurdish-held areas; Russian and coalition bombers trade devastating blows against each other’s proxy armies; Israel launches its biggest air strikes inside Syria for 36 years in response to Iran sending a drone across its borders; and the Gulf states continue to feed money and weapons to the dwindling opposition and jihadist militias. 

Needless to say, none of these acts have been justified by reference to international law or a UN mandate; they are instead what always happens when the world order ceases to apply and wars of intervention become a global free-for-all. That is not just mission creep, it is mission explosion. Ask the British government how our own personnel are involved in current efforts and you get obfuscation. Ask what they are doing to help stop this awful slaughter and you just get a shrug. The Tories have long since abdicated any pretension of principled global leadership. 

And what is bitterly depressing about the situation in Syria is this: it may be the prelude to something unimaginably worse. Iran is nine times the size of Syria, with a population three-and-a-half times as big as Syria’s before the war. This month, the New York Times published an important comment piece accusing the Donald Trump administration of employing exactly the same playbook used before the Iraq war to manufacture a pretext for battle with Iran. It estimated coldly that such a conflict would be “10 to 15 times worse than the Iraq war in terms of casualties and costs”. 

This was not written by some anti-war campaigner like Seymour Hersh or Bernie Sanders, but by Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to US secretary of state Colin Powell. Wilkerson warned simply: “I helped sell the false choice of war once; it’s happening again.” In other words, the only lesson Trump and his colleagues have learned from Iraq, Libya and Syria is not how catastrophic military interventions can be, but how best to market them. 

Millions of us marched with Corbyn 15 years ago. And make no mistake – we may soon need to march with him again. Or better still, we can put him in office the first chance we get and finally have a British prime minister committed to the vision he offered that Hyde Park crowd: “To live in a world free from war.”

"The Worst Prime Minister In Living Memory"?

Theresa May, for all her many faults, is only the third worst Prime Minister of this century's four so far. Simply by not starting a war (although she is highly complicit in Yemen), she is better than either David Cameron or Tony Blair was.

Blair and Cameron both won overall majorities, but their respective successors, who did not, have still proved to be better Prime Ministers. State educated children of small town clerics, they have tried valiantly to clear up the mess left by the Flashmen who preceded them.

Directly Back To War

The DUP wants Ministers to be appointed at Westminster, to take on the responsibilities that are not being exercised at Stormont. Of course, they mean themselves, which would create a formal Coalition. But DUP Ministers exercising direct rule from Westminster, and that at a time when the Border might be going back up, would start the war all over again. I do not say that lightly.

Despite having an overall majority, Gordon Brown wanted to make Paddy Ashdown Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Tony Blair did put Ashdown on a Cabinet Committee. Remember that, when certain people squeal and squeal and squeal that I intend to have Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Independents on my constituency staff, and that people from across the political spectrum (in practice, mostly the Left and the Old Right) will participate in the use of my Westminster office as a national and international centre for the formulation, articulation and implementation of the alternative to neoliberal economic policy and to neoconservative foreign policy.

I am moving away from my uncharacteristic agnosticism about Proportional Representation, even if I am still not convinced as to any specific alternative to First Past the Post, and even though I can still see the problems with all of them. If this country does not like coalitions, then it has a very funny way of manifesting that dislike. Two of the last three General Elections have resulted in hung Parliaments.

First Past the Post is giving us coalitions, anyway, and it is going to continue to do so. But what of Ministers from a party that would lose its deposit in any constituency in England, Scotland or Wales? People who did not like the last Coalition could punish the Liberal Democrats for it, and they did. (For some reason, they did not also punish the Conservatives for it. I cannot understand why not.) But the huge majority of the electorate has no means of punishing the DUP.

Czech Your Facts

Or you end up looking as stupid as this.

Death At The Writs

Oliver Kamm is facing humiliation in the High Court at the hands of the great Neil Clark. In his "defence", Kamm has cited Neil's retweeting of me, saying that my Twitter feed contains "numerous antisemitic and homophobic tweets". So Neil's is not necessarily the last writ that he will ever receive.

