Thursday, June 30, 2016 

Day 94 of the Labour leadership coup...

We are into the fifth day of the Labour leadership coup.  Last night we were told it was absolutely certain that Angela Eagle would launch her challenge today.  We're still waiting.  In much the same style as on transfer deadline day, political journalists look to be reporting whatever rumour they hear as fact.  Jeremy Corbyn has been about to resign every hour on the hour for days.  Corbyn is meant both to have been talked into resigning by his advisers and persuaded not to by the same advisers.  I recall much mirth back in January over the "revenge reshuffle"' taking over 2 days, when the truth was no one had any clue what was going on primarily because they were reporting on what was happening on Twitter instead of actually talking to anyone.  Strangely, the same journalists so amused and critical back then have had little hostile comment to pass on their sources' lamentable failure to wield the knife a mere 6 months later.

While Labour is set on killing Corbyn via death by 1000 cuts using butter knives, the Tories by contrast know a thing or two about stabbing their leaders straight through the heart.  Not that arch assassin Michael Gove ought to have felled Boris Johnson by announcing his own rival bid, or at least it wouldn't have done had Johnson got any cojones.  Who knew that Boris would run for cover as soon as he was challenged?  Well, err, everyone should have: it's always been the Boris way.  Johnson's idiot act has worked so long as everyone has treated him as a figure of fun rather than an opponent to be dealt with the same as everyone else.  Confronted by a journalist or opponent who won't back down, his lack of spine quickly becomes evident and he runs for cover.

If you wanted to somehow put the best and at the same time the worst gloss on it, then Boris has been rather clever.  We already knew he had wanted to take over as leader in an orderly fashion, instead of picking up the pieces having forced Cameron's resignation by mistake.  Succeeded in breaking Britain, would it ever have been the Boris way to do the decent thing?  Of course not.  Boris has always been the egomaniac opportunist rather than the grand Machiavellian schemer. 

That at the same time this has rendered almost the entire Leave campaign utterly pointless, as the whole point of Johnson hedging his bets to the last minute was about what was most likely to deliver him the Tory party leadership is by the by.  Or at least it is to him.  To the rest of us, the sheer preening, incredible self-obsession and putting of self before country blows the mind.  It really has been all a game.  He opened what everyone expected to be his leadership declaration by once again claiming that everything was coming up roses, the collapse of the pound and the routs on the FTSE 250 and 350 clearly our imagination.  That a few hours later Mark Carney gave a rather more realistic economic outlook, making clear he feels the need for a stimulus to stop the economy sinking as a result of Leave, just sums up his unconscionable recklessness.

Then we have our non-fictional Macbeth, with wife following in his bloody wake.  Yesterday an email from Sarah Vine was "accidentally leaked" to a member of the public.  Said email just happened to set out exactly why Johnson was not to be trusted without the equivalent of a deal written in claret.  Lo and behold, the following morning Gove emails hacks setting out why Johnson is not to be trusted and can't possibly be a leader.  Attracted by his raw animal magnetism, intellectual heft and God only knows what other qualities they see in the speccy twit only liked by others with a similarly warped mindset and values, most of Johnson's supporters immediately changed sides.

If I were feeling charitable, which I'm not, I could say Gove does have an attractive line of thought on social liberalism, as he has put right many of the mistakes Chris Grayling made as justice minister.  Only he combines it with the absolute worst instincts of the "muscular liberals", a visceral loathing of what he and other Blairites, as that's essentially what Gove is, see as "vested interests", whether those interests be teachers, doctors etc, and again just like the Blairites, the complete certainty that he is always right, a certainty enforced by attack dogs like Dominic Cummings, the kind of man who makes Alastair Campbell look like a Andrex puppy.  Gove is held in high esteem only by the like minded, whether they be journalists, those with a lofty opinion of themselves, or newspaper proprietors.  Boris Johnson might be sexually incontinent, completely untrustworthy and regard integrity as for wimps, but he's not a shit.  Gove is a shit.

