Europeans, The New Persecuted Minority In Britain?

Europeans are Britains new minority - Brexit hysteria - Nick Cohen

Europeans are apparently the latest persecuted minority in benighted, dystopian Brexit Britain

From the annals of overwrought self-pity today comes this piece from Nick Cohen in The Spectator, declaring that thanks to Brexit, Europeans are supposedly the latest designated victim class in Britain.

Money quote:

They have lived, worked and loved here. They never saw their status as a problem until Brexit. Nor did anyone else apart from a few thugs who look for any excuse to racially abuse a target. They knew who they were. And now their certainties have gone.

By this I don’t mean that the British government and the EU are still arguing about their legal status – important though the argument is. Rather that their secure sense of identity has gone.

I am not unsympathetic to the theoretical notion of one’s identity being impinged upon or “ripped away”, as so many Remainers like to claim. And Cohen is quite correct in his piece to point out that the umbrella term “EU immigrant” contains multitudes and diversity, from Romanian fruit-pickers to Romanian or French management consultants and bankers.

I will further concede that some on the Leave side have a tendency to paint all EU immigrants to Britain as city-hopping, rootless “citizens of the world”, members of the highly-educated professional class, when this is by no means always or even usually the case. I have been guilty of this kind of oversimplification in my own writing at times, and it is important to note that an individual or family can simultaneously be EU citizens from another member state and also one of the JAMs (Just About Managing people) invoked by Theresa May.

But what is particularly galling about Cohen’s piece is the total lack of self-awareness yet again shown by Remainers. Yes, an unexpected threatened change to one’s legal residency status can be unnerving and stressful (even though such issues have now been put to bed) but there is no reciprocal regard for the feeling of many Leave voters that their identity had been under increasing assault for the past forty years of Britain’s EU membership. This identity is not to be mistaken for a white ethno-nationalist sense of self, but in the sense of people of all races and ages who hold their British identity significantly more dearly than any European identity, yet have seen government political power and agency increasingly shift from being rooted in a demos to which they feel a part toward a wider European demos with whom they have far less affinity.

In other words, Remainers like Nick Cohen complain because of a sudden reversal of fortunes whereby they no longer call all the shots or get to see their worldview prevail unchallenged, but spent the past recent decades dismissing the concerns of Leave voters who watched their sense of Britishness being undermined against their will and without their positive consent.

Further, it should be pointed out that there is a surefire solution available to many of those who now claim to feel like “aliens in a land they took to be their home”, and that is to apply for citizenship. That’s what people do in practically every other part of the world if they choose to live and work in a country other than their own, and nowhere but within the European Union is it considered an outrageous, retrograde demand. My US citizen wife took the oaths of British citizenship only last month in a very moving ceremony in Camden Town Hall precisely because having lived in this country and grown to love it, she wanted to formalise and make permanent that connection rather than simply renewing her permanent residency ad infinitum or having to apply for it all over again when we return from the United States.

The process of applying for citizenship is bureaucratic, stressful and expensive, not helped by Home Office red tape and administrative incompetence, which should be changed. But barring those rare cases where joint citizenship is not permitted then there is no justifiable impediment from taking this step and formalising one’s connection to the United Kingdom.

As I wrote last month:

Citizenship is more than a basket of rights, privileges and perks. It is also a binding commitment to the society in which we live. Choosing to naturalise means a willingness to undertake obligations as well as demand one’s due. Becoming a citizen is a declaration that one is bound to one’s fellow citizens by something more than temporary convenience or the accidental byproduct of an overseas work assignment or relationship.

This bond is hard to describe or put down in words, which is perhaps why so many self-declared “citizens of the world” – people who consider themselves to have transcended national alignment and who flit from place to place without ever making a binding commitment to anywhere they set foot – don’t understand why it matters.

But if you have built a life in Britain over the course of years or even decades, why would one not want to formalise that connection? Yes it costs money, and yes the Home Office does its damnedest to make the process as bureaucratic, expensive, frustrating and opaque as possible, often actively throwing barriers in the way of people who desperately want citizenship. But if one has the means and the opportunity, why not take the pledge and acquire the passport? Failing to do so is the civic version of cohabiting with a partner but never marrying, one foot always out the door, one eye always casting around for something better.

There is one surefire way to ensure that you are never made to feel like a stranger in the land you call home, and that is to seek and acquire citizenship. The European Union is very much an aberration in that freedom of movement suspended this requirement and removed much of the motivation for taking citizenship in another member state, but this is exactly what people in other parts of the world do every day.

But as I wrote last year when thinking about the degradation of the concept of citizenship in general, we have been indoctrinated to see citizenship as a purely clinical, transactional affair when in reality it is supposed to be so much more:

In Britain, citizenship is increasingly regarded (to the extent that people think of it at all) as a transactional affair, services rendered for taxes paid – or even rendered with no reciprocity at all in the case of the modern welfare state. The argument goes that by the sole virtue of paying taxes or drawing benefits here one deserves a full voice in the country’s affairs, even if one is a non-citizen or is present in the country illegally.

This very transactional approach has frayed the contract or bond between citizen/resident and the state. Of course, people still expect the state to protect them from foreign foes, guard against domestic security threats, provide healthcare, offer a welfare safety net and distribute various domestic and EU services. But even as they make these demands they offer rapidly diminishing loyalty to the state in which they live. People are increasingly insatiable for the benefits while being less and less willing to accept the responsibility.

