Tag Archives: Jeremy Corbyn

Britain – it’s time to talk

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Pull up a chair, Britain and sit down. We need to have a long overdue chat. And we need to be honest, so shudDUP and let us talk. Yup, pun absolutely intended. Never let it be said that we Irish don’t try and inject a bit of humour into every situation.

But after Friday, and yet another kick to the proverbial nuts, and yet another betrayal, and yet another situation where serious risks could be posed to Ireland as a result of English foolhardiness, the niceties are over. It’s time for the truth bombs. I think many Irish friends living in England feel the same. Hell, even our Taoiseach, Enda-ThirdWay-Kenny, has issued a little slapdown to the British government. So in the interests of inter-island dialogue and a baseline of understanding, and having been asked questions by so many English friends on Friday (which I’m always glad to answer) ranging from ‘Why don’t Sinn Féin do a solid for Corbyn and take up their seats’ to ‘What’s so bad about the DUP’, let me take you through a potted history of Ireland, and in particular recent history, and why this recent move on the part of the Tory party is beyond the Pale (that’s a little joke for Irish readers – British readers, you may have to do a little Googling).

Ok. 800 years of British rule, which was barbaric, unjust and brutal. I’ll skip through most of this section except to say that even dating back to Tudor times, the English have a nasty habit of believing and cultivating xenophobic divide and conquer tactics. The Paul Dacre of his day, Sir Edmund Spenser, described the Irish as savages; a description that stuck while they were being stripped of their lands, their languages, their culture, and even their crops (which caused the ‘potato famine’ of the mid-19th century – the lie is that it was a famine, it was more genocide for profit. No foodbanks at the time, so the native Irish either starved to death or left. The population was halved to 4 million. Some ate stones and grass in a bid to stay alive). Being hung, drawn and quartered was a punishment remembered in Irish songs like Robert Emmett. You get the picture. Being occupied is not fun. Hopefully it explains why we support anyone but the English in football matches.

So we then enter the 20th century, and let’s speed through the 1916 Rising. The Black and Tan lads added to the general jolly japes of the history of the British in Ireland with mass burnings of properties, scalpings, rapes and so forth. We come to the Anglo-Irish Treaty, whereupon the deal was made to leave most of Ulster in the UK and the other 26 counties as the newly-formed Republic of Ireland.

Let’s shoot forward to the 1960s. It was clear that there were civil rights abuses by the mainly Unionist political class against nationalists by this time, which lead to civil rights marches inspired by those in the US at that time. These culminated in Bloody Sunday, whereupon British soldiers shot 28 unarmed civilians in the Bogside in Derry who were involved in a peaceful protest against internment. This led to a cover-up by law-enforcement institutions across Northern Ireland and by the British government. It also led to a huge recruitment drive to the IRA.

British readers will know all about the bombings on their mainland. I’m not condoning the bombings or the killing of innocent lives. They do have to be placed in the context of loss of life on both sides, however. Loyalist terrorists were no slouches in that department either, which is why it is important to understand the DUP, the ‘confidence and supply’ partner of the Tories and their ties to them. So here are some interesting #DUPfacts  that the general British public may not be aware of:

1. Many of their politicians have roots in paramilitary activities – not unusual in Northern Ireland, but after all the Tories’ smear campaign against Corbyn for merely talking to Sinn Féin, this is a bit much.

2. They opposed the Good Friday Agreement.

3. They are the biggest anti-choice, pro-forced pregnancy party in the UK.

4.They are against equal marriage and fought hard against LGBTQ rights. Even David Cameron disagreed with their stance on this. Though he also toyed with the idea of aligning with them in 2015, had he not won a small majority. ‘Compassionate Conservatism’, eh?

5. Jeffrey Donaldson MP, worked with Enoch Powell,  when he was expelled from Tories, and claimed he was one of the ‘great voices of unionism’

6. They are climate change deniers who raked money off biofuels in a ‘cash for ash’ green energy scandal.

7. Accepted a £435k donation from Scottish Tory Richard Cook, from the shady Constitutional Research Council (links with Saudis), and ran pro-Brexit adverts in the Metro free-sheet in the UK.

