Wednesday 31 January 2018

Side Orders

Whoever that person was who resigned yesterday as Leader of Haringey Council, I hope that she is as proud as she ought to be to enjoy the support of Simon Henig, who has deprived 472 Teaching Assistants of 23 per cent of their pay, and who has faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors in order to prevent an opponent of that cut from being elected to Durham County Council.

More interestingly, however, she also enjoys the support of Nick Forbes, who is a member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, and who therefore voted in favour of its unanimous resolution condemning the Haringey Development Vehicle. How does he explain that? He must have changed his mind in a matter of hours. As, of course, anyone is entitled to do.

I trust that both Councillor Henig and Councillor Forbes endorse Laura Pidcock's candidacy against mine for the parliamentary seat of North West Durham. And I trust that she accepts their respective endorsements, thereby signalling her support for the HDV and for the Council Leader behind it. That one is easy, since Henig and Forbes are both now of that view.

Matters become more complicated in relation to another member of Labour's NEC, Jon Lansman, whom George Galloway now proposes to sue for libel. I am keeping entirely out of that, since, while both are friends of mine, neither is a political supporter. But Ms Pidcock cannot do that, since both are supporting her against me. In which case, whose side is she on? Jon Lansman's? Or George Galloway's?

Fifteen Years On

Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the secret deal between Tony Blair and George Bush, to invade Iraq with or without a UN Resolution.

Opponents of that war were called anti-Semites every day for years, so we know about those, often the same individuals, who are now bandying that one around. They are obsessed with certain people's distant pasts, and especially with Jeremy Corbyn's. They are baffled and even hurt that no one cares.

But neither Corbyn nor any of their other targets has ever done anything remotely comparable to supporting the Iraq War. No one with that on their record is morally fit to be in public life. Nothing else begins to come close.

Trust The People

Tony Benn always told you that you could have the House of Lords, or you could have what is now called Brexit, but you could never have both. People invest the pre-Blair House of Lords with the mythology with which they also invest the monarchy, as if neither had existed at the time of any Welfare State measure, or nationalisation, or retreat from Empire, or social liberalisation, or constitutional change, or EU treaty.

Such delusional people might more usefully snap out of it by joining the call for the lieutenancy areas to be made the basis of a new second chamber, to which the powers of the House of Lords would be transferred, with remuneration fixed at that of the Commons. In each of those areas, each of us would vote for one candidate, and the top six would be elected, giving 594 Senators in all.

Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats would be required, and other parties would be permitted, to submit their internally determined shortlists of two to binding, independently administered, publicly funded ballots of the entire electorate one week before the election itself. Ministers would no longer be drawn from the second chamber; instead, all of them, including the Prime Minister, would appear before it regularly. Its term of office would be six years, while that of the Commons would go back down to four.

And all non-ceremonial exercises of the Royal Prerogative, including Royal Assent, would be transferred to at least six, or possibly seven, of nine Co-Presidents, with each of us voting for one candidate, and with the top nine elected to hold office for eight years. That would in fact enfranchise those who inexplicably look to the monarchy to protect them from social democracy, or social liberalism, or European federalism, or what you. It has never done any such thing, any more than the hereditary peers did, or any more than the Lords Spiritual have ever done.

Furthermore, if the reduction in the number of Commons constituencies to 600 were indeed to occur, then the number of MPs might nevertheless remain the same. The whole country could elect 50 MPs, with each of us voting for one candidate, and with the top 50 elected at the end. Candidates would not be nominees of political parties, but any party of which a candidate happened to be a member would be listed next to his or her name on the ballot paper, for the information of the voters; the same would be true of candidates for Co-President.

What would be the deposit to become such a candidate? There would not be one, as there ought not to be in general. Instead, the requirement to be a constituency candidate might be nomination by at least five per cent of the voters, while that to be a national candidate might be nomination by at least 2000 registered parliamentary electors, including at least 10 in each of the 99 lieutenancy areas. In this day and age, obtaining that would cost little or nothing.

Candidates for Co-President, for Senator, or for national MP would all be required to name a second, who would also be listed on the ballot paper, to take office in the event of the position's becoming vacant.

In the words of the old Tory battle cry, Trust The People.

The Art of The Possible

There is a certain cart-before-the-horse quality to John Mann's call for more arts spending in the former coalfield areas. The Miners' Lodge Libraries, the brass bands, the male voice choirs, the pitmen poets, the pitmen painters, and so on, were all possible because of secure and well-paid employment with civilised working hours. They or their equivalents will not come back until it does.


You laughed when I suggested this. But now, it is happening.

Per Capita

And so another domino prepares to fall. Capita manages Army recruitment. That is how bad this is. But I am very glad that the Government has stepped in to continue to pay the Carillion apprentices. By so doing, it has made something of a broader point. Have you seen what that is yet?

Youth Truth

16-year-olds would never vote to re-elect any Government that had already served two full terms. Party or ideology would not enter into it. They would vote for the other lot, regardless.

As for the list of things that they can already do, they shouldn't be doing most or all of them. And 16-year-old taxpayers? When the school leaving age has gone up to 18? Either Sixth Form Saturday jobs are paying a lot better than they used to, or certain politicians need to get out more.

Not Just Equal Pay, But Better Pay For All

Very well said by Ella Whelan. This is like the castigation of MPs for taking a pay rise while campaigning against pay cuts for other public sector workers. These people have no trade union background, and it shows:

Who really cares about the highly questionable gender pay gap? Wealthy BBC journalists, that’s who. Ever since last year’s open letter signed by high-profile presenters called for a ‘correction’ of the alleged pay disparity between men and women at the Beeb, the corporation has had its knickers in a twist. For the rest of us, the fact that Carrie Grace and other complainants earn tens of thousands of pounds more than the average working woman and are still claiming to be mistreated is laughable. 

However, the latest attempt to please the pay-gap myth-makers is not so funny. The BBC has announced that six of its most high-profile male employees are to take a pay cut. Huw Edwards, John Humphrys, Jeremy Vine, Nick Robinson, Nicky Campbell and Jon Sopel have all agreed to take less money. Humphrys will almost halve his wage, and Vine reportedly said his wage decrease ‘wasn’t a problem as the BBC needs to tackle gender pay inequality’. Following in the BBC’s footsteps, easyJet’s chief executive Johan Lundgren agreed to cut his pay from £740,000 to £706,000 to match the company’s previous, female, CEO. £34k for feminism: how generous.

Cutting men’s wages is a terrible idea. It does nothing for women, it does nothing for equality, but it does make life easier for bosses, who are always keen to find ways to trim the workforce’s pay. It doesn’t matter that this is the state-funded BBC we’re talking about here, or that these men earn more money than most of us would know what to do with — on principle, cutting someone’s wage when they are still doing the same job is a bad idea, and a bad precedent.

Apply the pro-pay-cutters’ logic to other working scenarios and you will see how crazy it is. What if the Tesco in south Tottenham, say, happened to have more male than female line managers? Should these men take a pay cut in the name of equality? Is that what the women working at Tesco would want? Of course not. Men’s wages are not abstract things to be sacrificed in the name of political point-scoring; a cut in a man’s wage has serious ramifications not only for him, but for his family, too.

Today’s feminists might think that dragging men down is a good idea, but female radicals of the past certainly didn’t. Many contemporary feminists swoon over female strikers such as the Ford machinists in Dagenham. But their demands for equal grading never involved a cry for men’s wages to be cut. Instead, they went to trade-union meetings to convince their fellow workers that men and women should stand together, in solidarity, and demand not just equal pay but better pay for all.

The obsession with the frankly bullshit pay gap has revealed how elitist many of today’s feminists are. In 2014, Jessica Valenti asked: ‘Why not just pay women more – and pay men less?’ She said that sometimes there are ‘budget freezes’ which means employers cannot provide better pay, and therefore they should cut men’s wages in order to give more to women. Talk about siding with the bosses! Some feminists come across almost as ‘scabs’, encouraging female workers to sell out their colleagues for the pretence of equality.

