Wednesday 15 March 2023

Barrow Boys?

Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council still lists Allison Johnston as a Labour councillor, although it is widely claimed that the party suspended her in January. Either way, will Eleanor Williams’s mother be seeking re-election this May, when her seat will be up? Councillor Johnston has been given heavy publicity yesterday and today. The media have paid far more attention to Williams’s family than to her victims. As she continues to defend her daughter, what are Councillor Johnston’s connections to the former Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, John Woodcock, Baron Walney? She, who brought Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”) to the streets of their town.

Too little is made of the Far Right’s connections to the Conservative Party. Thomas Mair, the murderer of Jo Cox, described himself to the Police as “a political activist”, and so he was. National Fronts come and BNPs go, EDLs come and Britain Firsts go, but certain institutional and organisational manifestations of the Far Right are perennial and even permanent. Mair’s is the Springbok Club, which is run by the people who also run the London Swinton Circle. And that, in turn, was addressed by Liam Fox (born 1961) and by Owen Paterson (born 1956) as recently as 2014. Ah, those old 1980s Tory Boys, in their Hang Mandela T-shirts and all the rest of it. Wherever did they all end up?

In the Thatcher and, to a lesser extent, Major years, there were Ministers who were members of the Western Goals Institute or the Monday Club, which latter had played a key role in securing British accession to the EU. Those crossed over, via such things as the fiercely Eurofederalist League of Saint George, to overt neo-Nazism on the Continent, to the Ku Klux Klan, to apartheid South Africa, to Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, to the juntas of Latin America, to Marcos and Suharto, to the Duvaliers, and so on. Nick Griffin’s father, Edgar, was a Vice-President of Iain Duncan Smith’s Leadership Campaign. He answered what was listed as one of its official telephone numbers, in his house, with the words “British National Party”. Then we had a confidence and supply agreement with Ulster Resistance. Then we had Toby Young and the London Conference on Intelligence. And now we have certain members of the 2019 intake.

But one of the most colourful of that intake is now sitting as a Labour MP. The Labour Right and the Far Right have always known how to play each other. I remember them campaigning side-by-side very near here while Tony Blair was Prime Minister. There have been more recent rumours. If the same sort of collaboration in Barrow or anywhere else would shock you, then you need to get out more.

As to the Williams case, I do have a good record of rat-smelling where this sort of thing is concerned. That has nothing to do with liking anyone. The beatification will presumably be the occasion of a Papal Visit to Australia, but if possible I shall be in Rome for the canonisation of Cardinal Pell. To keep Julian Assange’s work going, then I would die in his stead. While I am opposed to the marrow of my bones to the political cause to which Alex Salmond has devoted his life, I expect that he and I would get on. But I doubt that Ched Evans and I would find much to talk about. I know that Freya Heath’s victims and I would have more than enough for a very heated discussion indeed. And while I cannot imagine that the United States would allow a white liberal American citizen to be treated as Andrew Tate is being, I am sure that I could stand no more than a few seconds in his company.

Yet I was right about Cardinal Pell, about Assange, about Salmond, about Evans, and about Heath, whose conviction was merely set aside on a procedural technicality. I would not be at all surprised if little or nothing ended up coming of the Tate furore. And it is increasingly obvious that I have been right about Prince Andrew, who should sue everyone who had called him a paedophile, a paedo, a nonce, or anything in that vein, and who should demand the late Queen’s money back with interest, costs and a penalty.

Bringing us back to the right wing of the Labour Party. Even from his cell, Jeffrey Epstein was still making donations to “Petie” Mandelson. Prince Andrew is an utterly unimportant person. Epstein’s British connection that matters is to Mandelson, who pretty much ran the Labour Party when it was last in government, and who is back running it now, having solicited a large donation from Epstein’s cell as a convicted and incarcerated paedophile. In the meantime, Mandelson has been European Commissioner for Trade, President of the Board of Trade, Lord President of the Council, and First Secretary of State. In all but name, he was Deputy Prime Minister under Gordon Brown, and arguably under Blair as well.

