by Martin Odoni

Kenny Dalglish, the former manager and perhaps greatest ever player to represent Liverpool Football Club, is the subject of a controversy not of his own making. With the New Year’s Honours List announced in the last couple of days, supporters of Liverpool have been getting very angry at the ongoing absence of their club’s most revered former star from Britain’s roll-call of Knights-of-the-Realm.

There has been talk for many-a-year about ‘King Kenny’ being overdue for a knighthood. Such talk is perfectly understandable. Not only was he one of the greatest footballers of all time – I personally rate Dalglish as even better than George Best – he was also a most shrewd coach for the team over two spells totalling seven years, which saw Liverpool win every trophy in the domestic game, including three Championships. His achievements as both player and manager were all the more remarkable given that he was witness to three of the four worst stadium tragedies in British history; the Second Ibrox Disaster, the Heysel Stadium Disaster, and the Hillsborough Disaster.

Dalglish was manager at the time of Hillsborough, and, still only in his thirties, he found himself having to lead the entire city of Liverpool through a grieving process for nearly a hundred lost souls. His handling of several dreadful months of despair across Merseyside was so sensitive and so dignified that his status as a legend on the field became matched by his legend off it. For more than any other reason, it is because of the way he led the city through the mourning process post-Hillsborough that Liverpudlians want Kenny Dalglish to receive acknowledgement in the Honours List.

One aggravation for many is that Dalglish continues to be overlooked (supposedly) while politicians with blemished histories – in the current instance the former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg – receive gongs like chickens receive feed. Given Clegg’s shabby history of promises broken for the sake of power, the anger is quite well-placed.

I am not arguing with these points as such. I yield to none in my disgust that a second-rate, non-achieving promise-breaker with a very limp grasp of basic economics like Clegg is getting a knighthood. (For what exactly?) But some of the expressions of dissent I have read on social media have been a little wide of the mark. Not so much because of what is said about Clegg, but because of what is said about Dalglish.

For instance, the following image has been doing the rounds quite a bit; –

Dalglish myth

Now before I state my irritation with this tweet, let me make clear; Dalglish was one of my heroes as a child, and I have no hesitation in adding my voice to the chorus of praise he gets for his role in the aftermath of Hillsborough, as well as for his fantastic charity work. But Mr Gudgeon is not correct. He is quoting a very over-proliferated myth. Dalglish did not attend all ninety-six funerals of Hillsborough victims. We are unsure exactly how many he did attend – even Dalglish himself lost count – but it was certainly not all of them. I am fairly sure it would not have been possible for him to do so, as some of the funerals took place roughly simultaneously, and many of them happened in different parts of the country. Dalglish made sure that there was at least one representative of Liverpool Football Club at every funeral, but, formidable a man though he is, there was no way he could attend them all in person.

Another irritating refrain I keep reading is of the “Well-he-wouldn’t-want-it-anyway!” variety, from people getting angry on Dalglish’s behalf when they hear he has been snubbed once again. It would be something akin to a teenager asking a girl out on a friend’s behalf, and when she says no, saying that his friend never fancied her anyway. The people getting angry are making ridiculous politicised remarks about how Dalglish supposedly “will never be given an award because he is not part of the Establishment [always undefined], and he would never accept one anyway because it would be against his principles” or words to similar effect.

The assumption is nonsense on both counts. Dalglish may not have a knighthood, no, but he was given a Royal/Imperial Honour, way back in 1984, when he was awarded the MBE. Now, with Dalglish’s working class background and his not-altogether-articulate Glaswegian accent, it is fair to suggest that he cuts a very unlikely figure to be a part of the Establishment, true enough. However, the reality is that, in spite of his background, he was offered an Honour. Furthermore, he did accept it. So the assumptions are clearly untrue.

I am not judging Dalglish on that, by the way. While I would never even consider accepting a Royal/Imperial Honour (in the astronomically unlikely event that I would ever be offered one), especially any that bears the name ‘British Empire’, I see that as a matter of personal choice. So I respect Dalglish’s right to accept such an Honour if that is his wish, and I will not think any the less of him for it.

But those who claim on his behalf that he would not accept such an award are not only unaware of the real facts, they are also trying to exploit him and his good works in order to score ‘anti-Establishment’ political points. Throughout his public life, Dalglish has been, if anything, somewhat apolitical, and therefore it is disingenuous to use him in this manner.

