A week really is a long time in politics, as Labour surge and Tories entrench to fight onto their minority Government. The latest post-election polling has Labour on 45% (+5) and the Conservative Party on 39% (-3) that means in another election Labour would win, but in all likelihood still fall short of a majority – making a progressive rather than DUP regressive coalition the best way forward. All this is another reason the Tories are shoring up deals with the devil to stay in power. The poll was in the Mail on Sunday and from Survation who had the Tories on 41 and Labour on 40 on 7 June predicting a hung parliament, and hence the most accurate poll.
Theresa May’s Leadership
Whilst “strong and stable” is clearly parked like the hastily hidden away EdStone in 2015, Theresa May still feels like she can hang on whilst the Tory Titanic sinks.
Just 38% now think Theresa May should stay on as Prime Minister, 49% think she should resign.
Whilst the Tories stubbornly call for ever harder Brexit, the DUP and Scottish Conservatives want a softer one. If this was an election called to confirm a strong majority for Brexit negotiations, then May has lost her mandate for it.
Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Tories, may be tempted to break away from the English and Welsh Tories in order to fight for a very soft Brexit and to campaign against the DUP amidst their anti-LGBT and women views.
“The pattern of seat results suggests that seats in Remain areas saw significant defections away from the Conservatives.” – Electoral Calculus
Tactical voting clearly played its part with people moving from minority parties to the main two in order to vote “anything but Tory” or for BluKIP, i.e., UKIP voters hoping to shore up the Tories. Seemingly, many UKIP voters also returned to Labour.
Goats for Votes?
Goats have often been used to persuade people to register to vote for the first time. My old university, UCL, did this year, and local to me, UEA, has done in the past.
Today, old goats were in the news, not because climate sceptic Michael Gove was made Environment Secretary – right up Donald Trump and DUP‘s street, but because the Queen’s Speech may be delayed. It turns out that the speech is written on goatskin (well heavy parchment now) and it takes 7 days to dry the ink and so the whole political process has ground to a halt. And so, #goatgate is born!
Back to the Future?
Whilst the Tories criticised Labour for appearing to go back to the 1970s, their own manifesto programme of a return to the 1950s – fox hunting and pre-EU, has now been torn up. It was clear that young people voted for a Jeremy Corbyn future in droves.
Theresa May has today apologised to the Tory 1922 Committee (who feel that 2017 is way too modern) saying,
“I got us into this mess and I’ll get us out of it”. – Theresa May
More Laurel and Hardy than Strong and Stable!
Perhaps, foxhunting, OAP hounding, goatskin, will mean the swansong of the pigheaded Tories and Theresa “Kitten Heels”. (Any more animal allusions I could get in there?)
Donald Trump wants to spend $54 billion more on the US military, whilst cutting foreign aid and environmental policies to pay for it. Sadly, US surveys during his election campaign indicated around 55% support for this policy. He would do better spending $54bn on education and integration. Meanwhile, over 120 retired US generals and admirals wrote to Congress urging it to maintain diplomacy and foreign aid which has been labelled as “bloat” by some Republicans and could be cut by up to a third.
“This is a landmark event and message to the world in these dangerous times, of American strength, security and resolve…We must ensure that our courageous servicemen and women have the tools they need to deter war and when called upon to fight in our name, only do one thing: win.” – Donald Trump
The US already spends around $600bn a year on the military and department of defense. That figure is equal to the next dozen nations in total, dwarfing even China’s $150-200bn, Saudi Arabia’s $80bn and Russia’s $70bn. In fact, it spends over 40% of the world’s total military expenditure, making it the world’s military policeman or soldier. America has around 5% of the world’s population but nearly 50% of its military power, in terms of navy, missiles and expenditure. Only Saudi Arabia spends more proportionately, around 10% of its GDP, often buying from American suppliers.
America has around 5% of the world’s population but nearly 50% of its military power, in terms of navy, missiles and expenditure. The US Navy is bigger than the next 7-10 navies combined. Only Saudi Arabia spends more proportionately, around 10% of its GDP, often buying from American suppliers.
Does America not realise that it is its interference in world military conflicts that has precipitated some of the terrorist response. It’s time for superpowers to put their guns away. It’s time for more foreign aid, not sovereign raids.
Books not Bombs
Bernie Sanders, like Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, wants to see the nuclear deterrent reduced, and spent better elsewhere. The US spends twice as much per capita as the UK on Defence, indeed the proposed increase is equivalent to the entire UK annual military budget.
We spend more than the next 12 nations combined on defense. We should be investing more in our people, not the military industrial complex. https://t.co/TqM3gNJcR7
“We will be substantially upgrading all of our military, all of our military, offensive, defensive, everything. Bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and hopefully we’ll never have to use it, but nobody’s going to mess with us, folks. Nobody. It will be one of the greatest military buildups in American history. No one will dare question, as they have been, because we’re very depleted, very, very depleted sequester. Sequester. Nobody will question our military might again.” – Donald Trump, CPAC
Trump has also said that he will “obliterate ISIS” and his language sometimes sounds like he could quite possibly go after Iran and North Korea at this rate.
“We don’t win anymore. When was the last time we won? Did we win a war? Did we win anything? Do we win anything? Do we win anything? We’re going to win. We’re going to win big, folks. We’re going to start winning again.” – Donald Trump, CPAC
He sees wars as something to win. He would do well to remember the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo:
“Next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle won”.
The last time a Western leader presided over such a large military expansion it ended in the Second World War, just what does Donald Trump want to start? Appealing to the hearts of Republican traditionalists who want a strong America won’t feed, heal, educate, or inspire the minds of its citizens, Democrat or Republican.
Can you believe it? Nigel Farage is back in charge of UKIP, again – for the fourth time. We also have Maggie ‘Theresa May‘ Thatcher redivivus in charge of the Conservative Party (MT/TM same initials!). Jeremy Corbyn is also the second leader Labour has had in a year. OK, so the previous one was also Jeremy Corbyn! I feel like I’m living in political Groundhog Day.
