Tag Archives: Boris Johnson

voices of reason at a time of war: Michael Tracey, Noam Chomsky & Vijay Prashad

There’s a chap called Tobias Ellwood who’s spent the past week doggedly promoting his latest idea to save Western civilization. “From a military perspective,” Ellwood explained during a recent speaking engagement, it’s never been more urgent to impose a “humanitarian sea corridor” off the coast of Ukraine. This would involve an outright naval intervention by NATO in the Black Sea — with the objective being to prevent Russia from seizing control of the strategically important city of Odesa. Perhaps upon commencement of this mission, Ellwood suggested, listless denizens of “The West” will finally come to appreciate the existential stakes of the conflict now before us, and “accept that we are actually in a 1938 period, but actually worse.” The double “actually” was presumably included for maximum emphasis.

Notably, Ellwood is not some random crank. He is “actually” a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom, and the chairman of the impressively-titled Defence Select Committee. In that latter capacity, he seeks to exert influence over the Defence policy of Her Majesty’s Government, which is currently led by his Conservative Party colleague Boris Johnson.

This is the opening paragraph of an alarming report by American independent journalist Michael Tracey who managed to receive an invite to a private event recently hosted by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), which describes itself as “the world’s oldest and the UK’s leading defence and security think tank”. The same piece continues:

During the private event, hosted by a Think Tank which unilaterally and hilariously decreed his comments “off the record,” Ellwood described the plan he envisaged for how this new phase of military intervention in Ukraine would unfold. It should be up to the UK to “create a coalition of the willing,” he declared — borrowing the terminology once used for countries that participated in the US invasion of Iraq, which memorably included the UK. Ellwood evidently detected no ignominy at all in this historical association.

On the subject of Ukraine, Ellwood’s view is that the UK and Europe must stop waiting around for the US to get its act together, and instead proactively initiate the kind of muscular, unapologetic military action that is currently needed against Russia. The lesson of last year’s Afghanistan withdrawal, Ellwood charged — as well as Joe Biden’s purported Ukraine-related dithering — has been to “expose America to be very, very hesitant indeed.” He explained: “I see the United States almost catching up with where, from a military perspective, a vanguard may actually go.”

Note that Ellwood’s plan certainly does not assume that the US would somehow just sit out whatever forthcoming war the UK may instigate. With the US as the real firepower behind NATO, that’s obviously not feasible. Instead, his idea would simply be for the UK to place itself at the “vanguard” of precipitating the new military action, after which the US would inevitably be engulfed as well. Time is of the essence, Ellwood contends, because China has ominously joined with Russia to set about “dismantling the liberal world order” — a development Ellwood believes will elevate the conflict to a magnitude on par with the Peloponnesian War of Greek antiquity. “China will exploit the war in Ukraine to hasten America’s inevitable decline,” he warned.

Out of these ashes, at least according to Ellwood’s apparent calculus, will rise the UK: “If we want Putin to fail,” Ellwood declared, “then we need to conclude this in months. We need to vow to press forward.” He added, “I underline how critical it is: if Odesa falls, then I’m afraid it’s going to be very, very difficult for us to turn this around.” (Note his use of the pronoun “us,” as though it should be understood that the UK is already an official combatant.)

Click here to read Michael Tracey’s full report entitled “The UK is Trying to Drag the US into World War III” published on April 14th on substack.

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Michael Tracey is certainly not alone in raising concerns over the looming threat of what was until now considered absolutely unthinkable – the prospect of World War III and nuclear annihilation. Noam Chomsky recently gave two interviews and in the first he also addresses the matter head-on:

Right at this moment, you hear heroic statements by people in Congress or foreign policy specialists saying we should set up a no-fly zone, for example, to defend Ukraine. Fortunately, there’s one peacekeeping force in the government. It’s called the Pentagon. They are so far vetoing the heroic statements by congressmen showing off for their constituents about how brave they are, pointing out that a no-fly zone not only means shooting down Russian planes, but it means attacking Russian anti-aircraft installations inside Russia. Then what happens? Well, actually, the latest polls show about 35 percent of Americans are listening to the heroic speeches from Congress and advisors. Thirty-five percent say they think we should enter into the war in Ukraine, even if it threatens to lead to a nuclear war. The end of everything. The country that launches the first strike will be destroyed.

Continuing:

I don’t know if you saw it. But a couple of days ago, there was a very important interview by one of the most astute and respected figures in current U.S. diplomatic circles, Ambassador Chas Freeman. A very important interview [which is also embedded below]. He pointed out that the current U.S. policy, which he bitterly criticized, is to “fight Russia to the last Ukrainian,” and he gave us an example: President Biden’s heroic statement about the war criminal Putin—[Biden’]s counterpart as a war criminal. And Freeman pointed out the obvious: the U.S. is setting things up so as to destroy Ukraine and to lead to a terminal war.

In this world, there are two options with regard to Ukraine. As we know, one option is a negotiated settlement, which will offer Putin an escape, an ugly settlement. Is it within reach? We don’t know; you can only find out by trying and we’re refusing to try. But that’s one option. The other option is to make it explicit and clear to Putin and the small circle of men around him that you have no escape, you’re going to go to a war crimes trial no matter what you do. Boris Johnson just reiterated this: sanctions will go on no matter what you do. What does that mean? It means go ahead and obliterate Ukraine and go on to lay the basis for a terminal war.

Those are the two options: and we’re picking the second and praising ourselves for heroism and doing it: fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian.

Click here to read the full article entitled “Noam Chomsky on How To Prevent World War III” published by Current Affairs magazine on April 13th based on an interview with editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson.

Here is ‘The Grayzone’ interview with retired senior diplomat Chas Freeman released on March 22nd that Noam Chomsky references above:

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The following day, Chomsky was interviewed by The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill who asked whether there is any aspect of the response by the US, Nato or the European Union that he believes is appropriate. Chomsky replied:

I think that support for Ukraine’s effort to defend itself is legitimate. If it is, of course, it has to be carefully scaled, so that it actually improves their situation and doesn’t escalate the conflict, to lead to destruction of Ukraine and possibly beyond sanctions against the aggressor, or appropriate just as sanctions against Washington would have been appropriate when it invaded Iraq, or Afghanistan, or many other cases. Of course, that’s unthinkable given U.S. power and, in fact, the first few times it has been done — the one time it has been done — the U.S. simply shrugged its shoulders and escalated the conflict. That was in Nicaragua when the U.S. was brought to the World Court, condemned for unlawful use of force or to pay reparations, responded by escalating the conflict. So it’s unthinkable in the case of the U.S., but it would be appropriate.

However, I still think it’s not quite the right question. The right question is: What is the best thing to do to save Ukraine from a grim fate, from further destruction? And that’s to move towards a negotiated settlement.

There are some simple facts that aren’t really controversial. There are two ways for a war to end: One way is for one side or the other to be basically destroyed. And the Russians are not going to be destroyed. So that means one way is for Ukraine to be destroyed.

The other way is some negotiated settlement. If there’s a third way, no one’s ever figured it out. So what we should be doing is devoting all the things you mentioned, if properly shaped, but primarily moving towards a possible negotiated settlement that will save Ukrainians from further disaster. That should be the prime focus.

Chomsky continued:

We can’t look into the minds of Vladimir Putin and the small clique around him; we can speculate, but can’t do much about it. We can, however, look at the United States and we can see that our explicit policy — explicit — is rejection of any form of negotiations. The explicit policy goes way back, but it was given a definitive form in September 2021 in the September 1st joint policy statement that was then reiterated and expanded in the November 10th charter of agreement.

And if you look at what it says, it basically says no negotiations. What it says is it calls for Ukraine to move towards what they called an enhanced program for entering NATO, which kills negotiations; — this is before the invasion notice — an increase in the dispatch of advanced weapons to Ukraine, more military training, the joint military exercises, [and] weapons placed on the border. We can’t be sure, but it’s possible that these strong statements may have been a factor in leading Putin and his circle to move from warning to direct invasion. We don’t know. But as long as that policy is guiding the United States, it’s basically saying, to quote Ambassador Chas Freeman, — it’s saying: Let’s fight to the last Ukrainian. [That’s] basically, what it amounts to.

So the questions you raised are important, interesting, just what is the appropriate kind of military aid to give Ukrainians defending themselves enough to defend themselves, but not to lead to an escalation that will just simply lead to massive destruction? And what kinds of sanctions or other actions could be effective in deterring the aggressors? Those are all important, but they pale into insignificance in comparison with the primary need to move towards a negotiated settlement, which is the only alternative to destruction of Ukraine, which of course, Russia is capable of carrying out.

Click here to watch the same interview and read the full transcript at The Intercept website.

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On Good Friday (April 15th) as the Russian invasion of Ukraine entered Day 50, Democracy Now! spoke with Vijay Prashad, author and director of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and co-author with Chomsky of a forthcoming book The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power. Here is one excerpt from that interview, which is also embedded below:

Of course I criticize Putin for invading Ukraine, Amy. That goes without saying, because he has violated the U.N. Charter. It is a brutal war, as I said when I first started speaking. But I think that’s hardly the question, whether I condemn Mr. Putin or not. The issue is that we’re living in a world where, for a lot of people, it looks like it’s an upside-down world.

It’s not just the question of the treaties you mentioned. The United States government has not signed the international laws of the seas, and yet it prosecutes so-called freedom of navigation missions against not only China in the South China Sea, using this U.N. Charter, which it’s not a signatory of, but it has been provoking clashes with Russia in the Black Sea, in the Baltic Sea and in the Arctic Sea, again, using these so-called freedom of navigation missions.

Let’s take the question of the International Criminal Court. When special prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened a file to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan — and, by the way, she was really clear: She said war crimes conducted by everybody — by the Taliban, by the Afghan National Army, by the United States, by other NATO countries, and so on. When she did that, the United States government threatened her, told her that neither she nor her family would ever get a visa to come to the United States, and so on. The U.S. put enormous pressure on the International Criminal Court to shut down that investigation. That’s incredible. This is an investigation of war crimes which are detailed in the U.S. government’s own documents, which have been released by the WikiLeaks foundation, whose founder, Julian Assange, is sitting in Belmarsh prison, is being treated as a criminal, whereas the war criminals in Afghanistan are going free and threatening, with Mafia-like tactics, the special prosecutor at the ICC.

Meanwhile, again, in an afternoon — to quote the Indian high official, in an afternoon, the United States is able to get these bodies, established by international law, which the United States is not a signatory to — the U.S., in an afternoon, is able to get them to open a file and start talking about war crimes. Over a million people killed in Iraq, and no investigation of war crimes. None. Over a million people. Half a million children killed in Iraq during the 1990s sanctions regime, not even the word “genocide.” The West is walking all over the word “genocide,” is reducing the power of an important category of an important convention, the 1951 Convention Against Genocide. This extraordinary, casual weaponization of human rights and the word “genocide” by the West is going to be something that we are going to face in the times ahead, when other countries are going to say, “Well, we can do anything if we are backed by Washington, D.C.” This is extraordinarily perilous.

And I hope people open their eyes to the very cynical way in which Washington, D.C., is approaching this terrible war taking place in Ukraine, a war that has to end with a ceasefire and negotiations. And you’re not going to easily get a ceasefire and negotiations if you’re going to loosely, as Mr. Biden did in Poland at Warsaw castle, loosely call for regime change in Russia. That is not going to help you bring people to the table, whether it’s in Belarus or it’s in Antalya, Turkey. It’s not going to bring Ukraine and Russia to the table. It’s not going to stop Russia’s war. If the Russians think that the United States has a total agenda to annihilate the Russian government, I’m afraid they are not going to get a ceasefire. You’re going to just get more atrocities in Ukraine. And that’s something that the people of the world should not stand for.

Click here to watch the same interview and to read the full transcript at the Democracy Now! website.

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Returning to Michael Tracey’s excellent piece, I find it truly astonishing how many of the formerly anti-war liberals and anti-war left are now cheerleading for Nato intervention in Ukraine and apparently unaware of the incredible threat posed by an escalating conflict between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. At a recent rally in London a representative of Unison, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, read aloud a message she’d received from the head of the Federation of Trade Unions in Ukraine which included a demand to “secure our Ukrainian sky.”

Similar calls for ‘No Fly Zone’s have been a common feature of liberal demands for “humanitarian interventions” and were used to legitimise Nato’s attack on Libya. In this instance, Nato intervention means nothing less than World War III, and yet elements within the trade union movement, across the ‘liberal media’ and the realigned Labour Party under Keir Starmer seem totally oblivious to these incalculable dangers.

Tracey writes:

Addressing a pro-war rally in London last weekend was Alex Sobel, a Labour Party MP who serves in the Shadow Cabinet of Keir Starmer, the current Opposition Leader. When I asked Sobel to clarify his policy grievance against Boris Johnson, he told me: “There’s been a lack of military assistance. And there’s been a lack of support within NATO more broadly, in terms of military assistance.” This can be translated as: Boris Johnson, NATO, and the US have not been militarily aggressive enough in Ukraine! That’s the criticism!

Expressing his reluctance to countenance any kind of negotiated resolution to the war, Sobel told me: “The Russians only understand force, they do not understand peace.” This is a weirdly common allusion to a supposed genetic predisposition of Russians that makes them inherently… warlike? Sounds very similar to when James Clapper, the top Intelligence Official in the Obama Administration, would go around intoning that Russians were “almost genetically-driven to co-opt” and “penetrate.”

Much of the UK media shares the view that Boris Johnson has exhibited insufficient “force” in his dealings with Russia. This includes The Observer newspaper — understood to be the UK’s leading bastion of respectable left/liberal opinion — which threw caution to the wind last weekend and published an official unsigned editorial institutionally endorsing “direct intervention” in Ukraine by NATO. In particular, the editorial promoted the very same naval blockade plan touted by Tobias Ellwood — the aforementioned Conservative MP who might otherwise be considered the newspaper’s ideological foe. “Declare the unoccupied city of Odesa off-limits,” the Observer editorial demands of Johnson, “and warn Russia to cease coastal bombardments or face serious, unspecified consequences.” Wariness to start World War III has now turned into a timid “excuse” for inaction, the editorial writers allege.

Continuing:

[B]ehold the recent activism of Owen Jones, the noted left-wing journalist whose “beat” appears to be a never-ending series of exhortatory instructions to some amorphous assemblage he calls “The Left.” Jones is now of the view, amazingly, that supporting the “armed struggle” of Ukraine is the only proper “anti-war” position. So here we have another “anti-war” leftist who happens to be in favor of provisioning tanks, fighter jets, missiles, and grenades into an active warzone, for the purpose of facilitating warfare. As is also the case in the US, these UK left/liberals often find it unpleasant to straightforwardly label themselves “pro-war” — so they have been forced to play word-games galore to avoid acknowledging reality. And the reality is that the policy action they’re advocating must necessarily be enacted by some combination of Boris Johnson, the US military-industrial complex, and NATO — all of whom have now been enlisted to carry out these leftists’ desired war aims.

The most vivid manifestation of this increasingly incoherent left-wing viewpoint could be observed a few days ago at the pro-war march and rally in Whitehall, the governmental corridor of Central London. I found out about the rally because it was endorsed and promoted by Owen Jones on Twitter. Upon arrival, I discovered that leading the march was another left-wing journalist, Paul Mason, who organized the action in concert with a strange Trotyskist faction called the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. “We support Ukraine’s war and demand the West provides weapons,” the group’s pamphlet declares, along with a bitter condemnation of NATO for “steadfastly refusing to fight.”

Mason had many magical moments as rally leader, but his most comical interlude was when he stopped along the march route to bellow, via bullhorn, in the general direction of the UK Ministry of Defence — shouting for the workers inside to come out and join. I asked Mason if he reckoned this was the first “anti-war” and/or “left-wing” rally in British history for which the Ministry of Defence (of a Conservative government!) was considered a natural ally — but he caustically refused to talk, instead denouncing me as a “Putin shill.” (Direct quote.) Clever guy, that Paul. Supremely confident in his convictions, surely, and quick with the novel insult.

A former employee of the BBC and Channel 4, Mason offered up an inventive rationalization for his pro-war advocacy when it was his turn to clasp the microphone that afternoon. “In a war like this, our natural demand for peace — our natural fear of military action — has to take second place,” he proclaimed. Because don’t you know, according to Mason, this particular war is actually being waged on behalf of the vaunted “Working Class”!

