Posts tagged with: EU

Broken Panes and Gravy Trains

The broken window pane is the most valuable argument in modern politics

– Emmeline Pankhurst

My birthplace of Doncaster – home of the Mallard itself – missed out on the chance to host the National Railway Museum, which is now instead based in York. While a Canadian friend I took to visit the place thought it was the most boring thing she’d ever seen, I found it fascinating. How terribly British of me!

But while there, by far the most interesting discovery for me was the revelation that the Duke of Wellington was immensely concerned about the development of the rail network across the country because ‘it will allow the lower orders to go uselessly wandering about.’ He actually said that.

Of course, it’s important for elites to enjoy their avarice by ring-fencing themselves off from those who are, as a result, left with very little – it’s how they get away with a situation where around 1% of the global population control half of all the world’s wealth. The filthy rich riding the gravy train enjoy their spoils as the poor are kept behind borders – be that in the southern hemisphere, the East, Eastern Europe, or in Northern England; every part of the world has its traditionally poorer areas, the localised conclusion to this approach being the “ghetto.” Former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra called ghettos ‘modern day concentration camps.’

Today, those of us who reside in Northern England – traditionally industrial, working class, and socialist – find ourselves having to find about a hundred quid to be able to get to our nation’s capital of London by train on a network sold off and bought up by corporations like Richard Branson’s Virgin. Yes, it effectively still stops us “lower orders” from moving about and bothering those in the areas of wealth. Enjoying a drink in a nice Soho bar one evening, a friend of mine and I got told to keep our voices down because regular customers could hear our northern accents, which they clearly found most unsavoury. At least they could rely on the expensive, privately-owned rail network to at least attempt to stop us “lower orders” showing up very often.

With the British public clamoring for a reversal to rail privatisation, former Labour leader Ed Miliband took a step in the right direction by suggesting the state ought to be able to bid for ownership of the networks – albeit with the government £1.5 trillion worse off after its little gift to the banks. But current leader Jeremy Corbyn has been bold enough to represent the public interest and call for control of the railways to be wrested away from corporate ownership, even personally demonstrating the packed carriages of the sold out trains – and sold out in more ways than one.

Of course, an establishment media that conveniently eventually fell asleep during David Cameron’s tax affairs scandal and Tory election fraud suddenly pounced into action to aid and abet their corporate friends as Richard Branson’s Virgin attempted to deny their train carriages were ever crowded and that Jeremy Corbyn was lying – offering their own CCTV images to the press in a break from normal protocol.

This clip exemplifies everything a statesman is, and all that a journalist is not; it’s public relations work for vested interests in direct opposition to our own interests:

The right-wing media barrage was evident from day one, and I’ve already written about that and the importance for them to stop Corbyn talking about policy – to prevent these popular ideas gaining support from the people, and sweeping him into greater power. The more they talked about his love life, his clothes, his diplomatic history, the more Corbyn talked about policy. And this was dangerous; a threat to the status quo right from the start. They were so used to riding the gravy train that they were now more than a little worried.

Some Labour figures, like Will Simpson of Soft Left Politics, claimed they totally accepted the democratic decision of the party and its members with enthusiasm, only to then attack Jeremy Corbyn later. Owen Smith himself did exactly the same. Others, like then-unknown Jamie Reed, made a name for themselves by immediately issuing statements suggesting that, in this case, democracy was wrong, and they were right, damn it.

Meanwhile, several Labour politicians plotted against him to the point where they leaked his plans to give the Tories a heads-up against him, and briefed Nick Robinson’s replacement Laura Kuenssberg, the media establishment’s “Journalist of the Year.” It became apparent that his leadership was a glitch in the Matrix; it was an unplanned anomaly that all of the metropolitan elites needed to undo. The newspapers, radio stations, and television channels were key tools to do this.

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American documentary filmmaker Michael Moore welcomed the rise of Bernie Sanders in the States, and Jeremy Corbyn over here: in a Western culture sick and tired of career politicians, democratic socialists like these were an effective counter to the thick right-wing thuggery of the Tea Party and UKIP. You may remember Michael Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine (still one of his best), where he got into “gun nut” Charlton Heston’s house by flashing his membership card for the National Rifle Association, reiterating to him that ‘I’m a member of your organisation’ so he could then go on to demand answers, eventually exposing him.

