Tag Archives: Conservative Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continuing:

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

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

And concluding:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot of the BBC election  night motif

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Additional: My correspondence with Shadow Brexit Minister Paul Blomfield

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

Jan 10th (contacted through 38 Degrees)

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

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

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

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Jan 15th

Dear James,

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

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

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

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

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

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

With best wishes,

Paul

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Jan 15th

Dear Paul,

Thank you for replying promptly and in full to email.

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

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

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

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

Thank you again for replying. Best wishes,

James

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Feb 13th

Dear James,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Paul

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March 1st

Dear Paul,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you again for replying. Best wishes,

James

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April 15th

Dear James,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Paul

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April 15th

Dear Paul,

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

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

Thanks again for taking such trouble to reply to me.

Best wishes,

James

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

May 8th

Dear Paul,

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

Best wishes,

James

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May 9th

Dear James,

Thanks for getting back to me.

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Paul

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May 9th

Dear Paul,

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

Best wishes,

James

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May 28th

Hi James,

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Paul

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 Answer:

 

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

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

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

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

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

Yes campaign (Britain In Europe)

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

No campaign (National Referendum Campaign)

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

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

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

Official party positions

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

The campaign, funding and media support

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

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

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

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

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Jewish Voice for Labour deplores the suspension of Chris Williamson

On February 27th, Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) issued the following statement in support of Labour MP Chris Williamson.

We are shocked at the suspension from the Labour Party of Derby North MP Chris Williamson, despite his apology.

As a Jewish organisation we condemn antisemitism unreservedly. And, of course, we support robust measures to deal with any instances.

Like Chris Williamson we stand in a long tradition of opposition to all forms of racism, including antisemitism. We support the statement in which he apologised to anyone hurt by his words. But we agree with him that the number of instances of antisemitism in the Labour Party, though small relative to its size, is still too high. Any antisemite in the Party is one too many.

Williamson based his statement on the official statistics published by the General Secretary of the Party, Jennie Formby. They confirm that over the last 10 months complaints received led to 453 cases being investigated for antisemitism. This represents 1/12th of 1% of the membership. There is no wave of antisemitism in the Party.

The existence of antisemitism in the Party, as everywhere in society, is not in doubt. It needs to be contested, and the Party’s beefed up disciplinary processes are doing just that. But these figures, and the experience of the hundreds of our Jewish members in the Labour Party, give the lie to the false narrative that the Party is rife with antisemitism. Such a description bears no resemblance to reality.

The flood of exaggerated claims of antisemitism make it harder to deal with any real instances of antisemitism. The credibility of well-founded allegations is undermined by the less credible ones and real perpetrators are more likely not to be held to account. Crying wolf is dangerous when there are real wolves around the corner.

This was the reality that Chris Williamson was drawing attention to. His suspension from the party is unjust and should be rescinded.

Click here to read the statement on the JVL website

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In Summary: the truth behind the stats [on cases of antisemitism in the Labour Party]

On February 24th, Labour Briefing published an article by Glyn Secker, secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour, and Dr Alan Maddison, a solidarity member, that looked into the data recently released by General Secretary of the Labour Party, Jennie Formby. The article is reproduced in full below.

FROM THE MOMENT Jeremy Corbyn emerged as leader of the Labour Party a barrage of allegations of antisemitism was levelled at him and the party. These allegations have tarnished the party’s image and deflected it from promoting its core programme of anti-austerity and redistribution of wealth.

Representing several hundred Jewish members of the party, Jewish Voice for Labour from the very start challenged the existence of this antisemitic wave. Never denying for a moment the existence of serious, isolated expressions of antisemitism, none of us – many with decades of party membership – experienced anything at all resembling such undercurrents. Why was Labour singled out for such interrogation, and was antisemitism really more prevalent in the party than elsewhere?

The wave of allegations swamped the party machinery. After Jennie Formby became General Secretary, the implementation of some of the Chakrabarti recommendations and expansion of staffing levels, it is clear that this wave of reported allegations is being managed promptly, with only 24 cases outstanding.

And a clear picture has finally emerged. Jennie Formby’s data confirms that the grounds for the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and Labour have indeed been grossly exaggerated, and in some cases fabricated. Over the last ten months there were:

» 1,106 referrals of antisemitism allegations;

» 433 of these had nothing to do with party members, leaving 673 to be investigated;

» 220 of these were dismissed entirely for lack of evidence;

» this left 453 cases;

» 453 is 0.08% of the party’s 540,000 members – that’s about 1/12th of 1%;

» 96 of these resulted in suspensions – that’s 0.01%, or 1/100th of 1% of members;

» there were twelve expulsions – that’s 0.002%, or 1/500th of 1% of members!

By no stretch of the imagination can a 0.08% incidence support the claim of a ‘”rampant problem in Labour”. Of course, even one case of antisemitism is one too many. But these are vanishingly small statistics, especially when you consider that 2-5% of the general population are considered to be antisemitic.

This is not a wave, it is not even a ripple. In nautical terms it’s almost a dead flat calm.

Furthermore, there is no record of the thousands of abusive messages MPs like Ruth Smeeth claimed to have received, alleging most emanated from the Labour Party. The source of these might well have been traced to the ten fake twitter accounts masquerading as Labour Party members, unmasked by journalist Asa Winstanley. But to our knowledge, such numbers have never been submitted for investigation.

Margaret Hodge MP was informed by Jennie Formby that of the 200 dossiers of cases of antisemitism she had submitted, only 20 were found to be by Labour Party members. In other words, her allegations of antisemitism in the party had been exaggerated tenfold. And single handedly she accounted for approaching one fifth of all referrals.

Headlines proclaiming there was “no safe place for Jews in Corbyn’s Labour”, or that Labour needed, in the words of Marie van de Zyl, when vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, to “drain the cesspit of antisemitism”, have been shown to be contradicted by the evidence.

When the Shami Chakrabarti inquiry was presented we learned that there was no evidence of widespread antisemitism in Labour, but there were some offensive comments often borne out of ignorance. In cases such as these 146 written warnings were issued.

If the facts are at such odds with the accounts of leading politicians and mainstream media, there can be only one explanation – these accounts are driven by ulterior political agendas. Other forms of racism, for which manifestations in the UK are 70 times more prevalent than those for antisemitism, barely get a mention.

At the last election Labour fell short of becoming the government by a few percentage points. The next election is predicted to be as close. The damage to the party inflicted by the allegations of antisemitism is calculated to impact on this tipping point – to keep the party out of office. Ironically, the Labour Party is the only party in western Europe which has both the programme and the potential to govern, and thus the power to address the economic and political causes of the very real rise of fascism across Europe. The stakes couldn’t be higher!

Click here to find the original article entitled “Labour antisemitism: the Truth Behind the Stats” written by Glyn Secker and Alan Maddison published by Labour Briefing.

And here to read the same article with a brief introduction on the JVL website.

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Additional: The Boris Johnson Supporters’ Group

While every fresh accusation of Labour Party antisemitism makes headline news, our media shows a deplorable lack of interest when it comes to reports of racism within the Conservative Party. The following extract is part of a report published today by Evolve Politics about The Boris Johnson Supporters’ Group on facebook:

The group appears to have been ostensibly set up to support the current Tory MP and former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, in his bid to become the leader of the Conservative Party.

However, a huge amount of the posts use unashamedly racist, far-right language – especially ones lambasting immigration, refugees, minorities, and in particular, Muslims.

Amongst the disgustingly racist posts and comments that the Tory-led administration team have failed to remove, and in some cases even endorsed, are:

At least 7 comments that describe Muslims and immigrants as “ragheads”

There is also a comment that describes BAME people as “wogs“; another telling a black British soldier to “p**s off back to Africa”; another telling an EU immigrant to “f**k off back to Poland”; a comment directed to Bradford-born Labour MP Naz Shah telling her to “p**s off to [her] own country”; another that describes London Major Sadiq Khan as a “conniving little muzrat”; one comment calls black Labour MPs Diane Abbott and Dawn Butler “monkeys”; another says black former Labour MP, Fiona Onasanya, should be “put on a banana boat back home”; there is a joke about bombing mosques; numerous jokes about shooting immigrants and their families; and lastly, numerous posts spreading white-genocide conspiracy theories.

I shall not include any images of these facebook posts, however they can be found embedded in the original article.

The most incriminating revelation is that one of the people running ‘The Boris Johnson Supporters’ Group’ is a serving Conservative Party councillor:

Among the people running the Boris Johnson: Supporters’ Group are a current, serving Tory Councillor in Wellingborough, Martyn York (Moderator), and a failed Conservative Party Council candidate in Newcastle Under Lyme, Dorinda Bailey (Administrator).

In addition to these two Tory politicians is another Administrator called David Abbott. Abbott currently serves as an Independent Councillor and is the Deputy Mayor of Houghton Regis.

Click here to read the full article entitled entitled “Tory Politicians are running a VILE Facebook Group where members joke about BOMBING MOSQUES and SHOOTING IMMIGRANTS” written by Tom D. Rogers published on March 1st by Evolve Politics.

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Update:

Back in June 2018, former Conservative co-Chair Baroness Warsi gave an exclusive interview to Business Insider in which she accused the party leadership of ignoring “widespread” Islamophobia, and of deliberately stirring up anti-Muslim hatred to win elections. She told Business Insider:

[T]he “poison” of Islamophobia had now affected all levels of the party.

“It’s very widespread [in the Conservative party]. It exists right from the grassroots, all the way up to the top.”

Adding:

“It has been a classic case of ‘we’re not racist — we like brown people but we like this kind of brown people as opposed to this kind of brown people.”

“It’s saying ‘these are the acceptable brown people and those are the unacceptable brown people’ and I think that is really dangerous.”

The article continues:

She cited the example of the 2016 London mayoral election where the party was condemned for targeting Hindu voters with leaflets suggesting that the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan, who is a Muslim, was attempting to take away their jewellery.

“We specifically went out for Hindu voters saying Sadiq’s after your jewellery and I love Modi and by the way, Sadiq is an extremist. It was really amateur dog whistle politics,” Warsi told BI.

Click here to read the full article entitled “The Islamophobia scandal in the Conservative party goes ‘right to the top’” written by Adam Bienkov, published by Business Insider on June 11th, 2018.

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On March 2nd, the Guardian published an article by Miqdaad Versi in which he details “A litany of unpunished bigotry by [Conservative] MPs”. Here is an excerpt:

An unbelievable 42% of Tory voters have a positive view of the way Yaxley-Lennon [aka Tommy Robinson] highlights issues ignored by the media (compared with 18% of Labour voters).

One might have assumed that such a positive view about a widely reviled and hateful figure would not have any place in a modern Conservative party membership.

But the problem seems to be far worse.

The Conservative MP Bob Blackman retweeted an anti-Muslim post from Tommy Robinson, yet he did not even get a slap on the wrist from the party. In fact, depite having subsequently hosted anti-Muslim extremist in parliament (Tapan Ghosh), shared an Islamophobic story on Facebook, and been found as a member of a number of Islamophobic social-media groups, the party seems to have no real concern and the prime minister even chose to campaign with him.

He’s not alone. Conservative MP Nadine Dorries shared a tweet from Tommy Robinson before using far-right tropes against Sadiq Khan, Yasmine Alibhai-Brown and Muslims more generally and – despite being personally against same-sex marriage – weaponised gay rights to attack Muslims. Unlike Blackman, she didn’t even apologise once she was found out.

And I could go on – whether it is Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell’s Facebook account being found to have joined a “Free Tommy” group, or Conservative MPs Jacob Rees-Mogg, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson meeting Steve Bannon, who famously praised Tommy Robinson as representing the working class. Johnson’s burqa comments have led to many claiming that he is using Islamophobia as part of a populist, Trump-like appeal to anti-Muslims in the party.

Click here to read the full article entitled “The Tories’ response to raging Islamophobia? Turn a blind eye” written by Miqdaad Versi, published in the Guardian on March 2nd.

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Jewish Socialists’ Group repudiates the latest “flimsy accusations of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party”

Hardly a day goes by without the launch of fresh slurs against Jeremy Corbyn. Shortly after the rumour mill had stopped spinning bizarre fantasies that he once spied for the Soviets, we were hastily force-fed a new Cold War hysteria in which Corbyn has been endlessly pilloried for his level-headed commitment to due process and refusal to leap to judgement in the case of the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal. Now the screw is being tightened again as the endless trial-by-media seamlessly returns to its original calumny of falsely accusing Corbyn of anti-Semitism – mud sticks and, for understandable historical reasons, the mud of anti-Semitism is particularly hard to shake off.

One year ago, Al Jazeera broadcast a devastating four-part undercover investigation that carefully exposed Israeli meddling in UK politics (see below). Three of the four parts drew attention to a conspiracy involving leading figures within the UK-Israel lobby who were plotting to undermine Corbyn. At the time, shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry called for an official inquiry into the revelations but instead the “diplomat” at the centre of the scandal, Shai Masot, was recalled to Tel Aviv and no further action was taken. The media has since shown no interest whatsoever in digging deeper and following the trail of evidence for what now ought to be known as ‘Israelgate’.

It is tiresome to have to defend Corbyn time and again when all charges against him are so easily shown to be baseless and when only the most simpleminded can possibly remain unaware that he is the victim of a carefully coordinated smear campaign that has been running even before his election as Labour leader.

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The following is an official statement released today by the Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG) entitled “Oppose antisemitism and malicious accusations by supporters of the Tory Party”:

The Jewish Socialists’ Group expresses its serious concern at the rise of antisemitism, especially under extreme right wing governments in central and Eastern Europe, in America under Donald Trump’s Presidency and here in Britain under Theresa May’s premiership. The recent extensive survey by the highly respected Jewish Policy Research confirmed that the main repository of antisemitic views in Britain is among supporters of the Conservative Party and UKIP.

This political context, alongside declining support for the Tories, reveals the malicious intent behind the latest flimsy accusations of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. These accusations have come from the unrepresentative Board of Deputies and the unelected, self-proclaimed “Jewish Leadership Council”, two bodies dominated by supporters of the Tory Party.

Between now and the local elections the Tories would love to divert the electorate on to accusations of antisemitism against the Labour Party rather than have us discussing austerity, cuts to local authority budgets, the health service, and social care. Many Jews within and beyond the Labour Party are suffering from these policies along with the rest of the population, and oppose them vehemently.

Jonathan Arkush, the President of the Board of Deputies, was one of the first to congratulate Donald Trump on his election as President of the United States on behalf of the Board. This action was harshly criticised by many Jews he claims that the Board represents. He also gives unqualified support to Israel’s pro-settler Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who enjoys good relations with the very far right political forces in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic who are fanning bigotry against minorities, including Jews.

Until very recently the Jewish Leadership Council was chaired by Sir Mick Davies, who was appointed Tory Party treasurer in February 2016 and is now the Chief Executive of the Conservative Party.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group includes many members of the Labour party, and we know many Jews who have joined or re-joined the Labour party enthused by the progressive leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour is the party that brought in anti-discrimination legislation at a time when many Tory members were open supporters of and investors in apartheid South Africa. The Tories are the party that have dished out the harshest treatment to migrants and refugees, especially when Theresa May was Home Secretary. Shamefully, they are still refusing to accede to the proposal of Labour peer, Lord Dubs, who came to Britain as a Jewish refugee on the Kindertransport, to take in a small but significant number of unaccompanied child refugees from Syria.

We have worked alongside Jeremy Corbyn in campaigns against all forms of racism and bigotry, including antisemitism, for many years, and we have faith that a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn and Labour-led councils across the country, will be best placed to implement serious measures against all forms of racism, discrimination and bigotry.

Click here to read the full statement on the JSG website.

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Please note: Al Jazeera has since produced a sequel in which it exposes the machinations of the more powerful Israel lobby in America:

In October last year, Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera’s head of investigations, first announced that the Qatari satellite channel had in 2016 run an undercover journalist in the US Israel lobby.

Swisher made the announcement soon after the UK’s broadcast regulator dismissed all complaints against Al Jazeera’s film The Lobby.

That documentary, broadcast in January 2017, exposed Israel’s covert influence campaign in the UK’s ruling Conservative and opposition Labour parties. The film revealed an Israeli embassy agent plotting with a British civil servant to “take down” a government minister seen as too critical of Israel.

Although Swisher promised the US film would come out “very soon,” nearly five months later it has yet to be broadcast. 1

Click here to read more at The Electronic Intifada.

My previous articles defending Corbyn and others on the left against false accusations of anti-Semitism can be read here and here.

I also wrote an extended article on the allegations uncovered by the four-part Al Jazeera documentary series The Lobby (embedded above).

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Update:

Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) has been equally outspoken in its support for Jeremy Corbyn. Also on March 26th, they reposted an article by independent journalist Jonathan Cook entitled “The sharks circling around Corbyn scent blood”.

It is reposted in full below:

After a short reprieve following Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected success in Britain’s general election last year, when he only narrowly lost the popular vote, most of the Labour parlamentary party are back, determined to bring him down. And once again, they are being joined in full battle cry by the corporate media.

Last week, Corbyn was a Russian spy. This week we’re in more familiar territory, even if it has a new twist: Corbyn is not only a friend to anti-semites, it seems, but now he has been outed as a closet one himself.

In short, the Blairites in the parliamentary party are stepping up their game. Corbyn’s social justice agenda, his repudition of neoconservative wars of aggression masquerading as “humanitarianism” – lining the coffers of the west’s military-industrial elites – is a genuine threat to those who run our societies from the shadows.

The knife of choice for the Labour backstabbers this time is a wall mural removed from East London in 2012. At that time, before he became Labour leader, Corbyn expressed support on Facebook for the artist, Kalen Ockerman, known as Mear One. Corbyn observed that a famous anti-capitalist mural by the left-wing Mexican artist Diego Rivera was similarly removed from Manhattan’s Rockefeller Centre in 1934.

Interestingly, the issue of Corbyn’s support for the mural – or at least the artist – originally flared in late 2015, when the Jewish Chronicle unearthed his Facebook post. Two things were noticeably different about the coverage then.

First, on that occasion, no one apart from the Jewish Chronicle appeared to show much interest in the issue. Its “scoop” was not followed up by the rest of the media. What is now supposedly a major scandal, one that raises questions about Corbyn’s fitness to be Labour leader, was a non-issue two years ago, when it first became known.

Second, the Jewish Chronicle, usually so ready to get exercised at the smallest possible sign of anti-semitism, wasn’t entirely convinced back in 2015 that the mural was anti-semitic. In fact, it suggested only that the mural might have “antisemitic undertones” – and attributed even that claim to Corbyn’s critics.