Right now, saying there is no gender pay gap is akin to someone a few hundred years ago saying there was no God – it’s modern-day blasphemy. But just as there is no evidence for a big man in the sky, so there is no evidence of big men in boardrooms hatching plans to screw over women. Despite the fact that sensible women consistently point out in detail and depth that the pay gap doesn’t exist – like spiked’s Joanna Williams – we’re still giving airtime to the victim complexes and greedy aspirations of rich feminists.

These wealthy do-gooders never want to talk about real inequality. What about the inequality between Carrie Grace and the women who clean her office at the BBC? The anti-working class character of modern feminism is exposed by the pay-gap battle, where wealthy women speak in the language of rights and equality when really they’re thinking about the nice life and second home their £100k rise will get them.

Pulling men down doesn’t help women — it helps bosses. Rosa Luxemburg, one of the most radical women of the 20th century, understood this. ‘The women of the possessing classes will always be rabid supporters of the exploitation and oppression of working people’, she wrote. Addressing the argument for women’s suffrage, Luxemburg argued that ‘the contemporary mass struggle for the political equality of women is only one expression and one part of the general liberation struggle of the proletariat, and therein lies its strength and its future’. In their calls for men to take pay cuts, feminists are showing their class status and elitist attitude by siding with those who have economic power. And they dare to call themselves radical.

Tuesday 30 January 2018

"We Liberated Afghanistan"

And hasn't that gone well?

In The Van

Darren Osborne and his accomplices attacked Finsbury Park Mosque only because Jeremy Corbyn's non-attendance at an Al Quds Day march had prevented them from assassinating him, as they had intended.

Just give all of this a moment to sink in.

Our World, Indeed

Tune in to the BBC News Channel at 9:30pm on Saturday or Sunday. What was done to the children of Réunion was wicked, and it must be rectified.

Now, when is the BBC, including the Newsnight that covered this story last night, going to do something similar on what was done, and is still being done, to the people of the Chagos Islands? That, too, was wicked. That, too, must be rectified.

And never trust anyone who professes to support the Falkland Islanders (or the Gibraltarians, although they are about to go out of favour over Brexit), but who does not support the Chagossians.

What You’ll See There Is The Future

All four parts of the United Kingdom, all nine English regions, and each and all of the British Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies, need to be integrated into the Belt and Road Initiative, of which Bruno Maçães writes:

The world’s lost cities have all been unearthed. The modern-day equivalent – fulfilling an age-old desire to stand in a place wholly unknown to others – is a city built so recently that few have even heard of it.

The Chinese town of Khorgas, on the border with Kazakhstan, can’t be found on most maps. Built from scratch over the past three years, it has quickly become a sprawling grid of broad avenues with the feel of a Californian town. Tree-lined streets have wide, pristine pavements. Construction crews are busy at work. Seen from a distance – better from the Kazakh border – there is a nascent line of skyscrapers.

Most traffic lights are not yet operational, but large video screens on some street corners project maps of the new infrastructure planned to connect Eurasia, bright arrows criss-crossing the steppes like comets. As the city’s amenities are installed, the population is already hovering around 200,000.

The Chinese conceive of Khorgas as a city linking east and west and a first taste of their global economic project, the Belt and Road, which seeks to link China with central Asia and Europe by means of fast transport infrastructure, trade, finance and cultural exchange. Young people have been flocking here, not only from the western Chinese province of Xinjiang but from further afield. On a commercial side street, a shop selling Georgian wine has signs in five different scripts: Chinese, Cyrillic, Roman, Georgian and Arabic – used for Uighur, the language of the province’s dominant ethnic group. This must be something of a world record.

I have dinner at Fuyun, a busy new restaurant that serves expensive fish and seafood. When a Chinese city gets its first seafood restaurant, you know it is taking off. Businessmen meet in private booths to conclude deals. The staff use my visit as an opportunity to learn a few English words and I order by clicking the images on an electronic menu. The place is buzzing, mirroring the feeling in the town. Everyone is too busy making a fortune to care about following the rules too strictly: perhaps the traffic lights will never be turned on.

This is the new Wild West for the many young people flocking to Khorgas from the big Chinese mega-cities to the east. When you cross the border to the Kazakh side, things are more subdued. The Kazakh Khorgos (the name for the town is the same, but there is a difference in pronunciation) is still more or less what it has always been: a couple of dozen old houses congregated around a pretty mosque and a road running down to the border post.

But you should not be fooled. On a later visit, when I step off the night train at the new Altynkol station, the feeling of being in the Wild West returns. The 20 or 30 passengers quickly disappear and I am left alone in the middle of inhospitable dunes and a flock of grazing sheep. This is the middle of nowhere, but why, then, am I standing by a new, imposing train station and why the two-lane highway, in its final construction stages?

After a turn on the road leaving the station, you suddenly see them: three giant yellow cranes, shining in the morning sunlight.

This is the new Khorgos dry port, an ambitious project to build one of the world’s greatest ports in what is probably the place on Earth furthest from any ocean. Such are the ironies of globalisation.

At the end of 2015, I embarked on what was to become a six-month journey along the historical and cultural borders between Europe and Asia.

We live in one of those rare moments in history when the political and economic axis of the world is shifting. Four or five centuries ago, it shifted towards the west. Europe, for so much of its history a quiet backwater, came to rule practically the whole globe.

Now this axis is shifting east. We know what this means for Asia. We have seen the new majestic skylines and the bullet trains and stations quickly replacing the old camel routes and caravanserai. But what does it mean for the west? Might the colossus used to bringing change upon others now be forced to change, in response to the new political and economic winds blowing from the east? 

Suddenly, what happens in east or south Asia, in Russia or the Middle East, affects everyone in Europe and the United States more profoundly than Europeans or Americans would like to think, especially since they now feel these influences are in some important respect beyond their control. Their world has expanded, but expansion of this sort is not always welcome. It is now almost a truism to say that our century will be an Asian century. In just a decade or two, at least three of the five largest economies in the world will be in Asia: China, Japan and India. The only uncertain point about this metric is which country will occupy the fifth position. Will it be Germany, Indonesia, Russia or Brazil? My guess, if we are talking about the global economy in 20 years’ time, is that it will be Indonesia.

It takes a remarkable lack of imagination to think that the world will be more or less the same when Asian economic power becomes so visibly dominant.

The new swing of the pendulum, as the political scientist Charles Kupchan has argued, is going to lead to a world where no one will be dominant. In some respects, this is a return to the past. We have had periods in history in which power was broadly diffused across different zones and different visions of political order lived side by side.

But the fact that the Qing and the Mughals and the Hapsburgs had very different views about religion, commerce, hierarchy and markets was not very significant, because they lived their own lives in relative isolation. What is different about our time is that globalisation forces us to live all jumbled together and yet we all have very different visions of what this common world should look like.

Kupchan writes: “The next world will hardly be the first one in which different great powers operate according to different conceptions of order. But, due to the onset of global interdependence, it will be the first time that such a diverse set of orders intensely and continuously interact with each other.” 

Let us forgo the more spectacular pronouncements and settle on a compromise: this century will not be Asian, but neither will it be European or American, as the previous 300 or 400 years so clearly were. I suggest the alternative of “Eurasian” as a way of signalling this new balance between the two poles. It is increasingly a composite world – as Eurasia itself is a composite word – where very different visions of political order are intermixed and forced to live together.

‘Hello passenger! Welcome to Yiwu International Trade City.’ This time, I’m at the other – eastern – extreme of China. 

