The Minds of the Brexiteers.

March 20, 2017


The general sense I’m getting from Brexiters is one of extreme defensiveness. It’s a sort of nervousness, an uncomfortable insecurity in their own belief. As if they didn’t expect to ever see their dream become a reality, and now they’ve no idea what to do with it. They seem unable to accept that their single-minded belief in ‘Leave’ has consequences that require a bit more elaboration that extends beyond simply walking-out-of-your-door style leaving.

A Brexiter friend of mine wrote an article for ‘The Naked Politics‘. It gives us an insight into the minds of Eurosceptics, the bizarre reality they’ve crafted for themselves, and what seems to me to be a mixture of self-deceit and over the top – Alex Jones Infowars style – suspicion, topped with a sense of personal Patriotic gallantry, fighting an elite shadowy structure (which bizarrely seems to include British legal sovereignty when that sovereignty meant Parliament had to vote on triggering Article 50), on behalf of the rest of us oppressed folk (or ‘enemies of the people’, if you’re The Daily Mail).

John writes:

“Locked in a Brussels basement for over forty years, the UK is suffering from the cognitive dissonance of an emotionally scarred hostage staring at an unlocked door, as her captor sleeps in a drunken heap: On one hand, the opportunity to live her own life on her own terms. No more (financial) punishments to keep her confidence in check. The freedom to write her own rules within sight. On the other hand, an agoraphobic trepidation. Frozen with fear, like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Will paralysis prevent the much needed “step into the dark”?”

– You’re going to have to forgive me for a bit of ‘virtue signalling’ – though to take issue with virtue signalling, is itself virtue signalling, as is me calling it virtue signalling and taking issue with virt… you get the idea – when I say that I’m not entirely sure comparing domestic abuse with asking for clarity on what comes next in the Brexit saga, is anything less than trivialising domestic abuse. It’s not a great start.

The argument itself – once we get past the shear offensiveness of the comparison – doesn’t stand up to basic scrutiny. It implies the UK is a victim, without any power whatsoever, controlled and abused by the entirely separate body – the EU. If we take a look at the power the UK had within the EU, we will see that this simply isn’t true.

This excellent break-down of data by ‘The UK In A Changing Europe’ shows a pretty powerful Britain at the heart of the EU. Britain has chaired the powerful Internal Market Committee of the EU since 2004, continuously. That’s 13 years we have been at the chair of a committee of a market our industries rely on, and on which Brexiters are pulling us out without any plan for what comes next, or any clarity for those industries and those jobs. We also chair the Civil Liberties Committee. In the past – since 2004 – we’ve chaired the Transport Committee, the Economic & Monetary Affairs Committee, Agriculture Committee, Development Committee, and Industry Committee. Key policy development committees within the European Union have been chaired by the UK. Other than Germany, and at times France, the UK holds more top offices than other member states. The UK was guiding the European Union for much of the past 15 years in shaping policy. On EU legislation on which the EU Parliament had power – equal to that of its member constituents in the council – to block or amend EU Laws, the UK authored more reports than every other EU member state, with the single exception of Germany.  We were more often than not, over represented in positions of power in the EU. We weren’t the victim sat without any power as John – and his incredibly disingenuous Brexit comrades – would have you believe in order to support or give an ounce of credit to the fact that they’ve voted to pull us out of that, and into… well, they haven’t got a clue.

Moving on, John presents a familiar deluded Brexit-David, against the big bad establishment Goliath. The issue I take with this ‘establishment/elite’ argument from the Brexiteers, is that those representing their side, are not the struggling….

“Hence the principle criticism of the motley crew of ‘Leave’ campaigners being that they cannot guarantee what the future holds outside of the EU. At the same time, the establishment-backed ‘In-Crowd’ insult our intelligence by suggesting that they can somehow assure us of the only period of unchanging stability in history.”

–  Imagine for a second that you inhabit a World in which the ‘motley crew’ of the Leave campaign are not ‘establishment’. That would include The Mail, The Express, The Sun, The Telegraph, millionaires Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, anti-NHS UKIP, millionaire ex-commodities trader Nigel Farage, the millionaire Arron Banks, half the governing Tory Party, the President of the United States & multi-billionaire Donald Trump. All these you consider a ‘motley crew’, the oppressed fighting for the people against the oppressor. And the big establishment oppressor is…. Nick Clegg.

Of course we remainers don’t think in such a binary choice between ‘stability’ and ‘chaos’. We argue – in actually, a traditionally conservative, Burkean tone – that evolution at a point when we know there are problems with the EU but we have no knowledge of what would happen without it, is much less uncertain and much less damaging than complete revolution without knowledge. We have power in the EU and must use it to evolve. But if revolution is to win over, then we are entitled to ask scrutinising questions and demand answers from those who fought for it. This is not unreasonable. Democracy includes scrutiny of the winning side. Brexiters cannot escape that. My side lost. We are under no obligation to provide on equal terms any explanation about what we think would come after voting to remain. That reality doesn’t exist. The reality that exists now seems to be the winning side, the gallant saviours, the heroic warriors fighting for our freedom…. complaining when scrutinised.

John moves on:

“Desperate scaremongering now floods the media, as our sobering corporatist tyrant wakes to find us contemplating Brexit: “If you leave, there’s no way back” they warn, quashing the prospect of a second referendum. “You’ll suffer the consequences”, the French Finance Minister threatens, with the proposition that the insensitively named ‘jungle’ migrant camp will move from Calais to Kent, ignoring the fact that the relevant bilateral treaty isn’t subject to our continued EU membership and that such an act would be self-defeating. “You can’t survive alone” they claim, as BMW attempts to bully their British Rolls-Royce employees with the vague threat that a vote to leave could “affect the company’s employment base”. The patronising tone would be insulting, if the deceit weren’t lapped up so readily by a wide-eyed electorate.”

– A spectacularly ironic end to a sentence. It speaks of a patronising tone, in a piece in which people like me are compared to abuse victims locked in a basement, in which – presumably – Brexiters, with no plan or forethought whatsoever, who stripped me of my EU Citizenship, and now simply sit with their fingers crossed that trade deals can be replaced easily, that industries and businesses dependent on open, tariff-free access to the single market will have nothing to worry about, are our knights in shining armour rather than a clueless bunch in tinfoil hats yelling aimlessly about how great we can be, presumably with a hand of their heart, a Union Jack waving in the background, but without providing any substance. Much like a town centre religious speaker with a megaphone telling us that all will be amazing once Jesus has saved us. Forgive me for being a bit sceptical of that, when they have no answer to the question “Okay, but how?”.

John’s article then speaks of deceit lapped up by a wide-eyed electorate. Another ironic statement given that it’s in article that poses UK as a powerless, abused partner, about a year after driving a bus around with £350mn a week offered to an NHS on its dying legs. A bus that followed the now Foreign Secretary around, who doesn’t seem to have continued his campaign to fund the NHS. Deceit indeed. And then there’s the phrase ‘Desperate scaremongering now floods the media…’. That’s from the side of the argument that produced these gems of wisdom from The Daily Mail…

And the Express:


After bemoaning the fear mongering of the remain media, John tells us to be shit scared of the EU for its regional development funding:

“Small acts of kindness prompt powerful feelings of gratitude, with ‘acceptable’ behaviour rewarded, as our own funds are returned to subsidise the farmers and development projects that faithfully follow EU directives. Only mass denial prevents the realisation that resolute adherence to an overbearing political ideology is binding us to the constraints of stifling homogeneity.”

– Nothing strikes fear into my heart, quite like regional development funding and its constraints of stifling homogeneity. Bloody Soviets.

Of course, Chesterfield pays into a UK-wide budget that builds roads, hospitals, schools, across the rest of the UK. I pay into a Chesterfield-wide budget, etc. This is society. It’s how it works. The UK pays – once we take the rebate and what comes back in terms of development funds – around £6.5bn to a European Union of which we take part and help shape policy in which those funds are directed. This includes full membership – and a say in how it is run – of the single market and my right to travel freely and live and work freely in Europe. If Brexiters can guarantee that £6.5bn will be used to cover all the grants – like 20,000 projects listed by James Wharton that benefit from funding – along with the £350m extra a week for the NHS, and guarantee we get membership-level access to the single market – along with guaranteed use of my EHIC Card whilst on temporary stay within the EU, thus, a better deal, I’m willing to concede. So far, their answer seems to be a strong “dunno, maybe?”

On ‘discrimination’ John says that Brexit:

“will enable us to end the existing discrimination against non-EU citizens.”

– A silly sentiment, unless John is suggesting that all countries will now have travel & immigration to the UK rules applied equally. One of those silly Brexit sentiments that don’t actually mean what they sound like they mean. Of course discrimination is still going to exist, based on trade deals. We may strike a trade deal with Australia that relaxes Visa requirements and that doesn’t apply to citizens of – for example – Colombia. This is the exact same ‘discrimination’. And I suspect trade deals will include a relaxation of border restrictions. So, EU Citizens (who currently offer a net contribution to the UK) will have barriers erected to their free movement, as will I, discrimination will still exist, and John refers to this protectionism as being a policy of “genuine internationalists“.

He goes on:

“As adversaries trade blows in the final stages of the war of least-worst outcomes, the eventual winner is expected to be the side that can most convincingly portray the most dystopian version of an alternative future. Perhaps we should focus instead on the not-so-fanciful dream that a country with the fifth largest economy in the world might just be capable of striking the balance between international congeniality and self-assured autonomy?”

– I agree. Let’s focus on that dream. It requires more than philosophising. Which means instead of dismissing all those asking for clarity as victims of domestic abuse, and instead of starry-eyed dreams of ‘autonomy’ that collapse the moment you ask for even a degree of clarity and voted for by only 51.8% of the country, Brexiters like John must now answer what comes next? Can you assure us that trade deals we lose, will be replaced by trade deals with more favourable terms? Who will it benefit? What’s the plan? Are jobs going to be lost in the near future as a result? What will happen when we pull out of the single market? What will be our relationship with the single market? When will EU Citizens living in the UK be guaranteed their right to stay? Will trade deals with other countries likely require relaxed visa rules? Will our European Health Insurance Card remain valid? So far, they’ve spent 30+ years being publicly Eurosceptic, without any idea on what comes next, no guarantees, yelling the entirely reductive “Brexit means Brexit” mantra when asked, like a creationist holding a copy of Genesis when you ask where God came from. “We don’t know” is not good enough from this new breed of ‘patriots’, because it isn’t a game. And I suspect when it doesn’t go well, they’ll blame everyone else but themselves for the utter shambles they’ve elected to create.

What have Social Liberals ever done for us?

March 2, 2017

A position that bases its premise on the idea that individual liberties – like free expression, equality under the law, free association – must be protected prior to the forming of governments and are not restricted by nationality, ethnicity, or any other arbitrary distinction, whilst also arguing that government intervention can be a moral good when combined with the former principle, is surely not one that the British have abandoned. After all, the Enlightenment upon which these concepts – and modern liberal democracy – base themselves, are rooted in the British traditions of Locke, of Hobbes, of Paine, of Mill.

