by Martin Odoni

A couple of months ago, Chris Williamson, Labour’s embattled and suspended Derbyshire MP, was in Manchester to speak at an event marking the 200th Anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre. It is a sign of how absurdly controversial Chris has become that – I am speaking from attendant observation here – there were absolutely blazing rows among the event organisers over whether he should even have been allowed to speak at all. Not because the organisers had no sympathy for him, but due to worries that the event could become “all about him” rather than about the event being commemorated.

Chris Williamson & his Musketeers

Chris W was assigned a ‘bodyguard’ of three, including myself, to stave off any potential Zionist troublemakers during the Peterloo Massacre commemorations in Manchester. A fearsome foursome, we can all agree.

How exactly has Chris become such a figure of contention?

The original suspension

Most people, I am sure, are aware of the decision to suspend Chris earlier this year over comments he made at a meeting of Momentum activists, in which he was discussing the wildly-exaggerated ‘Labour-Party-anti-Semitism’ furore of the last three years. The quotation that is routinely put in his mouth in the media is that he said Labour have been “too apologetic about anti-Semitism”.

While the quotation is not exactly ‘fake’, it is certainly imprecise, and indeed can hardly even be (half-)dignified with the nomenclature ‘quote-mine’, as it is not just out-of-context. It is actually distorted. Here are the words Chris really said; –

“The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. …[O]ur party has been partly responsible for that because… we have backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic. … We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any other political party.”

In summary, it is not anti-Semitism that Chris was saying the Labour Party is too apologetic about. He was saying it is accusations of anti-Semitism that the party is too apologetic about i.e. when accusations are made, the party is too quick to plead guilty, and too hesitant to check first whether the accusations are being made on any justifiable grounds. Nor is the party sufficiently forthright in combating the overall narrative, clearly contrived by wide stretches of the media and Labour’s own right wing, of anti-Semitism supposedly being ‘rife’ or ‘rampant’ across the ranks. The figures speak for themselves; the real rate of anti-Semitic-incidents-per-head in the Labour Party is approximately 0.06% – far, far lower than across UK society as a whole, and a tiny, tiny fraction of the rates assumed by large cross-sections of the public.

Suspension reversed, then the reversal reversed

Sure enough, in June, an independent panel investigating Chris’ words on behalf of the party concluded that he had done nothing wrong and restored his membership. However, an almighty and heavily-theatrical furore was kicked up by the Labour Right against the decision, led in large part by the utterly vile pathological liar Tom Watson, claiming the decision was politically-motivated, even though the judgement had been made by an independent panel. The party once again seemed to get the willies, and re-suspended Chris on the same charge.

There were no grounds whatever for doing this. There was no new information or evidence against Chris, and no indication whatever of the panel’s investigation process being flawed, corrupted or improper. It was not only contrary to the rules of the party to reimpose a suspension over charges on which the accused had already been exonerated, but also, given party membership is a paid subscription, it was potentially illegal as a case of ‘double-jeopardy’. Hence the legal action taken to get the re-suspension lifted.

Reversal of reversed suspension reversed, and a new suspension

Last week, in spite of the characteristically-cynical spin of most of the mainstream media – and that most definitely includes the BBC – Chris did successfully get his re-suspension overturned in the courts. But an implausibly-contrived secondary suspension imposed by the party a few days earlier, essentially on the grounds that he had publicly criticised the first, was still in effect, so technically he is still suspended. This has allowed the media to put up misleading headlines declaring that his court bid for reinstatement has ‘failed’.

(On the subject of his secondary suspension, if the Labour Party deems public condemnation of a disciplinary procedure or charge to be unacceptable behaviour in itself, why has Margaret Hodge never been suspended for last year publicly comparing her own disciplinary process to the conduct of Nazi Germany? The party’s response to that was to drop the charges against her altogether. Maybe Chris should have invoked the spectre of the SS when condemning the witch-hunt against him, and then the party would have dropped the matter? Somehow, I doubt it.)

What is truly exasperating about all this is not just the fact that there is such a blatant and two-faced witch-hunt going on. We already knew that. It is that the Labour Party seems to be completely devoid of the willpower needed to resist it, which, by bitter irony, was precisely the point Chris was suspended for making. What he said was not offensive or hurtful to Jews, it was not offensive or hurtful to anybody, and above all, every word of what he said was true. The Labour Party is an anti-racist party, more so than just about any other in British history, and yet it is so weak-willed on this subject that it has actually suspended him for describing it as such!

