Jihadis and Anarchists

A historian can find precedents galore, of course, for the current mini-wave of terrorist atrocities in the UK. Whether any of these precedents is of any practical use to us today is another matter. The ones I’m most familiar with are the Irish bombing campaign of the 1880s, and the Anarchist wave of the 1890s and 1900s: the ‘Sydney Street Siege’ and all that.

From my point of view – I was researching the government’s responses to them (see my Plots and Paranoia) – the most notable feature of these events was the resistance of Britons at the time to any suggestion that they should modify their liberal laws – for example of political asylum – in order to counter terrorism more effectively. That happened on the Continent, but counter-productively, felt British liberals. In other words, repressive regimes were supposed to provoke terrorism rather than prevent it; and indeed, the scale of Anarchist terrorism was far greater in, say, relatively repressive France and Spain than it was in Britain. Hence at an ‘anti-anarchist’ conference held in Rome 1911 Britain was the only participant refusing to go along with the stiffer measures and restrictions favoured by her European neighbours, on the grounds that her citizens wouldn’t swallow them. Her only ‘repressive’ responses to terrorism were the setting up of the ‘Special’ (Political) Branch of the London Metropolitan Police in the 1880s; and an Aliens (immigration) Act passed in 1906. They were considered to be bad enough by liberal Britons, and were very mildly administered. The Aliens Act, for example, expressly exempted political refugees. Happy days! But that’s not to say that we can or should seek to resurrect them.

It may be that something could be learned from the examples of these old terrorists themselves. One thing that strikes me about our modern kind is how many of them were ‘ordinary’ criminals before they became jihadis; with one obvious implication being that they adopted Islamicism, no doubt genuinely, but also in order to justify themselves and give some point and even dignity to their otherwise useless lives. We see the same with late 19th century anarchists. The most bloodthirsty of them, called ‘Ravachol’ (real name François Koeningstein), pursued a life of crime, including thieving, murder and even grave robbery, before deciding that all his woes were the fault of capitalism, and so pursuing his career now for ideological reasons, and targeting anyone whom he considered complicit in the capitalist system, even passively: which was almost everyone. He also believed that ‘terror’ on this scale would eventually weaken the resistance of the capitalist establishment, and allow Anarchy to thrive. He was caught and guillotined in 1892, becoming regarded thereafter as a kind of martyr by his fellow ‘Anarchists of the Deed’.

The parallels here with present-day criminals-turned-jihadis are obvious. I’m sure there’s something to be learned here. I may return to it, and to other aspects of the current crisis, and its effect on the British General Election, when I’m more fully recovered and out of bed.

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Back Again…

…and all sewn up So I won’t end up like this. Bless the NHS.

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Lots to blog about, of course, when I feel up to it. Later.

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The Führerprinzip

Before I pass under the knife: there’s an excellent piece in today’s Guardian saying what I’ve been saying for years, but much better than I could have put it: (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/31/theresa-may-strong-leader-good-leader).

I’m not sure when the ‘Führerprinzip’ – as we both call it – first became embedded in British politics. Before then, we generally voted for local MPs and national governments rather than ‘leaders’, except in wartime, when Churchill was put up as our ‘leader’ to counter Hitler. In the first general election after the War the Conservative Party tried to capitalise on this – ‘Let him finish the job’ – but failed. A Labour government was elected to power, under ‘a modest man, who has plenty to be modest about’, in Churchill’s own rather ungenerous words, which however didn’t undermine Attlee’s achievement one whit. British politics carried on like this for the next thirty years, under collective cabinet governments, and with ‘leadership’ in the Churchillian sense not being regarded as so essential in peacetime. Clearly there were some people who still hankered after a Führer, prompting Harold Wilson’s protest, in his Memoirs (I think), that in his view leadership consisted in listening and achieving consensus rather than looking tough and imposing one’s own views; an approach which, in my opinion, and contrary to the common retrospective myth of the ‘Wilson years’, made those ’60s and ’70s Labour governments of his so successful in many ways.

It was Margaret Thatcher of course – who else? – who brought the Führer thing into British politics for almost the first time. Her reign as prime minister was very personal, even ‘macho’, insisting on a version of ‘leadership’ which emphasised strength, conviction, and sheer bullying, especially of foreigners. At the time this seemed to go down well with the electorate, or at least with enough of them to keep her in power. I remember one dictum of hers which jarred with me particularly in this context: ‘democracy is about leadership, not followership’. – Well, no, actually! Democracy is literally about following the will of the demos. But the ‘leadership’ idea and the Thatcher model caught on, and have dominated our elections ever since.