“It is in the interest of working class people to support Ukraine in this war,” Mason beseeched from the rally pulpit, expressing his hope to mobilize the whole of the British Labour Movement behind the pro-war cause. “I know how hard that is for many of us, who’ve stood outside here in so many other wars and said — you know, screw your hypocrisy over Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the rest,” Mason acknowledged. “It’s hard. But the only way to get arms into the hands of the Ukrainian people right now… is to keep the pressure on the government.”

So there you have it, clear as day: the object of this left-wing “anti-war” rally was to “keep the pressure” on the ruling Conservative Government… to continue ramping up weapons shipments to Ukraine. For use in… intensifying warfare. As Mason barreled forward with his speech, the Ukraine flag shimmered triumphantly in the sunlight atop Boris Johnson’s Cabinet Office, located right across the street at 70 Whitehall — a moving symbol of cross-ideological unity.

I found that a very simple line of questioning posed to the assembled leftist demonstrators — merely asking them whether they viewed the event they were partaking in as a “pro-war” rally, or an “anti-war” rally — tended to elicit spells of bewildered anger. When asked this question, a number of the pamphleteers insisted to me that the rally was in fact “anti-war” in nature, even though they were distributing placards featuring the injunction to “Arm Ukraine” — a task which would necessarily have accomplished by the US, UK, and other governments, in conjunction with NATO. One of the chants fervently screamed on the march went as follows: “Put an end to Putin’s reign! Arm, arm, arm, Ukraine!” That’s the new mantra of the British anti-war movement! If nothing else, one has to appreciate this audacious innovation in the fluidity of language.

Click here to read Michael Tracey’s full report entitled “The UK is Trying to Drag the US into World War III” published on April 14th on substack.

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to smear or not to smear? or how the spectre of Sir Jimmy Savile still haunts the British Establishment

When PM Boris Johnson blurted out in the House of Commons that opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer was personally responsible for his failures as former Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute Sir Jimmy Savile, few can have doubted that this was a flailing attempt to distract the world from his own desperate predicament – put succinctly, it was a dead cat strategy. But as dead cats go, raising this particular cadaver from its grave was especially ill-advised.

For one thing, as this detailed but concise Novara Media report makes abundantly clear, it was the Tories who had courted Sir Jimmy Savile for decades:

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And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then how about this one:

Jimmy Savile canvasses for Tories

Not that the Tories acted alone. Savile had friends in all the right places: friends who would prefer that we now forget all about Sir Jimmy Savile.

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Now, I don’t know about you, but when I want to learn the truth about Sir Jimmy Savile, the first place I turn to is always the BBC. The BBC who employed Savile throughout his entire career despite the fact that he had been (by their own account – more below) “a serial sexual abuser… [who] had attacked hundreds of women and children at various locations including hospitals, schools and the BBC.”

After his death in 2011, BBC even eulogised Savile from his graveside; forced to backtrack only when non-BBC journalists were busy disclosing the evil truth. In short, who knows the facts on Sir Jimmy Savile better than the BBC?

So here’s what their “reality check” has to say about Johnson’s House of Commons statement:

BBC Reality Check has examined Boris Johnson’s claim that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile when he was director of public prosecutions (DPP) and has found no evidence that Sir Keir was involved at any point in the decision not to charge Savile.

This is essentially the Establishment line. That of course, there is “no evidence” that Sir Keir “was involved at any point in the decision not to charge Savile.” But unlike the BBC and every other Establishment organ, I wish to attach the well-known caveat that ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. Since importantly, and as the same BBC “reality check” acknowledges and reminds us:

Sir Keir was head of the Crown Prosecution Service in 2009 when Surrey Police interviewed Savile and consulted a CPS lawyer who decided there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution to take place.

As Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer was the most senior public prosecutor in England and Wales and responsible for leading the CPS.

Is it then, as Starmer immediately countered, “a ridiculous slur, peddled by right-wing trolls”, to question his presumed involvement in failures to prosecute one of Britain’s most heinous sex offenders? Is Sir Keir entirely beyond reproach in this regard?

Frankly, without a completely transparent public inquiry into the entire Savile affair, the jury is out. And not just on the police and CPS failures, but the involvement of directors of NHS trusts, directors and senior staff at the BBC, and on the significant roles played by senior Tory politicians including Margaret Thatcher, Norman Tebbit and Edwina Currie, who was personally responsible for granting Savile full access to the high-security psychiatric hospital, Broadmoor (discussed in the NM report above). None of this will happen, obviously. There is clearly far too much at stake for any probing investigation into Savile, and finally, the state cannot prosecute itself.

Meanwhile, as the Establishment organs rush to Sir Keir’s defence, let us never forget how they treated former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, throughout the years when he was relentlessly smeared with rather blatant lies ranging from being a Kremlin spy, to a terrorist sympathiser, to an anti-Semitic racist. Not only did the BBC fail to provide any “reality checks”, but it actively disseminated these casual and “ridiculous slurs peddled by right-wing trolls”.

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Craig Murray, the former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, who became a whistleblower on UK complicity in torture has felt the ignominy of false accusations himself. An advocate of free speech, Murray has also been a staunch ally and defender of Julian Assange.

In his latest piece, Murray not only raises quite legitimate questions surrounding the Savile investigation, but reminds us too of the pivotal role played by Starmer as Director of Public Prosecutions in keeping Assange in jail and assisting the US in its ongoing persecution (with links retained):

There is no doubt that Starmer was indeed Director of Public Prosecution and head of the Crown Prosecution Service in 2009 when it was decided that credible allegations against Jimmy Savile should not be prosecuted (after they had reached that stage already decades too late). Of course the Director of Public Prosecutions does not handle the individual cases, which are assigned to lawyers under them. But the Director most certainly is then consulted on the decisions in the high profile and important cases.

That is why they are there. It is unthinkable that Starmer was not consulted on the decision to shelve the Savile case – what do they expect us to believe his role was, as head of the office, ordering the paperclips?

When the public outcry reached a peak in 2012, Starmer played the go-to trick in the Establishment book. He commissioned an “independent” lawyer he knew to write a report exonerating him. Mistakes have been made at lower levels, lessons will be learnt… you know what it says. Mishcon de Reya, money launderers to the oligarchs, provided the lawyer to do the whitewash. Once he retired from the post of DPP, Starmer went to work at, umm,

screenshot-1671

It is remarkable that the media has never got as excited about any of the lies told by Johnson, as they have done about what is in fact a rare example of Johnson saying an interesting truth. Starmer was indeed, as Director of Public Prosecutions, responsible for the non-prosecution of Savile.

But just as Savile was to be protected over actual sex crime, Starmer knew that Assange was to be persecuted over fake sex crime. Starmer’s conduct of the Assange case was entirely corrupt.

It is important for you to understand that Assange was never charged with any sex crime in Sweden. He was wanted for questioning, after Stockholm’s chief prosecutor had decided there was no case to answer, but a prosecutor from another district had taken up the case. Assange always believed the entire thing was a ruse to get him sent from Sweden to the United States. His legal team had offered the Swedish prosecutors the chance to interview him in the Swedish Embassy back in 2011, which should have enabled the case to be closed.

Under Starmer, the Crown Prosecution Service told the Swedish prosecutors not to come to London. The emails in which they did this were destroyed, and only recovered by an FOI request at the Swedish end. You will recall that, when after a further seven long years Swedish prosecutors finally did interview Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy, it resulted in the Swedish investigation being dropped.

Had Starmer not prevented it, the Swedish investigation could have been closed in January 2011 following interview.

Then in October 2013, while Starmer was still DPP, his staff emailed Swedish prosecutors in response to reports that they wished to drop the case, saying “Don’t you dare get cold feet”. The Swedes responded explaining they did indeed wish to drop it. The Crown Prosecution Service again dissuaded them.

Why was Starmer intervening to insist a foreign state continue an investigation that state itself wished to stop, and which involved no British nationals?

I am very confident there is no other example of the British DPP interfering in an overseas investigation in this way. It certainly was nothing to do with the ostensible subject matter of the Swedish investigation, which doesn’t rate a mention in the email correspondence. There can be no doubt that Starmer’s motive was entirely ulterior to the Swedish investigation, and almost certainly is related to the illegal CIA activity against Assange and the current US extradition effort. Starmer is revealed as a highly unscrupulous and mendacious character.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full article entitled “How The Establishment Functions” published on Thursday 3rd.

The ghoulish spectre of Savile has risen again; reminiscent of the pale and ghostly arm that breaks silently through the rippleless waters of the lake at the end of the film Deliverance, it was meant to be buried forever, yet infests whatever stands in for the collective unconscious of the British Establishment. Nobody wants to see it again: not the BBC, not the Conservative Party, not Starmer, not even Johnson, but he blurts it out anyway. And that is just another reason why is has to go.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, Craig Murray

Boris Johnson deserves to be cut down, but why are the knives wielded today instead of years ago?

Back in early 2020, when the nation faced the threat of a novel pathogen of unknown transmissibility and virulence, Johnson’s response was both swift and characteristic – he very promptly vanished.

At the time WHO announced the pandemic, Johnson was busy holidaying on the Caribbean island of Mustique, all-expenses paid by Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross, where he continued to holiday uninterrupted to the end of his stay. Upon return, he then skipped five Cobra meetings and soon after contracted covid himself; before buggering off again to Chevening, a 115 room Grade II-listed 17th Century mansion in Kent, to recuperate.

We will fight them on the beaches

Under Johnson’s “leadership”, government policy has lurched shambolically one way and then another. Following an initially cautious response, and for no given reason, Britain soon reopened its borders, discontinued the testing of suspected cases and generally hampered public health agencies that were already best placed to track the spread of disease.

Having thus overseen the more or less unchecked spread of the virus for some two months, Johnson’s supposed “libertarian” government U-turned and imposed a sequence of tight lockdowns bolstered by its constantly shifting hokey-cokey of ad hoc covid rules. As I wrote in late March 2020, not only were the lockdowns a direct consequence of government delays and incompetence, but taking such drastic measures potentially paved the way to lasting restrictions on civil liberties.

Notwithstanding these catastrophic failures, however, Johnson remained a lucky general and was eventually saved when the cavalry turned up in the form of the NHS vaccine rollout. It also helped immeasurably that the responses of the majority of western nations had been no better than Britain’s.

Throughout the pandemic the establishment media has also played a crucial role by parroting the official line and in general deflecting attention from the ensuing fiasco that has cost so many lives and “spaffed up the wall” literally hundreds of billions of pounds of public money – billions a day just on private consultants and contractors for track-and-trace alone.

But then along came “partygate”. And if Johnson’s is finally brought down by “partygate” (as I believe he will be) then it is akin, as someone already said (I forget who), to Al Capone being imprisoned for tax evasion.

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“Wherever you stand on this issue – the severity of it, the medications, the mandates, all of that stuff – put that aside for a minute and just think about what do you want from the people who govern you – is this it?”

That’s the rhetorical question Russell Brand poses and adroitly contextualises below – with strong language throughout:

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In December 2020, Craig Murray wrote a post entitled “Sorry, Johnson Will Not Disappear” which begins:

It is currently popular among those who make money writing media articles about politics, to argue that Boris Johnson will implode next year and be replaced as Tory leader by someone more rational and conventional. I very much doubt this: the most important reason for that doubt being the power of the atavistic English nationalist forces that Johnson has unleashed in British politics. Astonishingly, despite the UK government’s hideously inept performance in the Covid crisis, and the corruption and looting of the public purse on a massive scale for which the pandemic has been used, the Conservatives still lead Labour in the UK opinion polls.

In the same piece, he concludes:

My prediction is this: Boris will agree his thin deal and at the end of January the Brexiteers will be gloating that the predicted disaster did not happen. Effects on economic growth and employment will take some time to be plainly identified, and it will be mortifying how readily the Tories will twist the narrative to blame the EU, and also to obtain English nationalist support for the notion that this gradual pain is worth it in pursuit of a purer country, with less immigration. That may sound crazy to you. But is it not crazy to you that the Tories are still ahead in UK polls after the last year? Mark my words; hope that Boris Johnson will simply vanish is very misplaced.

Murray is not entirely wrong, of course, and his damning verdict on Keir Starmer (which you can read in the original post) holds up a little better, but my point here isn’t actually to judge and criticise the lack of foresight of Craig Murray as to point to my own analysis ahead of time, since this can be read further down the same page in a comment (reprinted as a footnote below ):

comment about Johnson posted on Craig Murray's website 18-12-20

My comment was posted on December 18th 2020, so permitting myself an error margin of plus-or-minus a month my forecast is essentially accurate.

How did I recognise that Johnson’s days were numbered when others, including those with more direct political knowledge and experience like Craig Murray, were unable to see what was coming? Simply by remaining objective and nothing more: judging from facts rather than on the basis of preferences and biases.

I’ve always hated Johnson too, of course. I hated him long before most people did. But I also knew I wasn’t alone in my hostility! Johnson has accumulated entire legions of enemies; battalions just within the Conservative Party. How many colleagues has he thrown under that damned bus (and different buses!) since the referendum?

His premiership was precarious right from the start and politicians with so many enemies seldom survive for long. Motives for sticking in the knife abounded, but there remained still the delicate question of opportunity. Meanwhile, closets lay stacked to the rafters with skeletons, all just waiting patiently to be unlocked.

Though make no mistake, had Her Majesty’s opposition remained under the stewardship of Jeremy Corbyn, then the fickle attention of our establishment media might more easily have been distracted over and over (as it previously has been) whether by means of prefabricated allegations of “antisemitism” or with alternative smears perpetually cooked up to undermine his tenure. “Partygate” only becomes a major scandal once the opposition is back securely on its leash. Take a bow Sir Keir! (Or should that be a peerage?)

On Tuesday 18th ‘Double Down News’ released a statement by Jeremy Corbyn outlining the reasons why he opposes vaccine mandates and passports and is concerned by the rise of centralised power:

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Like the press (who must have heard some rumours at the very least – we presume they didn’t get invites), the Metropolitan Police evidently paid no attention to the non-stop Downing Street shenanigans and despite the fact that a number of these events happened live on their CCTV cameras. Will this lack of police oversight be a matter for a future inquiry? I shouldn’t think so. But involving the police now makes Johnson’s position even less tenable. Imagine what might have happened had they acted with vigilance and propriety at the time. They didn’t, and again, I wouldn’t expect them to. It would be remarkably naive to seriously believe “nobody is above the law”.

That said, evidence of serious misconduct in office emerges all the time, whereas public indignation wanes quickly. It’s only when the press and the broadcast media help to whip up full-blown public fury by tenaciously sticking to the one story and repeating it over and over when the pressure eventually becomes insurmountable. Which happens, of course, only when the time is ripe.

Just ask former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, who was eventually fired after it was revealed he was having an extramarital affair with his friend from university, Gina Coladangelo. He and Gina, Hancock’s self-appointed Special Advisor (something else he’d failed to declare!) were caught in the act: snogging after school and captured on leaked parliamentary CCTV tapes – not a very edifying spectacle! Who leaked the kompromat? Who cares! (Nobody seems to.)

Prior to Hancock’s “breach of social distancing restrictions”, he had been caught breaching other drinking curfews but, and far, far more importantly, he had been in flagrant violation of conflict of interest rules on countless occasions; perhaps most notoriously, doing deals for covid test equipment with a mate who runs the local pub.

But the trouble with Hancock was not his unprincipled behaviour or his recidivism, but his utter ineptitude; so much so that he became a constant source of embarrassment for Johnson and the Tories. When Dominic Cummings stepped up to accuse him of “criminal, disgraceful behaviour” adding that he should have been fired as Health Secretary for “at least fifteen to twenty things including lying to everyone on multiple occasions”, Hancock’s sacking finally became an inevitability.

Nevertheless, timing is absolutely key to these types of disclosures and following Cummings’ damning accusations, Hancock still managed to stagger on as Health Secretary for nearly a whole month before “snogging-gate” nailed him. That’s when it also came to light that Gina’s brother, Roberto Coladangelo, the Director of Partnering Health Limited (PHL Group) – a firm specialising in the provision of urgent and primary care services to NHS patients – had also won a whole string of NHS contracts during Hancock’s incumbency. You scratch my back…

Coming back to “partygate”, and considering again the endless waves of government incompetence and the unholy stench of corruption, the biggest question clearly has to be why now? The probable answer being, of course, the one already provided in my comment above: that Johnson’s time is up.

As wrote back then, it was effectively up ever since Brexit was signed off, except that the covid crisis had kept him temporarily secure as PM. After all, nobody wishes to pick up a poisoned chalice; a problem hugely exacerbated by such egregious levels of government incompetence and corruption happening under his charge.

