The Sun, which published pictures of a naked Prince Harry, sets a sympathetic scene:
Is Jeremy Corbyn surging towards Downing Street? Can urban young Remainers get Corbyn, a Eurosceptic for most of his life, to change his ways, scupper Brexit and become Prime Minister? The stakes seem very high after Theresa May’s humbling. The General Election result invites so many questions.
Is democracy in peril? Wasn’t Brexit the biggest revolt in British politics, a rejection of the establishment? Is Corbyn’s dynamic campaign and his leadership a strike against a hard Brexit? Is the increased Labour vote share a turn away from Leave and back to the EU? Brexit was not central to the General Election debate. Well, so they told us. And then when the votes were counted, it became all about Brexit. Have your heard anything other than Brexit leading the news cycle and TV bulletins?
In the Daily Mirror, we read (fornt page): “Corbyn: I Can Be Prime Minister In Months”
Corbyn says that if the Tories call another snap election, he’s ready to win it and become Prime Minister. So close is Corbyn to power that the paper finally introduces Mrs Corbyn III. She’s Laura Alvarez, an ex-banker and 48 years young. She married Corbyn in her native Mexico in 2012. What does she do with her time? “She now imports fair trade coffee.” She is very much the kind of supporter Labour now represents.
The Daily Mail leads with “Theresa Tears Up Manifesto”. Well quite. “Theresa”. We’re still on first name terms with Mrs May in the Daily Mail. Even on Saturday, when the vote was raw and she was, as the Mirror’s source tells it, “welling up with tears”, the Mail backed “Theresa”.
The Mail on Sunday is less pally, preferring a night in with Boris:
As Mail editors compete, today’s paper has Boris Johnson, for it she, declaring: “Me after the top job? That’s tripe, says Boris.” Tripe you can read in the, er, Mail on Sunday.
So into Theresa is the Mail that Peter Oborne analyses the election and declares: “Let’s calm down and remember that Mrs May won.” She won a bigger slice of the vote and more voters, but she lost the most important result on seats won. Rather like Nicola Sturgeon, May took voters for granted and failed to engage with them.
But the real winner seems to be Boris Johnson. The Mail on Sunday loves him. The Star (“IT’S BOJO THE FAVE”) supports him. The Sun leads with him. “BOJO: BINNING MAY IS A NO-NO – Boris tells Tories to stop plotting.” BOJO. Boris. May.
So keen is Boris Johnson to leave Theresa May in the limelight that he writes a column for the Sun. He make one salient point about democracy and the fluidity of modern politics, noting that Corbyn “picked up Kensington – but then he also lost Mansfield”. Labour is the party of the south. Who represents the working class now? Boris Johnson?
And finally the Express also leads with “BORIS”. He says”TORY MPs MUST BACK MAY”. Over pages 4 and 5 we’re told: “We need to calm down and pull together says Boris.” We see the text message he sent to Tory MPs to encourage them to back the Prime Minister. Rally round the leader, says Boris. Boris should be leader, says the media. Rally round me, says Boris.
Much weeping and wailing over the Tory Party calling on the DUP to form a coalition government. One commentator described the DUP as the locals from The Dukes of Hazard. But ridicule is not enough. The censorious call is for a ban.
The shrill petition against the Tory-DUP deal has hit half a million signatures within 24 hour. What an intolerant, sneering, entitled mob we are. How great it is to be so into freedom, liberty and ‘being myself’ that you can ban other ideas and ‘bad’ people with abandon. The argument is settled! The science is settled! Thou shalt not dissent! No wonder Islamists feel so at home here. But you don’t need knives and bombs to destroy democracy. You just need a free online petition.
But this isn’t really about the red-neck DUP. This is about stopping Brexit. Back in 2015, the New Statesman told us the DUP were Labour’s allies in the General Election battle:
DUP could do a deal with Labour, says party’s Westminster leader – Nigel Dodds says he “can do business” with Ed Miliband and praises his responsible capitalism agenda.
George Eaton had encouraging news on how the DUP and Labour could unite to stop the Tories:
The Northern Irish party is traditionally viewed as a potential partner for the Conservatives, who considered a deal with them before the 2010 election. But when I interviewed the DUP’s Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds, he rejected this characterisation and signalled that he was open to an agreement with Labour.
“We can do business with either of the two leaders, either Ed Miliband or David Cameron, and we will obviously judge what’s in the best interests of the United Kingdom as a whole,” the North Belfast MP told me. “And obviously we’ll also be looking at it from the point of view of the constituencies that we represent in Northern Ireland as a whole. Unionism has worked in the past with Labour governments and we’ve worked in the past with Conservative governments back in the 70s. Indeed, the Ulster Unionist Party propped up the Callaghan administration. But it remains to be seen. We are certainly not in the pocket of either party and we’re certainly in a position where we’re able to negotiate with both of them.”
How ambitious were the DUP? Said Dodds: “We are not interested in a full-blown coalition government with ministerial positions and all of that.” The NS was delighted, calling the DUP’s openness “a boost for Labour”.
The Guardian said “senior Labour and Tory figures believe they will be able to work constructively with the DUP”. Labour saw the DUP as a “reliable partner”. The DUP had a “more natural affinity to Labour”. As for the DUP’s views on homosexuality – Ian Paisley, the party’s founder, once campaigned to “save Ulster from sodomy” – well, that wasn’t an issue:
Labour and the Tories are both troubled by the views of many DUP members on LGBT rights, highlighted by the resignation of the party’s health minister. But that would have no technical impact on negotiations over the formation of a UK government – LGBT matters are devolved to the Northern Ireland assembly.
Wind the clock forward and the DUP are no longer the party of Labour hope, who get on with Labour leaders “extremely well”. They are regressive and anti-human. They are the “ultra-conservative DUP”, says the Guardian. “The DUP has vetoed the legalisation of same-sex marriage five times in Northern Ireland assembly votes. A majority of DUP members also oppose the legalisation of abortion, which is prohibited in Northern Ireland unless the mother’s life is at risk.”
The “DUP is undoubtedly bad news for the pro-choice movement in Northern Ireland”, says one New Statesman writer. The DUP’s rise to prominence will “embolden other anti-choice MPs”. Another writer tells New Statesmen readers: “Any government that includes the DUP is profoundly bad news for women.” All of them, including Arlene Foster, the DUP’s leader, because “women have the equal opportunity to be depressing misogynists too”. Or to put it another way: not all women agree with one another; they can hold their own views and exercise free will in decision making.
All abortion should be decriminalised. Birth control should be a private matter. But to call the DUP women haters is unhelpful, hyperbolic and deliberately polarising. It’s meant to be, of course. If the DUP are bad for women’s right then any Brexit contracts signed by a Tory-DUP alliance will be bad for women. Ditch the DUP and save womankind. But with no DUP there can be no easy Brexit. Better yet, there’ll be no Brexit at all.
So add your name to the online poll, and defeat the free and legal vote for Brexit, one backed by over 17m low-information, tabloid-duped people between 7am and 10pm on a June day last year. Do it for the many, not the few.
PS: This dicing up of the electorate into gender, race and age is hideous. We don’t vote with our skin, genitals or student ID. We vote with our heads, hearts and wallets. The narrative that says Labour is the party of youth overlooks the number of younger voters who voted Tory and the older voters who were unnerved by the so-called dementia tax and turned away from Theresa May. It also ignores how fluid voting has become. UKIP’s collapse was down to its voters turning to Labour and the Conservatives. Fudge Brexit and UKIP may yet rise again. A return to ‘safe and secure’ two-party politics is far from guaranteed.
Is it different for women? Husband and wife Tony and Julie Wadsworth have been found guilty of encouraging six boys to take part in sexual activity between 1992 and 1996. The Wadsworths, both ex-BBC radio presenters, had denied all charges, putting their victim through the ordeal of a three-week trial. Julie Wadsworth, 60, was convicted of nine indecent assaults against boys and five counts of outraging public decency. Tony Wadsowrth, 69, was found guilty of the same charges.
Nasty stuff. Sordid and ugly. So how does the Sun report on these sex criminals, villains the Mail brands “paedophiles”? Well, from the off the story is of “romps” and the “kinky” wife. Since when did indecent assault become a romp?
In case you’re not yet titillated, the paper has lots more photos of Julie:
ROMP – Collins Dictionary:
verb – When children or animals romp, they play noisily and happily. Dogs and little children romped happily in the garden. Synonyms: frolic, sport, skip, have fun.
countable noun – If two people have a romp, they have sex in a light-hearted and very casual way.
The grainy black and white image below featured in the Leicester Trader in December 1979 “when the paper ran a glamour competition featuring local girls”.
There is the Julie Wadsworth mug shot – and we even see Tony – a paedo less worthy of the front page – posing for the police’s camera:
But the photos of Julie Wadsworth surely invite readers to appraise her appearance. Are we really to think that paedophilia is ok if the abuser is shaggable? Is it different for women?
Huzzah for Jeremy Corbyn. He lost the General Election for Labour to a Tory leader he thinks so useless she should resign. Theresa May can’t hang on for five years – not with her track record of defeating Corbyn by just 58 seats.
She has to go, says Corbyn.
Tony Blair defeated three Tory leaders at General Elections. There’s hope in the Corbyn camp that he’ll see the back of many more. Labour lost in 2017 by the same margin they lost to useless David Cameron in 2010.
As the Daily Mash puts it:
He said: “I am very confident that I can now be beaten by a classic British idiot like Boris Johnson, or even someone as utterly moronic and dreadful as Andrea Leadsom.
“If the Tories are stupid enough to choose a dimwit like Liam Fox or David Davies then I can promise them both a reasonable level of victory.”
It’s “TEZZA v JEZZA” (Daily Star) and the tabloids are going big on the leaders of the country’s two biggest parties.
Which leader’s picture appears most?
The Daily Star leads with photos of Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May. Corbyn looks like he’s flicking through some old holiday snaps of his time with Diane Abbott. Theresa May is in full Joyce Grenfell mode. Inside the paper, over pages 2 and 3, both leaders are smiling.
It’s just May on the Express‘ cover. No sign of Corbyn until page 12. “We must not let Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10,” says Ross Clark at first sighting of the Labour leader.
The Mirror finds a horrible picture of May and makes it big and then bigger. Get a load of those nostrils! Gerra load of those bogies up those nostrils!! And then look at the bags below the staring eyes, the teeth, the lips, the lot. Aaaaaah! There is no sign of Corbyn. Where is he?
On pages 2-3, we get 7 more pictures of May – and not one of Corbyn. We see and hear from Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary. We see May with a long Pinocchio hooter.
Finally we get to see Jeremy Corbyn on page 4. He’s inviting us to examine the thumb on his right hand. In a smaller photo, we see his right hand held up and open. You wonder what the left hand is doing and if the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.
There are two more pictures of Theresa May. On page 7, there’s a cartoon showing May being kicked – physically kicked – by a battalion of voters.
On page 8, we again see May. She’s everywhere in the Mirror.
The Daily Mail leads with May. She is smiling. Her hands are spread wide. The picture is flattering.
