The Minds of the Brexiteers.

March 20, 2017

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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…
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And the Express:

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– EVERYONE BE SCARED!!!! HIDE YOUR KETTLE AND EGGS!!!!

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

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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…

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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.