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.


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

Muslim scholar Salman Rushdie is mainly famous for being sentenced to death. In 1988, he wrote a novel called The Satanic Verses, which caused wide offence to many across the Islamic world. The following year, Rushdie became the subject of a Fatwa issued by the Clerical ruler of the Shi’a Republic of Iran, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. To date, it has still not been officially withdrawn.

I tried reading The Satanic Verses back in the 1990s, and to be honest, I was unable to finish it. I might cope with it better today, given I would understand many of the symbolic references in it now more than I did then. But nonetheless, I found the book to be a little like Arthur Koestler’s Darkness At Noon, in that it is an overlong, uncompromisingly slow, and monotonous story that has received acclaim more for what it represents than for what it is.

The reason I mention the general ‘unreadability’ of Rushdie’s work is that I suspect his views are influential more because of his controversy, than because of his intellect. I am certainly not denying that Rushdie is a man of intellect, doubtless far greater than my own, but at the same time, that does not preclude a narrowness of perspective on his part. If he is controversial, the thinking seems to be, he must be ‘daring’, and he must have a perspective that is quite ‘outside-the-box’ in which everybody else’s thoughts are sealed.

However, Rushdie was making an appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher on Friday 15th of September, and one of the remarks he made suggested to me quite the reverse; that he is unimaginative, unquestioning of official narratives, and very conventional in his thinking.

It also made him sound quite absurd. Here is what he said, in reference to the defeat suffered by Hillary Clinton in last year’s US Presidential Election; –

“This problem where… there’s a section of the Left that wants the purest, more-snowy-than-driven-snow candidate… It’s not only a problem in this country. It’s a problem in England, where they want Jeremy Corbyn, who represents that ideal of ‘leftiness’, which can’t possibly be elected, or in France, the [Jean-Luc] Mélenchon people, who don’t want to vote for Macron, because he’s not purely left enough. And what all this does is to drive a wedge through which the right can come… We have to learn to distinguish between an imperfect friend and a deadly enemy.”

This is yet another example of centrists blaming the ‘real left’ for the accession to the US Presidency of Donald Trump. Not only is it incredibly patronising, it is quite a reversal of reality. Let us look closely at some of the real facts; –

Firstly, we can see on both sides of the Atlantic that the intolerance of a candidate outside a narrow ideological window is at least as prevalent in the centrist sphere as it is among real leftists. Furthermore, we see that the centrists are more willing to fight dirty to prevent or offload the outsider.

In the USA, the Democratic National Committee did all in its power short of breaking the letter of its own rules to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the party’s nomination last year. The Committee was clearly dead-set against Sanders from the start, even though he consistently polled more positively in the head-to-head ratings against Trump than Clinton did. While no particular law, or even party rule, had been violated by the Democrats, they had rigged the contest in every way they could get away with – from deliberately scheduling debates between the candidates at times unfavourable to Sanders, to arranging so few debates that Sanders had little exposure compared with his already-famous opponent, to bizarre anomalies in votecasing machine behaviour – in order to secure the nomination for their ideological ‘soulmate’, Clinton.

One example of how hideously, and even anti-Semitically, opposed to Sanders the DNC have been is in the area of official merchandise during last year’s Primaries. There was a wide range of pro-Clinton goods for sale with DNC approval, but nothing promoting Sanders. Indeed the only item with a Sanders image was a grotesque parody of a Nazi-Germany-style caricature, portraying him as a sort of ‘Jewish rodent’ – see the bottom picture below.


