Simple electoral mathematics demand it.
Labour can only have an inquiry into anti-Semitism if it scratches the surface.
The methodology being used by the Jewish Chronicle in its story about Naz Shah MP, and Guido Fawkes in a series of recent cases to break stories of extremism and racism involving prominent British Muslims, is not revolutionary. It is that Conservative Campaign Headquarters and Hope Not Hate used against UKIP candidates in the 2014 European elections and 2015 UK elections. Trawl through an individuals social media accounts, look for anything which could be considered (or actually is) racist and use it to hit the candidate, hard, via a compliant media. Some of the stories proved to be false and led to embarrassing apologies, others were not, but they got the job done.
Anti-Semitism may or may not be a deep-rooted problem within the left. It is deep-rooted however within British Islam, as Medhi Hasan observed in an important article in the New Statesman in 2013. Whilst the British left is at times determined in drawing a distinction between criticism of Zionism as a political ideology, and criticism of Jews as people, examine the posters and messages on any pro-Palestinian demonstration and you will see this distinction rapidly becomes blurred, especially among politically active British Muslims. If Labour's internal inquiry starts examining attitudes to the issue of anti-Semitism among constituency Labour parties in London, Birmingham, West Yorkshire, East Lancashire and Greater Manchester, things are going to get very messy indeed.
I don't think Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party can afford to raise that stone, because we know what is crawling underneath. The problem Shami Chakrabarti faces however, is that if she does not raise the stone others, the Jewish Chronicle and Guido Fawkes to take just two examples, will do it instead.
Turkey is to have its application to join the European Union fast-tracked, despite its pitiful human rights record.
Worse, Turkish pressure is having a negative effect on political freedoms in Europe, where, under pressure from Ankara, the German comedian Jan Böhmermann is being prosecuted for reciting a rude poem about President Erdogan. The best way to respond to such nonsense is of course to join in. I am delighted to read that the Spectator has launched the 'President Erdogan Offensive Poetry Competition' with a prize of £1000 to the winner. Here is my entry:
There is a leader with a hairy bum,
his Palace cost quite a sum,
it made him frown,
not to keep the Kurds down,
but Angela said she'd still come
Whoever wins the £1000, I would not advise them to spend it on a holiday to Turkey.....
It is hard to imagine how the Chilcot Inquiry into Iraq could be any further delayed. But it seems it might be, in order to assist those arguing to keep Britain in the European Union.
Ben Barry, of the Institute for Strategic Studies comments:
“If Chilcot is doing his job, I suspect many key New Labour figures will be criticised. Whilst many of them are not as active in politics as they once were, they are still figures who could make a positive contribution to Cameron’s campaign to remain in Europe. So delaying a report that might damage or even destroy their reputations might be an understandable judgment call.”
This is most likely to be a reference to former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. A keen supporter of Remain, his son, Will Straw, is the Executive Director of Britain Stronger in Europe.
Today's quote in my Blogging for Leave series comes courtesy of Douglas Carswell, the UKIP MP for Clacton. Having encouraged sustained borrowing in Greece, the EU abrogated all responsibility:
"In response to the inevitable crash, though, only Greece was expected to pay the price. Instead of making the lenders who made bad investments in Greece bear the full cost of their bad decisions, the EU Troika has forced Greece into a vicious circle of economic contraction and debt expansion that creates a constant crisis."
Brussels may or may not succeed in postponing the next Greek crisis until after the UK's referendum on June 23rd. But that crisis will come - Greece cannot possibly function as a nation state and pay its debts to the troika. Carswell adds:
"But to keep up the absurd pretence that the single currency is a success, the Greeks have been reduced to debt servitude instead. The EU hasn't just failed to save the Greek economy. It has sacrificed the Greek economy to save the European project."
You need to check your paperwork, and speak to your bank.
Back in 2008, one of the ways I sought to finance my PhD was by taking out a career development loan. It was probably not a good decision - I had no face to face advice, and reliant only on what I could find online rather rushed the application. I applied for too small a sum, and did not really take in the fact you had to pay it back after three years - regardless of whether you were still studying or not.
Paying it off was grim - I spent most weekends and all summer in 2011 and 2012 doing security work at various sites across London and the south east. Studying had to wait. In a lot of ways though, I learned as much from that as I did from my own research - about how people act in crowds and groups, when violence starts, how big corporations work and do not work, and the impact of globalisation.
At times it was hard not to laugh out loud - working with a group of Pakistani 'students' from a G4S subcontractor, I casually mentioned that I was not only a mature student but worked at university. Near panic broke out in the ranks as their unofficial foreman began shouting to the others in Urdu - no doubt warning that their cover stories could fall apart if anyone spoke too much to me! Later I received the regular email from Sir Edward Acton, Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, where he kept staff informed of his determined lobbying against the Home Secretary's restrictions on student visas. Sir Edward would never see the world that I had, and could not grasp the main reason such employees are low paid is the bottomless pool of workers (some pretending to be students, especially at language schools) entering the country daily. For them, the minimum wage is a fortune.
On Saturday morning I went downstairs to find a letter from my former bank, declaring they had wrongly charged interest on my career development loan, and incorrectly charged me on the occasions I failed to meet monthly payments. A cheque for a four figure sum was enclosed. In some ways I am very lucky - had the bank sent it to my old address, I would never have received it. In others I reflect on how much easier life would have been without the ball and chain of interest charges. I would certainly have finished my PhD sooner, and would be further down the career path I want to get too.
If you used a career development loan to help finance your PhD, do speak to your bank about the interest payments and any charges. You may be due a significant refund.
You might not have seen it debated, and American taxpayers might never have voted for it, but it seems that over the past 13 years, the US government has repeated the Marshall Plan, but in Afghanistan.
It was the Marshall plan which helped to rebuild and reconstruct a battered Europe after WW2. It now emerges that US spending in Afghanistan this century exceeds that spent in Europe from the late 1940s onwards:
"Some $113bn (£79bn) has already been spent by the US government on reconstruction in Afghanistan in 13 years. That's more than the $103bn (in today's money) it spent on helping to rebuild Europe after the Second World War."
So, Afghanistan must be well on its way to enjoying the wealth, stability and prosperity enjoyed by West Germany or the Netherlands, right? Er, not quite.
"For every dollar spent in Afghanistan, at least 29 cents disappears in fraud or wastage, based on figures from the US Commission on War Time Contracting. And even that 29 cents is a conservative estimate".
Both quotes in Jonathan Owen "We have worked with many brave Afghan policemen..but many are no longer there," i, 29/03/2016. The Independent version of the article is online here.
As a result of this, the Americans appointed John Sopko, a former member of the Department of Justice's organised crime force in Cleveland, as Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Since 2012, this organisation estimates it has saved $946 million, and levied dozens of criminal charges.
Whatever the Americans have been doing in Afghanistan since 2001, let no one say it is imperialism. By its very nature, imperialism takes more than it gives - and the Americans have given an enormous amount. Who they have given it to, and whether they had any mandate from their own voters for what is in effect a second Marshall Plan, is another matter entirely.....
Don't worry, this blog is hibernating rather than deceased.
It seems timely for me stir from my slumbers at the instigation of a colleague - Larry O'Hara of Notes from the Borderland magazine. Larry has penned a detailed analysis of why he argues Green party members, and indeed greens generally, should Vote Leave in the 23 June referendum.
This is a summary of that more detailed piece, courtesy of the Green Left blog, "Why Greens Should Vote to Leave the EU".
This morning BBC Radio 4's Start the Week was a discussion centering on the Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany, and his new work.
What I found remarkable about this was less Al Aswany, or even the panel discussion, but the issues redolent in Tom Sutcliffe's introduction. Sutcliffe stated:
"The greatness of Islamic societies in the past has led Muslims of all kinds to dream about and plan for equally glorious Islamic societies in the future. How can they get past the disappointing compromised and sometimes violent present though? Must an Islamic state necessarily be at odds with modern secular democracy? And can an open pluralistic society come to a working accommodation with a monotheistic faith?"
There is plenty of food for thought here. For Islamists, the gap between theory and reality in Muslim majority societies, and especially in countries which declare themselves Islamic, poses an almost insurmountable challenge. Thus far, the easiest response has been to call for ever more of whatever interpretation of Islam is to hand - hence in part the Islamification of Pakistan under Zia, and later the development of both Al-Qaeda and Islamic State. To my mind it also helps explain the prevalence of conspiracy theories in both Muslim communities here and in Muslim majority nations - if life is not ideal, it cannot be due to the beliefs on which life is predicated, but the wiles of those opposed to the faith. Equally, the extent to which a pluralistic society can accommodate Islam is one of the issues of our age - certainly since the Rushdie affair.
But as so often with the BBC, Sutcliffe accidentally tells us as much about his world, as he does anything else. Just read that first line again:
"The greatness of Islamic societies in the past has led Muslims of all kinds to dream about and plan for equally glorious Islamic societies in the future".
I am not sure many Radio 4 listeners felt uncomfortable hearing those words. Substitute the word British, for Islamic and Muslims, and then see how it reads. You could equally do that with the words German, American or French, to similar effect.
"The greatness of British societies in the past has led Britons of all kinds to dream about and plan for equally glorious British societies in the future".
But Sutcliffe, and I suspect many Radio 4 listeners, would feel distinctly uncomfortable if a politician were talking of the glories of Britain's past forming the basis to establish a glorious future. The liberal aversion to Donald Trump talking about the United States in such terms, is marked.
Why then is liberal opinion tolerant of such a vision for Islamic societies?