Because any prospective leadership contender – at least anyone serious about electoral success – needs to make a clean break: the chance to pass the buck to Johnson wholesale and excuse and/or limit their own perceived participation in past administrative failures under the reliable cover of plausible deniability. (Confident that once the deed is done, the party and most of the press will instantly have their back.)

For instance, here is Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, trying hard to defend his partner-in-crime Boris – while keeping a respectful distance from any blame sharing – during a press conference on Tuesday 18th:

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So why now? Simple – and more or less explained above. The unstoppable spread of this thankfully mild omicron variant is doing what the vaccine rollout has largely failed to do and inoculating the entire population. By lucky chance, the pandemic is essentially over – and though the media has tried to say otherwise, this good news comes out regardless. Thus, with covid behind us, a clean political break becomes a viable option, which is presumably why Johnson’s enemies are suddenly so eager to strike, and determined to do so while the iron’s still hot. Politics is a perennially dirty business…

Following the accusations of parliamentary blackmail, ‘Novara Media’ delved into BBC archives (Westminster’s Secret Service 1995) to present footage of interviews with former Tory whips William Whitelaw and Tim Fortescue revealing how old school arm-twisting was done:

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What will happen next? Frankly, I do not pretend to know. Who replaces Johnson is anyone’s guess – although the bookies already have their favourites. If you asked me off-the-cuff I’d say the name most loudly touted is Chancellor Rishi Sunak, but another prospective candidate may be that other ex-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has assiduously distanced himself from the government’s failures throughout the crisis. Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is apparently the bookies’ second favourite and on the same basis Tom Tugendhat (with his Bilderberg connections) appears to a bit of a dark horse too.

Whoever comes to the fore and whoever ultimately wins the race, I am quietly confident that – to quote Craig Murray in the negative – s/he will be “someone more rational and conventional”. That is, they will not be – in contradiction to Murray’s prediction again – anyone closely allied with “the atavistic English nationalist forces that Johnson has unleashed in British politics”. Those days have passed, just as the days of Labour under Corbyn and a revitalised left have passed. Johnson’s undoing means the ‘centrists’ are firmly back in charge again.

In short, and contrary to so much liberal hysteria (which passes itself off under the guise of “progressive”), the present threat to society remains the well-established one. It is the grinding menace of neoliberalism in the form of ‘austerity’ and stealth privatisation that ensures the relentless transfer of wealth upwards to the billionaires and the further impoverishment of the poorest, mixed in with a highly combustible neoconservatism that seeks to perpetuate the forever wars, guaranteeing steady profits for the military-industrialists.

Johnson has already played his useful part for both causes, but he frequently played it without finesse, just as Trump did in America. But coming soon, we can expect to see a safer pair of hands: a candidate literally better prepared to pursue the same old, same old ‘new normal’ plutocratic special interests. Someone better in the business of building false dreams: “building back better” for business as usual… consolidation after a bit of a glitch in the matrix!

A spoof episode of ‘Line of Duty’ by the satirical artists ‘Led By Donkeys’ was posted on Twitter on Tuesday 18th and swiftly retweeted by the ‘Line of Duty’ writer Jed Mercurio with the words “brilliant work”:

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Which is why I find “partygate” mostly a bore and irrelevance. The daily ‘did-he-didn’t-he?‘,‘will-he-won’t-he?’ soap opera. Yes, Johnson is being ritually humiliated as he deserves to be. It’s the death of a clown by a thousand custard pies. And the schadenfreude is quite delicious, so I shan’t pretend I don’t take pleasure from the sight of that smug grin being wiped off his supercilious face. It certainly makes for great pantomime.

Short of war with Russia (absit omen), nothing can save him now. Not the unshakeable born-to-rule haughtiness and entitlement of an Eton-educated Bullingdon boy with his nauseating never-say-sorry shamelessness. But still, nothing of real political – let alone historic significance – is actually happening here. Johnson will surely resign – but then, the road for him ran out long ago.

And all the while, Johnson appears oddly oblivious to his fate, incapable of understanding that he has become a total liability to the Tories; almost pitiful, it’s like watching a big shaggy dog being carted off to the vets for the last time! Blinkered by narcissism to the bitter end, even when former Conservative allies like David Davies are as forthright as this:

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Not that I have any real sympathy for Johnson. That instead goes out to the victims. To those forcibly separated from their loved ones who were left to die in isolation while these Tory chumps were boozing it up day after day. As I listen to their moving stories, I want to put a comforting arm around the shoulder and whisper “I hate them too”. Those feckless champagne charlies and their self-serving talentless mates who are running our societies into the ground. So yes, thank god this is unspeakable object is being tossed aside by unstoppable forces.

But I also hate, and with no less passion, the Blairite saboteurs so deeply ensconced in Labour HQ who worked tirelessly and in cahoots with the establishment media to defeat their own leader, giving Johnson and his wrecking crew a firm leg up to secure his electoral victory. The relentless smear campaign against Corbyn surely provides more than enough proof that today the fourth estate has been actively transformed and is operating as a fifth column:

Meanwhile, I had been calling out Johnson – “Boris” to his chums – long before he ever became PM (a depressing eventuality I also saw coming a mile away), and during decades when the whole establishment media loved to fawn over his foppish buffoonery. Now they are all sticking the knife in, but only because…

And once the circus has left town? Unfortunately, nothing of benefit will come from Johnson’s dishonourable discharge. The damage done remains and will not be undone whether in this parliament or the next; and worst, a raft of similar policies are certain to be rolled out by whoever supplants him. Meanwhile, “partygate” is exactly the sort of scandal that modern media thrives on, because it’s all about personalities and human interest. Beginning and ending on emotive issues of bad behaviour, it serves deflect public attention from where it ought to be placed: on the plutocratic interests pulling the strings and the open but unspoken class war continually waged against the ninety-nine percent.

Look! Finally, this is nothing more than a ‘changing of the guard’. A piece of political theatre. Were Johnson and the government to be genuinely held to account for their criminal negligence and brazen corruption during the last two years, they would soon be facing prosecution and the prospect of jail terms. Instead, there is no likelihood of a truly independent inquiry into the mishandling of the covid crisis and nobody in government will be seriously held to account. If anyone doubts this, then have four short words to offer: arise Sir Tony Blair!

As I wrote a year ago: “Given historical precedents I reckon he’s got a year at best, but we shall see.” That much was rather obvious, and it is no less obvious that it hardly matters who comes next. Why? Because if, in the remote chance, a genuine political contender did arise and attain the level of a perceived threat to the establishment, then the enforcers working inside parliament, inside the civil service, inside the intelligence agencies, and for the press and major broadcasters can again be coordinated in an orchestrated response to crush the upstart just as they did the last.

The ex-leader of Labour of just two years ago, Jeremy Corbyn, is now de facto ousted from his own party, and yet this extraordinary story of betrayal and skulduggery gets scarcely a passing mention from any of the mainstream news outlets.

Johnson fully deserves everything he gets and a whole lot more. But in about ten years time it’s more than likely he’ll receive a knighthood instead. That’s how it works in Britain – in other places the powers-that-be dish out comparable rewards for services rendered. So, that’s my final prediction: Arise Sir Boris!

You can mark my words and tell me I’m wrong presuming we ever make it as far as 2032.

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My comment to Craig Murray

Sorry Craig but I believe you are blindsided by your own love affair with the EU and so find it hard to acknowledge that you share this strange affection with a significant majority of Tory MPs who were and presumably still are (beneath the thin veneer of party loyalty) fellow remainers. Certainly I don’t doubt you are right when you say they will continue to stick by BoJoke for so long as his popularity assures their own re-election, but I believe you fail to factor in the numerous and powerful enemies who are now swarming around him. In effect he becomes a lame duck after January and securing any kind of Brexit deal will only cover his blatant lack of competency for a few months. Meanwhile there will be plenty who are now relishing this midterm opportunity to stick it to him, and some have been sharpening their knives ever since he led the referendum campaign. Given historical precedents I reckon he’s got a year at best, but we shall see.

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Desmond Tutu RIP, Keir Starmer and Jeffrey Epstein’s mate, Peter Mandelson

Commemorating the life of Desmond Tutu, his friend, fellow anti-apartheid activist and former African National Congress MP, Andrew Feinstein, spoke to Double Down News on January 4th.

Andrew Feinstein contrasted Desmond Tutu’s lifelong commitment to end apartheid in all countries across the world with the hypocrisy of Boris Johnson and his current UK government, western mainstream media outlets and Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, which would certainly have expelled him for his unflinching condemnation of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians and his advocacy of boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS]:

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A full transcript is reproduced below with relevant images and links provided:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu because of his views on Israel would be expelled from Keir Starmer’s Labour Party. This is the same Labour Party whose leadership is currently being advised by Lord Peter Mandelson, a friend of Jeffrey Epstein who appears on ten occasions in Ghislaine Maxwell’s “little black book”; someone who phoned Jeffrey Epstein when he was in jail on child abuse convictions.

Jeffrey Epstein and Peter Mandelson Mail online

What does it say about our politics, our public life, and, crucially, our media, that Jeremy Corbyn was criticised more for the way in which he pronounced Jeffrey Epstein’s name [here, here, here, here and here] than scrutiny is being given to the fact that Keir Starmer’s leadership is being advised by one of Jeff Epstein’s mates? What does that say about the morality of a party that today is suspending and expelling people who share the vision and the specific political views of Archbishop Desmond Tutu?

Corbyn pronunciation of Epstein in The Sun

Desmond Tutu was the most courageous campaigner against human rights abusers around the world. I was privileged to know him personally because I’d come into contact with him during the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, but even more importantly when I was an ANC Member of Parliament and was trying to investigate millions of dollars worth of corruption in a hugely corrupt arms deal that was facilitated primarily by Tony Blair and BAE Systems. Then Tutu called me to his home to give his support.

Desmond Tutu campaigned against apartheid in South Africa and he campaigned against human rights abuses everywhere in the world including in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. When he visited Israel he was shocked and remarked that he felt that apartheid in Israel was, if anything, worse than it had been in South Africa.

David Frost: You said that what you saw in Israel something that was quite akin to the situation in South Africa before freedom came to the black people of South Africa.

Desmond Tutu: Well in many instances worse.

He was also deeply frustrated by the fact that the Israeli state supported the apartheid South African regime and helped it become a nuclear power and he would often say both privately and publicly that he never understood how a state such as Israel could cooperate with and arm the apartheid state in South Africa that was run by Nazi sympathizers, where a lot of the apartheid legislation was mimicked from the Nazi legislation between 1933 and 1938.

Tutu would often speak about the need to liberate not just those oppressed, but the oppressor as well. He saw how white South Africans became a bitter and hateful people as a consequence of the racism that dominated their daily lives. The dehumanising of the other that is such a central component of any system of oppression.

And when he visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories he saw the same thing amongst many Israelis: a hatred of the other who they had dehumanised. A shrinking of their own existence because they defined that existence in relation to those they subjugated and oppressed.

Desmond Tutu: Part of my own concern for what is happening there is, in fact, not what is happening to the Palestinians, but it is what the Israelis are doing to themselves. I mean when you go to those checkpoints and you see these young soldiers behaving abominably badly. They are not aware that when you carry out dehumanising policies. Whether you like it or not those policies dehumanise the perpetrator

He continued his search for a solution to the Palestinian issue throughout his life and continued steadfastly to call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel just as he had against apartheid South Africa. Tutu felt very strongly – and we discussed this on a number of occasions – that the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign was absolutely critical in bringing about an end to apartheid in South Africa because what it did was it started to undermine and corrode the comfortable life that white South Africans lived at the expense of the majority of people in South Africa.

Without the global movement towards BDS, apartheid would never have ended in South Africa, and it’s for that exact reason that he believes it is only when the Israeli government suffers the economic consequences of BDS that they will be forced to the negotiating table to bring an end both to apartheid within Israel, but also to the illegal and brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fulsome in his praise of Archbishop Desmond Tutu on his passing, despite the reality that Boris Johnson’s government is in the process of trying to ban support for the boycott divestment and sanctions movement, which Desmond Tutu clearly stated was absolutely crucial in bringing about an end to apartheid in South Africa and is absolutely crucial in fighting against apartheid in Israel and the occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

Desmond Tutu campaigned indefatigably against press censorship, freedom of speech, freedom of the media. It is something that on certain uncomfortable topics today like Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories more and more our media our self-censoring. Our political parties are censoring their members what they can and cannot say and believe on these topics.

What Desmond Tutu taught us is that we must always listen to each other we must always hear each other regardless of how uncomfortable it is. In our world of social media we don’t listen. We don’t hear. We abuse. By instinct. Without thought.

Many of those who bandy about the word “antisemite” aren’t doing so because they care about actual anti-semitism or racism, they’re using it as a weapon to attack those who are critical of Israel. They’re trying to boil down Judaism to be equivalent to the State of Israel that is, in itself, an anti-semitic construct. They are doing it in such a way that effectively renders the term “anti-semitic” meaningless.

Alan Dershowitz: The world is mourning Bishop Tutu, who just died the other day. Can I remind the world that although he did some good things – a lot of good things on apartheid –  the man was a rampant anti-semite and bigot.

The fact that Dershowitz used the slur of “anti-semitism” to attempt to demean the reputation and legacy of this remarkable human being very sadly says more about Dershowitz and more about the way in which “anti-semitism” has been weaponised and equated with any criticism of Israel; its own discrimination – what is often called apartheid within Israel; and its brutal and illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. It is the same slur of “anti-semitism” that was used against Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom; that was used against Bernie Sanders in the United States; and that is still being used supposedly in the name of fighting anti-semitism.

This is the same Alan Dershowitz who acted as Jeffrey Epstein’s defence attorney securing a sweetheart deal in a 2008 plea agreement thereby enabling his friend to serve out his jail term on day-release, and who later confessed to receiving a massage courtesy of Epstein although he says he kept his underpants on, and who the BBC very recently saw fit to share his twisted opinion on the verdict against Ghislaine Maxwell:

So in today’s Labour Party, for instance, a Jewish member of the Labour Party is five times more likely to be investigated, suspended or expelled by the Labour Party for “anti-semitism” than anyone else in the party. Think for a moment of the absurdity of expelling anti-racist Jews to thwart anti-semitism. It is into that complete madness that Dershowitz’s comments about Desmond Tutu should be located.

Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, eulogised Desmond Tutu despite the fact that the former leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn, who was a tireless campaigner against apartheid South Africa at a time when it was not fashionable to be so, remains suspended from Keir Starmer’s Labour Party along with countless other anti-racists who echo the words of Desmond Tutu on Israel, on the Palestinian territories, on injustice, and on true anti-racism. This was craven hypocrisy from Keir Starmer.

corbyn-arrest-1984-c2a9rob-scott-higher-compression-1-scaled-1

Jeremy Corbyn MP is arrested during the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group picket of South Africa House in 1984 [Photo: Rob Scott]

The Labour Party’s shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy, was also full of praise for Archbishop Desmond Tutu in virtually the same moment at which he apologised for having nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party, despite the fact that just a few years ago he was singing Corbyn’s praises.

It is worth bearing in mind that David Lammy never thought it necessary to apologise for voting for the invasion of Iraq that has led to over a million deaths, that accelerated the rise of ISIS, that has caused untold suffering in Iraq and the wider Middle East region, but he did feel it necessary to apologise having nominated the only Labour leader who has apologised for the invasion of Iraq.

Jeremy Corbyn: So I now apologise sincerely on behalf of my party for the disastrous decision to go toward Iraq.

Desmond Tutu refused to share a platform with Tony Blair because he believed that Tony Blair should be on trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court. I know which Desmond Tutu would apologise for.

Desmond Tutu: Those who want to wage war against Iraq must know it would be an immoral war.

It is my belief that the most important thing we can do is to learn from our history rather than repeat it.

It is incredibly hypocritical of our political leaders to praise the person who fought and overcame apartheid in the past while at exactly the same time they are stifling and trying to prevent us from halting apartheid today. The reality that Desmond Tutu would be suspended or expelled by the current Labour Party for his support of BDS against Israel is a reflection on the current morality of Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.

That is not the legacy of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Tutu’s legacy is that we have the principles, the courage, and the convictions, to stand up against all racism, to stand up against human rights abuses wherever they occur, and whoever they are perpetrated by.

