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:

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– 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:

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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):

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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:

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– 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.

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The Liberal Democrat Conference.

September 22, 2016

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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.