by Martin Odoni

Winston Churchill is popularly – and probably wrongly – credited with the amusing but insulting remark,

If, by the age of 25, you are not a liberal, you have no heart.

If, by the age of 35, you are not a conservative, you have no brain.

I wish to apply an addendum to that.

If, by the age of 18, you are in full knowledge of the Election Expenses Fraud, the deaths caused by benefit sanctions, the deceitful repetition of the fiction that ‘Labour caused the banking crash’, the equally-deceitful assertions that the National Debt is chiefly caused ‘by Welfare and excessive Labour spending’, the 2011 riots, the corrupt military action against Syria in flat violation of Parliament’s express wishes, the completely needless renewed recession triggered in late-2010 after there had been an initial economic recovery in the last six months of the previous Government, the pledge to eliminate the Public Sector Deficit completely by spring 2015 that is still over £50 billion adrift of the target over two years on, the repeatedly-failed pledge not to lose the UK’s AAA credit rating, the sell-off to private firms of vast swathes of the National Health Service, attempts to block a cap on bankers’ bonuses despite the Credit Crunch being caused by the banking industry, unquestioning military support for the House of al-Saud as it butchers the people of Yemen, the cover-up of a nuclear weapons test failure just a month prior to a vote on renewing Trident, the public panic-mongering over the National Debt when in reality there is no danger of bankruptcy, the dangerous new contract forced onto junior doctors, the program to rehabilitate the economy by driving up household debt once more and creating the very serious danger of a second Credit Crunch, the unashamed protection of mega-rich tax-dodgers, the guiltily-silent disregard for The Panama Papers, the cynical use in Parliament of dirty filibustering tactics to block Member’s Bills that include protection for domestic violence victims and tenants of irresponsible private landlords, the badly-under-priced sell-off of the Royal Mail, the idiotically large loss made on the sale of the assets of the Northern Rock Bank to Virgin Money,  the indiscriminate imposition of the Bedroom Tax on anyone claiming housing benefit including such people as domestic violence victims who live in ‘Sanctuary Scheme’ homes, the near-racist Election campaign for the London Mayor’s office, the idiotic and bombastic threats of war over Gibraltar, the reckless ‘Brexit‘ referendum that has destabilised the country just to pacify a handful of right-wing extremists in the House Of Commons, the shambolic and uselessly expensive introduction of ‘Universal Credit‘, the cuts of up to a quarter in further-education funding in some subjects, the ideological stupidity of the ‘Free Schools‘ program, the broken promise to reduce class sizes in schools, the closure of hundreds of Sure-Start Centres, the lack of interest in the Westminster Paedophile Scandal, the pointless plan to reverse the ban on fox-hunting, the moves to abandon green energy commitments, the closure of hundreds of public libraries, the refusal to hold a public Inquiry into police brutality at the Battle Of Orgreave, the ill-planned military intervention in Libya that has played an indirect but key role in the growing refugee crisis, the selfish refusal to take in more than a tiny handful of refugees, the cowardly broken promise to take in unaccompanied child refugees, the increasing dis-empowerment of workers due to new Trade Union laws, the sell-off of utilities and rail services to private companies that include some foreign firms (some of them foreign state companies, paradoxically), the “Snoopers’ Charter” Investigatory Powers Act, and the one-tone and intelligence-insulting General Election campaign of endless recitals of ‘Strong-And-Stable‘, and you have read the completely non-objectionable and at points very inspiring draft-Manifesto from the Labour Party, and you are still a conservative, then you have neither a heart, nor a brain.

That may just be the longest sentence I have ever typed, and I have no doubt readers can suggest plenty of other Tory-travesties I have forgotten – feel free to use the comments section below. For now though, here is a shorter sentence, but one that comes from both my heart and my brain; –

VOTE FOR JEREMY CORBYN ON 8th JUNE 2017.

_____

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by Martin Odoni

As we all know, Nigel Farage, ex-leader of the UK Independence Party, and Donald Trump, President of the United States (seriously?! Boy, did I get that prediction wrong…), are firm friends. They are both part of the ‘Alt-Right’ – which is of course a politically correct nametag for “Nazis-who-grail-against-political-correctness” – they are both anti-‘Big-Government –  which is of course a politically correct nametag for “rich-people-who-don’t-like-the-Government-making-them-give-money-to-anybody-else” – and they are both deceitfully xenophobic.

This last week, they have both tried to use Sweden as a platform for spreading paranoia about refugees from the Middle East. Trump initiated it in a typically risible fashion at a rally last weekend, and made himself look even more stupid than usual in the process. He invoked an ill-defined ‘atrocity‘ that he thought had occurred in ABBA’s homeland the previous evening. Of course, there was no such atrocity, and Trump was rightly skewered on social media over the next couple of days.

Attempts have subsequently been made by the right wing media to present statistics that, at first glance, suggest Trump had a point (although it is very clear that he had not seen any such statistics before making his gaffe). Political Scrapbook has done a very comprehensive job of explaining why these stats have been completely distorted, so I shall not bother reproducing someone else’s sterling work here. But I do wish to draw attention to a startling irony, from when Trump’s dear chum Nigel got involved. It shows that Farage is not nearly as clever as some people like to think.

Farage, while speaking on LBC Radio, was another to use those same stats to give the idea that Malmo is the ‘rape capital of the world’. No doubt, he thought he was defending his dear friend manfully by making this claim.

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Awww, look at those cute little’uns together like that. But enough about Trump’s hands.

Now, the stats that saw an upswing in recorded rape in Sweden are taken from the years before the surge in refugees from the Arab Spring arriving in Europe, so their relevance to immigration is doubtful in the extreme anyway. But more significantly, they are a reflection on the unusually broad definitions of rape and sexual assault in Sweden.