Prince Andrew has never even run his own bath. Mandelson, however, is now running Keir Starmer, who is the most inexperienced politician ever to have become the Leader of the Opposition. Starmer was the Director of Public Prosecutions when the decision was made not to prosecute Jimmy Savile. Due to Savile’s fame and connections, of course it is inconceivable that that decision was made by anyone other than Starmer, just as of course he was sly enough not to have left a paper trail. The rest of us live our entire lives without ever encountering a paedophile, yet our betters have the misfortune to trip over them every time that they go out. As with illegal drug use, they extrapolate from their own experience and present such behaviour as normal, not even so much because they want it to be, as because they sincerely believe that it is. 

Although every specific allegation that Jeremy Corbyn was an anti-Semite has been easily refuted, the idea lingers in the air. It never made any electoral difference. Starmer’s change to Labour’s Brexit policy caused both the 2019 General Election and its outcome, or else an Election last spring would have delivered a hung Parliament with Labour as the largest party. But it was there, and it still is. The lingering idea of Starmer and “oh, something to do with paedophilia” would, however, have a great deal of electoral cut-through if anyone were prepared to push and twist the knife hard enough. Between Savile and Mandelson, that ought not to be difficult to do. Why did Starmer let Savile off? Why is Starmer so dependent on Epstein’s closest associate in Britain, indeed one of Epstein’s closest associates in the world? What sort of person therefore wants Starmer to become Prime Minister?

To return to Williams, by what criterion is the rape conviction rate obviously wrong? What would be the correct rate, and why? If most complaints are genuine, then everyone involved in investigation or prosecution ought to keep very quiet about it, because in that case they must be seriously bad at their jobs. We need the replacement of the existing categories of sexual assault with aggravating circumstances to the general categories of offences against the person, such that the sentences could be doubled. There should be no anonymity either for adult defendants or for adult complainants. Either we have an open system of justice, or we do not. We should no more believe everyone who claimed to have been sexually assaulted than we should believe everyone who claimed to be a woman. False accusers are no more necessarily mentally ill than true assailants are.

We need to rule out the legal possibility of being a specifically sexual assailant below an age of consent that had been raised to 18, and we need to specify that intoxication was a bar to sexual consent only insofar as it would have been a bar to driving. We need to end the blocking of progress into paid or voluntary work even though one had been acquitted. C5 notices should be outlawed. We need a criminal offence of sexual activity with any person under the age of 18 who was more than two years younger than oneself, with a maximum sentence equal to twice the difference in age, and the abolition of different rules for “positions of trust”. We need to ban abortion and contraception for those under 18 at least without parental knowledge and consent, just as they thankfully cannot now be given puberty blockers. What sort of parent would want to put his underage daughter on the Pill, anyway? There is only one possible reason for doing so.

And we need to make it a criminal offence for anyone aged 21 or over to buy or sell sex, with equal sentencing on both sides. The Universal Basic Income, the Job Guarantee, and the dividends from public stakes in the FTSE 500 companies, distributed equally to everyone, would remove any conceivable excuse for prostituting oneself. This would of course include filmed or photographed prostitution. We need to define obscenity as material depicting acts that were themselves illegal or which was reasonably likely to incite or encourage such acts, with sentencing the same as for the illegal act in question in each case, and with the law enforced equally in relation to both sexes.

Many of us ended up as exasperated critics of Corbyn’s. But we were not his enemies. When it came to those, then nothing struck more fear into their hearts than his popularity with young men. Alongside a collapse in male employment that had in any case largely happened by the time that they had come along, the defining experience of their own politics had been to have grown up under Governments, of all three parties, that had harvested young men in wars with a sheer pointlessness that had not been since 1918. Hence their attraction and attachment to a politician who had opposed every single one of those wars, just as he had opposed the collapse in that employment.

Still, when I say that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair’s Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

The opinion polls bear no resemblance to real votes cast, and even the Labour poll lead has halved since Sunak took over. Halved. The Labour vote has gone through the floor at all but one by-election since Starmer became Leader, with one of those recording Labour’s lowest ever share of the vote. Council seats that were held or won under Corbyn have fallen like sandcastles, taking control of major local authorities with them. That is the bread and butter of the party’s right wing, who are not otherwise the most employable of people.

With nearly two years still to go until the next General Election, Starmer’s personal rating is negative not only nationally, but in every region apart from London, and it is still in decline. Starmer’s dishonesty is becoming a story. He lied to his party members to get their votes, so he would lie to anyone else to get their votes. We are heading for a hung Parliament. To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not.


  1. Still the Department of Homeboy Security, I see.

    1. You are showing both of our ages in so many ways.