More Corbyn-Bashing

Here we go again:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6685423/How-Jeremy-Corbyns-joyless-approach-life-drove-wife-away-affair-Diane-Abbott.html;

seventeen pages (apparently) in today’s Mail on Sunday, going on about Corbyn – this time his personal life, rather than his careers as terrorist sympathiser, Soviet spy or anti-Semite – in the way we’ve grown to expect from this appalling Right-wing – even proto-Fascist – ‘news’paper. Surely they’re overplaying their hand? Won’t readers of the Mail be bored by all this, at the very least? How much purchase can overt and obvious propaganda of this kind possibly have on the majority of people?

Possibly a lot, which is my great fear. Britons don’t realise how unfree our much vaunted ‘free’ press is: propaganda-sheets simply, owned by expatriate tax-avoiding millionaires, with Right-wing agendas of their own, and no respect for ‘balance’ or even ‘truth’. There’s nothing quite like this in any of the other countries I’ve lived in, even the USA (in its print media) and Murdoch’s Australia – although I’m open to correction here; certainly not in my current home of Sweden. All recent efforts to reform our British press have largely failed – Leveson Stage 2 among them – partly because the press lords control the narrative; and may even ‘have something on’ the politicians. Hence Britain’s low standing in most Indexes of national press freedom. (See https://bernardjporter.com/2017/04/30/press-freedom/.) Which in its turn is partly responsible for the rotten state of our also much-vaunted ‘democracy’.

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Corbyn the Strategist

I still think I’m right about Corbyn and Brexit. He’s playing a blinder.

In reply to those who accuse him of vacillating, his latest open letter to Theresa May, restating what has been his position from the beginning, should put them right. If there is to be any chance of Britain’s negotiating a favourable ‘deal’ with the EU, it has to be with May’s ‘red lines’ rubbed out. That means effectively reinstating the single market with Europe, with all the ‘freedoms’ that the EU insists upon, including freedom of movement. That, of course, is May’s bottom-line sticking point, obsessed as she is – and as she was shown to be as a cruel Home Secretary – with the idea of keeping Johnny Foreigner out. The EU has indicated that it would be willing to renegotiate on that basis – a common trading zone – if not on May’s. And it would, of course, do away with the Irish border problem at a single stroke. If she accepted it, and renegotiated from that position, Britain could achieve a status very close to her present membership of the EU. Problem solved.

But of course she won’t; as nor will her party’s swivel-eyed loonies. It would split the Conservative Party – her other main priority – possibly for good. So, she’ll come back to Parliament with a similar proposition to the one that was decisively defeated last month, with just a few tweaks to the Irish ‘back-stop’, and probably lose that vote too.

Which will leave only three options open. (a) Exiting with no deal at all. But nearly all parties (apart from the swivel-eyed one) are highly nervous of that, as they should be. Even the pro-No Deal Rees-Mogg accepts that it will take decades for the British economy to recover from it. (b) The fall of the Government, and a General Election. But the Conservatives are terrified of this, if it lets that terrorist-hugging Commie Corbyn in; and so will probably have to go for Option (c).

That is for a new referendum, in which one of the choices could be Britain’s remaining in the EU. That, in fact, is the Remainers’ best hope. If a ‘people’s vote’ were called at this stage of the proceedings, after all other solutions had been tried and failed, it might reconcile many of those who are presently so stridently against it on the (highly illogical) grounds that it would be ‘undemocratic’, and so disarm the Rightist street-mob, which is looking so menacing now.

In any case Corbyn’s proposal has put the Government on the spot. That is both clever, and principled, in that it doesn’t go against any of his known views. Either Remain, or his ‘soft Brexit’ option, would undo most of the terrible harm to our society that is being inflicted by the swivel-eyed faction just now. And it might even bring a Radical Labour government closer; which could then start working to repair most of the social and economic damage inflicted by the Conservatives (in the name of ‘neo-liberalism’), which – as I’ve argued many times before – was what lay at the root of the original Brexit vote.