Whether we like ‘the Establishment’ or not, is there really any merit in exploiting Dalglish and his work after Hillsborough in this shabby fashion? I will think less of anybody who does that.

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“RESIGN!”

December 13, 2017

by Martin Odoni

Did you hear them?

Theresa May has lost a binding vote in the House of Commons tonight. You suspect that will happen to her again soon, unless she does something she was being advised to do in the aftermath.

Did you hear them, offering said advice?

Here is the big moment. Listen to the Opposition benches. Listen as they call out, “Resign!”

Yes, it has started; the chorus that has echoed down the centuries when a Government’s mast has toppled over. The demand that its leader should resign. It is often a very bad sign for the incumbent party when Opposition parties start making that demand.

May will have some serious thinking to do after tonight. She’s been hamstrung by her own hubris for over six months, and tonight the precariousness of her position was cruelly exposed. A small rebellion on the Government backbenches of just eleven was enough to defeat the Prime Minister, and force a Commons vote on the final deal as the UK leaves the European Union. That small number is doubly remarkable when one considers that seven Labour MPs supported the Government, who still lost by 309 to 305.

This is no small matter for the Government; the Conservative upper echelons were clearly desperate not to lose this vote. The Tory Whips are understood to have reduced one woman MP to tears today as they tried to force her into line. A last-gasp concession was also tabled to lure potential rebels to support the Government, or at least to abstain. Stephen Hammond, one of the rebels, was sacked as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party within an hour of the vote. Oh, it matters all right.

The loss means that the pro-Brexit fanatics on the extremist fringe of the Tory party will now be wondering whether there is much point in supporting May any further. Not now that it looks a dead certainty that she cannot deliver a complete severance from the EU, in line with what they want. She also has yet more talks with EU leaders tomorrow, who will sit opposite her at the European Council table in full knowledge that this woman does not really govern, she merely presides. Meanwhile, Dominic Grieve and his fellow pro-Remain rebels have seen that when they dare to speak out against May’s handling of Brexit, it can have an effect. A bruising effect.

So with the Opposition benches now emboldened enough to call out, “Resign!“, with the anti-Brexit faction on the Government benches emboldened by seeing how effective they can be, and the pro-Brexit faction looking increasingly unimpressed by what May has to offer, why does May not do as suggested and resign? All she has to look forward to if she stays on is more powerless chaos.

In the 1840’s, Benjamin Disraeli, a rebellious Tory MP in his own right long before becoming a Tory Prime Minister, was at loggerheads with his leader, Sir Robert Peel, over the proposed repeal of the Corn Laws. During the spat, Disraeli famously described Conservative Governments as “organised hypocrisy”. But as tonight has demonstrated, that description is nonsense.

There is nothing “organised” about Conservative Governments.

by Martin Odoni

Irrespective of whether we think Brexit is a good idea or a bad one, there can be no escaping the reality that its execution is going incredibly badly. After Monday’s utterly shambolic wall-crash over finding a new settlement for the Irish border – perhaps the single most important conundrum that needs solving – matters somehow plumbed even danker depths today. David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting The European Union, finally revealed in Parliament what many of us had been suspecting for weeks.

Answering questions from the House Of Commons Exiting the EU Committee, Davis admitted that neither he nor anyone else inthe Government had carried out the so-called ‘Brexit Impact Assessments’ i.e. the many complex and detailed calculations about how leaving the EU is going to affect British society, particularly its economy. This was after over a year of his repeated assurances to the House and the wider country that over fifty such assessments had been completed.

This deceit amounts to Contempt-of-Parliament, and could have dire repercussions for Davis’ future as an MP. Quite rightly, other MPs such as David Lammy, anti-Brexit campaigners such as Gina Miller, mainstream media commentators such as Rafael Behr, and many left-wing bloggers such as my old comrade-in-arms Mike Sivier of Vox Political, are calling for Davis’ resignation, and for the DExEU Committee to press for formal charges of contempt.

Brexit

Yes, David, that’s pretty much everybody else’s reaction, to every aspect of Brexit.

I certainly do not oppose such demands. Davis’ behaviour has been outrageous, and in most industries it would not only mean summary dismissal, but also possible legal proceedings. Thanks to Parliamentary Privilege – neither House of the Palace Of Wesminster is subject to the Law of the Land – fraud charges may not be possible. But the Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, does have it in his power to suspend Davis from the House, or possibly refer the matter to the public under the Recall Of MPs Act of 2015.