[..] Today, many people demand the perks without accepting the responsibilities – hence the outrage of and on behalf of EU citizens who have built permanent or semi-permanent lives here yet refuse to see why they should formalise that commitment through the naturalisation process (or at least the acquisition of permanent residency following Brexit). They forget that the European Union is an aberration, that nowhere else in the developed world would countries offer so much while asking for virtually nothing in return.

In a way we should actually be glad to encounter a sustained argument from the Remain side rooted in identity rather than the usual alarmist, short-term economic forecasts and prophecies of doom (or insistence that a reduced rate of forecast economic growth in future years means that we will all be digging through the trash for food tomorrow) – in that sense, I suppose Nick Cohen’s submission to the Oppression Olympics actually counts as a forwards step. But in every other sense, it is just more of the same.

More furious obsession with safeguarding access to perks and benefits, more failure to empathise with or comprehend the other side, more demanding something in exchange for nothing, more Politics of Me Me Me, more trying to win a political argument by referring to one’s supposed oppression rather than with reference to empirical facts and ideas.

Victimhood and oppression are the currency of our age, but Nick Cohen goes way too far with his latest argument, devaluing the idea of discrimination and persecution in just the same way as Social Justice Warrior student activists who take time out from their Ivy League or Oxbridge educations to complain about feeling “unsafe” at some of the most prestigious, well-resourced academic institutions in the world.

Citizenship and residency in another country is a privilege, not a right, and will remain so until the nation state is no longer the primary building block in human civilisation (an inevitability, but by no means an imminent one). The displacement which some EU citizens may feel with regard to their identities, while thoroughly regrettable, is therefore nothing more than normality finally reasserting itself in Britain after a long, unbidden hiatus.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Enabling Islamist Extremism By Smearing Its Most Stalwart Opponents

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By labelling dedicated anti-extremism campaigners like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Majid Nawaz as anti-Muslim extremists themselves, the deluded and morally compromised Southern Poverty Law Centre is doing the Islamists’ work for them

There have been few sadder debasements of once-fine and noble institutions this year than the Southern Poverty Law Center’s decision to stop serving as a fearless searchlight highlighting violent extremism and instead become a trendy-lefty Islamism-denying propaganda outlet.

That might sound harsh, but there really is no other way to describe the SPLC’s fawning, slavish deference to leftist SJW dogma – a philosophy which furiously denies that there is any problem within the Islamic community or with a certain branch of the Muslim faith, and that anybody who disagrees and dares to draw attention to problems within Islam is effectively Hitler.

Last week, in a blaze of publicity, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a list of fifteen individuals singled out by that organisation as holding and disseminating false and extremist information and opinions about Islam.

In the preface to their report, the SPLC declares:

The anti-Muslim extremists profiled here have, between them, claimed that Islamic extremists have infiltrated the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and other agencies; asserted that there are “no-go zones” in Europe where non-Muslims including police are afraid to enter; suggested that there is a Muslim plot to impose Sharia religious law on U.S. courts; and claimed that President Obama is a secret Muslim. These claims, along with many others, have been shown conclusively to be false.

This misinformation and hateful rhetoric have consequences. When huge numbers of Americans believe that a majority of Muslims are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, it can hardly be a surprise that some percentage of them engage in hate crime attacks. After all, they learned of the threat they believe Muslims pose from sources who were presented by the media as authoritative experts.

This country faces an array of complex and daunting problems, the threat of terrorism indisputably among them. Let’s not make them worse by allowing self-described “experts” to propagandize our fellow Americans with defamatory and frightening falsehoods. Our media, in particular, has the opportunity to present an objective picture that illuminates, rather than distorts, reality.

So far, so noble, you might think. There is certainty a lot of hyperbolic and often baseless scaremongering about Muslims and Islam in the media, and flagging particularly odious or disreputable sources for media attention is not in and of itself a bad thing. Until you realise who is on the list.

Some of the names are old suspects that one would expect to see. But in news which has provoked widespread outrage, the list also includes the names of entirely innocent and worthy activists fighting against Islamist extremism, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz.

And what is the SPLC’s charge sheet against Maajid Nawaz? What actions classify him as an “extremist”?

In the list sent to a top British security official in 2010, headlined “Preventing Terrorism: Where Next for Britain?” Quilliam [Nawaz’s anti-extremism think tank]  wrote, “The ideology of non-violent Islamists is broadly the same as that of violent Islamists; they disagree only on tactics.” An official with Scotland Yard’s Muslim Contact Unit told The Guardian that “[t]he list demonises a whole range of groups that in my experience have made valuable contributions to counter-terrorism.”

Well, what’s so shocking about that? It as an entirely logical statement on Nawaz’s part. Unless the people at the SPLC are truly dim and do not recognise a difference between Muslims and Islamists then there is no excuse for trying to turn a perfectly obvious point – that some people who support a fundamentalist ideology will choose violence while others do not – into some kind of “gotcha” smoking gun evidence of Nawaz’s secret Islamophobia.

