by Martin Odoni

The ridiculous furore over ‘anti-Semitism-in-Labour’ has been fuelled by wall-to-wall coverage. Any remotely objective assessment of the actual evidence would demonstrate that a mountain is being made out of a Labour molehill, while a molehill is being made out of a Conservative mountain.

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Now, it is not the suggestion that there are anti-Semites in the Labour Party that is the problem for me. Of course there are. In a party of over six hundred thousand, there are bound to be a fair few who were not filtered out at the entry stage. Yes, they should be exposed and expelled, and yes, by law of averages, many of the accusations of anti-Semitism are certain to be genuine.

My frustration is on several levels though. For one, according to SKWAWKBOX, another investigation a little over a year ago by MPs, all of whom were outside the Labour Party, came to a similar conclusion – there is no firm evidence of unusually high levels of anti-Semitism in the party. Whereas a Jewish organisation just a couple of months ago found that forty per cent of Conservative Party members surveyed agreed with one or more anti-Semitic remarks. The outrage against Labour is therefore completely out-of-proportion, and the media just ignore any demand for them to even out the coverage.

VanByNat racism

Secondly, how many people getting carried away by the furore have actually studied the accusations of anti-Semitism being levelled? If you look into a lot of them, you soon realise that much of it really is absurd. I have seen people being accused of Holocaust Denial just for reading articles written by someone who, in unrelated circumstances, questioned the Holocaust. I have seen people having sentences they have written twisted and removed from all context to make them sound anti-Semitic, when they were arguing the absolute polar opposite. And of course, we all remember the ‘ANTI-SEMITIC PUNCTUATION‘ charge levelled at Vox Political‘s Mike Sivier. I was not aware that punctuation is what conveys ideology, I must be careful in future when deploying my semi-colons.

There are widespread sneers at the Labour left for ‘trying to play down’ the scale of the anti-Semitism in the party. But the main reason for the leftist backlash is not denial or fanaticism, it is that a lot of innocent people beyond doubt are getting this very damaging accusation hurled at them, destroying their reputations for years to come, and sometimes on grounds that are not only heavily-distorted, but also inherently ridiculous. And because not enough people, even in the media, bother to check the details before screaming for heads to roll, the clamour about this has lost any grounding in reality.

It is not enough just to go along with the complaints, there has to be an objective assessment of how honest they are on the whole. Anti-Semitic behaviour cannot be dismissed without investigation, no, but that works both ways; false accusations cannot simply be shrugged at and co-operated with either, and far too many people are looking only at the number of complaints and jumping to conclusions from there.

goysplaining

It turns out that I rather ‘re-invited the wheel’, as this term is already used by other Jewish people on social media.

On that note, I made a point on my last post about what I now call ‘goy-splaining‘ – the habit of gentiles to tell Jews what is or is not anti-Semitic, and even to overrule Jews on the subject. I need to clarify this; my point was not that gentiles cannot have an opinion on this, or that they should just sit back and take every complaint of anti-Semitism at face-value. It was that gentiles are actually telling me – a guy who as an early-teenager was routinely surrounded by bullies at school yelling “dirty, filthy, money-grabbing JEW!!!” – that I am wrong when I argue that something is not anti-Semitic. (Just look at the comments section on that article to see non-Jews telling me I was wrong about the Brick Lane Mural.) How would they know better than me what real anti-Semitism looks like when I am the one who has been on the sharp end of it? My point was that they need to hear the whole story and get the fullest details possible from the people who know, and then they can judge. In other words, do not jump to conclusions. Do not assume you are a pick-up-and-play expert on the subject.

Thirdly, my biggest aggravation of all is that the people engineering this furore are constantly finding ways to twist it so that the brunt of the blame lands in Jeremy Corbyn’s lap. Very, very little of this is his fault, and so it is all too clear the real reason why this is happening. It is not an attempt to eradicate anti-Semitism, it is an attempt to undermine Corbyn – probably by Zionists who are terrified of the prospect of a pro-Palestinian UK Prime Minister.