Parliament is already a bad comedy thanks to its domination for decades by shallow, media-friendly, image-obsessive automata. For it to retain any credibility it has left, it has to sanction Davis, and sanction him hard. If an MP can be found to lie casually within the House of Commons on this scale, after all, what point will Parliament have at all? Its first purpose is to hold incumbent Governments to account, and that cannot happen if the precedent is set that there are no consequences for measurable deceit.

But I would not stop at Davis. Nor would I stop at his department. The entire administration now has to go.

Every MP on the Opposition benches, in Labour, in the SNP, in the Liberal Democrats, in Plaid Cymru, Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, and all the ‘Others’, must now unite to demand that the whole Government of Theresa May resign. The position of the entire administration is untenable, and not just because of Davis’ fabrications. The Government’s position has in fact been indictable since the day Article-50 was activated in March, and so the whole Government has to stand down.

What Davis has admitted is even more serious than some people realise; no one in the Conservative Party has been making necessary assessments of Brexit’s likely effects. The Referendum was effectively called in May 2015 when the Tories won that year’s General Election, including it as a gesture to ‘buy’ up assurances of support from the party’s extremist fringe. Since then, two-and-a-half years have passed, during which the Referendum has been and gone, the Leave vote won, Article-50 has been activated, and we have had approximately six months of fruitless negotiations in Brussels. In all of that time, no one in either Cameron’s Government or May’s has even bothered to assess what the actual impact of Brexit will be?

That admission is even more appalling than Davis’ fictitious boasts about what a thorough assessment his department had carried out. After all, if the country does not know what impact ending the current settlement with the EU will have, how can it know what it will need from the new settlement? Little wonder therefore that negotiations with the EU’s representatives are going so badly, when British officials and politicians do not even know the implications of anything they ask for, or even precisely what they need to ask for, or for that matter what will happen if they do not get what they ask for. They have been driving in the dark without headlights for half a year, which has meant progress has not only been difficult, it has been logically impossible; how can progress be made towards a destination that has not even been identified or defined?

These details were central to everything about how Brexit is to be carried out, and until they were properly calculated, it was insanity on Theresa May’s part choosing to activate Article-50 so soon. It started a two-year countdown, and over half of the first year of precious negotiating time has been wasted on a reckless General Election backfire, and aimless thrashing-about when finally at the table. There is no point in childishly continuing to blame EU officials for the logjams, the fault is entirely on the British side.

Have we ever known chaos in Government quite like this? In living memory, the UK has seen infighting, economic tribulations, weak Governments and social unrest. But the current instability is something of a quite unusual order, and as yet, we have not even withdrawn from the EU. Can you imagine what will happen when we do? Brexit has exposed incompetence unprecedented in any British Government since before the World Wars, and Theresa May’s whole administration is implicated in it from top to bottom.

By failing to carry out the Brexit impact assessment, the Conservative Government is guilty of dereliction-of-duty, and so must resign and call a fresh General Election for early in the New Year.

by Martin Odoni

Observe this characteristic moment of childish petulance from Boris ‘Bojob’ Johnson in 2013, during his time as London Mayor…

…when Andrew Dismore was simply stating the facts about fire safety policy in the capital. See what happened to Grenfell Tower in the summer, and then perhaps we can ask Johnson to explain to us why Dinsmore is the one who should ‘get stuffed’.

Now compare the above with Jeremy Corbyn’s endless patient dignity in the face of a two-and-a half year barrage of insults and false accusations from every corner of the media and every shade of the political spectrum. Such as this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this (by Johnson himself).

(NB: The above links are just taken from the first couple of pages of a Google search. I could make the list about a hundred times longer if I thought it worth the bother, and still not exhaust the possibilities.)

As the Skwawkbox blog highlighted yesterday, Corbyn has risen above the waves of abuse and never retaliated. Indeed, he almost never loses his temper during debates or interviews, even when being personally insulted. The aftermath of the very low insult thrown by Andrew Griffiths across the House of Commons during the Autumn Budget debate on Wednesday was the first time I have seen Corbyn get angry in well over two years (the only previous instance being during a Channel 4 interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy, in 2015, in response to a measurably false accusation). And as Skwawkbox noted, Corbyn’s anger was not at the insult, but at the arrogant, trivialising attitude of Conservative MPs to the victims of budget cuts in social care.