And worse:

According to a Jan. 24, 2014, report in The Guardian, Nawaz tweeted out a cartoon of Jesus and Muhammad — despite the fact that many Muslims see it as blasphemous to draw Muhammad. He said that he wanted “to carve out a space to be heard without constantly fearing the blasphemy charge.”

Was this provocative? Perhaps. But again, Nawaz is himself a Muslim. Who better to judge what is or is not offensive to one’s religious moral code than the person tweeting the image? And even if doing so is “offensive”, are there not times when the offence is a price worth paying to make a broader argument in support of universal free speech? And if the Southern Poverty Law Center is so concerned about the emotional harm that may be inflicted by “blasphemous” acts like this, how do they explain their deafening silence when it comes to Christian beliefs and symbols being mocked in the popular culture?

The SPLC is not taking the side of ordinary Muslims here, some of whom may indeed be quietly offended by depicting Muhammad. They are taking the side of violent Islamists who seek to enforce blasphemy laws in the 21st century.

And then the SLPC really descends into the gutter:

Nawaz, who had described himself as a “feminist,” was “filmed repeatedly trying to touch a naked lap dancer,” according to an April 10, 2015, report in the Daily Mail. The paper apparently got the security film from the owner of a strip club who was incensed by Nawaz’s claims to be a religious Muslim.

And how we have the inevitable SJW identity politics hit job, seeking to ruin Nawaz’s reputation in the court of public opinion by repeating the shocking news that Nawaz has not at all times lived according to the letter of his faith. Well, so what? Sometimes, without thinking, I accidentally eat meat on a Friday during Lent. Does that make me virulently anti-Catholic and unable to fittingly discuss my faith in the media? Of course not. People’s actions diverge from their faith in a myriad of ways, small and large, and this applies just as much to those who got upset about Nawaz’s strip club visit (like the Muslim strip club owner) as to Nawaz himself. None are in a position to judge. Yet the SPLC feels that any divergence from Islamic teaching is sufficient to declare people that they don’t like to be somehow anti-Muslim.

This National Review editorial laments the SPLC’s corruption and decline:

The SPLC is an example of the way in which the Left corrupts and perverts the institutions it controls, from the IRS to the universities. While decrying “conspiracy theorists,” the SPLC itself is obsessed with “Terror from the Right” that is, pardon us for noticing, so rare as to be nearly insignificant. For all of the SPLC’s hysteria about neo-Confederates, skinheads, secret Nazi cabals, and the like, there is very little evidence that these organizations, to the extent that they exist as more than shared social-media fantasies, are actually up to much of anything. Even if we accept the tendentious characterization of SPLC favorite Timothy McVeigh as some kind of right-wing extremist (as with many such figures, his actual beliefs were confused, contradictory, and eccentric), the main organ of white-supremacist nuttery in the United States is prison gangs, which constitute a fairly constrained and peculiar phenomenon with relatively little effect on the outside world.

Not so violent Islamic radicalism, which is a factor in the United States and in practically every country in Europe, Africa, South Asia, and beyond. That is the great irony here: People like Ayaan Hirsi Ali are doing the work the SPLC is supposed to be doing — understanding and countering violent extremists — and the SPLC denounces them for it.

Very strange.

Some of those on the SPLC list are Muslims, former Muslims, and lifelong students of Islam. What they mostly have in common is that they are, broadly speaking, conservatives, people who are influential among conservatives, or writers and activists admired by conservatives. The SPLC is so drunk on its own poisonous ideological brew that it has simply come to conflate conservatism with violent or potentially violent extremism. One of these things is not like the others: A category of social tendencies that includes both Aryan Brotherhood felons in San Quentin and Somali-Dutch atheist women with celebrated literary careers is not an especially useful category.

While Nick Cohen provocatively (but accurately) declares in The Spectator that “the white left has issued its first fatwa” against Nawaz:

It is an organisation that ought to share Nawaz’s values, but because of the crisis in left-wing values does the dirty work of the misogynists, the racists, the homophobes, the censors, and the murderers it was founded to oppose. It does it with a straight face because, as I am sure you will have guessed, the fascism in question is not white but Islamic. And once that subject is raised all notions of universal human rights, and indeed basic moral and intellectual decency, are drowned in a sea of bad faith.

Nawaz is from Essex. He has fought and been beaten up by white British neo-Nazis. He fell in with Hizb ut-Tahrir while he was young. When he ended up in a torture chamber in an Egyptian jail, he abandoned Islamism for liberalism. Since then, he and his Quilliam Foundation have struggled against both the white far right and the Islamist far right. They have defended liberal Muslims and, indeed, all of us from lethal blasphemy taboos and the threat of terrorism. They respect freedom of speech, including the freedom of their enemies to speak.

A significant faction on the left hates them for upholding the values they have forgotten,  and will use any smear to denigrate them. As my secularist friend Faisal Saeed Al Mutar observed, when he, Nawaz and hundreds of others step forward and try to liberalise Muslim communities from within, they are attacked, ‘for being not Muslim enough, not Arab enough, not Pakistani enough, not filled with enough revenge and enough hatred’.

In the liberal orientalist world view the only ‘authentic’ Muslim is a barbarian. A battery of insults fires on any Muslim who says otherwise. They are ‘neo-conservatives,’ ‘native informants,’ and ‘Zionists’: they are as extreme as jihadists they oppose, or, let’s face it, worse.