People who genuinely want to fight anti-Semitism need to be realistic about this. If all this is only happening to undermine one man, this Enough-Is-Enough so-called movement will do absolutely nothing to eradicate anti-Semitism, either in Labour specifically or in the country as a whole. Moreover – and this is a point I find myself having to repeat a lot – as a Jew, I feel personally exploited when anti-Semitism is manipulated in such a dirty way. My ethnic background is not a tool for others – even if they are also Jewish themselves – to use for political ends. Such behaviour dehumanises Jews and their history of suffering. It is therefore as anti-Semitic as any insult thrown at a Jew, and if we are truly to eradicate anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, that practice must be one of the ones that is stamped out.

One more point about ‘goy-splaining’ needs to be made. I do appreciate gentile support in the battle against anti-Semitism, but this week has highlighted that there remains an undercurrent of dishonesty in some would-be ‘allies’. A lot of the outrage against the mural has come from non-Jews insisting that it is anti-Semitic. They point to passing resemblances between the mural and anti-Semitic propaganda of the past. (Again, see the comments section on the previous post for examples and my debunking of them.) They were judging by appearances, at which they were so uncomfortable that they thought they could overrule my better-informed conclusion that it was not anti-Semitic.

Reginald D Hunter is one of my favourite stand-up comedians. A few years ago, he got caught up in a similarly-specious row for repeated use of ‘the-N-word’ in a performance at an event held by the Professional Footballers’ Association. He summed up the real reasons for the controversy on stage in Salford Quays a few months later; –

It wasn’t really about me. It wasn’t about racism. It was about privileged white people’s discomfort with the appearance of racism.

I am afraid to say that the same applies to an extent this week. At least some of the outrage against the mural is coming from non-Jews who are not so much opposed to the cruelty of anti-Semitism, but from non-Jews who feel discomfort at the appearance of anti-Semitism.

Discomfort at the appearance of racism is definitely progress from where this country was a few generations back, because at least there is now a far wider recognition that racial prejudice is wrong. But the discomfort at its appearance is not the same as wanting to combat it. Instead, it is an instinct to want it hidden away. It is also an instinct to want not to risk being stigmatised with the label of ‘racist’, and thus to make as loud a parade of outrage as possible, to say to everyone else, “See? I got angry at racism, so I can’t possibly be racist, right?”

So while it is, as I say, progress, it is far from a completed journey. And some of the people clamouring about anti-Semitism this week – including some enormously-disingenuous politicians like Norman Tebbit and Ian Paisley Jnr – need to ask themselves their real motives. Are they altruistically trying to defend victims of anti-Semitism, or are they selfishly just trying to look like they are?

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by Martin Odoni

The largely-fictitious ‘anti-Semitism-in-Labour’ controversy is clearly never going to be allowed to die. I have no doubt more examples will be brought to public attention in the final days before the Local Elections in May, and most accusations will stem from heavily-distorted information, just as Mike Sivier can testify from what happened a year ago.

In case anyone is just back from a five-day holiday to Mars, the present storm of outrage is about a notorious mural on Brick Lane in London.

Mural

The artist who painted the mural is an American called Kalen Ockerman – alias ‘Mear One’. The mural is widely-held to be anti-Semitic in intent.

Back in 2012, there was a discussion on social media about having the mural removed. Jeremy Corbyn left a comment on the discussion thread defending its presence on freedom-of-speech grounds. This comment has ‘mysteriously’ been dragged into the cross-examination of the public domain just as the Local Elections campaign is getting under way.

Now, I really was not planning to comment on this, because frankly it was embarrassing that anyone thought it worth the nation’s time or attention. What Corbyn said six years ago about someone’s right to produce a slightly paranoid bit of artwork is not important. No, sorry, it really is not. James O’Brien (oh good grief, him again?) and Shelagh Fogarty may have thought that this business was worth top billing on their LBC shows today, but they are wrong. They should not have dignified it with their time, nor should the other hysterics across the media. The only reason I am even bothering to write about it is because individuals on social media – including the aforementioned O’Brien – have been complaining that Corbyn sympathisers are ‘more outraged’ by Owen Smith’s rebelliousness on Brexit than they are about anti-Semitism.

That accusation is rubbish, but okay, I will talk about the mural. And I will not just focus on how minor or old Corbyn’s ‘transgression’ is. I will also point out a detail that the critics refuse to acknowledge about the mural; –

It is not anti-Semitic.