Meanwhile, remember that the ongoing criminal action against me (for so it is, although I meet people every day who assume that it has been dropped) has been directly organised by Kamm, complete with a Times report that was strikingly heavy on insider information. He can share Simon Henig's cell for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

A Brexit-Free Question Time

By popular demand, apparently. The sheer boredom of the electorate with this whole subject was already evident even before the referendum. And now, UKIP is about to go bust. But then, you always could win the Leadership of that with too few votes to have won some inner city council seats. Think on.

Calling Them Up, Calling Them Out

If 74 per cent of the over-65s want to bring back National Service, then tell them to do some. National Service ended 58 years ago, so no one under the age of about 75 has ever done it. And only men did post-War National Service, anyway. Tell those three quarters of elderly women to sign up, if they think that it is such a good idea. After all, they never had the chance at the time.

Former members of the Armed Forces comprise a large part of the Conservative Party's active membership, but they comprise a tiny part of the population at large. That is an overlooked fact among those who find Jeremy Corbyn's 40 per cent of the vote incomprehensible. The last men were called up in 1960, so hardly anyone has ever been in the Armed Forces. It is just that a lot of them are Conservative activists, and that a lot of Conservative activists are them.

This suggestion does, however, feed into the same strategy as that Agent COB business which, since the BBC never picked it up, never happened. That, like the rather vigorous policing of demonstrations, is how Britain works. Welcome to our world.

Anyone who might ever have considered voting Labour in a million years either will not hear about this carry on over somewhere called Czechoslovakia, or will not believe it, or will not care about it. But the Conservatives are down to quite this sort of core vote strategy: people who are not only over 65 (often by quite a bit), but off-the-chart right-wing with it. Wrongly, but very interestingly, they have given up even trying to persuade anyone else to vote for them.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Libel Watch: Day Six

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Cruisers and Parity

It is the kind of thing that only children believe, that countries have "Special Relationships" because they speak the same language, or have relatively similar institutions, or even have populations of mostly common ancestry (which in any case Britain and the United States have not had since the nineteenth century, just as, for example, Britain and Australia no longer have). Was that true of German-speaking Europe before any of the Unifications? Well, there you are, then. And, as Peter Hitchens writes:

I am terribly bored by the EU issue, which seems to me to be shadow-boxing while the two sides work out how much strength they really have, and can realistically use, and the negotiations move slowly towards the final weeks in which all will necessarily be resolved in a messy and unexciting compromise. So let us have some history instead.

I am constantly fascinated and appalled by the pseudo-religion which now surrounds the late Sir Winston Churchill, especially in the United States. A US Navy destroyer is named after him (though as USS Winston S. Churchill, not USS Sir Winston Churchill).

An entire Wren Church, St Mary Aldermanbury, destroyed in the London Blitz, has been transported piece by piece to Fulton, Missouri, and re-erected there in his memory. Outside that Church is one of many more or less frightful sculptures of the great man, graven images which dot the Land of the Free.

Not to mention the famous bust which sometimes is, and sometimes is not, kept in the Oval Office in the White House. Though quite why we should be pleased to see it there, I do not myself know, having observed the chilly non-existence of the ‘Special Relationship’ at close quarters in 1990-95. 

Actually, Churchill was not especially sentimental about the USA, a country he knew far better than most British politicians, from many visits over many years, and also because his mother was American. I believe he understood perfectly well, in 1940, that his decision to fight on would make us, thereafter, an American vassal state. I also believe he quite rightly believed this better than the alternative, which would have been, at best, a dingy future as a played-out and disarmed empire on the fringe of a Europe controlled by either Hitler or Stalin, or perhaps both of them.

While researching my forthcoming book The Phoney Victory, I was looking for a quotation I had recently seen but not noted, from Clementine Churchill, in which, as I recall, she warned him against hoping for too much from the Americans. I couldn’t find it. But I did find two other interesting quotations.

