Monstering Labour

The recent propaganda campaign against Labour’s and Corbyn’s alleged ‘anti-semitism’ will go down as the most despicable in recent British political history. (Certainly if I have anything to do with the writing of it!) Those responsible for it – the Conservative press, the British Board of Deputies, the Jewish Chronicle, anti-Corbyn Labour MPs – should all be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. So should those who swallowed their wicked libels without properly examining them, often simply on the grounds that ‘Jews felt vulnerable’ – of course they did, in the midst of all this propaganda – ‘so there must be something in it’. In fact there wasn’t. It was nearly all lies. The Jewish community in Britain, or its self-proclaimed leadership, has done no favours to itself, or even to Israel, by mounting this deceitful campaign, which must eventually rebound adversely on it. I can even see it provoking a genuine ‘anti-semitism’. And of course it has also done no favours to the wider community it lives amongst, as not merely a ‘tolerated’ but also a valued and admired minority; by contributing – in whatever small degree – to the defeat of the only party and leader in the land that promised political and social reform along genuine Judaeo-Christian lines.

The following comes from a radical left-wing paper, which might provoke distrust among some readers; but it’s the best of a number of analyses of this scandal that I’ve read recently:

Corbyn’s  conduct and demeanour in the wake of the tragedy of December has been as dignified as one would expect from him. One of his aims was to transform British politics and society away  from the lying and sheer malevolence that characterise the government that – with the marginal assistance, among others, of the ‘pro-Israel lobby’ – defeated him in December. His failure should not be counted against him; unless it’s merely in terms of tactics. He and his supporters could not – perhaps could not hope to – effectively counter the massive disinformation machine ranged against him. Perhaps they should have tried; as Blair did, for example, by reaching his Mephistophelian bargain with Rupert Murdoch. Is that now the only way that the Left can win?

I still admire Corbyn, and have no regrets about having supported him. In the upcoming Labour leadership election, however, I’ll be voting for Keir Starmer. As a key shadow minister under Corbyn he must have supported the policies the latter represented. And I’ve always thought that politicians ought to have pursued other careers before aspiring to positions where they can tell their compatriots how to pursue theirs. Starmer’s previous career was highly distinguished one, and in the public  service. (Hence the ‘Sir’.) For me that overshadows other serious desiderata, like having a woman as a Labour PM. We’ll see how the Right-wing Press will try it on with him. It may not find it quite as easy to ‘monster’ him as it did the terrorist-friendly/communist-spy/anti-semitic/bad dresser (etc.) Jeremy. But I’m sure they’ll find – or invent – something.

I’m still, by the way, waiting for a response from the Labour Party to my ‘I’m Spartacus’ letter ( Will I be expelled, for expressing views like those alluded to in this post?

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Palme and Conspiracy

Conspiracy theories are – according to the comedian David Baddiel in his excellent TV programme on ‘Holocaust deniers’ the other evening – ‘how idiots get to feel like intellectuals’. I rather liked that! (All the more so because Baddiel didn’t try to drag Jeremy into it.)

I suppose it’s the originality of their thinking and the extent of their researches – often published at great length, and extensively footnoted – that make ‘conspiracy theorists’ feel they’re up there (here!) with the intellectuals. Unfortunately, without proper academic training, most of them, they don’t usually bring with them the critical balance that education, at its best, should provide. (Maybe the arch Holocaust-denier David Irving is an exception; but I understand that he dropped out of all his university courses, which weren’t in History in any case.)

An old ‘conspiracy’ has recently resurfaced in the Swedish news recently. Apparently the murderer of prime minister Olof Palme is to be authoritatively revealed shortly ( That mystery has been surrounded by ‘conspiracy theories’ ever since the event itself 34 years ago, which weren’t quieted when a man was arrested and imprisoned for it in 1988, but then exonerated and released the following year. Suspicion has fallen on the South African secret services, the CIA, the Swedish security service itself, and a dozen other agencies. Palme was of course a prominent and effective critic of apartheid and of the Vietnam war, and a man who broke with his upper-class upbringing to become a social democrat. (So he was a class traitor.) He had powerful and undoubtedly ingenious enemies. Maybe we’ll find out soon whether any of the ‘conspiracy theories’ surrounding his murder have any basis in truth.

