by Martin Odoni

I was never very confident going into this General Election. Oh, I often tried to project as positive a mood as I could, to do my bit for morale, but I never quite got the sense of the Labour Party closing the gap on the Tories as I got in 2017.

Even so, the shock of the Exit Poll suggesting Labour were down to below 200 seats was absolutely horrible, worse than the one in 2015. In the end, Labour were twelve seats up on the Exit Poll, but that is scant consolation. It is a disaster, and Labour are now in a weaker position in the House of Commons than they have been at any time since the end of World War II.

The right wing of the party, and the media, have been quick to push a message that Labour have moved too far left under Jeremy Corbyn, and need to start moving in a Blairite direction once more. Nick Robinson and Laura Kuenssberg – whose imprisonable offence from the other day should not become forgotten in all the electoral fall-out – of the BBC were particularly fast to try and contend that there was far more to Labour’s defeat than just a loss of pro-Brexit supporters. Through the night, they repeatedly pointed to anecdotal evidence from Labour campaigners that Corbyn was often spoken of as a “problem” for voters. Therefore, Robinson, almost obscene in his haste to announce that the ‘Corbyn Project’ was over even before Corbyn had said anything public about the results, concluded that it was time for a switch to the right.

This is, and I make no apology for the foul language here, bullshit.

Utter bullshit.

It is absolutely self-evident, and was even so as the results were unfolding, that the biggest factor in the outcome by a country mile was Brexit. At almost every turn where Labour’s support had slumped, a similar number of votes had been claimed by the Brexit Party, by the Tories, or by a combination of the two – the two parties that are most rigorously pursuing British departure from the European Union. Most of Labour’s lost support was in traditional working class territory in the north of England, the north of Wales, and the Midlands, and most particularly in areas where there was a high Leave vote in the 2016 Referendum.

Now, I have no doubt Corbyn was a factor in some voters’ rejection of Labour – no politician will be everybody’s cup of tea. And given how brutally and relentlessly he has been smeared by the media, including many supposedly ‘left-leaning’ periodicals, there can be no doubt that the wider public’s view of Corbyn has been unfairly coloured. But the general results do not offer any specific evidence of a rejection of Labour’s policy platform as a whole. The shift was very definitely Leavers, with their maddening tunnel-visioned obsession with Brexit, moving to parties boasting their determination to ‘Get Brexit done’.

Either way, a personal objection to Corbyn does not constitute an objection to his policies. When discussing the Labour Manifesto, people were usually very enthused – Labour’s polling numbers did improve substantially rather than deteriorate after it was launched – just as they had been in 2017. On that occasion, Labour scored forty per cent of the vote, and it seems unlikely that huge numbers have suddenly reversed that position.

The real issue appears to be that Labour’s position on Brexit over the last couple of years was a little difficult to follow. It did make sense if you took the time to study it, but there was never time enough for the short attention spans of the modern British public. By adopting a cautious pro-Remain position, Labour alienated a substantial number of ‘Lexiteers’, without drawing in all that many Remainers.

My own position on Brexit, by the way, has not changed. I still think it is a phenomenally stupid national endeavour when it is so disorganised and so ill-planned, hence the chaos of the last three years. But at the same time, I did accept that it should go ahead on democratic grounds. As did the Labour Party initially. The key mistake probably lay in trying to please Remainers within the party by allowing an option in the party policy to seek a new referendum.

In all this opportunistic scummery from the right wing of the Labour Party, there is also outright deceit; they know better than anyone that what has consistently brought their party’s chances of winning under Corbyn has been themselves, not Corbyn. Their endless and unnecessary rebellions, their cynically-timed public tantrums, their obvious and over-orchestrated charades of opposition to their own side, have done far more harm to Labour’s hopes than any Tory move. That has always been the point of course. The Labour Right may sound angry and disgusted about last night, but in truth, they are happy, because they would rather endure another five years out of power and with Boris Johnson in Downing Street than have a proper leftist leading their party into Government.  They were as much a part of the character-assassination of a man who owns an allotment, makes his own jam, and does not want a nuclear war, as the tabloids who caricatured him every day for years. And they were as much what skewered Labour’s own chances of success as the media too.

The infuriating irony is that, if I had a single pound for each time in my life I had heard members of the public complain about the sordid, cut-throat nature of politics, about how deceitful and treacherous politicians are, and how desperate they are to see some honour and integrity in the nation’s highest office, I would probably be rich enough to buy the Conservative Party. And yet, in Jeremy Corbyn, the nation had the perfect opportunity to get a real standard of honour and integrity in its Prime Minister. However, when it came to the crunch, the people ultimately rejected him, and instead sided with a bludgeoning, buffoonish, money-loving, pathological liar in his place.