Hence Theresa May’s strategy in the current general election: to try to fight it on the ‘leadership qualities’ of the two prime ministerial candidates. That ‘strong and stable’ mantra of hers is part of this. So is the demanding and insulting tone she adopts towards other Europeans. People are supposed to vote for her and her ‘team’, based on her ‘strength’, rather than for the Conservative party, which is hardly mentioned in their propaganda, except in very small letters (on the side of their ‘battle-bus’, for example). It’s her fight. Corbyn is attacked for his supposed personal qualities of ‘weakness’ rather than for his party’s policies, which most people seem to like. Jeremy Paxman in a notoriously hostile TV interview recently asked him why so many of his personal convictions had not made their way into the Labour manifesto, as though that showed weakness; I’m not sure whether he quite understood Corbyn’s quite reasonable retort: ‘I’m not a dictator, you know’. But Paxman’s questions show how deep the Führerprinzip has penetrated. Another sign, perhaps, of the proto-fascism that is one of our great perils today.

May might yet be hoist with her own petard. Exposure on television makes her look weaker than the image that she and her minders would like her to convey, and Corbyn, by most accounts, more impressive – as well as being far nicer. (If, that is, ‘nice’ is compatible with the Führerprinzip.) If this works to chip away at her majority – the best we can hope for, I still think – it will be her own fault, for plugging the ‘leadership’ thing when she’s clearly not much of a ‘leader’ herself. And it may also get people thinking about politics in a different, more truly ‘democratic’, way.

Back after the op.

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Pass the Parcel

Was I wrong? Being a congenital pessimist, I love being proved wrong. The Manchester atrocity seems not to be playing into the Conservatives’ hands as I – and many others – presumed it would (https://bernardjporter.com/2017/05/23/manchester-and-may/).

Of course they’re still plugging Corbyn’s supposed ‘support for the IRA’ in the 1970s, misleadingly to say the least; and pretending that his argument, that British foreign policy bears some of the blame for enabling the spread of terrorism, is the equivalent of saying that the Mancunians ‘deserved what they got’. But it doesn’t seem to be getting through. The Tories are vulnerable here too: for their own links with Sinn Fein (i.e. talking with them), and for Theresa May’s drastic reduction of police numbers while Home Secretary over the last seven years. Added to which her public appearances and recent notorious ‘U-turns’ have not exactly burnished the image she is trying to project, of ‘strength and stability’. We can see why May is so reluctant to participate in genuine debates.

On the other side, Jeremy Corbyn is coming over as more stable, at least: calm, rational and empathetic under appalling pressure, for example from the vicious, almost unhinged Jeremy Paxman on TV last night; and displaying many of the qualities, like the ability to listen and think on his feet, which should make him a better ‘Brexit’ negotiator than the blinkered and hostile May. At the very least this should chip away at the size of the majority that May still looks like winning in the election – though I’d love to be proved wrong here too.

But maybe that would be the best outcome of all. Another small majority would deprive her of the overwhelming ‘mandate’ she called this election in order to win, which would re-open the question of whether it was really necessary in the first place – many people anyway resented having another election foisted on them so soon; would do nothing to strengthen her hand either in the Brexit negotiations or in Parliament; might greatly encourage Labour and the surviving ‘Remainers’; and – best of all – would force her and her team to conduct those negotiations, which would have the effect of heaping the blame on her head when it all went belly-up.

Is this all part of a cunning plot? Even many Tory Brexiteers never really wanted Brexit, but only to be seen to have been on the populist side when that cause lost. Everyone at the time remarked how shocked Boris Johnson looked afterwards. Brexiteers like Michael Gove must have been quite relieved when May sacked him from her cabinet. Boris might have been wise to crawl away too: but what ambitious self-publicist could possibly resist the lure of the Foreign Office? Maybe May is trying to lose this election in order to avoid the poisoned chalice of the EU talks. It looks a bit like ‘Pass the Parcel’. – But of course not. That’s too conspiratorial for my scholarly taste; and too clever, surely, for May.