This searing criticism could not be more accurate. For there is nothing so racist as the tyranny of low expectations in which the fashionable leftist intelligentsia holds the Muslim world, viewing them not as people with moral agency of their own but as little pets to be protected (or overgrown pets to be cowered from), people whose sometime decision to commit violence and murder cannot be condemned because it is supposedly “provoked” by forced beyond their control.

I have personally interviewed Maajid Nawaz, back when he was running as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the London constituency of Hampstead & Kilburn in the 2015 UK general election, and whatever one may think of his domestic political views, this is clearly not somebody who belongs on a list of violent, hateful extremists.

What is concerning is that the Southern Poverty Law Center would actually now prefer the old incarnation of Maajid Nawaz, back in the days when he was a member of a legitimate extremist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir. As such, he would be protected under the umbrella of leftist denial and fawning appeasement, so central to the SPLC’s new dogma, and they would bend over backwards to excuse his fundamentalist beliefs and violent actions.

By contrast, having long since rejected violence and an extremist fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, the SPLC would have us believe that Nawaz is somehow full of hatred and antipathy to normal Muslims, the equivalent of a knight of the Ku Klux Klan. It is absolute nonsense – pure, amoral leftist bilge.

This is also how Western civilisation destroys itself – by furiously denying the existence of opposing forces or in some cases openly bending the knee to them, while attacking those who actually recognise the danger and seek to confront it. In a world where precious few people have a remotely coherent strategy for tackling fundamentalist Islamism, Maajid Nawaz stands out as one of those with genuine understanding of the problem, and a plan for addressing it – and so the debased SPLC must now attack and undermine him at all costs, by pretending that he is an anti-Muslim extremist.

And one can only concur with Nick Cohen’s assessment that it is “heartbreaking” to witness an organisation so integral to the American Civil Rights movement, which bravely shone an unforgiving light on genuine violent extremism where it once existed, now creating McCarthyite lists of people who offend leftist/Islamist dogma and labelling them with the same term of “extremist”.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list too. Why? Because she actively and gleefully foments prejudice and violence against ordinary innocent Muslims? Of course not. The SPLC include Ayaan Hirsi Ali in their leftist collaborationist fatwa because she had the temerity to renounce her faith and speak out passionately for the cause of secularism, thus gravely offending the real extremists to the point where she has to hire bodyguards to ward off assassination attempts.

It takes some twisted morality to come down on the side of those who seek to carry out an execution for the crime of apostasy over their intended victim, but somehow the SPLC has found a way.

Cohen concludes:

Do these jerks not think about the consequences of their rote-learned, pseudo-leftist bombast? Have they not heard that, across the world, lists circulate of ‘apostates’ along with invitations to the faithful to kill them when they can?

Maybe they have but do not care, and it will take drastic action to shake them out of their spiteful stupor.  A court action could do it. If Nawaz sues, SPLC’s work in fighting the white far right will suffer grievously. But, as it is so eager to be on the wrong side in the fight against the religious far right, I think we could call it evens.

It is hard to disagree. Gone, it seems, are the days when the Southern Poverty Law Center could be found seeking justice for the victims of real prejudice, oppression and extremist violence.

Where once the SPLC battled segregation and fought civil cases to ensure that racist lynchings and arson attacks were acknowledged at a time when the criminal justice system did not want to prosecute them, now they can be found patrolling the borders of our language, seeking to excommunicate decent and honest people from polite society for the high crime of having caused “offence” to certain protected groups.

And when an organisation has drifted so far from its founding ethos to the extent that a one-time civil liberties group is now in the business of making McCarthyite-style lists of people whose blasphemy offends Islamist extremists, then the time has probably come to wash our hands of that organisation, sad though it may be.

 

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The Hypocrisy Of Centrist Labour’s War Against Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn - Labour Party Leadership - Your Choice Shape The Future

Jeremy Corbyn wants power so that he can do something with it. His rebellious centrist MPs also want power, but are unable or unwilling to articulate what they want to do with it

For a blog with solidly conservatarian credentials such as this, Semi-Partisan Politics seems to be spending an awful lot of our time defending somebody who is about as doggedly, severely left-wing as it is possible to be.

And yet I must continue defending Jeremy Corbyn against the onslaught of outraged centrist criticism and juvenile student-union style plots to unseat him, because this blog will always choose principle over self-interested triangulation. And because most of the criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn emanating from centrist Labour reveal a lot more about their author than they wound their target.

The latest establishment type to come gunning for Corbyn is Nick Cohen, writing in The Observer:

Anyone can be against austerity and poverty, spin and the Westminster bubble, the bankers and the corporations, if there is no price to pay. Students can project their hopes on to the blank slate Corbyn offers them. Old soixante-huitards and the militants of the Thatcher era can refight the battles of their youth as painlessly as the Sealed Knot refights the Civil War. Wykehamist Marxists can stand shoulder to shoulder with exhibitionist celebrities; wild intellectuals with the justifiably furious shop stewards.

Empty leftism gave Corbyn control of the Labour party, but little else. He has the lowest popularity rating of any opposition leader in history. The public sees a political movement that doesn’t want to govern them and does not much like them either. Government necessarily involves the trade-offs the far left pretends need never trouble us. Labour’s founding constitution of 1918 said its first purpose was to establish and retain, in parliament and in the country, a political Labour party. The far left has to reject it because it can never win elections without losing its illusions.