He's also a shit who had the most destructive of all the Leave plans during the campaign.  Gove's position was for the UK to leave the single market entirely, a policy that it seemed Vote Leave as a whole had adopted towards the end.  Boris's Telegraph article, which according to more than one source Gove is meant to have sub-edited (since confirmed by the email being leaked to Robert Peston) only to then decide its vagueness and unreality was one of the reasons why he couldn't go along with the deal, suggested the opposite.  Which is it going to be?  Only the most Panglossian of the Leave optimists really think regressing to WTO trade rules is a good idea.  Business, already smarting from the Leave vote, will surely regard such a position if he keeps to it with unabashed horror.

Not that they will have found much to cheer from Theresa May's leadership launch either.  She like Cameron kept open the prospect that European migrants could be asked to leave, no doubt as part of her proclaimed commitment to "serious social reform".

Today ought to have been a day to cheer Labour.  The man Dominic Raab described this morning in the Sun as having the "Heineken effect", only to decide hours later Gove was a better bet, is out of the race.  A Labour party not caught up in a clusterfuck only slightly less wasteful than the battle of the Somme ought to fancy its chances against a High Tory out of touch with life itself, let alone the public, or a colder than ice politician capable only of warming Conservative hearts.

And yet what was Labour spending the day doing?  Apart from still skulking about trying to find someone, anyone to stand against Corbyn, there was the publication of the report by Shami Chakrabati into whether the party is riddled with antisemites.  Chakrabati predictably and rightly decided it isn't, although it also shouldn't be in the slightest bit complacent.  What though was the media takeaway?  That Corbyn had "appeared" to compare Israel to Islamic State.  In fact, it turned out he had been misquoted, and said just as Jews should not be equated with Israel or the government of, so Muslims shouldn't be with Islamic States, plural, or groups.  A Labour MP at the event, Ruth Smeeth, also reacted badly to being snubbed by a Momentum campaigner, subsequently resigned, and demanded to know why Corbyn hadn't condemned him for suggesting the MP was in it together with a Telegraph reporter.

As a demonstration of how Corbyn can't possibly win when the media so wilfully misreports his words, with social media guaranteeing that the initial impression will be the one reacted to, there couldn't be a more instructive one.  When members of his own party are determined to take offence and make use of the slightest excuse given, it's hard to think it was ever going to end any other way.  Flying Rodent's comic take on the past nine months is all the more depressing for how close to reality it is.  The last week has been one long demonstration of what happens when personal ambition and the interests of the few are put above everything else: absolute fucking disaster.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016 

The state of this absolute fucking shower.

Piss ups and breweries.  Cow's arses and banjos.  The parliamentary Labour party has had 9 fucking months to organise this coup, to come up with a candidate who can bring together the soft left, the centrists and the right, to draw up some sort of plan as to how they would do things differently and make clear how they have learned the lessons that led to Jeremy Corbyn winning the leadership in the first place.  They have not achieved a single one of these aims.  Indeed, it's almost as if they haven't wanted to engage with why they lost the leadership election, as that was the reality rather than Corbyn winning it.  They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.  They're so fucking useless, so catastrophically inept that we need a new metaphor to properly describe how bereft of even the slightest wit and forethought they've been.  They couldn't overthrow the government of Thailand or Pakistan, that's how hopeless these non-revolutionary cretins are.

But before we really drill down into how Labour as a whole seems to have opted not so much for the Dignitas method of assisted dying but more the Wile E Coyote variation, we should confront another anomaly of the post-Friday spirit.  You might have thought the individual principally responsible for this disaster, i.e. the Right Honourable David Cameron Esq, might have been getting the bum's rush for plunging the country into various crises all thanks to his brazen irresponsibility.  Perhaps I've missed it being away, but the knives haven't exactly been out for him, have they?  Much anger has been directed at practically everyone else with some level of responsibility, whether it be Leave voters themselves, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage et al, and yet the man who had three aims in calling the referendum, all of which were short-term political goals meant to help him and his party rather than help the country, has barely been touched.