And rather than claiming, as the entire corporate media is now, that the mural depicted a cabal of Jewish bankers, the Chronicle then described the scene as “a group of businessmen and bankers sitting around a Monopoly-style board and counting money”. By contrast, the Guardian abandoned normal reporting conventions yesterday to state in its news – rather than comment – pages unequivocally that the mural was “obviously antisemitic”.

Not that anyone is listening now, but the artist himself, Kalen Ockerman, has said that the group in his mural comprised historical figures closely associated with banking. His mural, he says, was about “class and privilege”, and the figures depicted included both “Jewish and white Anglos”. The fact that he included famous bankers like the Rothschilds and Rockefellers does not, on the face of it, seem to be proof of anti-semitism. They are, after all, among the few banking dynasties most people, myself included, could name. These families are about as closely identified with capitalism as it is possible to be.

There is an argument to be had about the responsibilities of artists – even street artists – to be careful in their visual representations. But Ockerman’s message was not a subtle or nuanced one. He was depicting class war, the war the capitalist class wages every day on the weak and poor. If Ockerman’s message is inflammatory, it is much less so than the reality of how our societies have been built on the backs and the suffering of the majority.

Corbyn has bowed to his critics – a mix of the Blairites within his party and Israel’s cheerleaders – and apologised for offering support to Ockerman, just as he has caved in to pressure each time the anti-semitism card has been played against him.

This may look like wise, or safe, politics to his advisers. But these critics have only two possible outcomes that will satisfy them. Either Corbyn is harried from the party leadership, or he is intimidated into diluting his platform into irrelevance – he becomes just another compromised politician catering to the interests of the 1 per cent.

The sharks circling around him will not ignore the scent of his bloodied wounds; rather, it will send them into a feeding frenzy. As hard as it is to do when the elites so clearly want him destroyed, Corbyn must find his backbone and start to stand his ground.

Cook appends his article with the following update:

This piece in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz by their senior columnnist Anshel Pfeffer sums up a lot of the sophistry (intentional or otherwise) underscoring the conflation of leftwing critiques of neoliberalism and globalism with rightwing ultra-nationalism and anti-semitism.

Pfeffer writes:

The conspiracy theories of globalist bankers utilizing mainstream media and corrupt neoliberal politicians to serve their selfish sinister purposes, rather than those of ordinary people, are identical whether from left or right.

And on either side, most of the theorists will never admit to being anti-Semitic. They are just “anti-racist” or “anti-imperialist” if on the left, or “pro-Israel” on the right. And most of them really believe they have nothing against Jews, even while parroting themes straight out of the Protocols [of the Elders of Zion].

Notice the problem here. If you are a radical leftist who believes, as generations of leftists before you have done, that military, political, media, and financial elites operate in the shadows to promote their interests, to wage class war, then not only are you a conspiracy theorist, but, according to Pfeffer, you are by definition anti-semitic. If you believe that an Establishment or a Deep State exists to advance its interests against the great majority, you hate Jews.

The logic of Corbyn’s critics has rarely been articulated so forthrightly and so preposterously as it is here by Pfeffer. But make no mistake, this is the logic of his critics.

Jonathan Cook adds: No one pays me to write these blog posts. If you appreciated it, or any of the others, please consider hitting the donate button on this webpage.

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

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1 From an article entitled “What’s in Al Jazeera’s undercover film on US Israel lobby?” written by Asa Winstanley, published in The Electronic Intifada on March 5, 2018. https://electronicintifada.net/content/whats-al-jazeeras-undercover-film-us-israel-lobby/23496

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain

taking stock of Corbyn’s heroic election campaign — what’s the opposite to a Pyrrhic victory?

A screenshot of the wikipedia page on ‘moral victory’

The image above is a screenshot of the wikipedia entry for “moral victory” as it appears at present. As you can see, presented as examples of “the opposite of a Pyrrhic victory” it lists just three: The Alamo, the Battle of Thermopylae and the United Kingdom 2017 General Election!

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the #ToriesOut post-election rally organised by the People’s Assembly:

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Before reading on, I encourage readers to reflect on a short but detailed article by independent journalist Jonathan Cook entitled “The facts proving Corbyn’s election triumph” in which he scrutinises Corbyn’s results compared with those of his predecessors. Based on the evidence, he writes:

He won many more votes than Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown and Neil Kinnock, who were among those that, sometimes noisily, opposed his leadership of the party. They lost their elections. […]

In short, Corbyn has proved himself the most popular Labour leader with the electorate in more than 40 years, apart from Blair’s landslide victory in 1997.

And concludes:

Here is a graph that offers another measure of the extent of Corbyn’s achievement last night.

It shows that he has just won the largest increase in the share of the Labour vote over the party’s previous general election performance since Clement Attlee in 1945. In short, he’s turned around the electoral fortunes of the Labour party more than any other party leader in 70 years.

And unlike Blair, he’s done it without making back-room deals with big business to eviscerate his party’s economic and social programmes.

Click here to read Jonathan Cook’s full article.

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A tale of two leaders

When May called the snap General Election on April 18th, she and her Conservative Party were riding high in the polls with a twenty point lead. In office for just nine months, she had been hastily crowned Prime Minister after Cameron fell on his sword in the wake of his own humiliating EU referendum defeat, but quite wisely afterwards had kept a mostly low profile. In this way, and with her oft-repeated pledge to honour the pro-Brexit result, May cultivated the appearance of reliability and toughness – she was Thatcher 2.0 but with a more daring wardrobe.

“Brexit means Brexit” is almost as nebulous as it is defiant, but the Tory’s tiresome mantra was also serving May’s purposes well. Her image as a “bloody difficult woman” given an extra boost thanks to Jean-Claude Junker’s odd cameo at Downing Street right on cue as the campaign got underway: their reportedly “frosty dinner” doing little to dent the popular belief that May was a safe pair of hands.

In short, the Tories were bound to win last month’s General Election and everyone was simply waiting to find out how historic their historic landslide would finally be. Indeed, given the dire circumstances, some on the left openly expressed the opinion that Corbyn ought to have blocked her opportunistic move by rallying support against the Commons’ vote, even if this meant giving the Tories a free pass until 2020. (The horns of Corbyn’s dilemma clearly point to inherent shortcomings in our new Fixed-Term Parliaments Act – five-year terms that are prescheduled up until the moment any government decrees otherwise.)

On the other hand, May’s call for a needless election did open up a small chink in her otherwise shining armour. For having repeatedly assured the nation she would do no such thing, this act was literally the only moment she’d dropped her guard since becoming PM.

Her campaign underway, May now resolved to basically disappear from sight. Shirking the TV debates, placing unprecedented restraints on press access, and avoiding all but the most fleeting encounters with the hoi polloi, her strategy was one of total control. Although this quiet contempt for democracy was not going to pass unnoticed.

By contrast, the Labour Party was forced into the campaign when already in complete disarray. Seldom mentioned, the polls had in fact narrowed considerably twelve months earlier during the run up to the referendum vote, and also immediately after Cameron’s defeat (see above), yet the Blairites wasted no time undermining Corbyn on the grounds of his lacklustre performance stumping for the “remain” campaign. Since it suited their purpose, they simply ignored what the polls were actually telling them, and seized on this flimsiest of excuses to stir the pot a whole lot more in the hope of finally deposing the leadership.

Former leader Neil Kinnock was perhaps first up, delivering what the Guardian soon afterwards reported as “a remarkable speech” to the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).

(Strictly in private) Kinnock said this:

I quote one person, just one, out of hundreds in Cardiff three weeks ago. Well, he complained about Jeremy and I said, ‘Honestly, his heart’s in the right place, he wants to help people, he wants to help people like you.’ He’s a working-class guy, a fitter on what remains of the docks. And he said: ‘I know he’s saying it, because he thinks we’re easy. We’re not bloody easy. We’re not listening, especially since he’s weird.’

Now that is unfortunate. But you know. Everybody in this room knows, canvassing in the Welsh elections, in the Scottish elections, in the local elections, in the referendum – you know that is what you’re getting from people who yearn to vote Labour but are inhibited by the fact that Jeremy is still our leader.

Reprinted in full, Kinnock’s “remarkable speech” is really just a tub-thumping (quite literally) rant. But then Kinnock didn’t need to try too hard because he was preaching to the converted, one of whom evidently saw fit to leak the recording of this beer hall putsch to the press:

PLP meetings are private, but Kinnock’s speech was recorded by someone in the room and it was passed to Ben Ferguson, a freelance filmmaker who recently made a fly-on-the-wall documentary about Corbyn for Vice News 1

Neil Kinnock is famously unelectable, of course, so I suppose we ought to marvel at the sheer brass neck of the man. His “we’re all right” Sheffield debacle was the single most excruciating misjudgement made by any Labour leader since Jim Callaghan’s “Waiting at the Church” moment of hubris.

However, Lord Kinnock has certainly done all right – at least for himself – since those formative hiccoughs: appointed to the European Commission in 1995, then rapidly promoted to Vice-President in 1999, and awarded a life peerage in 2005. Wife Glenys ploughed a similar furrow, becoming an MEP in 1994 and receiving her own life peerage in 2009, whilst son, Stephen, a current Labour MP and another uninhibited Corbyn critic, is married to Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former MEP herself before becoming Danish PM. The Kinnocks have built a tidy little empire for themselves.

Although a year ago, the self-serving Kinnocks took time off from feathering their own nests to help spearhead the growing PLP demands for Corbyn’s resignation. Popularity within the rank and file of the membership (who have twice elected Corbyn leader of course) must not be put ahead of party unity, “electability” and that kind of thing – to paraphrase his Lordship, this time speaking to Andrew Marr on the BBC:

Meanwhile, in light of the PLP’s motion of no confidence in Corbyn (more below), son Stephen penned the following rationalisation for the relentless backstabbing and published it as an opinion piece also in the Guardian:

The referendum campaign was a sorry affair and it’s clear that it was not the Labour party’s finest hour. Every pro-Remain member will be feeling the same deep sense of disappointment and regret that I am feeling this weekend, as we have failed, collectively, to save the UK from a reckless leap into the unknown, and we fear it is the people we came into politics to represent who will be hurt first and worst.

Looking back, it’s clear that once the Scottish, Welsh and local elections were out of the way on 6 May [2016], then we should have treated the period through to 23 June as if it were the short campaign period leading up to a general election. Judged against that benchmark, it is equally clear that our leader fought a lacklustre and half-hearted campaign. He spoke at a total of 10 rallies between 6 May and polling day, whereas the party leader would normally expect to achieve that level of activity in a week, when in full campaigning mode.

We must, therefore, have a full and frank discussion when the parliamentary Labour party meets on Monday, to look at what went wrong, and what we should learn. Our leader must be held accountable for the failure of the “Labour In For Britain” campaign, as must we all.

Following which, Kinnock Jr. takes aim at Corbyn’s purported lack of skill as a future Brexit negotiator, which is curious given that no members of the opposition have ever been invited to the talks:

There is no doubt that Jeremy is a great campaigner, but this is not a time for campaigners. This is a time for hard-headed negotiators. And it is also a time for people who have more than a passing knowledge of, and interest in, the EU. […]

We may have no say over who the Tories send to the negotiating table, but we do have a say about who Labour sends. Jeremy Corbyn is a seasoned and highly effective campaigner, and he was elected to lead our party on the basis of a thumping mandate. But that was then and this is now.

Now should not be about the past. The British people have spoken, the decision is made, and we must look forward. British politics is going to be dominated by these Brexit negotiations for the foreseeable future. It is vital that Labour has a seat at the top table, and critical that we have a leader who has the right experience and skills for the task at hand.

And it is for that reason that I am supporting this motion of no confidence. 2

Titled “Jeremy Corbyn is a great campaigner – but we need a hard-headed negotiator”, Kinnock might have borrowed ammunition for his snide hit piece directly from the arsenals of Tory HQ. He’s just not “strong and stable enough”… a claim that belies the truth if we listen to the judgement instead of Conservative MP and current Brexit Secretary David Davis. Together with Corbyn, Davis had negotiated the release of the last British prisoner, Shaker Aamer, from Guantánamo, and shortly after Corbyn was voted party leader, Davis was interviewed on Sky News. This is what he said:

“I think that the odds of our winning the next election after yesterday are higher, but I don’t think it’s an open and shut case by any means. I think complacency would be absolutely the daftest thing to go in for now…

You’ve just had Frank Field on, talking about how Jeremy in other circumstances is able to work with other people… he is very polite, very courteous, listens to arguments. So we want to be a bit careful. We certainly don’t want to go in for ad hominem attacks – that would be a disaster.”

But the Tory attacks could wait. During the notorious post-referendum ‘chicken coup’, no less than 44 frontbench Labour MPs resigned their positions in as many hours.3 Alongside Stephen Kinnock, leading lights of this suicidal insurrection included Deputy Leader Tom Watson, Angela Eagle, about-to-be leadership challenger Owen Smith, and then-Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn – reluctantly sacked by Corbyn before he had chance to resign. Each of the above publicly declared their loss of confidence in the leadership: a transparently lame excuse given how the self-same “rebels” had shown no loyalty whatsoever during any earlier stage of Corbyn’s brief tenure.

When the PLP balloted for a vote of no confidence a few hours later, it was passed by a truly astounding 172–40: but it remained a vote which as Corbyn correctly asserted had “no constitutional legitimacy”. Nevertheless, the stage was set, and for the next three months the party tore into itself as it entered the throes of a hugely divisive and unwarranted leadership election.

Inevitably, this infighting took its toll. Labour support tumbled in the polls, as did support for Corbyn’s leadership. Unsurprisingly, salt was liberally rubbed into these same gaping and self-inflicted wounds by both the Tories and the media alike, who cultivated the opinion already expressed by 80% of Labour MPs, that Corbyn – freshly re-elected as party leader – was in fact “unelectable”.

Ken Loach interviewed on BBC Radio 5 shortly after the General Election: “Just think, if the MPs had been arguing for those policies for two years, if they hadn’t been feeding stories to the press, if you hadn’t had Peter Mandelson being quoted saying ‘I get up every morning to undermine him,’ and interviewed on that agenda on a number of occasions. Just think if he’d had that support – I think he would have won.”

Click here to watch a montage put together by Channel 4 News featuring senior Labour MPs (including Stephen Kinnock again) who publicly excoriated Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.

Update:

For some reason the interview featuring Ken Loach has been taken down, so here’s an earlier one broadcast on BBC news:

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Even with the general election campaign underway, prominent Blairites and faux progressive commentators continued to put the knife into Corbyn. On May 5th, on the back of disappointing local and mayoral election results, Jonathan Freedland wrote this:

What more evidence do they need? What more proof do the Labour leadership and its supporters require? This was not an opinion poll. This was not a judgment delivered by the hated mainstream media. This was the verdict of the electorate, expressed through the ballot box, and it could scarcely have been clearer – or more damning.

The headline figure is a projected national share of 27%, the worst recorded by an opposition since the BBC started making such calculations in 1981. The Tory lead of 11 percentage points is larger than the one Margaret Thatcher enjoyed as she headed into the elections of 1983 or 1987, when she won triple-figure landslides.

“Why has this happened?” barked a furious Freedland, answering to his own smug satisfaction:

The good news for Labour is that what I saw in the focus groups were people unimpressed by the Tories, desperate for an opposition and itching to vote Labour again if only Corbyn would get out of the way. It suggests a new leader could take the fight to Theresa May very rapidly. The bad news is that once people have broken a lifelong Labour habit – and shattered a taboo by voting Tory – they may never come back.

According to Freedland, it was just wrongheaded of “the Corbynistas” to try to blame disloyal MPs or, heaven forfend, the “metropolitan pundits who [they] can slam as red Tories” for what he described hyperbolically as “the disaster” and “this meltdown”:

Blaming others won’t do. Instead, how refreshing it would be, just this once, if Corbyn and McDonnell put their hands up and took even a small measure of responsibility for this calamitous result. 4

And a month on, after it transpires that news of the Labour Party meltdown was exaggerated, has Freedland eaten his words? Well, here’s what he wrote on June 10th:

[P]oliticians and pollsters alike did not see this coming. But nor did most pundits – including me. I opposed Jeremy Corbyn when he first stood for the Labour leadership in 2015, and thereafter, and I did so on two grounds. First, on principle: I was troubled by his foreign policy worldview, with its indulgence of assorted authoritarian regimes, and by what I perceived as his willingness to look past antisemitism on the left. But more immediate was an assessment of his basic electability. I wanted the Tories gone, and simply did not believe Labour could pose a serious electoral threat under Corbyn.

My principled objections have not faded, but Thursday’s results make clear that on the electability issue, I was wrong. 5

Freedland’s “principled objections” are in fact bogus (read earlier posts here and here) and his apology is long overdue. Surely the big question, however, is why anyone still takes the opinions of liberal gatekeepers like Freedland at all seriously. In the space of a month he had managed to eloquently flip-flop from “Jeremy Corbyn is to blame for this meltdown” to “Corbyn successfully framed voting Labour as the only way to say enough is enough” and “He’s rewritten the rules.” Hallelujah! (I suppose.)

So please allow me to briefly digress, because today’s media, so narcissistically in love with its own reflection, has become the very definition of an echo chamber: newspaper headlines are a mainstay of TV debate and what is broadcast on TV and radio then siphons back into the newspapers. Additionally, there is increasing reliance on so-called vox pops: phoney snapshots of public opinion, meticulously edited into tidy bundles of required thought. Cheap to produce, they maintain the delusion that media is representative of what people like you and me actually think. In reality, of course, ordinary Joes and Joannas are commandeered to provide off-beam refractions simply to bolster a prefabricated message: Obama is cool; May is serious; Trump is an idiot; and Corbyn is hopeless.

For months on end, the mention of Corbyn elicited titters from the commentariat alongside the required level of derision from the (assiduously selected) ‘man on the street’. Likewise, without fail, each week an audience member on the BBC Question Time would prime the panel with one of those tired old questions about his “unelectability” or the purported “lack of any effective opposition”. Thus, Corbyn was roasted on all sides: by media hacks and politicians from every camp, including nominally his own colleagues.

But then, with the election called, this changed. Legal requirements would ensure some better measure of balance in the debate. Thus, with the playing field abruptly if only partially levelled (our right-wing newspapers are free from such constraints), Corbyn got the chance he’d been waiting for: able at last to make the case for a fairer and more caring society and not to be instantly drowned out by the clamour of critics.