All it needs now is for Corbyn to get a fair crack of the whip from the media, which happened remarkably, you’ll remember, at the time of the 2017 General Election, when they had to report what he was doing and saying, and when the worst propaganda against him appeared so outlandish as to be widely dismissed. Theresa May – the ‘Maybot’ – performs dreadfully at elections, as we also learned from that campaign. And the more exposure Farage, Johnson and Gove are given – before they take up their positions in Tusk’s ‘special place in Hell’ – the more ridiculous they too will surely seem

So, as ‘Straight Red’ argues on Facebook today: ‘Corbyn and his team have charted a remarkable course through an exceedingly difficult period, and have arrived at a point where a General Election and a Labour victory are on the agenda, three years ahead of schedule. For those who have doubted Corbyn’s strategy and leadership, it may be time for a little reflection and humility.’ Amen to that.

But then anything can still happen. This must be one of the least predictable episodes in all British history. We’ll see over the next couple of weeks or so. These are nervous times for those of us who value our transnational European identity, and who fear the other possible outcomes of the hostile nationalism that Brexit represents.

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Brexit History

I really ought to write something – a blog, an article, maybe even a short book – on how History has been perverted in the service of the ‘Brexit’ cause. As it has been of many other causes, you’ll say; but this is a particularly egregious example. The Brexiters are wrong about the Second World War; about the British Empire; about Britain’s historical ‘identity’; about the real meaning of ‘sovereignty’ (for a small island vulnerable on its own, for example)… and about so many other things that I know something about. But persuading them of this is  a difficult task to take on, mainly because it involves a critical understanding of historical causality and responsibility which seems quite beyond our self-styled ‘patriots’. What kind of History do they teach them at Eton, I wonder? But I may have a stab at it. It feels like my duty, as a historian of Britain and, in particular, of British imperialism.

On the question of ‘responsibility’, my hackles always rise when I read Brexiteers claiming that ‘we won the War’. Really? ‘We’? The only people alive today who can take any personal credit for defeating Hitler would have had to have been 18 years old in 1945; that is, 92 today. OK, I realise that people aren’t talking personally, but merely taking pride in the past achievements of their tribe or team. But tribes and teams change over time; as the nation of Britain certainly has. We aren’t the same people as that generation of heroes. ‘They’ weren’t ‘us’.

And that’s quite beside the questions of whether it really was ‘Britain’ who ‘won the War’; or whether the ‘Empire’ could be called an ‘achievement’; or whether Britain has always been apart and distinct from the Continent of Europe in the ways that the Brexiteers claim. These are some of the topics I feel I should address. (I won’t of course be the first historian to do so. Genuine historians have been fretting over this for a couple of years.) In the meantime, my fairly recent British Imperial. What the Empire Wasn’t makes a start on the imperial side.

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Count Me In

Of course I would love Brexit to be revoked, and for us to rejoin the EU on the – very favourable – terms we have now. And it may yet happen. May’s negotiations for a good deal with the remaining 27 look hopeless so long as she sticks to her notorious ‘red lines’. In view of this, however, pressure is mounting for a new referendum on the outcome, with ‘Remain’ being one of the options on the table. With the evidence against Brexit mounting up, the deception and sheer illegality involved in the original ‘Leave’ campaign now revealed, and the difference between what voters were promised and what they’re likely to get becoming more and more clear by the week, the ‘Remain’ side might – just might – win. And in that event one presumes that the EU would take us back: if they thought they could ever trust us British again. (If they didn’t, I for one wouldn’t blame them.)

The main problem, as I wrote a couple of days ago, is the reaction that this might provoke on the other side. Is the prospect of ‘civil war’, which is being held out as a threat by the Brexiters, and which the Government is making contingency plans against (https://bernardjporter.com/2019/02/03/7280/0), too alarmist, for a country which is supposed not to have gone in for this kind of thing for nearly four hundred years? (Though there are one two times when, in my estimation, she came close.) The Right in Britain, from whom the Brexit army would be recruited, are looking highly threatening; at least, on Social Media they are.

Popular opinion on Brexit doesn’t seem to be shifting very much; mainly because the real grievances that lay behind it are much the same as they were in 2016. Only a completely new government could make much difference to that. That in itself – under this government – carries the threat of something like civil war if there were a possibility of Brexit’s being dumped. Which is why I’ve argued in favour of compromise, in the post referenced above. That however could be seen as the coward’s way out; and possibly an over-nervous reaction on my part.