Social Liberalism in the early 20th century was firmly in the hands of the Liberal Party. Later, the Labour Party as it replaced The Liberal Party as one of two great Parties of State. Today, Labour’s leadership with its public support for regimes that willingly abandon natural liberties if they get in the way of achieving economically socialist aims, has long since abandoned Social Liberalism, and now threatens the livelihoods of many with its support for a very hard Brexit, has embraced a far less open, far more inward looking nationalism (it’s going to take a lot of explaining to convince me that i’m now “more Worldly” after my right to travel freely across Europe is revoked).

Which is why I and many like me, have abandoned the Labour Party. The key now for the Liberal Democrats – the successor to the old Liberal Party – is to build on their growth following Brexit, and resurrect great and radical Social Liberal politics of its past. What are those achievements, you may ask? Here’s what Social Liberals from the old Liberal Party have done for us:

  • The Forster Education Act of 1870.
    – Established the foundations of universal, elementary education. The poorest kids had their education paid for by local School Boards.
  • The Trade Union Act of 1871.
    Decriminalised trade unions.
    – Protected Trade Union funds.
  • Employers’ Liability Act of 1880.
    Allowed workers to fight for compensation following an injury caused by a fellow employee whilst at work.
  • School Meals Act of 1906.
    Gave local authorities the ability to provide free school meals for children from poor backgrounds. Made compulsory in 1914.
  • Trade Disputes Act of 1906.
    – Protected Trade Unions from being taken to court for economic damage in the event of strike action.
  • The Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1906.
    – Gave workers the right to seek compensation for an industry sustained during work.
  • Education Act of 1907.
    Provided local education authorities the right to take on land to build new schools.
    – Schools given a grant for each child they took on between the ages of 12 and 18.
    – Schools could not discriminate based on religious denomination.
    – Working Class kids passing a scholarship test, would have fees paid for by the Local Education Authority.
  • Probation Act of 1908.
    – Gave young offenders a service to work for the community rather than go to prison.
  • Children & Young Persons Act of 1908.
    – Banned the sale of alcohol and tobacco to underage kids.
    – Set up a Foster Home registration service.
    – Set up Juvenile facilities to prevent young offenders going to adult prisons.
  • Old Age Pensions Act of 1908.
    Set up state pensions for those over the age of 70.
  • The Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1908.
    – Limited the working day of coal miners to 8 hours.
  • Labour Exchanges Act of 1909.
    – Set up state funded exchanges designed to help the unemployed find employment.
  • Trade Boards Act of 1909.
    – Allowed Trade Boards to set minimum wages for certain industries.
  • National Insurance Act of 1911.
    – A health insurance system paid for by the employer, the employee, and the government.
    – Provided maternity benefits.
    – Provided paid sick leave.
    – Provided unemployment benefits for cyclical industries.
  • The Factory Workshop Act of 1911.
    – Allowed the Secretary of State to create regulations for Cotton Cloth Factories in relation to ventilation.

In a forty year period, in which not all of it was a Liberal Government in power, Social Liberals managed to set the framework for the modern state. They improved conditions for working people, they strengthened trade unions, and they aimed at a greater distribution of education among the populace, they created the foundations of the modern welfare state with the National Insurance Act, an Act that preceded anything Labour was to achieve for another 40+ years. These were radical steps for the liberal-left 110 years ago, built on by Attlee, and later by Blair. Finding that radical spirit again at a time of discontent, with a far more polarised population than at any time in decades, will be difficult. But a precedent is there.

The Liberal Democrats in order to rebuild, require the input not just from established Liberal Democrats in Parliament, but from Social Liberals across Parties. Radical but rational; cooler heads rather than tabloid-populism; to challenge growing right winged sentiment where it oversteps the line into bigotry, but to understand what breeds those views and to create a strong, uncompromising counter narrative; to try to understand frustrations among communities, without claiming to speak for or represent an entire class as if a single uncritical bloc. To form new ideas, solutions, & policies that look beyond Brexit & set out a Social Liberal alternative, open and free, to the illiberal socialism of Corbyn, or the inward looking nationalism of the Prime Minister & UKIP.

Look for the narcissist…

February 22, 2017

There was very little chance to write anything of significance about Donald Trump’s 2000 Presidential run for The Reform Party. It lasted only a few months, and was a bit of a farce that included dismissing fellow Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan as a “Hitler-lover”. Nevertheless, conservative thinker William Buckley Jr wrote prophetically on Trump at the time:

“Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents — midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War — had little to do with a bottom line”.

– Demagoguery is all it is today. Tabloid induced demagoguery that shames the history of conservatism. Conservatives have allowed that to happen. They have allowed the intellectual strings connecting them to Buckley, to Disraeli, to Burke, to be cut, and attached instead to those who define themselves by how much they can irritate liberals; Breitbart, Milo, Bannon.

A conservative movement that Edmund Burke crafted, by noting the dangers of radical revolution that doesn’t account for complex human and social bonds like tradition, by a support for free markets whilst fighting to restrain its excesses – as with East India Trading Company. His was a wide ranging philosophy, the foundation of conservatism. A century later, Disraeli’s one-nation conservatism was aimed at crafting a new conservative position on worsening factory conditions, and to create a society in which the wealthy felt a duty toward the most vulnerable. Today, mainstream conservatism is this…


Milo freely admits that he likes to offend, that it’s his goal. Fine. But he writes (or did, until his most appalling interview yet) for Breitbart, a leading conservative platform, whose boss is currently Chief Strategist in the Trump White House, and by some accounts, writing Executive Orders that have a real-life harmful effect on ordinary people. Milo – not just a provocateur – is part of creating that new conservative attitude that defines itself as little more than sounding a bit controversial, without any substance. To highlight both of my points – that they exist purely to sound controversial, and that they contain very little substance – here’s an article by Milo entitled “Attack of the Killer Dykes“:

“Up to 45 per cent of lesbians have been the victim of at least one act of violence perpetrated by a female partner and that 30 per cent of lesbians have reported sexual assault or rape by another woman. And those are conservative figures from a small domestic violence support group.”

– Now, let’s quote the entire passage from the link that Milo quotes…

“Perhaps surprisingly, statistics have shown that lesbian people experience domestic violence at a very similar rate to that of heterosexual women (Waldner-Haygrud, 1997; AVP, 1992). It has been estimated that between 17-45% of lesbians have been the victim of at least one act of violence perpetrated by a female partner (Burke et al, 1999; Lie et al, 1991), and that 30% of lesbians have reported sexual assault / rape by another woman (Renzetti, 1992). Considering the lack of discussion that takes place regarding lesbian domestic violence and sexual assault, I find these figures staggering.”

– The first sentence, Milo completely ignores, that domestic violence in heterosexual relationships and homosexual relationships between women, are very similar… “killer dykes”. And the 45% figure that Milo calls “conservative” is actually the highest end of the spectrum that ranges from 17% to 45%. A despicably misleading article by Milo to further his obsessive agenda of demonising gay women, which he also does here by claiming most lesbian women aren’t really lesbians and they’re just a reaction, citing no research because research would be “so politically correct” (to translate; he has no evidence, other than his own prejudices), and which he does here by claiming ‘fat lesbians’ are responsible for criticising Trump. In the video his evidence that lesbians don’t actually exist, is that sexuality is more fluid for women than for me… which doesn’t imply homosexual women aren’t really homosexual, anymore than it implies heterosexual women aren’t really heterosexual. He naturally leaves out a study in 2012 – seen here – that shows sexual stability among women is more prevalent than change. In short, he’s a teenager bullying the kid already marginalised in the playground whilst pseudo-liberals stand around him obsessed with defending his right to do so, rather than standing up for the bullied kid.

But it hits at a wider point. Milo, Breitbart, Trump, and the new populist conservatism – or tabloid-conservatism as i’m calling it – has very little substance, very little intellectual merit, it demonises people by manipulating data, who have done no wrong and then whinges when it is protested, it offers nothing of philosophical importance to the legacy of conservatism other than to stain it of its reputation. They have exchanged enlightenment rationalism & its emphasis on the equality of the individual and the importance of knowledge, for tabloid-populism and its emphasis on the shock factor. They are to conservatism, what CJ Werleman, Max Blumenthal, & Nathan Lean are to the left… a minor thought that will soon pass by, when liberals who spent 2015/16 hammering the Werleman-left for its massive inconsistencies & manipulations, actually bother to start applying the same scorn to the new conservatives.

Liberals must fight Trump’s illiberalism.

February 19, 2017

It’s been around a year since then Republican candidate for President Donald Trump embraced identity politics, when he said:

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

– At a later date, Trump, defending his proposed ban, then said:

“They knocked down the World Trade Centre. They tried doing it twice. There are people who have tremendously bad intentions.”

– And then in July 2016, on Meet The Press, Trump changed his wording, because people were annoyed that he mentioned Muslims:

“I’m looking now at territories. People were so upset when I used the word Muslim. Oh, you can’t use the word ‘Muslim.’”

– This was before he then called Rudy Giuliani and asked him how to go about banning Muslims, asking the former Mayor of New York:

“…the right way to do it legally”

– In summary, there’s a linear progression from rhetoric, to defence, to inquiring how to do it, to doing it. He specifically says he intended to ban Muslims, he then asked Giuliani the legal way to ban Muslims, because they might commit an act of terror like 9/11, only changing his words ever so slightly to avoid outrage. This culminates in the recently signed Executive Order by the now President Donald Trump says:

“Section 1. Purpose. The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans.”

– The Executive Order follows the past few months of his ‘ban Muslims’ policy perfectly. Though it references a gang of Islamists from a country not on his ban list. The reaction has been an odd one from its defenders on the alt-right (and Piers Morgan). They have decided the past few months reveal nothing of motive, and that those motives are not linked at all to the EO, regardless of the similar reasoning & referencing 9/11, they’ve decided it’s completely separate, when they tell us it’s not a Muslim ban, because not all Muslims across the World have been banned. Logic they barely register, when they’re implying all Muslims share part of the blame for an even smaller minority than the number banned from entering the US, commit a hideous attack. It’s very similar to when anti-Semites think they’re being incredibly clever by regurgitating centuries of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories but replacing the word ‘Jews’ with ‘Zionists’, which they qualify with “but, but… not all Jews are Zionists, so it’s not anti-Semitic!” A transparent line of reasoning, if you’ve ever heard one. My point of view is clear; the ban is a Muslim ban based on their nationality. It is aimed at Muslims. But whether it is a Muslim ban or not (it is) it completely misses the point.

Brendan O’Neill disagrees he wrote in The Spectator:

“Morgan also said it is wrong to speak of a ‘Muslim Ban’, because Muslims aren’t banned from the US. Again, he’s right. A temporary restriction on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries (which I think is a bad idea, by the way) is not a Muslim Ban. Eighty-five percent of the world’s Muslims can still travel to the US. Or are we saying accuracy and clarity no longer matter?”

– It is as if O’Neill has decided Trump’s words – that he reiterated several times during the campaign – have no link to the Executive Order at all. For the sake of accuracy and clarity, it is not accurate to say Muslims aren’t banned from the US either. A Muslim from Iran is now banned from the US, on the grounds – not primarily that he’s Iranian – but that he might commit an Islamist attack on the US. Some may argue that it is based on nationality alone. But what an odd argument. Again, it ignores Trump’s actual words and his policy expectations, and secondly it presumes the Trump administration fears the minority of Iranian atheists are just as likely to commit terror attacks as Islamists. But again… this misses the point. It is identity politics played by a section of the political spectrum that insists it hates identity politics.