As for in the UK, even before Jeremy Corbyn became Labour Party leader two years ago, the Blairites in the Parliamentary Party were already plotting to overthrow him. Once it became clear that Corbyn was going to win, many Shadow Cabinet members from Ed Miliband’s time in charge publicly spat-their-dummies-out, stating that they would never serve in a Corbyn Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet. Within minutes of Corbyn being declared leader, Jamie Reed announced his own resignation from the Shadow Cabinet. All of this had happened before Corbyn had even been given a chance to get started. Then, the PLP attempted to remove him in a notorious ‘chicken coup‘ last summer, the details of which were forewarned in the media nearly two months beforehand, giving the lie to claims by the plotters that the coup was not premeditated or orchestrated. The use of the Brexit referendum vote as the pretext for the coup was absurd, given Corbyn had devoted more campaign time to promoting a Remain vote than any other Labour member. Even so, Corbyn won the leadership contest again, and generously offered an olive branch to those who had betrayed him, only for more back-stabs to follow after the New Year. Since Corbyn’s superb General Election campaign performance this year produced the shock result of a Hung Parliament, the back-stabbing has quietened down, but one can sense the resentment still simmering below the surface even now.

Both the Democrats during last year’s Primaries, and the Labour Party in both leadership contests won by Corbyn, had purged huge numbers of voters from their registers, the vast majority every time being those from the real left. (In 2015, this led to the grotesque absurdity of a left-wing writer and campaigner, Kerry-Anne Mendoza, being barred from voting in the Labour leadership contest, while a former Tory Cabinet Minister was allowed to proceed.)

On this evidence, Rushdie really needs to explain how he has concluded that the rejectionism and ‘ideological puritanism’ (for want of a better term) is more prevalent among those further-left than it is among the centrists. There is an ugly element in the Momentum movement that does seem to take confrontations with other factions in the Labour Party to a fanatical extreme, but that element is not in the majority by a long way, and one could well argue in any event that it is only giving the centrists a taste of the medicine dished out the other way for over thirty years. In Rushdie’s own terms, the centrists view Sanders and Corbyn as ‘imperfect friends’, and undermine them and reject them far more frequently than vice versa, to the undiluted benefit of conservatives. And yet Rushdie has no apparent condemnation to offer when that happens.

Secondly, it is a wild exaggeration to call either Sanders or Corbyn ‘pure left’. They are not. Corbyn’s philosophy, as I have pointed out more than once, lies somewhere on the theoretical boundary between socialism and social democracy. Sanders, while very left-wing by US standards and calling himself a socialist, is also a social democrat – a couple of notches to the right of Corbyn on the old-style political spectrum. In wider-world terms, Sanders is probably more a centrist than a leftist himself. It is only because of the ridiculously narrow-right-wing focus of the Overton Window of the last forty years that either of them is seen as a ‘hard-left Marxist’. It would be an interesting-but-difficult task to establish for sure, but it seems likely that most of their supporters would probably oppose a lot of genuine hard-left policies; for instance, I doubt they would be eager for total state-ownership of all industry, land being divided into communes, or the abolition of major private property.

So there is no great appetite for ‘puritanical leftism’ from ‘Corbynistas’ or ‘Bernie-Bros’. There is just a wish for the left to rediscover its ambition again, instead of continuing the pusillanimous compromises of ‘The Third Way’, which largely just boil down to giving the poor slightly more of the crumbs that fall off the dinner table of the rich.

Thirdly, the blame-shifting of Clintonites is just more of the usual centrist emotional blackmail: “Support us or it will be your fault when someone from the right wing gets in.” Surely, by the same reasoning, the centrists should have supported Sanders in the first place, given that he was doing better in the polls than Clinton? And is it not completely disingenuous of the centrists that they keep blackmailing and scaremongering the left into backing their candidates, only then to claim subsequently that the real left obviously cannot win because centrists are the only Democrats/Labourites who seem to win these days? A self-fulfilling prophecy, if ever there was one.

Fourthly, Rushdie’s claim that Hillary Clinton is an “imperfect friend” of the Sanders support-base is really quite insulting. She and her allies effectively cheated the real left support out of their candidate’s chances of taking the Democrat nomination. They frequently smeared and falsely-accused the Sanders supporters of violent or intimidating behaviour, and Clinton was simply not offering them anything very much that they wanted. Sanders’ policy platform did noticeably drag Clinton unwillingly to the left somewhat, but, despite the claims in her semi-fictional new book, she had no Wall-Street-unfriendly ideas of her own. Why should Sanders supporters see her as a ‘friend’ of any degree of perfection, let alone reward her with their support, after her dishonesty, high-handedness, half-hearted approach to progressivism, and insulting accusations?