For the problem with dismissive comments like Baddiel’s, and of those who immediately dismiss all talk of ‘conspiracies’ as the ravings of disordered and uneducated minds, is that people do  ‘conspire’, at every level of society – that hardly needs to be demonstrated; I’ve done it – and at the highest level of politics. Baddiel himself shows how Nazis conspired to cover up the Holocaust at the end of the War. We saw plenty of conspiring during the recent Brexit referendum and the British General Election. (I’ve blogged about this before: It would be beyond belief to think that politicians, newspapers and rich bastards didn’t indulge in this. And to dismiss such explanations by associating them with – for example – the Jewish blood libel, or David Icke’s claim that Prince Philip is a shape-shifting alien, is to unfairly cut off several avenues of quite legitimate enquiry. There are conspiracies and conspiracies. The question to be asked, in every case, is how effective  they are. For what it’s worth, vis-a-vis  the Palme murder my money’s on the South Africans. But we’ll have to wait and see.

By the way, David Irving went to my school, though I don’t remember him. I do hope he wasn’t taught by my – much revered – History masters. From my memories of the school more generally, however, that could be where he first learned about ‘conspiracies’.

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Point number 1: democracy is not the most efficient form of government. Point number 2: that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Efficiency can breed tyranny.

One of the major insults I remember being used against the Nazis during and after the 1939-45 War was directed at ‘German efficiency’. It was not a compliment, but was supposed to portray the Germans as machine-like, and consequently inhuman. The post-war Soviet Union was painted in a similar way. That was also the Mekon’s great flaw in the comic strip I referenced in my last post, originally appearing just a few years after the end of the War, and clearly modelled on Hitler and his robotic, jack-booted followers. The Mekon had been created by ‘Science’, searching only for efficiency, irrespective of any higher morality. Years before that we had the common image of the ‘evil scientist’ in popular fiction, and of the soulless ‘advanced’ civilisations from other worlds that threatened planet Earth in all those wonderful early Sci-Fi films. That this boasted ‘efficiency’ wasn’t really so efficient in the long run, when confronted with humanity’s untidier and laxer qualities, was usually the moral of at any rate the more ‘feel-good’ of these stories. Dan Dare always came out on top (and then usually let the Mekon free, for fear of compromising his own humanity). ‘Mr Hitler’ was no match for Dad’s Army – the epitome of the Briton’s supposedly softer kind of heroism. In the end humanity triumphed over ‘efficiency’; as it was bound to do, perhaps because it left more room for questioning and adapting to things. If Mr Hitler and Mr Mekon had had a more sceptical side, they might have been more successful, ultimately, than they were.

The slogan that won our last UK election was ‘Get Brexit Done’. What that was, basically, was a cry of impatience against the inefficiency  of the British electoral system, which had allowed the European question to drag on for so long. That ‘inefficiency’, of course, was due to the necessity of Brexit’s being subject to the ‘checks and balances’ that are supposed to be central to the British constitution (as well as to the USA’s); but ‘efficiency’ has no call for obstacles like this. Hence Johnson’s desire to ‘reform’ the constitution in order to undermine them: the delaying power of the House of Lords, for example, and the ‘interference’ of the higher judiciary; both of which are on his ‘To Do’ list for the next year or two. On top of that we have a ‘Special Advisor’ to Number Ten – the Mekon look-alike – who appears to view everything through the lense of ‘efficiency’; and, for a very short period (yesterday, to be precise), another – the young and callow Andrew Sabisky – whose views on eugenics and compulsory birth-control for the plebs seem to mirror closely those of the super-efficient Nazis, who also elevated scientific – or pseudo-scientific – solutions above a more generous morality.