So Corbyn genuinely does not care about being insulted. What he cares about is ensuring discussions critical to many of the nation’s most vulnerable people are not derailed by the usual descent into puerile House of Commons slanging matches – which Tory MPs are now being instructed to do every time he is at the despatch box. (On a side-note, that they are resorting to this sort of dirty tactic shows that the Tories are clearly now terrified of Corbyn, because they can find no effective way to combat him.)

These last two years prove that when Corbyn claims he wants a new way of doing politics, he is not just soundbiting; he is living up to that aspiration.

Johnson, as his behaviour when questioned by the London Assembly four years ago demonstrates, measurably wants to continue the obsolete fashion of throwing insults around in order to evade accountability and to silence criticism.

Theresa May, the lamest duck to sit in 10 Downing Street in over a century, is almost certainly nearing the end of her unhappy time as Prime Minister. When she finally falls from an office she has merely occupied rather than governed from for nearly six months, she will either be replaced by Johnson – if the Tories can somehow form another minority Government – or by Corbyn, if instead another General Election is called.

The above comparison clearly demonstrates that the country will have a choice between Johnson’s selfish childishness and Corbyn’s altruistic maturity.

In that light, is there really any choice to be made at all?

by Martin Odoni

I have argued for something like five years now that the Office for Budget Responsibility is not fit for its (stated) purpose and should be abolished. Since it was established under George ‘Gidiot’ Osborne in 2010, it has failed to gets its projections anywhere near right pretty much every time, always over-estimating how well the British economy will do. This is partly because, in practice, it largely just echoes the Friedmanite assumptions of the International Monetary Fund.

Of course, we should not make the mistake of assuming that the OBR’s stated purpose of being is the real one. It is never like that in Westminster, especially not when the Conservatives are in power. At the start of the Tory coalition with the Liberal Democrats, Osborne’s purpose in founding the office was really just public relations. The Tories were desperate to give the profoundly dishonest impression that the ‘Credit Crunch’ financial crisis of 2007-9 was a result of ‘profligate public spending’, and not of the sort of reckless banking sector activities that successive neoliberal Governments across the western world had spent decades encouraging. This deceitful narrative gave the Tories an excuse to attack the public sector instead of the financial sector, all in the name of ‘responsible public spending’ (a concept that is short of real meaning when looked at closely). How better to give such an impression that than by establishing an entire new Government office named in tribute to ‘penny-wise thrift’?

But the OBR is no longer any good for that image-shaping approach either, because after seven years of getting pretty much every major projection for the public finances wildly wrong, always erring on the side of mindless optimism, its every announcement now serves only to make the Treasury look increasingly incompetent.

Today’s Winter Budget statement delivered by Phillip ‘Spreadsheet-Phil’ Hammond – the Chancellor who is to charisma what Osborne was to intellectual decency – included yet more dismal forecasts from the OBR, as it once again revised its previous projections downwards. Growth is expected to be lower over the next few years than had previously been predicted, the National Debt is going to climb for longer than predicted, productivity is going to remain low for longer than previously predicted… oh, please stop me if you have heard these lyrics many-a-time before.

So the books are not becoming noticeably balanced, nor is the Government looking noticeably competent. The OBR is clearly not achieving its stated aim, or its real aim.

But then. neither aim would be justified; the job of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not, never has been, and never will be, to balance the budget. In most respects, it just cannot be done, not for more than a very brief while anyway. As I have stated many times before, should the Government get the public finances into surplus, it will probably lead to a national economic crash, or at least a serious slowdown.

No, the Chancellor’s job is not to balance the budget, it is to balance the economy as a whole – to find sustainable ways to keep industry and cash-circulation going, and to make sure that all industrial sectors are operating healthily and not just the service sector.

With the OBR making the supposed assumption that ‘balancing the budget’ should be the aim instead of balancing the economy, its officials make projections based on the twin notions that a public sector surplus will be good for the economy, and that the best way of achieving a surplus is to cut public budgets ruthlessly. Neither is true. A public sector surplus will simply mean a private sector deficit, one whose effects are far harder to control, and will most likely include a very painful recession. And as cutting budgets indiscriminately reduces industry and increases unemployment, lowering activity in the economy, tax yields will inevitably decline soon afterwards, meaning the public deficit does not reduce nearly as far as the OBR projects. (When a budget is cut, the people carrying out the work that budget was paying for have less work to do, and some or all of them will inevitably be laid off, and so stop receiving a wage. When they are not receiving a wage, they pay no income tax, they buy less and so pay less Value Added Tax as well,; in short, tax receipts go down.)

