Saturday, 24 February 2018

Libel Watch: Day 14

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.

Oh, Dearlove

A new low from the Daily Telegraph, publishing Richard Dearlove, of all people, in its futile attempt to keep that "Corbyn The Spy" fantasy going even after a week of it has increased Labour's poll lead. Dearlove? Of Iraq? That Richard Dearlove? Alas, yes.

Still, this whole business is at least exploding the myth of the Cold War. Margaret Thatcher and other Western leaders travelled regularly to Eastern Europe, where they had perfectly amicable meetings. The same happened when those countries' leaders came here.

As did things like the Moscow State Circus, which used to play the Royal Variety Performance. Yes, in front of the Queen. Britain was particularly keen on children's television programmes from "behind" the Supposedly Iron Curtain, and not least from Czechoslovakia. Yes, children's television programmes.

At least in sophisticated Europe, there never was a Cold War. For the perfectly good reason that there never was a Soviet military threat to Western Europe. If you doubt that, then take it up with, for example, Professor Sir Michael Howard OM, CH, CBE, MC, FBA.

Nothing On The COB

Another weekend, another set of polls. Only eight per cent of people, and they were all Conservative supporters already, feel that this spy business has made them less favourable towards to Jeremy Corbyn. Six per cent say that it is made them think better of him. And Labour's poll lead has gone up.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Libel Watch: Day 13

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.

20 Reasons To Want David Lindsay In Parliament

1. I want the promised £350 million extra for the National Health Service to appear on the face of the legislation withdrawing the United Kingdom from the European Union.

2. I warmly welcome the additional billion pound investment in jobs and services in Northern Ireland, and I call for Scotland, Wales, and each of the nine English regions to receive the same per capita as part of the application of Modern Monetary Theory, including the Land Value Tax.

3. I call for the Universal Basic Income, while continuing to campaign, through Modern Monetary Theory’s Jobs Guarantee, for full employment with the Living Wage, and thus for the bargaining power of the trade unions.

4. I call for the reassertion of democratic political control over the Bank of England, including that the approval of the House of Commons be required for changes to interest rates.

5. I call for the assertion of democratic political control over the City of London, with a Glass-Steagall division between investment banking and retail banking, and with the closure of all tax havens under British jurisdiction.

6. I advocate a reorientation towards the BRICS countries, leading to a new role across Eurasia and Asia, Africa and Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

7. I advocate the integration into the Belt and Road Initiative of all four parts of the United Kingdom, of all nine English regions, and of all of the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

8. I call for supporters of economic equality to be elected to the City of London Corporation, to the States of Jersey, to the States of Guernsey, to Tynwald, and to the legislatures of the British Overseas Territories. 

9. Having been born in 1977, I have correctly opposed every British military intervention of my adult lifetime.

10. Having been born in 1977, I have correctly opposed every attempt to erode civil liberties during my adult lifetime.

11. I am absolutely opposed to the United Kingdom’s poisonous relationship with Saudi Arabia and with the other Gulf monarchies.

12. I have offered to travel to Iran to demand the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

13. I demand a Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly.

14. I demand the diversion of British funds from the “Free Syrian Police” and the White Helmets to the United Kingdom’s own emergency services.

15. I would bring an action before the International Criminal Court against those who had brought slavery back to Libya.

16. I would bring an action before the High Court of Justiciary of Scotland, inviting it to exercise its declaratory power against Tony Blair and his accomplices in the aggression against Iraq in 2003.

17. I oppose Donald Trump while understanding why people voted for him, and I do so on the grounds that led me to oppose Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. On those same grounds, I would have opposed Hillary Clinton. 

18. I call for British withdrawal from NATO. NATO now commits Britain to the defence both of Turkish Islamists and of Eastern European neo-Nazis, and to the defence both of Trump’s America and of Erdogan’s Turkey as they edge closer and closer to war with each other. 

19. I would cancel Trident in favour of conventional defence, care for veterans, flood defences, and an “all of the above” energy policy. 

20. I have long fought for the Rohingya, the Chagossians, the Dalits, the Dorje Shugden practitioners, the Russian and other ethnic minorities oppressed in the Baltic States, the ancient indigenous Christians of the Middle East and North Africa, and the Jews and Zoroastrians of Iran.

The next General Election will result, either in another hung Parliament, or in a tiny overall majority. You know what you have to do.

Out In The Sun Too Long

The Sun now sells fewer copies than Jeremy Corbyn has Twitter followers, and it has just admitted that there never was a Stasi file either on Corbyn or on Diane Abbott. Well, of course there wasn't.

Tom Newton-Dunn is trying to suggest that this may be because the CIA and MI6 were protecting Corbyn and Abbott, so it is good to see that old Fleet Street's drunken Friday afternoons are not yet a thing of the past.

The truth, though, is that Corbyn and Abbott never went to East Germany, anyway. They went to France.

Organs of State?

I appreciate that I might feel differently if I, or someone close to me, ever needed a transplant. But since when did the State own our organs? It has to own something, and since it increasingly refuses to own even the hospitals themselves, then it has to nationalise our bodies instead.

"If Only Someone Else Had Had A Gun"?

Someone else did. A fat lot of good it was.

This really could be the beginning of the end of Americans and guns. That will take a very long time, it will be fought bitterly, and there will still be a large and nasty cultural residue. But the same was, and is, true of slavery.

Storming It

The Prime Minister declined to use her power to grant the survivors of Grenfell Tower their request for a more diverse panel to sit alongside Sir Martin Moore-Bick.