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This media technique was applied by Britain’s Ben Ferguson while shooting the documentary The Outsider. He introduced himself as a Labour party member, building up enough trust with Jeremy Corbyn over two months to then arrive at the inevitable conclusion that the newly-elected Labour leader was unfit to take the party into a general election.

Owned by Disney, Vice Media enjoyed an additional $70 million investment from Rupert Murdoch in 2013, and one year later launched Vice News, which produced The Outsider. Similarly to Panorama and Dispatches in their own ill-fated quests to dig up dirt on Corbyn and the Momentum movement, Vice News failed in its attempt to assassinate Corbyn’s character, the greatest success of The Outsider being its feeding of headlines to national newspapers quoting Corbyn saying Labour ‘held on’ to many council seats in amongst his string of successes in defiance of adversity – the papers spinning it as an admission that, instead, Labour barely “HELD ON” changing the entire context and subsequent narrative in talking about these council elections.

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So, with The Outsider’s hatchet-job not executed as well as they’d hoped, the political and media establishment then got together to portray Corbyn’s train experience as a “publicity stunt” in the same way Michael Moore pulled off “publicity stunts” to raise awareness of the scandalous bank bailout. By this rationale, we would have completely rejected any credibility of the message of the Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who set himself on fire in protest because, hey, it was a “publicity stunt.” Perhaps Tony Blair’s disciples shouldn’t be talking about “publicity stunts” given their own track record of using them so cynically themselves.

But apparently, Corbyn’s “media strategy” is awful. Even if this were true, would it be a shock? Media gurus with ruthless ambition tend not to be attracted to campaigns of politicans who won’t open doors to big corporations for them. Of course, if Corbyn did somehow get himself a top-of-the-line public relations team, the media establishment would use it as evidence that “traingate” was a publicity stunt orchestrated by the very best in the business. He can’t win.

So what the Labour leader does instead is just highlight issues straight from the heart. What matters is the purpose. Jeremy Corbyn has been on the right side of history, at little or no personal gain (in fact, even sometimes to the detriment of himself).

But John Mann is a very different kind of MP. Like most career politicians who just want power and fame, Mann’s value system, like the late New Labour project itself, remains a machine with no fuel but plenty of hot air, and he quite happily revealed that Owen Smith had been willing to challenge Jeremy Corbyn since the beginning of 2016. By the spring, Margaret Hodge was maneuvering to commence machinations against the leader. And in the EU referendum campaign chaos, while Jeremy Corbyn was doing more than almost anyone else in his party to campaign for the country to choose to remain in Europe, Hilary Benn was instead busy gathering signatures to mount a vote of no confidence in his leader.

Another attempt at pushing Jeremy Corbyn’s buttons was in exploiting the strong link between the Labour leader and former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who was an opponent of the fascist Daily Mail and Evening Standard and a champion of human rights at home and abroad who had long supported the Palestinian cause and opposed the Israeli state’s atrocities carried out in the name of Zionism – which, you know, exists separately from Judaism the same way ISIS operates in contrast to the billion peaceful, pacifist followers of Islam around the world.

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Livingstone regularly gave interviews on the subject, and so no doubt footage was trawled through with a fine tooth comb and any newer media appearances scrutinised for slip-ups or discrepancies or anything that could be used to damage Corbyn. Inevitably, the moment soon came, and Livingstone was caught pointing out the allegations that Nazis supported Zionism – which somehow, in our neo-McCarthyist era, of course automatically meant he was suddenly a racist anti-Jew; an anti-Semite – and our friend John Mann was there, quick as a shot, to shout at him and point the finger, complete with the press corps in tow, as their news room colleagues concocted a narrative about, get this: ANTI-SEMITISM IN LABOUR, a party founded on the principles of standing up for oppressed peoples!

Even Momentum, arguably the most exciting mass movement to happen in party politics since the birth of Labour itself, with a membership of 12,000, was accused of “anti-Semitism” even with its high-ranking Jewish figures. It was important that your usual white Anglo-Saxon Protestants told us who the anti-Semites were, even if the accused were Jewish – the same way they claim Christmas is at risk of being banned because ‘it offends Muslims,’ when Muslims almost always say no such thing. The establishment were calling the shots – the same rich, white old men as ever, telling us who were the anti-Semites and who were the commies and who were the ones wanting to ban Santa.