Over against that, if it did come to pitched battles between Remainers and Brexiters, I would be only too willing to march (or rather, hobble) out on to the streets to take part in them, on the pro-European side. I’d love to get in there, meeting the Reactionaries and proto-Nazis and press barons and new Imperialists and stockbrokers and Old Etonians and their deluded ‘popular’ following, armed with clever verbal taunts and barbs (I don’t go in much for physical violence), until we have persuaded them of the error of their ways. I can smell the cordite…

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My Heritage

I’ve just had the results back from my DNA ‘ethnic’ test (by ‘MyHeritageDNA’. It was a Christmas present). Can you trust these outfits?

I have to say I was disappointed; mainly by the lack of detail, but also on learning that apparently I have no Scandinavian in me. Coming from a part of England that was ravaged and raped by the Vikings in the Dark Ages I was expecting at least a little bit. It would give me something in common with Kajsa, apart from mutual affection and our shared politics and sommarhus. And it might have finally convinced Migrationsverket to grant me the Swedish citizenship I’ve been waiting for. I was also hoping to have a smidgeon of Jewish; some Irish (I had a grandmother from Liverpool); and one or two even more exotic drops – maybe just ‘a touch of the tar brush’, as racists used to put it. But no. I’m 100% boring western European. As an enthusiast for multiculturalism, I feel somewhat deflated.

Of possible interest to me, however, as a convinced anti-Brexiter, is that I’m supposed to be only 14.3% English, and 85.7% continental European. They’ve sent me a little map: the 14% totally excludes Ireland, Wales and Scotland, whereas the rest – by far the biggest proportion – covers France, the Low Countries, and Germany, but not any part of the British Isles. That’s despite the fact that I’ve had the father’s side of my family traced back a couple of hundred years, showing all of them living in rural Essex (mostly as illiterate peasants) continuously. So the 85% must have entered our bloodstream before then. I supposed it could go back all the way to the ‘Anglo-Saxons’, who of course came from the Continent originally. But if so, who are the ‘English’, in contradistinction to them? (Celts?) I couldn’t be Norman, or else the Scandinavian (‘North Men’) would have shown through. That’s a bit of a relief. It was the Normans who gave us our original aristocracy. I wouldn’t like to be associated with them.

I wonder how many ‘English’ end up with DNA charts like this? And how many Brexiteers would be unsettled by the knowledge that they were less distinct from our Continental cousins than they might have thought?

MyHeritageDNA provides you with impressive documentation about its methodology, featuring lots of pictures of laboratory workers in white coats with test tubes. But I’m not convinced. This was the cheapest of the three or four companies advertising this service. (It was on ‘special offer’, of about £60.) I could waste more money on a rival outfit; it might be instructive to compare. But I’m not a great believer in ‘ethnicity’ in any case.

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Swexit?

Incidentally: on the question of the intrinsic weaknesses of the case for Brexit, it must be significant that the Sweden Democrats – roughly equivalent to our UKIP – are back-pedalling on their previous anti-Europeanism, after seeing what is happening in Britain: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-31/sweden-democrats-step-back-from-demanding-exit-from-the-eu. Brexiteers used to think that their example would encourage other European countries to pursue a similar nationalistic path. That doesn’t seem to be happening, here in Sweden.

PS: On the other hand (9 February), Kajsa tells me that their rationale for staying in may be to destroy the EU from inside.

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This Is Serious

All the arguments just now seem to be going the Remainers’ way. (See, for example, https://chrisgreybrexitblog.blogspot.com/2019/02/brexiters-are-finally-being-forced-to.html?m=1&fbclid=IwAR1qcs2_hzB0GGJGW8V3jOFlGHCjHobVhRqYsASaKsOxoGEwzCN93oJc5wo.) Yet the polls don’t suggest that this is having much impact on the Brexiteers, or on public opinion generally. The difference in the figures is marginal, with only a slight shift to ‘Remain’; and remember how undependable the polls were before June 2016. If there were another referendum, therefore, there’s no guarantee that it would reverse the verdict of the original one, and certainly not enough to be more decisive than the 2% that separated the sides in 2016.