People who try to defend such decisions on the grounds of ‘realism’ are being fatuous in the extreme. By definition, there is no ‘realism’ in putting one’s trust in a pathological liar, or in being taken in by smear campaigns, and other very obvious theatrics; and let us be honest, theatrics are the defining characteristic of what is called ‘New Labour’. What realism is there in calling a man who has fought racism his whole life a racist? What realism is there in calling a man of peace who has consistently opposed unnecessary wars a threat to national security? What realism is there in a narrative that says that anti-Semitism in a party’s membership is rife when its actual rate of anti-Semitic incidents is below 0.1% per head?

No, opposing Corbyn is not about realism, it is about defeatism, and it is a sign of very dark and unhappy times that so few people seem able to see any distinction.

The end for Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn is beaten, and has announced he will step down as Labour leader before the next General Election.

So, what next? Well, Corbyn has already made clear that he will not lead the Labour Party into the next General Election, whenever that is. This is not exactly a resignation, as it could mean he is still leader as late as 2024. But it is clearly an acceptance that he will never lead the country, and that means the opportunity that opened to the British left four years ago has been missed. There are not enough leftists still in the Parliamentary Party to be sure of enough nominations for a left-wing successor.

The Tories, red and blue, have broken the spirits of many tens of thousands of good, honest, Labour idealists, usually through the foulest of foul play. Cheating has triumphed, and for the third time, cheating appears to have won a Labour Party civil war for its right wing.

24 hours of Tory toxicity

December 10, 2019

by Martin Odoni

For sure, we knew that the Conservatives and their media allies were completely shut off from morality. And we also knew to expect the worst of their appalling smears and dirty tricks to land in the last few days before the General Election. But even so, the last twenty-four hours or so have seen them hit startling lows.

Firstly, we had ‘Punchless-Punch-Gate’, in which Robert Peston of ITV News and Laura Kuenssberg (uurrggghhh, not her again!) of the BBC uncritically relayed over social media claims that a Conservative Party advisor had been punched by a Labour activist during a visit to Leeds General Infirmary.

Laura K original tweet

Laura Kuenssberg’s original, unsubstantiated tweet, since deleted, accusing Labour activists of physical assault. Yet another BBC ‘mistake’ that benefits the Tories or denigrates the Labour Party.

The ‘punch’ was actually a guy on a bike pointing while not seeing the advisor walking behind him, who accidentally brushed past his outstretched arm with absolutely bare minimal contact. Kuenssberg and Peston both later tweeted retractions, but as usual, it was after the damage was done. Kuenssberg’s retraction in particular was a bit wide of the point; –

Kuenssberg protecting the people lying to her.jpg

Surely any source’s right-to-anonymity is waived when they abuse it and their media access to spread flagrant untruths? If Kuenssberg disagrees, perhaps she could offer us a reason?

It is all very well apologising, and, sure, we all make mistakes. But the ‘mistakes’ the BBC keep making always, without exception, help Boris Johnson and the Tories, while hurting Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. But worse than this, it was more than just ‘a mistake’. Someone high up (probably Health Secretary Matt Hancock) deliberately fed Kuenssberg and Peston false information, meaning whoever-it-was was abusing the privacy of journalistic ‘source protection’. Why should that protection continue to apply therefore? Surely it should not, and yet neither Kuenssberg nor Peston seem to have the courage to reveal who it was. That again reeks of collusion.

Then, overnight, the right wing press (AKA ‘The-press-pass-carrying-wing-of-the-Conservative-Party’) decided to push back against the big story in the NHS from the start of this week – a four-year-old child with suspected pneumonia being forced to lie on a floor at the same hospital due to insufficient beds. The child, Jack Williment-Barr, was apparently kept waiting for a bed for around eight hours, admittedly half of which were spent on a trolley rather than the floor.

Spearheaded by the disturbingly malicious Allison Pearson of the Daily Telegraph, right wing media outlets are trying the same smear Jack’s mother with the same trick used on a worried father who had confronted Boris Johnson at Whipp’s Cross Hospital back in September; they just dismissed the whole argument as a staged ‘set-up’. Now Pearson and her cohorts are trying to make out that Sarah Williment did the same thing, and they appear to be mobilising armies of bots and fake accounts on Twitter to spread the smear as far and wide as its foul substances will go.

Allison Pearson talks to people who were not at the scene as though that counts as corroboration.jpg

Allison Pearson is another of those right wingers who seem to think hearsay is more authoritative than on-the-scene reporting.