Page 4 and May’s back. She’s “fired up”.
Page 9 and we see picture of Diane Abbott. But sill no sign of Jeremy Corbyn. He’s nowhere. There is not one photo of the Labour Party leader in the Mail.
The Sun shows Corbyn on the cover. He’s in the “COR-BIN (geddit?). He is rubbish, actual rubbish. (If anyone fancies a flutter, I’d go each-way on Puppet of Unions in the 3:15).
Over pages 2 and 3, we see two photos of smiling Theresa May.
On pages 4 and 5 we see Jeremy Corbyn stood below a sign that says “CRAP”. It did say “SCRAP” – another sort of rubbish, if you will – but if you crop the ‘S’ it’s changed to “CRAP”.
Pages 8-9 and the Sun dresses up Corbyn. We see the now Prime Minister sat on a bench in “derelict Britain”. We get one more photo of a smiling May.
Meanwhile… the kind of people who don’t like tabloids and the Untermensch who read them are burning the things. It really is like the 1930s. And it’s not Nazis shutting down free speech and monstering anyone you don’t agree with – it’s you, the right on fascist spotters! Oh, the irony!
Psst: Any Corbyn fans got a copy of the Jewish Chronicle? It’s full of burning issues.
Vote now and vote often. RAUS!
Politicians all want to censor the web. CapX writes:
It took us many centuries, a lot of effort and much expended blood and gore to get to this place where we are free – at liberty and ruled by the law, not the whims of people nor the rage of the mob. That we have those who would snatch them from us worries me far less than what our rulers will do to us and our liberty in the name of protecting us from those bearded nutters.
Just wait until the next generation of politicians arrive in Westminster from our elite universities. Spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings tells us: “The more prestigious universities, those ranked highest in popular league tables, are nearly always the most censorious; the few green-ranking institutions are generally less highly esteemed.”
Joanna Williams adds:
The link between academic success and a fondness for censorship is more than just a mindset. It is precisely because they are the academic achievers that students at elite universities demand freedom from speech…They’ve learned that language constructs reality, and that ‘words that wound’ can inflict ‘spirit murder’ on those who, according to their gender, ethnicity or sexual identity, are assumed to be forever powerless. The students who excel in elite universities today have come to embody the vulnerability they see in others.
They don’t trust us. They moralise about our choices, thoughts and movements. They pick technical arguments about what should be banned and permitted over debating the root cause of the problem that leads people to become Islamist killers. In the minds of these superior prudes and knowing gatekeepers, the mere act of looking becomes a gateway to crime.
Worse than video nasties, scourge of the 1980s, sex and trolls are YouTube videos possessed of a power to radicalise the viewer, transforming a normal bloke surfing the web for Wiggles songs and old episodes of Play For Today into a mass murderer. No circumspection, reflection or deliberation. To see is to do.
Jonathan Sacerdoti notes:
I’ve watched plenty of extremist videos and heard some dodgy speeches over the years. I even watched a couple of videos online this last week of extremist Rabbis preaching against rational and modern thought as well as homosexuality. But I didn’t become a backwards thinking fanatic.
Why do some people want to say “was radicalised” (a passive thing), rather than “chose to become an extremist and murderer”?
Passivity reduces the killer’s free will to dust. He’s one step closer to becoming a ‘vulnerable’ victim. And – boy – do Islamists love being victims. The actual victims – the people murdered – are reduced, their innocence linked to the killer’s vulnerability, the good boy or good girl from a good family who was ‘groomed’ online by powers too strong to resist. We are corralled into looking not only at the victim and saying “There but for the grace of god…”, but empathising with the killer, too. And you can’t blame a victim, so the narrative goes. You can’t get angry at a victim.
Radicalisation doesn’t come out of the blue or from a YouTube snuff movie or tweet. It’s rooted in the Islamists’ antagonism towards the prevailing culture and a search for a form of aggrandised, pristine identity they can embrace and be defined by. You might call them fascists.
The London Bridge and Borough Market terror attacks – how do the tabloids cover the massacre? All share the same news of heroic deeds, horrific injuries and barbarity. But their different treatment of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn is notable. Which of the political leaders do you trust to keep us safe?
Daily Star (front page): “HEROES”
The paper focuses first not on the Islamist extremists who murdered people, rather on the people who helped defeat them and help the injured. We meet Gerard Vowles and Geoff Ho.
Page 2 – 3: “HUNTING FOR VICTIMS”. Now we get to the killers, who wielded foot-long hunting knives and used a truck to slaughter people. And then to the heroes once more.
GEEZER: Gerard Vowles, a proper Londoner who makes us proud. He went to help a woman being set upon by the murderers. He “pelted the killers with pint glasses, bottles and chairs”.
GEEZER: A woman “wedged herself in a restaurant door to stop the gang bursting in and attacking diners”. We do not know her name. But she held things up long enough for 20 people to escape.
GEEZER: A cabbie tried to run down the killers with his taxi. (More on him later.)
GEEZER: A copper took on all three killers. He was armed with a baton. He was stabbed many times. He survived.
GEEZER: Geoff Ho is a journalist for the Sunday Express. He was stabbed in the neck trying to help a doorman under attack. He tweeted: “Don’t know whether it was stupid or noble to jump in and break up the fight outside the Southwark Tavern, but two a*******s trying to do over a lone bouncer on the door isn’t happening on my watch.”
(It’s great that the Star is unable to repeat the word “arseholes” but finds no issue carrying adverts for “Proper Filthy Girls” and an invitation to phone in and “Listen to Mother & Daughter” aural sex. Apparently, incest is ok but arseholes are taboo.)
The paper produces grainy photos of the killers waking through Borough Market. We also see one of them dead on the floor, killed by a policeman. The copper’s a geezer, too, as are all the police who raced to help.
Pages 4-5: “Dozens held in Armed Swoops”
Police raided a block of flats in Barking, where one of the killers reportedly lived. He was, says a neighbour, a “nice guy” who “rewarded favours with curry”. Says Mohammed, a neighbour who had jump-started the soon-to-be killer’s car: “I told him to forget about giving me money. The next day he turned up with a lovely chicken biryani that we all enjoyed.” The killer was also seen wearing an Arsenal shirt – the one he was wearing when he murdered so many. “I couldn’t believe it. I had seen him in that shirt at 5pm that evening,” says another neighbour.
Another adds: “He approached me yesterday and asked me where I hired a van recently. He said he was going to move house… He was being nicer than normal… He was always nice, but yesterday he was an entirely different level of niceness.”
Evil is banal.
Page 6- 7: “MAY: THIS IS WAR – PM vows to crush Islam extremist.” May is “defiant”. But Jeremy Corbyn did a”U-turn”, changing his “long-held opinion that he was not ‘happy’ with the police’s shoot-to-kill policy.”
Page 21: The horror occupies readers’ minds. They text in their views (click the image to enlarge):
Daily Express (front page): ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”:
The paper echoes the words Theresa May used to condemn the slaughter.
Page 2-3: “Jihadis walked around like outlaws at the OK Corral.” Sticking with the idea of this being the wild West, the paper issues a phone poll. The question runs: “Is now the time to round up suspects?”
The paper reminds us that the killers wore dummy suicide vests. They yelled, “This is for Allah.” The paper’s editor tells readers of the woman on London Bridge pleading with her stabbed partner: “Stay with me please, I love you. Come on, please. Don’t let those fuckers get away with it.” He says Donald Trump is right to ridicule our politicians for being “politically correct in our reaction to these outrages”. And “Theresa May is right when she says Enough is Enough.”
Page 3: “Marksmen threaten to shoot a fleeing suspect in pyjamas.” To West Ham, where an eyewitness tells us about a police raid: “Then a young black man, barefoot and in pyjamas came out of the window. They were shouting ‘We will shoot you if you don’t go back in… the police officer was ready to shoot.”
Page 4: “We fought toff jihadis with bottles and hid in cellars and cupboards.”
We hear from Mark Stembridge, owner of Cafe Brood: “Three Asian guys came down the steps after crashing the van. I saw them with the knives. They each had a knife in their hands. They were about 10-12 inches long. The staff reacted very quickly. We had about 130 customers and 15 staff working. We all got inside but we don’t have doors only shutters. The staff protected all the customers and the three guys just hesitated and then they went off.”
Page 4: Elizabeth O’Neill’s son, Daniel O’Neill, was stabbed. The killers told him: “This is for my family, this is for Islam.” Mrs O’Neill calls her son’s attackers “cowards”. She is remarkably restrained. They wanted to kill him.
Page 6: More from the cabbie who tried to run down one of the killers. He had a fare in the back when he saw their rented van crash on London Bridge. “I said I am going to try and hit him, knock him over, so I spun the cab round and was about to ram one of them, but he side-stepped and three police officers came running towards them with batons drawn.” The cabbie told everyone to run. Student nurse Rhiannon Owen is grateful. “I’ve been trying to find the driver all day on social media. I owe him my life.”
Black Cab drivers, eh, salt of the earth. One part of Chris’s – that’s all we know of him – testimony makes me smile: “I saw the van went between one of the traffic light systems. There is an area called Nancy Steps, famous for the film Oliver!.” You don’t get that in an Uber. Chris is a top geezer.
And now we get to Jeremy Corbyn. We read that one of his “leading supporters” has “described Islamic terrorists as ‘freedom fighters'”. It’s Barbara Ntumy – pronounced numpty? – who reportedly tweeted in July 2014: “One mans jihadist / terrorist is another mans freedom fighter #JustSaying.” She is quoted: “I absolutely 100 per cent condemn terrorism.” Is it fair to drag up an old tweet now? Isn’t Corbyn enough?
On Page 9, we hear of “Nauseating” Jeremy Corbyn, a man who “in the recent past has called Islamic terrorist groups and the IRA ‘friends’ and opposed every piece of anti-terror legislation”. Security Minister Ben Wallace says: “Voters will judge him [Corbyn] on his views and actions in the last 30 years, not his desperate promises and evasive soundbites three days from polling day.” Is Corbyn tough on crime and terror? Express readers get to read Theresa May’s statement in full. They do not hear Corbyn’s.
Daily Mirror (front page): “MONSTERS”
The word dehumanises them. The killers were men.
Page 2 -3: “FACING DOWN EVIL”. We meet the “revellers fighting back against the attackers”. The paper mention religion once in its lead story. It does so when quoting Theresa May, who stated that she would fight the “evil ideology of Islamist extremism”.
Page 4-5: We hear more of the woman begging her partner to hang on. It’s heartbreaking. We do not know if Peter survived. To consider one story up close brings the pain to the fore. The numbers of dead and injured we read and consider as facts. Peter and his lover are intensely human. It’s unbearable.
Page 6-7: “TOWER OF TERROR.”
Police raided the Elizabeth Fry tower in Barking, East London. In all, they made 12 arrests. Chris Hughes, the paper’s defence editor, praises police and MI5. They have “smashed… more than a dozen major plots” cooked up by “Islamist terrorism since 9/11”. MI5 operates with a “professionalism” other intelligence agencies “can only dream of”.
