One of the debates following the EU referendum is the extent to which the leave vote was English led and English driven.
The British Politics Society in Norway asked me to examine this issue in an article for their journal, British Politics Review. In a special issue devoted to Englishness, I line up alongside the former Labour Minister John Denham, Christopher G. A. Bryant,Judith Blake and Andrew Mycock.
The people at Spiked are currently looking to gain support for their Free Speech on Campus campaign. Among the many things universities are known for (drinking, pissing off the locals, parking problems) we can now add another serious problem - censorship, and the reality that a stilted academic environment leads to stilted minds. Post graduation, those stilted minds then reproduce censorship in the careers they progress - be it in politics, local government, NGOs or business.
I am happy to sign the statement below, and academics can add their name to it by contacting Ella Whelan via email: email@example.com
Free speech in British universities is under threat. spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings 2017 found that over 60 per cent of universities and students’ unions actively censor speech. This is a national embarrassment.
Universities are built on intellectual daring - on Kant’s great challenge, ‘dare to know’. But today what students are allowed to read, to express and to know is tightly policed. The terrain of acceptable thought on campus grows smaller by the day.
Students’ unions often take the flak for this. And indeed the rise of Safe Spaces has had a profound impact on students’ freedom to speak their minds and hear others speak theirs. But universities are culpable, too.
spiked found that while SU censorship is still far more rampant, censorship is growing faster within university administrations: scores of universities were found to restrict “offensive” discussion of religion and transgenderism. The freedom to offend, the lifeblood of liberty and progress, no longer exists on many campuses.
British universities are bound by the Education Act 1986 to uphold free speech within the law. Illiberal laws and regulations, such as the Prevent Strategy, make this job very difficult. But there is no reason why some universities maintain robust, liberal standards while the majority preside over vast, speech-policing bureaucracies.
Students’ unions are nominally democratic institutions. It is only through student agitation that SUs will change their ways. Today, we are calling on universities to show leadership.
Universities must repeal any policy or practice that seeks to stifle speech, beyond what the law explicitly requires. They must speak up for Enlightenment values, and not allow themselves to shuffle further into illiberalism and irrelevance.
It was of course Sun Tzu, in The Art of War. There he wrote: "to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."
Any 'resistance' on the part of Sweden's government, any concept of solidarity towards those who may have been resisting the Islamic republic in Iran, or elsewhere, has been broken. Islam means submission. Sun Tzu would be in no doubt - so hegemonic are the arguments of the world's second largest faith, Sweden's 'feminist' government has submitted, without fighting.
Issues covered take in Julian Assange and Wikileaks, Brexit and the EU referendum, the state of the Green party, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party, technology, fake news, Hacked Off! and phone hacking, Donald Trump and The Prisoner.
Former diplomat Craig Murray covers the influence such funding may have had on Halfon in his analysis of this weekend's scandal concerning the alleged plan by the Israeli embassy in London to 'take down' the Conservative Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan. The embassy story itself runs in the Mail on Sunday here, and originally via Al-Jazeera.
For more on Ruth Smeeth MP, see the current issue of the parapolitical magazine Notes from the Borderland, and the article by myself and Heidi Svenson.
Always the same, always different. Which I suppose is what we can expect from 2017.
I only recently saw this Fall video from 1983, for the first time. It is memorable because pubs like that did used to exist. It contains one of Mark E Smith's greatest ever lines - about meeting veterans of the US civil war under Ardwick Bridge - and sees Brix desperately trying to keep a straight face during his nonsense.
I never see any music videos now. Are people allowed to smoke in them?
Happy New Year to all visitors to this blog. Thank you for listening.
Yesterday's Channel 4 News interview was the first time I had seen Yiannopoulous (I tend to back away from internet stars) but he is clearly serious and wants to discuss ideas. Whether he is correct is perhaps another matter. Newman wanted to discuss and police boundaries.
Whilst Milo not surprisingly gets a little bored as events progress, if anyone hates anybody else in this clip, it is that Newman actually hates Yiannapolous. I experienced much the same thing at an academic conference last year - the realisation that some others did not simply disagree with my research, or think I was wrong, but genuinely despised me for it. They despised me for pointing out that in their rush to embrace Islamists, academics were trampling over their victims - women, gays, secularists and religious minorities.
Cathy Newman's interview reminds us the identitarian liberal left is losing, suffocating under the weight of its own contradictions. Rather like the Nazis in 1945 it responds, not by acting logically and changing course in the face of disaster, but by doing more of the same. For the Nazis that meant diverting precious war resources to killing more Jews. For the liberal left in 2016 it means more bans, more identity politics, more calling people racist.