Significantly, references to glorious Islamic societies of the future tend not to predominate in the discourse of contemporary British Muslim representative organisations. You can certainly find it though in recent decades - old Islamic Foundation pamphlets are a good source for it - and it is certainly present in the current rhetoric of the Islamic State. For now though, we tend to hear much more from the Muslim Council of Britain about pluralism, democracy and accommodation.
Am I the only person who considers that deep down in Tom Sutcliffe's words is a recognition, by his focus on 'glorious Islamic societies in the future' that we don't really buy all this talk of accommodation and pluralism, but, as with many others, he is much too polite to say so?
Following their role in the 1984-5 miners strike, demonstrators took to mocking police officers with the sarcastic song "We're not political, we're only doing our jobs" whenever a group of uniformed police officers appeared anywhere in significant numbers.
In 2015, it seems little has changed. Flicking through the current issue of the Docklands and East London Advertiser, there is a small report on a demonstration held outside East London Mosque on 11 December, following Friday prayers. Its purpose was to condemn US Presidential challenger Donald Trump, who responded to the San Bernadino terrorist attack by calling for a moratorium on Muslim immigration to the United States.
An important centre for the Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami (who are accused of massacring hundreds of thousands of civilians in the Bangladesh Independence War of 1971) East London Mosque can certainly rally political leaders to its doorstep - local Labour Mayor John Biggs joined the protest. Among the others, the Advertiser reports:
"The protesters included United East End umbrella organisation of anti-racist groups, trades unions, faith leaders and Met Police Det Sgt Phil Langworthy".
According to the Met Police website, Det Sgt Langworthy is part of the police's Senior Leadership Team in Tower Hamlets, where he is in command of Criminal Investigation. And it seems, going to political demonstrations outside mosques?
Altogether now "We're not political, we're only doing our jobs".
Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the withdrawal of Australian and New Zealand troops from the coast of Ottoman Turkey on 19-20 December 1915. British troops were to follow suit on 8-9 January 1916.
As a resource on WW1, and certainly in terms of suggestions for further reading, I have found the Independent/the i's "A History of the Great War in 100 Moments" - easily the best series I have seen in a British newspaper in years. I have the book version, and the small section on Gallipoli - number 27, pp.80-83, is evocatively written by Kathy Marks. The sheer numbers killed still shakes you - 80,000 defending Turks, 44,000 Allied forces, including 9000 Australians. All in a little over six months. The debacle perhaps feels less distant in terms of time than other WW1 battles when you read that the last veteran died in 2002 (when I was 33) or that the failings of the Allied military were exposed by journalist Keith Murdoch, father of Rupert.
Gallipoli became central to concepts of identity for an Australia emerging from being a British colony, and Marks explains how Australian war correspondent Charles Bean situated Gallipoli in terms of its demonstration of key aspects of Australian character - courage, sacrifice, irreverence and 'mateship'. In the modern era however, such concepts could not be allowed to pass without criticism. Marks observes:
"In a 2010 book, What’s Wrong with Anzac?, the historian Marilyn Lake called it “white Australia’s creation myth”, while another academic, Martin Ball, has written that the myth “suppresses parts of Australian history that are difficult to deal with. Anzac is a means of forgetting the origins of Australia. The Aboriginal population is conveniently absent. The convict stain is wiped clean. Post-war immigration is yet to broaden the cultural identity of the population."
I wonder if those quotes tell us more about the approach and world view of the academics concerned, than they illustrate about contemporary, or past Australia. How strange it would have seemed to the men who fought at Gallipoli, and their families, that they were part of a 'white creation myth' or that they would have to wait for post war immigration before their cultural identity would be 'broadened'.
If men are from Mars, some academics truly are from Venus.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary has today issued a report on the importance of knowledge in tackling honour crimes, female genital mutilation and forced marriage.
What is significant in the report is that it indicates some thirty years worth of policies and approaches towards minority communities in Britain may be flawed. Top-down multi-culturalism rather depends on the big white chief speaking to a big brown (or black) chief. Yet this is precisely what may need to be avoided in combating the types of crimes listed above.
"Overall, we found that the need to speak with the right people to build intelligence, and the risk to victims of speaking with the wrong people, was not always well understood by police officers and staff. The right people are not necessarily faith and community leaders, who may sometimes be the very
people promoting or supporting harmful practices in the name of honour."
Tucked away behind stories of floods, jihadist attacks and Christmas shopping, it is easy to forget the financial crisis in Greece continues, merely in quieter form.
The Greek Parliament has just passed its budget for 2016, described thus by Madhumita Murgia:
"The terms include privatising 50bn Euros of Greek assets to help repay its debts, slashing pensions, and the handing over of a veto power on domestic laws to Brussels. The 2016 budget, the first by the Tsipras-led government, includes 5.7bn Euros of public spending cuts, with 1.8bn Euros coming from pensions, and 500m Euros from defence. It also includes tax increases of just over 2bn Euros".
It is hard to see how Greece can ever recover financially to that backdrop, although in a way writing of 'Greece' is a misnomer. If Brussels has the power of veto on all domestic laws, what is the point of Greece, the Greek parliament or for that matter Syrizia and Mr Tsipras?
The Algerian feminist Karima Bennoune has written of the importance of talking about 'it'. That when we talk about Islamic fundamentalism, that is what we need to talk about.
So often debate and discussion rapidly moves away - backwards to the invasion of Iraq, or sideways into talk of 'Islamophobia,' Donald Trump or the government's Prevent strategy. A core response by some to the Paris attacks by Islamic State was not to talk about 'it,' but to complain that victims of the group's attacks in Lebanon the day before did not receive the same publicity as those in France. What could be a debate about 'it' instead becomes one where the core focus is the perceived racism of the western press.
I characterise this as the 'pivot' response. Those who are uncomfortable with accepting Islamist actors may be bad news, or do bad things, quickly move onto discussing the issues they are comfortable with. This is frequently seen in some responses to particular terrorist attacks - a one sentence or one paragraph condemnation of the bombing or massacre, then a much lengthier dissemination on what the author concerned really wants to discuss. Here's examples from the Stop the War Coalition after 7/7, (scroll down in the link) and more recently the Australian National Imams Council (pdf here) - merely two of many.
This month I have a short letter 'Brush Strokes' in the Winter 2015 New Humanist, critiquing this tendency. We do have to talk about 'it'. If there is a problem, you need to analyse the problem, not solely focus on deficiencies in the responses to 'it'. Whether those responses are correct, flawed or indifferent, the problem itself is the primary issue. Below is the text of my letter:
It was great to receive the New Humanist and read its clear, unequivocal support for the Bangladeshi bloggers targeted by religious extremists. What is disappointing is the unsigned piece on David Cameron’s Birmingham speech (“Age of Extremes”, Autumn 2015). This says nothing of the Islamic extremism which has been an issue in the UK since calls for Salman Rushdie’s murder.
The author complains of Cameron’s “tendency to tar all Muslims with the same brush”, thus switching debate away from problems of ideology and belief, to actual or perceived discrimination. Here, New Humanist risks unintentionally feeding into Islamist narratives, where the problem is never Islam or Islamism, but how everybody else responds to it. If only the Prime Minister said nothing, if only the Daily Mail could adopt the discourse of the Guardian. Everything would be alright, wouldn’t it?
Dr Paul Stott, via email
Following the armed attacks by Islamic State in Paris, a twitter feed, En Memoire, has been set up dedicated to the victims.
It contains a picture and a brief pen portrait of all those who did not survive. You can view it in English here.
One of the problems with the Internet is its immediate and ephemeral nature. It is to be hoped that this twitter account can be archived permanently.
Speaking to people on the left in recent weeks, there is certainly some appetite among Corbynistas to de-select right wing Labour MPs, who it is feared will never by loyal to Jeremy Corbyn as leader. For Corbyn to develop and implement a clear programme, then put it to the electorate in 2020, such people have to go.
But who will they be replaced by? An interesting example of who is waiting in the wings comes from Birmingham, where there are reports the former Respect party leader Salma Yaqoob is being lined up for a Labour seat. The incumbent at Birmingham Hall Green, Roger Godsiff, is having none of it. Although Godsiff fought off Yaqoob when she stood for Respect in 2010, she was a strong second on that occasion. The demographic changes in the constituency since surely suggest that if he were de-selected, and stood against Yaqoob as an independent or for any of the other parties, he would lose. Birmingham Hall Green Constituency Labour Party could have a very big decision to take.
Interestingly this story broke whilst Yaqoob was out of the country, addressing the annual conference of the Australian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Australian Islamic Mission. Among the speakers was a fellow Brit in the shape of Anas al-Tikriti, who runs the Cordoba Foundation, the Muslim Brotherhood's think tank in the UK. Al-Tikriti is a fixture at the Ikhwan's Finsbury Park Mosque, where the MP for Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn holds constituency surgeries.
I am sure that Ms Yaqoob and Dr Al-Tikriti had much to discuss. But not at the Islamic Mission's lunch - that was, of course, segregated.
Owen Jones has a piece on the Guardian's Comment is Free about the 'joint enterprise' prosecution of Dr Lisa McKenzie. She was charged after someone else, at a Class War housing protest she had helped organise, put a sticker on a window.
I think Jones' opposition to this is well-intentioned, but he does not get at some of the nuances I believe lie behind these types of police action. Part of the motivation behind prosecutions like this is to tie up important activists. To put them on the defensive, and to then divert other protesters away from what they are protesting about (in this case housing and gentrification) and into self-serving, lengthy 'defence' campaigns. This has been going on for decades - when I interviewed Anandi Ramumurthy about her research into the Asian Youth Movements (AYMs) she cited the defence campaign for the Bradford 12 as a factor in the decline of the AYMs generally.