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Project Fear

“Hope always wins over fear” – John McDonnell (post-election interview 6)

“I am a treat” my friend said as I pointed out the large black billboard ahead. His unconscious was momentarily getting the better of him and suggestively reworking the slogan to ensure it was functioning as ads generally do: as promotions for a product. But instead, this image, one I had walked past daily for almost a week, with its Big Sister portrait of May – former Home Secretary behind the Snooper’s Charter – sternly peering out like a stony-hearted headmistress, was issuing the country an exceedingly stark but fair warning.

Put together by anti-austerity campaign group the People’s Assembly, its message was bleak yet factual and accurate. It branded May a threat to our hospitals, our schools, our job security, our pensions and our peace and security. And who could deny any of it?

Sam Fairbairn, People’s Assembly National Secretary described the poster as a response to the Tories’ “manifesto of misery”, adding “she is a threat to everything we rely on from cradle to grave”:

“The crisis in the NHS was created by the Conservative government and they’re doing nothing to address it. She’s snatching free school lunches off infants while her plans to restructure our education system will leave schools without proper funding. University students are being strapped with lifelong debt.” 7

In fact this portent of doom had only recently replaced another. The face of Donald Trump and around it the words “Advertising works… look what it did for me”, but now with a toothbrush moustache inked above those all-too familiar pouting, foul-mouthed lips. Soon afterwards the same billboard had been further subverted when someone had the wherewithal to scrub over ‘advertising’ and substitute a far more appropriate four-lettered word: ‘HATE’ in block capitals. Yes, I mused philosophically, as I passed under it each day… hate does indeed ‘work’ in a political sense.

In our own election hate had mostly remained on the backburner. Instead, the campaign was framed about Brexit, and with emphasis not on immigration this time around. Instead it was supposedly all about leadership. About “strong and stable” government. The hate could wait…

The Sun has since issued a statement to the effect that this headline was not released immediately after the Manchester atrocity but shortly before it occurred. Evidently its editor did not, however, find the conscience to remove it or issue an apology for it remaining published online. Nor did The Sun and other press outlets refrain from issuing follow-up smears against Corbyn, McDonnell and Diane Abbott in the wake of the London Bridge attacks. In fact, on the eve of the vote, The Sun ran with the absolutely disgusting headline “Jezza’s Jihadi Comrades” while the Daily Mail devoted no less than 13 pages to pillorying those same “Apologists for Terror”:

Did the hate work? Below is a screenshot of The Independent on the morning after the London Bridge attacks – the polls were again narrowing and rather rapidly:

Also take a close look at the graph above and see how the convergence between the Labour and Conservative polling slows directly after the Manchester atrocity on May 22nd. Given that campaigning was suspended this is hardly surprising. Nor is it surprising that in a state of shock and heightened anxiety, voters will tend to be more inclined to support an incumbent government or, still more, to turn toward the party most traditionally trusted on law and order. Yet the surge for Labour was only partially held back, and the pollsters were found wanting all over again – except for the exit poll, that is.

There was also the honourable exception of polling company Survation who had bravely forecast a hung parliament and were ridiculed for sticking to their guns…

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The real unelectables

The night before the election, with the polls which had certainly tightened still remaining wildly divergent, I decided to check out the odds at the bookies, given how bookies obviously have a vested interest in getting their numbers right. And a Tory majority then remained odds on, with many punters betting on who might be the next Labour leader. Although May’s position had become shaky too, the smart money was very much backing an increased Tory majority with gains of up to a hundred seats. My heart sank, just as it did immediately upon hearing May’s election announcement. Like many Labour supporters, I was still braced for a trouncing.

Most polls are unreliable, but exit polls are different. They have a special legitimacy and have in some cases been applied as a standard of verification for elections across the world.

Two years ago the exit poll had been a shattering blow. In the weeks leading up to the vote the opinion polls consistently pointed to a hung parliament, whereas the exit poll had quite correctly forecast a Tory majority. On this occasion I was anticipating the worst. Given the unbridgeable six point gap (and an enormous spread of polls between 1% and 15%) combined with the traditional last minute shift in favour of the Conservatives (the shy Tories emerging from their closets), damage limitation was all any Labour supporter could conceivably wish for.

“And what we’re saying is, the Conservatives are the largest party”, David Dimbleby announced to the nation shortly after the polls closed at ten, continuing “but note they don’t have an overall majority at this stage…” soon afterwards conceding, “we’ll be hung, drawn and quartered” if our exit polls are wrong. Although defeated, Corbyn’s many supporters, myself included, were tasting something closer to victory:

Not only the Tories, but every other mainland political party were about to be humiliated in their own special way. Ukip were rather predictably annihilated. Yet to think how a mere four months earlier, so many pundits had been licking their lips at the prospect of leader Paul Nuttall stealing Stoke-on-Trent Central in a by-election, and running Labour and Corbyn out of town. Now Nuttall was ruined instead.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems whose entire campaign was devoted to their bizarre since unrealisable promise of an EU referendum rerun, gained a measly four seats to prop up the meagre eight they already held. Former leader Nick Clegg who had helped the Tories remain in power during the miserable days of the Con-Dem Coalition lost his seat just up the road from me in Sheffield Hallam; like many across the country, I cheered his just demise. A few hours later, hopeless leader Tim Farron did the honourable thing.

In my own constituency of Sheffield Central, former leader of the Greens, Natalie Bennett, came to contest what is a comparatively safe Labour seat, rather than more profitably fighting her corner in a Conservative marginal – so much for forming a “progressive alliance” against the government. Once again, justice was served and Bennett lost, finishing an embarrassing third behind the Tories, with incumbent Paul Blomfield swept back into parliament with a hugely increased majority now approaching 28,000.

North of the border, the political landscape was being even more dramatically reshaped. After the Brexit vote, the SNP had been calling for a new independence referendum – a replay of that “once in a lifetime decision” barely more than two years on. But this divisive move soon became an albatross, and as the SNP tried to backslide on their promises and downplay calls for Indyref2, the Scottish Conservatives no less opportunistically cranked up the pro-unionist rhetoric (a flavour of things to come). It proved a winning tactic with many disaffected Scottish voters.

Even so, not all the angry Scots were turning back to the Conservative and Unionist Party. Studiously under-reported in the media, a great many were evidently returning to Corbyn’s Labour too – Labour regaining six of the seats lost during their humiliating wipe-out in 2015. Either way, the outcome had been a disastrous one for the SNP, losing more than a third of their seats as the vote collapsed by over 13%. By the end of the night, the SNP’s leader in Westminster Angus Robertson lost his seat in Moray, and, most memorably, Scotland’s former First Minister and long-time talismanic party leader Alex Salmond was defeated in Banff & Buchan. More cheers! (I speak for myself obviously.)

Then we must come to the forlorn figure of Theresa May. Has any winner of any general election ever appeared so dejected? She would try to paint some gloss on it later, naturally enough, but there is simply no convincing way to disguise the fact that her anticipated triumph had crumbled to unmitigated disaster. Indeed, only one leader would be able to claim any sort of victory on the night: the “unelectable” Jeremy Corbyn. The rest of the field, slipping backwards in their different manners, were evidently just too electable by far! Astonishingly, May and her Conservative government were left clinging to power only by the tassels of an orange sash. 8

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 ‘Theresa May and the Holy Grail’: having lost her majority, and with complicated Brexit negotiations and fields of wheat on her doorstep, Theresa May is determined to ‘get on with the job of government’ (and to seek the Holy Grail). Click here to watch the original upload at Australia’s ABC.

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A moral victory

A week prior to the general election I had a dream and woke with a vision of Jeremy Corbyn walking into Downing Street as Prime Minister. The dream genuinely happened, but then dreams are rarely prognostic. Instead, the Tories clung on as the main party of government, which is the very best they can say for themselves. May’s re-election was the very epitome of a Pyrrhic victory.

Instead of the envisaged landslide, her government is suddenly in retreat, and clinging to power by its political fingertips, made all the grubbier by that desperate £1.5 billion deal with the political arm of Ulster’s loyalist paramilitaries. How long this weak and wobbly ‘coalition of chaos’ can hobble along together is anyone’s guess.

Regarding my dream again, it obviously owed much to my own psychological investment in the election. Like many thousands of others who had never before been actively involved in campaigning, for six weeks I was out and about leafleting, running street stalls, and door-to-door canvassing. I remain very much committed to the cause. Although the Tories won the battle, suddenly they are losing the war: Corbyn may yet walk into Downing Street…

More speculatively then, the dream seems to me prophetic in a truer sense of the word: that intuitively I was picking up on quite seismic upheavals that were very hard to comprehend, or even to register, during my various interactions on the doorstep. Thus, routinely faced with antipathy and aversion toward Corbyn’s leadership, a common reaction coming from many one-time Labour voters, it became easy to overlook the surge in Labour support from less expected quarters.

This groundswell, as we now know, involved more than just an increased turnout of first-time voters, since it mostly comprised disaffected Lib Dems, wavering Greens, and, more interestingly, some half of former Ukip supporters, plus thousands returning from the SNP, and most surprising of all, a significant proportion of affluent middle-class who are traditionally Conservative supporters. In short, my dream had detected a sea change taking place in our society; shifts in outlook that Corbyn and others in the Labour leadership were directly responding to.

Very skilfully, they had steered the whole debate away from Brexit (May’s original pretext for calling the election) and away from personality too (May’s team had embarked on a presidential-style campaign) by redirecting attention firmly back on to policy instead. In the manner of a musical maestro who responds to applause from his audience by holding up the score, Corbyn consistently drew the public gaze back to Labour’s bold and very thoughtfully composed manifesto: “For the many, not the few”. A manifesto launched not once but twice – funny that! Fully-costed, anti-austerity populism; this was certainly a masterstroke.

Corbyn and McDonnell survived the election against all the odds, and having thus achieved a result beyond common expectation, they have managed to reunite the party behind a commitment to democratic socialist policies. These policies have become Labour’s main strength again. So although Corbyn didn’t win the vote, the Labour manifesto actually did, and as a direct consequence, temporarily at least, it has produced a measureable shift leftwards in the mythical ‘centre ground’ of politics. Those of us determined to say “enough is enough” now have a place to turn and a leader they can get behind.

Jeremy Corbyn gives an impromptu but impassioned speech to the ‘Left Field’ fringe event at this year’s Glastonbury Festival:

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Update:

The latest poll of polls (Friday 7th) now puts Labour eight points ahead of the Tories with a record high of 46%. Meanwhile in Scotland, the poll puts Labour ahead of the SNP by 36% to 31%:

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1 From an article entitled “Secret recording of Kinnock’s anti-Corbyn speech to MPs – in full” written by Andrew Sparrow and Harrison Jones, published in the Guardian on July 8, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/08/secret-recording-neil-kinnock-jeremy-corbyn-step-down-speech-to-mps-in-full

2 From an article entitled “Jeremy Corbyn is a great campaigner – but we need a hard-headed negotiator” written by Stephen Kinnock, published in the Guardian on June 25, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/25/jeremy-corbyn-leadership-challenge-no-confidence-motion

3

Remember those few days in June when Labour MPs couldn’t stop resigning? That long Sunday after the country had voted for Brexit, when every time you turned on the radio another shadow cabinet minister had stood down, calling for Jeremy Corbyn to do likewise? Or the next day, when the only thing you wanted to quit was the non-stop news, just for a few hours, but there was Angela Eagle in tears at her own resignation? Before June, the mass resignation of 44 frontbench politicians in as many hours, all citing a loss of confidence in their leader, would have led to said leader being turfed out of office. But we didn’t count on Corbyn.

From an article entitled “The fate of the MPs who plotted a coup against Corbyn” written by Jane Merrick, published in the Guardian on December 20, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/20/mps-plotted-coup-jeremy-corbyn-coup-where-are-they-now

4 From an article entitled “No more excuses: Jeremy Corbyn is to blame for this meltdown” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in the Guardian on May 5, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/05/jeremy-corbyn-blame-meltdown-labour-leader

5 From an article entitled “Jeremy Corbyn didn’t win – but he has rewritten all the rules” written by Jonathan Freedland, published in the Guardian on June 10, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/10/jeremy-corbyn-general-election–labour-rewrites-rules

6 Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and financial journalist Paul Mason discuss the election result with the Artist Taxi Driver (viewer discretion advised):

7 From an article entitled “Theresa May branded a ‘threat’ to peace, hospitals and schools in nationwide billboard campaign” written by Dan Bloom, published in the Daily Mirror on May 22, 2017. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/theresa-branded-threat-peace-hospitals-10474044

8 Quip stolen from George Galloway.

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spot the difference – BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg caught reading from the Tory script

 

Above: Laura Kuenssberg’s review of the Labour manifesto published by the (impartial) BBC.

Below: Conservative poster from the last election campaign.

Screenshots courtesy of The Canary, which adds:

Sadly, the evidence suggests that Kuenssberg is a symptom of conservative bias at the BBC, rather than cause.

Beyond Harding [Director of BBC news] and Kuenssberg, multiple studies have supported the assertion that this bias exists. A 2013 content analysis of the BBC by Cardiff University found that:

  • The BBC consistently grants more airtime to the Conservatives, whichever party is in power.
  • On BBC News at Six, business representatives outnumbered trade union spokespeople by more than 5:1 in 2007 and by 19:1 in 2012.
  • BBC coverage of the 2008 financial crisis was dominated by stockbrokers, investment bankers, hedge fund managers and other City voices. Civil society voices or commentators critical of the finance sector were almost completely absent from coverage.

Studies by the London School of Economics and the Media Reform Coalition have since found serious imbalance in reporting of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

This tweet sums it up nicely:

 

Clarification: Although The Canary states that amongst the findings of the Cardiff University report, “The BBC consistently grants more airtime to the Conservatives, whichever party is in power”; this is not strictly accurate. If you follow the link you will find the following:

Among political sources, Labour and Conservatives dominate coverage accounting for 86% of source appearances in 2007 and 79.7% in 2012. Our data also show that Conservatives get more airtime than Labour. Bearing in mind that incumbents always receive more coverage than opposition politicians, the ratio was much more pronounced when the Conservatives were in power in 2012.

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Craig Murray debunks “that astonishing Tory Ferguslie Park super triumph”

A Google news search returns 5,240 results for “Ferguslie Park” over the last 24 hours. As compared to 0 mentions in the previous 24 hours.

The media have, with an incredible level of unanimity, seized upon a Tory being elected to represent Ferguslie Park, “the most deprived area of Scotland”, as the leading evidence of a Tory resurgence into areas of Scotland “they could not previously venture into”. I have heard this recounted on every available broadcast platform this evening.

I have two bits of news for the unionist media. Firstly, Ferguslie Park is in Paisley. Most of you think it is in Glasgow. Secondly there is no ward called Ferguslie Park. There is a place called Ferguslie Park, and it is less than half of a ward called Paisley Northwest. Now here is the result of that stunning Tory super-victory amazing spectacular miraculous shocking earth-shattering mould-breaking Tory triumph in Paisley Northwest.

My, how the ground shook. In future years, everybody will recall just exactly where they were at the moment the Conservatives polled 13% in Paisley North West, when that vast uprising of 657 voters swept their candidate to victory on the 10th set of transfers into the fourth available slot in a multi-member constituency.

Now, this will come as a shock to some people. Paisley North West is not a dreadful slum, and contains some distinctly prosperous areas. Much of the ward looks like this.

Here are some statistics for the entire ward.

65% of households in Paisley North West are owner occupied
67% of the population of Paisley North West are employed, self employed or full time students
5.1% of the population of Paisley North West are unemployed
23% of the population of Paisley North West are pensioners
4.9% are housewives/husbands/carers or not in the labour force

In a local election poll with a low turnout, there is a disproportionately high turnout from pensioners and from the wealthier districts. Very few indeed of those measly 657 Tory votes came from the Ferguslie Park estate.

The real story is that in a ward with 65% owner-occupiers and 67% economically active, the Tories could still only manage a measly 13% of the vote. That the large majority of £350,000 owner occupiers do not vote Tory. The real story is that the SNP took 44% to the Tories 13%. But no, the march of Ruth’s 13%ers has apparently changed the course of history. As Tom Robinson once sang, “It’s there in the papers, must be the truth”.

Click here to read the same article on Craig Murray’s blog.

Please note: I have reposted this article because it conclusively debunks and highlights the mainstream media’s pro-Tory election bias and propaganda. It is not intended as an endorsement Craig Murray’s political position more broadly.

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Shai Masot, the Israel lobby, and its part in the ongoing coup against Jeremy Corbyn

Related news: The main article begins after the asterisk.

Last Monday [Feb 27th] 250 academics signed a letter to the UK government criticising their ‘adoption’ of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism:

“which can be and is being read as extending to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights, an entirely separate issue, as prima facie evidence of antisemitism.” 1

The full letter is included as an addition at the end of this post. You can also read it by clicking here.

*

This extended post is based around a recent Al Jazeera investigation broadcast as a four-part series titled The Lobby which has uncovered “from the inside how the Israeli embassy penetrates different levels of British democracy”.

All four episodes are now uploaded on youtube and each is embedded below. I encourage readers, and especially those who are members and supporters of the Labour Party, to watch this documentary series in full. Here is the first episode:

The investigation came to wider public attention following the release of shocking footage of “Israeli diplomat” Shai Masot speculating about how to “take down” Deputy Foreign Minister, Sir Alan Duncan, and other senior politicians less than “solid on Israel”. After the story broke, the press were of course compelled to report on it: it was impossible to ignore such serious allegations that a foreign power was trying to subvert Britain’s democracy. Yet reaction both from the media and the government has been remarkably tepid since. There have been no sustained investigations and we see no push for an official inquiry – this in defiance of Labour demands that the government launch an immediate inquiry into what it rightly calls “a national security issue”:

The shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, said:

“The exposure of an Israeli embassy official discussing how to bring down or discredit a government minister and other MPs because of their views on the Middle East is extremely disturbing.” 2

Instead, however, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) promptly issued a statement:

“The Israeli Ambassador has apologized and is clear these comments do not reflect the views of the embassy or government of Israel.  The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed.” 3

To which Thornberry in turn responded:

“It is simply not good enough for the Foreign Office to say the matter is closed. This is a national security issue.”4

The altogether miserly extent and scope of British media coverage of a plot to subvert our democracy can be usefully measured against the unlimited column inches and headline space given over to unfounded allegations of Russian hacking of the DNC in America. But no less importantly, the plot against Tory ministers occupies a mere ten minutes of one episode of what in full amounts to two hours over four parts of broadcast material. The revelation is damning in the extreme but it should not have been allowed to totally overshadow the real focus of the documentary: a dirty tricks campaign against pro-Palestinian Labour party members and other efforts to subvert the party’s elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn. This chicanery against Corbyn in the interests of a foreign power is something the media has helped to bury.