Even if being a Muslim had nothing to do with this ban (which it does), even if it were based solely on nationality (which it isn’t)… that doesn’t make it less illiberal, or less bigoted. It doesn’t suddenly become more acceptable, if Muslims aren’t the target, but a nationality is. The exact same bigotry is still there. The presumption implicit in suddenly stripping an individual of a liberty they once enjoyed, in this case, is one of guilt of an individual based on the identity box that they’re placed into by others, rather than a crime, or evidence-based suspicion that the individual is likely to commit a crime. No vetting. No questions. No background checks. Nothing. Just a restriction on liberty based on nationality not character. This is the definition of bigotry, and so I’m not sure if it matters what trait the ban is based on, the result is the same.

What we’re left with is a newly empowered, illiberal, bigoted, right wing that challenges us to wonder whether it is actually acceptable after all to judge people on the nation they were born, or – by extension – the colour of their skin, or the shade of their hair, or the length of their arms, or any other trait, rather than the content of their character, without asking them a single question or even bothering to try to know them. And if liberals who spent a good part of the past five years rightly fighting a regressive left for its descent into identity politics & the bigotry it produced when it saw Nathan Lean refer to Maajid Nawaz as Sam Harris’ “lapdog”, or CJ Werleman refer to Ali Rizvi as “brown face, white masked”, don’t also pour scorn on the idea that it is acceptable to suddenly erect barriers – rather than smash them to pieces – to liberty based on nothing but identity, if they suddenly start looking for excuses for illiberal policy, if they get bogged down into arguments about whether to call it a “Muslim ban” nor not, if they find reasons to reject applying principles of individual liberty and agency to those in other countries instead choosing to defend right-winged identity politics… then they don’t deserve to call themselves liberal.

‘Beware False Prophets’ – Say Labour.

December 22, 2016

Sam Stopp, a Labour councillor from London has written a sort of desperate plea on ‘Labour Vision‘ this week, a call for Labour’s liberals to stop abandoning the Party. One would expect the piece to include some sort of rallying cry, a strategy moving forward, a reason to stick with a hopelessly regressive, Chavez-Left that the Labour leadership has turned the party into. Instead, all we’re treated to is spectacular irony.

The title of the piece may have you shouting “Are you kidding me!!” at your screen, given which Party it comes from:

“Beware false prophets – please don’t join the Lib Dems”

– I do not recall a time in living memory when the main party of opposition had a leader who was not only lagging behind the Prime Minister’s poll numbers in a poll of who’d make the best PM, but also behind “don’t know”, without any fear of being toppled. The reason for this, is that Jeremy Corbyn is the false prophet of the UK left. A left that has embraced the false prophets of Stop The War as it refuses to condemn Russia for Syria, a left that embraced the Cuban establishment at Conference, rather than victims of the Cuban establishment (an establishment led by… a false prophet for sixty violent years). But Sam Stopp is right, history teaches us that ‘false prophets’ on the left and the right, those hinting at their leader of the working class credentials, are almost always the opposite. Castro, Chavez, Mao… all conflated their own ideological thinking onto a presumed ‘working class’ bloc (with the small matter of silencing working class dissent and banning unions). All of those mentioned, have been defended or excused by either Corbyn or his inner circle at some point. So yes, absolutely beware of false prophets, especially those leading the Labour Party.

Sam goes on to explain that we liberals have different reasons for joining the Lib Dems, but that:

“…Their reasons vary, but one common theme pervades – they’re not thinking long-term.

– Are we not? My thinking is long-term. I want a see a strong, robust defence of social liberal values and nothing short of that is acceptable. I’m quite sure that Lib Dems are not going back to their constituencies in 2020 and preparing for government. We are rebuilding & that takes time.  We recognise that there are millions of social liberals in the UK without a political home, abandoned by a regressive Labour Party, and never represented by a UKIP Tory Party. A liberal party must reach out to them, for their ideas, and their thinking, to craft a centre-left narrative on immigration, on Brexit, on jobs, on houses, on foreign policy, to counter the awful shift to the right we are witnessing across the World.

You will also note, that after this complaint that we’re not thinking long-term, Stopp doesn’t provide any long-term Labour plan. But one must assume that given the Party’s completely incompetent attempt to topple Corbyn this year, Stopp either has a plan to take back control of Labour from Momentum-types who seem to have it sewn up, or alternatively, he’s willing to put Party loyalty ahead of country and allow 2020 to fall to a Tory majority in order to topple Corbyn, rendering any complaints he then has about Lib Dems propping up a Tory regime in 2010, completely irrelevant.

Of course, when mentioning how awful Libs were in government, one need not even point to the fact that Labour are gladly walking the Tories into an increased majority Downing Street in 2020, one only need mention the financial crisis and a hideously incompetent war that the previous Labour administration delivered, along with introducing the slippery slope of private NHS provisions. No Party is without its poor policy choices in government. Labour get no free pass there. Neither do Liberal Democrats.

After complaining about Libs in government, Sam says:

““But that was then, and this is now”, I can hear Labour’s leavers say. Yet the the Lib Dems’ latest incarnation as the anti-Brexit party is not a brave, new principled dawn. It is a reversion to type, whereby this rootless party of political opportunists takes up a policy position it knows it could never deliver in practice in order to take votes off the parties around it.”

– A little disingenuous. The Liberal Democrat position on Brexit is the same now as it was pre-referendum. In fact, it’s the same as it’s been for years, if not decades. Labour’s position is…. well, no one is quite sure. They don’t seem to have one. They wheel Keir Starmer out every so often, with a very confused narrative that leads to Brexiters convinced Labour’s position is to ‘frustrate the will of the British people’ whilst to Remainers, Labour’s position is to oppose the government, but support them, but oppose them, but definitely support them, but then oppose them maybe, who knows?

“In reality, there’s never been anything particularly progressive about liberal England.”

– Except, there has. Thomas Paine was a great English liberal who advocated self government & natural rights to be constitutionally protected before government is instituted. Mill was a great English liberal responsible for ‘On Liberty’, a spectacular set of essays in defence of free expression, representative government, among other liberal ideals. Gladstone’s liberals extended suffrage to a greater number of citizens than ever before. Asquith introduced old age pensions, took law-making away from the unelected Lords. Lloyd George campaigned for the a wall between church and state, and worked to provide state assistance for the blind. Liberals introduced free school meals, and National Insurance for the most vulnerable. Liberals fought for minimum wage (eventually introduced by a centre-left, liberal Labour PM), and protected unions from damaging court cases. Liberals fought against ID Cards, and oppose the Snooper’s Charter. Liberals push for Proportional Representation, and fought for same-sex marriage. Liberal values are progressive values. Corbyn-left values, are the opposite.

For me, the Liberal Democrats are right to welcome those who consider themselves social liberals from any Party, looking to help craft a liberal future for the country. Are you a social liberal who did not like the way the Party handled coalition (me neither), join and work to change that for the better. The Labour Party cannot offer that, they are not the party of social liberals. Labour is too quick to fall back into authoritarian, illiberal, and regressive thought processes, a UKIP of the left.

I have voted Labour several times in the past, but joined the Liberal Democrats because I am a social liberal, and my values – free expression, freedom of conscience, freedom of association, where we do not abandon individual liberty the moment it conflicts with socialist ideals but instead we support the former at all times – match the constitutional values of the Party. That any liberty protected by rights that I enjoy for myself, I must defend & promote for every individual across the World, with no exception. The latter of those values were considered unimportant by the Labour Party the moment it chose to empower Jeremy Corbyn… twice. A man willing to abandon basic liberty in his pursuit of befriending any hideous tyrant or group hostile to the US. We certainly shouldn’t be lectured on ‘false prophets’ by that Party.

On Castro: “For all his flaws…”

November 30, 2016

In 2012, Cuban dissident and pro-democracy advocate Oswaldo Payá was killed in a car accident that surviving passengers in the car say was deliberately run off the road. The Cuban Government claimed it was all one big accident. The significance of this is that Oswaldo Payá had ran a petition called The Varela Project with over 25,000 signatories demanding free expression, free association, the right to start a business, and democratic elections in Cuba, only to be dismissed by Castro’s regime, and many of its advocates imprisoned. Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, a leader of the petition, was imprisoned without any food for the first 3 days, and left in a pitch black room. These are the people the Western left should have shown complete solidarity toward. This week, they chose to defend the abuser.

There’s an incredible irony in Jeremy Corbyn’s understanding of social justice. Had the Labour Leader been a member of the Cuban Communist Party and as vocally critical of its leadership as he has been the Labour leadership over the decades, he’d either be in prison by now, or worse. As luck would have it, whilst he publicly, openly, and without fear disapproves of former Labour leaderships, he’s out praising the dead dictator of the Communist Party of Cuba as a “champion of social justice” whilst its critics remain either in prison, in hiding, or dead. And so, once again, the Labour Leader openly sides with the abuser. As do many taking to social media to praise Castro, whilst not grabbing the irony that most of Cuba are not permitted to access the same forms of media as the rest of us.

Indeed, to be progressive is to note without fail, that individual Cubans have far more right to elect their leader, to criticise and scrutinise power structures, and to do so without punishment, than Fidel Castro ever had to rule the nation. Without the protected right to criticise the power structure without fear of death for doing so, people are not free, nor that leader to be considered socially just. Corbyn does not understand this basic concept of liberty, and as such, is not a progressive.

Corbyn went on to joyfully explain how Castro had outlasted many US Presidents. As if not allowing a free election on his leadership and silencing critics is admirable, if it has the outward appearance of some sort of defeat for the US. As if in that time amassing a fortune of close to $1bn for the Castro family, whilst the average Cuban takes home $20 a month with no real right to unionise (seriously), is admirable because the US is beaten down.

Following in the footsteps of Corbyn, Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell speaking on Andrew Marr quickly passed over Castro’s crimes with a simple:

“For all his flaws…”

– A hideously flippant refusal to engage with the horror bestowed upon so many for exercising their basic freedoms. I suspect he wouldn’t so flippantly dismisses abuses by far-right dictators. He then went on to explain Cuba’s achievements in education. As if a moral equivalency exists and balances out improving education standards, with strapping people blindfolded to wooded posts and pumping them full of bullets. This is what we’re being asked to consider ‘balanced‘ in a discussion on Castro’s legacy. I can only assume that some – including Corbyn – consider Cubans and especially those dissenting from the 60 year violent establishment to be less deserving of basic human rights, than the rest of us. Because I’m quite certain that if the man across the road from you were to torture and kill members of his family, but also taught them to read, one would not seek a balanced discussion on his legacy.

Contrary to the ease in which McDonnell can pass by Castro’s crimes without much in the way of condemnation, I would have to argue that if you are willing to refer to the violent silencing of criticism of an establishment lasting over half a century as ‘a flaw‘ you – like your leader – are not a progressive either.