As the opposition collapsed last week, Paul Mason insisted that Labour must be transformed from a party that seeks to govern into a “social movement”. Mason, along with Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Milne, is part of a group of journalists who have poisoned public life by taking braggart swagger and cocksure certainties of newspaper punditry into politics. But in this instance, he was authentically reflecting “the people” or, rather, that tiny section of “the people” who pay £3 and click on a link to show they agree with him.

[..] Vacuity leads not only to political impotence but political fear. Uncomprehending hatred fills the empty space where policy should be and brings with it the threat of violence that hovers above Labour like yellow cigarette smoke in a Munich beer hall. It was thought that the killing of Jo Cox might alter the mood. But the misogyny, homophobia, antisemitism, death threats, rape threats and insane conspiracy theories against Labour MPs endure. The foul climate shows that Corbynism has sociopathic consequences. When his supporters believe that all they need do to oppose austerity, the bankers, etc, is to say they are against them, then, by definition, their opponents cannot have honest objections, only evil intentions. Like sin, they must be purged.

There is so much to unpick here that it is difficult to know where to begin. Let’s start with the stuff which we can agree on. Paul Mason and Seumas Milne are indeed nasty, toxic people and a scourge on British politics. They accrue cult-like followings based on peddling glib and superficial critiques of their targets (capitalism, conservatism, America, Britain, wealth, success or whatever else riles them up on any given day).

But for Nick Cohen to speak of the “vacuity” of the Corbynite Left is hypocritical in the extreme. The only reason that Jeremy Corbyn was able to come to power in the first place was that the mainstream, centrist Left had nothing – absolutely nothing, tumbleweeds – to say to their traditional working class base, or to those who are feeling the pinch from globalisation and a future filled with insecure, low-paying jobs.

Blairism in a time of plenty just about worked – one could simply shovel more and more people into the arms of the welfare state, declaring them unfit for work and then forgetting about them, while lavishing exorbitant sums on unreformed and terminally dysfunctional public servives like the NHS. And so long as economic growth continued at a fair clip, the day of reckoning could always be postponed, one more day, and another, and another.

But Blairite/Brownite/Milibandism simply doesn’t butter any parsnips when there is no money left. Because now you have a huge swathe of the population who have been raised to be dependent on government, even taught that such subsistence is their “human right”, up in arms because this support structure has either been ripped away from them or pared back due to more stringent means-testing or benefit freezes. And suddenly, hearing some well-heeled member of the metropolitan left-wing elite claiming to sympathise with your plight while not doing the first damn thing to change it doesn’t produce an overwhelming desire to vote for that leader (Miliband) or party.

Nick Cohen talks about the vacuity of Labour’s left-wing, but what about the centrists? These are people who, despite their continued denunciations of Corbyn and accusations that in less than year he has failed to flesh out a detailed and fully costed policy platform, haven’t come up with a single alternative policy platform of their own (just like Ed Miliband’s policy platform was a “blank sheet of paper” at this stage of his own leadership).

Surely if it is now such a crime for a Labour leader to not have a fully costed and worked out policy platform, the centrists vying to unseat Corbyn must be brimming over with whole policy suites and agendas of their own. Surely they know exactly what tax reforms they would enact, who would be punished and whose wallets would be fattened. Surely they know exactly what to do about the NHS, in more detail than simply shovelling more money at that insatiable organisation. Surely they have comprehensive plans for pensions, welfare, defence, education, trade and industry.

But we know that the centrists have none of those things. When Angela Eagle hit the TV studios last weekend to launch her leadership challenge, she failed to name a single area of policy disagreement with Jeremy Corbyn, despite being asked numerous times. Owen Smith was marginally better when he launched his own campaign a couple of days ago, but hardly came out of the starting blocks with his pre-printed manifesto ready to go. Why? If Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is so ideologically extreme, surely it should be the easiest thing in the world to highlight just a few clear examples where an Eagle/Smith led party would chart a different, more centrist course?

The fact that they do not is damning evidence that the centrists are every bit as vacuous as they accuse Corbyn of being. They, too, want to pretend that endlessly bountiful public services can be funded at no cost to anyone through the munificence of the magical money tree. They too want to make every citizen’s passing whim their immediate and sacred “human right”. They too plan to worship at the sacred altar of the NHS, singing endless hymns of praise to St. Aneurin Bevan of Tredegar without doing a damn thing to improve health outcomes for Britons.

Therefore, what we are now witnessing from Labour’s disgruntled centrists (and their media mouthpieces like Nick Cohen) is not some earnest, pragmatic criticism that Corbyn is failing to grapple with the real issues facing the country. No. It is simply an aggrieved and self-entitled howl of anguish that somebody other than them is getting a turn at calling the shots.

Given time, Jeremy Corbyn will undoubtedly come out with a manifesto just like every other party leader has done before him. This blog will doubtless disagree with nearly all of it. It will probably involve re-nationalisation of flagship industries like rail and energy, massive tax hikes on the wealthy and cuts for the poorest, massive injections of borrowed money into public services and infrastructure on the spurious grounds that such investment will “pay for itself”, the immediate cooling of the special relationship with the United States and much more power to the trades union. We may even see strengthened rights to strike and a greater emphasis on national collective bargaining as John McDonnell goes all out to recreate the 1970s.