No, I am perfectly serious, it really is not. Now, if a Jew wishes to argue with me about that, they are welcome to bring it on – the comments section is below. But I will not have the likes of O’Brien, or Fogarty, or any of a million other outrage-foam-at-the-mouths who are not Jewish telling me what is anti-Semitic or what is not. I am a Jew, and I have experienced the sharp end of real anti-Semitism first hand. I know the genuine article when I see it, and I also know a false alarm about anti-Semitism when I see it too. So you can stuff it if you are non-Jewish and you try to tell me which is which. The mural is not anti-Semitic, and this is why.

The rich men portrayed in the mural sitting around the Monopoly gameboard include the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers, the Warburgs and the Morgans. The Rothschilds and the Warburgs are indeed Jews. But the others are not. They are portrayed in exactly the same light as the Warburgs and the Rothschilds, but this is not because of their ethnicity, but because they are all banking magnates. Their portrayal is not anti-Semitic, it is anti-plutocratic.

The pyramid in the background is often assumed to embody the legendary ‘Illuminati’, which is often thought to be an undercover world-controlling movement dominated by Jews. But again, this is not correct. The pyramid actually symbolises Freemasonry, and the widely-held (and possibly correct) suspicion that Freemasons often give each other un-earned ‘foot-ups’ up the hierarchy.

Freemasonry is not a Jewish movement.

How do I know that all of this applies to the mural? The explanation for that is shockingly simple; unlike the majority of pompous outraged attack dogs snapping at Corbyn’s heels, I bothered to read up on the history of the mural before passing judgement on it. One of the details I checked was what the artist had to say about it. Sure enough, Ockerman responded to the accusations of anti-Semitism back in 2012, and explained all of the above.

You might argue, “Why should we believe what Ockerman says?” but if you think about it, that really is a stupid question; if Ockerman had intended to stir up anti-Semitic paranoia by painting the mural in the first place, surely he would be defeating the object of his own exercise by then denying that the rich men in the picture are Jewish? (And be careful – if you see a picture of rich men with large noses and your immediate assumption is “Jews!!!!” that may say more about your own prejudices than it says about the artist’s.)

What astounds me is that the people who are steadfast in their certainty that the mural is anti-Semitic seem so confident that they know more about it than the person who bloody painted it in the first place! So much so, they never even thought to find out what the artist had to say. And James O’Brien has the nerve to lecture his listeners on being ‘rational’ when he makes an absurd leap-to-conclusions, probably a bandwagon fallacy too, on this scale? Not for the first time recently, I find myself saying, “Pull yourself together, O’Brien!

NB: Worry not, James, I do like you really, and I agree with far more of what you say than I disagree with usually, but you really have been suckered on this. I cannot believe you wasted ninety minutes of your programme today on this. It is a complete non-story.

It has been pointed out that the mural bears a passing resemblance to Nazi propaganda. I do see that, and I agree that it is unfortunate. But again there is a deafeningly-loud fallacy in the argument. Just because the mural has a resemblance to Nazi propaganda, it does not follow that it has to have the same meaning as Nazi propaganda. As I say, it does not. I find the reference to the Freemasons in the mural a bit paranoid, but the fundamental meaning of the picture is visibly anti-elitism, and there is no reason to assume that the plutocrats therein are Jewish. I mean, why is there no Star of David in the image?

(Jonathan Cook makes some more useful points about how doubtful and obviously-orchestrated this flare-up about the mural has been.)

Now as I say, this whole business has been a nonsense. Even if there were genuine anti-Semitic content in the mural, so what? It was years ago, and it was very clear that Corbyn’s comment was not meant as a defence of anti-Semitism. Now, how is a passing comment that Corbyn made six years ago on a bit of bizarre artwork suddenly so important that it takes priority over the Local Elections, over Conservative laundering of Russian finance, over Tory and pro-Brexit groups getting potentially-illegal help from Cambridge Analytica, the fantastic fraudulence of Jeremy Hunt’s untrue ‘pay-rise’ for NHS workers, the suspicious-looking miracle of only three people getting exposed to a lethal nerve agent in Salisbury and all of them so slightly that somehow none of them are dead almost a month later, the never-ending Brexit chaos, rampant child poverty… ? Good grief, I reckon even the ball-tampering scandal by the Australian Test Cricket team should rate as more of a priority than this! I mean, at least that happened this week! (Darren Lehmann and Steve Smith should be sacked, for what my view on that is worth, by the way.)