As I sit in the back seat of the taxi, welcomed by a recorded English message, the image on my mind is that of the passenger who got out as I opened the door. In his hand he casually carried a large plastic bag full with green dollar bills. Everything in this increasingly famous city – two hours by train from Shanghai – is rather rough at the edges. The traders coming to Yiwu are mostly from Pakistan, the Middle East and Africa. Some still prefer to deal in hard cash and avoid banks. Others do not have a bank account at all.

There is an Arab district and a Turkish district and an Indian district in Yiwu. With so many businessmen arriving all the time, a fixed population gradually set in, catering to their needs for accommodation and food and some essential services like translation and insurance. A handful of luxury hotels have recently opened, but these are for the Chinese industrialists coming here to sell their wares, not the foreigners, who stay at cheaper places, surrounded by their kin and countrymen.

Globalization as defined and led by the West may well have seen better days, but Yiwu is a striking example of a city, small by Chinese standards, so intimately connected to the rest of the world that every disturbance produced a continent away is immediately registered here, the central nervous system integrating information from endless locations everywhere.

In December 2014 a new direct train connection between Yiwu and Madrid was established. Its claim to fame rests on the fact that it is now the longest train route in the world, covering a distance of roughly 13,000 kilometres, more than the Trans-Siberian railway. When the Yiwu mayor takes me on a tour of the train terminal, there are a number of boxes being unloaded. We open two or three. Inside, there are bottles of Rioja, Spanish sunflower oil and mineral water. Appropriately, the first train carried Christmas decorations to Spain.

District One, the oldest section of the market, is largely devoted to toys. I am told that about one-quarter of toys and two-thirds of Christmas decorations sold worldwide come from Yiwu. Toys are special because they are manufactured in the Yiwu region, guaranteeing that you can get the lowest prices in China – and therefore the world – at the Futian market. There are certainly a few thousand stores entirely devoted to toys, phantasmagoria of colours, catchy tunes, animatronics and recorded doll voices. As you walk through the brightly lit corridors, all sense of time and space disappears.

The faces of the employees, confined to their garish cubicles for the full day, look haunted, sometimes frozen and vaguely insane, at first indistinguishable from a crowd of other faces peeping out: clowns, panda bears and yellow smileys. Every now and then, there is a completely different store, specializing in tourist souvenirs sold to Egyptian traders, for example, so that it is full of miniature plastic pyramids, the sort you will find at Cairo airport. One store may be full with baby dolls that say ‘mama’, the next with dolls that say ‘papa’. Perhaps the Yiwu market is meant to be a dramatized model of life in the new millennium: the organization of excess.

When I had asked for recommendations, two or three people told me to try a restaurant on Chouzhou Bei Lu mentioned in speeches by President Xi Jinping. It seems odd to me that a restaurant would be singled out in those highly contrived speeches and at first I cannot even try to imagine what the reason might be.

When I visit in the early evening, the restaurant is empty. I am welcomed by two young men, Abdul and Mohammed. They are from Syria. Mohammed arrived only three or four years ago and is a refugee from the Syrian war. Abdul arrived earlier. They seem to be in charge of the restaurant, helped by a number of veiled Hui Muslim women. One of the most striking things about Yiwu is the way Chinese Muslims meet here with the trading Arab and Central Asian community, a replica of the movement of people and beliefs at the very beginning of Islam.

Facing the street there is a large picture of Xi Jinping, together with an excerpt from one of his speeches: There is a Jordanian, Muhannad, in Yiwu where Arab businesspeople congregate. He set up an Arab restaurant, and prospered along with the city. He has since married a Chinese woman and settled in China. An ordinary young Arab, weaving his dream of life into the Chinese Dream of pursuing happiness, eventually reached success through hard work.

Muhannad is not at the restaurant the day I visit, so I make a point of returning the next day, but even then I am perhaps too early. Abdul points me to the car parked outside, where his boss is fast asleep. 

Eventually, as the restaurant starts to fill up, we decide to wake him up and sit down to have a cup of strong Turkish coffee. Muhannad tells me the story of how he ended up in Yiwu. It is a story of growing Chinese presence and soft power. He followed an uncle to Thailand where they opened a restaurant, but so many of the visitors, both tourists and businessmen, were Chinese and so wondrous were the tales of money and success they brought with them that Muhannad soon moved to Guangzhou and from Guangzhou to Yiwu, with its deep Arab links.

I ask him how Xi found out about the restaurant. Had he ever eaten here? Muhannad does not confirm it, but he certainly wants me to believe it. The Chinese Dream is good for business.

Then, after the first lull in the conversation, we both turn to the tragedy in Syria. Businessmen from Syria have been coming to Yiwu since the city first became a modern trade centre fifty years ago, but now the influx is young people escaping the war, even if officially they still arrive with business visas – like everyone here – rather than as asylum seekers. Muhannad shows me the pictures of recent meetings of the community in a large room decorated with red, white and black balloons, the colours of the Syrian flag. I cannot help thinking that all these balloons must come from the market.

There are now close to one thousand Syrians in Yiwu. With its large mosque and its endless market, a space-age bazaar, the city offers itself, in the hearts of these men and women, as an industrial reproduction of the cities they left behind.

China has embarked on a giant project of international political engineering. The rewards are potentially very great, but so are the risks – affecting everyone – and this raises the question of why the European Union has so far been left on the sidelines. One would think that the historic project of reviving the land routes between Europe and Asia is one in which Europe should play an active role. 

Though the initial focus of the Belt and Road is naturally on China’s immediate periphery, Europe lies as its final goal and main justification. That has been conjured by repeated references to the Silk Road, whose associations take us to old trade networks linking the Atlantic to the Pacific. Among those making this point, most emphatic has been Wang Yiwei, of Beijing’s Renmin University.

He argues that the Belt and Road is just as significant for Europe as it is for China, offering a timely opportunity to address challenges that might otherwise continue to haunt Europeans for a long time. Two examples stand out. First, with the Ukraine crisis taking Europe by surprise, Wang writes: “It seems that in order to strengthen European integration, actions can no longer be confined to the present union.” In this context, he could also mention Syria, a second reminder that Europe needs to look east if it is to survive and prosper. 

Second, the Belt and Road offers the European Union an evident opportunity to engage in its own “pivot to Asia”, made urgent by the ongoing American efforts in this area.

Recently, a number of historians have made the case that the ancient Silk Road was less about trade in goods than about cultural exchange, the movement of ideas, religions and people. The former was always limited in size and mostly local. The latter changed the course of world history, not once but many times over.

That, in the end, will also be the case with the Belt and Road. The spillovers from infrastructure and trade into politics, culture and security are not a bug in the project, but its most fundamental feature. 

Under the new leadership of Xi Jinping, China realised that it ran the risk of becoming a giant Singapore or Hong Kong, an economic powerhouse linked to the rest of the world by trade links, but otherwise a political island, incapable of offering the outside world its own vision of a universal culture and universal values and, ultimately, dependent on a global system it did not create and cannot control.

Now that China is, according to most estimates, already the largest economy in the world, it feels that its political and cultural influence needs to grow proportionately, starting with its periphery in south-east and central Asia. With the Belt and Road, the Chinese authorities intend to move the country from the image of a willing participant in the global economy into a new phase, as a state with responsibilities for organising and shaping it. By expanding its influence outside its borders, China will be called upon to develop new political concepts to rival the western abstractions of human rights and liberal democracy.

Zhang Yansheng, of the National Development and Reform Commission, the government body in charge of the initiative, told me that the project is meant “to connect the minds of our peoples”. When a country takes upon itself the task of bringing the whole world together, you can be sure that it is aware of the difficulties, but also that it has decided to embrace them.

In the past, the steppes of central Asia were the place where new civilisations were born and where old ones would sometimes come to die. There’s a lot of history in Khorgas. But no past. There are no ruins, no mazars or old minarets. What you’ll see there is the future.