Such a manifesto will, it hardly needs to be said, not win Labour a general election against anybody, least of all a Conservative Party which continues to hew shamefully to the centre under the leadership of Theresa May. But it will at least be ideologically coherent, even as it is scorned.

What will the centrists’ alternative Labour manifesto contain? We don’t know, because they haven’t told us yet. And why haven’t they told us the kind of policies which they will advocate? Because their focus groups haven’t told them yet. And because their PR people haven’t worked out quite how the likes of Angela Eagle and Owen Smith can best continue advocating for the unacceptable status quo while making it sound like they are being fearsome, revolutionary reformers and champions of the poor.

The day that this blog will give the time of day to some self-entitled, born to rule centrist from Labour’s metropolitan middle class clerisy is the day which they come packing a serious, heavyweight alternative policy agenda which amounts to more than Cameron/May centrism with an added dash of sanctimonious waffle about equality and fairness.

Until then, and so long as the current Labour leadership stands for demonstrably different values and policies to the stale centrism which has led us to this present cul de sac (and no matter how much this blog may disagree with those values), this blog remains planted in Jeremy Corbyn’s corner.

 

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There Can Be No Rational Debate With Those Who Deceive Themselves About The EU’s Purpose And Destination

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I am no longer willing to indulge Remain supporters who insist on deceiving themselves (and others) that the European Union is a humble trading organisation with no pretensions to statehood or aspirations for ever more power

The question which exasperated EU defenders often ask when they (unsurprisingly) fail to win Brexiteers over to their side goes something like this: “But all these world leaders and heads of NGOs want Britain to stay in the European Union! Do you really think that you know better than all of these important people?”

And on the very surface it sounds like quite a disarming point – who are we, after all, to second guess the learned and wise decisions of our rightful rulers? But then one remembers that this is precisely what we are supposed to do. The very reason we moved beyond despotism and absolute monarchy is the fact that we do not want (and no longer have to suffer) a small, homogeneously educated “born to rule” class making decisions on our behalf unchecked; that the mere fact of occupying positions at the top of the establishment makes it likely that vested interests will begin to corrupt decision making, and that democratic checks and balances are the best means we have yet devised of guiding and restraining the behaviour of our very flawed, very human leaders.

This point is eloquently expanded upon in a new piece by Pete North, itself a response to a very smug and very ignorant piece in the Guardian by Nick Cohen, gloating at the unarguable ineptitude of the official Leave campaign.

Cohen simperingly asks:

There are dozens of good reasons for leaving the EU. Before endorsing them you should ask, do you feel that the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Bank of England, IMF, OECD and the hundreds of economists we survey this week are all lying? Do you feel that all our allies who are begging us to stay wish to lead us to our ruin? Do you feel that Boris Johnson is fit to be prime minister or any kind of minister for that matter? Do you feel that Scotland won’t leave? Do you feel that Irish politics won’t darken? Do you feel that Putin won’t rejoice? Do you feel the Leave gang will find answers in June to the questions it cannot answer in May?

In short, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: do I feel lucky?

Well, do ya, punk?

To which Pete North replies:

In his closing remarks [Cohen] asks “do you feel that the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Bank of England, IMF, OECD and the hundreds of economists we survey this week are all lying?”

I think they are politically slanted toward the status quo. I think they are exploiting the weakness of Vote Leave to disingenuously cloud the issue. I think they are wilfully ignoring facts they don’t like thus lying by omission. And I also think they are wrong because (and I say this in full knowledge of how it sounds) I have examined it from more angles than they have, and have thought about it longer and harder than they have, and I have explored areas they are barely aware of. They are largely ignorant of the political and practical dynamics. Their forecasts are of limited use and only their short term forecasts based on the immediate aftershocks have any real worth. I will argue that til the cows come home.

Cohen then asks “Do you feel that all our allies who are begging us to stay wish to lead us to our ruin?”

This is a shallow question. Firstly who governs us is absolutely none of their business. But there is a consensus groupthink at the top of global politics where they believe their own rhetoric and the rhetoric upon which the EU stands. That drives their calls for Britain to remain. But this is not about what they want. That is why we are having a referendum. I also feel that Brexit threatens to disturb that cosy consensus and it threatens their agenda for the accumulation of power. I think that is a good reason to leave in its own right. Brexit is a message that the power belongs not to them but the people. And that’s what this is fundamentally all about.

Absolutely so. Remainers love to affect that they live in a world of hard-headed reality while those of us who support Brexit and the restoration of nation state democracy are either conspiracy theorists or dangerous fantasists. But in fact it is the other way around – we have seen how supporting Brexit in the face of a chorus of establishment opposition is not only understandable but absolutely necessary in order to prevent too much power accumulating among the elites at supranational level. And it is the Remainers who studiously ignore mountains of evidence in which the EU’s architects and leaders speak quite openly about their motivations and desire to create a common European state.

But of course this does not stop Remainers from prancing around as though the burden of proof were somehow on the side of the Brexiteers. Typically, this arrogance expresses itself through articles which read something like this:

Before we can even begin to think about leaving the EU, Brexit supporters have to answer these ten simple questions:

1. What categorical assurances can the Leave campaign give that there will not be a 3 point magnitude earthquake in Torquay if Britain votes to leave the EU?