The real reason Chris Williamson was suspended – again we all know this – was because he was, and is, a strong and prominent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn as leader; the party’s right wing, along with their allies in the media, are desperate to have Corbyn isolated to the point that he ceases to be leader in anything other than name. It is therefore doubly-infuriating that Corbyn himself has repeatedly side-stepped the pressing need to fight this issue, and seems unwilling to reciprocate Chris’ loyalty. Those who have tried to speak to Corbyn about Chris’ case always find him very reluctant to say anything at all, and often witness him talking around the subject. In that regard, Corbyn is relapsing depressingly into the stereotype of an evasive career politician, when his appeal to this point has always been that he is nothing like that.

Corbyn’s mishandling of the witch-hunt

There are a bewildering number of areas in which Corbyn gets a lot of undue condemnation, more perhaps than any other party leader in British history. I have usually been quick to defend him when attacks on him begin; just consider my rebuttal of the ridiculous ‘Brick Lane Mural’ hullaballoo from last year, if you doubt me on that.

But on this subject, I must add my voice to the chorus of disapproval. Corbyn has to be a lot, lot stronger on the subject of supposed ‘left-wing anti-Semitism’, and he has to start pushing back very hard against the false narrative. He has handled the matter very poorly indeed so far, allowing himself to look weak and hapless, reinforcing the impression the right wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party have always tried to give of him to justify their hostility to his leadership. He needs to recognise that none of his serial accusers, be it Hodge, Wes Streeting, the Board of Deputies, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Ian Austin, or Watson, is ever going to thank him for conceding to them. They are simply going to attack him anew for not conceding even more.

Corbyn’s reluctance to say, “Look, this just is not happening nearly as much as everybody is making out,” probably stems from a worry that he would be acting as if he does not take anti-Semitism seriously. His wish not to upset Jewish Britons is to his credit, but he has to realise that conceding to the narrative and allowing it to go unchallenged is simply not working in any direction one cares to look, including in the direction of that same wish. His Chamberlain-like concessions yield no positive effects, and two unwanted side-effects. The first of these is that, like the Danegeld of ancient times,  it only encourages his opponents to attack even more, and he is still frequently accused of not taking anti-Semitism seriously anyway. But the second side-effect of appeasing his attackers is that it reinforces the impression that there really is a major problem with Labour anti-Semitism when there is not. That approach only heightens the paranoia many Jews in the UK are feeling about the Labour Party being instigators of the ‘Next Pogrom’, started by Zionist propaganda from hard-right smear-rags like the Jewish Chronicle.

Going along with the narrative only feeds the paranoia

Quite simply, going along with the narrative because arguing with it feels too daunting is not making Jews in Britain feel better. Instead, it is telling them that they are right to feel afraid. And if the price of co-operating with the witch-hunt is the loss of Corbyn’s most effective allies and supporters, well, what possible good does he expect will come of it? Just on a matter of basic principle, Corbyn should be speaking up for Chris, because a good man has been relentlessly smeared and unjustly treated, and all for backing Corbyn in the first place.

I still wish to see Corbyn, or at least someone from the real left of the Labour Party, become Prime Minister. The neoliberal consensus of the last forty years had clearly run its course by the time the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2007-9, and it has only continued on Government-funded life-support ever since. It requires someone away from the right half of the economic spectrum to face the need for fundamental change. With his impressive resilience against relentless attacks by both media and many in his own party, and by coming up with many fine and original policies for a reform program for British industry, Corbyn has shown that he has the capacity to overcome such a challenge.

But if Corbyn continues to show unwillingness to combat this smear campaign, it raises serious doubts as to whether he will have the strength-of-will to reform an entire economy, given the unrestrained opposition he will face from the Establishment against that.

Sooner or later, Corbyn is going to have to realise who his supporters are, and who are the opponents who will do anything, no matter how immoral, both to stop him and to maintain the status quo.