Efficiency’s OK in its place. I quite like Swedish buses, for example, always turning up exactly on time. And I wouldn’t want to be operated on by an inefficient surgeon. But it can also be cold, heartless and mentally constricting, when applied to an essentially complex field, like national policy; and also, of course, wrong.


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Journey to Mekonta

With Dominic Cummings in the news this morning as the supposed evil genius behind Sajiv Javid’s surprise resignation as Chancellor – thus enabling Boris’s absolute control of government, on the way to Dominic’s ultimate vision of a new quasi-Fascist(?) way of governing – I thought it might be worth re-posting this earlier blog of mine, originally entitled ‘Separated at Birth?’


That’s Dominic (Demonic) Cummings on the left, and the evil Mekon on the right. Remember Dan Dare? I imagine many won’t; which is probably why this rather obvious analogy – as I thought – didn’t catch on.

I’m becoming very depressed about the scale of both Johnson’s and Trump’s successes. Dominic, in his diabolical way, was clearly right. Questions of ‘character’ don’t matter to half, at any rate, of the British electorate, just as they don’t matter to Trump voters in America. Have you seen those TV programmes featuring Trump’s rallies and interviews with their unbelievably stupid ‘fans’ bussing around the US to follow them…? After one of them last night I found myself wishing that that that flaming asteroid heading for the Earth so beloved of Sci-Fi disaster movies really would crash into us and force humanity to start all over again. The Mekon could be driving it.

One of the keys to both Trump’s and Johnson’s present successes appears to be the optimism  they give out: ‘MAGA’, and the ‘sunlit uplands’; however false that optimism turns out to be in the end. By that time we could all be Dom-dominated, robotic Treens. And without any Therons from the other side of the planet to help us out. (Anyone not brought up on the Eagle 60-70 years ago will have lost me there.)

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Jewish Morality

As a passionate anti-racist for all of my adult life, as you can tell from my books; an admirer of Jewish culture; and with a huge sympathy for the Jewish people’s sufferings, alongside others’, throughout history, I still cannot find it in myself to forget or forgive the conduct of certain British Jewish agencies and spokespeople in libelling Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as ‘anti-semitic’ during the last British General Election. Apparently they’ve now started doing it to Bernie Sanders – himself a Jew, of course – during the American Democratic Primaries. Can it be a coincidence that both Corbyn and Sanders are self-proclaimed ‘socialists’? I’m reluctant to infer that it’s money that is the prime consideration here, because that might pander to a genuine anti-semitic trope that I’m reluctant to be associated with.

Besides, my understanding of Judaeo-Christian social morality – whose tradition I was brought up in – suggests that Corbyn’s and Sanders’s political principles are far more in alignment with that, than with the selfish late-capitalist anti-ethic that fuels both Trump and Johnson. Which is probably the reason for other  Jews’ resistance to the British Board of Deputies’ propaganda, and support for Corbyn; including that of Professor Geoffrey Alderman, the foremost historian of the Jewish community in Britain, and (I believe) one of Corbyn’s constituents. For a principled anti-racist to be accused of racism must hurt almost as much as accusing an innocent and loving father of paedophilia. It will take me a long time, on behalf of Corbyn and my Labour Party, to get over it, and to regard the Jewish community – though not, of course, my Jewish friends – as I once did. That is so sad; and must – if it’s a general feeling – do the cause of combatting genuine anti-semitism much harm. I don’t imagine for a moment that it was this ‘Jewish’ propaganda that lost Labour the election, though some Jews are boasting of this; but any influence it may have had must undermine Labour members’ previously close alliance with Judaism.