One was a 1927 Cabinet memorandum, in which the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was discussing American attempts to build up their Navy’s cruiser fleet to rival Britain’s. Churchill, who had actually been on US soil in 1895 when a very bitter dispute broke out between the two countries over the Venezuelan border with what was then British Guiana, had no illusions about the two countries being naturally friendly.

He wrote, ‘We do not wish to put ourselves in the power of the United States. We cannot tell what they might do if at some future date they were in a position to give us orders about our policy, say, in India, or Egypt, or Canada, or on any other great matter behind which their electioneering forces were marshalled.’ (Quoted in Churchill and America, Martin Gilbert, Free Press (Simon and Schuster) London and NY 2005, p. 104. The source is ‘Cruisers And Parity’, Cabinet Memorandum 20 July 1927, Cabinet Papers.)

Of course, Churchill knew perfectly well that the USA would, once it had the power, use it to ease us out of all these spheres. Which it duly did. The thing that remains in doubt is this. Had Britain been more careful about when and how it entered a European war after Munich, would its power and wealth have survived for longer? Or was our rapid decline into insignificance, which has dominated my own lifetime, inevitable?

Churchill's assumed ‘shoulder to shoulder’ view of the USA was also not wholehearted during the 1940 crisis. His close aide John ‘Jock’ Colville recorded him growling, on 19th May 1940, ‘Here’s a telegram for those bloody Yankees!’ (Gilbert p. 186, Gilbert's note refers to Colville Papers for 19th May 1940).

Churchill’s worshippers may believe in a sentimental Special Relationship. Their hero was far too clever and well-informed to do so.

15 Years On

15 years ago today, there was the largest demonstration that Britain has ever seen. It was addressed by Jeremy Corbyn. Sadly, everything has come true that was predicted by those who marched against the Iraq War, and many others of us who were unable to join them.

That includes the prediction that there would be further such misadventures, every one of which has also been opposed by Corbyn, as he had also opposed their precursors in Kosovo and Afghanistan. In all fairness to Theresa May, while she has failed to oppose any of those wars, those who say that she is the worst Prime Minister in living memory need to face the fact that she has yet to start any, either.

Always at the front of the Start the War Coalition, however, is The Sun, which today indicated that the Conservatives were down to a core vote strategy, the core in question being people who thought that Czechoslovakia still existed, and who still used the word "Commie".

Our governing party clearly believes that if the 1970s National Frontists and private militia types in the nursing homes are not going to vote for it next time, then no one is. But the Conservatives are wrong about that. There is going to be another hung Parliament. You know what you have to do, brothers and sisters. You know what you have to do.

The Blunt Question

Exactly what could Jeremy Corbyn have told a Soviet Bloc spy that that Bloc's own people at the very heart of MI5, MI6 and even the Royal Households, as well as at least one Minister in the Thatcher Government, could not? Call that The Blunt Question.

The Patience of Angels

"Just you wait," a wise man told me soon after the Angel of the North was built amidst huge controversy. "Within a few years, they'll all love it, it will be on tea towels for tourists and everything, and they'll deny that they were ever against it." On this twentieth anniversary of the Angel of the North, he was even more right than he knew.

Mind Your Language

"Catholic equals Nationalist equals at least aspirantly Irish-speaking", whereas "Protestant equals Unionist equals militantly non-Irish-speaking"? That whole thesis is contrary to the plain facts of history.

Whereas early Nationalist leaders were often highly scornful of the Irish language as a bar to progress, no small contribution to saving it was made by eccentric Anglo-Irish grandees and enthusiastic Protestant clergymen, staunchly Unionist in most cases.

Douglas Hyde, the son of a County Sligo rector and born in an Ascendancy "Big House", became the first President of the Republic while remaining an observant Protestant, a dedicated Irish-speaker and educator in that medium, and an adherent to a political position fundamentally Unionist rather than Nationalist, which was probably why Fine Gael, pushed into declaring a republic by a coalition partner, gave him the job.