If anything, there's almost been a sense of aww, well at least he tried, and we're going to miss him once we're lumped with Boris, May or whichever other Tory shitpipe it is that manages to rise to the top of the greasy pole.  Admittedly, there was always going to be a certain amount of such sentiment: it's true that Cameron is preferable to almost all of the above, in the same sense that it's preferable to get your finger caught in a mousetrap than have your hand cut to ribbons by a threshing machine.  This said, when Cameron is given such soft soap treatment by journalists asking him if "he's wistful" while in Brussels meeting the rest of the EU leaders, or applauded for being such a class act that he can still misquote Smiths lyrics in the Commons despite having resigned, you wonder precisely what else he would have needed to do to make them change their tune.  Nuked Norway perhaps?  Banged an inflatable doll in Downing Street after giving his resignation statement?  Insulted Beyonce?

That Cameron did very far from all he could seems to have been forgotten very quickly.  Let's remember how he refused once again to go up against his opponents in straight debate, just as he did in the general election.  This time the excuse was he wanted to minimise blue-on-blue attacks, only by the end he was denouncing Michael Gove for being an ignorant moron regardless.  It might well have not changed anything, but if he had debated Johnson or Farage face to face, calling them on their nonsense and their claims that fell apart with minutes, it could just have persuaded a few more people to go Remain.  He had nothing to lose and everything to gain by the end, so why didn't he go all out?

The answer is fairly obvious: the Tories, like the boomers who won it for Leave, have very little to lose from exiting the EU.  We expected from the apparent mutual loathing on display and all the in-fighting that the Tories would find it difficult to put themselves back together, and yet it's almost as though nothing has happened.  The Tory Leave supporters are delighted, while the few Remainers angered at first seem to have piped down remarkably quickly.  Sure, there are those like George Osborne who have seen their own ambitions crumble into dust thanks to the vote, but no one seems much bothered or willing to engage in recriminations.  Amber Rudd, after saying during the campaign she wouldn't trust Johnson to drive her home is now apparently being lined up as one of his key supporters.  Rather than being asked if he regretted the Leave vote, this morning Stephen Crabb was instead questioned on if he regretted plumping for Remain.  They have nothing to fear in terms of Leavers turning on them, or so they figure, not least as the difference between UKIP and the right-wingers poised to seize control of the party is imperceptibly slight.  Where else are those Leave voters going to go?  Labour?

Nor is there much in the way of criticism for how Cameron, while supposedly taking responsibility has also abdicated it.  Asked at PMQs if he could assuage the fears of EU migrants that they are going to be asked to leave, as they are most assuredly not, he instead prevaricated and said this was yet another thing his successor will decide on.  A simple no would have made it clear that regardless of what passive aggressives and racists are throwing at anyone they don't like the look of, they aren't going anywhere.  Why migrants would want to stay when a majority have made it clear they are not welcome is anyone's guess, mind.

What we have found ourselves in is a total power vacuum.  Cameron has effectively gone into permanent chillax mode, as why should he do the "hard shit"?  Johnson or whoever it turns out to be can do it.  Just how hard it is going to be has been made clear by the 27 other countries: no negotiations until Article 50 is triggered, and even then any deal involving access to the single market will mean the UK needing to accept the "four freedoms", including movement.  Welcome to the worst of all worlds warned of: outside Europe with no influence and no control, those imagining the migrants would be sent back feeling betrayed and even angrier than before.  The alternative?  Certain economic decline, with financial services likely to leave.

And what predictably is about the only policy change being offered by Labour MPs in their otherwise completely lacking thinkpieces on where we go now?  Curbs on free movement, for the people have spoken.  Bit of a shame then that maybe, just maybe, a narrow remain vote might have prompted the EU into offering some sort of compromise.  That's now gone, just as Cameron's renegotiation is null and void.

