Category Archives: Britain

Brexasperation! or why I cannot campaign for Labour but I will cast my vote again for Jeremy Corbyn…

The recent European elections in Britain were never supposed to happen. The deadline had passed – twice. Understood in this context, it was inevitable, therefore, that the contest would be fought as a second EU referendum. The Lib Dems admitted as much in their election pamphlet; something they afterwards tried to downplay (along with the fact that they had branded both Labour and Tories as pro-Brexit choices):

The outcome of this second vote was another close tie and more or less along the lines of the first referendum. Overall the pro-Brexit parties narrowly defeated the anti-Brexit parties, something apparent to anyone with an impartial eye and hard to disguise although some media outlets did indeed contrive to gloss over this inconvenient fact:

Both sides claimed victory, of course, when what was largely overlooked was the exceedingly low turnout. The turnout was low in part simply because European elections have low turnouts – this applies to electorates across the continent and is rather indicative of a deep democratic failing of the EU.

Leaving these matters aside, the actual result across the various regions and nations of UK should not have surprised anyone very much but mostly proves how remarkably few have actually changed their minds at all about Brexit. Instead, opinions have become entrenched.

My own stance is unchanged and remains the same as I outlined in a sequence of articles posted in the weeks leading up the referendum (here is the first). Now as then, I advocate for Britain to leave the EU – and if Northern Ireland wishes to remain and rejoin a united Ireland then this too should be settled with a border poll.

Disconcertingly, my own standpoint is at odds with the position held by most of my friends, although allied broadly with my family. Indeed, as with the indyref in Scotland, a generational political decision has sadly cost friendships and divided families. Some of my own friends look upon the prospect of any form of Brexit with total dread and thus regard my own stance on the scale of deeply regrettable to unforgiveable. As emigrants to countries inside the EU, three of my closest friends are understandably upset by the potential long-term repercussions of Brexit. In this regard, of course, both the British government and the EU were at liberty to issue unilateral pledges to uphold the rights of migrant citizens from the start of the process, but chose instead to hold back assurances, using the fear of repatriation as a bargaining chip. Playing politics in this way is deplorable, but I suppose it was to be expected.

Other friends and colleagues who do not live so directly under the same shadow cast by Brexit are concerned for different although understandable and perfectly legitimate reasons too. None of us knows if or how badly the economy could be hit. Nor can we be certain of knock-on effects either in Britain or abroad. On the eve of the referendum, we all had the same concerns which the doom-mongers did their best to ramp up. Chancellor George Osbourne had promised an emergency budget the next day, but afterwards resigned instead. Those who voted leave mostly didn’t believe him, and tend not to believe the naysayers today. On the other hand, those who still desire to remain take the threat more seriously. This is actually just another measure of how entrenched positions have become.

Just a year prior to the referendum, as ‘the Troika’ of the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF ganged up to apply neoliberal ‘shock therapy’ to Greece and the rest of “the PIGS”, with the imposition of “austerity” cuts to public services and demands for the privatisation of state assets, progressives and even a few liberals had been tweeting (quite correctly) “This is a coup”. During that period, political columnist for the Guardian, Owen Jones, wrote the following in an article entitled “The left must put Britain’s EU withdrawal on the agenda”:

Other treaties and directives enforce free market policies based on privatisation and marketisation of our public services and utilities. David Cameron is now proposing a renegotiation that will strip away many of the remaining “good bits” of the EU, particularly opting out of employment protection rules. Yet he depends on the left to campaign for and support his new package, which will be to stay in an increasingly pro-corporate EU shorn of pro-worker trappings. Can we honestly endorse that?

Continuing:

Let’s just be honest about our fears. We fear that we will inadvertently line up with the xenophobes and the immigrant-bashing nationalists, and a “no” result will be seen as their vindication, unleashing a carnival of Ukippery. Hostility to the EU is seen as the preserve of the hard right, and not the sort of thing progressives should entertain. And that is why – if indeed much of the left decides on Lexit – it must run its own separate campaign and try and win ownership of the issue.

Such a campaign would focus on building a new Britain, one of workers’ rights, a genuine living wage, public ownership, industrial activism and tax justice. Such a populist campaign could help the left reconnect with working-class communities it lost touch with long ago. My fear otherwise is a repetition of the Scottish referendum: but this time, instead of the progressive SNP as the beneficiaries, with Ukip mopping up in working-class communities as big businesses issue chilling threats about the risks of voting the wrong way. Without a prominent Left Out campaign, Ukip could displace Labour right across northern England. That would be the real vindication of Ukippery.

And concluding:

Lexit may be seen as a betrayal of solidarity with the left in the EU: Syriza and Podemos in Spain are trying to change the institution, after all, not leave it. Syriza’s experience illustrates just how forlorn that cause is. But in any case, the threat of Brexit would help them. Germany has little incentive to change tack: it benefits enormously from the current arrangements. If its behaviour is seen to be causing the break-up of the EU, it will strengthen the hand of those opposing the status quo. The case for Lexit grows ever stronger, and – at the very least – more of us need to start dipping our toes in the water. 1

Click here to read Owen Jones’ full article published in July 2015.

But Owen Jones was never one for consistency, and soon he was backing the remain campaign:

And saying this instead – a forecast that has to some extent been vindicated:

Having ditched Lexit in order to jump aboard the ‘Remain and Reform’ bandwagon, Owen Jones then correctly foretells the coup against Corbyn (it wasn’t difficult) and also envisions Johnson as Prime Minister surrounded by a gaggle of maniacal right-wingers. However none of this had been the inevitable outcome of a referendum vote to leave. In fact, an awful lot of water passed under the bridge in the interim period before Johnson managed to regain any momentum. It was a period when the left needed to consolidate behind Corbyn, especially in the aftermath of the extraordinary reversal during the 2017 General Election, but instead, Jones and other prominent leftists actually drove a wedge between themselves and the traditional Labour base. By January 2018, Jones was writing:

If only Brexit would go away. It sucks the political oxygen away from the issues we should all be discussing: like low wages, insecure jobs and the housing crisis. It is a rallying cry for a noxious alliance of anti-immigrant demagogues and regulation-stripping free marketeers. The bigotry, xenophobia and racism stirred up by the official leave campaigns injected an ugliness into British politics which never dissipated, and left hate crimes surging. And, frankly, Brexit is just mind-numbingly, painfully, excruciatingly dull. So yes, if there was a big red button to make it all just go away, I’d enthusiastically push it. 2

Click here to read Owen Jones’ full article entitled “I don’t like Brexit – I just don’t see how it can be stopped”.

Owen Jones is all-too typical of today’s left. Such inconsistency on the EU would be understandable, but for his spinelessness and abject lack of coherence. One minute he is throwing up his hands and reminding us (correctly) “just how forlorn” the cause of trying to reform the EU is, whilst urging fellow progressives that “the threat of Brexit would help them” (meaning the disadvantaged countries of Europe) and in the next breath he’s saying that he has been persuaded “to stand together to reform and change the EU” because “another Europe is possible”.

So let us cast our minds back further. Back to the 70s and early 80s when we find that the most radical voices, with Tony Benn, Peter Shaw, Barbara Castle, and Michael Foot very much in the vanguard, were likewise the most serious and committed Eurosceptics in British politics*, whereas the Europhiles tended to look and sound more like this:

Jeremy Corbyn is another on the left of his party who has never been a friend of the EU. Until very recently the same was true of John McDonnell. Relentless attacks of every kind – most effectively the media-led weaponisation of claims of antisemitism – have weakened Labour’s leadership and Corbyn especially. He has also been forced into submission by the pro-EU allegiance of the PLP and leaders of the trade union movement, as well as by grassroots Labour Party membership.

Many of Corbyn’s staunchest supporters – those who have backed him to the hilt on every other major issue – take a diametrically opposed stance on the EU, and few in his base dwell upon the cause of Corbyn’s single-issue divergence, preferring to gloss over the underlying problems with the European project. Nor do many ask, as one of the guests did on BBC’s election night programme, regarding the bright, shiny Euro-mobile backdrop:

Screenshot of the BBC election  night motif

“It’s a little like your lovely picture. You see all the smaller baubles and you know what they represent – France, Germany, Ireland, Spain – but then there’s the much larger blue ball with its ring of stars, and you wonder what does that represent?” (I am paraphrasing but hopefully you get the point)

In fact the better question perhaps is not what does the central hub represent, but whom does it represent? For evidently it does not represent the people of Greece or the other PIGS, or most of the rest of the European population. Instead it works for corporate interests – and again I refer you to an excellent investigative documentary called The Brussels Business.

Moreover, would a purely internationalist collaboration have much need for its own flag and anthem, unless the agenda was for outright unification? Arguably, a fully federalised United States of Europe is a grand and worthwhile project, yet advocates with the power to actually bring it about are also in the habit of denial. They know that they dare not allow the people of Europe to choose, because each past occasion they did, the people said no. Rather than seeking popular consent, therefore, the consistent approach is to forge closer union by stealth and subterfuge.

In fact, the trouble with the ongoing European project stems from its beginnings as a political collaboration that was established primarily to protect business sections, rather than as a union of nations formed to promote human rights and ensure peace. The EU still puts profits first.

Q. During the EEC membership referendum in 1975, which of these images formed the background to the official campaign poster to remain and which was to leave? Answer at the end of the post…

How the left gradually softened its position toward the EU, and has latterly become enamoured with Brussels, is a subject I addressed in earlier posts (see here), so rather than repeating myself, I offer instead an answer given by former Syriza MP (elected as a member of the Greek Parliament in January 2015) and Professor of Economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (SOAS), Costas Lapavitsas, during an interview with judicious Europhile and host of Novara Media, Aaron Bastini, when asked in what ways he thought firm advocates for “remain and reform” like his former Syriza colleague Yanis Varoufakis are mistaken [from 27:15 mins]:

“The thing that is absent in what Varoufakis is saying is in understanding the class nature of this, because these are not class neutral institutions. In the end they are institutions serving the interests of big business and big capital against labour… And when you’re confronting these institutions class interest will manifest itself clearly and forcefully.

“You might give the best arguments in the world. You might be able to tell them “look austerity doesn’t work”. And you might be able to write a very good academic paper on that, which might get published in a very good academic journal, but in the realm of politics that’s not how it works, because class interests will tell in the end and your argument will be dismissed. […]

“The class interests… are ruthless and unbending and that’s obvious from how they’re behaving. Ten years into the [banking] crisis, nothing’s changed. Nothing.”

Costas Lapavitsas, who is also author of “The Left Case Against the EU” was also recently interviewed by ‘Labour Leave’:

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Did you ever watch one of those shows in which stage magic is exposed? I confess that this is a guilty pleasure of mine perhaps due to my irresistible urge to find out how things work – the same urge that led me to study science. However, the big problem with such shows, besides the obdurate tackiness, is that the tricks presented are in any case third-rate imitations of the best grand illusions. The eponymous star of the most popular of this genre is the Masked Magician, and he is the most ham-fisted conjuror you have probably ever seen. His props are as rickety and his illusions as unconvincing, as his sleight of hand is amateurish and clumsy. But, if you’re like me, then you find yourself going back again and again, and cringing throughout. You want him to fool you, but he’s simply not good enough, and the illusion is usually broken long before the big reveal.

Well, enough about the Masked Magician – I wish him no ill will – he just serves as a fitting analogy for what I see as the contemporary state of politics in Britain. All of it is clunky, amateurish, and utterly unconvincing. Long gone is the conviction of Churchill, Atlee, Wilson, Foot, Benn or even Thatcher; gone too, the slicker gloss of Blair and Cameron. Today’s politics are unvarnished again, but not in a good way. It has become a very, very sorry spectacle indeed.

Take Boris Johnson’s recent visit to Wakefield when he delivered an electioneering speech in front of a phalanx of police cadets, who had been waiting for over an hour for his bumbling appearance. When one of his unwitting backdrop props fainted in the heat, Johnson was left to make a disingenuous apology, before blustering on regardless. His cheap stunt had backfired – but what a stunt… how blatant, shambling, and frankly Trump-like. It’s almost as though he and his advisors simply don’t care whether they manage to impress many viewers or even how unprofessional they appear. The association, in this case of Johnson with the police, is enough to appeal to the target audience.

Likewise, shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, on last night’s BBC Question Time, when asked what Labour’s position on Brexit will be in the near-certain event of a forthcoming general election. We will negotiate a new deal with Europe and then hold another referendum with choices to accept Labour’s new deal or else to remain, she told us. “Will you be campaigning against your own deal, a deal you have negotiated?” she was asked, at which point she lost her bearings entirely and after an excruciating pause, admitted that she would! This is not a credible position – this is not serious politics: it’s an embarrassment.

There isn’t time here to go through all the reasons we have reached this dire state of affairs. I mean where would we ever begin? With Cameron’s original decision to call a referendum; or the series of slips and the rise of Ukip that forced his hand; or the EU’s lack of flexibility when he tried to negotiate the original deal; or May’s electoral ineptitude that reduced a working Conservative majority to a hung parliament; or the chicken coup of Labour MPs who sought to destroy Corbyn and inadvertently (or not) led May to call that election (an election she had vowed never to call); or the subsequent years of Conservative shilly-shallying, and the steady drift of Labour towards an undemocratic second referendum; or the return of Farage and Conservative Party’s nuclear option election of Johnson as leader? Such a catalogue of backstabbing, procrastination, vacillation, and sheer betrayal! – even judged against their usual ghastly standards, the Brexit debacle has shown us the worst of the political establishment and the media.