UKIP’s fourth-time-around leader
Admittedly, or allegedly, only a temporary reversion, but after Diane James’ 18-day stint as leader, Nigel Farage has returned to the helm of UKIP.
“UKIP without a leader is more electable than Labour with one” – Nigel Farage
Neil Hamilton as an alternative UKIP leader, currently leader in the Welsh Assembly, would be a “horror story” say Farage and Hamilton in a comical show of unplanned unity.
Financial Markets and Economic Prospects
And whilst the FTSE-100 reaches new heights for the multinational wealthy with shares and global reach, the Pound is crashing towards Sterling parity with the Dollar ($1.27) and ignominy with the Euro (€1.13).
Back to the Future over the EU
John Major launched his fatal Back to Basics political message and policies in 1993, but Theresa May’s message feels more like back to the 80s or even the 70s – before 1973 when we joined the EU. Now we are leaving it. When we joined, Britain was keen to avoid creating a rift between pro and anti-Europeans:
“Above all we should avoid creating a new, semi-permanent rift in British society, between pro and anti Europeans.” – The Guardian, 1 Jan 1973
Post-Referendum and with Brexit’s Article 50 due to initiate by March 2017, we have created exactly that with a very divided and divisive 48% Remainers and 52% Leavers society.
Currency falling backwards and downwards
The Pound has only been this low once before in 60 years, back in 1985, when Back to the Future was released and the already defunct DeLorean (1983) was ironically the posited future of flying cars and time machines. In fact, without any irony at all, DeLorean or rather the new DMC is making fresh models of the DMC-12 car this year!
Recreating the Past rather than a Future
We seem to be recreating the past, rather than an inclusive or “brighter future” for all of Theresa May’s talk about injustice and inequality – because it’s selective inequality she’ll help, and selective education she’ll promote. And if, we can’t trust Nigel Farage to actually resign, Boris Johnson to keep on message for longer than 4 days (Theresa May’s joke at the Tory Party Conference, 5 October 2016), how can we trust that “Brexit means Brexit” or hope that it doesn’t. We seem to be living in the past, having chosen to withdraw from European cooperation and community, back to tariffs and protectionism, back to a low Pound, xenophobic racism and divisions, and peddling failed political slogans that could have been ripped from 1970s/80s politics and posters – indeed during the Leave EU campaign some were. Theresa May, in her speech, ridiculed ‘citizens of the world’, as many Remainers describe themselves, as citizens of nowhere, even if it was in the context of criticising global corporations:
“If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.” – Theresa May, Conservative Party Conference 2016 (speech in full)
This reminds me of George Orwell’s dystopian idea of citizenship in 1984! As for me, I’m a #proudcitizenoftheworld:
As was discussed today on TalkRADIO, for which I was interviewed, we are in dangerous territory here, using jingoistic language to appease the right whilst seemingly stealing centreground policies, but only for the few who are hard-working British citizens, not the “low skilled immigrants”. Immigrant wealth-creators are welcome but not “wealth consumers“, said Liam Fox at a fringe event. So that’s no more asylum seekers or refugees then?
Theresa May also turned the tables, saying that now Labour is the “supporting voices of hate…the nasty party”. Yet her language is more reminiscent of UKIP’s xenophobia than any kind of utopian equality. Even The Times said of her speech that “The Tory conference was largely immigration policy by Ukip.” It’s a scary future not a bright future we are being presented with.
I hate ‘isms, whether capitalism or communism, neoliberalism or even postcapitalism. I also dislike ‘ities, whether cities or christianities – for there are thousands of incarnations of both. I prefer the land and environment of the countryside, not high-rise development living on top of each other, aspiring to the penthouse apartment, swarming like bees to a square mile of golden honey, gold handshake, gilded lifestyle of the 1 per cent. History has led us ever closer to each other in terms of where we live, with population expansion and the pressure to move towards the capitalist and industrialist means of production. Will the age of the Internet allow us to live out self-employment part-time creative dreams?
The EU – Peace & Prosperity in our time?
Will modernity bring or sustain peace? The European project, the EU, has been an ever expanding union in terms of peace, even prosperity perhaps, until the crash of 2008/9 affected us all as we shored up banks and capital but not people and livelihoods. Whilst the UK marginally voted to leave the European Union, assuming “Brexit means Brexit” as Theresa May so simply and yet evasively said, it is undeniable that however lumbering a bureaucratic behemoth ‘Brussels’ is, it has been on balance a force for good. The UK, well England in the main, recoiled nonetheless against ever increasing fiscal and foreign policy union.
NATO – “One for all and all for One”?
As with a nuclear “deterrent”, have defence pacts really saved us from wars? Arguably, NATO‘s 28 nations are neither at war with each other and would, in theory, defend each other against external aggression. In principle, at least, for Jeremy Corbyn has expressed his doubts and previously said that NATO only furthers capitalist self-interest and has had its time.
“I don’t wish to go to war. What I want to do is achieve a world where we don’t need to go to war, where there is no need for it. That can be done.” – Jeremy Corbyn
Who can disagree with that? Yet, the media focus is on the possible breaking of NATO Article 5 pledges instead. His words are idealistic rather than realistic but where would we be without ideals?
Capitalism and PostCapitalism?
In his 2015 book, Postcapitalism, Paul Mason argues, along with the OECD, that “the best of capitalism is behind us” and that with decreasing returns for the many inequality will rise 40%, as the few batten down the hatches. What lies beyond a breaking capitalism, not neoliberalism, for sure.
“Is it utopian to believe we’re on the verge of an evolution beyond capitalism? We live in a world in which gay men and women can marry, and in which contraception has, within the space of 50 years, made the average working-class woman freer than the craziest libertine of the Bloomsbury era. Why do we, then, find it so hard to imagine economic freedom?
… All readings of human history have to allow for the possibility of a negative outcome… But why should we not form a picture of the ideal life, built out of abundant information, non-hierarchical work and the dissociation of work from wages?