Sinn Féin may be creating a network of publicly-funded Irish-medium schools in order to banish the Catholic Church from the education, first of the Green side in the Six Counties, and then of almost everyone in the Twenty-Six.

But at least as sterling, in its way, was the work done for the language by the late Reverend Dr Eric Culbertson, country parson in County Tyrone, Honorary Clerical Vicar Choral of Armagh Cathedral (not the Catholic one), Deputy Grand Chaplain of the Orange Order, member of the Council of the Evangelical Protestant Society, and outspoken critic of the Good Friday and Saint Andrews Agreements. He stood in a long, long line.

Not that Sinn Féin wants an Irish Language Act for that reason. It wants one because thousands of Sinn Féin voters and members would have to employed in order to enforce such a thing. But hey, ho. The normalisation of politics, indeed.

In The Rough

A rough sleeper who was a regular sight outside Westminster Tube station has been found dead there, practically on Parliament's doorstep.

Why is there any other news than that?

Where Is The Daley Lady?

Can you see who is missing from this photograph?

Stale PIE Famine Relief?

I am glad that we are witnessing the ongoing collapse of neoliberal, neoconservative Big Charity. 

That is the the world of Bernard Kouchner and his acceptance of the position of Foreign Minister under Nicolas Sarkozy. That is the world of Brendan Cox and his use of his late wife's Foundation to fund the White Helmets. That is the world that talks of "sex work" and which takes a hazy view of ages of consent, not least because it makes so much money out of abortion.

But none of this would be a story, several years after the events, if Oxfam had not criticised what is now the staggering level of poverty in Britain. I know how these things work.

I have spent more than 20 years, since I was (just) still in my teens and had never seen the Internet, trying to get the story out about Harriet Harman and the Paedophile Information Exchange. I have paid a terrible journalistic and political price for it, but I have no regrets.

Media that always knew about it simply ignored the whole thing, banning me from their websites and what have you, until a period of no more than two weeks when they needed to distract attention from Patrick Rock. Normal service was rapidly resumed, and it has continued ever since.

And now, the plan is advancing to make Harman the next Speaker of the House of Commons. The only outside chance of stopping that is to put the only person who would dare to mention her past, me, into the House of Commons. Please give generously. Very many thanks.

Off The COB

It was in fact Michael Stewart, the Foreign Secretary under Harold Wilson during the escalation of American military action in Vietnam, who was a paid agent of a foreign power. As was Sam Watson, the General Secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, in the days when the CIA considered it worth recruiting the holder of that office.

Watson conspired to close pits, he opposed all local strikes, he supported the sacking of his own due-paying members, and he secured for the Durham miners the lowest wages in the country, a situation that was not rectified until the strikes of 1972 and 1974. But there is a room named after him in the Knesset building, which is not the kind of honour that is conferred on a casual acquaintance. So that’s all right, then. Isn’t it?

There is something quite charming about the people who tried to bang on about the IRA and all that, which went on well into the 1990s yet which 40 per cent of the electorate has still either forgotten or never knew about, but who are now trying to bang on about the Cold War, which in that case may as well have happened a million years ago on the Moon. Good luck with that. You are the only people who care, and you were never going to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, anyway.

In seeking to smear Corbyn, The Sun relies on the expertise of the notorious Walter Mitty and fantasist, Anthony Glees. Glees’s only job is running a research centre that is obviously intended to give the impression of connections to, “security, I can say no more.” It is based at an institution that famously exists to confer Professorial rank for media purposes on ageing New Right cranks. I still hold a staff card at what is genuinely Britain’s spookiest university, and I know a fake when I see one.

What a far less hysterical time the Cold War was. Everyone with any sense knew that it was all lies. People who could not see that, including those who imagined that a threat of domestic revolution existed, were a joke even at the time. But we shall come back to them. The Soviet Union had neither the will nor the means to invade Western Europe, never mind the United States. It had no desire whatever for alternative centres of Communist power. It would in any case collapse under the weight of its own contradictions, exactly as and when it did.