Sooner would be better.

by Martin Odoni

You know, despite the mocking assessments of Brexiteer propagandists, the United Kingdom has actually had a pretty good deal as members of the European Union. Under the Treaties of Maastricht and Lisbon, the UK really did have all the best of EU membership, and little of the worst. Whatever one feels about the EU, and there is, as I always concede, plenty to dislike, the simple reality is that the UK has seldom really suffered the sharp end of it.

Due to being members of the old European Economic Community prior to the 1990’s, the UK was allowed to enforce a number of opt-outs when Maastricht was put into effect, which members joining subsequently could not. Two in particular substantially blow most of the case for leaving the EU out of the water.

The first of these opt-outs was joining the Single Currency. There was a long and wobbling debate over it during the Tony Blair administration, in which they generally spoke in favour of joining, but were always teetering back and forth over whether to proceed.

In truth, it was overwhelmingly right that the UK did not join the euro. Painful and unnecessary as Austerity has been for the country since the Global Financial Crisis of a decade ago, it would have been far worse without control of its own currency supply. This is a rule I would apply to any country: A country without control of its own money supply is not an independent country, because any time it embarks on policies that the issuer of its currency disagrees with, the money-tap can simply be turned off. This is the essential process by which Greece in particular was, almost literally, tortured by the EU for ten years. Any time Greece tried to re-stimulate its flatlining economy with new investment, the European Central Bank, which blindly wanted Greek spending pared to the bone at any cost, would simply cut off its access to euros. When money stopped circulating, the Greek economy would revert to cardiac arrest.

This vindictive EU treatment of eurozone countries with a high National Debt is often raised as a key reason to leave. But the UK has been allowed to stay out of the eurozone all along, so it has never been an issue. Avoiding association with a political union that behaves in such a way could be raised as a point of principle, a perfectly respectable argument, but it is long past time people stopped saying, “Look what the EU did to Greece, we could be next!!!!” Because we most certainly will not, at least as things stand.

Similar with immigration controls. There seems to be an inexhaustible supply of Brexiteers who cannot be persuaded that the British Government, not the EU, is currently in control of UK borders. It is true that the EU has an ideal of open borders across the continent allowing people to travel where they wish without requiring a passport. And new members joining the EU are compelled to become a part of this vision, by signing up to the “Schengen Area“. But again, the UK joined well before Maastricht, and so was able to reserve the right to opt out. The Schengen Area is not even a specifically EU Agreement anymore, as it has been joined by various non-EU states – Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein – while various EU states are not part of it – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and, oho, the United Kingdom. Being able to opt out means the UK already has control of its own borders.

Brexiteers are trying to ‘escape’ from an arrangement the UK is not part of.

Both of these complete misunderstandings keep rearing their ignorant heads in public discussion of Brexit, no matter how often they are debunked. But what makes them truly aggravating is not just that they are ‘illnesses’ the UK has never contracted. It is that the proposed ‘cure’ – Brexit itself – will in the long run make it far likelier that the UK will contract them.

This is the aspect too many people miss. If Brexit goes ahead, especially a No Deal Brexit, the UK economy will undoubtedly take a heavy hit. In the very distant future, the country might eventually make a net gain of some description. But for the foreseeable future, life in the UK, already generally less-than-affluent, will become harder for a lot of people. Even allowing for the stubborn, fact-resistant, story-changing arrogance of Brexiteers, there are bound to be at least some of them who will eventually come to regret that Brexit ever went ahead. And given the narrow margin by which Leave won the Referendum in 2016, it would not require too many defecting Brexiteers for there to become a majority to rejoin the EU.

But at that point, with the UK almost certainly in very bad shape and pretty desperate for a change-for-the-better, the EU would effectively have the country over a barrel as never before. So, what terms do people think Brussels would insist on imposing on Westminster as the price for returning to the fold?

Well of course, the UK would have to join the eurozone, and the Schengen Area. As what would be effectively a ‘new member’ of the EU, the UK would be compelled to do so anyway, but any ‘leverage’ to force Brussels to make an exception would be quite non-existent. Under such terms, we really will have to look at the way the EU tortured Greece and say, “We could be next!!!

This, Brexiteers keep insisting, is ‘taking our country back’.

Brexit BS

The narrative put about by anti-EU types is a Brexit Story, not unlike other forms of BS.