2. Where is the Leave campaign’s fully costed plan showing Britain’s GDP increasing above current trends once we cut ourselves off from the world and hang up a big sign declaring that Britain is closed for business?

3. Where is the Leave campaign’s signed (in blood) declaration from Angela Merkel that British citizens will not have to pass an IQ test before entering Germany in the event of Brexit?

4. How many human sacrifices will Britain make to appease Barack Obama after angering the US president by ignoring his advice in the referendum?

5. Where is the Leave campaign’s signed (in blood) declaration from John Kerry that the United States will not close its embassy in London and suspend diplomatic relations with Britain?

6. Where is the Leave campaign’s statement, signed by 500 economists, standing behind an economic model which proves that the price of foie gras will remain stable if Britain leaves the EU?

7. Prove that average global temperatures will not rise in the event of Brexit.

8. Prove that France and Germany will not face off against one another precipitating a new world war in the event of Brexit. (And didn’t millions of soldiers perish in two world wars precisely so that a united, supranational government of Europe might one day arise in Brussels?)

9. Prove that the Evil Tory government will not pass a bill on June 24 abolishing maternity leave and establishing mandatory child labour if we leave the EU.

10. Produce a list of fifty elected heads of state, all of whom have clear political interests in the steady maintenance of the established international order and avoiding the slightest disruptions to (or distractions from) their domestic agendas, all declaring that they want Britain to leave the European Union (with which they must simultaneously maintain good diplomatic relations)

And when Brexiteers look puzzled and inevitably fail to answer each question in a way which satisfies the EU’s cheerleaders:

Aha! See, they don’t know what Brexit will look like! Can we really afford to take the risk? Etc. etc.

Personally, I’m done playing that game. Dancing to the sanctimonious tune of the EU cheerleaders does not interest me. I do not have to prove anything. Yes, in order to persuade a plurality of people that voting to leave the European Union is safe, there must be a comprehensive and rigorous plan. Such a plan already exists, and is finally being spoken of (in content if not always in name) by a growing number of Brexiteers and commentators alarmed at the childish incompetence of Vote Leave.

But beyond promoting this plan and urging people to read it, there is nothing further left for thinking Brexiteers to do in this regard. It will never be possible to give the EU worshippers the assurances they demand – to prove that the recipe for Nutella will never change if we leave the EU. And they know this. Definitively proving a counterfactual is not possible, and it is this con which is helping the Remain campaign to a consistent lead in the polls.

But it might be possible to respect Remain campaigners a little more if they were capable of being honest themselves about the organisation which they so eagerly defend. And so when asked by sneering Remainers to prove to 100% probability that the cabbage harvest will not wither in the event of Brexit, we should respond with some challenges of our own.

And this blog’s challenge to sincere, thinking Remain supporters is for them to complete the following statements in an honest and remotely plausible manner.

Statement 1: I understand that continent-wide supranational political union is not strictly necessary in order for countries and people to cooperate and work together to solve common challenges, but I still think Britain should remain in the EU because…

Statement 2: I appreciate that global bodies such as UNECE, Codex Alimentarius, the IMO and ILO are responsible for creating much of what goes on to become EU regulations and directives, but I believe Britain should remain in the EU rather than seeking to regain our seat and wield influence at the true top tables because…

And, of course:

Statement 3: I, [insert name], want Britain to remain in the European Union because in my heart I feel more European than British, and do not want to be torn away from what I really consider to be my true country.

Remain campaigners who repeat any of these statements straight into a television camera will have my grudging respect because they will be making a case for the European Union based not on airy wishful thinking about what the EU is and might become, but rather on truthfully admitting their understanding of and acquiescence to the EU’s eventual aim of becoming a unified European state.

Those who persist in pretending to themselves and the rest of us that the European Union is benign, super democratic and Just About Trade, however, can take a hike for the remainder of this referendum campaign.

I am no longer willing to debate this issue while the Remain side occupy a position of fundamental dishonesty as to their understanding and intentions. From 10 Downing Street to Canterbury Cathedral we are being lied to, and I will no longer do anything which remotely assists these invidious people in their shameful, dishonest work.

 

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In Defence Of Andrew Neil’s Anti-ISIS Rant – Political Journalism At Its Best

No, Andrew Neil’s magnificent anti-Islamist rant was not a violation of the BBC’s commitment to impartiality

It’s a strange world where I find myself writing in support of Andrew Neil twice in the same week, but then these are very strange political times.

Nick Cohen sings Andrew Neil’s praises in The Spectator this week, before going on to condemn Neil’s rousing anti-ISIS monologue at the start of his This Week programme – a speech which this blog strongly supported – on the puzzling grounds that it broke the rules on journalistic impartiality.

Cohen writes well as always, but there are so many mistaken premises and inaccurate comparisons in this piece that a proper rebuttal is needed.

His criticism of Neil begins:

Everywhere you look you can see broadcasters following Neil and Snow and pushing against the fuddy-duddy rule that they must show ‘due impartiality’. The Church of England is joining in, and pushing against equally antiquated restrictions on political and religious advertising.