Corbyn and McDonnell were not the only ones on the Labour Front Bench to praise and excuse Castro, though some do it with a subtle hint of cowardice. Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon – a Chavez fan too – hides his praise for Castro behind pictures of the late dictator embracing Mandela. As if that absolves Castro of his crimes. More unnerving, is that the British Shadow Justice Secretary – that’s ‘Justice‘ – praises and excuses a man whom Human Rights Watch say:

“For almost five decades, Cuba has restricted nearly all avenues of political dissent. Cuban citizens have been systematically deprived of their fundamental rights to free expression, privacy, association, assembly, movement, and due process of law. Tactics for enforcing political conformity have included police warnings, surveillance, short-term detentions, house arrests, travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions, and politically motivated dismissals from employment.

Cuba’s legal and institutional structures have been at the root of its rights violations. The rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly, movement, and the press are strictly limited under Cuban law. By criminalizing enemy propaganda, the spreading of “unauthorized news,” and insult to patriotic symbols, the government curbs freedom of speech under the guise of protecting state security. The courts are not independent; they undermine the right to fair trial by restricting the right to a defense, and frequently fail to observe the few due process rights available to defendants under domestic law.”

– The victims of Castro, the ones whose lives are permitted far less freedom than me or you by abusers, are the most important part of his legacy. Rigoberto Hernandez was just 17 years old and had mental health issues when Fidel’s Castro’s guards tied him to a stake and riddled his young body with bullet after bullet. His crime was to be accused of being a CIA agent. Rigoberto wasn’t the only young victim of Castro’s regime over the years. Of the thousands murdered, under 18s were common. Carlos Machado was hammered with bullets from Castro’s guns in the 1960s for refusing to give up his family farm… he was 15.

But that’s not all. For a ‘socialist’ regime, Cuba isn’t too keen on collective bargaining. Human Rights Watch says:

“Despite updating its Labor Code in 2014, Cuba continues to violate conventions of the International Labour Organization that it has ratified, specifically regarding freedom of association, collective bargaining, protection of wages and wage payment, and prohibitions on forced labor. While the formation of independent unions is technically allowed by law, in practice Cuba only permits one confederation of state-controlled unions, the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba.”

– So, this week the leader of the British opposition Party has referred to the murderer of many including children, and the striking violation of the right to free association and collective bargaining as a ‘champion of social justice‘, with his Shadow Chancellor glossing over the human rights abuses that should be opposed without condition by progressives, as “for all his flaws…” and not to leave out the Green Party… a few local Greens have decided that the Labour Party is worth putting its weight behind in an up-coming by-election because:

“We hope that voters in Richmond Park will remember the Lib Dems’ regressive role with the Tories in government: putting austerity into practice; enacting the bedroom tax; and raising university tuition fees after they promised to scrap them.

And we hope it won’t be forgotten that the Lib Dems are ultimately responsible for the decision to expand Heathrow airport, having launched the Airports Commission in 2012 along with their coalition partners in government.

Unfortunately, we have no progressive alliance and no Green party candidate in Richmond Park. Therefore, although not our first choice, we will be supporting Christian Wolmar, the Labour candidate, as the best option available. We encourage other local Green supporters to do the same.”

– That’s right. They can’t support the Lib Dems because they were ‘regressive’ in government, and so instead will be supporting a candidate from a Party whose leader, Shadow Chancellor, and Shadow Justice Secretary are all over the media rampantly praising and excusing a tyrant responsible for torturing and murdering critics, including children, denying petitions for basic rights, and attacking unions. Exceptionally flexible values from The Greens. And… here’s the theme… also not progressive.

But it highlights a point I’ve long been trying to make. This section of the left occupied by Corbyn, McDonnell, Diane “Mao did more good than harm” Abbott, Richard Burgon, Ken Livingstone, and seen as favourable by some of The Greens, do not consider fundamental human rights to be universal nor worth defending if it conflicts with their opposition to what they see as US/UK/Israeli ‘imperialism‘, or conflicts with criticism of a left wing dictator.

The Labour Party invited the Cuban Ambassador to speak at their conference this year, and the Cuban Solidarity stall at conference gained 50 new members. This isn’t in solidarity with Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca, a blogger who was arrested for covering marches and demostrations, taken 30 miles outside of Havana, pulled out of the police car, made to kneel, and had a gun put on his neck and told “you’re on notice”. This isn’t with the previously mentioned heroes of the Varela Project fighting for freedom. No, this is ‘solidarity’ with the gunmen & the regime. It is clear to me that a real progressive Labour Party would instead have invited Cuban dissenters and those critics fearing for their lives to speak at conference, or those fighting daily and at the risk of punishment for basic freedoms in Cuba, because those are the voices of the oppressed.

They instead find excuses for the molesting of those rights, and creative ways in which defending the abusers is acceptable to them. They seek to downplay the seriousness of human rights abuses, by attempting to demand a balance with improved healthcare standards. The rights they claim for themselves, they do not defend for others universally. Social liberalism is not as important to this section of the left, as economic socialism-by-any-means-necessary, and that should concern us all.

With Castro’s death, the left continues its spiral into irrelevance.

Trump’s anti-establishment’ gang seems eerily familiar.

November 15, 2016

I confess that despite my years of following both UK and US politics, I have yet to discover what ‘anti-establishment’ means. Over here in the UK, it seems to mean leaving complex Brexit negotiations up to Boris Johnson without any say from Parliament. The latter being ‘establishment’, whilst the former – a very wealthy man at the heart of London government & descended from Kings and Ottoman rulers – presented as the opposite. In general, It appears to mean ‘those who disagree with me’.

It cannot mean what we all think it means, given that the anti-establishment candidate that everyone tells me has ‘shaken the establishment!’ by winning the US election, is a billionaire with his own tower in the heart of NYC and has spent a lifetime able to afford accountants that get him out of income tax, whilst making life difficult for workers at his businesses.

It cannot mean that ‘anti-establishment’ candidate’s transition team either. Indeed, Trump’s transition team includes his own children who will also run his massive business empire. As well as his kids, Trump intends to shake up Washington ‘elites’ by including….. Chris Christie; a man who has been Governor of New Jersey since 2010, New Jersey Attorney General from 2002 until 2008, and prior to that was a lobbyist for Dughi, Hewit & Palatucci. A key member of the political establishment since 2002 is now in 2016 considered anti-establishment.

Another of Trump’s Presidential transition team is also the first appointment to Trump’s White House, Reince Priebus. So ‘anti-establishment’ are his credentials, that he’s been RNC Chairman for a longer period of time than Obama has been President, and so partly responsible for the disconnect people feel with Washington.

Yet another of Trump’s transition team, to launch this already blistering array of anti-establishment figures, is PayPal founder and billionaire Peter Thiel. He’s now running a billion dollar venture capital company. He’s also a member of the Bilderberg Group; a gathering of political and economic establishment figures.

To add to this impressive list of just your every-day anti-establishment folk running the transition team, we have Rebekah Mercer. She’s just like all of us, in that she’s the daughter of a billionaire hedge fund manager, runs a foundation with around $30,000,000 in assets which donates to The Heritage Foundation. Heritage in 2014 was listed as 9th on a list of ‘Top Think Tanks in the United States’ for policy influence. Rebekah also has a history of working on Wall Street. So, running a $30mn foundation, with a billionaire hedgefund manager father, donating to policy-influencing think-tanks. Come on… we’ve all done that.

Speaking of Wall Street – the street Trump fans cannot stop telling us all that Clinton was irretrievably wedded to – another of Trump’s transitional team, and likely to head up the Treasury, is Steven Mnuchin. Now Mnuchin is very anti-establishment and very anti-Wall Street elite. So much so, that he spent 16 years at Goldman Sachs – a firm his father also worked for amassing millions of dollars, a few years before all the controversies it found itself in. Mnuchin then went on to founding OneWest Bank. A bank that, on referring to their treatment of foreclosures, a judge said their practices:

“harsh, repugnant, shocking and repulsive”

– They used those sorts of tactics, after receiving a massive federal bail out… obviously.

So, President-Elect Trump’s transition team ready to fight the establishment, and sending a shockwave to the elites, includes a billionaire with his own Tower in NYC, his kids, a Wall Street trader, another Wall Street banker whose bank actively pursued “repugnant” and “shocking” tactics toward vulnerable people, PayPal’s founder and Bilderberg member, and a man who ran the RNC for a decade. And that’s before we even get to his cabinet choices, which I suspect will include Rudy Giuliana… someone so anti-establishment that he was associate attorney general in 1981…. five years before I was born, and has been a big part of US politics ever since.

Indeed, Anti-establishment seems to be a term that the alt-right have taken to, that they’d like to think protects them from scrutiny of their grotesque illiberal, and often bigoted politics. They are quickly becoming unable to handle basic scrutiny. But come on…. make it a little less obvious.

The left must stop excusing Trump voters.

November 12, 2016

There is a glaring contradiction – and dare I say, political correctness – emerging among my fellow left-leaning liberals trying to wrap their heads around a Trump victory, and doing so by subtly excusing those voters. This couldn’t be more highlighted than in the way they are responding to the often violent protests that are breaking out against his election.

The contradiction is this;
1) Protesters are completely responsible for their own individual actions (this is correct) and must be condemned, without any wider context discussed.
2) We must not condemn Trump voters as moral agents willingly empowering a very bigoted (and also, we mustn’t call it or them bigoted) platform, and instead we must look at the wider context.

The subtle implication is clear; The left is responsible entirely for both, that protesters are violent lefties unable to accept the result of a democratic election, whilst those voters who elected Trump are amoral victims of the left’s inability to craft a narrative of change. I resent this position, because it seems to excuse or deflect from the individual choice that grown adults have made, to empower and embolden a racist, misogynistic, disability mocking, dangerous platform, onto others for not stopping it. It is a feigned outrage. To be outraged at protests (I say protest, not violent protest…. the latter is completely unacceptable and must be punished), but not at voters who consciously empower bigotry, is puzzling at best.

Indeed, I’ve seen liberals insist that conservatives didn’t protest Obama’s election, and that this is protesting is anti-democratic and embarrassing for the left. It’s as if they have chosen to believe that when very divisive language is met with protest, it is the protest that must be condemned. And secondly, It’s as if they have consciously chosen to forget the ‘go back to Africa’ signs at rallies, Confederate flags waving outside the White House or at rallies attended by Sarah Palin & Ted Cruz, or the inviting of people like Ted Nugent (a man who once said “I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War”)by Republicans as some sort of Patriotic hero to Presidential events or the refusal by Senate Republicans to accept any nomination on time, or the shut down of government, or the demands for birth certificates over the past eight years. It’s like they’ve decided those opposing that sort of vicious shit, are to blame, and see no irony in their new found refusal to condemn it all as hideously bigoted and those who vote to empower it, as embracing that bigotry. The GOP created this atmosphere over the past eight years. They legitimised it. They fostered it. But suddenly, the subtle line here is that Trump voters and Republicans are victims.