One result of this propaganda was to widen the definition of ‘anti-semitism’ to include opinions and attitudes that really should not have been part of it. The most notorious examples are support for Palestinian statehood, and opposition to Israeli colonialism (and its attendant atrocities) in the Palestinian territories. These are supposedly supported by an ‘international’ definition of anti-semitism which was never designed as a definition, and has been disavowed as such by its author, but which the Labour Party has been bullied – there’s no other word for it – into officially adopting. That has led to a number of Labour members being expelled for acting or speaking in ways that are supposed to contravene that definition, unjustly and – writing as an academic – irrationally. This has added to my personal pain.

One Labour member has confronted this by offering herself for expulsion, on the grounds that she, too, has criticised the government of Israel. Here is her letter, reprinted by the Jewish Voice for Labour, which I’ve recently become a (non-Jewish) member of. It has also been widely disseminated in Labour circles.

I’m thinking of following Natalie’s example. After all, I’ve criticised Israel too, in this small and insignificant blog.

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Nordic Child Care

The following article is about Finland, but it also applies to Sweden. In fact – remembering my own days as a father of small children – the Swedish parental leave and childcare systems were the first things that struck me about the country when I began my association with it 25 years ago. I so envied present-day Swedish parents for the assistance the State affords them when their children are young; not only mothers, but also fathers, who are just as much ‘liberated’ by being able to share the early stages of parenthood equally with their partners. I would have loved being able to take a year ‘off’, fully paid, to look after mine; and then had excellent free pre-schools to send them to afterwards. (And it would probably have made me a better dad.)

From a broader, societal point of view there can be no doubt that the system also contributes more to gender equality than any other reform one could think of. Hence Finland’s present progressive and enlightened women-dominated government. Nervous British men need to be assured that women in power don’t need to be like Thatcher or May. They had to force their way up through a patriarchal system. That could explain their sharp edges. Instead, learn from the Nordics.

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Working Classes, Gays and Imperialism

I was quite excited by this item on the BBC News this morning. An academic has unearthed a diary or journal written by a working Yorkshire farmer in the very early 19thcentury which reveals, as well as much else, some unexpectedly enlightened views on the subject of homosexuality. Here’s the report:  It’s worth reading, especially by those who assume that people of an ‘inferior’ class are likely, or even bound, to have reactionary opinions. In truth, there is no reliable evidence for this.

That’s because there is no reliable evidence for the working or lower-middle classes’ views on anything before the age of mass literacy. I first came against this problem when I began researching into popular attitudes to the British Empire for my book The Absent-Minded Imperialists. Until then it had been widely assumed that the ‘lower orders’ were invariably ‘jingoistic’, as it was called, because (basically) they were ignorant, stupid and emotional. The evidence for this – almost the only evidence – was the jingo mobs that crowded into London and elsewhere to celebrate the relief of Mafeking during the Boer War. In fact those few months of ‘imperialistic’ rioting were almost unique in modern British history; involved far smaller crowds than they gave the impression of (they looked a lot in the narrow streets of central London); may have been more lower-middle than strict working class (they worked in the City, after all); and didn’t invariably indicate any true ‘imperial’ feeling on the demonstrators’ parts.

Seeking for a more accurate measure of ‘working-class imperialism’, I too turned to contemporary working-class diaries and memoirs. The problem here is that not many of them have survived. I think I found about sixty – some of them mere sketches. This may indicate that not all that many were written. Even literate workers didn’t have the inclination – or the time – to write; and if they did, they assumed that their own lives would be of little interest to the ‘reading’ – that is, middle-class – ‘public’. Hardly any of them expressed any opinion at all about the contemporary Empire, let alone an enthusiastic one. Which is why I then tried to dig deeper, in order to find out what they were likely to have felt about the Empire, in view of their functions in society, their education, and so on. (My methods and conclusions are spelled out in the book.) In fact they were likely either to have no opinion, or else a wide range of opinions, mainly lost to posterity; sadly for their posthumous reputations today.