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Personal

We have ‘crises’ galore in Britain just now: not only terrorism, but also housing, social care, British Airways and the underfunded NHS. I’ve been a minor victim of the last of these, having had to wait 18 weeks for my surgery to be scheduled. This week, at long last, it has come up. That is, if there’s not another nationwide computer breakdown, or a terrorist bomb at the hospital.

I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. They say it’s ‘routine’, but there is a sentence in the bumpf they give you, warning that you might die – though I imagine that’s only for legal reasons: ‘you can’t sue us. We did warn him’. And the nurse at the hospital told me ‘we haven’t lost one yet’, which should be reassuring. Friends who’ve had the same op tell me I’ll be in pain. I rather wish they hadn’t. ‘But it’s best to be prepared’, they say. Oh no it isn’t.

I also don’t know how it’s going to affect my activities afterwards. I have Kajsa and other friends to look after my physical needs, and a great pile of books and DVDs to go through while I’m in bed. I probably won’t be blogging much, though I’ll still be following things on my laptop – especially of course the General Election, held exactly a week later. It would be nice to come out of the anaesthetic to be told that Jeremy had overtaken Theresa in the polls; so long as I don’t burst my stitches in my joy.

This Thursday is Der Tag. I might fit in another post before the op, but can’t guarantee it. And there probably won’t be many for a while afterwards. If after a couple of weeks nothing is posted here, you can probably assume I’ve pegged out. That will be a shame; but in the words of Emmanuel Barthélemy, a French refugee and notorious atheist, publicly hanged for a gruesome murder in 1855, spoken from the scaffold: ‘at least now I’ll find out if I was right’. (That strikes me as class!) It’s a pity I won’t be able to blog about it posthumously. (Do they have wi-fi up – or down – there?) That will be frustrating. I may try haunting

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Corbyn and Terrorism

One golden rule of opposition in a democratic society is: don’t criticise your own side when your country is at war. That’s not because your criticisms may be unjustified, but because, at a time of war-fever, they are liable to bring on to your head the charge of ‘treachery’. Here, Jeremy Corbyn could, perhaps, learn from history; and from one historical event in particular.

The South African War of 1899-1902, of Britain against the ‘Boer’ or Dutch-origin farmer republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State in South Africa, was undoubtedly an unjust war, provoked by the British on a flimsy pretext, probably to get their hands on the Transvaal’s gold and diamonds (though it’s more complicated than that), and after they had deliberately scotched any chances of a peaceful solution to their quarrel. As a result many people in Britain opposed the war – how many it’s hard to say; the din created by the ‘jingos’ made it difficult to hear their small, soft voices – and said so. JA Hobson, the originator of the ‘capitalist theory of imperialism’, was one. He and most other opponents of the war were not defenders of the Boers, who, to be honest, were a reactionary set of religious-fundamentalist racists who had only very recently and reluctantly given up black slavery; but took the stand they did because they believed the war had been forced on the Boers under a false pretext.

So far, not very similar to our present situation vis-à-vis Islamicist terrorism. But there is one parallel. The name given to these people who opposed the Boer war, and which has stuck to them – books have been written about them, including my own Critics of Empire, 1968 – was ‘the pro-Boers’. It was a propaganda device, designed to associate the critics with the military enemies of the Queen, and so to smear them as ‘unpatriotic’. The obloquy that followed was intense. They were stoned and beaten up. The newly-minted Daily Mail started up a campaign against them, deliberately falsifying the facts of the war, incidentally, along the way. A ‘khaki election’ was held, prematurely, to exploit the jingoism, which the government won. Many so-called ‘pro-Boers’ ducked down behind the ramparts until the storm had blown over – as it did. (Two prominent pro-Boers even became Prime Ministers later on.) But it was nasty while it lasted.

The similarities with our ‘war against terror’ are not exact, but are clear to see. Our present ‘khaki election’ is one. But the main one is the way in which Jeremy Corbyn is being portrayed, in the Mail and other papers, and quite explicitly, as being pro-terrorist – those IRA ‘links’ – in just the same fashion as the opponents of that earlier conflict were painted as pro-Boer, in order to make him out to be a traitor.