This doesn’t happen with any other section of society, for my fellow liberals. We rightly highlight that embracing Islamist principles and the bigotry it permits is the fault of the individual first and the narrative they’ve embraced, and reject groups like CAGE attempting to shift blame onto everyone but the individual. We accept that a wider context exists that entrenches those ideas, but it is the individual first and foremost that we highlight as the culprit. We do not strip those people of their moral agency. Similarly, we accept that – despite presenting themselves as anti-establishment – we will liberals will not vote for a Jeremy Corbyn-led left wing that openly supports violent regimes across the World, and includes a host of anti-Semitic groups and individuals. That is a line we do not cross. Nor do we excuse. Whether left or right, religious or not, the reasoning remains the same.

That the left hasn’t been able to craft a suitable narrative for the electorate to cling to is clear. And as a result, it leaves a festering pot of bigotry to fill the gap. This is an obvious point. Like saying without cold water, there’s just burning hot water. It’s also why the US election wasn’t so much a victory for Republicans given that their share of the vote stayed practically untouched since 2012 and 2008, but that the Democrat share of the vote plummeted. This is such an obvious point, it doesn’t require making. How the left responds and seeks to craft a narrative focused on those abandoned by globalisation over the past thirty years, is important. This, I accept.

The left hasn’t known how to speak to blue collar communities for decades. How to reinvigorate unions to ensure fair wages, secure jobs, and safe environments, when unions have been decimated by the right for so long, is a challenge. How to answer concerns on immigration, without endorsing or legitimising often racist narratives is another massive challenge that no one has touched for far too long. I get that.

But I would also say that the left needs to go on the offensive; absolutely shame and fight the grotesque mentality that seems to have permitted so many to empower to the highest office in the World, a man with 75 pending court cases, a man who mocked the disability of a reporter, a man who believes that China invented climate change, a man who uses phrases like “grab them by the pussy”, a man who has several women claiming sexual assault against them, a man who publicly expressed a desire to ban all Muslims from entering the US, a man who’s likely appointee to Treasury Secretary is ex-Goldman Sachs with a number of court cases against him for how he treated foreclosures (including one judge referring to his company’s actions as ‘repulsive’), a man who’s choice for VP echoes religious fundamentalists across the planet when he claims same-sex relationships are a sign of ‘societal collapse’, a man who called Mexicans rapists, a man who spent a large part of the Presidency of the first African American to hold that office demanding a birth certificate to prove he was American.

We must hear real concerns about immigration and about economic globalisation, we must formulate a narrative of change, but we must also refuse to stroke the egos of those who think using those concerns negates the bigotry they also willingly endorsed and empowered. We must not treat those voters like victims. They are not. They have – through their own moral agency – chosen to empower horrific human traits. We must – through argument and persuasion – alienate the mentality that they have embraced to ensure it is defeated. It must be called out, it must be demonised, and it must be demolished. The right has been on the attack for decades and it has clearly worked. The left must now do the same.

Hobbes’ Walking Dead.

October 27, 2016

“In such condition, there is no place for industry… no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea… no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
– Thomas Hobbes, on the state of nature.

The Sopranos and The West Wing aside, I’m rarely susceptible to find myself immersed in a TV series. Though, Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing is surely testing that. I’m not great with fantasy shows either. My partner and I gave Game of Thrones a go, but it didn’t captivate me at all. Which is why giving The Walking Dead a try seemed like it’d end up with me dropping it from my weekly schedule within a few episodes. Six seasons later, and I’m addicted.

Season 7 of The Walking Dead started this weekend, with one of the most brutal and psychologically testing openings to a TV show in history, and it split the reviewing media and Twitter’s Walking Dead fans right down the middle. Tim Winter of the Parent’s Television Council said:

“It’s not enough to ‘change the channel,’ as some people like to advocate, because cable subscribers — regardless of whether they want AMC or watch its programming — are still forced to subsidize violent content.

“This brutally explicit show is a powerful demonstration of why families should have greater control over the TV networks they purchase from their cable and satellite providers.”

– An odd criticism. It’s the equivalent of not liking a couple pages in a book you’ve brought, and so demanding control over the entire thing. The PTC go on to suggest TV producers should ‘imply’ the violent content, rather than actually show it. Thank god we adults, watching an adult’s show, have the PTC to protect our vulnerable minds.

And whilst its critics seem to be under the impression that the brutality of the opening of the season was ‘lazy’ and ‘just for ratings’, done simply for ‘shock value’ I’m convinced it was a spectacular opening based on the very philosophical underpinning of the show, with much of the criticisms ironically heaped in lazy understanding of the point of the show.

Indeed, I’ve found those who insist they’re boycotting the show because it has become too brutal and lazy, to be somewhat unnerving. It implies they didn’t consider dead people with flesh hanging off eating live people to be too brutal, nor a sect of cannibals too brutal, nor a beheading too brutal, nor a mother giving birth, dying, and being show by her son before turning into a face eating zombie too brutal, but a favoured character is killed off and it’s suddenly too much. If brutal is your starting point, it is perhaps best to start at flesh eating dead people.

Allow me to explain why I like The Walking Dead, and why it gets me thinking.

The premise of the show isn’t zombies, or surviving a zombie take over. If that was it, I’d be bored quickly. Zombies, vampires, elves, or the like, are something I find little interest in reading or watching. The premise of the show is essentially Hobbes’ state of nature and attempts to break out of it into a civilised community.

This is excellently highlighted when we look at the main protagonist – Rick. Rick embodies the old World; has property, has a family, a respected member of a community, is a member of law enforcement – the very structure that when dissolved, has catastrophic consequences. And yet, in the new wilderness, he’s a killer, forced to make ethical choices that would be beyond even a nightmare back in the civilised World. And so it is, that the show highlights humans at their rawest, when government, legal systems, protections for liberty, social contracts, property rights, no longer exist, and all that exists are individuals and small groups fighting for resources.

When a state of nature leaves everyone open to the mercy of others, and necessitates banding together and a leader emerging, how humans cope with the brutality of a society-less society. How do we balance personal freedom, with group security? How do we trade when there is no moderator to enforce contracts and security? After experiencing strangers trying to kill you, when you finally find refuge and new strangers appear, knowing that resources are like gold dust, how do you respond? What is the ethical approach? When currency has no value, because supplies and resources are free to the one who kills, how do you plan? Whether or not the shows producers have Hobbes, or Locke, or any other social contract theorist in mind when writing the show, is irrelevant, because it enshrines that in its very premise. Establishing communities in a hostile, lawless state of nature underpins the show.

“The condition of man, is the condition of war…. of everyone, against everyone”

– Thomas Hobbes.

Hobbes is clear that in such a World, where trade isn’t regulated, contracts are meaningless, law is individual, no government exists, currency and property are taken with force, threat of violence and brutality is all there is, nothing else exists. This was exemplified in Negan’s merciless and appalling murders, but of course these weren’t ‘murders’ because ‘murder’ is a legal term. In the state of nature, killing becomes necessary. Hobbes says:

“Government is necessary not because man is naturally bad, but because he is naturally more individualistic than social.”

– A threat is perceived – such as the threat of Rick’s group to ‘the saviours’s – and so the threat is squashed immediately, and violently, due to the lack of legal protections that would normally bind communities & prevent violence. I suspect episodes that follow, will include brutality from Negan aimed at his own community, to keep them in line. Negan, is a more violent, more brutal, more dictatorial version of Rick, but Hobbes’ logic remains the same:

“During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.”

– And so humans band together, appointing a leader solely for protection. Survival is it, by any means necessary in such a state. Law within those communities is created and enforced by the leader, for the advancement of the group, or so it is presumed. What we’re finding out on the show, is that a state of nature doesn’t suddenly end the moment individuals band together for protection. Protection is fleeting and a largely a mirage. We now have small groups fighting over resources and often brutally. In the real World, nations, religions, tribes showcase the same base instincts.

The Walking Dead has me thinking how easy it is for once civilised people from bustling lives, with tea and crumpets before work, with flowers growing in the garden, suddenly descend into our base instincts when the precarious foundations of institutional constructs collapse, and how survival may turn us to the brutal hunter gatherers that we are. Far from ‘dehumanising’ us, I think it humanises us in our rawest form, in a state of nature, a state the PTC and others seek to protect us all from, and that is what terrifies us.

Brexit Blasphemy & Easily Triggered Right Wingers.

October 23, 2016

Over the past few years, I’ve written on a few occasions on the subject of the importance of free expression when dissenting & challenging prevailing wisdom. Whether that be challenging religious dogma, or political ideals. Those – like the National Union of Students – dedicated as they are to creating ‘safe spaces’ where topics are off-limits, not only silence dissent, but take it upon themselves to ban my right to hear dissenting views and come to my own conclusion. There’s is a form of banning blasphemy.

But it isn’t just the left & religious conservatives that has taken it upon themselves themselves to attempt to silence dissent.

As far as I can tell, apart from David Lammy and a small group of MPs, there is less a will to overturn the EU referendum vote, and more a will among remainers – like me – to consistently scrutinise the winning side, and ensure our voice is heard when a deal is reached. The problem is, this is quickly being cast as an attempt to subvert the ‘will of the people‘. By that, they mean just 52% of a small number of people who actually bothered to vote. By extension, this implies that any representation of the 48% or any scrutiny of the winning side, is to be viewed as some sort of elitist threat to the people. Or, as I’m calling it, Brexit Blasphemy.

– The dangerous ‘patriot/traitor’ rhetoric is alive across social media, but more worryingly, it exists right at the top of the print media world. Jo Cox was the victim of that hyperbole, and that level of violent rhetoric. Those of us challenging the winning side, with scrutiny are cast as the anti-British enemy of the people. Those who voted Leave cast themselves as patriots, implying that if I voted to remain, I am not a patriot. But I do not recall voting on who gets the right to define what it means to love one’s country. Indeed, I adore my country, so much so that I believe any right I claim for myself, I must defend for others, and that to be anti-British, is to attack values of free expression, inquiry, and democratic scrutiny. If I vote on decisions that will have wide ranging implications on the lives of those who voted against, I expect those people to free to express their voice, or be given representation moving forward. 

These people do not own the concept of patriotism. It is not for the far-right and no one else. The language – ‘unpatriotics’, ‘damn’, ‘plot’, ‘subvert’ to refer to dissenters, whilst the British people (which, remember, means 52% of people) are cast as the victims…. it is the creation of an atmosphere of hate based solely on the appropriation of the Union Jack for a small section of people who voted in a single referendum. The irony of course, is that for the Daily Mail to be consistent, it must not scrutinise, nor criticise any government ever again, because to do so would be to ‘subvert the will of the British people‘.

The Express took a similar line:

– There is something fundamentally anti-British, illiberal, and anti-democratic in the idea that those keeping check on the winning side of a vote, must be silenced. Which is a spectacular irony, given they ran a campaign on the basis of taking back democracy. Let’s us be clear; silencing criticism of a political position, is not a British value. Democracy is not just a vote on a piece of paper. It is pressure groups, it is criticism of each side and their ideas, it is scrutiny of the victors, it is holding claims to account, it is free expression and inquiry.