In an interview with ITV news on September 16th, David Cameron talked about Johnson’s decision to front the leave campaign saying, “Boris thought Brexit would be lost”:

Unfortunately, we are where we are. The Conservatives are stuck with Johnson the remainer and his Old Etonian chums rallying the country to his sham anti-establishment cause and persuading the gullible that he is a staunch leaver, while Corbyn, the life-long Eurosceptic, who has been browbeaten into submission, enters a marriage of convenience with the equally sham pro-nationalist SNP and overtly anti-democratic Liberal Democrats, to carry the flickering torch of remain. All sides have given up on principle – in fact, and this is what is truly astonishing, they have largely given up on the pretence of principle. Both sides are simply hoping their opponents are more deeply fractured than they are. This is how they seek to regain power under our ludicrous and dysfunctional first-past-the-post system.

Counterfactually, had the Labour Party endorsed Corbyn in the days following the referendum and endorsed his call for the Conservative government to trigger Article 50, then Labour would very likely be leading the polls, if not already in government. But any promise of Lexit was dashed instead once the PLP ‘rebels’ launched their attacks on the party’s leadership. Then Labour missed the boat a second time in the chaotic aftermath of the 2017 general election, and once again the fault must be laid at the door of the majority of PLP and Corbyn’s own base who wasted the opportunity. Instead, little by little they have completely boxed him in over Europe, and in consequence we stand on the brink not only of a no deal Brexit under Johnson’s reactionary government, but prospect that the project Corbyn started, with its noble aim of steering the party back to the left, will also be ruined on the back of electoral defeat.

Which is why at length, and in spite of everything, I shall still vote for Corbyn at the next election and encourage others to do likewise, but it is also why I feel unable to canvass on the doorsteps for the Labour Party as I did during the last campaign. My hope is that by some miracle Corbyn can recover ground and win office, and for this I am prepared to sacrifice leaving the EU. Labour’s electoral success may very well rest on how many others will also put aside the desperate failings of the party, and stick to backing Corbyn.

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Additional: My correspondence with Shadow Brexit Minister Paul Blomfield

Appended below is an exchange of letters with Paul Blomfield, who is MP for Sheffield Central (my constituency) and became Shadow Minister for Exiting the European Union in October 2016. Paul Blomfield has always replied at length to all of my correspondence which is greatly to his credit.

Jan 10th (contacted through 38 Degrees)

As your constituent I’m emailing you to let you know where I stand on Brexit ahead of the vote on Tuesday the 15th of January.

Theresa May’s deal is a terrible one and unless she can renegotiate a compromise agreement with Brussels I want a clean break from the EU. This respects the result of the referendum. I believe we should leave as soon as possible even though I accept this could mean people’s jobs and wages take a hit. Any reversal of the referendum vote to leave the EU will be regarded by many (far more than the 17 million who voted leave) as a denial of the will of the people and dictatorial.

Please let me know how you’ll represent my views in Parliament.

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Jan 15th

Dear James,

Thank you for your e-mail setting out your views on the Government’s Brexit deal.  I value my correspondence with constituents and do appreciate you taking the time to write. I try to keep constituents in touch with my views and activities, including my work as a Shadow Brexit Minister, through a monthly e-newsletter. If you don’t already receive it, just reply ‘yes’ to this email and I’ll add you to the mailing list (see here for my data privacy policy).

As a Shadow Brexit Minister I was closely involved in drawing up the six tests against which Labour has consistently said that we would measure the deal. Our six tests were based on the Government’s own stated objectives and the Prime Minister said that she was determined to meet them. When the deal was published in November we were clear that it did not meet those tests and we will therefore vote against it today.

Labour has always been clear that we respect the result of the referendum, but believe that people voted to get out and not to lose out. I appreciate that you say you would be prepared to take a cut in your income or lose your job, but most leave voters I’ve spoken to wouldn’t agree; indeed they felt that leaving the EU would improve their position. We do not think that people’s living standards should be sacrificed for a hard Brexit.  Labour respects that we have financial commitments to the EU to meet before we leave. It is not a ‘fee to leave’, but settles outstanding financial obligations to which we committed ourselves as a member. If we do not meet our legal obligations, no country would trust us in any negotiations over future trade agreements.

So, we will vote against the Withdrawal Agreement today and seek to ensure that the chaos and civil war in the Tory Party does not result in us crashing out of the EU without a deal; and therefore, with no transition period. We will continue to press for the most beneficial deal with the EU, which means a close relationship, and we will seek to amend the Government’s proposals to that effect.

As you will know, we are not alone in voting against the deal. We will be joined by all opposition parties and a large number of Conservative MPs. In fact, it looks clear that it will not receive a Parliamentary majority. At that stage, all options will have to be available to avoid the consequences of no deal, as we set out at our Conference.

You can read more in my regular update on my website – see the latest one here.

With best wishes,

Paul

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Jan 15th

Dear Paul,

Thank you for replying promptly and in full to email.

May’s deal is the worst of all worlds and I am pleased that Labour will be voting against it. I also agree of course that we must seek the best deal for Britain since this is a no-brainer. However, if we refuse to entertain the option of no deal then in effect the EU holds all the cards. As Digby Jones put it: “When you have a Parliament turn around and saying ‘we’re going to say there’ll be no deal’ – it’s like saying I’ll buy a house for less but if I won’t, I’ll buy it for more.”

Regarding the ‘divorce bill’, again I fully acknowledge that Britain should fully settle any financial obligation, but this is not the same as paying May’s agreed “financial settlement” of £39bn which is conditional. This conditionality was made clear on September 7, 2018, when Michel Barnier conceded that the EU would allow a future trade agreement to be linked to the payment of the divorce bill.

Like most leave voters I too feel that leaving the EU will ultimately improve my position, although I did not vote to leave purely for economic reasons. Instead I voted to leave because I do not wish to live in a federalised Europe under centralised bureaucratic governance. Neither do I wish to see the formation of an EU army, a goal that was until very recently denied outright. I also wish to leave Europe because of the way it treats its poorest members (the so-called PIIGS) with the cruel imposition of unremitting austerity. Others voted to leave for reasons I actually deplore, but I am a democrat and respect the fact that they have as much right to vote as I did. To reiterate my previous points, the danger facing Labour is that so many of its traditional voters, in the North especially, will feel betrayed if the referendum vote is not respected. Unknown numbers will be recruited by the far right. Indeed, I fear that Labour may lose so much of its traditional support that it could easily enter into the wilderness once again.

So although I respect your alternative opinion on this issue, I do not believe Labour should engage in fearmongering. “Crashing out of the EU without a deal” is emotive language, and I feel that I must remind you that we did not vote for a deal but only to leave. Indeed at the time of the referendum we were warned that voting to leave would involve exit from the single market and customs union, yet we voted to leave nonetheless. I believe that people did not in fact prioritise economics in the vote, but made their choice for other reasons. This is all the more reason to fear the consequences of a U-turn on the referendum decision, and all the more reason to doubt that people can be won over by economic arguments now.

Thank you again for replying. Best wishes,

James

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Feb 13th

Dear James,

Thanks for your further note. I really appreciate hearing constituents’ views so I’m grateful for you taking the time to write and set out your thoughts on the issue. Another way I try to keep in touch about my views and activities, including my work as a Shadow Brexit Minister, is through a monthly e-newsletter. If you don’t already receive it, just reply ‘yes’ to this email and I’ll add you to the mailing list (see here for my data privacy policy).

On the financial settlement, you’ll know that Michel Barnier said such a link could be explored but that it would depend on the legal implications. Even the former Brexit Secretary and Brexit campaigner, Dominic Raab, conceded that we would still have financial obligations in the event of no deal.

In terms of the EU’s treatment of poorer countries and political integration, the UK was a leading member with significant influence and say in the EU, which we will lose on exiting.  It is always easier to influence and shape direction from within. You’ll also know that all the PIIGS countries supported the UK remaining within the EU.  The rise of ring-wing populism across Europe is extremely concerning and EU Parliament will have a very different configuration after the elections in May. I think it is extremely unfortunate the UK Labour MEPs will not be there to counter this. I have to say that I don’t recognise your description of the EU’s “bureaucratic governance”; decisions are made through co-decision making involving the Commission, the elected members of the Council of Ministers and the elected members of the Parliament. Indeed, in many ways, it’s a stronger democratic model than the UK’s governance. I know that the ‘European Army’ was a popular myth in the referendum campaign, but it doesn’t stand up to examination.

You mentioned the prospect of Labour losing voters who voted in favour of Brexit. I would challenge the idea that Labour voters are pro-Brexit; 2/3 of Labour voters backed remain, while 2/3 of Tory voters backed leave. It’s true that many in some Labour areas (although not primarily our voters) did vote leave, but it was the Tories that delivered Brexit. That shouldn’t be a surprise as it was a campaign led by the hard right neo-liberals opposed to the development of social Europe and what they see as regulatory constraints on free markets. Labour campaigned to remain in the EU, but we respect the result of the referendum. However, voters would not thank MPs who delivered Brexit on a false prospectus and politicians must be honest with the people who elect us, about the impact of different Brexit options on jobs and the economy and about the fact that we will have to reach agreement on common rules with countries with which we want to trade.

Therefore, warning about the effects of leaving without a deal is not fear mongering. The Treasury’s own analysis indicates that it would hit our economy by a massive 10%. No deal would be disastrous for jobs and the economy. I spoke to motor manufacturers in December and they made it clear that they rely on the seamless flow of goods across borders and that the Government’s advice to stockpile just isn’t a viable option for their ‘just-in-time’ supply chains. Our universities, a sector that is crucial to Sheffield and supports 944,000 jobs across the country, recently described ‘no deal’ as one of the biggest threats they have ever faced. I also spoke to motor manufacturers in December and they made it clear that they rely on the seamless flow of goods across borders and that the Government’s advice to stockpile just isn’t a viable option for their ‘just-in-time’ supply chains

Despite spending £4.2 billion of public money that could have been spent on our NHS, schools and other public services, the Government is totally unprepared for ‘no deal’, most memorably demonstrated by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s decision to award a £13.8m ferry to a company with no ships. On top of that, they have at least half a dozen Bills and swathes of secondary legislation to get through the House to fulfil the most basic requirements of leaving without a deal

‘No Deal’ was not on the ballot paper and several leading Brexiteers spoke about the favourable trade deal we would secure with the EU before the referendum. The International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, also said that it would be the “easiest [trade deal] in human history”. Interpretations of what the Brexit vote would mean also vary. The Tory MEP, Daniel Hannan, a longstanding Eurosceptic, repeatedly said that it would not mean leaving the single market: “Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market”. So how the Brexit vote should be interpreted is debatable, but MPs have a responsibility to mitigate the damage as much as possible.

Thanks again for your email and you can keep up to date with all of my work on Brexit on my website.

Best wishes,

Paul

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March 1st

Dear Paul,

Thanks again for your full and detailed reply to my previous email. I shall briefly respond to some of the points you raised before coming to the main issue of Labour’s decision to support a second referendum.

Firstly, and I quote, you describe the formation of a ‘European Army’ as “a popular myth in the referendum campaign, saying that it doesn’t stand up to examination.” (With the link provided.) I have followed this link to fullfact.org which states in its main summary under the heading ‘Conclusion’ that:

“EU member countries work together on military matters, but the EU doesn’t have its own military capabilities. At least a few European politicians do support the creation of an EU army, but that would need unanimous approval.”

I fail to see in what way this refutes claims that the EU is seeking to form its own army. Moreover, those “few European politicians” happen to include EC President Jean-Claude Juncker who has repeated called for widescale military unification. Prominent Belgium MEP Guy Verhofstadt is also outspoken in demanding “real EU defence and foreign policy”. There are countless other examples I might add here.

Secondly, you dismiss all the criticism of the EU’s ‘democracy deficit’ and argue, and again I quote, “it’s a stronger democratic model than the UK’s governance”. Leaving aside the constitutional arrangement that gives the unelected EC greater powers over the elected parliament (small wonder most voters in Britain are unable to name their own MEPs), the callous response of the EC and ECB (two branches of the so-called ‘Troika’) to the Eurozone financial crisis is fully indicative of the anti-democratic nature of the project. In a conversation with Noam Chomsky, former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who headed negotiations with the Eurogroup (and who has since advised Jeremy Corbyn), said this:

“The European Union doesn’t suffer, or the Eurogroup, from a democratic deficit. It’s like saying that we are on the moon and there is an oxygen deficit. There is no oxygen deficit on the moon. There is no oxygen, full stop.” You can find the quote here: https://www.yanisvaroufakis.eu/2016/06/28/full-transcript-of-the-yanis-varoufakis-noam-chomsky-nypl-discussion/

Lastly, and most urgently, I wish to address Labour’s unfortunate decision to support a second referendum. In your reply you said: “Labour campaigned to remain in the EU, but we respect the result of the referendum.” So if there is a second referendum what choices will be put to the electorate?

If this is simply a second referendum on the deal to leave then I will reluctantly support Labour’s position. However, if remaining in the EU is one of the choices on the ballot paper then a second referendum will be an affront to 17.4 million Brexit voters – the largest number of people who have ever voted for anything in all of our history. Furthermore, a second referendum with ‘remain’ on the ballot breaches Labour’s election manifesto pledge, which is less than two years old and which you reiterated, that you accept and will respect the result of the first referendum. This will cause untold damage to Jeremy Corbyn’s reputation for authenticity, believability and honesty. It will also reinvigorate Ukip, and provide ammunition to far right extremist Tommy Robinson. Like many people inside the party and outside, I believe that such a U-turn will very likely ruin Labour’s electoral chances for decades to come.