They must be stopped. However admirable Neil and Snow’s sentiments are, and however inoffensive the Anglican’s celebration of the Lord’s Prayer was, we have to shut them up. The BBC and Channel 4 should never have broadcast their interviewers’ opinion. The cinema chains were right to tell the Church of England it was not welcome on their screens.

Britain is a country with rules to prevent wealthy politicians buying votes and wealthy televangelists buying converts. We are also a country that has fought to maintain the principle that broadcasters must be politically neutral – not always successfully, I grant you.

Three points here. First, the requirement for broadcasters to show ‘due impartiality’ applies to news programmes, and not to commentary – least of all when we are nowhere near a general or local election, the time when the rules governing broadcaster impartiality are at their strictest. The BBC’s This Week is a political magazine show, not a straight-laced news bulletin. Of course one would not expect Evan Davis, Kirsty Wark or Huw Edwards to pepper their delivery of the news with caustic criticisms or sarcastic asides – that would be highly improper. But a political magazine show is by definition an opinion-based show, relying for its content on a parade of partisan guests from different political parties and the media.

Cohen attempts to lump Andrew Neil’s tirade against ISIS along with Jon Snow’s coverage of the Israeli siege of Gaza, but this is comparing apples and oranges – one is a daily news bulletin required to be impartial, and one is a weekly talk show where opinions and partisan debate are essential ingredients.

Second, this is Andrew Neil we are talking about – a seasoned veteran journalist and businessman with a vast political Rolodex and a personal “brand” all of his own. Neil was also editor of the right-leaning Sunday Times for over a decade, is chairman of the company which owns the reliably Tory-friendly Spectator, and in previous life was a researcher for the Conservative Party. Neil was never supposed to be an anonymous newsreader, nor is he marketed as one – people watch This Week because Andrew Neil presents the show, and they know exactly what they are getting when they do so. The BBC are fine with that, and there is nothing to suggest that either the letter or the spirit of the rules are not being followed.

And thirdly, while Cohen’s assertion that Britain is “a country with rules to prevent … wealthy televangelists buying converts” might plausibly be true, we are also a nation with an established state Church – one whose grasping tentacles reach into nearly aspect of our politics and our national life. The ongoing row about the Church of England’s cinema advert is a separate issue, but we should not pretend that our United Kingdom is a nation where we even pay proper lip service to the concept of separation of powers.

When meddlesome bishops speak out in parliamentary debates without a shred of a democratic mandate, and when there are still scenarios whereby the Queen might conceivably end up picking the next government, we should not act as though there is some ancient and grave constitutional requirement for television stations to broadcast opinionless, equivocating platitudes 24/7.

BBC Values - Impartiality

Cohen continues:

Broadcasters themselves know a dirty secret newspaper editors understand too well: extreme opinions sell. They confirm the partisan in their beliefs and draw in outraged opponents.

[..] Broadcasters want a piece of that action. Opinion is cheap. News is expensive. The public watched Andrew Neil and Jon Snow’s polemics in their millions. What possible justification is there for insisting on balance, accuracy and impartiality?

It may be the case that news is expensive while opinion is cheap, but without the forceful expression of political opinions there could be no This Week in the first place – indeed, there could be no Question Time or Newsnight interviews either, let alone the crucible that is Radio Four’s Today Programme. And if Cohen is saying that the host should always be impartial even on political magazine shows then he sets a standard which can simply never be met, since every raised eyebrow, incredulous glance, rude interruption or “gotcha moment” will be seized on as evidence of deepest bias. Far better that we have good presenters with transparent histories like Neil, and then allow the public to adjust their perceptions accordingly.

Besides, this is not a question of political neutrality, at least as we traditionally understand the matter. Britain is not at war with a sovereign nation, however much ISIS may try to strut and pose as such. We are in conflict with a nihilistic, totalitarian death cult which seeks to spill the blood of everyone who does not adhere to their harsh, warped interpretation of Islam. They stand for nothing save creating hell on Earth to please their petty, jealous and vindictive god. Why shouldn’t the presenter of a serious political talk show be able to say that which we all know to be true?

And since when did expressing an opinion prevent something from being “real journalism”? Is Cohen himself not a journalist because his Spectator piece failed to strike an impartial position between Andrew Neil and himself? Whenever a broadcast news presenter reports on a “horrifying murder” or a “tragic death” they are making a value judgement and presuming to speak on behalf of the 99.5 percent of people who will agree with them. There is no moral or statutory requirement for the newsreader to treat criminal and victim alike in their tone and description, nor should there be. Similarly, ISIS are torturers, rapists and murderers. They break the law every moment of every day in their campaign to spread hatred and ignorance around the world. What’s wrong with saying so?

If ISIS were a legitimate, functioning state or political party and Andrew Neil went on a two minute tirade about their fiscal policy or industrial strategy then there might be grounds to accuse him of political bias. But that is absolutely not the case. Andrew Neil saw ISIS (or Islamist Scum, as he now calls them) take their patented formula of death and suffering, and smear it across the bright lights of Paris one unsuspecting Friday night, and he called it what it was – an act of savage murder that history suggests is doomed to fail in its stated goals.

If ISIS supporters were greatly offended by Neil’s words and lack of objectivity then by all means they can submit a complaint via OFCOM or the BBC Trust. I rather hope that they try.

But they do not need Nick Cohen – or anyone else – to help them out.

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