Friday 31 January 2020

Disclosure Watch: Day Five

With less than six weeks to go until the fourth attempt to put me on trial, we still have no disclosure.

This post will appear daily until further notice.

Why Boris Johnson’s Brexit Is Not The Full Brexit

Today, Britain will finally leave the European Union – a staggering 1,316 days after the 2016 referendum. This is obviously to be welcomed.

It often seemed that the Remainer establishment would successfully block this outcome, with disastrous consequences for British democracy. Our fellow citizens, especially working-class voters in the Midlands and North, prevented that happening. 

Uniquely in Europe, they have forced their ruling class to adhere to a referendum result that upset the EU project. And they have forced politicians to listen to their wishes, and to be accountable to them.

Nonetheless, Boris Johnson’s Brexit is clearly not the “Full Brexit” for which we have been campaigning. Instead, it seeks to downplay or manage away the radical potential inherent in breaking from the EU.

We launched The Full Brexit in July 2018 to stand up with and for the vast majority of British citizens who either voted Leave in June 2016 or, as democrats, were committed to enacting the majority verdict. 

We felt that there was a widespread hunger for popular sovereignty, greater democracy and economic renewal, to which the political establishment – clinging to the status quo or adopting a “damage limitation” approach to Brexit – was simply not responding.

Members of our network set out more radical proposals, including fundamental constitutional change, the extension of public ownership, deep economic reforms, and measures to extend popular sovereignty.

With respect to popular sovereignty, Johnson was only able to achieve Brexit through the depoliticising slogan of “Get Brexit Done”. 

A full Brexit would have channelled people’s desire for greater control over the conditions of their everyday lives and the state. It would have involved keeping people politically engaged and mobilised while creating new institutions to allow them to “take back control”. 

It is hardly surprising that the Tories’ Brexit falls well short of this, instead seeking to neutralise the transformative potential of Brexit.

“Get Brexit Done”, with its air of exhaustion, signifies an attempt to move past Brexit then return to business-as-usual, with government more attuned to the so-called “people’s priorities”, but with the people themselves playing no greater role than before. 

The slogan actually conceals a lack of political vision for post-Brexit Britain, even for the party most committed to breaking from the status quo. 

On democracy, Johnson’s Brexit is again an attempt to depoliticise and evade key questions. 

Leaving the EU is itself a step forward for democracy, because it allows parliament to determine Britain’s own laws and makes political leaders solely accountable to their electors, rather than their European counterparts. 

However, the Brexit process has also raised fundamental questions about British democracy: the fitness of political parties to represent citizens; the dysfunctionality of parliament; and the desirability and legitimacy of the House of Lords, the monarchy and the Supreme Court. Virtually no institution has been spared. 

Yet we cannot expect the Conservatives to enact sweeping democratic change.

The Tory manifesto acknowledges some of these dysfunctions, but is predictably light on how to address them, beyond vague promises of “full devolution for England” and a new Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission. 

The latter allocates fundamental democratic questions to an unelected committee of the “great and the good”, which seems highly unlikely to propose sweeping change. Something very similar was pursued by Tony Blair’s government under the rubric of “modernisation” – and, if anything, this coincided with the de-democratisation of public life.

It would be foolish to expect the original establishment party to advocate for the abolition of the House of Lords, say, let alone the monarchy. 

Proposing to relocate an unelected chamber to York only converts a demand for meaningful democracy and popular empowerment into a culture-wars gesture – shifting institutions away from “metropolitan” London. 

We also cannot expect the Tories to extend workers’ rights to organise democratically in defence of their interests, let alone to take charge of their daily lives. 

Although Johnson’s Brexit is unlikely to involve the bonfire of workers’ rights predicted by Remainers, nor will it extend them. 

The Tories plan, at best, minor improvements for the lowest-paid, while attacking independent working-class institutions like the Rail and Maritime Transport union.

These democratic limitations apply most forcefully to the Tories’ plans for economic renewal. These entail changes to the organisation of British capitalism but no reining in of private power, let alone moves towards economic democracy. 

The Johnson government will break from previous austerity policies, increasing public spending and investing in regional infrastructure and vocational training while regenerating town centres. It may even sacrifice a close economic partnership with the EU in order to diverge from EU laws, which constitutionalise neoliberalism. 

However, they will not move to place the economy under greater democratic control. 

The Tories’ economic plans explicitly celebrate and rely heavily on the private sector, entrepreneurship and the profit motive; they just hope to redirect growth into “left behind” areas in order to consolidate their electoral grip. 

No shift in ownership or control is envisaged; the economy remains privately owned, and any public benefit will be a fortunate by-product of private enrichment. 

Some control over regional infrastructure planning may be delegated to city-regions, but local administrations, emaciated by a decade of austerity and promised no new funding, can do no more than seek to create conditions amenable to private capital accumulation. 

The bailout of struggling airline FlyBe signifies the fundamental relationship: the state keeps private enterprise afloat, but with no extension of democratic control over it. 

Instead, the British state remains subordinate to capitalist power and interests. Nothing has been learned from the global financial crisis, and we can expect a similar response from the British state to the next crisis.

The Conservatives’ fetishisation of free trade also reflects their lack of economic vision and commitment to democratic control. 

Although the EU has been the primary way in which the British economy is de-democratised and neoliberalism hardwired into public policy, it is far from the only way. 

The World Trade Organisation, the property rights regime of the European Court of Human Rights, investment treaties, and the global network of judiciaries committed to enforcing these, also entail fundamental restrictions on how democracies can manage their economies.

Not only will the Tories not roll back these restrictions; they will deepen them through bilateral free trade agreements. 

The idea that liberalising trade will automatically entail substantive economic development is also deeply misguided. As Britain’s own history shows, it is often connected to premature deindustrialisation.

The Leave vote was a democratic moment but did not express a democratic movement – and that remains true today.

The democratic hunger and commitment of millions of British citizens – particularly working-class voters – is inspiring

They voted three times to “take back control” and defend the value of their vote: in the 2016 EU referendum; in their support for parties promising to honour the referendum result in 2017; and in their rejection of Labour and the Liberal Democrats’ transparently anti-democratic stance in 2019. 

In a long struggle that should inspire the whole continent, they have shown that Wolfgang Schäuble and Jean-Claude Juncker are wrong to insist that “elections change nothing” and that “there can be no democratic choice against the European treaties”.

Nonetheless, the political space opened up by Brexit could only ever be partially exploited by a party of the right. The real prize was there to be seized by the left. Its failure to do so is the real tragedy of the last three-and-a-half years.

The democratic mantle of Brexit remains to be taken up by radical forces in the future.

About the authors

The Full Brexit steering group comprises Christopher Bickerton, Philip Cunfliffe, Mary Davis, Maurice Glasman, George Hoare, Lee Jones, Costas Lapavitsas, Martin Loughlin, Danny Nicol, Peter Ramsay, Anshu Srivastava and Richard Tuck.

Gisela Gets It

As Gisela Stuart tried quite patiently to explain to some or other BBC person on the Today programme, this is really not a very right-wing Government at all. 