Thank you again for replying. Best wishes,

James

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April 15th

Dear James,

Thanks for your further note and apologies for the delay in getting back to you. As you can imagine, the past few weeks have been exceptionally busy for me as a Shadow Brexit Minister so although I read your email at the time, I am just now getting a chance to respond.

I’m a bit puzzled by your interpretation of the quotation from FullFact as I don’t see how it refutes the claim that the EU is seeking to form a European army. On the contrary, it confirms that only “a few European politicians” do support this but, as it also states, it would require unanimous approval of every member state, which does not exist.

I disagree with Yanis Varoufakis. Our Parliament has always been sovereign as the Government confirmed clearly in their White Paper on leaving the EU and even outside of the EU, the UK will have to work with other countries, including the EU27, to achieve common aims. According to the House of Commons library, 13% of our laws ‘come from Brussels’ (where we do of course have a say in how those laws are made). In many instances, where rules are agreed at the European level, the UK has flexibility in how to implement what is agreed.

In the modern world, nations’ interdependence and cooperation is inevitable and something to be celebrated rather than regretted. You are right that the European Commission is unelected, but so is our civil service and neither make laws, although both draft them. Laws need agreement of both the Council of (elected) Ministers and the European Parliament (more here). Moreover, votes in the Council are weighted according to population, although usually reached by consensus, and of course each country has a veto in key areas. You might also note that the European Parliament has the power to dismiss the Commission. On democratic credentials, the EU does far better than international organisations like the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, for example.

To come back to the question of a further referendum: as I’ve made clear in previous emails, I campaigned to remain but accept the result of the referendum. What I do not accept is the interpretation that it was to rupture all ties with the EU. It was clearly a vote to leave but it was a narrow win and, numerically, roughly in line with the numbers that voted ‘Yes’ in the 1975 referendum (17,378,581), which was proportionally a much more resounding victory to remain at 67.5%.  Labour accepted the result of the first referendum by voting to give the Prime Minister the authority to trigger Article 50 and have been pushing for a Brexit deal that both respects the result of the referendum and protects jobs, the economy and our national security. I recognise the risk that it would present an opportunity for the far right, but if we limit our political choices on that basis where does it end?

Labour has urged the Prime Minister to step away from her red lines and are currently engaging in talks with the Government to press them to bring back a deal that can command a majority in Parliament and in the country by forging a close relationship with the EU. We have called on the Government to introduce primary legislation for a mandate to negotiate changes to the Political Declaration to secure a permanent and comprehensive customs union with the EU; close alignment with the single market underpinned by shared institutions and obligations; dynamic alignment on rights and protections; commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, including in areas such as the environment, education, and industrial regulation; and unambiguous agreement on the detail of future security arrangements, including access to the European Arrest Warrant and vital shared databases. We must do all we can to protect jobs and the economy, which is why Labour has supported a confirmatory public vote – giving the British people a choice between a credible leave option and remaining in the EU – to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit. This is in line with our 2018 Party Conference motion, which was passed unanimously, and, as you’ll know, is overwhelmingly supported by the majority of Labour Party members.

Thanks again for getting in touch and you can find all of my blog posts and speeches on Brexit on my website.

Best wishes,

Paul

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April 15th

Dear Paul,

Thanks again for your detailed reply and I do appreciate your efforts in this regard. I shall try to keep my reply very short. You write that you now support “a confirmatory public vote – giving the British people a choice between a credible leave option and remaining in the EU –  to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit” and that this is in line with the Party Conference motion. What you have failed to address, however, is my point that such a “confirmation public vote” (second referendum – why can’t we call it what it is?), as I wrote, “breaches Labour’s election manifesto pledge, which is less than two years old and which you reiterated, that you accept and will respect the result of the first referendum”.

A second referendum between the proposed options will disenfranchise millions of voters who want neither to remain nor to accept May’s deal. In effect, although they voted to ‘leave’, they are instead being told that this is impossible and asked in what way they wish to ‘remain’. In the event of such a referendum I would expect a deluge of spoiled ballots (mine will be one). Indeed, the inclusion of ‘remain’ as an option in a second referendum will be seen as a betrayal of democracy because it is one. Lastly, as a Labour member myself, I fail to see how a conference motion can override a manifesto pledge. What precedent does this set? I campaigned on the manifesto and will feel ashamed of the party if it follows this course. Finally, if Labour does force a second referendum then it will anger millions of former voters, many of whom (as you do acknowledge) are likely to flock to the far-right. The point is that this abandonment of the left will be understandable in such circumstances. So this is not a matter of limiting our political choices, as for instance the calling for tighter immigration controls under former leader Ed Miliband was. This is not about pandering to extremists, but straightforwardly honouring a referendum result and Labour’s election promises. If we cannot even do this, then how in good faith can I campaign for Labour again?

Thanks again for taking such trouble to reply to me.

Best wishes,

James

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Follow up in response to a request to help with campaigning in European elections

May 8th

Dear Paul,

As I understand you, Labour is now seeking a “confirmatory vote” (i.e., second referendum) before the first referendum result has been enacted and contrary to the election manifesto pledge to honour the referendum result. This is certainly the case if, as you have given me to understand in previous correspondence, the proposed second referendum is to include ‘remain’ on the ballot. With due respect therefore I find myself unable to campaign for the Labour Party (of which I am a member) in the forthcoming European elections. Moreover, I shall not vote for Labour in those elections.

Best wishes,

James

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May 9th

Dear James,

Thanks for getting back to me.

I am sorry that you do not support the party policy endorsed unanimously at our Party Conference last September:

“Should Parliament vote down a Tory Brexit deal or the talks end in no-deal, Conference believes this would constitute a loss of confidence in the Government. In these circumstances, the best outcome for the country is an immediate General Election that can sweep the Tories from power. If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote. If the Government is confident in negotiating a deal that working people, our economy and communities will benefit from they should not be afraid to put that deal to the public.”

As we have already discussed, Labour did accept the outcome of the referendum and we voted to trigger Article 50. We confirmed that in our 2017 manifesto, but also said that we rejected the Tories’ approach and wanted a close economic relationship with the EU seeking to retain the benefits of the customs union and single market, as well as alignment on rights and protections (see here). We have always been clear that we will not give the Prime Minister a blank cheque to harm our economy and people’s jobs and livelihoods.

Best wishes,

Paul

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May 9th

Dear Paul,

Thanks again for your prompt reply. I am sorry to write again and shall keep my own response as brief as possible. You say that Labour did (past tense) accept the outcome of the referendum adding that “we voted to trigger Article 50”. However, the country voted to leave (whereas triggering Article 50 is procedural) and in spite of this, and though the deadline has since passed, Britain remains inside the EU. Backing a second referendum with an option to ‘remain’ is a more or less open call to revoke Article 50. Thus, if triggering Article 50 means that Labour accepted the outcome, then, by the same reasoning, revoking Article 50, which overturns the referendum result, will represent a clear betrayal of our manifesto promise. In this regard the policy endorsed by the party conference is an irrelevance since it is incompatible with manifesto pledges on which all Labour MPs were elected and on which we all campaigned. I regard this change in policy as entirely dishonourable, but worse than that, it will be electorally disastrous.

Best wishes,

James

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May 28th

Hi James,

Thanks for your response. Please don’t apologise for writing again; I appreciate you sharing your views.

Clearly the situation has developed further since you wrote, with last week’s European elections. Indeed, here in Sheffield and in the country as a whole, the combined vote of those parties committed to a further public vote and remaining in the EU beat that of the those opposing a vote and leaving the EU at any cost. Labour was punished for an ambiguous message and lost votes to the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. So we have to look seriously at the issue of a further public vote, which I don’t think would be dishonourable or electorally disastrous.

Party policy has evolved and developed and the latest Conference policy surpasses the two-year-old manifesto. Your suggestion that revoking Article 50 would be overturning the referendum result does not take into account that we would seek a fresh mandate. We have made every effort to push the Government to get a deal that would work for the country but it is clear that there is an impasse in Parliament and support for a vote to give people a final say is surely not anti-democratic. Indeed, there have been MPs and others who have been campaigning to leave the EU since the 1975 referendum. Campaigning to persuade people is a fundamental characteristic of democracy.

Nor do I agree it would be electorally disastrous. 65% of Labour voters voted remain and recent polling indicates that 72.5% Labour voters would back remain in another referendum. Clearly there would be some votes lost and have been already, but these are far outweighed by those lost on the other side.

Above all though, we have to do what we think is right to resolve the crisis. There were big variations in different areas, but with the country and Parliament divided, there is no option but to give the people a final say to break the impasse.

Best wishes,

Paul

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 Answer:

 

1 From an article entitled “The left must put Britain’s EU withdrawal on the agenda” written by Owen Jones, published in the Guardian on July 14, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/14/left-reject-eu-greece-eurosceptic

2 From an article entitled “I don’t like Brexit – I just don’t see how it can be stopped” written by Owen Jones, published in the Guardian on January 3, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/03/stop-brexit-campaign-vote-leave-populist

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The following is taken from the Wikipedia entry on the 1975 EEC membership referendum (as it was captured on March 16th with footnotes retained)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1975_United_Kingdom_European_Communities_membership_referendum#Campaigning

The referendum was called in April 1975 after the renegotiation was formally concluded. Since Prime Minister Harold Wilson‘s cabinet was split between supporters and opponents of the Common Market, and since members of each side held their views strongly, he made the decision, unprecedented outside coalition government, to suspend the constitutional convention of Cabinet collective responsibility. Cabinet members would be allowed to publicly campaign against each other. In total, seven of the twenty-three members of the cabinet opposed EC membership.[10] Wilson’s solution was that ministers speaking in the House of Commons should reflect government policy (i.e. support for EC membership), but would be allowed to speak freely elsewhere, thus avoiding a mass dismissal of Cabinet ministers. In spite of this, one minister, Eric Heffer, was obliged to resign after speaking against EC membership in the House of Commons.

Yes campaign (Britain In Europe)

The “Yes” campaign was officially supported by Wilson[11] and the majority of his cabinet, including the holders of the three other Great Offices of State: Denis Healey, the Chancellor of the Exchequer; James Callaghan, the Foreign Secretary; and Roy Jenkins, the Home Secretary.[citation needed] It was also supported by the majority of the Conservative Party, including its newly elected leader Margaret Thatcher — 249 of 275 party members in Parliament supported staying in the EC in a free vote in April 1975[11] — the Liberal Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party.

No campaign (National Referendum Campaign)

Tony Benn, Secretary of State for Industry, was one of the senior figures in the No campaign.

The influential Conservative Edward du Cann said that “the Labour party is hopelessly and irrevocably split and muddled over this issue”.[11] The “No” campaign included the left wing of the Labour Party, including the cabinet ministers Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Peter Shore, Eric Varley, and Barbara Castle who during the campaign famously said “They lured us into the market with the mirage of the market miracle”. Some Labour “No” supporters, including Varley, were on the right wing of the party, but most were from the left. The No campaign also included a large number of Labour backbenchers; upon the division on a pro-EC White Paper about the renegotiation, 148 Labour MPs opposed their own government’s measure, whereas only 138 supported it and 32 abstained.[3]

“Many Conservatives feel the European Community is not good for Britain … The Conservative party is divided on it too”, du Cann — head of the Conservatives’ 1922 Committee — added,[11] although there were far fewer Eurosceptic figures in the Parliamentary Conservative Party in 1975 than there would be during later debates on Europe, such as the accession to the Maastricht Treaty. Most of the Ulster Unionist Party were for “No” in the referendum, most prominently the former Conservative minister Enoch Powell, who after Benn was the second-most prominent anti-Marketeer in the campaign.[12] Other parties supporting the “No” campaign included the Democratic Unionist Party, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, and parties outside Parliament including the National Front and the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Official party positions

Conservative and Liberal Party conferences consistently supported EC membership for several years up to 1975. At a Labour Party conference on 26 April 1975, the Labour membership rejected continuing EC membership by almost a 2:1 margin. Tony Benn said, “We have had a conference and the decision is clear … It is very clear that there now must be a move for the Labour Party to campaign.” The majority of the Labour Party leadership was strongly for continuing membership, and the margin of the party vote was not a surprise, since only seven of forty-six trade unions present at the conference supported EC membership. Prior to the conference, the party had decided that if the conference voted by a margin of 2:1 or more in favour of a particular option, it would then support that position in the referendum campaign. Otherwise, the ‘party machine’ would remain neutral. Therefore, the Labour Party itself did not campaign on either side.

The campaign, funding and media support

The government distributed pamphlets from the official Yes[13] and No[14] campaigns to every household in Britain, together with its own pamphlet which argued in support of EC membership[15].[16] According to this pamphlet, “the most important (issues in the renegotiation) were FOOD and MONEY and JOBS”.[citation needed]

During the campaign, almost the entire mainstream national British press supported the “Yes” campaign. The left-wing Morning Star was the only notable national daily to back the “No” campaign. Television broadcasts were used by both campaigns, like party political broadcasts during general elections. They were broadcast simultaneously on all three terrestrial channels: BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV. They attracted audiences of up to 20 million viewers. The “Yes” campaign advertisements were thought to be much more effective, showing their speakers listening to and answering people’s concerns, while the “No” campaign’s broadcasts featured speakers reading from an autocue.