Clowns.  Cowards.  Fuckwits.  About the only people who have come out of the last three days of no plan plotting well are Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown, with Brown also about the only person to have put any real thought into where the party goes from here.  What boils the piss most is those whom never gave Corbyn a chance, who kept up a constant line in hostility from the beginning, the Chris Leslies, the John Woodcocks, the John Manns etc, with not a single one having the guts to put themselves forward.  Absolutely nothing has been off limits in their attempts to get rid of Corbyn, whether it be accusations of racism, being a pal of terrorists, claiming he didn't even try winning a referendum on something he was always sceptical of in the first place, and all while claiming to be the real victims of this clusterfuck.

So they've finally succeeded in making his leadership untenable.  And yet what's the alternative?  Angela Eagle?  To give her credit, she was one of the very few who really did try to make it work.  She was my second choice for deputy leader, and I think she would be a far better one than Tom Watson.  But actual leader?  A fine performer in the Commons she may be, but can anyone seriously claim she's more likely to win a snap general election than Corbyn?  Are her politics more attractive to Labour voters who went Leave than Corbyn's?  Can she stick a party that has been torn asunder back together?  Can she really win against Corbyn when it's clear despite the claims of the plotters that the membership does still support Jeremy?

This is what the Labour party has been reduced to.  Not by Corbyn, but a bunch of selfish, beyond all reasoning with fuckwads without an ounce of sense between them and yet convinced they know best.  They have barely a single answer to questions they have had months to prepare for, and yet they are certain if only they get a "sensible" leader much will be right again with the world.  When you can't even plan a coup against the apparent worst Labour leader of all time, what on earth makes them think anyone will trust them with running a country?  For this to be a confederacy of dunces we'd need a genius.  We've got Hillary fucking Benn.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016 

The cluster and the fucks.

I go away for one fucking week...

I should then start with an apology.  In the last major post I posited that most politicians were not all the same, that they had principles and deserved more respect, even if general contempt aimed at politicians was only a part of the poison behind the murder of Jo Cox.

Having spent the past four days in near disbelief at the unutterable inadequacies of almost the entire political class, I could not have been more wrong.  Contempt breeds contempt.  Despicable selfishness, self-regard and self-importance inspires the same.  When our supposed leaders have no back-up plan, no idea of what to do when the shit hits the fan, why should anyone have the slightest respect for them?  I didn't expect Leave to have a plan, as they never began to articulate one and would never have been able to agree on one.  For the government as a whole not to have one, for the civil service also to have not done much in the way of work on it beggars belief.  At a general election the civil service prepare in case they need to implement the opposition's policies; in this instance it really does seem as though no one saw it coming.

Sitting up watching the results come in early Friday morning, I was angry, but not in the slightest bit shocked.  My gut feeling since the election, having seen how the Tories won their majority by feather-bedding the boomers and effectively giving two fingers to the young, was it would take something special to convince those same people to vote remain.  As it turned out, the young on the whole voted remain, or at least those that again bothered to turn out.  Those same boomers meanwhile overwhelmingly voted leave (Lord Ashcroft poll health warning) and again, why wouldn't they?  They had little to lose by doing so: their pensions are triple-locked; inheritance tax is being raised as in the words of Cameron there is nothing more natural than wanting to pass on your home; and all their other perks have been protected too.  Given an opportunity to kick out against change, against immigrants, against an other they've been told is the root of so many problems, what made Cameron and pals think for a second they would win them over?

Their obvious reference points were the Scottish referendum, where Project Fear was deemed to have worked, and much the same tactics as used against Labour last year.  The entire Tory campaign was built around the supposed economic chaos that would descend if Ed Miliband became prime minister at the head of a coalition.  A recovering economy, went one poster.  Don't let Labour wreck it.  You can understand the logic; if voters thought it was better the devil you know twice before, why not for the third year on the trot?

Except each vote and referendum is always different, just as each campaign is different.  We saw the hatred and intolerance that was being whipped up; we saw how the economic argument was failing to cut through.  We witnessed the absolute shamelessness of Leave; we noticed how the "scaremongering", which in large part has already been shown to be nothing of the sort, was this time being decried.  We ought to have noticed how instead of being mocked, Michael Gove's denunciation of experts was cheered, how Boris Johnson's bullshit about an independence day led to a near standing ovation.  Voters decided that things would more or less stay the same, or even get better in the years after a Leave vote.