It was in the face of this that Corbyn decided to publicly vent, in a speech this morning, the case that Islamicist terrorism is partly the unintended result of past British and American military intervention in the Middle East. This is an interpretation which is well-known and accepted in American intelligence circles, where it’s known as ‘blowback’; and which has been applied specifically to current terrorist atrocities in Europe and America by no less than a former Director of MI5 (Eliza Manningham-Buller). It’s a reasonable argument, just as the pro-Boers’ case against the South African War was; and should undoubtedly be regarded as one of the mix of factors that brought this terrorist onslaught upon us. It will be corroborated by future historians, who will by that time be thankfully immune from the Mail; and would be seen as perfectly fair in calmer times.

The problem, however, is that these aren’t calmer times. The blood of innocent children still stains the streets and squares of Manchester. In this context Corbyn’s legitimate desire to understand and explain Islamicist terrorism, with a view to preventing it in the future, is too easily interpreted as excusing or defending it, by politicians and newspapers that want to get at him anyway, and see this as having resonance among voters in our ‘khaki election’. Already – before he had actually delivered his speech, but obviously on the basis of hints passed to the press – it was being said that he was effectively blaming the victims for their own deaths; which of course is outrageous, but could be something that will resonate.

Personally I would have advised, on the basis of my scholarly ‘Boer War’ experience, and my innate caution, that he didn’t pursue this line just yet. There are other ways of implicitly criticising the government; for example, by homing in on Theresa May’s slashing of police numbers by 20,000 when she was Home Secretary, which an ex-Manchester police chief at the time warned quite explicitly would undermine their counter-terrorism capabilities. (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irm2VZMDEvo. It’s quite uncannily prescient.) Corbyn had already pledged a Labour Government to reverse this in his party’s Manifesto (p.76), so he can’t be accused of opportunism. He would get away with this. It would make him look if anything more ‘strong and stable’ than the prime minister. It would meet the Conservatives on their own chosen ground. But raking up his old pacifism and anti-Americanism by pursuing the ‘blowback’ idea at this moment would, I thought, have the opposite effect. It would fit nicely into the narrative that had been carefully constructed for him already by the Right-wing press. ‘No; back off’, I was thinking last night. With the result that I watched his actual speech, broadcast an hour or so ago on television, with some trepidation.

I’m still a little trepidatious(?). The speech, I thought, was excellent: serious, dignified, well-argued, rightly condemnatory of the terrorists, justly complimentary towards the people of Manchester and their local emergency services, emphasising their togetherness and solidarity as a socialist is particularly entitled to do, dismissing Islamophobia and other sources of division, and yes, picking up the point about police ‘cuts’ (‘austerity should stop at the hospital entrance and the door of the police station’), but without any more overt reference to Home Secretary May. So he couldn’t be accused of ‘playing politics’. The point about British foreign policy was made, but in a nuanced way, which obviously didn’t lift any of the blame for Monday’s atrocity from the shoulders of the terrorists. It should convince an awful lot of voters that their country would be safe in his hands. But that’s only if they are allowed to see it or read it, without its being reduced, edited and then glossed by their newspapers or TV commentators. There’s the rub.

If the speech does succeed in getting through and around these obstacles, and boosts or at least doesn’t undermine Corbyn’s new image as a defender of the people, my caution and trepidation will have been unnecessary. I’ll have been proved wrong. (I won’t mind that.) May’s lead over Corbyn in the last polls before the Manchester event had already been slashed from about 20 points to five. That’s what had put the spring in my step as I came away from his rally on Monday; only to be reduced to the deepest despondency as I caught the news from Manchester. (See https://bernardjporter.com/2017/05/23/manchester-and-may/.) We’ll see shortly how the press treats him after today’s speech, and what effect that has on the polls. If he succeeds in maintaining his popular momentum, or even increasing it, on the back of this brave gamble, it will be a triumph for the rational pro-Boer spirit that has always been there in the Labour movement. It could also – if he wins the election- trigger a remarkable and much-needed revolution in our political affairs. He’d be a people’s hero, against all the odds. – But I mustn’t allow myself to hope.

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Manchester and the Swedish Press

One positive aspect of the terrible carnage in Manchester on Monday is the sympathy it has brought Britain from (nearly) all corners of the earth, as do atrocities everywhere (how we loved America after 9/11!); and the admiration expressed in the foreign press for the Mancunians’ reaction to it. This seems to have exemplified the best side of ‘multiculturalism’, so often derided on the Right; with everyone of all cultures and conditions rushing to help – Moslem taxi drivers offering free rides away from the scene of the incident, for example – and the universal theme being ‘togetherness’. This, at least, is welcome, after the stick the British have been getting in the European press over Brexit and the popular racism and hatred that that unleashed.