And finally, Rushdie insists that the sort of socialist/social-democratic philosophy that Sanders and Corbyn (and Jean-Luc Mélenchon) stand for “can’t possibly be elected”. He makes no coherent case for why anyone should assume that that is true. The odds are probably against it, I would agree, more due to opposition from influential rich and power-broking factions, especially in the media, but Rushdie argues that it is not even possible. That is ridiculous in any circumstances. In the current circumstances, with Corbyn’s Labour ahead in almost every UK opinion poll since mid-June, and Sanders the most popular politician in the USA by a country-mile, Rushdie’s assertion seems mildly deranged.

Of course, while Rushdie’s assertion is divorced from reality, it is very, very familiar, and this is why I say that he is unimaginative and unquestioning of official narratives; he is simply restating the perceived wisdom that has dominated the mainstream media and careerist-politician-speak on both sides of the Atlantic over the last two-and-a-half years. Both Sanders and Corbyn have been repeatedly written off as too old, too obscure, too obsolete, too eccentric, too naive, too unrealistic, and too much the outsiders. Rushdie has been so deafened by this official noise that he is unable to hear the news of what is really happening. Rushdie has failed to notice that Labour registered about forty-one per cent of the popular vote under Corbyn at the General Election in June, forced a Hung Parliament, and have been in front in the polls consistently since just a few days afterwards. Rushdie also failed to notice that Sanders closed a sixty-point gap behind Clinton to just two points, and was consistently rated above Trump in the head-to-heads, and so would surely be President by now, if only the DNC had allowed the nomination contest to unfold fairly and without interference.

Rushdie does not think outside the box at all, at least not when it comes to the struggles within the left. Instead, he toes the line of powerful interests, regurgitating the narrative that the media, and the Wall-Street-loyal elite within the Democratic Party, want everyone to believe. He does far worse than confuse an imperfect friend with a deadly enemy; he confuses a slightly-less-ruthless enemy with an imperfect friend, and mistakes centrism for some kind of ‘natural default’ in politics. And above all, he subscribes to the common fallacy that democracy means the electorate must follow the politicians, rather than the politicians having to offer the electorate what they want.

Centrism, forever patronising both the right and the left with exhortations to “grow up” and to try and be “realistic”, has some growing up of its own to do. Partly, it must learn that realism involves assessing what is happening in the physical world, rather than focusing on its assumptions about what ‘should’ happen. And more particularly, it has to find the maturity to recognise when it is throwing stones in a glass house.

by Martin Odoni

There are just six days until the General Election, and the Prime Minister’s already-shambolic campaign has been struck by two fresh, self-inflicted body-blows in about fifteen hours.

Last night, the United States President, Donald Trump, withdrew the USA from the Paris Accord on Climate Change. It was an outrageous decision that has received condemnation from all around the world. (It is genuinely disturbing to see Communist China, at least on this issue, actually showing greater honour and morality than the self-proclaimed ‘best country in the world’.)

Oddly, at a crucial stage of the Election campaign, this presented Theresa May with a real opportunity to demonstrate her vaunted ‘strong-and-stable leadership’, and to prove that Britain is not just an obsequious follower of the USA’s every whim. So naturally, May seized upon the opportunity, and did not add her name to a letter signed by other world leaders condemning Trump’s decision. Instead, she telephoned the President to tell him she was ‘disappointed’.

Wow. Effective. Really seizing the initiative there, no cowardly or feeble half-gestures from our nation’s inspirational leader, dear me, no.

Now I am not entirely convinced May even made the phone-call, but if we give her the benefit of the doubt on that, I am still led to ask, “So what?” What she said determines whether her response was strong, and it clearly was not. She is merely ‘disappointed’ in a decision that could ultimately devastate wide stretches of land across the surface of the Earth? Really? ‘Disappointed‘? Did she ‘shake her head in disapproval’ at the Rwandan Genocide?