Malign Activities

Of such did Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, repeatedly accuse Iran in Europe, on this morning's Today programme. Perhaps he is right. But he repeatedly declined to say the same thing about Saudi Arabia.

Set Your Cap At This

The BBC has played a blinder. Instead of being about overpayment, it has been made about the detail that some men are even more overpaid than any women are.

Development Vehicle

Good riddance to Shirley Porter as Leader of Haringey Council, and well done to Labour's National Executive Committee on having made her position untenable. But having arranged the meeting between Jeremy Corbyn and the County Durham Teaching Assistants the evening before the 2016 Durham Miners' Gala, which led to his endorsement of their cause during his Gala speech the following afternoon, I have always been very disappointed, even allowing for the distance involved, that he has never attended any of their subsequent protests, pickets, marches or rallies.

At last year's Gala, the previously supportive Durham Miners' Association even seated the Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, on the platform with Corbyn and with Angela Rayner. The man whose political advice has led 472 of the Teaching Assistants to lose 23 per cent of their pay has been made Political Advisor to Laura Pidcock, who is herself notable for having walked out of the Teaching Assistants' Solidarity Rally when a speaker, who is now a constituent and near neighbour of hers, called for the defeat of all Labour candidates at what were then the upcoming local elections.

Had that advice been followed instead, then the TAs would have won by now. As they would have done if they had returned their champion, Owen Temple, at North West Durham. But as it is, they must endure Pidcock and her Advisor until I am elected for this seat. Justice for the 472 will be a non-negotiable part of the price of my support for any Government in the hung Parliament that is by far the most likely outcome of the next General Election. Please give generously. Very many thanks.

Right All Along

I tried to tell you. We are to become a colony of the European Union, still bound by its laws while having no say in their content; we are to become a vassal state of the European Union, obliged to pay tribute to the imperium. Both of those arrangements will be "for a transitional period". Of course.

Like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, Liam Fox probably did not even vote Leave. Neither Johnson nor Fox would have been given his current job unless Theresa May and Gavin Williamson had been absolutely satisfied as to his Remainer credentials. Williamson will be the only candidate to succeed May. The last Conservative Leadership Election, fully 13 years ago and counting, really was the last Conservative Leadership Election, ever.

As for the Visegrád Group, why did they ever join the EU, something that they did as recently as 1st May 2004? In Vienna today, Viktor Orbán's alliance-building with the Austrian Third Lager has vast implications. Yet these are the people to whose legislative will we are to remain subject.

The recent Academics Ball reminded us that the Third Lager was not without is grander, more refined and more cerebral side. We associate right-wing intellectuals with the Continent, and to a lesser extent with the United States. The Right in the English-speaking world complains endlessly that it is excluded from academic life. Do not believe a word of it.

Those academics who decide to become rich and famous in late middle age by appearing to turn right always were like that. They probably think that they have been keeping their heads down until they had been given tenure or what have you. But the reality is that everyone always knew. As much as anything else, overly extravagant professions of liberal or Marxist opinion are always telltale signs of something else.

Bored of the relative poverty, the relative obscurity and the relative pretence, each of them eventually publishes his edition of The Book. Jordan Peterson's is the latest Book, but it is always the same Book. The flavour of the month is called that for a reason. Adolescent taste is fickle. Luckily, though, the target audience is always too young to have read the last Book, the last write-up of right-wing tabloid boilerplate in vaguely academic language. Six months ago, no one had ever heard of Jordan Peterson. In a year's time, few will remember him. But he will have been a pop star for about as long as most pop stars had ever lasted.

On the Continent, and to a lesser extent in the United States, there are continuous, living traditions of out and proud right-wing academia and wider intellectual life, from apprenticeship to the Olympian heights. But in Britain, in the American academic and artistic mainstream, and in what was once the Old Commonwealth, there is an insistence on pretending to have been pretending to have been a liberal or a kind of Marxist until the obvious is stated as if it were some sort of male menopause.

That said, all sorts of things go on under the deliberately faulty radar. The Ulster Institute for Social Research, the seat of the Mankind Quarterly, is hosted by the perfectly respectable University of Ulster. The London Conference on Intelligence is held at the world class University College London, which is ostensibly, and not accidentally, the last institution on earth where anyone would ever think to look for such an event.

And the four ancient Scottish universities are major centres, both of the wider study of Roman law, and of wider Reformed ("Calvinist") theological scholarship, each of which covers a very broad range of opinion and culture, and each of which gives those institutions a high degree of integration into the academic life of the Continent. Watch that space.

Monday 29 January 2018

Internal Affairs

The Guardian is that old acquaintance whom you had thought was dead, but who turns out to be plodding on. There is fun and games because it has asked for readers' experiences of unpaid internships, only to be told of such at, you've guessed it, The Guardian.

I do not deny that this is all good, clean, family entertainment. But in one of her better ideas, for she does have them, Theresa May once promised to outlaw unpaid internships. When is that going to happen?

A Rule For Life

Jordan Peterson has never had an original thought in his life. If you want an argument against votes at 16, then you could scarcely do better than the fact that it would enfranchise the boys who had read so little as to imagine that he had.


If the technology exists for this, then it exists to block these sites altogether. For all its other achievements, the legalisation of this kind of material in the United Kingdom is the most abiding cultural legacy of the last Labour Government. And if, rightly, no one under 18 is allowed to appear in it, or to view it, then how can they be allowed to have sex at all? Never mind to vote?

I would love to see a redress in the balance of the political debate away from freebies for Baby Boomers. So I have tried and tried with votes at 16. But I just do not get it. And after the last General Election, I do not see the need for it, anyway. Of course there was no "youthquake". Who ever said that there had been? Those crowing today need to recognise what were, from their own point of view, the far more discombobulating, but the accurate, reasons why Labour took 40 per cent of the vote and came well within a million votes of winning.

Whereas I am moving away from my uncharacteristic agnosticism about Proportional Representation, even if I am still not convinced as to any specific alternative to First Past the Post, and even though I can still see the problems with all of them. I voted Yes to AV, but I could just as easily have voted No, although that system would pretty much have guaranteed my election for this seat in 2022. 

But if this country does not like coalitions, then it has a very funny way of manifesting that dislike. Two of the last three General Elections have resulted in hung Parliaments, and there would have been one in 2015 if the Conservatives had not broken the law on expenditure, a breach that they do not deny, but which the Crown Prosecution Service cannot see the "public interest" in prosecuting.

First Past the Post is giving us coalitions, anyway, and it is going to continue to do so. People who did not like the last one could punish the Lib Dems for it, and they did. (For some reason, they did not also punish the Conservatives for it. I cannot understand why not.) But the huge majority of the electorate has no means of punishing the DUP.


In a National Health Service, Great Ormond Street Hospital should not have to beg, least of all from tax avoiders. But if the Presidents Club's money is not going there, then where, exactly, is it going? And why, exactly?

False Economy

Public contracts were being awarded to Carillion, a notorious late payer that was robbing its pensioners blind and doing its shareholders no favours while paying astronomical bonuses to its directors and to its senior executives.

Carillion, Serco, Atos, G4S, even Virgin these days and for quite a long time: these are not really private companies at all. They are parasites on a State that ought to be doing these things itself, subject to democratic political accountability. That includes commissioning small and medium sized businesses. And then paying them, in full and on time.

Meanwhile, the usual suspects are having kittens because Jeremy Corbyn proposes that the State buy empty properties in order to house the homeless in them. But this is the kind of thing that Conservative central and local government used to do. It is the kind of thing that a Conservative Government reflective of Theresa May's rhetoric would already be doing.

Statue of Limitations

In the last 40 years, each main party has had a Leader who has led it to three consecutive General Election victories, in both cases including two consecutive landslides.