The “Yes” campaign enjoyed much more funding, thanks to the support of many British businesses and the Confederation of British Industry. According to the treasurer of the “Yes” campaign, Alistair McAlpine, “The banks and big industrial companies put in very large sums of money”. At the time, business was “overwhelmingly pro-European”,[17] and Harold Wilson met several prominent industrialists to elicit support. It was common for pro-Europeans to convene across party and ideological lines with businessmen.[17] John Mills, the national agent of the “No” campaign, recalled: “We were operating on a shoe-string compared to the Rolls Royce operation on the other side”.[18] However, it was also the case that many civil society groups supported the “Yes” campaign, including the National Farmers Union and some trade unions.

Much of the “Yes” campaign focused on the credentials of its opponents. According to Alistair McAlpine, “The whole thrust of our campaign was to depict the anti-Marketeers as unreliable people – dangerous people who would lead you down the wrong path … It wasn’t so much that it was sensible to stay in, but that anybody who proposed that we came out was off their rocker or virtually Marxist.”[18] Tony Benn said there had been “Half a million jobs lost in Britain and a huge increase in food prices as a direct result of our entry into the Common Market”,[17] using his position as Secretary of State for Industry as an authority. His claims were ridiculed by the “Yes” campaign and ministers; the Daily Mirror labelled Benn the “Minister of Fear”, and other newspapers were similarly derisive. Ultimately, the “No” campaign lacked a popular, moderate figure to play the public leadership role for their campaign that Jenkins and Wilson fulfilled in the “Yes” campaign.[citation needed]

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Sheffield City Council to formally recognise the state of Palestine

The following is a press release by Sheffield Labour Friends of Palestine published on 01.09.19

On Wednesday 4th September, Julie Dore, Leader of Sheffield City Council, will present a motion that if passed will make Sheffield the first UK council to formally recognise the state of Palestine. This follows a petition presented to the Council in July. The Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Husam Zomlot, will be present to mark this historic event.

At 1 p.m. there will be a flag raising event in front of the Town Hall conducted by the Ambassador with senior Councillors in attendance. From 2 p.m. the motion will be debated by the full council.

Palestinians live under Israeli occupation in the West Bank, under siege in Gaza, and 5 million are living as refugees, many within their ancestral lands. Appalling human rights abuses take place under the occupation, including the incarceration of 500-700 Palestinian children per year. Schools and homes are regularly demolished as acts of collective punishment and Palestinian residents of Jerusalem have no citizens’ rights. Gaza has been under siege since 2007 and has experienced prolonged blanket bombing on several occasions, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries. The UN has declared that Gaza, with two million people crammed on this tiny strip of land, will be unfit to support human life by 2020. Unarmed protests against being forced to live in ‘the world’s largest open air prison’ resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of mutilations from Israeli live fire.

From the end of World War 1 to 1948, Britain occupied Palestine, paving the way for the establishment of the state of Israel. Our country has a particular responsibility to make amends for great harms done in the process. Many of the abuses carried out by the Israeli state today were originally introduced under the British ‘Protectorate’. British governments have continued to give military, economic and diplomatic support to Israel despite its violations of countless UN resolutions calling for the right of return for the Palestinian refugees and for the right to Palestinian self-determination.

Recognition has huge symbolic meaning to a people denied their homeland and their identity. The announcement that Sheffield City Council would be taking this step and the image of the Palestinian flag raised in front of the Town Hall on 3rd July led to great rejoicing and media coverage in Palestine. Formal recognition by the Council has strong support within the city, which has a historic tradition of standing up for human rights and justice. It is to be hoped that other councils will follow Sheffield’s leadership and that a strong show of solidarity up and down the country will persuade the UK government to enact a policy it says it supports.
Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign also welcome the fact that Sheffield City Council is taking this step, commenting:

“Sheffield PSC welcomes the Council drawing attention to the continuing denial of self-determination to the Palestinian people. We know from our campaigning activities that most people in the city will welcome the Council’s position. We hope that this initiative will be followed by measures aimed at ending British military and economic collusion with Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land.”

For more information contact Julie Pearn, chair@slfp.org.uk

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Notice of Motion Regarding “Recognising Palestine as a Full State”: Given by Councillor Julie Dore and to be seconded by Councillor Adam Hurst

That this Council:-

(a) believes that there must be recognition of the rights of Palestinians to their own state, and thanks the petitioners for bringing this important issue to Full Council in July;

(b) notes that 138 nations of the UN, out of 193 (71.5%), recognise Palestine as a state and in 2012 the UN General Assembly moved to do so – though this was blocked from full UN membership by the Security Council;

(c) notes that the current UK Government appears to have no intention of recognising Palestine, and notes that this is in contrast to the Labour Party’s commitment to recognise Palestine as a full state as part of the United Nations and under UK law;

(d) believes that the recognition of Palestine as a state is one step towards a genuine two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict;

(e) believes there has to be a peace process and there has to be a right of the Palestinian people to live in peace and security as well as the right of Israel;

(f) believes that whilst Sheffield is just one city, it is important to make this symbolic gesture to formally recognise Palestine as a full state, and hope that this will increase pressure on the UK Government to do likewise; and

(g) requests that this Motion is submitted to the Foreign Office, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

Click here to read the same press release at the Sheffield Friends of Palestine official facebook page

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Update:

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Campaign for Chris Williamson… to take legal action against the party he dedicated his life to!

In 2015, we breathed life into the Labour Party by electing Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. We turned the Labour Party into a mass movement with bold ideas to transform the fortunes of the most vulnerable in our society. For a brief moment, another Britain was possible – beyond capitalism, beyond imperialism, beyond business as usual. Chris Williamson, the Labour MP for Derby North, was at the forefront of the campaign to put Jeremy Corbyn into 10 Downing Street.

But those who were most threatened by this challenge to the status quo have united to fight us ever since. And when they smeared loyal socialists and committed anti-racists, Chris was sometimes the only MP to defend them. In his 43 years as a Labour Party member, Chris fought fascists and neo-Nazis on Britain’s streets; ran a 2017 election campaign described as ‘a test case for Corbynism’; and campaigned relentlessly for democratising the party to give grassroots members the opportunity to decide who represents them in Parliament.

Chris Williamson was suspended by the Labour Party on 27 February 2019, following a pressure campaign against the Labour Party by opponents of a Corbyn-led socialist government. The smears against him are a proxy for attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Left. For over four months, out of respect for the Labour Party’s disciplinary rules, he was unable to defend himself while he was defamed on an almost daily basis as an ‘antisemite’ in the media.

On 26 June 2019, Chris’s suspension was lifted by a Disputes Panel of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee. However, following a concerted two-day media campaign by the same forces who had engineered his suspension, Chris was ‘re-suspended’ by the party on 28 June – a move without precedent in Labour’s history. He was then referred to the Party’s National Constitutional Committee, where his expulsion would almost certainly be a foregone conclusion.

With a heavy heart and after months of personal distress, Chris has been forced to take legal action against the party that he has dedicated his life to. He is challenging his ‘re-suspension’ as unlawful. But to do so, he needs your support. This could be a long and costly legal battle. We need your help to cover the immediate costs of the legal case and campaign.

Raising £75,000 will help meet the costs of Chris’s case. Raising much more than that could allow us to begin building a legal fighting fund for the Labour Left, defending other comrades who have been maliciously accused and hounded out of the party.

Capitulation is complicity. Solidarity is sacred. Defend your comrades.

Donate today, and help keep Chris Williamson in the Labour Party!

Read the same statement at the official Campaign for Chris Williamson website.

 

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John Pilger on war with China, the West’s loss of perception, and how “many journalists have simply given up”

“When I first went to Hiroshima it was just over twenty years after the bomb was dropped and it had an extraordinary effect on me. I saw on the steps of a bank in the middle of Hiroshima, the shadow of a woman. She’d been sitting there, apparently preparing her lunch, sitting on the steps when the flash happened. The bomb dropped on August 6th 1945 and her image was burnt into the steps of the bank.

“I remember looking at this image of this woman – you could see her shape, her arms, almost her relaxed position – and the impact that had on me was quite profound actually. And it obviously had an impact on many people because they got rid of it. They got rid of the shadow. Japan under US pressure got rid of this extraordinary shadow and it’s not there anymore.

“Now I would suggest that that shadow represents something ahead of us unless we start understanding the true dangers of the recklessness of our own governments.” — John Pilger

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On today’s season finale special episode of Going Underground, Afshin Rattansi speaks to award-winning journalist and film-maker John Pilger in an extended interview about the current state of global affairs as it enters what Pilger describes as a state of world war: the ‘Coming War on China’ that he had warned about in an earlier documentary (embedded within the transcript below) has already arrived he says.

He also discusses his concern with John Bolton being at the ear of Donald Trump amidst the collapse of the global nuclear arms control framework that saw the end of the INF Treaty and the beginning of a new arms race with Russia; a situation where Washington’s goal is to break up the Russian Federation under Putin. He likewise sees a growing risk of war between other nuclear superpowers, most especially Pakistan and India.

Pilger also talks about western sanctions imposed on Venezuela and Iran and how they are deliberately bringing suffering to the citizens of those countries; how Brexit has provided a distraction from the most pressing issues at home (such as austerity and the NHS) and abroad; and finally, he provides an update on the condition of Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange, after he visited him recently in Belmarsh prison:

The full transcript of the interview is my own [interview begins at 2:30 mins]:

Afshin Rattansi: John thanks for coming back on. Boris Johnson [is] in Germany today. All eyes on the G7 at the end of the week: Russia not invited, China not considered by the IMF to be an advanced economy, but they will be talking about China apparently – we are being led to believe that Hong Kong is the centre of this weekend’s negotiations or talks.

John Pilger: Yes – what are these talks about? Excluding two of the most interesting developed powers in the world, China and Russia. I mean you know the truth is – what nobody is talking about – is there is a world war. It’s not a shooting war. But it could easily become a world war. There is a war already on China.

There has been a war of attrition against Russia for some years now: breaking up the Russian Federation is an American objective. Maintaining the supremacy of the US in all areas of human affairs – economic affairs, cultural affairs – is what particularly this regime in Washington is committed to. All regimes have been committed to.

It’s now reaching a head because they see a challenge in China. A challenge, and undoubtedly it’s an economic challenge, but it’s not a military challenge. This Nineteenth Century view of the world that permeates Washington and has returned to this country, the United Kingdom, has now created a war situation with China.

Very few know that China has now changed its nuclear posture from low alert – that is separating the warheads from missiles – to high alert – putting them together, the same as the United States. That’s something China didn’t do for many, many years, but they are clearly worried there now.

AR: You’re documentary was “The Coming War on China”, but you’re saying it is a war: we’ve seen colour revolutions thwarted – some successful against Putin in Russia. Is Hong Kong – millions of pounds have gone in from the National Endowment for Democracy – does Beijing understand what Hong Kong is?

JP: Oh yes. Yes, I think Beijing understands perfectly. The reason there is a rebellion in China is complex, of course, the people in Hong Kong do have a grievance. There is an inequality. But really what has happened is that manufacturing has moved to the mainland. The interference in Hong Kong, the subversion in Hong Kong by the US through the National Endowment for Democracy, through its local agents… and by all the others who make regular pilgrimages to John Bolton. Of course they are part of the war on China.

That’s not to take away from the fact that there are grievances within China – within Hong Kong – but Hong Kong didn’t sign up for two countries, two systems. It signed up for one country and two systems. And I find it almost grotesque the whole idea [that] the Union Jack should be draped over the speaker’s chair in the assembly in Hong Kong, when it was the Union Jack over hundred that represented an oppressive system.

I went to Hong Kong several times to write about the oppression of the police under the British. A corrupt police force led by British officers. A brutal police force. There was never any democracy.

AR: Even up to the 1990s?

JP: Right up to the 1990s. What there was – Hong Kong has been a business island. Well one could say that perhaps China is a business nation. And the mainland has usurped this special role of Hong Kong.

AR: So why here are we treated to endless images – as you say, no doubt some of these protesters have justification for opposing what is going on in Hong Kong – but yet the Gilets Jaunes protests are probably not going to be discussed in Biarritz this weekend at the G7?

JP: Because never before have people been called upon to think within such a narrow spectrum. And we could sit here all day talking about the iniquities of the media and so on, but it’s even wider than the media. There is a spectrum in which we are, if you like, allowed to think.

The news is dominated by Hong Kong and yet 29 miles from England there’s France, and this extraordinary rebellion of the Yellow Jackets, which has produced the most equally extraordinary violence from the state, has been virtually ignored. The same is true of Kashmir. I mean Kashmir was a fleeting moment, if you like, allowed into our perception. And here is a country bigger than Belgium, bigger than Portugal – 30 million people – where people are denied everything by the Indian state: denied food, freedom of movement, freedom of expression. India’s been doing this for a very, very long time. But India is our friend – the world’s greatest democracy and so…

AR: Trump says he’s being even-handed on it. China, of course, which has an interest there – another nuclear power apart from the other two – has taken it up at the Security Council.

JP: It’s our perception, I suppose, that we’re thinking about here… the way people are concerned that we’re going to run out of medicines after October 31st. We have no perception of the way the people of Iran are suffering under the sanctions that deny cancer drugs almost entirely because of these sanctions.

We have no perception of the way the people of Venezuela are suffering under sanctions. We have absolutely zilch understanding of how the people of Gaza continue to suffer in their open prison, as that has been obliterated almost from the news agenda and by extension from our perception. So within this spectrum – this narrow spectrum – the manipulation of people is probably the most extraordinary I’ve know in my career as a journalist.