Of course, the answer to my question lies with the alternative topics I have listed. A lot of the media would like to talk about ‘anti-Semitism-in-Labour’ right now precisely because it blots out all these other matters. And sadly, even usually fairly sensible broadcasters and journalists, including O’Brien and Fogarty, have allowed themselves to get caught up in the tidal wave of rage.

No, Corbyn is not ‘comfortable in the company of anti-Semites’. No, the majority of the Labour left are not anti-Semites, not even a large minority of the Labour left are anti-Semites. Rather than being taken in by the huge number of accusations, what is needed is actually to study a lot of the accusations. Do so and you soon notice how absurd some of them are. Ask Mike Sivier about his ‘anti-Semitic punctuation’. No, I kid ye not, he really was accused of ‘anti-Semitic punctuation’ last year!

'Anti-Semtic punctuation' is now a thing.

Zionists are becoming such uncompromising censorship-trolls, they have now invented ‘anti-Semitic punctuation’. (Click here for more info.)

Ask Tony Greenstein (who is himself Jewish, but an anti-Zionist).

Ask Alan Bull.

Ask Jacqueline Walker, of course.

This whole controversy about anti-Semitism only started up in the aftermath of Jeremy Corbyn standing for leader of Labour, and the reason for it should be obvious; Corbyn is pro-Palestinian, and a loud critic of the way Israel treats the Palestinian people. The Zionist-Israeli lobby is terrified of the prospect of a UK Prime Minister who is pro-Palestinian, and so they are trying to isolate him by getting some of his most articulate supporters removed from the party. The Zionists, especially in the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, are perfectly happy to use false accusations in order to do so, knowing that they are unlikely to be held to account for doing it, as authorities fear the same accusations being re-directed at them.

What the Zionists are doing is corrupt and illegal. Instead of exposing this corruption, the media are allowing themselves to be pushed into playing along with it.

Labour were seven points up in the polls sixteen days ago, and the Local Election campaign began last week. This non-story controversy from years ago suddenly flares up now.

How is it that no one in the media is able to join such giant dots?

_____

MORE ON THIS HERE.

by Martin Odoni

I was going to write an article about this myself but SKWAWKBOX got there first; –

Just after last year’s General Election, as ‘centrists’ and the Establishment reeled at Labour’s huge ‘surprise’ surge – though we and others said all along it would happen – the SKWAWKBOX pointed out six ‘desperation tactics‘ Labour insiders had predicted that the Labour right would use to try to undermine the Corbyn-led, continuing impetus toward government.

All six were duly used.

To learn what they are, click here.

6 desperation tactics

But there are several extra thoughts I need to add.

The big worry that occurs to me is that the centrist fanatics may have been conspiring with the Conservatives to set up the last two weeks of renewed infighting in the Labour Party. Think about the order of events; –

  • An opinion poll two weeks ago put Labour seven points up.
  • Two days later, the Tories hid information about the Salisbury Poisoning from Jeremy Corbyn prior to a debate of the matter in the House of Commons.
  • Corbyn asked reasonable questions about the matter as a result.
  • The Right of the Labour Party appears almost on stand-by to throw a public wobbler about him being ‘unpatriotic’ and a supporter of Putin.

 

A little like with the way the Chicken Coup was carried out two years ago, it all looks too neat and tidy not to have been orchestrated. Blue Labour has always been very fond of theatrics, and they always hope that the public are too naive to notice the implausible degree of ‘coincidence’.

With Corbyn rightly firing Owen Smith yesterday (whether you agree with Corbyn’s policy on Brexit or not, collective responsibility principles demand the Shadow Cabinet supports it, and Smith publicly opposed it), we are now getting more of the usual guff about Corbyn being a dictator; funny how in Blue Labour minds, Corbyn alternates between being too feeble to be a leader and being too iron-fisted (Schrödinger’s Labour leader once more). But Smith has no one to blame but himself. He knew Labour’s position on Brexit , and he probably realises how impractical a second referendum would be. When can we fit it in? What exactly happens if the vote rejects the final deal?

People think that centrists are, by definition, moderate in outlook, ergo less fanatical. But the Labour Right demonstrate that this assumption is nonsense. Just because their actual policy preferences tend to be the furthest from the extremes, it does not mean they are more tolerant or willing to compromise. On the contrary, their rejection of radical policies is so heavy-handed that it takes on an incredibly self-destructive form of fanaticism.