After tonight has Got Brexit Done, then even Auntie might have to take a look at its domestic policy of massive State intervention in the economy (you can do that once you are out of the EU), and at his foreign policy of telling the Americans to get lost on several fronts at once (we have not exchanged one foreign yoke for another).

It is all rather Jeremy Corbyn. They will water it down in parts, of course. But the basic formula will, as it were, remain. What else was Boris Johnson going to do? His only policy was Get Brexit Done, and that will happen in seven hours' time. He will then have nearly five years to fill. So he will fill them with this, since nobody has ever suggested anything else, and since he now has a Wall to stop from turning Red again.

But what of those who had thought that Brexit would herald Singapore Without The Sun? Well, their votes determined neither the outcome of the 2016 referendum, nor the outcome of the 2019 General Election. Nobody cares what they think, and there is precious little evidence that they think very much at all.

Like their next door neighbours who want Labour to become a party of reaccession, they could always join the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems are returning to their roots as the party of letting the market decide and of letting America decide, since America is the prototype of their project and of the equally bourgeois SNP's. Or they could wait and see how Keir Starmer turned out.

Yet neither the Lib Dems, nor the SNP, nor Starmer, will be in government after the General Election of 2024. I will be standing for Parliament again here at North West Durham next time, so please give generously. In any event, please email Very many thanks.

North England

There is much mirth over Sajid Javid's use of "North England" to describe the utterly foreign country that he is visiting for today's Brexit Day Cabinet meeting in Sunderland, where the referendum result for Leave shook the money markets, although it must be said the Conservatives still did not win a seat there.

But if Keir Starmer were Leader of the Labour Party, then we could draw a line from the Wash to the Bristol Channel. South of that line, then Labour would want to win, although outside the M25 it would stand little chance of doing so except in university towns. But north of that line, then Labour would not even want to win, although it still might from time to time, notably on Merseyside while Boris Johnson remained Leader of the Conservative Party.

The Labour Right does not want the Red Wall back. It never liked North England, anyway. But we do have the Internet these days, too, and the ideas are swirling. Even only of the ones that have managed to reach me, there is serious talk of our own media by Christmas, including a weekly newspaper, a monthly cultural review, and a quarterly academic journal. There is also talk of a fortnightly satirical magazine, but that would require a bit more, well, you know.

If all that mattered now really were social media, then Jeremy Corbyn would be Prime Minister. But instead, we are to have all this, plus a new political party, and a new think tank. Oh, yes, watch this space. The 2020 Vision, indeed. Keir who? Sajid who? I will be standing for Parliament again here at North West Durham next time, so please give generously. In any event, please email Very many thanks.

Cardinal Barbarin Is Innocent

Now for Cardinal Pell.

Why I Won’t Be Celebrating Brexit

Paul Embery writes:

For years I believed in it, and still do. I argued. I organised. I spoke at public meetings and rallies across the country. I gave media interviews. I debated opponents. Hell, I even lost my job because of it.

And as the clock strikes eleven this evening, the objective will have been realised. We will, after an almost four-year battle during which the massed ranks of the political establishment put up the fiercest resistance, finally be out of the European Union.

So why won’t I be celebrating? Why will this evening pass by like most others in the Embery household?

It’s simple really. For all my satisfaction that we would have reasserted our national independence – a precious possession for which many have fought and died – and freed ourselves from the shackles of an anti-democratic, supranational technocracy, Brexit was, for me, never the end game. Instead, I have only ever viewed it as a necessary but insufficient step.

The question, therefore, is: what comes next? How do we construct the type of society that I, a socialist and trade unionist rooted in the labour movement, would like to see?

When we wake tomorrow, the same Tories who have imposed a decade of crippling austerity, slashed our public services and presided over crashing living standards will still be ruling Britain. Of itself, Brexit doesn’t change that. Milk and honey will not suddenly flow through our land the moment the grip of Brussels in severed.

There is to be no Left-wing exit from the EU. There was never going to be. That’s why I never once in four years described myself as a ‘Lexiteer’. But what Brexit does – and this is why the Left was wrong to set its face against it so determinedly – is to at least give us the freedom in future to govern ourselves in the manner we choose. The referendum provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do things in a radically different way should we, as a nation, ever so decide, and the minority of voices on the Left who argued that we should seize the moment were right to do so.

Secession from the EU means escape from an explicitly anti-socialist institution whose laws are inimical to many of the objectives of the Left. It gives liberty to a future Labour government (should we ever get one) to, for example, provide state aid to industry – especially our ailing manufacturing sector – without falling foul of EU competition law; to invest in our economy and people without breaching the terms of the wretched, austerity-inspired Stability and Growth Pact; to take some of our key utilities and industries — such as the railways — into full public ownership without transgressing EU rules on market liberalisation; to aid socialist planning and halt downward pressure on wages by ending free movement; to prioritise the interests of British firms and workers without contravening EU procurement laws. Crucially, it restores to us, the people, the right — fundamental to any democracy worthy of the name – to elect and remove those who make our laws.

Such an agenda would normally be standard fare for a movement of the Left. But the British Left’s 30-year infatuation with the EU, coupled with a crushing lack of confidence in its own ability to govern, mean that now, as we stand on the brink of true self-government for the first time in nearly half a century, it can only view such an opportunity with fear and trepidation.

The past four years have been a depressing demonstration in how the Left, and particularly the Labour party, has lost its way.  From the moment the bulk of the Left planted itself unambiguously on the side of Remain and was seen to be lining up with the broad mass of the establishment – the Tory government, big business, the banking industry et al – it had set itself on a trajectory that had the potential to result in a major schism between itself and millions of working-class voters. Labour’s post-referendum vacillations on the question of whether the referendum result should be honoured, and its eventual support for a second vote, meant the rupture was guaranteed. It is a large part of why the party today stands eviscerated and pondering whether it will ever have the capacity or support to govern again.

That Labour and the wider Left sacrificed so much in support of a neoliberal institution whose core principles run counter to so much of what they have traditionally stood for beggars belief. Ultimately, what they failed to grasp is that what happened on 23 June 2016 represented a genuine democratic revolt. It was millions of mainly working-class voters (many tribally Labour), angry and resentful at having been treated with contempt for so long by a tin-eared establishment, taking their revenge. It was their way of sending a missile through the status quo and telling their leaders to start all over again. From that moment, the Left should have accepted the judgement of the people. That it didn’t explains why it is now an irrelevance across huge swathes of Britain.

But we are where we are, as the man said. Brexit is about to be ‘done’. For many who supported it, the battle is over. The bunting is out; the band is about to strike up; the booze ready to flow.

But I won’t be part of it. For me, it was always a long game. Socialism before Brexit was impossible; it had to be the other way round.

I can well imagine, were they to be alive to see the moment, what those past giants of the labour movement who believed passionately in the principle of national independence and fought against rule by unelected European technocrats – Tony Benn, Michael Foot, Peter Shore, Barbara Castle, Bob Crow, to name a few – would be doing at eleven o’clock this evening. I doubt very much that any of them would be popping champagne corks or waving Union flags. More likely they would be telling us that this was no final victory, that Britain remained riven by inequality and injustice, and it would be no good defeating the enemy of workers in Brussels if we didn’t now take the fight to the Tories in Westminster. 