‘Disappointment’ is yet another lazy, mechanical ‘get-out’ word, used as a substitute for expressing anger with an ‘ally’ when anger is merited.

May claims the letter was drawn up before she had had a chance to speak to Trump. I have no doubt of that; I expect it was originally drawn up around the time Trump was sworn into office, as the move was one of his Election promises, and other countries would have wanted to be ready for it. So May could easily have added her name to it any time she wished, simply by forwarding an electronic signature by e-mail. It can be done in seconds.

So, having probably cost the Conservative Party another point in the opinion polls by allowing herself to appear spineless over international affairs (not good when your main Election posture has been that you will be a ‘strong’ negotiator during withdrawal from the European Union), May needed Friday to be free of any more bumps-in-the-road.


Enter Craig MacKinlay, Conservative MP for South Thanet. Now, the Tories appeared to have dodged a major bullet early last month, when the Crown Prosecution Service initially ruled that there would be no charges over the Tories’ Election Expenses Fraud. Smugly, and very deceitfully, May claimed in the aftermath of that announcement that this ruling meant that no one in the party at a constituency level had done anything wrong. That was categorically not the meaning of the CPS’ ruling, but more importantly, May overlooked one other detail; the ruling only applied to the rule-violation of the misuse of the Tory ‘Battle Bus‘ for local campaigning, while reporting it as a national expense. The individual case of the very bitterly-fought campaign for South Thanet was still being investigated separately.

Now – with truly agonising timing for the Tories – the investigation has been completed, and the CPS has found enough evidence to be confident of a successful prosecution. MacKinlay, his election agent, Nathan Gray, and a party activist called Marion Little, have all been charged with violating the Representation of the People Act of 1983.

I would just like to offer a mild observation at this point, with no implication intended. The timing of these charges is reminiscent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s bizarre, and as it turned out rather pointless, public declaration that it would re-open investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal just before the US Presidential Election back in the Autumn. I would certainly argue that there is more point to what has happened today, than what happened then, given there is apparently sufficient grounds this time to press charges. But even so, there are so many parallels between what it happening in Britain now and what happened in the USA last year that it is almost eerie.

MacKinlay’s alleged conduct is probably not May’s fault, and this is one occasion where her inability to control the Election campaign is not down to her own incompetence. But her rash and dishonest declaration that no one had done anything wrong is now likely to do her and her party yet more harm, with the Election now dead ahead. A declaration like that is usually a reputation-gamble. Given the savaging May’s reputation has already suffered over the last few weeks of campaign chaos, it could be argued that it was a small gamble to make. But it is not, because the destiny of 10 Downing Street is on the line as well right now. With Jeremy Corbyn and Labour closing rapidly in the opinion polls, and May’s entire campaign banking on the public perception of Tory competence, the final death of her reputation could also be the final death of her bid to remain Prime Minister.

After all, who would want a party in power that has shown itself to be both incompetent and, in all probability, corrupt?


by Martin Odoni

Following on from what I wrote last night, and today’s alarming knee-jerk reaction of the US President Donald Trump to Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun; I am increasingly convinced that Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, has been wrongly accused once more. I feel no personal sympathy for him, given some of the dreadful crimes his regime has committed over the years, but the practical reality is that the Tomahawk missile strikes on Syria are benefiting the likelier culprits.

Now I must stress that I am not being definitive here. Until a full investigation of the chemical attack has been completed, no one can say for sure who was the perpetrator. But the more I look at the details, the less convinced I am that Assad could have been behind it. Here is why; –

Both history and present circumstances suggest that a chemical attack by Assad makes little sense. As I mentioned yesterday, he was wrongly blamed for the chemical attack on Damascus in 2013, even though his forces had more or less retaken control of Eastern Ghouta by the time it happened. In reality, the attack was almost certainly the handiwork of the al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of so-called ‘al-Qaeda’. But it is telling that, in getting the blame, Assad saw the strength of international opposition to military use of chemical agents. He must surely have realised then that he could not risk such a move in future.