In Labour's case, it has moved from booing that Leader's name to simply never uttering it, although there is an acceptance of the real achievements in reducing child poverty, and in introducing the minimum wage and the Human Rights Act. Achievements for which Jeremy Corbyn did of course vote. Indeed, of the four Leadership candidates in July 2015, he was the only one who still did vote to defend that record on child poverty.

But on the Conservative side, there is a sharp distinction between grassroots and a certain number of backbench cultists, and a controlling element that finds Margaret Thatcher useful or even interesting only as the first of the party's two women Leaders and Prime Ministers, enabling them to howl that Labour has never even produced one. Notice that they, too, rarely say her name. Above a certain level in her party, she is almost as unmentionable as Tony Blair has become at every level of his.

The latest device to placate the cultists is the proposal for a statue of Thatcher in Parliament Square. But recent confirmation of what everyone had always known means that that will always be absolutely impossible. Victorians are one thing, but we are talking here about someone who as late as 1990 was using a prominent position on the world stage to agitate for South Africa to become an all-white state.

Thatcher's position was more extreme than that, at the time, of the Herstigte Nasionale Party, those scourges of P.W. Botha's liberal softness and backsliding, who for part of her Premiership bankrolled her supporters in the League of St George. It was more extreme than that of Franz Josef Strauss or Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. It made her by far the most racist figure to have held a national office of any prominence anywhere in the West since the 1950s. There will never be a statue of her in Parliament Square. And, as she herself might have put it, "that's that."

Foul Footsteps' Pollution

I have only just noticed this, but the tacit support for the intervention of the military top brass in policy, expressed in one clause of Peter Hitchens's column yesterday, is very much at odds with that column's main message of opposition to the Americanisation of our political life.

Unsettled Dust

I have no doubt that @RedStarRedDust really is based in Consett. The reference in its name is fairly niche. And that Twitter account opines: "Lindsay's Left allies, what about #Brexit, friendship with Tories/Tory Lib Dems/Tory Independents, Marxism, Scottish independence, #Catalunya, immigration, climate change, #trans rights, abortion, assisted dying, sex work, drugs, Fathers 4 Justice, #Trump, #Murdoch, #DailyMail?" It would have been rude not to reply:

I have always supported Brexit, like most of the organisations that you profess to represent. I have numerous Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Independent friends, and I will have Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Independents on my parliamentary staff.

Like Jeremy Corbyn, I have never been a Marxist; like him, I see that Marxism asks many of the right questions. I have always opposed Scottish independence. Like the SNP, Catalan separatism is the "taxpayers' revolt" type of right-wing populism that I find utterly unsympathetic.

I support the tighter immigration controls that have long been advocated by trade unionists such as Paul Embery, and which were recently taken up, at least in part, by John McDonnell.

Any approach to climate change must protect employment, encourage development, uphold the right of working-class and non-white people to have children, hold down and as far as practicable reduce fuel prices, and not restrict either travel opportunities or a full diet to the rich.

My position on transgenderism is that of the Morning Star. On abortion, that of John Smith and Ronnie Campbell. On assisted suicide, that of them and of the Morning Star. On prostitution, again, that of the Star. Prostitution, pornography and drugs are capitalism at its very worst.

I would not have voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. I do not blame those who voted for him against her neoliberalism and neoconservatism. I would welcome his State Visit for the protests, provided they were organised by people who would have been just as opposed to her.

I saw nothing to fear in Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of Sky News. What was so wonderful about his rivals, especially the BBC? I would take the Daily Mail over Richard Branson any day, and look forward to its exposés of Virgin's NHS and rail privateering.

In reaction, not least because "Lindsay is a vicious religious bigot: #TERF, anti right to choose, anti right to die, #SWERF, pro war on drugs, all dressed up as anti capitalism," we are told that, "The whole Left can & must defeat this man."

Sunday 28 January 2018

Identity Politics

Just as you cannot deliver public services unless you control immigration, so you cannot meet the specific health and other public service needs of women and of men if you make gender a matter of self-identification.

There is a reason why the Conservatives have done nothing about immigration in eight years, and there is a reason why they want to introduce the gender self-identification that even New Labour never quite did.

This is the Left's ground. Do not concede it.

For The Record

Not for Brendan Cox the fantasy of a lone wolf. He knows exactly what killed his wife.

A rather charmingly callow acolyte of Laura Pidcock's, although she is barely older than he is, has accused the Tow Law-based Twitter account @ProudWhitePower of being obsessed with her. Causing it to tweet and pin the following:

"For the record we have no interest in recently arrived @LauraPidcockMP, one term MP with a black boyfriend on her CV. Our enemy is our international enemy of 20 years and local enemy of 25, @davidaslindsay. Keeping him out of Parliament is White Nationalists' number one priority."


If it is not 15 years, then it is not far off, since the Ku Klux emailed, from the United States, every Labour member of Derwentside District Council to warn them against fielding me as a parliamentary candidate at North West Durham. I have been in the Far Right's cross hairs for a very long time. Laura who?

Meanwhile, via the medium of @ProudWhitePower, Alison Saunders speaks. It took the threat of a private prosecution by a charity for the Crown Prosecution Service to act against Alison Chabloz, whom Google if you have to. But there was no need of any of that for it to act against me. Similarly, Poppi Worthington's father has not been charged, and will not be. But I have been. The case of Toby Young demonstrated, not for the first time, the commonality between those two interests.

Think on.

He Can Still Do It When He Wants To

Apart from a brief call for more military spending when he is usually the first to point out that this country no longer has any enemies, nor any reason to acquire any, all five parts of Peter Hitchens's column today are excellent. Perhaps he still swoons over the uniforms? Once a minor public schoolboy, and all that. But apart from that, he can still do it when he wants to.

No Russian Doll

Look up Alexei Navalny.

He's not very nice.

Friday 26 January 2018

"I Don't Think Either Of Them Enjoyed It Very Much"

So said Ben Sellers when I mentioned to him that Owen Jones and Wes Streeting were no strangers to each other's gentleman parts. But growing up today, they would have been lucky to have had them to share. Thanks to the way of thinking that they themselves now espouse, their own younger selves would have been told to change their names, their clothes and their pronouns, and to submit to powerful hormonal treatment leading to drastic, irreversible surgery.

Call yourself what you like. Wear what you like. Use whatever pronouns you like, I suppose, since that does vary over time, so that a 1980s paper entitled France and Her Institutions would read oddly now. Have, as an adult, whatever drugs or surgery the psychiatrist prescribed for your mental illness. But recognise that that is what it is. Keep it the hell away from children. And keep your penis out of the ladies'. What a difference an apostrophe makes.

Panic and Chaos

The trouble with Gavin Williamson is that he really believes it. The people in the MoD who feed him this dross obviously do not. But he does. And he is the next Leader of the Conservative Party. Meaning that he will probably be Prime Minister before the end of this Parliament.

The position of Secretary of State for Education is not reserved for people who are in awe of teachers. Yet since time immemorial, the position of Secretary of State for Defence has been reserved for people with a weird, beta male crush on the Armed Forces.

When Whitehall mandarins plead for more money, then they are just Whitehall mandarins pleading for more money. But put uniforms on them, and watch the difference in response.

Perhaps it is just physical fear? Question this kind of thing online, and watch how quickly the demands will be issued to meet up and settle the matter by force. Do the Armed Forces intentionally recruit this type? Or does Forces life turn the otherwise normal into that?

In the population at large, hardly anyone has ever been in the Armed Forces. But a fairly high proportion of Conservative Party members has been. Think on.

Release Our Thinking

If Laura Plummer, against whom there is a case, is to be released, then what about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe? Jeremy Corbyn, or indeed anyone sufficiently prominent, needs to go to Tehran and refuse to leave without her.

A Gap In Thinking

There is no "gender pay gap" at the BBC. There is overpayment, regardless of sex.

