Naz Shah’s suspension is too little, too late

I have defended Jeremy Corbyn probably more than I should have done. I was a supporter of his as soon as he went on the ballot, because I agreed with his policies broadly and wanted a decisive shift leftwards within the Labour party. The moment had to be seized; Corbyn was proposing that we actually unapologetically use the state to solve the myriad market failures and betrayals of social justice that have been the outcome of the current anti-state Thatcher/Major/Blair/Cameron political settlement. Compared to the lukewarm leftism of Burnham and Cooper and the brazen centrism of Kendall, first choice on the ballot paper was never going to be difficult.

I had heard of the rumours of Corbyn sharing platforms with anti-semites but believed then, as I believe now, that this does not mark any actual anti-semitism on Corbyn’s part. It is a reflection of the fact that sometimes it is not always possible to vet the backgrounds and prior statements of everyone that you have common cause with or are on the same side of an issue as; it’s virtually impossible to do so if you’ve just hopped off a train and turned up at a protest march to give a speech against the Iraq war or in support of Palestine, while a hack with access to Google and LexisNexis is going to be able to look up basically any speech anyone present has ever given within a few minutes of it starting. Given that the areas Corbyn has been most prominent in (activism against war in the Middle East and in favour of Palestine) are filled with people who have at the very least antipathy to the state of Israel, it is not surprising that he has shared a stage with some people holding repellent views; however nothing suggests to me that he has knowingly done so (I’m happy to be proved wrong) and either way he cannot be held responsible for the views and beliefs of independent third parties. He has always consistently denied holding any kind of anti-Semitic views himself, and for what it’s worth, I believe him. Of all the things one can call Jeremy Corbyn, “committed racist” is not one of them. I have no doubt that his opposition to racism and anti-Semitism is genuine and heartfelt.

Today however has brought things for his leadership rather sharply into focus. The crudely Jew-bashing posts Naz Shah shat onto Facebook, regarding forcibly transporting Jews from Israel to a new continent amongst other repellent things, clearly transcended the already rather blurred line between a dislike of the state of Israel and disdain for the influence it has and gone over to distrust and dislike of Jews as a group. That is, clearly, anti-Semitism. It should not have a place within the Labour party. While Guido Fawkes is a massive cunt of the highest order, I was and am glad that he had exposed this so we could cut the anti-Semitic cancer out of the Labour party. It was a moment for Corbyn to stamp some authority and show that he meant business about a scandal that had been bubbling under for months now; to show he was serious, along with John McDonnell, about purging the party of any racist or anti-Semitic individuals from the top down. She had proven herself unfit to be a Labour member, let alone an MP, and should not have remained one.

Corbyn instead put out a statement right before Prime Minister’s Questions that she had apologised, and this was good enough, and that she would retain the whip. This allowed David Cameron to, and I really hate to say this, unequivocally claim the moral high ground over us, and rightly so. A couple of hours after that, there was a sudden change of course and Naz Shah was suspended as a member and an MP — a move that should ideally have been made at 9 o’clock this morning, rather than a few hours after the Prime Minister had very thoroughly caught us with our trousers down on the matter.

The questions raised by this brazen political idiocy are endless. Why then? Why not hours before? Why not well before PMQs? Why not last night when the posts had surfaced? Was the action that needed to be taken not so thunderingly obvious a child could have thought of it? Who the fuck dropped the ball here?

I’m sorry to say this, but with the above in mind, my patience for Corbyn has run out, and I can’t defend him any more — today has been indefensible. I can’t blame him for selecting Naz Shah as a candidate (she was part of the 2015 intake under Miliband) but I can blame him for not dropping her like a hot rock at the first sign of this, for so poorly managing what should have been an altogether straightforward decision for the good of the party and standing behind someone who had rendered themselves completely indefensible. I have given him plenty of time to improve at his job, to receive the media coaching he so desperately needed and to gain a bit more political nous, and I was quite positive that we were actually getting somewhere with it at long last recently, but clearly none of it has actually sunk in because he has allowed one lone stupid individual to taint the party in a way that may well damage it beyond repair — and then stood behind that individual for reasons known only to him. I have argued, consistently, in favour of his leadership and the idea that he has not been given a fair crack of the whip, but today has been a series of grotesque unforced errors where the buck unavoidably stops with him. Naz Shah is not, to Corbyn, an independent third party like some moron at a rally; she is a subordinate, effectively an employee, and should have been disciplined as such. There should have been no tolerance for such repulsive behaviour and he should have booted her at the first whiff of it. That he did not do so evidences that his judgment is compromised and his leadership in tatters; he did the right thing, eventually, but he shouldn’t have done the most grossly wrong thing imaginable first. He has proven himself unfit for his position, at long last, and should resign. Now.