If legal proceedings, trials and bail restrictions can be drawn out long enough, the entire protest can run dry, not through being bettered by reasoned argument or even brute force, but via legal shenanigans and the exhaustion that occurs when a small number of protesters go up against the weight of the state. It is a very British way of disrupting protest movements.
As a former member many years ago, I think Class War are correct that there is a major housing crisis, but wrong on the solutions (the first, and most obvious of which, is to control immigration) however the scale of the housing problem is getting so big, that police and Crown Prosecution Service tricks will not make this crisis go away. At least not yet.
Tucked away in the March 2002 memo from Colin Powell to George W Bush, discussing Tony Blair, was a small line which speaks volumes for New Labour.
Colin Powell writes
"We do not expect Blair to dwell on the steel decision".
The Mail on Sunday explains this brief comment:
"Loyal Blair would spare Bush's blushes by not making a public fuss about a US decision on import tariffs which had devastated Britain's steel industry."
So much for our industrial base, and so much for the steel workers who had voted Labour. Looking through Alastair Campbell's diary for the period April 5-7 2002, when he and Blair were in Crawford, Texas with President Bush, I see no reference to the steel industry. Campbell has since developed the nerve to complain that Germany supports its steel industry, and Cameron is declining to do so for ideological reasons
German govt has helped steel industry without breaking State aid laws. This government/ ideological Business Sec don't want to #redcar— Alastair Campbell (@campbellclaret) September 28, 2015
The Colin Powell memo suggests new Labour had the chance to act itself, but did not want to make a fuss.
In Tony Blair's memoir, A Journey, the index section relating to George Bush has an enormous amount about various summits, Iraq, the embarrassment of the 'Yo Blair' incident, even sections on an HIV programme and Bush's reservations about climate change. On industrial relations between Britain and America, there is a big fat zilch.
Which may explain why we barely have a steel industry today.
This evening's Evening Standard has a bizarre one page feature on Sven Hughes, a former military psy-ops expert, who now runs a marketing and PR firm called Verbalisation.
Verbilisation has had some degree of profile due to its work with the anti-extremism think tank Quilliam. Here we hit the first problem. Given the degree of paranoia about and hatred for Qulliam from many Muslim representative groups, any PR company worth its salt would tell Quilliam to steer clear of Verbalisation, a company which Chris Blackwell's Standard piece claims is 'staffed largely by 'ex-military personnel'.
The second problem with Verbalisation is that someone seems to have decided the best weapon against IS is management gobbledygook. Check this out from Sven Hughes:
"the marketing industry has become quite lazy. Verbalisation is a step towards solving that. We have very rigorous methodology for decoding called RAID or Rapid Audience Insight Diagnostic. It's a 24-parameter, psychological profiling technique which enables us to not only understand what our audience is saying but what they're actually thinking, believing and what will effect their behaviour change."
I am not an automatic basher of Quilliam (unlike some academics) but I do hope they are not paying too much for this bizarre management and PR speak. And if this is the type of thought that is driving 'counter-radicalisation' policies in this country, it does not bode well.
Bilal Abdul Kareem is an American Salafi Muslim who has developed a niche for himself as a journalist and film maker conducting interviews in the Middle East.
British viewers may have first come across his work when the footage he obtained of a British jihadi in the Katiba al Muhajireen group in Syria, Ibrahim al Mazwagi, was broadcast by Channel 4 news. Depending on which source you read, al Mazwagi was either the first or second Brit to be killed in the Syrian civil war. As well as running his own website, Kareem's work appears on like minded sites, such as that of Islam 21C in this country.
What makes Kareem important is less what he says or does, than his access. This extends to the highest levels within al-Qaeda. Uncomfortably for campaigners who supported him in the UK, since his departure to Jordan Abu Qatada has returned to his role as sage and theologian for al-Qaeda, an organisation somewhat rattled by the rise of ISIS and its 2014 declaration of a caliphate. Who did Qatada turn to, to publicise his views that the actions of ISIS were theologically and theoretically flawed? Bilal Abdul Kareem, in a three part interview published earlier this year.
Now, Kareem appears to have played a central role in the events involving Shukee Begum from Manchester, and her husband Jamal al-Harith. A former Guantanamo Bay inmate who received £1 million compensation from taxpayers, al-Harith subsequently left the north west of England for the Islamic State, where, Shukee Begum later joined him. There she made the shocking discovery that she was in a war zone, and (clearly well advised in terms of PR for her potential return to the UK) found that life in the caliphate was 'not her cup of tea'. Not only did Kareem obtain her interview, but he reportedly played a role in getting her out of the custody of a group of fighters opposed to ISIS, facilitating her release along with the Al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra.
She is now reportedly in what Kareem describes as "the liberated areas of northern Syria" - it is not clear where precisely he is referring to here. However, given his track record, Kareem is more likely to be referring to territory held by the al-Nusra Front. What an interesting address book he must have.....
The air of liberal desperation over Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain is reminiscent of the fuss when a fan was spotted in a hijab at the Bradford City v Aston Villa league cup semi final in 2013. The normally composed journalist Jim White declared that this sight was the 'key to the future of the game'.
As with that case, and the better known international furore over Malala Yousafzai, Nadiya Hussain's spell is cast solely by the hijab, and liberal dreams of a progressive, integrated Islam. Without it, she serves no purpose in terms of political utility. If she took it off, for liberal elites the effect would be the same as the clock striking midnight in the story of Cinderella. Can anyone imagine Angelina Jolie visiting Malala if she started wearing jeans and a baseball cap whilst chasing boys in Birmingham?
A more inclusive Britain? Only providing Nadiya Hussain remains in her designated role can liberal Britons keep convincing themselves that everything is going to be alright. That you can have more and more religious sections of our cities, and at the same time have a high degree of personal freedom, social cohesion and integration. The desperation with which some launch themselves at Bradford fan Amina Qureshi, Malala Yousafzai and now Nadiya Hussain are signs of weakness, not strength, of hope over experience. It is not Britain that liberal elites are trying to convince - it is themselves.
Having been left all dressed up with nowhere to go last week when the Corby Cube's showing of Death of a Gentleman was cancelled, I am delighted to report that the excellent Errol Flynn playhouse in Northampton stepped in to offer me a complimentary ticket for their showing. This review comes courtesy of their generosity.
Death of a Gentleman opens, deliberately, in as cliched a manner as possible, with the sound of bird song and the sight of cricket on the village green. The opening words stress, correctly, that cricket is about values, and those being interviewed throughout the film articulate the association of the game with integrity and a moral code for living. In English we deploy terms such as 'that's not cricket' for a reason - that they betray our unease or anger at behaviour that is improper or unprincipled. I disagree with the film makers that cricket is a unique sport in this respect - I think you will find the same approach within several martial arts, certainly in Muay Thai and Judo - but in the context of the cricket playing nations, to play cricket means to associate with core values.
Although a total of seven people appear to have been behind Death of a Gentleman, the two we see on camera are cricket journalists Sam Collins (English) and Jarrod Kimber (Australian). They quickly explain both their love of the game and its size - whilst a long way behind football in terms of global adherence, cricket is the second biggest sport in the world. If that surprises you, just remember that cricket is the summer sport in the British Isles, the national sport in Pakistan and Bangladesh and the national sport in the second most populous country in the world - India.
The film's narrative begins in 2011, with the realisation that test cricket, described by Ian Chappell as the peak of the game, is questioned and imperiled as never before. These concerns are not necessarily new - Death of a Gentleman does not engage with the long term concerns that one day cricket is or will undermine longer forms of the game, a debate within English cricket that is at least forty years old. Instead its focus is on the latest variation, 20/20, and in particular the Indian Premier League, portrayed here as being as much about Bollywood as sport.
For all the glitz, razzmatazz and dancing girls of the IPL, cricketers still enter the game wishing to play test cricket at the highest level. The story of Ed Cowan, an Australian opener, given his cap at the MCG in 2011, is cleverly used to demonstrate the emotive appeal of ambition. No schoolboy grows up in Australia dreaming of playing for a franchise in Chennai - they still want to earn a baggy green cap, a point emphasised by the obvious pride shown by Ed Cowan's father in several short interview clips.
This is very much a film of interviews holding together a central narrative, and for me a core component of that narrative is provided by Gideon Haigh, who asks a fundamental question of cricket in the era of 20/20 - does cricket make money in order to exist, or does it exist to make money. In this, we return to the association between cricket and values, and as the film develops it becomes increasingly obvious that in the era of 20/20 cricket exists to make money. The bigger question perhaps is where that money goes, as seven test playing nations are virtually bankrupt, whilst three - Australia, England and India, make money. How can this be?
Any film needs a villain, and as Simon Heffer illustrates in his review of Death of a Gentleman, here we have Giles Clarke, formerly Chairman and now President of the English Cricket Board (ECB). Awarded the CBE for services to cricket in 2012, Clarke is one of those men who always seems to be pictured with his nose slightly raised in the air, like a deer nervously sniffing for the presence of any predator. In terms of power though, cricket is dominated not from its historical base at Lords and the MCC, but from India. It is the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) which controls the International Cricket Council, and Indian money which matters. An all too brief interview with the former Indian all-rounder Ravi Shastri in effect declares 'we are the masters now'.