Page 8-9: “People hurled tables, chairs and glasses at then..they weren’t going to stand back.”
Page 10-11: “I looked into his eyes and thought he was going to pull the pin & blow us up.”
Page 14-15: Only now does the paper turn to politics. We see Theresa May declaring “Enough’s enough.” We get it. The words chime. The paper picks out another of her lines: “Terrorism breeds terrorism…they are copying one another.” And then we get to Jeremy Corbyn. He looks smaller than May. His line runs: “Our police, nurses, firefighters deserve a pay rise. They can’t get by on her warm words.” Get that? In talking of terror and the fight against it, the Mirror backs Corbyn to get better rates for public sector workers. If the voters decide terrorism is the key issue, Corbyn’ scuppered. The Mirror is realistic. Corbyn being tough on terror does not resonate.
Page 16-17: “PM: Net giants give hate ‘safe space to breed.” May is no champion of free speech. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, the killers most likely used phones, roads and drank tea as they plotted. Why not clamp down on those things, too? The Mirror does not condemn Mays illiberalism. It finds an echo in the shape of the no less authoritarian Yvette Cooper. The paper affords the Labour MP and ex-shadow home secretary a platform to say the big web companies must do mote to stamp out “extremist recruitment online”. If Cooper is worth a listen, then why not the current shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott? Is she hard on terror? Is she in hiding until after the election? Is Cooper the future of Labour? If she is, then blimey, they really are shafted.
Pages 18-19: “Richard Angell says the terrorists will not win. More on him here.
Page 20-21: “GIVE MORE COPS GUNS”
Is that a good idea?
Daily Mail (Front page): “Bloody day all of Britain said: Enough is enough.” The message is clear: Theresa May speaks for us all.
Page 2-3: The Mail says at least one of the killers was known to the security services. We’re told he’s the Watford-born man wearing the Arsenal shirt. We’re told of claims he “became radicalised by watching extremist videos on YouTube”. Funny how it goes that way around: you watch the video then become a killer. Might it be that he liked Islamic extremism and any videos just entertained him? If we present the killers as empty vessels to be easily moulded by a video, we remove some of their own free will from the crime. We move closer to making them victims. And – boy – do Islamists like to be victims.
Page 4-5: More photos of the carnage. Pictures of the dead and injured. Who needs YouTube? If looking can turn you into a killer, should we look at the papers?
Page 6-15: More and more photos of the injured; more stories of heroism, defiance and bravery – “The fucker stabbed me in the neck,” says Candice Hedge (the Mail says “f*****s” ; dead bodies are ok in the Mail but swearing might influence impressionable minds).
Page 16-17: “MAY: CURB THE HATE ON WEB.”
Page 18: “Hours after latest horror, IS terror guides sill online.”
Page 19: Richard Littlejohn – “I’m sick of politicians pussy footing around. As they won’t says it, I will – we ARE at war.” He asks if the nation can take Jeremy Corbyn seriously on matters of national security. Hold your tongue. The question is rhetorical. The answer is coming thick and thicker.
Page 20: “There country is not reeling – but nor are we appeasers of terror like Corbyn,” says Dominic Lawson.
Page 21: “Corbyn’s 30 Years of Talking to Terrorists.”
The Sun (front page): “JIHADI KILLER IS AN ARSENAL SHIRT.”
Football. The Sun has done it and made football a key part of the story. (Add it to the list of unwelcome endorsements.) We learn that the killer in the old Arsenal top was called ‘Abz’.
Page 2-3: “8 Cops. 50 Shots. 3 Losers burning in Hell.” Is Donald Trump writing the Sun’s headlines?
Pages 4-5: “A girl burst in, her neck spurting blood, and grabbed me.”
Page 6-7: “4 Women Among 12 Arrested.” To which the response is: so? Or: How many Spurs fans?
Page 8-9: “We Stopped Them – Bouncer lobs seats at 3 killers. Leads fiends to be shot by police.” Ozzy the doorman is a geezer. “I realised I had to do something,” he says. “… Me and another guy started launching bar stools, bottles and glasses at them… They ran through the barrage and we deflected them and they literally ran straight into the cops who shot them.” Says Ozzy’s mate: “Ozzy’s an absolute hero.”
Page 10-15: More tales of courage, heartache and horror.
Page 16-17: “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.”
May’s soundbite might just produce the predicted Tory landslide. Corbyn is once more attacked over his ‘U-turn’.
Page 18: “Corbyn is a real threat to security”, says Trevor Kavanagh. The Sun says a vote for May is a vote to “make Britain safer”.
Such are the facts.
When France was attacked by Islamist extremists, journalist Bertrand Dicale wrote for the Bataclan website. His words resonate in light of the attacks in Manchester and London. Last night at One Love Manchester, the benefit concert held in the wake of the Manchester attack to remember the victims of the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May, joy and love shone through. It was fabulous.
On November 13 2015, Islamists attacked Paris, murdering 89 people on a night out at the Bataclan.
Several times in its very long history, the Bataclan had to be reborn and, in November of 2016, it is still reborn.
By reopening one year after the November 13 attacks, the Bataclan confirms what it has always been: a reflection of the culture and the art of living of Paris, whatever the events, the crises, the upheavals this city. This theater has experienced revolutions, chills, aesthetic quarrels and storms. It was glorious, it went bankrupt, it was forgotten, it came back…
And, as Paris was able to overcome its pain, its anger and its fear, the Bataclan would not die. It is born again, with more fervor and more humility than ever: it is to host concerts and shows, to give pleasure, to share the party. It is not much, although we all know that it is one of the freedoms guaranteed to us by living in a democracy.
The Bataclan could only resume the course of its history – generous, audacious, passionate. Free.
It’s a recipe for living.
“We were throwing bottles, chairs, stools, anything we could get. A stool hit one of them on the head,” says Gerard Vowls, an eye-witness to the attack on London Bridge and Borough Market.
“They were running up going ‘this is for Allah’, they ran up and stabbed this girl, I don’t know how many times, ten times, maybe 15. She was going ‘help me, help me’ and I could not do anything. I tried to help her, I threw something at them. There was a bike on the floor, I tried to pick up the chair but it was locked to it, to throw it at them, to get them away from her…
“They kept coming to try to stab me … they were stabbing everyone. Evil, evil people.”
A chef from Fish restaurant tells us: “I saw two men with big knives downstairs outside Roast. They were stabbing people. The guy with the knife was killing two people. We were shouting ‘stop, stop’ and people threw chairs at them.”
Gerard and the other people fighting back make me proud to be a Londoner. The Islamists murdering people enjoying a night out in London are scum. Police shot three attackers dead.
Owen Evans was there. He says: “Then they told us to leave the pub and to run, and a policeman standing outside with a gun was shouting, ‘Go, get the fuck out.’ We ran down the street, turned left at the Market Porter, than ran down the road and away. We got to the South Bank and then waited ages for a tube, and eventually got home.”
The police make me proud to be a Londoner.
Politicians do not make me proud. To suspend the election campaign so close to the vote looks like capitulation.
The front pages:
Manchester native Morrissey has shared his view on the slaughter in his home city. Twenty-two people went to a pop concert and didn’t come home. Many more are very badly injured. All around us we are told not to hate, to watch our words and police our thoughts. But if we can’t rage when our children are murdered, when can we get angry? If we can’t howl and surge with anger’s raw energy, we might as well give up. Are you outraged that innocent children excitedly leaving a fun concert were slaughtered? You are. I can tell. You’re breathing.
Morrissey speaks for many when he writes on Facebook:
Celebrating my birthday in Manchester as news of the Manchester Arena bomb broke. The anger is monumental.
For what reason will this ever stop?
Theresa May says such attacks “will not break us”, but her own life is lived in a bullet-proof bubble, and she evidently does not need to identify any young people today in Manchester morgues. Also, “will not break us” means that the tragedy will not break her, or her policies on immigration. The young people of Manchester are already broken – thanks all the same, Theresa. Sadiq Khan says “London is united with Manchester”, but he does not condemn Islamic State – who have claimed responsibility for the bomb. The Queen receives absurd praise for her ‘strong words’ against the attack, yet she does not cancel today’s garden party at Buckingham Palace – for which no criticism is allowed in the Britain of free press. Manchester mayor Andy Burnham says the attack is the work of an “extremist”. An extreme what? An extreme rabbit?
In modern Britain everyone seems petrified to officially say what we all say in private. Politicians tell us they are unafraid, but they are never the victims. How easy to be unafraid when one is protected from the line of fire. The people have no such protections.
23 May 2017.
The Guardian does not agree. It calls Morrissey “controversial”. The best poetry and music from Manchester often is. The Guardian has previously praised Morrissey for his “barbed repartee” that made watching his shows one of the paper’s top things to do over Christmas. Bring the family. Morrissey is right-on.
But today Morrissey is on the wrong side. Calling him controversial is not meant as a compliment. His words have offended. The paper unpacks his open letter to prove it false. The Guardian says MPs are not safe. Morrissey is wrong. We read: “The MP Jo Cox was murdered by a rightwing extremist last June.” The murder of Jo Cox, a respected and committed MP engaging with the people she represented, was abhorrent. But is it right to use her death to stymie debate and free speech?
Jo Cox was murdered by a depraved killer, whose motives were swiftly co-opted to further the Remain side of the Brexit debate (Jo Cox was for staying in the EU; her killer was against everything she stood for). The message was clear: a vote for Brexit was to align yourself with a maniac. A vote for Brexit was to show a cruel disrespect to the memory of Jo Cox.
Writing in the Remain-campaigning Guardian, Polly Tonybee laid it on thick. Beneath the headline “The mood is ugly”, she wrote:
This attack on a public official cannot be viewed in isolation…
It’s been part of a noxious brew, with a dangerous anti-politics and anti-MP stereotypes fomented by leave and their media backers mixed in…
Rude, crude, Nazi-style extremism is mercifully rare. But the leavers have lifted several stones.
So much for debate. Leave voters were insects.
Moving on from Jo Cox – and letting her rest in peace until they need her to endorse another cause – the Guardian continues to study Morrissey:
Morrissey cited government immigration policy among his complaints saying the prime minister would never change her immigration policy in the light of the attacks. It is believed that the bomber named by police, Salman Abedi, was British-born and from Manchester.
The coward’s parents – it is to be believed – are from Libya. Is that relevant? Surely it’s worth mentioning. Or is the conversation now – and I’ll borrow from Tonybee’s lexicon of enlightenment – so “noxious” that to talk of immigration, to even mention the word, cloaks the speaker’s argument in a black shirt? That question is to everyone – not just sub-human pests who creep and crawl.
The paper also says:
He also appeared to suggest that a desire to adhere to “political correctness” was behind politicians’ unwillingness to specify that the attack was the work of an Islamist extremist, rather than simply an extremist. The same claim is often made by people on the far-right.
Talk of immigration and you’re a neo-Nazi. You’re a race riot in waiting. So shut up. Go on Twitter and state how the perverted actions of people who destroy children at a pop concert will not bow us and change our liberal, diverse and raucous way of life. But hold your tongue. Free speech is only worth championing if you agree on what is right and proper conversation. Get an official T-shirt. Light a torch. Be in agreement. Keep in step. Stick to the party line. Don’t be a Nazi. The irony is sharp.