Now, let us be in no doubt, what was in the original picture was genuine, as confirmed by both the hospital and Matt Hancock. But the implications in some of what Pearson had to say were startling in their accusatory cruelty. In particular, she seemed concrete-certain that Ms Williment was as manipulative as… well… as Tories are. Taking this logic to its fullest length leads to a quite horrible conclusion; –

Pearson defends nurses by attacking parents.jpg

Don’t psychopaths just love to project their moral disorders onto the rest of the human race?

Plenty of people have responded over social media, to give Pearson no doubt that she is ‘on the wrong side of history’, so to speak. In particular, it appears that the individual who supposedly started the rumour may have interests of her own at heart.

Private doctors wife behind staged NHS story outrage.jpg

Reasons to doubt the accusation of a ‘staged photograph’?

Whatever the reality of that, what is becoming unmistakable is that Conservative Party HQ is fully co-operating with the smear. This is because of the giveaway phenomena that often happen when the Tories use Twitter to advance a narrative. Loads of little-regarded Twitter accounts with few followers and still-fewer distinguishing characteristics all start tweeting in support of it – usually with vertbatim posts and comments. Tell-tale sign of bots at play. Over to Alex Andreou; –

Andreou exposes obvious bot attacks.jpg

All these ‘individuals’ seem to have had a word-for-word identical attack of narrative inspiration at the same time. How extrao-o-o-o-o-ordinary.

Twitter attack of the clones.jpg

And these ones too!

Among all the other giveaway signs of fakery, note how the tweets get the name of the hospital wrong. There is no “Leeds Hospital”; its correct name, as mentioned above, is “Leeds General Infirmary”.

The deceitfulness of the Conservatives and their media supporters may seem somewhat ‘deodorised’ by how laughably obvious it is that they are lying and over-orchestrating the narrative. Sadly however, that lost sting may have an unfortunate opposite effect from the one we need it to have. It soothes the anger people should feel for a political party that has become so morally and intellectually bankrupt that it no longer understands that lies are unacceptable. It no longer even recognises the danger that lies lead to inaccuracies, and therefore even honest decisions are likelier to be made incorrectly, and thus will have bad consequences. The less seriously the public take this, the likelier another Tory majority will be on Thursday/Friday.

The Tories would not even be in contention now, were it not for the unquestioning co-operation of the media, especially the BBC, who continue just to act as an uncritical mouthpiece for the Conservative Party’s every claim, while subjecting the Labour Party to almost excessive levels of scrutiny.

But again, should this even surprise us?

BBC bias

The BBC’s politics team is overwhelmingly dominated by Conservatives.

An Election this may be, but it can hardly be a democratic exercise when one of the most critical parts of the democratic structure – the press – stubbornly refuse to do their job properly, and instead keep co-operating with power, instead of stating truth to its most unappealing features.

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NOTE: With the General Election dead ahead, I and many other leftist bloggers have found our access to social media being restricted for ‘mysterious’ reasons. For instance, I am unable to share any links to Facebook all of a sudden, among other suspiciously-timed restrictions. So if you manage to read this, please share it anywhere you can. Many thanks.

by Martin Odoni

What was I saying the other day about Boris Johnson making all the same mistakes Theresa May made in 2017? Well, judging by what happened tonight during the first ‘head-to-head’ television debate with Jeremy Corbyn, Johnson shows no signs of changing course.

It was the ITV debate, and their studios are in MediaCity in Salford Quays, which is a short tramride from where I live. So at the start of the evening, I joined a few hundred protesters crowded outside the studios hoping to give Johnson some renewed earache.

Anti-Johnson protest in Salford Quays

Me braving the cold in MediaCity UK to join the hecklers giving Boris Johnson an ironically hot welcome.

Well, what did you think was going to happen? But of course! As soon as he realised that lots of people were going to boo at him as he got to the front door, Johnson instructed the driver of his car to take him round to a side entrance and sneak into the building that way.

Corbyn, it also goes without saying, happily came out to speak to the crowd and shake hands. Okay, it was easier for him as most of the crowd were bound to be sympathisers. But really; remember Johnson calling Corbyn a ‘chicken’ a couple of months ago?

Boris the incredible chicken

Two can play, it seems.

My usual eloquence fails me. Get knotted, BoJob.

I must remind everyone once again though, evading the public was a dreadful weakness May showed for most of the spring and summer of 2017. I criticised her myself for refusing to speak to the public, given that, in a country that likes to call itself ‘a democracy’, politicians should be accountable to the people, especially during a General Election. How can that happen if the Prime Minister refuses to speak to them? It looks arrogant, high-handed, and cowardly, and yet Johnson is now emulating it almost daily, after his embarrassing experiences on visits to hospitals during the Autumn.