They would be right. After a gruelling four-year campaign, it would be tempting to mark this evening in a spirit of jubilation and triumph. Not for me. The fight for a fairer, more equal society goes on. We mustn’t confuse the battle with the war.

Councillor Watch: Day 201

I hereby invite all Labour members of Durham County Council who believe me to be guilty of the criminal charges against me to email and say so.

I would not be able to reply to those emails, but every day the names of those who had sent them to me would appear here. So far, I have received none.

Thursday 30 January 2020

Missing The Bus

How are we cripples, among other people, supposed to get to the stations to use HS2? Where have our buses gone? Where, Durham County Council, Labour for more than 100 years, have our buses gone?

I will be standing for Parliament again here at North West Durham next time, so please give generously. In any event, please email Very many thanks.

The Day After Tomorrow

Boris Johnson's manifesto consisted almost exclusively of the promise that he would Get Brexit Done. After tomorrow, then he will have no idea what to do for the following five years.

Whereas Jeremy Corbyn's manifesto, although arguably incredible as a five-year programme, was a perfectly credible 10-year one. Wrong, you may argue. But entirely practicable. It was laden with policies. It still is.

As each situation presented itself, then Johnson will search that manifesto, much as some people search the Bible. We have already begun to see the renationalisation of the railways. Expect a great deal more of this kind of thing.

I will be standing for Parliament again here at North West Durham next time, so please give generously. In any event, please email Very many thanks.

Disclosure Watch: Day Four

With less than six weeks to go until the fourth attempt to put me on trial, we still have no disclosure.

This post will appear daily until further notice.

Plays Such Fantastic Tricks Before High Heaven

Welcome to the club, Alastair Stewart.

In less than six weeks' time will begin the fourth attempt to put me on trial on the grounds, and I am not making this up, that anything containing the phrase "Blood will have blood", which was once quoted on this site, must therefore have been written by me.

My defence counsel has already demolished that one in open court, but the prosecution caused its completely discredited star witness to disappear overnight in the United States, halfway through his testimony by videolink, thereby causing the jury to be discharged. He has never been heard of since.

Let's see what stroke the Crown pulls this time, to delay my acquittal by yet another year in order to silence me, which has not worked and never will, and in order to stop me from contesting elections, which has not worked and never will, and in order to stop me from winning them, which in itself cannot work for very much longer.

I will be standing for Parliament again here at North West Durham next time, so please give generously. In any event, please email Very many thanks.

Incriminate This

The requests for immunity in relation to Grenfell Tower speak for themselves. 

The attempt to blame the fans for Hillsborough fell apart eventually. The attempt to blame the miners for Orgreave is now kept going only by such people as also keep up the Hillsborough lie.

And those same people's attempt to blame the residents or the firefighters for Grenfell Tower is over before it has started. The real murderers have confessed.

Now name them under parliamentary privilege. I will be standing for Parliament again here at North West Durham next time, so please give generously. In any event, please email Very many thanks.

Councillor Watch: Day 200

I hereby invite all Labour members of Durham County Council who believe me to be guilty of the criminal charges against me to email and say so.

I would not be able to reply to those emails, but every day the names of those who had sent them to me would appear here. So far, I have received none.

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Disclosure Watch: Day Three

With less than six weeks to go until the fourth attempt to put me on trial, we still have no disclosure.

This post will appear daily until further notice.

Never Had It So Good?

As Northern Rail becomes this Government's first renationalisation, but certainly not its last, then the impending liberation of this country from the EU's State Aid rules and other such constraints is already having a practical effect.

What with this, and the proposals for huge levels of investment here along the former Red Wall, then the Government's domestic policy is starting to have the feel of the last notable period when the electorally determinative votes were those of the fifth of the working class that did not always vote Conservative, but which could be persuaded to do so.

That period was the 1950s, when public ownership of the railways and of numerous other things was as much a fact of life as huge levels of public investment in, well, more or less everything, all unconstrained by any suprantional body.

As for this Government's foreign policy, it turns out that we need to look back even further. Notice that not even so much as one Parliamentary Private Secretary has resigned over Huawei. Before the War, Conservatives used "Anglo-American" as a term of abuse for their own fringe, dissident MPs. Another such term was "glamour boy". Nobody is going to call Iain Duncan Smith a glamour boy. Nor David Davis, who has not hitherto been much of an Anglo-American, either.

But to what must be nearly universal surprise, Downing Street's once and future columnist on the Daily Telegraph is full of the spirit of the Morning Post when it comes to Huawei, to Iran, to Anne Sacoolas, at least implicitly to Prince Andrew, and very explicitly to taxing the tech giants. Johnson has even moved Julian Assange out of solitary confinement, which is a clear indication of an eventual intention to release him. Take that, Keir Starmer.

And take that, Mike Pompeo, who has arrived in a Britain with its most anti-American Government in living memory. This Government is made up of the successors, and indeed of the descendants, of the men who saw the American Republic as the greatest enemy of the British Empire right up until there had ceased to be a British Empire, and sometimes even after that.

Over on the other side, the Liberal Democrats are holding the pro-Washington line, since their own antecedents are in refusal to join a new formation with Tories in it, and refusal to remain in an old formation with Tony Benn and Michael Foot in it. John Nicolson's personal position is explicable in terms of his ties to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, but that of the SNP in general deserves further examination. That party does, after all, aspire to its own 1776 moment of bourgeois revolution. This is one to watch.

But Labour is making no fuss, and not only those who remain on what is still Jeremy Corbyn's front bench. On Newsnight, even Kevan Jones, the right-wing Labour machine personified, was saying that we had to take the best technology on offer until we got back to making our own. Again, back to the 1950s, and to the world before the War. Back to Britain as an industrial and technological powerhouse, free from the EU's State Aid rules and from other such constraints.

Not that all was well with that Britain. It was the Britain of Ernest Marples, and of the refusal to prosecute him on the part of an organisation that has since been headed by Keir Starmer. There, the dark side of that Britain is still in effect.

Starmer is making much of his role in having pursued MPs over their expenses, and journalists over phone hacking. But on expenses, so to speak, he stuck to the Poulson Principle of prosecuting the Labour but not the Conservative politicians who were involved in the same scandal. And on phone hacking, he deliberately constructed so weak a case against Rupert Murdoch's favourite that she was bound to be acquitted. Lo and behold, Starmer is now touted as a potential Prime Minister. Funny, that.

Still, no matter who had become the Leader of the Labour Party or anything else, I will be standing for Parliament again here at North West Durham next time, so please give generously. In any event, please email Very many thanks.

Moving Beyond Anti-Brexit Hysteria

Since Dennis Skinner is in any case 87, Laura Smith is the one Labour MP to have been defeated last month who ought to be brought back into Parliament as soon as possible: 

Since the early hours of December 13, when I had confirmed what I had suspected — that we had lost my seat of Crewe and Nantwich after gaining it in 2017 — I’ve been pretty devastated. Devastated for my staff, devastated for my community and devastated because I loved my job and felt like I’d only just started. 