One music site manages to go a step further and link everything “stupid” Morrissey said to – yep – Brexit:
Morrissey has had a long history of saying more-than-questionable things about immigration in Britain, and last year called the Brexit decision “magnificent.”
It was. Brexit was a triumph of democracy. It wasn’t a victory for Nigel Farage’s narrow views, monoculture and racism. The collapsing UKIP vote tells us that. Brexit was when the ignored, abused, patronised, without, forgotten and belittled took their chance to vote for change. And if you don’t like it, you can vote for the LibDems in June’s General Election and ensure that the party now operating as a focus group gets into power and holds another referendum. In a free country, you get a free vote. (If you vote LibDem you can keep voting until you give them the ‘right’ answer.)
You can question. You can debate. And just as you can challenge the orthodoxy on the EU, pick the clothes you wear, who you fancy, what music you listen to and sing along to Ariana Grande as she makes your heart throb – and there she is live on stage before your very eyes, the singer you’ve duetted with in the car on the way to school – you are also free to look at the dead children’s faces on the telly and in the newspapers, feel your eyes moisten and your throat tighten as you consider their stories, the horror of their deaths and the hollowed out lives of their loved ones robbed of the most precious of all things; you can consider the people raped of so much joy, light and life; and wonder why it happened and what can be done to end it. And if you value freedom, and consider humanity robust and truth-seeking, you can wonder aloud. To do anything less is to live in fear.
Many are dead in the attack on a pop concert in Manchester. What say the reputable news sources?
The Daily Express has news:
The Express’s sister publication, the Daily Star, echoed the chilling news that a second armed man was at large in Manchester. He was outside Oldham hospital waiting to strike.
And then, having spread a fake news story, the Express realised it was utter balls. Having garnered clicks from tragedy, the paper updated its earlier fake news report.
Wily stuff to make it look as though those reports were based on anything factual. The “Town Council deny”, rather than the paper “admits”.
The Express’s scoop appears to have been based on a single Facebook comment.
The paper notes:
Laura Bailey-Wood wrote on Facebook: “DO NOT COME to Oldham Hospital I’m currently inside… Man outside with GUN.”
Oldham Council wrote on Twitter: “We have no information to this effect at all. Please only trust or share official sources of information.”
Over in the Star, the fake news is no less opportunistic. The paper’s story has now been changed to read:
But the paper’s earlier URL still suggests an armed man was at Oldham hospital. Humans get the update but those news bots keep the scoop high on the search engines. The URL contains no word on fakery.
The rewrite in an exercise is bad journalism. The headline is changed but the paper’s teaser still trills:
OLDHAM hospital was placed on lockdown after a terror attack in Manchester – sparking fears a gunman was on the loose.
Jamie Micklethwaite writes:
Oldham Hospital stopped admitting new patients after it was overwhelmed by casualities [sic] from the blast. The lockdown sent Twitter into panic – with many people reporting gunshots had been heard there.
Twitter into panic – and also Daily Star readers, no doubt. In the panic to get the story rehashed, the paper spots lots of “casualities”, whatever they are. Still, nice shot of Ariana Grande’s cleavage. Twenty-two people never made it home from a pop concert, but it’s all about clicks, right. So go for it. Phwaor!
Rumours a gunman was on the loose quickly spread.
See Daily Express and Daily Star.
An Oldham Royal Hospital source confirmed they had been placed on lockdown – but due to the explosions at the MEN.
No gunman was at large.
The gunman was an imaginary figure – but he remains very real to anyone who gets their news from the Daily Express and Daily Star.
News that Andrew Murray, a “longstanding communist party member who joined Labour in December”, is running the Labour Party’s General Election campaign raises eyebrows. The Hard Left have taken over Labour.
Paul Anderson and Kevin Davey, authors of Moscow Gold: The Soviet Union And The British Left, look at UK’s Leninists since 9/11, and ask “if life in the mainstream will make or break revolutionary socialism”:
1. What is to be done?
By the end of the 1990s, to most observers of the British left, the Leninist era seemed to have come to an end. The Socialist Workers Party, quasi-Trotskyist and owner of a competent offset press in east London, still had some life about it, but not a lot. The Scottish Socialist Party – essentially the renegade Glasgow office of the Trotskyist Militant Tendency, which had been expelled by Labour in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with SWP and independent barnacles hanging on – had some support in urban western Scotland. And the hardline Communist Party of Britain, the main Stalinist splinter from the ‘official’ Communist Party of Great Britain (which had given up the ghost in 1991, 70 years after its launch with a giant subvention from Moscow), was still influential in a few trade unions. The CPB still had a daily paper, the Morning Star, though hardly anyone read it any more.
This is what Leninism had dwindled to, unless you also count the aloof cadre at New Left Review or the machinations of mayor of London Ken Livingstone’s office, in both of which veterans of another Trotskyist outfit, the International Marxist Group, latterly Socialist Action, had key roles. New Left Review a dry bi-monthly theoretical journal, had gone through several changes of tack since its 1960s and 1970s IMG-dominated heyday (if that’s the word), but the onetime followers of the Trotskyist guru Ernest Mandel – most notably Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn, were still very much on board. Livingstone had a later generation of IMGers in key staff positions, among them John Ross as chief economic adviser and Simon Fletcher as chief of staff. Mood music for this embattled rump was provided by the occasional jeremiad in the comment pages of the Guardian and in the London Review of Books.
On the best estimate, the membership of all the Leninist groups at the turn of the millennium totalled no more than 6,000 – of whom perhaps one-third were active.
Most were in the SWP, the CPB or Militant’s successor groups, with a few hundred scattered among more esoteric fractions, some of them crazy but most of them deadly dull: Socialist Action, so deeply embedded in the Labour hard left that even members found it difficult to distinguish themselves from centrist trade-union bureaucrats; the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, previously Socialist Organiser, notable for picking ideological fights on foreign policy with everyone else and then claiming to be victimised; the group that had once been the Revolutionary Communist Party, a slightly unorthodox Trotskyist group, but after a series of baffling changes of political direction under a variety of names was in the process of launching Sp!ked, a website devoted to provocative libertarianism; the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee), a weird sect that had emerged from a Stalinist fraction in the Turkish Communist Party and had spent most of the 1990s engaged in litigation over former assets of the real CPGB – fighting for flats above chip shops in Dagenham – but had also set up Weekly Worker, an entertaining newspaper, largely online, devoted to left sectarian quibbling.
Few would have predicted any kind of revival for the Leninist fragments. Yet that is what happened in the early years of the new century. The starting point was the creation of an electoral coalition to fight the 2001 general election against Tony Blair’s Labour government, the Socialist Alliance, by the SWP and the English successor-group to Militant, the Socialist Party of England and Wales (the unfortunately acronymed SPEW). Blair, said the comrades, had traded the promise of socialism for a destructive neoliberalism: it was time for a new left initiative. The SA attracted a few independents and started brightly, but got nowhere. All the same, the experience gave the SWP, with John Rees and Lindsey German at the helm, a taste for working with other organisations it not had for more than 20 years – even though they’d decided that SPEW wasn’t exactly an ideal partner.
Then came 9/11 – and everything changed.
2. War and peace
The destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center by Islamist terrorists on 11 September 2001 had a disorienting effect on the British left. A brief, shocked silence was rapidly followed by attempts to make sense of the outrage. On the Leninist left and among its sympathisers the narrative that it was payback for American imperialism in the Middle East was quick to emerge. The “root cause” of the attack was not Islamist fanaticism, they argued, but crusader power – US support for Israel, the punitive sanctions imposed on Iraq after the 1991 war against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, arms sales to Saudi Arabia, exploitation of the region’s oil. The British government was on the side of the imperialists – and it was crucial that the imperialists were defeated. (This is Lenin’s doctrine of “revolutionary defeatism”, developed in World War I, according to which the left in any country engaged in an imperialist war should support the defeat of its “own” ruling class in order to bring on the revolution.)
The analysis was simplistic and met deserved scorn from many left and liberal critics, but after Blair’s decision to support US military intervention in Afghanistan, the knee-jerk anti-imperialism of the Leninists gained a wider hearing. The SWP went all-out for the most opportunist popular front ever. The minuscule party – with an unstable membership of less than 2,000 – ditched SPEW and the Socialist Alliance to set up the Stop the War Coalition, with the aim of attracting the mosques to the anti-imperialist cause. It soon became an alliance of Trotskyist and Stalinist Leninists and the Islamists of the Muslim Association of Britain, with a sprinkling of Labour leftists (among them Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell), Greens, anarchists, CND (by now controlled by the hard left), Scottish and Welsh nationalists and Liberal Democrats.
Opposing the Blair government’s political and military support for the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-02 was not popular: overturning the Taliban and catching Osama bin Laden were objectives shared by an overwhelming majority of Britons. But opposing Blair’s subsequent backing for the US invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein was different. The 9/11 link to Saddam was, to say the least, not persuasive – and the official rationale for the invasion shifted suspiciously from Saddam’s support for terror to weapons of mass destruction. Taking out Saddam by force seemed a massive risk. US President George Bush appeared to be preparing for an intervention that was at best opportunist, half-thought-through and dangerous – and Blair seemed to be tagging along uncritically. It was more complex than that, but Stop the War, with the SWP firmly in command and the CPB playing a key supporting role, found itself in the position of being the only organisation in place with the means to mobilise popular opposition to war. Its high point was the 15 February 2003 demonstration in London against intervention in Iraq, which attracted perhaps 1 million people.
It would be ludicrous to claim that many of the 15 February demonstrators were signed-up Leninists. But the Stop the War organisers and spokespeople for the movement for the most part were: Rees and German from the SWP; the organisation’s chair, Andrew Murray, a leading figure in the Stalinist Straight Left fraction of the 1970s and 1980s (a bizarre secretive group that operated both in the CPGB and the Labour Party), who had become a member of the CPB central committee and an official for the train drivers’ union Aslef; the Labour MP George Galloway (expelled from the party in autumn 2003 for bringing Labour into disrepute after calling on British troops to refuse to obey orders); Kate Hudson, chair of CND and a member of the CPB. And they had media support too – most importantly from the comment editor of the Guardian, Seumas Milne, another veteran of Straight Left.
The Leninist-Islamist alliance (minus most of the Labour hard left and the CPB, at least formally, but backed by many conservative Muslims) was subsequently the basis for a new electoral party, Respect (Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community, and Trade Unionism). German failed miserably as its candidate against Ken Livingstone in the 2004 London mayoral election; but Galloway won Bethnal Green and Bow on a Respect ticket in the 2005 general election. The Scottish Socialist Party, without Islamist support, also did well in the 2003 Scottish Parliament election, winning six seats.
The Leninist revival was, however, patchy and short-lived. It bore the seeds of its own destruction in the blurring of aspirations required by the anti-war popular front: deference both to Muslim moral conservatism and to Scottish nationalism north of the border.