You could if you like extrapolate from the map of the areas that voted leave and remain that the main distinguishing feature is the varying strength of the local economy: areas that have recovered or are recovering from the crash voted remain; areas that haven't or have never fully recovered from the turmoil of the 80s, the recession of the 90s, voted leave.  And while this does help us to understand to an extent, it doesn't explain why Liverpool voted remain while my home town, supposedly one of the boom areas, voted to leave.  It doesn't explain why places like Sunderland and Port Talbot, areas that have everything to lose from an EU exit, voted to leave.  The same is the case for those areas that have benefited massively from EU funding, almost all of which voted out.  It doesn't explain why areas like Peterborough and Boston, both changed markedly by immigration over the last ten years voted out, while places like Hartlepool, with barely any net migration, did the same.

The polls, the same ones that (mostly) got the result wrong for a second time in a year, claim the main grievance of out voters other than immigration was sovereignty.  Except sovereignty and opposition to immigration on the basis of the lack of control obviously go hand in hand.  Sovereignty is such a nebulous concept that it can mean everything and nothing; even if we accept these polls as accurate, it's hard to believe perceived anger over giving some of our law-making and regulation powers to Brussels was that much of a rallying cry.

Indeed, what has happened since is difficult to minimise.  For some, Leave meant far more than just exiting the EU; it meant leaving Europe. It meant telling not just the eastern European migrants of the past ten years to leave, but all immigrants.  How could they have possibly reached such a conclusion, been so misled?  Surely not by the constant invoking of taking back control, by the claims from Leave that Turkey joining the EU was a certainty, with their leaflets suggesting Syria and Iraq would either be next or that refugees from those two countries currently in Turkey would be able to come also.

It comes back yet again to how politicians have ridden the immigration monster over the past half decade.  It comes back yet again to how the media has connived in encouraging the myth of the grasping, service burdening migrant to the point where Cameron based his "renegotiation" around it.  It comes back yet again to how neither Labour nor the Tories succeeded in rebuilding broken, despairing towns and communities.  Labour at least tried, while the Tories' austerity has reduced so many of our high streets to the picture painted last Friday.  It comes back yet again to how in the face of change, even if not in their own neighbourhoods, many cling on to what they know all the harder while blaming the newcomers.  It comes back to an atavistic sense of what England is, and therefore always should be.

If the result then was not a shock, that it has so emboldened racists is.  A broadcast media that in the face of threats from Leave tied itself in knots, despite their lies being so obvious, betrayed the very public that look to it as a better guide than than the press.  That the new sport now seems to be to find someone outrageously racist and then not so much as challenge them on their views is not journalism, but rather a shaming indictment of their failure.

The most brickbats must though be directed at the government.  David Cameron gambled and lost.  To them it really does seem this was all a game: Cameron has supposedly taken responsibility by resigning, and yet going down in history as the prime minister who likely broke up the United Kingdom doesn't seem punishment enough.  The blame if the economy is permanently damaged will not be placed firmly on the shoulders of the man who screamed and screamed about Labour's crash to the point where everyone starting believing it, but on those who voted Leave also.  That it was Cameron who decided putting our prosperity at risk was worth it if it won him a couple more years as prime minister, as it certainly wouldn't have decided our place in Europe, will likely be forgotten.  His stature in comparison to even that of Gordon Brown, hated by the right despite his genuine claim to having helped steady the entire economic system back in 2008, should be permanently diminished.  The accolade of worst post-war prime minister is surely his now to lose.