In this post I will touch on all of the findings of the Al Jazeera documentaries and supplement their revelations with additional background notes and other open source information of relevance. All parts are thoroughly annotated. The cases against Labour members Jean Fitzpatrick, Jackie Walker and others falsely accused of antisemitism are discussed at length.

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Caught in the act

“… seeking to influence decision-makers and opinion-formers to benefit the interests of a foreign power.” — from MI5 definition of ‘espionage’

There is no starker proof of the golden chains in which Israel has entangled the British political class, than the incredible fact that “diplomat” Shai Masot has not been expelled for secretly conspiring to influence British politics by attacking Britain’s Deputy Foreign Minister [Sir Alan Duncan], suggesting that he might be brought down by “a little scandal”. It is incredible by any normal standards of diplomatic behaviour that immediate action was not taken against Masot for actions which when revealed any professional diplomat would normally expect to result in being “PNG’d” – declared persona non grata.

This was the professional verdict of former UK ambassador Craig Murray in light of Al Jazeera’s investigation into Israel’s clandestine interference in British politics. Murray’s thoroughgoing analysis continues:

Obama has just expelled 35 Russian diplomats for precisely the same offence, with the exception that in the Russian case there is absolutely zero hard evidence, whereas in the Masot case there is irrefutable evidence on which to act.

To compare the two cases is telling. Al Jazeera should be congratulated on their investigation, which shames the British corporate and state media who would never have carried out such actual journalism. By contrast, the British media has parroted without the slightest scrutiny the truly pathetic Obama camp claims of Russian interference, evidently without reading them. 5

Episode two:

Craig Murray:

The Israeli Embassy has seventeen Israeli “technical and administrative staff” granted visas by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The normal number for an Embassy that size would be about two. I spoke to two similar size non-EU Embassies this morning, one has two and one zero. I recall I dealt with an angry Foreign Minister during my own FCO career incensed his much larger High Commission had been refused by the FCO an increase from three to four technical and administrative staff.

Shai Masot, the Israeli “diplomat” who had been subverting Britain’s internal democracy with large sums of cash and plans to concoct scandal against a pro-Palestinian British minister, did not appear in the official diplomatic list.

I queried this with the FCO, and was asked to put my request in writing. A full three weeks later and after dozens of phone calls, they reluctantly revealed that Masot was on the “technical and administrative staff” of the Israeli Embassy.

This is plainly a nonsense.

Murray then details the many reasons why he dismisses any claim that Shai Masot is a “diplomat” and simply one of the “technical and administrative staff” of the Israeli Embassy. This is an area I wish to come back to later. Regarding the serious implications of Masot’s role in “subverting Britain’s internal democracy”, Murray continues:

What is it they are always saying to us: if you have got nothing to fear, you have got nothing to hide?

I am confident I know what they are hiding, and that is FCO complicity in a large nest of Israeli spies seeking to influence policy and opinion in the UK in a pro-Israeli direction. That is why the government reaction to one of those spies being caught on camera plotting a scandal against an FCO minister, and giving £1 million to anti-Corbyn MPs, 6 was so astonishingly muted. It is also worth noting that while the media could not completely ignore the fantastic al-Jazeera documentaries that exposed the scandal, it was a matter of a brief article and no follow up digging.

This was not just a curiosity, it reveals a deep-seated problem for our democracy. I intend to continue picking at it. 7

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed”.

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It sounds like a conspiracy8

“The pro-Israel lobby in this country is the most powerful political lobby. There’s nothing to touch them.” — Michael Mates, Conservative MP and privy councillor 9

The following is a transcript of most damning conversation caught on tape by Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter ‘Robin’. It took place at the Aubaine restaurant close to the Israeli embassy in Kensington, and the videotape captures “senior political officer”, Shai Masot, casually proposing to ‘take down’ Cabinet members with Maria Strizzolo, a civil servant and pro-Israel activist, who was the former chief of staff to Minister of State for Education and former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, Robert Halfon:

Masot: Can I give you names of MPs I suggest you take down?

Strizzolo: Well you know, if you look hard enough I’m sure there is something they’re trying to hide.

Masot: Yeah. I have some MPs.

Strizzolo: Well, let’s talk about it.

Masot: No, she knows which MPs I want to take down.

Strizzolo: Yeah, it’s good to remind me.

Masot: The Deputy Foreign Minister [Alan Duncan].

Strizzolo: You still want to go for it?

Masot: No, he’s doing a lot of problems.

Strizzolo: Really?

Masot: Really. It sounds like a conspiracy.

Strizzolo: I thought you had neutralised it a little bit, no?

Masot: No.

Strizzolo: Ah, Boris [Johnson, Foreign Secretary and Duncan’s boss] is good.

Masot: Boris. He is basically good.

Strizzolo: He’s solid on Israel.

Masot: Yeah. He just doesn’t care. He’s busy with everything else, Boris is busy you know… You know he is an idiot but so far… he became Minister of Foreign Affairs without any kind of responsibilities. So technically if something will happen, it won’t be his fault…

Strizzolo: Rob [Halfon] was writing articles. He was doing everything, asking questions in parliament about the terrorist salaries

Masot: When he was an MP? Ah, when he [Duncan] was in DFID [Department for International Development]?

Strizzolo: Yeah, and after a while though Rob was doing a lot of it, and Alan Duncan took him like I think but I don’t exactly remember where… but he took him to one side and threatened him: “If you don’t stop this I’m going to ruin you, I’m going to destroy you” and all that shit.”

And Rob told the Whips, and the Whips just told him to calm down.

Masot: Okay.

Strizzolo: Yeah, you know, never say never.

Masot: Never say never, yeah but…

Strizzolo: A little scandal maybe? Anyway, please don’t tell anyone about our meeting!

Masot: To who would we tell? 10

Both Shai Masot and Maria Strizzolo have since resigned.

Here is episode three:

*

The following is part of an anonymous statement made by a former Tory minister in Cameron’s Cabinet and published in the Mail on Sunday in light of these revelations:

For years the CFI and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), have worked with – even for – the Israeli government and their London embassy to promote Israeli policy and thwart UK Government policy and the actions of Ministers who try to defend Palestinian rights.

Lots of countries try to force their views on others, but what is scandalous in the UK is that instead of resisting it, successive Governments have submitted to it, taken donors’ money, and allowed Israeli influence-peddling to shape policy and even determine the fate of Ministers.

Even now, if I were to reveal who I am, I would be subjected to a relentless barrage of abuse and character assassination.

S/he continues:

The CFI is not affiliated to the Conservative Party. It is incorporated in a way that means it is not to transparent about donors. Yet it arranges for the support of MPs and funds regular visits to Israel which distort the truth. Cameron turned a blind eye to Israeli misconduct – if he ever cared about it – because he was persuaded any criticism would reduce Party donations.

It now seems clear people in the Conservative and Labour Parties have been working with the Israeli embassy which has used them to demonise and trash MPs who criticise Israel; an army of Israel’s useful idiots in Parliament.

The statement concludes:

We need a full inquiry into the Israeli Embassy, the links, access and funding of the CFI and LFI, and an undertaking from all political parties that they welcome the financial and political support of the UK Jewish community, but won’t accept any engagement linked to Israel until it stops building illegally on Palestinian land.

This opaque funding and underhand conduct is a national disgrace and humiliation and must be stamped out. 11

The full statement is reprinted in Appendix A below.

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Joan Ryan and the LFI in the room

“Corbyn is a crazy leader. One of the things he doesn’t understand, he doesn’t get is that the moment you get the leadership, you need to drop all the weirdos. The extremists. It’s good that they were your campaigners. You cannot build a government from extremists. And he doesn’t want to do that. He wants to stay with all those weirdos” — Shai Masot 12

Corbyn is a prominent and long-standing campaigner for Palestinian rights. He is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In short, he is a thorn in the side of the right-wing Zionists who hold power in Israel. From their perspective Corbyn is indeed “an extremist” and so – as the documentaries repeatedly show – this extremely powerful lobby wishes to be shot of him as soon as possible.

Throughout the four parts of the investigation manoeuvres against Corbyn and his base are a constant theme. And their primary tactic is the promotion of claims that the Labour Party under Corbyn is a hotbed for antisemitism. Although founded on bogus allegations (two prime examples are revealed and discussed below), this assertion has been widely promulgated by news outlets including both Channel 4 and the BBC – and more about the BBC below.

Concurrently, the Israel lobby also employs a divide and conquer strategy which is partially exposed during episode 3 when Jeremy Newmark, Chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement (much more on JLM below), is caught on film attempting to drive a wedge between “one of Corbyn’s key lieutenants” and his supporters within Momentum. Here are two quotes revealing the method at work:

“Just to get Clive Lewis, as one of Corbyn’s key lieutenants, onto an openly Zionist JLM platform took a lot of heavy lifting.” 13

And later:

“We already have actual intelligence that from the Momentum political directors’ meeting last night they passed a vote of censure on Clive Lewis, just for coming to our meetings and speaking” 14

In fact, efforts by pro-Israel party members (including some within the PLP) to undermine Corbyn started long before last year’s Liverpool conference. Indeed, the pro-Israel campaign to defeat him predates his first election as Labour leader:

The new chairman of Labour Friends of Israel has acknowledged the “deep concerns” around Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign and urged supporters to instead back a figure who could play a key role in the Middle East peace process.

Joan Ryan was appointed to lead LFI in Parliament on Monday, replacing Anne McGuire who stood down at the general election.

From an article entitled “Don’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn, urges new Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan” published by The Jewish Chronicle during the 2015 Labour leadership battle which Corbyn won in spite of such well-financed opposition with a massive 59% of the vote.

The same article continues:

[Ryan] pledged to tackle pro-boycott voices within Labour and said she would oppose delegitimisation of Israel. She travelled to the country with LFI last December.

Ms Ryan, who nominated Liz Kendall [of the Blairite group Progress – more below] in the party’s leadership contest, said last month’s Jewish community hustings for the contenders had been a key step in the party’s efforts to “win back the trust and confidence of the Jewish community”.

She added: “We hope that Labour party members and supporters will consider when they vote which candidate is best placed to ensure that the next Labour government can play a constructive and engaged role in the crucial search for a two-state solution.

“We recognise the deep concerns which exist about positions taken, and statements made, by Jeremy Corbyn in the past and recognise the serious questions which arise from these.”

The new chair said Labour must be “steadfast” in its support for Israel.

LFI would “continue to work with progressives in both Israel and Palestine who share our commitment to peace and co-existence.

At the same time, we remain adamantly opposed to boycotts and sanctions, which delegitimise Israel, do nothing to further these goals and have no place in the Labour party.

Ms Ryan was ousted from Parliament in 2010 following the expenses scandal but returned with a majority of more than 1,000 in May. 15 

[Bold emphasis added]

Here is episode four:

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So who is Shai Masot?

“The last position that I applied for that there was a slight chance that I will get it actually, is to be the head of the Foreign Affairs Department of the Intelligence Department in Israel. I’m not a career diplomat, I am a political posting, which means that I came for just one position; to assist in political issues that are specific – sometimes you need someone to take care just of them, to be focused on them. That’s what I do. ” — Shai Masot 16

Astonishingly, the Israeli Embassy’s Senior Political Officer Shai Masot, implicated in a plot against the Deputy Foreign Minister, was not on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Diplomatic List, the Bible for the status of accredited diplomats. This opens up a number of extremely important questions. Who was he, what was his visa status and why was he resident in the UK? It is very plain that the work he was doing as “Senior Political Officer” would equate normally to senior diplomatic rank.

writes Murray again in an updated post published two days later on January 10th. He continues:

He was a major in the Israeli Navy – in the FCO’s own table of equivalent rank, Major equates to Second Secretary in the Diplomatic Service.

After that he went on to apparently executive positions in the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, before moving to the Israeli Embassy in London. There he held many recorded meetings with politicians, including giving briefings in parliament and at party conferences, and acted in a way that in general would accord with a rank around First Secretary to Counsellor.

So why exactly has he never featured in the FCO’s Diplomatic List? He very plainly outranks many of those Israeli diplomats who are featured. It should be noted it is perfectly normal for diplomats not to come from a country’s foreign affairs ministry. For one example Ivan Rogers who spectacularly resigned recently as Britain’s Ambassador to the EU, was from the Treasury not the FCO. Several people in the Israeli Embassy, who are on the Diplomatic List, are not from the foreign service. So that is not the reason.

This is not an obscure point. As a former diplomat, my first instinct was to look him up on the Diplomatic List. Every country in the world controls the number of permitted foreign diplomats very closely, for two reasons. Firstly it confers an immigration residency status, and secondly it confers tax exemption and an immunity from prosecution. The Diplomatic List is therefore not a loose thing – there is an entire section of good employees in the FCO tasked with policing it in close liaison with the Home Office.

Embassies are allowed a very small number of technical and support staff – IT people and cleaners – in addition. But these must be what they say they are. Plainly Masot was not in reality one of these, and plainly the official Israeli Embassy explanation that he was a “junior member of staff” is a lie. 17

The Israeli Embassy is not given visas for “junior members of staff” except in very specific job categories which Masot plainly does not meet. It is a lie in which the FCO must have been absolutely complicit in organising his immigration residency status in the UK.

I have contacted the media office of the FCO to query Masot’s immigration status, and so far received no reply. But the key questions are these:

Shai Masot was not on the Diplomatic List. What kind of visa and residence status did he have in the UK?
How many other operatives does the Israeli have with the same UK residence status as Masot?
Why is the British Government granting Israeli intelligence operatives false residency immigration status in the UK based on a deliberate lie about their role and position?
How many other Israeli intelligence officers are active in the UK with a false immigration status?
Who, specifically, authorised Masot’s visa, and why?

My advantage as an ex-British Ambassador is that I know the bureaucratically correct questions to ask to get to the heart of a matter. Please do ask them of your MP, and get them to demand answers from the FCO. 18

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full update entitled “Britain’s Most Undesirable Immigrant: Why Was Shai Masot Given a Visa?”

Craig Murray’s formal query to the FCO media department is reproduced below in Appendix B.

Murray first posed these questions on January 10th. On January 12th the FCO asked him to present them in writing. On February 2nd they replied to the first three questions, but refused to comment on questions 4 or 5 about involvement of the intelligence services in Masot’s appointment:

FCO Media Department have replied that they refuse to give me any further information on the subject, and that I should proceed through a Freedom of Information request so the FCO can assess properly whether the release of any further information is in the national interest. 19

As Craig Murray concludes:

The Al Jazeera documentaries plainly revealed that Masot was working as an intelligence officer, acquiring and financing “agents of influence”. It is simply impossible that the FCO would normally grant seventeen technical and administrative visas to support sixteen diplomats, when six of the sixteen are already support staff. The only possible explanation, confirmed absolutely by Masot’s behaviour, is that the FCO has knowingly connived at settling a large nest of Israeli spies in London. I fairly put this to the FCO and they refused to comment.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed”.

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Israel’s useful idiots in Parliament20

 “Out of the forty new MPs who just got in at the last elections… all those ones were in the CFI, Conservative Friends of Israel. In the LFI [Labour Friends of Israel], it didn’t happen obviously. And you need to get more people on board. It’s a lot of work actually.” — Shai Masot 21

In episode four, undercover reporter ‘Robin’ asks Maria Strizzolo, the former chief of staff to Conservative Minister Robert Halfon, “How many of the MPs from your party are in CFI?”

To which Strizzolo replies:

“Oh, Pretty much all of them. When there is the annual lunch, which is just before Christmas, basically the Whips always make sure that the light votes come after to the CFI lunch because it’s like all the party’s there.” 22

Prompted by Masot, Maria Strizzolo adds: “And the PM, and the Chancellor, and the Foreign Secretary and everyone.” 23

As to how these members might best be influenced, Strizzolo explains her approach as follows:

“If at least you can get a small group of MPs that you know you can always rely on, when there is something coming to parliament, and you know you brief them, you say: ‘you don’t have to do anything, we’re going to give you the speech, we are going to give you all the information, we are going to do everything for you.’ Then I think it becomes easier. And from that little group it might grown and grow and grow.

“So if you prepare everything for them, it’s harder for them to say: ‘Oh no, I don’t have the time…’ So if they already have the question to table for PMQs [Prime Minister’s Questions], it’s hard to say ‘Oh no, no, no I won’t do it.’”24

She also offers an example of how the lobby’s influence has affected policy:

“I was in Israel when they found the three kids that had been kidnapped in 2014. And I was on the phone with Rob [Halfon] to convince him to table a question for Prime Minister’s Question Time for paying tribute… [‘Robin’ interjects “Did he do it?”] Yeah. And also tabling an urgent question to get a statement from the government on the three kids.” 25

In fact, Al Jazeera includes footage of Robert Halfon tabling the question in which he says:

“For the world to see the tragic and brutal murders of three Israeli youngsters most probably by Hamas. Will my honourable friends give the Israeli government every possible support at this time? And does he [Prime Minister David Cameron] not agree with me, that far from showing restraint, Israel must do everything possible to take out Hamas terrorist networks, and will he give the Israel government support in this?”

Cameron replies:

“I think it’s very important that Britain will stand with Israel as it seeks to bring to justice those who are responsible.” 26

*

In 2009, Channel 4 broadcast a highly commendable episode of their flagship investigative series Dispatches. “Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby” looked into the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), a lobby group which then as now claims some 80% of all Conservative MPs as members of whom more than half then made up the Tory shadow cabinet as they now make up the government. Household names include former leaders David Cameron, Iain Duncan-Smith, William Hague; the former Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Sir Malcolm Rifkind; current Cabinet colleagues Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and Liam Fox; and the previous Chairman of the Conservative Party and current Chairman of CFI, Sir Eric Pickles.

Political columnist Peter Oborne, who also presented the Dispatches programme, wrote three years after the broadcast:

There is no doubt that the CFI has exercised a powerful influence over policy. The Conservative politician and historian Robert Rhodes James, writing in the Jerusalem Post in 1995, called it “the largest organisation in Western Europe dedicated to the cause of the people of Israel”. Its power has not waned since. On Tuesday, it hosted approximately 100 Tory MPs, including six Cabinet ministers, and a further 40 peers, at a lunch in central London. The speaker was David Cameron, who pronounced himself a “passionate friend” of Israel, making clear (as he has done in the past) that nothing could break that friendship.