Mainly, though, I felt devastated because I firmly believe it could have been a very different story and the fact is that in a Brexit election we didn’t stand a chance. I have dedicated a lot over the last decade to seeing a socialist prime minister in No 10. I feel desperately sorry that we weren’t able to achieve that at this point and it feels like we have an awful lot of work to do to reach that goal, but we can do it in the future and the fight starts now. 

One thing we need to recognise is that, come this weekend, we will be leaving the EU. This is something that should already have happened and we as the left must start developing what we want to see happen next. 

When I was elected I was brand new to parliamentary politics. I sold myself as a different type of politician — one rooted in my community, someone who didn’t lie for votes. I promised my constituents, people in my own friendship groups, my own family that I respected the referendum result and I meant it. I truly felt then that we were going to be able to build on our 2017 manifesto and the public were up for it. 

But it became very apparent within a matter of months that our promise to respect the referendum was evaporating. Keir Starmer’s ridiculous “six tests” basically told the public that if we left we would stay as closely glued to the EU as possible. The position moved ever closer to us being a party of Remain and it was frankly awful to be one of a very small number of people fighting for us to leave the EU and paint a positive vision of what that looked like to the public.  

I hope that Labour doesn’t keep falling into the same trap over Brexit. People in communities like mine do not want politicians sitting on the sidelines waiting to say “I told you so.” My message to Labour is simple. We must accept that the country voted to leave and start painting a positive vision for life outside of the EU under a Labour government.

Not to shift this debate forward now would be a catastrophic error. People want to know what we stand for, not just what we are against. Ultimately those who want to stay in the EU have failed to generate serious popular demand to remain. 

The anti-Brexit hysteria we have witnessed is in my opinion based on a mixture of bad economics, flawed understanding of the European Union and lack of political imagination. The vote to leave the EU could have provided the British left — and the European left more generally — an opportunity to show that a radical break with neoliberalism, and with the institutions that support it, is possible. 

It is for these reasons that I wrote last year in the Morning Star that it was vital that the Labour Party had a serious offer for those who wished to leave the EU at the next election. That general election campaign should have focused on building a new Britain — one with full employment, a real living wage and advanced workers’ rights. 

This vision could have had the support of the Labour Party membership and the vast majority of the public too if we had stuck to our original promise. But we blew it, and that was because people didn’t trust us. I tried throughout my time as an MP to create the space for this debate. In a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament, I set out the reasons why I believe we must leave the EU to realise this vision. But it felt all too often that I was a lone voice.

So where do we go now? It isn’t going to take long for Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg to reveal that their Brexit doesn’t prioritise the people of Crewe — and rather than standing at the sidelines saying “I told you so,” we must sell the vision that we have regarding the redistribution of wealth, taking on the 1 per cent and empowering the workforce. We need to start doing this now, including through political education and trade unionism. 

The political crisis that we face is complicated. Jeremy Corbyn represented anti-Establishment feeling and somehow it all flipped on its head to Johnson becoming the man saying he represented the people against Parliament. The fact is that our ruling class, including the Civil Service and Parliament, have driven a huge wedge between ordinary people and politics. We must now focus on the renewal of our democracy at every level, with meaningful devolution through radical federalism, making our government both more responsive and more accountable to the people. 

Brexit is happening, and we need to urgently offer a vision as socialists for a political transformation that can redefine the meaning and practices of the nation. On the left, there should be enough common interest on the issues of class and democracy to co-operate in pursuing the restoration of democratic sovereignty, and immediately articulating a political and economic programme that can fill the spaces it leaves behind.

And what is that? It’s an industrial policy that favours workers and neglected regions. A reform of banking to restore assets to abandoned places. A democracy, locational and vocational, that can resist the domination of the rich and the educationally qualified. And now more than ever we must reach out to a disaffected electorate and inspire and motivate them to vote for socialism.

Green Racism

In the same rich vein as Tim Black, Fraser Myers writes:

Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate has accused the media of racism after she was cropped out of a photograph circulated by the AP news agency.

The original photo shows Nakate alongside other young climate activists, including Greta Thunberg, at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The cropped version leaves only the white activists in frame. ‘You didn’t just erase a photo. You erased a continent’, tweeted Nakate, alongside a comparison of the two photos.

The AP has removed the cropped version from its wire service, though it insists there was no ‘ill intent’ behind its edit. Nevertheless, the incident provides a fitting metaphor for the environmental movement which really does ‘erase’ the developing world and the people in it – often in the nastiest ways imaginable.

A handful of environmentalists have started to notice that the climate movement, despite claiming to speak on behalf of the global South (apparently most at risk from the ‘climate emergency’), is overwhelmingly white and middle class. In 2015, Craig Bennett, the then head of Friends of the Earth, told the Independent on Sunday that the green movement had to escape its ‘white, middle-class ghetto’.

More recently, some Guardian pieces have drawn attention to Extinction Rebellion’s ‘race problem’ and lack of diversity. But critiques largely raise questions about tactics and image. Some reactionary tendencies within the green movement are identified but these critiques from sympathisers fail to acknowledge the broader context of green misanthropy.

Environmentalists fundamentally do not like human beings. The most charitable defence you could make of environmentalists is that they are ‘equal opportunities’ misanthropes. When David Attenborough, arguably the world’s most famous environmentalist, says that humanity is a ‘plague on the earth’ because of our large carbon footprint, he is expressing that misanthropy. It is a view embedded in nearly all global-facing Western institutions, from the UN and the World Economic Forum to foreign-aid agencies and NGOs.

Last week, the primatologist and official UN ‘Mesenger of Peace’ Jane Goodall told the global super-rich at Davos that all the environmental issues we talk about ‘wouldn’t be a problem if there was the size of the population that there was 500 years ago’. The global population was estimated to be around 500million in the 1500s. Today, there are around 7.8 billion people on earth – several billion too many, according to the Goodall view.

If people are perceived as an inherent ‘problem’ merely because they have been born, it is unsurprising that environmentalists’ attention then turns to the global South where population is expanding most rapidly.

Both Goodall and Attenborough have fronted campaigns to discourage Africans from giving birth. Both are also patrons of Population Matters, formerly the Optimum Population Trust. At one point, between 2013 and 2014, the charity took such a hard line on population growth that it said that not only was the planet too full, but Britain was full, too – or our population levels were ‘unsustainable’, to use the eco-euphemism. It called for a ‘net zero’ immigration policy and for all Syrian refugees to be banned from coming to Britain. (All references to immigration have since been deleted from its website.)

Another anti-natalist project is Thriving Together, a UN-backed campaign involving over 150 NGOs. The organisers say that family planning is necessary, not to promote women’s choice, as is the case in the West, but to ‘respond to conservation challenges’. ‘Reducing population growth’ can ‘arrest the huge losses of biodiversity’, apparently. Thriving Together’s efforts target specifically ‘poor rural communities in developing nations’. As Ella Whelan put it on spiked, this was essentially ‘prioritising beetles over black people’.

At last year’s Davos, in an interview with Prince William, Attenborough complained that Africa was no longer the ‘Garden of Eden’ it used to be when he first visited in the 1970s. ‘The human population was only a third of the size it was today’, he added, seemingly lamenting the destructive presence of African people in Africa.