Despite their organisational zeal and campaigning efforts, the micro-parties recruited fewer new members from Stop the War than they had expected, and the new recruits, though often as ardent and narrow-minded as any “class-against-class” communist of the early 1930s, chafed at the bit of party discipline.
While the high-ups in the SWP and CPB engaged in the Stop the War love-in with Islamists, pacifists, Greens, the Scottish National Party and the traditional Labour hard left, undermining their own arguments for a distinctive revolutionary party, the narcissism of small differences disorganised the movement on the ground – where it was amplified by articulate (if hardly independent-minded) novices radicalised by campus identity politics.
The Leninists’ embrace of Islamism was particularly problematic: if everyone could agree that Islamophobia was bad and it was easy enough for Galloway and leftist intellectuals to declare anti-imperialist solidarity with Islamists, the culture clash between Leninist and Islamist anti-imperialisms could not be avoided in campaigning activity, particularly where the rights of women and gay people were at stake. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Leninist left could not find a narrative to rival that of the SNP.
In Scotland, the SSP’s Tommy Sheridan never got into bed with Galloway and Respect – in part because there was little in the way of Muslim radicalism in Scotland with which to ally – but the News of the World reported in 2006 that he had taken part in orgies at a dodgy sex club in Manchester. He sued the paper for libel and won damages, but his account of his actions was at odds with what he had told his SSP comrades, and he was soon charged with perjury for lying in court. Sheridan’s economy with the truth led to the SSP imploding: it lost all representation in Holyrood in 2007 as its followers transferred their support to the SNP, which became for the first time the largest party in the Scottish parliament. Sheridan was convicted of perjury and jailed in 2010.
In England and Wales, growing tensions between Galloway and the SWP – largely over the role of Islamists – led to a spectacular split in RESPECT. Rees and German were off-loaded by the SWP in 2009-10 and set up a website in lieu of a party, Counterfire, which adopted political positions barely distinguishable from those of the traditional Labour hard left except for its empathy for radical Islam, Iran and Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Galloway, who made a fool of himself in the reality-TV Celebrity Big Brother in early 2006, abandoned Bethnal Green and Bow and then failed to become the MP for Poplar and Limehouse in 2010. SPEW, the CPB and the RMT railworkers’ union set up No2EU as a left-Eurosceptic electoral alliance for the 2009 European Parliament elections: it secured less than 1 per cent of the vote. SPEW’s next initiative, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (supported by the SWP and RMT but not the CPB), stood in the 2010 general election but lost all its deposits with a similar, stubbornly insignificant, share of the vote.
Meanwhile, the Trotskyists in Ken Livingstone’s office received big pay-offs after he lost the London mayoral election in 2008. By then, only train-spotters could tell they remained Trotskyists, so deeply had they subsumed their identity in that of Labour’s hard left and Livingstone’s enthusiasm for attracting inward investment by giant global corporations.
Things got little better for the groupuscules after Labour’s general election defeat in 2010. Galloway made a spectacular comeback to win a by-election victory as a Respect candidate in Bradford West in 2012. But he did this without much Leninist support: his electoral base in Bradford was almost entirely Muslim, communal and largely conservative. The SWP went into meltdown when the leadership mishandled allegations of rape against one of their number, a nasty affair that lost the party nearly all of the members it had recruited during the Stop the War campaign.
The film-maker Ken Loach and others – many of them, like him, formerly of the Workers Revolutionary Party, once the biggest Trotskyist group in Britain but utterly discredited in the mid-1980s when its leader, Gerry Healy, was accused of serial sexual assaults – set up Left Unity, a supposedly new party which was not explicitly Leninist, though most of the members it attracted were old-left Leninist has-beens. Unsurprisingly, it failed to get off the ground.
TUSC staggered on, failing to win local council seats, and No2EU did even worse in the 2014 European elections than it had in 2009. Slightly more in tune with the times, Counterfire, the CPB and others opened a second popular front – the People’s Assembly Against Austerity – bringing together Labour, Green and trade union leftists, among them Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Despite its large meetings and occasional demonstrations, it had little public impact.
These false starts and falterings are not the whole story. The Leninist micro-parties may have got nowhere in 2010-15, but after the collapse of the SSP and RESPECT many individual Leninists, drawing on the hard-left networks in which they had embedded themselves, did much better in the trade union bureaucracies.
Assisted by the apathy of members and the complacency of their opponents – while building on the alliances forged in Stop the War and local campaigns – the hard left won several key positions, elected and appointed, on top of the handful it already held. The most important victory came in 2010. Unite, the giant general union born of a series of mergers with the TGWU, elected Len McCluskey as general secretary on a 15 per cent turnout. McCluskey, a self-declared former-supporter of Militant in Liverpool (although he was never a member and is much more a product of the 1970s CPGB union machine than of Trotskyism), won against a candidate supported by the SWP and other Leninists. He appointed Andrew Murray of the CPB and Stop the War as his chief of staff.
Over the next five years the hard left in the unions huffed and puffed, complaining that Ed Miliband, who they’d backed in 2010 for the Labour leadership, was a great disappointment. In 2013 there was a major falling-out between Miliband and McCluskey after complaints that Unite was trying to fix the Labour parliamentary selection in Falkirk. Miliband’s response to the unions throwing their weight around in internal Labour politics was a change to the party’s leadership election rules. In 2014, he eliminated the formal role of trade unions in the electoral college that had chosen Labour leaders since 1983: members of Labour-affiliated unions and registered supporters were given a vote in party leadership elections with the same weight as that of a standard full member.
Hardly anyone objected. The commentariat saw the move as Miliband taking on the union bosses in a new drive for “modernisation”. But Unite and others saw the change as an opportunity – and in 2015, after Labour lost the general election, the chickens came home to roost.
Unite and Leninist-influenced hard left networks in the unions played a significant role in the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Their intervention was mostly indirect. Unions in which the hard left was dominant splashed cash for propaganda and funded phone banks. Unite in particular invested heavily in the Corbyn campaign.
This support was contested and appears to have been grudging – McCluskey wanted to back Andy Burnham but was overturned by his executive. Corbyn’s leadership campaign director was Simon Fletcher, a longtime Socialist Action stalwart who had served as Ken Livingstone’s chief of staff before taking up a similar role with Corbyn. Activists from the People’s Assembly Against Austerity played an important part in organising public meetings for the Corbyn campaign, as did the Labour Representation Committee, a parallel initiative set up in 2004 that brought together the remnants of the Leninist left in the Labour Party and the unions that had survived two decades of expulsions of entryists.
Both the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and the LRC consider that Leninist parties should be allowed to operate freely inside Labour, and members of both – along with activists from TUSC and other far-left operations – have enthusiastically signed up to Momentum, the continuity Corbyn leadership campaign set up by his campaign manager Jon Lansman, a veteran of the early-1980s Bennite left who is a key player in the LRC.
As far as anyone knows, Corbyn himself never joined one of the Leninist groups, but throughout his political life he has drawn on their support and ideas. He basked in the political milieu they dominated, and was heavily involved in campaigns in which Stalinists and Trotskyists played major if not defining roles – the Chile Solidarity Campaign, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Liberation, Labour CND, Stop the War, the Labour Representation Committee and many more.
More importantly, Leninist anti-imperialism continues to play a central role in shaping his thinking on foreign affairs: if there’s any guiding principle to Corbynism, it’s that the west – in other words, the US and the other “imperialist powers” – is always wrong. The west is by definition imperialist, whatever the aims or impact of its policies, from humanitarian intervention to regime change, from economic development to trade agreement, from the extension of democracy and human rights to formal alliances between states.
In this world, any opposition to the west that arises on the ground is understandable whatever form it takes, and is mostly viewed sympathetically. From the IRA to Hamas, from Cuba to Hezbollah, from North Korea to Venezuela, “anti-imperialists” are “friends” usually deserving solidarity – and a blind eye has to be turned to most of their flaws and their crimes.
As leader, Corbyn has appointed people from the Leninist periphery of hard-left Labour politics who share this worldview – let’s call them Leninoids, as they retain no formal relationship to organised groups – to key positions in the Labour Party, most importantly John McDonnell as shadow chancellor and Seumas Milne as chief spin-doctor. Back in the 1980s, McDonnell, along with Ken Livingstone, was part of the Labour Herald crew that was kept afloat by the Workers Revolutionary Party. Milne’s political sympathies have always been much more towards J V Stalin.
One of the strangest and most shocking characteristics of this boilerplate ‘anti-imperialism’ is a deeply ingrained deference to the Leninists’ old flame, Moscow. The hard left defended Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Georgia in 2008 and excused Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its subsequent bloody interference in Ukraine. This left raised only a finger in protest at Putin’s cynical support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria – and its leading protagonists have long been favoured talking heads on Moscow’s international propaganda TV channel, RT. That Russia might itself harbour imperialist ambitions remains unthinkable for the last Leninists standing. Their crude anti-imperialist reflex gives Moscow a pass, just as it did for Saddam, and just as it continues to do for Iran and China.
It would be wrong to describe the elevation of a few backward-looking fossils as a Leninist revival. It is certainly not a Leninist takeover of Labour. Corbyn’s mindset is indebted to Leninism, but the Labour Party members and supporters who voted for him were and are people who wanted a change of tack on austerity and foreign military intervention. What they’ve got isn’t what they wanted. Putting it crudely, a handful of Leninists past and present have been given key bureaucratic positions by a hard-left Leninist-fellow-travelling leadership. Or to frame it differently: in choosing his team, Corbyn took a leaf out of Livingstone’s book and co-opted Leninist organisational talent for reforming and social-democratic ends.
It’s not the wisest move an aspiring prime minister could make, nor has it united the party, so the future of Corbyn’s fragile and fractious project is unpredictable. One thing is clear, however. Corbyn’s leadership of Labour is unlikely to regenerate the CPB, the SWP or any of the other micro-parties. It is much more probable that the sharp left turn for Labour that his leadership represents will deny Leninists their most potent recruiting argument, that Labour is selling out socialism and the working class. The more successful he is, the more difficult it will be to differentiate their brand – and if he sinks, their close association with him makes it likely that they go down with him.
Sadly, another Leninist mini-revival cannot be ruled out. The organisations are still there, ageing, battered and bruised, and there are plausible scenarios that they could exploit to their advantage. But nearly a century of experience suggests that Britain’s Leninists are on their last legs and going nowhere.
The best hope for the left in electoral politics remains Labour – even if there is a mountain to climb by 2020 and Corbyn fails to enthuse the voters. The party is easy to join and it is a movement for change. Most of its members are sane democratic socialists with no illusions about the scale of the challenge facing them. If you want thrills and spills in the here-and-now and Labour doesn’t appeal, you’re better-off doing your politics yourself than joining one of the self-appointed vanguard parties. You might get nowhere, you might win meaningful victories, but you won’t find yourself dragged into cadre servitude by a central committee that treats new recruits as expendable extras in a misconceived historical movie.