Schrodingers cameraman

Boris Johnson hapless as a member of the public has the audacity to confront him over the growing NHS crisis.

.During the debate itself, Corbyn’s oratory was solid if not exactly spectacular, conceding little ground and ready enough to correct Johnson when he lied – and of course, that was required frequently. But Johnson for his part only seemed to be half-paying attention to the questions he was being asked anyway, and was clearly determined to turn his every moment with the floor into a rather dreary loop-performance about how he is going to get Brexit done.

Again, has Johnson not learned from May, and the way she clearly alienated millions by her relentless repetition of ‘Strong & Stable’ in the early weeks, and then ‘strong economy‘ later on? He might even get away with a similar catchphrase habit if it led to him saying something substantial, but of course it does no such thing. It is just empty, one-note sloganising. It did not work two years ago, and there is no particular reason to assume it will work now.

I have seen people on social media noting that Johnson was stammering and thrashing about a little. This, yet again, is reminiscent of May, who proved to be absolutely dire at thinking on her feet during televised questioning.

Not so reminiscent of May particularly this time, but Johnson also did himself no favours by saying that the monarchy is ‘beyond reproach’. Given the trouble Prince Andrew is currently in, the confrontation with the monarchy that Johnson himself almost created in recent months, and his own tasteless history of expressing sympathy for the rich as a ‘put-upon minority’, he is letting slip just how aloof and living-in-a-different-world the Tories are compared with most ordinary Britons. Even most Brexiteers cannot avoid feeling alienated by his privileged perspective forever.

And finally there is the stupid, childish and characteristically dishonest Twitter stunt pulled by the Conservative Party during the debate, when they re-branded their feed ‘FactCheck UK’, opening up the possibility of people seeing their tweets and assuming they were published by an actual fact-checking firm. Now, it is insulting enough that the Tories would imagine significant numbers of people would be stupid enough to fall for this. But if it had worked, that would be worse, because once again the Tories have shown a pathological willingness to corrupt the democratic process to advance their power. If the Tories had actually been seeking a way of convincing the public to trust Corbyn more than their own leader, they could have found no more certain way than this.

I would say Corbyn edged the debate, as much because Johnson performed so shakily and so foolishly, as because of Corbyn’s own performance.

by Martin Odoni

Delusions on both sides

I have written a considerable amount over the last couple of years criticising Brexiteers for their disregard for reality, and rightly so. It is one of the most painful patterns of modern political discourse trying to convince a Leave-supporter, either of the right or of the left, to take the plain facts into account when analysing how Brexit is going i.e. very, very badly, perhaps to the point of unworkable.

But I have to concede, the Remain camp has its share of pie-in-the-sky dreamers too. From those who talk in flowery, detail-free soundbites about the ‘beauty’ of European unity, which bears almost no resemblance to the neoliberal reality of the European Union, to those who confuse globalisation with internationalism and therefore fail to recognise that the EU stands far more for market power than it does for battling against inequality. Remainers tend to be less deluded on average, but “less deluded than a Brexiteer” is a little like saying, “less badly-written than a Terminator sequel”.

Deluded Remainers have drifted towards the LibDems

One problem with Remainers that is particular to the last fifteen months is the way they have been drawn in considerable numbers to the Liberal Democrats. Many Remainers, especially since Labour adopted a position in support of a ‘Soft’-Brexit-if-possible at the 2018 Party Conference, began to drift away, and the LibDems found their support growing, due to their stance of wishing to cancel Brexit summarily. This was understandable, although partly based on a misunderstanding of Labour policy i.e. Labour policy was to attempt to force a General Election, and, if elected, try to get a good deal for Brexit, and failing to get one or both of them, they would support a Referendum to resolve the likely deadlock. (Contrary to media reports, Labour have actually been consistent on this, and have stuck quite firmly to the policy. It is only because the policy has different, conditional stages that people have been getting the idea that it is ‘confused’.)

Labour’s position has now completed its switchover to supporting a second Referendum, complete with a ‘Remain’ option on the ballot, making it a perfectly valid hope for Remainers. The LibDems have continued to claim that Labour are a ‘pro-Brexit’ party, which is true in a sense, but deliberately misleading as it over-simplifies the policy.