Desmond Tutu: Let’s send a message to governments that a critical mass of people want to see an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the oppression of its people by acting together we can break cycles of injustice and the occupation and build a new world based on our common humanity and justice. Support freedom for Palestine. Peace. Shalom. Salam.

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Additional:

The following comment and link was received shortly after posting the article above.

Please consider publishing / publicizing the petition:

SUSPEND Lord Mandelson from the Labour party while carrying out an independent investigation into the extent of his involvement with the sex traffickers Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Mandelson

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black ops in the Black Sea: Johnson’s dangerous provocation in the ‘New Cold War’

In light of yesterday’s outlandish provocation in the Black Sea, when British Navy destroyer, HMS Defender, weapons loaded and with a BBC correspondent conveniently aboard, quite deliberately sailed into Crimean territorial waters close to the Russian base at Sevastopol, Craig Murray posted two articles which I have reprinted unabridged below – in the second, Murray explains in detail how the UK action was in clear breach of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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Sometimes it is worth stating the obvious. The United Kingdom does not have a coast in the Black Sea. British warships are not infesting the Black Sea out of a peaceful intent, and there is no cause for them to be entering disputed waters close to anybody’s coast. This is not a question of freedom of navigation under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. There is nowhere that a British warship can be heading from the UK under the right of innocent passage that would require it to pass through coastal waters by Crimea. The Black Sea is famously a cul-de-sac.

There is certainly a right to pass to the Ukrainian port of Odessa – but that in now way requires passing close to Crimea. This is therefore not “innocent passage”. There is a right of passage through the Kerch strait, which Russia has to date respected. Russia has not just a right but a duty to enforce sea lanes for safe navigation through the strait, exactly as the UK does off Dover.

I expect we will now be in for a mad frenzy of Russophobia, yet again. I shall comment further once I have more details of why and exactly where Russia was firing warning shots. But just remember this, it was not Russian warships near the British coast, it was British warships in an area where they had no business other than ludicrous, British nationalist, sabre-rattling.

The UK needs to lose its imperial delusions. Sending gunboats to the Crimea is as mad as – well, sailing an aircraft carrier expressly to threaten the Chinese. There are those who see this activity as evidence of the UK’s continued great power status. I see it as evidence of lunacy.

Click here to read the original article entitled “Black Ops in the Black Sea” published yesterday by Craig Murray.

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The pre-positioning of the BBC correspondent on HMS Defender shatters the pretence that the BBC is something different to a state propaganda broadcaster. It also makes plain that this propaganda exercise to provoke the Russian military was calculated and deliberate. Indeed that was confirmed by that BBC correspondent’s TV news report last night when he broadcast that the Defender’s route “had been approved at the very highest levels of the British government.”

The Prime Minister does not normally look at the precise positions of British ships. This was a deliberate act of dangerous belligerence.

The presence of a BBC correspondent is more than a political point. In fact it has important legal consequences. One thing that is plain is that the Defender cannot possible claim it was engaged in “innocent passage” through territorial waters, between Odessa and Georgia. Let me for now leave aside the fact that there is absolutely no necessity to pass within 12 miles of Cape Fiolent on such passage, and the designated sea lane (originally designated by Ukraine) stays just out of the territorial sea. Look at the definition of innocent passage in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea:

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Very plainly this was not innocent passage. It was certainly 2 (d) an act of propaganda, and equally certainly 2 (c), an exercise in collecting information on military defences. I would argue it is also 2 (a), a threat of force.

So far as I can establish, the British are not claiming they were engaged in innocent passage, which is plainly nonsense, but that they were entering territorial waters off Crimea at the invitation of the government of Ukraine, and that they regard Crimea as the territory of Ukraine and Crimean territorial waters as Ukrainian territorial waters.

I want to impress on you how mad this is. The whole point of “territorial sea” is that, legally, it is an integral part of the state and that the state’s full domestic law applies within the territorial sea. That is not the case with the much larger 200 mile exclusive economic zone or sometimes even larger continental shelf, where the coastal state’s legal jurisdiction only applies to specific marine or mineral resources rights.

Let me put it this way. If somebody is murdered on a ship within twelve nautical miles of the coast, the coastal state has jurisdiction and its law applies. If somebody is murdered on a ship more than twelve miles off the coast, the jurisdiction and law of the flag state of the ship applies, not the law of any coastal state in whose exclusive economic zone the ship is.

In international law, the twelve mile territorial sea is as much part of the state as its land. So to sail a warship into Crimean territorial seas is exactly the same act as to land a regiment of paratroops in the Crimea and declare you are doing so at the invitation of the Government of Ukraine.

There is no dispute that Russia is in de facto control of the Crimea, irrespective of British support for the government of Ukraine’s claim to the region. It is also true that Russian annexation of the Crimea was not carried out in an accordance with international law. However, it is not, in practice, likely to be reversed and the situation needs to be resolved by treaty or by the International Court of Justice. In the interim, the UK government legal position can only be that Russia is an “occupying power”. It is impossible that the UK government legal position is that Ukraine is in “effective control” of the territory.

We need to see the legal advice provided by FCO legal advisers. It is simply not the practice in international law to ignore the existence of an occupying power which is a recognised state, and act with armed forces on the authority of a government not in effective control. The difference in British attitude towards Russia as an occupying power and towards Israel is tellingly different.

The legality of the British action is, at very best, moot. In realpolitik, it is an act of brinkmanship with a nuclear power and further effort to ramp up the new Cold War with Russia, to the benefit of the military, security services and armaments companies and the disbenefit of those who need more socially useful government spending. It is further an act of jingoist populism for the neo-liberal elite to distract the masses, as the billionaires’ incredible wealth continues to boom.

NATO will shortly commence a naval exercise in the Black Sea. As not all the member states of NATO are quite as unhinged as Johnson, it is to be hoped it will refrain from this kind of extra layer of provocation. There is a large part of me that says they cannot possibly be mad enough to attempt to intervene in Ukraine with military force, or at least its threat. But then I look at Johnson and Biden, and worry. This can all go horribly wrong.

Click here to read the same post entitled “Warmongering British Actions in the Black Sea” as it originally appeared today on Craig Murray’s official website.

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To mark ten year’s blogging, this is the fifth of my re-uploads from the WoC archive. Originally posted on April 22nd 2014, never let a good Ukrainian crisis go to waste… was one of a number of articles in which I reported on how the Ukrainian crisis had been deliberately provoked on behalf of western corporate interests, leading us into what the late Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics, warned was already becoming a “New Cold War”.

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On Thursday [April 17th] Democracy Now! welcomed back Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at New York University and Princeton University, to discuss the deepening crisis in Ukraine. Cohen, a specialist on Russia and the Soviet Union, is the author of numerous books on the subject including his latest Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War. He was asked “Are we seeing the beginning of a new Cold War?” and “what exactly is happening right now in Ukraine?” Cohen’s response began as follows:

Those are big questions. We are not at the beginning of the Cold War, a new one; we are well into it—which alerts us to the fact, just watching what you showed up there, that hot war is imaginable now, for the first time in my lifetime, my adult lifetime, since the Cuban missile crisis, hot war with Russia. It’s unlikely, but it’s conceivable. And if it’s conceivable, something has to be done about it.

You did two things on your introduction which were very important. Almost alone among American media, you actually allowed Putin to speak for himself. He’s being filtered through the interpretation of the mass media here, allegedly, what he said, and it’s not representative. The second thing is, let us look just what’s happening at this moment, or at least yesterday. The political head of NATO just announced a major escalation of NATO forces in Europe. He did a Churchillian riff: “We will increase our power in the air, in the sea, on the land.” Meanwhile, as negotiations today begin in Geneva, we’re demanding that Russians de-escalate. And yet, we, NATO, are escalating as these negotiations begin.

So, if you were to say what is going on in Ukraine today—and, unfortunately, the focus is entirely on eastern Ukraine. We don’t have any Western media—in eastern Ukraine. We don’t have any Western—any Western media in western Ukraine, the other half of the country. We’re not clear what’s going on there. But clearly, things are getting worse and worse. Each side has a story that totally conflicts with the other side’s story. There seems to be no middle ground. And if there’s no middle ground in the public discourse, in the Russian media or the American media, it’s not clear what middle ground they can find in these negotiations, though personally, I think—and people will say, “Oh, Cohen’s a Putin apologist”—but it seemed to me that the proposals the Russians made a month ago for resolving the conflict are at least a good starting point. But it’s not clear the United States is >going to accept them.

I will come back to some of Cohen’s further points in a moment, but first I’d like to just try to understand why, as Cohen points out, there is such a lack of media coverage across Ukraine and in particular in the western half of the country.

Below is a video (I can’t find a still frame) recorded in mid-March featuring a statement by Vitali Klitschko as he warned of an impending catastrophe in Crimea should it vote to join Russia in the recent referendum. Klitschko has since been sidelined, of course, but what strikes me as odd is that he was standing in front of a board much like the kind of sponsorship boards we see behind interviews of Premier League footballers. Similar except that the ex-sportsman here was backed by just one logo. You can see that it reads “Ukraine Crisis Media Center”:

Now if you type “Ukraine Crisis Media Center” into the Google image search you will find many other Ukrainian political figures giving statements in front of that same logo board. So just who are the “Ukraine Crisis Media Center”?

Well, they have a website and you can search for details there, but in fact you will find very few and none at all about their own sponsors. Instead, what you will read is this:

Ukrainian Crisis Media Center is launched to provide the international community with objective information about events in Ukraine and threats to national security, particularly in the military, political, economic, energy and humanitarian spheres. During this crisis period, the Center on a 24/7 basis will provide support to all the media who cover events in Ukraine.

Having failed to find further information on their website, I decided to email the organisation [on Thursday April 3rd] and asked the following:

I cannot find any information on your site about where financial support for the media center comes from. Without information on who is backing the venture how can we be sure that your coverage is wholly impartial?

I have not received a reply.

In the meantime, I also searched the web for insight from other places – and came across a glowing report published in Kyiv Post which began as follows:

Much like the EuroMaidan Revolution itself, the Ukraine Crisis Media Center sprang to life with speed, spontaneity, creativity, competence – and a strong sense of mission.

Although the center has been open only since March 4, its third floor headquarters in the Hotel Ukraine on 4 Institutska St. is already a required daily stop for dozens of Ukrainian and foreign journalists.

Continuing:

The group came together at Razumkov Center in Kyiv on March 2.

Nataliya Popovych, the president of Kyiv’s PRP Group, an affiliate of the global Webber Shandwick company, is among the founders.

Popovych said that the Kremlin is fast on its feet in spreading lies about Ukraine, whose government is often slow to respond to allegations and counter untruths.

Well, here’s one of the details I was searching for – so who is Nataliya Popovych?

Nataliya started career in Leo Burnett, one of the leading advertising agencies in the world, and continued in Romyr & Associates, Canadian government and public relations firm. After getting Master degree and probation in USA, Nataliya has become a head of PRP Ukraine, a Weber Shandwick Affiliate Company in Ukraine, and in a year became the President of PRP Group, Weber Shandwick partner on CIS markets.

And PRP? You probably won’t be surprised to learn that they are a PR company:

PRP is more than an integrated solutions agency. It is a creative concept. It is a strategy. It is the management of reputations in a new era. It is the ability to communicate and create goodwill. It is integrated solutions which engage audiences into the lives of companies and brands.

That’s taken from their current LinkedIn profile and the profile of Nataliya Popovych is from PR Congress.

But back to the article in the Kyiv Post:

She [Nataliya Popovych] considers Ukrainians to be loving, peaceful and tolerant people and, while she didn’t consider herself a follower of iconic and controversial nationalist hero Stepan Bandera (1909-1959), she is now “proud to be called a Banderite.”1

And for those who don’t know who Stepan Bandera was, then here are a few extracts taken from a detailed and rather generous biography written by Professor of History at Yale University, Timothy Snyder, and published by The New York Review of Books around the time Viktor Yushchenko (President after the “Orange Revolution”) was voted out of office in 2010:

The incoming Ukrainian president will have to turn some attention to history, because the outgoing one has just made a hero of a long-dead Ukrainian fascist. By conferring the highest state honor of “Hero of Ukraine” upon Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) on January 22, Viktor Yushchenko provoked protests from the chief rabbi of Ukraine, the president of Poland, and many of his own citizens. It is no wonder. Bandera aimed to make of Ukraine a one-party fascist dictatorship without national minorities. During World War II, his followers killed many Poles and Jews. Why would President Yushchenko, the leader of the democratic Orange Revolution, wish to rehabilitate such a figure? Bandera, who spent years in Polish and Nazi confinement, and died at the hands of the Soviet KGB, is for some Ukrainians a symbol of the struggle for independence during the twentieth century. […]

Consistent as the rehabilitation of Bandera might be with the ideological competition of the mid-twentieth century, it makes little ethical sense today. Yushchenko, who praised the recent Kiev court verdict condemning Stalin for genocide, regards as a hero a man whose political program called for ethnic purity and whose followers took part in the ethnic cleansing of Poles and, in some cases, in the Holocaust. Bandera opposed Stalin, but that does not mean that the two men were entirely different. In their struggle for Ukraine, we see the triumph of the principle, common to fascists and communists, that political transformation sanctifies violence. It was precisely this legacy that east European revolutionaries seemed to have overcome in the past thirty years, from the Solidarity movement in Poland of 1980 through the Ukrainian presidential elections of 2005. It was then, during the Orange Revolution, that peaceful demonstrations for free and fair elections brought Yushchenko the presidency. In embracing Bandera as he leaves office, Yushchenko has cast a shadow over his own political legacy.2

All of which helps to explain something else that has been puzzling me… why every other story about what’s happening in Ukraine is entitled “Ukraine Crisis: something or other” – the reason being that “Ukraine Crisis” is more or less the brand name that Nataliya Popovych and other “Ukrainian nationalists” have adopted — a list of the founders of the “Ukraine Crisis Media Center” is available at the end of the same Kyiv Post article.3

So what is this new political brand promoting?

*

The “war on terror” is dead, long live the new cold war!

Returning to Stephen Cohen, here is what he had to say about the rise of this new cold war:

As a historian, I would say that this conflict began 300 years ago, but we can’t do that. As a contemporary observer, it certainly began in November 2013 when the European Union issued an ultimatum, really, to the then-president, elected president, of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, that “Sign an agreement with us, but you can’t have one with Russia, too.” In my mind, that precipitated this crisis, because why give a country that has been profoundly divided for centuries, and certainly in recent decades, an ultimatum—an elected president: “Choose, and divide your country further”? So when we say today Putin initiated this chaos, this danger of war, this confrontation, the answer is, no, that narrative is wrong from the beginning. It was triggered by the European Union’s unwise ultimatum.

Now flash forward to just one month ago, about the time I was with you before. Remember that the European foreign ministers—three of them, I think—went to Kiev and negotiated with Yanukovych, who was still the president, an agreement. Now, the Russians were present at the negotiation, but they didn’t sign it. But they signed off on it. They said, “OK.” What did that agreement call for? Yanukovych would remain president until December—not May, when elections are now scheduled, but December of this year. Then there would be a presidential election. He could run in them, or not. Meanwhile, there would be a kind of government of national accord trying to pull the government together. And, importantly, Russia would chip in, in trying to save the Ukrainian economy. But there would also be parliamentary elections. That made a lot of sense. And it lasted six hours.

The next day, the street, which was now a mob—let’s—it was no longer peaceful protesters as it had been in November. It now becomes something else, controlled by very ultra-nationalist forces; overthrew Yanukovych, who fled to Russia; burned up the agreement. So who initiated the next stage of the crisis? It wasn’t Russia. They wanted that agreement of February, a month ago, to hold. And they’re still saying, “Why don’t we go back to it?” You can’t go back to it, though there is a report this morning that Yanukovych, who is in exile in Russia, may fly to eastern Ukraine today or tomorrow, which will be a whole new dimension.

But the point of it is, is that Putin didn’t want—and this is reality, this is not pro-Putin or pro-Washington, this is just a fact—Putin did not want this crisis. He didn’t initiate it. But with Putin, once you get something like that, you get Mr. Pushback. And that’s what you’re now seeing. And the reality is, as even the Americans admit, he holds all the good options. We have none. That’s not good policymaking, is it?

Click here to read a full transcript or watch the latest interview with Stephen Cohen on the Democracy Now! website.