AR: But obviously it’s not a physiological problem amongst journalists in newsrooms around the world that they can’t understand say Brexit no deal – there’s going to be problems here with medicines and food – and not understanding Yemen.

JP: I think journalists have given up. Many journalists have simply given up. There is a so-called mainstream, which is a misnomer: it’s not a mainstream at all, it’s an agency of extreme economic policies, policies that produce 4.1 million children in poverty in Britain.

AR: Four million children, two million under the age of five in Britain.

JP: Yes. And the kind of suffering that has come out of these extreme policies – called neoliberalism or whatever you want to call it – is echoed through our media in the same way that the whole absence of a warning that these virulent campaigns against China and Russia (particularly against the nuclear armed countries) could actually lead to something.

The abandonment by the United States of the INF treaty – the most important anti-nuclear war treaty ever signed – and here we had yesterday, I think it was, the US now testing again these intermediate-range nuclear weapons. And Russia, Putin, saying well yes of course we’re in an arms race again. The dangers of this. The dangers of accidentally, mistakenly beginning a nuclear war are not known to most people. That’s left out of this spectrum.

AR: Some say the INF treaty had to be revised because China was always opposing and violating the terms… in which the INF treaty was originally negotiated between Gorbachev and…

JP: That would come out of Washngton. And even if that treaty did need revision, then revise it. I remember those discussions and I interviewed a number of the American negotiators, extraordinary men… who sat down and negotiated with the Russians these complex treaties. They were serious people. We are not dealing with serious people.

AR: Some school textbooks in this country still say that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the prices to pay for ending the Second World War. You went there.

JP: You only have to read the US Air Force bombing survey and it’s very clear that that wasn’t the case.

When I first went to Hiroshima it was just over twenty years after the bomb was dropped and it had an extraordinary effect on me. I saw on the steps of a bank in the middle of Hiroshima, the shadow of a woman. She’d been sitting there, apparently preparing her lunch, sitting on the steps when the flash happened. The bomb dropped on August 6th 1945 and her image was burnt into the steps of the bank.

I remember looking at this image of this woman – you could see her shape, her arms, almost her relaxed position – and the impact that had on me was quite profound actually. And it obviously had an impact on many people because they got rid of it. They got rid of the shadow. Japan under US pressure got rid of this extraordinary shadow and it’s not there anymore.

Now I would suggest that that shadow represents something ahead of us unless we start understanding the true dangers of the recklessness of our own governments.

AR: Well, John Bolton, the National Security Advisor, who advises Trump we are led to believe, says that all options should be on the table against dictators like Maduro, against people in Iran who lead their government – attacking all these different places.

JP: I’ve interviewed John Bolton. John Bolton comes as close to being a political lunatic as you can get.

AR: He had friendly conversations with Boris Johnson here just the other week.

JP: Often political lunatics can have a very friendly conversation with others if they recognise similarities. But Bolton particularly is a man absolutely salivating it appears – and I don’t think I’ve ever said this about any politician of this kind – for a war. Or for an attack. Or for an overthrow. Or for a coup. That he is in the position he is in is the most terrifying thing.

AR: In foreign policy terms you see the European Union, which completely backs John Bolton’s view on Venezuela – Britain and Brussels completely aligned with Washington saying Juan Guaidó is the real leader of Venezuela. The EU is an arm of Nato?

JP: Well, you see the problem with the whole Brexit nonsense – this utterly almost internecine struggle of wills following the referendum in 2016 – is how much it excludes. There is no public debate, certainly no parliamentary debate – probably there never would have been – no public debate on the fact that the European Union is an agency of Nato. And Nato is, almost by definition, certainly by example, a nuclear war fighting provocative organisation. All this is supported by the EU. It should be part of our debate about the EU. I have no doubt there are great virtues in some things about the EU.

AR: Of course it’s the kind of thing Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party here in Britain, used to talk about. Is there reason why he perhaps has been on the fence – or is regarded as being on the fence about Lexit versus Brexit, because he understands that?

JP: Jeremy Corbyn seems to have become so overwhelmed by Brexit, whereas the country – this country – in which so many people are suffering is as a result of this hideous ideology “austerity”. One only has to drive outside London as I’ve done in making the film I’ve made about the National Health Service. And drive into rather nice places like Wiltshire and see the boarded up towns. This needs a Labour leader.

Now Jeremy Corbyn has presented himself as that Labour leader, but Brexit seems to have overwhelmed every party, anyone who steps anywhere near Parliament or this subject – it’s a very important subject, of course. No deal or not no deal. But what is most important is whether the National Health Service will survive, not Brexit, but will survive the ideological attacks on it. Whether people will survive this hideous mutation of welfare called Universal Credit.

In Durham, a father of three killed himself because he had no money anymore, it hadn’t come through under Universal Credit. The suffering of people in this developed country, which is now the sixth or seventh richest country in the world, is obscene.

AR: This is a week when the Childhood Trust has said that in Britain children are eating toilet paper to stave off hunger. Is this in a sense, when you talk about the United States or Germany, is this the Achilles heel? Because, of course, Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, there are people heading to 2020 to overthrow, democratically, Donald Trump, who seem to have a different vision. And is the 2008 crisis the context: the foreign policy, the home policy, the starvation?

JP: I mean I think Sanders and the rest of them are social democrats rushing to catch up with a kind of social democracy which has been in Europe and is now being rapidly extinguished. But their foreign policy doesn’t change. We had two of the leading socialists – at least they are members of the Democratic Socialists of America – vote for Donald Trump’s 738 billion arms budget recently in Congress. That should concern us in the outside world, that Sanders and the others – which they interestingly call “the left” in the United States – okay, but they’re social democrats – whether they bring some form of civilised life to a country where now up to half the population are suffering some form of impoverishment (in the United States).

AR: You certainly won’t hear them defending Julian Assange of Wikileaks. If anything they might arguably be seen as part of those people who consider Wikileaks a Russian cut-out of an organisation. You met Julian Assange in Belmarsh prison not far from this studio. Chelsea Manning of course is refusing to testify against Julian Assange. She’s in solitary in the United States. Tell me first of all about Julian’s health.

JP: Can I just say very quickly, first you know we’ve been talking about censorship by omission on a huge scale. A federal court ruled that there was no Russian connection with Julian Assange. That he had constitutional rights to do as he did as a journalist and as a publisher, and that has been completely ignored.

Julian’s own condition is, how do I put it, very dangerous. When I last saw him about ten days ago I was shocked because he’d lost more weight. He was isolated. They seemed to be imposing a regime that must be punitive on him of isolation. He’s in the health wing – what they call the ‘healthcare wing’ or ‘hospital wing’ – of Belmarsh prison, but he’s in a single cell and he told me that I see people walking by and I’d like to talk to them but I can’t.

Category A prisoners, murderers and others who have committed serious crimes, are allowed to fraternise; Julian is not allowed to fraternise. He’s not even allowed to telephone his American lawyers and he’s facing extradition to the United States. He had to wait two and a half months to see an optician and then when he got his glasses one of the lens didn’t work.

He’s being denied the right – the right – to prepare his own defence. He’s denied access to documents. Access to the library. A laptop. His lawyer, his solicitor Gareth Peirce spoke to the governor on the fourth of June about this and received no reply. What’s going on?

We understand if there is no basic justice in the treatment of somebody like this, who is in prison because he infringed bail – that is just about the merest – it’s not a crime actually – it is about the merest thing that the law can nail you for (and that is infringing your bail). He is there also, of course, because he is facing US extradition. But primarily he is there for this minor offence and he has been treated in the way that political prisoners are treated all over the world. That’s a moniker that won’t be appreciated, but it applies.

AR: Have his previous partners, the Guardian newspaper in London, The New York Times, have they helped to seal his fate?

JP: Yes they have helped to seal his fate. Mind you they’re worried. They’re worried because in the federal court ruling it was made clear by the judge in this very considered judgement that newspapers like The New York TimesThe New York Times and the Guardian published the war logs in 2010 – the war logs from Iraq, the war logs of Afghanistan that Wikileaks had been the conduit for, had passed to them – they published them first, before Wikileaks.

In law, and that’s what he [the judge] was saying, they are as liable. But they are also, as Julian is – and this was the point he was making – are protected by the US Constitution. Now the US Constitution is being torn up by the Trump administration. That’s why Julian, basically, is in the trouble he is.

All these charges that he’s meant to be facing in the United States are concocted. They’re ridiculous. They don’t apply. They are charges against a journalist and a publisher, but they would apply equally against the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, the editor of The New York Times, and the editor of El País, the editor of Der Spiegel, the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. They know this and they’re worried.

But they’re in such cahoots, they collude so deeply with the establishment of their country, and that now means the intelligence agencies – they have the power now in western societies – they collude so deeply with them that they dare not speak up. I suggest that as this whole grotesque charade against Julian Assange goes on, they should speak up pretty quickly.

Not all of the views expressed are necessarily views shared by ‘wall of controversy’.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, austerity measures, Britain, China, John Pilger

Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tells BBC: “you see it’s called Persian Gulf for a reason”

On July 16th, BBC HARDtalk’s Zeinab Badawi visited to New York to interview Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif who was attending high level talks at the UN. Hostilities between Iran and the US are at a historic high; after the recent shooting down of the US drone, President Trump said he was “ten minutes away from war with Tehran.”

Asked by Zeinab Badawi whether he accepts that America doesn’t actually want war, Javad Zarif replied:

“I accept that President Trump doesn’t want war, but I know that there are people in his administration who are crazy for war. Who thirst for war.” [from 10:10 mins]

With regards to how he assesses the likelihood of war, Zarif says:

“You see it’s called Persian Gulf for a reason. It’s next to our coast. We have almost 1,500 miles of coast with Persian Gulf. It’s not the Gulf of Mexico. We are there protecting our territorial waters and if this drone had been shot in international waters – over international airspace – why did we get to pick up the pieces?” [from 10:30 mins]

The pretext for war with Iran is a familiar one – Iran is constructing weapons of mass destruction. In fact, for decades hawks in the West have echoed the claims made by Netanyahu that Iran is on the brink of building the bomb. This month we even heard Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt state without evidence that Iran is just a year away from developing a nuclear bomb.

In response to claims that Iran is a year away from making a nuclear bomb, Javad Zarif says:

“If Iran wanted to build a bomb, we would have built a bomb a long time ago. We could have built a bomb a long time ago. We do not want to build a bomb because we believe that a nuclear bomb will not augment our security. But if the Europeans are serious about a nuclear weapons free Middle East, there is somewhere else that they need to be looking and that is Israel where they have at least 200 warheads.” [from 9:20 mins]

Zeinab Badawi then poses the questions another way, suggesting that Iran might “stumble into a war”, to which Zarif replies:

“Well again, it’s the Persian Gulf because it’s next to our borders. It’s a body of water that Iran has protected, Iran has maintained the security and freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz for millennia, and we will continue to do that. We are the major power in that region… Those who have brought their naval vessels to Persian Gulf are not helping to secure this body of water. […]

“Of course there is a possibility of accidents, but we cannot leave our own neighbourhood. Those who have come from outside have to decide why are they in that neighbourhood? And whether their presence in that neighbourhood is helping stability and security in that neighbourhood?  […]

As President Trump has said we were ten minutes away from war, because had they taken measures against Iran, President Trump had been told that Iran would be taking measures in self-defence.”

[from 11:55 mins]

Adding:

“The united States is right now engaged in economic war against Iran. There are countries that are providing the United States with logistical support, with reconnaissance; that means they are participating in the war… If there is a war then I do not think anybody will be safe in our region, but let us all try to avoid one. We don’t need a war; we’ve gone through eight years of war; a war that was imposed on us with the help of everybody.” [from 13:30 mins]

Javad Zarif is also highly critical of Europe and the easy way it has capitulated to US sanctions:

“If the Europeans, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Russians, all of them try not to allow the united States to bully them into abiding by its decision, would the United States be able to destroy the global economy and put sanctions on all of them?” [from 4:10 mins]

Continuing:

“So you want to accept US dominance in global economy even to your own detriment? Unfortunately, this is what they’re saying and I don’t think this way they can resolve this crisis or any crisis. The Europeans and the rest of the global community are strong enough to withstand this… People are dying from cancer. Kids are dying from EB. People are dying from MS. Just because there are a very limited [range] of pharmaceuticals that we cannot produce in Iran and the United States says that they are exempt from sanctions but financial transactions in order to purchase them are not exempt.” [from 5:10 mins]

Asked why Iran has begun to enrich uranium to higher grades than those sanctioned under the JCPOA ‘Iran deal’, Javad Zarif says:

“We implemented the agreement fully. IAEA made 15 reports from the beginning: 5 of them after the US withdrawal; and all of them indicated thatIran was fulfilling its commitments fully. Unfortunately, the Europeans could not take advantage of this and just dragged their feet. It won’t happen again. You know Iran is a country with an old civilisation. For us the dignity of our people is extremely important. [from 7:25 mins]

Pressed by Zeinab Badawi who asks “so why enrich the uranium… partial compliance is not acceptable”, Zarif responds:

“The Europeans cannot say whether partial or full compliance is acceptable or not. It’s the deal itself. Paragraph 36 of the deal says that Iran or the other side – if we are not satisfied with the implementation of the deal by the other side, we can take some measures within the deal. That is in order to keep the deal surviving: to keep it from going totally dead. […]

“This deal was written based on total mistrust. Neither side trusted the other side. That is why we put everything in black and white. Very clearly stated that if we don’t comply, what they can take. If we are the initial breakers of the deal, they can take measures. If they are the initial breakers of the deal, they can also take measures.” [from 8:15 mins]

And later in the interview:

“Look we did not leave the negotiation table. It was the United States that left the negotiating table… You see this deal was the subject of twelve years of negotiations, two years of which were intense negotiations. I spent days, months, negotiating this. We spent a lot of time with the United States negotiating this deal. It’s about give and take… if you allow a bully to bully you into accepting one thing, you’ll encourage him to bully you into accepting other things. We negotiated this deal. We did what we were supposed to do; the US did not do what it is supposed to do. The United States is working on the policy line that what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is negotiable.” [from 16:50 mins]

In response to broader Western accusations that Iran’s meddling has destabilised the region, Zarif says:

“Did we support Saddam Hussein when he attacked Iran? Did we support ISIS? I mean President Trump himself said Iran is fighting ISIS. Are we bombing the Yemenis? Did we invade Yemen? Was it Iran that basically arrested the Prime Minister of Lebanon and kept him in prison for three weeks? If the United States is looking for those responsible for malign behaviour in the region the United States needs to look at its own allies. […]

“President Trump has said that I am not engaged in military war against Iran that I am engaged in economic war against Iran. What does it mean to be engaged in economic war? Economic war targets civilians, military war targets military personnel, civilians are sometimes collateral damage. But an economic war targets civilians. The United States Secretary Pompeo has said that we want the Iranian people to change their government. So putting these two together, that means the United States is terrorising Iranian people in order to achieve political objectives. That’s the classical definition of terrorism. […]

“Mike Pompeo’s allies in our region, Saudi Arabia, spend 67 billion dollars a year on military equipment. They are bombing the Yemenis. Are we doing that? We only spent 16 billion dollars last year on the entire military budget.”