And it’s not just Africa. Attenborough has also expressed qualified support for China’s infamously brutal one-child policy. Yes, state-enforced sterilisation produced many ‘personal tragedies’, he admitted, but without it ‘there would be several million more mouths in the world than there are now’.

In 2012, it was revealed that British foreign aid was being used to fund forced sterilisations in India. Documents from the Department for International Development argued that forced population control could help in the fight against climate change, even if it raised ‘complex human rights and ethical issues’. You don’t say. Because doctors and officials were given bonuses for each operation they performed, they would frequently operate on unsuspecting people under false pretences. Pregnant women were forced to miscarry and many people died from botched operations.

In the environmental mindset, human beings are reduced to their most base, animalistic behaviours: feeding and fucking. In fact, the comparison with animals is unfair. Animal lives are valued by environmentalists in a way human lives are not.

In order to conserve wildlife, some animal-conservation charities have effectively decided to cull humans instead. Last year, a Buzzfeed investigation uncovered the links between the World Wildlife Fund and paramilitary forces. The WWF provided paramilitaries with weapons. Locals ‘have been whipped with belts, attacked with machetes, beaten unconscious with bamboo sticks, sexually assaulted, shot, and murdered by WWF-supported anti-poaching units’ across the world, according to documents seen by Buzzfeed. WWF field workers signed off on proposals to kill trespassers in the Kaziranga nature park in India. Dozens were killed in the name of saving the rhino. Many of the victims of these paramilitaries are not even poachers. One was a 12-year-old girl, killed alongside two other indigenous women as they gathered tree bark in Bardiya National Park, Nepal.

Worse still, the integrity of plants seems to take precedence over human life. Environmental NGOs like Greenpeace have long been campaigning against genetically modified foods. Their campaigning and lobbying have been successful in preventing GMOs from reaching the developing world where they are most needed.

Golden Rice, for instance, was developed more than 20 years ago to counter blindness and other diseases caused by Vitamin A deficiency, which is common in developing countries. According to science writer Ed Regis, had Golden Rice been allowed to grow, ‘millions of lives would not have been lost to malnutrition, and millions of children would not have gone blind’. Greenpeace’s opposition was ‘especially persistent, vocal, and extreme’, writes Regis, ‘perhaps because Golden Rice was a GM crop that had so much going for it’. Greenpeace insists the wonder food is ‘environmentally irresponsible’. Even under pressure from over 100 Nobel laureates, Greenpeace continues to oppose Golden Rice.

The environmentalist elevation of the ‘planet’ and nature goes hand-in-hand with an ugly, debased view of the human. When environmental ideology is dominant among global institutions, capitalist elites and Western NGOs, the needs, aspirations and even lives of the people in the developing world barely get a look in.

How Will Britain Cope Without Empire?

On Friday, we will leave the EU. For the first time in our modern history, the United Kingdom will exist as a union of nations outside of empire. Guy Verhofstadt, the EU Parliaments Brexit coordinator, warned against it. “The world of tomorrow,” he said, “is not a world order based on nation states or countries. It’s a world order based on empires.” Verhofstadt took the Napoleonic view. The modern European liberal state is only politically viable if it is part of an imperial union of nations. 

The past flashes into view. It is 1956. Britain has led an Anglo-French expedition to retake the Suez Canal which has been nationalised by the Egyptian President Abdul Nasser. America has forced Britain to abandon its expedition. The humiliation exposes our faltering role in the world. The British empire has gone and our economy is failing.

The solution of the governing class is to join the EEC. But, in 1963, Charles de Gaulle refuses Britain’s entry and warns, “the nature, the structure, the conjuncture that are England’s differ profoundly from those of the continentals”. Once we finally join, this difference never substantially changes.

Now we are leaving. Brexit, the controversies of immigration, and the fraying of relations between the four countries of the United Kingdom, are symptoms of the long and chronic unwinding of Britain’s imperial role and identity. Just as the Union was constructed out of the growth of empire, so its post-Brexit reconstitution will need to evolve out of the making of the UK’s post-imperial role in the world.

We are in the early stage of a new political era. Boris Johnson exploited the opportunity of Brexit to realign British politics. In doing so, he inadvertently broke with its liberal consensus and changed its primary agents. Agents are those forces, groups or classes that play an active role in producing a political settlement. Over the past 40 years, four primary agents have determined British politics and reshaped the country: globalisation, the rise of the metropolitan middle class, social and market liberalism, and a top down managerialist approach to politics.

These are now being superseded. The new agents of the coming political era are the antithesis of the liberal global settlement. They are the nation state, the working class, social conservatism, and unconstrained democracy. “What was previously secondary and subordinate, or even incidental, is now taken to be primary.” (Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Prison Notebooks, Lawrence and Wishart, 1986, p. 195) They were forged in the political battle around Brexit and they belong to the winning coalition of Tory provincials and working class.

This coalition promised a profound shift in the balance of political forces, but it found no representation in Westminster’s two-party political system. In 2019, the Conservatives succeeded in winning it over and took the wind out of the sails of nationalist populism. Victory however remains tentative.

The new political era begins with the estrangement of the governing class from the country. Neither a liberal progressive Labour Party, nor a Conservative Party dominated by market liberalism has the necessary politics to forge a new hegemony. Both parties are products of the liberal settlement which favoured state driven, technocratic and legalistic responses to political problems. Institution and nation building democratic politics is an alien concept. Neither has shown the capacity to think big and strategically about Britain’s future role in the world.

No 10 appears to understand the new political imperatives, the Conservative Party does not. Conservatives have put capital and the market before democracy and society. They have sold off key national strategic assets and favoured global trade over protecting the national economy.

Their treatment of the working class has been callous and destructive. George Osborne’s austerity was born of a deep class arrogance and indifference toward people in need. Their admirable conservative disposition — which valued country, the small platoons of society, and family relationships — was crushed beneath the Hayekian liberal juggernaut. The Conservatives have been a heartless party.

Corbynism, meanwhile, was supposed to be a decisive break from New Labour and the neo-liberal consensus, as embodied by those four primary agents, globalisation, the metropolitan middle class, social and market liberalism, and a top down managerialist approach to politics. In fact, it only succeeded in breaking with market liberalism, while reinforcing Labour’s drift toward a globally, socially liberal, progressive party of the middle class.

Corbynism with its focus on the individual and the state is the unruly offspring of New Labour and a product of the liberal political settlement. It misunderstands social conservativism and holds it in contempt, denouncing it in a litany of Maoist vitriol as racist, misogynist, fascist, imperialist, and white nationalist. Under Corbyn, Labour has been indifferent to England, hostile toward the idea of the nation, and believes patriotism is jingoism. Its claim to democracy has been compromised by the many in its ranks who spent three years undermining the Leave vote. It has now lost the majority of the working class.

And yet, the future of our country rests upon these two parties rising to the historic challenge of re-establishing the foundations of our nationhood and Union.

The first task is to restore a national economy that prioritises work and wages, families, and local place, with the purpose of correcting the class and regional inequalities of productivity, wealth and income. The kind of centrally imposed, city region devolution with limited powers, exemplified by the Conservative’s Northern Powerhouse, will have only a limited impact.

It will require a national economic development strategy which focuses on improving and modernising the everyday economy of child and elder care, health and wellbeing, education, utilities, and the low wage sectors of hospitality, retail, food processing and supermarkets which sustain daily life.