Millions of people are beginning to realise they have been sold a dream at odds with what reality can deliver. Their response is anger – and retreat towards national forms of capitalism that can only tear the world apart. Watching these emerge, from the pro-Grexit left factions in Syriza to the Front National and the isolationism of the American right has been like watching the nightmares we had during the Lehman Brothers crisis come true.
We need more than just a bunch of utopian dreams and small-scale horizontal projects. We need a project based on reason, evidence and testable designs, that cuts with the grain of history and is sustainable by the planet. And we need to get on with it.” – Paul Mason
Putting the Human where Capital once was
Humanism begins well, with human, but ends in another ism. An upside down society, as suggested by Jesus, where the last are first, the migrants welcomed, the poor ‘last hour workers’ paid well, the sick, disabled or mentally unwell treated with care, dignity, and respect, is possible. If, we choose to create it.
But it takes an ‘us’ not a ‘me’. So many recoil at immigration because of a perceived threat to self, status, employment, a drain on health or schooling. Yet migration is what history and evolution are all about, the development and expansion of humanity. Again, like humanism, humanity puts human beings first and then ends with an ‘ity’, another intangible unified concept, a utopian ideal that lumps us all as one, without recognising our differences, diversity and distinction – the very things that when accentuated create mistrust and tribal misanthropy.
I prefer the word humankind, for it is only in being kind, being kindred, perpetuating random acts of kindness towards our fellow human beings – recognising their ‘being’ and right to ‘be’ that we can coexist, cooperate and create a humane society together.
During Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, a French-Tunisian has used a 19-tonne lorry to mow down revellers and civilians, and to shoot at police before he was killed himself. This is France’s second large-scale terror atrocity in 8 months since Paris’ Bataclan and third since Charlie Hebdo. Whilst Liberté, égalité, fraternité (ou la mort) was the cry of the French Revolution and last night’s revelries, life and liberty have been taken from many, including 10 children, due to someone’s lack of belief in equality and fraternity.
It is time to assert our common humanity and not ideological differences, although the exact motivation and any affiliation of the heinous act are not yet known. Neighbours described Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel as a divorced loner who was not evidently religious, nor had any known terrorist leanings according to security services. Yet, people are jumping to condemn Islam, Muslims, immigration, rather than the possibilty of his being a ‘lone wolf’ attacker or disturbed individual.
French prime minister, Manuel Valls, said in a statement:
“We are facing a war that terrorism has started against us. The objective of the terrorists is to instil fear and panic…Times have changed and we should learn to live with terrorism. We have to show solidarity and collective calm. France has been hit in its soul on 14 July, our national day. They wanted to attack the unity of the French nation. The only dignified response is that France will remain loyal to the spirit of 14 July and its values.” – Manuel Valls
President of the Nice region, Christian Estrosi, has held a press conference, in which he said:
“This is the worst catastrophe our region has seen in modern history. We now have to mobilise all of our services, all the psychologists, volunteers who are trained to help fellow human beings. We will work with the imams, priests and rabbis who will also join us to help the victims and families who are suffering and will probably never heal their wounds … I want to thank people who welcomed passersby and those people who show us tonight that hopefully, solidarity still exists in a world that is too egoistical and individualistic.” – Christian Estrosi
Kneejerk responses have followed, with not a little emphasis on the ‘jerk’, coming from Donald Trump, “declaring war on terrorism” – we are here in part due to Bush’s “war on terror” and the criminal targeting and bombing of countries not individuals and ideologies. Trump also called for “extreme vetting”, a ban on immigration from terrorist countries and when challenged about home-grown terrorism, such as Orlando, said that “second generation” immigrants were “very bad” too.
Front National‘s leader, Marine Le Pen, speaking to Le Figaro called for “the closure of salafist mosques” amongst other right wing responses including this: “The war against the scourge of Islamic fundamentalism has not started, it is urgent now to declare”, all that before any evidence it was extremist Islamist.
Germany and Italy have ordered tighter border controls with France.
Theresa May said a similar attack in the UK was “highly likely” and called for new police powers. She said that “The United Kingdom stands shoulder to shoulder with France”, well shoulder to shoulder in the future from outside the European Union. What a time to be leaving. The European Arrest Warrant applies to all 28 EU nations plus Norway and Switzerland, but obviously not Canada – the Single European Market model that David Davis, Brexit Minister, is in favour of adopting.
Jeremy Corbyn, on behalf of the Labour Party said this:
“Those killed yesterday will doubtless have been of different religions, ethnicities and nationalities. It was an attack on us all, attempting to set people against each other. That is why instead, we stand together, now and always, in defense of tolerance, peace and justice.” – Jeremy Corbyn
I have to admit to having a problem with #PrayForNice. Prayer doesn’t stop hate, indeed some prayers – Jewish, Christian and Muslim, incentivise it. Loving action stops hate. Loving acceptance, prevents it breeding in the first place.
Torn between “Tour de Farce” and Tory reshuffle headlines the newspapers couldn’t pull their first editions quick enough. Headline writers were regretting their already gone-to-print titles that ran with Brexit bloodbath or Cabinet massacre, etc. Political careers cut short, would seem so facile by the second editions which carried details of the actual bloodbath and massacre in #Nice.
Sports pages ran with “Tour de Farce” and described Froome being “forced to run as crowds cause Tour farce” meanwhile in Nice crowds were running for their lives from a lorry and its driver intent on running or gunning them down.
“We left just before the truck came and then I looked out of the window and saw a river of people running and crying. It looked like the apocalypse but I didn’t know what was going on.” – Leila Pasini
The Daily Mirror initially had a Coronation Street storyline about the death of Kylie Platt on the street’s cobbles – rather too close to people lying dead on the streets of Nice. Beneath that, it had Jeremy Hunt boasting about rumours of his (political) death being greatly exaggerated.
Sailing By & Shipping Forecast Calm
My own reflections on Nice went through a distant relative grief process, as I feel a European more than a Brit and spoke at a Charlie Hebdo memorial in January last year. After the sadness and anger, needed catharsis – and for that I turned to writing and the shipping forecast!