In truth, if the LibDems were really the steadfast ‘party of Remain’ they paint themselves as, they would be trying to get as close to the Labour Party as possible, instead of vilifying them. A Labour victory in the General Election next month is the only realistic path to a potential revocation of Article-50. Labour will attempt to get an improved deal and will put that deal to the people in a confirmatory referendum with remain as the alternative. That is the only path to remaining in the EU that looks a realistic prospect.

The Tories show a rabid pro-Brexit fanaticism

Compare that stance to the policy of the Tories, which is to “get Brexit done” come-what-may, with their leader looking so eager for a No-Deal form of Brexit that he imperilled the Constitution of the United Kingdom a couple of months ago to try and force it to happen.

In the face of these options, it should be glaringly obvious even to the sightless that Labour’s position is vastly closer to the LibDems’ than the Tories. So what does Jo Swinson, the LibDems’ recently-elected leader, have to say about it?

Well of course, she repeatedly and summarily rules out forming a coalition or alliance with Jeremy Corbyn, while she unfailingly lies about what Corbyn’s policy is. At the same time, she never entirely seems to rule out a coalition or alliance with the Tories. I must emphasise that Swinson frequently speaks of Johnson in coruscating terms, but the nearest she comes to saying she will not ally with him is that she “will not support him”. This strongly implies no dirty deals, but is not quite the same as ruling one out. Certainly, Swinson does not condemn Johnson, or rule out working with him, nearly as often or as unambiguously as she does Corbyn. The anti-Brexiteer shows more sympathy for the No-Deal-Brexiteer than for the man adopting the more moderate position.

Jo Two-Face

What Jo Swinson says is always contradicted by other things she says.

The Tim Walker saga

This flip-flopping posture was made even worse this week by what happened to Tim Walker. Walker is a former Telegraph ‘journalist’ (how generous am I, using a term like that for someone who worked for that pompous rag?) who used to work closely with Johnson. However, due to his opposition to Brexit, Walker chose to stand as a LibDem candidate against the Tories in Canterbury, the former Conservative stronghold that shockingly fell to Labour in 2017. Rosie Duffield’s majority was under 200.

Walker’s candidacy was a pretty weird move by the LibDems from a pro-Remain perspective. As Duffield and Walker are both Remainers, it was clear his arrival on the Canterbury hustings could only split the Remain vote and let the Tories take the seat back, advancing the prospect of No-Deal. In fairness to Walker, this week he decided to stand down and let Duffield fight one-on-one (more or less) against Tory Anna Firth.

“Ah!” cry the LibDems’ defenders. “See? The LibDems taking a principled position, putting opposition to Brexit ahead of their own narrow interests.”

In Walker’s case, that is true, and one can applaud his decision to put himself second. But the problem is that, on learning that he had stepped down, Swinson responded by announcing that the party would find another candidate to contest the seat!

This not only defeated the object of Walker’s self-sacrifice, but it also ran completely contrary to the principle of pro-Remain – the very principle Walker had stood down under, and the principle that the LibDems are promoting as their main ‘selling-point’. For the “party of Remain” to do this should be anathema to them.

LibDem history does nothing to improve confidence

Any benefit-of-the-doubt Swinson has had up until now must therefore go. It is easy, and probably safe, to conclude that Swinson is adopting the positions she does simply because it gives the LibDems something to distinguish themselves from the Tories, (from whom they have gained a number of defectors who have ugly attitudes on other issues such as gay rights, which again raises doubts about how firmly the party holds its principles) and that she is not as fussed about preventing Brexit as she wants to appear. Yes, she is pro-Remain, but she will not risk any deduction in her party’s position in the House of Commons in order to stop Brexit.

If they gain enough support, the LibDems might, just might, win enough seats to hold the balance of power again, as happened in 1974 and 2010. But both times that they had that advantage, little good was sifted from it. In 1974, Jeremy Thorpe failed to secure an alliance from Ted Heath, and after a few months of a Labour minority Government, there had to be another Election. In 2010, Nick Clegg secured a coalition with David Cameron, and then enabled Austerity, allowing a massive hike in tuition fees that Clegg was expressly committed to opposing, among other backstabs.

So Liberal/LibDem records in attempted coalition are not pretty, and the clear worry is that, should they get into such a position again under Swinson, they will simply concede Brexit as the price of getting seats in the Cabinet once more. After all, if trebled tuition fees were not an excessive price for them when most of their support came from students nine years ago, well, what would be?

LibDem witnesses

#NickCleggsWitnesses – never let them into your House (of Commons). And on a somewhat less humorous note, have you ever seen two such obviously-false, ingratiating grins?