If power can corrupt, absolute power can corrupt absolutely. The 2012 report by Lord Woolf into governance in cricket established a sport characterised by a lack of any financial transparency, a potentially deadly failing given the predominance of gambling in the Indian sub-continent and the power of bookmakers. In this part of the world, some two billion pounds can be bet on major matches. However for English cricket it is not match-fixing that brought its most shameful hour, but the ECB's association with Sir Allen Stanford, an American financier who had bought up large parts of Antigua, and introduced 'winner takes all' 20/20. Collins and Kimber resist the temptation to dwell on some of the less salubrious aspects of Stanford's fifteen minutes of fame, and instead use the issue to attack Giles Clarke's jugular. Here Clarke is at his most belligerent, combining detachment and aggression in his response, insisting that he does not talk about Stanford but equally that it is all history. But not of course for those ripped off by the now plain Allen Stanford, serving a 110 year jail sentence for fraud.
The demise of Stanford meant that in financial terms, the IPL developed a monopoly. Here the film's second bad guy emerges in the ponderous persona of Indian concrete magnate N Srinivasan, the President of the BCCI. The sections of the film devoted to the internal politics of cricket in India are perhaps the least appealing to English viewers, but they matter, as the ultimate ICC agreement, to keep TV revenues primarily among the three biggest earning nations - Australia, England and India, shapes all else in the game. The 2019 Cricket World Cup will accordingly be limited to just 10 teams, rather than the previous 14. Given the development of the game in recent years in countries as diverse as Ireland and Afghanistan, this is nonsense. International development, the centre of any sports health, is retarding, something Gideon Haigh correctly castigates as bizarre. Although a majority of ICC members wish to see cricket as an Olympic sport (which would release government funding for the game in China, and other nations) the ICC will not countenance this.
With Srinivasan installed as head of the ICC, despite accusations of his family being associated with match fixing in India, the future prospects for Test cricket, as opposed to the faster, looser and more profitable brand of 20/20 appear grim. When Collins and Kimber manage to get themselves into an ICC press conference in (appropriately) Dubai, a picture of CLR James briefly appears as part of the ICC backdrop on the wall. A Trinidadian born Marxist who spent much of his life in the US and England, James wrote one of the most important cricket books, Beyond A Boundary. One wonders what James would make of an IPL fixture between Sunrisers Hyderabad and and the Chennai Superkings. We probably have a pretty good idea though of what he would make of men like Giles Clarke or N Srinivasan - those who live to make money, rather than making money to live, and to uphold the values of the game.
If Death of a Gentleman ends on a positive note it is by returning to Ed Cowan, and the values of those playing the sport for that sense of individual, team or national pride. Nothing about that tendency remaining however, guarantees its survival. Collins and Kimber ask us to visit the website Change Cricket, and to resist the games drift. The interviews in the film though with IPL players such as Kevin Pietersen (the first post-national, post-modern cricketer?) and Chris Gayle remind us that when it comes down to a choice between domestic and test cricket, or the IPL, the big bucks of the IPL will always turn heads. We should not necessarily be pessimistic, but we do need to be realistic. Cricket is not in good health, and the Death of a Gentleman illustrates that all too well.
There are screenings of the film scheduled across the country for the remainder of September and going into October. Some cricket venues, most noticeably Lords, have declined to show the movie, for fear of upsetting the ECB. That makes it all the more important to get out there and see it, before hopefully it becomes available on DVD.
Of of all the Russian writers in the last fifty years, few can have been as well read in Britain as Alexander Solzhenitsyn. His critiques of the Soviet system, which brought the Nobel Prize in 1970, must surely mean hardly anyone in Britain's political elite will not have read him.
And yet for all those copies of The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, few seem to have grasped how Solzhenistyn viewed post-Soviet Russia. Perhaps the primary source for this is his 1990 'Rebuilding Russia'. Whilst there is much to say about that book, I pick below some of the sections on Ukraine and Crimea.
Solzhenitsyn appears to have been happy to allow nearly all of the Soviet republics to pursue independence, but considered there to be special ties between Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Of the Ukraine, he declares:
"To separate off the Ukraine today would mean to cut across the lives of millions of individuals and families: the two populations are thoroughly intermingled; there are entire regions where Russians predominate; many individuals would be hard put to choose between the two nationalities; many others are of mixed origin, and there are plenty of mixed marriages (marriages which have indeed never been viewed as "mixed"). There is not even a hint of intolerance between Russians and Ukrainians on the level of the ordinary people" (p.20).
The point is also made that historically Donbass and Crimea had always been part of Russia (p.19).
And yet less than twenty five years later the British government seems to have been surprised when Putin refused to accept the overthrow of Ukraine's democratically elected (and pro-Russian) leader, Viktor Yanukovych, and the Ukraine's attempted turn towards the EU and NATO. This provoked the secession of Crimea. Indeed Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was still complaining about the Crimean referendum a year later.
Perhaps British politicians need to read more. There is also a more general failing among western hawks on Russia - Edward Lucas and Anne Applebaum are perhaps the two most prominent - to take a rounded approach. They are quite happy to take the bits that they like from Solzhenitsyn - the anti-Soviet elements in his writing - but turn up their nose at the sections which advocate Russian as opposed to 'western' interests. Such cheery-picking does them little credit, and does little to inform others on events in eastern Europe.
Back in the late 1980s, I traveled to the old Ayresome Park ground to see Manchester United lose 1-0 at Middlesbrough. The game was awful and the experience miserable - as soon as you left the coach the police forced the visiting fans into the ground, and it actually seemed colder inside than outside. About the only thing I remember of the game was noticing the Falklands War veteran Simon Weston on the terraces with the United fans. I looked over once, and then decided someone who has had severe facial burns probably does not want people staring at him all day.
Simon Weston is back in the news after making a minor intervention in the Labour leadership debate, arguing that Jeremy Corbyn could lose the Falklands Islands to Argentina, via some form of joint sovereignty. This would be a very difficult thing for a Corbyn government to do, not least because the islands display unanimity in the view they wish to remain British. Given the suffering they experienced during the Argentinian invasion and occupation in 1982, there is no love lost for their former enemies.
Weston's comments seemed to particularly infuriate some of Jeremy Corbyn's cyber army, including the prominent socialist writer Richard Seymour, who blogs as Leninology, and contributes to the Guardian's Comment is Free. According to Seymour, no one cares what Simon Weston thinks, and if he knew anything, he would 'still have his face'. Nice sentiments (captured below in a screenshot by James Bloodworth):
Stay classy, 'Lenin'. pic.twitter.com/bdHD2bPMEm— James Bloodworth (@J_Bloodworth) August 30, 2015
In Richard Seymour's world, a working class man who joins the armed forces at a young age, and receives serious injury fighting a fascist military dictatorship occupying a peaceful British territory, is to be condemned as knowing nothing. He is then mocked with regards to the injury he received. How far some contemporary socialists stand from the class they claim to represent.
It is apparently a myth that George Orwell ever wrote “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” But let Richard Seymour sleep soundly in his bed tonight - the real world will carry on without him. And his ideas.
Once children were considered to be in poverty - be it absolute or cultural - if they had no access to books. But now, access to books is increasingly considered old fashioned or unnecessary, for both children and adults.
It is not cuts which have undermined or destroyed public libraries. Birmingham's new library cost an astonishing £189 million, a project of breathtaking ego and waste. Instead it is the faddish approach to knowledge and naivete towards new technology which have turned library after library into a pale shadow of their former selves.
Librarian Carol Honey had a superb letter in the i of 18 August 2015 which best described this reckless abandonment of book based learning:
As a librarian and frequent visitor to Birmingham, I looked forward to the opening of the new library with eager anticipation, but when I made my first (and only) visit I could have wept. At the entrance you are greeted by a large cafe, reception and shop - no hint of the type of building you are in. The signage is confused with floors described as 'Knowledge' or 'Discovery'. What is wrong with Fiction, Non-fiction or Reference?
Two huge neon-lit escalators to the first floor were full of schoolchildren chasing each other up and down and screaming loudly. I couldn't blame them, it looked like a shopping mall. When I eventually found the book stock, I was appalled at how poor it was. Disappointed doesn't begin to describe my feelings.
Our politics could be about to get really interesting.
Today's business section of the Sunday Telegraph has a hit piece against Jeremy Corbyn, alleging 'Corbyn's policies would reduce Britain to 'Zimbabwe-style ruin'. So far, so standard. But the detail is what makes Peter Spence's article worth reading and re-reading. The title of the online version indicates the underlying nature of the subject matter 'Jeremy Corbyn's 'People's QE' would force Britain into three-year battle with the EU'
After getting in the immediate dig that Corbyn would turn Britain into Zimbabwe, Spence writes:
"Key parts of the Labour leadership frontrunner's plans would fall foul of EU laws intended to avoid runaway inflation, and consign the UK to a three year legal battle with the European Court of Justice"
So, vote Corbyn, vote for what is being styled as 'People's quantitative easing' - and get the European Court of Justice. That is not acceptable. The economic policy of the UK - whether free market, socialist or a thousand shades in-between, is a matter for you and me as British citizens. Not judges overseas.
Rather than focus on the political nature of what he has just outlined, Spence turns to the economic consequences (as you might perhaps expect in the business pages). Economist Tony Yates, and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney are wheeled out to predict the descending of plague and pestilence upon us all. Several paragraphs through, Peter Spence gets political again:
"Mr Corbyn's proposals would clash with Article 123 of the Lisbon Treaty. which forbids central banks from printing money to finance government spending. Lawyers warned that a lengthy fight with the EU would be a certainty, and could mean that infrastructure projects end up incomplete."
