by Martin Odoni

The idea that the ‘Old Labour‘ of the years before Tony Blair became its leader was a hard-left political party is, as I have pointed out before, quite a stretch. That Blair took the party to the right is irrefutable, but it was never left-wing under predecessors like Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson or James Callaghan either. (Callaghan’s Government, thanks to the harsh expenditure-cutting program of Denis Healey as his Chancellor of the Exchequer, was really an Austerity Government, arguably even more so than David Cameron’s.)

Similarly, the Democratic Party in the USA has never had a noticeable history of Marxism or socialism, even though it has, since the 1930s, tended towards business regulation, a welfare state, and support for Trade Unions. (Bizarrely, up until that point, the Democrats were actually the right-wing party in US politics, and generally less liberal than the Republican Party.) The Democratic Party was effectively a coalition of liberals predominantly in the north-east of the USA, and moderate conservatives south of the old ‘Mason-Dixon line‘ (the boundary between the northern Federalist and southern Confederate territories in the era of the US Civil War).

With the ascendancy of Bill Clinton in the 1990s, the Democrats also moved away from the left, in an attempt to appeal to moderate Republican voters. As President, Clinton cut spending programs, continued Ronald Reagan’s agenda of deregulation in banking (thus playing a major role in the Global Financial Crisis of 2008), restored religious protections attractive to the Christian Radical Right, and took an increasing ‘no-tolerance’ approach to law enforcement.

The response of leading Republicans to this encroachment onto ‘their’ territory by their archenemies was interesting. The task of opposing Clintonite policy without contradicting many of their own policy positions proved confusing, while co-operating with the Democrats was too much for many of them to stomach. The Republicans thus pushed even further to the right, with uncompromising conservative fanatics like Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, adopting such harsh positions of intransigence that they forced several totally unnecessary Government shutdowns.

Similarly, in the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party struggled in the late-1990s to find a way of combating the success of ‘New Labour’. William Hague, the Tory leader from 1997 to 2001, found he could offer little policy appeal beyond crude appeals to jingoism. Hague’s notorious and completely contrived Save The Pound campaign was frequently embarrassing, and noticeably right-wing in its appeal to blatant xenophobia. While it probably was for the best that the UK did not join the Single European Currency, for reasons of controlling the Public Sector Debt, those were not the grounds on which Hague was arguing. Instead, it was largely just silly hostility to ‘outsiders’. It was hard-right, irresponsible, and racist-in-all-but-name.

With all this movement to the right in both Britain and the USA, with several right-leaning mainstream parties now treading on ground quite extreme and borderline-racist as a matter of course, while the left now deserted its old social democratic/Keynesian position, the ‘Overton Window’ shifted a long way to the right. Its left edge slid almost entirely out of the left half of the political/economic spectrum, while its right edge also crept deeper into the right wing. Ideas that had become unacceptable since the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust became (somewhat) tolerable again.

This was in part because the extreme right no longer seemed that far-removed from what was now thought of as the ‘moderate’ left, giving the half-conscious impression therefore that it was not all that extreme after all. Even though the identity politics of the Clintonite/Blairite philosophy were held in higher regard, and fought for with more passion, than ever before, the economic ideas of the two ‘wings’ of politics were now a lot harder to distinguish. The Democrats and the Labour Party were both now passionate about the free market, and maintained close, friendly ties with big business power-brokers that were usually devoted to the Republicans and the Conservative Party. Although ‘New Labour’ did make creditable efforts to strengthen the safety nets for the poor at the bottom of society’s pyramid, their leaders were no longer prepared to make the slightest effort to reduce inequality. On the contrary, income at the top of UK society surged upwards dramatically under Tony Blair, especially after 2001.

Income growth at the top

Income growth in UK society since the turn-of-the-1990s. Note that wealth increased for the richest far MORE under Tony Blair’s Labour, prior to the Credit Crunch, than it did under John Major’s Conservative Party.