I’m told that this is the overwhelming theme of the extensive and sympathetic reports of the Manchester bombing carried in the Swedish press, with my source (Kajsa) giving it as her impression that it has transformed the image of Britain there. It’s a dreadful price to pay, and the admiration might not last long: it may depend on whether and how the Tories ‘use’ this event for electoral purposes. (Dagens Nyheter is discussing that, too.) After all, the outpouring of love for the USA after the Twin Towers didn’t long outlive George W Bush’s response to it. But it’s something to cling on to for now.

There is of course an alternative pattern of response to these horrors. Let’s hope our government models itself on the Norwegians’ after Utøya, rather than the Americans’ after 9/11. I’m not too confident of that, under our current – and probably future – authoritarian prime minister.

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A Strong and Stable Negotiator

A hammer is strong and stable, but it can’t negotiate for toffee. I can’t understand why anyone should vote for Theresa May on the grounds that she would be good at negotiating our exit from the European Union. She clearly doesn’t like meeting people, and when she does, for example in interviews, simply repeats pre-prepared sound-bites robotically, without ever answering the questions put to her. ‘What would you do about the NHS?’ ‘What I believe is that this country needs strong and stable leadership.’ ‘And about the Irish border?’ ‘What I believe is ….’ and so on. ‘Why did you change your mind on social care?’ ‘I didn’t. I’m strong and stable.’ Meeting foreign prime ministers, she invariably puts their backs up. That’s clearly all part of being ‘strong and stable’. She doesn’t seem to be able to think on her feet. Or even to think much at all. Surely an international negotiator should be cleverer, more receptive and nimbler than that? Not just ‘strong and stable’. That’s why diplomats are such notoriously wily beasts. They have to be.

But then she might, of course, leave all the negotiating to her chief diplomat, and court jester, Foreign Secretary Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. There has never in British history been a Foreign minister quite like him. (And I’ve studied a lot of them, right back to Castlereagh.) If he’s a hammer, he’s one of those cheap Wickes ones where the head can fly off. Does anyone think that he would do any better? No-one in Europe gets on with either him or May. I don’t know whether they would with Jeremy; but he and his shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry must be far more reliable pairs of hands.

Let me now say something snobbish. May went to Oxford to read Geography. I don’t know about Oxford, but at Cambridge there was a clear intellectual hierarchy of subjects to study. Classics and Natural Sciences were at the top. History was rather lower. But Geography was definitely at the bottom. In fact I’m not sure whether one could ‘read’ Geography at Cambridge at all. Back in my schooldays it was for the dum-dums (the ‘Lower Sixth Modern’). – Enough said. Sorry, Geographers.

I’m not all that impressed by elite university education in any case. That’s despite having had one. But – Geography?! She must have felt the ignominy.

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Soldiers on the Streets

Here we go. Armed soldiers – not just police – in the streets. Entirely unprecedented, I think, in (mainland) British history. (But then, as we know, Theresa May doesn’t read history.) We’ve always resiled against being policed by the military. That’s why the civilian police were invented in the first place. Doesn’t she know that? Clearly not, if she doesn’t know her history. And it’s surely unnecessary, except as a way of (a) reassuring the general populace, or (b) emphasizing how ‘strong and stable’ our current prime minister is. Even if Jeremy weren’t currently being smeared with past IRA sympathies – vide my last post – he couldn’t compete with that. The terrorists and the authoritarian Right have won. Soldiers in the streets are the visible signs of that.

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Yet the real lesson of the Manchester bomb should be to back up Corbyn’s basic message about peace and co-operation. The murderer was one man, with maybe someone to help him make the bomb. A handful, anyway. Among the many, Mancunians distinguished themselves by their refusal to be cowed, and by rushing to the help of the victims: hotels offering free accommodation, Moslem taxi drivers giving free rides, even the homeless lending a hand: https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/05/23/homeless-man-helps-victims-after-manchester-attack/22105626/. This is ‘community’, even perhaps ‘socialism’, in action. And there is an argument, at least, that this kind of approach, at a government level, would do more to curb terrorism than any amount of ‘strength and stability’. The soldiers might even prove provocative. But people will be too angry and vengeful to see this, in the short term at least. These feelings are natural. But wrong.