It is quite clear that Blue Labourites are terrified of the possibility of a Real Left Prime Minister, as it would prove their assumptions of the last thirty years have been completely wrong. Cognitive dissonance is an unpleasant sensation, and so they would rather hand the Tories another five years at Number 10 than accept that they made an enormous mistake moving to the right under Neil Kinnock, John Smith, and Tony Blair.

by Martin Odoni

One of the many reasons I see Boris Johnson as ‘The British Donald Trump’ is that both blonde buffoons have a remarkable knack for saying anything that suits them, frequently off the tops-of-their-heads. Yesterday, Johnson appeared to do just that by announcing completely out-of-nowhere on The Andrew Marr Show that; –

We actually have evidence within the last 10 years that Russia has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok.

What?!

Sorry, I am not buying this, at least not until I see this ‘evidence’. Nor should anybody else. The reason why is, if it were true, it is quite bizarre that we heard this little detail for the first time only yesterday.

Why did the Prime Minister not think to mention it in either of her statements to the House of Commons last week, for instance?

Why did Johnson himself not think to announce it back in September, in response to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) declaring that Russia had completely destroyed its own chemical weapons capability?

Given they made this declaration last year, why was the OPCW apparently ‘not aware’ of this new stockpile of Novichoks, and yet the British Government somehow knows all about it?

Why was this ‘stockpile’ not an apparent matter for concern until this whole scandal with Sergei and Yulia Skripal flared up at all?

I concede that it is quite possible that Johnson is not making this up. But it sure sounds like a desperate claim to make the evidence of Russian involvement in the Salisbury poisoning sound more copious than it really is. But let us give him the benefit of the doubt for a moment, just for the sake of argument. It still does not put him or his colleagues in a good light. Instead, it makes Conservative Party links with Russian monied interests look even sleazier than they already did – and they looked like a sewer channel in the first place. Because if the Russians were stockpiling nerve agents in the last ten years, they were violating International Law. If the Tories knew the Russian Government was doing that, and not only did nothing to draw attention to it, but in fact carried on allowing the free ingress of Russian finance into the United Kingdom, then Johnson has in effect admitted that his party is guilty of gross corruption.

Smart move, Donald… er, I mean, Boris.

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Yes, that’s how to watch a pop video on your I-Pod, Boris, well done.

by Martin Odoni

I still accept that the Russian Government is the number one suspect in the spy poisoning in Salisbury, but there are several reasonable doubts, as I mentioned on Friday. At the risk of drifting into ‘tin-foil-hat-wearing-mode’ my doubts are starting to increase. If anyone wishes to accuse me and like-minded individuals of being disloyal, or of making the Government’s job more difficult, allow me to respond: The behaviour of the British Government over the last week is precisely what is increasing the doubts.

It has been revealed that the Prime Minister played a very dirty trick on Jeremy Corbyn by keeping information from him about the Salisbury attack without his apparent knowledge. Theresa May has also repeatedly failed to answer his questions properly about it in the House Of Commons, and did not respond to Russia’s – I would say quite reasonable – request to see the evidence that supposedly implicates them. May’s insistence that Russia had to explain how the nerve agent ended up in Salisbury rather reverses the logical requirements of burden-of-proof, especially if she will not allow the Russians to examine the evidence against them. The United Kingdom even blocked a United Nations motion to set terms of an investigation into the poisoning.

There is, in short, a lot of secrecy that would seem, at face-value, quite pointless, given what has not been kept under-wraps.

Now, it is possible to conclude that the Tories were exploiting the attack to set Corbyn up for another media trashing, which has undoubtedly happened. That they should do that, and at the same time accuse Corbyn of ‘playing party politics’ with the matter, is so beyond-the-pale that it makes you wish Parliamentary hypocrisy could be made an imprisonable offence.

May behind bars where she belongs

She should be staring out at the world through iron bars more frequently.

I am still dismissive of suggestions that the whole poisoning incident is some kind of ‘false flag’ set-up by the British, but there is no doubt that it has been a God-send to the Conservatives. They suffered a mini-massacre in a series of Local by-elections less than a fortnight ago, and last weekend, the national opinion polls were starting to look really dire for them. Now the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal has given them a week’s respite from the misery of the shambolic ‘Brexit‘ negotiations and the UK’s growing poverty crisis, it has given them an ‘outside enemy’ to look tough and statesmanlike against (always a popular tactic for any Government under pressure), and they have also exploited it in a disgustingly cynical way to try and present the Opposition leader, quite falsely, as a ‘Russian stooge’.