Long term tax campaigner Richard Murphy of Tax Research LLP has emerged as somewhat of a guru in recent months on the issue of taxation, and a potential change of economic direction under Mr Corbyn. I do know that some of those behind Notes from the Borderland magazine, who worked with Mr Murphy in the past on the issue of the UK's tax havens, were less than impressed with him, a matter which I am sure NFB will turn to on another occasion. On 'people's quantitative easing', Spence declares:
"Richard Murphy, named as the architect of People's QE, said that some fiddle would be required to get round Article 123."
Syriza tried that type of approach. Brussels said no. And were prepared to destroy Greece in the process. For Corbyn's policies to have a chance of implementation, Britain would either have to leave the European Union, or negotiate some special dispensation to be allowed to develop truly independent economic policies. How likely is that?
If you are wondering why Nigel Farage and UKIP have avoided the Conservative and New Labour attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, it is for a simple reason. You can't have socialism, and the EU. You can't for that matter have capitalism. Only corporatism. And the more Corbyn's supporters learn that, the more people will be questioning exactly what Britain is committed to in the European Union. Many will then be voting No in the forthcoming EU referendum.
The new issue of the academic journal Twentieth Century Communism has published my paper on how Class War and Red Action responded to the rise of multi-culturalism and identity politics on the wider left. It appears in a special issue 'The Cultural Turn' which considers the development of cultural politics among revolutionaries.
The article is based on a paper I gave to the Communism Specialist Group at the "Communism, Class and the Cultural Turn" conference in Durham in January 2014, and has the very long winded title "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction: two responses on the British left to the rise of identity politics - the cases of Class War and Red Action".
Its argument is explained in the following abstract:
The 1980s may be seen as an era where a profound shift occurred on the left. The anti-racist and multi-cultural approach of Ken Livingstone’s GLC, and that of a series of local authorities, was accompanied by a developing women’s movement and the positioning of questions of gender, race and sexuality at the centre of left wing politics. In cultural terms Marxism Today was perhaps the most profound example of this new focus.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This paper focuses on two revolutionary organisations emerging in this period – Class War within the anarchist movement and Red Action in the Marxist tradition. Both developed broad intellectual justifications concerning the overwhelming primacy of class and as such serve as important footnotes in any historiography of twentieth century left politics in the United Kingdom - a 'lost left'.
Whilst Red Action were to go on and produce some of the most valuable critiques of multi-culturalism to emerge from the left, certainly in the early days of New Labour, the road for Class War was at times a lot more rocky. The concerns which emerged within Class War that its focus on class politics meant it was marginalising issues of race and gender is perhaps a further example of the maxim that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
I am not a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. My opposition is due to the deep relationships he has developed with Muslim Brotherhood leaders in north London over the past decade, including running constituency surgeries out of the Ikhwan's Finsbury Park Mosque. A Corbyn Labour Party would give Islamists the greatest boost they have had in this country since the invasion of Iraq.
But Corbyn has real strengths. In talking politics, and giving straight answers to straight questions, he has presented a clear alternative to the Tweedledee and Tweedledum candidatures of Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall (who she?). I can't help thinking that inside Andy Burnham there is a normal bloke occasionally struggling to get out. But he was long ago eaten up by the New Labour party machine - its now a little too late to be shouting from inside the belly of the beast.
In his refusal to launch counter-attacks when brickbats are thrown, Jeremy Corbyn has risen above the fray. There is something faintly noble in his words to the latest criticism, this time from Yvette Cooper:
"We’ve used this campaign to put forward policy issues on the economy, the environment, arts policy. We’re the one putting forward ideas, so I don’t do personal, I don’t do reaction, I don’t do abuse. Life is too short and it devalues the political process. I think we should try and enhance the democratic life of this country, not reduce it to that level.”
The wheels could yet come off. Those who wish the Corbyn campaign well would be well advised to get him as far away as possible from the Muslim Brotherhood's Middle East Monitor (MEMO) event in London on 22nd August. To appear on the same panel as the anti-Semitic cartoonist Carlos Latuff is a bit much, even in the left's current Islamist friendly climate.
Such problems aside, Corbyn is the only candidate presenting political ideas, and seeking a constructive debate. For that alone he should win.
Following the murder of Paul Massey, Russia Today had an interesting interview earlier this month with journalist Peter Walsh, author of the book 'Gang War: The Inside Story of the Manchester Gangs".
Walsh comes across as quite balanced, if cautious. He is certainly correct to point to the loyalty Massey inspired in others, but he does not dwell on the reality that the Massey family had enemies in the city. For example his cousin, Constance Howarth was convicted of being the lookout in the failed attempt to murder Salford's David Totton in 2006. The man convicted for being at the centre of that plot, Bobby Spiers, was a director of Paul Massey's security company, PMS.
On Paul Massey's politics, the final post on his twitter feed indicates he was planning to stand again for Mayor of Salford, where (as Walsh contends) he received a decent vote last time. This could have been as an Independent or perhaps with Bez's Reality Party - if Bez got round to registering it with the Electoral Commission. I don't think Massey would have won, but a vote of 10%+ was certainly possible.
Interestingly Paul Massey's twitter feed suggests that he took a different approach to national elections - a 7 May tweet called for a UKIP vote in the imminent general election.
Who should I vote for in the General Election 2015? These 12 questions will help you decide http://t.co/WYF6izLY7b vote ukip pm Salford— Paul Massey (@paulmassey19601) May 7, 2015
Perhaps a policy of Reality for Salford, UKIP for the country?
Failing to attach Paul Massey to UKIP must be the first time Hope Not Hate have missed an opportunity to attack the party!
I received a lot of positive feedback and support on social media for yesterdays post, on the manipulation of the news in the case of the stabbing of school teacher Vincent Uzomah.
A few brief updates. Firstly the Guardian's Helen Pidd confirmed that the judge in the case did NOT order any withholding of the ethnicity of the attacker. This confirms that those news outlets who did not report he is a British teenager of Pakistani heritage, opted to do so of their own volition.
Secondly neither Show Racism the Red Card nor the Today Programme replied to me on social media, where I levied the question as to whether their interventions in this story properly reflected events. Laura Pidcock of Show Racism the Red Card also failed to comment, despite being sent a link to these criticisms.
An unexpected development during the course of yesterday was Matthew Weaver of the Guardian, somewhat bizarrely, picking up on Show Racism the Red Card's intervention on Radio 4, and deciding that in and of itself it was worthy of being a news story. Indeed at one point yesterday it was the ninth most read article on the Guardian site. This illustrates the nature of modern media websites - the need to produce endless layers of content that fit readers preconceived ideas means a highly partial and indeed disingenuous discussion on a radio show can, two hours later, become a news item.
And that serves as a further example of how liberal elites manipulate the news.
When reporting on matters of race or racism, we cannot even rely on liberal elites to report basic matters of fact.
Yesterday a 14 year old boy was jailed for 11 years for stabbing his teacher, Vincent Uzomah, in the stomach whilst he was teaching at a secondary school in Bradford. Mr Uzomah had told the boy off for playing with his mobile phone. Mr Uzomah, who is black, was racially abused by the boy, who is British of Pakistani heritage, during the incident. The lad later boasted about it on Facebook, receiving 69 'Likes' for his actions.
Listening to the BBC radio 4 coverage of the sentencing yesterday evening, there was no mention of the attacker's ethnicity, although plenty of the fact that this was a racist attack. An approach which was continued in the BBC and Channel 4 news internet coverage. Many following such 'analysis' would simply have assumed this was another case of a white racist lashing out at someone from an ethnic minority. That impression would certainly have been absorbed by the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning. Here a discussion ensued between Laura Pidcock of anti-racist group Show Racism the Red Card and Sagheer Azfal, a supply teacher who reported he had experienced racism from pupils at secondary schools.
Here, the Today Programme seemed to be attempting to bowl a googly from a fast bowler's run-up. If a black man is stabbed by a British-Pakistani racist, it seems a little strange to ask a British Asian to talk about their experiences of racism? Would a report on a black person stabbed by a white racist bring in the comments of a white teacher with negative experiences of some black children? I dare the BBC to try it........Whilst Laura Pidcock eagerly presented a series of familiar left complaints, for example about alleged racism in the media coverage of migrants, there was no attempt by anyone to comment on the elephant in the room - that poor old Mr Uzomah's attacker was not a white racist at all.
In the media coverage I have seen in the past eighteen hours, Helen Pidd, the rather impressive Northern editor of the Guardian, is one of the few journalists with the backbone to report the racist aspect of this case fully, both on social media and on the Guardian's website yesterday. I have asked both Show Racism the Red Card and the Today Programme if their comments this morning fully reflect the nature of this incident. I don't expect a reply.
For liberal elites - and BBC journalists and educational groups working in schools such as the government funded Show Racism the Red Card are textbook examples of liberal elites who form and shape opinion - cases like the stabbing of Vincent Uzomah are pre-determined. The problem is racism, and racism is about white people saying critical things about or doing nasty things to black people. If a case emerges that undermines this script, the details are subtly disguised so the expected impressions can still be digested by the general public. That is why we are not told the attacker's ethnic heritage. To reinforce wider political concerns, activists like Laura Pidcock are brought in to attach media coverage of benefit claimants and asylum seekers in Calais to a specific attack, and for additional absorption of the core message, an actual victim of white racism, Sagheer Azfal, used.
And that, in one simple case, is how liberal elites manipulate the news.
