The New Statesman Is Preaching Hatred And Fear Of Conservatives

Jo Cox Tolerance

Be tolerant and respect the sincerely held political views of other people. Unless those people happen to be Tory Scum…

Apparently, as we seek to move on from the EU referendum in the post Jo Cox era, we are all supposed to be more civil to one another and focus on what unites us rather than what divides us.

We know this, because the New Statesman high-mindedly told us so:

I believe the horrific killing of Jo Cox is a moment for this New Generation of us to speak more openly about what has gone wrong and how we must, collectively, tackle it. Fundamentally, I believe we must see this as a moment in our history to re-covenant our respect as a society for politics done well. Democracy can ultimately only be as good as the society it represents. We must all learn once again to value free speech and civilised debate, led by open, accessible and accountable Parliamentarians. We must pledge ourselves to continuing the fight for freedom, for tolerance and for understanding between individuals, nations and peoples. We must ensure that love, hope and understanding will always triumph over hate, fear and despair.

We must reject the politics of alarmist language, personal attacks and fear.

A noble sentiment which surely we can all take to heart – it should certainly be possible for all of us to watch our rhetoric in the heat of debate, as none of us benefit from the current toxic political climate.

So why, then, is the New Statesman now actively trying to whip its readership into a quivering fear at the prospect of Andrea Leadsom winning the Conservative Party leadership contest and becoming prime minister?

Having apparently forgotten their own edict to respect people with different political views, the New Statesman instead lists nine reasons why its readers should be terrified – yes, terrified, that emotion which would be more appropriate if masked intruders had just smashed down their front doors – by this relatively unknown politician.

From “9 reasons you should be truly terrified of Andrea Leadsom becoming prime minister“:

With polls suggesting Andrea Leadsom will be one of the two Tory leadership candidates put to a vote of the members, it’s only natural to be curious about what this potential prime minister believes.

Luckily, she’s been busily keeping a blog for the last decade.

It turns out she has strong views on babies’ brains, and thinks she may have discovered the secret to preventing a repeat of the riots which plagued London in 2011.

So far they seem to be trying harder to make Leadsom seem ridiculous than terrifying.

There then follows a list of generally banal and uninteresting statements which Leadsom has made, or policy positions which she has taken, including:

1. Gay couples to the back of the adoption queue

Back in 2009, Leadsom used an adoption case – in which the two children of a heroin addict were given to a GAY couple (!?!?) – to question just when enough is enough when it comes to gay rights. “And if that weren’t enough, the two strangers are a gay couple, who have been selected ahead of several heterosexual couples.”

and

2. Watch out for those single parents

In 2006, she wrote that “the child of a single parent family is 70 per cent more likely (than the child of a two-parent family) to have problems at school, and even to become a drug addict or a criminal.”

and

3. And that anti-marriage media

“The self indulgence and carelessness of non-committed adult relationships is proving fatal to the next generation,” she wrote in 2008.

and

5. Those baby-brained rioters

“I explained how secure attachment or parental love literally hard wires the baby’s brain,” Leadsom wrote in 2012.

and

6. No money for wind farms

“I completely welcome the announcement from the European Commission made recently regarding the possibility of ending all subsidies for winds farms,” she wrote in 2014.

and, particularly ludicrously

8. Those US presidents getting invites before us

“How can France be hosting the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings with Sarkozy and Obama (neither of them a twinkle in their father’s eye in 1945) in attendance, and yet the Queen of Britain, Canada, and Australia (who was not only alive, but who also served in the war) was not invited until two weeks ago?”

Now, one can disagree vehemently with one or many of these points. This blog certainly does not share Andrea Leadsom’s reflexive opposition to gay couples adopting children, for example. But sincere political disagreements on social, cultural and economic issues – the full range cited throughout the New Statesman’s tawdry hit piece – should be possible without us becoming physically afraid of one another.

Yet the New Statesman presents these rather pedestrian conservative positions and then exhorts its readers to be “truly terrified” by what they see. The magazine does not encourage them to challenge the validity of Leadsom’s views, much less offer its own point-by-point rebuttal. The fact that Leadsom is wrong is taken for granted, which is bad enough, but worse still is the fact that the New Statesman seeks to provoke an emotional rather than an intellectual reaction.

This is exactly what so many commentators (including that magazine) were telling us we should not be doing in the wake of the murder of Jo Cox MP. Less than a month ago we were being told to respect one another’s opinions and engage in calm, rational dialogue. Yet when it comes to confronting conservatives, many opinion leaders on the Left are more than happy to provoke angry, confrontational responses – whether they take the form of hateful mobs outside the home of Boris Johnson on the morning after the EU referendum or articles instructing people to actively fear conservatives.