These are the basic building blocks that form the foundations of economy and society. The everyday economy is the key to a one nation politics that bridges the divisions between towns, cities and regions, and between different classes and ethnic groups.

The second task is to instil a social and democratic politics of belonging about how we are to live together in our multi-ethnic, multi-national Union. A shared sense of national identity is fundamental to social cohesion and upholding our democracy and the equality of citizen’s rights and obligations. It involves re-founding the United Kingdom to secure it for the long term; deepening and extending democracy, notably in England, in order to strengthen the accountability of governing elites; and reforming our structures of governance to devolve power and resources to regions and localities.

And thirdly Britain must define its role in the world.

China is becoming a major global power. Russia is asserting itself as a pivot between Europe and Asia, but leaning toward the latter. Economic and geopolitical power is shifting east of Suez. The Atlantic as the fulcrum of global influence is giving way to the Pacific. The strategic competition between the US and China will define geopolitics in the 21st Century.

Globalisation will not be predicated on our western interests. The time when Europeans could determine the course of world affairs is passing. In this global interregnum Britain is well placed to construct a role for itself as a strategic actor. It is not the global power it once was but nor is it in decline. It is well placed to exert strategic influence if there is the political will and capability.

Our Union has been the most successful in the world, but it needs re-founding to safeguard its future. England is one of the oldest nation states, but it needs a democratic refit. The economy has suffered from the uncertainty of Brexit and its structural weaknesses create social division and high levels of class and regional inequality. It needs reform. Britain remains a world power with an economy and technology to match but we are diminished by a governing culture of decline management.

On Friday we take our first step into the world unencumbered by empire. Verhofstadt is wrong. Globalisation has slowed in response to the disruptive impact of hyper-globalisation. Western democracies are looking to restore their nation states and repair their domestic social contracts with their alienated voters. Britain is leading the way, overcoming populism to forge a democratic nationhood, open to building a strong relationship with our European neighbours and further afield. It is time to end the doom-mongering. The future is in our hands.

Councillor Watch: Day 199

I hereby invite all Labour members of Durham County Council who believe me to be guilty of the criminal charges against me to email and say so.

I would not be able to reply to those emails, but every day the names of those who had sent them to me would appear here. So far, I have received none.

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Disclosure Watch: Day Two

With less than six weeks to go until the fourth attempt to put me on trial, we still have no disclosure.

This post will appear daily until further notice.

Comprehensively A Good Choice

The other side chose to make abortion the issue, so it does now have to be Rebecca Long-Bailey rather than, as it would otherwise have been, Lisa Nandy. Although we are only talking about the best of a bad lot here.

For Deputy Leader, Richard Burgon is the candidate of Lexit (that is, of wanting to do specific left-wing things that will be made possible by Brexit), he is the candidate of Palestine, and he is the candidate of having gone from a comprehensive school in the North to Cambridge, to qualification and practice as a solicitor, and then to election to Parliament.

I like and admire Angela Rayner, who marched with the County Durham Teaching Assistants when I did, and whose National Education Service is pretty much by dream policy. I have never met Rebecca Long-Bailey, but I have no cause to dislike her. I do, however, resent profoundly the implication, which is not made by them personally, that their experience is typical of our generation, and that people like Burgon, or Jonathan Ashworth with whom I was at Durham, do not exist.

Born in 1980, Richard Burgon went from a comprehensive school to a good university. That is normal. In its way, it is at least as inspirational as Rayner's and Long-Bailey's life stories. It deserves the votes of those of you who have them. As a generation, it is time to stop writing our experience out of the history that is only just beginning to be written.

The Lion, The Eagle And The Dragon

The arguments for Brexit were always applicable in spades to the United Kingdom's relationship with the United States, so we always knew that there would be some revival of the profound Tory ambivalence, until the First World War and often until the Second an outright hostility, towards the American Republic, which was not our ally but our rival in our own Imperial heyday, and which was founded in treason against the Crown.

We had not, however, expected that revival to happen so soon (Brexit has still not happened), or to be so ferocious, or to be the work of a New York-born Prime Minister who was a friend of Donald Trump's. And yet, here we are. Julian Assange has been moved out of solitary confinement, while the other words fairly trip off the tongue: Iran, Anne Sacoolas, taxing the tech giants, and now also Huawei.

Jeremy Corbyn could not have been much more "Neither Brussels Nor Washington" than Boris Johnson is. An American citizen for the first 52 years of his life, Johnson now has the air of Chips Channon or the Astors, a zealous defector from the East Coast haute bourgeoisie to the English country house set.

For sale to anyone who wants to buy it, Israeli spyware is all over WhatsApp. But you are worried about Huawei? Seriously? Forget the hysteria about Huawei. Silicon Valley's pillars of the American liberal Deep State are already spying on us all the time, as we now know that so are so are their close Israeli associates at NSO, who are likewise hand in glove with the House of Saud for whom Hillary Clinton openly promised to nuke Iran as long ago as 2008. 

The regime in China is bad, but it does not drag us into its wars. Look at the situation in relation to Iran. Look at the very need, real or perceived, for amnesties in relation to Afghanistan and Iraq. Hasn't the EU done a grand job of keeping this country at peace? And not only this country, either.

Of course we have brought the Huawei situation on ourselves by deindustrialisation, deregulation and privatisation. That is also why we are caught up in the trade war between China and the United States, since they still have the wit to make real things. Services are all well and good, but you cannot service nothing. The stuff itself has to come from somewhere.

Nevertheless, while I do not like the regime in China, it is not allied to anyone who wishes us harm, and it is to some extent a bulwark against those who do. Moreover, its companies do not sell their products to what is obviously meant but never named in this story, Saudi Arabia. That is not only one of the two most evil regimes in the world, but, unlike North Korea, is also the nerve centre of all sorts of all other wicked things.

We see how perturbed the Five Eyes Security State is at the Yellow Peril. Empire Loyalists and white supremacists of the old school, they are unable to process the information that technological progress is doing anything other than manifest the self-evident superiority of "the first race in the world". They are hoist on at least two of their own petards. Jared Taylor has had to concede for years that, using his own ridiculous terms of reference, East Asians were a "superior race" to whites. And then there is good old capitalism. Huawei's products are simply better, and they manage to be so while also being much more reasonably priced. That is due to State action.

Well, of course it is. Practically all of Apple's technology, like that of all of the Silicon Valley giants, was originally developed by the federal government, for the federal government. The only big tech that is not spying on you is Chinese, because you probably do not own any. But you soon will. And it was Tony Benn who founded the National Enterprise Board, which invested in Acorn Computing, which helped to develop the ARM Processors that are found in all iPhones. So all iPhones are Bennite.

What might Huawei be seeking to do in Britain, anyway? Rig the result of The X Factor? There is no Fu Manchu itching to read everybody's Snapchat messages about Love Island, and there is nothing else to read in Britain these days.

We do not mind the Chinese State directly running our rail services or building our nuclear power stations, yet we balk at Huawei. Or at least Colonel Blimp and his transatlantic penfriend, Colonel Sanders, do. How perfectly ridiculous. And how very conservative and patriotic they have turned out to have been, privatisation and deregulation, Thatcherism and neoliberalism. 