‘Insane extremism’ became a pet-label for post-war social democracy, which was now routinely and very wrongly presented as inseparable from Marxian Stalinism. Any ideas from further to the left than the Social Democratic Party of the 1980s was now treated as being as intolerable as Nazism. Selfish, egomaniacal career-MPs like Dr David Owen were, as centrists, being treated as preferable to kinder-hearted altruists like Tony Benn or Jeremy Corbyn. Again, as a careerist politician is liable to bear more of a resemblance to a hard-right member of extremist parties like the UK Independence Party, or even the British National Party, than a doctrinaire socialist will, this gave the extreme-right an extra grain of legitimacy.

This taste for right-wing reactionism was made all-too-obvious by the dire extremism of ‘New Labour’ Home Secretaries, Jack Straw, David Blunkett, Charles Clarke and John Reid. All four of them adopted very aggressive, hard-line, intolerant attitudes to law-and-order issues, viewing punishment and arrests as ends in themselves, and prisons as blunt objects to beat prospective criminals over the heads with, instead of as places of rehabilitation. They were behaving, in short, exactly as Conservative Home Secretaries had done for decades beyond counting.

In the USA, the Republican moves to the extreme right were driven in large part by a growing alliance between the neoconservative movement and the Church, begun under Reagan. Unable to combat Bill Clinton on economic grounds, extreme social conservatism became the Republicans’ only outlet, demanding a return to the very obsolete moral standards in day-to-day life of the post-war age. This led to the much-mocked ‘Monica Lewinsky Scandal’ of the late-1990s, in which Clinton was found to have had an affair with a young White House intern. It caused much embarrassment, and put considerable strain on Clinton’s family life, with the Republicans attempting to have Clinton impeached over his spurious denials of the affair ever happening. But by and large, at least so long as the economy continued functioning fairly smoothly, there was a recognition among the wider US public that Clinton’s private life really was none of their business. Impeachment attempts failed dismally. Social conservatism did not have enough appeal on its own. It was in the late-2000’s that the Republican leaders drifted into open racial conservatism too, and found that, far from being unacceptable, it was now an attitude that was popular again with many Americans.

With the Global Financial Crisis from 2007-9, partly caused by President George W Bush’s deregulation of the banking industry, Democrat Barack Obama was elected the first non-white President, on a platform of reforming the banking sector and bringing it properly to account. There was considerable hostility to Obama, usually on scarcely-concealed racial grounds. The popular accusation against him was that he was really a Kenyan Muslim – as a non-American by birth that would have de-legitimised his right to be President – and was accompanied by absurd claims that his Birth Certificate was fake. Those who made these silly assertions, led by the present President, Donald Trump, became known as ‘The Birther Movement‘. It was part of a wider network of growing right-wing activist groups, the largest of which was effectively a Republican party fringe organisation calling itself, ‘The Tea Party‘. (It was named in tribute to the so-called ‘Boston Tea Party‘, in which rebels in the then-British colonies stole over three hundred chests of tea imported by the East India Company, and hurled them all into the sea off Boston Harbor, foreshadowing the start of the US War of Independence two years later.) The Tea Party was a large pressure group of small-government-low-taxation-libertarian reactionaries dedicated to removing Obama and attacking Government expenditure. Much of its support however came from racists who interpreted Obama’s every move in the worst possible way, even when his policies and actions were little-distinguishable from those of other Presidents before him, who never drew such nasty responses.

Racism, even if the name was not acceptable, had became a mainstream attitude again. It became commonplace to express racist views while denying they were racist. As long as the label did not stick, extreme-right xenophobic language became easier to express than it had been since the 1970s.

This has granted legitimacy to such disturbing horrors as Donald Trump – a psychopathic narcissist and white supremacist – becoming US President, and the UK Government embarking on a scandalous policy program that deported the Windrush Generation.

The role that the severe recession of the late 2000’s played in feeding modern right-wing reactionism must not be overlooked, but the role that ‘Third Way politics’ played in pushing popular discourse to the right is not often considered. By pushing to the right, Clinton, Blair, and others normalised hard-right conservatism, by reducing the distance society could move away from it, while also taking up so much traditional conservative ground that rival parties had nowhere else to retreat to bar the extremes, if they wished to offer an alternative. This was always a risk, because if the time ever came that the ‘Third Way’ failed, people were bound to look for alternatives, even extreme ones. If the only extremes available were the extreme right, than those were the ones that would be adopted.