First and Foremost

Donald Trump may wish to apologise for having retweeted Jayda Fransen, but his having done so is a key part of Britain First's and its allies' campaign on her behalf to keep me out of Parliament here at North West Durham, "the number one priority for White Nationalists at the next General Election."

That has been recanted by none of Jayda Fransen, Britain First, the British National Party, the National Front, National Action, the Britannica Party, the British Democratic Party, Ulster Resistance, the Orange Volunteers, the Red Hand Defenders, the Real Ulster Freedom Fighters, the Springbok Club, the London Swinton Circle, the Conservative Monday Club, the League of St George, Candour, Spearhead, Redwatch, Black House Publishing, Focal Point Publications, Steve Bannon, Roy Moore, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders or Heinz-Christian Strache.

Bring it on, say I. I have been in the Far Right's cross hairs for two thirds of Laura Pidcock's life, and counting. I have been looking forward to this for a very long time.


Jeremy Corbyn has sacked Jon Mendelsohn from the front bench, so Theresa May needs to sack Nadhim Zahawi. Corbyn then needs to withdraw the whip from Mendelsohn, challenging May to withdraw the whip from Zahawi. Zahawi is a prominent supporter of Boris Johnson.

Thursday 25 January 2018

The Oliver Kamm Challenge

As he awaits justice in the High Court at the hands of Neil Clark, Oliver Kamm has been Liking tweets by an anti-Lindsay, pro-Pidcock Twitter account, presumably as a kind of "coo-ee, I'm here". What a very full and active life he must lead. But since he is taking an interest in these matters, he has six options.

He can endorse Laura Pidcock against me, lining himself up with Owen Jones and apparently with George Galloway. He can endorse me against Laura Pidcock. He can endorse the Conservative candidate against both of us. He can endorse the Liberal Democrat candidate against both of us. He can contest this seat himself. Or he can shut up and go away.

Which is it to be?

Of A Sort, Perhaps?

I have always defended the right of Progress to organise. But Lord Mendelsohn, of the Presidents Dinner, was also at the heart of the cash for peerages scandal. Ties need to be cut.

The Churchill We Misremember

Matt Purple writes:

Last weekend I saw “Darkest Hour,” the biopic about Winston Churchill’s early prime ministerial days in 1940, and liked it less than I’d expected to. It felt too Hollywood, too cartoonish, as best illustrated by a scene near the end that finds Churchill ejecting from his car like Vin Diesel has just ignited its gas tank and descending into the London Underground. There he asks a train full of Brits what he should do about the Nazi problem; their hearty reply: fight on! Cut to his famous speech before his cabinet in which he declares that Britain will fall “only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground,” an oration that really did move his ministers to applause and was compelling enough without some preposterous display of subway egalitarianism.

But maybe I’m just being fussy (an eminently Churchillian quality, by the way). “Darkest Hour” is beloved by critics, after all, and has so far grossed $41 million domestically, not bad for a period piece about British parliamentary jockeying. The biggest reason for its success is its main character who seems to have kindled the public imagination of late: there was Churchill in Netflix’s “The Crown” portrayed by John Lithgow, in a recent eponymous film about the run-up to D-Day played by Brian Cox, and in absentia for one of his greatest triumphs in the mega-hit “Dunkirk.” George Patton, once the World War II figure who most fascinated Americans, has at least for now been edged aside, one pithy warrior for another.

It is Churchill’s sheer capacity that enchants us, his presence in the map rooms and on the battlefields of two world wars, guzzling whisky-and-waters, setting more words to paper than most professional writers do in their lifetimes, dispatching his opponents with vinegarish bon mots (his assessment of Clement Attlee, “a sheep in sheep’s clothing,” may be the best political putdown in history). The historian Paul Johnson, in his slim and slobbering volume on Churchill, attributes some of this prolificacy to, of all things, his subject’s abstinence from the “worry and emotional storm” of adultery, though that was surely one of the few vices Churchill ever managed to avoid. He imbibed constantly and was a reckless gambler, two habits that conspired to nearly bankrupt him. He was politically opportunistic, repeatedly defecting between parties and constituencies. He could be prickly, temperamental, and egoistic. Summarizing popular perception, a friend of mine once called him the “man-shouts-at-cloud of the Second World War.”

But those vices also ascribe to him a humanity lacking in his Yalta colleagues. Franklin Roosevelt was elevated into a presidential god, his wheelchair and his authoritarianism airbrushed away, and Stalin was eventually acknowledged as a genocidal villain. But Churchill always remained of this realm, eminently relatable with his tumbler and his tongue. Furthering his appeal is the mythology we’ve grown up around him, which remembers a lone exemplar of moral backbone amidst scoliotic appeasers, an advocate of grand projects over picayune squabbles, willing to make tough and even deadly calls when the circumstances demanded it. Churchill shows that our peccadilloes can be obscured, even glamorized, in posterity by the heroic decisions we make, which is why he’s especially adored by public figures. Yet some are more susceptible to his mystique than others.

There is a certain personality that longs to be present at one of history’s rare exhilarating moments, when everything is cast into shades of black and white and pragmatic realism becomes untenable; that disdains the minutiae of policymaking and longs for the momentous and big. To him, Churchill is a natural hero. The best example of such a person in the United States is Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standardeditor, who invokes Churchill so often you’d be forgiven for thinking he held a séance with him nightly. To Kristol, every mediocre potentate with a colander on his head is a nascent Hitler; every declined opportunity to take him out is 1938 Munich. The world over is simplistic and binary because Kristol prefers it that way, because it’s less gratifying to deal in the grays of reality than to choose good over evil while the symphony crescendos.

Hop the Atlantic and you find Boris Johnson, the Clorox-coiffed Conservative Party gadfly. Johnson, too, is a Churchill admirer, so much so that he published a book back in 2014 called The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History. More than one reviewer has observed that it superimposes its subject on its author, with Marina Hyde at The Guardian even calling it a “psychiatric document.” I’m far more sympathetic to Johnson than I am to Kristol, but he does appear to have a blazing thirst to be prime minister, and Churchill has always seemed his model. So Johnson mutters and gaffes, repeatedly knifes his fellow Tories in the back, but all that’s okay because what matters is that he chose rightly when it counted, in his case for Brexit. To Johnson, Churchill is a model to emulate, to Kristol he’s a lens, but the common denominator is the same: a world of bold colors, not pale pastels, that forgives ambition in the service of greatness.

The problem is that, as Andrew Bacevich observed, Churchill’s moment cannot so easily explain our own. Most historical occasions are not Dunkirk and D-Day; most problems can’t be solved with mere courage and willpower. The little stuff does matter and ignoring it in favor of sweeping moral catharsis can bring calamity, as has happened with the fight against terrorism. We forget, too, that Churchill himself was chary about war as only one who experienced it could have been—and that sometimes he even advocated for restraint. In 1901, he gave a speech to the House of Commons opposing a British Army buildup because he worried it would enable those who wanted to have it out across the Continent. “I have frequently been astonished since I have been in this House to hear with what composure and how glibly Members, and even Ministers, talk of a European war,” he said, an admonishment informed by his own sanguinary experiences in the Second Boer War and the Mahdist War in the Sudan. Warning about newspapers that had whipped their readers into nationalist frenzies, he continued: “Democracy is more vindictive than Cabinets. The wars of peoples will be more terrible than those of kings.”

They were indeed. Out of European recklessness would rampage two world wars that saw Churchill send soldiers to their doom at Gallipoli, demand the total destruction of Hitler’s regime, and order the bombing of German cities. I’m not trying to paint Churchill as some sort of closet dove: his foremost role was that of warlord and once an enemy was upon him he fought savagely. But he was also a far subtler thinker than the facile ghost rattling around in the hawkish imagination. He waged war but he also feared it gravely, especially what he called “scientific” war, conflicts fought with increasingly destructive modern weapons. In his 1946 “The Sinews of Peace” address at Westminster College in Missouri, which became remembered as his “Iron Curtain” speech, he struck a balance between realism and idealism, pronouncing that “it is not our duty at this time when difficulties are so numerous to interfere forcibly in the internal affairs of countries which we have not conquered in war” while also averring that “the great principles of freedom and the rights of man” must be proclaimed. Years later, he would decline President Eisenhower’s invitation to join an American coalition and intervene in Vietnam.