*

The United States spent over a decade hunting down Osama Bin Laden at financial a cost running into multiple trillions and a human cost of more than a million lives, yet since his demise the jihadist cause that Bin Laden once spearheaded is stronger than ever. Forces of al-Qaeda and other near identical jihadist factions now hold control of a large region of Iraq and Syria that exceeds the area of Britain, whilst other Islamist gangs run amok throughout Libya. Thus, after a decade of dirty wars executed by means of “shock and awe” air strikes, the perpetual overhead threat of drones and the knock at the door that ends with secret rendition to faraway torture sites, the “war on terror” has been lost. “Terror” reigns supreme as the victor: terror from all sides that is.

But then, it is hard to imagine any foreign policy that could have manufactured and spread terrorism more effectively than the policies enacted during this decade-long “war on terror”. Blowback? Up to a point. But, we must not forget that all of the many al-Qaeda factions that have gained so much territory could never have done so without our help. Whether indirectly, with the establishment of the power vacuum in Iraq, or more purposefully, with Nato bombers opening the way for the Islamist insurgency in Libya. But mostly, the gains of al-Qaeda are thanks to the very generous funding of one of America and Britain’s closest allies, that bastion of freedom and democracy, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Bin Laden, and the nation known to have the closest ties to those accused of the 9/11 attacks. Attacks that provided the very springboard from which the “war on terror” was launched all those years ago. These are the facts and none can be refuted, so make of them what you will – if it was a plot for a film it would seem ludicrously far-fetched.

Of course, the “war on terror” lost a great deal of its public appeal with the bludgeoning of Iraq, and so under Obama we’ve had “humanitarian interventions”. But this new gloss has also flaked away, with the majority of people in the West absolutely sick of war. That said, the wars go on regardless – wreaking havoc but still satisfying the insatiable thirst for blood demanded by our military-industrial-financial complex.

None of these wars have had anything to do with stamping out terrorism or, surely more laughably, the West’s desire to bring “freedom and democracy”. The United States’ covert backing of al-Qaeda is nothing new and neither is the West’s more brazen support of al-Qaeda’s primary sponsor Saudi Arabia? If the wars were about either terrorism or “freedom and democracy”, then the Saudi regime would surely have topped the charts of “the axis of evil”.

In truth, the game never changed. And sadly it is a game (at least to those currently holding power) – as Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of America’s leading geopolitical strategists, makes clear not least with the title of his notorious book on Eurasian geostrategy, “The Grand Chessboard”. In it he wrote:

In brief, for the United States, Eurasian geostrategy involves the purposeful management of geostrategically dynamic states and the careful handling of geopolitically catalytic states, in keeping with the twin interests of America in the short-term: preservation of its unique global power and in the long-run transformation of it into increasingly institutionalized global cooperation. To put it in a terminology that hearkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.4

This neo-imperialist game is much the same as the older imperialist game, in which only the strategies have been updated. It is about control of territory, of energy resources, of financial systems, and it has (and always did) amount to a series of proxy wars against the competing interests of competing powers. Traditionally Russia have been the great adversary, but now there is China too. So the Cold War that officially concluded with the fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989… ended only in name. With the Ukrainian crisis (or should that be “Ukraine Crisis”) the chill that remained has become considerably icier. Treacherously so. But our military-industrial-financial complex needs perpetual war just to keep the racket going, or, when that ceases to be an option (as it now has), to maintain the illusion of an imminent threat against us. Bin Laden is dead, so a new Cold War is just the ticket. On top of which, as Brzezinski also explained in his book:

“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.”

Here’s Stephen Cohen again:

The real debate going on in NATO—the real debate, because this is a distraction—is what Rasmussen said in your earlier clip—he’s the political head of NATO—that we’re building up, as we talk, our forces in eastern Europe. Now, understand what’s going on here. When we took in—”we” meaning the United States and NATO—all these countries in eastern Europe into NATO, we did not—we agreed with the Russians we would not put forward military installations there. We built some infrastructure—air strips, there’s some barracks, stuff like that. But we didn’t station troops that could march toward Russia there. Now what NATO is saying, it is time to do that. Now, Russia already felt encircled by NATO member states on its borders. The Baltics are on its borders. If we move the forces, NATO forces, including American troops, to—toward Russia’s borders, where will we be then? I mean, it’s obviously going to militarize the situation, and therefore raise the danger of war.

And I think it’s important to emphasize, though I regret saying this, Russia will not back off. This is existential. Too much has happened. Putin—and it’s not just Putin. We seem to think Putin runs the whole of the universe. He has a political class. That political class has opinions. Public support is running overwhelmingly in favor of Russian policy. Putin will compromise at these negotiations, but he will not back off if confronted militarily. He will not.

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A trade war opens the way for new trade deals

The new cold war isn’t only a military escalation, it also potentially marks the beginning of a new trade war. But due to reliance on Russia imports (especially when it comes to energy) EU sanctions on Russia will be difficult, and so one way forward could involve loosening trade restrictions between the EU and the US.

The following passages are taken from a press release by the European Council following the recent EU-US Summit in Brussels. It begins:

Recent events in Ukraine have confirmed that strong cooperation between the European Union and the United States on peace and security is of critical importance.

Continuing under the next heading “Economy and global challenges” as follows:

Reinforcing economic growth and job creation remains central on both sides of the Atlantic. The EU and the United States have taken important steps to stabilise financial conditions and overcome the crisis. The EU remains committed to building a deep and genuine economic and monetary union, including a banking union. […]

The EU and US leaders renewed their commitment to a strong Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). this should go beyond a free trade agreement and reaffirm Europe and the United States’ shared values of democracy, individual freedom, the rule of law and human rights, and a common commitment to open societies and economies. [bold highlights maintained from original source]

And what is TTIP? Here are additional notes at the end of the same press release:

The EU and US have decided to take their economic relationship to a higher level by agreeing to launch negotiations on a comprehensive trade and investment agreement. It aims to remove trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US.

In fact, I have already touched on the subject of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as well as its sister treaty the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) . Both of these “free-trade agreements” appear to have alternative and conflicting names and acronyms and in the case of TTIP it is also known as the Transatlantic Free Trade Area, abbreviated as TAFTA, which is how it appeared in that earlier post. Why trade agreements need to have multiple names becomes more apparent when you realise what this commitment to “freeing up regulations” will mean. Here are a few extracts from a detailed analysis published by Der Spiegel International and entitled “Corporation Carte Blanche: Will US-EU Trade Become Too Free?”:

Lori Wallach had but 10 minutes to speak when she stepped up to podium inside Room 405 at George Washington University, located not too far away from the White House. Her audience was made up of delegates currently negotiating the trans-Atlantic free trade agreement between the United States and the European Union.

They had already spent hours listening to presentations by every possible lobbying group — duty bound to hear myriad opinions. But when Wallach, a trade expert for the consumer protection group Public Citizen, took the stage, people suddenly started paying attention. The 49-year-old Harvard lawyer, after all, is a key figure in international trade debates.

“The planned deal will transfer power from elected governments and civil society to private corporations,” she said, warning that the project presents a threat of entirely new dimensions. [bold emphasis added]

How will TTIP help to transfer even more power out of democratic control and into the hands of the major corporations? Well, let us count the ways:

After the third round of negotiations, an unusually broad alliance of anti-globalization groups, NGOs, environmental and consumer protection groups, civil rights groups and organized labor is joining forces to campaign against TTIP.

These critics have numerous concerns about the treaty – including their collective fear that the convergence of standards will destroy important gains made over the years in health and nutrition policy, environmental protection and employee rights. They argue the treaty will make it easier for corporations to turn profits at the public’s expense in areas like water supply, health or education. It would also clear the path for controversial technologies like fracking or for undesired food products like growth hormone-treated meat to make their way to Europe. Broadly worded copyrights would also restrict access to culture, education and science. They also believe it could open the door to comprehensive surveillance.5

Click here to read the full article in Der Spiegel.

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Fracking for freedom (and digging for victory)

I have already highlighted at the end of an earlier and rather more extended post how energy giants Chevron and Exxon Mobil have been getting ready to move their operations to Ukraine with the intention of exploring both conventional and “unconventional” resources (otherwise known as “fracking”). On Saturday’s Keiser Report, Max Keiser spoke to freelance journalist JP Sottile of Newsvandal.com, who also occasionally writes for the Guardian, about not only how Big Oil, but also Big Agra, have their eyes fixed on Ukraine. Sottile names the people and corporations hoping to take advantage of Ukraine’s exceptional fertile lands. Here are some excerpts of what he had to say [from about 13 mins in]:

“One of the bones of contention with Russia, Europe, and its transit point Ukraine, is Russia’s domination of the natural gas market in Europe. So I thought it was very interesting when the deal was announced that Chevron was involved in developing shale gas in Ukraine. Now that would have been with the previous government of Yanukovych – and I believe that that led to a lot of the pressure coming out of Moscow for Yanukovych to reject the economic deal between Ukraine and Europe, and that then of course led to a cascading number of events, which led to the deposing of Yanukovych and the ‘crisis in Ukraine’ as it is now called.”

Beyond the oil and gas, Sottile has also looked closely into the interests of agricultural giants Cargill and Monsanto, who are keen to exploit Ukraine’s riches closer to the surface:

US-Ukraine Business Council is an investor in the US-Ukraine Foundation where Ms [Victoria] Nuland was speaking on December 13th [about how the US had already spent $5 billion helping Ukraine realise its “European aspirations”] and also on December 13th, that was the day that Cargill invested in a Black Sea port to help open the Russian market to its agriculture. Well, Cargill is also heavily invested in Ukraine in a company called Ukrlandfarming. The just bought a two hundred thousand dollar stake in Ukrlandfarming. In fact they bought that stake – or it was announced – on the very day, January 12th of this year, that fifty thousand Ukrainians flooded Kiev to protest the government of Yanukovych.

They are all connected through Freedom House – a guy there who worked with Ms Nuland, who is Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, she had a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, a guy named David Kramer. David Kramer serves on – he’s actually head of Freedom House – Freedom House is one of the organisations that the United States uses to stoke democracy movements around the world. It is actually responsible, along with the National Endowment for Democracy, for funding many of the opposition forces there in Ukraine. And David Kramer also serves on the US-Ukraine Business Council. If you go the US-Ukraine Business Council – which is a very interesting organisation – on the executive board of the US-Ukraine Business Council you’ll find Cargill, Monsanto, John Deere, CNH International (which is a farming equipment and tractor-making company), Eli Lilly and DuPont Pioneer – DuPont Pioneer being the genetically modified organisms and agricultural wing of DuPont. And they all serve together under the guidance of a guy named Morgan Williams. Morgan Williams is CEO and President of US-Ukraine Business Council, and he has been a fixer for Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, [and] other big agricultural companies in Ukraine for the last fifteen to twenty years.

There is an expression from my part of the world that goes: “where there’s muck, there’s brass”. Well, as Sottile’s investigations reveal, there’s loads of muck in Ukraine and not just in oil and gas deposits. Perhaps, as he suspects, the bigger prize is the land itself. Either way, the vultures are already circling. Except that they are more predatory than the much maligned vulture. Rather than waiting for a crisis to happen they have been directly involved in fomenting one, and now, as their “Ukraine Crisis” escalates, they won’t be planning to let it to go to waste.

Click here to read more about this in JP Sottile’s article entitled “Ukraine, Chevron, Condi Rice and Shale Gas… join the dots” published by The Ecologist magazine on March 18th.

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how they brought down Corbyn… and enabled the rise of Johnson

The mini-documentary embedded above “How they brought down Jeremy Corbyn” is a joint collaboration between Asa Winstanley of The Electronic Intifada and Tala Kaddoura of Al Jazeera. It presents us with a concise rundown of how three groups: the establishment media; the Blairite faction within the Labour Party; and the Israel lobby; worked together to undermine the regular democratic process in Britain and finally brought down the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn.

Asa Winstanley writes:

In this new video, I tell the story of how a hostile foreign government helped stop a socialist becoming Britain’s prime minister.

I’ve covered the story of the “anti-Semitism” witch hunt in the Labour Party since 2015. In that time, I’ve written an estimated 150 articles on the topic.

We’ve reported on the propaganda war against Jeremy Corbyn for years, and in detail.

But it can be a lot to take in. And for those who haven’t followed the story all along, it may be hard to know where to start.

So The Electronic Intifada is proud to present this mini-documentary, giving an overview of how Israel and its lobby helped bring down Jeremy Corbyn.

It uses archive video clips and primary documents to bust the media smears about “Labour anti-Semitism.”

*

Recent articles by independent journalist Jonathan Cook have approached and investigated the same issue from different angles.

In the first of these, entitled “Labour antisemitism allegations: How Corbyn and Starmer are judged by different standards” published by Middle East Eye on April 17th, Cook writes:

For years, allies of Jeremy Corbyn argued that allegations of antisemitism had been weaponised against the then-Labour leader and his supporters to undermine his socialist programme and stifle criticism of Israel.

Over the same period, pro-Israel lobby groups and Labour’s right-wing officials vociferously disagreed with them. Not only did they categorically deny that antisemitism had been weaponised, but they also accused anyone who suggested this of promoting an antisemitic trope.

But now, the cat appears to be well and truly out of the bag – care of Corbyn’s most prominent opponents, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Labour Movement, and Labour officials loyal to Labour’s new leader, Keir Starmer.

Newly released details of Labour’s disciplinary process indicate that accusations of antisemitism against the party were most likely used for political ends – to help oust Corbyn.

Practices cited as proof by Corbyn’s critics of a supposed Labour “antisemitism problem” have continued under Starmer, as Middle East Eye  reveals today, but he has suffered none of the backlash faced by his predecessor.

The article then presents evidence of double standards that have been exposed thanks to “legal action being pursued by Labour Activists for Justice (LA4J), a group of party members who accuse Labour of failing to follow transparent and fair disciplinary procedures”. Follow the link above and here to read more about the case.

Having set the record straight, Cook continues:

Labour never had an antisemitism problem to begin with, under Corbyn or Starmer, beyond the levels found more generally in British society.

The double standard that has been applied to Corbyn is still evident. This month, the Jewish Chronicle published a new YouGov poll that showed 70 percent of Labour members agree with Corbyn that the “antisemitism problem” in the party was overstated.

The Chronicle cites this as proof that the Labour Party is still beset with antisemitism and its membership is in denial. And yet, it does not blame Starmer for this, even though it constantly berated Corbyn over Labour’s supposed “antisemitism problem”. Instead, it warns Starmer that he has “a mountain to climb” and urges him to step up his efforts “to purge the party”.

Please note the phrase I have highlighted above. As the party flounders and Starmer comes under growing pressure to resign, we are hearing this repeated as an excuse for poor polling and election performance. These complaints of having “mountain to climb” recited alongside another mantra that “the party hasn’t moved quickly enough”, sound like a statement of intent, and the likelihood is that Labour, as the Jewish Chronicle urges, will now step up efforts to purge the party of the left.

Cook continues:

Another glaring problem for Corbyn’s critics concerns the IHRA definition. Labour officials produced the code in 2018 because they found the IHRA and its 11 examples – seven of them relating to Israel – unworkable as a benchmark for judging antisemitism cases.

That is something Starmer’s officials have effectively conceded by continuing to use the 2018 code in secret, while Jewish leadership groups have remained silent at its publication now.

That leaves us with a troubling further implication. The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Labour Movement, aided by newspapers such as the Jewish Chronicle, whipped British Jews into a frenzy of fear about the existential threat posed by Corbyn.

Now, we must conclude either that they deceived the public about Corbyn’s Labour, or that they are indifferent to the continuing, supposed dangers posed by Starmer’s Labour to the Jewish communities they claim to represent. Either way, it is inexcusable.

Click here to read the article in full on Jonathan Cook’s website.

In a more recent piece published by Counterpunch on May 6th, Jonathan Cook shows how the same double standards and hypocrisy have enabled Boris Johnson to get away with shameless and repeated lies, because, as the headline puts it, “the UK’s Political System is More Corrupt Than He Is”.

Cook begins by considering the role played by the corporate media with its belated and feeble criticisms of Johnson compared to its severe and altogether deplorable treatment of Corbyn:

Britain’s corporate media are suddenly awash with stories wondering whether, or to what extent, the UK’s prime minister is dishonest. Predictably in the midst of this, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg is still doing her determined best to act as media bodyguard to Boris Johnson.

In a lengthy article on the BBC’s website over the weekend, she presents a series of soothing alternatives to avoid conceding the self-evident: that Johnson is a serial liar. According to Kuenssberg, or at least those she chooses to quote (those, let us remember, who give her unfettered “access” to the corridors of power), he is a well-intentioned, unpredictable, sometimes hapless, “untamed political animal”. A rough diamond.