The media, then, had successfully backed Corbyn into a corner: to do nothing would have been political suicide and the opening the plotters had needed as the media kept beating the drum and singing from the hymn sheet of the McCarthy witch-hunt. Corbyn spoke out on anti-Semitism and suspended Livingstone from his party. And yet his popularity still sustained in the face of the press corps as 75% of their coverage was said to misrepresent him, a staggering statistic.

Despite losing a key socialist ally in the former Mayor of London, Corbyn went on to lead a Labour party that forced Tory reversals, won by-elections and mayoral elections, Sadiq Khan cleverly riding the wave of Corbynism to get into office and yet at the same time keep himself away from – then even turn against – Corbyn himself, as Labour elites mobilised more to find ways to oust their leader, their media contacts offering a blackout on these additional little-known yet massive victories, to protect the public from any awareness of Corbyn’s ability to win.

It was important that every single day, people were put forward in the press to talk about Corbyn being a ‘weak leader.’ Even my own friends and family, some formerly staunch self-professed “Corbynistas,” started to concede ‘Ah, actually, maybe he’s not strong enough to lead Labour to victory.’

If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes accepted as an axiom, even in direct opposition to the facts of reality. And that’s how you stop someone successful: you create a narrative that they’re miserable failures, so people fall out of love with them. We love winners; hate losers – just ask the Americans who championed such a culture. Meanwhile, the American media itself took a businessman who inherited a fortune and completely squandered it, and portrayed him as a success: Donald Trump is now president-elect of the United States.
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Despite the Westminster elites undermining him, attacking him almost every day – even writing for The Sun to do so – Corbyn has succeeded time and again. That under Corbyn’s leadership Labour have enjoyed any successes at all is testament to Corbyn’s popularity due to his social democratic principles, popularity that sees thousands of people lining up to hear his speeches and rallying in support of his views, though again, with next to no media coverage – but if these incredible rallies were on the evening news every time they took place, he’d look more like a winner, and we can’t have that, can we? It can’t be allowed to look like a movement; in fact, it mustn’t be seen at all. And it rarely is.

The media fall silent on Corbyn’s successes and scream headlines on even the tiniest failures. For example, Labour lost a single councillor in my humble city of Sheffield that rarely otherwise gets any attention at all, and it made the national news. The truth is, the councillor that lost the seat was anti-Corbyn. But they never bothered mentioning that little detail much, instead portraying it not as a symptom of the party’s disunity but as DISASTER FOR CORBYN! Meanwhile, a massive parish win from UKIP was no big deal. And let’s not forget Corbyn’s historic mandate, with nasty little Labour plotter Luke Akehurst saying ‘we must change the membership.’ He actually said that! (I’d cite this one, but his tweet since seems to have become “unavailable”). Fortunately, I took a screenshot:

Yes, the attitude was one of, ‘Keep having leadership elections over and over until we get the one we want…by any means necessary.’ They hated the momentum behind Corbyn – namely, Momentum itself.

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Momentum crowds – as incredibly diverse as any you’ve ever seen in this country, as you’ll know if you’ve attended one – were portrayed by politicians and their pals in the press as dangerous. Of course, this is dangerous to the establishment, but these depictions were of abusive, violent protesters, “Fleet Street Fox” Susie Boniface calling the peaceful members a minority, ripping into Momentum and Corbyn with such hatred and vitriol, and with zero irony. An entire group demonised; democracy itself deemed the enemy.

So what of the spirit of the Labour party we were told needed to be “healed” by preachers Angela Eagle and Owen Smith after they challenged their democratically elected leader to wound it so badly in the first place?

We must remember Jo Cox, assassinated by a right-wing extremist, and her legacy of believing we have “more in common.”

Clearly this is not a view shared by those in parliament, where the likes of Jamie Reed belittle and ridicule and mock our own party leader to contribute to the official opposition’s impotence as he, in particular, instead praises David Cameron’s successor, Theresa May. Apparently, as expressed by his aggressive opposition to Corbyn’s leadership since day one, he and his ilk do not feel we have “more in common,” but instead must refuse to support the party’s democratically elected leader. All the while, carefully orchestrated publicity stunts were still set up to hammer home messages to the mainstream media-consuming public in direct opposition to reality. Still, Corbyn expressed his desire for a “kinder, gentler politics.”