Even if ‘Remain’ won referendum #2 (or #3, if you count 1975), it wouldn’t be accepted by the Brexiteers, who would regard it as having been contrived by the ‘Establishment’ in order to override the real  verdict of the people, set in stone in June 2016. That’s because almost the whole debate now is centred not on the merits of the European case – we’ve heard scarcely anything about that from the ‘Leave’ side recently – but on how that vote should be regarded: as a genuine expression of the will of the country against its ‘elite’ oppressors, uniquely ‘democratic’, and hence sacred; or as corrupt (which it was), and therefore unreliable. ‘The People’ gave ‘the Establishment’ a bloody nose then, and have no desire at all to stick a plaster over it now. No ‘facts’ will deter them. Even pointing out how ‘elitist’ and divorced from ‘ordinary’ people the Brexit leaders really are – Boris? Nigel? Jacob? – doesn’t seem to be affecting that. And most people, being non-political in any thinking sense, and impatient of the current parliamentary farce, just want the whole thing finished and tied up, at almost any cost.

Worse: there are reports in all the papers about official preparations being made for ‘Brexit Day’ (March 29th) which bode ill for any kind of future, especially if the ‘people’s will’ is betrayed. Shops and especially hospitals are stockpiling goods and essential medicines; the Army has been alerted and is in training in case of civil disorder; and – just yesterday – it was reported that plans are under way to evacuate the Queen from London in that event: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6661457/Whitehall-plan-evacuate-Queen-Brexit-sparks-riots-streets-London.html. The Daily Mail prints that as a ‘scare story’, all part of the ‘Establishment’ plot against the ‘People’; but it is, in truth, scary enough.

This is serious. It has gone way beyond a civilised political debate about the benefits or otherwise of being in the European Union, and opened up a wound that has been festering in British society – nothing to do with Europe – for years. All of which needs to be taken into account when we pro-Europeans – or ‘Remoaners’ – consider practical ways out of this mess. The ideal one – abandon the whole Brexit project in the light of the facts, then settle back into Europe and try to reform it from within – is highly unlikely to calm things down. A ‘hard’, ‘no deal’ Brexit will cause untold distress to nearly everyone except the Brexit elitists (who have been able to squirrel their money abroad), and will inflame Remainers (like me). A ‘soft’ Brexit will never satisfy either the ideological Brexiteers, or the angry mob that followed them, and which wants to see more blood being spilled. ‘No Brexit’ will be portrayed by the likes of the Daily Mail and the Express  as a betrayal, tantamount to high treason, and will be the likeliest trigger for the civil war that the government and Buckingham Palace are making their contingency preparations for. In the light of all this – and not just of the main issue – we need to tread carefully.

Which brings me on – again – to Jeremy Corbyn. As Labour leader, Corbyn stands far closer to these domestic issues and repercussions than the Tories (or his critics) do. He is aware that his Northern constituencies are among those that have been most neglected and oppressed by governments in recent years, and so are most careless, or care-free, about lashing out at the ‘Establishment’ they hold to be responsible for this. He has been warned that supporting a new referendum would lose him votes there, and elsewhere, among people who otherwise might go along with his radical domestic agenda. He is accused of ‘lack of leadership’; but ‘natural’ Labour voters are not the sort that can be easily ‘led’. (I blame Thatcher for the elevation of the ‘Führerprinzip’ into British politics.) He’s a genuine democrat, following his Party Conference’s line. He is also lukewarm on the issue of Europe itself, as are many of us pro-Europeans (me included); and in any case – as I’ve pointed out before – doesn’t regard Britain’s relationship with Europe as the country’s most pressing problem today. That’s why he favours a general election before a referendum. That’s been presented as a selfish, ‘party first’ demand; but the reason why Corbyn wants a Labour government is to be able to radically overhaul British society and the economy for what he perceives to be their benefit. There’s no chance of a Tory government doing that. And it would eliminate many of the domestic grievances that underlay the Brexit vote in the first place. In addition to this, Corbyn is not wedded to the ‘red lines’ that stymied – or have done so far – Theresa May’s efforts to reach a deal with the EU: exit from the common trading area, for a start. His bargaining position would be significantly different; and, consequently, as many EU leaders have suggested, rather more likely to succeed.

The upshot would not be what any of us Remainers would ideally prefer, but might be far better than anything the Conservatives could achieve. It would also dampen down the civil unrest kindling that is piling up alarmingly now. Those who are impatient with Corbyn’s failure to lead the Remain charge may be losing sight of this. Of course I would much prefer Brexit to be dumped in Britain too; and for Corbyn to come out as my unambiguously European champion. But things may have gone too far for that. Corbyn’s plan, therefore, if I understand it right – and it has been pretty clear from his statements and speeches right from the beginning: it’s not at all true, as his enemies claim, that he hasn’t got one – is worth sticking with. For the time being, at least.