Opportunistic grandstanding would thus be my main suspicion. But at the same time, this does not really explain why May would not allow the Russians to see the evidence against them. Nor does it explain why she would not give more details about what that evidence is when speaking in Parliament. She was perfectly happy to let everyone know that the make-up of the nerve agent is, supposedly, of a type that can only be found in one small location in Russia. Why is that information good for public scrutiny, but any further evidence she apparently possesses must be kept hidden away? Why has there also been a black-out in the House of Commons of all discussion of the Russian dismantling of its chemical weapons capability, under supervision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)? If it does not throw an outright spanner in the works, this detail should at least be a reason for caution. Sure, the OPCW might have been deceived by Vladimir Putin, but given OPCW experience in thwarting such chicanery, that could do with explaining.

Whether Craig Murray’s claims that the boffins at Porton Down have in fact not concluded that the Novichok they analysed must be from Russia are true or not, it is noticeable that the Government was slow to refute him, and their attempt was just a lame repetition of a previous statement. If the Novichok’s origin really has been identified, why does the Government not publish a summary of the report? Why was the leader of the Opposition, on a supposed matter of national security, apparently not allowed to see with his own eyes what Porton Down had to say?

Almost everything about the way the UK Government is behaving stinks. As I say, it is likeliest that the Tories have taken advantage of the poisoning to make a big show of looking like the nation’s ‘natural defenders’, and all that jingoistic claptrap.

(It was disturbing, incidentally, that May thought this incident was worth a personal ‘get-out-and-meet-the-people’ visit when nobody has even died, but lacked the courage to meet the survivors of the Grenfell Tower Blaze last year. That visit to Salisbury absolutely screamed of cheap theatrics. And given that May wants everyone to regard the poisoning as a dangerous attack on British sovereignty, it is noticeable that she seemed to be treating the outing as a silly laugh.)

But the conspiracy theory explanations, while most are silly, are being encouraged by the almost arbitrary way that the British Government is deciding what should be secret and what should not. Even critical thinkers are struggling to dismiss the suspicions. I for one am no more convinced that Putin is behind the poisoning than I was on Wednesday. Balance-of-probabilities would say he is, but it did a week ago too. The cloak-and-dagger behaviour of the UK Government is stopping the see-saw from tilting further towards certainty.

Trust in Government and public institutions is low in modern Britain, and the temptation is to blame that on the cynicism of the British as a people. But when a long succession of Governments has continued to engage in intrigues like these, even when there is no obvious reason for many of them, the blame for that lack of trust lies with the Government itself.

by Martin Odoni

I mentioned on Wednesday that there is an ugly resemblance between attempts to shout down Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the Russian Spy Poisoning and the US Right’s standard response to gun-massacres.

Corbyn’s reluctance fully to endorse Theresa May’s position on the poisoning is perfectly responsible, arguably necessary. In spite of the mainstream media’s enthusiasm for taking the Government’s claims at face-value, and even while acknowledging that Russia is still the main suspect, there are very good reasons for skepticism, and therefore caution. It is not ‘unpatriotic’ or ‘disloyal to Britain’ to want more information. Requirements for ‘national unity’ can be fulfilled without becoming an unquestioning android, as far as I am concerned. Think about it. If it is not in order to cross-examine Government-conduct in matters of foreign relations when they risk causing dangerously high tensions with a major power like Russia, there is surely no point in cross-examining anything a Government does. Which means, why bother with democracy at all?

There are three main reasons for caution; –

For one – as has been highlighted quite widely outside the mainstream media but has received little mention within it – the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced only six months ago that Russia had completely dismantled its chemical weapon capability, under OPCW supervision. Those who rightly argue, such as James O’Brien, that we should not ignore the experts in this matter need to recognise that the experts themselves are the very people whose words raise a serious doubt!

For another, there was considerable smuggling of the ‘Novichok’ nerve agent from the former Soviet Union throughout the 1990s.

There are even question marks in some quarters, albeit I would have to say they are not convincing ones, as to whether the nerve agent used in Salisbury has been correctly-identified.