The Good Friday Agreement, voted for in a referendum in good faith by Irish people both North and South of the border, has been the cause of almost 20 years of peace. The process broke down in March this year over the green energy scandal, in which Arlene Foster was deeply implicated, and which Theresa May would have known about. They’ve lost two of the major poster boys of the GFA, the late Rev. Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.

Given the history of the British government in Northern Ireland, their support of the interests of the Protestant political class over that of the nationalist community, to have been courting the DUPs since last summer for their support and then to enter into an ad hoc partnership with them beggars belief. It throws any pretence of the stance of neutrality on the part of the British government regarding Northern Ireland out the  window, and contravenes the tenet of neutrality on the parts of the British and Irish governments within the GFA. And it is a major security risk; not just for the people of Britain and Ireland, but most especially for the nationalist community of Northern Ireland. Unionists do not have a history, much like their English ancestors, of wielding power graciously.

The frustration on the part of Irish people like myself is that yet again, the interests of Ireland have been placed as secondary to those of the English, and in particular recently to the internal wranglings of the Tory party. Ireland took a massive hit in 2008 for the British and German bondholders. The pain was certainly not shared on that occasion. There was then the fallout from Brexit, where the impact on exports and the border between Ireland and the North wasn’t even considered. And now this. The most apt description I have come across about the DUP is from George Monbiot, as an organisation that are like ‘UKIP, supercharged by religious fundamentalism’.

The only very small silver lining from this is that it may inadvertently cause more of an understanding of Irish politics, and the politics and history of Ulster in particular. If the peace process doesn’t get shafted completely, we will all be very lucky. Suffice it to say, you have been warned. You think the Tory Party is the ‘Nasty Party?’ You ain’t seen nothing yet.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why, with barely a vote cast, Corbyn’s Labour has already won

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I was getting quite emotional over the last few days thinking of casting my ballot for Corbyn. And make no mistake, it’s for Corbyn, not for Chuka Umunna, my local MP, who I once touted as a potential leader, but no more.

Disclaimer: I have long been a dedicated Corbynista. I barely knew who he was when I saw him interviewed two years ago. I knew after hearing him speak that here was someone who was different, and who saw what needed to be done for the future.

We are living in incredibly interesting political times, and what has happened over the last year is a paradigm shift. So I get that people were sceptical of Corbyn, not convinced, doubtful about his ability to lead the Labour Party. The recalcitrance of the New Labour old guard obfuscated what was necessary for the party to succeed. Their inability to see the shifting sands, the political weathervane moving, cost Labour dear in terms of obstinately promoting Ed Miliband, an abysmally weak leader whose time was over somewhere circa 2013 and the most disastrous Labour election in 30 years in 2015. But obstinately they clung to the echo chamber of neoliberal peers and journalists, and failed to embrace the very real alternative Corbyn offered from the very start.

Better late than never, I guess. While I don’t agree with Corbyn on everything (#Brexit), I admire his singlemindedness, his vision, and just his sheer self-belief. What he has undergone over the last 2 years would have knocked many another politician off their course. My gut instinct (as well as avidly reading newspapers from all political sides over the last two years) is that himself and John McDonnell have a transformational plan for Britain. The manifesto is the layman’s version of this. They, along with their campaign manager (who’s questioning Seumas Milne now?) have run the most brilliant campaign. I would go so far as to say that it is the most brilliant political campaign of modern times, and I include Obama’s 2008 campaign in that, run by David Plouffe. Never has someone had so much thrown at them and risen above it and flourished. He has managed, after years of the harshness of austerity being obvious, to change the tone, the nature, the focus of this argument. And that is why I believe, as I have done for the last two years, that Corbyn would be a transformative PM.