Jo Swinson simply is not what she wants Remainers to think she is

Therefore, it is the turn of Remainers around the country to face reality, the reality being that Jo Swinson is not the ‘Wonder Woman‘ saviour figure she wants them to believe she is. Many Remainers thought the LibDems were their only hope of stopping the undoubted misery of Brexit. In truth, there was little enough chance of a party with a smaller presence in the Commons than the Scottish National Party being able to win enough extra seats to end the madness anyway. But it is now clear that the LibDems are not nearly as passionate or steadfast on the issue as they like to sound. They are already showing various signs of compromising their “Stop-Brexit-at-the-cost-of-all-else” posture, in order to carry on leeching voters from Labour.

This, Remainers, is the reality; there is no reason, especially with their track record from nine years ago, to assume that the LibDems will not concede more, should that be the price of power.

by Martin Odoni

I did mention earlier in the year that Boris Johnson, who in most respects could hardly be more different to his predecessor, Theresa May, is nonetheless still just similar enough to make many of the same mistakes. This General Election campaign, he seems to be setting out to prove it.

We all remember, I am sure, the negativity, cowardice, and general ugliness of the Conservative campaigns in General Elections 2015 and 2017. 2017 in particular was almost painful to behold, as a mechanical, no-chances-taken, evasive, badly over-choreographed and colourless Tory campaign pretty much handed Labour about ten points in support from a public on the threshold of lethal boredom. The whole seven-week fiasco demonstrated that May was absolutely hopeless at heading up an Election campaign, and should have established her as the very model of a leader not to emulate on the metaphorical hustings.

With this in mind, and looking at the current Tory campaign, one has to ask, not for the first time, “BoJob, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Johnson seems to be copying May’s every mistake, having started the campaign with a mistake copied from David Cameron (as mentioned last week).

blunder-man

A XXX-rated Prime Minister if ever there was one, just not in the way he would like us to think.

Consider in GE2017, when the Tories announced in their Manifesto a change to social care policy that increased the financial burden for elderly people suffering illnesses related to dementia. Although the actual burden on patients was not as severe is it sounded, it was still a very regressive policy, which was quickly nicknamed Dementia Tax. It caused a public uproar. Within a couple of days, May had panicked and reversed the policy, the first time on confirmed record that a Manifesto pledge had been formally U-Turned away from before the General Election had even arrived. In the weeks that followed, May was nicknamed The U-Turn Queen, while Jeremy Paxman famously called her,

“A blowhard who collapses at the first sign of gunfire.”

blowhard uturnqueen

But this time, Johnson has gone one better even than reversing policy between Manifesto and Election. His Government promised less than two weeks ago to halt fracking, with a view to banning it, “until compelling new evidence is provided” to show it can be done safely. Now, before he has even published the Manifesto, that policy has been U-Turned away from as well, with Johnson accepting, via very quietly-published civil service documentation, that “future applications will be considered on their own merits”. Whatever else that is, it is clearly not a ban nor necessarily conditional on evidence, and indeed it sounds no different to the status quo that was in place beforehand.

A blowhard who collapses at the first sign of Cuadrilla gunfire, perhaps? “U-Turn if you want to?” said Margaret Thatcher. It seems that Johnson, like May, is very much for turning.

(On the subject of U-Turns, Johnson has again retreated from his vague promise in the summer to hold an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, reiterating a vague commitment to investigate “all kinds of prejudice”. This dodge might work against his party though, given the research published last week showing that anti-Semitism is absolutely rife on the right wing.)

One of May’s numerous, very cringe-worthy platitudes during GE2017 was a repetitive warning of a “Coalition of chaos” under Jeremy Corbyn, chiefly between Labour and the Scottish National Party. Two-and-a-half years of subsequent Governmental gridlock under an alliance between the Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party gave the punchline to that. But amazingly, Johnson appears to be matching that rhetoric by giving the same, barefaced-hypocrite warnings again. This, even as Labour are visibly moving to try and dislodge the SNP from its supreme position in Scotland, not ally with them.

During the 2017 campaign, the cowardly May famously, and probably illegally, had unapproved journalists locked in a room so they were unable to ask her questions while she toured a factory in Cornwall. There was more than just a faint echo of that kind of incredible cowardice in Nottinghamshire last week, when Johnson visited a school where the 6th Form pupils were kept away from him at all times by confining them to the common room.