This is why the 2010 aim of wiping out the deficit by the spring of 2015 never came to pass, and the target has been repeatedly pushed back; the endless rounds of austerity measures and spending cuts have reduced outlays, but then have soon led to tax receipts becoming smaller and smaller as well. This has meant the net gap between receipts and outlays stubbornly refuses to close up completely, irrespective of whether it would be good news if it did. The projected deadline for the public sector being in surplus has now been pushed back to 2025 – that is fully ten years after the original target set by Osborne in 2010 – and I have no doubt it will be pushed back still further within another eighteen months, especially with the damage of a completely-unplanned Brexit getting uncomfortably close to the horizon.

Austerity carrot on a stick

Like the donkey chasing a carrot dangling from a stick tied to its back, the more a Government cuts spending to reduce the deficit, the further the point of equilibrium moves away from its reach. Whether fiscal conservatives like it or not, they simply have to face facts; austerity is based on a deluded aim, it is not working, it is unable to work, and it is certainly not going to work after Brexit.

No one at the OBR ever seems to grasp this, and for that reason, more than ever, it is not fit-for-purpose, either economically or politically, and should be disbanded.

by Martin Odoni

Labour centrists just cannot help themselves, can they? JK Rowling – she who has gained barely-explicable recognition as one of the world’s ‘great’ authors – last week described the current Labour Party as a ‘solipsistic personality cult’. (On that evidence, I am not even completely sure she understands what the word solipsistic means, only adding to my doubts about her status as an author.) Nick Cohen, the Guardian writer singly most unable to distinguish between a fairer world and a world torn apart by all-pervading warfare, added his own clamour of contempt a couple of days later, calling the Labour Party Conference, ‘The cult of St. Jeremy’.

The damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t quality of trying to please the so-called ‘centre-left’ – really just conservatives with somewhat queasier consciences – is brought most sharply into focus by how bizarrely unaware they seem to be of their own contradictory mindset. For almost two years, their overriding objection to Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader was that, “He’s unelectable because he doesn’t engage with the electorate.”

Over the last few months, Corbyn has disproven that charge overwhelmingly, securing over forty per cent of the vote at the General Election in June, and the largest total vote-count for Labour since 1997. Even if that was still behind the Tories, one does not win that many votes by not engaging with the electorate on a large scale. Subsequent to the Election, Labour has led the Tories consistently in every opinion poll, so it was no ‘flash-in-the-pan’ moment either.

This is only underlined by the response to him by his supporters, of which there are not only millions around the country, but many more around the world. Witness the singing of the almost omni-present, “Ooooh, Jeremy Corbyn!” chant reportedly in the USA, Italy and Belgium, to see just how far and wide Corbyn has shown his power to engage.

The response of the Labour centrists? “It’s a cult! They think he’s a messiah! This is worship, not leadership!” etc.

Now, one could well argue that the public fascination with Tony Blair in the mid-1990’s was little different, and yet Labour centrists never offered any objection on that score. But that is not my point. At no stage do the centrists notice the inconsistency – make that the one-hundred-and-eighty-degree paradox – of their position on Corbyn in itself. Corbyn is unelectable because he somehow both ‘fails to engage with the public’ and ‘is the object of a personality cult’.

Step aside, Schrödinger’s Cat. Step aside, Schrödinger’s immigrant. We now have Schrödinger’s Labour leader. How can someone who does not engage with the electorate draw a large cult-following from the electorate?

22089816_873970782757373_6992395846040433592_n

The frustration of these contradictory insults is partly because, in truth, very, very few of Corbyn’s supporters see him as an ‘object-of-worship’ as such. They admire him for having the courage to smash the Overton Window of the last forty years and speak again ideas that were considered unthinkable thanks to Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch, and finally bring Keynesian social democracy back into the mainstream. Yes, there is affection for Corbyn, but for better or worse, it is the ideas he stands for that are important, and not just the man himself. Corbyn, it should be emphasised, is among the first to say that.