The Mail & The Express are not fans of any of those, unless they are used to advance a right winged narrative. Here is the Daily Express’ front pages expressing – or to use their term, ‘whinging’ – for the past two years about policy on immigration (click to enlarge):


– For The Express, the winning idea or the prevailing norm must be challenged…. unless they’re on the winning side, then dissenters must be silenced. The winning idea thus becomes untouchable, closed to criticism, it’s an idea – like Islam in countries that ban criticism of it – that becomes sacred, like a religion. To criticise it, to dissent, to think for yourself, becomes a thought crime, and you are told you are a traitor (or apostate, blasphemer, take your pick). And so the idea that was presented as fighting the elites, taking on the establishment, has itself become elitist, and the establishment, and seeks to enshrine that position by recasting criticism as blasphemous.

I suspect the idea is that if those who voted remain are cast as the villain now, any future failure following on from the vote to leave, will be blamed on remainers, rather than leaving. This, again, reflects the religious-right. Their narrative, their idea, their belief, is never to be blamed, any negative consequence of their view, is to blamed on outsiders, blaphemers, apostates, for devaluing the faith. The faith itself, must be considered perfect, and all those lives damaged are considered worth it, for the sake of someone else’s cause. Richard Tice, co-chairman of ‘Leave means Leave‘ (a completely meaningless phrase) does this with effortless refrain when he says:

“They are damaging Britain’s negotiating position by insisting we remain in the Single Market when we voted to leave it.”

– It is remainers who are ‘damaging Britain’. It’s as if these people simply expected literally no criticism of their position, and for those of us completely opposed to their position, to shut up and embrace it. Indeed, highlighting the importance of the single market to jobs in this country, is referred to as ‘damaging Britain’. He doesn’t seek to reassure people, he simply casts them as traitors if they question. Those businesses struggling to understand what comes next, those jobs threatened are considered unimportant, and so it further implies that if those jobs are lost it is not ‘damage’ because it is all in aid of the one true religion. Individuals cease to be considered as anything more than cogs in a nationalist machine… a vastly illiberal principle.

And here’s the bizarre thing, the case for Brexit was based on the will, the sovereignty of the British public, the individual voter, and Parliament. All of us together, draped in a Union Jack. Once Brexit was voted on, suddenly the future of the country is is the sovereignty of Brexit voters – Patriots – only, and in particular David Davis, Boris Johnson, and Liam Fox. Public critics are simply traitors who should be ignored rather than debated, and Parliament just gets in the way of three men. By implication, it narrows the debate over the future, which ensures not an arena of ideas and progress, but a stagnant echo chamber. It’s a mad reversal from democratic accountability, to autocratic control and silencing, in the space of about four months. An incredible change of heart.

But like with religion and the jump to ban criticism of it,  & refusal to take any responsibility for the failures in its narrative, the critical mind becomes more critical, because we get the feeling that Brexiters demanding silence from critics are not particularly secure in their beliefs (like religious folk demanding silence from apostates, are clearly insecure in their beliefs, given that their beliefs cannot be defended against criticism), and so it intrigues us, it creates a taboo out of the idea. The only way then to prevent criticism, is by force. Hence, the petition set up by Conservative Party councillor Christian Holliday:

– Whether Brexiters like it or not, their idea is not inherently untouchable nor is it without fault, and crucially, and I can’t stress this enough…. they do not own the concept of what it means to love this country. Their position isn’t one of love for Britain whilst mine is disdain for Britain. We simply come at our love for our country, from a different position, and I would further argue that attempts to silence criticism of ideas, to cast them as villains to be taken on, and to incite hatred of people for views held is about as far from the British ideal of individual liberty, open debate, and democratic society that I think I’ve ever come across.

Brexit must be open to scrutiny, to mockery, to criticism, to questioning, just like every other idea must be. Ideas that have an impact on the lives of others – religious, political… and yes, this includes immigration – must not be off limits to criticism or demonised. They must be challenged. Scrutiny does not end once a vote is won. Indeed, if I am being told that I must lose my EU Citizenship without my full consent, I must be free to criticise that idea. Whether you as an individual listen to me or not, is not something I care for. You’re entitled to ignore me all you want. But if you seek to cast me as the unpatriotic villain, simply for not agreeing with you, and dismissing my voice from public debate The liberal principle of free inquiry, free expression, and vocal dissent is not anti-democratic, nor subverting the will of the people, it is democracy in itself, and a complete defence of the individual right to dissent and challenge the victors. That is a fundamental British value. Brexit-blasphemy isn’t.

The Labour Party is now the Regressive Party.

September 24, 2016

East Leeds Labour MP Richard Burgon is currently on BBC News telling us that today is a great day for the Labour Party, with the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. This is the same Richard Burgon who has taken to Twitter in recent years to express his undying love for some of the most undemocratic, illiberal, violent regimes on the planet:


– This follows Diane Abbott, also doing the rounds across the media, explaining how today is an exceptional day for the Labour Party. The same Diane Abbott who once claimed that Chairman Mao did “…more good than harm“, and is keen on praising violent autocrats who lead their country to failed-state status:


And I guess a Corbyn-Labour Party roll-call of apologists for autocrats & bigots isn’t complete without someone in the Labour Cabinet linking Nazis to the one Jewish state (he has since deleted this Tweet):


All three support the re-elected leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

He’s a chap who happens to enshrine that regressive blame-the-west, support their critics mentality almost perfectly (not quite as perfectly as Galloway, but getting there). Take, for example, the time he spoke at a pro-Khomeinist rally to critique the West, offering no criticism of Iranian policy choosing instead to praise them for ‘religious tolerance‘ despite Iran’s apostasy punishments, and the complete banning of the Baha’i faith. Iran is a religious supremacist state that privileges just one faith. It’s like taking to a white supremacist state and praising their willingness to ‘tolerate’ other ethnicities. For the rest of us, those simply ‘tolerated’ should be liberated.

Indeed, in the same speech he then goes on to signal his moral superiority by reducing strategic airstrikes on IS targets that aid our ground allies in Syria as simply “bombing Syria” (something the people of Kobane and the allies who liberated that town, along with those who fled to Turkey and have since returned, might question). He does this, before noting that the only way to achieve peace is a convention with Iran also around that table. This is of course un-challengable because no one disagrees. It’s obvious that the only way to achieve peace, is to, you know, achieve peace. But this lack of any sort of plan has wider implications. It implies that the people of Kobane would – if Corbyn had his way – have to sit and wait under full ISIS control, until Iran, Assad, Iraq, Hezbollah, Putin, Obama, the UK, Saudi, Lebanon, can come to a democratic consensus, and agree not to keep funding, arming, supporting government or rebel forces. It sounds lovely, but practically, it’s very similar to doing nothing.

He then insists that the Syrian civil war cannot end with Western involvement, and swiftly moves on to praising Iran for this and that. It is of course framed as the fault of the West, with predictably no mention of the support given to Assad’s regime by the Iranian regime in terms of training, arms, and money to withstand sanctions. Indeed, according to a UN report published prior to this talk by Corbyn:

“Iran has continued to defy the international community through illegal arms shipments. Two of these cases involved [Syria], as were the majority of cases inspected by the Panel during its previous mandate, underscoring that Syria continues to be the central party to illicit Iranian arms transfers.”

– This of course presents problems for Corbyn’s narrative, and so is just left out entirely.

Of course this is the same Jeremy Corbyn who refers to Hamas as “dedicated to social justice“, absolutely adores a Chavez government, that cracked down on those who questioned the regime and whose time in power Human Rights Watch describe as “…a dramatic concentration of power and open disregard for basic human rights guarantees“., and signed a 2003 Parliamentary Motion implying an attempt at genocide in Kosovo was a US myth designed to justify invasion:


– This mentality has won the right to be represented in Party form, at the Labour Party Conference today, with Corbyn’s increased majority victory. The defining feature of that section of the left – or from now until at least 2020, the defining feature of the Labour Party – is a disregard for social liberalism, if it conflicts or gets in the way of economic socialism & criticisms of the US and Israel. The anti-Western forces around the World – who also tend to be anti-secular, anti-democratic, homophobic, misogynistic, and illiberal – are either treated like children unable to autonomously conclude that hanging gay folk is wrong, that the West forces them to do so or single-handedly created the conditions for those theocrats to thrive, or they are openly supported regardless of their abuses of power. Victims completely abandoned. Hence, excuses and support for socially illiberal regimes, rather than victims of those regimes. This is the Labour Party and the route it has decided upon. Rebel MPs put up no real fight to drag Labour away from that ditch, and did not adequately represent liberal dissent in the Party. They share the blame.

And so, if, like me, you believe that human liberty – free expression, free association, no natural birthright privileges based on gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or belief, the right to pursue happiness according to your conscience without harming the same liberty for others – necessarily and universally precedes state institutions & cultural norms, and so must be protected above the protection of culture or state institutions and regimes that run them. If like me you believe international relations is framed by a complex web of historical, religious, cultural, & economic variables including but not limited to the West being nothing but appalling, you no longer belong in the Labour Party.

You should be proud of that.

The Liberal Democrat Conference.

September 22, 2016


Since joining the Liberal Democrats back in July – and welcomed by some wonderful people locally – I’ve watched as the Party has swept through council by-elections and dethroned Labour throughout. The Corbynistas blame their MPs. If only, they say, if only traitorous MPs would get behind Corbyn, Milne, and Abbott, if only they’d embrace the brand new Labour that resembles little more than a town centre SWP table shouting at everyone, we voters would be voting Labour en masse. They simply cannot fathom the possibility that we simply do not like Corbyn, Milne, and Abbott. A crucial error in the mentality of the cult-of-leader. Indeed, in cities that boasted big Corbyn rallies in recent months, the Lib Dems have overwhelmingly powered through in council by-elections.

Tim Farron took to the stage at the Liberal Democrat conference to deliver a wonderful speech correctly identifying the grotesque nature of Conservative anti-refugee policy. Indeed, the key to a civilised society is how it treats and protects the most vulnerable, and how it applies liberal values – the right to life, liberty, and happiness, so often stripped from them by the nation’s they are born into – universally. The difference between liberals, and Labour/Conservatives, is that we do not draw a border around values. If, from our house, we see abuse taking place across the road, our immediate reaction should not be “not my problem” nor “someone else can sort that out“, it should be to do our part, with the rest of the street, to help. The victim’s liberty is no less important than our own, and any right that defends a liberty I claim for myself, I must defend for others, otherwise it is as meaningless for me as it is for them. We must of course be cautious as it appears clear that Islamists use the crisis to run to the West. I do not suggest opening Dover without a robust vetting process. Security must work alongside liberty, not overrule it. When a crisis of such magnitude as Syria erupts, we must play our part as a proud out-ward looking member of the global community.

Criticism of Farron’s speech came from both Tories and Corbynites.

Corbynites didn’t like that Farron praised Blair’s desire to win elections. Immediately they tore into Farron for praising a ‘war criminal‘. A distinctly disingenuous moral position for supporters of a leadership that praised Hugo Chavez’s brutal regime in Venezuela, are keen fans of theocratic Hamas, takes to Iranian State TV to denounce the West without any criticism of Iranian government policy, and refers to Mao as “…did more good than harm”. Such is the state of the Labour Party in 2016. But the point Farron raises is that to change society in-line with your principles, you must convince the wider electorate that you have answers. You have to appeal to a broader coalition of voters. Blair knew how to do that. As did Cameron. Corbyn does not.