And the ‘Third Way’ did fail. Both the Clinton and Blair/Gordon Brown administrations chose to co-operate with the same neoliberal, unchecked market power that their conservative opponents had usually favoured. Deregulation of banks in both countries played the central role in the financial crisis that gave rise to reactionism. Both Clintonites and Bush-ites in the USA, and Tories and ‘New Labour’ in the UK, endorsed that same program and helped advance it.

That the watered-down left gets the blame for the crisis in both countries is not altogether unfair. That the right wing parties get so little of the blame is a gross injustice, but be that as it may, it is difficult to argue that the Clintonites or the Blairites deserve much better. No one should under-estimate the consequences of the ‘Third Way’ being experienced today. The ultra-aggressive hostility to the poor, to women, to immigrants, to the sick and to the disabled was made almost inevitable by the rightward moves of the Democrats and the Labour Party. By becoming ‘centrist’ the parties were so similar to the conservatives on so many levels that their willingness actually to oppose conservative policies became intermittent and half-hearted, which only increased the legitimacy of conservative extremism; if the traditional opponents of these ideas no longer oppose them, became the unconscious reasoning, obviously they are accepting that they have lost the argument. And if even they accepted that, then it must have been true, right?

In the UK, the left wing of the Labour Party has re-emerged in the form of old campaigner Jeremy Corbyn, and is struggling to re-take control of the whole movement from a party-right that is far more concerned with suppressing them than it is with fighting Tory malice – underlining the above point. In the USA, the usually-independent Bernie Sanders has taken up the mantle of leading a new left in the Democratic Party. Young left wing talents on both sides of the Atlantic are joining both parties, so there is hope for the future of consolidating a real and much-needed move to the left.

But the damage of a quarter-century of queasy-conscience neoliberalism will take a long, long time to repair, and far more work lies ahead of them than is already behind them. Not only do the bitter battles for the souls of their parties continue, but the harm inflicted on the populace by the extremist right wing Governments of both countries is grinding them into the dirt to such an extent that it is becoming increasingly difficult for popular discontent to mobilise.

Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and various other architects of ‘Third Way’ politics have very much to answer for directly. But the worst crime they have to answer for indirectly is making it okay to be an extreme right-wing hatemonger all over again – because they made it unacceptable to be the opposite.

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by Martin Odoni

Last night’s Mid-Term Election results in the United States have been a mixed bag. The Democrats have won control of the House of Representatives. This development is hugely important, and should not be down-played. However, given the general shape of the campaigns over the last month, they were always going to win that particular battle, and so the more telling measure of their performance is margin-of-victory. In that light, the performance has been underwhelming. At the time of writing (10am GMT), 412 of the 435 results have been called, and the Democrats have only just got past the 218 ‘finishing post’. If they were to win half of the remaining seats, they would wind up with 231, and a majority of 27. Useful, and very significant, but they were hopeful of getting closer to 40.

In the Senate races, the news was not just underwhelming for the Democrats, but pretty bleak. With 35 seats out of 100 up for election, the Republicans gained a couple of seats, bolstering their wafer-thin majority of the last couple of years. With just four races left to call at the time of writing, and two of them projected to go to the Republicans, the Democrats have definitely had a failure there.

The State Governorships were a little like the House – some handy headway made by the Democrats, but nothing dramatic; 7 seats gained from 36 races.

A healthy showing?

Looked at in most contexts, these numbers would be seen as quite a healthy showing by the Democrats. But sadly, in the present context, it is a slight disappointment. The painful truth for the Democratic National Committee is that, after two years of unheard-of chaos in the White House, with staff going through the metaphorical revolving door in train-loads, and persistent corruption, scandal and unconstitutional governance surrounding President Donald Trump, anything other than a Democrat landslide in all three races last night should have been unthinkable. That the gains last night were so modest says a lot about how weak and half-hearted the modern Democrats are. They just seem to lack the stomach for a battle with the Republicans, or to distance themselves from the increasingly hard-line policies, and dirty-fighting authoritarianism, of the ‘Grand Ole Party’.