This is an exclusively left-wing phenomenon. While there are plenty of nasty, stupid reactionaries on the conservative side, rarely do they treat left-wingers as a physical or emotional threat. The murderer of Jo Cox, to the extent that he was motivated by politics rather than madness, is the great exception to this rule. The Left, by contrast – particularly that part of the Left which has been captured by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics – are starting to treat anybody who does not agree with and actively validate their ideas as enemies, literal enemies who mean them harm. If this atmosphere persists, how long will it be until some mentally unstable left-winger, taught by the commentariat to believe that political disagreement is akin to an act of harm, lashes out at an opponent with potentially tragic consequences?

One way or another, we are all going to have to coexist on this island – at least, those of us who are not bizarrely reacting to the Brexit vote by flouncing off to independent countries without an NHS will still have to deal with each other. Treating half of the country as actively dangerous people of whom we should be terrified is about the least conducive thing to bringing about that spirit of tolerance, and the New Statesman should be ashamed for its part in feeding this atmosphere of hysteria.

And look at some of the things which the New Statesman wants its readers to be terrified about. Andrea Leadsom celebrated the potential end of subsidies for wind farms – how scary! Leadsom wants to invest in “psychotherapeutic support for families struggling with the earliest relationship with their baby” – why, she’s just like Genghis Khan! She didn’t take kindly to President Barack Obama interfering in our internal EU referendum debate, and dared to say so – what an awful, America-hating isolationist!

The disbelieving hysteria which greeted Ed Miliband’s 2015 general election loss and now the 2016 EU referendum result shows that much of the modern Left is already utterly incapable of empathising with those holding other viewpoints – and in some cases simply cannot conceive of their existence. Time and time again we hear tearful sob stories from disappointed lefties that they don’t understand how they lost, because everyone they know voted the “right” way.

But with tawdry articles such as this, the New Statesman seeks to turn that gulf of incomprehension into a gnawing, corrosive and dangerous fear of conservatives, and of any ideas outside of the insular leftist orthodoxy. And this could potentially be disastrous for our country, not to mention for individual conservatives currently being demonised as terrifying, two-dimensional cartoon bogeymen rather than thinking, decent people who just happen to have a different outlook on life.

So how should we respond to opposing political views in the post Jo Cox era? Here’s a tip for the New Statesman and everyone else in the media:

If your article encourages people to learn more about those opposing views, or presents an intellectually grounded rebuttal of them, then you’re doing it right.

If your article is a smug, self-satisfied and fundamentally uncurious exercise in confirmation bias, designed to delegitimise and vilify the sincerely held political views of others, then you haven’t learned a damn thing.

 

Trigger Warning

Top Image: Herald Scotland

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We Do Not Suspend Our Democracy As A Gesture Or Tribute; The Batley And Spen By-Election Should Be Contested

Airey Neave Assassination - INLA

Suspending democracy is no way to pay tribute to a murdered MP

I’m strongly inclined to agree with Archbishop Cranmer’s take on the decision by the major political parties not to contest the Batley and Spen by-election brought about by the despicable murder of Jo Cox, essentially giving Labour a free run at a seat they were almost certain to hold regardless.

Metro reports:

The Lib Dems and Ukip have joined the Conservative Party to announce they will not contest the by-election in Batley and Spen resulting from the death of Jo Cox.

Mrs Cox, 41, died yesterday after she was stabbed and shot outside a library in Birstall.

The Labour MP had held her seat in West Yorkshire since the General Election last year, which she won with a majority of 6,057.

No date has yet been set to elect a new representative.

To which Cranmer writes in response:

Whoever Labour chooses to be their candidate will be gifted a seat in Parliament. We honour a murdered democrat by suspending democracy. Our political leaders respect her values service, community, tolerance – by treating her former constituency as heritable property. There can be no disjunctive voice, no division and no dissent: Jo Cox’s values, her political philosophy and her apprehension of the world order must be perpetuated “as a mark of respect to a much-loved and respected politician”. The Batley and Spen by-election thereby becomes a memorial, and her successor a living monument.

[..] The thing is, there is something odd in not contesting a seat after a sitting MP has been murdered:

1990 Murder of Ian Gow by PIRA – By-election contested – LD gain
1984 Murder of Sir Anthony Berry by PIRA – By-election contested – CON hold
1981 Murder of The Rev Robert Bradford by PIRA – By-election contested – UUP hold
1979 Murder of Airey Neave by INLA – No by-election, but GE seat contested – CON hold
1922 Murder of Sir Henry Wilson by IRA – By-election uncontested.