On Brexit, Farron has been misrepresented time and time again by commentators across the spectrum. In an article for Conservative Home Mo Metcalf-Fisher says:

“Despite insisting that he wasn’t trying to keep Britain in the EU against the will of the people, Farron has argued for a new referendum which would give voters an option of accepting any new post-Brexit deal or instead voting to stay in the EU under the current terms. In other words, a second referendum on EU membership because people didn’t get it right the first time.”

One of the comments further down the page from another poster, says:

“I find it staggering that the Lib Dems and other remainers want to to deny us our sovereignty and stay in the EU.”

– You only need glance over this once, to see the glaring manipulation. Let’s be clear; Both Tim Farron’s position, and Liberal Democrat policy, is not to hold a second in-out referendum, nor is it to just overturn the vote. Let’s compare the actual policy, to another historical ‘exit’:

Common wisdom has it that the US Independence Day was July 4th, 1776. In fact, the vote to separate from the Great Britain was passed on July 2nd, with only New York’s delegation deciding to abstain. The states had voted for what we shall call here ‘Amerixit’. Then, on July 12th a Committee appointed by Congress drew up a new ‘Articles of Confederation’ – a post-Amerixit deal – if you will. But that wasn’t it. They didn’t just create a deal, and it was implemented with no more democratic accountability. The post-Amerixit deal was then sent to states to ratify. The states then debated it, and voted on it. The deal could not be implemented until the states had gone through the process of ratification. Maryland – the final state to ratify – held out for almost four years until it got a good deal for itself. The post-Amerixit vote on a deal was not a vote – as Metcalf-Fisher – and others might today imply – on re-joining Great Britain. There was a vote for ‘Amerixit’ and a vote on a deal. When the Articles were failing miserably, states again voted on a new deal – the US Constitution. This is more democracy, not less.

When it comes to Brexit, the same is true. The UK voted out. We now have to negotiate a deal. Liberal Democrat policy is democracy, it is to offer a vote on a deal. As someone who voted Remain, and lost, I have had my EU Citizenship stripped from me without my full consent, so you’re damn right that I now want a vote on the rest of the deal. A ‘No‘ vote on a deal, is not the same as a ‘stay in the EU‘ vote. It is a ‘Get a better deal‘ vote. For a Brexit brigade that made democracy the central theme (just in front of all that extra funding for the NHS that has so majestically ran away), they seem to have quickly backed away from it. Metcalf-Fisher’s words are clear, he isn’t a fan of “giving voters an option of accepting any new post-Brexit deal“. He believes I shouldn’t be allowed to vote on a deal, he wants that brand new political settlement simply imposed upon me. Not just me, but if single market access is restricted, necessarily causing job losses in the UK, Metcalf-Fisher believes those people should just be thrown out of work, without a vote on the settlement that caused it.

But it isn’t just me. A lot of Brexiters voted for Brexit under the impression that they were voting to end freedom of movement from the EU. That wasn’t on the ballot paper. It’ll be difficult to achieve, if access to the single market is still a goal of negotiations. Freedom of movement will be part of deal negotiations and isn’t guaranteed. At that point, how will Brexiters react? Surely they’d want a vote on a deal that doesn’t give them what they thought they were getting.

Metcalf-Fisher continues:

“Many of the predicted woes from the remain campaign have failed to materialise and these sites provide great material to take back to local residents with any concerns. In areas like London, where remain polled highly, keep the discussion focused on local issues and remind voters of the dangers of high-tax supporting Lib Dems.”

– Two things. Firstly, there hasn’t been a Brexit. Literally nothing has changed. Trade deals remain exactly as they were the day before the vote. The structure is no different. Predictions based on the ex-Prime Minister and his Chancellor’s silly insistence that Article 50 would be triggered immediately, haven’t happened, because, well you see where I’m going with that. Secondly, by “high-tax supporting Lib Dems“, I presume he means a rise in tax mentioned by Farron to fund a National Health and Social Care Service. A health service utterly decimated – as usual – by a Conservative Government that simply doesn’t like the idea of a National Health Service. Experts – those people Michael Gove and Brexiters are sick of – are clear, social care in the UK needs urgent reform. The dogmatic Tory approach to tax – lower is absolutely always better – has not been of great success. Feel free to find out how those running domestic abuse charities felt, as they had to close the doors due to a cut in funding. Why not, instead of telling local residents that the Lib Dem’s propose tax increase to fund essential services, instead tell them that your plans include an NHS that is currently planning ward closures, squeezing the life out of junior doctors, and in my own city, tried to close a vital children’s heart surgery.

In what must be the most ironic statement in recent years on Conservative Home, Metcalf-Fisher goes on to say:

“Our country needs unity and we must proudly stand up to the Liberal Democrats and other naysayers in their attempt to divide the country purely for their own electoral gain.”

– A Tory Party that spent years dividing the country between “hard-working families” and “scroungers” (anyone on the dole – which included me at one point), that tore into the disabled community, with a PM describing other humans as a “swarm“, as their new PM sets out her plans to introduce more divisive faith schools, and Grammar schools…. to refer to anyone else as “attempting to divide the country for their own electoral gain” is painfully hypocritical.

It is of course clear and true, that the Liberal Democrats have a long road ahead to rebuild a Party decimated in 2015. I do however think the base is set. I think more are discovering their liberal leanings, and I think Tim Farron is doing an excellent job of beginning that rebuilding effort. We must start appealing more to the liberal-left that – like me – feel that liberal values are often abandoned by the regressive Corbyn-left the moment the opportunity presents itself to side with vicious regimes, if those regimes happen to share a rabid dislike for the US & Israel; and abandoned by a Tory-right whose little-England quasi-nationalist values will always come before values based on human liberty, that has spent years tearing itself to shreds over Europe, left Europe, and realised it had no idea what to do next. The gap for a progressive and liberal party to shine through is growing everyday. I look forward to being a part of that.

The strange world of BDS.

September 9, 2016

The BDS – Boycott Divestment Sanctions – website runs the tagline “Freedom Justice Equality“. A noble cause in the fight for Palestinian statehood, no doubt. Indeed, anyone with even a rudimentary belief in the universality of liberal principles, knows that natural liberty – whether black, white, religious, atheist, male, female, homosexual, heterosexual – precedes government, and must be protected before a government should be instituted. I was impressed to hear spokesman for The High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition Salem al-Meslet insist that any Syrian peace settlement must be:

“… founded upon liberty, equality, citizenship, & justice.”

– Similarly, A Palestinian state that does not protect the natural liberties of all Palestinians, is simply another oppressor, with an officially recognised flag.

Yet, it seems to be a growing tradition on the less-than-liberal left, to argue that criticism of Palestinian opposition movements like Hamas is invalid as it turns out they’re “democratically elected“. As if it’s a get out of criticism free card. Of course, the fact they were elected over ten years ago with no elections since, often goes unsaid. But let’s be clear, democracy without liberal protections, simply hands the natural liberty of minorities, over to a tyranny of the majority. Hamas’ treatment of the LGBT community is testament to that.

Right from its founding, the World of BDS is an interesting one. Their co-founder – Omar Barghouti – studied at Tel Aviv University in Israel whilst calling for academic boycotts of Israel. The same nation he accused “wilful acts of genocide” in the 2008 Gaza War, citing the UN Goldstone report – a report that Judge Goldstone himself backed away

from, insisting civilians were not targeted. Barghouti also referred to LGBT rights in Israel, as “pink-washing“. A flippant dismissal of basic human rights, something he and his movement care little for, in the sexuality-apartheid nations that surround Israel.

When BDS targeted the SodaStream factory in the West Bank, forcing its closure, and 500 Palestinians lost their jobs, Mahmoud Nawajaa, the BDS coordinator in the West Bank town of Ramallah told reporters that those lost jobs were:

“…part of the price that should be paid in the process of ending the occupation”

– Another price that must be worth paying, is the rare show of cooperation between Jews and Arabs, both of whom worked at the plant side by side. Instead of holding this to be an example of two warring communities putting aside their differences, and working together peacefully, BDS then released a statement on the closure of SodaStream, claiming that its proximity to a proposed settlement, was reason enough to throw 500 Palestinians out of work:

“Even if this announced closure goes ahead, SodaStream will remain implicated in the displacement of Palestinians. Its new Lehavim factory is close to Rahat, a planned township in the Naqab [Negev] desert, where Palestinian Bedouins are being forcefully transferred against their will. Sodastream, as a beneficiary of this plan, is complicit with this violation of human rights.”

– SodaStream was 9km away, on land no one lived on. And so, in the strange World of BDS, breaking up a factory of Jews and Arabs peacefully working together, was perfectly reasonable because if you drive for about five minutes down the road, there’s a proposed settlement.

And so given that it certainly isn’t just Israel at fault for poor treatment of the Palestinian people, & undermining peace, it’s odd to me – though less odd if you start from the premise that BDS is an anti-Semitic movement – that if you search ‘Israel‘ on BDS’ website, the results page goes on for days. But if you search ‘Hamas‘ – a group that daily violates the principles of “freedom, justice, equality“, and whose charter calls for the exact opposite, you get….. three results. None of which are critical. One can only deduce that BDS only cares for those three concepts, when violated by Israel, and not at all when violated daily by Hamas. Any analysis of the situation between Israel & Palestine is incomplete without critique of the forces within Palestine, as well as Israel. For BDS, the fault lies entirely with Israel, and not at all with the far-right theocrats who grew from the Brotherhood’s relationship with a European Fascist movement that tried to wipe out Jews…. who now happen to live next door to a Jewish state and want it gone. They’re free from critique, and blameless.

A big fan of BDS, is U2’s producer, Brian Eno. He’s so angry at human rights abuses, that he’s told an Israeli dance company that it’s unacceptable for them to use his music during their shows. Music that he is happy to play across the World, including all the dates he plays in human-rights abusing Mexico – a country that is far worse for human rights abuses, than Israel.

According to Amnesty, Mexico’s security forces:

“… have been implicated in repeated, serious human rights violations—including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture—in the course of efforts to combat organized crime.

…. More than 27,000 people remained missing or disappeared. Human rights defenders and journalists continued to be threatened, harassed or killed. The number of detentions, deportations and complaints of abuse of irregular migrants by the authorities increased significantly. Violence against women continued to be widespread. Large-scale development and resource exploitation projects were carried out without a legal framework regarding the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities they affected.

– Further, Human Rights Watch say:

“Torture is widely practiced in Mexico to obtain forced confessions and extract information. It is most frequently applied in the period between when victims are arbitrarily detained and when they are handed over to civilian prosecutors, a period in which they are often held incommunicado at military bases or illegal detention sites.”

– On top of this, Mexico has a child-labour problem, a violence against women problem, a massive corruption problem, and is one of the most dangerous places in the World for journalists. Eno plays in Mexico regularly, and I’ve yet to find his advocacy of the boycotting of Mexico.