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Cold Comfort

Back in Stockholm, where there’s at least 20 cm. of snow, but life goes on as normal. That’s socialism for you! – Has this got something to do with the fact that northerly countries are generally more socialist than southern ones? Scandinavia, Scotland, North Korea, Russia, the northern states of the USA, Canada…. They need some social democracy (or worse) in order to keep them warm? Some geopolitical academics must have touched on this. I seem to remember Toynbee did. – OK, too reductionist.

And the snow, being normal, hardly gets a mention in this morning’s Dagens Nyheter. As neither does Brexit; which is a great relief to me, just off the plane from our mad little Brexit-obsessed country. I’ll be commenting on this again later, mainly in defence – again – of Corbyn’s master strategy, as I see it. (More in hope…)

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Nightmare

This is unanswerable. By a leading economist (one of Michael Gove’s ‘experts’). It’s thoroughly worth reading. I wish I’d written it.

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/economy/2019/01/why-uk-cannot-see-brexit-utterly-utterly-stupid?fbclid=IwAR3iXPOUFA2YNVVnqj5dtjv0s40ojQadcKyyi4ilXdKkyjAud1iajF1qC6c.

It’s a nightmare, isn’t it? Nearly everyone abroad sees this clearly. But it’s hard for us British to see a way out of it. We’re being forced by a group of privileged ex-public school eccentrics, drunk on fantasies born of the old Empire and ‘how we won the war’, aided by rank corruption, and backed up by an ignorant, neglected, resentful and potentially violent mob, into an existential national change for the worse, which will impoverish most of us, materially and spiritually, and – which should be of more significance for the public school elite, who are already siphoning their own riches abroad, so that they won’t be materially affected – will enormously diminish Britain’s standing in the world, and has already reduced this ‘once proud nation’ (sic) to a laughing stock. Can’t they see this?

Anyhow: there are some interesting Parliamentary debates to watch on telly today, with MPs trying to dig the steely Theresa May out of the hole she’s made for herself. Then – for me – back to Sweden, and some relief from the mardröm, if only for a while.

Then there’ll be time for us to reflect on what it all signifies for our very imperfect ‘democracy’.

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A Cunning Plan

I’m feeling a little guilty about my suggestion in my last post that we try to appease the more red-necked Brexiteers by giving in to them to an extent (the ‘Norway option’). I was more affected than perhaps I should have been – indeed depressed, and even frightened – by the violence of their language on social media, and by their quite explicit warnings of mayhem, murder and even armed rebellion if the ‘élite’ don’t surrender to them. That, of course, is the response they’re looking for. But might it not be better, and more honourable, to call their bluff and get out of this mess in a more principled way?

If we had more time, beyond March 29, we might find ways of persuading them of the many errors of their ways, and of the hoax that has been played on them by the true ‘élite’: élite being one of their favourite hate-words. Put in this way, and without telling them they were stupid, which riles them, we might be able to re-package the ‘Remain’ case as a popular  one, against the ‘Establishment’. The current flight of British firms back into the EU-27, followed by loss of jobs, would materially bolster that. Which is as good reason as any for seeking to postpone Article 50.

Short of that, I’m much attracted by the following ‘Baldrick’ strategy, which is going viral on the internet just now.

50529080_1331251477017368_2547255304081375232_o.png

Isn’t that quite brilliant? After all, when you ask them, hardly any Brexiteer can give you a single example of a way in which membership of the EU has worked or is likely to work to their personal detriment; apart from Boris’s lies (‘straight bananas’), which they could be disabused of, and ‘immigration’, which is a false flag. (Britain could have controlled immigration even when she was in the EU, but chose not to.) So, if we stay in, but don’t tell them, they won’t notice the difference. Indeed, they’ll even be fooled into thinking that they were right all along: ‘look, we’ve left the EU, and none of that “project fear” stuff has come about’; which might make them unbearably cocky but would also defuse any sense of resentment on their part, or on ours, the Remainers’. It’s the perfect solution. Or would be, if only the illusion could be sustained.

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