Rightly or wrongly, activities that are classified as rape in Sweden are not so-classified in other countries. As Doug Saunders of Canada’s Globe & Mail put it in May last year; –

If your boss rubbed against you in an unwanted way at work once a week for a year… in Canada, this would potentially be a case of sexual assault. Under Germany’s more limited laws, it would be zero cases. In Sweden, it would be tallied as 52 separate cases of rape. If you engaged in a half-dozen sex acts with your spouse, then later you felt you had not given consent, in Sweden that would be classified as six cases of rape.

(Italic emphasis mine.)

In other words, Swedish official crime stats actually include many forms of non-consensual touching. (Just to make clear, I am expressing neither agreement with nor disapproval of this definition, I am merely establishing what the Swedish definition is.) Nigel Farage, by using these stats to encourage the notion of sexual offences being out-of-control in Sweden, is endorsing that definition. A definition that includes any non-consensual contact upwards of rubbing up against another person.

In that light, it is hardly a surprise to learn that, just for instance, grabbing another person without their consent by the genitalia, is also classed in Sweden as rape.

If this definition were extended to other countries, then of course the rate of sexual assaults and rapes worldwide would massively increase. But that is not my immediate point. Instead, let us consider the following. With this Swedish definition in mind – the definition that Farage has had to endorse in order to make his argument workable – other than refugees from the Middle East, who else can we think of Farage is effectively accusing of rape? Who can we think of, say, who not only grabs unconsenting women by the genitalia, but then even boasts about it to his friends? Who is classed by Nigel Farage, therefore, as a rapist?

Need a clue?

With friends like Nigel, eh?

by Martin Odoni

A popular hashtag on social media at the moment rightly condemns the UK Prime Minister for her pusillanimous stance on the ban on refugees from certain Islamic countries entering the USA. Theresa May is being called Theresa-The-Appeaser for her mealy-mouthed refusal to criticise the new US President, Donald Trump, for signing an Executive Order closing borders to people originating in seven Middle Eastern countries. (Interestingly, but unsurprisingly, none of them are among the countries in the region with whom Trump has personal business interests.) This was done just as May was preparing to meet the new President for the first time.

The anti-refugee policy drew immediate, scathing condemnation from all over the world, and has seen a second furious tidal wave of protests against Trump across the USA to follow the multi-millions demonstrating for women’s rights last weekend. (Trump only got sworn in nine days ago, and already millions seem ready to start a revolution against him!) But when pressed on the matter by increasingly impatient journalists, May, for long hours, refused to be drawn. Even when one of her own MPs, the Iraqi-born Nadim Zahawi, revealed that he himself would be subject to the ban, May stayed quiet.

The ‘Appeaser’ tag of course invokes memories of Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister at the heart of the notorious ‘Munich Agreement‘ of 1938, shortly before the start of the Second World War. I think the comparison is unfair though. On Chamberlain, that is.

Not quite an appeaser, but no better.

Theresa May lies back on the couch and lets Donald Trump do what he wants.

I am one of those history buffs who have some sympathy with Chamberlain over Munich, as he was in a pretty hopeless position when he tried to negotiate with Adolf Hitler. Chamberlain has long been castigated as the weakling who let Hitler walk all over him, giving up the Sudetenland and leaving Czechoslovakia undefended as the price of Britain not having to go to war, only for war to follow anyway, when Hitler reneged on his promise not to claim any further territories. But people arguing that Chamberlain was a weakling forget that Britain in the 1920s had undergone a massive program of disarmament, and the task of rebuilding the military was only just under way by the time he became Prime Minister. Militarily, Britain was far behind Nazi Germany, clearly nowhere near ready for another war, and in light of Britain’s military weakness at that point, Chamberlain’s concessions to Hitler were understandable, and may even have been wise, as they bought extra time to re-arm.

But more than that, even while Chamberlain made concessions in the face of threats, he still took an explicit position of opposing what Hitler was doing. He did not stay silent in the face of a powerful right-wing extremist; even if the promises Chamberlain extracted from Hitler in return for the concessions ultimately proved to be lies, at least they were born from a genuine attempt at offering up some opposition.

Compare that to May’s behaviour over the last couple of days, and you quickly realise that there is almost no resemblance at all. What May is doing is not even appeasement in fact (a word that is thrown around with depressing frequency, especially by militarists who do not appear to understand its meaning). What May has been doing in the face of right wing extremism is basically nothing; she has merely tried to keep her lips sealed and hoped not to become embroiled in the matter of the refugee ban at all.

What Chamberlain did to try and contain Hitler in 1938 may arguably have been wrong (although as I say, given Britain’s military weakness at that point, that is very much open to debate), but at least he did try and do something against it. Whether we think appeasement was the right action, at least it was not inaction. May’s response to such extremism when faced with it is not even to appease it, it is simply not to talk about it until her hand is forced. Even when she is compelled to speak up, all she says is that she disagrees with the refugee ban, not that she condemns it. (If Vladimir Putin of Russia had come up with a policy as intolerant as this, what, I wonder, would she be saying then?) May is making no real attempt to oppose Trump’s anti-Muslim prejudices, or his cruel rejection of the terrible plight of so many refugees (from wars that the USA and Britain themselves have played significant roles in creating), even though she is not being threatened by a powerful military in the way that Chamberlain was. She is being sycophantic, sucking up to Trump in the hope that he will give Britain a kinder trade deal to prop up an economy that will soon be ailing in the aftermath of leaving the European Union. She is scared of losing such a deal, and she is giving in to that fear.

So even if we accept that Neville Chamberlain was ‘weak’, what do the last couple of days make Theresa May?

An outright coward, perhaps?