This speech can be seen as part of a pattern. The CFI can call almost at will upon the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer or Foreign Secretary. The Palestinians enjoy no such access. They would be lucky to get a single Conservative MP in the audience for their events, and perhaps some moribund peer to make an address. There is no such organisation as the Conservative Friends of Palestinians. 27

Click here to read Peter Oborne’s full article entitled “The Cowardice at the heart of our relationship with Israel”.

Conservative Friends of Palestine is still yet to be founded (don’t hold your breath!), but interestingly there does exist a variety of other parliamentary lobby groups including Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, European Friends of Israel as well as Labour Friends of Israel, about whom the Al Jazeera series was mainly focussed. According to some reports, there is also a fledgling ‘SNP Friends of Israel’:

The pro-Israel group, whose three founding members are Joe Goldblatt, activist Sammy Stein, and Frank Angell, plan to pay out thousands of pounds for a stall at next month’s SNP conference to challenge support for justice in Palestine within the party. […]

While the group denies connections to support for Israel, its military occupation of Palestinian land, or Israel’s bombing campaigns on Gaza, its members have numerous links to pro-Israel campaigns.

Jeremy Stein said it was unclear where the group would receive the thousands of pounds required to buy access to the conference. He also questioned their claim to be a ‘neutral’ organisation.

“It’s dishonesty on their part,” Jeremy Stein [co-chair of the Glasgow Jewish Education Forum] added. “They don’t support peace in any meaningful sense of the term. They don’t support Palestinian rights.”

From a report published by CommonSpace last September entitled “Jewish community leader speaks out over SNP ‘Israel Front Group’”. It continues:

Jeremy Stein warns that in reality some major funders and supporters of Israel come from a ‘neo-conservative, christian zionist’ perspective, from the more extreme rightwing end of the political spectrum.

“[They have] politics on the far-right of the Israeli political spectrum. They don’t represent mainstream Israeli opinion. A great deal of harm to Israel because they promote the most extreme policies,” he added. 28

*

Reframing the campuses

“The Labour Party at the moment is not in a good place to say the least. There are lots of young people coming through who are moderate, with good views on Israel. I think we haven’t really paid attention to those people, you know, people that are going to be in parliament in ten to fifteen years’ time.” 

— Michael Rubin, Parliamentary Officer for the LFI

In episode 1, Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter, identified as ‘Robin’, asks Masot about the formation of a youth group within Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI). In response, Masot confides that it was “my idea” but that having established a youth group within CFI “when I tried to do the same in the Labour [Party], they had a crisis back then with Corbyn.” Adding: “Specifically, LFI young people doesn’t exist. That is the only place where there is a vacuum.”

The investigation then reveals links between Masot, the Israel Embassy’s “Senior Political Officer” and a whole host of pro-Israel groups which include The Parliamentary Friends of Israel, We Believe in Israel and its parent body, the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM). 29

It transpires that Masot has also been directly involved with Young Conservatives, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) and the youth arm of the Fabian Society and says he knows nearly all the activists in the Young Fabians and that he took a Fabian group on a visit to Israel. 30

Moreover, Masot has a close liaison with The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the predominant pro-Israel lobbying group in America, with whom, as we learn in episodes 2 and 4, he is building ties to an organisation called The City Friends of Israel. In fact, on the train to Liverpool in episode 2, Masot announces to colleagues that this is a group he is helping to establish – although later we discover the group is already founded after he invites ‘Robin’ to a function they are holding.

Masot tells ‘Robin’:

“I went to AIPAC last year because I organised the American-British delegation to AIPAC. It was me and the British donors: around thirty, forty rich families which have sponsored CFI. The Conservatives were with us and some from Labour as well, and we all went together to AIPAC. But the bottom line [is] we had a donor meeting with the head of strategy at AIPAC and he met us basically to teach us, you know, give us some ideas for Britain.” 31

In episode four, Masot even discusses a more audacious plan to tackle the BDS movement involving a front company set up by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs:

“So the Strategic Affairs they asked me, they are establishing a new company – a new private company that basically will work for the Israeli government.

“It’s going to be an office of twenty people, so the position that they suggested to me to do is to be the liaison for the international communities around the world. So it’s good sometimes because you know it’s good to work with AIPAC and all the others, CFI and LFI. It is cool, it’s good.” 32

However, Masot is very careful to distance himself from claiming direct involvement in the formation of any of this multitude of outwardly appearing pro-Israel grassroots organisations, even while, as ‘Robin’ impresses, he encourages him to push ahead with the launch of a new youth branch of LFI. Soon thereafter Masot puts ‘Robin’ in touch with one of his close contacts, Michael Rubin, the Parliamentary Officer for the LFI.

Although prior to contacting Rubin, Masot actually cautions ‘Robin’ saying: “LFI is an independent organisation. No one likes [to think] that someone is managing his organisation.” 33

Later Michael Rubin confides to ‘Robin’ that:

“The Embassy helps us quite a lot. When bad news stories come out about Israel, the Embassy sends us information so we can counter it. Getting it directly from the horse’s mouth, as it were, is quite helpful… We work really closely together, but a lot of it is behind the scenes” 34

Adding, with regards to ‘Robin’s proposed formation of a youth branch:

“We’ve got to be careful because I think there are some people who would be happy to be involved in a Young LFI but wouldn’t necessarily be happy if it was seen as an embassy thing… I think we just have to be careful we’re not to be seen as, you know, ‘Young Israeli Embassy’. You know, we want it to be distinct by itself… We do work really, really closely together. It’s just publicly we try to keep the LFI as a separate identity to the Embassy.35

Rubin then proposes they get in touch with Joan Ryan MP, the Chairperson of the LFI, whom he says “work[s] with the ambassador and the embassy quite a lot, so she’ll speak to Shai most days.” 36

The investigation also steadily reveals how the powerful American lobbying group AIPAC is beginning to channel funds to British campuses through an intermediary known as the Pinsker Centre which was jointly set up by Adam Schapira and Elliot Miller.

Elliot Miller: “I spent a year working in the government of Israel. I was doing a fellowship at the foreign ministry, in the congressional affairs department, so all Congress as far as AIPAC and stuff.” 37

Adam Schapira: “Elliot and I have set up the Pinsker Centre. Our aim is to reframe the rhetoric on UK campuses. I feel like a lot more needs to be done in the educational field, bringing more diverse speakers from across the political spectrum on campus… to present another narrative.” 38

*

The blacklisting of Jackie Walker

“I was seeking information and I still haven’t heard a definition of antisemitism that I can work with” — Jackie Walker 39

In episode 2, undercover reporter ‘Robin’ travels to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. There he meets up with a sizeable pro-Israel delegation, including Russell Langer, who is the former Campaigns Director at the Union of Jewish Students (UJC) and current Public Affairs Manager with the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), an influential umbrella group of Jewish organisations in Britain.

Langer tells ‘Robin’: “There’s a Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East [event] at 2:30, which I’ll be going to, so I need to charge my phone up so I can get some more recordings.” 40 Many others within the pro-Israel delegation also attend the event as ‘spies’ (a shared joke amongst themselves). One is Luke Akehurst, someone Shai Masot describes as “a great campaigner” and “one of the best in the inside… in all the party”, 41 and head of We Believe in Israel, itself an affiliated branch of BICOM. We learn that Akehurst is intending to write a report of the LFPME event.

Later, we see secretly recorded footage from a different scheduled event. It is a ‘training session’ hosted by Mike Katz, the Vice Chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).

Katz opens his session with a presentation entitled “Antisemitism as a phenomenon across the world” during which he informs the delegates about the worrying trend in statistics collected by the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity set up to monitor levels of antisemitism across Britain: “they recorded 557 antisemitic incidents across the UK in the first six months of 2016. That is an 11% increase in the period in 2015. 2014 was the most antisemitic year on record.” 42

Also at the meeting is Labour Party member Christine Tongue who directly challenges the SCT claims saying:

“I’m wondering if I’m now going on that list because my MP actually sent a letter to Jeremy Corbyn asking him to bar me from a rally in Ramsgate because I was an example of antisemitism. Because his office had trawled through my facebook page and found an article that I shared by Norman Finkelstein.” 43

The son of two Jewish holocaust survivors yet staunchly pro-Palestinian, Finkelstein is the bane of the Israel lobby in America. Apparently, he had jokingly proposed a way of ending the occupation of Palestine by resituating Israel within the territory of the United States.

In reposting Finkelstein’s joke, however, Christine Tongue, certainly in the eyes of the Israel lobby, was deemed guilty of the “new antisemitism”, which, as Katz elucidates during the same session, regards any attacks that delegitimise the state of Israel as antisemitic because: “Israel is an integral part of the vast majority of the Jewish community’s identity”. 44 According to this standard, Norman Finkelstein and fellow Jews critical of Israeli policy are likewise denigrated as “self-hating”.

Graham Bash was another Labour Party member who had joined the session. Bash told the audience:

“I’m Jewish and I don’t agree with the concept of a Jewish state because it gives me the right to live in Israel whereas a Palestinian who’s been displaced has a lesser right than me. So when you say it’s not appropriate [“to delegitimise the right of Israel to exist”], are you really saying it’s not appropriate for us to have a political discussion?” 45

Another outspoken delegate at the same session was Jackie Walker, who along with her partner, is Jewish too. Walker, both a political activist and long-standing anti-racist campaigner, was as then Vice Chair of Momentum. And she responded to Katz as follows:

“If you are saying effectively that Zionism, you know, is not open to debate as a concept, then that is really worrying. Antisemitism, like any form of racism, is deplorable, and my feeling about how to tackle this is for Jews to be standing firmly and squarely alongside our Black comrades, our Muslim comrades, who are much more at the moment the target of racism than thankfully at the moment we are…” 46

After delivering her rebuttal, Walker is heard to receive a brief ripple of appreciative applause, and yet soon afterwards she became the centre of a headline-making scandal that would revive allegations of increasing antisemitism within ‘Corbyn’s Labour Party’:

Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker has been suspended from Labour over controversial comments she made at a party training event.

Leaked footage showed the campaigner saying she had not found a definition of antisemitism she could work with. […]

When she was asked whether she had considered resigning given the outrage among some Jewish groups, Walker said: “Some other prominent Jewish groups, of which I’m a member, think a very different thing. What we have to look at when we’re talking about this subject, particularly at the moment, is the political differences that are underlying this as well.”

She said whomever leaked the footage from a Labour party antisemitism training event “had malicious intent in their mind”. She also said she was anti-Zionist rather than antisemitic, adding: “I think Zionism is a political ideology, and like any political ideology, some people will be supportive and some people won’t be supportive of it. That’s a very different thing.” 47

From a report by the Press Association published in the Guardian on September 30th.

Here is an example of the public support she did receive from other Jewish Labour activists but which the mainstream media were determined to overlook:

We are Jewish Labour activists who were with Jackie Walker at the training session on antisemitism led by Mike Katz, vice chair of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) during the Labour Party conference in Liverpool on Monday September 26. Like her, some of us were heckled when we raised questions unpalatable to others in the audience who share the JLM’s bias towards Israel, its coupling of Jewish identity with Zionism and its insistence on the uniqueness of Jewish suffering.

Jackie had every right to question the JLM’s definition of antisemitism and the tendency of mainstream Jewish organisations to focus entirely on the slaughter of Jews when they commemorate the Nazi Holocaust. We share her determination to build greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimised. Jackie responded appreciatively when one audience member described Holocaust memorial events involving Armenians and others. She has since issued a statement on this issue, reproduced below.

Click here to read the full statement by Free Speech on Israel and see  Appendix C to read Jackie Walker’s personal statement.

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews actually went so far as to call Walker “an unapologetic Jew-baiter”. 48

This is how Walker afterwards described the events that unfolded to Al Jazeera:

“At the start they seemed relatively relaxed. It was simply a training session. I think some of us had gone along there with the idea it was kind of strange, because in some ways this was against what Shami Chakrabarti had actually advised. So we wanted to see what was going on. […]

By the time the row actually broke out I was on my way home. I mean none of us thought anything about this training session. I was in the car and suddenly I started to get these tweets coming through to me. And these phone calls from the BBC.” 49

As it transpired, a secretly recorded clip from the ‘training session’ had been leaked to a news outlet.

Walker continues: “What was actually leaked was certain little segments that would be as controversial as possible.” 50

The decontexturalised sound-bite that most ignited this very heated though totally belated reaction was this one: “In terms of Holocaust Day, I would also like to say wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust Day was open to all peoples who experienced Holocaust…” 51

Out of context, her statement quoted at the top of this section also caused considerable furore: that she hadn’t “heard a definition of antisemitism that I can work with”. Of this, Walker explains:

“How it was reported and how it was tweeted was [that] I was basically saying ‘I can’t find anywhere a definition of antisemitism to work with’. That’s total nonsense. I’m an anti-racist trainer. I’ve been an anti-racist trainer for forty years. I’ve been fighting fascists and antisemites on the streets for decades.” 52

Walker concludes:

“I’m not just Jewish, I am black. And my ancestry is of African enslavement. Only this year I spoke at Slavery Remembrance Day, and I spoke to a crowd in Trafalgar Square about the African Holocaust. And that is what we call it. You can disagree with me as to whether I should call that a holocaust but it is not antisemitic for me to call what happened to African people in the diaspora, a holocaust. […]

If they accuse anybody of antisemitism, it’s basically as bad as kind of accusing somebody of being a paedophile or a murderer. And it’s really hard to come back from that.53

Later ‘Robin’ speaks with Masot about Jackie Walker. Masot tells him:

“Yeah, she is problematic. What can we do…? Do not let it go. That’s all you can do. Do not let it go… that’s the key.” 54

*

JLM in the campaign against Corbyn

“Some of us would say it was mostly a constructed crisis for political ends. I would say there was a crisis of the way that antisemitism is being manipulated and being used by certain parts of, not just the Labour Party but other parties, and the media to discredit Jeremy Corbyn and a number of his supporters. I mean let’s disagree politically: I’m anti-Zionist, they’re pro-Zionist… Let’s have THAT argument. Not this one that’s going on at the moment.”

— Jackie Walker 55

It was investigative reporter Asa Winstanley from the Electronic Intifada who first revealed last September that Ella Rose, the Director of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), was working at the Israel embassy as public affairs officer between September 2015 and August 2016, when she joined JLM as its first director:

Press reports in July announcing Rose’s appointment did not disclose the Israeli embassy link, mentioning only her previous position as president of the Union of Jewish Students.

Jewish critics of the JLM have told The Electronic Intifada that JLM’s link to the Israeli embassy should disqualify it from leading Labour Party trainings on antisemitism.

Ella Rose (second left on right-hand side of table) was part of a January 2015 meeting with then Prime Minister David Cameron which discussed opposing “boycotts and the deligitimization of Israel.” (Photoshot/Newscom)

Importantly, Electronic Intifada also established close ties to the Blairite Labour faction and ginger group ‘Progress’:

Although a dormant organization for many years, the JLM in February rose to prominence not long after it appointed as its new chair Jeremy Newmark, a well-known Israel lobbyist.

It was soon being actively promoted by Progress, the well-funded “moderate” Labour organization which is closely associated with the legacy of former leader Tony Blair.

Predictably, JLM soon became active in supporting the false narrative that Labour has become a cesspit of antisemitism under the leadership of left-winger and long-time advocate for Palestinian rights Jeremy Corbyn.

At the time, Jackie Walker reportedly told them “that in light of Ella Rose’s role at the embassy, JLM’s claim not to be an Israel advocacy organization was ‘highly doubtful.’”:

Walker, a Jewish anti-racism activist who has been falsely smeared as antisemitic by JLM and others, said it was ironic that members don’t have to be Jewish to join JLM, but they do have to be Zionist. 56

Click here to read the full article entitled “New Jewish Labour Movement director was Israeli embassy officer” published by The Electronic Intifada.

Towards the end of episode 2, ‘Robin’ runs into Ella Rose:

“I saw Jackie Walker on Saturday and thought, you know what, I could take her, she’s like 5’2 and tiny… That’s why I can take Jackie Walker. Krav Maga training,”

Still referring to the Israeli army hand-to-hand fighting technique, she then added: “Yeah. I’m not bad at it. If it came to it I would win, that’s all I really care about.”

Jackie Walker again: “What we need to have is some investigation of this from the Labour Party. And I will be making a formal complaint against both Ella Rose and the Jewish Labour Movement” 57

*

Outside the comfort zone

“It’s in a way pathetic, but it’s also worrying how such pathetic evidence can be used to intimidate Jeremy Corbyn into publishing an inquiry commission, making daily confessions that he’s not antisemitic. And so on…”

— Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian and activist 58

Members, activists and at least one MP of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party described as “anti-Semitic” a member who challenged their pro-Israel ideas, despite some uncertainty over whether the member’s comments were actually racist, an investigation by Al Jazeera has found.

The charges, made at September’s Labour Party conference, led to the member being suspended pending a full investigation.

In total, the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) said it had seen three cases of anti-Semitism during the first day of September’s Labour Party conference, with the group of Israel supporters later debating the validity of two of them.

The complaints came in the wake of the Chakrabarti Inquiry, an investigation during summer 2016 into anti-Semitism within the Labour ranks. That report had concluded racism, including anti-Semitism, was not endemic within Labour. 59

Click here to read the full Al Jazeera article – Note that: the link did work prior to posting but the page seems to have been since taken down.

The member in question is Jean Fitzpatrick and it happened during her first visit to a party conference. Joan Ryan was overseeing the LFI stall when Jean Fitzpatrick arrived to pitch a question about the FLI’s stance on Israel’s illegal settlements. After a few minutes, Ryan tells Fitzpatrick that she has decided to end the conversation and it is better that they agree to disagree. But Fitzpatrick persists, and says (correctly) that she has not had a reply to the LFI’s policy regarding the settlements. Then she makes a claim. She says: [LFI] is a “stepping-stone to good jobs”, before adding “a friend of mine’s son’s got a really good job at Oxford University on the basis of having worked for Labour Friends of Israel.”

Afterwards ‘Robin’ records a conversation between Michael Rubin, Jennifer Gerber, Director of LFI, and Alex Richardson, who is Joan Ryan’s Parliamentary Assistant:

JG: “If an antisemite comes up, somebody says to me: ‘Jews, they’re all f**king big noses and control the world’ I’m like wow, you’re an antisemite, that’s terrible. Someone like her [Jean Fitzpatrick] worries me more because is she an antisemite? I don’t know, but she basically denies the fact that it [antisemitism] exists, she just thinks it’s made up…”

“Is that antisemitic guys, I don’t know, like…?”