Part of the reason for that is the ongoing pre-eminence in the party structure of so-called ‘Corporate Democrats’, the US equivalent of the Blairites in the UK Labour Party. The long-running moves towards the right by the Democrats since the late-1980s have made them much the same as the Republicans were back in the 1970s. These points of similarity, resulting from an over-willingness to compromise even on fundamental principles, has made it difficult for the right wing of the Democratic Party to stand up to their opponents with any conviction, because any arguments they raise against Republican policy or behaviour can be applied almost as easily against their own. And like the Labour Party between 1994 and 2015, the Democrats offer ordinary people only sporadically more than just “neoliberalism-watered-down”. They have also shown, again just like ‘New Labour’, a far greater and dirtier willingness to fight their allies on the left of their own party, than to fight their Republican opponents, showing them to be morally inconsistent and unreliable. The US public will not take much hope from representatives with a history like that, and this lack of hope means a lack of mobilisation when the polls open.

Reasons for Democrats to cheer?

Still, there were some reasons in individual head-to-heads for progressive Democrats to cheer, and most of them, most happily, come from the left half of the party. The demise of the thoroughly unpleasant (and probably corrupt) Scott Walker, who lost his Governorship in Wisconsin to Tony Evers, will bring smiles to long-suffering workers across the state. Also of note, two 29-year-old Democrats, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Abby Finkenauer – have become the youngest women ever to be elected to the House of Representatives.

Ocasio-Cortez, in particular, looks a very promising figure on whom the US left can pin future hopes – although before too much pressure is put on her too quickly, it must be recognised that in terms of legislative experience, she is at present still a ‘baby’, and has a lot to learn. But look out for her from about 2024-onwards. She is bursting with energy and potential, and if she fulfills it, she could well be a candidate in the long term for the first female, and first Latino, US President.

 

Ocasio-Cortez elected

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a young left-wing New Yorker of Puerto-Rican extraction. Her arrival in Congress will be watched with great interest by US progressives.

Also worth a round of impressed applause is Sharice Davids, a gay Native American, who has been elected to the House by the people of Kansas, handing four-term Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder a sound 9.1% bashing at the polls. (I know this is an old Star Wars joke, but “Yoder was clearly not one with the Force this week.” Ahem. Sorry.) Davids is the first Native American, much, much too long in coming, to be elected to Congress.

Sharice Davids elected

Native American Democrat, Sharice Davids, dislodged Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder from Congress this week

So in some respects, it is a worthy election of firsts for the Democrats. But the soul-searching the DNC should have been doing after Hillary Clinton’s completely-avoidable disaster in the Presidential Elections two years ago is still needed.

The threat of Trump

The Democrats have now placed a powerful legislative obstacle in the President’s authoritarian path, and in the nick of time. Not just to weaken his chances of forcing policies through, but for consitutional reasons too. Trump has openly declared a desire to see the US having Presidents-for-life – almost certainly starting with himself. To that extent, I was unconcerned for the most part at the start of this year about his narcissistic self-advancement in office, as I knew there were plenty of checks-and-balances in the US legal system to get in his way. But that changed over the course of this year with the rise of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. SCOTUS now has a partisan Republican majority, and as it is the body that decides how US constitutional law is to be interpreted, it opens up very dangerous future possibilities, should Trump move to curtail Presidential elections; I would not put it past him.

With all the controversies surrounding Trump, including putative collusion with Russia, it is now possible for the Democrats to start impeachment proceedings against him.

The one worry on that score is, again, the Corporate Democrats’ aforementioned lack of stomach for a fight. They need to find that stomach, and fast, as removing Trump may be the only way of averting the threat his narcissism poses.

Expel Luciana Berger

July 31, 2018

by Martin Odoni

Luciana Berger has revealed herself to be quite the most McCarthyite MP in the country at the moment – and that is a title only ever won in the face of fierce competition. In her determination to prove that the ‘anti-Semitism-in-the-Labour-Party’ (oh, how bored I am of typing that phrase…) controversy is something more than a semi-fantasy, she has overstepped an important line.

Berger was interviewed on 31st July – much too gently as usual – by Shelagh Fogarty on LBC Radio about the deafening furore. In particular, Berger was asked about this week’s kerfuffle over Labour NEC member Peter Willsman ‘offensively’ suggesting that some British Jews were disturbingly happy about Donald Trump becoming US President.