So the last uncontested by-election in this tragic circumstance was in 1922 for North Down (which had occasional uncontested elections into the 1950s).

Perhaps things have moved on since the murder of Ian Gow: 26 years is an eternity in politics. Or is it that only murdered Protestants and Tories have to be challenged in the hope of driving their particular brand of hatred, division and intolerance from public life? Whatever, the decision not to contest Batley and Spen permits the Labour Party to put into Parliament anyone they want. Although it is extremely unlikely that the seat would have changed hands, it is an offence against democracy to respond to attack upon democracy with a rigged political appointment. Far better for all the main political parties to put up a full slate of candidates, and then for  those candidates to selflessly exhort the people of Batley and Spen to vote Labour as a mark of respect to a much-loved and respected politician. At least then the people would have been free to honour Jo Cox’s values of service, community and tolerance as they would wish to do, instead of being coerced into a contrived expression of political unity, or hectored into a mellow manifestation of Anglican generosity and integrity.

“A contrived expression of political unity”. And isn’t that all that this would be – like the symbolism of MPs mixing it up in parliament and sitting next to members from opposing parties on one day before calling each other’s motives and morals into question again the next? If so, it hardly seems like a good enough reason for the suspension of democracy in one constituency.

And let’s not pretend that this will not happen. The Labour Party in particular have tremendous form in suggesting that those with conservative leanings are morally defective or singularly lacking in compassion. Is this all to cease now, because of the awful murder of Jo Cox? Will Labour MPs finally accept that it is possible to care about the poor and the vulnerable while believing that conservative policies are best for them and the country? I wouldn’t bet on it.

In fact, while there is an undeniable and odious far right element in British politics at the fringes, in terms of the voices currently heard in parliament and in the mainstream media, I would argue that it is the supposedly morally virtuous Labour Party which is guilty of most of the intemperate and divisive rhetoric heard today. And if we are to be political about it, if one party’s behaviour has been least deserving of being given a free run in a by-election, one could make a strong case that it is the Labour Party.

And yet how things seem to have changed. As Archbishop Cranmer points out, after the brutal assassination of several other MPs during the twentieth century, the idea of suspending competitive by-elections was never even considered. Of course the affected constituents should pick themselves up and avail themselves of their democratic right, was the prevailing thinking. And yet in 2016, in order to show solidarity or respect (or in actual fact, I’m almost hesitant to say, to signal virtue) it is apparently necessary to suspend democracy. To make a nice gesture.

As a society, we are getting very good at making nice, sentimental gestures in the face of tragedy. In the West, we have become particularly adept at lighting up our national landmarks to mourn terrorist attacks in one country or another. And there is obviously an important place for vigils, and grieving, and ritualised mourning. But it rather seems that this is now all that we can do. We can make the public gesture but not change the behaviours which makes the gesture necessary in the first place.

Just as one can predict with fearful certainty that the London Eye, Eiffel Tower and Brandenburg Gate will soon be lit up in the national colours of the next country to face a major terror attack while our politicians remain unable even to properly articulate the nature of the Islamist terror threat which we face, so it seem we are now about to celebrate democracy by effectively suspending it. In a twisted homage to Jo Cox, we are about to allow the Labour Party, through whatever opaque selection process they choose, to parachute a new MP into parliament without giving the people a real choice.

There are many appropriate ways to pay tribute to the late Jo Cox, a universally liked MP and the cruel victim of presumed far-right terrorism (for we should call it what it is). But the spectacle of an uncontested by-election, or a by-election fought only by a handful of ugly fringe candidates, is not one of them.

And for once, it would be gratifying if our commitment to democracy could trump the desire to make ourselves feel good with showy but ultimately counterproductive demonstrations of virtue.

 

By election - ballot box - Democracy

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I Will Not Be Intimidated Into Silence By A Mob Capitalising On Tragedy. Sorry.

Ed Rooksby - Twitter Mob - Jo Cox

A quick word before normal business resumes

Anyone wanting to see the dark, ugly side of humanity had only to look at the comments coursing on Twitter last night, following the tragic and senseless murder of the Labour MP for the constituency of Batley and Spen, Jo Cox.

Apparently we are now a country of people who cannot wait six hours without seeking to twist a tragedy into our political advantage; a country where even as the body of the deceased is still warm, some despicable people find a way to make the tragedy about themselves, and to fashion it into a weapon with which to bludgeon their political opponents.