Because that is what British Leninism is today: a tawdry political re-enactment society. They can grow Lenin beards and pretend to be hipsters, or dye their hair red like Rosa Luxemburg’s. But it’s not a politics for today. It isn’t going to find the way forward. The raison d’etre of Leninism is to mislead, to misrepresent and to divide the left. It’s time to let 1917 go.
Reproduced with permission of the very good Little Atoms.
Read the book: Moscow Gold: The Soviet Union and the British Left.
Compare and contrast former deputy prime minister John Prescott’s views on TV debates.
September 2 2009:
“Sky’s TV debate campaign is cheap publicity for Murdoch. Gordon can beat Cameron any day of the week. Doesn’t need to go on Sky to prove it.”
April 17 2017:
Empty seat her.
Is Mr Prescott’s view altered by the fact that in 2009 uninspiring anointed Prime Minister Gordon Brown was a poor performer on live TV and Labour could only lose – but in 2017 uninspiring anointed Prime Minister Theresa May is a poor performer on live TV and Labour can only gain?
We first encountered pictures of Kate Middleton’s naked breasts when the French edition of celebrity magazine Closer published the grainy images captured on a long lens in 2012. Today the Mirror leads with news that Kate is seeking £1.3m in damages. So traumatic was it to see Kate’s baps in the tabs that in a French court lawyers for Kate and Prince William say the episode evokes haunting memories of Princess Diana’s “Paparazzi nightmare”.
Among other things, the images show Kate removing her bathing suit and slapping sunscreen to her husband’s back.
The Sun, which published pictures of a naked Prince Harry, sets a sympathetic scene:
Kate and William had escaped on holiday in France in September 2012, a little more than a year into their marriage, when the images were taken.
So much, then, for “Workshy Wills“, the Sun’s nickname for the Prince, who last month was telling us all to loosen up. He was “escaping” not skiving. Wills and the other two parts of the Golden Triangle of Palace PR – Prince Harry and Kate – are not the epitome of an unaccountable elite, but in it with us.
The British Press are all on the Windsors side in this one, partly because some organs enjoy watching Britishers making the French squirm and partly because the story can illustrate their own sense of decency, righteousness and strict moral code. It’s not often the gutter press get to look down on something lower, so the likes of the Sun, Star, Mail and Mirror are not going to pass up the opportunity to posture, salute and preen.
But what;s wrong with the photos?
Kate and Wills – the couple who showoff family photos of their children, let us look around their palaces in TV documentaries designed to show their ordinariness, jet about the world adopting worthy interventionist causes, talk to showbiz magazines and cut through the pomp and ermine to get closer to the people – crave all the trappings of celebrities. With no Empire and no political role, it is through celebrity that Kate and Wills, and so too the Royals at large, can achieve a sense of authority. The topless photos are just part of the celebrification. The French see that. We don’t.
When push comes to shove, Kate and Wills have pulled up the red rope. They aren’t the UK’s Kim and Kanye or even Posh and Becks. They are not special by anything other than birth. If we see that then the fall out from their reaction to topless photos might cause more Royal pain in the long run.
Have a heart for the live TV reporter padding out the known facts in the London drizzle. ITV goes live to its man in Westminster. Come in, Rohit Kachroo, who has Type 1 Diabetes (it was related to that):
— Daniel Bibby (@dbibby15) April 27, 2017
I’ve been there. I was on the radio once and utterly lost my train of thought. He did well to maintain his cool. And it does make you wonder why he has to be live on the scene at all? Very rarely does the TV reporter’s location ever add to the story? After all, they are there long after the incident on which they’re reporting has passed.
Madeleine McCann: 10th anniversary news round-up.
The Daily Mail (front page): “MADDIE POLICE CHASING ‘CRITICAL LEAD'”.
That Madeleine McCann remains front-page news 10 years after her vanishing – and after ten years of no evidence of what happened to her emerging – is remarkable. As for the news, we learn that police are “chasing a critical leader”. How critical? Well, it “could crack the Madeleine McCann case”. So only potentially critical, then.
What of the “mysterious new clues”, then, that “could explain why the three-year-old vanished in May 2007″?
We hear from Mark Rowley, a Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, who tells us that the “latest lead” is “worth pursuing”. He says: “It could provide an answer, but until we’ve gone though it I won’t know whether we are going to get there or not.”
That’s three “coulds” on the front page alone. So much for the “critical lead”. Rowley says – without irony – “I’m not going to discuss…because it is very much a live investigation”.
The Mirror makes “COULD” part of its front-page lead. It could just as easily says ‘Could Not”.
Millions of pounds invested in the search for answers and still none are forthcoming. Ten years of looking and the Met are in full PR mode. They “don’t want to spoil it by putting titbits of information our publicly,” says Rowley as he chucks a tasty morsel to the Press. Indeed, this isn’t a hunt for alleged VIP sex criminals. There will be no televised raids and no airport arrests. So can Rowley tell us anything? “We don’ have evidence telling us if Madeleine is alive or dead.” says Rowley, “but as a team we are realistic about what we might be dealing with.”
As the Met gets realistic about theories, the Mail moves on to look at the parents. Over pages 4 and 15, we get “10 YEARS OF PAIN”.
Pages 14-15: “Maddie’s bedroom is piled high with a decade of unopened gifts. Kate’s given up work to care or their twins – while Gerry’s now a world-renowned heart doctor. As police reveal a ‘significant’ new line of inquiry… 10 YEARS OF HOPE AND HEARTBREAK”.
What a parent looking after their own children has to do with the case is moot, moreover the husband’s job. But this story always was laced with a middle-class thread. The blonde child. The medical professional parents. The upmarket holiday camp destination. It all overshadows the fact that police only might have a significant new line of enquiry. We don’t know. They don’t know. All we know is that Kate McCann is a “fitness fanatic” who “finds finds comfort in daily work-outs at he gym”; Gerry McCann “was recently praised for saving the life of former footballer Alan Birchenall after he suffered a heart attack and ‘died’ for seven minutes”; and “they have coped in different ways with the tragedy”.
Daily Express (front page): “VITAL NEWS CLUES IN MADDY HUNT.”
No. They could be critical clues. They might not be of any value at all. The Express notes that Operation Grange, the police investigation, has cost £11m.
Page 5: “Yard reveals ‘critical lines of inquiry’ in Maddy case.” It did. And it didn’t. The Met mentioned the leads and then said they were secret.
The paper does have some news, though. We learn that in 2013, “officers identified four people as possible suspects but they have now been ruled out.”
The Telegraph prefers to lead with a question: “Madeleine McCann: Are the police any closer to knowing the truth?” As Betteridge’s law of headlines states: “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”
This is Mark Rowley’s statement in full – delivered to deadline. The Met calls it “AC Mark Rowley reflects on the tenth anniversary of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.” It reads like mixture of school report and therapeutic journey:
As an investigation team we are only too aware of the significance of dates and anniversaries. Whatever the inquiry, we want to get answers for everyone involved.
The disappearance of Madeleine McCann is no different in that respect but of course the circumstances and the huge public interest, make this a unique case for us as police officers to deal with. In a missing child inquiry every day is agony and an anniversary brings this into sharp focus. Our thoughts are with Madeleine’s family at this time – as it is with any family in a missing person’s inquiry – and that drives our commitment to do everything we can for her.
On 3rd May 2017, it will be 10 years since Madeleine vanished from her apartment in Praia Da Luz, a small town on the Algarve. In the immediate hours following her disappearance, an extensive search commenced involving the local police, community and tourists. This led to an investigation that has involved police services across Europe and beyond, experts in many fields, the world’s media and the public, which continues to this day. The image of Madeleine remains instantly recognisable in many countries across the world.
The Met’s dedicated team of four detectives, continues to work closely on the outstanding enquiries along with colleagues of the Portuguese Policia Judiciária. Our relationship with the Policia Judiciária is good. We continue to work together and this is helping us to move forward the investigation.
We don’t have evidence telling us if Madeleine is alive or dead. It is a missing person’s inquiry but as a team we are realistic about what we might be dealing with – especially as months turn to years.
Now is a time we can reflect on an investigation which captured an unprecedented amount of media coverage and interest. The enormity of scale and the complexity of such a case brings along its own challenges, not least learning to work with colleagues who operate under a very different legal system. The inquiry has been, and continues to be helped and supported by many organisations and individuals. We acknowledge the difference these contributions have made to the investigation and would like it known that we appreciate all the support we have and continue to receive.
Since the Met was instructed by the Home Office to review the case in 2011, we have reviewed all the material gathered from multiple sources since 2007. This amounted to over 40,000 documents out of which thousands of enquiries were generated. We continue to receive information on a daily basis, all of which is assessed and actioned for enquiries to be conducted.
We have appealed on four BBC Crimewatch programmes since April 2012. This included an age progression image which resulted in hundreds of calls about alleged sightings of Madeleine; an appeal for the identity of possibly relevant individuals through description or Efit; and information sought relating to suspicious behaviour or offences of burglary. These programmes collectively produced a fantastic response from the public. The thousands of calls and information enabled detectives to progress a number of enquiries. This was in addition to over 3,000 holiday photographs from the public in response to an earlier appeal.
The team has looked at in excess of 600 individuals who were identified as being potentially significant to the disappearance. In 2013 the team identified four individuals they declared to be suspects in the case. This led to interviews at a police station in Faro facilitated by the local Policia Judiciária and the search of a large area of wasteland which is close to Madeleine’s apartment in Praia Da Luz. The enquiries did not find any evidence to further implicate the individuals in the disappearance and so they are no longer subject of further investigation.
We will not comment on other parts of our investigation – it does not help the teams investigating to give a commentary on those aspects. I am pleased to say that our relationship with the Portuguese investigators is better than ever and this is paying dividends in the progress all of us are making.
We are often asked about funding and you can see that we are now a much smaller team. We know we have the funding to look at the focused enquiry we are pursuing.
Of course we always want information and we can’t rule out making new appeals if that is required. However, right now, new appeals or prompts to the public are not in the interest of what we are trying to achieve.
He says publicly.
As detectives, we will always be extremely disappointed when we are unable to provide an explanation of what happened. However the work carried out by Portuguese and Met officers in reviewing material and reopening the investigation has been successful in taking a number of lines of interest to their conclusion. That work has provided important answers.
Answers? But there was only ever one question: what happened to Madeleine McCann?
Right now we are committed to taking the current inquiry as far as we possibly can and we are confident that will happen. Ultimately this, and the previous work, gives all of us the very best chance of getting the answers – although we must, of course, remember that no investigation can guarantee to provide a definitive conclusion.
However the Met, jointly with colleagues from the Policia Judiciária continue the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann with focus and determination.
No progress, then. The Met is looking back – just as it always has done.
Sunderland manager David Moyes is sorry for telling a BBC Sport reporter she “might get a slap” with her line of questioning. Following Sunderland’s 0-0 draw with Burnley, journalist Vicki Sparks asked the former Everton and Manchester United coach if the knowing club owner Ellis Short was looking on from the stands made him feel uncomfortable.
“No, none at all,” said Moyes. With the BBC cameras no longer filming, he continued: “Just getting a wee bit naughty at the end there so just watch yourself. You still might get a slap even though you’re a woman.”