It remains to be seen if Trump is the liberal left's Berlin 1945, its Götterdämmerung. Or if there is actually more to come.
Lapido Media, which serves as the centre for religious literacy in journalism, have published two of my articles on the relationship between the left and Islamic actors.
You can read part one here (which was published last Friday) and part two here. Topics covered include Corbynism, the conduct of figures on the Labour right such as Jim McMahon MP and Keith Vaz MP, segregation, the Muslim Brotherhood and the compromises required by groups like the Stop the War Coalition when working with religious actors.
All being well, a much longer piece on these issues will be published next April.
"The anger at both Trump and Brexit derives, in part, from epistemic hubris. People were shocked to realise that the stats weren't as reliable as they had supposed. That they didn't know their own countries nearly as well as they had thought.
But the best way to react to this realisation isn't rage, but humility. Recognising the limits of our knowledge ought to encourage us to investigate more.
Assuming total knowledge is part of what's polarising Western societies. It's the complacency that encourages people never to leave the Facebook filter bubble, or meet anyone who thinks – or votes – differently."
Issue 11 of Notes from the Borderland's, the UK's best (only?) parapolitical magazine is now out.
What's in it? The main article is a critique of the Swedish rape accusations against Julian Assange, and the not exactly helpful role The Guardian has played in the whole Wikileaks story. Larry O'Hara offers a detailed critique of the work of Nick Davies in particular. With friends like Davies and former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, Assange hardly needs enemies.
Elsewhere I pick up my pen to examine Ken Livingstone's autobiography, and join with Heidi Svenson to look at the latest developments in the political split between the Hope Not Hate and Searchlight franchises. My fellow University of East London Terrorism Studies alumni Paul Feeney returns to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, and articulates a strong view that the state's case has unraveled. There are also updates on previous NFB research into the 1999 London nail bombings and the murder of GCHQ analyst Gareth Williams. Add in book and TV reviews on matters related to British Jihadism and intelligence, and you get rather a lot (80 pages) for £4.75.
Somewhat deliberately, NFB keeps itself going in hard copy, as opposed to putting everything on line. In a world where our three minute culture is constantly under pressure to become a two minute one, that is strangely reassuring. If you are in London, you can buy Notes from the Borderland from Housmans bookshop in Kings Cross. The magazine can also be ordered from the NFB website here.
Well, I had £25 on Trump to win at 13/8, an extremely generous price which perhaps suggests UK bookmakers have not really got on top of political betting in the way they have horse racing or football. But, to more important matters.....
There's plenty to say in the coming weeks about the almost inevitability of the US result. Especially when you take in how poorly political elites struggled to anticipate Brexit, and how badly they have taken it. I would certainly root the success of Trump (and indeed that Brexit vote) in the inability of the liberal left to come to terms with the negative sides of globalisation and a more general rejection of a liberal elite that dominates our media, politics and areas like academia. I could walk along the corridor at my old university, the UEA, point to the staff's doors and say Labour, Labour, Green, Left of Labour, Green, Labour, Left of Labour, and go along a whole corridor and not find a single Conservative or UKIP voter. And when the intelligentsia influences society, and is that out of touch with the people, they eventually push back.
Leaving aside domestic politics in the US, I want to flag up some areas of concern with regards to Trump as an international player. My views would be we can expect:
1. Improved relations with Russia, reducing the threat of a new Cold War
2. It is hard to call how he deals with China, although Beijing will be concerned about the prospects of a more robust US in terms of trade relations
3. Trump winning is a disaster for NATO. He will expect wealthy EU countries like Germany, France and Italy to take on greater responsibility for their own security. That may though be a rare example of good news for the EU and those within it who want to see the EU develop further as a security player.
4. The Muslim population in the US has increased by some 3.5 million since 9/11. I doubt Trump will go for a ban on Muslims entering the US, but I suspect the days of people readily getting visas from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Somalia and Afghanistan are gone.
5. On Iran, Trump characteristically said completely different things during the campaign. One minute declaring the Iran deal was one he would ensure Iranians stuck to, the next that it was the worst deal ever. The former approach seems sensible, but will he take it?
6. Much the same question applies to Syria, where Trump swings between isolationism and the gung-ho. Which is it to be?
7. The US now becomes an even greater target for attack, on its own soil, by jihadists. But that has been the case since at least 1993.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Like the pub bore for whom everything comes down to race, some Remainers just cannot accept Brexit.
In Monday's i, Ian Birrell had a one page review of the book Hillbilly Elegy by J D Vance, a best selling examination of small town, white America. Birrell nearly makes it to the end without complaining about the referendum result, but in the penultimate column comes this little beauty:
"There are valuable lessons at this time of rising resentment. In Vance's book one acquaintance quits work from a dislike of waking early, then goes on social media to attack the "Obama economy" for his misfortune. Similar blame games lie behind Brexit."