I am reliably informed that apart from your examiners, nobody ever reads your PhD. In the unlikely circumstances that someone wants to battle through 99, 000+ words on British jihadism, you can download my doctorate via academia.edu here. The abstract below gives an overview of my arguments, approach and some of the detail which I hope makes the thesis unique.
Since the early 1990s British Islamists have been fighting, killing and dying in a succession of conflicts across the world, beginning with the Bosnian Civil War of 1992-95. A decade later this violence reached the United Kingdom, with a series of deadly attacks on the London transport system in July 2005, the first suicide bombings in Western Europe.
This thesis provides a historiography of the involvement of Britons in global and domestic jihadist struggles at home and abroad across three decades. It catalogues and records their actions, and bring into a central document the names and affiliations of both British Islamist combatants, and those from jihadist organisations who have settled in this country. The ever increasing number of Britons travelling to the Islamic State does not come as a surprise when the scale of past involvement in such causes is considered.
This thesis deconstructs the religious objectives intrinsic to these trends, and emphasises that in British Jihadism it is the goal, as much as the message, which is religious.
The reluctance of British Muslim representative organisations to address early examples of these developments, the ‘denial’ – is analysed herein. The development of a religious terrorism which often targets women and minority groups may have been expected to face critical examination from academics, in particular from within the critical terrorism studies school. Regrettably such rigour is found to be lacking. Indeed it is within the academy that some of the most sustained attempts to deny any religious influences behind contemporary terrorism have been found. Detailed feminist critiques of Islamist practice are deployed to advocate a new approach – one that leads to a critical terrorist studies which critiques not just government responses to terrorism, but terrorist actors also.
The Fabian Society has published a pamphlet 'Never Again: Lessons From Labour's Key Seats' which examines constituencies the party either lost, or failed to win despite expectations, at the 2015 general election.
As so often in life it is during recriminations that the really interesting facts and argument tend to emerge. Perhaps the most significant lines are from Rowenna Davis, who lost the marginal of Southampton Itchen to the Conservatives. The potentially terminal mess the left has got itself into over race and immigration, and consequent loss of influence to a non-racist alternative in UKIP, is clearly established (I choose the word non-racist deliberately, as anti-racism per se is now such a farce). Davis writes:
We had been told by senior figures in the party that UKIP was a boon to Labour, splitting the right of the country, but not for marginal seats like ours. In these white working class communities, particularly on the coast, UKIP tore our vote apart. The safer, older council estates in areas like Weston and Thornhill that used to be solid Labour were now significantly disillusioned. No matter how hard we worked these areas, significant national differences, particularly on immigration, meant that we couldn’t stop the tide.
Without wishing to disrespect the excellent work of my colleagues campaigning in Southampton Test, I believe we managed to hold Itchen’s neighbouring seat because the demographic simply had more liberal, middle class, student and immigrant voters to win. This loss of the white working class vote is a crisis for our party, not just because we lost, but because it raises an existential question about who we represent. We have always won by uniting working and middle class people in England. Without that first half, you have to question why we’re here and where we’re going to go.
Rowenna Davis, "The Need for Strength" in "Never Again: Lessons From Labour's Key Seats" (Fabian Society: London, 2015) p.16
Nothing I have heard from any of the four Labour leadership candidates comes even close to addressing the 'existential question' raised above. However Davis herself ducks addressing an important issue locally - the closure of the city's Ford Transit plant in 2012. She writes:
The likes of Ford, Pirelli and Vosper Thorneycroft which used to provide dependable, respected work for huge numbers of people in the city, have now disappeared, to be replaced with more white-collar, unstable work (p14)
Certainly with regards to Ford, that is only half the story. The local factory closed following its transfer to Turkey with an £80 million loan from the European Union. Whilst there is some recognition in the Fabian pamphlet that Labour was wrong to oppose an EU referendum, the intellectual re-configuration required to accept that the EU may be bad news for working class people, and the country as a whole, is almost certainly a step too far for Labour.
I wrote the small piece below in response to an article on The Guardian website by Emine Samer on 27 July. This reports that the final member of the 'Pompey Lads' believed to be fighting for the Islamic State in Syria, Asad Uzzaman, has been killed. The Guardian, and especially its Comment is Free section, has a tendency to remove my comments, so I thought I would duplicate them here.
The most telling thing about Emine Samer's article is part of its title - "How the Pompey Lads Fell into the hands of ISIS."
Perhaps the Pompey lads took a rational decision that ISIS broadly met their beliefs, and the caliphate was an ideal worth fighting for?
It is remarkable how readily good liberal journalists can now infantalise people from ethnic minorities in a way we would never see with others. During the conflict in Northern Ireland, did we ever talk of young Catholics in west Belfast 'falling into the hands' of the IRA? Or young unionists who joined loyalist paramilitaries in such terms?
Its the same with the woman and girls who have traveled to live in the Caliphate - they are always 'groomed' or 'lured' . Despite every one of them being over the age of criminal responsibility, we are asked to pretend nobody ever takes a rational decision.
I wonder if the war in Syria, the emergence of the Islamic State and British Islamist support for it actually tells us more about the crisis of liberalism and our staunchest advocates of multi-culturalism, than it does about the state of British Islam. Whatever you want to say about British Muslims, they are certainly not as prone to deluding themselves as our liberal media....
Paul Massey was shot dead at his home in Clifton, Salford on Sunday 26 July, aged 55. Unusually for a figure associated with organised crime, he had a background on the left of politics, and for a time in the Anarchist movement. This article covers some of the political campaigns and activism he was around, and issues which arose from them.
From Frank Field's letter today in The Times about the Labour leadership contest, where he defends endorsing Jeremy Corbyn's nomination:
"The other candidates have shied away from confronting the brutal political arithmetic that no government in recent times has been able to raise more than 37-38 per cent of GDP in taxation for more than a single year, and yet these governments spend at least 40 per cent of GDP fulfilling promises made to the electorate".
The nonsense of our membership of the European Union has never been better evidenced. Following the latest Greek bailout:
"it emerged that the loan would be guaranteed by funds from all 28 EU member states, including Britain. The move contradicts a previous agreement that British taxpayers would never again be exposed to eurozone bail-outs".
Matthew Holehouse "Britain faces £1bn bill for Greek bail-out" Daily Telegraph, 14 July 2015. The article, with some differences in the online version, is here.
This is my reply to the joint letter from Cage and a series of academics condemning the government's Prevent strategy and the 2015 Counter-Terrorism Security Act. It takes point by point the elements of the open letter published in the Independent on Friday.
1.The latest addition to the United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism framework comes in the form of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (CTS Act). The CTS Act has placed PREVENT on a statutory footing for public bodies to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism by tackling what is claimed to be ‘extremist ideology’. In practice, this will mean that individuals working within statutory organisations must report individuals suspected of being ‘potential terrorists’ to external bodies for ‘de-radicalisation’.
Indeed – and they could have added here the somewhat sinister nature of this de-radicalisation. You must it seems change your views, an approach which in a liberal democracy from a government elected by its citizens, is deeply worrying. In a democracy, it ought to be the other way round – the government is informed by the people.
2. The way that PREVENT conceptualises ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’ is based on the unsubstantiated view that religious ideology is the primary driving factor for terrorism. Academic research suggests that social, economic and political factors, as well as social exclusion, play a more central role in driving political violence than ideology. Indeed, ideology only becomes appealing when social, economic and political grievances give it legitimacy. Therefore, addressing these issues would lessen the appeal of ideology.
This is perhaps the weakest part of the statement. Whilst poverty and exclusion may be factors in terrorism, there is little evidence this is the case with Islamist actors. Al-Qaeda for example has always been a predominantly Saudi organisation – the richest, not the poorest country in the Middle East. The Caliph of the Islamic State, al-Baghdadi, reportedly has a PhD in Islamic Sciences, a virtually identical background to the key figure in the foundation of Al-Qaeda – Abdullah Azzam. British Jihadism is littered with the biographies of graduates and students who have travelled to Bosnia, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to fight, often at the expense of academic and professional careers. I would posit here it is the search for Islamic utopias, to live under sharia, rather than grievance about the removal of tax credits, which matters.
3.However, PREVENT remains fixated on ideology as the primary driver of terrorism. Inevitably, this has meant a focus on religious interaction and Islamic symbolism to assess radicalisation. For example, growing a beard, wearing a hijab or mixing with those who believe Islam has a comprehensive political philosophy are key markers used to identify ‘potential’ terrorism. This serves to reinforce a prejudicial worldview that perceives Islam to be a retrograde and oppressive religion that threatens the West. PREVENT reinforces an ‘us’ and ‘them’ view of the world, divides communities, and sows mistrust of Muslims.
Here Prevent is given an astonishing degree of power. How many people in the non-Muslim community have heard of Prevent? Around my way, discussion of it tends not to predominate in the local pub or café. With the exception of those professionally involved in the field, or politically active in related matters, Prevent is as well known among non-Muslims as academic studies of Slovenian foreign policy in the late 1990s. Yet we are informed it “divides communities and sows mistrust of Muslims?”
For this, I am afraid far more blame lies with the fringes of British Islam. Cage – one of the authors of this statement - spent the early part of the Syrian conflict informing all who would listen that Britain and Britons had nothing to fear from those going to fight Assad. This fiction was maintained even when it became clear most were joining Al-Qaeda’s al-Nusrah front or related jihadis. The murder of Alan Henning – a British aid worker killed for the sole reason he was not a Muslim - and the blood curdling threats made by British jihadis in Syria on social media to their homeland, did more to ‘divide communities’ and ‘sow distrust’ than Prevent ever could. How do the academics who signed this letter think it looks that more British Muslims fight in jihadist groups in Syria than are members of the UK armed forces?