[from 19:00 mins]

Finally, regarding the seizure of the oil tanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar by British Royal Marines who boarded the ship on July 4th, Zarif says bluntly:

“It’s piracy plain and simple. First of all there are EU sanctions against buying Syrian oil, not against selling Syria oil… but we announced from the very beginning that that ship was not destined for Syria. […]

“The Tanker is not Iranian. It was carrying Iranian oil, which we had sold, and it was going to a place in the Mediterranean other than Syria. We made it clear. You know that we are under sanctions from the United States [and] their objective is to bring our oil sales to zero. That is why we will do whatever we can to avoid the United States knowing what we are doing.

“One more thing. The United Kingdom, by taking our ship – by confiscating our ship – is helping the United States imposing its illegal oil sanctions against Iran. This is not about EU sanctions against Syria, this is about Iran. That is why John Bolton thanked Great Britain for giving them the best Fourth of July present possible.

“If the UK wants to serve US interests they should not be talking about trying to preserve the JCPOA.”

[from 14:30 mins]

All transcriptions above are my own.

Click here to watch this interview uploaded on BBC iplayer, which is available for 11 months.

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Filed under Britain, did you see?, Iran, USA

Duck and Cover 2.0

Britain’s counter-terrorism police have just released a video message advising holidaymakers on what to do in the event of experiencing a terrorist attack whilst abroad.

The video tells us all to “run, hide and tell”… just in case you might have made the daft decision instead to jump up and down shouting “I’m over here”:

Seventy years ago the America government recommended an altogether cheerier reason to be afraid, and with no less helpful advice, told school kids that in the event of an atomic bomb blast, they should “duck and cover”:

I probably don’t need to point out that cowering next to a wall or under a newspaper [I’m not joking watch the clip at 8:00 mins] will not protect you from a nuclear explosion, so why did the US government go to the trouble of producing their risible ‘public information film’? To convince the public they cared? To distract from not having a viable civil defence programme? Or just to instil fear of the Russians in the vulnerable minds of the next generation?

“Run, hide and tell” is rather obviously “Duck and Cover” 2.0

It says we care. It says we are doing everything to tackle the threat. But most of all, it says be afraid… Be very afraid!

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, USA

‘Jewish support for Chris Williamson’: an open letter signed by 100 prominent Jews is censored by the Guardian

Reproduced in full below is an open letter signed by over a 100 prominent members of the Jewish community that was originally published in Monday’s Guardian. The next day it was removed “pending investigation”.

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Jewish support for Chris Williamson

Prominent members of the Jewish community, in the UK and abroad, write to defend the Labour MP Chris Williamson amid allegations of antisemitism.

We the undersigned, all Jews, are writing in support of Chris Williamson and to register our dismay at the recent letter organised by Tom Watson, and signed by parliamentary Labour party and House of Lords members, calling for his suspension (Anger over return of MP who said Labour was ‘too apologetic’ over antisemitism, 28 June).

Chris Williamson did not say that the party had been “too apologetic about antisemitism”, as has been widely misreported. He correctly stated that the Labour party has done more than any other party to combat the scourge of antisemitism and that, therefore, its stance should be less apologetic.

Such attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters aim to undermine not only the Labour party’s leadership but also all pro-Palestinian members.

The mass media have ignored the huge support for Chris both within and beyond the Labour party. Support that includes many Jews. The party needs people like him, with the energy and determination to fight for social justice.

As anti-racist Jews, we regard Chris as our ally: he stands as we do with the oppressed rather than the oppressor. It should also be noted that he has a longer record of campaigning against racism and fascism than most of his detractors.

The Chakrabarti report recommended that the party’s disciplinary procedures respect due process, favour education over expulsion and promote a culture of free speech, yet this has been abandoned in practice. We ask the Labour party to reinstate Chris Williamson and cease persecuting such members on false allegations of antisemitism.

Noam Chomsky, MIT
Norman Finkelstein, Lecturer and writer
Ed Asner, Actor
Prof Richard Falk, Princeton University
Leah Lavene and Jenny Manson, Jewish Voice for Labour
…and more than 100 others.

For the full list of signatories, click here. This letter was previously published in The Guardian, but was removed “pending investigation”.

Click here to find the same article as it appears reproduced by Off-Guardian.

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Additional:

As Kit Knightly of Off-Guardian writes:

The Board of Deputies of British Jews apparently formally complained to the Guardian regarding their “mishandling” of the letter. It was covered in the Jewish Chronicle and the Huffington Post.

Either way, the letter is gone.

Of course, it’s peculiar that this particular open letter had to sent in to them anyway, since The Graun usually like to advertise the views of Noam Chomsky. At least, as long as he’s criticising the government of Venezuela, or critiqueing the BDS movement.

When he’s deploring the US-backed coup in Venezuela, or dismissing the Russiagate accusations as “a bad joke”, he tends to get less publicity.

Funny that.

Perhaps more important than the presence of Chomsky’s name, or that of Norman Finkelstein, is the sheer number of CLP’s represented by the other signatories.

Well over a hundred Jewish Labour members, representing dozens of CLPs, all completely at odds with the Parliamentary Labour Party on this issue. For years this rift – between the MPs and their members – has been obvious. It seems to get wider all the time.

You see Tom Watson et al. accusing Labour members of “bullying” MPs by calling for de-selection. None of the MPs who defected to the absurd Change UK (or whatever their current name is) faced a by-election – which means several CLPs, and thousands of loyal Labour voters, have had their votes and MPs stolen from them. The Blairite wing of the PLP, spearheaded by Watson and his cabal of climbers, have not said a word about this.

When a general election comes, this will be an issue to watch.

It is an encouraging sign for those of us who try hard to spread the truth, at least. Because it means the totally created “antisemitism crisis” is being seen for what it is by a good portion of Labour members. Just another example of ordinary people, in the real world, clashing with the media bubble.

Returning to the letter, it’s actually hard to see why they would bother censoring it, yes it is counter to the establishment narrative, but it is hardly extreme. You could almost call deleting it a desperate thing to do. A move which shows the insecurity of their position. Whatever the eventually announced reason is for removing the letter, it is certainly the wrong thing to do, and not just ethically. The Streisand effect exists. Removing the letter simply calls attention to it, far smarter to just let it rot on the back pages of the internet.

Click here to read Knightly’s full response published by Off-Guardian.

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Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, Noam Chomsky

#IStandWithChrisWilliamson

Chris Williamson is the victim of an ongoing witch hunt within the Labour Party and I applaud today’s decision to reinstate him.

Today we are celebrating the long overdue reinstatement of Chris Williamson MP. The reality is that he should never have been suspended in the first place!

The allegation that Chris had downplayed anti-Semitism was totally unfounded. His comments, made at a Momentum meeting in Sheffield, were condemned in a deliberate attempt to ruin both the reputation of Chris and Jeremy Corbyn.

Chris Williamson MP actually said: “The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. I have got to say, I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we’ve backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic… We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any other party.”

His comments were clearly neither anti-Semitic, nor denying the existence of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party (as in wider society). But he did quite rightly point to the fact that there has also been a political campaign to “weaponise” accusations of anti-Semitism.

Chris is a target because he is one of the very few Labour MPs who have openly stood up to the witch-hunt of Corbyn supporters and because he has campaigned tirelessly for the much-needed democratisation of the party.

We are deeply concerned that anti-Corbyn right-wingers continue to smear and harass Chris, even after his reinstatement. Ruth Smeeth MP, chair of the rightwing Jewish Labour Movement’s parliamentary group, for example said that he had “demonstrated a pattern of behaviour over a period of many months, seemingly seeking to intentionally undermine, marginalise and harass the British Jewish community and Jewish Labour Party members, which has continually brought the Labour Party into disrepute”.

Despite the departure of Iain McNicol as general secretary, the witch-hunt of left-leaning party members continues. The main target of this campaign is, of course, Jeremy Corbyn himself. But thousands of Labour Party members have been investigated, suspended and expelled, often on spurious grounds. Like Chris Williamson, they are the collateral damage in this campaign to ‘get’ Corbyn.

We call on all Labour Party members to use trigger ballots to challenge saboteurs like Ruth Smeeth, Tom Watson and all those who continue to oppose the positive transformation of the Labour Party.

Here is a guide on how to go about it: http://www.labouragainstthewitchhunt.org/model-motions/how-to-use-the-new-trigger-ballot-to-deselect-your-mp/

Click here to read the original article as it appears on the Labour Against the Witch Hunt website.

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Chris Williamson also talked exclusively to RT’s Going Underground after he was reinstated to the The Labour Party after nearly 4 months of suspension:

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Update: Re-suspension of Chris Williamson is a travesty of justice

The renewed suspension of Chris Williamson MP, two days after he was readmitted to the Labour Party, is deeply troubling. We are particularly concerned that Keith Vaz’ U-turn seems to have been motivated purely by the pressure coming from the right inside and outside the party. Sadly but unsurprisingly, that now includes Jon Lansman.

We presume Vaz initially judged the case by its merit and found – correctly – that Chris had not said or done anything that could be described as anti-Semitic or bringing the party into disrepute. Vaz quite rightly judged that the evidence did not warrant Chris’s ongoing suspension or his referral to the National Constitutional Committee (which is still dominated by the right).

But Vaz’s U-turn and Chris’s renewed suspension, following the deeply undemocratic and hysterical letter organised by Tom Watson, symbolise how unfair and one-sided the whole disciplinary process really is. The right is calling all the shots – and Labour HQ seems to always do exactly what they demand.

But the right will never be appeased. They will never accept Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, let alone prime minister. They will continue their campaign of sabotage, because he remains unreliable from the ruling class’s point of view, especially given his strong support for the rights of Palestinians.

It is high time that the Labour MPs better reflect the wishes of the local membership. We therefore urge Labour Party members to organise trigger ballots everywhere, particularly in order to deselect the 70 or so MPs who have signed Tom Watson’s letter (above).

Click here to read the same statement on the Labour Against the Witch Hunt website.

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Further update: Sign the open letter to Labour NEC

We, the undersigned, believe that the renewed suspension of Chris Williamson MP is a travesty of justice. […]

There is very little chance that Chris will get a fair hearing from the NEC Disputes Panel, when several of those who will sit in judgment upon him have already torn his reputation to shreds on social media, without even having seen all the evidence.

We therefore call on the NEC:

  • to immediately reinstate Chris Williamson, as recommended by the NEC panel
  • to immediately open trigger ballots so that Labour Party members can choose a parliamentary candidate who actually reflects their wishes
  • to stop the practice of automatic suspensions and expulsions: members should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty

Click here to read the open letter in full and to add your name to the petition.

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Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, John Pilger

Craig Murray issues a timely alert to all Labour members: “act NOW to try to get rid of those dreadful Blairite MPs”

Jeremy Corbyn represents the only realistic chance the people of England and Wales have been given in decades, to escape from the neo-liberal economics that have impoverished vast swathes of the population. But he leads a parliamentary party which is almost entirely comprised of hardline neo-liberal adherents.

The majority of the parliamentary Labour party are the people who brought in academy schools, high student tuition fees, PFI, who introduced more privatisation into the health service than the Tories have, and who brought you the Iraq and Afghan Wars. They abstained on the Tory austerity benefit cuts and on May’s “hostile environment” immigration legislation. They support Trident nuclear missiles. Many hanker after bombing Syria, and most are members of Labour Friends of Israel.