My first response was to keep up with the news barrage, mainly over social media and the Guardian live updates which trumped the BBC for immediacy. Sucked in like a Stockholm Syndrome victim it became hard to pull away from the uncertainty of whether it was over or was it only the beginning of multiple attacks. After several hours and the final midnight news broadcast, I ended up listening to BBC Radio 4’s “Sailing By” and the Shipping Forecast for their mundane reassurance that the world hadn’t gone mad, or had it? At least with the weather, a storm blows out, a flood abates, but the escalation of extremist terror seems to just keep coming like an undead zombie horde amidst a Game of Thrones winter.
Blame brought no resolution, nor is revolution and fresh invasion of the axes of evil. Evolution, on the other hand, is. Not a survival of the fittest, the ones with the biggest guns, cruelest views, etc, but an evolution of recognition of our common humanity, fellow human rights, freedoms to coexist, communicate, collaborate, learn from and love each other, irrespective of creed, colour, gender or sexuality.
A month ago, I spoke at an Orlando vigil and quoted MLK whose words remain as true as ever:
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King
Pulp‘s Jarvis Cocker chose “Sailing By” as one of his Desert Island Discs, saying for many years that he’d used it “as an aid to restful sleep”
After the sadness and the solace came the guilt that I couldn’t pull away from other people’s pain, that what was real and terrifying for them was a distance news addiction for me. That each individual loss or injury was just a journalistic bean counter increasing and updating as the night dragged on. I had also begun writing and reflecting upon Baghdad’s worst ever post-war atrocity and not been able to post it or a #JeSuisBaghdad update as I’d done before because I was embedded in the outcome of the EU Referendum and pro-EU and anti-hate rallies ever since.
How do I go outside tomorrow and look at the sky, the birds, a flower, and regain my faith in humanity, in human nature? I don’t believe in a biblical Fall anymore, but are we not fallen, flawed?
Fortunately, my faith in humankind is renewed by acts of love and community, as when people rallied round the arson-attacked Eastern European shop on Magdalen St in Norwich, when 200 lovebombed the store, when 400 showed up to support Norwich migrant communities this week, when 2000 peacefully countered and overwhelmed an EDL demonstration in 2012 here.
Like as morning follows night, so my hope will rise anew with the dawn, well perhaps a little later, around coffee time…
Je Suis Tous Le Monde
What is happening in Nice happens nearly every day in Iraq, frequently in Syria, increasingly often in Turkey, and worryingly 3 times in 18 months in France.
If more people said #JeSuisNice & literally meant it the world would be a better place sadly 2 many are nescius “ignorant” & ignoble instead
The 6.5 year long Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War says that Saddam Hussein was no imminent threat and Tony Blair “exaggerated” the case for war. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was “unnecessary”, not a “last resort” as the EU had reluctantly sanctioned, and Saddam Hussein was “no imminent threat”.
“We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.” – Chilcot
It is shocking in the extreme that Blair favoured guaranteeing a war over negotiation! See pages 3-4 of this document. In addition, that he gave Bush and America, seemingly unconditional backing, irrespective of the people or Parliament:
“I will be with you whatever” – Tony Blair
Making the case for war
Whilst the “dodgy dossier” may not have been “sexed up” it was certainly “exaggerated” with an end plan in mind to “regime change” to remove Saddam and then going looking for any evidence to sell the casus belli. Something, both Bush and Blair as religious persons would have wanted to do in line with Just War Theory.
Iraq Regime Change
“[Afghanistan] is our one act of regime change so far, so it had better be a good advertisement” – Tony Blair (p5)
He says the “overwhelming weight of international legal opinion” says the invasion was illegal. It had devastating consequences, he says, fuelling terrorism and war across the region. By any measure the invasion and occupation of Iraq “has been for many a catastrophe”. He says it has led to “a fundamental breakdown of trust in politics.” – Jeremy Corbyn
Nobody had an exit strategy, where have you heard that one before? There was little thought given to post-War reconstruction or politics. A travesty for the 180,000 civilians who have been killed in the 12 years since, now some 1-2,000 a month, only recent numbers of which can be blamed on ISIS. Rather than one Saddam Hussein, Iraqis now feel that they have “One thousand Saddams now”.
The Iraq War and the EU Referendum may be chalk and cheese in reality, but politically they are similar. They are momentous decisions with long-term consequences, mass public demonstrations, Parliamentary democracy and sovereignty issues, and the ability to end political careers. It also demonstrates the danger of siding with America against a European consensus. We may have a “special relationship” with the US, but we are also closer to Europe on other issues including a tendency to peaceful negotiation rather than international interference as the self-appointed “world’s policeman”.
So, politicians “exaggerate” the facts to fit the cause they have already made their minds up to pursue. Somewhat like the EU referendum campaigns! Perhaps a 6.5 year long inquiry into Brexit would drag the whole process until the next generation of voters vote to Remain! Indeed, Chilcot said that on a decision as momentous as war, “Regular reassessment is essential.”
Were there to be a Brexit Inquiry, its findings, I can tell you now, would be that both sides “exaggerated” the pseudo-facts, “exaggerated” the costs and benefits, “exaggerated” the fear and threat, leading to the travesty of a divided Britain, rising hate crime, decimated political leadership, and 3-10 years in economic doldrums whilst we negotiate our way back up the international leaderboard.
Refugees from “forced displacement” recorded worldwide in 2015 numbered over 65 million according to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. That’s nearly 1% of the world currently homeless, nationless, fleeing wars, terror, persecution and the slow death and disease of refugee poverty from relying on handouts and the generosity of others, NGOs, international aid and agencies. So far, this year, over 3,500 have died on their migrant journeys to apparent safety. World Refugee Day highlights the plight and peril of people seeking safety amidst an escalating humanitarian crisis.
“At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year; on land, people fleeing war are finding their way blocked by closed borders. Closing borders does not solve the problem.” – Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Refugees & Migrants are People Too!