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Although the country seems to have already forgotten the horror of such an incident, the Labour party suspended campaigning on the EU referendum for a few days after the murder of Jo Cox. But a brick through the window of the same building that also acts as a constituency office for Angela Eagle was apparently enough for party head honchos to ban constituency party meetings as they, one after another, were passing votes of confidence in Corbyn, which we must assume was just a coincidence. And let’s not forget that once again the press were right there at the scene to capture Eagle’s reaction to the broken window actually implying it was Corbyn’s own personal responsibility, even though the police, at the time of writing, have yet to capture the perpetrator (and you can be forgiven for suspecting David Cameron).

While Owen Smith was revealing his misogyny, Labour women instead attacked longtime feminist Jeremy Corbyn by blaming him for abuse they’d received. Quite incredible, as reality was turned entirely on its head like never before by a media that had blamed Scousers for the Hillsborough Disaster, portrayed picketing miners as aggressors against police, and reported to us that Saddam Hussein could launch a nuclear attack upon us inside 45 minutes. This was beyond anything they’d ever done. John McTernan was given airtime screaming about Jeremy Corbyn’s pacifism being dangerous. Yes, you read that right. It all became downright Orwellian. Even The Guardian made wild claims, only to offer corrections down at the bottom of their articles.

The Owen Smith campaign cleverly adopted a strategy where his supporters constantly read out from scripts saying people were dying because of Tory policies so we had to act fast and get into power – while Corbyn, not Smith, was the one with a track record of completely juxtaposing himself against Tory policy. Still, who needs facts when you can just prey on people’s emotions. After all, there’s a gravy train to ride.

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Nonetheless, let’s face it, Jeremy Corbyn truly has ‘held on.’ It’s a miracle he’s even managed to last this long. As I write, his deputy leader Tom Watson – not, by the way, subject to re-election to prove his worth – is busy talking to those plotting the next wave of attacks on their leader, on those around him, on the party membership, on those at rallies, and on Momentum. In truth, these people would rather see Labour lose to the Tories under Jeremy Corbyn than help those dying under the Tories, but to admit that would be too honest. And honesty, as you can see, has never really been their thing.


Why Labour Aren’t Rallying the Troops

In 1992, it was The End of History and we were “rockin’ in the free world.” But how did it happen?

As Oliver Stone repeatedly demonstrates in his brilliant series The Untold History of the United States, key figures are important to diplomatic relations.

By the late 1970s, the days of a trade union talisman like Jack Jones were few and far between, and a breakdown in negotiations between unions and the party of Labour they often relied on led to such disastrous events as the Winter of Discontent, and – as a result – Labour in-fighting. With the Winter of Discontent came darker days, blackouts, and the fading of the Post-War Consensus.

The socialism of Michael Foot, who had slowly worked his way up to the leadership of Labour, was routed by the flag-waving nationalism led by the Falklands-fighting Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher. With the Winter of Discontent still fresh in the collective psyche of the British population, Labour’s Neil Kinnock turned his back on striking coal miners who were having their pits closed by Thatcher simply because theirs was the strongest union around.

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Thatcher went on to dominate the 1980s Social Darwinist culture of “survival of the fittest.” It was indeed, a different time. Council houses were being bought up and sold off, and almost everyone believed they too could make it big. State services were subjected to a big sell-out. Entire sectors were being deregulated, giving financiers free rein. The money was flowing into London via the stock exchange, bankers were wheeling and dealing, and casino capitalism thrived, and as a result, a devastating £1.5 trillion bank bail-out looming in the not-too-distant future.

As Labour figures like Tony Benn had warned, neoliberalism turned out to be disastrous for our society. Thatcherism and, to a lesser extent, Blairism, exacerbated inequalities and overseas adventures damaged our standing in the world, with Iraq making the Falklands look like a playground fight by comparison. The ramifications would be felt to this very day, given the instability caused to the Middle East as a result of the illegal intervention.

While Tony Benn was with his ‘favourite politician’ Jeremy Corbyn and hundreds of thousands more of us protesting the horrific attack on Iraq, his son Hilary Benn was voting for it. And just this year, he called for air strikes on Syria in what the media claimed was an oratory masterpiece worthy of any historic figure able to rouse his population towards war. And this has been key: form over content; style over substance.

While Hilary Benn was being cheered on by Conservatives in the House of Commons, the same Tories were still intoxicated by the celebration of the harm they’d caused through blaming the debt left by a £1.5 trillion bank bail-out on Labour “overspending” on public services, using the lie as a way to stop said services, or even sell them off to their rich mates. Thatcherism was alive and well: it was “survival of the fittest” again.