Johnson refused to visit a nearby hospital on the same day when it was on ‘Black Alert’, instead choosing to visit a nearby hospital that was not in ’emergency mode’. Over the weekend, he dismissed the severe floods in the north of England as “not a national emergency” (quite the contrast with Tory reactions five years ago when it was Tory-voting constituencies further south that were flooded). These incidents have a particularly uncomfortable resemblance to another display of shocking cowardice by May in 2017, albeit after the Election, when she ran away from locals in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower Fire Disaster. The resemblance is in the combination of personality faults that it highlights – a lack of empathy with the public, and a fear of facing the public under uncontrolled conditions.

Johnson is not learning the lessons of thirty months ago. Then, the Tories were projected to win a resounding landslide. Some of the early opinion polls, suggesting that the Tories have a double-digit lead, would seem to project something similar for 2019. But look what happened in 2017 when the Tories blundered and bored in equal measure, while Labour rallied at high speed with a positive and colourful campaign. The start of Labour’s campaign this year has, again, been very positive, full of colour, with high participation, and a strong message of hope. The start of the Tories’ campaign has, again, been negative, riddled with blunders, lacking in colour, lacking in participation, numerous candidates dropping out, and with a message overly-fixated on Brexit.

And it is led by a man making so many mistakes similar to those committed by his predecessor that it raises the question of whether there was any point in the Conservative Party changing leader this year at all.

by Martin Odoni

It really is very easy to hate the outgoing Member of Parliament for Dudley North, Ian Austin. He is quite possibly the ugliest MP currently to hold a seat. I do not mean physically – althought let us not kid ourselves that he will ever win any Mr Oil Painting competitions – I mean everything about his demeanour and outlook. The nasty, sneering, twisted expression on his face whenever he is being abusive – and that is nauseatingly often – really epitomises the dark side of humanity. He is the sort of Parliamentary thug who confirms the stereotype established by figures such as Tim Stamper from House of Cards (UK), or Vic Gould, the Chief Whip in Yes, Minister, of the combative politician who is really just a hooligan in a tie.

There really is very little else to describe about Austin, as he is scarcely a politician of dimension. Hardly anybody had even heard of him before that notorious, and very unparliamentary, moment in 2016 when he heckled the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to “Sit down and shut up” during a debate in the House of Commons on the Chilcot Report. Austin seemed to find it quite obscene that any MP should feel that the declaration of an illegal and aggressive war is a reason to hold a former Prime Minister to account. People suffering from the debilitating mental condition called ‘sanity’ would argue that the declaration of an illegal and aggressive war is the very strongest of reasons to hold a former Prime Minister to account, but happily for Austin, he does not appear to be so-afflicted, and as time passes, the less and less afflicted by sanity he appears. The mainstream media, always so disturbingly enthusiastic for war overseas, showed little conspicuous disapproval of his yobbish behaviour either.

Since that time, Austin has rather revelled in his fifteen-minutes-of-infamy, and has tried to prolong it, with unimpressive results. He quit the Labour Party in February, shortly after the break-off of ‘The Independent Group’, but did not join them. While he claimed he had no plan to, the whisper is that the group did not want him, partly because of differing positions on Brexit, but also because they just found him personally intolerable. While announcing his departure from the Labour Party, he accused Jeremy Corbyn of being a ‘danger’ to the UK’s security and democratic institutions. But when challenged to put his seat, won as a Labour candidate, up for a by-Election, Austin refused, completely undermining his own democratic credentials.

Later in the year, during a debate on the rule-of-law triggered by Boris Johnson’s failed prorogation, Austin tried to rip into Corbyn in Parliament on the unsupported grounds of ‘enabling anti-Semitism’. His speech was disrupted to the point of ineffectual due to Austin getting a taste of his own medicine, as he was heckled by Labour backbenchers, particularly Liz McInnes.

Several weeks later, Austin invited himself to the fringe of the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, hoping to contrive a public scene making Corbyn look bad, by ranting about supposed ‘anti-Semitism’ from under a neon anti-Corbyn banner. That did not turn out too well either, as a Jewish grandmother and local councillor from Highbury stepped in and gave Austin a public trashing to his face while the cameras rolled.

In short, Austin’s ‘revolt’ is never as effective as he imagines it will be, and to compensate for the constant shortcomings in his efforts, he is now trying to amplify them through sheer outrageousness. To this end, he has this week gone as far as to endorse Boris Johnson, perhaps the most casually prejudiced blimp in the history of the Conservative Party (and the standard-of-competition for that title is phenomenal), in next month’s General Election. He has expressed this on the grounds that he is judging which party leader is the ‘lesser evil’ (is there ever a time when such a decision is otherwise?), but Austin is making himself look thoroughly barmy by his implication that Corbyn is somehow more ‘extreme’ than the psychopathic dog-whistler currently occupying 10 Downing Street.