But numbers, percentages, records, are not facts or statistics, they are people too. They are not just migrants, often prefixed with the dehumanising word “illegal”, or trafficked by exploiters and transporters of vulnerable people with nothing left to risk except their life itself. They are desperate migrant peoples, refugees, asylum seekers, human beings, not cattle or ballast to be bounced around from port to port, dragged back out to sea, or denied entry based upon the decision that they may harbour an ISIL terrorist.
It’s a humanitarian crisis because they share a common humanity with the 99% of people that have settled homes and domestic security. Whilst 1% of the world control half its wealth, another 1% don’t even have a dollar a day because they are stateless, which in some countries means they officially don’t exist, being without permanent address or social security numbers. 50% of the world has access to just 1% of the world’s wealth. Global economic disparity and inequality are an injustice demanding those that have, to aid those that don’t. It’s a moral crisis as well as a humanitarian one.
Definition of a Refugee
Article 1 of the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, as amended by the 1967 Protocol, defines a refugee as:
“A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” – 1951 UN Refugee Convention
The benefits of global bodies like the United Nations and regional socio-economic communities like the African Union or European Union are that they can act as greater than the sum of their nation parts when they pull disparate national interests into international focus on issues facing the world as a whole, for which we a have a common responsibility.
Immigration and the EU Referendum
Whilst the United Kingdom votes this week to Leave or Remain in the EU, thinking little England rather than Great Britain, the world has bigger issues than one nation’s sovereignty or solvency. Immigration has become one of the most divisive issues in the EU Referendum campaign and the responses have turned ugly. Campaign posters have been called racist, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, has admitted that we cannot control EU migrant numbers, however, nor would we be able to if we adopted a Norwegian or Swiss-style model of European Economic Area affiliation rather than full EU membership.
“Immigration has overtaken the economy as the most important issue to how the public will vote…[it] is now the most critical issue, cited as very important to their vote by 33%, up five points in a month, including just over half (52%) of leave supporters…which coincides with the official Vote Leave campaign focusing more strongly on immigration.” – Evening Standard
Opinion polls consistently show that immigration is one of the key Referendum issues, but one that is closely aligned with geography, age and gender. The majority of men and people over 65 would vote to Leave and the majority of women and people under 35 would vote to Remain. It’s often the areas with the least impact of immigration that would vote most against it. Those, such as London, with the greatest cultural diversity, are more likely to vote Remain. Integration and acceptance take time but then do bring community benefits and positivity.
It’s about perception, integration, insecurity and fear. A Guardian piece included the words of Chantelle, a young mother from Leigh, near Manchester, who despite 96.% of local residents being British thought that “80%, maybe 90%” of locals were immigrant foreigners!
Controls on Immigration or Contributions from Immigration?
“Immigration to the UK since 2000 has been of substantial net fiscal benefit, with immigrants contributing more than they have received in benefits and transfers. This is true for immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe as well as the rest of the EU.” – The Economic Journal
A CEBR report on world economic ranking data said of the UK’s growth and dynamism:
“The United Kingdom is forecast to be the best performing economy in Western Europe … likely to overtake Germany and Japan during the 2030s … becoming the world’s 4th largest economy for a short time … The UK’s strength (though mainly in London) is its cultural diversity and its strong position in software and IT applications. Its weakness is its bad export position and unbalanced economy … It also runs the risk of breakup, with Scotland and possibly Northern Ireland seceding and will have a referendum on its continuing membership of the EU in 2016 which might prove at best disruptive and at worst lead to a more insular and less diverse culture which in turn would generate slower growth.” – CEBR
Surely, then, the UK – currently the world’s fifth largest economy, should accept a substantial share of supporting the world’s refugees rather than turning a blind eye and walking on by as the selfish ‘neighbours’ in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
The country taking by far the largest number of migrants is Germany, down to Angela Merkel’s so-called “open door policy”. Germany is currently the fourth largest powerhouse economy in the world, aided rather than restrained by its immigration policy:
“Germany’s influx of Syrian immigrants is expected to keep the country ahead of the UK for a few further years as skill shortages are alleviated, wage growth restrained and profits boosted.” – City A.M.
EU Migrants a drain on Benefits?
EU benefits claimants are the smallest group receiving either working age benefits or tax credits, according to economic and statistical data. Some 92.5% of benefit claimants are British, 5% are non-EU immigrants, and just 2.5% are EU migrants. Whilst those from outside the EU are more likely to be on benefits than EU migrants, we have a degree of control over non-EU immigrants, albeit an international responsibility to refugees and asylum seekers. Even the Daily Telegraph which is essentially pro-Brexit said this:
“…whatever the arguments for and against reducing the number of EU migrants receiving British benefits, delivering such a reduction wouldn’t make a significant difference to the overall welfare bill…and seeing as the take-up of benefits among migrants is so small, it’s also worth asking how big of a draw Britain’s welfare system really is.”
Migration Breaking Point?
UKIP’s ‘breaking point’ immigration poster calling for a Leave vote and taking back of border controls has been compared to 1930s Nazi propaganda by George Osborne and even criticised by other Brexiters, not to mention being reported to the Police for inciting racial hatred. Nigel Farage has defended the poster even saying he is the victim of hate!
Even Michael Gove “shuddered” after seeing the UKIP migrants poster based upon a photo taken of migrants crossing the Croatia-Slovenia border in October 2015, apparently of refugees arriving from Syria – a route now all but shut. Boris Johnson, who heads the official Vote Leave campaign also distanced himself from the poster and announced he was in favour of an “illegal immigrants” amnesty for those that had been here 12 years.
Far from immigration being the ‘breaking point’ for the UK, we are cruising it compared to many other austerity-hit nations, growing off the back of net contributions to the treasury from migrants of the past and present. Migrants are far more likely to start businesses than British nationals, nearly half as likely to be on benefits, pay more in taxes than they take out, and more likely to take the jobs others don’t want to do that keep the economy growing – over three-quarters are in employment, more than their British counterparts. They are not “taking our jobs” just more willing to do them.