Labour may not win outright tomorrow – in fact, it’s very unlikely they will. Due to either bad advice or Miliband’s own ego, the losses made in 2015 are too hard to claw back. Scotland is lost, not least because of Jim Murphy’s failures there. And then there’s the BluKip factor. That makes the game unfairly skewed in favour of the Tories. However – in a very real sense, before barely a vote being cast, Labour under Corbyn has already won. They have made political discourse the new normal. They have engaged record number of supporters to the PLP. They have used social media in a way it has not been used hithertofore in British elections (more by necessity than by design, given the hostility of Fleet St, but still). They have taken the fight to the Tories, and even if the Tories prevail, it will be as a party battered and bruised, with their weak leadership exposed for what it is under Theresa May. They will not find it so easy to get their mandate through and ultimately it may even be the case that by 2020 we’re looking at a party torn asunder, eating itself alive through infighting and intrigue, and another election.

I never liked voting for New Labour under Tony Blair. I admired Blair’s political acumen up to 2003, but disliked his obvious actorly mannerisms and insincerity. His assuming of the NI Peace Process as his success, when anyone on the other side of the Irish Sea was aware that the success was all Mo Mowlam’s. ‘The people’s this’ ‘The people’s that’. Please. The illusion of allowing democracy, which he himself rent apart by pursuing a foolhardy illegal war. But I will be voting Labour proudly for the first time. Maybe we expect too much of our heroes. Maybe Corbyn will, for many millions of other people, turn out to have feet of clay. But in my opinion, he’s already won. He’s proven, in this campaign, that there is an alternative, there is hope, there is an appetite for a road less travelled, and that it is for the many, not the few. Most of all – he has brought compassion and humanity onto the political agenda. Dignity for those vulnerable in UK society. Pride in public services. The notion that no man or woman is an island. That government is there to work with people, to help them and not to scold or dictate to them. And above all, a question I raised a number of weeks back in my blog on the Huff Post – What type of country do Britons want to live in? I take nothing for granted, and I’m interested to find out the answer.

#VoteLabour #GE2017

Day of Judgement

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By the time this blog is published it will be all decided: Britain will/won’t be at war. It feels very strange writing that. Maybe it should feel reminiscent of WWII; at least that seems to be the aim. There were the bombings in Paris which were truly reprehensible. As reprehensible as the deaths caused by the French retaliation bombings in Syria, with scores of young children, young lives laid out as corpses. Nothing shows the futility of mass murder, through terrorists or governments, as the lifeless body of a corpse.

The propaganda war post-Paris was surprisingly quick as well, with Facebook issuing their ‘temporary’ French flag pin a mere few hours after the bombings. At the time it smacked to me of purposeful emotional manipulation, to gauge what the public appetite was for war. It still does. It gave people the opportunity to feel like they were part of a previous war, part of the French resistance, without doing anything more significant than pressing a button. Solidarity, while necessary in some situations, can lead societies astray in terms of looking at the fine print when tribal hurt has been endured.

There is something strange about this push towards war – it feels totally orchestrated by senior Tories, including the Prime Minister, anti-Corbynites, whose sole purpose in politics now seems to be ABC (Anyone But Corbyn) and Rupert Murdoch. The public don’t want it – after 5 years of Tory austerity and broken promises, and over 14 years of futile and immoral wars in Iraq, the public recognises political subterfuge when they see it. Former hostages like Nicholas Henin don’t want it  and have explicitly said that airstrikes will play into Daesh’s hands, and potentially escalate their recruitment drive. The Express-reading public don’t want it – over 70% of them voted against airstrikes. The Daily Mail doesn’t seem to want it either according to their comment on 27 November 2015. When the Daily Mail has no appetite for war, one should be able to concede that, given the importance of Middle England to any politician, the game is over. This is not a war about glory, or heroism. This isn’t even about waging war on terror – even by Cameron’s own admission, the intelligence services have effectively thwarted seven terror strikes in one year. That seems to be working – so, as the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

But Cameron has seemed incapable of accepting this, and this is what is interesting. He has gone so far as to brand the Leader of the Opposition and all who oppose airstrikes as ‘terrorist sympathisers’. Besides this ludicrous and quasi-libellous assertion lies the desperation of a man on whom the screws are being tightened. Some might opine that the real interests he serves are those of Murdoch and Rothschild, with their interests in Genie Oil & Gas. Some might opine that it is the interests of companies like Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing, who will surely be beneficiaries of any escalation in the ‘war on terror’. Some might opine this – I couldn’t possibly comment.