MR: “I don’t know where that line is anymore…

AR: “I think if it makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s the point which you call it out and report it, and that’s why Joan convinced me to report the one yesterday [with Jean Fitzpatrick] because I was made to feel uncomfortable and though nothing antisemitic was said I’m sure there were undertones of it and it was brought upon by that context.

“At the end of the day, if you feel offended by it and uncomfortable for it – this should be a safe space and anything that breaks that should be reported I think. But there is that line, obviously, I don’t know.” 60

Later Alex Richardson emails undercover reporter ‘Robin’ to ask him to act as a witness to what is now alleged to have been act of antisemitism.

Richardson says:

“I kind of feel it was an antisemitic trope, against Israel. Like Jews controlling and having power and money… although she didn’t say Jews and she said Israel. It is definitely on the line, do you know what I mean? If she had said the word ‘Zionist’ I would have said one hundred percent. A hundred percent.” 61

Notwithstanding his misgivings, Richardson is apparently keen to see Fitzpatrick expelled from the Labour Party:

“How it works is that you make a complaint within the Labour Party and their own rules will decide. I suspect, I don’t know. But I suspect that this woman might be potentially banned because she said something that was antisemitic.” 62

Joan Ryan also discusses it with colleagues.

“They’re antisemitic… you heard her say, you know… ‘join you lot and you get into Oxford’ or ‘you get into working in the bank’ or… That’s antisemitic.”

And later the same evening, at a rally held ‘to combat antisemitism’ that was organised by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), Joan Ryan describes her day at the stall:

“We have also had three incidents of antisemitic harassment on our stand, to the people who are staffing that stall today. And that, I think tells you something about why we need to be having this ‘Against Antisemitism Rally.’”

A formal complaint is made against Jean Fitzpatrick and in episode 4, we learn how she too has become the subject of a formal Labour Party investigation regarding her conduct. In this formal complaint, it is alleged that she had “constantly suggested” that the LFI has “lots of money and power” when in actual fact what she said was the LFI has “money and prestige” and she said it just once. Indeed, as the recording shows, it is Joan Ryan herself who used the alleged words saying: “Labour Friends of Israel have got a lot of power, a lot of money…” presumably in an attempt to elicit a reaction.

The concluding paragraph of the statement against Fitzpatrick read:

“The above incidents and allegations levelled at JF left the complainants feeling victimised, intimidated, and both felt the incident contained what they both described as incidents of anti-Semitism.” 63

In other words, and to quote Joan Ryan’s Parliamentary Assistant, Alex Richardson, again: “I was made to feel uncomfortable and though nothing antisemitic was said I’m sure there were undertones of it…”

Jean Fitzpatrick’s name was cleared. Reflecting on the incident afterwards, she told Al Jazeera:

“I’m just a regular citizen who is concerned about what is happening in the Middle East. And not to be able to talk about that, without being accused of being antisemitic, I find deeply worrying.” 64

A full transcription of the conversation between Joan Ryan and Jean Fitzpatrick (as broadcast) is available in Appendix D below.

*

The ‘new antisemitism’ and the PLP’s witch hunt

“The fashion is, if you are on the left today, you are probably very hostile to Israel, if not antisemitic… Some of the people [in the Labour Party] are more Palestinian than the Palestinians” — Mark Regev, Ambassador of Israel 65

Charley Allan, a Jewish member of the party, and a Morning Star columnist, has described the current atmosphere in the press and Labour Party as a “witch hunt.”

It has reached such an absurd volume that any usage of the word “Zionist” is deemed to be anti-Semitic – although tellingly not when used by self-described Zionists.

From an article by Asa Winstanley published last April. The same piece continues:

Smears of anti-Semitism against Corbyn started even before he was elected.

During his leadership campaign in the summer of 2015, the establishment media worked itself into a frenzy of anti-Corbyn hysteria, led more than any other paper by the liberal Guardian.

One of the recurring themes in this campaign was Corbyn’s long-standing support for Palestinian human rights.

Because of this, attempts were made to say outright, or to imply, that Corbyn was a secret anti-Semite, or that he associated with, or tolerated “notorious” anti-Semites.

Although these hit jobs gained some traction, they were soon debunked, and ultimately seemed to have little impact on the leadership election.

Winstanley then unpicks the “anti-Semitism scandal” which allegedly erupted in the Oxford University Labour Club and became a focus of huge media attention:

In a public Facebook posting Alex Chalmers, the co-chair of the club, resigned his position over what he claimed was anti-Semitic behavior in “a large proportion” of the student Labour club “and the student left in Oxford more generally.”

But as evidence he cited the club’s decision, in a majority vote, to endorse Oxford’s Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual awareness-raising exercise by student groups which support Palestinian rights.

This connection was clearly designed to smear Palestine solidarity activists as anti-Semites – a standard tactic of the Israel lobby

The Electronic Intifada can reveal for the first time evidence that Chalmers himself has been part of the UK’s Israel lobby.

Chalmers has worked for BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.

Funded by the billionaire Poju Zabludowicz, BICOM is a leading pro-Israel group in London. […]

Chalmers has also been accused of disseminating a false allegation that a left-wing Labour student at Oxford had organized people into a group to follow a Jewish student around campus calling her a “filthy Zionist,” and that he had been disciplined as a result.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the accused student said that he had reason to believe Chalmers may have been behind the dissemination of this smear.

Paul Di Felice, the current acting principal of the Oxford college in question, confirmed to The Electronic Intifada the authenticity of a statement from its late principal denying all the allegations. “I have found no evidence of any allegations being made to the college about” the student “involving anti-Semitism, or indeed anything else, during his time at the college,” the statement read.

The Electronic Intifada put all this to Alex Chalmers in an email, but he failed to reply.

In the same article, Asa Winstanley also draws attention to the “large crossover between right-wing, anti-Corbyn Labour and the pro-Israel lobby within the party”:

[MP Wes] Streeting has a long history in Progress, a right-wing faction within the party that continues to support former prime minister Tony Blair.

One of Progress’ leading supporters has described the group as “an unaccountable faction” dominated by the “secretive billionaire” Lord Sainsbury. […]

Streeting and [Chair of JLM, Jeremy] Newmark are arguing for tougher action and changes to the party’s rules.

The head of Progress proposed rule changes in the Mirror which would put “a modern understanding of anti-Semitism” into the party. “It is not acceptable to use the term ‘Zionism’ as a term of abuse,” the article stated, arguing for people who did so to be expelled.

This proposal echoes efforts pushed by Israel lobby groups, including at the University of California, to legislate that opposition to Zionism – Israel’s state ideology – is itself a form of antisemitism. 66

Click here to read the full article entitled “How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis” published by The Electonic Intifada in April 2016.

Back in April 2016, Wes Streeting and Jeremy Newmark were given a free platform by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to accuse Corbyn of not doing enough to stem the alleged rise in antisemitism, and to call for changes to Labour’s rule book that would make it easier to expel members over charges of antisemitism:

*

Meanwhile, there is another battle in Liverpool where MP Louise Ellman, who is the former Chair of the JLM as well as the current Vice Chair of LFI, has called for the suspension of Labour’s Riverside constituency party on the basis of an anonymous dossier:

Momentum and Labour party member Audrey White has now written to the party’s general secretary Iain McNicol urging him to step in, saying the document which was used to accuse far left groups of infiltrating the party, contains “libellous mis-information”.

In her letter to party bosses Audrey White says: “I have recently read that Ms Ellman sent this document to the general secretary of the Labour Party urging the suspension of the Riverside CLP relying on information from this report.

“If this is true, I ask that the NEC not accept this document and give it no credibility whatsoever as this document not only contains falsehoods and whispers, it includes libel.”

Mrs White told the ECHO the MP should “apologise to me and to members of the party” and said: “It’s clearly a dodgy dossier – anything that is unauthored like this is dodgy, and it’s scurrilous. She should be apologising to me, for the hurt to my family from the lies in it, and to the constituency.”

In her letter complaining about the MP she said: “It is wrong for a person holding public office to rely on, quote or promote an anonymous document which is full of lies and scurrilous comments.”

The letter ends: “I find it intolerable that an MP can act in this way and hope that you will take the necessary action.” 67

More recently, veteran activist Audrey White has written to the NEC to say she has no confidence in the investigation – her letter reads:

“Before you make any decisions regarding the future of our CLP I wish to remind you that the Labour Party officials who made unsubstantiated claims of antisemitism at Riverside meetings have a duty of care to all their constituents. What they did amounts to inciting racial tension.

“The many years of work to unite the different communities in our city has been seriously damaged by their actions.

“The fact that these claims were not investigated by the CLP executive or NW Labour for 10 months has helped to create divisions both locally and nationally.

“I am sorry to say I have no confidence in this investigation which I believe is a smokescreen to hide and excuse these powerful people. I fear that in an effort to protect Louise Ellman and (assistant mayor) Nick Small this investigation will produce a headline grabbing false narrative using the words bullying, toxic, intimidation and antisemitism while the solid facts are cast aside.

“There was no bullying and antisemitism this is a fabrication and we will not let this slur against us and our city go unchallenged.” 68

The investigation is ongoing. A list of the allegations contained in the ‘dodgy dossier’ and further responses from the defendants and the Labour NEC can be read in Appendix E.

On January 28th, George Galloway interviewed Audrey White for the second half of his RT show ‘Sputnik’ embedded below:

Click here to watch the same show on the RT website.

The so-called “new antisemitism” – this conflation of antisemitism with all forms of criticism of Israeli policy and its far-right Zionist agenda is Israel’s preferred way to shutdown the debate as I explained in two earlier posts on the subject here and here.

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The BBC and its routine bias against Corbyn

“I am pro-Israel. I believe in the State of Israel” — James Harding, Director of BBC News

The BBC broke accuracy and impartiality rules in a News at Six report about Jeremy Corbyn’s view on shoot-to-kill, the BBC’s governing body has said.

The item, by BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, was shown three days after the Paris attacks in November 2015.

So begins a damning BBC retraction hidden away in its ‘Entertainment and Arts’ section. The same BBC report then provides a blow-by-blow account of how the interview with political editor Kuenssberg had been deliberately manipulated:

In the News at Six report, Kuenssberg said she had asked Mr Corbyn “if he were the resident here at Number 10 whether or not he would be happy for British officers to pull the trigger in the event of a Paris-style attack”.

He was seen to reply: “I am not happy with a shoot to kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counter-productive.”

The actual question Kuenssberg had asked during the interview was: “If you were prime minister, would you be happy to order people – police or military – to shoot to kill on Britain’s streets?”

The previous question in the interview, in a section that was not used on the News At Six, he had been asked specifically about his response to a Paris-style attack if he was prime minister and whether he would “order security services onto the street to stop people being killed”.

In answer to that question, Mr Corbyn had replied: “Of course you’d bring people onto the streets to prevent and ensure there is safety within our society.” 69

The BBC Trust was strong in its condemnation of Kuenssberg saying:

“The breach of due accuracy on such a highly contentious political issue meant that the output had not achieved due impartiality.”

But in response, James Harding, Director of BBC News, said:

“While we respect the Trust and the people who work there, we disagree with this finding.” 70

Click here to read the full BBC report.

But then Harding, director of BBC News, is very far from an impartial observer. Here is what he said at a media event organized by The Jewish Chronicle in 2011:

“I am pro-Israel. I believe in the State of Israel. I would have had a real problem if I had been coming to a paper [The Times] with a history of being anti-Israel. And, of course, Rupert Murdoch is pro-Israel.”

The strongly Zionist Jewish Chronicle reprinted those words with glee as news of Harding’s BBC appointment broke. And it also took the opportunity to remind its readers that, during the Israeli massacre in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, when more than 1,400 Palestinians were slaughtered, Harding wrote a Times editorial titled, “In defense of Israel” (“Signs of The Times at JCC,” 14 April 2011).

Now bringing his pro-Israel biases into the top ranks of the BBC, Harding will be in charge of its flagship news and current affairs programs including Today, Newsnight, Panorama and Question Time. He will also be responsible for daily news bulletins on the BBC’s main television channels and radio stations.

According to the Guardian, Harding now holds “arguably the most important editorial job in Britain” (“James Harding: ex-Times editor could become the story at the BBC,” 16 April 2013).

The news of his appointment to the £340,000 ($518,000) per year post comes just a fortnight after the former Labour Party minister James Purnell took up his new position at the BBC as director of strategy and digital.

Purnell, who was one of Hall’s first appointments, served for two years while in Parliament as chairman of the Westminster lobby group Labour Friends of Israel71

Click here to read the full article entitled “Apologists for Israel take top posts at the BBC” published by The Electonic Intifada in April 2013.

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Click here to read a Guardian article published on May 12th 2016 entitled “BBC may have shown bias against Corbyn, says former trust chair.”

The BBC was also declared guilty of “marked and persistent imbalance” in a report released by the researchers from the Media Reform Coalition and Birkbeck, University of London, which found that “almost twice as much unchallenged airtime was given to people criticising Mr Corbyn than his allies on the BBC”.

Click here to read an Independent article published on July 30th entitled “Media ‘persistently’ biased against Jeremy Corbyn, academic study finds”

The above links were previously appended to this earlier post about last year’s leadership challenge from Owen Smith.

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The scandal of Fox, Gould and Werritty revisited

“If neo-cons such as yourself, Robert [Halfon], are plotting a war in Iran, we should know about it.” — Paul Flynn MP 72

In Craig Murray’s analysis of the revelations involving Shai Masot, he once again draws attention to connections with an earlier scandal surrounding undisclosed and illicit British-Israel relations – the briefly disgraced Liam Fox (quietly rehabilitated and back in May’s cabinet as Secretary of State for International Trade), former UK Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, and their close association with a shadowy figure named Adam Werritty (you can read much more about this in earlier posts here):

The two stories – Russian interference in US politics, Israeli interference in UK politics – also link because the New York Times claims that it was the British that first suggested to the Obama administration that Russian cyber activity was targeting Clinton. Director of Cyber Security and Information Assurance in the British Cabinet Office is Matthew Gould, the UK’s former openly and strongly pro-Zionist Ambassador to Israel and friend of the current Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev. While Private Secretary to David Miliband and William Hague, and then while Ambassador to Israel, Gould held eight secret meetings with Adam Werritty, on at least one occasion with Mossad present and on most occasions also with now minister Liam Fox. My Freedom of Information requests for minutes of these meetings brought the reply that they were not minuted, and my Freedom of Information request for the diary entries for these meetings brought me three pages each containing only the date, with everything else redacted.

I managed to get the information about the Gould/Werritty meetings as a result of relentless questioning, where I was kindly assisted by MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas and Paul Flynn. The woman with whom Shai Masot was conniving to undermine Alan Duncan, was Maria Strizzolo, who works for Tory Minister Robert Halfon. It was Halfon who repeatedly tried to obstruct Paul Flynn MP from asking questions of Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell that threatened to get to the heart of the real Adam Werritty scandal.

Both Robert Halfon and Adam Werrity received funding from precisely the same Israeli sources, and in particular from Mr Poju Zabludowicz. Halfon also formerly had a full time paid job as Political Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel. Halfon’s assistant is now caught conspiring with the Israeli Embassy to attack another Tory minister.

Murray then supplies notes from the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, dated 24/11/2011, which you can find reprinted in Appendix F.

Here are the opening exchanges:

Paul Flynn: Okay. Matthew Gould has been the subject of a very serious complaint from two of my constituents, Pippa Bartolotti and Joyce Giblin. When they were briefly imprisoned in Israel, they met the ambassador, and they strongly believe—it is nothing to do with this case at all—that he was serving the interest of the Israeli Government, and not the interests of two British citizens. This has been the subject of correspondence.

In your report, you suggest that there were two meetings between the ambassador and Werritty and Liam Fox. Questions and letters have proved that, in fact, six such meetings took place. There are a number of issues around this. I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories, but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service. Werritty is a self-proclaimed—

Robert Halfon: Point of order, Chairman. What is the point of this?

Paul Flynn: Let me get to it. Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran.

Chair: I have to take a point of order.

Robert Halfon: Mr Flynn is implying that the British ambassador to Israel is working for a foreign power, which is out of order.

Back to Murray:

It is shocking but true that Robert Halfon MP, who disrupted Flynn with repeated points of order, receives funding from precisely the same Israeli sources as Werritty, and in particular from Mr Poju Zabludowicz. He also formerly had a full time paid job as Political Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel. It is not surprising that Shai Masot evidently views Halfon as a useful tool for attacking senior pro-Palestinian members of his own party.

But despite the evasiveness of [Gus] O’Donnell and the obstruction of paid zionist puppet Halfon, O’Donnell confirmed vital parts of my investigation. In particular he agreed that the Fox-Werritty-Gould “private dinner” in Tel Aviv was with Mossad, and that Gould met Werritty many times more than the twice that O’Donnell listed in his “investigation” into the Werritty affair. The truth of the Werritty scandal, hidden comprehensively by the mainstream media, was that Werritty was inside the UK Ministry of Defence working for Israel. That is why it was so serious that Defence Minister Liam Fox had to resign

Of the eight meetings of Fox-Gould-Werritty together which I discovered, seven were while Fox was Secretary of State for Defence. Only one was while Fox was in opposition. But O’Donnell let the cat much further out of the bag, with the astonishing admission to Paul Flynn’s above questioning that Gould, Fox and Werritty held “meetings that took place before the election.” He also referred to “some of those meetings” as being before the election. Both are plainly in the plural.

It is evident from the information gained by Paul Flynn that not only did Fox, Gould and Werritty have at least seven meetings while Fox was in power – with no minutes and never another British official present – they had several meetings while Fox was shadow Foreign Secretary. O’Donnell was right that what Fox and Werritty were up to in opposition was not his concern. But what Gould was doing with them – a senior official – most definitely was his concern. A senior British diplomat cannot just hold a series of meetings with the opposition shadow Defence Secretary and a paid Israeli lobbyist.

All of this underlined the pernicious influence that Israel has in the political class, which is founded on the Israeli lobby’s shameless use of cash for influence – as witnessed in the discussion between Shai Masot and Labour Friends of Israel and his flaunting of a million. Attitudes towards the plight of the Palestinians are an extreme example of the disconnect between public opinion and the views of the political class, and Al Jazeera should be congratulated heartily on giving us a peek into that.