Thousands continue to protest and take to the streets to oppose bombing Syria, seeing such a move as disastrous and more likely to endanger the lives of Syrian civilians, and further radicalise and foment future terrorism in Europe by Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL/Daesh). Hundreds and thousands of sorties and bombs by over a dozen nations over months and years did not prevent the attacks in Paris last month.
Update: On 2 December the UK Parliament voted to extend the Iraq bombing campaign to Syria but with no ground soldiers commitment or thought to future outcomes, rebuilding, Assad etc. Admittedly Hilary Benn, did give an excellent, almost convincing speech, but too many questions remain unanswered, avenues unexplored… and the UK has already carried out questionable drone strikes killing two British ISIS fighters – predating and without Parliamentary mandate.
Indeed, a majority of the country probably oppose the action according to polls, and Benn was out of touch with the majority of Labour Party supporters who are against action. Polls in the Telegraph had 59% for, in the Independent 59% against. At least there’s no “dodgy dossier” this time, but could we, in ten years time, be facing a similar enquiry into why we went to war, or even why we may still be at war, given that Cameron has suggested this could be lengthy, even many years.
Many see a bombing campaign as the obvious response to the attacks in Paris two weeks ago – precision, of course, because it is not like we want the human and financial expense of “boots on the ground” who can minimise civilian “collateral” losses by checking who they are targeting first. Presidents Hollande and Obama have called for ISIL to be destroyed. Many echo that reaction. But, it is just that, a reaction, not a strategic response.
Others recognise that after 14 years of responding to Middle Eastern turmoil by declaring a “War on Terror” we have actually multiplied rather than diminished terror. The 3,000 killed on 9/11 are now a drop in the ocean compared to the tens and hundreds of thousands who have died in the Middle East or fleeing it.
“The military actions of Western nations recruit more people to the cause than they kill. Every bomb dropped is a recruitment poster for ISIS, a rallying point for the young, vulnerable and alienated. And every bomb dropped on Syrian cities drives yet more people to flee and seek refuge in safer countries.” – The Quakers in Britain
Thirteen countries are already bombing Syria, Canada is considering pulling out, the UK of joining in. One more nation will not solve what a dozen have already failed to do.
Bombing Syria and anywhere else, for that matter, only increases tension, radicalises countless more fighters. In barely a decade ISIL has grown from a few hundred to a 100,000 fighters on the back of Western intervention and against more moderate interpretations of Islam. “In the month after the bombing began, 8,000 joined Isis alone.”
“I know Isis fighters. Western bombs falling on Raqqa will fill them with joy” – Jürgen Todenhöfer
Terrorist acts on domestic soil need to be treated as criminal rather than military acts. Declaring them a war only intensifies the pseudo-legitimacy of their cause and identity, making them think that they are now a force to be reckoned with.
“One thing I have learnt is that this western intervention never helps, it only makes matters worse. So much worse. These interventions only pour petrol on the fires of Middle East unrest.” – John Prescott
“What we have is this continued investment in conflict… the more bombs we drop, that just… fuels the conflict. Some of that has to be done but I am looking for the other solutions… history will not be kind to the decisions that were made certainly in 2003… We definitely put fuel on a fire… Going into Iraq, definitely… was a strategic mistake.”- Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, former Director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
A mistake that the West seems to want to perpetuate, as Einstein may have never said, but Nick O’Brien, Chair of Norwich Stop the War, quoted in a rally on Saturday, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Whilst the origin of this quote in clouded in mystery, another of Einstein’s may be even more apt, namely, that “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” In other words, bombing the bombers won’t solve anything other than create more bombmakers. Every bomb casualty or innocent victim creates loss and anger among relatives leading to further rationale for joining ISIS.
“The US… has been bombing Syria for over a year. Since September, France has been involved alongside them, although other members of a coalition put together last year, including Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, have effectively withdrawn from bombing. Yet now both Russia and France have experienced severe terrorist attacks. Are we saying they have no connection to the raids? Far from making us safe, as politicians contend, they are likely to make us more vulnerable.” – Lindsey German, Stop the War
Bombing Syria, as with elsewhere in the Middle East is both a failed and inadequate strategy. Even those prepared to bomb Syria, admit it will not be enough and will require foot soldiers as well, something people are more reticent to commit to.
It is also dangerous and complex with more than two sides. There are factions within factions, militias, rebels, Assad’s forces, vested interests of Russia, Turkey and others, not to mention a dozen other Western allies and limited Middle Eastern nations already involved.
“Politically, it is a grave step. Britain is about to enter a confused battlefield on which Russia, the US, France, Turkey, Iran, assorted Arab states, ethnic foes and rival sects are all fighting for different causes while Syria and Iraq disintegrate.” – The Sunday Times
On Sunday another threat to the planet – climate change, saw protests and marches around the world ahead of a climate summit in Paris on Monday. Except in the French capital where such a large gathering had been banned on security fears or pretexts after the Paris attacks. Instead, people donated thousands of empty pairs of shoes to stand where people otherwise would have.
Don’t Bomb Syria Rally in Norwich
Norwich on Saturday saw around 100 people show up on a bitingly cold day to hand out leaflets to the public and hear from half a dozen speakers including local Muslims, Quakers, Labour and Green Party activists. One leafleter spoke to four servicemen who were supportive of the protest. A heckler interrupted by saying “two wrongs don’t make a right”, and then everyone realised that he was actually agreeing with what was being said.
Speakers included Dr Ian Gibson – former Labour MP for Norwich North, Nick O’Brien – Chair of Norwich Stop the War, Lesley Graham – Quaker peace activist, Jan McLachlan – Norwich People’s Assembly, Adrian Holmes – Green Party, Muhammad Ameen Franklin – Muslims of Norwich.
Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South issued this statement on the possibility of bombing Syria. He is a former TA soldier who served in Afghanistan, and BBC journalist.
“I understand there are occasions when military force is necessary. Therefore, I will not rule out supporting the use of military force against ISIL. However, the use of such force must not be an end in itself.