Working class people had had enough of being left mere scraps. Some were so angry they’d even fight over the scraps with anyone else disadvantaged, be it neighbour or immigrant. Communities were being devastated. The Eighties were over. Greed was no longer seen as good. “Occupy” protests unfathomable in the Eighties were suddenly commonplace. If Labour’s Eighties brand of weak ineffectual socialism was resented, Eighties Thatcherism was downright hated. When she died, people were burning effigies of her in the street.

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In high contrast to Hilary Benn, when Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader in September of 2015 he was criticised for reading out statements from citizens he was representing, and I recall someone on Twitter pointing out, ‘Surely what matters more are the words on the paper?’

Corbyn’s entire approach has realigned our perception of politicians and made us believe that it can be policy, not pizazz, that matters – that going to court because you refuse to pay the poll tax means more than throwing your jacket over your shoulder, flashing a grin, snapping a selfie, and then going and killing thousands of people. What we do matters more than what we say. Corbyn had a long history of doing the right thing, even when his own party weren’t.

No surprise, then, that Blair’s old buddies were immediately setting out to stop Corbyn as soon as he became leader. They’d plotted to take him down since before the EU referendum. At this point doing better in the polls than other party leaders, Corbyn – who has never been slow to point out the flaws of the EU – still campaigned harder than anyone else in Labour to resist knee-jerk xenophobia and call for us to “remain,” as meanwhile Hilary gathered signatures to call for his resignation.

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Hilary and his plotters against Corbyn had already been given a gift by David Cameron: if Britain chose to “remain,” then Corbyn was a hypocrite and only succeeded because of the party’s position on the matter; if the UK decided to “leave,” he was a failed campaigner. Of course, as I had predicted for months, it was the latter: people who wish for the status quo will never mobilise the way those who want change do. It was always going to be “leave.” The only thing that surprised me was that it was as close as it was.

So the plotters upped the ante. They coordinated resignations with the BBC for maximum media effect. They briefed Laura Kuenssberg and, thus, David Cameron, on Corbyn’s planned remarks in parliament.

We can only assume – given the absolutely awful “candidates” they ultimately ended up proposing as alternatives to Corbyn – that their plan was to pile on so much pressure on him that he’d buckle, resign, and they’d have a replacement.

Hilary’s buddies who backed Blair bombing Iraq were no doubt anxious to see a Labour leadership act as an apologist for Blair upon the release of the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry. The nearer it approached, the more heat they put on Corbyn. But still, he didn’t go. Instead, he saw the Chilcot findings as a vindication of his – and our – opposition to the attack on Iraq, and issued a long-needed apology on behalf of the Labour party.

Corbyn standing his ground was more important than that, though. Any resignation from Corbyn would have turned away an entire generation from politics; far from being time-travelers from the 1970s, this is a generation interested again – a generation which values multiculturalism, European diplomacy, and social democracy and who will deliver us the future of our country, and this means we must keep them engaged as citizens or finally reduce them to bitter and twisted consumers as Thatcherism sought. Tens of thousands joined Labour to make it the largest socialist party in all of Europe. Thousands marched in British cities in support of the Labour leader. I’ve been on them myself.

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Even those few who had returned to the party were being targeted; Labour head honchos were spending more time, effort and energy chasing out socialists than chasing Tories in the race to power, and when asked who they thought would make a better Prime Minister out of Prime Minister Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn being undermined by his own MPs, the British public were thinking the former, in an <sarcasm>absolute shocker</sarcasm>.

When Angela Eagle stepped aside for the sad figure of Owen Smith in the last resort of a formal leadership challenge, the plotters tried to ensure the incumbent couldn’t again stand for election, such was their fear of Jeremy Corbyn remaining leader. The National Executive Committee then declared he could indeed stand, but set about deducting over a hundred thousand votes from him by declaring newer members ineligible to vote, and blocking members of the Unite union, who in turn suggested regional constituents de-select the plotting MP’s…which of course resulted in the suspension of regional constituency meetings. Which was just a coincidence.

But this isn’t a leadership challenge. It’s a membership challenge. It’s a challenge to all of us, as evidenced by the plotters’ asinine suggestion that they’ll have these challenges over and over and over again until they get the one they – not us – want…one of the most insulting sentiments ever directed at Labour party members who knock on doors and post fliers.

