Wednesday, 25 April 2012

This is not nationalisation: it is merely theft

“THOMAS MORE: …And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around on you–where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s – and if you cut them down…d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”
- from A Man For All Seasons, by Robert Bolt
Laws, in short, protect us from the unscrupulous. And although contract law, I admit, is not something which generally makes pulses race, its enforceability is an essential part of a civilised society. If I own something, I need to know that, unless I agree to its sale, it will still be mine in a year, in ten years or a hundred years. In other words: steal from me, and you will be punished.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Guardian reaches a new low

On Friday night, I was amazed – no, I'm afraid sickened is probably the right word – to find the Guardian’s Comment Is Free website had celebrated Thursday’s Holocaust Memorial day with this piece, written by none other than Sheikh Raed Salah. For regular readers, you will know that Raed Salah is a renowned extremist preacher and anti-Semite who the government have recently failed to have deported. Importantly, the judge essentially ruled there was not enough evidence to show he was a danger to the British state and therefore deported; it certainly did not clear him of making anti-Semitic statements, such as repeating the blood libel, a centuries-old trope about Jews drinking children’s blood.

There is a huge amount of information on him – he is a convicted fundraiser for suicide-bombing terrorists Hamas – but really all you need to see is this video (hat-tip: Harry’s Place), where he laughs about drawing a swastika on the blackboard of his old Jewish schoolteacher as a child.

A riot, eh?

Apart from the article trying to exonerate him from the blood libel (his explanation for which even the judge who freed him declared to be “wholly unpersuasive”), the most disturbing thing about this is the Guardian feeling it is perfectly acceptable to publish articles from well-known racists. Some of you may not have seen this extraordinary puff piece on “Holocaust cartoonist” Carlos Latuff, who is also responsible for these “hilarious” cartoons. Some of you may not be aware that there is even a website, the rather good CiFWatch, which also carries a piece on Salah’s article, dedicated only to highlighting dodgy pieces in said newspaper. The piece documents complaints to the CiF editor, Becky Gardiner:
There is a whole bunch of evidence, unused in the trial and unquestioned, that shows the nature of Raed Salah. Becky Gardiner is very much aware of it herself, because I know that “a senior Guardian figure” took it to her, in an attempt to get her to publish just ONE piece explaining why liberals and progressives ought not to back Raed Salah.

Articles were written. They were submitted by a number of people to the Guardian. They weren’t even acknowledged.

Becky Gardiner’s view, I’m afraid to say, was that Comment is Free should not offer a platform to those who wanted to oppose Raed Salah’s incitement and racism. She saw opposition to Zionism as a sort of Manichean struggle, in which she was on the side of the angels.
The slant of the Guardian’s coverage is also analysed in this characteristically outstanding piece from normblog, which gently notes:
the paper in question doesn't give space in its pages for those who hate other ethnic minorities, or justify violence against them, or deploy prejudicial stereotypes about them.
So there you have it. A nice way to celebrate Holocaust Memorial Day.

I look forward to the next piece at Comment Is Free: from Nick Griffin of the BNP perhaps? Just for balance, you understand.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

So remind me again, why should Lord Ahmed be a Labour peer?

Last weekend, the world was shocked to learn that a Labour peer was allegedly calling for a bounty on the heads of Bush, Blair and Obama. “Allegedly”, because there was seemingly no independent confirmation by UK media of the story, which Ahmed vehemently denied. The Labour party, for once, reacted almost immediately in suspending the whip “pending investigation”.

On Monday, thinking it strange that no-one had seemingly bothered to dig deeper into the clip from Pakistani TV, I did a little more research and was advised, by a friendly Urdu-speaking journalist, that, although the clip appears to contain footage from the relevant speech, it was voiced over and did not confirm his exact words. Alarm bells sounded.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Diane Abbott and her odd generalisations

I know a little time has gone by, but just found this little gem. A rather good article was written by David Goodhard at Demos on the possible causes of the Galloway win in Bradford West. While the reasons are many and varied, it made a good fist of arguing that sectarian politics had had an effect, and made a quite convincing argument.

At the same time, it was perhaps not surprising that such a think-tank might find itself at odds with the good offices of Diane Abbott MP (who had, incidentally, been quoted as saying that day that – doh, silly me! – the win was clearly nothing to do with sectarian politics).

Ok, fair enough, you might say – you might agree, you might disagree with him, and we’re all entitled to our say. No, what was fascinating was the paragraph she posted in the comments, which bears repeating here:

What a shame it didn't occur to Demos to get someone from Bradford to write about this. Instead we have David Goodhart, who seems to have appointed himself BME people's sahib. Unburdened by any real understanding of our communities he just peddles some of his favourite theories e.g."ethnic grievance" or the notion that racism only exists in the addled heads of us BME persons. Can I recommend an excellent blog by an actual Muslim woman who lives in Bradford

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Stand firm, Ed

Unite's Len McCluskey
Let’s get a couple of things straight first. This is not a post arguing to somehow “break the link” between Labour and its affiliated unions (a thing, by the way, which no sane activist would want – the party would self-evidently collapse without it). So, whoa there, those standing ready to defend it.

It is entirely right and proper that unions should defend their members’ interests, even where this means unpopular industrial action. In particular, it’s obvious they should be fighting tooth and nail the reductions in employment rights currently coming out of the government. It’s their job, after all.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Anti-Semitism: it's a European thang

If it makes anyone feel any better, it's not just the British left which has trouble accepting the resurgence of anti-Semitism,  there are echoes of the same denial in other, neighbouring parts.

Read the following piece from a Swedish correspondent of mine, Niklas Smith, in response to last week's Centre Left, and you will see exactly the same traits as we see in Britain, namely (i) denial, (ii) Houdini-like contortions with logic, and (iii) blaming the far-right rather than, God forbid, anyone on the left. Anything but admit that there just might, might be some truth in it and that our tolerance is highly unhelpful.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The return of the far-left: a turning point for Labour

Politics has its own rhythm. It is governed partly by obvious dates, like general elections, but partly by longer-term movements in the tectonic plates. It is easy to overestimate by-elections – the media almost invariably do – but I suspect that Bradford West might just be one of the few that historians remember.

Until Thursday, it was all going so well: but only because the Tory-led government had been in disarray all week, not because of anything that Labour had done. The fact that Labour could lose an entirely safe seat to George Galloway, who won an extraordinary 56% of the vote, means that Labour will want to, at the very least, review its approach.

Aside from the unpleasant re-emergence of sectarian politics, there are two obvious stories: one is Labour’s collapse, for which we might come up with a lot of distinct reasons and which is already being dissected at length.
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