I’m not an idealist, I had a general sense of how things would play out as soon as the awful news was confirmed at the police press conference. But I thought that people might wait at least a day, out of respect, before seeking to capitalise on human tragedy and suffering. I’m not just talking about anonymous people on Twitter. Some of the nation’s leading political commentators piled in on the act – Polly Toynbee and Alex Massie (whom I previously respected) should be utterly ashamed of themselves. I’m sure there are others.

Seeking to use the senseless murder of an MP, of anyone, to smear half the country – young and old, rich and poor, from all social classes and professions, united only by their stance on the EU referendum question – as being somehow vicariously responsible for the act (or for the “mood” of the country, as more slippery columnists put it) is absolutely appalling. I’ve seen some acts of abject intellectual and moral cowardice and assorted low skulduggery during this campaign, but even I was shocked by just how low some people were prepared to go last night.

One of these snarling little Moral Policemen tried to come for me, too. A nasty little oik who had been following me for several weeks on Twitter decided to retweet one of my articles, quote from it very selectively and misleadingly to make it seem as though I had been encouraging violence. Anybody who knows me, or who reads this blog, knows this to be an impossibility. My Twitter accuser certainly knew the truth. But no matter – this “fortunate” murder had given him exactly the opportunity he wanted to slander Brexiteers and make us all collectively, vicariously guilty for the act of a madman.

And for about thirty seconds, this Twitter zealot achieved his goal – he aroused fear. Fear that the mob (and anyone who was on Twitter last night will testify as to the mob mentality present at the time) might pick up on this retweet and run with it. It could have happened. My accuser had over a thousand followers, enough to cause a ripple if seen by the right people. And he had just launched an article of mine, disingenuously and maliciously quoted, into the Twittersphere, where reputations can be ruined in 140 characters but no meaningful defence can be conjured within the same constraints.

I’m a part time blogger, with a day job. In my writing about free speech issues I have seen how peoples’ lives and reputations can be ruined by the mob, usually for no good reason at all – see Justine Sacco. And as I saw my accuser’s tweet sitting out there on the internet for all to see, I did wonder if the mob might come for me. And I thought about the potential consequences of being turned on by the mob. They didn’t – his tweet was lost in an ocean of other, more outrageous tweets, as it turned out. But for a good minute, it gave me pause and grounds for concern about my reputation, even my livelihood.

And this is exactly what certain debased elements of the media, commentariat and the general public wanted to happen. Not just to me, but to everyone who is guilty of the “crime” of believing that Britain would be better off outside the European Union, and who dares to say so in public. The mob wanted to point to the murder of Jo Cox and then at us, drawing a connection where patently none existed, and cow us into silence by accusing us of creating the “mood” which made the attack possible – despite nobody possessing the full facts of the case so soon after the attack.

This wasn’t just antisocial losers on Twitter. Their actions had the cover of “prestige” journalists with platforms in The Guardian and The Spectator. The intelligentsia – members of the supposedly civilised dinner party set – are complicit in trying to stoke up a mob and turn it on people who disagree with them about the forthcoming EU referendum.

Well, I’m sorry, but this blog will not be silenced. Nor will I be told by Twitter trolls or champagne socialists in the Guardian that I am in any way responsible for the toxic “mood” which has come to rest on this country. That mood is entirely the fault of the self-serving elites and their media cheerleaders, who have ignored or belittled those with differing opinions for so long that it has indeed provoked a rage – but a nonviolent one; not the rage which killed Jo Cox.

Nor will I be given moral lectures by people who, in the immediate hours following the tragedy, rushed to their keyboards to make political capital out of a young woman’s death. While Alex Massie and Polly Toynbee were rending their garments and wailing into Twitter about how awful we Brexiteers are, I had an evening of calm reflection and reading – after having lit candles for Jo Cox and her family, and for our country, at my local church. But sure, I’m the bad guy because I write passionately about the EU referendum and Brexit.

These snivelling, sanctimonious Moral Police will do anything to silence dissent. They will erect safe spaces or no platform people they dislike. They will make being “offensive” a criminal charge and imprison people. They will harass, bully and attempt to shame people on social media if they do not at all times say the “correct” thing or espouse the proper opinions. And now, when faced with the death of an MP, young woman and mother, they will wait not even a day before seeking to capitalise on the tragedy and use it to silence their dissenters.

This intimidation will not work on me, and I am determined that it will not work on this country. So bring on the slights, the attempted Twitter shamings and the rest of it, you faceless trolls and important members of the commentariat. Your despicable, tawdry tactics shall not succeed.

 

Free Speech - Conditions Apply - Graffiti

European Union - United Kingdom - Britain - Flags

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