If you cannot bring yourself to widen your sphere of blame to incorporate those groups in Palestine that seek the opposite of a state based on “freedom, Justice, & Equality“, and you’re willing to throw people out of work – people from both communities working peacefully together – you cannot be said to be a pro-Palestinian movement. If the target of your boycott is one nation, in a complex situation that involves surrounding nations, racist narratives from both sides, historical pressures, & religious supremacy, you are not pro-Palestinian. You are anti-Israel and nothing more. Palestinians – as noted with lack of regard for LGBT rights, and the response to the loss of jobs at SodaStreams – are simply used as a convenient and expendable vehicle to project that anti-Israel sentiment.

The Labour membership should listen to the PLP.

July 24, 2016

The chamber of the House of Commons erupted at mid-day on Wednesday with the arrival of the new Prime Minister to her first PMQs. The Tory Party, torn apart by the EU referendum, was now seemingly united behind its leader. By contrast, the chamber fell silent on the arrival of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. His own backbenches, ignored after a no confidence vote, threatened with de-selection for disloyalty, constantly attacked as red Tories and Blairites for daring to criticise the leader, were understandably quiet. And yet, Diane Abbott took to the airwaves immediately afterwards to express surprise that the PLP isn’t dancing around like cheerleaders with Corbyn tattoos and unveiling massive statues to him around the World. Abbott, Corbyn, McDonnell, and members are unable to understand that the Labour leader cannot command any Parliamentary support, and that in itself is a massive problem.

Let’s quash the myth immediately that the Parliamentary Labour Party is in any way acting undemocratically in opposing the Labour Leader. It isn’t. When Jeremy Corbyn was a backbench MP and sought to dethrone both Kinnock and Blair, he was well within his right to do so. In 1988 when supporting Tony Benn’s campaign to oust Kinnock, Corbyn said:

“By having an election, we will force a debate about the direction of the party in which it will be more difficult for Kinnock to make everything an issue of loyalty to him.”

– Quite. One when or two Labour MPs rebel against the leadership, it’s easier to put down. But think of this recent rebellion as an entire Party of 1988 Jeremy Corbyn’s. The leadership simply cannot secure confidence in that environment.

Four years later, Corbyn was supporting a challenge against the next Labour leader he had no interest in supporting. In 1992, Corbyn insisted that John Smith had shown “no real opposition“. 10 years later in 2002, he did the same when asking for a challenger to Blair to come forward. In 2003, he demanded an annual leadership election. At no point did the hard-left accuse him of undemocratic disloyalty. Now that he has hold of the strings of power, their demand is loyalty or leave. Jeremy Corbyn was not undemocratic then, and the PLP are not undemocratic now.

Let’s also quash the myth that Labour MPs are not representative of Labour Party at large. Those Labour MPs were selected, cleared, and elected by constituents for the 2015 general election. They represent the Party as it was voted on by constituents. That is the epitome of Parliamentary democracy. Members were not trying to deselect those MPs when they were winning constituencies for Labour. New members may not represent the view of the 2015 Labour Parliamentary Party. They can change that in 2020 if they want. But right now, Labour is not a hard-left Parliamentary Party, it wasn’t elected as the main opposition party on a hard-left platform, and MPs should not be betraying the message they were voted on, to suit new members.

To be clear, the PLP’s first commitment is to maintain a Labour Party in Parliament as ready for government at any moment as the only way to legislate in favour of Labour principles. This means appealing to a broader coalition of voters, than simply the hard-left. This means being able to produce a full shadow cabinet with a reserve pool of talent as well. This means a leader that the PLP is willing to fully support. Everything the PLP has done has been democratic and with the aim in mind that in order to change the country, it needs to win an election. It has used a perfectly acceptable Parliamentary procedure to issue a vote of no confidence in its leader. Shadow Cabinet members tried to work for Corbyn, and it didn’t workout. For that, his supporters have abused and attacked them. The PLP then sparked a leadership challenge and asked for clarity on the rules. It will now run a leadership challenge on the basis of those rules. That’s it. That isn’t undemocratic.

On election of the leader, I would agree that the Parliamentary Party should listen to its members. The members vote for the candidate put forward by the PLP. Indeed, at that point the members haven’t challenged the idea that the PLP decides who can stand for leader. Their lack of challenge implies acceptance. They accept that the PLP has to have a form of power over the process of electing their leader in Parliament. I’d presume they accept this premise, because the Labour Party is a Parliamentary Party within a Parliamentary democracy. So clear is this, that The Labour Party’s own rulebook, Clause 1.2 says:

“Its purpose is to organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.”

– It would seem clear to me, that if the Parliamentary Party that must be maintained and ready for an election cannot work with the leader nor has any confidence in the ability of the leader to win that election, it would relay this message back to the membership in the form of a vote of no confidence, and the membership then have a duty to return a leader that the people in Parliament – not the hard-left Parliamentarians they hope make up the majority of MPs – the ones elected on a far more moderate platform in 2015, can work with. At that point, it becomes the responsibility of the membership, to support the Parliamentary Party with a candidate they can rally behind. Continuously sending the same leader that the PLP decidedly cannot work with, implies that the membership care very little for actual political power – where societal and economic change happens – and only care for flexing hard-left muscles with the illusion of power.

At this point, it is the Labour membership that must return a Parliamentary leader the Parliamentary Party can support and unite behind. If the membership does the opposite, the membership is entirely to blame for handing the 2020 general election to the Conservative Party.

Why I joined the Liberal Democrats.

July 20, 2016

Two weeks ago I joined the Liberal Democrats. I thought I’d explain my reasons.

Let’s start with today. Today was Theresa May’s first PMQs as Prime Minister. I understand the frustrations of those loyal to Jeremy Corbyn, that Prime Minister’s Questions is an embarrassment, having nothing to do with holding the Prime Minister to account, and everything to do with grandstanding, and getting memorable digs in that make the next day’s papers, and fill up Sky News’ political talking points. It makes me squirm any time a Conservative MP is laughing uncontrollably after a question from a struggling member of the public is read aloud. The lack of decorum is a shame on the prestige of the building and its history. It’s not how it should be, but it’s how it will continue to be until genuine Parliamentary reform is undertaken.

So, with the framework being as it is, an opposition leader needs to outsmart the Prime Minister in a battle of wits, before the serious topics can be put to her. The PM needs to be backed into a corner and not let out. Jeremy Corbyn does not do that. Today, he was slapped down, and his important questions got lost, only to be ressurrected online by his supporters who cannot find an audience, judging by today’s poll numbers showing the Tories on 40% and Labour way down on 29%. Corbyn’s inability to grasp the workings of PMQs allowed Theresa May to stand at the dispatch box and announce unchallenged how much she cares for the well being of the least privileged, how much she devotes her time to services like domestic violence. Both points are wholly and easily discredited by her actual appalling record. She should be easily challenged, but she wont be.

The Tory Party abandoned the centre-ground of British politics long ago. When its Chancellor alluded to the idea that the concept of welfare played a role in the Philpott murders – a grotesque use of psychopathic killings, for ideological nonsense. When the former Prime Minister aided the rise of Saudi Arabia to the head of the UN’s Human Rights Council and Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski is given the nickname the MP for Riyadh. When the current Foreign Secretary believes President Obama can only possibly support a Remain vote, because he hates the UK for ancestral reasons; the colour of the President’s skin falls under suspicion in a way that the colour of my skin never will. When ranks Theresa May’s own voting record as “in general, voted against laws that promote equality and human rights”. When the line that properly funding services like mental health services would be to burden our children with higher taxes, as if burdening them with poor quality essential services and no housing is perfectly fine.

So there’s a gap in the centre. Similarly, The Labour Party abandoned the centre-left of British politics the moment it elected a leader who suffers from the Stop The War Coalition mentality, of supporting, defending, and excusing the most illiberal regimes on the planet, if those regimes happen to dislike the US or Israel. The Shadow Defence Secretary will eulogise Chavez as a working class hero despite Human Rights Watch criticising Chavez as an autocrat who violently censored criticism, and – ironically on the subject of justice – imprison judges who didn’t do as he demanded. Corbyn will refer to Hamas as “dedicated to peace and social justice and political justice” despite their goal of a far-right theocratic state that sacrifices all Palestinians who do not happen to be male, heterosexual, Islamists.

In short, whilst Corbyn is uncompromising in his socialist values, liberal values are quickly abandoned in order to stand in solidarity with illiberals. Conservatives are uncompromising in austerity politics over the past few years, whilst liberal values are quickly discarded for some sort of trade benefit with Saudi Arabia. Both of those do not sit well with me.

Liberal values, values that ensure we treat each other as individuals not to be conflated with ill-defined ‘groups’; values that ensure we are free to express thoughts, to criticise holy books that for centuries has been off-limits and can still end up with you being shot at the headquarters of a satirical magazine; values that ensure that ideas have no rights and remain open to criticism, scrutiny, dislike, support, and that censorship not only limits the right of the individual to express and inquire, but limits my right to hear; values that ensure no institutional privilege is granted based on wealth, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or belief, but all are given an equal right to participate; values that insist that education and health are rights not luxuries; values that promote the right to stand for election, to vote, to express discontent, to organise, to pursue our own goals without molestation, nor told what to say, think, dress, or believe at the point of a gun; values that ensure that my right to myself and my happiness and my life does not end, where someone else’s ideology or religion begins; values that do not condemn the most vulnerable as worthless scroungers but provides a caring and understanding springboard for those people to be what they want to be; And we must robustly defend these principles, we must be clear domestically that humanity progresses when society is open, and we must be clear in international affairs that we will not abandon our values to be spectators of great injustice for the sake of trade deals. We must defend liberal principles, and not be scared at any point to express the superiority of liberal, secular, democracy.

Indeed, we base our liberal principles not on ideology, but on the fundamental truth that no human being is born naturally attached to any man-made ideological framework of power, nor permitted natural privilege over fellow humans. We are free at birth, and so the burden is on those who seek to restrict our natural liberty to explain the benefit of doing so, rather than on us to explain why they shouldn’t. Our ideological moment begins when we seek to protect those natural liberties through civil rights, that others would seek to restrict or abuse. Across the World, we must seek as the objective, the removal of barriers to individual liberty where that liberty harms no one else. This includes condemning regimes that work toward the opposite.

I confess to being new to the area I now live in, and so local issues are somewhat alien to me at the moment. Echoing my newness to the area, I am new to the Liberal Democrats, and so whilst I have a rudimentary grasp on the history of the Liberal Party and the Social Democrats, I’m more interested in values and giving them an active, political voice. As such, the Liberal Democrat constitution confirmed to me that if I am to join a political party in the UK, to be politically active, to have any sort of say over its policies and ideas in a Parliamentary democracy that (rather regretfully) relies on parties, it must be the party that states in its opening declaration, that it exists to:

“… build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full.”

– So whilst a lot of new members to the Liberal Democrats seem to have been attracted as a response to the Brexit vote, for me it was more the case of seeing a real opportunity to fill the gap left by a cultural relativist regressive left that is paralysed and cannot scrutinise a government moving further to the right every day, and a market fundamentalist right that will simply erase the desperate pleas of the most vulnerable and replace them with false promises of a better future, and to strongly promote and defend liberal values when in the past few years, that voice has been severely lacking. This is why I joined the Liberal Democrats.