This is a struggle for democracy itself. It’s a struggle between the people and the elites in Westminster, and on Fleet Street – whatever’s left of it, as old media slowly and painfully goes into decline while Corbynistas utilise social media to seek out alternative, more reliable and authentic sources of information rather than the opinions of one rich Australian, or one of his fellow media barons, or the BBC establishment.

This is also an opportunity to start the dismantling of a system of power and control and influence that, if continued, would accelerate, rather than stave off, the destruction of the environment, of workers’ rights, and of democracy itself.

London’s outdated relics house a Westminster bubble of leather and gold representing oppressive established entitlement, where echoes bounce around corridors of power to present us with pantomime as an illusion of democracy. The media outlets highlight the delivery and posture of “Maggie” May as she avoids Corbyn’s question on workers’ wages and instead fires at him a personal attack implying he’s at loggerheads with his own “workers” – leaving the social media-savvy citizens to search for the full clip where Corbyn replies with one of the most poignant and pertinent points of our time: that neither she nor any of her colleagues, nor indeed anyone in Westminster, can relate to those of us relying on food banks to eat.

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But this particular attack by May – chosen as Prime Minister of Britain by a hundred or so toffs – is telling: it exposes the real delusion of party politics – that a party leader is akin to a chief executive, with key staffers, and shareholders on the outside. Despite the fact shareholders are generally treated with far more reverence than political party members, this comparison is grotesque, and shows how low our expectations of the political system have sunk since the formation of the Labour party itself just over a hundred years ago. We are not shareholders, but stakeholders. We are driven by values, rather than the value of things.

The accidental representative rather than ambitious leader, Corbyn has embraced the simple idea that being in Westminster isn’t a career, but merely a role designated by communities who select their MP. Angela Eagle nodded in agreement with her own constituents, then walked off, drove away in her car, and days later defied their wishes, challenging Corbyn – such is the arrogance and sense of entitlement of these politicos.

Ed Miliband represents my birthplace of Doncaster with no connection to the town whatsoever, merely gifted a “safe” Labour seat to suit what was an up-and-coming politician rewarded for being part of the political establishment with this role to keep him in Westminster; they don’t want some Trot, rabble or Doncastrian dog such as, say, myself who understands Donny villages like Bentley or Askern. I’m not cut from the right cloth, after all. I’m not a careerist who wants power to push apart the doors to boardrooms and corporate-sponsored trust funds for my kids.

You only have to look at the most successful politician in recent history – Tory blue-blood David Cameron – to see the best example of modern politics: if you’re from the right background, you get gifted a safe seat, you rise up the party, do the bidding of elites, and then quit politics to enjoy your yachts while being a token director of a board of some corporation that gets to spread word on the prawn cocktail circuit that they have a former Prime Minister don’t-you-know, and all the contacts that go with that, right there in their company. They all win. The only losers are us. By this point, it’s all so far removed from democracy that we’re utterly irrelevant.

The rise of Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to all of this. ‘This is the way it’s always been,’ they cry over their canapés.

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So it’s not even just about Jeremy Corbyn though, is it? It’s about what he represents. It’s about his desire for politics to embrace the grassroots, rather than coming from these corporate penthouses. And it’s also about his brand of socialism, for which there is an appetite not seen since 1945.

Corbyn has battered the Tories into several reversals in policy, on tax credits, on housing benefits cuts, on disability cuts, on police cuts, on the trade union bill, on academies, and on, and on. All this despite those Westminster elites undermining him, attacking him daily in the press.

Can you imagine what genuine social good could be achieved if the whole party was behind him? If they actually gave a shit about people like you and me, rather than what Board of Directors they get to sit on after parliament, or how big the trust fund for their kids might be.

But though the money never seems to truly trickle down, the sense of entitlement sure does. You can feel it in Labour party events and meetings. The old guard, who stood by war criminal Tony Blair, and scoffed at the hundreds of thousands of us who marched against him. I attended my Constituency Labour Party meeting recently and sat there in utter shock as one woman supporting Owen Smith angrily shouted, ‘We don’t want rallies!’ This sounds like a joke but I’m not making this up. It actually happened! I have witnesses! The punchline would have to be when dozens more “delegates” erupted into applause as us mere members sat stunned at the back of the room (the naughty area, I assume).