Fogarty rightly asked Berger to clarify precisely what was anti-Semitic about Willsman’s words. It was noticeable that Berger did not clarify, beyond waffling in a strident but roundabout way about Willsman’s statements being ‘unacceptable’, which really just put the implication of the question in different words. She also failed to explain why Willsman’s words were even untrue. Which of course they were not; the Board of Jewish Deputies, in particular, were tellingly eager to congratulate Trump on becoming President. Given Trump’s ignorant enthusiasm for Zionism, largely based around trying to please Christian fundamentalists in the USA, that is perhaps to be expected.

Fogarty – again as usual – managed to miss Berger’s evasion completely and moved on. To her credit, she soon asked Berger a question she does not get asked nearly often enough in the mainstream media; what evidence is there that anti-Semitism in the Labour Party really is as widespread as she claims? It was here that Berger overstepped from mere McCarthyite cynicism to a possibly indictable violation.

Berger initially made another roundabout remark about, ‘Just see everything that’s going on’, which again just restated the question’s implication in different words, but she then cited two Labour councillors who had been suspended during this week as supposedly definitive examples of anti-Semitism being out of control.

Berger lies about Willsman

Luciana Berger misportrays Peter Willsman’s words and the position of the Board of Jewish Deputies, then presents two still-to-be-investigated party suspensions as definitely guilty, which may be indictable on grounds of prejudicing the inquiry.

This remark from Berger was outrageous, and may constitute a violation of Labour Party disciplinary procedures. To explain: In one case, a councillor in Bognor Regis claims his social media account was hacked, in the other, the councillor implied Israeli security services might have been driving the anti-Semitism controversy. In both cases, there is reason to question whether there is anti-Semitism at play at all, albeit for different reasons; one may have been framed, the other was criticising Israel and not Jews. Therefore, guilt has not been firmly established as yet in either case, but Berger has gone on national radio and presented the accusations against them as evidence in itself – not only against them but against the Labour left more widely.

In so doing, Berger has risked prejudicing the investigations, while increasing public pressure on the party to find the two councillors guilty, irrespective of the investigations’ findings. She is also guilty of a lazy form of fallacious thinking that is as worrying to observe in a national legislator as is her poisonous maliciousness; by assuming that the accusation is evidence, instead of the accusation requiring evidence, she has lapsed into infantile circular reasoning. “I know they must be guilty because they’ve been accused, because if they’ve been accused they must be guilty.”

No, It does not work like that, it must never work like that. The accusation must be followed by evidence. When the accusation is the evidence, we enter a world in which anyone can be accused of anything, and they are automatically guilty. Chaos and endless injustice lie down that path.

This sort of ‘fast-food’ approach to justice was supposed to have become obsolete in the days of the First Magna Carta, meaning Berger is quite literally guilty of Medievalism.

At the very least, Berger has brought the party into disrepute, by publicly accusing other party members, and by endangering the impartiality of the investigation process. Look what happened to Marc Wadsworth when he was found guilty of bringing the part into disrepute – expulsion. Berger was there in person to cheer on the decision.

Now Berger should face the same fate.

NB: If you wish to report Berger’s appalling behaviour, please e-mail the Labour Party’s complaints office at complaints@labour.org.uk. The more reports the party receive about what Berger has done, the more pressure they will come under to bring her to book.

Luciana betrays her party to the LFI

A message I sent to Berger’s Instagram account during the spring, after she started the contrived furore over the Mear One Mural.

by Martin Odoni

What a gift yesterday’s summit in Singapore was to the dictator of North Korea.

Listening to Donald Trump sympathisers worldwide, as they pile in to radio phone-ins to brown their noses in tribute to him, you would think he had personally arranged the Second Coming. The truth is, Trump did not achieve anything, while Kim Jong-Un got what he most desired, in exchange for doing nothing, and is thus laughing like crazy at his rival.

Strangely, Trump’s supporters seem to think he ‘got North Korea to the negotiating table’, and that that was an achievement in itself. In fact, it is quite the other way around. North Korean leaders have been asking for summits with US Presidents for decades, and previous US Presidents all refused such meetings without North Korea making concessions up front.