Historical memory is like a great compactor, crushing nuances and flattening wrinkles until a person or event is made a perfect morsel for popular consumption. We have rendered Churchill what we will—and yet the average American doesn’t spend much time cursing the Chamberlain premiership. So why is Churchill suddenly back in vogue? My best guess is that annoyance with our current president has something to do with it. Whereas Trump brays, Churchill spoke with winged words; whereas Trump obsesses over the trivial, Churchill dealt mostly in the grand; whereas Trump has made our times perilous and uncertain, Churchill resolved his favorably. There is still much to admire in the old lion, even if he wasn’t the subway-rallying universal we’ve made him out to be.

Finalising The Details

I have always supported a State Visit by President Trump. The demonstrations against it would define this country's culture and politics for 50 years, which would be the rest of my life. But if, and only if, they were organised and headlined by the people who had been just vigorously opposed to Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and who would have been just as vigorously opposed to Hillary Clinton.

Welcome To My TERF

With all the furore about whether men should be allowed on all-women shortlists, Labour needs to ditch this Blairiest of ideas once and for all. No one has ever liked it, it has always struck most people as self-evidently illegal, and it has delivered many candidates and MPs who would have been classified as far too young if they had been men (in the traditional sense of the word), or indeed if they had been women in open competition.

Either that, or, although of the usual age, they have had little or no political experience, but that has been held up as somehow a good thing. In either case, the result has been the easily manipulated lobby fodder that the Blairite machine has wanted. Meanwhile, what with this and the general exclusion of the Left, a generation of talent has been lost.

It is no surprise, then, that in the battle to save all-women shortlists by conforming them to the spirit of this age of gender fluidity, the key player is Wes Streeting. Ask him and his courtiers what the Blair Government ever did, and see what their answer would be. Under no circumstances must politics become a matter of economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends. Oh, no. It has to be about genitals, and preferably male genitals.

If they can cope with a man, but a man who is perfectly willing to keep his gender fluid to himself, then the TERFs are more than welcome to give generously here. I would not have post-pubescent penises in the women's changing rooms. I would not have all-women shortlists at all, but if they must exist, then they ought at least to be confined to women. And Owen Jones hates my guts. What's not to like?

"It's My Free Choice To Be A Sex Worker"

Then shame on you. You are freely choosing to entrench economic, social, cultural and political oppression, exploitation and degradation. Your free choice demands, not respect, but revulsion and retribution. Social and cultural revulsion, leading to economic and political retribution.

Called Straight

Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul. As early as AD 36, there were enough Christians at Damascus, and they were sufficiently active, for the High Priest at Jerusalem to have dispatched Saul of Tarsus to stamp them out. Thus was he on the road to Damascus. It is still there, although you would struggle to make the journey now. The street called Straight is still there, too, in Damascus itself.

As are the Christians who baptised and ordained the greatest theologian and missionary in Christian history, the author of much of the New Testament. Already there in Syria in AD 36, they are there in Syria to this day. They have seen off every High Priest, every Roman Emperor, and every real Caliph. 

The current pretended Caliph holds no terrors whatever for them. Nor does any President of the United States who will not let them into his country without "extreme vetting", but who proposes a large and permanent American military presence in theirs.

"Why Are You Standing Against A Left Candidate?"

Neither Jayda Fransen nor any of her named supporters against me has issued any sort of denial. Nor has any of those who have been named against me in support of Laura Pidcock: Stalinists and Maoists, Trotskyists and Shachtmanites, anarchists and the dissident Irish Republican opponents of the peace process. Like Fransen and Friends, those latter all know that they have been listed. Like Fransen and Friends, none of them has demurred. They have fielded or endorsed many a candidate against each other. They have fielded or endorsed many a candidate against the Labour Left. Frank Dobson was few people's idea of a right-wing Labourite even in the pre-Blair days, never mind in 2000, when Ken Livingstone beat him for Mayor of London. On the last three occasions that George Galloway has stood for Parliament, then he has done so against left-wing Labour candidates.

The Labour machine here has been worked up about the possibility of my intervention for a decade. Ask them, and they will tell you. Had my health not failed in 2010, then, with the support that I have now, I might just about have been the First Past the Post; even without that support, then I would have taken enough votes to have given the seat to the Lib Dems. Had I been able to raise the £10,000 necessary to mount a serious campaign in the time between the calling of last year's General Election and that event itself, then I would at the very least have taken enough votes to have seen Laura Pidcock elected with fewer that half of those cast, thereby bringing this seat well and truly into play for the Conservatives next time. Not inconceivably, I could have given this seat to the Conservatives this time.

Ms Pidcock and her entourage do not appreciate any of this, but that is because this time last year, they had never set eyes on North West Durham. She does, however, have necessarily recent form as an electoral asset to the Conservative Party. And a key figure in that entourage is Ben Sellers, her avowedly Trotskyist "Political Advisor" whose political advice has cost 472 of Durham County Council's Teaching Assistants 23 per cent of their pay. Of course, I would have been elected to Durham County Council last year if Labour had not cheated. But by selecting the candidates that they did in this ward (a seriously ill old man, and a young mother with no political background), then they factored in at least one by-election between now and 2021. See you at that.

I am 40 now. It is 15 years since the Labour Party ruined my life, although it must be said that it has also ruined Neil Fleming's life in the meantime. He, too, is 40, but if anything he stands less chance of entering Parliament than I do. Lanchester, where he once the chaired the Parish Council, is now presented to the world as the political base of Laura Pidcock. Either the Conservative Party as such, or, not to put too fine a point on it, the Lib Dem candidate personally, could have afforded to have challenged her election on the grounds that she had given a false address on the paperwork. I have no idea why they did not do so. I certainly would have done.

The vengeful delight would still be real in delivering this seat to "the Tories", shrieked as if the mere shrieking of it closed any debate. But at my age, I am well and truly in it to win it. I know perfectly well that this is my last chance. All that I need is £10,000, and preferably also the people to deliver the leaflets bought with those monies. Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and especially the strong local networks of Independents, this is your opportunity. Therefore, this is your responsibility. And stalwarts of the local Labour Party, with whom do you have more in common? Do you have more in common with Laura Pidcock and with her arrogant, exotic entourage, whom you had never met this time last year, but with whom you are most certainly acquainted today? Or do you have more in common with Alex Watson and with me?

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Cornish Clots

Labour Durham cuts the pay of Teaching Assistants by 23 per cent, and turns buses into a distant memory. We all know about this Government and the disabled, although the Lib Dems did nothing to help in the Coalition days, and the whole thing started under New Labour. And Steve Topple writes: 

A Liberal Democrat-led council has sparked a major row after it came to light that it’s ‘taxing’ disabled people to park. But the charge, of about £3,300 per person, is not for using a public car park. It’s for disabled people to park [pdf, p1] outside their own homes.

A Lib Dem council 

The Lib Dem/Independent coalition at Cornwall Council charges [pdf] disabled people to have an official blue badge space put outside their properties. But this does not guarantee [pdf, p1] that the disabled person will even have access to the space, as any blue badge holder can use it. The council says [pdf, p1] the cost of each blue badge bay is: “associated with the creation of a traffic regulation order, advertising, consultation, and implementation of a new bay lining and signing…”

At a meeting on Tuesday 23 January an opposition councillor put forward a motion [pdf] that the charges be scrapped. And to make matters even more embarrassing for the Lib Dems, the councillor was a Conservative. 

Taxing disability?