If there is one thing the ‘war on terror’ has shown, it is that military force alone is rarely the answer. We’ve been engaged in this ‘war’ for 15 years with with no end in sight. It has cost millions of lives, trillions of dollars, destabilised an entire region and arguably spawned a series of global, jihadist terror networks.” – Clive Lewis
A Muslim Voice
The speaker from the Ihsan Mosque in Norwich was warmly received and welcomed to applause. As with nearly 400 mosques and UK Muslim organisations who issued an unequivocal statement in the media on 18 November to “condemn the Paris attacks unreservedly”:
“The barbaric acts of Daesh (or ISIS, as they are sometimes known) have no sanction in the religion of Islam, which forbids terrorism and the targeting of innocents…. The aim of attacks like those inflicted on Paris and other cities across the world is to turn communities against each other. As Muslims, Britons and Europeans, we must stand together to make sure they do not succeed.”
“we want to make absolutely clear not only our complete abhorrence of the outrages perpetrated in Paris, Beirut and elsewhere by this small group of well-organised and ruthless killers, but that the religion of Islam does not countenance such actions in any way whatsoever. Moreover, not only is their action a crime, but there is prima facie evidence of such serious flaws in their apprehension of Islam as to call into question whether they should even be considered Muslims.”
It isn’t about race, faith, or nation state. Any political, religious or nationalistic ideology can be taken to extremes. Treating other’s lives as collateral in any cause is the inhumanity in any ideology.
“It’s not about Islam, or indeed any religion – each has been there with its own extremisms, the Crusades, the Inquisition, Biblical Judaism, even Buddhism and Hinduism, and Sikhism. As John Lennon sang – “Imagine … no religion”. But then there’s the Hitlers, Stalins, Maos and Polpots, of this world. Roman pagans trying to wipe out Christianity, Communist extremism. It is the extremism they have in common, not faith or race.” – Katy Went, Imagine all the people, living life in peace
Each religion can be twisted to apparently justify slaughter, but that comes from man’s inhumanity to man, not faith per se. Equally, most faiths can be quoted from to encourage love, mercy and kindness.
Backlash from Bombing and Terrorism
The important thing, now, is to avoid the backlash. If increased bombing of Syria goes ahead then there will be a backlash in terms of home grown and exported terrorism by those who see Britain’s involvement as Western interference, imperialism, and immorality. The other backlash is that against refugees and asylum seekers, particularly as one of the French terrorists was alleged to have gained access to Europe as a refugee. Thirdly, and an already happening reaction in the US, France, Britain and elsewhere is one that targets existing resident Muslims, those more or less happily already domiciled. Often, a kickback response to the visible presence of a mosque or headscarf, in total stereotyping ignorance of the variety of Islamic opinion and interpretations and indeed, the majority opinion in the UK, as expressed by the Muslim Council of Britain, that “almost all” Muslims “abhor terrorism”, though “even one person harbouring sympathy for the Daesh death cult is one too many”.
Between you and me, I once voted Tory – 30 years ago, and never yet Labouruntil Jeremy Corbyn inspired me. The Labour Leadership campaign, until Corbyn’s shoe-in to liven up the deadly proceedings, had initially deadened me to more of the same public school Oxbridge blue Labourites. Corbyn added heart, soul and principles – I don’t have to agree with him entirely, but we need a Tony Benn or Michael Foot for their beliefs and ethics, not just electability or the in-word according to Radio 4, credibility.
In the intervening 30 years I’ve voted LibDem and Green believing in free speech, equality and the environment. I have an Economics degree to my name, and so understand the economy – but it’s not an exact science, it’s more like being a meteorologist or historian with failed predictions and over-analytical hindsight still not faithfully dictating future outcomes.
“true Labour not blue Labour”
Corbyn has injected humane passionate inclusive positive politics back into the mix, he’s avoided criticism of the other candidates and made politics appealing to all ages once again. He’s packed out halls up and down the country. He’s apologised on behalf of Labour and welcome new and old members to Labour’s fold. He is, “true Labour not blue Labour“.
Globalisation is here to stay – and that is a good thing. I believe in a true globalisation, a fair trade where second and third world (what classist terminology) countries can export through economies of scale and relatively cheap labour until they rise up the economic rankings like the BRIC nations have but Africa, bar Nigeria and its oil, haven’t.
Capitalism and the not-so-Free Market
Capitalism exists not because of free market forces, but because those with power and economic privilege are able to fix the market. Under a true free market capitalism the banks, Iceland, Greece etc would have been allowed to go bust and would no doubt have been reformed and rebuilt (probably with outside support and freedom to reset currency) like Germany and Japan were post-War.
The EU or the fixed federal currency market, is not a free market, nor is protectionist America.
I no more believe in socialism as a divorced from reality theory than I do conservatism or capitalism, I do however believe in equality, human rights, opportunity and globalisation – as opportunity and undeniable reality. What this means is that my voting intentions lie across the field from Green to Liberal, Labour to Conservative, though given half the chance north of the border I’d probably vote SNP.
Nationalisation and Investment
I do believe in the re-nationalisation of basic transport, energy, and broadband, or their shared ownership by not-for-profit community interest companies as an alternative to buying them back. The Internet and fast transport are the modern industrial revolution, changes that cannot and should not be rolled back.
I also believe in responsible re-investment whilst interest rates are low and we have AAA rating. In infrastructure, for example, that will enable entrepreneurial expansion – something even Corbyn has voiced, he is not stuck entirely in the 1970s or the 1790s as Boris Johnson has termed it. Housing, transport, green/new-energy and technology need investment. Corbyn has said, as part of his Better Business plan:
“The current government seems to think ‘pro-business’ means giving a green light to corporate tax avoiders and private monopolies. I will stand up for small businesses, independent entrepreneurs, and the growing number of enterprises that want to cooperate and innovate for the public good.”