Unless of course we do end up with PM Boris.  Another egomaniac encouraged by an adoring media ignoring his every deficiency, never has someone with leadership ambitions appeared so out of his depth.  Their Leave victory press conference might as well have been a wake, so flummoxed and so embarrassed were they at having won by mistake.  The plan had been for Dave/Remain to win by a narrow margin with Boris having firmly established himself in the affections of the Tory Leavers.  They didn't for a moment believe any of the nonsense they said, nor did they expect Mr and Mrs Average Punter to do so either.  Bit of a rum do that they did, isn't it?  That Boris's fumblings in his Telegraph column yesterday were so feeble and so lacking in credibility that he has already disowned them is indicative of the amount of attention and care he gives to everything he touches.  Meanwhile, George Osborne, the other chief architect of this absolute clusterfuck, says it was their responsibility to have a plan, not his.

Labour's response to all this?  To put in motion a coup that was coming remain or leave.  It deserves a post of its own, but even after the past few days, the rank hypocrisy and martyr complexes of MPs who have never so much as tried to make Corbyn as leader work has been astounding.  No seat is safe north of Islington, apparently, and so that fabled putting of the country, people and constituents first has gone for a Burton in favour of ousting the leader at a moment of political and economic crisis.  And just like the government and Leave, they have absolutely no fucking idea of who should be leader instead of Corbyn, no idea of how to respond to the vote, except it seems to somehow make a "progressive" case for limiting free movement, and no idea if their coup will be accepted by the membership.

Which leaves us with the only party with any seeming nous, any seeming plan and any seeming leadership, and it's the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon.  Who can begrudge her and Scotland a second referendum after this shit show?  Who can argue that Scotland won't be taken out of the EU against its will?  Who can say what will happen in Northern Ireland, which also voted Remain and where it seems even less thinking was done on how a vote to leave would impact almost everything there?

Like many, I've spent the last few days ashamed of my country, ashamed of my countrymen, and ashamed of our politicians.  This is what referendums on nationhood wrought: they rend and tear, they break down friendships and divide families, all to a far greater extent than general elections ever do.  They are designed to polarise, and that's just what it's achieved.  It will take years, if not decades before the wounds from this result so much as start to heal.  And while we will all pay, some must pay more than others.

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Friday, June 24, 2016 

We've got our England back.

We've got our England back, said the woman from Barnsley on the radio.

The England where the high streets consist of charity shops, pawnbrokers and betting shops.

The England where the out of town retail outlets continue to buzz.

The England where the pubs, once hubs of the community, close one by one.

The England where J.D. Wetherspoon thrives, where the booze is sold cheap, and the vomit outside mounts.

The England where we've got to start looking after our own.

The England where the poor are good only for Channel 4 and Channel 5 documentaries, where charity begins at home.

The England where politicians will now finally have to listen to concerns about immigration.

The England so intolerant, so spiteful, that it has voted for economic suicide after a mere 10 years of increased migraton from other white European nations.

The England that has finally made its voice heard.

The England that did it not by howling at the outcome of 37 years of neoliberal economics, of the hollowing out of a country that once made things, but by in effect giving a vote of confidence to the most rapacious, disreputable and dishonest of our free market politicians.

The England that once stood alone in defiance, the England that could have sued for peace, but fought on.

The England that has now turned its back on the world.

Yep, you've got your England back.  


Enjoy it.

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Friday, June 17, 2016 

We want our country back.

Like I suspect a lot of people, I've spent more than a few minutes over the past 24 hours on the verge of tears.  Seeing Jeremy Corbyn, himself on the brink of tears, speaking of how Jo Cox fought for human rights, justice and peace, and died doing her duty.  Reading the heartbreaking tribute from her husband Brendan, of how she would have wanted her children to be bathed with love, and for the hatred that killed her, that has no race, colour or creed, to be united against.  Watching Stella Creasy, numb with grief over her friend, talk of how she and so many other MPs didn't know how to go on without her.  Thinking of how, despite everything, I never expected an act of such cruelty, targeted against our democracy but aimed at a 5-foot female representative of that democracy, would be perpetrated by the far-right.