Conservative Councillor Richard Pears said [1:04:20]: “We all have to deal with busy streets across our county, and the parking difficulties this causes. For most of us this is an inconvenience… But for people with some specific disabilities, this is not an option. Without a guaranteed space outside their house they have no way to access their car. And we all know that in a rural area like ours a car can be a lifeline…” 

Pears’ motion called [pdf, p1] on the council to “urgently review its policy”. He claimed other councils either charge a nominal fee or nothing. The most expensive council he could find [pdf, p2] was Leicestershire, which charges £100. Pears told [1:05:28] the council meeting that its charge for a blue badge space: “amounts to nothing more than a tax on disability.”

Disabled people: hit again

The Guardian reported, the council is considering Pears’ motion. And as Cornwall Live reported, Lib Dem council leader Adam Paynter said he didn’t know about the “ridiculous” charge: “I don’t think it is right or fair that someone should have to pay over £3,000 for a parking bay… That does need to be changed and that is something that I will set out to do.”

But disabled people have hit back. Co-Founder of campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) Linda Burnip told The Canary: “It is appalling that any council should impose such a ridiculously high charge on disabled people simply for painting a few lines on the road. This is blatant discrimination and Cornwall Council should be dragged through the courts unless they back down.”

Cornwall Council’s charge is yet another cost for disabled people, at a time when they are already bearing the brunt of Conservative-led austerity. And it’s worth remembering that it is austerity that was enabled by the Lib Dems in the first place.

Get Involved!
Support DPAC in its fight for disabled people’s rights.
– You can also The Canary, leading the way in the coverage of disabled people’s issues.

Unrelated To Threat

Simon Jenkins writes:

The Russians are coming. The terrorists are at the door. Feel afraid, feel very afraid. Give us the money.

Every year at budget time, the defence lobby waves shrouds and howls blue murder. With yet another defence review in the offing, the army fears it will lose thousands of soldiers, while the navy and the Royal Air Force fear the (long overdue) merger of the paratroop and marine brigades and the loss of more frigates.

Britain’s defence budget is one of the largest in proportion to population in the world, the largest in the EU and the second largest in Nato. This is unrelated to threat and entirely related to history. That is why each year no one asks what the nation needs, only whether it can “do with” less than the year before. 

The army has only itself to blame. When Labour came to power in 1997 and the coalition formed in 2010, there was a chance to listen to collective defence wisdom and accept that Britain discontinue its aircraft carriers and Trident nuclear deterrent. They would eat money and serve no reasonable defence purpose, least of all now in the age of unmanned power projection.

The navy and the RAF lobbied furiously, and a sceptical army said nothing. Downing Street capitulated to a massive distortion in equipment defence spending, largely at the army’s expense. Last year, Britain’s second aircraft carrier was launched, bringing their cost close to £7bn, wildly over budget. Trident was extended. A sign of Trident’s lunacy is that the Treasury proposes to remove it from the defence budget altogether. It will go with HS2, overseas aid and Olympics legacy under the heading “vanity project”.

Britain’s three services should long ago have merged into one, so that defence could be viewed in the round, not as a derivative of mutual lobbying. Defence should be seen from threat upwards, not history downwards. Such is the anarchy that British taxes are now financing the country’s “defence” in no fewer than 80 overseas outposts around the world, chiefly as mercenaries to American interventionism.

The row over defence spending has nothing to do with defence, but with an arbitrary target, unrelated to threat, for it to consume 2% of the nation’s wealth. Labour’s spokesman, Nia Griffiths, who should be challenging this, merely attacks the government for damaging “Britain’s international credibility”. What is she talking about? Germany has no need of drone squadrons and nuclear missiles for its credibility.

A sure sign of the decay of the defence debate is the abstract language in which it is conducted. Defence is now a mish-mash of rightwing virtue-signalling, international credibility, influence, greatness, friendship and showing the flag. Tell that to the NHS.

They Are Liberating Nobody With Their Neoliberal Drivel

Hushke Mau, a survivor of 10 years in prostitution, writes: 

Many people claim that prostitution is about a woman choosing how to have sex, but sex is not about a woman serving a client’s wishes while having to delete her own sexuality, and herself. Plus, the “wishes” of punters are becoming more violent, more aimed at humiliation. And anyone can see that if they read the punters’ websites. They see prostitution as an expression of their power and often want to see how much damage they can inflict on a woman — for example, during anal intercourse. 

And the punter doesn’t forget this feeling of power that he’s paid for. He doesn’t forget that women are disposable. So he carries this feeling away from the brothel and it affects his behaviour towards women who aren’t in prostitution too. Germany has legalised prostitution and what has it led to? To even more prostitution and to more extreme demands from men. So prostitution has shown its true essence — violence and the complete disposability of women’s bodies. In two words: sexualised torture. 

The punters actually prefer foreign women who have been forced into prostitution, because they can make them accept practices that any well-established German prostitute would reject. This is why almost all the women in mega-brothels barely speak a word of German — these are women trafficked from Romania or Bulgaria who have been told that prostitution is a great alternative to poverty. But when women opt for prostitution because of poverty and a lack of other options, is that not coercion? 

Even the women who enter “out of their free will” are subjected to financial coercion. For example, when the room rent is so high that they have to accept a punter even if they don’t want to, because if they don’t, they will be in debt to their “landlord.” When they don’t dare reject a punter because they will get in trouble with the brothel owner who doesn’t like his girls to get a reputation for “being difficult.” 

I am one of those “voluntary” prostitutes so many people talk about. I started at age 18 after having been battered and sexually abused by my stepfather for 17 years. After I ran away from home, I thought this was the only thing I was capable of, that I was only good for fucking. At the beginning, I thought I had power and I could regulate access to my own body through prostitution. But soon I had to abandon any kind of filters because I couldn’t afford to be choosy. 

And I am not the only one. I have not witnessed one single prostitute who hasn’t been sexually abused/raped or experienced some other form of sexualised violence as a child or as an adult. In fact, childhood abuse is like breaking a horse in at an early age, because through that abuse women and girls learn how to dissociate, to delete themselves during the sex act. And this is exactly what the punter pays for — for the women to not be there emotionally.  This is why there are tons of prostitutes (including myself) who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies show at least 60 per cent with fully developed PTSD. 

And let’s deal with the idea that women can exit this industry if they want. Like the majority of prostitutes, I did not register as such because I was afraid that then I wouldn’t be able to exit. I was afraid of being asked why I didn’t want to work as a prostitute any more, given that it was a job like any other. And this is exactly what did happen when I wanted to get out.

What was I supposed to tell the employment office when asking for benefits so that I could have a place to stay and something to eat without having to suck 10 dicks a day? They would have asked me: “How have you made a living in the past three months?” And if I had told them, they would have just said: “Well, there’s a brothel nearby which is still hiring.” 

So I’ve had enough of people who want to totally decriminalise the prostitution industry. People who haven’t got a clue about what prostitution really is, but try to tell me that it’s a job like any other. I’m fed up with them feeding everybody their fairy tale about the oh-so-great voluntary prostitution. I can’t bear it any longer that they pretend to speak for all prostitutes. They’re a minority in prostitution who are silencing the majority of prostitutes. The majority that’s still boozing, taking drugs or enacting their abuse again and again, in the treacherous hope this will ease their pain.

They sneer at those women who speak up about the violence in prostitution and say: “Oh well, I’m sorry if you’ve had bad experiences.” As if the violence wasn’t inherent to the structure of prostitution. As if it was only due to the woman lacking professionalism, or having a damaged personality that made her unsuitable for that “job.” They are liberating nobody with their neoliberal drivel.

But most prostitutes are simply too busy surviving, too traumatised to even talk, so they cannot contradict this. When they say: “Everyone should be allowed to do what they want,” in reality, they only mean that for the punters and pimps — not the prostitutes.