In Kuenssberg’s telling, Johnson’s increasingly obvious flaws are actually his strengths:

“Yet what’s suggested time and again is that the prime minister’s attitude to the truth and facts is not based on what is real and what is not, but is driven by what he wants to achieve in that moment – what he desires, rather than what he believes. And there is no question, that approach, coupled with an intense force of personality can be enormously effective.

“In his political career, Boris Johnson has time and again overturned the odds, and that’s a huge part of the reason why.”

The way Kuenssberg tells it, Johnson sounds exactly like someone you would want in your corner in a time of crisis. Not the narcissist creator of those crises, but the Nietzschean “Superman” who can solve them for you through sheer force of will and personality.

Slightly less enamoured with Johnson than the BBC has been the liberal Guardian, Britain’s supposedly chief “opposition” newspaper to the ruling Conservative government. But the Guardian has been surprisingly late to this party too. Typical of its newly aggressive approach to Johnson was a piece published on Saturday by its columnist Jonathan Freedland, titled “Scandal upon scandal: the charge sheet that should have felled Johnson years ago”.

As this article rightly documents, Johnson is an inveterate dissembler, and one whose lies have been visibly piling up since he entered 10 Downing Street. His propensity to lie is not new. It was well-know to anyone who worked with him in his earlier career in journalism or when he was an aspiring politician. It is not the “scandals” that are new, it’s the media’s interest in documenting them that is.

And when the liar-in-chef is also the prime minister, those lies invariably end up masking high-level corruption, the kind of corruption that has the capacity to destroy lives – many lives.

So why are Johnson’s well-known deceptions only becoming a “mainstream” issue now – and why, in particular, is a liberal outlet like the Guardian picking up the baton on this matter so late in the day? As Freedland rightly observes, these scandals have been around for many years, so why wasn’t the Guardian on Johnson’s case from the outset, setting the agenda?

Or put another way, why has the drive to expose Johnson been led not by liberal journalists like Freedland but chiefly by a disillusioned old-school conservative worried about the damage Johnson is doing to his political tradition? Freedland is riding on the coat-tails of former Telegraph journalist Peter Oborne, who wrote a recent book on Johnson’s fabrications, The Assault on Truth. Further, Johnson’s deceptions have gone viral not because of the efforts of the Guardian but because of a video compilation on social media of some of Johnson’s biggest whoppers by lawyer and independent journalist Peter Stefanovic.

Part of the answer, of course, is that until recently the Guardian, along with the rest of the corporate media, had a much more pressing task than holding Britain’s prime minister to account for lies – and the corruption they obscure – that have drained the Treasury of the nation’s wealth, redirecting it towards a bunch of Tory donors, and subsequently contributed to at least a proportion of Covid-19 deaths.

The Guardian was preoccupied with making sure that Johnson was not replaced by an opposition leader who spoke, for the first time in more than a generation, about the need for wealth redistribution and a fairer society.

On the political scales weighing what was most beneficial for the country, it was far more important to the Guardian to keep then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his democratic socialist agenda out of Downing Street than make sure Britain was run in accordance with the rule of law, let alone according to the principles of fairness and decency.

Now with Corbyn long gone, the political conditions to take on Johnson are more favourable. Covid-19 cases in the UK have plummeted, freeing up a little space on front pages for other matters. And Corbyn’s successor, Keir Starmer, has used the past year to prove over and over again to the media that he has been scrupulous about purging socialism from the Labour party.

The trouble is, Cook reminds us, that now Starmer is leader and the BBC and Guardian finally have a man they can trust, the candidate himself is already a busted flush – a point that has been hammered home following Labour’s humiliating defeat in the Hartlepool by-election and their dismal results across the local councils. Results so bad that Starmer felt obliged to make his excuses in advance! This excruciating statement was released the day before polling:

In light this, the very same liberal media outlets that smeared Corbyn relentlessly, dragging his reputation through the mud and reinforcing the view he was ‘unelectable’, while, for the sake of this strategy, they averted public scrutiny from the many skeletons piled up in Johnson’s cupboard, are now anxious to downplay their own role in reshaping the political landscape and eager to shift the blame:

But the problem for the Guardian is that Johnson’s polling figures are remarkably buoyant, despite the growing media criticism of him. He continues to outpoll Starmer. His Midas touch needs explaining. And the Guardian is growing ever more explicit about where the fault is to be found. With us.

Or as Freedland observes:

“Maybe the real scandal lies with us, the electorate, still seduced by a tousled-hair rebel shtick and faux bonhomie that should have palled years ago… For allowing this shameless man to keep riding high, some of the shame is on us.”

Freedland is far from alone in peddling this line. Kuenssberg, in her BBC piece, offers a variant:

“An insider told me: ‘He frequently leaves people with the belief that he has told them one thing, but he has given himself room for manoeuvre,’ believing that, ‘the fewer cast iron positions you hold the better, because you can always change political direction.’

“The verbal flourishes and rhetorical tricks are part of the reason why he has prospered. ‘A lot of his magic has been those off-the-cuff comments, that’s why a lot of the public like him,’ says an ally.”

In other words, we see what we want to see. Johnson is the vessel into which we pour our hopes and dreams, while he has the tough challenge of making our melange of hopes and dreams a tangible, workable reality.

Liberal journalists have been on this “blame the voters” path for a while. When it was Corbyn and his “dangerous” socialism being pitted against the Tories’ crony capitalism, the Guardian enthusiastically joined the smear campaign against Labour. That included evidence-free claims of an “institutional antisemitism” crisis under Corbyn’s leadership.

And yet despite the media’s best endeavours, Corbyn appalled journalists like Freedland at the 2017 general election by winning Labour’s biggest rise in vote share since 1945. Corbyn denied the Conservatives a majority and was a few thousand votes from winning outright – something Starmer can only dream of at the moment, despite Johnson’s exposure as an inveterate liar and conman. And Corbyn achieved this while the Labour party machine, and the entire corporate media, were vehemently against him.

Last night’s C4 News interviewed Jeremy Corbyn about Labour’s election failure and asked him whether he thought Starmer (who oversaw Corbyn’s suspension) should now resign. With characteristic munificence, Corbyn replied “it’s up to him what he decides to do”:

Meanwhile, after waiting all day for the Labour leader to front up and face the public over the party’s historic loss of Hartlepool (which is so significant, it is being reported right around the world today) – Sir Keir Starmer finally appeared on BBC News just after 4pm only to blither and prevaricate in the most embarrassing interview of his lacklustre political career:

Jonathan Cook continues:

The problem is not that most voters have failed to understand that Johnson is corrupt, though given the corrupt nature of the British corporate media – the Guardian very much included – they are hardly well positioned to appreciate the extent of Johnson’s corruption.

It is not even that they know that he is corrupt but do not care.

Rather, the real problem is that significant sections of the electorate have rightly come to the realisation that the wider political system within which Johnson operates is corrupt too. So corrupt, in fact, that it may be impossible to fix. Johnson is simply more open, and honest, about how he exploits the corrupt system. […]

The truly astonishing thing is that those who lied us into the Iraq war, destabilising the Middle East and provoking an exodus from the region that has fuelled a surge in xenophobic politics across Europe; those who broke the financial system through their greed and incompetence and lied their way out of the consequences, forcing the rest of us to foot the bill; and those who lied about the ecological catastrophes unfolding over the past half century so that they could go on lining their own pockets; none of them paid any price at all for their mendacity, for their deceptions, for their corruption. Not only that, but they have grown richer, more powerful, more respected because of the lies.

One only needs to look at the fate of that unapologetic pair of war criminals, Tony Blair and George W Bush. The former has amassed wealth like a black hole sucks in light, and preposterously is still regularly called on by the media to pontificate on ethical issues in British politics. And the latter has been rehabilitated as a once-wayward, now beloved, irreverent uncle to the nation, one whose humanity has supposedly been underscored simply by making sure he was filmed “sneaking” a sweet to his presidential successor’s wife.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, a remedy to Britain’s self-evidently flawed political system was thrown up – in the form of Corbyn. He was a throwback, the very antithesis of the modern politicians who had brought us to the brink of ruin on multiple fronts. He was not venal, nor a narcissist. His concern was improving the lives of ordinary people, not the bank balances of corporate donors. He was against colonial-style wars to grab other countries’ resources. The things that made him a laughing stock with the political elite – his cheap clothes, his simple life, his allotment – made him appealing to large sections of the electorate.

For many, Corbyn was the last gasp for a system they had given up on. He might prove their growing cynicism about politics wrong. His success might demonstrate that the system could be fixed, and that all was not lost.

Except that is not how it played out. The entire political and media class – even the military – turned on Corbyn. They played the man, not the ball – and when it came to the man, any and all character assassination was justified. He had been a Soviet agent. He was a threat to Britain’s security. His IQ was too low to be prime minister. He was a secret antisemite.

The article is an excellent one and I shall leave the rest for you to read by following the links. Except I will add the concluding paragraph, because it sums up everything so beautifully:

Liberals are mystified by this reading of politics. They, after all, are emotionally invested in a supposedly meritocratic system from which they personally benefited for so long. They would rather believe the lie that a good political system is being corrupted by rotten politicians and a stupid electorate than the reality that a corrupt political system is being exploited by those best placed to navigate its corrupt ways.

Click here to read the full article entitled “Boris Johnson’s Lies Don’t Harm Him Because the UK’s Political System is More Corrupt Than He Is” by Jonathan Cook, published in Counterpunch on May 6th.

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Additional: further links recommended by Electronic Intifada

If you want to read more about the issues raised in the mini-documentary “How they brought down Jeremy Corbyn”, here’s a list of useful articles:

Finally, click here to read an extended article detailing the Israel lobby’s campaign to “take down” Corbyn and other prominent MPs based on the four-part Al Jazeera investigative series The Lobby.

And here to read a follow-up piece about the Israel lobby’s tactics in US politics based on Al Jazeera’s documentary sequel The Lobby – USA.

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10 years through the looking-glass: reflections on writing this blog and plans to mark the anniversary

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

From Alice Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

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Today marks the tenth anniversary of this blog and first and foremost I would like to take the opportunity to thank all my subscribers and readers. As the tech giants continue to do everything in their wide-ranging powers (including algorithmic adjustments, shadow bans and more forthright content removal) to hammer alternative sites like this one – January saw the third blow in four years as levels of site traffic plummeted almost overnight to all-time lows – it is only subscribers like you who motivate me to continue adding new content.

Unfortunately, while I noticed this anniversary was looming, somehow its arrival has nonetheless caught me a little unprepared. So like the hapless best man at a wedding who has forgotten to bring his speech, I must ask you to forgive this rather extemporised offering and in the tradition, I shall try to keep it short!

A decade that began with Cameron, Merkel, Sarkozy and Obama has somehow, and in spite of everything that happened during the interim, such as the rise and fall of the Occupy movement, and the false dawns of Syriza, Sanders and Corbyn, ended up with Johnson, Merkel, Macron and Biden. Plus ça change.

Ten years ago we also witnessed the so-called “Arab Spring” that resulted in the bloody assassination of Gaddafi and ensuing chaos to Libya, including the return of slave markets and warlords. Meanwhile, the notorious lies about WMDs that falsely accused Saddam and gave a pretext for the “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad in 2003 are today routinely compounded with comparable lies about alleged gas attacks in Syria. Lies that are upheld by the majority of our snivelling mainstream journalists. Fake news did not begin with “Russiagate” although it was indeed another hoax, but is readily traced back to the toppling of Saddam’s statue, “babies out of incubators”, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the sinking of the USS Liberty, the Battle of Orgreave, the Hillsborough Disaster… this list goes on and on and on.

Bush and Blair’s illegal invasion (Operation Iraqi Liberation or OIL for short) had enabled Salafist terrorists to get their foothold in Iraq, and then following the “Arab Spring” uprisings, these same factions were enabled to cross the porous border back and forth into Syria, as a new Takfiri gang called ISIS sprang up and menaced the region. Timber Sycamore, a covert CIA-led operation, also helped to train and supply weapons to many of these so-called “rebels” in Syria.

In the real battle to defeat the spread of ISIS and al Qaeda, Iran remains, of course, solidly committed to the cause, at the same time it has remained solidly in the crosshairs of Israel and the US, who last year murdered Qasem Soleimani, the foremost Iranian general fighting against these terrorist factions. The duplicitous nature of the US-led foreign “interventions” and occupations in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond (including Western meddling in Ukraine and Venezuela) are all issues I have returned to.

At home, the decade has been punctuated by terrorist attacks that in turn furthered the growth and expansion of a tightening network of surveillance systems, while western nations have simultaneously been in the grip of stringent “austerity measures” inflicted on the back of the 2008/9 banking collapse. This neoliberal assault is now set to be extended thanks to repeated government failures to tackle the current pandemic, when rather than instituting appropriate public health measures and timely border controls that might have kept the economy open and avoided 130,000 excess deaths, Johnson instead forced us into nationwide lockdowns.

On a more personal note, twelve months ago I contracted covid and found myself utterly abandoned by a government that offered no support whatsoever. It didn’t even provide a means of testing and at that time it was almost impossible to check whether my own strange symptoms fitted this novel disease. I went into self-isolation (in accordance with regulations) but then had to rely entirely on my family for support. The symptoms were frightening at times and it took fully eight weeks to properly recover. I have since received no financial support in spite of reduced hours at work. Now I am one of millions of course – while many others stricken with the disease in those first weeks actually died at home for want of medical attention. Millions more have since fallen between the multiple cracks of Rishi Sunak’s convoluted and unfair furlough scheme.

This second round of disaster capitalism – the first took place in the shadow of the banking crisis – already involves massive transfers of wealth from the public purse into the pockets of the major corporations and their presiding oligarchs. The next steps as jobs are lost, whether through automation or more straightforwardly due to rapid economic decline, will enable fresh opportunities for privatisation, the accelerated dismantling of the welfare systems, and the continuing immiseration of the ninety-nine percent. Already this shift is being cleverly rebranded under the Davos-inspired banner of “The Great Reset”.

Over the years I have tried to cover all of these issues and many others including environmental ones. For instance, I first highlighted the threat of the fracking industry long before most people in Europe had heard anything about it and wrote extensively on the serious dangers posed by nuclear power during the time of the Fukushima disaster; a forgotten horror which is still haunting that region of Japan with a cost to human life that will never be fully counted.

One of my constant aims here has been to provide in-depth coverage as well as support to burgeoning protest and political movements as they have arisen. Beginning with Los Indignados in Spain, which then sparked the more widespread Occupy movement, I followed both from their inception and tried to issue warnings once I saw how Occupy was being sidetracked by internal squabbles and with its failure to make firm political or economic demands; finally reporting on its last vestiges before the tents inside Zuccotti Park were completely smashed to the ground by Obama’s law enforcement thugs.

Likewise I had supported the equivalent protest movement in Greece before switching my backing to Syriza under its charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras. This was a mistake and following the referendum to end the imposed neoliberal reforms of “the Troika”, seeing how that vote was immediately betrayed, I freely admitted my own error of judgement. With greater circumspection, I also lent support to Bernie Sanders’ first campaign in America and later disclosed how his Democratic nomination was stolen during the US Primaries, while still castigating Sanders for his pitiable capitulation as he lent his unqualified support first to Clinton and then Biden.

My endorsement of Corbyn was different. I always backed him enthusiastically and on countless occasions exposed the dirty tricks used by enemies both inside the Labour Party and within the liberal media (including such ludicrous smears as labelling him a soviet spy, terrorist sympathiser, and antisemite) initially in their failed attempts to undermine his bid to be leader, and then more successfully, to demoralise his base and frustrate his leadership.

Caught up in an ongoing Blairite war against the left, Corbyn eventually lost his way and having graciously stepped aside was swiftly suspended by Starmer, the Blairite continuity successor, who seized the opportunity with Machiavellian zeal. I remain supportive of Corbyn’s project to democratise the party, though in truth it appears to be a lost cause. Notwithstanding the many setbacks, I will continue to support those on the left including Chris Williamson, Moshé Machover and Jackie Walker who all fell victim to this Labour witch hunt.

In ten years I have published or reposted more than five hundred articles and though a great deal of the writing and small parts of the research are my own, I certainly owe a huge debt of gratitude to many alternative and independent voices for providing in-depth research, on-the-ground reporting or just for receiving such well-informed opinion. These include Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Cory Morningstar, Whitney Webb, Abby Martin, Esther Vivas, John Pilger, Jonathan Cook, Craig Murray, Peter Ford, Charlie Skelton and at The Grayzone, Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton and Aaron Maté. I hope that my own lesser contribution has in some way helped to promote and to widen their audiences a little too.