They should just have appointed one, anyway. They still should. People who will attend every session, and who will prepare a report at the end. One of those people needs to be Stormzy.

Never Be Seen

I have no desire to be a member of the same political party as Tony Blair, Justin Forsyth, Brendan Cox, Jess Phillips, Simon Henig, Alison Saunders or Owen Jones.

I have no idea why George Galloway does, and I quite concur with the Greens who have given short shrift to Jones's proposal that they affiliate their party to his.

But, welcome and useful allies though they sometimes are, there is a simple Yes-No question for determining whether or not the Greens are part of the Left: "Do you regret the defeat of the miners in 1985?"

Thatcher's Breakfast

And still they bang on about Jeremy Corbyn and, oh, whatever the hell it is supposed to have been. Anything to avoid mentioning that they have been completely sold out on Brexit. I know, let's talk about two countries that have not existed in nearly 30 years, egged on by a man who claims that Corbyn once told him what Margaret Thatcher had had for breakfast.

These hallucinations were the first item on Question Time last night, followed by student bloody fees, only then by the sellout over Brexit, and only after that by the biggest story in the world, the ongoing conclusion of the war in Syria. This is just demented.

By the way, the idea that Hamas and Hezbollah, whatever else they may be, are specifically enemies of Britain, derives purely and simply from the wildly untypical demography of Thatcher's own constituency, which was the bane of the Foreign Office's existence throughout her Premiership.

Before then, while sections of the Labour Party were close to their then-noticeable Israeli counterparts, Conservative Zionism was almost unheard of, with memories still very much alive of the reasons why, for example, my normally mild-mannered father could not look at Yitzhak Shamir on the television. The 200-year-old Tory ambivalence, to say the least, about the United States was also still going strong.

But then along came a Prime Minister who was the MP for Finchley, who was infatuated with the Hollywood matinee idol of her youth who had somehow become the President of the United States, and who, Blair-like, lacked the sophistication to see past either of those. We are still living with the consequences.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Libel Watch: Day 12

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.

Decolonising The Curriculum, Indeed

Is the dear old University of Durham on strike? If so, then that must be quite a disruption to its routine, that no one is doing any work. But seriously, insofar as that was not serious, would you accept this kind of cut to your pension? Well, there you are, then.

David Aaronovitch was on the Today programme this morning, talking about decolonising the curriculum. His remarkable father's only ever paper qualification of any kind was a DPhil from Balliol; Christopher Hill let him in as one Communist Party stalwart to another, but he really did pass once he got there.

And just as I have revived the DLindsay, which has existed in the past, since becoming Master of UCL, University College Lanchester, so Aaronovitch ought to take to awarding the DAaronovitch to such persons as made a significant contribution to the advancement of his own position.

The plan is formulating in my mind for some kind of qualification, to be awarded to those whose essays in Philosophy, Economics, Domestic Policy and Foreign Policy were passed in each case by two scholars, one from the Left and one from the Right, who were opposed to neoliberal economic policy and to neoconservative foreign policy. Watch this space.

Make It British Gas Again

"Centrica," indeed! The case for bringing it back into public ownership is now an unanswerable as the case for giving it back its proper name.

Borderline Thinking

Labour's programme is not compatible with membership of the Customs Union. But that is the only way of preventing the return of a hard border in Ireland. Well, there is one other way. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell know what that is.

Pyramid Politics

Following Newsnight's remarkable report on the situation in Egypt, remember, if you ever knew, that the democracy movement there had its roots in the global day of protest against what was then the impending war against Iraq, 15 years ago this month.

No Damascene Conversion

The people who now control Eastern Ghouta, from which they are bombing Damascus, once bombed New York and the Pentagon. We then launched a long, vicious, and in the end entirely futile war in Afghanistan, whence the bombers had not come. How considerate were we of the civilian population there?

Controlling Behaviour, Indeed

The struggle used to be to recognise and to punish domestic violence exactly as if it were the commission of the same act against a stranger in the street. But today, we are supposed to rejoice that it will be punished more severely than that, even when it is nothing more than the highly contentious "controlling behaviour". We can all see who is seeking to control  behaviour here.

Still Cranking Away

There is a direct line between people who were ever daft enough to believe in some threat from the Soviet Union, and people who were ever daft enough to believe in weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Today, those people believe a man who claims to have organised Live Aid on behalf of Czechoslovak intelligence (making him a source no less credible than Ahmed Chalibi was, or than numerous Cold War types were and are), backed up by a once promising scholar who has followed the well-worn path to pseudo-academic crankery, a journey also familiar from the Cold War and from the supporters of the Iraq War.

And they are determined to believe in a Stasi file that simply does not exist. Just as the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq simply did not exist. And just as the Soviet military threat simply did not exist, whatever the squaddies, including the posh squaddies, may have thought at the time.

Not The Fastest Draw

And he was doing so well. But "Arm the teachers," says Donald Trump. Are the teachers armed at Barron Trump's school? Were there guns at his last one, in New York, before his father became President?

There are some very clever and well-read people in the Republican Party. Several of them are friends of mine. Yet of that party's seven Presidents since the War, four have been Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

The Gathering Storm

Stormzy embodies the awakening cultural and political giant, especially but not exclusively in London, that is the black-majority churches, especially but not exclusively those of African rather than of Caribbean origin.

He is also Prince William's gym buddy, as well as a major figure in getting out Jeremy Corbyn's core vote from the urban black streets to the white teenage bedrooms of suburbia and the countryside. Welcome to the new Court Party.

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.