No further evidence is required. There could be no more conclusive evidence of Israel’s undue and pernicious influence than the astonishing fact that Shai Masot has not yet been expelled. 73

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full post entitled “Why Has Israeli Spy Shai Masot Not Been Expelled?”

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The co-opting of Owen Jones

On February 14th, JLM announced that Owen Jones would be appearing in conversation with their Vice-Chair Sarah Sackman for the inaugural Henry Smith Memorial Lecture on the April 2nd. He is going to speak on “left anti-Semitism, the Middle East and the Labour Party.”

In view of the extraordinary revelations of the recent Al Jazeera documentaries and the prominent role played by JLM in the dirty tricks campaign against Corbyn and his supporters, the timing of Jones’ invitation is highly politically charged. So why did Jones accept?

Here was his offhanded response to criticism from independent journalist Jonathan Cook:

And here is part of Cook’s reply to Jones:

Owen Jones has responded to this blog post both on Twitter, calling it “tedious nonsense” in his usual, dismissive style, and with a post here that tries to deflect attention from my argument with a straw man: that a conspiracy theory is painting him as a stooge of the Israeli government.

No conspiracy is being posited here – only very, very poor judgment. I have also not accused him of working on behalf of the Israeli government. Only of assisting, presumably thoughtlessly, those who are working on behalf of the Israeli government inside the Jewish Labour Movement, including most definitely its current director, Ella Rose.

Sadly, though predictably, he has avoided addressing the point of my criticism. 74

Click here to read the full post on Jonathan Cook’s blog.

Jones ought to be aware, but seems oblivious to the fact, that he is being used:

The Jewish Labour Movement scoring Jones appears to be a high-profile instance of a new push endorsed by Israel’s government to ensure that Palestine solidarity “instigators” are “singled out” from so-called “soft critics” of Israel.

According to The Jewish Daily Forward, the strategy – jointly developed by the Reut Institute and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – “calls for a big tent approach that accepts progressive critics of Israel” while also demanding “an all-out assault on leading critics of Israel, sometimes using covert means.”

“The instigators must be singled out from the other groups, and handled uncompromisingly, publicly or covertly,” the Reut-ADL report states, according to The Forward, which obtained a copy on condition it not publish the entire document.

The Jewish Labour Movement, a pro-Israel organization within the UK’s main opposition Labour Party, appears to be on board with this strategy.

From a more recent article written by Asa Winstanley and published in The Electronic Intifada. The piece continues:

Following the announcement that Jones would headline the Jewish Labour Movement event, Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook criticized the Guardian columnist for promoting a group “shown to be acting as a front for the Israeli government’s efforts” in Labour.

Jones replied with a blog post calling his critics conspiracy theorists and reaffirming that he was “very glad” to speak at this pro-Israel group’s event.

“I am a passionate opponent of anti-Semitism in all its forms, overt or subtle. It has to be fought, relentlessly, wherever it appears, including on the left,” Jones asserted – an implication that his critics might condone or tolerate anti-Semitism.

Whether Jones realizes it or not, he is facilitating the strategy of isolating Palestine solidarity campaigners by performing the role of “soft critic” of Israel.

Any division in Labour ranks over Jones’ decision will likely be seen by Jewish Labour Movement leaders as a success. 75

Click here to read Asa Winstanley’s full article published on February 21st.

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Appendix A: Anonymous statement from Tory ex-minister 76

‘Poisonous conduct is a disgrace’:  Minister who served in David Cameron’s government says it is time to end the problem of Israel buying UK policy

Last month Theresa May, like David Cameron each year before her, spoke to the annual lunch of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI).

She oozed praise for Israel as a democracy, spoke of the constant terrorist threat they face, and condemned the way that Palestinians supposedly incite violence and anti-Semitism.

Her own policy that considers Israeli settlements on Palestinian land illegal received only a passing mention.

The reason is clear: the Conservative Party wants pro-Israel donors’ money, and principle in the Government’s foreign policy has been relegated.

Matters deteriorated further over Christmas after US Secretary of State John Kerry’s forceful condemnation of the extremism and conduct of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli government.

Instead of agreeing with his comments – which are identical to her own policy – she criticised Kerry.

Behind this inconsistent and concerning attitude lies a serious and troubling problem. British foreign policy is in hock to Israeli influence at the heart of our politics, and those in authority have ignored what is going on.

For years the CFI and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), have worked with – even for – the Israeli government and their London embassy to promote Israeli policy and thwart UK Government policy and the actions of Ministers who try to defend Palestinian rights.

Lots of countries try to force their views on others, but what is scandalous in the UK is that instead of resisting it, successive Governments have submitted to it, taken donors’ money, and allowed Israeli influence-peddling to shape policy and even determine the fate of Ministers.

Even now, if I were to reveal who I am, I would be subjected to a relentless barrage of abuse and character assassination.

The CFI is not affiliated to the Conservative Party. It is incorporated in a way that means it is not to transparent about donors. Yet it arranges for the support of MPs and funds regular visits to Israel which distort the truth. Cameron turned a blind eye to Israeli misconduct – if he ever cared about it – because he was persuaded any criticism would reduce Party donations.

It now seems clear people in the Conservative and Labour Parties have been working with the Israeli embassy which has used them to demonise and trash MPs who criticise Israel; an army of Israel’s useful idiots in Parliament.

This is politically corrupt, and diplomatically indefensible. The conduct of certain MPs needs to be exposed as the poisonous and deceitful infiltration of our politics by the unwitting agents of another country, which acts in defiance of international law, and whose government Kerry called its most extreme ever.

We need a full inquiry into the Israeli Embassy, the links, access and funding of the CFI and LFI, and an undertaking from all political parties that they welcome the financial and political support of the UK Jewish community, but won’t accept any engagement linked to Israel until it stops building illegally on Palestinian land.

This opaque funding and underhand conduct is a national disgrace and humiliation and must be stamped out.

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Appendix B: Craig Murray’s query to the FCO media department

For over twelve hours there has been stunned silence from the FCO media department in reply to my questions about the Shai Masot case – I am an NUJ member, and I think the idea of a British journalist actually doing real journalism and asking real questions has astonished them. They have now asked me to put them in writing, and I have just done so. This is what I have submitted.

I am investigating the status of Shai Masot, the Israeli Embassy officer caught plotting against Alan Duncan and who was very active with UK political parties.

I appreciate the FCO line is that the case of his conduct is now closed. But I am not investigating his conduct, I am investigating the improper conduct of the FCO in granting him a visa and residency status in the first place.

My initial questions are these:

1) On what basis was Mr Masot in the UK?
2) He was not on the Diplomatic List, but plainly was a senior officer (an ex Major and current executive in the Directorate of Strategic Affairs) and therefore not qualified in the normal categories of technical and support staff. What precise visa and residence status did he hold?
3) How many more officers does the Israeli Embassy have with that same visa and residence status?
4) Has the FCO connived with the Israeli Embassy to allow many more Israeli intelligence operatives residence in the country than the official and reciprocated diplomatic staff allocation of the Embassy?
5) Did MI5, MI6 or any other of the security services have any input into Mr Masot’s acceptance and visa/residency status?

It is over 12 hours since I contacted the FCO’s media people with these questions. I would appreciate your earliest contact. My number is …

Craig Murray

Do not hold your breath 77

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Appendix C: A statement from Jackie Walker

“A number of people made comments in a private training session run by the Jewish Labour Movement. As we all know, training sessions are intended to be safe spaces where ideas and questions can be explored. A film of this session was leaked to the press unethically. I did not raise a question on security in Jewish schools. The trainer raised this issue and I asked for clarification, in particular as all London primary schools, to my knowledge, have security and I did not understand the particular point the trainer was making. Having been a victim of racism I would never play down the very real fears the Jewish community have, especially in light of recent attacks in France.

In the session, a number of Jewish people, including me, asked for definitions of antisemitism. This is a subject of much debate in the Jewish community. I support David Schneider’s definition and utterly condemn anti-Semitism.

I would never play down the significance of the Shoah. Working with many Jewish comrades, I continue to seek to bring greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimised. If offence has been caused, it is the last thing I would want to do and I apologise.”

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Appendix D: The conversation between Jean Fitzpatrick and Joan Ryan at LFI stall

Labour Party member Jean Fitzpatrick, who was attending her conference, had heard about the Labour Friends of Israel stall and took it upon herself to ask about their position regarding the building of settlements. The dialogue ran as follows [from 8:10 mins]:

Jean Fitzpatrick: Can I just ask you if you’re very anti the settlements – what is Labour Friends of Israel doing about that?

Joan Ryan: We make our view clear and we meet people at all levels in Israeli politics and diplomatic circles, etc. And we make it absolutely clear we’re not friends of Israel and enemies of Palestine, hence our new campaign launching next month and that we’re showcasing here. We believe in a two-state solution and the coexistence and self-determination of both peoples and that’s really important.

JF: And how will that come about do you think?

JR: Well our job is to support any possible means that can bring it about and facilitate…

JF: So what has sort of… come about so far?

JR: Well what we are supporting is coexistence projects, which is what this is about.

JF: But what about Israeli occupation?

JR: Well what we want is a two-state solution and the reason we’ve not got it now at the moment is because there is a distinct lack of security…

This is a big picture situation and we want a two-state solution that is good for all…

JF: No I know, you’ve said that a number of times. But what steps, because you know… So the Labour Party is saying…

JR: Well I’ve told you what steps we’re taking… I’m not going to defend or criticise…

JF: But it seems you are defending Israel.

JR: No. I would defend Israel, I defend Israel’s right to exist. I defend Israel as a democracy, and a social democracy.

JF: But at what expense?

JR: I think we have to be very, very careful not to let our feelings about this morph into anti-Zionism.

JF: So no feelings come into account? No, I’m not being anti-Zionist…

JR: You have to be very careful I think… Don’t we all want a two-state solution based on coexistence and peace?

JF: But I’m asking you how you are bringing about…

JR: So you make your effort and we make ours… Thank you Jean, I’ve enjoyed the conversation, I’m leaving it there.

JF: No, no, I’m asking you about settlements…

JR: Well I’m not answering it anymore, sorry Jean.

JF: … they’ve totally atomised the whole of the West Bank. I’m asking you, I’m really genuinely interested how a two-state solution…?

JR: I’m just working for a two-state solution.

JF: But how can it come about if the whole of the West Bank is atomised?

JR: We’re trying to do everything we can to support and facilitate that solution.

JF: Okay, but in practical terms?

JR: That’s what we’re doing as Labour Friends of Israel, that’s what you’re doing as Palestine Solidarity Campaign. That’s good isn’t it?

JF: No, but I’m asking in terms of the West Bank is atomised, where will the state be? That’s a genuine, genuine question. Where will the state be?

We go over there, we witness, but nothing changes.

You’ve got a lot of money, you’ve got a lot of prestige in the world.

JR: I don’t know where you get that from?

JF: Sorry?

JR: Labour Friends of Israel have got a lot of power, a lot of money… that’s just not…

JF: Well I think so – that’s what I hear. That, you know, it’s a stepping-stone to good jobs. A friend of mine’s son’s got a really good job at Oxford University on the basis of having worked for Labour Friends of Israel.

JR: If you just believe rumours then I…

JF: It’s not a rumour, it’s a fact.

JR: It’s antisemitic.

JF: No it’s not.

JR: It is. It’s a trope.

JF: No it’s not antisemitic, it’s not.

JR: It’s about conspiracy theorists.

JF: It’s not.

JR: Sorry, it is. Anyway, that’s my view and I think we’ll have to agree to differ.

JF: No, I don’t think we do have to agree to differ.

JR: Well I’m agreeing to differ and I am ending the conversation because I am not really wishing to engage in a conversation that talks about getting involved with this [i.e., LFI] and then you get a good job in Oxford or the City or… and that is antisemitic, I’m sorry.

Shortly after her conversation with Jean Fitzpatrick, Joan Ryan discusses it with colleagues.

They’re an antisemitic… you heard her say, you know… “join you lot and you get into Oxford” or “you get into working in the bank” or… That’s antisemitic.

That evening, at a rally to combat antisemitism organised by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), Joan Ryan describes her day at the stall:

We have also had three incidents of antisemitic harassment on our stand, to the people who are staffing that stall today. And that, I think tells you something about why we need to be having this Against Antisemitism Rally.

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Appendix E: The ‘dodgy dossier’ against Riverside CLP

The dossier includes claims that:

* Members and former members of far left groups banned by Labour were attempting to take control of the local party

* A small number of members were attempting to deselect local MP Louise Ellman and local councillors

* Far left members conspired to undermine a local investigation of antisemitism complaints

* The dossier concluded these members were “clearly operating against the best interests of and, in many instances, in direct opposition to the Labour Party”.

But some local party members have said the dossier is “nonsense” – and in her latest letter Ms White says the dossier “contains lies and libel”.

She said: “This is fake news at its most insidious”.

A Labour spokesperson said: “We do not comment on internal party matters. All complaints are taken seriously.”

A Liverpool Labour spokesperson said: “These are serious allegations that have been made in good faith.

“They are being investigated by the Labour Party NEC. They need to be investigated thoroughly.

“What’s important is that everybody gets behind whatever the recommendations are from the NEC, whatever they are, and that people move forward on that basis.”

Louise Ellman’s office said the MP would not comment on Audrey White’s letter and was awaiting the results of the inquiry. 78

Click here to read the full report in the Liverpool Echo.

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Appendix F: House of Commons Public Administration Committee, 24/11/2011

Q Paul Flynn: Okay. Matthew Gould has been the subject of a very serious complaint from two of my constituents, Pippa Bartolotti and Joyce Giblin. When they were briefly imprisoned in Israel, they met the ambassador, and they strongly believe—it is nothing to do with this case at all—that he was serving the interest of the Israeli Government, and not the interests of two British citizens. This has been the subject of correspondence.

In your report, you suggest that there were two meetings between the ambassador and Werritty and Liam Fox. Questions and letters have proved that, in fact, six such meetings took place. There are a number of issues around this. I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories, but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service. Werritty is a self-proclaimed—

Robert Halfon: Point of order, Chairman. What is the point of this?

Paul Flynn: Let me get to it. Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran.

Chair: I have to take a point of order.

Robert Halfon: Mr Flynn is implying that the British ambassador to Israel is working for a foreign power, which is out of order.

Paul Flynn: I quote the Daily Mail: “Mr Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran and has made several visits. He has also met senior Israeli officials, leading to accusations”—not from me, from the Daily Mail—“that he was close to the country’s secret service, Mossad.” There may be nothing in that, but that appeared in a national newspaper.

Chair: I am going to rule on a point of order. Mr Flynn has made it clear that there may be nothing in these allegations, but it is important to have put it on the record. Be careful how you phrase questions.

Paul Flynn: Indeed. The two worst decisions taken by Parliament in my 25 years were the invasion of Iraq—joining Bush’s war in Iraq—and the invasion of Helmand province. We know now that there were things going on in the background while that built up to these mistakes. The charge in this case is that Werritty was the servant of neo-con people in America, who take an aggressive view on Iran. They want to foment a war in Iran in the same way as in the early years, there was another—

Chair: Order. I must ask you to move to a question that is relevant to the inquiry.

Q Paul Flynn: Okay. The question is, are you satisfied that you missed out on the extra four meetings that took place, and does this not mean that those meetings should have been investigated because of the nature of Mr Werritty’s interests?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I think if you look at some of those meetings, some people are referring to meetings that took place before the election.

Q Paul Flynn: Indeed, which is even more worrying.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I am afraid they were not the subject—what members of the Opposition do is not something that the Cabinet Secretary should look into. It is not relevant.

But these meetings were held—

Chair: Mr Flynn, would you let him answer please?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I really do not think that was within my context, because they were not Ministers of the Government and what they were up to was not something I should get into at all.

Chair: Final question, Mr Flynn.

Q Paul Flynn: No, it is not a final question. I am not going to be silenced by you, Chairman; I have important things to raise. I have stayed silent throughout this meeting so far.

You state in the report—on the meeting held between Gould, Fox and Werritty, on 6 February, in Tel Aviv—that there was a general discussion of international affairs over a private dinner with senior Israelis. The UK ambassador was present. Are you following the line taken by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who says that he can eat with lobbyists or people applying to his Department because, on occasions, he eats privately, and on other occasions he eats ministerially? Are you accepting the idea? It is possibly a source of great national interest—the eating habits of their Secretary of State. It appears that he might well have a number of stomachs, it has been suggested, if he can divide his time this way. It does seem to be a way of getting round the ministerial code, if people can announce that what they are doing is private rather than ministerial.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: The important point here was that, when the Secretary of State had that meeting, he had an official with him—namely, in this case, the ambassador. That is very important, and I should stress that I would expect our ambassador in Israel to have contact with Mossad. That will be part of his job. It is totally natural, and I do not think that you should infer anything from that about the individual’s biases. That is what ambassadors do. Our ambassador in Pakistan will have exactly the same set of wide contacts.

Q Paul Flynn: I have good reason, as I said, from constituency matters, to be unhappy about the ambassador. Other criticisms have been made about the ambassador; he is unique in some ways in the role he is performing. There have been suggestions that he is too close to a foreign power.

Robert Halfon: On a point of order, Chair, this is not about the ambassador to Israel. This is supposed to be about the Werritty affair.

Paul Flynn: It is absolutely crucial to this report. If neo-cons such as yourself, Robert, are plotting a war in Iran, we should know about it.

Chair: Order. I think the line of questioning is very involved. I have given you quite a lot of time, Mr Flynn. If you have further inquiries to make of this, they could be pursued in correspondence. May I ask you to ask one final question before we move on?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: One thing I would stress: we are talking about the ambassador and I think he has a right of reply. Mr Chairman, I know there is an interesting question of words regarding Head of the Civil Service versus Head of the Home Civil Service, but this is the Diplomatic Service, not the Civil Service.

Q Chair: So he is not in your jurisdiction at all.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: No.

Q Paul Flynn: But you are happy that your report is final; it does not need to go the manager it would have gone to originally, and that is the end of the affair. Is that your view?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: As I said, some issues arose where I wanted to be sure that what the Secretary of State was doing had been discussed with the Foreign Secretary. I felt reassured by what the Foreign Secretary told me.

Q Chair: I think what Mr Flynn is asking is that your report and the affair raise other issues, but you are saying that that does not fall within the remit of your report and that, indeed, the conduct of an ambassador does not fall within your remit at all.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: That is absolutely correct.