A few years ago, I was invited to complete an interview by Jerry Alatalo who runs The Oneness of Humanity website. The first question asked about my primary motivation for beginning the blog and I replied as follows:

The brief answer is that after years of insouciance following the end of the Cold War, I had a rude awakening upon realising where we were actually heading: the perpetual wars, the rise in surveillance, the hardening of the police state, allied to a correspondent immiseration of our already fractured and terribly unequal Western societies. After the initial trauma (trauma is really no exaggeration), I felt the need to speak out and the internet provided a platform. This is half of the story.

The other half is that I had been in the midst of writing a book when a friend suggested posting up chapters by way of a blog. Purely as a test run we set up a WordPress website and uploaded a short travelogue about my adventures in Tanzania. I kept the travelogue and began adding articles about current affairs and this is how the blog steadily evolved. Eight years on, the book (a quirky, stream-of-consciousness treatise on life, the universe and making things better!) remains a work in progress, and though some of its chapters have since been uploaded, I devoted my spare time instead to expanding the main content of the blog, which is journalistic, since this seemed a far more urgent project.

The completion of the book remains long overdue, but during the course of next few months and to mark this anniversary properly, I am determined to upload its outstanding chapters, releasing them month by month as I did before. Another idea is to repost a few of the older articles – ones that failed to receive much attention at the time of publication but remain pertinent – supplying brief updates to give them a more contemporaneous flavour.

This is what I have in mind for the immediate future as well to continue with my attempts to provide interesting and insightful content so that hopefully you will continue to follow my work.

Finally I would like to offer my best wishes to all the readers who got this far and please allow me raise a virtual glass to clink with yours!

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Sorry’s not good enough. Boris Johnson you’re a disgrace | Prof John Ashton

Update:

On March 9th, following the government’s derisory 1% pay increase offered to NHS nurses and in the midst of “the royal circus” surrounding Harry and Meghan, John Ashton spoke again to Double Down News:

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John Ashton, who was Regional Director of Public Health for North-West England for thirteen years, has been a consistently outspoken critic of the government’s ineffective response to Covid-19. As the official death toll passed hundred thousand deaths, he was invited to speak on Double Down News and the interview is embedded below with my own transcript also provided:

A hundred thousand deaths and more. A hundred thousand grieving families. The Prime Minister says he’s sorry for the deaths and he gives a half-hearted apology for what’s gone on, but doesn’t admit any mistakes – any errors – “we did what we could”, he said, despite the litany of errors. I’m sorry Boris Johnson, it doesn’t wash with me and it won’t wash with all those grieving families out there who’ve lost loved ones for no fault of their own, but because of your arrogance, your pathetic incompetence, and your unwillingness to learn from experience. I’m sorry Boris Johnson, you are a disgrace!

I really take no pleasure in saying these were all things I’ve warned about all the way through and that the fact that there have now been a hundred thousand-plus deaths is no surprise to me – it’s actually well over hundred thousand: the Office of National Statistics [ONS] came out yesterday with I think 104,000 and that I think was from up to the 7th of January. There’s been about 7,000 deaths a week during the rest of January so it’s probably somewhere between 120 and 130 thousand.

Latest graph showing excess deaths in UK released by ONS up to January 15th

One of the really telling statistics is that during the pandemic of influenza in 1918–19 the number of deaths in the United Kingdom accounted for 1% of the total deaths worldwide. This 100,000 or 120,000 is now approaching 3% of the worldwide number of deaths. And you know in those days virology was new science – we’re now supposed to have world-beating science and medicine – and we’ve neglected our public health system in the way I’ve just described over and over.

My heart goes out to all the families, all the relatives who’ve lost loved ones. And there’s more come. You know some of the commentators yesterday suggesting between 30 and 50 thousand more deaths are likely before we might get proper control over this terrible situation. And then the Prime Minister has the gall to say sorry for the deaths but not really apologising, not admitting that he’s got so much wrong. “We did everything we could”, is what he said. But the list of things they got wrong – the list of omissions as well as commissions is so long.

At the heart of this there’s been a failure of leadership. We know that public health in England has been allowed to run down over ten years: that they stopped doing regular training exercises for pandemics; that they never learnt the lessons from the 2016 exercise which showed all the weaknesses.

But the leadership is where this comes to in the end: failure to get a grip in the beginning. Boris Johnson’s preoccupation with Brexit; his distraction by his mistress and having a fortnight’s holiday with her in February; not attending five meetings of Cobra; not getting on top of the testing and tracing, of the PPE; adopting an approach to messaging that was confused and highly political; messing about with the numbers, massaging the figures; not setting a good example himself (shaking hands with people and getting infected); and then his lieutenant Cummings and many other prominent people [Robert Jenrick for instance] not doing what they were telling other people to do; so that the trust has gone, people are not following the rules – if you look at the traffic now, the traffic is much higher than it was in the first lockdown – it’s very difficult to get people to do the right thing because they’ve been let down by abysmal leadership and hypocrisy.

The litany goes on and on, you know. All those contracts given to their chums: millions and millions of pounds; putting somebody who’s a horse jumper but with no experience in charge of the testing and tracing – Dido Harding; eat out and help out and spread the virus. You know don’t listen to the scientists when they talk about having a firebreak in the Autumn half-term. Let’s have five days for Christmas! It goes on and on and on. And what does Johnson say? “We did our best.” God help us if he’d not done his best. Just think what the numbers might have been then.

I just hope that they’re held to account at some time in the future, but I don’t have much faith in our system because it seems to cover up for them. And many of the senior medics and people have been very reluctant to criticise the government even after a year of this and I’m sorry [but] unless the lessons are learnt we’ll continue to make mistakes, and it’s really important to call a spade a spade and to identify what they’ve got wrong.

We’re still on 1,500 deaths a day, that’s likely to go on for some days, we don’t know how the vaccine story’s going to play out – there are supply chain rows now emerging [and] we’re being asked to take a nationalistic stance on that again, whereas you know Europe ordered vaccines and they’re being asked to let vaccines being made in European countries come to the UK because of failure of supply in particular countries – but we’re putting too much hope on the vaccine. You know the vaccine is very important but we have to keep up with all the traditional public health measures as well. We have to environmental measures, social distancing, hygiene, mask-wearing behavioural stuff. We’ve got to do that for the foreseeable future.

It’s a very bleak day today and yesterday to hear this news. My heart goes out to the families and I just hope that at some point in the future there will be justice for those families. We must all think about these families – these hundred thousand-plus families – hundreds of thousands of people have been affected. Most of us now know somebody who’s been seriously ill or who’s died from this disease. This is a terrible tragedy. There are many more people who’ve died than died during the war as civilians. This is unbelievable and terrible tragedy. We must think about people and we must support them. We must pull together. We must get through this. But when it’s all over we must make sure there’s justice for the families who’ve been treated so badly by Boris Johnson and his second-hand, second-rate lieutenants.

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EHRC’s Labour antisemitism report is the real ‘political interference’ says Jonathan Cook

Following yesterday’s lifting of the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension, Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) issued the following statement:

We welcome the news that Jeremy Corbyn’ suspension has been lifted by the NEC three weeks after it was unjustifiably imposed by the General Secretary David Evans.

We strongly urge the Party to apologise to Jeremy Corbyn for the highhanded and public nature of his suspension and the consequent distress he has inevitably suffered as a result of media intrusion and the ongoing attacks that have continued following his reinstatement.

We reiterate the call we made earlier for the party to lift the suspensions and investigations into all those who have supported Jeremy and expressed solidarity with him.

This would demonstrate that the NEC decision will pave the way to the development of the party unity to which Keir Starmer insists he is committed – and on which platform he was elected by the membership.  The people of this country and the world desperately need this to provide a coherent and united opposition to Boris Johnson’s callous and inept government.

I have also included significant extracts drawn from the official JVL statement on the EHRC report published on November 6th as an addendum to this post.

Here is a copy of the letter sent to the press by Jewish Islington North Labour Party members:

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In Jonathan Cook’s latest article – reprinted below in full – he rebuts the biased reporting that followed the release of the Equality and Human Rights Commission [EHRC] report on allegations of Labour antisemitism and also highlights the double standards operating both within the media and the EHRC itself.

I also encourage readers to follow the embedded links to Cook’s previous article in which he submits more detailed evidence calling into question the impartiality of the EHRC, that, as he says, “gives every appearance of being the epitome of an establishment body, full of corporate business people and lawyers honoured by the Queen”.

The UK Equalities Commission’s Labour Antisemitism Report is the Real ‘Political Interference’ | Jonathan Cook

I recently published for the Middle East Eye website a detailed analysis of last week’s report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission into the question of whether the UK Labour party had an especial antisemitism problem. (You can read a slightly fuller version of that article on my website.) In the piece, I reached two main conclusions.

First, the commission’s headline verdict – though you would never know it from reading the media’s coverage – was that no case was found that Labour suffered from “institutional antisemitism”.

That, however, was precisely the claim that had been made by groups like the Jewish Labour Movement, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Board of Deputies and prominent rabbis such as Ephraim Mirvis. Their claims were amplified by Jewish media outlets such as the Jewish Chronicle and individual journalists such as Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian. All are now shown to have been wrong, to have maligned the Labour party and to have irresponsibly inflamed the concerns of Britain’s wider Jewish community.

Not that any of these organisations or individuals will have to apologise. The corporate media – from the Mail to the Guardian – are continuing to mislead and misdirect on this issue, as they have been doing for the best part of five years. Neither Jewish leadership groups such as the Board of Deputies nor the corporate media have an interest in highlighting the embarrassing fact that the commission’s findings exposed their campaign against Corbyn as misinformation.

Breaches of procedure

What the report found instead were mainly breaches of party protocol and procedure: that complaints about antisemitism were not handled promptly and transparently.

But even here the issue was not really about antisemitism, as the report indicates, even if obliquely. Delays in resolving complaints were chiefly the responsibility not of Corbyn and his staff but of a party bureaucracy that he inherited and was deeply and explicitly hostile to him.

Senior officials stalled antisemitism complaints not because they were especially antisemitic but because they knew the delays would embarrass Corbyn and weaken him inside the party, as the leaked report of an Labour internal inquiry revealed in the spring.

But again, neither the media nor Jewish leadership groups have any interest in exposing their own culpability in this false narrative. And the new Labour leadership, under Keir Starmer, has absolutely no incentive to challenge this narrative either, particularly as doing so would be certain to revive exactly the same kind of antisemitism smears, but this time directed against Starmer himself.

Too hasty and aggressive

The corporate media long ago styled Labour staff who delayed the complaints procedure to harm Corbyn as antisemitism “whistleblowers”. Many of them starred in last year’s BBC Panorama programme on Labour in which they claimed they had been hampered from carrying out their work.

The equalities commission’s report subtly contradicts their claims, conceding that progress on handling complaints improved after senior Labour staff hostile to Corbyn – the “whistleblowers” very much among them – were removed from their posts.

Indeed, the report suggests the very opposite of the established media narrative. Corbyn’s team, far from permitting or encouraging delays in resolving antisemitism complaints, too often tried to step in to speed up the process to placate the corporate media and Jewish organisations.

In an example of having your cake and eating it, the commission castigates Corbyn’s staff for doing this, labelling it “political interference” and terming these actions unfair and discriminatory. But the unfairness chiefly relates to those being complained against – those accused of antisemitism – not those doing the complaining.

If Labour had an identifiable problem in relation to antisemitism complaints, according to the report, it seems to have occurred mostly in terms of the party being too hasty and aggressive in tackling allegations of antisemitism, in response to relentless criticism from the media and Jewish organisations, rather than being indulgent of it.

Again, no one in the media, Jewish leadership organisations, or the new Labour leadership wants this finding to be highlighted. So it is being ignored.

Flawed approach

The second conclusion, which I lacked the space to deal with properly in my Middle East Eye piece, relates more specifically to the commission’s own flawed approach in compiling the report rather than the media’s misrepresentation of the report.

As I explained in my earlier piece, the commission itself is very much an establishment body. Even had it wanted to, it was never going to stick its neck out and rubbish the narrative presented by the establishment media.

On procedural matters, such as how the party handled antisemitism complaints, the equalities commission kept the report as vague as possible, obfuscating who was responsible for those failings and who was supposed to benefit from Corbyn staff’s interference. Both issues had the potential to fatally undermine the established media narrative.

Instead, the commission’s imprecision has allowed the media and Jewish organisations to interpret the report in self-serving ways – ways convenient to their existing narrative about “institutional antisemitism” emerging in Labour under Corbyn’s leadership.

Scouring social media

But the report misleads not only in its evasion and ambiguity. It does so more overtly in its seemingly desperate effort to find examples of Labour party “agents” who were responsible for the “problem” of antisemitism.

It is worth pondering what it would have looked like had the commission admitted it was unable to find anyone to hold to account for antisemitism in Labour. That would have risked blowing a very large hole in the established media narrative indeed.

So there must have been a great deal of pressure on the commission to find some examples. But extraordinarily – after five years of relentless claims of “institutional antisemitism” in Labour, and of organisations like the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Jewish Labour Movement scouring through Labour members’ social media accounts – the commission is able to muster sufficient evidence against only two individuals.

Two!

Both are found responsible for “unlawful harassment” of Jewish people.

In those circumstances, therefore, it is important to critically examine just what evidence exists that these two individuals exhibited antisemitic attitudes or harassed Jews. Presumably, this pair’s behaviour was so egregious, their antisemitism so unmistakable, that the commission felt it had no choice but to single them out and hold the party responsible for failing to punish them summarily (without, of course, exhibiting at the same time any “political interference”).

I won’t test readers’ patience by examining both examples. In any case, I have dealt with one of them, Ken Livingstone, London’s former mayor, at length in previous blog posts. They can be read here and here, for example.

Outward appearances

Let us focus instead on the other person named: a minor Labour party figure named Pam Bromley, who was then a local councillor for the borough of Rossendale, near Bolton.

First, we should note that the “harassment” she was deemed to have carried out seems to have been limited to online comments posted to social media. The commission does not suggest she expressed any hatred of Jews, made threats against any Jews individually or collectively, or physically attacked anyone Jewish.

I don’t know anything about Bromley, apart from the handful of comments attributed to her in the report. I also don’t know what was going on inside her head when she wrote those posts. If the commission knows more, it does not care to share that information with us. We can only judge the outward appearance of what she says.

One social media post, it is true, does suggest a simplistic political outlook that may have indicated an openness to anti-Jewish conspiracy theories – or what the commission terms a “trope”. Bromley herself says she was making “general criticisms about capitalism”. Determining antisemitic conduct on the basis of that one post – let alone allowing an entire party of 500,000 members to be labelled “institutionally antisemitic” for it – might seem more than a little excessive.

But notably the problematic post was made in April 2018 – shortly after Corbyn’s staff wrestled back control of the complaints procedure from those hostile to his project. It was also the same month Bromley was suspended from the party. So if the post was indeed antisemitic, Corbyn’s Labour lost no time in dealing with it.

Did Bromley otherwise demonstrate a pattern of posting antisemitic material on social media that makes it hard to dispute that she harboured antisemitic motives? Were her comments so obviously antisemitic that the Labour party bureaucracy should have sanctioned her much sooner (even if at the time Corbyn’s staff had no control over the disciplinary process to do so)?

Let us examine the two comments highlighted by the commission in the main section of the report, which they deem to constitute the most clearcut examples of Bromley’s antisemitism.

Raw emotions

The first was posted on Facebook, though strangely the commission appears not to know when:

“Had Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party pulled up the drawbridge and nipped the bogus AS [antisemitism] accusations in the bud in the first place we would not be where we are now and the fifth column in the LP [Labour Party] would not have managed to get such a foothold … the Lobby has miscalculated … The witch hunt has created brand new fightback networks … The Lobby will then melt back into its own cesspit.”

The strong language doubtless reflects the raw emotions the antisemitism claims against Corbyn’s supporters provoked. Many members understood only too well that the Labour party was riven by a civil war and that their socialist project was at stake. But where exactly is the antisemitism in Bromley’s tirade?

In the report, the commission says it considered the reference to a “fifth column” as code for Jews. But why? The equalities commission appears to have placed the worst possible interpretation on an ambiguous comment and then advanced it as an “antisemitic trope” – apparently a catch-all that needed no clarification.