The mental contortions of Ian Austin

Ian Austin really doesn’t seem to think anyone would be suspicious of a non-Tory who endorses Boris Johnson over Jeremy Corbyn.

I am starting to feel almost faintly sorry for Ian Austin. The mental contortions he has to put himself through to maintain this loud anti-Corbyn stance must be both tiring and painfully dizzying. He does what he does, not because he really cares about ‘racism’ in any form of course. Instead, it is an all-but-open secret that he is a Zionist, and he knows that if Labour win the Election, Corbyn will be a pro-Palestinian Prime Minister. Preventing that outweighs all other considerations for Austin.

But really, endorsing Boris Johnson as the anti-racist option? That is like endorsing Sepp Blatter as an anti-corruption candidate, or endorsing Liam Gallagher as an anti-drug-abuse-and-pro-brotherly love candidate.

Does advancing Zionism even outweigh the consideration of trying not to look like a complete imbecile?

What a wasted effort.

Eventful start to GE2019

November 6, 2019

by Martin Odoni

Well, that was a dramatic day. One minute after the end of the 5th of November, Parliament was officially dissolved. Not in a gunpowder blast of smoke and flame, but for a General Election. And yet a fuse was lit, it seems, for an explosion of events followed.

By the end of the day, Labour’s Deputy Leader, the odious Tom Watson, had stepped down, three Labour MPs were barred from standing in the party’s name (entirely wrongly in Chris Williamson’s case*), the Liberal Democrats’ literature campaign was exposed as a catalogue of fiction, the Conservative Party were caught red-handed handling vast sums of Russian money, a Conservative Minister had to resign due to lies he allegedly told relating to a rape trial, and the LibDem leader thought it was a strategically sound idea to boast that she was willing to destroy the world.

Consistency? Jo Swinson? Nah.

Swinson reversals

Jo Swinson’s policy record is very Torified and full of u-turns.

And that was all on day one of a five-week-plus Election campaign? Wow, this is going to be an eventful month.

Remember, remember, The Sixth of November? It seems we shall.

Watson’s little gambit is what I wish to look at for the moment. I am fairly sure he suddenly announced his departure from Parliament for entirely cynical reasons. The great majority of the Labour Party membership have wanted him gone for a long time, so he might have gone any time in the last eighteen months. His decision instead to resign on the day a General Election campaign begins, and especially after the aforementioned Chris Williamson was blocked from standing as a Labour candidate in the Election by the party’s National Executive Committee (of which Watson was a member prior to this evening), stinks of attempted campaign sabotage.

However, not for the first time in the last three years of bumbling centrist ‘chicken coups‘, I think Watson has fouled up. This is partly due to him misjudging how deeply he is hated in the party, but also partly due to his timing.

The hatred in which he is held by most of the party membership means they are happy to see the back of him whenever it happens. It could have been on Election day itself, they would still celebrate. He might have imagined a large minority begging him to change his mind, allowing him to portray himself as a martyred victim, and the party as being divided in chaos. So far, there is little evidence of that.

Anti-semitism in Labour

The outgoing Deputy Leader thinks his gambit will damage Labour’s campaign, but he’s wrong.

As for the timing, today was the day that the Tories officially launched their Election campaign. By pulling this rather narcissistic stunt today, Watson has done Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign an inadvertent favour, as he has drawn attention away from the Tories’ big launch event, which had been causing few enough waves to start with; –

Tiny crowd at Tory launch event 2019

Look familiar? David Cameron pulled the same trick in 2015.

I believe the word you are looking for, Watson, is Oops.

This trick was already employed only last week, when Owen Smith (remember him? No? I needed reminding too) tried to draw attention away from the vote in the House of Commons for a General Election by resigning from Parliament as well.

And yes, there will probably be more right wing departures from the Shadow Cabinet or the Labour Party over the course of the campaign. Look out for Margaret Hodge probably resigning the whip on the day Labour launches its manifesto, and maybe Wes Streeting or Jess Phillips following suit on the eve of the Election.

The Labour Right can never grasp that their timing is always too blatant, and their theatrics too obviously over-orchestrated, to be convincing. That, they may one day realise, is precisely why Jeremy Corbyn, in all his relaxed humour and earthiness, has far more appeal than they have.

Anyway, the Sixth of November is more or less done. What we need to remember, remember now is the Twelfth of December.

Remember Remember the 12th of December

Guy Fawkes had to blow up Parliament to get rid of an unwanted Government. You have the option to vote one out. So do so.

________

* Chris has sadly, but perfectly understandably, resigned from the Labour Party this evening.