Occupy Democrats on Trump and his summit

Occupy Democrats are sharing this meme on social media, summing up what a loss the US summit with North Korea will ultimately prove.

Trump idiotically just agreed to this summit off the top of his head without imposing any conditions. The upshot of that is that Kim is now able to claim – without even having to lie – that he is the President who got the USA to the negotiating table. That diplomatic boon was a gift to Kim in itself.

But worse, what came out of the summit is a total victory for Kim – the metaphorical gift that has kept on giving – and a propaganda coup that has probably secured his position as absolute ruler of North Korea for another twenty years. He got everything, and gave up nothing.

Despite Trump’s characteristic boasting, the summit accomplished nothing for the USA. Trump extracted only vague, very familiar promises from Kim about ‘moving towards de-nuclearisation’. We have heard this from Pyongyang at least a dozen times before, just since the mid-1980s.

NK denuclearisation promises

There really is no good reason for the clamour of admiration for Donald Trump’s ‘diplomatic achievement’. He has gained nothing by it.

The reality is that, given the nature of the regime in Pyongyang, no ruler there will ever willingly give up his atomic weapons. Whoever the dictator is, he will know that if he surrenders nuclear arms, he will be dead within months. The regime there is one of the most brutal and repressive on Earth, and it rules, not through its power, but through fear of its power. No matter how much political power the dictator wields, he is still just a man, and can be assassinated as totally as any man-in-the-street. It is the threat, not of the man, but of the power he wields, that keeps him in place. So if he were to show that he is willing to give up nuclear weapons, his most powerful military resource, that would be a sign of weakness, while also potentially weakening the regime itself. He would have less power for those he rules to fear. So prominent figures near the top of his Government would probably respond by overthrowing him, before killing him – probably in a very bloodcurdling manner – to make sure he poses no threat to his successor.

In short, Kim Jong-Un cannot decommission his nuclear weapons; his own life depends on keeping them.

Meanwhile, Kim has extracted a promise from Trump to stop US military exercises off the coastline of the Korean peninsular. An end to that threatening practice is what the Pyongyang Government has been desperately seeking since Lyndon Johnson was American President. Now sure, there is nothing to guarantee that the USA will keep its side of the bargain either, but that is at least a firmly-defined promise, and it can be fairly measured whether the USA delivers on it. The Korean promise to ‘work together to move towards de-nuclearisation’ could mean anything upwards of “We’ll draw up a hypothetical plan for decommissioning that is obviously unworkable, and send it to you, and then when you reject it, we can say, ‘Well, at least we tried’.” That hollow, empty gesture would still count as fulfilling their side of the bargain, and would, absurdly, give North Korea the official moral high ground if the USA continues military manoeuvres off the Korean coast.

The South Korean Government in Seoul must be on the brink of a collective cardiac arrest, as they watch their most important backer giving their bitterest rival everything-for-nothing!

Worse, what does all of this say to Iran? The regime in Tehran followed the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal with the USA and its allies pretty much to the letter. But Trump simply cancelled the deal arbitrarily a month ago, for no apparent reason beyond wanting just to be different from his predecessor, Barack Obama. Now, the Iranians have sat, open-mouthed, as North Korea has received a major military concession in apparent exchange for shallow flattery of a narcissistic buffoon. The lesson the Iranians will doubtless take is that if they start saying nice things about Trump all the time, he will start giving them anything they want.

So Trump is cozying up to anti-democratic rulers like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un, and repeatedly giving them something-for-nothing, while imposing trading tariffs on his country’s democratic allies.

This is not an era of triumph for Western diplomacy, it is an era of easy triumph for authoritarianism, and of alienation for democratic nations.

by Martin Odoni

What a pointlessly horrible individual Nick Ferrari can be sometimes. He wanted to interview Diane Abbott this morning on his LBC Radio show about the resignation as Home Secretary of Amber Rudd. As the programme wore on, Ferrari expressed growing frustration that Abbott appeared to be giving interviews to every other news outlet except him.