So I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that at least one early 19th-century working man wasn’t as prejudiced against gay people as we might have thought, and that he had clearly discussed the question, in rational terms, among his mates. This seems to indicate that prejudices of the kinds often attributed to the lowly and ignorant are not necessarily innate in them, only to be countered and corrected by education. In most cases it’s ‘education’ of another kind that inculcates them in working people’s minds. Today’s working-class Brexiters have the Sun, the Daily Mail and Nigel Farage to teach them their prejudices. Our Yorkshire farmer didn’t.

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The idea that Britain and America could turn ‘Fascist’ soon is beginning to take a hold. Until very recently any suggestion of this kind tended to be dismissed as Left-wing paranoia. Now it’s part of mainstream speculation.

Those who deny its possibility probably have in mind a version of Fascism – Hitler’s – which was extreme and, yes, very unlikely to be implemented today. Few of us can envisage death camps in the English countryside or in the American Mid-West, for example. No-one is thinking of gassing immigrants, gypsies, communists or the disabled, let alone the Jews. But Fascism isn’t defined by these sorts of atrocity. In fact it’s a rather vague concept, which is why it can be employed so loosely on the Left.

The best definition – amongst all those I’ve googled – may be Merriam-Webster’s.

‘A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual, and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.’

Even that, however, is too strong to characterise government under either Boris Johnson or Donald Trump. Its major flaw, for this purpose, is the bit about ‘economic and social regimentation’, which clearly doesn’t fit with America’s and Britain’s dominant neo-liberal philosophies, and their espousal by those on the Right accused of ‘Fascist’ tendencies.

Which is why I’m wary of employing the term in present conditions. If I use it at all (as I think you’ll find if you trawl back through this blog), it’s with the prefix ‘proto’ attached to it. For I do believe that there are (a) political circumstances arising today which are reminiscent of the situation in which the original forms of Fascism took root in the1930s; and (b) aspects of the present policies of both Trump and his great admirer Johnson which may be said to carry a Fascist potential.

The circumstances hardly need to be spelled out. They include economic depressions in both periods and the hardships for ordinary people resulting from them; feelings of national loss in both cases – empire in Britain’s, World War I in inter-War Germany’s, world-domination in America’s; fear of ‘alien’ invasions – ‘blacks’, Poles, Jews, Mexicans; growing inequalities; and declining trust in their forms of democracy and the ‘elites’ that had captured them, today dubbed ‘populism’. To meet these challenges Trump and Johnson are pursuing similar strategies, which verge on the authoritarian, if not the overtly Fascistic.

Both are overtly nationalistic, and hostile to internationalism. ‘If you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere’: that’s Theresa May, who had something of the proto-Fascist about her too. Both appeal to past national ‘greatness’: ‘Make America Great Again’; and Boris’s scarcely-disguised appeal to Britain’s ‘glorious’ imperial past. Both are impatient of the constitutional ‘checks and balances’ that stand in the way of their absolute power: judges and the House of Lords in Johnson’s case. This must indicate an authoritarian cast of mind. (Johnson long ago professed an ambition to become ‘World King’.) They both use the extreme language of ‘treachery’ to describe ordinary opponents: ‘enemies of the people’, and so on. Both seek to delegitimise their fourth estates – another constitutional ‘balance’; Trump with his ‘fake’ news accusations, and Boris – just yesterday – by restricting access to his press conferences to trusted media outlets. They both push domestic agendas which are widely regarded as reactionary. Both are – obviously – anti-socialist; or could this be at the root of it? Both employ lies and dirty tricks in their propaganda which might have made Goebbels blush. In the last UK general election 88% of the Conservatives’ propaganda has been shown to have been misleading, at the very least, as opposed to 0% of Labour’s; if this survey is to be trusted: Both Trump and Johnson are notorious, and perhaps even unique in history, for their blatant disregard for the truth, and their gross amorality by most measures. Their electoral appeals are couched in as simple terms as possible, usually just three words, in order to attract the simpler-minded populists: ‘Make America Great’, ‘Get Brexit Done’. Both leaders – despite their obviously elite positions in their respective societies – make a great play of being anti-establishment, anti-elitist, and even anti-expertise. (Michael Gove once notoriously dismissed all ‘experts’; Trump insists he’s an expert on everything.) They pander to racism, and to racist groups, with Trump being ambivalent about his racist support (’fine people’), and Johnson’s Conservative Party apparently taking in 5000 new members from the extreme ‘Britain First’ movement just a few weeks ago: Whether or not this can be directly attributed to them, the rise of each man has seen increased thuggery and violent attacks on foreigners and minorities in their respective countries. Fascism is always accompanied by violence. In Britain, Boris Johnson, not a great thinker himself, has a ‘Special Adviser’ in the person of Dominic Cummings who seems to come straight out of Machiavelli’s, if not Goebbels’s, book. Trump used to have Steve Bannon. American ‘Alt-Right’ ideas are gaining purchase in both countries, only feebly combatted by the Left. Is it unreasonable for the Left to fear these trends, for the proto- or neo- or even straight Fascism that is implied in them?