But even putting all of this aside and looking at Cameron’s judgement in the past, because essentially when a prime minister sets out the case for war, he is asking us to trust said judgement.  Cameron counts among his friends Rebecca Brookes. He appointed Andy Coulson as his spin doctor. He sold off the Royal Mail for a mere £2bn, which was later proven to have grossly undervalued it, to the tune of £750 million detrimentally to the taxpayer, but to the benefit of George Osborne’s best man. He promised in 2010 that the NHS would remain untouched. He promised in 2015 that tax credits would remain untouched. His party have increased the deficit to £1.5tn, and his enthusiasm in selling arms to Saudia Arabia, Qatar and other reprehensible regimes which should be pariah states diplomatically resemble nothing so closely as a used car salesman. Not to mention PigGate. And this is the man to lead us into an unwanted war and whose judgement we should trust.

The unspoken rule in politics is that we get the politicians we deserve. And in a sense, that is true. No one forced a small majority of the British voting public to put Cameron and his cronies back into power. If the last seven months have shown us anything however, it should have shown us that individual self-interest is not the best foundation on which to cast a vote. As glad as I am that they did it, it was a sad day for democracy when the undemocratically elected House of Lords are the last recourse to hold the Government to account.

And the last five years and seven months should have proven to us beyond reasonable doubt that the interests of the private and public sector – for politicians and Prime Ministers are public servants, after all – should be totally separate. What I will be most interested in after all is said and done, and the votes are counted is who stands to profit from war. Before the UK goes down the path of war irrevocably it would be in the public interest to reveal all those politicians with ties to munitions, banking, energy and pharmaceutical companies, which are all too often mutually dependent. Because as much as politicians and their business bedfellows lie, dissemble, prevaricate and propagandise, money doesn’t. Money reveals the true heartbeat of the war drum and coffers. Let’s uncover that heartbeat.

The death knell of the playground

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Something has been happening in politics in the UK this summer. At first, it seemed inconsequential: a bearded rebel entered the Labour leadership race, let in on a whim and a prayer at the eleventh hour. And like another bearded rebel (though maybe with less messianic, more measured zeal) a movement gathering momentum around him, as crowds flocked to witness the phenomenon of a politician with a track record of doing his job not only preaching hope, but revealing through policy what many of us have known for some time: that Emperor Dave of Austerityland has no clothes.

I first heard Corbyn speak on a Newsnight clip posted on Facebook. Up to that point, I had been more inclined to vote for Cooper. While I was impressed by the directness of what he had to say, I was cautious. The turning point for me (and I suspect for many others) was the vote on the Welfare Bill. It became abundantly clear that there was no opposition, no one who would challenge growing inequality, no conscience left in the race other than Corbyn. Only careerist politicians who would rather toe the party line for their own self-aggrandisement rather than face the obvious truth that Labour had lost the election so ignominiously  because it now served the advancement of the few rather than the many.

Essentially, it’s linked to two concepts which have become foreign not just to British politics, but politics worldwide over the last 40 years: that of conscience and compassion. It wasn’t always thus. But the rise of political assaults on the concept of society and the ties that bind us as human beings has created an illusion of rampant individualism. To a certain extent, this has proven successful in the time-honoured tradition of divide and conquer. You’re either an economic aspirant in the mould (in the UK) of a New Labourite or Thatcherite barrow boy (or girl); or you are an affront to the system. Either get with the neoliberal agenda, or get left behind in the economic Darwinian Utopia. The mentality of ‘As long as I’m alright (Union) Jack, I don’t care’.