Over the next couple of years, he went as far as scrapping his stockpile of chemical weapons, under political pressure from Russia and the USA – a task that was completed last year – and while it is possible he obtained new weapons since then, it does raise a substantial doubt as to whether the regime even has the capability for this sort of attack anymore.

By contrast, it is quite apparent that al-Nusra has a supply-line for chemical agents, most likely tapping the late Colonel Ghaddafi’s old stockpile in Libya. Just as telling, look at the timing of the Khan Sheikhoun attack; it happened just five days after the Trump administration publicly ruled out deposing the Assad regime.

Whether the whole incident was a theatrical set-up by the rebels, or a genuine case of an air-strike releasing chemicals by accident, I am as yet unsure. A British journalist in Syria called Tom Duggan seems fairly certain it is the latter (although the fact he appears to work for the paranoid 21st Century Wire says nothing for his credentials), but either way, when I add two and two, I find the number four to be distinctly al-Nusra-shaped. The weapons were probably theirs, not Assad’s.

As for the Tomahawk strikes on al-Shayrat Airbase, Trump has disproven once and for all the claims of his apologists that he would be ‘less warlike’ than Hillary Clinton. The destabilising effects of his reckless command have been two-fold; one, it has boosted the position of Daesh as it attempts to take Homs. Two, it has seriously endangered relations with Russia.

Meanwhile, Britain has yet again shown itself to be the spineless sycophant of US expansionism, expressing its usual unstinting support for heavy explosive American violence. Thankfully, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the man the media are always telling us is ‘insane’, has once again dared to be a rare insight on the world as it really is, pointing out how the missile strikes are liable only to make matters worse. With the Syrian media claiming that four children were killed by the missile strikes, it could well be argued that they have already done precisely that.

by Martin Odoni

In the USA, a major political figure appointed to the most prestigious position in his party by popular demand around the country, rather than by support of his colleagues within the Congressional Party, is facing abandonment by his fellows as they move to dislodge him from his place of authority.

In the UK, a major political figure appointed to the most prestigious position in his party by popular demand around the country, rather than by support of his colleagues within the Parliamentary Party, is facing abandonment by his fellows as they move to dislodge him from his place of authority.

The recent experiences of Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn are surprisingly similar, given that one can hardly find any similarities between them as people. Trump is a deafening, yobbish buffoon and reactionary sociopath, thin-of-skin, completely disrespectful of women and ethnic minorities, a serial liar on such an instinctive level that he appears unaware of whether he is telling the truth or not, a right-wing ignoramus who talks off the top of his head at all times. Corbyn is a cool-headed, softly-spoken figure, quite wily and fairly knowledgeable, a controlled if not impressive speaker, respectful and polite to all, consistently leftist in his politics, and slow-to-anger, even when bombarded with abuse and distorting accusations. (Yes, Suzanne Moore, I’m talking about you.)

But with last week’s calamities for Trump resulting in his effective disownership by the Republican National Congress, his experience is starting to mirror Corbyn’s summer of turmoil with the failed ‘Chicken Coup‘ in the Parliamentary Labour Party. The so-called ‘moderate’ wing of the PLP, after months of plotting, tried to dislodge Corbyn from the leadership in a coup that was mishandled and crippled by over-orchestration and lack of courage all the way through, and finally culminated in Corbyn retaining the leadership with an increased share of the party vote.

Both men are unpopular with most of their ‘professional politician’ (I think that is the ‘nice’ label) colleagues, and are consistent sources of controversy in the media. In Trump’s case, the controversy is plainly far more justified than in Corbyn’s, and yet paradoxically Trump also tends to get far more sympathy in the press than Corbyn, but still, the parallel is evident.