Consider this for a moment. Imagine possessing so much passion in opposition of mass mobilisation around your leader and, as a result, your party. What could be the rationale? What could be seen as threatening about this? What is it about this idea that Labour needs to be Blairite? That Tony Blair had got it right? Because that is an idea removed from reality. New Labour was supposed to be an “election-winning machine” yet it bloody hemorrhaged three million votes! So I ask Blairites: do you want to win elections? Do you really actually want that? And if so, is it on the condition that younger people come into your party, go to the back of the room, sit down, shut up, and just deliver fliers for you when you tell them to?

But, I tell them, if you truly wanted to win a general election, you’d get behind the leader the party members, overwhelmingly, chose. You’d join the momentum. You’d get behind the campaign. You’d fight for the true socialist Labour values that he represents, and that have been written on your membership card, if you’d taken the time to actually read it rather than take absolutely everything for granted for years.

So now, if Jeremy Corbyn again becomes Labour leader, and they again undermine him…they clearly want the Tories to win in 2020. It’s as simple as that.

I thought Gordon Brown was an improvement on Tony Blair, but who is he going to brag to about that? I still got chased by police for peacefully protesting the G20 when he was Prime Minister. But you know what? When the smoke had cleared and the dust had settled, I remained a Labour supporter. Just like I did when Ed Miliband was leader.

Abby Tomlinson, the leader of #Milifandom, like Ed, backed Owen Smith, suggesting rallies don’t win elections because, hey, newsflash: the Tories get into power without them!

Despite wisdom beyond her years, this view is an astonishingly naive one, shared by too many in Labour.

While it’s true the Tories don’t win with rallies, it is a fact they win on apathy. They rely on working class citizens staying at home. Corbyn’s rallies have mobilised people, made them excited again, and inspired people to once more believe in democracy and engage in the issues with family and friends – what Michael Moore, when referring to Bernie Sanders over in the States, refers to as the “dragging people to the polls” effect. It’s all so exciting that even Smith himself wants to attend the rallies to talk to Corbyn’s supporters, while Smith’s followers claim rallies are worthless. Confused? Understandably!

If the Labour party now chooses to disconnect itself even further from the communities it was set up to represent, if it feels justified in rigging a democratic process, again and again and again, until it can effectively serve a select few vested interests, and if it decides that it should not fight for democratic socialist values but instead be a “broad church” that is all things to all people – a ship never anchored in principles, left adrift in right-wing waters of murky vested interests – then it won’t have a soul left to be fought for; it will have already lost it. It will have accepted the media and its narrative as it is, when – as Francesca Martinez said – there’s no time left for that; it’s do or die. It’s the end of “The End of History.” It’s an opportunity to truly change things and, hey, as Gordon Brown might say, change the world.

There is one certainty: after this latest ill-intended and anti-democratic process, whatever the result, it will have repercussions on the political landscape felt for many years to come. Either the party elites will save Labour from themselves by ceding more power to democracy, or the politics of cynicism will win the day, casting adrift hundreds of thousands of social democrats who want change – and will seek other means to get it, leaving Labour without the biggest socialist membership in Europe it currently enjoys, but instead a base, and a position, almost every bit as pessimistic, miserable and introspective as the Tories.

Hundreds of thousands of us are involved in this struggle because it matters. I for one will remain active, be it in party politics or simply in politics generally.

Because, after all, politics is too important to be left to politicians.


I Visited Mainland Europe and All I Came Back to Was This Lousy Fascism

8081186045_3f875589f2_zWhenever I lived in North America and people asked me about Europe, I’d tell them that – as a Doncaster-born bloke living most of my adult life in Sheffield – I didn’t know all that much about the place. Then they’d remind me that my own beloved Britain was, after all, in Europe, and with raised eyebrows and a tone of admission I’d say, “Oh, yeah…”

The reality is, very few of us British really think of ourselves as European. We still queue without instruction, remain patient at traffic lights, huff and puff in a rush, complain about being charged to use public toilets, and avoid being direct unless we’re openly slagging off foreigners, at which point diplomacy goes out of the window.

I’ve just returned from a week’s jaunt around mainland Europe, and I’ve been reminded of the differences but also the similarities we have with those at the other end of that tunnel under the English Channel.