Seldom slow to be vindictive when feeling slighted, Ferrari retaliated at the end of the programme by doing something genuinely cruel, unfair, and utterly vindictive. Now, Ferrari was the interviewer interrogating Abbott during the General Election campaign almost exactly a year ago, when she had the notorious ‘brain-freeze’ moment while discussing police funding. As an obvious two-fingered salute to her, Ferrari ended today’s show by playing a recording of that interview to mock her.

nick ferrari mocks diane abbot for her illness

Ferrari’s conduct is childish and cruel, and betrays a really ugly nature that lurks not far below the dignified surface.

Anyone smirking about that little stab should be ashamed, as should Ferrari himself. There is a detail about it that many people, especially smug, jeering, right-wing journalists like Ferrari, keep omitting to mention; Abbott was very ill at the time. (As James O’Brien, speaking on the very next programme on LBC this morning noted, the signs are that she probably still is.) To be precise, she was suffering from diabetic withdrawal this time last year, and it became so bad that she had to drop out of the last couple of weeks of campaigning.

The amount of vicious abuse Abbott receives on a daily basis is an abhorrent indictment of the dark side of this country, in terms of both racism and misogyny. But her diabetic illness has added another ugly dimension to it over the last year. It seems the symptoms of an almost-crippling condition are also considered fair game for mockery and cruel taunts when the sufferer is a left-wing Member of Parliament. (Once again, we can expect her colleagues on the right of the Labour Party to offer her no sympathy, even as they pretend to be concerned about anti-Semitism.)

What on Earth is wrong with modern Britain, that these sorts of malicious behaviours are not only becoming increasingly commonplace, but are even rewarded with a regular show in the media? To mock anyone for symptoms of an illness is frankly as infantile and ignorant as it is spiteful and Medieval. It is difficult, indeed, to distinguish Ferrari’s behaviour from Donald Trump’s at that horrifying moment in 2015 when he mocked a disabled reporter during the Republican Primaries for the US Presidential Election. Trump was widely and rightly castigated for such appalling cruelty – although it is a tragic reflection on the modern USA that it was not enough to stop him becoming President – and so Britain should now do the same to Ferrari. It would hardly be before time; given his ‘othering’ attitude towards asylum seekers and Muslims, Ferrari’s resemblance to Trump is a lot stronger than he would probably like to admit.

by Martin Odoni

NB: No longer ‘unconfirmed’, please see postscript below.

As the title says, please do not consider this definitive, but Spirit Radio have published a podcast that they state is a segment of an interview with Robert Fisk, foreign correspondent of the Independent. If the recording is genuine, then any doubt that the air-strikes on Syria over the weekend by US, British and French planes were a war-crime will be ended forever. Fisk, if it really is him, claims in the recording that he is in the targeted city of Douma, and from his earliest findings there, he has concluded that no chemical weapons were used in the attacks during the previous weekend. The images of children choking and foaming at the mouth were genuine, but the reactions were caused by smoke inhalation and clouds of dust thrown up by explosions triggered by conventional weapons.

Da6ne1QX4AAC6hV.jpg:large

The implications of this are enormous, but again I must reiterate before anyone gets too excited that I do not know for sure if the recording is genuine. If it is, then the obscene possibility is raised that the suspiciously-timed air-strikes might have been carried out by allied forces in order to prevent inspections by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose representatives arrived in Douma the very next day, from revealing that no such weapons were used. If such a discovery were made, it would undermine the entire narrative used to justify the air-strikes. Such a militarised cover-up would be political corruption of the lowest order, and would surely raise the spectre of Donald Trump, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron being sent to the Hague.

But again, we must wait and see whether the interview can be corroborated before we get carried away.

Spirit Radio say that the full interview will be at 10:30 am on Tuesday 17th April.

_____

POSTSCRIPT:

Confirmation: Fisk is indeed in Douma, and he writes in the Independent that, from conversations he has had with local medical personnel, the ‘chemical weapons reaction’ of the victims was probably hypoxia i.e. a reaction to smoke and dust inhalation.
 
It is therefore very unlikely that chemical weapons were used nine days ago in Douma.
 
Trump, May and Macron must now face severe repercussions for apparently lying to the world.

by Martin Odoni

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

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

What?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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