The joint letter expresses deep concern that Islamic dress is being wrongly associated with terrorism, as part of a mis-directed focus on ideology. On one level, we do not know if such approaches, crass as they may seem, are justified. I would love to see a dataset on how many women, convicted of terrorism in the UK, wear the niqab? I would love to see a dataset on how many men, convicted of terrorism here, have wives who wear the niqab or hijab? I suspect the percentage will be very, very high.
The reality though, as expounded by academics such as Jennifer L Jefferis in “Religion and Political Violence” (2010) is that whilst deeply religious ideology does help us to explain violence, and why that violence is often so extreme, it paradoxically does not explain why others, with very similar beliefs do not turn to violence. Ironically Cage, a group of Taliban supporters involved in giving legal assistance to Salafi-Jihadis, provide a classic example of this conundrum. Why is it one group is involved in violence, and the other, is not?
4.While much of the PREVENT policy is aimed at those suspected of ‘Islamist extremism’ and far-right activity, there is genuine concern that other groups will also be affected by such policies, such as anti-austerity and environmental campaigners – largely those engaged in political dissent.
Back in 2010, West Midlands Police, and others around Prevent, were promoting the idea it had three prongs – animal rights extremism, far-right extremism and what was euphemistically described as ‘Al-Qaeda inspired’ extremism. Anything rather than use the terms Jihad or Islamism. This came back to bite the authorities on the bum when the Syrian jihad started, and Britons involved in ISIS were actually fighting Al-Qaeda. These are the type of awkward facts academics once covered in order to hold those in power to account – not it seems now.
Whilst noting the concerns of the joint letter here, I suspect they are unfounded, and most likely this is a vague attempt to gain unearned support from anti-austerity and environmental campaigners. Attempts at moving Prevent into other orbits have always looked ridiculous – in the summer of 2010 I gave a talk on ‘Animal rights extremism’ to a Prevent conference in Birmingham. The great and the good of the Birmingham Muslim community rubbed their beards in genuine confusion and could be heard asking “who is this guy, and why is he talking about guinea pig farms?’. Matthew Goodwin spoke, appallingly as it has nothing to do with terrorism, about BNP voting patterns. The whole thing was a nonsense, not least when Home Office figures in 2009 indicated that 92% of the those in prison for terrorism in Britain, affirmed themselves to be Muslim. Interestingly, and awkwardly for those who take the view ideology and belief is irrelevant, all are believed to be Sunni Muslims.
When faced with addressing violent trends within international Sunni Islam, or a few Greens thinking about picketing a BP depot, even the British ruling class should have the brains to work out which is the greater potential threat. Surely?
5.Without due reconsideration of PREVENT’s poor reputation, the police and government have attempted to give the programme a veneer of legitimacy by expressing it in the language of ‘safeguarding’. Not only does this depoliticise the issue of radicalisation, it shifts attention away from grievances that drive individuals towards an ideology that legitimises political violence.
Prevent has a poor reputation, as any government programme designed to change people’s beliefs should. But the language of social work is not confined to Prevent – infantilising language dominates discussion about British Muslims. For example, young people in the Muslim community are routinely referred to as ‘vulnerable’ to the wiles of extremist propagandists. This prompted the memorable retort from academic Anthony Richards that Prevent asks us to believe the country is threatened by ‘vulnerable’ people! Young people and especially British women never decide to go to the Islamic State of their own free will – they are instead ‘groomed’ or ‘lured’.
They are certainly being de-politicised, but what concerns me is not simply that grievances may be ignored, but that the academics who signed this letter appear so ignorant that religious utopias clearly matter to some young Britons.
6.PREVENT will have a chilling effect on open debate, free speech and political dissent. It will create an environment in which political change can no longer be discussed openly, and will withdraw to unsupervised spaces. Therefore, PREVENT will make us less safe.
Cheeky. Universities have long restricted, censored, blocked and discouraged. The far-right for example, has been denied the possibility to organise on UK campuses for at least forty years. In the last year, to take the example of my former institution the University of East Anglia, these restrictions spread to groups who are non-racist – UKIP and Class War. The Free Speech rankings for UK universities indicate that all is not, currently well.
Yes, Prevent, by extending the de facto ban on the far-right to Islamist speakers could make that worse, but the signatories of this letter make poor libertarians. To test this proposition, ask a few of the Islamists listed how they feel about Salman Rushdie’s rights to free speech and to dissent from the Islamic faith? Ask a few of the academics how they feel about Charlie Hebdo – the word ‘but’ will appear very quickly.
If the rallying call is to discuss ideas openly, count me in. I just don’t believe the signatories of this letter want that. For a minute.
7. We believe that PREVENT has failed not only as a strategy but also the very communities it seeks to protect. Instead of blindly attempting to strengthen this project, we call on the government to end its ineffective PREVENT policy and rather adopt an approach that is based on dialogue and openness.
Describing Prevent as ‘failed’ is an easy thing to do – no one has ever been able to develop an indicator or measurement of ‘success’ with such interventions.
It is not immediately clear what an approach of ‘dialogue and openness’ actually means here. Schemes much lauded in the past for taking this approach – for example the Met’s Muslim Contact Unit working in ‘partnership’ with Islamist and Salafist groups - brought clear gains in terms of real estate and influence for those currents; the gains for broader society were less clear. Indeed the support of such currents for the Syrian jihad suggest they were actually own goals.
Dr Paul Stott
12 July 2015.
Reading through the list of signatories on Cage's anti-Prevent statement in the Independent, one prominent name is missing.
Where is Bob Lambert of St Andrews and London Metropolitan universities? A self-styled 'progressive academic' he is a prominent supporter of Islamic causes in London, and many of the academics Lambert has worked with - most notably Basia Spalek and David Miller - have signed up. So have some of the Islamists in Muslim Brotherhood related institutions with which Lambert has long associated - for example Ismail Patel of Friends of Al-Aqsa and Mohammed Kozbar of Finsbury Park Mosque.
Could it be Bob Lambert was not asked to add his name? And these advocates of free speech and civil liberties feel a little embarrassed at working with a career Special Branch officer, now his work spying on individuals and using them for sex is better known than his role in the Met's Muslim Contact Unit?
The letter Cage and Prof Richard Jackson were promoting on Wednesday opposing Prevent, has now appeared in the Independent.
It is actually slightly worse that I expected it to be. After some classic academic hierarchy - Professors to the top - some of the worst names in British Islamism appear. To be lectured on freedom of speech and extremism by Haitham al-Haddad is slightly surreal. Interesting al-Haddad appears here wearing his Fatwa Council Of Europe hat, rather than his controversial role of judge at the Islamic Sharia Council in East London. You may recall his views on the superiority of men over women in this Channel 4 discussion, with Fatima Manji. Shakeel Begg of the Islamic Centre in Lewisham has been called many things over the years, but a believer in free speech and critical comment he is not. If these are the people to the fore of a campaign against government policy to restrict freedom of speech in our universities, that campaign is flawed from its beginning.
Of the academic signatories, several are in receipt of the largesse currently provided by the Muslim Brotherhood and its front groups to select UK academics - Tom Mills, Hilary Aked and David Miller. Unfortunately, those of us academics who earn a slightly more honest crust struggle to have our say on these issues. Whilst Prof Jackson was able to circulate encouragement to sign up to a draft of this letter on the critical terrorism studies list on Wednesday 8 July, my comments in response are still to appear on that list.
Lets all join hands together and say we support free debate and discussion shall we?
No doubt detailed claims of responsibility will soon emerge for the massacre of tourists in Sousse, Tunisia. Such attacks are far from unique, with examples of this tactic in north Africa going back to the 1990s, most notoriously at Luxor in Egypt in 1997.
Estimates of the importance of tourism to Tunisia are that it contributes as much as 15% of the nation's GDP. That presents a motivation to terrorist groups, but answers for their actions are also likely to be found within their political and religious belief systems. Past articulations indicate the tourist can be particularly 'provocative' to Islamists. This is Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyyah leader Talat Fuad Qasim in 1996 discussing tourists to Egypt:
"First, many tourist activities are forbidden, so this source of income for the state is forbidden. Striking at such an important source of income will be a major blow against the state. It does not cost us to strike against this sector. Second, tourism in its present form is an abomination: it is a means by which prostitution and AIDS are spread by Jewish women tourists, and it is a source of all manner of depravities, not to mention being a means of collecting information on the Islamic movement. For these reasons we believe that tourism is an abomination that must be destroyed. And it is one of our strategies for destroying the government."
Talat Fuad Qasim, quoted in "Religion and Political Violence: Sacred Protest in the Modern World" by Jennifer L Jefferis (Routledge, 2011, p.89).
We will see what statements emerge from the Tunisian attackers. But that mixture - of religious and economic imperative - may well be to the fore.
I have recently been sent a marvellous article by Michael Collins, that was in the i newspaper on 19 March 2015, and can be found on the Independent website.
Collins is the author of The Likes of Us: A Biography of the White Working Class, a superb 2004 polemic which also serves as family history and memoir of a lost Southwark. Here he is writing just ahead of Trevor Phillips Channel 4 documentary Things We Won't Say About Race That Are True. Phillips now serves a function as quite a useful lightening conductor - by and large if someone is against him, it is good form to put your self on the opposite side of their arguments - something I would not have imagined myself saying twenty years ago.