Furthermore, Corbyn’s caution is hardly a case of outright dissent or denial. On the contrary, he has proposed more and tougher restrictions on Russian involvement in British politics and commerce than the Conservatives have or appear comfortable with. My suspicion is that the real reason Corbyn is getting castigated is that he has highlighted the ugly links between British MPs, especially in the Conservative Party, and Russian money. These links have needed severing since long, long before the Salisbury attack.

We are not allowed to talk about that right now? Why on Earth not? Is it ‘too soon’? Even though nobody has died? Well, as I often ask in exasperation when I hear people saying, “It’s too soon!” if we cannot discuss Russian infiltration into the UK in the aftermath of a presumed Russian assassination attempt, when can we?!

Sorry, everyone, obviously I was wrong to ask that. Tell you what, if we have to copy the US guns lobby so thoroughly in these situations, I suggest we should carry that to the fullest extent. Therefore; –

My thoughts and prayers are with Sergei and Yulia Skripal

There. That platitude achieved about as much as it usually does.

Assault rifle with thoughts and prayers

by Martin Odoni

As I was publishing my earlier post about the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, there was a fresh exchange in the House of Commons between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on the matter. Theresa May announced that she was expelling over twenty Russian diplomats, which sounds suspiciously similar to a scene in Yes, Prime Minister. (It would take too long to explain.) Jeremy Corbyn has, again, received considerable criticism from Conservative MPs, the media, and even some of his own party members for being less-than-completely-slavishly in agreement with May on how to deal with Russia.

May & Corbyn argue over the Russian Spy Poisoning

May and Corbyn are still not quite seeing eye-to-eye on the matter of Russia.

Corbyn’s response to the Prime Minister’s statement, in reality, endorsed far more of May’s position than it contested, but he had three major points of objection; –

  1. Did the British Government agree to Russian demands to see the evidence that supposedly ‘proves’ that the nerve agent used in the attack was Russian in origin, and if not, why not?
  2. Is it not time for a concerted clean-up of Russian finance that keeps insinuating its way into the UK?
  3. Is it not regrettable that the British Government has repeatedly pared back resources in the UK’s diplomatic services?

It is perfectly reasonable for Corbyn to ask these questions. What I find chilling about those who have condemned him for asking them or attempted to shout him down is their resemblance to past ill-intentioned Governments. Specifically, they are behaving in almost exactly the same McCarthyite way that the Blairites did towards opponents of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. People who blindly accepted everything the Government told them back then were later shown to be very gullible.

As to the questions themselves, I would like far clearer answers than we got. Especially the first one. What indeed was May’s response when the Russians demanded a sample of the nerve agent? May’s statement included a list of supposed failings in the Russian response to the poisoning. One sentence I found especially unsettling; –

[The Russians] have provided no credible explanation that could suggest they lost control of their nerve agent.

This is a startlingly fallacious way of looking at the controversy, on several levels, and is something akin to a Creationist demanding that an atheist offer evidence that God does not exist.

Seeing the British are the ones making the accusations here – plausible as they are – is it not a bit much that they are then heaping the burden-of-proof onto the Russians to demonstrate that they are not guilty? One of the reasons the law in most countries accepts the principle of ‘Innocent-until-proven-guilty’ is that ‘Guilty-until-proven-innocent’ depends on a form of negative reasoning i.e. one would have to prove-a-negative, which is, technically-speaking, impossible.

It is also something of a false dilemma, in that May presents only two possibilities; that the Russians were deliberately attacking, or that the nerve agent was lost or stolen from Russia, and thus used by an unknown third party. There are other possibilities, including one that still casts Russia in a poor light, but not as aggressors; the nerve agent may have been secretly sold to the third party, or even passed through a chain of third parties.

As for the other questions Corbyn asked, Britons should be deeply concerned about how much Russian money has been exercising an influence on British politicians, and how much it may be corrupting the Governmental process. They might also be maddened upon seeing yet another example of the destructive folly of pointless Austerity, costing the country more expense in the damage it causes than it is ever likely to save.

The Russian Government, with its history under Vladimir Putin, is still the prime suspect, do not misunderstand me. But the fact that these critical questions did not get real answers from May – a little like her every deed during last year’s General Election campaign – has only increased my reasons to be cautious. After all, why did May not really answer them? Does she have something to hide? If not, why did she hide them anyway?