The experiences of the two men appear to be parting ways at the present juncture; for while Corbyn is beginning to look completely impervious to any attempts at political betrayal, Trump’s position is in freefall. The loss of RNC funding is surely a mortal blow to his already-haemorraging hopes of becoming President of the United States next month, while the controversy over his disgusting misogynistic remarks caught on video in 2005 appears to have stretched the lead of Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton from 4 points to 11. With the Presidential Election now just weeks away, Trump’s position looks irredeemable, whereas Corbyn, with perhaps as much as three-and-a-half years to prepare for a UK General Election, has a position of strength within the Labour Party he probably never imagined until a year ago.

It is remarkable that two such similar paths trodden by two such different people are set to have such radically different endings, but it is also remarkable how differently the similar odysseys are perceived. Corbyn’s unpopularity within the Parliamentary Labour Party is principally because he stands for a more leftist worldview than the submission-to-neoliberalism of most of his colleagues. The hostility to Trump in the Congressional Republican Party is mainly a reflection of personal dislike. Although both Trump’s rise to the Republican Presidential ticket, and Corbyn’s emergence from nowhere to become Labour leader, are widely recognised as remarkable triumphs for the underdog, the reaction has not been all that similar. There has been endless scaremongering against Corbyn for his politics, most of which has been laughed off by the general public for its implausibility, but little personal ill-feeling; the general view seems to be that Corbyn is a thoroughly decent and affable man on a personal level. With Trump, there has also been considerable worry about his politics, especially his attitudes to women, Muslims and Mexicans. But these worries are not made up, and they go hand-in-hand with equal worries about his personality, his incompetence as a businessman, his spitefulness, and his complete lack of control over his own mouth.

The upshot is that Hillary Clinton, one of the most disliked Democrat nominations in US Presidential history, is firm favourite to beat Donald Trump at the polls, for Trump is disliked even more widely. Whereas Corbyn’s position, as mentioned above, has never been as high as it is now.

Of course, Corbyn still has to face the precise obstacle that Trump is failing to hurdle; winning over the wider public is a different task from winning over the membership of a party. Trump triumphed at winning over the members with plenty to spare back in July, just as Corbyn did in September. Trump is failing to convince the wider electorate in the USA, and Corbyn will have a challenge to do better in the UK. The fact that he has drawn so many new members to the Labour Party in a little over a year is very promising, but half a million members does not necesssarily translate to millions of extra voters when it counts the most.

But what Corbyn has over Trump is not just his greater personal likeability, but also that his supporters are different. At the risk of invoking stereotype, Trump’s support is made up in significant part of the paranoid and inward-looking. People who fear difference, and enjoy the expression of crass ignorance because (they think) it is “Tellin’ it like it is.” Corbyn’s support is largely made up of people who have more vision and are more positive in their outlook. Paranoia is not their motivation, instead they desire an end to needless and destructive inequality. They are not necessarily always more intelligent than Trump supporters, but they have more imagination, and have something positive to aim for, rather than something to be scared of.

Corbyn also probably has time on his side. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, thanks to the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act of 2011, will have difficulty forcing an early General Election during her ‘honeymoon period’ while the opinion polls suggest that the Conservative Party is well ahead. She would need the approval of two-thirds of the House Of Commons to force a dissolution through, and with a Government majority of just 16, that approval will be difficult to build without co-operation from Labour. Even the treacherous ‘Chickens of the coup’ will think twice before letting themselves be seen actively working with a Tory Prime Minister against a Labour leader. The odds therefore are that Corbyn has time available to turn his party membership into a coherent movement that can carry the message to the wider public, re-engaging with the millions in the electorate who did not vote in 2015. Corbyn has said as much recently, including at the The World Transformed Exhibition in Liverpool last month. He has a long-term strategy, he is not just following whims taken off the top of his own head. Unlike a certain New Yorker.

So for all the similarities between their journeys, Corbyn and Trump are completely different where it counts, and that is why Corbyn has a real chance, whereas Trump’s chances have all-but-crumbled.