But someone was filming on a camera phone.
Vivki Sparks, a woman in a man’s world, where undemanding, bland, blokey banter is the rule, is robust. Let’s hope Moyes’ questionable humour doesn’t stymie her journalism and she keeps asking challenging questions. She’s not there to do David Moyes’ PR – there’s already a silo of clubby ex-pros sat on the BBC’s cosy Match Of The Day chairs to deliver anodyne match summaries and big up their mates. She’s also not there to be the BBC’s token ‘bird’ who needs looking after and watching lest a footballer say something inappropriate to her delicate ears. She’s a journalist after a story. That someone else chose to make her the story is odd.
And it isn’t over. The Football Association has invited David Moyes in for a light interrogation. They want to know if Moyes is a sexist. What they might be better off asking is why football is now so corporate that an off-the-record chat can blow up into a scandal. A pundit on Sky News this morning said Moyes “deserved to be reputationally damaged”, making this not a story of being civil to one another and gender equality – “even thought you’re a woman” is a crass comment – but about branding.
Fans of rival clubs might laugh. One popular chant aimed at Sunderland fans chimes, “You all beat up your women, you’re all the fu**ing same.” So much for cheeky irreverence. Football is the nation’s role model. Mind your language. Football’s not a fun leisure pursuit and a chance to let off steam. It’s very serious stuff.
The asylum seeker fighting for life after being beaten up in Croydon, South London, is 17-year-old Reker Ahmed. Initial reports stated that an 8-strong gang of youths kicked the Iranian unconscious after first asking him where he was from. The narrative was that the victim was targeted because he and the two friends with whom he was waiting for a bus just before midnight were asylum seekers. Politicians were quick to wrap the nasty incident into a story about Brexit. Leading Labour politicians blamed the Government and Brexit voters for creating an environment where this sort of thing is allowed to happen. It wasn’t violent thugs looking for a soft target. It was right-wing racists looking for migrants. It was not spontaneous. It was pre-meditated.
And then the facts started to emerge. Sort of.
Reker Ahmed suffered a fractured skull and blood clot on his brain. He’s in hospital.
The Metro said it wasn’t 8 people who chased and kicked Reker Ahmed Asylum in the head. Reker was “beaten by [a] mob of 20 people”. The Telegraph was quick to trump that with: “Mob of up to 30 joined ‘appalling’ attack on Croydon asylum seeker.” Why ‘appalling’ should be in inverted commas is unclear. Is the country now so dangerous that Telegraph readers need steerage when it comes to understanding ultra violence?
Police have been knocking on doors. Five people have been charged with violent disorder. The accused named so far are: brother and sister Danyelle, 24 and Daryl Davis, 20 (violent disorder); brothers Jack Walder (violent disorder) and his brother George Walker, who is charged with violent disorder and racially aggravated grievous bodily harm; and Barry Potts (violent disorder). All are local to the Croydon area.
Police have also charged a 23 year old man, a 17 year old girl and a 19-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder and violent disorder.
In all 11 arrests have been made. Others are being sought to help with police enquiries.
Jacqui Hughes, prosecuting at Croydon Magistrates’ Court, sets the scene:
“Some people, including the defendants, come out of the Goat pub and approached the three victims and asked where they were from. George Walder then began punching the victim to the face. People from a white Vauxhall Corsa car pulled up and started chasing the victims.
“George Walder chased them across a roundabout to a bus stop where Mr Ahmed was punched and kicked. Mustafa and Mohammed ran off toward Bridal Road. Barry Potts was amongst those chasing across the roundabout and a fight broke out again. More people came out of the pub including the defendants and others. A large fight continued and Mr (Recker) Ahmed was punched and kicked. It dies down and people return to the pub and Jack Walder is seen putting on chains around his neck that he wasn’t wearing before. CCTV shows the group punch and kick him. Mr (Recker) Ahmed was missing two gold chains and a gold coloured watch.
“A large group continued to chase the victims down Shrublands Avenue. Mr (Recker) Ahmed is caught and thrown to the ground. People started punching and kicking him. Mustafa and Mohammed go into a nearby garden and throw stones at the group. This appeared to be an unprovoked and motiveless attack based solely on his ethnicity.”
Not a violent mugging, then? Not gang-bangers out for kicks, literally?
Det Supt Jane Corrigan says: “The gang actually asked where he was from before launching their attack, which is why we are treating this as racially motivated.” But maybe it wasn’t. Corrigan adds: “We are working with the local pub to try and establish where they all came from and what led to this horrible incident.”
She adds: “I genuinely don’t think people have gone out that night with the intention to commit this horrific attack. You’ve got a really difficult mix of youth, the time of night, alcohol, and it only takes one person to say something that could spark off something massive – which is what I think has happened on this evening. This is a random attack and the suspect and victims aren’t known to each other that we are aware of.”
In other words, the “institutionally racist” police service doesn’t know why Reker Ahmed was attacked and savagely beaten.
But here comes London Mayor Sadiq Khan to add his view. “Hate crime has no place in London, Britain or anywhere else,” he says, to say nothing of kicking a young innocent man in the head – which he doesn’t. “Our communities will not be divided by those who seek to sow hate. And we will always take a zero tolerance approach to hate crimes of any type. Anyone who witnesses a hate crime should report it to the police immediately.”
A hate crime is a wonderfully nebulous thing. If you “think” it’s a hate crime, then it is one. Why is a new crime is needed when “violent disorder” and “attempted murder” seem to be do just fine? The suspicion is that hate crime means just what those in power want it to mean. Officials can use hate crime to tell the rest of how to behave. It’s a moral code dressed up as law to corral us into ‘acceptable’ forms of behaviour, speech and thought. The headline crime is not that an innocent man was badly beaten, but that when striking up conversation with their victim, the alleged criminals asked him where he was from. There is no word of what else they said, if they yelled “Get the asylum seeker” or some such phrase as they gave chase.
A friend was mugged in London not too long ago, The attacker asked him for the time. As he looked down at his watch, he was punched in the face. The attacker, now joined by two others, demanded the watch. Is it stretching things too far to suppose Reker Ahmed’s alleged attackers rather liked the look of his bling and the question “Where are you from?” was part of their modus operandi to getting it?
We don’t know. But call it a hate crime and a nasty incident is politicised and becomes a warning to us all.
When Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon had a chat in Glasgow, the Daily Mail noticed that both women had legs. It wasn’t just a meeting between two leaders of British political parties; it was a beauty contest. It was also an eye-catching front-page headline and photo. If newspapers set out to be relevant and capture their readers’ attentions, the Mail did a fine job of it.
But many leading voices – most of whom don’t much like the Mail and don’t buy it – were quick to accuse the paper of “sexism”.
Reaction to the Mail’s cover has been loud. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn looked beyond mere policy and leadership to decry the picture’s “sexism”. “This sexism must be consigned to history,” Corbyn tweeted. Labour MP Harriet Harman found the Mail’s headline “Moronic!” She checked her calendar and added with not a muon of wit, “And we are in 2017!”
Conservative MP and former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan accused the paper of “appalling sexism”.
Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the The Green Party of England and Wales, ruled that the cover was “treating women with contempt”. She went further than most and complained to IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organisation. To her mind the over was “breaking the Editors’ Code”.
The Editors’ Code of Practice covers:
Intrusion into grief or shock
Children in sex cases
Reporting of Crime
Clandestine devices and subterfuge
Victims of sexual assault
Witness payments in criminal trials
Payments to criminals
The Public Interest
Which of those topics deals with a picture of two clothed women and a silly comment on their legs? You can try and guess but you’d be hard pressed to nail it. Helpfully, Womack says the Mail broke clause 12 of the code which says editors must “avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability”.
Of course, drawing attention to the leaders’ legs story gives Womack a chance to draw attention to herself. Like all other ‘Outraged of Westminster’ moaners, Womack uses the Mail to showcase her own clean lines. The paper must love it. At a time of falling circulations, the Mail is one newspaper still able to rile and matter. People really do care what it says.
The Mail online even features a report on its own front page:
And what of Theresa May, the poor woman being objectified by the nasty Mail? She called the cover “a bit of fun”. Which it is.
In next week’s Mail: “Put ’em away Jeremy!”
Looking for offence in dust is a full-time job. Today brings news that one sensitive Chelsea fan has given full throat to his upset that Manchester United fans referred to the Blues as “Chelsea rent boys” during the teams’ recent FA Cup match.
Rent boys is an old-fashioned term, for sure, but it is entirely in keeping with the way football fans model chants to the tunes of 1960s songs. The correct and up-to-date term is “male sex worker”. And it’s not even a term of abuse. It’s a career choice and should be legalised and taxed.
The Sun says a police officer told the complainant that the chant “Chelsea rent boys” is “unacceptable” – but not for the reasons mentioned above. It’s because calling Chelsea fans “Chelsea rent boys” is offensive and intended to cause upset.
Writing in the Sun, Mick Hume wonders: “What next? Chelsea fans probed for animal welfare offences for shouting ‘sheep, sheep, sheep-s******s’ at supporters of less fashionable provincial clubs?”
Winding up the opposition is part and parcel of the game. The FA says it is bent on “eradicating all discriminatory and offensive chanting from football”. Mick adds: “But equating discrimination and offence is like giving a player a red card for nutmegging an opponent.”
We’d advocate going for the full Cruyff turn. Go beyond those arcane and sanitised rent-boy chants. That one only upset one Chelsea fan. It’s time fans upped their game.
PS: Stand up for free speech and the right to be offensive by buying Boy Mick Hume’s book here.
Yvette Cooper wants to set you free from fake news, horrible words and unpleasant images online. The UK Home Affairs Select Committee, which Cooper chairs, challenged directors of big social media companies – Facebook’s Simon Milner, Google’s Peter Barron and Twitter’s Nick Pickles – to explain why their businesses engage in “commercial prostitution” by allowing ad placements alongside nasty videos made by, amongst others, neo-Nazis and white supremacist David Duke, whose video Jews admit organising white genocide Labour MP Cooper called antisemitic and shocking. “I think most people would be appalled by that video and think that it goes against all standards of common decency in the United Kingdom,” said Cooper.
The charge is that in equipping nasty videos with ads, the likes of YouTube (owned by Google) is funding hate because the publisher takes a slice of the ad revenue. But if hate’s not a crime, the problem is one of taste not law?
Overlooking the sensational news that a Labour MP is now an expert in spotting anti-semitism, and just marvel at an MP of any hue deciding and defining the limits of good taste.
Google’s Matt Brittin told the committee, “I want to start by saying sorry” for allowing tax-payer funded Government adverts to feature alongside extremist material on YouTube. Cooper seized on it. “They are right to apologise for failing to stop extremists making profits from hatred, and for making profits themselves from advertising on these videos,” she said. “They need to say whether they will be paying back any of that advertising revenue. And to answer our questions on what more they are doing to root out extremism or illegal activity on YouTube. Because they are still failing to do enough to remove illegal or hate filled content from YouTube.”
And there it was again, that casual merging of what is illegal and what is legal and nasty. Not all unpleasant things are criminal, nor should they be made so.