Because let's cut the crap straight away.  Yesterday was a day to be overwhelmed, shocked, and to mourn a 41-year-old killed in an act of horrifying violence.  Today everyone should face up to the fact that while it may well have been a murder committed by a "'crazed loner", it doesn't alter how it was also a political assassination.  If Jo's murderer had had brown skin and according to two separate, named eyewitnesses shouted "Allahu akbar", there would have been no hesitation in describing it as a terrorist attack by a jihadist, whether that began to explain what had happened or not.  The knife attack in Leytonstone tube station last December was almost immediately described as a terrorist incident, and it took the Metropolitan police until the end of the trial for them to accept Muhiddin Mire was in fact severely mentally ill, influenced by Syria or not.

What we have already learned about Tommy Mair is enough to say this is something different.  The discovery by the Southern Poverty Law Centre that he spent over $600 on literature from the National Alliance, the neo-Nazi group that published the notorious Turner Diaries, a tract that has motivated numerous far-right individuals into violent action, as well as his subscription to the SA Patriot's newsletter, dating back to the late 90s/early 2000s, suggests a long incubating interest in contemporary fascism.  As Phil has noted on Twitter, the blog post by the SA Patriots asking if anyone knows if Tommy Mair has moved tells us something else: that in 2006 he was sending their newsletters back to them, as his address had not changed.  Allied with the local news coverage of his volunteering, it wouldn't be entirely presumptive to conclude that for a substantial period of time he was in a far happier mental state than he had been previously.

We cannot of course know what changed to prompt him to kill his local MP.  As argued at the time of the Leytonstone stabbing, just because someone shouts something as they do something does not immediately equate to causation.  Something dramatic may well have happened in their personal life, rather than something in the political world.  He could well have shouted Britain First as a justification to himself; equally, his mental health may well have deteriorated to the point where he is not responsible for his actions.

It does though seem more than a coincidence that Mair decided to murder Jo Cox just a week before a referendum on whether to stay in or leave Europe that has been dominated by immigration, where facts have almost always come secondary to fiction.  It seems more than a coincidence that he murdered one of the few MPs who dared to praise immigration as being overwhelmingly positive.  It seems more than a coincidence that he murdered an MP at the very centre of the campaign to accept more refugees from Syria.  It seems more than a coincidence that he murdered an MP in favour of remaining during a campaign where some advocating a Leave vote have done so under slogans about "wanting our country back", saying the only way to "save Britain" is to vote out, where newspapers have run headlines about "putting Britain first".  It seems more than a coincidence that Britain First is a fascist group which recently held an event in the Welsh mountains that if conducted by Muslims would have been described as a terrorist training camp, which last year made clear how it felt "traitors", i.e. anyone to the left of them, should be treated.  It probably is just a coincidence Nigel Farage yesterday launched a poster that actively echoed Nazi propaganda, and has spent the entire referendum campaign seeing exactly how far he can push his rhetoric, to the point where he said the next step if people feeling voting doesn't change anything was likely to be violence.

I am not blaming any of these people, groups or things for Jo Cox's murder.  The only person responsible is the man who wielded the knife and gun, who may or may not be Thomas Mair, and who is innocent until proven guilty.

  
What has been happening these past few months though has been a campaign of almost unprecendented nastiness, involving former and current prime ministers, chancellors and other senior figures having no compunction in describing independent figures as lying, as being bought by banks or other organisations, who in some circumstances have gone so far as to issue threats.  It has involved newspapers day after day running front pages stoking fears about immigrants, claiming in the face of all evidence that Turkey is set to join the EU, bringing a new wave of brown people to these shores.  Just yesterday the Mail ran a front page claiming that asylum seekers found in a van had asked to be "let in", saying they "were from Europe", which today they accepted was untrue.  It has involved the further coddling of people whose views are always just one step away from being completely beyond the pale.  It has not been a campaign of dog-whistling; it has been a campaign that has been defined by completely open expressions of disgust, contempt and at times, hate.

This low has not just been the responsibility of some politicians and some sections of the media, much as they should take a good, hard look at themselves this weekend.  It's also the responsibility of us, the public.  For far too long many of us have been quiet when we've heard people without the slightest real interest in politics denounce all our representatives as liars, as being all the same, as only being in for it for themselves.  We haven't spoken up to say that in the vast majority of cases it couldn't be further than the truth, to defend those who have always been different, who have always offered an alternative.  It might not be an alternative we agree with, but an alternative it is.