This is how the once-mighty but now decayed princely states of Asia and elsewhere must have felt as the British Empire approached. But approach it did. Like them, we can either get on the bus, or we can expect to be thrown under it. Who knows, subject to certain conditions, the Chinese and other rising powers of Eurasia, Asia, Latin America and Africa might even help us to take back control of our key infrastructure?

Whatever undertakings we may have given to Hong Kong in the olden days, the fact is that China is now rich and growing richer, strong and growing stronger, while Britain is now poor and growing poorer, weak and growing weaker. The case either for Huawei or for the Belt and Road Initiative is not that the regime in China is nice, but that anyone who is not at the table is on the menu. 

Nor was the advancing British Empire nice, when it had to be given Hong Kong for 99 years. But notice that by the time that the lease on Hong Kong came up, then the British Empire had long ago ceased to exist. We shall all be dead before the eclipse of China. But that eclipse will happen, as surely as that of Britain did. 

China, of course, continues to industrialise, following the same road to wealth that we once trod. Our own decline will only be exacerbated if we insist on moving to zero carbon emissions, a move that would be negated countless times over by China, by India, and by all the rest of them, present and imminent. If we have only 12 years left, then it is far too late to do anything, anyway. 12 years is a long time if it is three quarters of your own life to date. But we are not governed by people in that position. Or at any rate, we never used to be. Increasingly it feels as if we are.

By spreading hysteria about Huawei, all that the likes of MI6 and GCHQ are saying is that, even in they own terms, they themselves are just not very good. Does that really never occur to him? Pointedly, MI5 is allowing it to be known that it is taking a different approach. But as Ren Zhengfei recently pointed out, Huawei is simply too advanced for the world to do without it. This is the world now. Similarly, in order to bring about a solution in Kashmir, then the world needs China, which is closely allied to Pakistan, and the world needs Russia, which retains an alliance with India going back to the Soviet period.

As for trade with India, the more of it, the better. This is not about Imperial nostalgia, of which of course the Indians themselves have none. The people who ran the Congress Party in the olden days had more than might have been expected, but not as much as we liked to imagine. And the people who run the BJP today have none whatever. But so what? The business of business is business.

Just as good relations with Pakistan are important for relations with China, and vice versa, so good relations with India are good for relations with Russia, and vice versa. All would be essential to any solution in Kashmir. If there were to be an Indian Huawei, then we ought to consider its products on their merits. Of course, it would be better if there were a British Huawei, but here we are.

It is not anti-Indian to support British participation in China's Belt and Road Initiative. If there were to be an Indian Belt and Road Initiative, then we ought to be on that, too. Be at the table, or be on the menu. Be on the bus, or be thrown under it. And be clear that the abuse of Dalits, Christians, Muslims and others by the governing party's members and supporters in India is as bad as the abuse of anyone in China, and vice versa.

This is the world now, the world of the BRICS, the world of Huawei, and the world of the Belt and Road Initiative. Be at the table, or be on the menu. Be on the bus, or be thrown under it. I will be standing for Parliament again here at North West Durham next time, so please give generously. In any event, please email Very many thanks.

Hey Hey, Ho Ho

The Democrats have got to go.

Cooing over John Bolton, and now also over Mitt Romney and chums. Away with the Democratic Party. And see what the Labour Party would become under Keir Starmer.

Not I, Deal

There is a scene in Brüno where Sacha Baron Cohen's character is so clueless between an Israeli and a Palestinian that they look as if they are about to walk out and go to the pub together. Perhaps they did.

And so to Donald Trump's "Deal of the Century", which is being laughed out both by the Palestinians and by an Israeli Right that might very well now assassinate Benjamin Netanyahu for his treachery.

Both of them deride it as the work of a person who is perfectly, almost deliciously, innocent of the Middle East and of everything to do with it. For so it is.

Councillor Watch: Day 198

I hereby invite all Labour members of Durham County Council who believe me to be guilty of the criminal charges against me to email and say so.

I would not be able to reply to those emails, but every day the names of those who had sent them to me would appear here. So far, I have received none.

Monday 27 January 2020

Have You Heard The News From France?

No, of course you haven't.

But watch this space for our own media by Christmas, including a weekly newspaper, a monthly cultural review spanning the Red Wall, and a quarterly academic journal. There is also talk of a fortnightly satirical magazine, but that would require a bit more, well, you know. If all that mattered now really were social media, then Jeremy Corbyn would be Prime Minister.

Anyway, all this, plus a new political party, and a new think tank. Oh, yes, watch this space. The 2020 Vision, indeed. I will be standing for Parliament again here at North West Durham next time, so please give generously. In any event, please email Very many thanks.

And When They Were Only Halfway Up?

Why should Prince Andrew go to America to answer questions? Has Anne Sacoolas come back to Britain? No one has accused him of killing anybody, whereas she more or less admits to it.

He should say that he would cooperate when she did, and that he would present himself in the Southern District of New York when she presented herself in the southern district of Northamptonshire.

Disclosure Watch: Day One

With six weeks to go until the fourth attempt to put me on trial, we still have no disclosure.

This post will appear daily until further notice.

Have A Nice Holocaust Day

That is the title of one chapter of Nick Cohen's Pretty Straight Guys. These days, he could write neither that title, nor that chapter, nor that book.

If you want to see where he started to go wrong, then read the immediately following chapter, which is entitled The Second Battle of Stalingrad.

Starmered From The Start

Oh, what fun Boris Johnson could have as soon as Keir Starmer became Labour Leader. As the Prime Minister most independent of the United States in living memory, he could release Julian Assange. He could find ways to reopen the cases of Ian Tomlinson and Jean Charles de Menezes. He could do the same in relation to torture and extraordinary rendition, and in relation to the effectiveness or otherwise of 10-year sentences for "benefit cheats". And so on.

Then he could put down a Commons motion approving of his having done each and all of those things, and he could force a Division of the House. Labour MPs would then be able to vote for Assange, for Tomlinson, for de Menezes, against torture and extraordinary rendition, and against 10-year sentences for "benefit cheats". Or they would be able to vote for Starmer. But they would not be able to do both. Their Constituency Labour Parties would be watching.

But no matter who had become the Leader of the Labour Party or anything else, I will be standing for Parliament again here at North West Durham next time, so please give generously. In any event, please email Very many thanks.

Towering Hypocrisy

Crocodile tears for Grenfell Tower from those, of whom the Conservative Party is tellingly not one, who subscribe to the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism.

That Definition is a denial of Black And Minority Ethnic, refugee and migrant experience, of the kind that leads to the Windrush scandal and to the fire at Grenfell Tower.

It is also a denial of the ancient indigenous Christian presence in the Holy Land. As such, it contributes significantly to the worldwide persecution of Christians.

You cannot now be a member of the Labour Party, much less a parliamentary candidate for it, without subscribing to the IHRA Definition.

But I will be standing for Parliament again here at North West Durham next time, so please give generously. In any event, please email Very many thanks.

Towering Truth

As the inquiry into Grenfell Tower gets back underway, the official line of blaming the firefighters and the residents has already been laughed out by the public, even before the report has officially been written. 