The chants of Oh, Jeremy Corbyn! seem as much to reassure him that he has far more support than would have seemed obvious for much of the last two years. Given the appalling hostility he has faced from both the media and his own Parliamentary Party during that time, supporters want him to keep his chin up and keep believing that he is doing the right thing. That is not ‘cultish’ behaviour, it is simply propping each other up around a shared idea; if you think about it, is that not sort of the point of political parties in the first place?

Support for Corbyn is therefore hardly a cult at all. But if that is how the centrists want to frame it, and supposing we humour them on that point for the time being, they still need to make up their minds; do they want a popular leader, or not? When they think Corbyn is not popular, they say he ‘does not engage the electorate’. When they think Corbyn is popular, they say he is ‘a cult-figure’. Corbyn must sigh at the end of every day; he might well win an Election very soon, but with the centrists, he cannot win at all. Should he become Prime Minister, they will simply move the goal-posts again, and complain that his majority would have been so much larger had he adopted a centrist platform.

But also, if ‘a cult’, as the centrists call it, is a bad thing, why did they spend nearly two years trying to get rid of Corbyn effectively on the grounds of him not being a cult-figure? If they now conclude that they were wrong about wanting a popular leader, they should at least have the courage to admit it.

by Martin Odoni

One of the most irritating refrains from the anti-immigrant/anti-Islam crowd over the last few years has been the attempt to justify hostility to Muslims by insisting it cannot be racism. The grounds for this claim is that “Islam is not a race”. Even the likes of Richard Dawkins was tweeting it a few years ago.

The sentence is technically true, but if you think about it, the distinction it draws is entirely a quibble. The hostility towards Muslims is still a form of ‘othering’ of a foreign culture. Furthermore, on hearing the word Muslim, the average white Anglo-Saxon Briton will picture something roughly along the lines of this; –

57_thehistoryofislam_saudi_terror_cartoon_75

The image is offensive, as it conflates Muslims with militant Islamists, but also because it is both sectarian and highly racial. In particular, it makes the classic mistake of assuming that Muslim is a synonym for Arab. In the real world, the proportion of Muslims worldwide who are Arabs is under fifteen per cent. As an example, perhaps the most extreme Islamic nation on Earth, the Shi’a Republic of Iran, is a Persian country, not an Arab country (although admittedly there is a very substantial number of Arabs living there). Most Muslims, incidentally, are Sunnis, not Shi’ites, another distinction many laymen in the UK fail to recognise. Only about twenty per cent of Muslims globally are Shi’ites.

So long as people associate a religion with a race, and more particularly with a racial caricature they hold in contempt, then hostility towards that religion is racism, and the religion’s unpleasant features are merely the pretext for racial feeling.

Where the hostility towards a religion is based on an informed aversion towards its teachings and philosophies, then one might argue that it is not racist; but only then if the same hostility is felt towards other religions with equally unpleasant laws. For instance, Christians in Britain First, such as Jayda Fransen, raise reasonable objections to some of the more blood-curdling passages in the Qur’an, but conveniently overlook – refuse to be drawn on – the horrific laws and commands of the God of the Old Testament. Why, if not because Christianity is ‘our’ country’s religion, whereas Islam belongs to ‘people from elsewhere’?

Whether the religion is specifically a race is therefore immaterial. Look at myself; I am a non-practicing Jew – part of Jewry but not of Judaism, entirely on the word of the ancient Prophet Ezra. You could argue that Jewry is not a race at all – Ezra’s somewhat arbitrary convention has it that it is a matrilineal ethnicity – but nobody in their right mind would argue that anti-Semitism is anything other than a form of racism.

I am largely dismissive of all religions to a greater or lesser extent, including Judaism – on analysis I find all the Abrahamic religions in particular very authoritarian and bloodthirsty – but I respect the right of others to worship in their own way, so long as they make no attempt to impose it on others. Islamophobes have no such ‘live-and-let-live’ outlook; not only do they hate the aggressive and bullying militants of Wahhabism, they hate anyone who is a Muslim at all. They cannot see the distinction; any Muslim is a Hollywood-style Arab caricature in their eyes.

What matters when identiying racism is not the doctrine, which is usually just the handy pretext for prejudice, it is the impulse that is driving it. That impulse is ugly, irrational, and hateful. Mere association with ancient texts from the Middle East does not create any fundamental difference to that impulse at all.