I will always reserve the right to be ferociously critical of politicians, and God knows there are reasons to be so.  What I have tried to do over the past couple of years however is to reject this anti-politics as a whole mood, to argue that it is far more damaging as a cure than the disease itself.  Whether that's come across or been successful I don't know, but I do know that we have a press which finds it overwhelmingly in their interests to regard many of our politicians as crooks, liars and in some cases closet communists, while ignoring or apologising for the the rise of the current wave of populists.

So let's reclaim their slogan.  We want our country back.  I want my country back.  I want the country that I know, that has been vastly improved in almost every way, not just by the post-Windrush wave of immigration, but the immigration of post-2005.  There are problems, but they are solvable.  I want the Britain I know, the Britain of tolerance, of live and let live, to once again be heard.  I want everyone to know, not just here but across Europe and the world that we are not the country this referendum campaign has suggested we are.  Because we're not.  We're so much better than this.  And I deeply hope when I come back the Tuesday after next this will have been proved beyond doubt.

Rest in peace Jo.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016 

They shall not pass.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016 

The empty threats of an irresponsible chancellor.

When it comes to issuing threats, there are a couple of set rules.  First, the threat itself must be realistic. For instance, every time Israel has struck within Syria, whether to hit Hezbollah or some other related target, the Syrian government has responded by warning of devastating consequences.  This has been going on for decades.

Second, the threat must be seen to have a chance of being carried out.  Despite all the talk of Project Fear and the criticism of scaremongering, the threat or rather promise of refusing a currency union with an independent Scotland was a realistic prospect, as were most of the other warnings.   While not a threat per se, the warnings of how an independent Scotland would be affected by a drop in the price of oil in fact underplayed how serious the drop in revenue would have been had Yes won.

George Osborne and Alistair Darling's threat of an emergency budget should the country vote to Leave next week therefore fails on all counts.  First and most pertinently, George Osborne's not going to be in a position to present a budget in the first place.  Even if David Cameron doesn't resign immediately as I imagined yesterday, he's likely to announce a fairly imminent departure.  Osborne is almost certain to stand in the Tory leadership contest, so win or not, he most certainly won't be chancellor.

Next, as most commentators quickly pointed out, the tax rises and spending cuts Osborne and Darling set out (PDF) would almost certainly result in a recession whether or not the reaction to leaving is as dramatic as they predict.  Darling's claim that he's more worried now than he was in 2008 is ahistorical nonsense.  Darling and Brown have both previously commented that if they had not acted in the way they had as market turmoil and panic spread following the bankruptcy of Lehmann Brothers, the whole banking system was in danger of collapse.  However serious the market reaction to a Leave vote would be, it would not result in the banks having to close and ATMs being left empty.  The only responsible thing to do would be to wait and see what happens, and then if the economic fallout is damaging as claimed, the response would be to cut taxes and increase spending, as Darling of course did in 2008.

If then by some marvel of the universe Osborne was both still chancellor and decided to pursue his punishment budget, it would be voted down.  The now 65 Tory MPs who have said they oppose it would win the day on their own, without the need of Labour, with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell both saying they would oppose such a ramping up of austerity in any case.  Corbyn even managed to get a laugh out of Cameron at PMQs by congratulating the Tory MPs supporting Leave on their sudden conversion to anti-austerity.

In the end though, it all comes back to the irresponsibility of Cameron and Osborne.  Their refusal to confront their backbenchers in the way that say Blair did, instead giving in to their demands, has inexorably led to the very real risk the country will vote to make itself permanently poorer and more insular next week.  Osborne's threat to make things even worse with an emergency budget isn't him cutting off his nose to spite his face; it's the equivalent of the dictator in the bunker ordering a non-existent army to commence blowing up bridges and destroying crops.  Remain or leave, Cameron and Osborne must go.  And soon.

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