Paul Flynn: The charge laid by Lord Turnbull in his evidence with regard to Dr Fox and the ministerial code was his failure to observe collective responsibility, in that case about Sri Lanka. Isn’t the same charge there about our policies to Iran and Israel?

Chair: We have dealt with that, Mr Flynn.

Paul Flynn: We haven’t dealt with it as far as it applies—

Chair: Mr Flynn, we are moving on.

Paul Flynn: You may well move on, but I remain very unhappy about the fact that you will not allow me to finish the questioning I wanted to give on a matter of great importance.

*

Additional: Open letter to British government signed by 250 academics

The spike in far-right antisemitic incidents on UK campuses that you report (UK universities urged to act over spate of antisemitic stickers and graffiti, 18 February) seems to reflect the increase in xenophobia since the Brexit vote.

Yet the government has “adopted” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which can be and is being read as extending to criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights, an entirely separate issue, as prima facie evidence of antisemitism. This definition seeks to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

Now Jo Johnson, the government minister whose brief includes universities, has written to Universities UK asking for this definition to be disseminated throughout the system. His letter specifically mentions Israeli Apartheid Week (a worldwide activity at this time of year since 2005) as a cause for concern.

The response has been swift. Late last week, in haste and clearly without legal advice, the University of Central Lancashire banned a meeting that was to be addressed by journalist Ben White as well as by academics. The university statement asserted that the meeting on “Debunking misconceptions on Palestine” contravened the definition of antisemitism recently adopted by the government, and would therefore not be lawful.

Meanwhile, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a body set up during the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014, cites this definition in asking its supporters to “record, film, photograph and get witness evidence” about Israeli Apartheid Week events; and “we will help you to take it up with the university, students’ union or even the police”.

These are outrageous interferences with free expression, and are direct attacks on academic freedom. As academics with positions at UK universities, we wish to express our dismay at this attempt to silence campus discussion about Israel, including its violation of the rights of Palestinians for more than 50 years. It is with disbelief that we witness explicit political interference in university affairs in the interests of Israel under the thin disguise of concern about antisemitism.

Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, Prof Conor Gearty, Prof Malcolm Levitt, Tom Hickey, Prof Dorothy Griffiths, Prof Moshé Machover, Sir Iain Chalmers, Prof Steven Rose, Prof Gilbert Achcar, Prof Penny Green, Prof Bill Bowring, Mike Cushman, Jim Zacune, Dr Jethro Butler, Dr Rashmi Varma, Dr John Moore, Dr Nour Ali, Prof Richard Hudson, Dr Tony Whelan, Dr Dina Matar, Prof Marian Hobson, Prof Tony Sudbery, Prof John Weeks, Prof Graham Dunn, Dr Toni Wright, Dr Rinella Cere, Prof Ian Parker, Dr Marina Carter, Dr Shirin M Rai, Andy Wynne, Prof David Pegg, Prof Erica Burman, Dr Nicola Pratt, Prof Joanna Bornat, Prof Richard Seaford, Dr Linda Milbourne, Dr Julian Saurin, Dr Nadia Naser-Najjab, Prof Elizabeth Dore, Prof Colin Eden, Dr Neil Davidson, Jaime Peschiera, Catherine Cobham, Prof Haim Bresheeth, Dr Uriel Orlow, Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia, Dr Abdul B Shaikh, Dr Mark Leopold, Prof Michael Donmall, Prof Hamish Cunningham, Prof David Johnson, Dr Reem Abou-El-Fadl, Dr Luke Cooper, Prof Peter Gurney, Dr Adi Kuntsman, Prof Matthew Beaumont, Dr Teodora Todorova, Prof Natalie Fenton, Prof Richard Bornat, Dr Jeremy Landor, Dr John Chalcraft, Milly Williamson, David Mabb, Dr Judit Druks, Dr Charlie McGuire, Dr Gholam Khiabany, Glynn Kirkham, Dr Deirdre O’Neill, Dr Gavin Williams, Prof Marsha Rosengarten, Dr Debra Benita Shaw, Dr João Florêncio, Prof Stephen Keen, Dr Anandi Ramamurthy, Dr Thomas Mills, Dr Don Crewe, Prof Robert Wintemute, Andy Gossett, Prof Mark Boylan, Angela Mansi, Dr Paul Taylor, Tim Martin, Keith Hammond, Karolin Hijazi, Dr Kevin Hearty, Prof Daniel Katz, Dr Richard Pitt, Prof Ray Bush, Prof Glenn Bowman, Prof Craig Brandist, Prof Virinder S Kalra, Dr Yasmeen Narayan, Prof Michael Edwards, John Gilmore-Kavanagh, Prof Nadje Al-Ali, Prof Mick Dumper, Graham Topley, Dr Shuruq Naguib, Prof David Whyte, Peter Collins, Dr Andrew Chitty, Prof David Mond, Prof Leon Tikly, Dr Subir Sinha, Dr Mark Berry, Dr Gajendra Singh, Prof Elizabeth Cowie, Dr Richard Lane, Prof Martin Parker, Dr Aboobaker Dangor, Dr Siân Adiseshiah, Prof Dennis Leech, Dr Owen Clayton, Dr John Cowley, Prof Mona Baker, Dr Navtej Purewal, Prof Mica Nava, Prof Joy Townsend, Dr Alex Bellem, Dr Nat Queen, Gareth Dale, Prof Yosefa Loshitzky, Dr Rudi Lutz, Dr Oliver Smith, Tim Kelly, Prof Laleh Khalili, Prof Aneez Esmail, Fazila Bhimji, Prof Hilary Rose, Dr Brian Tweedale, Prof Julian Petley, Prof Richard Hyman, Dr Paul Watt, Nisha Kapoor, Prof Julian Townshend, Prof Roy Maartens, Dr Anna Bernard, Prof Martha Mundy, Prof Martin Atkinson, Dr Claude Baesens, Dr Marijn Nieuwenhuis, Dr Emma Heywood, Dr Matthew Malek, Prof Anthony Milton, Dr Paul O’Connell, Prof Malcolm Povey, Dr Jason Hickel, Dr Jo Littler, Prof Rosalind Galt, Prof Suleiman Shark, Dr Paula James, Dr Linda Pickard, Pat Devine, Dr Jennifer Fortune, Prof Chris Roberts, Dr Les Levidow, Dr Carlo Morelli, Prof David Byrne, Dr Nicholas Cimini, Prof John Smith, Prof Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, Dr Peter J King, Prof Bill Brewer, Prof Patrick Williams, Prof Daphne Hampson, Dr Wolfgang Deckers, Cliff Jones, Prof Luis Pérez-González, Prof Patrick Ainley, Dr Paul Kelemen, Prof Dee Reynolds, Dr Enam Al-Wer, Prof Hugh Starkey, Dr Anna Fisk, Prof Linda Clarke, Prof Klim McPherson, Cathy Malone, Prof Graham Dawson, Prof Colin Green, Prof Clément Mouhot, Prof S Sayyid, Prof William Raban, Prof Peter Hallward, Prof Chris Rust, Prof Benita Parry, Prof Andrew Spencer, Prof Philip Marfleet, Prof Frank Land, Dr Peter E Jones, Dr Nicholas Thoburn, Tom Webster, Dr Khursheed Wadia, Dr Philip Gilligan, Dr Lucy Michael, Prof Steve Hall, Prof Steve Keen, Dr David S Moon, Prof Ken Jones, Dr Karen F Evans, Dr Jim Crowther, Prof Alison Phipps, Dr Uri Horesh, Dr Clair Doloriert, Giles Bailey, Prof Murray Fraser, Prof Stephen Huggett, Dr Gabriela Saldanha, Prof Cahal McLaughlin, Ian Pace, Prof Philip Wadler, Dr Hanem El-Farahaty, Dr Anne Alexander, Dr Robert Boyce, Dr Patricia McManus, Prof Mathias Urban, Dr Naomi Woodspring, Prof David Wield, Prof Moin A Saleem, Dr Phil Edwards, Dr Jason Hart, Dr Sharon Kivland, Dr Rahul Rao, Prof Ailsa Land, Dr Lee Grieveson, Dr Paul Bagguley, Dr Rosalind Temple, Dr Karima Laachir, Dr Youcef Djerbib, Dr Sarah Perrigo, Bernard Sufrin, Prof James Dickins, John Burnett, Prof Des Freedman, Dr David Seddon, Prof Steve Tombs, Prof Louisa Sadler, Dr Leon Sealey-Huggins, Dr Rashné Limki, Dr Guy Standing, Dr Arianne Shahvisi, Prof Neil Smith, Myriam Salama-Carr, Dr Graham Smith, Dr Peter Fletcher 79

*

1 From “Free speech on Israel under attack in universities”; an open letter to the British government signed by 250 academics published in the Guardian on February 27, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/27/university-wrong-to-ban-israeli-apartheid-week-event

2 From an article entitled “Labour calls for inquiry into Israeli diplomat’s ‘take down MPs’ plot” written by Ewan MacAskill and Ian Cobain, published in the Guardian on January 8, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/08/labour-calls-for-inquiry-into-israeli-diplomats-take-down-mps-plot

3 Available in a BBC news report entitled “Israel’s ambassador sorry over ‘take down’ Sir Alan Duncan comment” published January 8, 2017. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-38545671

4 From an article entitled “Labour calls for inquiry into Israeli diplomat’s ‘take down MPs’ plot” written by Ewan MacAskill and Ian Cobain, published in the Guardian on January 8, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/08/labour-calls-for-inquiry-into-israeli-diplomats-take-down-mps-plot

5 From a post entitled “Why Has Israeli Spy Shai Masot Not Been Expelled?” written by Craig Murray, published on January 8, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/01/israeli-spy-shai-masot-not-expelled/

6 On the train to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, Masot announces the launch of a new organisation with the help if a US congressman, with direct ties to AIPAC it is to be called The City Friends of Israel.

Once at the conference Masot formally introduces undercover reporter ‘Robin’ to Joan Ryan at the LFI stall. They also discuss paying for influential MPs to take a government-run tour of Israel, and Masot tells Ryan that he has received the approval for funds of “more than one million pounds… from Israel”.

Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 7:55 mins

7 From a post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed” written by Craig Murray, published on February 7, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/02/netanyahu-may-chat-large-nest-israeli-spies-london-exposed/

8 Words used by Shai Masot in his conversation with Maria Strizzolo as reprinted in this section.

9 Quote from Channel 4’s Dispatches: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby at 0:25 mins.

10 Transcription from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 21:40 mins and 23:00 mins

11 From an article entitled “Israel plot to ‘take down’ Tory minister: Astonishing undercover video captures diplomat conspiring with rival MP’s aide to smear Deputy Foreign Secretary” written by Simon Walters, published in The Mail on January 7, 2017. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4098082/Astonishing-undercover-video-captures-diplomat-conspiring-rival-MP-s-aide-smear-Deputy-Foreign-Secretary.html

12 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 9:40 mins

13 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 3:50 mins.

14 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 4.35 mins.

15 From an article entitled “Don’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn, urges new Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan” written by Marcus Dysch, published in The Jewish Chronicle on August 10, 2015. https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/don-t-vote-for-jeremy-corbyn-urges-new-labour-friends-of-israel-chair-joan-ryan-1.68062

16 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 21:05 mins

17 

“Masot was plainly not carrying out technical and administrative duties. The term is a formal one from the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and it is plain from the convention that technical and administrative staff are in official status lower than the diplomatic staff. The majority of support activities are carried out in all Embassies by locally engaged staff already resident in the host country, but a very small number of technical and administrative staff may be allowed visas for work in particularly secure areas. They may be an IT and communications technician, possibly a cleaner in the most sensitive physical areas, and perhaps property management.

“These staff do not interact with politicians of the host state or attend high level meetings beside the Ambassador. The level at which Shai Masot was operating was appropriate to a Counsellor or First Secretary in an Embassy. Masot’s formal rank as an officer in his cover job in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs would entitle him to that rank in the Embassy if this were a normal appointment.”

From a post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed” written by Craig Murray, published on February 7, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/02/netanyahu-may-chat-large-nest-israeli-spies-london-exposed/

18 Images and text from an article entitled “Britain’s Most Undesirable Immigrant: Why Was Shai Masot Given a Visa?” written by Craig Murray, published on January 10, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/01/britains-undesirable-immigrant-shai-masot-given-visa/

19 From a post entitled “As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed” written by Craig Murray, published on February 7, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/02/netanyahu-may-chat-large-nest-israeli-spies-london-exposed/

20 Quoted from anonymous statement made by a former Tory minister in Cameron’s Cabinet (see Appendix A)

21 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 3:35 mins.

22 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 14:00 mins

23 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 14:25 mins

24 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 15:15 mins

25 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 16:05 mins

26 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 16:40 mins

27 From an article entitled “The Cowardice at the heart of our relationship with Israel” written by Peter Oborne, published in The Telegraph on December 12, 2012. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/9740044/The-cowardice-at-the-heart-of-our-relationship-with-Israel.html

28 From an article entitled “Jewish community leader speaks out over SNP ‘Israel Front Group’” written by Michael Gray, published in CommonSpace on September 22, 2016. https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/9418/jewish-community-leader-speaks-out-over-snp-israel-front-group

29 Shai Masot: “We Believe in Israel is sitting together in the offices of BICOM. But it’s not the same organisation.”

Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 3:40 mins.

30 “I went on one of the trips of the Conservative Friends of Israel to the Middle East. It was brilliantly well arranged. [You were] very well looked after – you got fantastic access. You did meet Palestinians. If all you did was to rely on that one trip, you would have a very one-sided point of view.”  – Peter Oborne

Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 8:10 mins

31 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 19:30 mins

32 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4: The Takedown at 20:00 mins

33 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 4:50 mins

34 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 5:05 mins

35 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 5:25 mins

Rubin then adds: “Being LFI allows us to reach out to people who wouldn’t want to get involved with the Embassy. Keeping it as a separate thing is actually best for everyone because ultimately we want the same goal of getting more people to be pro-Israel and understand the conflict. It’s just how you do it.”

36 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 16:20 mins

37 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 23:45 mins

38 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 1: Young Friends of Israel at 24:35 mins

39 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 19:45  mins

40 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 11:10  mins

41 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 4:05 mins

42 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 13:45  mins

43 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 14:15  mins

44 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 15:30  mins

45 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 16:15  mins

46 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 17:15  mins

47 From an article entitled “Labour suspends Jackie Walker over Halocaust comments” published in the Guardian on September 30, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/30/labour-suspends-jackie-walker-over-holocaust-comments

48 I cannot find a link but the evidence of this statement is available in Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 20:15 mins

49 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 13:25  mins and at 18:00 mins

50 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 18:20  mins

51 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 18:30  mins

52 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 19:50  mins

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

54 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 20:35  mins

55 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 4.55 mins.

56 All quotes above taken from an article entitled “New Jewish Labour Movement director was Israeli embassy officer” written by Asa Winstanley, published in The Electonic Intifada on September 21, 2016. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/new-jewish-labour-movement-director-was-israeli-embassy-officer

57 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 2: The Training Session at 24:30 mins

58 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 20:00 mins.

59 From a report entitled “Israel Lobby: Antisemitism battle in UK Labour Party” published by Al Jazeera Investigation Unit on January 13, 2017. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/01/israel-lobby-antisemitism-battle-uk-labour-party-170113073206692.html

60 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 21:30 mins.

61 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 23:20 mins.

62 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 23:45 mins.

63 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4:The Takedown at 11:15 mins.

64 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 4:The Takedown at 12:10 mins.

65 Quote from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope at 3:00 mins.

66 From an article entitled “How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis” written by Asa Winstanley, published in The Electonic Intifada on April 28, 2013. https://electronicintifada.net/content/how-israel-lobby-manufactured-uk-labour-partys-antisemitism-crisis/16481

67 From an article entitled “Formal complaint against Liverpool MP over use of ‘dodgy dossier’” written by Liam Murphy, published in the Liverpool Echo on October 13, 2016. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/formal-complaint-against-liverpool-mp-12023001

68 From an article entitled “Labour activist slams delays in investigating antisemitism ‘slur’ in Liverpool” written by Alistair Houghton, published in the Liverpool Echo on January 16, 2017. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/labour-activist-slams-delays-investigating-12463533

69 From an article entitled Laura Kuenssberg report on Jeremy Corbyn inaccurate, says BBC trust” published by BBC news on January 18, 2017. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-38666914

70 Quotes taken from the same BBC article.

71 From an article entitled “Apologists for Israel take top posts at the BBC” written by Amena Saleem, published in The Electonic Intifada on April 23, 2013. https://electronicintifada.net/content/apologists-israel-take-top-posts-bbc/12395

72 Paul Flynn MP speaking at the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, 24/11/2011. See Appendix F.

73 From a post entitled “Why Has Israeli Spy Shai Masot Not Been Expelled?” written by Craig Murray, published on January 8, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/01/israeli-spy-shai-masot-not-expelled/

74 From a post entitled “Why is Owen Jones helping to subvert Corbyn?” written and published by Jonathan Cook on February 15, 2017. http://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2017-02-15/why-is-owen-jones-helping-to-subvert-corbyn/

75 From an article entitled “How the Israel lobby is using Owen Jones” written by Asa Winstanley, published in The Electronic Intifada on February 21, 2017. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/how-israel-lobby-using-owen-jones

76 From an article entitled “Israel plot to ‘take down’ Tory minister: Astonishing undercover video captures diplomat conspiring with rival MP’s aide to smear Deputy Foreign Secretary” written by Simon Walters, published in The Mail on January 7, 2017. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4098082/Astonishing-undercover-video-captures-diplomat-conspiring-rival-MP-s-aide-smear-Deputy-Foreign-Secretary.html

77 Published as part of Craig Murray’s post entitled “Britain’s Most Undesirable Immigrant: Why Was Shai Masot Given a Visa?” written by Craig Murray, published on January 10, 2017. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/01/britains-undesirable-immigrant-shai-masot-given-visa/

All quotes transcribed from Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby Part 3: An Antisemitic Trope between 8:00–16:00 mins.

78 From an article entitled “Labour activist slams delays in investigating antisemitism ‘slur’ in Liverpool” written by Alistair Houghton, published in the Liverpool Echo on January 16, 2017. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/labour-activist-slams-delays-investigating-12463533

79 From “Free speech on Israel under attack in universities”; an open letter to the British government signed by 250 academics published in the Guardian on February 27, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/27/university-wrong-to-ban-israeli-apartheid-week-event

 

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