Even before the current disintegration of UK political structures, there was no way that these Labour MPs were ever going to support Corbyn in power in seeking to return the UK towards the mainstream of European social democracy. They have spent the last four years in undermining Corbyn at every turn and attempting to return Labour to the right wing political Establishment agenda. In the current fluid state of UK politics, with sections of Labour MPs already having split off and others threatening to, it is even more important that the very large majority of Labour MPs are replaced by people who genuinely support the views and principles for which Jeremy Corbyn stands.

Regrettably Labour MPs do not automatically have to run for reselection against other potential party candidates, but under one of those hideous compromises so beloved of Labour Party conferences, they have to notify their intention to again be the party’s candidate for the constituency, and there is then a very brief window of a couple of weeks in which local branches and trade union branches can register a contest and force a challenge.

That process has now been triggered and it is ESSENTIAL that every Labour Party member reading this blog acts NOW to try to get rid of those dreadful Blairite MPs. If you do not act, the historic moment will be missed and the chance to move England and Wales away from neo-liberalism may be permanently surrendered.

The right wing forces have the massive advantage of inertia. The local MP is very likely a crony of the chairs of the relevant local branch institutions and of the appropriate local trade union officials (and there is insufficient public understanding of the fact that historically the unions are very much a right wing force in Labour politics). I am willing to bet that in the vast number of constituencies local officials and MPs are pretty confident of getting through this without the large majority of their members – especially the vast new Corbyn supporting membership – even noticing that anything is happening.

Which is why you need to act. Phone the chair of your local constituency today and demand that they tell you how to go about forcing a reselection battle. Make sure that they give you the phone numbers for any local branches or institutions you have to go through. If you do not know the phone number for your local constituency chair, phone Labour HQ and get them to tell you. If you are a member of an affiliated trade union or organisation, take action there too

Do not be put off. Do not follow any instruction from anyone, not even Momentum, about MPs who ought not to be challenged. Politics is a dirty game and full of dirty deals. Use your own judgement. Certainly any of the Labour MPs who abstained on Tory welfare cuts, failed to oppose the “hostile environment” immigration policy or voted to bomb Syria must be subject to challenge. I would recommend that you challenge any Friend of Israel, given that Israel is now openly an apartheid state. Remember, you may be able to influence two constituencies – that where you live, and through your trade union branch that where you work.

Whether or not you are a Labour Party member (and remember I am not), please bring this article to the attention of any and every Labour Party member you know. Progress reports in the comments section would be extremely welcome, as would anyone willing to take the time to draw up “hit lists” based on the kind of criteria I outline above.

While the media are concentrated on the Tory shenanigans, it is the Labour Party members who have the chance to make choices which could have in the long term much more important effects upon society; if people act as I recommend, this could be a historic turning point. Otherwise it will just be one of those moments that passed, and the Corbyn insurgency a small footnote of might have been.

Click here to read the full article entitled “A Moment in History” published on Wednesday 26th.

I would like to thank Craig Murray for allowing me to reproduce this article.

Not all of the views expressed are necessarily views shared by ‘wall of controversy’.

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Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, Craig Murray

anti-Zionism ≠ antisemitism: we must stand together against the witch hunt

Activist and academic Sai Englert explains why “anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism”:

Unfortunately, today anti-Zionism is often conflated with anti-Semitism. It should however be clear that they have nothing to do with one another. The first rejects the idea of an ethnic or religiously supremacist state in Palestine. The second hates Jewish people for being Jewish. But conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism makes a series of assumptions that should never be acceptable.

Firstly, that all Jews are Zionists or that Zionists speak for all Jews. This is a deeply racist idea that assumes that an entire group of people can be essentialised under one ideological banner. Nothing could be further from the truth. Israel does not represent the views of all Jews. Many Jews around the world are anti-Zionists for religious and or political reasons, while others might simply know very little about it and not have an opinion.

Secondly, that all Zionists are Jews. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. For example there are many Christian Zionists, especially in the United States, while many politicians and political parties across the West are Zionists. This has nothing to do with Judaism, but with foreign policy and the close alliances that their countries have with Israel.

Finally, the conflation between the two ideas often assumes that Zionism only affects Jewish people. This approach, often repeated in current debates, erases the fact that the primary victims of the Zionist movement, have been and continue to be, the Palestinian people. Their rejection of Zionism, their demands for equal rights, and their desire to be able to return to their homes from which they were expelled has nothing to do with Judaism or Jews in any way. Instead, it has everything to do with their opposition to the settler-colonial project which continues to dispossess and oppress them in their own lands.

Anti-Zionism is therefore, before anything else, a form of solidarity with the demands of a colonised people that continues to struggle for its freedom. There is a simple but powerful principle that states that no-one is free until we are all free. In that sense the struggle against anti-Semitism and the struggle against Zionism are one and the same. They are both struggles against oppression, against racism, and ethnic supremacy – in a word against injustice. In the words of the old slogan: “Anti-semitism is a crime: anti-Zionism, a duty.”

[from 3:00 mins]

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The spurious conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism is an issue I have discussed at length in a number of previous posts. I have also presented considerable evidence to show how the so-called “new antisemitism” is a tried and tested formula used by Israel and the Israel lobby to discredit opponents. The introductory passage quoted above from Sai Englert makes the stronger case that the struggle against anti-Semitism and the struggle against Zionism are in fact one and the same.

Additionally, let me remind readers of a statement made by Shulamit Aloni, leading Israeli civil rights activist and former Knesset member who headed the Meretz Party, which ought to settle this matter once and for all. In reply to the question “Often when there is dissent expressed in the United States against policies of the Israeli government, people here are called antisemitic: what is your response?” she said:

Well, it’s a trick. We always use it. When from Europe somebody’s criticising Israel then we bring up the Holocaust. When in this country [America] someone is criticising Israel then they are anti-Semitic… It’s very easy to blame people who criticise certain acts of the Israeli government as antisemitic and to bring up the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people and that justifies everything we do to the Palestinian people.

Click here to read a full transcript and to watch the interview on the Democracy Now! website. [The extract above begins at 51 mins in]

Today we are in the midst of a political witch hunt. The targets are generally left-wing and, importantly, all have been outspoken opponents against the establishment or else vocally critical of the official narrative whether on Israel or Western foreign policy more broadly. Many are also ardent supporters of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is himself an outspoken critic of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.

It is unnecessary to constantly repeat or reinforce the view that this is a witch hunt, so here instead my wish is to direct attention to three recent occurances of this new McCarthyism. Two of the cases, those of Pete Willsman and George Galloway, have received widespread mainstream attention and both resulted in immediate disciplinary action being taken. In a third instance, the case of Professor Piers Robinson, formerly at the University of Sheffield, no formal disciplinary action was taken but it is likely that Robinson resigned his seat in order to escape an escalating campaign of victimisation. To begin, however, I wish to consider the rather strange and overlooked case of Labour MP, Siobhain McDonagh, whose comparable and arguably worse transgressions were not placed under any close scrutiny by either the mainstream media or the Labour Party, since it is vital to show the double standards now in operation.

Woody Allen as neurotic comedian Alvy Singer speaking to his close friend Rob (Tony Roberts) about what he sees as the rising incidents of antisemitism he has been encountering in Allen’s award-winning comedy “Annie Hall” (1977):

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Siobhain McDonagh

During an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in March, Siobhain McDonagh, Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden, when answering a straightforward question about whether the party was taking the issue of antisemitism seriously, said:

“I’m not sure that some people in the Labour Party can because it’s very much part of their politics – of hard left politics – to be against capitalists, and to see Jewish people as the financers of capital.”

Digging the hole still deeper, interviewer John Humphrys then reinforced her assertion with this altogether jaw-dropping follow-up question: “In other words, to be anti-capitalist you have to be antisemitic?”

To which McDonagh replied emphatically:

“Yes, not everybody, but absolutely there’s a certain strand of it and these people are not Labour, have never been Labour, but we now find them in our party”.  1

Unsurprisingly, the corporate media paid little attention to the deeply offensive nature of this portion of the Humphrys-McDonagh interview. Their implicit acknowledgement of the antisemitic trope that “Jewish people control capitialism” did not result in either the veteran BBC presenter or Labour MP being subjected to opprobrium, and no disciplinary hearings followed. In fact, although broadcast on Radio 4’s flagship political show, this bizarre outburst was only picked up by the remotest corners of the alternative media. The newspaper with the largest circulation to raise the matter was The Morning Star, which afterwards spoke with leaders of two Jewish organisations and reported on the incident as follows:

Jewish Voice for Labour’s Mike Cushman told the Star McDonagh owed party members an apology.

“McDonagh seems to be suggesting that all or many Labour Party members believe that banks are controlled by Jews, classic Protocols of the Elders of Zion territory,” he said.

“She draws the conclusion that, therefore, Labour’s critique of the financial casino activities that almost crashed the world economy is motivated by anti-semitism.

“She attacks conspiracy theorists by launching a bizarre conspiracy of her own.

“She owes the tens and hundreds of thousands of party members who are campaigning for effective oversight of the banks a speedy and humble apology.

“Fighting for a fairer society and against inequality and austerity is not a symptom of anti-semitism. McDonagh cannot be allowed to silence criticism of capitalism within a socialist party.”

The Jewish Socialist Group’s David Rosenberg said Ms McDonagh and Mr Humphreys’ [sic] comments “made it very clear who is stereotyping the Jewish community.”

“Apart from this disgusting stereotyping,” Mr Rosenberg wrote on Facebook today, “both McDonagh and Humphreys should be ashamed of themselves for their slur on everyone who is fighting poverty, austerity, homelessness, zero-hours contracts in capitalist Tory Britain as anti-semites.

“The Jew=capitalists formula will also be interesting news for the Jews I know who are unemployed, struggling pensioners and single mothers, ordinary workers, secretaries, cab drivers, teachers, social workers, NHS staff.” 2

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Peter Willsman

Pete Willsman is a member of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC). He was elected in 2016 as one of six candidates backed by pro-Corbyn activist group Momentum.

A year ago, recordings of an NEC meeting emerged in which Willsman accused some in the Jewish community of being “Trump fanatics” and also challenged an accusation of “severe and widespread antisemitism” in the Labour Party:

Some at the time, including the right-wing Board of Deputies of British Jews, called for his expulsion, whilst others including Jewish Voice for Labour and Chris Williamson MP stood firmly in support. General Secretary of the Labour Party, Jennie Formby, accepted a formal apology and cautioned Willsman to refrain from making similar comments in future.

In May, another secret recording emerged made in January by Israeli-American author and journalist Tuvia Tenenbom of an informal conversation in which Willsman is heard to say:

“It’s almost certain who is behind all this antisemitism against Jeremy. Almost certainly it was the Israeli embassy.

“They caught somebody in the Labour Party. It turns out they were an agent in the Israeli Embassy. My guess would be, they are the ones whipping it all up.” 3

[I cannot find any audio clip uploads]

Willsman was, of course, referring to the evidence disclosed by the excellent Al Jazeera investigative series The Lobby, a four-part series I have covered in detail in an earlier post. The claim he makes is therefore firmly substantiated and yet in spite of making a factual point Willsman has been suspended to face a disciplinary hearing:

Nothing Pete Willsman said in these comments is anti-Semitic. He does, however, point to some uncomfortable truths exposed by the excellent Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby, which has been so willfully ignored by the mainstream media. The documentary reveals a systematic effort by the Israeli embassy to infiltrate the Labour Party and highlights the efforts by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs to label critics of Israeli human rights abuses as anti-Semitic.

Letter sent by Corbyn to May asking for a public enquiry into Israeli interference in British politics… but nothing has happened.

The statement published by Labour Against the Witch hunt (LAW) continues:

This should be the subject of an overdue investigation rather than Pete Willsman’s role in drawing our attention to it. It is an outrage that Labour Party members are being disciplined for correctly stating that much of the anti-Semitism crisis has been manufactured, while anti-Corbyn MPs like Margaret Hodge, Louise Ellman and Tom Watson insult, disrupt, make bogus accusations and work hand in glove with the capitalist media – with no repercussions coming their way. Those making false charges ought to face disciplinary action and should be held accountable for their actions. 4

Click here to read the full post entitled “Reinstate Pete Willsman!” published by Labour Against the Witch hunt on June 2nd.

Provided in an update, the same post also draws attention to background of Tuvia Tenenbom, “the man who secretly recorded Peter Willsman and leaked the audio to the press just as the latest coup against Jeremy Corbyn is hotting up”:

Watch the short clip below and then judge for yourself if this really is a “journalist” whose sound recording guy happened to have left the microphone on… or if this does not look like somebody who might organise a sting operation against the most outspoken Corbyn supporter on Labour’s NEC… kind of proving Pete’s point about “interference”.

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Piers Robinson

As Professor of Politics, Society and Political Journalism at the University of Sheffield, Piers Robinson came to wider attention after he publicly undertook the deconstruction of the Western propaganda narrative surrounding the “war on terror” and the conflict in Syria.

Robinson is currently a co-Director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies working alongside Professor Mark Crispin Miller (NY University) and Professor David Miller (University of Bristol). Other members of the Advisory Board include Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and Mark Curtis. He is also a founding member of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media which recently released the leaked OPCW FFM assessment that discredits the Douma gas attack allegations and calls into question the impartiality of the OPCW. (Please read this earlier post.)

On April 17th, Piers Robinson left the University of Sheffield (UoS) under a cloud, having been castigated, like Pete Willsman and Chris Williamson before him, for “‘undermining’ anti-Semitism allegations within the Labour Party”:

His exit comes shortly after Forge Press’ investigation into his online behaviour in April, however Robinson insists he received no criticism or pressure to leave from the University of Sheffield.