What’s more, a simple truth needs to be understood clearly by anyone who is considering defending Naz Shah and taking her bullshit apology at face value; anti-Semitism is a special evil. Jews have been unduly, unrelentingly and disgustingly persecuted for centuries, culminating in their attempted extermination in a cold, industrial and inhuman manner. No other ethnic group or religion can claim to have been persecuted in such a calculating way;no matter how you may feel about Israel or Palestine, to compare the undeniably brutal things Israel has done to the systematic, mechanical, deliberate and tightly planned attempted demolition of an entire race of people that was the Holocaust, as many apparently are wont to do, is both highly inaccurate and grossly offensive. To then say they should be forcibly transported, or even just endorse that idea, is grotesque. As a group of people, they have suffered more than enough. If Shah doesn’t or didn’t understand this obvious point, she is deeply ignorant; if she does then she is scum. Either way, it is indefensible that she be in a position of any authority or that she should be in the Labour party.

For my part, my mind keeps turning back to the £5 Direct Debit going out on the 21st of each month, and whether I particularly want to be in public wearing a red rosette any time soon. A lot of that depends on whether Mr Corbyn does the decent thing and falls on his sword before the decent, good people that make up 99% of his membership base get tainted by the foul stench of racism. All I know is that the Cancel button on my Internet banking has never seemed so alluring, and that I may yet finally know what it feels like to quit the same political party twice in six months.

Originally published on Medium.

Anti-Corbyn MPs: Do you really need to make up things to be angry about?

This is going to be brief, because I really want to give as little airing to this McDonald’s/Labour conference non-troversy as I possibly can, but if I don’t say something I’ll probably end up at the top of a clock tower with a rifle.

Here is the state of play:

  • McDonald’s offers the Labour party £30,000 for them to have a stall at the Labour conference about British farm produce.
  • The Labour NEC (important note: the NEC has absolutely nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn whatsoever) stops McDonald’s having a stall at the Labour conference because of concerns over its antipathy to trade unions. To clarify, this is a party that is more or less founded on the principle of unions being a good thing, that has significant influence from unions. So it stands to reason they’d have a bone to pick with a company that has about as much time for trade unions as Margaret Thatcher.
  • Wes Streeting, one of the small group of Labour MPs who is always good for a rent-a-quote when the press comes calling and the topic of discussion is what a tosser Jeremy Corbyn is, pops up in the Sun whinging about how horrible this decision is because families across the country like McDonald’s.

Some questions come to mind:

  • If you’re going to have a public disagreement with the elected leader of the Labour party, why can’t you do it on a decision that he actually had something to do with?
  • Why is trades unionism not a valid thing for a party that is more or less based around and founded upon the concept of trades unionism to take a stand on?
  • If we assume that trades unionism is a valid thing for a party that is based around the concept of trades unionism to take a stand on, why should Labour then compromise this stance for a relatively piddling sum of money?
  • Why, of all outlets for this disagreement, do you need to choose the Murdoch press to vent it?
  • Since when did people eating McDonald’s mean that we have to accept their money or give them a platform?
  • If you’re a Labour MP, who presumably at some point wants to be re-elected under the Labour banner and wants a Labour government, at what point is trying to paint the Labour party as a whole as home to a bunch of snobbish falafel-eating elitists (presumably falafel is the new muesli) not going to be a really, really bad idea?

Clearly these questions, blindingly obvious as some of them are, didn’t occur to Wes Streeting. I’d speculate that this is because for a significant proportion of Labour MPs, including apparently the aforementioned Streeting, “destroy Jeremy Corbyn” appears to have become a preoccupation, ranking above any concept of trying to boost (or maintain) the party’s image or of trying to put actual party messages across to the public. The sheer idiocy of this strange “destroy the village in order to save it” strategy, which apparently involves completely wrecking the public image of your own party and its leader in order to rehabilitate it in the eyes of swing voters and centrists everywhere (who as well as constantly obsessing over the deficit and aspiring to own houses to the exclusion of all else also apparently now eat a shitload of Big Macs — “swing voter” appears to be the political equivalent of a Rorschach test at this point), is nothing short of breathtaking. It has now stooped to the level of trying to associate Jeremy Corbyn with a decision he had nothing to do with that Labour had excellent reasons for making in a paper that is so intrinsically hostile to Labour at this point that it may as well come with a Conservative Party membership application form. This is only a few days after another Labour MP decided it would be a really good idea, in a week where David Cameron had been on the back foot over his (at the very least) morally grey tax affairs, to give a quote to the Telegraph about how “remarkable” it was that Corbyn has been paid £3million by the state over 33 years to be an MP, thus adding needless fuel to a non-story that has to rank as the biggest load of utter shite published this month. I can only assume that the reason it’s listed as having two authors is because neither of them wanted all of the blame.