Bannon helped Cooper out. “There is no clear definition of hate speech in British law,” he explained at length. “We have our own guidelines around hate speech. The guideline that we follow, which is very close to the law, is that a general expression against a country, for example, wouldn’t qualify as hate speech, but if you are promoting or advocating violence against a particular group based on their race or ethnicity, that would constitute hate speech. … I am not going to defend the content of the video; I found it abhorrent and offensive. However, the important question, which relates to wider issues of freedom of expression, is whether that content is illegal and whether it breaks our guidelines. Our policy and legal experts arrived at the conclusion that it didn’t. I think everyone in this room would agree that it was deeply distasteful.”
Cooper replied: “How on earth is the phrase, ‘Jews admit organising white genocide’, as well as being clearly false, not a statement that is a malicious or hateful comment about a group of people solely based on race, religion or the other protected characteristics that your own guidelines and community standards say are unacceptable?’
Guidelines are not laws, Yvette. Google is free to set its own rules. As is the Commons. So when Labour MP Tam Dalyell, aka Sir Thomas Dalyell of the Binns, 11th Baronet (9 August 1932 – 26 January 2017), warned in dead-tree magazine Vanity Fair of a “cabal of Jewish advisers” unduly influencing Tony Blair, he wasn’t censored and banned. When Tam told the Zayed Centre, an organisation “established in fulfilment of the vision of his highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan” – that “there were 400,000 Jews in Britain who enjoyed a very strong and stunning influence” he was not sacked.
The then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, whose Jewish ancestry (one grandparent too many, apparently) caused Dalyell to sense something sinister in his blood, offered the grown up response: “These remarks are too unworthy to be worth a comment.”
When old-Etonian Dalyell died, tributes were fulsome. Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “The Labour movement has lost a giant… As Father of the House his wisdom was passed on to countless MPs.” Current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Jew-sniffer had been a “good friend and comrade”. Other “friends” of Corbyn work at Hamas, whose mantra is the annihilation of Jews. As one Guardian writer notes, “Corbyn has associated with the worst type of antisemites: Holocaust deniers, men who think Jews made bread from Christian blood or were behind the 9/11 atrocities. No blood libel was too bloody for them. He keeps saying he’s not a racist, but he’s happy to keep racist company.”
James Bloodworth wondered: “Why is no one asking about Jeremy Corbyn’s worrying connections?” Having stated his belief that Corbyn is no anti-Semite, Bloodworth looked at context:
Corbyn wrote a letter defending Stephen Sizer, the vicar disciplined by the Church of England for linking to an article on social media entitled 9/11: Israel Did It. [He] Presented a call-in programme on Press TV, a propaganda channel of the Iranian government which was banned by Ofcom and which regularly hosts Holocaust deniers.
Is Corbyn advertising these people by being among them? Should he be blocked from doing so, lest his meeting with bigots be seen as an endorsement in the same way anyone watching an advert for Marks and Spencer’s on a jihadi recruitment drive fall into thinking M&S is enlarging its underwear range and selling thermal suicide vests in all sizes? Should Labour Party members get their money back when the context gets nasty?
Or are well robust grown ups, who enjoy freedom of expression and the right to offend, who baulk at the idea of State censors demanding we adhere to their interpretation of “common decency”, those prudes who trammel free speech and treat people as a problem to police and patrol?
Let’s trust that we are.
Let’s be clear: whoever erected the billboard calling Donald Trump a Nazi understands neither democracy nor history. The billboard on the 1000 block of Phoenix’s Grand Avenue is, according to reports, the work of Karen Fiorito. For those of you not au fait with the name ‘Karen’, Fox News tells us she’s a “female artist”. She is not a male artist, nor is she a coffee table.
“I got the opportunity to have a platform to say something, and I took that opportunity, and I take full responsibility for it,” Fiorito says. Shame that what she says is so crass and lazy.
Her portrait of Donald Trump sat before the nuclear mushroom clouds is the stuff of teenage angst. But the real misstep is the dollar signs that bear some resemblance to swastikas on each side of the orange lunk’s head. Irony of ironies, the other side of the same billboard carries the message “unity”, something history tells us Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were very much in favour of.
Her drawing is all about division. It’s childish, self-satisfied and regressive. It’s entirely in keeping with the shrill reaction to Trump’s presidency. It screams that the people – millions and millions of people – who voted for Trump, rejecting Hillary Clinton’s paternalism and the technocratic oligarchs who see democracy as something to be kept from the ‘low-information’ poor, are fascists akin to the Black Shirts. Taking the greatest evil and slapping it on a poster to attack someone who is not this age’s Hitler – really, he isn’t; read some books other than the one that reinforces your prejudices – demeans the Holocaust’s victims, negates actual Nazism and monsters the tens of millions of Americans who exercised their right to vote.
Using Nazi death camps to buttress your anti-human argument that the electorate voted for Trump because they were duped by Russian newbots and he spoke to their slack-jawed inherent racism co-opts the murdered millions into your monocular world view. It’s a hideous abuse.
In a game of Spot the Bigot, I’d point to the one screaming ‘Hitler!’ at everyone whose view they don’t agree with.
This lazy reductivism abates any need for reflection and the need to work out how progressive Left-wing politics mutated into a cloying, narcissistic hissy fit of entitlement, and why it is that the working classes seized their chance to storm the citadel and hope for a rosy-fingered dawn.
When Spurs played Millwall in the FA Cup – final score: 6-0 – the Guardian heard ‘racist’ abuse from the South Londoners. So bad was it that rather than lead with a match report or news on Harry Kane’s injury, the Guardian opted to tell readers that the FA is investigating the ‘racist chants’. ‘FA is aware of chants and awaiting reports from referee and police,’ the paper announces. Once more lowbrow football is in the dock for racism. Yippee!
Given that this is about Spurs, where the ‘self-styled ‘Yid Army’ hold sway, you might suppose the Millwall berks opted for a spout of anti-Semitism. But you’d be wrong. The alleged racism was directed at Tottenham’s South Korean forward Son Heung-Min. The Mirror says, ‘Chants of “DVD” and “three for a fiver”, apparently in reference to the sale of pirated films, coursed through the away end each time Son touched the ball in the last-eight clash.’
The Guardian tells its readers, who don’t partake of white working-class leisure pursuits and buy the Guardian because of its platoon of black and Asian board members (number of non-white faces in the paper’s twelve-strong boardroom: nil): ‘The reference to selling DVDs is considered to be a racist slur when directed at an Asian person.’
Millwall fans are so regressive. Piracy is all about downloads and streaming from Russia and Israel nowadays, lads. If you want to goad and upset the opposition’s most threatening player with a tasteless chant, why not lampoon his countrymen’s appetite for dog meat? You can try this chant:
Son, Son, Wherever You May Be
You eat dogs in your country!
It could be worse, you could be Scouse,
Eating rats in your council house!
On second thoughts, best not to. Manchester United fans used to sing that tune about Park Ji Sung, a player they loved. He never complained. He’s a robust adult who saw it for what it was: a friendly bout of un-PC banter. It’s just that given United’s love of branding, the song’s most likely copyrighted and singing it will require a licence and large fee.
Better to echo what Spurs fans serenade Son with:
“He’ll shoot, he’ll score, he’ll eat your Labrador.”
Over in the Mail, we read that those Millwall chants about knock-off films and video games spoilt everything. The paper notes:
Millwall supporters should’ve been celebrating their wonderful FA Cup run but racist chants of ‘DVD’ and ‘three for a fiver’ towards Tottenham’s Son Heung-min ruined it.
Those would be the same multi-cultural Millwall fans who were watching their multi-cultural club get thrashed and Son score a hat-trick? The Mail thinks Millwall’s ‘racist’ fans should have been celebrating their team’s annihilation rather than trying to upset Son and Spurs.
Says the Mail:
Millwall’s supporters wonder why no-one likes them but showed exactly the reason with the disgraceful abuse directed at Tottenham forward Son Heung-min during their FA Cup quarter-final defeat.
What utter balls. Millwall fans don’t wonder why no-one like them – they celebrate the fact. It’s part of their identity to cock a snook at authority. Their chants are supposed to be vulgar, offensive and tasteless.
So dumb is the entire story of racism at White Hart Lane that the Indy can’t even decide what is and what isn’t racist. ‘Millwall could face FA action after fans appear to racially abuse Tottenham striker Son Heung-min,’ it says. For those of us who can recall the 1970s and 1980, when racism at football was loud, nasty and obvious – just as it was in society – the verbals aimed at Son are weaker than Millwall’s performance in the match.
To the people who seek out racism in dust, who view fans as suspects and seek to buttress their own superior morals in commands to ‘Kick It Out’, who investigate every word for offence – who reduce Son, an energetic, tough and skilled footballer to the role of victim – we wonder what planet they’re from and who invited them to join this one?
Manchester United have extended the rule governing football fans – Rule 1: sit down; shut up (unless it’s for the national anthem) – to censoring what supporters can say when they’re not at the match. Football fans have long been subjected to new forms of control. Portrayed as a mob inherently given to violence and a moral threat to society, deserving for tear gas, metal cages, water cannon and ID cards, Manchester United have taken up the State’s cosh against their own fans.
When one Manchester United season ticket holder heard the club were adding 300 places for disabled fans, causing 2,600 season ticket holders to be relocated elsewhere inside Old Trafford, he tweeted: ”Fuck em, gona go ticket office, and tell them they are retards, cheeky cunts.”
Somehow Manchester United’s moralists saw the tweet and wrote to the fan, who is a season ticket holder. They told him they’d revoked his season ticket for the remainder of this season – with a refund of £190 – and suspended him from watching his club home and away matches for the next three years.
The letter told him: “Manchester United is wholly committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. The club will continue to address any inappropriate or discriminatory behaviour that we are made aware of.”
We should all be concerned when a football club polices what we say on social media. The fan is being banned for speaking freely. That’s what we do in a free society. Inside the stadium, the club can keep order as it sees fit. We might not like being told to sit down and not sing that but we’re on their property, so we wear it. But when did the internet come part of the club’s remit?
Moreover, silencing unwholesome thoughts and censoring the wrong words amplifies the offence into a cause. Was the fan actually going to abuse disabled supporters? We don’t know. What we say and what we do are not one and the same. So, what was his crime?
The club’s reaction to a tweet has become a way to showcase its own sound morals, a spot of PR from the marketeers who run the game. But it also reveals the club’s malicious mistrust of its own fans, a malevolent mob in need of civilising.
If you go looking for offensive words at the football, you can be sure to find them. But most if it – however cruel and stupid – can be ignored or dealt with by other supporters.
If anti-discrimination were still a progressive force, the club would encourage dialogue.
What’s troubling is that the authorities that lay at the heart of racism and all forms of discrimination when campaigning for equality was brutal and brave, remain the bastions of all that is right and proper. They still don’t listen. They just tell.
Football used be be about fun, escape and letting off steam. It was a leisure pursuit. Now it’s a symbol of your moral code and your words are policed by your own club.
We should tweet what we want to.