Under the subheading “Exit follows probe into professor’s online behaviour”, the same piece published by the UoS Students Union in-house journal Forge Press, continues:

Forge Press revealed a series of shared posts on Robinson’s social media accounts questioning the validity of widespread claims of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

One post shared by senior academic Robinson decried such claims as “a smear campaign” and another, an article by left-leaning website The Canary, reduced the allegations to a project of the “establishment”. […]

Robinson, also the co-director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies, denied the accusations. He said: “I do not believe there is no anti-semitism in the Labour Party. I do believe that the problem has been exaggerated for political purposes.”

According to the same piece, Robinson is also guilty of signing a petition calling for the suspension of Chris Williamson to be lifted:

Forge Pressinvestigation found that Robinson was sharing posts on his own social media accounts, and signed a petition in defence of suspended Labour MP Chris Williamson, which claimed that anti-Semitism allegations in Labour were “being used as a weapon to silence those who speak out against injustice”. 5

Image of retweet published by Forge Press

I am a fellow signatory to the same change.org petition calling for Williamson’s suspension to be lifted and have already linked to it in a previous article.

Click here to add your own name.

Forge Press has to my knowledge received just one reply to their article reporting on Robinson’s resignation, which as yet they have declined to publish.

Here is a screenshot showing MY comment:

Still “awaiting moderation” after nearly two months, it reads:

Congratulations. Another nail in the coffin of free speech! Has the UoS Students Union ever heard of McCarthyism? If this is the level of university debate then I fear we are already doomed.

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George Galloway

As Liverpool fans celebrated another European Cup final victory, George Galloway tweeted the following:

Congratulations to the great people of #Liverpool to the memory of the socialist miner #BillShankley to the fallen #96 to those who fought for justice for them and to the Liverpool dockers. No #Israel flags on the Cup!

Fourth fifths is a paean to the city of Liverpool, including a commemoration of the football club’s first great manager, Bill Shankley, and of the horrific tragedy at Hillsborough that cost 96 innocent lives. Galloway might have ended there and in my opinion he should have. The extra six words were intended to incite, and given the current climate, his gesture is an extremely crass one. But, we have entered a new age when insensitivity alone is enough to cost you your job.

TalkRADIO which is owned by Murdoch’s News Corp made the quick and easy decision (since Galloway has evidently been under pressure for some time) to sack him. Afterwards, Galloway defended himself pointing out that a section of Tottenham fans had been flying the Israel flag and thereby showing affiliation to a “racist state”.

On the following Tuesday, Galloway was invited on to Good Morning Britain where he was harangued by the snarling and foul-mouthed Alan Sugar:

On the show Lord Sugar, the former owner of Tottenham, claimed erroneously:

“I did not see and I have never seen an Israeli flag flown – there were no Israeli flags with the fans.” [8:10 mins]

So let’s set the record straight on this central point. Firstly I watched the game live on TV and I was supporting Tottenham. One of the first items I saw at the Tottenham end was an Israel flag. It was something I even remarked upon to my family. And although it is remarkably difficult to find captured images searchable on Google (as Galloway recommends) of Israel flags flown at the European Cup final, it is easy to find evidence of Tottenham fans flying the same flag on many other occasions.

The image below is from a Telegraph article published on the eve of the European Cup semi-final match (just a few weeks earlier) between Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax. Although the picture shows Ajax fans, the caption reads “Fans of both Ajax and Spurs regularly fly the Israeli flag at matches”:

And beneath is an image of Spurs fans taken from a Guardian report (read more below):

There is no secret about this, or the well known fact that some Spurs and Ajax fans call themselves the “Yid Army” and “Super Jews” respectively. In 2013, the English FA actually tried to put a stop to it, issuing a warning on the reasonable grounds that “Yid” is a term of racist abuse:

In early September, the FA warned Tottenham fans that using the term “Yid,” an insult to Jews, could lead to criminal prosecution or a stadium ban, and this week the Metropolitan Police announced that it could get fans arrested. But judging from fan behavior during the soccer match against Chelsea on Sept. 28, the FA’s warning has gone unheeded.

From an article published by Spiegel Online, which points out that:

But neither the “Spurs” nor Ajax are Jewish clubs, and their number of Jewish fans is not particularly high. So why the Jewish symbolism? 6

More recently, the World Jewish Congress and the Board of Deputies of British Jews jointly condemned Spurs’ fans for using the nickname “Yids”:

“We would also ask Tottenham Hotspur to take a stand against the use of ‘Yid Army’, ‘Yid’ and ‘Yiddos’ by their fans. Such a long overdue action is important to kick antisemitism off the pitch and create a welcoming environment for all.” 7

From a Guardian article published January this year.

To reiterate, I do not defend George Galloway’s judgement in tweeting what he did, but nor do I defend Tottenham fans who bring the flag of Israel to matches. Because the butt of Galloway’s abuse are the fans who choose to wrap themselves in a symbol of apartheid and there is no fault in drawing attention to this.

Finally, in order to remind ourselves of the first rumblings of the current pro-Israel witch hunt, it is worthshile reviewing a scandalous episode of BBC1’s Question Time broadcast in February 2015 in which George Galloway was clearly set up to be grilled by a staunchily pro-Israel audience and panel. I was so deeply shocked by this “show trial by television” that I spent the rest of the night writing a post about it. These were my concluding remarks written four years ago:

Galloway is a politician [at the time he was Leader of the Respect Party and MP for Bradford West] and so it is entirely proper that his opinions and actions are closely scrutinised. As I say, you are absolutely at liberty to detest Galloway, but the issue here is what on earth had led the BBC to consider it justifiable for him (or anyone else for that matter) to be publicly tried in such a fashion?

This was, in my view, an unedifying spectacle, and one that presents us with a terrifying indication of how narrowly restricted real freedom of speech is becoming. These are scary times, and it was not without reason that as I finished watching earlier, I felt shaken.

We know perfectly well where true racism always leads, and so it is our duty to ask with unflinching honesty, who is really inciting racial division and stirring up hatred? In last night’s so-called discussion, I say it certainly wasn’t Galloway. I go further, and say that for all of his faults, Galloway cannot be justly accused of racism. He is not a bigot. And shame on the BBC for ever orchestrating such a disgusting piece of inflammatory propaganda.

To judge for yourself (if you didn’t watch earlier) then click here to see the whole show on BBC iplayer. [And now I must sleep]

Click here to read my earlier post entitled “show trial by television: Galloway was set up by BBC to be accused”.

*

Final thoughts

Watching a recent youtube upload by Novara Media, I became so incensed that I felt compelled to comment. This is what I wrote [with links added]:

You’re doing it again. On and on and on again just perpetuating this media manufactured smear about antisemitism. Talking about the Israel lobby isn’t safe ground, you say. Who cares. It exists and it has been exposed very actively undermining Jeremy Corbyn. But you don’t want us to talk about it. Why not? Instead of giving credence to a blatant smear campaign, you could instead be directing viewers to Al Jazeera’s investigative series. So I refer you again to Norman Finkelstein. Listen to him. He understands how this works. Even the son of two Holocaust survivors was not immune to these tactics. Speaking up for the Palestinian cause ultimately cost him his job.

He will tell you that every time Corbyn capitulates, his enemies will simply turn his contrition into an admission of guilt. His every apology picked up and hurled back as a new weapon, readymade to beat him and his base with. That’s how we’ve ended up with staunch anti-racist Jackie Walker and now Chris Williamson suspended – to name but two entirely innocent victims of Labour’s McCarthyite purge. It’s a witch hunt, and the only way to bring an end to a witch hunt is to call it out. Sorry – your analysis is really excellent in most regards – but your cowardice over this issue deeply troubles me.

And this was the response:

I stand by this and all of my previous statements. The rightful stance to the new McCarthyism as with every witch hunt, and aside from our own refusal to bow, is that we make a commitment to speak out and act in solidarity with all of the victims.

Woody Allen as the titular ‘front’ for blacklisted writers, Howard Prince, making his final speech when called upon to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) Warning: strong language.

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Update:

George Galloway has since issued an extended statement on Youtube in which he apologies for the tweet and also discusses the background details and most specifically the central role played by Ofcom in his sacking by TalkRADIO and the cancellation of his political phone-in programme, The Mother of All Talk Shows (TMOATS). He also takes the opportunity to announce a new platform for TMOATS which will be relaunched on Sunday 16th:

On June 26th Galloway was welcomed as the guest on The Jimmy Dore Show. He again discussed the significant role Ofcom played in the cancellation of TMOATS and talked more broadly about his own participation in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa that was spearheaded by Jewish anti-racist activists, as well as his continuing anti-racist commitment to fighting the apartheid system in Israel:

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Addendum: Reinstate Jackie Walker!

 “If they accuse anybody of antisemitism, it’s basically as bad as kind of accusing somebody of being a paedophile or a murderer. And it’s really hard to come back from that.” — Jackie Walker, long-standing anti-racist campaigner and former Vice Chair of Momentum. 8

Sign the letter the Guardian refused to print:

The Guardian has refused to print this letter signed by almost 400 people within 48 hours of Jackie’s expulsion (including Noam Chomsky, Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell, Alexei Sayle and Ken Livingstone). It deems the issue “sensitive” and “controversial”. We believe the real controversy is that hundreds of good socialists and anti-Zionists like Jackie Walker have been investigated, suspended and expelled. This witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters must stop!

Dear Sir/Madam,

The decision of the Labour Party to expel Jackie Walker for ‘“prejudicial and grossly detrimental behaviour” is both unfair and dishonest. Jackie was suspended over two years ago because of accusations of anti-Semitism yet her expulsion was for ‘misconduct’. [Labour expels Jackie Walker for leaked antisemitism remarks, March 27th]

Jackie’s original remarks, such as “not having heard a definition of anti-Semitism I can work with”, were obviously not anti-Semitic. Jackie’s real offence was being an anti-Zionist. Because of the difficulty of making a charge of anti-Semitism stick, Jackie’s alleged offence was changed to the subjective catch-all one of ‘misconduct’.

If anyone is guilty of misconduct it is those in Labour Friends of Israel who defended Israel’s murder of over 200 unarmed demonstrators in Gaza over the past year. False accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ are the Zionists’ only method of defending the Israeli state.

Jackie’s expulsion is an attack on free speech. Rather than defend the world’s only apartheid state Israel’s supporters in the Labour Party cry ‘anti-Semitism’.

Over the past two years Jackie has been the victim of numerous attacks on social media which have questioned her Jewishness and talked about lynching and burning her. Not only has the Labour Party failed to defend her but it included some of this vile material within the dossier used to expel her, such as alleging she is “a white woman in dreadlocks”.

The expulsion of Jackie Walker is a matter of shame and we demand her immediate reinstatement.

Yours faithfully,

1.                       Noam Chomsky
2.                       Ken Livingstone
3.                       Miriam Margolyes
4.                       Alexei Sayle
5.                       Asa Winstanley
6.                       Steve Bell
7.                       Tony Greenstein
8.                       Jonathan Cook
9.                       Prof. Haim Bresheeth
10.                   Professor Dr Marco Chiesa
11.                   Prof. James Dickins
12.                   Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky
13.                   Prof. Wade Mansell
14.                   Prof. Dr. Willie van Peer
15.                   Prof Megan Povey
16.                   Prof. Chris Knight
17.                   Prof. Stephen Wagg
18.                   Kate Adams
19.                   Philip Adams
20.                   Alison Aiken

And hundreds more…

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1 Quotes are drawn from an article entitled “Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh: ‘to be anti-capitalism is to be anti-semitic” published by Nye Bevan News on March 4, 2019. https://nyebevannews.co.uk/labour-mp-siobhain-mcdonagh-to-be-anti-capitalism-is-to-be-anti-semitic/ 

2 From an article entitled “Left-wing Jewish groups condemn McDonagh for appearing to suggest Jewish people control capitalism”, written by Ben Cowles, published in The Morning Star on March 4, 2019. https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/b/left-wing-jewish-groups-condemn-mcdonagh-for-appearing-to-suggest-jewish-people-control-capitalism

3 From an article entitled “Labour’s Pete Willsman suspended after ranting the ‘Israel embassy’ is manufacturing party’s antisemitism crisis” published in The Jewish Chronicle on May 31, 2019. https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/labour-s-pete-willsman-recorded-ranting-the-israeli-embassy-is-fuelling-antisemitism-crisis-1.484944

4 From a post entitled “Reinstate Pete Willsman!” published by Labour Against the Witch hunt on June 2, 2019. http://www.labouragainstthewitchhunt.org/our-positions/reinstate-pete-willsman/

5 From an article entitled “Sheffield University ‘conspiracy theory’ professor quits” written by Ewan Somerville, published in Forge Press on April 17, 2019. http://forgetoday.com/2019/04/17/sheffield-university-professor-piers-robinson-syria-war-assad-conspiracy-chris-williamson-anti-semitism/ 

6 From an article entitled “Football Teams’ ‘Jewish Identities Questioned” written by Hendrik Buchheister, published in Spiegel Online on October 4, 2013. https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/football-why-tottenham-and-ajax-fans-have-a-jewish-identity-a-926095.html

7 From an article entitled “World Jewish Congress condemns Tottenham fans’ use of ‘Yids’ nickname” written by Ed Aarons, published in the Guardian on January 4, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/jan/04/world-jewish-congress-condemns-tottenham-fans-use-of-yids-nickname

8 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 19:10  mins and 21:20 mins

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