Vulnerable people need protection – Capitalism does not provide that. There has to be compromise with free market economics to achieve community care, compassion, and ethical responsibility. The focus on prosperity and opportunity ignores the needs of fair provision for all people and those disadvantaged by lack of possibility.
Socialism cannot meet that need without compromises either. I’ve always been a free market relative small-‘c’ capitalist with a socialist heart, green environment and liberal free speecher – that doesn’t mean a compromise candidate, but a strong-valued candidate willing to balance means and objectives, and prioritise people not power, not compromise principles. Labour has gone too far down the compromise route.
The language of “we cannot deliver principles or priorities until we have gained power (by any means)” leads to voter distrust. The politics of the majority may well be those of aspiration but the needs of the many are actually those of desperation and disenfranchisement.
“Something deeply attractive to most people in society of the idea of the cohesive, the coherent, the collective. The idea you don’t blame minorities, the idea you don’t make people with disabilities suffer, you don’t walk away from people with mental health conditions, you don’t walk away from people with problems. There’s something strong about a cohesive society…” – Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn & Political Change
Personally, switching from privilege to privation, through life and mental health circumstances, changed my politics. Politics now lacks principles and heart, Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood bring back something of that. They may yet reinvigorate the electorate.
Andy Burnham appears to be an opportunist, accused of flip-flopping policies for best outcome – remember he’s stood for leader before. Yvette Cooper has political history and association with the Blair-Brown years, and Liz Kendall is way too Blairite – and now cursed by the other Miliband. A cabinet composed of all of them stands a chance but bar Burnham (who seems to be manoeuvring himself to hedge his bets whilst everyone bets on Corbyn 1/4 whilst Burnham is 4/1) the others have stubbornly refused to share a table with Corbyn and Labour luminaries have done everything possible to derail and invalidate the democratic revival the leadership race has brought.
Democracy and Mass Appeal
By mass appeal I’m not talking majority aspiration, but appealing to the masses, the people who exist near the bottom bent under the weight of everyone else getting ahead by aspiration and avarice, and leaving them behind. Those forgotten, that even David Cameron cynically swore in 2010 before the election that he would not forget, during austerity. The poor, those on benefits, immigrants, the disabled, those with mental health issues, the forgotten and might as well be ‘disappeared’.
If print media column inches are counted then Jeremy Corbyn is streets ahead, and if social media is anything to go by then his Facebook campaign has 62,000 supporters (& 78k on his personal page) to Andy Burnham’s under 5,000 (18k on his personal page) Yvette Cooper’s 400 (20k on her personal page) and Liz Kendall’s 115 (7k on her personal page). Among my friends alone, 70 have liked Corbyn’s campaign page, 1 Burnham’s, and another has a declared interest for Kendall. It may be the Facebook generation that he is reaching, but by a long chalk he is the one Labour leadership contender reaching it. A spoof page for Liz Kendall for Tory leader has 3 times as many likes as the one for Labour leader.
Aside from social media, Corbyn is taking towns and cities by storm to packed-out venue crowds and queues down the street if feedback from Norwich is anything to go by. More than 1500 registered to attend an 800-seat event, so Jeremy stepped outside to address, without notes, those who couldn’t get in. Many chose not to attend once they knew it was over-capacity. this was Norwich’s biggest political rally in decades. This over-capacity story was repeated in Ealing, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Newcastle and other locations.
“This is a phenomenon, the like of which I haven’t seen in 40 years of watching Labour from close-quarters. Because it’s feeding off an aching for change that’s coming from ordinary Labour supporters below, not being imposed by rulers from above” – Brian Reade in the Mirror
Opposition – A Party of Protest
We could not have a better Leader of the Opposition for the next 5 years, certainly post-Miliband’s silent slide from the scene post his #EdStone and election loss moment, than Corbyn. During the interregnum Labour has been impotent and were the SNP to be a UK-based party one might have seen Nicola Sturgeon as the true heir to opposition leader in Parliament.
The fear that Labour would be consigned to “oppositional politics” or be a “party of protest” were Corbyn to be at the helm, is not a bad thing. The third of the electorate that don’t vote include people disillusioned with politics and politicians who all seem the same, 50 shades of austerity rather than any alternative vision. We have had more Blue Labour post New Labour and at the last election could barely tell the parties apart.
Janet Daley, among others, writes that the Tories are now waking up to the fear that Corbyn may win, after their initial glee at his rise, thinking that Labour had shot itself in the ‘Michael Foot’. Electing someone the Tories fear will create true opposition and debate, not an establishment bi-party centre-right duopoly. We’ve had the political equivalent of price-fixing for too long. The female-led Greens, Plaid Cymru and SNP gave us a taste of political change but could not break the mould other than in Scotland.
When the Right calls a political spade a spade:
“The only way that Labour can win that contest is to become (as they see it) a Tory-lite party: Conservatism with a human face. And that is not, absolutely not, what they are interested in. If, in order to be electable, you must relinquish all your socialist precepts and learn to love the free-market economy, then there is nothing perverse in turning your back on electoral victory.”
And, when Right wing Boris Johnson and Janet Daley are in agreement with Labour’s Dan Hodges, one has to wonder that a politician this scary may actually be quite good.
Principles over Power
Standing up for principles over power, may inadvertently deliver power. Focusing on power at any cost, as Blair did – delivered electoral victory and increasing disillusionment among the faithful as they witnessed the rise of Tory Blair.
In fact, the interventions of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Miliband, Alastair Campbell, Peter ‘Machiavelli’ Mandelson, and even Neil Kinnock are all proving counter-productive and appear as attempted establishment saving, rather than actually listening to the disenfranchised, for whom Labour was founded. The new class war is for the voiceless and voteless against the vices of the entrenched political victors (New Labour and New-but-increasingly-old Conservatives).
We could perhaps have a golden age of re-expansion with current cheap, albeit borrowed, money and investment, but it needs to be carefully managed not overspent – I’ve no idea who could deliver that, but I’d rather a realistic way to deliver Jeremy Corbyn’s heart were found than a heartless way to deliver Kendall’s power-hungry realism were.