Consider quite what Britain was like in those decades without the world’s coming to an end, or the United Kingdom’s constitutional order collapsing, or either party of government’s adopting Marxism-Leninism, or anything like that. The intelligence services were so riddled with Soviet agents from top to bottom that it was a standing joke even among the general public. Such penetration extended even to the Royal Households. As the exposure of two dead Ministers as Czechoslovak agents has demonstrated, it also extended to the very right-wing elements both of the Labour Party (John Stonehouse) and of the Conservative Party (Ray Mawby).

Professing oneself a Communist was always perfectly respectable at the very highest levels of British society, where it was treated as just another aristocratic eccentricity. Wogan Phillips, second Baron Milford, sat as a Communist in the House of Lords for 31 years until his death in 1993: throughout most of the 1960s, and throughout all of the 1970s and the 1980s. He still called himself a Communist even after the party had dissolved itself in 1991. Eric Hobsbawm ended up as a Companion of Honour, unlike either Tony Benn or even Michael Foot, despite the fact that that would have been the obvious gong for both of them. It is notable that, unlike the second Viscount Stansgate, the second Baron Milford never disclaimed his peerage.

In point of fact, the latter’s party was a moderating force, especially over and against sections of the Labour Left, which contained people whose views, Trotskyist and otherwise, were far more extreme. Throughout its history, the Communist Party of Great Britain was avowedly and actively opposed to a violent revolution in this country, holding, as Lenin had done, that its objectives could and should be attained wholly within and through the British constitutional and parliamentary process. By the 1970s, especially, by no means everyone on the Labour Left took that view. Most still did. But by no means all. And Labour had had a problem with Trotskyist infiltration for as long as there had been Trotskyists at all.

The CPGB was full of intelligence agents, but the intelligence agencies were full of Eastern Bloc agents, and so on, and on, and on, and on, and on. We shall never know the extent to which the turning of those wheels within wheels prevented or resolved industrial disputes, precluded those disputes’ escalation, and so on. Certainly, the CPGB was capable of highly fruitful co-operation with the trade union and Labour Right, much of which was very Right indeed and had all the British and American connections to match.

Compare and contrast the successful partnership between Mick McGahey and Joe Gormley in 1972 and 1974 (against a Conservative Prime Minister loathed by the overlapping worlds of MI5, MI6 and his party’s own right wing) with the failure of McGahey and Arthur Scargill in 1984 and 1985. The Communist had wanted to hold a national ballot, and had always remained open to compromise. He had wanted to reintegrate the UDM without rancour once, as he correctly predicted, its patrons had discarded it. He always called Scargill “that young man”, and he declined ever to write his memoirs or to authorise a biography, since “differences must remain within the family,” which said it all.

McGahey used to appear on things like Any Questions. He was as respectable as that. His union, with the closest ties of any to his party at home, and with an unmatched internationalist tradition stretching deep into the Soviet Bloc, effectively controlled around 85 per cent of the nation’s energy supply for many decades. It did not strike at all between 1926 and 1972, or between 1974 and 1984, an extremely unusual approach during those periods even for trade unionists with vastly less, quite literal, power.

The NUM was also a huge voting bloc at Labour Party Conferences, joined by the numerous Constituency Labour Parties that it effectively controlled. It sponsored enough MPs to make a significant difference, considering the normal size of Labour Governments’ majorities, if any, historically. For almost the whole of that period, only MPs had a vote in Leadership Elections. Look at the Leaders elected.

Like those on the mainstream Labour Left Tribune, certain staffers on the Morning Star were and are members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery and Lobby, as their Daily Worker predecessors also were. Such membership required and requires full security clearance to go about the Palace of Westminster, and Lobby membership gives access to twice-daily briefings by the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman. The Daily Worker and then the Morning Star participated in all of that throughout the Cold War, as did Tribune. Did the Realm fall? Well, there you are, then.