There come moments in politics when an outsider is desperately needed. I can only remember one other such authentic breath of fresh air in my lifetime, and that was when Mary Robinson, the rank outsider, overtook the then odds-on favourite Brian Lenihan due to his involvement in a political scandal, and went on to become the President of Ireland. Robinson was an Independent TD (equivalent of MP), known as an outsider, who re-shaped what the Presidency meant in Irish political life and, to an extent, Ireland’s standing internationally.

Corbyn, as is well-documented, is also an outsider. In Westminster, though it seems as if on a personal level he is universally liked, he is seen as part of the ‘awkward’ brigade, a political anachronism i.e. an MP with a conscience. After decades of cronyism, corporatism, flipping homes, expenses scandal, and hints of a looming sex scandal, Westminster is radically in need of an overhaul.

Nowhere has this been starker than in the current scandal engulfing No.10 i.e. PigGate. Besides the obvious ‘Schweinenfreude’ of the PM being caught out in an act of porcine necrophilia lies another story: i.e. the elite groups that run this country engaging in acts of debauchery that for most people would be beyond the pale, and those groups binding each other together in symbiotic lifelong relationships built on deep-buried secrets. At least we can be thankful (unlike in Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror’) that the pig was dead; but there is still a macabre air of disrespect pervasive in the whole escapade that is mind-boggling for the majority of us not used to the bizarre rituals of the Oxbridge elite. According to contemporaneous sources (like Roswynne Jones in the Mirror) these were far from isolated incidences.

Added to that is the assumption by characters like Lord Ashcroft that they can buy their way into a position. Now obviously he didn’t; but given the damage this revelation has wreaked on Cameron personally, rather than the party as a whole, it is wildly apparent that hell hath no fury like a Lord scorned, and there had been an expectation that was not fulfilled. The very fact that there can be this expectation in Westminster speaks volumes about how politics in the UK has been corporatised and bartered for, and when the last #Hameron joke has been told and the laughter has died down, this is the issue at stake: can any truly democratic system sustain this kind of politics anymore?

I believe it can’t. I’ve lived in the UK for 17 years, and for 12 of those it was by and large a fairly tolerant society. We’re at a nadir in political life here after a 5 year onslaught against the poor, the vulnerable, the young, and 4 decades of Gekkoist political practice. If I were to put this biblically, the glorification of Mammon has risen to a cruel height, obfuscating the real purpose of politics: to work for and with people. This was most obvious as well in Corbyn’s first week, where he was pilloried for doing his job, rather than engaging in political sporting propaganda. It says a lot about the need the media, corporations, and the government have to brainwash the population with jingoism when so much column space is directed negatively at someone standing and (in line with his well-known republican beliefs) respectfully not singing. Maybe one could argue that the same could be said of Cameron i.e. that his youthful act of porcine fellatio was not directly hurting the dead pig – however, there is something inherently invasive and disrespectful about it. Even leaving #PigGate aside, his scripted, repetitive, spin-drenched responses to the questions posed to him by the public through Corbyn further served to reveal the huge chasm in thinking of the elite 1% versus the real-life toll that ideological austerity is taking on the 99%.

In the words of Kant “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” Certainly in the light of that statement, many of the inherently anti-human policies Cameron has endorsed (including most recently his compassionless reaction to the plight of the refugees) over the last 5 years should be called into question. Those who voted the Tories back into power on a majority (however slight) need to call into question their own values therein. Because in the cold hard light of day, who appears to be more fit to be Prime Minister: the bearded outsider who has a proven 32 year record of working hard for the people he represents, and wants everyone to aspire to a better life, where the basic needs of food, housing, healthcare set the lowest bar of a thriving democracy ; or the brash Oxfordian with a penchant for bestial necrophilia whose main raison d’être is to advance the interests of his corporate chums in a non-inclusive playground?