I don’t give a shit if you don’t like Corbyn. I don’t give a shit if you don’t agree with him, don’t agree with his vegetarianism, don’t like his beard or just think he’s a cunt. I genuinely couldn’t give a toss — I have no personal loyalty to the man other than that I would like the Labour party to go a bit more to the left and he’s the one doing that. But would it really, really be so horrible if the people who are so vocal about what a waste of space he is didn’t try and drag the entire Labour party down with them when they agitate against him, didn’t ally themselves with people and organisations who have about as much interest in Labour being a viable force for the future as George Osborne and also tried to keep their concerns to rational ones had by people with an intelligence level that’s slightly higher than that of a glass of water? Would that really be so hard?

The Government can either have a referendum or you can campaign to stay in. It can’t have both.

As I’ve noted before, I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to vote in the EU referendum, or even if I would vote at all. There are a lot of thorny issues surrounding our membership of the EU, and realistically I don’t think I or anyone else has enough impartial, balanced information to make an informed choice over what would be best for the country – meaning that a significant number of people are going to be voting based on either gut feeling or whatever they’ve heard from wherever, no matter how factual.

It’s in the spirit of this desire for information, apparently, that the government is spending over £9million on leaflets giving voters lots of information about the EU… and why they think we should stay in it.

Oh, and a companion website, complete with the HM Government crest, about why we should stay in the EU.

Now. I was under the impression that this referendum, by the definition of the Government (or rather that offered by the man with the face that looks like it’s permanently covered in Diprobase emollient cream who currently heads it) was a chance for the British people to provide their view on a contentious subject. Not only that, but to not offer such a referendum was, apparently, undemocratic and denying the public a choice over their own destiny. In fact, I distinctly recall David Cameron saying that this was all our choice and absolutely nothing to do with him or the government. To then put out official Government communications specifically arguing in favour of one particular position on what is a matter of public controversy, and one which we are directly voting on, seems first of all contradictory to the stated aims of the referendum, and secondly just a mite scary given the implication that even if we do something in a directly democratic way, the government feels it is entitled to stick its oar in.

Anything else we should expect coming up? An official government pamphlet in February 2020 about the dangers of a Labour government and the stability and security provided by another Conservative one? Idiotic and illiberal as that sounds, given that the whole point of this stupid process was supposedly to solicit everyone’s views on the matter, to then use the government’s largesse and the government’s inherent gravitas to try and swing it in one particular direction (i.e. the one the leadership of the party currently in power wants) is no less idiotic and illiberal.

And I’m not even a “leave”r. I can only imagine the incandescent rage currently being felt by Vote Leave et al at the fact that government money has gone to opposing them, although I can’t cry too much for them, given the nakedly cynical ploy they plumped for of putting out a leaflet entitled “The Facts” which is actually just pro-leave campaign literature. But then, they’re a privately funded and privately organised political campaign that is outwardly and sincerely about agitating for a vote to leave the EU and, realistically, so long as what they do is within the guidelines set by the ASA (and in fairness, it’s difficult to see how the above is anything but deliberately deceptive), they can do what they damn well like. It becomes another issue entirely when the money being spent on promoting a particular point of view is from government coffers, the leaflets bear the government’s logo and they are being sent to the entire electorate. So, while Vote Leave can’t exactly claim to be paragons of ethical excellence, at least they aren’t the government intervening in what is supposed to be a free and fair referendum.

As for the information itself, it’s about as substantial as a fart in a wind tunnel. Aside from the obvious slant towards positive facts about the EU, there’s simply not very much of it. I read the whole website in about 5 minutes. If this is all supposed to quench my desire for unbiased information then it fails miserably at satisfying that first word and is only tenuously described by the second.

If the government wanted to do this right, it should have made a rigorous document giving both sides on a number of issues, cribbing from both one of the two leave campaigns and the remain campaign (because Britain Stronger In Europe appears to be the only one anyone cares about) on a number of things, with obvious vetting for stupidity like clear factual inaccuracy, misrepresentation or blatant lies. It would be quite easy to set up an independent group to produce such a leaflet, although admittedly trying to be an independent middle ground between BSIE and whichever leave campaign takes their fancy isn’t a job I’d relish. Unfortunately for all of us, they’ve taken the easy way out of just putting out communications following the Tory leadership line on everything (even pushing Cameron’s damp squib of a deal as something meaningful) as a naked attempt of swinging some votes “their” way. Such a thing is not only lazy and half-arsed, but also deeply disgraceful that an elected government should try, themselves, to influence an election using taxpayer money.