Joan Maynard managed to sit not only as a Labour MP but as a member of that party’s National Executive Committee while also, with several other MPs, on the Editorial Advisory Panel of Straight Left, a newspaper and a faction that had been set up because of the feeling that the Communist Party was going soft. In 1979. She served with distinction on the Agriculture Select Committee. Her Straight Left colleague James Lamond was on nothing less than the Public Accounts Committee. For many years, all of them under a Conservative Government and most of them under Margaret Thatcher, he was on the Speaker’s Panel, chairing Standing Committees of the House. Parliament survived.

Pat Wall sat as an MP while probably the single most important Trotskyist thinker in the world at the time. His fellow-Militant Dave Nellist won Spectator Backbencher of the Year. Mildred Gordon was an MP while the widow of a leading American Trotskyist and the wife of Trotsky’s bodyguard, who as her husband presumably held a House of Commons pass.

None of this is to condone any of those positions or factions. For example, the Communist Party could be violently anti-Catholic in the Scottish coalfields. There was also more than a touch of that, motivated in no small part by the Catholic backgrounds of many of the participants, to the activities of the Militant Tendency on Merseyside, and perhaps also in certain parts of London in those days. But all of it does provide some context.

Not least, it provides some context to the most uncritically spook-dependent British Government of all time, which came to power in 1997. That Government was both laden with, and surrounded by, veterans of extreme left-wing organisations. Of course those veterans did whatever the intelligence services told them. They were the intelligence services. Ah, what very different times.

The Marxism Today for which Tony Blair wrote is long gone. He was the only politician at the founding meeting of Demos. But Demos is now chaired by David Goodhart, a stalwart attendee and speaker at Blue Labour events. Formally, the Communist Party became the proto-Blairite Democratic Left, which became the ultra-Blairite New Politics Network, which became Unlock Democracy, which is still there, in a building bought thanks to the largesse of Lenin. Still there, but directed by a Lib Dem.

Unfortunately, however, the spirit of Jimmy Anderson and Major Harry Truscott remains very much a feature of the present age. Not least on the staff of The Sun. Some of them believe that both the Sino-Soviet Split and the fall of the Soviet Union were faked. Many of them believe that the KGB murdered Hugh Gaitskell in order to install Harold Wilson. All of them believe that Wilson was a Soviet agent. They really, truly, honestly believe these things.

They are convinced that Scargill was trying to stage a Red Revolution on the 1917 model, and that Gormley had more or less done so in 1974. It never occurs to them that the Heath Government, which in any case they profess to despise, was “toppled” by nothing other than the votes of the electorate, four years after that same process had installed that Government.

The theory of the Great Red Peril, including The Enemy Within, continues to be propounded, but tellingly by people who for the most part are not employed by academic institutions, and if they are, then only by the kind that would make Anthony Glees a Professor. The same was true of that theory at the time. As it also was, and very largely still is, of the economic theories to which Thatcher, who was as illiterate economically as she was historically and geopolitically, was so attached.

Across the full range of her agenda, the intellectual guiding lights hated the Conservative Party, not least when they were nominally members of it. They had no roots in it; nor had she. Not uncommonly, they had Marxist roots instead. The Conservative Party hated them back, which led it to hate her, until eventually it became the only organisation ever to succeed in getting rid of her. She then spent 15 years a joke figure, and just under another decade as one of those extremely old people who are only waiting for the end.

But even during her Premiership, it was not as if there were no ties to the Soviet Bloc. And on the other side of the Sino-Soviet Split, Thatcher fully deserved her designation by Red Star as “The Peking Plotter”. She never saw a Maoist whom she did not like. She installed Mugabe, having refused any other settlement, and she even arranged a knighthood for him. Then there was Ceaușescu. Then there was Pol Pot. When Nelson Mandela died, her flame-keepers could be heard criticising him and his for their criticism, in turn, of Steve Biko.

We ought to be governed by people who understand all of this.