20140906_205535When you’re from the “People’s Republic of South Yorkshire,” you kind of get an intuitive vibe for similar places, and when I walked around Liège, in Belgium, with Jane Watkinson, we both took an instant liking to the place – and sure enough, the hip, cosmopolitan but down-to-earth and diverse population enjoying the late night bars represented the traditionally socialist post-industrial regenerative spirit of a city moving beyond coal and steel.

We went by Dachau, in Germany, which from Nazi headquarters in nearby Munich, troops following Second World War orders were directed to develop from a prison for crooks, to a detention centre for political prisoners, to a concentration camp for homosexuals, socialists, vegetarians, the disabled, Jews, and the “work-shy” to be put into forced labour under the infamous gates bearing the message “Arbeit macht frei” – or “work will make you free.” Of course, this “forced labour” was torture, with the concept of freedom a dangling carrot guiding the inmates into gas chambers and ovens that exterminated tens of thousands of people.Dachau_-_Corpses_lie_in_a_pile_on_the_ground_in_the_newly_liberated_Dachau

When allied forces finally approached the area, Dachau’s SS soldiers started betraying signs of guilt by attempting to destroy evidence of the atrocities there, and even began sending prisoners towards coasts (to be drowned) or on to trucks and trains headed for Tyrol, Italy. There, before going to Venice, we visited a military cemetery in Bolzano, where Jews and Nazi soldiers have been buried side-by-side – demonstrating the desperate desire of the former fascists to treat all of those who died in the war as victims of the same oppression and propaganda that we all shudder at the thought of ever becoming.

And it’s fair to say that all the people of then-fascist Germany and Italy were victims – of division, fear and propaganda. After the humiliating and devastating after-effects of the First World War, this was understandable – as angry peoples wanted to strike back, needing to feel good about themselves again, and susceptible to nationalist and racist language and laws.

On the way back towards the Channel Tunnel at the trip’s conclusion, we sat on a bus driving into Calais as the coach staff took to the microphone to draw the passengers’ attention towards immigrants sat in nearby bushes, hoping to find a route to a better life. As one pathetic man slumped there in one ditch, looking cold, hungry and tired, predominantly white, middle-class tourists looked through the glass at his miserable frame; some pointed and laughed.

For once, my big Doncastrian mouth was shut. I was speechless. I wasn’t angry; I was gutted. I refused to look at the man in the bushes for more than a moment, instead looking around at our fellow passengers and feeling ashamed. Some of these desperate immigrants – wanting a better life just like those British who move abroad – cling onto trucks and are severely injured; entire families have been found dead in truck containers they hid in, hoping to arrive to a place that less closely resembled hell. Well, my own country’s on the road to a fascist hell itself.

Is this what we’re reduced to? Ridiculing the poor, the persecuted, the desperate? Is this what we’ve become?

Nazism was able to slowly grow like a cancer because of propaganda that convinced people to see other people as slightly less human: the “lazy” or the disabled, ethnic minorities or people of different faiths. Through a democratic process, citizens actively voted for tougher laws against immigrants and Jewish people.

In Britain today, our anti-European sentiment isn’t the biggest story. No, the biggie is the fact that – while banks who got £1.5 trillion of taxpayers’ money and have yet to repay it – the main concerns of the British people are based on the utter lie that our way of life is somehow threatened by people less fortunate than ourselves wanting to escape conditions that our government, in most cases, historically caused while using our brave soldiers as pawns in their plans. Of course, given that Rothermere’s Daily Mail supported the Nazis in the build-up to the Second World War yet is still one of the most-read “news” papers in Britain, this should be no surprise. The old tricks are the best.ah_rothermere

Today, the most right-wing British government after the Second World War thrives on this divide-and-rule fascistic propaganda to implement totally unnecessary social security cuts, introduce forced labour for the “work-shy,” throw disabled people off welfare, and demonise immigrants to the point where we’re actually pointing and laughing at them.

This is not the Britain I was born in back in 1976, and it isn’t the Britain I care to die in. And I have no plans on leaving.

I am so glad to be back here in Britain, with all its double yellow lines, and red postboxes, phone boxes and buses, and black cabs; its numerous towns and cities within near spitting distance of each other; its easily-accessible vegan grub. And let’s not forget about the modern model of democracy it exported to all four corners of the globe, its far-reaching empire that sees its subjects now wanting a little something in return.

What we have left now is too important not to fight for. And you have to fight for it – before it continues down this road that leads to a very dark place that history has already shown us.