Anyway, Michael Collins ends his article on race in Britain by citing one of the core characteristics of contemporary anti-racism. Like the war between Oceania and its rivals in Orwell's 1984, it appears never to end. Indeed new manifestations - the concept of 'islamophobia' is the most prominent currently - emerge to reinvigorate the cause at regular intervals:
Central to the problem is that the end of racism is not an objective that has a finish line, and so the goalposts will shift whenever something close to it is in sight. There are jobs in academia, the public sector, the consultancy sector, human rights law that depend on it. Racism in its truest form has diminished over the years, yet the campaign that emerged to tackle it has, oddly, expanded into a billion-pound industry. The concept of racism continues to re-invent itself and expand its remit ad infinitum to justify the existence of this industry. It wants racism gone - but without it, it's nothing.
Iceland seems to have emerged from economic collapse following its banking crisis in 2008. Its Prime Minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson offers what should be words of advice for Syrizia:
"What proved instrumental in getting us out of the crisis and to where we are today is to do with having our own currency and having control over our own monetary and economic policy and natural resources. Greece's options are obviously more limited, being a member of the euro."
Iceland has now dropped its application to join the European Union.
Gunnlaugsson could also have added for British readers that the three banks involved - Glitnir, Kaupthing and Landsbank - went into receivership and so were not propped up by the taxpayer. Scottish readers may wish to note that Iceland's decision to back away from the EU was influenced by the reality that new members of the EU are required to join the Euro. Iceland would lose the very independence which saved it.
John King is best known as the author of the Football Factory, England Away and other classic novels of working class life. This week he has penned a substantial contribution to the anti-EU cause, arguing that those on the left, and those of liberal disposition should vote No, when the referendum comes.
I thought King's article so good, I link to it here. Other political currents will need to ask themselves some hard questions as we approach the referendum. For all its bluster, what is the SNP's concept of 'independence in Europe' actually worth? If the Greens believe in de-centralisation and are committed to the small scale as opposed to the conglomerate, how does that sit with Brussels? Do Anarchists really want a further tier of government we can readily do without?
John King has set the ball rolling..........
A couple of points to follow up on the article I wrote last month concerning the pressure the Football Association and the police were placing on football supporters ahead of the Republic of Ireland versus England friendly.
Firstly Larry O'Hara did consequently place online his 1997 article on the 1995 Dublin 'riot', which originally appeared in the Anarchist magazine Animal. Read it on the Notes from the Borderland website here.
Secondly I did think it good manners to ask Piara Powar if he wanted to reply, as my article was critical of his stance towards England fans in his role for Football Against Racism in Europe and FIFA's task force against racism and discrimination. Piara did not reply to my tweet to him. Whether he attended the match as a representative of FIFA is unclear, not least because on 27 May a series of dawn raids were carried out on FIFA executives as part of the corruption probe led by the FBI. Getting an expenses chit signed in those circumstances may have been challenging.
Thirdly the match itself was characterised by some unusual coverage by ITV, with little or nothing in the way of sound coming across from the English contingent in the stadium. Whilst broadcasters are now dab hands at ensuring fans indecent singing is not overheard by delicate viewers, on this occasion there seemed very little chance to hear anything from the raucous away support. Clearly no chances were being taken that the odd song against the IRA may slip through. Sadly it meant we also missed an excellent song alleging that Sepp Blatter had corruptly paid the Irish FA for the re-building of the Arriva Stadium!
Finally, as anyone who watched the game will know, there was nothing to report. I spent most of it reading the Sunday Times. Still, at least the FA ended up happy.
This is academic Deepa Kumar, discussing those she calls the 'new McCarthyites' responsible for islamophobia, in a presentation at the 'Understanding Conflict' conference at Bath University.
Her characterisation of ex-Muslims is one of the foulest things I have seen for a long time. It is clear what she is doing here. Giving an academic gloss to the view that anyone who is an ex-Muslim is therefore an Uncle Tom. Just as under fascism, someone's ethnicity or faith is fixed for ever, so it is for today's 'progressive' academics and their supporters in sections of the far-left.
In my experience, ex-Muslims tend to be serious, thoughtful people who have made what they consider to be rational choices about the life they wish to lead. Society should be looking to enable and encourage that process. Academics can either help or hinder that. Deepa Kumar is on the wrong side of history.
Whilst the war party (which in practice covers MPs in all three traditional big Westminster groupings) is quiet-ish in the UK, in the US debate is becoming more polarised. If it is Hillary Clinton following Obama as President, or any Republican bar Rand Paul, US troops will be heading to the Middle East in significant numbers.
The quote below from Republican dissident Patrick Buchanan, perhaps best encapsulates the nonsense John McCain and others would inflict now if they could:
Interviewed by CBS News, Gen. David Petraeus said the United States is “probably losing” the war to ISIS, and we need more U.S. troops in Iraq or we run “the risk of losing the fight.”
Now consider what the general is saying:
America should send her best and bravest back into Iraq to defeat ISIS, while Turkey, the Saudis, the Gulf Arabs and Israel are helping bring about the defeat of a Syrian army that has been battling ISIS for years.
Buchanan ends with a call that America should in effect, mind America's business, not that of its questionable allies. In Britain the main MP pushing the intervention line is the wasp-like Dr Liam Fox, who thankfully was not invited to return to the Cabinet following the Conservatives victory last month. Buchanan's dismissal of General Petraeus is equally applicable to Fox and whichever members of the war party he manages to get behind him in the coming months. Let us mind our own business.
England play the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on 7th June in a friendly international.
For reasons that have never been fully explained, the last time England played in Ireland the match was abandoned with some disorder occurring in the English end. It is has certainly never been clear to me why the Irish police were unable to restore order, or what was so terrifying about England's away support that the game could not be completed. As the researcher Larry O'Hara wrote at the time, claims that the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 had incited a riot were fanciful - no one has ever been able to pinpoint any C18 members in the ground on that occasion.
It says much about the times we are living in that an enormous effort has begun by the football authorities to dissuade England fans from singing 'No Surrender to the IRA' at the Dublin match. This includes the astonishing claim that "England could be banned from the next World Cup under a new Fifa initiative if their fans continue to chant anti-IRA slogans at matches". At least some of this seems to come from Piara Powar (who readers of some vintage will remember from the Newham Monitoring Project) a member of Football Against Racism in Europe and FIFA's task force against racism and discrimination. One might wonder how FIFA has the moral status to deliberate on anything - what is it doing about the discrimination faced by those building its stadiums for Qatar 2022? And that is without even beginning to discuss the corruption accusations that have dogged it for many years.
If people want to sing songs against a terrorist group, that whatever people's views on the Northern Ireland question, did some bad things, I can't really get too excited about it. Each to his own. Piara Powar however, has got his dander up, telling the Telegraph last Wednesday that he may be asked to attend the game to monitor fans chanting:
"No Surrender To The IRA" comes from a point which is extreme nationalism. It's about conflict between two states. That then would be reported. We would be making our reports as often as our experts feel there is a case to answer"
It is hard to think of a more textbook example of how football supporters become disillusioned, not just with those running the game, but the political activists who come into it to supposedly to do good. Piara Powar may consider anti-IRA songs to be about 'extreme nationalism' - others do not. Why is his view, or those of his 'experts' worth more than anybody else's? Getting into the detail of his position it does not impress. Bizarrely his quote seems to portray the IRA as in some way representing one of two states - presumably Ireland. Try telling that to the government in Dublin, whose measures against the IRA were for decades often harsher than anything decreed from London or Belfast. Far from representing the whole of Ireland, the IRA could be just as accurately described as representing a minority of a minority - the Catholic population in Northern Ireland.
This week we have already seen Home Secretary Theresa May bandying around the word extremism, and the need to establish tougher legislation to address it, whilst unable to define what it actually means in practice. Now we are expected to be concerned about 'extreme nationalism' in the form of songs against a terrorist group. Does that mean people can be jailed for supporting Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State, yet football fans could be sanctioned for singing songs against them? Or is it just the IRA - a terrorist group with rusting guns - that we are concerned about?
This matters, because such declarations, be it from those governing the country or those running football has repercussions for the liberty of our citizens. Earlier this year Glasgow Rangers fan Scott Lamont was jailed for four months for singing 'The Billy Boys' whilst on his way to an Auld Firm game. An Auld Firm match where thousands will have sung the Billy Boys, and thousands of Celtic fans will have declared support for Irish Republicanism, and sang songs in praise of, you guessed it, the IRA.
Can anyone, perhaps Piara Powar or Theresa May, publish a list of songs football supporters are allowed to sing, and those they are not?
I wrote the little piece below in March in a debate about working class voters turning to the Front National in France, in a debate on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages. It now seems appropriate to post it here, given the pitiful votes for far left candidates in the 2015 election, the defeat of Labour, and the strong votes for the SNP in Scotland, and for UKIP in England and Wales. I was one of those who voted for UKIP in England.
The rise of the Front National, and other populist parties of the right, needs to be placed in historical context.
For a large part of their history, the Communist parties in Europe were in practice foreign nationalist parties - the job of the CPGB, or Communist parties in France, Italy or West Germany was to support the Soviet Union. The new left ensured that in time non-Stalinist Socialists came to place supporting ethnic minorities, gay rights, and feminism as their core activity.
This may not have mattered, but the old Communist parties also became subsumed by the new left's ideals, and the Labour party combined accepting the new left's views on society, with embracing the Conservative Party's views on economics.
Throw in the rise of the world's second biggest religion and its global resurgence - some of Islam's least pleasant adherents have lived in Britain since the 1990s - and it is not hard to see why so much of the working class has been squeezed, and more importantly feels squeezed, in the UK.
I can't imagine things are any better in France........