It is already in the same bin as the blaming of the fans for Hillsborough, and the blaming of the miners for Orgreave. 

In all three cases, certain proprieties still have to be observed in the courtier media. But not for much longer in the first two cases. The dead can't sue. In any case, everybody already knows.

And then there is parliamentary privilege. I will be standing for Parliament again here at North West Durham next time, so please give generously. In any event, please email Very many thanks.

Councillor Watch: Day 197

I hereby invite all Labour members of Durham County Council who believe me to be guilty of the criminal charges against me to email and say so.

I would not be able to reply to those emails, but every day the names of those who had sent them to me would appear here. So far, I have received none.

Sunday 26 January 2020

Aperuit Illis

On this inaugural Sunday of the Word of God, buy the book here:

Vatican II certainly did define the primacy of Scripture in teaching and practice, not that there was anything even vaguely or remotely novel in that. It certainly did not define the primacy, or even the admissibility, of secular and secularising Biblical criticism. 

The Authorship of God’s Written Word is, like the Person of His Incarnate Word, both fully human and fully divine. The Bible comes only with, in and through the Church that defined its Canon and has preserved it through the ages, and its implications for doctrine, for morality and for future hope are integral to its literal, Authorially original sense. 

The founders of Protestantism spoke of Scripture’s plain sense, but that sense is in fact canonical and ecclesial, allegorical and typological, tropological and moral, anagogical and eschatological, while also including the historical factuality of the events recorded as such at least from the Call of Abram onwards, with apparent difficulties finding their resolution precisely in Canon and Church, in Tradition and Magisterium. It is that which enjoys priority in faith and practice.


God’s Book of Scripture begins by recording the beginning of God’s Book of Nature, presenting the Author of both as creating, naming and commanding: He is concerned with being, knowing and doing; with ontology, epistemology and ethics. Throughout the Old Testament, God raises up priests, prophets and kings accordingly, corresponding to that with which each of these branches of philosophy is concerned, until the Perfect Form of all three appears in and as the Person of Jesus Christ, Who proclaims Himself to be the Ethical Way, the Epistemological Truth and the Ontological Life, and Who commissions His Ecclesial Body to teach epistemologically, to govern ethically, and to sanctify ontologically.

The Septuagint translators had no problem identifying that creating, naming and commanding Author of both Books with and as the Logos of their wider Hellenistic culture, while the New Testament writers had no problem presenting the Perfect Priest, Prophet and King as the Incarnation of that same Logos, recognised in both the Septuagint translators’ own and the New Testament writers’ own Hellenism by the Semites who compiled the Septuagint. Is it possible that they recognised in the Hebrew concept the root of the Hellenistic concept? Or rather, is it possible that they did not do so?

One might add that “He saw that it was good”, and that “Behold, it was very good.” Beauty discloses being, truth and goodness: the really identical categories of being (i.e., of being created by God), of being true and of being good are in turn really identical with being beautiful. What could be more Platonic or more Thomist, not to mention saner or more commonsensical? And what could be more Biblical, when one looks at the very first chapter of the Bible?


Just as “conservatives” are challenged by the fact that the Bible, of all things, is an integral part of the roots of Western philosophy, but only if at least initially Afrocentric and related insights are taken on board, so “liberals” are equally challenged by the fact that it is the Bible, of all things, that is a standing contradiction and critique, both of the Eurocentrism of those who see philosophy as beginning with the Greeks, and of Greek misogyny when one contrasts the Greek belief that heredity was only on the male side with the Hebrew presupposition, seen in the purity and incest laws, of a biological relationship with both parents.

This latter difference has, in turn, profound class implications: the Greek theory was devised by members of a homosocial urban leisure class, whereas the Hebrew writers were working farmers, not to mention husbands and fathers. It is the Bible that is on the side of the working class, reflecting its practical wisdom. And it is the Bible that is on the same side as feminism, precisely because these parts of it were written by patriarchs. One might add that several Old Testament books, such as Ruth and Esther, although their precise authorship is unknown, were clearly written by women, just as, say, Pride and Prejudice would clearly have been written by a woman even if one had never heard of Jane Austen. So women were clearly literate in Hebrew culture, just as much of the Old Testament presupposes mass popular literacy generally.


In order to be more fully Herself, the Catholic Church needs to encourage large numbers of Her members to learn the culture of the Word from that Evangelical tradition which is historically, if even in its own terms no longer necessarily, separated from Her full communion. Such a culture is one in which the defining narratives are those of the Old and New Testaments. All cultures define and perpetuate themselves by telling stories, and the Bible culture initially arose in order to fill the gaps left after the Reformation where the Lives of the Saints had previously been.

Catholicity, however, requires both, not least in order to express the indivisible continuity between the Bible and the Church. Catholics are not being asked to take on anything remotely Protestant as such here: look at the Liturgy, look at the Fathers (up to and including the Medieval Doctors), look at the Medieval and post-Medieval mystics, and look at the iconography and other spirituality of the Christian East, whether Catholic or separated. Taking on is a defining mark of Catholicism, which radically and fundamentally distinguishes the Catholic Church from the giving up that characterises Protestantism.


While the heart of the Catholic Faith is indeed God’s incarnational redemption of human life and history from within, the various Quests for the Historical Jesus have floundered due to the lack of agreement as to the objective criteria for determining which parts of the Gospels are, and which are not, historical in the post-Enlightenment sense. It is absurd to assume, apparently a priori, that Saint John’s Gospel, the Infancy Narratives and anything involving miracles are by definition unhistorical. An absolute insistence that miracles do not ever happen is not even compatible with agnosticism, much less with Christianity.

On the matter of John, it is very much worthy of note that even Professor Dennis Nineham, in his epilogue to The Myth of God Incarnate, cites B H Streeter’s calculation that, except for the 40 days and nights in the wilderness, everything attributed to Jesus in all four Gospels could have happened in a mere three weeks. (This argument is also very useful against those who would deny the authority of the Apostolic Traditions.)

In any case, historical criticism cannot be treated as if it existed apart from the several other means of engagement with the Biblical text; they need all to be applied within the context of each other, even if sometimes to demonstrate why some of them are potentially useless, and even dangerous. And after all, both the Historical Jesus and the Historic Christ are here and now in the form of the Church, which is the Body of Christ and “Christ in action”. There is no human being without the stories about him or her, and without the community defined by those stories. There is no Historical Jesus without the Gospels and the Church. No such Jesus exists.


Useful though the Jerusalem Bible’s footnotes are, the text itself is frightful. The Revised Standard Version is preferred by all sensible people, and certainly not the New Revised Standard Version with the masculine pronouns taken out to the ruination of the sense; if the Bible is that bad, then why use it at all? At least until such time as anyone has the wit to reissue the RSV Edition of the Missal, authorisation of which has never been withdrawn, those reading at Mass (or, of course, on other liturgical occasions) should read out the appointed passage from the superlative Ignatius Bible, which no English-speaking Catholic should be without. Nothing could better accompany the move to a more accurate translation of the Mass, suitable for properly educated people. Above all, away with the atrocity that is the Happytudes instead of the Beatitudes.