And in the very short term we have our General Election coming up, which is almost bound to be affected by the Manchester atrocity, or rather, by the government’s reaction to it. What a stroke of luck for Theresa! And of bad luck for the Left. Though of course we mustn’t say that, in view of the much worse luck suffered by the poor bloodied and bereaved victims of this cruel religious psychopath. That would be ‘making political capital’ out of a human tragedy. As if the political Right wasn’t doing just that…

But still – why soldiers, for goodness’ sake? I suppose it’s because they’re running thin of police officers, after all the cuts. But whose fault was that? See this: it’s very telling. https://www.thecanary.co/2017/05/25/31-seconds-footage-come-back-haunt-theresa-may-manchester-bombing-video/.

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Manchester and May

What a difference a couple of hours can make. I came home from the Corbyn rally in Hull yesterday evening quite pumped up, as one does from these warm shows of solidarity. Yes, I know it’s all false; but the crowd was huge, and Corbyn’s speech excellent, even inspiring. (Neither made it on to national television.) Theresa May’s ‘U-turn’ on social care that day, and a dire performance under scrutiny from Andrew Neil on TV, seemed to have knocked her back significantly, with Labour catching up in the opinion polls. For the first time I felt we had the dreadful woman, if not quite on the ropes yet, at least staggering towards them. There was a spring in my step as I downed my post-rally pint at the pub, and made for my taxi.

Then came the news from Manchester. I know I should have my mind filled now only with deep sympathy for the poor victims of this diabolical attack, instead of thinking, as I did with at least part of my mind, of its political consequences; but I fear that those could be dire, and will favour May. That after all is what terrorists – if that’s what the Manchester bomber was: we don’t yet know for sure – aim for: to provoke a political reaction, and so more oppression of them, in order to illustrate their oppressors’ Islamophobia (in this case), and so justify their cause. It’s disheartening how often governments fall into this trap. (Vide Bush Jr., and Donald Trump.)

May has been making a great pitch in this campaign – almost her only pitch – of being ‘strong and stable’, by contrast with the supposedly weak Jeremy Corbyn. Her prat-falls yesterday somewhat undermined this image – opponents started replacing her mantra with ‘weak and wobbly’; but the original one will have stuck in people’s minds – it is bound to have done, it has been repeated so robotically – to emerge again in any situation in which ‘strength’ would appear to be called upon. That’s what Manchester may have done

The ground had been well prepared beforehand. For a few days now the tabloid press has been filled with accusations against Corbyn going back to the 1970s, that he was in favour of IRA terrorism. (Of course he wasn’t; only equally condemning of atrocities on the other side, and broadly sympathetic to the cause of Irish unity.) Yesterday the Sun came out with a huge front-page headline, with reference to this IRA business: ‘BLOOD ON HIS HANDS’. Today the same paper directly and ‘specifically’ attributes the Manchester killings to Corbyn’s and McDonnell’s – these ‘snivelling IRA fanboys’ – ‘sucking up to the IRA’. May’s reputation for ‘strength’ seemed to be disintegrating; so the way to shore it up was to emphasise Corbyn’s contrasting ‘weakness’, and indeed treachery. (May had just accused him, in a speech, of ‘not loving Britain’.) Terrorism requires ‘strength’ to combat it. (It doesn’t.) May’s rhetoric, whatever the reality, may persuade the electorate that only she can ‘stand up against’ it. So, having got May on the run, as I was daring to think at the rally yesterday, our hopes are shattered, at a blow.

The Manchester bomb was almost too convenient for her. There is obviously room here for conspiracy theories to ferment, darkly. Was it a ‘false flag’ operation, by a Tory or MI5 agent provocateur? Such things have happened, though usually on a lesser scale. Did the Tories and the Sun have some precognition of the Manchester Arena atrocity? If so, did they deliberately let it play out, instead of scotching it? I prefer to believe that May has simply been lucky, at a terrible cost to those poor Mancunians. But then I’m always anxious, as you may have noticed, not to be labeled a ‘conspiracy nutter’.

To cheer us all up, here’s a pic I took at the rally. Don’t show the Daily Mail.

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