But given what we now know – at least since the leaking of the internal Labour report in the spring – it seems far more likely Bromley, in referring to a “fifth column”, was talking about the party bureaucracy hostile to Corbyn. Most of those officials were not Jewish, but exploited the antisemitism claims because those claims were politically helpful.

Interpreted that way – and such an interpretation fits the facts presented in the leaked internal report – Bromley’s comment is better viewed as impolite, even hurtful, but probably not antisemitic.

Joan Ryan, an MP who was then head of Labour Friends of Israel – part of the lobby Bromley is presumably referring to – was not Jewish. But she was clearly very much part of the campaign to oust Corbyn using antisemitism as a stick to beat him and his supporters with, as an Al-Jazeera undercover documentary exposed in early 2017.

Ryan, we should remember, was instrumental in falsely accusing a Labour party member of an “antisemitic trope” – a deeply unfair characterisation of their exchange that was only exposed because it was secretly caught on film.

Internecine feud

Here is the second comment by Bromley highlighted by the commission. It was posted in late 2019, shortly after Labour had lost the general election:

“My major criticism of him [Corbyn] – his failure to repel the fake accusations of antisemitism in the LP [Labour Party] – may not be repeated as the accusations may probably now magically disappear, now capitalism has got what it wanted.”

Again, it seems clear that Bromley is referring to the party’s long-standing internecine feud, which would become public knowledge a few months later with the leaking of the internal report.

In this case, Bromley was suggesting that the media and anti-Corbyn wing of the party would ease up on the antisemitism allegations – as they indeed largely have done – because the threat of Corbyn’s socialist project had been ended by a dismal election result that saw the Tories gain a commanding parliamentary majority.

It could be argued that her assessment is wrong, but how is it antisemitic – unless the commission believes “capitalism” is also code for “Jews”?

But even if Bromley’s comments are treated as indisputably antisemitic, they are hardly evidence of Corbyn’s Labour party indulging antisemitism, or being “institutionally antisemitic”. As noted, she was suspended by the party in April 2018, almost as soon Corbyn’s team managed to gain control of the party bureaucracy from the old guard. She was expelled last February, while Corbyn was still leader.

Boris Johnson’s racism

It is instructive to compare the certainty with which the commission treats Bromley’s ambiguous remarks as irrefutable proof of antisemitism with its complete disregard for unmistakably antisemitic comments from Boris Johnson, the man actually running the country. That lack of concern is shared, of course, by the establishment media and Jewish leadership organisations.

The commission has repeatedly rejected parallel demands from Muslim groups for an investigation into the ruling Conservative party for well-documented examples of Islamophobia. But no one seems to be calling for an investigation of Johnson’s party for antisemitism.

Johnson himself has a long history of making overtly racist remarks, from calling black people “piccanninies” with “watermelon smiles” to labelling Muslim women “letterboxes”.

Jews have not avoided being stigmatised either. In his novel 72 Virgins, Johnson uses his authorial voice to suggest that Jewish oligarchs run the media and are able to fixed an election result.

In a letter to the Guardian, a group of Jewish Corbyn supporters noted Johnson’s main Jewish character in the novel, Sammy Katz, was described as having a “proud nose and curly hair”, and he was painted “as a malevolent, stingy, snake-like Jewish businessman who exploits immigrant workers for profit”.

Nothing in the equalities commission’s report on Labour comes even close to suggesting this level of antisemitism among the leadership. But then again, Johnson has never argued that antisemitism has been politically weaponised. And why would he? No one, from the corporate media to conservative Jewish leadership organisations, seems to be taking any serious interest in the overt racism demonstrated by either him or his party.

Click here to read the same article entitled “The UK Equalities Commission’s Labour Antisemitism Report is the Real ‘Political Interference’” published by Counterpunch on November 11th.

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Update:

On Tuesday 18th, after the NEC had dropped the suspension and reinstated Corbyn, Labour leader Keir Starmer then suspended the whip. In response, the Socialist Campaign Group (SCG) of Labour MPs on the party’s left wing issued a statement calling for the reversal of Starmer’s decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn:

As Sienna Rodgers reported for Labour List:

It was released shortly before Unite general secretary Len McCluskey declared that he was “astonished” at the withdrawal of the whip, saying it was “vindictive and vengeful” and “shows marked bad faith”.

The SCG statement describing the reinstatement of Corbyn as “correct” and the continued suspension of the party whip as “wrong and damaging” has 32 signatories, including 27 Labour MPs plus Claudia Webbe. […]

Momentum accused Starmer of “making it up as he goes along” while being “farcical and incompetent”, with the co-chair Andrew Scattergood saying: “They can’t remove the whip from our movement.”

Click here to read the full report.

Novara Media devoted the first half of its Tuesday episode covering the real story behind what it described as “the chaos of the last 24 hours”, and asked what happens next.

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Addendum: JVL Statement on EHRC report

The following extract is drawn from the official Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) statement following the release of the EHRC report, and specifically with respect to “The Report’s omissions:

While we have many criticisms of what the report says; we have more for what it does not say.

These relate to:

  1. The specific nature of the hurt that Jews are found to have suffered.

What is striking is that throughout the report there is no evidence of Party responsibility for any Jewish member of the Party, or non-member for that matter, suffering detriment or disadvantage on account of being a Jew; surely an essential requirement for the report’s severe conclusions.

  1. Jeremy Corbyn
  2. a) There are just 12 mentions of Jeremy Corbyn in the report, of which only two concern actions taken by him, or alleged to have been taken by him. The setting in which the Inquiry was launched and the publicised presentation of the report led the public and the media to see the report as an indictment of his leadership of the Party and a judgement on his alleged antisemitism. The Commission has taken no action to contradict that interpretation.
  3. b) In the light of this, it is reprehensible not to distinguish between actions taken by individuals supportive of Corbyn and those taken by people hostile to him – such an omission leads to the impression that all failings were Corbyn’s responsibility.

Corbyn and his team undoubtedly struggled to get a just and efficient process to investigate antisemitism off the ground, despite initiating the Chakrabarti Report (which incorporated relevant points from the Royall Inquiry which Corbyn also commissioned). But given the hostile atmosphere they were working in and the constant level of abuse he received from inside and outside the Party, this might be considered understandable if regrettable. The report neither acknowledges the hostile environment nor produces evidence that any action or inaction by the leadership was motivated by antisemitism or indeed resulted in disadvantage to Jews.

3 The uncritical use of the term “the Jewish community

The hostility of much of what the Report refers to as “the Jewish community” to Corbyn is surely linked to sympathy with Israel by many Jews and Jewish bodies and Corbyn’s long-standing advocacy for Palestinian rights. It is striking that the great decline in the traditional support for the Labour Party from British Jews occurred not under Corbyn but some twenty years ago, accelerating under Labour’s only Jewish leader, Ed Miliband, when he led the Party to be more critical of Israel’s actions and to move towards support for a Palestinian state. The whole relationship between Corbyn’s supporters and that large part of British Jewry committed to Israel cannot be understood without this context of international political alignment. The report does not analyse what proportion of the complaints related to comments on Jews as Jews as opposed to comments on Israel and Zionism. Nor does the report attempt to distinguish to what extent comments on Zionism relate to a political ideology no more worthy of protected status than any other and those which are using Zionist as a surrogate for Jew and so very probably unacceptable.

In adopting this unitary view of the ‘Jewish Community’ the report endorses and intensifies the othering of JVL and other Jewish people inside and outside the Labour Party who are highly critical of Zionism and/or Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. JVL is systematically abused by a set of highly antagonistic Labour Party members on social media and many other places as being not real Jews and our right to describe ourselves as Jews is regularly challenged. We experience this as a pernicious form of antisemitism and are entitled to protection against it. A number of formal complaints have been submitted to the Party about such incidents but to the best of our knowledge none has been processed and there has been no reference to such complaints within this report.

While many Jewish JVL members would describe themselves as secular, we are no less Jews for that; the religiosity of complainants has never been a criterion, nor should it be. Some JVL members who are observant members of their shuls have also been the subject of complaints to the Party of antisemitism; for them, most likely, an experience even more distressing than it is for others.

  1. The nature of the evidence

The report fails to detail or even list the evidence submitted to it, let alone to publish – redacted as necessary – the submissions it received. Although they acknowledge receiving evidence from JVL it is not clear whether they took it into account at any point, even to dismiss it. As we have mentioned above the evidence from the GLU Report is only made use of to support its narrative and it is not acknowledged where it undermines it.

  1. Racism in general

There is a failure to examine how other forms of racism were dealt with the Party during the same period. The only comparison made is with sexual harassment complaints procedures and we question the weight or appropriateness attached to this comparison in the Report.

We are aware that the Inquiry was into antisemitism but as Caroline Walters makes clear in the Foreword “politicians on all sides have a responsibility to set standards for our public life and to lead the way in challenging racism in all its forms”.

A comparison with what the Party did with regard to these other forms of racism is surely essential to understand whether Jewish members were disadvantaged in relation to others who also were investigated (or not) when complaints of other forms of racism were made.

On the more general effects of this omission see our Official Statement: Who are missing from the EHRC Report

  1. An acknowledgment of the role of the media in inflaming Labour’s crisis

On p.16, the Report notes: “The JLM’s and CAA’s concerns were not isolated. Public concern around the Labour’s handling of antisemitism has been growing since 2015”. However, there is no reference as to why that has been the case, despite repeated scholarly examination of this phenomenon. This, despite research highlighting that Labour members, both before and during Corbyn’s leadership, were almost the least likely of any Party to agree with antisemitic statements. That the media coverage had led to people imagining a grossly inflated estimate of the levels of antisemitism was a key finding reported in Bad News for Labour (Philo et al, 2019). It is unacceptable that the Report fails to acknowledge the role of the press and broadcast coverage of this issue, the continual repetition of the same allegations generally ignoring all published rebuttals and the detailed rebuttals of the JLM’s compilation of cases submitted by JVL.

Click here to read the official Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) statement published on November 6th in full.

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corona marginalia: track-and-trace

Boris Johnson tells Britain that our test-and-tracing system will be “world-beating”. Here’s what I’ve witnessed from the inside.

Writes an anonymous whistleblower [I am calling “Ann”] in a piece published in today’s Guardian. This is what happened shortly after she applied to an online ad for a temporary “customer service adviser”, which read:

You must have your own computer and high-speed internet to download our software and communicate with our customers … Don’t let lockdown stop you getting your dream job.

“The training was very basic”, Ann says, going on to describe in detail the extremely cursory “online training course” each of the candidates had to sit through:

We saw some slides about our role – the public health website we will use, and a script for what we had to say to people. We were told do not go off-script, and if there was anything we could not answer, we should ask our supervisor.

The training was wrapped up early, and we were asked if we felt prepared. There was a chorus of no from many people. Some said yes, but I didn’t see how anyone could be prepared for something they’d only found out about a couple of hours ago, plus we hadn’t even accessed the specific programmes. I checked my schedule and saw that I was due to start the next day at 9am. Panic set in.

The trainer told us there was a further seven and a half hours of self-led training that we had to complete before “going live”. This seemed a little unfair, if not impossible to achieve by the next morning. We were reassured that we could probably get through the training in two to three hours – but we would be paid for all seven and a half.

The trainer declared the training over and was immediately inundated with more questions from those anxious about what to do and when. The chatroom was then closed by the trainer, and were left on our own.

The self-led courses were very basic – with some generic dos and don’ts about customer data, security and so on. I completed it all in less than one and a half hours, with a score of 95%+.

The entirety of Ann’s first day of “work” was then spent waiting for entry into a chatroom. Her online colleagues were similarly left out in the cold. The second day was little different: “The day passed as we waited, re-attempted training, and wrote messages to supervisors and got no response.” This went on for the whole week and by the weekend, she tells us: “I had clocked up 40 hours of key worker pay for doing absolutely nothing.”

Ann continues:

Over the next few days I learned more about my job from watching the news than I did from those who were supposed to supervise me. I still did not feel qualified to do it. Then it was announced by [Matt] Hancock that we were going live the next day. On my chat there was a message from a supervisor asking the more experienced members of our chat to help those who needed help. The blind leading the blind! How were people who started the same day as me, and who had the same short and basic training as I had, supposed to help me do my job?

Ann concludes her account of the whole experience philosophically:

To this day I remain a “key worker”, paid £10 an hour to sit in a chatroom – alone, lost, without support or help. Despite what the government is saying, it seems the relentless problem “with the system” is another pandemic without a cure. Motivated as I am to help out during this difficult time – and after two weeks of doing “pretend” work on the track-and-trace programme – I have decided to quit and try to find a real way to help people.

Click here to read the full story entitled “Why I quit working on Boris Johnson’s ‘word-beating’ test-and tracing system”, published by the Guardian on May 30th.

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Those who have worked anywhere within the service sector are rather too familiar with these sorts of ‘online training courses’. The whole industry is basically a racket and of course every racket is driven by the profit motive. The question that immediately arises therefore is which private company was contracted by the government on this occasion. And it will come as little surprise that the trail soon leads to the outsourcing giant Serco:

Serco is overseeing the crucial track-and-trace system that has been launched today. But people it has recruited to work as contract tracers have already complained about a lack of training and guidance.

Earlier this month, Serco was condemned after it accidentally shared the contact details of 300 contact tracers. The error has led to calls for an urgent investigation into the “alarming” incident.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, wrote to Michael Gove, her counterpart in government, that it was “particularly troubling that a company that is being trusted with some of the most sensitive work in our national effort against the virus seems to struggle with the most basic aspects of data privacy”.

The contract-tracing data breach was not the first fiasco in Serco’s contributions to the government’s pandemic response. In April the company was in the news over concerns about delays at the drive-in COVID-19 test centres that it was managing. At one test site, key workers were left waiting for two hours in hot weather, unable to leave their vehicle or even open the windows.

From an exposé published by OpenDemocracy on May 28th entitled “Revealed: Serco under fire over fresh £90m COVID-19 contract”

Click here to read an earlier post about Serco’s subcontracting role in the fingerprinting of British schoolchildren.

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Update: on the creeping privatisation of the NHS

On May 4th, the Guardian published an article entitled “UK government ‘using pandemic to transfer NHS duties to the private sector’”

The government is using the coronavirus pandemic to transfer key public health duties from the NHS and other state bodies to the private sector without proper scrutiny, critics have warned.

Doctors, campaign groups, academics and MPs raised the concerns about a “power grab” after it emerged on Monday that Serco was in pole position to win a deal to supply 15,000 call-handlers for the government’s tracking and tracing operation.

They said the health secretary, Matt Hancock, had “accelerated” the dismantling of state healthcare and that the duty to keep the public safe was being “outsourced” to the private sector.

In recent weeks, ministers have used special powers to bypass normal tendering and award a string of contracts to private companies and management consultants without open competition.

Click here to read the full Guardian article written by Juliette Garside and Rupert Neate.

One month later, they published a follow-up piece:

[Serco] have taken the bulk of the work, recruiting 10,000 of the new 25,000 contact tracers after being awarded an initial fee of £45.8m, which could rise to £90m.

In an email forwarded to staff, which was then immediately recalled, a message from [Rupert Soames, Serco’s chief executive] said: “There are a few, a noisy few, who would like to see us fail because we are private companies delivering a public service. I very much doubt that this is going to evolve smoothly, so they will have plenty of opportunity to say I told you so.”

It continued: “If it succeeds … it will go a long way in cementing the position of the private sector companies in the public sector supply chain. Some of the naysayers recognise this, which is why they will take every opportunity to undermine us.”

[Bold emphasis added]

Click here to read the full Guardian article entitled “NHS test-and-trace system ‘not fully operational until September’” written by Sarah Marsh, published on June 4th.

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Sign the WeOwnIt Petition:

Serco is already failing to deliver:

  • The head of Serco has said that the contact tracing system won’t be operational until September and is likely to be “imperfect and clunky”
  • Serco has only tracked 1749 people so far, with many staff sitting idle.
  • Staff say they have no idea what they should be doing, are paid near minimum wage and have had minimum training – a recipe for disaster.

Serco has scammed us before:

  • They were convicted of fraud for the electronic tagging scandal, and fined £23 million
  • Their breast cancer hotline only trained staff for 1 hour before putting them on the phones to talk to distressed patients
  • They falsified NHS data 252 times when they ran a GP out of hours service

They’re not fit to run such an important system to get us out of this pandemic safely. But we’re being asked to trust them with our lives.

Click here to sign the petition.

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