by Martin Odoni

Following up on events in Bristol over the weekend, it has become increasingly clear that the police were, at best, grossly misleading with the media about how the riot broke out.

One assertion that was all over the media within minutes of the police leaking it to them was that police officers fighting the rioters had suffered broken bones. This claim has now been quietly retracted., and that in turn indicates that the violence may have beeen less severe than had been made out on the night.

Thangam Debbonaire’s reaction is so full of generic, pompous outrage that anyone watching or listening could be forgiven for not noticing a word she said.

With a follow-up protest taking place on Tuesday also breaking out into milder violence, Andrew Plant for the BBC was on the scene to report that all was peaceful… until the police showed up in full riot gear and accompanied by dogs. The police waded into the crowd, most of whom had symbolically taken a knee, to scatter them.

As is so often the case with attempts to hide what has been posted on Twitter, someone got a receipt. Tough luck, Plant.

Mysteriously, this tweet soon vanished from Plant’s feed. In fairness to him, subsequent tweets he posted about what he witnessed still sounded disapproving, but more ambiguous about the causes.

There have indeed been remarkably few images demonstrating unambiguous aggression from the protesters in Bristol on either night. The scenes as described by Adam Johannes for Sunday sound almost eerily similar to those described by Plant for Tuesday, implying a similar approach taken to both protests, and both times the police just responded with unashamed aggression.

The usual refusal in media and among politicians to hear both sides of the story is once again threatening to let the police off the hook.

None of this is to say that the protesters were completely innocent or well-behaved. But only a complete fool would assume they were chiefly to blame, entirely on the say-so of the British police and the BBC. Certainly with their history. (More questions and observations can be read here.)

The ugliest and most jealous traits of the British Establishment are starting to become visible, as the tensions of years of economic disaster and stagnation become impossible to contain. Many of those tensions have come out on the side of the right wing, fewer on the left, and the left has been ruthlessly and sordidly targeted by the rest of the British spectrum for over five years until it has now practically collapsed. Any slight sign of egalitarian protest, it seems, and the Establishment will look to crush it immediately.

In that endeavour, even the party that is supposed to be of that left tradition is eager to do its bit for the Establishment. The right wing of the Labour Party have not hesitated to condemn the violence in Bristol, while its general conduct since retaking the leadership last year from Jeremy Corbyn has been almost painfully submissive to the Conservatives, and hyper-aggressive against the reeling left. It seems that while there remains a large presence of leftists among the party membership, the liberal wing of the party will make preventing them from rallying their first – only – priority.

Meanwhile, it seems anything Boris Johnson can propose as a policy will be greeted with approval, or, at most, a grudging opposition that only manifests when a wave of public outrage can drag it, kicking and screaming, out of Keir Starmer. (The pattern of wanting to abstain over obviously draconian legislation because there are “one or two good bits in it” exactly duplicates the Labour right’s craven behaviour in summer 2015, and shows that in their mindless self-assurance, they really have learned absolutely nothing.)

Part of this process is what is now happening in Liverpool. As we already know, the right wing of the party, corruptly exploiting their control of the National Executive Committee, is doing everything in its powers (and sometimes a long way outside its powers) to suppress, marginalise and discredit anyone from the party left attempting to come back out of their shells, so to speak. To this end, they are not only continuing to purge left wing members – including the former leader – but they are also interfering in local constituency party affairs on a level not seen since at least the 1980s. Perhaps ever. Even the disturbing “Militantly anti-Militant” purges of Neil Kinnock’s leadership never seemed quite as one-eyed, invasive, or brutal as this.

The most outrageous local interference of all appears to be happening in actual co-ordination with the Conservative Party. Liverpool, always England’s most left-wing city, was forcibly pacified by the liberal wing of Labour during the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown Governments, but has wriggled free since the 2010 General Election. Accusations of fraud and corruption, centering on the outgoing Mayor, Joe Anderson (which, it must be conceded, makes them plausible), are being presented as a pretext for central Government to suspend the City Council and force an appointed administration on the city.

Outgoing Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson

What the Government is doing is transparently dishonest. There has not been mass support for the Conservative Party in Liverpool since the 1960s, and the Tories have been widely considered unspeakable across Merseyside since the rise of Margaret Thatcher. By contrast, whatever anyone thinks of Anderson as a Mayor – no one I know in Liverpool has anything good to say for him – he was freely and fairly elected in 2012 as Liverpool’s first-ever Mayor-by-direct-ballot. So a Conservative Government imposing its own administrators on the city is a grotesquely anti-democratic move. It is also, in itself, hugely disproportional, and makes almost no sense in the current context; –

For one thing, plenty of councils around the country over the last few years have badly malfunctioned in one way or another financially, and yet there have been no moves to take them over by Whitehall. Look at Conservative-run Brighton & Hove, which is at the risk of bankruptcy due to such chronic under-spending that has destimulated the local economy so far that local tax receipts have plummetted. “None of our business,” apparently.

For another, Anderson has stepped down as Mayor. There is a Mayoral Election process already under way to find his successor. So the man at the centre of the alleged corruption is going, and whoever replaces him should be able to investigate and root out any remaining bad apples. In other words, change is happening at precisely the assumed point-of-corruption anyway, so there is all-the-less reason why interference from London should be regarded as necessary or even tolerated.

That prospect is one that any decently-intentioned Labour Party Executive would surely oppose vociferously and bitterly. But Keir Starmer has this week declared, for about the one-hundred-million-billion-trillionth time since becoming Labour leader, that he is backing the Government!

Yet again, FrankenStarmer’s Monster sides with the most right wing Government in British history, against the left of his own party. And he does so without having dared set foot anywhere near Liverpool to discuss it with the city’s inhabitants. The wishes and insights of the people in question are now considered, even by the Labour Party, to be a matter of total indifference.

No heart, completely mechanical, and the mind of a corpse

The reasons for this mixture of the brazen and the craven, we can be sure, relate to the backlash against the Labour North West’s steering committee interfering in the Mayoral Election. The committee high-handedly forced three relatively left-leaning candidates chosen by the local membership off the ticket, attempting to replace them with three centrally-appointed candidates. The almost comical stupidity of changing the line-up just three days before the selection vote made the party look both arrogant and incompetent, and has finally de-railed what connection remained between Liverpool and the Labour right. So when the Tories offered just to ‘switch off’ democracy in the city as an alternative path, the completely unprincipled Labour executive – including the moral-vacuum party leader – have seized upon the opportunity to scupper the Labour left without having to take any action themselves.

The ultimate way of neutering the Labour left is to force them out of elected offices in their most powerful heartland, it would seem, and if the price of achieving it is for only the last vestiges of democracy to go hang, well, omelets and broken eggs, right?

These are dangerous times indeed in British politics. The Labour right’s approach and attitude perfectly conforms to that of the Establishment more broadly, which is clearly gearing up for a wild assault on people’s liberties, and for still more greedy wealth-hoarding. That, of course, is precisely why the media are giving Keir Starmer such a softball time of it, despite his general appalling performance.

It is also one of the reasons why the rest of us have to give Starmer a tougher time than we have yet. He has shown that he is a coward, a bully, a liar, a promise-breaker, anti-democratic, friendly-to-narrow-interests, and corrupt. He is truly no better than Boris Johnson – on the rare occasions he does not support the Prime Minister he seems to take an even more right wing position – so any emotional blackmail by centrists fails on yet another level. Starmer must be fought, he must be defeated, and he must be replaced by an Opposition who will oppose. Not just oppose the Conservatives, but the powered interests of the country more widely.

Because what is happening now is so extreme, opposing it is not just a principle, it is a survival characteristic.