And – finally – why not a ‘Fascism’ that supports ‘free’ enterprise? Which is, after all, what Margaret Thatcher stood for: ‘a free economy in a strong state’. All Fascisms vary according to their localities. They are ‘national’ ideologies, after all. This could be the Anglo-American version.


PS. Even Sweden is not immune to this. We already have the ‘Sweden Democrats’, of course. And I was depressed the other night by a Swedish TV programme about an Alt-Right ‘think-tank’ that has just been formed in Sweden. It’s called ‘Oikos’: Greek for ‘home’, though the name might not go down well in Britain, ‘oik’ being Public School slang for a pleb; and numbers Milton Friedman and the late Roger Scruton amongst its heroes. (See—mattias-karlsson-(sd)-starts-conservative-think-tank-.S1x2JZ24GI.html.)  Proto-Fascism seems be getting everywhere.

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Last Evening in Europe

Not a very good photo, I’m afraid, but here’s the British community in Stockholm ‘celebrating’ Brexit. It was at the excellent Tudor Arms, which is more English than an English pub. Kajsa and I had fish and chips there, of course, and two pints each of London Pride. Lots of nice Brits there, with their Swedish sambos. No-one around us mentioned Brexit. It was very crowded, hot and noisy, and closing time was 11 p.m. CET, which was an hour too early for the actual Brexit moment. We followed that on TV when we got home. Pathetic, I thought. Thank God (and Migrationsverket) for my new Swedish – and hence European – passport.


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Mediametka (Finland)

Every analysis of voting patterns for the 2016 ‘Brexit’ referendum, and for the December 2019 General Election, which was also about Brexit, reveals two major factors that seem to have determined people’s votes. The first is age, with the relatively young being significantly more likely to be pro-European than my generation. The second is level of education, with the better or longer educated more likely to be Europhile than the poorly educated. Oddly enough, Old Etonians seem to come within this latter category. That’s because it’s the quality of education that counts, not just the length. (I once wrote to the Head of History at Eton to ask him for a view of the modern history syllabus taught there, but received no reply.)

I’ve always in fact believed this, in contradistinction to the common ‘élitist’ view that the poorly educated voted for Brexit because they were stupid. In fact all the so-called ‘stupid’ ones required was to be taught properly. And in my view – as I’ve expressed once or twice in this blog – that requires a degree of education in logic, or clear, rational and above all critical  thinking, which would enable them to see beyond and behind the propaganda they are fed in their media. History could provide this, if taught properly – that is, critically, not simply factually, or – God forbid – patriotically; but I’m sure there are other disciplines that could do it almost as well.

Here in Sweden I’m told that schoolchildren are taught källkritik, which is to go back to the sources of statements made before accepting them. That’s a start. In Finland they’ve gone one further. This article shows how children there are taught to spot ‘fake news’ when it’s presented to them: Isn’t that wonderful? And couldn’t our UK schools, in a country where our print, broadcast and social media are some of the least reliable in the ‘free’ world, take a leaf out of the Finns’ book here?

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