 

by Martin Odoni

On analysis of the proposal mooted by UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, for a solution to the border problem in Ireland created by Brexit, I can see three possible explanations, and only three. Here they are, in order of likelihood; –

  1. Johnson is ‘tabling a Habsburg ultimatum’.
  2. Johnson is trying to get around the problem by playing word-games, proposing a solution that plainly fails the purpose, but produces an outcome that is not word-for-word the same as what must be avoided.
  3. He really is as incredibly stupid as he looks.

To explain; –

The proposal is inherently absurd. The requirement of the Good Friday Agreement is for there to be no ‘Hard Border’ between Eire and Northern Ireland, which, as is well-recorded, rather clashes with the Brexit aspiration of ‘the UK controlling its own borders’. Johnson therefore wishes to impose a temporary ‘buffer-zone’ from the start of 2021, with its boundaries approximately five miles either side from the border itself. Customs checks would be carried out at these buffer zone boundaries instead of at the border, and this arrangement would carry on until a joint Anglo-Irish council arranges a final settlement in 2025.

So in short, Johnson’s answer to the requirement for there to be no active border between Northern Ireland and Eire is for there to be two active borders between them.

Proposed Irish border-buffer zone

Boris Johnson is proposing a ‘Brexit buffer zone’ around the Irish border for four years. In effect, this will mean TWO borders in Ireland.

This proposal is one of the daftest yet, and not just because it violates the Good Friday Agreement. In the long term it will violate the Act Of Union 1800 as well, which guarantees a Customs Union between Great Britain and all British-held territories on the island of Ireland. This requirement is undermined by the fact that trading conditions in Northern Ireland will quite explicitly cease to be aligned with the rest of the UK, especially after 2025.

Setting the deadline to 2025 is a very long-winded way of saying, “Let’s just kick finding a permanent solution to the problems of the border-in-Ireland into the long grass for five years, by which time, all the people who made this mess will probably have moved on anyway”.

It is a worst-of-all-worlds proposal.

Note the arrogance of putting the ‘buffer zone’ so far into Ireland’s sovereign territory for Brexit’s sake. This is not an Irish policy, it is a British one, so if Johnson wants a buffer zone, he should put it entirely on the UK side of the border. (Even then, it would still be an awful thing to do, as it creates serious freedom-of-movement issues for those living inside it – any buffer zone would in a sense become a third Ireland. But at least it would be the British accepting the price for a needless problem the British have created.)

So reflecting on all of this, here is what I mean by the three possibilities mentioned above; –

  1. Johnson is deliberately putting forward a proposal that is designed to be rejected, so he can claim that he came up with a solution but others are not co-operating with him. (Like the preposterous demands the Austro-Hungarian Empire placed on Serbia after the assassination of the Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 – hence my coining the term “Habsburg Ultimatum”.)
  2. Johnson imagines he has found a loophole in the description of the problem Brexit has created. He is thinking, “Well, they’re saying a Hard Border, which is to say one Hard Border, is unnacceptable, but they said nothing about more than one, so let’s go for two!” as though quibbling over the precise wording of the problem will be enough to make the ‘solution’ acceptable to Republican and Unionist communities alike.
  3. Johnson genuinely means this proposal as a way of reconciling Brexit with the Good Friday Agreement. Because his ‘lovable clownish buffoon’ image is not an act after all, and he really is that much of a congenital moron.

Loopholes are dirty tricks, every time. and they can get people around the letter of an agreement. But the desire to keep the Good Friday Agreement intact is no procedural quibble, trying to keep the paperwork valid merely for the sake of it. There is a purpose behind the attempts to make sure Brexit does not violate the Irish peace process – to prevent a resumption of the civil war known as ‘The Troubles’. The success or failure of that purpose is what will count. Not whether the solution just about fits the wording, but whether it is acceptable to the people whose futures will be most affected by it. To shift blame, to play word games, to mess around with loopholes, or just to behave with reckless, ignorant stupidity over the peace process is absolutely certain to harm it, when lives depend on its continued success.

This is yet another example of Johnson’s manipulative cynicism, of which we have already had too many in just the two months he has been Prime Minister. With his already relentless displays of blustering and deceit, I do not think I am being especially hyperbolic when I suggest that Boris Johnson could be the death of us all.