Birrell comes across as a nineteenth century Lord complaining about the idle peasants on his estate. Only its actually worse than that - on an issue which meant everything to him, the peasants have not only revolted, but hit his social group where it hurts most - at the ballot box.
Today sees Labour party rallies across the country against the Conservative's declared intention to reintroduce grammar schools. Labour is campaigning under the slogan 'Education not Segregation'.
There is a case for separating children on the basis of ability, indeed some form of streaming has long been the norm within the comprehensive system. It certainly was when I was at school. If Labour want to debate that, all well and good. But today's campaign slogan is utterly disingenuous.
The Labour party does support segregated education - providing it is segregation on the basis of a parent's declared faith. That is what faith schools mean. And there are a lot more faith schools than grammar schools.
Attending the Manchester United v Zorya Luhansk match last night, I could perhaps be forgiven for a little fiddle with my phone.
Unable to get online I looked at the available wifi options. Of about eight or nine, from the phones of fellow fans to those of different departments at Old Trafford, was one entitled 'Surveillance Van 2".
I guess the presence of such entities is all part of protecting the crowd at large events in the era of jihadist violence, but it served as a rather stark reminder of the lives we now lead.
M & C Saatchi, the advertising company founded by Maurice and Charles Saatchi, was responsible for the advertising run by Remain in the EU referendum.
The doom, gloom and pestilence predicted by Remain's project fear has not only failed to materialise to the man on the Clapham omnibus, it has failed to effect..... M & C Saatchi either.
"M & C Saatchi, the advertising agency enlisted to run the unsuccessful Remain campaign in the recent EU referendum, says Brexit has given the business a positive currency boost as it reported a rise in sales and profits." Kate Palmer, Daily Telegraph Business, 23 September 2016.
It is unusual for the police or the Security Service to admit infiltrating an Islamic organisation in this manner. Whilst the work of Kamal would obviously come out at trial when he gave evidence, here the authorities have clearly gone further, assisting both the BBC and Daily Mirror with media coverage of his work in this, and another case where jihadists from Luton were convicted of plotting to murder a US servicemen in East Anglia.
There could be two reasons why we are hearing of 'Kamal' now:
1. As I understand it, Al-Muhajiroun are unable to organise at mosques in Luton, having been chased away by rival Salafis from the Luton Islamic Centre. This means the police can declare Kamal, without Luton Muslims complaining the police have been spying inside local mosques and Islamic Centres. Indeed press coverage of Kamal's work centres on his monitoring of meetings at a venue hired from local Methodists, not Muslims.
2. The police have had a deserved battering in the press and from the public ever since the revelations about Bob Lambert and the Special Demonstration Squad began. This is a goal back - no one is going to question whether Kamal's work was justified, and it can be wheeled out as part of the case for the defence the next time damaging revelations emerge about the conduct of undercover officers. It is also in the police's armoury when/if the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing goes badly.
As such, we may not have heard the last of 'Kamal.'
The law of unintended consequences has rarely played out as harshly.
Such has been the wave of Islamic State and Islamic State inspired violence in Europe this summer, it seems those activists in the 'counter-jihad' movement (sometimes categorised on the left as the 'islamophobia industry') are struggling to keep up.
"It used to be that Vlad and I would get a break of a week or so between major crises. We’d get a chance to catch our breath, have a couple of nights’ sleep, maybe do something else besides jihad-jihad-jihad for a few hours, and be rested and ready to start again when the mujahideen staged another slaughter."
The pace of jihad in Europe, the rhythm and staccato beat, is now one of its distinguishing features. Attacks in Germany, Belgium (yesterday) and France may have little formal connection or structured timetable, but they are received and digested in that manner by an ever weary populace.
Where does this end? Who will tire out and give up first? In Michel Houellebecq's magisterial novel Submission it ends very simply - the media simply ceases reporting such attacks. At an academic dinner party in Paris, with the noise of gunfire and explosions in the distance, lecturers halfheartedly search for information on their smartphones, hoping the trouble will not reach their location "If they thought the networks were going to cover the event... they were kidding themselves. The blackout was complete" (p.48)
Houellebecq is not a complete sage - in one scene French villagers seeking objective news on events in their country are portrayed crowding around a TV tuned to the BBC (p.111). Many, myself included, would trust the BBC far less on religion than the French media. But he is at times prescient. Not least when France takes the first step towards reducing its coverage of terrorism, by declaring it will no longer name or photograph terrorist actors.